Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Well, that pretty much sums up my 2012

Last weekend, I was looking for my phone. I have a house with some wooden steps in the back that lead to the basement. I was wearing some nice, fuzzy winter socks (they're purple and they have reindeer and snowflakes on them),  kind of half paying attention, and I slipped on one of the top steps and went ass over tit down the stairs. 

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Ouch.

It knocked the wind out of me, messed up my left shoulder, and absolutely smashed the shit out of the two toes on the outside of my left foot, which are now very nice and purple and even fuglier than usual. 

It's not that big of a deal, and, on the scale of things, it could have been waaaay worse, but I haven't really been able to run on it since. I went on a four-mile easy run that felt ok on Friday, but the next day, my toes were hurting in a not-so-good way, so I think I'm going to have to stay off it until it's fully healed.. 

I'm sure it'll probably be fine in a week or two, but it's the umpteenth break in my training this year.

Over the past 13 months, I've had less than four of pain-free running, with most of it being this summer from May-July. Other than that, it's been limpity limp limp. I definitely made some mistakes about not being patient enough in recovery, but this one was just stupid. 

But, as frustrating as this year has been, I had one goal race, and I achieved my goal. Most years, I wouldn't trade a year of healthy running for a successful goal race, but this year I'll take it. No need for negativity.

As my friend, Coach Jay, says, patience. It matters not a whit if I'm running sub-18 in January or 18:40, because I had to take a month off. I need to take the long view and get healthy. Only then will I have a shot at the big goals.

Gotta take the long view. 

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays all.

Enjoy the season, and be careful wearing fuzzy socks on steep stairs:)


Thursday, December 6, 2012

2013 Plans

I've put together my 2013 racing plans. Normal caveats of good health and future unpredictability apply, but below are the races I'd like to run, if all goes well.

A classic Colorado road racing circuit -- can't wait!

Polar Bear 5k Jan-20 (Goal - 17:59!)
Going to Costa Rica in Feb., so no racing
That Dam Run 5k Mar-3
Shamrock Shuffle 7k Mar-17
Spring Fever 5k Mar-23
Cherry Creek Sneak 5 mile Apr-28
Bolder Boulder 10K - Memorial Day
Mt. Evans Ascent June 15
Slacker Half - June 22
Independence Day 5K
Sand Creek Half - July 14
Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half - Aug 10
Pikes Peak Ascent - Aug 17/Leadville Pacing
ADT Marathon - Labor Day
Rock n' Roll Marathon - September 24
October -Rest
Home for the Holidays 5K
Wash Park Turkey Trot 4 mile
Jingle Bell 5K
Rudolph's Revenge 5K

Note the lack of ultras on the agenda in 2013. I'm generally available for pacing, crewing, and watching if anyone needs help, but I'm giving the Nathan Pack a year off as far as my own racing goes.














No ultras in 2013. I plan to run a few in 2014. Until then, the goal is to get fast (or, perhaps better said, less slow).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Top 10 ultrarunners of all time?


Recently stumbled across this article. It's a Runner's World piece that describes an ESPN competition for the "greatest athlete of all time." The athletes are broken down by category, and, perhaps surprisingly, there's a sub-category for ultrarunners.

Who was selected as the greatest ultrarunner of all time, according to ESPN?

Pam Reed.

Here's a link to her ultrasignup.com page. She's a heck of an accomplished ultrarunner, but she's rarely been the best runner in any given race she's run. She won Badwater overall in 2003. But she's not now and never has been the best ultrarunner in the world.

Nonetheless, that got me thinking. Who are the best ultrarunners of all time? I googled the question. No answer, and not even much speculation. And since I couldn't find a helpful source on the web, I decided to try to make a little list myself.

Please enjoy with the caveat that I am not an authority on this subject. Just a fan with a keyboard.

Top 10 ultrarunners of all time:

1) Yiannis Kouros - 100 miles in 11:46? 186 miles in a day? Yeah. Everyone else is competing for second.
2) Kilian Jornet - Just 25, but he races a ton, and he almost never loses. Would be the favorite in almost any ultra or mountain race on the planet.
3) Ann Trason - 13 wins at Western States; record at Leadville that looks incredibly daunting. Had no competition during her era.
4) Bruce Fordyce - 9-time winner of Comrades
5) Ellie Greenwood - Won Western States and JFK 50 this year with course records, not to mention a second place at Comrades. Here's link to her ultrasignup page. That's a whole lot of first place finishes, without much of anything else.
6) Geoff Roes - Past or present CR holder at: Western States, Wasatch, HURT, Bear, Susitna, RRR 50, etc.
7) Scott Jurek - 7-time Westen States champion? Doubt that will ever be topped.
8) Karl Meltzer - Most 100-mile victories of all time. Depending on the course, can still beat anyone in the world even today.
9) Lizzy Hawker - 24 hr. record holder for women, multiple UTMB titles, 100k World Champ; RRR 100 champ.
10) Julien Chorier - Alternated victories at Diagonale de Fous w/ KJ over the last four years. Came over to the US and owned the competition at Hardrock in 2011. Won UT-Mt. Fuji this year. Likely the second-best Euro today, after KJ.

[Update: As Nomad points out in the comments, Don Ritchie belongs on this list, and probably near the top. Check out this article for his background. Pretty humbling for anyone who thinks that modern runners are superior to those of prior generations.]

Honorable mentions: Tim Twietmeyer, Matt Carpenter, Tony Krupicka, J. Philippe Marie-Louise, Max King, Hal Koerner, Mike Morton, Mike Wardian, Ryan Sandes, Kami Semick, Nikki Kimball, Elena Nurgalieva, Kyle Skaggs [Update: Dave Mackey]

Whom did I forget? Feel free to post your own list in the comments. If I get enough, I'll do a crowdsourced list later.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pinhoti 100 - One year anniversary

I got awfully nostalgic following the Pinhoti 100 on twitter this weekend.  It was my first 100-mile race last year, and man, was it fun. I can't believe it all happened one full year ago.

Even though Leadville was the ultimate goal for my ultrarunning hobby, now that I've done both, I must say that I much preferred Pinhoti to Leadville. It was such a beautiful course. It was so informal and intimate. And while I'm not in a hurry to do any more 100s any time soon, part of me was wishing I was out there this weekend, trudging through the forest and kicking rocks once again. Funny how soon we forget how much these things hurt.  

Neal Gorman won the race in 17:06, an impressive time, but well off Meltzer's course record. It's a tough, tough course. Not Hardrock tough, but harder than Leadville, at least for me. There's no Hope Pass, but there are significant rollers the entire way, and the terrain was a minefield of leaves, rocks, and roots for more than 80 miles. Plus, since the race is in November, you are forced to do a lot more night running than is common for other ultras, especially if you're in the 24-plus hour range. If I were to do it again, the one thing I'd change is to try to go out a lot faster, because once night falls, wandering around that dense forest in the dark is no easy task.

But if you love single track, and you love ultras, I can't recommend the race enough.  Most people don't think of Alabama when they think of great trail running, but ask anyone who's done Pinhoti -- this race qualifies.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

How long should your long runs be, if you want to be fast?

This post is an attempt to summarize my training philosophy toward middle distances.

I recently read an interview of Tirunesh Dibaba, three-time Olympic gold medalist (two in the 10,000 and one in the 5,000), in Running Times. The interviewer asked her how long her longest runs were.

Her answer? 90 minutes.

This is a woman who can run 14:11 in the 5,000 and sub-30 in the 10,000, and she never runs longer than an hour and a half. That's a profound thought for anyone who trains over 50 miles a week and can't break 19 in the 5K.

Of course, she has extreme talent, but the fact is, if you want to get fast, you have to run fast consistently.  7-9 hours a week is more than enough if you're looking to maximize your potential in sub-marathon distances, but you need specificity consistently over a long period of time if you want to get fast.  Aerobic fitness is a critical and basic step to developing speed later, but there is a seriously decreasing marginal utility to that kind of training if you've been doing it for a long time. 

Would a six-month Lydiard base period of 15-20 hour weeks help you realize your potential? Of course, but it's not going to make you all that fast unless you do something specific with it later. Period.

I've read lots about Lydiard, Canova, Maffetone and others. But, by far, the biggest influence on my training philosophy toward middle distance is my first running coach, Doug Bell -- badass masters runner and overall great guy.

Doug's philosophy is simple, but it's also profound, and I might say it's particularly meaningful the older you get. Doug does about 8-10 hard workouts a month, including races, and he makes sure to fully recover between those workouts. Once you have a base, the point of training is to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts. Any other stress is simply counterproductive, because it impedes the supercompensation cycle. Even when he was a 14:30 masters 5K guy, you'd rarely see him running much faster than 8-minute pace on his easy days. He does intense workouts consistently, probably 11 months a year, and over the course of many years that has enabled him to become one of the best age group competitors in the world. 

That's it. So, if you're currently an 18:30 5K runner (that's probably where I am right now, if I'm lucky), and you want to get faster, your easy days should be closer to 9-minute miles than 8-minute miles, and they certainly shouldn't be in the 7s. But, that said, you gotta bring it to your workouts.

In conclusion, if you want to get fast, your long runs don't need to be that long. If 80-90 minutes is long enough for a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and 50 miles a week is good enough for one of the world's best age-group competitors, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's long enough for the rest of us, too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

16:59, 35:59, 1:19, 2:49

I've read that publishing your goals publicly improves the likelihood that you'll accomplish them.

So there you go: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon goals, respectively, for 2013.

I can't emphasize enough how far from these goals I am right now. I struggled to run 40 miles last week, and I've lost a lot of fitness in the last two and a half months. But I've got 15 months to get there, and, assuming I get healthy between now and December, I plan to do -- consistently -- real workouts throughout 2013 (as opposed to just lots of aerobic running), which is something I haven't done in 16 years. I'm hopeful that this will produce real results.

If anyone is out there on the interwebs and has an interest in joining me for some of these harder-intensity runs, let me know. It'll be a few months yet, but it's always good to have someone pushing you when you're trying to run hard.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Running again/future goals

I haven't posted in awhile, because I've already spilled far too much digital ink over the past 10 months blogging about injuries.  Suffice it to say that after Leadville, I was not able to run. But I was in no particular rush to get back to things, so it wasn't a huge deal. I did some cross training and a whole lot of walking, but the few attempts I made to run, even just a couple of miles, were unsuccessful.

Last week, I ran about 20 miles, which is more than I ran cumulatively between Leadville and last week. It felt good to get out there, even if it's just for a few miles a day around the park.  I do love running.  For the rest of 2012, my only goal is to return to full health and progress back to 60-80 miles a week. I don't plan to do any racing of any distance. Perhaps a fatass or two if I feel good by wintertime, but nothing else.

But, like most runners, once I get back at it, I start to ruminate on potential goals. While I have no intention to return to ultras anytime soon (though I'm sure I will at some stage), I am eager to see what I can do in shorter distances now that I've returned to some level of fitness.

To the extent that I have any talent in running, I think it's in middle distance. I started running when I was 11, and I was a borderline national class miler at 13. But by the time I reached physical maturity, I was already burned out on the sport. I regularly ran low 16s for 5K and low 27s for 8K in high school and in college (DIII), but I was notorious about skipping workouts, drinking the night before meets, and generally not focusing as I should have.

Those days are gone and never to return, but the prospect of getting in shape and hammering the Cherry Creek Sneak and races of that ilk sounds fun to me right now. And since I'm never going to be anything other than a weekend warrior, I figure I might as well do what sounds fun, right?

I don't know if I'll ever recover the speed I had as a young whippersnapper, but I want to try.  I ran low 16s as an 18 year old on 40-50 miles a week with horrible training habits. Is it inconceivable that I could run sub-16 as a 35 year old on 70 miles a week?

I don't know. But I intend to find out.  






Monday, August 27, 2012

Post-Leadville Ultra Moratorium


Whenever you reach a milestone, it’s logical to consider next steps. A lot of ultrarunners suffer from a post-100 malaise, where they can’t quite figure out what to do with their lives without some epic run staring them in the face. 

Ultrarunning can be like a drug, and ultrarunners tend to be like addicts.  You run a 50K?  Time to run 50 miles.  You run a 50? Time to do a 100.  You run a 100? Gotta go do Badwater, or Hardrock, or the Iditarod, or run across Australia, or some other damned crazy thing. 

Thanks, but no thanks!


Not this guy. I’m checking out. 

I love the community of ultrarunners. I love the spirit of the races. I love running in the mountains. I like the blogs and the camaraderie and the butterflies you get when you line up to run a race that you know is going to hurt you. I respect the hell out of guys who do 10 ultras a year. 

But that ain't me.

It’s such an insane time vacuum.  And it’s so hard on the body (at least, it has been for me). 

I want to go do 5ks and Turkey Trots and run in the “D” wave of the Bolder Boulder. 

I hereby declare that I will take no part in running any formal ultra for at least one full year.  I plan to do a few of the fat-asses this winter, if I’m healthy enough, but that’s it.  I’m ready, willing and able to pace others in their quests to do epic things, but I’m done going there myself, at least for now. 

Oh, sure, I might set some goals for myself at shorter distances, and I might even do a marathon or two. But it's time to take it easy on the ultras for a while. My body says it's time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leadville 100 Race Report


When the MC of the Leadville 100 started the final 10-second race countdown at 3:59:50 in the morning on August 18th, I just remember this irrepressible smile coming across my face. It's something I've never done before -- smiling before a race. But this one was different. I have paced three people in this race. I'd watched it four times. I'd been on crews, and I've followed it on the internet. Back in the day, I read about it in newspapers and magazines. And now, finally, I was about to run the damned thing.

I don't have any pictures of the start
Start to May Queen (Mile 13) 2:07

The main thing I remember about the first couple of miles was that my headlamp kept slipping off the top of my head. I was wearing a white safari hat backwards, to keep the hat's bill from blocking the glare of the lamp. I spent the first few miles fidgeting with my hat, when I should have been soaking it all in.  It just seemed so dumb and trivial. Eventually, it occurred to me to just give up and turn the hat around. Duh.  

Ahh, now I could finally focus on the race.

Once that was done, I relaxed and started jogging at a pace I knew would get me to the first aid station, May Queen in around two hours.   

At around six miles we arrived at the Turquoise Lake trail. The trail is pretty narrow, and my plan was to settle into whatever position I arrived there and just follow everyone around the lake. I got there at the back of a group of a half dozen runners and just followed their footsteps. Initially, this worked fine, but as the miles progressed, the group slowed into an erratic and inconsistent pace. Someone would stop at a puddle or a group of rocks and the rest of us would have to put on the brakes. By mile 10, there were 15 of us trudging around at an uncomfortably slow 12-minute stop-and-go pace.

May Queen to Fish Hatchery (13 - 23.5) Total Time 3:50

I arrived at May Queen in 2:07 and immediately blew through the aid without stopping. In training I usually ran this uphill road section at about 10 or 11-minute pace. On Saturday, I ran it in 8:30, and probably passed 30-40 people in the process. I was just sick of the conga line, and I wanted to be able to go at my own pace. It felt great to actually be able to run.

The Colorado Trail section went by quickly, as did Hagerman Road and Sugar Loaf. I ran about 90 percent of the hill and passed another 20 or so runners in the process.  When I got to the top, I heeded the sage advice of my pacer, Mike Hinterberg, to proceed with extreme caution on the downhill to save the quads. For the first time since May Queen, about a half dozen runners started streaming past me.  This was to be the same story all day. I passed others on the ups, and they passed me on the downs.  

Fish Hatchery to Twin Lakes (23.5 - 39)  Total Time 6:30

Arrived at the Fish and spotted my brother, Brian, and his girlfriend, Sarah, pretty quickly.  I still had the huge smile on my face. I had been terrified over the last month that an injured leg was going to force me to miss the race or drop. But here I was, nearly a quarter of the distance behind me, and I was feeling great. As I told Mike when I saw him, I felt fresh as a daisy.  I knew the hurt would come eventually, but I was enjoying the moment while it lasted.

The road out of Fish was uneventful. Once we got on the trail, I passed a few people, and as the hills started rolling toward Pipeline and the Mt. Elbert trailhead, I really started to pick up places.  It was somewhere in this area that I passed Darcy Africa and a couple of Salomon's sponsored women. I knew now that things were going well, and I just rode the wave. Things were going great, until about a mile outside of Twin Lakes, where I took my worst digger of the day.  When I fell, I didn't hurt myself much, but my legs started cramping up.  It was a slight cause for concern with 60 miles + ahead of me, but it still wasn't enough to wipe the smile off my face.

Without looking at the number, I would guess I had probably passed 70-80 runners between May Queen and Twin Lakes, without a single runner passing me and staying ahead of me. I felt great. 

Twin Lakes 

In my prior years watching Leadville, I probably cheered on 2000 runners as they descended into Twin Lakes. Now, it was my turn. When I got there, there wasn't anyone within a few minutes of me, before or after, so I got a great reception.




My brother, Brian (in the green Irish jersey) was there to greet me.  



And so were the rest of this group.


I spotted the big Irish flag on the car and knew I had arrived. It was an amazingly warm feeling. 


I wanted to stop, hang out, hug each of them, and thank them for coming, but I was determined to get in and out of each aid station quickly, so I grabbed a carrot juice and went on my way. 
Speaking of hugs
Twin Lakes to Winfield (39 - 50. 6) 9:34

I left Twin Lakes, and immediately bumped into Scott Jaime. I knew I was having a pretty decent race, but Scott's a runner that's totally out of my league.  I know he didn't have a good day by his standards, but it boosted my spirits to be near him, even on his bad day. A few seconds later, Woody Anderson came up behind. I knew he was shooting for a sub-22 hour finish. And he was telling me he was ahead of his planned split times. Was this really happening?

Both of them were running a bit faster than I was out of Twin Lakes, and I was fine with that. I just wanted to maintain a steady jog to the river crossing and the base of Hope Pass.  Compared to last year when I paced Mike, the swamp between Twin and the river crossing was decidedly un-swamp-like. Definitely made things easier.

I think he went that way


Scott bolted up ahead and then there was a group of three guys who were about a 100 feet ahead of me at the start of Hope Pass.  I had done the Hope Pass double crossing four times over the summer, and I was supremely confident in my hiking abilities on the hill. Within the first few minutes, I picked up all three who were ahead of me and then focused on keeping Scott Jaime within visual range. I figured if I could keep the guy who just finished 6th at Hardrock in sight on the steepest climb of the day, I would be good to go.  

I passed another group of four or five guys just before Hopeless Aid Station, including Wyatt Hornsby, I believe.  I quickly refilled on water and headed for the top. By the time I made it to the top, I passed both Scott and Jamil Coury, another elite ultra-runner I have always looked up to from afar. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be near, much less ahead, of either of these guys.  

I was feeling great, but with my injury problems over the past month, the descent from Hope Pass was THE section that scared me the most. I resolved to take it easy, and to my surprise, things worked out ok.  Jamil and Scott flew by me like I was standing still, but other than that, I maintained my place.  The new trail out to Winfield took forever, but I'd been on it before, and I was prepped for it mentally.  Jamil and I leapfrogged each other a couple of times, and I passed Scott, who was stretching against a tree. 

Here I was, 50 miles into the Leadville 100, and I wasn't just running, I was racing.  I was tired, sure, but no serious pain or injuries. I was over the moon. 

Winfield to Twin Lakes Inbound (50.6 - 62)

I stepped on the scales as soon as I arrived at the turnaround in Winfield. 153.2, down from 157.3 on Thursday. I felt dehydrated and warm. For some reason, 75 degrees at Winfield always feels more like 95 (a fact only appreciated by Leadville 100 runners, I suspect). I chugged about 50 ounces of water, ate six orange slices, two bananas, and I was immediately back on the trail. 

I was joined by my first pacer, Brandon Salisbury, whom I met years ago at the Moab Red-Hot 50K, and whom I paced two years ago from Twin Lakes to Pipeline, where he exited the race with a broken foot.  Brandon, as usual, was all energy and raring to go. We walked out of Winfield excited, and I mentioned the possibility of a sub-21 finish.  Things felt great. I was on top of nutrition and I felt strong. Given the fact that I tend to run pretty close to even splits in races, no matter then distance, I thought that this was going to be an epic day.

That is, until I started to run again. Suddenly, without any warning, the injury that had been dogging me the last month re-appeared in full force. Every time I tried to run a step, no matter what the pace, my left leg buckled underneath me in sharp, acute pain. I was totally fine walking, but any attempt to run was undoable even for a few steps. I just could not support any weight without sharp pain. I was hopeful that it was just that I spent a little too long at Winfield and that it would warm up again, but the entire 3.7 mile stretch to the Sheep Gulch trailhead, I was unable to run a step.  

I was confident in my power hiking abilities, and I knew that, given my solid start, I should be able to get a big buckle walking the rest of the way. But I was devastated that I wouldn't be able to keep up the  pace I had maintained the first half. I tried to remain positive and just hope that things might improve.

Soon we had the second trip up Hope Pass. The back side of Hope Pass is a straight vertical killer. It's around 3000 feet of elevation gain in less than 3 miles, and after 50 + miles of running, it's just brutal. And, much to my chagrin, on the first section of the uphill, my leg started to buckle and give out on the climb, too. 

For the first time all day, the possibility of a DNF entered my mind. Not because I was going to quit, but because I wasn't sure I was going to be physically able to make it up the hill on one leg.  It was at that moment that Brandon did something that might have saved my race. He went into the forest surrounding us, and he found me a big-ass walking stick. I took the walking stick, and started walking sorta-sideways up Hope Pass using my good right leg and the big-ass walking stick for balance. After a mile or so, the grade gets a little more reasonable, and I was able to put pressure on my left leg again.  

For the rest of the trip up Hope, I was pain free. Thank God.

By the top, I had passed back most of the runners who went by me when I was struggling and I had put distance on most of the runners who were gaining ground.  

As the popular saying goes in the ultrarunning, "it never always gets worse."

At first, I didn't even try to run down Hope Pass. Then, on some of the flatter grades, I tried a shuffle job where I put most of the weight on my right foot and dragged my left around. By the bottom, I was able to manage a semi-reasonable jog. Turned out my race wasn't over after all.

Brandon had brought me back from the dead!

Twin Lakes Inbound 13:00

Brandon ran ahead and let everyone know about my issues and handed over the reins to Mike for the next 27 miles. 
Pacers extraordinare: Brandon and Mike
Full-on rock star treatment

Fist bump for Paul

Starting the climb out of twin
Mike is carrying 3 water bottles and a backpack
Not feeling terribly coordinated

Race competition was intense -- the beard competition even more so


Twin Lakes to Fish Hatchery Inbound 62-78 (Around 16:50)

Mike is a legendary pacer in the ultrarunner world. He's a bad-ass runner, and if he were not pacing me, he probably would have been pacing training partner Nick Clark, who got third overall. But somehow, I managed to hornswoggle him into dragging my ass around for nearly 30 miles.  He was perfect for the job. He's diligent, perpetually positive, with timely insight and relentless humor. I couldn't have asked for better company for those miles.

We did a decent job on the ascent out of Twin. Jamil passed me back on that section, and he wouldn't be seen again. But I think that was the only time I got passed on an ascent all day. 

The ascent went on, and I bitched and moaned to Mike. And then we crested the hill and the next 10 miles were mostly downhill, at which point I bitched about the downhills to Mike, too. It's a wonder he didn't slap me.

I was able to jog at just under 12-minute mile pace at that stage, and I was fine with that.  We went through pipeline and treeline without wasting much time. Mike insisted on my eating and drinking even when I refused. We continued on at a steady pace.

Still running and smiling at mile 75


When we got to the road section, I suggested we alternate running and walking on a five-minute jog, one minute walk schedule. But my leg started acting up and I decided to try 3-1 run/walk. It occurred to me that the walk/run strategy was making my leg worse. So I just said "fuck it" and ended up running the last three miles into Fish Hatchery on the road, as unpleasant as the experience was. I would have thought that by running the section that late in the race I would have been catching people, but somehow, two people still caught me on that section.

Trotting into the sunset

I suppose that's a testament to how slow I was running.

Fish Hatchery to May Queen Inbound (78-88.5) 19:40

The next day, when I talked to my crew, they told me that Fish Hatchery was the place where I started to lose my smile and sense of humor. I had some noodles, picked up headlamps, and went back on the road. My pacer Brandon had had a few beers and was filled with all the enthusiasm in the world, but I couldn't muster much of anything.

Mike and I half-jogged to the base of powerline, and that was pretty much the last running I would do all night. Powerline is a little less than a 2000-foot climb over four miles. Not too rough on fresh legs, but not so easy after 80 miles. About a half- mile into the hike, I fell on my ass on one of the slick sections. I dusted myself off and proceeded up the hill. I wasn't doing great, but I think I might have passed a few guys going up. Mike clocked us at 76 minutes from the base to the top, which isn't horrible. 

I got to the top, tried to run, and my leg was having none of it. So Mike and I powerhiked down sugar loaf, Hagerman, and the Colorado Trail, where our time together turned into Mike reciting lines from movies and me guessing the movie he was quoting. Mike really likes Waterboy, for some reason.

May Queen Inbound to the Finish (88.5 - 101.2) 23:13

Arrived at May Queen to raucous applause and power hiked right through the aid. I had 3:20 to go 13 miles and break 23 hours. This sounded like an easy thing to do. That did not turn out to be the case.

My new pacer was Joe Packard. Joe and I ran cross country together in high school. He went on to be a helluva college runner.  In fact, he was the captain of a cross-country team that included Mike Aish, Duncan Callahan, Chris Siemers, and Tim Parr.  He's never been directly involved in ultras, but he's an upbeat person and an inspirational human being. I figured he'd be the perfect company for the last 13 miles.  

Unfortunately, I did not reciprocate the favor. I whined every step on the way. I whined about eating, about trying to walk, and about trying to run. About our headlamps, and about our pace.  You name it.  

I knew I was minutes away from finishing one of the best races in my life, but I still couldn't manage to stay positive. The cumulative walking finally started to get to me. My feet were swelling out of my shoes. And my injured leg couldn't support an Olsen twin. It felt like it took us 20 hours to get around Turquoise Lake, rather than 2.

We finally go to the road and to the climb down mini-Powerline, with less than 6 miles to go.  

Mini-powerline is a super-rocky, super steep little quarter mile section that connects the road leading to Leadville with the Turquoise Lake trail. 

Only one slight problem: I couldn't get down mini-powerline. I seriously think it took me over 10 minutes to cover this quarter mile. I fell three times. I tried sliding down the hill on my ass. My leg just wouldn't let me get down the hill. I contemplated barrel rolling down the hill on the rocks, because I didn't know how else I could get down the damned thing. Eventually, I figured this bouncing step maneuver where I would jump onto my right leg and drag my left as if it were completely limp. It took forever, but I finally made it to the bottom.

At that stage, I wasn't moving fast, so I started freezing. Joe had a few extra layers in his bag. I bundled up and trudged the last few miles into Leadville. It was a joyous moment. But I couldn't appreciate it much at the time, because I was hurting so damned bad.

We finally hit the top of 6th Avenue, and I saw Brian. He had been waiting at the finish for nearly two hours, because, up until that last stretch, I had been ahead of every single projected split I had given him.

I tried to muster a run down the hill, but I couldn't. By the bottom of the hill, I had six people trotting next to me. I then pulled on all my last reserves to hop on one leg the final quarter mile to the finish, dragging my left leg the whole way like a stroke victim.

At the finish, I collapsed into a crying heap on the carpet. I was, quite simply, spent. 






After a few minutes, I was in a good mood again in the medical tent, where we determined that you are, in fact, allowed to drink beer there. My feet were swollen, worthless stumps and my legs no longer functioned, but my spirit and taste for good beer remained strong.

Afterward

Hobbling around Sunday at the awards ceremony, I looked as bad as anyone there. And I can assure you it was no affectation. My leg and feet were absolutely wrecked. I didn't have any profound medical issues, but mechanically, I was in rough shape. There have been some races I have run where I wondered whether there was something else I could have done to go faster, and whether I could have pushed harder. I will never wonder that about this race.

I first said I wanted to run this race in high school. I definitely set out to do this race in 2008. I was totally out of shape at the time. Just three years ago, I finished in 4:41 at the Collegiate Peaks 25 miler. I was a mid-pack runner at best at a small-time local race. 

On Saturday, I got 38th out of 802 runners in the biggest 100-mile race in the United States.  I'm not the most talented runner, but I've been consistent, I've worked hard, and I've achieved a lifelong goal. It's great when things work out for you.

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

Thank you Brian, my brother and crew chief. I want to think of a better word than special for what it felt like to share this with you, but I think that might be the best word. I could feel how sincere and profound your passion and support for me was every time I saw you. You were a perfect crew chief -- handled everything to perfection and never once complained.

Thank you Sarah, for putting up with sleepless nights and an endless day in Leadville. You brought a great smile that was wonderful to see at every aid station day and night.

Thank you Brandon, Mike, and Joe.  I had a great first half of the race, but you guys got stuck with me in the bad half (not that a bad second half is unique in a 100 miler). You handled my moodiness and struggles to perfection. You kept me focused on all the right things and positive throughout. I couldn't have done it without you.

Thank you Ryan, Carolyn, Jon, Paul, Shawn, and Dmitri. I really didn't expect you guys to come up to watch the race. Ultrarunning ain't exactly a spectator sport, but you guys made it into one. Thanks so much for your support.

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




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10 days left -- The Countdown Begins

For all the fuss and hype at the Olympics, I haven't heard a lot of people talking about Kirani James. 43.9 for the 400 at age 19?  Holy crap. That's nearly as impressive as Usain Bolt's achievement in 2008.  Barring injury or indiscipline, he should crush Micheal Johnson's record in the not-so-distant future.



Over the past two weeks, I've been nursing a hamstring/glute max issue, which I'm pretty sure is related to the injury that had me on the sidelines all winter. I re-injured it a couple of weeks ago, took a day off, a couple of easy days, and then I tried to run 10 miles on it the weekend of July 28th. The next day, I could barely walk. 

That weekend, the thought occurred to me that I might have to DNS Leadville -- a race I've been training for the last three years. From a running perspective, nothing could be more devastating to me.

To bring myself back to health, last week I didn't run at all.  I cross trained and rested, and the leg has responded pretty well.  The last couple of days I've run nearly 20 miles with 3000 of elevation gain, and I've been decent.  I still feel tension in the leg, but I haven't felt any real pain since last Friday.  And at this stage, all thoughts of "training" are in the rear-view mirror. Between now and race day it will be all about active and passive rest -- with the sole goal of getting to the starting line as healthy as possible.  I'm not certain I'll be 100% healthy and fit on race day, but I'll be close enough.

And so the countdown begins.  Only 10 days between today and the 18th!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Five 100-mile victories in 2012 for Jeremy Bradford!

Not sure where he fits in the pantheon of ultrarunning, but my former pacee Jeremy Bradford is having an epic year, despite flying totally under the radar.  He's won three 100-mile races in the last six weeks (five total in 2012 -- originally I thought he'd only won four), two of them by obliterating the course records.  While these fields weren't 'A-list' competition, his times have all been stout while running in extremely challenging conditions. That 95-degree weather you've been bitching about these last two months?  He's run three sub-22 hour 100s in those conditions, with only one week rest in between each.  And by rest, I mean he only ran a 4:30 Leadville Marathon on one of those weekends. Plus, he ran a 2:06 Evans Ascent the week before the streak began. And I'm pretty sure he did a 5K or two in those six weeks as well.

This is not what I looked like after my lone 100-mile finish (photo courtesy of Grand Mesa 100 blog)
On Saturday, he broke Ryan Burch's Grand Mesa 100 course record by nearly three hours. Say whatever you want about competition, that merits attention.

He's a self-admitted racing addict, so if his body holds up, he's going to start accumulating some serious hardware. Call me crazy, but if he stays motivated and healthy (admittedly, big ifs), the dude could have 50 100-mile wins by 2020.

I told Jeremy about this post, and he corrected me. I originally thought he'd only won four 100 milers this year. Turns out he's won five:  1) Moab 2) Coyote Springs 3) Black Hills 4) Happy Jack (Laramie 100) 5) Grand Mesa.

Off the top of my head, here's the list of people I know who have won five 100 mile races in one calendar year.

1) Karl Meltzer
2) Jeremy Bradford

Not Krupicka, not Roes, not AJW, not Jurek, not Koerner.  Is there anyone else out there who's won five 100-mile races in one year on the men's side of things that I'm missing?  There can't be many, because until recently, there weren't that many 100-mile races.  It's quite possible that Jeremy and Karl are the only two human beings on that list.  And that's pretty damned awesome.

Could Jeremy beat any of the truly elite ultra guys head to head in a single race?  Almost certainly not. But could they consistently put up the same kind of performances he has over a six-week stretch?  It's an open question. For my money, I'm guessing that for most of them, the answer is no.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tweak


Over the past 15 days, I’ve run further than a marathon four times – all four times with the majority of the terrain above 10,000 feet.  Plus, I’ve done the Hope Pass double twice.  That may sound like a lot of running, and, indeed, it was, but I really felt as if my body was adjusting to it well. I could tell that I was getting faster and stronger with each run.  And I’m training for a 100-mile race, so no matter how much I run, I feel as if it’s not enough.

But last Saturday, I did a little throw-away speed workout, and I may have gotten myself into trouble.  I’ve been trying to do one easy speed workout a week during the last couple of months, just to toss in a touch of anaerobic work in with the volumes of aerobic work.  On Saturday, I planned to do a little fartlek workout for a couple of laps around Wash Park.  I was a little tired from a Hope Double on Thursday, but I didn’t plan to push it.  Either way, on one of the faster sections I felt a slight tweak in the back of my leg, in the same vicinity of the injury that had me sidelined for most of the winter.  But, whereas the injury last November immediately forced me to stop running, this twinge just made me want to cut the workout short.  It didn’t feel too serious.

I jogged it in.  Then on Sunday I ran an hour easy. I felt the tweak on occasion, but, it didn’t strike me as anything other than a slight tension. Then, on Monday, I went up to Leadville for what I had expected to be a back-to-back-to-back session of long days at altitude – what I had planned to be my last serious workouts before I started to taper.  

                                                                         TWEAK!

I expected to feel sluggish from the heavy mileage over the previous 12 days, but instead, I felt amazing.  Besides kicking a rock around Turquoise Lake and taking a spill (some things never change), the run was as smooth and relaxed as any long run I’d ever done.  But then, right around the Colorado Trail, I started to feel the twinge in the back of my leg, and then it started to scream at me.  Of course, these things always seem to flare up when I’m 14 miles into a 28-mile run.  I didn’t want to risk anything, but there I was 14 miles from my car, storm clouds building, and without a lot of options. 

The twinge was never serious enough where it impacted my stride or made me think I needed to stop immediately, but it was serious enough to make me decide to cancel the last two days of the back to back to back.   

I’m in Denver now.  I took yesterday off, and I’m going to go an easy four or five miles today, and we’ll see how things go from there.  My preference would be to run at least 60 or 70 miles next week, but my body’s going to be the ultimate arbiter on that one. 

This is a slight setback, for sure.  I don’t think a four-week taper is ideal, but sometimes ideal is a luxury you can’t afford when you’re pushing the limits. I’m very happy with how my training has gone over the past three months.  Given where I was and wasn’t fitness-wise around the time I ran Boston, I’m feeling amazing right now (apart from Mr. Twinge). I think if I can heal up and get to the starting line fit I have the potential to run a very good 100-mile race next month (at least by my standards). 

Now it’s just a matter of resting up and executing on race day.  Good luck to anyone looking to get in a few more hard training sessions for Leadville. Stay smart and healthy!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Leadville Trail 103-Mile Run? (parallel trail, my #@s!)

Went out to Leadville Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  On Tuesday, I ran the first 23 miles of the course out to Fish Hatchery, and then jogged back into town, which ended up being about 31 miles and 5-plus hours.  Felt strong through most of it.  I had some foot pain on the outside of my right foot after 20 miles, but it only bothered me in the latter road sections.  Considering I ran a 50k, I can't complain.

Camped on the Winfield Road near the Sheep Gulch trailhead on Tuesday night, and then went out for a double Hope Pass trip on Wednesday morning.  Felt super strong doing the backside, making it up to the top in 62 minutes without getting my HR above 145.  Then struggled a bit on the return trip on the front side.  My HR wasn't that high, but I felt exhausted from the previous trip up the pass and the previous day's efforts.  Better get used to it, I suppose!

On the way out of Winfield, I noticed a trail sign that pointed to Winfield.  I had been out here a few weeks ago, and I bumped into the folks that were working on this trail. Last year, I heard about a "parallel trail" that was supposed to be put together for this year's race, and I assumed that this must be it.  After all, there aren't any other trails around here that connect the Sheep Gulch Trailhead to Winfield.

Even just a few weeks ago, the trail was definitely not finished, with entire sections being semi-rugged forest without any grooming.  Now it's done.  According to the people I spoke with, the purpose of the trail was so that folks walking on the Continental Divide trail wouldn't have to take the Winfield Road.  The guys and gals working on the trail didn't know anything about the LT 100.

I figured I'd give it a gander, now that it was finished.  I ran on it for a mile or so, and it was benign enough.  Then it started to climb a bit. Ok.  Nothing too serious, but enough to push me to a walk after the previous two days' efforts.  But if I didn't run it on relatively fresh legs, I won't be running it on race day.  And then it kept climbing.  After two miles or so, I noticed Winfield way the frick down the hill to the left, but the trail kept going up and off to the right.  At this point I was starting to get annoyed.  I was nearly out of water and I was getting farther away from where I was supposed to be going.

For your information, here are what parallel lines look like:

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So, if we are using these lines as our standard, that's not what's going on with this trail. The trail is coterminus with the Winfield Road, but it ain't parallel.  On this trail, you wind around in the forest, you go back up the side of the hill, you go to the right and farther away from Winfield, and then you go nearly a mile past Winfield, and then you go back to Winfield on a rocky dirt road that goes past the Winfield sematary (which, I must admit, was kind of neat).  Once I got back to Winfield, I jogged back to my camp site. 15-minute miles on the trail immediately turned into sub 9-minute miles as soon as I got back on the road.
 
By my math, this side trail adds 1.3 miles to the trip out to Winfield each way, with nearly 800 ft of extra elevation gain in total.  It's not crazy technical, but it's got some tricky rocky sections, for sure. If this is, in fact, where we are going to be running in August, I would expect it to add 25 minutes or so to the leaders' times, and more for everyone else, proportionate to how much slower you are than the leaders.  It was kind of pain to run into Winfield, and based on the elevation profile, it would probably be worse going back. Perhaps not worthy of a complaint if you're getting ready for Hardrock right now, but if you have time goals at Leadville, this trail will force you to readjust them, period.

Anyway, happy training. Just thought I'd pass along. Please share if you have any additional information on whether this trail is where we're going to be running in August. If I had a vote, I'd definitely pick the dusty road over this little trail, but that's just me.




Friday, June 29, 2012

Conclusions from the Black Hills 100 - Fueling is Everything



Last Thursday, if you would have asked me the most important elements to succeed in a 100-mile race, I would have answered, in the following order:  First, you need to have an extremely high level of fitness that is targeted at the specific race you’re running; Second, you should have a smart pacing strategy; Third, you need a well-thought out race-day fueling plan, and then, on race day, you need to properly execute that plan.

After witnessing the Black Hills 100 on Saturday from lots of angles, I’ve changed my mind.  Now, I think fueling is the most critical element to success in a 100-mile race, even more so than fitness. I don’t know who said it, but ultramarathons truly are eating and drinking competitions, with a little exercise thrown in on the side.  The longer you go, the more true this becomes.  If you don’t eat and drink enough (because of neglect) or you can’t (because of an underlying health problem), it doesn’t matter how fit you are, you won’t finish.

It’s much easier to observe this when you’re watching a 100-mile race than when you’re running it.  When you’re running you are so into your own world you don’t think about why someone else may or may not be ahead of you.  But as the day goes on, and you see a runner who could run a 2:45 marathon get passed by a runner who probably couldn’t break 3:30, you start to question how it is happening. 

Last Saturday, there were probably 15-20 runners who had the fitness level to run under 24 hours on the Black Hills 100 course.  Problem was, only three of them finished the race.  At mile 17, there were at least two dozen runners who buzzed through the third aid station in under 3 hours.  All had finished the most uphill section of the course, and all were on pace for a sub-20 time.  They were running hard and they were jockeying for position.  All of them refilled their water supplies and headed out back on the trail in short order.  But I noticed that only two of them stopped to eat anything: The guy who won and the guy who got third (I didn’t notice the guy who got second).  The guy who eventually won downed three gels at the mile 17 aid station, chugged some water, and went about his way.  He was the only one who seemed to be concerned with fueling, instead of just drinking water. 

What’s more, the eventual winner was the only person who put ice in his hat to try to regulate his temperature before the heat got totally out of hand.

By the time the 29-mile aid station came around, half of the fast guys were already fried and had little hope of recovery.  A quick glance at these guys and it was obvious that they were serious runners who had logged lots of miles.  But, a few minutes later, less athletic, less fit athletes with far less ability came trotting through looking much fresher.  The ones that sought out not just water and ice, but also food, were the ones who didn’t wilt. 

I remember reading that when Geoff Roes made his huge push to catch Anton Krupicka at Western States 2010, he was eating 400 calories an hour.  Everyone focuses on the how fast he was running when he caught Anton, but few comment on how he was able to do that.  Those calories were probably the factor that enabled him to get there.  Meanwhile, the great Kilian Jornet has lost very few races of any kind, but at both Western States and Transvulcania, he collapsed with severe dehydration at the finish.   It would appear that just about the only times he’s ever lost in an ultra, the loss could be pinned on a poor nutrition and hydration strategy.

Proper fueling is also probably a big part of the difference between 2004 Matt Carpenter and 2005 Matt Carpenter.  It's not as if he wasn't fit in 2004.  But by race time in 2005, Carpenter knew the exact amount of calories he would eat, down the number of sips of fluid between aid station.  Talk about being dialed in to nutrition and hydration!

Conversely, 200-mile weeks and the greatest fitness level of his life weren’t enough to get Anton Krupicka to the finish at Leadville in 2009 or 2010, because he suffered from Giardia (medical issue) in 2009 and didn’t eat and drink enough in 2010. 


That doesn't look like fun.

As ultrarunners, it’s something we know intuitively, that you must eat and drink to finish.  But when the gun goes off and the adrenaline starts pumping, most of us think less about nutrition and hydration and much more about our pace, our place, our times, and how we feel.  But the most important thing we can do to help us achieve our place and time goals, and to feel better, is to eat and drink well.  

It is important not to extrapolate too much from a few anecdotal cases, but I left the Black Hills with one paramount lesson learned:  There’s only so much I can do to improve my fitness level between now and August 17th.  But there is one thing I can do that will have an enormous impact on my success or failure that day.  From now on, I will treat every long run – first and foremost -- as my weekly opportunity to practice eating 300-400 calories an hour, every hour, rather as a time to achieve some mileage, training, or fitness goal.

Fitness is important. But if you don’t eat and drink properly on race day, there’s no amount of fitness that will get you to the finish of a 100-mile race.    

Monday, June 25, 2012

Black Hills 100 - Pacing, Crewing, and Learning


I spent the weekend in South Dakota, where I was to crew and pace Stephen Young in his quest to conquer another 100-mile race, the Black Hills 100.  The weekend didn’t turn out exactly as planned for any of us, but it was still an amazing weekend.  I learned so much about running 100 miles, got a front-row seat to witness a course record being broken, and made some amazing new friends in the process.  I can't say enough about the experience. But I did draw up a decent summary of what went down.

1.    Stephen’s race

To put Stephen’s race in proper perspective, I think it’s critical to give a little background.  Jaime Yebra introduced us last summer at Leadville, where both of us were pacing other runners. Later, in the summer, Jaime, Stephen, and I ran a 27-mile big loop around the Indian Peaks.  It was a pleasure watching Stephen Young dance along the trails with effortlessness and grace. I immediately recognized that this guy was a natural.  He’s young, fit, and has enormous potential as a runner.  I spent that entire day dragging my butt up and down the trail while he ran without breaking a sweat.  Six days later, I ran my first sub-3 marathon, and Stephen was out of my league fitness-wise.  Two weeks later he proved it with a sixth-place finish at Wasatch. 

Fast forward eight months and Stephen posted on Facebook that he was looking for a crew and pacers at the Black Hills 100 this last weekend in South Dakota. I don’t work anymore, so I figured, why not. As Vonnegut said, “Invitations to travel are like dancing lessons from God.”  I knew it would be fun, and I figured I could learn a lot by watching someone with Stephen’s pedigree in action.

The two of us picked up Bryan Williams, another ultrarunner, and super cool guy, in Erie, Colorado drove up to South Dakota on the Friday.  We had great time swapping stories about ultrarunning and getting to know each other.  We’re all passionate about the sport and fairly new to it, so it was great just shooting the shit and getting to know each other.  Stephen told us that he had been diagnosed with some health problems associated with B12 deficiency and anemia, but that he had been feeling better lately.  He struggled in his last race at the Jemez 50, running a sub-par effort by his standards, but still finished in a respectable time, despite serious issues with nausea.


Stephen is a laid back dude when it comes to ultras.  He started his day out on Saturday with a handful of donuts and a double shot of espresso, and then we headed to the start.  The race began at 6 am, and Stephen went out conservatively, letting the leaders go out ahead, despite the fact that he was probably the best athlete in the field.

We first saw him at mile 17.  He came in about 2:50, and he was still plenty bouncy.  We asked him how he was doing, and the first thing he said was “it was hot.”  This was at 8:55 in the morning.  Hmmm…  Yeah, it was pretty warm, but it was about to get a whole lot hotter.  Not a real encouraging sign.  We traded out bladders in his pack and he went on his way without eating or drinking anything else.  It was a super quick transition.  In retrospect, probably too much so.

There was no crew access at the next aid, so we next saw Stephen at mile 29, Dalton lake.  The first 100 miler, fellow Coloradoan Jeremy Bradford, whom we had met before and we all ate dinner with the previous night, arrived at 11:05 am.  Two minutes later, he was out on the trail again, with a smile on his face and bounce in his step.

Stephen was three or four minutes behind Jeremy at 17.  Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then thirty.  Uh-oh.  This can’t be good.  Stephen’s too good a runner to fall that far behind Jeremy in 12 miles. Something is up. 

Finally, Stephen arrived around 11:45 am.  His body language was no bueno.  He was clearly overheated and hurting. We doused him with about twenty pounds of ice until he was literally shivering.  He said to me, “I’m really questioning the sagacity of going back out there.”  Hum.  He was hurting, and he was overheated, but 100 milers take a long time and it’s possible to turn things around.  Bryan and I had a chat and I said I don’t think we should let him quit. Bryan was even more adamant about it than I was. Fuck no, we’re not letting him quit yet.  After about 45 minutes, he got him out of the trail and back on the course.

Then, Stephen ran what was probably the fastest split of the day to the next station.  So fast, we nearly missed him. That was the good news.  But he’d puked up all the food we’d given him at the last station.  Bad news.  We repeated the process.  Ice, food, water. 

And then he did it again.  He caught a half a dozen runners going to the next station.  But he had puked up all the food we had given him.  Bad news.  But then he scarfed down a full grilled cheese sandwich.  Nice. He told us he was done with gels.  Ok.  So then we tossed some powdery mix to put in his bag.  And then he got up out of the chair and started jogging to the next aid.  Encouraging signs.  Despite puking a bunch of times, he was still catching other runners and working his way into the top ten.  If we could just figure out what he could eat, there was still plenty of opportunity to turn this around.

We went to the turnaround at mile 50 next.  I remember doing the math and thinking, if he keeps up the way he was running from 29 to 43, he could be back in the top five by the turnaround.  I jogged out to the trailhead about a half mile short of the aid station and waiting for him.  5th passed. 6th. 7th. 8th. 9th, 10th, 11.  Uh-oh.  12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th, all came into view, and I was pretty sure he was number 15.  I could see him shuffle a bit down the hill.  When I finally saw him clearly I could see he was carrying his pack.  Not good. He just shook his head. “I’m done,”  he said. 

He hadn’t kept anything down since mile 29.  With the 90-ish degree heat and no food, it was over.  It wasn’t a good idea to push him forward.  Any further progress would have been a risk to his health.  Stephen seemed at ease with his decision.  It was clear he had made the right call.

2.    Plan B

Once the decision had been made, I started to think about what I was to do for the rest of the day.  I had come out here, in part, to go on a 20-some mile run with Stephen during his race. Now that wasn’t going to happen.  Bryan quickly volunteered to pace Bill Geist, another runner we had met the night before, for the full 50.  Given the condition of most of the folks at the turnaround, I knew that pacing anyone from there would be a 13-20 hour death march.  It was amazing of Bryan to volunteer to for the task. But that didn’t sound like much fun to me. 

Selfishly, I wanted to run with Jeremy.  He was winning the race, so that sounded exciting.  Plus, I wanted to witness someone having the race of his life in full action mode.  And Jeremy was certainly doing that. 

I volunteered to drive Stephen back.  Right before we left, we picked up  Scott Dunlap of “A Trail Runner’s Blog” fame, who was also dropping at 50.  Scott had some major medical issues of his own (I’ll let him decide if he wants to share those details) with the world.  Scott’s an amazingly cool guy, with all sorts of great stories about trail running and other topics.  The three of us drove back to Nemo, the mile 63 aid station, only to learn that Jeremy was so far ahead that I wouldn’t be able to pace him until at least mile 83, because he would make it to mile 71 before we could.  In the meantime the three of us had dinner and a couple of beers at the aptly named Nemo Restaurant. I had the fuel of champions, fried chicken.

We dropped Scott off at his car and then drove back to the mile 83 station, where we met up with Jeremy’s wife, Natalie, who was pretty much a lone ranger at that aid station.
Natalie is a super patient woman and a skilled crewer, managing two young children and pacing duties by herself -- no small feat! 

3.    Hopping on the Winner’s Bandwagon

We waited about an hour and we finally saw a headlamp.  There he was.  Looking like he’d been out there for 1 hour, rather than 16, Jeremy came to the aid, chugged about three bottles of water, ate three gels, and we were immediately on the trail again.  Wow.  He was crazy smooth and focused, even after 80-plus miles.  For the first five minutes, he was chatty, probably glad to have some human interaction for the first time in 50 miles.  But then, he got back to focusing on the task at hand, and we trudged through the night in silence.  We had a moderate climb, and he asked me to take the lead, so I tried to do a decent job of sensing what a leader of a race would want to run or walk at this stage of a race.  Whenever I pushed the pace a bit, he stuck with me.  He was absolutely motoring for this stage of a race.

True to my typical form, I kicked a rock about two miles into my shift and went ass over head.  It was totally embarrassing. Here he was running all day, and I was the one who couldn’t hack it on this moderately technical trail at night.  I got up quickly, apologized and we went on our way.  After a full day of lounging, eating, drinking, and chatting, it took me a couple of miles to get my wits about me, but after a while, I just focused on the beam from my headlamp and the trail. All said, the time went by pretty quickly.

I thought the mile 90 aid was at 89, so I got a little nervous and ran ahead on a quick scouting mission.  I found the aid, told the volunteers that the first 100-miler would be there shortly, and then raced back to Jeremy.  He repeated the same process.  Three gels, two bottles of ice water. Refill.  On the trail.  We took it easy the first bit out of the aid so he could settle, and then it was back to pushing the pace. 

Mile 95 aid came. Same process.  Three gels, two bottles, and out on the trail. Damn, this guy is a machine.  Three gels at mile 95?  I might have had three gels the last 25 miles of my 100, and wanted to yack every time.  This guy eats three at every aid and then a gel in between?  He’s not a human.  He ‘s a running robot with a steel stomach. 

Jeremy was all business until about mile 99.  Natalie had told us that 2nd place was only 10 minutes back at mile 83, so there wasn’t much room for error. But once we got to the last mile and we couldn’t see any headlamps in the distance, we knew that the race and the course record would be Jeremy’s.  We did a little fist bump and then started running side by side and chatting.  Soon we hit the track and he had his victory lap. 

Turns out things weren't that close after all.  Jeremy won by nearly 40 minutes.

Too bad the only people there to see it (at nearly 3 in the morning) were Natalie, Stephen (who had set up a sleeping bag about 10 feet from the finish line), one lone race volunteer, and the race photographer who was startled out of his sleep. As impressive as his race was, I can testify that the glory of winning a 100-mile race must all be appreciated internally, because there isn't much fanfare waiting for you when you do. 

Jeremy is a humble guy – so let me brag for him.  To have run 20:50 in those conditions on that course, only one week after running a 2:06 at Mt. Evans, is otherworldly.  That guy is only going to get better.  It was an absolute pleasure to be able to get a front-row seat for the whole affair.  Glad he let me tag along.