Posts Tagged ‘100’

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.

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:

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.

Hardrock Photos

It’s taken me a long time to catch up and collect and organize my photos from Hardrock. But I’ve finally put everything I have together in one album here.

Hardrock Video

I’m still working on collecting and organizing all the photos from Hardrock but this is a great video slide show that Eric put together. There’s some good video from Grant Swamp pass that gives you an idea of just how steep it and nasty that climb is.