Saturday, September 27, 2008

No Bear

Last week I decided I was going to run the Bear 100 this weekend. I entered the race, attended a friend's wedding, and then headed to southern Utah for a few days in the desert before the race. By Tuesday afternoon though I was still feeling pretty crappy from a cold that had begun last Friday (and maybe a bit from drinking too much at the wedding) and decided there really was no point in driving all the way back up to northern Utah to run a race that I was mostly only doing because I had nothing better to do. Especially considering that I ended up having something very enjoyable to do: I ended up backpacking in southern Utah for a couple days with some old friends and some new friends.

It looks like Ty Draney has won the Bear. He's an old friend of a friend of mine here in Utah and through this mutual friend I ended up hanging out with him for part of the day after the Wasatch 100. I was happy to see him win, and regret a bit that I wasn't there to race with him. Congrats Ty.

Now I need to figure out what I'm doing for the next couple weeks/months... a decision I've been putting off ever since The Wasatch 100, but that I really need to make within the next day or two...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Can't Say No

I thought maybe I could take a month or so off from running to give myself a nice long rest before getting ready for the Ultrasport which looms large only 5 months away now, but after just 10 days I'm itching to run again. And it's much more than just a casual itch to get out every now and then, but instead I feel renewed and wanting to run far and fast again.

I did a nice 11 mile trail run yesterday and by the end of the run I had made up my mind that I would jump right back into racing. And by this I don't mean next month or in a couple months, but rather next weekend.

Today though I woke up with a very sore throat and a looming sinus head cold which will likely force me to lay low for the next two or three days. I'm not sure yet if this means I won't race next weekend, this is something I'll decide on by early in the week. Ideally I would like to get out for a 25-30 miler on Sunday or Monday but this illness might not allow for that. I guess I'll just have to see how it progresses.

I really want to race next weekend though. I'm currently in a very indecisive and confused place in my mind and it would be really nice to have something in line that I could focus specifically on for the next week and hopefully I'd be able to use some of the time in this race to make some of the decisions that I currently need to make... Not to mention that I'd be stoked to get back out on trails in the mountains for another 20 hour jaunt next weekend. We'll see.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What Now?

I'm currently laying low out in upstate New York with my family. I head back to Utah next week and then I pretty much have no definite plan going forward from that point.

Trans Utah Mountain Bike Race is still somewhere in the back of my mind... but the fact that I've only ridden my mountain bike about 30 miles since the end of June kind of makes that pretty unlikely.

At the very least I'd like to get out for some mellow, more recreational, bikepacking trip(s) while the weather is still ideal.

I might head up to Northern Idaho to visit a friend for a bit.

I'm probably going to a Cataract Canyon rafting trip the second week of October.

More than anything though I need to decide where I'm going to live the next several months and start working again before every one of my credit cards is maxed out. I might end up back in Juneau, but more likely I will find somewhere in the Mountain West to spend the rest of the fall and winter. Whitefish, MT?; Durango, CO?; Santa Fe, NM?; Bend, OR?; Flagstaff, AZ?; Missoula, MT?; Ashland, OR?; Ketchum, ID?; Bozeman, MT?; Moab, UT?

My heart is with Whitefish since it is the smallest of all these places (and quite likely the cheapest), but there certainly are things that appeal to me about each of them. Any recommendations?

Moving forward with my running is another question mark for me right now. My plan was not to race again until January, and not to run at all again until mid October but now I feel like I might start running again next week and do another race or two before the end of the year. I'm thinking a bit about the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 milers (Madison and/or San Francisco). There are so few ultras with prize money that I'm very tempted to take a stab at either or both of these races at the outside chance that maybe I can pocket some much needed cash after all the time I've spent this year not working.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wasatch 100 Race Report

I decided more than 14 months ago that I wanted to run the Wasatch 100 this year. This was very much a focus race for me, one that I really wanted to get just right. This race became even more important to me after my DNF's in the Ultrasport and the GDR. I knew I would not be very happy with my season if my three main races all ended up in disappointment. This said though, I didn't really have any specific expectations for this race. As usual I just wanted to have fun and feel strong and let things play out for themselves. I ended up having about as much fun as I've ever had in any race, I felt very strong, and things played out pretty well.

For one of the first times ever I slept really well the night before the race. It felt really strange to be on my way to the race start and feel awake, alert, and ready to go... rather than the usual feeling of still being half asleep and wanting more than anything to be able to go back to bed for the entire day after laying awake with anxiety all night. After waiting in line to use the outhouse I just about missed the start of the race. That was perfect though. I didn't have to stand around with 200+ other runners just waiting for some guy to give us the go ahead. I just walked out of the bathroom, jogged over to the the mass of runners jumping up and down to stay loose, and started racing.

I never really plan strategies for races because I don't generally stick to them anyway so what's the point? This race was no different. I had no idea what my plan was, but almost immediately off the start I fell into a line near the race lead in about 5th place. This felt like a good place to be so I just hungout, feeling very comfortable with the pace.

We climbed quietly from the foothills up into the mountains and just near the top of that first big climb darkness faded into sunlight and the mood seemed to lighten. I chatted with a few of the other racers and we made our way up Chinscraper and on toward Francis Peak.

A bit past the first aid station (near mile 20) Jack Pilla and I had pulled a bit ahead of the rest of the racers but then we got lost for 5 or 10 minutes which caused the leaders to group back together in a pack of 4 near Sessions Aid Station (mile 28). Joining Jack and I were Andy Jones-Wilkins and Larry O'Neil.

From here the four of us ran bunched tight together all the way to Big Mountain (mile 40). It was a fun group to chat with and the pace felt very comfortable. Larry and I were a little slower than Andy and Jack getting out of the Big Mountain Aid Station so most of the way from there down to Alexander Ridge (mile 48) I ran just behind Larry, a couple minutes behind Andy and Jack.

Going into the race I was kind of dreading this section of the route. I knew it would be the hottest time of the day and when I scouted this section it felt very hard, dry, hot, and boring. On race day though I felt pretty good in this stretch, aided a lot by the fact that the weather was much cooler than I'd anticipated. This was the first point that I began to realize just how strong my body was feeling. I remember thinking at one point that I was almost halfway through the race and was really just beginning to feel warmed up. I had absolutely no muscle fatigue and I began to feel that I could easily increase my pace if needed. It was still early though and I decided to just hang tight.

I was a little quicker than Larry getting out of Alexander Ridge Aid Station so I decided to push for a bit to group back up with Jack and Andy. I caught them pretty comfortably just before mile 50 and we ran together down to Lamb's Canyon Aid Station (mile 53).

I ran my race with no crew or pacers. This certainly slowed me down a bit at the aid stations where I had drop bags that I had to locate, dig through, and repack before I could be on my way. At Lamb's Canyon though I didn't have a drop bag so I was in and out of there right away. Andy was out at the same time as me but within 5 minutes I had pulled ahead of him on the paved road up to the trailhead that would take us over to Millcreek. I don't feel like I picked up my pace at this point, but as it turned out I never saw another racer the rest of the day!

Somewhere around mile 65 things really started to click. I knew I had opened up a 15-20 minute lead and I was feeling very relaxed. I just kept plugging along and time began to drop away in chunks of hours rather than minutes. I had expected to arrive at Brighton (mile 75) worn out and dreading the last 25 miles, which by all accounts is the hardest stretch of this race. Instead though I felt surprisingly upbeat, fresh, and anxious to head back out on the trail as night was coming on quickly.

After a 6 or 7 minute stop at the Brighton Aid Station to swap out some items, eat some soup, and visit with Jill's parents who had driven up the canyon to see me come through I powered up the hill under the ski lifts just as the sun faded on the horizon. I put on some arm warmers, a warm hat, my headlamp, and fell back into a groove right away. I had 25 miles to go and I knew I was going to win.

About halfway to the finish from Brighton I decided that I wanted more than just the win, I wanted to try to break 20 hours. I had basically been running the same pace for 17.5 hours so it took awhile to convince myself to run faster. It just seemed so easy to keep plugging along the way I had for the entire day. Eventually though, somewhere between Rock Springs Aid Station and Pot Bottom (near mile 90) I finally convinced my body to make a serious push at breaking 20 hours.

I hit Pot Bottom (mile 93) with 70 minutes to go. If I were going to break 20 hours I would have to run the last 7 miles, the first 2 of which consisted of a steady climb that would eat up almost half of this 70 minutes, faster than any 7 mile stretch of my race so far. With 5 miles to go I only had 36 minutes to spare. The last 5 miles is pretty much all downhill, but was there any way I could possibly run just over 7 minute mile pace the last 5 miles of the Wasatch 100? Turns out that answer was no, but I came pretty close, finishing with a time of 20 hours 1 minute 7 seconds. I don't think I ever really cared if I broke 20 hours or not, but it was really nice to have something to push for, which helped me really enjoy the end of the race, probably more than any other stretch.

It turned out that the dreaded Brighton to the finish stretch only took me 5:15 (15 minutes faster than I had done it as a training run) and was by far my favorite part of the entire race. I loved running under the moonlight on the steepest, most technical, most remote section of the entire route. I felt so alone out there at that time, but never lonely. I had spent 14 months working toward this race, had done almost all of my training alone, scouted 80 miles of the route alone, raced alone with no crew or pacer, and now it was so comforting to get to finish this thing alone. When I blew through the last aid station I didn't even look up, I just stayed focused on the ground I could see through the beam of my headlamp and yelled out my number so the volunteers would know who I was.

The actual finish was a bit anti-climatic for me. Not because there were only a few people there (including Jill's parents who decided to drive around to the finish after seeing me come through Brighton in the lead). I actually prefer the finish to be low key and quiet like that, but it was very anti-climatic because I had to stop running. I was enjoying myself so much that I kind of just wanted to keep going, but stopping made me realize that it was over and for some reason I was a little uncomfortable with that right at first. I guess I had gotten so comfortable with being out there on my own that it took me a little while to warm up to "sharing" this moment with others.

Quickly though I adjusted and then it really began to sink in that I had just won Wasatch with one of the fastest times in race history (4th fastest to be exact). By this time I was very happy to share my time with the other people who were around. I vomited up a bunch of liquid (I think I took in a little too many electrolytes throughout the day so my body was absorbing a little too much liquid, especially when it got cool at night and I wasn't really sweating any more) but other than that I felt really good.

Two days later I am now in New York visiting my family and I feel amazingly well recovered. My feet are a bit sore and blistered but my energy level is normal and muscle fatigue is amazingly minimal. I thought for certain that this would be the hardest race I had ever run, and in many ways I guess that it was, but it sure never felt like it. Not during the run or after the run. It's such a great feeling to prepare for something for so long and have it go so smoothly. So much so that I never even really felt like I pushed myself all that hard during the run, other than the last hour or so trying to come in under 20 hours. The rest of my race was just slow and steady and in a groove. I guess one of these years I'll have to come back to Wasatch and push myself more to the limit and see how much faster I can do this route now that I have an actual understanding of this race and what I'm capable of doing in it.

For now though it's time to focus on getting some rest and slowly begin thinking about my next race. My plan was to not race again until the HURT 100 in January but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about another race or two before the end of this year...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eye One

Thanks all for following along. I had a great race. Pushed super hard at the end trying to come in under 20 hours and came up just over a minute short, which was still good for 4th fastest time in race history. I feel like I ran a very smart and very consistent race. I'll follow up with a full race report soon. Now it's time for my third breakfast.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Follow Wasatch Progress Online

Just got word that there is going to be online tracking of the Wasatch 100 on the race website. There is no link up yet but one will be added tonight. The race website where the link will be can be found here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Wasatch prep is done. I didn't end up having time to scout the entire route but the 20 miles that I didn't see will just give me something new to help pass the time on race day.

I did my last run that I will do until race day today. A mellow 9 miles on very flat terrain. Just planning to rest up the next couple days.

I feel really good about the condition I've been able to get myself into considering that it was less than two months ago that I felt so wasted from my GDR attempt that I was wondering if I would be able to compete again this entire year. Now though I have not only recovered from that, but I'm pretty sure that I've gotten myself into as good of shape as I've ever been in.

The weather looks great for Saturday. High temps should be in the 70's with nothing but bright sunshine all day and clear, star filled skies at night. A couple days ago a cold front came through with heavy rains and snow above 7,000 feet. That moisture should go a long ways in helping with the dust and sand on the trails.

I have no way of knowing just how my body's going to feel on Saturday but it's certainly a nice feeling to have no doubts about my process of preparing for this race. Perhaps once the race is done I will notice some things that I should have done differently but right now I feel very good about my chances of having a good day on Saturday.

For now I just need to focus on eating, resting, and sleeping well the next couple days. I know I won't get much sleep on Friday night so I really need to sleep a lot these next two nights.

The race starts at 5:00am Saturday. I wish that all these races didn't always start so early. The shuttle bus from Salt Lake City leaves at 4am. That means I need to get up around 3:30! The first 2 hours of the race will be run in the dark. Why do we need to run in the dark in the morning when everyone, no matter how fast, is going to run in the dark that night as well? I don't mean this as a specific criticism of Wasatch, but rather Ultra races in general. It makes sense to start a marathon or other shorter races early to beat the heat of the day, but when a race is going to go beyond 20 hours you aren't going to beat the heat of the day by starting early, you're just going to run a different stretch of the route in the heat of the day. OK, enough about that rant, it's not really important.

For those interested in following the race you can check out the race website. I'm not sure if they will be posting progress as the race is happening, but hopefully they do. At the very least there should be results up once we finish.