Friday, August 31, 2007

Heading East

Leaving tomorrow morning to head out to see my family in Ontario / Northern New York. I've got a 15 hour layover in Seattle... that should be fun. OK, maybe not, but I am going to try to get out for a run while I'm there so it might not be so bad.

The extended forecast looks great for Northern New York. It will be nice to go somewhere sunny. And to not work for 10 days. But it will also be nice to get back to Juneau and start in to my training for next year. In a weird kind of way I'm excited for the dark, cool, damp weather that is taking over Juneau for the next several months. It's actually been a couple months since I've been out running or biking in the dark but that's all going to change in a couple weeks.

Also best luck to all of those with big races in the next two weekends: Pete B., Lynda W., Danielle M., Matt H., Wynn D., and my best friend, Bryan L. who's doing the first ultra endurance race of his life next weekend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sinus Pressure

I've had a nagging head cold for 5 days now. It's better today than yesterday but not gone yet. Thus very little running or biking for about a week now. I'm in the middle of a planned rest period for several weeks but I can't help but feel a bit of anxiety when I don't get out for a good run or ride for a few days. My original plan was to keep my training very low key until at least early to mid October but I can tell already that this just isn't going to happen. I'm taking a vacation out to New York to see my family next week and will return to Juneau on September 11th. At that point I'll likely be starting back at 6 or 7 days a week of running and/or biking and/or weight training. I find lately that I'm just not as relaxed and content with my day to day life when I'm not running and/or biking most everyday. just my luck that the one thing I've found that I'm entirely passionate about has pretty near zero opportunity to "make a living" at. Too bad I don't have the interest in medicine or law that I have in endurance racing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fun In The Rain

After an exceptionally dry first part of August the rain has returned to Juneau in full force. Not letting the weather keep me down though. Got in some fun activities this week when I wasn't working. A couple nice little runs; an overnight backpacking trip to a public use cabin on Thursday; and 4 hours of sea kayaking today. Beginning to a feel a little sinus cold coming on but better now than a few weeks ago when I was racing still.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Here's a couple pictures of my friend Amity who is in town visiting and went kayaking with me today:

Monday, August 20, 2007

4 Days and 15 Hours

My next serious race won't come until February: The 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. I'm planning to begin my training for that event about 6-8 weeks from now. Currently any running or biking I'm doing is exclusively for pleasure. And yet each time I'm out running I find myself thinking about February. This race is going to be so much more demanding than anything I've done to date. Not only will it more than triple the longest race I have ever run but it will be in interior Alaska, in February, where temps are likely to drop to -20 or colder.

Invariably when I think about this event my mind wanders to thoughts about the race record in the foot division. In 2005 fellow Alaskan, Steve Reifenstuhl finished this race on foot in 4 days and 15 hours! I can't get this thought out of my mind lately. This just doesn't even seem possible to me. That's an average of just over 75 miles per day, dragging behind you on a sled everything needed to survive for this time in the above described conditions (with the exception of some of your meals which can be eaten at the checkpoints along the way). In this past winter's Susitna 100 it took me almost 22 hours to travel 100 miles in similar (but much warmer) conditions. Within 2 hours of finishing I was unable to walk for about 48 hours. The thought of going back out for another 50+ mile day the next day was absolutely 100% NOT an option. How anyone could travel 75 miles per day for almost 5 days under these conditions is beyond belief to me. I think it is very safe to say that this record is going to stand for a long time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lost in the Clouds

I set out for Mt. Roberts to Sheep Creek loop today but it just wasn't meant to be. The clouds were settled in really low and as soon as I got beyond Mt. Roberts I had no idea where the hell I was or where I was going. I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me and it was windy, rainy, and cold. I only went about 1/4 mile along the ridge beyond the established trail and I still had a hard time finding my way back once I decided it was time to turn around. Guess it's time to get me one of them there GPS thingies... or at least carry a damn compass next time. Still got a nice 11 miles in with about 5,000 feet of climbing.

"View" from the top

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heintzleman Ridge to Nugget Creek

Fun adventure out on Heintzleman Ridge today. Covered about 15 miles in 4 hours including about 6,000 feet of total climbing, some serious bushwhacking, lucky route finding, a mountain goat, and a bear. Pictures tell the best story of how nice of a day it was:

Looking Northwest "out to sea"

Mendenhall Glacier

Alpine blueberries growing right on the ground... much sweeter than berries up on bushes

Mountain goat

Looking down the drainage I was hoping to follow down to Nugget Creek. There's a bear down in the middle though so I had to change my route and drop over the ridge on the left and into some serious steep terrain with a few miles of annoying bushwhacking.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Berry Picking Ride

There's something about harvesting berries, especially wild berries, that's always been very satisfying for me. It doesn't seem to be a particularly great year around Juneau for berries but if you're patient and don't mind some bushwhacking there are plenty to be found. Wild blueberries are damn small though, and you can pick for a couple hours just to get enough for a small pie. But somehow it always feels worth it.

Over the years I've had many "dream careers". A couple years ago I wanted more than anything to be a berry farmer. Find some cheap land in a remote part of Alaska, plant my bushes, wait for the berries to come, and then hopefully for people to give me money for my berries. Ahhh, if it were only that simple. I guess I probably had a better shot at making it as a berry farmer than I have of making it at my current "dream career" of endurance racing.

After a week of sun the trails are more dry than I've ever seen them here. Best biking conditions we'll likely ever get in Juneau

My harvest of salmonberries and blueberries

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Heat Wave

It has been over 70 for 4 days in a row now and the forecast is for more of the same for 2 more days. This is by far the sunniest and warmest stretch of weather we have had since moving to Juneau a year ago. Last August there was measurable precipitation 30 of the 31 days. So far this August there has been precipitation on only 5 of 13 days, and 3 of these days were .02" or less. Our total precip. for the month so far is .52" and the month is almost half over. The average for August is over 7".

I'm not complaining. It's times like this that I really feel Juneau starting to grow on me. I was overheating pretty good while out for a short (7 mile) run today and I couldn't help but think of how unbearable it would be to be running in the temperatures that occur throughout most of the country this time of year. To all of those in the lower 48 I feel for you. I realize that the 75 degrees that I was "overheating" in today would be a serious cold snap for most people reading this blog.

There's a great story recently posted on the Mountain Bike Forum by Mike Curiak about heat waves, Alaskan winters, and biking one of the toughest races in the world. Read it here. It's worth your time, especially if it keeps you from being out in the heat.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Positive Split

Got out for a nice hike/climb up Mt. Jumbo with Jill this morning. 3,400 feet of climbing in 2.6 miles. Nice mellow morning walk and then spent the rest of the day shopping for bike parts on the internet and resting my tired legs.

Here's some pictures:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Juneau Ridge

Got out for a nice 19 mile run with some friend's this morning. Getting up at 6 am wasn't too much fun after being out on the beach with friends and a little too much rum until almost midnight, but once I was out running I was glad to be out early while it's still so calm and quiet around town. We quickly left town though and headed up the trail toward Mt. Juneau. After hitting the summit in 90 minutes we traversed the ridge for several miles in some of the most ideal weather we've had in the year I've lived in Juneau. Bright blue skies and temperatures in the low 70's! Tomorrow it's supposed to be in the upper 70's. Eventually we dropped down into Granite Creek Basin which brought us back to The Perseverance Trail and back to where we had started over 4 hours earlier. It was a great run but I didn't feel that great. My legs are really quite tired out from 75 miles of racing in the past 3 weeks. I took it easy all week this week (just some short bike rides to work and back) but I'm on my feet all day at work and because of this my legs just haven't been able to fully recover yet. I'm hoping to have a really mellow recovery day tomorrow in which I spend as much time as possible off my feet, but it's going to be so hard to resist getting out in the nice weather... maybe just a mellow berry picking hike will be in order.

Here's some pictures from today's run:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thanks, Thanks, and More Thanks

There was a short write up about my race in today's Anchorage paper. Read it here.

It's been an amazing racing season for me. I still have a ways to go but I feel like I'm twice the endurance racer/mountain runner as I were at the start of the year. I had 4 races that I focused on this season and I won all 4 of them, setting 3 new course records! I've looked through several results of 50 mile races so far in 2007. As far as I've been able to tell my 6:09:19 this past weekend is currently in the top few of 50 mile trail times so far this year. I found 2 that were definitely faster and I'm sure there are more that I'm not coming across, but at any rate these last couple races far exceeded any expectations I had in mind. I am of course very excited about this and anxious for next season already. I will be very happy to branch out into some lower 48 races next year. There are some amazing endurance/mountain athletes and events in Alaska, but I'm excited for next year when I'll get to test my abilities against larger and more diverse fields of runners and bikers.

Enough about that though. Mostly I wanted to say thanks to friends, family, and fellow Internet geeks for all the tips and words of support throughout this year. As much as I prefer to do most of my training alone it's still really nice to know that I'm not entirely on my own as I'm trying my best to stumble (or maybe leap is a more apt term) forward in a hobby that now has me so completely consumed that I couldn't get out if I tried.

As this has become exclusively a journal of my training and racing I'll likely only post on occasion for the next several weeks (although I still haven't decided for sure on that Equinox Marathon next month) as I take a nice break from all of this. Sometime in October or November though I'll begin getting back into it pretty seriously in preparation for a season next year that I hope will make my accomplishments this past season seem trivial.

And by the way, I'm recovering great from this past race. I rode my bike to work today and have almost no muscle soreness. I'll probably even get out for a nice berry picking hike/run tomorrow or Wednesday. Maybe I'll even remember to take my camera and click some pics.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Slow to Believe

Today: Sleep + Eat
Yesterday: Run 50 miles
Friday: Rest
Thursday: Rest

Resurrection Pass 50 mile race report:

This is going to be a difficult post. Difficult to explain my thoughts about yesterday's race because the 30 hours since I finished just haven't been enough time for me to figure out exactly what happened.

By all accounts things went amazingly well. So well in fact that I'm having a hard time simply accepting the result. Going into this race I thought of 7:30 as my most likely time. Anything much faster than that would be satisfying and anything much slower than that would be disappointing. The course record in this race was 6:59 and I thought maybe if I had the perfect day I could threaten this time. If 6:59 would have been a perfect day then I just don't know what words to use to describe what actually happened: I finished in 6:09:19!!! (7:23 per mile pace). Since I haven't yet been able to come to a full understanding of this result in my mind I won't even try to interpret it here. Rather, I'll lay out some of the details of my run.

22 runners lined up at 6:00 am and after some brief route following instructions we were off and running on an overcast, cool, damp morning. I was the first runner out of the parking lot and onto the trail and quickly fell into a very comfortable pace. Evan Hone ran with me for about 4 miles but after he stopped to take a leak I never saw another 50 mile racer the rest of the day.

I worked my way slowly into a bit more ambitious pace as I pushed ahead, but I was feeling great and felt like I was still running very conservative. I'm not sure of the exact amount of total climbing in this race but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in the 4,000-5,000 range. Most of this occurs in the first 20 miles as you make your way up to Resurrection Pass. Going into the race I assumed I would walk the steepest part of this climb which occurs just past Swan Lake. It's not ever all that steep but there is about a one or two mile stretch that has some pretty good steady climbing. I was feeling great though and ended up running the entire climb. And then I was above treeline, was soaking wet, the wind was kicking up, and I was getting cold.

From my memory of hiking this trail 4 years ago I thought this stretch above treeline was about a mile so I just kept moving without stopping to put on my wind/rain shell that was in my pocket. I knew I'd be warm again as soon as I dropped back down into the trees on the other side of the pass and it seemed like a waste of time to put on a layer that I would just be taking back off in a few minutes. Only problem with this plan was that this stretch up on top of the pass is more like 5 or 6 miles. Luckily about halfway through the wind shifted around behind me and I warmed up enough to feel my arms and legs again.

As I suspected I was instantly warm as soon as I got back in the trees and it felt great to have the flexibility back that you just don't have when your muscles are cold. I was now more than 20 miles in and for the first time I began to really make a serious effort at pushing my pace. At times this felt great and other times I felt like I was beginning to struggle just a bit. It never got any worse though and every time I felt like I was struggling at all I took down some calories and felt pretty good again.

At mile 38 the trail portion of the race ends and the last 12 miles is on gravel road. Mile 38 is also the first aid station. I hit this at 4:39 feeling pretty good, but I was dreading getting onto the harder surface of the gravel road. I ditched my running vest and coat at the aid station and headed off with a bottle in one hand, a banana in the other, and a few gels in my pockets. I knew at this point that breaking 7 hours was well within reach but I was really starting to feel tired and with 4 miles of climbing still ahead of me I knew that I still had a lot of work to do.

This was only my third Ultra. In the previous two (LittleSu 50k and Susitna 100) I struggled desperately in the last 20% of the race so I just kind of assumed that I would slow considerably in the last 10 miles of this 50 miler. I'd be lying if I said this stretch didn't hurt at all but I really felt stronger and stronger as I progressed beyond 40 miles. At about mile 42 you hit a climb that continues steady for 4 miles. It's never a steep climb but in 4 miles it never eases up, not even for a few feet. I ran this climb in 37 minutes (9:15 pace)! At the end of the climb you hit another aid station, turn around, and drop back down to the finish about 4.5 miles away. I discarded my banana peel, got a little more water and turned around back down the hill I had just worked so hard to climb.

For the first few hundred feet of downhill I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stride out very effectively. Even though it was all downhill from there I thought I was going to have to shuffle along slowly with pain shooting through the legs with every stride. But then everything loosened up and I was able to stretch out my stride and let gravity take over. Slowly I sped up more and more and next thing I knew I was rounding a corner to the finish. I ended up running the last 4.5 miles of the race at about 6:25 pace! I was pretty tired out but honestly felt like I could have pushed that pace for a few more miles. Such an opposite feeling from the finish of the other two ultras that I've done.

Just after the finish it really started to rain hard and I huddled under a tarp and ate soup, glad to be done and really feeling for those still out there in the cold rain. I visited with those gathered around the finish area for about 90 minutes and then, still unable to believe that I had just run a 6:09, we took off in my friend's truck and measured the road stretch of the course because I just didn't believe it could be a full 50 based on how fast my time was. I knew that the trail section was in fact 38 miles, but I was feeling like the 12 miles of road must have been a few miles short. The course however measured out as advertised.

I guess it's a wonderful thing to run so fast that you don't believe that your time is legitimate. It's just takes a little while to really sink in and turn from confusion to elation. Right now I'm still somewhere in the middle. I'm still trying to figure out how I possibly could have run such a fast 50 miler yesterday, but slowly I'm running out of "conspiracy theories" and beginning to realize that I simply ran such a great race because I've had a great season of training and had a great day yesterday... or maybe it was that UFO that came down and picked me up and dropped me off about 10 miles down the trail.

It's great to end my season of racing on such a high note, but already I feel the temptation for more. I've thought on and off all year about running the Equinox Marathon up in Fairbanks next month. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do it (I really think a couple months off from any serious training or racing before I start preparing for the Iditarod Trail Invitational would be the best thing for me right now), but there is a part of me that is still thinking about one more race. I guess I'll spend a few days getting good and recovered and then think more seriously about that.

Race Fuel:
Hammer Gel: 450 calories
PowerGel: 500 calories
Perpetuem: 500 calories
Cliff Salty Nut bar: 200 calories
Banana: ~100
total: ~1750

Montrail Odyssey (I've never been a big fan of "trail" shoes but I'm on my second pair of these this summer and am really starting to like them).

Totals for last week: Bike 26 miles; run 70 miles; 11.5 hours.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Packing My Bags

Bike Commute 3 miles
Run 9 miles

Off to Anchorage tomorrow afternoon. Should be a fun weekend. I like these short trips out of Juneau. As much as I'm getting more and more content with living in Juneau it's also been really nice to get away as much as I have this summer. As anyone who has been to Juneau knows there really isn't anywhere to go once you are here so it's nice to hop on a plane and see some other places every now and then.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. I'll try to post a race report Sunday or Monday.