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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Races and recovery

     In 2010 I came off a season having run Hardrock 100 and Cascade crest 100. By October I was a mess. My ankle was considered Rubenesque in polite company and I had a raging case of PF in my right foot. I decided to run the BakerLake 50k anyway. I ended up getting 2nd place missing the win by about 1.5 minutes.
     In 2013 I upped the ante and ran Hardrock 100 and Wasatch 100. By this October I was a mess. The same ankle was achy, things were wonky all over and I had a medium picante case of PF. Of course this meant I had to run BakerLake 50k. Not to seem elitist but the thought of ending my season with a 23rd place finish at Wasatch wasn't the flavor I wanted in my mouth heading to the holidays. My pal and R.D. and 2013 Grandslam finisher Terry Sentinella let me into the race late.
     I ran hard from the start but was passed by six people in the first third of the race. I decided I was old and washed up. I thought I'd enjoy the day as the weather was grand and there were many mushrooms along the trail and I decided to count bridges on the way out so I'd know how many to uncount on the way back. 44! I hit the turn around in 7th then started to feel good, youngish and not so washed up. I counted bridges and passed people until I realized my bridge counting skills got worse as the miles added up. I hit the last climb to the access road and passed the runner in second place while wondering what happened to the extra 5 bridges I'd missed. I sprinted the 2 mile road and could see the 24 year old guy in the lead as we crossed the dam to the finish. I got second by 1 minute and 21 years. I got a Baker Bear for winning the Masters. This helped wash the Wasatch taste out of my handhelds. Then Al Coyle went and invited me to his Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon in Bellingham two weeks later.
     I would say I had no excuse to not run this but I had a season of excuse. The thing that piqued my interest was I haven't run a race that short since 2005. A half marathon seemed like a fun way to spend an hour and a half. I said yes and drove to Bellingham. Marathoners and Halfers are funny, they take things really seriously and wear bright colors. The day was foggy and cool. I donned my Seven Hill Running Shop shirt and hat, my Scott Kinabalus and hit the trail sprinting. I lost the lead group fast then proceeded to get passed by the two top women before I got warmed up at the half way point. I came alive and repassed some folks and the 2nd place woman fell in behind me and we worked our way up until we caught the lead woman. I started to sag and said, "go get her!" to the gal and she did, passing her with about a mile and a half to go. It was exciting watching the women's race. Then I realized the end was near and I was about to be double chicked. I turned on the extra jets and passed both ladies on my way to 7th place overall and 1st Masters. Man did Al load me up with schwag. Two awards, one for Masters, one for age division, a bottle of wine and a running jacket from New Balance. I gotta do more short races!
     Finally, rest. I have looked at the year and conceded. I am done. Time to rest and play and work on the house and hang out with my family. I love running and racing but also find a break makes the excitement of next year bigger. I am signed up for a slew of lotteries for the big races and am casting a long look at UTMB for this August. Working with Phil at Seven Hills Running Shop on some exciting stuff for next year and anxious to try the new Hokas when they arrive. I've also been really excited to watch my wife Jane train to run her first 50k. She is on track to accomplish her goal by the start of December. She's running her own race, the Jane50k rather than an established race. The finish line food promises to be good.

The DNF Monkey

     I met the DNF monkey and he detached himself from my back at the Squamish 50 miler in beautiful British Columbia Canada.
     Gary Robbins invited me to the Squamish 50 mile a long time ago. I had been to Squamish in 1991 for a last minute Christmas get away with Jane, my wife. Squamish has grown up, then again, so have I. I am not sure why I decided to run a race so close to Hardrock finishing and Wasatch starting but I wanted to support Gary and see the course. I felt quite smug when I dropped down from the 50 miler to the 50k. "Ho Ho, I'll be done in less time and have less stress on my body!" Smugness oozing from my very being.
     I carpooled and roomed with my buddy Dan Sears and we had a great time venturing north to Canadaland. We checked in to the race, had dinner, settled into our dorm room and prepared for the race. The morning dawned cloudy and humid. At the start I ran into my friend Nick Triolo from Portland (a very stout runner) and my odds of winning dimmed a notch. The race started and I shot to the front wearing my new Seven Hills Running Shop jersey, Scott Kinabalus and a sweet pair of Julbo running glasses. After about two miles, I was passed by Nick and another guy, then another guy, then another guy. I settled in and began the climb up the first major climb which became more and more major as the kilometers clicked on. I was hot and not feeling good. I was passed by the first and second place women and fell in with them. We caught Nick who was looking, well, a bit like me. (not good), We ran the first major descent together fast, too fast. We flew down the mountain. Me in my Kinabalus, Nick in his road flats. It was brutal. Nick passed me and disappeared down the trail. I slowed and decided to run steady. Finally an aid station appeared but had limited food, I needed calories but settled for a few cookies. On I ran up, down, up never ending trails. I was passed again. I was still really hot and definitely not feeling like it was my day. I decided to slow it down and run steady which I did until the half way point where the big aid station had watermelon and a lot of water but a surprising lack of real food. I made due with watermelon and more cookies but felt really lousy. I decided my race was over and it was now a training run. I ran on and was met with more relentless trail and heat. There was a big loop through the forest and I run/walked as best I could. I got passed by another friend, David Papinau from B.C. and watched him go. I felt worse and worse until I looked up and saw Nick! He was also feeling horrible. I said, "man I feel pukey." He said, "So do I." I said, "I feel REAL pukey!" He said, "Me too." I said, "Yaaaaaaaarrrrpphhhh! See you later." Then proceeded to puke air and noise for the next 10 minutes. I sounded like a sasquatch giving birth. I may have frightened a few runners and a few sasquatch. I pulled myself together and walked. I tried to drink water and failed. I started to cramp. No water= no salt pills = cramping. I stumbled to the aid station at mile 20... yes 20... so lame. I held a piece of watermelon and stared at it for about 20 minutes. I still had most my water from the last aid station and I couldn't do a thing with any of it. I watched runners come and go through the aid station, still racing and having fun and I caught a ride to the finish and shook hands with the DNF monkey. I still don't regret it. I really though my first DNF would be more of an emotional blow but it wasn't. I wanted out, I got out. I had a new window on DNFs I've watched. I feel more free to race to potential than before. The race was hard, wicked hard. Nick toughed it out and suffered greatly. I was proud of him and the other runners who made it. Including Dan Sears. The 50 milers were even more impressive. Gary put on a stellar race and the scene in Squamish was really great. I failed at the race but the lessons I learned were invaluable.
     Recovery has been an exercise in putting what is best for my body in front of what is best for my ego. I've been limiting my mileage and upping my fuel. I've been sleeping in a borrowed altitude tent in anticipation for the air above Salt Lake City. I've been training in Hoka Stinson Trail shoes and loving them. I feel like my let down in Squamish has allowed me a new view on tapering and training for the next "A" race of my year. I am laser focused on the Wasatch Front 100. I am studying and plotting and planning and ready to spring.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wasatch 2013 Heavin' and Hell.

     I was hot. I was sweating and uncomfortable. I was at the starting line of the Wasatch 100 miler in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was 5:00 am and I was already dealing with the heat. It was in the sixties and the sun rise was still hours away. I was expecting hot. I was wearing a visor and sun block on all exposed surfaces, I was pre salted with s-caps, I was wearing short shorts and a sly grin. I had a race plan to negative split the course as a way to abate the inevitable heat caused blow ups I had witnessed last year when I had come here to pace. As the bodies clustered to the line I could feel the heat close in until we burst forth into the night all shadow, lamplight and sinew.
     Wasatch is a race built to make you uncomfortable from the start and keep you that way to the finish. The footing is horrible. The climbs are relentless in the fact they seem runnable but are not. The downhills too seem runnable but are not. The sweet single track sections are only reminders of what you would rather be doing with your energy before they end in more eroded descent or winding climb.
     2013 was the second hottest race day on record for the 34 years of the race. The humidity was higher than usual and the drop rate was at an all time high. Many Utah locals who had finished five or more times found themselves cashing in their chips early and finding shelter. I was not so lucky. It was my first time racing this beast and I was in for the long haul. Or was I?
     I left Seattle on Thursday morning for the Friday morning race. I had everything packed and ready. I had my Victory bag drop bag ready for mile 75 (Brighton aid station). I had another drop bag ready for mile 52 (Lambs Canyon). I had my running pack loaded with sandwiches, croissants and peanut butter crackers. I landed, drove the rental to the race check in and meeting then met my hosts and pacers Ben, Bethany, and Ada Lewis for pizza before settling in to their house for a restless night of waiting for the alarm.
     I have a deal with my wife Jane. My kidneys are worth more than my running career. Daddy on dialysis is not something I want for my kids. My deal; I pee blood, I stop. I've never done it but it seemed like prudent thinking. I was moving slow through the heat and climbs of the first part of the race. I was battling the heat like crazy. I was drinking as much as I could and gorging on watermelon and cantaloupe. I was feeling lousy from the first climb. I was still within striking distance of the sub 24 hours I came to accomplish but just barely. I had gone out strong in the morning and tried to collect many miles before sunrise. It rose. I wilted like a dandelion on a dashboard. I fake smiled through early aid stations. I got passed by groups of local runners. I stayed on a trajectory to make the half way point in eleven hours. Then the cursed section of the race was in my sights. Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon. This is where everyone blows up. I knew it from last year and from every race report and here I was, trying to stay hydrated running straight into the sun at 96 degrees. It sucked. Everyone I saw was suffering and the trail told a tale of lost stomaches in the wet earth splattered near cactus and baked grass. I felt like I was pulling through. My stomach was still in tact. I was drinking and eating and doing the best I could. I was slow but still on plan. I headed to Lambs Canyon to meet my first pacer Ben Lewis (third place last year) and to cool down. I stopped a mile or so from the aid station to pee and what came out was the color of old transmission fluid... red, blood red. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to cry. I wanted to call Jane. I knew my race was over. I was mad. I ran hard to the aid station to get in one last good mile. I got in and the scale said I was down 9 pounds from check in. It was wrong of course, I was probable only down 5 or 6 but still I never lose much weight while running. I collapsed into a chair and Ben went to work. I told him I was done because of the blood. Ben is in the medical world and so was a nurse at the aid station. They both checked me out and decided it wasn't a kidney issue but rather a dehydrated bladder which, with rehydration could bounce back. I chugged a bottle of water, then became a fountain. Next I was covered in Ice. 6 one gallon bags of ice all over my body and head. Ben said I was to sit there until I shivered. I sat and melted ice for 40 minutes. Finally something inside me went "twing" and I felt human again. Then I got goosebumps, then a shiver. I drank ginger ale and if stayed down, I threw down some watermelon, yes! I got up, sauntered to the porta potty, I exited with two thumbs up. We left the triage aid station and headed on up the road.
     Ben brought me back to life and got me going again for the next 25 miles. I was grateful beyond words for his calm way of allaying my fears of the situation and getting me out and back into the race. My time was secondary now to finishing. Night descended and the temperature dropped but remained hot. We chatted our way to Brighton and the pacer switch.
     Brighton was where my runner, and many beside him, dropped last year. There are two rooms in the lodge, the front room and the morgue in the back where runners lay down or attempt to remotivate. I stayed away from the morgue. I tried to duct tape a heel blister and changed socks. I replaced the batteries in my Princeton Tec headlamp and reloaded my pack with food. I headed into the night with Bethany Lewis, Ben's wife and a very talented runner in her own right. We chatted and climbed in the heat of the night. Thankfully she knew the trails and I didn't have to spend energy in route finding. We were heading up the "grunt" climb when we were passed by my friend Tom Remkes. Tom said, "come with me." I said, "Thanks but I have to stay here and puke." So I did. For what seemed an eternity. Blowup number two of the day. I lost both my lunch and my will to push hard. From there I decided I liked the look of the blue buckle you get for finishing between 24 and 30 hours. I slowed and Bethany and I passed a pleasant evening chatting until we hit the "Dive and Plunge" section of the course which is steep, narrow chutes with marble size, loose rocks for footing and no bail out sections. One must jog/ski/shuffle/swear/butt slide/ run down these horrible parts then they repeat over and over again on quads which have already seen too much. By the time we hit the new reroute section of the course, with but 8 or 9 miles to go, the forrest started to mock me and the grass started to dance. My head was becoming a liability as I started seeing things which were not there. I slowed more. We power walked our way to the last aid station. Five miles to go and I suddenly smelled the barn. Actually we saw the finish from way above the valley. I started to run. We ran, we ran hard and fast. We started passing people, some with their shorts around their ankles in bushes, but still passed. We hit the final paved road section of two miles and passed two more runners. We were doing sub 8 minute miles as we finally got to the finish line. I clocked in 26 hours 19 minutes and 23rd place. A fairly pedestrian time but considering the course, the heat, the blowups, the fact I thought I was done at mile 52, I'm pleased with the finish and the lessons learned.
     I can't thank Ben, Bethany and their daughter Ada Lewis enough. They gave up an entire weekend to drag my butt around the Wasatch range. I also need to thank my wife Jane for being so supportive and understanding of my odd hobby. Seven Hills Running Shop supports me in these endeavors and Phil supplied me with the Hoka Stinson Trail shoe that took me from mile one to one hundred. I have never had happier ankles than I had after wearing the Hokas over some brutal terrain. I also have to praise my Julbo Sunglasses which kept my eyes from burning up in the Utah scorch.
     The worst thing about running such a tough Wasatch 100 this year is that I know I'll be back to try to get under 24 hours. I do not look forward to that day.