Posts Tagged ‘race reports’

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.

Moab Red Hot 55k – 2012

This year’s Moab Red Hot 55k was the perfect way to kick off 2012. We had the most incredible weather in Moab this last weekend – the best since I first ran the race in 2008. The course was in great condition with fewer soft sandy stretches than I remember last year and the jeep road sections were really nicely packed, smooth, and fast. But as usual, the Moab Red Hot course delivered plenty of punishing technical slickrock and terrible course markings to make things interesting. This year’s course flagging was a pink and black striped pattern. The pink blended in nicely with the red rock background and in the right shadows, the black striping made the flags almost completely invisible.

Going into the race, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but hoped to break 4:30. So I figured I’d just go out, push hard, and see what happens.

From the start, Shannon took the lead and a chase pack of about half a dozen other guys fell in behind at a brisk pace. After a few miles, the pack thinned out and other than a couple words exchanged with Karl around mile 2, I pretty much ran the entire race solo. I was a little disappointed that Slush couldn’t make it out for the race this year – it’s always so much more fun to run these events with good friends to pace with.

Moab Red Hot 55k Start (Photo by Chris Hinds)

From the start my legs felt pretty weak on the climbs and my quads didn’t feel up to really hammering the downhills very hard. But I managed to catch up with Shannon on the ridge at the top of Metal Masher and pulled ahead on the next downhill into the second aid station. And none of the other guys from our starting pack looked like they were catching up.

The jeep road going back down on the back stretch of the first loop was much, much easier without the nasty headwinds that hit us last year so I made good time back to the base of Gold Bar. I figured Shannon or some of the other fast guys would catch back up but by the time I started the climb up onto the second section of slickrock, there wasn’t anyone in sight behind me.

I kept my momentum all the way up to the aid station at the top of Gold Bar. I caught up with Stephen on the way up the climb. He was having some bad muscle cramps and I gave him a spare S-cap and continued up the hill.

After the Gold Bar aid station, I started to fall apart. Last year I remember running this section of slickrock from mile 21 to 28 much better. I think the flagging may have been a bit more noticeable and last year I remember seeing more 33k runners spread out at convenient intervals to help spot the route. This year I ended up out on my own through most of this section and I kept losing sight of the flagging and had to come to a complete stop to look around about half a dozen times. My quads were already fried so it was really hard to keep stopping and starting and changing direction. I was pretty sure that someone would easily catch up with me before I made it back out of the slickrock. Looking back at my 2011 splits, I only ran this section 27 seconds slower so I guess I didn’t do quite as poorly as it felt.

Running across this slickrock is brutal but the scenery is incredible. (Photo by Laura Backus)

33k runners on the slick rock "trail" (Photo by Kristen Alvarez)

After I made it past the last aid station and out of the worst of the slickrock, my legs were completely trashed. For the last 5 miles, I just kept my focus cranking my legs over. I didn’t have any final finish kick left in me but I managed to hold on and grind out the last few miles to finish in 4:35. Good enough for 5th place and a new PR by 9 minutes and 13 seconds.

The final push to the finish line. (Photo by Chris Hinds)

While the end result turned out extremely well, I can’t say that this was my best run. Running fast and running well aren’t always the same. I managed to finish well and did the best I could with the training and preparation I had going into the race. So I don’t have any complaints or regrets. My speed on the flats was better than it’s ever been. And this was the first race I’ve run where I’ve been able to consistently get down a high volume of calories – 800 calories from start to finish. My friends over at Vi Endurance have developed a pretty good formula and I’m really happy to finally have something that I can run with that doesn’t make me want to vomit. I’m just a bit disappointed in my hill climbing and technical downhill running – it just wasn’t up to the level that I’m used to running. But it’s February and I have the next 3 months to get back in top shape for the Bighorn 100. So after this weekend, the rest of 2012 looks very promising.

It's always a good sign that you ran a hard race when gravel feels comfortable. (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

 

The best part of the event - just a few of the FCTR's at the race. (Photo by Jennifer Swanson)

 

 

Antelope Island 100k

Ok, so I’m a bit behind updating my blog reports. Since the Antelope Island race, I’ve been swamped with work, busy organizing a new 25 and 50 mile trail race with Nick, and have started obsessing over training for the HURT 100. Yes, I’ve officially decided to race HURT.

I originally signed up for the Antelope Island 100k on a whim. I’d never raced a 100k and after recovering from Hardrock, I felt like I needed one more good race event before the end of the year. I really hadn’t started training seriously again until October so I wasn’t sure how it would go. But I figured that regardless of how well I ran, it would be a good training experience to test out my legs and get an idea of how well I might be able to prepare for HURT.

A few other FCTR’s decided to make the trip out together so we had a pretty good group with Shannon, Kristel, Cat, and I running the 100k and Justin, Slush, Celeste, Mary, and Robert running the 50k. The weather forecast for the week was perfect with highs in the 40′s and 50′s every day ….every day except for race day. On race day it would be in the 30′s with snow and possible rain and freezing rain. I started to wonder why I decided to sign up for a November race in Utah but I convinced myself that my chances of placing well would be better in bad weather. The course is fairly easy and runnable and I tend to do better on the rough, technical stuff.

Kristel, me, Cat, and Shannon ready to start the 100k. (Photo by Megan Price)

The race started in the dark at 6am and fortunately it wasn’t too cold out and once we got moving, it was actually fairly nice. Most of the trail was clear dirt with a dusting of snow on the middle sections of the hills and some ankle deep snow on a couple of the higher sections. From the start of the race, Shannon, Scott Dickey (the 2010 winner), and I ran out in the lead together. The first half of the 50k loop was fairly hilly with a couple short climbs and some rolling hills. I chatted with Scott for a while and it seemed like his strength was really on the fast and flat sections. I expected that he would easily out run me on the flat back half of the loop so at the first decent downhill, I decided to run at my own pace and pulled away into the lead.

A view of the hills along the southwest corner of the Antelope Island 50k loop. (Photo by Mary Boyts)

View of the last climb up into the snow on the south end of the Antelope Island 50k loop. This side of the island had some incredible views. (Photo by Celeste O'Conner)

It was a bit tricky running out in the lead since I wasn’t familiar with the route. The race director had explained that course markings would be sparse and only the major turns would be marked with small signs and flour. I stopped a few times along the way to wait to make sure Scott and Shannon were still following me and at a couple intersections, I had to stop and try to find where the arrow signs were buried in the snow. I probably could have run this first loop a bit faster if I knew where I was going and didn’t keep second guessing myself. But since this was a 100k race, I figured I was better off taking it easy and pacing myself to save my energy for the second loop.

On the east side of the island, the last 10 miles of the trail were pretty flat. As I expected, Scott caught back up with me here. The first couple miles before the 9 mile gate aid station were absolutely miserable. The trail was muddy and the tall grass was coated with ice and bent over and thatched together across the trail. The only way to get through this section was to just keep plowing through shin first. I spent a good amount of time cussing  and stumbling through this section.

On the first loop in the morning, this grassy section was completely thatched together with ice coated grass. On the second loop, it was just soupy mud. (Photo by Celeste O'Conner)

On this same section, I ran into 2 buffalo delays. Buffalo roam around the island and we got right up close and personal with them several times. Scott told me we’d be OK just as long as we didn’t look them directly in the eye and piss them off. I was still skeptical and was more than happy to wait until they moved a little further away from the trail.

One of the many buffalo on the course. I really didn't like getting this close. (Photo by Megan Price)

Shortly after the 9 mile gate aid station and last buffalo delay, Scott pulled a head of me. My legs weren’t feeling great at the time so I was content to let him go. I figured it would be best to just take care of myself at my own pace than try to race him through the full flat section where he would probably be stronger. We still had another loop ahead of us and I would have plenty of opportunity to catch up on the next round of hills. But after a few miles I realized that Scott wasn’t pulling away from me and that I was actually catching back up. A few miles before the end of the first loop, I caught up with Scott and he let me take the lead again. I figured he would be right behind me and I just kept in my zone working away through the last few miles. At the final turn at the fence line that leads to the finish, I looked back and Scott was no where to be seen. I really didn’t think I had been running that fast but my last couple miles were around 7:40 pace. Based on what I knew of Scott’s running ability, I figured this would have been easy for him. So I started second guessing myself. Scott ran and won the race in 2010 so maybe he knew how to pace himself to run the second loop better? Maybe I was going out too fast and was just going to crash and burn on the second loop? But I was in the lead at the end of the first loop and really didn’t feel that bad.

Finishing the first loop. (Photo by Megan Price)

I finished the first loop in 4:15 and quickly head out for loop two after grabbing another handful of shot blocks and a water refill. I was determined to keep my lead so I pushed as hard and steady as I could up the first gradual climbs. I couldn’t see anyone behind me at this point but my eyes were getting a bit blurry and I couldn’t really be sure whether or not Scott was right behind me. He was wearing black and could easily have blended in with the landscape between the rocks and buffalo. So I set off assuming that he was only minutes behind me and tried to keep my focus on a hard steady effort up and over the first set of hills.

At the first big downhill where I had cruised along and lost Scott and Shannon on the first loop, my hamstrings were getting really stiff and sore so the second trip down the hill wasn’t much better than an easy jog. By the time I hit the shoreline before the last big climb, I was hurting pretty bad and took a couple walking breaks to eat some more shot blocks and drink my water and try to pull myself back together. And even though the grade was fairly easy, I walked almost every step of the last climb on the south end of the loop. It even took me about half a mile from the top to get my legs moving downhill.

Scott was still nowhere in sight behind me and I still had 10 flat miles to cover to hold my lead. Crap, this sucked. I was hurting and struggling to keep up a 10 minute mile pace. I knew Scott could easily run faster so I started doing the math in my head …if I had a 10 minute lead, I just had to run this last 10 miles 1 minute slower than Scott could. But what if I didn’t have a 10 minute lead? Damn it, I could completely blow it. Now wouldn’t that suck to lead most of the race and get passed right before the finish. I decided that I didn’t want to be that guy and doubled my efforts and pressed on. At the start of the flat section by the ranch, I caught up with the last 50k runner who was busy taking photos of a buffalo standing right in the middle of the road between us and the next section of trail. Unlike the other buffalo on the course who mostly just got in the way and minded their own business, this guy was squared off and staring straight at us and didn’t look like he was going to get out of the way any time soon. So I decided to take a short detour down through the ranch parking area and back up around to the other side of the blocked road. The 50k runner was kind enough to stay there and continue taking photos to divert his attention away from me.

Grinding my way along the last flat miles at the end of the second loop. (Photo by Megan Price)

From this point on to the finish I kept catching up with 50k runners who were very encouraging. Every time I really wanted to slow down or walk, I’d run into another group of 50k runners and thought, damn it, I can’t just walk now after they were all so nice to cheer me on. After the 9 mile gate aid station where the trail turned into clear dry dirt single track, I managed to get moving at roughly a 9min pace. I did some more math to figure out what lead I’d need to have to hold off Scott if he could cover this same section at an 8min pace. About 6 miles out from the finish, the cows started to smell the barn and stepped up the pace again. My hamstrings were in serious pain and running along this flat section just wasn’t any fun any more. I wanted to be done with this race and off this stinking island. I was pissed that I had to be in the lead and couldn’t just run my own race and finish comfortably in a respectable and solid 2nd or 3rd place. It was stressing me out not knowing where Scott might be behind me and I didn’t like the idea of getting this far in the lead and completely blow it at the end. I managed to run 3 more miles up to the last little climb before the finish at about 8:30 pace. At the top of the fence line, I looked back one more time and couldn’t see Scott. But both eyes were completely blurry by this point and I couldn’t see the fence 10 feet in front of me so I still couldn’t be sure if I was in the clear. Any one of the blurry dots behind me could just be 50k runners that I had just passed or one could be Scott gaining on me. So I pushed as hard as I could for the last little stretch of road downhill to the finish.

I made it in 9 hours and 13 seconds. This beat Scott’s 2010 course record by about 29 minutes but this year’s course was re-routed and may have been 1.5 to 2 miles short. I’m really not sure exactly how the courses compare. The re-route cut out some flat running along the shoreline and added some extra hill climbs on the first half of the loop so it may have been comparable. But I figure I could have still at least walked another 2 miles in 29 minutes so I think it’s fair to take credit for the record.

Shannon ended up finishing second about 54 minutes behind me. Evidently Scott decided to drop out after the first loop. So I really didn’t need to push as hard as I did through the second lap but in hindsight I was glad that I didn’t find out that Scott had dropped. I probably would have gotten a bit lazy to just cruise through the second lap and I’m happy that I was able to maintain my focus racing from start to finish.

Shannon and I happy to be finished ...and completely unable to get up out of those chairs. (Photo by Megan Price)

Overall I was pretty pleased with my run and it was nice to finally win something. But I think all of my friends were more excited about the win than I was. Pushing the pace and trying to hold the lead was just painful and stressful so I’m not sure how much I really liked it. And for my own personal standards, I don’t think I ran as well as I could have. For this race day, I did the best that I could but I felt sluggish on the uphills and was pretty weak up and down the hills on the second lap. I definitely didn’t feel like I was racing in my peak condition. But it was a good confidence boost to get ready for full HURT training. I have some more work to do but feel like I’m starting with a good base and have the time to really sharpen up to be able to race in peak condition this January.

The rest of our FCTR crew all did extremely well. Kristel and Cat ran together and tied for 2nd place in the 100k for the women. In the 50k, Kristel’s husband Justin finished his first 50k. Scott ran with Celeste who had an awesome run as well. And Mary and her brother Robert seemed like they just had a great time enjoying the trail.

Kristel, me, and Cat at the finish. I'm not sure if I'm holding them up or they are keeping me from tipping over ...maybe a little of both. (Photo by Mary Boyts)