Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Western States Lottery

The entry criteria has been a bit of a sore point with me over the last couple of years, as most of my friends know, from frequent discussions about it. But it is what it is. The first time I entered the lottery it was off of a 50-mile qualifier (North Face Endurance Challenge Madison 2009) and I happened to get picked. I had entered because I knew I had little chance of getting in and I wanted to start building up my tickets. Oops, there is that slim chance of it happening. So I went to my first States not having run a hundred before which left a big question mark over me for whether I could cover the distance in under 30 hours or not. I took a risk, potentially taking a spot in the race from someone who did have the cred to make the cutoffs. Fortunately I made it.

 Since then the lottery has gotten bigger and bigger, and only a small change to the entry criteria has been made and that was going from allowing any 50-mile or 100-mile as a qualifier to needing to run one from an approved list. Mainly this got rid of the road ultras which is a baby step. Given the availability of 100-milers I would get rid of the 50-mile qualifier (which I think at 11 hours is pretty soft) and require a 100-miler be run before you can get into the lottery. As a pie in the sky, I'd even require that whatever 100-miler is being used as the qualifier be run in a time proportionate to a 30-hour time at Western ( provides a good calculation for that).

So lets take a look at how pared down that would make our own small set of Minnesota entrants, currently standing at 33.  (I'd love to analyze the whole list of lottery entrants, but I'd need access to the raw data since I'm not going to look them all up by hand.)

33 - Current Entrants
22 - Removing those with 50-miler qualifiers (11 of them)
15 - Further removing those who's 100-miler qualifiers didn't match's relative 30-hour finish time.  I rounded my values for this up to the next hour to keep it simple.

Assuming that this rate holds across all of the 2302 entrants, applying my changes would yield some promising changes to the odds.

2302 - Current entrants
1535 - Those with 100 mile qualifiers
1046 - Those with a 'fast enough' 100 miler

Still not super odds, but way better than what we've been seeing.  Granted my 'fast enough 100-miler' qualifier might be tough to implement, but getting rid of the 50-miler would be an excellent start.  Given how hard it is go get into Western, I don't think it's out of the question for them to shoot for a 100% finish rate and gear the lottery towards ensuring that.  I think it would be very interesting to see if the finish rate changes significantly on simply requiring a 100-miler qualifier.

Cheers, and for those that do get picked on the 8th.  Train hard, and do everything you can to ensure you get that buckle.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nerstrand Big Woods Half Marathon

I just finished a half-marathon in Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park. This was a delightful event starting at a small country church (complete with old church ladies and a bake sale) winding through the park, and finishing back at the church. This race has been around for quite a while and was very well organized.

They day itself was cloudy and drizzly, but the temperature was perfect. Check-in was well organized, and my packet even had a little orange tag on it indicating I had won a door prize, some wild raspberry jam. With ample port-a-potties present I made use of them and stashed my gear in the car. It was cool enough out that a warm up jog was necessary, besides the fact that I wanted to be able to start pretty hard. Just prior to the 9AM start we all sang the national anthem in our quiet shy Minnesota voices, with a trumpet accompaniment. Then all the 10Kers and half marathoners lined up.

There was a quick 3-2-1 then go and we all started off for the first 1.5 miles of road before getting to the park. The start felt great and over the first mile I picked it up and started really moving. Of course it was slightly down hill with a strong wind at our backs. I'm glad I didn't think about what the return trip was going to be like (very unpleasant). I moved pretty far up the field on the way to the park as I realized a lot of folks were not taking advantage of the hill and wind. After about 10-minutes we hit the dirt of Nerstrand and started the fun trail running. I quickly linked up with Jonah, a triathlete from the south west corner of the state. We ran pretty much the entire park section together, sometimes separating one way or the other, but never out of site, and chatting for much of the first half, until we both stated feeling the effort.

It was fun winding around and after we separated from the 10K field it was pretty quiet, but there were a few points where we linked back up again and there was some company. The course was impossible to get lost on, with well flagged corners and marshals out at all the confusing turns. And with 4 aid stations, plenty of opportunity for re-hydration. It was really motivating linking up with the 10K the first time and really passing them easily. It's fun to have rabbits out in front of you.

The trail itself dished up some delightfully steep up and down hills interspersed with mostly wide runnable trail. All in all, it was not very technical, but the steep downhilling provided ample opportunity for a good crash (which I managed to avoid). Shortly after the midpoint there was a lollypop section, and on the way back there was a lot of half-marathoners outbound. Another good pick-me-up section where we all cheered each-other on.

Around 10-miles I gapped Jonah at an aid station, which I ran through, and I think he grabbed a drink. And I managed to keep him behind me the rest of the way. After some more fast trail I hit the road, and started beating it towards the church. As soon as I turned the corner for the mile long straightaway I could see the steeple, and all of a sudden felt like I was standing still. The headwind was nothing short of abusive. I was beating it for all I was worth and probably running a minute per mile slower than without the wind and hill. I managed to get it done, though in 1:29:52 and 3rd place. I was pretty pleased for not having really trained hard for it.

The post race was excellent, with the aforementioned little old church ladies serving soup, cookies, bread and coffee. A perfect warm up on a chilly day.

Props to Amy Clark, whom I headed down there with, and who pulled a fine age group victory in 1:49:29.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Superior Sawtooth 100 - 2012

It's not often that the perfect storm happens for a race: the weather is perfect, you show up well rested, well trained, and almost no problems during the race.  This year's version of Sawtooth was all of those for me, serving up a special performance despite a painful shin injury at mile 85.  I punched the clock in 22:41:02 and getting the sweetheart prize for second two years in a row.

A mellow start...

The start delivered perfect weather, upper 50's, sunny and dry.  I like not having any concerns about what to wear.  Amy and I camped out the night before, and though I didn't sleep well, I'd had enough.  I was up at 5 for some breakfast, then back in bed for a bit before suiting up for the day.  We got to the start just as my parents and brother were getting out of their car.  Last year on this same day my brother was in the hospital in a really bad way, so it was great seeing him well enough to be up at Gooseberry to share the morning with me.  He and my dad would go back to Duluth after the start, and my mom and Amy would crew me the rest of the day.

After a few minutes milling about and having a few last words with friends the crowd moved up to the start line for a few last words from John.  Then 3...2...1...and running.  I started near the front, not want to sprint off the line, and soon enough was right up with a lead pack of 5.  Steve Moore was at the front, followed by Adam St. Pierre, Ben Hian, myself, and Jim Kerby moving steadily, but at what seemed like a pretty pedestrian pace considering the talent we had here.  All the same it made me nervous, especially since I knew the kind of speed that Ben had.  Nonetheless, we all stayed together until Split Rock, where we restocked, and Steve started putting the hammer down with other Adam close behind, then Ben, with me and Jim running together.  I never saw Steve again until the finish.

For a long time, Jim and I cruised near each-other.  He was yoyoing a lot.  For about 20 miles he'd surge ahead, then come back to me, then for another 20, he'd drop off, then pull back up on me.  He was being crewed by a friend I'd made at HURT, James, who I ran a loop and then some with in the middle of the night.  It was largely uneventful steady cruising up through County Road 6, which was the last time I saw Jim.  The section getting here is pretty hard and really the first gut check of the race.  In last year's heat, this AS was like a MASH station.  This year, though, I was here an hour and 12 minutes faster than last year and feeling like I was jogging.  Amy kept on me that I was much faster than my plan, but it was one of those days where I was slapping down miles without trying and I felt really good.

Kurt, Paul, and Mike where here to meet me, and I got a good cheer coming on in, in 4th place.
Kurt having a good time
It's not often I get to this point feeling great, but I had no complaints.  I was probably as energetic as I'd ever felt this deep in...of course as 100 milers go, it was early yet.  I had plenty of time to get to Finland in daylight, I can't imagine that a lot of people have to do part of this stretch to County 6 in the dark.  I was pretty fortunate to see the views from Sawmill Creek Dome and the upcoming Section 13 in full daylight.

I got into Finland after the better part of 8 miles and started getting suited up for night running.  I did a quick shirt change while I was at it, put my headlamps on, and headed out with Kurt for the next 12 miles.
Off into the twilight

To rule the night...

After last year's night time pursuit of John Horns (I made up an hour and twenty on him) I got kind of a reputation.  We'd find out soon enough if it was justified.  I was 12 minutes back from Ben, and more than half an hour back from Adam St. P.  I just kept telling myself, run your race and Kurt kept reinforcing that.  Less than a minute out, Ryan Welts came blazing into Finland looking strong and fast.  A few minutes later he blew by me like I was standing still.  I was amazed, but given the rate he was moving, I was convinced that I'd see him again.  So on Kurt and I went, now in 5th.  We had a great time talking as darkness set in and midway to Crosby we turned our lights on.  The temperature stayed great in the darkness and we motored along.  As we hit some really rough sections I started dropping Kurt a little bit.  It's kind of mean, but it is really motivating when you are moving well enough to pull away from a solid experienced pacer.  But the night is mine, right?

A mile or so before Crosby I came upon a runner (Ben) standing off the trail trying to find his way.  I tried to call him back to where I was, and the trail went, but he found a little dear path up to it.  Kurt was a little ways behind me at this point, so Ben and I cruised a little bit more of the single track chatting about his past experience with rabdo, and how careful he was with hydration now.  As soon as we got to the road up to Crosby, Kurt caught back up and we rolled in together.  Matt Patten was running the joint here, and apparently cooking up a storm.  I was so focused, though, that I didn't realize he was there, even though he was cheering.

John Horns surprised me here, all suited up and ready to run with me for the long stretch to Sugarloaf, 9.5 slow miles away.  This is one of the longer, and slowest sections of the race.  I was glad to have him, and we left promptly, not seeing Ben again.  Thankfully, speedy John Maas would run with Ben for a while from here.  I also left Ryan at this aid station.

We had a good time floating along the dark single-track, occasionally hearing voices behind us.  That turned out to be Ryan and his pacer, and they soon moved by us.  No worries, it was late and we were all doing what we could.  I was going as hard as I felt I could at this point, with 40 miles to go.  This race was just getting going after all.  John really helped keep me focused, even so, this section seemed to go on forever taking more than two and a half hours to get through.  Eventually we found ourselves at Sugarloaf where Amy and mom were waiting.  I bid adieu to John and swapped in Amy for a surprise pace gig (she ran this section with me last year) and headed back out.

Unfortunately for Amy, I was on fire, and left her behind almost out of the AS.  Oops, not good to drop the wife.  I blazed this section out, and hit Cramer road, forcing my mom to do some solo crewing, then beat it out for the grind to Temperence.  I'm glad I knew this section, because it was really poorly flagged.  I would have really been questioning if I was headed the right way if I hadn't run this before.  I had passed Ryan along the way and when I got into Temperence Adam St. P was still here, having injured his knee, but still moving.  I left with the other Adam, immediately passing him, as Ryan got in.  This was the last I'd see of either of them, which is surprising since this is where my wheels fell off.

Up until know, I'd beat all my splits for the last two years.  Somewhere early on here, my right shin started hurting and got progressively worse.  Eventually getting to the point where I was really considering if I should drop or not.  I was now in second, and the machismo made me keep going.  Over these last three sections, I ran fully a half hour slower than last year's run, and I'm convinced I could have beat those times if my body had held up.  Instead, I'd spend the next four hours spending a lot of energy battling some serious pain.  These were all really runnable, too, which really hit my morale.

So, through mind numbing pain (I didn't want ibu to cover it up, just in case something snapped, but in retrospect it would have been alright), I kept pounding it out through Sawbill and onto Oberg where my TCRC teammates were.  As I rounded the lake to Oberg I came upon Brian Peterson, Paul Holovnia and one other guy out on the trail, maybe half a mile from the AS.  This picked me up and they ran me in, where Kurt and Mike Bateman were waiting with my mom and Amy.  They pumped me full of chips, potato and broth, since my stomach had been queezy.  Then Kurt tried to rub some cooling gel on my shin and at the slightest tap it hurt so much I screamed.  (If you want to worry your wife, that will do it).

OK, 7 miles to go, and 15 hours to do it before the cutoff?  I don't care how much I'm hurting.  Paul walked me out.  Yeah, walking since my shin tightened up that fast.  Then onto a slow jog.  He was only going to make sure I got moving, but ran the full way with me.  It was awesome.  He was a total trooper doing that, since I was moaning and groaning, and whining the whole time.  I'd had a lofty goal of beating 24 hours, and getting to Oberg before dawn, and totally nailed that.  We were only about a half hour from the finish when we turned off our headlamps.  So it was up the steps to Moose, across the top, down, up the switchbacks (more than I remember) then some flat running and the decent to the bridge.  Last year it was a steep decent, but some trail work made it long and gradual, which was confusing, but ended up in a pleasant surprise when we crossed the river earlier than expected.  I'd been looking behind me a lot, expecting Ryan to catch up, but I'd apparently gapped him pretty well over the last 15 miles.

Paul and I hit the road, and did a little fist bump for a job well done.  No sign of pursuit, a course PR by an hour forty, and second place.  Amy met us at the turn down to the finish, and she and Paul dropped back for me to cross the line.  Oy.  6:41 in the morning and I was spent.  There was a lot of cheering, since the marathoners were still about, but as soon as I stopped I started melting down and could barely register even the handshake from Steve.  I don't think I'd ever left that much out on the trail before.  I'd be happy with a 22:41 on any course, but on this one, I was ecstatic (at least after a nap).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Superior Sawtooth Splits 2012

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

19.4 Beaver Bay 4.9 11:26:00 03:26 10.62
24.3 Silver Bay 9.9 12:23:00 00:57 11.63
34.2 Tettegouche 8.6 14:25:00 02:02 12.32
42.8 County Road 6 7.7 16:31:00 02:06 14.65
50.5 Finland 11.7 18:13:00 01:42 13.25
62.2 Crosby Manitou 9.4 20:55:00 02:42 13.85
71.6 Sugarloaf 5.6 23:15:00 02:29 15.85
77.2 Cramer Road 7.1 00:26:00 01:11 12.68
84.3 Temperence 5.7 02:03:00 01:37 13.66
90 Sawbill 5.5 03:26:00 01:23 14.56
95.5 Oberg Mountain 7.1 04:53:00 01:27 15.82
102.6 Lutsen
06:41:00 01:48 15.21

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Speedgoat 50k - 2012

Optional title for this could be: "What was my safe word again?"

The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had 10,000 men.
He marched them up the hill,
And he marched them down again.

Now when you're up you're up,
And when you're down you're down,
But when you're only halfway up
You're neither up nor down.
            -childrens camp song

The Speedgoat 50k was to be a race like none that I'd done before.  It was at altitude the entire way (low point of 7,600 ft) and easily had the most elevation gain per mile compared to any of the other events.  Really, this would boil down to walking this thing as fast as I could.

On Saturday morning I rode down to the start with Denise Bourassa and Meghan Arbogast at a dark 5 AM.  (See I'm dropping names already.  I'll try not to trip on them).  The race started at 6:30, but it was warm out and it was fun to mill about and visit with people and just enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.  I picked up my race shirt, complete with the tagline "A Meltzer Designed Nightmare" and a free pair of Drymax sox.  I visited a little bit with Mike from North Carolina whom I had lunch with the day before and Jason Loutitt from BC who won HURT this year.  As usual the time went by pretty quickly.

Karl gave us a few minutes of pre-race instructions and we all queued up under the big Hoka arch.  I was a little ways back from the front, making plenty of room for all the studs: Tony K, Killian, Joe Grant, Anna Frost, Jason, Gary and several others.  After a few minutes of milling about here, we were sent on our way and onto a predominantly uphill jaunt for the next 8 miles.  It took me a couple miles to really settle down and start putting out some good effort, since it felt like I was breathing through a straw.  As I ascended the valley opened up and was really beautiful with jagged peaks all over and Salt Lake City way off in the distance.  This was just a precursor for the views later on.

I gabbed with some people, but the field really spread out quickly after about four miles and most of the time I was alone, and going uphill it was really hard to talk and walk at the same time.  I was glad to have my tunes on for all the quiet time.  There were only a few downhills on this first climb up Hidden Peak, but they were pretty sweet.  The first one was a really rocking hardpack singletrack that we could all really tear up.  As we gradually made our way up, largely on rough jeep roads, the trees thinned out and the trail turned onto a big scree field.  It had a clearly marked trail, but made for some really slow running since it was so rough.  After completing this bit, and a little bit more road was a really steep section up to Hidden peak.  8.7 miles at an average pace of 13:02.  Really kicking ass and taking names with that kind of split.

Fortunately the next 7 miles was largely down hill, albeit not easy downhilling.  It did get off to an awesome start, though with a quick road down to the Larry's Hole Aid station, then coming out of there was a beautiful field of blue wild flowers as far as the eye could see, and we got to run right through the middle of them.  Of course, as Karl would have it, after a carrot like this the stick wasn't too far behind.  Coming out onto a road for a long downhill seemed pretty sweet, until the road turned into and endless path of baby skulls (loose rocks, yes, the size of baby skulls).  This was an ankle twisting mess that really schooled me on technical running.  The locals near me really tore this up, and while I ran it alright, was a bit humbled.  After a while, I got into the out and back section just in time to see Anna Frost and Gary Robbins coming back and heading up the biggest climb of the day.  This bit of road was easy and went into the turn-around at Pacific Mine, run by Roch Horton.  They dumped some cold water on me and wrapped a towel around my neck while I chugged some EFS and filled up my water.  Oh yeah, there was a woman dressed as a goat greeting us.

I was just over 3 hours at this point and thought that no matter how hard it got I was looking good for sub-7.  Yeah.  If only.  So I started up the 3000' 3 mile climb almost right out of the AS.  See what that does for your pacing.  It was rough, and starting to warm up.  Partway up, it did get a little overcast.  On this long climb I downed my water pretty fast and really regretted only having one bottle.  Fortunately, near the top, was a pipe spewing clean mountain water out of the ground.  I dumped that over my head, refilled and continued cruising struggling upward.  At long last I reached the top, totally spanked, as I would be every time I got over 9000'.  Then it was another steep downhill cruiser into Larry's Hole again.

Leaving Larry's Hole, was a nice gentle cruise before starting the climb up Mt. Baldy at just over 11,000 feet.  Near the bottom I caught up to Gary Robbins, who, living at sea level was absolutely knackered. We chatted for a few minutes before he crept under a tree to begin his puke fest (fortunately I missed that part).  This was very slow going and for the next 3 miles I averaged 22:51.  The trail to the top culminated in probably a 60 degree slope that you would not want to fall backwards on.  There were people on top cheering me on, and they even gave me a Mr. Freeze so I could make it the other half mile downhill to the Tunnel AS.

Reaching the Tunnel was a big relief, or so I thought.  As I remembered it, the climbing was done, so I asked how far to go, and they said 1600' down hill, another 1600' climb, then down to the finish.  Ugh, over Hidden Peak again.  It was here that I noticed my kidneys hurting, not bad, but enough to notice.  I chugged some EFS quick and had a Popsicle, then started beating it down.  For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to get to thicker air.  Leaving the AS was through a 100m or so tunnel and nice and cool which spit me out right at the top of a downhill section.  I think from here on out, I passed a couple people at this aid and at hidden peak, but no one got by me.

This penultimate down hill was a little over two miles long and was over with pretty quickly. There were a few tourists out, but I could do little more than grunt at them, trying to get out of here in the best time possible.  By the time I started up to Hidden Peak I was pretty beat.  It was hot, but not humid like back home in Minneapolis, and it had take a bit of a toll, especially combined with being up high all day.  I started to close on one guy on the climb, but once I got up around 9000' he just started pulling away.  It was pretty neat getting to the top this time, as there were about 20 people up there on both sides of the trail cheering and ringing cowbells, as hands on thighs I pushed through.

Another quick water load, and some instructions from medical regarding my kidneys and I could finally begin the nearly 3000' foot decent, without a lick of uphill.  So down the jeep road and into the scree.  I could see someone behind me a few minutes back, so was well motivated to push it and not get passed at the end.  While some downhill is fun, after 4 miles it does get a bit old.  Especially when you can see the finish line for most of it.  As I got lower, there were more and more tourists out and about, and I even dropped a couple on bikes.  OK, they were going pretty slow.  The lower I got the hotter it got.  Finally I hit that sweet single-track from early in the day and started traversing the mountain.  Yea, almost done.  Wait, I traversed right past the finish line.  What the hell?  At least it was supposed to go this way.  Finally, I made the final turn, and relief as I crossed under the arch.  Karl was there, and put his hands on my shoulders, asking me how it was.  My answer was : "Before someone does that to me, we usually agree on a safe word."

This was a great race.  I gave it my all and finished in 7:26, only three minutes faster than my 50-mile PR.  I'm hoping that this fits into my schedule next year.  Karl and his crew put on a really classy, well run event.  Everyone at the aid stations has their crap down and I'm guessing has either raced ultras or worked aid many times.  The post race was great with Ultragen recovery drink and all the pizza you can handle.  I don't know if I can do it faster, but I'd really like to give it a shot.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mid-Summer Simmering

Just a quickie here.  Nothing outrageous going on.  Training is going pretty well despite the ugly heat we've been dealing with.  90's every day does not agree with me, especially with the humidity.  That basically requires my harder runs to be in the morning, and any other run that I don't want to turn into a grind.

I've been doing a nice amount of core work: situps, pushups, and squats three days a week.  It's kind of wearing on me as I've been building up, but in another two weeks I'll max out where I want, then it should get easier.  On the plus side, I'm as strong as I've been since I did kettlebells a couple of winters ago.  It'll help with the long runs, and especially with skiing when winter rolls back in.

I'm also sitting on a lot of beer in the basement.  Three batches of homebrew came to be bottled within a couple weeks of each-other.  Not at all a bad situation to be in.  Plus, when I get through enough of these that I'm ready to brew again maybe the heat will have passed.

Two weeks until Speedgoat 50k, and my chance to bump elbows with a whole mess of superstars.  I'm tempted to bring a camera on trail for some rare action shots, oh and the awesome scenery around Snowbird.  If only I had more than a weekend out there.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Respectable at Grandma's

This years Grandma's Marathon in Duluth was nothing short of a smashing success for me.  I had a short goal list for my first marathon in three years (in fact, my first road race in that time):
  1. Get under 3:05, the open qualifying time for Boston
  2. Get under 3:10, my qualify time for Boston (actually 3:15, but I found that out afterwards)
  3. Beat my PR of 3:25
I figured the last was a shoe in, since I ran that without really trying, and it was three years ago and I am way more fit this year.  As it happened I popped of a 3:03:36 (204 overall, of 5800), getting all three goals with a big 22 minute PR and I felt I had gas in the tank at the end.

Getting to the start Saturday morning was a breeze, despite heavy traffic, and my mom and Amy were able to park right there and we all walked to the starting area with Trip and hung out.  It was warm, around 60 and clear skies, not optimal, but nothing to really complain about.  I spent about half of our hour there waiting in lines for a potty.  Lots of loose systems before these things, and with 5800 runners you can't have too many loos.  As soon as I was done with that business I headed down to the corral and found my 3:05 pace group headed up by Tommy Neeson of Clif Bar.  Amy and mom found me there and we traded waves as the last few minutes wound down.  I counted it as fortuitous that 'Sexy and I Know It' was playing as I got there.

Soon we crushed forward, the gun went off and we were rolling.  Surprisingly, the first mile was spot on pace, so no time to make up, and we got down to business.  There was a lot of banter up through the first half and Tommy chatted up a storm, making sure his 'virgins' were still with him.  The miles just rolled by banging out about 7:04, which was our goal pace.  There were a few bands along the way providing some great entertainment and some big crowds at road crossings.  A nice treat was waiting at about 9.5 miles when a high-school classmate of mine, Cassie Chura, was waiting with her family, a big glass of ice water, and a high five.

Around the halfway point it became completely overcast and we could feel a nice breeze coming off the lake and the temperature dropped a few degrees.  The race was pretty thinned out by now, and our group of 3:05ers had reduced by a few.  My legs had started feeling the pace by 8 miles or so, but hadn't gotten any worse, and with every mile I was becoming more and more confident that they would hold out.  I had been diligent about cooling myself and taking Powerade at aid stations and it had paid off.  By 20 miles I think there were only 5 of us left and Tommy said he was fading.  I asked him when I should go for it if I was feeling good and he said now.  I gave him a quick thanks and took off with fellow ultrarunner David Hyopponen from Duluth.  Mile 21 was faster, but a little conservative, then we started really hitting it and he started pulling away.

So, I ran the rest of the way by myself, passing a lot of people and shouting encouragement to them.  I was really flying by mile 24 where my family was waiting, and I barely saw them as a cruised by with a quick wave.  I was cruising much faster than I ever had by this point.  Things went pretty quickly running through downtown until the turn down to Bayfront.  This last 1.2 miles seems to take forever, running around the arena, and the Irvin seemed like the longest ship in the world.  But with a few short turns I entered the last stretch and started beating it for the line.  I had a nice quick sprint against another guy, whom I one stepped and...done.  He was excited and gave me a hug as soon as we crossed.  Awesome.

All goals met, a fine day of running, and I found how much fun a marathon can really be.  And hopefully I can fit Boston in next year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ice Age 50-Miler 2012 Recap

I signed up for this race on a lark, I'd been focused on 100-milers for the last two years, so it had been quite a while since I'd done a 50-miler.  A lot of the fun at this race would be watching the top guys really go after it, since some national class talent would be vying for the title.

Race day dawned mostly dry, just a couple of sprinkles on the way to the start, but nothing during the rest of the day.  It was about 60 degrees out, a little warmer than predicted, but it was overcast so we wouldn't have to deal with the sun for most of the day.  As usual, at the start the energy was high, as all the racers were getting amped up to test themselves.  I sought out other friends that I knew would be there, including the five other guys on the TCRC team.  Matt and I bumped into each-other while we were lining up.  I also said hey to eventual women's champion Denise Bourassa whom I had met out at HURT in January.  Very soon, right after a stellar national anthem, we were off.

I started off a little further back in the pack than I wanted and as is normal for these things a lot of folks went off harder than they should have.  I slowly made my way up through the groups for the first mile until things spread out a bit and I didn't feel so claustrophobic.  I could see Ethan Richards and John Horns up ahead a couple hundred meters and spent a couple of miles pulling up on them.  The three of us more or less ran the first 9 miles together back to the starting area chatting and generally having a good time.  John peeled off at the aid station for a pit stop and I rolled through without stopping.

Ethan and I continued on for a long time, forming a train with a guy all tatted up, Sandy Nypaver, and Denise.  We were all mostly together up through 20 miles or so, then spread out a bit.  The pace up till now had been a little speedy for me, not crazy fast, just a little too much.  I bumped out ahead of Ethan here at some point, on the way back to the marathon point.  Hitting the Highway 12 aid station at mile 26, Ben had pulled my only drop bag for me.  Quickly handing me 3 gels I took off again.  Just about now, I started having a hard time and Ethan caught back up to me.  We ran together for a little while, but he was holding steady and left me behind.

I had a rough 15 miles or so, until just after the Emma Carlin turnaround.  I think I was paying a little bit for going out harder than I was ready for.  All the same, I only got passed once in this whole stretch, and that was back at mile 27.  I kept grinding on, going briefly to that dark 'why am I doing this' place.  Fortunately going through Horseriders, Ben and Sarah, were there to spur me on.  I wish I recognized all the other folks cheering, but I was a little heady and only had eyes for the trail.  Heading out of here to Emma, and what I though was a four mile leg.  I was ready for a 40 minute haul, but after only 30 came upon Ethan, heading back, saying it was just a couple minutes.  I got stoked and beat it out, remembering this section from Kettle Moraine.

I hit Emma with only one gel left, and they didn't have any.  It was scorching hot here, out in the open, so I filled my water and beat it out of there.  Fortunately the aid stations were so close that the one gel was more than adequate to make it back to horse riders.  I got in here to more cheers, quickly stocked up and headed out.  Now, with only 7 miles to go I was smelling the barn.  I was really starting to see lots of folks headed out to the turnaround too.

This whole stretch back I started feeling stronger and stronger, knowing I could readily spend whatever I had left.  I picked it up and started running as hard as I could, and powerhiking the ups.  I think in these last few miles I picked up another 5 spots.  I fueled up at a busy second to last aid, they had folks coming through in both directions, and started cranking.  Hitting the last aid station I didn't need anything, and I'd now caught up to the 50k runners also headed in.  I just kept running through the aid and kept hammering the last two miles.  Getting back on the ski trails made for easy running and soon I was cresting the last hill, with Thom Patterson sitting there cheering folks on.  I could see the finish through the trees, so spending what I had left, sprinted for the line.

I totally surprised myself with a 15th place 7:29:05 and a 58 minute PR.  I'd come into this thinking I could get 8 hours for sure, with 7:30 as a pie in the sky goal, but there it was.  I was spanked, but totally elated to have gotten it done.

Jeff Mallach did a heck of a job putting this race on.  I can easily work this one into the schedule next year.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 2012 Birkebeiner

Taking a queue from Helen I've decided to spend some quality time reflecting on my latest race for a couple of months before writing up a report.  What better way to forget the low points and remember the highs.

This year's Birkie was prefixed by a really long and hard running season, and by a very dry winter.  The result of this was that my skiing preparation (I classic) was a total of about four hours on the nordic trak and nothing else.  Birkie morning was, in fact, the first time I had skis on this year.  Normally this should strike fear and dread into someone facing 54k with no practice time.  Fortunately, I don't 'race' the Birkie and this was my seventh time doing it.  I ski it hard, sure, but I never put in huge amounts of training, since this is my off season and I just don't want to spend the time.  Also, no surprises since I'd done it so many times.  Really, the only thing causing me some anxiety was the downhills.  Last year I think I hit 30mph on one, but controlling that the first time out is a bit dodgy.

Overall it was a really nice day for skiing.  I had stayed up at the Bickford lodge with the same crew as last year.  Once again Sue and I drove up together, only having forgotten what time we left last year, we guessed wrong and left late.  I ended up having to run to the starting line.  I didn't even get a chance to wish Sue luck, but at least I had warmed up from all the rushing.  I started in the back of the pack, which was just fine, and as I waited the last few minutes I chatted it up with a guy who had about the same level of training as me.  Then we were off!

The temperature was great, in the low teens, a full 20 degrees warmer than last year.  The snow was great, and I was on a fully supported 54k romp in the woods.  Way too awesome.  I basically made sure I was never out of breath and didn't much look at the watch, just enjoying my time.  At the powerlines was my first test of downhilling, and it all worked out great, no crashes, and I was able to bomb them just fine.  After the first couple of hills I had all my confidence back, just like riding a bike, I guess.

The rest of the day was a cruiser, I felt pretty good and just enjoyed the weather.  Somewhere around 40k a guy I was skiing next to said something like "I can't believe you're smiling" to which I could only respond that I was having a great time.  At 50k my lack of training spoke up and my groin got really sore really fast.  At least it was near the end, with less than 20 minutes to go, but it was all flat which meant kicking the entire way.  Well, I'm no stranger to pain and discomfort so, like a good soldier, I pushed on.  Main street was the usual craziness and I once again made it to the finish line in Hayward.  This was the the first year I didn't fall the entire race.

Once again, the Birkie proved to be a great, fun event.  The best parth hanging out with friends at the finish, eating bar food and hoisting a few.  And this is one time where there is plenty of cowbell.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

HURT 100 - 2012

There is no mistaking that the HURT crew picked this name for a reason 20 years ago. I just wonder how long it took them to come up with it after running on these trails, then probably rolling around in agony. I think the HURT 100 is about as close as it gets to being Barkleys, while still being held on a bona fide trail. This was my first go at this race in paradise, and I managed to pop out a 28:49 for the full 100 miles. It was a beautiful place to run, race staff were over the top awesome, and the course was wonderfully difficult. This was hands down the most difficult of the 100-milers I’ve done, taking 2 hours longer than my previous slowest time.

Amy and had arrived a couple of days ahead of time to do some touristy stuff and let our time at Pearl Harbor get away from us and we arrived at the pre-race briefing just in time for everybody to be getting up and leaving. Kind of a downer, since I was looking forward to talking with a some people and doing that typical pre-race bonding. We did pick up Jordan, my pacer and fellow Minnesotan. Jordan is a U of MN student and I think, if possible, was more excited about this race than I was. The guy is a bona fide energizer bunny in a six foot frame. We headed back over to our condo in Kailua, Honolulu was way too busy, and spent the rest of the afternoon prepping gear and going out to dinner for some pupu and pasta. I’d done a pretty good job of not being nervous most of the week, but I couldn’t hide from it any longer, I was getting jittery. Even though we went to bed at 8:30 so we could get up at 4:00 (race starts at 6AM), I had a really lousy nights sleep.

Lap 1 (4:11) – I’m Sexy and I Know It


Going through the morning routine of a small breakfast and taping my big toes has become routine by now and I just went through my motions with Jordan and Amy looking on. I was pretty quiet since my nervous energy was sky high. This was to be my sixth 100, but the excitement of race morning hasn’t waned. Soon enough we were doing the 20 minute drive to the start an quiet highways, getting busy only just at the Makiki Nature Center. There were many people parking and walking up the hill. Amy drove me to the top and let me out, then headed back down the hill to park. I tooled around and met up with Carl and Bill, the other Minnesotans and met a few others. Time flew by and we all lined up on the foot bridge starting line. We all held hands in silence for a minute, listening to the water in the river and the sounds of the jungle waking up. Soon, with a short countdown, a conch shell was blown and we started off.

Up a short hill and a couple hairpin turns and we were on the the most technical climb, Hogsback. This was a solid 800 feet of uphill to start the race, before even a lick of downhill. Hal Koerner flew by me here, I’d only see him one more time since he DNF’d on the first loop. That’s right, I beat Hal at a race. I climbed hard and in due course was at the top of Hogsback and doing a few short downs followed by bigger climbs, all with horrendous footing. Before long I hit the legendary banyan roots section, which we’d have to do twice each loop. It was a better part of a mile with some of the worst footing for level ground that you could possibly imagine. Mostly roots sticking up about 6 inches or so from the dirt and never more than a foot of space between them. It was either run them and suck it up or walk and pick your way through slowly. I chose the former, and pretty much ran them every loop.

After the roots began a long downhill towards the Paradise Aid-station, winding down through some beautiful bamboo forest and decent footing gradually approaching a river and a magnificient waterfall. This would grow to be my least favorite section since it was so long and every step down was a step back up this same trail, a couple mile long out and back. Hitting the bottom of the decent was a long relatively flat trail, but with lots of big wet rocks and not much else to step on. This went on for a solid mile or so, eventually popping out on some paved road for a short section to the aid station. By now I’d seen the dozen or so people ahead of me going back up the trail, something that would be repeated throughout the day. The ‘Pirates of Paradise’ aid station was awesome, they had a big pirate theme going on, and as you got close, all day and night, there were people cheering you in and out…loudly. As I came in, I saw Jordan take off then soon hear that new pop tune ‘Sexy and I Know It’ kick out of the sound system. Awesome, he knew I was fond of that tune and it would juice me up. People I didn’t know were shouting for me to dance. I strutted my stuff as Amy and Jordan loaded my pack, then launched back up the trail.

Climbing back up through the bamboo then halfway through the banyan roots I slightly overshot the turn to Nuuanu Aid Station, but only by 50 yards (I caught a guy later who was a good half mile past the turn). This was a sweet long steady climb and about the only smooth trail on the entire route. Near the top was an great view of Honolulu, which during the sunset and following sunrise would prove to be awesome. This climb, too was followed by a steep decent along cliff edges, sometimes running six inches from the edge, gradually leveling out along another small stream. The forest at the bottom was thin and airy and really nice to run through, and would be a joy all night, with some good footing. At the end of the this out and back was a river crossing, with a rope strung across it and enough good rocks that I never got my feet wet. Again, there were a lot of cheers everytime someone came in or left Nuuanu and the care was top notch. All the aid stations were well staffed with a lot of people that knew their ultrarunning.

Out back and up the long climb to the beautiful Honolulu view and a cruiser downhill back to the lovable banyan vines. Then a climb back up to some cliff tops, this is where I caught a guy who overshot his turn, he was pretty thankful that I let him know (he later got his 100k buckle). There was a short section of some crazy clifftop running and then some long downhilling nearly all the way to the Nature Center. One loop done, it was fun, but it was clear it was going to be a long day.

Lap 2 (5:08) – The Heat is On

I started to get my comeuppance on this loop. It was hot, and took nearly an hour longer than my last loop, a trend that would continue with each additional loop. It sounds worse than it is, since almost everyone, including the winner, Jason, slowed down tons over the course of the day. I kept my aid stops short, but longer than normal for me. Partly the time to fill the pack is slower than my usual use of bottles, and partly because I was just making sure I was OK before heading out. I wasn’t racing so much as going for the finish. This loop was more of the same up-up-down-down. Only hotter. It wasn’t brutal hot, but enough to take the starch out of a guy. Pretty much every aid I was complaining to Amy how slow I was going,but she and Jordan kept pushing me fueled and hydrated and out on the trail. It was frustrating, but I was still having a lot of fun running in such a beautiful place.

My legs were feeling the distance, which is normal around the 30 mile mark, only mine felt like they had half again that many miles on them. That made me anxious, but happily they just kept holding out. Amy kept offering me an ice bandana, but while it was hot, it wasn’t oppressive, like at Western, or even some of the heat I felt at the last Sawtooth. Besides, from about 10 minutes after the start, I was soaked to the bone for the entire race. I figured more water on me wasn’t going to help, plus it’d be more weight to take up the hill. This was the only loop I ran in complete light, all the others had at least some night or all night. That’s the treat of running a winter race, even in Hawaii, and especially under a jungle canopy where it gets dark fast. That same canopy, though helped a lot during the heat of the day. There were very few sections of the trail where the sun hit you, in fact I think this whole race could probably be done without sunscreen.

Lap 3 (5:49) – Feeling the Love

Not a lot to say about this loop. On a course like this loop three is probably the second hardest ‘mental’ loop. You’re tired, you have 40 miles on you, and you know every section of trail and that you have to do them all three more times. I didn’t have much problem heading out onto this loop, but it was grind. Still hot, and I knew I had a lot of night running to come. Up Hogsback again, then the roots, ohhh those roots, then down into Paradise and the pirates. The crew had my headlamps out for me so I saddled up, and headed back out. The field was getting thin and very spread out. Plenty of folks had dropped and the rest of us were all over 20 miles of trail. I’d only see a few people each way on the out and backs and it was always the same folks. More and more I’d see Ben and Jaime and I’d put on more than a few miles with both these guys.

I think it was dark by the time I got to Nuuanu, and while night running slows you down, at least you can run in a bubble and don’t have to see much of the treacherous terrain around you…like the cliff edges. As night descended, though, it cooled off and all that humidity in the air started condensing on the trail, making rocks slick, and in some places a goodly amount of mud. I was pretty low in Nuuanu, about 53 miles into it, and told Amy I wasn’t sure I could do two more. Good crew that she is, she was ‘Yeah sure, OK, whatever. Get back out there.’ So out I went with the carrot that I would be picking up Jordan for the final two loops. My spirits picked up again on the way back to the nature center and he was ready to go when I got there.

Lap 4 (6:30) – Running on Fumes

We headed out and back up Hogsback. Jordan was super pumped to be out there, and that was great for me, since I hit a wall and walked most of this section to Paradise. My quads were beat, it was late, and dark out. Somewhere along here we hooked up with Ben (who ended up putting about 45 minutes on me in one and a half laps) and had a good time with the three of us talking. Running in a pack helps take everyone's mind off the pain and fatigue. Jordan was only running with one water bottle so he was a bit spanked when we got to Paradise and had to pound a bunch. It had taken us 2:24 to go 7 miles and I had drained about 50 ounces of water to his 24. Fortunately we had extra bottles for him to start running with two.

Ben left us at Nuuanu and we headed out after him up the trail. He was looking good and strong, he just didn’t have much of a headlamp and that was all that was slowing him down. Jordan and I had great lights, but I didn’t have much legs left. But climb we did, since that’s all there was to do, back to the banyan roots and up and down the hill to Nuuanu. By this time we had hooked up with Jaime and ran almost an entire loop with him. It was his 6th time here and he knew all the staff and many of the runners. We had a great time running with him, and we were pretty much in the same place as far as how we were feeling.

It was super slippery heading down into Nuuanu because of all the condensation and we had to pick our way down and eventually across the rocks to the aid. After all to brief a time, we headed back across the river and up the long climb and decent to the Nature Center. One lap to go, and I felt like I had a 100 on me already.

Lap 5 (7:11) – Get ‘er Done

Jordan and I got out of Nature Center as quickly as possible, since we’d seen Jason heading into Nuuanu as we were heading out, and I wanted to avoid getting lapped. We probably left a little soon, since I had an abysmal section to Paradise, it was so slow and I felt like I couldn’t run anything, certainly not with any speed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had hammered quads, but now I had to live with a lack of hill training. And the end was far too close to even consider quitting. I had about 14 hours to do 20 miles, an easy walk in. When I got to Paradise, though, I shed my pack, sat down and shed a couple tears. Chalk that up to extreme fatigue and absolutely no emotional control. The aid station guys pushed a couple of glasses of pop on me and some potato soup and Amy got me on my feet.

Once Jordan and I were moving again I started to feel better. His youthful enthusiasm and the sugar boost got me over the hump. Leaving the aid station I was using a bamboo pole that Jordan had scavenged for me, but Catya Corbet was dropping and she gave me her trekking poles to use. That helped a lot and I was able to push myself up the hills more and even run a bit with them. The sun also camp up on our way out of Paradise and towards Nuuanu and that really gave us a boost. On our climb above Nuuanu we were sheathed in clouds except over Honolulu, where we could see the glow of the rising sun on the taller buildings. Beautiful.

Now I was getting jazzed since I could smell the finish, 7.5 miles from Nuuanu, but that was it. Across the river, up the long hill, down the sweet single-track and the last bit of roots. Sweet, one more climb and it would be over. After the roots was a long climb up to the cliff edge and through a gate. Very soon the bulk of climbing was done and all that was left was a couple miles of downhill. I wish I had the legs for it, but I gave it my all, my excitement rising with every corner. Second place woman, Hanna, blew by my in this section, and there was no way I could keep up, my quads were way too far gone. So Jordan and I kept going as best we could, until the last turn through a gentle, but tricky downhill to the finish. I remembered this section well, and I was whooping and hollering as I went down it. Jaime caught up to us here, near the end, but didn’t pass and held on a minute or two back.

Crossing the start/finish bridge into the nature center I was hollering and I could feel that finish line shiver all over as I did a quick little switchback and headed straight for the finish sign “We Wouldn’t Want It To Be Easy”, kissing it for my finish.

Finisher shirts and buckles where handed out right there as soon as we were done. Plus lots of hugs. Ben came up to congratulate me with a hug and we were both there for Jamey when he finished just a minute later.

I can’t describe how it felt to finish HURT, probably about as excited as I was since my first 100-mile finish. The race was a total class act, with really knowledgeable committed people putting it on, and doing all they can to keep you going and take care of you. They had a patrol out on the trail for the entire event, some of them logging over 40 miles. During the last lap, there were motivational signs all over the place. I will definitely be back for this one, if I make the lotto again. The after party on Monday was great, with all the finishers being recognized and a lot of roasting. That was followed by a week on the beach for Amy and I.

Make no muss about it, this is one hard race. Sawtooth used to be my standard for hard, but HURT is aptly named and a clear new standard. This is a brutal race, and it’s hard to imagine something more difficult. For you folks that like it technical, this is one to throw yourself against.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Heading to get HURT

In just three short days I'll be heading to Hawaii to run the HURT 100. Overall I've been feeling pretty good and running strong. I just got a slight cold the other day and that's not doing anything for my stress level. Hopefully it tapers off quickly, but until then, lots of water and sleep and hope for the best. I'll run no matter what condition I'm in. I think the hardest part will be no caffeine nor beer for the next week.

One day of rumble in the jungle, and a week on the beaches. Can't really be beat.