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.


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 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.

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.


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.