Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cascade Crest 100 Crew Report + Results

This weekend Christian and Greg ran the Cascade Crest 100. I, along with Marge Yee were fortunate to be able to crew

Cascade Crest starts at 10:00 am, which provided for a nice leisurely start to the day. Coffee from Pioneer Coffee. A pancake breakfast in the Easton firehouse at the start. Plenty of time for that necessary pre-race business!!

This was the first time that I have ever crewed at an ultra. To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. At the pre-race meeting RD Charley Chrissman celebrated almost perfect weather conditions – highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s – and cautioned runners to remember to stay hydrated and dress warm at night. He also admonished crews to take care of themselves as well as runners.

As I wished Greg and Christian the best – I immediately thought about myself and how I could best take care of myself. The answer was a quick drive to Cle Elum for a haircut and pedicure.

At Tacoma Pass aid station (23 miles) Greg and Christian came through 3 minutes ahead of pace and looking good. Their race strategy was to run together for the first part of the race, go out conservatively, and then hold strong for a 22:30 finish.

By Meadow Mtn (42 Miles) they were 10 minutes ahead of pace. At Hyak Aid Station (53 miles) they had gained another 10 minutes. There, Kathleen Egan joined them as a pacer. From Hyak on the boys started to move! By Kachess Lake (mile 68) Christian and Greg were 40 minutes ahead of pace. At Kachess Lake – I knew a sub 22 was a real possibility for both.

At Kachess Lake, Greg’s old ski patrol friend Ryan joined Greg as a pacer and Justin Jablowowki joined Christian. Greg and Christian ran together to about mile 85, where Greg’s knee started to bother him and Christian and Justin pulled ahead. By French Cabin aid station, Christian was 1:20 ahead of pace and Greg just 10 minutes behind. Both looked great. Perhaps a sub 21 I thought??

Christian finished in 5th in 21:03, Greg 6th in 21:43. Jeff Browning took first with a blistering 18:31, knocking more than an hour of the previous course record. Top finishers were:

1 – Jeff Browning 18:31
2 – Phil Shaw 20:07
3 – Bill Huggins 20:11
4 – Adam Hewey 20:48
5 – Christian Johnson 21:03
6 – Greg Norrander 21:43

Congratulations to both Christian and Greg for great runs. And THANKS for letting me crew. Ask me again anytime… Watch for a full race report from the runners in a few days.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cascade bound

By this time tomorrow Greg and I will be looking up at the Cascades from the town Easton, Washington, making sure our swiss knot's are secure and thinking about the 100 miles of trail that lie in front of us.  The Cascade Crest 100 starts on Saturday at 10am PST, with around 120 runners attempting to finish the 100 mile classic.

If you're interested in watching how it unfolds you can check out the webcast or Matt Hart's twitter feeds.  That is if you can manage to pull yourself away from the UTMB race (which might be over by that point anyway). The coverage at Cascade is sure to be a little spotty with limited coverage around there, but it's better than nothing.

I'm not going to reveal the goals Greg and I have for the race, but I am cautiously optimistic that the cool temps that are predicted will go a long way in helping us achieve a decent time.  Look for a full report next week and in the mean time good luck to all those tapering for Wasatch.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wasatch 100 2010 - Course Preview Pt. 2 and a New Loop on Sunday

Last Saturday (8/7/2010) I ran with Greg and Peter from Big Mountain (mi. 39) to Lamb's Canyon (mi. 53).  We actually start this route down at the first switchback in East Canyon since it adds a couple of miles and little more vertical.  Plus it's a shorter car shuttle when we're done.  What I thought was even better was the run we did on Sunday (described a little lower).
I'm happy to report there's very little to be worried about on this section when it comes to the trail.  The ridge is still rocky and exposed, Ball Bearing Hill is still slippery and the remaining ridge to Alexander (mi. 47.5) is a little overgrown in sections as usual.

Heading along the pipeline into the "oven" felt especially hot and I can only hope that it's much cooler for everyone on race day.  Finally after topping out on Roger's Saddle, Peter turned up the pace all the way Lamb's and had us running a lot faster than I had planned, but it was all good.  I also took notice that crossing the last little stretch was much easier this time around since somebody cleaned up the downed trees, thanks Jay!

The real gem of the weekend was the run we did on Sunday (8/8/2010). None of us had ever run Silver Fork Canyon so we came up with a route that would take us from Brighton up to Twin Lake Pass, down Silver Fork, back up Days Fork, over to Twin Lakes Pass then back down to Brighton. Sounds easy enough right? Greg and Peter thought so as well so we made a plan to meet up with Matt Hart to put it all together. I’ve decided to go with a heavy picture post (more here) this time with captions.
Sunday's route

Peter was gracious enough to let me try his Hoka’s for the day and I’m not sure it warrants a separate post, but I can confidently say I’ve never run downhill faster when I really turned it on.
Me with Clown err, Hoka's on

I tore down the descent off Twin Lakes with Peter hot on my heels and when we reached the turn to Silver Fork we were both breathing so hard we couldn’t talk. I have two complaints about them though, 1) I nearly rolled my ankle a number of times when landing on my fore to mid foot and 2) the upper isn’t quite right yet, at least for my foot. The top two eyelets had to be pulled so closely together to secure my foot that by the time we were at the end of the run the top of my foot was slightly bruised from the plastic digging in. Enough Hoka talk and back to the run.
Matt at Twin Lake Pass

Peter and Greg on our way over to Silver Fork Canyon
Once we reached the Pass over to Silver Fork we decided to go check out the Prince of Wales Mine constructed in 1872. Definitely worth checking out and it’s only a ½ mile or so off the trail. This little diversion got us off trail a bit and we ended up just running straight down to find the main trail again in Silver Fork.
Prince of Wales Mine in the middle of the picture
Greg inspecting the boiler at Prince of Wales Mine
L-R, Peter, Matt, Greg at Prince of Wales Mine, I'm looking west taking the picture
The Silver Fork trail is very much like Days Fork, steep in parts and very runnable for the most part. We reached the bottom near some cabins and after asking directions to avoid the pavement we ran down a dirt road then a trail for a couple miles. It’s worth noting that there is a connector in Day’s Fork that looks like it comes from Silver Fork, however we were unable to locate it and ran the last stretch of pavement down to the Spruces Campground where we filled up with water.
Matt running in Silver Fork
Greg on the steep stuff in Silver Fork
The long climb up Days Fork got pretty hot, but we still kept a good pace all the way back up to the ridge and the divider between Silver and Days. Up on Emmas Ridge I re-discovered some of the steep climbs leading back toward Twin Lake Pass. I don’t know why, but I always seemed surprised when I literally run into them.
Bottom of Days Fork heating up
Matt near the top of Silver Fork
Looking down into Little Cottonwood from Emma's ridge
One of the steep climbs on our way back to Twin Lake Pass
The distance ended up at around 18 miles with 4,900’ vertical and we finished in about 4 hours even, including the extra time at the mine. Good times indeed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Race against the HOKA’s & Katcina Mosa Race Report + Results

A big part of running for me is having goals. As I the days got closer to the Katcina Mosa 100K I asked myself, “What do I want to accomplish in this race?” After listening to the endless chatter and babble at the Wasatch Speedgoat 50K the week before about how HOKA’s make you run faster, I knew exactly what my goal would be – to not have any HOKA soled runners beat me. And for some extra giggles, I wanted to try and finish in close to 11 hours.

As RD John Bozung lined the runners up for a 3:00 start, I was feeling good about the day. Laced upon my feet was a classic pair of Montrail Continental Divides, hand-me-downs from Christian Johnson who is now running in Inov-8’s. Christian likes to refer to the shoes as my birthday present since he bequeathed them and another old pair to me on my birthday. In my pocket, printed in a large font for my failing eyes, was the pacing chart that Erik Storheim had prepared for me.

My plan was to go out fast (on pace) and simply hang on. Immediately, I was by myself in the front. As I tried to get into a mental and physical “groove,” I reminisced about last year’s Katcina Mosa where I ran the entire distance with Erik. I had just met Erik and it was great fun getting to know him, and even greater fun working with him to break Kevin Schilling’s course record. I knew it would be a long day this year without both his companionship – and him forcing the pace.

I felt fabulous on the initial climb and reached Camel Pass aid station at 13 miles, three minutes ahead of schedule. After Camel Pass there is a short down hill section before the course climbs to its highest point of 9500’ at Lightening Ridge. It was on this downhill where my day began to fall apart – quite literally.

Probably not more than a minute into the downhill I caught my foot on a rock and took a hard fall. I went down hard and fast. Stunned, I laid on the road watching a cloud of dust reflecting in my headlamp while I tried to catch my breath and compose myself. My first instinct was to check my Armani running shirt for possible damage. But, I had a pace to keep and didn’t have time to worry about my favorite running threads.

I got up, walked about 20 or so steps to loosen up, and then began running again. After a minute or so I felt better and started to quicken my pace. Boom! Down I went again, this time with my right ribs impacting a large round rock protruding from the road. I just laid there. I couldn’t catch my breath after having the wind knocked out me. I wasn’t sure I could get up. I just wanted to cry. After a few moments, I let myself cry.

After what seemed forever I got up and started to walk. Each step hurt. I could feel my chest tightening up and found it difficult to take a deep breath. And worst of all, every step felt like somebody was punching me in the ribs. As I walked, I could see the headlamps of the lead runners catching up with me. Somewhere amongst those lamps was a pair of HOKA’s. I started to run slowly…

Still on pace, I made it to Rock Canyon aid station at 16.5 miles where the cheerful disposition of aid station captain Jeff Parker made me feel a little better (the photos in this post are courtesy of Jeff). Plus, I knew the next three miles was a steep climb that would be mostly walked – maybe I could get my act together on the climb.

The climb to Lightening Ridge felt good. It gave me a chance to loosen-up and compose. There was also the mental boost that came from catching the runners that had started at 1:00 am. It was fun to say good morning to the likes of Olaf, Colleen, Jim.

As I began the descent into Big Springs I realized that this was going to be a long race, and a long day. Running downhill really hurt. Holding my breath and tightening my chest muscles reduced the pain I felt each time a foot hit the ground. But, there was that small problem - I did need to breath. Holding my breath was not a viable solution. While investing way too much mental energy on feeling sorry for myself, I caught my foot on a root. Wham, down I went again.

By the time I reached Big Springs at 23.5 miles hopes for an 11-hour finish were fading. I hurt. I was discouraged. I wasn’t having any fun. I needed to get it together.

In the too much information department, I’m a great daydreamer. I can run for hours thinking about absolutely nothing important! I knew just what I needed was an excellent daydream to release my mind from focusing on the pain. And, I had just the topic! From Big Springs to Little Valley (39 miles) I created the first system to categorize falls while running. The short version is this… There are three categories ranging from Cat I to Cat III falls. To qualify for a Cat III digger you must experience one or more of the following; wind knocked out of you, a broken bone, loss of more than 5 cc’s of blood, see stars or completely black out. Cat I falls are simply stumbles where you may get a cut or scrape on your hand or knee. My tally so far for Katcina Mosa; Two Cat III’s, one Cat II, and two Cat I falls.

At Little Valley I was in a funk. The day was not going as planned. And, my crew was not there to meet me. Oddly, I had been anticipating for a number of miles picking up my iPod and clicking on my “For Emergency Use Only” playlist. As I began the climb up to the Bathtub Aid station (46 miles) I knew I needed to recalibrate expectations for the day. Eleven hours wasn’t going to happen. Maybe I could hang on to first place. And, I hoped to hell I could fend off any Hokas. I figured if I could hold it together and not take any more spills, an 11:30 finish was possible.

Then a water bottle and sunglasses splaying, hard Cat III fall after Bath Tub left my laying on the ground yet again. As I laid on the ground I wondered how these diggers would look in slow motion - would my body bounce back and forth off the ground like when a car is test-crashed into a wall? I ran the final 6 mile road section well. The final miles of pavement had been difficult the previous year for Erik and me. Oddly, finishing that section strong was perhaps the highpoint of my day.

Finishing time - 11:27. Good enough for 1st place and new course record. I guess not too bad of a day considering my affinity for the ground.

A number of runners had an exceptional day. Mick Jurynec ran an amazing 11:45 in his KM debut to take second place. Brian Beckstead placed third with a 12:09, bettering his previous best at KM by an hour. “Mr. Consistent” Dave Hunt ran a brisk 12:27, his 2nd fastest time in the 8 years he has run KM. And a remarkable performance by Roger Smith who took 5th with a 12:31. Roger knocked more than 5 hours off his previous best on the course! Catherine Litherland from the UK was the first woman finishing in 14:50. Catherine posted the second fastest women's time ever on the course

Photos courtesy of Jeff Parker & John Bozung

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wasatch 100 2010 - Course Preview Pt. 1

It wasn't my intent to do a course preview leading up to the Wasatch 100, I'm not even doing it this year, but since it's our backyard and I got a new camera I figured I'd give it a shot, I even have video at the bottom.  Erik, Jay, Peter, Rich and Kevin are all in this year, while Greg and I will be heading up to Cascade Crest at the end of the month.  Back to the preview.

On Tuesday evening (August 3rd, 2010) Erik, Greg, Stuart Gleason, Mick Jurynec and I decided to run the infamous last 25 miles from Brighton to the finish.  Setting off at a little before 5pm we didn't really have a clear plan for pace but I decided to bring along Geoff Roes record setting splits from 2009 just for grins.  The start was conservative and there is nothing significant to report about from Brighton to Sunset Pass, it's still steep and it's going to hurt, prepare accordingly.

The descent off the high point of the course (Point Supreme 10,450) was actually quite pleasant.  I'm not sure if I'm just getting used to it now or the trail is just a little less rocky, but all the way to Ant Knolls it was easy cruising.  The fresh legs had nothing to do with it, I swear.
Making quick work of the descent to Ant Knolls
The trail from Ant Knolls over to Poleline is in pretty good shape.  There are portions of the trail on the west side of the mountain that are pretty chewed up and dusty but not all that bad.  We rolled into Poleline and found someone waiting for us.
A little two-point buck at Poleline Pass.  Erik told him to run off since hunting season isn't that far away.
After Poleline the conditions were interesting horrible.  I only have 5 years experience running this trail, but in that time I can confidently say I have never seen the trail in such bad shape.  The throttle twisters (motorcycles) have definitely done a number on it this year, or maybe it's an accumulated effect.  Either way the dust was often as deep as 6 inches from here all the way to Pot Bottom.
Greg, Stuart, Mick and Erik coming around Point of Contention, Mile 86
At one point we came upon a group of three motorcycle riders that weren't moving very fast, but suddenly became motivated when they saw us.  For some odd reason we ended up picking up the pace after this incident.  The Dive and Plunge are just as horrific and still there despite the threat of removing them at the awards ceremony last year.  Perhaps the committee changed their mind after the reaction from everyone.  It seemed almost as though everyone wanted them left alone, almost like a rite of passage to finish the course.  Here's a quick video of The Plunge (mile 89).

Shortly after the Plunge the sun went down and put the camera away.  We finished right at 5 hours, matching Geoff's pace from 2009.  Now if only I could do that with 75 miles in my legs...

I did post a few more photos if you're interested.  Here's one last one of my dirty legs.  I can't remember ever being so dirty without taking a fall.  We actually took turns being in front to give our lungs a rest from the dust.  Should be a good time on September 10th.  Next up: Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon this weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hoka Hybrid

I really couldn't resist posting the picture of Scott D's, hybrid Hokas. I thought the "screw shoe" was brilliant, but cutting and gluing shoes is something else. Below are Scott's comments.

Scott D said...

I find the shoes to be a bit hot, but most people I know are ok with them. IF your feet are heavy sweaters, they will probably cause some issues. My feet get really water logged in them and I lose toe nails because of it. (my feet are bad though.)

Also the upper tends to stretch when it gets wet. I have had to stop multiple times to crank down on the laces to tighten them up in the middle of a run.

I feel they soak up a lot of water compared to most uppers. They are working on the upper. So the next versions will be better.

They are fairly wide over all, but they do pinch a bit at the toes. I had to go up a half size to counter that.

With that being said, I still had to make some alterations to my shoes to combat some fit issues. The soles of the shoes are amazing and really are fun to run in, even on the roads. I can't go back to any other trail shoe, they all feel like bricks compared to these.

If you are concerned about the uppers, wait a bit longer. They will be coming out with a road version of the shoe and the upper on that one is awesome, even on the trails.

If you are like me and don't like to wait, cut off the uppers and glue your favorite ones on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hoka One One Mafate Review

You could call me a fad follower, though while I have tried just about everything, it’s usually at the tail of the trend (read shoes on sale). And there have been quite a few trends in the past years from protective shoes with “ballistic rock plates” to the truely minimalist shoe. Some people even opt out of shoes. This time, though, I’m trying the early adopter approach.

While I am not exactly the first to wear or write about the Hokas, I think another voice out there may be worth something. For the record, I bought my size 8.5 (although now I think a half size up would have worked) Hokas full price--$170, ouch--and I don’t have any relationship with the manufacturer or any retailer.

This week I ran 50 + miles in the Hokas on a variety of terrain ranging from the Grandeur Peak Fun Run loop, the first loop of the BST Marathon, to a run from Neff’s Canyon to Day’s Fork to Snowbird.

The shoes look pretty silly. My 8 year-old son suggested the “citrus” color, which makes these shoes, which give me an extra 2 inches in height, even more ridiculous. Bob Thompson, who met me for a run up Grandeur just laughed, but politely added that he was laughing with me not at me. The shoes really do climb well. There is considerable extra surface area and a great grip, and despite the bulky appearance the weight is only 320 grams (11 oz). I felt like Spiderman running up and down the steep rock surfaces. The extra surface area and added height do tend to make the shoe roll a little. Anyone who tells you that you can’t roll your ankle in these shoes just hasn’t yet. That said, they are stable when running straight forward. Dancing in and out of rocks with lateral movements are not the strongest point of the Hokas.

The marketing line is “Time to Fly”. Frankly, I think it should be “Time to Bounce”. The strong point is that you bounce along on some really springy cushion. Cruising over rocks is easier than any other shoe I have worn. Instead of the tiptoeing that is necessary in a NB MT100, these shoes encourage a straight line over rocks. This morning I ran the first loop of the BST in 1 hour 48 minutes on legs that had been punished yesterday on a 6 hour 25 minute run with Christian. All I could think about as I was “flying” downhill was that these shoes were silly fun. Really steep technical downhills aren’t much better than any other shoes, but runnable downhills are a blast. The Hoka website touts that the compression, shock absorption, and low ramp angle “allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, as runners can now engage their gluteus and lower back as opposed to isolating their quads, relaxing the body and making running downhill fun and comfortable.” I don’t need any more confidence running downhill, but my quads do feel great after some good long runs, and my ass is sore so they may be correct. I am not sure how this would would work for a “lazy ass” runner.

Because the foot sits higher the angle created on a canted trail seemed more acute. This caused my left lateral malleolus (ankle) to rub on the collar of the shoe. By the end of my run with Christian yesterday I really wanted a trail that angled in the other direction. This could certainly be an issue in a 100 mile race like Wasatch where there are long stretches that slant in one direction.

These shoes are billed as a “great value” because they supposedly last twice as long as a typical pair of shoes. Mr. Meltzer says he got over 600 miles out of his first pair. After 50 punishing miles in the Wasatch Mountains, there is some wear along the puffy EVA foam. Time will tell if they are indeed durable and I will keep track of the relative value in terms of longevity. For now, I am quite happy with these silly, bouncy, citrus colored shoes, that make me two inches taller, and allow for ass-engaging downhill running. The bottom line is that while you may be laughed at, these shoes are fun.