Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Something happened today that I've been wanting for a long time. No, I'm not talking about the long overdue indictment of Ted Stevens, but rather that the sun came out! Since I returned to Juneau on July 4th I pretty much had not seen the sun until today. I guess it was a good day to be an Alaskan. Now if we could just do something about Don Young, but that will have to wait until next month, or maybe even until November.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Racing Into Shape

I'm in the mood to race right now, even though my running conditioning isn't quite there yet, and I can't quite compete at the level that I'd like to. The solution: I'm going to run as many races as I can in the next several weeks and use them to add some variety to my training while also satisfying my hunger to compete right now.

It started with Crow Pass last week and then this past Saturday I ran The Mount Roberts Tram Run (about 3.5 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing). I forget how strange it is to race these short uphill races. It hurts so much while you're doing it and then you finish and within 30 seconds you feel completely recovered. It's such a strange sensation. It was a fun race though. Juneau native and Team INOV8 runner Dewey Peacock was in town so we had a fun little low key race with each other. Each one of us was sort of expecting to show up and put in a comfortably hard effort and quite likely be able to cruise to a win. With both of us there though we had a fun little race to the top. I trailed him for most of the run but I knew that I was a little stronger whenever it got more steep, but then had all I could do to keep up if it leveled off for a bit. With this in mind I waited for the last steep uphill and went for a quick decisive move. Almost immediately I put a 20-30 second gap on him and was able to hold on to the finish. I also put in some decent mileage on Friday and Sunday (18 and 20) and am starting to feel more and more ready to really amp up to the training that I'll need to be ready for Wasatch in less than 6 weeks.

This weekend I'll probably run a marathon (it'd be silly not to because it starts about 100 yards from my porch). I've actually never run a marathon so that'll be kind of fun. I don't really like running on the road though so it'll kind of suck a bit also. On August 8th I'm thinking pretty seriously about going up to Anchorage to run the Resurrection Pass 100 miler and then on August 16th there's a 15 mile trail race here in Juneau that I'm definitely planning on running. If I end up doing all of these races that will be 5 weeks in a row with a race ranging from 2.5 miles up to 100 miles. It sounds like too much racing to be much a benefit to my training but the reality is that I won't run any of these so hard that they take too much out of me. I did need to take 2 days off after Crow Pass but as I'm getting into better and better shape now I suspect that I can run these races at about 80-90% effort and not need to take any time off. I'm sure I'll need some time off after the 100 miler but I was looking at that week as a likely recovery week anyway so the timing for that couldn't be better.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eric Parsons For President

Untitled from Eric Parsons on Vimeo.

GDR Redux?

I finally got my bike back from down south yesterday.

As I took it out of the box I felt like it was talking to me... begging me to ride the GDR again. It's becoming harder and harder to ignore the pull I'm feeling to be lined up in Roosville again. Probably not next year but very likely in 2010. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Hardest Race I Have Ever Run...

... Is only 14 miles and this year's version is in less than two weeks.

The race is the Matanuska Peak Challenge and I really want to go run it. The race is an out and back that has 9,000 feet of elevation gain (as well as 9,000 feet of descending) in 14 miles! It's an absolutely insane route.

Most of the top mountain runners in Alaska are planning to be there including Harlow Robinson (he's won this race about 3,000 times), Eric Strabel (who just kicked my ass at Crow Pass this past weekend), Matias Saari (bad ass Fairbanks runner), and Patrick Stinson (who also just kicked my ass at Crow Pass).

I'm still not going to be entirely in shape by the time of this race but I'm going to be in a lot better shape than I was this past weekend. Being able to go up to Crow Pass and compete at a pretty good level has me really hungry for more right now.

Problem is the race is up North of Anchorage and it'd cost me another $500 for travel up there and back and for this reason it probably aint gonna happen.

The other dilemma will be that if I do throw down the money to go up there I might decide to run the Resurrection Pass Race rather than Matanuska Peak. After all, I do have a title to defend at Resurrection Pass.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crow Pass Report

Crow Pass turned out to be a definitive succes for me.

I did not win. I did not even come very close to winning but I was in position to have a chance to win for almost 20 miles so that was enough to keep me very excited and having lots of fun.

When the eventual top three finishers (I finished 4th) pulled away with about 7 miles to go I just didn't have a faster speed available to go with them. In most circumstances this would have been very frustrating for me but I had already had so much more fun and gotten so much more performance out of my body than I expected that I just happily let them go while I eased comfortably to an uneventful finish of 3:17:53, about exactly the same time I ran 2 years ago.

The course was a mess in places. A lot more snow than usual and a lot of mud. I took a few pretty good falls. I think just about everyone took some falls. I would guess that the first half of the course was at least 5 minutes slower than either of the past 2 years. The second half wasn't too bad though, and some recent trail work may have even made the second half a bit faster than the past couple years. It's almost impossible to explain the challenge of trying to race this route. It's kind of something you just have to experience to understand it. I can talk about snow, mud, bears, overgrown trail, creek crossings, roots, rocks, etc., but without being out there it's hard to comprehend just how much of each of these things there are. Here's a recent Anchorage Daily News article that does a pretty good job attempting to explain some of the diffuculties with this route.

It was great to be able to push myself quite hard but not wreck my mind or body in any way. I'm a bit sore and tired today but I suspect I will be back at my training tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest.

I found out that I have a high level of general endurance still, but I do still need to get some speed and some climbing strength. All throughout the run yesterday I felt like I couldn't move on the uphills and that I couldn't kick it up to a faster pace. I was pretty sure from early on in the race that I was not going to be able to contend for the win but then I just kept lingering around the leaders longer and longer. I even had one stretch from about mile 13-15 when I thought maybe, just maybe I could stay with these guys to the finish. For the most part though I felt more like a spectator. Once the lead pack pulled away I found myself wishing I could be at the finish to see them battle it out.

As it turned out Eric Strabel (2006 winner) won by about :30 in a showdown with Patrick Stinson that wasn't decided until the last 1/2 mile of the race.

I had sort of forgotten how much I like this race. Even though I didn't bring my 'A' game to the starting line this year I still got to have a really fun time racing against some great competition and great people. And in the end I was still able to run about the 30th fastest time in race history, replenishing my desire to have a year again soon (quite likely next year) in which I'm able to put my full focus on this race and see just how fast I might be able to go out there. I feel confident that there is a small group of runners in Alaska now who, with the right trail conditions could push each other to times shockingly faster than what have been previously run in this race.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Addicted To Racing?

Even though the Crow Pass Crossing is only 25 miles it's a race you really can't fake. There's a decent amount of climbing, creek and river crossings, snowfields, and countless stretches of trail so overgrown that you can't see anything from the waist down. Either you're prepared for a race like this or you're not, and you will find out pretty early in the race if you are.

This is what I hope to find out Saturday morning. I know I'm not prepared the way I would like to be but I'm going to go up there and at least give myself a chance to have a competitive race. Most likely scenario is that I get 4 or 5 miles in and just pull back and take my time to the finish.

Maybe, just maybe though, I will actually feel like a strong runner again for the first time since early May. Ah, that would be sweet.

In other words I'm going to try to fake being ready for a race that I know you just can't fake. Should be an interesting weekend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Coming Around?

For the first time since the GDR I felt sort of normal today. I didn't need to take a nap all day (Okay so I fell asleep for a few minutes on the ferry ride back from Haines where Jill and I took a little 2 day vacation but napping on public transportation is just something you do, not because you need a nap but because you need to kill time). More importantly though I actually felt close to normal on my run today. I've been running most everyday but I haven't been able to run far or fast, just short (4-12 mile) runs to keep my sanity. My hamstrings have felt very tired during every run and my calf muscles have been tight after every run. Today though I didn't really experience either one of these things. Hopefully I've come around a corner on my recovery and within another few days I will feel ready to begin somewhat more serious training for the Wasatch 100.

Also, congratulations to Simon and Fred on their GDR finishes. Jenn and Noah are the only 2 riders still out on the route and they were both in Silver City today and should be finished by late tonight or midday tomorrow! (Actually I just checked the GDR updates in the midst of typing this and Noah has finished as well!)

I find it worth noting something of Fred's riding in the past 14 months. In May of 2007 he rode the KTR; and then later that month the Grand Loop; and then in August the CTR; and then in April of this year the AZT race; and then in May the KTR again; and then yesterday completed the GDR. To some this may just sound like a bunch of meaningless acronyms, but to those who know a few things about these races you know how impressive it is to finish any of them let alone all of them (I'm pretty certain Fred is the only person who has finished all of these races). The fact that Fred has finished all of them in just over a year is beyond comprehension and is something that has brought a bewildered smile to my face each of the dozen or so times that I've thought about it since hearing of his arrival in Antelope Wells yesterday. These races add up to over 4,000 miles!!! Nice work Fred.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Go Jenn Go

It sounds like Jenn Hopkins is going to continue on in the GDR from Abiquiu, NM after being treated for Giardia! That's the most bad ass thing I've heard in a long time. And to think that I dropped out simply because I was a bit tired. Thanks Jenn, like I needed anything else to make me regret my decision even more :)

Also Carl and Rainer have both finished in 2nd and 3rd place respectively and Simon is in Silver City and certain to finish sometime on Wednesday. And Fred might be in position to finish sometime on Thursday. Going into this year there were only 5 people who had ridden from border to border in less than 20 days. There may be 5 more added to this list, making this by far the strongest field to ever race the route together. Another observation: seems like the key to this race is to be from somewhere other than the U.S... John is the only American finisher so far and Noah is the only American still in the race. There were 6 foreigners who started the race and 5 of them have either finished or are still on the route. Conversely there were 12 Americans and 10 of us have pulled the plug to this point!

Not Bottomed Out Yet

I kind of thought that I would be able to make the transition to running more smoothly than it appears I am going to be able to. I've run about almost 30 miles since I've been back in Juneau but it just hasn't felt good at all. I do feel some progress in my muscles getting use to being used for running again, but my overall strength is still way down. I can go out and trudge through 5 or 6 miles easy enough but it doesn't feel very good and I couldn't possibly run fast right now. It's just not there yet.

This means that running Crow Pass as a race is almost certainly not going to happen. I'd like to still go up to Anchorage and run it as a training run but I'm not even sure my body is going to allow for that. My main focus now needs to be on eating and sleeping well to give my body every possible chance to recovery as soon as possible so as to try to get myself as much serious training between now and The Wasatch 100 0n September 6th. Suddenly September seems so near on the horizon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jumbled GDR Race Thoughts

This is as close as I'm going to come to a race report - a random collection of thoughts and photos:

First for those who didn't follow along I ended up dropping out of the race halfway between Steamboat Springs and Silverthorne... about 10 days and 1400 miles from the start.

Lack of sleep seemed to be my ultimate undoing. In the first 3 days I slept a total of 8.5 hours and in the first week a total of 33 hours. In the future I need to find something to help me sleep when I do multi-day races. I would lay down at night and just couldn't get my mind to stop carrying on.

I had a chance to meet almost all of the riders before the race started. I knew regardless of the outcome it was all worth it just to get to ride with so many great people.

Snow covered passes were the theme of the first few days but they were never as bad as everyone else wanted to make them out to be. I estimate that snow/mud at Red Meadow Lake set me back about 30 minutes; Richmond Peak about 50 minutes; the area before Flagg Ranch about 20 minutes; Togwatee Pass about 45 minutes; Union Pass about 5 minutes; and Watershed Divide about 10 minutes. In the grand scheme of things this was pretty much meaningless.

I rode with other riders a lot the first 3 days, especially David Blaine, Rainer Klaus, Simon Kennett, Carl Hutchings, and John Nobile. After Wise River though I never saw another rider until the day that I dropped out. That amounted to about 850 miles of alone time. This was a good thing in some ways but I sure did get sick of myself sometimes in that stretch.

I never once felt like I was riding in a race. I made no effort to rush when I made stops. I rode hard when I was riding but I pretty much stopped everytime there was anything worth stopping for, including sometimes 4 or 5 meals a day. As the race developed with John running about 3 hours ahead of me for several days I would always have people at stores and cafes telling me that he was in and out in a couple minutes and I should really get going if I was going to catch him. 30 minutes later I would finally stumble out the door and get back on the road. It's amazing to me that anyone could mentally ride this "race" in a racing mindset the whole time. I just couldn't see that as being fun at all. I guess maybe if, like John, I was going at it for my third time and was so focused on doing it as fast as he ultimately ended up doing it.

I ended up averaging 150 miles per day through Steamboat Springs. This was much faster than I had anticipated riding. I'm not exactly sure how I ended up riding at this pace. It just kind of happened and then it seemed like there was nothing I could do to make it stop... until finally my body just couldn't go anymore. And once my body shut down my mind shut down.

I rode until at least sunset every single night. The earliest I ever stopped was 9:30 and the night I got lost with David up on Lava Mountain I was out until 2:30 AM. The evening was by far my favorite time to ride each day. Most days I didn't even feel warmed up until about 3pm.

In some ways this ride was much easier than I expected it to be. Or at least more fun. I kind of thought that I would have several hours each day in which I was miserable but for almost all of the time in the first 7 days I was having fun... even when I was falling asleep on the bike around Helena and Butte I was still enjoying myself much more than I expected.

But then when my body gave out I became so miserable and uncomfortable that it almost felt like I wasn't even in the same race anymore. I have never been in any situation where my physical and mental well being changed so drastically in such a short period of time. When I rolled into Steamboat at 9:30pm on the 8th day of the race I was confident and having fun. 12 hours later I was in serious trouble and I knew it. 36 hours later I was only about 25 miles beyond Steamboat and was feeling even worse. By the end of that day my race was done and I began a stretch in which I slept at least 10 hours a night for 4 straight nights.

I'm not really sure yet if I'll ever ride this race again. On one hand I feel like I have some unfinished business out there, but on the other hand I just don't know if I will ever choose to put the time and money into it again.

If I do ever ride it again I will probably try to have more a plan than I did this time. In fact I had no plan this time. I just kind of went out and rode my bike and then when it got dark I slept and then I got up and rode my bike again. I guess this is really the only plan you need to have but certainly I would have benefited from stopping earlier some days and getting more sleep.

I was very pleased with my bike and gear. All told, including my ride up to the start from Utah I rode almost 2,500 miles and had no mechanical problems and all of my gear held up great and performed flawlessly. For anyone thinking about doing this race, or any other multi-day mountain bike riding I highly suggest getting in touch with Eric at EpicDesigns. His bags are the best.

As I already mentioned I think lack of sleep was my biggest problem in this race. I also struggled quite a bit at times with food. I had a good appetite the whole time and I think I actually gained a little weight during my 10 days out there, but I just never felt satisfied when I couldn't get at least a couple cooked meals a day. I had 2 long stretches (more than 24 hours) in which I had to fuel myself completely on food that I was carrying along with me and I definitely felt particularly weak at these times. I was always able to get enough calories in my body but granola bars, chips, cookies, twizzlers, donuts, peanuts, string cheese, and bananas just never seemed to give me the same boost that a double bacon burger and a triple order of fries did.

Anyhow, when it was all said and done I had a great time out there. I learned so many things about myself and my biking abilities (that is I learned that I actually have abilities on a bike, or at least much more than I previously thought). The scenery was amazing and the people I got to meet along the way were even more amazing. And the other riders I got to race with were the greatest people I have ever competed with. As I write this there are still 7 riders out there pushing on toward the finish and I'll be so stoked if they are all able to make it.

Well, that's all about that. Now it's back to the familiar territory of running for at least the next couple months as I prepare for the Wasatch 100 on September 6th.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Back In Juneau...

... and back at the running. Got back into town at 3:30 today and got a nice mellow 5 mile run in tonight.

I'm still very tired from the GDR but my body is definitely recovering quickly and I'm trying to move on to other things in my mind as quick as possible so I don't beat myself up too much about pulling out of the race.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to run the Crow Pass Crossing two weeks from tomorrow. I'm not possibly going to be in top running shape but it'll be fun to see how far I can get myself along in just two weeks.

Just having fun now "watching" all the other racers who are still out there fighting the good fight. Wish I was out there still but not if it meant feeling the way I was feeling my last 3 days out there.

I'll post a more detailed report of my GDR experience soon.