Thursday, July 17, 2014

UTMF & Western States 100

These two races form part of the new 10-race Ultra Trail World Tour, a year-long series of popular races around the world that will culminate with La Diagonale des Fous on the island of Reunion off the southeast coast of Africa in October. Whether or not the series has legs is yet to be seen, but it is certainly one example among many of the booming popularity that our once-niche sport is currently enjoying.

Regardless of what the future holds for the UTWT, I was happy to be a small part of the effort in its foundational year. And while neither of these races went particularly well for me, in fact they both went quite poorly, I still consider myself extremely fortunate to have taken part in both.

Indeed, a trip out to Japan to run around Mount Fuji should be on any runner's bucket list: the mountain is about as iconic as they come and Japan is about as welcoming a country as you could ever wish to visit. Throw in a detail-driven, organizational national psyche and you find yourself running around an amazing mountain with nary a second thought as to the potential pitfalls of running through the wilderness of a very foreign country.

Western States, by contrast, is a race that I have become intimately familiar with over the last five years, and one that offers very few cultural surprises. It is a special event, if for no other reason than the foundational position it commands within the lore of the sport. And while I'm glad to be moving on from the event, I also know that I will dearly miss the passion - for the trail, for the sport, and for the community - that is so evidently on display in those 100 miles between Squaw Valley and Auburn, CA.

What follows is a double report on these two UTWT races, followed by a couple of concluding thoughts on 100-miling and the pain of banging my head against a solid brick wall.

Mount Fuji

After a week of incredibly gracious hospitality from Altra's man in Japan, Takashi Fukuchi, and his wonderful wife, Rae, it was time to get on with the task at hand: a lap around Nippon's Big Cone.

The late afternoon start was something I could have done without given the extra layer of thought and preparation it added to my typical pre-race motions (wake up two hours before the start, eat donuts, drink coffee, visit the toilet, suit up, run), but you deal and get on with it.

Just before the start: me and Brian Beckstead, one of the three founding guys behind the Altra brand and a handy 100 miler to boot.
The opening miles through Kawaguchiko under the shadow of Fuji were predictably fast (as predictably fast as U.S. races are predictably slow to get going), and I soon found myself running in a pack that included the lead ladies, among others. The opening dirt-road climb out of town probably averaged 10 percent, a grade right out of the Clarkie all-day playbook, and I soon found myself settling in nicely and moving up through the field. Topping out, we then transitioned to a very fast, net downhill section of tarmacadam, before finally hitting some soft piney singletrack for the descent into the village of Fujiyoshida.

By the top of the next climb, which funneled into some outrageously fun, steep and technical singletrack high on the summit ridge of Shakushiyama, I was running within the top 10 and feeling great. That is until the ensuing technical, muddy descent from the summit where I took an awkward fall that left me prone on the ground with my left shoulder out of socket (a legacy from my rugby days). It had been a few years since my shoulder last dislocated, but a bit of on-the-ground contorting soon had it popped back into place and I was up and running soon after the initial stab of pain had subsided.

Running in eighth or ninth now, I came in solo to the intermediate aid station before the next town, but left just as a gaggle of runners poured in. Flipping on my light, I soon realized that I was seriously underpowered in the lumen department compared to my peers and was forced to let them go on the technical descent into town.

Rolling out of Yamanakako, I was fortunate enough to hook up with Dave Mackey who appeared to be running well and enjoying his evening. On the roads out of town we caught up to Frenchman Antoine Guillon and formed a solid trio as we made our way through a nice rolling wooded section, taking a name or two in the process. Both Dave and Antoine were clearly stronger on the downs (and both had far superior lighting), so it was back and forth as we cruised the rollers. Ultimately Dave would gap Antoine and me on a longer descent through this section, leaving me to pigeon-French a conversation with the amicable frogger for the next few hours.

Attention to detail is not one of my stronger suits, and so in typical fashion I was experimenting with nutrition on the fly out in Japan. And to my great surprise my stomach appeared to be tolerating - nay embracing - the diluted Cool Citrus VFuel that I had mixed in a soft bladder-bottle stuffed into the chest pocket of my Ultraspire pack with a handy straw flapping around close to my mouth. Gels were going in at the pre-planned rate, energy levels were high, and confidence was strong as a result.

I spent a lot of the night rolling around in the mud.
On a long road section somewhere close to the halfway point, last year's winner Hara-san went powering by at quite an impressive pace, dropping me to seventh or eighth. On the short out and back from the subsequent aid station I crossed Antoine and Mike Foote, so clearly the race was still very much on for top 10 placements. The net 10km of downhill dirt road that ensued went quickly and with little fanfare, with the exception of one particularly bruising fall. A couple shoulder checks along the way revealed two lights within a half mile behind; nothing in view ahead. Mike caught up to me just as we hit the water stop before a rough section of trail carved out by a power-line cut, and we ran the next portion together, both in high spirits.

Still energized and feeling fantastic, I ran this section with Mike at what felt like a strong effort. Halfway through this section though, I took another abrupt digger, dislocating my shoulder once again in the process. This time it took a couple of minutes to pop it back in. Nonetheless, I was back running alongside Mike within a mile and we were soon catching and passing runners. First Hara and then an ailing Thomas Lorblanchet. Coming into the aid station under the TenShi Mountains, the crux of the course - and not before a third shoulder dislocation while grabbing a pole to make a 90 degree turn - Mike and I were sitting pretty in sixth and seventh.

And then I learned from my crew that I'd eaten through the box of Cool Citrus that I'd brought with me and would have to make do with chocolate. While prepping for the burly 12 miles to come through the mountains, I spied a bowl of miso soup and slurped it down. Almost immediately my stomach rebelled, essentially ending my race and the charge for a podium finish.

The four hours - yes four hours to complete 12 miles - through the night in the TenShi mountains were incredibly hard, and now that I was vomiting rather than eating, they were also fantastically exhausting. Nonetheless, there were apparently runners worse off than me. Near the top of the hands-and-feet first climb, I passed a hurting Dave Mackey, then soon passed an even-more hurting Emmanuel Gault for a temporary spot in the top five. But I knew it was just a matter of time before the floodgates behind opened up.

Tip-toeing down the ludicrously steep descent from the final summit in the TenShi (where there were literally miles of fixed ropes), Antoine blazed past me. Given how poorly I was now moving, I was surprised he was the only one. Some four hours after I had left the previous stop, I finally pulled into aid station nine, with a new day now dawned. By this point I was truly miserable and giving serious consideration to dropping. My stomach was in knots and I was severely dehydrated. Apparently one bottle, no calories and lots of puking is not the way to tackle a four-hour stretch of technical, mountainous trail: attention to detail Clark! But I couldn't bring myself to pull the plug when faced with a crew that had sacrificed a weekend to come out and help.

I jogged out of the aid until I was out of sight, and then began walking. A mile out I came across a camera crew and asked them how I could extricate myself from my predicament. Due to severe linguistic difficulties I didn't get an answer so walked on to a nice spot by a creek and sat on a rock not quite sure what to do. After 30 minutes of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, Dave came hobbling through looking perhaps as bad as I felt. He compelled me to walk the final 50km into the finish with him and all of a sudden I was moving again with a somewhat renewed sense of mission, and quite honestly relieved not be pulling the plug.

Finally at the next aid station, I begin to feel like I might be able to get some calories in, and indeed a bowl of noodles was accepted by my stomach. On the ensuing climb, John Tidd caught up to me and I was able to find some energy and motivation, slotting in behind. Some 15 miles later at the penultimate aid station, with Tidd a long stretch of pavement behind me, Meghan Hicks informed me that I was in 10th position. Dumbfounded that I could still be in the top 10 (the rate of attrition was apparently quite high), I pressed on, finally finding the finish some 23 hours after I had started, relieved simply to have had the cojones to dig myself out of a major slump, to have finished what I had started, and to have gotten around the mountain.

A DNF had very much been in the cards and totally acceptable to me at my lowest point out there, but thanks to Dave and John I was able to finish and am now of course hugely thankful to have done so. A trip all the way out to Japan with nothing but a DNF to show for it would have been painful to accept. Thank you Dave, thank you John, and thank you to my wonderful crew.

A thoroughly underserved 10th place finish.
Western States

Jogging up the ski hill, I was somewhat bemused by the ridiculously cagey start that was unfolding. With all the hares in the field, it seemed like at least one of them would take off up the mountain, but instead I found myself leading the way to the Escarpment at an effort that I estimated to be among my lowest ever in the five times I'd done this race. Through the Granite Chief I maintained that lead, before runners finally started catching up, close to Lyon Ridge.

First to the top. Not a bad morning for a run. Photo: Ryan Smith.
The pace soon began to quicken and so I let the large chase pack go, feeling a distinct lack of pep and - quite honestly - desire in my stride. By Robinson Flat, some 30 miles in, I was beginning to feel like this wasn't going to be my day. I was 8 to 10 minutes off my usual pace, with a pair of quads that already felt iffy and a mind that had a singular lack of drive. Up to this point I had been working behind Ian Sharman and Brendan Davies, but on the ensuing half marathon descent from Robinson, I would lose them and then watch Ryan Sandes and Alex Varner pass by me with the utmost of ease.

Coming into Duncan at mile 24. Photo: Justin Mock
Coming into Dusty Corners: Mock
By Devil's Thumb at mile 47, I essentially knew the game was up and for the second time in as many races my thoughts transitioned to dropping out. On the contour trail to Last Chance, normally a strong section of the course for me, I was appalled at how slowly I was moving and then on the descent to Eldorado, I literally threw in the towel while tip-toeing down the drawn-out descent on a pair of totally unresponsive legs that appeared to have suffered major quad damage. Four or five guys - all looking good - went by me on the descent, and then a couple more as I lingered down by the creek eating blueberries.

On the long walk up to Michigan Buff, as more runners streamed by, I plotted my escape route, 100 percent certain that I was going to quit, all the while thinking about how I was going to dodge the inevitable pressure to continue from crew and volunteers. Sitting in my chair feeling ridiculously sorry for myself and imploring overzealous aid station volunteers to leave me alone, I tried to clear my head a little. My quads were shot, my feet were blistered and I just couldn't visualize a finish. The 16 miles of mainly downhill on Cal Street seemed insurmountable.

Finally, some 30 minutes later, Shelly Jones-Wilkins looks me straight in the eyes and tells me that I need to finish this race, learn from it and move on. There will be no lessons learned unless I get to the finish line. Finally, I feel a slight spark, and while the remaining 45 miles still seem quite impossible, I agree to a quick massage to see if that might turn my legs around. Two wonderful ladies work my legs and within three minutes they have me back up and running. Incredible. Thank you so much.

Jacob Rydman, my selfless pacer,  donates the socks off his feet, I slip my Lone Peaks back on and all of a sudden I'm running out of the aid station, and indeed I run virtually all the way to the next aid stop at Foresthill.

By this point I am firmly out of the race for places, but a respectable finish in the 18-hour range still isn't out of the question. That is until my stomach predictably turns sour a quarter of the way down to the river, essentially ceasing all possibility of calorie consumption. Jacob and I move reasonably well on the descent to Cal 1, but then halfway between Cal 1 and Cal 2 I come up against a major brick wall. The nausea in combination with my blisters and blown quads stop me in my tracks and I tell Jake that I'm going to have to walk to Cal 2.

Right at the top of the Elevator Shaft, a precipitous and loose drop into the Cal 2 aid station, I hear the unmistakable AJW baritone. The pass is about to happen and I step off the side of the trail to let Andy through. He stops briefly with a slight look of surprise in his eyes, then simply gives me a hug and tells me that he loves me. Wow. Somewhat taken aback, I proclaim my shared love for Andy and just like that he's ripping down the elevator shaft in pursuit of his tenth finish. The man-love from Andy is good and wholesome, but not enough to resolve my issues.

I ask Jacob what the escape route out of Cal 2 looks like and he tells me that if I want to quit then I need to get to the river. Damn it. We sit in Cal 2 for a good long time. The stop eases my stomach situation slightly and I consume a couple of morsels, but mainly suck on ginger ale. I watch friends go through the aid, all looking motivated and strong, but find no motivation to move until an ailing Kaci Likteig walks in, proclaiming her quads to be destroyed. Finally somebody who can sympathize with my misery.

We commit to walking down to the river together where we would perhaps unceremoniously drop or perhaps continue on to the finish. And then the Cal 2 calories appear to kick in a bit and I feel like I can jog again. Kaci catches my rhythm and all of a sudden we're both moving at what could genuinely be described as a 'run.' Spirits now high, Kaci and I make a pact that we're both going to finish this thing. We seal the deal with a fist bump, and for the first time since El Dorado and can envision a finish.

Across the river I receive some foot treatment giving up further time on the clock, but not caring one iota. I struggle through the first few miles from Green Gate and then proceed to lose my lunch. The stomach reset allows me to continue running, but I go too hard and by the time I drop into the Auburn Lakes Trail aid station (85) I reach my lowest low of this unrelenting day of lows. The nausea engulfing me is now total and I sit in the aid station contemplating how on earth it is that I'm going to complete the final 15 miles of this bruising day. The answer ends up being time. I sit in the aid station for half an hour, maybe more, before finally heeding the advice of the wonderful ALT nurse to hike to Browns Bar, some five miles down the trail. We walk every single step of those five miles and finally my stomach comes back to life.

Over those last 10 miles, I go from tiptoeing out a run, to gradually picking up a head of steam that would ultimately result in tempo session from No Hands Bridge through town and an all-out sprint on the track. I end the day feeling like I have barely started, my stomach is ready for calories and my mind is clear. I have never finished a 100 miler feeling this fresh, coherent and with such an appetite. Had it been a 200 mile race, I may just have been in with a shot.

But it wasn't. Instead I finished 47th overall, over five hours off my best time, but in good spirits and at peace with my final run from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California. It has been a fun ride but it's most definitely time to move on to other challenges. The cougar will have to remain the thing that dreams are made ... to quote Sam Spade.


In order to race 100 milers effectively, your mind most be 100 percent committed. I believe my mind was ready for Fuji, but totally indifferent to Western States this year. I figured I could show up, go through the motions and come away with a solid finish. Instead, when things started going wrong, I used those hurdles as excuses to look for a way out.

In order to race 100 miles effectively, you need a functioning stomach. I'm close to being at my wits end on this one. I will work with my good friend Abby McQueeney Penamonte - a registered dietician and talented 100 mile runner herself - over the next few weeks to see if we can't figure something out for Steamboat in September. If that ends up being another disaster, then I am currently of the opinion that I will retire from racing 100 milers - or at least take an extended break. I know what it feels like to endure hours of nausea whilst trying to maintain strong forward progress, and quite frankly it sucks. I don't need to keep banging my head against that wall.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other long-distance challenges that can be taken on in the mountains at a much lower intensity, so if I do end up quitting the 100 mile distance it will hopefully come with a renewed sense of purpose for big projects in the mountains that perhaps do not involve a formal start and finish line.

Either way, I am happy to have completed both UTMF and Western States, despite an overwhelming desire at points in both races to quit, and I look forward to applying those lessons learned to future challenges.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week Ending June 22

Mon - 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Jogged a lap on Horsetooth.

Tues - Noon: 4.5 miles (700') easy. Quick Falls loop in the new Lone Peak 2.0s, which felt great, but I won't be able to get enough miles on them before Western to have full confidence, so I'll be donning the 1.5s.
PM: 6.5 miles track. The last 300 meters of the Western States 100 famously take in 3/4s of the Placer High School track, so when the email came through from Jane detailing this week's track workout I could but smile: 2km warmup, followed by 10 x 300. Dressed in a long-sleeve base layer, a winter beanie, knee-length tights and compression socks (yes, I looked like a prick), I got to work with my shirtless compadres. Opening 2k was 6:46 w/5:23 mile, then: 55, 55, 55, 56, 55, 55, 54, 55, 55, 52. I know, I'll never be accused of being a speed demon. And that's why I race 100s.

Weds - 4 miles easy. Felt predictably gimpy after yesterday's session at the oval, so just got out for a nice easy jog through the Marina campgrounds.

Thurs - 8.5 miles (1,700') hill tempo. Another Thursday, another session on Towers. I tried to keep this one within the realms of comfortable, but ended up working harder than I would have liked - on a perfect late-spring evening - for a mediocre 30:40. Not quite the confidence boost I was looking for. Ran the descent much harder than usual with Brad and his buddies.

Fri - Off. My right hamstring felt slightly tweaked from the Towers descent, so I made the easy decision of taking a day off.  

Saturday - 12.5 miles (4,500') up high. Got out with Burch to celebrate the solstice by heading up to State Forest to nab a couple of high peaks in the Medicine Bow Mountains. In addition, we attempted to connect a few of the rougher sections of trail on the Never Summer 100k course, with varying degrees of success. Parking on a pull-out halfway between the 2WD and 4WD trailheads on the Ruby Jewel Rd we donated some blood to a vicious swarm of skeeters then got going. The route to Jewel Lake was fairly straightforward, with just a few lingering snowfields to navigate, then it was a gorgeous, tundra-filled hump towards the 'Lewis' and Clark saddle, from where we headed north to tag 'Lewis' peak (12,654') and take in the super stellar views. From Lewis, it was a quick down and up to Clark Peak (12,951'), the highest point in Jackson County and the peak with most prominence in Larimer County (it straddles the border of both counties). The views from both peaks were quite sensational and offered unparalleled views of a number of sub-ranges within the mighty Rockies, including the Never Summers, Medicine Bow, Mummies, Park Range, Front Range, Snowies, and more. Seriously, this is perhaps the best vantage point of the Rockies that I've ever had the fortune of enjoying. We connected with a faint use trail south off Clark, wrapping west on the ridge to the south of the Jewel Lake bowl under Lewis and Clark, before dropping back in and down to the truck. We finished up the morning with some running on the Yurt trail, connecting some pieces that I failed to find on last weekend's scouting trip.

The tundra-adorned southern Medicine Bows in the foreground, including Diamond Peaks, then pretty much the full Never Summer line-up in back with the high point, (Baron von) Richthofen, slightly off center to the left in the top of the frame and, I think, Baker all the way south in the top right. That traverse is high on my list for this summer. So good.
From same vantage point (top 'Lewis'), looking north to the northern Med Bows.
Hidden Vally section of the Never Summer 100k course in the foreground, then Park Range west across North Park.
Clark Peak and south section of the Med Bows. This whole range is super carpeted and could be done in very quick order. 
Front Range Peaks, including Longs in the top left. 
Clark & Clark from top 'Lewis'
Love this range. Mummies from top Clark Peak. Five of the six peaks that make up the Mummy Mania traverse visible (Hagues, Fairchild, Ypsilon, Chiquita and Chapin (L-R), with Mummy obscured behind Hagues).
Lewis center, Clark right.
Sun - 5 miles (1,500') hike/jog. I wasn't going to do anything today, but I felt the need to get out, so compromised with a stiff hike to the top of Horsetooth and a gentle jog down. Came home and watched some footie. The U.S. looked so much better than the useless English earlier in the week. Guess I'll be wearing my U.S. hat for the rest of the WC.

Total: 47.5 miles (9,900')

Off to Tahoe on Weds. We'll see what the weekend brings!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Week Ending June 15

Mon - 4.5 miles (700') easy. Falls loop. Headed out late in the day for a Horsetooth summit, but just couldn't muster the energy, so bailed with a consolation loop on the lower trails.

Tues - AM: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth summit. A super casual jog in the heat of the day with an extra layer just to warm the legs a bit for the evening's track workout.
PM: 6 miles track. It was good and hot at the track this evening, so I got some strange looks warming up in pants and a jacket, but I like to get a good sweat going before doing anything intense like a track workout. Nonetheless, it always takes me the first couple of reps to really commit to doing these things. Workout was: mile, 4 x 800. Eased in on the first couple laps of the mile, then worked the second 800 a bit. For the 800s, we were working in pairs with the second runner (me) joining/pulling the first runner on his second lap before soloing his own second lap. This dynamic led to a lazy first 800, before I figured I needed to push a little harder on the first lap as the second runner: 5:30, 2:40, 2:36, 2:35, 2:35. These reps felt really, really good - totally under control with plenty in the tank to push harder had I wanted.

Weds - AM: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth summit. Good and easy.
PM: 6 miles easy. Easy out and back on the Valley trails.

Thurs - 10.5 miles (1,200') easy. Ran the Blue Sky/Indian Summer out and back with Sarah, Lee and Slush. Latched onto Sarah's uptick in pace over the last couple miles, otherwise just a nice early morning cruise.

Fri - 6 miles easy. Jogged an out and back from the Blue Sky trailhead to Shoreline/Nomad. Layered up for this one and got a solid sweat going.

Sat - 12 miles (2,000') easy. We stayed at the Montgomery Yurt up at State Forest in the Medicine Bow Mountains this weekend, which was a total blast. This trip had a dual purpose. In addition to wanting to get away somewhere remote with the family, I was also champing at the bit to get up to State Forest - now snow free up to about 10.5k' - to start scouting the Never Summer 100k race we plan on debuting next year.

Up with the sun, I followed the Yurt Trail connecting the Montgomery Pass Rd to the Ruby Jewel Rd - starting approximately 26 miles into our intended route. This is typically a winter trail intended for yurt to yurt ski tours of the park, so the realities on the ground in the summer were less than ideal. The well-defined ATV track of the designated trail soon gave way to mainly cross country travel with a hint of trail thrown in here and there through the trees. On the final clear cut before I was supposed to pop out on the Ruby Jewel Rd I totally lost the trail and ended up bushwhacking through the woods on the 9,600' contour that the trail was marked as following over the final mile or so. Once on the road I jogged up to the next trail intersection, passing the exit point of the Yurt Trail after a quarter mile, so just a little low, but good to know that the trail goes all the way through. From there, I picked up the Mtn View Trail, shortcutting through a heinous clearcut near the bottom to get back on the main park road, from whence it was a jog back to the yurt. This was a fun, if somewhat slow and frustrating morning, and an eye-opener for the kind of terrain this race is going to take in. Following the run, we hot-footed it out to Steamboat for an afternoon in the hot springs followed by the usual downer of watching England perform poorly in the World Cup.

Yurt Fun
Yurt 'trail.' XC travel will be required.
Once clearcut, these saplings are growing in thick and fast.
Sun - 10 miles (1,800') easy. More scouting, this time in the far northern section of the course under Clark Peak and the Rawah section of the Medicine Bows. The first half of this run was on well-maintained forest road, which gave way to overgrown madness on the connector 'trail' I was scouting. As is common in State Park, which has been extensively logged over the years due to heavy beetle kill, a lot of the old logging roads are now being aggressively reclaimed by vibrant saplings which have been lapping things up in the moist environment. After bushwhacking the final mile of trail/road, I finally popped back out on the eastern side of the loop from where I enjoyed a return on super skinny trail that clearly sees heavy game activity but little human passage. With the vibrant wild flowers, remote location and game-rutted trails, this whole section was very reminiscent of some of the more remote sections of the Big Horn course.
Trail coming in from the Hidden Valley Alpine section, which also takes in Kelly Lake. 
Once a trail. A half mile later and it was solid bushwhacking with no discernible evidence of a trail.  More scouting required.
Diamond Peaks, Nokhu Crags, Richthofen and Mahler on the south end of the course (north end of the Never Summers). The first 25 miles of the course route under and around the Never Summers by way of Seven Utes, Lake Agnes, Michigan Ditch and Michigan Lakes. Then up Diamond Peaks and into the Medicine Bows for some ridge running to Montgomery Pass. So good. 
Much of the course can be seen here through a clearing on the north end. The Never Summers are off in the distance, before the contour under the Medicine Bow Mountains and through alpine terrain in Hidden Valley on the left side of the frame. The low point on the course will be about 8,500' with approximately half of it run above 10,000', topping out at just below 12,000' on North Diamond Peak.
The trails, as it turns out, are not always so well defined. Heavy marking will be required in a number of sections.
Moose country.
Total: 68 miles (7,800')

A little low on the mileage again, largely due to the light weekend volume brought on by poor route finding and time constraints. But it was still a super fun weekend in a truly unique, beautiful and under-visited part of Colorado. Pete and I will be up at State Park for much of the summer figuring the best route possible for next year's Never Summer 100km. If interested, we're planning a preview/scout of the course with any and all that are interested the weekend of July 18/19. We've reserved a couple sites at the Bockman Campground for up to 12 people, but further reservations are probably required at this point if you're interested in joining.

What else? Ah, yes, Western States is less than two weeks away. I really have no idea how this year's race is going to play out. While I feel less prepared than any previous year from a pure fitness standpoint, I also have an inner confidence that I'll still be able to get the job done in a respectable time. I feel little to no pressure to perform, despite putting some fairly aggressive goals out there on the interwebs, which I believe puts me in a good mental spot. I know how to run these things, so I just need to execute on race day. That's it really - no time to be overthinking things now.

Mike and I will be driving out Wednesday evening, getting into the Tahoe area Thursday around noon. We'll need to source some kind of accommodation, likely in the Reno area, and then I'll be speaking on the Veteran's Panel that night with such luminaries of the sport as Karl Meltzer, Meghan Arbogast and Topher Gaylord. How I came to be considered a veteran, I am not quite sure, but it should be a fun evening and hopefully I have some useful nuggets to impart. Consider stopping by if you're in the area.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Four Weeks Ending June 8

Week Ending May 18

Mon - AM: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. After taking a couple easy weeks post UTMF, I was having a hard time getting my head back into the thought of training, so I eased back in today with a glide to the top of Horsetooth (106).

Tues - AM: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Just an easy jog up the hill (107) to loosen things up a bit for the afternoon workout.

This may have been a summit from the week before, but I'm losing track: Sarah, Katie, Emily, Becca, Marie and Lee
PM: 6 miles at the track. This was the first Tuesday Night Track workout of the season and as always there was a huge turnout. Nonetheless, Jane manages the workout so well that it never feels overcrowded. Workout for the evening was 6 x 800, and after easing in on the first one, I held the pace at between 2:32 & 2:35, working with Brian Murphy and a couple others. Good to be back on the oval.

Weds - 10 miles (2,500') easy. Jogged out the 10 mile Horsetooth (108), Westridge route at a reasonably casual effort. Picked up the pace coming down Spring Creek just to put a little pressure on the quads.

Thurs - AM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Horsetooth summit (109).
PM: 6 miles uber easy at the FCTR social run at Pineridge.

Fri: 10.5 miles easy (1,200'). Met Sarah early morning for a nice, social jaunt on the Blue Sky & Indian Summer loop.

Saturday: 23.5 miles (3,000') long. Mike H was in town for the weekend, so we decided to make the most of it with a couple of weekend long runs. We started things off with the classic Blue Sky out and back from my house. Indian Summer on the way out and straight through on the way back. Picked things up just a touch over the last five or six miles and felt great.

Sunday: 23 miles (4,500') at Lumpy Ridge in Estes Park. Drove up the devastated Big Thompson Canyon with Mike to meet Abby & Kircher at the Lumpy Ridge trailhead. The standard loop around the famed Lumpy Ridge rock formations is 10.5 miles with a couple decent climbs, but if you tack on the spurs to Bridal Veil Falls and Balanced Rock, then it is close to 16 miles. A third spur option is to run all the way through to the Cow Creek trailhead and then take the North Boundary trail out to West Creek Falls, which adds another seven miles and a couple short, sharp climbs. Mike and I took in all three spurs which made for a really scenic and fun morning. Seriously, this is just a killer run that is capped off with some of the best views of the RMNP peaks you can find, coming down from Gem Lake.

"Feck it, we'll just call 'em Bridal Veil Falls!"
The almost as imaginatively named, West Creek Falls.
Don't get me started on this one, the Rock that is Balanced. 
RMNP Peaks, dominated as always by Her Majesty.
Total: 99 miles (16,000')

After a slow start to the week, it felt good to be back in the training saddle with two solid long runs on the weekend and a weekly total knocking on the triple-digit door.

Week Ending May 25

Mon - 6.5 miles easy (1,500'). Horsetooth summit (110).

Tues - Noon: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth jog (111). Birthday summit.
PM: 7 miles @ the track. Workout was: mile, 800, 400, 400, 800, 400, 400. Still adjusting to the realities of the track, so kept these under control for fear of ripping my muscles to shreds: 5:32, 2:35, 77, 73, 2:37, 76, 74.

Weds: 7 miles easy (1,800') on the hill (112).

Thurs - AM: 5 miles (1,000') easy. Super casual Falls jog.
PM: 9.5 miles (1,900') hill progression tempo. Ran just under 31 minutes with an effort that felt largely under control. Easy to get going as usual, then significant pick up in effort about halfway up the hill once the breathing and heart rate were fully under my control.

Fri - AM: 10 miles (2,000') easy. From Soderberg to top of Arthurs Rock (& back) with Andy, Jason, Lee and Marie.
PM: 4.5 miles (700') easy. Falls shakeout jog.

Sat - 18.5 miles (4,000') easy. Wasn't quite sure where I was headed this morning, so predictably enough I found myself out at Horsetooth bagging a couple of peaks (113 & 114) and generally tooling around until I felt like long-run status had been achieved (i.e., the watch clicked past three hours).

Sun - 20.5 miles (2,500') easy. I wanted a few more miles on the morning, but was happy to compromise with Burch - who was looking for no more than the bottom end of the long-run spectrum (20 miles) - in favor of having company on a morning where I had little to no motivation to be out for hours. Picked things up a notch coming home.

Total: 95 miles (17,000') 

It was hard work mentally getting out for the longer runs this weekend, a not uncommon state for me to be in at this stage of the training cycle, especially now that the excitement of the build-up to Western States is simply nowhere near what it used to be a few years ago.

Week Ending June 1

Mon - 10.5 miles easy. In San Diego for work all week, so had to make do. Ran from near the Convention Center out on the promenade for a bit over 5 miles then ran back. Ho hum.

Tues - 10.5 miles on the same route as Monday, with a bit of workout mixed into the middle: mile, two mile, mile at 6:00 min pace.
PM: 5 miles easy jogging out to and around Balboa Park.

Weds - 9.5 miles of easy jogging on the promenade again.

Thurs - 8 miles with 5 @ tempo. Short on time, I squeezed out what I could. Five miles at 6:05, 5:55, 5:52, 5:42, 5:48 after a short warm up.

Fri - 10.5 miles easy on the promenade again. Not very imaginative with my route choices this week, but you do what you can on limited time in unfamiliar cities.

Sat - 26.5 miles (5,500') downhill focus. 3:30. Met up early in Drake with Mike Aish and headed up Storm Mountain (~10,000') at a steady, but social pace. Topped out and then ran the 9 mile descent at a steady 6:00 min effort. Refueled at the car, then ran back up the hill for another four miles before dropping again at a good effort. Downs felt okay, but I was slogging pretty good on the climbs. Another one of the classic spring workouts in the books.

Sun 33.5 miles (1,500') easy. 4:10. My neighbor Patti turned 40 around the same time as me, so somehow she talked me into running a 40 mile birthday route (of her choosing) ending at Grimm Brothers Brewery in Loveland. We agreed that I'd give her a 3.5 hour head start in the name of making a race of it. Considering that she was already close to 20 miles done by the time I got going, I figured I'd need to run a low 7 min pace to catch up. I locked into that pace on the 13 mile Redstone Canyon out and back (with its handy, and accurate, mile markers) and pushed on at that effort for the remainder of the route: Masonville Rd, Glade Res out and back to water treatment plant, Carter Lake Rd, 1st Street east. Having never run more than 26 miles, Patti predictably enough bonked pretty hard and I caught her 32 miles in. I rounded up to 33.5 for 60 on the weekend and then we agreed to snag a ride to the brewery with Amy - another neighbor - who was out as a roving aid station. I finished the last mile or two at a good up-tempo pace and felt like I could have run quite comfortably for another 20 miles at that pace. Despite the flat, tedious nature of this run, it was good to feel so strong at the tail end of a 60-mile weekend.

Total: 109 miles (7,000')

Being in San Diego for a long week of work was by no means ideal timing at this critical stage of the training process, but flat routes make for quick mileage which is reflected in the weekly total. Reflecting back now, the quicker road mileage on hard surfaces is probably just as useful as grinding away in the hills, if not more so as it offered a good change of pace and a chance to work different muscle groups. With the big weekend mileage, this was a good week and much better than I initially thought it would be.  

Week Ending June 8 

Mon - Off. Felt a little sore from the weekend, so decided to be smart and take a day off.

Tues - 5 miles (1,000') easy on the Falls loop. Still pretty lackluster in the leg department.
PM: 6 miles @ the track. Feeling kinda gimpy still, I almost bailed on the workout, but figured I'd show up and just run tempo type efforts, even with the 2k, 8 x 400 planned workout. Ran the 2k with Sarah @ 6:00 pace, then went: 82, 77, 76, 75, 74, 74, 73, 72.

Weds - AM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Jogged out a super easy Horsetooth summit (115) and felt like the legs were finally starting to come around.
PM: 6 miles (500') easy on the Blue Sky Trail.

Thurs - AM: 10.5 miles (1,500') easy. Bluesky/Indian Summer with Sarah, Mike & Garcia. It's always fun to get these early AM miles in with friends.
PM: 9.5 miles (2,000') steady. Ran a high 33 on Towers with Burch at what was supposed to be a 36 min effort. I was relieved to see the time on the watch as it felt a good bit harder than 36 mins is supposed to feel.

PM: 6 miles (500') easy on Blue Sky.

Sat - 19.5 miles (1,800') race. A fifth win at Wyoming's oldest (continuous) footrace. Just a few seconds off my Pilot Hill PR, which came as something of a surprise, as I was expecting to be a good two minutes off my time from last year. The fitness it would seem is about in the general ballpark of where it needs to be. But that is just a small piece of the puzzle.

Sun - 20.5 miles (3,200) easy. Ran a double Bobcat Ridge with Danny, although bailed at Powerline on the second as my legs just had nothing and I was generally disinterested with being out running. Nonetheless, it was good to get the mileage completed.

Total: 90 miles (12,300')

Three weeks out from Western States now, and while I would have liked to have seen a bigger number on the final week of training before the start of my standard three-week taper, I'm just not sweating it. I've been through this process five times now, so there will be no surprises on race day.

It was fun as always to be up in Laramie Wyoming this past weekend to catch up with friends there, and also to get a read on my fitness through the Pilot Hill 25k Litmus Test. I had to work hard for it this year, thanks to a very fit Chris Schabron, so the final time is reflective of a harder effort perhaps than usual, but to come within half a minute of last year (despite a one min slower climb) is indicator enough for me that the fitness is 'good enough.' I'm not going to lie and state that I feel totally on top of my game, as I don't, but I do feel plenty strong. Western States this year will come down to execution. And my gut.

I've run the race enough times now that I feel confident in executing a race plan designed to get me to the finish as quickly as possible. I feel no pressure whatsoever to run with the lead group, a trap that sank me last year and came close to doing so in 2012. This year I plan on running the cliched 'smart race.' I will stay on the reins until Foresthill and then let my wiser-than-his-age pacer (Jake Rydman) take me home at a pace appropriate for my condition and distance to the finish line. Indeed, I want to run the last 20 miles this year the same way I did in 2010, finishing in a racing frame of mind (versus pure survival) with the same 60 minute split from Highway 49, and preferably coming in under Mike Morton's master's best of 15:40 from last year.

With regards to gut issues, I had great luck at UTMF with VFuel's new Cool Citrus flavor diluted in water. Unfortunately, I ran out at the key moment just before the toughest section of the course, and my gut predictably went to crap. But the consistent energy highs I was having until that point on a totally settled stomach was a major revelation. I'm coming to CA armed with 50 Cool Citrus gels this time around and have a newfound confidence in my gut. If I can stay solid there, I know my legs will give me what I need.

So there it is. The training block has been somewhat patchy and definitely low on volume relative to previous years, but I feel like the mental game will be where it needs to be and I have high hopes for the nutrition side of the equation too. Those two pieces - if executed - will more than make up for a few missed training runs.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Five Weeks Ending May 11

Chipping away here to see if I can't get caught up on this blog before I toe the line at Western States in three and a half weeks. It has been an incredibly busy last couple of months, so the old blog has had to take a back seat as other priorities have demanded my time. With the summer season now pretty much in full effect here on the Front Range, things are finally beginning to ease up a bit and I can start catching up with other items on the to-do list.

The long and the short of the last few months is that I raced a couple of big races, a 100 miler included; put on a 50 miler; traveled a good bit for work; chauffeured kids around town; turned 40; squeezed in mileage; knocked out my 100th Horsetooth of the year; and attempted to be a good husband to boot. The usual stuff. Next year, I plan on calming things down significantly by taking a few things off my plate. I really don't enjoy being madly busy.

And now I find myself a few short weeks removed from the 'Big dance,' 'the Track Race,' 'the Showdown in the Sierras.' That's right, Western States has crept up and it's almost time to start thinking about tapering. The last three weeks - missing from the recap below - have been pretty solid, so I'm happy enough with where my fitness is right now even if, in relative terms, I might be a half step behind where I've been in past years. But the beauty of the 100 mile race is that pure fitness is by no means the be all and end all of competing successfully. It's important for sure, but so is being in the right head space, having experience, possessing superior physical & mental toughness, and a whole host of race-day intangibles. Throw a Yahtzee on race day and I could end up PR'ing and challenging again for a podium spot - fitness be damned. Launch an air ball, and, well, you know, I may not even get to the finish line. Such a fickle distance.

Anyway, I am very calm about this year's race, especially as I've barely had a moment to think about it, and I'm quietly confident that I'll end it out with another top 10 finish to my name. In the name of keeping things simple, I'm setting no other goals.

In other news, I'll be heading off to South Africa in November for the race of a lifetime at SkyRun South Africa. Not only is the race taking part in a fantastically remote subrange of the Drakensberg Mountains bordering Lesotho - navigation skills required - but this will be my first ever trip to the African continent and one that will include a host of other non-race-related activities that promise to be equally as fun. This has already been an incredible year for run-travel opportunities, so I really couldn't think of a better capstone to a memorable 2014, my 40th year on this planet.

Anyway, to get caught up:

Week Ending April 13

This was Mount Fuji 100 minus three weeks. The plan here was to put in a regular week of training to be concluded with a training race weekend at the Lake Sonoma 50. The week was composed of mainly Horsetooth summits, a 31 minute Towers time trial and otherwise easy mileage.

The Lake Sonoma weekend was as fabulous as always, with picture perfect weather, a fun wine tasting the day after the race, and a hugely impressive field of runners to watch perform on race day. My plan going into this one was to pace things at slightly quicker than 100 mile effort, perhaps run at the pointy end of the women's field, test out the UTMF gear set-up, and come out the other end feeling intact and ready to race 100 miles in two weeks time.

Ian Sharman and I had exchanged emails leading up to the race and had decided to run the race together as we were both looking for nothing more than a solid long-run workout, but as he was in the port-a-john when the gun went off that never happened. Instead, I found myself running the first half of the race in the small three-runner group of lead women. Emily Harrison was doing most of the running, with Stephanie Howe and Jodee-Adams seemingly content to follow. About 20 miles in, Emily made a decisive move that would be good enough to propel her to the win and course record. Meanwhile, I was happy to keep things steady, take my time at the aid stations and generally enjoy the day.

Lingering in the penultimate aid station, with 12 miles left to go, I was a little surprised to have Kaci Lickteig catch up to me, clearly running a well-paced race and forcing me to notch my now-lazy effort a rung or two. The last 10 miles passed by a lot quicker than they have the last two years when I've typically found myself slogging pretty hard to get to the finish. Coming into the quarter mile out and back down to the last aid station, five miles from the finish, we passed Stephanie Howe in second. This clearly lit a fire under Kaci and she was off to the races, while I hung out at the aid station shooting the breeze with the volunteers for a couple of minutes. Heading back out I crossed paths with Ian and he would (finally) catch up to me with a few miles left to the finish. A couple of miles out from the aid we caught back up to Kaci and tried to drag her along to see if we couldn't track down Stephanie. We never did, but it was fun to finish out the race with an up-tempo last couple of miles, and to also keep the Ian & Nick bromance alive by crossing the line as one, ending up in 7:37, good for a mid-teen finish in the overall placings against a fast crop of runners.

I got back out to the lake the next day for an hour or so of super easy mileage and felt great, closing out a 100 mile week with 20,000'+ and feeling like I'd put in just the right effort the day before. I came away from the Sonoma weekend with a good sense of confidence for a strong run in Japan.

The bromance lives on! Pic: Ultrarunning Magazine
Week ending April 20

I typically do a three-week taper before goal 100 mile races, but as UTMF sat right in the middle of the Western States training block, I decided instead to begin a shorter two-week taper after Lake Sonoma. The only goal for this week therefore was to knock out the six remaining Horsetooth summits I needed for 100 on the year before my Saturday flight out to Tokyo. Mileage was right around 60 on the week, with something in the vicinity of 10,000 feet of vert.

Ziggy gave me a kiss for my 99th summit.
Downing Sake at 6:30 am for my 100th Horsetooth of the year. With Celeste, Pete, Slusher, Ryan, Sarah and Emily.
Week Ending April 27

Flew out to Tokyo on the Saturday and arrived on Sunday feeling not too worse for wear. I checked into an economy room I'd booked by the airport, which was a whole lot bigger than I was expecting, and then snuck out for a gentle five miler on some of the Narita back roads. Geez, I even found a little section of trail to roll on for a while. The trip was off to a good start.

Trail and greenery in Narita.
After another morning jaunt on the Narita loop early Monday, I caught a train into Tokyo to meet up with the incomparable Takashi Fukuchi, Altra's man in Japan. With the help of his wonderful wife, Rae, I would be given the royal treatment for the rest of my stay. Really, as fun as the race itself was, the lasting memories from this trip will come from the wonderful human interactions and generous hospitality that I encountered while in Japan.

We stayed a couple of days in Tokyo, visiting a few trail and outdoor store accounts of Takashi's, getting out for the classic Imperial Palace 5k loop, and eating tons of great food. The trail market is clearly thriving in Japan, just as it is in the United States, probably more so when one considers the Japanese love of gear, a love affair that might even rival that of the continental European need for trail-running 'stuff.'
Views from the Imperial Palace 5k loop.
First pair of Olympus Altras to hit Japan at Run Boys! Run Girls!
More Japanese Altras.
The Altra crew.
Wednesday, we met up with one of the Altra founders, Brian Beckstead and his (very pregnant) wife, Zanna, before taking off for Kawaguchiko and the general Fuji area. I'll save the rest of the Fuji experience for a separate post, but the short and dirty is that the first 70 miles were about as good as they get. However, a bowl of miso soup soon thereafter turned the whole race on its head and I ended up facing a tortured, stomach-turning last 30 miles. Somehow, I still managed to crack the top 10, and ended up being incredibly happy to simply get to the finish and complete the circumnavigation of a truly impressive mountain.

With the race and various jogging outings, the week came in at about 128 miles w ~30,000' of accumulated gain.

Week Ending May 4

Flew back to Colorado on the Monday, then took the next few days off despite feeling remarkably unscathed from the 105 miles it took to get around Mount Fuji.

I got out Thursday for an early 8 miles with Sarah on the Blue Sky Trail, and while I could definitely feel a good bit of fatigue in the pins, soreness was almost completely lacking. Nonetheless, I capped the run at 8 miles rather than the originally intended 10.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, I got out and bagged Horsetooth summits (101, 102, 103), with runs of between 6 and 10 miles. Total running on the week was 31 miles w/ 6,000' of vert.

Week Ending May 11

Despite feeling like I got out of Japan in pretty good physical shape, I decided to keep to the game plan of taking two weeks of significantly reduced mileage to aid the recovery process. Maintaining discipline here was aided significantly by the fact that I had a 50 mile race to pull off that weekend.

The week consisted of two Horsetooth summits (105) and the course-marking process which began Wednesday in a hailstorm and ended Friday afternoon with JoeGFM on a casual Horsetooth loop to take care of the loose ends on the heavily trafficked trails near the main trailhead. Saturday and Sunday I didn't run a step.

As always, it was extremely gratifying to put on the Quad Rock Trail Races. This year, we catered to over 360 starters and enjoyed our typical mixed May conditions of sun, cloud and rain. All in all, Pete and I were happy with how the day unfolded, and judging from the post-race survey we conducted it seems that most of our runners were too. We'll be sharing the results of the survey here in the near future once we've (well, once Gary David has) been able to convert the raw data to a digest'able report. In the meantime, we've got a post-race wrap of the day on the race website here.

Total on the week was 40 miles w/9,000' vert. 

Stay tuned for more gripping catch up reporting and maybe even a race report or two.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week Ending April 6

Monday - noon: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Bumped into Danny at the TH and ran to the summit with him. Took a really hard digger 100 yards from the parking lot on the way back down, picking up some impressive-looking trail rash in the process.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Snuck out for an early evening summit. Got bit in the butt by a rabid-looking dog right at about the same spot that I took the earlier digger. Ho hum. Saw genuine fear in the eyes of the dog owners as I let them know exactly how I felt about being bitten by their dog. Mad Englishman. "Oh, he gets nervous around runners!" Really? Then get him on a proper leash.

Tuesday - AM: 10 miles intervals. Workout was 5 x mile (steady, fartlek, steady, fartlek, steady w/fartleks clockwise). Really, really didn't want to do the workout this morning, but forced myself out the door and down the hill for an extended warmup at City Park. My legs were still a bit sore and fatigued from the weekend, so I knew this was gonna be a grind, but you still got to get 'em done. Ran with Chris Mc for all of these and struggled through: 5:26, 5:30, 5:19, 5:33, 5:22.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Total wobble-fest getting up and down the hill this evening.

Weds - Noon: 7 miles (1,800') easy. I woke up feeling a little dinged, so bailed on a planned morning run with Danny. Got out for a super gentle run up the hill at lunch, hiking in spots, and then eased down carefully too.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. A few hours later and I felt like a runner again, literally bounding up to the summit.

Thursday - PM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Long day at the office desk, so wasn't able to do much until late in the day. Took things nice and easy, despite feeling bad about missing my usual Thursday morning tempo session. Feeling just a little fragile in various spots right now, so I need to be careful.

Friday - AM: 11 miles (3,200') easy. Met up with the Dentist at the upper Horsetooth lot for a double summit (86 & 87). Beautiful weather, good company and quiet niggles made for a most pleasurable run.

Sat - AM: 26.5 miles (5,900'). Quad Rock preview run (88). Had a good 50 or so runners turn out for this one, which was great. Ran at a comfortable effort with Ryan Smith and Mike Oliva all morning, with a slight pick-up on the Timer descent. Fun times.

Top Arthurs, with Mike and Ryan
Eric with a pack of Marlboros tucked into his hat, just in case he ran out of gels. 
Opening miles on the Lory Service Road.
Sun - AM: 7.5 miles easy setting up the last Tortoise and Hare course of the season.

Total: 91 miles (19,000')  

Okay, so this is a weekly recap from eons ago, but it was sitting here on the drafts page of my blog waiting to be published, so I figured I'd send it out there and then see about getting this website caught up a bit over the coming days. 

It's been a very busy last few weeks, with a trip to Japan, a 50 mile RD'ing gig, a heavy 9-5 workload and then the usual madness of being a parent and husband. Japan and RD'ing are now in the rearview mirror, so I guess I've got a bit more time to get caught up.  

This recap is from three weeks prior to UTMF100. I plan on putting together a report from that amazing trip (along with a Sonoma 50 recap) in the next couple of days. The race wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but the trip itself was off the charts thanks in large part to my amazing hosts, Takashi and Rae Fukuchi. 

Team Altra in Japan. 
Not many weeks until Western States 100. Time to get in shape.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Week Ending March 30

Monday - 7 miles (1,800') easy. I didn't have a chance to get out until late in the day, but wasn't much feeling like running after the big weekend anyway, so the extra rest was welcomed. Felt decent enough once on the hill, just a bit sluggish. Had a nice chat with Stephen Myers, editor of the Coloradoan's Xplore section, on the summit. On the way to the park, I was bitten on the (gloved) finger by a (leashed) neighborhood dog. Fortunately, there was no harm done (no blood drawn), but it certainly shocked me. On the way out of the park, it was all one owner could do to keep her massive hound from attacking me. Ah, yes, the joys of spring.

Coming off Towers on the Stout Trail last Sunday at March Mileage Madness.  Photo: Josh Arthur.
Tuesday - AM: 9.5 miles intervals. On the docket at the cemetery for the morning was: mile, 800, 800, mile, 800, 800, 1.5 mile lamppost fartlek (at ~5k, HM); all on 2-3 min rest. Had a good pack to work with this morning: McCullough, Garcia and Luke. Eased in over the first mile and a half, then Garcia started pushing the pace: 5:58, 2:45, 2:39, 5:16, 2:39, 2:39, 8:17 (5:32, 2:45). The legs were still a little sluggish from the big weekend mileage/vertical, but they responded when asked. I consciously pushed the second half of each rep this morning to work on that non-existent kick of mine, as I'm almost certain that Western States is going to come down to the last 300 meters this year.
PM: 7 miles (1,800') super easy. Kinda wobbled up the hill late in the afternoon. Definitely tired from the morning session - some lingering fatigue from the weekend in there too. Need to be careful.

Wednesday - Noon: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Nice easy jog up Horsetooth. It was warm out, but I still layered up to get a good sweat going, help loosen the muscles and begin preparing for the summer race season.
PM: 5 miles (1,000') easy. Ran an easy Falls loop at the park. Dog trouble again. Got nipped by a yappy rat-sized dog on a long leash right by the turn-off for the falls. Owner was mortified. I swore profusely. This is turning out to be a bad dog week.

Thurs - Noon: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Short loop on Horsetooth (76). Kept things super easy to save something for a harder run at Towers in the evening.
PM: 9.5 miles (2,000') hard hill effort. I'm not really sure why, but the thought of running hard on Towers fills me with dread these days. There was a time when I was hammering on the hill all summer long, dropping sub-30s with ease. I guess it's because I've done it so many times now that I'm intimately familiar with the pain involved. I was back and forth all day on how much of an effort I was willing to put forth, so I figured I'd see how things felt once I was off and running. Warmed up with a couple miles on the Valley Trails with Burch, then got after it, easing in on Swan Johnson (3:00 to the turn). Things felt okay, so I kept on the gas at perhaps 90%, and was surprised to see my Stout split pop within range of reasonably fast, so I committed to staying at effort for the rest of the run. Herrington (2) came in at 16:5x, which again is about 20 seconds off PR pace. I started feeling a good burn in the second half and rather than double down to squeeze the extra seconds out, I committed to just remaining steady. Finished up with 30:07 at the top, which, while 47 seconds off my PR, was pleasing for the effort output. Would have been a nice confidence boost to dip under 30 - it's been a while - but it would have been there easily with a little extra push.

Friday - 7 miles (1,800') easy. Kept it at one run today, and an easy one at that. Felt good enough, but wanted to rest up for the weekend.

Saturday - 29 miles (9,500') long. Round Mountain Ladder. Fun morning on the mountain today for the fourth year in a row doing this workout, an out and back from each mile marker up the mountain with a final summit run to finish it off. We had a good crowd working up and down the hill all morning, something that always helps with the motivation. Josh Arthur was back up in the Fort - clearly no talent to run with in Boulder - so I ran with him for most of the workout.

The goal with this workout is to start out conservatively and try to run every uphill mile segment quicker than the previous one (first mile gets run five times), so a ratchet of pace that you have to temper against increasing fatigue levels, finishing with a final summit push - after 20 miles & 6,500' of vert - into which you essentially pour all remaining strength and motivation in a bid to hit the fastest mile splits of the day. I find this workout to be an excellent simulator of race pacing.

The morning air was perfect and we got lucky with mainly overcast skies, so the conditions were primo. My legs didn't feel too peppy at all throughout the morning, but they were steady enough to get through the run. The first four rungs on the ladder went quickly and the splits were on point. For the summit leg - about 4.75 miles with 3,000' of climbing - the first mile went out pretty hard, leaving my legs pretty wobbly for the second mile. Josh was off to the races, so I just focused on settling back in and grinding up the hill at an effort that would take me to the top sustainably. I missed the second mile split by 13 seconds breaking up the perfect game, but was able to rally for the remainder, passing Josh 100 meters from the summit. The summit run came in at 54:25, which is three minutes faster than three years ago, 7 or 8 minutes quicker than last year when I fell to pieces in the heat, and four minutes of my PR for Round Mountain. Total time on the hill was 5:22, with 5:11 moving.

Mile 1..12:34..11:32..11:06..10:35..10:06
Mile 2............13:01..12:24..11:45..11:58
Mile 3......................11:59..11:20..11:09
Mile 4................................12:19..11:38

Summit Run.................................54:25

Coming down off lap one with Josh and Hinterberg. Photo: Eric Lee
Sunday - 13 miles (3,600') easy. Out with Hinterberg and Ostrom for an easy couple of hours at Horsetooth, with a double summit bag (78 & 79). Not much from the legs on the uphill and a bit of soreness in the quads on the downhill. Easy, easy.

Total: 99 miles (24,800')

Another solid week in the books. Good workout Tuesday morning on tired legs, a solid run up Towers Thursday and a generally strong morning of vertical on Saturday. Pieces are coming together nicely. One more week of mileage before I begin a very gradual taper for UTMF100, with a last long run two weeks before at the Lake Sonoma 50.

In addition to two dog bites this past week, I picked up another one yesterday (Monday) right at the first turn on the trail from the upper Horsetooth parking lot and right on the soft tissue under my butt. I've never been bitten by a dog before, so I guess I'm making up for lost time. I used to be very casual and friendly towards dogs in the park, but I find myself shying away from them now (once bitten, twice shy?) Dogs of course pick up on that fear to the point that I have apparently become a moving target in the park. Curiously, each incident these past few days has involved a dog on a leash (but always on a fully extended stretch leash), so owners have been obeying park regulations. Whether or not that means I have a right to bitch I don't know, but it's really not much fun being bitten by dogs or having fangs aggressively exposed in your general direction while running by.

In other news, I have noticed a considerable uptick in the number of plastic bags filled with dog poo sitting by the side of the trail. Being a regular park user, I can usually give an approximation for the number of days/weeks particular bags have been sitting there.

End rant.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week Ending March 23

Mon - AM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. I felt surprisingly spry and unscathed from Saturday's racing action, so enjoyed a springy jaunt up the mountain.
PM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Retraced my steps from the morning. Found myself on the summit without remembering how I got there. I love how the miles melt on familiar terrain when you're lost in thought.

Tues - AM: 10 miles intervals. The winds were absolutely screaming when I woke up this morning, which made the prospect of trying to run fast at City Park seem somewhat ridiculous, but it's almost April and every workout counts now. Not surprisingly, there were just a handful in attendance at the appointed hour. But any and all company was appreciated. On the docket for this morning was: mile, broken 1.5 mile (3 x 800 on 15 second cruise between 8s), mile, broken 1.5, mile.  Still in the recovery period from Salida and with the troublesome spring winds, I didn't want to force the issue, so largely ran these at a comfortable tempo-type effort: 5:50, 2:53, 2:52, 2:51, 5:34, 2:51, 2:49, 2:45, 5:22.
PM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Got out late in the day for another lap to the top of Horsetooth (66). The winds had subsided a bit, but were still gusting substantially on top.

Weds - Noon: 7 miles (1,800') easy. My right knee felt a little awkward (read: it hurt) after yesterday's workout/Saturday's race, so I laced up my new Altra Olympus kicks for today's run. The Olympus is Altra's newly released offering in the maximal shoe department and - as promised - the shoes deliver serious cushioning. Not sure I'd race these aggressively on technical trail, but boy oh boy do they help take the load off aching joints for the day-to-day outings. With it being a gorgeous day in the middle of spring break, it was no great surprise to see the park packed, so I went up via Southridge/Audra, which is reliably the least crowded way up the mountain. I think my neighbors got the memo too, as I saw no less than three friendly faces (five if you count dogs) from the 'hood. Just two short patches of snow left. SPRING.

Thurs - AM: 7 miles (1,800') steady. I bailed late Wednesday night on meeting the group for the usual Thursday AM tempo session down on Centennial. Ostensibly, I bailed because I didn't want to push things with my knee, but I think I was just using that as an excuse to grab some extra zeds and avoid visiting the pain cave so early in the morning. Of course, I woke up, laced my sneaks and the knee felt great with the mega-Olympus cush. Guilt ridden, I made myself work the hill. I don't usually like to do workouts on Horsetooth; it's the place I go to jog and reflect, so panting up the hill always feels a little awkward. Nonetheless, it felt great this morning to inject a little effort into my daily routine, get to the summit in a jiffy and then get on with things for the rest of the day. Maybe I'll give my Horsetooth PR a run one of these days; it's been a couple of years since I put a truly hard effort in on the hill.
PM (1): 5 miles (1,500') easy. Parked at the Horsetooth TH and jogged a nice casual summit lap before heading into town to run the Fort Collins Trail Runner social at Pineridge. Legs felt great and the weather was beautiful. So good.
PM (2): 5 miles easy. A nice trundle with friends at Pineridge. Been a while since I've done this one.

Friday - 7 miles (1,800') easy. Horsetooth (70) summit. A crisp, but sunny morning jog with Danny. The pins were a little tired to get going but warmed up nicely by the time we were halfway up the hill. Bumped into Josh Holer at the top and ran back down with him.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth up and down at a super casual effort. Snow's supposed to fly tonight. Didn't much feel it in the air. I'm guessing no.

Saturday - 20 miles (5,000') easy. 3:20. Did the classic Horsetooth (71) - Arthurs loop with Josh, Jason and Burch. I was wrong about the snow, it was coming down the whole time we were out; nothing crazy but there was an inch or two on the ground by the time we were done, making things a little slippery in places. Went: Southridge, Rock, Summit, Westridge, Secret, Mill Creek, Howard, Summit, Arthurs, Valley, Sawmill, Herrington, Spring Creek, Falls, Reaper. We kept things light and easy the whole way around to make sure we were saving something for the big Sunday serving.

Summit 1: Horsetooth
Summit 2: Arthurs. Clark, J. Arthur, Burch, Ostram.
PM: 2 mile hike (600') with the kiddos down to the waterfall. Stella made it pretty much the whole way there and back. Next goal: Horsetooth summit.

Sunday - 37 miles (6,900') long. 5:52. Out with the same crew as Saturday for the fourth rendition of Alex May's (of 30:01:31 Western States fame) March Mileage Madness run, a circumnavigation of Horsetooth Reservoir in celebration of spring. Last year we were nipple deep in snow on top of Horsetooth Mountain; this year we didn't have much more than a couple of inches, but it was consistent through the hills, giving way to slop down low. We started out at an easy effort and kept it in gear the whole way round. The route took in both Horsetooth and Arthur's summits, taking the perimeter trails around the park on the west side of the reservoir. Really pleased with how good my legs felt the whole way around, especially on the tail end of a big week and building off a strong race at Salida the weekend prior. Finished things off with a nice pick up in pace over the last five or six miles on Shoreline, Centennial and Pineridge. Josh took a hard digger with a mile to go (on the least technical section of trail covered all morning), so we shut things down there and jogged it in back to Alex's for beers, burgers and banter.

Ostram picking up his Arthurs summit, 20 miles into the morning.
Total: 126 miles (26,300')

Big week and big weekend in the books. Big-boy pants are officially on. With just five weeks until the UTMF 100 in Japan, I'm starting to feel like I may just be rounding into something approaching 100-mile shape. Unfortunately, I am going to have to sacrifice running hard at Lake Sonoma in three weeks, and run it - rather lamely - as a 'training race/run.' Lucky for me though, I still have the okay to head out to Healdsburg to enjoy one of the best trail racing weekends on the domestic calendar. I've taken a few notes out of Tropical John's playbook when it comes to putting on my own races. Hint: a well-marked course on awesome trails with good post-race food and ample, tasty adult beverages go a long way to making runners happy.

Speaking of which, we are now down to less than 30 spots remaining for Quad Rock. We're super excited to be hosting 350 runners, our biggest field yet, with stellar fields in both the men's and the women's races. Check out the fields here, and get signed up sooner rather than later. With the final price increase due to go into effect at the end of the month, we expect to be sold out within the next week.

And, hey, if you're thinking about trail racing action for late summer, then registration for the always popular Blue Sky Marathon and Black Squirrel Half go live April 1. Click the links on the top right of the sidebar for info on those. Register for both - the Black and Blue Double - for just $99. Best racing deal in town, and hey, we don't cut corners.

You might also notice a new sponsor logo up there on the sidebar. Yup, I'm honored and excited to be representing Altra ZeroDrop footwear for the 2014 season. Raced in the Lone Peaks at Salida and have been pounding out long mileage in the new Olympus maximal-style shoes for the last couple of weeks. The Olympus have reportedly been flying off the shelves since their launch this month, so get 'em while you can! My knees thank me every time I slip them on.

And finally, if you made it this far and just can't get enough of my drivel, then go listen to even more over at Ultrarunner Podcast.
The uber-popular Altra Olympus. Flying off the shelves right now.