Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sun Mountain 50k

The Sun Mountain 50k was one month after the 100 Miles of Istria. I signed up late and figured I'd see what I had to give in Winthrop, the little western town in Eastern Washington where the race is located. I started the race at a moderate pace. The day was hot. I was wearing the same pair of Merrill All Out Peaks I had put 107 miles in the month prior. They still felt great. I fell in to running and chatting with Phil, the owner of 7 Hills Running Shop. We hovered at 5thish place until 12 or so miles in. We hung together until about the 21 mile mark when I went to the well and found it... full of run juice! I took off and almost reeled in the front two guys but came up 2 minutes short for 3rd place and a new Master's course record. I looked like this coming down the last climb.
Photo by Glenn Tachyama, drawing by Theo, editing by Hazel.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

100 Miles of Istria

Bib number 3, Adam Hewey VM1 USA. Crisp, thick and pristine. An American flag proudly waving above the printed elevation profile for the 100 Miles of Istria ready to be folded and pinned to my shorts.

I had done an awful lot of sleeping and eating. I arrived in Umag, Croatia with Roch Horton and his wife Catherine via a van ride from Venice via a plane ride from NYC via Seattle. My Tuesday had become a truncated Wednesday and that led to an awful lot of sleeping. The Hotel Sol Umag had an amazing buffet which became the brackets between napping and sleeping. The hotel is perched on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, along the Dalmatian Coast on the Istrian Peninsula. In other words, it was beautiful. It was also pre tourist season which meant everything was being painted or built or was not yet open. This place must rock during the summer.

Croatia is a long way from Seattle. In many ways.

Every thing in Croatia seemed, rather, thick. The pastries were thick, the toilet paper was thick, the gelato, the air, the seagulls. Built to withstand thousands of years of war and change and uncertainty. Bib #3 was thick. Safety pins bent troughs into my thumbs trying to push them through the fabric.

The race started at 7:00PM. We were loaded onto busses in Umag and trucked 100 miles across the peninsula to the city of Labin on the Eastern side of Istria. It was lovely, medieval and drizzly. I wore my 7 Hills Running Shop hoodie and a wide mustache. There were small snacks. There were throngs of runners waiting. There was a pre race interview with a camera crew.

Wait!

What the hell was I doing in Labin, Croatia? Reality check. I was a long way away from Seattle, from my home and family, a long way from the USA, heck, I was a long way from Umag. 107 miles away to be exact. I was one of five Americans running and the only person wearing a hoodie at the start. Reality is but an illusion so I stripped down to my race kit and toed the line under the inflatable salomon arch next to Jay Aldous, last year's winner. Aaaand we were off. Waaaay too fast. Within the first two miles I was stripping off my Patagonia houdini jacket and hat as I started to get really hot. The beauty of the course was coming at me fast and furious. We went from single track to port side road to dirt road to trail. The air was fragrant with sea and wild herbs. The foliage was begging me to stop and explore, forage for wild asparagus like the old ladies in the hills were. I kept going, thrilled but hot. The light grew dim as the dusk crept in.

I was alone on a long dirt road. It was just before dark. I was running slightly downhill at a good clip. I spooked something on the hill below me. I heard it jolt and sticks snap. I picked the pace up a bit. I heard it follow me, more sticks snapping, more bushes being brushed. It kept pace with me. I ran faster. It did too. I was on dirt road, it was in forest. What could it be? I turned on the speed and blazed out of  fear, looking back every now and then. Nothing. Then it was gone.

The night surrounded us, then the fog swallowed us whole. Pea soup fog. Maybe ten feet of visibility. The footing was treacherous. Limestone ridges, slick with dew. Crumbling descents, nothing seemed solid. The course was really well marked with little flags with reflective tape on the stick. Still I was working very hard mentally and physically. It started to take its toll.

Rabac, Kosi, Plomin, Katun, Bodaj, I'm not making these up! Vojak, Polkon, Planik, Brgudac, Oruak, Bomila, Trstenik, Zbevnica and finally the drop bag stop at Buzet. Somewhere along the path of those control points and aid stations, I lost my shit. First my hip started flaring, then 10 hours in, my stomach blew up. By the time I dragged my sorry ass in the door at Buzet I had decided I was no longer racing. I was going to keep going until I could see the cool towns of Hum and Motovan. Then I could quit or die. I had also decided to give up my spot at Hardrock and the sport of running forever.

In Buzet I changed hats and had a bowl of soup. Soup lets you know. It either stays down or it shoots out your nose. This soup stayed in and I went out. I did a fair bit of walking but as the course went downhill it got me running again. It was nice to be in daylight. The night had been rough. The fog and rain had turned to snow at one point. Now it was a steady drizzle. The valley floor was thick with mud.  Slowly we worked our way up to Hum, the smallest city in the world (population 17). It was gorgeous. I took out my phone and snapped pictures. The aid station was in an ancient castle or church. I left there feeling pretty perky. My stomach was getting better and I was taking in electrolytes through eating packets of Fuel 100 Electrobytes which helped fend off the cramping from lack of food. Then the rains came in...

Of the 187 people who actually started the race, 94 finished, 93 dropped out, this is why. The rain started hard and got miserable fast. I put on my houdini jacket which got soaked through, then the wind picked up and drove the rain harder. When I got to the aid station in Draguc, which looked like a gladiator waiting room, I was shaking and freezing. I put on my rubberized raincoat and my bright blue rubber Alaska Fishing Supply gloves. I said goodbye to the guys huddled under blankets waiting for the drop van and headed back out into the storm.

Hills, mud, roads, repeat. There were some great bushwack sections up parts but then, inevitably it ended up back in the mud along tractor paths. Up to Motovun, the medieval city of arts and the 12th of 14 climbs. Wet cobbles wending up ancient walls. I got to the aid station and met a nice bunch of runners and volunteers. Spirits lifted I was on down the road.

There were three races going on at the same time. The 107 mile, a 110k and a 65k. By this point all the different courses had converged and there was no way of knowing who was running what until you could see their bib color. It didn't really matter anyway. The race had become more about finishing than racing. The next aid stations were crowded with cold runners reevaluating their choice of hobbies.

In the forests of Istria there are Cuckoo birds. They sound like Cuckoo clocks. I'd never heard one before. It was funny.

The day grew long, the weather cleared to a dull grey, the mud stacked thick on the soles of my Merrill All Out Peaks. I loved this shoe for the race. I weep for what I put those poor shoes through. I hit the last aid station at Buje, took in two bites of apple strudel, reloaded water in my handheld and, smelling the barn, ran hard for the six or eight miles to the finish only, I was wrong. From Buje you can see the coast, the end of the run. From Buje you can take a road straight to Umag. If you are a psychopathic race director, you send your runners North, then East, then North, then around in a circle. Finally I saw a sign for Umag. Welcome to Old Umag! 12k to New Umag. Wha? The flags led up to the town and into a building? There was an aid station. I was pissed. I ran right through it. 12K more? My hope of finishing in the sunset were dimming. Damn! My new goal was to finish without my flashlight. I ran mad through the muddy fields and mucky trails finally coming to the road to Umag where a volunteer said "Only 5k to finish!" 5 freakin' k?!! What cha gunna do? Keep running, running mad, running muddy. I could see the town, the road to the finish, I now knew where I was, only a few blocks more to the waterfront then down the promenade to the finish chute. It was almost dark. I beat the night but just barely. 25:25:50 8:25PM, good enough for 10th place, 9th place man.

I went directly to the hotel, stripped off my everything on the balcony, crawled into clean clothes and destroyed the all you can eat buffet in the restaurant. Zombie walked to our room, showered and slept the sleep of the dead only the dead don't snore so loud the people in the room next door can be heard dragging their bed away from the wall at 2:AM. I woke up 10 hours later when Roch came in covered in mud and stories.

My goal was to have an adventure in faraway lands. It was met. I left Croatia feeling like I had more in common with the people I saw and met than differences. I feel like a citizen of the world. People are people. They walk their dogs, they sell "No Bullshitting" t-shirts, they work, play, mow their yard and some of them are crazy enough to try to run 107 miles across Istria. These are my people and they are on every continent. Hvala Umag, Hvala 100 Miles of Istria. Hvala Race director Alen Paliska. I hope to see you all again.

Photo credits are from the 100 Miles of Istria Race Photos and the others are mine.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mountain Marathon

I was able to sneak into the Mountain Marathon and Hillbilly Half in Olympia, Wa. on March 14th. I had been planning to do a 26ish mile long run so the only trade off was having to wake up really early and pinning a number to my shorts.

I signed up on Monday. By Tuesday, my knee hurt, my shin hurt and my son got a wicked sore throat. "I'm not tapering! I'm not even racing!" I yelled at the imaginary studio audience of the sit-com which is my life. This is exactly why I don't taper: mystery pains and everyone around you gets sick. I kept plugging away at my weekly schedule of work and running and then it dawned on me... I had never run a trail marathon before. Half, 25k, 50k, 50Mile, 100k, 68Mile, 100Mile, 100Mile n'change (UTMB). I ran my first road 10k last fall. PRed. Now I would get to PR a trail marathon.

Dawn dawned early and I was staring at a tiny pile of items to take to the race. Uh, race kit. Water bottle with half a sandwich in the pocket. 4 electrolyte caps and 4 dates. There has got to be more I needed but I couldn't think of anything else. I threw some random things in the car to make it feel more like a race. Gallon of water, bag of potato chips, Patagonia puffy coat. Then I drove to Olympia.

At the race start I saw Max Ferguson and Korey Konga. I knew they were both gunning for the win. I figured one of them would get it, or both. The thought of the three of us skipping across the line together like Dorothy, Tin Man and Lion seemed a bit far fetched.

The race started off cold but soon warmed up to be a brilliant spring day in the Capitol Forrest. The trail was nice and not nearly the muck fest it has a reputation for being. I felt good and then better then good again, then great, then OK, then fine, then good, then saw Max and Korey coming back as it is an out and back course. They had 12 minutes on me and I was in third. I hit the turn around and headed back and felt good, then gooder, then gooderer. By the time I got to the last six miles I was flying and became the bane of the half marathoners as I whizzed by them barely skimming the tops of the puddles. The really shallow puddles that is. The deep ones I had to kind of, sploosh through the middle. Quick plug for Drymax socks.. Those things Rock! Happy Feet doing the Happy Dance without Blisters!

The difference between a 50k and a Marathon is this: 6 miles. I had twelve miles of energy left and had to spend it all in six miles of downhill running. I pounded it. The last two miles were on dirt road and I could finally feel some "whacha doin' bro?" coming from my body on the final two short uphill stingers. I finished in 3rd place about 12 minutes behind the Lion Konga. Dorothy Ferguson took the win. I did set a new Course Record for Masters by about fourteen minutes.

The other thing about shorter races is the stuff! In a 50miler you get bupkis. In a marathon, or half you get shwagged up! I came home with a sweet poster, a beer mug and a free pair of La Sportiva shoes.

Thanks to 7 Hills Running Shop for sponsoring the race and getting team members in at the last minute. Thanks to Guerilla Running for putting on a fun event.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015 races in cool places

     I ran the Orcas 50k for the 7th time last week. It was muddy. It was fun. I ran like I always run this race, slow to start, cruise until mile 20, kill the hills and pass people, hang on down the last descent and fight off cramping the last mile to the finish. My goal was to break 5 hours. I ran 5:00:45. About 45 seconds better than last year only this year the course was like running through uncooked brownie mix spread thick over a steep, lumpy, wet sheet pan. At the finish I looked like I'd run a "warrior dash" only  with an extra 29 miles. I was pleased with 8th place as I am 29 years older than the kid who won. So it goes.

     2015 is shaping up to be epic. First off, I got through the Hardrock lottery and will be toeing the line in Silverton for the fourth time. I WILL avenge my DNF from last year and have made this my "A" race for the year. Hello vertical training.

     After last year's experiment in over racing, I have decided to take a hint from other elite runners of a certain age and trim down my race schedule to include ample time for recovery. I like running. Last year I felt like I trained hard for Western States in June, raced it, then spent the rest of the year trying to recover for the the next race. I was sore from April until October. Lesson learned.

     Having a taste of racing in Europe has wetted my appetite for more. While at UTMB, waiting to check in my carry on luggage also known as my "Mandatory gear", someone handed me a pamphlet on running in Croatia. The idea had never crossed my mind before. I was intrigued. My wife has some Croatian roots so I kept the flyer and brought it back home along with a bottle of pastis, some unused euros and a new vest. I kept the thought of Croatia burning all fall and finally researched the race, the only 100 mile race in Croatia, The 100 Miles Of Istria which crosses the Istrian peninsula from Labin in the East to Umag in the West. I mean, really, what the hell? 100 miles on the frontier of European ultra running? Who could resist? Apparently most the people I invited to come run it with me. Finally, Roch Horton said to me, "I'm kinda tired of the classic American 100s. Croatia sounds fun." Game on!

     Last year Jay Aldous from Salt Lake City was the first American to run the 100 Miles of Istria. He won. He said they treated him like a rock star. When he found out we were thinking of going he signed up to defend his crown. Now there are five runners from the USA signed up. We are still outnumbered by runners from Russia, Slovenia, Hungary. The race is April 17th. The 100 mile training starts last week.

     My new year's resolution is to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. I hope you do the same. I have the opportunity to spend some retirement funds living life while the living is good, I've got the support of my family, friends, and sponsors to expand my limits. Isn't that what we are here to do? Explore, expand and live like someone left the gate open? I should probably learn how to say bathroom, beer and where am I going in Croatian.

Friday, December 26, 2014

My doctor hates me.

     It is true. My doctor hates me. I'm not very fond of him either. I almost never take his advice. I go to him for diagnosis not treatment and this makes him less than enthusiastic once he remembers who I am and what I do. My disdain for him is based around the fact he wants to sell me things I don't need. He is always trying to get me to buy "orthotics" for my shoes yet never asks what shoes I have been wearing.  I will admit I'm not a very good patient. A few years ago my ankle hurt and I thought I might have a fracture so I visited my Dr. O.K. I used him, specifically his xray machine. He asked a few questions, offered me orthotics and then had me nuked a few times with his beloved xray machine. The results came out negative. He said, "You should start doing PT with our in house therapists." I said, "No fracture means I can up my mileage!" I did, the pain went away.
     He diagnosed tendonitis in my knee and recommended Physical Therapy and backing off the exercise and shoe inserts. I shunned his offer, then doubled my milage and the pain went away.
     One time I went to see my Doctor and he was on vacation. I got a different doctor. I explained to him my situation, "I seem to have a raging sinus infection. I am doing this 50 miler next week and want anti biotics so my sinus infection doesn't get worse and derail my training for the 100 miler 5 weeks later." He took two steps toward the door, quickly wrote a prescription and threw it at me as he beat a hasty retreat. It worked. Except the part where I was half way through the 50 miler in JULY, in the SUN and vaguely remembered something about anti biotics and avoiding exposure to the sun. It all worked out in the end and I learned a lot about anti biotics, coke bubbles and vomit.
     My last visit to the good doctor was in October. I was beat. I was lethargic, had strange rashes, blurry vision and plantar faciaitis. Basically my endocrine system was shot from my year of over racing and under recovering. I was spent. He checked me out, offered me orthotics and an xray for my foot and said he would write a prescription for an anti inflamitory. I said he could do what he wanted but I wouldn't be taking the drugs, the xray or the orthotics. He said I should make an appointment with the in house physical therapists. I did what I always do and snuck out a side door.
     My yearly plan has been to take December as a month off to recover. I make a schedule for December runs and then decide every run is optional. This year I was so depleted by October (Lake Padden 1/2 marathon 7 minutes slower than last year) I decided to take November off and start recovering early. I wrote a schedule and did my best to ignore it. It worked. I ran little and the less I ran the worse my PF became. The rest of my body felt lethargic but healthy. December rolled around and I wrote a schedule and it was a healthy build up of mileage and vertical. I lept in with enthusiasm and I felt great! I ran short, long and hilly and I was finally able to look back and see how burned out I had been. Once my batteries were recharged I had no reason not to sign up for the Deception Pass 25k as it fit my schedule and is so beautiful and fun.
     I ran Deception Pass 25k where I got 2nd place last year and got second place again. 2 minutes slower but there were many more blowdowns this year. I felt great! I felt like it was the first race of my new year and it is. My build up has started and in doubling my mileage, my PF has faded away.
     My terrible doctorly advise would be thus: If it hurts, test to see if it is broken by running on it really hard and long. If it is not broken, up your mileage and the pain will go away sooner or later.
     I understand why my doctor hates me. I would to if I were him. Some things just can't be fixed by a pair of shoe inserts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall of the runner

Sometimes things get wonky. If you have ever seen a bleached elk skull entwined in the branches of a fallen pine tree or come across an iphone 5c at the bottom of a river, you know life is not linear. Try as we might, we must flow with the debris when the volcano blows and the glacier turns to mud slurpee.

My training has not been going well. I am trying to adjust to life's tumult and dive under the waves as they crash above. I get tumbled but keep popping up intact.

Post UTMB I returned to Seattle, work, life, school for the kids although they were very jet lagged and looked like methadone zombies for the first week of school. I was smart enough to avoid the temptations of early fall Ultras including the new Skyrunning Crystal Mountain Marathon which kept singing its siren song luring me to crash into the rocks. I stuffed my ears with cotton and sailed on to a local 10k which took all of 36 minutes (a PR as it was my first 10k).

Again, my training has been sub par. My free/running time has shrunken considerably due to... life. I suppose I am lucky this has happened late in the season when my race schedule is anemic and my body is too. The daylight hours are truncated, the weather is dampening. I have a few races left this year and none of them ultra distance. Smart no? Yes but not very satisfying.

I feel like going big and wasting myself in an all out war of will with a 100 mile or longer monster. I want to duke it out with pinspot headlamps behind me. I want the thrill of chasing or being chased. It has been since June that I have had the taste of the hunt in my throat. I yearn for it. Yet I must be smart. Patience and rest. Let the body recover over the winter. Secretly train while the others hibernate. If you can't be stronger and faster, be smarter.

I am running the Lake Padden National Championship, Trail, 1/2 marathon on Saturday Oct. 18th in Bellingham, Washington. I feel undertrained and aggressive. I want to burn, I want to hurt and I want to win a medal and not puke. I suppose that is enough to tide me over until 2015.

Dark days need light. I have been extremely lucky to hitch my wagon to the fine folks at PETZL. This year Petzl will be providing me with headlamps of unequaled quality. I have been taking the Petzl NAO headlamp with "reactive" lighting out on training runs and am blown away by the feel, output and engineering put into this lamp. Reactive lighting technology means the headlamp has a sensor which lights or dims the output depending on your aim. Look at a map or an aid station worker's face, the light automatically dims, look out over an expanse of trail, the lamp brightens to full strength. The reactive lighting is not only a cool party trick, it actually is used to maximize battery life of the fully rechargeable  battery so you can get up to 12 hours of burn time. Did I mention how much I love Petzl? I am also playing with the Petzl Tikka headlamp which is lighter, has reactive lighting too and makes for the perfect backup light. Bring on the winter running.

Lake Padden Trail 1/2 then probably the Deception Pass 25k then a long winters nap with dreams of what adventures may come next Summer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

UTMB 2014

I DON'T KNOW.
Over and over again in my head until I tried to banish those three words. Say it! Say it one more MFing time. I dare you. By mile 80 I had accepted I don't know as a state of being. I really didn't know. What time it was, where I was, where I was going, how to get there, what was coming next. I had to accept simply being where I was.

UTMB- The race of a lifetime. Start in Chamonix, France, circumnavigate the Mont Blanc Massif via Italy, Switzerland and back to France in a 104 mile circuit. Roughly 32,000ft gain and loss throughout the Alps. 3,200 runners. Start time 5:30PM.

One week before departing for France we didn't know if we could actually go or not. Family medical issues were taking precedent. Scheduling with doctors, surgeons, nurses et al. The trip was a 50/50. Throw on top of this, work issues which were taking up enough time I couldn't really train properly at all. Going to France? I don't know.

Recovered from Hardrock? Recovered from Western States? I don't know. How will you find out? First climb or second climb I guess.

Issues resolved themselves, the window opened and we flew the coop. The whole family trundling from Seattle to Paris in a cloud of confusion. What time is it? How do we do customs in France? Do we have enough Euros? Why didn't we study more French?

Settled into Paris in a quaint apartment we found our bearings amongst the patissaries, fromageries, marches and cobbled streets. Which Metro to the Louvre? What kind of cheese do you suppose they put in the crepes? How can this wine be so cheap and so good? Just as we had Paris in focus, we upped and took a fast train to Annecy. Are there taxis on Sundays? Why is everything closed? Is that a castle or a church?

Maps, wifi and good old wandering and we had Annecy sussed out after a few days. Then we split for Chamonix and another clear slate. Is this the right train station? Could it be raining harder? What is the address of the apartment? As is usually the case, things resolve themselves and there we were in a beautiful apartment in a beautiful town at the base of an amazing mountain covered in glaciers. Wet, hungry, confused, happy. To the grocery store! What is this? What is that? Is that a sheep's head? Is that smell cheese or compost? How much is a kilo in pounds?

I never changed my watch to French time because it is really hard to change. 9 hours from Seattle time. Good enough. In France, digital clocks are on 24 hour time while watches with hands use the 12 hour time. We explored Chamonix and fell quickly in love. We rode the Tram to the Aguille Du Midi at 12,604ft. We hiked to Le Lac Bleu. We wandered town, we rode the Luge, we vacationed. We ate really good food and a lot of Nutella. I checked in to the race and fumbled my way around the language. I didn't have a clue if my incredibly heavy running pack was full of necessities or garbage. What would the course be like? Did I really need rainpants and manpris when I run in shorts during snowstorms in the PNW? Are the rubberized waterproof gloves I bought at the industrial fishing supply store overkill? Am I the only one here wearing deoderant?

The clock started ticking down. Am I ready? Am I trained? I know I'm not going to be at peak level but do I have enough endurance left from my early season training to make it to the finish? If I have an elite runner number, am I a sham if I finish mid pack?

The day dawned. I stayed in bed as long as I could. What am I doing? What have I taken on? I ate and ate. I dropped off my single drop bag. I milled about the street with my family. Am I supposed to meet the other runners here? What time is it? The race starts at 5:30 PM, I wended my way to the front corral at 4:30 as the rain began in earnest. Am I going to barf in front of French TV cameras? I saw the other top runners and chatted with friends. What is your plan? Do you have crew? Poles? Food? Bladder or bottles? Loud speakers, helicopters, crowds, flags, chaos and we were off like a marathon. 2,300 people. Running stupid through the town towards the hills. I was soaked. Should I bust out the rain gear even though I'm not cold? How come no one other than the Americans are talking? Am I going out too fast? So this is a French ski area. Man I'm wet. What the hell? A Fromagerie at the top of a ski mountain? This mud is really slippery and my shoes have no grip. This is like skiing! Whoops! Time for the poles. Is that the aid station? I'll eat some of everything. Hey it is Seb! Aloha, I mean Bonjour!

Where am I? Oh, yeah, kilometer something or other. What time is it? My watch seems to have stopped working. Shit. O.K. doesn't matter keep running get out your headlamp. Man am I wet. Is that a bonfire? What was that kid singing? Why is everyone so happy to see me? Is this another aid station or a spectator cluster around a fire? Is there soup? Is that chocolate at the aid station? As much as I want? I have a pocket. Man these shoes are slippery. Glad I have the poles. Is this the Col Du Bon Homme? Is that a constellation or a string of runners way up there? Way, up, there. Is that a 6 mile conga line of headlamps behind me? Will this climb ever end? Is the entire descent technical? Can I drink this water? Am I in France or Italy? Is Swiss cheese still Swiss cheese in Italy? Does this mean my quads are recovered from Hardrock? Is it going to be morning soon? I have no idea what time it is, doesn't matter, just run. Are you from Canada? Is there soup? oooh chocolate. Is that the sky getting light or a town? Do I still need my light or can I let the batteries die like they just did? Is this Couermayer? Where is my dropbag? Do I need to change shoes? Did I bring extra socks? Yes and no. Is that Ziti? Is there a bathroom? Should I take a shower? No. Coffee? Yes. Do I feel like a new man? yes I do. Was that a rooster? Heehee. Could this climb be prettier? Is that a raspberry? Top of the climb already? Coffee? Why don't I run in the morning more at home? Is that Mont Blanc? Is that the other side of the tunnel? Is the next Refugio soon? Is that the same guy I've passed 12 times already? Are those campsites? Is that the food tent way down there? I don't know what time it is. I don't know where I am mile wise. Just run down the mountain to the aid station. Is there anything in here that looks good? Soup with Star pasta, bread and coffee. Down it goes...up it comes. I'm an anime kitten who makes star comets shoot out of his mouth. Am I going to puke forever? Am I done with the race? Am I embarrassed enough to top off my water and leave? Yes. Can I pull it together? How far to the next food stop? Let's see...19 kilometers, 6.4 miles per 10k times roughly two means 'bout 13 miles up a huge climb and down the other side on zero nutrition. Hit it! Could it get steeper? Could I have a bonkier head? Is that fog and rain headed this way? Is there no water at the top? Why do I get the first runnable downhill when I'm bonked out? Is that the water stop from my map? No? Is that? Is that? Is that? I dunno. Must not exist. Is the La Fouley aid station at the bottom of this trail? No. Across the river? No. Near those cheering people? No. All the way down the road, the hot hot road? Yes. Do I drop here? Do I nap? Can I eat without puking? Do I look as bad as those guys? Mmmm crackers and more crackers. Could this aid station tent get hotter? Can I walk it in from here? What mile am I? What time is it? I don't know. Just walk until it gets cooler. Is everyone and their mother passing me? Are those mushrooms? Are those Swiss Raspberries? Is this shade runnable? Is that someone giving out hot tea? Yum. Is that a village fountain for me to soak my hat, my shirt and my head? Is my mojo coming back? What time is it? It is go time! Up this tiny hill to Champex... is this really the "small" climb on my elevation tattoo? Is this the right way? Am I going too hard? Is this the top? is this the top? Hey that must be the top no? Is this a joke? Is that the...No. This must be the...no. Jesus is that the aid station already? Yes. Is that more real pasta with sauce and blueberry pie? Damn I might never leave. Is all this food staying put? Am I really back on track? Could this lake be prettier? Is this the start of the big climb or the approach? Is this the trail or a stream? I wonder what time it is? Is Bovine named after the cows or cows after it? could this be steeper? Is that a cow gate? Is this the top? It is? Sweet. Does this descent get more technical? How can you do this race without poles? Is that the valley floor? Are those adoring fans or cows with bells. Cows. Is this Trient? Is the dude with the microphone giving me shit for being American? Is this soup going to sit? Should I be in and out so fast? Why isn't this climb going up faster? Why so many switchbacks? Will it ever top out. Am I in Switzerland or France. I don't know what time it is. What mile or kilometer or whatever just climb. I want to see the sun set in France, where is the sunset? Is this the top? Are those voices? Nope, Sheep with little bells. Is it getting dark? Can I make it down to Vallorcine without a light? Is this only technical for me? Is my flashlight in here? Is this possible to hold while using poles? Is my headlamp in here with the dead batteries? How many people just passed me as I fiddled with my headlamp? What are Jane and kids doing? What time do you suppose it is? What am I doing here in the middle of Europe, in the dark, tired, hungry, confused. I don't know. Keep going. Is this the last chance for real food? Could I get more pissy in an aid station than I am here and now? Crackers will do for now, the soup couldn't get past my lips. Deep breath, pack back on, out into the black night. On and Up. Up, up. Is this a climb or a dry waterfall? Is this right? If I slip will I die? Are there lawyers in France? Are the rocks smiling at me? Is that a lizard? Is that a marker or a star? Where is everyone? Am I on Earth? Am I drinking enough? Is this going down or up? Where am I? Is, whooops! Oh shit! Man, man, shit, man. OK OK, I'm OK, shit. OK gather, fetch the pole from the edge of the cliff, you're alright, let's go, you're fine. Am I taking stupid chances? Should I drop? What time is it. Is that the last aid station? Should I eat? Crackertime! Water and go dog go! Is this downhill all runnable? Am I flying or what? Is this going to take no time to get to Chamonix? What time is it? Are those lights? Is that town? Why isn't that town? Are you alright? You sure? Do you need help? OK. See you, bon chance. Is that someone else to pass? Am I really almost done? Is that town? Is that road? Are those foot steps behind me? Is that dude passing me? Am I challenging him? Are we really sprinting this thing in at mile 103? Is this real? Am I really back in Chamonix running past the familiar sights of the week? Is this really the end, the finish chute, the arch? Is that time right? 32:21:08 Is this really my wife and kids waiting for me? I know! Now I know! I know what time it is! I know where I am! I know who I'm hugging and why! I know why I do these stupid things. I know what it is like to see the Alps from all sides day and night. I know what I look like from the inside when I'm raw. I know what racing in Europe feels like, smells, like, tastes like. I know these things because I was there, and there and there. When will I come back and race this race again? I don't know but I hope it is soon.