Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leadville 2014 / Crewing Chuck Radford

Wow, so much to say...

The first thing that I have to say is congratulations to my friend Chuck Radford. He made his debut at the 100 mile distance and killed it. He finished in 20:46, 17th overall, and 3rd masters. Even more impressive was surrounded by accomplished ultra runners (even some former champions) that finished within an hour of him: Dave Mackey, Liza Howard, Timmy Parr, Duncan Callahan, Bob Africa and more... I know the day did not unfold the way he had visualized in his mind, but keeping that kind of company at Leadville is astounding.

It was a very rewarding experience for me to watch his day and race unfold. People kept asking me how he was doing and I just kept using the word "wrecked" because I didn't know how to describe it any other way. The simple version is that he had a sour stomach and never really could eat, leading to a myriad of other problems like cramping, falling, and a few minutes off his goal. The more complicated version of it is that he now understands the journey that is your first 100 mile race. It starts with a dream to enter into a race like Leadville. Then you train, plan, and obsess for more nearly a year, pouring your attention over and over and over again into every detail. By race day, people can only describe you as nuts. Then the race starts and everything you thought you knew goes out the window. You are standing on Hope Pass hemorrhaging time and wondering if you are ever going to finish the race. After you survive Hope Pass, the Colorado Trail climb kicks you in the teeth. Once you recover from that, you are on Powerline. You stagger home exhausted and just glad to be done.

After the race ends, the only word to describe how you feel is overwhelmed. You are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Everything you worked for has come to fruition, but somehow it doesn't feel at all like you expected. 100 miles is way more than a race and you have to witness it firsthand to understand. In a twisted way, the pain and the suffering are your reward for your year long dream. There are no words to make someone understand. Seeing it from outside the ropes reinforced everything in my mind. I remember all the compliments my pacers and crew gave me and now I understand. Watching someone struggle like that an push on is beyond inspiration.

The other thing that I have to say is that Leadville had a great day! They deserved it after taking so much criticism last year. To have three runners the caliber of Sharman, Aish, and Krar (not to mention all the other great athletes and former champions) in the field was a treat to watch. I have met Mike Aish several times and think the world of the guy. He is very entertaining and genuine and just plain fun to root for. To be honest, I wasn't sure he'd ever figure out the 100 mile distance. And, when I saw him pull into Winfield (and later Twin Lakes) looking labored, I thought he'd blown it again. But he put on the greatest finish in the history of that race (sub 1:50 over the final 13 miles) to close out a 2 hour PR and 2nd place. At one point, he and Ian Sharman were separated by 30 secs with just a few miles to go! What a battle and congratulations to them both.

Watching Rob Krar was just plain impressive. I don't really know how else to say it. He was all business and didn't even seem to break stride all day. He went off course for a little more than a mile and still ran the 2nd fastest time in the history of this iconic race. He looked like a machine with his precision execution.

Rob Krar getting iced down and drinking some kind of nutrition fluid at Winfield
I think my lone complaint about the race was sheer number of changes they made in response to last year. I know they took a ton of heat and had to respond accordingly, but Twin Lakes and Winfield are impossible and now overcome with so many rules that the crew chief's head will spin. Crewing for a front runner like Chuck made it easy, but I really felt for mid and back of the pack runner crews. You almost have to choose between Winfield and Twin. It is complicated and I don't have all the answers, but it is a very frustrating situation. I think maybe they should go back to the 2012 course and just let crews all the way into Winfield or just close it entirely. If I run Leadville again, I will strongly consider skipping Winfield for both pacing and crewing.

One other thing that I find a bit annoying is their propensity to announce course changes so close to the race. In 2012, they added 3 miles to the race and no one knew until the week of the race. It cost me 45 minutes on my finish time. I think that is a detail that should be communicated sooner. This year they announced a change allowing runners to run through the field near Outward Bound instead of going onto the road. And, while I am sure most runners would prefer that, it was an unknown. No one has trained on the field and it wasn't exactly a designated trail for runners. In fact, Chuck expressed concern to me about the number of post-holes in the field, causing him to fall at least once. I imagine that wasn't a ton of fun in the middle of the night.

One last topic, a personal one about me, my upcoming 100 and potential future 100s. I don't think it is any secret to those around me that I have had a tough time embracing running another 100. Leadville in 2012 just took so much out of me. As I mentioned earlier, it is really an experience of just emptying one's self and laying everything bare. I've been worried all summer about running Bear 100 because most DNFs start with a runner that doesn't believe or doesn't want to be there. If you are not steadfast with belief and desire to be there, you'll crack. Guaranteed.

I think this YouTube video sums up how I feel about it after watching Chuck yesterday -- "there's some stuff in the basement."

I think perhaps I am not psyched about running another 100 because I know how hard I worked in 2012, and, yet, I know there is another level in me. My belt buckle was nowhere to be seen this weekend because I am not satisfied with a sub-30 finish. That DOES NOT mean I am ashamed of it. I worked hard for it and am damn proud. I executed almost flawlessly that day, but I never really put myself out there enough to know if sub-25 was realistic. That said, I know I can run 100 miles and get the "big buckle". I just have to prepare myself to suffer that much again. It is frightening thought. But, perhaps a new spark has been lit.... Perhaps returning to Leadville for this year's race allowed me to finally move on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leadville 100 Crew and Pacing Duty

I was introduced to "advanced" running and training by my son's soccer coach (and now good friend), Jon Ahern. And later I was introduced to trail and ultra running on something of a dare from my neighbor (and now good friend), Tony Oakes. I guess you could say that is my running tree. I have picked up a lot along the way and made it my own, but those two guys have a lot to do with shaping me as a runner. In that time, I have transformed from a 4:18 "newbie" marathoner to running a 3:13 at the Colorado Marathon and becoming a 50-mile and 100-mile finisher. This weekend, I get to watch as a runner that I have mentored, Chuck Radford, takes on the Leadville 100.

Chuck and I have been co-workers for nearly a decade, but we didn't become good friends until he had a renewed interest in running, in part from watching me grow as a runner. He is without a doubt the most talented runner in our group, but he is also very humble and just wants to be one of the guys. Two things really impress me about Chuck. The first is that he doesn't want to be congratulated for his impressive natural talent, instead wishing to be acknowledged for the hard work, discipline, and patience he puts into training. Many runners wish to be applauded nearly every day for their speed and talent by showing off on impressive training runs and putting up big stats. But, the real reward in running is the hard fought training cycle culminating into a race effort. It is a giant sacrifice to trade weeks and months of training for one shot at a race. When it goes your way, you get about a week of feeling great about yourself. When it doesn't go your way, you feel like crap and often enter into a "revenge" race to somehow make up for the lost effort (which rarely ever works out!). Chuck understands that discipline, hard work, and patience matter more than flashy stats, even though he could go out and execute a run that would blow away 99.9% of humans on any given day.

The other thing that impresses me about Chuck is his toughness. He executes hard runs like no one else that I've witnessed. When it's time to go hard, he goes HARD. And his race efforts almost never disappoint because he can go to places in his mind (the "pain cave") most people don't want to enter. Jon and I are both data geeks and obsess about heart rate data all the time. We've done our best to quantify Chuck, but sometimes all we can do is marvel at his efforts. I have been privileged to see Chuck run to a 2nd place finish at the Colorado Marathon and watch him take on his first 50 miler, where he ignored my advice to go easy and went on to finish in 6th place. (He also went out faster than anticipated at Colorado Marathon in route to his impressive finish.) Oh, and he set the course record at the North Fork 50k this Summer. Like I said, he is a great racer and very hard to quantify.

So, back on point... This week it is my honor to crew and pace for Chuck. I have done unofficial crew duty for a group of buddies doing their first 50 miler last summer, but crewing for a 100 is the big time! And, this will be my first pacing experience. I have my work cut out for me trying to stay with him on Hope Pass, but I secretly hope he is feeling good enough that late in the race to drop me. That would mean his race is going well, even if a little embarrassing for me.

I am excited to be present and vested in the challenge of LT100 without having to run it myself. I understand the emotions and feelings that go along with running a 100, particularly one's first. And I know how hard he has worked to build toward this day. It will be a great joy to watch his year long dream play out. A joy that I hope motivates me some for my remaining weeks of training for the Bear 100. Being a rookie crew member, I am nervous about what the day holds. Leadville came under fire last year for poor race logistics. In response, they have made quite a few changes this year, particularly to the two most important aid stations: Twin Lakes and Hope Pass. Since it is the first year of these changes, I don't know what to expect. Chuck will likely be in the top 20 runners most of the day, so I hope that allows the crew to stay out front of the mess. Maybe...

I expect Chuck will have a terrific race. He has done nearly everything right along the way. And, his pattern of success is just too impressive to ignore. However, I also think Chuck will find the race less interesting than the journey. Running 100 miles changes a person. I have not done anything in racing like it. Personally, I didn't have any tragic or transcending moments like you often read about. It was just a long, grueling day filled with fortitude, eating (lots of eating!), gratefulness (for all the friends and family that helped me), and pain (near the end). I vividly remember my sister crying when I came into the mile 87 aid station (May Queen) ahead of pace. I had fallen off of pace and they were worried about me, but Jon and I worked hard over the Powerline climb to get back on pace. And, it was the moment when we all realized that this was actually going to happen -- I was going to finish! That was the only moment I recall being emotional. The other impactful memory is how much my daughter got into the whole experience, including wanting to wake a 2 am to watch me start. Running is a selfish sport, but it means the world to me to have my kids see me still taking on challenges and fulfilling my dreams at almost 40 years of age. And, the fact that they enjoy being a part of it is priceless.

At the finish, all I felt was exhaustion. I tried to sneak into a medical tent and steal a nap in a sleeping bag. They caught on and sent me away. And pain. I wanted a doctor to make the pain go away, desperately hoping something was actually wrong with me as I stared at my feet that had swollen like balloons. He concluded that I would live, saying "yep, you just ran 100 miles". Once again, I was sent away. And hunger. I ate the most enjoyable breakfast burrito of my life that morning and I don't even know if it was that good!

The odd thing is that I didn't feel like going out and doing it again right away. Racing has a way of bring a joy to us that becomes addicting. Run a good marathon? Do another one! But not this distance. My sense of accomplishment was full. I nailed it on my first try. I respect the distance and the toll it takes on the body, the mind, and "life". Ken Chlouber, founder of the LT100, is famous for lots of quotes. One of my favorites is: "The biggest distance to conquer in this race is 5 inches... The 5 inches between your ears." And he is right. Finishing isn't that hard if your mind is prepared to battle anything that comes in your way, expecting the unexpected. But if you have any weakness, this distance, this race will find it. Finishing a 100 makes you appreciate just how true those words are, just how mentally tough you are.

"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious." - Vince Lombardi

All that to say that I know Chuck is ready. His mind is right. That moment when I get to see him cross that finish line totally exhausted and totally fulfilled is going to be a great treat. And, I get to spend a day with good friends and family helping to be part of his journey.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 8/4 - 8/10

Another week in the books. The aggregate stats are pretty much a normal week, but somehow it felt like much more. I had a great day in the mountains on Saturday hitting four 14ers. It wasn't an epic day other than the fact that it is just a rare treat for me to get up that high (nine total 14ers climbed now). But, it was 4+ hours on my feet, 3500 feet of vert and a boat load of time up high. And, of course, it is always special to spend a day with my son, doing anything.

From the false summit on Democrat. I never get sick of the views up this high!

Looking up the final pitch to summit Democrat

Dylan is a natural! He has climbed four 14ers and he's only 9. He needs trail shoes though!

Looking North over the ridge between Democrat and Cameron.  Amazing.

Same view over the ridge.

One more for good measure!

From Mt Cameron looking straight ahead at Mt Lincoln.

The summit of Mt Lincoln.  I was the only one on the summit without a Jacket!

The steep, loose descent down from Mt Bross. I "surfed" this descent for the most part.

Another view of the descent.

I followed it up with a solid, but once again unspectacular, run on Sunday. Twenty-one easy trail miles with a few hill repeats. Changing my current trend, I took no food on this run and just got by on fluids for 3+ hours. The sum total was an 11 hour week, so I am happy with that. Next week will once again be tough because I am pacing and crewing my buddy Chuck at the Leadville 100. After that, things turn somewhat normal and I hope to find a nice final block of training before I put a wrap on this cycle.

On a positive note, things have been somewhat crazy the past few weeks, but I have managed a block of 215 miles and 39K of vert the past 4 weeks. The mileage is low, but the vert is high. I sort of expected that is how it would workout as I switched to Bear 100 training. If I can squeeze it in, I may try to bag another trip up Hope Pass this weekend.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday OffRest
Strength Training
Wednesday9 Easy w/ Progression
Thursday6Easy w/ Strides
Friday9 Easy
Strength Training
Saturday 8Democrat + Cameron + Lincoln + Bross
Sunday 21Bluffs + Open Space + Coyote Ridge
Total 51About 7,700 feet of vert

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Power of Four 50k - Race Report

I was not going to do a race report because I did not really think I'd be racing this. It was supposed to be a training run. However, the more I got to thinking about it, it is a new-ish race and there isn't a ton of information available and perhaps someone could benefit from the things I learned.

A few random notes that I'd like to mention up front:

  • There is a cash prize for this event. The top 3 men and women each get some cash. Of course, this makes for a somewhat lopsided field as you get the elites that want a chance for cash with the remainder of the field being generally more of the mid-pack variety. 
  • The race is pretty darn new, 2014 being the 2nd year. I felt like the majority of things went pretty well for them and it is a solid event. But, there are a few things I will knit-pick about in this report.
  • I have to be honest and say that I wasn't quite "into" this event. It was supposed to be a training run, but of course I showed up wanting to give more effort than that. I was sort of caught in between those mindsets as I raced. Onto the report...
I never intended to run this race or any other races between North Fork 50 (my "A" race for the year) and Bear 100 in September. However, a link popped up on Facebook advertising this event and I decided a weekend in Aspen and "nearly 10k" of climbing would be a good way to prepare for Bear 100. As it turned out, July was an insanely busy month and I have been commuting to the mountains nearly every weekend and am just sort of burnt out, feeling like a weekend on the couch was a better plan! Then, we learned Friday night that I screwed up and booked the hotel room for Sunday night, not Saturday. Ugh, off to a poor start. So we had to scramble to find a room for Saturday night early Saturday morning and then head off for the 4+ hour drive to Aspen.

When we arrived in Aspen, I noticed right away that it was hot! Yeah it was only about 80 degrees, but above 8,000 feet that feels pretty warm. Plus, it is has been a cool summer and had been a cool, rainy week. We picked up my race stuff at Aspen Mountain and watched about 5 minutes of the bike race before heading to our hotel in Snowmass. One thing we did right in this adventure was get a hotel in Snowmass (the end of the race) instead of Aspen (the start of the race). We had to drive 20 or so minutes race morning, but it was nice to be two minutes from our hotel when the race ended. We spent the remainder of the day hanging out in Snowmass Village and swimming in our hotel pool. I was really dreading the race all afternoon, just not able to get my head in the game sort of thing. It is a real bummer to be such a beautiful place with your family and dreading a race the next morning. Fortunately, we had a ton of fun, even playing a few games of foosball in the village.

Race morning the alarm went off at 4:45 and I got myself together and headed to the start line...

A profile of the course elevation

Start to top of Aspen Mountain (5.2 miles)

I have been a part of a few small races, but this one was pretty darn low key! All the runners showed up at the Aspen Mountain Gondola and the race organizers provided a few words before firing off a gun and sending us straight up the heart of Aspen Mountain. The first 5 miles are a 3500 foot climb, averaging close to 13% grade. I am not a good enough runner to run much of that grade in such a long race (6+ hours). The pace was somewhat frantic to start as people jockeyed for position and those going for cash pushed themselves out front. As a result, I definitely hit the first mile too hard. Things finally calmed down a bit the second mile and I got into a 90% hike and 10% run mode and just grinded my way to the top, reaching the summit in roughly 1:21. I was actually pretty happy with that split considering it normally takes me 1:40+ to summit similar climbs (like Hope Pass from the north). At the top was a pretty simple aid station where I got some water and moved right along.

Nutrition note: My general nutrition plan this summer has been a bit of "real food", usually Hammer or Lara bars, every 30 minutes with a goal of eating an entire bar per hour. Then I supplement with some Skratch Labs (about 40 kcals per hour) until it gets hot. Once it is hot, or late in the race, I switch to pure water and gels. I executed this plan pretty much to perfection and ate 4 bars, 3 gels, and 3 packets of Skratch for a total of 1400 Kcals on the day. The one problem is that is only about 5 hours worth of food. More on that part later....

Aspen Mountain to Midnight Mine/Castle Creek Road (10.3 miles)

After summiting you go straight down, giving back nearly all that vertical in the space of five miles. It is an average of about 500 feet per mile down. The good news (for me) is that it is all jeep/service road and quite runnable. I averaged 7:30 miles all the way down without much trouble. Of course, my quads took a pounding, but I didn't feel challenged aerobically and I continued to eat and finally got somewhat into the race.

Midnight Mine/Castle Creek Road to Tiehack Parking Lot (mile 15.5?)

This is where I started to get a bit frustrated with the race: nothing big, just a few small details that make a big deal to me. First of all, at this point I knew the vertical was going to be off. It was supposed to be 3900 feet and I was not quite at 3500 feet at this point. Not a huge deal, but since I signed up to get vertical, I wanted every foot. Next, I asked the aid station volunteers where the next aid station was to be sure I carried enough fuel. There was a little confusion and they gave me some bad information. Once again, this didn't cause me any issues or alter my race, but it was just kind of annoying.

I left the intersection of Midnight Mine and Castle Creek and start heading straight up hill. This climb was tough, like backside of Hope Pass tough. One mile is over one thousand feet of vertical gain (more than 20% grade) and I was grinding to just keep moving forward. And I was sweating like crazy! The trail was a mix of actual trail and some overgrown trail made from bushwhacking. All of it was in the morning sun, making it quite humid as the day warmed up. I measured my progress by vertical gain, just wanting that number to climb higher and higher, both for the training effect and the knowledge that there would be less work to do later. I was a bit surprised when I hit the 12 mile mark and popped out on another service road. This was the end of the climb! Only 1.7 miles? Hmm. To my left was a giant jug of water just sitting by the side of the road -- a make shift aid station. The race directions say the next aid station is at mile 15.5 and I had only consumed about half of one water bottle since the last aid station, so I passed on the fluids and started downhill.

Once again the downhill is mostly jeep/service road and I was pounding my quads at sub-8:00 pace. I was well behind vertical and starting to realize that I am either going to come up short of the 9+ I was hoping for or that I have some brutal miles left somewhere. While I continued to pound down at a reasonable pace, I began to notice that every uphill is annoying and I was just generally lethargic. My nutrition was going fine, but I would likely be out of fuel by hour five. As I approached 16 miles, I was in a neighborhood and running along, sort of just searching the for the next aid station. Finally, I crossed a large bridge over Maroon Creek and hit the Tiehack Parking lot at mile 17, not 15.5. Fortunately I never ran out of water or fuel. In fact, other than water, I used only my own supplies that I carried with me all day. But, missing an aid station distance by 1.5 miles always messes with my mind. How long is the course? A true 50k? Am I going to have enough fuel and water to the next aid station?

My shoes (Altra Olympus) were brand new and a half size larger than previously purchased so my feet were sliding all around on the steep descents. At the parking lot, I took off my shoes to empty out rocks and cinched them down tight to avoid further slipping, worried I might get some of my dreaded friction blisters. As I was filling up on water and chatting with other runners and aid station volunteers, I heard another racer organizer giving instructions to the "Rec" (14 mile/22k) racers. I managed to time it perfectly so they are going off at the same time I start climbing again. Blah.

Tiehack Parking Lot to Elk Camp Restaurant (mile 23)

Leaving Tiehack there is a bit of exposed service-road climb as the trail starts heading up Buttermilk Mountain. I remembered specifically the instructions at the beginning of the race and the organizer saying that "100% of the second half of the course is single track". (This turned out to be not entirely accurate, but was still something to look forward to.) Before long we were on the Government Trail toward Snowmass. And this trail was as advertised! Lots of beautiful wild flowers, Aspen trees, and sections of technical trail. It was very much what you'd expect running in the mountains of Colorado. I sensed -- and vaguely remembered from the course website -- that this section was a smaller climb and was going to be more of the grind walk/run mix variety. The trouble was that I just didn't have a ton of desire to run the portions I could. And, unlike the previous sections, the downhill was technical single track, so I wasn't flying like earlier in the day. A few miles in I came across another unmanned aid station (a water jug) and, smartly, topped off my water bottles.

About that same time, two women from the "Rec" race passed me and they worked together with another woman I had seen earlier, who was doing the 50k course. Again, without much fight, I watched as they continued to work together and remain a hundred yards or so ahead of me. Finally, the two women doing the shorter races pulled away and the 50k runner sort of drifted back to me. (She wound up 3rd woman overall and earned some cash!) I pulled up behind and she asked if I wanted to pass, but I didn't sense that I was much stronger than her at the moment and declined. I just wanted to grind to mile 23 so I could see my family, head downhill and end this thing. I continued to stare/obsess over my Garmin watching the miles slowly tick away and hoping the vertical would start to accumulate faster.

After it became clear neither of us was in the mood to pull away, the woman (Kylie) and I started chatting. She is doing the Pikes Peak Double (Ascent and Marathon) in a few weeks and lives in Snowmass, so she figured this was a good warm-up event. As we got near the 23 mile mark on my Garmin, she asked what our distance was and I mentioned that the aid station should be coming soon. She agreed. Instead, we started subtly climbing and the miles kept ticking away. Soon we were on some service road and just kind of zig-zagging our way toward Elk Camp. We could see Elk Camp and just kept turning in all kinds of different directions on fully exposed trail, with people all around us hiking and biking. I mentioned to Kylie that this must be the highest point for the remainder of the race and she said she thought we went all the way to the top of the mountain (probably another 1K). This news disappointed me because I was spent and just want to be done. But, it also encouraged me because it is obviously the only way we are getting to 9k of vertical on the day. And, it confused me because the course directions that I read online very clearly described us running across, not up the mountain. In addition to Kylie, a gentleman at the bike shop in town had mentioned he also thought the race went all the way to the top. I didn't know what to believe. How long is this race? Will I go uphill or down? When will I actually see aid?

Finally, approaching mile 25 and I saw my family. They had taken the Gondola from Snowmass Village and were hanging out at "mid mountain" doing various activities as they waited to see me. The good news was that they were having fun. The bad news was that I was not. I was hungry, hot, and generally grumpy. I felt bad about not being more enthusiastic to see them. This had to be among the lower moments they have seen me have in an ultra. My wife had me reapply sunscreen and gave me a quick update on what they were doing while waiting for me. I headed over to the aid station and was once again disappointed. My main gripe is that they clearly advertised in the race directions that each aid station would have Redbull. And boy was I hoping to have a giant chug of Redbull at this aid station. In fact, it kept me going the last couple of miles. I just needed the calories and the jolt to snap me out of my funk. Worse, I had my own energy drink that I didn't request they bring because I figured there would be some available.

Elk Camp Restaurant to Finish (mile 31)

As I said good bye to my family, Kylie had already left and put a few hundred yard gap on me, but I didn't care at all. I was ready to just grind out the final few miles and be done. Fortunately, the race directions on the website were correct and the course starts cutting across, not up, the mountain. Similar to miles 18-22, this is mostly runnable with a mix of uphill and downhill. But, I just didn't have the energy. I was out of food and nothing at the aid station appealed to me. (They offered Cliff products which have never sat well with me.) I just trotted along and worked through my mini-bonk and kept waiting for the final descent to come. At one point, I saw a few runners behind me and I gave a little effort, ensuring I didn't get passed the final miles. And, I slogged out a few short, steep uphills. Finally, mercifully, the final descent becomes official at mile 29. I began running at a comfortably hard pace. No one was close enough for me to want to catch and no one was close enough to worry about being caught. I passed one gentleman with less than a mile to go hunched over on the side of the trail and obviously wrecked. He said he was alright and would make it to the finish, so I continued down the hill to the finish. I finished in 6:32, 20th male, 23rd overall.

One of the really cool things about the race is that it includes a voucher for a free meal (and a beer!) from the Base Camp Bar and Grill right in Snowmass. We had eaten there the night before and I was a big fan of the food. I enjoyed my beer and burger before heading back to our hotel. While I was eating, my wife checked into our second hotel, the one I accidentally booked for Sunday night. Since we paid for it, we decided to check in, use the pool, shower, nap, and wait out traffic before heading home. Honestly, it turned out pretty incredible! I managed a little PT in the hot tub before taking a 45 minute nap. We didn't leave until 6 pm and had no traffic on the way home. Plus, my kids got to spend another few hours swimming. And all kids love swimming when you are in a hotel, right?

I know I was pretty critical of the race. Some of the things I said are just born out of frustration from having a ho-hum day and not really being "into" the race. It is not entirely unusual for ultra distance events to be marginally off in mileages. That is part of the reason I wrote this report -- so others can learn from my experience and be prepared. I did get the impression that perhaps this started as a biking event and has been adapted to be a running event. Perhaps that is why there is some small confusion about the course and aid station locations? The shirts they gave away are very nice, one of the nicest of all the races I have done. And the free meal to Base Camp Bar and Grill was a great treat, not your typical end-of-race-Costco-patty-BBQ. The bartender was nice enough to sub out my Bud Light (included with the meal) for an Aspen IPA and he is now my favorite person in Snowmass.

If I had one real complaint, it is the aid stations. I know the race is only a 50k, but for us mid-pack folks on such a tough course, that is at least 6+ hours. I'd like to see some more real food at the aid stations -- fruit, PB&J maybe, something. Even if it was only offered at the mile 25 aid station, that would be an improvement. And don't ever tell me there is Redbull if you don't have it because I am a junkie for it during ultras!

In terms of training effect, I think I got what I wanted out of this. Obviously, I won't cover 9K of vert in the first 6 hours at Bear. The pace will be much more relaxed. One thing I have been noticing all summer is that I am a good climber below 11k in elevation. My splits at this race suggested as much. The good news is that Bear 100 peaks (8800 feet or so) close to my starting altitude for this weekend (8000 feet), so I expect that will help me keep it easy as well. Onto recovery so I can log a few more good weeks of training!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 7/28 - 8/3

Oh, what to say this week.... First thing is that I am so very thankful that my wife and kids like to travel with me and support me. It has been quite a year! (And it is not over.) I have raced five times already and have two races remaining (one is questionable). The long weekends and recovery periods are starting to make me wonder if I am over racing a bit. I guess time will tell....

This weekend was the Power of Four 50K in Aspen, CO. Being a high altitude, big vertical race, it isn't exactly in my wheelhouse. But, I signed up knowing that I need to accumulate as much vertical gain as I can in August to prepare for The Bear. They advertise the race as being "almost 10K" of vertical gain, but I tracked it closer to 8500 feet. Either way, it was enough to tax my quads and my glutes and help me get prepared. The first climb was a nice Bear simulation with almost 4K of vertical, very similar to the first climb at Bear 100. I split that first 10 miles in 2 hours, or about half an hour faster than I hope to in September. The second climb was steep (more than 1K of vert in a mile, or about 20% grade) and fairly hot, but it was short. And the final climb was just a long grinder that lasted nearly 8 miles with only a little relief. The bonus of the last climb was the beautiful single track trail. Overall I am happy with a 6:32 finish and feel like that was within 15-20 mins of my current potential.

My family got to take the Gondola from Snowmass Village to Elk Camp and play while they waited for me to come in. They did a rock climbing wall and several other games before they witnessed my suffering. Hanging out in these ski towns is a ton of fun during the summer. Too bad I was here to race!

I am satisfied with where my training is right now. However, I am feeling a bit exhausted and somewhat unmotivated from a busy, long summer. My kids start school next week and the addition of a routine to daily life should help things settle in a bit. My goal right now is to keep grinding but do my best to make training fun and enjoyable. I am in the "no man's land" portion of training and need to get a little closer to the race before I really get excited about the task in front of me.

Walking into the mile 25 aid station, hot and grumpy!

At the finish, just relieved to be done.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 9Easy
Strength Training
Wednesday6 McMillan - "The Pyramid"
TM Hill workout
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 6Easy/GA
Sunday 31Power of Four 50k
Total 61About 10,900 feet of vert

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 7/21 - 7/27

Two weeks in a row of writing a training wrap... I must be training again?! Summer has just been nuts and time is flying by. This weekend we were up in Vail to do some rafting and watch my son play in a soccer tournament. Another four days of fun in the sun and I am exhausted! But, I found a way to squeeze in a nice mountain run on the Two Elk Trail in Vail (almost 5K of vertical in 19+ miles). That makes my second week in a row of a big mountain run to cap my week, so I feel good about that.  This week I am doing the Power of Four 50K trail race in Aspen. Almost 10k of vertical gain in 31 miles -- another BIG mountain run, which is good since that is what I am training for. With that race coming, I will be doing mostly easy running once again this week. Though I am starting to try and keep some structure (sprints and strides) in my daily routine. And, I am trying to do strength training at least once a week.

Looking back from near the Two Elk Summit

Great view of the Aspen Trees and some wild flowers

One of the two back country ski lifts I came across
Overall, July was somewhat off a cut-back month. (Do those even exist?!) I was down about 30% from my average of 250 miles the past three months and quite a bit less vertical (25K versus a three month average of 30K). But, as I suggested last week, I was prepared for that. Overall I made the most of the time I had available to me for the month and feel prepared to attack what I hope will be a big month in August.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 9Open Space
Strength Training
Wednesday6 Easy w/ Hill Sprints
Thursday9Open Space
Friday19 Two Elk Trail
Saturday 8Boneyard Trail
Sunday OffRest
Total 50About 7,900 feet of vert

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 7/14 - 7/20

Hard to describe training lately, which is why I have not written a post in a few weeks. The week after North Fork was always supposed to be a recovery week and a time to enjoy with my family on vacation. However, somewhere along the line I developed a few injuries in my right leg of the nagging variety. Most of them were present before North Fork and none of them bothered me during the race. But we did a ton of walking on vacation (probably 4-6 miles per day) and my right shin and knee really started to bug me. So, I backed off for an additional week in hopes of being prepared for training the end of July, namely on our training camp trip to Leadville. I logged a few miles early this week and then took a few days to rest before we headed up on Friday.

After arriving in Leadville early on Friday, we made a quick call to attempt an afternoon ascent of Mt Massive. We were within a hundred yards of the summit and turned back due to a storm coming right at us. We couldn't see the storm -- until we were near the summit -- because it was on the other side of the mountain. We quickly descended down, but it was too late as the storm was coming fast. Incredibly, it went right around us. We had a nice evening and camped out along Halfmoon creek and got up early do a double crossing of Hope Pass. Chuck wasn't feeling well and we got caught in another rain storm -- this time we hunkered down at treeline to avoid heavy rain, hail, and lightning. And, Tony lost his car keys on the mountain so we had to spend some time getting that situated. It was a long, long day. We got exactly what we wanted out of it, and may have even been slightly faster than I expected, but it was a draining day. We wound up breaking camp Saturday night and heading home, where I did an easy recovery day Sunday.

Early on the North side of Hope Pass, fresh and happy

The view from the summit is always worth seeing

Stumbling up the back after the rain

Arm warmers and cold hands

The sum total of it all was a decent week training. The significant uphill stuff isn't so bad, but I am way out of my grove right now in traditional flat, easy running. That is when my nagging injuries bug me the most and my base fitness feels terrible. I the latter is just my body adjusting to a swift arrival of summer. I hope. Even morning runs are warm and heart rate control is a real struggle. Fortunately, I knew that July was packed with family events and I always expected it to be a struggle to train. That said, it sure hasn't made it an easier to deal with the reality that I have a 100-miler in 2 months and feel off kilter right now. I will be in the mountains for a soccer tournament with my son this weekend, so it could be another up and down training week. After that, the calendar clears up as the kids start preparing for school!

Day Miles Notes
Monday 9Open Space
Strength Training
Tuesday 6Easy
WednesdayOff Rest
ThursdayOffStrength Training
Friday13 Mt Massive
Saturday 19Hope Pass Dbl Cross
Sunday 6Easy
Total 52About 12,500 feet of vert