Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wild Duluth 100k - 2011

This final event in the Gnarly Bandit series was a brutal one, and a tough haul for me. It was a beautiful race, but I had to work for most of it, and only had 'flow' for relatively short periods of time. It was really a test of mental fortitude, dealing with being off course several times, and just not feeling good. Overall I finished 4th, 3rd guy, in 12:11:00. Thanks Andy and Kim for a great event and finally breaking my back this year.

The Start

We would have to begin this one in the dark, starting at 6AM on a chilly Saturday morning. It was in the low 40's when everyone started showing up in Bayfront Park and queuing up for the two bathrooms. I was down there plenty early and chatted with a bunch of folks before Andy made us all go out into the cold and dark.

About 60 of us lined up for a few last minute instructions, the ones about staying on course didn't stick with me, and we were soon off. Andy leading us for the first quarter mile or so, where Chris and I took the lead and led the pack down the street, across the highway and onto the trail leading up to Enger Tower. I felt good for these first few miles and slowly drifted back a few places instead of pushing it early on. In just a few minutes we were cruising past the peace bell, which I gave a good ring too, enjoying the deep hum of the bell in the darkness.

I knew the first 10 miles of the course pretty well, having run it a couple of times, but as I got to Spirit Mountain I received my first blow of the day; at a well marked corner I kept my head down and proceeded to run a few hundred yards the wrong way and ended up in a parking lot for the ski hill, losing me precious time. This detour alone was enough cost me the six minutes that put me in fourth instead of second at the end. Such is the price of not looking before leaping. Around now, I felt like I was running in a fog, not dangerous, but I was having trouble keeping my attention on where I was going. I got myself back on course and proceeded down hill for a ways getting closer to the Spirit Mountain Aid Station, when I managed to get lost again. This time Thom Patterson went with me, and together we figured it out, and in the meantime caught two more guys about to commit to the same mistake. I ended up running with Thom for several miles, and he saved me from a couple of mental fog induced wrong turns.

For about the next 30 miles I got my act together and managed to make all the correct turns (until I got back to Spirit). Slowly I clawed my way back up to second place, getting into my drop bag at 15 miles for new goo and getting the party going. I started feeling pretty good now and was running well, but was informed that Chris was way out ahead, so I didn't worry about him at all, and just kept myself fueled and hydrated. I started to really enjoy what had turned out to be ideal fall weather for a long run, the leaves were awesome, and the sun warm. The hardest part of the course came and went without too much trouble as I did the long climb and traverse of Ely's Peak. On my way down I started crossing paths with the 50k runners and had a good 45 minutes of seeing these folks and getting energized, particularly high-fiving my good friend Jeff getting after his first ultra.

As I worked my way to the turn-around at Oldenburg Point I saw Chris coming back with 20+ minutes on me, pretty much untouchable at this point, unless he had a serious meltdown, but he was looking strong. Jeff Allen and his kids helped me out at Oldenburg and sent me back out on the trail, where now I'd get to see all the 100kers, many friends among them. Right behind me was Thom, and just a few minutes behind him were the eventual 2nd and 3rd place runners. These guys were far too close for my comfort, but it was pretty apparent to me that I wasn't in much shape to fend off anyone. I felt pretty good for the next 10 miles or so, helped out by passing so many people on the trail, but then the wheels slowly came off and I had to struggle to bring it home.

Gettin' it done
I was feeling well, but just before the aid station prior to going back over Ely's peak I just felt abused. Val and Jen made sure I was ok, which I was, but feeling more like I was 80% there. Val got me going telling me to run happy. I sure did my best, but it was a grind for the next 4 hours, through which I didn't have much inspired running. I committed to running everything flat and down, no matter how miserable I felt, and ended up hiking more uphills than I normally would have. As it was I worked myself aid station by aid station back home.

Again just before getting to Spirit Mountain I missed a turn and ran a couple hundred yards before turning around to find where it was. Shortly after leaving the aid station, where the venerable Donny got me situated and on my way, I dropped to fourth. I ran with the couple that passed me for a while, but couldn't hang with them on the ups and slowly dropped off. They were both looking really good. 2 Aid stations to go.

Amy was at the next aid station, the second to last one, having finished her first trail half marathon. She snapped some pictures and sent me on my way. I was really familiar with the trail now, and ground it out, passing an older guy walking in the 50k. I was glad to see he got it done, and he seemed in good spirits when I passed him. Jeff was waiting at a road crossing, already done with his 50k and he cheered me on across the road on onto the last aid station. I finally made it to the last aid, with only 5k to go, I kindly declined their blueberry pie, and hit the road, just wanting to finish.

Despite not feeling good, I gave it my all and pushed it all the way home, trying to meet a tertiary goal of being done before sunset. I cruised past Twin Ponds, and started smelling the barn as soon as I hit the gravel path leading up to Enger. Jeff was up here, too, and I hammered up and over the top to begin the mile long down hill to Bayfront. I came uncorked here bombing the hills and passing one other 50ker just getting close to finishing, herself. Across point of rocks and the last little decent put me out on Michigan Street. Fortunately there was not traffic and I shot across it, dumping my water bottle out and running hard enough to get a side ache. I could see the finish now, and kept rolling, passing Amy shooting pictures and rounding into the finish stretch. I smiled all the way to the end, jumping over the finish yelling "Gnarly" and finishing a journey that began in April.

The End of a long journey.

It was a satisfying day on the trail, despite my mistakes and the way I felt. It's hard to beat a fall day on the SHT. It was immensely relieving and gratifying to finish of the Gnarly Bandit. Sadly I was the only finisher of it, Darryl Saari having had to bow out at Sawtooth. What a great journey though, and one I wasn't sure I'd complete.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Superior Sawtooth Splits

MILE Aid Station To Next Aid Time In 2010 Split
Time In
0 Gooseberry 19.4 08:00:00


19.4 Beaver Bay 4.9 11:38:00 03:38 11.24 11:45:00 03:45 11.6
24.3 Silver Bay 9.9 12:40:00 01:02 12.65 12:55:00 01:10 14.29
34.2 Tettegouche 8.6 14:46:00 02:06 12.73 15:19:00 02:24 14.55
42.8 County Road 6 7.7 16:57:00 02:11 15.23 17:43:00 02:24 16.74
50.5 Finland 11.7 18:39:00 01:42 13.25 19:29:00 01:46 13.77
62.2 Crosby Manitou 9.4 21:52:00 03:13 16.5 22:26:00 02:57 15.13
71.6 Sugarloaf 5.6 00:54:00 03:02 19.36 00:55:00 02:29 15.85
77.2 Cramer Road 7.1 02:45:00 01:51 19.82 02:19:00 01:24 15
84.3 Temperence 5.7 05:09:00 02:24 20.28 04:12:00 01:53 15.92
90 Sawbill 5.5 07:03:00 01:54 20 05:26:00 01:14 12.98
95.5 Oberg Mountain 7.1 08:49:00 01:46 19.27 06:41:00 01:15 13.64
102.6 Lutsen
10:58:00 02:09 18.17 08:20:00 01:39 13.94

Monday, September 19, 2011

Superior Sawtooth 2011

The Superior Sawtooth was an epic day and one big pendulum swing for me. Normally I have several ups and downs, but this day I would only really have one up and one down. It was a hot day, but I had great support and a stellar race overall, coming in second with a 24:20:57, a mere 7 minutes behind winner John Horns, who was an hour and twenty-five minutes ahead of me at 50 miles. To cap it off I had the fastest final 50k ever in the race and possibly the last 50 miles.

In the beginning...
Amy and I drove up the day before the race to set up camp at Gooseberry Falls State Park, so we could sleep just a couple minutes from the start. The weather promised to be beautiful, and certainly didn't disappoint. There were several straight days of clear skies, temps around 80, and a nearly full moon. We had a pleasant dinner with our friends Sarah Jurgaitis, who was also running, and Ben Willis who was taking care of his main squeeze Sarah. These two are very experienced runners and took care of me during my Kettle Moraine run back in June.

The pre-race briefing in Two Harbors was a blast. It was fun getting there and seeing all the familiar faces, shaking a lot of hands, and chatting up everyone. Imagine my surprise when I checked in and was awarded the #1 bib. What an honor, thrill, and some immediate pressure to perform.

This was the handover year from Larry Peterson to John Storkamp, and Larry was inducted into the Sawtooth hall of fame for all his hard work over the years. With a lot of humor we got the course instructions and many jokes about how hard this race was going to be. In turn everyone stood up in groups, from first timers, through each finish until a guy who had something like 13. The we were dismissed, and everyone off for their last minute prep and some rest. Amy and I were bushed, so we drove back to camp and were in bed by 9:30.

A not so early morning...
I managed to sleep the entire not, probably the first time ever before a big event. It was pretty nice going into the day fully rested. When I got up at 6:00 it was probably around 60 degrees. I got my breakfast, taped the toes and headed off to the start. This year we'd have to pick up chips and bibs at the start area, and I like to get there early and socialize a bit and relax. Since this was my 4th attempt at a 100 mile this year, I had everything wired and was all set.

There was already quite a few people gathered around, and more arriving, and the energy palpable. I picked up my bib and headed over to Ben and Sarah to take some pics and pin my number on. With #1 you can really fold that guy up small. I spent the next 45 minutes cruising around talking to Zach, Jordan, Ed, Matt, Don and anyone else I could spot. It was going to be a long hot day, in the 80s, and I wouldn't see most of these people until the party at the finish line. It wasn't long and my mom showed up, making my crew complete. My dad was planning on coming, but with my brother in the hospital, he had to stay behind. My brother, even though he was in the hospital, was worried about me getting enough sleep since I was camping...what a guy.

The Start

Soon, John called everyone up to the starting area. I'd been training hard and feeling good, so I wormed my way up to the front. Andy Holak came over for a quick handshake then stepped back to watch. We had a quick review of the trail markers...a countdown...and we were running.

John Horns, another TCRC runner, and I ran off the front, but it was clear that he wanted to go out pretty hard, and I didn't try to hang with him, and within a mile he was off and out of site. I ran with a small group for a while, one of which was Kevin Grabowski, and we chatted for a couple of miles on our way to Split Rock, the first aid station. A couple of guys went on ahead and I ran back in 5th or so about half way to Split Rock before passing them and soon enough Kevin and I parted as well. Before long, I hooked up with Garret Peltonen and ran all the way to Split Rock and then some with him. On the way there was a spot where a lot of folks hiked in to line the trails and cheer us on.

It was definitely turning into a hot day, and we had some extra mileage with S.R. down at the end of a spur trail, where last year they had hiked it in. Garret and rolled in to cheers (I think I knew people at every aid station) and I quickly filled up and was out. It was another 10 miles until Beaver Bay, the next AS and first crew point. Things went pretty well along here, Garret dropped me, but I was cool with that and running my own race. Man, was it getting hot, though.

I pulled into Beaver Bay in 3rd and starting to feel the heat, the next few hours would be hard. It was great to see Amy and my mom, and they swapped my gear, and I did a quick shoe change since I was getting a hot spot, and my plantar facitis was acting up. I was soon on my way, this next section taking just over an hour to Silver bay, where I saw them again, got some more gear and was again kicking down the trail.

This next section, to Tettegouch, was relatively uneventful, other than being hot and slow. I made the big mistake of only running with two water bottles and had to run the last half hour without any water. That's a note for next time when it's hot out, always run with more than you think you need. It was 20 degrees hotter than last year and I was moving slower. Luckily, I made it in fairly good shape and still in third. I was not having fun and my crew sure knew it the way I was bitching. They did and awesome job, and made me an ice bandana to wear around my neck, doing a great job of cooling me off. The also quickly got a third bottle for me to carry and pushed me back out into the woods.

Somewhere in here I managed to get off course, just running with my head down and didn't check out an intersection. I don't know how much time I lost, but it could have been those seven minutes. When I got back on course I hooked up with Matt Aro, who was running in fourth just behind me. We ran together for the next 20 miles or so until Finland. He was having just as hard a time with the heat as I was and had also run out of water in the last section. We did a lot of short back and forth running, with him doing better at times and me at others. In due course we crossed over Sawmill Creek Dome and down to County Road 6. This is a great spot for the crew since the runners come out on the road a quarter mile from the aid station and they can watch you run in.
County Road 6

I came into County 6 feeling lousy, not like quitting, but like the body just wasn't working right. I took a chair and pounded some Nuun down and had a few orange slices while I gathered myself. They say beware the chair, but I've never had trouble getting out of one, and this was no exception. Matt had come in just behind me and gave me a ginger chew when we couldn't find any. And I walked on out toward Finland. Last year I didn't need a headlamp here, but I was so far behind that time that I had to pick one up. It turns out I wouldn't need it, but it was close.

The sun was was starting to get lower and that felt a lot better, but it was quite a while before I started to come back online. I don't remember much about the way to Finland other than I was starting to feel better later on, though not faster. I eventually pulled in at 7:29PM, 50 minutes behind last year, but this was as far back as I'd get. I needed to change socks quick here, to a more cushy pair, but I kept the Hokas on. Jim Wilson was here and took good care of me, getting me some ginger ale and making sure I was ready for the night.

Off I went, for what was to be the most incredible chunk of night running I've ever done.

The pendulum swings...
I was just coming out of Finland and Matt was coming in, we traded 'good jobs' and that was the last we'd see of each-other.

I started running and feeling good on everything, I wasn't sure how fast I was moving, but I really didn't feel bad. I was able to run up some inclines and only had to walk the really steep stuff. A lot of rocks and roots later, I worked through the longest section of the trail and came into Crosby Manitou, where Garret was taking some time getting himself ready for the cooler night. My crew and Lynn Saari met me and got me out of there quickly. I gave Garret some props and hit the trail again. I'd made up some time, and was now only 34 minutes down on last year. I'd long since given up on chasing John, and was just starting to think about working on breaking 25 hours, as long as I didn't melt down.

This chunk to Sugarloaf was now my longest stretch remaining, and Amy was going to run with me from Sugarloaf to Cramer Road. I hammered this section, just waiting for the shoe to drop and be reduced to a walk, but it was like I was on autopilot, and the body just took over. I got through here in 2:29, ending up only 1 minute behind last years pace. Amy was all set and we jumped out on the trail, and she just as soon turned around to get the water bottles I left behind. I thought I felt light! It was fun running with her when she caught back up, and she was having a blast on her first night run. She did great talking to me and keeping me focused, only losing me for a bit on a steep downhill when I pulled away.

Shortly after getting to the bottom of the hill, I heard her shout “Adam! Yell, I need to know you're on the right trail.” I hollered back that I was, and she soon found her way back to me, cracking jokes about what a great pacer she was to lose her runner. 1:24 after leaving we were at Cramer Road and I was restocking and leaving Amy with my mom.

Cramer to Temperence is a hard section with a lot of climbing early on. This is some super steep stuff that you need to use your hands at times to keep pulling yourself up. It seemed inconceivable, at 3AM, that there could be more climbing than descending. The payback would come with a long long decent down to the Temperence River, followed by a short climb to the aid station. I did get worried for a bit in here, since there was about a mile with no flagging, but this time I said hell with it and just forged on eventually coming to some glow sticks that the AS crew had put out to lead us home. It was here, last year, that I had to sit by a fire for 15 minutes to take the edge off the cold and hypothermia I was flirting with. This year was much different, and I spent just a few seconds swapping gear and heading back out. I was tired, and on a good pace for sub 25, and starting to smell the barn. It took me 1:53 to do the last hard 7 miles, but I was 57 minutes ahead of last year at this point.

I was through Temperence AS in a flash and headed up Carlton peak, a great rock climbing area. Last year this was a long hike at dawn, but this year in the blackness of night I ran the entire thing. I had no idea where my legs were coming from, but it was sure a fun ride. I had forgotten how many twists and turns there were going up, but staying on course wasn't a problem, and even with a blow up I could easily hit 25 hours. It was really neat running under the cliffs by headlamp, finally broaching the top and gliding down the decent to the penultimate aid station at Sawbill. I popped into Sawbill after spending 1:14 on the section and was now 1:37 ahead of last year.

I don't even remember anything from the Sawbill AS, as it was just reload and keep moving. Dawn was on the way now, it was still dark, but at about 5:30 AM it would be less than an hour and I'd have some really good light on the trail. At this point, I hadn't asked about John in a while, and was still just running for my time. This section is pretty runnable and I did just that, enjoying the bright moon which was setting and the cool light of dawn breathing some new energy into me. About 45 minutes into this section and I didn't really need the headlamps anymore, though it was still dark under some of the trees. Soon, it was the bright light of day, and I was hitting some flats, and knew I was getting close to Oberg. I was having fun, but ready to be done, too.

Finally I was on the last grassy run into Oberg, when soon I met up with Paul Holovnia on the trail. I was really hammering now, then he mentioned that John was here about nine minutes ago. Holy crap, I had no idea that'd I'd been closing at all. I all of a sudden found another gear and blew past my mom, who was just walking down the trail, not expecting me for a while. Soon Paul and I came out into the parking lot where the AS was, and I was saying where's Amy, where's Amy, I'm going to have to leave her. Since she was set to pace me this section. It was 6:41 and I'd run the last 5.5 miles in 1:15. Fortunately my gear was laid out and Paul quickly got me outfitted while I ditched my headlamps. There were a few other guys milling about, and Kurt came out of the RV just I was heading out and I only had time to say hey to him. Just as I started running, Amy came out of the biffy just in time to head out with me.

Amy and I blasted out of the Aid Station (actually 14 minutes behind John, a big margin, but it's been eaten up before) and I just as quickly dropped her. I yelled back to her that my pace wouldn't hold, but I never saw her until after I finished. I spent the next several miles running absolutely as fast as I could looking behind me to see if Amy was catching up and ahead, hoping to see John and Brian around every corner. Alas, I never caught John, but I doubt I would have run this fast if he was hopelessly far ahead of me, he made a nice carrot out there to bring me home. Up the the steep climb of Oberg, across the top, down, up the switchbacks and the last high trial. I was just at the top of the long hill that descends to the road and river when I heard cheers and a car take off. Shoot, no chance now. Still I kept the hammer down, just now to see how far under 25 I could make it. Soon I was crossing the bridge and up the short climb to the road. I felt like I was flying down the road, but the other people walking around probably though I was out for a slow jog. This felt much shorter than last year, and soon I was circling the pool at Caribou and across the line. 24:20:57, and a full 2 hours 38 minutes faster than last year with a closing 50 miles of 12:49.

I was more than happy with that finish, and went straight up from the line to shake John's hand and give him a hug. He ran a great race and spent it all out there, too, coming in just 7 minutes ahead of me. The following hours were spent with much reminiscing, cheering other runners, and perhaps some beer drinking too. This is such a wonderful event it would be easy to do it every year. It's kind of like a big family reunion for all the trail runners in the area and the finish area is nothing more than one big party.

Major kudos to John Storkamp and all of his volunteers, many of which stayed up all night giving aid so the rest of us could have our fun.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

T-Minus 3 days to Sawtooth

In less than 72 hours I'll be toeing the line at the Superior Sawtooth 100 miler. This is my second go-round with this race, where I placed 3rd overall and 2nd Open last year in 26:58. Since then I've had a hell of a year with two wins at the 100 mile distance. I'd love it if that streak continued, but I really want to keep it in my head to take care of myself and let the race develop. I want to be in the mix, but I need to stay sharp and not get down if things don't come together for me. So here's my goals, with most important first:

1. Finish
2. Finish faster than last year
3. Get a sub 24 hour
4. Get a win

I hope #4 isn't taken as talking smack. I want to win (I'm not saying I'm going to), but I know there's few strong guys running namely John Horns, Jarrow, and Matt Aro. I know John and Matt, they are good guys and I've enjoyed trail time I've spent with them, and I understand Jarrow's a pretty cool guy too.

On the women's side, I would have set up my friend Sarah Jurgaitis as a top pick, but she'll have her work cut out for here with Sheryl Wheeler as a late entrant. It'll be fun watching that race develop. Sarah does have top notch crew/boyfriend working for her.

Best of luck to everyone, the weather looks great and whatever happens, we're going to have fun.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Marching On

It's four weeks until Sawtooth and so far the training has been going well. This last week was pretty casual, coming in at around 50 miles. I had a couple of great runs, last weekend six or so of us ran at Murphy and this morning Kurt and I ran 15 down at Lebanon Hills. My legs are feeling great, no aches or pains, and the speed seems to be there too.

I'm getting excited about this one, I think it's been just long enough after Black Hills to have somewhat forgotten the discomfort from running 100 miles. It's going to be fun seeing a lot of familiar faces up there, and I'm hoping to shave a couple of hours off of my time from last year (26:58:01) which I think I should be able to do if the weather permits.

In any case, it's going to be fun. I have one more hard week coming up, starting on Tuesday and a couple of big runs next weekend, made more difficult by the fact that it's also my 20 year high school reunion and I don't think I'll be all that rested for them after gallivanting around all night. I won't exactly be reliving the glory days, high school was fun, but really, I'm having way more fun now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Do I actually write?

Apparently I only write race reports on this...which isn't bad, but only points out to me what an extraordinarily lazy writer I am.

I've just started a five week tune up for Sawtooth. Which I'm hoping, five weeks from today, that I'm not still running. This week is probably the biggest week of training I've had, topping out somewhere around 73 miles of running. That doesn't even count dog walks. It's hard to believe some of my friends consider this low mileage. Oh well, I think it's getting me where I need to go.

I need to start focusing a bit on the nutrition, and try to ween myself off coffee once again (sorry Matt). Actually, we eat pretty healthy around here, regularly hitting the farmers market and, having found kindred souls in the Kocanda family, we've bought and split tasty organic field raised beef and pork. This stuff is to die for, and I highly recommend anyone interested in really tasty meat to hit Blue Gentian Farm and get some. It's really fun having a freezer full of beef and pork, and I can just grab whatever I'm in the mood for.

I'm gearing up to try brewing beer sometime soon too, probably in the fall, when my basement cools off a bit more.

Two weeks ago I worked up at the Voyageur 50 Miler, at the Jay Cooke aid station. As this is an out and back course, and JC is the first and last aid station, I got to see everyone at their best and worst. It was a lot of fun seeing a bunch of friends giving it their all, and nursing people back to health so they could finish out their day. Props to everyone who toed the line, it was a typical Voyageur day, hot and humid, with the expected carnage.

Now get out there and run!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Black Hills 100 Mile

The Black Hills 100 miler would turn out to be a fine weekend and a decent race for a first time event. It was run on the Centennial Trail in South Dakota, so named for the state's 100th anniversary in 1989. The race would go 50 miles out the trail from Sturgis then back along the same course. It's a pretty rugged trail, though not as bad as Sawtooth, and would be a combination of single track and multi-use (pedestrian and atv) trails.

I had a great day for the most part and ended up pulling out the win with a time of 23:01:42, about 40 minutes ahead of second place. Results are on Ultrasignup here. So now that the quick summary is over, here is your chance to escape before the nitty gritty details.
One of two Silver Buckles for sub-24 and the bison skull 1st place award

Getting Going
The start was a crisp 6AM, the same time as Western States (5AM Eastern). I was out here with Brian Peterson and Bill Pomerenke. Brian would be running the 100k and Bill was crewing and pacing me, and in for just as long a day as I was. We'd driven out on Thursday and Friday and met up with the rest of the Minnesotans: Paul, Helen, Chris, John, and Daryl. A pretty good contingent of strong, experienced runners. We all trickled into the track at Woodle Field sometime after 5AM and hung around chatting with each-other and dealing with the pre-race nerves.

Soon enough, there was a huge crowd of people as all the 50-milers, 100kers, and 100-milers congregated on the track for one large group start. This was about 150 people with a lot of energy getting ready to head out. The start was on the track at the 100m point, and we'd head out clockwise around it, exiting onto a bike path on the back stretch. Paul and I lined up together midpack near Helen and Chris, while Brian and John were going off the front. I like going off the front myself, but with two shorter races and a long day ahead, I think I was in a good spot starting back, so I didn't blow up. There was a big countdown and we were off.

Paul and I ran next to each-other and chatted as we headed around the track and out onto the bike path. This was the only urban part of the run, lasting a mile or so, and even then it was on the edge of town. The paved path ended soon enough and we turned onto the Centennial Trail for the rest of the race. This first section, about 5 miles to the aid station, was a great introduction to the awesome scenery we'd see all day. As soon as we got on the trail we began a series of climbs through prairie and were soon presented with a superb view of rolling grasslands without a man-made structure in sight. We were also presented with a great view of the 800-foot climb we'd have to start up in about 5 minutes.

Paul and I cruised along for a couple miles, but as he fell to chatting with a friend on the trail I moved on ahead. I could definitely feel the 100k from Kettle on my legs, but that was just a lack of pep, not soreness. So in a long chain we did one of the biggest climbs of the day, finally cresting it and charging down the steep downhill on the back side. That was going to be a peach on the way back. Once at the bottom it was less than a mile to the aid station and we could hear the cheers as we got close. Bill shouted out to me and I pulled up to him, did a quick exchange of bottles and goo, and I was off. He had crewing wired and had me on my way at every station after just seconds in them. I was in 18th at this point, though Bill didn't tell me until much later.

Out of the first aid station at Alkali Creek there was a couple miles of prairie then into the woods, where we'd be until we got back here. The trail through the woods was pretty rugged and required a lot of downward looking, but glancing around was great, being surrounded by trees and the smell of pine. Things were starting to thin out a bit and there wasn't any problem passing or being passed. I was just running comfortably with no agenda other than to take care of myself, which I didn't do at Kettle, and take what the day gave.

So it was onward and upward. There was precious little flat running, and a lot of uphill and downhill. It wasn't long running when I got to the first unmanned aid station at Bulldog. After a quickly topping off the water bottles I was off, passing four guys taking their time doing the same. I had occasionally seen Helen closing in on me, but at some point around here either I pulled ahead or she dropped off, no biggy, though, she was running a different race, so I was safe from being chicked. After Bulldog it was seven miles to Elk Creek at mile 17 where Bill would meet me again. It passed a little slow since my ipod wasn't working. I just had to check out and actually enjoy nature instead of a constant stream of music.

Pulling into Elk Creek at 3:12 into the race, Bill told me I was in 12th. Cool, far enough back that I had no reason to push it and I could relax and just keep taking care of myself. That was just what I needed. Out of here was a lot of uphill and 5 river crossings to go through. The crossings felt great, and they were all within about a quarter mile of each-other. After the last one there was a pair of wet shoes hanging in a tree, that must have been the guy at the pre-race who asked if he could ditch a pair. A very odd request for a race like this. After crossing the river it was up up up to the second unmanned aid station at Crooked Tree. Again a quick refill and I was off.

A couple hours later I was coming down on Dalton Lake. This was a picturesque aid station set up in a field next to a parking lot. We came down on it from a hill and could see the crowd of crew cheering runners in. I remember running down behind a guy wearing the same yellow Hokas that I was. I pulled in here at 5:38 and in 9th place. Heck, I didn't remember passing so many people, and those that I did I had no idea what race they were in since the 100k folks were still out here. Anyway, I crossed the little bridge into the aid station to the cheers of the Holovnia clan loudly cheering me in. It was sweet to have all the support from Minnesota and for the TCRC team. Bill hooked me up and ushered me on my way.

I'd give you a ride
There would be about three miles of climbing right out of the aid station, starting with a little twisty turny climb through some trees then out onto the multi-use trail. John Horn and Brian came cruising down while I was still in the trees, John looking super, and Brian looking like he was having some hurt put on him.

The multi-use was wide, which was great, because it was muddy too. As soon as I popped out onto it there was a group of atvs there. I got the 'How far ya goin?' '100 miles' I said, 'I don't like to drive that far'. Some things never change. This was steady walking with precious little running, and felt like it went on forever. I had to keep making sure I was on the trail, but soon enough, a confidence flag would appear. After what must have been close to an hour of steady climbing I hit the 100k turnaround, wow, I would be in third for that event. Man it would have been sweet to turn around, but alas, I had 70 miles to kick out. So I turned up onto a high ridge and continued dodging ATVs.

I have to say all the ATVs I passed were super nice. Mostly they turned off their engines as I came up, and some even offered me water. (any reading race directors, I declined) This was pretty up here being so high up through the sparse pine. The occasional breeze was really refreshing since it was into the heat of the day. After the ridge, it was another big downhill then a large climb. As I started on the uphill I passed a line of 10 or so ATVers taking a break, but about 10 minutes after I passed them I could here them chugging up the hill behind me. Soon they were passing me, and nice and slowly. Clearly it was to keep the dust down, since when they were well past me they took off. Part way through the chain of ATVs one driven by a younger women slowed down and asked if I wanted a ride, I politely declined saying I'd be DQ'd if I took it. She smiled an drove on, then a a gal driving a couple behind her slowed and said 'I'd give you a ride'. Oh my, I think it must be my lycra shorts. Sadly I had to say no.

Soon they were all gone, and I was broaching the top of the hill and would begin the decent into Boxelder creek. After a quick couple of refreshing stream crossings, I was back at Bill. Doing the usual, he had me on my way in a few seconds in 8th place. I was definitely feeling the distance, but otherwise relatively good. Only 6 miles this time and I would be in the turnaround section. These were pretty uneventful and I got into pilot knob about 8:30 into the race and now in 7th. I did a quick shoe change from the Hokas (still wet) into the SLABs (not wet). That was about two minutes of sitting, the longest I'd do all day, and I was off again.

The Turnaround
This was a long hard section, steep climbing in the heat of the day and the miles felt a little off. I left Pilot Knob about a minute behind another guy, but took over an hour and a half to close him. He was kicking my butt on downhills, but I was killing him on the climbs. Doing our dance we dropped two other runners. Once I got up to him, I could tell he was hurting, much worse than me, heck I was having a good time still. There was a long decent into the aid station and I looked down on a reservoir the whole time, boy did that look inviting. I kept expecting to see the leaders, but they never came, in fact, I didn't see Marco, the number 1, until I was about five minutes from the aid station. Hmm, he was breaking, or I was going too hard.

Rinse wash and repeat, dropped old goo, water, and electrolytes. Picked up new goo and water. Notice something missing, yeah, me too, after about 10 minutes. This stretch back to Pilot Knob would be brutal. I was in third, having passed Alistar at the aid station, but as my electrolytes dropped off, he came tearing by me. I faced a steady decline throughout this section, the only high point being passing Marco, who was sitting down done with his race. I started seeing a steady stream of runners coming up the trail now and could gauge where I was in the field, and despite my steady decline, I was sitting good. I kept telling myself, take fuel, take water, you can make it there, while I kept getting more and more punch drunk. About a mile from Pilot Knob I took a hard dig, fortunately on dirt, but ended up with a bruised arm and hand.

Finally I got into the aid station and came to a stop about 20 feet from Bill and Lynn. I just said I need electrolytes badly. I just wanted one and refused a second, but then Lynn ordered me to take two and I relented. That's good crewing to know that you can tell the runner what to do, especially when you know better. They got me some heed for an extra kick, I told Bill I wanted him to run when I saw him next, and I started walking, in second place. The leader, Ryan, had spent a fair amount of time here, and Alistar was sitting again, tending to bad feet. How the heck did I get into second after that last eight miles?

Locked Cocked and Ready to Rock

I was down for a while and while running down a hill I heard thumping coming up on me. I was expecting Alistar, but it was Phil. I thought he was torched before the turnaround when I passed him, but now he was looking good. I didn't try to hang on, and he never pulled too far ahead of me, maybe 150 meters at most. Soon enough, though I saw two more guys on the trail, Ryan and his pacer. I walked next to them for a couple minutes and came upon our mutual friendship with Joe Z. I was slowly feeling better, and left Ryan to continue running.

Soon, I was slowly making up time on Phil, he was running up hills and I was pacing him by walking. Then it was like someone threw a switch inside me. I could feel full reserves of energy and concentration well up and I took off. I dropped Phil going down a hill and put a couple minutes on him quickly, taking over first with about 40 miles to go. I rolled into the aid station to some cheers and Bill had my gear and was suited up.

This was going to be the gnarliest section on the trail. It was still light as we started climbing, and at some point we reached the high ridge before the 100k turnaround point. Around 9PM the skies started lighting up with almost constant lightning and pretty close. I told Bill to start running about 100 feet in front of me until we got down, figuring at least only one of us might get hit. Fortunately, after what seemed like forever we started diving down to the big multi-use road leading to Dalton Lake. Almost immediately it started raining. This was heavy stuff, giving me flashbacks to Sawtooth last year. Soon, making it even more interesting it started hailing. I was screaming at Bill that it was hailing and it hurt and soon he joined me under a tree for a couple minutes until the worst passed. As we were to see, we must have been on the edge, as there was much more hail later on in the course.

The storm we ran through, shot by Rob

Nutting it out, we started bombing the hill, more and more just running through the shin deep puddles since we could barely see them anyway. The rain was down to a drizzle by the time we got to the aid station, but I was cooled off and at just the right temp, if it had gone one much longer I probably would have gotten chilled. And I was still in just a singlet.

Quickly picking up fuel from my drop bag we headed out onto the long 12 mile to Elk Creek. This was punctuated only with a stop at the Crooked Tree unmanned station, where there was a 100k runner hiding under the table. The dude had been there for three hours. He had a cell phone, but was only able to get a signal right before we got there. We made sure he was safe and continued on. This was probably the biggest failing at this event, not accounting for runners like this in a timely manner and not regularly checking the unmanned aid stations.

Down, down, down into Elk Creek we went. The stream crossings this time where quite a bit dicier. The river was a good eight inches deeper, and the narrower crossings had a pretty fierce current. No falls though, and we got to the AS. Again with the drop bags and swapping some batteries into my headlamp, and out for the last 17 miles. I was feeling good, but nervous not knowing what was going on behind me. Did I have a 30 minute lead, or just 5?

The 12 miles to Alkali Creek was pretty uneventful, just the ever growing fatigue. Lots of climbing, descending, and mud. I knew when we got to the prairie we wouldn't have far to go. But, man, did that prairie seem to take forever to cross. Your perspective really changes between the start and end of the race. The trail just before the AS was super muddy and difficult to run on, but we made it. Here, we just topped off our liquids and moved out, just 5 miles to go it was time to get'er'done.

We only had one large climb, that 800 footer. Once on top of that, I could finally smell the barn. We ran the long downhill to another section of prairie, then a smaller uphill, and that was it for the climbing. A bit more descending put us on the approach to the road. I was getting really excited now, I didn't see any lights behind us, and was pretty certain this was in the bank. Bill and I ran through the tunnel under the road and onto the paved trail leading to the track. Running parallel to the road, the RDs pulled up next to us and video taped us running the last half mile or so.

After a couple of turns we entered the back stretch of the track, just like Western States and I got the victory lap. I enjoyed every step of this and cruised under the arch at 23:01:42.

This was a great day, and a real trial with the thunderstorm, which sadly caused a lot of folks to drop. Chris and Ryan did a fine job on this first time race. There are a few tweaks to make, but this event will be the start of something pretty good. The trail was challenging the weather frightening, and the finish gratifying. What else could you ask for?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Another Taper

This time I'm getting ready for the Black Hills 100. A nice run from Sturgis, SD to Hill City, SD and back. I'd say I have a chip on my shoulders after Kettle two weeks ago, and I'm committed, if anything, to being more flexible this time. If my plans start going awry, the goal is to finish in hte best possible form, not throw in the towel.

I finished my longest run before the race this morning, and this coming week will only run three times before hitting the road with Brian and Bill. It'll be a fun trip out there, Brian will be running the 100k and Bill will be taking care of me, pretty damn generous of a guy I only really met a couple of months ago. There's going to be a pretty strong contingent of Minnesota runners out there, with myself, Brian, Helen, Paul, Chris (if he's running), Darryl, and several others I don't know.

I'm looking forward to this, I love the Black Hills, having spend many years going out there rock climbing, and now enjoying them with my latest passion.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Kettle Moraine 100

Kettle was a disappointment for me. I had what basically amounted to a mental block on continuing and instead stopped at the 100k mark. I had no medical issues, I just broke from fighting the course all day.

The race morning was really warm, 77F at 6AM when we all lined up. Ben and Sara had driven me to the start and would crew me every 15 miles or so. They also had several other friends racing from the CHUGs group. I queued up near the front since I figured I'd be one of the faster guys out there, and there were somewhere around 200 people between the 100k and 100 mile. Timo yelled go and we were off. I was feeling really good out of the gate, sure I could feel the heat, but the pace felt casual and was exactly as fast as I wanted to go.

The first 7 miles or so head out on the Nordic trails and intersect the Ice Age Trail, where we'd take a right turn and follow it for the next 24 miles. This was a lot of fun, rolling, single track through the woods all the way to the Emma Carlin aid station, where I'd see Ben and Sara. I rolled in there pretty well and they fueled me up in a couple of seconds and sent me on my way to Scuppernong at the turn around. This section was largely open prairie and was where a lot of us would pay for running in the sun. Running across them is pretty nice and definitely the most runnable section, except there is no shade, not much wind, and the temp was bumping 90.

By the time I got to Scuppernong at 50k I would have loved to dive into a swimming pool. I was hot and rapidly slowing down and getting miserable. I had already realized that this day wasn't going to be what I wanted. I was committed to getting back to Nordic, though. These next 15 miles would be brutal on me. I ended up fighting to get from aid station to aid station. It was absolutely scalding out on the prairie, but I ran every step of it. The aid stations average four miles apart, but I was running out of water between most of them. By the time I got back to Emma Carlin I had run out of water 20 minutes earlier and had stopped sweating. My clothes had even dried out.

Ben and Sara got me into a chair in the shade and put a wet towel on me and I started putting down a lot of fluids. It took about 20 minutes before I was able to wander back out and on my way back to Nordic. By this time I had largely convinced myself that I was going to drop, losing the mental battle that is so important at 100 milers.

So I continued fighting through the heat, passing only one guy I think and being passed a couple of times, mostly while I sat at Emma Carlin. I was relieved when I got back onto the Nordic Trail and headed in and just counted the miles. Timo was at the line shouting 100 miler coming in and a cheer when up. I headed in and sat down right away. The last few miles I'd been getting side aches and now had a little nausea too. Ben and Sara did their best to get me back up and out on the trail, and Ben was itching to run. Alas, they were no competition for the fight I'd been having with myself for 20 miles. I just couldn't face another 38 out there.

I sadly handed in my chip then headed to a chair to lick my wounds. I think the biggest lesson I learned from this is that I need to check the ego at the door and be ready to finish well off my expectations. I've got friends who've stayed for 5 hours at an aid station before heading out again. That's the attitude I need to adopt. I had over 17 hours left on the clock and I could easily have walked for a couple hours drinking and getting my body back on track, but instead got locked in on 'I'm not doing as well as I want so I'm done'.

Now I'm 3 for 5 at the 100, but I've got another one in 3 weeks...which I will finish even if it doesn't go according to plan.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Up next...Kettle

Just a brief post here, since I've been really lazy about this. I'm now into the taper for Kettle Moraine 100 Mile. There's a pretty big turnout this year, somewhere around 100 signed up, not counting the 100k and relay folks. Then there's the 38 mile fun run at night. The trails will be nice and busy.

I'm not sure what to expect at this one, I feel like the legs are back and speedy, but I've had some lingering knee pain, and the planter fascitis is a little feistier than it has been in a while. Based on my last few long runs, I don't expect those to be much of an issue until recovery time.

This will also be my first race running for Twin Cities Running Company, so I hope I do a good job of representing them down there.

I'll be tacking Kettle more or less by my lonesome, since my wife, who has been to all of my ultras can't make this one. But my good friend Ben has offered to help pull up some of the slack and crew for me a bit and run me in for the last 38.

I'm getting those fun pre-race nerves going on, but I am really looking forward to this.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Ultrarun?

A friend of mine, Greg, on DailyMile had some interesting questions that I thought it worthwhile to answer here.

Without fanfare, here we go:

(1) What motivates you to run 50 miles and beyond?
I like the challenge of trying to do something for which there is a real possibility of not succeeding. It has so far been somewhat nerve-wracking to toe the line at all these events, knowing it is going to hurt, and hurt deep. Finishing them brings immense satisfaction and has pushed back the boundaries of what I think I'm capable of. Before I did these I had no idea that I could overcome such discomfort and force myself to keep moving. It hasn't stopped being a challenge and now I want to keep experiencing that feeling of succeeding at something that is extraordinarily difficult.

(2) How do you know when your ultrarunning pursuits are bordering on becoming dangerous and no longer fit into the realm of a healthy, sane lifestyle?
So far this hasn't been a problem. I think, though that you have to regularly assess, like any pastime, the impact it is having on your relationships and if that impact is worth it. The same applies if you are regularly injuring yourself.

(3) What have you learned from ultrarunning that is invaluable and could not have been garnered otherwise?
I've learned that I am capable of far more physically than I thought. I can also take a lot more crap in my normal life. I haven't learned any insightful existential stuff, but suffering can be fun and rewarding. On the other hand, I have learned that after 80 miles I have very poor control of what language I use, and I'm really glad my grandma doesn't show up to watch me run.

(4) What the heck are you trying to prove, if anything, and does your ego need the validation?
I'm just trying to prove to myself that I can do these things, and still have fun at them. I don't think you could last long at this if you were trying to prove something to someone else. This would be an awful lot of suffering to stoke the ego. I do get some small satisfaction, though, of doing things most people wouldn't, and it is fun wearing a big buckle around at times.

So, I hope that helps Greg out a bit, and if anyone else wants to throw their two cents in, feel free.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Zumbro 100, 2011 Report

Perhaps a better title would be Revenge at Zumbro. After last year's DNF at this race I've had a couple of really solid 100's. But returning to a race you haven't finished means you are showing up with a big monkey on your back. You have all those questions rattling around in your head on top of all the normal 100 mile anxiety. Fortunately I answered all of them and tossed that monkey off into the woods.

This race is five 20 mile loops in the woods near Zumbro Falls, MN. Big hills and technical footing would be the rule of the day, though there are some extended sections of road on a couple parts of the course. Each loop has five aid stations including the start/finish area.

The race was held on Friday, April 8th, starting at the civilized hour of 8AM. I decided, like last year, to go down on Thursday afternoon and camp out at the start, letting me relax and do very little on race morning. I spent the rest of Thursday afternoon hanging around the campfire with all the volunteers who came down early as well as the other racers showing up for the pre-race dinner and packet pickup. I had a good time talking to John, Bill, Jason, Larry and several others throughout the evening. It's always been a perk of these events to reunite with friends that you've met at other races, and the community around the state seems pretty tight and supportive. Everyone here had either done ultras, volunteered at one, or more likely both, and they all know what you, as a runner, are about to go through.

The Start, and Lap One
It was a chilly night and frost covered the ground, picnic table, and my sleeping bag. I had slept pretty well, only getting chilly when the blanket I had on my bag fell off. Still, pretty good rest for a race night. I got dressed for the day, pinned my number on, then put on a layer of warm clothes and got out of the tent. I kept my breakfast simple with some oatmeal and a banana about an hour and a half before the start. I could see cars pulling into the start and Matt Patten unloading his much coveted coffee. After doing a last check of my gear box, I headed over to the start.

There was a lot of energy as the 25 of us who would face the challenge showed up and got ready to get to business. There was a lot of hand shaking and good luck wishing as 8:00 pushed nearer. It was pretty clear it was going to be a beautiful day out. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was warming up quickly. Soon though, the RDs, John Storkamp and Larry Pederson, called everyone to the line for the briefing. Larry officially handed the reins of the Superior Trail Races and Zumbro over to John (who already RDs Afton). After a quick roll call and some last minute info, we were sent on our way.

We quickly spread out as we spilled onto the trail, and got ourselves sorted out as we wound through the initial single track and approached the first big climb. I'd been following Matt Aro up to this point, and walked past him on the hill. He would end up pushing me all day, though we never saw each other again until 97 miles into it. As I wound up the hill I hooked up with Darryl Saari and Dale Humphrey, both veterans of many 100's and many other ultras. We ran and chatted for a while through to the first aid station at 5k. I just refilled water and carried on down the road.

At this point, position means nothing, I thought through the next seven miles that I still had a couple of people in front of me. And I would have, but they took a wrong turn out of the first aid station and ended up back at the start. So I cruised off alone down the road, which not too long ago had been under 15 feet of water. It was quite a change from last year, when it was graded and perfectly smooth. Now it was soft and rutted, still, it was a cruiser compared to the rest of the course. Darryl wasn't far behind me and caught up to me briefly when we turned onto the jeep road. After a minute of running with him I was alone again through to aid station two. Getting there was pretty easy, though it was the longest stretch of the trail. Most of it was wide, though fairly muddy and quite a bit climbing. The last little bit to get there was a nasty single track super technical downhill that was pretty nasty on later laps. Somewhere along here, a coyote ran across the trail in front of me. And I saw a big owl flying away too. Very cool, and one of the benefits of silent sports is all the wildlife.

I pulled in alone to AS2 and asked Bill who was ahead of me and was told I was it. Cool, I'd never led a race before. I quickly got rid of my garbage, refilled water and headed out on a five mile loop that would end up back here. This little loop wasn't all that hard, except the last mile was nothing but deep sand that the flood had dumped here. I was constantly torn on whether or not to run it or walk it. In less than an hour, though, I was back at AS2 (which is AS3 at this point). Bill told me Jordan (a rookie at the distance) and Matt Aro were behind me. Matt Patten was here and grabbed my shoulders and told me to settle down. I must have looked possessed. All I heard in my head was run run run As I headed out of the aid station and up the gnarliest hill on the climb I'd see Matt Aro and Jordan behind me.

This hill is long, rocky and steep. The only nice part of it is that it is just six miles to the end of the loop. Jordan caught me at the top of the hill as we were running along the ridge. I let him by me, but I wasn't too worried about him, it was early and I had more experience. It was a good call, he never dropped me and only was ahead of me for 10 minutes or so until Ant Hill, where I dropped him and never saw him again. This put me back on the road to AS1(4). This was a gentle cruise and I again just filled my water bottle half way and did went out to do the last 2.7 miles of the loop. Just a bit of jeep road, some technical single track, then back on the road and across the field to the starting area. 3:43 for the first 20 miles.

Maria Barton was manning this aid station and would all day and night. She's a real trooper at these events. She filled my water bottle, while I restocked my goo and headed back out onto the course. I didn't know who all was behind me, but I figured the best case was never to let them see me.

Loop 2: It get's hot.
It was about noon now, and pretty warm out. This loop would be a cooker, and much slower than the first. I sweated a lot this lap and definitely got dehydrated. On my way back out I saw a couple of guys on the road coming in, everyone was still looking good. When I got to aid station 2 I started my pattern of asking them to let me know what the gap was between me and the second place runner. It was kind of foolish, still being relatively early, but it did help motivate me to keep moving briskly. I found out that the lead has the problem of never knowing exactly how close the second is, but the second always knows. When I completed the little 5 miler back, I found I was 10 minutes ahead. That's nothing with 70 miles to go. Then it was back up the monster climb across the ridge, then back down Ant Hill (a bit slower this time).

On the road again back to AS4 I saw a number of folks headed out for lap 2. I was hot, and took a full bottle at AS4 to get me back to the end of the loop. I was in pretty low spirits when I got back, being hot, feeling chased, and feeling the distance. There's also the mental drain of knowing I had to go out three more times. At least this was my last one alone. I'd get a pacer next time around. This time, though, Maria again hooked me up with some water while I resupplied and had an ibuprofen and some ginger ale. I'd drink a lot more ginger ale to keep my stomach settled. John had some words of encouragement for me as I headed back out. This was the loop that broke me last time, and here I was headed out, not feeling great. I clocked about a 4:20 this time.

Loop 3: Settling in
I felt better almost immediately after starting loop 3. The ibu kicked in and this was the coolest part of the course. Plus it was getting on in the afternoon, around 4PM, so the sun wasn't as intense. I cruised through the single track then onto the jeep road and the big climb. Before long I was back at AS1, where there were some people headed in. I'd see some more on the road coming on my way to AS2. I felt pretty loose, much better than last time around. I joked with Zack, my pacer for loop 4, asking if he was ready. Sure he said, in 20 miles. The road had become monotonous by this time, an easy run, but long and monotonous. Better than a paved road any day.

After doing the zigs and zags back to AS2, I was out onto the sandy 5 miler. Back to the AS they told my I now had 20 minutes. It was nice to be gaining, but with 50 miles still to go, that number was pretty meaningless. As it stood, I just had to keep at it. So, back up the monster climb, across the ridge, and down Ant Hill, getting more gingerly each time. As I approached the road, Lynn Saari gave me a cheer and a high five. Now, as much as I disliked the road, it was a sign the the end of the loop was near. Part of why I didn't like it was that I had vowed to run everything flat and downhill, no matter how it felt. But it was a good place to make time, and also one of the few places I was able to see other runners. John Taylor was one friend that was headed out and shook my hand, and joked about me getting ready to lap him. He's an iron man, going for his 30th hundred mile finish at this race.

I had passed two runners on this loop, both of them ready to be done. I had thought I'd get a rush from lapping people, but it didn't do anything for me, in fact I felt a little bad for them, imagining how I'd feel.

I made my way to the end in 4:09, the last lap I'd keep track of. I got some more water, goo, and my primary lamp. I'd run loop three with my backup, but didn't need it. Zach would be ready and waiting for me at AS1 when I got back around. Another ibu, and ginger ale, and it was time to face the beast. Around this mileage (60 so far) things get really tough.

Loop 4: Keeping company
It was about 8PM and getting dark fast. Amy showed up just as I was leaving and walked me out onto the course, I didn't get to say much to her, since I was mentally taxed, but she chatted and turned around as I hit the single track. I turned my lamp on and knocked out the hills to AS1. I knew I only had to do the trail behind me one more time. There was some small relief in that. And Zach waiting head of me to keep me company and think for me for the loop. I pulled in and he was there, and after a quick bottle refill we were off. "Do you need water?" I asked. "Oh shit" he says and spins around to get his camelbak. Now Zack is a fellow geek like me and we talked almost the whole loop about either running or programming. It was really nice to get to know him better and have some company.

On this loop we started passing people, not a lot, but the field was really spread out now. We cruised the road, to the jeep road and the twists and turns. Pausing briefly at a picnic area just before AS4, turning off our lamps to see the stars. They were incredible. I led most of the time which seemed to work out best, since I could dictate pace, and we wound our way to AS2. I watered, ditched garbage and started on the tedious 5 miler. This patch never seemed to take long, but we did have some excitement. Zach told me he had to make a pitstop, but he'd catch up to me. After a few minutes he comes barreling up the trail with a roll of TP in his hand. "That had to be a record crap" he says. "I was finishing up and something big rustled in the trees right behind me and I took off". There's always some good humor to be found out there.

When we got to AS3, they told me I was up by about 20 minutes. I immediately took off, getting nervous. I hadn't gained anything! And still 30 miles to go. I found out later that it was more like 40 minutes. I was out on the trail before Zach was ready, I think I surprised him. But he caught up and, yes, we were once again up the big nasty hill, across the ridge and this time slowly down Ant Hill and to the road. Once we got to the road, Zach let me know that he would like to take a break at the next AS and get his stomach settled down. That was cool with me, after all, this was an unpaid gig he was doing, helping me out. As I left AS4 I asked him to time how far back Matt was and he started his watch.

One of the benefits of loop courses is, after the first lap, you know exactly where you are and how far you have to go. You learn where to spend your energy. This short section went pretty fast, and Amy would be waiting there to crew me for the last go-round. I rolled in to some cheers, as this is where the most people were and they cheered everyone both coming and going. They all knew it was hard to get back out onto the course. Amy had my goo and water ready to go and got me a new headlamp, since my batteries died on my main. I did this lap somewhere just under 4:40. The darkness, especially on technical trail really slows you down.

Loop 5: A Bout of Tourettes
Amy again walked me out onto the trail, sometime around 1 AM. Around this time I started enough swearing that I'd make a sailor blush. She just laughed it off. I was tired and sore, but had 20 more miles ahead. Soon I was pushing back up the single track and falling asleep on my feet. I needed coffee bad. Before long I was at AS 1 and Zach had lined up Chris Koch to run the last loop for me.

This dude was motivated and I swear he had a riding crop. He pushed me to run as hard as I could for this loop. Chris was really stoked to be out on the trail and we talked a lot about his upcoming race at Western States. It was a neat meeting him since the crew I run with at Hyland was wondering who he was, one of two Minnesotans to get in this year. So we ran and talked and I dropped a ton of f-bombs as I regularly tripped over roots and rocks. It didn't seem like all that long and we were back at AS2. Chris got me watered and fueled up and out on the sandy loop quickly. We chatted and I kept him apprised of what was coming up in the course.

As we approached AS3 we went over what I'd need, mostly water and some goo. When we got there I started asking where's Matt? How far back is he? Chris just pointed behind me, and there Matt was. He was just starting the five mile loop we had finished. This was our first meeting, and we traded some words and a high five and I was off again. One last time up the big hill.

At this point we knew I'd come in under the course record, and get the win, just by how much we weren't sure. Chris pushed me to keep running down the road to the last aid station where a small crowd cheered me through and onto the last stretch. The time looked good, but I wasn't sure we'd get under 22 hours. As soon as we left the single track and got back onto the road with 17 minutes to spare it was all about running as hard as I could. There was three quarters of a mile of road and open field to the finish line. I had Chris go first and I just locked in three feet behind him and gave it my all. We made the last turn off the road and hit the field. We could see the finish line from here and were running all out. About half way across we could hear cheers as the aid station saw our headlamps approaching. Chris gave me a bump and split off to the side of the chute and I crossed the line. 21:53:05 and a new CR.

Just after finishing

I can't say enough about how great this race was. For me there was the elation of my first win, but bigger than that is the community I get to run with. John and Larry, along with a boatload of volunteers put their hearts into making sure everything comes out right. That's weeks of effort for our one day on the trail. All the runners I encountered were all supportive, no matter how tired they were and all the aid stations stocked with good food and staffed by great people. I totally recommend this race to anyone looking for a great, family feel 100.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birkebeiner 2011

This year's Birke was a good one, albeit we had to endure the harshest weather in the 6 years that I've done it. I knocked out a PR in 3:39:36.2.

My race via the Garmin:
2011 Birkebeiner by budducci at Garmin Connect - Details

This year I stayed with my friends Bob, Sue, Al, John, Paul, and Sandy at Bob's brother's cabin. This made for pretty relaxed lodging. The last couple years I've stayed with some nice people, but we were really crammed into a small cabin. The trade-off this year was a bus ride to the start instead of a two minute drive.

Friday was the drive up with Bob, we all only did two to a car because of all the gear. After everyone met up at the cabin, we piled into one car and headed on up to the packet pickup in Hayward. This is always a zoo, with about 10000 people heading there to get their bibs and swag. It was much nicer this year, as Hayward is more convenient than Cable to get to, and there was a lot more space to set up. We spent about an hour there, then headed back to start nesting and making dinner.

Dinner was a pretty standard spaghetti feed for the seven of us, then as the evening wore on, I started doing my nervous pacing and fretting about my gear. Clothing was a big concern this year, since it was to be a very cold day for the race.

5:00 AM rolled around, and I had had a surprisingly good nights sleep. Pretty much everyone got up, even though I was the earliest started by about half an hour. Sue would be driving me up, though, since she wanted to get up to the start early and get in her zone. Some plain oats were the order of the day, then making the final choice for what to wear. The temperature ended up being -9F at the start, so I wanted enough clothes to stay warm, but not so many that I'd sweat much. Getting wet from sweat in that kind of cold is a recipe for disaster. Sue and I rolled out a little after 6 and headed up to the bus. We had a pretty short wait, which is good, because it was freaking cold out, thankfully there was no wind, and wouldn't be all day.

At the start we checked out the lodge, but it was super busy (we both had to pee really bad) so we hightailed it down to the tent at the starting area. My experience starting in Wave 2 last year was that it was pretty quiet down there. That held true this year and we were able to rush off to the many empty portapotties. When I've started in later waves, this place is a zoo, with lines for all of the biffies. We had just enough time for me to get my boots and gear sorted out, without being rushed. Thankfully Sue had some vaseline for me to put on my face to help cut the cold. So, I pretty much stripped down to one layer of expedition weight long underwear and my race suit. That's right, a race suit, this is the one time a year I can wear lycra and fit right in.

I gave Sue a quick hug, dropped my bag off at the truck and queued up. It was about five minutes before wave one started, and 15 before I would. So me and my compatriots placed our skis in the tracks and jogged in place next to them to stay warm. -9, nasty. In due time, to a big cheer, wave one was off, we slid up, and started jogging again. The time passes fast in the queue, and we were soon on our way.

The first couple K were cold as our movement now created some wind. I was constantly moving my balaclava around to keep different parts of my face warm. This year, thankfully there were no big accidents in front of me, as someone almost always crashes trying to change lanes. A few winding turns and we were upon the powerlines, which are actually my favorite hills. I was far enough up that I was able to bomb these hills and not have to hold up for slower people in front of me. That made me happy, since I'm a pretty solid downhiller. At the first aid station near the end of the powerlines I took my only spill of the race. I was reaching for some water on my left and somoene went for a pass on the left, pretty bad form. She stapled me and I spun around onto my knee.

The racers spread out pretty quickly, especially after 9K when the Korie skiers split off onto their own course. By this time, I had warmed up pretty well, though a few downhills would be cold, and had built up a frosty layer on my beard that helped keep my skin warm. It was a gorgeous, and did I mention cold, day to ski through the woods. I only saw a couple of crashes all day, and none were truly heinous. I never really got passed much, nor did I pass many people, and skied a very steady race with even splits. There were some pleasant times skiing right next to someone and exchanging some kind words.

I was only checking my watch every 11K, which is about every 20% of the race. After 33K I felt really steady and good and just kept the hammer down to see if I could not only PR, but get under 3:40 (which I barely did). Some 40K in was Bitch hill, but I barely recognized it since there were no partiers on it. In past years, there were always a few ladies on it dressed in costume and loud music playing. Maybe just too darn cold this time around. Once topping that though, the worst is over, and there is only one more big hill, then a lot of flat to the end. Really, once hitting the fields its time to spend all you've got to zip through the last aid station and face the lake.

The lake really isn't that bad, just 2K of dead flat wide open space. Once I hit that, I just put my head down and pushed as hard as I could, trying to hang on. The reality is it only took about 9 minutes to cross this expanse then you could hear the roar of Main Street. A short incline off the lake and a couple of turns, then the finish line 300M ahead. The street was lined with thousands of people cheering, and it was an all out sprint to the end, with the caveat of just don't fall. I passed Karibaldies where we all meet up afterwards and I saw Bob shout out at me...then done.

It was only 5F above at the end, so I hustled off to take care of myself and get dry clothes on and some fuel in my body.

What a great event this is. In addition to a PR I had a new top speed of 30MPH on my Solomon Equipe 10s. Definitely pretty zippy on such tiny boards.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birkie Tapering

It's taper time for the Birkie. This is the time that the foreplay starts with the skis. Hot waxing, scraping, and polishing. All looking for that great glide and kick. This winter I again focused on keeping a good running base and skiing once a week. The longest I skied was only two hours, but I have a lot of miles on the legs otherwise. I'm hoping that comes through for me again this year, as last year under the same plan I PR'd by 20 minutes.

This next week will see a moderate amount of running, and probably one trip to the gym early in the week. Culminating with Friday off for the drive up to Haward, WI. I treat the Birkie as a fun event, not a serious race. I still ski it as hard as possible, but I don't want to ski five days a week getting ready for it. So I look at this coming Saturday as 4 hours of skiing through beautiful North Wisconsin woods to get to the bar.

A couple of side notes for when this is all done...I'll be working with Karl again this year since that's been really productive for me the last year and a half. I also got a new toy, a Garmin 310XT. My old Garmin has been getting a little flakey, and I've been frustrated that Polar doesn't have Mac support. So now I have GPS and HRM rolled into one. I've used it once so far and it's pretty slick. Also to get ready for the season I have a fitness test on Tuesday morning with Optum Health Performance. I was turned onto them by my buddy Brian. I'll do a writeup about how that went afterward, but the numbers from that will hopefully help fine tune my training.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Running

The Birkebeiner is right around the corner at the end of February. As with last year, I've decided to focus mostly on running in the winter and ski once a week, treating the Birkie as an event, rather than a race.'s been lots of running in the snow, not the deep stuff, but on the plowed parkway. It's been easy enough to navigate, but it sure takes the energy out of you when almost every step is a little slippery. We've also had some spats of wicked cold out, but I actually enjoy getting out in it. Once warmed up, it is actually pretty nice, and when the warm springtime comes those days are all the more pleasant.

Coming up in the spring I'm pretty certain I'll be back down to Zumbro to take a crack at finishing it. It's pretty early for a 100, but taken slow and casual I should be able to tick it. After that it's either Kettle Moraine or Black Hills. Sawtooth again in the fall, for sure. Maybe Voyageur or a marathon in July, or even, gasp, a casual vacation. Big news is that my wife gave me the go ahead to sign up for The HURT 100! OK, the actual race is next weekend, and registration isn't until the end of July. So my main goal is to actually remember when it rolls around.

A quick wrap up for last year was somewhere over 2000 miles of running, probably close to 2500, since I didn't start keeping track until April. I attempted 3 100 milers, finishing two, being Western States in 23:33:46 and Sawtooth in 26:58:01. Oh, and another Birkie finish. This year I'll have better mileage tracking, since I'll actually record the full year on Daily Mile.

My overarching goal for this year, is two ratchet up to four 100 milers and maybe a 50 or marathon thrown in. I still have a goal to qualify for Boston. I've only run a 3:25 marathon and just need to hack off 10 minutes and run a 3:15. I think that's well within my capability.

And for this past week...56 miles including 9.5 skiing and a long run of 15.3 miles. I'm slowly building up to a 3 hour run once a week, so when the skiing is done, I have a good launchpad.