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.  

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

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.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:motion Trail N1

I go through a lot of shoes.  More specifically, I go through a lot of trail running shoes.  Some of them, I wear a few times, put maybe 75-100 miles on them, and just realize that they aren't what I was hoping they would be.  Most of those either end up as a gift to a friend, or in a pile in the bottom of my closet.

Every once in awhile, I find that shoe.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The shoe that feels like it was made just for your stride, for your foot, for the terrain that you train on the most.  The shoe that was made for you.  

I've only ever found a few of those shoes in the probably 20+ different pairs of trail running shoes.  The first, was the NB MT110.  I loved that shoe, and I still love it.  There is still a pair in my closet right now, that I still pull out on occasion.  It's the first pair of shoes I've ever bough a second pair of when my first wore out. I ran my first trail marathon in them.  I'll always have an infatuation with those shoes.

The second pair, was the Salomon XT S-Lab 4.  I felt fast wearing those shoes.  They say that bright shoes affect your mental perception of how fast you run, well, it's hard to find something brighter that Salomon red.  Unfortunately (or not), the one pair of these I owned I got at a crazy online sale, and I could only find them for $180 after that.  Nope, not paying it.

I went through a few other pairs of trail shoes, finding some decent ones, but never anything I really fell in love with.  I even bought another pair of super expensive shoes that came in bright red and were designed with the ultra runner in mind.  I wanted to love them, but I just couldn't.  The tread chunked off, the fit wasn't right, and after two runs, I sent them back.  

I needed something that could handle high mileage training, have a smooth and comfortable ride, provide grip on gnarly terrain, as well as run good on the flat, and last for a long time.  I searched, I read reviews, I asked people through social media, I looked back through pictures at what other people wore during trail races.  

I remembered back to Western States...and Timmy Olson.

He managed to win two years in a row (so far) wearing the Pearl Izumi Trail N1s.  At this point, I figured I should give them a shot.  Yep, I fell for the marketing, but I'm not afraid to admit it.  I have to be honest, all the reviews I read on them were mixed.  Some people complained that they were far too stiff after a couple of runs.  I was willing to take a chance, because I think in this day of "barely there" minimalist shoes, people have gotten far too used to a shoe being uber-flexy right out of the box.  Do people not remember what it is like to have to break in a pair of running shoes?

I was skeptical.  I had nothing to lose, because I know I could always go back to my MT110s if these didn't work out...but I had to wonder....what if they are that good?  So I ordered a pair...

My first pair of Trail N1s. 

When I got them and took them out of the box, I was surprised.  Fairly light, but not minimalist.  Good tread pattern, but not overly aggressive.  Decent amount of cushion, but only the necessary amount, not too much.  And that upper; that seamless piece of ventilated beauty.  I fell in love with that upper the first time I put it on.  

(*I'm not going to bore you with the specific specs and marketing quotes about this shoe, you can get it from Pearl Izumi's website if that's what you are looking for.)

Taking them out for the first run was on my usual route around my house, which is the perfect trail shoe  proving ground.  Starts out with about 1.5 miles of road, then cuts to a sandy fire road, then a super sandy climb up to a ridge line.  Once on the ridge line, there are miles of trail options; rolling gravel double track, and gnarly, techy, lava rock encrusted single track with rolling hills, and steep climbs/scrambles.  If a shoe can survive a couple runs through here, I'd be willing to put it through anything.

Out on the run, I was surprised with how they did on the road.  They obviously aren't road shoes, but they aren't uncomfortable or clunky on the road either.  Good so far, but I wasn't looking for road shoes.  

On the sandy fire road, they did just fine...but I'm still not super impressed; a decent pair of road shoes would be fine too.  

I climbed up the sandy slope to the ridge line, and to no surprise, the shoes filled with sand.  Now, I won't hold this against any shoe, because they all fill with sand.  This is that deep, powdery, uninhabited beach kind of sand.  And it's about a 50 degree climb.  Unless you're wearing fishing waders, you're going to get sand in your shoes.  

Next, I hit the single track.  This shoe came alive...

Steep rocky climb?  Check.  Rolling smooth track?  Check.  Bombing down loose, rocky, technical steep descents?  Double check.  This shoe handled everything I could throw at it on the first run, and just sat there asking for more.  I ran hard, I ran fast, up, down, off camber, soft ground, hard ground, anything I could find.  At the end I looked down at my feet, and in my head the shoes looked back and said "Is that all you've got?"

Pearl Izumi claims these shoes have some sort of E:Motion witchcraft built in to them.  I'm an average man, so I have no idea what all that mumbo jumbo means exactly.  But I do know this...whatever it is that's engineered into these shoes, it works.  Don't just take my work for it, take a look around.  Take the ultra running community for example.  It's not often you see the elite runners wearing shoes that are a different brand than what their sponsor makes...but when you do, there's a good chance it's these Pearl Izumis.  And now I know why.  

The more I wear these shoes, the more I like them.  They were stiff at first, but after about 50 miles, they broke in perfectly.  If you try them, and don't like them at first run, give them some miles, these shoes will make you a believer.  I've got around 250 miles in these shoes, and I still love them.  It's pretty much all I run in, no matter where I'm running.

Tread comparison, new (obviously) on the left, old on right after 250-ish miles.  There's probably just a little less than half the tread left in the forefoot.  Note:  The terrain around here destroys most shoes pretty quickly due to the grittiness.  These PI's have stood up much better than most shoes.

The red and black one still has the cardboard insert in it, but as you see in comparison, the upper has held up amazingly well.  Especially considering all the run-ins this upper gets with shard volcanic type rock.

In fact, I just bought another pair to keep in the box until I break them in for my fall 50 miler.  I love my Pearl Izumis.  No longer do I have to decide which shoe to buy, only which color.  I plan on running these things into the ground time, after time, after time, after time....

New ones in a new color...just waiting for a run.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Race Report: Big Bear Ridge Run 24 Miler

On a whim, I decided a couple of weeks ago to sign up for a local trail race that I had been eyeing on for quite sometime.  It met all the criteria I was looking for when I signed up:

1.  It was close enough that I could drive to the race, run it, and drive home in one day;
2.  It was something I hadn't run before;
3.  It fit in as a long run in my training schedule for my winter 50-miler.

The Big Bear Ridge Run fit the bill.  It's part of a series of races sponsored by Race Ready that takes place locally.  The other races are the Holcomb Valley Trail Runs (also near Big Bear), and the Mount Baldy Run-to-the-top.  Originally I thought it might be cool next year to run the whole series, but now I'm not so sure...more on that later.

We arrived Sunday morning at the registration area for packet pickup right at 7 a.m. when they opened up.  The one thing I found odd, was that on race day morning the packet pickup was in the parking lot of a mexican restaurant, and the start line was another mile or two away at a ski resort...or more so on the side of a residential road near a ski resort.  Packet pickup and race swag (see photo below) complete, the crew (my wife and son) and I were parked on the side of the road at the "starting line" hanging out until race time.  At least they had a porta-potty...

The race swag.

That was the sign on the side of the road.  Pretty self-explanatory.

As start time approached, all the runners mobbed to the starting area for a little pre-race briefing from the RD.  It was kind of a pain in the ass, because we were all gathered around him standing in the middle of a residential road, and there was still traffic trying to get by.  Prior to and during the brief, the RD was passing out colored stickers for each person to put on their bib to determine their distance; I don't remember which color was what distance, all I knew is that the race I was running, the 24 miler, was no sticker.

During the brief the RD passed to us that there was a slight course modification for the 24 miler due to the government shutdown on some of the trails, so it might have slightly affected the distance of the course.  That was fine with me, as he said it did involve increasing the amount of single-track on the new Skyline trail.  I was happy that considering the other races throughout the country were getting cancelled due to the shutdown, that this one was happening at all.  

The start of the race was a very local feel.  It was literally the race director saying "Go," and the runners were off.  People took off up the road, which quickly turned into fire road, climbing steadily for the first 2 miles.  It seemed like everyone was moving very fast, but then again, I've kind of grown accustomed to "ultra" speed....slow and steady.  Considering I was just treating this race as a catered long training run, I was in no hurry.  I had no real expectations for this race, just to go out and enjoy a day on the trail with some other runners.  (Ok, that's not entirely true.  There was one guy in the car next to us when we were waiting at the starting line, who insisted on mean mugging me the entire time prior to the start.  I don't know why, because I was trying to be cordial with him when I was outside the car getting my gear ready, saying "hello" and what not.  Apparently he was trying to be very intense and scare his competition.  It was then I made my only true goal for the beat him.  Goal accomplished.)

Race Start.  That's me in the visor and manpris.

My hill running legs weren't much for the day, so I pretty much stuck to power hiking all the climbs, which still worked out pretty well.  People would pull away from me slightly on the climbs, but my down hill legs were strong, and I would usually catch them and pass them on the flats and downhills.  Since this was the first race I've done where I didn't taper, I was pretty happy with how I felt.  I definitely wasn't fresh, having had about 45 miles that week in my legs already, including a 14 mile tempo run on Friday night.  So I just continued truckin' along, running my own race.  

I did notice that of the seven "aid stations" that were on the long course, I swear I went through the first 4 in the first 8 miles.  It was confusing, I'd come up to what I thought was an aid station, but it was just a water stop.  The aid station locations just seemed poorly planned in trying to accommodate all the race distances.  I had my Salomon hydration pack on, and plenty of nutrition, so I just blew through pretty much all the aid stations until somewhere around mile 12.  

At this point, I was pretty much running alone, having passed the few guys that were in front of me.  All the 10k and 13 mile runners had already hit their turn around points, and I couldn't see anyone else on the trail.  I had no idea what position I was in, and really, I didn't much care.  No headphones, no traffic, no problem.  Things were going well.  When I did get to the aid station that was somewhere around mile 12, I decided to stop for a second just to check out what was available.  Here is where I had my first real problem.

I realize small local races aren't going to provide your standard "ultra" fare of buffet foods at the aid stations.   And in reality, considering the shorter distance of the race, the aid station options would have been perfect; however (and it's a big however), at the very least, anything you provide that is perishable, should be fresh.  Bananas, brown...and I'm not talking cut up earlier that morning and starting to brown.  I'm talking cut up days ago and stored in the back of some guys truck brown.  I passed on those.  Next was oranges.  The oranges were brown.  I have no idea how long it takes for oranges to turn brown, buy I'll bet it's much longer than it takes bananas, and I know what those looked like.  No citrus today.  There was a handful of pretzel crumbs in a zip lock, water, coke, and electrolyte drink.  There was also a tray of fig newtons...those sounded delicious.  It was still early enough where I was glad to take in some sweets, so I grabbed a few of those, pounded a cup of coke, and headed down the trail.  I took a bite of the newton...crunchy.  Crunchy, crumbly, stale fig newtons. I was so disappointed.  I wanted that fruit filled cake bite.  It was so dry, I couldn't even eat it.  I crumbled the rest up in my hands, and provided critter food to the woodland creatures.  That set the tone for the rest of the race to come.  

Around mile 14 I ended up catching up to a guy ahead of me, and a guy caught me from behind.  Instead of racing it out, we did the typical trail run thing, and decided to run together for awhile.  We pulled into an aid station around mile 17.5, and I decided to take a minute, refill my hydration pack, get some coke, and just take a quick minute.  The three of us who were running together had no idea where we were at in the race, until one of the other two asked the aid station volunteer how many people came through before us, and he said there have been 4 others.  We all three looked at each other, and suddenly realized that if we pushed, we could podium this race.  The other two took off, as I was still trying to pour more Tailwind into my hydration pack and mix it up.  They got a good 30 second head start before I thanked the aid station volunteer, and took off down the single track of the Skyline trail.  

This is where I pretty much gassed out for a number of reasons.  I just didn't have enough legs left to keep up with those guys on the climbs, and I wasn't making up ground on the flats or downhills anymore, either.  I was ok with that.  As long as I didn't get passed in the last 10k of the race, I was happy with how things went.  

Here's what I'll say about the Skyline trail; if I was mountain biking it, it would probably be a killer ride.  I can imagine flying around it's little rollers and banked turns and switch backs on my Trek, and having a good old time.  But...for running, it flat out sucked.  Those little rollers that are great on a MTB, are not conducive to running, and just plain suck.  The banked turns and deeply rutted flats had me constantly running off-camber and rolling ankles.  Don't misunderstand, I love super technical stuff, rocky, rooted, steep; that's my type of terrain.  This was not.  It was simply annoying.  I couldn't get a good rhythm, and it seemed to drag on forever.  I've never said that about a trail before; usually going on forever is something I long for in a trail.  This time it was simply not the case.  Am I bitching?  Am I whining and complaining?  Yep.  But guess what?  It's my race report, so I'll whine if I want to.  

I hit one more aid station with about 2.5 miles left, and then was back on fire roads, followed by a bit of rocky, rutted mountain bike trail to the finish.  I came in 7th overall, 3rd in my age group.  All things considered, I was happy.
Finishing along side my son.

My age group award ceremony.

If I ever went back to that race fresh, I think I could finish top 3, maybe better.  But I won't be going back to that race, and I'll explain why below.

I'm not one to list problems without proposing solutions, so here's my list of both in regards to the race:

1.  The start location was far from ideal, and nearly unsafe.  I suggest moving the start location a mile up the road where there was a pull off at the start of the forest service roads.  There would be far less traffic, and eliminates pavement from the course.  

2.  Aid station volunteers should be briefed on what to expect from runners.  Don't get me wrong, I thank every single one of them, and appreciate their time and effort.  This was a new (2nd annual) race, so I know there are still kinks to work out.  I've been on both sides of the table.  I know what it's like to run and volunteer at aid stations.  I get the impression that these volunteers just didn't know what they didn't know.  It's not their fault by any means, but I do hold the RD and staff accountable for that.  

3.  Provide course information to those who register.  I'm the kind of runner who likes to know details about the course before I race it.  The website had nothing other than the distance.

4.  I enjoy the local feel of a small race.  However, there is a fine line between a race feeling "local," and a race being disorganized.  I would qualify this race somewhere in the grey area in between.

5.  I get the impression this course was designed as a MTB course first, and running race was added as an after thought.  That irks me.  I like MTBs.  I own one.  I love riding it.  But what I would consider an excellent ride and an awesome run are not the same course.  There are miles and miles of trails in that area, pick something other than Skyline. 

6.  I realize there was a MTB race on this course the day before, therefore all the aid station food items were probably prepped the day or two before that.  It was evident.  Give the runners the same effort as the mountain bikers, and give us some semi-fresh aid station food.

7.  I love beer.  I love finish line parties, big or small.  This was a nice gathering with chili and smoothies for racers and spectators alike.  What I don't like, is seeing the RD sitting around drinking beer while he still has runners on the course.  You may call me uptight, I call it irresponsible. (*note, while I didn't see it, it was mentioned that the shuttle drive who took people back to the start had also been drinking and then shuttling runners.  Not good.)

8.  Why the high price?  I've come to accept nowadays that most races are creeping up on the hundred dollar range when you start getting into the marathon and beyond distance, but the $80 price tag on this one baffles me.  I understand the costs of permitting, insurance, etc.  I know it's not free to put on a race.  But $80?  I expected more from a race that is sub-marathon distance in this price range.  The swag wasn't even that great.  Frankly, the shirts were cheap, the "race bag" was obviously left over from the MTB race (it's got MTB tire advertising all over it), and the water bottle was from Gatorade, and didn't even mention the race on it.  At least the age-group medal was decent.  Next year I'll take that $80 price tag and spend it on a 50k.

This race has potential, and with a few tweaks, it could be a great local event.  With a few more tweaks, it could even bring in some real competition.  Make it another 6 or 7 miles, and I bet there's a bunch of SoCal ultrarunners who would love to come throw down.  The truth is, it's just not there yet.  A small race does not have to be a poorly run race.  I don't feel like the RD and organizers put their best foot forward.
Here's what I used during the race, for those who are gear nuts:

1.  Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 - these are my favorite trail shoes ever, for any distance.
2.  Drymax Trail Lite socks - used to be an Injinji guy, but the toe seams bugged me.
3.  Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 tights - Yep.  Full Euro, and they were awesome.
4.  Under Armor Short Sleeve - It works.
5.  Waterproof Medical Tape - to prevent a bloody shirt
6.  Body Glide - for my sensitive parts.
7.  Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 pack - used 1 flask with water, hydrapack with nutrition
8.  Under Armor visor - because it's SoCal trail running, and thats how we do.
9.  Oakley sunglasses - because they make me look cool
10. Suunto Ambit GPS watch - because Suunto.

For race nutrition,  aside from coke at aid stations, I only used Tailwind Nutrition.  It worked awesome, except when I over mixed it in a hurry, and the berry flavor was just too sweet.  I'll take the hit on that, but know this; I'll only race with Tailwind from now on.  

I also took Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) prior to the race, and took 4 more pills about half way through.  I took 4 more post race, and when I woke up the day after the race, my legs felt fresh.  This stuff is amazing, albeit costly.  I don't know exactly how it works, but it does.  Period.

In all, it was a decent day.  There never really is a bad day on the trail.  It was a confidence booster knowing I can do well even on fatigued legs.  I'm feeling better every week about my fitness levels, and I'm excited to see how things go when I actually taper for a race.  

Bootlegger 50k in November is next on the schedule, and I may "mini-taper" for that race, since it will be my last long run before the real taper starts for TNF 50 in December.  Feeling good about progress during this training cycle.  It's higher volume than what I've done in the past, and also a little more tempo stuff than usual.  

And so far, it's working.

He doesn't care, He'll race in blue jeans.