Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Always Sunny In Juneau

I flew back to Juneau today. I indicated in my last post that I was planning to take some time completely off from running. I figured it'd be up to a few weeks. The thing is though that it was a beautiful Fall day today, I was in a great mood, I was done unpacking, and I wanted to go for a run. And so I did. Just a few miles. It felt great. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm fully recovered from racing 200 miles in two weeks but I think rather than taking a few weeks completely off I'm going to give myself some active recovery for a few weeks. Maybe I'll run 4 or 5 days a week for a total of 30-50 miles per week. Or, better yet, I'll just run if I feel like running and rest if I feel like resting. That sounds perfect right now. And before too long I'll be getting my mind and body ready for racing again. Haven't decided for certain when and where my next race will be. It might be fun to race out East for my first time ever. And of course there's the showdown in Marin for the big bucks coming up in just a couple months now. Maybe I've even got two more races in me this year. I know my mind and body do, but what I'm not so sure about is my bank account.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bear 100 Race Report

I had no expectations going into this race. My only intention was to enjoy running all day and try to get some of the stress from Wasatch out of my system.

The good thing about going into a race in this laid back of a mindset is that I was actually able to sleep soundly for 7 hours the night before the race. I didn't feel like I brought my best physical condition to the start line Friday morning but I knew that my mind was in the right place... A much better combination than the other way around.

And so we started. And I ran for about 5 or 6 hours without even thinking once about the fact that I was running a race. I ran for awhile at the start with Luke Nelson and Eric from Montana (never did catch his last name). After the first aid station I pushed further ahead of them and quickly caught up to Zach Gingerich. I ran with Zach for awhile and then pushed ahead and caught up to Troy Howard. I ran with him for awhile and then pushed ahead and caught up to Nick Pedatella. I ran with him for awhile and then we caught up to Leland Barker (race director who had started an hour earlier than the rest of the field). Running with Leland we caught up to Phil Lowery (who had also started early). After I pushed ahead of Phil, Leland, and Nick at about mile 36 I would end up running alone for the rest of the day.

It had been a fun morning of running and chatting with others, but I was kind of glad to be off in front on my own. Actually I didn't really think or care about being in front, but in front is the most likely place to be able to run alone for a long period of time. And I was in the mood to run alone.

I wasn't feeling physically great for a lot of the time after mile 40, but every time I felt weak I would rebound after a few minutes and feel strong for several minutes. The heat started to become an issue around mile 40 as well. It wasn't that hot but I was running out of water between every aid station. I'd fill up with 40 ounces and then hit the trail again, only to finish off this water well before the next aid station. I'm not sure why, but I was drinking a lot more water than I did at Wasatch, even though it was hotter at Wasatch.

Coming into Logan River aid station (mile 69) the heat had finally broken and I was beginning to feel really strong again after an hour long rough patch just before that. And then my 3 minutes at this aid station revived me to the best I'd felt all day. It's amazing what some upbeat aid station volunteers, a can of coke, and a warm cloth to wash off your face can do for one who has just run 69 miles.

After Logan River the sun was getting low and I was really excited to push on into the darkness. One of my favorite things about running long races are the transitions from light to dark or vice versca. It almost feels like you're running in a different dimension when you've been running in daylight for 12+ hours and then suddenly you're running into the faint beam of a headlamp. I love it.

Anyway, I left the mile 75 aid station with enough daylight that I still hadn't turned on my headlamps. Unfortunately just after this aid station there was an important trail junction which was marked with reflectors and tape. It was too dark for me to see the tape, but still a little too light for me to have my lights on so I didn't see the reflectors either. After about a 25 minute detour I was finally back on route headed in the right direction. My response to getting lost for that much time was entirely mellow. I tried for a little while to force myself to be at least a little upset with the time I'd lost since I knew I was on pace for a pretty fast time, but it just didn't really concern me much at all. And there was certainly nothing to gain by worrying about it anyway.

When I got to Gibson Basin (mile 81) I had decided that I was going to start taking in as many calories as I could at the remaining 3 aid stations in hopes of not having to eat too many more gels. After eating more than 100 gels in two weeks (60 at Wasatch and 40 to this point in the Bear) I was simply ready for some real food.

And so I went onto a soup and coke diet and moved along station to station until cruising down to the finish in a time of 18:43.

I felt really worn out for about 2 hours after finishing. I thought maybe this was going to be one of those ones that took my body a few days to feel human again. I slept for about 4 hours though and when I woke up I felt great. My body went into hyper recovery mode and I've just been shovelling in food and liquid ever since, feeling more and more recovered by the hour.

My plan all along was to take 2 or 3 weeks off after this race and then not race again until December at the earliest, but I do have some very tentative racing plans floating around in my mind so perhaps I'll start back at it later this week and see where that takes me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

6 for 6

I completed the Bear 100 in 18:43. Another hundred mile win and another course record. My 6th win in 6 hundred mile races, including the course record on each of the 5 courses I've raced. For whatever that's worth. More than anything though it was just a really great day to run all day. The weather was perfect and that route is as beautiful as any race I've ever done (or at least any race outside of Alaska).

I felt pretty good most of the day. My legs started to feel heavy at about mile 40. I felt great some of the time after that but I also felt really weak some of the time after that.

I never really thought of this one as a race. Rather just an excuse to run all day through some beautiful terrain. I would like to come back and "race" the Bear sometime. With a fresh and focused effort I know I could go well below 18 hours, maybe below 17.

I need a nap now.

I'll probably write up a more detailed report in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn in Utah

Went golfing with Karl on Sunday. Let's just say we're a lot more evenly matched as runners than we are as golfers. He had about one fewer stroke than me for every minute that I was faster than him at Wasatch. You can do the math yourself to figure out just how bad I am at golf. I guess I'll settle for that trade though :)

Ran a little over 3 hours in the San Rafael Swell on Monday and I feel like my body is pretty much back to normal and ready to give another 100 miler a go. I'm not going into the Bear with any expectations. I just want to have a fun run through the mountains and see how it plays out. If I'm feeling strong I'll push myself a bit as the day progresses, but if I'm not feeling strong I am going to be willing to slow way down until I come around. Patience is the name of the game for hundreds and I expect to have more patience with this one than any that I've ever run.

Spent the past two days camping and relaxing near Moab. The weather has finally cooled off here. For the first two weeks I was in Utah it was in the upper 80's or 90's everyday but the past 3 days have been in the upper 60's to low 70's. If you've ever spent any time in the Utah desert this time of year, after the summer heat has broken, you know how much of a treat it can be. I've been really lazy (by design) the past couple days, but my mind and my body have felt so content being where I'm at. I'm slowly starting to come a little bit around to the idea of heading back to Juneau next week, but right now I'm super content to be in the warm sun by day and out under the stars around a juniper scented campfire at night. If you too could use a little "Southern Utah medicine" check out this running trip that Karl is leading in Moab in a couple weeks. Knowing Karl, and knowing most of the trails around Moab, I wouldn't expect anything other than a really kick ass time.

The Bear 100 starts at 6am Mountain Time on Friday. Here's a link to the race website and the live runner tracker in case anyone's interested in "following along" during the race.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Running and Love

(This post is long but if I've ever posted anything on this blog that's worth your time this might be it):

For most of this year I've been noticing a change in the relation between my life, my training, and my racing. It's been a very slow change that's been hard for me to understand but I think I'm finally starting to process it and put it together into real, concrete thoughts. Having the race I did at Wasatch (i.e. a performance which shocked and confused me with how fast I ran) has helped a lot with forcing me to look for some of these things which I've been able to feel for awhile now, but have been unable, until now, to put a finger on. Basically my performance at Wastach, and to a lesser degree at Crow Pass in July has forced me to confront the question, why am I running so much faster now than I was just 6 months or a year ago?

It's easy to attribute it to the fact that I'm quite new to racing ultras and that I'm just learning the ropes and still on the steep section of the bell curve. I think there is some truth to that, but I really don't think that's all of it.

Things changed for me a lot after my Miwok disaster in May. I was planning to run either Western States or Hardrock this summer. With my DNF at Miwok I no longer had the option of running Western States, but for some reason my focus didn't ever concentrate itself on Hardrock. After Miwok I took some time off from running altogether and when my mind drifted back around I found that I didn't have any desire to "train" for my next "big race." Instead I just wanted to run. I wanted to run when I felt like it, where I felt like it, with almost no specificity toward preparing myself for my next race. I decided to flow with this mentality for awhile and kind of assumed that shortly I'd come back around to my usual pattern of training to prepare myself for my next race.

We had one of the most perfect summer's imaginable in Juneau this year (weather wise), and instead of my mind coming back toward more specific training, it just kept wandering more and more.

This was June. I decided I didn't really have the focus to do Hardrock so when my spot on the waitlist came up I quietly declined, and to some extent wondered whether I would ever seriously race again. And yet day after day, week after week, I was having more fun running than I ever had. I stopped planning runs more than a few hours in advance, unless I was trying to coordinate something with others. I would get out of work and decide where I wanted to run based on the weather at the time and how I felt at the time. I stopped running on roads altogether. I started climbing up to mountain ridges almost everyday. And I began to run almost everyday with other people that I had previously only run with once in awhile. By mid summer I began to notice this trend of finishing runs, sometimes as often as 4 or 5 days a week in which I felt like I had just done one of my favorite training runs ever.

The time came to race Crow Pass and I had all kinds of doubts about whether my body was anywhere near being physically ready to run as fast as I knew I'd need to win that race. I hadn't afterall done any kind of speed work since April! And then I ran Crow Pass, still convinced that it might be my last serious race ever, and shattered the course record in a race that has been around for almost 30 years. What the hell? That was a bit confusing, but I figured it was an exception, that I just happened to have a really good day, and was aided hugely by having another runner work with me and push me to such a fast time.

After recovering from Crow Pass I decided I was definitely going to run Wasatch and I began to convince myself that maybe I could stay with this approach of having my running be about my training, not about my racing. Instead of training for a specific race and tailoring my training for that race, I realized that for a few months I had been training for me, for love, for happiness, to share my experiences in the mountains with friends, and because it had become my favorite thing to do. No longer was the racing the focal point of my running, but rather the racing was becoming just an expression of me and who I am.

Instead of 5 or 6 of my weekly runs feeling like dutiful training, with one or two really fun runs a week, the scales had turned completely. Suddenly almost every run I did left me thinking, "wow, that was one of my favorite runs ever." I think 90% or more of "my favorite runs ever" occurred in June, July, August, and September of this year!

Going into Wasatch I still had some serious doubts as to whether this kind of general, passionate, heartfelt, but completely unscientific style of training could really get the job done on race day. Obviously my performance in Wasatch did away with these doubts and I've spent most of the past week trying to figure out why this has worked so well.

In a post earlier this year (Ironically, less than one week after Miwok) titled "Why I Run," I talked about being so into running because it was something that was 100% me, and what I got out of running (from a performance standpoint) was entirely up to what I put into. It's shocking to me how far off base this seems to me now, only 4 months later.

As I came to really love my training runs more and more this summer I found myself wanting to share these runs with others. For my entire running career I have been a solo runner. Until this year well over 95% of the running I did was by myself and that was the way I liked it. I always equated running with others with making it impossible for me to do exactly the run, at exactly the pace that I wanted to do. Even when I wanted people to run with me in the past, I was unwilling to deviate much from my training schedule so I ended up running solo because no one wanted to go to the track with me and run 30 quarter mile repeats, or spend their entire Saturday afternoon plugging along on the slushy shoulder of the road for 30+ miles. Now though I am willing to be entirely flexible in my training and this makes it really easy to find people to run with because I can work around their interests.

And so, for the first time in my life, I really began to share my running with others. The snowball effect that occurred was subtle at first, but eventually it became too obvious to ignore. The love I had found for training; for being in the mountains; and for life in general became contagious and almost everyone that I was running with was enjoying their running as much or more than ever:

My roommate had hardly ever run in his life until this year and after a summer of running up in the mountains a few days a week he ended up coming down to Utah and crewing/pacing almost 30 miles of the Wasatch race.

My most reliable training partner this year has been a guy who has lived in Juneau for 50 years. At age 70 I'm pretty sure he spent more time up on mountain ridges above town this summer than he ever has in his life.

My friend who I ran with a bit in the spring, before she moved away from Juneau, is now running more than she ever has in her life, and when I talk to her about her running she has more excitement about it and dedication to it than I would have ever imagined her having.

Another friend of mine who I only ran with a few times before she moved away from Juneau last month has such an obvious mindset to be good at ultras. The first run we ever did together I told her we might be out for as long as 3 hours. When we ended up being out for 7 (the last 3 of which were after dark with no lights and blazing our own trail through thick underbrush) I figured I'd never hear from her again. Instead she calls me regularly to chat about the crazy runs she's been doing since she left Juneau. I know she has put in at least three 30+ mile days in the past month and before that she had never run further than a marathon.

My friend who I ran with once or twice a week in preparation for Crow Pass got himself into the best shape of his life leading up to that race and took 20 minutes off his time from last year, more than twice as much time as I took off from my Crow Pass previous best time.

My ex-girlfriend has never been a runner. Dating me for 8 years probably made her even less likely to run since I made running seem so specific, laborious, and anything but fun. After we split up this spring though she ended up spending the second half of her summer doing several mountain runs around Juneau. I don't claim any credit for influencing her to do this but I do hope that we get to run together in the mountains sometime in the future, something that neither one of us would have ever wanted to do together until now (and maybe she still wouldn't want to) that we actually have an interest in running for some of the same reasons.

I ran a few times this summer with some of Juneau's high school runners. When I was in high school 70 minutes was a "long" run. These kids however would go up into the mountains with me on 3-5 hour runs and love every minute of it. I would have died from doing that when I was that age.

Then there's my friend who refuses to go running with me (I'm still holding out hope that she'll come around eventually), and I don't really think that I've influenced her running in any significant way, but she became so interested in and so supportive of my running as being an extension of who I am that almost continually throughout Wasatch I could feel her running with me. And when it got late and I was really tired I actually had halucinations a few times that she was sitting on the side of the trail.

Anyway, so I know some people who run, and I ran with some of them this summer, and we had fun doing it. Big deal. That's how I would have seen it even just a month ago. I realize now though that this is a big deal. As I ran with these people more and more it forced me to deviate almost entirely from any kind of specific training. And all the while I've become significantly faster than ever before. The only way that I can explain this is that I'm not alone in my running anymore, and that simply having a pure and genuine love for the running that I do on a day to day basis has made me faster than any track workouts or tempo runs ever have. I have influenced people around me with my running more this year than ever before, and their love for their running, their love for themselves, and thier love for me has come back to me ten fold, and made me even that much stronger, happier, and ultimately faster. For the first time in my life I have opened myself up to the idea of letting others influence my running and the result has been an undeniable positive effect.

At the end of the day I very much still ackowledge that it takes a serious amount of "training" to run Wasatch in 18.5 hours or Crow Pass in under 3 hours, but it's been a shocking, and very comforting revelation to realize that, with being more willing to accept the help of others that this "training" can be so much more fun than I ever imagined. And that by having fun doing it, and coming to love the process of it more than ever, and coming to love myself and the people around me more than ever, that I am now faster than ever. I also think it's worth noting that my shockingly fast times in Crow Pass and Wasatch both included other runners (Eric Strabel and Karl Meltzer respectively) pushing me with record shattering performances of their own. In the same way that I have learned to open up my "training" to being influenced by other people in my life, I think it's only fitting that it was with the "aid" of other racers that I was able to run as fast as I did in these races.

I also ackowledge that this idea applies less and less as you talk about racing shorter and shorter distances, but for something as long as 50 or 100 miles I'm convinced that the most important thing to have in your arsenal is a genuine love for your running and a willingness to share this love with others and to let them share their love with you. If you have this everything else you need can fall into place naturally.

I know this might sound like a lot of emotional, sappy, hippy bull shit but I would challenge anyone to give it a try and see what you find out. Throw away your training schedule, find a mountain and run up it. The next day find another mountain and run up it. Once you fall in love with doing that share this love with others. It can be that simple. At least it has been for me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Next Up?

I've recovered nicely from Wasatch. Spent the past 4 days down in Southern Utah. First just relaxing for a couple days and then doing a 2 day backpacking trip in Escalante National Monument the past 2 days. Feeling good and recovered and ready to check out how running feels again. I'll get out for a short one today and then plan to get together sometime tomorrow with Karl for a run in the mountains. I'll try to put in one long run either Sunday or Monday (3 or 4 hours) and then start to rest up again for The Bear 100 which I'm running one week from tomorrow.

I've had the Bear in the back of my mind all summer but decided that I would not make a decision on it until a few days after Wasatch. I figured my body could be ready for it but I wasn't sure where my mind would be. I feel now though like my mind is ready to run another 100 miler. In fact I think my mind may benefit a lot from running another 100 miler right now. Almost like I "need" another really long run before my mind will be ready to head back to my life in Alaska. This said, I don't think my mind is ready to race another one, but rather to run one pretty relaxed and mellow. I think this will be really good for me right now. My competitive interest may change 30 or 40 miles into the race, but for now I'm definitely approaching the Bear as a "fun run" and as a test to see just how my body can respond to such effort just two weeks after something like Wasatch.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with myself for the next week. Can't decide whether to chill here in Salt Lake, head up to the mountains, or back down to the desert. I guess I'll probably end up going with a combination of the three.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wasatch Race Report - The Full Version

I always hate the week or two before a big race. I imagine all kinds of problems with my health, both mental or physical health. With this race I never really had that though. I felt great all of the time leading up to this race. I was in Colorado for two weeks getting used to high elevation and then in Utah for a week getting everything in line for the race. I never felt stressed about it though and come the morning of the race I felt very calm and prepared.

I woke at 4:30 (ah, the beauty of camping at the race start and sleeping until the last possible moment) and the parking lot was full of racers getting last minute things in order. I shovelled in a banana, a berry smoothie, a couple gels, and some coffee; Checked all my gear for the 4th or 5th time, put on some sunblock, and I was ready to roll. One minute before the start I made my way to the front of the pack and made a little pre race, pre dawn small talk with Karl Meltzer. We wished each other luck and stared blankly down the dark trail ahead as the time counted down from 10 seconds. And then we were off.

I fell in behind Karl and had no plans of running in the lead before day break. I opted for a small, watch battery powered headlamp for this section of the race. Partly because it was so small and lightweight, but even more so that I wouldn't push out ahead at too fast of a pace. I pretty much couldn't run faster than 10 minute per mile pace without outrunning the beam of my light... perfect tool to help hold back for the first couple hours. And so we climbed up and up into the mountains. For most of the first two hours we were a group of 6. Joining Karl and I were Hal Koerner, Josh Brimhall, Jared Campbell, and John Anderson. I felt relaxed and strong but I could tell that most of the others did too. No one seemed to be working too hard all the way to Francis Peak aid station at mile 18. Josh lead the way into the aid station, but I was only a few seconds back and Karl and Hal could be seen up the road just a minute or two back. This is the first race I've ever done with a fully organized and committed crew. My roommate Dan had flown down from Alaska earlier in the week and I think he was almost as excited for this race as I was. He had me in and out of Francis Peak without hardly stopping and I was into the lead for what would turn out to be the rest of the race!

I was feeling strong and relaxed but I knew that I had no interest in trying to run away from the field this early on so I tried to slow down and let the chase pack reel me in. At one point 3 or 4 miles past Francis Peak I saw Josh and Karl behind me and I slowed even further, expecting that they would catch me within a few minutes and I would be able to relax and let one of them set the pace until I really wanted to begin racing at Lamb's Canyon (mile 53). For some reason though they never caught me. I was in and out of Bountiful B aid station without stopping at all and on the long straight away beyond that I couldn't see anyone behind me. I was pretty confused. I thought I was slowing down waiting for them but they just never came to me. In hindsight I realize I must have been moving a lot faster than I thought at the time, but in the moment it really just kind of confused me. Finally when I went through Swallow Rocks aid station (mile 34) I decided it was no longer worth trying to run with the chase pack. I didn't want to think about the prospect of being chased for 80+ miles but in the back of my mind I kind of knew that I had gone past the point of no return and that if I let anyone catch me that it would now be a mental defeat and that I might not be able to stay with them.

I cruised in and out of Big Mountain (mile 38) feeling strong and confident, but the day was getting hot. about 5 miles past Big Mountain my stomach really started to bother me. It had also bothered me between Francis Peak and Bountiful B but a little Coke at Bountiful B settled it back down for about 20 miles. Now though it was really unsettled and wasn't allowing me to take in any food. Even drinking water seemed like too much for awhile. I had to drink though as the temperatures around Alexander Springs aid station (mile 47) must have been pushing 90 degrees. at about mile 50 I was in serious trouble and I could sense Karl and the others breathing down my neck. I was reduced to walking, even the flat terrain, and stopping about every 10 minutes to slouch over with my hands on my knees. I repeated this pattern for almost an hour and finally made my way down to Lamb's Canyon (mile 53). At this point I thought for sure my race was over. I never thought about stopping at Lamb's but I felt like a dead man walking and that it was only a matter of when, not if I would have to stop. I hadn't eaten anything in over an hour, it was stupid hot, and my mind had gone south. The people at the aid station helped perk me back up a bit though. Mostly Dan, but also others who were there supporting other racers. One thing I really liked about this race was how supportive everyone was through the whole day. Not just my crew and the race volunteers, but also the crew of the racers chasing me down.

Dan ran with me for a couple miles up the road out of Lamb's Canyon and this really helped bring me back to reality and put things into perspective. Not only did I still have about a 10 minute lead on Karl, but I was also several minutes ahead of Kyle Skaggs course record pace. I started the climb over to Mill Creek Canyon and finally realized that it was silly to be thinking about anything other than doing what I need to do to get my stomach back on track and then go back on the attack. A little while before Mill Creek aid station my stomach finally came around and I was able to start catching back up on calorie consumption. I like to eat 100 calories every 20 minutes when I'm racing. Usually I can just stick to that rate of consumption and everything goes smooth. On this day though my stomach was pretty much on the edge of failure for about 2/3 of the race. Numerous times I needed to go 60+ minutes without eating anything and then try frantically to catch back up when my stomach felt better.

Leaving Mill Creek I knew Karl was only 10 minutes or so behind me, but I also started to get my confidence back for the first time in over 15 miles. I still had almost 40 miles to go but I could start to smell the finish. I was through Mill Creek about an hour faster than my time last year and I knew that if I could keep my stomach on track that I could potentially end up with a shockingly fast time. I tried as best I could to keep these thoughts out of my mind, but it was hard to do so because my legs, as they had most of the day, felt great. Things really began to click when I was climbing from Desolation Lake up to Scott's Pass (about mile 70). My stomach was letting me eat as much as I wanted to, the heat was finally breaking, and I was really having a lot of fun. But all the while I knew Karl was still lurking close behind. I confirmed this from the top of the Wasatch Crest when I could look back down and see him roll into Desolation aid station where I had just been about 15 minutes earlier.

The run down the paved road to Brighton was about exactly what you might expect of a downhill section of pavement 72 miles into a race: horrible. But it went by fast and then here I was at Brighton, 70 minutes faster than I was last year, and 25 minutes faster than Kyle Skaggs was in 2007 when he set the course record of 19:35.

The Wasatch 100 is basically two separate runs. A 75 mile warm up to Brighton and then a 25 mile race from Brighton to the finish. The route has so many tough climbs, rutted; dusty; sandy; rocky trail, and shockingly steep drops in the last 25 miles that it almost feels like you're not running in the some mountain range anymore. Add to this the accumulated fatigue of having already run for 75 miles and it's really an intimidating way to finish a race. Yet somehow Brighton to the finish is by far my favorite part of this course. It's beautiful in it's brutality and somehow really comforting even though it's forcing so much physical discomfort onto your body. And with these thoughts running through my mind I nervously joked with Karl's crew that she should be sure to let him know that I was just getting warmed up. In reality I was scared to death. I had been running alone for 10 hours, sensing Karl hunting me down the entire time, and if I were going to win this thing I was going to have to hold him off for 5 more hours. Leaving Brighton 25 minutes ahead of course record pace with Karl Meltzer chasing me close behind was in some ways just where I wanted to be, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't really stressful.

Dan decided to try to run with me from Brighton to the finish. I was pretty stoked about this. It allowed me to chat with him and try to forget about just how much pressure I was feeling to keep my shit together for 25 more miles. We took the climb up to Sunset Pass pretty easy and after that I was ready to really start pushing things. We were in and out of Ant Knolls (mile 79) without even stopping and then onto Pole Line Pass in what felt like just a few minutes later. It was now dark and I was now fixated on the finish. I started to realize that I could finish before midnight (sub 19 hours) and that if Karl was going to catch me he was going to have to virtually kill himself to do so. And then climbing up to the ridge between Pole Line Pass and Rock Springs I looked back down below and saw his headlamp following me up the trail. I knew that he was a good 20 minutes behind me right there but to be able to see him for the first time in several hours scared the shit out of me. And so I lowered my head and pushed even harder. By this point Dan was no longer able to keep up with me and I got into a nice meditative rhythm for several miles. Between Rock Springs and Pot Bottom though the trail is really tough. They call this a 6 miles stretch of trail but I think it's closer to 8 or 9. And in this particular case it felt more like 12. It just went on and on for what felt like hours.

I finally rolled into Pot Bottom (mile 93) at 17:20. Last year I ran from Pot Bottom to the finish in 1:10. This was the first point where it really sunk in just how fast I was going to finish this thing. I began to think about how I could walk the entire way to the finish and still shatter the course record. And how I could probably crawl to the finish and still beat my time from last year. And then I would remember Karl back there, chasing me down, only about 20 minutes behind. I never thought I could run this race anywhere near as fast as I did, but I certainly didn't think that if running that fast I would be looking over my shoulder the entire day. The fact that I hadn't run away with this race by this point is a testament to just how incredible of a day Karl had as well. It's pretty amazing that he just keeps getting faster and faster with each race he does. 10 more years and he might own every 100 mile record on the planet :)

Anyway, I decided to take the climb out of Pot Bottom really easy and then just pound the last 5 miles of downhill as hard as I could. I got to the top of the climb and I was ready to go. I was striding down the rocky trail with everything I had. My quads were in some pretty serious pain but I ignored it and simply sped up some more. When I hit the smooth single track with about 2 miles to go I was running so fast that my momentum was throwing me off the sides of curves. I didn't care. I just wanted to run fast. I had the race locked up, the course record shattered, and could have eased into the finish. But instead I sped up even more. And it felt better and better the faster I went.

When I crossed the finish I was relieved to be done, relieved that I no longer had to worry about Karl hunting me down, relieved that I could sit down and relax, but mostly relieved that my mind could stop thinking about racing. Usually in 100 mile races my mind has all kinds of time to wander off on tangents and process all kinds of things that I otherwise might not ever find the time to think about. In this race though I felt like I was on the edge of physical (mostly stomach) and mental (stress about being chased so closely for 80 miles) collapse so often that I really needed to keep my mind focused on the race at hand or else I would wander off and never come back.

When it was all said and done I had finished in 18:30:55... more than 90 minutes faster than last year and more than 60 minutes faster than the previous course record. I still haven't been able to process just what this fast of a race really means to me. I knew that if things went well I could go faster than I did last year, but never once did I think I could go anywhere near as fast as I did. I'm still trying to figure out why/how it happened and maybe I'll share that some other time if I come up with any ideas.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quick Wasatch Thoughts

Got some sleep and I'm still unable to really put many words to yesterday's race.

I'll write a full race report soon, but one thing I will say now is that I have never run a race in which I was so close to physical and mental collapse for so much of the time. It was stressful in every sense of the word, but in some ways I guess persevering through that will make it even more satisfying once I'm able to understand it better.

One thing I will say is that I don't ever again want to spend 85 miles being chased by Karl. He was shockingly relentless in his pursuit. I felt like I couldn't do anything to shake him, and if I had it to do again I think I would have hung back with him and the others a lot longer than I did. I guess it worked out OK though.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I'm in Utah now after 2 weeks in Colorado. I spent most of my time in Colorado above 8,000 feet so I feel very ready to deal with the altitude.

Ran about 12 miles up in the mountains with Hal and Karl today. It was nice to do a mellow run together before we drive each other into the ground next week.

I feel really well prepared for this race. I've done so much more mountain running this summer than ever in my life, I've slept really well in the past week, and have been feeling pretty good on most all of my runs, especially when climbing. None of this means that things will go perfect on race day, but it's nice to feel like I've done almost as much as possible to ensure that things go well. Then again I felt the same way going into Miwok this year so I'm trying not to get too confident.