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.