Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Year .... New Adventures...New Goals

The goals

  1. Six Ultra Races
  2. Mile in under 4:50
  3. Set two new PRs
  4. Pace/crew in two events
  5. Volunteer at one event

Closing time...recap of 2011

Hope Pass 12000' with a Llama
The goals:
3 100 Mile Races
Completed Leadville & Haliburton; DNF at 81.5 Miles in the Ozark
3000 Miles of Running
Estimated 2400+ miles. Found better results on less miles
2 PRs
5K 19:09, 8K 31:19, 30K 2:41:55 & 50K 4:44:33
Run a mile in under 5:20 (PR)
Ran 4:54 in a one mile race
Finish 6 ultra marathon races
4 races: Cowtown 50K, Twin Peaks 50M++, Leadville & Haliburton
Crew/Pace another in an ultra
Paced Dustin Smith at Burning River 100M for 47 Miles
Overall hit 50% on my goals. I learned more about myself this year in how I train

The year started with a bit of tendonitis in February that took me out of running for about three weeks.  Coming off the injury I broke my first PR of the year the following week at the Cowtown 50K. Building my base over the next several months I was focused on being strong for Leadville. In May I entered the Northville Road Runners 5K. With a 19:09 I was the overall race winner; second PR of the year. Then came the Maybury 8K Classic in July setting my third PR of the year and grabbing a 2nd place in my age group. With more of an emphasis on speedwork I entered a local one mile race. Thus, setting a new mile PR with a time of 4:54. Second time this year being the overall winner of a race. With a crew and pacers I then landed in Colorado for the Leadville 100M. Completed the race and moved on to the Milford 30K shortly after. Then setting my fourth & final PR for the year. The following weekend I impromptu headed into Canada to run the Haliburton Forest 100M. Ran strong in the first 75 miles then slowed down from exhaustion and finished in 25 hours. Then in October I jumped a flight to Southern California for the Twin Peaks 50M. This race has a ton of elevation climb . This race became one of my all time favorite races of the year. Completing that race gave me enough finishes for the year to enter UTMB. Then in November I headed to the Mark Twain National Forest for the Ozark 100M. Got tripped up around mile 26 and eventually surrendered to unbendable leg at mile 81.5. Then taking another 3 weeks off to recover from that mishap. First week of December I jumped in a local 5K race and placed first in my age group and 31st overall with a time of 19:26.  The year

Now for the awards:

Unstoppable Award
Kai "Kai-Borg" Keliikuli
Entered race after race after race and nothing seemed to stop him. He is planning to accomplish 12 100 Mile Races in 2012.

Designer Award
Keith "Milkman" Kohler
Put together all the artwork for the "BIG" races. Giving each race more of an adventure and a personal feel. Below are two of his 2011 designs. The left one is the club design and the right was the group design for Leadville 100. He also designed the 2012 Massanutten "40 year Pilgrimage."

Comeback Award
Ken "The Green Hornet" Arble
Let's just say 2010 was not his year and in 2011 he came back and completed the Vermont 150M, Leadville 100M, The Bear 100M & more!! He is setting the bar high for 2012 & more.

Sidekick Award
Kenyon Waugh
Colorado Native who gave up a weekend with his family to assist me in the Leadville 100M. Arrived Friday night to have dinner and camped out in the woods. Saturday spent the day watching the race until 9:00 pm then paced me through the next two sections of the course. In race reports it warns people not pace these areas and he got me through them. On top of that he beat the planned splits!!

Sherpa Award
Tiffany Guerra
A SoCal local who picked me and transported me to the Twin Peaks 50M++. Then she set the course record at the event. After the event was finished she then took me back to LAX to fly home the same night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Putting the Pilgrimage to Design

     A good friend of mine Keith Kohler has been putting designs on shirts and hoodies for our group of ultra-runners. As we sign up for a race he tries to capture a message/theme behind the significance of the race. The upcoming Massanutten for me is his latest design and in my opinion the best one yet!! Hopefully, all the other runners at the race are able to get a design as sweet as this; if not they can order a limited edition Kohler Design from Blue Cotton. Of course, it comes with my picture on the back of it.

     I personally try to pick each race based around how my life is going and places I want to see. Massanutten will be my last race in the under Master's division. Not that I will win my division ever, but it is more a passage into the next portion of my life. Recently, I decided to change my "Bucket List" to more than just 100 Mile races. There are a lot of ultras I want to run. In the process my dropping one 100 mile race I can afford to pick up 3 smaller ultras, in some cases. If you know of some "must-do" races I have not listed please email me the race and why at  The list is work in progress.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pilgrimage from Age 39 to 40

I am now in the Massanutten 100 mile endurance run this May 2012.

This is one of the several must-do races for me. I am not the fastest on the trails of all the runners. I am there just running for the views and doing the best I can based upon my abilities. It is a tough course with lots of rocks which will make it a challenge in looking up to see the beauty around me. So slowing down a bit to take in a view will be worth it. As always there is not too much to see in the dark so that gives me a solid 8 hours to focus on running and getting through the night. 
 Summary: (excerpt from MMT website)

"The MMT is a challenging 100 mile trail ultra over a demanding, rocky course in the Massanutten Mountains of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The course includes short but rugged mountain climbs that total over 16,000 feet. While the May date usually avoids Virginia's brutal summer weather, we have had rain and violent storms in prior years. The event is noted for its well-stocked, friendly aid stations and good course marking."

MMT Profile


    To get into the race was a bit of luck. As most ultra runners know getting into some of these races is based a lot on luck. MMT is a lottery process with a bit of a twist of the Dow Jones. Everyone who wants to run is assigned a number 1-999. Then based on the performance of the Dow Jones. Based on the closing on the Dow, that determines the starting point of the entry list. If the Dow closes up or down from the opening, that determines the direction the list goes. The close of the Dow was 11997.70. So the starting bib was then 770 and since the Dow was down, they went down the list 204 spots. Lucky for me I was 194 spots down the list.     

      One of the significant things about Massanutten is that it is on my birthday weekend. The race starts on Saturday May 12th, I will be 39 years old. By the time I cross the finish line, I will be 40 years old, which is the starting of a new decade of running for me. I will be running in the solo division, which means no headphones, no garmin, no pacer, and no crew assistance. Massanutten is one of the only races that provides an additional award for this sort of division.

The Run: (excerpt from MMT website)
"Start Time and Place: The run starts at 4 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, 2012 at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp in Fort Valley, Virginia (near Luray). The finish line is at the same location as the start. The course closes 36 hours later at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 13."

     Completing the race in under 36 hours you get a pewter belt buckle. If the stars align just right and a miracle occurs for me to complete it in under 24 hours I will get the silver belt buckle.

     You could call this a birthday present!! Not sure when the next time my birthday will fall on a weekend like this. So I need to stay focused for the next six months to ensure it happens. I think I might go out to Virginia for the spring training run to see the course and establish some goals.

      Here is a snapshot of how my mind sees the finish line and me celebrating my birthday. Not too sure this realization will play out like this.....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A little bit of this & that...

After my DNF at the Ozark 100 Mile on November 6th. I hyper extended my knee in the race and ran until I could no longer bend my knee (mile 82). Probably not a smart idea now looking back.  I have been on recovery awaiting for November 30th at 2:40 p.m. to do a test mile (that is doctor's orders). If the mile goes good I am able to run in the 5K on Saturday in Northville, MI. My goal is to break 19 minutes but 21:30 is acceptable based on no training miles for an entire month. If the run doesn't go so good then I will rest through the knee through December. 

It's very hard to sit and not run with all this terrible weather. I enjoy the challenge that Mother Nature throws at me during a run. Boiling hot, freezing cold, torrential rain, snow squalls, G-force winds and whatever else that can warrant a national weather alert. I just want to get out and run. Those runs make the best memories. Think back to a run that made you a better runner and I am sure you will think back to a run that brutally challenging; not a walk in the park sort of run.

In addition, with the three lotteries, Massanutten, Western States & Hardrock, I have my name in to be drawn soon. I can not help but think about running trails and wanting to be outdoors. The Red Hot 55K in Moab UT is the next up this February. This makes for an even bigger push to get out the doors. Knowing that by taking a proper recovery will only benefit me longer it is such a tough spot to wait it out.

So what I have been doing to fill the void?? Well growing a beard for the 2012 race season. Word on the trail is that a good beard can yield better results. Working in retail makes it a bit interesting. Most of the customers that visit my store stop by once every 30 days to pay their mobile phone bills. They are all shocked to see the beard. Some positive comments have been made and questions about how long will I continue to grow it. The earliest plan is May 13 on my birthday after completing Massanutten or if I can stick it out and get into Hardrock then late July. So why not test that theory to see if it helps in the 100 milers. 

Here is the progress...
Oct 4th the beginning

No Shave November5924 up4678 down
November 27th current status
November 1, 2008 Urban Word of the Day
The month of November in which you don't shave any hair of your body but instead you grow more bestial, brutish, and manly.

The months of December, January, February, and so on follow and may also be included in this celebration of masculinity.

December = ("Don't Shave December")
January = ("Just Don't Shave January")
February = ("Forget to Shave February")
March = ("Masculine March")
April = ("Atrocious April")
May = ("Manly May")
My buddies and I all participated in No Shave November to raise awareness for the important and educational month of November. It is now a recognized national month that identifies the worth and meaning of celebrating masculinity.
Taken from Urban Dictionary

Also been reading books, watching movies, hanging out with friends and doing all those everyday things that fill one's normal day.  It is amazing at how many hours are in a day when you are not running. Some of those empty hours have been filled by eating. I have a huge hunger all day long which has placed 12 lbs on me since the Ozark race. I would like to think that it is all in the beard, but I know its' not. Once I get back in motion those extra pounds will drop off. So for now I am enjoying the holiday season of treats!

Well 26 hours and 12 minutes until the run now.
Best wishes to everyone this holiday season!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Aftermath

The Ozark Trail 100 did a small number on me. Around mile 26 I got tripped up on a branch and hyper extended my knee. Then with the goal of finishing I pressed on till mile 82. At that point knowing the cut-off was just beyond reach I stopped.

Yesterday my x-ray results were back so I visited the doctor. Good news was issued; only slight damage that requures some rest and a prescription. The doctor said that if I had continued it would have been more than just soft tissue damage. So I guess in hindsight I should have stopped earlier. I have the ok to start up running on December 1st and to race a 5k that Saturday.

It is hard sometimes to determine what is real damaging pain and just pain from running such a long distance. The end goal is to run trails for as long as possible. So walking that thin line is tricky.

The adventures will continue and the joys of the journey are ready to be found. 2012 here I come.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.1

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ozark Trail 100 Race Report

The Deathly Hollows  (an adventure in the Mark Twain Forest)

     Waking up a bit after 2:00 am I started to prepare myself for the race. The cabin was in a slow motion of movement and chatter.  E-Sizzle, Gary, Frank, myself and three others all trying to ensure we had everything we needed for the race.  About 3:15 we headed down to catch the bus for our ride to the start. Two buses carried all the runners south 102 miles to the start line. The downside of a point-to-point race is the long journey in the morning to the start. The upside is when you get back to where you started everything you need is right there.

      I checked in with the race officials and boarded the bus. The ride was tough to sleep. I would doze in and out throughout the trip. At one point I over heard the bus driver say to one of the runners, "something scary would have to be chasing me to run that far." I found that very amusing.

The buses to take us to the start..somewhere in Missouri

      Around 5:30 am we arrived at the start. The same sort of silence from the cabin was on the bus. A low amount of chatter and a few people making last minute adjustments to their supplies. With only a few minutes to the 6:00 am I exited the bus and strolled over to the start. Not to come out to fast which was not anywhere on my plan I moved to around the later portion of the pack. Paul, the co-race director, counted down and sent us on way north back to the Bass River Resort in Steelville, MO.

       The pace felt very comfortable as I put my focus on watching the ground. This race is known for an extremely challenging surface. It appears that all the leaves in the Mark Twain Forest fall on the ground to cover all the surprises that lay awaiting for you. Ruts, roots, rocks and branches are all there for your discovery and usually without joy when you do find them.  The temperature was near 50F is my best guess. I only had two top layers and a pair of shorts and did not feel over/under dressed.

     After a few miles I dropped in with a group of  four other runners. This was nice because we were moving all about the same pace. Thus, the front runner of our group seemed to know the trail very well as we never had a need to stop and verify our whereabouts. The sun started to rise just after 7:00 am and came up fast. Probably because with no leaves on the trees it was much easier for the light to get through the forest to us.

Daylight begins just before the first AS

     Coming into the first AS, Mile 8,  at 7:46am ten minutes behind my plan I was not too worried with so many miles to go. I refilled my bottles, grabbed the usual food items and headed back on down the course. Within a few minutes the five us were all together. I enjoyed being at the back so that I could take pictures, enjoy the views of the forest and watch my footing. All the while still being lead down the trail with no concerns of being lost. The course is essentially climb a big hill, run along the top of it, run down the other side to the area called the hollows, cross a stream or two, then climb back up the next hill. Repeating this process over and over throughout the entire run. It is not a course that has big hills; it just has a lot of in your face non-stop up and down running. The other challenge, as I mentioned before, is the ground surface. So it is tricky to push yourself on the downhills not knowing what surprises are going to pop out from under the leaves.

Some try the rock approach...Some try the log approach
     Mile 14 was the first stream crossing in the race and by my best guess of counting there are about 20 crossings I encountered. Now being at the back still had some perks to it. I was able to watch each runner in front of me try to find the best route over the stream. 

     After a few more miles I was coming in the second AS, Mile17, 9:58 am. Now I was 25 minutes behind the plan and still not worried. Feeling good and enjoying the day was more of a priority to me.  My daughter Kylie had  made me play list for the run. The first track was Green Day  "Welcome to Paradise."  I started the Ipod just after sunrise, using only the left earplug to hear the music while being able to still have a conversation with the other runners.

    From the morning group I was now down to running mostly solo and occasionally with Adam, a runner from Kansas City, through the next few sections. He would ask what song was playing every now and again. I think he would then search out the song in his head and picture it too. Adam was surprised to find out my oldest daughter was 16. He guessed my age way under what I thought could be guessed, but hey that is a good thing.

Taken by we took turns snapping pictures

 The next two sections were shorter sections each one being 5.2 miles. The first one I picked up the pace and ran it in 1 hour 8 minutes. The next section I completed in 1 hourr 10 minutes. In the the middle of that section I was hustling along and my right foot kicked up a branch. While my right foot held it firmly to the ground my left foot came across it and toed it until gravity forced me over it sending me awkwardly down the trail trying to regain my balance. I shook it off then started back into running.

Looking out from the top of a hill 

On the way to AS 4 Johnson Hollow
      Arriving at Johnson Hollow AS 4, Mile28, I was about 28 minutes off schedule. The day was only a bit warmer than the start and ideally a great day for a long run like this. Spending  minimial time getting refueled then back on the course. At this point I was on my own for the next couple of sections. I didn't mind it at all the day was flowing along nicely.

     Reaching Gunstock Hollow AS 5, Mile 35, just before 2:00 pm I was now more than 30 minutes off plan. Still I shook it off knowing it is near impossible to predict an exact finish time for a race of this distance. At the aid station Eddie, one of Frank's crew and good friend, was there. He was quick to offer assistance to me filling my bottles and getting me food. We chatted briefly to verify all the others were still doing good and moving forward too.

On the way to Brooks Creek AS 6

Self-portrait action photo

Another one of the many crossings

The Famous Trail Marker that leads you along

     Following the course I found to be very straight-forward process. These OT markers were nailed to trees throughout the entire course, usually on my right side. In addition, there was ribbon placed between the markers. Sometimes you would be running for a long period of time and see neither, but there was no option really in leaving the trail. It is hard to explain how you know that you are on the trail, but when you are on this course you know it. If there was an intersection it was very well marked. Not once did I have to stop and verify my whereabouts. So the co-race directors deserve some credit for making such an easy to follow route.

        Working my way through the day I passed on through AS 6 and reached AS 7, Highway DD, around 5:50 pm. Now I was about 50 minutes off plan. In the larger scope that meant about a mile minute. This was my only drop bag location. I changed out of my waist pack and into my nathan pack & evening gear. Looking around the aid station I noticed Eric, another Michigan runner, changing his gear too. I said, "hello" and wished him well as I headed back on to the trail. 

Hello Moon!! Full moon and no leaves.
      Leaving here I knew that the sun would be dropping soon. As expected just about 7:00 pm it fell right out of the sky as the full moon made it presence for the night. Shortly, after taking a picture of the moon I turned my headlamp on and my pace remained relatively the same. The darkness did not seem to make much of a difference in pace; it was apparent that the leaves were still dictating the pace.

      Now arriving at Martin Road AS 8, Mile 59, about 8:15 pm vs the plan of 7:33 pm I was still holding together. The plan was designed with a slowing down of pace after the halfway and here I was moving now at a 16 minute per mile. Not feeling the best in my left leg I chalked it up as a normal all day of running discomfort. A few minutes out of there Eric had caught me and expressed he wasn't moving as fast either. We agreed it was nice to have some company so from this point on we stuck together and pressed forward. Now we were both starting to powerwalk a bit more than run.

      Hazel Creek AS 9, Mile 68, took a long time to reach. It was a long 3 hour and 30 minute journey to cover those nine miles. Placing us just over a 20 minute per mile. It was nice to be here and see some familiar faces. Eddie was the first to greet us taking our bottles and gathering some food. PoDog was in charge of the AS and taking good care of us too. In addition, PT was whipping up some of the best soup there.  It was nice to sit down for a minute and talk to everyone as Eric attended to his feet. This is when I noticed that my knee was really starting to hurt more than a minor pain.

Master Chef PT making some potato soup!!

    Out of there and heading to Machell Hollow AS 10. The next 6.5 miles took us 2 hours and 45 minutes which is now pushing near a 25 minute per mile. Nothing was easy anymore every uphill and every downhill became a challenge to navigate. Mentally I was calculating splits verifying I was going to make the 32 hour cutoff still.  It seemed optimstically possible at this point. I figured my knee would eventually numb up from the pain and I could out last it to the finish. 

Machell Hollow showing Xmas Joy
      Here I was now at Machell Hollow, Mile 75,  at 2:40 am vs the plan of 12:20 am. It was an audible in my head, "hey you can make it. 27 miles in just over 11 hours." I sat down ate some pasta chatted with volunteers and snapped a few more pictures. 

      Some of the best moments were shared in the aid stations. The volunteers that came out to support this race were amazing. If there was no cut-off you would very well stay longer and enjoy their company. 

     Leaving here I noticed that every stride was beginning to hurt even more. Since I was trying to avoid adding more stress to my left knee I had now a growing pain in my right hip from changing my stride. Again, doing more calculations along the way to the Berryman AS mile 81, I started to worry about the cut-off. Finally, I broke down and found a branch on the ground to break into a five foot walking stick. It came in useful as there was another big stream crossing. I crossed the stream by balancing on a large tree that was over the river. At this point I thought if I fall in it can't really be any worse. Successfully, I made it across and worked my way on to the next AS. About a mile from the AS I told Eric I was not going to be able to keep up anymore. My left leg was no longer bending and was swelling up all around my knee. He pushed on and I slowly made my way along the Ozark Trail. I checked that last mile split and looking at an additional 20 miles to cover in 8 hours 50 minutes was not going to happen. I did not see any reason to cause more possible damage to my leg and not be able finish. Now if my pace would have made it able to finish I very likely would have kept going just to get that buckle. 

       Reaching Berryman AS Mile 81.5 I surreneded my bid tag and dropped from the race. It was 5:10 am putting me 3 hours behind my plan. The volunteers took good care of me and found me a ride to the finish. I enjoyed the entire journey. Running on trails is always incredible to me and this course is 99% all trail. I am very sure I will be back to run this again.

Great job to Paul & Stuart for putting together a great race!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Putting it altogether for the Ozark 100 Mile

     Well the Ozark 100 Mile is this weekend. I have put in a few runs since the Twin Peaks 50 Mile. No long runs just a bunch of shorter intense runs with hills. Today was the last of my training runs for the race. The Green Hornet came out to run this afternoon with me at Maybury. We took in the the beautiful fall afternoon. The leaves covered the trail and effortlessly we maneuvered the trail.

     I feel ready for this weekend knowing that one is never truly ready for a 100 mile run. So many things can happen over the course of running for 32 straight hours it is hard to predict a perfect race. This race is more like an adventure; the one true way I look at these long races. Hills, stream crossings, hills, challenging running surface, hills and all the good things that go into these ultra events. The race will have live tracking; 

Photo by: Kylie Rose Studios

I picked a nice theme song for the weekend. George Strait's Here for a good time:

I am not gonna lay around and whine and mourn for somebody that done me wrong
Don't think for a minute that I am gonna sit around and sing some old sad song
I believe it's half full not a half empty glass
Every day I wake up knowing it could be my last

I ain't here for a long time
I'm here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moon shine
When I'm gone put it in stone "He left nothing behind"
I ain't here for a long time
I'm here for a good time

Folks are always dreaming about what they like to do but I like to do just what I like
I take the chance, dance the dance, it might be wrong but then again it might be right
There's no way of knowing what tomorrow brings
Life's too short to waste it I say bring on anything


My daughter Kylie put together a 10 hour play list to entertain me during the race. The first track is "Welcome to Paradise" by Green Day. Closing it out with "Keep Holding On" by Avril Lavigne as the music ends and darkness falls. She has put a lot of work into the list; peppering it with inspirational songs.

Well it is about time to hit the road for the trip to Missouri. I promised the Anchorman that I would go sub 28 hours in exchange for use of the mattress pad for the cabin. So I guess I need to deliver on this promise!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Montrail on the trail

This week Montrail came out for the group run in Northville. We started at the Running Fit store and ran a few miles to the local CC course aka Cass-Bennett. I tested the Rogue Racers in a size 12. I have been wearing an 11 1/2 all year and I am on my second pair. I truly love the fit and comfort of this shoe. I noticed that the half size bigger did help with my toes not slamming into the front on the downhills. So going forward I am moving up   that half size in saving a few more toenails. The Montrail rep gave me the 2012 shoe guide that when you open it feels like shoe porn!! I made my wish list for my next pair(s) of shoes. The rep hooked me up with a zip hoodie, cap and a beanie. Of course, I am nowhere at the level of performance like Roes, Greenwood or Jones. But if Montrail ever needed someone from midpack to endorse them I got their back!! For anyone out there that runs trail on a regular basis should look into getting a pair. In addition, to some great products they are host of the Montrail Cup. Win one of the races and you get auto entry into Western States!! My first ultra was the American River 50 Mile which is one of their endorsed events. After running that race I was hooked on trails and life has never been the same :-)
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4

"I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened". Mark Twain

     Well just like playing Texas Hold em'  "I am all in!!" I was asked this week to join to Grand Slammers in running the Ozark 100 in Missouri. This season has been good to me and I thought might as well capitalize on it while I am in the moment.  Also this will put me at having seven belt buckles. My first full week supply on the quest to 25 buckles in total. The only thing is I didn't have this one on my list so I guess this is a bonus race.
The reward of the adventure!!!

Here is the description from the website:

The Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run is a point-to-point 100 mile ultramarathon on the Ozark Trail through the Mark Twain National Forest in south central Missouri.  The race is mostly on single track trail with several water crossings and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail surface varies from smooth dirt trail to moderately technical trail with lots of leaves covering the trail.  The date for this event is November 5th, 2011.

The adventure that lies ahead...... 

Coming off Twin Peaks 50 Miler, I am happy to see a bit flatter course with no major hill climbs.  My legs were a bit sore for the past eight days. Also some of the last runs, my legs have felt heavy while running. The rolling hills should give me enough of a break to keep a decent pace throughout the race. In addition, this is one of the first races that doesn't list a few dozen animals that would like to eat me for dinner. So the nighttime running won't be spent looking out for danger and more time focused on moving forward.

I am hoping for clear skies so that I can take some pictures for the race report. My concern is that a lot of the race reports say the leaves cover up a lot of trip hazards and I dont want to take a bad spill on to my camera. So I will play it by ear and see how it looks on race weekend.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Twin Peaks 50 plus mile

Twin Peaks 50 Mile October 9, 2011 
Corona, CA

Arriving with Pedro at the race with were quickly able to find Tiffany. We all chatted briefly then I snapped a few pictures of them. At that point I ran into Jessica the RD for Twin Peaks 50. Thanked her hosting the event and explained I was looking for to the challenge.

Two Amazing Coyotes!!
It was nice to be starting an ultra in daylight. The start time was 7:00am and the sun was already coming over the mountains. The temp was on the cooler side, but I knew that before it was all said and done that the temp would be reaching 85F.

Start Line of Twin Peaks

The group of runners all huddled in near the chalked start line and Jessica sent us on our way with a 5 second countdown. I choose to start towards the middle of the pack and not press out the first few miles too hard. The start takes you from 1200' basically straight up to about 5000' in the first 10 miles. About a mile into the climb Pedro had caught up to me and we chatted our way to the first aid station Indian Truck Trail 6.7 miles. Along the way I occasionally stopped to snap a few pictures of the beautiful sunrise.

Looking at the first peak to climb

Once through the first aid station Pedro and I stuck together chatting a bit more about all sorts of things. I mentioned as the race proceeds my goal is to catch 15 runners before the finish. He thought that sounded good; so we counted off runners one by one on our way to Horsethief as we still continued to climb.

Climbing our way to the top

Leaving the aid station we started a long quick singletrack  descend to Holy Jim AS. The pace quicken to a 9 min mile as we made our way to the bottom of the canyon. The feeling to be running down the singletrack was exciting. I was trying to take in the view but the scattered rocks kept my attention. Once at the bottom Pedro pushed on a bit faster and I held a comfortable pace working my way along the lush canyon bottom. I even found the abandon car he told me about the night before the race.

The lush portion of the canyon

Coming into to the Holy Jim aid station I met Pedro at the table and we started our way back out of the canyon up to Bear Springs AS. The course now was being to take a quick climb which would take us from about 2000' again straight up to about 5600' on mostly switchbacks. This portion of the course provided a ton of amazing views as we worked our way up the mountain. Passing even more runners the count was now near 10 and Pedro pulled away. I snapped a few more pictures and even captured some video of me running powerhiking up the switchbacks. The sun was bright and the temp was warming fast. I was feeling good and knew I had to pace myself. This course is basically climb up, drop down, climb up, drop down, climb up and finally drop down. Covering a total climb of 17,856 feet. This is by far the most elevation gain I have done per mile in any race. So holding back was the only sensible thing to do. Plus I was gradually passing runners on the way to each aid station.

Bottom of the canyon

Reaching Bear Springs AS I looked and did not see the aid station table set back a few feet from the trail and made the turn to head up to Santiago Peak. About a half mile later I was completely out of fluids. I asked another runner, Alan an Irishman, how far to the new aid station. He explained that it was a few more miles. I knew I could not make it that far with the temp being so high. That's when he asked why didn't I fuel up at Bear Springs. I explained I looked but didn't see the table. He kindly gave me one of his bottles which was able to get me to the top of Santiago.

Looking back to what I just covered

In the final climb to Santiago I saw Tiffany heading back down from the Peak looking strong. Then just about a tenth of a mile from the summit he comes Pedro letting out some Coyotes howls and looking strong too. I checked to the aid station got refueled and was ready to descend back to Holy Jim at the bottom of the canyon again. On the way down you take a spur called the Upper Holy Jim which is a quick switchback section. There is a lot of washout on the trail and the shrubs are tight.
After coming off the Upper Holy Jim I needed to get the sand and small pebbles out of shoes. I stopped and sat down on the jeep road and started to shake the debris from my shoes. Suddenly, I noticed three large raven hovering over my head and getting closer. This was unsettling for me as I was now scrambling to get my shoes back on to my feet. All the time I was doing that Alan commented as he passed saying, "those birds look like they are circling you" with a chuckle.

Pedro starting his way down from Santiago Peak

Keeping a decent pace I finally stopped counting runners I had exceeded my goal and was now over 30 runners in 25 miles. I knew the race was more about me finishing than placing anyway. I stopped again taking some more panoramic photos of the mountains then made my final drop into the aid station.

Great views from all angles

Leaving Holy Jim AS I ran into Alan again and we chatted a bit along the trail through the bottom of the canyon. Here is when the heart of the race hits you straight in the face, legs and mind. The next 17 miles is almost all climbing back around to Santiago Peak. The first climb up to Horsethief on the exposed switchback was brutally hot. In those fours plus miles from Holy Jim up to Horsethief I pounded down both of my bottles leaving me empty for the the last mile of climb. Now the second time in the race I was without fluids.

The desert feel around Holy Jim

I held a steady hiking pace as not to push too hard not having any fluids plus knowing there was a lot of climb to go after the aid station. On top of the heat my lower back had been hurting for the past two days and that climb brought it to full attention. I could have sworn Chuck Norris roundhoused me right there on the trail. My day had started to go south. I was moving at a 22 minute mile pace, no fluid and some horrible pain and the fear of now missing a cut-off. I even started to question myself on why do I sign up for these ridiculously hard races. I was thought hard and came to terms with it and no way I did I make this trip to DNF.

Fully stocked and mentally ready I left Horsethief and started a steady run/walk all the way to the Indian Truck Trail AS. This was the tipping point and I was gaining time back on the course. Every mile down was the end of the climb then a 10 mile descend back to the start. The sun was now being to slowly set too which helped reduce the constant feel of the sun.

The many jeep roads of the course

Heading to Bear Springs next I continued with a run/walk style. The only difference was that I was now more running and feeling good. The section went by rather quickly and I passed straight on through and keep working my way all the Santiago. I was in a moment and needed to finish this climb. Once again in almost the same spot I saw Tiffany making her way down from the Peak and heading to the finish. Thinking Pedro would be close behind her I keep my eyes open to cheer him on to the finish. Suddenly, I was at the peak and never saw him pass down the from the top. I then inquired if runner 74 had came through and they said a long time ago. Man this guy was tearing up the course. I snapped a few last photos at the aid station with the volunteers and they took one of me with the mts in the background.

Ready to run the downhill and finish this race

Alot of times we joke that the race starts in the 20% of course. So with an all downhill 10 mile run why would it not be the ideal time to push it now. I ratcheted it up and pushed the pace down from Santiago to the Upper Holy Jim. Holding a nice consistent 11 minute per mile I knew I would I would be done in two hours. At this point I had about a half dollar size blister on the bottom of each heel that shot pain up to sore quads. Hey what else can you expect when there is much much elevation and on top of that running 43 miles at this point. Just have to accept it and try to finish quicker to make it stop.

Just another breathtaking view

Using just my last two bottles and one gel I ran all the way down to the finish. Stopping once to get a picture of the full moon before darkness settled in around 7pm. Trying to avoid using my headlamp and just enjoying the run I was able to make it for a few miles. The final section was a jeep road that had a lot of washout and random rocks so instead of taking a hard fall I played it safe and turned the light on for the remaining part of the journey. Working my way around the mountain to the bottom it was interesting how there would be a cool breeze then coming around the other side it would still be hot. This pattern lasted all of the last four miles.

The full moon coming out
In the final straight way to the finish I was surprised when a spotlight was turned on and a bunch of cheering began. I kicked up the pace, brightened my smile and ran it. Once across the line I thanked all the volunteers for their help. I then stumbled across Tiffany by the fire and learned that not only did she take first female she also set the course record in the female division! On top of that she informed me that Pedro came in 8th in the men's with a time of 11h20m. Both amazing accomplishments. I was proud of my 13h5m finish with over 100 photos & 10 minutes of video footage. This was more about the adventure then about a podium finish. In addition, just completing the course has now qualified me for UTMB in 2012!! Imagine the adventure of me running in Switzerland around Mt Massif?!

Race volunteer and me at the finish 13 hr 05 min

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Its getting hot in here

With the temps dropping it sounded good when I was told the Red Hot 55K was opening up another 50 spots. I mean running in Moab UT sounds great alone but even better in February for a MI resident!

Waiting for the 8am registration to open was exciting until it didnt happen. I placed a call to the website and got VM. A few hours later I get a call saying there were some issues but it was now open. With no waiting I jumped online and signed up.

Winter training will be great with the goal being RH55K. Also that means 4 months & 17 days of beard growing.