Sunday, December 24, 2017

End of 2017 Musings

  • Decent year of running for me. Will finish with just over 2800 miles. That’s the highest mileage I’ve done since 2011, and the second highest mileage year I’ve had since my freshman year of college. And though I don't track it, I've never had a year with more up and down.
  • Good year of running, but a crap year for racing. I ran four races. One was decent (Imogene). Ran five miles off course in another (Creede). Got sidetracked and swam in a lake in a third (Crested Butte). And the Run Through Time in Salida was bad enough where I’d rather pretend it wasn’t a race.
  • On a brighter note, the move to Salida has exceeded all expectations. It’s just a super fun place to live. I expect to stay here permanently. My wife and I will be looking to buy a place here soon.
  • I turned 40 this year!
  • I have two racing goals in 2018. One, have fun racing as a master. Two, run a sub-17:30 5k. The first should be easy enough. The second will be a real challenge, as I’m nowhere near that level of fitness right now.
  • I still plan to run mountain trail races this year; I'm just sticking to half marathons and shorter. I had fun at Grin & Bear It and Creede (despite getting lost), so I’ll probably go back there. Other “maybe” races include the Fibark races in Salida, the Run Through Time Half here, the Hardscrabble race put on by Hal Walters in Westcliffe, the Black Canyon 10k, the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb, the Lead King Loop, and the Moab Trail Half. Half of those races and a few 5ks would make for a good year.
  • Since I’m 40 now, I might also hop into a road marathon just to get a qualifier for 2019. My BQ time is 3:15 now, which seems doable even without much specific training. Judging by those running equivalency calculators, if I’m anywhere near 17:30 fitness, I should be able to do a flat road marathon in under 3:10 without straining too much.
  • The 16-year-old version of me would have found this very hard to fathom, but the challenge of running almost as fast as I used to as a teenager is way more intimidating to me right now than the challenge of running more 100s. I am about 80% certain I could train for a year and get another buckle at Leadville, maybe even the big one. And I’m 80% certain I could slog through some Hardrock qualifier. 
  • But, can I run a 17:2X, with even a year of training to pull it off? Right now, I reckon that there’s an 80% chance that I’ll fail with this goal. Which makes me think that it's a good goal.
  • I know a lot more 40-plus-year-olds who can run 100 miles than ones who can run a sub-17:30 5k. So yeah, I think the 5k goal is harder.
  • This is not the first time I have talked about a moderately ambitious 5K goals on this site, and I didn’t even come close last time. So yeah, for now, it's all hat and no cowboy. 
  • That's all for now. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those reading. And best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Creede Mountain Run/Imogene Pass Race Reports

I ran back-to-back races the last two weekends. First I ran the Creede Mountain Run 12 Mile on Labor Day weekend and then the Imogene Pass Run last weekend.

A bit of lead up to both races: I had ratcheted up my training from maybe 25-30 miles a week in 2016 to 50-60 miles a week in 2017, so I was excited to get out and see if I could prove my fitness. I had only run two races in the past five years, so two races in back-to-back weekends was a lot for me.

I had originally planned to run the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in August, but some Achilles tendinitis made me think the better of it. I laid back on the training for a couple of weeks, then put in a solid three-week block of 70 mile weeks with lots of elevation gain. The Achilles never fully healed, but I was able to run through it in training, so I was hopeful I could do the same in races.

The Creede Mountain Run was a super chill race, even by the standards of my most recent races. The race had a 2 mile, a 12 mile, and a 22 mile variant, I was doing the middle version. The race was so low key, if you weren’t careful, you might not find it. To give you an idea, the race website says that “the race starts in town,” with no further information. So I showed up in Creede about 45 minutes before the start, and asked the owner of the local coffee shop if she knew where the race started. She didn’t, but another patron in line pointed me to the starting line a couple of blocks from the coffee joint.

I did a little jog warm up, bumped into a guy I knew from Salida, and then waited for the start. I lined up in the front. I immediately got the sense that this wouldn’t be a particularly competitive race, because I was literally one of two people who started at the actual starting line. No one wanted to be near the front. Everybody sat back 20-30 feet back from the line waiting for the gun to go off. 

When it did, I found myself jogging with a couple of local runners and a 10-year-old kid who started off hot in the accompanying 2-mile fun run.

At about the half-mile mark, I looked at my watch, and we were going about 6:45 pace up what was probably a 5% incline. It seemed easy enough, and so I picked up the pace.

For the first time since I was in high school, I was leading a race.

The incline increased and I did my best to keep up the pace. But I was definitely working hard, harder than I had in any race in years. I had a heart-rate monitor on and my heart rate was right around 170 for most of the first five miles. In training, I never let my heart rate go much higher than 165, so this was uncharted territory for me.

From what I knew of the course, it went up about 2000 ft. for five miles, leveled off for two, and then descended 2000 ft. on a dirt road for the final five miles. So I figured I’d gun it for the first five and then try to hold on for dear life from there.

It was working. At three miles, I had about a 200-meter lead. By the five-mile aid station, I couldn’t see anybody behind me. I had run five miles in just under 45 minutes, with just shy of 2000 feet of elevation gain. I felt like I was having the best race I had in years. When I got to the aid station, there was one kid who handed me a glass of water and one lady who asked me for my race number.

I blasted through the aid station, and to my chagrin, the road kept climbing. I was under the impression that the race topped out at about 10,700 ft., but my watch (and my legs) kept telling me I was going higher and higher. By the time I got to mile 6.5, and I was over 11,000 ft., I was pretty sure something was very rotten in Denmark. I looked around me on a long stretch of road where I could see nearly a half a mile behind me, and there was absolutely no one.

And then a little later I saw something that made my stomach sink. I saw some course flagging. But whereas earlier in the race, there had been orange and blue colored flags (go Broncos!), now there was only blue. I stopped dead in my tracks, because I was pretty sure I had gone off course. But I was in the middle of nowhere and running by myself. So I had no idea what was the right course, either. So I slowed my pace to a jog and then talked to the nearest driver on the road. He didn’t know the race course, but he said there was an aid station a quarter mile up the road. So I jogged up the road, where the aid station volunteers were buoyant and jolly, cheering me on eagerly as the first runner, when I asked, “Am I still on the 12-mile course?”

The lady cringed and said, “Sorry, no.” I asked her where the turnaround was, and she said that it was right at the 5-mile aid station. I looked at my watch and it said 7.46 miles. I had gone nearly 5 miles off course in a 12-mile race. I did some swearing, saw that there were children present, and then apologized.

At that point, I had another decision. Should I just continue and do the 22 instead? I was so far ahead of second place in the 22 mile I couldn’t even see the next runner, even though I had stopped for a minute or so. But my wife was going to be waiting for me at the finish. And it was pretty hot, and I didn’t have any water or nutrition. I thought about borrowing the lady’s cell phone and calling my wife and telling her I’d be a couple of hours later than planned, but she had no service.

So I decided to turn around and head back. I ended up running just shy of 17 miles with about 3k of elevation gain in just over 2:10. But my 5-mile detour took me from first to last place. When I got back to the actual turnaround, the only marking was a 2-foot-by-2-foot cardboard sign drawn by a child that someone had nailed to a tree. Nothing on the road. No one directing traffic (or at least they weren't when I was there).

Needless to say, I was not the only person who had gotten lost. At the finish, I (and a few others) spoke with the race director about the lack of markings. She was a nice enough lady, but totally out of her depth when it comes to organizing a race.

Sigh. It's a small mountain race. What can you do?

Imogene Pass was much less eventful. 

My Achilles tendinitis got flared up pretty badly from my hard effort in Creede, so all I could muster the week in between the two races was three miles of super easy jogging on a treadmill.

Come race day, I felt flat, and my Achilles was still not fully healed. 

I gave it a decent effort, but wasn’t expecting much. I got to the top of the pass in just over two hours, which had me in 22nd place (out of 1600 runners, I believe), and then ran one of the slowest downhill sections of the top 50 runners, where I got passed by quite a few on the way down. The road was much more technical than I had anticipated, and bombing down techie descents is not my cup of tea.

All whining aside, I did about as well I had in me to do that day.

2:55, good for 31st overall, and 12th in my age group. If I had been two months older, I would have been 2nd! Looking forward to the start of my Masters’ career.

All in all, neither race was quite what I had hoped for. But I’m happy with how my fitness is progressing overall.

Next up is to let myself heal completely. Then I’m going to work on speed. Maybe even make it to the track for a few workouts or races.

If nothing else, it should make it easier to stay on the right course.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grin and Bear It Trail Race

This Saturday, my wife and I ran the Grin and Bear It trail race up in Crested Butte. It was a fun little race, in a beautiful area, with a great vibe. The race started in town and worked its way up about 1700 ft. over 4.65 miles to Green Lake, which was super beautiful. Then you ran back down the hill back into town for a total of 9.3 miles. The course was mostly on singletrack, with a little rocky stuff up top, but mostly runnable.

The short story is that I got 10th.

Longer version is that I was in 3rd at the turnaround, but they had a special prim available to the first runner who was willing to jump into middle of the lake to get it. So of course that’s what I did. Only problem was that I didn’t take off my shoes, the lake was really cold, and it’s really hard to swim in mountain lakes when you’re exhausted, out of breath, and wearing shoes. It was a decision I immediately regretted, but once I had gone in, I figured I had to get it. Better to be the idiot who jumped in the lake to get the prim than the idiot who jumped in the lake but didn't even get the prim. Either way, the little excursion easily added an extra five minutes to my time, and totally zapped me of any energy to compete.

When I was out of the lake, I was in 8th, instead of 3rd. And I wasn’t really in the mood to bomb back down the hill. The swim made me appreciate the challenge of triathlon transitions. Three more people passed me in the first mile or so down, as I was barely shuffling at first. I got my running legs back a couple of miles down the hill and caught one guy who had passed me, but I suck at even moderately techie descents and that was all I could muster. 

Anyway, all told the race was encouraging from a fitness perspective and good fun. I got a $50 gift certificate and a six-pack of Eddyline for my swimming excursion. Since the race entry fee was only $30, and there were plenty of delicious burritos and Eddyline tallboys available at the finish, I’d say, in poker parlance, that I ended the day a little ahead.

Wife had a good day, too. Finished slightly ahead of mid-pack, which ain't bad considering she only averages 10-20 miles a week. 

I suspect I’ll be back. Other than two 5ks I ran a few years ago, I hadn’t run a race shorter than 25 miles since college. But I enjoyed the more middling distance—it was a good test without totally killing the whole day and wiping me out for weeks. Feels more my speed these days. 

Next up is the Aspen Backcountry Marathon August 12th. Still nursing a little tendonitis, so I'll have to be cautious in training, but hopefully I can have a better day than what I pulled together at the Run Through Time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rito Alto Four Pass Loop?

Sending out a general invite to see if anyone wanted to join me for a long day in the Sangre de Cristos on July 22nd. Thinking of doing the Rito Alto Four Pass Loop, which I had never heard of until recently but it looks amazing, from the few reports I've seen.

Link here:

I live just off the Rainbow Trail, so I don't think the trailhead is super far from my house (an hourish, I suspect).

Anyway, shoot me a comment or an email at if you're interested.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Update and a Return to Racing

We just reached the six-month anniversary of our move to Salida, and life is good. We’ve settled into the community, we’re doing well professionally, and we’re enjoying the small-town vibe. The more time we spend here, the more I realize I wasn’t cut out to live in the city. The small town life suits me.

The move has definitely had a positive impact on my running. A year ago this time, I was averaging 20-30 miles a week mostly trotting around Wash Park, with an average of 4-5 hours of total running a week. Right now I’m almost through with a three-week training block with an average of over 60 miles a week, with more than 10 hours a week of running, and an average of about 8,000 ft. a week of elevation gain.

Easily more than double what I was doing a year ago.

There are just so many great places to run around here in summer, it’s made me giddy. Forgive me if this is obnoxious, but within 30 minutes of my house, there’s the Bear Creek trail, Pass Creek trail, Green Creek trail, Browns Creek trail, Fooses Creek trail, Monarch Crest Trail, Turret Trail, Boss Lake, Hunt Lake, Waterdog Lake, Stout Lake, the Methodist Mountain Trail System, the Arkansas Hill Trail System, thirty miles of the Rainbow Trail, fifty miles of the Colorado Trail, and twenty miles of the Continental Divide Trail.

It’s trail-running heaven. I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Anyway, I’m running a lot more than I was before. And with all that running, I figured I’d sign up for a few races this summer: The Grin and Bear It 9 mile out in Crested Butte next Saturday, the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in August, and Imogene Pass in September. There’s an off chance I might also do the Creede Mountain Run on Labor Day weekend, but I’m playing that one by ear, as it's the week before Imogene. They all seem like fun, relatively inexpensive sub-ultra trail races within a couple of hours of where I live. That’s what appeals to me in races now.

I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since Leadville 2012. It's all relative, of course. I joined the Chaffee County Running Club for a July 4th run on the Continental Divide, and three college kids, including local phenom Taylor Stack, dropped me in the first 200 yards. Oh well, at least I was able to keep up with Taylor's mom (not as easy it sounds). Either way, I’ve managed to ramp up the mileage and intensity without serious injury. (Knock on wood—I’ve got a little tendonitis in my left Achilles but I think it’s manageable).

But thinking you’re fit and showing it on race day are two separate things.
I know this because I ran Salida Run Through Time Marathon in March and I stunk up the joint, running more than a half an hour slower than I had hoped. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say I probably should have run the half marathon that day. I wasn’t in trail marathon shape, and it showed in my performance. 

I’m certain I’m more fit now than I was then. But there's a chance my own estimation of my fitness is still higher than my actual fitness. But I guess that’s the point of racing in the first place. To put yourself out there and test it for all to see.

I turn 40 this fall, and so this is a bit of prelude to what I see as a ramp up of fitness going into soon-to-be masters racing. The last time I was anything resembling a competitive runner was as a teenager. There’s some appeal to seeing if I might be able to pull off something similar on the other end of the age spectrum. There’s a satisfaction knowing that I was once very fit, that I lost fitness completely, and that now I’m starting to get some of it back. Exactly how much of that youthful vigor I can recover is yet to be seen. This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed lofty ambitions of getting fast on this blog—every previous time I was pissing in the wind.

All that’s to say it’s easier said than done. But I’m excited about the challenge and to have something to push for.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Calling Out Nike’s BS Lack of Response to Oregon Project Doping Allegations

It’s been more than two years since the BBC came out with a report accusing Alberto Salazar of systematically abusing prescription medications and supplements to enhance performance. The report featured detailed stories of former athletes and coaches, including Steve Magness and Kara Goucher, who claimed that Salazar was constantly seeking an edge with supplements, pushing the boundaries of what clean sport allows. They claimed that Salazar used medical doctors for performance enhancement, not to address health issues. Since that time, the allegations just keep getting worse and more detailed

How has Nike responded to all this?

As an attorney, I strongly believe in the due process of law. No athlete or coach should be publicly accused without an appropriate process to respond.

But at this stage the weight of allegations is just too much for Nike to keep ignoring this or pretending it’s not happening. We’re past the point where Nike and Salazar can keep sending out milquetoast press releases and maintain their credibility. Salazar’s manipulation of medications is the biggest open joke in the running community, but Nike keeps pretending it's a non-issue.

This isn’t a Duke Lacrosse situation, where three athletes were publicly defamed because of the false accusations of one deeply troubled and unreliable witness.

Right now, there have been allegedly 17 former Oregon project athletes and staff who have accused Salazar of inappropriate behavior. Last week, Propublica published a report alleging that Oregon Project medical records may have been altered. Two days ago, the New York Times reported that the main Oregon Project doctor has received formal notice of allegations of anti-doping violations.

And still from Nike we hear nothing.

The longer this goes on, the worse this will be for Nike. If the allegations against Doctor Brown and Salazar are true, then Nike’s highest profile running program may have engaged in a conspiracy to commit and hide doping violations. But even if that isn’t true, at best, it would appear that the Oregon Project systematically engaged in borderline unethical behavior with respect to medications and supplements.

The one real allegation that Rupp and others violated anti-doping rules is telling in this regard. According to the leaked USADA report:
Galen Rupp’s lawyer handed over a worksheet from the pharmacy that prepared Rupp’s IV that the lawyer may have not understood. USADA thinks he thought it vindicated Rupp as he thought it referred to a “45 ml injectable” when in reality it referred to “four (4) 100ml IV infusion bags” each “containg a concentration of 9.67 grams of L-carnitine per 45 milliliters.” They also have evidence that Dr. Brown altered medical records or intentionally withheld information unlawfully to cover his ground and make it seem as if the amount of the infusion was legal. Rupp’s lawyer handed over a worksheet from the pharmacy that prepared Rupp’s IV that the lawyer may have not understood. USADA thinks he thought it vindicated Rupp as he thought it referred to a “45 ml injectable” when in reality it referred to “four (4) 100ml IV infusion bags” each “containg a concentration of 9.67 grams of L-carnitine per 45 milliliters.” They also have evidence that Dr. Brown altered medical records or intentionally withheld information unlawfully to cover his ground and make it seem as if the amount of the infusion was legal.
When you consistently push the absolute limits of what is legally allowed, even if you do not intentionally violate the rules, you make it much more likely that you will unintentionally violate the rules. Perhaps that's what happened here. And if so, it has the potential to cast a shadow over the entire extraordinary career of perhaps the greatest American distance runner of all time.

This is not just about whether Salazar technically violated WADA rules—even as evidence is mounting that he may have done so. Nike needs to address the way the program dealt with supplements generally, even if it is true, as they claim, that no rules were ever violated.

Here’s what Nike needs to do:
  • It needs to suspend Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown, effective immediately, pending the results of the USADA investigation.
  • It needs to hire an independent, third-party law firm to systematically review the way the company’s athletic programs handled supplements and prescriptions, to determine who knew what when, whether any abuses took place, and who is responsible. If they find fault, the company needs to create a series of recommendations to improve processes so this does not happen again.
Until Nike addresses this issue head on, all Oregon Project running performances will be under suspicion. Right now, the Oregon Project is synonymous with bending the rules and doping abuse. To the extent that there might be clean athletes in the program, this is not fair to them. To the extent that they aren’t clean, it isn’t fair to rest of the world.  

Either way, it’s past the point where Nike can pretend it’s not an issue. The longer Nike plays pretend, the more it starts to make sense to point fingers at not just Salazar or Brown, but at Nike on the whole, CEO Mark Parker, and the Company’s Board of Directors.