Little late on this post — almost a month. Came back to a slammed 2 weeks at work, multiple consulting deadlines, coaching Little Foot Running Club and deep in kids soccer season — with 3 kids, blogging sometimes gets knocked to the bottom of the list. So it goes.
This was the deepest field I’ve come up against in a 100. Solid field of experienced 100 mile runners. I was excited to see where the chips would fall going into this. I’ve had some success at 100s, 10 for 15 going into this race. Even with that record, I still feel like I’m still a bit under the radar. Mainly due to seeking out some not as well know 100s based on my own personal bucket list based on good things I’ve heard about a particular race and not necessarily chasing competition. I was looking forward to throwing down against a strong field.
This is a particularly unique race in that they divide the competitors into two groups: Tortoise and Hares. The Hares division is a small, elite field that starts 4 hours after the Tortoise division and is going after a cash purse of $10,000 for first, $2,500 for second, $1,500 for 3rd, $1,000 for 4th and $750 for 5th. Plus, a Master’s Premium for the first person, age 40+ to finish ($1,000 which can be added on top of a top 5 earnings finish). Being a Masters runner, I was wanting a top 5 and knew I’d have to have an “A” race to knock off Karl or Paul Terrenova (or up and comer Jess Haynes) for the Master’s prem. Plus, a cool fact about the race — the Tortoise division is going for their own cash purse, albeit smaller. It’s cool, as it gives that division a chance at cash when they normally wouldn’t have such an opportunity.
I flew into Denver on Wednesday to massive flooding on the front range. My buddy, Fred would be crewing and taking some photos. He lives in the foothills of Boulder and I spent Wednesday night at his place. It was raining like crazy all night and we woke Thursday of news that every canyon (besides his) was closed. Roads fully washed out, flash flooding everywhere and only one highway out of Boulder was open (the one we needed to take to Golden and our access to I-70. We barely made it out around noon with rain still coming down hard. Our only hiccup was a 1/2 hour wait for crews to clear a gigantic tree from a bridge we had to cross at the base of his canyon as it enters town.
Once we got over the divide, there was only isolated thunderstorms in the area. W arrived in Steamboat Springs, checked in and got settled in at our condo I was sharing with Roch Horton and Karl Meltzer and his wife Cheryl. We all go way back, so it’s nice catching up with old friends. Speedgoat Karl was the defending champ from last year and was definitely one of the main favorites for this year. We had a group dinner with Roch, Karl, Cheryl, Fred, me and Dakota (Jones) at the condo and hung out for a while before hitting the sack about 11pm.
Race morning was slow going, since we had a noon start for the Hares division. On one hand it’s nice to sleep in and have a good breakfast and not be rushed like typical early morning starts. However, on the other hand, it’s a waiting game when you just want to get running.
Soon enough though, we were standing at the starting line a few minutes from the start. I gave Meltzer a little low five and said good luck and “let’s show these younger boys how to run a 100,” to which he replies, “Let’s show them how to finish.” Giddyup, goat, indeed.
After a countdown, we were off from Steamboat Village and starting up the ski runs climb to the top of the gondola. I settled in about 9th or 10th and watched a small group of runners pull away (Mackey, Louttit, Schlarb and Dave James), with the two Tarahumara runners not far back. We soon were heading up and traversing the high singletrack from Mt. Werner over to Long Lake aid station. I ran this section relaxed and on the 1/2 mile out and back section to Long Lake, I ran into Schlarb and Louttit running together, Dave and the two Tarahumara all within a minute of each other. I was probably 2-3 minutes back and soon found out Mackey was leading about 7 minutes up. On my way back on the short out and back I found Meltzer and Josh Arthur were right behind me, less than a minute.
On the upper basin descent of Fish Creek Falls trail Karl and Josh caught up to me and we ran together all the way to the trailhead and then down the road section back into Steamboat and through town. Josh, Karl and I were making good time down the road and soon reeled in the Tarahumaras. When we arrived at Olympian Hall aid station at 21 miles, Karl and Josh were in and out. I grabbed my new bottles from Fred and asked him for my gel refills (in my drop bag). He had forgotten to get my drop bag, so I ran into the building, unzipped it, grabbed my gel refills and ran out of there. Karl and Josh were a good 200-300 yards up a climb and were just rounding a corner out of sight.
I spent the next 3 miles pushing a bit harder than I wanted in order to reel them in on the climb and finally caught back up to them toward the top. Not ideal to be pushing like that at mile 20-something. I ran with Karl along the top and soon Josh passed me. I was feeling a little bonky from the effort to make contact with them, so I decided to take an almond butter packet (NOTE: big mistake, I later found out, based on the empty wrapper, than I had accidentally picked up a Peanut Butter packet at the store and took that instead) Big mistake. Peanut butter sits in my gut like a rock. Why I don’t do PB&J at aid stations. And this influx of hard to digest crap had my stomach in knots for the next 5 miles. I got into Cow Creek feeling mighty low. My gut was bothering me and I had lost contact with Josh and Karl. But, Dave James was there and clothed. Not sure where he dropped, but he was out.
I was in and out and up the dirt road to pick up the singletrack. I was really creeping through here and feeling really low both physically and mentally. After a mile or so on the trail I passed Jason Louttit who was walking and said he was worked. Within another mile I was starting to feel better. I kept plugging away on the long climb back up to the ridge, when I rounded a corner and saw Mackey walking. I passed him too, which now put me in 4th place. But it was early. I kept concentrating on efficient forward progress.
Once I gained the ridge double track, I ran out of water and went without for about 15 minutes. I finally made it to the unmanned water only table and chugged a half bottle and got running the gravel road down to Olympian Hall. I got in and out and was soon making my way up the road to Fish Creek Falls at ~46 miles.
My stomach was still little squirrely from time to time, so I made it there right about dark and hit the restrooms. Feeling much better after a bathroom break, I came out to find Cheryl and Fred ready with my bottle refills and some soup. When I was leaving the aid station, I noticed Jesse Haynes had just come in and quickly got moving out ahead of him. I was across the footbridge and heading up the first switchback fumbling with turning on my ipod when I accidentally dropped one of my water bottles smack on top of the lid/nipple and it hit right on a granite slab of rock in the middle of the trail. Crack!! The impact broke the entire nipple and little bit of plastic encasing it into my bottle! No freakin’ way! Really?! That’s a new one.
I fished out the nipple with the broken, jagged plastic housing still surrounding it from my water and ended up drinking it first and rather quickly over the next 30 minutes as I ran with the bottle held out away from me and with limited arm swing holding the bottle upright to keep the water from splashing out all over the place. Not fun. Not efficient. Not ideal. So 100s go — gotta roll with the punches. Once I finished off that bottle I started thinking of what I was going to do. My best solution was to ask the volunteers at the next aid station (Long Lake) if anyone had a bottle lid and started devising a plan to give someone something in return if they were so willing to aid in my delimma.
I arrived into Long Lake very animated as I told the quick tale of what had happened. At first no one had a lid. Finally a guy stepped up from the shadows and said, I might have one in my truck. He went to check. In the meantime, I whoofed down some mash potatoes and got my other bottle filled. He came back with a lid and I practically kissed the dude I was so happy. I told him my name and said find me after the race and I’d give him a Black Diamond headlamp as thanks for his kindness.
As I left, I asked the aid station staff how far up 3rd was and they said Josh was 13 minutes in front of me. I said, “Rock ‘n Roll” and was out of there, feeling good. The next two sections were pretty uneventful. I just kept plugging away through the high country and occasionally passing Tortoise division runners. It’s always nice to have such a set up (normally in an out and back course), because encouragement abounds from both sides as we see each other in our little bubble of light in the dark.
I was soon through Summit Lake, got in my drop bags for gel refills and warmer gloves and was off heading down the 13-mile downhill to the turnaround. I arrived at Dry Lake aid station to find out from Bryon Powell that Mackey was closing on me. I was in and out and down the singletrack descent to the turnaround. I looked back a few times to see a light gaining on me after a few miles Dave flew by me near the bottom. We were both in the aid station at the same time and he quickly got in and out, while I took the time to get some food and drop bag stuff. Soon after leaving, it started to rain and I was soon pulling up my arm warmers and Patagonia Houdini jacket with the hood up to keep warm. It was very wet and that portion of the course has some pretty overgrown underbrush. So, by the time I got back up to Dry Lake aid station I was soaked, but the rain had stopped.
I got in to find my crewman, Fred, had soup ready to drink. I asked him how far in front of me Mackey was and he and Bryon, to my surprise, informed me that Dave was still in the aid station tent. Really?! I immediately said, “I’m out of here” and took off up the 8-mile gravel road climb to Summit Lake.
I kept looking over my should for lights but never saw them and kept running and hiking and running all the way to Summit Lake. I was in and out of my drop bag at Summit (mile 82) and off on the Wyoming trail with 21 miles to go (yes, this race is 103 miles — at least). About halfway across the section to Long Lake, I was having some gut rot issues. Stuff just not feeling right and felt like I had a bad mix of calories not digesting. I had a little hacking cough to get up some gunk in my lungs (common from pushing at altitude) and I gagged and everything came up in 3 fast puke bouts. After the purge was complete, I got running again, sipping water and in about 5 minutes, I felt much better. Sour stomach was cleared up and I took a gel and a salt and was all good.
I got into Long Lake, in and out and was on my way to Mt. Werner aid — the final aid station at the top of the ski resort. I got into Werner with just the first hint of light in the morning sky. I was in and out quickly and heading down the gravel, muddy ski access road. After 3 or 4 switchbacks I saw a runner ahead. I thought it was a front of the pack Tortoise runner. However, as I approached I noticed his stride was short and looked like his quads were wiped. I soon could see visor, long hair pulled into a bun and Altra shoes, that meant only one thing — Josh Arthur — 3rd place! Sweet. I still had quads and was ready to throw down for the $500 difference between our two positions. As I came by I asked how he was doing and he didn’t even try to run with me and just asked, “how far back is the next guy?” I replied, “your all good, bro.” And he stated his quads were shot and I told him to hang in there. I kept pushing just in case, but after a few turns I looked back and he was nowhere in sight. Phew.
After that, I kept pushing and soon was off the gravel road section and into the bushwhack ski run section and meeting the early morning 50 mile race starters. This section is crazy to come down, at least a 45-50 degree slope in wet grass with a faint patches of dirt. It was hard on the old quads at mile 100, but I just bit the bullet and ran it. My Patagonia Everlongs were holding tight traction and I had no slippage going on so I just trusted it and kept the wheels turning.
The final couple of miles meander over to the north of the village square and finally I was coming into sight of the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 18 hours, 52 minutes flat for 3rd place. Karl was 2nd (and 1st Masters) in 18:32 and Jason Schlarb rocked the course for a new course record of 17:15:20. He had a stellar, nearly flawless race. Much respect, Jason. Josh held onto 4th place and Tim Olsen rounded out the top 5 for men only 2 weeks off a 4th place Tour de Mont Blanc finish in Europe. Impressive.
Thanks to my wife and kiddos for their constant prayers and support through all this crazy running I do. Thanks to my sponsors and their staff that support me. Patagonia for the loyal support and trusting and allowing me to help design a shoe that I absolutely love and listening to feedback from our ultrarunning team and constantly evolving and improving their outwear for us specifically — namely pocketed Strider Pro shorts and bringing back the duckbill cap. Money. And, for making such a light jacket for running — the Houdini was perfect when that rain hit in the middle of the night. At only 7 ounces, it’s stupid to not have one around your waist if there is even a chance of weather in a race. No brainer. Shout out to Ultraspire for the awesome handhelds that help me stay hydrated. Look for their cool new handheld design in ‘14 as well as a cool new race bottle lid (which I wish I would have been using when I dropped my bottle, it would not have broken). Also, thanks to Rudy Project for the kick butt Rx glasses that allow me to see the intricacies of those tricky mountain trails at night. Roch at Black Diamond for the blinding bright lights and FootZone of Bend for their nutritional support and putting up with my manic, constant tinkering of nutrition and testing stuff. And Barleans for their awesome supplements that I take religiously to recover and stay healthy at the ripe old age of 42. And finally, the Big Man upstairs for keeping me safe through the gnarly night in Colorado’s stellar Rocky mountains. What a blessing it is to run in such beautiful places. Giddyup.
As usual my busy life has left me with only my travel day to update my blog. I’m sitting in Portland airport on a layover before I fly to Denver today. Run Rabbit Run 100 is on Friday and I’m feeling excited to throw down with a solid field of runners.
I always have the intention of posting more often, but fatherhood, training, and work seem to take up every hour and when I finally hit the sack, I have nothing left. Thank goodness for Instagram and smartphones. Follow me there for more timely updates. Since San Diego, I’ve had a busy few months of training, racing and working my tail off at G5, plus design consulting.
I traveled a few hours to Ashland with the family to get a weekend in Ashland and jump in the Siskuyou Outback 50 Miler at Mt. Ashland in southern Oregon. I’ve made this kind of an annual trip. One, it’s in my home state so it’s easy and two, it’s an awesome course and event. Not to mention, my wife and I love Ashland and don’ t miss a chance to get down to visit.
I was able to rally to a 2nd place finish in the 50 miler and enjoyed a good day on the trails, even though a little forest fire haze was lingering from local fires.
I got back from Ashland on Sunday night and flew out for Salt Lake City on Monday to spend the week at OR and the launch of the shoe I’ve been working on with Patagonia Footwear, the EVERlong. A lightweight trail shoe I’ve been working closely on since June 2012. I’m on my 13th pair and have been exclusively in the shoe since December ‘12. I’m loving it, it’s solid and I think we really got a good first edition. Feedback has been positive and should hit shelves in some key retailers in late November and fully hit in February ‘14. I’m stoked to have a shoe I’m excited about from Patagonia. It’s solid and I’m happy with what we came up with. Hung out at the Ultraspire booth too. Awesome hydration stuff coming out from them as well in ‘14. And as always, OR is a good time to catch up with other Patagonia Ultrarunning Team members Luke Nelson, Ty Draney and Krissy Moehl. Luke, Ty and I got out for a couple of good runs, one of which was a dawn patrol run up Mt. Olympus. Stellar.
I jammed out a solid month of training after SOB 50, keeping it local. I borrowed a friend’s altitude tent and have been sleeping at 10,000+ feet for 4 weeks to get ready for RRR100.
As for running, the Cascades open up from snow by August, so, that short window of time to get in the high country in the Central Cascades is a must. I spent some time running up into Broken Top Crater, Tumalo Falls area, South Sister a couple of times and hitting sections of the Flagline 50k course. Never a disappointment. Absolutely love the access to beautiful country Bend living affords a trail runner.
My last 3 weeks leading up RRR100 has been awesome. A local mountaineer and runner, Brett Yost and I ran around Mt. Hood in a day. A must do for any ultrarunner. A 40 mile circumnavigation of the mountain with nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. Such a cool, diverse mountain to explore.
On my local trails, I topped off my training with a last adventure of riding my ‘cross bike 26 miles from my house to Green Lakes Trailhead at the foot of South Sister, running the 15 mile roundtrip/5,200 foot climb up South Sister and biking the 26 miles back home. Solid training day 2 weeks out from the upcoming race.
I feel as ready as I can be coming into this race. Minus maybe quitting my job and sleeping more. A fleeting thought. Giddyup.
What a tough race. A heat wave hit the mountains for a 48-hour period during the heart of the race to create one of the lower 100-mile finish rates in the past few decades — 45%. In contrast, San Diego 100 usually has nearly a 70% finisher rate. Conditions with the heat and the exposure — a large chunk of the race being at 5,000-6,000 feet with no shade — made for a very challenging day.
The course is about 50 miles inland from San Diego with approximately 15,800 feet of climbing at elevations ranging from 4,000-6,000 feet. The terrain is rocky, exposed with very little shade for a majority of the race. The course’s main vain is on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and other trails the spur off the PCT. Temperatures tend to be in the high 80s to low 90s with higher temps in Noble Canyon (mile 25-44). This year’s heat wave made sure those “norms” were not the case. It was a scorcher.
At 7am sharp, we were off from Al Bahr Campground and Bandit (aka Rod Bien) took it out at a pretty healthy clip. First mile was 7:15 pace. I told Rod, “I’ve been worried about Dave (Mackey) taking it out hard, when all along it’s you I should worry about.” A little surprised by his fast pace, I gave Rod a little space, took it back one notch and settled into running behind him about 50-60 yards and Dave doing the same behind me. This stayed status quo into the first aid station at 7.5 miles with Rod gapping Dave and I a bit, as he kept on the slightly quicker pace. My split into Meadows Aid Station was 54 minutes (5 minutes faster than last year). WAY too fast. This had me pace check myself leaving the aid station. We left in the same order and off down the trail. Dave caught up to me and we ran together chatting about mountain biking. We could still see Rod on longer, open sections, but he was definitely still putting time on us every mile.
Dave seemed antsy with Rod pulling away, so when we hit some double track, Dave pulled up next to me and took the lead on a mellow climb. We had pretty much quit chatting at this point and as we went into a series of little grunt ups, I quit trying to run Dave’s pace, as it felt like he’d picked it up a bit. I figured he was itching to go after Rod. So, I settled into a more comfortable early pace and took a deep breath. I felt like the race had now sorted the 3 of us out and this evening we’d see where we were. We were only 10 miles in and I felt the heat hitting and didn’t want to push too much too early. After letting Dave mentally go, I relaxed and just concentrated on taking care of myself and not racing yet.
We soon came into Red Tail Roost Aid at 13 miles with Rod, Dave and I about a minute apart. Still ahead of last year’s splits. Josh Nordell was there and gave me some words of encouragement. I just gave him a “mellow, it’s early” comment. More to verbalize this to myself than to him. This was my mental reminder over the next few miles as I ran down the double track to pick up the trail and run the PCT to Todd’s Cabin.
I got into Todd’s aid and they told me Dave had taken the lead by 1 minute and Rod was 4 minutes in front of me. I was still over 5 minutes up on last year’s splits and it was much hotter, which meant they were 9 and 10 minutes ahead of my course record pace from last year. I felt like we were pushing too hard for this early. And, to reinforce this, a little mental math also told me that Dave had run the last section over a minute a mile faster than me and Rod about 40 seconds a mile faster. It being a 100 miler, this is where I really had to trust my own pacing and not get caught up in racing. I felt like I was moving well and if I went faster, I’d be pushing too hard. Hopefully those guys were pushing too hard. Time would tell.
Getting close to the 3rd aid station, Penny Pines, There is a sweeping switchback and the trail backtracks up a ravine then back up another bare ridge where you can see the trail across the ravine well ahead of yourself. I happened to catch a glimpse of Mackey climbing. I made a quick watch check and a mental note of where he was. When I arrived at that spot, he was about 9 minutes ahead of me. Still going faster and it was getting hot.
I arrived Penny Pines (23.6 miles) still ahead of course record (CR) splits, got into my drop bag, new gels and was off with Mackey up 10 minutes and Rod up 9. The next section was where the heat hit hard. It’s a long downhill into Noble Canyon that gets increasingly more rocky, technical and more hot. When I got 2/3 of the way down, I passed some hikers at a creek crossing where I was stopping and dunking my hat and taking the time to get my shoulders, neck, and quads wet before leaving. They told me Rod was only a couple minutes in front of me. Early hot pace was catching up to him looked like. I was carrying two 24 ouncers and I was draining them by every aid station.
When we were just about a 1/2 mile from Pine Creek aid station (mile 30) I saw Rod ahead. He was in the aid station when I arrived. I had been rationing water for about the last mile or two but had not run out. Rod said he’d run out of water and looked at me, “you?” I said, “No, but it’s really freakin’ hot.” With that, we both went to the task of getting ourselves taken care of. This would be the last I saw of Rod, he had a rough time in the heat and his stomach went south and was throwing up. He dropped at Sunrise 1 (mile 51.3) — his first DNF ever in over 80 ultras. My heart goes out to him on that one. Rod is a fierce competitor and I really, really respect that dude. He’s a stud and hated to see it get that bad for him. He had a stellar and commanding PCT 50 miler a month ago where he crushed the course record.
Volunteers sponged cold water over my quads, neck, shoulders and head while I chugged 3 glasses of Gu Brew and got moving again for the hot 4.5 mile loop back to the same aid station in a very toasty Noble Canyon (NOTE: temperature reports were varying, but Noble Canyon reports were anywhere from 101 to 107 at the aid station. I would wager hotter pockets existed on the 4.5 mile section we loop, especially on the south facing side of the butte the course loops around).
This section I ran in just over 43 minutes last year and it was probably 15 degrees cooler. I felt I was moving pretty well and sure enough, came through this split 3 minutes faster than last year. I arrived back to Pine Creek just finishing my bottles and got really cooled down with the help of volunteers. I chugged water, ate a banana, and left with ice in my hat to grind out the 8-mile, 2,200 foot climb back up to the PCT.
I got moving up the old single lane paved road with some hiking and running transitions and let all the liquid I chugged settling in. About a mile up the road there is a bee hive in the base of an old dead tree right on the edge of the road. I was skirting that side of the road trying to grab any tiny bit of shade I possibly could get when I walked within 2 feet of the hive. I was immediately swarmed with at least a dozen bees. I started running up the road swatting bees away. Once I was a good distance, they gave up the chase only to be stung — BAM — by a single bee another mile up the road, right in the middle of my back.
I shook it off and was almost out of water 2 miles up the road when I hit the water/popsicle minimal aid station. Filled bottles, grabbed a mango popsicle and started up the road. I kept plugging away and soon was getting close to Pioneer Mail aid to pick the PCT back up. Hard climb in the exposed sun and heat. I was again rationing water the last 2 miles.
I arrived Pioneer Mail at mile 44.1, 19 minutes behind Dave. My crew said Dave was looking hammered and weaving. I was hot, but felt like I had got through the crazy heat in semi-one-piece. I knew Dave’s style and he likes to push it and was sure he’d keep putting time on me through through halfway, then I’d hopefully be able to start closing that gap. I got my core temps cooled down and drank a ton of water, I ran the next stretch to Sunrise aid 1 minute slower than last year. It was hot for sure at this point. I was just getting close when I had some hikers tell me Dave was 28 minutes ahead. Dang. he’d run that section pretty fast. But, my crew said he’d arrived and sat for 10 minutes and I’d only been there less than 3. So, he’d only really gained another 3 or 4 minutes on me…a little more than 20 minutes ahead, not 28. Manageable.
I took time to really cool down, left with a bandana with ice (thanks to Patagonia Teammate Denise Bourassa). The next section was REALLY hot as you run toward Lake Cuyamaca into the afternoon sun with absolutely no shade. I kept plugging along and focusing on taking care of myself. Again, rationing water the last few miles.
I was looking forward to hitting the the climb up Stonewall peak, after Stonewall Mine aid station. It’s the first spot you start to get a little tree cover, albeit sporadic. I got into Stonewall Mine Aid station (mile 58) to find out that Dave had taken a wrong turn at the main intersection of the start of the 29 mile northern loop just after the last aid station. This really surprised me. A veteran like Dave taking a wrong turn at a key spot on the course. It was marked well, with at least 4 or 5 ribbons and chalk dots on the ground. Not sure how he blew through it. Bummer for Dave.
I would like to give the course marking folks a little credit. It was marked. Brett Rivers — who ended up in 2nd place — confirmed it was well marked too. This was before they went out and “over” marked it. A good to reminder to everyone. This is a very important part of running 100 mile trail races. Not only studying the course to know key intersections, but also stopping at intersections to make sure you make a good choice and go the right way. Making good decisions, course recon (via in person or via map) is essential.
I spent the next section over Stonewall Peak just really going slow, I hiked most of the climb and ran the down at a mellow pace in kind of a distracted mental state, reflecting on how bummed I was for Dave and the fact that I wasn’t getting a chance to beat him fair and square. I’d held back in the heat and was ready to roll on this 29 mile loop and had started to see him come back to me at the last checkpoint. So it goes.
I arrived Paso aid station at mile 64 to a huge entourage. George, a good fried, Patagonia Team rep and crew master at last year’s race, was attempting his first 100. However, he had dropped early due to some stomach issues and was there to greet me with my crew. Awesome to see him. Scotty Mills (the RD) was there to ask me about course markings and I told him it was marked with chalk and ribbons. He seemed relieved. Knowing Scotty, he’ll OVER mark that spot next year. He also said Dave was making his way around the loop backwards.
I had some avocado, resupplied my gels, and got headed for Sweetwater. About a mile out of Sweetwater (about halfway around the loop) I ran into Dave coming the other way. I apologized to him and gave him a hug. As I jogged off, I stopped, looked back and asked “Rematch at Run Rabbit Run?” Hopefully he’ll take me up on it. I really meant it. He’s a good guy and I was bummed he took a wrong turn.
I cruised along the next section still reflecting on Dave and that situation. I guess I ran that section okay, even though I felt like I wasn’t pushing at all. I ran 3 minutes slower than last year (where I felt like I was really pushing that section). At sweetwater, I sat down to eat. The only place I sat all day. It really mirrored my mental state. With Dave out, I was not pushing at all. I was just cruising along, finding reasons to take walk breaks and generally not having my head in the race. Enter George…
He bends down as I’m eating, looks me square in the eyes and tells me Brett gained 10 minutes on me on the last section and was in and out in less than a minute at Paso looking very good and very focused. He later told me my entire countenance changed at that moment and saw complete focus. I immediately got up and left and proceeded to run 85% of the next 8-mile climb back up to Sunrise 2 aid station. 5 minutes faster than last year.
I arrived mile 80 at Sunrise 2 at 8:11pm, at dusk. I got my lights, soup, new bottles and gels and was out of there with Jesse pacing me the last 20. He’s only the 3rd pacer I’ve had in fifteen hundreds, but he wanted get in a long night run so I was fine with having some company. We ran really hard until we had to turn on lights. I told Jesse at this point, we should have a good enough lead on Brett to just cruise it in. My quads were sore from fighting some form of dehydration on and off all day and were more tender than normal at this point in a 100. I knew from the last 10 minutes of going hard I could bring it if I had to, but wanted to save my legs and coast it in. He said cool and we silently cruised with me in front. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful besides a couple of good wildlife encounters.
On the way to Pioneer Mail 2 on the PCT, we stopped to check out a huge Tarantula on the trail that went down a hole in the middle of the trail. Then, at mile 97 a skunk jumped onto the trail in front of us running down the trail about 20-30 yards in front of us. Jesse jumped in front of me and tried to scare it off the trail. It wouldn’t budge, just kept running down the trail. It’s a section of tall grass and shrubs and every time the skunk would run around a bend in the trail, we’d slow to a hike. Jesse would peer around the corner, then wave me to proceed. This went of for a 1/4 mile, until we hit a double track section and he threw a rock at it and it hissed and ran off the road so we could run by (fast).
Then, less than a mile later, we were traversing the meadow in the trees when I caught movement in my light to my left. I looked over just in time to catch a long brown animal on top of a big granite boulder jump down and look at me—green eyes. Cat. Brain processing…cougar! I yelled back to Jesse, cougar! He said, where?!” I yelled, “40 yards in the brush!” We were walking and looking and he caught it in his headlamp too. He yells, “I see it, I see it!” We started grunting loudly and making a bunch of noise as we hiked and Jesse picked up a large size rock. Just in case. I started running again and yelled back over my shoulder, “stop and check behind us every once in a while to make sure it isn’t tracking us!” He did and we didn’t have any other issues. I heard later that a cougar had been sighted in the campground the night before. This was less than a mile from the western edge of the campground, so I’m sure it was the same one.
We kept plugging away and I glanced at my watch to see that I had a shot at sneaking under 17 hours. I didn’t mention it to Jesse, but this was in my head, which helped me push a little through the last mile to the finish. We soon had the finish line in sight and I crossed the line in 16 hours, 59 minutes, 24 seconds for my 10th 100 mile win and 15th 100 mile finish. Hard but good day.
At the finish, a little girl came up and said in a cute little voice, “Congratulations.” I have a daughter about the same age and held my hand up for a high five. She kinda missed so I held my hand out to her level and asked her to “give me five.” She gave me a little slap and I said, “Oh come on, give me another!” She did but it was still a little weak cause she kinda missed. So, I said, “C’mon, ONE MORE TIME!” This time she had gained some confidence with practice and laid a hard SLAP on my hand. I said, “Ah YEAH!” and she walked away beaming. KIds are so cool, great way to end a 100 miler, connecting with a future little runner. Giddyup.
Big shout out to my wife and kids for all their love, prayer and support during the race and putting up with my training. I do try to minimize the impact on the family time as much as humanly possible and I appreciate their patience and understanding. Thank you, Jennifer. A special thanks to Patagonia and the decade of support they’ve given me…awesome pocketed shorts and some wickedly sweet shoes for this race…and the old school duck bill cap is back, baby! The gear is awesome. It’s an honor to represent such a responsible company. Big thanks to Keira Henninger and Jesse Haynes for crewing and Jesse for jumping into pace the last 20 miles.
Thanks to Rocho at Black Diamond for the stellar bright lights so I could get a good look at that cougar. Ultraspire for awesome handhelds and night time running would be a lot blurrier without Rudy Project glasses. Also, Barlean’s for the supplements. What a cool suite of products they have. Teague and all the folks at FootZone in Bend — if you’re in Bend, check out their new expanded space downtown. G5 for a long leash during the business day so I can live life. Mark DeJohn for the ART (Active Release Technique) and massage both pre- and post-race. Tracy at Ruby’s Lube (this stuff rocks the house, all natural anti-chafe balm…no gross, cancer-causing ingredients like all the other lubes out there), check it out. And, especially the Big Man upstairs for keeping my path safe, stink-free and avoiding being kitty dinner.
I’m traveling today and finally getting a deep breath to post. All in all, working on the new house, getting garden beds built and making a house a home. Working full time, coaching, parenting 3 kids with my hardworking wife and training my rear off to get ready for San Diego 100. 34 hours to the start. Here’s a little look back at my spring.
March: Gorge Waterfalls 50k
After recovering and building mileage back up after Bandera 100k in January, I decided to stay close to home the beginning half of the spring and run local. A return to Rainshadow Running’s Gorge Waterfalls 50k was in order. This is such a beautiful race James puts on. Not only do you get a awesome sampling of the heart of the waterfalls that the Columbia River Gorge has to offer, it also boasts a deep field for a “low-key” race, great micro brews, bluegrass, and handmade pizzas at the finish line. Not to mention the weather was off-the-hook-stellar. 70s and bluebird skies. Unheard of this time of the year in the Gorge.
I went out easy with Patagonia teammate Ty Draney, who was coming from only snowshoeing and running in sub 20 degree snowy weather since the fall in Wyoming. 70s was feeling mighty hot for Ty and he slowed around 10 miles in, so I took it as an opportunity to pick up the pace a bit.
When we got to the out and back road section toward the turnaround, I had pretty good legs and picked a couple of guys off. I could see Hal Koerner ahead of me a minute or so and at the turnaround as I met Hal, he jokingly said, “What’d you do, turn into some kind of road runner?!” Ha. I yelled over my shoulder, “I’m coming to get you Koerner!” I grabbed my poker ship out of the bucket at the turnaround and soon popped off the trail, dropped my chip to a volunteer and took off down the road with the short term goal of reeling in GQ (aka Hal).
Hal doesn’t go down easy, so I put my head down and tried to hold a sub 6:30 pace. I had been doing some good long tempo workout and was even able to throw a 5:58 mile split in on the road. I gained ground, but he was still 30 seconds up when we hit the singletrack again. After a few short climbs and windy turns I finally caught him. Usually I can’t keep up with GQ in a 50k, but he’d been fighting a foot thing again. I feel for him, I hate when you’re fighting little stuff. I’ve had both PF and Morton’s Neuroma over the years. Not a fun thing to be dealing with. After catching Hal, I just kept rolling and soon picked off another guy. I ended up moving from 12th to 6th by the finish and taking the Master’s win. Great trainer and good to hang out at the finish with Stephanie Howe, Zach, Hal, Ty, and Ian Sharman — whom I’ve trained quite a few long runs this spring with before he moved back to the Bay Area.
Capped the Easter weekend off by staying at the Hood River Hotel with the family and hanging with my wife and kids in Hood River. Such a cool town and a gorgeous weekend to be enjoying the shorts weather.
April: Patagonia Design Offsite, Rolled Ankle and Ultraspire Retreat
The week after Gorge, I headed to Portland for a design offsite with Patagonia to check out the Spring ‘14 line and talk design ideas for the future. It was a great 2-day session at the Ace Hotel geeking out on gear and hanging with the Patagonia design team and some of the Ultrarunning Team. Awesome and productive. I truly love supporting this responsible company.
After the design offsite, the plan was to train right up to Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 Miler in Sisters, OR and do a mini 4 or 5 day taper and use it as a build up for Ice Age 50 in May in Wisconsin. 2-days before the race, I was cruising in my neighborhood park and was cruising on a buff section of trail while scouting a 1 mile trail loop for my kids to run (complete with quarter miles markers), when BAM stepped on the only rock on the trail while gawking and rolled my right ankle all the way to the side. I immediately hopped on one foot and knew it was a bad one — one that makes you sit down until your foot stops trembling. Sucked. I walked on it for about 10 minutes and it was ballooning. So, ice-backward treadmill hiking rehab regimen immediately, no Rumble 40. So it goes.
I have a pretty good rolled ankle rehab program, so I got to work on my ice-treadmill routine and had Mark DeJohn do some light work on it. 2 days after I walked 4 miles with no pain (gently), biked 5 days in a row, so no “endurance” days off and by 6 days, I was lightly jogging on a taped and still swollen ankle.
That Thursday (day 5) I was flying to St. George, UT for a design and testing retreat for Ultraspire in Zion National Park. I spent Friday hiking and jogging 8 miles, super mellow, and exploring a dome and a canyon with Speedgoat Karl. He’d just come off racing Lake Sonoma 50 miler Saturday before. Good to hang with the old goat as usual. We always have good times. Ankle was still visually swollen and purple below the ankle bone.
Day 2 I was able to run 3 times (morning, noon, and evening) — all 4 milers for 12 miles total. Ankle was coming around. I kept compression on it when not running and by Sunday Karl, Ashley Nordell, Scott Jaime and I ran an easy 15 miler to check out an arch. Ankle was fine on everything. Still had to go gentle on the downs, but swelling was lots better after all the running on it to flush out the fluid and bruising was gone.
After getting back, I kept training hard at Smith Rock to get ready for Ice Age 50.
May: Ice Age 50 Miler, The EVERlong, and Every Day May
May was a big month: peak training month, Ice Age 50 Miler, Patagonia Footwear meetings and my self-imposed training regimen of no running days off in may…”Every Day May.”
Second weekend in May I flew to Wisconsin with teammate Denise Bourassa and her husband Ken. Fun to hang with them for the race weekend. We had a cloudy and rainy weekend, but got a good couple of last shakeout runs in before the race.
The race went well. Super fast field this year. The race director, Jeff, mentioned it was the fastest top 10 race in the race’s 30+ year history. I had been doing some good, long tempo workouts all spring and they came into play on race day. The first 9 miles I was hitting 6:45-7:15 pace on the rolling XC ski trails in Kettle Moraine Forest and was in 14th place. I settled in and just concentrated on nutrition and turnover and good form. This course consists of a loop, then two out and backs (turnarounds at 26 miles and 40 miles). A great place to see competition and see how your doing in the pack.
At the first turn I was in 12th and the guys up front were running well (Josh Brimhall, Zach Bitter, and David Riddle). They looked strong when we passed on the trail. I picked off a few more guys on my way out to the next turnaround and by the turnaround at 40 miles, I had moved up to 9th place. About 2 minutes out of the turnaround, I met the first place woman, Cassie Scallon (on course record pace). I was kind of in a funky headspace here and that snapped me out of it. Funny how a little assault on the male ego can light a fire. I was quickly running a minute a mile faster and picking off a guy in front of me. I hammered it in and finished 8th place in 6:36 and good enough for the Master’s win. (Cassie ended smashing the 15 year old women’s course record by 18 minutes! A stellar 6:46…watch out for her.)
After the race, I jumped a plane to Grand Rapids, MI for the annual Patagonia Footwear meetings. It was an awesome week of geeky running shoe talk and trail running with The Dirty Herd and West Michigan Trail Runners, as well as Gazelle Sports. Highly recommend stopping in their shop if you’re in town. Met some great folks in Michigan and ran some great trails.
It was also a chance to show the Sales Reps the shoe I’ve been helping Patagonia develop the past 8 months. The EVERlong — a stellar trail shoe coming from Patagonia in Spring ‘14. It’s good. I’m stoked. It’s been my only shoe since last fall. I’ve run in NOTHING else. And anyone that knows me (yep, you know what I mean FootZone folks), this is not normal.
So, now I’m tapered and ready to roll at San Diego inside of 48 hours. Every Day May is complete (35 straight running days, capping off my final week of peak training with 96 miles and almost 15,000 feet of climbing). I feel ready — mentally, physically, and spiritually. I’m stoked to come back to this race. Great course, great volunteers and a great event. Love supporting it. Looks like it’s gonna be sunny and hot in the mountains on race day. I’ve done 5 sauna sessions the past 2 weeks. Let’s do this. Giddyup.
This was my first trip to Texas for a race. I’d heard good things about this race and wanted to try it out. Since it was National Championship race too, there was money for top 5. Meltzer and I connected a month or two before the race when we saw we both signed up and decided to share a hotel room and rental car for the weekend. It was good to catch up with the Karl and Cheryl and hang out a bit. Karl was coming “off the couch” because of fighting an injury in December. But, the Goat always runs well and this weekend was no exception.
For me, coming into this one fresh off strained cartilage in my sternum and missing 8 days of running when I was supposed to hit my big run really made 100k feel super tough. With lack of long runs plus the stupid water bottle mistake…more on that later…well, it kinda hurt the 2nd lap. Add to it the fact that it rained the night before and the first half of the race, made for gunky conditions to say the least. Bandera has a lot of solid, rocky sections of limestone (I think). Not a lot of loose rocks, just rocky…plus clay dirt in between. The clay sections when wet become a greasy, sticky mess. Four pound shoes and slime. Add slippery clay covering smooth solid rocks and you couldn’t use the rocks to step or plant on. The 2nd lap was better when it quit raining and we had a good breeze, it got tackier in most of the bad places.
I felt pretty clunky from 26-48 due to the bone-headed mistake that I didn’t pick up my extra water bottle (so I’d have 2) from 17 miles on. I meant to, but blew it off. Bad move. When the rain quit, it got pretty humid and the upper 60s/low 70s felt REALLY hot coming from 20s high temps in Central Oregon the past month. I kept draining my single bottle well before each station, so I slowed through the middle 20 miles of the course. I just kept getting behind a little, catch up when I chugged at an aid station, run out, get behind…repeat. I picked up my other bottle at 48 and felt way better the last 12 miles. Somehow I always seem to do this at the beginning of every season. Have one early race where I don’t drink enough, remember the same exact lesson EVERY season…oh yeah, carry more water than you think you need.
I rallied the last 12 to hold onto 7th overall in 9 hours 37 minutes. It would be an awesome technical, but runnable course if it was dry (which it is a majority of years). Karl ran about a half hour in front of me for 4th. He paid for his effort though. He passed out at the BBQ joint in Bandera Saturday evening. It was quite the spectacle—Speedgoat flat on his back on the floor in the middle of the restaurant. We had his feet propped up and sipping on Sprite to get his blood sugar back up.
The waitress had the most classic line after Speedgoat hit the deck and we told her he just ran a hard 100k. In her Texas drawl “Honey, I don’t even run down the block, I wait for the bus…and if I miss it, there’s another one a comin’!” Awesome. Felt like I was in Missouri again.
Anyway, it worked Karl over for the evening and Cheryl and I took him back to the Villa and he crashed out. He was back to old Karl the next morning. Even the best of them pay the piper occasionally. It is ultrarunning.
All in all, fun time in Texas. Good to get a long one under my belt so early in the season. Makes a 50k not seem so long. Great aid stations and super well-marked course. Giddyup.
It has been a busy few months since Wasatch. I spent the remainder of September and first half of October finishing up projects around the house to get our home on the market to sell. Painting a deck, painting a woodshed, general clean up and repair of little things that tend to pile up on the list when you own a home. I kept running all fall, but really backed off volume and just enjoyed the down time with my family and not traveling.
The Move: Back to the Westside, Baby
On a personal note, my wife and I had been longing to move back into town for a while and the market had finally creeped back enough for that to happen. We’ve really enjoyed the “crater house” but had outgrown the home (1500sf, tiny 1 car garage and no office space for me…plus the fact that it’s 10 miles south of Bend). My older kids are in activities now and we’re shuttling back and forth to town constantly. And, I don’t work out of the house anymore (besides some freelance consulting). Needless to say, big fuel bill when you drive 20-40 miles every day. I felt like we lived in the car and I didn’t move from Denver to Bend in ‘99 to get away from just that.
So, we frantically got everything cleaned up in about a month and put our house on the market. The crater house was a fun almost 5 years. Watching my kiddos learn to scramble and climb around on our amazing one in a million property was fun, but the location was just not ideal for us. And, anyone that knows us well, we’re antsy when it comes to homes. The Crater House was our 4th home we’ve owned in Bend in 13 years…and most recent purchase was our 5th home. What can I say…we’re both creative folks and we get bored.
Little did we know it be a whirlwind ride. We put our home on the market and sold it in 4 days! The crazy thing was that we were eyeing a home on Bend’s Westside, big lot, walking distance to everything, close to trails and a big 8 acre park with singletrack in it…plus, it was a mid-century modern style home and we love that architecture. The start of the modern, energy efficient home design from the 50s and 60s. As soon as we were in contract on our Crater House, we made an offer. The owners had inherited it and it was managed by a Trust. The Trust (aka lawyers) were already in negotiations with an investor who had put in a low-ball offer, but they weren’t in contract yet. We threw in an offer quite a bit under asking price—as it needed work—gave it over to the Big Man Upstairs and waited.
To our surprise, the offer was accepted with one stipulation…no repairs. We were already planning on renovating, so that wasn’t a deal killer. So, we spent November packing and planning the renovation and took possession of the house in mid-December. Wham, Bam. We’re deep in renovation land and hopefully (yes, hopefully) we’re about 3 weeks from being done. So nice to be back on the westside and close to EVERYTHING. Walk to work, walk to pubs, walk to coffee. Awesome. I’m so thankful and feeling mighty blessed as we enter 2013.
I’ve been training through all of this…not sure how, but I’m swinging it. I sometimes get 5 hours a sleep a night, but that’s nothing new. I signed up for Bandera 100k (of which I’m traveling to today…I’m typing in Seattle Airport on a layover). Not sure what I was thinking with so much going on, but I’m impulsive and like most of us ultrarunners, I like running. So, I don’t sweat the details. I’m not at the volume I’d like to be, but muscle memory, right?!
However, I did have a solid November-December of training. Bend enjoyed a mild, dry late fall and I squeezed in a lot of speedwork and tempo work on lower volume for a good 2 months. What I missed in volume, I made up for in quality.
To my dismay, I did have one setback right before Christmas break when I strained the cartilage in my sternum/upper rib while working on the new house. Stupid, boneheaded move (I won’t go into details it’s so stupid), but it happened and had to take 8 days off running because I was so sore. So, after a few weeks of PT, it’s on the mend. Let’s just say I don’t want to fall at Bandera…or get a bear hug.
I did get to test out the ribs on my last long run at the annual Bad Ass Fun Run that Meissner and I started years ago. He’s since moved to Durango, but I’m trying to keep the tradition alive. It’s become a pirate run at different locales every year. Bend got hit with some serious snow and we did a snow run at Smith Rock/Gray Butte area. It was tough. Max King, Zach Violett, Stephanie Howe and I did the longest leg, 19.6 miles. Max and I ended up taking turns breaking trail and ran just under 20 miles in 4 hours and 19 minutes! We were in snow up to our knees on the top half of Gray Butte. It was an adventure. At one point, Max was breaking trail on a traverse in 8 inches of powder and I felt like I was running 6:30 effort, looked at my GPS watch…15:30 pace! It was work. So, I have to say…I’m looking forward to some dry, warmer trails at Bandera. And, sharing a hotel and catching up with Meltzer. The Bronco Billy and Speedgoat Show. Always good to hang with the Old Goat. Plus, I get to razz him that I tied with him in votes for Ultrarunner of the Year. Giddyup.
I ran Wasatch as my second 100 miler back in 2004 — 8 long years ago. A lot has passed since the “salad” days. I only had one child back then — now I have 3. I have a lot more responsibility and a lot less free time. I have to get creative with my training to stay at the volume it requires to race and stay competitive at ultramarathons. It’s tough sometimes and I lose sleep, but I love running in the mountains and I love this sport. I don’t think I could give it up if I had to.
Wasatch 100 is one of the hard ones, the big dogs. There are a lot of other races that get more recent press because of fat-cat cash purses, but Wasatch, in my book (and many other “old school” ultrarunners that have been around before any of the hype) consider Wasatch as one of the pinnacles. It’s been around since 1980 (I believe the 2nd oldest 100 behind the infamous Western States 100). It’s hard, it’s technical, it’s relentless. 26,882′ of climbing and 26,131′ of downhill — 10,000′ of the descent coming in the last 23 miles! It’s brutal…and beautiful. Just my kind of course.
Since my youngest son is still not at the age where he travels well, my wife and I decided I should “dirtbag” this race and drive solo, sleep at my friends Roch and Catherine’s house in Salt Lake City and bust it out. Zip in, run hard, zip home. No pacer — just Roch as my crew at 3 checkpoints, drop bags and go hard. No pampering — just like this race embodies. That was the plan.
I was super busy the week of the race and only averaged 5.5 hours of sleep the entire week leading up. Phew. I was a little worried about that, but had no choice — life, work and family took precedence over training plans and tapers, so I just rolled with it. I took off for SLC from Bend at 9:30pm on Wednesday night, made it to Eastern Oregon and crashed at a pullout in the desert at 2am. I slept 5 hours, got up at 8am on Thursday and drove the remaining 7.5 hours to Salt Lake in time for the pre-race check in at Sugarhouse Park. I dropped my drop bags, weighed-in, and hung out chatting with old friends.
Karl Meltzer, a good buddy, who has won this race multiple times was there to hang out and talk with some folks he was coaching (he was running Run Rabbit Run 100 the following weekend) and would just be spectator this year. We discussed my final strategy for the race. Remembering how hot it was from 35 to 53 and the fact that I ran too hard here in ‘04 and paid the piper the last 25 with dead quads, my plan was to go easy through Lambs Canyon aid (at mile 53) by holding back in the heat of the day and not running any downhills hard until Bear Ass Pass (mile 57), then turn it on up Mill Creek Canyon, Dog Lake, and up to Desolation Lake in the 60s and get as far as possible before turning on lights. If possible, getting to Ant Knoll aid at mile 80 by dark, allowing me to run the extremely technical descent off the high point above Brighton Ski Lodge (Point Supreme) in the daylight. Here you plunge 1,450’ in just 1.7 miles on extremely rocky, rutted single track trail. That was the strategy. The key is sticking to the plan in these things and not getting caught up in racing too early or just generally being a numbskull.
Thursday night, I went out to dinner with Roch and Catherine at a local Thai joint and then off to bed at 9:30pm. I was up at 3am to have Roch take me to the bus shuttle in downtown SLC. I got to the start and after some usual pre-race stuff, we were off at 5am sharp and running the rolling 5 miles on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the pre-dawn darkness. I went out in the lead with two other guys with me. Peter Fain, from Truckee, CA and Adam Lint, from Seattle. We were making small talk and the lower section of the 4,400’ climb to gain the summit of Chinscraper, local George Grygar, joined the group. Soon we were flipping off our headlamps and gaining the ridge line above 9,000’ and cruising along together.
Somewhere before Grobbens Corner I took the lead on some more technical singletrack rollers. I just relaxed and cruised into Frances Peak aid station at mile 18 at 8:18am (4 minutes faster than Jeff Roes’ CR pace). I didn’t feel like I was pushing, but I consciously backed off the pace after that to be safe. A few miles after that aid, George caught up to me and we ran together for a while chatting. He left me on one steep climb and I just settled in to run alone and not push.
I could see George from time to time on long stretches on the ridge and would time his lead — 3-4 minutes. Not much. I remained calm and just cruised and let the miles slide by through Bountiful B, Sessions and Swallow Rocks aid. I was content to let George lead and knew it was too early to be racing and preferred to be the hunter and not the hunted.
It was starting to warm up when I arrived at Big Mountain aid station at mile 39.4, the first crew stop at 11:59am — 12 minutes off CR pace. Roch was there ready for me. I dropped my empty bottles, weighed in 4 pounds up and walked through the aid station as Roch dowsed me with ice cold water, I chugged a bottle, ate some banana, swapped gel flasks and took off to hit the hottest part of the course, Alexander Ridge.
This section is notoriously the spot where it makes or breaks your race and going too hard through this section can really beat you up. It’s SW facing and exposed and is like a hot pocket on the course. It has a pretty significant hot micro-climate. I went mellow through here, just concentrating on pushing calories, liquid and generally taking care of myself. I really didn’t worry about George’s lead. I wanted to feel good coming into Lambs Canyon. After Alexander Ridge aid, I kept cruising comfortably until finally arriving into Lambs Canyon aid at 53 miles. Rocho was there with an ice cold soaking towel, water to douse me with and a full ice water bottle to drink. I downed water, soaked myself really well and hiked up to the aid station tent to weigh-in at 2:27pm.
I weighed in one pound over and to my surprise found George still in the aid station. He looked a little worked. Noted. I said something to the effect of “hey, man.” At that point, I was still not ready to start racing, I knew we’d be out of the heat soon and just wanted to make sure I ate and drank enough to get myself topped off before leaving Lambs. Rocho and I walked through the aid station swapping out gels, getting my iPod on and letting me wolf down some food. We were still walking under the overpass of I-80 when George came flying by running up the Lambs Canyon Road. I had an inkling to go after him, but took a deep breath and relaxed and reminded myself not to race yet. During this internal conversation, Rocho (the grizzled veteran that he is), echoed my thoughts by saying, “Let him go, Bronco. Not yet. He’s hurting.” I replied, “I know, Roch, still early. I’m chillin’.” Strategy.
Once I got refills situated, I took off up the road (George was already out of sight), and settled in to go easy and let my food digest and all the water absorb I had just enhaled. By the time I hit the trailhead at Lambs Trail a mile and a half up the road, I was feeling pretty darn good. The heat was settling down with the north facing climb up to Bear Ass Pass, so I just settled in transitioning running and hiking up to the top. I got to the top and about halfway down the 1,500’ descent (in 1.8 miles) I came around a switchback and George was 50 meters in front of me. Okay, time to make a move. I took a gel and a Succeed Cap and blew by him. I glanced over my shoulder and he tried to go with me, but I’d saved my legs and was moving down better than he was and I quickly gapped him. I soon hit Mill Creek Canyon Road and took off up the pavement for the long grind up to Upper Big Water aid at 61.7. I ran 95% of this road with only a few short hike breaks and got in at 4:09pm and was in and out in about a minute and onto the trail before George arrived. Sweet.
As I ran up the climb to Dog Lake I listened for cheering at the aid station below to see how far back he was. I estimated about 3 or 4 minutes. Good, that meant I put about a minute a mile on him on the road. So, I just kept plugging away and was nearing the final push to Dog Lake when I came to the last trail intersection and came to a halt. There was one flag on a big tree on the left and one flag on the ground (obviously pulled and thrown down) in the middle of the intersection. No other flags. Crap. Which way? Think. I couldn’t remember for sure which way. My gut said right, but the flag was on the tree on the left side of the trail before the intersection. So, I headed left up the trail. After about 2-3 minutes of climbing I came to another trail intersection with no flags. Dang, wrong way. I turned on my heels, glanced at my watch, and flew down the trail at 6 minute pace. It took me 1 minute of hauling downhill to get back to the vandalized intersection. I looked back down the trail and saw George in the distance almost up to where I was. Man, all that work for nothing.
I took off uphill running hard to try to get a gap again and, sure enough, saw a couple of flags. Okay, now I’m going the right way. I shook off the detour mentally and concentrated on getting my lead back. I soon hit Dog Lake and started the short descent to Blunder Fork to pick up the climb to Desolation Lake. I was a few hundred meters flying downhill when I came to a screeching halt. Moose, broadside in the trail. Man, can I get a break here?!! He’s right behind me! I assessed the situation. Female. Calf? Don’t see one. I yelled and waved my arms. Nothing. She just stood there chewing and looking at me like “What? You talkin’ to me?” Dog Lake is a high-traffic area and I think this moose was used to seeing people. I kept yelling. Nothing. Two guys on a training run who I’d been leapfrogging with on the climb caught back up to me and I quickly asked for their help. We all started yelling and waving our arms and walking toward her. Me in the back of the pack. She eventually started walking, very slowly, to the left and stopped 10 meters off the trail looking at us — still chewing. Not jumpy AT ALL, unlike the Moose I have encountered in the Bighorns.
Once she moved, I took off, passed the two dudes and flew down the trail trying to get a lead back. I hit the junction and started the climb up to Desolation Lake. About a mile or so before the aid station I had to bail off the trail as I almost got taken out by a downhill mountain biker. All the excitement got me worked up and had to jump off in the bushes for a pit stop. As I was off-trail “admiring the aspens,” George hiked by. Dang. Seriously? Okay, let’s do this.
I got into the aid station less than a minute behind George at 5:30pm. He was still there. I grabbed a 1/4 of a PB&J, two full bottles and bolted out of there with a mouthful and George about 50 meters behind. The course quickly leaves the basin and we started a rugged 800’ climb up to Red Lover’s Ridge at 9,900 feet. I was feeling good here and just pushed the pace on the climb. By the top of the ridge I had increased the gap by at least a minute, so I kept pushing.
I got to Scott’s Tower aid station at mile 70.7 with a 4 minute lead (about a minute a mile faster). I quickly got in and out and headed down the trail and soon the jeep road to the highway that takes you down to Brighton Lodge at 75. I hammered the road and soon Karl came up in his truck and said I had about a 10 minute lead. Good. I was feeling strong. Strategy of holding back early was paying off.
I ran into Brighton with Roch, Catherine and Karl ready outside the lodge with Rocho’s own special chicken soup and my drop bag. I ate, got my Black Diamond lights adjusted, arm warmers, and Patagonia Houdini jacket around my waist and jogged up to the lodge to weigh-in and get out. I didn’t want to waste any daylight. As I was heading out I asked Karl and Roch how long to Point Supreme…it went something like this…
Karl: 48 minutes.
Roch: No, no, 51 minutes. 51 minutes, Bronco.
Me: (in my head) I’m running 48 minutes.
I ran out of Brighton and got hoofin’ it up the 1,660’ climb to the high point of the course at 10,450’. I got up to the high point in exactly 48 minutes. Sorry Roch.
I plunged off the steep, technical downhill at breakneck speed. My goal to get to Ant Knoll aid at 80 miles before dark was panning out. I soon heard some cowbells and was pulling into the aid, 16 minutes from Point Supreme. Giddyup.
After some soup, I flipped on my lights and climbed up to Grunt Pass. At this point, I just kept plugging away in the dark. It was pretty uneventful — besides a face to face with a porcupine right before Pole Line Pass. He puffed out and I had to bushwhack around him. Then, it was the same routine…grunt climbs, rocky and loose downhills…repeat. I soon was climbing out of Pot Bottom and running the ball bearing ATV trail and hitting the pavement to the finish. I crossed the line at Homestead in 19 hrs, 33 minutes for the win. I missed the third fastest time by 2 minutes (Dang that moose). Totally psyched to be the 4th fastest time in 33 years. Now time for some fall rest and relaxation. Giddyup.
Big shout out to my lovely wife and kids and without their support — I just couldn’t do this. Thanks to the Big Man upstairs for keeping my steps safe. Huge thanks to Rocho and Catherine and their hospitality, crewing expertise and Roch’s course knowledge. He’s a walking encyclopedia. Thanks to Patagonia for the good gear, Ultraspire’s handhelds (love them), Black Diamond lights, First Endurance EFS gel, Rudy Project for the awesome glasses, and FootZone of Bend for everything. And, thanks Bien for throwing down a hard training week at TranRockies 3 weeks out with me…good times, Bandit…Kick Start My Heart!
Gear: Patagonia Cap 1 Jersey and Strider Pro Shorts, Black Diamond Icon headlamps, Rudy Project Zyon glasses, Ultraspire handhelds
A good friend and Patagonia teammate, Rod Bien, and I raced in the 80+ (Masters) division. Rod grew his race “stache” for the event. I started coining him “The Bandit” (Burt Reynolds in Smokey and The Bandit). By the end of the week it was set in stone: Bronco Billy and the Bandit.
Stage 1: Buena Vista to Covered Bridge, 20.9 miles and 2,550 feet of climbing
Rod and I started out Stage 1 with the simple goal of running smart. Neither one of us had time to get acclimated, and we soon found the rolling terrain to be a bit of a challenge. We would run every roller rise and then at the top, when normally we could take off again, it would take 40-50 meters to catch our breath and get control our heart rates. We still ran well and ended the day in second behind LaSportiva. (we lost about 8 minutes to them). But, in hindsight, definitely our roughest stage of the week.
Stage 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes (via Hope Pass), 13.4 miles, 3,250 feet of climbing
Both Rod and I have run and finished Leadville 100, and know the infamous Hope Pass well. We were looking forward to the tough singletrack climb and descent before the final five miles of rolling trails along the southern shore to the finish at the east end of Twin Lakes. We power-hiked and ran up Hope Pass and found ourselves only 100 meters from LaSportiva as we started the technical descent off Hope Pass. We absolutely love and thrive in this type of terrain, and reeled Andy and Bernie about halfway down Hope Pass. We passed and gapped them, and tried to keep pushing to hold them off. However, their acclimated legs were turning over faster at nearly two miles above sea level, and they caught and passed us with about two miles to go. We were able to minimize the damage by crossing the finish line just over a minute back, for another second-place podium finish (a foreshadowing of the days to come).
Stage 3: Leadville to Camp Hale, 24.2 miles, 2,800 feet of climbing
After an afternoon and night in Leadville at 10,200 feet, we took off from downtown Leadville for a longer runnable stage which included a beautiful section of the Colorado Trail. We again watched Bernie and Andy climb away from us at the beginning of the stage. This was a great stage of rolling terrain and good downhills, through Ski Cooper’s terrain before running a mentally tough two-mile section of gravel road to arrive at the historical Camp Hale where the 10th Mountain Division trained for World War II. This was our base camp for the next two nights. Again, second-place podium finish, 6 minutes back. Dang those old Colorado mountain goats.
Stage 4: Camp Hale to Red Cliff, 14.2 miles, 2,900 feet of climbing
We woke up to very tired and tight legs for the start of Stage 4. This was by far my toughest “rise and shine” of the week. Both of us had trouble getting moving, but after a couple miles of slow jogging to shake out the cob webs before the start, I was thankful we were ready to roll again by 8AM. This stage is one giant climb, one giant downhill and a mile through a rocky creek bed before the final two miles on a downhill gravel road into the little mountain town of Red Cliff on the backside of Vail Mountain. We really enjoyed ourselves on this stage. For the first time, we were starting to feel some acclimation taking place. We both felt more normal climbing, without just gasping for air. This stage finish has a nice perk, as there is a restaurant called Mango’s right at the finish line with a roof-top deck featuring fish tacos and microbrews. A welcome hang out after four days of racing, and a good place to enjoy yourself before embarking on the final two hardest stages of the race.
Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail, 23.6 miles, 4,100 feet of climbing
The route for Stage 5 climbs 11 miles straight out of the gate before traversing six rolling miles on top of the ridge at Vail Ski Resort hovering around 11,000 feet. Then, you descend eight miles of winding singletrack to the stage finish at the edge of Vail Village. I had a pretty significant blister from Stage 2 on my left heel pad, which turned ugly by the end of this stage. An excellent practice session in mind over matter.
Stage : Vail to Beaver Creek, 24.0 miles, 4,900 feet of climbing
We took off on this day in a solid second-place position behind Team LaSportiva and were planning on relaxing, as first place was out of our reach and third place was way back. However, another Bend team and good friends (first-place in the Mixed Open Division, The North Face’s team of Stephanie Howe and Zach Violett) ended up on our heels on the first climb. They had only beat us the first stage when we were struggling with the elevation, and our egos wouldn’t let us off that easy for the final day. I have to say, I was pretty nervous about my gnarled heel and even told Rod so on the first paved downhill through the town of Vail at the beginning. But after we settled in, I hit the first technical downhill section to really test it. All systems go. I knew I’d be fine as long as my footstrike was on the forefoot. We kept plugging away at this hard stage, hoping to hold off Steph and Zach. Upon entering an upper meadow, we caught sight of Team LaSportiva about halfway into the stage — right before the main long, technical singletrack downhill into the town of Avon.
We had been second on the podium every stage, and we really wanted one stage win. Rod said, “I think we can catch them on this next downhill.” Within 10 minutes, we were barreling down the singletrack hot on Bernie and Andy’s tail. Once we caught them, we blew by them with Rod leading. We gapped them slightly and I said, “Let’s roll this.” He stepped aside to let me lead and we took off bombing down and soon reeled in Team Salomon’s Mario Mendoza and Jorge Maravilla. We got to checkpoint 2 neck and neck with Salomon, in and out, and dropped into and through the town of Avon on the pavement. We could see LaSportiva only 200 meters back through town before starting the final 1,800 foot trail climb to the south. We put our heads down and took turns leading and grinding the final climb out of Avon. By the top of the climb, we couldn’t see them anymore and knew if we maintained, we had a stage win wrapped up.
As we arrived into the finish corral in Beaver Creek, it was sweet icing on the cake to take a stage win over the team we’d been battling tooth and nail the previous five days. 120 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing later, a few blisters and some sore legs — a great ending to a great week. I highly recommend this race, it’s a hard but fun week of awesome trail running. Great trainer for Wasatch 100. That’s the next stop. Giddyup.