Tuesday, August 8, 2017

2017 Ouray 100 - Race Report

The top of our first climb into Silver Basin.

I don’t seem to like running more than one hundred mile race per year.  While I’m sure I could finish more than one in a calendar year, it is hard, maybe even impossible to get two top-notch performances out of a body at that distance.  The only problem with this is that after a years time the lessons you learned from the race tend to fade from memory.  But this year I dropped at Hardrock three weeks before racing the Ouray 100.  While I wish I could have finished Hardrock (race report here) and Ouray, getting significant 100 mile experience weeks before Ouray without killing my body by running the whole 100 miles at Hardrock ended up working well for me. 

Following Dan Metzger down from Ft. Peabody, which is directly above Imogene Pass.  Stormsa brew'n.

I was able to stay calm during the early miles of Ouray.  I made sure to take in sufficient calories and relaxed at aid stations a couple times early in the race to keep my mind from going into a frantic race mode.   I enjoyed the insane views.  I even brought my phone to take a picture at the top of each of the 14 climbs along the course.  I saw bears, deer, an eagle and was buzzed by a bat in the perimeter trail tunnel.  In true San Juan fashion, we were dealt sunny skies, rain, hail, thunder and rainbows.

After hours of rain, hail and thunder, the clouds broke at the top of Corkscrew Gulch.

With 41,000’ of climbing and 41,000’ of descending over 102 miles, there wasn’t a whole bunch of runnable terrain.  I hiked up 99% of anything uphill and shuffled slowly down steep, wet, rocky trails, frequently using my poles during the majority of the descents.

Dinosaur tracks at the top of the Silvershield Trail.

Thanks to my wife, Elissa, for the help at aid stations, and to all the helpful aid station volunteers, including last year’s winner, Avery Collins.  Jeason and Annie Murphy took good care of me the Ironton aid station, as did Megan Hicks at the Crystal Lake aid station.   Kim Wrinkle was out there encouraging all of us at multiple aid stations, sneaking in some good photos.  I would also like to thank the RD, Charles Johnston, for not having the sense to put on an easier race.  Approximately 30% of the starters finished this year, which is a huge increase from last year’s numbers.  He has an appreciation for accomplishing things that are difficult.  If you ever peruse his Facebook feed you’ll see pictures of  his projects which consist of things like broken down motorized equipment and non-functional musical instruments – items a lot of people, myself included,  steer clear of.  But Charles appreciates uneasy challenges, true challenges, ones you take on without knowing whether or not you can complete it, and he offers up a grand test with this race.  Thanks Charles.

Sun setting on the Reds.  Photo taken halfway up to Richmond Pass.

Congratulations to everyone who dared to start this difficult race and kudos to the 20 finishers (http://www.ouray100.com/tracking).  It was inspiring to see the first female finisher (ever) of this race, Melissa Beaury, move well all day and night, and part of the next day to finish 5th overall.  Thanks to Matt Smith (2nd place) and Kevin Sturmer (3rd place) for pushing me throughout the race.

Crossing the finish line with Penny.
pc: Kim Wrinkle

After failing to tough out Hardrock, I wore these reminders of a couple brave young men that I was fortunate enough to meet through working as an RN.  What they've been through is way tougher than anything I'll have to endure, especially silly little races.  Seeing these bands throughout the race helped me stay strong and reminded me of a couple remarkable families.

Sponsor Shout Outs:

Julbo:  My Aerolite’s are the most comfortable glasses I’ve owned to date.  The photochromic lenses adjusted perfectly all day through sunshine and dark skies. 

VFuel:  I drank a lot of Black Cherry Cola drink mix early in the race and put down a lot of Peach Cobbler Gels all the way to the end of the race.  Those, with a little real food mixed in from aid stations, kept my stomach super happy for 30+ hours.  Didn’t get nauseous once!

Drymax Socks:  I started the race off in the Lite Trail Running socks.  After hours of rain and soaked feet, I changed into a dry pair of Lite Trail Running socks at mile 42.  My new socks were soaked again before too long, but regardless, they worked perfectly.  No blisters after 30+ hours on the trails, with wet feet for the majority of the race.

2017 Hardrock 100 - Race Report

Hardrock, soft mind.

My training leading up to the event seemed pretty solid.  I spent a good amount of time at higher elevations, lots of steep miles while running and while hiking with my daughter Penny on my back.

Leading up to the race was different this year.  I wasn’t hanging out in Silverton for a couple weeks leading up to race day, which was kind of nice.  I missed seeing a bunch of friends like I have the previous two times I’ve run this race, when I did stay in Silverton prior to race day.  Now I live in Ouray, one mile from the aid station at mile 56 of the counter-clockwise course.  I didn’t have to take weeks off of work to head out and acclimate.  My friends and family came to support me, and we got to hang out in my house.  This was nice and mellow compared to the buzz in Silverton leading up to race day.

The race started and everything seemed to be happening as expected.  Then G.I. distress reared its ugly head.  I felt okay leaving Grouse Gulch with my pacer, Graham, ran most of the first half of the climb, then felt horrible for the second half of the climb, feeling dizzy and tired.  I puked at Engineer Pass and slowly ran down to Ouray. 

Not tough enough.  Chamoun helping me out at the Ouray aid station.
pc: Erik Schulte

I needed to sit and eat a bit, regroup.  Suddenly I got really cold even though it wasn’t cold out.  I laid on a cot, was covered by a couple sleeping bags, but kept shivering for quite a while and was breathing fast.  My blood pressure was taken and it was a bit low.  Eventually I was able to eat and put down four bowls of chicken noodle soup.  In hindsight I didn’t spend much time at aid stations before Ouray, and probably wasn’t taking in enough calories up until this point.  Most of the calories I did take in were from drinking Tailwind from aid stations.  This worked well for a while, but I think 12 hours of drinking sweet liquid put my stomach over the edge.

After hours of feeling like crap on the course, then lying in the aid station for an hour and a half or so, my mind became progressively pessimistic.  I began to justify dropping:   I really don’t think I could make it up to Virginius Pass (I bet I could have), I don’t want my wife and friends to drive to Telluride and be stuck there for hours waiting for me since I would obviously be moving at a snails pace (they kept telling me not to worry about that), if I dropped I could be in bed in minutes and I would get to wake up with my wife, daughter, friends and parents at my house, and spend the next day with them. 

My wife talked me into walking out of the aid station to see if I would snap out of it.  My pacer, Erik, and I trotted up Camp Bird Rd.  I was feeling a lot better than when I arrived at the aid station.  I was much more clear-headed.  When we’d stop to chat with runners passing me I would unintentionally start falling over a bit and catch myself with my trekking poles.  I used that as another excuse to drop.  So after a couple miles of whining up the road I finally threw in the towel and turned around. 

The other two years I ran Hardrock I also went through times of feeling absolutely horrible, and really thinking that I there was no way I could make it, but somehow I did.  That’s what Hardrock is all about.  Pushing through the misery and surprising yourself by being tougher than you thought you were, doing more than you thought you could.  This year, with my warm and comfy bed a mile away, I dropped.  Mentally, I couldn’t rationalize pushing through misery for another 20 hours or so.  Looking back I wish I would have.
I had the good fortune of being selected to run the race, back in December of last year, and not a day had passed that I hadn’t thought of Hardrock.  I trained 7 days a week most weeks.  Adopted a new diet, read a book and many articles on training.  Thousands of people want to run this race every year, I was lucky enough to be selected in the lottery, but I blew it – mostly by not soldiering on.

Fortunately, I can take the fresh sting of this embarrassing situation and try and learn from it, by racing the Ouray 100 in 17 days.  But first, I get to crew and pace Elissa at the High Lonesome 100 in the Sawatch Mountains, wahoo!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jemez 50 Mile Race Report

photo by Jim Stein

Us fifty mile runners started at five in the morning which required us to wear headlamps for the first four miles or so, which I always enjoy.  Then we were treated to a clear pristine desert sunrise.  It was cool but warm enough to start off in shorts and a t-shirt.  The landscape slowly transitioned as we gradually ascended up Guaje Ridge, from the desert to aspen filling in an old burned zone to tall pines in the mountains with little patches of snow from yesterday’s flurry.

This year’s race mostly followed the same course as it has for the last handful of years, except it was run in reverse, which was a nice change and made for better Hardrock training for me.  This year we hiked up a couple steep sections that we descended previously.   
This event is one I’ve done before and will likely continue to run in the future.  It’s a nice tune up for Hardrock since you’re at elevation and climbing/descending for long periods of time.  It also has some short fun cross-country sections.  On one of these sections, dropping into the Valles Caldera, I spooked a couple big cow elk and ran through a bunch of wild iris, idyllic mountain stuff.

Not only is this a scenic mountain 50 miler, but it’s flawlessly organized by many volunteers and the group of people that tend to be running it every year are my kind of peeps.  It isn’t a super hyped up race, yet it’s a very high quality event, which is an ideal combination.  I don’t always want to run events that are ‘big races’.

The day was exceptionally smooth for me.  I never went all out, but didn't have any bad low spots.  Just steady running to a finishing time of 8:39 which was good enough for 1st place today.  

Shout outs:

Thank you Tom Stockton for excellent race directing!  It can’t be easy coordinating 3 races (of different distances) on one day with so many volunteers running around, but you do it well and with a smile.  If I ever tried to RD a race I’m sure I’d be a stressed out nut ball, not Tom, he’s always friendly and cool as a cucumber.

VFuel:  I was stoked to have a good race at an event that VFuel was sponsoring.  I only had one gel during the race, but I mostly drank Black Cherry Cola VFuel drink mix.  My energy levels were more stable for this race than any other 50 I’ve ever run.  I’ll continue sipping on VFuel drink mix slowly as my fueling strategy in the future.

Julbo:  My go-to glasses, the Aero-Lites were perfect:  extremely light, comfortable, lenses darkened/lightened in varying sunlight.

Drymax Socks:  I had absolutely no blisters or hot spots.  Feet felt normal after nearly nine hours of mountain running in my nifty argyle socks.

Best finishing prize ever, a hug from Penny.