Monday, June 25, 2012

San Juan Solstice Race Report

After we signed up for the Leadville 100, my buddy Tony and I decided we needed a good 50 mile test for our training. Without much thinking, we signed up for the San Juan Solstice 50. The two primary factors were the difficulty of the race and the location in our schedule (two months to recover). As I analyzed the race, it became apparent that we might be in for a tougher even than we expected. Nonetheless, we were excited for a race with such a stellar reputation among the ultra community. And we both have soft spot for a small town race with a good cause (this one benefits the EMTs of Hindsdale county CO).

Leading up to the race, I did quite a bit of analysis on how to plan our drop bags (three). The race is very remote and you have limited access to crew and aid. In fact, there are two stretches of nearly 10 miles between aid stations. This made planning for aid a little more difficult. After three separate conversations, Tony and I finally decided on our drop bag strategy; it turned out to be a pretty good strategy.

The drive to Lake City was enjoyable and easy. Our families were not with us due to a variety of scheduling issues. They would drive down and meet us at the 40 mile aid station on Saturday (and it was timed perfect). After arriving in town, we picked up our bibs and prepared our drop bags and then headed to dinner and a pre-race meeting. (The dinner was covered under the cost of the race fee.) It seemed like the entire town was at the armory. As we ate and listened to final instructions, we conversed with several runners and met LT100 vets and hopefuls. And, we met a ton of people from Texas. For some reason, Lake City has become a bit of vacation spot for Texans.

Back at our motel, we discussed our goals for the evening. I had decided that we should take it easy and prepared some aid station goal times using previous racer's finish times. While we were on those goal times all day long, it felt anything but easy. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Race Morning

We set an alarm for 4 am and both immediately popped up to get ready. I managed to eat some Sustained Energy by Hammer and a Bonk Breaker bar for breakfast -- a solid 600 calorie breakfast. It was a little uncomfortable for the first 30 minutes of running, but I was glad I a ate a big breakfast. At 4:30 we left for the town armory to check-in and start the race.

Tony is a photogenic guy, looking like a star ready to take on a big challenge.

Looks like my favorite race shirt is showing it's age -- I think those are grease stains from my Body Glide! Not a flattering picture at all, but the best one of me in the morning.

To Alpine Gulch Aid Station

From the Armory, the race staff led us outside and down the block to the town park. A few minutes later, someone said "go", and we were off. It was dark, but there was just enough light that a headlamp was not necessary. The race begins by leading out of town and onto Engineers Pass Road. The road is dirt and mostly smooth grade, a great warm up. Suddenly, the course takes a hard left onto the Alpine Gulch Trail.

The first five or seven miles of the course are marked with numerous river crossings. The race staff informed us several times not to even bother trying to cross without getting wet because it wasn't possible. That did not stop a handful of individuals from trying. As they tried to tip-toe across rocks and logs to avoid wet feet, they stopped all the traffic behind them. Out of frustration, many of us started just crossing at spots above or below them. This strategy allowed us to pass them, but it was very frustrating and somewhat dangerous to go charging into a creek.

Our "patience" strategy had led Tony and I to near the back of the pack in the early going. We became a little annoyed by a logjam of people from the river crossings all the way to the top of the first climb. Passing people was not a great option because the trail was single track and the effort required was not worth the gain. While we both commented on the slow pace, we also agreed it might be the best thing for us. Our goal time for this section was two hours and we were within five minutes of that time.

Not long before this picture was taken, I was bragging about how hard the climbs in the Grand Canyon were compared to this climb. Of course I was regretting those comments about fifteen minutes later; this was only the beginning of a climb that got tougher and tougher.

This was just a preview of the amazing views we would see as we climbed up the Alpine Gulch.

Alpine Gulch is a limited aid station, meaning they served primarily only fluids. Despite the remote location, the aid station volunteers and the spectators were rocking!

To Williams Creek Aid Station

Leaving Alpine Gulch, I felt great. We had been working hard, but I felt the worst was behind us. And we were treated with unbelievable views the next twenty minutes. Once we got above tree line, things became much harder. Every little climb felt hard -- even little climbs of only a hundred feet or so. And the trails up high were difficult for me to get used to. They were not very well defined trails, almost like little ruts in the road surrounded by clumps of grass and sometimes scree. My inexperience as a trail runner showed big time in this race; I had a difficult time with these conditions and later with steep descents.

After the summit and traversing up high for a mile or two, then a hard down hill ensues to the Williams Creek Aid Station. Again, I did not run this downhill very well at all. I could feel my quads taking a massive pounding when I could have been going so much faster instead of braking.

The aid station was once again lively. We got our first drop bags and had lots to do. Tony changed his wet shoes and socks. We both applied sunscreen, refilled our hydration packs, and grabbed additional food. The sum total of all that work was at least 10 minutes. But, our goal was to be at four hours through Williams Creek and we left the aid station at 3:59, so we remained on track.

Right after we left the first Alpine aid station.

You can see we climbed up over the ridge in the center of the screen. We still weren't done with this initial climb.

You can see from the photo that there was no real trail near the top. The trails above 13,000 feet were primarily just scrambles across prairie-like grass with sections of scree rock mixed in.

The views of the San Juan mountain range in the early morning were just stunning. It was easy to see for tens of miles in all directions.

Still looking and feeling good.

Some runners running high above tree line.

To Carson Aid Station

After leaving Williams Creek, we started hiking up a dirt road road. The road was well kept and easy to power hike. We really felt good at this point. We soon reached the Wagner Gulch jeep road and took a hard left, up hill again. This section was a really pretty climb and reminded me a lot of other climbs I have done, particularly the initial climb in the Lead King Loop race. The heat was starting to become a significant factor at this point and the grade was steepening as we went. 

After four miles of climbing the jeep road, we arrived at the Carson aid station where the volunteers were very spry and helpful. I tried some Coke for the first time in an ultra -- and it was fantastic. So I went back for Mountain Dew. The volunteers helped me refill everything and apply sunscreen to the top of my head. We once again departed the aid station exactly as we had planned (six hours) and feeling great. We knew we faced a 10 mile section with no aid, so we topped off our water bottles (I grabbed a second one from my drop bag) and got going.

A photo of the ghost town of Carson

To Yurt/Divide Aid Station

The good feeling we had leaving Carson lasted about two or three miles. Then we got above tree line and began to struggle as we reached the highest point of the race, Coney Peak (13,400 feet). The panaoramic views were later destroyed by the smoke from a near by wild fire. Despite my complaining of smoke and heat, we actually caught a great day for this event. There are many years of this event where runners get snowed on along the Continental Divide. Anyone that has lived in Colorado long knows that the weather above treeline can get dicey quickly in the afternoon. Poor weather was no factor for us and I did not even pack a jacket. I would much prefer that to snow, rain, sleet, hail or thunderstorms.

I think that is a 14er (Sunshine Peak) in the distance behind us.

A view back at the trail we just climbed from Carson.

The final climb toward Coney Peak, elevation 13,300 feet. Boy is it hard to breath up there!

The trail runs along the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide for six miles before arriving at the next aid station (Yurt). This section of the trail is runnable if you are properly altitude acclimated. It is slightly downhill and somewhat technical (again all that screen and clumpy grass). To make a good time in this race, you'd have to run about half an hour faster than we did along this section. We were both struggling with the altitude and had several near falls. The last few miles were a good downhill section below tree line and we managed to pound it out fairly hard. When we arrived at the aid station, it had been nearly three hours and ten miles, since our last aid. We made this a full aid station stop and refilled our hydration packs entirely.  (There was no drop bag, so we had to carry our electrolyte mix). We remained exactly on target for our race prediction (nine hours).

To Slumgullion Aid Station

The map of the course is somewhat deceiving because it looks downhill. But leaving the Yurt aid station you climb roughly 500 feet in the next two miles. It was not a significant climb, and we managed to power-hike it pretty well, but it was a real mental downer. And the course was really just not very pretty anymore. It ran along a jeep road in an open meadow and we were surrounded by smoke. This section felt a lot like sections of Leadville to me -- desolate, dry, and hot. After a few miles of power hiking, the course finally turned downhill and we were able to start pounding out some decent miles toward the next aid station.

While we remained on time at each aid station, it seemed like my Garmin was out of sync with the aid stations mileages. Yurt is supposed to be the 31 mile aid station, yet Garmin said it was nearly 32 mile when we arrived. It was difficult to predict how much longer we had until we got to see our families at Slumgullion.  But we were highly motivated to get there and see them. I had left Johanna with instructions on how to get there and figured we would arrive at 11 hours (4 pm). Just before my Garmin hit 40 miles, we saw our kids down the trail waiting for us. (My Garmin wasn't wrong after all, we were on time and mileage). It was such a huge boost, particularly for Tony as his kids have never seen him run an ultra.

The kids met us at Slumgullion and lifted our spirits big time. Poor Dylan had flip-flops (in the background) and had no chance to keep up on that trail. I was shooting video all day, and I finally turned the camera over to Savannah after this aid station.

Seeing your family after 11 hours of running is such an uplifting experience.

Drinking my first energy drink in an ultra while attempting to remove the rocks from my shoes. The amazing aid station volunteers even had a cup and ice for my warm Bing Energy drink (it had been in my drop bag all day).

Tony decided to eat a popsicle at this last "full" aidstation. He was running as strong as he looked in this photo.

To Finish

We left Slumgullion on a major high and once again remained exactly on track for our fourteen hour finish. The first mile was a continuation of our last downhill segment and we were flying. Then out of now where we were off trail. There was literally no where to go. It turns out we missed a left hand turn about a hundred yards uphill from where we were. We were pounding down so hard that we literally just jumped over the course marker and missed it! Fortunately it wasn't a big deal. Now we were scrambling through a section of trail that almost seemed made up. And soon we were running along the road toward Vickers Ranch.

We had one big climb to go -- Vickers Ranch.  It is less than two thousand feet, but it is very late in the race. Tony had been talking about it all day and I kept telling him to leave it alone. Boy was he right to be so paranoid about that climb. We started climbing up the Vickers property and I immediately started crashing hard. At first I would stop every quarter mile or so to lean on a tree. But it continued to get worse. I kept pushing my electrolyte beverage and Tony and I were taking an S!cap every half hour, so I don't think it was dehydration. I was falling apart.

Soon I could barely move at all. Every couple of hundred feet I would stop. And I was throwing a tantrum and complaining about everything that bothered me -- the bugs on the ranch, the climb, the heat, the smoke, etc.. What bothered me most was that I could not understand how I let myself get this wrecked. I spend countless hours preparing and studying how to prevent this situation from happening. But, there I was sitting on a log on the side of the trail just wishing my race was over. Tony tried every combination of motivation he could find. And I am grateful he stayed with me. The forty-third mile took me just shy of forty minutes to complete. 

Mercifully, we started going downhill and I could at least walk a manageable twenty minute pace. I felt good enough to start eating and drinking  more aggressively. And I took an extra S!Cap or two. I finally decided that I was going to eat until I was either sick, rallied, or both. First, I finished my handheld of Perpetuem. Then I drank a lot of my hydration pack. All the while I felt better and we started moving at closer to a fifteen minute pace. We found a runner that was struggling and started doing some math together; we decided that we could finish the race if we averaged a twenty minute pace for the remaining miles. Finally, a guy that I recognized from the armory the day before -- he had been wearing a Leadville Silver Rush shirt -- passed us and I decided that was enough. I took my last gel out of my pocket and told Tony I was going for broke. Within a few minutes I was able to run/walk segments and move pretty good.

There is one final aid station on the Vickers Ranch that is advertised as minimal/fluids only. I once again drank some soda. As the Mountain Dew was going down, I noticed that the aid station had gin! Whoa. Thirty minutes ago that might have sounded appealing -- too appealing. Fortunately I was feeling good now and just wanted to get done. The crazy thing was the we remained almost on pace after all that struggle, perhaps five or seven minutes behind. After a brief stop, we started running and power hiking and I continued to feel better and better. The last few miles of the course is severely downhill. And once again, my limited downhill skills made this section tougher than it needed to be. We managed to run at an eleven minute pace, but probably could have managed better if we had more experience. Nonetheless, I could tell from my Garmin that we were going to make our goal of fourteen hours.

The goal of fourteen hours was not a huge race goal of any significance, but really just a goal to be done so we could spend time with our families. Finishing at 9pm and then crashing -- as I had done in the Grand Canyon -- did not seem particularly appealing to me. I really wanted to have an easy day of running and then a good dinner and some celebration with family and friends. I got all of that except for the "easy day".

True to the tradition of a small town race, my kids got to run the last little bit of the race with me. I look as rough as I felt.

Tony and I at the finish line. He had an amazing day and should feel very confident that a smart race will yield a buckle at this year's LT100. He is a tough runner and seems to have really gotten a hold of his biggest challenge -- hydration.

I am not sure how to explain the expression on my face other than to say that I was tired and sore.

After the race, we sat in the Gunnison River to soak our aching muscles and joints. My poor feet are very bruised and swollen. I probably should have picked better shoes (Montrail Masochist?). The Hokas were a vogue pick among the crowd.

After our river soak, we went back to our respective cabins to shower. Soon after we met for dinner at the Packer (after Alfred Packer) grill and ate some burgers with our family. The grill was located right along the finishing stretch of the course and there were a few runners trying to finish ahead of the cutoff. As we ate our dinner at one of the few "hopping" places in town, it was fun to see some other runners and hang with our families. We ended the night by drinking a special beer I had brought for us to share. It was a fitting way to finish a great day with a good friend.

The Awards Ceremony

They do not hand out medals when you finish this event. Instead, they have a breakfast and ceremony the following morning. All of our families were allowed to participate in the breakfast and they recognized every runner from the race. Finishers were given visors -- the color of the visor indicates your finishing time/category.

One of the unique things at the ceremony is the fact they recognize the volunteers associated with this event by raffling off gifts for them. A few of the runners even graciously donated their raffle prizes to go to a volunteer. This whole event is first class and done exclusively with the intent of helping the EMTs. The race director is an EMT himself. The only event I have done that compares to the giving nature of this one is the Lead King Loop.

They also have a fun contest for the ugliest feet. The winner gets a gift certificate for a pair of Teva sandals. Despite the prodding by my family, I chose not to enter into the competition.

Lessons Learned

The primary lessons from this race were of altitude struggle, downhill running, and some poor nutrition choices. Altitude and downhill running are things I may never master because I don't get up to the high country enough. But I can improve my nutrition plan. As for what will change, I think a couple of simple tweaks will help:

Stop using Clip 2 and stay with either Roctane Drink and/or Accelerade. There are many more calories in the latter two options. In fact, had Roctane been my primary drink, I would have consumed an additional 900 calories over the course of the run.

I think I may need to lean on gels a bit more when it is hot or I'm at high altitude (for me, probably above 11,500 or 12,000). I only did 2 or 3 gels all day long! The last one was at about mile 45 as I threw up a "hail mary" to feel better. I will mix in more solid food when it is cooler or during long stops (aid stations).

I knew this event (primarily because of altitude) would be tough. I do think this re-affirmed the fact that 25 hours at LT100 is a stretch goal. It is possible, but it will take a good day with a lot things working in my favor, particularly if I am not spot on with nutrition.

The good news was that I bonked and I figured out how to rally, so I have that lesson going for me. Learning to overcome a bonk could be a critical part of a 100 miler.

Final Stats

  • 49.6 miles run
  • 13 hours and 53 minutes
  • 12,800 feet of elevation gain
  • 15 miles above 12,000 feet
  • Avg HR 135
  • Maximum Elevation 13,336 feet

What I Ate
  • 9 servings (three hydration bladders) of Clip 2 (1395 cals)
  • 2 hand held of Roctane Brew (500 cals)
  • 3 Bonk Breaker Bars (1000 cals)
  • 3 Gels (300 cals)
  • 2 Hammer Bars (450 cals)
  • Misc (Soda/Energy Drinks/Heed) - (300 cals)
Total of about 3750 calories.  I am guessing this was about 1250 calories too few -- hence the bonk!

Monday, June 18, 2012

San Juan Solstice Preview and Plan

I feel somewhat bad for neglecting to blog more about The San Juan Solstice 50. In most years, this would be my big event for the year. And if it holds up to reputation, it might wind up being my favorite race of the year. In the same tradition of what I did last year, I am going to write up a little preview with some goals for this spectacular event. Unfortunately, I do not think I will "race" this event. Instead, I will run something that is more in the training range category. There simply isn't enough time to recover and still do quality training in the next 4 weeks for LT100.

Equipment and Food


I have become a HUGE fan of the new GU Roctane Drink. And I have been experimenting with Clip 2 as well. I like the calories provided by GU better, but the other stuff offered by Clip 2 (fat, protein, etc...).  Most likely I will have both on hand and rotate -- just as I did in the Grand Canyon. I think I will carry one of my hydration packs so that I can keep my hands free of water bottles.  That said, I will have water bottles on hand in case of emergency (bladder leaks!). I should drain this every 3 hours to be on course for good hydration. And there will be s-caps if it is warm.


The difficulty in picking shoes for this event is that there are a bunch of creek crossings early in the race. That means wet shoes and I don't like to change shoes. At this point I am leaning toward wearing the Brooks PureGrit because they are padded and will drain/dry well. They are the leading shoe for LT100 right now. I wore some Montrail Masochists to the Grand Canyon and loved them, but they are a heavy shoes and will not dry out well. Perhaps, since I have three drop bags, I will change shoes for the first time in an ultra? If I do, I may switch to my MT110s late in the race to get a lighter, more comfortable shoe on. Hmm. Lots to think about, but I often make shoe choices at the last minute.


This is a tougher subject because I am constantly changing my food likes and dislikes. I tinker a lot. It is probably best to follow my LT100 pages for specifics on what I am playing with. However, I think it is safe to say that I won't be doing much in terms of gel shots, sugar, or carbs. Beyond my carbohydrate dense beverage, I hope to ingest lots of fat and protein to balance out my body's needs in such a grueling, long event. Lately I have had good success with just eating protein bars and Bonk Breaker Bars on long training runs. All that said, I'll have some gels on hand in case I need a kick at some point, or if my electrolyte beverage starts tasting bad and I need to switch to water.

Drop Bags

Drop bags will be allowed at Williams Creek (mile 16), Carson (mile 21), and Slumgullioin (mile 40).

Your drop bag(s) should include solid fuel (your favorite energy bars, candy bars, or gels), sunscreen, long-sleeve T-shirt and/or nylon windbreaker, dry socks and an alternate pair of shoes, and Vaseline or skin lube, tape (for feet) and powder, NSAID. I will either carry my North Face jacket all day, or put into the drop bag for Carson.

Race Day Strategy and Plan

Segment 1 of 7 - To Alpine Gulch Aid Station ~7 miles

This section of the course is almost entirely ascending with a brutal 4000 feet of elevation gain. That represents double the elevation gain in the first 7 miles of my first 50 miler. Talk about a rude way to start a race! And it is marked with numerous creek crossings, so I will likely be running a good portion of this with wet feed. As it was in Leadville, the first aid station is a "minimal" one (fluids only).

Goal time for this section is 2 hours.

Segment 2 of 7 - To Williams Creek Aid Station ~8.5 miles (16 Total Miles)

Now that you've gone up, you get to go almost all the way back down to Williams Creek. There are 4,000 feet of elevation loss in this segment with just a little bit of gain (relatively speaking). At the bottom you are greeted with a full aid station.

Goal time for this section 2 hours. (4 total)

Segment 3 of 7 - To Carson Aid Station ~5.5 miles (21.5 Total Miles)

After descending all the way back down, the climb to the highest point in the race begins.  The high point is Coney Peak at 13,334 feet in the sky. Before reaching the summit, you stop at a fully stocked aid station in Carson (a ghost town). With 2500 feet of climb, this segment represents a little more than half of the second big climb of the day.

Goal time for this section is 2 hours. (6 total)

Segment 4 of 7 - To Divide Aid Station ~9.5 miles (31 Total Miles)

After leaving Carson, you first climb to Coney Peak and then begin to bounce up and down (net down) to the Divide aid station. This is one of the longest stretches in the race, so it is wise to carry lots of fluid (a hydration pack or three water bottles). This section runs along the Continental Divide so the air is thin and the views are amazing! The aid station is once again full stocked because the next segment is once again long. While this segment saddle backs up and down, it represents a stellar 2700 feet of gain.

Goal time for this section is 3 hours. (9 total)

Segment 5 of 7 - To Slumgullion Aid Station ~9 miles (40 Total Miles)

After the Divide aid station, the course begins to drop dramatically toward Vickers Ranch. There is some climbing in this segment, but is mostly down hill (2500 feet to exact). This is another fully stocked aid station in advance of the last major climb of the day.

Goal time for this section is 2 hours. (11 total)

Segment 6 of 7 - To Vickers Aid Station ~6.5 miles (46.5 Total Miles)

Leaving Slumgullion, there is a little bit of reprieve before one final 1700 foot climb. This is normally not a huge climb for an ultrarunner, but after 40 miles it will probably hurt quite a bit. Then you start the steep descent toward the finish line. But first you stop at the Vickers aid station (not a fully stocked station)

Goal time for this section is 2 hours. (13 total)

Segment 7 of 7 - To The Finish ~4 miles (50 Total Miles)

The remaining miles are a steep descent (2200 feet in 4 miles) back to Lake City.

Goal time for this section is 1. (14 total)

Others' Blogs


There is no plans to have a crew for this race. It is not really a spectator/crew friend course. Just in case, they are allowed to see me at the Williams Creek (mile 16) and Slumgullion (mile 40) aid stations. Pacers are allowed after Slumgullion (mile 40), but I don't think I'll be needing one. Hopefully Tony and I can pace each other!  It sounds as if our families will meet us down there to see the last 10 miles of the race and then stay the night with us.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 6/11 - 6/17

Not much to report this week. The week was designed as a cut back and a lead up to the San Juan 50 mile race on June 23rd.

Every day is one step closer to my goal....62 days to LT100.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest Light x-training
Tuesday 10 GA Run
Wednesday6 Easy Run
Thursday8Mile Repeats
Saturday 16 GA Long Road Run
Sunday 8 Easy Trail Run
Total 70 About 8200 vertical feet

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nothing Else Matters

"So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trust in who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters "
-- Metallica

Reader be warned, I am about to compare my training and approach to the LT100 to Matt Carpenter's. But don't be fooled, I am not Matt Carpenter.  I know that. However, I believe that there are lessons to be learned by reviewing others' experiences in a race like this. Or perhaps it is just convenient that Matt's views line up with my own and I am exhibiting bias? Nonetheless, here goes...

I was doing a Google search today and stumbled up on this amazing piece written by Matt Carpenter about his 2005 LT100 experience. Matt beat the course record that day and had a nearly flawless race, finishing in 15:42.  He was an unbelievable 41 years old.  (Anton Krupicka owns the 2nd fastest time of 16:14 in 2007).  Note that Matt had  run LT100 in 2004 and had a pretty bad blow up. He walked much of the final 30 miles and finished in 22:43.  (Walking in to a disappointing finish with most of his big goals blown is something almost no elite would do today.)

Needless to say this piece inspired me greatly. Things continue to unfold for me in a way that is giving me an intense focus on what I want to unfold August 18th. Matt's sharing of his plans about training and race day have re-energized my motivation to give this all I have. While there are several good points worth expanding on (below), the thing I appreciated the most was the singular focus with which he approached this race.  "Elite" racers today schedule numerous events all season long. They don't put "all their eggs in one basket" the way Matt did. I love this post but it is exactly where I am at: Nothing else matters.

After reviewing this blog several times, here are some of the takeaways:

He raced both San Juan 50 and LT100 in the same year

The year of Matt's blow up, he raced both the San Juan 50 miler and the LT100, just as I was about to do. While his record of 7:59 at San Juan is out of this world and will be incredibly tough to break, he suggests it cost him during the LT100 time because he did not recover fully. This is a lesson that I learned last year while racing the Leadville Marathon two weeks before the Leadville Silver Rush 50 last year; I have no doubt it cost me. I won't make that mistake again this year. If there was any doubt before, I can guarantee now that I will not be racing at San Juan.  I need to keep my body fresh so I can continue to training at a high-level for LT100. Nothing else matters.

The use of mostly carbs for fuel

In Matt's post, he challenges the assumption that runners need to eat solid food during an ultra. I am not sure if I agree with his stance here. But I think there is some middle ground. While he ate primarily easily digestible carbs, I plan to incorporate some solid food into my plan. However, I won't be ordering pizza or cheesecake like Dean Karnazes. Instead, I will rely on calories from rapidly absorbing drinks and enough calories from fat and protein to keep my body functioning properly. The "solid foods" that I eat will be mostly engineered foods for the ultrarunner. My belief is that the longer you race, the more your caloric needs change. Matt ran this race in under sixteen hours. On my best day, I might be able to do it in 24 or 25 hours. The difference of eight or more hours is significant in how you take care of your body. A secondary argument could be made for body weight. Matt is a full 60 - 65 pounds lighter than me. My guess is that he needed no more than 250 calories an hour to complete his journey -- easily done on sports/electrolyte drinks. It will be tougher for me to swallow 400 calories of sugar per hour.

How precise he had his fueling strategy down

Matt's plan for taking nutrition was the most precise I have read from an elite racer. He had his plan calculated down to how many sips he would take per ten minutes in a race. Many people, including other ultrarunners, think I am nuts for the amount of time I spend obsessing over nutrition and hydration. Reading Matt's plan gives me hope that this work will pay off. Surely, I am not going overboard by trying to determine precisely the number of calories -- and from what sources -- I will take in per hour?!

He had ONLY a 32 minute positive split

He posted an incredible near even split in the race. (Anton posted a 45 minute positive split two years later.) This is another topic where I find many runners think I am crazy. I would like to come as close as possible to having an even split in this race as I can. In all the endurances races I have done, pacing has always been key. The rules of the game don't change when you lengthen the course -- go out too fast and you will pay for it. My ideal course strategy for LT100 is to have a two hour positive split. This makes sense given the fact that the course is harder in the second half (3 big climbs compared to 1.5) and that it'll be my first experience with the distance. The key is to save energy and obsess about nutrition and hydration in the first half. Any chance to run a perfect race relies on my ability to keep a steady, even effort all day while continuing to replenish my energy stores. Is this a sensible strategy for a first timer? I think so. I will find out for sure in about two months.

He listens to Eminem

This isn't really relevant to anything, but I find it pretty cool! I would have expected an old school racer like Matt to go without music. And a "masters" runner finding motivation from an iPod and Eminem... awesome!!! Want to talk precision and over analyzation? He had a play list specifically identified down to the section of the course that he'd be running. That is how I roll.

He focused his training on B2B long runs and strength training

Matt reveals in his post that he used strength training -- particularly the hamstrings and quads -- as part of his plan.  What's more, he did not believe that running 30 - 50 miles frequently was a good strategy.  Once again this an area where we agree almost completely. In fact, my latest training wrap covered this exact topic. It is true that I have done several long runs (31,32, and 53 miles).  But, I have done them all in a fashion that allowed me to recover quickly and primarily as a means to practice nutrition, hydration, and pacing (run/walk patterns). Only the 53 mile Grand Canyon trek required more than a day or two of recovery. In fact, the final 3 miles of my 31 mile effort were done near marathon pace -- a sure sign that I was not overdoing it. The remainder of my training will focus on B2B long runs as I did this past weekend. In addition to hill work, I have been consistent in doing squats and leg press at least once a week to strengthen my quads. Running all weekend on dead quads is a real downer, but great race preparation!

He spent almost no time at aid stations

Many of the "just finish" strategies that I read suggest taking time at aid stations to recover or rest, particularly those aid stations in front of big climbs. Matt challenges this assertion and feels that it just means you'll have to make up time later. My crew can tell you that I spent the bare minimum amount of time at each aid station in my first 50 mile race. I'd rather recover "actively" with a heart-rate-recovering-walk than go dead stand still. Stopping only makes it harder to get going again and wastes time. Sure there may be times that I need to stop to remove rocks from my shoes, deal with blisters,  change clothes... something. But why intentionally stop if you don't have to? React to what is happening and be aware of what your body is telling you, but relentless forward progress is key. As such, I will have all my gear and nutrition lined up to minimize aid station visits.

Mental Games

I loved his piece about his mental games. This is a race -- my goal race. No risk, no reward, right? I think I have analyzed this enough to know that I am capable of my goals. They are goals that will challenge me, but they are attainable. What's more, I have been able to predict my finish times in nearly every event that I have raced the past few year. There will systems in place to know whether I am on track or not. If I blow up, then I'll walk it in like Matt did in 2004. My pacing plan has a dual benefit of not only putting me on track for my goal, but also buffering in case I start to unwind. That said, I need to trust in my planning, strategy, and training. Backing down in fear of what might happen is no way to approach this race. After August 18th, I have no plans, nothing else matters.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 6/4 - 6/10

I am a little more than half way through training and I decided to use this space this week to check my progress.  Previously I listed out some goals, training spots, and a training plan to follow.

Training Plan

I have only been loosely following my RFP 100 mile training plan. This shouldn't be much of a surprise as all training plans are meant to be loosely followed. I am about 40 miles ahead of the plan's schedule YTD. More importantly, I am way ahead in terms of quality with two 30+ mile runs, a 50+ mile run, and three B2B weekends in the bag. And, I am crushing last year's vertical gain (roughly 66k more vertical YTD).  March and April were slight blips as I tuned myself to run the Colorado Marathon.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in my training currently is the lack of altitude acclimation.  There may not be a whole lot I can do about that. I am fortunate to live at 6500 feet, but driving an hour or more to 9k+ is not something I can do often. The good news is that I have experience running at 10,000 feet, including Leadville. Experience tells me that I'll be OK up to about 12,000 feet. That means I will likely only really suffer from altitude related issues the few miles at the top of Hope Pass.


Here were the mini-goals I put out there for the year:
  • Six weeks with B2B long runs (each run 16 miles or more)
  • 250K feet of climbing for the year
  • 25 (or more) twenty milers
  • 600 miles (combined) in June and July
  • At least two 80 mile weeks
The tough part in evaluating these goals is that I just kind of threw them out there to motivate myself. I didn't do much analysis or rationalization into the feasibility of them. The result is a sort of mixed bag in terms of progress. I am on track to hit six B2B weekends with three down and three more scheduled. Six hundred miles of total running in June and July WILL NOT happen, but not because I am slacker. This is a result of me focusing on quality workouts (50 milers, lots of vertical) that require lots of recovery time. I am exceeding my own personal bests in total time, but falling short in total mileage. I think this is a good thing. Similarly, I will likely not hit two 80 mile weeks because of the focus on quality work. However, I may hit two weeks of 75+.

Another reason that my mileage totals are not impressive (relative to the distance of the race), is that I have been dealing with a nagging ankle. Rather than push mileage, I have opted to work in cross training on light days. My view is that total time training is what matters and to do one thing everday that gets me closer to my goal. Sometimes that one thing is core work or a quad burning weight session. Unfortunately, I can't go much beyond 12 - 14 total hours each week without impacting real life.

The rest of those goals are total year goals and very tough to evaluate at this stage. I have no idea how much running I will do after Leadville. And I don't have much of an idea how much I will push things. My gut tells me that I would like to continue trail running, but at shorter distances. The shorter distances should allow me to focus on getting better as a trail runner, attacking some harder terrain. That likely means that I will fall short of my year long goals for 20-milers and possibly for total vertical. I may even fall short of my total mileage from last year.

Training Spots

The list of places I planned to train has worked out great. I suppose it is a pretty obvious list given where I live. Nonetheless, I have found a variety of partners willing to get out to some fun locations with me.
  • Barr Trail/Pikes Peak (Once, may go again)
  • Colorado Trail Section 1,2, and 3 (Not likely)
  • Deer Creek Canyon (Many times)
  • Mount Falcon (Several times)
  • Apex Trail (Once)
  • Green Mountain (and Flat Irons) (Twice, including the Frozen Front Range Marathon)
  • Indian Peaks Wilderness Marathon (May still happen, though it looks doubtful)
  • Hope Pass (Scheduled for July 28th)
  • Sugar Loaf Pass aka "Powerline"  (Scheduled for July 29th)

In many ways, I have reached a point where I probably won't get much fitter or prepared than I am now. It is more a matter of fine-tuning and maintaining through the remaining eight hard training weeks. The possible exception is the San Juan 50 miler coming up in two weeks. This will be a great opportunity gauge where I am at and continue to work on nutrition and hydration for a long duration. I will also get some altitude training with a significant stretch of the race being above 12,000 feet. After that race, I should be able to set a goal -- as much as one can set a goal for their first 100 miler.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest Light x-training
Tuesday 8 GA Run
Wednesday6 Easy Run
Thursday10Hill Repeats
Saturday 24 Light Trail/Road Run
Sunday 20 Mount Falcon Run
Sunday 3 Recovery Run
Total 70 About 8200 vertical feet

Monday, June 4, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 5/28 - 6/3

Awesome week, twelve total hours of training for 63 miles and 8000 vertical feet. Tons of good quality training -- trails and vertical.

The highlight of my week was going up to Steamboat Springs, CO to watch my wife and her friend Timi run their first marathon. They caught a bit of a bad break with unusually hot, dry weather in Steamboat. And this marathon starts an hour late in my opinion (7:30 am). After we woke up, I helped Johanna get ready.  My final bits of advice -- drink all her fluids (70 oz), pace no faster than 4:15 early (9:45 miles), take at least an S!Cap an hour. She left to meet Timi for a ride to the buses. I immediately took off and got my run done, arriving back at our room by 7:30 am so the kids and I could go support mom. They were anxious and they got ready quickly so we could head to town.

We parked and found a little cafe in town right along the race course. The three of us had a HUGE breakfast together and watched the 10K and half marathon runners come by.  It was really fun having breakfast just the three of us -- I don't do enough of that. After breakfast we headed to the finish area where we met up with Chuck (and family), Timi's husband (Rob), and some of Tony's family. (Tony's family lit up the leaderboard!).

At about 10:30 -- 3 hours into the race -- I saw the runners coming in looking pretty ragged. The marathon winner was 2:49:xx and only three runners broke three hours. Now this is a small marathon, but that is still unusual for this race. The conditions were brutal, and I was hoping the two of them were holding up well. I felt bad not brining enough S!Caps for both of them. The kids fun run starts at 11:45 -- huge party foul as that is when the lions share of the marathoners come in.  In fact, 11:45 was EXACTLY when I was expecting Johanna. I didn't want Dylan to run because I couldn't be in two places at once. Finally, I decided to let him run with Timi's son Michael (under Rob's supervision).

Savannah and I walked to the other side of town to try and catch Johanna coming in sooner. We stood on the corner of 10th and Lincoln cheering as loud as two people could for all the remaining runners. I was nervously texting Jon, Karen and Tony -- I was wreck. Finally I sent a text to Jon "I think I see her coming in". As she approached Savannah and I, she had the Nathan Hydration Pack in hand -- she was tired of it and handed it to me. One really cool thing about the marathon is that it is very small town, so we jumped on the street and ran most of the last third of a mile with her. She was tired and hot but she looked pretty darn good under the circumstances. Her final chip time was 4:19:41. She and Dylan cross the finish line about 30 seconds apart as he finished his fun run. Timi came in about 15 minutes later with a time of 4:35.

This is only the second time I have spent a race on the sidelines as a spectator. And I was hugely inspired watching not only my wife, but all the runners pushing themselves to their best -- testing limits they weren't sure of. An amazing experience. And while they both got a little sick from the heat and are undoubtedly sore today, I think Johanna and Timi had an amazing first marathon experience. I hope they both try at least one more!

As for me, well this week is supposed to be a monster. In fact, it might be my biggest week on my plan. I need a little help from my friends if you feel like running this week, let me know.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 14 GA Run
Tuesday Rest Weights
Wednesday6 Easy Run
Thursday10Hill Repeats
Saturday 20 Deer Creek Trail Run
Sunday 13 Spring Creek Trail Run
Total 63 About 8000 vertical feet