Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Planting Seeds

I sure do suck at updating this blog. And, well, the main reason for that is that I haven’t done anything worth writing about running-wise.

This summer was a bit of an unusual one for me. From May 22nd to July 7th, I rented out my house in the Wash Park area and went traveling around Europe. As may be obvious from my name, my family is Irish. The primary excuse for the trip was going to go to two family weddings in Ireland. There was one wedding on my Dad’s side in late May and another on June 30th on my Mom’s side. So I figured, what the heck? I’ll go to both. In between I made side trips to Scotland and Spain. Needless to say, it was a blast. But it was a bit spotty on the running front.

The lone exception to that was the Scottish Island called the Isle of Skye.  Holy crap was that a fantastic spot for trail running. I did about eight hours of trail running there in three days and didn’t begin to scratch the surface. If you ever get a chance to go to Scotland and you’re a trail runner, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

My fiancee showing off just one of the many views on Isle of Skye
I'm about the world's least attentive photographer, but if I weren't, I could post another 77,000 fantabulous pictures. On google images, check out Nesit Point, Fairy Pools, Quiraing, the Cuillins, and the rest of the Isle of Skye, if you're curious. Perhaps the coolest trail running locale I've ever been.

Anyhow, I came back. And that's nice, too. Long story short, I’ve been pretty consistent about trail running since I’ve been back. I’ve gone on 6 runs in the last eight weeks on mountain trails that have been 2:30 or longer. That doesn’t make me Tony Krupicka circa 2007, but it’s a nice start for me. I’m starting to feel some strength get back in my legs. I have a tendency to injure myself when I ramp up mileage, but suffice it to say that I’m building a wee base.

For what?

I have a few things in mind.
  1. I’d like to do the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim this October/November. I’ve never done it. My fiancee’s never even seen it. So we were thinking of taking the dogs down to Arizona and giving it a go before the federal government declares ultrarunners illegal down there. If that sounds like anyone’s idea of fun, let me know. We’re thinking of Halloween weekend.
  2. Last year, I ran 36 miles around Wash Park on the Saturday before my 36th birthday. This year I’ll probably do 37. If I’m healthy, that’ll happen Saturday, November 15th.
  3. Rocky Raccoon 100 – Jan. 31st, 2015? I ain’t committing just yet. Getting to the starting line fit and healthy is half the battle. But it’s a thought. Not a goal yet. But a thought.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Leadville 100

I was up in Leadville again this last weekend to watch the Leadville 100 run. For the second year in a row, I was on the crew with Mike Aish as he nailed another podium finish - this time a second-place finish in what was without question the most incredible last ten miles I've ever witnessed in a 100-mile run. It's such a fantastic experience to have a front-row seat to watch an athlete of his caliber do what he does. Can't thank him enough for letting me join him for the ride.

Rather than do a full blow-by-blow like I did last year, I figured I'd just put throw down some random thoughts and put them in a post. Here goes:
  • Mike ran about seven minutes slower from Mayqueen outbound to Twin Lakes outbound this year than last. Other than that, the first half this year played out very similar to last year. By Twin Lakes, he had a 15 minute lead on Rob Krar and about 20 minutes on Ian Sharman and Zeke Tiernan. He left Winfield about 10 minutes up on Krar. Again, eerily similar to last year.
  • Unlike last year, Mike nailed nutrition and hydration this year. He finished a flask of gels between each aid, and alternated between drinking water and sports drink between every aid. At the aids, he took part of a power bar along with a can of soda. Dude probably drank 10-12 full cans of soda throughout the day, including six or seven cans of Orange Crush. He had one Red Bull at Mayqueen inbound. I think that's it. But that's plenty of calories to keep a 125-pound guy moving. 
  • Mike looked decent at the turnaround, but man, Rob Krar looked amazing. That guy had so much bounce in his step. Hard to believe he'd already run 50 miles.
  • Mike said his knees hurt at Winfield. And so it wasn't surprising he had a rough section going back down Hope. But that was a bad section. He had the lead at Hopeless but left Twin nearly a half an hour behind Krar. He lost 30 minutes on Krar in three miles. Finished behind him by 29 minutes at the end. No need to ponder where the race got away.
  • Ian Sharman passed Mike at Twin, too. Then Mike passed him back near the Elbert trailhead. Nick Clark, Mike's pacer at the time, said that Ian looked SHOCKED that Mike passed him back. Given how terribly Mike looked at Twin, frankly, we were all pretty surprised.
  • Mike and Ian leapfrogged each other four times during the race. Each time, it looked as if Ian had beaten Mike once and for all. The last five miles, Mike was so dialed in it was scary. He ran a 7:21 mile at Mile 97 to pass him uphill on the Boulevard. Are you frickin' kidding me?
  • That race was SO. COOL. TO. WATCH. Both crews were driving along screaming at their runners. People drinking at Sugarloaf campground heard the noise and came over to watch as Mike hunted down Ian and were hooting and hollering as well. 100 milers are rarely a spectator sport. That 2nd/3rd place duel was an exception.
  • At every aid station, there were at least 20 people there I didn't recognize who showed up for the exclusive purpose of cheering on Mike. He's a popular guy, and he makes people feel special, and folks were there to support him Saturday.
  • Speaking of Ian, that guy is a true class act. He's a champion of the sport in every sense of the term. Class act while running and a super friendly guy when not running. Can't say enough good things about him.
  • Rob Krar is a mix between an introvert and a robot while running. As a fan of the sport, I cheered for him wholeheartedly every time I saw him. I saw him clench his fist once in a sign of excitement. But just the once. Other than that, no reaction whatsoever. Stone-faced killer.
  • 15:42. Alive and well. I think Rob could get it if he ran a perfect race. He got lost once, had an awful stretch from Pipeline to Twin outbound, and he just ran Western less than two months ago (just as Mike & Ian had). On fresh legs I think he could get there. Big question whether he'd make the race his priority, though.
  • Rob's running RRR 100 in three weeks? Good luck with that.
  • I'd briefly met Nick Clark before, but had never really hung out with him previously. He's fantastic, too. Thoughtful and measured yet passionate in lots of ways. Fun to get to know him a little.
  • I think Mike could break the record, too. He ran a great race Saturday, but by no means the perfect race. His split from Hopeless to Twin was a result of rough patch, but he lost focus, too. We changed his shoes at Twin.  Carpenter didn't change shoes. Mike took off both of his shoes a second time to pop a blister somewhere just before Mayqueen in. Could have been ten minutes there again. He stopped and walked while he drank every one of those cans of soda. Could have drank from a bottle in sips, but preferred the taste from a can. Add the shoes, the stopping, and the lost focus in that one section, and you probably have an hour's worth of time. Given his strong finish this year and his love of that race - it's a long shot, but the record's not out of the question.
  • Almost all of the race's now-notorious flaws from last year were resolved. Outward Bound was smooth. So was Winfield. The smaller field made a huge difference. They recognized their clear errors and fixed the problems.
  • Still, the Leadville 100 run isn't the primary focus of the race series anymore. The bike is. Would love to see a respected ultrarunner like Nick Clark get the chance to take the run and make it his baby. 
  • No iRunFar? Because Squamish had a better field? Whatever. If the top guys from Squamish were at Leadville, they would have been competing for fourth, at best. I can understand that that Bryon and Meghan probably get sick of going to the same races every year. Totally understand that. It's a private business - they can do whatever they want. But I wish they would have said that they just wanted to do something different this year. Saying that Squamish was a better field? Can't speak for anyone else, but that rubbed me the wrong way. 
  • Once again, huge kudos to Mike for pulling out the ballsiest finish I've ever seen. He says he's done with 100s, but I bet him $5 he'll be back next year. We'll see.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Aish joins the blogosphere!

My buddy Mike Aish has decided to get out there and give everyone a little peak into the craziness that is his world.

Check out the new video about him and his new shoe. Yours truly makes a cameo right about the 3-minute mark. I always wanted to be in one of those cool ultra videos!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Return to Ultrarunning?

I’m thinking about getting back into ultrarunning.

A dozen times a year, I’ll be following a race on iRunFar – be it UTMB, Hardrock, Western, whatever. And I’ll wish I were there, running. I’ve never done any of those races – don’t even know the courses. But I feel as if I’ve been to each before. When I initially became interested in the sport, I wanted to run Leadville, because that’s what I grew up reading about as a high school runner. I thought I’d run Leadville once and then move on to something else.

But now I know there’s so much more to the sport. And there’s an itch to do more.

I’ve got a decent bucket list of races I’d like to do: UTMB, Western, Rocky Raccoon, Cavalls de Vent, Tahoe Rim Trail, Vermont, the Canadian Death Race, Pine to Palm, Comrades, Thunder Rock, Miwok. And the list of cool races grows longer by the year. It’s easy to get excited when you’re at home at the computer planning your schedule.

Until you remember how much time, energy, and money you have to put in to get there.

While I love running and I love the ultrarunning community, I don’t want the sport to consume my life. When I ran ultras before, it not only took up too much of my time running, it took up too much of my psychic energy when I wasn’t out on the trails. I was almost always thinking about ultrarunning – checking blogs, obsessing over times and splits and nutrition. It got to the point where I struggled to focus on anything other than running. Running was an escape, and I was constantly escaping. My work product suffered; my relationships suffered. Things that I used to care about, such as music and writing, faded into the background.

I want to be an ultrarunner again, but only if I can do it without having it define who I am. My life is healthier and more balanced now – I don’t need an escape. I have my own law practice. Unlike at the old law firm, I can’t just tune out and let someone else handle the workload. My success is my own responsibility (I suppose that was always true, but the truth now has more immediate consequences).  I don’t want the love of running to overwhelm my other professional or personal passions. If I feel as if it’s getting to that point, I’m going to pull back.

For now, I’m not committing to anything. I’m trying to pick up my volume of running and tough hiking. My training philosophy for ultras is to get as many runs of 80 minutes or more in as possible, building up to three-hour runs and then a handful of back-to-back long runs (four to seven hours). I’m still struggling to manage 80 to 100 minute runs consistently. But I'm seeing incremental growth and small milestones.

In early February, if my body handles the training well, and I’m still feeling motivated, I think I’m going to sign up for the Zion 100 in April.  It’s only 12 weeks away. That’s not much time to go from not-that-fit to 100-mile ready.  But if I handle the training right, 12 weeks should be enough time.  

If I do it, my plan is to go without a watch, without splits, and with no expectations or goals other than to have a great day outside and to finish. The course looks inspiring, and I'd love a long day out there. Not sure if I’ll get there or not, but I’m ok with however it works out. I’m excited to see how it all unfolds.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Grand Slam and the Basics of Trademark Law

The organizers of the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning TM” have invented a new controversy in the last week.  I’m a lawyer and an ultrarunner (retired), so I’ve gotten some emails asking my opinion on the subject.

Before I begin, here’s what the organizers are saying:

The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ Committee and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run Committee do not endorse, recognize, or ratify anyone or their times involved in the so-called “unofficial” grand slam of ultrarunning. Likewise we do not support, encourage, or sustain anyone involved in this pursuit.

We continue to recognize, applaud, and award the runners who are legitimately registered in and officially complete The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™.

We also remind all who are observing or otherwise involved that the term “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™” is a trademark of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ entity, and only those who are official entrants and finishers of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ are entitled to use the term “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™” in whatever form (including in any form that might cause trademark confusion) in connection with their running endeavors.

The site was updated on 8/30/2013. I can’t be certain, but I have a strong feeling the new ™ language is a direct jab at Nick Clark, who is running the four races that comprise the slam without paying Steve Baugh an additional $80 so that he can get a trophy and be recognized by Steve Baugh.  Nick Clark, along with Ian Sharman, is one of two men who will likely break the record for the fastest man to run those four races in one summer. We can guess that Mr. Baugh doesn't like the idea that a potential record holder would circumvent the registration process he created for the event. Thus, the controversy.

Some trademark basics:

First, if someone uses the ™ symbol, that means that they are asserting common law trademark rights or that they plan to register a federal trademark in the future. If someone uses the ® symbol, that means they already possess a registered federal trademark. Given that Mr. Baugh not used the  ® symbol, we can assume that no official (federal) agency has yet recognized any trademark right to this name.  Nor was I able to find a registered state trademark in Utah. To my knowledge, the only official filing on record is a “dba filing” under Steven Baugh’s name with the Utah Secretary of State from October of last year. So there is no "Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Entity." It's just a name under which Steve Baugh does business. 

As of now, Mr. Baugh is merely asserting that he has a trademark to the "Grand Slam" name. Most likely, no state or federal agency has yet confirmed such a claim. 

What does all that mean? Basically, without federal or state registration, Baugh has very limited enforcement rights under common law trademark principles.  What’s more, until last week, it’s unclear whether anyone even knew that there was anyone who cared to enforce this purported trademark (not registered locally or federally). That's certainly the consensus from the comments in this article. That's another strong argument against his ability to enforce such a right. 

Second, even if Mr. Baugh does have a trademark right to assert, he still cannot prevent “nominative” uses of the trademarked name.

What’s a nominative use?

The most famous case on this subject is Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing, Inc., 971 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1992).  Basically, in this case, the New Kids on the Block sued USA Today for having a poll that asked readers who their favorite “New Kid” was (clearly Donnie, in my case).  The New Kids said that USA Today was profiting on their trademarked name. According to the court, “[i]t is no more reasonably possible . . . to refer to the New Kids as an entity than it is to refer to the Chicago Bulls, Volkswagens or the Boston Marathon without using the trademark.” In the end, the court decided that using the New Kids name in the poll was permissible use.

The court applied the following standard to determine what is permissible use when using someone's trademarked name:

“First, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the mark or marks may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service, and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.” Id.

First, the Grand Slam isn’t readily identifiable by any other name. Second, everyone uses it to describe the achievement of running those four races, nothing more. Third, I don’t think anyone is implying that Nick Clark has received sponsorship or endorsement by Steve Baugh. Nor do I think anyone cares. He's made clear he believes the opposite. 

In conclusion, at present, the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning has no official state or federal trademark protection. Mr. Baugh may have some very limited rights under common law trademark because of prior use, but, even if we were to assume for the sake of argument that he does have common law rights, he almost certainly can’t prevent people from talking about, discussing, or referring directly to the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” as a way to describe those races.  He can only prevent people from using the name to promote races or imply sponsorship or endorsement when none exists. 


In the end, Steve Baugh wants to preserve his role in the "Grand Slam" series. But it's unclear what he might hope to achieve by engaging in this kind of aggressive territorial behavior, other than generating dissent and disagreement.  You can claim you own the trademark to the award for running those four races. That may or may not be the case. But you can't hope to claim ownership of the experience or the community's desire to recognize that accomplishment. Any such pretension is small-minded and petty. 

And that's all I have to say about that. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chasing Aish: Leadville 100 Crew Report

When you wake up the day after crewing a 100-mile race, and you notice your legs are sore, it's a sign you may have been involved in something extraordinary. And so it was, crewing for Mike Aish at the Leadville 100.

I wouldn't normally feel inclined to write a race report about crewing. But I'm pretty sure Aish ain't the blogging type. And I'm damned sure his pacers Jason and Scott won't be posting anything. So I guess that leaves little old me. There's some great stories from the day worth telling, and I figured someone should tell them.

I asked Mike if he minded, and, with his trademark super laid back style, he said, "go for gold." So here goes...

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I've been acquainted with Mike for years, as two of my best friends from high school ran cross country with him at Western State up in Gunnison. But I got to know him pretty well in June when the two of us went to South Dakota to pace and crew Bryan Williams at the Black Hills 100.  Long story short, that weekend I volunteered to help crew him at his return trip to Leadville.

Now, Mike knows a lot of guys who are amazing runners, all far out of my league. And he knows a ton about running, too. But he doesn't have many people in his inner circle who know much about ultrarunning. And as someone who's been at Leadville five of the last six years as a runner, pacer, or spectator, I thought I might have something to add.  Mike's a bad ass and a total crack up. I was happy to ride along.

Unlike many ultra guys, Mike's the antithesis of an anal-retentive super planner. Four days before the race, he sent me an email, the first line of which said, "How am I going to race this thing?"  The day before the race, he prepped one tub of food and one tub of clothes. But he still said things like, "yeah, whatever you want to give me at the aid stations is fine. Probably water and some EFS maybe. I trust you. Whatever you think is right is fine." I probably could have told him that jello shots and margarita mix were the keys to success in a 100 miler and he would have gone along with it. Not that he isn't smart. Quite the opposite. He's just that trusting and laid back.

He eventually settled on needing one bottle of water between every station, except for Twin to Winfield, where I would give him two. And we'd trade out an EFS container at every station. One of his pacers also made him some rice cakes based on a Scratch recipe. He'd have one or two of those between every station, too, if he could stomach them.

I told him to throw on the ground at every aid station anything he no longer wanted and I would hand him his new stuff as I ran alongside him. In and out. No wasted time.

--------------------------

Start

We went to the start line a half an hour before the gun went off. I hung out with his wife, Nicole, and said my hellos to as many buddies as I could find in the dark crowd.  It was cool to be back at the start one year after racing. But I was happy that I didn't have to go through all of this again.

May Queen 

Mike's wife Nicole, and a camera guy hired by Mizuno, Mike, and I headed out to May Queen at about 5:30. I knew that the fastest split on the first section was about 1:37, so I was little nervous we would arrive late, with all the traffic and clustery-ness. I had run with Mike on Friday and he damned near dropped me on the three-mile shakeout run. Dude is crazy fit and fast, so I knew that anything was possible.

Mike arrived at 5:45, at a 1:45 split, at the front of the second pack of runners. Ian Sharman was a couple of minutes ahead. Mike looked like he hadn't started yet. He tossed his bottle and EFS to the ground. Bottle, EFS, and rice cakes all eaten. Conservative first split. Check. Check. Check.

Perfect.

Outward Bound (Aid Station Formerly Known as Fish Hatchery)

I took one look at this aid station and knew that it was going to be an unmitigated disaster. One lane of traffic, coming in and out. 1000 crews going to the same place within an hour or so of each other. 1000 runners converging on the same place. All 1000 runners being forced to pass through and dodge in and out of the one lane of traffic immediately adjacent to the aid station. Pretty amazing that such a venerated race could make such a horrific logistic decision. But anyway...

Mike came blasting in to this aid station all by his lonesome. Last year he had a plan not to go ahead of the leaders, to the point where he literally stopped and waited for the others on a half-dozen occasions. This year, he decided to go by heart rate.

He muttered something about not knowing what happened to everyone else and then asked where to go. The aid station had you take a hairpin turn, stop, and immediately do a 180 to go in the other direction. I guided him through the cluster and got ready to hand him his new supplies.

"Don't need 'em." He said.

"Excuse me?"

"I've already had enough food. My stomach is way too full."

I looked and noticed his bottle (only 13 oz.) was nearly full.  His EFS almost untouched. Rice cake not eaten. Over the ten miles between May Queen and Fish Hatchery, he probably consumed 100 calories and drank 4 or 5 oz. of water.

"Dude, you need to eat."

"I'm fine; I feel fine."

Before I could process this information, he was out on the road and bombing down the pavement at some crazy-ass pace. He hadn't even taken the time to drop off his headlamp or pick up his iPod, as planned.

"Slow down and eat," I screamed at the top of my lungs, but I doubt he heard me amid the ruckus of arriving first at the aid station.

At the rate he was going, I knew we needed to book to meet him at Treeline. So I sprinted back to the car with Nicole, jacket, iPod, and unused bottles in hand.

We pushed our way through the cluster, picked up Mike the camera man, and headed back on the road. When we caught up to Mike (almost two miles down the road), we screamed at him that he needed to slow down and eat. He said he was fine, and he tried to hand off his headlamp to Nicole out of the moving vehicle. I told Nicole that crewing outside an aid was grounds for a DQ, and we told him we'd meet him up the road.

Looking behind, there was no one to be found. He had already built up about the biggest lead I had ever seen at this stage of the Leadville 100.

Nicole and Mike were excited. But I was super anxious. I knew that 100 calories and 5 oz. of water over 10 miles were a recipe for disaster in an ultra.

Tree Line

Fifteen minutes later, he was running up the trail to tree line. 27+ miles in at 10,000 ft., over a mountain pass. 3:38 time elapsed. 73 miles to go. Holy balls.

I stood in the middle of the trail and told him to stop and walk. He claimed he'd already consumed 2,000 calories, but that sure seemed like ultra math to me. I had mixed up a diluted EFS and water mixture and ordered him to drink it. He had a couple of sips. He said that he couldn't process any more food. It occurred to me that he might not have enough water in his stomach to process all the calories, and so we had him drink 20 oz. of water, and that seemed to help.

I said he was going too fast and he said he felt totally relaxed and comfortable. I took a glance at his heart rate monitor and saw the following, "119""118" "115." Ok. That's low. Maybe he wasn't going too fast.

But he definitely needed more calories. We gave him an EFS container, a fresh bottle of water, and a rice cake and said he had to eat them all by Twin Lakes. He assured us he would. Okey doke. He was on his way. 3:41 elapsed.

It was ten minutes before the next two guys showed up. Ten minutes is a serious lead 27 miles into a 100.

Twin Lakes Out

I figured Mike would get to Twin well ahead of Carpenter's course record splits. The only question was how much.

He danced down the hill 5:10 into the race. Twelve minutes ahead of Carpenter's split. Yikes. I don't remember how many calories he had during that section, but I remember it being more than the previous one, but almost certainly not enough. So I figured he had to be waaaay down on calories. But he still looked super fresh. I tried to get him to stop and eat something at the aid station, but he blew right on through.

He asked for poles, and we fiddled with them for a few minutes. I assumed (wrongly) he would want them folded up, because it's more than a mile to the base of the hill. So he stopped for a minute to open them up and get them ready to go.  But once they were locked up, he sprinted through town at what felt like sub-6 pace. I've never seen a human being run anywhere near that fast in a 100. I'm sure he had crazy adrenaline going through him with the crowds, but still, way too fast. I honestly felt as if I was going at max speed to keep up with him to badger him about getting more calories.

I handed off two EFS containers and two bottles, and must have repeated five times that he needed at least 600 calories by Winfield, but I could barely keep close to him, he was going so damned fast. He bolted off onto the trail, and I shouted as he left, "Slow down and f%$^ing eat!"

I'm not sure he heard me.

We waited for the next few runners. They were a full 20 minutes back.

Winfield

As always seems to be, it was sunny, exposed, and hot at Winfield. The time gap between Twin Lakes and Winfield is the longest of the day, and so it was a nervous section for the crew. This was the section where Mike blew up last year, so we were anxious to see him again.

He came in around 7:37, just a couple of minutes behind Carpenter's split. Unlike the previous aid stations, he was willing to walk and eat and drink for a couple of minutes. He walked the last few hundred feet to the aid station with his wife and first pacer, Jason Donald (3rd at Salida Run Through Time this year).

At the aid, he took a few minutes to down four or five shots of coke and 8-10 orange slices. Near as I could tell, that about doubled his calorie intake over the last 30 miles.  And it was a good sign that he could (and would) eat.

He and Jason set out of the aid at a brisk jog, but more controlled than at Twin Lakes.  Jason is a cool customer, a great runner, and works for a food nutrition company. Pretty much exactly what Mike needed at that stage.

This time, Ian Sharman came in only 9 minutes back. Nick Clark was 12 minutes back. The experienced ultra guys were closing the gap. And both went in and out of the aid way quicker than Aish.

Twin Lakes Inbound

As soon as we got to Twin Lakes, the camera guy and I decided to grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants at Twin Lakes. But a few minutes after we started relaxing, Nicole came into the restaurant and told us that Bryon Powell had told her that Mike would be there in 20-30 minutes, a bit ahead of schedule.

So we quickly paid the check and ordered a couple of to-go cokes. I figured if he wouldn't eat EFS or rice cakes, we should give him a bottle of coke for his pacer to carry. He needed calories somehow.

Sure enough, a little while later he came bombing into Twin Lakes with Jason at some crazy pace. We met his pacer a few hundred yards ahead of the trail head, and Jason shouted "new shoes and socks." This wasn't a part of the plan, so I took off (again) at what felt like 4:30-mile pace across a brush-filled field to get the man new kicks. I rustled around the car, found his shoes and socks, and then flew across the parking lots screaming "leader coming through," just in time to meet him in town. We had him sit down on some random person's folding chair, and got him re-shod in about 45 seconds flat. He was cramping a bit here, but seemed relatively fresh.

He slammed a couple of oranges and coke at the aid and was off, dancing up the hill just as easily (or so it seemed) as he had come down. I told Jason to make sure he drank the full bottle of coke.

Seven minutes later, Ian Sharman came through. But he definitely didn't look as good as Aish. Ten minutes later, Clark came through. Everyone knows he's a tough mother, but man, he looked like shit.

Holy crap, I thought. He really is going to run away with this thing.

Treeline In 

On our way to treeline, we were all excited. Nicole could hardly contain her enthusiasm. Even the camera man Mike was jazzed up. Sure, there were 40 miles to go. But Mike looked gooooood at Twin. Plus, there was lots of runnable terrain in the last miles, and Mike's probably the best pure runner to ever give this race a go.

But after we had been waiting at treeline for a while, one of the guys who was waiting with us said that on the race tracking system, it said that Ian had passed Mike at Pipeline. And then iRunFar reported the same. And then they reported Nick going through Pipeline. When iRunFar finally reported Mike getting to Pipeline, it said he took 14 minutes at the station. Just like that, what seemed a likely victory had turned into something very different.

Nicole took off running toward Pipeline, just because she couldn't handle sitting any longer. By the time Mike came walking toward us, he was more than an hour behind the leaders.

Mike told us to give him a jacket and a headlamp and that he'd see us at the house. His plan at that stage was just to walk it in. He said his midsection had "seized up," but to me it just sounded like he was bonking. We listened to him complain a little and while he did I kept feeding him rice cakes and coke. But there was no fucking way we were going to let him walk it in. He was still in third place. There wasn't anything structurally that wrong with him. If he could just get more calories, there was no reason he couldn't still podium. We screamed at him that Jurek was still a half an hour back and if he got his head back in the game (easier said than done at mile 73), he was still going to get top three.

He eventually left the aid at a decent pace. We drove up ahead to pick up one of the camera man, and he and Jason came flying down the trail and onto the road. He got his groove back.

Outward Bound In

We prepped Mike's next pacer, Scott Nagelkerke that he needed to take in calories and to try to keep Mike in the right mindset to get top 3. Within a few minutes, Mike and Jason appeared in the distance, and soon thereafter, they were at the aid.  Jason prepped an electrolyte beverage of some sort and we walked Mike out of the aid. Mike had a nice chat with Bryon Powell of iRunFar as he was leaving, insulting the sport in jest, as I recall.

We waited for the next runner. Scott Jurek was a good twenty minutes behind, but he looked awful. Podium again seemed reasonable.

May Queen

Even when you're hanging with the leaders, 100-milers are still a long day. By the time we got to May Queen, we were all half dozing off. By now, we had all become close to the crews and pacers for Nick Clark, Ryan Sandes, and Ian Sharman. Everyone was friendly and collegial to the point where if you didn't know beforehand, you wouldn't know who was crewing for whom.

Ian showed up not long after we got there, and he looked fantastic for 87 miles. Nick showed up shortly thereafter, with my pacer from last year, Mike Hinterberg. Nick looked terrible again, but he was gaining ground.  Some speculated that Clark was going to catch him, but judging by appearances, that seemed unlikely.

We knew it would be at least an hour before Mike got there. And it ended up being an 1:10 later. He was positive and still joking with aid station volunteers. No longer was there any doubt about whether he would finish. The only question now was whether a fresher runner might come up and catch him from behind. His pacer said he only wanted water. I said that was a bad idea. I tried to get the pacer to bring coke as well, but he wasn't having it. I convinced him to at least bring a bottle of scratch mix and to eat a few oranges.

Finish

Driving back to town, we saw Nick Clark emptying the contents of his stomach near the railroad tracks. So much for drama at the finish.

Waiting for the winners at Leadville always strikes me as anti-climactic. There aren't that many people in town. It's never been a close race any time I'd been there. And so it was this year. Sharman jogged in strong with an excellent last split, putting to bed any doubts.  You could tell he was thrilled that he'd pulled it off.

I hung out with some of Clark's friends, who were hoping he'd break 17. I told Clark's wife that he'd been puking, but she seemed pretty nonplussed. Par for the course, I guess. Right around 9 pm, Clark crested the hill and made his final jog into town. Another valiant effort, for certain.

We knew Aish would be at least another 30 minutes or so. We killed time by getting grub from the new local distillery (nice place, by the way). I then headed out to the top of the boulevard, and Nicole and Jason hung out in the stands by the finish. Mike needed a 2:13 last 13.5 miles to break 18 hours. I figured it was a long shot, seeing as how it'd gotten dark and Mike wasn't likely taking in (m)any calories in that last stretch.

Another one of Mike's friends, Andrew, another 2:13 marathoner, joined me at the top of the boulevard. Both of us were pretty nervous. 10:00 o'clock passed. 10:10. Ick. It was going to be close.

Then, we noticed a couple of people walking on the boulevard with their lights off. It was pitch black at this point, and impossible to tell who they were. We got close and eventually deciphered it was Mike and pacer Scott. Phew. They had turned off their headlamps to avoid giving incentive to anyone looking to catch up from behind. Clever man, that Mike.

Mike was in pain, as everyone is after 99 miles. But you could tell he was happy he'd decided to gut it out. He crossed the line in 18:27. His friend Alan busted open an $11 bottle of champaign he bought at a liquor store in Leadville and passed it around, to commemorate the celebration on a job well done.

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I think Mike was by far the fittest man in the field. Most observers probably think he didn't win the race because he went out too hard. I disagree. He may have run slightly harder than he should have in those first 40 miles, but he was fit. Crazy fit. By far the bigger issue from my vantage point was that he didn't take in anywhere near enough calories.

He probably had around 1000 calories total from May Queen to Winfield. And then he survived almost exclusively on coke and a few oranges on the return leg. That's just not enough to keep the engine going at max velocity for that long. Or at least that's my amateur conclusion.

Still, 3rd place at Leadville is a great showing for your first 100-mile finish. He should be super proud of a job well done. Finishing that high in a stacked field is no easy task, no matter how fit you are.

I hope he decides to give ultrarunning a few more tries. It's a joy watching someone with that much talent and that much love of running out there on the trails. His love of the sport is pure. And that's a big part of why it's just so fun to watch him out there. I, for one, hope I get to ride alongside him again some day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liar, Liar

Late last year, I posted a series of running goals on this blog. Then I posted a series of races I planned to run this year.

I'm a liar. I haven't run any of the races, and I doubt I'll attain any of the goals I set for myself, either.

I don't care. I've been running without injury for three months (with a two-week holiday in the middle). I'm logging about 40 miles a week and that feels good. There's a 5K on the calendar next month and it looms like a 50 miler. I'd like to break 18:30. But I'm not sure I have it in me yet. And that's ok, too.

The big debate in my head is whether to sign up for the Pikes Peak Ascent. It'll likely fill up soon, and so the clock is ticking. On the one hand, I've never done Pikes, and I've always wanted to do it. On the other, I'm not sure I want do it in a year when I know I won't race to my potential. But I would like to get out for a few races, and Pikes will serve as motivation to get moving.

I've set Monday as a deadline for myself to set an end date for my indecisiveness. Hopefully the race will still be open by then.