John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wasatch Sasquatch: The Ogre Runs Wasatch Front 100

"Whoa.  What a day."  That's all I could text to my running buddies back home when I got my phone out after finishing the Wasatch Front 100 this past weekend.  It had been one hell of a day where I worked harder, for longer, than I ever had in any race.

The Wasatch Front 100 was my 'A' race for the year, so here's some description of what went down this past weekend, as well as some of what happened in preceding year that got me to the starting line.


The buildup for this race really started after the Kodiak 100 in 2014.  I saw some folks post on Facebook about registering for the Sean O'Brien (SOB) 100k and thought that it was gonna sell out soon, so I signed up.  After I recovered from Kodiak, I began to build up for SOB, throwing in Red Rock 50 in November because it's a tough and fun race.  The training for this race set the stage for the next 8 months until Wasatch Front.  I had trained hard in new ways, logged more miles than I had previously, and had a great early year race.  It also happened that I was selected in the Wasatch Front 100 lottery on the day of SOB in February.  Boom.  My calendar for February 7th-September 12th just filled up.

With a few running items, including some down time, on my list of things to do in the spring, I decided that a 14 week buildup from June to Mid-September was reasonable to prepare for Wasatch.  I mapped out a plan that consisted of mesocycles of 2 build weeks followed by a recovery week and topped out at 120 miles in the peak week.

Well, the best laid plans...

Real life contorted my neat stair-step pattern of buildup, and when real life wasn't enough, the miles and climbing were, so my actual mileage was a little more erratic.  The good news, however, was that despite the lack of picture perfect regularity in my buildup pattern, I ran a lot of miles, an acceptable amount of climbing, and was injury-free throughout the summer.

I spent a lot of time on weekends training in the San Gabriel Mountains on the AC100 course with friends who were training for that race.  That turned out to be ideal because the AC100 course and associated trails provided a ton of heat training, climbing, and tough conditions: Questionable water availability? Check. Dehydration practice? Check.  Running on blown legs through mountains, canyons and road? Triple Check.

Additionally, something new that I tried this time around were a hill repeat block and a tempo block in my training schedule.  The hill repeat block consisted of hill repeats, 3 times a week, for 3 weeks.  The repeats were 2-min, 3-min, and 4-min intervals on day 1, 2 and 3, respectively.  Each week the number of repeats increased.  Similarly, the tempo block consisted of tempo runs, 2 times per week, of increasing duration.  Real life prevented me from hitting every one of these workouts, but I got most of them in.  What that amount of quality work also highlighted was the need for recovery.  It quickly became apparent that there was no room for nutritional mistakes or missed hours of sleep, as I suffered through some pretty bad runs attempting to recover from weeks of big workouts and long runs back to back.  As my buddy Dom said to me more than once this summer, "Mondays are for resting."  So I modified my plan and started resting on Mondays instead of running an easy 5 or 6 miles.  It helped.

What all that resulted in was not hitting my goal of 120 miles per week during the peak week of training, and I was totally OK with it.  I had to modify weeks regularly because my legs were not ready for the mileage that I thought they might be.  A combination of quality workouts, long runs, and lots of climbing resulted in tired legs and body.  Tons of fatigue at work and a couple really bad runs confirmed that I needed to dial it back, and instead of sacrificing the quality of my workouts or the vertical gain of my long runs, I decided to sacrifice total mileage.

The last piece of the buildup puzzle in my training was the prerun weekend.  I decided that I wanted to get a feel for the course, so about 2 months out from race day, I used some Southwest points to fly out to Utah, stay with my friend Erin and go run the whole course over 3 days.  Erin and I successfully completed the entire course in 3 days, and come race day I was very thankful for the experience.  I knew the climbs, memorized the course, and didn't struggle at all with navigation.

When taper arrived, I was pumped because not only did I feel good about my training, but I was not completely smoked.  In other races, I've skidded into taper, burnt out with smoke billowing from my engine and needed the 3 weeks just to recover and race, but this time around, I arrived ready to execute a smart last 11 days of training (21 days out to 10 days out), which culminated with a big workout 10 days out from the race, followed by 10 days of maintenance and preparation for the race (10 days out to race day).  I also did a 1-cup-of-coffee-per-day detox from caffeine to increase the effectiveness of caffeine during the race.  That was a shitty 2 weeks of no afternoon coffee at work.

The Race

The race starts on Friday at 5am, with a runners' meeting the previous day at 4pm.  I flew out with my girlfriend/crew chief Crista on Thursday morning, purchased all the additional food that I would need (red bull, breakfast before the race, COFFEE!!), and headed to the pre-race venue.

At packet pickup, I finished packing my drop bags, with some last minute packing advice from my friend Jimmy who had run the race the previous year, and dropped them off at the site.  The pre-race meeting was all of 10 minutes, and we were out of there.

Drop bags ready to go.
After a delicious Chipotle dinner and beer, I was in bed by 8:30pm (Utah 7:30pm on my internal clock) to be ready for the 2:30am wake-up to eat, drink coffee, get ready and drive to the start.  I was pretty nervous about how things would go the next day, but luckily the beer worked wonders at putting me to a crazy-dream-filled sleep.
Breakfast with John Lennon.

I woke up at 2:30am and grubbed down on toasted baguette with Nutella, and a banana with Nutella while drinking a couple cups of coffee. I filled my water bottles with Tailwind, and we headed out the door.

Now's probably a good time to talk about my race plan and nutrition plan:

Nutrition Plan:

1 bottle of Tailwind + 1 Clif Shot per hour for a total of 300 cal/hr.
Snack at the aid stations.
Repeat for 100 miles.

Drink protein drink at miles 39 and 74.

Have a backup plan if that fails: trail mix bars (Clif Mojo Bars and Dark Chocolate Trail Mix Bars), Clif Organic Energy Food (Banana Beet Ginger), any other aid station grub that works.

I mixed mostly Vanilla Clif Shots (taste like frosting!!) that have no caffeine with about 20% Strawberry Clif Shots, that have 25mg of caffeine.  I figured this moderate/low amount of caffeine would keep me going without getting crazy.  Then at mile 75 I could switch to Mocha Clif Shots (50mg caffeine) and Raspberry Buzz Tailwind (also with caffeine) which would power me through the night.  Top this off with Red Bull at mile 75 and a drop bag filled with coffee drinks at mile 83 and I'd be set.

Race Plan:

Crista, ready to crew at the start
I wasn't sure if I had 24 hour pace in my legs, so I decided to feel things out by effort first: I would go out at a sustainable effort and check my split at the first aid station (Francis Peak Aid, mile 18ish) and assess if 24 hours is feasible.  If it was, continue and shoot for 24 hours.  If way off, continue and just race well.

The Actual Race

So the race started, and we took off on a super dusty single/double track.  I was 30 or 40 people back and was choking down dust like a madman, so I pulled my buff over my face to try and get some relief...not much, but better than nothing.  I noted that several veterans actually brought dust masks for this moment.  I was struggling to keep my heart rate down, but my legs felt good, so I let the BPM ride a bit higher than I'd like, at least until the 4500 ft. climb at mile 3.5 or so.  Once the climb starts, it was a long hike to the top with a few sections of running thrown in.
The first climb.
I fell in with a few runners going at my desired pace and finally made it to Cool Springs, where some guys had set up 'Aid Station 0', which is an unofficial water aid station.  I had planned this spring into my race plan (thanks to the pre-run intel) but the fact that the guys had filled up pitchers made it even easier to fill!  I was 2.5 hours in and had killed 2 bottles of Tailwind and 2 gels, so I refilled Tailwind and headed for Chinscraper and the top of the climb.  While I was filling, my pack of runners had moved on and spread out, so when I left, I was mostly running alone, which was nice.  I could see a large conga line maybe a quarter or half mile up and it looked like no fun.  Chinscraper is a steep section of climb up to a rocky nose of a ridge. 
The view while hiking up Chinscraper.
I hiked it up and was pumped by the NWA that was blasting from a boombox at the top...oops! I may have climbed that section a bit too hard while jamming out to the beats!  Luckily, it's followed by some really fun, rolling single track and then double track up to Grobben's corner where RD John Grobben hangs out with friends and pours water for runners.  I came through here doing fine on water and started the fire road descent to Francis Peak Aid.  Here I linked up with the eventual #2 Female, Leslie Howlett.  She seemed pretty experienced on the course and I enjoyed talking to her and running down into the aid station at a good, but manageable clip (save the quads!).
Climbing to Grobben's Corner.

Headed down to the climb to Bountiful B.
A friend of mine hypothesizes that one of the reasons that Rob Krar won Western States this year is that he managed the heat better than the other runners and that one of the ways he did this was by starting heat management early in the race, before most other runners had their heat gear on.  You can see in pictures that he already had a cooling bandana around his neck before Robinson Flat.  I decided to pull a page from that book, seeing as it was supposed to be quite hot during the race, and put an ice bandana in my first drop bag.  Leslie took off on her own while I was icing up, so I left the aid station solo, feeling ready to take on the heat as it came.  More Tailwind, more Clif Shots in the pockets, a couple potato chips.  Ready to go.  I left at 9:10, only 10 minutes off the recommended 24-hour pace.  This meant that it was time to go for the Crimson Cheetah belt buckle that's awarded to all sub-24-hour finishers! Game on.

I took off up the next fire road section and began to cruise.  The weather was still cool and the terrain was mild.  I knew I had a solid climb up to Bountiful B Aid coming up, so I took advantage of the grading to get my pace up.  Again, my heart rate was riding higher than I wanted it to be, even though I was running at an effort level that I judged was proper.  I chalked it up to the altitude and decided to split the difference between what I wanted and what my body was allowing.  In reality, I pretty much just ran how I felt while slowing down every now and then when I'd glance at my watch and worry about my pacing.

The climb into Bountiful B is a beautiful winding single track in the trees and meadows, and I enjoyed it tremendously. 
The climb to Bountiful B.  Gorgeous!
I was feeling good and hoping that my pacing was good too.  I was in and out of the aid station quickly with a handful of ice into the bandana, full bottles, and on to more fire road into Sessions Aid, the Pirate Themed Aid Station.  Not much to say about this section other than I kept rolling.

The run from Swallow Rocks to Big
Mountain Pass, as seen during the July
At Sessions, I got another handful of ice in the bandana, filled bottles again and took off for Swallow Rocks.  I knew that I was going to run out of water before the aid station, but I didn't want to take out my reservoir and fill it.  I should have gulped down some more water at Sessions, but I didn't...oh well.  A quick descent and then started the pair of ~400 ft. climbs that are separated by a 400 ft. descent.  The first climb is smooth and nice, the 2nd climb is pretty steep at first and then levels off into the rolling single track along the ridge.  My legs felt a little sluggish on this climb, but I was glad that the heat of the day hadn't hit, and hoped I could pull myself out of this minor slump.  The rolling single track is fun, and the views were absolutely incredible!  Rolling green mountainsides, golden meadows, and rocky peaks in the distance.  More elevated heart rate miles.  This single track dumps into a few switchback descent, which was completely overgrown in July and now was just kind of brushy.  Glad that I wore gaiters (unlike in July) to keep the crap out of my shoes.  This descent deposits the runners onto a saddle where the last climb before Swallow Rocks Aid begins.  I was more than halfway done with my fluids at this point, and killed the rest of the Tailwind at the top of the saddle climb before 1 last ridge climb.  I remember the ridge climb being a bit easier during the pre-run, but it was a small climb nonetheless, so the top arrived in no time and I knew I could roll my way over the next couple of miles into the aid station.  I had been rationing my water for a couple miles, and I ended up killed my water pretty close to the aid station so I came in ready to fill Tailwind, chug some water, and keep going.  My legs had started to feel really good, especially considering the low spot on the previous climb, so I started to move really well and clicked off miles consistently into the Big Mountain Pass Aid Station at mile 39. 

Soaked ice water hat goes on at Big Mountain Pass Aid Station.  Photo: Crista Scott

I could hear the aid station before I could see it, though there were flamingos and flamingo themed decorations on the trail leading into the aid station letting the runners know they were close.  This bolstered my spirits and I continued running quickly into the aid station.  My crew was ready, and I could tell that they were ancy for me to get in because they were like a pit crew ready to rock!  Vest #1 off, Vest #2 on, ice bandana on, shirt change to the lightest and best hot weather shirt that I own, a quick sunscreen, finish the bottle of protein shake and I was ready.  Even though I hadn't requested a reservoir of water ahead of time, I knew I needed one after running dangerously low on water coming into Swallow Rocks, so I asked them to get one and fill it, which happened fast an efficiently.  Crista and Erin killed it!

I took off out of there on my way to Alexander Ridge and Lamb's Canyon.  Immediately, my legs felt like garbage.  Sluggish, tired, and non-responsive to climbing requests.  I shortened my hiking stride to stay efficient and began to mow down calories to try and bring them back to life.  I was feeling pretty worried that I had burned all my matches in the first 40 miles.  It was getting hot out, but luckily there was a strong breeze coming from the West that cooled me off well.   Good thing too, because somewhere around the 42 or 43 mile mark, I could feel my legs start to come back to life!  I started to run the descents well and climb at a good clip again, coming into Alexander Ridge Aid feeling great!  I had been running for over 11 hours at a heart rate that I would consider a 50-mile race heart rate.  This felt exhausting, but at the same time I was amped that my legs were still performing well. I was out of Tailwind and had cashed out my reservoir, but still had water, which I cashed out at the aid station entrance.  I had them fill me up with ice water, grabbed some aid station gels (Gu Rocktane) to get me the next 5 miles to Lamb's Canyon, and took off.  I still haven't figured out what I was thinking with my drop bag planning and not having more Tailwind available to fill in bottles here...maybe it was in my backpack and I didn't know it? I can't remember, but I knew I needed more gel to get to the next aid station.
Ridgeway climb leading to Alexander Ridge as seen during the July Pre-Run
There were some pretty beat up runners in this next section, but I was confident with my ice and heat training that I would be fine.  Plus I was back down at 6000 ft. were I could breathe again and my heart rate had dropped!  I picked off a few runners climbing the powerline trail and hustled down into the Lamb's Canyon Aid Station.  The Rocktane gels were not sitting well, and I really wanted to sit down and recoup a bit: my legs were hurting a bit and I was starting to get a dehydration headache.

Ice bandana goes on at Lamb's Canyon Aid Station.  This was a key portion of my heat mitigation strategy. Photo: Crista Scott

When I got into the aid station at mile 53, instead of Crista and Erin, I saw Crista and Kara!  Kara??!  What are you doing here?  She's one of my running friends of So Cal.  She told me that she flew out just to crew for me!  I'd later learn that she was there to run the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon and was having some fun at my expense, but I totally believed her at the time, haha.  I downed a delicious, ice cold Hansen's Root Beer, some water, and got ready to get out of there.  I was still within striking distance of my 24-hour goal and that's all that mattered.  I left at 5:00pm on the dot, 12 hours in and exactly on the race supplied 24-hour pace table.

I checked out of the aid station and headed up Lamb's Canyon Road to the Lamb's Canyon Trailhead, which, all together are about a 2300 ft. climb (from the creek in Lamb's Canyon before the aid station) over about 4 miles.  Halfway up the road, I started to feel not-so-great.  I was in the shade, but I was feeling nauseous and it was really hard to force more food into me.  I had hoped that water and root beer in the aid station would have calmed my stomach, but the Tailwind didn't sit well, gel didn't sit well and I was starting to worry.  My legs were still hiking OK on the road, but I needed to be running this section to hit the 2 hour split into Upper Big Water Aid Station.  A runner earlier told me his strategy for running 100-milers, 'eat until you puke', which kept playing through my mind in this section, because I did not want to puke and lose all my nutrition, but I did want to eat until I almost puked, so I kept forcing tailwind and gel into me.  Yuck, it felt awful.  On the road, I got passed by a runner who I had passed coming into Lamb's Canyon Aid Station.  He was run/hiking with his pacer and seemed to be beat up but making a recovery. I kept hiking hard, but was disheartened as they started to pull away on the single track climb.  I was charging my GPS watch via battery and cable, so I couldn't see my heart rate.  I felt like I was working through the roof but had no way of knowing if my heart rate agreed with that feeling.  Hike hike hike, harder and harder as fast as I could move my rapidly tiring legs.  Oof.  I wanted that buckle.

I topped out on the climb, stretched and began the 1500 ft. descent into Mill Creek Canyon.  I was trying to move well but my legs were hurting and pushing hard, eating, and drinking was proving to be difficult.  Still, I knew I was close to hitting the split (hiking legs not so bad after all!) so I kept pushing and popped out onto the Mill Creek Canyon road at 6:22pm (I still remember looking at this time on my watch...funny how some memories stick), 38 minutes to go 3-4 miles if I wanted to arrive at the 24-hour split.  Maybe if I had a quick aid I wouldn't lose much time?  It's bummer I felt so bad on this descent because it's a really fun one with great views.  Winding single track descending through canyons with creeks...awesome.  Either way, I was feeling toasted and trying to eat more/drink more Tailwind and my stomach was making me miserable.  My legs weren't getting the nutrition that they needed and were starting to falter.  I was running and hiking the road as fast as I could, but it's still 3.5-4 miles with 1200 ft. of climbing to get to the aid station.

I finally made it into Upper Big Water Aid Station at about 10 minutes after 7pm, which was all I could ask for at the moment.  It was getting cold and I was soaked.  Big thanks to Jimmy Dean Freeman for the tip on putting a fresh shirt in my drop bag because it felt great to be dry in the cold...I might have frozen on the next section without this dry shirt!  I put on arm warmers, light gloves and my hat and took off for Dog Lake and Desolation Lake with a bag of Ruffles in-hand.

At this point, obviously Tailwind and gel weren't working and I was out of chips, so I decided to try trail mix bar.  This went down OK, but still not great.  At least I got the whole thing down in an hour...200 cal/hr isn't so bad.  My legs were failing me from lack of food over the previous miles.  At least it was a hikable section...though towards the top my hiking wasn't doing great either.  I tried a Clif Organic Energy Food (Banana Beet Ginger) and this didn't sit well either.  I was at my wits' end.  Nothing was working so I just kept pushing and tried to do my best, though I was disheartened by getting passed by a couple of runners who I had passed on the road into Upper Big Water Aid.  I hit the small descent from Dog Lake to Blunder Fork, made it down without feeling too bad, and then turned up towards Desolation Lake, not really looking forward to the climb. 

The view from above Desolation Lake, as seen during the July Pre-Run.  I came through here at night during the race.
Fortunately, my legs were feeling mildly better on this climb and I think I was able to run the flats and easy uphill and hike the steeper stuff.  I had some broth, ginger ale and coke in the Desolation Lake aid, filled water and took off again.  Just a bit more climbing before some rolling into Scott's Tower aid.  I paused a couple times on this climb.  My legs were really hurting and I put my hands on my knees to gather myself.  It sucked.  I could feel 24 hours slipping away.  To compound the issue, I was starting to feel sleepy, probably from lack of calories or something.  Maybe I ran too hard earlier in the heat?  I needed to keep my eyes open.  I rolled into Scott's Tower aid and sat down to gather myself again.  I gave myself 10 seconds in the chair before I got water.  While I filled water and poured Tailwind powder, I talked to the guys about the Utah/Utah State game which they were listening to and then headed down the trail with Matt Connor, a veritable Wasatch badass (this was his 8th race) on the long descent to Brighton Lodge Aid.

He almost immediately left me in the dust, so I ran as much of the next downhill as I could, but my legs were constantly screaming to walk it in.  That was unacceptable, so I pushed myself hard to run, but some walk breaks happened, especially on the road to Brighton where my legs were getting pounded, so I pretty much run/walked it to the bottom of the descent.  I climbed the last 150 ft. climb into the aid station, barely awake (at 11:10pm...hmmmm) and immediately told my crew that I wanted to lie down.  They found me a spot and I lied down.  I told Crista to get me up in 15 minutes and no longer.  Some medic kept asking me if I needed anything, so when the 15 minutes were up and I hadn't slept a wink, I asked for another 5.  I got woken up by the medic again, but I think I got some actual sleep for a couple minutes, so I got up, got my warm clothes on to run through the night, drank water and ate grilled cheese, and got ready to go.  Before I left, I cracked out my secret weapon: Red Bull and Tylenol.  The Tylenol was to help get rid of the headache and maybe help with any muscle pain (though I've heard that Tylenol doesn't really do much for this).  The Red Bull was to get me pumped up and open up my blood vessels.  It was just before midnight when I left the hut with Erin pacing me.  I had been there for 47 minutes.  Ouch.  I wasn't feeling great, but I also wasn't feeling like dying like I did 30 minutes before, so I was content with my recovery.

All hopes of 24 hours out the window, I was ready to just run well and have a good last 25 miles.  There was only 1 big climb and 2 small climbs left.  This section of the course is gorgeous in the daylight, so it was unfortunate to be doing it in the dark for that reason, but nice because it meant that I would finish in the cool early morning and not the brual mid-day heat in Midway like we had on the prerun in July.
Ready to go at Brighton Aid Station.  Photo: Crista Scott

I think Erin was a little worried that I was a total shitshow wreck at this point and not sure what to expect from me, but she was positive as we hiked up the face of Brighton, past Lake Mary, and over the pass at ~10,500 ft. elevation, the high-point of the course.  The top of the climb was a turning point.  I was feeling pretty solid.  Not great, but solid.  I started to run the descent and move pretty well!  I wasn't (as) nauseous anymore! Woohoo!  The trails back in this section are a lot of rutty, loose, motorcycle trails, so the descent was a wild ride.  Luckily no falling, and I came into Ant Knolls Aid Station feeling solid.  This aid station was a 15 foot tall geodesic dome covered in lights and a parachute for shade during the day.  It was pretty magical to stand inside and grub down.  I was back on Tailwind and gel and I downed a couple of quesadilla wedges in the station before taking off for 'The Grunt', a ~0.5 mile, steep climb up to the ridge.  I was still pretty beat up on the climbs, so I was hiking slowly, but I managed to pass a guy and his pacer, the guy who was undoubtedly feeling less good than I, which says a lot, because I didn't feel too good.  This course is brutal.

The at the top of the Grunt, the runners turn right along the ridge and start wrapping around and then down into Pole Line Pass aid station at mile 82.3.  This is where last drop bag was located.  I had loaded it up with Tailwind, Gel, and 4 coffee drinks!  Erin and I each downed 1 coffee drink and took the other two with us for later.  This aid station was awesome as well.  Well stocked and I grubbed down a grilled cheese before I took off.  Maybe the greasy/buttery food was working out because of the fat? I don't know but the bread/tortilla and cheese combo was doing wonders for my nutrition.

From the top of the Grunt it's about a 2000 ft. descent to the next (and last!) climb.  Pole Line Pass is about 500 ft. down, so I had about 1500 ft. to go.  Erin and I took off onto the sandy moto trail and began the long descent down to the canyon.  This trail is rocky and 1 big rut, but was in surprisingly better condition than it was when we ran it in July, so we cruised down it to the fire road and began the last climb, a 600 footer in about 1 mile.  It was easy enough to hike this and at the top, I drank my coffee drink and was ready to run it into Staton North, Decker Canyon, and the Finish.  This is where the course gets kind of shitty.  It's just a wide open fire trail that descends for 10 miles and 2500 ft. with only a few uphills.  It's non-descript, rocky in places, and not the best running that anyone has done.  But it is pretty quick moving, so we worked our way down at an OK pace.  Not bad.  Staton North, water, continue up a small climb, descend.  The trail finally puts the runners onto a steep, short climb to what we called 'a trail that's not a trail'.  It's a trail, but it's covered in weeds and whatnot.  It was tough for me to run well on this, but I tried my best and kept taking in Tailwind and water to get me down to Decker Canyon.  It felt like the 1.5 or 2 miles of this section took forever, but I'm sure it was actually not too long.  Decker Canyon Aid showed up and I got some water and chips and headed out.

There's a slight rise out of the aid station and then the canyon descends to the Deer Creek Reservoir where a bike path and road takes the runners to the finish.  I checked my watch and saw that it was 6:04am.  There were about 6 miles left from the aid station, so I figured that if I ran sub 10 minute miles to the finish that I could finish in under 26 hours.  I started running faster and put a bit of a gap on Erin, who was having trouble seeing the cattle field trail because her headlamp was dying, so when I opened the first cattle gate and waited a bit, I told her my plan.  She replied that I should get it done, but that she couldn't see well and would see me later.  My headlamp was on the low setting because it was getting close to dying as well, so I was running half by feel, and half by my low headlamp light.  I made it to the bike path at a sub 10 minute clip and turned onto the rolling path and started hammering.  My watch showed a 8:43 mile, but I thought it showed 9:43 and I started to worry that I wouldn't make it, so I picked it up.  I clicked off a 9:17 and felt a little better, but kept pushing, hitting 9:03 for the next mile.  Then I clicked off a 7:53.  Whoa!  Better keep moving, it's past 6:30am!  I hit the next mile at 7:09, flying down off the bike trail onto the street towards the finish.  6:45am, how long is this last road section?? I can't remember!  I kept running hard up the road, blowing by a dude and his pacer who were walking it in.  At this point I knew I had it in the bag, but I didn't want to slow down and jog it in, so I just hammered all the way home for a finishing time of 25:52.  John Grobben was there to shake my hand, but other than him, Chris (Erin's fiancee), Crista, and a few other people, the place was pretty deserted.  I was just pumped to sit down. Whoa.  What a day.

Crossing the finish line and shaking RD John Grobben's hand. Photo: Crista Scott
That's a good sight! Photo: Crista Scott

The Aftermath

Recounting the mayhem of the last 6 miles to Chris. Photo: Crista Scott

 After the race finished, I waited for my pacer to come in and gave her a big hug!  Erin was awesome and kept me on track and positive the whole time. I fell asleep on the car ride home, then slept for 3 hours (after a shower), then went and got lunch, followed by another nap, followed by driving back out to the finish to cheer in the final runners and go through the buckle ceremony.

Buckle up! The dark blue 24-30 hour buckle.  Photo: Crista Scott
I was pretty stoked on the finish.  I think I have 24 hour capability in my legs on a course of this difficulty, but I needed to execute through the tough middle section better.  In hindsight, I think I needed to be drinking a ton more water and my stomach would have been better.  I had a dehydration headache for 20 miles...there's no way my stomach was performing as it should have been if I was exhibiting those signs.  My urine was pretty dark yellow too (but I've seen it worse!).  Oh well.  Seeing as it was only my 2nd 100 miler, I will chalk it up to inexperience and hope that I can get the job done on the next one!

I am also stoked to that I my training showed through and I was able to run hard.  As ultramarathon runners go, I am relatively inexperienced, so I was stoked that I was able to run hard for as long as I did.  I'm hoping that if I sort out the hydration issues that I'll skip the stomach issues and be able to continue running hard for 100 miles straight on the next one.

It's been a heck of a summer.  Between work and running, I didn't do much else other than eat and sleep.  I spent a lot of quality time with my running friends, but didn't see many non-running friends.  I still now think back about some of the runs that I went on and am stoked by how far I've come as a runner.  I see runners like Andy, Guillaume, Dom, Katie who have tons of experience and run super fast times and wonder if I'll ever get close to that level.  I read a race report from another Wasatch Front 100 runner, Gabe Joyes, and though he's way faster than I am, it seems like he had some similar thoughts going through his head (congrats on running hard dude!) that his run at Wasatch helped to dispel.  In the same way, my run this past weekend helped answer some of my own questions about my ability, and I'm hoping that it's just a matter of putting in the miles for more years to get closer to the fast guys at the front.  Until then, my run at the Wasatch Front 100 this past weekend is a pretty great validation to myself that all the training miles are paying off and that I've got good things to look forward to.  Life is good!

The next day, porch sitting with beer and burger.  Photo: Crista Scott

Crista made this cool video of the race from her perspective:

Gear List:

  • Shoes: New Balance Leadville 1210v1 (1 pair the whole time)
  • Socks: Injinji Crew 2.0 (1 pair the whole time)
  • Gaiters: Mountain Hardwear Running Gaiters
  • Shorts: North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul
  • Shirts: Assorted shirts from races, but the hot weather one was a North Face Better Than Naked shirt
  • Gloves: Early - Salomon S-Lab.  Late - Outdoor Research Hot Pursuit
  • Shell: North Face Verto Hooded
  • Long Sleeve: North Face of some sort
  • Buff: Dirtbag Runners buff and Buff USA Coolmax Full Length
  • Glasses: Oakley Radarlock
  • Hat: Outdoor Reasearch $12 White Running Hat
  • Pack: 2X CamelBak Circuit w/ 50 oz. reservoir and 2 CamelBak Podium Bottles
  • Watch: Garmin 310XT
  • Headlamp: Petzl Nao 2
  • Sun Sleeves: Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves

 Strava Data

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Running and Team

My friend Luis Escobar says that running 100-miles is a team sport: the runner is supported by a crew that takes care of nutrition, tends to injuries, and does their best to ensure the success of their runner.  Excepting the solo 100-milers, racing takes a village.  To add to that sentiment, however, I'd posit that sometimes the team is there year round, through tons of miles, mornings, nights and weekends of preparation for race day.

It's been a little over a year since I moved from Hermosa Beach, CA to West Los Angeles, CA.  I made the move to be closer to the mountains that I love to run in and to get a change of scenery from the beach and bar culture of Hermosa Beach to what I had hoped would be a culture that would facilitate a focus on running and a healthier lifestyle.  It's also been about a year since I raced 100-miles for the first time through the mountains around Big Bear Lake.  Though the timing between the two events was purely coincidental, it's provided me with some interesting perspective into the effects that training with or without other runners can have on preparation for a 100-mile race, and how having runners to train with and look up to can affect the outcome of a year of training.

Last year, as I entered the final weeks leading up to the Kodiak 100, I had trained nearly 100% by myself.  Weekend miles run solo, weekday miles run solo except for a Monday night tempo run with a road running group (Club Ed! Shoutout!), and guidance from the internet and marathon training literature.  I didn't know many/any folks in the ultramarathon world.  I entered the race feeling as prepared as possible, but without much context to know if my training had been good enough.  Had I run enough miles? Climbed enough vertical feet?  Should I have done ANY speed training, tempo work, or hill repeats?  I suppose for a solo runner, these questions would be answered with experience, but with the intention and/or ability to race only 1-2 100-milers in a year, the experience would come slowly.  I ran the race, finished well, learned a lot, and was happy with my experience.

Just before I raced Kodiak, I began to run on Thursday mornings with my local trail running club, the So Cal Coyotes.  I didn't know many of them at first, but did my best to meet new running friends in my new home and learn as much as I could.  Within a month or two, I had also started to run with a subset of this group that typically runs on Tuesday mornings, who, at the time, had no name, but now refer to themselves as the Pacific Mountain Runners, or PMR for short.  This group essentially consisted of like-minded runners who like to train hard and race hard.  I was pretty stoked to run with a group of people whose running speaks for itself but exude a laid back attitude about running and life, despite their seriousness.

Workouts?? Dom and I hammer out some hill repeats with
Andy and Katie. Photo: PMR
As the new year began, I enjoyed opportunities to run with young runners, experienced veterans, and everyone in between.  It was awesome.   I was perpetually stoked to get out for easy runs, hard runs, long runs, and workouts.  Workouts?  I hadn't thought about hill repeats, tempo runs, or anything else since I left the road running world in 2013.  Yep: new home, new ideas.  So much learning.

My 2nd 100-miler at the Wasatch Front 100 is just 10 days away, meaning that I'm neck deep in taper and my mind is working overdrive to make up for the miles that my legs aren't running.  I've been thinking a lot about the past year of running, the runs I've been on, races I've run, and the people that I've run with.  The runs have increased my fitness and strength to allow me to tackle big mountain races, the races have given me experience in pacing, nutrition, and equipment choice, and the people have given me inspiration and training partners.  I've been lucky enough to train with some awesome runners, and they've become my 'team' for the past year, pushing me to be a better runner, sleeper, eater, and in-run picture taker.  So I guess I'm gonna get all sentimental and name some names of people who have made a big difference in my running this year.

PMR Runners or Christian Rock Band? Photo: PMR
PMR Crew - I look up to all the guys and girl that I have run with all year.  And not to sound too much like the Ninja Turtles intro song (which is rad) but I'm going to call them out for what they do. Andy is always stoked to run.  Dude raced 4 ultramarathons in 4 months (3 50s and a 100) earlier this year, and followed it up with a self-supported 100-mile attempt with me through crazy conditions.  For being a fast dude, he reminds me that drinking beer is OK too, and that bad ideas are actually awesome ideas (while returning from injury, he 'walked' the first 75 miles of the AC100...blowing the doors off half the field in the process).  Dom may or may not drink less beer than Andy, but in either case makes up for it with copious amount of NPR knowledge.  His methodical approach to training and logic oriented methods have pushed me to be better, not just at planning and executing workouts, but also at taking care of myself outside of running: sleeping enough, and taking the right steps to recover well.  He planned his now-fiance's training plan for her whole year leading up to the AC100 where she would toe the line feeling more prepared than ever, and PR by a solid chuck of minutes.  I've probably put in more miles with his fiance Katie than I have with any other runner this year.  She and Dom welcomed me into their mountain cabin to help me train for Wasatch Front (probably to get more delicious IPA in their fridge as well...ok and maybe we're friends too) and the time spent there mountain running this summer has been the backbone of my training.  In the miles through the San Gabriels, Katie shared tons of her running experience with me and showed me that even super solid runners have to power through shitty days of training when the body isn't quite ready to execute to plan.  Sufferfests can be followed by great days of running.  The two of them tackling big back-to-back hill-repeat blocks over 2 months inspired me to execute some similar blocks myself, which lead to a Green Peak time trial PR a few weeks ago coming off a huge week.  I can't wait to give it a go on fresh legs!  I didn't run as much with Elan, Chamoun and Guillaume, but watching these guys' dedication to the craft has helped fuel me to train smart, race smart, and push the limits on what I think I can do with my training.  Seriously, I look up to all of these runners and am pumped that I have them to train with.

Yotes - Jimmy Dean's group of runners is really what started it all.  Last year, as part of trying to meet new people and give back to the community, I drove with Erin and Pedro to volunteer at Chimera 100 and in the process met some cool dirtbags who love to run hard and drink beer.  Erin and I put in a solid 35-miler in preparation for Sean O'Brien 100k that crowned my first 100+ mile week as a runner. Jimmy Dean always has an anecdote for every situation, and a piece of advice or quote to suit the situation.  To paraphrase what he said before Kodiak: "At some point, you're going to want to not be running anymore.  That's the time when you decide what kind of 100-mile runner you're going to be."  Those words payed through my head for the entire race.

Howard shows how it's done at the Los Padres Odyssey. Photo: Peter Brennen
The Masters - While I haven't shared a ton of miles with Howard Cohen and Luis Escobar, somehow their words of wisdom frequently pop into my head.  Those guys are legends in their own right and have helped to shape my running in the past year.
There are a ton more people that I've run with this year who I've learned from, but the above few are some that I've shared the most miles with and who I think have had the greatest effect on my running.

So yeah...if you guys are reading this...sorry for calling you all out and being all sentimental...I blame the taper?  Either way, I'm stoked/thankful/amped/etc. for all the awesome runners that I've spent time running and chilling with this year.  I've increased my stoke watching a handful of the above named people tackle their own big races this year, I've run a lot of miles with great people, which is WAY better than running solo (for the most part),  I've consumed a lot more craft beer, way less cheap beer, and less beer in excess, I've introduced root beer as my long run recovery beverage, and finally, without running a significant number more races, I feel like I am vastly more experienced of a runner headed into this year's big race.

This morning I completed my last hard workout before the Wasatch Front 100 and am feeling excited and prepared for one of the toughest 100-milers out there.  In 10 days I will have my team of Crista and Erin with me at the race to think for me while I'm a broken shell of a man at mile 75, but for the past 12 months, my other team has been pushing me to run hard, recover well, try root beer, and sustain the stoke.  Running a 100-miles is deifnitely a team sport.
Photo: PMR