Hardrock 2013 – The Easy Year

I finally found the time to put together my collection of photos from the 2013 Hardrock 100.

This year was quite a bit different than 2011. I wasn’t nearly in the same shape as I was in 2011 but I was able to finish well thanks to fairly mild course conditions and weather and a very conservative approach.

I was amazed at how dry the course was. There were no snow fields to cross and most streams were barely a trickle of water. The first river crossing I actually had to step in wasn’t until after KT 90 miles in. It did rain on the first night from Grouse Gulch over Engineer Pass to Ouray. But I didn’t get hit with any hail or have any risk of lightning. It definitely wasn’t the same Hardrock that I remembered from 2011.

And taking a slow and easy approach payed off in the end. I spent a lot of time with planned breaks at all aid stations early in the race was able to keep moving pretty steadily the entire time. The first overnight was pretty rough. I had a pretty bad episode of dry heaves on Engineer Pass and I had a nasty sour stomach the entire night. But this was due to the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter hiking at elevation rather than any mistake I may have made with fueling or hydration. Fortunately the sick feeling went away after getting a fresh, sunny start to the second day in Telluride. My finish splits from Ouray and Telluride to the finish were actually faster than my 2011 splits. I just started off a lot slower and didn’t have the speed or strength to finish as strong as I did then.

A big part of my ability to keep a steady pace this year was thanks to VFuel. Early in the race, I took more time to eat solid food at aid stations but after Handies, I found that real food was just too much for my system to handle. But I could keep getting VFuel down consistently without getting sick. Even later on day 2 after I felt better leaving Telluride, I gave up on trying to eat much solid food. Whenever I took in VFuel, my legs would move and I didn’t get the same boost in energy from snacking on anything else from the aid stations.

Looking back now, I’m glad that I did decide to run Hardrock. I had a great week out in Silverton with some of my best friends. And thanks to Mindy’s help, Baxter and Sheba were able to come along too. Even though I wasn’t in top shape, it was a good learning experience to take a different approach to pacing. After this year’s finish, I really don’t think that finishing Hardrock is really as hard as most people believe – at least for most runners who have experience in the mountains and have finished other qualifiers. As I learned in 2011, the course will eat you alive if you try to actually race it. But 48 hours is more than enough time to work through any issues, take breaks as needed, and steadily make your way to the finish line.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back to run it again. Someday if I feel like I’m in good enough shape to really run my best, I would like to try. I would love to have one more chance to run the course with the fitness that I had in 2011 and experience and fueling plan that I had this year. But I don’t know if that will ever happen and I don’t have any desire to go back to trudge around the course just for the sake of finishing again. It’s a beautiful course and a very well run and well supported race. But there are other races out there that I’d like to try and plenty of other trails that I still need to explore. My best memories of running Hardrock are really from the friends and family who joined me out there. Most of them are right here in Fort Collins and Boulder and would be willing to join me on just about any adventure. I really don’t need to win a lottery entry and go back to Silverton to have another Hardrock experience.

Aero

Aero was adopted at the end of April but I wanted to finally share his story here. Mostly to show how much work Animal House puts into the dogs that they rescue.

My year didn’t start out the way I had hoped. I got sick in January and even after the crud finally cleared up in February, I just couldn’t get back to normal. Any extra physical exertion, stress, or even a long day of work would leave me feeling like I was run over by a truck. I still don’t know exactly what it was. Possibly mono, over training syndrome, or some mix of both? I didn’t start to feel normal again until mid-April. I scrapped my racing plans for the beginning of the year and dropped out of the New Orleans Marathon and the Pocatello 50. I wasn’t sure when or even if I would be able to get back to racing this year.

Fortunately I met Aero in February and he gave me a new project to focus on. If I couldn’t run, I could at least be productive just getting him out to work on his training.

The first time I took Aero out, we could barely make it across the street. He was extremely reactive to everything – even leaves blowing in the wind would send him into a frenzy. He was especially reactive towards cars and had flunked out of his last foster placement after he escaped and tried to attack car tires …while they were moving. Most dogs will relax and settle down as soon as they get out of the shelter and start running. But Aero just kept getting worked up into more and more of a frenzy. He pushed into the gentle leader hard enough to make his gums bleed and any time a car went by, he’d thrash around like a fish on a hook. I tried redirecting him with treats but he just wasn’t responding. He wouldn’t refocus on anything and just kept hyperventilating, working up a froth of bloody drool. So I cut my run short with him and retreated back to the shelter.

Aero was a mess. Most shelters wouldn’t hesitate to put a dog like Aero down. Even at a no-kill shelter, he could have easily ended up in the small percentage of dogs who just can’t be rehabilitated and saved. He’s extremely lucky to have ended up at Animal House. They have dozens of other volunteers just like me who put in many hours of time with each of their dogs. And they have a full team of Canine Coach trainers organized by Cathie Lee from K9 Wisdom.

Aero on our second day out at Lory State Park.

Aero on our second day out at Lory State Park.

The next day I went back to try again and decided to take him out to Lory Park where we could get away from cars and people. For most of our run, he behaved like a perfectly happy, normal dog. We ran into Kristel and Rob on the back side of Arthur’s Rock and he barked, jumped, and snapped in the air …not a great way to make new friends. He had a couple more reactive episodes with deer on the trail and some hikers and their dog near the trailhead. But overall the outing was a success. Aero had some real potential …if only I could take him out to remote trails every day.

Unfortunately getting him to and from Lory Park was almost impossible. I spent 20 minutes trying to lure him into my car at the shelter before a car pulled out of the parking lot and scared him into jumping in. I didn’t have the same help parked at an empty trailhead at Lory Park. I spent almost an hour with half a bag of cheddar sun chips to lure him back in. So transporting Aero away from the shelter wasn’t going to be a practical solution on a regular basis.

I tried running him around the fields and streets around the shelter but it was incredibly difficult to make any progress. At best, Aero was always tense and on high alert ready to react to anything. Getting anywhere on the streets took forever stopping every couple minutes to try to redirect his focus from traffic with treats, changing directions, and doing downs and sits. On one particularly bad day, after taking about 20 minutes to make it a mile away from the shelter, I decided to end our run early and head back. It took 40 minutes to cover the same mile on the way back stopping to sit and practice redirecting Aero’s focus literally every two steps.

Since we weren’t making much progress during the day, I changed my schedule to start taking him out after dark. I could pick him up at the shelter just after sunset and we’d be able to get out around the fields and ponds behind the shelter just after the regular evening dog walkers cleared out for the night. Without distractions, Aero was a completely different dog. Once we got moving, he’d calm down after the first mile. After two miles, he would noticeably relax. His shoulders dropped and his ears would flop down and he’d lope along with his tongue hanging out like any normal, happy dog.

This worked pretty well until daylight savings time. Aero had made significant progress but wasn’t quite ready to handle the full crowd of off leash after-work dogs so we switched to running in the mornings when it wasn’t as crowded. We were able to find plenty of space on our own and gradually start encountering other people and dogs. Unfortunately our mornings out around the ponds didn’t last long. The area is private property but has been an unofficial local off leash area for a long time. Evidently the property owners decided to put an end to this and put up barbed wire fences and no trespassing signs. So Aero and I were stuck heading back out onto the streets again.

Aero working with Animal House's Advanced Canine Coaches. (Photo by K9 Wisdom Training)

Aero working with Animal House’s Advanced Canine Coaches. (Photo by K9 Wisdom Training)

During this time, Aero was getting even more work through the Animal House Canine Coaching program. While I was out running Aero in the evenings and mornings, Cathie’s Canine Coaches would come in during the day to put Aero through even more structured training exercises.

Aero soaked up all of the training like a sponge. Underneath all of his issues he was actually an incredibly smart and affectionate dog. His attachment to any volunteer who worked with him was intense. With just a little bit of attention, he would just melt and try to crawl into your lap. In the right home, he had the potential to be an amazing dog.

We still had some good days and bad days. But on most bad days, I realized it was really me that was having a bad day. It took a lot of patience to work with Aero and if I was just the slightest bit too tired or frustrated. But week over week, Aero continued to improve. Aero’s reactions were limited to just the big scary trucks and buses and obnoxious dogs that we encountered.

A big break through. Aero just chilling out at the gas station parking lot as a huge dump truck rolled by.

A big break through. Aero just chilling out at the gas station parking lot as a huge dump truck rolled by.

At the end of March, Aero had made enough progress that it seemed like it might be possible to run him in the new 5k race that Animal House was organizing in May. I was recovered enough to be able to run short 3-5 mile easy jogs on a regular basis but was still in no shape to consider getting back to my normal trail running. So this seemed like a worthwhile goal for both of us to work towards.

I introduced Aero to my own dog Baxter to practice running with another dog.

Aero meeting Baxter.

Aero meeting Baxter.

Aero and Baxter running together.

Aero and Baxter running together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With some advice from Kim and Cathie, I managed to get Aero into my car.

Aero finally getting in the car!

Aero finally getting in the car!

It still took a long line and a ton of treats to lure him in but at least I could reliably transport him places. Once he could ride in the car, I started taking him to our Tuesday night social runs at Reservoir Ridge. The first night out we had to split away from the rest of the group but he gradually got used to the other runners and dogs.

Kim and I teamed up to take Aero and Jessie out to the Reservoir Ridge social run.

Kim and I teamed up to take Aero and Jessie out to the Reservoir Ridge social run.

Aero enjoyed our snowy social run out at Reservoir Ridge.

Aero enjoyed our snowy social run out at Reservoir Ridge.

Aero loved playing in the snow!

Aero loved playing in the snow!

Since I wasn’t actually racing the Horsetooth Half Marathon this year, I decided to use the event as a final training test before taking Aero out to his first 5k at the Fast and the Furriest. I had assumed that we’d jog down to Lee Martinez to watch the runners coming down the bike path to the finish, do a few training exercises, and then retreat back to the shelter whenever it became too much for Aero to handle. Instead we jogged right down to the race and jumped right in on the bike path running back and forth pacing Katie, Alex, Cat, and Mary in the final mile to the finish. After we ran with Mary, we headed down to the finish line and walked right through the crowd and spent the rest of our time hanging out with friends in the beer garden listening to Slush’s ska band play. I can’t tell you just how amazed I was at how well Aero did at the race. It was awesome!

Aero hanging out in the crowd at the Horsetooth Half finish line.

Aero hanging out in the crowd at the Horsetooth Half finish line.

Aero hanging out in the beer garden listening to ska.

Aero hanging out in the beer garden listening to ska.

Aero making friends with Cat.

Aero making friends with Cat.

Aero really likes to give hugs.

Aero really likes to give hugs.

Yup, the former crazy dog is just a big baby.

Yup, the former crazy dog is just a big baby.

The next weekend, we successfully ran the Fast and the Furriest 5k. Aero was the 2nd overall dog and if I had been in better shape, I’m sure he could have been the 1st dog. He was fantastic the entire time and handled the crowd at check in, the mob at the start, and the excitement of chasing other runners and dogs perfectly.

Aero won a bag of doggie treats for placing 2nd at the Fast and the Furriest 5k.

Aero won a bag of doggie treats for placing 2nd at the Fast and the Furriest 5k.

I never got to run the Animal House 5k. The day after the Fast and the Furriest, Aero met his new mom. I met her on Sunday for a short jog around the park and it was a perfect match. She came back and took him home for good the very next day. The last I heard, he was doing extremely well. His mom has been teaching him new tricks, has taken him hiking, and has been training him to run along next to her bike. I can’t think of a better match for a perfect home.

Since then, I’ve started Cathie Lee’s Canine Coaching program and really look forward to helping more dogs like Aero. I’ve managed to get myself back into shape to start the Hardrock 100 this week. But I’m still not in any shape to race competitively and I’m not sure if I really want to put all of my time and effort into racing. If I can run on a regular basis and help more shelter dogs, I think I’ll be pretty happy.

 

2012

So 2012 is in the books. In regards to my own personal running accomplishments, it was a fairly uneventful year. 2012 started off well with a PR at the Moab 55k. Later in the spring I ran a couple more PR’s at the Horsetooth Half and the Colorado Marathon. But despite my faster finish time at the Colorado Marathon, I can’t say that I ran very well. I didn’t adequately prepare for a hard road run, went out too fast, crashed at the end of the race, and barely held on for a slight improvement from my 2010 marathon time. And the hard road racing definitely compromised my fitness for Bighorn so in hindsight the half and marathon PR’s really weren’t worth the cost. I ended up finishing Bighorn in decent shape and made it through the Steamboat 100 in the fall. Both races ended up being good personal learning experiences and were worthwhile adventures to share with some really good friends.

My best highlights of 2012 were really from being part of the accomplishments of other friends and volunteering with the Animal House shelter.

Running with dogs

Animal House had a record year with over 500 adoptions.

In 2012, I ran 589 miles with 48 different dogs:
Alphie, Amber, Angelina, Ashley, Badger, Bogi, Bonnie, Brad, Charlie, Chuck, Dale, Dexter, Elliot, Fig, Franklin, Fudge, Gravy, Harley, Jack, Joah, Joey, Jordan, Kenny, Kit, Lilly, Mac, Marvel, Meadow, Mylee, Nikita, Oskar, Oso, Potatoes, Red, Rocky, Ross, Samantha, Sapphi, Sasha, Scout, Tanner, Tiger, Tigger, Titan, Wheeler, William, Zara, and Zipper. I’ve collected photos of most of them here.

I spent the majority of my time over 232.5 miles working with Scout. After a very long wait, he finally found the perfect home. I heard that he has been doing very well living on a ranch in Wyoming continuing to improve with his training, going on long trail rides with horses, and finally getting to be a normal family dog lounging around on his owner’s bed.

My other favorite running partner, Ashley, finally got adopted in July after almost 9 months at the shelter. She and I ran the St. Patrick’s Day 5k, Fast and the Furriest 5k, and the Fire Hydrant 5k together. She was the first place dog at the Fire Hydrant 5k and 2nd place overall.

1st Dog at the Fire Hydrant 5k in 18:15.
(Photo from the Fire Hydrant 5k)

My own dogs still get out on a regular basis. Baxter joined me for 672.5 miles and Sheba even managed to jog 327 miles. Based on their adoption records, Sheba just turned 12 and Baxter is only a year younger. Baxter has slowed down a bit but still likes to get out to for normal 3 to 7 mile runs with me. But Sheba has really started to show her age. She still insists on joining Baxter and I every time we head out for a run but most days we only jog/walk about half to 3/4 mile away from the house before heading back home. She’s still fit and strong for her age but it’s been taking longer for her to get up and down the stairs. She slipped and fell down the stairs once last week – she was fine but it still makes me worry. I’ll probably need to cut more time out of my running schedule to make sure we can still get out for slow, easy walks on a regular basis this next year.

Fundraising

Thanks to Scott‘s encouragement, I used my March mileage to raise over $3,500 for Animal House. The Otter Cares G3 Challenge program gave each of their employees $200 for charity and gave them a challenge to team up and go out and use the funds to raise more money. To make the program a little more competitive, Otter Box offered a fairly substantial bonus donation to the charity team that raise the most money. Scott used his funds to start both Cat and I on our fundraising runs, organized a benefit show with his band, and recruited a dozen more Otter Box employees to raise funds for Animal House. We didn’t win the overall prize but our fundraising for Animal House came in second and Otter Box generously chipped in an extra bonus for our efforts. I think the grand total from everyone’s donations came out to over $13,000 for Animal House …I don’t know the exact dollar amount but it was a lot. It was really incredible to see how the the entire fundraising project just snowballed with more and more people joining in to donate, volunteer, or simply help in any way possible.

The Animal House fundraising team. (Photo by OtterCares Foundation)

Pacing and Crewing

Quad Rock 50

I almost forgot to add this to my 2012 highlights. I think this photo sums up what it’s like to crew for 200 runners in one day.

Nick and I obviously concerned about something going on during the race. (Photo by Alex May)

Despite the huge amount of work that it took to put this race together, everything went extremely well for a first year event. Nick has been a great partner to work with and we both owe the success of our race to the fantastic community of trail runners that we have in our area. I don’t think we could have had a better group of volunteers or runners.

Hardrock

I was fortunate to get out onto the Hardrock course pacing Jason Koop from Grouse Gulch to Cunningham. He stayed strong and consistent and finished with a 4 hour PR. Any year that I don’t have a chance to run the race myself, I’ll always try to get out to pace, crew, and/or volunteer. The course is spectacular and Hardrock is a really amazing event to be a part of in any way.

Jason Koop on the way to Cunningham at the Hardrock 100.

Vermont

The Vermont 100 was my favorite trip of the year. It was great to have some time to catch up with Mom back in New Hampshire and I had a blast crewing with Mindy and Celeste and pacing Scott for the last 30 miles of the race. Watching both Scott and Cat completely blow away their goals was a highlight of my year.

Scott finished in 20:56.

Cat wasn’t far behind Scott finishing in 21:40. And yes, she beat my Vermont 100 PR.

Nolans 14

I can’t say this was my favorite adventure. I’ve decided that I really don’t like 14ers. Anything above 13,000ft is just a crappy pile of rocks and falling on my ass in scree and banging my ankles and shins on sharp talus just isn’t my idea of fun.

But Eric is a real mountain goat at heart and has been working on finishing Nolans 14 for several years. He’s been a huge help pacing and crewing at many of my 100 milers and I’m glad I had the opportunity to try to repay the favor. And I don’t think I’d fully understand or appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment if I hadn’t spent two nights out on the Nolans route with him.

Eric’s full trip report is online here.

But he left out a couple minor details. The first night out heading over Missouri, Belford, and Oxford went fairly smoothly. We had a gorgeous full moon and were able to hike most of the climb up Missouri without lights. But the descent off of Oxford was incredibly steep straight down a grassy slope. A thin layer of frost and loose hidden rocks under the grass made it incredibly slick. I was having a tough time keeping my feet getting down the hill and Eric told me that he wanted to stretch his legs out a bit and was going to just run ahead to treeline to take a short break while I made it down. So yeah, he dropped me and had a good ten minutes to rest while he waited for me to catch up. He had already covered 7 14ers and I had only made it over 3 …of the easy ones.

The second night out over Princeton wasn’t nearly as pleasant. It was horribly cold and windy climbing up the exposed ridge that seemed to go on forever. Eric was having a tough time keeping steady forward progress on this climb …and understandably so since this was his second night out with only a short 45 minute nap. But he was still walking upright and I had to convince him to get his hands down onto the rocks for better balance …which is exactly what I had been doing crawling up after him for the past couple of hours already.

The way down was even worse – down a nasty chute of loose scree and talus, across boulder filled tundra, and some bushwhacking to finally connect with an old trail down to the road. But other than a wrong turn on the road that added a half mile tops, Eric never lost focus. I, on the other hand, let myself get frustrated and lost my patience. In the original rules for the Nolans 14 challenge, pacers are not allowed but I can honestly say I was absolutely no help to him as a pacer on either night out. In case of an emergency I did have a set of maps that I could have used but Eric navigated the entire way and other than a few sections where we were each just picking our way through rocks and bushes, Eric led the entire way. I don’t think I was even very good moral support on the second night out and I took lousy pictures.

Eric on the Princeton summit. We paused just long enough to get a quick photo. Yup, it’s another pile of rocks and it’s damn cold and windy.

The Bear

The Bear was one last ultra weekend to end the season. I went out to help crew and pace Steph for her first 100 mile finish. Chris and Kristel were there to help pace so we were able to split up into reasonable sections. After sending Kristel off for her final leg with Steph and handing over crew duties to Chris, I was able to jump in for a few more miles to pace Andy in to the finish. Nick, Rob, Victoria, and Alan all finished well too. Rob ran an incredibly strong race and finished well before I arrived. And as usual, Nick had already gotten in a decent night’s sleep by the time I got to the finish.

Steph cruising along already 40+ miles into the Bear 100.

Andy running down to the finish at Bear lake.

Andy crossing the finish line.

Steph finishing strong.

Victoria’s 1st 100 mile finish!

Alan finished the Rocky Mountain Slam. Bighorn, Hardrock, Leadville, and the Bear in one season. Damn impressive!

2013

I was fortunate to get an entry into Hardrock again so this will be my primary goal race of the year.

I also won a lottery entry into Massanutten but have decided to drop it in favor of running the Pocatello 50 in June. I know I can finish multiple 100’s in one year but I really want to improve and do well. And Hardrock isn’t a race to take lightly. I’ve done better in past 100’s when I’ve been able to fit in a good quality 50 mile race and Pocatello looks like an ideal course and perfect timing to prepare for Hardrock.

I’ll also be running the New Orleans Marathon in February. Since I really didn’t feel like I ran well at the 2012 Colorado Marathon, I thought it would be a good idea to find time to put an honest effort into running a road race. February seemed to be ideal timing to allow me to focus on track and road work during the winter months to avoid cutting into any quality trail time later in the spring.

Plans for the 2013 Quad Rock 50 and 25 are already well under way. Registrations are rolling in and I’m really looking forward to building and improving on our success from last year.

This next year I’m going to try to do a better job publishing more photos and information about the shelter dogs I run with and I’m going to take more time out to try to get more dogs out to local running events. Several dogs have found homes just from the small effort I’ve made to promote them in the past year. I can definitely do a lot better.

I haven’t made a final decision about another March fundraiser. I will probably find a way to do something to raise funds for Animal House this year but am not sure if I’ll have enough flexibility with work to put that much effort into running for a full month. And I’m not sure if I’ll be physically up for the challenge.

And I need to follow through with a couple thank you’s for Vi Endurance and Colorado Physical Therapy Specialists. My friends at Vi Endurance have been incredibly supportive in this past year providing me with a ton of great product and helping to design an ideal race fuel that I can confidently use. Getting sick and struggling through races without any calories hasn’t been much fun but I think I’ve finally figured out a product and system that works. So I am incredibly grateful for their help. And Terry and his team of PT’s has put me back together more times than I can count now. I wouldn’t have been able to run the Colorado Marathon this year, let alone set a PR, without their help. I’ll take some extra time to write up more details about Vi and Colpts as soon as I have some time.

Shelter dogs

I’ve finally found time to put together a full photo album of most of the dogs I’ve run with. So far I’ve only taken the time to post info about a few of the dogs who have needed the most help finding homes. The dogs I’ve run with the most have usually been the ones who needed the most help with exercise, training, and socialization.

But the vast majority of the dogs who come through the shelter are perfectly good dogs. Fortunately there are really very few true rescue cases from extreme abuse or neglect. And even these dogs are surprisingly good dogs who really don’t really need therapy or rehabilitation – they just need a good home. Most shelter dogs are dumped by people who don’t want to take the time to train or exercise their dog. And it never ceases to amaze me how many perfectly well trained and socialized dogs end up at the shelter. Anyone with a little patience could easily adopt a dog already trained better than they could train a dog they raised themselves.

I’ll write more about a few good ones who are still available later. And this next year, I plan to do a better job collecting photos.

 

Run Rabbit Run 100 and 8.75ish

So I’ve finally had time to put my race report together for the Steamboat 100. The Blue Sky Marathon and my work schedule have kept me pretty busy for the past month and now halfway through November I finally feel like I can start enjoying my off season.

My personal race went about as well as I could have hoped for. I signed up for the race at the last minute just for the sake of getting one more good 100 mile run in before the end of the year to gain some more experience with pacing and fueling. I knew I wasn’t 100% fit to race a full 100 but I figured I was in decent enough shape to finish without turning into a complete disaster. Unfortunately the course was a skoach long (108.75 by my measurement) so I got a bit more than I bargained for and it turned out to be a very, very long day.

I had a pretty rough patch early Saturday morning at daybreak just after I left the High School. This should have been mile 67.7 but by my watch, I was 74 miles into the run. The course at this point was already over 6 miles longer than expected and I still had two major unknown segments to cover so I couldn’t be confident in the estimated distance left to the finish. I had made fairly good time coming down the Spring Creek trail to the High School aid station and had intended to take a slightly longer aid stop to eat a little extra and get recharged for the long trip back up Buff Pass. But at daybreak, the temperature dropped drastically and I had to hurry out of the station to keep moving. Half a mile from the aid station I had to stop and put on every extra layer of clothing I had left and I was still freezing, cramping, and was struggling to keep walking. I was barely able to make any forward progress at all and I made the decision to drop out of the race as soon as I got back to the Dry Lake aid station. By my estimate, I would be at about 80 miles and that seemed like more than enough to call it a day. I wasn’t racing and really only intended to run this as a training run so I had already done more than enough to accomplish my original goal. This is the first time I’ve honestly ever quit a race. I didn’t just want to quit because I has having a rough time at the moment. I thought it through, made up my mind, and was OK with my decision.

Then I ran into Craig and his pacer, Ellen. Craig was one of the unfortunate runners who went off course earlier in the day and at this point, he wasn’t going to make the cut off at the High School. A little further up the hill I ran into Wendy Crandall and Marie with Mary and Eric pacing and crewing. Wendy and Marie weren’t going to make the cut offs either. Eric ran back up the trail ahead of me to Dry Lake to help crew. When I got there, Eric, Dana, Ben, and Amanda were all there ready to help. I finally had a chance to sit and eat some oatmeal while they refilled my bottle with fresh coffee and water. Dana gave me one of her home made banana, nut, nutella muffins and before I knew it, I was on my feet heading up the Buff Pass road to the Summit aid station. A couple miles up the road, I ran into Wendy Mader still making her way down the road. She was in good spirits and hopeful about rumors that the course cut offs had been extended.

I finally realized that I had decided to quit only 80 miles into the race when other friends didn’t have a chance to finish and felt pretty foolish. This gave me a short burst of energy and I managed to actually run several miles up the road before I started fading again. The sun was up and the road was open and exposed and it got really hot out extremely quickly. Right at the point when I was feeling the worst, I caught up with Michelle who seemed to be moving along well at a steady, determined pace. It was just enough to give me a mental boost to get through to the Summit aid station.

After Summit, the next sections were just a slow grind. The terrain was mostly flat and rolling so there weren’t any steep hills to hike up or take advatage of gravity on the way down. At this point I just wasn’t fit enough to push hard and run very well so I just kept chipping away at these miles alternating jogging and walking. I reconsidered my previous decision to drop out of the race and decided that since I signed up to run 100 miles that I would do just that. I estimated that I would only need to get to the top of Mt Werner to cover the 100 that I had originally planned to run and then I could officially drop out of the race. When I got to the Long Lake aid station, Reese, Brandon, and the rest of the crew there seemed to be having a good time. Since I only had one more leg to go before I could officially quit, I decided to stay for a while and had a beer and some mashed potatoes. After about 20 minutes, I hobbled out of the aid station and continued to walk/jog my way to Mt Werner.

Back at the top of Mt Werner, I stopped to sit down and rest and really didn’t think I was going to get back up again. I was pretty worn out at this point but I’ve been in much worse shape physically before. But I was just mentally done with the race and just didn’t care that the finish was only 6 more miles down the hill. And then Bard showed up. He was running the 50 mile race and seemed to be having a great day. He joked that this might be the only time that he could beat me at a 10k before trotting off down the hill. I got up out of the chair and headed down after him and made it to the finish line in 28 hours and 10 minutes. Ugh that was a long and mentally exhausting race.

All things considered, I have to admit that I had a pretty good experience at the race. Finishing was a slow grind and a real mental battle but we had perfect weather all weekend, the fall colors were amazing, and Steamboat Springs is a great place to spend a weekend. And since Steamboat is such a short, easy drive from the Front Range, I had a ton of good friends out running in each of the 100 mile Tortoise and Hare races, the 50 miler, and pacing, crewing, and volunteering.

I think the race itself has a lot of potential. There were definitely some glitches in the first year. Aside from the course being a bit longer than anyone expected, I think the course itself was deceptively slow. The cumulative vertical gain and many miles of smooth trail and dirt road made it seem like this would be a fast race. But the gradual uphill grade of many climbs (especially the 13 miles up Buff Pass) and flat to rolling terrain at high elevation made it very difficult to run very fast. This is definitely a runners course and not your typical mountain hiking route. I’ve been helping Fred with his course mapping for next year’s race and the modifications to the route, aid stations, and cut offs should resolve all of the major problems from this year’s race.

I really enjoyed the Tortoise and Hare format of the race. It was great to run into so many friends out on the course either crossing paths on the out and back sections or eventually catching up with them along the way. This is the only reason why I didn’t drop out of the event.

I also liked that the Hares weren’t allowed to run with pacers. Having the right pacer can definitely be a competitive advantage and if the top Hares are racing for significant prize money, I definitely think they should all be on an even playing field. Further back in the Hare division where I was running, the atmosphere was a lot more social. In most races when everyone has a pacer, runners tend to stay in their own little bubbles. But since no one in the Hare division had a pacer, a lot of us stuck together during the race. I actually spent very little time running solo. Early in the race I ran with Frank, Melany, Leila, and Patrick. Donnie and I ran together over most of the second half of Emerald Mountain. I ran with Gavin between Emerald Mountain and Fish Creek Falls before catching up with Aliza. Aliza and I ran together for almost 20 miles through the night. I met up with Bobby at the Summit aid station and we played leap frog along the trail most of the way to Long Lake.

For venues, I think Steamboat Springs is one of the best towns to host a big ultra event like this. It’s big enough to make it convenient to find lodging and food and the local community is friendly and active. Crossing through town, several people in passing cars slowed down to cheer and wave and a couple asked if I needed anything. On the Fish Creek Falls road, one family was out with their own aid station table supporting runners late Friday night.  Many of the local volunteer teams staffing the aid stations were new to ultra running and I thought they all did a fantastic job. I know that Fred will make some major improvements to next year’s race and I don’t think it will be long before the Steamboat 100 is one of the top 100 mile races in the country. I have a lot of other races on my to-do list but would definitely go back to run this again sometime.

I also have to thank Vi Endurance for their support. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to fuel properly during a long ultra race for a long time and with their help, I think I finally have a solution that works. I’ll write up more details about my fueling strategy later. But this was the first time I’ve been able to get through a full 100 mile event without getting sick or cutting back to little to no calories at the end. Western States is still my best 100 mile race but I finished with a bare minimum calories and probably could have run faster with better fuel. This time I was able to use Vi Fuel consistently from the start of the race through to the finish taking in roughly 200-250 calories per hour for the first half of the race and then continuing to maintain roughly 150 calories per hour through to the end. My slow performance and pain in the race was entirely due to my physical fitness and not a lack of calories. I never had a major bonk and I was able to stay awake and mentally alert through the night and into the second day. I picked up some food along the way at aid stations but really didn’t take in many extra calories aside from the Vi Fuel. On Saturday I forgot to bring extra Starbuck’s Via packets with me when I left Dry Lake so I improvised and filled up one bottle with coke at the last aid stations for a caffeine source. I was still able to alternate between coke and water and Vi Fuel for the remainder of the race without getting sick. And even after I stopped for a beer at Long Lake, I went right back to taking in Vi without any problem. A lot of other runners started getting sick early in the race on Friday from the late afternoon heat so I think this race was a really good test. I really look forward to using my new Vi fueling plan when I’m fit and ready to race another 100 miler next season.

Here’s are a few photos from the race: