So, it’s one thing to put on an ultra race or trail race and it turns out that it’s quite another to put on a USATF Club XC National Championships. Not to worry, I’m recuperating well after a few nights of sleep. Right now it’s that deep sigh of relief after you just get done with something you’ve been stressing about for a long time, it turns out great, and it was a lot of fun to do but you’re just glad it’s over.
We’ve been working on bringing the Club XC champs to Bend for about three years. It was almost that long ago that Kevney, the sports guy from Visit Bend, the Bend tourism agency, brought it up and we decided that the Club XC champs would be a great way to help stimulate the local economy during December and spread the word about Bend being a world class endurance sports destination. We’ve already had multiple USA Cycling National championships and the Leadman race but we’d never focused on a large scale running event that would hit a different demographic. The Club XC champs presented us with a great opportunity in terms of size and demographic. We put in our bid with recommendations from other local athletes such as Lauren Fleshman and a great package. After a couple months of waiting we found out we got it and then the real work began to bring to life this event. There was a great team that did much of the hard work with Visit Bend leading the charge and working on details. I was lucky as my job was to make sure the course was ready to go and come up with one of the best courses the racers have ever run on. Of course this was going to be subjective since every course
director is going to be biased to what they like. For me, it was about getting back to the real roots of cross country, of Europeans racing from one town to the next across plowed fields, through ditches, and over fences. In other words, a race that doesn’t favor the roadies and track guys. I took a lot of inspiration from cyclocross, since I think they’ve done more than a few things right in growing that sport, and wanted to put in barriers, side hills, and other technical and strategic features. Several years ago as I was getting back into racing and doing more regional and local races there was a foot race prior to each of the Cross Crusade Cyclocross races over in the Portland area. I would load up my truck with Dog and Wife and head over and camp for the weekend next two the race venues. In the morning, a small group of 50-60 XC runners would be the first to test out these cyclocross courses each week and man, it was a blast. It was easily the most fun I would have racing during the year. I would then watch as 1000 cyclocross racers filed in and raced over the course in various races the rest of the day. Sometimes I’d throw my bike in before leaving and then race that as well. But I often wondered, why can’t we get this kind of turn out for a series cross country race in the North West. I suppose there’s something cool about a bike, but I saw some good potential for a cross country series if the course was interesting.
That was my goal with this event and why I was/am so passionate about how the course should be laid out. Trail race directors get to do this all the time but laying out a cross country course you get to start with more of a blank canvas and use a little more creativity to bring it to life. I want people to have fun and enjoy running. To be thinking as they run a course, man, this is fun, not, ugh, can’t wait for this to be over. I did have to make a few concessions in how difficult I made the course, I wasn’t allowed more than one hay bale barrier and even that had to be removed for the masters but I didn’t want this course to be overly difficult either. I wanted people to say, “that was the hardest course I’ve ever run, but man, that was fun”. And that’s what I got. And the response from everyone I’ve talked to has been just awesome.
My college coach Jerry Smith taught me the most important rule about building a course is to use the landscape and let the course come out of it. There’s a course there somewhere and you just have to find it. You can’t force out a good course that will keep runners engaged. It’s just there and you have to figure out how it flows from the land. There will always be constraints such as finish chute length, course width, and starting line width, so you have to tease the appropriate course out. There’s no right course, just some that run better than others.
The amount of work to put the course together was a bit more than I’d expected but at the same time I loved every minute of it. It was like one big crossfit workout. Pull a hay bale over here, haul the rubber mats somewhere else, pound 500 post (I didn’t do all those), walk half the course, run to the other half, put out the fencing, etc etc. At the end of each day I had that totally exhausted but good exhausted feeling that only comes from a long hard day. Took care of that soreness I had from the 50miler the Saturday before real quick.
This type of event is the kind that only gets done and done right with a lot of help and a lot of volunteer help. The great thing about Bend is the dedicated and connected running community. It’s the only way we could have pulled this off as well as we did. Through several trail work parties we took a rough area through the woods and made it into two very fine looking 12ft wide pathways. A group of a couple of guys even dug out and moved a boulder the size of a 1976 Beetle (or so they told me).
The one thing I was dreading about a December race date was it snowing. I told everyone that I really didn’t need it snowing before the event because I’d be the one out there shoveling, sooooo, what happens, it snows. Then the wind blows all the snow all over the place and leaves us with 1-2ft drifts.
Probably not runnable like that. Through the power of social media and also very good connections, we had 6 snow blowers out there the very next day. They took care of every inch of course. I like it difficult but no body likes to run through the snow. That little maneuver put us back on track and I will ever be thankful for their help out there…and everyone that ran should be too.
My biggest accomplishment however, may possibly have been our announcers. I actually got Jesse Thomas (pro-triathlete, Oregon high school XC Champ, etc) and Matt Lieto (pro-triathlete and Ironman announcer), both general goof offs as some entertainment for the crowd of racers and spectators. That along with fire pits, an expo area with food, beer and cookies made for a USATF event that hopefully raised the bar on what a national championship can feel like to those who raced.
After a week and a little bit of catch up sleep I feel good about how it went off and so far have heard only positive comments from those I’ve talked to. I think there were some that still thought it was probably a bit too difficult but no one has mentioned it to me. And I’ve got to say, since I was able to run myself, albeit a little bit fatigued, that it was indeed a fun course and everything I expected. It kept my mind from wandering too far, the feeling of fatigue only crept in long enough for me to realize that I’d just done a weeks worth of hard work and run a 50 miler, then it was back down the roller coaster where I found myself letting out whoops and hollers all the way down. That’s when you know it’s a fun course and having a hand in it’s creation made it that much better. Now it’s back to the day job and thinking about next year. For now I’ve decided that a good long break is in order. This year I’ve been feeling a bit drawn and the body in need of some recovery.
Well, even if the North Face 50 didn’t go as well as I thought it should it was still a fun weekend. I spent the week in Austin at the Running Event, a trade show for independent running retailers, checking out cool new product that pertains, on a daily basis, to my lifestyle and profession so it’s always fun to check out what other people are doing to try to make our lives more fun, or interesting, or whatever. There’s been a lot going on lately, starting with a trip to Hawaii for the Xterra World Championships to Thanksgiving with family down in Sacramento, then down to Austin and immediately to San Francisco. Lots going on and theres a chance that contributed to just not being on point this weekend. Up until about 3 wks ago right before Xterra training was really clicking along. Runs were going well, I was running fast and I was getting in 100-110 mi/wk. I got a little niggle of a partially torn calf muscle (so says the PT), worked it out and took two days off then started running again. This was a couple days before Xterra and I had a few runs leading up to the race but for some reason my legs were totally out of it at Xterra. No go in them and I can’t figure out why. I should have been feeling great but maybe the slight injury just threw me out of whack. I don’t know.
Anyway, then I got back to training a bit but with only two weeks to TNF 50 I wasn’t going to throw in a bunch of mileage so I basically started a taper like you would for a marathon. But a general feeling of blahhhhhhh continued in my legs and they just wouldn’t come around. By now I’m sort of panicking so I started to do whatever I could to get them to come around. I started rolling every day to get them worked out, my hamstrings had been feeling a bit tight, I took two Epsom Salt baths and that works pretty well when a malaise infests my legs, and I just started running less.
I did a 10k race on Thanksgiving day in Sacramento and ran 30:17 which I thought was a good sign and showed I was at least in some semblance of fitness, although in hindsight probably not the best predictor of mountainous 50 mile shape. But the malaise continued through Austin and I did everything I knew how to do to feel ready for this weekend. By Thursday before the race my legs had actually begun to respond and come around and on Friday they actually, for the first time in three weeks felt kind of poppy. (Poppy is a technical running term meaning good) So that was good but I still, (wow, I’m coming up with so many excuses that I feel like degrading myself but this is just how it was coming into this race) kind of felt under the weather a bit like when you’re just starting to catch a cold or you’ve got one lingering and on the verge of a sinus infection. Just not feeling “normal”. Friday I headed in to the Mountain Hardwear HQ for a talk about running and climbing presented by my good friend Dakota Jones who has high aspirations of melding the two disciplines into many more adventures. (Dakota, I want in by the way). I skipped over to the GU HQ where they were in the middle of their holiday party and met many new faces of the crew there that I’ll be working with as a GU athlete this next year. Pretty stoked to be working with GU this year. They have great product that works phenomenally well for us ultra runners. The morning of the race I got up at 3am because they have a ridiculous starting time of 5am, I was hopeful as my legs felt decent, meaning I didn’t feel completely crippled like a 90yr old until the blood moves around a bit. Having been in an unknown state of fitness the past three weeks also hadn’t made me super excited to race a 50 miler either but on this morning (even at 3am) I was at least in a good mental state before the race and ready to go. It was go time. The race is run in some of the most beautiful areas that you’ll find, especially when you consider it’s right next to a major metropolitan area so I was looking forward to that. After running for 2hrs in darkness the sun began to rise off to our backside and cast sun beams on the grass slopes of the Marin Headlands. It is such an awesome view to having rolling grass hills with the bright Pacific Ocean stretched out in front of you. Tough to enjoy in a race but I was trying. After 20 miles of feeling like the pace was easy and I was comfortable with good climbing legs I was actually starting to have some fun and excited for what that meant for later in the race. But of course either the lack of fitness, the lingering cold, or whatever just had to rear it’s ugly head and in the span of about 100m I knew that this race was going to get real ugly, real fast. I started cramping, not a normal thing for me in a race either. Especially after only 27 miles. The rest of the race would be punctuated by bouts of cramping with just general fatigue in between. The electrolyte capsules I was injesting weren’t doing anything so I started to chew them, yes, actually chewing up large amounts of electrolytes in my mouth, to get some relief. Luckily this did in fact work to fool my brain into thinking I was now sufficiently electrolyted up and I would stop cramping for about 30min or so. I ended up having to do this about 3 more times. I suggest you try this at home or in a race of your own so you can commiserate with me on this one. I staggered to the finish line in a not completely unrespectable 6:54 and an 11th place finish. Not a finish that I wanted but everything considered, not so bad. I don’t suggest doing a race at under 100% capacity unless you’re looking for a perseverance medal rather than gold medal. I know that there were some folks out there a lot longer than I was that deserve a much larger perseverance medal than me however so I applaud you and your efforts. Trust me, this is just a blog post and I need nor want any sympathy. Today, I’m sore. Which is to be expected. This week starts the beginning of a very long break for me from training. My body needs a recharge so this winter I’m running a little and trying to ski more and enjoy some other things like teaching Micah to ski (hopefully) and watching Hazel start to walk (she just took her first steps on Thursday) and just generally spending some good time with the family. I’m returning back to Bend where it is now currently 3 deg and 6” of snow on the ground. This is a perfect time to take a break. However, first up next weekend are the USATF Club XC National Championships and I’ll run those probably not very fast but I did build the course so feel some obligation and desire to run them. It will be fun…as long as most of the snow melts.
Most photos credit to Galen Burrell – nice shots man!
I’m just tired. I was expecting more of an easy weekend rather than what I actually got. I figured running camp, run easy, fewer miles, etc. Instead I, like usual, ran three runs a day, couple miles each, over rough terrain and now I’m spent. The three times through the obstacle course yesterday probably didn’t help, but how could I resist, it was so much fun. That’s the nature of the RWB (Team Red, White, and Blue) Trail Running Camp. It’s set up so that vets and other trail running enthusiasts will have fun, learn from experienced runners, and experience trail running at some of it’s most rugged and scenic best. The camp was held this past weekend for the second time in as many years at Camp Eagle outside (way outside) San Antonio on some of the most unforgiving, skin taking, cactus riddled, rock strewn terra firma I’ve ever seen. I thought the basalt lava rock in Central Oregon was bad (and it is) but this land is covered by sharp rock from river bank to highest peak with cactus thrown in for good measure. It was just rough.
Camp Eagle is a 1400acre retreat camp used for everything from sporting events to church camps and we happened to fall somewhere in between. The past 4 years that Team RWB has been around the founder, Mike Erwin, has gone from a few t-shirts given out to a full-on non-profit group that supports hundreds if not thousands of veterans from every branch of the armed forces from every generation. This was the second year of the trail running camp held at Camp Eagle and it roughly doubled in size this year to include 84 vets, about 50 civilians (cus they like to trail run too), and 50 camp staff such as mentors like myself.
We gathered for two full days and three nights to share our knowledge and experiences with those that are both new to the sport of trail running and those that were there to experience a fun trail running environment. With such a wide variety of folks tailoring specific knowledge to each individual is a big key to helping people learn the basics or the intricacies of a simple but often complicated sport. I won’t bore you with the structure of daily activities but to say we accomplished a lot by separating athletes into four groups ranging from first time trail runners to trail running veterans looking for that extra knowledge that would help them improve their performance. The mentors Liza Howard and crew had assembled would later lead to the most competitive race between ultrarunners in November with Sage Canaday, Jason Schlarb, Dominic “Unicorn” Grossman, Dave James, and Jason Bryant. Also there were Meghan Arbogast, Pam Smith, Liza, Nikki Kimball, Katie DeSplinter and many more.
I had amazing time at camp and it is exactly the thing that I need from time to time to reinstill my faith in the human spirit. Luckily runners tend to be a rather upbeat crowd which is exactly why I surround myself with them but at running camp everyone just seems a bit more relaxed and at ease with themselves. Even though I go as a coach or mentor to try to help others, usually it is I that comes away with more than I came with. Take for example two of my favorite people at camp this week; Karen and Eduard. Karen was a Olympic Trials marathon qualifier with a bright future in professional running when she was derailed by an accident in the military to where she can no longer feel sensation in her legs. She can move them and she’s still a 3hr marathoner but I can’t imagine not being able to feel your feet when running but despite that she’s getting into ultrarunning and trail running with a little healthy fear and an indomitable spirit. To see her running over technical rocky terrain and knowing she had a broken bone in her foot (that she couldn’t feel) really amazed me.
Then there’s Edward who I first met on the bus ride out to Camp Eagle. He was limping out of the gas station stop so I thought he had an injury, turns out he did, he’d lost his whole leg up to his hip, one of the worst amputations because usually people end up just sitting around and not trying to do anything. Turns out though that there isn’t much (if anything) that is going to stop Edward. Throughout the weekend he ran the technical trails using his leg to bound up steep technical terrain while using his prosthetic running leg to land and pivot on to get back to his good leg. He participated in each run never slowing anyone down and refusing help when we asked if he needed any. Then he went and did this: the last event of the weekend was an obstacle race. He did the whole thing and when I saw him on course he was working his prosthetic through a tire hung between two trees about 4ft off the ground that is one of the hardest things for people with two good legs to do. He made it through to my amazement. Kid is tough as nails. And he’s funny too, he said he had a little tightness in his calf too when I was saying something about one of my injuries, but he was talking about his prosthetic leg.
To say the least, these two and the other hundred or more at camp have my respect. And in four short years Mike Erwin, RWB Founder, has created something that for many will be an important part of the recovery process for these vets and for others just an awesome running camp to come to, be inspired, and learn a lot about trail running. Look for more camps next year including this camp at Camp Eagle. It’s open to all trail runners and tailored to the huge range of abilities that we have in the sport. Hopefully I’ll see you there at one of them.
A mason jar of Apple Pie Moonshine, a cigar, some smores, a long run in the hills, and a wrestling match with “the Unicorn” himself capped off the weekend and sent me home quite wasted (not from the moonshine, really) and in need of a few days of recovery.
I think it’s fair to start off this report by saying this turned out to be a very disappointing race. I hate to be negative and I can still even find some positive aspects to the trip to Poland but at the same time it was an important race for me to do well at. In a situation like this there’s no reason for me to be mad because there’s nothing I could have done to prevent a mid-race misstep so I’m not mad, just disappointed. Those races that go poorly due to how I perform are much harder to take because I’ve had an impact on those and ultimately it comes down to how hard I push it and what my body feels like. In this case, it doesn’t make it any easier but it was also out of my hands.
I went into the IAAF World Mtn Running Championships in Krynica, Poland with high, but not unreasonable, expectations. I had to right? I mean, I did win the last up/down race in 2011. I was hoping for a top 5 finish knowing there would be the usual suspects of US (Joe Gray), Turkey, Italy, Uganda and Eritrea so a finish that high would be great. But I wasn’t going to be unreasonable and expect that I would win the whole enchilada again, after all, I still feel like 2011 was a bit of a fluke.
Poland was cool but aside from the town looked a lot like the east coast in spots with nice rolling hills, green grass, and a few more evergreen trees. A small town like Krynica has a lot of very old culture which I’m sure if we were there a bit longer we probably would have seen.
We were staying at a ski resort a few miles away so didn’t get to experience it in all its glory. The course was remarkably similar to this year’s national championship at Cranmore in NH. It started with a 200-300m uphill straight into a steep downhill with a few corners and then into a straight very smooth downhill road section that everyone can blitz. The bottom of the course starting up was very steep grass ski slope zig-zaging in large switchbacks across the slope making for awkward and difficult footing.
This would prove (on my one loop of the course) the most difficult section by far. This transitioned at the top of the slope into a short flat section then into uphill singletrack the rest of the way up to the top. This was a great section. Nice shaded singletrack with a roller in the middle to move the legs then finishing with a mellow 200m uphill road section before heading into the next loop or the finish (that I never got to). My race started out like a cross country race heading uphill over a grass slope. I was in about 5th position at the top but quickly moved into first on the top corners of the downhill. I knew I would need all the speed I could muster on the downhill if I was going to finish in a high position so I tried to extend my margin on the downhill as much as I could while still being relaxed. Reaching the uphill section at the bottom I dialed it back a bit to stay comfortable on the first climb while the field caught me from behind. On the singletrack I had the whole Ugandan team right behind me and I know they didn’t want a repeat of two years ago where they completely fell apart one by one. I half expected this from a couple but I was amazed when they never did. Up the singletrack I had some control of the race and I backed off the pace a bit. The Ugandans didn’t go by. I waited and waited and still they stayed right behind. It wasn’t until the last 400m of the uphill that they finally went by and I stuck right on the back of them. I wanted to make this first lap as easy as possible knowing the next two wouldn’t be. At the top again I was about 5m back of the Ugandans and Joe Gray, right where I wanted to be.
I started moving past them one by one on the downhill again. I was in second about 600m down the hill moving into first when, snap! Nothing hurt, everything seemed fine. For about 5 sec…then Boom. My ankle blew up like a balloon. I continued to run but ankle range of motion was gone slowing me down to a jog. Then I knew it was over. It really didn’t hurt, too much adrenaline, but that ankle it turns out is an important joint when you’re trying to run. About five minutes later as I tried to walk myself out is when it brought the pain. Ow, it hurt. I hobbled my way back up the course cheering on the rest of the team and letting them know I was out of it. Glenn wasn’t having a particularly good race and as he went by an realized that I was out and he might need to stick in there the look on his face was priceless. It was great to get to watch the race unfold but I would have much rather have finished. I got to see Alex and Ryan make pretty significant gains on the field in the last lap to bring us up into 4th place. I think I was on the verge of having a good race but one will never know. That’s really all I have to say after that. I went straight to shoe school in Boston to see how American made shoes are put together, I got to make my own shoe (in size 6), and meet many amazing people in the American workforce that make shoes that I sell. Pretty cool. I’ve taken a few days off to let the ankle heal up but with Xterra coming up next weekend I’m feeling like I’ve got to get back on it to work out some kinks. Everything with it seems fine, meaning not broken, but only running will let me know. Don’t worry, I’ve done this before. I’m a professional so don’t try this at home. UROC in two weeks. That one might hurt.
I’ve been waiting the whole summer for another shot at the Three Sisters Traverse record. Back in about 2005-6 Kevin Grove took me across all three peaks for the first time. He trashed me that first time and little did I know until the third and final peak that day that we were racing it and trying to hit a time. We stood atop South Sister at 10,358ft and he says to me, “We’ve got an hour to make it down by 8hrs.” I was like, “what, we’ve been trying to hit a record?” and off we went to dip just under 8hrs and get what we thought was probably under Ben Husaby’s time. Skip ahead 7 years and the record has been lowered to about 6:30 by Brett Yost and Dave Potter. It’s a pretty fast time but one I thought I could probably handle on a good day. So on Aug 23rd I left town about 8:15am, drove up to Sparks Lake, jogged down the road to Devils Lake Trailhead and started my watch just after 9am.
I did a hill workout the day before. Was that smart? Eh, the legs were working ok and I felt pretty good up the flanks of South Sister. Since that first epic adventure of a North to South Sister traverse, the consensus (by that I mean Yost and Potter’s record was done S to N and scouting by me) is that a South to North assault is probably better because of the footing, so that’s how I was attempting it. The jury is still out, however, after this. I checked off the summit of South in 1:27, actually a record for me, and down the loose scree slopes of the north side of South I went.
Bounding and flying down South Sister into the saddle between Middle and South I went, only to be stopped by a thicket of weathered gnarley old fir trees. Ugh. Out of those after only a few minutes and I was back on my way up Middle and summited the 10,047ft peak with nary a hiccup.
Then, I had a big hiccup, fog on the summit shrouding everything from Middle to the saddle and on up to North. I couldn’t see a thing. I had an idea of what it looked like but shoot, it’d been a long time since I’d been between the two mountains and all I remembered was a scree slide off north and a snowfield to Middle. It started off easy enough, a quick scree run down off Middle until…a crap, a cliff. Or I thought it was. I skirted carefully around the cliffs and stayed on the scree. I went off in the direction I thought north was but found only rock bands and rock fields. I continued on through the fog not knowing exactly which way I was headed. All I had to go on was that down to the left somewhere was Eugene and down to the right somewhere was Bend. Unfortunately, a mountain’s topography is never that simple so the snowfield I expected to be there never materialized how I thought it should. I did find a really cool rock canyon to go through and areas that made Mordor look tame and quite tranquil. It was nice.
Finally giving up and thinking that I was probably completely turned around in between Middle and North Sister, the sky began to lift, at least a little until from where I was could see the faint outline of a mountain on my left and one on my right. It was really weird but I was so unsure of which direction was which by this point that I had no idea which mountain was North. I had to scramble up to a little ridge line a couple hundred meters away so I could see down into the valley. I righted myself, (I’d been going in the right direction, whew!) and on I went…or scrambled. Down a rock ledge I was traveling on and onto the snowfield that I remember being there, (It was a lot smaller than I remember it) up the scree slope and onto the Southwest ridge of North. This was, by far, the worst (by that I mean slowest) footing on the whole route. Very steep, very loose. Take one step, slide back two. Lame.
I was still making good time at this point. I hit Middle in 3hrs and the time in the fog only cost me, eh, 30min or so. But, what lays ahead I have no way of knowin’, to quote Tom Petty and that’s where I screwed up. See, there are two sections of North that make this mountain the most dangerous and slowest. First, you have the traverse. Covered by snow until late season, but now melted into the loose large skateboard size slate that can, with a wrong step, send you off your feet and on a vary painful slide down knife edged rocks. Choosing your footing here wisely is the key and a necessity. To top that off, just as I arrived at the traverse, the familiar sound of crashing rocks made me look up just in time to see a couple baby head sized rocks come careening right down the center of the traverse. Uh Oh! Waiting a few minutes to check which route I was going to go with (up or down?) and whether the rock fall was going to hold, I finally decided I would move quickly and quietly and get across. Whew, made it! Not too bad. Ok, now you get the Bowling Alley. A series of shelves in a narrow chute with particularly loose rock that you can rain down on any climbing partners you happen to be with. Lucky for me I was both first and last of my party this day. I did rain down rocks however. I saddled up and climbed into the Bowling Alley, or what I thought was the Bowling Alley. I remember it being sketchy, but I also remember it being doable. On the first shelf, I was unusually sketched out but made it up, the second shelf however was a 30-40ft high vertical wall with questionable hand holds a drop that would most certainly kill you. I DO NOT REMEMBER BEING THIS SKETCHED OUT!. See photo below for emphasis. AH! Down climb! Don’t need to die, not sure how I did this before, don’t let go. And here’s the funny part, I’m down climbing over this sheer face and I look over and see that, “Oh, there’s another gully that looks exactly like this one”. Ah, crap! So, I take my time to down climb the rest of the WRONG Bowling Alley very carefully so that I can actually live long enough to try the right one. Onto the right one after spending at least 30min (felt like 3hrs) on the wrong one, I find out that it is sketching indeed but also doable, even after almost crapping my pants, so in reality: not that bad. Huh?
I hit the summit at 10,085ft in 5:30. That still gives me an hour to get down to the Pole Creek Trailhead. Hustling down the Bowling Alley, crossing the traverse, picking my way down the ridge, sliding a massive scree slope, making great time. Going to be close to 6:30…wait, if I’m at 6hrs that means it’s 3pm. It’s my 10year anniversary tonight and we have plans at 5:30. I’m supposed to be home at…gulp, 5pm. Oh, crap. Veer hard right! Make B-line to car, now!
See, I didn’t expect to be out this long as you can tell. I also decided to do this attempt a bit different than the other times. The Three Sisters Traverse is from Devils Lake Trailhead to Pole Creek Trailhead (car-to-car) and we always do a shuttle to make it easier, cus who wants to run the extra 12-15 miles back to the car afterward. Uh, me? So, looking at my watch at 3pm and realizing I have at least 12 miles of mountainous terrain, possibly half of which is going to be cross country, I kind of had a mild panic attack. Now, under the normal circumstances of just having a date with my wife I wouldn’t freak out, but seeing as how it was our 10 year anniversary I was able to find that extra gear deep down and bolted straight for the trailhead as fast as I could. I pretty much trashed myself on that run. It was fun and I had a great adventure moving through those woods. Over springs, across gorges with rushing rivers, under a huge rock fall, through a rock arch. Lots of really cool things in the woods where no people ever go.
I made it back to the car right at five. I would be home by 5:30 for a quick shower and I would only end up about 5-10min late. It was awesome, and a pretty good save (I could have been much later). I didn’t end up finishing the whole traverse since I didn’t go the 2 miles to the Pole Creek Trailhead but it was a good reconnaissance mission for the next attempt.
Man what a day, a good 8hr adventure, a date night with my wife with good food, hot chocolate, and then a banana split sundae. Not sure if it gets any better than that.
We both sat slumped in the snow, 2000 vertical feet from the summit of Mt Rainier, discussing our options. It was getting close to 2pm, late in the day for anyone heading up that high on the mountain. Both of us were exhausted as we’d just pushed to 19,000 feet of elevation gained in the last 24hrs. Up at 12,000ft above sea level the air thin enough to make each step labored in the soft mushy snow, we deliberated over what we should do. According to the guides we had just passed heading down there was weather moving in, possible thunderstorms, and they were reluctant to allow us to carry on but agreed only after we had roped up and put crampons on. Safety precautions that were quite reasonable. Brett was wavering whether he had enough in him to continue on and the guides advice about the weather may have just put the nail in the coffin, so to speak.
A little over two months earlier I ran into Brett Yost riding his “classic” pink and white Bridgestone 10 speed down the back alley on my way back from a run through Bend. I’d been thinking about our attempt the previous summer to scale the three highest peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range; Rainier, Adams, and Hood and how it would be nice to take another crack at it. We’d made it up Rainier so fast it gave Brett heat exhaustion, I made it most of the way up Adams solo but was turned around by darkness about 1000ft short of the summit because I’d never been up there before, and we never even made it to Hood. So, I asked Brett if he would be willing to give it another shot. He said yes, and so it began. In preparation, I went about my daily training and dialing in my gear to make it more useful to going fast in the mountains and Brett began training in earnest, much harder and more specific than me, for a date to be determined in June to make our attempt.
Last year the biggest barrier to us getting out had been finding a window in my schedule that lined up with a good weather window. This year would be no different. Between races, watching the kids, work, the weather, and other commitments our window of opportunity was getting tighter and tighter until it was starting to look like we might just squeeze ourselves out of time. It came down to the third weekend in June. I had a free Fri/Sat, Brett was ready to go, but low-pressure weather was dragging out during the week and closing the window even tighter. As we approached Friday morning our plan was to leave that afternoon for Rainier, sleep in the parking lot that evening and start about 5am on Saturday. Looking at weather reports though, showed that another patch of bad weather was supposed to come in Saturday afternoon, about the time we would be starting on Adams. This was bad news. It was giving us a good weather window of 24hrs starting not on our schedule of 5am but instead on Friday afternoon. That is not what we had planned at all. But, even though we can scale mountains, we still can’t move them, Brett nor I was going to be able to change the weather. To make lemonade, we took our weather window, changed our plans and left Bend at 4pm Friday afternoon, not for Rainier, but for Hood.
I was stoked to be making a second attempt at the Trifecta, and through Brett’s quite demeanor, I could tell his nerves would only settle after we set foot on the snow at Timberline Lodge. I clicked my watch into action at 6:38pm and we set off on a gorgeous evening with sunset about 2.5hrs away.
The snow was soft but it had been at least coolish that day so wasn’t as slushy as it could have been. We found a bare ridgeline to travel on to near the top of the Cooper lift that made getting up a little easier where it would have been softest. With excitement and fresh legs we were going a bit harder than we had planned so we scaled it back to look at the big picture. Still, we reached the summit in 2:06 in good snow conditions, about 6min faster than our previous climb two weeks earlier in similar conditions. This got Brett a little worried, all too aware that a hot pace (and hot weather) got him into trouble last year. I assured him we were fine and we started down. The trip down was amazing. With the sun setting we were running down the side of an 11,000ft volcano with the sun setting on the horizon while falling downward with the glistening slope of snow. Words, of course, can’t do it justice but it was one of the most amazing sights of geometric planes in motion.
Aside from a few face plants in the snow, we made it down without incident, back to the car with the watch split at 3:06, and on our way to Adams. Feeling good with one down. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had Pringles? Well, it’s been a long time, and I have to say they taste really good in between climbing mountains. A quick stop at the gas station helped satisfy that craving (and we got gas) and we were off through the night like Batman and Robin in the Batmobile, only it was a Honda Civic…and it was blue.
Prior to this trip we didn’t even know if climbing Adams was going to be a possibility this year. Near the end of last summer a raging wildfire swept through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and destroyed the Mt. Adams trailhead and much of the surrounding forest. It wasn’t until about June 1st that the trailhead finally opened allowing access to the mountain. In the dark of night we wound our way upwards toward the trailhead. The badly damaged dirt road had been repaired but due to erosion concerns huge water bars were constructed making it a herky-jerky ride. My struts may be shot but at least the oil pan came away with only a few dents and no holes.
We started up Adams at 12:30am amidst a sleeping campground. We quickly pushed past two other crazy climbers just starting out for a would-be camp halfway up the mountain. We moved quickly and quietly, the only sound our shoes crunching on the now ice crusted snow. We rose higher and higher up the mountain as the full moon rose with us in the sky. Adams is an easy slog until you get to the headwall. While still a hike it rises at about a 45 degree slope slowing travel and sapping your legs. To add insult to injury (or maybe just fatigue) the peak you stare at the whole way up is only the false summit, the real summit rises another 1000ft across a flat traverse. It was about this time that it definitely started getting colder. Hands started going numb, the feeling of toes in thin running shoes became an ache, and all available clothing was layered on. We topped out and though chilled I had to stop for a few minutes and take in the sight. A full moon illuminated the entire mountain and surrounding forests. We could see Hood River, Portland to the southwest and each of the mountains surrounding Adams. It was the second amazing sight I had seen that day. Brett was pretty cold and hurried down to find warmer air. Back down off the headwall the sun was beginning to rise and the air became warmer. We picked our way through the woods to intersect the climber’s trail and hiked down the rest of the bare trail to a parking lot starting to awaken. Already we had passed a few groups of climbers with skis on their backs and many more would follow within a few hours to get some turns on Adams perfect corn snow later in the day. But we were just finishing so away in the car we went. Adams down in 5hrs. It was now 6am Saturday morning.
Back down the waterbarred road, I pushed the civic as hard as she’d go. Brett was just starting to feel the accumulated fatigue of two mountains and no sleep. With a 3hr (hopefully) drive ahead, he managed to get a little sleep though with my rally driving I’m not sure how. I definitely drifted a few corners. Paved part of the way with 12 miles of dirt it was an exciting drive and the required concentration on not going off the road kept me wide awake. This is where we were able to really make up some time over he previous year. In a Vanagon this drive took us about 5hrs and while it was nice being able to lay down in the back and have our own personal driver, it was definitely worth driving ourselves for the extra 2hrs it gave us.
Brett took over the wheel about 45min outside the park so I could get a little sleep. We rolled into the parking lot to a blue-bird day with the temperatures quickly rising. After getting permits and gathering our gear, we were off, confident in the weather and in our success. We started at about 9:30am.
Already very soft snow conditions made the going slow and arduous and relegated us to the stomped in climbing trail fighting through the crowds of people heading to Muir Camp. Brett began to slow noticeably toward the top just before reaching the camp but with still plenty of time we could afford to slow down to insure success. We took a quick lunch break at Muir Camp before slogging forward to the Ingram Glacier and Disappointment Cleaver (DC). From now on we would see fewer people since most don’t go above Muir Camp. We roped together just before traversing the glacier but due to snow conditions with hardly a worry of slipping didn’t bother with crampons. Once on the DC at about 11,500ft both of us were feeling the fatigue of the day. During a sit down break high up the Cleaver was the first sign of cracking. It was here we met the Mt. Rainier climbing guides heading down the mountain. Showing obvious concern that we might be ill prepared they recommended crampons and ropes. And they showed concern for good reason. All day long Brett and I would pass climbers and summit wearing nothing but running shoes, tights and light shirt, and be carrying only a small pack. Most climbers would look at us funny and I would feel a little underdressed like I was at a black tie affair wearing my Hawaiian shirt, cut off jeans, and flip-flops. I don’t think they see runners all that often.
The guides left us to continue upwards but knowing only one more party was up above us didn’t give Brett a warm fuzzy feeling and he visibly started to look shattered. Don’t get me wrong. I was tired too. We decided to move on.
Up above the Cleaver the route deviated from its usual route by traversing underneath a headwall across the glacier to a ridgeline before continuing it’s upward rise to the summit. Just before this traverse, with another 2000ft of climbing Brett and I both sat down to take stock. Brett expressed concerns that he was not feeling too good, his exhaustion was starting to impair his coordination and while he thought he could make the summit, wasn’t sure he would be able to make it back down, obviously not a good thing. That’s the thing about mountains. Going up’s the hard part but even though down is the easy part, you still have to be able to make it. I was confident and feeling tired but ok, sure I could make it but we were in it together and I could only do it with him. We talked about options. Took a long break and deliberated over whether it was worth it or not. In the end, with the weather starting to turn, we decided to turn and head down. On a mountain, even though it may not be Everest or Denali, in a situation like this it’s tough to turn around so close to the top and I can see how you can get into trouble by pushing on even when it’s not the intelligent thing to do. Luckily it was just Rainier, I’d been up it before and even though we missed out on the Trifecta I still had an absolutely incredible and rewarding day in the mountains. It will still be there next year for another try at it if I so choose, as will every mountain that someone else fails to summit.
As we descended, I became aware just how exhausted Brett was and was glad we had decided to turn around. The snow was even softer now and we postholed down to our knees on every step making it that much harder on already exhausted legs. Glad to be back to the car after 7:25 on Rainier and over 22hrs of adventure, we took off our wet shoes, sweaty clothes, ate some food and geared down. I inspected a blister that started as a hot spot on Mt. Hood almost 24hrs
earlier that was now a flap of skin the size of a quarter. Ouch. That smarts. It was this drive back to Bend via Portland that was probably the hardest and most tedious part of the whole day. Brett got some sleep while I slapped myself to stay awake. After a stop at Chipotle in Gresham we switched places and I was able to get a bit of a nap before reaching Bend.
For me at least, this second attempt was a success. No, we didn’t quite complete the final goal we set out to do but for me it was always more about the adventure I think than anything. It was odd sitting in the snow knowing the summit was only two thousand feet away and yet we weren’t going to be making it. I didn’t feel as much disappointment as I expected. Looking back on the day we had climbed two mountains already and essentially a third, we got an awesome sunset on one, a moonlit experience on another, and a bluebird day on the third with some of the best northwest driving in between. By all accounts it was the adventure I was enjoying, not the summit I needed.
Video from the attempt is here.
Gear Used: I don’t always do this for a running race but a technical mountain climb with varying conditions warrants a gear list
MHW Race Vest w/ hydroflask softflasks MHW ¾ Tights MHW Butterman ¼ zip MHW Hydra EXT Glove Swiftwick Aspire Twelve Socks Montrail Bajada Outdry Shoes Black Diamond Ultradistance Poles Black Diamond 55cm Ice Axe Katoola Crampons MHW Ghost Whisperer Jacket MHW Strapless Seta Gaiters MHW Truckery Hat Rudy Project Gaurdyan Glasses Rudy Project Snow Helmet
MHW Race Vest Pack MHW Effusion Tights Swiftwick Merino Pursuit Twelve Socks MHW Butterman ¼ zip MHW Effusion Jacket MHW Beta Power Beanie MHW Hydra Pro Gloves Rudy Project Rydon II Glasses Everything else carry over.
MHW Fluid 10 Pack MHW Wicked Lite Tee Everything else carry over
Teva I mean, GoPro Mtn Games
Still takes some getting used to anytime a big event decides to change sponsors but uses it in their name for branding.
Each of the past three years I’ve made the pilgrimage to Vail for the Mtn Games and when you repeat events from year to year with the same flight itinerary you tend to develop habits, good or bad, and develop traditions. Take Chipotle for example. Each of the past years I’ve arrived in Denver mid-morning on Friday, rented a car and started the drive to Vail. The first year as I was passing through Denver about lunch time I got hungry, imagine that, and because I had just purchased one of the most amazing devices called an iPhone I could Google something to eat and it would tell my rental car that I still get for $7 a day to go to that place. It was amazing. It took me to Chipotle at the Youngfield exit off I70. So each year now it continues to direct my rental car to that same Chipotle. But this year a surprise was waiting for me. Because of my connections and I know people, I was hooked up with a room at the Vorlaufer literally in Vail Village. All I had to do was buy a six pack of beer for the caretaker and my stay was on the house. Well, because I’m from Bend, beer capital of the world, I had to deliever only the finest Bend beer from Deschutes Brewery. I knew though that I could get said beer in Colorado allowing me not to check a bag or for my clothes to smell and taste like beer all weekend due to a broken six pack in my luggage. That’s how I found AppleJack.
For those not in the know, I am a self labeled notorious light-weight, meaning rarely will I have more than one beer at a time (I’m talking in like a day here) but for some reason I have this fascination with all the different ways in which you can use a single ingredient like ethanol. From Scotch, my favorite if you’d like to send any for me to test, to liquors, to beer, to well, everything, except wine, it really doesn’t do it for me. That’s why AppleJack is amazing to me. The size of a regular Walmart (I may or may not be exaggerating here) it carries only alcoholic beverages (although, and I didn’t know they even had such a thing, non-alcoholic wine). I got my said six pack of Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale and then I found an item I’ve been scouring the globe for ever since Peter Maximow introduced me to it last summer. Blackmaker is a small batch herb based root beer liquor and I have finally found it. I’m just hoping it lasts the trip home in the belly of this jet. Eh, baggage handlers. Anyway, after my ritualistic stop at Chipotle, Applejack became a new tradition.
Moving on. In past years the tradition was to rent a car that was cheap and I could potentially sleep in. This tradition was born more out of my frugalness and less for the sake of tradition though. But this year, after bumming floor space from Peter Maximow the past two years, I called him up and proactively sought floor space. Turned out he wasn’t coming but still could hook me up with Hooker, no, not A hooker. It’s a pretty sweet hook up but turns out he likes dark beer. My bad. He still let me stay.
The whole Mtn Games experience is a pretty fun weekend with concerts, athletes to watch from World Bouldering Championships to kayaking, vendor booths, and mountain films. With two running races in two days both with prize money it seemed like a great weekend of racing that first year. And each year it continues to be a place to head to at the beginning of June.
This year, and each year, I compete in the Vail Pass Half Marathon on Saturday, a mostly uphill half running from Vail Village at 8,000ft to Vail Pass at 10,600ft, and the Spring Runoff 10k is on Sunday running up and down the trails of Vail Ski Resort. The half marathon is a road race and it’s pretty gradual. I should be good at it. Problem is, it’s at high altitude. Turns out, running at altitude against guys training at altitude makes it very difficult to compete with them. It’s a lung buster. The 10k is more my bag with trails, steep ups and downs. It’s still at altitude but the technical downhills help to even things out a bit and it’s a fun course to fly down.
This year was no different except that Josh Eberly is in monster shape right now. He won the half on Saturday, beating out Mario Macias, king of high altitude races (I think his half PR is faster at like 10000ft than at sea level), then proceeded to trounce me on the uphills during the 10k. I caught up and passed him on several downhills only to be passed right back on the next climb. I so thought I had him. After trading places three times, I stayed close on the last climb as both of us were just about out of steam. The last long gradual downhill was where I was going to take him as we came to the finish, but he had different ideas and so did the course. Josh is a 2:12-2:14 marathoner so he’s got decent leg speed but I was catching him on the more technical downhills pretty easily. Unfortunately we were out of technical downhills though. The last long downhill was all relatively smooth downhill service road and while I was making up ground, I wasn’t making it up fast enough. He kept his lead, I ran out of steam, and couldn’t quite reel him in.
It was a great race and as disappointed as I am when I don’t pull out a win in a race like this, this is my favorite way to race, head-to-head, using strategy and strengths to gain advantages and pushing each other to the brink. In my career, as many races as I’ve competed in, I’ve only had a handful of these races that truly embody the spirit of really racing for me. There are a few requirements that are difficult to line up on any given day. Two, or maybe a few, racers have to be almost equal in fitness and each person has to have a willingness to race and put up a good fight against the other. It’s rare enough that these races don’t happen all that often but when they do, you know why you compete. It’s what makes competition so much fun.
The weekend in Vail is spent catching up with old friends from Colorado, lounging around Vail Village in one (or a few) of the local eateries, and watching other athletes at the top of their game. It’s a great weekend and a great outdoor festival that I would love to see other mountain towns emulate to bring athletes, events, and spectators together.
After a short and sweet awards ceremony where 1st place was handed a golden hatchet by Gerber Knives (possibly the coolest award that I’ve ever seen and of all the times not to get first, I was bummed to say the least), I headed out to explore some of the upcoming UROC 100k course being held in these parts in September. I didn’t make it very far on the course before snow prevented any forward movement so I back tracked to find another beautiful trail and ran along Gore Creek for a couple miles before deciding that I better make for the airport. My time in Colorado is generally very short but I always wish I could stay a bit longer and relish the altitude and elevation change that I can train with while there. Until next time, may your lungs sear from lack of oxygen, your nostrils dry up like a parched mud flat, and your legs scream as they fill with lactate. Ahhh, mountain running.
Back in February an email entered my inbox from Nick Liversedge (Midwest MHW Rep) via Mountain Hardwear that was requesting an athlete to come to Grand Rapids, Michigan in June for a little three-day race and to do a talk at the local running store. I looked at my calendar, thought a little while about a race in Michigan and didn’t have anything booked yet so I said sure. With that short exchange I found myself in Grand Rapids Michigan this past weekend answering questions such as “Why’d you come to this race?” The simple answer is because someone asked and I always take requests like that seriously and with a bit of flattery that they would actually want me to come to their race. Also of course, I’ve never been to Michigan and it would be a good opportunity to see another part of the US I hadn’t been to, meet a new corner of the trail running world, and low key local trail races always have a cool vibe that I miss just going to big competitive races sometimes.
Mostly, that’s not due to a different feel at the more competitive races but just because of me. I’m competitive and a highly competitive race changes the feel around it for me. Not to say I didn’t want to win and put in some good hard work this weekend but the expectations aren’t there in my mind and I’m free to relax a bit and not stress over whether I’ll be able to perform up to my perceived potential. In the three days of racing I put in a good hard 10k on Friday night, a moderate but harder than normal 26.2 miles on Saturday, then after two course records I figured going for a third in the Half on Sunday would be another good challenge as long as my legs came around.
But that’s not what’s important, who cares about that, it’s certainly not going to be on irunfar.com tomorrow. The locals that I was hanging out with don’t care (I don’t think), they only care whether as a professional athlete coming into their town I was a jerk or not, if I take myself too seriously, and what I do for granted. Well, I don’t think I gave them that impression; at least what I was told to my face was the opposite. For me these trips like this get back to the heart of why I started trail racing and gave up a lot of the roads and track. Why I feel more at home with a crowd that sits around on the grass after the race is over, drinks beer, and camps out in a field the night before instead of needing a hotel room. I was fortunate enough to make some new friends this weekend. Most I’ll never see again but if I do, we’ve got something in common already.
I love doing stuff like this. On my flight out to GR, I sat next to a pro mountain biker on his way to race and I mentioned how it’s going to be a fun weekend because I have three days of racing, camping and hanging out with trail runners. Then he says to me, “yeah, I hate hanging out with mtn bikers. I liked it for the first 10 years I was doing this. “If I ever get that kind of attitude, please, force me to retire. I know most mtn bikers are cut from the same cloth as trail runners, so I know they’re just as much fun to hang with.
I really hate to write this blog post because I feel like I’m just going to make a lot of people jealous with the weekend that I had so I’ll spare you most of the details aside from a few gastronomic details that were quite spectacular experiences.
The people of GR love trail running and they have a great community with support from Gazelle Sports, so needless to say I had a full weekend on tap. I was picked up at the airport by Byron Pittam (my excellent “handler” and MHW sports marketing guru (vote for Byron for MHW head sports marketing guy in 2013)), went for a short run from the luxurious Riverfront Hotel before being whisked away to Gazelle Sports for a talk they scheduled that evening. Gazelle has played host to numerous other pro trail runners and is a primary reason that trail running is flourishing in West Michigan. It went pretty well and I feel like I’m getting the whole speaking thing down a bit better, though the poster signing still feels weird for me.
Then we went to Stella’s. where we met up with some guys from Gazelle Sports that I also happened to meet last year at Transrockies, small world. Oh baby, that was a good burger. This was like heaven. 200+ whiskeys where the soup of the day was…whiskey. Really, whiskey. The burger was voted best in America and I, after a not that extensive search, tend to agree with them. Cool place. Great food.
Friday we ran some local trails before heading down to where the race started later that evening at Yankee Springs. Our morning run was at the local ski hill. Michigan Mountains. Huge. At least 250ft tall. I was a little intimidated coming from the west coast so I didn’t even attempt to summit that day but formidable as it was, Byron was able to make it to the top and only needed 3 donuts and some apple cider afterward before becoming coherent again.
Oh oh, this is awesome: To my amazement, GR was able to out do Portland. If you’ve seen Portlandia then you’ll know what I’m talking about. First, me, Joe (local dude) and Byron stopped at a local coffee shop straight out of Portland (ok, could be anywhere, but wait, gets better), then we head to lunch at Trillium Haven, a true farm to table restaurant owned by one of the Gazelle Sports owners. We get in and the waitress starts to tell us about the restaurant, how it’s farm to table, local ingredients, yada yada. Then not only does she know where the chicken and turkey comes from but she actually raised them, kills them herself (we even know how after the conversation turned a bit more gruesome), and brings them to the restaurant. BOOM, take that Portland. You got nothin on the Midwest. She was actually pretty hilarious about the whole thing. Great food though and really cool that stuff like that is catching on in other parts of the country.
The races all started around a boy scout like camping cabins at Yankee Springs Rec Area. It was a cool setup with rustic bunk house style cabins and a central kitchen/dining area that would be a great spot for a high school running camp or trail running camp. The surrounding forests are lush rolling hills winding with smooth single track trails that take you on a dizzying tour of the woods where you quickly lose orientation, have no idea which direction is which, and find yourself just wondering if you’re actually getting anywhere or just spinning your wheels through the forest when it all begins to look exactly the same. With several turtles hanging out on the trails you also began to wonder if you were just seeing things too.
The next morning, Saturday, was the marathon. After too little sleep and a 10k that I probably pushed too hard on after having a ton of fun flying on the banked corners of the course, the marathon felt a little harder than it probably should have. After the first loop of the 2 lap course felt like I’d been out there for several hours I came through and found out Byron decided to sleep though it. The prima donna athlete that I am I immediately had a fit like a 3 ½ yr old (trust me, I know what one looks like) and fired my “handler” on the spot. He later made it up to me by making me breakfast so I re-hired him.
The rest of the day, after I finished of course, we hung out on the grass with a beer, nice weather, and good people to watch as the 52 milers came through the finish area on each of their 4 laps of the course. After having to do 2 laps I couldn’t imagine having to head back out for two more but there were some real troopers out there. And I found possibly the most ingenious product on the market after Swiftwick socks. 2Toms (they make anti chafe stuff) makes a product called Stink Free. There is no way that any product made my man should ever be able to take the smell out of my shoes short of burning them, because the smell is out of this world. But, I sprayed some on my shoes, or I may have just saturated them, and to my wonder and amazement, they were indeed stink free. Truly amazing. Almost as amazing as the woman that wants to date Dakota Jones. Hey, I told her I’d set her up. Consider this an introduction.
While GR might be known as Beer City USA, it’s debatable that they are better than Bend in that department. Lets call it a draw. I will admit that they do indeed have some rather delicious stouts including the Breakfast Stout from Founders that tasted like I took my morning mocha and poured a bottle of stout into it and the Dragons Milk that was so rich I had to nurse it for about 2hrs. Sad, I know, but it was good.
Sunday dawned earlier than I would have liked and I made my way out for a short warm up way too close to start time to feel like trying to run a fast half marathon. Within a half mile of the start Darin (Gazelle Employee extraordinaire) informed me that the course record was way faster than I thought I was capable of running this course on this day at 1:22. My competitive nature began to flow and I found my legs coming around to a speed that I thought might at least get me close. It was way more fun to run a course like this fast anyway so I pushed on for a good time trial. The trails this weekend were deceptively difficult and taxing. While it’s pretty flat overall the rolling nature of the hills force you to change pace every minute or so transitioning from a short grunt climb to sprinting downhill. Doing that over and over never lets you get into any kind of rhythm. Coming into the last aid station was the first time I could gauge a rough finishing time and I knew it was going to be close. Pushing it pretty hard over the last couple of miles my legs felt better than they have in quite some time so I was pretty happy to feel like some strength had returned to them after a few weeks of just feeling kind of lethargic. Crossing the finish line in 1:20:35 I was pretty happy with the weekend and the amount of work I was able to get in.
My thanks goes out to Kim and Phil the RDs who invited me out and put on a cool low key trail event and Nick our Montrail Rep for making it happen. The hospitality I was shown while there from Gazelle Sports and everyone I met was amazing as it always is with the trail community.
Byron, I’m putting it out there: I will crush you in a donut eating contest, you do not want to tempt this.
Dakota, I have digits for you.
Well Done Mauri!
A small intimate group is a nice way to spend a couple days high in the Andes. I’ll take it over a big group of very familiar faces anytime. The last couple of days have been well spent, getting to know athletes from around the world with different cultures (awkward at times) and languages (also awkward). Needless to say there were definitely a few awkward moments, and there inevitalbly always is, when you spend time out of your comfort zone. You know you’re out of any kind of comfort zone, when the time spent running feels like the only comfortable thing you’ve done over the last couple of days. For someone that isn’t used to my bubble being invaded, having to touch cheeks with strangers in another country as the standard form of greeting certainly isn’t something you get used to in just a week. Hence the waiting faces of puckered lips hovering over me as I’m introduced to new people. Awkward! I do love the “man” shake that has replaced the standard “hand” shake though.
So, with no other Americans (that I knew) heading for Chile to El Cruce de los Andes, I knew it would be a good chance to get to know some other athletes from around the world like Iker Karrera, Francois D’haene, Anna Frost, Emma Roca, Gustavo Reyes, and Oihana Kortazar. These were the selected few that I would get to hang out with, travel with, try to use hand gestures to converse with and eat copious amounts of meat with over five days in Chile and Argentina.
You would think that I would be a little better at preparing for travel to another country by now but I think I’m actually regressing. Yes, as an “elite” I do have quite a few things taken care of for me on a trip like this. When the organization invites you and takes care of everything you tend to get really lax and start forgetting that you still need to think for yourself sometimes. As I’m landing in Temuco, Chile I’m just hoping and praying that there’s one of those guys with a sign that has my name on it.
Phew! There was. Ok, so far so good, I can at least get to Pucon, it can’t be that big and he knows where I’m going right. Errrr, “what hotel?” he asks. Oh crap, I think I remember something about Gran and I’m going to Pucon, so I say “Gran Pucon?” and he nods and says “ok, Gran Hotel Pucon.” Ahh, another disaster averted. I have got to start printing out this info before I leave. You don’t realize how much you rely on that stupid phone for this kind of stuff until you can’t use it.
Arriving at the hotel I knew this was going to be a good week. A sun drenched beach out the hotel back door, an aerobics session with dancers on the back patio, and banners for El Cruce clued me in that this wasn’t some rinky dink organization sending us out into the mountains and jungles to die. Mauricio Pagliacci would be our organizer, interpreter, and right hand man for the few days we were here and he was indispensible. As we said our good byes, I told him we couldn’t have done it without him and it was with 100% conviction that I told him that.
I eased into day one (day before the race start) with a 1hr jog with the other runners, a little time spent on the beach, then a day lounging with not much to do but relax before the race. Not bad. There was a little lost in translation and a mild kerfluffle as us athletes that were gunning for the win and trying not to get disqualified tried to sort out the required gear list. There were no less than four different lists floating around and no one could actually tell us the official list. So we floundered with that for a while, had Mauri stressed out trying to figure it out, and 6 athletes worried about being disqualified at the end of stage one. As it turned out, with over 2000 athletes running the last thing on the organizers minds was what gear we were actually carrying and they never did check what we had.
I honestly did not know what do expect of the course, the competitors or the organization of everything so the first day I just stood back and let others take the lead. Transfer to the start line was right on time, so far so good. All the invited runners lined up on the start line for some photos (see Facebook) then with some confusion (and me following) we took off in groups up over a ramp and down over the chip mats and we were off.
Gustavo and others leading, Francois, Iker, and I following close behind. We ran a rolling rocky and sandy trail that took us around the Villarica Volcano on trails very similar to some of my summer running routes up in the Cascades. In fact, much of what we ran over the course of 3 days, aside from different plants, looked and felt very much like what I would run on a summer weekend up in the mountains around Bend. It felt like home with towering volcanoes with cinders underfoot, sandy flats, and forested trails as we came down to treeline.
After a while on the trail I was feeling pretty confident that eventually I would be able to take the lead and not get lost. Course markings were great with flags every 100-200m. At just before 12km to go on a flat section of cinder wash I pushed past the group of five and before Francois realized it, I had broken away. He was in hot pursuit, but now that I had a break and it was a flat section of an 18 mile run, well, he didn’t really have a chance at that point. The rest of the course raced across the plateau of the volcano with crunching cinders underfoot before dropping 2000ft or so through deep jungle to the finish line. Much of the course seemed freshly cut through the forest and wound up, down, and around massive trees and rock outcroppings. We hit a quickly descending 4km double track to the finish and stage 1 was complete. 3 minutes on Francois, 4 on Gustavo, and 5 on Iker. With a good lead going into Stage 2 I could relax and make sure that all I really had to do was stay with them and not let them get away on the longer stage.
Part of the difficulty with El Cruce is the transfers. Imagine trying to coordinate getting 1000 racers from the finish line, to camp, then back to the start line in the morning. It’s a lot of work when access into the mountains is by small winding dirt roads and travel is slow. All week, Anna Frost and I would compare this race to Transrockies since that’s what we knew of stage racing and we’d both been there and enjoyed racing in the stage-racing format. We realized that these are two very different but similar events and that comparing them to each other isn’t really fair or relevant but none-the-less, we still did, and what I found was that we couldn’t conclude that one was any better than the other. Transfers here were a pain and the run-in/run-out format that Transrockies has is definitely preferred. El Cruce though changes courses each year, which is pretty cool that if I went back next year I would experience a completely different part of Chile/Argentina. This doesn’t really lend itself to always having the luxury of run-in/run-out at each camp. The camps are where you can make it work.
The people at both are incredible even if knowing a bit more Spanish would make El Cruce easier to figure out. What I’ve found is that whether you’re in France, Chile, or the good old USA, a trail runner is a trail runner and probably a pretty good person. Something about the suffering that everyone goes through during the day breaks down a few barriers and brings everyone a little closer in the evening. Even with a significant language barrier (I have got to learn Spanish) I had great conversations with folks from Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Spain, etc. The same interesting and amazing stories of overcoming I hear from people at Transrockies every summer too. El Cruce camps were isolated in the wilderness which was definitely pretty cool to be completely surrounded by mountains, Transrockies has a good mix of both wilderness and city parks. Organization and trail marking, both of utmost importance is great in both events which makes both of them also bucket list events if you’re a trail runner. The only thing I wished for at El Cruce were the lounge chairs we kick back in every afternoon at Transrockies, man those are nice.
Day 2 started with a bit of confusion. With the logistics of getting everyone to the start line being what it is, at El Cruce it’s not so much a race (except when you’re and invited athlete and racer) as it is a journey, therefore, you can start whenever you want. Yup, when ever you want. With chip timing that makes it easy. If you’re trying to race, not so much. I’m off in the bushes taking care of business when Iker and most of the field take off from the start line. When I pop out Francois is there waiting for me telling me we have to get going, that everyone already started. Ok, no big deal since if we catch up to them then we’ve already got a little lead anyway, but dang, I’m not ready and so I spend two miles warming up and trying to take off a jacket and base layer and tie my shoes while not falling too far behind. I’ve got my pack in one hand while trying to take off my race jersey and my base layer with the other. Eventually I made it up to the front pack of 3 and I joined them to make it four. We ran through old growth forest with crazy trees, plants, and bamboo groves. Over streams and through alpine meadows just like at home.
We popped out of the trees and into the volcanic wasteland after climbing about 2000ft with still another 3000ft to go for the day. We continued to climb up cinder slopes and across lava fields with clouds shrouding the Quetrupillan volcano. Now down to Francois, Iker and me we traveled together up to the top pass. From there it became flatter and gradually I began pulling away again. Now down, down down we went. Back through swamps, forest, across mountain streams with waterfalls, Francois chasing me and never seeing another person except for the few race volunteers out on the course. Another 3 minutes on Francois today. With 5000ft of decent I was spent. Quads shaken, hammies tight, feet soggy, muddy and sore I had a comfortable 6 minute lead going into the last stage of 18 miles.
Camp 2 was set between two towering ridgelines with rock spires reminiscent of the Ande’s to the south. Even after 25 grueling miles I was still looking for a way across the river and up to the peak. While I could very well have started up I realized that the down would be the hard part and I resigned myself to staring up at them and taking photos. Had it been the last day, I seriously probably would have tried climbing them.
This being Chile with an Argentinian crew, we of course had a Barasa (huge BBQ) each day and ate copious amounts of meat for both lunch and dinner. They would cook meat continuously throughout the day for the stream of people finishing. With a huge open fire pit going strong, the guys would rack meat between two grates and stand the racks up right next to the fire to let them cook. Interesting way of doing a large amount of meat. Take note.
Here we are, the final day. An 18 mile stage with a gradual 2500ft climb up, gradual descent, across the Argentinian border to the finish. What could go wrong? Well, Iker was about 1 min behind Gustavo at this point so these two would duke it out for third place today. Right out of the gate they began their fight to the finish. It was a road and I couldn’t keep up. After a couple miles of warming up I eventually caught back up right before the pitch turned steep and we gradually lost Gustavo to the climb. Up through the forest we climbed to tree line again. Today we got our first taste of some mountain weather as temperatures dropped and the wind howled over the barren lava fields at the top of the pass. We couldn’t see the Lanin Volcano looming to the right just over the
Argentine border but we knew it was there. Mountain peaks were shrouded in clouds but off through the distance we had great views of the valleys below. With a nice cushion I could cruise, take some photos, and trip over some rocks. The last few miles became a road race and I gradually pulled away and ran it in to the finish.
Just over the Argentinian border we finished with the huge El Cruce Columbia banner overhead and the largest support/media crowd we had seen for days.
This was quite an amazing trip and one I will not forget. A South American race has been on my list for quite some time and this will not be the last. I was glad to have the support of the great race organization to help with logistics as my very limited Spanish would not have been adequate to get all the information I needed in order to have a stress-free trip. Mauri was awesome to have around and the phrase of the week became “Well done, Mauri!” Yes, it’s an inside joke but now anytime anything goes smoothly a fist goes up and “WELL DONE, MAURI!” is sung aloud. My thanks goes out to Mauri, the race organizers that brought us together for a more than just a race against competitors as we’re now all great friends, and of course my wife that let me out of the country with a two month old at home.
On the bus ride back through the Argentine country side toward Chile as the sun set over the mountains, the river flowed down the valley, and silence in the rattle trap bus left me alone to think I was filled with a great peace and feeling of gratitude that I was there and am fortunate enough to be able to experience the places around the world in a way that connects me to them like only running through and over them can do.
I have to hand it to sponsors like Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, Swiftwick, and others that help make these experiences possible for me. Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work to get here but it wouldn’t be possible without some help. Gear that works makes it easy to focus on the race and experience without having to worry about what’s working and what’s not. The MHW Fluid Race Pack, Montrail shoes (of which I cannot speak), Swiftwick socks, MHW shorts, and Rudy eyewear are exceptional pieces that make it a bit easier to work on pushing harder.
Gear List: MHW Fluid Race Pack MHW Ultrarefuel Short Rudy Project Rydon II glasses Montrail “secret” shoes Swiftwick Aspire socks MHW Ghost Whisperer jacket MHW Butterman ½ Zip MHW Butter Beanie Hammer Nutrition Huckleberry Gel Hammer Nutrition Bars Reco-Fit Compression Leg Sleeves
Posted on November 20, 2012 by Max
I’ll be honest, I came into this race feeling pretty confident. I mean, after UROC (iRF interview) I had a good reason to, but I definitely had to temper that feeling of invincibleness with the fact that both my other attempts at 50 miles had ended in a death slog to the finish. They were two and three years ago…
Read the rest http://www.irunfar.com/2012/11/6740.html.
If you’re an avid runner, especially trail runner, there are a few places on Earth that you want to make sure you get to before you kick the bucket. Mt. Hood and the Timberline Trail is one such place. Several years ago I had the opportunity to run/hike this trail with a good friend of mine and it was one of the most epic experiences I’d ever had. The Timberline Trail circumnavigates Mt. Hood in Northwestern Oregon in about 42 miles with some significant elevation gain taking you up and down the flanks of the mountain several times. Passing through several varied ecosystems, you’ll see the most amazing things that are never visible on the mountain from just a sightseeing trip to the famous Timberline Lodge or even a car tour around the area.
The trail takes you through the Elliot Glacier wash out, a stark landscape of glacial debris, rock, sand and water, to high alpine meadows with the most picturesque picnic locations you can imagine, and then down the west flank into the deep old growth forests of the Northwest. On a misty day that the Northwest is ever so stereotyped with, the dampness of the landscape brings out the smell of the forest and makes running the trail a richer and more epic experience that can’t be described in written form.
Ever since that circumnavigation a few years ago I’ve been trying, without success due to the busy summer/fall schedule, to recreate that experience. When Ian Sharman posted on Facebook two weeks ago that a group of runners from Bend, Portland, and Vancouver B.C. were going to make the attempt this coming Sunday, I knew it would be the perfect bookend to a long racing season. Despite the long list of accomplished ultra runners assembling on Oregon’s highest peak, this will be a run through pristine wilderness focused solely on the purpose of enjoying what we like to do best, run the most beautiful trails in the world. It’s getting back to why we started running trails in the first place. We function best in the wide open outdoors and express ourselves and our passion through movement. It’s gonna be frickin’ awesome. Can you tell I’m excited. Stuff like this is what keeps me running and what makes me want to just be outside. This may be one of my favorite trails I’ve even been on and it’s in my backyard, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to return.
You can follow our trip on Facebook or Instagram at MaxKingOR. I’ll add some photos up of the trip on Facebook as well.
The Youth of UltraRunning and UROC – 10/4/2012
It’s amazing how some days just work out. But in reality you can look back at all the things that went into the day to make everything work out the way they did, so in a way, nothing ever just works out. It’s how well you know your self and how thoughtful your preparation is toward that day. Now, I’m not saying that I had all of this planned out and knew exactly how the UROC race was going to go. I was by no means confident in my ability to get through 62.2 miles (or 63.5 as it turned out) because I was scared out of my mind, had never run that far before, and recent attempts at much shorter distances have turned out much worse.
However, what I feel like I did do well was change what didn’t work in the past and use my brain the best I could to effect a different outcome. From my perspective, Ultrarunning is still in its infancy in terms of what we know about how to train. More and more information is put out there each year by guys that have experimented on themselves and have experienced both success and defeat. The sport of ultra running will be defined by who is willing to change their training to maximize their performances. To further the sport along, it is the defeats and blow ups that are often most helpful but the successes do have some value too, until a time in the future that the successful methods are pushed beyond their limits and they too become a defeat. Looking in the past at more competitive running events like the 5k, 10k or marathon, we’re living in about 1960 or so. There have been some major breakthroughs to the sport in Roger Bannister’s four minute mile, marathons that have gone sub 2:12, and legendary coaches such as Percy Cerutty, Arthur Lydiard, and Bill Bowerman are just starting to see there methods become more concrete coaching philosophy. All of these events are what helped push training theory forward to the basic training structure that all middle distance athletes train by. The bar that these pioneers raised their respective events to has since been eclipsed through slight tweaks to their methods but the general guidelines that they defined haven’t changed. Science has helped, but in most cases, science only serves to confirm what coaches have figured out through real world experimentation.
So, ultrarunning is at this stage where athletes like Scott Jurek and Jeff Browning and coaches like Ian Torrence and Matt Fitzgerald have laid the foundation of what the general training guidelines need to look like but there is still a long way to go before we reach the performance plateaus that shorter distance events have experienced the past decade or so. But, then there are people like Ellie (awesome run at UROC) and Sage Canaday who have come out of the gate with impressive performances and consistently impressive results.
There’s a lot more to ultrarunning as well. Ultrarunning may be on a much slower learning curve based on the amount of knowledge that will be required by an athlete in a few years. A more intimate knowledge of the athletes body and the ability to tune in to special needs is a must in an ultra race much like it is in a marathon but even to a higher level due to the duration of a race. Right now, it feels like the sport is in a transition with respect to training theory. Nutritional knowledge will become more important than ever before, and to a very individualized level. We haven’t yet reached a point where ultrarunning has any kind general training platform. Athletes will continue to experiment with different methods and a maybe a few will show promise. Look at the 10k or marathon even: we run over distance in training, we run intensity workouts that are near or at the distance of the even. No one has ever attempted doing 100 mile or even 50 mile training runs regularly in training for these distances, but looking at the progression of ultrarunners there is clearly a benefit to running these distances as the body continues to get stronger and adapts to the training load that results from these extreme distances. Take also tapering and peaking as another example. Greg McMillan has found that the optimal peaking method for shorter distance races is to continue with a high intensity level and only back off marginally in quantity. He and Ian Torrance have found that to be true in ultras as well and it does have basic scientific validity, but I’ve also found, just through experience, that the opposite of dramatically decreasing both mileage and intensity leading up to an ultra has lead to great success. So, I’m not saying they’re wrong as I have a lot of respect for both as great coaches but hey, maybe there are a few things that still need to be worked out and obviously we all know that everyone is different and it’s not one approach that will work for everyone. Most ultra runners haven’t been able to push the bounds of what is humanly possible due to real jobs, family, and/or a lack of willingness to really put in the work that may be required to move the sport to the next level. We’re just now starting to see an influx of enough money to the sport that is allowing guys and gals the ability to focus their careers toward running professionally. With this movement toward professionalism we will no doubt see some great performances come from these athletes.
UROC showed me that changes I’ve been able to make to my training is paying off and while I haven’t figured out everything (probably not even 10% of what I will eventually need to know), I’m at least headed in the right direction and that’s always a boost to confidence. Coming into this year I focused on shorter races knowing that during the late summer and fall I would be focusing on longer ultra races. This would give me time to experiment with new training techniques and hopefully be stronger by the time fall rolled around. A few things that I feel like have made a big difference leading up to UROC were things that every one reading this will be like “duh, how did he not know that” but that’s what I’m saying, coming from a different background it’s a whole new train of thought. Hills. Hills have been probably the single biggest benefit to running longer and, oddly enough, faster at short distances as well. I’m stronger because of it and have much better endurance over the longer distances and more power in the short distances. It’s easier to get back into track shape with the inclusion of hills in my regular training. Second would have to be the addition of Udo’s Oil, an Omega 3, 6, 9, supplement that has helped in the conversion of fat to fuel my body in races over three hours. I’ve noticed a significant increase in the time that I can run without carbohydrates without bonking. Shoot, I shouldn’t have given that secret out. My theory is, I’ve had a issue converting fat to fuel ever since I started ultras because of my background in track and road running has never required it. I’ve always burned hot, utilizing the rocket fuel of glycogen for my entire running career since 7th grade. Prior to the last couple months my tendency was to get by on the least amount of carbohydrate fuel that I could in an ultra and that typically led to a horrific bonk at some point in the last 10 miles. So, taking the advice of a few runners that have a lot of success in taking in what I thought were way too many calories, I tried it this time. Along with the fat burning, this helped even out my energy levels and kept me from ever really feeling a low point. Through 3 hrs I was taking in 200 cal/hr then upped it to 400 cal/hr from there on. As long as I’ve been using Hammer Gel I haven’t had any stomach issues with the higher caloric intake. Throughout the race, I was just waiting for that bear to climb on my back. (but I threw a stick at him and he ran off) UROC was a great feeling of accomplishment not only to win a major championship race against some of the best in the sport but because it was a personal success of staying strong through out a race distance that I’ve never attempted and have never felt comfortable with.
And so, just to test my fitness a little further while I’m on a roll the last couple weeks, I’m headed to Tennessee for the Stumpjump 50km and a tour of the Swiftwick factory. I don’t want to jinx it but my first run after three days off after UROC felt pretty good. We’ll see what a little ART work, stretching and some easy running the next couple days can do to get me through a 50km. Why does everyone look at me like I’m nuts when I say I’ve got a 50km this weekend?
Another year, another double. Yes, I did it again and it was hard, again. The double this weekend of a 50k Saturday and a half marathon Sunday isn’t easy but it’s actually next weekend’s UROC 100k that really frightens me. I’m ok with up to 50k right now but 100k is further than I’ve ever run and the last 50 miler (a couple years ago) was one of the most painful races I’ve ever had, and that was a flat one. So, I’m not sure how this is going to go.
I’ve put in the training this summer as best I could and best that I know how with several long races that really tested my endurance, with a lot of elevation gain that I’ve been finding helps the most with endurance, and with probably not quite enough really long runs but as many as I could muster. Usually I don’t like tapering for a race as it means feeling out of whack with my legs and the uncommon feeling of not getting in enough training that I feel like I’m getting out of shape, but sometimes it’s a bit of a taper that gives you the chance to really just relax a bit and find some other things to do that you’ve been neglecting, like work. With a taper, it’s important to relax and know that all your training is behind you and there’s nothing you can do in the coming week or two before a big race that’s going to make you any better, the only thing you can do, as my coach used to say, is screw it up. So you rest more than you think you should, run less than it feels like you need to and get a few more things done that weren’t likely to get done if you’d been training hard, like dishes. A week in between two big races (or three) really takes some patience. It’s the hardest time to be a hard charging, always motivated, competitive athlete. Trust me, all you Type A runners know exactly what I’m talking about. This week (or what little there was between travel) was spent occupied at work and at home with very little running involved hoping that I would be recovered and ready for this coming weekends 100km. Saturday immediately after the 50km, I was quite selfish and took a long 45min turn in the Recovery Pump that was available courtesy of Mark DeJohn (awesome ART guy). Squeezing and pulsing compression on my legs right after that hard effort was exactly what I needed before hopping on a plane to SLC and Ogden, UT. Of course, to continue the recovery I made sure that I got two large burritos down at the race, some Hammer Recoverite prior to that, and back into full length Reco-Fit Compression Sleeves. Limited recovery sleep was all I could get with a late night arrival into Ogden and an early wake-up for the Xterra Championships Sunday morning but the legs didn’t feel too bad…until I started the warmup. No offense to anyone senior of my years but I felt like I was 90 and I’m guessing that this is what every run will feel like when I show up to a race and there is only one participant in my age group, and oh yes, that will be me. My last race will be the one right before my wife murders me for being gone every weekend. Once I got moving with no serious injuries my legs started feeling better and knew the competitive racing would take over and give strength to my legs. The rest you know the story to and I don’t see a reason to go into details, except to say that Paul Mitchell (not the real guy) gave me some sweet racing stripes for this coming weekend. Lets just hope they do what they’re supposed to. Recovery is the name of the game this week and we’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out how well I played this game these last two weeks. It’s always somewhat of a crap shoot as to how well you taper or peak. Everybody accepts a change in training load in different ways and I’ve been finding that tapering for an ultra is unknown to me and seems to be much different than tapering for a 3km Steeplechase. I’m scared out of my mind of the 62 mile distance but know that, barring any injury or rogue roots and rocks, that I will finish.
Oh, and by the way, I got hooked up with a twitter account finally. @MaxKingOR Follow meeeeeee!
Yes, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve neglected my blogging duties. So lets recap to bring you up to speed. Olympic Trials, Cascade Trifecta (Rainier, Adams, Hood) attempt but fail, Siskiyou Outback 50k, Steens Mtn Running Camp, and now on my way to SpeedGoat 50k. You got the blog on the Oly Trials, no more explanation needed. Lets move on. The Cascade Trifecta wasn’t part of the original plan but a local guy, Brett Yost, who stole my record away on the Three Sisters Traverse, hatched a plan to do Mt. Rainier (14,000ft), Mt. Adams (12,000ft) and Mt. Hood (11,000ft) in 24hrs. I was just along for the ride and really didn’t know if I was in any kind of shape to attempt it. This would be my first time up any of these mountains, first time on a glacier, first time on a 14er. The Trifecta was done a few years ago by the guys that keep up the FKT website in like 28hrs or so. I loaded into a Vanagon at 9pm Tuesday night with Brett and Dave (our driver) for an overnight drive to Rainier. I slept, it was awesome. Woke up in the Rainier parking lot at 5:30am, picked up our permits at 6am from a ranger that seemed somewhat indifferent when we said we’d be back by 1pm. He looked at us and said “good luck”. Off we went. 400m in I knew I made a bad call on the crampons I chose. I had lightweight Kahtoola’s and a heavier real mountaineering strap-on crampons. I chose the latter and the conditions were perfect for the Kahtoola’s. Oh well. Brett and I climbed. Past Camp Muir, E Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver. We roped up around the upper crevasses to be safe. The altitude definitely started to have an effet around 12,000ft. I was surprised just how easy the climb up was though. Aside from the crevasses, it was a slog through the snow with no climbing involved. All the mountain climbers are rolling their eyes about now. Yes, I realize this can be a difficult mountain. We just happened to hit great conditions that made it a lot easier than it potentially could be. We hit the summit at 4 hr 18 min. For a fast descent we scrapped the crampons as the conditions were soften up and began our run down. The soft Muir snow field proved to be the most demanding. We postholed some and the weather continued warmed up until we were exhausted and overheating at the base. We stopped the clock at 6:33 at the Paradise Lodge. I was tired and excited to be done and to be able to sit down. Brett was just done. He immediately laid down in the van and didn’t move. He was cooked by the heat and probably on the verge of heat exhaustion.
Road construction delays within the first 5 miles of our onward journey would be the least of our problems over to Adams. Winding, curving and slow dirt roads forced the Vanagon to a crawl and eventually added two extra hours on the trip over our predictions. Then Brett hit me with this: As I readied for the climb up Adams, Brett asks the question that I probably should have known was coming by looking at his state but hoping that he wouldn’t, “You’re not really going up that, are you?” “Well, yeah.” Was my response. He said he couldn’t do it and I attempted to rally him for at least one more climb. We drove on with the question of whether we would attempt Adams lingering in the Vanagon.
It was a little out of the way to get to the trail head if we were to continue on home but not that far so I directed our drivers to head to the trailhead. I still wanted to try it since I’d never been up it before and I hoped that pulling up to the mountain would spur Brett to at least try it. And he almost did. About 5 miles from the trailhead he reluctantly decided to try it so he began preparing. Jumping out of the van at the trail head and feeling his legs after the five hour drive however finally convinced him otherwise. I packed up and headed out into the unknown. A short run up a road and I was on snow on the flanks of Adams and on I hiked. I came up to the “headwall” of the false summit. I was starting to get pretty worked an toward the top, as the sun sank and enveloped me in the shade of the mountain, it was harder and harder to go on. Reaching the false summit just as the sun descended over the far off horizon I had a choice to make. I lingered for 10, 15 min starting off toward the next headwall up to the true summit, then heading back the other direction. I paced back and forth several times convincing myself of one path, then the other. I hate giving up, but I would hate slipping on the rapidly firming snow and tearing my body up on the mountain more. I hate not reaching a goal that is so close, but I would have hated wandering lost in the woods for several hours trying to find the parking lot more. So I descended having seen the mountain and experiencing the majority of it. After the fatigue I felt going up, the run down was surprisingly easy and free. About 3hrs up, 1hr down. I reached the parking lot just as full darkness settled down. Glad to be done I could have some hot cocoa and a rest in the Vanagon that would carry us on home. We didn’t attempt Hood. We’ll save that for the next trip. Brett said he learned a lot, I learned a lot. I learned that it’s definitely doable so another attempt some day will be in order.
Turning my energy or lack thereof to the SOB 50k, I headed down Friday evening in my Honda Civic to camp in the parking lot of Mt. Ashland… in, yes, the trunk of my car. (not sure why everyone gives me a funny look when I tell them that, or when I pop my trunk in the morning and peer out, hmm) Anyway, I like SOB. It’s one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever run. Hundred mile views to the south of Mt Shasta and Northern California, alpine meadows, and lush evergreen forests. But, this was business, I needed Erik Skaggs’ course record on the non-snow course. Erik decided to duck me and run the inaugural 50 mile course instead, so I wasn’t going to have a lot of help. Gary Gellin was there to help me out though and we ran through the first 10-11 miles together. I was hurting from the climbing a few days earlier and had to work for the record. I got it but not without a lot of discomfort. You all know what a side cramp feels like, imagine having your entire chest cavity and back feel like that. Ouch. I took to breathing very very loudly and sounded like I was in my 18th hour of labor. I was just happy no one was around that could hear me. So SOB ended with a win and a new course record of 3:32 and a lot of loud breathing.
In a mad rush I finished up some work at the shop, threw everything I thought I might possibly need (read way too much stuff) and off I flew to be inspired by 175 teenagers at Steens Mountain Running Camp. Best camp …ever. 20 person army tents, no electricity, sagebrush, aspen groves, camp food, and a large dose of the most effective mental strengthening tools for runners help make this camp one of a kind. I get to hang out with 175 high school kids and get to pump outhouses, the most prestigious job at camp. I had an awesome week teaching, running, and learning.
Now off to SpeedGoat in Utah.
Now, skip ahead to after SpeedGoat.
Wow, what a race. That was HARD. Epic and Hard. With each race like this I definitely learn a lot and continue to get better at these courses that I would consider are not my forte. So I was pretty happy how SpeedGoat went. Obviously there’s some room for improvement but that’s a good thing, just means that I have something to keep me motivated and something to strive toward. Killian continues to amaze me but I still don’t believe he’s totally unbeatable, possibly at that type of mountain course, but maybe on a course somewhere in between our strengths. I guess that’s why I decided to do Pikes Peak. I save you and won’t analyze it now.
You may have noticed that SpeedGoat looked like it was cool weather, what with my arm sleeves and all. Ah, au contraire. Although skeptical at first I’ve grown much more confident in Mtn Hardwear’s new CoolQ zero technology and it’s pretty darn cool, (pun intended). It actually does work and keeps me cool and keeps the sun from draining my energy. You’ll be seeing that around much more in the future. SpeedGoat was a serious race for me but at the same time just a good training run. The work in the mountains I’ve been doing lately is ultimately just to help with my endurance and strength in the Ultras that are to come in the fall. Flatter and faster, I’m hoping that the mountain training will pay dividends when the course flattens out and gets a little longer. Much to come and much to accomplish before the end of the season.
It was quite a surprise to me that during my first steeple in 4 years I would run an 8:42 by myself in somewhat windy conditions, so you can imagine my shock at being able to complete a non-existent track season into a 6th place at the Olympic Trials and a PR.
This past track season that was never meant to be started after Tom Brooks asked if I would help him to a better time at the Oregon Twilight meet in May. I reluctantly agreed because I had wanted to do a steeple but after the Olympic Trials Marathon I was lacking the motivation to get on the track and actually do the work. But, I figured I’d been running enough and I would be in at least decent shape, so I got in two workouts prior to the Twilight meet and they went ok and I gave it a shot. It was like riding a bike honestly. The years of doing the drills, the technique work, and the workouts came right back. I figured I would have lost the ability to really get into the hurdle form I needed to be efficient but while I had lost some fitness there, the form came right back.
Hitting the B qualifier at the Twilight meet kind of lit a fire under me and I figured I had a good chance of hitting a time that would actually get me into the Trials. The trick was finding another race that had some quality to the field on the one weekend I had available to race. See, first I had the trip to Spain already planned which two weeks, the Teva Games in Vail after that, the USATF Half Marathon Trail Champs in Bend, and the Mountain Running Championships a week and a half before the Trials. So, I placed my hopes on the Portland Track Festival the Saturday before the Half Marathon.
Someone up there wanted to see what I could do at the Trials because after I came back from Zegama my body was wrecked. I had two terrible races at Teva due to illness, got over it and ended up having a great race at PTF to run 8:36 and just barely hit a time that I thought might get me in. Then luck or something higher would help me out again. After the half marathon the next day, I came down with another cold, hurting me at the Mtn Running Champs and keeping me off that team and a trip to Italy. (Three weeks later, Kasie Enman, last year’s women’s World Champ would also be the first person left off the team as well. I guess it was a curse to win last year.) A week and a half later and after two more workouts that rank among the worst ever, I decide I must have a sinus infection, get some antibiotics and hope for the best at the Trials.
Standing in last place among the 24 on the descending order list I didn’t have any expectations and no pressure. I thought, well, if I do make it into finals it’s further than I got four years before when I was actually focused on the event and was doing everything I could to do well. So with a bunch of hill work, trail running, and 6 actual steeple workouts I qualified 13th of 14 for the finals. Mission accomplished, right? Well, it was certainly more than I expected off the training I had under me. Thing was, I felt strong in these races and they felt sooooo short. It was awesome. I was working hard but we’d come through with 2 laps to go and I felt about as tired as after the first lap and I knew going into finals that with the field we had and my endurance and strength that I had a chance for a PR.
I also knew that if I put too much pressure on myself that I would inevitably fail to make a PR. So I tried to chill as much as I could and relax and have fun. Deschutes Brewery invited me to sign autographs at their pub at the Trials, so I did that a couple hours before my race and I think it just helped keep my mind off of it. I went home and worked the two days between races and came over to Eugene the morning of the race. I think that worked well to keep my mind off the upcoming task. My race plan was to get to the outside, sit on the main front pack on the outside corner. Staying away from flying legs and arms and making sure that I was able to move when a few guys started to break. The break came, I obviously didn’t have the speed to cover the top guys but instead I was able to keep it steady and burn the last lap to pass 3 or 4 and move up to 6th.
It was awesome for me to hit a PR at the end of a season I didn’t think I was even going to attempt and to finish 6th, a position that I hadn’t really been close to since 2005 when I was 5th.
So what’s the key? The secret? No secrets, just a lot of training. Sure, I didn’t get on the track much, but what do you do on the track, VO2 workouts, work on a little leg turnover, maybe some threshold. I was doing that, just on a different surface. I put in 140 mile weeks last year leading up to the Marathon. I ran a lot of hills working on VO2max, speed, and threshold. And there certainly wasn’t any leg speed involved in my race. Without the track work, maybe even with the work, I wasn’t going to have a chance of staying with the leaders to be in the top 3. I get that. But, I’ve also heard this from a lot of people “if you’d only focused on it, you might have made it”. Maybe. Probably not. Remember what happened last time I tried that? Yeah, that didn’t work out. For me, and this is personal, to keep my running sustainable I need variety. It’s the spice of life. Keeps it interesting to me. I get too bored with just focusing on the track, or the roads. Of course I realize this has also kept me from hitting my utmost potential too. Then again, I may not be running anymore if I just stuck to one discipline. So there you go. Catch 22.
Colds suck. When I have a race I like to be on. With a cold it’s usually followed by several up and down races and it’s never confidence building. Almost makes me feel human, which also sucks, because we’re inherently weak. I know, I sound pretty bitter but I’m not really. Maybe I should be to try and use it as motivation but usually it works the opposite way with me and just undermines my willingness to do anything hard. I’ve had several up and down weeks lately since returning from Spain. That race and subsequent travel led to a funk and several weeks of my body not feeling right. And I still don’t. I got this weird virus like cold at Teva Games a couple weeks ago that didn’t give me any symptoms except extremely sore muscles all over my upper body and lots of fatigue. Weirdest thing ever. Got rid of that to crank out a good steeplechase at the Portland Track Festival by the weekend after and qualified for the trials, then ran fatigued but managed to win the US Half Trail Champs the next day. I’d say a good weekend, although in hindsight probably not smart because Monday I was down with another cold. This time it was a regular cold. Hoping that it wouldn’t turn into an infection, I hopped on a plane bound for Mt. Washington (well technically Boston) for the Mt. Running Champs. Turned out not to be an infection so the Mt. Running Champs didn’t go terrible but not making the U.S. Team isn’t exactly a successful run either, actually rather disappointing really.
So, down, up, down. I feel like I have the emotions of a 13 year old girl (no offense to you 13 yr old girls out there, just the facts of life). This is me (in a condescending, self-pity tone of my inner voice): “Ugh, I just don’t know what to do. I’m out of shape, I’m fat, I haven’t been training enough. Does my butt look big in these jeans. Oh geez, I think my arms are getting flabby. I wonder what Michael had for lunch. He’s so dreamy…” Uhh, wait, not that last part. So I’m trying to figure out what to for races the rest of the summer. I’m hoping that I can get some training time under my belt and start to feel good again.
A few points on the weekend since I know at least a few of you critical readers out there are like, “how do you go from World Champ one year to not making the team. What a loser.” 1) Yes, technically I’m a loser, do you really need to point it out again? 2) I’m not totally disgusted with my race, it was over a minute faster than last time up the Rock Pile, (not happy either) 3) No, I’m not blaming the cold…totally. 4) This team in the last 5 years has gone from really not that competitive, to being on par competitively to making the US Cross Country team. I know many of you won’t agree with that on Letsrun, but I’m really not in bad shape for running hills and I got squeezed out by stronger guys than me this weekend. This team definitely has the fire power now to take the Silver, if not Gold, at Worlds again like we did two years ago. If Sage has a run at Worlds like he did at Mt. Wash, he might even win the thing. That was an incredible run by him. I just can’t figure out where that came from.
And still not sure if I’m 100% in to the Oly Trials next week. But I think I am. Not sure how I managed to crank out a steeple with three steeple workouts in the past four years either. Just like riding a bike right? So that’s next then it’s back to training and feeling good again. Steen’s Mountain Running Camp is coming up in July. One of my favorite weeks of the year. I’m inspired every year by the tenacity of the kids that are there. How they elect to put themselves through something they would normally think was impossible. It’s cool. And restores my faith in teenagers every year.
It’s Back to the Drawing Board as they say. My recent, shall we say adventure that was the Zegama-Aizkorri Maraton was both an eye-opening defeat and a success at the same time. Just so you don’t have to read the whole post, because apparently according to some other high-profile Montrail athlete race reports are…well, boring, I’ll sum it up as the hardest 4:20 marathon I have ever done. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and will save you a list of what hurts today except to say everything, my arms especially. That I used my upper body as much as my legs to get me through the race will give you some idea of what the course is like.
Despite, or because of, the difficulties of the course it was a pretty awesome experience and one that I won’t soon forget. The course is beautiful, at least what I could see through the fog, mist, rain, and snow. It was harder than any course I’ve ever run/scrambled through, and also probably the first course that I thought I might actually have a good probability of breaking a bone on, and I still had a blast doing it. Actually I really enjoyed that I might break a bone, it means it was a properly hairy course. I did not like having to slow down because of it though. We’ll have to work on that.
A brief recap of our (the American contingent) trip over to Europe: I arrived Sunday to La Palma, a Canary Island, to find out that Dakota “Gran Co” Jones (new Spanish nickname) had just singlehandedly made for a successful trip. Really, no one else needed to race and we should have quit while we were ahead (not really true, just sounded good cus he won). Dakota crushed the Transvulcania 50 miler and beat the unstoppable Killian Jornet in the process. It was awesome. We spent three days in La Palma running around the island and discussing the future of SkyRunning, a little known (in the U.S.) series of races around the world all centered on mountain running. Some of the most difficult races around the world have at one time or another been part of the SkyRunning series. High altitude, huge elevation gain, and technically challenging is the name of the game, and after Zegama I know they aren’t messing around.
This mini-conference was the main reason for being invited across the Pond and it was successful in getting us, as athletes, excited about trying to grow the SkyRunning Series in the United States. There was much fan fare around this event with media conducting interviews of athletes continually, and a web of excessive twittering, hashtagging, and Facebooking stretching far and wide across the Internet. That I’ll save for another post another time.
La Palma is interesting by the way. Not at all what I expected, it’s a volcanic desert island with not much but some great black sand beaches, quaint beach kioskos, and miles of rugged hiking trails that, had we had more time, could be linked together into some epic long runs. For perspective, the 50 miler went from one end of the island to the other, a point-to-point all on one single trail. And there are tons of others just like it.
On Thursday it was on to Zegama for my main event. If you see my irunfar interview, apparently I was one of the favorites going into that race. Not sure at all about the course, I studied the profile, the map, and even a 3D flyover of the course. Did it do me any good? Not at all. I am continually humbled and awed by how difficult the courses in Europe are and how these guys can run them so well. Both of my true SkyRunning experiences have resulted in fantastic and absolute defeats that leave me wondering whether I can actually run with the Euro’s or not. I will be back!!! (fist shaking in defeat) To be fair to myself I think I have to realize that both times I was udderly un-prepared for what awaited and both races will result in me re-evaluating and changing my training to be better prepared for my next ass-kicking, at which time I’ll shake my fist and go back to my plotting to take over the Euro mountain running scene one race at a time. Bwhaaa, haaa, haaa. (Sinister laugh)
Unfortunately, in the case of Zegama I don’t believe there is anything in the US that can prepare me for that kind of abuse. It is as if someone kicked me down a mountain lined with large sharp rocks, dunked me in freezing cold water, and beat me with a stick. Wait, that IS what happened. I fell down more times than I can count, slid about half of the second decent on my butt, (not so bad on the grass, only started to really hurt when I got into the rocks. My feet were out from under me before I knew what happened, I landed on my hands (they’re bruised pretty good) and instead of slowing down like you normally would on the ground, I was speeding up down the hill, it was amazing), and then rock scrambled for significant sections of the course over wet, slick rock rarely staying on my feet. Did I mention my body hurts today.
I ended up 15th overall, of which I’m not happy about losing to so many but also feel pretty good about getting through and still finishing strong. I’m most happy about staying comfortably with the leaders until the start of the uber technical sections after the first peak at 18km. I would like to think my climbing ability has improved quite a lot since last year, which means I still have the ability to adapt and improve in order to keep up with my Euro rivals.
Mike Wolfe had a great race and finished really strong over the final miles to wind up in 13th just ahead of me. Dakota, Nick, Joe, and Ian were just behind me and Nikki did great with an 8th place finish and 1st masters. She loved the course despite most likely breaking her hand on a slip and fall similar to mine and said she’d come back in a heart beat.
Zegama and the Basque region of Spain reminds me a lot of New England/Adirondacks area and is very beautiful. It was the first time I’ve been able to really get to know some of the other American ultrarunners as well and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss ideas on how to improve our sport for the better in the future. Overall it was a great trip with a stark contrast from a sunny, hot, dry volcanic island to the wet and lush mountains of the Basque region. While out on a run Dakota and I came up with our fresh new competition idea of a paintball ultra event. Hopefully you can read about it in one of his future blogs. The gist of it would be a start on a wide half mile long starting line, everybody has a paintball gun, and you have no set course but must make it to a final finishing point some predetermined distance away. I’ve been dreaming of an event like this for years and I’m just glad that I’m not the only nut with hair-brained ideas like this. I’ve got a couple more too. I’d make a list of all of them but I don’t want someone ripping them off before I get a chance to put them on. Cus they’re great. Really.
Now on the flight home trying not to move any muscles that I don’t absolutely have to, thinking about where to go next with both training and racing. At times like these part of me never wants to go back to a race like that until some of the guys start moving over to races that I’m stronger in like flatter and faster trail races, and there’s another part of me that wants to move over and try to accept the new challenge of improving myself to compete on their field of battle. It’s a conundrum. I’ve got a lot of questions like: What should I do? Do I modify my training to get better at these races? As far as I’m concerned, it’s a whole other sport that takes totally different training. Do I stick with what I’m strongest at? How do I train for a race like Zegama, and will it even matter if I try? Should I really try to focus on the SkyRunning races rather than do everything? Why would I do that? Maybe I should just still do everything. It seems like more fun that way. So maybe I’ll do another steeplechase in two weeks.
Back in January I got over to Kauai for a little vacation and had the opportunity to run the 22 mile Kalulau Trail on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. It was incredible. Check out the video. Another one of those “bucket list” trails that every trail runner has to do.
I was really surprised to see Dakota rounding the same switchback I was on with 100m to go coming up the South Kaibab trail. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Dakota and I ran the exact same time for our recent Double Crossing of the Grand Canyon, but we ended up at the same spot taking very different paths. About two weeks ago we were asked to do a Mtn Hardwear/Montrail photo-shoot at the Grand Canyon. (the shots we got are pretty incredible by the way) Then the hamster wheels in my brain started to turn and I got to thinking that if I spent an extra day I might be able to pull off a Double Crossing. Then, well, I might as well see if the current record holder wanted to run it with me and sure enough, of course Dakota can’t turn down an epic run like that, so it was set, we would come in a day early, run the Double Crossing and then do two days of photos.
Neither of us were coming in with expectations of making a record run just coming off a weekend of 50miles of racing, Dakota at Lake Sonoma, and a 10mi road race 40mile Petersen Ridge double for me. Both of us were tired so we just wanted to have a good run. Of course with any true competitor, the fact that there is a record out there to be had isn’t far from the mind. And of course, the expectation from everyone in the Ultra community after seeing it go up on the Montrail blog was that there would be an attempt at the record. So, I’ll go on official record and say that “It was neither a record attempt or non-record attempt”. How’s that for vagueness. Allow me to explain.
I arrived into PHX at 8:30pm Sunday evening. Picked Dakota up at baggage claim and took out of town with our rental car up toward the Ditch. A stop at Safeway, several attempts at nailing an Elk at high speeds, a cruise through Flag and we were at the Holiday Inn Express in Tusayan at 2am. Three hours sleep and we were back up at 5:30 heading to the South Kaibab Trailhead with the photographers for an impromptu session as we were sent down the trail.
We started at 6:30am and with weather reports calling for record heat we knew we were in for a hot one. One of the main reasons the location was chosen for this shoot is for a yet to be disclosed technology being introduced by Mtn Hardwear later this year. Let’s just say that the record heat that we experienced gave us an opportunity to thoroughly test this new technology. With our slightly later than desired start time we would eventually hit temperatures of 95 – 100 degrees in the Canyon.
Dakota, being the young buck he is, charged off down the switchbacks that plunge you down the first steps of the canyon walls. I tried to keep pace while taking in new sights that were simply amazing and nab a few photos along the way. We hit Phantom Ranch (the bottom at 6.5 miles) at 53 min. We cruised easily in the still early morning temps that were starting to warm in the rising sun but very comfortable. Up through Phantom Ranch, up the box canyon on the North Kaibab Trail, and up toward the North Rim.
I was under the impression that the much longer North Kaibab Trail (14.5 miles) was an even grade all the way out. Man, I was wrong. It winds along the Bright Angel Canyon bottom for about 10 miles up to Roaring Springs where it then begins the big ascent to the North Rim. Both of us were still running comfortably and taking our time as we began the ascent. The heat became more intense as we climbed from the rising sun and Dakota started to feel the fatigue from the past week more than I was. After a couple stops, a chat with some park rangers, and a few photos we hit the rim at 3:36, 14min later than Dakota’s record last fall.
I have to admit to my mindset coming up North Kaibab was a little smug. I wanted to keep the pace easy and stick with Dakota because it was nice to run with someone and share the experience but I figured we would reach the North Rim just after the record split then, feeling good, I could make a solid run back to the South and finish with a great time regardless of whether I was a few minutes over or under the record. So with Dakota’s approval I split down the North Kaibab as he was trying to get his legs back under him. I made good time to Roaring Springs feeling good, charged the next 10 long miles to Phantom ranch in just over an hour at 61 min. The long hot canyon wore on me though and although I was doing well on hydration, nutrition and didn’t feel overly fatigued, I was certainly tired after running 5 ½ hrs. I don’t do that very often, so I was actually pretty surprised how good I was still feeling at this point, and happy to survive a difficult and now hot, 5 ½ hrs.
At Phantom Ranch I figured the record was now out of reach, ok, I’m cool with that, I can still get pretty close to 7hrs. Well, then I started up South Kaibab. Holy Crap that rim is a long way up. My plan of attack was to jog the “flatter” sections and hike the other stuff. Now it really started to get hot though. Although I shouldn’t have been, I was a bit worried about how Dakota was handling the heat since he’d been pretty worked at the top of the North Rim. I was handling myself pretty well, making steady progress to the top and still getting in some jogging about 2 miles from the top when I ran out of water. Not good, but hey, I only have two miles to go. No problem. Until it was. That’s when it hit, fatigue, a little dizziness, shakes. Now I wasn’t moving any more. I took a seat to regroup before moving on. Ate a very dry granola bar that felt somewhat like I would imagine eating dirt would feel like. I saw Tim, (Mtn Hardwear creative director, “you’re Fired”) Richardson perched above me waiting to get a shot of me rounding his switchback. Would have looked amazing had I actually been moving my feet. I took a break with him while I suffered for a bit then made the final stagger up to the finish.
Rounding my final switchback with 100m to go is where I catch a glimpse of another runner coming up the switchback below me. Holy crap, he made it back up and we’re finishing at the same time. I couldn’t believe it. What a way to finish. We grasped hands in an sardonic display of camaraderie between runners and ran past our photographers that made the trek back out to watch us finish (and hopefully get the record for a great story). They left 7 voicemails or texts between Dakota and I trying to figure out if they got there too late and we had already finished and were back lounging by the pool at the hotel. HA, that didn’t happen. We finished in 7:39. Short of the record, but an epic day none-the-less and an awesome coincidental finish for us making it that much cooler. Dakota had a rough patch in the middle, then one of his best runs up South Kaibab he’s ever had. I’ll let you read more about that on his blog. I felt great throughout the run until the last couple miles and then blew apart spectacularly. Did I mention it was HOT.
This is the first time I’ve really had a chance to run with Dakota. Running is kind of like the quote from Fight Club, “you never really know someone until you fight (run with) them.” He’s awesome to run with. Comfortable to run alone in silence and enjoy the environment, but someone you can have a good conversation with that doesn’t always revolve around running too. We carried a good balance. I went through 11 Hammer Gels, 1 Hammer Bar, a granola bar, about 12-15 electrolyte caps, and over 200 oz of water. The products we were able to test from Mtn Hardwear were actually pretty amazing. Both Dakota and I had had a chance to test the new technology in a heated controlled environment earlier in the year but this real world test blew away our expectations and any doubts that we had about it. The stuff just works.
Two days of awesome photo-shooting in an absolutely stunning landscape followed our Double Crossing. Long days of shooting from 5:30am to 7pm really wear on you after a hard 40 milers by the way. Not a lot of sleep. It’s not the glamorous lifestyle you think of when you think photo-shoot. It’s some hard work for us and even harder for the photography crew. The crew that Tim put together of Dave Clifford, Eric, and Seth were incredible and the product that comes out will attest to one of the most productive photo-shoots I’ve been on. Everyone worked hard and we had a great time. As an athlete and the subject, you always kind of wonder how other athletes are to work with. Snobby, demanding, cool, rad, I don’t know. I just try to make sure I’m real, inject a little humor into a long day, and hopefully the photogs have as good a time working with us as we do with them.
Whooo, that’s a long one. Hopefully you’ve made it this far.
If you’re interested in what’s next: I’m considering a Steeplechase in two weeks. Not sure if I’m crazy, stupid, or both. Then it’s on to Spain for the Skyrunning Federation Seminar and the Zegama Trail Marathon with many of the best mountain runners and ultra runners in the world. Should be really tough.