Jul 27

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Miler by Steve

It’s funny that when a race goes really well, it doesn’t always make for entertaining stories (or blog posts), but I’ll happily take it every time.

My first experience with the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler in 2014 was not ideal. I was relatively new to trail and ultra running. The weather made it quite difficult too. This experience soured my perception on the race.

When a couple of friends suggested doing the 100 miler in 2017, I balked. I wasn’t enthusiastic. The 100 mile course is doing the 50 mile course twice. However, I listened to my friend Doug talk about the race and he loved it so much. He had already registered for the 100 miler. His experience was vastly different from my own. He mentioned how cool the finishers’ buckles are too. They even have a video on their website showing how it is made. I decided I would go ahead and register for the lottery to get into the race. Besides, I figured I might not get in anyways, haha. If did get in, this would also give me an opportunity to redeem myself from the poor experience on the 50 miler and also it would be a step up in difficulty for me doing a mountain 100 miler versus the flatter two 100 milers I had done previously.

This profile, twice. Sounds fun, right?

I ended up getting into the race, as you can tell. I had Ian Torrence create another training plan for me specifically for this race. I had to recover properly from the Miwok 100k and then ramp up training again to prepare for Tahoe. I hoped the efforts from the Miwok training & race would carry forward and really help me. My training includes a lot of mountain runs to help mimic the conditions in Tahoe. Near Las Vegas, where I live, I would drive to the Mt Charleston area to do summit runs. I love that area so much. It gives me an opportunity to escape the Vegas heat and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. On those runs, I can get a lot of miles, climbing, and altitude (the Mt Charleston summit is at about 11,900 ft).

Mt Charleston Peak. I love it here!

Of course, training doesn’t always go perfectly according to plan. I had to be flexible. I missed some days when I got really frustrated with my quad strain but then it was magically fine again, haha. Probably the worst part was while I had that quad strain, I felt like I didn’t even want to run. That was the most concerning thing. Injuries can do that. They can take the joy out of the activity. Fortunately, some days off with yoga really helped me feel better and get in the right mindset. Then, I got back into training for the peak weeks.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m “ready” for a 100 miler right before the race. I felt good but it’s such a difficult undertaking and there are so many variables; things that could potentially go wrong that I think it’ll be tough to ever say I’m truly ready. Still, I received some positive encouragement from local friends and Ian. Ian told me that I’m more fit than I think I am. That comment really helped. I always wonder about goals heading into a race. I knew that a sub 24 would be very difficult and few runners achieve it in this race. I talked to my friend, Ron Hammett, who is an amazing ultrarunner – far better than myself. I asked him what a reasonable goal time might be and he simply replied, “finishing.” That just made me realize I shouldn’t even attempt to fixate on any goal for this race. The problem with that is if I select an unrealistic goal arbitrarily and then I can’t achieve it. What does that do? It only puts me in a negative place mentally because I didn’t reach some goal that wasn’t realistic to begin with.

At the pre-race check in

I went up to the race the day before because it’s required to check in, get my bib, leave my dropbags, have a medical check done (they weighed me), and listen to a briefing. All of the pre-race stuff is located at the Nevada Capitol building, which was fun to see. I met up with friends and some of us ate together. I also checked out the local running store in Reno. I even picked up some absurdly short shorts with the NV flag on them (#TeamShortyShorts), Haha! I had been on an early flight to Reno so I crashed early that night, which worked out really well because I got some decent rest the night before the race (a rarity), even though Doug and I had to be at the starting line by 5am for the 100 miler.

At the starting line with Doug. PC: Rebecca Thomas

I wasn’t super nervous at the starting line. I think it’s because 100 miles is such a daunting task that I can’t wrap my mind around it. All I can do is start running when it begins and take the race a bit at a time as it unfolds before me.

After the race began, Doug and I ran along in the dark. We didn’t have headlamps but there was enough pre-sunrise light and light from other runners’ headlamps that we were fine. We only ran together for a few miles before I drifted ahead at a comfortable pace. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea since Doug is so much more experienced than me. Still, I did my best to keep my effort easy and stay within my own ability.

It was a solid climb to the first aid station, Hobart, at 7 miles. I moved through the aid station fast. I was using the GU Roctane Energy Mix in my bottles to get a base amount of calories. I just had to get to my drop bag, put the mix in the bottle, fill with water, maybe grab some small food items, and I was on my way. I’m usually good about getting enough fluid. I knew that if I could at least drink a bottle per hour, it would help make sure I got in at least a base amount of calories and it would help maintain my energy level. Plus, I could supplement with gels, food, and such without getting fuel fatigue.

The views from the course weren’t too bad

The next 5 miles to Tunnel Creek had such beautiful views on the lake as we ran along smooth singletrack. After Tunnel Creek was the Red House loop, which included some steep and technical (at times) downhill. The bottom of this loop is the lowest portion of the race altitude-wise. There were a few streams to cross near the bottom. The last time I ran this course, doing the 50 miler, I could simply jump over these streams. This year, there was so much snow melt that the streams were much larger. I couldn’t jump all the way over them. I had to ford through them with the water above my knees at times. My feet, shoes, and socks were completely soaked. Fortunately, I packed extra socks at my Tunnel Creek dropbag. However, by the time I returned to Tunnel Creek my shoes and socks were nearly completely dry so opted to not change them at that time.

No way around it, go straight across

Next, I did quite a bit more climbing up to the Bull Wheel aid station and then some fun downhill into the Diamond Peak aid station at mile 30. I saw my friends Kris and Shannon at the aid station. They’re both ultrarunners themselves and they helped me get my stuff, refuel, and take care of things quickly. Kris asked some really good, direct questions about how I was doing.

Me at Diamond Peak aid station. PC: Kristopher Cargile

After leaving that aid station, I began a 1,700 ft climb in under 2 miles. It’s a sandy dirt road. I grabbed my trekking poles at the Diamond Peak aid station for this climb. I just dug in, put one foot in front of another, and got it done. It was funny when I looked back at the runners going up it and nobody looked happy, haha.

The start of the climb. PC: Kristopher Cargile

I should say that the weather was perfect for this race. It was warm during the day and it wasn’t too cold at night. It felt so good at night. It didn’t rain and there was even a nice breeze at times.

The run back to Tunnel Creek and Hobart went well. I enjoyed the views coming the other way. There were also quite a few snow fields to cross near Hobart and near Diamond Peak. The snow was tough to run on because this isn’t something I have much experience with in Las Vegas. I did slip and fall on one of the snow fields and hurt my knee a bit. On the way back, the poles helped with crossing the snow fields. Still, there was one part where it was steep and the footing was poor, so I had to slide down the snow on my booty, haha.

Snow fields like this. PC: Maia Detmer

After Hobart, I headed toward Snow Valley Peak. It was a tough (but not too bad) climb up to the next aid station. The views up there were spectacular. I loved it. It was cool because the Boy Scouts were running the aid station. They used binoculars to spy my bib # and when I got there, one of them called me by name saying, “Stephen, what do you need?”

The descent from the peak was nice and speedy except for the part where I tripped and somersaulted to the side of the trail. It was a steep descent off the side of the trail, but fortunately not a sheer cliff. I’m also happy that when I tripped, I chose to roll on some wildflowers as I rolled down the hill a bit. After I got up and ran again, I noticed there were some sections with big rocks that would have been much worse places to fall (whew).

Beautiful. Photo Credit: Rebecca Thomas

After getting to the 50 mile aid station, I could hear the 50 mile runners finishing their races at the finish line nearby. I actually found out that my friend, Maia, finished her 50 miler as I was leaving that aid station. It was tough mentally to think about doing that whole 50 mile course a second time. At the 30 mile, 80 mile, and here at the 50 mile aid station, I had reception on my phone. So, I would check messages, read Facebook for words of encouragement, and let friends and family know where I was at and how I was doing. My friends Kris and Rob teased me about checking my phone mid-race. Still, doing this as I walked out of the 50 mile aid station helped me space out a bit to avoid thinking about embarking on the next 50 miles. Before I knew it, I was well on my way into the second half of the race.

As night fell, some mosquitoes came out. After I saw some, of course, every itch I felt was a mosquito in my mind, haha. I’m even itching while writing/thinking about this. When I got to the next aid station, I asked for some bug spray. I told the volunteer, “The mosquitoes love my calves, but can you blame them, knowmsayin?” She didn’t think that was funny but I did. Haha! That’s okay. Most of the time I’m laughing at my own jokes anyway.

Speaking of jokes, the 50 mile runners I would see heading towards the finish as I was out on the second 50 mile “lap” would say things like, “Have a good night!” They knew full well I would be out there running all night. I remembered what Emily Harrison Torrence wrote on her blog about when she was having a tough time at Western States. Her crew member said they had nothing else to do tonight. So, I replied to the 50 miler runners saying, “It’s not like I have any other plans tonight.”

At the Tunnel Creek aid station, I met with a super volunteer named EJ. He knew exactly how to help me. I would see him again at Tunnel Creek, Diamond Peak, and even at the finish line. He knew my gear and how to help with my bottles and energy mix. I really appreciate volunteers like that who are so helpful and so encouraging and are really putting in extra effort to help you succeed. I know he saved me a lot of time out there. He even gave me a hug during the race and at the finish! I may not be able to specifically help him as a volunteer at a future race but I hope I’m able to pay that forward to other runners. That’s how the trail and ultra running community works.

As I headed down the Redhouse loop again, I was chatting with another runner named Jason. As we talked, we were losing sunlight, and I noticed what looked like a photographer on the side of the trail holding their camera sideways. As I got closer, I realized it was just a couple of logs and shadows. As I got even closer, I thought it actually was a photographer! Then, when I got right up next to it, I realized it definitely was a log. Then, Jason suddenly says, “Did that log look a lot like a photographer to you?” Holy crap! It was like he read my mind. I was so glad he said something, haha. Did we just have a group hallucination?!

Speaking of my mind playing tricks on me, when it got really late and I was alone, I imagined every sound I heard to be a bear. I knew there were bears in the area. I didn’t think it’d be a major threat, but I didn’t want to run right up on one. Even a pine cone that fell behind me while I was running at night startled me. A week after the race, I saw a friend of mine post online that they came across a bear up a tree in the area. I didn’t end up seeing any bears myself, but maybe it was the bear up in the tree that threw a pinecone at me. 😉

I cruised along through the night. Sure, I slowed down but I kept moving. I did my best not to spend long in aid stations. One thing that helped me a lot is that I kept a good attitude throughout the race. I laughed and joked with people I met. I feel like I was able to pass quite a few runners through the night simply because I kept making consistent progress. Even when I came to the big climb at Diamond Peak aid station for the second time, I just dug in again and got it done. At night, I couldn’t see how far I had left to go on the climb so I just put my head down and kept climbing… until I was finally done. Even when someone asked me how it was, I replied, “Even better the second time.”

My attitude was upbeat, my forward progress was consistent, I wasn’t having any major issues, and my nutrition was on point. The GU Roctane Energy Mix in my bottles with additional things like gels, Honey Stinger chews, waffles, and aid station fare like fruit, smoothies (yum), PB&J, Coke, and Mt. Dew was working well. This system also helped stave off the fuel fatigue I get sometimes at ultras from trying to consume so many calories so often. I didn’t get sick and maintained good energy throughout the race.

Still, the race wasn’t without minor issues. I mentioned my graceful falls earlier. I also had an issue with my headlamp running out of battery during the night. I think I had it on too bright of a setting and it drained the battery too quickly. My backup battery didn’t work either! Still, I had a portable fuel cell that I used earlier to charge my Garmin 935 on the run (I really like having the race all in one dataset. It’s so nice to see triple digit miles on the watch face). I used the fuel cell to charge my headlamp while I used my phone as a light. It wasn’t bad because I did this while going uphill, so I wasn’t moving too quickly. Another thing, I felt a hot spot on my big toe during the race. After the race, when I took my shoes & socks off, I had a huge blister covering my entire big toe. It was like another big toe was growing on my big toe.

I may not be great at many things when it comes to running ultras, but I’m pretty good at staying awake. Fortunately, I was able to run through at the night and not get sleepy. It helped because this was my longest (time-wise) race yet.

Cheerleaders cheering on runners on the course!

As I neared the finish line after the sun had already risen a second time during the race, my body was beginning to hurt quite a bit. Still, I kept moving forward. I was excited to nearly be finished. From across the lake where the finish is located, runners can see the finish line long before they get there. On one hand, I was happy to see it. On the other hand, I wished I was on the other side of that lake, haha.

Here I am coming into the finish line. One of the Altra reps said, “Stop looking so happy running 100mi ;)” when he saw this picture.

I cruised in at 26:09 (33rd overall) to the cheering of friends, race officials, and volunteers. I was so happy to get to sit in a chair! I got my finisher’s cup and stumbled around to get some food and drink at the finisher’s “ultra lounge,” while chatting with friends and other runners. What an experience.

Here’s a link to a video of me finishing

Later that day, I hobbled back to the finisher’s area to pick up my buckle. Boy, it is beauty! They engrave the year and finish time on the back. As a proud Nevadan, I love how the buckle is made with the silver coin (since we’re the Silver State) minted in the oldest mint in Carson City. The craftsmanship is just so special to hold in your hands after earning it in a race like that. I’m not usually too big on finisher’s medals or other things like that but I really like buckles, especially this one. I immediately put it on!

I’m happy I went back to this race and had a great 100 mile experience. It is a beautiful location. The race is so well organized with fantastic volunteers.

I was also interviewed by Rebecca Thomas about this race and ultrarunning in general on her podcast (Episode 11), Trail Tales. Check it out!

Gear/Nutrition Used:

Altra Olympus shoes, Altra shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat, Pearl Izumi shorts, Injinji/Drymax socks, Columbia arm sleeves, NV Battle Born hoorag, Black Diamond Z Trekking Poles, Garmin Forerunner 935.

GU Roctane Energy Mix, GU gels, Honey Stinger waffles and chews, applesauce, smoothie, PB&J, Coke, and Mt Dew.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Jun 27

Desert Dash Beginner’s Luck 55k by Steve

As I was preparing for the Miwok 100k, my mileage was ramping up. On the training plan Ian Torrence prepared for me was this 55k. He knew I wanted to do the race and it fit the need for a long run at this point in my plan. I was to run it as a ‘B’ or training race.

I was glad for the chance to do this race because I don’t think it will be around next year. The race is put on by Desert Dash in Henderson, NV. It takes place on the Sloan Canyon trail system incorporating the McCullough Hills trails, Anthem East, and Park Peak.

I had been struggling with a quad strain for a while so I knew this wouldn’t be a strong race for me. I was hoping to get through it and get a solid run in.

I started the race and didn’t even consider trying to stay close to the lead pack. I knew I had to start easy in hope my quad would loosen up. I ran with my buddy John Music, who was preparing for his first hundred miler. I enjoyed chatting with him and shared some of my thoughts and experiences with the 100 mile distance. John eventually went on to finish his 100 miler and achieve his goal. I was so happy for him and loved seeing his success. He later thanked me for that talk we had.

Here I am with John Music after the race

A group of us came to a junction in the trails but we hadn’t seen any flags or trail markers in a while. As the group spread out a bit looking for the right trail, I pulled out my phone and brought up the map. I had downloaded the course map because it was very windy the night before. I was worried that the course markers and flags would get blown off course. I was glad I did! I found the right direction and called the group over. We found the right way and saved ourselves some frustration.

At this point, my quad started to loosen up a bit and I moved forward at a faster pace. I mostly ran alone for the rest of the race. The trails on McCullough Hills roll along smoothly. I did see my friend Lawrence (who was running the 30k) in a battle with two other fast runners. Lawrence is very fast and they were all moving quickly. It was cool to see them pushing each other. I cheered him on and kept moving the other direction to an aid station.

Around this time, I saw Nike elite trail runner Keely Henninger flying along the trails. She looked like she was having a blast and exclaimed how beautiful it was out there. I tried to creep a pic of her but she’s too fast for creepers. That’d make a great hashtag.

This is my “Wow, that girl is fast” face as Keely Henninger flies by.

As I started running towards Park Peak, I encountered some tough climbs in Anthem East. I just kept moving along at a steady pace. The climb up to Park Peak was tough in the middle of a 55k but rewarding with a magnificent view at the top. It was super windy too. The resulting awkward selfie can be seen below.

“Super windy, super tired, and I’m not good at selfies” face

I cruised along seeing friends at aid stations and just tried to enjoy the day. This race is during my busy time at work so it was definitely better than being at the office.

I encountered my friend Matt on the trails and I thought he was going the wrong way. I called out to him and tried to help him. He was really confused until I realized I was the one turned around! Oops, my bad. I didn’t realize I was that far along on the course. Fortunately, Matt understood how ultra-brain works sometimes and didn’t think I was trying to sabotage his race or something, haha.

Later, at an aid station, I saw my friend Rich. He said he was dropping saying he just wasn’t ready for this race. I couldn’t believe it. Rich is such a strong runner. I offered to run with him to the finish because it’s not like I was crushing the course or anything. He would probably still out-run me. However, he declined. I hoped to convince him to continue but he has enough experience to know when he’s done for the day.

I headed back out on the McCullough Hills trails. This race was going about as expected. I didn’t crush it but I got it done. I got the miles in. My training plan called for a fast finish on this run today. At first, I was feeling fast coming closer to the finish but I hit some hills and that fast finish stopped in its tracks… until much closer to the finish line, haha.

This is a really nice ultra course. I like the rolling hills with the peak mixed in. There’s a good amount of vert. It’s too bad this race won’t be around next year. I hope to see it return in the future.

The overall winner for the 55k was Emily Harrison Torrence. She beat all the boys! I ended up with 6th overall.

May 09

Miwok 100k Race Report by Steve

I’m blogging a bit out of order. I still need to do a writeup for the Desert Dash Beginner’s Luck 55k.

When I first looked at and registered for the Miwok 100k lottery, I thought it was an easy (relatively) race. I thought this because I looked at the Western States qualifying time of 15 hours 30 minutes (it’s usually 17 hours for a 100k), and I also looked at previous years’ finishing times and saw a lot of fast times. Based on that limited information that I gathered too hastily, I thought this would be a relatively easy 100k. Boy was I wrong! I think I was blinded by all the beautiful race photos that I didn’t look deeper into the details of the race.

As the race approached, I looked further into the details of the race. I saw that it had 11,800 feet of elevation gain. Wait a minute… I thought this was an easy 100k. What about the Western States qualifying time of 15 hours and 30 minutes? Oh. That’s the cut off for the entire race. Also, the other cut offs for the race are tight! What about all those fast times? Oh. Those are the only people that actually finished the race. Upon further investigation, I saw a long list of DNFs each year. Uh oh.

Fortunately, I had pro ultrarunner/coach Ian Torrence create a custom training plan for me. I felt this would help shake up my training a bit because I had been feeling a bit stale. I really enjoyed the training plan.

I had some unavoidable struggles of my own during this training cycle. My job as a tax CPA meant I was putting in huge work hours during the weeks leading up to the race. I was also dealing with a nasty quad strain for most of my training cycle, which limited my hard workouts. Fortunately, local PT, Ron Gallagher with Maximum Velocity, was able to meet with me at times that fit my insane work schedule. I also got pretty sick at one point, which wasn’t fun for work (no days off during tax season) and training.

Fortunately, Ian’s plan helped get my training on track and Ron was able to get my quad issue fixed before the race. I felt pretty good heading into this race. I wasn’t entirely sure what my goal time should be. My time at the Cuyamaca 100k was 11:59 and the Miwok 100k appeared to be easier so I thought perhaps I could do similar or better than 12 hours. Still, I knew the Cuyamaca 100k was a great race effort for me so I wasn’t sure if it could be duplicated.

The Miwok 100k really is an iconic ultramarathon. The course is incredibly beautiful. It starts at Stinson Beach, on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco.

I flew in early with my family and got a chance to play tourist in San Francisco before the race. I found a carpool that would pick me up from my hotel en route to the start of the race. One of the other members of the carpool also picked up my bib.

I was picked up at 3am so we could pick up the other members of the carpool and get to the starting area at Stinson Beach by 4am in order to be ready for the race start by 5am. For the other three members of my carpool, it was their first 100k.

The check in and pre-race set up was very efficient. It was still dark at the start. I was milling around and someone asked me where I was from. I replied that I was from Las Vegas and someone else nearby said, “Massey?” It was Matt Clark (or ‘ultratrailmatt’) whom I knew from Instagram and must have figured I was the only one there from Vegas, haha. It was nice to meet him and we had a good chat.

I wished Matt well and moved up towards the front of the starting line in hopes to avoid too much of a bottleneck on the Dipsea trail. No such luck! After the start, everyone except maybe the very front of the pack were clogged up climbing the Dipsea. That was a tough climb to start a race! Those steps seemed to keep going as I climbed in the dark trying to avoid poison oak (it was everywhere!). As I was approaching the top of the Cardiac knoll and the light was just beginning to appear, I heard a sound… https://youtu.be/B6FtMOo9QcI

A bagpiper! It was so cool.

As the race went on, I felt really good. There were some tough climbs and I was doing my best to keep my effort relatively easy.

The course is very hilly. So many rollers with some very steep climbs. Many of the climbs are towards the beginning of the race. I was just hoping that after all the climbs, I would still have something left at mile 50.

As you can see, the views were unreal and it just kept getting better.

I loved descending down to Muir Beach (even though I knew I would have to come back up that climb). The aid stations were fantastic. They were so efficient. They weren’t gimmicky. The volunteers were very knowledgable, super friendly, and so helpful. They were so focused on making sure you did your best. It was really appropriate for this race.

This race is intense. The cut offs are tough. So, the races draws some fast runners. It is very competitive. It makes the race a challenge for everyone. I felt like I would be fine with the cut offs, but anything can happen in an ultra. If I had a bad day, I could easily find myself chasing cut offs. The challenge adds to the experience. We do ultras because they’re hard.

Back to the views…

What’s that in the distance?

An awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge during the race! So cool!

It was just nonstop scenery. For the first 30 miles, I was feeling great.

I tried to take some pictures while I ran, but they turned out terrible. I was glad I stopped to take some. I think I took more pictures during this race than any other race I’ve done.

Remember how I mentioned the volunteers being amazing? YiOu Wang, professional ultrarunner (sponsored by Under Armour) was there to greet me and help fill my water bottles at the Cardiac aid station. I was a little dumbstruck at the moment, thinking, is this really happening? Seriously, in what other sport do you have pros volunteering at events to help some nobody like me?

I regret not getting a picture. I’m usually *that guy* that asks for a picture. I have no shame.

Instead, more scenery:

I felt like I was still doing okay through mile 40. I had just gotten through the big climb out of Muir Beach and I was heading towards the Muir Woods. I knew I would pick up my pacer, get through one last climb, and then the final stretch.

Let me tell you about my pacer. I had mentioned on my Instagram about doing the Miwok 100k and an ultrarunner friend I only knew from Instagram that is local to the area agreed to come out and pace me. It was helpful because he had the experience and has run those trails many times. I wasn’t sure how having someone pacing me that I didn’t know well might turn out but I was optimistic.

I was hoping to make it to the Randall aid station to meet my pacer within the timeframe I told him but I was starting to cut it close to the schedule I had given him.

I met a lot of cool people out on the trails and had some great conversations. It was at this point (the picture above) that the leaders of the race came flying by back towards the finish. I was amazed at how they could be moving so well after so many miles.

I feel like I didn’t over-extend my effort early in this race. I felt like my hydration was going well. I was doing my best to consume a lot of calories. I did well with the calories early on in the race but I was falling off a bit towards the end of the race. Still, I wasn’t doing too bad. I was getting tired and sore. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peaks and my feet felt about as good as I could expect them to feel. But, I was slowing down. I felt if I could just get to my pacer, get some more calories, finish that last big climb, and then I would be ready to crush those last miles to the finish.

The Muir Woods (see above) were so beautiful and fun to run through. It was at this point of the race that Jesse Haynes, one of the Team Altra elite runners, came flying by. Also, later in my trek through the woods, Eric Byrnes, former professional baseball player, came running by.

There was a punishing descent down to the Randall aid station. As I went down, I dreaded the thought of coming back up it. At the aid station, I met my pacer who helped me refill my bottles and get ready. Off we went back uphill. We chatted for a bit, getting to know each other. It helped to take my mind of the running. I told him I was in bad shape at this point of the race (as if it wasn’t obvious, haha). Once we got to the top of the climb, I was alternating walking the uphills and running the downhills on the rollers. Those downhills were starting to hurt! So, I was getting too fatigued for the uphills and the downhills hurt too much, haha. This is definitely NOT the course for that to happen on because it’s rarely flat.

On we went…

My pacer did a great job of encouraging me and motivating me to run a bit more each time. I think he tricked me a bit pulling out his camera and taking pictures of me running because he knew (like most runners), that I didn’t want pictures of me walking, so I would pick up the pace when he did that, haha.

It was tough because mentally, I was still in the race. I really wanted to do well but I just couldn’t physically get myself to do it.

So. Many. Rollers.

My pacer noticed I wasn’t getting quite enough calories and offered me a gel. I hadn’t had that type of gel before but I figured that I needed something to shake me out of my rut. At least it tasted great! As I got closer to the finish (it still seemed so far away), I tried to run more when I could. I think the gel was pulling me out of it or I was just excited to be close to the finish.

As we started the final descent down Matt Davis trail, I knew it would be a punishing few miles. Still, I was determined to cruise down it as best as I could. There was another runner that had been behind me most of the previous 3-4 miles. As we started the final descent, he tucked in behind me and my pacer. I could just sense that he was going to tuck in there and wait until the end to make his move. I didn’t like the idea of that so I picked up the pace even more. My pacer was excited and we were passing more and more people on these last few miles. I had to be careful because there were so many roots, stone steps, and wooden steps (those hurt). I asked him if anyone was coming up behind and he assured me nobody was… until the final moment (my pacer warned me he was making his move) when we crossed the final bridge coming towards the finish, the runner who had tried tucking in behind me strode ahead of me looking strong.

Grrrrrrrr

He was getting far ahead of me but then I put down one of the biggest finish line kicks of my life at the end of a 62 mile run. People saw me sprinting towards the end. The cheers got louder. The guy in front of me must have assumed the cheers were for him because he never looked behind him. I came flying in and finished ONE SECOND ahead of him. That was satisfying.

It was a nice way to finish a really tough day. I finished 13:34:33 qualifying again for the Western States Endurance Run. I’ll have two tickets next year.

In summary… it’s hard to evaluate this race. Was I hoping to have a better finishing time? Yes, a much better finishing time. Still, I should be happy with finishing at all, getting WS100 qualifier, and having such a unique experience. Why did I get so fatigued at the end? Maybe it was the quad strain, the heavy work hours, or some other factors or combination of factors. I was still in the race mentally. I usually find that some of my races right after my heavy work season aren’t my best performances. So perhaps I should take that into consideration when evaluating how this race went. It was also hard for me to pick a goal time for this race so I feel like my goal was a bit open-ended. Considering the long list of DNFs I saw posted, I should be happy that I finished at all. Out of the 3 people I carpooled with in the morning doing their first 100k, only one of them finished. Yeah, it was tough.

Nonetheless, I got through it and I was hungry! My pacer was helpful in encouraging me to focus on getting food after the race, and we totally forgot to get a picture together. Bummer! Oh well, I’m sure we’ll meet again at a future event. Maybe I’ll get to pace him!

The meal at the finish line was fantastic! I sat near the finish and watched people come in. Before I left, the time on the clock was nearly 15:30 and there were some folks that finished less than a minute before the cut off and that was so exciting! There were also some folks that finished just after the cut off. It was heart-wrenching to see their reactions upon realizing they had just barely missed it.

I love this little unique medal. It represents a lot of hard work and a beautiful experience. I also got a runrabbit tech shirt (it’s really nice!), a Miwok/Golden Gate buff, a mug, Tecnu, and some other nice goodies.

I also made sure to use Tecnu to (hopefully) get rid of the poison oak oils that may have rubbed on me during the race. There was poison oak everywhere! It was interesting hobbling around after a 100k and then having Tecnu hosed off with cold water, haha. Still, it’s been a couple days and no poison oak rash so far (fingers crossed).

Apparently I missed Magda Boulet at the finish line visiting people. I finished too late! I would have really liked to have met her. However, I did get to meet (and I remembered to ask for a picture) The Rocket!

Really nice guy!

Some of the gear/nutrition I used: Altra Lone Peaks 3.0, Nuun Hydration, Honey Stinger, Injinji socks, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat, Salomon ultra vest, GU gels, and some foraging at the aid stations for super ultra nutrition like Mt Dew and Coke.

The next day was spent doing some active recovery walking around San Francisco.

This is such a great race. The organization and volunteers were superb. If you want to do one of the most beautiful races that is also quite challenging, check this one out.

 

 

 

Jan 07

Across the Years 24 Hour Race by Steve

Across the Years 24 Hour Race

I knew this was going to be a special race. The pre-race fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was successful. Together we raised over $2,000 for suicide prevention in honor of my nephew, Deven. The fundraiser link can be found here:

http://afsp.donordrive.com/campaign/deven

This was my first attempt at being a charity runner. This race is held in Glendale, Arizona, near Phoenix. My brother and sister-in-law do an annual walk in December in Deven’s honor in the area also, plus they live down there. Choosing this particular race to do something special for a charity that is meaningful to me made sense.

My training went well before the race. I recovered from the Dead Horse Ultra 50 miler and prepared myself for the 24 hour race with some good training weeks before I tapered. I ended up running two training marathons on consecutive Fridays. One of which was Desert Dash’s Trails of Glory. The other marathon was a random late-night run of 26.5 miles.

I must say that it’s really nice tapering during the holidays. Less running and more family time at the perfect time of year.

Even though I felt good, you just never know with a race of that length. My goal was to go at least 100 miles within the 24 hour race.  Based on previous experience, I felt like this was obtainable if things went reasonably according to plan. You can never consider a 100 miler a guaranteed finish though.

For those of you not familiar with the timed format for races, I’ll explain a bit. Normally, in most races you have a set distance to run. Whomever runs that set distance the fastest wins. In these timed races, you have set time-frame in which you run. Whomever runs the most distance during that set time wins. I feel like there are pros and cons to this format. It is nice knowing exactly how long the race will be. There are no DNFs in this format so it’s a good opportunity for runners to test themselves and see how far they can go. For some runners that struggle to make course cutoffs at 100 mile races, this format allows them to attempt 100 miles over multiple days without the risk of being pulled from a race.

Across the Years is put on by Aravaipa Running. The course is a flat 1.0498 mile loop (that extra .0498 is important when you’re running a lot of loops) in the LA Dodgers/Chicago White Sox spring training facility. The race began in 1983 and a lot of records have been set at this event. They offer 24 hour races on different days, allowing you to choose which day you want to start. The one starting on Dec 31st is the most popular (hence the name of the race). There are also 48 hour, 72 hour, and 6-day options.

Despite all that, I wasn’t sure how excited I was to be running 1 mile loops for 24 hours.

At the starting line

I got there just early enough to get my bib and shirt. Across the Years has legacy bib numbers. If you do the race multiple years, you always have the same bib number. It was cool seeing some older runners out on the course with some low numbers on their bibs.

I saw a comment from a friend on Instagram saying that the hard part (fundraising) was over and now I could enjoy the run. That struck me as true, especially for someone like me that found fundraising to be outside my comfort zone. Still… 100 miles is… 100 miles. It wouldn’t exactly be easy.

My family helped set up my tent with my nutrition, hydration, and other supplies in it. My brother brought me a custom printed shirt for the race with Deven’s picture on it and the words “I Run For Deven.”

I didn’t have much time to really think about what I was embarking on because the race was about to start!

I started off at a relaxed but probably too quick pace. I knew the initial excitement of starting would soon wear off and I would settle into an easier pace. The weather was perfect at the start. I knew it would warm up a bit during the day but not too bad. One issue was that the forecast called for rain. I brought the right supplies for that and hoped for the best.

I could see the other runners already on the course. Some of them had already been in a race for 24 or even 48 hours. I wondered what they thought as they saw us take off from the start looking and feeling fresh. One of them laughed and said, “Ah, fresh meat.”

My family hung around for the first few hours (for the first marathon or so) and checked on me every so often to see if I needed anything. For about the first 30 miles, I stuck to drinking Nuun and consuming gels. That was working well. As the day went on, it did warm up but remained comfortable.

After about 27 miles

Around and around the loop I went. My family left and said they would return in the evening to check on me. I chatted with some of the other runners throughout the race. It’s a nice social event for many of the participants because you see so many of the same people repeatedly on the loop path. I met some other runners from Utah, one of which I knew from Instagram. I chatted with Karen from Las Vegas. She was doing six separate 24 hour runs as part of her quest to do as many marathon or more distance events in a 365 day period. I also met another Altra ambassador named Lint. He’s an avid thru-hiker so I enjoyed learning about his experiences. Your name and state/country flag are also printed on your bib so you get to know people that way too. I met some record holders and one lady attempting to beat the 100 mile Canadian record for her age group.

I mostly dialed in a reasonable pace, listened to Dean Karnazes’ new audiobook “Road to Sparta,” and cruised along. I ended up listening to the entire audiobook during the event.

I was moving pretty well. It is a nice flat course, so I ended up setting a PR for the 50 mile distance and the 100k distance along the way by a small amount. Still, it didn’t seem too fast to me. I was on target for my goal.

Random selfie at 50 miles

I came to realize my tent/personal aid setup wasn’t doing me any favors in this event. Even though it initially seemed like it wasn’t too far off the course, those extra steps were much more noticeable later in the race. I would have to go to my tent, lean down, rummage through my stuff, etc. That got less comfortable to do as the race went on.

As the sun was setting, it began to rain lightly. It wasn’t too bad. It cooled me down so that was nice. As the rain went on, it created puddles all around the course. Soon you could see everyone on the course trying to choose the line on the course with the fewest puddles to keep their feet dry.

Before returning, my brother asked if I wanted anything. I told him some red grapes would be nice if he could get some. Some of the random cravings during ultras are funny. I also remember really enjoying red grapes during my last 100 miler.

My brother and sister-in-law came back to see me when I was about 12 hours into the event. The race has a guest bib system that runners are supposed to follow. Guests check out a guest bib. They’re supposed to do only one lap with their runner but if there isn’t a big demand for the bibs, they may do more. It isn’t supposed to be for pacing. My brother joined me for a couple laps. We talked about the race and I explained some things about ultrarunning to him and answered his questions. We talked about the fundraiser and how it was fun experiencing this event together. Then, my brother switched out and my sister-in-law joined me for a couple laps. I also chatted with her a bit about ultrarunning. These events must look so crazy to people unfamiliar with the sport. We also had a great discussion about Deven and the good that has been done in his honor. We may have gotten a bit emotional. It was a special moment that I will always cherish.

After they headed home, I went to my tent and changed into some dry socks before I got much deeper into the mileage. I was worried my feet would swell, making the task of changing socks and putting my shoes back on much more difficult.

Another thing I did (for the first time) was charge my running watch on the run. I have a Garmin 910XT and I knew the battery supposedly had a 20 hour life while running so it wouldn’t last the entire race. I read online that if I connected the charger while it was still in the middle of run mode that the screen would show that it was charging but the watch would still record my running. I brought one of those portable USB power packs that I had recently obtained at a Christmas gift exchange. I plugged in the charger to the power cell, clipped the charger to my watch, held the power cell in my hand, and went on running. It took a few laps to fully charge again. Once I removed the clip, sure enough, it had kept recording my data. Success!

I enjoyed the evening hours. There were fewer people on the course as the night went on. I’m sure many of the multi-day runners were sleeping. It made sense to rest while it rained since they probably needed it anyway. The rain died down and the hours actually passed quite quickly.

My nutrition began to fall off a bit. Okay… maybe more than a bit. I couldn’t bear the thought of another gel. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and supplemented from the aid station. I drank Coke and Mt Dew in addition to my hydration mix. I ate bananas and grapes. Late in the evening, I had some warm broth, which was magical. The aid station also cooked up some sushi which sounded fun but I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to eat during the race.

I was a little worried about my nutrition. I wasn’t taking enough in. Still, I was probably at a slow enough pace that I was mostly burning fat and didn’t need as many quick calories. I was amazed at what I was doing with relatively low calories being consumed during the race.

During my first 100 miler, I had a really low point around 74 miles. Fortunately, I never hit a really low point during this race. My head was in a good place. At times, I would think about Deven and remember why I was there. Even when I was getting up there in miles, I didn’t stress it like I did in the previous 100 miler. I believe the experience of knowing that I had done it before and I made it through assured me that the same would happen at this race. I remembered to be patient and just keep moving forward as consistently as possible.

The evening hours surprisingly passed by quickly. Each runner wears a transmitter around their ankle that beeps when you pass over the mats at the start/finish and the halfway point. When a runner passed the mat at the start/finish area, their name, placement, total laps, total mileage, and such would show on a screen. It was fun to watch my mileage increase as time went on. Quite a few runners had already done the 24-hour race on the two previous days. Their total distance was already built into the standings. I started the race as 20th male in the 24 hour race and it was a lot of fun to see that decrease as the race developed. It would be a nice encouraging surprise to cross the mat and see I had moved up a position in the standings.

I must say the volunteers at the event were fantastic. They were very helpful and encouraging. If they had something on hand, they would get it to you. The nice thing was that you could request something, then go do another loop, and when you came back, they would have it ready for you. During the very late hours, there was an older gentleman with a big beard at the halfway mat/station. He looked like a cool biker guy. That guy went out of his way to say something encouraging to me every… single… loop… even when it was pouring rain… all through the night. Often he would give me high fives or fist bumps. I really appreciated that he was there.

During my first 100 miler, my feet/legs really started to hurt in the 70ish mileage area. At this race, that didn’t happen until the 90s for mileage. I wore my Altra Olympus’ so the extra cushion may have helped. Even then, it didn’t seem as bad… until…

Something else happened around mile 95… suddenly the sky opened up and it started POURING. I had hoped the rain was done and the puddles would slowly go away. This was not good. Not good at all. The worst thing was that my shoes and socks were completely soaked. I felt like I was way too far into the race and so close to 100 miles to stop and change socks or shoes now. I decided to keep going with soaking shoes and if it got unbearable I would deal with it then. At least I didn’t care about dodging big puddles anymore.

Rain and mud

Before the rain, I had a good idea of when I would get to 100 miles. During/after the rain, it delayed me a bit. Still, I got to 100 miles at 20:37 per my watch and a bit after that (but before 21 hours) on the course timing. I had a little more mileage due to aid station/tent/bathroom visits and perhaps not running the tangents perfectly (especially due to the puddles). Still, it was quite a PR for me over my previous 100 mile time of 21:42.

It’s funny passing 100 miles in the late night/early morning all alone. I just smiled and said a quiet celebratory ‘yes!’ as I reached it.

As I had approached 100 miles and moved beyond it, I still had a good chunk of time left on the clock. I wasn’t about to simply stop. I saw that the amazing 100 miler ultrarunner, Davy Crockett, had posted on Facebook before I started my race that he was currently the first place male at Across the Years with 105 laps (about 110 miles). Personally, I was planning on doing my best and getting in as many laps as possible with the time left but it’s nice to have something to shoot for as motivation.

My family arrived as I completed lap 105 tying Davy for 1st place male. I ran (walked a bit) of the next lap with my oldest daughter. She got to see the board when we crossed the mat with 1st place male on it. She likes to tell people about my running. It’s nice to see that she’s proud of her Dad and maybe even still thinks I’m cool for now (she hasn’t hit the teenage years yet). Next, my middle daughter ran my last lap with me. She’s so sweet keeping me company as a struggled to keep my pace quick enough to finish that lap before the 24 hours elapsed. My youngest daughter didn’t want to run with me because the course was too muddy and she didn’t want to get her favorite boots muddy. It made me laugh because that’s totally her personality.

I crossed the finish line with my family all there. I had completed 107 laps for 112 miles and 1st place male at the time. It was wonderful to share that moment with everyone.

Finished!

My family was kind enough to help me out by taking down the tent and packing my gear. My next stop was to get my buckle! They gave me the 100 miles buckle and a big glass beer stein. I wouldn’t know if I would still be in a position to receive a podium award until the next morning after that day’s 24-hour runners had completed their race.

Buckle!

After I got my buckle and stein, I immediately went to the medical tent with a pair of dry socks and shoes. I was worried how my feet would look after all that running, especially the last 4.5 hours in wet shoes and socks. Inside the medical tent, I met with an extremely nice medic named Lloyd. He asked about my “I Run For Deven” shirt and we chatted about our personal losses. He had recently lost a loved one and remarked how important my cause was to so many people. As Lloyd helped another runner with his feet, I removed my socks and shoes, then put my feet up near a heater to let them dry. The other runner’s feet looked bad. Lloyd was worried about removing some taping from his feet in fear that a lot of skin would come off with it. I looked at my feet and they didn’t seem too bad. When Lloyd came over, he held both of my feet in his hands, cupping them by my heels. He looked at them and paused.

“What race did you do?”

“The 24 hour race.”

“And how far did you go on these feet?”

“I ran 112 miles. I didn’t stop and kept running when it rained. I ran the last 4 and a half hours with wet shoes and socks.”

Another pause. I was getting worried.

Then he exclaimed, “These feet are amazing!”

He said there was some minor maceration, a few minor blisters that didn’t need to be lanced (although one blister was on another blister, haha), and that was really it. He said all he needed to do was just clean up my feet and I was good to go. Whew!

It was time to wind down, take a nap, and eat a lot! After a nap, I even attempted to do some bowling with my family, which they found entertaining as I would hobble up to the lane to throw the ball.

At the subsequent 24 hour race the next day, some amazing runners would bump me down to 3rd place male.

3rd Place Award

I’m extremely happy with the results of this race and more so with the fundraiser (and impact from such) before the race.  I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the race aspect of a 1 mile looped course but I really had a great time. Aravaipa Running did an exceptional job. I would highly recommend this race to others that are interested in this race format. I would definitely consider doing this race again in the future.

Jan 05

Dead Horse Ultra 50 Miler by Steve

Dead Horse Ultra

I wanted to finish out the year with another 100 miler. My friend, Josh, and I had been looking at the Chimera 100. However, things weren’t falling into place to be able to do that race. There were moments when Josh was in, but I would be unsure. Then, we would switch places. When it comes to running 100 miles, you need to 100% committed to the goal or it’s going to be too easy to quit… and at some point you will want to quit.

The Chimera 100 passed by and I ended up choosing the Across the Years 24-hour race at the end of December (hence the name of the race). This worked out well because it takes place in Arizona. I have wanted to do something to raise money for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention since I lost my teenage nephew, Deven, last year. My brother’s family lives in Arizona so it seemed like the perfect event. I decided I would raise money for this charity along with doing the race.

I would encourage you to check out the fundraiser page here: afsp.donordrive.com/campaign/deven

I’ll post a recap of that event afterward.

This left my race schedule with an opening in November. A lot of friends from Vegas were doing the Dead Horse Ultra in Moab, UT. The 50 miler was perfect timing on my schedule.

Before the race on Saturday, I thought I would leave late Thursday to head to Moab, sleep in late to get a good long rest, and then get up early Saturday. I have trouble sleeping the night before a race anyway.

Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

Dead Horse Point

I left later on Thursday than I wanted to. At least I arrived in time for a beautiful sunrise at Dead Horse Point. Then, I had trouble sleeping Friday. Oh well, it’s a learning experience, right?

Friday I checked into the race, got my bib, a fun-looking Dead Horse shirt, and a sweet Dead Horse trucker hat. It was fun hanging out with a lot of friends from Vegas for a bit on Friday when I wasn’t trying to sleep.

Saturday morning, we carpooled to the start and it was cold for those of us that are used to Las Vegas temperatures. I used layers like arm sleeves because I knew it would warm up later in the day.

Cold!

When I was researching the course online, it looked fairly flat and fast for a 50 miler. The course also looked like it would be beautiful and a lot of fun. I was hoping to break my PR from my 50 miler at Autumn Leaves even though this would be a more difficult course. I felt like I had improved enough since that race to make that goal.

I started out the race going pretty fast but I was feeling comfortable so I went with it. The slickrock out in Moab, UT was a lot of fun to run on. It made for an interesting winding course. The views along the course were absolutely amazing. It’s such a privilege to run in a place like this, nestled in amongst Arches, Badlands, and Dead Horse Point.

Early on in the race, I jammed my toe hard into the slickrock. That hurt! There was no give in that slickrock. That toe still has some numbness even as I’m writing this post.

At one of the early aid stations, I cruised into it and did a grab ‘n’ go after checking in. At this particular aid station, you had to make a left-hand turn, run into the aid station, head back the way you came, then turn left again back on the course. I encountered a friend of mine at that turn. Rather than head towards the aid station, he just kept following me. Fortunately, I corrected him, telling him to turn towards the aid station. I don’t know if he would have been disqualified for not checking in but I didn’t want him to take that chance. I would hate to have that happen. I believe runners should help each out, even while racing.

As I got to the halfway point way too early, I knew I had started too fast. Funny enough, some friends of mine running the 50 miler came into the halfway aid station around the same time. I wonder if they were thinking the same thing.

One odd thing I noted was that the section to the halfway point was an out-and-back and there was no check in or verification (like a hole punch in the bib or sticker) to ensure a runner ran the whole thing rather than turning around early. Still, this was the first year of the 50 miler so I guess they wouldn’t know there would be a lack of verification also.

I hit a rough patch at this point. I was just grinding along through it. A few of my friends passed me up. It was nice when they encouraged me. After a little while, I started to pick it back up and feel good again. I caught up with my friends, Doug and Josh, near the 30 mile mark. We bounced around a bit until we all settled in and ran as a group.

We ended up running the rest of the race together! We all went through ups and downs for the rest of the race. We talked, walked, and worked through it. We traded off leading the group.

I love this shot!

One thing I did not anticipate was the toll running on all that slickrock would take. Towards the end of the race my feet, hips, and legs were sore! The toe I had jammed early on in the race was throbbing at this point. Still, we were all feeling it and we kept pushing on.

As the end of the race approached, we had to make a decision. Do we all want to finish this race together or should we battle it out for the finish? It was unanimous. We all wanted to finish together. Unfortunately, a couple miles out from the finish, I had a rough patch. I was running low on energy and couldn’t quite keep up. I encouraged the other guys to move ahead. Most times when I approach the end of the race I can dig deep and push to the end. This time, I just had nothing left.

I figured the other guys went ahead and finished since I had fallen so far behind. They deserved to finish before me. I cruised along slowly towards the finish.

When I got to the finish area, Doug and Josh were there waiting for me. It was such a cool gesture. Crossing the finish line with them was such a special moment that I won’t forget. It was better than the competition.

It reminded me of the quote:

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other.”
― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Plus, I beat my PR too!

After finishing the race, I was spent and took a little nap on the ground, haha. Once I got up, I had some of the famous enchiladas that Mad Moose events offers. They were excellent! I may need to do another one of their races just for the enchiladas.

The finishers’ awards were cowbells, which many of us put to good use ringing them as other Vegas friends and new friends we met on the course came in for the finish.

I would recommend this event to anyone looking for a unique trail run. Mad Moose did an exceptional job with organization. The landscape is beautiful and the location is perfect with opportunities to check out Arches, Badlands, and Dead Horse nearby.

Nutrition/Hydration: Nuun Active, Honey Stinger chews/waffles, and GU gels. I had some really good cherry coke at one of the aid stations too.

Gear: Altra Lone Peak 3.0, Salomon Ultra Vest, Nike Dri-fit tights, Drymax socks, Patagonia shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat