Sunday, December 23, 2012

It puts the Hops in the Wort...

I finally got around to making some beer. On a similar note...I now have way too much beer. I average about a beer every two to three days now...which means the 100 bottles that I now have will most likely last me well into next year. I guess I could go on a bender, but I'm fairly certain there are quite a few people I know that would disapprove. This "problem" would be fixed if World Cup 2014 got here a little sooner...but I digress.

This being my first bit of beer bloggage I'm not exactly sure where to begin. I can tell you that over the last month I've made two batches, both of which turned out pretty well. The first was supposed to be a stout but probably turned into something more like a Porter..though the distinction between the two has never been all that clear to me. (Heck Stout's may just be "Stout Porters") In any event my recipe for my first success this year was as follows:

7 Pounds Liquid Dark Malt Extract
1.25 oz of NW Brewers Hops (AA 9.1%)
1 lbs Crystal 60L
.5 lbs Victory

I steeped the specialty grain for about 30 minutes and then used this to start the Wort boil. Malt Extract, hops and a 60 minute boil later I was busy cooling the Wort using my new chiller. I used one of those fun smack pack yeast systems and added everything into the fermenter. That little batch of homemade goodness was then placed in our tiny coffin shower where the yeast would proceed to gobble up all the tasty sugar...and turn it into a tastier sugar/ethanol product.

I had so much fun brewing my porter that I decided to try my hand at an APA the following day. Again the worst and most time consuming part of this whole process was the cleaning and sanitizing of the equipment. I'm not a fan...but it is absolutely necessary. Many off flavors can be attributed to poor preparation.

My recipe for my APA (Which is basically just a pale ale that uses American hops) was as follows:

6 lbs Pale Liquid Malt Extract
.75 oz NW Brewers Hops (AA% 9.1) 60 minute boil time
.75 oz Cascade Hops (AA% 8.9) 30 minute boil time
.75 oz Cascade Hops (AA% 8.9) 15 minute boil time
.5 lbs Crystal 60L

The process was fairly similar to that of the porter. Steep specialty grain for approximately 30 minutes then use the resulting liquid in the wort. Boil, Cool, pitch and seal and you have a 5 gallon batch of APA.

Bottling Process
Following the fermenting comes bottling. I don't have a keg system yet because I'm fairly certain I don't drink enough beer to warrant it. Heck I'll probably end up giving away over half of the beer I brew so I'll be sticking with bottle conditioning for the near future. I ended up leaving the beer in the fermenter for far longer than necessary, probably around 4 weeks. This wasn't done out of some desire to better condition the beer...this was bred from laziness, work travel, and my other fun hobby (Which this blog is a bit more dedicated to) running.

Fast forward past the bottling (Because it's boring and doesn't really involve much beyond adding priming sugar, mixing and filling bottles) and I am now a proud owner of around 100 bottles of porter and APA that actually turned out quite well. The porter has a fairly nice deep malty profile along with a hefty coffee taste (Courtesy of the specialty grain) while the APA is a lighter smoother brew with a nice mild hoppy aroma. Of the two I would definitely try them both again but would probably brew the APA first. Porters and Stouts are great in the winter...but I should probably start brewing spring/summer beer now as I'm going to be drinking what I have for the foreseeable future. Anybody want to help?
Pippa will help

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Endurance Run

I tried coming up with a clever title for this entry. I was going to go with "All things brutal wrapped in a bow of awesome". Or perhaps "Hallucinations, Indecision, Pain and Awesome". Perhaps just "Holy Crap what did I just do?" All seemed equal parts over the top and insufficient in conveying what occurred last weekend when I toed the line with 140 some odd other folks to run the annual Cascade Crest 100 mile endurance run. So we will just go with a self titled can draw your own conclusions on how crazy these events are. Me? I'm just writing this in an attempt to collect my thoughts and commit them to electronic signals and bits before my brain purges them in preparation for my next race.

Honestly I'm not exactly sure where to start. This was a burly race. 100 miles on it's own seems a daunting enough task, but throw in mountains, a little heat, some crazy dude shooting his firearm 50 yards off the PCT and sleep deprivation and you end up with something that is a little less of a run and a little more epic. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. There were probably instantaneous moments where I hated it and there were definitely other points where I wanted to quit. My sub 24 hour goal will have to wait for another day as I missed it by a significant amount, finishing 40th out of 90 some odd finishers and 140 starters in 27:19:41.

Twenty Seven Hours, Nineteen Minutes and Forty-one seconds. Maybe that should have been the title of this post...

My training up to the race went well. Four weeks prior I PR'ed at the White River 50 Mile out near Mt. Rainier. A week after that I ran 62 miles of the cascade crest 100 course split across two days in near 100 degree heat. At that point I felt like somebody had shoved me in an industrial strength drier and set the timer to infinity. I was hot, beat up, tired and just wanted to rest. So rest I least for a few days. Then I felt like I wanted to get out into the mountains again. For some reason I also felt like I needed to do more heat training. (Apparently the weekend double fried my brain) Work also decided to send me to boulder at the worst possible time...a week and a half before my big race. In any event...I still took it a little easy, but not in terms of elevation gain. I had planned on doing some very limited hill running in the two weeks prior to cascade. Instead I ran up granite mountain with Josh, took part in a group run in Boulder, ran solo up green mountain and did a little urban peak bagging back in Seattle for a weekly elevation total of around 10K. I'm still not sure if that helped or hurt my performance at Cascade Crest...but I don't really care. It was fun.

Fast forward to the day before the race. I was surrounded by about 8,000 calories of sugar in the forms of Gu, Cliff Shots, Shot Blocks, Honey Stingers, and other forms of Maltodextrin. The child in me thought the 24 hours of gorging myself on nothing but sugar would be great...but the adult just wanted some whole grain un-frosted mini-wheats. Packing ensued, a pre-race dinner of taco time (Probably a mistake) was had, and my wife and crew unpacked camp and settled in for the evening up at Lake Easton state park. I didn't sleep all that well. Nerves coupled with the constant drone of semis on I90 had me awake well into the night. Pippa also got a little cold so Brandi and I took turns letting her sleep with us in our sleeping bags. That dog is a little ball of heat. It felt like I was being cuddled to death by a bundle of firewood.

 Morning came, I awoke, dressed in the running clothes I would most likely be wearing for the next 24+ hours, threw my drop bags into the car and made my way with wife and dog to the starting area at the Easton Fire Department. Once there we partook in the tasty pancake breakfast that the fire department prepared along with the help of some of the race volunteers. One of the race volunteers floated over to our section and asked us how our preparation was going. I said it was going well and noticed the giant CCC100 belt buckle the dude had on. Moments of envy set in followed by a long period of satisfaction, I was comforted by the idea that I too would be able to sport an audacious belt buckle once I crossed the finish line the following morning. (Turned out to be afternoon)

A fellow runner that I met up during my Alaska Running Vacation was also set to run the CCC. He and his family actually shared a camp site with us the night before and we chatted about what we thought of the upcoming endeavor along with a handful of other non running things. One could call this the calm before the storm I suppose...if you could go so far as to describe a 12 minute mile as a "Storm".

T Minus 5 Minutes
A quick bathroom break, last minute glide application, a Canadian and American national anthem and then before I knew it the race director counted down from 10 and sent us on our way. I settled into what I thought was a fairly comfortable pace but without my GPS I wasn't exactly sure how fast I was going. My thought was that I would let the course and my body dictate my pace...but I think I got a little overzealous during the first 10-15 miles of the course and set myself up for some pain later on in the race. In any event...the start to the first aid went by fairly quick. I reached a truck on the fire road, refilled my water, ate some grapes (This would be a common thing for me for the next 24 hours as grapes always seemed appetizing) and proceeded to hike slowly up the extraordinarily steep section of trail reroute. After finally popping up onto the trail proper things settled into a bit more reasonable grade and I moved consistently at what I thought was a pretty fast hike. Too bad I was getting passed by quite a few fellow racers. It turns out I need to work on that fast hike.



Most of the early parts of the race went by without too much of a hitch. I moved forward at a consistent clip, hiking most of the steeper hill sections, breaking into a jog on some of the more gradual grades and flats and took the downhills at a conservative run. I could tell during that first big climb and descent that this wasn't going to be my best day. My legs didn't have much pop and surprisingly the downhills didn't feel all that great. I say that surprised me because I consider myself a halfway decent downhill runner. Not super fast by any means but I can usually move at a nice clip without feeling any discomfort or fatigue. Not so on this day, which got in my head a bit as I kept focusing on how much further I had to go. This was not a good state to be in...100 miles is a long way and I needed to concentrate on getting to the next aid station. Lesson learned I suppose.

Tacoma Pass


Still feeling decent at Tacoma Pass
After 22 miles I finally reached my crew at Tacoma Pass. (There were other aid stations along the way but they were not crew accessible) I saw Josh, one of my buddies and pacers, at the previous aid station Blowout mountain. He asked how I was doing and handed me a smoothie. Man that thing tasted good. At Tacoma pass none of the food really stood out but the volunteers were helpful and again seeing my wife and friends was a big bonus. They helped me refill my bottles, grab some additional gels and told me to say "Hi" to my other pacer Danny who was also volunteering before heading out towards the next Crew accessible aid station Stampede Pass, which was approximately 12 miles away.

Stampede Pass

Already tired at Stampede
This section was full of ups and downs...both literally and figuratively. I couldn't find a running groove. The uphills felt like way more work than they should have and the downs, though okay didn't feel all the great either. That left the flats...and they didn't feel all that great either. It was at this point that I seriously started to think about whether or not I had what it took on this day to finish the race. I continued to move forward but negativity had already crept in and I felt at this point that a drop at Hyak was inevitable. These thoughts are poison in these types of endeavors. I should have been focused on problem solving but a handful of things had thrown me off my game and I wasn't sure what I could do to set myself on track again. After crossing the third of a section of fairly sun exposed sections I started to see some stuff on the side of the trail that seemed to indicate stampede pass was approaching. Thankfully it came at the right time. I had reached another pretty serious low and needed to see some friendly faces to pull me out of my funk. My wife and crew greeted me along with some aid station volunteers. I perked up a bit, got some food in me, let my crew know that I was not having a good day and sped off again down the trail. My wife repeated what the race director had said in his briefing, that there was no shame in a DNF, but I wasn't prepared to drop yet. I wanted to see what was left in the tank. I was surprised to find out there was a lot left...and I was going to drop to all new lows before I turned this thing around.

Pippa Napping


Pippa was trying to get me to keep going

Ollalie Meadows

The section of the course that follows Stampede pass is gorgeous. I had ran it a few weeks prior and was really looking forward to traveling over it again during the race. You start by meandering your way up through a pretty dense forest, but eventually pop up into a more open area that grants some pretty awesome views into a lake basin. At this point you descend to the basin and then work your way up to Mirror Lake. I was doing okay through all of this, but was still rapidly alternating between wanting to quit and wanting to push on. I was still focused on the enormity of what was to come. To feel bad at mile 35 of a 100 mile race is a pretty daunting thing. Couple that with the fact that I hadn't really seen anybody in an hour and some crazy dude was firing off rounds 50 yards off the trail and you can perhaps see why I wasn't in the greatest state of mind. The sun started to set so I dug through my hydration pack and found my Petzl Nao headlamp. This thing worked like a champ, lighting up the trail like it was midday. (If midday looked like light thrown by some powerful LED's) I finally ran into another runner...or rather they ran into me, coming up and passing me as I relieved myself on the side of the trail. He asked me how I was doing and I explained that I was not doing well and was thinking of dropping. He gave me a pretty nice pep talk and told me to try to keep up with him, to hop on the train so to speak and see if I could perk myself up by running with a fellow racer. I tried, but he was moving better than I was at that point so I resigned myself to falling off the back and slowly made myself through the Meadow Mountain aid to the Ollalie meadows station. Thankfully it was here that my spirits started to perk up.

I think I owe a big part of my finish to Scott McCoubrey's aid station. This was the first station where the volunteers really seemed like they knew what was going on in the racers minds. I was encouraged to sit, eat some awesome peirogi's and was able to vent a little bit about how my body didn't seem to be behaving. The food was great and the conversation helped focus me on the task at hand, get to Hyak and worry about the rest of the race once I got there.



Revitalized and reinvigorated I cranked my headlamp to high and bounded down the rocky trail to the Snoqualmie tunnel. I passed a lot of people on this section as most of the racers seemed to be cautiously picking their way down the technical trail. I just trusted in my Mountain Masochists and bombed down, tracking down the reflective strips of light that appeared down the trail whenever I saw another runner. Eventually I reached the rope section that leads down to the Snoqualmie Tunnel. This was a fun section, but there was a bit of a traffic jam as it requires some careful navigation down a steep (probably 40+ degree) slope. I wish I had gotten onto the front of our train as I'm pretty sure I could've descended a good 2-3 minutes faster.

Fueling up at Hyak - Photo by Joram Cosning
The tunnel came and went. I actually caught one of my other running buddies Adam Gaston during this section. He was having some stomach issues and was wisely taking a bit of a walking break. He did happen to tell me how to count down the miles to the end of the tunnel, which I was less than thrilled about. ( was amusing in a slightly depressing way) I made a point of avoiding looking at any of the numbers on the tunnel walls and just settled into a groove. After what seemed like a long two miles we popped out of the tunnel, jumped onto some pavement for a mile or so and then made our way into the christmas themed aid station. My crew saw me looking pretty up beat and immediately went into helper mode. I should mention at this point that about two hours prior I took out my phone and sent an ominous text to them, mentioning that I was feeling horrible and might drop at Hyak. They were rightly expecting the worse at this point but were hoping that if I hadn't yet turned it around that they would be able to motivate me to keep going.

Lake Kachess


Josh hopped in and paced me for the 15 miles between Hyak and Lake Kachess. Along the way we climbed to Kechelus ridge, descended to the lake and had a pretty good time doing it. Josh pushed me to run when it made sense (on the flats and downhills) and even managed to get me to run some of the short gradual uphills. We even managed to pass a few people on the long up and long down. Though not the most interesting section in terms of terrain as we were on fire roads pretty much the entire time, the moon was out and the stars were bright. At one point we turned off our headlamps and were shocked at the fact that we were immediately plunged into darkness. The stars immediately leaped out as our view of the road receded. We couldn't keep the lamps off for long, as navigation on the road was impossible without them, but it definitely put things in perspective. Almost 60 miles into a race I was able to forget about how tired I was because I was pretty much right where I wanted to be. Out in a semi-remote area of the wilderness with a running buddy helping me a long, taking in the sites while slowly marching towards the end game.

We actually popped out of the fire road and ran into the Lake Kachess aid station quite unexpectedly. I was anticipating arriving at 2:30 AM and instead we popped in around 2:00. Danny, my second pacer, had not yet awakened from his catnap. I rudely called him on my phone and woke him up and told him it was time to pace and then sat down and ate a bowl of ramen noodles. Danny showed up jokingly mentioning how it was rude to call a guy up at 2:00 in the morning to go for a run. Well that is what we did...taking off for what would be an exceptionally slow 6 miles to the Mineral Creek aid station.

Trail from Hell


Yeah...this next section was actually called the Trail from Hell. I had navigated it during the daylight  on a training run and noted that even with the sun out it took us around an hour and twenty minutes to navigate the 4-5 mile section of the trail. (There is a 1 mile section prior to the official trail from hell that is a bit of a in some ways it's worse) I figured if we got through it in two hours we would be flying. I won't do a play by play on this but suffice it to say I had some more low points though Danny managed to keep me from flying off the handle. We also ran into a pacer who was watching over his runner while she caught a nap on the side of the trail under a space blanket. After what was an eternity we got to the mineral creek crossing, rock hopped our was across and I sat down at the aid in good spirits but secretly dreading what was to come...a 7 mile climb up to no name ridge followed by the nasty cardiac needles.

Thorp Mountain

Climbing up Thorp - Photo Glen Tachiyama
After taking care of a blister, getting some coffee and eating some cheese quesadillas we set off for the long hike up to no name. About halfway up the sun started rises and pretty much set the sky on fire. Danny reminded me to look up every so often so I could take in the views. Suffice it to say it was probably one of the most fantastic sunrises I've ever seen and I was happy to have a buddy there to share it with. That was just one of the many moments along the course that made the entire trip worthwhile. Sure I was in a fair amount of discomfort at that point, but the positives were still far outweighing the negatives associated with being on your feet for 20 hours. Eventually we reached the No Name aid station at the top of the climb, ate some pancakes, I drank a little hot chocolate and then we said our goodbyes to the aid station volunteers and went on our way.

Photo by Glen Tachiyama
The next section is again a beautiful part of the course and under normal circumstances is a blast to run. It rolls a bit up top, gives you a few descents and then takes you up the first of the Cardiac needles. These are fairly brutal climbs, steep in grade but blessedly short in duration. I think the longest one took us only about 20 minutes to climb...though at times those 20 minutes felt like agony. After each needle I was forced to walk for about 5 minutes in order to get my heart rate back under control, at which point I would attempt to break into what was probably the slowest run imaginable. Eventually we made our way to the thorp aid station, at which point we were instructed to head up to the lookout to get a golden ticket that they basically use to prove that you made the ascent. Glen Tachiyama was waiting for us near the top and snapped off a couple of pretty stellar photos of the quick ascent and descent. After we got back to the aid station I was informed that we had around 3 climbs to go before french cabin aid, and then one final push until the long descent to Silver Springs. The finish was within view...only a half marathon to go....

Descending Thorp - Photo by Glen Tachiyama


I really wish I had been able to run this section at a decent clip. Prior to the race I had visualized completing the last 13 miles in somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. Unfortunately it ended up taking me somewhere between 3 and 4 hours to finish. The uphills were abysmally slow, the flats weren't much better, and the downhills hurt. I did run...slowly...during sections though Danny my pacer probably has a better idea of how slowly we were moving over this last section. That being said, I did enjoy it. Getting to the top of the last needle, which in this case was the saddle after the french cabin on the Kachess ridge trail was awesome. Even the downhill into the Cabin was nice, especially since we could see the aid station from about a mile out and could track our progress. Another cup of coffee at the cabin, a climb up the saddle, a momentary lapse of reason up top where I didn't think i could finish it out and an excruciatingly awesome downhill on the Kachess ridge trail and we rolled into the silver creek aid station.

Almost there
Joram, Josh and Marc had run out from the finish and were waiting for me there. I unfortunately filled my handheld up with GuBrew, not anticipating how hot it would be. After eating a bit too much we took off from the aid, moving at a pace that I felt I could sustain until the end...probably averaging about 10 minute miles. I was pretty surprised that I was able to run halfway decently on the flats at this point. Here we were 97 miles into a 100 mile race and I was actually able to run.

Holy Crap it's the finish line
Unfortunately I didn't realize how hot it was outside and was completely fried once we hit the exposed power line roads..which then dumped us on the hot asphalt. At this point I was pretty much relegated a walk until the last hundred meters or so to the finish. Brandi walked out a little way with our dog Pippa to say Hi and strolled in along with us. This was okay by me though...I walked the sucker in...jogged across the finish and immediately hunched over with a huge smile on my face. Charlie Crissman, the race director came over, congratulated me and handed me my awesome belt buckle. Post race I moved into the fire station, soaked my feet in a bucket of cold water and chatted with my wife, friends and several other finishers. My friend Bryan, who had finished a little over 5 hours before me, was there as well and we chatted for a bit before he took off in search of a burger, beer and a nap. Shortly thereafter we packed up the dog, drop bags, and my slightly sore body and drove back to Seattle.

Is it over?

Happy Pippa...and look at that belt buckle!

Much needed Soak
Post race was quite interesting. I took a nap, ate some burgers and rested. The night after the race my muscles, joints and tendons protested pretty heavily and didn't let me get a very restful sleep. I was shocked however as my muscles didn't feel like they had been put through a meat grinder. Some tendons in my right foot were a little strained and as such I made it a point to take a week completely off from running. One week later though and I'm ready to go.

I think there were quite a few lessons learned in this endeavor that I will be sure to apply to my next 100 mile adventure. So in true interwebs fashion I've created this handy dandy list...because there just aren't enough lists out there.

  • Run the race that you are capable of on that day. I went out a little too fast thinking that my body would start behaving later on in the race. That was dumb. 
  • If your stomach is okay keep forcing yourself to eat. I became apathetic towards eating later in the race. My stomach was fine...I was just sick of eating. I didn't think it was possible...but apparently 6,000 calories of Maltodextrin, Potato Chips, Fruit, GuBrew, Quesadillas, Pierogis, Coffee and various other foods can make you a little sick of eating. 
  • Ratchet back on the training a bit in the week or two prior to the race. I had a bit too much fun the weeks prior. 
  • Hike more during training. I just couldn't hike as fast as a lot of the other folks out there. I'm pretty sure I could shave a couple hours on my time by just becoming a bit better at efficiently moving up mountains.
  • Don't underestimate how much is left in the tank late in the race. I was pretty paranoid that I would blow up before I reached the finish...and as such I think I held back a little to much. Towards the end I should have just let it rip...especially in the last 13 miles. Mentally I just wasn't there this time though I think I'll be able to push it a lot harder.
  • Last but not least...keep a hold of a positive attitude. My low points coincided with a slow decline in my mental state. By that I mean that my mood took a nose dive before my body did. I think I can manage these lows a lot better in the future.

A big thanks again to everybody that helped get me to the finish. My friends that helped crew and pace and my wife for not only helping while out on the course, but also encouraging me at home during the last 8 months of training. (First for the 50k season, then Miwok, and then this) I'm already looking forward to next years Hundred mile adventure! Now it's time to go for a run.

People eat and drink a lot over 100 miles

Pippa and a new friend

My B taking pictures of Bee's

This picture does not do the sunrise justice

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

White River 50 II - The Runner Strikes Back

There is something disturbing about the title of this post. If you haven't already guessed I've reached into nerd-lore and ripped the title off Irvin Kirshner's Sci Fi masterpiece "The Empire Strikes Back". George Lucas doesn't get the nod for this one mainly because he is a crappy director and rightfully handed control over to somebody vastly superior to himself.  In said film the bad guys get the upper hand and we end up having to wait for the third film to see the good guys victorious triumph over the evil empire. So to sum up, in the first movie the good guys win, the second movie the bad guys win, and the third movie ends with what is essentially a repeat of the first with the good guys blowing up some empire folks. So if that's the format my running is going to year White River is going to destroy me. Lets hope that I follow a different pattern...perhaps Loss, Win, Win. By win I do not mean to convey that I won the race...the victory belongs to Sage Canaday who crushed it in 6:16. (A cool 3 hours faster than me) By win I mean I had a great day and drastically improved my time. 

In any event, as can probably be deduced from the above paragraph this past weekend I ran the White River 50 miler for the second time. I use that term loosely mainly because the first time I ran it the course kicked my butt and I was relegated to what amounted to a death march for the last 22 miles. This year things went much better; I ended up running all the flats, downhills and probably 65-70% of the hills. The rest was done at what ultrarunners like to call "power hiking" because normal hiking just isn't cool enough for us.

I was out on course for 9 hours and 21 minutes, finishing over two hours faster than last year. I guess that's what happens when you train a lot harder and end up running a majority of the course. Final Garmin upload had the elevation gain between 10 and 11 thousand feet, though the race website claims it's "only" 9200. To do a play by play would essentially be a repeat of what I posted last year, with some marginally more light hearted observations about how I was feeling at any particular point in time. Suffice it to say I only had one real bad spot, which occurred on the climb up to Sun Top between miles 33 and 37, and didn't last nearly as long as my extremely horrible patch the year prior. After that the 13 miles to the finish hurt, but was almost all runnable.

Just like last year I ended up running this one with my buddy Danny. Unlike last year however however he managed to rope another of his buddies into the Ultra Scene and our new training partner Josh made his 50 mile debut with a solid finish in 9:34. Danny as expected came in first amongst us three in 9:14. I'm pretty happy though in that he only beat me by 7 minutes this year which is vastly different than the near two hours he waited for me to finish last year. So awesome run by all! Now on to this beast...

T-Minus 18 days. Thankfully Josh and Danny will be helping pace me for the last 50 miles. I also have a bunch of other buddies (and my lovely wife) that will be assisting throughout the day, mostly by providing some much needed mental support...though I may ask them to bring some essentials to a few of the aid stations. Like a new pair of legs at about the 68 mile mark....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Running Vacation

Panorama of one of the many ridges. This sums up the views nicely.

Many people probably wouldn't choose to associate those two words together. Running oftentimes is looked at as punishment, or something that is a simply a means to and end not necessarily a means unto itself. You run because you want to get in shape. You run because you stole something. You run because there is a zombie chasing you. You don't run just for fun right? And you certainly don't take a vacation simply to run around the Mountain's in Juneau, Alaska. Well I did this, along with a few other like minded individuals and it was awesome.

This situation warrants some running
We were reminded by the host, one of Ultrarunnings current top athletes Geoff Roes, that we would need to keep an open mind about what we considered trail running. The mountains around Juneau are incredibly steep, and oftentimes we were left moving up terrain that simply wasn't runnable for all but the most superhuman of athletes. This was perfectly fine to me. When the terrain gets to steep, you hike fast. Trail running is less about running every step and more about moving as quickly as you can over the terrain that you've chosen.

 And wow did we move slow in parts. Hiking straight up snowfields does not lend itself to 12 minute miles, or 15 minutes miles....or 25 minute miles for that matter. Kick stepping up a mountain is awesome. Every step matters. Foot placement is key. You are focused on not slipping and more get to run down the steep terrain after reaching the top.

Steep Ascent

We spent 5 days running around the mountains of Juneau enjoying the varied terrain. From the steep, rugged "Hawthorne Trail" to the flat and fast Herbert Glacier. On the final day we played around Perserverance and Mount Juno, each taking a slightly different approach to hammering out our last run of the vacation. Some took it easy, others blazed ahead and enjoyed a standing glissade down Granite Basin...which ended in several hilarious face plants. Others still pushed on up to Juneau Ridge and had a pretty epic adventure in the white-out above tree line. When we weren't running we were chatting with our fellow campers and our hosts, Corle' LaForce and Geoff Roes. We stayed in a picturesque cabin and were fed tasty meals.

Running up was fun...running down was awesome.

In the end though, the camp was about what most camps are about. Enjoying time with people that you probably wouldn't have met otherwise. I'm continually surprised by how grounded everybody seems to be in the trail running community. The elite athletes are elite in that they are fast, but they are not elite in the sense that they won't mix it up with mere mortals. I've never gotten a sense that any elite trail runner (Ultra or Shorter Distance) has bought into any of their celebrity. In the end we are all runners but more importantly it seems we all seem to be genuinely good, happy individuals who share a common interest and a love for the outdoors. Apologies for the sappy nature of this entry for those few of you that may be reading this. I just want to hammer home the fact that this was a pretty special event and I look forward to attending it again next year.

For those of you that may be interested, the website for the running camps is . There is one more session coming up in early August of this year. If you are looking to be outdoors for 4-5 hours a day running around the surrounding areas of Juno, and like being fed tasty meals I would highly recommend signing up for the camp!

For those of you that read this and you are still on the fence about running I would suggest trying to Trail Running. It's more like hiking....only better because you get to cover more ground and don't have to carry as much gear. It may also boost your ego....passing hikers is fun.

Marmot Hole
Bottom of Icy Gulch

Herbert Glacier

Tracks out to one of the peaks

Running up the board walks to Muir Cabin

Geoff Showing us his Playground

Juneau Mountain Trail

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

50 miles of the Familiar, 12 miles of unknown

I was tired at mile 6. Six miles into a 62 mile (Later reports would peg it at around 64-65 miles) race my legs felt heavy, my heart beat hard and my mind was already trying to figure out how I was going to push through the low points that were undoubtedly on the way. 

The above paragraph may sound eerily familiar for several folks who I shared the trails with at the Miwok 100k this past Saturday. For those that may be reading this that don’t happen to run, or perhaps run more sane distances on less ridiculous terrain you may be surprised to find that people who run these races do feel tired fairly early on in these types of events. Last Saturday was a bit of an extreme in that normally I don’t feel that blown so early in a long event, but ultrarunning for me is less about trying to figure out how to prevent pain and fatigue and more about how to manage once it inevitably sets in. The gruesome details were requested by one of my running buddies, of which I feel I’m compelled to oblige. So get ready for a read…this is probably going to be my longest blog entry yet.  Before getting to the play by play however I’ll provide a little back story to the event that was about to give me a 350 pound virtual gut check. 

Back in December I ran a 50 miler in the Marin Headlands put on by the North Face that attracted a fairly large gathering of the less than sane, which included some of the top talent throughout the known universe. My previous exposure to the headlands had been mainly in some nice views from Fort Mason, Chrissy Field or the occasional jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge. This seems crazy now in retrospect given the fact that I’ve probably been in San Francisco on average 8-10 times a year for the past decade. Yes I have some fairly legitimate excuses, the BART doesn’t run there, public transport would take forever, I never rent a car, but in the end it really all boils down to me being too lazy. This will be rectified in the future. (Along with my last visit to Yosemite being 8 years ago….talk about a travesty) In any event, I was astounded by the views on the 50 mile course and told myself that I needed to experience more of them. I also knew that if I was going to bump up to the 100 mile distance that conquering (Surviving) a 100K would give me a psychological edge that would be sorely needed in order to develop the mental callouses I feel I need to suffer through any longer endeavors. What does a mental callous look like? Maybe a cross between a kidney bean and a pachyderm….or cauliflower. A doctor may view it on an MRI and interpret it as brain damage.

So I signed up for the Miwok, given that it fit into my race calendar and also gave me a chance to enjoy the headlands again. The lottery came and went and I was selected. A new course was created in response to some trail closures, which added 2-4 thousand feet of elevation gain along with perhaps a few extra miles. What is an extra 5k when you have already ran 100 you ask? Pure distilled pain….washed down with a cup of sadness, all packed into a punch of awesome. Mix all of the above with some race day temps around 80 degrees (Perhaps approaching or exceeding 90 within the gullies) and a second half that was pretty much completely exposed without a drop of shade and you have a recipe for an epic day. 

This elevation profile resembles an Anime characters hair. Spiky.

I arrived in San Francisco on Friday morning, having awakened at 4 am to catch my flight meant that I arrived quite early and had an entire day to work from a Starbucks before a contingent of runners arrived that I would be staying with in Stinson Beach, the location of the start and finish of the race. My stomach was revolting from the Naked Juice and the Soy Latte’s and I was getting nervous that I was perhaps going to attempt to run a race again with Flu-Like symptoms. (Good old DNF at Orcas) Thankfully a vegetarian wrap packed with black beans and rice from World Wraps calmed my ailing gut and put me in a place where I didn’t feel like I was going to refund everything I had consumed over the past day. Refunding is a horrible way to prepare for a race…I should know…I’ve tried it before. 

After working at the ‘bucks, having consumed a liter or so of soy milk spiced with caffeine I made my way over to Stinson Beach, where I met the rest of a Seattle contingent that was running the and we all unpacked at our place of residence for the weekend, which happened to be a bed and breakfast owned and operated by somebody who should be featured on the show hoarders. The rooms were fine, and the fact that we were a stone’s throw away from the start and the finish made just about anything tolerable, but we all had to do a bit of a double take each time we walked through the “Courtyard” to our rooms. Seriously…there were people staying in a tent on the rooftop of one of the establishments, that had a TV and god knows what else hooked up in it. Somebody funnier than I could base an entire routine around an overnight stay at this place, I on the other hand will only spend a paragraph as I realize now this is getting excessively long and I haven’t even really gotten to any of those “Gory Details” yet. 

Race morning we awoke at around 4 AM, grabbed our drop bags, put on our running gear, I personally took a Vaseline bath in an attempt to decrease any chance of chaffing and walked across the street to the starting area. I immediately lost the rest of my group in the sea of ultrarunning crazy that had coalesced at the state park. I chatted with a few folks, picked up my number, lined up with at the start and before I realized what was going on we were off like a shot out of a red rider bee-bee gun into the cool Marin morning. The supermoon’s slightly smaller brother was setting as we made our way up the first time, dumping more and more orange on the pacific ocean as we watched with a certain wariness…that thing was cool with a soft glow, a burning globe that us Seattleites don’t see very often was set to make what would be referred to by one (me) as a butt blistering appearance.

The climbs in Miwok are brutal steep but I figured I needed to set the tone for the race and really take a bite out of that first one. I did my fun run 400 steps, walk 50 all the way up the 16-20% grade and then settled into the fun rolling cambered section along the coastal trail. We ran through some meadows, some forested areas; there was blessed shade that at the moment wasn’t even really required because quite frankly it hadn’t gotten that hot yet. I surprisingly ran into a Portland runner, Steve that I seem to see at all of my events. We decided to run together down to the first turnaround, chatting away the miles and commenting about how easy the leader, Dave Mackey looked motoring up a hill that we had yet to fully descend. (He was probably already 3-4 miles ahead of us at this point and we weren’t even a quarter of the way through the race) At the turnaround, and all the aid stations for that matter, I kept my spirits up, joked around with the volunteers, thanked everybody who had come out and then put my head down and kept going. I lost track of Steve at the turnaround thanks to a call from Nature and wouldn’t see him again until after mile 50. How’s that for crazy?

Terrible...terrible Stomach knot
So the second hill came and went and I was still feeling pretty good. Up to this point I had done a pretty good job keeping myself hydrated, fed and electrolyzed. (Not a word but whatever) I was pretty much eating a gel every 30 minutes, taking an S!Cap every hour and was drinking water almost exclusively…at least until the Bolinas ridge aid station at mile 20. I made a pretty huge mistake here that seemed pretty innocuous at the time…and ended up paying for it for the next few hours. I ended up filling up one of my bottles with Gu Brew when I probably should’ve stuck with water but worse I decided to eat a Hummus wrap when I had never eaten one during a race before. There was plenty of other stuff there that I had eaten without incident before, but for some reason that hummus wrap looked like a little slice of garbanzo bean heaven wrapped in a tasty tortilla. Yes…it tasted good…and then it proceeded to turn my stomach into what would best be described as Gordian knot. 

So it was that we traversed the same basic route back to Stinson beach. As stated above, I was already tired at this point but enjoyed taking in the awesome views from the Coastal trail. The camber wreaked havoc on my hip flexors but hey, running is supposed to hurt. The descent was awesome. We basically hauled down the Matt Davis trail through the woods to the Stinson Fire Department aid station at mile 26.2. I came in under 5 hours, which meant in spite of my stomach and energy issues I was still on pace to come in around 12 hours. Sadly this pace would not last because up next…

We climbed up to Cardiac via the Dipsea trail. Yeah….that trail. The one with lots of steps. At least it is in the trees though. At this point my run 90% walk 10% hill routine was shot. I think I ran very few uphill’s from this point to the end of the race. That’s pretty normal though when you are being tasked with running up hills with a 15-20% grade. I was hot at this point…but not overheating so the climb wasn’t too bad. I managed to pass a few runners, hauled down the fire road back into the trees  and then took Redwood creek to the Muir Beach aid station. I had almost completely lost my stomach at this point so I attempted to force myself to throw up. Oddly enough I was unsuccessful so I slowed down a bit heading through the hot sections and actually managed to get things relatively under control by the time I hit the aid station. A fellow Seattle runner noted that I looked pretty pale at this point…though I figured that was most likely a remnant of the extremely low patch I was just now getting out of. There were loads of people here both volunteers and spectators that managed to buoy my spirits even though I was starting to fall into a deep, dark, pain ridden cave. I wanted to quit here…but decided I could at least keep going to mile 38.8 at Tennessee Valley. 

The climb out of Muir beach is just…brutal. It’s not the most difficult climb on the course but it is completely exposed and relentless. The lack of tree’s during the latter half of the course means that you can see FOREVER. Unfortunately this means that when you get to the top of a hill…you see runners going up to the top of another hill…and another hill beyond that. I was in full on death march mode now, though admittedly the death march was still around 15-18 minute pace up a giant hill. Not too bad really. I upped my salt intake at this point to an S!Cap every 40 minutes and fell into a routine where I would shoot myself in the face with water every 10-15 minutes. I was losing control of my heart rate on the ascents and as such was just incapable of breaking out into a run until on the flats or the down hills. 

This routine repeated itself for the better part of the next 20 miles. Tennessee valley provided a bit of a shot in the arm…and a sponge in some ice water which did wonders for my heart rate. The nice volunteers also filled my bottles with ice water…of which half ended up in my face and on my head as I climbed out of Tennessee valley (Another walk fest) until the trail flattened out and descended down to the Rodeo Valley aid station. The volunteers had set up all sorts of inspiring signs leading into the aid. Pretty much all of us who rolled into the station requested the same thing…lots of Ice water on our heads…and lots of ice water in our hydration systems. As a bonus one of the folks gave me a Popsicle…which resulted in many “oooh’s” and “aaah’s” from the runners as we ate our cold sweet treats. 

I didn’t linger long though…doing so can lead to disaster. You start thinking about how nice it would be to sit down, your legs start seizing up, your resolve wanes and the prospect of running another 20+ miles just seems ludicrous. Well ludicrous it may be…but I made my decision, set my warp drive to ludicrous speed and made my way down to Rodeo Beach! 

"It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere."
Rodeo Beach was nice…but fairly ridiculous. You actually end up having to run on about a quarter mile on sand…which just comes across like a kick in the groin that late in a race. I was running but was moving slower than my SLOWEST UPHILL WALK. I wanted to shout out in frustration but instead managed a hearty laugh. The absurdity of the situation, having traveled 45 miles by foot only to be done in by a quarter mile section of sand was just what I needed to snap out of another low and prepare myself for ANOTHER CLIMB ON THE COASTAL TRAIL!

More salt…more calories, less stomach issues surprisingly enough as we climbed out of another valley and headed back to…another freaking valley. That’s right…we were climbing up and over more hills to get to another valley which would then result in another climb…to another beach…which leads to another climb! Three climbs to the finish…no problem. I settled into another routine…eyes forward, climb, douse with water, take salt pills, move forward, eat gel, move forward, rinse and repeat. The stairs at the top of the Coastal Climb were particularly fun. I greeted them with another healthy bout of laughter. 

I ran through Tennessee Valley in about 10 hours and 30 minutes. Not a bad time for a 100K but not really on track for a sub 12 hour finish. I recalibrated and figured sub 13 was out as well. By this point it was probably around 80 degrees and the lack of shade for the last 5 hours was causing some serious hurt. I muscled on through though; ditching my now powerless GPS watch in favor of my working track watch ate what seemed like my weight in potato chips (But was probably one 2-3) and then headed out on the road towards the Muir Beach aid station. I stuck with my mantra…just get to the next aid station. 

More climbing up the Coastal trail followed with spectacular views of the pacific. At this point I was pretty comfortable with my pain, had no trouble hiking hard up the hills and seemed to have somewhat recovered from some of my low points in the previous 50 miles. I was taking an S!Cap every 30 minutes now and had pretty much gotten back to the point where my stomach could handle whatever sugar I threw at it. I ended up catching up to Adam, one of the members of the Seattle contingent, who was having some pretty bad energy issues on the climb out of the valley. We chatted for a bit before I decided I needed to take advantage of the energy I had and made a push to the top of the 2nd to last climb. Glenn Tachiyama greeted me near the top, snapping of some great pictures and sending me good vibes as I made my way down to the Muir Beach aid station one last time. It was great seeing him out there…familiar faces always help boost energy levels. 

Muir Beach was awesome yet again. The volunteers did a great job prepping me for the climb up Cardiac, filling my bottles yet again with ice water, dumping cold water on my head, giving me access to whatever food they had. Ultrarunning is just a fantastic sport. Pretty much everybody is out there just trying to help everybody else out and that essence was captured beautifully in all of the aid station volunteers. 

Running out of Muir Beach I ran into Adam again who still seemed to be having some energy issues. I was fairly certain that he would make it at this point though so I gave him some words of encouragement and managed to catch up to Steve about a quarter mile up the dirt road. He and I traded some words of encouragement, walked for a minute or so and then broke into a trot. The end was in sight and I was going to try to push the pace as much as possible while the going was flat. At some point I ended up passing some folks, then stopped for a short walking break, then dropped Steve, then passed some runners again…and so it went all the way to the cardiac climb…where everything almost fell apart halfway up the hill.

And by fall apart I mean the pass out kind. I had eaten a gel about halfway between Muir Beach and the climb…approximately 15 minutes prior to hitting the first steep section. I put my head down, motored on and kept to the shade whenever possible. Much of the water in my hand helds ended up on my head as I was in serious danger of overheating. I ate some more salt pills and thought things were going well until a fit of light headedness threatened to knock me down (and perhaps out). In my state of stupor I was having a difficult time determining what I could do to fix my rapidly deteriorating state. I didn’t quite feel like eating but knew that a big part of this was a lack of calories. Thankfully I had some honey stinger chomps in one of my pockets as I don’t think could’ve handled another gel. I proceeded to tear into them, eating the whole bag in about 5 minutes and felt better almost immediately. I decided not to push it though, so I kept my snail’s pace up to the top of Cardiac. With all the ascents completed I immediately felt as urge of energy and broke into something akin to a run which almost immediately resulted in some familiar crampy twinges in my lower extremities. I hammered another salt pill (My 3rd or 4th in an hour) and tested out the descent. My legs felt fine so I decided to bomb it as hard as I could. Oddly enough I felt fantastic, speeding along, cruising down the Dipsea trail 60+ miles into an epic run. Writing that now seems ridiculous…ridiculously awesome. I turned a corner and ran into some course marshals and hooted and hollered my way to the home stretch. People cheered, I smiled and yelled and before I knew it I was across the line in 13:39:55. One of the race organizers put a finisher medal around my neck and I moved into the party area, chatting with another fellow runner Greg with whom I traded many a conversation with while we yo yo’d back and forth during the race. 

I feel like I lost a fight to this guy and 300 of his best friends
So in summary…the race was awesome, painful, enlightening, challenging and all around epic. The volunteers were awesome, the fellow runners were great and those last 12 (or 14) miles of unknown made for one heck of a day. Marin is awesome…go experience it. Run it…hike it….ride it…do something there because the views alone are worth all of the effort it takes to reach the peaks of the many…many…many climbs. Two days later I feel like I was run over by a pack of Tasmanian devils…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What is a Chuckanut?

A season that started off with a whimper ended up delivering in a pretty big way over the past few weekends. Chuckanut 50K, Gorge Waterfalls 50K, and then a pretty fun 21 miler in Cougar last weekend have me feeling pretty confident heading into my last 4 weeks of training before my first big test of the season...the Miwok 100k. Before we get to that though... /sarcasm I'll offer some exciting commentary on my two 50K efforts last month. /sarcasm

Chuckanut 50K

Smiling my way up Chinscraper.
Photo by Win Van Pelt
What is a Chuckanut anyway? Kudo's to anybody who can figure this out without an internet search.  I personally had to look it up, which as you may have guessed sent me to a wikipedia page that I just assumed was accurate. I'm not going to tell you what it means though. Think of it as a Scavenger hunt that you can figure out and finish in about 3 seconds. In any event, there is a Drive named Chuckanut Drive and there is a mountain named Chuckanut mountain. Thankfully the 50K took place on the later rather than the former. I did one 50K on the road and I don't care to ever experience that again. (Though I'm stupid enough to where I'll probably end up doing it tomorrow just to spite myself)

Rocking the manpris
In any event, Chuckanut attracted a super fast crowd, which can probably be attributed to the tireless efforts of the race directory, and ultrarunner elite, Krissy Moehl. (Pronounced apparently I've been mispronouncing it for...awhile) I knew my ultrasignup percentage was shot when I saw the front runners take off like a bunch of greyhounds chasing after fake jack rabbits. Max King was on his way to finishing the 31.5-32 mile race in a blistering 3:30 when he decided that he needed more mileage and took a wrong turn. The dude is too fast...I hear he can outrun Emu's. In any event...he ended up finishing in 4:30 after running an extra 4+ miles. Adam Campbell, a super fast guy from Victoria BC ended up out sprinting the crazy field on the Interurban trail and took top male honors while Ellie Greenwood destroyed all the women (And most of the Men) and won the female division handily.

I was pretty stoked with my own performance, but as stated above you wouldn't notice any improvement based on my time vs. that of the elites. Sure I keep getting faster....but the elites seem to keep getting faster by a larger percentage. I didn't think that was possible. I figured I was untalented enough to where I would be able to make huge improvements where as the fast dudes would make these tiny incremental ones..apparently that's not the case. In any event, I finished 31.6 miles with around 5K feet of elevation gain in 5:20. I was aiming for sub 5 hour but with the rain and snow making for some slick conditions I was slowed down a bit too much on the awesome chuckanut ridge trail and had to settle for my slower but still completely satisfactory time.

Gorge Waterfalls 50K

What a week the race director had leading up to this race. Trail work issues, snow issues, a flat tire and a bunch of other challenges had to be overcome just to get the registered entrants on the course. Big hats off to James Varner for pulling off a great race in spite of all the issues. After four course changes in a week we ended up running an out and back that allowed us to pass by all 1 million waterfalls twice in about 29 total miles. (For a total of 2 million waterfall viewings in a little less than 50K) That is a waterfall sighting every inch traveled. I really like waterfalls...but after a few thousand they all start to look the same. 

One Hundred Billion Waterfalls!
Okay so maybe there weren't 2 million waterfall sightings...probably closer to 20-30, which is still impressive. The gorge is one of the most...gorgeous places in the country and I'd highly recommend taking a trip out there if you get a chance. Sadly I don't have any pictures as I was too busy trying to run at a marginally fast pace. Max King, the dude that took a wrong turn at Chuckanut, redeemed himself putting in a stellar 3:19, crushing the field in the process. (And it was another pretty stacked field on the men's side) The women's field was a little bit less competitive but there were still some fast women, one of which was Jenn Shelton, of Born to Run fame. I ended up seeing her at the mile 14 aid station after she had already made the turnaround and was coming back.

So I wanted to break 5 hours in one of these races and it turns out I did just that at Gorge with a 4:50 time. This deserves an asterisk though as the course itself was a little short on distance. (But not short on elevation...there was 6K+ vertical feet of climbing in those 29 miles) What's even crazier though is that I didn't even taper for this race or Chuckanut for that matter. The week prior I ended up with 63 total miles and the week of Gorge I ended up with 71. Both of those are pretty respectable weekly totals for me and I'm a little confused on what all this means. Perhaps it just means that 50K isn't that far for me anymore, or maybe it means that tapering is unnecessary. I hope it's both...I like running far and subsequently hate not running so this would be a big revelation for me.

To Miwok and Beyond

Man this season is flying. Maybe that has something to do with scheduling two races in 8 days. Though that was fun I doubt I will be doing it again anytime soon. Logistically it is kind of a pain and even though the races are pretty cheap they cost still adds up. I have access to some pretty awesome trails close to Seattle so it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense for me to pay somebody for a fun run every weekend when I can just head out with a few friends and take a leisurely 20-30 mile stroll through the local wilderness. After taking 4 days off following Gorge due to some muscle soreness (Who knew running up and over mountains was hard?) and a slight shin issue I jumped back into the deep end with a fun filled 21 mile trek around Cougar last Saturday with Danny Currit. We decided to go up and down as much as possible, which lead to a bit of pain towards the end of the run. I also thought it would be good to eat some dirt early on in the run, it turns out it doesn't taste very good and has a tendency to hurt ones knees if fell upon with any decent amount of force.

One last long run until I start to take it a bit easier leading in to Miwok. I have no idea what I'll be able to do there but figure if I pace myself well, keep the calories steady and stay hydrated I should be able to break 12 hours. Ideally I'd like to come in under 11 but that would probably take some sort of miracle. After that...well more training.

Oh and wasn't I supposed to brew some beer at some point? If these guys read this blog they'd be pretty upset...

Where is the beer eh?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More Finish Less Fail

Orcas came and went with very little fanfare on my part. No PR, no joy, and no finish.A little over 24 hours before the start of the race I came down with a stomach bug that had me unburdening myself of all the fluids and calories that I had painstakingly placed into my system over the previous few days. Not the greatest way to prepare for a training run, let alone the first race of the year. In any event, we got to Orcas, I attempted to start, got 10 miles in and pulled the plug at the first aid station.  DNF's are tough to choke down even when you know there is very little you could've done about it. I wasn't too happy about the result but got to spend some time with my wife and our dog at a cabin on Orcas, which is never a bad thing.

Pippa putting up with a photo op
My two buddies Josh and Danny knocked the race out of the park. Big congrats to them as they both put in a lot of time prepping for the event. Danny came in 20th in a pretty stacked field. Josh and I are waiting for him to get sponsored so we can beg for some free stuff. Josh ended up finishing his first Ultra with a good time and in good spirits and as such has decided to throw his name in the hat for the White River 50 miler. Another person converted to ultrarunning awesomeness?

The bitterness over Orcas didn't really last very long. Looking at my race calendar I realized the following:

1) Wow I have more races I get to run
2) Holy crap that 100k is less than 2 months away.
3) Cripes the 100 miler just got a month closer too!

Panic momentarily set in as I tried to wrap my brain around the enormity of these two endeavors. Best case scenario I will run 11 hours in the 100K. Though I suppose "move" would be a more appropriate word to use over "run". The 100 miler will likely take me 24 hours OR MORE to complete. The panic quickly gave way to excitement...though admittedly at times it is difficult to explain why. I like being out on the trail. I like talking to other runners. I like the challenge. I like the isolation. There isn't much about running that I don't like anymore. Though just thinking about that amount of running gives me enough reason to pause and consider whether or not I am a little off my rocker.

Spring (or winter?) in the foothills
Enough rambling. Onwards and upwards! Training began anew after the early season debacle and I hammered out an awesome 4 week block that included a 75 mile peak week. For comparative purposes, last year it took me until September to hit that kind of weekly mileage, which was done more slowly and with less vertical gain. My goal is to put together a killer back to back run next weekend when I take part in the Chuckanut 50K. I'll hopefully hammer out a sub 5 hour time in the race and will then spend a few hours the following day hobbling around Seattle...eeking out anywhere from 10-15 additional miles. The following weekend I'll partake in another 50K down in Cascade Locks, OR. It should be a pretty spectacular month. In April I'll put together back to back 12-15 hour weeks to start off the month followed by a taper period leading to the Miwok. (First Focus race of the season)

Finally, since I use this blog more for my own benefit more than others (Though I do appreciate you few readers) I feel like I should list some of the cool/surprising things that happened over the past few weeks of training.
  • I ran out on the San Francisco bay trail and heard a bunch of gun shots. Right around the time in which I was getting ready to call the police on my phone I saw a sign with arrows directing me to a gun club. (Which was smack dab in the middle of a PARK) Thank god my hands were a little frozen and it was taking me so long to type in my phone password...
  • Postholing up on Rattlesnake mountain with Doug, Marc, Joram and Jay. There is something about struggling along at 1-2 MPH that is incredibly satisfying...
  • Eating a ridiculous amount of fruits and vegetables. Nutrition is going to play a huge role in getting me up to the mileage required to run in these longer races. I'm buying organic when I can and adopting a new "eat lots of raw, green or brightly colored vegetables and fruits" rule.
  • Sharing the trails with all my training buddies. Doug, Joram, Marc, Danny, Josh and the members of the Seattle Mountain Running group. 
  • Running in the rain in the morning, watching it snow in the afternoon, and then heading out for a run in the sun in the same day. Only in the Pac NW. 

Three days to Chuckanut...I should probably be resting more but I'm having too much fun on the trails...and the pavement. I'm 0-1 for the is to hoping that I finish the rest of my races.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Racing least until the world ends

There isn't much of a break in trial running. As far as I can tell there isn't really an on season or an off season. Certainly there are months where races are more numerous, most notably in the summer months when a lot of the high country opens up due to snow melt. A runner can however find a race at just about any time of year. This isn't really much of a dilemma for those of us that like running...but it can definitely take a toll on the body. I'm fairly confident that I will be taking a pretty solid 6 weeks off at the end of this next season. (So..not until the December 2012, January 2013 timeframe...assuming the Mayans weren't on to something anyway)

Speaking of time off, following the North Face 50 in December I took about 4 days completely off from running. This was a bit difficult for me as a fair bit of my mental well being is now dependent on my ability to lace up a pair of shoes and pound away on the dirt or pavement on a near daily basis. The following two weeks were pretty light, running just enough to prevent myself from going crazy while taking it easy enough to allow my body to recuperate after a fairly full year of running. I believe the final tally last year put me at around 2,200 miles with upwards of 220,000 feet of elevation gain. Not bad for a wannabe athlete. Barring injury I will most likely increase that number by about 1,000 miles (or more) this year. It should be a blast.

As far as this year goes, January has been a fun month so far. I've spent about 80% of my time on the trails, up from the 55% I spent on the dirt last year. I'm hoping to keep this going through the entire season. Not only is trail running more interesting...but it also seems to be a bit easier on the joints. I've also been able to ramp up from about 40 miles a week (the arbitrary amount I decided to start off with) to 70 mile weeks without any issues physically. For reference last season I topped out with a 78 mile week. My hope is to ramp up to a couple of 90-100 mile weeks at some point prior to the 100 mile race I have planned for August. Suffice it to say my training is going great and I'm looking forward to keeping the ball rolling for the next 10 months.

After a solid month of training I'm ready to race. The Orcas Island 50K is this Saturday. I raced it last year and though I felt pretty good with my performance, given the fact that I was and really still am pretty new to Ultras, I'm confident that I should be able to greatly improve on my time from last year. Orcas is a beast of a 50K, much more difficult than many of the others floating around. It probably clocks it a mile or two longer than the advertised 31 miles and has well over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. (Probably more like 8K) I'll be giving the New Balance MT110's their first go in a race on Saturday. Awesome shoe...we shall see if they can turn this wannabe runner into something that resembles a real runner. In any event...Orcas Island, the rematch this Saturday the 4th in Olga, Washington. It should be a blast. Lets get ready to rumble.

Hopefully the next post will be funnier...this one just seems like it's full of numbers. I guess it makes sense though...what did you expect from an engineer? I'll leave you with a goofy picture of my dog.