Bighorn 100 – 2012

Well, the Bighorn 100 didn’t quite turn out as well as I’d hoped this year.

This year’s race was held in the best possible conditions in the most ideal weather. The trail was mostly dry for the first 45 miles all the way to Elk Camp, we didn’t have any major storms, and it didn’t get too cold over night. If there was a year to run a PR on the Bighorn course, this was it. Unfortunately despite all other conditions working in my favor, it just wasn’t my day.

From the start of the race, I took off chasing the lead pack for a couple miles up the Tongue River canyon and eventually fell into pace with Jason Ostrom and Nick Davis for most of the climb up Horse Creek Ridge. What should have felt easy seemed like a bit too much of a strain. I knew that I wasn’t in top condition but still felt strong enough to at least make my goal of finishing under 21:29. I made it to Dry Fork right on schedule and while it didn’t feel great, I wasn’t feeling terrible about it either so I figured I just needed more time to get into a rhythm.

The start of the 2012 Bighorn 100. Shannon Price on the left. Darcy Africa and Nick Davis to the right behind me. (Photo by Scott Slusher)

Trouble started immediately after Dry Fork. The water I picked up tasted horrible and my stomach immediately turned. I assumed it was just a bad tasting water treatment but after hearing about how many other runners got horribly sick this year, I suspect they may have had some bad water out there. The combination of the water with my gel made me nauseous so I cut back on drinking and eating and slowed down to take it easy until I could get a clean water refill at Cow Camp. I picked up fresh water at Cow Camp and stopped to eat some fruit and pretzels to try to get some extra calories down. Unfortunately the water I picked up at Cow Camp tasted the same so I slowed down to try to work my way through the next section as carefully as possible. Luckily I noticed the pipe spring on the way to Bear Camp (I’ve run by this several times in the past) and stopped to cool off and finally get a refill of fresh, clean water. After that, I started to feel better and started working my way back onto my pace goals. My stomach was still on edge so it was a struggle to keep up with hydration while trying to get some minimal calories down without completely turning my stomach. I was only able to handle a tiny fraction of the gel I had planned to use so I took extra time at each aid station to grab extra food along the way.

This plan seemed to work out pretty well from Footbridge to Porcupine. I made up most of the time I lost between Dry Fork and Bear Camp and felt like I still had a decent shot at a strong finish. Slush was ready to pace me in to the finish and Mindy and Victoria were there crewing to help get me back out onto the trail quickly. Alex, Mary, and some other FCTR’s were just arriving as Scott and I headed out. So it was a nice mental boost to see some friends before the long overnight grind back to Dayton.

Slush and I leaving the mile 48 Porcupine Ranger station at dusk to make the trek back to Dayton. (Photo by Mindy Clarke)

The trip home started out well. We had just enough daylight left to easily pick out way through the snow banks and bogs that covered the first couple miles. And we were just in time to see a gorgeous sunset from the open hill top at the high point of the course. Seeing the rest of the Fort Collins and Boulder runners on this stretch was a nice distraction from how tired and sick I was feeling.

But as soon as we hit dry trail on the way down to Elk Camp, my stomach rapidly deteriorated. Fatigue from a long day on the trail was setting in and running down the rough trail was jarring my abs. My stomach was threatening to blow at any second and I wasn’t sure which way it would go. I tried to stop and make a pit stop in the bushes before getting to Elk Camp but wasn’t able to get anything out of my system – I was stuck with a nasty, angry lower GI system.

I stopped for chicken broth at Elk Camp and Spring Marsh and picked up handfuls of saltines at each aid station to keep trying to get something down. But on the way to the Narrows, the minimal calories and lack of caffeine finally caught up with me. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and focused and started walking and stumbling. I had to pause several times to take a knee and close my eyes just long enough to refocus. It took forever to get through this section.

At the Narrows aid station I finally broke down and tried to drink some black coffee. It was possibly the best dark, sludgy cowboy coffee ever. And I was surprised that it didn’t immediately turn my stomach inside out and went down well. I pulled out my reserve stash of granola from my pack and managed to get a good chunk of it down with a second cup of coffee. After that I was back up and running at a decent pace all the way down to Footbridge. At Footbridge, I grabbed another 2 cups of coffee and managed to get a couple small bites of a turkey roll down. I was feeling better and now that I knew I could drink coffee at the aid stations, I was hopeful that this system would get me back on track to finish in good time.

Scott and I kept a steady pace up the Wall and we were actually starting to have fun enjoying a lovely evening (ok, middle of the night) out on the trails. I even got a preview of Scott’s new Swashbuckling Doctors song, Deep Skank 9. We made it to Bear Camp as I started to fade again just in time to get another dose of coffee. Bear Camp didn’t have coffee – oh, crap. I settled for a bite of a mini milky way bar and we headed on our way to try to make it to Cow Camp.

Without coffee, the wheels completely fell off. I started stumbling and wobbling and had to stop and rest my eyes half a dozen times. I took one extended break to sit and choke down enough granola to be able to get a guarana pill down but it barely made any difference. By daybreak we still had a couple miles left to go to get to Cow Camp. It was a minor relief to finally be rid of the headlamp tunnel vision but it was too early to get an energizing boost from the sun. It was just damn early and cold and I just stumbled along slowly.

I admit, I did a lot of Tebowing and even some Bradying.

But I narrowly avoided another Wasatch episode.

I finally made it to Cow Camp …no where near any previous goal time but I hadn’t puked yet and I didn’t pass out (completely) so I had that going for me. I got the best boost of the race when I discovered they were well stocked with Starbucks Via. I took a nice long break at the aid station and drank 2 full cups and managed to eat most of my remaining granola. And since I was a bit worried about the water quality, I filled one of my water bottles with hot water and a couple packets of instant coffee. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before ….ok thinking of things in the middle of the night over halfway through a 100 miler is really hard.

The coffee to go did the trick to get me to Dry Fork. Scott started pushing the pace to run most of the easy sections and I managed to hang on the entire way.

Scott and I trudging up the final climb to Dry Fork. That hill is a lot bigger than it looks. ...and no we aren't holding hands. (Photo by Steph Lynn)

It was finally warming up so Scott and I took a few minutes at Dry Fork to strip layers and ditch our extra gear. I decided to avoid the water again and filled my second bottle with ginger ale instead. I still had almost half a bottle of coffee left from Cow Camp and the balance between the ginger ale and black coffee seemed to work perfectly. Again, I have no idea why I didn’t think of filling up on ginger ale or 7-up on Friday the instant my stomach turned.

Scott and I getting ready to head out for the final push from Dry Fork to Dayton. (Photo by Steph Lynn)

On the way out of Dry Fork, Scott and I kept the pace fairly easy but moved along steadily. Halfway to Upper Sheep Creek I finally had to make an emergency pit stop into the bushes. After that, whatever evil demon that had possessed my stomach for the last 21 hours was finally gone for good. I was tired and my legs were a bit stiff but once we got moving, I actually felt pretty good. We made a quick pit stop at Upper Sheep Creek and I got a refill of ginger ale to go. At this point, I was sure that I didn’t have any chance of finishing under 24 hours. I told Scott that I really didn’t care what time we finished and it just wasn’t worth pushing to the point of hurting myself. I had come to terms with the fact that I’d completely missed any goal I had set for this race and was prepared to just get to the finish line in decent shape, chock this up as a learning experience, and move on to the next race.

It didn’t take long to hike the final climb up the Haul and as we crested the top of Horse Creek Ridge with nothing but 4,000ft of downhill to the finish line in Dayton, Scott said, “Hey, I see three guys down on the hill ahead of us.” I looked at my watch, did some quick math in my head, and realized that I only had 12 miles to go with 2 hours left to finish under 24 hours. All I had to do was run. Game on!

I bombed down the entire drop into the Tongue River Canyon and was really surprised at how well my legs were working. My quads were holding together on the steepest drops and sharp turns and I still had plenty of spring to fly through the technical sections. Once I hit the rolling section of trail along the river, I kept up a steady tempo pace and maintained my speed all the way to the road. My GPS battery died just as I hit the end of the trail and headed out onto the road so I had to guess how far I had left. I was pretty sure that I only had a little over 5 miles of dirt road left but as the grade leveled out, I had to concentrate to pick up my feet to turn my legs over to keep my pace. I looked behind me for Scott hoping he’d be there to keep me on pace through to the finish but he was nowhere to be seen. Crap, I couldn’t afford to wait so I kept pushing. I couldn’t tell if I was running an 8 minute or 14 minute pace and I tried to guess the distance as the minutes passed on the road. I wasn’t able to finally relax until I made it to the mile 98 Homestretch aid station. They didn’t have their popsicles out yet but one of the girls sprayed me with a hose as I went by.

I made it to the finish in 23:39:12 – almost 21 minutes under the goal I had no chance of making just 17 miles ago. I ran the section from Dry Fork to the Finish in 3:03 and for comparison, Mike Wolfe ran this in 3:07 when he set the course record in 2010. So while most of the race was a disaster, I’m pretty happy that I was able to rally to finish strong.

I definitely learned a lot from this race. I won’t hesitate to fill my bottles with ginger ale any time my stomach turns sour and I won’t run overnight without my own instant coffee with me. And even though I wasn’t able to use my Vi Endurance gel for the full race, in hindsight I should have dropped a bunch of chocolate Vi into the coffee I had out on the course. This would have been an easy way to sneak in 200-300 extra calories. I’m very thankful that Vi Endurance supported me for this race and I feel bad that I wasn’t able to do a better job representing them. Getting a consistent volume of calories down during 100 milers is my biggest challenge and when my stomach turns, gel is just really difficult for me to tolerate. I’m going to keep experimenting with fueling strategies to see if I can find a way to balance out just enough solid food and liquid drinks to try to maintain a sustainable volume of gel calories that I need to keep up my energy during these runs. If I can figure this out, hopefully I’ll be able to run more than 17 miles at course record pace at my next 100 miler.

It’s only been a little over a week since the race but my legs feel fine and I’m ready to get back to training. I’ve moved down to 38 on the Cascade Crest wait list which seems promising. I’d really love to get back to the Northwest to run this race. If that doesn’t work out, the new Run Rabbit Run 100 in September looks like an interesting alternative. But before that, I have some pacing favors to pay back. I’m really looking forward to pacing Scott at his first 100 miler in Vermont this next month. It was a huge help to have him with me through the tough overnight sections at Bighorn. And having a good friend to run with just made it a lot more fun.

What happened to April and May?

The last couple months have been a bit of a blur. Work, directing Quad Rock, and trying to keep up with training for Bighorn has really consumed every possible free minute of my time over the last couple months.

So let’s see where I left off……

I’m sponsored by Vi Endurance. My good friends Mike Poland, Michael Hodges, and Alan Smith started this company and I think they’ve made an excellent product that I’m happy to use and recommend. I’d really like to see their new business succeed so I really hope that I can run well and do a good job representing them.

I haven’t had any time to write up any full trip or race reports but here’s the quick recap:

5/5 Towers PR in 31:31

5/7 Round Up – 32.25 miles on Round Mountain running a series of ascending repeats to each mile marker and back. I knocked 20 minutes off of my time for this run last year and successfully ran negative splits on every mile segment up and down.

4/19 New mile PR in 4:55 down the VBM section of Towers in the morning and later that evening I ran a new Horsetooth Rock PR in 25:42 – almost 2 minutes off my time from last year.

4/22 Horsetooth Half Marathon PR in 1:24:56 the day after the Crosier Triple.

4/28 Placed 2nd in the Fast and the Furriest 5k with Ashley.

5/3 Almost sidelined with an injury. I woke up with sharp pains in my left hip and upper quads and could barely put weight on my left leg. I tried to hike/jog to loosen it up at the evening Towers run but could barely manage a walk.

5/4 Emergency trip to Colorado Physical Therapy Specialists. I’ll post more about this later to give them a proper thank you.

5/6 PR at the Colorado Marathon in 2:51:27.

5/12 Directing the Quad Rock 50 with Nick.

Quad Rock consumed a lot more than I really had planned for. Running 50 miles is definitely easier than directing a 50 mile race. But on the other hand, the final result of pulling off a successful race was just as rewarding as running an ultra. I’m already looking forward to next year’s race.

In hind sight, I’m not sure it was a great idea to add in the Horsetooth Half and Colorado Marathon road races. I’m glad I was able to squeeze these into my schedule to knock out a couple new PR’s. But I definitely paid more for those PR’s than I had originally intended and the two races really put a dent in my Bighorn training plans. Despite the fact that I finished the marathon with a very good time, it still wasn’t a great run. I had no idea how to pace myself and started out way too fast and ended up dying at the end. Someday I might find the time to fully focus on road training to seriously race a marathon but I won’t attempt this again during prime trail running season. And since we can run year round on trails here in Colorado, I’m not sure if that will ever happen.

Looking forward to Bighorn, I’m not sure what I can expect to run on race day. I’ve just managed to get in 2 decent training weeks after recovering from the Colorado Marathon and Quad Rock. I feel like I could really use one more good training cycle to really sharpen up to race 100 miles. But even if I haven’t timed my training to hit my optimal peak condition, I know that I’m faster and stronger than I was last year. Hopefully that will be enough to compete for a top finish this year.

Up next…. Blue Sky Marathon registration opens on June 1st. Time to get back to work!

 

701 Miles for Animal House

I made it through the month and couldn’t be happier about the results. For my own running, I exceeded all of my goals for mileage, vertical, and speed and remained injury free and healthy.

We’ve raised $2,555.54 for Animal House …and there may be additional company matching funds that will bump this total up even more once they are confirmed later this week. I originally figured I’d bring in a few hundred bucks for the shelter so this completely blew away my expectations.

701 Miles beat my previous largest month by 200.5 miles.
91,240 Feet beat my previous highest month by 1573 feet. And that was my best month of training for the Hardrock 100!
30 sub 6 minute miles may have been more than I’ve run in the entire past year. And my last mile was a new PR on the Pineridge mile and second fastest mile ever in 5:10.
143 Miles run with the Animal House dogs
100.25 Miles with Baxter
62 Miles with Sheba

Rocky, Joah, Harley, and Alphie are just a few dogs I’ve run with who found new homes this month.

I’m pretty tired right now and am ready for a rest and recovery week. But I don’t feel in the least bit over trained and a couple nagging tendon pains on my Achilles and knee that have bothered me for months are gone now. Overall, running 701 miles this month hasn’t been too bad – it just took some extra motivation to get up for early weekday runs, stay out a bit later each evening, and put the long hours in on the weekends to get it done. Fortunately, I have an incredible group of friends who came out to run with me almost every day this past month. We’ve also had the most amazing weather with clear, dry trails and sunshine almost every day. It seems like summer has arrived early here on the front range. And in the past week, Mary, Mindy, Kristel, Alex, and Jennifer have all helped treat me to dinner every day of the week. So I can’t really say this has been much of an ordeal. If I didn’t need to balance my time with a full time job and a new 50 mile race to direct, I’d do this again in April.

The meadows below Greyrock. Spending time out on these trails in this weather sure didn't suck. (Photo by Kevin Hurd)

It’s been fun watching the donation numbers grow throughout the month and it’s been nice to see people get involved. In addition to donations, several people have considered volunteering. And thanks to Slush, we now have about 20 Otter Box employees putting their company fund raising incentives to use for Animal House which puts them in the running for a very generous bonus donation from Otter Box.

The latest report of pledges is included below. Here are the options for final payments.

  1. Submit your donation online here.
  2. Mail your check to:
    Animal House Rescue & Grooming
    1104 W Vine
    Fort Collins, CO 80521
  3. Hand off your donation to me this week if it’s more convenient. I’ll be out at the usual Tuesday social run and Thursday Towers Time Trial.

Checks can be made out to Animal House Rescue & Grooming. If you send your donation directly, you can make a note that it is for my March Madness Run and email me at pete@k9runner.com to confirm. Some people have already submitted donations and rounded up and I’d like to keep track of the actual final total – every bit counts to help Animal House win the bonus donation from Otter Box.

Additional 501(c)3 info and tax ID for Animal House are online here if you need it..

After a few days of rest and recovery and some much needed down time to catch up on miscellaneous things like laundry and grocery shopping, I’m looking forward to getting back to work with more focused training for the Colorado Marathon and Bighorn 100.

And there is still more work to do to find Ross, Titan, Lilly, Scout, Samantha, and my favorite here, Ashley homes.

Relaxing with Ashley at the Animal House Anniversary BBQ today. (Photo by Kevin Hurd)

March – Final Weekend

It’s down to the last two days and I only have 71 more miles to go to hit 700.

As of the end of day today, pledges are up to $1831.09 and there are still a few bonuses left to get by Saturday.

Tomorrow I plan to finish up the last of my vertical on Greyrock and depending on how many miles I get in on the hill, I’ll have about 50 miles left to finish on Saturday. For my final day this month, I plan to just run from Animal House to run laps with the dogs until I’m done. I’ll start the day at 7:30am when they open and will take Scout out for a longer solo run first. So any time after about 10am, I’ll just be running loops around the ponds behind the shelter. This will be the easiest way to break up the day and get out with as many different dogs as possible. And if anyone wants to drop in and run a few miles with me, I’ll be easy to find since I’ll be within 2-3 miles of the shelter at all times.

I’ll tally up the final pledges Saturday evening or Sunday morning and will follow up with more details to collect payments. Anyone who has pledged donations can send checks directly to Animal House, donate online, or give me the donation to bring to Animal House sometime in the next week.

On Sunday Animal House is hosting their 5th Anniversary Celebration BBQ. I plan to be at the BBQ ….not running. Event info is on the Animal House Facebook page here. I would love to see anyone who has supported me this month out for a run on Saturday or anytime at the BBQ on Sunday.

And mark your calendars for Scott’s benefit concert on April 9th. The Swashbuckling Doctors will be playing at Avo’s at 6:30pm.

6 Days Left – This Just Got Interesting

So I’ve made it through the 3rd full week of March. The good news for this week is that Joah got adopted by the family who Celeste met out at the St Patrick’s Day 5k.

Full stats for the month are updated here.

Right now I am pleasantly surprised at how good I feel.

Yesterday I ran the full 50 mile of my new Quad Rock race. I didn’t think it would be right to expect other runners to complete a course that I designed and hadn’t run myself . I won’t lie – the course is pretty damn tough. It was a brutal 12 hours and 24 minutes out on the trail but the weather was incredible and I had good company to keep me going all day. Justin met me for the 6am start and ran most of the first loop back to the Arthur’s Rock trailhead. Brian and Kari met up with me at Horsetooth and ran 30 miles out to the Soldier Canyon start/finish and back. And Steph came out for the full second loop.

Heading towards Arthur's Rock on the Quad Rock 50 route.

After finishing the full 50 miles yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run today …or even get out of bed. But after sleeping in and getting off to a late start with an easy dog run with Sheba, Baxter, and Mojo, my legs felt surprisingly good. I split the rest of the day up with a couple runs at the shelter with Scout and Ashley and finished the day with a nice run around Pineridge with Mindy and Lindsay for another 25 miles.

With 540 miles so far this month, other than being a bit slower than usual, I feel fine. So right now it looks like 700 miles for the month might be within reach. I just need to run 20 miles per day Monday through Friday and spend the full day Saturday finishing off the last 60 miles. With what I’ve done already, that seems perfectly reasonable.

And there’s a bit more at stake here. Scott was the original instigator of this fund raising challenge. In addition to setting an example with his Doctors without Borders and ALS fundraising events, this brainstorm started with a donation from his employer Otter Box. Otter Box allocated funds for each employee to give to whatever charity they liked. But rather than have employees simply donate the money, they encouraged each employee to use the funds to raise even more money for their cause. And to make it interesting, Otter Box is offering a substantial bonus donation to the employee who raises the most money. Scott is also putting together a fund raising concert with his new band and Cat has joined the cause with donations from her 24 Hours of Utah run this last weekend. Between the 3 of us, I think we have a pretty good shot at winning the Otter Box donation for Animal House.

The weather looks good this week, I have plenty of friends to run with every day, and Mary and Mindy have coordinated to start bringing me food every day. I’m actually not starving and have been managing to stay pretty healthy cooking for myself this month. But this dinner from Mindy and Mary sure was a nice surprise this evening. Cutting out some cooking time should give me time to get out for at least 3-5 more miles each evening.

Thanks Mindy and Mary!

If anyone needs to put a cap on their original pledge or wants to throw in a bonus for 700 miles, email me at pete@k9runner.com.