Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I've been injured since about November 7th and have been consumed with that fact for almost two months now. I haven't really peeped a word to anyone but the GeekGrl and have mostly been staying to myself because first off, I haven't really been able to do anything active and secondly, really, who needs an injured athlete jonesing for a workout moping around during the holidays.

I guess what makes this whole ordeal so crummy is that after Javelina I was actually doing ok, just the usual stuff. I took a week off and thought I was recovering well. I went out with some friends for a run and part way through BANG! There goes something in my right hip and groin region. I was supposed to run 8 easy miles but instead decided to go for the full 16 miles that my friends were running and we were running at an 8:30 per mile pace. I was immediately pissed at myself for once again not knowing when to just back off.

Not wanting to take any chances and somewhere in my mind wanting to prove to the running gods that I could learn from my mistakes I simply decided to take a month off. What the hell, right? I could use a month after this season and I would still have time to start ramping up for next season even if I wouldn't hit my first race ready for a PR. I thought it was a great plan and was eagerly awaiting my first run with renewed energy. It would, in fact, be the first real off season I have taken in five years.

After a month of rest I headed out for a run with friends and came back with the same groin pain though was significantly less. I probably just went too far, 18 miles (stupid), so I took a week to let it heal and then went out for another 2.5 miles and had a crummy feeling run. I finally went to see my doc since it was obviously not healing very well on it's own but he was out so I saw his PA who said I would have to see a orthopedic surgeon to get a cortisone shot in the region where I may need one.

So, yesterday afternoon I went to see my new Sports Medicine orthopedic doc. He specializes in hips and is a marathoner so I figured I'd be in good hands. We started off with some x-rays and pretty much as expected there was nothing that could be seen but he did note that my bone structure was very well formed and quite solid. I got that same feedback with respect to my knees a couple years back when I had them MRId and way back when I was in the Marine Corps I had a Corpsman tell me after getting x-rays, “Dude, you have huge bones!”

Anyway, the doc said it was most likely a soft-tissue injury, possibly a torn labrum though I never had any snapping sensation in the hip so if that was the case it may have been minor. In any case he sent me home to run (Yea!) and told me to start off with low – slow miles beginning with about three and then add a mile a day every day or two until I work up to about a 15 mile run in about two weeks. If I have any pain he wants me to come back in for an MRI so he can see what may be going on with the soft tissue.

I immediately went home and strapped on my Vibram Five Fingers and went for a little three mile trail run and I felt really good. This morning I woke up and there was no pain just a little stiffness from not having run in several weeks. Today I'm going to head out for an easy 4 miles down on the Bosque trails, which are nice and soft and flat. I think I am finally ready to head into the new year and into my 2010 season starting off with the Egg Nog Jog on January 1st.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

No Western States For You!

Come back - one year!
That about says it all. I can't say that I'm too disappointed because I signed up in order to start on my two-time loser status. One thing that worries me though is that I just had a friend tell me this morning that Western States has stopped this practice but I don't know, there isn't any way to tell on the WS website that I could find.
Now to get down to planning my 2010 season.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Javelina Jundred Food, Fluid and Status Log

I have heard it said that an ultramarathon is an eating and drinking competition with some exercise thrown in and based on my experience I would have to say that I agree with that sentiment. This is something I really first learned in Ironman racing. I was never very successful until I got my nutrition correct and I really struggled with that. Similarly in ultramarathon I still find myself struggling with nutrition. I am very glad to have had participated in the research study at Javelina because even with the limited information I have received so far I am already seeing some important things.

I drank 5.4 gallons of fluid which was enough to keep my weight up to an acceptable level. What I don't know yet is what my specific calorie intake was. When I look back on my race I know that I wasn't flexible enough in my attempts at calorie intake and hence my nausea and vomiting. I kept trying to stick with the carbo pro and I think that was making me sick. Of course the problem is that once you start making bad nutritional decisions everything else starts to go downhill including your ability to think clearly enough to make good nutritional decisions.

However, I am getting better at saving myself or asking for the help I need to save myself in the middle of a race.

I sure am looking forward to next season to try out some of what I have learned this season.

Lap 1 - 3 hours 6 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 9:06 a.m.
Two mixed bottles of Carbo Pro and water
3 oz Carbo Pro in each bottle
17 oz water in each bottle
One 20 oz bottle Gatorade
½ PBJ sandwich
2 cans Slimfast Optima Milk Chocolate Shake (325 ml/can)

Physical/mental status - Ok

Lap 2 - 3 hours 26 minutes from 9:07 a.m. to 12:32 p.m.
Six bottles Succeed (20 oz each, so 120 oz total)
½ PBJ sandwich
1 Gu
2 tiny chocolate brownies

Physical/mental status - Ok

Lap 3 - 4 hours 56 minutes from 12:33 p.m. to 5:29 p.m.
12 S caps
4 bottles water (20 oz each, so 80 oz total)
1 20 oz bottle Succeed
1 mixed bottle of CarboPro and water
3 oz CarboPro
17 oz water
¼ can Slimfast Optima Optima Milk Chocolate Shake (325 ml/can)
½ PBJ sandwich
17 oz water

Physical/mental status - nausea, vomiting, cramps, lightheadedness, confusion

Lap 4 - 5 hours 16 minutes from 5:30 p.m. to 10:46 p.m.
3 cups chicken noodle soup
¾ PBJ sandwich
2/3 PBJ sandwich
3 cups Ginger Ale
20 oz Mountain Dew
60 oz water
8 pretzel peanut butter nuggets
4 Sports Legs capsules
2 cups Mountain Dew
1 cup potato soup
10 pretzel peanut butter nuggets

Physical/mental status - nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness

Lap 5 - 5 hours 6 minutes from 10:47 p.m. to 3:53 a.m.
50 oz water
10 oz water/Coke
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup Ginger Ale
1 PowerGel
2 cups chicken noodle soup

Physical/mental status - nausea, headache, confusion, inability to concentrate

Lap 6 - 4 hours 43 minutes from 3:54 a.m. to 8:37 a.m.
1 Excel gel
2 Gu
40 oz water
2 cups chicken noodle soup
1 cup Ginger Ale
¼ PBJ sandwich
4 oz Succeed
4 oz water
1 Excel gel
8 oz water

Physical/mental status - confusion, inability to concentrate

Lap 7 - 3 hours 11 minutes from 8:38 a.m. to 11:49 a.m.
2 Excel gels
60 oz water
1 cup Ginger Ale

Physical/mental status - lightheadedness, confusion, inability to concentrate, dizziness

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2009 Season Is In The Books

Well, my 2009 season is over and done. I might decide to pick up another race or two, a Thanksgiving race and a Christmas race fur sure but nothing that I am really considering part of my “season.” So here are ho things shook out.

Bandera 100K – 17:52:03
Rocky Raccoon DNF at mile 80 in 23 hours and 45 minutes.
Atomic Man Duathlon - 2:56:15
Run for the Zoo 10K - 49:47
Jemez Mountain Trail Runs - 2:41:10
Santa Fe Century – 5:30
Milkman Triathlon - 1:14:05
Run the Caldera - 5:22:09
BSLT 70.3 - 5:46:59
Bottomless Triathlon - 54:22
City of Santa Fe Triathlon - 1:10:57
Socorro Chili Harvest Triathlon - 1:11:07
Elvis is Alive 5K, Chicago - 22:54
Full Moon Half-Marathon, Sheboygan, WI - 1:50:27
Los Alamos Triathlon - 1:19:20
F-1 Triathlon - 1:59:53
New Mexico Marathon - 4:17:14
Elephant Man Triathlon = 2:57:16
Pajarito Trail Fest 15-mile - 3:04:14
Palo Duro Trail Run - 5:56:08
Javelina 100 – 29:44:38

Not the season I necessarily wanted but a great season by all accounts. My intent was to do more long races, ultras and maybe a couple Ironman races but a December job change that was supposed to be temporary ended up lasting for nine months and it sucked up most of my spare time and energy. The GeekGrl and I also shipped our last kiddo off to the Navy and bought a second home so in addition to the plenty that was going on there was plenty more going on in addition to that.

I was determined to make my season opener a good one because my 2008 season ended in burnout. Bandera was a great choice and I just got out there and took my sweet time and finished with a smile. I followed that up with a DNF at mile 80 at Rocky Raccoon. That was a big disappointment and really set me back on my heels. It took me until the Run the Caldera trail marathon before I recaptured the enjoyment that I usually get from racing. By that time in the season I had already decided that I just needed to really focus on having fun and stop worrying if my training was on target or if I was doing what I really needed to be doing. It was also around this time that I really just started focusing in on trail running and pretty much cut out my cycling and swimming.

Even though I was enjoying my racing more and was enjoying my running more than ever I had lost any point in the season to which I could set my sights. It was then that I really began thinking about a late season 100 and thought the Javelina may be a good choice. I hadn't decided on it yet but I did start training for it. By the time I made the decision I had missed the cutoff but went ahead and put myself on the waiting list and kept training. In a short time I got the e-mail letting me know I was in and I really finally felt like I was back, my focus and motivation; in short, my old racing self.

I may not have run a great time at Javelina but I just can't stop thinking about how happy I was with that race for many different reasons. However, at the most basic level, I just feel like Javelina was a very real, very important and very positive turning point in my ultrarunning. After Javelina I now know that I can probably complete any 100-mile race out there if I focus my training and if I can hold to a minimum the mistakes I have made in the past. Some that I really want like Leadville and Western States would require that I make no mistakes but that doesn't worry me any more. I go out and just keep going until I'm done or I'm pulled; simple.

So, with that said I plan on making Leadville my number one goal for my 2010 season. There is still some uncertainty because I am also in the Western States lottery and if I get in to WS on December 5th then it will become the focus of my season and I will just wait to make any other plans with respect to Leadville.

I'm feeling like next year is going to be pretty exciting. I'm looking forward to its arrival.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Again Comes Lazarus: A Javelina Jundred Race Report

Caution - world's longest race report (but I think it's a good read)

After Javelina as the GeekGrl and I were about our business leaving Phoenix I couldn't help but notice how self-absorbed people were, perfectly able-bodied men not giving up their seat for the woman standing immediately in front of them on the bus, people speeding up to get in this line or that just before someone else who appeared headed for the same line, people sitting alone at tables for four at the food court while they were on their iphone while others stood around with food on trays with nowhere to sit. It was startling enough for me to make a comment to the GeekGrl and when she said she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary I knew that I had found my “why” for running the Javelina Jundred (and 1.4!).

Right around 8:00 the previous night I found myself running through the cold desert air wearing three shirts headlamp on, two bottles of water in one hand and a cup of peanut butter filled pretzel bites in the other wondering “why am I doing this?” I wasn't wondering it in a miserable suffering kind of way but in a more practical way like “Why should I eat a balanced diet, why not just exist on cheesecake?” and I was never able to come up with an answer though in my own defense it wasn't ever a particularly productive line of thought as my cognitive abilities had become pretty fragile by then. No, it wasn't until the next day at the airport that I figured out that my “why” for Javelina was all about experiencing the way in which humans will pull together to overcome seemingly impossible odds, how when the chips are down we do band together and see each other through.

In today's society it seems to take some great calamity to elicit this kind of communal behavior and I assure you that every time I make an attempt at running 100 miles it is indeed a great calamity. I am completely inappropriate as an ultra-distance runner. I have no particular talent for running, I weighed in on race morning at 232 pounds and my primary sports background is rugby; I'm a tight-head prop for god's sake. However, with just a little help from some friends I am actually able to pull off something that about only 2000 people a year ever accomplish, run 100 miles non-stop.

Lap 1 - 3 hours 6 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 9:06 a.m.
The race started off in the coolness of the Arizona morning before the sun rose to punish people for living there. I felt absolutely fantastic having gotten in good mileage and a good taper before the race. My health was good and my spirits were high as the starting gun went off and I suddenly realized that I forgot my water bottles back at our little tent in the Javelina race village. As everyone surged forward onto the Pemberton trail I surged back against the crowd to retrieve my bottles and thus I was about the last person to actually start the race. If I were a believer in fate I could have seen what was coming but I am of the “completely unwarranted optimism” persuasion so I was pretty sure that despite this little glitch I would do something miraculous like run a 22 hour race. The first loop was in what I came to think of as the “hard” direction, clockwise. I found this direction hard simply because it begins with the sections of trail that are the steepest, most rocky and has the greatest number of pockets of deep sand. I ran this loop easy and spent little time at the two aid stations out on the course. It was a beautiful desert course with interesting scenery and it was fun to see several people running in costume.

Lap 2 - 3 hours 26 minutes from 9:07 a.m. to 12:32 p.m.
I rolled into the Javelina Jeadquarters after my first 15.4 mile loop and plopped down at the research tent to have my weight taken, nutrition data recorded, mental status/bodily function check and to get my sweat patch changed. The time spent at the research tent was insignificant since I just sat there while the GeekGrl rushed about getting everything I needed for my next loop, counterclockwise, the easy direction. I thought of it as easy for the same reason I thought of clockwise as hard. When you are running counterclockwise it begins with all the flatter, smoother, wider parts of trail and ends with the more technical stuff. I am much more happy running down a rocky slope than I am climbing up one. The loop was pretty uneventful as far as my performance though it was starting to heat up significantly toward the end of the loop and I was beginning to feel its effects.

Lap 3 - 4 hours 56 minutes from 12:33 p.m. to 5:29 p.m.
After coming in from my second lap I did the research tent thing and this time gave them some blood. The research protocol called for blood every other lap but I doubt this had any significant impact on my performance either. What did have an effect on my performance was the heat. I'm not sure how hot it got during the day but I can tell you that it had been cold and snowing in Albuquerque before our departure to Arizona and I was not prepared for the Arizona desert. I slowed my pace considerably but still could not stomach any of the sports drink I was carrying. I stopped drinking altogether about half an hour into lap 3 which meant another hour of running through the heat of the day fully exposed to the Sonoran desert sun before hitting the aid station called Coyote Camp. When I finally got to Coyote Camp I was baking hot, my lips were parched and I felt sick to my stomach. I knew I desperately needed fluids and fuel but I just couldn't think of what I could possibly stomach. I sat down in a chair under a canopy they had set up for runners like me and just tried to cool down a bit and think. The aid stations workers were right with me asking what I needed and trying to assess my problem. I finally ended up drinking about 40 ounces of water, a couple cups of ginger ale and maybe half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also took about 4 electrolyte caplets. It took me maybe 10 minutes sitting at the aid station but I finally cooled down a bit and was back from the dead for the first of many times.

I knew I couldn't stomach any sports drink so I filled both my bottles with water and hit the trail. I was skeptical about my ability to run the hour and a half or more I knew it would take me to get to the next aid station but felt I had little choice. I made it about a mile from Coyote Camp and became nauseated. Another mile and I found myself on the side of the trail throwing up. I still had three miles to go before reaching the next aid station at Jackass Junction. By the time I reached the junction I was fairly confused as to what was going on around me but I knew that I needed to stop and take in as much fluid and calories as I could. I also knew I needed electrolytes. I downed another 40 ounces of fluid and think I ate a whole PB&J sandwich. I swallowed 8 more electrolyte caplets along with three cups of ginger ale. There is no way I should have taken as many electrolytes as I did but like I said I wasn't thinking clearly. After taking in as much as I could I was again revived and back on the trail for yet another duel in the sun.

Lap 4 - 5 hours 16 minutes from 5:30 p.m. to 10:46 p.m.
Coming off lap three everyone was concerned about my status because it had taken me so much longer to run this lap than the previous two. Sitting in the research tent I told the GeekGrl that I thought I would do well with bottles filled with half water and half coke. I thought this would give me the fluids and calories that I so desperately needed. I also had her grab me more ginger ale and my stomach felt settled enough that I was able to take a gel with water. At this point I also changed shoes and noticed that my tape job had come apart so I went over to the medical tent and had them re-tape my feet. This added a good bit of time to my 4th lap but it was necessary. Once I had everything attended to it was back out on the trail heading counterclockwise to Jackass Junction.

I took about two sips from my genius coke and water mixture and immediately became nauseated once again so it was about 4 and a half miles to the aid station with nothing to hold me over except for the knowledge that the sun would soon be setting and cooler temperatures would shortly follow. By the time I reached Jackass Junction I was in pretty bad shape. My stomach was in knots and I was confused. I couldn't formulate any kind of plan for myself and knew that even if I did come up with something the plan could not be trusted. I was fully in the hands of the aid station workers and let me tell you something, they were amazing hands to be in.

I don't know how I got so lucky and I wish I knew names to give them credit but at that aid station happened to be a guy who had been in charge of medical at Badwater, a woman that I know nothing about except she seemed to have a British accent and another experienced and very enthusiastic ultrarunner who sounded like he may have been from New York. The Badwater doc explained what was going on with my body and why it was happening. He sat me down and just kept talking to me until I was better oriented before going off to do other mysterious doctor things somewhere else. Before I knew it British accent woman was at my side with a heated blanket. She not only wrapped me up but convinced me to sit in a chair next to a heater instead of the one out in the cold that I had plopped into. She also got me to eat some warm noodle soup and drink some more ginger ale. As I sat in my cozy little corner of the aid station eating my soup and drinking my ginger ale ultra guy came up and started working on my motivation. I confided in him saying that I just couldn't think straight anymore, that I had been so long without proper nutrition that I simply could not access my own store of knowledge. He said a lot to me but what I remember most was suddenly standing with him in front of the aid station table and telling him “I don't know what to eat.” He stood there with me pointing out the pros and cons of the various items available and helped me settle on some good food choices. He then sent me out into the night wearing three shirts, headlamp on, two bottles of water in one hand and a cup of peanut butter filled pretzel bites in the other. I had spent maybe 30 minutes at that aid station but I was once again back from the dead and this time it was for good.

Lap 5 - 5 hours 6 minutes from 10:47 p.m. to 3:53 a.m.
Lap five was the Andy Cope lap. Andy is a good friend of mine from Mesa, AZ who elected to come out and pace me for a night lap despite having the Silverman triathlon coming up in just one week. I can not tell you how big a difference having a pacer makes. Andy kept me focused the whole lap. He wasn't keeping me focused like a coach might by yelling and cajoling, no he just chatted with me and told me stories and reminisced about some of the good times we have had. I didn't really ever say much back to him because I didn't understand much of what he was saying, I mean, I understood what he was saying but I couldn't formulate any reasonable answers. I believe it was this lap that I started to see things, mostly just shadows skittering off the side of the trail though it is entirely possible that Andy got the hearing things lap and the GeekGrl got the seeing things lap. In any case my body was doing much better but my mind was still taking a rest. Andy pulled me through and handed me off to the GeekGrl ready for my sixth lap.

Lap 6 - 4 hours 43 minutes from 3:54 a.m. to 8:37 a.m.
I loved this lap. It started in the easy direction and I was able to run it with my wife. Even more enjoyable was the fact that we would get in a nice moonlight run that would also contain a spectacular desert sunrise half-way through the lap just as we were heading east. I started the lap strong but kept it at a brisk power walk since I knew it was about seven miles uphill. I made it in about 4 miles and began to falter. I was just so tired of walking uphill and I think it was getting to me mentally more than anything else. I was also caught in some of the darkest hours of untrarunning, between two and six a.m. when your body has become desperate for sleep. I kept telling the GeekGrl that this was the hardest time, a time when you felt physically beaten and you have spent so much time in darkness that your whole world has become your own dark thoughts. I knew that if I could just make it to sunrise it would be a new day and a new race.

When the sun rose my spirits lifted and I felt revived. The air warmed a bit and became perfect for running. I was in that sweet spot where simple pleasures like a sunrise or an interestingly formed saguaro cactus is almost enough to bring you to tears. My mind was wiped clean and I felt as if I could see. I repeated to myself a Buddhist phrase: no mind, no body, no beginning, no end, I am the Tathagata. Ok, I know what you're thinking “Ca-ra-ZEE” but let me explain, I didn't really believe I was the historical Buddha. If you read the Wikipedia definition far enough through you will notice that the word essentially means that reality is what it is. I guess you could say that I was making a Popeye like affirmation “I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam!” And with that I stripped down bare chested and ran like hell through the desert morning leaving my lovely wife to chase after me.

Lap 7 - 3 hours 11 minutes from 8:38 a.m. to 11:49 a.m.
My final lap. This is a partial lap extending only about 9 miles. The sun was up once I started and my good friend Don joined me to pace. Don had attempted the 100 mile race along with me but pulled out after 62 miles because of concern over possible hypothermia; Don isn't blessed with the same quantity of insulation as I possess. Anyway, despite his ordeal he wanted to pace me through my last miles back into the heat of the day. I took in more fluid and nutrition during this lap than I had at any other point but by this time fatigue, tender feet and muscle soreness made a finish questionable. I mean, I knew I would finish but I didn't know if I could make the 30 hour cutoff. Don had to push me. I wasn't fully capable of monitoring my pace and he had to remind me to pick it up or had to make deals with me, “let's run to that cactus and then we'll walk.” The heat was miserable for both of us and with 62 miles already in his legs we both had the right to be cranky but somehow it worked out. He never held out unrealistic expectations or made any uninformed comments about my resistance to faster forward momentum.

In the end there was Andy with his camcorder and the GeekGrl with a big smile. New York accent guy was yelling like crazy as I crossed the finish line after 29 hours 44 minutes and 38 second of relentless forward motion. I was finally finished. I came back from the dead again and again and now have my Western States qualifying run on the off chance that I get selected from the lottery this year. I learned a lot during this race and my love and respect for the sport is even greater than before. I am convinced that long distance running is the most natural of human endeavors and that it brings out the greatest reality of the human condition. We are frail and we are strong and despite what we may think we need each other to make it through this life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So, Off We Go

“To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one. It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man. We make ourselves into one or the other.”
Carlos Castaneda

This past week during my taper I have really focused on getting mentally prepared for the race, developing the mindset of a warrior. I always hesitate to say something like that because in today's culture there is very little of what I consider the true warrior spirit left, only and endless stream of adolescent bravado and puerile "tough-guyness" that I do not share. I have spent a lot of time visualizing myself running through the desert, through the night and through the inevitable discomfort and doubt. I have been repeating "embrace the pain" to myself and trying to imagine in as much detail as possible what I experienced during my last 15 miles at Lean Horse and my last 20 at Rocky Raccoon. I haven't just been focused on the difficulties of the ultrarunning though, I have also been focusing on the joy I experience while running long distances, the people I will meet and the euphoria I will feel when I eventually cross the finish line. Well, ok, by the time I cross the finish line the whole euphoria thing may have to wait for the pain and fatigue to subside but I know I will feel it. My hope though is that I do get to enjoy it right away, that I get to enjoy my final few miles. I know it is possible and I know it is in me.

This past week I also signed up for something else that I think is kind of cool; a research study taking place at the Javelina. This is the study title:
Sodium Balance in Male Runners Participating in a 160 km Footrace.

This is what they are looking at:
This study aims to determine if salt losses in Javelina Jundred runners are significant enough to require sodium supplementation during the race to prevent life-threatening hyponatremia (low blood sodium). This study will investigate if salt losses in sweat and urine are regulated by the body to maintain blood sodium levels within normal levels during prolonged and extreme endurance exercise. By measuring both salt input and salt output during the Javelina Jundred, we can determine overall sodium balance in male runners and calculate just how much salt is necessary (or not!) to maintain blood sodium levels within the normal physiological range.

And this is what they will do during the race:
The study will be conducted during the race. Before the race, we will collect a baseline blood sample (1 teaspoon) from an arm vein for measurement of electrolytes, plasma volume and arginine vasopressin – the body’s main anti-diuretic hormone. We will also be measuring body mass on a digital scale pre-race and after completion of each ~15 mile loop. During the race, we will ask each subject to pee in a bottle located every five miles (checkpoints are every five miles) if and only when necessary. We will measure salt output in sweat using a forearm patch, changed every ~15 miles (per loop). Five mL (1 teaspoon) of blood will be taken upon completion of every second loop (~30 miles) during the race and at race finish to assess electrolytes, plasma volume and arginine vasopressin levels. We will be taking an inventory of all food and fluid intake to estimate salt intake.

This might slow me down a little but I don't really care because it is in the interest of furthering the science base in ultrarunning, something that is vital to the advancement of the sport. It is also my hope that my participation in the study may advance the science behind Clydesdale endurance athletes, after all this is Studies in Clydeology.

Aside from my simple enjoyment gained from participating in some nerdly endeavor I also get three other big bonuses for participation. After the race I get a full analysis of my nutrition and everything else they are studying, which may provide me with some insights into waxing and waning performance throughout the race and provide me with data for future race planning. It will give me an opportunity to practice keeping my weight up throughout an endurance run because I'll be getting weighed every 15 miles. This is actually a big concern for me when I look at races like Western States or Leadville where they are very strict about monitoring an athlete's weight and holding them at aid stations or even pulling them from the race due to weight loss. I can drop 7 pounds during an 8 hour workout, which is a little more than 3% of my body weight and enough to get the medical staff at an ultra interested in my continued progress. I don't want them to be interested in me. In fact I want the medical staff to take one look at me and immediately fall into a comatose state due to boredom.

Finally, and probably most importantly for my present purposes, my participation in the study may pull me through some of the low points. I am a sucker for obligations and during times when I may decide to blow something off myself I will go to crazy lengths to come through for other people to whom I feel an obligation.

So, off we go. I am bib # 192 and can be tracked online through the race website.
Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Getting Close to Go Time

Five days and a wake up before I toe the line at my 4th attempt at the 100 mile ultra. The first attempt was Lean Horse with a successful finish in 27:28:56 and a whole host of very painful blisters. Even before crossing that finish line I did the traditional swearing off the 100-mile ultra but was soon registered for the Arkansas Traveler 100. That was a big mistake, way too soon after Lean Horse. This race I learned just how difficult it is to build up to the ability to consistently run 100's and how hard it is to recover from one if you lack a very deep running base. I DNF'd the Traveler at mile 31.9 and that was probably one of the better decisions I have made in my racing career. My last attempt at 100 miles was at Rocky Raccoon. That race just started off poorly and got worse. For some reason I was triping like crazy through the whole course. I was kicking the hell out of every root in sight and this caused me a great deal of pain. Though probably worse was my dim headlamp during the night loop. I “ran” the whole loop crouched and creeping and by the time I finished the lap my back and shoulders were frozen in a painful slouch and I didn't continue because I just couldn't see how I could possibly make the 30-hour cutoff.

So now here I am again standing at the brink of a 100-mile footrace. I feel like I am probably better trained than I have been for any previous attempt though my weight is higher than I would like. I have moved to a new home that sits right off a large series of mountain trails so I have more trail running experience than I have ever had before. I have studied the 100-mile ultra and have done everything I can think of to prepare. My taper has gone well and I am injury free. Everything is pointing to a good run and hopefully my second finish.

Oh yes, my goal is just to finish, that is the primary focus. However, that doesn't mean that I haven't obsessed over all my options. Of course the one I will be aiming at is something under 27:28:57 but I also think a sub-24 is entirely possible though I won't specifically try for that. I have developed a pace chart listing for all kinds of possible finish times and that is only to give me a way to track my performance through the race and into the wee hours when I can no longer think straight.

I just plan to go easy, run smooth, hit the aid stations hard and enjoy myself. If you have the time and inclination the Javelina Jundred will have online athlete tracking through the website.
I will get this one, I can feel it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Damn I-pod!: A Palo Duro Race Report

Last year I ran Palo Duro and attempted the 50-mile race. The problem was that I was in a steep decline at that time. Two months prior to the race I ran my first 100-mile ultra, stupidly tried to run another 100-mile ultra within a month and DNFd due to IT band pain and then a couple weeks later was pulled from Palo Duro after missing the cutoff to continue out onto the 4th and final lap. I was initially tempted to get my revenge on the 50-mile course today but I like to think I can learn from my mistakes so, seeing as how I have another 100-mile attempt this October 31st I decided to run the 50K.

The race, now in its 25th year, was founded by Red Spicer. In fact the entire trail system in Palo Duro Canyon was founded by him and mostly built by him. Red, who passed just last year, is famous throughout the world of ultrarunning for his witticism “I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.”

The 50K at Palo Duro starts off with a six mile loop through the wetter and more wooded part of the canyon. The next two loops are 12.5 mile loops that include the aforementioned six miles plus 6.5 additional miles out in the juniper strewn, rocky, red soiled canyon badlands. The first three miles of the morning includes all the 50-mile and 50K runners until the two part ways with the 50-milers heading out onto the 12.5 mile loop first thing and the 50K runners turning to complete the initial six miles. The first three miles, unless you chose to literally line up in the very front row of runners, is pretty slow and involves a lot of walking. This is so because the race narrows to single track within 100 yards of the start. In many ways this is a good thing because it forces you to not go out too fast.

I completed my first six mile loop at an average pace of 13:10 per mile. The first 3 of those miles were mostly in the dark and like I said mostly walking or slow jogging but at the three mile point there is the split between the milers and the “K'ers” and there is an aid station. Not needing anything yet I skipped the aid station and fell in behind a guy with really long hair that was tied back and he was wearing an El Scorcho shirt (a very cool race by the way and where I hold my 50K PR). He looked to be a good steady runner and looked pretty strong too so I figured I would do well to hang behind him. I ran behind him all the way to the completion of the six mile loop and by the end we had dropped our average pace down to about 11:42 per mile.

As we pulled in to the mile six aid station I was thinking that this was a really nice pace and I thought that I would just hang with El Scorcho guy all day. However, he lingered at the aid station and I was ready to go so I just headed out thinking he would probably catch up. I also took this time to turn on my I-pod and test out my ultra mix. The first song on my ultra play list is Run by Collective Soul. It really puts me in the right frame of mind for a nice long run.

Of course I follow this up with several high energy songs that are either “tough” like AC/DC “Hard as a Rock” or kind of “funky tough” like Cake “Going the Distance”. Well with all that going on of course I was burning down the trail in no time passing people left and right and despite my plan to take it easy at this race by the time I had finished 18.5 miles I had dropped my average pace to a 10:47 per mile pace.

I finished up the first 18.5 feeling really good but I could feel a blister forming on the bottom of my left foot and then I had a brilliant idea. I thought to myself as I was kind of jogging over to my drop bag full of new shoes and foot care gear, “Hey, I could just skip the foot care and run the next 12.5 miles through the heat of the day on blisters! That would be great training for my upcoming 100-miler! I could practice running through the pain!” And so I veered sharply away from my drop bag and made a b-line straight for the trail and 12.5 miles of hot, dusty trail running purgatory.

Of course I didn't immediately think it was a bad idea. At first I was thinking it would work out quite well because though I could feel some pain it seemed like I was pretty much able to ignore it...and then I landed perfectly, squarely, dead-center blister on a nice sharp rock. WOW! That snapped me out of whatever masochistic crazy man land I had so recently been inhabiting and placed me squarely into the midst of reality, a reality that I was not altogether pleased with. Despite my new found dissatisfaction with my ill conceived plan I didn't immediately think, “Well, I'm two miles from the next aid station so I can get there and take care of the foot.” My thought was, “Well, it feels like that rock tore the blister open so now at least it will drain and flatten and not hurt as much.”

I really can't account for this madness so I have to believe someone drugged my Gatorade. Anyway I kept running, refueled at the next aid station and just headed back out onto the trail. I noticed three things about then, the temperature had climbed to 80 degrees, the Texas sun was now completely unencumbered by clouds and my average pace had dropped to 11:01 per mile. I landed solidly on another walnut sized rock and was rudely reminded of a fourth thing....Ouch!

I pressed on through the juniper, through the red dust, through the kamikaze grass hoppers and into the heat radiating from the canyon walls. I could have slowed down by a good 30 seconds or more per mile and been cooler, more pain free because after all I am a big guy and I generate plenty of my own heat without the aid of exertion and the Texas sun. But, you see, the thing is if I could just maintain about a 10:45, maybe 11 minute pace all the way to the finish line I just might PR, just maybe and so I gritted my teeth and leaned into the trail once more and drug my average pace back down to 10:59 per mile.

Then a long series of short, steep climbs on rocky, lumpy trail began. Before I knew it I was at 11:05, 11:10, 11:15, 11:20. I was cooked and my left foot was hurting like nobody's business.

Fortunately at this point in the run my curious I-pod fiasco began and took my mind off things. I don't know what the deal is but the longer I have my I-pod on in a run the louder it gets, or seems to get, until I feel like my ears must start bleeding at any moment and I just want to drop to my knees clutching my ears and scream at the heavens. Mind you I don't initially think, “Wow, that's loud, I should take the speakers out of my ears.” Rather, I become wracked with anguish over my predicament and lament my sorry lot mile after mile.

I should explain here that I come by this trait honestly. I really don't know if my father ever reads my blog but I know my mom does and she has already guessed what is coming next. I get this curious trait of clinging to a bad situation until it becomes complete insanity from my dear old dad. Enough said, I'm only here to air my own strangeness.

Anyhow, as my world was being snuffed out by a maelstrom of sound a mountain biker went flying past me and I lept from the trail startled to see about 10 more zooming along immediately behind him. This startled me enough to get me to stop and think what a smashing idea it would be if I were to pull my I-pod out of my water bottle holster and turn it down.

For some reason this task is almost impossible for me to accomplish. Me operating my I-pod is like having an uncoordinated, hyperactive giant with swollen fingers operate a wristwatch calculator. I can make the damn thing go “click, beep, boop”, I can move forward and backward on the song and can pull up 50 different and completely useless menus. Hell, I can even turn it up somehow far beyond what the technical specifications would suggest is possible. I just can't, for the life of me, make it nice and sweet and quiet so I thrust the whole thing, still blasting, into my water bottle holder and grimly pointed myself back down the trail. Eleven minutes, twenty five seconds per mile average!

Thirty minutes later I am done. I have run the 31 miles at Palo Duro in 5:55 and change. Do I love this stuff? Absolutely! The first and second laps were pure joy, the canyon was beautiful, the air was clean and the temperatures were mild. The last lap, well, that presented me with several opportunities to persevere, to be humbled and maybe most importantly, to just shake my head and laugh at myself. It leaves me wondering, am a smart man that sometimes does dumb things or am I a dumb man that sometimes does smart things? Am I a strong man with weaknesses or am I a weak man with strengths? These, I think, are things worth considering, things worth experiencing. These things I think are the things that keep me grounded in what it really means to be human.

Good times, great adventures and excellent friends, this is my crazy ultrarunning world.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Haulin' My Big Aspen at Pajarito

I've recently entered taper mode for my upcoming ultras,Palo Duro and Javelina, and so my long run is down to 15ish miles. About three days ago I was surfing the internet kind of planning out some possibilities for next season and I stumbled across the Pajarito Trail Fest this very weekend in Los Alamos, NM and their longest event is 15 miles. Score! I love the chance to go run some new trails and I have really come to enjoy racing in Los Alamos so the GeekGrl and I signed up despite the rather intimidating profile. We figured it would be a good challenge.

Upon arrival at the Pajarito Ski area the GeekGrl and I stood around looking at all the super fit people wearing shirts that say Hardrock, Leadville, and Wasatch and thought "Um, this is not your typical local race crowd." The GeekGrl when over and asked someone about the particular brand of athlete at this race and it turns out “Only the hardcore mountain runners tend to show up for this race.” Great, I already know the last place male last year came in at around 3:45 but I guess I don't know what he looked like. It is possible that last year there was a whole heard of Clydesdales that stumbled into this race just as unwittingly as I had.

101009 Pajalito Trail Run
The route is basically a lolly-pop with a six mile loop and nine miles worth of out and back. The course starts at just over 9250 elevation, yes that is nine THOUSAND two hundred and fifty feet above sea level, and drops to just over 9100 in the first mile. After that little warm up it climbs to just over 10500 elevation in the next two miles. That climb was obviously steep but not as bad as you might think. There were several switchbacks that were short but fairly flat and they tended to be connected by steep ramps. We then drop back down to 9250 over the next two miles and this also had a lot of nice switchbacks but the beginning was straight down a ski slope which proved to be a challenge because I had not really tightened my shoes enough for really steep downhill running and my toes were slamming into the fronts of my shoes. I took a look when I got home and I may lose a toenail or two. Ahh the life of a trail runner.

101009 Pajalito Trail Run
After the giant climb and descent dejour it is time for the out and back section and that rolls pretty gently with an overall upward trend back up to 9750 on the way out. At the final aid station, which you hit twice, a man holding a clip board looked at me and said “#88, is your name Lynn? You a 36 year old female?” and I said “sure” then turned and gave him a little wiggle. The crew loved it and sent me on my merry way. The actual turn around point of the trail drops about 250 rocky, rooty feet in about a quarter mile and at the turn around you have to tear a page out of a scientific journal and turn it back in to the next aid station to prove you ran the full out and back. The course then rolls back down from 9750 to the start at 9250 with a little quarter mile of uphill at the end. I was pretty smoked by this time but was holding on fairly well.
101009 Pajalito Trail Run
I crossed the finish line in 3:04:30 and was pretty happy with my work. The first place guy was some bearded guy who I saw running uphill and he was just the picture of pain. He finished in two hours flat! The second place guy was the top amateur triathlete in the state and he took sixth at the Best of the U.S a couple years ago. He finished up in 2:09. Just to give you some perspective this guy can do the hardest duathlon in the state, a 10K – 40K – 5K also at elevation in about the same time, actually a bit faster.
101009 Pajalito Trail Run
The course is probably 80% single track, 15% cross country ski trail and 5% fire roads. It is also spectacular. The run goes through an old growth pine forest mixed with aspen, which are changing this time of year. There are huge vistas, mountain meadows and shadowy forest all in one run. There are also a couple amazing views of the Valles Caldera, through which the GeekGrl and I ran a marathon earlier in the season.
101009 Pajalito Trail Run
This is a race that I will put on my annual event calendar for sure. It was awesome! It was awesome in every respect.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And the Ayes Have It!

Dear Brian,

Congratulations! I wanted to inform you that you have been elected as a regional council member in the Rocky Mountain region. On behalf of the nominating committee of USA Triathlon, thank you for your commitment to the sport of Triathlon.

The overall results will be posted next week on If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact myself or Sharon Carns of USAT. My contact information is below and Sharon’s is the following:

Sharon Carns | Executive/Governance Affairs Manager | USA TRIATHLON
1365 Garden of the Gods :: Suite 250 | Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907

Cool! I was appointed to the Rocky Mountain Region council last year and have since represented the state of New Mexico but now it's a bit different, I'm actually an elected member of the council.

By the way, very little participation in our USAT elections....wassup peeps?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fingers Crossed!

Lottery Confirmation
Western States
June 26, 2010

Brian Pilgrim,

This e-mail is to confirm that you have successfully entered the WS lottery. If you are not a 2010 automatic entrant (you already know if you are), you will be going through the lottery on Saturday, December 5th. The results of the drawing will be available on a progressive basis throughout the morning as the Lottery proceeds. Details of the available live coverage will be posted on the WS website in mid-November. will also post realtime twitter updates

The lottery takes place in Auburn, CA, in the Placer High School cafeteria (275 Orange Street) near the WS finish line. The Lottery is held starting at 9:00 a.m., lasting until about 11:00am. If you are able to attend the Lottery in person, there are special prizes available.

The lottery is followed by an informal training run on the WS trail starting at Placer High School. Distance varies from nine to 15 miles. No aid stations and no trail markings. If you're not familiar with the trails, buddy up with someone who is. If possible, I encourage you and your friends to attend the lottery. The anxiety is high, the coffee is hot, the pastries are delicious and the entertainment is free.

Please note:
Should you change your mind about participating in the Lottery, you can click here to be taken back to to remove your entry.

If you are selected in the lottery:
You will receive an email shortly afterward that will provide directions about how to proceed with your 2010 Application online. Application deadline information will also be provided.
Please do not delay in filling out the online form and providing valid payment information.
Be sure to visit the Latest News page on the WS website, especially in the final months leading up to the 2010 event.
If you change your email address prior to the event, be sure to provide me with an update ( so that you do not miss out on any of the updates I will be sending out.
Looking ahead to the 2011 Run, don't forget that there will be a Raffle drawing at the end of the December 5th Lottery to award at least two Free, Automatic entries into the 2011 event. Raffle tickets are on sale via the WS website and will also be available in the Placer High cafeteria during the Lottery.

Thank you for updating your Lottery entry. I hope you will consider participating in the 2011 event.

Greg Soderlund, Race Director

Now that I know I can build my monthy mileage to a sufficient level I am going to start poking around the ultras that made me want to get into the sport in the first place!

Boy, I sure hope I finish Javelina.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Miles in the Javelina Bank

This past month I have really been focused on packing in the miles for the Javelina 100 and I was able to pull it off. In the month of September I ran 213.33 miles and this included one marathon and some well timed recovery. I have read in a number of places that someone getting ready for a 100 mile ultra should be able to comfortably run 60 miles per week in the month prior to the race and I was able to do that 3 of the last 4 weeks. I took the week after the road marathon a bit easy to make sure I recovered well. So for the month of October I have the Palo Duro 50K on October 17th and the Javelina 100 on October 31st; everything else will be taper and recovery time.

Also in September, last weekend, I ran the Elephant Man Triathlon. I was very curious as to how I would be able to perform on this difficult Olympic distance race given my high running mileage and the fact that I did a 25 mile long run the day before the race. I also have not been training for triathlon. I ended up having a much better race than expected earning third place masters clyde and third clyde overall missing 1st place by about a minute and 30 seconds. Amazingly the race among the clydes was won in the swim. I had the second fastest bike, the fastest run and the third fastest swim and that landed me in third place. I felt pretty good for my efforts ans as usual had a great time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Looks Like Pig is on the Menu

I'm in...oh crap!

This year has been a pretty horrible with respect to my planned training and racing. The job of filling in as acting Chief of Psychology blew out my planned training and because I didn't feel I was well enough trained I skipped out on some ultras that I planned. Also our sudden drop in income after the GGs job loss made it seem prudent to skip out on the only Iron distance race I had planned for the year, the Oklahoma City Redman. Fortunately the RD at Redman is a very forgiving guy and he rolled our entry fees over to next year's race but my entry into the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 and tickets to see Shakespeare on the beach at Lake Tahoe were a loss.

As this year has worn on though I have seriously been jonesing for a long distance race. I had a bit of it at the beginning of the year when I was recapturing my lost mojo at the Bandera 100K but still failing to regain my place back among the ranks of serious untrarunners at the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler with a DNF at mile 80. Like any good addict I started casting about for a possible fix.

I have enough experience to know that I can't just blithely jump into a 100 mile race without prior training so as my ability to manage the temporary job became better I started ramping up my mileage. I set my sights on the Javelina 100, lovingly known as the “Javelina Jundred” It's held on “Jalloween” this year! (oh, for those who may not be of the southwestern U.S. or Hispanic persuasion Javalena is pronounced Have-a-leena). When I went to register the race was full but I put my name on the wait list and started focusing my training for a run through the Arizona desert.

Now that I am officially in I'm feeling pretty good about my chances at finishing the race. I have my ever-present source of inspiration, the GeekGrl, as my main crew and cheer leader and fellow friend and multi-time IronMan Andy Cope out to pace me and kick my ass through the night. While not as high as most training plans would suggest my mileage is up there as high as it was prior to my successful attempt at the Lean Horse 100 and I'm just coming off a successful and fast 35 mile pavement run. Now all that is left is to turn in a big month now in September, I am at a record setting monthly mileage pace right now, and remain injury free.

Between now and the Javelina I have one Oly Triathlon and one 50K in Palo Duro canyon just south of Amarillo, TX.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Blue Sky Trail and the New Mexico Marathon

Two weeks ago I went up to Windsor Colorado to ref the inaugural Wild on Windsor triathlon, which was put on by 5430 sports. The race went great, very clean, well organized and therefore easy to ref. Being away from home of course I had to take the opportunity to get in a run in a new and unfamiliar place. Windsor sits in the flat, farm country of Colorado but is extremely close to Ft. Collins, which sits up against a lower part of the front range. You just can't be in central Colorado without trying to get is some mountain trail running so I started my Google search and came across this entry about the Blue Sky Trail just outside Ft. Collins and a brief half-hour from my hotel.

I didn't intend on going more than 10 miles but was having such a good time that I ended up with 16. Just like my erstwhile tour guide I started my run near the Horsetooth Mountain Park at the southern end of the Horsetooth Reservoir. From that point the trail, at least for me, was difficult to find, and I spent a bit of time just wandering around. Right where I parked I started at the inlet bay trail, which is a little short gravel trail around a tiny part of the southern end of the reservoir. The beginning point of the Blue Sky Trail is over by the south east section of trail to the left of a few houses where there is a small single track heading off the main trail. You follow that to a tunnel that heads under the road and onto the Blue Sky Trail. If you find yourself heading towards the bar or bead and breakfast or anywhere else you are going the wrong way. Once on the trail it is easy to follow because it is well maintained and heads straight down a large valley and there are no side trails. The run was great because it was gently rolling for the most part with only a few climbs so running the entire length is fairly easy. If you are ever in the Ft. Collins area it is definitely worthwhile.

This weekend was the New Mexico Marathon, one that the GeekGrl did last year while I was off somewhere probably for work. I am not really all that excited about running a road marathon in my own town but this one has a cool hand painted ceramic finishers medal and it starts about one mile from my house so how could I pass it up? The New Mexico marathon is a scenic marathon too. You get a bit of everything Albuquerque has to offer, beautiful mountain vistas, dramatic views of the Rio Grande valley, a run along the famous Bosque trail and a finish line right next to Albuquerque's Old Town.

Because I have spent this entire year about 15 to 20 pounds heavier than last year I have spent the year obsessing over the idea that I'm not is good shape. Nothing has proven otherwise to me. This run helped me see that while I may be a bit slower I am in excellent condition. I planned on taking the run easy because I wanted to head out for more miles after the marathon. I really expected to turn out something near 5 hours but I ended up running a 4:17 and still felt good. I headed back out looking for the GeekGrl in order to run back in with her. I ended up getting in 34 total miles and broke my 50K PR by 26 minutes. Despite all the miles being on road I still felt pretty good after all of it and still could have gone further even at 34 miles of almost continuous running.

The results of the weekend make me feel pretty good about my current endurance fitness and my chances at finishing another 100 mile race. Oh yeah, I sent in my application for the Javelina 100. The race is October 31st but there is no guarantee that I will get in; I'm on a waiting list right now.

If I don't get in then maybe I'll try and register for the Ozarks 100 with a couple of ultra-running friends. In either case at least now I'm feeling like it is at least a realistic goal.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roving and Rambling: Race Reports and Urban Running

Oh my god I have to hurry up and get to the end of this year or at least then end of September. I have taken on so much at work that I my season has pretty well been toasted not to mention my blogging. Well, actually my season has just turned out to be something that I hadn't intended, a season full of sprints and nothing longer than a half-iron.

The up side, however, is that I am right on track to capture the Southwest Challenge Series title of Champion Masters Clydesdale for the third time in the past four years. Last year I focused on burning myself to a, racing everything at the ultra distance.

So, it has been two weeks since my last post and I have done two more races, the Los Alamos triathlon, which is THE OLDEST continuously running triathlon IN THE WORLD. Go ahead, find another race that has been running uninterrupted for over 35 years and I will recant.

The Los Alamos triathlon STARTS at just over 7000 feet elevation and then goes UP. The other cool thing about it is it is, well, I guess it is an inside out triathlon. It starts with a mass bike start, very cool, has a swim in the middle and then finishes up with a run. The mass bike start is such a blast. Everyone crowds the starting line and when the gun (someone yells GO!) goes off the front riders fight for position all screaming downhill. The bike is a tough one with a lot of big, long climbs. The swim is a great cool down but I swear that my legs were so baked from the run that I just about scraped the skin off the tops of my feet because my legs were dragging so badly. I hoped out of the swim and decided to run barefoot because I didn't want to have to pull my socks on over wet feet. It seemed like a great idea at the time but some later asked me when I explained my rationale, “Do you do regular triathlons without socks?” to which I answered, “no way”. I then got the quizzical look and “Well, then don't you put your socks on over wet feet? Swim, Bike, Run” To which I replied with great eloquence, “Um, well, Hmmm, I um, yes, I suppose I do put socks on my wet feet normally. I guess I hadn't really thought about that.”

I was really shooting for first place Clydesdale because that comes with a cool $100 and it is probably the only race in the world where a Clydesdale can walk away with some cash. On the run as I went sailing past the Clydesdale that won the race last year and I think the year before I was all “Yeah baby!” and then some big guy went sailing past me. I chased but then I knew I wouldn't be able top hold his pace AND pass him at the end. I then figured that he must be running as part of a team because he was wearing big, dry basketball shorts and he didn't look like someone who had just come from the pool. I was wrong. I ended up SECOND place Clydesdale and got no cash. To add insult to injury the guy wasn't even a Masters Clyde but Los Alamos doesn't break them out it's just Clydesdale ages 1 – 99. Oh well, justice was done. The guy I was chasing down is 12 years my senior, that dude is hardcore.

The next race was the F-1 at Bottomless Lakes. The F-1 is an 800 meter swim, 14 K bike, 4K run, 14K bike, 4K run and it is draft legal. I was totally ready to get in some good drafting but no luck. During the first quarter of the bike I was just passing people and when I found one guy I could draft my freakin seat FELL OFF! I don't know how but I caught it between my thighs and was able to grab it and carry it the rest of the way in. Of course this meant that I had something in the ball park of 26K to ride without a seat. I was pretty disappointed because like I said I was really looking forward to a draft legal race and I knew my runs just wouldn't be all that good having to stand throughout both rides. In the end my runs weren't too bad and I had a pretty good overall time. I was pretty happy to end up second Clydesdale because when I had seen the registrant list there were about six Clydesdales registered. It turns out though that I was only one of two that showed so the second place finish is not so impressive but I did do fairly well overall anyway and I can now say that I did a race sans saddle.

Finally, just this past week I made a brief trip to San Francisco for work. I love going to San Francisco mostly because I like the cool, foggy weather in the mornings and evening. The other thing I like about San Francisco is for some of the interesting running that is available. I doubt I would enjoy it on a regular basis
but it provides a nice diversion every once in a while. This trip I did a 16 mile loop starting off near Union Square then heading west through Japan Town until I eventually caught Presideo Park and ran that to Golden Gate park, did a lap around that then ran to the Pacific ocean then back to the hotel. The cool thing about the run is that probably six to eight miles of it were either on single track trail or dirt walking paths. Of course the down side is that at least eight miles was on concrete, which really beat the crap out of my legs but the run was worth it.

Next up I'll be reffing the inaugural Wild on Windsor triathlon in Windsor, CO. The race is put on by 5430 sports and they do an incredible job though interestingly they are selling to the WTC so now Ironman will own a series of sprint and Olympic distance races in Colorado. I wonder if they are going to start developing a short course world championship series? Next race I am scheduled for is the New Mexico Marathon. It is just a pick-up race not something that I will run hard but it is the day before my birthday and it will be a nice long run in my own neighborhood so I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Race Reports and Life Reports

So much has been going on in my life lately that I just haven't felt much like posting. Since my last post I have had three races and had a good time every time. I did the Socorro Chili Harvest Triathlon, which is the New Mexico Club State Championship and while I personally didn't have the greatest race my fabulous team, the indefatigable New Mexico Outlaws, once again took home the state Championship trophy.

Semper Outlaws!

The GEEKGRL and I also took a trip to Chicago to see our youngest son graduate from Navy boot camp. I have never talked much about my role as a father but it is something that I take very seriously. It was always my role, a role I chose for myself, to be the hard ass. While I am typically fairly liberal and progressive there are some beliefs that I hold to that are insufferably old fashioned and paternalistic. One of those quaint beliefs is that while a woman can and should be able to live life as they see fit the man absolutely must take the worst hardships life has to offer without complaint in order to provide his family with the freedom and safety they need to pursue their goals in peace and comfort. In my estimation any man who is unwilling to shoulder that role is no man at all. Sorry, but there it is. Anyway, my role was to raise a young man so it was always an ordeal for me to walk the like between being protective and supportive of my sons and being enough of a hard ass to make sure they didn't fold under the pressure of their role as husbands and fathers. Hopefully I was able to do that and do it in such a way that my sons don't just think of me as “that asshole.” Honestly, I think I succeeeded. Seeing Jon graduate and seeing him in his Navy uniform was the proudest day of my life. He has clearly grown to be a strong young man.

So, back to Chi-town. When the GEEKGRL and I arrived we drove over to the lake front and ran the Elvis is Alive 5k in full Elvis regalia. Holly cow was it hot! Well, at least if you were wearing an Elvis suit. I ran as hard as I thought I could but really struggled with overheating. I turned in a time of 22:53, which is off my 5K PR but it is my Elvis 5K PR so in the end it's all good.

The day after the kiddo's graduation the GEEKGRL and I traveled to Sheboygan Wisconsin to run the Full Moon Half Marathon. To kick the day off we had coffee with Iron Snoopy and then once in Sheboygan had a good long sit-down with the Wimmers, who also raced right along side us that evening. We had a blast getting to meet everyone and as always discovered that the world of endurance sports is just packed with quality people.

I was going for a half-marathon PR at this race and I really ran hard. The final miles were painful ones but I never gave up the fight. In the end I fell 43 seconds short of a new half-marathon PR but I can console myself with at least three facts. When I set my ½ mary PR 1) I was about 15 pounds lighter 2) it was about 30 degrees cooler and 3) it was not as humid. (Ok, so the rest of the story is that my ½ PR was set during the first half of one of my fastest full marathon times and I was in much better distance running condition. Oh well)

So all this sounds great, right? Well, it is, all that I have reported so far. However, during this same time period my life has also had its down turns. First off I was called into the hospital Chief of Staff's office and told that they were going to re-post the Chief of Psychology position in order to get a wider pool of applicants. I have held that position for eight months now and overcome 12 other candidates from a national pool and now this?! Well, while I am technically not excluded from still getting the job the whole situation gives me quite a lot of pause. If offered the job in the end is this the way I want to get it...the acceptable candidate who defaulted into the position after several exhaustive searches? Maybe I'm an idiot or overly proud but in a position of this importance I would like to know that the people I work with and for WANTED me in the position. My old job is still there for me and I have a chance to take the program in a completely different direction. I am excited about where it can go and people are excited about what I can do with it. Lot's to think about.

Next up on the bad news parade was that the GEEKGRL was told she had lumps on her thyroid and the doc wanted to get a biopsy. Everyone said it was probably nothing and if it was cancer it was the GOOD kind of cancer. WTF! If someone puts a gun to my head and tells me to feel reassured because the gun has 100 chambers and only one bullet instead of six chambers and one bullet I'm more likely to slap the crap out of them than I am to thank them. Sure, it's a reality of life but really, nobody needs this. Finally, in that same two week period the GEEKGRL gets laid off with, um, 0 days notice, cutting our family income by about a third. Not cool, not in the least.

So, while things may not be all sunshine for me I can at least take solace in the accomplishments of my friends. I'm not saying that I have it all that bad, my life continues to be awesome but I have seen better times. What I am saying is that it is the low times that having this weird group of “creepy internet friends” endurance freaks all, makes things so much the better.

By way of example my good friend Johnny Tri, Ironman and now Ultrarunner, just completed his first 50-mile untramarathon and he also crewed at Badwater this July. I am so happy for him and take pleasure in his accomplishments. In part because he is a great guy and deserves to be happy and successful but also in part because it helps me reflect on my own accomplishments.

I wrote JT the following “Your posts have brought back why I had become obsessed with ultrarunning. I have felt a little lost lately knowing that I had a drive to complete more ultras but having forgotten exactly why I wanted to complete more ultras. I guess I forgot because there are no words to describe it, no rational reason to explain it, it just is what it is, a feeling, an atmosphere, pride and humility, ecstasy and”

It may be cliché but I think it's true, you can only really appreciate life's high points if you are willing to endure its low points and, in my humble opinion, endure them with dignity.

Fortitudine Vincimus my friends, through endurance we conquer!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Of Javalenia's and Triathlons: A Santa Fe Tri Race Report

Last weekend was the second annual Santa Fe Triathlon and it was a blast. The one thing I didn't like was the fact that they don't run Clydesdale and Athena divisions but in the grand scheme of things that isn't a big deal considering the quality of the race.

The event takes place, here is your bit of New Mexico trivia, in the highest capitol city in the United States, Santa Fe at 7000 elevation. This makes for a real lung buster considering you are moving at sprint pace. My total time for the event was 1:10:57, which earned me 5th place out of 25 in the male 40-44 age group and 30 out of 130 among the male competitors.

While I am certainly happy with the race outcome I have a lot more on my mind these days. I have been going back and forth between thinking about doing Silverman at the end of my season and attempting the Javelina 100.

I have a third place finish at Silverman and would like to get one better but I know your finish ranking is a crap shoot. For some reason the idea of finishing it faster isn't really appealing without a higher finish ranking. The other pull is if I do Silverman then Ironman St. George will be my 10th iron distance race, which is kind of cool though I can get my 10th Ironman race at the Rev3 triathlon in Cedar Point, OH and combine that marker with yet another marathon in a state where I have never run a marathon.

Of course my draw to the Javelina 100 is my lack of mastery over the 100 mile ultramarathon. It really is driving me a little crazy. I am 1 for 3 at the 100 mile distance and I haven't even attempted the 100 mile ultras that made me want to get into the sport, harder races like Leadville, Western States, Wasatch and the Canadian Death Race. If I can't complete the “easier” races like Rocky Raccoon and the Javelina then what hope do I have of reaching my larger goals?

I have until July 31st before the prices go up. Things to think about.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Flyin’ -n- Fryin’: A Bottomless Triathlon Race Report

The 26th running of the Bottomless Triathlon was just as smelly, bumpy and hot as ever. What on earth possesses me to return to this race year after year I’ll never know but it is some kind of sick addiction.

The race doesn’t start until 8:30 in the morning when it is already heating up. IT is plenty light to start the race at 6:30 in the morning but we always wait. Being a Clydesdale I get to start off in the last wave at 8:40, mercifully it is not a huge race with 10 or more waves but I swear the temp starts climbing about a degree a minute once 8 o’clock rolls around.

The race venue is actually kind of cool. The Pecos River runs, if you want to call it that, north to south about 10 miles east of Roswell, NM. People reading this who are not from a desert environment have to change your idea of river from a wide, deep, flowing body of water to about a 50 to 100 meter expanse of sand and mud that is intermittently disturbed by pools of water. Immediately east of the river is a series of large sink holes that remain filled with water and they are nestled up against a red-rock bluff that serves as the western boundary of the Llano Estacado, otherwise known as the high plains of west Texas and eastern New Mexico.

The swim is supposed to be 400 meters but it is laid out by a couple of guys equipped only with a small boat, two walkie-talkies and at least one west Texas accent. One on shore and the other in a boat with buoy in two. Shore guys says to boat guy “Grab that there boy and head on out chair a bit and I’ll give you a holler when it’s taam to set’um down.” Boat guy dutifully and quietly grabs the buoy and proceeds out toward the middle of the lake. Shore guy surveys the shore for a bit and then lifts the walkie-talkie and says, “That’ll do rot chair” and the ever silent boat guy sets the buoys and heads back. Despite the imprecision of the set-up I had a decent swim time, 8:21. I know this was pretty good because I was the third person in my wave out of the water and I even out swam several people in wetsuits.

The bike course is not only bumpy as in the thing is paved with gravel and tar but the road bed is also warped so fitting with the general “wild west” atmosphere riding even the most shock absorbent bike is like riding a bucking bronco. This course is precise, it is a simple circle around the Bottomless Lakes State Park. The ride begins with a nice flat to warm the legs and then climbs straight up onto the Llano Estacado where the road runs through a series of small rollers before diving back down into the Pecos River Valley. It is down in the river valley where you encounter the stink. I don’t know exactly what it is, probably rancid pockets of muddy water or something but it gets pretty funky in places. On the upside you have that much more motivation to push harder. My bike split was 23 minutes for 12 K, precisely the same bike split I turned out last year and just to give you an idea of just how rough the road is…that is the same average speed that I maintained two weeks ago at the Buffalo Springs 70.3.

By the time you get to the run the heat has climbed to truly de-motivating levels. This year I had the “opportunity” to run in 98 degree heat, Yea! The run is only 4K long but everyone agrees that it is the worlds longest 4K. It runs straight out of transition and then straight back I’m beginning to think the road climbs imperceptibly on the outbound route because it always feels easier coming back.

There were several Clydesdales at today’s race that I didn’t know so even though I was pretty sure I was in first place by the time I hit the run I had flashbacks of Buffalo Springs and getting caught from behind so I just ran all out keeping my heart rate pegged at an average of 177 beats per minute, which is about the maximum I can sustain for more than a mile or so. I focused on running people down that I knew I wasn’t racing but I needed something to keep me focused in that heat. I hit the finish line in 20:21, which may well be the fastest average pace I have ever run in that kind of heat.

When the awards were given out I was handed the second place Clydesdale award, I was crushed. I raced as hard as I could and came up second.

But not so fast.

The first place “Clydesdale” had taken his time and ended up walking up after me. He was maybe five and a half feet tall and probably topped out at 145 soaking wet. He sheepishly told the race director, “Um…I’m not a Clydesdale.” Ya think! It turns out that he was the third place winner in the Male 40-44 division and I was indeed the first place Clydesdale, Yahoo! They didn’t break the clydes into masters and youngsters either so I also happened to be the oldest Clydesdale taking the field today…not sure how I feel about that but whatever.

In the end it turns out that I had run the race in 54:22 according to my Timex and had beaten the second place Clydesdale by a whopping 16 minutes. I was pretty happy about that but kept it between myself and the GeekGrl, who happens to have walked away with first place overall Athena.

The Bottomless Triathlon is one tough little race but I sure do love it!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seconds from Glory: Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon 70.3 Race Report

Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the legendary BSLT 70.3. The day began windy and dark with flashes of lightening far in the distance; a foreboding prelude to this daunting race but not one that is unheard of. It seems that every year Buffalo Springs throws some difficult weather condition at you as you traverse the already difficult 70.3 miles of west Texas canyon land. More often that not it is high temperatures with a fierce sun staring unblinkingly down at you from a cobalt blue sky. However, some years, like this year, it is an odd mixture of wind, heat, rain, sun and cloud. It seems in years like this the weather smiles on the fastest amongst us and frowns mercilessly on those of us who are more middle to back of the pack.

For me, starting with the GeekGrl in the last wave of the day it was wind on the swim, wind and rain on the bike and sun, heat and humidity on the run with little or no air movement to cool the sweat on my brow. I will cut to the case and just get it over with, I finished 8 measly seconds from that glorious climb onto the third and final step of the winners podium. On the other hand I crushed my previous BSLT 70.3 PR by 20 minutes and was only 15 minutes shy of my all-time half-iron PR, which was recorded on the flattest and fastest race in the Southwest, Soma.

So where did those 8 seconds tick away you ask? Well, I have two choices, I could cop to the fact that I raced like a newbie and made a couple of mistakes that ate precious seconds or I could count them all to the time I spent helping a fellow athlete who was clearly hurting more than I. Given my druthers I'll blame it on the latter but will still admit to the former.

The pro men's wave took off at 6:30 a.m. While the sun had yet to penetrate the rain clouds and the depths of the canyon were cool and windy and dark. Being less professional the Clydesdales and Athenas took off 40 minutes later with a rag-tag assortment of teams, aquabikers and the genuine newbies in the under 18 division. IT is always a source of frustration being sent off in the last wave but I don't envy the race directors their job of selecting the wave order. Personally I think that Ironman has it right with the mass start. Give everyone the same opportunity to enjoy the generally calmer and cooler weather of an early morning start and let people sort out for themselves just how much of a pummeling they are willing to endure.

When our wave took off I was feeling amazingly comfortable and swimming straight as an arrow. The wind had died down a bit so the chop was minimal and pretty much non-existent by the time we rounded the second buoy and turned with out feet to the wind. Other than one instance when someone seemed to have a panic attack on my feet and I had to kick free to avoid being dragged down my swim was completely uneventful. I never got off course, I headed directly for each and every buoy and made every turn smoothly without running into huge mobs of thrashing bodies. My swim time wasn't particularly good, about 37 minutes, but I felt good when I finished and was off to a good day of racing.

When I stripped off my wetsuit and went to put on my bike shoes I noticed my timing chip was gone. I thought, “Crap, that guy who freaked out and started grabbing my feet must have yanked it off.” So I was a bit flustered but continued to grab my gear and head off on the bike. As I was running through T1 I was yelling out to the volunteers or anyone who looked like they may know something about the race “I lost my chip” but I mostly got back shrugged shoulders, great flapping of arms or multiple sets of incompatible instructions from multiple people at once. I decided to just head out onto the course and let people know at the various timing mats that I had lost my chip so they could track my progress manually.

As I was heading up the first big climb right out of transition my bike started angling off to the left for no apparent reason other than it simply seemed to want to head for the edge of the road and into a pothole, series of ropes set up to define the edge of the race course and an innocent woman sitting just on the other side of those ropes taking pictures and cheering athletes up the hill.

My bike's urge was so great in fact that I just sat there helplessly and watched as my bike flawlessly executed a left turn, made a bee-line to the edge of the road, buried its front tire into a large, 700c wheel sized pothole, lurched awkwardly into the rope barrier, toppled over onto the innocent woman and for good measure threw off its chain, all while I stood there looking at it with no small measure of incredulity. As the chain hung impotently from my crank arm I looked up the hill to watch the first place Clydesdale disappear over the horizon. “@#%&;#$%!” I said vigorously while I bent over to right my bike and put the chain back where it would do me some good.

Back on the bike I was having a pretty good ride. The hills didn't seem as formidable as I had remembered them and my recent fear of descending at full tilt was completely gone. I was riding neck and neck with another Clyde who could climb like nobodies business. Every time we hit a hill he would pass me effortlessly only to have me overtake him on the descents and flats. Fortunately there was more flats and descents than there were climbs so I was able to leave him behind by mile 30 only to see him again after the race. There was a pretty good wind for the entirety of my ride and it started raining around mile 35. The rain was just a steady drizzle, not enough to made it hard to see but enough to fill your shoes with water and coat your bike and body with road grime.

Some time around mile 50 the rain gave way to steamy pavement heating up in the sun and the wind died down to nothing. I came rolling into T2 in about 2:52, a respectable pace for me at BSLT. I have never been able to break the 20 mph barrier at any Buffalo Springs race of any distance. Despite having some good flats to speed along the few climbs in and out of canyons are too steep to do much more than crawl and too short to really make up significant time.

When I reached T2 I was greeted by wet shoes covered in grit that had splashed up from the pavement around my transition towel. In addition to that singularly disappointing moment I discovered that I had completely failed to set out my running gear, well, other than my now sodden shoes. I immediately went to work turning my transition bag inside out looking for my hat and water bottle only finding them after completely emptying the contents of the bag a second time.

As I ran out of T2 I finally saw a WTC race official and told him I had lost my timing chip in the swim and he shot back, “Well, your time isn't going to count.” That stopped me short and I said “What!” The interesting this is that as a USAT race official I know this is not part of the competitive rules and having reffed several races with professional chip timing I know they are able to upload your time manually after you cross the finish line. It also happened that the regional coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region, my boss in the world of triathlon, was standing right there having just finished the aquabike. He just rolled his eyes when he heard the WTC ref and I said “What do you mean my time won't count?” to which I got an “er-um” and so I said forget it and took off on the run.

Heading down the road in my squishy shoes I was happy to have brought my trusty cool-off bandanna. I had expected hot weather all day so thought to bring this piece of gear and had loaded it with ice and stuck it in a plastic bag of ice hoping it would remain cold until I was ready for it on the run, which it did. I had also stuck a cold sponge in my tri top for face wiping and chest cooling. The humidity from the recent rains was defeating the cooling effect of evaporation but the ice on my neck and cold sponge on my chest was enough to keep me from over heating and allowed me to run pretty well.

Like the bike course, the run at BSLT 70.3 is a series of flats broken up with short, steep climbs. The run also features the “Energy Lab”, a mile and a half straight out and straight back on the flattest, straightest most exposed stretch of pavement west Texas has to offer. No matter how well anyone may be running or how well you feel this part of the run always looks and feels like a death march. As you stare off in the distance there is a seemingly endless procession of people disappearing into and then reappearing from the shimmering heat.

The last time I did BSLT I actually felt pretty good when I hit the energy lab but I was almost completely defeated by the mental aspect of running that strip of hell. Now, however, I am a stronger and mentally tougher runner and only broke stride to refill my water bottle and re-load my bandanna. Somewhere around mile 8 I was passed by the guy who would become the 1st place clyde went running past me faster than I could chase. I decided that all I could do was maintain pace and hope that he would melt down.

At mile nine someone came running toward me heading out to the energy lab while I was already on my return. This guy looked terrible and when I got close he stopped me and said “Can I please have some of your water?” I felt sorry for the guy and knew I only had about a mile to go before the next aid station. I also knew he only had maybe a quarter mile to his next aid station but this guy didn't look like he had a quarter mile in him. I stopped and gave him my bottle, which he immediately turned upside down and began to drink. I probably stood there a good 20 seconds while he almost emptied the entire contents then said, “Oh, thank you” and handed me my bottle back. We went our separate ways, he out onto the energy lab and me down into the steamy canyon.

Somewhere around mile 10 the guy who would end up the third place clyde passed me and he was also moving fast. Number three clyde was different though, he was frustrating for a few reasons. First of all he would run past me at like an 8 minute pace and open up a gap and then walk for a long while and keep looking back over his shoulder. Sometimes I would get past him and he would come running up and pass me again and sometimes he would take off running just as I came up on his heals.

Secondly, though he looked like he could be a clyde his body marking had rubbed off and I never got a look at his bib number. There were a lot of guys on the course that looked like they could have been clydes but when I caught them they turned out to either be an age grouper, smaller than they looked from a distance or were younger clydes so I didn't know what to think of this guy and I was unable to retaliate because of a pain I had developed in my left quad. The pain would start to build any time I tried to accelerate so all I could do was monitor the pain and run as fast as I could while still keeping my quads intact.

Once I saw the results and learned that the number three clyde, Mr. Sprint-walk, was indeed my nemesis I had to applaud his tactic; I have used it to effect in many races. The basic idea is that you know or at least reasonably assume that you are not going to catch any of your competitors in the distance you have left to cover but you also know that you have someone too close for comfort and you are running out of gas. What I have done in times like that is go as slowly as I can without losing ground. The idea is that if a fight to the finish is necessary I will have just a bit more left in the tank than if I were to just run hard all the way in. This is exactly what happened. Maybe a half mile or less from the finish he started running and I was already at max pace for what I had left.

I crossed the finish line in 5:46:59, an awesome time for me and a full 21 minutes and 23 seconds faster than my last BSLT record, which in the year I ran it won me first place Masters Clydesdale. This year I was 5 minutes out of first place, three minutes out of second place and 8 seconds out of third place. To top off the day I grabbed a beer, sat in the cool lake and was promptly bitten by a fish. Oh the humanity! I slogged over to the transition area and immediately saw my timing chip sitting plainly on my soggy transition towel. Perfect.

I figured that with my various misadventures and acts of kindness I lost maybe as much as three minutes and could have possibly crept into second place. Interestingly though the guy who I expected to take first place ended up having a bad day. It just goes to show that no matter how well or poorly prepared you may think you are, no matter if you run a PR or come up short the trip to the podium always involves a modicum of pure luck.