Monday, May 26, 2008

Quick Moab Post and Short KTR Recap

I've spent the better part of the past 10 days living outside. The weather has been amazingly cool for this time of year. I've been mostly in or near Moab. It started out with a very successful ride of the Kokopelli Trail last Saturday, then a 3 day float down the Green River, and then back on the bike putting in 3-6 hours a day for the past several days. I've also been trying to mix in some running to maintain as much running fitness as possible.

More about Kokopelli: I didn't know what to expect from this ride except that it would be hard. It did not disappoint. As far as the route was concerned it was harder than I imagined, but physically my body handled it better than I expected. I finished a little under 18 hours, but never once really felt like I pushed much at all. I ran out of water about 45 minutes before Salt Creek which really sucked but other than that it was a very good ride. I had about 3.5 hours of stopped time so my actual ride time was only about 14.5 hours - much faster than I expected to be able to ride such a rugged route. Maybe one of these years I'll actually ride this more as a race to see how fast I can go. Probably the best thing about this ride was that I got to ride with Dave C. and/or Fred W. for more than half of the race. It was so nice to have the company of people who had done the race before. Going into the ride I was a little concerned about route finding but I was latched onto Dave or Fred most of the time so it was never really an issue.

This week I am off to the Capitol Reef / San Rafael Swell area to do more riding. I'll probably put together a 3 or 4 day loop later in the week somewhere down that way and then by the end of the weekend I'll be heading up to Salt Lake to attend to final details before beginning my ride north to the Canadian border. The GDR is going to be so damn hard but I feel so much more prepared for it now then I was just a month ago. June 20th isn't that far away now. I can't wait.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Last Post For Awhile?

I'm heading to southern Utah again tomorrow and this time I'll probably be living out in the desert for more than 2 weeks. Lots of biking as well as a river trip with old friends that I haven't seen in months. Likely won't be posting until June 2nd or after.

I've currently ridden 409 miles in the past week, almost all on dirt road or trail. My body is pretty tired out, but generally feeling pretty good. I intend to really test it on Saturday though. (Many endurance cycling enthusiasts know what this means) I'll be happy if I can walk comfortably on Sunday. Even happier if I can ride the shuttle for the river trip on Sunday but that doesn't seem too likely.

I'll post some details of my desert fun as soon as I have a chance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Red Water In The Bottom Of The Shower

When I used to live in Utah I could always tell how good my weekend was by how dark the red color was in the water in the bottom of the shower when I would get back into town on Sunday afternoon. When you spend time outside in southern Utah the red dirt just gets onto your body, and then into your body, and eventually into your mind and heart.

Well, I am back in Salt Lake now after 6 days in Southern Utah and let's just say the water in the bottom of the shower today was about as red as it gets.

I was camped out in The San Rafael Swell for 5 days and in that time I rode my bike 300 miles, almost all on dirt. The first couple days were kind of mellow because I was still a bit tired from the Miwok. By Saturday though I was ready to go hard.

Afternoon Clouds move in around Mexican Mountain in The San Rafael Swell

I only rode 35 miles on Saturday but it was probably my toughest day of riding all week. It was slow trail, lots of hike-a-bike through sand, technical stretches that were just beyond my abilities (technical desert singletrack used to be my strongest point as a rider but now I kind of feel like it's my first time everytime I ride tech. sections), and when I thought I was just about back to camp I got lost and ended up being out there for almost 2 hours more than expected.

And then Sunday I packed up for an overnight ride into The Maze district of Canyonlands.

My bike loaded up for an overnight ride

I ended up riding 101 miles on Sunday and it turned out to be quite likely the best day I've ever had on a bike. The first 60 miles was a bit boring (scenery wise) but I was having a great time and feeling really strong. Once I got to the top of the Flint Trail my world was about to change drastically.

looking out from the top of the Flint Trail

I dropped off the rim and down to the valley below and suddenly I was in a much more majestic area with no one to be seen for miles on end. I continued South, toward Sunset Pass and saw no one for hours.

looking up toward Sunset Pass from the west

Picture the scenery of The White Rim, except NO PEOPLE. I decided I wanted to make it down Hatch Canyon and all the way to the Dirty Devil River that night.

Looking into Hatch Canyon from just below Sunset Pass

By this point I had been going about 40 miles since I last saw anyone, or anything man made for that matter. About 5 miles from the river I saw a man hiking out in front of me.

Almost down to The Dirty Devil River

I just assumed this was someone who was camped at the river and had hiked up the road for the view. Turns out rather that this guy had been camped back near Sunset Pass (more than 20 miles behind me) and his car was broken down. He waited for 2 days, never saw another person, and finally decided to walk out the 40+ miles back to the closest paved road. He was not doing so well when I saw him. He was almost out of food and water and said that every muscle in his body was aching and twitching. He seemed confident that he could make it to the river on his own so I went ahead and assessed my supplies while he made his way down.

I was able to spare almost 2,000 calories of food, much needed electrolytes (NUUN of course), purify water for him from the river, and gave him my bivy sack to sleep in for the night.

Camp at the Dirty Devil River crossing

It was very windy that night. Neither one of us slept very well because of blowing sand, but he seemed to be feeling much better in the morning. He began the 16 mile walk out of Poison Spring Canyon and I rode ahead to Hanksville and phoned the local sheriff to let them know this guy's situation. The dispatcher made a sarcastic joke that it was a "slow day in Wayne County." If you've been to Wayne County Utah you might understand why this would be a joke. She would send someone down there right away to fetch this guy back to civilization.

Crazy stuff. Probably this guy would have survived if I hadn't come along, but that's not entirely certain. Lots of things could have gone wrong for him, and certainly he would have gotten very sick from the gallon+ of untreated water he would have had to drink from the Dirty Devil and/or Poison Spring. Based on names alone it's pretty obvious that you don't want to drink multiple gallons of untreated water from either one of these sources.

Anyway, I'm back in Salt Lake for a couple days and then I'll be heading back South for some more desert fun. My plan is to make my way back up here by about June 2nd or 3rd and then ride from here up to the start of the GDR over the course of about 2 weeks.

Here are a few more pictures from the last couple weeks that I like. Two of the sunset on the ferry from Juneau to Bellingham and one of my car dwarfed by the Redwoods in Northern California:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Miwok Race Report

I never sleep very well the night before a race. The earlier the race starts, the worse I sleep. Miwok proved to be no exception. The ridiculously early start time of 5:40 combined with the fact that 40 minutes away was the closest place I could find to camp meant that I would need to get up before 4:00 to be to the race on time. This did not prove to be a good combination. I actually did not sleep at all that night! A friend of mine flew into San Francisco to hangout with me for the weekend and I thought that would be a good distraction to keep me from being too focused on the race and thus I might get some sleep. I didn't feel too focused on the race Friday night but I still didn't sleep. I just laid there in my tent for 5 hours and then got up and drove to the start. I suppose just laying horizontal for that time is helpful, but I would have felt a little better about things had I actually slept.

At any rate we all lined up on the beach at day break and at that point there was nothing I could do about not having slept so I forgot about it.

I had no game plan for this race. I just wanted to run for 100k. I hadn't even thought about how I would start out and then suddenly we were a couple miles up the road at the start of the race with me grouped in a lead pack with 4 others: Dave Mackey, Lewis Taylor, Scott Jurek, and Hal Koerner. I felt a little bit like I was in the middle of a Sesame Street spot: "Which one of these things doesn't belong," but the pace felt fairly sustainable and slowly I felt less out of place. Jurek dropped back first (at about mile 4) and then Koerner (at about mile 15). Also just beyond mile 15 was when Mackey began to separate and open up a lead on Taylor and I. For most of the next 25 miles Lewis Taylor and I jockeyed back and forth in 2nd and 3rd place with him running much stronger on the downhills and I a little stronger on the flats and uphills.

I was excited to be in this position but the problem was that my quads had begun to breakdown as early as mile 10! Lack of sleep? Lack of training on such hard packed trail? Or running some of the early downhills too fast? I'm not sure which caused this but it was pretty tough knowing that I was going to have to run through pretty significant muscle pain for more than 50 miles.

I kept moving though and kept being surprised that no one was catching me from behind.

At mile 35 you turn fully around and back track for more than 15 miles so you get to see where everyone else is in the race. I first saw Dave Mackey floating uphill a good 15 to 20 minutes ahead of me. This was also a spot where I was behind Lewis Taylor by a few minutes, but I knew the next 10 miles or so were going to favor me and I expected I would see him again soon enough. After I turned around I finally got to see where some people behind me were at. First down the hill came Hal Koerner and then Scott Jurek and if I recall I think Jon Olsen was right with Scott. They all seemed so close at the time I thought they would all be catching me soon. In reality I had 15+ minutes on most of them at this time (except Hal who was only 5 minutes or so back). And I ended up feeling really strong for the next 10 miles or so. I passed Lewis somewhere around mile 40 and then running in second place I began to feel confident for the first time in the race. I actually felt like maybe there was a chance I could hold off what seemed like the hordes of runners charging behind me.

By mile 48 though this confidence broke and I knew I was in a struggle just to find a way to the finish. The Miwok is an amazingly brutal course. It's not super technical but the downhills are steep, the uphills seem to keep coming at you, and the surface is VERY hard. I'm used to running in Juneau on snow, mud, planks, and moss. The Miwok course is as much different from the trails in Juneau as any trails could possibly be.

As I got deep into my pain beyond mile 50 I really just tried to focus on hydration and eating. Once things get bad it becomes much more important to focus on the basics. Once you are feeling the way I was at this point there is a very thin line between pain and danger. Without sticking to good hydration and eating you are begging for the danger.

At any rate I pushed on. On a climb before the second to last aid station (around mile 52) I saw two runners behind me and I actually felt a sense of relief that at least I could stop focusing on trying to maintain 2nd place that I had been in for the last 15 miles and focus completely on getting back to the the finish.

This was Jon Olsen and his pacer who I saw behind me. They ended up passing me right at the Hwy 1 aid station (mile 54) and then they were gone up the climb ahead. At the time I didn't even realize that it was a racer and a pacer, I thought I had been passed by two racers and was now in 4th place. When I got to the last aid station (mile 58) and found out that I was in 3rd still that gave me a pretty good boost and for the first time in more than an hour I actually decided to fight again. I only had 4 miles to go, I couldn't see anyone behind me down the trail and I wasn't going to let anyone catch me. Problem was I still had a big 2.5 mile climb and then a 1.5 mile drop to deal with. I was still running ok on the flats, but the ups and downs were killing me. This last stretch was painful, but when the finish is that close it finally becomes a good painful, and I start to get a bit emotional about finishing and the pain becomes easier to block out. I was even able to rally and run the last 1/2 mile or so pretty hard so as to at least come across the line looking like I felt as strong as everyone there probably thought I felt. After all, when you drop 3rd place in a field of top runners and most people have no idea who you are, they generally assume you felt great. This couldn't be further from the truth, but at least I was done and could begin to enjoy the excitement in my mind of a 3rd place finish even if I physically was pretty destroyed.

It's a great race they put on there. The post race hangout is great. Lots of tasty food and drinks, amazingly loaded goodie bags. I think there was more money worth of stuff in each bag than the entry fee. Got a chance to talk a bit with some of the people I had just raced against (all great people) and then relaxed for a couple hours before hitting the road.

Slowly over the course of the next day the reality of finishing 3rd in such a deep field began to set in a bit. I'm very proud of this race but by no means was this even close to as good of a race as I could have there. I'll have to wait to see if this is enough to get me back there again next year. I know I can run this course a lot faster than I did. This alone has me thinking pretty seriously about working out my '09 race schedule to be in the Miwok again.

I know there are many who think I'll be throwing away an opportunity that they would love to have by not running Western States this year, and don't get me wrong, I would love to run Western States this year, but it's not going to happen. I'm sure Western States is an amazing race, but I have never been one to choose my races based on how much other people want to do them. I get goose bumps thinking about riding The Great Divide Race next month. Western States on the other hand kind of seems a little too hyped for me. When you finish The Great Divide Race in Antelope Wells, New Mexico you are greeted by a border agent (if it's during the day, there's no one there at night) and then you ride your bike back 80 miles to get somewhere that you can actually get on a bus back to reality. When you finish Western States you are greeted by thousands of cheering fans and media with cameras and microphones. This is not a bad thing. It's just not so much for me. And I don't in any way mean this as a criticism of Western States. I will hopefully run Western States someday, but there is exactly zero chance that I will bag my Great Divide Plans and run it this year. My next ultra running test will be The Wasatch 100 in September where I intend to put everything I have on the line and see how the cards may fall.

Race details:
Shoes: Montrail Odyssey
Food: gels - about 1,000 calories; perpetuem - about 700 calories; bacon - about 500 calories; watermelon - as much as I could shove in at each aid station - maybe 300 total calories; one banana - 100 calories. Total: about 2,600 calories (about 300 per hour).
electrolytes: 5 Nuun tablets

Click here for full results

Monday, May 5, 2008

Quick Miwok Post

Was hoping to get a full race report up today but that might have to wait another day. I've driven 800 miles (to Utah) since the race ended so I haven't exactly had the time.

There seemed to be some confusion yesterday about the results. I did in fact finish third in a time of 8:34:02, but I did not have what I felt was a very strong race.

The trail surface was much harder than anything I run on in Juneau and it took a toll on my legs early on. By mile 15 my quads were fried and from there I just had to lower my head and plug along for 45 more miles.

There were some mental and physical ups and downs in there, but for most of the last two thirds of the race I felt like I was fading. Most of the uphills between mile 15 and mile 40 felt pretty good, but after mile 40 I was struggling every step of the way to the finish.

That said, I'm obviously very pleased with my third place finish, as in I'm so shocked that it really hasn't sunk in yet.

As far as Western States, that one's going to have to wait. There is no decision to be made. I've been planning on riding the GDR for almost a year now and this doesn't change that at all. More on this and a full race report to follow within the next day or two.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words before and after the race.

Congratulations to Dave Mackey on an amazing run.... and to all other finishers on this brutal course.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Time To Go

Miwok starts in less than 20 hours.

My main intent is to have fun. That said I'm going out there to run this thing as hard as I can and learn some things about myself. There are so many strong runners in this race. I could have a good race and not crack the top 25. That's scary and very exciting at the same time.

It's exciting to know that in 30 hours from now I will have about 100 times as much of an idea just where I fit into the serious (i.e. not just Alaska) ultra running scene. Should be a fun day.