Monday, September 29, 2014

Bear 100 - Race Report

"When you are out there, it really seems like agony sometimes and you wish you were elsewhere. But the second it was over, you realize it was a fine place to be at that time. Life isn't about normal moments. Its about special ones. And every August I get one of those burnt into my brain forever." - Brandon Fuller

As I sit down to write this, I have no idea where it will go. Therefore, I will give you an easy out and give you the short version up front. My current running goal is to finish a 100 miler in 24 hours. I went after a 24 hour finish in a difficult race under impossible weather conditions. I got a little greedy too early and started suffering around mile 70, mostly just overheated. Then horrendously bad weather came at mile 75 and I shut down. I wanted to quit several times but my pacer, Chuck, and my sister would not allow it. I finished and I am proud of it. Brandon's quote above summarized it better than I ever could.

Now, the long version. If you choose to continue, I recommend coffee...

I signed up for Bear 100 back in February, long before I knew if I was healed enough from surgery to actually run again. My goal was to finish and get another ticket for the WS100 lottery. I picked Bear 100 mostly because WS100 now forces you to run a 100 to qualify and because my buddies Steve and Tony wanted to do it. As the summer progressed, my training was coming along and I smashed a 50 mile race in June. My new diet and other factors had me considering bigger goals than just finishing. I believed (and still do) that I am capable of 24 hours at Bear 100, but things would have to go perfectly for me. I went to Utah full of confidence and hoping for a great day.

Race morning we woke at 3:15 and left at 4:30 to drive down the canyon to the race start. Watching the weather all week, we figured it was going to be a warm day. At the pre-race meeting, they announced it would be at least 12 degrees hotter than normal on race day, between 85 and 87 degrees. I dressed properly in only a sleeveless shirt and shorts. Inside, I knew this could have a huge impact on my race. I hadn't trained for any heat since June, figuring this race would be closer to 65 or 70 degrees -- it SNOWED last year! For those that know me, snow would have been way better than 85 degrees. At the pre-race meeting, they also started talking about "possible showers" beginning at about 3 am. We just blew that off and figured some light rain would cool us off.

The three runners at the pre race meeting

Logan Peak - 10.52

I made a last minute decision not to wear a headlamp at the start at 6 am. Sun up was expected to be a little after 7 am and I wouldn't see my crew for about 4 hours, meaning I'd have to carry it for 3-hours for no reason. Tony and I started the race just easing along and chatting. He was probably going a bit faster than expected and I was going a bit slower than 24-hour pace, but I didn't really have a choice with no light. Plus, it was 68 degrees at race start, according to my Garmin. Tony and I ran across another Colorado runner named Ben and chatted with him a bit. I could see he was sweating quite a bit already (and so was I). He commented that there would be lots of "overheated radiators today". That was quite the prophetic statement.

As expected, the course started climbing right away. The good news was that we knew it was coming. Even better, I could breath! I am so used to running these big climbs at altitude and sucking wind. It was a nice change to be pushing up a mountain at sub-20 pace and have it actually feel easy. The other thing that was expected was the amazing beauty of the colors. I cannot even describe how pretty it was, overwhelming almost. Tony and I cruised into the first aid station in about 2:50, or 20 mins behind 24-hour splits. I was fine with that because my first objective for the day was not to let this first climb ruin my race.

Tony, Steve and I at the start

One of many amazing views from the day.

A little bit of downhill in a section marked primarily with uphill.



Leatham Hollow - 19.66

There is just a little climbing left after Logan Peak. The ensuing downhill was incredibly beautiful and very runnable grade. I cruised along at an easy jog to keep from tripping on tree roots hidden in the leafs and to try and save my quads for later in the day. But, I could hear runners behind me still jockeying for position and impatient with my methodical approach to the descent, eventually moving over so they could go by. I came into Leatham Hollow about 30 mins behind 24-hour pace and 15 mins behind 28-hour pace. I guess that is why people were so hurried.

Up to this point, I was doing a good job of eating Hammer Bars -- 3 in these first two sections -- and nursing a multi-hour bottle of Ucan. My stomach was sending me signals that I was overdoing it -- cramps and some burping. Too much fluid and too much food. As I pulled into aid, I tossed Chuck my multi-hour Ucan bottle with instructions to keep it. I was abandoning the Ucan plan, for now. I switched to Skratch and Hammer Bars since that combo worked well for me at North Fork in June. My crew worked diligently to fill my bottles, apply sun screen, and get me back on the trail.

Running through the leafs

One challenge was the amount of trail covered in leafs

Coming into Leatham Hollow
Telling Chuck my demands... "No more Ucan!"



Richards Hollow - 22.50

After a rather quick stop at Leatham Hollow, I was out with Tony again. This time, Tony explained that he was going to slow it down and let me go ahead. This presented me with a great opportunity to put in my iPod and click off some miles before Robbie would join me in 4 hours. I always do my best work with an iPod in. Saying goodbye to Tony, I settled into my tunes and just ran. The trail turned into a long, runnable stretch of jeep road and I took advantage by doing a slow jog with a few walk breaks. At the Richards Hollow Aid, I over heard several runners commenting on the heat and how the next section was going to be exposed. The battle was now upon us.

Cowley Canyon - 29.98

Immediately upon leaving Richards Hollow, the trail turned into a climb and I began a comfortable hike, mostly passing people along the way. Many of the people I passed were those that were impatient with my downhill running before Leatham Hollow. The climb went on for a long time and it was becoming hot. Every chance I got, I would dip my hat in water and drench my shirt. In fact, I continued to do so until both my shirt and shorts were soaked. With my body cool, I pushed the 2,000 foot climb and began passing a dozen or so runners, moving up nearly 30 spots in the race in two aid stations. The final few miles are a dirt road descent into Cowley Canyon and I once again ran pretty conservatively, keeping with my regimen of Hammer Bars and Skratch Labs.

I was surprised to see Robbie greet me a quarter mile from the aid station, expecting to not see my crew until Right Hand Fork. They made a last minute decision to meet me here. It was good to see them and get my bottles refilled with ice cold water. And, I got updates on Tony and Steve, a theme that would continue the entire day. Getting updates every 4 hours from crew was more reliable than "live tracking".

Coming into Cowley where Robbie and crew met me

Zoned out and working
Brother and sister working together


Right Hand Fork - 36.92

The entire Bear 100 course goes like this, aid station, climb, downhill, aid station. This pattern is almost without fail. The climb out of Cowley was a jeep road, totally exposed in the heat of the day. The field was beginning to spread out and I was running alone more and more. I once again began to grind out the climb before a long, steady descent into Right Hand Fork. About a quarter mile shy of the aid station is a confusing junction. The course goes down to the aid station and then doubles back in a mini-out-and-back segment before heading up to Temple Fork. One of the runners tried to convince me to go immediately up toward Temple Fork before going down to Right Hand Fork. However, I intuitively guessed the aid station must be down because I knew we were close and it didn't make sense to start climbing at this point. Finally, a runner that knew the course came by and solved the tie, I was right, downhill. 

Arriving at Right Hand Fork, I was greeted by my crew again, now a full hour off 24-hour splits. The effects of the heat were on full display and runners all around me were suffering. I was moving up in the race by continuing to pour water on myself. At the aid station, I gulped down a Red Bull and and picked up some gels. My sister lathered me in sun screen and I took off with my first pacer, Robbie.

A quick note: I am incredibly grateful for the support of my family and friends in these endeavors. For my sister to take 3 days away from her busy life to come support me is beyond words. I cannot thank her enough. I had to send my daughter to school in tears on Wednesday because she wanted to come so badly. And, I had two pacers come all the way to Utah to join me. Wow.

Temple Fork - 45.15

Robbie and I left the aid and I took a few minutes to catch him up on what was going on in the race. We once again passed the confusing intersection and continued up to toward Temple Fork. I felt pretty good for the most part and ran much of the uphill in this section. Robbie asked how my nutrition was doing and I told him I had already eaten 5 Hammer Bars and some Skratch and some Ucan. He seemed pleased and even a bit surprised by the 5 Hammer Bars. My gut was certainly telling me to ease off a bit. We were unknowingly playing a game with Bryon Powell of iRunFar.com. He'd walk and we'd methodically close the gap on him to a hundred yards or so. Then, he'd do a quick 5 minute push and open the gap on us. This continued for miles. At one point he turned and asked if we were going the right way. We responded that we were unsure but Robbie had been diligent about looking for turn flags and not seen any.

The course reached a high point and they put an unmanned aid station at the summit. I was so grateful because I was going to be out of water by the time we reached Temple Fork. I filled my water bottle to the top with ice from a cooler before putting water in. The ice water was the most satisfying thing that I could have put in my mouth at the moment. Robbie fiddled with the coolers and put some water from a camping-style water bag into an empty water cooler that was still full of ice so that runners to come would have some ice water. After turning off the jeep road onto a proper trail, we were once again running along a small stream. Bryon and some of the other runners we'd been leap frogging were sitting with their feet in the water. I had tape all over my feet and didn't want to take my socks off, so I dunked my hat a few more times to drench my body and we started trotting down the hill.

About a quarter mile from the actual aid station was a "PBR aid station" manned by a couple of guys giving out free beer. Robbie grabbed a whole one and I took a small sip of some from a cup. It was actually quite refreshing. I chowed on some aid station food, replenished my fluids and we were off, still 1 hour behind 24-hour pacing. To be honest, I pretty much knew 24-hours was a long shot at this point. I am not an experienced enough 100-miler to think I was going to even or negative split the course, even though it was quite a bit easier in the second half. But, I was really trying to keep my splits from falling farther off the 24-hour mark.

In the middle of nowhere, hot and chasing Bryon Powell

Tony Grove - 51.84

The climb to Tony Grove is the second toughest of the day (after the initial climb), totaling almost 2800 feet of gain in less than 7 miles. It goes right up a gulch occupied by cattle. The cows were a constant presence all day, both them and there feces were on nearly every section of the entire course other than the jeep trails. This time was slightly different because the gulch was fairly narrow and they were only about 10-15 feet from you as you ran by. I remarked to Robbie that one of the mother cows looked angry and we should get moving.

I was still working really hard and primarily in a power hike, running only a few minutes every mile or two. We continued to pass runners and tried to take in the beauty of the course, which was on full display in this section. More and more runners began to struggle, several slowing to a walk and at least one stopped to vomit, allowing us to pass. Near the top, the climb relented a bit. But, there were several false summits that frustrated me. Robbie went ahead a bit to catch a woman he knew and motivate me to try and pass her. Robbie gave me an extra water bottle and sprinted ahead to have my crew ready once we were near the aid station.

I pulled into the aid station feeling pretty good overall, hot but energized. It was 6 pm and I was still an hour behind 24-hour splits. Without asking me, Chuck shoved my headlamp in my pack. I took a long time at aid because I kept thinking of things I wanted: Red Bull, amino acid pills, more food, etc... And, I got updates on both Tony and Steve. The accounts seemed to suggest the heat was giving them both trouble, but they were moving along and still in the race. After what seemed like forever, I said bye to Robbie and took off with my second pacer, Chuck. It was really only 6 mins.

The course is much harder in the first half and I knew I had done most of the hard work (more than 12K of vertical gain compared to 8K in the second half). Unfortunately, I only knew vague/big-picture details about the course and had to guess what the second half would be like. I figured if I had a great second half I might be able to pull of 24-hours, but was really hoping for at least sub-25. My first 50 miles were 11:42 and nearly 13K of vertical, according to my Garmin. Too bad it is a 100 mile race!

Franklin Trailhead - 61.48

Earlier in the week I had explained to Chuck that this section was all downhill and that we had to make up time here. Unfortunately, it followed the pattern I discussed earlier and went uphill for the first few miles out of aid. The "climb" was not bad at all, but I had been climbing most of the last 7 miles and really needed a break. I used the hiking time to catch up with Chuck and explain what had been going on. He took stock of how I felt and where I was at. After a few technical spots, we finally started the descent toward Franklin. I began running, pretty well in fact. I was passing runners that were moving pretty well through a nice runnable section of meadow. In hindsight, taking about 30 secs off of each mile in here probably would have been a good idea. 

As the miles clicked by, it was getting dark. I hoped to make it to Franklin Trailhead before turning on my headlamp. But, every time we went into grove of trees, it got very difficult to see. I was concerned about not being able to see some of the exposed tree roots and falling. Finally, we stopped and put on our headlamps so we could see just shy of mile 58. This is when the WHOLE race changed for me.

It was ironic that Robbie had asked me earlier if Steve had much experience running in the dark. I didn't think much of that comment until I was walking downhill, tip-toeing around some technical rocks in the dark. That was when I realized it, I am lousy at running in the dark. Worse, I began to get negative and complain a lot. The course went from nice runnable grade through a meadow, to steep and rocky. Then, it turned into a section through a field of sage brush, still just techy enough that I really had a hard time doing much running in the dark. And, it was still hot, probably 70 degrees at 8 pm. This is another theme for me, I have a hard time with the night time heat. It is one thing to run in the middle of the day in 85 degree heat, but your body needs to acclimate when it doesn't cool off for hours after sun down.

In addition to the night running, I am disappointed with how negative I got. I didn't know the course super well, but I suspected there was plenty of "runnable" track left, primarily jeep road. Instead of being so down, I wish I had just remained patient for better trail to come. The one thing about this course is that if you wait long enough, the trail always changes. Sections of it are mostly jeep or 4x4 road, some sections are real trail, and some are this sort of made up trail that winds through Aspen groves and sage brush fields. The last were the only sections of trail that I found unpleasant as they were littered with roots, rocks and cattle holes. Much of it was cambered badly to one-side as well.

Despite all the negativity, we split the section pretty much exactly as we'd wanted in 2:15, still an hour off 24-hour pace. At the aid station, I told my sister all my problems and we headed off into the night, uphill once again.

Logan River - 68.6

I knew there were a few difficult uphill sections to go. This turned out to be the last one that I'd call non-runnable for a mid-pack runner. Right after Chuck and I left, I sent him back to get spare batteries from my sister because my headlamp was fading fast. It was still warm out and I was working hard, rarely taking a break from the hiking. My nutrition was mostly gels at this point, every 40 minutes. Sometimes I would take one bite off a bar or eat some aid station food just so Chuck would reset the timer on food. The most difficult part of the section -- other than climbing -- was finding the way. This course has a reputation for not being marked well and runners getting lost. While I would not call it poorly marked, I would say it was sparsely marked. There were long stretches (half a mile or more) with no confidence markers and this was particularly hard during the night time, and when the rains came. We wasted a lot of mental energy trying to remain on course. And, the course would occasionally split around an island of trees. We often weren't sure if we should left or right, only to figure out that both wound up in the some spot less than a tenth of a mile up the trail. Just what I needed, another reason to get negative...

We got through the worst of the climb and the trail turned into runnable stuff, but I suddenly didn't have the energy. I was fried, feeling overheated and somewhat dehydrated. My radiator had overheated. As a result, we started going downhill and I was walking too much. Like the section before, the course went through a sage brush field full of rocks and I went into a bad mental place just complaining and unwilling to deal with it. As I should have expected, the trail turned into a nice dirt road and we were able to jog the final few miles into aid, way too slowly though. We arrived into aid 1:15 behind 24-hour pace, but still with a shot at sub-25.  I was in 40th place, my highest of the day, but was starting to pay for it.

I sat down to address some blisters and the volunteer freaked out and shouted for the medic to come over. I don't know why, it was a run-of-the-mill blister on my big toe. The medic took a quick peek and casually gave me some tape, exactly as I wanted. I taped my toes and put some tape on the forefoot of my left foot to protect against friction blisters. The volunteer gave me grilled cheese and coke while Chuck took care of my water. My Garmin was nearly dead, so I turned it off.  I was still following Bryon Powell, but this time he was leap frogging me. He would take much longer at aid than I, taking time to eat and rest up. I would head out onto the trail and he would pass me 10-15 minutes later, looking much fresher than me.

Beaver Lodge - 75.82

We left aid and had to cross the river on some logs, I was shocked I didn't fall on them. The other side of the river was some uphill -- continuing the pattern of up, down, aid -- but was honestly quite runnable. I maintained my position in the race, but was walking a lot and still felt overheated. I don't remember a lot about this section except that I was fried and we walked more than I cared to. My blisters were getting worse and my feet were dusty and dirty, so I decided to change socks when we got to Beaver Lodge. Bryon Powell later flew by and remarked that this section was easier than the last. While this was true, it didn't lift my spirits much. I re-twisted my right ankle -- the one I severely sprained last month -- on a cambered trail. There was a brief moment I thought my race might be over, but my ankle has healed enough that it withstood the twist. About 5 minutes later, I kicked and lifted a rock with my left foot that smacked me in the left ankle (yes the same one that kicked rock, don't ask me how I did it!). That stunned me and sent me further into my negativity hole!

I sat down in a chair at Beaver Lodge and my sister tended to me while Chuck dealt with his own blisters. Both Chuck and I applied more tape to our feet and I changed socks to my Dry Max trail socks. My sister returned with a cup of broth, which tasted amazing. I also mixed up some Ucan for the first time in hours and quickly swallowed two servings, hoping to get my calories and energy back on track. They asked me a lot of questions but I was growing unsure of what I needed. I, stupidly, said I didn't want my rain jacket and took my light weight, breathable jacket and arm warmers instead. I was losing time and desperate to figure out a way to fix the problems I was facing, but not really sure what to do. Lots of ideas, but not much time to try stuff.

Gibson Basin - 81.18

Immediately upon leaving the aid station, a light rain began to fall and Chuck and I walked through a confusing section of sage brush as we tried to follow the flags. I remember them discussing this section in the pre-race meeting, but I didn't remember exactly what to do. I was getting really low now. We finally found some other runners and followed their lead. Chuck was carrying some cheap ponchos and we took them out and draped them over our jackets and packs. At first it was a light rain for the first few miles, but our feet were getting wet quickly and it was starting to accumulate on the jeep road we were walking down. With each mile it became harder and hard to keep our feet dry. Then it became harder and harder to avoid sliding from the high point in the middle of the road into one of the tire ruts on the side. My energy improved, but my desire to run was steadily declining and near zero. We passed the Idaho state line somewhere around mile 79. Chuck was busy looking for flags -- he did an amazing job keeping me on course because I stopped looking for them -- and missed it. I think he may have also been looking down to keep his face out of the rain. This was one moment in the race we had both looked forward to, so I stopped him and had him come back and see it.

There were a few periods where the rain would stop, but we could not see any stars or the moon, and it seemed unlikely the breaks would last long. The climbing was only hard in a few spots, but it was slick. We went down a steep rocky descent that reminded me of Deer Creek, only with heavy moisture and mud. It was extremely slow going. The aid station had a huge fire and was run, among others, by a really helpful little girl. I got some more broth and sat down for a few minutes. My energy was the lowest of the night and I ate an Epic bar, which actually perked me up quite a bit. I heard a pacer tell his runner "it's flat, then we go up and over, then down into the next aid station". The pattern continues and we head back out into the night.

On our way out, I checked out: "bib 49 is out". The guy running the check in table stopped me and said I had a message from someone at aid #13 (Ranger Dip).  The next aid station was aid #12 (Beaver CG) and I couldn't figure out who would want to get a hold of me from that far ahead. He offered to radio them, but I declined and soldiered on with Chuck.

This photo was a few hours later than we passed in the rain

Beaver Creek Campground - 85.25

Both Chuck and I continued to try and figure out who would be trying to get in touch with us. We finally realized it had to be my sister, after remember that she said that Beaver Creek Campground was a tough aid station to get to. With the rain, she must be having a hard time getting there. It was fine, all our gear was soaked and any new gear was just going to get soaked. We were living off aid station food, so it wasn't a big deal. There was a slight break in the rain, and Chuck even took his poncho off. It was now 5 am and I had 20 miles of walking to the finish. This was the first time in a 100 that I seriously considered dropping. Walking for another 6 hours in this just seemed miserable. But, we were in the middle of nowhere and dropping would have been tough to do. Plus, my sister wasn't at mile 85. And, my pacer wouldn't allow me. Ugh.

The last few miles into Beaver Creek were a slippery, muddy descent and we had to cross over a stream to get there. Once there, I again had some soup and sat by the fire. Many runners that had passed us were sitting there for an extended time to get warm and eat. I went immediately to the radio tent and they called ahead to Ranger Dip, and, sure enough, that was where my sister was. They closed the road to Beaver Creek afraid people would not make it in or out. I had to grind out at least 7 more miles until I could drop. Crap.


Ranger Dip - 92.2

The climb out of Beaver Creek was long and steady, quite runnable under normal conditions, I think. But I wanted no part of that. My first priority was to see if Chuck would let me drop. If not, I was going to walk it in, happy to get my sub-30 "Grizzly" buckle. About halfway through this section, the wind and the rain kicked up hard. The rain was falling at very intense rate, instantly overwhelming the trails and turning them into flowing rivers. I had to keep my head down to keep my poncho hood from blowing off or filling with water. My Gamin was long dead and I was asking Chuck every few minutes what our distance remaining was. The answer was disappointing each time, often only a tenth of a mile farther than the last time I asked. I finally realized that would drive us both crazy and tried to find something to keep my mind off of my misery. I left my iPod with my sister back at mile 75 and was left only with my own thoughts. I finally decided to count my steps, stopping at 100 and counting backwards -- sort of like "99 bottles of beer on the wall". It worked pretty well and I passed 10-15 minutes at a time without much problem. Chuck had firmly planted himself about 15 yards ahead of me, probably so he couldn't hear my constant requests to know the time and distance. In the wind and rain, there was no way he could hear me that far away. He did check every few minutes to make sure I was upright and moving. There were a few times that I nearly lulled myself to sleep with my methodical counting. It was challenging to remember my numbers and count my steps over rocks and puddles.

The wind was kicking up too and my cheap poncho was now torn down both sides. I had to fold my arms inside like chicken-wings, clasping the seams of the poncho to keep it closed and my core dry. Chuck asked if I should stop and put on my jacket, but I refused knowing it would get wet and make the situation worse. We had both been waiting for the sun to rise for hours now and it just wouldn't come up. The rain clouds delayed the dawn by a good 30 minutes. Somewhere around mile 90 we turned off the trail we were on to a jeep trail that was literally as slick as bullet proof ice in the winter. It took us about 15 minutes to cover a quarter mile on the way to Ranger Dip. We tried every possible way to make it work, only to conclude that moving with short, choppy steps was the only way. The rain let up a bit and I finally stopped to put on my jacket as a chill was overcoming my body. We continued to slide along at a snail pace.

I tired once again to convince Chuck to let me drop, knowing full well that he hates being cold and this was my best chance to get him to concede. I just could not fathom walking another 7-8 miles in this "mucous" mud. He once again rejected my overture, though he did seem to think about it a bit more. Mercifully, a mile and half later the trail turned onto a sandy jeep road with enough traction what we could walk into the aid station without much difficulty.

At the aid station, my sister looked somewhat shocked to see us, unsure of what was happening. She had been waiting here for 7 hours! We asked for broth and got barely warm liquid from the aid station. She made us some hot coffee with the Jet Boil we brought along. I traded her my pack for some warm clothing. Runners that had passed us nearly an hour ago were sitting in the aid station around a heater with their clothes off, drying. I stood by an open fire and waited for my opportunity, finally telling my sister that I was thinking of dropping. She looked at me and just said "are you capable of finishing?". Damn, wrong question. Fine, I will go. I took my rain jacket, tossed the crappy poncho, and ditched my UD pack. Then I topped off my cup of coffee and walked out into the forest to finish this mess. (All mud pictures borrowed from the Bear 100 Facebook page members.)

Mud

Mucous Mud

Tony after the race.

More Mud


Finish - 99.7

Twenty minutes after we arrived at Ranger Dip, Chuck and I were on our way to the finish. Just a stroll in the woods for two friends with no goal but to finish 8 miles in under 4 hours. However, we had no idea what the trail conditions would be like. The aid station staff wasn't super helpful to our inquiries on this topic. I knew the first little bit was a steep climb, and it was steep. Honestly, any other day, this incline would not have been too bad. But we could not stop from sliding backwards. We later heard that Steve literally slid down the trail and wiped out his pacer! We were grabbing branches of off shrubs and even going into the bushes on the side of the trail just to find traction. Amazingly, I never spilled my coffee.

The course turned pretty for a while and the rain let up. We just strolled along in the woods two friends trying to unpack the most insane night of trail running either of us had ever experienced. At first it was fun and good time to reflect on everything that had just happened. Soon, runner after runner trotted by us. I had no fight in me and made no attempt to catch them -- I might spill my coffee! Then the course turned wicked! It was literally straight downhill -- like 1100 feet down in one mile -- of mud that caked to your shoes and then turned into the slipperiest substance on earth. It was at least 2 miles of walking down the side of a cliff -- my quads and badly blistered pinky toes where killing me. We longed for the finish and cursed every twist and turn in the trail as we skid along trying to stay upright. The trail finally dumped us into town on a dirt road and the rain resumed coming down in buckets. (I have heard anywhere from 2 - 2.8 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.) As we approached the finish line, I saw the whole crew waiting for me. Robbie encouraged me to run, but that felt disingenuous considering I hadn't made a real attempt in about 8 hours now. I finally agreed and ran the last few hundred yards, told the table I was done, and turned around. Without even realizing it, I turned around and was standing below the sign for the finish -- a perfect photo opportunity.

Walking it in with Chuck

The finish line of "The Bear"

Sill wondering what the hell just happened

We went back to the cabin where we awaited word on Tony and Steve, both of them still on the course. I took a warm bath and called my family. I knew my wife was freaking out during the night because "live updates" were not even close to live and my sister had been out of cell range for about 20 hours. We soon got word that Tony and Steve would be coming in and headed to the finish line to great them. Steve was the happiest guy I saw finishing that race -- high fiving and smiling. I remained in the car to rest and stay dry as we waited. He came by the car and smiled and gave me "knuckles". Such pure joy was the greatest thing I could have seen. I need to find some of that in future adventures. Tony came in about 30 minutes later and seemed to have an attitude more representative of mine, but he got it done. Roughly half the field quit that day, but somehow the three of us all got it done. Our group defied the odds.

Summary

I don't really know how to summarize this. It was like two totally different races, both with different extremes of weather. Only 167 runners finished. My opinion is that most of the damage was done by the heat, not the rain. It was a tough day to try and run that course, the rain just turned it into an insane adventure. I posted on Facebook the night before the race that "things you never think of are things that become the biggest nuisance", but I had no idea just how true that would be. I figured the heat would be an issue, but I had no idea the rain would cause so much madness. It went from being a "30% chance" to being the only thing people talked about. I almost didn't pack rain gear because the forecast never gave us much cause for concern.

I complained over and over to Chuck that I wasn't having any fun and that I probably wouldn't do another 100. Predictably, three hours after it was over and we were swapping war stories, I was already thinking about the next one. The question is, how do I improve? What went wrong? Well, that will take some time to think about. But, here are my initial thoughts.

First, I didn't do any night running in this training cycle. In fact, I rarely do any night running at all. And, my night runs usually suck. I can think of two night runs before LT100 in 2012 that both were awful. One was a training run in my neighborhood trails, and I recall just being hot and really negative through the whole thing. The other was Brandon's Leaville Night run. Once again, I remember that run being pretty miserable. I was hot and drank all my water by the middle of it. I bonked and walked much of the last few miles. Ugh. On our drive home yesterday, I came up with my epiphany that night runs should be a focus of future training and got a resounding "YES!" from both Tony and Chuck. I guess they agree. I just never had a good granny gear to grind along at 14-17 min pace without hemorrhaging time. I was super uncomfortable with the heat and the technical trails in the dark and I resorted to walking very quickly.

The other thing that I need to work on is patience. I exhibited a bit of this by not going blazing up the first climb. I knew I was not on 24-hour pace right from the start and didn't stress too much about it. However, my lack of patience showed up in giving up on my nutrition strategy too early and not spending time at aid stations to problem solve. With each opportunity, I ignored warnings from my body and just pushed on. I also got a little too excited in pushing miles 37-58. My patience in the first climb was gone and I was trying to make up time, even though I knew 24-hours was very unlikely.

Finally, my nutrition needs further tweaking. My body sent obvious signs early on that I was eating too many Hammer Bars (side cramps, burping, etc...). And, I recognized that I was drinking too much fluid, downing Ucan in a bottle and plain water. I was smart to dial back on both of those. However, in hindsight, I wish I hadn't resorted to sugar so early and abandoned Ucan so quickly. When I finally overheated in the middle of the night, I definitely felt like sugar had overwhelmed me. I started drinking Skratch at mile 20, then drinking Red Bull at mile 37, and finally taking gels at mile 40 or 45 and it eventually wasn't working any more. At this moment, I think my next strategy will be to drink Ucan in gulps at aid stations (200-300 kcals at a time), instead of carrying a multi-hour bottle. Then I think I will rotate some products like Hammer Bars and Justin's Nut Butter in between, possibly even with periodic gels. My goal will likely only be 100 kcals or so each 45 minutes in between the Ucan and see how that goes. We'll see, but that is a starting point.

The good new is that I am walking away from this adventure quite healthy. I wound up with a few blisters on my pinkie toes and typical muscle soreness that has already mostly disappeared. My quads held up pretty well and so did my "climbing" muscles (hamstrings and glutes). My calves were quite sore after my first 100-miler in zero drop shoes (Altra Olympus), but they are rebounding quickly. Obviously, I feel quite a bit of fatigue and a bit of burn out from training. Those are likely to be the limiting factors for running the next few weeks.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 9/8 - 9/14

This first week of "taper" is kind of hard for me to call a taper because I usually end up in the high 40 or 50 mile range. So, I've started calling it more of a cut-back week. Nonetheless, the cumulative training stress was far less than the previous week or a typical hard/peak training week. Now that I have officially entered taper, I am pretty nervous about the race. Of course, the goal was always to qualify for Western. But, now that it is here and the only thing in front of me, I want more than that. I'd love a 24 hour finish. If I peek at training, the honest answer is that I trained much harder for LT100 two years ago. I could bore you with details, but trust me, I did. What's worse is that things are sort of trending the wrong way. The last three months I have run fewer miles and less vertical each month. On the positive side is the fact that I have experience now and have had a very successful year racing. I would also say that my training this year has maybe been less grinding and more consistent. All that said, the key that I am banking on is nutrition. If the LCHF diet that I've been using all year doesn't provide the benefits I am hoping for, then it could be a long race. I guess the only thing to do now is be patient and then toe the start line and find out...

Day Miles Notes
Monday 101 min Fartleks every 3 min
Tuesday 7Easy
WednesdayOff Strength Training
Thursday9Easy
Friday18 Deer Creek
Saturday 7Easy
Sunday OffRest
Total 516,500 feet of vert

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 9/1 - 9/7

Strange week! Tony and I decided to take advantage of Labor Day and do a long run. We originally planned on Mt Falcon for 24-ish miles, but neither of us loved that plan. So I proposed Indian Creek as an access to the Colorado Trail section 1 with the intention of going 25 miles. Once it became apparent that we were both really enjoying the trail and had a chance to get all the way to section 2, we started extending the run. I finally added a few more miles just to get to 30, why not, right?! After that the rest of the week was pretty ho-hum and felt once again interrupted. I saw a doctor for my injured ankle on Friday, forcing Tony and I to skip a scheduled Friday night run and leaving me about 10 miles shy of my overall goal for the week. It was still a good week with lots of technical trail and time on my feet, but somehow just still didn't quite hit the mark. I suppose it is most frustrating because it is a continuing theme of interruptions from July through August and now this week.

My big picture thoughts right now are that I am lucky to have trained at all the last 2 weeks (110+ miles, 20 hours, and 15K of vert) given my injury, but it still leaves me feeling somewhat compromised and unprepared for this race. I have definitely been training more ultra specific on trails the past few months, but my overall fitness seems a step behind where I was going into NF50. That said, I am extremely confident in my fueling plan and the success I have had with that all summer. I fully expect that to be an advantage on race day. Hopefully that alone makes for a totally different experience than my first hundred, where I likely was borderline hypernatremic and possibly "over full" from stuffing my face with calories (probably 5K of kcals by the half way point).

My nutrition plan for Bear 100 is pretty simple, target about 200 -250 Kcals per hour from UCan and Hammer Bars and drink plain water to thirst. I may take a few supplements (amino acid pills and maybe a few salt tabs), but nothing that I would call "core" to my plan. I will execute on that plan as long as possible and likely will hit the sugar (Vi Gels, Red Bull, etc...) when necessary, hopefully not until late in the race. I will supplement with some "real food" like almond butter and protein bars only when I feel hungry. I have been experimenting with a handheld of multi-hour (3-4 servings) Generation Ucan (plain flavor) with a whisk ball and a Nunn tab (for flavor). Honestly, it is about the simplest nutrition plan I have some up with and works well my LCHF training. It mixes well, provides several hours of energy, and is just as tolerable as any other food in an ultra.

This next week is somewhat moderate (50-ish miles) and I may avoid any technical trail to put aside any risk of re-injuring my ankle. I had a few close calls the past week and I probably should stop tempting fate... After this week, it is just a bunch of easy maintenance running until 9/25!

Day Miles Notes
Monday 30Indian Creek and CT
Tuesday OffRest
Wednesday7 Easy
Strength Training
Thursday9Easy
Strength Training
FridayOff Rest
Saturday OffRest
Sunday 17Deer Creek
Total 6211,000 feet of vert

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I Get My Fat

Previously.

The toughest part of transitioning to a high fat diet has been finding a way to eat enough fat. I eat something like 3000 Kcals per day when I am training hard and I have a rough goal of about 60% of my calories from fat. That means that I need to eat 1800 Kcals (or 200g) of fat per day. People just assume that you eat the common sources of fat that are promoted as "healthy fats", things like eggs, avocados, and almonds. Those products will help, for example:

Almonds have 45g of fat per cup
An egg has about 5g of fat
A medium avocado has about 21g of fat

The trouble is that each of the above also has significant sources of carbs and protein, which makes the ratios necessary to achieve 60% (or more) from fat difficult. I would have to eat 40 eggs or 5 cups of almonds to get to 200g -- I am full just thinking about that! Before long, you realize that you have to go to the purest sources of fat possible. Through experimentation and talking with others, here are some tricks I've learned to getting my fat intake up:

- Oils.  Lots and lots of oils.  Sometimes I eat a spoonful of Udo's Oil (15g of fat) plain.  You get used to the taste.  I put lots of oils (olive oil or flax seed) on my salads as dressings.  Eat a nice lunch salad made with eggs and avocados with 2-3 tbsp of oil and you get at least 45-50g of fat.  I also make liberal use of coconut oil when cooking and making shakes. Oils are also great for greasing pans and the cooking process to boost fat intake.

- Fat Shakes. One of my favorite tricks is a shake made with coconut milk (unsweetened, about 5g of fat per cup) with a tbsp or two of coconut oil (14g of fat per tbsp) and maybe a splash of heavy whipping cream (6g per tbsp). There are tons of variations here. If I mix in a few strawberries and half a packet of Stevia, it tastes exactly like a milk shake. Your kids won't know the difference. A few unsweetened coconut flakes works well here too. Sometimes I go healthier and mix in some greens (Amazing Wheat Grass, Kale, Hemp Protein, etc...), chia seeds, oils, etc... These shakes don't taste as good, but they are power packed with micro nutrients. Fat shakes are easy to consume and usually contain about 50-75g of fat.

- Fatty Meats. Men will love this one -- red meat is king! Pork too! Put down that skinless chicken breast and get some bacon or salami instead. I often snack on salami as a meal in a pinch. A typical package contains 4 oz with about 8g of fat per serving. This works well when traveling or out and about with kids. Lamb is another super fatty meat that tastes fabulous and has a wide range of recipes to cook. The one caution with meat is that a good high fat diet should also be moderate in protein (20-25%), so eating these products in excess won't work well. And buy the 80% lean ground beef! Take the few bucks you save and put it toward and organic or grass fed meat, if possible. When making ground beef, don't drain the fat!

- Full Fat Dairy (and Greek Yogurt). I sometimes mix whole milk into my shakes from above. We only drink whole milk in my house. If I got to Starbucks, I get a full fat (unless they have heavy whipping cream) latte. Whole milk and whole cheeses usually have 8-9g of fat per serving. Be very careful to pick sources with highest fat content possible. Read the labels because they sometimes slip you a product that isn't listed as low-fat but still has only 5-6g of fat per serving. With my salami snacks, I usually add in a few slices of full fat cheese. Today I had 4 oz of salami (32g of fat) and 4 oz of cheese (36g of fat) for lunch -- 800 Kcals and 68g of fat! Greek Yogurt is a great source, but be VERY careful. They often slip a bunch of sugar into it, even the full-fat brands. Absolutely read the labels and try to get one with less than 10g of sugar per serving. I have only found one brand that contains a great fat to carb ratio (2 to 1). Most are closer to 1 to 1.

Coffee. Coffee is a great way to get fat. I really like cream with my coffee. A tbsp of heavy whipping cream has 6g of fat. Applying the heavy whipping cream liberally to 2-3 cups of coffee per day can add 15-30g of fat to your diet without much effort. You can go the distance and make bullet proof coffee. I have made a substitute with a few tbsp of heaving whipping cream and coconut oil for a total of about 30g of fat in one cup of coffee! Blend that up for about 5 seconds and Yum!!!

Give it a shot! With a little practice and a week or two of tracking things, you'll get it figured out. Eat loads of fat. Eat only to hunger (no need to force food in, your body will tell you!). Be careful with anything that has more than 10g of sugar per serving (eat sparingly). Be careful not to eat too much protein (like not more than 6-8 oz in any serving). Read labels obsessively so you know what you are eating. Like anything, once you have a good rhythm, it is really pretty easy.

One last word of caution: the one type of fat to avoid is the cheap fats high in polyunsaturated fat: safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils are example. These are typically the oils used in fast food chains and cheap restaurants and are typically processing by products of other foods. These are the one type of fat that you want to minimize. Polyunsaturated fat is contained in many healthy products like fish, but the concentrations of it in these products is unhealthy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 8/25 - 8/31

Not exactly a week of specific training, but training nonetheless. The goal was 50 miles and 8 hours this week to try and keep my fitness at some type of baseline. I knew I'd have to settle for road miles as I work back into running from my ankle sprain. I made the mileage goal but came up a bit short on the time goal -- guess I am too fast :)  My ankle is feeling decent, mostly just a bit achy and still tender in that inversion position. This upcoming week I will try for some easy/ginger trail miles to get back into the swing of it. Two hard weeks left before taper and I hope to put in one last good push.

I finished August with 190 miles and 27K of vert, well below my intended goals of 250 miles and 40K of vertical gain. Such is life with 10 days of training lost...

Time to rise up....



Day Miles Notes
Monday OffStrength Training
Tuesday 8Easy
Wednesday9 Easy
Thursday9Easy
Strength Training
Friday17 Long Road Run
Saturday 7Easy
Sunday OffRest
Total 9

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 8/18 - 8/24

Most of my close friends know this, but I have not yet acknowledged it yet here, I messed up my ankle pretty good the Friday before LT100. I was stupidly trying to prove something on Hope Pass and rolled it bad with a half mile to the finish. (I had a damn good time going too -- 2:10 round trip to the summit!) My ankles are strong and I've survived numerous rolls, but there was no pulling out of it. I am guessing at least a grade II sprain. Obviously, that isn't great with only 6 weeks left until Bear (only 4 now, really). As a result, I wound up missing my opportunity to pace Chuck and have spent the better part of this week cobbling together any kind of training I could in between icing and PT work. Fortunately, I managed about 6 total hours this week with my bike. And, I doubled my usual cross training work. Right now, the ankle is improving and I can probably consider hour long runs. But, my margin for error is basically zero. The greatest risk right now seems to be the possibility that I re-aggravate it doing too much too soon. In particular, I am concerned about doing big vertical or technical trail runs. Any setback could make training the next 4 weeks impossible. Ugh.

The upside of this challenge is that I am not overly concerned with the big picture stuff. I am just trying to take it one day at a time and keep improving, walking the fine line between continuing to train and not being stupid.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffStrength Training
Tuesday OffBike to Work
WednesdayOff Rest
ThursdayOffStrength Training
FridayOff Biking and Stair Master
Saturday 4Easy run and 20 mile mtn bike ride
Sunday 5Open Space
Total 9

Leadville Trail 100

LT100 Race Report

~ Chuck Radford (Guest Post)

I hesitated to write a report of what went down on the Leadville 100 course mostly because I’m not a blogger and I don’t feel I have much to offer. However, when you accomplish something as monumental as a 100-mile foot race in Leadville, Colorado, you should celebrate it. I can’t promise inspiration or comedy. I can only recount the incredible journey I took with fellow racers, family, crew and pacers.

Something happened to me in the past two years while pacing friends at LT100 that “moved the needle” from "running 100 miles is ludicrous" to "HELL YEAH." After running my first 50 miler last year in Leadville, I caught the bug. As the registration date approached, I told my wife (who I once told I would NEVER do 100 miles) that I was going to register for the 2014 race. I stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve and pulled the trigger. I then went to bed and thought “I’ll worry about it tomorrow.”

I ran some “Fat Ass” events early in the season to kick off training and then settled into a loose training plan that entailed 8 to 10 mile runs at MAF heart rate during the week and a long run with fellow running friends on the weekend. Intensity picked up just slightly as the winter ended and the spring was upon me. I ran the Quad Rock 50 miler in May, ran the Leadville Trail Marathon in June and then followed that up with the North Fork 50K a couple weeks later in June. July was filled with a training weekend in Leadville with my buddy AJ and then the Leadville Night Run hosted by Brandon Fuller as my final long run. All this to say, that my training for Leadville really entailed races, plenty of slow long runs and a few high intensity runs mixed in through the summer. This allowed me to stay as healthy as I’ve ever been in a training cycle.

Before I knew it, the “I’ll worry about it tomorrow” lax attitude was no longer appropriate and the race was upon me. All the final details were put in place and I headed up to Leadville with AJ (my crew master and good friend) the Thursday before the race. We stayed busy by doing the medical weigh in and registration packet pick up and eventually headed to Mike Aish’s soiree and then to the New Balance BBQ. Friday activities included a shake-out run, the athlete/crew meeting and expo, the arrival of my wife, daughter and AJ’s daughter and eventually my other buddy and pacer Mike. After dinner it was time to get all my clothes and gear ready for the early morning start the next morning. As expected, very little sleep was had and I was up and getting ready for the race. It was “go time.”

4 am and all smiles ...for the time being.

The Start to May Queen ~ 0 to 12.5 miles


My crew and I all walked to the start line together. After a family photo and giving a kiss to my wife and daughter, I pushed my way up to the front ¼ of the starters. It was a heavy feeling knowing that I wouldn’t see my family and crew again for 3 hours and wouldn’t see the finish line for another 20+ hours (possibly 30 hours as I really had no idea what I was capable of). With a heavy gulp, I turned on my headlamp, heard the gun shot and headed out for a LONG day.

The goal to May Queen was 1:55, which meant a controlled and easy pace down the slight descent from town all the way around the lake. I tried to stay far enough ahead to not get stuck behind the conga line along the lake, but it was unavoidable. I turned on my music and put my hands on the hips of the person in front of me, kicked when I was supposed to kick and just waited it out. When I rolled into the May Queen aid station, I refilled my water bottle and moved right through not even losing a minute (which was good because that section ended up being slower than I wanted).

May Queen to Outward Bound ~ 12.5 to 25 miles


I mentally prepared to hit the Colorado trail leading up to Hagerman Road and eventually the Powerline climb. I started passing quite a few people and was worried I’d blow my plan to pace this section smart. However, every time I looked down at my watch, I was never going too fast, so I pressed on. I had that awful thought, “Am I pushing it like one of those people who blow up early?” Only time would tell.

As I crested the Powerline ascent, I mentally prepared for the steep descent back to the road. I was executing the plan flawlessly in regards to pace and eating. About half way down the descent, I fell and fell hard. In moments like that, you do your best to minimize impact, but they happen so fast, you often can’t do anything to help the situation. After I stopped rolling, I rolled over onto my butt, sat there, took inventory of the injuries, got up, dusted myself off, looked around to see if anyone saw and then just started running again. The pains were there and the blood began to flow, but I knew it was nothing worth throwing me off my game and I just powered on.

After leaving Powerline and the fall behind me, I hit the road and ran almost all of it. I came into the Outward Bound Aid station to see my family and crew for the first time. We had a bit of an awkward exchange of water bottles and food and I ensured them that I was ok from the fall.


Outward Bound to Halfmoon ~ 25 to 31 miles


New to the course this year was a section of meadow that was opened up to avoid some of the road. While I was initially pleased to hear the news, I was horrified at the conditions of that section. There were postholes as deep as my knees and ruts everywhere. It took me about 3 minutes before I fell for the second time. Luckily, it was a nice soft landing, but I was just fuming about it for some reason.


Once out of the meadow, the remaining part of this section was relatively benign and I could really make up time. I was feeling fine physically, but noticed that my stomach started to feel a little “off.” I continued with the plan of running smart and eating well and noticed that while trying to eat a Bonk Breaker bar, I couldn’t swallow it. It was dry as cotton and my throat would not have it. After swishing around some water to reconstitute it, I got the whole bar down, but knew at that moment, Bonk Breaker bars were not going to do the job the rest of the trip. As I came into the Half-moon aid station I was moving well and unknowingly was ahead of schedule. I was rounding the corner to the station and BAM …down I went for a third time. This fall was not as soft as my last one and I did further damage to my hands and knees. Again, I brushed myself off and ran into the aid station. A medic asked if I wanted him to look at my knee and I very disrespectfully (Sorry Mister Medic) scoffed at him and went over to the water to refill and head out.

Half-moon to Twin Lakes ~ 31 to 40 miles


I enjoyed this next section as it was primarily all along the Colorado Trail. It was beautiful, wooded and I was alone the whole time. There was a long gradual climb before heading down into the small Twin Lakes town. My stomach was getting a little worse hour by hour and I was less and less motivated to eat. However, my body was holding together well and I was flying and feeling good. There’s something VERY cool about coming down into Twin Lakes. It’s almost like a fashion show where you have a runway (a ridiculously steep runway) and everyone has a clear unobstructed view of you coming in strutting your stuff. In reality, because of the nature of the ridiculous descent, you slip and slide all the way down looking like a drunken fool trying to problem solve stairs or curbs.

I saw my family and crew at this aid station and sat down in a chair to switch out shoes and started complaining about my stomach. I gave all my extra food to AJ and he immediately noticed I was getting behind my nutrition. His best advice was to take my time because I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule into this station. Once my shoes were on, I ignored AJ’s advice, gave a kiss to wife and daughter and headed out for the big climb ahead.

My crew girl asking for my trash (her very important job).
Happy once again to see family and friends.

Twin Lakes to Winfield ~ 40 to 50 miles


I worked my way through the little town and finally made it to the meadow. I was immediately struck by the smell of bog and started hitting mud and water quickly. After making it through about 4 muddy ponds, I ran into my friend Matt Curtis, whom I had seen a few times earlier. We ran through the remaining ponds and river crossing together chatting about our stomachs and how we were feeling. This section is brutal with over 3000 feet of climb. I down shifted into power hiking mode and was continually reminded of how bad my stomach was feeling. After gagging down a gummy, dry wad of Lara Bar in my mouth, I knew it was going to be gels, fluids and possibly almond butter for the rest of the race.

After some serious climbing, I skipped right through the small Hopeless Aid station and kept my motivated feet moving forward all the way to the summit. Unfortunately, my legs were NOT ready for the ridiculously technically steep descent. I was a dainty princess skipping down the trail trying not to land on my butt again. I caught Matt again (after he and I passed each other a few time on the front side) and then we just ran together for almost the remainder of the descent into Winfield. Matt and I took turns complaining about our sour stomachs, each one making moaning noises throughout the descent. About half way down we saw Mike Aish and Nick Clark coming back up. About five minutes later we saw Rob Krar solo. They make running look easy.

I lumbered into the Winfield aid station where my first pacer Mike greeted me. After messing around at medical weigh-in, I was guided over to my crew where I sat down for a few minutes. Even though I felt good passing people up Hope Pass, I not only lost my 20-minute gain at Twin Lakes, but also lost another 6 minutes. Hope killed me and I was feeling defeated. I continued to complain more about my stomach as we tried to problem solve what to give me that would help me continue to race. I ended up taking a sip of Red Bull (bad idea) before drinking an Ensure (blah).

Running out through the meadow to the base of Hope Pass.

Winfield to Twin Lakes ~ 50 to 60 miles


The good news is that I had a pacer and a good friend at my side (Mike, whom I’ve known and been on running adventures with for the past six years). The bad news was that the Ensure was revolting in my stomach. Mike took the race vest off my back, leaving me with just a hand held (my back was relieved). As we started up the backside of Hope Pass, I prepared Mike for the horrible ascent we had in front of us. What I didn’t prepare him for was all the complaining I would be doing the whole way up. Mike knows me very well and he knew the right times to push me and the right times to let me rest. After another tough climb to the top, we were once again met with technically steep trail leading all the way to the base. The added difficulty now was crossing paths with all the outward-bound racers still climbing the front side of Hope. Fortunately, everyone was VERY gracious and let us pass them by moving to the side.

A little more than half way down the trail to the meadow, my foot caught a rock and I went down AGAIN. These falls on the steep descents are the scariest, never knowing if they’d end your race or not. A couple more scrapes and bruises, but again, no bad damage. Mike lifted me up and we began running again. A little bit of adrenaline helped me make a good final push down the last section of trail leading into the meadow. When we hit the river crossing, I took the opportunity to wash my wounds in the cold, cold water. I felt like an old miner standing in the stream taking a bath. Finally, the double-crossing of Hope Pass was behind me. There was a little joy in that only to be clouded with an upset stomach that was ruling my day.

Mike ran ahead to the crew as I was greeted to applause and support of MANY fans and fellow racers’ crewmembers. Once I found my crew, I sat down and started changing out of my wet shoes and one sock. I complained more and more about my stomach. The obvious answer was to get calories in any way possible, so the crew filled water bottles with Roctane (a high calorie drink) while I started to dance around from a terrible cramp in my hip. We found a GREAT guy (Robbie) to step in and replace pacing duties for my injured friend AJ. A couple drinks of soda and I headed out again.
Those small looking ants are people suffering right along with me up the backside of Hope Pass.
Couldn't resist adding the amazing view from the backside of Hope Pass (photos by Mike Mizones).

Twin Lakes to Tree Line ~ 60 to 71 miles


As we headed up that steep hill out of the aid station, that climb was the closest I came all day to actually vomiting. I tried to talk to Robbie, but couldn’t talk as my voice was quivering and my stomach was ready to blow. I stopped talking, power hiked up it, refocused and avoided “the exorcist” inside me. There was about a three mile climb leading to the Colorado Trail and it hurt. Once we hit the Colorado Trail, my whole world was rocked! After hours of pushing my body to the limits with very few calories, it was no longer working with me. I was bonking. I’ve never bonked in my life and that feeling was startling. I got dizzy, disoriented, and no longer had any energy or interest in continuing on. I told Robbie I needed a break and put my head against a tree. I was stripped raw and needed to find a way to climb out of the abyss. As much as I hated it, I asked Robbie for a gel. I got it down, dealt with the familiar turning stomach and told Robbie I was ready to try and move a little. We started moving a little faster than a stroll and about fifteen minutes later, I asked for another gel. I was coming back from hell and Robbie was key in keeping me moving, helping me refocus on something other than the negative and even got me to run. It was a hard blow and we lost about 30 minutes all in all, but what happened next was nuts. I started dropping a couple 8-ish minute miles heading into the Tree Line aid station. Robbie got me going and we hardly stopped. We caught about three other runners heading into Tree Line and I felt like I was back in the game, only 10 minutes behind schedule. Robbie was a Godsend pacer and brought me back from the dead.

We made it to Tree Line and a happy crew welcomed me with lots of praise. I asked for bacon and powered that down. I grabbed my new pacer, Jon, who is a fantastic runner and friend. He had his hands full with the next 20-mile segment, including Powerline and the lake trail …in the dark!!

Tree Line to May Queen ~ 71 to 86 miles


The bacon didn’t sit well, of course, and I immediately started complaining to Jon again about my stomach. If there is one regret I have about this race, it’s that I complained so much to my pacers and my crew. To that point, I apologize to you all. But I digress! Jon and I were actually running pretty well heading back into the Outward Bound aid station. We made it to the horrible field again and I warned Jon about all the holes. I did not fall, fortunately, and we made it into the aid station, where I grabbed my headlamp from the crew. We were in and out fast. As much as I wanted to be happy about knocking each aid station off my list, I was still finding myself in a negative place where I could only think about the hardships still ahead of me. That’s something I need to work on for my next race …positivity.

We took the long road out of the aid station with some run/walk intervals and made it to the base of the infamous Powerline. Noteworthy for its 1800 foot climb with around 80 miles on your tired legs, we started to power hike immediately. Jon and I had discussed it leading up to the base (in between my constant pissing and moaning about my stomach) and he knew I’d give what I had, but that I’d need some breaks on the way. It was evident the harder I pushed, the less happy (if it’s possible) my stomach would get. There’s nothing fun or fantastic to say about this section. I was broken, my body was aching all over and I was beginning to feel very beat down. I was trying to accommodate Jon’s positive and upbeat attitude (he even recited the Gettysburg Address perfectly to motivate me), but I just couldn’t. We were entering nighttime once again and I started to let more and more negativity infiltrate my thoughts. I was starting another bonk and wanted no part of it. I tried to keep powering down gels and fluids to fight it off, but it was clearly winning. We made it to a surprise makeshift aid station at the top of Powerline and those people were having fun. Fun I was NOT having. The good news was we had crested Powerline and it was time to go down again and on mostly runnable trail. The bad news is that my legs, completely shot, were aching in the knees, the hips and my feet …yeah, the whole she-bang.

The bonk passed and we were on Hagerman Road. I honored my earlier deal with Jon and ran all of Hagerman Road. We hit the Colorado Trail again and I was honestly scared of the pitch dark, technical trail awaiting me. We tackled the trail slowly and ran the runnable sections and walked the bad ones.

We stuck it out, made it through, and popped out on the road leading to the May Queen aid station. We ran into the aid station and were greeted by my family and crew. They were cold and it was evident. Some crew clothed me in arm sleeves and gloves (literally clothed me) as others refilled water bottles, replaced my headlamp batteries and stuffed more food in Jon’s pack. I was behind and knew finishing under 20 hours (my A goal) was no longer in play. I wasn’t defeated, but rather somewhat relieved to know that I could stop worrying about it. I was horribly tired, stripped raw and needed something. So I put my head on my wife’s shoulder, put my arms around her and just stood there in her warmth for a minute. It made me emotional (and still does), but I needed the TLC. After that, Jon and I were gone again off into the dark.

May Queen to Tabor Boat Ramp ~ 86 to 92 miles


I wasn’t looking forward to running along the lake because it was dark, technical in places, and I was getting more and more tired and lazy in my running form. About a quarter mile on the trail, Jon remarked how he hadn’t tripped all day and he tripped right in mid sentence. Not more than a minute later I went down straight into a Superman pose. I saved my knees by sacrificing my hands and wrists. I stood back up, started running again and fell even harder into another Superman pose. This did not do much for my outlook, but I couldn’t stop. Not now. We lost a good chunk of time here unfortunately, but the only way to get to the finish was alive. Jon pushed gels when he could and kept me drinking every couple minutes. You could hear the water lapping up against the shoreline, but could not see it. Jon did his job and he did an amazing job at that. He did me proud and I can only hope I did him proud. We ran up to the crew station to one last greeting from family and friends before heading to the finish. Jon handed off the baton (race vest) to Mike and we shuffled onward.

Tabor Boat Ramp to The Finish ~ 92 to 100 miles


Still plagued with negativity, that sour stomach and a shredded body, I mentally prepared for the long and final stretch of 8 miles. This was going to be the biggest mental fight. We traversed the campgrounds, were cheered on by late night partiers and supporters and never got lost. We popped out on the short road that lead us to the trail section and down “mini-Powerline.” It was just before we hit this section that, out of nowhere, Matt Curtis came blazing past us and said, “I’m sure you’ll be passing me again soon.” We had flip-flopped positions all day, but I knew this would be the last and he had me. I cheered him on, encouraging him to finish strong. I did my little princess dance down the short, steep trail and knew we were done with “technical” trail running.

Once we hit “The Boulevard,” I once again was encouraged by Mike to do a run/walk interval the whole way to the finish. I’d give two minutes (sometimes pushing myself to three minutes) and then walk a minute. I can’t deny that there were times I was cussing Mike out like a drunken sailor, but never verbalized it and knew he was doing the right thing. The Boulevard is known for being long (or feeling that way) and being a slight uphill battle the whole way. Mike and I kept trying to figure out how far away we were, always being on the short end of our calculations. Hell, I couldn’t add 2x2 at that point and really didn’t care any more. Low and behold, up ahead of us was the middle school, which meant we were in the home stretch. One step in front of the other now, relentless forward progress, don’t stop (even though time was standing still)!!

As we headed down 6th St., we saw my wife and daughter there waiting for me, so I grabbed each of their hands and started jogging and chatting. I kept asking where the finish was because I couldn’t see it. When my wife explained where it was, I stopped running, dropped their hands and said, “We can run again when we get closer”. As we got closer, we came upon AJ, Jon, Savannah and Robbie and the motley crew all headed towards the finish. Once we got to the gate, they all told me to go get my buckle. I jogged along the red carpet right up to the finish line with my hands in the air as I looked up to God and finished what I started over 20 hours earlier. Marilee (co-founder of the race) was there to put my finisher’s medal around my neck and to give me an incredibly warm and welcome hug home. Official time: 20:46:32, 17th overall and 3rd in my age group (next to Bob Africa and Dave Mackey).

That was it. It was done. I was done. I greeted my family and my crew giving each of them a hug (even those that didn’t want one). When I got to my wife, I got incredibly emotional and couldn’t even hug her because I leaned over with my hands on me knees and teared up. Off we went into the late night/early morning towards the house and a very restless night ahead.
It's not pretty, but it's not supposed to be after 100 miles.
The Big Buckle for my efforts.
Radford selfie at the award ceremony.
Age group podium with great runners Bob Africa (2nd) and Dave Mackey (1st).

Final thoughts


I’ve been told that as a runner I have “natural talent” and that I’m “fast” countless times over the years. While you would assume I’d find that to be a compliment, the truth is that it frustrates me. It insinuates that I don’t put in the time, the effort or the commitment. Or that I’m perhaps not as dedicated to this sport as others. In truth, I do log fewer miles than many runners, but I like to think that the miles I choose to log are smart, effective miles and not junk miles. I have a history of injuries and many of those injuries are the result of too many hard efforts and too many miles. 50 to 60 miles is a good balance of miles for me. I know some people don’t understand how I can run so few miles and still be a “fast” runner and perhaps that’s where the “natural talent” comes into play, but it shouldn’t diminish my efforts and commitment to the sport. I worked eight long months for this chance to race the epic Leadville Trail 100, and I can only hope that I showed someone, anyone that “volume” is not the only answer to successful ultra trail racing.

It’s cliché and I don’t really care, but I could NOT have done this without my family, my crew and my pacers. I’m not an elite runner, or an amazing athlete that has youth, experience, or a deep knowledge of how to be a solo trail runner. I’m a family man, with responsibilities, balancing what I love to do most (running) with what is most important to me (family). These people stuck with me through the lowest of lows, listened to me complain, pepped me up and kept me moving with no personal gain or reward. They gave the ultimate sacrifice of time, sleep and comfort just for me to have my day. They were all at their VERY best when I was at my VERY worst. You can never thank them appropriately through words or expression and can only acknowledge their selfless efforts. You can only hope to repay them someday when they are in need.

I was told by AJ prior to the race to “make sure to enjoy it.” That’s a hard thought to process. As much as I wanted to truly enjoy it, it was almost impossible to enjoy the pain, the sour stomach and the fatigue. Perhaps it’s more about enjoying exactly those things because they make you feel alive. They make you feel human. This race exposed me, made me very vulnerable, and yet somehow made me stronger. You never know what you are capable of unless you put yourself out there and with that risk, comes suffering and an equal amount of reward. I don’t pretend to be better, tougher, or stronger than anyone. I was just lucky to be one of the few this year that was able to prove that I’m better, tougher, and stronger than I ever thought I was. And in that, I enjoyed it.