Saturday, January 24, 2015

Western States 100 - Crew and Pace Strategy

Information here is based on the following page from Western States Official Site. Information also taken from the aid station page on Western States site.

The first half of the course is somewhat remote and rugged and difficult for crews to get to all the allowed aid stations. WS100 recommends that you either have a single crew ("A") or two crews ("A" and "B"). Steve and I are considering a plan where we split crews the first half of the race to minimize the time without seeing crew. Should we decide not to go with this strategy, then my crew will only be at the aid stations marked for crew "A". (The other possibility is to see crew "A" at Robinson Flat, Michigan Bluff, and Forrest Hill.) Notice that crew "A" and "B" are only necessary until Forrest Hill.  From that point, only one crew is necessary.

Course Profile - borrowed from www.wser.org

Course Map - borrowed from www.wser.org
Crew A - Chuck and Heather
Crew B - Kara and Thomas

Destination Mile 24-Hr 30-Hr Cut Off Time of Day* Crew
Duncan Canyon 23.8 4:50 6:05 11:05 AM9:50 AMB
Robinson Flat 29.7 6:20 7:55 12:55 PM11:20 AM A - Shuttle
Dusty Corners 38 7:55 10:15 3:15 PM12:55 PMA
Michigan Bluff 55 12:20 15:50 9:45 PM5:20 PMB
Bath Rd 60.6 13:30 12:30 ---6:30 PM A* - Chuck
Forrest Hill 62 13:45 17:45 11:45 PM6:45 PMA - Heather
Rucky Chucky (far) 78 17:40 23:00 5:00 AM10:40 PMA** - Heather
Green Gate  79.8 18:20 23:55 5:40 AM11:20 PMA*** - Foot
Hwy 49 93.5 22:10 28:00 9:20 AM3:10 AMA - Shuttle
No Hands Bridge 96.8 23:10 28:55 11:00 AM4:10 AMA
Robbie Point 99 23:40 29:35 11:00 AM4:40 AMA - Heather
Finish 100.2 23:59 29:59 11:00 AM4:59 AM

* - Walk in from Forrest Hill - 1.0 miles
** - Walk in from Green Gate - 3.25 miles
*** - Green Gate is 1.25 mile walk-in from designate parking area

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Training Update

I have not decided if I am going to stay with the weekly training update or go to infrequent, general updates for 2015. For now, I'll do the latter.

At the end of 2014, I felt pretty run down and wasn't really enjoying running much. Frankly, I think most of this had to do with not having a goal that got me motivated; I was never fully into Bear 100. I wrote several blog posts about motivation and trying to get myself excited. But, I just never managed to find my groove and trained pretty poorly in July and August due to an ankle injury and "life". Taming a hundred miles is so much harder than any other distance I have run. I cannot fully explain to people that have done another distance of ultra how much harder the 100 mile distance is. It weighed on my mind big time ahead of Bear 100.

I also have been dealing with an injury since before the North Fork 50. This is not an injury I have discussed here and may not be much of an injury at all, more of a compensation thing. Basically, I have had general knee pain -- and occasional shin pain -- since June. I finally decided to see my PT at the start of 2015 so it didn't linger into Western States. The good news is that isn't anything major and quite curable. The better news is that I can run through it (smartly, of course). We think it started with a pulled hamstring that occurred in March of 2014. When I attempted to run through it, I developed a compensation pattern that has me rotating my knee inward and sort of hyper-extending it backward. And, my hamstring remains quite tight and knotted from the injury. All of that is fixable with time, but it really played with my head for a long time. Being "injured" sucks and is highly demotivating to training.

Finally, being and obsessive and an ultra guy, I think overdid things a bit, particularly in the areas of vertical gain and long-long runs. Every year I have a tendency to slip into logging mileage and long-long runs during ultra season, foregoing the consistency and structured training that I like to do. I ran 6 runs of longer than 30 miles in 2014 and 10 longer than a marathon. When it was all said and done, I had one of the bigger stats years of my "running career", accumulating nearly 300K of vertical gain and nearly 400 hours of running -- not including, on average, 1.5 XT sessions a week.

Put it all together, and I just needed time. So, for the last few months of 2014 I tried to just run by feel and for fun. Then, I got a jolt when I got into WS100 that carried me for a few weeks. However, that quickly turned to angst as I obsessed about my knee before I finally got into see the PT.

Ah, finally, I have a plan and I am moving forward. Running is fun and I am going with the flow. Some days I sleep in and run at lunch. Other days, I run in the morning. I've even had a few days where I ran after work. I just fit it in where motivation and time allows. And, I am slowly starting to stop obsessing about cross-training. When you are injured, it is easy to convince yourself that adding more cross-training is what you need, possibly even considering alternative ways to train like CrossFit. And, like everything, I can overdo that too! The last thing that I have done is to stop fighting Winter. I haven't really attempted to run trails since New Years Day (a tradition) because the conditions just aren't enjoyable to me. So, I am running lots of hilly roads and lots of structure, things I enjoy. I am working a lot on raw speed -- short intervals and strides. The nice thing is that I suddenly feel like I am holding back, where two months ago every run felt like labor. I can -- and want to -- run more. But, I am intentionally trying to slowly build momentum towards March and April when real training will begin. I plan to peak once only this year -- June 27th. I have no plans for June 29th and beyond... yet anyway.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

LCHF in Practice

I have had quite a few people ask me about low carb high fat (LCHF) recently and I decided detailed post was in order! One thing I need to mention upfront is that you will often hear that this journey is an experiment of one (n=1). The reason is that we all have different physiological profiles that we bring to the table and we all have something why are trying to accomplish as well as certain tastes and preferences. However, the core idea of reading labels to understand what we are eating, avoiding cheap, processes foods, and allowing our bodies to adapt to a more natural metabolic state remains the same. Once you learn the foods that are good, bad, and in moderation (or green, red, and yellow according to Noakes), then you can develop a routine that works for you. Understand that you are fundamentally changing the way your body processes and maintains energy each day. This is not a small undertaking, usually requiring 1-3 months at a minimum and possibly up to a year to see full benefits. This post contains a ton of information and is best used as a reference. The easiest way to get started is just to track what you eat and eat more fat and less carbs, particularly those from grains and sugars. A book is another good place to start. And, I highly recommend tracking your diet -- calories and macro-nutrient breakout -- before you start so you have a means to compare.

Why I went LCHF?

I have been experimenting with low carb living for more than 10 years now. After my daughter was born and I weighed almost 250 pounds, I went on the Atkins diet and it started there. It has been a bumpy ride because I got caught up in believing the products "nutrition companies" like GU started selling me when I became an endurance athlete. And, I believed in calorie math. If I burned 2500 calories on a training run, then I could eat 2500 calories of whatever I wanted and be even, right?  (I no longer believe in calorie math, at least not in an absolute state.)  While I have believed for a long time that low carb is a healthy way of life, I just had a hard time reconciling that with the demands of training to be an endurance athlete.

As I have taken my running to greater time and distances, eating (and energy) has become a common source of problems. If you are carb addicted, you need to eat an almost endless supply of carbohydrates to keep your energy level constant. But that is tough to do. Your body can only process something like 250 calories an hour -- it varies person to person -- and you are burning like 800. The math doesn't work. Making the problem worse, many of the products we eat are from sources that, given enough time and quantity, will make us sick -- either GI distress or nausea. And, much of what we drink comes in the form of a sugary beverage which can lead to hydration issues from consuming too much liquid. When I first read that Jason Schlarb ran a 100 mile race (and won!) on 1700 calories, I decided to investigate this topic more. (I probably ate something like 10,000 calories in my first 100 mile race.)

What are the results I have seen?

I have seen almost all the benefits that Phinney and Volek predicted in their books -- leaner physique, more constant energy, quicker recovery from races and hard training sessions, stable weight, and solid gut (no more runner's trots!), and more.... I had two of my best race ever in 2014 and I fueled pretty much with one gel every 45 minutes and water, about 150 kcals an hour. My energy level was constant and I was surging past runners after 7 hours. I set a personal best on a segment of the North Fork 50 course after running 43 miles. The best part is that I rarely think about calories I am eating -- unless I am trying to eat more! I eat until I am full.

What are the challenges I have encountered?

The main challenges I encountered were early on and part of the adaption phase. I attempted to go extreme low carb (20-50g a day) while training 55+ miles per week and I was groggy all the time. I hated running. Some of this was due to adaption phase and should be expected to take time. Some of this was due to the extreme nature of trying to go so low so quickly. (These days I typically eat 50-150g a day, though I rarely count anymore.) And some was due to the amount water weight I shed. This is referred to as the "Atkins flu" and is cured by drinking some beef broth to get sodium in your system.

The other thing that has remained with me and been somewhat elusive is a bit of a "fog" that comes over me once in a while. I think the difficulty here is with the central nervous system (brain), which requires lots of energy, mostly from carbohydrates. You need to keep the brain energized and alert. In races I started using amino acid pills to aid in keeping my central nervous system from being overcome by fatigue. As the central governor to your entire body, once your brain fatigues, it will shut everything down. The pills were expensive and kind of a hassle. Lately I have been experimenting with an amino acid supplement (called Biosteele). I use it before and during workouts and even as an energy supplement during the day. It contains no sugar and no caffeine.

What do I actually eat?

Day to day, I eat lots of things and won't waste (much) space here. Google LCHF or Paleo and you'll find lots of ideas. The books I recommend below also have example recipes. I tend to eat lots of salad, soups based with broth and/or heavy whipping cream, red meat, pork, eggs, coconut oil, cheese, high fat dairy, etc... I try to buy organic fruits and veggies and grass fed meat, but I am not super strict about that. I never eat legumes or grains and I rarely eat fruit (typically just berries or organic apple sauce). My beer drinking has been cut significantly down. But, I still have cheat days -- usually pizza and beer. I don't try to be perfect all the time. I think that is a misconception of this diet. My cheat days are fewer (maybe every 2-3 weeks) when training hard. After Bear 100, I went off the diet for several days and ate like a pig.

Eating on the run is a bit of a moving target. Fat adaption does not mean that I do not eat sugar during runs. It means that my body is quite happy to burn fat. In fact, it burns fat as the primary energy source. However, for shorter distance races (up to 50 miles), I find the convenience of gels hard to pass up. They are easier to pack, cheap to buy, and convenient to eat. I just eat fewer of them. For North Fork 50, I ate Hammer Bars and drank Skratch Labs for the first 25 miles, then I switched to gels and plain water in the second half of the race. Pretty simple.

Beyond 50 miles is the point when all that sugar starts to take a toll on the GI system. And, running 100 miles takes a serious toll! Your body goes through a lot, including missing multiple meals and being awake for up to 48 hours. Having only tried twice, I have not yet perfected a 100 mile diet, but I think it will require more real food (Epic Bars, Nut Butters) and supplements (like Generation Ucan and pure MCT oil) as well as gels. During my recent Bear 100, conditions were miserable (hot early, then pouring rain) and I lost patience with my nutrition plan early. I also think I was attempting to eat too many calories, nearly double what I was eating in shorter races all summer.

I see lots of advantages in a product like Generation Ucan and have attempted to use it -- and will continue to try -- as an in-race fuel source. It is great pre-run. But, it is extremely inconvenient on-the-run. Not only is it expensive, it is difficult to mix, grainy in the mouth, and does not provide an instant energy source when you get low. I am considering just drinking it at aid stations where I see crew. I think my 2015 strategy will be fewer calories between aid stations (some Skratch Labs and Vfuel gels) and then real food at aid stations -- Epic Bars, Ucan, Nut Butters. And, don't forget the amino acids!

Please note that I have no sponsors. Every product I mention above I pay for with my own money. Therefore, I have no allegiance to them an no incentive to push products on you. Most products I choose are either because I believe in them -- usually they are wholesome food with clean labels -- or because they are convenient (cost, taste, easy to carry on the run).

More Resources

If you undertake this process, I highly recommend reading as much of the following as you can. Remember this is a major life change that impacts your long-term health. I am not a doctor, but many of the of the following folks are.

Previous Blog Posts of Mine

Links and Authors I recommend
Peter Attia Blog
Zach Bitter Blog
Timothy Olson Blog
Endurance Planet
Ben Greenfield
FASTER Study
Phil Maffetone


Tim Noakes



Books I recommend

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Writing one of these is always a little hard because there are lots of ways to look at the same picture. After reading this incredible post by Joe Grant, I've decided to look at the positives, big and small.
"At first, when I process the past year’s events, I immediately jump to the bigger picture, of performances and race results, of what I did or did not produce, and I am dissatisfied. I want more, I want better, and I compare myself vainly. What I fail to acknowledge, with deeper, more astute observation is the quality of the experiences I have had, which is where their depth and meaningfulness truly take shape." -- Joe Grant
Running is an individual sport and it is easy to get caught feeling insecure or unworthy... the clock doesn't lie. I think the issue is compounded by the fact that you start off climbing a steep curve, getting faster, learning more, and generally just eager to do it all. Then, at some point, the race performances plateau and the goals start to dwindle. It becomes much harder to find success and to be satisfied with results. Former NFL players and coaches often speak of how the loses hurt more than the wins satisfy them, particularly as their career winds down. Running has a parallel where you invest yourself so much in a race and it is over in a fraction of the time it took to get there. The highs only last a few days or a week and the lows seem to last for months. But, if we step back and analyze the place running occupies in our lives, it is so much easier to find the good. With this in mind, I analyze my 2014.

At the beginning of 2014, I wasn't sure what my year would look like having had surgery in August of 2013. If you had asked me back then, running at all would have made a successful year. And boy did it turn out better than that. First, I crushed all my expectations at Quad Rock 25. I am still astounded thinking about that day because I didn't feel prepared at all. And, that course just doesn't suit me all that well -- tons of vertical and technical trail. I felt so strong the last half of that race. Finishing a race strong, regardless of the distance, is one of the purest joys of running. That sense of feeling prepared and that you have run the perfect race is easy to soak in. I have had that feeling only three or four times and it brings me a deep sense of accomplishment for all the effort put into a goal.

In June, I surpassed my 50 mile goal time. That was my primary race goal to accomplish in 2014. There are so many emotions thinking about that day. The primary thing is satisfaction, knowing that my own confidence in myself was justified.  Thanks to Jon, I took a big leap and started way faster than I thought I could maintain. I once again finished the race so strong and feeling like I could run forever that day. But, I am also grateful to all my friends that ran that day and the role each of them played in helping me get to that point. And, I am grateful to my family that continues to support more my racing adventures. We had a BBQ at my house that evening and celebrated as a group, which was quite fitting. It was really a celebration of the group of guys I run with and the things we have accomplished together.

Cruisin' Early at North Fork 50, on my way to 4th place!

I won't lie, I was disappointed with my performance at the Bear 100. It wasn't hard to predict that it would be a tough day, in hindsight anyway. I wasn't fully prepared for that race and insanely hard race day conditions only made a good performance less likely. More importantly, I lost my perspective and love of what I was doing. It is a privilege to run, something I often forget. And, I trail run to be out in nature and for the adventure. The Bear delivered plenty of both that day. One of my lasting memories of that day -- other than mud -- is my buddy Steve high-fiving and fist bumping people as he ran to the finish. He found joy in the beauty of the accomplishment. It was really special to line up that day with two good friends. And, I take great pride in the fact that we all three finished in the worst year of that race (50% DNF rate). Another lasting memory of that day was being paced for 50 LONG miles in horrible conditions by Chuck. If you know Chuck, he hates to be cold. But he had a steely resolve that day and refused to let me quit.

The Three Amigos for Bear 100.

It was a real pleasure to watch many of my friends continue to take on new challenges. I like to believe I have touched all their lives in some way and I know they have all touched me. Each race has a unique story and group of guys that made that day special. That is the real reason I run. Even if 2015 only gives me more of that, it will be a good year.

In my running goals for 2014, I mentioned wanting to be kinder to myself and that is an area that I made some strides, but still an area I can continue to improve. I have an idea about what perfect training looks like and I don't always deal well with interruptions and changing conditions. I must say, it is hard to do this day in an age when you see so much information on the Internet. It is impossible not to compare yourself or somehow feel like you are falling behind even when not running is truly the right thing to do. In fact, some elite runners, like Rob Krar, prefer to keep their training private for this reason. I just need to get over it... I need to find flow in training and racing. If I am to tame the 100 mile distance, I must find more patience and presence in the moment.

2015 hasn't even started, but it has the makings of an epic year. Thanks to good fortune in the WS100 lottery, my buddy Steve and I both got into the race. Steve lives in Arizona, but somehow our trail running "careers" have been inter-twined for 3 years now. I think I have contributed a lot to his success through traditional coaching aspects -- plans, specificity, nutrition, etc... And he has taught me a lot -- and continues to do so -- about perspective and enjoyment. It is fitting we will be lining up together that day. There are a lot of days between June 27th and now, but I am confident I am meant to be there. I will be ready and what ensues will be one hell of a ride.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Western States 100 Training

Well, this could be long, better grab coffee if you plan to follow along.

A few general notes first. Obviously, like all training plans, I will not follow this day in and day out. Rather, it is a guide to get me to my goals below. Lots of the goals and ideas I have will require flexibility and adapting to how life (and the weather) unfolds. This is particularly true of heat, night, and long run training. For example, last year we didn't get any heat until late June, after WS100 was over. That will make it tough to train for heat if it happens again. I have also tentatively outlined a few events that I'll do. Most of the events are just organized long runs that help me to get to my fitness goals. I noticed that short tune-up races were a big advantage for me in 2014, so I hope to repeat that. In particular, I enjoyed running the Colfax Marathon as a structured long (with no calories).

My plan is roughly based on mileage from the book Relentless Forward Progress. However, it will be easiest to explain this in terms of my training goals. Here are those goals:

2-3 good night runs on trails 

As I noted after my Bear 100 run, I just don't feel comfortable at night running. There are obvious things like footing and ability to see. But, there are subtle things like changing temperature and non-fasted state that cause me issues as well. I hope to spend a few evenings on long-ish trail runs (3+ hours) to try and work through some of these comfort zone problems.

8-10 heat runs up to 2 hours in length 

I have a few place in the plan where I put "heat?". As I mentioned above, I will try to remain flexible. The easiest and most obvious thing will be to throw on a long sleeve shirt at lunch and go run something flat and short. That serves a double purpose of heat and added mileage (to get me closer to my weekly peak below). But, if the weather doesn't cooperate, I may take my heat training inside and use the treadmill at the gym and/or sauna. I don't plan to go crazy with my heat-specific work, making only those runs that are specific in nature about an hour on average. However, there are a few trails in Colorado where I can get some exposed climbs and stagnant, hot conditions, which I will try to tackle a bit more in the Spring.

Consistent mileage above 55 

For me, good mileage is 5 days a week and about 50-55 miles total. This is "base" fitness for me. While my plan only has 5 days a week, I will probably try to get more like 6 days a week on average, using that extra day to get some free mileage and possibly some heat work.

Peak mileage at 70+, 4-6 times 

In reviewing my logs, I feel I reach peak fitness about 65-75 miles per week. So, my goal will be to get to this level about 4-6 times, clustered mostly toward the back-half of training. Again, the plan only has 5 days and I plan to add to that when I can. Some of the days on the plan have huge morning runs (like 14 miles) and I don't know that I can do that frequently. I may utilize some doubles on those days as well.

Lots of "light quality": Fartleks, Progression 

Another topic I have covered at length on this blog is my belief in "light quality". These are structured runs with a purpose but don't push me too deep in the red. I will utilize LOTS of these types of workouts in addition to my typical Maffetone/easy-aerobic workouts.

Modest amounts of true quality: tempos/threshold, intervals, hard longs

I definitely see the benefits of "true quality workouts", even to ultra runners, but I think there are diminishing returns on those workouts for ultra runners. Therefore, I plan to do a workout like this only every 7-10 days. Of course, some people will argue that any long run is a quality workout, and I tend to agree. For these purposes, I am only counting the workouts listed above.

Don't over-do trails and vertical 

This is self-explanatory. If you know me, I am a more is better kind of guy. Once I start training for a particular type of thing, I can really go bananas doing just that. In the context of trails, that is fine if it accessible and you love it. But, my kids are at an age that makes getting away tough. We have family plans nearly every weekend and time is short. The best trails around are 35-45 minutes away. It just isn't convenient to do that everyday, or even every weekend. I do live in an area with some modest trails and decent vertical (75-85 feet of vert per mile) just running around my home. My plan is to be generally fit and just specifically fit enough to finish the race well.

Don’t fight winter 

This is a tough but obvious reality living in Colorado. Most of my favorite trails will be covered in ice and snow until April, at least. Trail running really gets good in the Front Range about May. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice fresh powder run in the serene environment of a nice trails. But, last winter, I spent a ton of time running on ice and snow and was largely negative on many of those runs. It just wasn't fun, particularly the ice. So, my plan this year will be to not fight that. If we have a tough snow year, I'll stay close to home and work on "general fitness" until the trails are ready.

Emphasize body weight training for XT

And, finally, I want to continue my cross training regimen. In 2014, I managed to average about 1.5 - 2 sessions a week of cross training. I plan to carry forward that plan in 2015, but adapt to a bit more body weight training and less weight training. Instead of weights, I'll do more body weight exercises (bridges, single legged dead lifts, push-ups, and pull-ups for example), tons of core, and lots of balance work. The double duty on my legs of strength training plus lots of vertical took a toll in 2015.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Western 2015

Wow, I am still shocked I actually got in! After the disappointment of missing out two years in a row, I wasn't really even letting myself think about it. What was funny was my phone blowing up before I ever even knew I was selected -- apparently some folks were watching the Webcast. And, I got selected twice!!! Of my four tickets, they pulled two! It was definitely my year... And, my buddy Steve -- Salsa Steve, as my daughter likes to call him -- also go in.

The truth is that this is exactly the kind of jolt I needed. Training the last six months has become mundane and I was feeling the spark start to fade. Western States is one of the few remaining goals I have in ultra running -- the kind of goal that gets you going at 4:30 on a February morning. I really hoped all along that it would happen because I didn't really want to half-ass another hundred like I did at Bear last year.

Time for the Rocky quotes.... This is what I need, to get that look back. I had it at LT100. I could never find it for Bear 100. I tried to make Bear special and I couldn't do it. And, predictably, when it got hard, the race got the best of me. Fortunately, I finished and kept the Western States dream alive!



So what has changed? And what will change? Well, this is all preliminary, but here are a few thoughts I have about changing things to be prepared for my best shot at sub-24 hours:

1) My ideas about training are pretty well cemented at this point. I know who I am and what my body can take. I have written about this in the past, but I am not a mileage junkie. I believe in mostly MAF/aerobic work with some light quality (fartleks, hills, strides, progression) and just enough true-quality (lactate threshold runs, intervals, hard longs, long-longs).  Typically, I race best between 65-75 miles per week as my "peak" weeks. I will do a few more B2B longs this time than I did for Bear. However, for the most part, I will try to get my mileage through consistency and, likely, 6 days a week of running.

2) This time out I will emphasize more night running, hopefully doing 3-4 quality night runs. While I am not looking to burn up the track at night, I do need to get more comfortable running on trails at night plus all that encompasses (non-fasted state nutrition, temperatures, changing light, etc..). To aid in my cause, Santa will be bringing me a Petzel NAO headlamp. What a nice guy!

3) Being Western States, I will obviously have to train for heat like I never have before. I am not totally sure what this means yet, but I do know runners typically use saunas and midday runs with layers on to aid them in preparation. The good news is that most events I have raced in the past were hotter than normal (Leadville Marathon 2011, Silver Rush 2011, Leadville Trail 100 2012, Bear 100 2014) and I typically handle it pretty well. And, the one event that I have done in the past that I think will most mimic Western States conditions is North Fork 50, my best race ever. North Fork isn't as hot as WS, but it is an exposed, dry track with overall trail conditions like what I expect. And, it is a fast, runnable course, like Western States.

4) I won't go crazy for vertical gain. When peak trail training, I typically land between 30K and 35K per month in total vertical gain. That number is comfortable for me and a reasonable estimate of what I'll be doing March - May.

5) This is TBD, but I am unlikely to do any tune-up races. There aren't a ton of good Colorado trail events prior to early June. Plus, I don't want the risk of training and preparing for more than one thing. Eye on the prize. I want to be all in on this event.

6) Nutrition continues to be an on-going experiment. I suppose that is true for everyone. I am super happy with my LCHF approach, but I need to figure out in-race nutrition for the 100 mile distance. I gave up way too early on my plan at Bear 100 and paid for it late in the race.  TOO MUCH SUGAR!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

HPRS - Indian Creek 50K Race Report


A few years back, when I was cutting my teeth in ultra running, I came across the blog of John Lacroix (aka Sherpa John or SJ). Of all the blogs I came across, his appealed to me because he is not an elite. He typically addresses ultra running from the point of view of a Regular Joe or Weekend Warrior. And, his desire is to keep the tradition and culture of ultra running alive and well. We can  disagree on exactly how much tradition we should keep, but we must agree that ultra running is growing rapidly, too rapidly, and the future of the sport is challenged because it is not easy to add supply to meet the demand. But, I digress....

When I met SJ, he had recently moved to the Boulder area and wanted to create a community of ultra runners out here. New to ultra running, and without many friends running ultras, I jumped at the chance to participate in a few of his Fat Ass events, running the inaugural version of them. I even joined him and Jeremy Ebel on their first trip to the Grand Canyon. Obviously, through our various adventures together, we've become friends. As a New Englander, he is often very opinionated and can be controversial, but I can say that he truly cares about the ultra running community at large and those in Denver Front Range. He spends tons of hours of his own time organizing Fat Ass events and helping to build community. It was a natural extension for him to start his own race series this summer. I thought I was done with racing after The Bear 100 in September, but he reached out and asked me if I'd come run his inaugural Indian Creek Fifties event. The race is close to my home and I often train on those trails, so I decided it would be a fun way to end the season. Enough background, onto the report...

After Bear, I haven't trained much at all. I was surprised at how quickly I recovered from the race itself, but I am pretty worn out from a big summer of racing and somewhat unmotivated these days. I did enough in October, but nothing close to my normal training. My goal all along was just to show up and have a good time. And, the night before was Halloween and both my kids were up late. As a result, I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before and just sort of slumbered to the start line only half ready to race. We stood in the dark for a few minutes and listened to SJ's announcements, and then he said "go" and off we went.

Rampart 1 - 9.25

I didn't recognize anyone in my immediate surroundings, so I just cruised along by myself the first few miles. The first few miles were pitch black, and I was sort of happy about that because I need more experience on trails in the dark. (After this race, I am starting to think I need a better headlamp too.) Between feeling sluggish from little sleep, being dark, and being overdressed, I felt super slow. A few miles in I heard my name and recognized "Coach Greg", my son's youth running coach. We chatted and hiked for a few minutes together. It was to be his first 50 miler and I think he was hoping I was doing the 50 mile event as well. He was hiking much better than me and soon disappeared into the dark. I once again ran alone, but found myself at the front of a long conga line heading reasonably technical trail in the dark. I felt like I was holding everyone up, but only a few people made a push to pass me. Finally, at six miles, I pulled over to use the restroom and the conga line passed me by.

The remaining miles into the aid station were mostly downhill and my feet were really bugging me. I wore my Hoka Mafate and they typically loosen up on me in the first few miles, causing my feet to slide around quite a bit. Plus, I used KT tape to tape my big toes and the friction rubbing against my second toes was causing some blistering. At aid, I refilled on water and stopped to tighten my shoes. My feet felt much better the rest of the day, though I did end up with a few small blisters. As for nutrition, I went with a pretty typical plan: no breakfast and Ucan as my only fuel for the first half of the race.

Reservation (start area) - 14.25

Leaving aid, I put on my iPod and did my best to keep in good spirits. I was heading mostly uphill again and having trouble keeping up with the runners around me, getting passed a couple of times. I had run all this trail in June with Tony and Chuck, but in the reverse direction. It was much harder in this direction! Nonetheless, I was gradually starting to get into the race and increasing the effort, particularly in my hiking. I've done so many mountain events this summer that I've really become a good hiker, often hiking as fast as others who are running around me. And, I have developed a good run/hike mix that keeps the moderate climbs in the low teens for pace. Before long, I reached the top of the climb and start descending down into the start area for the end of loop one. One thing that has bugged me of late is how much I've been tripping, so I really focused on my running stride downhill and made a comfortable descent without any trips!

At aid station, I dropped all my cold weather and dark gear. And, I dropped my extra water bottle because I had consumed all of my Ucan. I topped off my water and grabbed a couple Honey Stinger Energy chews. The sugar was an instant pick me up and I left the aid station in good spirits, knowing the course was net downhill for the next five or so miles.

Stevens Gulch - 19.85

The first couple of miles are downhill, but technical in spots. I once again focused on my stride and just put it into "cruiser" mode. I passed a couple of runners before another runner whom I'd never met, Eric, came up behind me and started chatting. We chatted a bit and, as a veteran of these trails, I explained to him what we would see the next few miles. Some of this section is really steep downhill and didn't try to play hero, just continuing on in my cruiser mode. Finally, we joined the Colorado Trail and I put in a couple of respectable miles. Eric had long left me, but I was catching up with some other runners.

As I approached aid, a volunteer grabbed my water bottle to fill it and I stopped to chat with Robbie (volunteering at aid). This was where I decided to fully switch to sugar. From the end of loop one, I had been nursing a few Honey Stinger Bites and a bottle of Skratch Labs. But, I was also mixing in some solid food in the form of Hammer Bars. Before leaving, I grabbed more chews and mixed one more bottle of Skratch.

Rampart 2 - 23.45

I ran this next section of trails back in the summer of 2012, and I remembered the uphill coming in the next few miles. I also remembered how hot this section can get. It didn't disappoint in either area. But, this is when my run/hike mix really started to pay dividends as I slowly began to catch and pass runners. The sugar was kicking in and my grade adjusted pace (according to Strava) was in the low 10's. With each passing mile I was feeling stronger. And, each time I passed a runner, I became more motivated. I soon caught Eric again and I slowed to hang and chat with him a bit. He gave me a bit of his ultra background (second 50-miler) and future plans (Big Horn in 2015). After sharing a few war stories of my own, I gently pulled away and he said goodbye and good luck. There were a few downhill sections before aid and I was clipping along nicely. While I don't typically enjoy my Hokas, they were feeling really nice on these downhill dirt road sections as I cruised along.

I continued to feel really strong as I pulled into aid station, and really motivated. I grabbed a couple of Honey Stinger gels and some water before heading out. I knew the remaining miles were mostly uphill, but I didn't realize what a grind it was going to be.

Reservation/Finish - 32.8 miles

The remaining part of the course was the same as the first 9 miles from the morning, so I was somewhat familiar with what was to come. (Though, I was admittedly half awake and courses always look different in reverse.) While the course is mostly up hill, the first three miles after aid are net downhill and I start increasing the pace and effort, catching a few more runners. Much of the course since the last aid station was double track dirt road and quite easy to make up time, but we finally exited the dirt road and rejoined trail. I could see two runners up ahead of me and I decided to slow down a bit and save some energy for the remaining miles. I am glad I did because the climb was longer than I remembered from the morning and I would eventually run out of water. Once going uphill, I shifted to a hard hike. Both runners that were immediately ahead of me were running and walking, but I managed to keep them in my sight without any meaningful running. I slowly gained on them and finally passed when I sensed I was feeling stronger than they were. I must have repeated this at least six times in the four mile climb. Each time I passed a runner, I was sure to run the next few minutes to make sure they didn't try to pass me back.

By mile 29, I was sure we'd start heading downhill soon, but it just didn't come soon enough. I became more and more frustrated with the continuous climbing. I had been pushing hard -- close to half marathon effort -- for the past 10 miles and it was catching up with me. (I wish I had worn my heart rate monitor because I am certain I was in Zone 4 for much of the climbing.) Things got a little hairy when I ran out of water, finishing my last gulp to chase a gel, hoping for one last burst to finish and fighting off some feelings of an ensuing bonk.  Mercifully, we got to the top of the and a course marshal told me to turn left with "1.5 miles downhill to the finish".

Not long after the turn, I came across one last runner that was close enough to pass. He stopped to stretch out a cramping hamstring. As I was running by, I asked how if he was okay. When he looked up, I recognized Coach Greg. He explained that he was struggling and unsure if he'd continue to finish the 50 miler. I was done racing and decided to run and chat the remaining mile plus with him. He congratulated me on a well run race and we both complained that the course was harder than we expected. (I always complain that the course is harder than expected!) With the finish line in sight, I picked up the pace for the final 100 yards, crossing the finish line and hugging SJ. Coach Greg came in right behind me and decided to call it good at 50k, a decision that I think was wise.

All in all, I had a decent race. I was happy that I ran strong the final miles, continuing a theme that worked for me all summer (other than Bear 100). Much of that, I believe, is due to my nutrition plan. I keep my food minimal (100-200 Kcals per hour) and mostly of the fat-burning variety early in races (Ucan, real food, plain water), then switch to sugar products in the second half to get a kick to finish strong. This strategy worked well in all my races except the 100, the one distance that has eluded me. The one downside to this strategy is that I can tell each time that I switch to sugar, my hydration gets out of whack. The sugar leaves me with cotton mouth and thirsty. If I do it for too long, particularly in hot weather, I begin to feel dehydrated. I need to continue to adapt and explore for the 100 mile distance. I think this likely means mixing in some fat products (nuts, oils and butters) and exhibiting more patience in the first half.

I am really happy for Sherpa John. The race went off really well for a first time event. A few of his core principles are not to cater to elites and to encourage runners to help one another; I think he accomplished both. He had quite a few runners -- friends of his -- out there volunteering and supporting him, a testament to the community he has made since arriving in Boulder a few years ago. I am not sure exactly what 2015 has in store for me, but I have a feeling I will run at least one of his events.