Konichiwa

You don’t really realize how much the Japanese are into cats, yes cats, until you travel with self-described “crazy cat lady” Amy Sproston. They are really into cats here. They’re everywhere. Stickers, logos, sculptures, pumpkin heads, cafés. nothing wrong with it, just funny. They are also notorious from eating everything that comes from the sea, much of which you’re not even sure what it is unless you have a guy like Daigo showing you around and helping us by explaining what to do and what not to do, like wearing shorts at a Japanese Onsen (hot springs). That’s what the small towel they gave me at check in was for, hiding your stuff. But lets face it, it’s a little inadequate and silly to even pretend that does anything.
Every time I visit Japan I remember how gracious, kind and hospitable the people here are and it’s why I love to come back. Aside from the fantastic dining experiences, beautiful scenery of the mountains, it’s the people that really make the trip worth it. This time I came to race the classic Japan mountain race, the Hasetsune Cup. It is 72km of beautiful and brutal forested ridgeline outside Itsukaichi.
The race was started in 1992 as a memorial for fallen alpinist Tsuneo Hasetsune and I thought before coming over that it was a little odd to honor an alpine climber with a trail race in a fully forested area outside Tokyo. But not too far into the race, like 5km in, I realized that this is much more a mountain adventure than I had ever imagined.

The lack of alpine environment did not discourage or prevent the organizers of the first event from including some of the most difficult footing I’ve encountered during a race, or from including and astounding 15,000ft of climbing in just 44 miles. As you can imagine, 44 miles and that much elevation doesn’t leave a lot of ground to run anything flat or for the hills to be at all gradual either.
I will never believe a word Amy ever says again because of the last words out of her mouth before the start of the race. She leans to me and says, “The last 10km are all nice and the first 30km are all runnable”. Wow, was that a false statement if I’ve ever heard one. She realized her mistake about 2km…then again at least 30more times before we got to 30km, that one of her mantras during the race would become “Max is going to kick my ass”. I knew I was in trouble when I started hurting…at 10km. There is a lot I could have done to better prepare myself for this race, I just didn’t know any better.

This does not do it justice

Hasetsune is also interesting because of it’s 1pm start time, insuring runners will spend almost half the race in the dark of the forest. With adequate lighting this isn’t that much of an issue but it does throw in another difficulty on top of the terrain and lack of aid stations. Oh yeah, aid stations, there are none. Sticking true to a mountaineer’s plight of having no aid stations and having to carry everything with them, Hasetsune requires you to carry everything you will need for the entire race aside from 1.5L of water at 42km. For the front runners carrying 2L to start and all your food isn’t all that bad but I can’t imagine how the runners doing the course in 20-24hrs (the cutoff time) can carry enough water for the duration. My hats off to those who are out there that long.
This was probably the most sustained difficulty race I think I’ve ever done. I’ve done races that have worse footing or just as much climbing at high altitude but none where I’ve had to put it all together and have to endure that amount of torture for that long. That’s why, for 21 year old Ruy, running a 7:01 record by 18min is so damn impressive. Ruy is a young up n’ comer from Shinjuku on the Montrail team and he’s a stud in the mountains. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the coming years both in Japan and internationally.
I ended up “running” a 7:49 for 8th place. It was a hard fought battle with myself just to stay in it mentally.

But, where I failed, Amy prevailed. Amy took home the win with a great run and I did help a little bit in bringing home the overall team title with my teammates Ruy and Shun. Between us, the Montrail Team captured all three Hasetsune Cups this year. What they believe may be a first for the team.

Amy Finishing

This was just funny.

Team Award Podium

The Three Hasetsune Cups

As with any trip abroad part of it is to enjoy and take in the culture of the country you’re visiting and Japan makes for some of the most interesting experiences you can have visiting another country. The dining experience is unparalleled and so much fun. There are lots of places with sushi boats on conveyor belts. The most fun was the Smart Sushi where you order on an iPad, press Order, then it travels on a little car on a track right to your spot, you take it off and send the car back. How cool is that? There’s also the array of other odd looking but usually pretty tasty things that come from various parts of a fish or other sea dwelling animal. Like the flying fish roe, it’s like a party in your mouth. The little eggs pop and they’re so much fun. Then you find a couple stuck in your gums later on and get to do some more popping. Then there’s the shark bone (I don’t recommend), the raw octopus w/ wasabi (it was pretty good), and the fermented soy beans (Nato), which no one likes so I can’t figure out why they put it in stuff.

Shark Bone, not good.


Octopus Wasabi, good


Shashimi, good

The truly new experience was the Onsen, the Japanese Hot Springs, which after the race felt so good on the legs. This custom I never would have figured out if I hadn’t had Daigo and Ruy to follow through it. First, no shorts, then you bath in a traditional way sitting on a stool, then, it’s to the pools with the small towel to hide everything. We were soaking in the natural mineral waters while watching the low clouds and mist dance off the surrounding mountain in a light drizzle. A pretty amazing experience.

View from the Onsen

It was then back to Tokyo for two days. We were supposed to do a photoshoot but the rain killed that and we took a few photos but kept it to about an hour. Shortest photoshoot I’ve ever done. Back in Tokyo, Amy and I walked the streets and take in the sights (more cats) and eat more sushi. We hung out in 7-Eleven for awhile just poking around because well, it might be 7-Eleven but for us it’s a whole new experience and they have amazing little snack things that are probably just as bad for you there as they are here. And it turns out that I’ve never had good Sake until this trip. I always thought it tasted terrible but with a knowledgeable guide you can find the good stuff.

Busy Busy.

From there it was uneventful and relaxing to see Tokyo and make the trip home. It’s always nice to be home but as soon as I landed in Redmond I was off again. A quick lunch with my wife was all the time I would get before heading off to Medford for the inaugural Max King Invitational. I was quite honored to get a call earlier this summer from the XC Coach at my High School and want to name their home meet after me. My first thought was, “I though you had to be dead to get something like that named after you. I hope it’s not the Max King Memorial”. He assured me it was not and wanted me to be down there to start the races. But I managed to get them off and running even though I was falling asleep with the starter pistol in my hand. That 3hr drive home that night was one of the hardest I’ve ever had but sleeping in my own bed that night was sooo nice.
Then it was up early and off to California for the Warrior Dash World Championships. No rest for the weary this week.

Tokyo Skyline from the Hotel

Sake Barrels


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Three Days Run-Packing the Trinity Alps

by Max on October 14, 2014

There’s the trail!” I would hear every so often coming from Tonya just a way’s behind me. Looking out over the mass of white granite speckled with black I didn’t see anything other than a questionably man-made cairn off in the distance with obviously no track or “trail” of any kind running through the landscape. Tonya and I were scrambling our way across part of the Trinity Alps high route with the destination of Man on Rock Pass off in the distance. The crumbled granite blocks impeding our way made for the greatest playground I’ve ever seen and by the end of the day my feet and legs ached from lunging here and there amongst the great boulders.

Where's Tonya?

It is an incredible landscape and one you might associate better with the high Sierra around Yosemite or Tahoe Basin, but up here tucked in a remote part of NorCal where few venture off the I-5 corridor rises a mountain ridgeline that rivals it’s southerly mountain cousins in beauty and ruggedness. It my not have the huge faces that Yosemite does, but that same difference makes it more accessible (to an amateur climber anyway) to explore.
The Trinities are somewhere I’ve wanted to explore for many years. Growing up just over the Oregon border they were closer than the Sierra’s but just like everyone else, I always passed them by on I-5. I would stare out the car window every time I would drive past Castle Crags, huge monolithic granite spires just off I-5 and had no idea that a whole wilderness lay just beyond with more granite to explore.
Tonya and I and a few others have been dreaming of run-packing through some great wilderness area of the west all summer and with time running out we finally put down a date to go do it. And by “we” I mean I finally had a weekend in the schedule that I wasn’t racing or doing something else.

Magnitude

We chose the Trinities for a close but south leaning destination that would hopefully still be warm enough in late September in the mountains. We didn’t have any clue what was there since we’d never been there and with no map to be found at the Bend REI we headed south about 7am on Friday morning. I’d gleaned the internet for a good long route we could do and came up with what someone dubbed “The High Route”. It was only 25mi so we needed a bit more and what trailhead to start from.
To get some more beta we stopped in at the Ranger Station in Mt Shasta and to my utter amazement, they were actually really helpful. Sorry, but yes, I was surprised. We got a great map, the best way to get the Honda Civic over the mountains (it was not the way that I wanted to go by the way), and some guidance on what lakes to hit. We planned a route that would have been about 80-90mi, it’s tough to tell, and would have encompassed the White Trinities and Red Trinities.
The Trinity Alps are divided into three distinct sections. The Green Trinities, which we would miss this trip, the Red Trinities, and the White Trinities, which we knew we wanted to hit since that’s where the granite is. It’s part of the greater Klamath Mountains of Northern California and has over 600mi of trails. Too much to explore in just one short trip. The geography and history of the area are as interesting and diverse as anything else in Oregon or California but very little is ever explored other than by the few hardy back packers. Very little of the wilderness is visible from any road and even a day hike barely penetrates into the heart of the wilderness. It’s one of the most truly wild areas of the West Coast.

Forested Approach

We left the Stuart Fork Trailhead, with two other cars in the parking lot by the way, at about 1:30pm on Friday headed for Canyon Lakes, one drainage over. The trail started out mellow, cruising through thick old growth forest along a boulder strewn creek that held some of the clearest, cleanest water I think I’ve ever seen. Five miles in we would depart the creek trail and head up over a 3000ft ridgeline climb and down into the next drainage. Here we would begin to get our first glimpses of the high granite peaks…and our first rain shower, but man was it cool to see the storm clouds roil up, the thunder cracking and then break with rays of light shooting through the clouds right over the jagged peaks of the Trinity Alps was such a sight to behold. That, right there made the whole trip worth it.

The Storm Approacheth

We wound our way down off the ridge and into the next drainage. We were getting short on time since spending a few minutes under a tree for shelter. A few miles up the Canyon Lakes trail night began to fall so we picked our way up the trail with headlamps until we found a great creek side camp spot that you could tell was a popular destination during busier months. Luckily when you only have 20lbs on your back camp is a really easy set up. Pull your sleeping bag out, put it in your bivy sack and wah lah, camp is made.

Camp, Simple.

Seeing as how it was late September it was also getting pretty chilly, so puffies came out, pants on and a warm meal was, well, reconstituted. My original thinking was that for this run-packing thing to work out meals would have to be bars and dry cold food but then Tonya turned me on to Esbit cubes. Small, lightweight solid fuel cubes that will boil approx. a pint of water in a few minutes. Pretty ingenious if you ask me and also saves you from having to pack a stove for the comforts of a warm meal. I thoroughly enjoyed my chili mac that night.
We woke the next morning to bright blue skys that we would enjoy all day high above treeline on the white granite slopes of the Trinity’s. Another warm meal and hot coffee got our day started and we headed up the trail with our first destination being Granite Lake. It was a pretty mellow start with a nice hike up the canyon and even though we were run-packing this trip definitely wasn’t about an FKT, but about being in nature, enjoying the serenity that you can only get from wilderness and wondering about how clean and clear the water is and how green the trees are. I don’t get to slow down and smell the roses very often and it was nice to be able to do that.

Granite, Granite everywhere.

Climb up to Boulder Lake

We climbed to Boulder Lake and beyond to the granite slopes that form the ridgeline secluding the Canyon Lakes Basin and began traversing our way toward Man on Rock Pass and what would eventually be our final destination at Grizzly Lake. This is where things go totally awesome. I’m sorry but this is my type of play ground. Huge granite boulders strewn in a great boulder field has the likeness of a nature made parcour course and it’s your mission to find the most efficient, but also fun, way through. Jumping, leaping, scrambling, and playing my way across what seemed like an eternal boulder field was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It’s the way nature intended us to play. And shoot, it’s a good workout too.

Climb out of Boulder Lake

Just hanging around.

UP? Above Canyon Lakes

I was pooped, my whole body, worked. We were moving for about 8hrs on day 2 and we made it an incredible 12 miles, and it was some of the most beautiful and rugged 12 miles I’ve ever traversed. High up climbing over Man on Rock pass the views stretched on for as far as the eye could see. Storms a few days before we arrived cleared out the smoke from all the California forest fires so we had un-interrupted views of ridgeline after ridgeline reaching from the Oregon border south to where the mountains trail off into the Central Valley. Tonya remarked before we left the ranger station that they should connect the Trinity Alps Wilderness to the coastal Redwoods National Park and we could run that sometime. I thought it was a great idea, still do, but being up on that ridge made us realize the enormity of that request and how long it might take us to travel that distance.
Up over one more pass and we would begin our decent down into Grizzly Lake for the night. Grizzly Lake is a remote little lake surrounded by a cathedral of granite walls that as the sun sets catches the light just right and is lit up on all sides with a pink glow reminiscent of the late afternoon light through stained glass windows. Just amazed once again. Grizzly Falls leaps off the edge of the lakes shoreline almost as though held back by huge castle walls made of granite.

Grizzly Falls

That evening we lit up our little Esbit cubes made a hot meal, and watched the sun set on the high granite walls all around us. We crawled into our bags and slept. Our camp spot was so perfect I found a little patch of soft pine duff surrounded by trees that was nice and comfortable. I was a bit cold the first night so I made sure to have some extra insulation under my bag on the second night. The wind kicked up a bit but I slept warm and sound.

Grizzly Lake Alpenglow

Day three dawned with low clouds blanketing the surrounding peaks. If it hadn’t lifted in time for our departure out of Grizzly Lake it would have proved problematic getting out of there and back to the car. As it was we had a scramble up to a pass over a very precipitous granite ridge that took us several tries to figure out. Like a puzzle that you can’t see the other side of we would make a jab at getting over the ridgeline to Mirror Lake on the other side only to find a sheer drop that was impossible to down climb. After about four attempts we finally found the pass through the rock that we were aiming for and wound our way through the rocks and treed ridgeline to Mirror Lake and downward toward Emerald Lake.

Traverse across to Mirror Lake Pass

Tonya and Mirror Lake surrounded in a bowl of granite.

I had originally thought that a 1pm arrival at the trail head might be doable based on how far we had to go and how much cross country travel we had in store. That estimate quickly went out the window with our multiple failed attempts at getting through the first rock pass but when we hit the quagmire on the “trail” around Sapphire Lake that estimate quickly became, “lets just get out of here before dark”. The trail heads up through the canyon from the Stuart Creek Trailhead about 10 miles to Emerald lake, it then turns into what the map calls a “scramble” (or a rocky trail) but then disappears around Sapphire Lake on it’s way to Mirror Lake at the head of the granite bowl. We figured this was just because it wasn’t maintained but we would be able to scramble over some rocks and a well worn “path” that wasn’t an official trail. After all, Mirror lake is in a beautiful hollowed out bowl of granite rising on three sides, who wouldn’t want to go there. Well, people may want to go there, they just don’t. And here’s why:

Brushiness

A mess of brush so thick that you stare at it in wonder, wonder how on earth you’re going to get back to your car by the time night falls thinking that just swimming the length of the lake may give you hypothermia but would actually be faster than just waiting to die in the maze of brush before you.
We made it, but just barely. Back on the trail my original ETA was just slightly off. The wife wasn’t going to get any help with the kids tonight, and she wasn’t going to be happy about that. Sorry dear, it was the brush, I swear.
Tonya and I got into a good running rhythm down the trail. With packs about 10lbs lighter than two days ago running felt easy and more natural now. Occasionally we would see an opportunity to capture a few final photos of the grassy meadows with ragged granite towering above them with just the right amount of light passing through the swirling clouds to highlight the white stone. A picture perfect ending to such an amazing inaugural run-packing adventure.

Serenity

Yeah, it's about the most perfect setting...ever.

Despite our impeccably rationed food, we were still famished after moving for almost 9hrs through some unforgiving terrain. We swung through Weed, CA on our way back to Bend and hit the Hi-Lo Café for a bit of downhome cooking. I never order chicken but the Southern Fried Chicken stood out on the menu as did the cherry milkshake. Both were as good as they sounding and made for a satisfying end to the great adventure.
There’s so much more to explore in the Trinities and beyond that we’ll be back for many more adventures in a vastly unexplored area that holds so many treasures. I had my hopes up for this first run-packing trip. That it would mean more freedom from a weighted down over stuffed pack without giving up too many luxuries of true back packing, that it would allow me to cover more ground and see more in the short amount of time I have with obligations to work, family and training, and that I would truly still get the primal feel that I was out in nature with risk and reward living together. Did I find all of those things? Unequivocally, yes, and I’m already planning and looking forward to the next great adventure with a little gear on my back and fast shoes on my feet.

Then there’s the High Route. I alluded to it earlier. It’s a roughly “established” (meaning someone did it and drew a map of it) route that is a gnarly route through the highest peaks of the White Trinity Alps, that may be a good candidate for an FKT record due to it’s difficulty, beauty, and adventure. I know there are some that would highly discourage this becoming an FKT but fear not, your secret is safe in the wilds and seclusion of Northern California. Few will ever attempt such a route, but… a possible attempt might be in my future.

Here’s a rundown of my main gear and what went into making this a comfortable but minimal experience.

Sleep System:
Mtn Hardwear Mtn Speed 32 Bag
Mtn Hardwear DryQ Bivy
Thermarest ProShort Pad
Mtn Hardwear Fluid 18L Pack

Clothing:
MHW DryRunner Shorts
MHW Wicked Lite T shirt
MHW Super Power Tights
MHW Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket
Montrail FluidFlex Shoes
Swiftwick Socks – 2pair
Buff
MHW Butterman ¼ zip Shirt

Other:
Esbit cubes for cooking – 12
Two 17oz Softflasks for water
Water bottle
Spork
iPhone
GoPro

Food:
4 Packaged meals from REI
Trail mix
GU Energy gels
GU Brew drink mix
GU Chomps
Beef Jerky
Gummy Colas
Coffee
Other snacks

Adventure Buddy

Sapphire Lake from above

And the Video:
http://maximus.runnerspace.com/profile.php?member_id=133&do=videos&video_id=125645


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Spartan World Championships

by Max on September 22, 2014

Maybe someone can help me out here. I’m having a hard time understanding how you get 10000 people out into the middle of nowhere in Vermont to run up and down a big mountain, carry around buckets of gravel, and get torn up in the woods but the majority of America is fat and out of shape and doesn’t want to do anything “hard”? Well, I’ve got some theories but it’s hard to comprehend that I just witnessed just that scenario. I can’t believe that there are so many people that would go through the Vermont Spartan Beast course. You mention that you have 3000ft of elevation gain in a trail race or say that a trail is going to be technical and it totally scares runners (who are typically in great, if quite fragile, shape) away from even attempting it. The crowd of people that obstacle racing has tapped into has me completely confounded. Obviously it’s a crowd that wants nothing to do with running otherwise that would be their way of challenging themselves, yet they run (walk, mostly) up and down 7000ft of mountainous terrain. To say I’m quite impressed with them is an understatement and also shows that much of America stuck in cities, in cubicles, are in need of an outlet and this has been the first thing in a while that has called to that subset that isn’t inspired by your typical endurance event.
And who knows, maybe trail running would be on the same scale of 4 million people a year if it weren’t hampered with the bureaucratic nightmare of getting a permit to hold larger events.

Either way, I’d like to tell you about my trail running (plus) adventure over the weekend in Vermont. I decided after my last Atlas Race in February that I had to set some time aside this fall to really make a run at some obstacle races and see what it had in store for me so I blocked off a couple of weekends to do the Vermont Spartan World Championships, Warrior Dash World Championships (Oct 18th), and the OCR World Championships (Oct 25th), (I know, lots of world championships, just a name for big prize money). The Vermont Spartan is by far the most brutal and longest Obstacle course so far devised. And each year it keeps getting harder and longer.
I went into this race with pretty high hopes for at least a top 5 finish but knowing that what I was walking into would be different than anything I’ve ever done. I didn’t get murdered but I was definitely still unprepared for what I would have to endure. Obviously my legs were good, it was like a very difficult 50km distance, but my arms and grip strength have some significant catching up to do to some of the other guys (and gals) in the field. It was actually a pretty international field that Spartan put together and the unknowns surprised the American veteran races as well. (1st American was Cody Moat in 3rd)
I was in 5th and gaining on a couple of guys when we reached the double sandbag carry, but that ‘s as high as I would get before my race took a dramatic downward spiral. But, lets back up for a few minutes to go through how we got here.

The Start - Go For Glory!

For me, the most difficult part of preparing for this race was trying to figure out what the heck to wear. Trail racing is easy, shorts, shoes, jersey, a pack if you need it. I felt like a diva picking out which shoes to wear to dinner as I was standing over a pile of gear trying to figure out what to go with. It was supposed to be pretty cold (60s) and we would be in and out of cold water (how many times, who knows?) and from the descriptions of last year everyone cramped up from the cold water and a few cases of hypothermia. I didn’t want that and knew I couldn’t handle cold water very well so settled on cutting off a wetsuit top and went with that. There were times when I totally needed it and others when it felt a bit bulky but overall I was glad to have it. I also took a pack for water and gel. Last year they described the water stops as infrequent and unreliable so I thought I would take that out of the equation. Turned out they were more organized this year and while I did drink about 1.75L of water probably could have used the water stops. Oh well. It’s not too bad racing with a pack.

Beasts!

At 7:30am we were called up to the starting line. A downhill start made for fast TV coverage before heading straight up a ski slope to take our pace to a hike. A 1000ft climb right out of the gate spread the field out before our first obstacles, a quick sandbag carry to a bucket brigade carry (carry a 5gal bucket full of gravel up a ski slope and back). Then we hit our first real big obstacle: a 100m swim in freezing water, climb a rope ladder, a tarzan swing to ring the bell, back in the water for another 100m swim to shore. That was rough. I went in thinking, ok, at least I can swim better than most of these guys, but I hit the water gasping for breath and it was totally different than I’d imagined. I couldn’t put my head in the water, it was too cold. I was trying to crawl but my heads going from side to side and with full clothes and shoes on it’s really hard to swim fast and efficient. Eventually I had to resort to a backstroke to calm down and out of the water I was disoriented, dizzy, and weaving side to side. Ok, nice way to start off. Get it under control, Max.

Swim and Tarzan Swing Obstacle

Back running again I warmed up ok and we were off running up to Killington peak with more obstacles on the way, heavy stone carry, barbed wire, log hops, log carry, walls, cargo nets, and drag a big cinderblock up/down a ski slope (that was hard for a little guy like me). Then, reaching the peak, I nailed my first spear throw, that was an awesome feeling. Then back down the mountain for a long gnarly off trail and down ski slopes run to the long bucket brigade. I was probably most afraid of this but it turned out to be not that bad after you consider what was coming. Back up the mountain again to a tire drag, then back down, through the Vermont woods, rocky, rooty, and full of ankle busters to the now-dreaded double sandbags. No one knew it was going to be two until we got there. Two? Seriously? What the..?

Double Sandbag Carry - up up up!

I stood there for a minute at the bottom just trying to figure out how I was going to carry two sandbags up a mountain. (see photo) I tried on the shoulders, I tried one on a shoulder and one in my hand. If I did that I was going to destroy what little grip strength I had left. Finally I had the “brilliant” idea of just doing it twice. Take one sandbag up, drop it and come back for the other. It was the only way, so I got to work. A lot of the other guys behind me and with me then started doing it that way too. It was taking longer but there wasn’t going to be another way. At least 5 guys caught me. I went from 5th to 10th in one obstacle. I’d been holding Hunter McIntyre and a couple of other guys off for the past 10 miles but their strength would put them ahead for good.

This should be easy. Jungle Gym.

The next obstacle was a big jungle gym that I thought no problem, the rings went smooth then we got to big square bars. One wrong hand placement and I was off. First burpees of the day, but wouldn’t be the last. Any missed obstacle calls for a 30 burpee penalty and this would be the first of many to come. Down through the woods and back to the lake for out second big water obstacle, the Tyrolean Traverse. This was the one I’d been looking forward to all day. I love a good Tyrolean. Dipping under the rope and hanging by all fours you kind of feel like a monkey or a lemur. My grip held for this one and I rung the bell and dropped into the water. I was still in about 10th at this point and hopeful I could hang on. The last mile was full of obstacles and to save myself the trauma of having to relive it, lets just say that my grip was gone, strength was gone, my adductors were cramping, and I did 180 burpees in the last mile. Yes, I failed the rope climb, the spear throw, the 200yrds of barbed wire was very painful with cramping, I got through ¾ of the monkey bars and pole traverse before grip gave out and I was back to doing more burpees. I lost a few more places over this last mile but everyone was hurting just as much as I was. I just did too many burpees. I think the only thing I did do right was the fire jump 10 meters from the finish, but I still crossed with a smile on my face because it was hard and it was awesome. It was a cool 4 hr adventure through the deep, dark woods with jungle gyms just like when you were a kid, and carrying heavy things around, and throwing spears, and jumping in the mud. Oh… wait, that’s why so many people are doing this… it’s really fun.

The Course - 14.5mi, 7000ft, 33 obstacles

It was one of the tougher things I’ve done. It felt like a really difficult 50km I think. It was unfortunate that I just lost strength in my arms so it wasn’t something I could just push through. That’s just training. To compete on a course like this, it takes years of training and when you have guys that focus on obstacle racing it comes through late in a race like this. One of my favorite parts was the through-the-woods cross-country running we were doing over rocks and trees, through brush and swamps. That’s just primal.
Hanging out at the race the rest of the day, the views from the bottom of all the people out of the course was just amazing. It was a solid stream of people all over the mountain at various points on the course from mile 1 through mile 14. To see so many traversing the same thing that I’d gone through a couple hours earlier was impressive to see, mostly knowing what they still had to do.

Tractor Pull

Thanks to my family and sponsors that helped me get here. GU Energy Labs, Montrail, Mtn Hardwear, Polar, Flora Healthy, Rudy Project, Swiftwick Socks. West Coasters check out Atlas Race at Atlasrace.com for some fun (not quite as brutal) obstacle races in 2015.


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Nick Elson and I were locked in a heated battle. We’d just passed through aid station 4 and he’d opened up another 1 minute gap on me after I’d just gotten done closing the first gap he’d gained on a technical, scrambly and steep climb up toward the peak of Mt. MacKenzie. I was just about done after having already climbed over 10000ft up and down Revelstoke Mountain Resort and now just had the long decent back down to the lodge left.

Beauty in all it's Glory

We were in Revelstoke, BC for the first TrailStoke event, the only Ultra event in the Canadian 5Peaks race series. Being three weeks post Western States my only obligation in heading up north was to be on the speaker panel the night before the race. After getting there on a clear day and seeing the towering mountains looming over Revelstoke I figured I would run the course easy just to get out and see some of the scenery. I still wasn’t feeling 100% after Western and didn’t know how it was going to feel taking on a demanding 50k at that point.

Downtown Revelstoke

Pre-race Briefing. That's a lot of people.

The beginning of a whole lotta pain

A flat 8 miler the day before didn’t feel too bad until I hit a few little hills in it. It was a nice day out and my legs were coming around but didn’t feel like they were quite there yet. The morning of was relaxed and it’s always nice preparing for a race with not expectations. If a big group of guys hauled off the start line I’d just settle in and be out for a nice run up a very big mountain. But, that didn’t happen that way. When the horn sounded we all jumped out of the gate a bit more conservative than I’d expected. There was a relay event going off at the same time and two of them were out front for awhile but the main ultra pack caught up pretty quickly once we headed up the climb. I was in the lead pack and feeling rather comfortable. No one was pushing the pace so I was able to keep it relaxed and in control on the way up. It was about a 9 mile, 4000ft climb up to what I thought would be the top and the first aid station.
This is the first time I think I’ve ever had an all out sprint in the middle of a 50k. A prime was set up for this first aid station and when we topped out I ended up well ahead of 2nd, but the aid station was downhill about 1/4mi from the top down a dirt road. As we neared the aid station the dude in 2nd began his charge as quietly as possible but I knew what was coming. Checking over my shoulder several times I could tell he was getting closer and was about to make a break for it. When he was about 20m from me he started his all out sprint and I made mine. Lucky for me I still had some leg speed. Turned out later that he was one of the relay guys, he got to stop, I had another 22 miles.

Alpine meadows

Continuing on I actually figured it was going to be a walk in the park…or an easy jog in the mountains. I was dropping the other ultra guys in the race pretty fast. We headed out into the unknown. From the ski hill we traversed through the off beaten track through a swamp, up a technical scree covered pitch, and high alpine meadows. Everything I’d read online was about getting up the ski hill then having some beautiful high alpine ridgeline running. Not on this course. They got everything right except for the running part. It was beautiful with clouds swirling, we were in the midst of a gentle storm with showers here and there. It gave the mountain a certain mystique since we couldn’t define where we were in relation to anything around us. We just continued to climb. At least another 2500ft. With the rough terrain I was relegated to hiking. I started to take in the beauty of the alpine. Meadows, grasses, wildflowers, and rocks.


Starting the pain train


Boom, Hit's you like a wall! Wait, it is a wall.


Still Climbing

That’s when, out of the fog, Nick Elson crept up on me. I could see him down below on the ridgeline I’d just come up. He was moving well and gaining on me pretty fast. He caught me at about half way at the turnaround. We both came up on a pile of flags and just stopped. There was supposed to be a person at the turn around but this was clearly where the course ended. Nothing beyond. We decided that was it and turned to head back down the mountain. The technical downhill was no easier than it was on the way up but I stayed as close to Nick as possible. Through the more runnable sections I would creep up on his heels, through the technical hiking sections he would gain some ground on me. As I descended down the treacherous loose rock the only thing I could think to myself was that this wasn’t so much of an ankle turning course, this was like a broken bones type of course.


Nick gaining ground.


Trail? What trail?

One more big hike up to 2200m and just a shade below the summit of Mt MacKenzie Nick gapped me pretty good as I started to struggle after so much vertical. We hit aid station three then we had about 3 miles of downhill dirt road. Hallelujah! Open it up baby! I’d caught back up by aid 4, another little off road stretch and he opened back up another little gap. Dang it! Ok, more road to the finish. I closed back down on him and took the lead for the final time. I didn’t gap him quite as fast as I would have liked and now was hurting pretty good. Any little uphill would send minor cramps down my calves so I had to stay diligent in gauging my efforts on any uneven terrain.

Nick pouring on the pain.

That jacket saved me.

The final two miles was a steep off-road pitch straight down a ski slope then a winding and fun little singletrack right into the finish. I managed to hold him off and came in just 40sec in front to one of the most scenic finishes I’ve ever raced toward. It was pretty amazing as the photos will show and it was an epic adventure.

Finish Line View

I was surprised to feel pretty decent throughout but only 3 weeks after Western I definitely dug myself into the pain cave and back into a recovery hole. Was it worth it, yeah, probably. It hurt but to win the first ever TrailStoke is pretty cool.

5Peaks Racing is trying to make TrailStoke a premier mountain ultra event with weekend festivities and what not. It’s a SkyRunner Series Race with a great after party, dinner and live band too. In their first year they attracted about 270 people up to the off-the-beaten-path resort location and managed to put on a great event. That’s a lot of nutty people running a brutal 50k course in the middle of nowhere. Good on ya 5Peaks. Thanks to Amy and Magi all the whole crew for having me up and putting up with me for the weekend. I even got to cruise around in this: The 5Peaks Mobile.

5Peaks Mobile

This is a race that is going to become one of those classic mountain races, an epic adventure course. There are some amazing mountains to explore up there with some very wild lands. It’s going to be fun to see what else our northern neighbors can cook up. The whole weekend I couldn’t help but stare across the valley at Mount Begbie and just hear it beckoning, calling my name. Next time Begbie, next time.

Mt Begbie


More to Explore

Gear (thanks to all for the support):
MHW Ultra Refueler Shorts
MHW Way2Cool Singlet
Montrail Fluidflex II
MHW Ghost Whisperer Jacket – This thing saved me. Such an essential mountain piece.
MHW Arm Warmers
MHW Race Vest
MHW Trucker Hat
Rudy Project Rydon II
Swiftwick Aspire One Socks
GU Cherry Lime Roctane


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Shoes of a Finisher

by admin on July 17, 2014

The longest journey begins with a single step. Little did Mark Vincent, General Manager of Timberline Lodge, know when he blurted out his goal to improve his health at an executive retreat in 2008 that his journey would end by crossing the finish line of the Antarctica Marathon last March.

Mark is now a member of the “7 Continent Finishers Club,” one of the elite athletes who completed seven marathons on each of the world’s seven continents. “Antarctica was always the prize,” said Vincent, “but I knew I had to work up to it.”

“Working up” meant adding marathons in Rome, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Sydney to the NYC Marathon he’d completed in 2007. Antarctica was by far the most grueling, its steep, muddy terrain laced with ice and snow even in summer. The shoes on his feet? Montrail’s Mountain Masochist II. Vincent first tried Montrails while training on Mount Hood. “You’re running over patches of snow and through streams from the glacial run off. The shoes gripped in the snow and were waterproof in the wet areas. I thought they would be perfect for the varied conditions in Antarctica.”

And perfect they were, helping Mark to endure mile after punishing mile. “I was getting a little rummy toward the end,” he said, “but I said to myself, there’s no way I’m not going to finish this thing—not after eight years of work and waiting.” As for his shoes: “After I got them cleaned up they were still pretty new—I’m still running in them. I’m not that into shoes, but they were great. Lightweight, waterproof—I didn’t get one blister!”

We think Mark and his shoes are pretty amazing.


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Western States and All That History

July 5, 2014

The best way I can describe Western States 100 for me is a whole new level of hurt. This photo says it all: It, of course, was much more than that. I’ve only had a few race experiences when crossing the finish line comes an overflow of emotion rather than just trying to catch your [...]

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Montrail Ultra Cup Final Results

July 2, 2014

Well, folks, the results are in, and the Montrail Ultra Cup Champions have been crowned. Big congrats to Kaci Lickteig and Ian Sharman! Thanks to all the runners who participated in the Montrail Ultra Cup this year. Top-20 results are below. WOMEN Runner Bandera 100k Sean O’Brien 50m Rocky Raccoon 100 Lake Sonoma 50m Ice [...]

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GoPro (or go home!) Mountain Games

June 20, 2014

By Megan Lizotte It felt so good to be back in the mountains, running trails, sucking wind and chasing some great friends/competitors! I was so happy to be back in Colorado—I just feel like a different person when I’m in the mountains, like I’m home and I know my way around even if I’m deep [...]

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Western States 100

June 6, 2014

In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh ran alongside horses in the Western States Trail Ride. Finishing 23 hours and 42 minutes later, Gordy proved that a runner could travel the 100 miles in one day. The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run – the granddaddy of them all – was born. Since then, during the last full weekend [...]

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2014 Montrail Ultra Cup Standings

June 4, 2014

  The Montrail Ultra Cup is heading towards another exciting finish at Western States on June 28, 2014. Thus far, the Women’s field appears to be a bit of a runaway, while it’s up for grabs for any of the Men! Montrail is proud to have helped 21 elites gain entrance to a coveted Western [...]

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