Some adventures in road and trail running.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

PCT 50 miler: Great day for a 50k. Oh no! 20 miles to go!

On Saturday July 25th, 2009 I ran the PCT 50 miler.
Short version:
I had hoped to really nail this race and run around 8:20. Didn't happen. Still figuring out why. Good hard day out on the trail running with new and old friends alike.
50 miles in 9 hours and 19 minutes
Averaged 11:10 per mile
Awesome crew support from Trisha and the kids!!

Long Version:
Start to Little Crater Lake : 6 miles in 52:28 minutes
The first six miles are rolling and a great way to get out the early race anxiety but one must be careful not to go to fast and dip into the reserves that will be needed on the return trip. Right from the start I had urgent calls to hit the trees. Nerves, wrong food before the race, wrong food the night before...have to figure it out before the Where's Waldo 100 km.

Little Crater Lake to FS58 3.2 miles in 33:48 minutes
Once out of first aid station at Little Crater lake, you have some more rolling and then the start of the first real climb. I loved it. Except for the pit stops.

FS 58 to Frog Lake (Hwy 26) 5.2 miles in 47:46 minutes
This is where you start to do more climbing and experience the first real views of Mt Hood. It really is too bad we no longer will get to do the race up to Timberline...a loss all around in my books. Couple more pits stops.

Frog Lake to FS 58 5.2 miles in 43:20
Stomach started to settle down a bit and actually started to really enjoy the race. Scenery continues to be amazing.

FS 35 to Little Crater Lake 3.2 miles in 31:00 minutes
I was able to finally push a bit here and had likely the most fun of the day besides the step over the finish line :-)

Little Crater Lake back to the Start 6 miles in 1 hour 11 minutes
The dreaded dusty flatlands. This was a preview of the last 20 miles of the race. Just no gas on the ups or the flats. Running downhill worked well. My guesses are I fell behind on fueling in the early stages from the touchy tummy, residual fatigue from Hardrock pacing, lack of sleep in the previous 2 days (Clackamas campground was NOT quite this year)...I think more likely lack of fuel since I could "pound" the downhills when the opportunity arouse. This is where the title of this post comes from. Finishing here would have been GREAT: nice time for a 50km with some decent running. Call it a day. Oh no! Still 20 miles to go :-(

Start to Red Wolf Pass 4.5 miles in 1 hour and 9 minutes
Hot, dusty road running. Seemed to be all uphill for 4.5 miles. Really, really slow. Lots of attempted power hiking to keep moving. Grumpy. Discouraged. The Grandma Wolf aid station really helped and my family loved the recounting of the aid station signs sayings (all Little Red Riding Hood based). I learned to love those little white signs. The ice at this aid station was awesome!!

(Note: I forgot to take a split here and only have the total running time of 2:39:50 for Red Wolf back to Red Wolf)
Red Wolf Pass to Warm Springs Meadows 5.5 miles in 1 hour and 20 minutes
After Red Wolf you get some downhill and then likely the steepest sections of the course. Oh, MAN...those are going to hurt coming back! Then you cross the Warm Springs river and you get the privilege of more climbing. Not so much fun this far into a race. Sealed it for me that the new course is tougher than the old.
I was feeling sorry for myself when I hit Warm Springs. Trisha really helped me by simply saying to "Enjoy the day for what it is". Yep, time for an attitude adjustment. Not the day you had hoped for but still an amazing day out on the trail..smarten up! :-)

Warm Springs Meadows to Red Wolf Pass 5.5 miles in 1 hour and 20 minutes
Back we go. Down, down to the river. Good running, passing some people. Then the flat and then oh, no...the dreaded up. Climb, climb, walk, walk. Even the Lanny and Ruben (first and second the whole way I think) walked some of this section and these guys are TOUGH!
Getting close to the Red Wolf aid station I started seeing little white signs everywhere. And power lines. Where is that aid station. Phew...there it is.

Red Wolf Pass to Finish 4.5 miles in 51:30
The first 2-2.5 miles of this is sweet downhill where I almost got back to really enjoying the race :-) Then I hit the gravel road again. Hmmm...I remember this all being uphill. How come it now all seems like uphill again? I really, really should have had a better split on this section heading out. Next time! Finally see the campground and know I am a half mile out. Spit out onto the road and there is Trisha to pace me in for the final third of a mile.

(Note: I am not sure about the distances. Anyone who can correct me, it would be greatly appreciated. I can't make it work out to 50 miles with the web info and what I remember from the aid station signs on race day??)

I think I did a good job of staying hydrated and salted (win) but was riding the wrong curve on staying up on calories with just the base amount of gels and then PB & J in the aid stations. Maybe should have forced the issue and stuck to the plan? Possibly a good puke would have rebooted the system?

Thank you to Olga, Monika and Mike (race directors). I think you did a fine job of adapting and hosting this race with late breaking course changes. Thank you to all the volunteers. The aid stations were really well hosted with lots of volunteers eager to help.

Now back to planning to be ready for Waldo.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pacing at 2009 Hardrock 100

A new bar has been set. Everything I do from now on will be measured against the running / pacing I did at the Hardrock 100. It was the hardest, most extreme running I have done. I am happy to not try anything harder.

With that said the privilege, experience and opportunity to pace Ronda for 55+ miles of Hardrock was AWESOME! This is my story of the 33 hours, 56 minutes and 29 seconds that Ronda raced to place as second woman (Full results are here). Again AWESOME!

The race started at 6:00 am. We got up at 4:30 am to load the car and wish Micheal and Ronda a fun and great race.
After some time in the Silverton, CO high school gym, soon enough the runners were sent on their way for the adventure of a lifetime.

As crew and pacers, we were lucky enough to have time to grab some breakfast and caffeine in Silverton before driving to meet Ronda at the first crew spot: Cunningham Gulch.

The Hardrock course can be summarized simply: extreme climbing followed by extreme downhill running. There is NO flat. See the course profile to the left if you do not believe me.

Cunningham Gulch is after the first big climb and 9.2 miles into the race. Ronda showed up about 30 minutes ahead of her pace plan and looking really strong. But we all know that the first 10 miles of a 100 has little to do with the race :-)

We then were off to Sherman / Barrows Park to crew. This aid is after the second set of climbs and just before the runners prepare to climb to the highest point on the course: the summit of Handies Peak at 14,053 ft Ronda had maintained her pace and was currently running in about 6th place for women. As a crew we were excited and nervous all at the same time. It was about 3 pm (7 hours of running) in the afternoon at this point and some clouds were starting to roll in. Would we have some extreme weather as well in the form of thunderstorms?

The next aid station is Grouse Gulch at mile 42.8 (at the end of coming off Handies) and was were I would jump in to pace Ronda.
Since Ronda had just finished a long downhill, we started with the long uphill to Engineer's Pass and Oh! Point around 6:30 pm after Ronda had been running for about 12 hours.
My job for pacing was simple: make Ronda climb as fast as possible and then after seconds of reprieve of the current summit, switch gears and mercilessly pound the downhills. Repeat about 6 times over the 20 hours we are out there together.

We crested at Oh! Point and started the first downhill to the Engineer aid station. Phew leg one the CRAZY descent into the town of Ouray. Miles and miles of downhill running on a trail cut into the cliffs. I was pretty glad it was dark and that neither of us caught a toe on the endless shale. It was quite the relief to make the Ouray aid station and have Ronda move into 3rd place for the women. After a quick "Nascar" like pit stop with Bill, we were of on the climb to Virginus Pass or as I have come to know it: the scary ice climb of death :-0 After about 8 miles of uphill you have the privilege of summitting the last pitch to the saddle using a rope to ascend the last 300-400 feet of vertical frozen snow. The adrenaline rush from this climb helped cure both Ronda and my stomach issues we had been dealing with on the climb. Nothing like a little fear to cure what ails you :-) Sorry no pictures as it was 3:00 am when we summitted and reached the Kroeger's Canteen aid station in the pass at mile 68. Click here for a video of what appears to be the first pitch of the ascent.

You should know what is next: miles and miles of punishing downhill. Down, down, down into the town of Telluride. Some running, some sliding, some falling. The city was beautiful at night but also seemingly close yet taking sooo long to reach. Aid station at mile 73 and then out to climb to Oscar's Pass; another climb up and over 13,000 ft. This climb seemed to go on FOREVER! But it was beautiful watching the sun rise and then finally cresting at the top. And the the rock pounding down into Chapman Gulch aid station at mile 82 after about 26 hrs of running for Ronda (only . We pushed hard in this section and Ronda moved into second place. Next the climb to the rock scramble of Grant-Swamp pass. You climb about 3000 ft to then end in a bowl with no discernible way out. No problem for Hardrock...use your arms and legs and pick a route and go! And then watch for any falling rock!! Something special at 85 miles into the run :-) We watched Micheal make it up, took a deep breath and took the plunge to grunt it to the top.

At this point I was starting to have trouble running hard on the downhills. Wimpy feet with sore meta-tarsals is what we think. I was helping on the uphills but I was having trouble keeping up on the downhills. Not good...but Ronda was doing awesome and solidly in second place! So we pulled into KT aid station after another long downhill and I was hurting. But I knew we had some long climbs ahead and could still help out. So quick refuel and up into Putnam climbs. These are evil! Not as high as the earlier climbs but 12,500 ft is still high by any measure. And would some switchbacks really be all that hard to add? Straight up is never the easiest! :-)

Ronda powered on past the Putnam Creek aid station with 5.9 miles to go...most of it downhill back into Silverton. I was a liability with my "speed" on the downhills so she dropped me. Hard on my ego but I had done what I could to help her achieve her goals and I will always be proud to say I was dropped by her at Hardrock. It was so cool to watch and see all the hard work pay off.
Ronda "kissed" the rock (the official way to finish at Hardrock) as second woman, 33 hours, 56 minutes and 29 seconds after she started!! Full results are here.

Hardrock is amazing in its extremes: brutal climbs, leg pounding downhills, little to no "easy" trail running. There are either rocks or grass clumps grabbing you at every opportunity. Your feet are always wet from stream crossings. The scenery is as breath taking as the altitude. The race is very well organized and the aid stations are second to none. Be warned though: you need to know this course before race day. Course marking is only sufficient if you know where you are going. We got off course twice and we had spent over a week learning and reviewing the course. There are almost no "feel" good markers.

If you have any fear of heights, exposure, falling rocks or ice climbing in the middle of the night at 12,000 ft, this race is not for you. I have seldom experienced the fear I tasted during this run. The fear forced razor sharp focus at several times in the adventure. Conquer it or half way. Very Yoda-ish. Words kinda fail to express have to be there. You have to do it to experience it.

So if you ever want to set a new bar of extreme for your racing experience I can pretty much guarantee you will find it running Hardrock. As a small sample: can you find the course and runners in the picture to the right? This is looking up to the scree scramble at Grant-Swamp pass. Next time I am bringing a rock climbing helmet!

Congratulations to all the finishers...truly inspiring. From the youngest at 24 to the oldest at 73!!

I am now more excited than ever to race the PCT 50 in two weeks. I will always have the extra advantage in the back of my mind knowing it is easier than Hardrock :-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two 14ers in One Day

On July 7, 2009, I jumped at the chance to climb two 14000+ foot mountains in one day: Redcloud and Sunshine. Redcloud is 14,034 ft and Sunshine is 14,001 ft.
There is a saddle between these two mountains which makes the double bagger possible. I went out with Bill and Steve and we started on the 12 mile total hike/run at 7:45 am.
For quite a while you follow Silver creek before making a right turn and starting some serious climbing up to Redcloud.
Seems my body is adapting well to the altitude as I was able to run / hike well and no altitude headache as in past days. I reached the first saddle leading up to Redcloud and took a nice pause as Bill and Steve made their way up.
We then turned right to push up to the summit of Redcloud. Soon we summitted and took some time to record our names and eat some food.
Then is was the 1.3 miles down over the saddle to Sunshine. More food and pictures on this summit.
Then it was time to retrace to the summit of Redcloud and back down to the Silver creek and the car.

Was a great adventure with amazing views and lots of time exercising about 13,000 ft.
Definitely a great way to ensure you are tired and hungry when you get back to civilization :-)
Total running time was about 4:20 minutes

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bagging the Mountains in Colorado

The last two days that I have spent in Colorado have been really cool.

Lots of driving on Jeep roads in the mountains to get high and then a fair bit of hiking and running up above 11,000 ft...most of it higher than the peak of Mt Hood in Oregon!

On July 3rd, we climbed up part of the Hardrock 100 course to around 13,300 feet. This is the highest I had been in my life and you really do have to work harder with that missing oxygen. This is to help get me ready to pace the last 57 miles with my friend Ronda.

After the hike/run we did a quick clothes change and head for Telluride. Neat little mountain town that has really good flat crust pizza!

On July 4th we started the day off right doing a local 5k / 10k called the Blue Ribbon run. The course was obviously short but at any distance pushin' it at 9321 ft a some good honest work. My time was 41:51.
After a quick change and refuel we heading for the hills...or rather mountains to bag a 14er: Handies Peak.
The weather was perfect and after a tough but very scenic climb I peaked out at 14,048 ft! I spent some time at the top and snapped several pictures as Micheal and Ronda. I started to get cold so it was time to head back down. Nice casual run back to the car. While I waited for the others I was able to snap some pictures of the wild flowers that are waking up the valley from its winter sleep...BEAUTIFUL!