Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/19 - 3/31

I can't tell if this week was a step forward, but I'd like to think it was. I started seeing a chiropractor certified in ART to deal with my ITB soreness. At first, I questioned whether it was doing anything, but now I am more sore than I was before I started seeing him. Hopefully that is just the healing taking place.  In any case, I put in a few more miles and remain hopeful that each week will improve. The trails are going to be clear with the up coming weather and I am dying to get on them!

Day Miles Notes
Monday Off PT and Strength Training
Tuesday 5 Easy/MAF Miles
WednesdayOff PT
Thursday5Recovery Miles
FridayOff Strength Training
Saturday 10Open Space Trails
Sunday 5 Easy
Total 25 About 1800 vertical feet

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/18 - 3/24

Trying to stay active as I work through and ITB injury. Though, is inflammation really an injury? I am treating this with a bunch of physical therapy exercises and stretching, and neither is likely to cure a case of inflammation and aggravated tissue. I am going to try some different tissue therapies and see if they work. I cannot process how this kind of thing can keep a runner down for months -- like many experience. Should I continue to include the PT type stuff and stretching into my routine, possibly even more of it? Yes. But I think that is more to prevent getting injured than cure it.

Until I am back on track with injuries, I am going to mess around with training schedules. The plan will be to do 3 days a week of running and 3-4 days a week of cross training. The cross training will be divided much like I have in my previous blog posts. I will likely do 2 days a week of strength training, one day a week of running specific training, and then a bunch of shorter workouts comprised of things like core and running PT stuff. We'll see how it goes and where my motivation is at after a few weeks.

With only a month to the race and coming off a three week layoff (and counting), it is looking doubtful I can compete at the Cheyenne Mtn 50K. More likely, I will see if I can drop down to the 25K distance. Hopefully I can run that far a month from now.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 4 Easy with short intervals
Tuesday Rest PT and Yoga for the core
WednesdayRest Sick
FridayRest Strength Training
Saturday 7Easy
Sunday 3 ITB shut me down
Total 14 About 0 vertical feet

Friday, March 22, 2013

A New Chapter?

Running is a very individual thing and we all have our reasons for doing it. And in that, we all have our way of internalizing how we approach it, what we get out of it, what motivates us, etc... So forgive me if this post is a bit hard to follow, but it is a blog after all!

I am not sure when the realization hit me, but I suspect it was before Old Pueblo. The realization I am referring to is that I am kind of tired of training, kind of tired of proving things to myself, and tired proving things to others (even if though those are likely just things I am making up in my own mind). I suspected, and even confided in a friend, that if I had a good race at Old Pueblo, I likely wouldn't have the motivation to do it again at Leadville SR 50. And, I had a good race, nearly a breakthrough race. Either way, I am now injured, again! I am all too familiar with the injury scene. Rehab now comes naturally to me. I doubt this injury will limit me much beyond a few weeks. However, I suspect that even if I were healthy I wouldn't really feel the urge to jump out and start running miles just to follow a plan. At the moment, I am unmotivated and think I have started to run for the wrong reasons.

The real theme here is that I need to make some changes. I need to take some time and return to what I love about running. Running is not some passing thing in my life, it is a way of trying challenges, keeping fit, seeking new adventures, all things I hope to continue doing into my 40's and 50's, even if in different ways. So running myself into the ground isn't really doing much good. Ok, blah, blah, so I am a mental mess. What else is new? What does this really mean? I started running primarily for health, for adventure, and to enjoy the outdoors. Well, if I am injured, then I clearly am violating the idea of running for health. And, I can't possibly go outside for some adventure and enjoy the outdoors if I am icing and doing PT instead. As any runner knows, training plans and enjoyment don't often go together, for long anyway.

I got here because I am goal driven and obsessive. I got here because I pushed my body to the limit and the glaring weaknesses are staring back at me. What I need to do is make running more about me again, about what makes me happy. And, that starts with, well, me! (Selfish sport, right?)

Anyway, it is obvious that I need to quit thinking about running miles and I need to spend more time in the gym fixing my weaknesses. There is a tension between gym time and running time because both require recovery. And I only have so many hours to devote to this. The gym needs to get priority over miles, until my body is ready to handle the miles again. It is also obvious that I need to remember how to enjoy running and quit worrying about training plans and what "I have to do this week or tomorrow", and whether the weather will cooperate, and if I can juggle my life schedule to make it happen, etc... (queue the Rocky III scenes, anyone?) Finally, I need to quit comparing myself to other runners and to a time clock. I first ran 50 miles just to see if I could, for the adventure. Now I am trying to race these crazy things. Hopefully, I can regain some of that rookie enthusiasm.

The real implications of this are simple little things that make a big difference:
  • I will probably limit my running to 4, possibly three days a week for a little while
  • I hope not to follow a plan, but feel my way through what I need and what I want
  • I am going to limit my exposure to running related social media
  • I will try to hit the gym hard at least 2-3 days week
  • I'd like to shed a few pounds (just a few, don't get nervous mom and Nannie)

One thing to be clear before I end this ramble, this isn't a running eulogy. I still have goals that I'd like to accomplish before I ride off into the sunset. The two goals that stand out are to BQ and take at least one shot at a 24 hour finish in a 100 (25 if it is Leadville). And I suspect it won't be long before I set my sights on one of them. But for now, I need to regain some balance and recharge the batteries. And, I still plan to partake in all the events that I have committed to this year. We'll see how my mentality, my training, and my health improve as the warm weather arrives.

Discussing this with a friend, it occurred to me is that some of what I seek is true, rich friendships in running. Friends where the conversation goes beyond running. If you are someone that I keep up with primarily via social media, then I'd love to keep up with you in a more meaningful way. Feel free to drop me comment here or send me an email. Twitter is the one place I will likely still stay active, so feel free to "follow" me at @aj_wellman. The rest of you know how to find me, if you want to :)

Run healthy and happy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

IT Band Injury

I once again find myself injured. This time is an IT Band that is bugging me. It started hurting about half way through Old Pueblo 50 and has only gotten worse since then. The nature of this injury is a little tricky to figure out because where it hurts is not where I feel injured. As I run, I can feel the whole side of my thigh feels "off", calling it tight might be the best description. Eventually, my knee starts hurting. The pain continues to build until it is so severe I cannot continue. (I walked the final mile home from my run Saturday.) The odd thing is that my knee feels totally normal unless I run. I feel the injury in my hip/glute. It doesn't hurt per se, but it sort of tingles and just feels strained/stressed/unhappy.

Anyway, the thing that is driving me most crazy is understanding how to move forward. Overuse injuries are very tricky injuries because there are several components. First, there is always an inflammation piece, this is usually what causes pain. How do we best deal with inflammation? The usual prescription is ice and NSAID. The second component of these injuries is rest. How much is enough? The answer there is usually "it depends". That is the worst thing to hear and the hardest thing to deal with mentally. It depends on your age. It depends on your fitness level. It depends on how bad you are actually hurt. This particular injury is hard because I don't feel pain unless I run? But certain types of strength training make me more aware that my glute muscle isn't right. I assume that is bad even though I wouldn't describe it as pain. And finally, most of these injuries arise from some sort of underlying muscle imbalance or weakness. Then it becomes a matter of physical therapy and integrating proper routines into future training. You have to put together the right mixture of those components and you get a recipe for getting healthy.

I have discovered a few resources for helping to get better. The first two are articles to help understand all of the above components.  This article is from Another good article is the one written by Runner's World. Both do a good job discussing the injury, the recovery, and the physical therapy.

I also found a few YouTube videos to help. This first one is a really good generic routines that all runners would benefit from doing several times a week:

The other is a good video on IT Band and specific recommendations for getting better.

The summary version is that I am back to where I was 7 months ago. I need some rest, some physical therapy, some specific strength training, and a ton of patience. Hopefully I will be able to beat this thing and get back to training in a few weeks.

Here are a few other helpful videos:

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/11 - 3/17

Trying to stay active as I work through and ITB injury.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest P90x Chest and Back
Tuesday Rest Strength Training
Wednesday5 Easy Run
Thursday5Easy Run
FridayRest Strength Training
Saturday 10Aborted Long Run
Sunday Rest ITB Physical Therapy
Total 20 About 1600 vertical feet

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/4 - 3/10

Not a ton to say regarding training this week. I didn't do much running. After OP50, I followed with three full rest days. There was lots of sleeping and eating in those three days. I joked that I was eating and sleeping like a teenager again. It was very reminiscent of my recovery from my first 50 mile race. Perhaps the thing that kicked my butt the most might have been a case of heat exhaustion. I was really thirsty and had really chapped lips for two to three days after the race. And, I have something going on in my left hip and knee. I think it is a sore IT Band, but I am not too concerned at the moment. If it doesn't improve in another 5 - 7 days, I will probably become a bit uneasy about it.

My plan right now is to take one more week to transition from OP and start building back up for Leadville Silver Rush. I hope to put in 4 - 6 weeks of pretty intense strength training to continue rebuilding my body to handle big miles and ultras. During that time period, I will do almost entirely "base building" when I run.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday Rest
WednesdayRest Strength Training
ThursdayRestYoga for the Core
Friday7 Easy
Saturday 8Easy
Sunday Rest Strength Training
Total 15 About 1300 vertical feet

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Moving Past OP50

Well, Old Pueblo is done and it is time to start moving on. Amazing how we put so much into training for something like this and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. I have an insane amount of inner peace about this race. That is unusual for me; I almost always  have some kind of regret or desire to get back out and prove something. Whether it be injury, poor performance, unrealistic expectations, etc..., I always think I can or should do better. In terms of the clock, I certainly didn't achieve my full potential. In fact, I believe I can run that race sub-9 hours.  Yes, close to an hour faster.

If you look back at my goals, I listed two: run my race and push through the wall. I'd give myself an A-minus or B-plus on both goals. In terms of running my race, my splits were roughly 4 hours for the first half and 6 hours for the second. But that wasn't that far off of what I think is optimal for that race. The course is tougher in the second half. I think I ran about 8 or 10 minutes too fast in the first half of the race. I didn't expect to go off course for 30 minutes in the second half. On pushing through the wall, I am very happy with how I handled the adversity of this race. Probably the biggest low point was climbing the Arizona Trail (around mile 30) and I stayed very calm and positive. I borrowed a tactic from Tony and just prayed. I thanked God for the ability to run, for the privilege to race. Soon enough, the climb was over. When I went off course, I took 10 - 15 minutes, got over it and ran pretty well after that.

I am very happy with the form my training has taken and I know that I was one wrong turn away from having a tremendous race. Of course, that means the stakes just went up for Leadville Silver Rush 50, my next goal race for this season.

What worked well

  • I was incredibly happy with my hydration vest. It held all the essentials I needed and was very comfortable.
  • More on this later, but I am very happy that I listened to my body and decided to switch from Roctane drink to water and gels late in the race.
  • I think all the things I changed about my training (XT, long tempos, more specificity, and speed work on infrequent basis) worked out super well. I will continue almost all of those practice moving forward, with some refinements.
  • I made a conscious decision to employ a run/walk pattern to slow down and I think it worked well. It is tough to employ on a hilly course, but the marked difference between running and walking provides a great opportunity to rest, eat, and drink. I normally walk hard on sections I walk, but then I never really allow myself to recover. And, walking hard just introduces new stress that I don't often train for.

What didn't work

  • Unfortunately, I suffered from some more friction blisters (like Leadville) on the bottoms of my feet.  Clearly, my sock and shoe combo has not worked well. I already retired my Saucony Peregrine shoes and I just ordered some new Balega Moh-rino socks.
  • While I didn't expect it to be 75-80 degrees, I probably should have spent a bit more time heat acclimation training.
  • I think I got a little careless (in both my 50's now) in the middle miles. This is similar to turning on the jets at mile 16 in a marathon. There is a fine line between exhibiting confidence and strength and blowing your race. Some more practice at the distance should help me find that line.

Areas of emphasis moving forward

The big thing here is that I plan to continue same basic training structure. I will probably divide my training a little differently by including smaller training blocks. And I will continue to tinker with ways that I can include more HR structure, fitness testing, and analytical scoring. Nothing is likely to change too dramatically, just refining of concepts that I am already putting into practice. There was a point where I thought I would increase my volume to something closer to 70 miles per week, but I don't see a huge advantage in doing that. I am able to race pretty darn well at my current level of 50 - 60 mile per week. And that level allows me to keep up with core and strength training. There may be a few weeks I hit close to 70 miles, but those weeks will be rare.

The one area that I will continue to experiment and evolve is my nutrition plan. There are two things that stand out here distinctly. The first is that I would like to experiment with relying less on sugar. There seems to be an emerging thought that eating sugar during a race has sort of circular effect: eating sugar spikes your blood sugar and that increases your body's dependence on sugar sources. The net effect is that you don't burn as much fat and have to eat more, theoretically. The other problem with sugar -- particularly drinks -- is that they can amplify the effects of dehydration. I would assume that is why sugary drinks started tasting bad and I preferred water later in the race. There is no guarantee I will do anything here, I just want to test some stuff.

The other thing that has started to stand out is that you really need more than one nutrition plan. In races lasting half a day or more, the things that taste good early won't taste good late. During this race, I really enjoyed eating solid food like Hammer bars early in the race. When I switched to gels for the second half, they didn't taste horrible to me. In fact, I found them easy to consume and somewhat pleasant. The point really is that you need to achieve a certain number of calories per hour. Having more than one way to get to that number is just another tool in your arsenal come race day. That requires that you train for more than one plan and have several options available on race day. I don't like to rely on food at the aid station because I cannot know how much I am eating that way. Instead, I consider all that stuff as over-and-above my minimum plan.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Old Pueblo 50 - Race Report

Before I get started, there are a few things I want to say to make sure the point isn't lost in my verbose description of the race. The first is that I am pleased with my performance. Had I stayed on course and had this been a 47 mile race (like my first "50 mile race"), I would have PR'd by about an hour and fifteen minutes. And the conditions were pretty tough. The field was about half an hour slower than previous years. I feel very confident in the changes I made in training as well as my nutrition strategy. In fact, I think I am getting closer to realizing my potential as an ultra runner and understanding this crazy sport. (That probably means my next race will be a huge let down!)

The other point of emphasis is that this is a quality race. There were some marking issues this year, but overall it is a great course with a great community of runners and I would do it again. The small, tight-knit feeling is very reminiscent of the ultra running old school culture. And, the course was much prettier than I imagined a desert course could be. Another thing I liked about the course was that it was challenging (almost 7K of vertical and very rocky) without being excessive. I love mountain races, but I am disadvantaged because it is really hard to get up to the high country and train above 10K on a frequent basis.

Kentucky Camp Start

Start - Kentucky Camp

Steve and I woke at about 3 am and left his house by 4 am to be at the start line in time for drop bags. It turns out we had plenty of time. We managed to use up the extra time drinking coffee and waiting in line for a restroom. We briefly talked strategy for the day, hoping to keep a good run walk pattern early to keep ourselves in check. The first half of the course is substantially easier and I was trying to decide how best to attack it. I had decided on a 45/55 split, so something close to a 4:15 halfway mark was the target. Like many ultras, runners huddled near the start line chit-chatting until the race director said "go". It almost felt like this race was local Fat Ass event -- everyone knew everyone else. Pretty cool.

Granite Mtn (3 miles)  - 0:31

Right from the start, Steve and I were in the lead group of 20 runners. Steve was being social and discovered a few runners that never run an ultra or were hoping for an 11-12 hour finish -- yet they were still hanging near the front. At about the 10 minute mark I decide to keep running (instead of the walk pattern we had discussed) because we were moving at such a slow pace. I figured we'd wait for the course to spread out a bit. Three miles came and went pretty quick.

California Gulch (7 miles) - 1:14

After leaving Granite Mountain, you turn right and jump onto the Arizona Trail. The initial part is a decent little climb totaling a few hundred feet. Then you are pounding down a fairly steep and technical descent into California Gulch. This was when disaster struck for Steve.  He he rolled his ankle and I think it kind of set the tone for the day for him. I didn't think much of it since that happens all the time trail running. He managed to "walk it off" and keep moving pretty well. Some wear along the way he popped a few Ibuprofen and said it was feeling ok. It was only after the race that I saw how gruesome that injury actually was.

This was a really pretty section of trail and it was one of the few true descents that I handled well all day. I wish I had taken a mental note of the climb I was going to face on the return trip. Or maybe it is better I didn't remember? (Note to the reader: the course is sort of two loops with Arizona Trail connecting them, so you go on the trail twice, roughly miles 3 - 7 and 29 - 33). Before long we dropped down into the second aid station where we had placed a drop bag. They volunteers were very helpful all day and filled our water bottles. We dropped our headlamps and cold weather gear and got moving quickly.

Wasp Canyon (13 miles) - 2:09

Leaving California Gulch we started flying. This we a really gradual descent and we were dropping 8:30 miles without even elevated breath. There was one or two short, steep climbs that we power hiked, but overall it was all downhill. It took a lot of restraint to dial it back and stop for short walking (and eating) segments every 10 or so minutes. It was about this point that Steve commented how quickly time was clicking by. I told him it was amazing how fast things move when you are mentally engaged. And the truth is that the first quarter of an ultra always goes by fast because you know there is lots more to go. If you are lucky, the closing miles go by as quickly! More commonly they are a bit of a mental struggle, at least for me.

Helvetia (19 miles) - 3:14

I remember discussing the opening portion of the race with Jon and he pointed out a pretty significant climb from mile 11 to 15 (Gunsight Pass). Not long after leaving Wasp Canyon we started climbing and Steve was struggling to keep up. He had commented earlier that he was having trouble keeping up with me on the climbs. I took this as a compliment. Of course, we had both agreed we should do our own thing on race day. I started power hiking hard and, before I knew it, Steve was gone. I wouldn't see him again for about 10 hours.

After about a half mile a runner passed me and I said "nice shoes". He looked down and noticed that we were both wearing Saucony Peregrine. We traded notes about the shoes for a few minutes. We also discussed ultra plans for the future. It sounds like he is doing the LT100 MTB. I could tell he wanted to go hard, asking "so you walk hills too?". While "walking", I managed a 12 min mile up a long 1000+ foot climb. Then he acknowledged that he planned to run the whole way. I think I finished an hour (or more) ahead of him. Unless you are a 2:30 marathoner or you really like pain, it is usually a good idea to walk long or steep hills in an ultra. With practice you figure out the best ones to attempt to run.

Once you summit Gunsight Pass, the descent is very steep and rocky, exposing what continues to be my biggest weakness an ultra runner -- downhills! My legs take too much of a beating as I tip-toe and break the whole way. After a while the descent turned more gradual and less rocky and I started moving much better, running several miles near 8 min pace. I arrived at the aid station and refueled on Roctane and took off.

Box Canyon (25 miles) - 4:07

Coming into Box Canyon. Photo by Ross Zimmerman

Coming into Box Canyon. Photo by Ross Zimmerman

Not long after taking off my shoe came untied. It was a blessing because I had been ignoring some rocks in my shoes for several miles. I stopped for a full minute and emptied both shoes and tied them tightly. The remaining miles into Box Canyon have one longish, gradual climb and then a bunch of easy descent. It was at this point that I started getting ahead of myself and dreaming of a sub-9 finish. I was going to roll into the half way mark well ahead of 4:15, passing people and feeling strong. I kept reminding myself to just stay in the moment and execute mile by mile. That was enough of a reminder to take several walk breaks along this gentle grade. There was a little breeze along this section and I was concerned that, while it felt good, it was likely going to contribute to dehydration later. All of my sweat was drying instead of cooling me.

California Gulch (29 miles) - 4:54

Leaving Box Canyon I felt invincible. The climb along Box Canyon road was steep at first, but I power hiked hard and passed half a dozen runners. After a mile and a half, I started running way more than I was hiking. I was averaging a 10:30 pace along the longest (though not steep) climb of the day. It is very likely that I left a little too much on this section. I was once again getting ahead of myself and trying hard to keep my emotions in check and dial things back.

Before long I reappeared at the California Gulch aid station. I had forgotten about this aid station because it was not in my plans. I made several poor decisions here. The first was not properly utilizing this drop bag (the same as our mile 7 drop bag). Steve placed a handheld to carry the second half along with his pack. I should have followed his lead on that. I brought an extra one all the way to Arizona, why not have it in a drop bag?!  My vest has two 22 oz handhelds, but I can easily consume 30-40 oz of fluid per hour in hot conditions. Carrying a third handheld very likely could have saved me some discomfort and 10 - 15 minutes.

Granite Mtn (33 miles) - 5:49

The other mistake was passing on fluids. I had one hand held almost totally full and I knew the next aid station was "only" 4 miles away, a fact I confirmed by asking and aid station volunteer. It turns out that I was about to embark on a hot, steep, and technical climb along the Arizona Trail. I was out of fluids by mile 30 or 31 and struggled through this entire climb. It was close to 80 degrees on sections of the course and I was starting to wonder about the course markings. (75 or 80 degrees is not insane heat, but I am nowhere near acclimated right now. A typical training run for me in Winter is between 20 and 40 degrees). There was no runner within half a mile of me either direction and flags were every quarter mile at best (other than junction points). I tried to stay positive and just grind to the summit of the climb. It is funny how different the same section of trail looks from the other direction. I soon popped over the summit and descended down to the aid station.

Cave Canyon (40 miles) - 7:13

I mixed an energy drink with water and some more Roctane before leaving the aid station. To this point, I was doing a good job of staying on top of eating and my electrolyte pills. But the effects of the heat were beginning to settle in and I was never really able to get back in control. Leaving the aid station, I was full of fluid and food, but still moving slow as my body attempted to process it all. After a few minutes I got a good run/walk pattern going and start picking up the pace.

Before long, the sugary drinks started tasting horrible. I wanted plain water and they were not satisfying my thirst. Nonetheless, I continued to nurse them until I was out at mile 37. Thankfully, they had a freak snow storm the week before and there were piles of snow all over the course. I stopped at nearly everyone to grab a handful of snow and put some on my head and some down my back. My hydration vest trapped it so that it melted slowly against my back. Mentally I was struggling because there some runnable grade on this section that I could only power walk. I needed water badly.
Actual photo of me at mile 37

With only a quarter of a mile to the aid station, I came across a campground and begged for water. The campers explained that there was aid a short distance away, and I could hear the aid station volunteer calling for me. I managed to bum the water anyway, explaining that I had been dry for about 3 miles. And I had consumed all 22 oz of a handheld before I covered the quarter mile to the aid station. At the aid station I drank 5 or 6 more dixie cups of water and refilled both handhelds. At this point I was going water and gels the rest of the way -- the sugary drinks were making things worse.
Aid station volunteer captured this as I found the aid station

Gardner Canyon (46 miles) - 9:05

A little more than a mile after I left the aid station, I got to a junction in the road and they had hung a flag at the junction, on the left. I turned left and started going up hill in a washout gully. It seemed odd, but there were a few sections like this earlier, so I kept going. After about a third of a mile, I came across a Jeep that was stopped and it's owner hiking around. I asked the gentleman if he knew of the race and if I was off course. He said yes and that I should go back downhill. I started back downhill to the road and I came across another runner heading up the same way. I informed him that we were off course, but he disagreed.  He said that he had run this race before (twice) and that this was the right direction, "things looked familiar". We turned uphill and passed the gentleman in the Jeep, again. Soon we were out of trail and the other runner acknowledge we may be off course. Then he suggested we could just bush whack over the hill to our left in an attempt find the trail. We just stared at one another for a minute trying to decide what to do. Finally, we went back downhill and returned to the course. Sure enough, there was another flag a few hundred yards up the hill. Thirty minutes and 1.5 miles later, I was back on course. (In my opinion, the flag that I saw at the junction should have been hung on the right side of the road. Hanging it on the left was a clear indication to me to turn left.) Oh well, these things happen in trail running.

My encounter with the other lost runner wasn't all bad. He filled one of my empty handhelds from his hydration pack and convinced me to take Ibuprofen for my increasingly sore and stiff legs. I've done this before in ultras, but it is not a technique I like to rely on. After a few minutes of walking, he took off running as I struggled to mentally re-engage with what was happening. I knew any hopes of a 9:15 or even 9:30 finish were gone. There was a point where I considered just walking it in, knowing that I would easily go sub-11 and punch my WS100 lottery entry for next year. Finally, I got my act together and worked toward a run/walk pattern once again. My legs began to loosen and I was running.

After a bit, I ran into a race volunteer remarking sections of the course. I saw him a few miles down the road doing the same thing. Apparently, there were several complaints about the course markings and he was fixing some of the more confusing areas. He pointed me in the right direction and I hiked up a steep section of hill, lasting a mile and a few hundred feet. After that was a lot of gentle downhill into the final aid station. I was running consistently several miles and starting to get back in control of my race. This was some of the prettiest and most runnable single track of the day and I took advantage. I once again ran out of water about a mile short of the aid station.

Finish - Kentucky Camp - 9:55

I passed a runner coming into Gardner Canyon that I had passed before. Without hesitation, he asked if I had gone off course. He knew I was moving too good (and he was struggling, relatively) for any other explanation than me passing him twice. Or maybe he just noticed that he had never passed me? We talked briefly and I refilled with water at the aid station. I drank some flat soda and headed out. At this point I had my sights set on a new 50 mile race PR and a sub-10 hour finish. I didn't know exactly how far I had gone off course, but I suspected it was less than 2 miles, meaning I should be at the finish line before 53 miles on the Garmin. The first mile or so after the aid station was a rocky descent. I was moving alright, but tiring quickly. Then came one last multiple hundred foot climb and I was proud of my effort to climb it. Next came a long, gradual descent that lasted several miles. I saw another runner about a quarter mile ahead (in Hokas) that I had been following all day. I decided I would do my best to catch her.

As I drew closer to 52 miles, I could see the parking lot and the finish line, but I was descending into a canyon and heading away from the finish line. I began to become uncertain how far I would have left to run once I hit bottom of the trail. Instead of getting negative, I resolved to run every step until I hit 10:05 (my PR). If that came and went, I would walk it in. Fortunately I rounded the corner into Kentucky Camp with several minutes to spare and jogged in, 11 seconds behind the woman in Hokas. (Hokas and Montrail Masochist seemed to be the shoes of preference at this race.) Considering my struggles in the second half, I was surprised to learn that I finished in 20th place. The entire field was slow today due to the excessive heat, I think record heat for this race. I still preferred that over the blizzard they had the weekend before.

After finishing, I enjoyed some food and beer as I waited for Steve to finish. It was a true pleasure to watch Steve finish his first ultra. That was one of the reasons I came to this race and he did not disappoint. He gutted out 46 miles on what looks like a severely sprained right ankle. And he lived through some tough miles as he fought off bonk and dehydration. What a treat to see his enthusiam as he finished.

Yes, I was wearing a hat. It gets cold at night in the desert and I was dehydrated.