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 bed...now 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 ;)

Nutrition:

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 www.teamrwb.org.

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 seen...pizza, 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 miler...my 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?

CAN I DO THIS!?!

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.

PRE-RACE

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.

PART ONE - START TO TENNESSEE VALLEY (MILE 8.7)

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.


PART TWO - TENNESSEE VALLEY TO MUIR BEACH (MILE 12.7)

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.

PART THREE - MUIR BEACH TO CARDIAC #1 (MILE 17.9)

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.

PART 4 - CARDIAC #1 TO MCKENNAN GULCH (MILE 22.7)

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!

PART 5 - STINSON BEACH TO CARDIAC #2 (MILE 30.4)

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.

PART 6 - CARDIAC #2 TO OLD INN (MILE 36.3)

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.

PART 7 - OLD INN TO MUIR BEACH #2 (MILE 39.9)

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.

PART 8 - MUIR BEACH #2 TO TENNESSEE VALLEY #2 (MILE 44.0)

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!

PART 9 - TENNESSEE VALLEY #2 TO THE FINISH

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 NOTES

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:

Gear:
- 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)

Nutrition:

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.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bootleggin' it. My 50k race report.

I’ve never gone into a race before without a decent taper.  I’m a big proponent of the concept that it’s better to be 10% under-trained, than 1% over-trained.  In fact, I’ve only ever run one other race that I would say I “trained through” it.  That race, while I didn’t perform up to what I knew I could, ended up going pretty well as far as my placement overall (even though I felt fatigued and beat up pretty much the whole time).  

That last race that I trained through, was the Big Bear Ridge Run 24 miler (actually around 27 miles with a last minute course change).  You can read how that went here.  Aside from what I would call “lackluster” race management, and pretty tired legs, I consider that race quite a confidence booster for what I perceived my fitness level to be, both mentally and physically.  I placed well overall, and podiumed in my age group, so I was pretty happy with where I ended up.  Knowing that you can perform decent, even on tired legs (that race capped off what was a series of consecutive 60-70 mile weeks), mentally helps you to know that you are improving, and on the right track.

Bootlegger was going to be another race that I would train through, and my last “big” outing in preparation for the upcoming The North Face Gore-tex 50 miler in San Francisco next month, which will be my first 50 mile race.

I didn’t taper for Bootlegger, although I will admit I had a slightly lighter week leading up to it, having only put in around 24 miles for my mid-week runs, and then taking the day before the race off.  I honestly had no idea how the race would play out.  I felt good and strong, but I also knew I wasn’t as fresh as I could be.  But that’s what this is about, right?  I purposely scheduled it to be my last big “catered” training run; however, I’m really bad at taking it easy and not trying to “race” an event, regardless of how I feel physically.  We would see how things went come race day, but if nothing else, my spirits were high!

Here’s a brief synopsis of race details for those who are unfamiliar with the Bootlegger 50k:

This race is directed by none other than the ultra-community legend Ian Torrance.  Ian definitely knows his stuff when it comes to trail and ultra races, and his stature in the community, as well as his results prove that.  

This year, the race was held on November 9, exactly 4 weeks out from TNF 50.  Also this year, it was the USATF 50k trail championships.  I’m a solid mid-packer, with the exception of small local races, but this being the championships this year, I knew there would be some fast runners there, and there were (Alex Varner, Mario Mendoza, Jason Wolfe, Dylan Bowman, Michele Yates, Emily Harrison, and many more…seems Ian brought a pretty stout contingent with him from Flagstaff!).  

Here’s the course description, as per the race website www.bootlegger50k.com:

The 50k course consists of two 15.43 mile loops with a total of 4386 feet of elevation gain/loss.  There will be 7 well-stocked aid stations spaced no more than 5 miles apart.  The terrain breakdown is 28 miles of single track, 1.5 miles dirt road, and about 0.5 miles of pavement.  Much of the single track trail is technical, yet there are some fast and smooth sections.

The course is out there somewhere...


It’s a perfect description of the course.  That’s exactly what I like to see in a course description; give the runner something he can understand, so he knows what to expect come race day.

The aid stations were fantastic, as were the volunteers.  I’ve run several races now, in several different locations across the country, and at varying distances.  These are the best race volunteers I’ve ever experienced.  Maybe I’m running the wrong races, but this is the first time I’ve ever rolled into an aid station, and the volunteers there were legitimately doing everything they could to help.  They wanted to refill my bottles for me, get me anything I needed, and help in any way they could.  I’ve never experienced that before (aside from when I volunteered at an aid station at AC 100 this year), and it sort of caught me off guard.  I’m used to doing everything myself at the aid stations, but here I really felt like people were there to take care of the runners, not just keep the tables full.  

I didn’t really partake in much of the traditional ultra-buffet foods at the aid stations, because I was working on a race nutrition plan.  I was using Tailwind the whole race, so all I needed was for my bottles to get refilled with water.  Tailwind worked out great (aside from some issues I need to tweak with the mix ratios, more on that later), so I stuck to that pretty much the whole time.  From what I saw, there was the usual salty snacks of chips and pretzels, some candy, fruit, and then water and Heed (there may have been more, but like I said, I didn’t really pay attention).  

The weather was pretty good.  It started out somewhere around 60 degrees in the beginning, and then crept up to probably mid-70s by race finish.  I will say, once that sun kicks up, it has a tendency to reflect off the rocks and make it feel warmer than it actually is.  Many parts of the course, with the exceptions of some of the canyons and washes had a nice breeze, which was good to help keep the perceived temperature under control.

So how did my race go?  Read on to find out…

Some of that great single track.


It was a relatively small field, but what I would consider the perfect size.  I’ve run some races with several hundred runners, and I prefer the smaller fields.  Everything seems more intimate, you never get bottle-necked, and you always have plenty of space if you want it.  The upside to the bigger races I have run, is that there is definitely more energy throughout the race.  Each has it’s benefits, so I like to mix it up.

The race started out with about a mile of slight downhill on pavement and dirt road.  I took off, and wasn’t really paying attention to where I was in the pack, but probably somewhere in the front of the middle.  The quick guys where out of sight pretty quickly, and I fell in with a small group of probably five runners.  I felt good, so I wasn’t really paying attention to pace, until that first mile clicked off on my watch, and I realized I ran it at around a 7:00/mile pace.  Too fast!  I was really trying to maintain a constant, sustainable effort, so I reeled it in a little bit after that first mile, just in time to start the gradual incline to the big climb on the course.  Apparently those I was running with felt the same, because we all slowed to pretty much the same pace.  I didn’t really pay attention to what that pace was, since I was more concerned with effort.

We climbed gradually for a little bit, until we hit the major climb in the race (somewhere around 800’ total?).  The course started a series of switchbacks, up and out of the canyon to the top of a small ridge line.  I went back and forth between running and hiking the climb, since I knew it was still early, and wasn’t trying to kill myself by mile 5.  It’s an interesting section, because you can look ahead or behind, and see the runners above and below you working their way up the hill.  The main body of runners was still pretty much together at this point, but we were starting to string out.  

Once I crested the ridge, it was out onto some nice single track, that got pretty technical, pretty fast.  I have to say, I love this about the course.  The techy single track sections reminded me of what I train on pretty much everyday at home, so it worked to my advantage.  I managed to pick up several places by the first aid station at mile 4.5ish.  It was early, I was still good on fuel, so I blew through this station and fell in behind another runner, with about two behind me.  

The next few miles was filled with fairly technical, desert single track, with a gradual downhill grade.  I don’t know what pace we were moving at, but it was somewhere on that line between comfortable and uncomfortable.  I do remember looking at my watch, and doing some quick math, and knowing that by sustaining this pace, I would finish right where I was targeting, which was around 5:30.  The runner in front of me didn’t seem to mind that a few of us were more or less pacing off of him, so we just trucked along the trail, with a nice view of Las Vegas in the distance.

The next section of the course got more technical, with several short, but abrupt, ups and downs.  Some of these required more what I would consider “scrunbling” than straight running, but I enjoyed it all the while.  It did get a little questionable about which trail was the course a few times, requiring a quick stop, look around for a marker, and then continuing.  It’s not that the course wasn’t marked well, I think it’s more a result of the orange course markers blending in with the surrounding desert terrain in the morning light.  There was only one turn (a sharp hairpin) that my group had to stop and back track slightly to get back on course, but it wasn’t more than 20 feet or so. 

But….here I made my first mistake.

I’m still working on what should be a good sustainable race pace for me, and I haven’t quite locked it in yet.  I know it varies greatly depending on the race and terrain, and so many other variables, but I search for that effort nonetheless.  My mistake, on that slightly missed turn, is that I was the first one in our little group to get back to the trail, so I was in the front.  What did I do?  I picked up the pace.  

It was early, still only 10 miles or so in, and I was feeling good.  What I neglected to remember, is that I still had over 20 miles to go.  I pulled into the next aid station with a slight gap on the runners I was previously with, got my bottles topped off (or flasks, rather), and took off back to the trail.  It was another two miles or so of similar terrain, and then we hit some smooth, flowing single track that went downhill for awhile into the next aid station, which was a little out and back section.  I met my wife and son there for the first time, who were my little crew for the race (do I need a crew for a 50k?  Nope.  But I’ll take any chance I can to get my family involved in races!).  I topped off again, and headed back out.  I passed the group I was running with going the opposite way on little out and back section, and now it was a gradual uphill of around 2.5 miles back to the start/finish to complete the first loop.  

I came through the start finish line in around 2:15, which was right on my target pace.  It was cool to go back through there, and have people cheering you on (not to mention, a good confidence boost always comes anytime Hal Koerner is standing there and says you’re looking good, even if you aren’t).  I tried to pick up the pace a little on the downhill after the start line, but quickly realized that if I didn’t stop and get the rocks out of my shoes, they were going to cause some carnage later on.  

Rocks out, I took off again, and started the gradual climb up to the switchbacks of the major climb.  There was far more hiking than running this time, but I was still feeling pretty good.  There were several day hikers on the trail, but they were very nice about moving out of the way for the runners coming through.  

I could see one runner about a 1/4 mile in front of me going up the climb, and that gave me a target.  I crested that ridge again, and started gaining some ground in my favorite technical section.  I pulled into the next aid station, where I met my crew again at mile 19ish.  I stopped for a minute or two this time, drank some Coke, got a couple swigs of Red Bull from my wife, took 4 Master Amino Acid Pattern pills, and then pushed on.

Coming down the trail to aid #5 where the crew was waiting!

Getting Closer!

Pulling out the empties for a refill from my wonderful crew!


About a half mile after that aid station is when I caught, and passed that runner in front of me…unfortunately, it wouldn’t last.  

Remember when I talked about that one mistake earlier?  Enter mistake number two, that compounds on the first.  Nutrition.  I knew around mile 15 or so that I hadn't been consuming enough calories.  I was using the Tailwind, which is a great product, the only issue is that I mixed it too strong in all my pre-measured packets, so it was too sweet.  After 15 miles, I couldn’t stomach it.  I switched to Gu, but was only putting down around 1 an hour.  Not enough.  At around mile 21, it caught up to me.  I was running at too quick an effort, and not taking in enough calories.

So then the death march began.  Miles 21-26 were miserable.  When I hit the second to last aid station, I downed some more Coke, and remixed my bottles to make them less sweet.  I also forced down a couple Gu packets, and keep on moving.  My mantra became “keep on movin’ on,” and so I did.  

Luckily, around mile 26 all the calories I forced down at the previous aid station began taking some effect, and I was resurrected, at least enough to start running again.  However, it would seem as though I ignored some other rocks in my shoes, and had developed what I would later find out was a couple of good blisters on my feet.  Oh well, such is trail racing.

I hit the last aid station, and was feeling blah.  There was another guy who came in right in front of me, who, at mile 28, decided to drop.  I think he twisted his ankle good, but geesh!  I’d have crawled that last 2.5, but I guess you have to know when to save it for another day.  There is a mental game to this aid station, because you can pretty much see the finish line from here.  If you’re feeling good, it’s “Sweet!  Almost Done!”  If you’re feeling bad, it’s “This is bullshit!  I can see it right there and I still have to go how far?”  At this point, I was somewhere in the middle.  

Almost to the finish.

Coming down the last stretch...

Picking up my finish line pacer.
 I pushed through the last couple miles, and crossed the finish about 30 minutes beyond my target, in 6:03:58.  Not what I was shooting for, but considering the circumstances (not tapering, bonking for 4-5 miles, blisters, etc), I was pleased with my results.  


Crossing the line!
What I always enjoy about having my family at races, is that as soon as I come within sight of the finish line, my 5 year old son runs out to meet me, and then runs across the line with me.  After a long day, that’s a feeling only those with kids will understand.  

Here’s what I learned from this race, which will be applied to future ones (we need to learn something each time, right?):

1.  Find your pace, and stay there.  A minute gained at mile 10 from pushing hard, could lose you 30 at mile 25.  

2.  Nutrition.  Figure it out.  In the week since the race, I think I’ve already got the mix dialed in.  It was pretty much my first training concern post race.

3.  Apply lube to under arms when wearing a singlet to run in.  Chaffing sucks.

4.  Don’t wait to empty out shoes if they are full of rocks.  That one minute up front can be worth more in the end.

5.  When possible, try to find people to run with.  Even running with someone else when nobody is talking is more motivating than spending half the course alone.

6.  Taking amino acids during the race drastically reduces my recovery time.  The next two days  post race my legs where a little sore (quads mostly), but not near what they have been after past races.  

7.  When in doubt, try to force in calories even if you are feeling good.  I know everyone says it, but I need to start with calories early, or I’ll feel it later.  

For all those interested in gear, here’s what I used, and how it worked for me.  Going from top to bottom:

1.  Mountain Hardwear visor.  Yep, I wear a visor when racing.  Could be a SoCal thing.

2.  Oakley sunglasses…no complaints.

3.  New Balance Team RWB singlet.  I’ll always rep them at races, because it’s a cause I believe in (just remember body glide on underarms).

4.  TNF arm warmers at the beginning (they were free, and they work well).

5.  Suunto Ambit watch.  Perfect as always.

6.  Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 hydration vest w/ 2 17-oz soft flasks.  I carried Tailwind mixed in the flasks, and straight water in a bladder.  It was too much.  With aid stations every 5-7 miles apart at most races, I’m going back to a UD handheld and a small waist belt to carry nutrition.  No need for the extra weight in a well-supported race.

7.  Pearl Izumi Ultra Short Tights.  Very euro of me, but I love them.  As long as I am wearing something underneath to prevent chaffing of my nether region, they work awesome.

8.  Drymax Trail Lite socks.  Going back to Injinjis…never had blisters with them.

9.  Inov-8 TrailRoc 255 shoes.  Perfect for that course.  Enough protection for all the rocks, but still relatively light and low profile.  However, as long as it’s dry, I’ll be wearing Montrail Fluid Flex for TNF 50, since the trails are pretty buffed out.  

All said and done, that race taught me some good lessons, and still boosted my confidence for TNF 50 coming up.  I didn’t finish as fast as I wanted, but I’ve got a good idea why, so that’s always a plus.  Not to mention, I did still set a 50k PR by 45 minutes, with no taper.  That has me pretty stoked.  

I’d like to run this race again, preferably as an end of season target.  I know coming in fresh I can hit that 5:30 or less time.  The course is perfect for it, and it’s just like my training grounds.  


To Ian, the RD, keep that race exactly how it is.  It’s put on awesomely by you and the volunteers, and you provide free beer and BBQ at the end.  Don’t lose that…namely the beer.  Keep the beer.

Best post-race company you could ask for.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pictures from my Playground.

No special focus for this post, but I thought that I might take this moment out of my "mini-taper" for the upcoming Bootlegger 50k to post some pictures of where I train at least 5 days a week.  The great thing, it's just out my front door, and has just about everything. 

There's sandy washes, rolling hills, steep ascents and descents, long climbs, short climbs, scrambling, climbing, and about all the sketched-out technical gnar you could ask for, and they go on forever.  All this, while still being within sight of my house the whole time.  The better thing about it?  In the past year I've been training out here, I could count on two hands the number of times I've seen anyone besides a coyote on these trails.  These have become my trails.

Miles of trails out here.

The view from above

Look closely, you can see trails everywhere.

Few people see the sunset over San Gorgonio from up here.

Sunset looking to the east.

A great view as the sun slips away.

Looking toward Joshua Tree National Park.

Wind-swept sandy washes...almost a shame to disturb them with footprints.  No worries, my traces won't last long.

Lights on as sun's gone.

The final colors of the evening sky, as dark sets in.