Dec 16

Elemental Running Winter 12 Hour Run

Finish Pic

Pardon the crazy hair and crazy eyes 😉

1st Place! It feels great to win one. There wasn’t a large field of competitors but you don’t expect too many in an ultra race unless it’s a really prominent one.

This was my first experience doing the “time” race format, as opposed to distance. I like the race style. I knew exactly how long I would be out there. I had to just keep going for the allotted time. I would definitely do one again.

This was also my first time exceeding my previous distance record of 50 miles. Before the race, I decided I would shoot for 100k.

The course was an approximate 2 mile (mostly flat) loop at a park in Las Vegas. People feel differently about looped courses like this. Yeah, the course gets boring lap after lap. The nice thing is that I was able to fall into a rhythm as I ran the loops and just focus on continuously moving forward. I also liked having access to all my fuel/gear at the aid station every 2 miles.

Elemental RunningВ put on a great event. There was a nice variety of food at the aid station, including hot food. There was always staff on hand. I liked having the big clock next to the timing system counting up towards the end of the race. The race director, Jimmy, said anyone could come out at any time to cheer or pace me. My family came out to cheer and run with me a bit. I must say Jimmy really went above and beyond offering to cook some food for my kids at the aid station (which the kids readily accepted). Very cool. The race environment was really good.

Race Swag

The race and winner swag were cool (pictured). I like the shirt with the date 12/13/14. The stocking was a nice touch. The snowflake medal doubles as a Christmas tree ornament too.

Medal

The day provided fine race weather with temps in the 50s. There was a bit of wind but not too bad. It’s a great December race if you’re looking to escape the cold and/or snow up north. I ran in shorts, long sleeve tech shirt with a short sleeve tech shirt over it, buff, and gloves.

At the beginning of the race, everyone lined up at the same time for all the races. There was a 3 hour, 6 hour, and 12 hour race. Everyone had the same style bib too so I didn’t know who was doing what distance. This didn’t matter much to me because I had my own goal in mind and planned on running my own race.

I really fell into a rhythm running along the loops. I had my audiobook going and just enjoyed a day out running at the park. I kept on top of my hydration by rotating my handheld bottles with water and water enhanced with a Nuun tab. I never felt dehydrated.В  I mixed up the fueling with gels, Honey Stinger gingersnap waffles, and Mama Chia seed pouch drink. It worked well and I never felt sick, which was a huge help.

After about 6 hours, I had run over 50k, but I was concerned I may not be able to keep my goal of 100k. Nonetheless, I would do my best and would surely exceed my previous distance PR of 50 miles. Around this time, the race director informed me that I was in first place. “Wait? What?! Me?!?” A couple of local running buddies, Josh and Rob, also showed up to run with me. I’ve never run with pacers before. They were a huge help. I didn’t want to disappoint them by barely being able to maintain a light jog so for a while, we maintained a pretty good pace even though I had so many miles on my legs already. Another runner quipped, “No fair, you have two pacers!” It felt good to be well supported.

We chatted and ran. It helped pass the time. One pacer, Rob, had to go and another, Khanh, showed up shortly after. My family showed up and did a loop with me. Josh had to go and Khanh stuck with me until the end (he was there for 18 miles).

I focused on each loop and was pleased to see how much closer I was to the 12 hour finish after each lap. A few hours before the end, I asked the race director how close the runners were behind me. One was less than a loop behind me (about 1.5 miles) and another one was more than a loop behind. They were both still running strong. At one point, I got the two of them confused and thought one was right on my heels! This motivated me to pick up the pace and stressed me out a bit because I wasn’t sure I could maintain it.

I was getting so tired. So many things hurt. Feet, calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, etc. I had to ask myself how much I wanted to win. Do I really want to win this? If I want it, I’m going to have to earn it. Nobody is going to give it to me. The other runners aren’t just going to stop. I need to keep pushing, moving forward, and giving it all I have.

I even said it out loud. “I really want this. I really want to win. I can’t deny it.”

I kept the focus. Each lap I would ask how close the runner behind me was (always the same distance). The race director said that each lap the other runner would ask where I was. He was after me. He certainly wasn’t going to make this easy. I kept moving. I minimized aid station time towards the end, grabbing a gel as quickly as I could.

The last couple laps, it was apparent that I had the win as long as I kept moving. I was elated. It felt great to finish with the win. The second place runner finished only one lap behind me. The third place runner finished only two laps behind me. Both ran strong to the end.

Award

Officially, I did 61.76 miles. Just shy of 100k. Of course, my garmin had a bit more than that with tangents, restroom breaks, and aid station stops. I’m happy. 🙂

Believe it or not, I felt like I could keep going. I actually thought I was supposed to do another lap. Maybe I’m ready for a 100 miler?

Dec 02

Winter Marathon Spotlight: The Phoenix Marathon

The winter months can be a rough time for us marathon runners. Training in the rain, snow and/or ice (depending on where you live) along with shortened daylight hours can be difficult. If you’re anything like me, having a race on the calendar keeps me motivated and gets me out the doors on days I would rather stay in my warm bed a bit longer. ButВ Spring 2015 is so far away. Too far to keep me motivated through the darkness and cold of December, January and February.В But therein liesВ the problem:В finding a quality winterВ road marathon. Luckily, there are a handful of races that are worthy of your attention, your dollars and your sweat. We’ll be spotlighting a handful of them here in the coming weeks.

Our first winter marathon preview is The Phoenix Marathon, our Select SeriesВ race for Arizona, which will be held on February 28th, 2015.

If you need five reasons why you should run, not walk, to their website to sign up (before it sells out), here you go:

1. The Race Director is an active marathon runner herself

I’ve run more than 50 races of varying distancesВ in the past five years (17 of them marathons). Almost without exception, those that have Race DirectorsВ who are also runners are great races.

Jamie, the Phoenix Marathon director, travels to expos all over the country on behalf of the Phoenix MarathonВ and runs many of the races she attends. She even qualified for Boston this past June at the Utah Valley Marathon (congrats, Jamie!). Everything good about this race stems from this. She’s a runner. She knows what runners want and need and when they want and need them.

2. The course is begging you to run a PR

Due to a friend’s pre-race injury, I ran the course last year on zero training.В  None. I took November,В December and January off,В completed exactly three runs of about six miles and one 13-mile Saturday runВ in February — and I STILL ran my average marathon time on this course. It made me excited to think about what I could do if I actually trained for it. It’s a gentle downhill for 24 of the 26+ miles. Just enough to propel you to a PR, but not so dramatic to cause your quads to curse your name for days afterwards. It’s scenic, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere for hours, there’s crowd support nearly the entire way after about mile seven or eight and you’re never worried about being mowed down by some idiot driver.

If you want a more detailed mile-by-mile course preview, this is the best one I have ever read HERE. Below is the elevation chart.


3. Attention to detail

How annoying is it when you’re planning on (read: desperately looking for)В an aid station to appear at mile 20.7, because that’s where the race website said it would be, only to find that it’s actually closer to 21.1? None of that here. Starting at mile 3, there are stations at each odd numbered mile marker up to mile 21, where they appear at each mile marker to the finish. Bananas and oranges are provided at four of the stations and Clif Shots are provided at an additional three. First aid station volunteers get you in and out on your wayВ like an Indy 500 pit crew. There are so many other little things that I noticed were done right (likeВ ample port-o-potties all over the place, starting line gear-drop, a party at the finish line, music, happy and enthusiastic spectators, etc). Too many to mention here. Just know that from the time I arrived at the bus pickup to the time I got in my car and left afterwards I felt like the race had been put on exclusively for me. The shirt is one you can wear proudly on a run or to the grocery store, the medal is unique, heavy and high quality and the arm sleeves in last year’s swag bag are my go-to accessory item when it’s a little chilly outside.

4. Arizona in late February? Yes, please

Remember that rain/snow/ice/darkness thing earlier? Welcome to Arizona. Enjoy it. I will say that it did rain on us as we awaited the start of the race last year. No matter, it wasn’t cold. The on again/off again light mist throughout the morning was actually great to keep my body temperature down. But race days was beautiful. Slightly overcast, temperatures that warmed up to the 60’s and sunshine in the afternoon after finishing.
5. This race sells out. And it’s no surprise why

I should mention at this point that this is only Year 3 of this race. It’s sold out all 3,000 marathon spots each of the first two years. They’ve been able to increase that number to 4,000 this year, but don’t wait. When the spots are gone, they’re gone. I can’t recall another race that has grown so quickly in its first two years (there’s also a half marathon with a 6,000 cap and a 10k with a 2,000 cap as well as a kids 1k race). That only happens because of the reasons detailed above. Hurry up and get over to theirВ registration page now!

With just under 90 days left until race day, there’s still time to train for this race. So give yourself (or someone else) a gift, secure your spot now and book your reservations to Arizona. It’s not a race you’ll regret running.

Nov 25

Trails of Glory Marathon

This race takes place in Cottonwood Valley near Las Vegas, NV. It takes place in the same area as Trails of Fury,В which I have written a race report about too.

The weather was beautiful for the race. It was clear skies and a high in the 60s. This weather is quite different from the 30k I did at Trails of Glory last year which included cold, rain, and an impromptu stream crossing when a wash started flowing.

The first part of the race is mostly downhill passing by the “duck tree.” This is a joshua tree, which has grown over the course. Folks have decided to hang rubber ducks on the tree to remind runners and bikers to duck under the branches.

Duck Tree

Close up Duck Tree

This explains the big inflatable duck at the start/finish area and the duck on the shirts.

Big Ducky

The trail then passes through the small town of Blue Diamond and then west onto the trails. The next section of trails is where I have seen wild burros a few times. I didn’t see any this time though. Below is picture I took on a previous trail run in the area. The burros are hiding in the shadows there.

Wild Burros

After about 5 miles begins about 17 miles of overall uphill. The elevation gain isn’t tremendous (1,600 ft) compared to some mountain ultras but it’s relentlessly gradual. It doesn’t always look like you are running uphill but you sure can feel it.

The uphill culminates at the top of aptly named “Satan’s Escalator,” which you then head down to finish the race on some smooth downhill trails.

This is a great Las Vegas trail race put on by Desert Dash. The event actually sold out this year. If you are considering this event for next year, make sure you sign up early. I love seeing all the local trail runners at these events either racing or volunteering. There’s such a great feeling of camaraderie and encouragement. The finish line area was fun with places to relax and a food truck (with some great chicken tacos).

Medal

A side note: apparently there was someone on the race course trying to sabotage the race by changing/removing signs. I saw one marathon signed turned backwards and heard the 12k got re-routed a little bit. I have no idea why someone would go out of their way to disrupt people that are out trying to have a good time and better themselves. Also, something like that is dangerous. A person may only bring enough fuel for their distance. If they get lost out on the trails, it’s not safe. Fortunately, everyone was okay.

Personally, for me it was a good race. It could have been better and certainly could have been worse. I’m learning more about what I need in terms of recovery between races. In retrospect, the five weeks I had between the Pocatello Marathon and the St George marathon was perfect. However, doing this marathon two weeks after the Bootlegger 50k was taxing. I guess that’s the price of wanting to do so many races. Some runners can race every weekend at a high level. I’m learning that I need more recovery.

I ended up finishing 5th overall, the 4th male (just out of reach from the 3rd place award). I was 3rd place in my age group. I finished 4 minutes, 45 seconds behind the 3rd place male. So close.

Hey there

 

The photos (with the exception of my burro photo) have been provided by Desert Dash as you can see by their logo/watermark. I received permission to use these photos on my blog. I love it when races provide free photos for their runners!

Nutrition: Nuun Hyrdration, GU, and SaltStick tabs.

Gear: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Grip Handheld, Injinji trails socks 2.0, FlipBelt, and Brooks Cascadias.

Nov 11

Bootlegger 50k: Drop (DNF) or Gut it Out?

Bootleg Swag

The Bootlegger 50k was on my races to do and I was very excited to register for it this year (2014). A lot of my friends, local runners, were either running it, volunteering, or coming out to watch. The race also brings out some elite ultra runners.

I was very excited to see Rob Krar (who won the 50k) and Anna Frost (who won the 25k). Rob Krar has become one of my favorite ultrarunners.

Rob Krar

(Pictured: Rob Krar)

Rob Krar and Anna Frost

(Pictured: Rob Krar and Anna Frost at the finish)

From the Bootlegger website, a little history about the race:

“Between Las Vegas, Nevada and the mighty Colorado River sits a long rugged volcanic ridge dubbed the River Mountain Range. Black and Red Mountains, aptly named for their contrasting color, rise the highest. Between the two Mojave Desert peaks sits Bootleg Canyon, better known as the Hooch Highway.

During the 1930’s when prohibition and the construction of the Hoover Dam was in full effect, the small canyons and caves at the base of these peaks were filled with bootleggers brewing their home concoctions in secret. They sold their treasured product to the parched dam workers and prospectors who inhabited the local desert communities of Boulder City and Henderson.”

Alas, the race didn’t turn out like I had hoped. The morning of the race, I felt off. I hadn’t eaten well the days leading up the race. The first half, I felt good. I was pacing well. Then, my stomach and my GI system in general started feeling awful. I thought maybe I needed to use the restroom (Nope).

Bootlegger 50k

(This is me when I was feeling good.)

At about mile 20, I was ready to drop.  I felt worse. I was slowing down and getting exposed/dehydrated. I pushed on hoping it would pass or maybe I’m just too stubborn to quit.

At the next aid station, I kept doing everything I could to stay in the race. I hydrated, fueled, and used salt tabs. One of the volunteers kindly poured water all over me. It felt very refreshing, like a rush of cool water. The volunteer remarked that the water was lukewarm! That was kind of scary, knowing I was overheating.

I kept grinding along. I pushed to the finish. I finished well after my goal time or even my “having a bad day” time.  

When I arrived at the finish, a number of trail running friends exclaimed, “What happened to you out there?!” It hadn’t been reported that I had dropped but I was out there for a while.

I discussed the bad day I was having and remarked that I probably should have dropped. My friend mentioned that, “he respected people that gut it out no matter what rather than just dropping since they missed their goal.”

This leads me to the question: When do you drop and when do you gut it out? I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days.

It’s a tough decision. In ultrarunning, the drop rate climbs dramatically, especially on those 100 milers.

We can’t have a great run every time we go out there. Sometimes we can turn it around and sometimes we can’t. There are so many dynamics in play.

There are times when we simply must drop, like a badly sprained ankle, broken limb, or other severe and obvious malady. You don’t want do extensive damage to yourself and put yourself out of running for an extended period of time.

I guess if elites are running for sponsors, prize money, etc., I can understand dropping if it isn’t your day.

For the rest of us mortals, are we still as concerned about our goal times? I have to admit that I had the thought, “Well, this is going to look like crap on Ultrasignup,” which is kind of silly. It really doesn’t matter. It’s just ego. I guess if people look at my time for this event, they might think I did poorly but if I had dropped they would look at it and thought that surely something must have overwhelmed me to cause the drop.

Every person is unique and every situation is unique in this regard. Some people will refuse to drop no matter what. I found Timothy Olson’s experience at the Hardrock 100 interesting to see how elites could have really really bad days too.

I have had to DNF once before (I should write about that sometime) and I hope it never happens again. Unfortunately, if I do more ultramarathons, it probably will.

What do you think? When do you drop and when do you keep going?