Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mondo Slam fizzles and is snuffed out.

     What was I thinking? Nick Clark? Jared Campbell? Superman? Apparently I am none of the above.
I really thought I could do it. 12 days to recover from Western States 100 and run Hardrock. I never would have started if I didn't think it possible. I never should have started.
     I felt damn frisky at the check in. I felt damn nervous at 5:45 Am as the Superstars of Ultra Running gathered at the rock for the start. I felt old and rusty as we headed out of Silverton on a 100 mile circle through the San Juans. I felt slow and empty on the first climb up Putnam Basin. I felt like a corpse when I pulled the plug at mile 42 in Ouray.
     It was like having an Earthshaking hangover at your birthday party.
     It was so magical, the course is like running through a Visit Colorado brochure. The mountains and views alone can carry you to... mile 42.
     O.K. I sucked. It sucked. I had a terrible time. I started off with such great hope and then got passed by the entire first half of the field. I had nothing. My legs were empty and useless except for their amusing "noodle dance" which they were quite proud of. I knew I was toast with Marmalade when I got to Kroger's Canteen at mile 30idontcare and realized if I had to backtrack to Silverton I'd end up in Telluride passed out on the mat at a hot yoga studio. Speaking of Telluride, I've never been so wet as I was after the storm that washed me down into Telluride and I've snorkeled plenty. The sky was actually projectile vomiting, violently on the runners. This is what a mobile puddle looks like.
drowned rat

     After spending a good 15 minutes under the hand drier in the crapper at Telluride Aid Station, I then proceed up the valley to be passed by everyone from the front mid pack, to the mid pack, to the juggaloes, to the jogglers, to a pirate with a peg leg, to eventually a three toed sloth and a star fish. I didn't care. I was done. My Goose was al dente and I decided to walk every step of the "awesome downhill" from Kroger's to Governor's aid station and then enjoy the sunset traipse down the 7 miles of Camp Bird road to Ouray where I could die in peace. I got passed more by friends old and new. I finally fell in with Garret Grobbens who was too nice to let go. I decided to run/ walk with him to Ouray. He had no idea I was dropping and I didn't want to bring him down by telling him. We hit town and I saw my wife, kids and best friend and I fell apart. My legs wouldn't go. The go juice was all dried up and they only had enough gumption left in them to get in a truck to Silverton. I felt bad, real bad. Then the sky lit up and Hell rained down from above and I felt a lot better about my choice. I showered and snuggled into a warm bed with my gorgeous wife and slept great. The next day was spent watching the runners come in to the finish is all states of disarray. Julien Chorier looked like me last year (Horrible). Adam Campbell was struck by lightning, Kuboraki was hit by rockfall in the face. The stories were epic and I felt the conflict of missing the adventure mixed with relief of not having to endure what those runners endured. Hardrock is a race unlike any other.
     The ghosts of what went wrong in Silverton still haunt me but I still have UTMB to look forward to. Life has been a series of downs and downs since returning from Colorado. Sometimes things suck and what can you do but motor on. It could be worse, I could be hunkered down under a rock on Handies Peak waiting for the lightning to abate. I had to give up the Mondo Slam but I'm still alive and kicking and learning French. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mondo Slam Part One Western States

     Well that was interesting. As I recover in Denver, shedding a toenail or two daily, I finally have time to reflect on what I've gotten myself into. The Mondo Slam got off to a slightly disappointing start.
     I had high aspirations coming into Western States 100. Of the last three races I'd run all were faster than any year before. I felt like I was as trained as could be for my A race and was hoping for a finish time between 16:30 and 17:30. I was hydrated, rested, ready and well supported by family and my amazing crew of Phil from 7 Hills, Jonathon Bernard and Glenn Tachiyama. Everything was lined up for a great race.
     We hit Squaw on Thursday, the altitude is always an annoying factor as I think it shouldn't bother me but it does. The atmosphere was really fun. I like the hype, the history and the pageantry of the oldest 100 miler. It was really fun to hob knob with the elites and meet new people. I finally met Nikki Kimball who is a family friend to my siblings in Montana. Talk about inspiring.
     Race day dawned early and cool. Got to the start around 4 AM, checked in, drank coffee and waited. Gordy said a few words then the gun rang out across the valley and we were off up the Escarpment. Beautiful. So beautiful I was fighting the urge to stop and watch the sun rise over Lake Tahoe. I kept going and fell in with the top women, meeting and chatting with Larissa who took second and Kaci who ended up sixth. A lot of back and forth later, I was matched up with Jason Leaman and Pam Smith (last year's champion). I saw crew at mile 20 something. The day heated up. My plan was to not allow myself to overheat. Wasatch last fall taught me a valuable lesson. I wore a visor, a waist pack, a bandana full of ice on my head and stayed wet by dipping in every stream, puddle and aid station.
     My race progressed nicely. I was in the top 40 where I wanted to be. My plan was to be efficient until mile 70 then race the last 30 and pick off the carnage.
     Memo to myself: Pack a lot of Avocados in my drop bags 'cause that shit rocks!
     The day got hot. Average heat for W.S. but hot for a PNW runner. Still I didn't lose my composure or my stomach even though I was on the line a few times. I picked up Jonathan as a pacer at Forrest Hill and the company was great. We picked up the pace and were really clipping along but there was nobody to pass.
     My Achilles heel is digestion. I stop at an aid station, get food, eat it while walking and then have to walk until it goes down, which is the preferable direction. This slows me down. Something Jason Leaman and AJW may have noticed as they passed me walking out of aid stations. Thankfully, AJW would stop to puke and we would pass him until the next aid station. Rinse, puke, repeat.
     Jane, my amazing wife posted a Facebook picture of our daughter sitting barefoot on a fence on an island with her friends. She said, "Do you have your bliss on?" This became my mantra for the race. When I would start to suffer I would ask myself if I had my bliss on. I did. I was running around in the mountains of California having a blast with friends. We finally made it to the river crossing, the iconic, seen it in pictures, river crossing. It was so freaking cool. My favorite part of the course for sure. I wanted to do it twice but Phil was waiting to take over pacing duties on the far side.
     By now I knew my race time was way behind where I wanted it to be. So it goes. I was still running good and within my self. I was pushing it but not dangerously. The hills on the last 20 miles are nasty. My feet were falling apart, my legs were getting stringy. The time between aid stations got longer and longer. Phil's enthusiasm was uplifting. By the time we made it to No Hands Bridge I decided it was time to leave it all on the course. We ran the uphills until they turned to steps. We pushed hard and looked for the lights of Auburn. We got to the road leading to the stadium and I again was taken by how many great ultra runners had run this very road. Jonathon joined us and we three ran to the stadium. Surreal. I finished in 19:28 for 32nd place. I couldn't have run any faster.
     Post race they ask for a blood sample to study. I gave. When my results came back it said I had elevated BUN and Creotin and something else which indicates kidney danger. Pretty much it said if I wasn't peeing regularly a trip to the ER was due. I was peeing great so it wasn't an issue. The results told me I was running within my limits. I pushed it but not to the danger level. I think if I was 10 years younger I would have been in the ER. Instead I ended up in the Super 8 in Auburn with a pizza and an IPA (Thanks JB).
     I will always cherish my Western States experience. I probably will never run it again as it is a course which really doesn't fit my strengths. I will definitely come back to pace someone. Phil?
     From California, to Seattle for 2 days, to Denver to rest and recover and on to Silverton for Mondo Slam part 2. I've lost most of my toenails and my legs are still really sore but, hey, I've still got another 6 days until Hardrock starts.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chukanut 50k Report in Haiku

2014 Chuckanut 50k Race Review in Haiku

Woke up too early
my mental alarm clock runs
seven minutes fast

Drove my car alone
hashbrown sandwich and coffee
crumbles in my lap

The weather report
double doppler pack O' lies
rain held off 'til four

Fairhaven is nice
if you need to find parking
spots are always free
Hanging with Ather pre race

My 7 Hills hat
a perfect compliment to
my Team 7 shirt

Race start is a blur
front pack goes out so damn fast
I am left behind

I ran with Cory
nice guy from Olympia
left him half way home

Tortillas are not
a true replacement for bread

Saw Yassine ahead
it was clearly not his day
passed him feeling bad

If dog had a leash
it may not have tried so hard
to knock me off course

Chinscraper this year
seemed like it was not as steep
I ran the whole thing
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Hydration this race
along with my nutrition
made me bonk free guy

Scott Kinabalu
great shoe for technical stuff
so so on the flats

I brought my Ipod
didn't use it even once
the race was too close

Passed Jodee and then
two guys with four miles left
trying to hold on

Footsteps from behind
Ellie Greenwood flies past me
am I standing still?

Crossed the finishline
four hours, fourteen minutes
thirteenth place for me

Got third place Masters
Won some cool Julbo glasses
Thanks Krissy, Heather

Max King won the race
Ellie won for the Women
fun was had by all

Post race party was
a lot of laughs with old friends
and some new ones too

Thank you Seven Hills
for supporting me this year
and the hundred bucks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shoe review N2 Pearl Izumi

     The best thing about being sponsored by a shoe store rather than a shoe company is the chance to try out a plethora of trail shoes. Team 7 Hills is being sponsored by Pearl Izumi, Scott and Hoka One One. Phil gave me a pair of Pearl Izumi N2 Trail shoes to try out.
     I have been looking forward to getting into a pair of Pearl Izumis for a while. I love the look and have heard great things about them. I took them and ran.
     The uppers are plush. Nice fit across the top of the foot and a lacing pattern which makes sense. The  bumpy lumpy laces actually seem to work and do not untie. The N2 has a low drop and a bit of a rockered front of the shoe leading to a roll off the forefoot. I find both very nice and they lend themselves to a quicker turnover than a flat format. The only rub I've heard about the N2 Trail is in the stability on slippery downhills. In my testing I found this to be somewhat true. The tread design works great on wet uphills but the knobs seem to be a one way gripper and give ground on sodden downslopes.
     My overall opinion of the Pearl Izumi N2 Trail is positive. I really enjoy running in this shoe and would recommend it to serious trail runners. It is light and responsive and would rock on a dry course.
     The downside of my experience with the N2 is the squeak. I have had two pairs of shoes in my life which have developed a squeak. My pair of Pearl Izumis developed a squeak in the left shoe after about 20 miles. I love this shoe when I am wearing headphones but without all I can think about is what is causing the squeak. I think it is a production flaw in the rubber. Even off my foot, bending the shoe, you can hear the difference in the sound. Odd. I had a pair of Hoka Stinson Trail Shoes I wore at Wasatch last year which also developed a squeak only on the right shoe. Even my pacers started to be driven somewhat mad by the ever present sound.
     I would compare the P.I. N2 to the Scott Kinabalu in nimbleness and support. Both great for races up to 50 miles.
     Thanks again to 7 Hills Running Shop, Phil and Pearl Izumi for the opportunity to test drive these shoes. Next up, the remodeled Scott Kinabalu 2.0.

Peaks and Valleys

     Balance. The fulcrum. The swing of the pendulum. All things seek balance. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised the needle needed to be returned to center. The lottery luck caught me by surprise and also put me on notice. I thought the balance might be found in the difficulty of the races themselves. I was mistaken.
     The worm turned as the Christmas madness peaked. The holiday scamper was almost a wrap when one by one the family succumbed to a flu like virus. The rare whammy of everyone sick at the same time with an upper respiratory squeeze with cough and fever. I had people on vacation at work so I had to put in seriously long days in a cold warehouse. My training miles took a hit. We started recovering. I decided to run the Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass 55k anyway. Dumb? Sure.
     The race was interesting as it was 34 degrees and foggy at the start and finish but almost 60 degrees on the peak which was snow and mud free. I didn't know what I had for legs so I went out easy and hung with friends and chatted to the first aid station. Then I lost everyone as they stopped for water but I had plenty in my handhelds. I chugged up the clearcuts and saw, then caught Zach Gingrich who I had been expecting would win the day. I started feeling really good running in the Sun. I am solar powered. The single track was in great shape and I hit the peak , ran around it and back up feeling great. The last 20k of the race is almost all downhill on bermshot mountain bike trails. I settled into a steady pace and munched on a chocolate croissant and my homemade "Dookie Wads".  I was just crossing a dirt road passing an early starter when a guy I had been running with at the start of the day came crashing down the trail out of nowhere! Yikes! I had about 4 or 5 miles to go so I put the pedal to the floor and started my finish sprint. I still felt great. Sprinting felt the same as running, I was nearing the finish when my handheld bottle managed to clip itself to my chest strap on my pack. I couldn't let it go as it was half full so I had to sprint with one arm swinging and the other across my chest while I laughed and laughed at how silly I looked. I crossed the line in 4:40. Jon Pearch the race director said, "That's a really good time. It might be the record." Later I learned it was the course record besting the previous time set in 2005 by Kyle Skaggs. (although the course has changed over the years). Still, not bad for an old guy with a sniffle.
       The Seahawks won the Superbowl and I ran Orcas Island 50k in 5:01 landing in 7th place, first master. I still felt not quite right. After a frigid Superbowl parade with Theo and a night of ski racing in sub zero temperature I was spent. I went to the Dr. to find out what was going on. A chest x ray revealed pneumonia. Walking pneumonia which I probably had since Christmas.
     Up, down, up, down. The peaks and valleys of being a parent, or a human in this life can sometimes be overwhelming. The antibiotics are working, my milage is still suffering. I have ski racing tonight, birthday parties coming up. I run trails because I like to control my ups and downs. Choose my Peaks and bomb the valleys. I'm hoping I can do what I can to stop the scales from bouncing but so goes life.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Mondo Slam

     Lady luck is one hell of a dancer.
     Lottery Saturday for both Western States 100 and Hardrock 100 landed on the same day this year. I get too stressed watching it on the computer or even being inside during these things. My yearly plan is to go out, run, and when I'm good and ready, come home and check. Last year I was outside when my phone rang and I instinctively answered it to a "Congratulations on getting into Hardrock!" voice from a dear friend.
     This year I went for the group run at Seven Hill Running Shop. 10 miles of trails in the freezing December weather while the lottery nonsense was going on. I was winding down post run when my phone began to blow up. I ignored it but I knew something was up. Finally I answered when the third call from "Home" came in. "You are IN!" Jane excitedly shouted. "You were picked 167th out of 170!" Well, goddamn... about time. This was my fifth attempt to get into Western States and now I was finally in. I drove home feeling great. I opened the door and Jane said, "You should probably check your email." I did. I also got chosen for Hardrock. Gulp, pause. Blink, blink.
     When planning the year one hopes to get into the big lottery races but realistically you have to build an alternate plan. My big race for 2014 was going to be UTMB. A 100 mile race around Mont Blanc in France, Italy, Switzerland and back to France in late August. The lottery for UTMB is in January and the field is around 2,300 runners. Much better odds than HR or WS. My family has begun to get really excited about going to Europe in August then this oddity of luck strikes with the lottery gods aiming at me. What is a boy to do? Western States is HUGE and I've always wanted to race it. Hardrock is my muse, my dream race. Western States is exactly 13 days before Hardrock. What about UTMB? Oh the mental clutter! Stop. Give it time to settle. Sit on it. Wait. Decisions will be made once the UTMB lottery is held in January but during this settling period Jane asked me,"If this was your last year of running, what would you do?" I said, "No question. I'd do them all!" She gave me her calm look of approval (she really wants to go to France). I really like the way she thinks.
     Welcome to the Mondo Slam. Western States (to be raced with reckless abandon), then go directly to Hardrock where I will attempt to recover, acclimate and finish upright. Seven weeks later race UTMB. If I finish all three races, I'll make myself a Mondo Slam trophy to put in my closet.
     The thought of racing Western States put the fear in me so I signed up at the last minute to race the Deception Pass 25k (Rainshadow Running event) on Saturday Dec. 14th. 16 miles is a sprint on really scenic, technical trails. It only took 2 hours and 7 minutes. Good enough for 2nd place and the Master's Course Record. Fun times. Lucky to be able to do the things I do.