Sunday, April 17, 2016

Time and space

I got on a plane with my family in Seattle. We flew to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and landed on Kauai.
Here I am three hours different. The sun rises, the sun sets only three hours later than my home. I am here. I have a tendency to adapt fairly quick to time changes because I'm either very simple or very complex, the jury is still out.

Rewind, what are you doing on Kauai?

Six years ago we had a vacation in Hawaii and decided we would return every three years. We figured if we put away $1,500 a year and planned on eating cat food as seniors we could do this. Six years slipped past with the budget going to other trips based around my Ultra races and family visits. This year the Teriyaki Chicken came home to roost and we decided to return to paradise. So here we are.

In little over a month from now, May 13th to be exact, I will board a plane to take me the rest of the way across the Pacific. I will be going to China to run two races. China is a day and a half ahead of Seattle time. Will I adjust? Will I rise and sleep with the sun or will my internal clock rule the day?
I am hoping my body goes to sleep on the plane and reboots upon arrival.

Rewind, what? China?

Yes! Chi-frickin-na! I was invited to the second running of the Shangri-La Marathons 100k in the highlands of Yunnan Province. Think, Eastern Himalaya, Tibetan Plateau. Yak, monasteries, pilgrims, butter tea, high altitude. Oh, that's right, altitude, that is going to be an issue. Race is held between 7,000 and 12,000 feet. I will not be acclimated to the altitude, culture, language, food, water, time, or toilets. The only things I will have of comfort will be other runners. The language of running is international. Plus, I will be accompanied by Co-race- director, Terry Sentinella, Portland elite Yassine Diboun and Ultra running legend Nikki Kimbal.

Race website is: http://shangri-la-marathon.com/ It looks sooo dang cool.

My generous hosts also wanted me to run another of their races, the Conquer The Wall Marathon six days prior to Shangri-La. I at first said no as it seemed a bad idea to race that soon before a 100k. Then I realized my folly. Run a race on the Great Wall of China? Hello chance of a lifetime! I said yes but only to the half marathon, then I saw the course! It is all stairs! Jeepers. The winning time from last year was 3:30 something for the half! I down graded to the 10k. I will be stopping and taking pictures along the way.

Elasticity of time is going to be key for China.
I leave on a Friday morning, I arrive on Saturday evening. Conquer The Wall 10k is early Sunday morning. The only way to adapt is to become one with one's place. I think this is a valuable lesson for life. I've found running long races is a great exercise in being where you are. Sometimes it feels like the storm is your new reality or the heat will be here forever. Giving in and accepting what life gives you at the moment calms the mind and allows the body to follow. Fighting or over analyzing wastes energy.

For now, I've accepted my new reality to be this beautiful tropical island.
Big thanks to Merrell, Drymax, Julbo, 7Hills running shop and Globespun Gourmet

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Adventure time

I was given a shirt from Merrell which says, "Its not the gear, its the adventure." I thought it funny coming from a company which sells gear. Upon further musing, I came to the realization it IS the adventure, the gear is a means of making the adventure more comfortable. Yes, Merrell gear makes me more comfortable on my adventures but the goal is to test the boundaries of our physical and mental capacities.

I have been reading a trilogy based on the true stories of the Mutiny On The Bounty. Fascinating tales of the men who endured unthinkable hardship on their journey from Tahiti to Timor, almost 4000 miles of sea in a very small boat. 41 days of bailing water and starving. Adventure of the highest degree.

I read the Bounty book in the back of my mini van by headlamp while parked (illegally) near the start of the Orcas Island 50k. I was there to complete my 8th time racing this NW classic race. I had a bit of a negative attitude as the race has changed so much in the years since I started coming. I was nostalgic for the old days and old friends who used to gather on the ferry to and from the island and camp out the night before on the soggy grass at Camp Moran. The popularity of the Orcas 50k has made it a destination race for new 50k runners who have brought with them a new kind of energy.

Race morning dawned grey as usual. I knew what to expect, what was to come, the first long climb up the paved road. I started with my friend Maxwell Ferguson who claimed to be terribly out of shape and said he'd stick with me (he fast). We worked our way up then down the first climb, finally, Max couldn't stick with me and had to take off after the front pack. I run Orcas the same way every year, slow start, build, kill the climbs, sprint it in and finish between 5th and 10th place. Clockwork. Then, it all changed.

I had just started to feel good at the second aid station around mile 16. I chowed on some PBJ and hit the trail feeling like my legs were finally energized. I was bombing down some fast single track and saw a pink marker on my left down the trail and flew past it but it led to a blown down tree, I danced around the tree and kept going, a while later the trail turned to brush. I looked about for markers and saw nothing. I must have missed a turn. I bush whacked up hill until it led to a little ravine. No trail, no markers. Things were getting interesting. I backtracked and bushwhacked downhill. Another ravine with a trail and pink markers were way down below. I bolted down the steep hillside through the brush and found the trail and markers which read "Timber Harvest" on them. Now I knew I was no longer in a race I was on an adventure. I was excited. This is what I had been yearning for. I'd done the race 7 times. I knew I was on an island, I still had water and food and legs for hours. I thought, "let's see where we end up?" I followed the trail which became an overgrown road which eventually spit out at a cattle farm. I saw a farmer with his dog and horse. I approached them and he said, "Are you doing the long race?" (the Orcas 25k was the weekend prior). I explained I HAD been doing the race and was now on an adventure of my own. He pointed out the dirt road to the main road which would take me back to Camp Moran. I followed the dirt road to the paved road and had to make a guess. Left or Right? I felt like I had come down the mountain on the left so I went that way. About 1.5 miles later the road became a dead end. Oops. Turn around and head back. The farmer said it would be about 5 miles away. I had all day to get back. I met a woman walking her puppy. I continued down the road until it turned sharply at Doe Bay Resort. I'd heard of it but never been there and now here I was unexpectedly.

The most random things can happen when you are open and available for the universe to play with you. I was jogging up the road past Doe Bay and I was passed by a car with a running store sticker on the back window. It stopped a little ways up the road. When I caught up to it, the window rolled down and it was Max Ferguson's girlfriend, crew and puppy. They asked what I was doing, I explained. They offered me a ride to the camp. I would have said no but Max's puppy is a brown husky who is less than a year old. I got to ride in the way back with Greta the pup for the WAY longer than 5 mile trip back to race central. She may have shared one of my peanut butter crackers.

The Orcas 50k debacle was a happy accident. Others got off course too but were more diligent in turning around before it was too late. For me it was a reminder to break new ground. Find new trails, new races. Do something more... I dunno... adventurous. I'm already planning some very long runs for this summer in training for the Fat Dog 120 mile race in Canada in August. I'm also working on a huge trip which is almost ready to be hatched.

Gear: Merrell All Out Peak Shoes, Drymax socks, Merrell Capra wind shell and running shirt. Fuel: Bag of Dates, Trader Joes peanut butter crackers, Water, PBJ. GU salt tabs.
Special Thanks to James Varner and Rainshadow Racing for the event and 7Hills running shop for stocking Team 7 Hills with runners like Masazumi Fujioka who won the race in a blistering time.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hip Check

Looking back on 2015 I realize I was injured from June until the end of the year. As mentioned on a previous blog, I did something horrible to my right hip while training for Hardrock 100 by running up and down Mt. Rainier. Once my right hip was back in place, my left hip was found to have sustained an injury of it's own caused by the compensation and continued training/ racing schedule.
Hardrock photo credit Jenny Pierce

     Post Hardrock 100, I recovered a little, then ran the Squamish 50k then the Crystal Mt. Sky Marathon, then the Deception Pass 25k. Each time running on a hip/glute which wasn't quite right but was, very slowly, healing. I kept my training miles fairly low and nursed the injury to a standstill: Very slowly getting better. Along came 2016 and ski race season.
     Few people know I ski race in a competitive night skiing league at Snoqualmie Pass an hour East of Seattle. I have been setting courses and racing there for the last 23 years. Race skis, helmet, wax, the whole deal minus the superhero speed suits. The weather in the Cascades makes for some interesting racing which is to say, some nights it rains while other nights it is crystal clear and icy.
     The first night of actual racing this year, the course was soft which led to deep ruts. Night skiing makes it so you can not see the bottom of said ruts. As per normal, I bombed as fast as I could into the unknown and was jolted over and over by slamming in and out of the ruts. My back was jarred, my head was all abobble and by the time I took off my gear and drove down the mountain my hip was absolutely... quiet. Not a squeak of pain. I shook it off and waited for morning.
     Thursday morning dawned and I went to grimace my way down stairs to make breakfast but, again, nothing. No pain, no grimace. Well G'damn. I may have righted the ship by grounding it again.
     Strange thing this body. Tightly wound as I am it looks like what my body needs most to align itself is to be bashed into submission.
     2016 is off to a slow start. I ran a 25k fat ass for fun then the Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass 34 miler to check my conditioning. I was slower than I thought I would be. My lack of training is obvious compared to years past. It was nice to run over 30 miles which I haven't done since last August. The hip is feeling about 90% back and the Orcas Island 50k is next week. After that, adventure awaits. I've some cool things brewing for this year. Merrell, Team 7 Hills, Julbo, Petzl, Drymax, Fuel100 will all be along for the ride.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merrell Gear I'm diggin'.

One of the major benefits of being an ambassador for Merrell is getting gear to try out and review. I am very hard on gear and tend to work it to the point of breaking before I'm willing to judge it. Here are a few items I'm trying to break.

MERREL ALL OUT CHARGE Trail running shoe

My love affair with the Merrell All Out Peak trail shoe has been noted, published and I may or may not have a tattoo of it over my heart. The thought of dating it's sister was, well, awkward. I had heard mixed reviews about the All Out Charge, I needed to find out for myself.

On first blush, the shoe looks great. The tread design, though not as burly as the Peak, looks grippy enough for slippery Northwest trails and knobby enough to not wear down. I went to put the shoe on and was confused, the tongue is one sided. At first I thought it was me, then I realized what was going on. A one sided tongue makes for half the slide factor and half as many seams on the top of the foot. Interesting. I think the initial oddity of putting on the shoe leads people to have a negative reaction. This is a shame as it is really a nice ride and a good idea once you get used to it. I had the same reaction to the "Gull Wing" doors of the Lamborghini I sat in so I went with the Volvo instead.

The All Out Charge is a very nice trail shoe. It is light, nimble and has a lot of trail "feel" without losing stability. The tread is really good on slick trails and dry single track. The shoe runs a little narrow but the lacing system allows for a lot of personalized adjustment. I have a wide foot and am able to adjust the shoe to be wider around the forefoot and tighter on the heel. You know a shoe is working for you when you forget all about it during your long runs. I forgot about the Charge until I took it off and knew it worked well for me.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the All Out Charge for distances of 5k to 50Mile. They seem stable enough for longer races but I would have to try before I could say.

The only down side of the Merrell All Out Charge is that damn fine sister of hers. The All Out Peak is equally light, equally responsive, equally adjustable but has a tread without compare. I would pick the Charge over Peak on a dry flat course. The rest of the year, the Peaks are the apple of my eye.

MERRELL CAPRA WIND SHELL

I needed a good wind shell for winter running here in the land of rain and darkness. I settled on the Merrell Capra Wind Shell. I liked the look, streamlined, nice color with bright yellow piping to stand out on dark winter nights. Out of the box it looked just as good if not better than in pictures. Light, not crinkly, well constructed. The cool functional design of this wind shell is the windproof fabric in the right places and a lighter, stretchy fabric on the sidewalls and under sleeve.

In typical Ultra runner fashion, I took the jacket out to the mountains for a long run which turned from sprinkling rain to downpour to snow to rain. The Capra Wind Shell held up beautifully in all of the conditions. I was surprised at how water repellent it seemed and pleased at how much warmth I was able to save when the rain turned crystalline.

The next week I again took the Capra jacket out for a long run which turned into a five hour drenching in torrential rains. Trails turned to streams, everything I had on was totally soaked. Interestingly, the Capra jacket was wet but again kept me warm. The wind proof fabric worked its magic as an insulating layer and the jacket never got heavy.

Week three was cold. The jacket was warm. The long run turned into an epic bush whack amongst some shin shredding bushes and brambles. About the only good thing on that run was the company, the All Out Charges and the Capra Jacket.

One suggestion for this, and all running jackets. Please, designers, make a zipper which can be successfully open and closed, taken on and off by someone with half frozen fingers. I don't care if it looks really big and silly, I simply want it to work and work fast. Rant over.

The Merrell Capra Wind Jacket is now my go to running shell for Pacific Northwest winter. I may, someday, even try it in the wind.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Crystal Mt. Sky Marathon

On Saturday September 19th I ran

It was a lovely day for a race in the mountains although I was in no shape to race with my gimpy left hip and it being the end of a very heavy race schedule. I couldn't resist so ended up here on race day
Wearing these 
The course went up there, under the gondola. I watched a quarter of the field get there before me. Not my day for racing I thought. Just enjoy the day. I ran and chatted with 7 Hill Phil for a nice long jaunt. Then he took off and I fell in with Chris Barry and we had a great time talking and clicking off miles. Then the course went up up up and I lost Chris, found Phil, lost Phil and kept going now feeling a bit stronger as my endurance kicked in.
This is a bee. Bees are nice and make honey.
I did not see any bees on the course.
At about mile 19, I was feeling how sore my hip was when I tripped on a root and then it really hurt. I was in the midst of a pity party when I ran into these bastards
1,2,3,4,5 stings from these wasps all on my left leg. I sprinted down the trail. Suddenly my hip was no longer an issue. It stung, they stung. I was stung and mad. I ran fast. I started catching and passing people. Between mile stingo and the finish, I passed six runners. I ended up leaving it all out there as I was spent at the finish and only 30 seconds ahead of the guy behind me. This was good enough for
th place and
The next day my spirits were high from a successful run, my leg was red and my ankle was puffy with venom. 
Thanks are due to Scott and Leslie Mccoubry, Team 7 Hills, Merrill, Drymax, Julbo, Fuel 100, watermelon, the volunteers, friends and family and all the insects out there who watched the race and didn't feel the need to participate. 


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Squamish 50K View from a shoe

Hello. I am a shoe. A Merrell All Out Peak to be specific. I am, or, WAS bright blue. I am now dusty bright blue. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

This man, Adam Hewey, is a monster.
He is an abuser of shoes. Sure shoes get stepped on all the time, kicked, scuffed, thrown in a bag. I was all set for this kind of a life along with nice walks in the forest, beautiful vistas, buttery single track trails and a lot of compliments on my design and performance. What did I get? Dunked in ice cold rivers! Dragged up and down serious mountains day and night with no stopping to dry out! Ice fields! Loose boulders! Post holing! It was enough to give up, blow out, lose my structure like so many of my peers but no, I chose to fight! I am an All Out Peak, not a Half Way Peak or a Meh Peak. I, good sir, am All Out. So I stayed fit. I stayed with the beast and took him on his 100 mile Hardrock trip from Silverton to Silverton over some of America's biggest mountains. We made it and I was finally allowed to air out. Mission accomplished and he said such grand things about me. "Best 100 miler shoe I've ever owned." "Amazing grip, look at these lugs." "Man I absolutely love this shoe." Then we got to go home and rest.

I was all set to settle into retired life when I was rudely thrown into a bag and dragged to Canada. "What the heck is a Squamish?" I thought as we crossed the border. I bet he wants to show me off to all his friends in the Great White North! How fun. I couldn't have been more right and more wrong. I guess I blame myself for being so well built. If I'd only lost my structure or delaminated my sole or compacted my foam at Hardrock I wouldn't have been strapped back onto that demon to be ridden for another brutal 31 miles over some of the burliest trails in North America. I was. It sucked. Oy, the pounding, the dust, the roots, rocks, sweat, even my tormentor seemed to be suffering. I heard him mumbling something about redemption for his first DNF here in 2013. Then, road, my least favorite and I was whipped to a sprinting pace for what seemed like miles until I was finally able to feel grass and then sweet nothing as I was slipped off and placed in the sanctity of the mini van after enduring 5 hours and 57 minutes of agony. He got 6th place, I got to rest.

Great news! I have been replaced! I don't know of many shoes that could survive both Hardrock and Squamish back to back but he found one. A new pair of Bright Blue All Out Peaks! It seems he raved so much about me that Merrell took notice and made him an Ambassador. My tormentor, Adam Hewey will now be representing Merrell for the coming year and I feel like I had a big part of making that happen.

I feel so sorry for that new pair of Peaks. I heard him talking about taking the poor guys out for a 70 mile adventure run next week. Should I tell them... nah, they'll figure it out on their own.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I've got friends in high places- Hardrock 2015

Two weeks before The Hardrock 100 mile Endurance Run I was looking at about a 40% chance of starting the race. I was hobbled. I had done something to my hip which made it so I couldn't run. I had been training on Mount Rainier, running up and down glaciers and ice fields at altitude and I must have overdone something, pinched, pulled, protracted, popped, i dunno, but I finished running feeling great, sat in a hot car for the three hour drive home and Voila! I was hobbled. I tried to ignore it by running on it which caused my left hip to get out of alignment and caused a muscle pull in the hamstring. I went for a massage. That helped for officially one day which I used to do a 4,000 foot climb up Mount Snoqualmie. The next day proved my bull headedness was not the answer, perhaps rest was. I rested for the next week but had to do a lot of heavy lifting at work which kept the core strong but the stuck hip stuck. I went to a chiropractor. Snap, Pop. 3 sessions, snap, pop. The hip stayed stuck but the Chiro did let me know the hip was causing my right leg to be half an inch shorter than the left. I finally got the plane to Denver to visit my parents, acclimate and try to recover from the injury.

I am my best doctor.

I knew the hip was bound by very tight muscles which must have "doinked" over a thingamagig and become all gunked up. My goal was to undoink the gunked hip. My parents have a pool in their apartment place. I couldn't run but, by god I could swim. I swim like a cat. I went and swam like a cat for almost two hours combined with some pool running and some leg flailing. I may have looked like I was being attacked by electric eels in the pool. Post swim, I went to the hot tub and started stretching.

I am my best physical therapist.

Stretch, quiver, sweat, doink! What was that? That undoinking? Am I ungunked? I tried to not get my hopes up and went to sleep dreaming of running again. The next morning the hip felt normal. The left hip felt better, the muscle pull was still there but I loaded up a pack and headed to 13,000feet and started hiking. 4 hours later I hit a stretch of dirt road on the way back to the car and was running. Actual full leg running. It had been close to four weeks since I had full mobility. I was ecstatic. My starting % shot up to 70. The next day I bagged 14,000 ft Mt. Bierstadt and felt fit, hungry, excited and like I needed to cram for the test.

The next day, Jane and the kids flew in and vacation mode prevailed. It was lovely.
We spent time with my parents then drove the southern route from Denver to Silverton stopping for a night in Alamosa after visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next day we got groceries in Durango and drove up to my happy place, Silverton, Colorado. One paved street. The center of the Ultra running world for one week a year.

We checked into our rooms above the Bent Elbow Saloon and immediately started seeing ultra running friends. This sport collects the nicest people I have ever known. Put them in a beautiful place with a lack of oxygen and a lot of excitement and you get some amazing conversations. Hardrock is truly like a family or high school reunion. Everywhere you go there is someone else to catch up with. Even newbies are invited into the fold. You can tell them by the huge eyes and shaking hands.

One training run up Virginius Pass to suss out the snowy route. One day spent in the Ouray Hot Springs with the kids. One day spent checking in and packing drop bags and I was ready. Still the emotions run the gamut. It is very similar to going into battle I would imagine, only this is optional. I would find myself questioning my sanity over and over.

I am my worst editor. Is this going on too long?

Anyhoo. My race plan was to finish come hell or highwater. The course was promising both. The reports said the course was still under a lot of snow and the creeks were running high and fast. I decided I would do this year's race without pacers or crew. My last two races had been in Europe both sans crew or pacers. They had both been suffer fests which I finished mainly because there were no friendly faces or warm cars into which to crawl. I wanted to finish, I knew I could finish Hardrock but I wanted to do it within my own energy. I didn't want to think about my pacers, my crew, my time. Was someone waiting? Should I run faster because they are worried? Should I be happier, stronger, chattier for my pacer? No. I would do it alone and get it done. I even dissuaded Jane and the kids from coming to Ouray (mile, halfwayish) as I didn't want to think about anyone else but me me me me.

6:00Am Mountain Standard Time. The great bustle of energy broke as 152 runners shuffled past the Hardrock in front of the Silverton High School Gym. There were a lot of famous names and not so famous names shouting and whooping and running down the dirt streets out of town. Me amongst them feeling absolutely giddy to have bucked my odds and gotten to the start. I ran and chatted with friends up the first climb, we then started spreading out as the race wore on. I felt alright, I felt tight, not well acclimated and cautious. I was tepid but happy. The views are indescribable. It is really hard to not stop and gape at the scenery.

The race goes up, down, up down, over 13 passes and mountains over 12,000 feet. The tallest is Handies Peak at 14,000. I felt like my legs were in great shape climbing Handies but my intake of oxygen was not sufficient. I was lagging and wouldn't eat and wasn't drinking enough. I knew it but my addled mind wouldn't let me fix it. I just wanted off the mountain. I finally peaked as the second snow storm blew in and pelted me with ice and wind. The lightning stayed away and eventually I was heading down to lower altitude and the Grouse Gulch Aid Station. My friends Annie Murphy and Shawn Meisner were at the aid station and totally crewed me. Got me water, food, and friendship. I left the aid station when I started to feel like I might puke. I left the aid station feeling cared for. I headed up Engineer Pass as the light started to wane. My goal was to get past the Bear Creek Cliffs before dark because they are scary enough in the light. I ran hard down Engineer and through Bear Creek. I stopped and donned my headlamp for the last 2 miles into Ouray.

When I got into Ouray. I wended my way in the dark to the aid station where I was met again by impromptu  crew. Annie was there, as well as Jack, another Washington friend waiting for his runner James. They helped me out and the aid station captain knew I was coming and had made me a Ruben Sandwich because the last two years I had requested one and he remembered. I had a jar of coffee, a sock change and left with a fist full of Ruben feeling really well cared for.

I hiked the next 7 mile section while chowing down on a big, greasy Ruben. Heaven. My batteries were reset and I started feeling good. Ouray is the lowest altitude spot of the race. Along my way up Camp Bird Road I found a runner crumpled on the side of the road in the dark. "Are you alright?". It was Jamil Coury taking a nap on the side of the road. He was fine, got up and hiked with me for about three miles then, disappeared in the dark for another nap. The next lights I came across were on the heads of Kevin Davis and Jenny Pierce. I met Kevin last year at Hardrock. Kevin lives in Livingston, Montana as does my brother Lee. They are friends. I was stoked to see Kevin and his pacer Jenny as I wanted to catch up with him and chat. We stuck together and chatted up to the aid station.

Governer's Basin Aid Station. Me: Do you have any soup. Them: Potato or Chicken? Me: Ooooh, potato! Them: Here you go. Me: Oh, my, god this is the best potato soup, mmmm, can I have more? Them: Here you go. Me: Tell whoever makes this potato soup it is the best ever. I then walk ten feet away from the aid station and puke it all up rather loudly.

Puke and rally. Up to Virginus Basin in a freezing sleet storm. By now I was embedded with Kevin and Jenny. We are three and we are having a pretty darn good time suffering up the snow chutes to Kroger's Canteen and the company of our mutual friend Roch Horton. The smiles are genuine, the Perogies are delicious and stay down and we move off the cliff to the leeward side of the storm.
The descent into Telluride was just plain fun. The storm was past, the night was deep and dark and the company was excellent.

Annie was ready as my unofficial crew chief at Telluride. Her husband Jeason was just ahead of me and she would wait to see me through the aid stations pulling double duty. Kevin was switching pacers and Jenny was stopping at Telluride. She sheepishly asked if I wanted to have her continue on with me as my pacer as she would love to see more of the course. I said, "Sure!" I didn't want to break up the party. So Me, Jenny, Kevin and his new pacer Adam headed up out of Telluride. It ends up Adam used to live next to my sister in Bozeman... yeah. This night was getting magical. We hiked strong. We had energy and conversation and many eyes to find the trail. We started passing people on the climb up to the Wasatch Basin. As we caught folks they knew who I was as they were my friends. We would offer a seat on the Suffer Bus. When we caught Jeason he joined our party for a while. We hit the snow covered Wasatch Basin and the trail was unmarked and the day was dawning. We were lost but it was beautiful. We spread out across the valley and tried finding the trail. Eventually we worked our way up then out of the valley losing about 30 minutes to route finding. Down Oscar's Pass and Kevin and Adam were flying. I was in a lull and Jenny was taking some amazing pictures. We got to the Chapman aid station in high spirits.

Then I started to feel it. The strength in my legs was still there. I had been expecting it to fade but they were still solid. Two more major climbs. I can crush this. I know where I am, I know what is ahead. I started to push the climbs. Jenny and I started to gap Kevin and Adam. I felt bad because they were such great company but I could smell the barn even though it was a long way away. I thought I might gap Jenny but she was really strong and kept pace. We got to the climb up Grant's Swamp and it was as steep as ever.
It was fun to share it with someone who had never seen it before. Jenny was impressed by the stupid steep pitch. We crested, put a rock on the memorials and bombed past Island Lake, another runner and his pacer then on to the KT aid station. It was here I started to bend and sag in 2013.

I am my best psychoanalyst.

Everything past the KT aid station in 2013 was a nightmare. Bent, unable to breath, confused, driven by madness and fear. Being passed over and over watching a great race unravel. This year it was the polar opposite. I felt good. My mind was steel and my legs were churning. We started up the Putnam Basin climb as the lightning and Thunder hit. I figured we still had time for the storm to pass before we would be totally exposed above timberline. We saw a flash of orange ahead. It was Joe Grant pacing Brian Powell of Irunfar.com fame. We slipped past them and I pushed the next climb hard to show I wasn't going to falter and be retaken. We made the tree line post storm and it was another combination of hard running and scenery which demanded your attention for it's beauty. Huge open meadows with views that go on for ever. This section was well marked which took us up and over to the Putnam aid station. 5.5miles to go. "Forget the soup we are out of here!" I was flying and Jenny was keeping up with me every step. We bombed down the basin, past a porcupine and eventually made the Mineral Creek River Crossing. On the other side was my beaming family. My heart was as happy as it gets. Hugs, kisses and then we bolted across the highway for the last 2.5 to the finish. This is where I got my stick in 2013. Not this year. We ran, hard. We hauled serious ass. there was no one behind me to fear. I had no good reason to push that hard for the finish except for personal pride. Leave it all out there. I pushed, we pushed. We hit the Shrine Of The Mine and I think my smile carried me the rest of the way. One block to go and my son Theo appeared to run me in. We held hands and he ran me to the rock, that rock. I stopped, I bowed, I kissed the bastard on the snout. I felt great! Third finish and I wasn't on the ground. I was upright and handing out high fives like they were on sale. My time was 30:57:13. I hadn't been looking at my watch. I was so glad to have pushed to come in under 31 hours.

The statistics. My first Hardrock finish was 2010 in the clockwise direction, my time was 30:57:15
I beat that time by 2 seconds this year in the counter clockwise direction.

The moral of the story: If you are open for friendship, it will find you.
I went into the race expecting to be alone and found myself surrounded by company the whole time. I love this community, this race and will forever cherish the bonding I had with my new Montana family which just so happens to be friends with my real Montana family.
All pictures in this blog race report were taken by Jenny Pierce who has a great eye for scenery.
Kevin Davis destroyed his past Hardrock PR. Finished 18th place in 31:39.