Sunday, March 29, 2015

The year ahead

It's been awhile since I've updated this thing, but I suppose now is as good of a time as any to get back into it.  The new year brings some new challenges in racing and running, and revisiting some...unfinished business.

Much has changed since last season, not the least of which is now being an official Outdoor Ambassador for The North Face Locals program!  There's going to be tons of cool stuff to follow being an Ambassador for TNFLocals, and hopefully I'll get to continue to share contests, sneak peaks for new products, post some reviews, and who knows what else!  I have to also say, I'm very thankful for all the great gear TNFLocals has provided me, that will definitely keep me outfitted throughout the training, racing, and adventuring season to come!

I've got some big plans for the racing season, and everything is going to kick off on May 9th with the spring edition of the Whoo's in El Moro 50k.  A beautiful course through some of the SoCal coastal mountains, it's sure to make for a great run and a great way to beat up the ol' pegs just the right amount!

In June, I plan on putting in a solid training block, and I'll probably throw in a few smaller, local races.  The great thing about southern California, is there's something going on almost every weekend!  I also plan on spending some big days in the mountains around San Jacinto, Big Bear, and probably even the San Gabriel Ranges.  Lots of big mountain adventures ahead!

July 4th brings in the Moab Alpine to Slickrock 50 miler.  It's a tough race; I did the first half last year, before DNFing with no good reason, really.  Starting at Pack Creek in the La Sal Mountains, the course goes up up up, going over several high mountain passes (last year I got caught in a sporadic thunderstorm on one!), and then bombs down the slickrock into Moab.  I'll admit, this race beat me last year, but this year, I own it. 

After MAS 50, another huge training block, hopefully fitting in some longer adventure type runs in the mountains through July, August, and the first part of September.  Big days, big mountains, big miles, and big smiles are the goal.  One thing that the family and I have always done is volunteered at the Angeles Crest 100, and I plan to be there in some fashion again this year.  I'll likely do some more local races as well, such as the Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top (it's been on my radar).  And there's plenty of room for family adventures in here as well, venturing to places like Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Big Sur, and who knows where else! 

And then the biggest challenge of the year, my first 100 mile race; the Bear 100.  I've only heard how beautiful the course is, but I also know it is equally as rugged.  I've got a ways to go to get where I want to be for that race, but right now, I'm cautiously confident that I can get there...I'll show you in September.

When all that's done, I'll have to assess how beat up I am, and see where to go next.  There's lots of great races towards the end of the year like TNF 50 in San Francisco, Bootlegger 50k in Boulder City, or maybe even (dare I say) a road marathon!  There's so much else to do, so maybe I'll just take the family and go explore Zion, or the Grand Canyon, or Bryce....the possibilities!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Adventures Await

Several weeks ago, I got an email.  Amazing, right?!?  Well, this one was different from the usual "special offers" and spam that floods our email these days.  This email came from a group called The North Face Locals (#TNFLocals).  It peaked my interest...

The email said:

"We reached out to you...inviting you you to join The North Face Locals Ambassador Program.  You were identified as on of the top influencers in the outdoor endurance community through your great results at one or more of our Endurance Challenge races."

I looked up @TNFLocals on Twitter, because honestly, I had never heard of the program before.  I needed to learn a little more about it, and curb my skepticism.  I even went so far as to message The North Face's official Twitter handle (@thenorthface) and ask them if #TNFLocals was legit...their response; Absolutely.

That was a good enough answer for me!  I filled out the recruitment survey online, and then (because maybe I was a little excited to see if I got picked) I emailed the TNFLocals gang to see what was next.  Basically...I wait...but I'm good at that.

So wait I did...I waited what felt like forever.

And 6 days ago, I got this in my inbox:

Hello Local,

Huge congrats is due to you for being selected as a member of The North Face Locals Outdoor Ambassador Program.  We want to reward you for embodying the spirit of Never Stop Exploring by giving you exclusive access to gear, athletes, content, and experiences.

(Insert legal mumbo jumbo here)

Please keep an eye out for more instructions on your next adventure(s) as a TNF Local.

Cheers & Welcome,
#TNFLocals Team

So there it is! I am now an Outdoor Ambassador for The North Face Locals Program. I'm proud to be a a part of the program. I've always respected and admired the core spirit and motto of The North Face: Never Stop Exploring.  

Well I don't plan to stop. Look forward to big things coming in 2015!

Monday, May 26, 2014

PCT 50: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Things don't always go as planned.  That's part of the beauty of ultras; there is enough time spent on the course, that even the best laid plan can go to shit.  Part of the challenge, is not just running the race, but dealing with the mental and physical low points that can occur at any time.  PCT 50, for me, was more of a test of mental fortitude that physical force.  I handed myself a whole basket full of lemons on this one, and it was all completely avoidable.  And so this race, stands as a solid outline of what NOT to do during an ultra.

I had big plans for PCT 50.  I'd put in serious, calculated training leading up to the race thanks to my coach, Ian Torrence.  From a physical standpoint, I was the most "specifically" trained I've ever been for a race.  PCT was pretty much the focus of my early season / spring race schedule.  In March, I ran Way Too Cool 50k, which, while not exactly going the way I wanted, did result in a 50k PR by almost an hour.  I knew my fitness was good.

After WTC, I ran the Griffith Park Trail Marathon as a training run, took it easy, and still ended up doing pretty well.  I ran something around a 4:30, which for an easy training run on a great course, I was happy with.  For my next big training weekend, I camped out at the starting line of PCT 50, and spent two days logging around 40-ish miles, covering all but a very small portion of the PCT course.

This was the first time (aside from running in Marin a few times then racing the TNFEC race) that I had done any real sort of course recon.  It was a good plan, as it gave me a good sense of what to expect with the course.  After the first day of running, I knew that pretty much the first 15 miles is uphill, climbing from about 3k-6k' on the rocky single track of the Pacific Crest Trail.  As the course was an out and back, I also knew that meant the last 15 miles had the potential to be very quick as long as the legs were holding up.

Day two of the recon brought more "rolling trail," but could also prove to be hot and sunny depending on the race day weather.  The trail (which ends up being from around mile 18 to the turn around and back) got a little sandy in places, and was very exposed, going through a previous burn area.  There's a lot of ridge running right along the mountains overlooking the Anza-Borrego desert.  After having a solid training weekend, I felt ready.  I knew what the course was like, and I felt well trained physically and mentally.  I was ready for race day.  I knew this wasn't going to be a PR type of course; it was too rocky and likely to be warm.  Even still, in the back of my head (much like anyone), I still had the chance of a PR in mind...time would tell.


We got a little bit of a later start than usual for race travel, but since this one was somewhat local, I felt comfortable making the 3 hour drive Friday evening.  My son and I picked my wife up from work, ate some dinner at Chipotle, and then took the 3 hr drive from Palm Springs to Pine Valley, CA, where we would be spending the night.

This is where I made my first mistake.  I usually have a very specific race morning (healthy pre-race food or not, it has worked in the past).  I always eat a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese, a banana, a Gatorade, and a cup of coffee.  Figuring that there would be a grocery store of some sort either near or on the way to our lodging, I didn't go to one of the large grocery stores in Palm Springs before driving down to Pine Valley.

Here's a little note:  if you are going to take the fastest way from Palm Springs to Pine Valley, there is absolutely nothing on the way.  Nothing.  We eventually made it to our motel, which while small, and slightly run down, it served it's purpose.  Luckily, there was a little grocery right next door, but didn't have exactly what I was looking for.  Race day breakfast ended up being a plain bagel with chocolate/hazelnut spread, a banana, a Gatorade, and since there was no coffee, and I wanted the caffeine in the morning, a Red Bull.

We got to sleep sometime around 9:30 pm, and woke up at around 3:30 am to allow myself to get ready with plenty of time.  My morning routine was the usual shower, bowel emptying (your welcome for that image), breakfast, and getting dressed.  We were out the door somewhere between 4 and 4:30 am, and drove to the start line which was about 10 minutes away.

Arriving at the start line early (as I always prefer), I got by bib and swag, and hung out making last minute preparations.  It was chilly out, so I threw arm sleeves on with my singlet, but I knew as soon as the sun came up and I was running I'd warm up quickly.  At 5 am, the early starters were off and running, and come 6 am, so were the rest of us.

Section 1 – Start to Fred Canyon AS (mile 6.4 mostly uphill)

The race started well.  I got caught up in a conga line pretty much the whole way (it’s a single track ridge trail, nowhere really to pass), but that’s a good thing in this case.  I think it kept me reigned in a little bit.  The pace was comfortable, and I was having conversations with the guys around me.  I got to the first aid station still feeling very fresh, however, I hadn’t taken in any nutrition at that point.  I took a small swig of coke at the aid station and moved on.  

I knew I should probably have started ingesting nutrition at this point, but I felt ok not doing so.  I always use Vespa for my races, and since I had a high-calorie breakfast, I felt like I could pick up nutrition from here on out and be just fine.  Famous last words.

Section 2 – Fred Canyon to Dale’s (7.3 mile uphill)

The first mile here was slower because I do remember popping a gel coming out of the aid station, so I was fumbling with it while climbing.  I don’t really remember this section going poorly or good.  It just kind of happened.  There was a lot of climbing, and I was trying to employ a reasonable run/hike strategy to conserve energy.  The only part of this section I hadn’t seen in training was the last 2-ish miles.  I finished almost a full handheld bottle of Tailwind in this section plus the one gel (about 280 cal total).  I drank one full handheld of plain water.  Also at this point, when arriving at Dale’s, my stomach was sloshing.   

I hate sloshing in my stomach.  It makes it nearly impossible to take in any sort of calories, and it's a mental warning also, because that's when you realize your gastric emptying is not occurring like it should (or at least like it normally does).  I still had energy, and physically was feeling strong, so I kept pushing.  I was still passing people, and had strong climbing legs.  So far, so good.  "So far" being the key point.

Section 3 – Dale’s to Todd’s cabin (~4 miles rolling)

Looking back, I realized that up to this point of the race, I had maybe taken in 300-400 calories total.  To anyone on the outside looking in, it would have been obvious what was about to happen.  To me, I was completely oblivious.  I started getting a little sluggish, moving a little slower, but figured (at the time) it was probably just the climbing catching up with me.  I ran this 4 miles in 44 minutes, and considering it's very runnable, and I had run it faster in training, that was slow.  When I pulled into Todd's Cabin aid station, orange slices and ginger ale where all I could take in.  I rolled out of the aid station, which is a short climb back up to the race course, and that's when it happened.  

Section 4 – Todd’s Cabin to Penny Pines (5.2 miles, ½ rolling, big descent, big climb)

Everything went to shit.  Looking back at my training paces through here, this section was on average 1:30-2:00/mile faster in training than what I was running now.  The wheels came off in this section, both mentally and physically.  Obviously nutrition led to a total bonk, add that into the fact that we were now running into 40-50 mph wind gusts, and I was just in a bad mental place.   This whole section, I was mentally coming up with excuses to tell my wife (whom I would see at the Penny Pines aid station), so I could justify to her (and myself) a drop.  I've never had a mental low like I experienced there.  

Clearly, this dark place was a result of an epic bonk.  However, at the time, I just couldn't put that together in my head.  I knew something else had to be wrong, it couldn't have been my VERY poor fueling.  I was coming up with phantom issues that would cause me to DNF.  The month before PCT I experienced some Achilles issues, and had convinced myself I had that pain again.  And then (since I was in a mood to sensationalize) I convinced myself that if I kept going that it would probably rupture and ruin my entire running season.  This had to be the problem!  It made sense!  Right?

I rolled into Penny Pines AS (around Mile 22) to see my wife; I was a mess, both mentally and physically.  I was nauseous, gassed, and defeated.  I had nothing left in my legs, and convinced myself that my tendon was going to explode.

Luckily, my wife wasn’t having it.  I tried to convince her it was my Achilles causing problems, because injury is an excuse I knew she would allow me to drop for.  Instead, she sat me down, force fed me anything I would take in.  I had two bottles of water, a gel, 2 cups of ginger ale, orange slices, and some crackers.  I changed into a different pair of shoes (for my first time ever in a race, but I was willing to try anything to turn it around), and she told me to do the next out and back section to the turn around, and if I still felt bad, we’d call it and go to the hotel.  

After 15 or 20 minutes sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I left the aid station, practically in a protest just to show my wife how bad off I was.  I'd show her!  This next 5 miles, then back to the same aid station, and she would KNOW how bad things were.

Section 5 - Penny Pines – 1/2way – Penny Pines (~4.5 mi rolling)

Maybe she was right after all.  After about a mile, I started feeling a little better, and started passing some people that went by me in the aid station.  I got to the turnaround, feeling decent, but still a little bonky.  I headed back to Penny Pines, this time in a totally different demeanor than when my wife saw me the first time.  I drank some more water, but didn't want anymore liquid nutrition, because I just wasn't processing it.  I ate some oranges and gummy bears, and drank some ginger ale.  I grabbed a handful of pretzels, and told my wife "I'll see you at the finish.  I've got some Mother F***ers I need to catch."  Off I went.  

Section 6 - Penny Pines to Todd's Cabin (5.2 miles)

Back out on the course from there with a bottle of plain water, handful of pretzels, and pockets full of gels.  It was still windy as shit, and getting warmer.  Sun was definitely out, but I was too focused on other things to worry about the gnarly sunburn I was getting (if you're going to wear a singlet, wear sunscreen).  I knew I was sweating, but my singlet/shorts were dry.  I took in one gel and drank a full bottle of water.  I wasn’t flying through, but I was moving and feeling a little better.  Still not completely back, I settled in this section for a long day, but a finish.  Mentally I was in a better place.  I stopped trying to worry about any goal except staying on the move.  

I was still clearly calorie depleted, but in my own little headspace, I knew I could gut the rest of this race out.  I had to keep going.  Not only was it important to me to cross that line at the end, but my ride was there waiting for me.

Section 7 – Todd’s Cabin to Dale’s (~4 miles)

I wasn't going to break any Strava records, but I was drinking water regularly, and sipping on gels a little at a time.  My legs felt fine, I would say there was very little, if any, physical fatigue at this point.  The problem, was on any of the uphills, I just had no gas and got light headed.  Flats and downs, I could run at a "respectable" pace; or at least one respectable in my current state of affairs. It was at least fast enough that I picked up a few places, and wasn't getting passed. 

Section 8 & 9 - Dale's to the finish

Knowing that the last part of the race was mostly downhill, had me in decent spirits.  I knew I could still run downhills, and my quads were feeling good.  What did beat me up in this section, was the rocks.  My feet were quickly beginning to feel like hamburger meat.  I pushed on anyway, going as hard as my feet would take me.  I picked up a few more places, and didn't get passed at all.  I caught up to and ran with one other guy up until around the last mile, when I had to stop briefly because I thought I was going to vomit.  He took off, and I didn't have the gas to catch him (but I didn't vomit!). 

When I crossed the finish, my wife pretty much told me I looked like death, and she's probably right.  I pretty much felt that way. Surprisingly, by the end, I was only about 3 minutes off my 50 mile PR.  A huge shock to me, considering how the day went.  Makes me curious to know how fast I could have gone if I had gotten my nutrition right. 

It's pretty incredible how things can turn around in a race.  By no means was I feeling great in the second half, but I felt strong enough where another 25 miles seemed doable.  The mind is clearly a powerful part of running and racing:  when you're mentally strong, it can carry you through some physically tough times.  Conversely, when your head is not in the game, it can break an otherwise physically strong body.

Much was learned from this race, and I'm glad I stuck it out.  I credit that to my wife, more than myself.  Luckily she knew to push me back on the course.  I'd rather have a bad day running, than DNF for no real reason.  

There's something to be said for finishing, even if you know it's not going to be your best race.  Endurance sports aren't always easy, and they aren't always fun...but they always have a reward of some sort.  Often times, you just don't know what that is until it's over.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cool Running: A Race to the Finish.

A clear, crisp morning was upon us in Cool, California.  I opted to run my season opener in the 2014 Way Too Cool 50k, after getting in through the lottery in December.  A race with a storied history, on beautiful trails around the American River in Northern California, this was the 25th anniversary of the race.

This was the first ultra I would race without my family there for support.  Every other race I've done (with the exception of a semi local 16k Xterra race last year I did with a friend), I've had my wife and son there, but not this time.  Part of me really wanted them there, because that's what I'm comfortable with, but another part of me was excited to do one on my own and see how it went.

I flew to Sacramento Friday morning, after a less than enjoyable traveling experience.  Generally, we drive the family to all the races, but going on my own this time, it was just as cheap and more sensible to fly up the day prior, and get a rental car to use while I was there (shop around, folks!  I got my round-trip ticket, rental car, and two nights in the hotel for SIGNIFICANTLY less than it would have been to drive up on my own.  Having some hotel points to use always helps!).

The morning flight was a near disaster.  One thing that makes me apprehensive about flying, is making sure I get all the race gear I need to the race location at the same time as me!  I'm able to pack all my kit in my carry-on, but nutrition had to be checked.  I arrived at the airport plenty early for my first flight out of Palm Springs, but it didn't make any difference.  About 5 minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart, we were told that the aircraft had some "computer issues" and would be delayed for an undetermined amount of time.  I wasn't too worried to begin with, since I had a 30 minute flight to LAX, and then almost a 2 hour layover before my next flight, so I knew I had some time to play with.

Eventually, after almost rebooking to a different flight, our flight boarded an hour and a half after it's original departure time.  A short hop to LAX, and I would still have about a half hour before my next flight left.  I thought for sure my checked bag with my nutrition was not going to make it.  To make things worse, when we landed in LA, we had to wait on the tarmac for another 15 minutes because our gate wasn't open yet (explain that one to me...we arrive an hour and a half late, and the gate wasn't ready???).  Anyway, we finally get to the gate, and I have 15 minutes to get to a different terminal and get on my flight.  After what became a little pre-race shakeout run, I made it, and for once I was happy to find that my second flight was delayed about 20 minutes as well.

I caught the second flight to Sacramento, and caught some amazing views of the snow-capped Sierras on my way, with a nice early morning view of Mt. Whitney in the distance.  I landed, and much to my amazement, my luggage made it with me.  Score one for the airline, I was happy about that.  A short drive from Sac to Auburn Running Company for packet pickup, and it was still way before check in time for the hotel.  I called just to chance an early, check in, and much to my surprise, I got an early check-in, and a room upgrade.  Nice!

After some lunch, I headed over to one of the conference rooms where Trail Runner Nation was doing live podcasts all afternoon.  I showed up about half-way through Don, Scott, and Sally interviewing the legend, Gordy Ainsleigh.  He is a character, for sure!  If there is one thing Gordy can do ultra style besides running, it's talking!

Gordy with Trail Runner Nation.

Next up was an interview with another ultra-running legend, Karl Meltzer.  Karl is for sure an interesting guy, with some great advice to be given.  He's also super approachable.  I don't know why, but as a mid-pack runner, I always find myself kind of star struck by the elite ultra crowd.  I realize they are people just like us, but I think I am more nervous to talk to elite runners than I would be with a movie star.  I think part of it is just that I really look at most elite runners as people who really are role models, and not so much for someone who makes a living pretending to be someone else.

Karl with TRN's (and Nike Trail elite runner) Sally McRae

Me with Karl Meltzer.  Legend!

After Karl's podcast, was one with the Nike Trail Elite running team, which is new for this season as Nike is just getting back into the trail scene (with quite a bang, I might add).  There was Sally McRae, Chris Vargo, Alex Varner, and the team manager Pat Werhane.  They had some very interesting insights into training, nutrition, and racing.

From left to right:  Alex Varner (Nike), Chris Vargo (Nike), Scott Warr (TRN), Sally McRae (TRN and Nike), Pat Werhune (Nike team manager), Don Freeman (TRN)

TRN also gave out some good swag, and I ended up with a Petzl visor, and a TRN buff (you can never have too many of either).  There was another podcast to follow with the Patagonia team, but I decided to pass on that one, to get some dinner and make sure I had everything ready for the morning.

Sunrise over Cool.

I managed to get a good nights rest, before waking up early to head to Cool for the race start.  It was pretty chilly in the morning, somewhere in the 40s, but I knew I would warmup quick once the sun came out and I got racing.  I got there about an hour and 15 minutes before race start, which was good, because with 1200 racers in this one, parking spots were at a prime, and I got a good one abut 100 yards from the start line.

Start line from my parking spot.  Get there early folks!

Race time approached, and I made my way to line up in wave 1 at the start line.  My goal (as discussed with my coach) was to make sure I didn't go out too hard, too early.  The first 1.5 miles or so is on paved road, so the start is fast.  This gave the pack a little room to thin out, but it was still pretty crowded.  From the start, I had mentally developed a tiered goal system for this race :

A goal:  Run sub-5 hours
B goal:  Run sub 5:17 (an arbitrary time listed as a projected finish on Ultra Signup)
C goal:  PR (which meant running sub 6:04, my Bootlegger time from November)
D goal:  As always, finish without total body destruction, regardless of time

As I was moving down the paved road, I checked my watch, and noticed I was running sub-half marathon pace.  I knew I needed to slow down, but being a slight downhill, and the race day excitement, that was tough.  I decided it would be a perfect time to stop and take a pee break in the tree line, to reign myself in a little bit.

After my break, I got back into it at a slower pace, and then we hit the trail.  Coming from a wide paved road, to single track, created an instant bottle neck and everything slowed to a crawl.  Leave it to me, 1.5 miles into the race, just getting on the trail, and I caught a rock with my toe and ate some dirt!  Thankfully, my handheld bottle took the brunt of it, and I was up and moving right away.

The first 8 miles of the race completes a loop on the Olmstead trail, and circles back to the start/finish area for the first aid station.  The first 10k of this, was a straight conga line.  There wasn't too much passing to be done, but I would pass going just off trail on the uphills since I was feeling strong.  The trails got pretty muddy in some areas due to the rain so that did slow things down a bit.  Even with the crowd and the mud, I must say, these trails are beautiful!

After just a little climbing, some mud, and some creek crossings, the pack thinned out, and we came back into the first aid station.  It was getting warm at this point, so I took off my gloves and ditched my arm sleeves, refilled my bottle with water and Tailwind, and was on the go again.  I settled into a pack of runners moving at a solid pace, and we began the descent down to the first crossing of Highway 49.

This downhill section was awesome.  It was wet, and muddy, but footing was still decent.  We were moving down the hill at around 7:30 pace, but I wasn't pushing, so I kept the pace.  We hit Hwy 49, and crossed down to the next aid station, which was a quick splash and go, and I was running along the American river.

This section provides really nice scenery, and very runnable trail, with no major climbs.  I kept pushing, running right on that edge of comfortable and too hard.  At mile 17 we started climbing, and the power hiking began.  I was well under pace at this point, and began wondering if I had gone a little too hard in the first half, even though I felt good.  Time would tell...

Somewhere along the American River trail. Photo courtesy UltraRunner Podcast

We got back into the woods, and after some good climbing descending, I rolled into the next aid around mile 20.5.  This was when I realized my legs were getting tired.  This is a fast course, and a great one to PR on, but the second half of the course is where the majority of the 4500' of climbing comes in.  Looking back, I probably would have run a little easier in the beginning so I had more gas for the second half, but, I had already made my it was time to lie in it!

I spent a couple minutes or so at this aid, as my stomach was a little iffy, not because of a lack of nutrition, but probably because of the opposite.  Post race looking back, I was probably pushing AT LEAST 300 calories and hour, which is just more than my stomach could handle.  A few orange slices, and a ginger chew tucked in my cheek, and I was feeling better already and back on the move.

Next up, after some more rolling single track, was the infamous Goat Hill.  I do pretty good on climbs, but Goat Hill is no joke!  It's only 1/3 of a mile long, but has something like 400+ feet of climb.  With all the runners that had gone through already, it was pretty muddy, too.  I grunted up with a few other guys, and was sucking air by the time I got to the top at the aid station.  I took a few to fuel up, top off, and collect myself, before starting down the trail.  I looked at my watch before I took off, and it was just short of 4:20 or so.  Only 5 miles left, but I knew that short of a complete turn around in my legs, I wasn't going to push out 8:00/miles for the rest of the course, especially with one more major climb left.  Time to revert to my B goal, which was still in reach.

Post Goat Hill, it's mostly downhill, and this is when I realized that my quads were pretty much shot (note to self, do more downhill training for my next race).  About a mile and a half outside of the GH aid, I fell again.  This time, it wasn't a stumble and back up, this was a hard fall.  Caught my foot on a HUGE boulder in the trail (okay, probably just a little twig sticking up) and went down, no hands, straight face plant.  This was one of those falls, where you get that tingly feeling throughout your body, and everything just tenses up.  I didn't jump back up after this one, instead just rolling to the side and letting people pass.  Several runners asked if I needed help, but I assured them I just needed a minute to assess and recover.  I did a quick self check, coming to the conclusion that the only thing that was injured was my ego, and the fact that I would probably be short at least one toenail on my foot (I was right, except it ended up being two...casualties of war).

Moving again, on toasted quads, I just sucked up the pain as much as I could for the rest of the downhill, and then hiked the climb back up to Hwy 49 for the second crossing.  I came into the last aid station, and didn't even look at my watch, because I knew there was only 1.5 miles or so left, and I was just going to give it all I had.  A brief stop at the aid just to get doused with water, and I was through in no time!

I started the wet, rocky climb out of the aid, and back towards the finish.  Goal from here?  Just run as hard as you can, and you get what you get, so that's what I did.  I still managed to pass a few more people in the last stretch, so I took that as a good sign.  I came up to where the grassy meadow was, and I could hear the finish line, so I kicked it into high gear for the last 400 meters or so.  All done, and I crossed the finish at 5:15, ahead of my B goal!

That night, after some email conversation with my coach (Ian Torrence), I was still disappointed with my finishing time.  I'm not really sure why, except that I had it deep in my head to get that sub-5 finish.  I know it was attainable, and that's why I was second guessing my time.

There are several things I probably could have done differently to aid in that sub-5 goal, now that I look back on it:

1.  Stayed at the faster pace at the beginning to get ahead of more of the crowd before getting onto the trail.  Getting a little more out front would have used up more energy, but I could have settled into a better pace, ahead of many more runners.

2.  Ease back on the first half to leave more gas for the second.  I was feeling good in the first 17 miles, so I went with it, but maybe just saving 30 seconds per mile would have left me with much more energy for the latter stages, and still kept me far under goal pace.

3.  Work more downhills in training leading up.  A mistake I won't make again, I spent too much time on flats in training, and my quads just weren't ready for it.  A decision I made solely on my own, but something I won't do again in the future.  My next race has a significant amount of downhill, much of it coming in a very long stretch at the end of the race.  I'll be prepared for it.

4.  Practice running in wet shoes.  While my shoes performed well in the mud, I don't get much (if any) rain where I live in the high desert of Southern California.  In the future, if it's a race where I know it's going to be wet, I'll spray my feet with a hose before taking off on runs.  It may not seem like much of a big deal, but I did develop one blister that became an annoyance.  Also, had I known how the shoes were going stretch and fit a little sloppier when wet, I likely would have selected different foot wear.

A week removed from the race, I've come to be pretty happy with my finish, being as it's a season opener.  It was a good fitness check, it pointed out some weaknesses, and still showed that I'm improving fairly rapidly.  It's a good spot to be in, when you know you can improve upon a time that was still a PR by over 45 minutes.

As always, running with the Eagle. 

For the gear junkies, here's what I used for the race:

1.  Team RWB singlet
2.  SF Running Company trucker hat (perfect for running!)
3.  TNF Better Than Naked shorts
4.  Zensah calf sleeves
5.  Wrightsock socks
6.  Nike Zoom Wildhorse trail shoes
7.  Nathan handheld
8.  Nathan trail mix belt with one flask of pre-mixed Tailwind concentrate
9.  Cheap gloves
10. Free arm sleeves from a TNF race
11.  2Toms sportshield for those sensitive parts ;)


I used one Vespa packet 45 minutes prior to the race, and sustained with 200 calorie bottle of Tailwind.  Pre-mixed concentrate that was a combination of the Naked and Mandarin Orange flavors.  I occasionally supplemented with orange slices or potatoes at the aid stations.

Final Thoughts:

I want to give a nod to my coach, Ian Torrence, without whom I'm sure I wouldn't have done so well.  He's continued to introduce me to challenging training, which has shown in spades to be beneficial in my running.  Choosing him to coach me is the single greatest investment I've made in my running future, hands down.  I can't wait to continue with him this season, as the racing only gets more and more challenging.

Shout out to Team Red, White, and Blue.  I love to represent Team RWB at all my races, because it's an organization I believe in.  For more details, or to get involved, go to

Tailwind Nutrition (not a sponsor, used by choice) has proven time and time again to be the best race nutrition I've found.  I've come to points in races before (as I'm sure we all have) where I just couldn't stomach another gel, but Tailwind always goes down easy, with no GI distress.  Like their motto, it really is "All you need.  All day.   Really."

Thanks to Nathan Performance (no affiliation), for making a handheld bottle with an extra finger hole in the strap.  WAY more comfortable.  And that new easy squeeze bottle is the bomb.

Thanks to the NorCal Ultras crew, and specifically Race Director Julie Fingar.  You put on a hell of a race, with some of the best volunteers out there.  They wouldn't have let me fill my own bottle if I wanted to!  And they were super fast and crazy nice!  Not to mention, one of the best post-race parties I've, cupcakes, soup, beer...a recipe for success!

Also, as always, a thanks to my wife, whose support has allowed me to get where I am today with my running and my life.  She gets it, which is a rarity when it comes to people understanding why we do these crazy ultra endurance activities.  Erin, I couldn't do this without your support and understanding.  I can only hope to reciprocate as you continue your own journey into the endurance world (she's doing her first marathon this year!!!!!).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snow Runnin'

Running in the mountains in the snow is something we don't get the chance for very often in SoCal.  There's a certain sort of peace that comes with a long run in mountain snow.

Where I went, and Where I'm going.

I suppose it's that time of year where I must have the obligatory year-in-review / 2014 goals post.  I'm going to keep this running oriented, otherwise this one could just get way too long!

2013 was my first year in the ultra marathon world, and has thus changed my perspective on running altogether.  I started out with Leona Divide 50k in April, and ended with The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile Championships in San Francisco, and throughout this year, here's what I've learned from running and racing:

- Race nutrition is a fickle beast. 

- Distance is not necessarily the most important factor to consider in a race. 

- Progression comes from experience. 

- Time flies on a race course. 

- My wife is an awesome ultra crew chief.

- Training the same way everyday, will most likely yield you the same results.

- My 5 year old son is the best finish line pacer you can find. 

- You can't judge a book by it's cover, or more importantly, you can't judge an ultrarunner by his or her appearance.  

- There is always someone faster.  Accept it. 

- Trail runners are the most awesome community of individuals out there.  You always have friends at every race, even if you haven't met them yet.

And I'm sure there's many more lessons...but I have to save some intelligent and philosophical comments for future blog posts so people keep reading...

Here's some running related goals for 2014:

- Get faster. 

- Run farther.

- Make training count.

- Make training quality.

- Don't fear the road and track.

- Spend more time in the high mountains.

- Don't forget to smile.

- Make time for some adventure.  

- Give back to the trail community.  I'm sure we (the wife and I) will be volunteering at several races this year, because we believe it's the right thing to do.  You gain a different perspective from the other side of the aid station table.

- Enjoy it.  Sometimes we forget why we run.  My goal is to remember.

And here's my racing goals for 2014:

- March:  Way Too Cool 50k - Honestly, I entered the lottery for this race not expecting to get it, but I did.  Going for a 50k PR.

- May:  PCT 50 - A good, fairly local, spring 50 miler.  It's got some good uphill grind for the first half, and quad bursting downhill the second.  Should be fun.

- August:  Telluride Mountain Run - I wanted to do a big mountain race up in the San Juans, and since I don't see myself getting into Hardrock anytime in the near future, this should fill that want for me :).

- September:  Kodiak 100 - I'm going for my first 100-miler.  I chose this one for a few reasons; it's close to where I live, I can run the whole course in training before the race, I love the trails and mountains where the race is located. 

And a shout out to my new and first running coach, Ian Torrence.  I looked forward to working with him throughout the next racing season.  Remember where I said earlier that progression comes from experience?  Well if you don't have all the experience yourself, the best thing to do learn from someone who does.  Runners always say the single greatest investment you can make in your running life is a coach, so that's what I did.  And if you're going to do it, might as well get the best, right?  Right.

So there it is...some of what I learned last year, and some plans for this year.  Might there be more for 2014?  I'm sure there will...but even I might not know what that is yet!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Race of my Life: My TNF 50 Race Report.

Six months, essentially; that's how long I have been preparing for this race.  On every run, in every preparatory race leading up to this one, all I thought about was this 50 first.  Every time I had a bad long run, or a race that didn't go as well as I thought, I questioned whether or not I was going to be ready.

Can I do this?

Did I pick a race that was too tough for my first 50?

Am I going to finish?


All these questions, as well as many more, ran through my head throughout my training this cycle.  I knew 50 miles was a long way to begin with, and 20 miles longer than I had ever run before.  I knew mentally that there were so many things that could go wrong in the first 30 miles, let alone the last 20.  I had a pretty good idea what to expect from my body for the first 50k, but I had no idea what would follow.  The only way to find out?  Go for it.


Last year, when my family and I came up here for me to run the marathon, we only arrived the day before the race.  After driving for nearly 9 hours, and then having to go downtown to packet pickup, and then having everybody (myself included) a little cranky and stressed out due to travel, it made it a very hectic weekend.  We decided to allow a little more of a buffer this time, and arrived in town on Thursday instead.  Thursday ended up being hectic and stressful from travel, but that was ok, because I knew I still had one more full day before the race.

Friday was a bit more relaxed.  We went downtown to The North Face store to do packet pickup, and then spent much of the afternoon checking out the city.  Before heading back to the hotel in Larkspur for the night, we made the obligatory stop at San Francisco Running Company, so I could get my trucker hat, and just chat with Jorge Maravilla.  Naturally, I had to try on some new shoes...and in fact, ended up buying a new pair of Hoka Rapa Nui Trails.  Would I break the number one rule of "nothing new on race day?"  Hmmmm....  I was planning on running in my Hoka Stinson Tarmacs, but with the weather calling for cold temps, and potential for rain, I wanted the option for a little more traction.  Against the advice (sorry Jorge), and my better judgement, I decided I would at least start the race in the new ones, with the option to switch out at a crew access point.

After that, we went back to the hotel and I got in a short two mile shakeout run.  It was cold, and wet, but my legs felt good.  The taper had done me some good.  I felt ready.

Some delicious P.F. Changs for dinner in the hotel room, and it was lights out for a 3 a.m. wakeup.  I actually slept pretty well, and got in a solid six hours, waking up about 30 minutes before my alarm went off.  Before I woke up anyone else, I took the quite moments to get in my pre-race....ummmm...."bowel emptying."

I ate my breakfast, with the intent to get in a solid amount of calories before the race started.  I had a blueberry bagel w/cream cheese, a banana, a gatorade, and a grabbed a lara bar to eat on the way.

We got to Fort Barry at about 4 a.m., and just beat the traffic rush.  The original intent was for the family to see me off at the starting line, then drive over to meet me at the first crew access at Tennessee Valley.  Because of the traffic and the timing, we instead decided I would take all my stuff to the start line by myself, and the crew would head straight to the aid station to make sure they were there in time.

At the start line, groups of runners were all huddled around the heaters trying to stay warm.  It was cold!  It was probably in the low 30s, but at least it wasn't raining!  The stars were out, and it was shaping up to be a great day on the trails.  At about 4:55 a.m. we were lined up at the start, and at around 5:02, the race was off.


I made it a point to start this race as conservative as possible.  I've had "issues" in the past with starting to fast, and paying for it later in the race.  I didn't want that to happen this time.  Heading up the first climb, I kept a comfortable pace.  I didn't want to look at my watch, or focus on pace; my only plan was to run sustainably.  I ran when I felt like it, and hiked when it got steeper.

It's a surreal experience to look ahead of you and behind you on the climb, and see nothing but headlamps snaking up and down the trail under the starry skies.  Sometimes you just have to take a moment, and absorb everything.  All these runners, from so many different places, here to do the same thing.  Everyone here to test their mental and physical toughness.  Such a group all moving together towards the same goal is quite a force.  To miss that aspect of an ultra, might be to miss the point all together.

We reached the top of the first climb, and hit the first downhill section of about 2 miles.  I love this section of the course.  I really wanted to just let it rip down the hill, but I restrained myself a little.  I knew I had to save some quads for later.  That doesn't mean, though, that I shuffled down it.  Looking back at my data, I was pushing around a 7:40 pace in that section, and managed to sneak by quite a bit of traffic.

I blew through the 5 Mile aid station, and pushed on down the course.  There was a brief moment of blindness when an on course photographer was letting his flash rip along the trail...I can only imagine what that picture will look like!  The second climb took us up the Miwok trail, and I remember that climb from last year, because it seemed to take forever.  Maybe it was a higher level of fitness this year, or the fact that it was dark, but that climb was much shorter than I remember.  At the top, I fell into a group of around 8 or so runners, as we began the descent into Tennessee Valley.

Another great view from the top of the Miwok climb, as you could see headlamps stringing all the way down the hill, and then in the distance, the lead pack lights heading up out of the climb.  If I'd been carrying a camera, that would have been a moment to capture.

We cruised quickly in our little pack down the hill, pulling each other along as a group, until we hit the stables and rolled into the TV aid station.  My wife was there waiting, handing me a new bottle, a couple of gels, and making sure I was eating.  So far, so good.  Nutrition was right on schedule, and so was my pace.  I grabbed another Lara bar to eat on the way out, and then took off down the road to on my way to Muir Beach.

Thats me in the Orange/Blue jacket.  Leaving Tennessee Valley aid station #1.


This has to be one of the greatest sections of the entire course.  I powered up the climb out of TV, and then jumped onto the Coastal Trail headed towards Pirates Cove.  The sun had just started coming up, and the views were incredible.  The ocean waves breaking agains the rocks below is something out of a movie scene.  This section went pretty fast, as it's very runnable.  I hit the descent into Muir Beach, and my thoughts went back to last year, and how many times I fell on my ass going down this hill due to the mud.  Not this time.  A dry downhill brought fast running.  I was glad this hill was dry, because I knew I would see it again later.

I pulled into the Muir Beach aid station, and took a minute to run through a quick system check:  feet - good, legs - good, stomach - good, mental state - good.  I knew the biggest climb was coming up, so I forced as many calories as I could handle in, but mostly sticking to simple sugars and boiled potatoes.  A quick port-a-potty stop, and I was off towards Cardiac.  Things were going well.


After a brief flat section along the road and across a field, we hit the trail heading up Cardiac.  I had been dreading this climb all day.  I would have loved to have pre-run this climb, but since I don't live there, that's not really a possibility.  I didn't really do enough research to know what to expect from this climb.  I had no idea if it was switchbacks or a straight climb, and I didn't really want to know until I got to it.  Ignorance is bliss, right?  Maybe, but in reality I figured if in my training I just assumed this was going to be an incredibly brutal climb, then I would prepare as such, and it's a win-win.

I was surprised at the relative ease of the climb.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy, but it was easier than I was expecting.  The first section of the climb is all switchbacks, that were easily tackled with a run/hike.  After the switchbacks, it was just a long, continuous climb, that gave me a good chance to get more calories in.  I arrived at the Cardiac #1 aid station, feeling really good.  That being said, I was ready for some downhill!  I hit up my drop bag, refilled my bottle, grabbed some potatoes and coke, and pushed on.


Leaving Cardiac headed towards the next aid was probably the longest 5 miles of the race.  It was relatively slow moving.  After some nice downhill through the woods, you hit the single track that is all exposed, and becomes two way traffic about half-way to the aid station.  There were several people flying back towards me down the hill from McKennan Gulch, so I took my time trudging up the hill, and yielding the trail to the faster runners when necessary.

I did see something here that I didn't expect to see.  About three quarters of the way to the aid station I saw Rory Bosio coming towards me, not looking too good.  Then shortly after that, I saw Dakota Jones not looking that great either.  Come to find out, they both had the flu, but started the race anyway.  Dakota ended up pushing through with the flu, and finishing the race anyway.  Props to him, because I think that is very admirable.  It's also nice to know that sometimes even the elites have a bad day.  On a side note, I can claim I finished less than an hour behind Dakota on my first 50 (ignore the fact that he was crazy sick...we can leave that little detail out).

McKennan Gulch aid was a nice little break.  I took a couple minutes here and refilled my bottle, downed a Gu, and had some chicken broth and potatoes.  Follow that by a quick splash of coke, and I was "on the road again" (seriously, there was a very short section of road to get back to the trail, so my little lyric works).  Going back down the trail was significantly faster for the first couple of miles until we turned off to head towards Stinson Beach.

The downhill section to Stinson was awesome, semi-technical trail through the woods.  It was hard not to love this section, and just running through it put a smile on my face.  I wouldn't say my quads were tired at this point, but I could feel the constant downhill in them.  About 1/2 mile before I hit the Stinson Beach aid station I started going through a bit of a bad patch.  It wasn't nutrition related, or physical fatigue.  I think it was more of just coming off that last section with the exposure, and the cold weather was just starting to take it's toll mentally.  I kept pushing, knowing that I was going to see my crew at Stinson Beach, and as I rolled in, they were there waiting.

I spent what seemed like maybe 5 minutes at that aid station, refilling my nutrition, and just taking a moment.  I switched out my buff for my visor and sunglasses, drank some chicken broth, ate a few potatoes.  I had dropped my jacket, because I was starting to get a little warm, but then a breeze blew through the aid station, and decided to put it back on, and just loose the arm sleeves underneath.  I had my wife stick my iPod in my vest in case I wanted it later, and I walked back out on to the trail.

At Stinson Beach before I decided to put my jacket back on.

At Stinson Beach...Not sure what I was thinking here!

Leaving Stinson Beach onto the famous Dipsea Trail.

Stinson Beach aid was nuts!  There were tons of people in a very small area.  It's not anything I blame on race organization, because the location of it was just a small area, so there's really not much you can do, but man, it was busy!


I will never run the Dipsea trail race.  Period.  Those stairs, combined with the bad mental patch I was in, got me so frustrated.  It's a beautiful section, but I was not in the mood for all the stairs.  I'm pretty sure I was fueled by anger in that section, because I was hiking up the hill to Cardiac pretty quickly.  I passed several runners, and then we came out of the tree line back into the sunlight.  Something clicked right about then.  Maybe it was the sun, maybe the views, maybe just being past all those stairs, because that's when I pulled out of the bad patch and was feeling good again.  I pushed on, thankful this climb was not as long as the first Cardiac climb, and made it to the aid station.

I know I made it to the aid station in about 6:20, but not because I had been looking at my watch.  Shortly after I came in one of the aid station workers announced Rob Krar had just won the race.  I remember making some jokes with the aid station volunteers (who were awesome) about how Rob should consider going pro, as I spent a few minutes getting into my drop bag, and grabbing some more salty snacks, downing more Gu, and having another cup of chicken broth.  More downhill was next, and I was excited for it.


This was a long section on the Dipsea through Muir Woods.  The forest was something I would have imagined in the Lord of the Rings movie.  The ferns, the tall Redwoods, the streams, it was awesome.  I could have spent all day just hiking around this section and taking pictures if I wasn't in a race.

I came to a section along the trail where there were about 10 runners sitting on the side of the trail, not moving.  Apparently there were some forest service workers bringing down bridge parts, so we had wait until we passed.  I sat there with the other runners for around 5 minutes or so.  Some people might get angry that they had to stop, but I didn't care.  I was enjoying some conversation, making jokes about how this was going to prevent me from my 7 hour finish goal, and just having a good laugh.

One thing I noticed more in this race than any other I have run, is that I stayed positive almost the whole time, laughed a lot, and tried to keep a smile as much as I could.  People always say it makes a difference, and people are right.  A single laugh in a long race can carry you for miles.

More stairs, more beautiful trail, and more downhill, and I was rolling into Old Inn.  I have to admit, I was a little confused here, because I totally had it in my head that I was going back into Muir Beach.  Clearly that was not the case!  No worries though, I was enjoying every step.  Same aid station routine, and off I went to Muir Beach #2.


At this point I was running in unknown territory, mileage wise.  I don't remember much of the trail through here, just that I was amazed at how good I was feeling.  I started passing 50k runners, happy that I was still moving well.  I could not have guessed that I would be feeling this good nearly 40 miles into a tough trail race.  Sure, I was tired, but I've felt far worse than this at mile 20 of a 50k than I was feeling at that moment.

Before I knew it, I was in Muir Beach #2.  Gu, bottle, and go.  I knew I had a tough climb ahead.


The climb out of Muir Beach is tough.  It's steep, and instead of the turning off onto the coastal trail, it's a left turn and keep climbing!  Luckily, I was familiar with the climb from last year, so I just put my head down, and hiked it out.  At the top, it was some rolling downhill, back into Tennessee Valley for the final crew access at the aid station.

I came into the aid station, still running (or something resembling it at that point), and found my wife waiting.  A quick bottle change, and as she was asking the typical crew questions (how do you feel?  have you been eating?  what do you need) I just remember smiling, giving her a kiss and saying "see you at the finish."

I knew I had one more long climb up Marincello Trail, but I didn't care.  I knew I was going to finish feeling good.  There wasn't a thing that was going to get me down at this point.  Fort Barry here I come!


I hiked up most of Marincello, with my hiking legs still feeling good.  I was chatting with other runners, and dodging mountain bikers coming down the trail.  I knew Alta aid station was at the top of the climb.  Instead of stopping for anything, I called out my number as I ran through and started the downhill section.

I definitely didn't run this section at the pace I did that morning, but I was still running it at a pace respectable for a 50 mile mid-packer.  At the bottom, I hit the flat trail, and then the turn across the footbridge back to the road going to the finish at Fort Barry.

A short climb was left, and near the top, there was someone standing at the top who said "You've got it in you, RUN to that line."  He was right.  And so I ran.  I rounded the corner, could see the finish, and here the music.  The cowbells were ringing as people were yelling "Runner!"  I felt like that was the fastest I'd run all day.

A turn on to the grassy field, and there it was; the finish line.  I'd done it.  I crossed that line feeling better than I had felt after any race before.  The adrenaline was flowing, and for that brief moment, all the pain was gone.  It never ceases to amaze me the support from random people you get when you cross that line, or even along the course.  The ultra community really is a family.  It doesn't matter if you are front of the pack or back of the pack, everyone is welcomed.

Coming across the line.  Race Done

And so I was done.  I finished my first 50 miler.  And though it was the end of that race, it's only just the beginning.


Post race picture with Salomon International Team members (from L to R):  Greg Vollet (team manager and awesome runner), Anna Frost (she's an awesome person and great runner), Killian Jornet (no intro necessary), and me.

First of all, I know I personally like to see in race reports what people used for gear, nutrition, etc.  It gives me ideas to what I can use for myself in the future, so here's my details:

- Tech shirt (from Bootlegger 50k) under my Team RWB singlet.
- TNF arm sleeves (dropped them at Stinson Beach)
- Gloves (dropped them at TV #1)
- Buff until Stinson, then visor
- TNF Stormy Trail Jacket (wore the whole time)
- Pearl Izumi 3/4 Ultra Tights
- Injinji 2.0 socks, with dress sock liners over them
- Hoka One One Rapa Nui Trail shoes (for my first time wearing them, they worked out awesome and I kept them on the whole time)
- Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest (only used it to carry nutrition in the bottle pouches)
- Nathan Handheld
- Black Diamond Icon headlamp (200 lumens does the body good)
- iPod shuffle (carried it from halfway, but never used it)


My nutrition was spot on for this race.  I had steady energy all day, and never felt hungry or bonky.  Between aid stations I consumed at least one Gu Roctane (100 calories), and 1 bottle of Tailwind (mixed to ~150 calories per bottle).  Sometimes I would take an extra Gu on climbs, and at the aid stations I took in chicken broth, potatoes, and coke.  At Stinson Beach, I also drank a small can of Red Bull.  I probably averaged between 240-300 calories an hour.  It worked out perfectly, and my stomach never went south.  I also took 5 Master Amino Acid Pattern pills at each aid station, and I took 8 pills before the start.

Pre-race I consumed probably 600-700 calories of a bagel w/ cream cheese, banana, gatorade, a cherry pie Lara bar, and a red bull.

Training Notes:

I ran pretty conservatively early on, and just carried a comfortable pace all day.  Could I have run harder?  Yes.  I did finish with some left in the tank; however, I would rather do that than have to slog the last 10-15 miles because I went too hard too early.

That being said, my biggest weakness is running the hills.  I'm pretty solid at hiking, but I think in training I need to spend time doing more hill repeats.  That, and speed work.  I've never really done speed work or hill specific stuff, I just kind of ran what the trail gave me.  Next race I'll do more fast running and strength work to get better.

My biggest strength has got to be the downhills.  Even though I could use a little more "quad seasoning" before a race with that much descent, my quads held up pretty well.  I was still running downhills at a decent clip late in the race, and early in the race, that's where I did the majority of my passing.

Crew Notes:

My freakin' wife is amazing.  Her job out there is clearly harder than mine.  She managed to deal with crewing on top of the stress of a 5 year old and a 13 year old spending 10 1/2 hours out in the cold all day.  I literally, could not do this with out her.  I know she had a long, rough day, but never once did she let me know that.  She is way tougher than I am, and there is no doubt about that.

I did type out some "crew instructions" for her to have for the race, but she never had any question as to what to do for me at the aid stations.  She is a one person crew expert.  When I crossed the finish, I think she had a bigger smile than I did.  The mental, physical, and emotional support that she provides in these endeavors, both training and racing, is unparalleled.  Knowing that I have someone that truly supports me on these crazy adventures is worth more than words can describe.

Erin, I love you, and thank you for going on this journey with me.  Without you, I couldn't do it.