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Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wyoming Rocky Mountain 50k: How to Screw up a Perfect Day


The Wyoming Rocky Mountain 50k is held in the Medicine Bow National Forest, which sits on I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie. I was interested in this race because I had never run any trails in Wyoming and the venue sounded fun. Jo and I made the 5 hour drive on Saturday morning and the race was being run on Sunday...because it's not Utah.

My disappoints began early with a cotton race shirt, pink bib and a damn speeding ticket! The speed limit in Wyoming should be no less than 300 mph! 

I've been feeling good and running well this month. Everything has been clicking for me lately and I was eager to get to this race and I expected a strong display of running badassery!

Getting ready to line up and get this thing GOING!

A few things about the race itself...

I had a lot of trouble getting information about the course prior to the race. The website has outdated and irrelevant information and the race has this motto (actually published on the website), "Where the race director promises you nothing, and he delivers." Emailing the RD wasn't much help either because he's a master of single word answers. Maybe he's shooting for a "Barkley" feel to his event by keeping everything top secret.

This isn't really a trail race because it's held on dirt and gravel roads, plus a section of paved frontage road that runs parallel to I-80. The dirt roads aren't bad, but the frontage road sucks.

Our race began at 6:00 AM on Sunday, along with a half and full marathon. All 3 races begin together and run the same course. Each race is an out and back format.

The race starts at 8800' and drops to 8000' at it's lowest point and there's a never ending supply of rolling hills and steep climbs. This race will test your high altitude training, as well as, your quads and climbing ability!

Given the location, a lot of runners had made the trip from Colorado to run this race. There were a lot of pretty speedy guys and girls at the start line. This was not something I expected.

The course looks like this...Except rarely this flat.

The race got started right on time and we immediately began a long descent. I was positioned up front and planned to get into the lead if I could. I was prepared to run hard and possibly break the spirit of a few of the fast guys in the hopes of getting their minds set on something other than winning. I've never tried this trick, but I figured it would be worth a shot. Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy that's never won a race before, so take it for what it's worth. I can assure you, I've done dumber things.

The RD has a strict rule about wearing your bib in front, so I swung mine around to cover my left ass cheek as a sign of rebellion. I'm sure he was furious!

I was letting Jo know who the "fast guy" in the field would be. Who says profiling doesn't work? I was dead on!!!

I took the race lead in the first 2 minutes of the run. I eventually dropped all the 50k runners and I was pacing off the marathon leader, running shoulder to shoulder. Yeah...that felt pretty badass.

I came to the first aid station at mile 4 and flew right passed it without stopping. I was carrying all the fuel I needed and I didn't plan to make any aid station stops during the race. I was loaded up with Hammer gel in flasks and a few Hammer Bars. The Perpetuem stayed home this week because I expected a short outing.

Some early morning scenery

After a few miles, I eased off my pace and was running alone. I held the race lead for several miles and was feeling strong. Eventually, the "fast guy" caught me and I let him go. After a few minutes, I was passed again and didn't put up a fight to save my spot. I was content to let them lead for a while, but I planned to keep them within sight. So far, my race was going exactly as planned.

Giving up the lead actually felt good because I was a little anxious knowing people were gunning for me. I wanted to let them battle it out for a while so I could relax and develop a plan for taking the lead later in the race.

After the half marathon runners turned to head to the finish, we made a steep ascent and entered the paved frontage road. We ran along this asphalt for a little less than 3 miles and came to our 2nd aid station. I paused long enough to remove my arm warmers and hand them to Jo, then off I went.

Coming into the 10 mile aid station

We left the pavement after this aid station and were back on the dirt roads. The park is beautiful and I was really enjoying the scenery. I tend to run with my eyes glued to the course, but I forced myself to pay attention and enjoy the area.

More scenery at Medicine Bow

Heading to the marathon turnaround point and mile 13 aid

Snow capped mountains in the distance. That's Colorado!

And then the wheels fell off...

The weather had been cool and overcast all morning. Somehow, without warning, it got really warm. I didn't seem to notice right away because my mind was focused on keeping the leaders in sight.

My legs got heavy and my turnover began to slow. This wasn't a slow process, it seemed to happen all at once. I didn't feel bad, I was just having a hard time getting my speed dialed up. As I passed through the mile 13 aid station, I was trying to figure out what went wrong. I felt fine, I've been eating and drinking all morning and I know my electrolyte mixture is right. I'm handling my nutrition plan like I always do so it shouldn't be an issue with fueling.

Nonetheless...I was slowing down fast.

Coming to mile 13 aid station

My mind kept returning to dehydration, but I hadn't really been sweating much and I had been drinking plenty. Then suddenly, I got a painful cramp that I am all too familiar with. It's definitely dehydration. The altitude played a factor in drying me out, and the light wind was whisking away my sweat, giving me a false impression that I wasn't losing much body fluid. Before I knew it, I was DEEP into dehydration.

I slowed my pace and began taking in my Endurolyte Fizz drink, trying to bring myself out of the red zone. I've run in these conditions enough to know how to adjust my electrolyte intake for this environment. I just blew it and was now paying a steep price for it.

I made it to our 50k turnaround and I was still in 3rd place but had lost direct contact with the leaders.

At mile 17, I fell to 4th place. Off the podium! 

I saw Jo at the mile 21 aid station and told her about my problem. When I get dehydrated, I become the biggest brat in the world. I was in full "A-Hole mode" when I stopped and talked to her, and as usual, she dealt with it like a pro!

Back on the dreaded blacktop!

At this point, I'm just fighting to keep my position in the race and trying to keep fluids moving into my body. I was angry about my situation and especially angry at myself. I was not in a happy place.

But I was certainly in a beautiful place. Me running toward the hills!

Jo was shadowing me during these miles, just in case I needed something or in case I fell over dead. At one point, she passed me and asked if I needed anything. I figured it would be a good time for a beer.

At mile 27, working on alternative hydration techniques!

Drinking beer at an aid station during an ultra is not new to me, but it's clearly not something that the other runners had ever seen. They were looking at me like I just kicked a box of kittens into a wood chipper. Get over it fellas!

As I was drinking my beer, I fell to 5th place. The beer washed that problem away too.

A few minutes after leaving the mile 27 aid station, I began to feel much better. I picked up my pace, regained perspective and began to have a little bit of fun again.

At mile 29, I had to run up the steepest and longest grade on the course. I knew what I was in for because its the same hill I had bombed down earlier in the day. There was no doubt it was going to be brutal. When it arrived, I chipped away at it and worked myself to the top.

At the finish!

By the time I crossed the finish line, I felt surprisingly strong again. I had managed to pull myself out of my bad place, but by then, it didn't much matter. The Hammer products that I use have never let me down, but I have to use them correctly to get the benefit of them. I failed at properly planning for this race and I paid the price for that failure. 

Let me give you a quick executive summary:

- I was in great shape and figured to do very well
- I lost sight of my hydration and wrecked my plans to be on the podium
- I became a big baby and whined for about 12 miles
- Like with most things, beer soothed my wounds
- I somehow managed to hold 5th place overall
- And...the fast guy I pointed to at the beginning of the race DID end up winning

I'm a little put off by receiving a belt buckle for a 50k. I don't know the history behind this race, so maybe there's a logical reason, but I don't like it. Nonetheless, I'll add it to my collection of awards and will appreciate it for the keepsake that it is. 

Maybe I'll tie a ribbon around it and make it into a medal.

This race report may seem a little uninspired, and if so, it's probably because I'm a little uninspired at the moment. I have a lot of mixed feelings about what happened out there today but I know I need to take the time to study my mistakes so I won't repeat them in the future. In the cycle of training and racing, we only have a limited number of opportunities to really shine on race day. If I had been smarter, today would have been that day. I'll be a better runner for this experience.

We leave in a couple of days for the long journey to South Africa so I can run the Comrades Marathon next weekend. This is the oldest and largest ultra in the world. We're excited about the trip and all the great experiences that will come from it!

Thanks for following along! I hope to see many of you out on the trails (or gravel roads) very soon!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ogden Marathon: It Didn't Totally Suck

Despite the appearance, I'm not making a habit of running road marathons. I ran one two weeks ago, took a weekend off from racing and came right back with another road race. I can assure you, this is NOT normal and will not become a regular thing. Don't judge me!

I ran the Ogden Marathon for three reasons:

1. It's the hometown race. I'm a distance runner.
2. People RAVE about how amazing it is. I need to know if they're full of crap.
3. I needed the miles and supported training runs are kind of nice.

Yeah...the VIP bib!

I was using this race as my last long run before my 50k TRAIL RACE in Wyoming. The 50k is 8 days after the Ogden Marathon, so I planned to run an easy pace, sticking to my splits and focusing on nutrition. I decided to have a finish time of 3:41. You may think that's a random finish time, but it's not! Here's my line of thinking...My qualifying time for the Boston Marathon is 3:15 (because I'm old). I wanted to run at BQ pace, plus ONE minute per mile. This equals 26 minutes on top of 3:15. Set your calculator aside...it comes out to 3:41.

The weatherman had promised a cold and rainy day. For once, he was spot on! I woke up to a relentless downpour. The tone of the day was set.

Like most Utah races, this was a point to point event. We loaded onto buses in downtown Ogden and rode up Ogden Canyon to the race start.

I was fortunate enough to be riding on the VIP bus, which gave me a few perks. Such as:

1. Riding in a luxury motor coach instead of nasty, old school bus.
2. Having breakfast served during the ride to the start.
3. Being able to sit in the warm bus until the race started, versus being dumped off like cattle to freeze to death.

Getting ready to load up for the ride.

This was my ride to the start

The OTHER mode of transportation

 Right before the race start, I had a chance to hang out with a few of my buddies from our local trail running group. I quickly realized that talking to badass trail runners at a road race is very much like talking to your buddies while standing in the tampon aisle at the grocery store. It's nice to see them, but it's a bit awkward. At least until we change the subject to running 100 mile races. That seems to break the tension.

Hanging with two great trail runners, Ryan and Harrison

As we lined up for the start, the rain started up with renewed intensity. I turned my music on, tuned out the crowd, and put my legs on cruise control. My plan was to zone out for the next 3 hours and 41 minutes.

Misty mountain morning

It took a couple of miles to loosen up due to the cold, but I settled in after that and just focused on my pace. This course has a net elevation loss, meaning that we run more downhill than uphill. It was tempting to run faster, but I stuck with my pace and just ran, focusing on easy miles.

One of my complaints about road races is the utter lack of changing conditions and scenery. The Ogden Marathon is a bit better in the scenery department, but it still gets old pretty quick. Instead, I focused on the 13.1 mile mark because Jo was hoping to be there when I came through. I told her when I would be there and I nailed my timing. So far, so good on pace management.

Coming to the halfway point. WET and COLD!

I stopped so we could chat briefly. I knew she would want a status update and I passed off a Readers Digest version of the race to that point. We exchanged a few quick words and I was headed back out.

Taking a quick shot of Hammer gel. More on this later...

Headed toward the finish!

After 17 miles, we take a sharp turn and head down Ogden Canyon. A lot of our elevation loss comes in this section of the race. Some is steep, but most of it is pretty gradual. The canyon has a lot of neat features, so I really enjoyed running through it.

Coming through Ogden Canyon

After finishing the run through the canyon, we were directed along a paved bike/running path for a couple of miles, then we're deposited onto the city streets for the final mile of the race.

I was still feeling great and I coasted toward the finish line, happy to be getting this wrapped up.

Coming through the LONG finishers chute

As stated earlier, I was shooting for a finish time of 3:41 and that's exactly what I got. I was able to maintain a steady, even pace for the entire 26 miles.

Sporting some fresh bling! Headed to get dry clothes.

Drying off and getting changed in the VIP tent

I count this race as a huge success because I accomplished everything I had hoped for. I finished feeling strong, I hit my splits flawlessly, and I got a great training run.

My nutrition needs were almost nonexistent. I took in 3 ounces of Hammer Apple Cinnamon Gel and less than 12 ounces of water. This is mainly attributed to the low temperatures and the easy pace. I didn't use any electrolytes at all and felt great the entire time.

I had decided to experiment with an Ultimate Direction handheld gel flask during this race because I hate using packaged gels. I also hate seeing them litter the race course, which is clearly an opinion that is held by far too few runners at these events. Every time I see a road runner toss their trash on the ground, I cringe. It's stupid and senseless, but they either don't know better or simply don't care.

The UD gel flask. TOTAL FAIL!

 I decided the gel flask is a total piece of crap. The bottle is hard to open and the bottle holder wants to slip off the bottle constantly. I struggled with this thing for the entire race. If I had another place to carry my tiny camera, I would have just tossed this thing in a trash can at an aid station. Don't waste your money.

Now that this race is behind me, I'm excited to be heading to Wyoming where I can run through the mountains again. The Ogden Marathon ranks high on my list for road races and it was definitely a great way to spend the day, but it'll never compete with a good trail race.

Thanks for taking the time to read my race report. I hope to see many of you out on the trails very soon!










Saturday, May 4, 2013

Provo City Marathon: My Accidental BQ

I am not a marathon runner. I once thought I wanted to be, but it was a short lived notion and I moved on to other things. Those "other things" are trails and that's where my heart is. And specifically, I prefer to run 50 and 100 mile trail races. There's a stark contrast between the road marathon scene and that of the ultra running scene. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but I am saying that road marathons really suck and trail ultras KICK ASS! You can take that statement however you want.

Bib and BLING!

I set the month of May aside as a cutback month. I have already finished two 100 mile trail races and few shorter ultras, so I planned for May to be a time when I could go easy and focus on recovery before my running season got intense. However, I get antsy when I don't run long and I get really bummed when I don't race, so I registered myself for two road marathons and a 50k for May. These are all intended to be training runs, with different areas of focus and different goals for each event.

The Provo City Marathon was intended to be a lengthy speed work session. Because I'm super slow and need the work.

Jo was planning to run the marathon with me, but had been hinting at possibly calling it a day at the half marathon mark. I was cool with whatever she decided. I just wanted her to have fun and stay healthy.

We were up and out of the house by 4:00 AM. The weather was decent in the valley, but we would be starting in the mountains and it was going to be cold. I didn't let that influence my decision on clothing and I left the house under dressed, as always. The ONE thing that Jo will listen to me about is how to dress for a race! So she froze her ass off to.

 Jo thinks I'm being cuddly. I'm actually just trying to stay warm.

It was in the 30's up in Provo Canyon and they insisted we arrive at least an hour early. I think Race Directors do this type of thing out of cruelty. It was pointless to be standing around in the cold for that long.

We found the only available spot at a campfire, which happened to be directly in the path of the smoke. We debated the risk factors and decided we would rather die of smoke inhalation than freeze to death, so we took what was offered.

Trying to fight off certain death at the campfire!

We were thrilled when we could finally line up and get on our way. Body heat needed to be generated.

The race starts up Provo Canyon and we're treated to a nice, long downhill run for the first several miles. This can be a good thing if your quads can handle it, or it can ruin your day if you're a road runner.

I was pushing the pace from the beginning and eased into the downhill. Everything felt good and the run was pretty effortless. I had my iPod on and I was rocking my way down the mountains.

"Just warming up"? I was still freezing at this point!

View of the first several miles of the course. 

The canyon was beautiful and I enjoyed running through the mountains. However, I would rather be IN the mountains, but this was a fairly decent consolation.

Waterfall off the rock face along the course

The course eventually flattened out as we approached downtown Provo. We left the bike path and got onto the local streets and would remain there for the rest of the race. This is where the race became mental. No more scenery, no more quad crushing downhill...just a regular road race for the rest of the day.

I contemplated throwing myself into traffic and ending it all right then, but I remembered I hadn't finished my TPS Reports for work and didn't want to leave any loose ends.

Coming into Provo

I assume I was running a solid pace because I was always running alone. I knew there were runners ahead of me, but I couldn't see them. I was pretty sure there were runners behind me, but I couldn't see them either. I don't wear a GPS when I race, so I was running by feel...and it FELT pretty fast.

Then. Suddenly. I needed to poop.

I considered doing it on the shoulder of the road, but remembered I was running a road marathon. The other runners would likely frown on such a thing, so I began to hunt for a more respectable place to crap. Like a bucket or maybe even behind a tree.

Then, from out of nowhere, I spotted a portable toilet and remembered they typically use these during road marathons! I had to blast right through the aid station to reach it as the volunteers were trying desperately to stuff cups of fluid in my hands. I had to be bold in this situation and I simply yelled...

"Nooooooo!!!! GOTTA....CRAP....NOW!!!"

By the looks on their faces, I would surmise they clearly have never spent much time around a trail runner.

There are THREE things trail runners discuss frequently and openly. They are:

1. Running
2. Eating
3. Crapping

Deal with it.

This little detour took far longer than I expected, but it was well worth the time. When I emerged from that magical porta-potty, I was a new man and was running with a fresh set of legs!

Was momentarily excited to see dirt on the course

Shortly after my emergency pit stop, I came to the 13.1 mile mark and enjoyed the cheers. I'm sure they were for the half marathon finishers, but it was still nice to hear. When I crossed the mat, I saw that my pit stop had cost me a bundle of time. Fortunately, I was feeling pretty awesome and my pace was even better than it had been for the last 6 miles. Probably because I was 5 pounds lighter and my gut wasn't twisted in knots.

I was winding my way through an unattractive part of Provo and did my best to stare at my feet and focus on my music. I turned my brain off and just ran. This is what I do when running 100's and it usually pays off. I just make everything go away.

At mile 19, I was getting hot and my shirt was caked with sweat and crusting over with salt. It had to come off and I felt another surge of renewed energy.

I began to calculate my splits and look toward my anticipated finish time. This helped keep my brain occupied while running through a mind numbing landscape. I came up with a variety of potential finish times based on a handful of variables. Only one thing seemed certain. I was going to PR.

At mile 24, I went through my splits again and realized I may have a chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This has never been a goal of mine and is somewhat meaningless, but I would like to go to my grave knowing I did it.

The problem was, my watch and the race clock were not synchronized. I knew they didn't line up, but I didn't know how big the difference was.

So I just ran hard and let things work out however they were destined.

I could see the finish line WAY off in the distance and tried to kick into high gear. Evidently, I was already in high gear because I had nothing else to give. The finish line was taunting me in the distance, but I was too far away to see the clock.

I kept my eyes on the clock the whole way in...

When it finally came into view, I read 3:11:xx. I was 92% certain my Boston qualifying time was 3:15, but the 8% of uncertainty stole my jubilation.

Coming to the finish!!

Finishing!

I crossed the line at 3:12:16. A new PR AND a Boston Qualifying time! When I crossed the line, Jo told me I was definitely in the top 10 and I soon learned I was 7th place overall and I had won my age group!

As soon as I stopped, I felt terrible. I felt weak, exhausted and I was shaking all over. I went straight through the finishers chute, found a patch of cool grass and I crashed.

Beginning to feel normal again, wishing this race served beer

My finishers medal and my award for winning my age group. 

After qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I suppose most people would expect me to run it. But I have no plans to ever run the Boston Marathon.

That decision has nothing to do with the recent terrorist attacks or any other nonsensical reason. I won't run the Boston Marathon because I'm not a road marathon runner. I've never aspired to run Boston and I have never planned to, but so many people have those aspirations and they've worked relentlessly toward qualifying so they can live that dream. So let THEM live their dream. It's not my dream and I really don't care about that race. If I registered for it, I would potentially be taking a spot away from a runner that worked for YEARS to get into that race. I have no interest in that. I didn't set out to qualify and I have never trained for a marathon. It's the other way around actually...I run marathons so I can train for my goal races.

I will find enough gratification in knowing I had the option to run Boston. I'll go out and run some trails instead.

I have another road marathon coming up in two weeks. This race is intended to be a long, slow run and I'm sure it will be. For now, I'm very satisfied with where I fit in the marathon community. I have nothing to prove or and I don't aspire to be counted among the marathon faithful. But I respect those who do.

I hope to see some of you when I get back on the trails!