Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's like a Sauna out here

The 2013 version of the Pine to Palm 100 was an awesome event. Hal and Company nailed it, pre-race pasta party and camping to the course and aid stations. Mother nature threw what most would consider a spectacular day our way, albeit a hot one. High temperatures clocked in somewhere around 95 degrees, a fair bit hotter than those that I had encountered during my summer training. The heat was just another obstacle though in this race; one that I admittedly did not handle all that well. I finished though and that in and of itself brings an incredible amount of satisfaction. There are a ton of things I would tweak or change about my race in retrospect, but the fact of the matter is I like to run so that's what I do until I inevitably blow up.
You don't say?

I'm going to try to keep this one as succinct as possible. I could certainly write what many would consider a large volume on this race but I'm not really sure anybody is interested in reading paragraph upon paragraph detailing how bad I felt during a 5 mile section of the race.

The evening before the race my buddies drove me out to Williams for the aforementioned pre race festivities. They were awesome. I got to catch up with Bryan, Geoff, Deb and Sidra while eating pasta, obsessing about drop bags and talking about how it was going to be pretty hot on race day. The hours seemed to fly by and before I knew it we had all retired to our respective tents. Our drop bags having already been given over to the race staff the only things to obsess over were sleep and what to eat prior to the race the following morning.

I slept well, which was a surprise. Last year at Cascade Crest I think I managed 2-3 hours of sleep the night before the race. Keep in mind Cascade Crest doesn't start until 10 AM so I'm not exactly sure what went wrong there. In any event, I slept well, woke up, ate some food, drank some coffee and before long we were all piled in Bryan's car heading towards the start. We quickly parked got our race bibs and were off running the 2013 Pine To Palm 100. was a blur at the start line. We got there and were off and running within about 10-15 minutes.

I ran with Bryan and Tim for a few miles but then decided I needed to settle into my own pace. (Those dudes are fast) Near the top of the road portion of the climb we ran into Race Director Hal Koerner, smiling away taking some photos of the early morning runners. A quick dip on single track and then we turned back up the main climb. This section went quite well for me. The grade was manageable, the heat wasn't an issue (yet) and my energy levels were high.

I have to say the miles to the first major aid station were just about as ideal as they could've been. The views on the top of the first climb were stellar. Unfortunately when you are running a race you don't have much time to enjoy then. I wanted to stop to soak it in but also realized I needed to take advantage of the cool morning air. Ducking back into the woods I continued to descend down to the extended fire road section. This was the first portion of the race that actually started to feel hot. At this point it was probably 10:30 in the morning so my brain was having difficulty processing the fact that I would have to deal with increasing heat over the next 7 hours. We ducked into California briefly, turned back into Oregon and hit up that first aid station mentioned above. The spectators (Mostly crew for the runners) were amped up and the aid station volunteers were predictably helpful. I refilled my water, ate some food, filled my bandanna with ice and headed off to the second climb.

On paper this thing looked like it would be easier than the first, in the flesh however it was by far the most difficult climb of the entire race. A combination of the time of day, heat, the fact that I had already run almost a 50K all contributed to this being more of as slog to the top. I felt pretty good for the first 1/3rd of the climb, not so great the second 1/3rd and was firmly in the pain cave feeling sorry for myself during the final 1/3rd. Near the top some exposed ridge lines and drainage's fried my brain and evaporated what little positivity I had left in my brain. Aid station mileage in ultra's is notoriously spotty and the mileage between the prior aid station and the one near the top of the climb was no exception. My Ambit had it pegged at about 5 miles whereas the course manual listed it more around 4. That extra mile resulted in me moving for about 45 minutes without water.

There was tons of this
At the top of the climb there was carnage and a whole lot of misery. Runners were sitting in every available chair. All the cool stuff was being consumed. I personally ate a fairly massive amount of cold grapes. After resting for a few minutes in a chair I decided I needed to start up again. The lake was calling and I wanted to take a dip. Unfortunately what I thought was going to be a continuous downhill to the next aid ended up being another series of exposed climbs finally followed by a nice, somewhat steep single track section to the Squaw Lakes. I was in pain again here and knew that my day was going to get a lot worse. The heat was oppressive and I just didn't want to walk. I kept forcing myself to run despite the fact that my body would've been better served by an even distribution of walking and running.
And a heavy helping of this

There is a short two mile section that takes you around the lake. My plan was to run a bit and then take a dip in the water. Unfortunately I never got around to jumping in the lake. This was extraordinarily stupid on my part. Jumping in cold water can greatly help manage heat in these types of situations assuming of course that you are not already suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Since I was suffering from nothing more than tired legs and a slightly overheated body I should've been taking every opportunity to dunk myself. I didn't do this, felt even worse when I got back to the aid station and was only able to eat a half of a graham cracker before heading out for a short downhill to the third climb.

This section was miserable. I walked...I stood there...I sat on the side of the road. I arrived at the water only aid station and was convinced I was done. Fortunately there wasn't any place to bail. I scraped myself together and death marched my way to the mile 52 aid station. This was probably the slowest section of the race for me. I ran in to a family heading into the aid station that was upbeat and cheered me in. The dad told me he ran the race last year and was equally miserable at this point and was able to turn his race around. I wasn't overly optimistic. Sitting down yet again I was convinced my race was over. The volunteers again scraped me up off the ground, convinced me to eat some grilled cheese and low and behold I felt a phoenix rising from the ashes on a cheese induced high. I actually ran most of the section up to the lookout tower and then blew down the hill.

The sun set, I settled in with a fellow runner heading out of the aid station and made my to the next major aid station. (Dutchman Peak at mile...67+...I can't remember) Temperatures were now cool and I was locked into a walk/run with a group. I realized I should've been doing this from the beginning but as stated above...I like to run and I'm determined one day to RUN most of a hundred mile race. About a mile outside of Dutchman peak my energy levels tanked and I was yet again convinced my day was done. This was the last time I would feel this horrible.

The volunteers at Dutchman peak were miracle workers. I hadn't eaten for about an hour and was pretty foggy from a lack of calories. They sat me down, warmed me up, gave me food and then provided a huge mental boost. I have no idea who talked me into moving on but I will be eternally thankful for this person. When I was down in the dirt and had zero confidence they had enough to convince me that I could not only keep going, but finish the race running. I finally got out of the aid station and kept this with me for the next 30 miles. I ran through a moonrise and set, a sunrise, a scramble to the top of a little lookout and then a killer downhill into Ashland Oregon. Those last 30 miles were some of the greatest I've ever experienced...low points and all. I owe much of that to the folks that propped me up and gave me the confidence I needed to finish this thing off. Lesson learned...misery in 100 milers is oftentimes temporary.

The finish was rad. Hal was there cheering everybody on, snapping off pictures and was even able to chat with us for a bit after we finished. I quickly made my way to a cot, ate some food, laid down for a bit...then cleaned up, collected my buckle and hopped in a car for a seven hour drive back to Seattle. Thanks to Marc and Doug for coming down to Ashland...and driving my semi broken self back to Seattle. 

So there you have extremely late race report from Pine to Palm. Maybe I'll blog a bit more this year. Hopefully I'll brew some more beer soon...just need to get through this gluten free month. In the meantime enjoy these pictures of my kiddo and puppy!

Pippa doing her stretches

I'm a walking advertisement for Seven Linley Impressed?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Road So Far...

Every season finale of one of my favorite shows ends with a little recap beginning with "The Road So Far" while "Carry on my wayward son" by Kansas blasts through the TV speakers. It's fitting really...the characters are literally put through hell every season; getting shot, chewed up and spit out by demons, ghosts, vampires and all sorts of nasties. The crazy thing is you get the impression that they are enjoying themselves through all of the insanity. Perhaps there is a similarity between their trials and those of the endurance athlete. Maybe I'm just watching too much Supernatural.

Not gonna lie...I have a little man crush on Jensen Ackles
In any event, this year has been equal parts quiet and insane. Late last year my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child. The doomsayers came and said my running career was over. I told them they didn't know how obsessed I was or how cool my wife was and immediately signed up for a hundred mile race, the Pine To Palm 100, which is set to kick off here on September 14th. I then proceeded to line up and race at the Orcas Island 50K, Chuckanut 50K, Gorge Waterfalls 50K, Capitol Peak 50M, Sun Mountain 50M, Rainier to Ruston 50M and the Lake Youngs 28 Miler. Of all those races I only failed to finish Sun mountain and that was due in large part to a scheduling issue. If I had taken the Monday off after the race (Which unlike every other race on the list above was run on Sunday) I would've gutted out the finished, pigged out in Winthrop and then drove home the following day. Instead I got in a nice 50K and got home by dinner. But I digress...

She has gone completely berserk help!
Every single race listed above was run on or before June 8th. Why no races after June? Well because our little bundle of awesome arrived on July 2nd. She needs...nay...demands much attention. Her piercing shrieks can penetrate the most apathetic of hearts and her smiles can make the will crumble. Would I be able to run a step after the birth of such a wonderful yet terrifying being?

The answer is a heartening yes. A resounding yes in fact. My wife is awesome. She has undoubtedly resigned herself to the fact that my running is not so much a hobby as it is an obsession. Yes I day dream about running. It does not really become distracting however unless I don't get out on a run for a few days. Ideally I get out on a run every day. And that's exactly what I did from July 6th to August 8th, the lone exception being a mountain biking substitution one Sunday. This bout of activity was in large part assisted by paternity leave, though it has since carried over into life post leave. I can still get out and run almost every day now that I'm working again. I just had to prioritize. I came up with the following mathematical representation of my new priorities:

Baby=Wife > Work > Running > Everything Else

I apologize if you fall into the everything else category. I promise I will still make some time for you. Perhaps you would like to join me for a run? We could always catch up on our respective life experiences on the way to the trail head. Or perhaps during the warm up and cool down. You could experience views like the one below! I'm sure there are some exceptions to the above formula...but as far as day to day life goes...that's it.


But what is all this for? Well as stated above, I signed up for Pine to Palm late last year. Finishing this sucker isn't a sure thing. Unlike last year I will be hammering this thing out sans pacer. I probably won't have a crew and I will have zero course knowledge. (Beyond the fun little maps and elevation profiles provided on the race website) So pretty much all the training over the past 9 months has been focused on one thing, getting me to the finish of the P2P in as few pieces as possible.

If a flat 50 miler did this...I'm in trouble.

The next few weeks will be sent slowly decreasing my weekly mileage. I'll still try to get out and thrash the quads on a few ascents/descents of some local mountains up until September. I'll begin my fairly aggressive taper on August 26th and will strive to keep my sanity over the three week period leading up to the race. Sure I'll run...but it will mostly be for mental maintenance. I'm pretty sure I turn into a terror now if I can't get out regularly...

And unlike the song mentioned above I doubt I will ever truly be done. Next year will bring a new outdoor adventures...and another 100 miler at the end. Fingers crossed for Western States.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Decreased Frequency

My purpose behind this blog was originally to capture a few of the more fantastic events that would undoubtedly occur throughout my journey as a hack brewer/hack ultrarunner. At first I did a pretty good job at that, posting once a month mainly to collect some thoughts and entertain myself and a few folks with my less than clever observations regarding my two main hobbies. (For the record I also like playing video games, reading books and watching movies which subsequently are all things you can do when you are too tired to move) One would think then that my lack of posting over the past 3 months would mean that I hadn't really done anything of interest. This may still be true but I would like to think that it is mainly due to an evolution of my perspective on what constitutes "fantastic".

When I first started running, finishing a 50k was a pretty big deal. Now it's more of a training run. I still don't run particularly fast, but I'm no longer laid up for an extended period of time after a longer run or race. I'm not tooting my own horn here, just about everybody I run with is in a similar situation...and they are all faster than me. As such I've quietly ran a few 50k's without much fanfare. They were still awesome, I just didn't necessarily feel like analyzing the finer details of the races. Don't worry, I'll be running three 50 milers in a 5 week period so I'm sure there will be one or two blog posts devoted to that endeavor. I'm also thinking about switching to brewing smaller batches which will not necessarily decrease the amount of time spent brewing but will increase the amount I can enjoy said beer. Right now a 5 gallon batch results in approximately 50 bottles of beer. I'm a light weight when it comes to alcohol consumption so 50 bottles of beer lasts awhile. If I brewed once a month for an entire year that would give me 600 bottles of beer. Right now I'm the only one in the household consuming it...though thankfully that will change come July. (Yay baby numero uno!) Perhaps I should stock up on said supplies sanity may depend on beer later.

In any event, more frequent brewing may result in more frequent blogging, which may in turn result in...well I'm not sure. I thought however that I would summarize a few of the things I have done running wise over the past few months.

My buddies got me to sign up for Orcas Island, which I had to bail on 1/3 of the way through last year due to a stomach flu. The February 2nd race date meant that I had zero off-season this year. I basically went straight from running Seattle to training for Orcas. I PR'ed at Orcas with a 6:06 despite having some race day issues due to poor pre-race dinner decision making on my part. Feel free to speculate! Race Day was awesome...sun, views, potato chips, soda and more. We spent some extra time on Orcas to celebrate my wife's birthday and I got to enjoy the San Juan's only brewery. If you get a chance to head out there I highly suggest stopping by Island Hoppin Brewery. I tried a mean IPA/Barley Wine blend while there that was so good I ended up getting a growler of it. The growler did not last long...

After Orcas I trained, then went on vacation on Kauai. Brandi graciously allowed me to run the Kalaulau trail with a couple of my running buddies who happened to be out there at the same time. The trail is awesome. Go run it.

Josh and Dan cruising down to the halfway point

Josh avoiding flying off the trail

Uphill out of the beach

Training continued after Hawaii. I ran and barely PR'ed at Chuckanut. I did not have a good race...but last year I felt like I had a great race so I guess this means I'm getting faster. Next up is Gorge Waterfalls 50k. I'll be looking to PR there too...even though I should probably just treat it as a training run. I'm an idiot though so I will try to run it fast. (For me...which is slow for a lot of people). Bring on the spring! I leave you with pictures of my awesome pets.

Tricksy Kitten
Sleepy Pippa

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