Tuesday, September 25, 2012

North Coast 24 DNF

I’m not sure what happened. I wasn’t feeling it. So wasn’t in the mood. The fun meter was registering a zero. I just had no interest in running past 43 miles. I was in a funk…

I had high expectations for a great run. I was feeling healthy. I was confident I could run well under 14 hours for 100 miles. My splits were memorized and in my pocket. While the conditions were not perfect, they weren’t bad. The race was well organized. I have no excuses. At 43 miles I quit.

I went out fast. Perhaps, a bit too fast. But I felt good and the pace did not seem to require too much effort. But, I just couldn’t go to that other place. Have my mind leave my body. Escape to my daydreams. Run as if it required no effort. I knew it wasn’t my day at 43 miles.

I just stopped. Thank you’s were in order for Race Directors John Hnat and Dan Horwath. They had bent over backwards to accommodate my ambitions. I felt as if I had let them down. They had done so much for me. Having only run 43 miles was shaming.

I went to my hotel and watched it rain. I was glad I was not out running. My rationale brain knew I had made the right decision. My emotional brain was troubled. Others were enduring and pushing on in the rain and the wind. I had quit at 43 miles without suffering any inconvenience from the weather. I was a quitter.

The funk followed me home to Salt Lake City, perhaps the cause of the low clouds and drizzle that consumed the Valley today. Just 43 miles. “What was that about?” I kept asking myself. I didn’t even hurt. I was running at a 7:48 mile average. Ahead of pace to achieve my desired time.

“Time to get over this” I thought, as I laced up my shoes. Once on the Desolation Trail I quickly outran my funk. I felt good. My body seemed weightless. My breathing was light. My mind left my body for that other place. Time ceased to exist. I felt calmness for the first time since I quit at 43 miles. I realized that I had forgotten that I choose to run for joy. I had toed the line at the North Coast 24 obsessed with a time and a record, forgetting about the innate joy of the run. I had f’d up. Just 43 miles because I forgot joy. I will not forget the lesson.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prepping for the North Coast 24 – 2 Great Flat Runs in SLC!

I’m off this week to Cleveland for the North Coast 24 Hour Run with ambitions to set new world age records for 12 hours and 100 miles. Since running the Leadville Trail 100 back in August, I’ve transitioned to focusing on running at tempo on flat paved surfaces. While to many this may sound boring and misguided given how beautiful our Wasatch trails are in the late summer and fall, I can tell you that I’ve discovered a couple of gems right here in Salt Lake City.

Runners in Liberty Park, SLC
First I’ve discovered, or more accurately rediscovered, how great Liberty Park is for running. The wide concrete sidewalk circumnavigating the park almost exactly replicates the North Coast 24 course in distance and in grade. It has been the perfect place to run while trying to teach my body to run at a 7:42 pace. No faster. No slower. Just one speed no matter how good, bad, tired, bored or broken I feel. In addition to being a great NC24 approximation, there are myriad amenities to running in Liberty Park – water, bathrooms, runners to chase (but only at a 7:42 pace – no faster), and amazing people watching. Can I exclaim – “What a great scene!” From drum circles, to scantily clad roller-bladers, to displays of antique cars, and even an occasional appearance by Darth Vader on a skateboard – every loop is both a discovery and an adventure.

I’ve enjoyed reflecting on how the Park has changed over the past 30 years. Before rediscovering the Park earlier this year, my image was that of when on a whim I decided to see if I could ride 400+ miles in 24 hours on a bike when I was in college. For 24 hours I rode round and round Liberty Park. Back then there were not the concrete barriers that make it difficult to make complete loops. It was kind of a seedy place and after dark it was definitely sketchy. Few people spent time there like they do today. Oddly, my most vivid memory was being very hungry in the wee hours of the morning and asking a friend to go to McDonalds and get me a Big Mac with fries. Not only has the Park changed over the years, so has my diet!

Jordan River Parkway - Photo SL County
The other gem I have discovered is the Jordan River Parkway path. Running approximately 42 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake it provides a diverse snapshot of the Salt Lake Valley – from wetlands and marshes to industrial parks with surprising interjections such as an Islamic Center, TRAX depot, golf courses, a canoe dock, and myriad parks. For my final long training run I ran from “Lake to Lake” (at a 7:42 pace of course) and committed to making this an annual run. The diversity of people I encountered, the majesty of the mountains both to the east and to the west, reminded me (as if I need reminding) how lucky I am to live in Salt Lake.

So if you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to mix it up. While I think we all agree that we have some of the best trail running in the country here in the Wasatch Front, don’t forget that we also have some other amazing running opportunities. If you have a special “alternative” running gem that you think others would enjoy, please share…

And, good luck to Christian this Saturday who is running the Virgil Crest 100 in New York. Best wishes for an enjoyable and brisk run!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wasatch 2012 - Race Report - Peter

Wasatch 2012

Jason, Robert and me coming into Big Mountain mile 39.
The dust that didn’t make it home in my shoes has more than settled on the “dive” and “plunge;" the 2012 Wasatch 100 is in the books.  This year I hoped to run a little faster than last year.  The plan worked ok until Brighton, but my 2011 splits were hard to match.  In the end I finished 4 minutes slower, but in 4th place.  That's the short version.  

I slept amazingly well the night before, until a dream about waiting for chicken to fry at a fast food restaurant got me out of bed in a flash.  In the dream I couldn’t wait the 20 minutes; I had somewhere to go!  As is tradition, Fred Riemer drove Greg Norrander and me to the start, a location I still probably couldn't find on my own after 11 years.  The mood in the car was calm, no nervous energy.  We knew what was ahead.
Fred Riemer

As the crowd of runners amassed at the start, we saw Andy Yorkin and Dustin Butcher from Gregory setting up their cameras to record the start of the race.  Greg, Jason Berry, and I were all using the sale samples of the Gregory Tempo running pack that will come out in the Spring of 2013.  (Look for a post on this pack in the near future - for now I will simply say I wanted nothing more from this pack.  The Tempo is sleek, comfy, simple and was conceived in our mountains on our trails.)  

The big boys made their way to the front of the pack, along with many others who either wanted to avoid the dust or be in the photos.  The pace out of the gate was too fast for me, and I was happy to let the crowd go.  George Grygar, the eventual 2nd place finisher, passed me after a minute of running.  As he passed I gave him a pat to wish him luck and in an instant he was gone.  

Eventually I caught Greg and Jason, after passing about 8 runners trying to delicately cross a stream without getting their feet wet.  Channeling my inner Wynn Shooter, I stomped through water with little care.  This is a mountain race after all.  Greg, Jason and I settled into a nice pace on the climb to Chinscraper.  By Francis Peak (mile 18), we were perfectly on pace.  To my surprise, at the aid station I had a professional crew waiting for me.  Rick Robinson had my drop bag, a moist towel, ice, and a selection of drinks.  In an instant the trash from my bag was gone, I was stocked for the next 20 miles, and before I could thank him, I was back on the trail eating a Probar as “breakfast”.  

As blood was diverted to the digestion of the Probar, I was unable to keep pace with Greg.  Staying friends with your stomach is more important than running with all of your friends in a 100 mile race.  Lucky for me I was still able to run with Jason and make a new friend on the trail, Robert Mueller.  At one of the aid stations we learned that we were in 11th, 12th and 13th places, which frankly seemed pretty good, but tough, strong guys kept passing us, the out of state guys from the top 10 odds list that Karl Meltzer posts a week before the race.  The day was heating up - no need to waste any energy chasing - I would go on the hunt after dark.  

At Big Mountain (mile 38), I was met by my expert crew- wife and two kids, and pacer/good friend Christian Johnson.  Within a minute I was through the aid station with a fresh pack, ice in my hat, and an 18 minute cushion on splits from last year.  While the day was heating up, a breeze and water to dump on my head kept the heat tolerable.  Again, despite being passed, I kept a conservative pace, with the belief that running hard in the heat means dehydration and poor energy intake, both tough obstacles to overcome the effects of in a hundred mile race.  I lost more time into Alexander Ridge (mile 47) to my 2011 splits, but felt fine.  

Christian delivered me to Lambs Canyon (mile 53) in solid shape, and would join me again for the last 25 miles.  (Did I mention that Christian is a good friend?)  At Lambs I have experimented with different foods, and over the past several years I have decided that baba ganoush from Mazza is a great alternative to the sweet gels consumed during the race.  In 5 minutes I ate as much as I could and started up Lambs Canyon with my next pacer Scott Dickey.  While I initially felt fine heading up the road to the trail, I started to have a vacant feeling in my head.  My brain wanted to go to sleep and it was 5 in the afternoon.  When we hit the Lambs Canyon trail Greg started to run and was gone within seconds.  Robert Mueller and I settled for a conversational pace.  This is when Robert revealed that he needed to be in his lab by 8 AM Saturday morning.  Talk about tough, this was his first Wasatch 100, which he needed to finish under 24 hours so he could get to work on Saturday morning. 

From Bare Ass Pass to Elbow Fork, I kept a steady downhill pace.  The fog that enveloped my brain was starting to clear, but I still didn’t want to run the road to the top of Millcreek.  Things were starting to turn around.  I had banked some energy and my legs felt surprisingly fresh.  John Pieper (Gregory) and John Evans (Petzl) quickly got me through the Millcreek aid station (mile 61), affectionately known as the “Morgue," one of the more common places to end the race and be covered in blankets waiting to be taken home.  

By Desolation Lake (mile 66) I caught one runner.  The ridge to Scott’s Pass went quickly as did the descent to Brighton.  Jessica, kids, and Christian got me out of Brighton with an 11 minute cushion on last year’s split in 15th place.  As Christian and I started the climb, I was cold, and had little energy.  It wasn’t hard to recognize my tank was on low.  There was an easy fix;  I unleashed my secret weapon, the gum drop.  After a few handfuls, we were starting to move.  The descent to Ant Knolls loosened my legs and before long we were running strong.  By the time we left Ant Knolls we dropped to about 10th place.  The “Grunt” took a mere 10 minutes to climb, and we ran pretty much every step to Pole Line (mile 83) along with Robert Mueller.  
Though I didn’t know it at the time, by Rock Springs (Mile 87) I was dead even with my time from last year.  While Christian and I would pass several more runners on our way to Pot Bottom, we lost 2 minutes on last year’s time.  Coming into Pot Bottom (mile 93) we caught Jared Campbell and Greg at the aid station.  I didn’t expect to see Greg or Jared until the finish.  Greg had stomach troubles.  For a guy with an iron gut this was unusual.  Christian congratulated Greg on pushing hard enough to puke.  Jared was coming off his Nolan's 14 run and I suspected was trying to save energy for his Logan to Jackson 206 mile bike ride following the Wasatch race.  Because I thought I still had a chance at last year’s time, I pulled out my poles one more time and pulled away from Greg on the climb.  By the time we hit the downhill my quadriceps were fried, and I was no longer interested in beating my 2011 time.  Christian tried to coax me along, but I was resigned to ending the streak of faster Wasatch times.  

As I ran across the grass under the stars to the finish line, Jessica and kids popped out of their sleeping bags cheering.   I kept my emotions under wrap until I crossed the finish line.  I didn’t want to make a big deal of this to anyone, but I was running this race in memory of my grandfather Virgil who died at the age of 96 a little over a month ago.  When John Grobben, the race director, gave me a hug I got a lump in my throat.  It was moment to remember Virgil.  I think the old farmer would have been proud.

Irv Nielsen, the Prince of Rocks

Bronco Billy, and then the Salt Lake City crew: George Grygar, Ben Lewis, me, Greg Norrander and Jared Campbell
For he's a jolly good runner... Greg "the cheetah" Norrander
Some of the race committee: Joan, Adam, John, Claude and John

John Grobben congratulating Celeste

The Wasatch 100 is a family reunion of sorts for me.  The race committee is genuinely committed to the runners who travel by foot from Kaysville to Midway.   Long after the awards ceremony was over, 58 year-old Celeste came running in.  The race committee was waiting to greet and congratulate her, even though she hadn’t officially finished.  Her sister-in-law told her that she didn’t look so good.  Those of us in the "Wasatch family" looked at each other and then at Celeste.  She looked great, but like she had run 100 miles.  At the suggestion that she didn’t look so good, Celeste dropped to the ground and did a few push-ups.  And that is how tough people in the Wasatch family are. 

100 miles and a few push-ups for good measure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wasatch 100 2012 Race Report

It's been a long time since I've been wound so tight before a race. Barely sleeping each night, spending the days feeling tired but at the same time feeling like lighting bolts of energy could shoot out of my fingers at will. I know allot of this is normal before a big race but this was out of hand and I needed to settle down. So Wednesday before the race I did what every runner does when he feels stressed out, I went for a run. I ran up in the thin clean air of Alta, looping up through the Castle area beside Supreme lift. It was mystically quiet and some fresh flowers were out celebrating the recent rains that had poured out of the skies the last few nights. I saw a badger crossing the path and thought to myself “is this a good omen or bad? I 'd rather see a cheetah” My legs felt like somebody else's, fresh clean and full of energy as if they could propel me at 6 minutes miles at will. I headed up to Katherine's pass and contemplated how I would feel coming up from the opposite side with Jay on Friday night. I headed back down with hope and good feelings running through my head as if on drugs of many years long ago. I scooted around a moose as I passed the lift station of Sunny Side lift headed for the dirt road that would take me back to my car. As I ran down the road I thought “I 'll be fine, I'll get a good nights rest and be ready to rumble Friday morning” I turned the IPod up to drown out the response that came through my subconscious self as a whisper “your not sleeping if I can help it”

Miles 0-18
I'm on the starting line standing next to Peter, I don't feel good, I'm tired and am honestly kinda of dreading the day. I'm putting on a good face shaking hands wishing people good luck. The count down starts and were off. I shoot off like a rocket not really thinking about it, I'm surprised I got myself so far up in the field and the trail is actually not too dusty. The first miles blow by quickly and I can see Jason Berry up just ahead. Then all of a sudden Peter shoots by and the three of us find ourselves running together We head up the long climb toward chin scraper, Peter leads the way and Jason and I are happy to follow his lead. We run together until we hit the road at mile 11 just before the first water only aid. We leap frog back and forth after the water aid and come back together just before Francis Peak I'm actually feeling pretty good and just a few minutes of my pace chart.

 Mile 18-40
I leave with Peter but feel like running alone and soon start pushing the pace ever so slightly to get out ahead. I turn the Ipod up and just start cruising the road. I used to hate the dirt roads early on the course but have started to like them the last time I ran the race, thier easy and its nice to just turn the brain off and move easy. As I approached Sessions Lift Off aid station I felt my IT band start to tighten and contract. Next thing I know bam it fires and I crumple to a stop. Panic starts to set in, I'm thinking my race is done, I slowly start to hobble again thinking to myself to just keep moving and maybe you can figure this thing out. I actually make it to Sessions on my split. As I start the climb out of Sessions it fires a few more times and I stop at the pass and sit down and stretch. I am also getting large sticks from the side of the trail and try rolling the IT band with them. I pop some Ibuprofen and salt with a bunch of water and start moving again. It seems to be working, it hurts but I can move okay. I slowly catch up to a few runners and finally settle in with Chris Cawley. We chat quite a bit and run for the most part together into Big Mountain Aid Station which I reach exactly on pace at 12:45.

Miles 40-75
 Big Mountain Aid Station is great but I know to get out of there quickly, I weigh in and come in heavy which seems strange. I dunk water on myself as Marge gets me my Gregory Hydration pack. Roch fills my hat with ice and I take off with Kathleen. I tell her I'm in a good place but my knee is killing me and take another Ibuprofen. We got out slowly as I drink some coconut juice and take in calories. I'm thinking of all the people I saw back at the aid station feeling guilty for not taking more time to say hello but soon realize they understand and start to forget about. I know from our practice run that Kathleen takes about 20 minutes for her heart rate to go down so I go really slow to let her warm up. We talk a little, not to much, just enough to pass the time. We are moving slow but that was the plan. A few people pass us but I was prepared for that. We make it into Alexander exactly on time.
We make a quick 2 minute refuel and head out for the gas line climb eating watermelon. Its hot and we get passed again, one guy goes running by uphill all the while saying how hot is is. Kathleen and I come into Lambs Aid Station feeling good and on time. My next pacer is Shawn and we get out just behind Peter and catch him on the road. His pacer Scott Dickey gives me a ITB strap which seems to lesson the pain in my knee. We jump out ahead as we jump on to the single track for Bear Ass Pass.
I'm starting to feel tired and pound calories as we make the long climb up to the pass. I can hear Peter, Scott and Robert Mueller below as we near the summit. Shawn and I make steady and uneventful progress making it almost to Scott Pass Aid station before we have to turn on our lights while enjoying a wonderful sunset to the west. At the gate at Sleepy Hollow we pass somebody dressed in a marching band uniform. Jay joins us for a little bit on the Guardsman road to see how I am doing then takes off to Brighton to make sure I have a quick transition. Marge crews me in the parking lot then I head into the lodge for weigh in. Everything is a blur and the lodge seems like some foreign planet. I see lots a friendly faces but I just want to get back on the trail and get moving again. For the first time I'm feeling beat and tired and want to get the race over with. We leave at 9:26

Miles 75 to 100.
 Jay is a breath of fresh air and energy. I can tell he really wants me to do well and 10 minutes out of Brighton he is already asking me if I can run a few flat spots. I say no to the first request. After the dam Jay gets in front of me and starts running some of the flatter spots going around the lake. I follow and start running when he does, this seems to be working and we do this all the way to Katherine's Pass. At the pass Jay's instruct me to starting drinking a bottle with Coke and water in it saying it needs to be done buy the time we reach the high point of the course and the start of the plunge down into Ant Knolls. I do it and can feel some energy coming back. We pass four racers on the decent, some slowing down because they think they are off course. We tell them their good but they don't seem to believe us. We keep moving, blowing through Ant Knolls and heading up the Grunt. I am moving pretty good, the knee really hurts but so does everything else.
Before Pole Line Aid Station I do a lot of drunken sailor running, weaving on and off the trail. Nothing much happens all the way to Rock Springs, there is a runner close behind but does not seem to be gaining. The moon is out and its beautiful. The Dive is terrible, the Plunge is terrible, the wheels are starting to come off. Lots of heavy breathing, short 2 second stops with hands on knees trying to hold it together. My stomach is starting to cramp and I don't feel good. Jay can sense I'm slowing and is doing everything to keep my moving, and finally I throw up. I get it over with and move on making my way slowly down to Pot Bottom. At the aid station Jared Campbell joins us as well as Peter with Christian who is his pacer. Peter gives me a hug and we leave together for the last 7 miles.
Peter is stronger and pulls away quickly, I regress back to my old 100 mile habits and just move steady but slow. Jay is out in front by a few feet leading the way acting as my sail trying to pull me up the hill. We start the decent, I almost loose me stomach again but manage to keep from gagging, not sure what would come up at this point anyway. I weave down the road trying to just keep moving and finally hit the single track trail leading to the final 1 mile road sections to the finish. Jay is talking about lights approaching and if I want to race but at this point I really not listing. It's turns out to be Jared and he ask if he could joins us to the finish. I was honored and humbled and of course said yes. We run in together and finish in a time of 23:07. I am ecstatic to be under 24 hours but I am too tired to show much emotion or give it much thought.

As is always the case I could not have had such a great race without all the help and support of allot of people. But I especially want to thank my pacers Jay, Kathleen, Shawn and of course my wife Marge who did another faultless job of crewing me for the entire race. The race organization and volunteers were excellent as always. Of course there is the race itself which continues to resonate in my heart and haunts my soul, it truly is a trail of Heaven and Hell.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wasatch Blues

I drove past Sugarhouse Park today around 4 pm.  I felt like I was driving by the house of the girl I had a crush on in High School.  I slowed down, stared longingly at the scene of excitement in progress, then resignedly kept driving, forcing my eyes back to the road and accepting the lump in my chest that I recognized as heartache.

Wasatch has shaped my life and influenced me far more than I thought was possible since my first fling back in 2005.  I ran my first Wasatch thinking it would be a grand adventure to be crossed off the list, and then I could get back to my current passions of the time-bowhunting, fishing and Rugby.  Instead, those have all taken a back seat and regardless of the other races and adventures I have mapped out for the year, my predominant daydream seems to revolve around that magical weekend following Labor Day.

The pre-dawn excitement, beauty of first sunlight over Chinscraper,  popsicles at Swallow Rocks.  The surprising surge of emotion and tears as I hear the first hint of cow bells coming into Big Mountain, never mind that it's only been 10 hours since I gave Brooke a sleepy good bye kiss as I slipped out the door-late as usual-to meet my ride.  Reminiscing about the big bull elk I bugled in the last time I  bowhunted Alexander Ridge. An ice cold towel on the neck at Lambs, cooling off on the beautiful climb to Bear Ass Pass, stopping to look at the trout under that one bridge up Millcreek, getting teary again at the AWESOME posters of my kids that Brooke puts on the Millcreek road. Sunsets on Red lovers Ridge, pacers gently (sometimes forcefully) reminding me to eat, drink and do it again. Projectile vomiting whole grain PB&J at Scott's Pass, sleep running the road down Guardsman's, in and out of Brighton-assisted by an awesome crew- as quick as possible to stay out of the "Morgue".  Inspired by some good tunes and turning down a Corona with good friend and savior of my first Wasatch, Preston, while he hangs out at the "Beach" below Sunset Peak.  Getting my 5th wind heading to Ant Knolls, the excitement of lights in front of  me and getting closer while circumnavigating Forest Lake, the dread of seeing lights behind me and getting closer at the same time, and then the last "big" climb to the Point of Contention. Lukewarm "hot" chocolate at Rock Springs, dust in the headlamp = blind running down The Plunge, Irv's Torture Chamber-need I say more?  Pot Bottom and "3 runner's left here in the last 5 minutes, get out of here!!". The never-ending rocky road, sharp left hand turn onto the sweet last mile of single track, pacer yelling"I told you we'd catch someone on the road, now it's time to sprint!".  10 minute mile sprint, onto the grass, out of gas and collapse.  Elation, exhaustion, hugs, back slaps, rush to the garbage can to puke and then...... Contentment.

I won't be feeling those emotions first-hand this year, but the sweet memories are enough to get me through the Wasatch Blues.

To Greg, Peter, Rich, Brian, Brian, Ben, Jared, Pete, Seth, Bob, Mark, Jason, Sarah, Derek, Ken, David, Wayne, Troy, Jim, Ernie, Tony, and everyone else. Thanks, and good running.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Running With Music and No Wires

Several years ago when I started running trails I would take music with me. I had one of those 1st Gen Ipod Nano's with a case that I would clip to my shorts, hooked up to the kind of headphones that would wrap around the ear. This worked for a while but the wire running from my shorts to my ears would start to really bother me after a while. If I was on terrain with branches to duck around and under it would sometimes get caught and ripped out. During a race I would have issues with the wire and trying to take a pack off or change a shirt. Plus there was the simple feel of the wire either against my back (if it was running up the back of my shirt) or dangling around in front getting in the way. Bottom line, the wire was bringing me down and had to go, which meant the music did too :-(

I thought for sure I was going to have to wait for affordable, lightweight, wireless headphones and that looked to be a long way off. That was until I ran with Jared Campbell this last spring. Jared had either adopted or come up with the most simple solution for running with music and I was blown away. I immediately gave it a try and loved it.
Here is how it works:

  1. The music player works best if it is an Ipod Shuffle or newer small Nano (clip is built in and it's lightweight).
  2. Neckband or behind the head headphones.
  3. Wrap headphone wire around the neckband
  4. Attach the Shuffle/Nano to either the neckband or your hat.
  5. Run with your music and no wires to hassle with :-)

The headphones I chose are Sennheiser PMX 680 "Sport headphones". The reason I went with these is because they are sweat/water resistant and have a short cord that can be attached to a longer one if needed. I use the short cord for running. I already had one of the small Ipod Nano's but if I didn't I would have just gone with a cheaper Shuffle since I rarely mess with the music once it's going.

The downside with the Sennheiser's is that they sit off the back of my head so I can't attach the Nano directly to the neckband. They're just not strong enough to support that little bit of weight going up and down.
The upside is that I can still hear things going on around me since they don't seal in the ear canal and the sound quality is actually quite good.

Once again, I don't want to sound like I'm taking credit for coming up with this idea, I just thought I would pass it along for anyone else out there that can't stand the wires. If you have any other good ideas please let us know in the comments.