Monday, November 28, 2011

2012 Western States 100 Odds!


The original post on the initial assumptions is below, but there seems to be a bit more information out there now.  First of all, the number of people in the lottery is down to 1,946 and total tickets is down to 2,941.  Also, there's some chatter out there that there could be closer to 340 names pulled in the lottery this year...I think that's a bit optimistic though, so I'm going to assume 320.  I still haven't figured out how to account for the fact that once someone's name gets pulled, any additional names they have in the hat would be removed.  I don't think it's significant, but this would slightly increase these odds below...maybe by a percent or so I think. This all slightly improves these odds for each:

  • Odds with one name in the hat: 10.54%.
  • Odds with two names in the hat: 20.61%.
  • Odds with three names in the hat: 29.3%.
There's also a bunch of VERY CONFLICTING math being posted on the forum.  Some are coming up with some "logic" that having extra names in the hat doesn't help hardly at and decide for yourself!  I guess we can analyze to the end of the day, but we'll all find out soon enough anyway...good luck to all!

Below is my original post:


First, let me preface this by once again dedicating this post to my old man – he’s been been a math professor for something like 41 or 42 years now. This is all based on the same math from last year's WS odds post…from what I remember, I think he said there might be a few minor factors being left out, but this is a good estimate without getting too complicated. Thanks Dad!

On with the show:
The good news here is that they should be pulling more spots this year than last year since the two-time losers are done.  The bad news is there are quite a few more people in the lottery this year.

Some key assumptions:
We first have to make a really big assumption about how many names they are going to pull in the lottery. They say that they need a five-year average of 369 starters and they usually select about 400 total (planning for some attrition of course) Within that, there are a few more assumptions:
  • Montrail Cup Series Winners - 36 spots reserved according to the website. 
  • Raffle spots - 5 were drawn last June, and I’m assuming another 5 were drawn last December for the 2012 race, but not sure 
  • Top 10 runners - That's 20 spots, but not sure how many will do it (13 maybe?) 
  • International preference - They say they preference foreign entrants not drawn in the lottery – let’s assume 6 (complete guess) 
  • Gordy and Cowman - 2 more starters 
  • Groups that sponsor and staff aid stations and some sponsors can designate one runner – maybe 15 -20 spots? Let’s assume 18 (another complete guess) 
  • 9-time finishers going for their 10th - maybe 5 spots 
  • Finally, not sure where they are they at on their 5-year average starters? They have to average 369. I believe they had more starters two years ago than last year, which might help us this year. 
Now with all these things considered, assuming they select 400 total, and subtracting all those preferences, that would leave about 310 names pulled in the lottery. Last year they pulled approximately 230 (and I think there were about 80 two-time losers), so this would make sense.

If anyone has an inside track on the actual number of names being pulled in the lottery, let me know!

Laying out the facts:
Before we get to the real exciting part, we first need to lay out some of the facts. Most of these important details are on the site provides quite a bit of these important details for us:
  • One-time lottery entrants: 1,251 
  • Two-time lottery entrants: 497 (two-time entrants get two names in the hat) 
  • Three-time lottery entrants: 269 (three-time entrants get three names in the hat) 
  • Total lottery entrants: 2,017 
  • Total names in the lottery hat: 3,052 (1,115 + 497*2 + 269*3 = 3,052) 
  • Number of people selected in lottery: 310 spots (very estimated, remember?) 
Now we get to do some math!
Let’s start with the easy one – the chances of a one-time lottery entrant getting selected. Pretty basic, it’s just 310/3,052, which is 10.1573%. Good luck to you guys…you’ll need it.

Now for all you people with two names in the hat, pay attention! We start by figuring the odds that you are not selected with your first chance. With 3,052 names in the hat and 310 pulls, that equals 2,742/3,052 – or 89.8427%. Now the odds of not being selected with your second name are a very tiny bit more favorable at 2741/3,052 – or 89.8100%. Now to find the odds that one of your two names is selected, we multiply both and subtract from 1. So, since .898427 * .898100 = .806877, after you subtract that from 1, that means all of you two-time entrants have a 19.3123% chance of getting selected!

Now as you should have figure out by now, it’s really easy to determine your odds if you have three names in the hat. Just multiply the odds of not getting drawn after two pulls (.806877) by the odds of not getting drawn on the third pull (2,740/3,052 = .897772) and you get .724392. Subtract that from 1 and your odds of getting drawn with three names in the hat are 27.5608%. Approximately. I think.

Good luck to all in the lottery!

Let it be noted:
Last year, a couple people (Kurt N and Steve Quick), pointed out some potential minor flaws. Since I never really understood their explanations of a fully correct method, I’m just going to assume they didn’t actually know what they were talking about and this is pretty close to accurate (just kidding guys, I know you are both real smart).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This past weekend at the Superior Fall Races was one of my favorite weekends of ultrarunning I’ve ever had…and I wasn’t even running!  The Superior 50 was my introduction to trail racing back in 2008, and I have never stopped loving that trail.  Sure it’s provided many painful hours of feeling frustrated, hopeless, and helpless – but I still love it.  That’s just classic, good-old-fashioned, hard-as-hell ultrarunning.

When Kurt started talking about bringing the TC Running RV up to Oberg to man the aid station, I told him I was in for sure.  Then when John Horns decided to run his first 100 miler, I told him I was in for crewing too.  Luckily, John is incredibly fast and I got to do both!

Crewing and Pacing
John ran the course pretty much perfectly…stayed real steady and put a lot of trail behind him during the daylight.  He got pretty worried around halfway when he wasn’t holding his pace, but I think we finally convinced him that no one holds their pace steady in this race or any 100 (except for maybe Adam Schwartz-Lowe who ran an incredible second half).  He came into every aid station within 5-10 minutes of when we expected him based on the splits we had.  It’s crazy how much you can learn from crewing…I definitely learned a lot from John.
John coming into Silver Bay around mile 25.
We split up the pacing duties four ways since we had quite the crew, and I got handed the last two sections from mile 90 to the finish at 102.6.  We knew that John had a big lead at mile 62 of 1:20 or so, but also knew that Adam was gaining ground incredibly fast during the night.  It was a little weird trying to help one friend hold off another, but it’s all friendly competition and the tables could have easily been turned.  They both finished the tough last section real strong and John held on for the win by just 7 minutes in 24:13.  It’s so great to see good things happen for good people who work hard.

Volunteering at Oberg
The TCRC Oberg Crew consisted mostly of Kurt, Paul, Bateman, Dylan, and I.  We didn’t just consider ourselves volunteers – our goal was to be the Crew for every runner who came through Oberg that day and help them out however we could.  Man we were busy, with runners from all three races coming through steady all day.  Hopefully we didn’t dish out too much bad advice and mess up anyone’s last section :).

This was my first time volunteering at an aid station in a 100, and I’m convinced there is no better way to gain appreciation and understanding for this sport.  It’s so incredible seeing the whole spectrum of runners heading into their last section.  The frontrunners make it look easy, but you know they are in at least as much pain and have worked incredibly hard for a long time to get there.  The people fighting the cut-off were the most inspiring…I can’t even fathom the thought of still having so much determination and commitment after being chased by the sweeps for 95.5 miles.  I was so happy to hear later that everyone who left our aid station made it to the finish in time.
Photo from Zach Pierce who finished his 2nd Sawtooth 100 on Saturday!
This was the scene at the last aid station when he came through.
It was a very memorable weekend at an incredible race.  John Storkamp and his team poured their heart and soul into making this race great.  There were more runners than ever, the volunteers were great, the runners were inspiring, the trail is like no other…ultrarunning doesn’t get much better than that.

I told myself at last year’s race that running Sawtooth was a one-time experience for me – the course was too hard and there are too many other great adventures out there to be had.  After last weekend though, I know I’ll be back.  There might be a lot of other races out there, but this one’s just different...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cascade Crest 100 - Tall Trees, Tough Trails

It’s been over a week since I ran Cascade Crest and I’ve had plenty of time to think about the race while wandering around Washington.  I really had no clue what to expect… I set out to enjoy the day and take the challenges as they came.  Part of me was convinced I was in over my head and not cut out for this.  And another part of me knew I trained hard -- and in this sport, you usually get what you train for.

Goal #1 was to finish no matter how long it took. Goal #2 was to try to break 20 hours if the stars aligned and I had a perfect day. Knowing that perfect days in a 100 miler are hard to come by, Goal #3 was to stay positive, be flexible to the plan, keep it steady through the low points, and finish strong.

I crossed the finish line in 21:08:25 and in 4th place. Even though it took me a bit longer than I hoped, for some reason I am just as happy.  I usually measure success in a race based on how fast I ran, but this race is a little different. The time in a 100 miler says nothing about what you went through to get it. Sure it says a lot about how well you did overall, but at least for me, this race was more about the full experience and working through the highs and lows on a tough day.

The Crew
I don’t know how well I would have been able to keep my head together through the rough spots without Tony and Brian out there to crew and pace for me. There’s nothing like knowing a couple really good friends believe in you, even in those moments when you don’t believe much in yourself. There were many miles that I completely stopped caring about my time or how many more people were about to pass me, but those guys thankfully had very little sympathy and kept me moving through the night regardless. They traveled across the country and didn’t sleep for 30+ hours to help me do something I worked really hard for, and for that I will always be very thankful.

The Course
I knew this course was really hard, but I also had heard that it should be a faster course than my only other 100 mile experience at Superior Sawtooth. I think for some reason I interpreted that to mean it would be a little bit easier. I have since realized two big problems with that logic:
  1. I think I totally forgot how hard Sawtooth was.
  2. Faster doesn’t mean easier – it just means you have to run more.
I was mentally prepared for the several big climbs – 3,000 foot and 1,500 foot climbs in the first 17 miles, the 2,500 foot climb to mile 60, and the 3,000 foot climb to mile 81. Where I went wrong was that only adds up to 10,000 feet, which is less than half of the total climbing on the course! It was those “short” steep suckers that I didn’t see coming that really did a number on me. And I learned pretty quickly that “short” in the Cascades is all relative and still way longer than anything we have here in Minnesota.

To be honest, most of the race was sort of a blur…I think running a hundred miles forces you to sort of shut down the mind and just roll with it as the miles pass by one section at a time. I recall most of the course being nice smooth trail or dirt road, but it offered up a little of everything. There were beautiful views of the Cascades and Rainier, there were gradual climbs, steep climbs, roads, singletrack, smooth trail, and technical trail…the list goes on.
It looks hard...and it's harder than it looks.
The Lows
I think the section I lost the most time was unfortunately one of the most runnable – the PCT from mile 17 - 47.  I was just not feeling it.  I got passed by probably 4 or so people and was having a really hard time getting the stomach settled. Some would probably say I went out too fast on the first climbs, but I have no regrets...I felt good and was working the plan. I think it was mostly the heat of the day, having 30+ miles on the legs, and knowing in the back of my mind how far there was to go.

I’d also have to say the “Trail from Hell” definitely lived up to its name.  This was from mile 68 – 73 and Tony and I were doing 20 minute miles here.  It’s hard to describe, but was sort of like a really hard section of the Superior Trail with a lot of blow-downs.  Then the 7 mile, 3,000 foot climb that followed was even worse.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very runnable…I just was not running. It hurt more to run than walk, and Tony was walking faster than I was running anyway, so we hiked almost all of this. This is when I really started doing the math on whether I could break 24 hours if I had to walk the whole way to the finish.

The Highs
The first 17 miles were hard, but I felt good on the climbs and enjoyed having a bit of company. I ran the first mile or so with the winner and new course record-holder Rod Bien, and then I did a good chunk of the early climbing with Phil Shaw. He’s done this race 8 times, has won it a couple times, and gave me some good advice about the course.

The tunnel – at about mile 50 the course went under Snoqualmie Pass through a 2.3 mile long tunnel!  It used to be an old railroad bed so it was flat as a pancake and quite the unique experience. They even tossed a few skeletons in there hanging on the walls for added effect. I felt good here, was glad to cool off and be over halfway, and had moved back into fifth place on the section before. Getting to the Hyak aid station right after was also a great milestone, since I had Soller pacing me there and would have company the whole rest of the way.

And I must have done so much walking from mile 68 – 88 that I fully recovered or something, because I mustered up some energy to finish strong…

The Finish
The last two sections (mile 88 - 96, and from there to the finish), were run on pure adrenaline.  I didn’t even really eat anything this whole stretch, other than a few cups of coke and some M&Ms at the last aid station. We got progressively faster on the long descent from mile 88 to the last aid station as the sun came back up. Then we hit the last aid station, downed that coke, and kicked it to the finish.  We did the last section (over 4 miles) in 27:57 and passed two people. Based on how I felt from mile 68-85, I never would have dreamed that the fastest section of my race would be the last one. I’ve only done two hundred milers now, but in both of them and especially in this one, once I finally got to the end I wished I could have kept going.

Friends ask me once in a while, “Are these crazy races you do actually fun?”  Well, I can’t say that it’s everyone’s definition of fun or that there aren’t times that are nobody’s definition of fun…but I can honestly say I was having the time of my life as I cruised into the finish line back at the Easton Fire Department.

An Excuse to Make Some Popcorn
Soller got some good footage to capture a few of the moments at the aid stations and at the finish.  There's also finish line video at the end of David Reese who finished right behind me in 5th (after getting in some extra miles from getting lost), and the women's winner Shawna Tompkins.

Up Next
I am very much looking forward to just running for fun this fall, and a little break from racing.  I’m now most looking forward to crewing, volunteering, and watching some friends suffer through the Superior races this weekend and making sure they keep on moving until they get to Lutsen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Hay is in the Barn

It’s been a pretty steady week since Voyageur, and the last week of hard training before tapering for Cascade Crest 100.  I’ve gotten in about 110 miles since the race last Saturday, and just finished it with 40 hill repeats out at Hyland.  Now I’m ready for a break.

I signed up for Cascade Crest way back on February 12, the day before I ran a marathon in New Orleans.  I started training two weeks later. I’ve run 2,510 miles in 23 weeks since -21 of them over 100 miles, 1 at 97, and another at 40 when I was sick in CO.  My biggest mistake as you could probably tell was not taking down weeks to recover, but I guess some lessons in the sport you have to learn the hard way.  There’s no magic recipe to training for ultras.  It’s all one big grand experiment, and you never know where that fine line is in training until you toe it…or go over it a bit.

I’m excited but pretty scared for this 100 miler, but then again I can’t imagine anyone not being a little scared for a race that long.  I have no idea how it will go, but all you can do is work hard in training and find out what you’re capable of on race day.

The team for the race (Tony, the Sollers, and I) have been brushing up on some race knowledge with looking over race reports, old splits, and some pretty good YouTube videos.  Here's one that gives some pretty good views from the course...can't wait to see it in person!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why do I run?

A good friend and one of a few runners who have influenced me the most always has this to say about ultras: “Highs and lows, peaks and valleys…”  I never ask myself this question during the highs, but I’m pretty sure every runner has when they’ve hit a low.

A little over halfway through Voyageur was one of those low spots for me, and I spent much of the second half pondering that question, “Why do I run?”  I couldn’t help but think about all the other hobbies and interests that sound so much easier.  If I kept the hobbies I had when I was a kid, I’d be spending most of my free time fishing, collecting coins, or catching butterflies.  Think about it…on a bad day of fishing, the worst case scenario is still a relaxing day on the lake.  On a bad day in an ultra, the worst case scenario usually comes with a whole lot of pain and misery – or even worse, the dreaded DNF.

So, back to yesterday at Voyageur, as I left the turn-around at the Duluth Zoo, the biggest decision I had left to make was which aid station I was going to pull the plug at.  I threw up four times in three miles, was way overheated, lost all fluids, couldn’t eat anymore, had no energy, and the body just felt like it was shutting down.  All I could think of was how pointless this was, and for the first time in my life I was trying to come up with reasons to justify calling it a day.

When it came down to it though, I think it would take more guts for me to actually willingly choose to take off my number than to keep going.  I dragged myself to an aid station around mile 18 or so.  Thank goodness Tony was there…as several of us found out yesterday, there is nobody better than Tony to pick you up and kick you back out on the trail.  After he got me stocked up with some Gatorade and ice and after several cups of coke and ginger ale, I was back out on the trail.

I did feel better relatively soon after that.  It doesn’t always make sense, but it’s crazy how you can bounce back from rock bottom to rebound and feel better.  I never felt real good and had to drink all my calories for the last half, but was able to keep it moving slow and steady to the finish when I didn’t think I could.

I’ve said this before, but making it through an ultra on a tough day is sort of like an episode of Full House.  There’s always something bad that happens in the middle, but in the end it is all resolved and everything is perfect again.  As frustrating as it was and as much as I questioned, “Why do I run?” during the race, as soon as it was over I had no doubt about the answer and my love of the sport.

All in all, the 30th Minnesota Voyageur is in the books thanks to Andy and Kim Holak, who are such great people and race directors.  The volunteers seemed especially incredible this year.  And I’m always excited for many friends and training buddies who finished – some their first 50 miler, some with great races, and others who just grinded it out on a hard day.

Someone who I met after the race shared with me some great words of wisdom, “The sun don’t shine on the same horse’s ass every day.”  For some reason, I liked that a lot.  I think the more you can take a tough day in stride and still enjoy it, the more good days you’ll have in the long run.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Black Hills 100K

The trip last weekend to the Black Hills 100K last weekend was a memorable one.  It was a great trip, good times with friends, and came away inspired by people toughing it out on the trail - especially those 100 milers.  They are tough.

The best part of this trip for me was the road trip and seeing friends accomplish more than they ever would have imagined not long ago.  It was a great showing for Minnesota runners:  Adam Schwartz-Lowe won the 100 mile in an incredible performance and fast time on the course of 23:01, John Horns won his first 100K in 11:18, and Helen had another win in the 100K.  There were a bunch of others from the Twin Cities who represented MN as well.  And of course Western States was going on at the same time, and I’m proud of my good buddy Arley for gutting it out to the finish on a tough day.  I’m not sure if he is able to walk again quite yet, but I know he’s glad he finished.

As for the race itself for me, it was not exactly a confidence-builder.  My hope going into this one was to get in some really good training and have fun with it, run steady and finish strong, and see how I felt over 5,000 feet (about the same elevation as Cascade Crest 100 in August). The first half was about what I expected at around 5:20.  The second half was about 7:17.  That pretty much sums up how that went.

To be honest, I’ve been a little frustrated the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong and how I am going to not crash and burn at Cascade Crest in 8 weeks.  I think I’ve had enough miles of thinking to come to a few realizations now though:

  1. I’m always good for an epic bonk one or two times a year – and maybe that’s not such a bad thing when training for a 100 miler.
  2. I’ve learned a million times more from the toughest runs than from the best ones.
  3. I might not ever figure out exactly what it is I’ve learned, but I just need to trust that I’m better off because of it.

The race was an out and back course starting and finishing on the Woodle Field track in Sturgis, and venturing through the Black Hills on the Centennial Trail.  The course was challenging and a lot of fun to run –constant long climbs and descents, lots of great single track trail, five river crossings each way, and great views of the Black Hills.  The weather was not as hot as I expected – maybe around 80 degrees – but definitely warm enough to make those five river crossings on the way back feel really good.

I went out behind the lead 50 milers but in front of the lead 100 milers.  After the first mile of track and bike path, I kept it fairly steady and not too fast through most of the first half, and was hoping to be able to even split or close.  I could tell by the time I got to the mile 25 mark or so that it was going to be a long day though.  John caught up to me about a mile before the mile 29 aid station, and we were together until just after the turn-around point.  He had a great race and kept it real steady.  I had a feeling he was going to have a great race based on all the training and hill repeats I’ve seen him do…I’m excited for him that everything came together!

As for me, the trek back to Sturgis felt more like the last 50K of a 100 miler than the last half of a 100K.  My legs actually felt pretty good the whole way, but my biggest problem was breathing normally and having to work way too hard for how slow I was going.  I was short of breath most of the last half of the race, and when I stopped at the aid stations it felt like I had the wind knocked out of me – definitely wasn’t getting enough oxygen through me.  This was one of those days where the accomplishment was getting across the finish line at all – and that I guess I am happy with.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but part of me is wondering if I’m cut out for this running above 4,000 feet stuff.  I’ve got a couple months now to figure it out, so hopefully I’ll pull myself together.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to some Minnesota training for the rest of the summer!

Here are a few pictures from the race and the trip...

50 Mile, 100K, and 100 Mile all started on the track in Sturgis, SD.
Running with Todd Gangelhoff from CO at about mile 5.
Todd went on to win the 50 miler in 8:05...great guy.
Adam Schwartz-Lowe with his hardware from his 100
mile victory!  I was honored to carpool with the Champ!
They do exist!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lesson from CO: Stay in MN

A couple weeks ago, Arley and I departed on our adventure out to Colorado to visit Joe.  We were planning on a Saturday race at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50K, and a bunch of training in the days to follow for Arley's last push before Western States.

The good news and all that matters is that Arley is ready to rock at Western States next weekend, and the first half of the trip was great!  The bad news is that the second half of the trip was a miserable reminder of why I belong here in Minnesota where there is significantly more oxygen.

Golden Gate Dirty Thirty
My flight landed in Denver at about 9pm on the Friday, and after a short night's sleep at Joe's, we headed over to the race start at Golden Gate Canyon State Park bright and early on Saturday.  We picked up our friend Troy along the way, and checked in at the start for the 6am race.  I don't think any of us had very high expectations for this race, but were hoping to just keep it steady and get a great training effort in if nothing else.  The advertised 7,800 feet of climbing and equal descent (all between 7,500 and 9,500 feet) was pretty intimidating for this flat-lander.

All the race pictures are by Woody Anderson.
From the sound of it, I was expecting this to be by far the hardest 50K I've ever run.  As it turned out, those expectations were about right.  I finished in 5:39 and in 19th place overall.  Here's the Garmin data for the race.

I was most worried at about 4 miles into the race.  I remember looking to Joe and saying it's going to be a really long day.  You're not supposed to feel terrible at the beginning of an ultra - the legs just felt like lead.  I think my 4th mile took over 14 minutes.  I was pretty sure I was going to be hiking most of the course.

It continued to be pretty rough for the first 15-20 miles.  I was pretty frustrated right around the halfway point when I clammering over these huge boulders and spending more time trying to figure out where to step next than I did moving.  Thank goodness the course got less technical for the last half.  After that section, things actually felt better as the race went along.  There was a huge climb for two miles at about mile 25 or so that I felt fairly steady on, then it was mostly downhill from there to the finish.

Beautiful views the whole way...snow-capped peaks in the distance.
All in all, my time was about what I expected based on times from previous years at this race.  The biggest surprise though was how deep the field was.  I passed a handful of people in the last half, but considering how I finished feeling good and how many were ahead of me, I thought for sure I would have passed more.  There are just a whole lot of really good runners out West.  It's definitely a different ball-game out there in the mountains...those guys and gals are fast.

The Rest of the Trip:
We spent Saturday afternoon after the race enjoying a few beers at Golden's 2nd largest brewery - the very tiny and very tasty Golden City Brewery.  Then spent the evening eating pizza and a ridiculous amount of frozen yogurt.

On Sunday we ran the 7 mile Apex Loop right behind Joe's house, went shoe shopping for Arley, went to Hangover 2, played tennis (all of us were equally bad), and even drove up and saw Buffalo Bill's Grave!  We still don't really know what Buffalo Bill did, but we did clarify that he is not the same guy as Wild Bill.

Even though this was right next to Buffalo Bill's grave, we're fairly certain
Buffalo Bill was not actually a Buffalo.
Then on Monday, we made the trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  We did an awesome 10 mile or so run near Estes Park - the Lumpy Ridge Loop.  Even saw a bunch of big Elk and was a beautiful trail.

Moose sighting! On the short drive back into Estes Park right after our run.
After lunch, we drove up Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, and turned around just past the high point of over 12,000 feet.  There was still an unbelievable amount of snow up there - it was actually the first day the road was open for the season.  I'm glad we went up there...there were some beautiful views of the mountains.  Although I'm pretty sure that's what finished me off.

Joe and Arley in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Great views of the snowy Rocky's above the tree line.
Altitude Sickness is Miserable.
By the time we got back to Joe's house on Monday, the altitude was taking its toll.  I was completely exhausted, couldn't eat, and would find myself laying in bed for the next two days and missing the climb up Pike's Peak that Joe and Arley did the next day.  I knew altitude sickness could happen to anyone and that it could get pretty bad, but I had never been nearly that sick in my life.  It was pretty miserable.  I didn't really eat for three days, lost over 8 pounds, and took a few days to get the energy and appetite back.  I even had to take three days completely off from running.  And I really don't like taking days off...first time off since sometime back in October.

I have been told by some runners who are much smarter than me that if you don't take a break, at some point your body will find a way to force you to take a break.  I think that's sort of what happened here.  I had 14 weeks in a row of pretty consistently hard training, so I think I was maybe walking that fine line of how much is too much.  In the end, I think it was probably a really good thing to be forced to take some time off.  And getting sick is a million times better than an injury, so I am quite grateful for that.

Needless to say, I don't have any desire to run out in CO again anytime soon, but I'm sure I'll be talked into giving it another shot sometime sooner than later.  Besides, I have to run up Pike's Peak since I bailed this time.  In the meantime, I'm just going to hang out here in Minnesota and try to stay below 1,000 feet.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Superior 50K

For the handful of you all that actually read any of this, I'm starting to wonder if you're tired of reading about my running adventures two weeks after they happen.  I guess it's sort of like reading old newspapers, which isn't any fun.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, since the next big adventure begins when my flight leaves for Colorado in a couple hours, I figured it's high time I jot down a quick synopsis of the last couple weeks and the Superior 50K on May 21.

I really had three goals for Superior in this my third time running the race:

  1. Don't take a wrong turn.
  2. Avoid completely falling apart on the last section.
  3. Run it faster than last year.
The first one wasn't really so hard and just required a bit more paying attention than last year.  The second one I have never had any luck with on that trail.  The third one put my goal time at around 4 hours - give or take 5 minutes (last year's time was 4:08).  The recovery from the Canyon double-crossing two weeks before was a little slow, but turned a corner quickly and I actually felt really good the week before the race.

I found myself starting out the race with Lundo and Dimitri as expected, but what wasn't expected was a guy we didn't know named Josh from Indiana passing us a couple miles in.  I wasn't too interested in trying to keep pace with him since its a long, tough race, especially since Chris and Dimitri weren't either, so we cruised along together for the first couple sections.  The pace felt pretty fast for me, but didn't want to let those guys go on ahead quite yet.  And it was fun having the company!  We all separated a bit on the last couple miles up to the turn-around, but not by more than a minute or so.  

When I hit the turn in 4th place at 1:55 just under course record pace, I knew I was a little in over my head.  But knowing how hard that course is, I also had a feeling like I probably wasn't the only one.  I definitely stopped caring about pace and place after the turn, and more started keeping it steady and enjoying my favorite place in the world to run.  I thought if I could finish steady (not even real fast, but steady), I'd have a good shot at catching one of those guys before the finish.

As it turned out, I caught up with Josh from Indiana on the first big climb of the last section, and passed Dimitri on the second climb in the same place I was passed by Joe last year.  This put me in 2nd place and on pace to get close to 4:00...and I knew Lundo would be at least 10 minutes ahead of me, so wasn't worried about him at all.

It ended up being a positive split race by over 10 minutes, but was still really happy with it and encouraged to keep it relatively steady and finish feeling great.  I finished in 4:01:14, so next time the goal will have to be to sneak in under 4:00 somehow.  Always good to have something to shoot for!

Up Next - Colorado Training Weekend!
Now I'm about 13 hours from the next 50K - Golden Gate Dirty Thirty in Colorado with Joe and Arley.  This one's going to be crazy hard - 9,000 feet of climbing and at up to 9,000 feet of altitude (a lot for this Minnesotan).  It's going to be more of a training effort than a race, but should be fun either way.  Hopefully it won't take me two weeks to tell some good stories from adventures in CO!  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grand Canyon Post #2 - Rim to Rim to Rim

As I coasted down the South Kaibab Trail a couple weeks ago and saw the sunrise from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I was thinking to myself how lucky I was to be a trail runner.  Later that afternoon on the climb back up to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail, I was thinking to myself that there’s no way I’m ever doing this again.  And so goes the highs and lows of an ultra runner…

Attempting to run across the Grand Canyon and back at least for me was quite the humbling experience to say the least.  I knew it’d be hard based on the stories of the guys who’ve done it before, but it’s just one of those things you need to experience.  There are so many factors even beyond the usual ultra that make this run unpredictable.  There are the two relentless climbs and descents of 4,700 and 5,700 feet, the wide range of altitude between 2,400 and 8,200 feet, and the unbearable heat that reached 105 degrees.  And of course there’s that whole thing about being from Minnesota that makes all this hard to train for.
Left to right: Jeff, Tony, Dylan, Joe, John, Brian, Rick, Chad, Roddy,
Randy, Bateman, Paul, Doug, and TJ. 
There are 14 guys who will be telling stories from this day for a long time, but here’s my account of how it all went down…

The Adventure Begins - South Rim to Phantom Ranch
We departed from the South Kaibab Trailhead in two separate groups bright and early that morning – one group at 4:30 and the other at 5:30.  I was in the group of 6 that opted for the later start, along with Joe Z, Tony K, Roddy, TJ, and Storkamp.  We were also joined by our new friend Dave who we met on the shuttle for the initial 7 mile descent to Phantom Ranch; he was doing the double crossing for the 17th year in a row!  After all the talk about which one of us would be setting the pace, turned out we all just tried to keep up with Dave – guess you don’t need to stop to take in the views after 17 double crossings.
Photo by Mike Bateman: First look at the Colorado River from South Kaibab.
This first leg of the trek was pretty light-hearted.  Everyone was feeling good, loving the indescribable views, and making sure to take time to appreciate the scenery.  I think we all wanted to put up a solid effort, but definitely didn’t want to rush through it without taking it all in.  I couldn’t help but be reminded why I love this sport so much.  Not many people have experienced one of the most beautiful places in the world the way we were about to that day.

We pulled into Phantom Ranch at about 1:10 into the run and stayed for probably 10 minutes to take a break and fill up the Nathan vests with water.

Phantom Ranch to North Rim
The 5,700+ foot climb up to the North Rim was sort of broken up into two 7 mile sections – the first a gradual climb to Cottonwood Campground, and the second an increasingly steep trek up to the Rim.
We followed TJ out of Phantom Ranch at a pretty steady pace on the gradual ascent up to Cottonwood.  I really liked this section – felt great and the trail was very runnable with much of it along a river.

After filling up with water quick at Cottonwood, we just had a couple miles before another water stop, where we saw our friend Chad who started earlier.  Chad let us know that we were close to the rest of the group, and sure enough we caught up them all running together within a mile or two…it was good to see the guys and everyone seeming to look pretty good still.
Photo by Mike Bateman: Look closely and you can see 5 of us climbing
up to the North Rim.
The group spread out a bit on the climb, and it was Tony, Joe and I that made it to the top a bit before the others.  The last couple miles included a lot of hiking, but we seemed to be making pretty good pace all things considered.  I really don’t consider myself a very good climber, but for some reason I felt good here on the steady ascent.  And I didn’t even really notice the fact that we were at 8,200+ feet here…a good sign for a guy who’s sort of paranoid about altitude.
Photo by Mike Bateman: View from the North Rim.
We arrived at the North Rim at about 4:32 into the run, and probably stayed less than 5 minutes.  At this point, we were probably still on pace to run around 10 or so hours if all went well.  Little did we know, the way back wouldn’t be quite so smooth sailing…

North Rim back to Phantom Ranch
Within a minute or so of descending from the North Rim, we started seeing all the guys climbing up.  It was pretty clear already that it was going to be a long day.  Most everyone was pretty close together here, but some were clearly enjoying the climb more than others.

When we passed by our new friend Dave as he climbed, he stopped to tell us that our fellow runner Rick was struggling below with a rapid heart-rate and was pretty worried.  After Dave gave us this “heads up” about Rick, he continued to attempt to schedule breakfast for 15 at El Tovar restaurant the next morning for what seemed like several minutes.  Joe and I were admittedly moving on while Tony talked breakfast logistics with Dave.  Unfortunately, that was the last we heard of Dave.  (Dave, if you ever come across this, we are sorry we missed breakfast!  The Holiday Inn had all we could imagine for free and 14 guys are hard to move around.)

Soon after that we met up with Rick, who wasn’t looking so good.  We debated between getting him to lower elevation and water, or getting him to the North Rim and potential help.  Tony – being the nicest guy in the world as always – stayed back to be with Rick, while Joe and I went on ahead.  (More on Rick and Tony in a minute…)
Photo by Mike Bateman: Great view from North Kaibab Trail.
For the rest of the run, Joe and I would be very loyal to the buddy system and were together until the finish.  After we left Tony and Rick, we still had 13 miles of descending to get to Phantom Ranch.  I really wish my quads wouldn’t have been trashed here…this was a rough stretch that just seemed to never end.  The trail was technical enough to make it hard to eat, drink, take salt, and keep up with Joe at the same time.  I was frustrated that I was slowing Joe down because he was running real strong, and strangely I just couldn’t wait to start climbing again.  I kept convincing myself that we were farther out from Phantom Ranch than we were, so that I’d be surprised when we got there.  Joe was keeping us on a pretty steady pace, but man it was painful.

As we made our way down to Phantom Ranch, the temp was quickly on the rise.  I think I was so distracted by the fact that I didn’t want to keep running downhill to notice exactly how hot it was.  Once it started leveling out, I realized the heat was taking a bigger toll than I realized.  Apparently, the temp at Phantom Ranch was up to 105 degrees that day…

I think we did both the 7 miles to Cottonwood and the 7 miles from there to Phantom Ranch in about 1:10-1:15 each.  That put us back into Phantom Ranch in a little over 7 hours.

Extended Stay at Phantom Ranch
As we were sitting in the cantina eating the Snickers and taking a break, we were a bit surprised to have a Ranger come and ask us, “Are you guys with the group of Minnesotans?”  Apparently we stuck out like a sore thumb, and it turns out that our group was already becoming quite the talk of the Ranger radio waves that day.  We found out Rick was stuck on the North Rim – a mere 5 hour drive from the South Rim – with no way back.  At one point, Joe and I were told we’d have to go get him that night, and we were even given the codes to the gates of the closed North Rim.  Luckily though, after 20 minutes of back and forth on the radios, the ranger told us she got him a ride to a lodge nearby, so he could stay the night there.

After all that was settled, Joe and I started to stumble out of Phantom Ranch and back on the trail.  At this point, we were pretty worried about everyone else, had stopped caring about how long it would take us, and sort of had the wind taken out of our sails.  We left at about 7:40 into the run, and figured it could take 3-4 hours of mostly hiking to the finish.
Photo by Mike Bateman: Coming back across the Colorado River.
Phantom Ranch to South Rim
This 9.6 mile section up the Bright Angel Trail was doomed for us from the very beginning.  Joe was bonking from about the first step with the heat really getting to him, and within 10 minutes was throwing up on the side of the trail.  In the meantime I was feeling just fine and munching on Honey Stinger chews while waiting for Joe.  Once we got moving again, it was pretty slow hiking with Indian Gardens being our next stop for water at 4.5 miles from the finish.

We finally got to Indian Gardens and met up again with Chad there, who had very smartly turned around early before reaching the North Rim and had been going solo for almost the whole day (and probably wondering about that buddy system the whole time).  It was great to see him looking good and in great spirits.  By this time, Joe was starting to feel better and I was starting to fall apart.
Photo by Chad Austin: View of Bright Angel Trail from Indian Gardens.
At about 4 miles out I tried to convince Joe that if we toughened up and averaged just 20 minute miles, we could get in under 11 hours and beat his and Tony’s time from 2 years ago.  He wasn’t having it.  About 10 minutes later, he seemed to be feeling great, and I wasn’t having it.  As we climbed higher, I had a harder and harder time breathing (this is why I’m paranoid about altitude).  I felt like I was having an asthma attack or something, and Joe said I sounded like a freight train trying to breathe.  Man it was rough going.

Then when we were three miles out, Joe told me with all good intentions that we just had “600 football fields left to go to the finish.”  I responded, “Is that supposed to make me feel good?”  It wasn’t until about five minutes later that I realized he was off by a zero and it was really only 60 football fields.  Needless to say though, I’ll never take a simple 5K for granted again…never thought it would take me 1:15+ to move the body just three miles.

As hard and slow as it was, we kept the constant forward motion going to the finish at the Bright Angel Trailhead.  We finished about 11 hours, 7 minutes after we started.
Joe and I at the Bright Angel Trailhead shortly after
we finished.
You might wonder…What happened to everyone else?
As it turned out for the group, all 14 of us luckily made it out alive and well!  In summary, Rick was thankfully just fine and actually made his way to our hotel that night before we did.  TJ apparently had some memorable moments to say the least at the water stops, but made it through thanks to Joe’s water bottle and Doug’s S Caps.  Roddy was so happy after we met up with the early group and found a more sustainable pace that nothing seemed to phase him after that.  Dylan and Randy stuck together through an epic last couple miles that lasted 2 hours and involved some laying down on the ground.  The guys you don’t hear about were the ones that had the best run – Holovnia the veteran, Denney the Olympian, Doug, and Bateman, all seemed really steady.  Tony and John – after spending a couple hours with Rick on the North Rim and getting in some extra miles – were the last ones to come in under headlamps at about 9:30 that night...we were so relieved to see those two headlamps making their way up the trail.  As everyone gathered and came back safe, we enjoyed some food and beer at the bar right on the South Rim before heading to the hotel exhausted.

All in all, this run/hike was without a doubt the hardest 44.6 miles I’ve ever experienced.  Given the conditions and heat, I think it’s probably more like the equivalent of the effort and time of a 65-70 mile run on an easier course.  It’s a must-do for avid ultra runners, but definitely not to be taken lightly.  My only advice for first-time double-crossers is to imagine how hard it could be, and expect it to be harder.

Now even with all this being said, I have found further proof that ultra runners have selective memory.  Even though I told myself I’d never do this again many times during the run, almost as soon as it was over I knew that I’ll be back again for more someday.  It might be a little while though…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Grand Canyon Post #1 - A short video

The adventure to the Grand Canyon this past weekend was indescribable!  I have yet to find time to gather my thoughts and stories into words, but I did throw together a short video for starters with the little footage I had.  

I had full intentions of making this a sweet video and taking time to get some great shots. But then reality set in and I found myself not caring anymore once the going got tough.  Sorry it's a little choppy..enjoy!

I'll be back with the written version in a few the meantime, check out Chad's blog for his perspective and some great pictures.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chippewa 50K

So since the next adventure begins tomorrow as we depart for AZ and the Grand Canyon, I guess I should finally get around to some thoughts on the last one - Chippewa 50k.  

This race represents sort of the “beginning of running as I know it” for me.  Two years ago, I ran Chippewa as my first 50K and second trail race. At the time I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, didn’t know anyone, had never heard of an S Cap, didn’t have one of these fancy handheld water bottles, and didn’t have one of these high-tech watches that would tell me how fast and far I was going…or any watch at all for that matter. Although I met a couple guys there at that race in 2009 who seemed pretty cool and were way better runners than me. They must’ve felt sorry for me or something, because they invited me to come and run with them once in a while. Since most good things in life start with just showing up, I took them up on it!

Fast forward a couple years to now, I guess I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I run a lot more now, get to train, travel, and race with a great group, and have a whole lot more fun. So, I couldn’t think of a better way to start the trail season than a trip back to Chippewa!

Race In a Nutshell
Hard to believe, but this was my first trail race in over 7 months! The game plan for this one was to be real steady, start off feeling comfortable, and then try to finish strong and negative split it by a few minutes. As it turned out, I succeeded in running pretty steady, but felt a little too sluggish on the last half to pick it up at all. That course doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it just chews you up with all the constant rolling hills and is just technical enough that it’s hard to put it on cruise control and settle in. I was real happy with how it shook out though in the end, and ended up holding on for first place with a time of 3:59:39.

Here’s the Garmin Data of how it all went down mile-by-mile.
Getting ready at the start.
Picture is from the Chippewa Facebook Album.
After valiantly overcoming multiple sabotage attempts by Joe Z in the first 30 seconds or so, I settled in for the first mile with a good group of six or so runners – Joe, Storkamp, and a couple other guys I just met right then. Once we hit some single track, I pulled out in front a bit and settled in to run the first half almost all on my own pretty consistently in 7:30s or so. I was expecting the course to be super muddy since it rained all day/night before the race, but it was surprisingly in pretty good shape! 

I must’ve got a bit lazy near the halfway point or they got faster, because Craig H, John S, and one other caught up right before the turnaround. I did take a wrong turn around there, but only lost less than a minute I’m guessing (good news is that I’m getting much better at admitting it when I’m lost!). In hindsight, I wish I would have just run with those guys the whole first half so I would’ve had people to talk to.

And Back
The four of us hit the turn-around aid station together, and Craig and I left together. We ran together or real close for the first five or so miles of the second half and it was good to get to know him. He is going to be hard to beat by the end of the summer (or end of spring for that matter).

The way back on an out-and-back is always fun to see all the familiar faces on the trail. After that though, I guess the last 10 or so miles were pretty uneventful. I was cruising along pretty steady, trying to get used to eating a lot, and just loving the beautiful course. There must be a dozen lakes that the course goes along and the weather was perfect for running. When I got to the mile 5 sign, I had about 40 minutes left to sneak in under 4 hours. This was easier said than done with some tough climbs and the killer hill at the very end, but ended up coming in with a whopping 21 seconds to spare!

Jeff Allen and Randy Fulton with FrontRunner put on a great event. This race was almost cancelled last year, and then revived by Jeff and company. There were over 200 runners that were pretty thankful they did it on Saturday. It’s a great addition to the local trail race scene, awesome course, fun atmosphere, and they even had soup, sandwiches, cookies and plenty of cold Lienie’s to enjoy as friends came into the finish! I’m definitely hoping I can make it back next year.  All in all a great way to start the trail season.  
Joe, John and I at the finish.  I think Jeff Allen took this picture...thanks Jeff!
Next up is the double-crossing of the Grand Canyon on Friday!  This one's going to be tough, which hopefully means there will be some good stories to tell.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easiest 6 miles of my life...

I've covered a lot of ground in the past few years on the paths around the Minneapolis Riverfront area, but I can safely say that none have been more memorable than last Wednesday afternoon.  I went with all my co-workers on a Segway Tour!  I'm pretty sure the hardest work I did the whole time was to step on and off the Segway when we stopped for breaks and some history lessons.

I learned a few fun facts about Segways from Bill the owner when we were there.  First of all, I was quite impressed by their top pace of 5:00 per mile!  Secondly, I guess they really really struggle after about mile 22...I mean really struggle.  Lastly, they wouldn't be very good on technical trail.  Bottom line here is they're fast, but they wouldn't stand a chance against an ultra runner.

This cast of characters in the video is the 8-person full time staff of Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF).  Our staff is sort of a spectacle when we go anywhere together anyway, but I'm sure that was escalated by the fact we were scooting around on these Segways.  Believe it or not, this year alone we will work with 500 student volunteer leaders who will organize cross-country service trips called Pay it Forward Tours and Leadership Camps for 4,000 student participants!  I loved how the Segway Tour guide couldn't believe how we were the whole staff since we were all so young.  You can probably tell that I have one of the greatest jobs in the world...

I've since resorted back to running as my means of logging miles.  Even had the first real trail run of the year at Hyland this morning...good to be back!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Training

Well, it's taken a while to arrive, but the warmer weather is just making me want to run more.  I've never been one to take anything for granted, but I'm hoping a good spring of training will be a solid foundation for some good races this summer - that is as long as I don't screw it all up and injure myself or anything. 

I've been working pretty hard the past five or so weeks and legs feel really good.  It's been mostly just a whole lot of miles, but this year I'm also trying to hang on to enough speed not to slip into a rut.  The last four weeks I've been alternating weekend long runs between steady ultra distance one weekend, and 20+ with a road race in the middle the next weekend.  Seems to have been a good variety of training so far and keeps the legs fresh.

Today was so much fun!
This morning was one of the most fun times I've had on a run in a really long time, and it was my longest run in almost 6 months.  I set out to get to at least 40 miles on this one, although I was feeling pretty sluggish mid-week so wasn't sure how it would go.  Turned out it was just a great day and ended up with about 41.5.  The weather was perfect, and I think the aid station I brought in my car helped too, in particular these bite sized chocolate chip cookies from Target.  I'm pretty sure I consumed at least 2,000 calories by 11:30 in the morning...don't worry, not all in cookies but I had my fair share!

Most of the run was a pretty steady pace around 7:50s (give or take 30 seconds or so), with some hill repeats at the U and on 50th Street thrown in to mix it up a bit.  Then I got through mile 36 and found myself on my own since the other guys either called it good or didn't have the decided to pick it up a notch.  Ended up hitting miles 37 - 41 around Calhoun and the Isles at 6:52, 6:57, 6:36, 6:19, and 5:55 pace.  It was so much fun to be feeling good enough to tick off some faster miles that deep into a run.  Definitely encouraging for now...just have to keep it rolling.

Coolest thing about today is that I was pretty lucky to have run with several guys on the longest run of their lives!  So cool to see guys still feeling good after running more miles than they ever have...definitely remember that feeling not very long ago when I was first getting into ultras...every extra mile is sort of a new accomplishment!  Only thing that could have made today better was if it were on the trails out at Afton, but that would have been a pretty slow slog through snow and mud more week I think.

MDRA 7 Mile Recap
Last weekend was the annual rite of spring at the MDRA 7 Mile.  Nick, Joe, and I did this one last year as part of our long run with around 7 before and 7 after.  So since Joe was back in town we did it again, but had a bunch more guys from the group out there this time.  It's a good hilly course and just a good spring test of fitness.

A 7 mile road race probably isn't my strongest event, but all things considered I think I ran the race about the best I am capable of.  The course was a bit short and had 6.85 miles on the Garmin...finished in 38:01, which was a little over a minute faster than last year (although not taking any wrong turns this year helped greatly).  It's a really informal race that no one took very seriously at all, but was fun and a great workout on a long run.

I am now longing for the trails...very soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Irish for a Day

When I signed up for the 100% Irish for a Day 10 Mile back in the middle of February, I had just got back from New Orleans and it was 50 degrees out.  At the time, I was pretty excited for a fun spring race and to take a crack at a good time in my first 10 mile.  Turns out I was definitely fooled about the "spring" part, which sort of did a number on the "good time" part.  I must have forgotten this is Minnesota.

As it turned out on race day, it was about 20 degrees with around 30 mile hour winds, and just enough snow and ice to make the footing pretty miserable.  Not going to lie, I was less than excited about this one (even my skier friends are saying its been a long winter).  But then again its a race and everyone's running in the same conditions...and the positive thing I've learned about racing in bad weather is the worse the weather is, the more memorable the race is.

Matt Trok and I met up to run for an hour or so before the race, and got some extra miles in while scouting out a good chunk of the course.  It really didn't seem so bad as we trotted along slowly, but it was pretty clear there would be sections into the wind that would be pretty ridiculous in the race.

I was a bit surprised at the pace at the start of the race when there were probably 8 or 9 guys that ran about a 5:35 first mile...seemed pretty fast on a tough day.  The group started spreading out quite a bit by mile 2-3 as we came north up the east side of Lake Harriet, running on snow into the northwest wind coming across the lake.  There were two fast guys up front that I sort of gave up hope on by mile 3 or so, and a third who was steadily pulling away.  This is where the shorter distance is so different than a marathon or a 10 mile or less you probably won't ever catch guys that you lose sight of, where in a longer race there's a decent chance you might see them again.

By mile 4 or 5, I was feeling pretty terrible around the windy side of Lake Calhoun, and had slipped back to 6th place and running about 6:00 pace.  Thankfully, right around mile 5 is where the course turned south, the footing was much better, and the wind was mostly at the back for the next 3-4 miles.  I had a Gu and eased my way back into a rhythm a bit around here and started feeling pretty good.  There were quite a number of 5K runners who made the last few miles around Lake Harriet a bit of an obstacle course, and the last mile or two was pretty brutal back on snow and into the wind, but all things considered it felt like a pretty steady second half.  The official results put me in third place, but it was really fourth since one of the guys far in front of me apparently took a wrong turn right before the finish.  My time was 58:45.

My 10 mile PR is now almost 2 minutes slower than my first and second 10 miles of the marathon four weeks ago, but that probably sounds about right with the combination of tough winter conditions and non-tapered legs.  All in all it made for a great workout in the middle of a 22 mile training run.

Next race is the MDRA 7 Mile in two weeks (hoping for a fun spring run...but planning for snow and ice).  Then on to the trails!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canyon on my mind...

So I think I have declared that it is the "last coldest day of the winter" about 9 times so far...but now that its March, one of these days I'll actually be right.  I feel like once spring does come it always goes by quick, which means the big trip for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim in May is really just around the corner!  I am so excited...never been there before, but I'm very glad that I will be able to see it for the first time by running it.

It seems like the majority of my travel these days has been related to running.  Most of the time though, the big event is a race, and not just running for fun.  Don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy races...but I'm really looking forward to just enjoying the run, taking in the scenery, not worrying about how fast we're moving, taking pictures, and just appreciating it all.  Sometimes it's easy to forget in the day-to-day, but I have a feeling it will be one of those experiences that will remind me how lucky I am to be a runner.

While some of the guys have been busy reading this recommended reading for the trip, I took a different route to learn about how to survive 44 miles in the Grand Canyon.  A few weeks ago, I watched this really bad movie called "The Canyon".  Here is a list of things I am now well aware of:
  • Don't go on a mule ride with a crazy random local guy.
  • It is a bad idea to go off the could get lost.
  • Rattlesnakes can kill you.
  • Cell phones don't work very well in the Canyon.
  • It can be quite hot down there.
  • It's sort of a good idea to bring lots of water.
  • Don't try to climb vertical rock walls without any experience or equipment.  
  • If you break your leg in the canyon, you will probably be attacked by wolves.
  • If you are a guy there on your Honeymoon, whatever you do don't trust your wife.
Sorry if this ruins it for all of you who have been itching to see this movie.  

Seriously, though, I really can't wait to get there and experience it for myself.  Maybe it's because I'm from MN and do not get to see places like that very often, but I've already decided it'll be one of the coolest running experiences I'll ever have.  And nothing beats a trip with the guys...will be a ton of stories and memories for sure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mardi Gras Marathon - Race Report

The long winter of training finally culminated in a race on Sunday in New Orleans.  I’ve been really dialed in on this one for a long time, and couldn’t have asked for much more – fast course, legs felt great, absolutely perfect weather.  I had a whole lot of respect for the marathon distance before this race, and after 2:31:13, I crossed the finish line with a whole lot more.  All in all, I gave it a valiant effort at cracking the 2:30 mark, and real happy to come away with a good race, many lessons learned, and knocked 5+ minutes off the old PR.  And of course have a good goal for next time!

It’s funny how 99% of the work in this sport is done outside of competition.  Good thing for me, I am lucky to have the best and smartest runner I know in Chris Lundstrom as my friend and coach.  I was telling Chris on Saturday that if I screwed it all up in the race, it surely wouldn’t be his fault.  He got me through the best stretch of training I’ve ever had and did it feeling really good.  I’m definitely thankful to him for getting me to the start line in a position to give it a shot.

On to the Race!
When I woke up at 5 on Sunday morning, I found it ironic that the temperature in Minneapolis was about the same as in New Orleans – a nice crisp 39 degrees or so at the start.  After checking in my gear bag, I made my way to the front coral and anxiously awaited the gun.  I was glad to meet fellow trail runner Nick Clark right before the race and run the first mile or so together.  The general plan was to start off a bit conservative for the first 10k, then start cruising a bit through the middle of the race to give myself an outside chance at grinding it out in the end for 2:29.

I ran most of the first 5 or so miles with a half marathoner up until the courses split.  Things were smooth sailing through here and felt like I could run that pace all day…just the way it should be on tapered legs.  After the split, I was just a bit ahead of Nick, and already out of sight of the 7 guys ahead of me.  I came through the first 10K averaging 5:49s, and was sort of proud of myself for holding back a bit as planned (the goal average pace was 5:43).  I had my first of three GUs around here, and started ticking off some faster miles.

I came through the halfway point exactly where I wanted to be in 1:14:52.  I knew I’d be cutting it real close and it would take a near perfect split race to pull it off, but that’s the way a marathon is supposed to be run.  I was cruising here through some great parts of town and feeling good – the course went from Audubon Park down St. Charles Ave, to Decatur and the French Quarter, then up Esplanade to City Park and the Lake.  I was still holding on to the pace I wanted, but it started requiring a bit more effort around 18 or 19.  I came through mile 20 in 1:53:54.  It was slightly encouraging that my second 10 miles was a little faster than the first 10, but I knew I was tiring when I was getting real close to passing a guy, and just couldn’t quite close the gap.  The course took a couple 180 degree turns up by the lake before coming back down south along City Park into the finish for the last 4 or 5 miles.

This is where things slowly started to slip a bit more…just couldn’t quite hang on to the pace.  I don’t think I looked at my watch more than once or twice for the last five miles, mostly because I was afraid of the numbers that it would be showing and wanted to just run.  By this time I knew I wasn’t going to be breaking 2:30, so just kept it rolling and as steady as I could to finish with a solid time that I was still real happy with.

In hindsight, I’d love to go back in time to mile 20 of that race and see if I could be just a little bit tougher, but I guess that’s what the next race is for.  It was definitely a great experience and I learned a lot as always.  I really liked the course, was a perfect day, and had a fun few days in a cool city…not too bad of a long weekend out of MN in February.  And I'm convinced this whole marathon training adventure should leave me with a great base for ultras this summer.
Post Race
After the race, I had a chance to visit more with Nick about summer plans…definitely looking for him to tear up the trail at Western States again this year, among many other races for sure.  Also had a chance to congratulate the winner – Fred Joslyn – who qualified for his first Olympic Trials with a 2:18:48.  Great guy and real excited for him.

After getting my stuff again, I met up with my friend Ryan and his friend Sally (both ran their first half and I think are hooked!), and Ryan’s girlfriend Stephanie and his buddy Brian.  We enjoyed a couple of the best tasting beers I’ve ever had before heading out for some of the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.

Next Up…
I signed up on Saturday for Cascade Crest 100 in August, so as far as races are concerned that’s the next big one for me.  There will be plenty of adventures before then though.  And this 40+ degree weather I came home to has me thinking about the trails.
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And here is the Garmin data for any of you numbers and splits enthusiasts.  The Garmin runs a few seconds per mile faster than actual.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mardi Gras Marathon Weekend Begins

I'm usually not one to put much stock in quotes, or even remember them, but this one by Martin Luther King stood out to me on a random commercial this morning during the 10 minutes I had the TV on:

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

Whenever I get myself caught up in trying to wrap my mind around one big task all at once, it just seems overwhelming to the point where it doesn’t seem possible and you don’t know where to begin.  In reality though, you can’t take the second step until you take the first, so why worry so much about trying to take every step all at once?  I guess the lesson learned for this weekend is to trust the training and not think too much about trying to run all 26.2 miles fast, but just begin and let it play out from there.

As for the trip so far, I made it to New Orleans this afternoon and I’ve already decided I really like the city.  Yeah it might be a bit rough around the edges to say the least, but it’s got a ton of character which works well for me.  It’s definitely not like any other city I’ve been to, and can’t say that about very many places.  First stop was the Expo to pick up my packet and meet up with my friend Ryan from college who lives and teaches here (and is running his first race in the half).  We met up with his buddy Brian for dinner, and even ventured down Bourbon Street.  Tomorrow will probably be a pretty low-key day…sleep in a bit more than usual, jog a few miles in the morning, and maybe see a bit of the town in the afternoon.  Ryan very conveniently lives about 3 blocks from the start, so it’s nice not to have to worry about race-day logistics and all.

Oh, and I’m loving this tropical paradise thing they have going on down here.  Ok, it was only like 50 degrees this afternoon, but sure felt toasty compared to the -10 I woke up to this morning in Minneapolis.  It should be perfect weather for a run.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taper time and planning ahead

So I haven't written anything in a while, but I've just been strategically saving up some really great updates for a special time.  Well you're in luck...that time has come!
  • First and foremost, I had my first ever cup of coffee this morning after a long run with the guys (thanks Soller!).  This closely followed my first cup of tea a few weeks ago.  Apparently 2011 is the year of being adventurous.  Get excited...there's more where that came from.

  • I did my taxes today.  Refunds are a good thing.  That's all I really have to say about that.

  • I ran my first 10K at the Polar Dash on New Years Day.  It was a bit cold and windy, but then again it's January in Minnesota.  The race went pretty well, but my only regret here is turning down a once-in-a-lifetime offer by my buddy Erik about two minutes before the race to run in a penguin costume.  Dang that would have been memorable.

  • The training for this marathon I'm running in two weeks is pretty much in the books, and now I am thinking that a bit of taper time will feel sort of good.  I've learned a whole lot since Nov 1 about how to train for a marathon.  It's just so much different than training for ultras...or at least I definitely don't get so hung up on 5 seconds here and 10 seconds there when running on trails.  I think I've realized that those long slow trail runs definitely come more natural to me, but I know the marathon training makes me a better runner all-around and it has been a lot of fun...just in a different way.

    I've had a couple really good workouts where I've felt pretty optimistic, but also plenty where I thought to myself, "There's no way in hell I can run this fast for 26.2 miles."  Nonetheless though, I know I just have to trust the training, hope for a good day, run my heart out, and everything else will hopefully take care of itself.  Regardless of how things shake out, I'm excited to race again since it's been a while, and looking forward to a good long weekend in New Orleans.

  • I'm so excited for spring...believe it or not I think it'll be even more adventurous than coffee and taxes!  I have a pretty full six weeks planned to start the season from late April to early June.  It'll be complete with three 50Ks and a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon.  I'm sure I'll be trashed by the end of all that, but hoping it'll leave me with a real good base of long runs and hills.  I still have to figure a couple things out for late June and July, but am planning on the main event of the year being the Cascade Crest 100 in the end of August out in Washington.