Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winter workouts

I recently got a camera to take with me on some of my runs. It fit all of my qualifications: it's small, lightweight, takes regular AAA batteries and it was only $50. One problem, it takes pictures like what you would expect from a $20 camera. Oh well, live and learn I suppose.
This first shot is from our second snow run of season. Peter convinced me to do the first loop of the BSTM which is about 10 miles. It had dumped about 8 - 12 inches a few days before and we knew we would be making fresh tracks most of the way. This is just before the long descent back into City Creek canyon.

(Peter and Jamie ready to crest the ridge)

This next one is Peter coming out of the scrub oak about halfway down the descent. Usually we bomb this descent, especially when there's snow, but not this time. There was just enough famous Utah powder sitting on top rocks and branches that it made for a cautious descent. The really cool part was all the cotton like snow sitting in the branches.

The next weekend I decided to put on the skinny skis and go up to Mtn. Dell for some skate skiing. Man, did that ever make me feel out of shape. For those of you who haven't tried before, skate skiing is about 60% fitness, 40% technique. When the technique isn't there it makes it hard to find a comfortable zone to ski in. So it's on-off-on-off for the better part of 2 hours.

(Random skate skier in the middle)
Later back at the ranch, I was browsing the interweb when I found this little article on the screw shoe from Matt Carpenter's site. This was after I had flailed around Mtn. Dell 2 hours and I was looking to put some productive miles in running. The problem is often traction on well used trails and sure enough this did the trick. I was unable to find 3/8" screws so I used 1/2" all throughout the sole of the shoe. On my first test run up to sugarhouse park I could feel the screws in the front part of my foot while I was on pavement. On the ice and snowpacked roads they worked to perfection. At one point I tried to slide but they wouldn't budge, good solid traction for $3. I'm still going to try and locate some 3/8" for the front though.

Erik and I headed out on the 29th to run along the shoreline, up Mt. Van Cott (minor peak on north side of Red Butte Canyon), then up Dry creek. I was amazed by the amount of deer and elk we saw on this run. In fact we probably stood around for good 15 minutes combined just looking at all the animals. We saw some good size bucks with the deer but only cow elk. The picture below shows a deer crossing the trail just 20 yards in front of us. This is a popular spot for the deer to cross dry creek to the other ridge and it reminded me of a run from last year when Peter almost ran into one while we were descending.

(Squint hard and look in the middle of the photo, Erik on the right)
This next one made us both laugh. The pile of brown stuff is exactly what you think it is (if it was warm it would smell). The funny part is the pack of trident gum laying next to it. In case you were wondering, the gum was still in the package. Weird.


Friday, December 21, 2007

An Urban Epic - Omloop Het Volk

Wow! I didn't think it was possible to have such an epic run on my beater loop. I have this standard route from my house that I can take through two parks then do 2 mile loops around the perimeter of Sugarhouse park. I'm not very fond of this route but, when I'm strapped for time I can get a few miles in with minimal pavement. Right after I got home from work I headed out the door at 4:30, dressed in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. It was pretty windy and the temperature was a comfortable 40 degrees or so. Man, did that change in a hurry.
The storm front (from
As I was completing the first loop around the park I could see the storm was coming but I knew I had at least 15 to 20 minutes before it would hit so I decided to do another loop. I made it about 1 mile to the far east end of the park and the storm had arrived. It was obviously moving a lot faster and packing a bigger punch than I had originally thought. Almost immediately the wind changed direction, the temperature started falling and then the marble sized hail started. I laughed out loud thinking that rain or snow is one thing but hail, come on, are you kidding me? I picked up my pace as my quads turned to blocks of ice. The path that was wet grass just 10 minutes earlier was now covered in hail stones. I ended up running faster than I had intended but I had some extra motivation fueling my pace. The hail stones felt like hundreds of little needles against my wet legs. The fun part was over but I have to admit it was still exhilarating. I made way through the streets to Fairmont and it seemed like the worst was over when the lightening started. Once again I increased my pace as the sky lit up around me. I figured that if I kept moving I would at least stay relatively warm and I was right. The only nagging issue I have from that run is some sore quads from the quick pace. I think I'll head out for some nordic action this weekend on the fresh snow, before the family heads up to Solitude on Christmas day.
As for the Omloop Het Volk reference in the title, I know someone out there remembers a similar epic on 2 wheels. You'd think I would learn my lesson...

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Round and Round

These last few weeks it seems as though I've been watching more running than actually doing it. My son started doing cross-country this year and I take him to practice several times a week as well as running 3 to 4 miles with him on some of the days when he doesn't have practice. This was all leading up to the State meet on November 3rd. He had done two races on the same course prior to the State meet with times of 14:57 and 14:37 for 3km (1.8 miles). He trained hard leading up to the big day and it paid off for a time of 13:47, good enough for 9th place and a trip to Regionals on the 17th at the same venue. Of course I'm super proud of him because he's giving it his best effort and having a good time. He races in the Midget category for 11-12 year olds and is one of the youngest in his category since he just turned 11 at the end of September.
So one day we were out on a training run around Sugarhouse park when he mentioned that he would like to try running a mile on the track. We ran a loop around the park for a warm-up then broke off down to the Highland High track to attempt a 7 minute mile. We started out running the right pace but after one time around he developed a bad side cramp and had to stop. Too late, the damage was done because during that first lap my mind started drifting back to some unfinished business I have with the track, a sub 5 minute mile. Back in the day I used to run the mile and my fastest time was 5:19 when I was a freshman in high school. Two years ago when I started running again I tried again, without any speedwork in my legs and clocked a 5:21. So made up my mind, today was the day I would break a sub 5 mile.
My son watched anxiously as I took off from the start line in a dead run aiming for a 37 second 200 meter split. I hit the 200 meter mark and alarm bells went off when I looked down at my watch, 33 seconds! I had started out to fast and everyone knows that can be the death nail to a good time. The next split was 38 secs, so I was still 3 secs to the good. But then the fatigue started to set in, which is an entirely different type of fatigue that comes from running for hours on end. My splits continued to slow and I eventually finished in 5:23. The steely taste of lactic acid filled my mouth and my chest was heaving from my lungs trying to get enough oxygen. I hadn't pushed my anaerobic limit that hard since I was racing bikes.
It was clear that if I was going to trim another 24 seconds off that effort I would have to do some work. So that's what I did last night while my son had cross-country practice. I headed over to the track after a 2 mile warm-up and did 200 meter repeats. I did eight of them at 35 seconds with 1:30 rest. The strange thing was that the intervals didn't hurt, in fact they actually felt kind of good. I finished by jogging over to cross-country practice where I found the team doing hill repeats. I should qualify the team before I continue as they are made up of kids from the age of 10 all the way through juniors in high school. When I show up the coach says "are you going to join them for some hill repeats?". Oh why not, I can hang for some hills, even if I did just do 200 meter repeats at the track. I decided to start a few steps behind the oldest boys and try to hold their pace. The first couple went fine, but then it felt like they were speeding up trying to put the hurt on the old man. After the fourth one I decided I would really dig and at least finish even with them. I couldn't do it. I dug deep but the well was dry. I had punched all my fun tickets for the night. After this I joined them for a mile and a half cool down around the park that no doubt saved my legs from a considerable amount of delayed onset muscle fatigue (fancy term for sore muscles the next day).
I think that doing some speedwork will be a good change for my legs and will hopefully get me past that sub 5 barrier.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Recovery Mode

I've been taking it easy lately running when I feel like it and the weather is decent. I tried getting out for some mountain bike rides but the weather hasn't really cooperated. Last Saturday I met up with a few members of the MRC for a pre-dawn run up Mt. Wire and down George's Hollow. The morning was very dark because it was so cloudy and it felt like it would start raining any minute. The south side of Wire is quite steep, similar to the west side of Grandeur, the route follows a ridgeline for much of the ascent. After we made it to the top we hung around for a few minutes looking at the city lights, then out of the darkness a figure approached us from the same side we just came up. He wasn't wearing a headlamp but he did have a large pack on his back. Not a backpack necessarily but more like a bean bag size form on his back. Turns out he was a paraglider. We were stunned to see this guy so close on our heels, because we thought we were making good time. We all agreed that he must have taken a different way in order to save our egos.

Sunday I decided to conduct a little experiment and see how long I could run without food. Alright, it didn't exactly start that way, but I felt so good and I couldn't resist just one more summit. Three hours after I started I made it back to the car, not necessarily in a serious bonk but my stomach was making itself heard loud and clear. I really should have taken the mountain bike out but I thought the trails might be muddy with the recent precipitation we've had. Turns out the trails were in perfect riding condition.

I had another interesting development this week. As I believe I mentioned before I used to be a bike racer before I started this running thing. The last few years I was racing I started promoting a bike called Hell of the North in North Salt Lake near the airport. It's really not my type of race because it's dead flat and goes over a five mile circuit multiple times (depending on category). The one interesting part of the circuit is that it includes 1.75 miles of dirt/gravel road that racers pass over each time around. The other element to deal with is the weather since the date is usually the first or second weekend in April. The race is part of a season long points series for the Utah Cycling Association, a local governing body for cycling. At the end of each season the UCA takes suggestions from cycling clubs/riders for bylaw changes, then they are put to a vote at the November meeting, the idea being that the local cycling scene is improved upon from season to season. Now back to my original development, seems as though someone doesn't like the race I put on, as they put up a bylaw that would not allow races with dirt/gravel roads to be part of the UCA points series. There's no doubt that if the bylaw passed I would lose riders, but probably not that many. As it turns out I don't think I have anything to worry about as you can read here.
When I think about this kind of thing in relation to trail running it makes me laugh. I've heard far more complaints about ultra courses being to easy rather than complaints about their difficulty. Perhaps that is why I've come to like ultra's so much. Each runner is in a competition against the course and the clock, the harder the course the more rewarding the finish is, no matter what place you take.

Friday, October 5, 2007

2007 Bear 100 Race Report

Redemption! I can't express how happy I am that I didn't have to wait a whole year to avenge my dnf at Wasatch. I had trained hard all year long to complete my first 100 miler and I only made it 48 miles. My stomach malfunctioned while everything else felt fine. I went for a long run the following Saturday on a pretty tough route and when I was done I my legs were feeling well enough to do the Bear. I called my good friend and training partner Peter and asked him to talk me out of doing it, still thinking it might not be the best idea and his reply was "do you need a pacer?" That sealed the deal and I signed up. I was still hesitant since I had never been on any of the trails and wouldn't have a crew but in the end it didn't matter.

The short report: I ran conservatively the first half, had a small stomach issue at mile 49 and fixed it at mile 53. Ran/shuffled/hiked the next 40 miles with the world's best pacer, my good friend Peter, then ran the last 7 miles all the way to the finish for a time of 27:32, good for 17th place. If you want the longer version keep reading.

I hitched a ride to the start with Wasatch Speedgoat Scott Mason and on the way we discussed a number of things one of them being my dnf at wasatch. I revealed that I had decided to try perpetuem in an effort to get a few more calories during the race and that's when I learned that it doesn't necessarily work for everyone. I decided to remove the mix from all of my bottles and drop bags and go with gatorade instead. This proved to be a good move. We arrived at Leland's (RD) trout farm a bit early, picked up our race packs, left our drop bags and headed off to the start. On our way up Cub River canyon, just outside Preston Idaho, we noticed some smoke coming from the hillside and soon realized that part of the course was going to wind it's way through this burnt area. Come to find out it was a controlled burn, that had now been going on for 2 weeks (at what point is it no longer a controlled burn?). We grabbed some excellent grub from the Deer Creek Inn then I retired to my tent located a few yards from the start to get some shut eye. I slept surprisingly well and woke up at 5am ready to begin this 100 mile adventure.
The 6am start came soon enough and I was feeling anxious to get going. 88 runners set off up the dirt road and after a few minutes of running in the dark I could hear strange sounds coming from the side of the road. It was a large herd of cattle and we had a apparently startled them enough that they started running parallel to us. There was one problem with that, we eventually had to make a right turn that would cut in front of them. Sure enough we made the right and just in front of me I saw Ken Jensen speed up to avoid a close encounter with a cow. Ken and I joked about it as we made our way up the singletrack on a climb. I was with Ken for the first few miles but after he stopped for a nature break I was in no-mans-land running through the burned area we had seen the day before. In the distance I could still make out a headlamp and followed it right when I should have gone left. I only ended up going about a half mile out in the wrong direction and decided there was no way I would let it stress me out this early on. Once I got back on the right trail I started reeling in runners on my way to the first aid station. I made a quick stop, filled my bottles and headed out.

Now the sun was coming out and the brilliant fall colors were amazing. The stunning views really made the miles fly by. This next section included the biggest climb of the day and I eventually caught up to Tim Seminoff and The Rocket. They had a very comfortable pace going and I settled in behind them learning a great deal along the way from these two veterans of the sport. We hit the top of the climb and began a long descent to the next aid. The miles just seem to kind of blur together through here until I reach the Danish Pass aid station for the second time at mile 42. I was a bit hungry and decided to eat half a boiled potato and half a banana. About a half an hour or so after this my stomach started to feel a little tight so I slowed my pace down, I think I just ate to much at one time.

The next aid station was just plain cruel as we had to do an out and back to Bloomington lake that included a descent on the way out and of course a steep climb on the way back. After climbing out and getting back on the main trail I popped an electrolyte capsule. Ten minutes later my stomach erupted and I instantly felt better. About that same time Scott came by and suggested I slow down and keep drinking my water. I knew all I had to do was make it to the next aid station where Peter was meeting me and I would be fine. I definitely fought off some negative thoughts through this section as my mind would drift back to three weeks prior when I was reduced to a stumble. By the time I made it to Paris aid station at mile 53 Peter already knew what had happened. He proceeded to sit me down and have me drink some broth, after that I drank some more and before I knew it we were off with all of our lights as the sun was starting to set. I had spent 33 minutes at Paris, which was way longer than I had intended, but it was time well spent getting my stomach back in order.

The next section is one that we would repeat between mile 82 and 90 in the opposite direction. It is also one of the longest sections between aid stations at 8 miles. I took my time making sure I didn't upset my stomach again and after a couple of miles I was able to run again, especially the descents. I was now in unchartered territory, having never run this far before. But that really isn't what consumed my thoughts, it was the threat of the snowstorm that had been predicted to hit by 11pm. I only mentioned it in hushed tones to Peter in fear of jinxing our perfect weather day up to that point. Slowly my energy was returning and before we made it to Dry Fork aid station we saw a headlight coming toward us. It was the other Wasatchspeedgoat, Karl Meltzer, on his way back already. He was 22 miles ahead of me and moving at a very good clip going uphill. He would go on to break the record by over an hour, finishing in 18hrs 50mins, simply incredible!
I made a short stop at the Dry Basin aid station while Peter and I gathered supplies out of my drop bag. The legendary Roch Horton runs this aid station and he has experience on this course so I asked him how technical the climb was after the next aid station, Millcreek, because it looked awful on the profile chart. Not bad at all he replied. As I would find out later I should have asked him how steep the climbs were instead.

I made good progress through this next section to Millcreek aid station and Peter recognized the fact that I was making a good pace and wisely hurried me through. This next section is known as the roller coaster because it is up and down, with a net elevation gain. Some of the climbs were horrifically steep, but I was able to keep moving, even if it was very slow. As we approached the next aid station Peter commented that it was the 75 mile mark. That made me feel good and motivated me to keep my pace up. Again my stay was brief, although I did sit down this time to remove some debris from my shoe.
The next aid station seemed to appear rather quickly and I was anxious to keep moving through there since I felt good and the weather was still holding. I knew that if it started to rain or snow our progress would be significantly slower. Next up was the Dry Basin aid station again. I was happy to reach this milestone but at the same time I knew we had a long 8 miles ahead of us back to the Paris aid station. As we pulled in to the aid station I noticed some empty seats around very inviting fire. Roch saw me standing there and pulled a chair back for me a little bit, but I said no thanks, that looks like stepping inside the Brighton lodge at Wasatch. He knew what I meant so instead of sitting down I grabbed another cup of broth and left while Peter was still gathering supplies.

The 8 mile section that I was now on would prove to be the hardest of the race for me. I had some real low energy cycles during this stretch. I was still able to run the descents but there just weren't that many as we were mostly climbing back to Paris. One of the tactics I employed to catch a breather on some of the climbs was to take a nature break. Thankfully I was staying hydrated enough to make this work. Peter informed me that I was now about 30 minutes ahead of my schedule to break 29 hours and told me I should start thinking about going under 28. It was a good confidence booster but it certainly didn't make this section any easier. At one point Peter told me he though this might be the last climb and I laughed out loud claiming he had no idea whether it was the last climb or not since he hadn't been on the course either. It did help me realize that it didn't matter if there were two or five more climbs ahead of me, I just had to keep moving forward.

About an hour before reaching the Paris aid station as the sun was coming up, a big cloud rolled over the ridge line and before we knew it we were running through fog and snowflakes. It was quite a surreal experience, most likely enhanced by the fact that I had now been up for over 24 hours straight. The cloud moved so incredibly fast that it looked like a time-lapse film happening before my eyes. Shortly after this we hit the last descent that led us to the Paris aid station at mile 90. I made a quick stop, filling my bottles before heading out to the dirt road that would take me down to the last aid station just 3 miles away. As we approached the crest of the pass we could see only the tops of the mountains surrounding us. A cloud had moved in hiding the valley below, it was truly an awesome sight to behold. Just then a sudden wave of elation overcame me and I hopped in the air while throwing my arms above my head. I realized I was going to make it! Peter decided to capitalize on my mood and encouraged me to run. I started with a shuffle and after a few minutes something happened, I wanted to run. So I started jogging and before I knew it I was in full stride leaving Peter behind. I ran into the next aid station filled my bottle and said goodbye just as Peter arrived. He had parked his car at this aid station and we had decided earlier that it would be easier for him to just drive down rather than run with me and try to find a ride back up from the finish.

I now had 7 miles to go, 2 to 3 of which are along Leland's Ledge or the Devil's Den. This is a notoriously tough section that includes small rock scrambles, and downed trees all on a side hill with poor traction. It's not exactly what I wanted to see with 93 miles in my legs, but it felt good to get some trail diversity and kept me mentally sharp. Eventually I made it back on to normal trail and started striding it out once again. I couldn't believe how good I felt. I'm sure I was only running 8 minute miles at best, but it sure felt like sub 6's.

Once the guest ranch came into view where the finish line was located my pace increased even more and I couldn't even feel my feet striking the ground. Peter was there giving me a big cheer along with Karl and Cheryl. I was instructed to make a left around some cars where I saw Leland (who had run the race as well placing 2nd in 20:54) sitting in a chair with a watch and I came to a stop directly in front of him. He calmly looked up and said you haven't crossed the finish line, which was apparently a small banner just a couple of feet away. This made me laugh, then I jumped across the line to stop the clock at 27 hours 32 minutes. It was a low key ending to a low key race and I felt great! In fact it is the best I have felt after any ultra that I've done so far.

Thanks to the volunteers that kept us going at the aid stations, and to Leland, Errol and Phil for putting on such a great race. Special thanks to my good friend Peter for pacing me through the night, he knew exactly what to do and what to say in order to keep me moving. Running with a friend is always fun. My family deserves a thank you as well, without their support and encouragement I wouldn't even try. Now for some time off...

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Wasatch that wasn't

I trained, I raced and I planned, but it wasn't in the cards.
From the start I kept a conservative pace hitting my pace goal to the first aid station at 18 miles, right on the nose in 4 hours even. I was well hydrated which was evident by my frequent nature breaks and my legs felt great. I pushed the pace a bit through unfamiliar territory between Francis Aid and Bountiful B and continued through to Sessions. By this time I was actually a bit ahead of my goal pace but falling behind with my hydration. Rather than slowing way down I just backed off a bit and continued on through Swallow Rocks aid station, taking my time to enjoy a popsicle as I left. I still pressed on with my steady pace until I reached Big Mountain Aid at mile 40. My stomach was not feeling well and nothing sounded good. In hindsight I should have stayed here until I felt better, but I decided to continue on with my pacer Jesse and fix it on the trail. Immediately after leaving the aid station I emptied my stomach contents on the side of the trail. Of course I felt better immediately afterwards and started sipping water. Forty five minutes later I threw up again. This pattern repeated itself until there was nothing left to come up. I decided before I got to Alexander Ridge Aid that I was not going to continue. I couldn't even walk for more than ten minutes at a time without having to sit down. I felt horrible. Later that night I was able to hold down some broth but my weight was down nearly 10lbs from the morning.
Lessons learned:
  • Just because you feel good doesn't mean you can forget about taking care of yourself.
  • Racing 50 miles is only 1/2 of 100.
  • Take care of issues right away, they only get worse with time and mileage.
  • The dry wind can dehydrate you very quickly.
The feelings that come with a DNF are not easy to shake, but I'm determined to figure this out and finish a 100 miler.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Devils Backbone 50 miler 2007

Wow, that is a race that I won't soon forget. Without a doubt the most scenic race I've done yet as well as the highest in elevation.

Back at the end of 2006, after I had sent my entry/lottery ticket in for the Wasatch 100, I started to plan my season. I had the first part of the season figured out but I was looking for a tough 50 miler after Squaw Peak that would still leave me enough time to focus on training for Wasatch. Then I found the race listing "Devils Backbone 50: This is a graduate level run (yes, like Hardrock). It is almost unsupported and unmarked. This CANNOT be your first 50 miler. This course is much, much harder than you expect". After a few moments to consider where it fit in the schedule, I hit the link and signed up.

Cutting edge technology, the hand drawn map

My morning started with a 3:45 am wake up so I could leave the hotel by 4:15 and make it to the start line by 5 am. I noticed as I stepped out of the hotel that felt a bit humid and as I looked skyward I didn't see any stars. Soon after my wife and I started driving to the trailhead the rain began to fall and I could see lightening in the distance. It was all very ominous, driving somewhere I'd never been and running on an unmarked trail I hadn't seen before. The rain just added to the effect. On the way there my wife said, "maybe some of the runners won't show up because it's raining", I just laughed and replied, "you don't know ultrarunners very well yet". Sure enough we pulled in to the parking lot at the trailhead with many cars and saw all the runners getting ready for day's adventure.

Profile of the course.

The course starts in Hyalite Canyon, just south of Bozeman Montana. The race begins by climbing 3500' over the first seven miles and stays above 9000' for the remainder of the race. It's an out and back with about 8000' feet of climbing on the way out and another 4500' on the way back. The two unique features of this race are that it's unmarked, save for cairns (stacks of rocks) placed in confusing areas, and has only one aid station at the halfway point. On the way out we were to bag a peak and pick up a poker chip to prove we were there before continuing the route along the length of the Gallatin divide ridgeline (or a certain someone's backbone).

A view along the ridge (borrowed pic)

The rain subsided just in time for the start. After climbing up through the canyon and a beautiful cirque I finally made the summit after about one hour and forty minutes. As I grabbed my poker chip I looked back down the trail to see the next runner, Erich who I had met at the start line, was just a minute or two behind me. I took a moment to look around at the canyons and valleys that stretched out below and turned in to more ridgelines topped with dark clouds lit up by lightening strikes, it was pretty incredible. After adjusting my shoe Erich and I headed down off the peak together in the lead. Eric is from Bozeman and while he hadn't done the race he had been on the ridge for training. I was happy to have someone that knew the trail and was running the same pace as I was. The whole time we were running on the way out I kept feeling like we were being conservative, but every time I turned around I couldn't see anybody coming. I knew this was good as I usually go out to hard and tend to struggle in the last third of the race. The clouds hung around keeping the temperature comfortable and there was a breeze that would sometimes turn in to a gale force wind.

After about 4 hours and 45 minutes we made it to the lone aid station to be greeted by race director Tom Hayes and a few of his great volunteers. You see, even the aid station is a bit remote, located a tough two miles from the trailhead. That means drop bags and supplies were carried to the spot where we were now standing. They had us in and out within minutes fully stocked with supplies.

As Erich and I left the aid station the clouds parted and the sun started
to heat things up. I was still feeling good and decided to push a bit on the climb out of the aid station. After a few miles I was alone in the lead. This was a mistake because soon I started to push harder than I needed to, underestimating how tough the return trip was going to be. With about 10 miles to go I could feel the effects of my effort and I started to slow down. It became very hard to eat anything, which is always a bad sign. I knew that if I could just make it to the six mile long descent I would still have a chance and it would be cooler in the shaded canyon. As I approached the descent I looked over my shoulder back along the ridge and I couldn't see anyone, I estimated my lead to be around 30 to 40 minutes.

I took a moment to look down the canyon and cirque I was about to drop into when the nausea struck. I proceeded to throw up, which initially made me feel better, then as I started to run I felt the nausea return. This pattern repeated itself four times on the way down. Every time I would start to run I would feel sick. I was reduced to a walk for much of the descent and getting dizzy from the lack of food. I knew I would make it I just didn't know what place I would take.

With about 1.5 miles to go I heard footsteps from behind and saw Rob, who had been running in 3rd much of the day. I told him congratulations, you're now in the lead! He was very nice and wanted to know if I was alright before he continued on down the trail. Now I just wanted to get to the finish line and sit down. A few minutes passed before I heard more footsteps and this time it was Erich. He slowed down long enough to convince that I could run to the finish, and we ran together the final 1/2 mile crossing the line for 2nd place. See all the results and the newspaper article.

Erich (L) and I running in to the finish.

That was an epic! I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a tough ultra.

L-R, Erich, myself, Rob (winner)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Squaw Peak 50 2007

Well, I have finally started feeling normal after last Saturday's adventure. It was a bit more painful than I remember from last years' edition, but that probably had something to do with the a) increased Hell like temperatures, b) the throbbing knee that plagued the last 8 hours and c) the golf ball size blister on the ball of my foot.
Both B and C were pretty much self induced but the temperature was out of control. Just to make sure it felt extra, extra hot, the powers that be made sure that there was no wind whatsoever. I knew it was going to be warmer than last year but I really wasn't acclimated to run in the oppressing heat that usually waits to show up until mid-July and August in these parts.
Since the knee had started giving me trouble in the 3 weeks leading up to the race I decided to back off the training and go in to the race without pain. That strategy worked, but my fitness took a hit because of the reduced training. I decided to stick with my original goal pace of sub 9 hours for as long as I could then just see what happened. Something certainly happened and I can tell you it wasn't pretty.
I ran the first 2 hours pain free, but after the 7 mile descent to Hobble Creek road I could feel my knee and a small burning sensation on my right foot. Leland Barker had just run past before we hit aid station 5 and that put me in 7th position by the time we hit the road. Leland took off when we hit the pavement and I tried my best to stay close but he was flat out movin'. I reached aid station 6 about 15 minutes behind schedule but I tried to remain positive. This is the section where I really started feeling the heat. I started being a bit more conservative knowing what was ahead but I wasn't drinking enough. Despite slowing down I didn't get passed until just before starting the climb to Windy Pass. The climb was slow, I had a long list of excuses why, but I'm mostly blaming it on the heat. Once I reached the aid station I sat down and Jim Skaggs helped me take care of the troublesome blister on my right foot. I took off on the 7 mile descent to the last aid station and the knee objected to that idea. I finally took my first dose of ibuprofen about halfway down in an effort to keep it quiet but at this point it no longer mattered. I have really worked hard on my downhill running skills since last year and I now consider it one of my strengths, so I think that's why I was so frustrated.
I hit the final 3 mile section of pavement with Justin Snow and made an effort to run to the last section and finish under 10 hours. The first mile went ok, but then I started feeling dizzy and I had to walk. I made it up to Rich and again tried to run but it wasn't happening. Every time I started to run I thought I might faint. I'm sure this is because I was so dehydrated but it was still frustrating. I finally made it in 10:07 which was good for 19th overall. I improved my time from last year by a little over an hour and given the circumstances I was running with I'm satisfied with that effort.
Kevin Schilling took a convincing win in front last year's winner Allen Belshaw followed by Erik Storheim in third. Birgitta Johnson finished first for the women, followed closely by Liz Irvine in second. Nancy Hendrickson rounded out the podium in third. I met all three of them just a couple weeks prior while doing trail crew for the Wasatch 100. My good friend Peter was on pace to beat his time from last year when he went off course with about 5 miles to go. Seems as though somebody started removing the flagging on the trail. No matter he still finished strong and beat his time from last year. More results here.
Next up is the Wahsatch Steeplechase on the 23rd, I'm not sure whether I'll do it or not, that will depend on the knee and how quickly it heals. After that is the Devil's Backbone 50 miler in Bozeman MT, 50 miles, one aid station, 100% trail, should be a good time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

SLC's Real Marathon

Which Leg Beater?
There were two marathons taking place on 4/21 in SLC. One where you could pound the pavement for 26 miles and lose a few hundred feet of elevation, surrounded by a 1,000 people. Or the real marathon where you could dance on the trails above SLC, take in roughly 6,500' vertical with stunning views of the Wasatch front while being surrounded by your friends. I chose the latter.
This is a local "club run" where the competitors don't wear numbers and don't pay an entry fee. Last year it dumped about 2' of fresh snow the Thursday before, then warmed considerably by Saturday. Let's just say it produced an epic day. Usually the winning times are in the low 4 hour range, but on that nasty day the winning time was just under 5 hours. This time around the weather was slightly better only sprinkling the hills with about 6 inches of snow on Wednesday and by Saturday the trail was in perfect condition.
Sam, Peter and I arrived at the start, chatted with friends, and got our stuff ready. Karl was there, fresh off his win and course record at McNaughton 100 miler the week before, supporting Cheryl and her first attempt at this marathon. 8am approached and the race director gave a detailed description of the course, consisting of "go do a ten mile loop over there then a sixteen mile loop over there, ready set go". I had decided that I wasn't going to get stuck in the middle this year so I went out with the leaders and settled in to a comfortable pace. by the time we were midway up the first climb it was Brian, Chuck (who was only doing the first loop), Kevin (who had just run Boston the Monday before!) and myself. It was really nice to run with these guys as we chatted and the miles just flew by. We completed the first loop in about 1 hour 44 minutes, which was about 20 minutes faster than anything I had done in training. I had a goal of finishing under 4 hours 30 minutes and this put me on pace to accomplish that. As we left the aid station/starting area it immediately starts climbing back up and I quickly realized that I was going to have to slow down a bit if I wanted to reach my goal. Kevin and Brian went on ahead and I noticed that there was a guy closing on me from behind. He eventually caught me before the next aid station at about mile 17 and put some distance between us. At this point I just focused on my time goal and resigned myself to hold on to my current 4th position.
After the final aid station the course overlaps itself a bit and this is where I saw Karl and Cheryl running together. I shouted some words of encouragement and looked down at my watch as I started my way up the final canyon and it read 3:34. This was about 4 minutes slower than what I had set as goal at this point but I was happy none the less. The canyon climbs gradually for about 1 1/2 miles where you then leave the trail and hit a beast of a climb I affectionately call Uncle F#@ker. I cannot claim that I named it, that credit goes to my good friend Leo, but I can say I have a better understanding why it has that name. You see, not only is it appallingly steep, but it has about 3 false summits kind of teasing you like a mean Uncle. My mantra on this climb has become "just keep moving". Just after I left the main trail I found the guy that had passed me earlier and he didn't look particularly well. We chatted for a bit and I found out his name was Elliot and he had never done this course before. I offered him some food which he declined, then we started climbing my favorite Uncle. I kept running my mantra through my head trying not to look up at the false summits. After about 20 minutes I glanced back and noticed that Elliot was a fare way back, being overtaken by someone else in a red shirt. Now I looked at the top and focused on getting there without falling apart. Once I gained the summit I started down the 4 mile rocky ridge that leads to the finish. I glanced back a few times to make sure that red shirt wasn't gaining on me and I couldn't see him. I was still pushing for my time goal and I knew it would be close. I made my way down through the parking area and headed to the finish line at the RD's house. I hit the driveway in 4:34, 4 minutes off my goal. No matter, it was great day in the hills running around with friends. Kevin ended up coming in ahead of Brian who suffered from a golf ball size blister on his heel for the final descent. After I arrived Leland came in, then a few others I didn't know followed by Peter then Sam. I was a little puzzled when I saw Karl coming in by himself a short time later but realized what was going on when he pulled out the camera to get some finish line pictures of Cheryl. Congratulations to all that finished the real marathon in Salt Lake, see you next year!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Weekend Antics

Hittin' the trail at 6am meant an early wake-up and making sure that my headlamp was functioning. This is another difference between cycling and running; I rarely started a ride before the sun was up but now I start trail runs routinely in the dark. I like it because I can head out for a 3 to 4 hour run and get back to the house just as everyone is getting done with breakfast. That of course means more time with the family and that makes everybody happy. However early alarms on the weekend can seem evil sometimes.
The chartered course for the day is called Short n' Steep. It's only 16 miles but packs in 5000' vertical over 2 major climbs and 1 minor climb. The rest of the elevation gain and loss comes from rolling foothills in between. I came up with this loop back in the fall when I was looking for a way to connect a few trails without going out and back. My favorite types of runs, or rides for that matter, consist of loops. I find them more interesting and fulfilling than going out and back. The true loop is one that I can complete without crossing over anything I've already been on. I can't quite make this one work that way but it's still one of my favorites. The Short n' Steep route starts at the mouth of Emigration canyon at the trailhead for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and follows the BST over to George's Hollow then all the way up to the summit of Mt. Wire. Near the top there are two panels that look like monster billboards (I assume they are repeaters of some sort) and at the top there is a 25' metal lookout tower surrounded by a chainlink fence and a gate without a lock. I had never climbed it before, but as I watched Peter scale the metal ladder I figured what the hell and climbed up as well. It was actually quite amazing how much more of the mountain can be seen from up there, mostly because the summit is very big and round.
A view from the top looking Southeast

There goes Sam on the descent

On the way down we hook up on the trail that leads to the 'Living Room'. This is a spot on the ridge that has many flat pieces of sandstone that people have stacked in the form of armchairs and couches.

Sam and Peter in the Living Room

From here we descend into the mouth of Red Butte Canyon and straight up the north side of the canyon to the top of Mt. Van Cott.

Me on Van Cott looking out over SLC

Then we run the ridgeline all the way back down to the BST and ascend up Dry Creek. I've toyed with the idea of leaving the trail at the back of Dry Creek and following Dry fork then ascending Unkle F@#ker, but today was not the day, especially after the 50 miler last week. So we stuck to the plan, climbed up to the saddle then dropped into Limekiln Gulch and ran back to the trailhead on the BST. Even though I prefer the high alpine runs I'll try not to take these smaller mountains for granted. They can provide a proper beating if you're in the mood...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Buffalo Run 50 miler Race Report

The 2nd edition of the Buffalo run was a great success. Great weather, great people and incredible soup! Race Results here.

Well the first 50 miler of the season is history. I wish the fatigue associated with it was as well. A friend of mine told me that every ultra is different, regardless of what the course is like. He claimed that this is because it's not a question of if, but when you will have "issues" that must be dealt with and every race will present different obstacles.

Issue number 1 presented itself at the start line. Peter and I had both forgot our headlamps. I thought, "it's just a 6am start and the sun will be up before we know it." Wrong. We immediately realized that following the light would be a good choice and took off with the lead group. We ran the first five miles with three others before we throttled back our pace and watched the sun come up over the Wasatch Mountains to the east it was an incredible sight. I turned on the tunes and fell into a nice groove until I hit the first climb. I had it in my head that this was a flat race with two climbs (the same one done twice) but in fact we were rolling up and down the shoreline of the island the whole time. After I reached the top of the climb for the first time I was feeling great and I took off on the section of singletrack at the top before bombing the descent. I ran a good pace all the way to the southern end of the island where the turnaround was located. Because of the out and back nature of the race I could see that I was about 15 minutes from Erik and Kevin (1st and 2nd) and four minutes back from Rich who was in third.

Issue number 2 came at the turnaround when I realized I had been running ever so slightly downhill and with a tailwind for the past 8 miles or so. It wasn't that big a deal, just a bit demoralizing. I focused on keeping a steady pace and trying to gain some ground on Rich. I finally caught up to Rich as we started the climb and I could tell immediately that I wasn't going to be running up this time around.

Issue number 3 happened at the top of the climb. I was approaching the aid station when all of the sudden everything that was in my stomach wanted out, now. After it was over I felt great but I knew I had just dug myself a hole. As I left the aid station I noticed Rich cresting the hill not that far behind me. I focused on making it to the next aid station at mile 37 and putting some fuel back in system. I made it to the Fielding Garr aid station, grabbed my drop bag then made my way to the tables full of food and beverage. The nice folks from Roosters were sponsoring the race and the aid station. They informed me that Kevin had to drop, so that meant I was now in 2nd. I was standing there trying to figure out what I was going to eat when one of the women offered me some soup they had made for the race. I don't know exactly what kind it was, some kind of beef barley, but it was about the best soup I had ever had. Rich came in as I was still finishing the soup and then we left together. It was nice to chat with somebody for a while and the next hour or so passed fairly quickly. After a few more miles Rich decided to ease back and eat some food, I should have done the same. At this point I was starting to have a hard time getting more gels down so I just tried to drink more. That plan worked until about a mile to go.

Issue number 4. There was no fuel left in the tank and I could smell the food at the finish line. I started to get a little disoriented and slowed to a walk. As Kelly came by me he encouraged to run with him but it wasn't happening. Eventually I made it to the final little uphill grade to the finish area and heard "come on Christian, run to the finish". I looked up to see it was Erik who had finished nearly an hour ahead of me. I managed to run the last few hundred meters in order to cross the finish line then I went straight for the food.

Special mention to my better half, Betsy who ran her first trail race. She participated in the 25k and had a great time. I am super proud of her since it was the farthest she has run to date. She had such a good time that only two days afterwards she was asking me to find her another trail race to try out. Good times!

Thanks must go to Jim Skaggs and the kind volunteers he assembled to put on such a great event. I'll definitely be back next year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First 50 of the Season

Have I done enough? Did I too much? Will this head cold have much effect on my race? These are just a few of the questions running through my head in the day leading up to my first 50 miler of the season, the Buffalo Run on Antelope Island State Park. I have three 50’s on my schedule this season, all in preparation for the big one in September, The Wasatch 100. I think I need to do a few more of these before I stop second guessing myself in the week before the race.

A few of us ran on the shoreline this last weekend and I must say it felt great to start an early morning run with shorts on. For the first time since last fall I didn’t have the urge to start off with a 5k pace in order to warm-up. The trails were in near perfect shape except for the few ass-hat mountain bikers that decided little ditches in the middle of the trail would be a good idea. I have to assume that they are na├»ve to the type of erosion they are causing by making troughs in the trail. If you are one of these select few riders that like riding on muddy trails I have one thing to say to you, DON’T.

This pic was taken just as the sun was peeking over the snowcapped Wasatch to our east.

As much as I enjoy the shoreline trails I must say that after running on them for the last several months, I’m anxious to get up in the high mountains again. It’s obviously going to be another month or two before that happens though. Until then I will be happy running on dry dirt with some decent footing.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The good times are killing me

The weekend started in earnest Friday evening at the Kahtoola Nightflight. The previous day I received a call from a friend telling me about this little running race from Solitude to Brighton on the Nordic track, where you had to use these specially designed neoprene boots for running in the snow. It sounded easy enough and a good reason to hang out in the mountains with the family for a couple of hours. The storm that rolled through that day had left us with a clear night cold temps. The race started at around 6:30pm and it was snot-freezing cold. There were a couple of Nordic racers running with us and I decided I would try to stay with them, big mistake. The low temperature had obviously froze my brain because I forgot I was at altitude with extra weight on my feet, breathing in the 0 degree air. I followed the two of them for about a mile before my legs decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go anaerobic in the current conditions. I hung on for 3rd place about 2 ½ minutes behind those guys. The cool part was that I won a pair of the Kahtoola Flight-boots I had just run in, the bummer part was that I had developed a rasp in my lungs from deep breathing the cold air. We finished off the evening with some great food and beverage from the Pub (Desert Edge Brewery).
Saturday morning seemed to come as quickly as I closed my eyes the night before. Peter and I decided to go run on Antelope Island in order to check out part of the
Buffalo Run 50 miler and try to find some snow free dirt. We made it to the starting point shortly before 8am and took off at an easy pace. Even though it was a bit chilly to start at 23 degrees if felt great compared to the night before. The 50 mile route is fairly flat with a few rollers mixed in as it meanders along the east side of the island. One of the best attributes of the Mountain View trail that we were running on is just that, spectacular views of the Wasatch front from North Ogden to Draper.

We saw plenty of bison and heard some young coyotes learning how to tune their voices. We reached the turnaround point at the Fielding Garr ranch in less than two hours and it became evident as we headed back north that we would have a tailwind on the way back. This made it a bit warmer and after about 3 hours I could feel the race from the night before. The last hour became a bit of a slog but we made it back to the car in just under 4 hours, which was our goal to start with. A quick stop at Crown Burger on the way home and everything started to feel better.

Sunday brought warmer temps, clear skies and another trip Big Cottonwood, except this time it was for some downhill skiing at Solitude with the family. It was a perfect bluebird day. In fact it was a bit to warm in the middle part of the afternoon but we managed to deal with it somehow…

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Stay the Course!

So I decided that my first race of the year would be this low-key event called Moab's Red Hot 50k+. What I didn't realize is that the + could mean more than what was advertised as a 34 miler (50k's are about 31 miles), it would have many meanings by the end of the day.
I was really anxious to to run on solid ground and have some decent footing for a change. I have been running on so much ice, snow and mud this winter that I have forgotten what dry dirt feels like under foot.

Everything was going well for the first part of the race, legs felt great, feet were fine, and my stomach was stable. I was in about 5th position at the 20 mile mark with 2 other guys when we decided that we didn't like the current course that we were on. We didn't make the conscious decision to go off course, but we did ignore the red flagging that indicated it was the wrong way. A mile and a half later we decided it would be better to stay on the intended course. I later learned that we weren't the only runners who got off course as it was sometimes difficult to know which way to go on the long sandstone sections. I guess I'll just say that I really got my money's worth after my GPS showed a total of 37.7 miles instead of the standard 34. I will also notch it up as a good learning experience on a great course. I recorded about 4600' vertical for the day over the 5 1/2 hours that I was out there having a great time.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Flashback - There is no Finish

Anybody remember this poster from the late '70's early '80's?

I did a few weeks ago after being on the trail for about 2.5 hours I could definitely feel the fatigue in my legs as I made my final ascent of the day. My mind started drifting as it normally does, when I remembered this poster my Dad had put up in my room when I was about 9. I could remember the title, but I could not remember the phrase that went with it. Of course the phrase is not exclusive to running, but I remember that it was at a time when runners would speak of the "runners high". I probably read that poster a hundred times trying to comprehend what it meant. The ironic thing is that I already knew what it was stating. It felt good to push myself to my limits... (the fine print is below, minus the Nike marketing stuff)

There is No Finish Line
Sooner or later the serious runner goes through a special, very personal experience that is unknown to most people.
Some call it euphoria. Others say it's a new kind of mystical experience that propels you into an elevated state of consciousness.
A flash of joy. A sense of floating as you run.
The experience is unique to each of us, but when it happens you break through a barrier that separates you from casual runners. Forever.
And from that point on, there is no finish line.
You run for your life. You begin to be addicted to what running gives you.
Beating the competition is relatively easy.
But beating yourself is a never ending commitment.