Saturday, January 25, 2014

HURT 100 2014 Race Report


 
 
As I sit here a week after HURT I think I find myself in a pretty good place.  Sure, it didn't go as planned (more on that later), but I proved something to myself, and I find a renewed excitement for the sport, and more love than ever for the wonderful people involved!
Physically it's a mixed bag.  I got away with very little muscle soreness, which is surprising considering how far I ran, the elevation change, brutal terrain, and the pace that I was holding.  But I do have a calf injury, and I've never experienced such damage to my toes (even when I lost nine toenails at San Diego 100.
 
I talked a little about my training in a previous post, and I'm pretty sure I needed another month to really hit the sweet spot, but as I flew back to Oahu after a short trip to socal I felt a kind of confidence building.  A confidence that allowed me to feel excited for the race, mixed with healthy nerves.  After all, this is home, and it doesn't 'hurt' to have home field advantage.
 

These things creep up on you like Christmas.. ready or not!  Before you know it you're on a small concrete bridge leading into the jungle at 5:59am with 130 other excited runners.  I moved through the crowd until I was near the front, and in a flash we were off!  Pretty hard to stay nervous when the pace is an easy hike up Hogsback.  I've run these trails a lot, and frequently find it difficult to hit splits that would result in a good race time, even on ten mile runs.  I've been hoping that my GPS was simply reading the distances short due to switchbacks and poor reception in the forest (meaning my splits were actually better, and I was going faster than I thought).  I knew that if it was easy to keep up with Gary Robbins, even for a few miles, that I would stand a good chance at a good race.  Immediately that seemed to be the case.  We had a blast for those first few miles.  One runner off the front (don't worry about that little guy), and a group of five or six of us not far back.  The first major descent saw Gary speed ahead, and I ended up in fifth by the Paradise aid station (an awesome pirate themed party at the Manoa Falls trailhead!).  Right there it was obvious that the leader was hurting, and he quickly fell back (and out) putting me in fourth.  A very nice guy named Timo (from Germany, but currently residing in Japan) caught me, and we finished the loop in 3:41 basically tied for fourth.

We set out into the increasing heat for the second loop, determined to slow a bit and maintain a steady, but conservative pace.  This was a pretty uneventful loop, and I finished it in 4:10, having passed a runner and moving up to third place (still with Timo close behind), and right on pace.  If anything I found that I needed a bit more than 30oz of water I was carrying, and probably should have been forcing a few more calories because the sport drink they were serving seemed very diluted.

The third loop got interesting.  I simply tuned out the repetitive nature of the course, and zoned out.  Soon someone told me that the leader was only minutes ahead.  I knew that Gary was well up on me, so I assumed that they meant Yassine, and that was second place.  I put no thought into it, but by mile 45 I had caught and passed Yassine and was in second.  That played games with me.  In a perfect world that would happen way later in the race, and I wouldn't have to worry about defending the spot.  Whatever.  No change of plans.  Plug ahead.  Drink, run, hike, eat, repeat!  Loop three done in the daylight in 4:30, for a total time of 12:20ish.

Loop four.  Night settled on the forest quickly.  Roots that I easily vaulted became obstacles that slowed me to a walk as I clambered over and around.  Everything took on a slippery and dangerous sheen of moisture.  It seemed I was crawling around the loop, and Gary's increasing lead showed that I was indeed moving slowly, but the gap to those behind me remained the same or increased (except for Timo who stayed close, and Alex who seemed to be closing a bit about 30 minutes back).  Loop four done in 5:15.  New batteries in the light.. what a difference!

Off we go for loop five.  Timo close behind.  He mentions moving up Hogsback more quickly, but I can't, and he doesn't get by me.  Ah, good ole' Hogsback!  This section of trail pretty well sums up Oahu trail running, although it's harder than most.  Take a nice Pacific Northwest single track trail snaking up a seven hundred foot climb.  Now take out the switch backs and send it straight up on a 20%+ grade.  Make it fifty feet wide, but with no good route up.  Take away the buffed out pine needle track and replace it with literally millions of root steps up to three feet high.  By the fifth time up this nasty beast my heart was hammering in my chest just to maintain a walking pace.  Forget 'power hiking'!

 I start to feel better.  I'm smelling the barn a bit.  Time is melting together, and five hours out here really doesn't seem that bad at all!  I pick up the pace on the easier climbs, gapping Timo until I can no longer see his light.  22:30 looks like a possibility if these woods will let me pass!  I'm running scared though.  Alex isn't far back, and Timo is right there.  The truth is, fourth would be a bit of a let down after all this.  I power up to the top of Manoa Cliff trail, and then it popped.  I stepped off a root with full ankle flexion (as opposed to extension), and the pressure of full power in that position caused a sharp pain in my upper calf.  Even though I've never felt a cramp like that, I attempted to stretch it out, but soon realized I was dealing with a serious strain of the muscle.  Running was out of the question, as was any kind of powerful hike.  The only thing I could do was hobble forward without stressing that muscle at all.  Unable to believe what had happened to me, I continued down the trail towards Paradise instead of turning back to the start/finish.  But the truth became clear:  my race was O-V-E-R!  I gathered a small bamboo stick to take the strain, and wobbled on.  There is something to be said for overcoming adversity to finish, but I don't want to do that if it means damaging myself, and perhaps losing an entire season to injury.

The nice folks at Paradise helped me.  They wrapped my leg, gave me good physical therapy advice,  fed me soup, gave me blankets, and would have dried my tears if I'd been so inclined.  I called my wife, and a couple of hours later I was headed home.

This race proved to me that what I did at Peacock 100k was no aberration.  There is always self doubt.  Training is never perfect, and I'm not the fastest runner out there, but I can run with some of the best mountain runners out there and give a good accounting of myself.  All that said, 87 miles and 22000' climbed, but not getting to finish is a pretty hard pill to swallow.

What I did right:  Nutrition and hydration was probably a B+.  I needed a bit more than the 30oz I was carrying during the day, but I made up for it at the aid stations by chugging.  15oz containers of coconut water at Nu'uanu aid station was a great move.  100 calories, some electrolytes, and hydration allowing me to catch up.  Two gel's an hour worked for a long time, and when I got sick of it I switched to baby food pouches that held equivalent calories and taste way better!  Not much real food at the aid other than watermelon slices.
Pacing:  Not bad, say a B.  The first loop looks fast, but it felt controlled, and allowed me to rack up some miles before it got hot.  The second and third loops were in the range, but the fourth loop was too slow.  I need to practice running on that terrain at night in order to maximize my pace when I'm exhausted.  For what it's worth, I definitely felt like I was on track to run a faster last loop.

What I did wrong:  Body Glide!  I didn't use enough, and I didn't use any product on my feet.  I chaffed everywhere.  Even the gel's in my pockets wore my thighs raw!
Shoes/Socks:  Hoka Rapanui's are a bit narrow for me.  I foolishly combined them with Injinji toe socks that make my feet even wider.  I am paying the price!

Where to now?  I'm pumped to get back out there.  My calf is recovering nicely, although running is still out.  If I'm able to get in, I'm going to redo 2013 by running Cascade Crest 100 in late August, Peacock 100k in October, and HURT100 in 2015.  That means my season starts later than most, so the next couple of months will be pretty chill.  I'm going to get back in the weight room.  I'm going windsurfing.  I'm going hiking!  There's more things to do in Hawaii than there is time in our lives!  I'll pick up some easy running when I can, and when I get going more seriously in a couple of months I'm going to train for some speed.  I might even try for a marathon PR.  Then a couple of big months of mountain running prior to CCC.  June and July will be pretty hard, but I can't wait!

As always, thanks to my wonderful wife for caring so much!  Thanks to all my family for standing by me through thick and thin.  And thanks to the HURT Ohana.  Trail running is full of caring and humble individuals.  HURT seems to bring this to another level, and the truth is that makes one of the toughest mountain races so much easier!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

How to train for a 100 mile race (HURT 100)

Well, I wanted to post something like that.  I wanted to come into HURT in the best shape and ready to run off the front, or at least give the front runners a race.  Instead I came into Cascade Crest 100 last August in great shape, underperformed, took some time off, did some unfocused running, miraculously won the Peacock 100k in record time, took more time off, did some jogging, felt ready to train for HURT, got sick, got interrupted by work, and finally got into training almost exactly one month ago.

Today I ran my last long run.  Almost five hours, 23ish miles, and 6500' of climbing in the Nature Center.  The goal was a nice steady '100 mile' pace, lots of climbing, no injuries, and a quick recovery.  As I sit here typing I'm amazed that I was able to do that run with not an ache or pain lingering.  Hopefully that's a good sign!

I've gotten a bit slower than my peak last summer, but since I got into training late I focused on consistent runs, getting some steeper climbs in, and some faster runs on trails to practice the agility needed to jump over wild boars or roosters that inhabit the trails around here.  No 100 mile weeks with insane vertical, but this week I topped out at 76ish miles and around 18500 feet of climbing.  That's going to be enough, it just kinda stinks that I'm just starting to really feel ready to train hard for another month, but times already up!

So some high points of my 'training':

1.  I love how living here in Kailua allows me to run to some very difficult and steep mountains right from my doorstep.  I just feel intuitively that there are gains to be had by running fast on the roads, hammering the legs up and down trails on mountains like Olomana, and then asking the ole' pins to deliver on the roads again to get back home.

2.  Exploration.  Every time I go somewhere new and get out to run I come away impressed with what I find.  When I was sent to Wilmington, Delaware for simulator training my reaction was 'ugh'.  I knew that there would be little of interest there, especially in early December.  I was wrong!  I got to enjoy a week of winter, a foot of fresh snow, and lots of miles on great trails in some beautiful state park areas.  Hawaii trails are more challenging, and certainly offer stunning scenery, but doing something new was a great way to get motivated for a month of hard running.

3.  When I'm sick of grinding out an hour or two on the roads or trails I've found that doing what I've termed an 'adventure run' fits the bill.  Usually this simply means I'm going to run and hike up something steep. 

4.  I enjoyed spending some time on my new (to me) windsurfer while I was taking it easy after Peacock.  I could almost feel myself getting smarter and more athletic as I tried to teach myself this fun sport.  I am really looking forward to getting back out there after HURT!

What am I expecting to happen on the infamous five loops of HURT?

Gary Robbins had a down month in November and early December, but he's put in some quality work since, and is clearly the favorite to win again.  He's simply world class, and understands how to run a course like this better than anyone.  Yassine Diboun has also been training hard, and I'm pretty sure he'll be near the front.  There are a few other runners that will come in ready to throw down, notably Tracy Garneau.  She's the female course record holder at just a tad over 24 hours, and she's shooting for sub 24 this year.  I hope she has a great run!

The best bet for me will be to take it out easy and controlled, inside the top ten, and wait for people to come back to me.  We'll all be slowing down, but for everyone except Gary it's going to be a game of who slows the least... it's going to get ugly!  I know I haven't trained as much as some of these guys, so it just makes sense to conserve what I have, eat a lot, and hopefully maintain a positive outlook that will allow some magic a-la Peacock to occur.  Let's see if I can stick to the strategy!  My backup plan is to run right at lactate threshold for as long as possible...

What's next?

After HURT I'm taking a few weeks completely off running, and after that it will be short fun runs only for a few more weeks.  I want to spend more time windsurfing, more time on the mat at our wonderful Jiu Jitsu school, and more time with the family doing things like hikes or kayaking in Kailua bay.  After that I'm not sure.  The plan is to try to get into Cascade Crest 100 again though, so if that happens I'll be trying for a breakout run there, and that means several months of hard training.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Peacock 100k Race Report



I kinda mentioned this in my pre-race thoughts, but the week after Cascade I ran six miles, the next week 35, then 45, a couple of weeks at around 50-55, and then just 20 this week.  I didn't feel ready.  This is super low mileage. Would my summer fitness hold me over, or was it fading, leaving me with a long tough day in the hot mountains of the North Shore?  Would the IT band flare up and leave me limping back down the hill?  62 miles and 17,500' of climbing should answer the questions!
Of course, I went into this thing with a very minor head cold, and few expectations.  I knew the course record was 13h09m, which speaks to a very tough trail.  I knew Tracy Garneau was coming, and she is  a world class elite from Canada.  I figured I'd just run and see how things played out.  My excitement to really throw down had been lacking since Cascade Crest.  The day prior my wife asked me if I was even excited to do this race.  My answer was... uhhh, I guess yes?
An easy drive to the North Shore for the 6am start, and before I blinked I was cruising up the first big climb.  The course roughly goes like this:  A very big climb, right turn onto a counterclockwise loop that brings you back to near the top of the first climb, then a jeep trail (Crossover Road) that leads to a paved road off the mountain all the way back to sea level (Long Road).  Back up Long Road, back over Crossover, and back down the first climb.  That's 30 miles.  Repeat for the 100k (with a small and very tough twist known as Are's loop to make the mileage right).  Anyway, I quickly found myself in the lead of the 100k, and right behind two guys running the 50k.  I knew there were a bunch of 100k'ers breathing down my neck, but I kept a nice steady pace and enjoyed the run all the way around to the bottom of Long Road (19 miles).  I made sure to smile a lot!  Temps were reasonable due to showers moving through, and even though that made the jeep roads really slick, I was thankful for the lack of serious heat. 
The return trip up Long Road was the first opportunity to see the competition, as they were coming down.  Local fast guy Alex was about .5 miles behind me, and Tracy was about a mile back.  Close!  I powered up Long Road, but near the top I started to become light headed and dizzy.  My mental power drained away, and I cursed the slippery Crossover road.  I started thinking that just one loop was smart.  My IT band was bothering me, and why push it?  By this time I was leading everyone including all runners in the 'short' 50k race.  This mental funk was ridiculous!  Could you imagine dropping out from the lead with a healthy body?  The pressure of running off the front was hurting my head.  I started to question if I even had the strong mind required to be competitive at this sort of thing!  This is called a 'low spot', and it happens a lot in really long races.  Easy to see that sitting here, but when I'm out there experiencing the thing it feels different.  Nevertheless, I finished the loop, and started the second, knowing that hanging around the start/finish/midpoint aid station could spell disaster.  My competition was coming down, and the gap seemed about the same.  The climb was awful, but my mental power started to come back.  I hit Are's loop and started to think about racing.  A little to early for that, but I came up with a mantra:  DON'T LET THEM HAVE THIS SECTION OF TRAIL!  I'd look at the climb ahead, and determine to cover it as fast as I could (with respect to distance remaining).  Anyone behind me was going to have to take this lead from me.  I must have repeated some variation of that mantra about 1000 times... I wasn't going to surrender!  At the bottom of Long Road again (51 miles in), I felt comfortable... for about a second.  It was then that I realized that Alex was less than a quarter mile away.  Three minutes behind including his stop to refill the bottles.  I just knew he was going to pass me, but I regrouped and determined to give him a fight, and hauled back up Long.  I had become emotionally invested in winning this thing, and couldn't bear to lose it in the last hour or so. I hiked the steep stuff faster than I've ever hiked before (let's just say hiking isn't my specialty).  No kidding, I blasted Highway To Hell on my iPod.  Every tedious steep climb on Crossover I repeated my mantra, running faster splits than I had 40 miles before.  I hit the last aid and left in a big hurry.  I sacrificed my legs on the brutal descent back off the mountain.  As much as it would have depressed me to lose the lead at the bottom of Long at 51 miles, I sure couldn't lose it with three to go!  I hammered the switchbacks, tried my best to float over the rocks, and finally flew through the finish in 11:35.  Good for the win, and a Course Record of 1h35m.  Alex had faded some, but finished in a very solid 12:10, also below the old CR.  I wouldn't have run nearly as fast without him!  At the finish aid station I overheard him asking about vegan food.  Sure enough, another vegan runner.  This day we went 1-2!
I'm very proud of this performance.  Sure, different competition could have beaten me, or the same competition with different training, but I'm proud that I found the mental power to come back from a big rut and run hard when my physical power was diminishing.  It was a special feeling.  I learned a few things.  Take care of the body and it will bounce back from a low.  Mental power is worth more than physical power (sometimes).  And don't underestimate how much time you can make up (or lose) in the last few miles.  I put three minutes per mile on Alex from the bottom of Long to the finish (11 miles).  My high point coincided with his low, and that just goes to show you that it isn't over until it's over!  Now for another break, and then begins HURT 100 training!
Peacock is an outstanding event.  It's an 'old school' ultra.  Hard nosed, but with super friendly staff and volunteers.  Incredible views of awesome terrain, the pacific ocean, and beaches cap this thing off.  To all the mainlanders:  It's worth the trip out to HI to run this one!
Thanks to everyone involved in this event, and huge thanks to my wife for carrying the family while I took off and ran for the day! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Peacock 100k Ultramarathon plans

Well, here we are again!  As I write this its been over seven weeks since Cascade Crest 100, and with less just two days to go until Peacock 100k, I'd have to say the hay is in the barn!

What hay?  I sure don't feel like I've been training like a professional (good thing I'm not)!  Hopefully taking it kinda easy was actually the smartest move I could make.  With HURT 100 coming up in January I just didn't have it in me to train seriously for that long, so that'll start after Peacock recovery!  My general plan after Cascade Crest 100 was to try not to lose too much fitness, get a couple of fast runs in, a few runs in the three hour range, and one in the five hour range.  I accomplished all those goals, and I also got to run in some pretty special places (more on that in a bit), but I've been hampered by this issue with my right leg.  First I feel a tight and achy feeling in my hip/glute, quickly my quad gets involved, and then the knee starts to hurt.  Once it starts it can bring me to a standstill.  Going uphill irritates it, but going downhill really pisses it off.  My knee seizes up, and in seconds I can't bend my leg... on some runs.  The day after a bad 'episode' I'll have a pain free run.  Speed doesn't seem to bother it.  This has kinda slowed my momentum, and is killing my motivation to really get after it.  All I can do is hope that this doesn't bother me on race day!  Enough about this... now I've put it out there, I'm going to try to forget it!

The training:  Well, like I said, it's been pretty hodge-podge.  But... I've visited and run in FOUR countries other than the US (plus Guam) in the last six weeks.  The highlights were running in the world class botanical gardens in Singapore, and everything about Sydney Australia.  Check out my pics!

Near the top of Olomana, Kailua HI... a classic 1500' climb in a smidge over a mile!  This is my home... still can't believe it!

Part of the Coastal Trail, New South Wales, Australia.  This was an awesome 26++ mile run, even though I ran out of water for the last two hours!

More views from the Coastal Trail.  Pretty tough to run fast when always stopping to take in the views!
Botanical gardens, Sydney, AUS
Sydney Harbor
 
Botanical gardens, Singapore!
 
So what are the plans for Peacock?  NOTHING!!  I understand there may be some really fast elite level women coming to town.  I hope they kill this race!  I'm going out there hoping to pace myself properly, eat and drink well, and have something left at the end.  I'm not going to pin my hopes on a win or anything else.   I feel like my training may have left my endurance lacking a bit, but I hope to make up for that by taking in lots of calories and keeping my brain happy.  It's going to be furnace hot up there.  Exposed trails and no trade winds will cause carnage I'm guessing.  I'm going to take it easy in the heat, and really dial the effort back. 
 
Well, that's about it!  I'll check back in after the race and let everyone know how it went!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cascade Crest 100 Race Report!


When I run a really tough mountain 100 in under 21 hours, near the front of the pack, with no injuries or even lingering soreness, well, the truth is that I'd be a brat to complain!

I've given it a month to let the emotions stabilize.  For me there are such a plethora of feelings flowing through my body after these things that I'm liable to throw it all down here, and the result of that is a long boring blog post!

Hey, this race didn't go the way I had hoped.  Let it go right?  We had a great Pacific Northwest vacation, but the week prior to the race I suffered a pretty significant head cold.  Additionally I just couldn't find the right mental attitude.  Perhaps I was trying too hard, but there were almost no nerves, not enough excitement, and too much worry about what other runners were going to bring to the trails.  I knew this was wrong, but I couldn't seem to change it.

Race day dawned beautiful, and I had the best night of sleep prior to a 100 ever.  My head was pounding from the lingering cold, but a vitamin I and coffee killed it.  After checking in and hanging out with friends and family for a while we were off.

I ran at the front for a few miles, and then deliberately dropped back just a bit.  The weather was great, and the pace felt easy, even though I was gaining on my splits from last year.  I still couldn't find the right head space though.  Way too much worrying, and not enough smiling.  Strange!

Hey, this course is fantastic!  Amazing alpine views, great trails, great organization and people.  There are millions of reasons to smile.  I even stopped to pick blueberries at one point (and judging by the piles of bear scat, I wasn't the only one in the mountains with that idea)!

I really enjoyed a bunch of miles with Jon Robinson.  I learned a lot about positive attitude from Jon, and I'm committed to carrying that with me to my next long run (in four weeks)!  Prior to the Tunnel (which has no light and is well over two miles long) I realized my small flashlight was dead.  I pushed the pace a bit and easily caught Jon.  We ran the tunnel at a low seven minute per mile pace (felt easy) and rolled into Hyak aid (mile 53).  The highlight of the race waited for me there.  My beautiful wife and three sons, mother in law, grand mother in law, sister, and her daughter!!  I was SO proud, and grateful that I got to see their beautiful faces.  Any evil thoughts of calling it a day there were banished, and I rolled out in third place overall.  I didn't know that second place was mere minutes ahead. 

I felt smooth running out of Hyak, but I'd gradually stopped taking in calories due to an iffy stomach.  The next big climb didn't happen quickly.  Although I descended rapidly, after the 'Trail From Hell' I was back on my splits from last year (I had been 30 minutes up).  I dropped to fourth, fifth, and eventually sixth place.  I told Terry (my pacer from 73 to the finish) that I wasn't close to the lead, so I didn't want to race for fifth.  I just didn't want to push it at all.  The Needles were steep as hell, and the descents were loose and sketchy.  I left the last aid running strong and smelling the barn, but a wrong turn a bit later destroyed the momentum again (and lost us ten minutes), and I just mustered enough to finish under 21 hours.

My family was at the finish.  They had been waiting for a couple of hours just in case I had a great day.  What a wonderful thing to hug my kids and wife after such a rollercoaster ride!

It was also great to see that Brian Rusiecki ran a solid 18:45 for the win, and Jon Robinson came in an hour later in second.  Jon put on a clinic on finishing strong.

My post race analysis goes like this:  21 hours on such a tough course isn't bad!  Many others finish ten hours later.  My training was good.  Strong legs and great cardio.  The missing links were mental and nutrition.  The two might be linked.  Lack of calories leads to listless mental performance.  Also, lack of recent experience at the distance.  You just can't train your mind for how you're going to feel after 15 or so hours running in the mountains.  You gotta do it, and my head wasn't ready to fight back after night fell and my body requested a slow down.  Recovery happened in a flash.  Within a couple of days I was barely sore.  That's all good, because I'm running Peacock Flats 100 kilometers on the North Shore on October 19th.  A graduate level ultra with over 17000 feet of climbing, and strong competition to boot.  I'm back running again, and plan to try for a good run there.  Most important lesson I'm bringing to Peacock is to SMILE even when the feet are hurting after all day running.

As always, thanks to my family for supporting this whole craziness!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dreaming Big! Pre Cascade Crest 100 Thoughts



Dreaming big is part of my journey to a Well-Balanced Life!

It's a tradition of mine to try to write my thoughts down regarding my preparations prior to any significant race. To be honest, this entry might read very similar to last years at about this time. Cascade Crest 100 will be my fourth 100 mile race, and second time toeing the line at Easton, WA (Cascade race headquarters). I'm no expert at the distance, and I'm not an exceptional runner, but I've had relative success. Third at my first 100, fifth at my second, and third again at Cascade last year. Although clearly among the faster runners at that distance, I've never had a break out 'Zen' like day in the mountains. Each time it's been a challenge, and each time I felt like I left plenty on the table.

Running 100 miles is a pretty arbitrary distance (why not 110?), but it fits pretty nicely into a full day on most trail courses. 24 hours is considered a very respectable finish time, so in that respect the distance makes some sort of sense. Running all day over tough terrain certainly can wreck the body (if only temporarily). Everything screams stop. Blistered feet, sore legs, sleep deprivation, nausea, and more all lurk around the corner. So why do this? I treat the race as an adventure, and as a celebration of athletic achievement. This isn't meant to sound arrogant. Every person that starts a race of this nature has sacrificed, and each person has trained to his or her ability. Each person is lining up knowing that the race might be their (again, temporary) undoing. Each starter is an athlete of supreme accomplishment no matter what finish times they have accrued in the past. I KNOW I can finish a marathon, most likely in under three hours. There is no way to know that a finish awaits anyone who starts a 100. My first 100 mile race finished only one third of the starters! And often those DNF's aren't pretty. The toughest runners and people in the world are stripped bare and left shivering and in tears on the top of a mountain at night. No one wants to quit. I want to see if I have what it takes. But I also want to celebrate natures beauty, my families love, and my love for them. I want to move with grace and respect for nature, my fellow competitors, and myself.

So with just two weeks to go my training is done. They hay is in the barn! I'm still running, but just to keep the legs sharp and preserve my fitness while allowing my body to fully rest and heal. Since Cascade Crest has some pretty long and fast descents I ran a hard downhill workout this week. Despite recent fast runs this workout left my calves very sore. I made sure to keep the effort level the next few days low to avoid injuring the sore muscles, and several days later I followed up with an easy morning run and then an afternoon hike up Stairway to Heaven here on Oahu. Again, the effort was easy, but the 3000' climb seemed to kick the funk out of the legs, and I'm ready to hit one last 'tempo' effort 15 miler this weekend.

Last year I had already run one 100, one 50, and several 30+ mile races. This left me with more recent experience, and perhaps more overall endurance. It also left me a little beaten up and tired! This year I've been training over 60 miles per week since the end of February. I've peaked over 80 miles per week, and I've done countless 'doubles' on the weekends, and several five to six hour runs. I'm ready, and I'll be more rested and recovered than last year. I'm hoping to beat last year's awesome (for me) 20:14 finish time, and I've got a split sheet with Rod Beins course record times on it (Rod finished in 18:26 in 2011). I think I have a good shot at beating my time from last year, and at least an outside chance to break out and run close to CR. We'll see. I fully respect the fact that the weather or my body might preclude such a run, and that my training or overall talent may not be enough to come close. The real goal is to run smart and have fun!

My main competition appears to be Brian Rusiecki. Brian is an elite level ultra marathoner with fast times at all distances, and a low 14 hour finish at the 2012 Vermont 100. He's raced a lot this year, so that could be bad for me or good for me. Race day will tell the tale! As always there are numerous runners new to the distance that have the potential to surprise anyone. Here's to remembering to run my own race for the first 12 hours (at least)...

For the Gear Geeks:
• Hydration will be via my Ultimate Direction AK pack. I almost chose to carry handheld water bottles, but this pack allows me to carry two bottles in my hands or to store them on my chest. The pack itself weighs only six ounces, so I'm sacrificing nothing. I like options!
• Nutrition will be primarily Gu energy gels. I try to get at least 300 calories an hour, plus whatever I can take in at aid stations. Backup energy will be Vega gels (primarily date paste), and a maltodextrin powder to dissolve in my water bottles. I'm also considering several applesauce packs in my drop bags. I have been able to stomach Gu for about 14 hours in the past, but the stomach begins to rebel, and it is crucial to keep calories coming in late in the race. Succeed S-caps will be my go-to salt supplement, but I don't expect to use many. I never supplement with salt in training, but it's better to have it and not need it!
• Shoes. I have foot problems. I can't seem to keep 10 toenails on at any given time! My feet are wide, and my middle toes seem to be slightly longer than normal. I have also suffered from Plantar Fasciitis, and some ligament/nerve problems in my ankles. Hoka Bondi B road shoes have become my go-to foot pillows. They look goofy, but the extra cushion makes up for the fashion faux pas. But the slow pace of 100's reduces impact, and the high stack height of Hokas sometimes causes me to roll my ankle where I wouldn't otherwise. I've ordered a pair of Scott Kinabalu trail shoes to check out. It's down to the wire, but the footwear is TBD!
• Shorts are going to be Patagonia's. I found a pair of 5" shorts that have side pouches that can hold four gels in each, and also a zipper back pocket.
• Lighting will be a Fenix LD22 flashlight and a Black Diamond Icon headlamp. The flashlight is bright enough to function by itself (just in case), but the combination gives incredible illumination, and the multiple angles really increases depth perception and highlights trip hazards. You can't have too much light!

I'm looking forward to our family vacation back to the incomparable Pacific Northwest, and I can't thank my wife enough for supporting me every step of the way. In a few weeks I'll let you guys know how it all went down!

You can follow along on race day at www.cascadecrest100.com on August 24-25. Race kicks off at 10am Pacific time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Afternoon Trail Run

Do I have to? Senses are dulled by several hours in front of a monitor. Today is a hard progressive workout. Can I put it off until tomorrow? Can I just run a shorter route? The temperature hovers near 90, but feels much hotter in the direct sunlight. The humidity hangs like a blanket. I drag myself to the car and bake on the short drive to the mountain. Thankfully the five mile loop is mostly shaded, but it’s difficult terrain, and climbs and descends over 1000 feet (2000 feet total elevation change). I lack spring in my step as I jog up the first incline. The following muddy descent feels slippery, and with a maze of rocks and large roots covering the ground every step is an opportunity for bodily harm. The trail tilts upwards for a couple of miles, and every step I lose time on my personal record around this loop. I even stop to eat some delicious Strawberry Guava near the trail (WELL worth it!). The descent back to the bottom is enjoyable and smooth, but my 46:20 is well over six minutes slower than my best. Time to ditch the excuses; time for loop two! I force myself to pump my arms hard up that first little climb, gaining almost a minute on my first attempt. I'm not flowing yet, but I ignore the slippery descent, landing lightly and stepping off before a slip can become a fall. I know that magic can happen if I push the pace long enough. I lean into the long climb with force, gauging my effort on my racing heart. Every time I think I can’t hold the pace any longer the trail levels slightly, just long enough to recover slightly and power up the next steeper section. I’m jumping the downed trees that I climbed over last loop, and as the trail turns down for the final two mile stretch I feel like a race car driver. Every bend in the trail is attacked at an angle that allows maximum exit speed without falling off the trail down the almost vertical hillside. The Guavas that I couldn’t resist on the last loop aren’t even noticed as I’m concentrating on foot placement. I’m leaping right over difficult sections of trail that I normally stumble through. I’m in this zen where I’m feeling the flow of the trail, and the signals from my body. I could do this all day! But it’s over. 38:20 for a 1 minute 34 second personal best. I cool down with short hill repeats, and then head back to work. A little over ten total miles, and just a tiny part of the several thousand I'm logging as I prepare for Cascade Crest 100, but it's an important little part, and that feeling of wellness is a large part of the reason I do this crazy sport!