Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review: How Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Two thousand eleven has been a pretty incredible year and it has included several PRs at several distances. I’ll like to specific race reports for pictures and details for anyone with that much time on their hands but otherwise here is a relatively quick recap. (ok, maybe no links, my laptop sucks! The race reports are in the blog though.)

My first PR of the year came at an odd distance, 38.5 miles, but I count it as a PR because it is a race that I’ve run four times before and the race had kind of become my season opener. Sadly though the Ghost Town 38.5 closed its doors this year so I’ll have to look for something else but what a way to go. I even broke into the top 10!
January 16th Ghost Town 38.5 – 6:48:16

My next PR of the year was a huge one for me because it was my first sub-24 100 miler at Rocky Raccoon. I knew I had it in me but until this year I had been unable to put it all together.
I actually think I could have run this one a bit faster but I had a couple pretty low points but that’s to be expected. This race also contained one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, a crystalline pine forest surrounding a steam covered lake at daybreak. It was amazing!
February 5th Rocky Raccoon – 23:47

The huge surprise of the year was my 50K PR and Mt. Si in Washington. My run that day was simply unbelievable and I wouldn’t have dared to predict it. It was an amazing experience to run so fast for so long and it really started to hurt towards the end but I was just in such a zone that I was able to push all the way to the end.
April 10th Mt. Si 50K 4:18:47

My final PR of the year was an attempt to make the New Mexico Army National Guard team to represent at the Army 10-miler in Washington DC. I missed that qualification by a full minute but still went away happy with my new PR. I may be able to shave off a minute but it’s going to take some weight loss and speed work, which I am planning both during my 2012 season.
April 16th Albuquerque Half Marathon 10K – 44:28

So not only was 2011 a fast year, it was a good year for collecting states. I picked up the following:
Tennessee - April 30th Country Music Marathon – 3:46:11
Ohio - May 1st Flying Pig Marathon – 3:44:05
Wisconsin – May 7th Wisconsin Marathon – 3:41:25
Michigan - May 8th Kalamazoo Marathon – 3:42:00
Wyoming - June 17th Bighorn – 33:11:29
Washington - October 15th Defiance 50K – 4:57:06

Not only did I pick up six states but the GeekGrl and I also ran our first Double-Double, back-to-back marathons on back-to-back weekends! As can be seen above the Double Double consisted of the Country Music Marathon, Flying Pig Marathon, Wisconsin Marathon and the Kalamazoo Marathon. I have to say of all four the Flying Pig was my favorite but each and every one of them had its own special moments.

What I loved best about the Double Double is that it just felt like I was completely embraced by the experience of America. I’m not sure how clear that may be but I guess what I am trying to convey is that at some point in those four marathons the individual experience of each began to blend into a larger impression, a different kind of experience, an experience that was defined by generalities and concepts, generalities like the size and diversity of the American landscape
and concepts like American pride, striving and the egalitarian impulse. It was a hell of a thing, far greater than the sum of its parts.

Twenty Eleven was also a time to Go Big, to hit the mountains, the high and wild places where few people tread. The mountain tour began on the GeekGrl’s birthday with the Run through Time Marathon in Salida Colorado. Run through Time is scenic and very difficult. I joked after the race that it got its name because you felt like you had aged several years by the time
you got to the end.

Of course the mountain runs were all gorgeous and tough but the one that really knocked my socks off was the Taos Valley 10K up and over. It is a straight 3.1 mile climb followed by a 3.1 mile descent with the climb and descent taking place on different gravel roads. There were parts of the descent that were so steep and rocky I actually found them a bit scary and ask anyone who has run mountain trails with me, I run some pretty gnarly downhill trails pretty hard.

March 12th Run through Time Marathon – 4:32:24
May 21st Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50K – 7:35:52
June 17th Bighorn – 33:11:29
August 7th La Luz Trail Run – 2:08:08
August 13th Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10K – 1:17:38
September 9th Wasatch – 33:32:52

Now for the heat races, yes, that is heat as in hot, as in OMG who runs in this crap? I guess the answer to that question is…I do and I have become a sick, sick man. Just a quick rundown, Cherry Garcia 98 degrees, Chunky Monkey 95 degrees, Bear Chase 90 degrees and San Antonio 88 degrees with a topping of 50 percent humidity. While these are not the hottest absolute temperatures I have run in they are the hottest temps I’ve tried to run hard at these distances.

June 26th Cherry Garcia 10K – 52:31
July 17th Chunky Monkey 10K – 50:47
September 25th Bear Chase 50K – 6:10:32
November 13th San Antonio Marathon – 3:42:20

Speaking of runs notable for their weather, I now have some data to suggest that running in no-wind 95 degree weather is roughly equivalent to running in perfect running temperatures with
about 30 mile per hour sustained winds. The Dam to Dam was accompanied by Albuquerque’s signature “change of the seasons” hellacious winds. Fortunately the race was short enough were the wind stayed in one direction for the duration so we got both head and tail winds. I promise you, had we been out on a long bike ride it would have mysteriously been headwinds all day long.

September 4th Dam to Dam 10K – 49:43

Finally comes the 2011 miscellaneous category of races. It includes a run where I actually did run wearing a green dress. It was a kind of 1968 green mini with a sleeveless top and a chest that was cut deep and held closed with a lace. The whole thing was made of jean material and was the only loaner they had that would fit my large frame.

The really off-beat race of the year was the Acoma Seed Run, which was hosted by the Seed Kiva of the Acoma Pueblo. It was cool because we got to run on a part of the reservation that is normally closed to non-natives and it followed an ancient secret path up to the top of Sky City that the Acoma people used to take to bring supplies up when they were under siege from below at the foot of the mesa. The other neat thing about this race was that the Kiva elders stood in a line handing out the prizes and everyone who received a prize would go down the line of elders shaking their hand beginning from the eldest member of the Kiva to, well, I guess the least eldest.

March 19th Green Dress Run – 4 miles about 34 minutes
May 30th Acoma Seed Run – about 8 miles - 1:10:58
October 30th The Great Pumpkin Chase 10K – 47:31 (in which I both win my age group AND get my ass handed to me by a guy pushing a baby stroller and wearing a Tigger suit, ouch!
November 25th San Antonio Road Runners Turkey Trot – 4 mile fun run – Hmmm, maybe 39 minutes, I didn’t really keep track and ran with a friend pretty much jawing the whole way. We also started the run about 20 minutes after the official start with all the rest of the slugabeds.
June 11th Billy the Kid Triathlon – 1:23:44 – yes, my only triathlon of the year; shame on me.

So, that’s it, as if there needed to be more, that’s my 2011 season of racing. Quite honestly when I set out to write up this year in review I had no idea I had done so many races. I mean 25
races in one season? Well, that just seems excessive. However, the GeekGrl reminded me that we were trying to collect states and make up for lost opportunities we will have in 2012 because her time will largely be sucked up by her Social Work internship.

Despite the fact that 2012 will be thin on racing I am looking forward to getting in plenty of unbroken early season training because I have a monster year ahead, an ultrarunner’s dream year, and I am going to do it right. My final week of 2011 has been a 65 mile week and I’ll start the New Year with a local Fat Ass 50K followed by a week of rest and the it’ll be time to hit it.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Close to Normal

I’ve been away from the blog for a while mostly because I’ve been busy, gone and busy. During the month of October I ran the Bear Chase 50K which was my last post and after that I was consumed with the task of getting ready to travel to San Antonio Texas for a month of Basic Officer’s Leadership Course. Of the various things I do in life one of those things is that I serve in the New Mexico Army National Guard as a Clinical Psychologist so I’m a Behavioral Health Officer and it’s one of those schools that everyone is required to attend.

Part of those preparations involved spending a hideous amount of time doing online training about all things Army. I’m certain it would have been very valuable training had it not been such a vast sea of knowledge crammed into a thimble of time but as it was I just struggled to retain enough to take the next test and move on. However, I have since discovered that I retained more than I thought but the knowledge is kind of insubstantial like the memories of someone with early dementia. Many things are recalled vaguely and some memories can be grasped while others float away just beyond my reach.

However, the BEST part of getting ready to go to Officer’s basic was the weeklong vacation the GeekGrl and I took to Seattle. I won’t try and recap it all here but suffice it to say I spent the week wired trying to visit all the finest coffee houses in the city. We tried many and much to
my surprise the best of the best coffee in Seattle was to be found at Top Pot Hand Forged Doughnuts where I went for doughnuts, not coffee. The doughnuts were the bomb too! While in the area we also traveled to Vancouver, BC for a day where I ran the Grouse Grind, which was a freakin’ grind, and I think I made it up in 57 minutes. A pretty average time I think but I wasn’t really trying to push it. I then rand back down a dirt access road until I hit the Baden-Powell trail, which I took back to the base of the Grind where I was parked.

While in Seattle I also ran the Defiance 50K which took place on Point defiance in Tacoma. It
was an awesome race and ended up being harder than I was expecting but I had a
great time none-the-less. I ended up placing 18th overall and second place in my age group. The GeekGrl ran too but unfortunately twisted her ankle so had to drop. Other running we did in Washington included Cougar Mountain and the Hoh rain forest in Olympic National Park. That too was an awesome experience.

So the month I was away for Officer’s basic was pretty weird. The actuall stuff I did there was
all field exercise type stuff, things I had been doing back in the day when I was in the Marine Corps as a young enlisted man, stuff like shooting rifles and pistols, marching, doing land navigation with maps and compass, doing hand-to-hand combat and I even went through a gas chamber again. The gas chamber is kind of a right of passage in the military and nobody but nobody escapes their tenure in the armed forces without at least one trip to the chamber.

While in San Antonio the GeekGrl flew out twice, once to run the Rock-n-Roll San Antonio marathon with me and once for the Thanksgiving holidays. The San Antonio marathon was uninspired at best. I’m not entirely certain that a really cool course could be developed but I think a better one would have been fairly easy. That race also got really hot, really hot, and pretty much everyone melted down. By the half-marathon point I was on pace to run something in the ball-park of a 3:25 but I ended up finishing with a 3:42. I think at the half-way mark I was already flagging pretty seriously and I just decelerated from there.

The weekend that the GeekGrl came for Thanksgiving was one of the best weekends of our marriage. We stayed at the Westin on the River walk and we did nothing but kick back and
relax. We had leisurely morning coffee at Sip’s coffee house, we visited a comedy club and we had a couple romantic dinners. It was well worth the expense. I rolled back into Albuquerque on December 6th having driven straight through from San Antonio into the mouth of a winter
storm that had blanketed Southern and Eastern New Mexico with snow and ice. It was a brutal drive but I got home at like 2 in the morning and slept like the dead. Since I’ve been back I’ve just been playing catch-up at home and at work. When I logged on to my computer at work I had 980 e-mails in my in-box, I had to immediately start interviews for a position I am hiring and I was given a major work assignment that is due “at the first of the year.” I’m hopeful that the first of the year refers to the first part of the year like the first couple weeks of January and not literally the first work day of the year.

Anyway, I’m now pretty much back and settled into my routine and am engaged in planning my 2012 season and what a season it will be, a dream season. More on that later. Suffice it to say I’m back on a diet, I’ve started some strength training and I’m starting to work on building my running base.

It feels good to be back!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Better Late Than Never: A Bear Chase 50K Race Report

Three weeks ago the GeekGrl and I drove up to Colorado to run The Bear Chase 50K. Now that my race season is over in terms of actually having goal races it was time for the GeekGrl to choose races and she wanted to do “a bunch of 50Ks or 50-milers.” Well, there’s a dearth of 50-milers around here in the first place and even fewer this time of year so I started looking for 50Ks and marathons, which there are many more to choose from.

So, this was the GeekGrl’s race and I was just along for kicks. I was pretty sure that I was nowhere near well enough recovered from Wasatch to run well and my main goal was to run a new course and finish without injury. Fortunately I accomplished both. We headed up for the weekend and also was given an invitation to stay with Jennifer, a fellow ultrarunner we had met at Bighorn.

The Bear Chase is only in its second year this year but the race director has a lot of experience so it went off without a hitch. The course reminded me a lot of the Palo Duro Trail Runs in Palo Duro Texas. It reminded me of Palo Duro no so much because of the scenery, Palo Duro is in a red and gold walled canyon filled with scrub trees whereas The Bear Chase is in a large suburban green space complete with a stream, small lake grasslands and a small wooded area. No, it reminded me of Palo Duro because both races have a 50-miler, a 50K and a 10K going on at the same time and both 50-milers are made up of four loops while the 50K is 2 loops of the 50-mile course plus one loop of the 10K course. Both races are also hot and about equally difficult, or easy as the case may be. The Bear Chase also has a half-marathon that is one loop of the 50-mile course plus some more somewhere else, I’m not sure where.

I actually started out running pretty fast and was pretty much in the lead pack but that only lasted about 17 miles and then I felt the first twinge of pain in my groin, the same place that had been hurt most of my early to mid-season. That was it, my signal to take it easy so I shifted into a walk and just let people go. I walked almost the entire final 12.5 mile loop though I did get to break into a jog a few more times toward the end but every time I felt the slightest twinge I started walking. It wasn’t too bad, it was about what I had expected to do and I still got to finish mid pack and was able to run a few people down in the final mile. Best of all the GeekGrl set a new 50K PR and I got a few cool pics of me running through a stream so all in all it was a good time.

If you are considering this race at any distance I would recommend either the 10K or the 50K. The 10K loop, which you also run during the 50K, is the nicest part of the entire race and it is a fast loop as trail races go. The 50K gets the 10K loop and at least the long loop is only done twice. The first time it’s novel and the second time is the last lap. I can’t imagine doing that loop four times it would be unbelievably boring and there are plenty of faster 50-mile courses out there for a PR. The half-marathon would be ok if you happen to want that distance but again, it’s not a PR course and there are plenty more scenic half-marathons in Colorado.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Triple Comback: A Wasatch 100 Race Report

First off, I didn't take pics during Wasatch so I scanned the internet looking for som pics of Wasatch and got some great ones off A Trail Runner's Blog, who also races Wasatch 2011. Give credit where credit is due.
Wasatch begins on broad single-track trail skirting the base of the mountain range between the wilderness area and residential neighborhoods. The trail rolls gently and in the darkness of the morning you can see sections of the city lights spread out below you. My plan, as usual, was to go out slow for the first 30 or so miles and then just see what I could do after that so I set out at between a 34 and 36 hour pace.

The first major climb of the race is called Chinscraper and it looks wicked on the elevation profile. Chinscraper basically starts at mile 3.6 and then climbs 3960 feet in the next six miles. While it is a six mule long steady climb it really isn't as bad as it looks or sounds. I'm sure some of that has to do with the fact that your legs are still fresh but the other thing is that there are several switchbacks. People do blow themselves up on Chinscraper, that is one of the big dangers of Wasatch, throwing yourself against Chinscraper when you are feeling fresh and thinking "Oh, this isn't nearly as bad as I thought." The final stretch of the climb does get steeper and maybe the final 20 yards pretty much requires that you climb using your hands. I suppose you could hike that final stretch but it wouldn't make much sense because it is very steep and the rocks are loose. If you hike it you are more likely to either slip and fall or kick rocks down on the heads of the runners below.

I think it took me about 3 hours and 6 minutes to get from the start line to Chinscraper Summit and once on top I felt great, the morning was cool and sunrise had come. The trail was flanked by an abundance of wildflowers and the views of the Salt Lake Basin were fantastic. On worry I did have between the starting line and Francis Peak was the lack of aid. It's 13.35 miles to the water only aid station Grobbens Corner, the first aid station on the course and 18.76 to Francis Peak, the first full aid station. However, the morning was cool so I didn't need much and there are two springs, Cool Springs at mile 8.93 and Landis Springs at mile 10.58. Both springs are immediately on the side of the trail, flowing and obvious. I refilled my handheld bottle at each of the springs and each time drank the full bottle so the water is good.

The next two sections are called Bountiful Peak and Skyline and they encompass the Bountiful B, Sessions, Swallow Rocks and Big Mountain aid stations. These sections contain a pretty equal measure of very runnable dirt roads and narrow single track that can be very overgrown and somewhat rocky. Actually, some of the trail through here is so overgrown that it is more like bushwhacking than trail running, however, it still isn't terribly hard to follow the trail and there was only one spot where a couple guys in front of me continued straight when they should have turned but I caught it and yelled at them to turn back.

Unless you are a front runner the Bountiful Peak and Skyline sections are when day one starts to heat up. The increasing heat coupled with the big stretches of very runnable terrain makes it another dangerous section for going out too fast. I continued to just take it easy and took the several short, steep climbs very slow. On one climb that came shortly before Swallow Rocks I was creeping up the hill and a few people blew past me breathing really hard. The footing was good but the grade was really steep and as one guy passed me he asked if I was ok and I told him, "Yeah, just taking it easy. This early stuff is all about mile 90 and once you spend the energy you can't get it back." A few runners nearby commented that that was a good reminder and they immediately slowed. Another couple, a man and woman who were actually planning on getting married right at the finish line, decided that it would just be a good idea to fall in behind me and pace off me on the uphill stretches. I didn't mind but it became a problem later.

By the time I came running on the long, downhill single track into Big Mountain I was still feeling great and was right on pace for a projected 34 hour finish, may be a little ahead. This year Big Mountain at mile 39.4 was the first time of the day when you were able to see your crew because of some heavy construction taking place near the Francis Peak aid station. Big Mountain is also the place where you are allowed to pick up pacers for the first time. I came into Big Mountain and met up with my crew, which included the GeekGrl, fellow New Mexican ultrarunner Ian and a younger guy named Eric who I met through the Wasatch website who was from the area and looking to pace a few miles. I changed out my shoes and socks at Big Mountain and also washed off my feet. Washing your feet at Wasatch is a good idea because the trail is really dusty in many areas and you are really going to need your feet to be in the best possible shape for the last 25 miles of the course because it is absolutely brutal.

I departed the Big Mountain aid station with Eric as my pacer and we ran a long for a little as he asked numerous questions about ultrarunning. Eric told me that this 13 miles to the next crew stop would be his longest run in years and he hoped his knee would be alright because it had been injured a few years back and that is why he had stopped running. I was thinking, "great, I have a non-runner as a pacer in one of the hardest ultramarathons in the country." But things worked out. Eric was good company and his knees never bothered him. I also got to teach him a lot about ultrarunning.

One thing I provided him was a great first hand education on how to do something stupid and how to recover from it. The first segment out of Big Mountain is the longest stretch between aid stations of the whole course, though not by much. It's an eight mile stretch from Big Mountain to Alexander Ridge. The section isn't difficult, it's mostly pretty mellow single track with some climbing thrown in but it is the one section where I really got sick. About a quarter mile out of Big Mountain the aforementioned couple that was going to get married at the finish line came up behind Eric and I and the woman immediately started going off about how I was her favorite pacer for up hills. She and her fiancé had a pacer but she was all, "This guy is awesome, he is the best uphill pacer ever, he is my favorite uphill pacer. We need to stay right behind him." I had just come from consuming a lot of fluids and food because I was worried about getting behind on my nutrition and hydration so I had a full stomach and was moving much slower than they were. I told them as much and said that they should really pass but the woman insisted that she and her group stay behind me because I am "awesome on the up-hills."

As I later discussed with Ian I should have insisted and if that didn't work just stopped and made them pass but that's not what I did. Instead I just kept going but I was feeling pushed from behind because they were clearly wanting to move faster than the pace I had chosen despite my apparent awesomeness. I guess that subconsciously I increased my pace and that combined with talking with Eric lead me to feel nauseous because with all the blood going to parts other than my stomach for digestion everything I had taken in at Big Mountain was just sitting in my gut like a rock. Once I got sick I really slowed and then of course the people who had been riding my tail no longer thought I was awesome so they quickly passed with a cheery "I'm sure we'll see you later!" I was now sick and grumpy with probably six miles to Alexander Ridge and poor Eric still had a thousand questions.

We went along slowly and I explained to him how I was feeling and the stupid mistake I had made. I explained to him what I needed to try and to and how I was going to try and regroup at Alexander Ridge and make a comeback. Of course this eventuated numerous questions from Eric and even speaking was making me sick but I trudged on keeping my attitude in check knowing that this would eventually end. By the time I finally got to Alexander Ridge I had gone for about two and a half hours with nothing to eat or drink and I was feeling like absolute crap. Eric was good in the aid station and he spent his time getting things for me and alerting the aid station workers to my condition. He also grabbed a couple blankets and wrapped them around my shoulders because I was getting chilled since evening was approaching and I was still sweaty from the day.

As bad as I felt at the Alexander Ridge Aid station I have to say that I am very glad I felt bad at that particular aid station because I learned something that is pure gold. One of the aid station workers is a nurse as is her sister apparently. When she heard I was struggling with nausea she said, "You need to sniff rubbing alcohol". I didn't have any idea what she was talking about and said, "I need to do what?" to which she repeated, "You need to sniff rubbing alcohol. It will stop your nausea. I can't take credit for it because my sister told me about it but that's what they do with cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy to help stop the nausea." Of course I was thinking that my nausea was bush league compared to the nausea experienced by people going through chemo so if it worked I should be as good as gold.

The nurse broke out one of those paper packets with the alcohol wipe in it and handed it to Eric who opened it up and brought it over. I began sniffing in the fumes and it really did seem to help almost immediately. I continued to feel some mild queasiness but I think that's because I immediately started to eat and drink as much as I could stomach. With the full-blown nausea gone I knew I had to pile on the nutrition because I was way behind. It was disappointing to see people pass through Alexander Ridge that I had passed miles before but sometimes you just have to suck it up and be very, very patient. Within about 20 minutes I had a full stomach and no nausea. Eric and I got back out on the trail and began the nearly six mile trek to Lambs Canyon where we would meet up with Ian and the GeekGrl.

By the time Eric and I arrived it was dark and my crew was worried but I was feeling good and was back on top of my nutrition. At Lambs Canyon I thanked Eric and we said our goodbyes, I put on a warmer shirt for night running, grabbed my mega-beam headlamp and hand-held flashlight and picked up Ian who was slated to pace me for the final 47 miles of the race.

You depart the Lambs Canyon aid station on paved road and the segment of the course between Lambs Canyon and Mill Creek, also know and Upper Big Water, has about five miles of road in total. It is very important that you know exactly how this road is split. When Ian and I left Lambs I had it in my mind that it was five miles of road and then some trail into Mill Creek. Ian was impressed by how few course markings he had seen on the road sections he had driven earlier while scoping out the course. It turns out this was a bad combination of impressions to have.

The road out of Lambs winds and there are a few cars on it who tend to come straight at you with their headlights on. We were power walking the road because it goes uphill and I was still in my making sure the aid station food settles a bit mode. We say no course markings but there was a person or two every once in a while. We thought we saw course markings indicating a turn off about twice and Ian went and checked it out but it turned out to be nothing. Eventually we stopped seeing people but this didn't immediately strike us as unusual because we weren't seeing many people anyway. Not seeing course markings on the road section was also completely unsurprising since earlier Ian had driven three miles of road on the course and only seen one marking the entire time. Eventually, though, it became too much. We were really getting worried that we had missed a turn but for the life of us we could not imagine where. I finally said, "Screw it, let's run back as far as we need to until we find someone who knows they are on course" and so we turned back and started running back downhill. In about a half mile we came across a truck driving up the road and Ian stopped it and asked if he knew the course. The driver confirmed we were off course and that the turn off was about a mile and a half back down the road.

Crap! Oh well, at least now we were sure. We ran as hard as we could back down the road and eventually came across a group of people standing around a very obviously marked junction where we were supposed to turn off onto some single track trail. As far as we could tell there are three possible reasons, or some combination of all three, that cause us to miss the turn and add about three miles and 40 minutes to my Wasatch experience. Our strongest suspicion is that group of people at the trail head were either re-marking or marking for the first time the appropriate turn. Another possibility is that the trail was marked in such a way that it was more visible if you were approaching it slowly or from the opposite direction, in other words, from the direction you would be coming from had you missed the turn and then turned around and back tracked. The third possibility, and one I consider most likely, is that it just happened that when we were coming up on that turn a couple cars drove by us slowly with their headlights shining in our eyes so we put our heads down and shielded our vision as we walked on past the turn.

In any case, it sucked. In a race like Wasatch when you are already a back of the pack runner you do not need to add time, distance and climbing. Fortunately I was feeling really good at that time and Ian was fresh so despite the fact that the single track lead to an immediate, steep climb, we motored right up passing several people along the way. Once you crested the climb there is a big downhill on single track that leads to more road where you pick up the additional three miles of road in this section. So, to reiterate; between Lambs Canyon and Mill Creek…about two miles of road out of lambs then a 90 degree right turn onto dirt trail that goes up, up, up and then down, down, down and dumps you off on another paver road that you turn left onto and follow all the way to the Mill Creek aid station.

About a half mile before Ian and I arrived at the Mill Creek aid station I started getting really cold and kept asking Ian how much farther it was to the aid station. He was doing his best to let me know but of course he couldn't make it get there any faster. I was getting colder and colder and really starting to worry about how far away this aid station might be. We finally arrived and I dropped myself into a chair immediately in from of a portable heater and my crew and aid station worked threw a blanket over my shoulder. Despite this I started shaking uncontrollably within seconds of stopping. For the first time in a race I was hypothermic.

An aid station worker asked my crew if I wanted to use their warming tent and of course we all said yes in unison. They all walked me over to the warming tent and laid me out on a cot and piled me with blankets and placed a portable heater right next to me. They also put my running pants on me along with my jacket and a wool cap. I continued shaking almost like I was having seizures and the medical personnel manning the tent told me that I needed to try and relax as much as I could because the tensing of my muscles while shaking would constrict blood flow and make it harder for my body to warm. I laid there alternately shaking and trying to relax. I eventually warmed up, bundled up and headed back out to finish the race. At the end of the race I was talking to the GeekGrl about time I had lost on the course and mentioned that I had lost about 20 minutes in the warming tent. It turns out I was wrong, I was there for an hour! The GeekGrl told me I kept fading in and out and she kept rustling around near me trying to keep me awake.

So, now that I warmed up Ian and I headed back out heading for Desolation Lake and then on to Brighton Lodge. This section of the course had some of the most runnable trail of the entire course. The first part was a steady uphill so we didn’t run that but then there were several downhill and flat sections where I was able to make up considerable time. I’m not sure what it is about this race but when it was possible I was running through the night better than any other race I’ve done. I know part of it had to do with the fact that I have a super bright headlamp and hand-held flashlight combo but it also happened that a lot of the best trail took place during my night hours. This section between Mill Creek and Brighton Lodge went by pretty fast but towards the end I started to feel sick again. I was complaining about this to Ian when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t getting sick but I was just extremely hungry and was experiencing hunger pains. I realized that I had been fueling mostly with gels, chomps and fluids and I seriously needed some solid food.

When Ian and I got to Brighton lodge it was like heaven. The Brighton Lodge aid station is inside a ski lodge building so it is nice and warm and there is plenty of seating with tables where you can set your stuff. They also had a grill fired up and were cooking eggs, hash browns and sausage. It was also nice and warm and I was starting to get a little cold again. I sat down while Ian got me something to eat and drink. I had two fried egg sandwiches with cheese, and sausage and hash browns. I also had two large glasses of orange juice, it was awesome!

When I was in Brighton Lodge I felt pretty good and new I had some time and knew I had a hard final 25 miles ahead of me so I just took my time and fueled up. The alternative name for the Brighton aid station is the morgue and there were a lot of people who looked pretty bad. Brighton is definitely not a place you should leave feeling bad in any way because the last 25 miles of Wasatch are the hardest miles of the course containing sure trail segments as “The Plunge”, “The Dive”, and “The Grunt”.

I left Brighton fully fueled and feeling good. Right out of the aid station you climb to the highest point of the course Point Supreme at 10,450 feet. The climb up was actually pretty mellow with good trails and beautiful scenery. The beginning of the climb for me was dark and the sun rose steadily as Ian and I climbed. As we neared the top I was closing in on more people and by the time I reached the top I had passed maybe five and more were visible on the downslope.

The downslope drops 1450 feet in about one and three quarter miles on a narrow rocky trail. Much to my amazement I had plenty of quads left to go screaming down into the Ant Knoll aid station below and that’s exactly what I did. The slope was so steep and rocky I had to hold my arms out like I was an airplane and I had to yell ahead of me to get the attention of the people gingerly walking down the trail below. It was a complete blast! From behind me I heard someone yell out “Way to drop your pacer!” another thing I have some experience with. Below me people were stepping off the trail and encouraging me on. When I finally rolled into Ant Knolls I felt awesome and just focused on riding the high and getting out as quickly as possible. While there one of the aid station workers said they were watching me fly down the mountainside and he said “That was pretty cool, everyone walks down that stretch.” Ant knolls was another aid station where I saw a lot of people sitting in chairs and looking pretty beat up. I have to imagine that they had been the ones to leave Brighton Lodge without resting and fueling.

Immediately out of Ant Knoll is a short but steep climb called the Grunt. It contains maybe three switchbacks but it really is a slow slog to the top but once there you are treated to fairly mellow trails and sweeping vistas of mountain meadows. This section between the top of the grunt and the Pole Line Pass aid station is about the last descent running of the race. Once you leave Pole Line Pass it is pretty much hell from there on out. I wasn’t feeling particularly bad but the day was heating back up and a lot of the trail was extremely rocky, dusty and steep. The combination of high heat and bad trail kept my pace way down and of course the longer I was out there the hotter it got.

The final couple miles of the course finally relented and became runnable but the heat did not relent so I continued to walk. There was no need to punish myself in order to cut a few minutes off my time because that couple minutes would not get me the sub-30 hour finish necessary to get a special buckle. With about a mile and a half to go some clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped by at least 10 degrees and since the sun wasn’t beating down on me I decided I could go ahead and run the rest of the way in. I checked out my Garmin data and was able to pull off an 8 minute mile for the last mile and I crossed the finish line extremely happy to be done.

My total time, 33 hours 32 minutes and 52 seconds. My fantasy goal was sub-30 hours and that is something I think I could do with a bit better training and a bit better day. However, I came into the race predicting a finish time of 34+ hours so all in all it was definitely a good race for me. There were 270 runners who started, 183 who finished and I was number 131. Just in terms of overall placement Wasatch ended up being my best 100-miler to date.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quad Crusher: A Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10K Race Report

A couple weeks back the GeekGrl and I traveled to Taos, NM to run the Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10K, a race I have wanted to do for a few years now but just never got around to it. The 10K starts at the base of the main ski lift and is a loop course taking a service road up to the top of the lift and then back down. I don’t have the foggiest idea what kind of vehicle could make it up and down those service roads but I do know the trip would be terrifying.

The trip up the mountain is a 3 mile power hike with a little running if you happen to be a strong enough runner. However, there were plenty of people who tried to run as much as possible regardless and this resulted in many slowing dramatically within the first two miles. I kept up a steady hike with a very little bit of running on the slightly less steep parts.

Upon reaching the top the service road plunges abruptly back down the mountain. The road is covered in rocks and the footing isn’t very good. I ran as hard as I could but had to be a bit conservative because I didn’t want to crash and burn. I was able to pass a couple people and was passed by one guy who was in a barely controlled fall.

By the time I crossed the finish like I was hardly had any strength left. The aftermath of the race set in before the day was out and it took a good four days before I could run again. My quads were completely trashed and I had a huge bruise on the ball of my left foot where I had landed hard on a rock. With a time of 1:17:38 I ended up 21st out of 59 men and 22nd out of 80 overall. I seriously doubt I could have run any faster under any circumstance. The Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10K is incomparably difficult but definitely something worth running if you are in the area.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A New Experience with an Old Friend: A La Luz Trail Run Race Report (sort of)

I first moved to Albuquerque as a teenager in 1984. I didn't know anyone and the only reason I was in Albuquerque was because the experiment with me living on my own to finish off high school in Wichita Falls, TX wasn't working out so well. I called my dad and asked him to come get me and so he did. Those were pretty lonely times in my life with my senior year in high school being a complete mess smeared across two different states and three different schools: Wichita Falls High School – Texas, Del Norte High School – New Mexico and Southwest High School – back to Texas but this time San Antonio.

This is one fact of my life that I truly hate. I have no real options for a high school reunion. The place I graduate from, Southwest H.S., I have no connection to, I went there the last semester of my senior year and while I made some friends I have no connection to them or that place. The place where I actually have connections is Wichita Falls but even there my connections are spread between my time at Rider High School and Wichita Falls High School and I didn't graduate from either. It just seems sad for a non-graduate to go to a reunion but I do long for that sense of continuity in my life. In my 12 years of schooling from 1st grade to 12th I went to 13 different schools spanning an area of about 200,000 square miles.
That is a lot of space for a young man to become lost.

When I arrived in Albuquerque back in 1984 I was depressed and alone and even then I knew what I had lost in departing Wichita Falls before graduation. Given my young life as a transient Wichita Falls was my last, best hope at having an enduring link to my past but I could not pull it off by myself and I felt like I was risking my future just for the possibility of having something that I had long craved but never had – stability, continuity, a history grounded in place. It was a hard decision for a young man to make but it was inventible that I chose to leave because at that point the unknown future always looked far more real to me than either the present or past. The future was my comfort zone; I knew it would always be there for me.

To be able to literally wander in the wilderness while I was figuratively already there was a great comfort. It didn't take long for me to discover the La Luz trail though I can't for the life of me figure out how I got from where I was living to the trail head. I suspect that first time my dad took me. I wasn't in Albuquerque very long though, maybe a month and a half or two months before winter break and then it was off to San Antonio to finish off high school living with my mom. I remained largely in the wilderness there too. She lived out in a rural area on 15 acres of land at that time and I spent hours with a double bladed axe clearing the land of scrub trees. I probably did my work pretty haphazardly and don't know that I actually accomplished a lot of value because it was mostly me trying to pound out my anger.

Not long after graduation I was back in Albuquerque and back to the La Luz trail. There is a place on the trail where you can descend into a kind of hidden grotto where a small waterfall splashes down from above and lands at the feet of a mighty pine tree. It is cool and secluded. I loved that place so much that I never bother going further up the trail. I would often just go to my place and sit and think.

In the years between high school and college while I was away in the Marine Corps I would often go back to visit the La Luz trail while on leave still never ascending beyond my quiet grotto. Despite my relatively limited acquaintance with the trail it had somehow become the center of my universe. Enduring, wild and quiet it stands apart from mortality as humans know it. Simultaneously indifferent and welcoming it is always there and wherever my travels took me I knew it was there simply existing until I returned again.

My post-Marine Corp years as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico saw me once again up on the trail hiking like a mad man both on the trail and around some of the small side trails in the area. In my mind I was trying to become human again. My time in the Marine Corps has gotten much better with time and distance but when I first left I felt quite damaged and I needed to reclaim myself. I called these outings my "In through the Outdoors" outings; a not so subtle play on Led Zeppelin's album "In though the Out Door", which, incidentally, was also named because, in a sense, they were trying to get back to who they had been as well.

For whatever reason, probably because I had found so much richness at the bottom of the trail, it never even occurred to me to try and get to the top. I had seen people running up the trail and had known people who had climbed to the top but the upper reaches of the trail, even the entire rest of the mountain, held no interest for me, that is until I got into ultra-running.

However, once I began ultra-running I was spending all my time running pretty much everywhere else on the mountain except La Luz. Maybe somewhere in my subconscious I viewed La Luz as my emotional salve and that isn't something I feel I need these days. I have actually been a bit resistant to running La Luz, again, maybe because I didn't want to go back to that place I had long ago left behind.

But back to the trail I went to run the 46th annual La Luz Trail Run. The race begins at 6100 feet elevation and nine miles later finishes at an elevation of 10,678 feet. Other than the first mile and a half when everyone is on open road and jockeying for position I was passed only once during the entire climb though I passed maybe 50 people on the way to the top.

It felt good, I felt strong. My relationship with the trail has changed completely. We are long-term friends and I no longer need it for my own purposes. I am free to simply be with it and not just on it and in my head. Maybe this is the story of the Giving Tree from the boy's perspective. If it is I can assure you the boy feels enormous gratitude. The tree, the trail, was a solid center when I needed it most and I like to think I am better for it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Chunky Monkey Race Report and Other Non-Monkey Related News

I didn’t plan on actually writing up a race report for a 10K but I figured I had some interim new to post before my next race, which is tomorrow, so what the heck.

Back on July 17th I ran the Chunky Monkey 10K for the second time. It’s a cool little local race and if run in conjunction with the Cherry Garcia, which I also ran, you get a little medal for completing the Chunky Monkey Challenge. The Cherry Garcia was June 26th and it was 98 degrees at the start. Both these races start at 7:00 in the evening and both take place on the same flat, two loop course near Albuquerque’s Valley High School. I ran the Cherry Garcia in 52:31, which I thought was surprisingly fast considering I was only 10 days out of running the Bighorn Trail 100 and it was 98 degrees. My time earned me fourth place in my age group. When I ran the Chunky Monkey I was better rested and it was a whopping 3 degrees cooler, so only 95 degrees. I ran the Chunky Monkey in 50:47 and ended up winning my age group. I probably shouldn’t mention that for whatever reason my age group was almost the slowest age group among the men with the exception of the two age groups above 60 but that’s the way it was.

So, in non-monkey related news, sadly I did not make New Mexico’s Army 10-miler team. I did make first alternate though so that’s not too bad. I gave it my best shot but this was something that was kind of sprung on me and the only real chance I had to run a fast 10K qualifying time was two weeks after I set my 50K PR and at a time when the weather was already heating up. Next year I’ll know it’s coming so I’ll try and get in my qualifying time when it’s cooler and I am better rested. I will need to knock about 90 seconds off my current 10K PR to be in the running for a spot on the team.

In better non-monkey related news, I DID make the New Mexico Army National Guard’s marathon team! I am very pleased about making the team and now will get to go to Lincoln Nebraska in May of 2012 to compete in the Army National Guard’s marathon, which means I’ll have a shot at making the All Guard marathon team. Now, realistically, I am unlikely to make the All Guard team because that would mean dropping my marathon time by about 15 minutes. But…I guess you never know. I am seriously considering trying even harder to lose more weight and implementing an actual marathon training program rather than just logging ultra-miles and using the marathons as training races. The things that make me think that a marathon in the 3:15 – 3:12 range might be possible is that my marathon PR, currently 3:28, was run the weekend after I ran two other fast marathons and I wasn’t doing any marathon specific training and I wasn’t doing any speed-work. So, maybe it is in the cards.

I also need to drop my marathon PR to 3:25 to have any hope of making it to Boston. But that’s only a bare minimum. The way Boston is doing qualification now is by taking the fastest first in order of speed. My qualifying time for 2012 is 3:30 so I’ll get to apply for Boston 2012 but they take the fastest first until the race is full so I’m guessing I won’t make it. For Boston 2013 and beyond my new qualifying time is 3:25 and the fastest first thing still applies so, yeah, I have a lot of work to do.

Tomorrow I have the La Luz Trail Run, which is a 9-mile race up the side of the Sandia Mountain. This year will be its 46th running but the first time I’ve ever run the race. You get in by lottery only but I think that most people do end up getting in. I’m hoping for a time of about two and a half hours, we’ll see.

Finally, I’m a bit skeptical about my training for Wasatch. I have been putting in the miles religiously but the problem has been that the mountains in pretty much all of New Mexico have been closed due to fire so I’ve done very little in the way of actual mountain running. I suspect that Wasatch will end up being a lot like my experience at Bighorn this year; I’ll have the endurance to finish but not the climbing strength to do well. Bighorn had a 35 hour cutoff and I ran a 33:11. Wasatch has a 36 hour cutoff so I’m predicting something in the 34 hour range.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Of Mountains and Mole Hills: A Bighorn 100 Race Report

Bighorn was my second mountain 100 of the several I want to complete. My first was Leadville and now having done Bighorn I think Leadville was a good introduction to mountain 100s because, and I hate to say this, it is comparatively easy. Don’t get me wrong, Leadville is a hard race and for some it may be completely out of reach. At Leadville you must be able to cope with the elevation, which through no fault of their own, some people can’t. You also have to deal with the cutoff times, which most people agree are a bit tight for the level of difficulty of the course.

However, there are large sections of Leadville that are very runnable, most of the climbing and descending is pretty manageable and the hardest climbs, up and down Hope Pass, contain a fair number of switchbacks. While this may sound obvious, the switchbacks really help take the edge off the steepness of a climb and, at a minimum, they change things up a bit giving you a stronger sense of forward progress.

I have to premise any comparisons of the two courses by saying that I did not run the “real” bighorn course but rather an alternate snow route, which incidentally was comprised of at least 85% of the normal course. I also ran Leadville in a perfect year. A friend of mine, Kurt, said I was almost cheating by running Leadville under such excellent conditions and of course the conditions on the day of the race can make all the difference.

In any case, the Bighorn course has few of the nice features of the Leadville course. Where Leadville has many runnable sections Bighorn has an equal measure of sections that few people are really able to run. The cruelest of which comes toward the end of the race between the climb called “The Wall” and the TR TH aid station. This section of trail is one you cover at the start of the race and you know it is steep but you are fresh so it’s a really good warm-up and you are slowed down enough that you can just enjoy the wildflowers and the gentle warmth of the Wyoming sun. However, on your return trip you quickly discover “Wow, this is freakishly steep!” and much of it is hard to run down. A fellow runner told me after the race “I felt like my knees were going to explode” and this was from a guy who was in the very respectable 26 hour finishing time frame.

Of course the corollary to the “unrunnably” steep downhills in some areas is the unrunnably steep uphill. I read once that the main difference between trails on the east coast and the west coast is that the trails on the east coast were mostly made by people and so they tended to go straight up the sides of hills whereas the trails in the west often originated with animal trails so they tend to have switchbacks and meander up and down the sides of mountains. Apparently the humans and animals in the Bighorn Mountains didn’t get this memo because there wasn’t a single switchback on the trail. The only deviations from straight up the mountain that any trail took were out of necessities such as avoiding a boulder, going to a narrower point in a stream or simply changing direction. The unbridled enthusiasm for going both straight and vertical that is exhibited by the people of the Bighorn Mountains made for a lot of very slow climbs.

On a more positive note, the exceedingly steep climbs and descents made it considerably easier for me to calculate the amount of time it would likely take me to get to the next aid station. I knew, based on the terrain I could currently see, that any given mile would take me either 20 minutes or 30 minutes to cover. If what I was looking at was flat or gently downhill at the moment I knew I was very near something unpleasant but I could take advantage of the current respite and probably accomplish a 20 minute mile while covering what I could see and the bit of unpleasantness that was invariably right around the next bend. Alternatively, if I was looking at some steep, rocky climb with water pouring down it and mud bogs flanking either side I knew that it would go on considerably longer than you would expect thus resulting in a 30 minute mile. This resulted in most aid stations being anywhere from an hour to two hours away. Leadville also has aid stations that take a good while to get to but that’s mostly because they are on average about 10 miles apart.

The final comparison between Leadville and Bighorn are aid stations. Leadville is a far larger race so that needs to be considered. The aid stations at Leadville more closely resemble mini-marts or sidewalk cafes than they do their distant cousin, the typical marathon aid station with cups of water and Gatorade. The one “limited” aid station at Leadville is packed up onto Hope Pass on the backs of llamas and even it contains soda and hot soup among other things though by comparison to the rest of the Leadville buffet it is limited.

Bighorn, on the other hand, has raised to limited aid station to a fine art form. Don’t get me wrong, Bighorn has a lot of good aid stations with attentive and dedicated volunteers. At least three of the aid stations required that aid be either brought in by horseback or backed packed in under human power while several others required lengthy and undoubtedly nerve-wracking drives using powerful ATVs. What impressed me most was their unmanned “aid stations” at Fence Spring, Creek Spring and Stock Tank.

I have been in three races with unmanned aid stations, the Black Warrior 50K in Moulton Alabama, the Turtle Marathon in Roswell New Mexico and the Rio Del Lago 100 in Granite Bay California. The unmanned aid station at Black Warrior was a collection of 5 gallon water coolers filled with water sitting in the middle of the woods near a stream, the ones at the Turtle Marathon were flats of bottled water sitting on the side of the road and the one at Rio Del Lago consisted of several boxes on one gallon water jugs sitting on a hydroelectric generator of some kind. When I saw there were three unmanned aid stations at Bighorn this is what I had in mind, no big deal.

I was incorrect. The unmanned aid stations at Bighorn are actually natural springs that have had pipes fitted to them. The first one at Fence Spring, however, was buried under a snow bank so the pipe couldn’t be set up for it. It was just a stream pouring down the side of the mountain out from under a snow drift and it was unmarked so it was indistinguishable from any other stream of water out on the course pouring down from somewhere higher. In fact, I didn’t even notice it on the way out because I had no idea that I should be looking for something like that as an aid station. In fairness to the race, they did specifically tell us about that aid station during the pre-race meeting, however, having absolutely no context for an aid station being an unmarked tube sticking out of the side of a mountain the warning about the tubeless Fence Spring just came across as a novel alert that much of the water you saw flowing down the streams in the Bighorns was both quite drinkable and tasty.

I never saw Creek Spring. I did come across a long garden hose coming out from under a snow drift and it was lying in a rush of snowmelt but this was no more than 30 yards from an actual aid station so I doubt that was it though I did suggest to the volunteers at the aid station that if someone would just go over there and shut off the hose the course might not be so muddy. The final unmanned aid station was Stock Tank. That one I both saw and used. It was described in the pre-race brief as an obvious wooden tank that was “almost completely disintegrated but the pipe is in and the water is flowing.” Stock Tank also had those little orange construction flags around it making the presence of human intention all the more obvious. The Stock Tank aid station does come after another plastic stock tank but that one is unmarked and is pretty close to the previous aid station, Cow Camp, so there was some room for confusion but not much, just enough that by the time you see Stock Tank you somewhat incredulously say to yourself, “Oh, THIS is a Bighorn unmanned aid station” and despite your disbelief you feel comfortably correct in your assumption.

Comparisons aside, the Bighorn course itself is not only difficult but it is beautiful. As you can tell I took a ton of pictures and have had a hard time deciding what to discard so I just posted most of them. Apparently this year the wildflowers weren’t as prevalent as they usually are but they were still there in abundance. There are several parts of the course where you are traversing wide open green spaces filled with blue, yellow, purple and white flowering wildflowers. I remember thinking “How very Sound of Music” during the initial big climb out of the Tounge River Valley where the race ascends into the Bighorn Mountains.

During the run from the start in Scott Park I was feeling good and snapping a lot of pictures. The climb is very gradual until you get to the Tounge River Trail Head aid station, listed as the TR TH aid station. From there the course turns sharply upward and I found myself getting stuck behind a few people that were climbing way too slow. In retrospect I’m still not sure if this means I was going out too fast. It didn’t feel like it and I was able to pass even at what felt like an easy pace so I think I was good. It was also during this segment that I missed the unmanned tube, or tubeless, hole in the ground that was the Fence Spring aid station, which resulted in a 7.4 mile uphill trek from the TR TH aid station to the Upper Sheep aid station rather than the 5 mile and 2.4 mile splits I was expecting. Fortunately I had two bottles and it was still relatively cool out so I didn’t run out of water.

The Upper Sheep aid station was at about mile 12.5 and already I had been skirting mud and water in the hopes of saving my feet as long as possible. While the mud and water didn’t slow me down as much as I had feared, it did slow me down because I wasn’t just running willy-nilly through every mud bog and stream crossing. I’m quite sure that would have done me in because there was just so much of it over the length of the course. I picked my way through and jumped streams and mud holes where I could but my feet and lower legs were damp and muddy from maybe mile five to mile 76 when I cleaned off my feet, put duct tape on them and changed into my last dry pair of shoes. The worst of the mud and water occurred between the Cow Camp aid station, about 30 miles into my race, and the Footbridge aid station. Apparently this is the way it always is regardless of what route is taken.

Apart from my adventures with mud I had the usual adventures with trying to keep myself going as did everyone else. The interesting thing for me during this race is that I never really had a low point. I had points when I was annoyed by the next steep climb or descent but beyond that I never hit a point where I was telling myself things like “I only have to make it through until morning.” I’m hoping that this is a new evolution in ultrarunning for me where the races aren’t as psychologically draining. The one point where I briefly considered dropping was mile 76 but at that point I still had eight hours to finish 24 miles. At that point I was weighed at 10 pounds over my pre-race weight and I had been going for 26 hours, my hands were swollen like balloons and the balls of my feet were feeling raw. I was a bit worried but the medical personnel deemed me ok to go. The final kick was sitting next to a women while I was taping my feet who was talking about dropping. She had a friend there who was trying to motivate her to keep going. She said that if she kept going “I might end up being DFL” and the guys trying to keep her going said “So” she said “Well, I don’t want to be a looser.” That did it for me. I have finished second to last in a hundred and as a triathlon referee I have seen many back of the packers and I have gained a great deal of respect for those whom persevere.

The aftermath of the race has been almost more intense than the race itself. It is a bit over a week post-race and my head is just starting to feel clear, my feet are still a little tender and it took about 6 days for the swelling in my legs to go down noticeably. I’m sure it didn’t help my recovery that I had to turn around the day after my return to Albuquerque and immediately fly out to San Diego for training in a new therapy intervention. It took about eight shots of espresso per day to keep me alert and focused during that training and I was still pretty “mellow.”

My next big race is Wasatch, which is supposed to be harder than Bighorn. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous about that but my confidence is very high. I have two months of unbroken time to train back up for Wasatch and hit a taper. I’m not going to push it because the chances are I already have the strength and fitness to finish I would just like to sharpen a bit and maybe do better than a finish.