Saturday, December 19, 2009

My favorite DNF

"The first year just go out and get your ass kicked, and then come back the next year and do it again." -on attempting Leadville 100
Winfield 50 mile turn around, getting DQ'ed
13 lbs under

Around May Queen AS mile 13.5
Hagerman Pass Rd. Sunrise over Turquoise Lake
Some where along Sugar Loaf Pass 11,000 ft
mile 19?

Powerline downhill
Not sure where this , maybe after Fish Hatchery mile 24?
The trail just after Twin Lakes AS mile 39.5
Typical scene heading up to the pass. I was getting pretty sick here too. Mile 41?

Runners leaving Hopeless AS mile 43?
Looking back at Hopeless AS
Almost to the top of the pass looking back.
Paul Schoenlaub inbound looking fresh like he just started.
Steep trail section and why a lot of people use trekking poles.

I suck at blogging. Leadville Trail 100 was like 4 months ago. I haven't run an ultra since. I've been running a lot of short course races and working towards improving speed. I've been resting a little more and helping my wife do a few more races. I would like for her to get a marathon/ultra finish this coming year. I'm very grateful for this past year. I was given the opportunity to travel with friends, had the privilege of being a pacer, and run some very difficult races when the economy has been upside down.

Not gonna put out some boring, crap race report. Just a few tips I learned.

Yes, a trained, healthy runner from sea level can run this thing on zero acclimation. It won't be pretty and it won't be fast. I was getting a respiratory infection the week of the race so I need to emphasize "healthy" and "injury free" runner=finish, sick or injured=DNF.

Leadville Trail 100. Elevation 10,152 feet

Leadville is basically a road course with hours and hours of mountain hiking thrown at you. The only other mountain 100 I have to compare it to is Western States 100. WS is a horse trail, a lot hotter, has more climb and more severe downhill than Leadville. What makes LT so special is that its 2 miles up. There are no freebies with this race, Hope Pass will break you. Pay close attention to pacing and nutritional needs.

Get rid of the crap you don't need!

I used hand held water bottles at WS and then for some reason decided to use a hydration pack at LT. Never again! You end up running with a bunch of dead weight. A filled 2 liter bladder weighs 4.5 lbs, plus gels, batteries and other food items you probably won't use and the pack weight itself, for about 10 lbs total. This is a no-go, the furthest you run with out aid is the first 13.5 miles of the race. This early in the race you are most likely to be over hydrated (had to stop and pee about 5 times) extra weight at that altitude contributes to faster fatigue and kills running economy. The exception would be the Hope Pass climb outbound. Lighten up. Utilize drop bags.

Don't over race!

Be patient and allow time for recovery after each race. Everyone is different in their recovery time. At this point I don't think I'm capable of more than one 100 a year. The training volume for WS was pretty intense. I was thinking that the fitness I built up for WS would carry over and get me through Leadville. Nope. I needed more back to back training runs for LT. I think I was able to run 200 miles in the 8 weeks after WS, not enough! The residual fatigue from completing a 100 can last a long time.

A finish or a race???

Do you want the end of a journey or a speed contest? Guess it comes down to personality type. I became a runner out of self-selection, meaning I'm not good at anything else. My goal in a race is to cover ground as fast as possible. This type of running means you need to be willing to thrive in failure, not accept it. Buckles, medals, awards are nice to receive, I have a few. But, what I'm looking for are those opportunities you can only experience in a race.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Sunrise race morning

Robinson Flat 29.7 miles

Entering Michigan Bluff
This was my low point Michigan Bluff, 55.7 miles

Foresthill School

Pacer Tony Clark getting ready to run all night
leaving Foresthill school 62 miles

Adrian waiting for me at Hwy 49 93.5 Miles


The award you see here is the result of a monumental effort of my friends, crew, and my wife. It also represents thousands of miles of training, hours and hours at the gym, victories, defeats, elation, depression, fear, injury, boredom, and—last but not least—agonizing pain.

There is no point in me giving background information on WS100 as it is the most media-covered ultra event in the US. You climb 18,000 feet you descend 22,000 feet... Enough said.

Friday June 26
Slept as late as possible. Then, with Gabe and our respective crews, we went to the med check and packet pick-up. The race swag you get at WS is unbelievable: a nice Mountain Hardware backpack, 3 shirts, LED hat (which is totally useless), GU, Green Magma, Ultrarunner mag, Sunsweet fruit, stickers, and other various promotional items. Next, we got our picture taken with our bib numbers. Then it was on to weigh in and have our blood pressure taken which was all carefully written down along with our name, age, sex, and hometown on a hospital-type bracelet. Most of this info would wear off or be gone by morning as a result of showering. Mid-afternoon, we showed up at race headquarters in the Olympic Plaza for the mandatory race meeting. Most of the stuff said here was the usual fare: don't die, don't go out hard, make sure you drink and eat. Then a race official mentioned Dan Moores, the founder of Auburn Running Company. Dan had died the previous day in a long battle with luekemia. He said that over the years Dan was a major contributor to the race and had run it several times. But his real passion was being an aid-station captain at the Bath Rd. aid station (mile 60.6). The race official asked that we honor Dan by doing three things: running the race with the prestige it deserves; on the climb to the aid station—even if we were hurting badly—to think of Dan and push a little harder; and finally, at the Bath Rd. aid station, give a smile to the volunteers. A moment of silence and bagpipes concluded this race briefing.

Race Day
Saturday June 27
Awake by 3:15. Shower, then food. Pop Tarts, banana, coffee. Tony Clark, my pacer, was already awake. Tony wanted to see the start and had gotten only three hours of sleep due to 15 hours of flight delays and mechanical problems at the airport. Tony is a veteran combat Marine and has done some of the toughest 100s out there: Big Horn, Leadville, HURT. When he called me to volunteer for pacer duty I jumped on it. This was going to be a difficult race and I was going to need a badass to push me. Gabe woke up late and thought that it was all a bad dream. We both fumbled around in silence filling water bottles and double-checking gear.

4:30. Out the door for a short walk to the start. Checked in, got our bib # pinned on took a few pictures, then lined up. I was in awe, the energy at the start is supernatural. Its almost like you absorb the emotions from the other 400 athletes at once. Shotgun blast and we were off. Two years in the making!!!

Squaw Valley to Robinson Flat (0 - 29.7 miles)
This was high country: 7,000 ft average with the highest point being Emigrant Pass at 8,700ft. Emigrant Pass is what you climb towards in the first 3.5 miles and it is quite a hump. Made it to the top in about 52 minutes. Then you go down for awhile. I don't remember much else. Running with Gabe we made it to Red Star Ridge, 16 miles, around 8:10 am 3hrs 10 min. Sat down and laced up my shoes a little better. Even though WS is known for being hot, dry, and dusty, the first twenty miles offer quite a few opportunities to get muddy. Started to noticed a little warmth here. The sun was out over the high peaks. And the altitude made it feel like I was dragging some weight behind me. Duncan Canyon, mile 23.8, marks the start of another significant climb. This will eventually take you to the Robinson Flat Aid Station, 29.7 miles, the second-highest point of the course at 6,700 ft. "Keep your head down and go up," is what I was thinking here. It must have been tough because I remember nothing about this climb except I passed Dean Karnazes and Jenn Shelton—both elite runners, both having bad days. Running into Robinson Flat was exciting. They announce your name and hometown over a loud speaker and everyone is cheering for you. Masses of people lined up against the tape barricades. This was to be the first weigh-in. I was up three pounds: 140 compared to my original 137 lbs. No big deal, and I got waved on by the medical staff. Crew are not allowed to touch their runner in the aid station here. This was a dumb rule and made it hard for some crews to help their runner.

Miller's Defeat to Rucky Chucky (34 - 78.1 miles)
After Robinson Flat I knew the rest of the course. Having run it in training camp, I felt pretty confident. Around Miller's Defeat I noticed the signs at the aid stations. Listed on them were the projected cutoff times for 24 and 30 hour runners. I was less than 10 minutes under the 24 hour cutoff!! (Little did I know this same situation would repeat itself over and over for the next 16 hours). I wasn't real worried yet and I felt really good. Next was a pretty long decent down to Last Chance, mile 43.3, and then a extreme decent down Deadwood Canyon, mile 46.1. This marks the start of the climb to Devil's Thumb. No big deal. It was a little warm. I got to the top and saw at least two runners puking, a couple more laying down. Felt okay considering what I had just done. Grabbed some cut-up mango and took off down to El Dorado Creek, mile 52.9. This was a very long descent and the quads were starting to feel it. It was about 3:30 pm and very warm. The sun was bouncing off this canyon creating kind of an oven effect. But it was nothing I hadn't been through before. Made it to El Dorado Creek A.S. just after 4 pm. This is also where Gabe caught up to me. Took a cool sponge bath. I don't remember eating anything here except maybe an S-Cap and GU, and then we both headed up the climb to Michigan Bluff which isn't real steep, just real long. About half way into the first mile it was was like my switch got turned off. I could feel it happen: dizziness, accelerated heart rate, breathing was out of control. Redlining. Textbook bonk. I stepped off the trail to let Gabe pass. Then I bent over and put my hands on my knees and rested for a few moments trying to get my heart rate under control. "This is bullshit!" was what I was thinking. "This doesn't happen to me, I don't get f@#!ing tired!" I could no longer hold pace. Continued to slog up the climb although it was a lot slower now. This was a very humbling exeperience for me I tried forcing myself to run the short, flat sections. I basically wrote off finishing under 24 hrs here. Wobbled into Michigan Bluff, mile 55.7, at 5:10 pm, 12 hrs 10 min—thoroughly wiped. Weighed in at 131 lbs, from what I weighed at Robinson Flat (26 miles ago) that was a 9 lb loss. My awesome crew noticed immediately that I was hurting and went to work. Red Bull on ice, 2 S-Caps, salt and potatoes, Payday bars, Rice Krispie treats. I spent about 15 minutes here, my longest stop for the entire race. I needed it.I had just gone through hell and my crew helped me regroup. Checked out of the A.S. and slowly worked up to a easy jog. At Bath Rd., mile 60.6, your pacer can meet you and run with you into Foresthill 1.8 miles away. I had caught up to a group of about 4 runners and their pacers and Tony was there to run me in. On this hill I noticed that a runner slightly ahead of me had a pretty good limp and was struggling up the hill with his pacer. He heard me coming and yelled to me and few other runners, "No one walks this hill, we run it for Dan!" This was a reality check I needed. An endurance athlete dies fighting a horrible disease and I'm here alive and feeling sorry for myself because I'm running slow and didn't eat enough. Shut the F up and put out! Ran hard into Foresthill School, mile 62, 6:41 pm, 13 hrs 41 min. My amazing crew again swarmed me: someone took my shirt off and put on a fresh one. Shoes and socks were changed. Slammed another Red Bull. Put on my headlamp and Tony and I were gone. We ran the next 8-9 miles pretty smoothly. I was actually feeling good on this section as it is mostly down hill.

The Darkness
Peachstone Cal 2 - Auburn Finish Line (70.7-100 miles)
Just after passing Cal 2 A.S., about mile 72 the sun went down and so did my pace. In the trade they call this "going soft". Exhausted, my legs were smoked, it was pretty warm, and I was getting a bad attitude. Tony recognized this and took over: "It's okay man, were gonna run for 3 minutes and walk for one." We continued this all the way down to Rucky Chucky, mile 78, where Tony let me sit a couple minutes. Two massage therapists went to work on my quads as I was eating some noodles. While I was enjoying bliss, Tony was refilling bottles and an aid station captain walked up to him and asked, "Is your runner going for silver?" Yes. The captain turned to me and put his finger in my face: "Get out of that chair! I'm kickin' you out! You're 9 minutes above 24 hour pace! You have no time!" This fired me up and with Tony in the lead we crossed the river a headed up the steep windy road to Green Gate, mile 79.8. Angel, Tony's wife didn't miss a beat she had more Red Bull and ice for me. The next aid station was Auburn Lake Trails, mile 85.2. I came into this A.S. around 1 am, almost 20 hrs of running "I'm not going to make sub 24, I'm going to slow, I can barely run anymore." These were some of the negative thoughts I ran with and they were crushing me. The downhills were absolute agony. Brown's Bar, mile 89.9, 2:10 am: empty Jaeger bottles, loud music, and all the volunteers were wearing red dresses. Now, as I write this, 2 hrs and 50 minutes to run 10 miles doesn't seem all that hard. But after running for over 21 hours, it felt like I was gonna have to run an out and back to the moon in order to finish. My stride was gimpy and short. I was frustrated, and downhill running was a no-go at this point. The next few miles, Tony played a huge part in my finish time. He kept talking to me, getting in my head, saying we could knock this thing out in under 24. "If you can hack the pain, you're going to get a silver buckle." I went blank on the insane climb to Hwy 49, mile 93.5. I had less than 1 hr and 50 min to run a 10k. Just to give you an idea, it can take the elite front runners 1 hr 20 min to do this difficult section. Painful run down to No Hands Bridge, mile 96.8. "GO,GO we are not stopping!" Tony yells at me. Just over 5k to go in less than 50 minutes. "This is too close." The climb up to Robie Point, mile 98.9, will forever be burned into my memory. I had to curse, bite, scratch, and claw my way up that long, steep, rocky, nightmare. I fell several times, tripping on jagged rocks going up this climb. At Robie Point, the rest of the course is all pavement with some impressive hills. Someone said I had 21 minutes to run just under 2 miles. Struggling up those final hills I knew I was going to make it. The last half mile to the finish is all painful, joyous, downhill. I lost track of time here and I was running as hard as I could. I entered the stadium and rounded the final turn of the track and saw the clock. I had finished under 24 hours with only seven minutes to spare. Kristi and Adrian were there to hug me at the finish. It was so good to be done! Tim Twietmeyer congratulated me and handed me a finisher medal. Sat down in a chair so medical personnel could tell me if I was going to live or not. Larry Gassan, a photographer who runs the Finish Line Photo Project, came over and pulled me out of the chair to take my picture. I threw everything I had at this race and still, I barely scraped in under 24 hours. Satisfied for now; that's why I'm going to try Leadville.

Monday, April 6, 2009

2009 Rockin K 50 Mile

Gate 6 A.S. Mi 13 1:52
Finished with the first marathon 4:19
Hard, but rewarding finish 9:19 2nd place

Congratulations to all who finished the marathon and 50 miler. I would classify this race's difficulty as a "graduate course". It's Kansas prairie so runners generally under estimate it.

This year it was pretty wet with extreme "wetness" at the water crossings. The course got 4 inches of snow a couple days before the race, so the feet never really got to dry out.

As for goals and strategy for this race I just wanted to run well and not die in the process. I did not expect to run a fast time. This was my fourth time at this race and it always beats me up.
Thomas McKenna, last year's winner and current course record holder passed me at about mile two. See ya! I had no delusions of trying to run him down. He knows the course really well and is an outstanding runner.

I made a few mistakes prior to the race that cost me a lot of undue suffering:

1. Forgot how hard this race is.
2. Should have used a drop bag. I went in to this race with a "minimal" mindset thinking I could finish with just gels and water. Might have worked if it had been cooler but the warm and windy temps made the sodium loss extraordinary.
3. Left my summer hat back at the hotel. Scalp sunburn blisters are epic.
4. No bodyglide/vaseline: Again, should have used a drop bag. Skin was still attached when my running shorts were removed.
5. Not enough trail training. Wet weather in March made most of the trails unrunnable in my area.

Yes, most of these are petty excuses and a lack of attention to detail. I still had fun and it was good to see a large contingent of KC Trail Nerds out there tearing it up. You guys are awesome!
We owe a big thanks to Phil, Stacy and all the KUS members who make it happen.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Psycho Wyco 50k 2009

Amos Aid Station
I haven't written a race report in a while, but this year's Psycho race deserves it. Arguably the toughest 50k in the Midwest, Psycho Wyco boasts three 10-mile loops of relentless elevation change, roots, rocks, and soul-sucking mud. Add in veteran ultrarunner volunteers at every well-stocked aid station and a crazy race director, Bad Ben, and you get a one-of-a-kind event.


My goal for this years race was a sub-5 hour finish. Last year I think I missed it by 3 minutes and change. December and January were kinda high mileage for me (7o-80 mpw) and I spent many weekends training on the Psycho course.

As usual, I started out way too fast caught up in the moment. At about mile 4 I basically stopped on the trail and let a bunch of people pass me; running an 8 minute pace felt like I was being pushed a little too hard. The rest of the loop tried to maintain pace discipline. In training runs I run all of the hills but in this race I kinda enjoyed walking some of them. Finished the first loop in 1:26, said thank you to the volunteers as they were filling up my bottles, stopped at my drop bag for 2 gels and some m&ms.


Started the loop choking on frozen M&Ms. I don't get how people can run and eat solid food at the same time. The trail condition wasn't too bad at this point. The first aid station you come to is the Wyandotte triangle manned by the loudest, rowdy KC Trail Nerds. Aid station tip: always run into an aid station and--even if you don't feel like it--SMILE at everyone, say thank you a lot. Volunteers feed off of this energy, and it gets passed on to other runners. Roughly 6 miles into this loop is my favorite part of the course, Fester's Wander. It starts with a fast descent down the ridgeline section followed by winding single track over some short sweet climbs. By mile 17ish it was starting to get a little soft running towards the Amos aid station. It had to happen sometime: the mud was coming. Took it easy on the 3 hills section and finished the second loop in 1:33.


Enter the Gabe

Seven days prior to this race I paced 40 miles for Gabe Bevan in his 5th 100 miler, the Rocky Raccoon 100. In that race he didn't get the time he wanted, but still, despite intense pain he put down an impressive sub-21 hr finish. Gabe was signed on as a volunteer for the Amos aid station but I knew he wanted to stretch his legs and get in on the action so I told him to run the last loop with me. We both took off on the last loop. Even after a hard 100 Gabe was hungry to run. I had to rein him in a couple a times reminding him I needed to be able to run the back half aggressively and not limp in to the finish. Collectively we've run hundreds of miles on this course together in training so I knew that he knew how fast I could run a loop on tired legs. The rest of the loop I just tried to remain upright and everything was kinda of a blur, as I tend to blackout on the difficult sections. Hit the finish line at 4:41 (1:42 loop) happy to be done running for the day.
Thank you to all KC Trail Nerds
Special thanks are in order for Gabe and John, Kyle, Tony, Caleb, David, Shane, Gary, Willie at GPRC, you guys have taught me to chase instead of follow.
Bad Ben congratulations on being a zen master of race directing, try to get some rest.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's been a while

I haven't put much out as far as blogging goes. Been running a few miles though, getting ready for Psycho Wyco Feb 14, then 3 days of syllamo in March. Congrats on the new baby David