Saturday, December 31, 2011

Snowshoeing at Happy Jack

The weather forecast for today in Laramie, WY called for high winds, snow and a wind chill of 0 degrees.  It sounded like a perfect day to start my snowshoe training.  I am signed up for three snowshoe races over the next six weeks at distances from 10K-30K.  My first snowshoe event is the Snowy Range Snowshoe Race in Laramie next Saturday.  There is a 5K, a 10K and a backcountry 22K.  I am running the 22K and Ean is running the 10K.  I'm sure this will be a well run and fun event.  It is put on by Alec Muthig, the man behind my favorite Wyoming adventure, the Twin Mountain Trudge.  The Snowy Range Race will be the State Championship Race for Wyoming.  Here's what Alec has to say about the event:


Come join us for some competitive and adventurous snowshoe racing, Wyoming style. All races start and finish from the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area main lodge. We plan on making this the most festive snowshoe finish line in the nation!   The Snowy Range has its name for a reason, so let’s have some fun in all of this snow!

I went to Happy Jack just outside of Laramie this morning with Scott and Eric- they skied the groomed ski trails and I took the less groomed snowshoe trails.  It was cold and windy, but it was fun to be out in the snow on my snowshoes and even though I only got about 5 miles, it was enough to make me feel a bit more confident going in to next weekend's race.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chubby '11, WS '12 and beyond

It was a wonderful weekend for running in Fort Collins.  On Saturday, I spent the whole day out on the local trails with 60+ runners from the Front Range and beyond at the 2nd running of the Chubby Cheeks 50K, marathon and 22 miler.  I opted for the marathon route this year due to slow going on snowy and icy trails.  Even though this route was 5 miles shorter than the route I ran last year, it took me 20+ minutes longer so I still feel like I got my money's worth.  I ran most of the way with Celeste and Ziggy and was treated to a full day of singing, taunting and threats of being bowled over.  It was great.  We were joined at mile 15 by Mindy and Lindsay and at mile 24 by Brian and Marie.  We all made it back to Nick's place well over 7 hours after we started and had a great time eating, drinking and hearing everyone's stories of snow and ice and getting lost and being tired and being glad to be part of a great sport and an even better community.
One big climb down, three to go
Ziggy checking out the view from the top of Arthur's Rock

Nick pulled up the results of the Western States lottery and called out the names of Colorado winners.  I was glad to hear Mike got in, but unfortunately my name was not on the list.  Well, maybe next year.  As for this summer, not racing a 100 in June frees me up to do some pacing which will be a lot of fun too.  I will be pacing Kyle in his first 100 at Big Horn on June 15 and maybe I'll make the trip to California the next weekend to do some pacing, crewing, and cheering out there too.

I was pretty sore today from yesterday's fun in the snow.  While Maddie was at ice skating practice this afternoon, Ean and I ran in to Mike at EPIC and we went for a very relaxed 8 miler in the sunshine on the Spring Creek, Poudre and Power Trails.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December Running

December 1st brought a sizable snow and cold air to the Front Range and so after a warm end to fall with temperatures near 70 degrees on Thanksgiving, winter has arrived.  December running was kicked off on Thursday with the last official (and my 23rd) Tower's Time Trial of the year.  The hill was un-plowed and had shin to knee deep snow all the way up with occasional thigh to waist deep drifts.  It was cold and foggy and wonderful.  I felt pretty good and pushed hard and still only just broke an hour with a time of 57:18.

It was snowing again Saturday morning and Ean and I got up early and met up with Scott, Celeste, Kyle and Sarah for a make it up as we went along 17 miler though town, along the river, up Centennial and then through the snow over Reservoir Ridge.  Saturday night I took Shadow out for a short snowshoe run in Pineridge.

Five of the first six races on my calendar for 2012 involve snowshoeing or running in the snow and I am looking forward to doing a lot of snowshoe outings over the next few weeks to prepare.  I hoping the snowshoeing will provide some good lower impact and high intensity cross training to start out the year and prepare me for the hard training ahead for the spring and summer ultras.

This morning was the Tortoise and Hare 10K at Lee Martinez Park and I ran 40:57 which was 1:36 faster than I ran last year.  I felt good despite having some soreness from yesterday's run and snowshoe.

It was a good week of running all around and I credit a lot of this to making much better decisions about what I am eating.  Ean and I have resolved to eat more whole foods and cut way back on sugars, animal products and processed junk.  I am amazed and encouraged about how much better I've felt for the last several days since I have been more thoughtful about what I eat.

Next Saturday should be exciting with the 2nd running of the Chubster and the WS lottery.  After that the big running of 2011 will be over and training for the events of 2012 begins.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fort Collins Thanksgiving 4 miler

It was another great Thanksgiving morning in Fort Collins (our 6th).  My mom and step dad, visiting from California, came out and ran the 4-mile race with us this morning.  Ean and I ran a relaxed warm-up through town and met up with Scott, Pete and Celeste.  We slid in to the starting line-up where we formed a pack of my favorite local friends and runners including Mike, Rob, Brian, Brian, Shannon, Lisa, Nick, Tim, and about 3000 others.  I went out hard but under control and exchanged some laughs and encouragements with others around me.  I ran briefly with a couple runners from my cross country team and was glad to see them out staying in shape and running well in the off-season.  As we made the right turn on Mulberry, Brian commented that pace felt fast, and it did, but my watch said we were well over 6 min/mile.  Mile 1 was 6:09 and felt too hard.  I pushed and tried to stay relaxed up Mulberry, but the pace got slower and it kept feeling harder.  I was glad to see City Park and the turn on to Bryan.  Mile 2 was 6:32 (ugh).  My sub 26 minute goal was slipping away, but I decided to just keep pushing to do whatever I could on the final 2 miles.  I made the turn on to Mountain pushed on to Shields, gave Mr. Stone (Blevins school counselor and regular race volunteer) a high 5 and then hit mile 3 in 6:24 (a little better).  I knew I just needed to hold that pace for one more mile and I'd be there.  Cat, Mindy, and Mary were at the turn on to College and their cheers helped me push the final 150 yards to the finish.  I really didn't have anything left for much of a kick, but I gave it all I had and watched the finish clock get closer and closer to 26 minuted as I approached and crossed the line in 25:54.  This was not my fastest run on this course, but it was faster than last year and I am happy with that.  Mike, Scott and Pete were all at the finish line still catching their breath and they had all run great races with PRs of one to two minutes.  I jogged back to the corner just in time to see Ean coming in for an amazing finish and a huge PR of 34:24, which was more than a minute and a half better than her goal. We jogged back to find Maddie who had met up with a friend and we ran in to the finish with them.
We walked with Maddie back to the car to grab some warmer clothes and then jogged back on the course one more time to finish with Micah, Ama and Papa.  We found them less then a half mile from the finish, having a great time on this beautiful morning.  We ran in together one last time and then headed home for the Thanksgiving feast.  I am thankful for my family, my friends, my community and wonderful days like today.



Thursday, November 17, 2011

3000

I just got home from the Towers Time Trial and when I added my day's 11 miles (3 mile run with Ean around the park this afternoon + 1 mile warm-up for Towers + 7 miles up and down Towers) to my cumulative miles for the year I hit 3000!  I have shot for 3000 miles the past two years, but came up short with 2348 miles in 2009 and 2725 in 2010.  It looks like I'll finish this year off with 1000 miles more than I ran just two years ago.  This has been the year of big training miles and I am hoping that this year of building lots of base will pay off with some racing break throughs in 2012.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

4 x 1600

I got out of bed a few minutes before 5 am this morning and went to the track.  I owe some of this to Mindy, who called me last night to ask what time I was going to be at the track in the morning.  It would have been really easy to hit snooze and go back to sleep had I not known that she would be there.

I could hear the wind blowing outside the bathroom window as I brushed my teeth and thought this could be ugly.  Running mile repeats is hard enough, but doing it in the dark, when it's cold and windy might just be too much.  It turned out not to be that cold and the wind had mostly died down by the time I jogged out on to the track at 5:50 am.  It was still dark, but the gibbous moon was high in the western sky and the first hints of sunrise were visible to the east.  With all my excuses gone, I jogged a few laps, ran some strides and lined up for mile #1.  My plan was to run four 1-mile repeats in 6:15 with a 400 m recovery.

Mile 1 started out okay, but got tough in laps 3 and 4 and I finished in 6:17.  I had said that I'd take the first one easy, so I shook it off, jogged a lap and readied myself for #2.  Mile 2 was hard, but I stayed on pace for the first 3/4 mile and then dropped off a bit at the end finishing in 6:16.  I jogged the recovery lap with Mindy, and we commented on the beauty of the morning and the difficulty of this workout.  Mile 3 didn't feel terrible, but I couldn't hold the pace.  I finished in 6:22 and almost quit right there.  I'm not sure if my slow times were because I didn't push myself hard enough (got to HTFU) or I just wasn't having a 100% morning.  I walked/jogged a recovery lap and lined up for one more.  I credit Mindy and you (my loyal blog readers) for making me feel accountable to finishing the workout that I had set out to do.  I ran mile 4 in 6:32 and felt good about getting it done and dissapointed about not running faster at the same time.  I ran a couple laps with Mindy before she headed home and I jogged across the field to my classroom to start the work day.

I have mixed feelings about this workout.  It was great to get up and enjoy the morning, watch the sunrise and do the run.  It was frustrating not to run the times I wanted.  I think I have the fitness to run 6:15 pace it just didn't happen today.  The sum of my mile times from this morning is 25:27.  If I can run that next Thursday, that would be Thanksgiving Day 4-mile PR which I would be happy with, but I'm not ready to give up on sub 25:00 yet.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

3rd time's a charm?



I put my name in again.  We'll see what happens on December 10.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

6 x 800

So I got out on the track after school today with some hope and a little dread about the workout I had planned.  Six 2-lappers is really not a big deal, but running them on the track alone, in the cold, at the end of a long day is a heavy task.  I jogged a few laps hopping to feel better about it as I warmed up, then ran back in to the building to visit the bathroom, then ran back to the track, did a couple strides and decided I better just do this.  The Blevins track is pretty lonely in the late afternoon in November.  The sun had gone down and the park and fields were pretty empty.  One of my students was on the football filed when I started and he did shout out an encouraging "go Mr. May" as I came around the curve on my first repeat.  After he left, it was just me and the track.  My goal was to run all six repeats at my goal pace for the Turkey Day 4 mile (6:15) so that would be 3:07.5 per 800.  I figured I'd shoot for 3:05 just to be safe.  The first 800 was 3:01 and was a little rough, so I decided to ease up some on the next one.  I jogged a lap recovery and started number 2.  3:04 and it felt much better.  Jog a lap then number 3: 3:02.  Felt pretty good and the workout is half done.  I started to think that I could make it through this.  Number 4: 3:02.  Alright, only two to go and these are feeling better than I'd hoped and I'm running faster than I'd planned.  I started number 5 (thinking "only one more after this") and I was starting to feel the pain coming around the second curve of lap one.  I held on and finished in 3:01.  I jogged my recovery lap feeling very good about the workout and realizing that I probably should have set out to run 8 repeats instead of 6 but it was too late for that now.  I decided to push it a bit on this last 800 and try to go sub 3.  Go!  I hit the 200 in :44 then the 400 in 1:29.  I was on pace for 2:58 if I could hold on for one last lap.  I pushed it through the final 200 m and hit my watch at the line: 2:55.  That last one hurt, but I did it and I was done.  I put my jacket back on, jogged a few more laps and then ran back to my classroom to gather my stuff, hop on my bike and ride home.  A good workout on the track.  Next week: mile repeats.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

5K

I ran the Tortoise and Hare 5K this morning and finished in a disappointing 20:07.  My goal was to run even 6:15/min pace since this is my goal pace for the upcoming Fort Collins Thanksgiving 4 mile.  My splits instead were 6:20, 6:23, 6:29, :55. I will write off today's slow run to having tired legs from yesterday's 15 mile somewhat hilly run though the mud on the Blue Sky and Indian Summer trails.

Last weekend I ran the Spooktacular 5K at the park down the street hoping to run well under 20 minutes and I did run 19:41 which was good enough for 10th overall and 2nd in my age group.  This was my besk Colorado 5K which I was pleased about, but I know I could have run it smarter.  I started out too fast and died in the last mile; splits: 5:55, 6:12, 6:28, 1:03  I stopped at the timing mat that was placed 20 yards out from the finish which explains my especially slow final 10th, but still you can see from the splits that I didn't run very smart.

Coming in to the false finish at the Spooktacular 5K

Before we moved to Colorado five and a half years ago I routinely ran 5Ks in under 19 minutes.  Back then I was running a group track work out every week, training mostly roads and racing 5Ks and 10Ks.  My 5K PR is 17:50.  I was 30 and it was downhill course at sea level, but still I was fast.  Since I moved to Colorado and started running mostly trails and mostly slow and not very many 5Ks, I have not run a fast 5K.  Well, I guess I'd like to and maybe if I can get some speed back in the shorter distances, it will pay off with faster times in my upcoming trail ultras too.  So I am heading back to the track at least once a week for the next few weeks to see what I can do.  There is another 5K next weekend, but I'm not sure if I am going to do it.  I will be running the Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day 4 Mile which is pretty close to a 5K.  My best time for this race is 25:43, but this year I'd really like to go under 25 minutes.  6:15/mile will do it so Tuesday night I'll be at the track running 800s.
Carlsbad 5000- back when I was fast (18:47)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Risk of Failure

I read an interesting article several months ago (I don't remember the magazine or the author) about the allure of the possibility of failure.  The article rails against the trend in western society and the education system in particular in respect to the many structures that have been implemented to minimize the risk of failure.  We don't score many youth sports events so nobody loses, we change academic grading scales to do away with the F, we lower standards, we decrease expectations, and on and on.  Despite this trend, or maybe in response to it, the most difficult ultrarunning events are often the hardest to get in to.  There is a thrill in the challenge of attempting something when you have no guarantee of success.  When I read this article, I found it interesting and inspiring, but I also realized that I was not really excited about the prospect of not finishing a race.  I was proud to have completed every race that I had started and I had achieved many of the time goals that I had set for myself.  I had never stood at a starting line and thought that there was a real possibility that I might not make it to the finish line.

Then last July after 65 miles of getting lost and off course, extreme heat, ridiculous climbs and a lot of frustration, I dropped from the Grand Mesa 100.  It was a huge blow to my pride and confidence as a runner.  I still think about it and wonder if I should have kept going.  So a month later I went up to South Dakota and ran another 100 and finished running a 3 hour course PR.  Two months ago I stood on the starting line in Leadville confident that I would make it to the finish and hoping to do it in under 25 hours.  23 hours later I ran out of time at mile 76.5 and my race was over.

I have attempted the 100 mile distance four times and only made it to the finish twice and I have yet to finish a true mountain 100.  So facing those facts, I decided to take the risk again.



But this time I am going to finish.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grand Canyon R2R2R

I have been wanting to run back and forth across the Grand Canyon since I first heard of this being done three years ago by the Special Idiots down in Boulder.  I first visited the Grand Canyon with Boy Scouts when I was in high school.  I remember it being a very tough very hot hike from the North Rim down to the river and this was the first time that I seriously though that I might die.  We had been hiking for several hours and it was hot.  We were all out of water and were were still a couple miles from the spring where we'd be able to refill.  I remember all of us (ten or so 13-16 year olds and three dads) huddled behind a big rock just off the trail to try to get some shade.  I had never been so thirsty and I had some worrying thoughts that I might not make it to the spring before succumbing to dehydration or heat stroke.  This might have been a bit of teen dramatics, but there are many stories of disaster in the canyon every year as a result of heat, lack of fitness, lack of preparation and lack of water.  We made it to the spring and I remember the wonderful feeling of seeing clean, cool fresh water shooting out of a rock and drinking 'till my heart's content.

I went back to the canyon again one summer during college with my friend Casey Jones.  I tried to convince him that we could make the trek to the river and back from the North Rim in a day (28 miles), but we instead just went down to Roaring Springs and back for a casual 9 miles.

In 2002, Ean and I took the kids, who were two and five at the time, on a spring break camping/road trip across the west and we stopped to camp at the South Rim after two night in Sedona, AZ.  We arrived at the campground in the afternoon and enjoyed some views of the rim.  We set up camp and went to sleep and woke the next morning to find our tent and the canyon covered in a fresh blanket of snow.  It was too cold for us Californians to make breakfast at the campground, so we bundled up the kids and put them in the car, packed up camp and headed over to the Grand Canyon Village cafeteria for a warm breakfast.  We did still take a short hike in the snow a mile or so down the Bright Angel Trail which was fun.  While we were on the tram heading to the trailhead, Ean and I watched a family with teenage kids getting ready to head down in to the canyon on a backpacking trip.  Their excitement in anticipation of the adventure they were about to begin was evident from their friendly family banter.  Ean and I were envious and we talked about how much fun it would be to take a trip in to the canyon together with the kids one day.

March 2002 in the Grand Canyon
Nine and a half years later, Ean and I woke up at 2:00 am on a Friday and jumped in the car to go meet some friends and drive 700+ miles to finally return to the canyon for the ultimate adventure.  The kids decided they'd rather stay the weekend with friends than tag along on this running adventure.  Ean and I celebrated our wedding anniversary a couple days earlier and we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 15 years of adventures together than to go out for another big one.  We met up with Pete, Cat and Shaun at 3:00am and picked up Mike a few minutes later and hit the road heading west over the mountains and south in to the desert.

The drive went by surprisingly fast and before I knew it, we were stopping in Moab for breakfast at the Love Muffin Cafe.  From there, Ean drove us through the beautiful red rock landscape of Utah.  Mike took the wheel as we entered Arizona and hit a pretty serious snow storm.  I had some worries at this point about what our weather might look like the next day for the run, but as we approached the park, the weather cleared and we got some beautiful views of the canyon.

We arrived at the campsite in the late afternoon where we met Lisa and Ron to complete the group. We had just enough time after setting up tents to take a nice walk over to the rim and look across at our next day's goal.  We had a great camp pasta dinner and fire and talked excitedly about our running plans.  The decision was made to park at the shuttle stop and ride the bus to the North Kaibab trailhead at 5:00 am and then return via the longer but less steep Bright Angel trail where we could take a bus back to the cars or the campground.
Standing on the South Rim Friday evening
It got really cold that night, but the tent was warm and I slept well even if I did wake up every hour or so to check the time to see if it was time to go yet.  When the time did arrive, we all scrambled quickly to dress, get our gear together, make coffee, eat and get in the cars to drive to the shuttle stop.  We had some trouble finding the right stop and ended up missing the first bus, but got the second and made it to the trailhead a few minutes before 6:00am.
ready to head down into the canyon
After a couple pictures, we unceremoniously headed down the trail wearing jackets, gloves and headlamps.  Within a couple minutes, I realized that I hadn't really said goodbye or "have a good run" to Ean, who was running down to the river and then back up the Bright Angel trail for an epic 18 mile, 5000+ vertical foot run.  I also remembered that there was a bathroom 1.5 miles down the trail and I realized that I really needed to use it.  As I arrived at the bathroom, the canyon was beginning to light up in the predawn glow and the temperature was rising by the footfall.  After a pit stop in the toilet, I striped off my jacket, wool cap and headlamp and saw Ean arrive with her swift strong stride.  I was glad to have a chance to see her and wish her well on her day's adventures.  We took some pictures and exchanged hugs and kisses and then continued on down the trail.
The run to the river on South Kaibab was the most amazing part of the run for me.  The colors of the canyon as the sun came up and the steep drop off provided non stop awe inspiring views  The smooth wide trail that dropped over 700 feet per mile made the running fast and near effortless.  Shaun and I ran most of this section together.  We walked a bit when we caught the 5:00 am mule train until the mule guides pulled over and cleared us to pass.  We stopped a little later to watch a group of bighorns perched on the talus above us.  And then before we knew it (an hour and twenty minutes), we arrived at the Colorado River and crossed the black bridge to the other side.




We jogged in to Phantom Ranch a few minutes later and filled water (even though I hadn't drank much) and ate a bit.  Cat ran in before I had even put my pack back on and the three of us headed up Bright Angel Creek together.  This was another really nice section of the run.  It was relatively flat on a nice trail that followed and occasionally crossed the creek though a cool, shaded, narrow rock canyon.  We ran together at a comfortable pace and shared the joys of running beautiful trails with good friends.
We spread out some over the 7 mile stretch to Cottonwood Campground, where I stopped again to eat and fill my water.  I set out again knowing that I would soon begin the long climb to the North Rim.  I was still feeling good and excited about the climb.  When I passed Roaring Springs I had a vague memory of the spot from my hike with Casey more than 12 years earlier and then the real climb began.  I wasn't very fast through this section, but I felt really good.  I enjoyed the steep switch backs on the trail that was often just a ledge cut in the rock.    As I climbed, I thought about how much better I felt on this long run following a few weeks of mostly easy, low mileage running compared to how I felt 7 weeks earlier in Leadville.  The climb continued on, sometimes painfully as I passed many hikers, a few runners and a couple of large groups of mule riding tourists.  I was glad to see Pete and Mike on their way back down and hear from them that I was only about a mile from the top.


Standing on the North Rim
I was keeping an eye on my watch as my running time approached 5 hours and I began to think that a sub 12 hour R2R2R was possible.  I made it to the top in 5:20 and stopped to fill water, visit the bathroom, eat my PB&J and talk to another group of R2R2Rers from Missouri.  It was much colder on the North Rim and I cooled off quickly and was forced to put all my warm clothes back on.  After 10 or 12 minutes I decided it was time to start heading back.




Cat, almost to the top
Before I had gone very far, I ran in to Cat who was looking very strong and was less than a mile from the top.  A few minutes later, I hit the mule trains that I had passed on the way up and had to stop and move off the trail several time to allow them to go by.  The other group of runners that I had met at the top caught up to me here and we all ran and dodged mules together for a while.  As had happened in the morning coming down from the south rim, the temperature went up quickly as we descended lower in to the canyon, so I used one of the forced mule train stops to strip off my gloves, hat and jacket again.
on the way back down

I took it pretty easy on the steep descent back to Roaring Springs where I stopped to fill my water and then ran well over the next 10 miles back to Phantom Ranch.  I knew I would need to cover this stretch pretty quickly to make it back to the river with enough time to climb the final 9 miles up the Bright Angel trail and arrive at the South Rim in under 12 hours.  I also knew I needed to be smart and pace myself to have the reserves I would need for that final 5000+ foot climb.

I arrived back at Phantom Ranch with about 8 hours and 40 mintutes on the clock.  I stepped inside the cantina and with the $5 I had stashed in my pack, I filled my hand bottle with lemonade and bought a king size bag of peanut M&Ms.  I talked briefly with some hikers and campers that were relaxing outside while I refilled my hydration pack and they were interested in what I was doing, how far I'd gone, how I was doing.  I told them that I was hopping to get to the top of the Bright Angel Trail before 6 pm to finish the entire rim to rim to rim journey in under 12 hours.  They wished me good running and I headed out towards the silver bridge and back across the river.

Doing the math as I ate M&Ms and sipped the cool, sweet lemonade, I figured I needed to keep up sub 20 minute miles all the way to the top to ensure a sub 12 finish.  This seemed doable and so I proceeded up the trail with confidence.

There were a lot of hikers heading up the Bright Angel Trail in the late afternoon, so my trip up consisted of running/hiking a bit, catching up with a hiker or group of hikers, and exchanging some greetings and well wishes and then repeating.  I was happy to go on like this since I was getting pretty tired and I had been running solo for the last 30 miles. 

The first few miles of the Bright Angel trail were much less steep then South Kaibab and I ran much of it.  About four miles after crossing the river, I arrived at Indian Gardens which is a nice campground with water and bathrooms about 4.5 miles down from the rim.  There were a lot of people here and I walked towards the water spigot, but realized I really didn't need to fill.  Having enough water was one of my biggest concerns planning this run.  My heightened concern was probably due to my first Grand Canyon experience where I thought I might die of thirst and  the many stories of death and disaster in the Grand Canyon due to heat stroke and dehydration.  The week before the trip, I went to REI and bought a new 70 oz hydration bladder to replace the 60 oz bladder in my pack.  I also carried a 20 oz hand bottle that I figured I would add Gatorade powder or electrolyte tabs to throughout the day.  Heading down in to the canyon in the morning, I made sure to drink regularly and I refilled at Phantom Ranch even though I had 50oz + still in my pack.   I did fill again 7 miles later and I filled my hand bottle with Gatorade for the trip up to the North Rim.  I filled my pack again before heading back, but I realized that I had been carrying twice the water that I needed all day and it wasn't getting any hotter.  On the way back I drank when I was thirsty and only filled my pack twice and left the hand bottle empty lashed to my pack (except for the lemonade fill at Phantom Ranch).  Much to my surprise, having enough water was never an issue.  I could have nearly done the whole run with only a hand bottle (maybe two) and carried a fraction of the weight.  If the day had been hotter, it would have been a whole different deal, but with the cool air and partly cloudy skies and numerous water stops along the trail, my pre-trip concerns about water were entirely unfounded.

The trail got steeper after Indian Gardens and my pace slowed to a steady hike, but I maintained pretty close to 20 minutes/mile.  I started counting down the miles, but the Garmin was not much help here.  The Grand Canyon with its 5000 foot canyon walls is not very GPS friendly and my Garmin had been doing weird stuff all day.  On the trip up to the North Rim, I checked the elevation on my watch and it ready 5500 feet.  A mile later after a ridiculous amount of steep switchbacks and high rocky steps, I checked the elevation again and it said . . . 5500 feet.  After that I stopped looking.  On the way back up to the South Rim, I was getting suspicious mileage readings.  According to the maps, it was 1.5 miles from Indian Gardens to the 3 mile point (a spot 3 miles from the top with a bathroom and water) and then another 1.5 miles to the 1.5 mile point.  Both of these spots were more that two miles by GPS and somewhere in the last 3 miles, the Garmin totally flipped out a started beeping mile splits every second and my overall mileage jumped from 45 miles to 158 in a matter of seconds.  Check out lap 51 on where I ran 109 miles in 8 tenths of a second.  In addition to the GPS malfunctions, my internal odometer was failing too; those final miles seemed to go on forever.  Finally as time was getting short and late afternoon was turning to evening, I saw the top and ran the last half mile to the trailhead.  There was a nice couple there that took my picture and asked about my run.  I told them I had run from the South Rim to the North Rim and back and they asked how long that took.  I looked at my watch and told them . . . 11:50!



I was cooling of quickly, so I headed down to the shuttle stop and put my warm clothes back on.  It was nearly dark and getting very cold when I got off the bus at the entrance to the campground.  I shivered all the  way up to the campsite where Ean, Mike, Pete and Shaun were waiting.  Ean had had a great run to the river and back up Bright Angel and was already showered and relaxing.  Pete finished the double crossing in 10:20 and was looking fresh.  Mike finished in 11:00 and Shaun had got back just a little before me after having decided to turn back a few miles before the North Rim with some muscle cramping.  I grabbed some clothes from the tent and climbed in the car with Mike and Shaun for a trip to the showers.  Eight minutes in a hot shower and lots of warm clothes and I felt much better.  Cat (who finished just minutes after me) was at the showers when we finished, so we all regrouped and headed to the Grand Canyon Village Pizza Pub where we easily finished off three large pizzas and shared our stories of the day.

It was an awesome run that I will always remember.  It wasn't nearly the epic sufferfest that some have described.  It was one of those runs where everything went really well.  The weather was perfect, I had the necessary fitness base and was well rested.  I was in the canyon with a good group of friends.  It really couldn't have been much better.

There is already talk of going back next year and I am definitely in.  The Grand Canyon is a unique and inspiring place to visit and an amazing place to run.  It was another great Fort Collins Trail Runner adventure.  I can't wait until the next one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Leadville

It was six weeks ago that I woke up at 2:30 am, ate some yogurt and cereal, gathered my gear and headed to the corner of 6th and Harrison with my family and friends for the start of the Leadville Trail 100.  I had never prepared so seriously or invested so heavily in any running event as I did for this one.  I signed up for this race in December and trained hard for 8 months.  I regularly put in 80-100 mile weeks with long runs, hill runs, runs in the mountains, twice a day runs, night runs, a 55K race, a 24 hour relay, a road marathon, two 50 mile races and anything else I could do to prepare me to run the race of my life on the trails and through the mountains around Leadville, CO.  A finish at the Leadville Trail 100 is an accomplishment for any runner, but my goal was the big buckle given only to those that complete the course in under 25 hours.

running in to Fish Hatchery Saturday morning with Maddie
Well, as many of you know, it didn't quite go as planned.  I felt good at the start line and ran well to the May Queen aid station at mile 13.  After that, things started to fall apart.  The climb leaving Turquoise Lake was tougher than it should have been and by mile 15, my legs started to feel really fatigued.  My quads ached the way I would have expected after 85 miles of running, but at this point, I still had 85 miles to go.  I decided not to worry about it and keep going as best I could.  I hit the Fish Hatchery aid station (mile 23.5) about 15 minutes behind my goal pace and I knew that the race was not going the way I had wanted it too.  I took a short break here with my crew as they filled my water and gave me some food.  I headed out and kept running trying not to worry about the 25 hour goal and focus instead on steady forward progress.  The 16.5 miles from Fish to Twin Lakes was rough.  I was able to run a lot of it, but it was painful and slow.  I got to Twin (mile 40) an hour behind pace and it was hot and I honestly was ready to be done.  My family and crew were encouraging and they got me going again after a break with food and water and I headed off to tackle Hope Pass.  The river crossings felt great as it was very hot and I splashed some cold water on my increasingly aching quads which helped a bit.  The climb up to 12,600 feet was slow.  I walked all of it and was forced to stop and catch my breath and rest my legs for a couple minutes several times.  I was glad to get to the top after what seemed like an eternity, but the trip down the other side was just as tough and discouraging.  The condition of my legs made the steep, rocky descent torturous.
heading out of Twin Lakes - Hope Pass looms ahead

Celeste helps Kyle prepare for pacing duties
When I finally made it down to the Winfield Road, I was wasted.  The 4 mile stretch to the turn around that I had ran easily two weeks earlier went on forever.  I did finally make it to Winfield at 5:00 pm (2 hours later than planned).  I had long since given up the 25 hour goal and was now working to get to the finish.  I was still an hour ahead of the cut-off and I knew I'd have Kyle to help me back over Hope.  I took a pretty long stop at Winfield to eat, drink and rest.  I checked my blood sugar and it was okay.  My crew reloaded my pack and Kyle carried extra clothes, water, gatorade and headlamps.  We got back on the Winfield road and started running.  I felt better here for a while.  It was great having Kyle's company and the road here was mostly downhill. We ran pretty decent splits and my finishing prospects were looking better.  I knew the climb back up Hope was going to be painful, but I felt that once I got over the top the toughest part of the course would be done.  Kyle was great and he kept me moving and we made good time up and over the pass.  It was hard, but our split for the 10 miles from Winfield to Twin was faster than my split from Twin to Windfield on the way out.  It as dark when we got to Twin and I was starting to push up against the cutoff, but I was still very hopeful.  Celeste, going way above and beyond the duties of crew chief, changed my socks and shoes and even cleaned my feet.  My crew got me food to eat and stuff to drink.  Kyle geared up for the next section and we headed out.

We started moving up the trail and I felt a bit better with dry socks and shoes and some food in me, but the thought of 40 more miles that were surely going to take me through the night and well into the next day was pretty daunting.  I again tried not to worry about it too much and just keep moving. Kyle did a great job helping to set small goals and keep me going.  We ran the downs, shuffled the flats, and hiked with purpose on the ups.  We tried to maintain a better than 20 minute per mile pace to make up some time on the cut off. It was a beautiful night and I didn't feel too bad.  My legs were just spent and I was tired and discouraged about how things were going.  We made it through the Half Pine Aid Station (mile 70.9) and I was still under the cut off and staying positive.  Kyle filled my water bottles and I kept going.

Not too long after this point, as we headed past the Treeline crew access point and down towards the road to Fish Hatchery, my legs got to a place where I really just couldn't move faster than a slow walk.  20 minute mile pace was a lot of work and I could barely hold on to it even on the wide dirt road with a gradual down hill.  Earlier, as I struggled over hills and rocky trail, I was confident that when I got to this section of the course that consisted of a few miles of smooth flat road, I would be able to run and make up a lot of time.  Now I was struggling even to walk briskly and even though my Garmin had died hours earlier, I knew time was running out and I wasn't going nearly fast enough.  Kyle must of been reading my mind because he looked over at me and asked if I was having "dark thoughts".  I was and as Kyle and I talked it became clear that after 22 hours and about 73 miles, my race was over.  I knew I could probably just make it to Fish Hatchery at mile 76.5 by the 3:00 am cut-off, but from there I would have 23+ miles with some significant hills ahead of me only 7 hours to do it.  At the 20 min/mile pace I was averaging on this easier section, I still wouldn't make it.  Kyle and I talked through it a bit more, and the decision was made to stop at Fish Hatchery.  Those last three miles that we still had to cover to get to the crew, the car, and warm clothes were painful.  I lost all my fight and was just crushed.  The night had turned very cold and now that I wasn't producing much heat, my teeth started to chatter.  I hoped that somehow, Ean would sense my suffering and drive out to pick us up, but really I knew I had to finish this walk of shame.  Many runners passed us making triumphant efforts to meet the cut-off.

After an eternity of walking along the road not seeming to get any closer to the aid station, we got there and were greeted by my family and crew who had been waiting for us for unending hours in the cold.  It was 3:00 am and I told them I was done.  It was quiet as they walked with me to the camp they had set up and we all soaked in the disappointment and defeat of the day.  Cat went to the checkpoint to tell them I was dropping and came back with scissors to cut off my bracelet.  Mindy wrapped me in her sleeping bag to ward of my shivering.  I think I ate and drank a little.  I was relieved that it was over, but crushed that I had failed.  I think I really gave it all I had on that day, so I don't feel like I gave up, but that doesn't help deal with the fact that all I had wasn't enough.  It took me and Kyle 10 hours to cover the 26.5 miles from Winfield to Fish Hatchery.  Definitely the slowest, most painful marathon of my life.

Many people have asked me the same question that I kept asking from mile 15 on, "What happened?" and I still don't really know for sure.  My best guess is that I was over trained going in.  My legs were beat up and had not recovered from the many long, difficult runs that I had done in the weeks leading up to the race and the two easy, low mileage weeks just before the race weren't enough to get back to fighting shape.  My legs ached for much of the to weeks of taper, sometimes they throbbed so much as I lay in bed at night that I couldn't sleep.  Some said that this was a normal part of tapering and I hoped that was true, but I think now that it was more.  Lessons were learned for sure and I will definitely take rest and recovery more seriously in the future.

Will I attempt Leadville again?   .     .        .      .

Yes.  I am almost feeling ready to commit to giving it another go, probably next summer.  I will take the lessons learned this year and go back to conquer the beast that is Leadville.

August 2012 is a long way off and for now I will have to just keep running.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

LT100 2011 - The Dream Team

As the day of the big race gets closer I find myself thinking about what I need to do, how difficult it is going to be, what my pacing plan should be, my headlamp, what will I eat, etc.  The one think I am not at all anxious about is my crew and pacing team.  I am very fortunate to have without a doubt, the best qualified, most supportive team that will be out on the course in Leadville on August 20-21.  So, with no further ado, let me introduce you to the LT100 Dream Team.



Kyle Fanning
Kyle, a self proclaimed short course specialist, has a spectacular trail running resume.  Kyle has had strong finishes at the Blue Sky Marathon, Red Hot Moab 33K, Big Horn 50K, Imogene Pass, Silver Rush 50 and a recent 1st place at the hilly, competitive and challenging Horsetooth Trail Race.  Kyle will be pacing me from the turn around at Windfield (mile 50) back up and over Hope Pass and on to Fish Hatchery (mile 76.5).  Kyle is strong, smart, dependable and good company on a long run.  I couldn't ask for a better pacer over this very difficult part of the course.

Cat Speights
Cat is truly Wonder Woman.  Cat ran the LT100 last year, and despite what she might tell you, she ran a fantastic race especially considering that it was her first 100.  Cat ran the Big Horn 100 this year finishing 5th woman and running a strong, gutsy race.  Cat's running achievements go on and on and she gives her all to her running and to the running community.  Her next several weekends are filled with crewing, pacing, and supporting runners and putting in quite a few miles of her own.  Cat will be pacing me from Fish Hatchery to the finish when I will most likely be feeling the weight of the miles of the day.  Cat truly is one of the toughest people I know and I have no doubt that she will share her strength to help get me to the finish.


Ms. Celeste O'Conner
Celeste is someone that as I get to know her better, I am more and more amazed and in awe of her.  Celeste is an accomplished runner, cyclist, triathlete, and equestrian.  Celeste has run a number of fast and impressive marathons, the Moab Red Hot 55K, the Lake to Lake Traithlon, she was part of the 3rd place Extreme Team at 24 Hours of Moab and she was 1st place woman and 3rd place overall at the 2010 FC Vertical Beer Mile.  Celeste also has a wealth of experience crewing and pacing at 100 mile events including Leadville in 2010.  Celeste has taken on the role of Crew Chief and I am honored to have her on my team.

Mindy Clarke
Mindy joined our trail running group just this past December, but she immediately became an important part of the team.  Mindy is an accomplished triathlete and stepped in to ultra running this year and ran the Red Hot Moab 55K.  Mindy was part of the Fort Collins Trail Runner Team at the 24 Hours of Utah race this year and she will be running the Blue Sky Marathon in October.  Mindy was an awesome part of the Fort Collins support crew at the Big Horn Trail Races this year and can always be depended on for a great smile and awesome attitude and some meaningful encouragement.  Mindy is a great friend who is always up for an adventure.  She will be a valuable component of the team.

Micah May
My son Micah, who is starting high school on Friday, is a great athlete and has been running and racing since he first stood up.  Micah has run Fort Collins Cross Country, completed the PVHS Healthy Kid Run Series a number of times, he has run the Bolder Boulder 10K five times and is also an avid cyclist, backpacker and river rafter.  Micah supported me on my longest training run for my first hundred two years ago by riding his bike along side me for 45 miles from Glenwood Springs to Aspen carrying all the food, water and supplies.  Micah has crewed for me on both my 100 mile finishes in South Dakota and has been a lifetime supporter of my running adventures.  Thanks Micah for always being there for me.
Maddie May
My Daughter Maddie May will be celebrating her 11th birthday in Leadville on race day.  She is an accomplished runner currently completing her 6th year in the PVHS Healthy Kid Race Series.  In 2010-11, Maddie competed in the Fort Collins Running Club's Tortoise and Hare series of 7 races and she won!  Maddie is also a swimmer, rollerblader, cyclist and triathlete.  She has finished the Bolder Boulder 10K five times (starting when she was 6), run Fort Collins Cross Country and Track and she is very excited to be starting Middle School on Friday.  Maddie has been a valuable part of my crew on both of my previous 100 mile finishes and I am so glad she will be celebrating her birthday this year at the great party known as the LT100.
Mom
My Mom, Joan Trivett, ran my first race with me; a 10K when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I remember having a rough time and I'm sure I complained a lot, but she stayed with me and we finished together.  Since then my mom has encouraged and supported me in my running (and everything else).  She is an accomplished runner herself, having run the LA Marathon at the age of 59.  She has traveled the world, backpacked the Sierras, rafted through the Grand Canyon, and explored the savannahs of Africa.  I had some major struggles at the end of my first 100 two years ago, and my mom was there and paced me in the last 6 miles.  She is flying in from California on Thursday to head straight up to the mountains to crew for me again for my 3rd 100 mile finish.
Ean May
I don't even know where to begin with my amazing, beautiful, wonderful wife Ean.  She has recently taken the trail running world by storm, running the Red Hot Moab 33K and the Big Horn 30K in 2011.  She continues to thrive in trail running with great adventures this summer in the mountains around Breckenridge and Vail and Rocky Mountain National Park.  She will take her first step in to ultra running in September at the Bear Chase 50K.  I wouldn't be running the LT100 if it was not for Ean, because she has literally saved my life on multiple occasions.  Ean is a fantastic supporter and pacer.  She knows when to push and when to give me some space.  Ean paced me in for the final 17 miles last year at the Lean Horse 100 and made sure I reached my sub 24 hour goal.  Ean will be the Crew Grand Chief/Medical Lead and as always my best friend.


This is going to be an amazing weekend.  I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from these amazing people and all my other friends that have wished me well.  Now I just have to go and run.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hope-full

Less than two weeks until what is turning out to be the biggest race of my life and I am feeling pretty optimistic. On Friday, Mike and I ran Hope Pass from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back.  This was my first and only run on the LT100 course and it is arguably the crux of the race.  Twin Lakes is at mile 39.5 of the course and Winfield is the turn around at mile 50.  Between these two aid stations, is the high point of the course at almost 12,600 feet, Hope Pass.  After meeting a couple other runners (Eric and Kate) out to do the same run and a talk with the Sheriff, we found a way across the river without getting our feet wet and headed up the hill.  It was 6 miles and some 3200 feet of climbing up to the pass.  I admired the view, caught my breath and then headed down the other side.
Eric and Kate passed me on the very steep trail that took us to the dirt road leading to Winfield.  I felt good and ran well in to Winfield meeting up with Eric and Kate again and talked with Eric some about the course and he pointed out where the aid station would be set up.




I ran into Mike on the way back down the road.  He had made a side trip from the pass up Quail Mountain and was now just a couple minutes behind me.  I had a good run down the road back to the turn off to the trail back up to the pass.  The climb back up to the pass is brutal.  It is very steep climbing 2300+ feet in 2.5 miles. I hiked almost all of it and stopped once to fill and treat water.  I averaged 30 min/mile back up to the pass.  This part is going to be tough on race day.  I'm glad Kyle will be with me to keep me moving.  I met up with J.P. and his pacers close to the top and Eric and Kate again.  Mike came running up to the pass looking strong just a few minutes later and we all had a nice chat before starting the run back down.


I struggled some running down and Mike gave me some good pointers that helped some (keep feet pointed forward, trust the traction of the shoes).  I wish I could work out m downhill running because this is an area I could make up some significant time.  Mike hung back with me and we had a nice run down the hill.  The running got easier as we continued down the trail and by the bottom mile, I felt like I was running fairly well.  The last couple miles back to the car got tough, because I was feeling pretty spent from the day.  Total for the day was 22 miles in six and a half hours including stops.  The Garmin recorded 7000 feet of climbing which is pretty remarkable since the whole race has about 14,000 feet of climbing.  So half of the total vertical of this course happens in these 20 miles over and back on Hope.  The other 7000 feet is spread out over the other 80 miles.  
It was a good day and I feel that knowing this part of the course will be very helpful on race day.  This was my last long run before the race and I am confident that with a couple weeks of tapering, I will show up on race morning feeling fresh and ready to run.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Downhill Mile Times Updated

Thursday was the 5th running of the Pineridge Downhill Mile following the Thursday night social run.  A great group of 18+ runners showed up for a nice loop around Pineridge under cloudy skies and gentle breeze.  There were several people new to Fort Collins and new to the group.  We regrouped on the ridge where the line had been drawn across the trail and headed out in groups of 4-5.  Mary B. continued on her unbroken streak of getting faster and faster taking another 11 seconds off her mile PR.  Mike H. made his first DHM appearance with a 4:55 for the fastest run of the night and the second fastest time recorded to date.  Next DHM will be September 1 and fall is the season for running fast on the trails.


3/31
4/28
5/26
6/23
8/4
Alexina
--
--
--
--
8:02
Alex A.
6:03
5:38
--
5:19
5:23
Alex M.
5:45
5:54
5:35
5:39
5:23
Brian S.
--
--
--
5:44
--
Brian W.
7:00:02
7:00
--
--
--
Cat
6:19
6:11
6:17
6:05
Gold*
Celeste
6:45
--
6:44
6:54
7:31
(No Ziggy)
Chris H.
7:00
--
5:54
5:45
7:36
(with Ellie)
Dave
5:08
--
--
--
--
Erin
--
8:35
--
--
--
James
6:15
--
--
--
--
Jenn M.
--
--
5:33
--
--
Jennifer S
--
7:25
--
--

Joselyne
--
7:01
--
--
--
Kathy
--
--
--
--

Marie
--
--
--
6:38
6:14
Mary
6:39
6:39
6:34
6:28
6:17
Matt
--
7:20
--
--
--
Michele
8:05
--
--
--
--
Mike H.
--
--
--
--
4:55
Mindy
7:58
--
--
--
Gold*
Molly
8:35
8:20
--
8:47
--
Nick C.
--
*
6:15
--
5:23.1
Nick M.
5:10
4:58
5:00
--
--
Pablo
6:29
6:13
--
--
--
Pete
5:22
*
5:21
5:13
5:27
Sam
--
--
4:49.7
--
--
Sarah
--
--
--
5:20
--
Shawn
6:35
--
6:15
5:57
--
Slush
5:45
6:20
--
5:18
--