Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Year in Review

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Amigos for Bear 100.

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Western States 100 Training

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

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

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

2-3 good night runs on trails 

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

8-10 heat runs up to 2 hours in length 

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

***UPDATE***: I decided against heat runs and used sauna training instead.

Consistent mileage above 55 

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

Peak mileage at 70+, 4-6 times 

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

Lots of "light quality": Fartleks, Progression 

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

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

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

Don't over-do trails and vertical 

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

Don’t fight winter 

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

Emphasize body weight training for XT

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Western 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 2, 2014

HPRS - Indian Creek 50K Race Report

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

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

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

Rampart 1 - 9.25

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

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

Reservation (start area) - 14.25

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

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

Stevens Gulch - 19.85

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

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

Rampart 2 - 23.45

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

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

Reservation/Finish - 32.8 miles

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Final Thoughts on Bear

The Bear 100 is behind me and, other than some for fun events, my season is done. The Bear was a tough day and not at all what I hoped for. Naturally, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking and introspection on what went wrong. Now that I have nailed a 50 miler, I feel like the next big goal is to do well in a 100. Defining what it means to "do well" is subjective topic, but I'll know it when I do it, if I do it. So, here are my rambling thoughts about why Bear didn't go as I'd hoped.

Let's start with the obvious stuff....

  1. I didn't make Bear my target race for the year (instead it was the North Fork 50) and my training and "life plans" were not geared toward a Fall race. Clear indications of that were that in my decreasing motivation in July and August as well as my decreased training. Training decreased partly due to taking some time off after North Fork -- which was expected so I could take vacation with my family -- and due to injury in August. The results should clearly in the stats: I averaged 250 miles per month in April - June and only 175 miles in July and August.
  2. The weather at Bear was not conducive to running well. The day time high temperature peaked somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees, but the heat was pretty much a factor from the start of the race until about 1 am when it started raining. Then the torrential rain made efficient movement tough the last half of the race.
  3. Mentally, I just wasn't quite ready for another 100. I have eluded to this in the past here, but I hoped I would find the mojo by race day. The short version is just that running 100 miles the first time was an emotionally and physically exhausting event. You simply must be in the right frame of mind to push through it. It is more than accepting it will hurt, it is welcoming that hurt and desiring to problem solve and push through the pain. There are ways to improve things, but sooner or later it is going to hurt. And I just wasn't ready to embrace that fact.
Now the less obvious stuff, much of which I covered in my race report.
  1. I was patient to start the race but I got too confident too early and started racing hard around mile 25, way too early for a 100. To my credit, I knew it was hot and started slowly, but I should have continued with my patient strategy for longer. This is a historical problem for me racing. (Though the alternative is to never go out hard and swing for the fences.) And, having even split nearly every other distance of race, I don't see a reason why I shouldn't be aiming to get at least a 45/55 split in a 100.
  2. I employed a strategy at North Fork where I would get my head, shirt, and even shorts wet to combat the heat and keep my core cool. I continued this tactic during the middle portion of Bear 100 and it worked well for me. I dumped my hat into a stream at least 12-15 times to wet my shirt and cool my core. Unfortunately, as it got dark, I gave up on this strategy and I was just cooked by mile 70 because it never cooled off at night.
  3. I need to train more specifically, particularly for the night portions of the race. My night running is never comfortable.
  4. And, I probably should consider more Ibuprofen. It is dangerous, but maybe not as dangerous as first thought.
Anyway, that is all I can think of for now. I am very likely to do a hundred (or two) next year, but I will change some things and try to get a better outcome. The first thing I need to do is get my head right and embrace the challenge!

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 their 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 remembering that they told us at the pre-race meeting 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 aid station. 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.)


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.


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
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
Strength Training
FridayOff Rest
Saturday OffRest
Sunday 17Deer Creek
Total 6211,000 feet of vert

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I Get My Fat


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.