29 August 2011

UTMB Commentary and Recap

The North Face's Sebastien Chaigneau, 3rd overall at UTMB (photo: The North Face)
Write-up and thoughts on UTMB, Salomon dominance, DNFs, and the future over at www.insidetrail.com

23 August 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run Race Report

Short road section after Fish Hatchery around mile 25
The 100 mile races are getting easier, to some degree, to run and more difficult to write about.  It must be that some of the key details of the experience are getting washed under with repetition, like seeing waves at the beach for the first time, at first you notice the details of each wave, where they break, size, shape, what they wash up to the beach, how they recede.  After several you just take much of the details for granted and accept they exist without paying a lot of attention to them.  At some point my race reports will be boiled down to, "I ran 100 miles in the mountains.  It was hard."  Some folks may appreciate that report more than the detailed stories these races tend to foment from even the less expressive of us.

This was my fourth 100 mile race in ten weeks.  The months leading up to the first one seemed slow until they began with San Diego 100 in June.  Then it turned into a rush of race, recover, run, taper, repeat.  I was more focused on Leadville with it and Bear 100 (in four weeks) as my goal races this year, so I put some time into the preparation, as opposed to my normal, "Uh, let's see, shorts, shoes, directions to the race, done."  I even had a crew, a pacer (eventually two pacers), and clear goals.

A lot was going on for me the week of Leadville.  I just quit my job, working my last day before leaving for the race, and planning on moving out of Colorado a couple days after the race.  So, my brain power, limited to begin with, was stretched thinly.  It did serve to keep me from getting nervous about the race.  In fact, I can't think of one minute I was concerned about the run.  As Karl says, "100 miles isn't that far."  I'm beginning to see that.  It was just another run.  After Hardrock I'm afraid all 100s will be just another run.  I'm not saying I was skipping lightly over the finishing miles of Leadville because it was so easy but, comparatively, I felt pretty decent, even during the low points.
Dylan Bowman (2nd in 17:18) and me pre-race meeting

Jeff Browning ready to put a hurtin' on people

Jeff B.

South African, Ryan Sandes pre-race meeting.  Dude was exuding confidence and is a very nice, outgoing guy.  I was very happy to see him win in such dominating fashion.

Timmy Parr (left) and Duncan Callahan.  Down to earth, former champions of Leadville.

Now we speed up the report (thank me later) and get on with the mundane details.  My crew was Steve and Kathleen of Happy Trails.  We've been friends for a few years now, since I moved to Colorado (the first or second time) and have shared miles of trails and mountains together.  They're bright, cheerful, kind, and generous.  One couldn't ask for a better crew.  They may almost be too nice because I ended up spending no less than 1 hour and 35 mins in aid stations.  Yes, 95 minutes out of my race was spent hanging out with them, cold wash cloths for my face, nice conversations about the race leaders, finding out how friends in the race were doing, talking about the section I just covered, where to park, everything.  Conservatively and realistically, I could've easily hit my goal of a 19:30 finish had I made my stops more efficient but spending time with Happy Trails was a nice trade off.  We had to go over certain things about the race leaders since Steve and Kathleen were covering the race for me and Inside Trail via Twitter, so I spent time going over the splits between the leaders, what they looked like, who was making moves, etc.

Brandon Fuller was kind enough to provide me with a place to sleep at his nice second home in Leadville.  He ran into some serious issues late on the course involving dehydration and hypothermia and, unfortunately, had to drop.  He took a gamble by taking it out hard but sometimes the heart of a lion isn't enough to carry you through everything these races throw at you.  A heavy dose of respect is due.  He'll be back just as strong and smarter.

I'm not big on race briefings.  They tend to just be an opportunity for the race organizers to gush at the sponsors.  Leadville's meeting is in an old gym downtown and is packed with over 1,200 people, generating increasing heat and carbon dioxide to the point of suffocation.  Here's a quick video of the ordeal.


My race gear included:
Sleeveless shirt
Socks with toes
PI Fuel XC shoes (for the first 60 miles, then the big Hokas)
McDavid calf sleeves (can't live without them)
50 ounce hydration pack
Salt tablets
Power bar
Rudy Project Zyon sunglasses
Highgear watch

The race starts at 4am, an hour that can't really even be considered morning yet.  We were underway with the boom of Ken's shotgun.  It was cool but not cold and I was comfortable in my race singlet and shorts with just a light jacket and gloves.  I settled into around 25th place as we trotted down 6th St to the long dirt road called the "boulevard", then the long, winding trail alongside Turquoise Lake making our way to the first aid station at 13.5 miles, Mayqueen.  I arrived at Mayqueen in 1:52 where my crew filled my water pack, dropped my jacket and light, talked about how to recognize the leaders for the twitter updates, and I was on my way to the next section on the Colorado Trail leading to Fish Hatchery at mile 23.5.

Zipping along the 4 mile road section just after Fish Hatchery around mile 25

I was feeling fine and getting into a decent groove with just my stomach churning a little.  Finally, at Half Moon (now called Half Pipe I think) at mile 30 I spent some quality time in the much appreciated addition of porta potties and felt like a new person and was on my way to Twin Lakes (39.5).  I was either right on or just a bit faster than my anticipated splits, even with taking 10 minutes at each aid station.  I felt great and guessed I was in the top 20 for most of the first half of the race.  At Twin Lakes I grabbed my trekking poles for the double traverse of Hope Pass (12,600 ft).  I don't think I've ever climbed so well.  I passed or left people in my wake grinding up that sucker.  Again, my perception of climbs like Hope Pass has been diluted by Hardrock climbs like Virginius, Oscars, and Grant Swamp Pass; I still have regular dreams about climbing those monsters while unable to breathe.  Soon I was at Hopeless aid station where I let out a whooping yell, which was echoed by the aid volunteers with equal enthusiasm.  The llamas milling about up there just turned their heads to view the commotion and went back to grazing.  I popped up and over the pass and jammed down the other side which is much steeper, leading down to the dirt road to Winfield and mile 50.

Making my way through the lumpy field at Winfield, the turn around point.

I weighed in at 145.6 (start weight was 148.7) in good shape.  I took a very long time at Winfield, emptying my shoes, eating, cold washcloth, drinking, talking, laughing, saying hi to folks, generally wasting a lot of time and finally leaving about 18  mins after getting there.  I left at the same time as Bob Sweeney, so we ran together for the length of the dirt road (4-ish miles) to the base of the climb up Hope Pass.  As noted earlier, this side is very steep, especially at the bottom.  I just put my head down and got into a rhythm, slowly leaving Bob and hauling ass to keep anyone from catching up to me.

I crested the top and dropped down the 600 or so feet to the Hopeless aid station, again letting out a yell. I felt great still and was flying down the upper section of the descent.  Then I started feeling a little dizzy and weak and my quads were getting sore and wobbly.  I was bonking from the effort on the previous climb.  It's difficult to catch up on fueling and hydration on a long 3,000+ ft descent.  All the jarring and bounding causes my stomach to cramp, bloat, and generally not feel so hot.  Not far from the bottom I was passed by Brian Fisher and his pacer Todd Ganglehoff.  They were all smiles flying down the trail, zipping by me while I was stopped to pee.  I tried my best to keep a decent pace and reached the meadow at the bottom of the climb where the woman's leader and her pacer caught me just before the river crossing.  I put my head down and grinded back up to them and passed them - got a bit of a second wind and cruised back into Twin Lakes (mile 60.5 now).  I was in a bit of trouble with a major bonk.  I changed shoes and socks, tried to eat, drank in about 250 calories of some mix I made, tried to relax and picked up my pacer, JT (Brownie).  That stop took over 20 minutes and I was a good chunk behind my splits, like 50 mins off or so.

Brownie and I climbing up out of Twin Lakes

We scaled the wall out of Twin Lakes and I was still trying to choke down a portion of sandwich Brownie made me take with us.  I eventually just flipped it into the woods when Brownie wasn't looking.  It's a good, long climb of about 3.5 miles and then turns into some great, rolling descents and flats where you can cruise along well.  It took a while but I was starting to get some energy back and we were making good time.  We reached Half Moon (mile 70) where I asked what place we were in (17th) and how long ago the previous runners came through (8 mins).  Sweet, I knew that my asking those questions symbolized my desire to move faster and be competitive.  We ran almost every step past tree line and onto the road section leading to Fish Hatchery.  When I was feeling awful, I made a deal with Brownie that if he set his stopwatch on the dreaded road section, I would run 5 mins, walk 3, run 5, etc. When his watch beeped after 5 mins and he asked if I wanted to walk, I just kept running.  The watch beeped again signaling another 5 mins passed and we kept running.  The third time it beeped Brownie just said, "I'm just going to turn the timer off since it looks like we're not stopping."  We caught 16th place about a mile before Fish Hatchery but behind us was Dan Vega, a great runner I just witnessed running a 15:30 100 miler on Antelope Island in March.
Fish Hatchery Inbound (mile 76.5).  Me talking with crewman, Steve and Brownie with Katie and demon dog, Holly.

At Fish Hatchery (mile 76.5) Vega entered the aid station just as we were walking out.  We had grabbed our lighting since it would be dark at some point near the top of the next massive climb up Power Line.  Because I took so damn long (again) in Fish Hatchery aid station, I was in 17th again with Vega charging up Power Line behind us.  I enjoy running at night on trails and, unlike most, I get a boost of energy from it.  I even commented to Brownie, "I love running at night so much, I think I'll do the Grindstone 100 next year (it starts at 6PM, so you run all night)."  Brownie replied, "How can you even think about doing another 100 right now?"  He was right, here I was over 80 miles into a race, feet and legs aching, stomach in knots and I'm planning my race season for next year...  Once cresting all the false summits of Power Line, we eased into a nice run down the road leading to the single track of the Colorado Trail that lead to the last aid station, Mayqueen (86.5).  I got a bit ahead of Brownie on the single track descent but we met back up near the bottom and popped out onto the road together.  I entered Mayqueen and some guy came bursting in behind me, so now I was in 18th place.  Damn.  Brownie was a huge help and kept me motivated and focused from mile 60-86.5 (he had raced the Pikes Peak ascent THAT morning too, so a full 40 mile day of mountain running for the boy).

At Mayqueen I changed into a long sleeve shirt, ate some salty soup, picked up my new pacer, Tim Waggoner (Lucho) and was off in pursuit of the finish line.  I paced Lucho last year from mile 50 to 100 at Leadville and he had a rough time over the last 13.5 miles, walking slowly the last 7-8 miles, so both of us were intent on making up for that this time.  Lucho was amped up, "wanna hat? a jacket? wanna gel?, wanna third light?, wanna Red Bull shooter?"  My only response was, "I want this trail to be done." [meaning the trail along Turquoise Lake].  We made our way along the endless lake and spotted headlamps of the next competitor in front of us just before we got to the road.  We passed them and were now in 17th.  Then we saw headlamps up in front again.  We held back just a bit and followed them up the road, and back onto the short trail that lead to the "boulevard" (the 3-4 mile dirt road leading to 6th St and the finish).  We passed those guys along that trail and I started picking up the pace but Lucho whispered to "ease back", so I did.  It was smart; keep running but easy enough to have some power left if needed.  It wasn't really needed.  We were now in 16th.  Shortly after that we came up to the next runner barfing on the side of the road.  Now I was in 15th and content to hold that position.  We cruised up the boulevard to 6th St and I ran it in to the finish for 21:04 and 15th overall.  Lucho will be pleased to learn that my chip time was 20:59:52, since he was slightly hinting that we should try to go under 21hrs but, at the time, the math for me to do that was just not adding up.  I guess they must have used the "gun time" as 4am and we actually started crossing the line to start at 4:04am.

Crossing the finish line at 1AM.

In the med tent just after finishing with my rockstar pacers Brownie (left) and Lucho (right)

My amazing friends and crew Kathleen and Steve (going to miss you guys!)
After lying in bed aching for a few hours I got up and had a nice (giant) breakfast of huevos rancheros with Steve and Kathleen and then laid down for a bit before the awards at noon.
Finish line the next morning (people still finishing up until the 30 hour cut off at 10AM)

Me walking up to get my 3rd place age group awards and big buckle

Shaking 2nd place age group winner and friend, Brian Fisher's, hand

Shaking age group winner, Jeff Browning's, hand (Jeff and Brian are great runners. Happy for both of them!)

Ryan Sandes accepting his overall winner award

Thanks so much to Steve and Kathleen, Brownie, Lucho, and Brandon.  I'm very fortunate to know each of you and appreciate you.

With Lifetime Fitness as the new race owner there were polar shifts in the differences in certain regards.  The electronic chip timing was pristine; every aid station had mats to run over for a split time.  The course may have been over marked, if that's possible.  I appreciate the work that went into the race this year but am not certain whether I like it better than the grit and self reliance of a race like Bear.  Leadville doesn't look bad on paper but it's a sneaky monster that lures you into running too fast for the first 40 miles then kicks you in the teeth with a double climbing of Hope Pass.  The altitude doesn't help much either.  It was a hard earned finish but I have the Bear 100 to focus on next month.

18 August 2011

Leadville Notes and Life

Leaving for Leadville today and should be there by 4pm.  I feel pretty calm about the whole thing; I suppose, as I mentioned before, I'm getting comfortable with 100 miles.  This one is a little more focused than the last three.  Hardrock was just so much and came so abruptly that I really just winged that one.  Grand Mesa was a study in patience and remaining calm when faced with no course to follow.  San Diego was a bit of a letdown.  I hoped, honestly for a top 5 finish and sub 20 hour finish but, well, got into bad physical trouble, forcing me to walk slowly for 3 hours to the 50 mile aid station, then lay in a tent for over an hour, though I'm happy I was able to turn it around for a 22:46 finish, running the last couple miles in 7 min pace.  Weird experiences.  But that's one of the things I like about the 100s, the weirdness and cold reality in the magnification of small mistakes.  I feel super for Saturday's race, both physically and mentally.  Found out today for certain that Tim Waggoner (Lucho) is pacing me from Mayqueen (mile 86.5) into the finish.  So, I'll have JT (Brownie) from mile 60 to 86.5, then Lucho, who is amp-ed up about it and it, in turn, makes me AMP'D UP.  I paced Lucho last year from mile 50-100 for his 19:19 6th place finish, and that's with a massive implosion after Mayqueen where we walked almost all of the last 8 miles.  I think he's interested in making sure I (with his help) make that section our bitch this year.

Yesterday was my last day at work.  So, anyone need a marketing/pr wiz, give me a call.  I specialize in promoting and advising elite athletes (sort of like an agent) on how to maximize their sponsorship agreements and exposure.  I can do the same for any individual endeavor, including business entrepreneurship  requiring clear focus and self presentation.

I'm moving next week too (bye Boulder).  Big freaking week between now and next.  According to most medical studies, I should probably have a heart attack or stroke with all the factors going on currently.  Oddly, I take things in stride and am fairly laid back in the knowledge and experience I've gained over the last several years.  The World Futurists Society wrote an article seven years ago (I distinctly remember reading it in my favorite pub one night) predicting the key skill of future business leaders would be flexibility and a varied background.  Maybe I could apply for CEO of Apple.