Saturday, April 23, 2016

Desert Rats Double Marathon

above the Colorado River
photo by Glen Delman
With a winter storm warning and reports of runners from the east, mostly Denver, unable to make it over I-70 to the race I was prepared for any weather and trail conditions.  With vision of mud, wind, snow and soppy wetness I toed the start line with windbreaker, gloves, long pants, and backpack full of hand warmers, beanie, etc.  But despite the rain the day before the trails were bone dry and not a single drop of rain fell on me during the race.  The temperature was perfect for running but it was quite gusty.

rim running
photo by Cory Meaker

Half marathoners, marathoners, 50kers and double marathoners all started together at 0630.  Runners of all distances had $100 up for grabs for first male and female runners to make it up the first climb at mile 1.3.  For the fourth time my Hoka teamate Timmy Par snagged the prize.  He went on to place 2nd in the marathon behind elite Skimo racer, Jon Brown.  I was the third runner to complete the marathon, in 3:37, at which point I turned around and went out for another loop in reverse direction.  Running against traffic of the finishing marathoners was great.  High-fiving friends Cory, Graham and Jeff, cheering on and being cheered on.  I end up finishing first in 7:37.

The runner who was in 2nd place for the double marathon got lost unfortunately.  The course was very well marked but it was extremely windy at times.  I heard he had his head down during a gusty spell while running through an intersection and went the wrong way.  While the cloudy low light conditions didn't make sunglasses necessary from a brightness standpoint, I wore my Julbo 
Venturi's with light lenses and they proved extremely valuable out in the turbulence.

boo boo's

At mile 49 of the 52 mile race I was trying to pick it up a bit and finish the race off strong.  It was a rocky section and I caught my toe and landed on the rock square on my chest pretty hard.  Knocked the wind out of me, sunglasses flew off, got a mouthful of dirt.  The way I hit the rock made me hit it and stick, more than slide or bounce like I normally do.  I slowly pulled myself off the ground, moaning a bit and heard a loud growl.  I looked over at the edge of the rim I was running on and saw a large canine tail dart into its cave.  Better keep moving.  I busted my watch in the fall, so I picked it up off the ground and started to shuffle my way to the finish.

I hear ad nauseam about how cool people in our sport are but recently I couldn't help but realize that yeah, we really are a nice bunch.  Minutes after posting a picture of my broken watch I received a message from a nice guy I met in Silverton last year, Christopher Agbay.  He said that he had his old 310XT watch sitting in his closet and would mail it to me if I would like.  Sweet!  A couple days later a package arrives on our doorstep and in it were two of his old GPS watches and...

Christopher is a professional baker and runs Wicked Good Cookies, a Massachusetts based micro-bakery.  Thanks for the delicious treats Christopher, "See you in Silverton."

That watch that I broke last Saturday, was generously given to me by Keith Swiatowski after he saw a picture I posted of me breaking my watch about 16 months ago.

And how did I get that original Garmin?  A group of friends got it for me as a present 6 years ago, to replace the massive old watch I was using... that my ultra running mentor, Andy Salinger, gave me as I started getting into running.  So I have yet to purchase a GPS watch.  Friends keep handing me down their old ones, as I break them =)

After the race Elissa, Penny and I wandered around Grand Junction for awhile until the after party/awards shindig started at Edgewater Brewery.  Free beer and wings, a great way to cap off this early season race.  The Desert Rats Trail Running Festival was a great event.  Unfortunately, many entrants couldn't make it due to snow and road closures on I-70.  The McInnis Canyons Conservation Area where the races are held is definitely worth checking out, and with race distances from 5 miles to 52 miles it has something for everyone.


Hoka One One
:  While I usually reserve my Speedgoat's for use in mud and/or snow, they felt great on the dry dirt and their sticky vibram outsoles kept me from sliding around on the slick and steep rocky surfaces.

VFuel:  I consumed 19 gels during the race.  One every 20 minutes.  At the end I had a couple handfuls of chips and sips of coke as well.  I wasn't nauseous and had consistent energy the whole 52 miles.  I consumed the Maple Bacon flavor quite a bit in the morning (breakfast time) and saved the Peach Cobbler flavor for desert towards the end of the race.  The Mountain Berry flavor is definitely my favorite though.

Drymax Socks:  The 1/4 crew trail running socks kept my feet comfy and warm.  No blisters or hotspots.

Julbo Sunglasses:  As I mentioned earlier, the Venturi's kept the wind out of my eyes and the Zebra light (photochromic) lenses were perfect for the cloudy, low light conditions.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

North Face 50 - Race Report

photo by Aaron Johnson

I have been planning to run this race for years, but every year as December neared I bailed for one reason or another.  My tendency is to shy away from hyped up races.  My rationale is as follows:  I love running through beautiful mountains.  More people and hype takes away from soaking up the natural beauty.  While I will never shake this feeling, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the North Face Endurance Challenge with thousands of people out enjoying the magical Marin Headlands.  It definitely feels more like a race when you are passing others, and getting passed the entire race, which is fun.  And since there are so many people around, I ran into old friends from high school,  countless running friends, and got to hang out with a large group of fellow Hoka Athletes.

The 5am start in the dark was a nice way to kick off the day.  The rocky coastline with its foamy waves and the somber grey Pacific Ocean slowly came into view.  Looking back from the ridge before the Cardiac Aid Station, the overcast sky was streaked with intense pinks and reds over the city.  Black silhouettes of pines gave way to a canyon a thousand feet deep in darkness interrupted by a long line of snaking headlamps.  Moments like these make racing feel like a celebration of health.  Working with critically ill patients who are stuck in a hospital bed makes me feel grateful and even obligated to exploit my physical capacities in places removed from civilization.  Sure you can see San Francisco from the course, it's not like we were out running in the south 40, but the dirt out here and in most places sure beats hanging around on pavement all day.

The sun came up, the headlamps were turned off and the cool overcast coastal weather was perfect for running.  I probably went out a tad to fast in the first third of the race.  At mile 17, Jeremy Wolf, Jason Schlarb and Eric Strabel blazed past me and I really didn't feel like trying to hang with them.  I eventually did catch up with Jeremy and shared quite a few miles with him - fun way to meet someone, a Hoka teammate no less.

I managed the rest of the race well.  Cramps started to creep into my legs about 5 hours in, and an occasional Saltstick pill kept them at bay.  I ingested 300 calories an hour, mostly of VFuel gels, and potato chips and coke at aid stations.  I don't think I've ever raced 50 miles or more without having to deal with nausea, so I guess I'll be sticking to this fueling strategy for awhile.

Climbs after 32 miles were a little steeper, and felt a lot steeper.
My downhill legs held up and I was able to sneak past Eric Strabel and Daniel Metzger in the last 2 miles to finish 15th in 7:01.  I was stoked to land in the top 20.  I really wanted to finish under 7 hours, but what's a minute or two? 

Having my wife and the Schulte's there to crew, cheer and hang out with afterwards was perfect.  Thanks for all of your help!  This is the second race in a row that I've run with Hal Koerner where I've been mistaken for him.  Can't help but laugh... I'm not THAT good looking, and my beard isn't that manicured.  All joking aside, it was fun seeing Hal and chatting with him a bit before and after the race.

Sponsor shout outs:

HOKA!  My Challenger ATR's worked perfectly, and it looked like half of the field was wearing them.  Enough traction for the wet roots and steps in the middle sections of the course, light enough to race in, enough cushion to pound down the fast downhill sections.  Congrats to teammates Larisa Dannis (3rd), Jorge Maravilla (4th), Darcy Piceu (9th), Emma Roca (11th), Jeremy Wolf (17th), Bob Shebest (24th), Paul Terranova (26th) and Michael Wardian (52nd).  Full results.

Hoka roll'n deep at dinner
FLUID:  I forgot to pack my recovery fluid for after the race, and who do I see at the finish line after completing his first ultra?  CEO Rich!  Thanks for hooking me up with 4 scoops of Chocolate Wave and congrats on your 50k finish!

Drymax:  My trail running socks were money.  No blisters, hot spots, nothing.  My feet felt totally normal after the race, really.  My Challenger/Drymax combination works very well for me.

VFuel:  Used a ton of their gels during the race, with no nausea.  Hoping to join there team next year!

Last night I was saddened by the news of North Face founder, Douglas Tompkins dying recently.   The New York Times article I read was enlightening.  As a proud Patagonia wearer I did not know the extent of North Face's conservation and was pleasantly surprised to learn about it.  It's comforting to know that people like him are out there, running companies with motives that extend beyond profit.