Monday, September 19, 2016

The First Hundo: Run Rabbit Run

Thanks for reading. Sorry for any rambling and errors. Enjoy.

About a month after Lake Sonoma 50 I decided it was time I took a shot at doing my first 100. I almost signed up for one about a year ago but am quite thankful I ended up not doing so as even with my experience now, I wasn't 100% ready. My decision process to pick races has been basically dominated by choosing the most competitive races. I guess since I am so new to the sport and coming out of college, I want to compete with the best to gain the most experience and get the most out of myself... may or may not be the best thought process. Run Rabbit Run fit perfectly into my schedule especially since Jennie and I were going to be living in Colorado for about a month prior to this September race. I thought a month of altitude running would be enough for me to not die completely. This race is also known for having the biggest $$ purse of any ultra in the world meaning it was going to be stacked with elites. Reading reviews and recaps on the race showed that it was an extremely well put on event that donated all proceeds to the prize purse and local charities, which seemed meaningful enough to me.

Prep for this race started around the beginning of July after a lot of inconsistent off and on running after Sonoma 50. Training involved the usual thing I like to do of building up lots of miles. I always look back at my training and wish I could have done more. I know a ton of people out there look down at doing purely just mileage (which is a whole different conversation), but to me it has worked and I try to train myself as much as I can to perform at the level I want to. Focusing on just miles is difficult because things come up in life that distract you, gets you away from the consistency, and defeats the purpose of that way of training. To me consistency is always the most important part in order to get fit. Although I felt as if I could have done more for this race, the 11ish weeks of decent training put me in a very good level of fitness to run a successful 100 miles, in my opinion. The only lack of focus came during weeks where Jennie and I were traveling away from the central coast to Reno (to visit my family) and finally to our new home in Colorado Springs. There were also a couple weeks of sickness and fatigue trying to adjust to not only the altitude but the real trails in Colorado compared to the ones I had been used to in Monterey, California. Overall the amount of vert I did per week was much higher than other training blocks I had done, mainly because it is hard to escape doing vert when in these mountains. For the 11 weeks I averaged around 160 miles with 15k of vert feeling real strong and confident at the end.

Jennie and I camped in Steamboat at the same spot on Buffalo Pass that we had a couple weeks prior when I scouted the course. It was much colder than it was when we were last there with temps at 10,000 ft hitting the high teens. We spent two cold nights camping up there which I really enjoyed as it gave me time to just chill and enjoy the beauty up in the mountains where I would be running 100 miles.

Before the struggle bus  

Race start for this race is in two waves with the tortoises starting at 8am and hares ('faster' runners) starting at noon. This start time and other hare rules were probably the things that almost turned me away from this race. The noon start meant running the entire second half in the dark, there were no pacers allowed, and I could only see Jennie three times throughout the day. For a first hundred I knew this was going to make it very tough. I took it as a positive thing that meant I was going to get the full experience out of it and learn some things that I may not learn if I was doing an 'easier' 100 miler.

Yeah I stayed with him for awhile. Nbd.

After puttering around all morning the gun finally went off and the leisurely pace up to Mt. Werner began. Confident and excited I stayed within myself the entire time just running off feel and taking it all in. I had read how there is always carnage in this race and to go out slow and yadayada. I decided to run slow for myself because I had seen how hard sections of this course were and I had never ran past 60 miles. Almost all of the big races I have done I have got myself out of the top pack early, leaving me to try and catch up. I did the same thing this year thinking I had much more time to hunt people down. I decided I rather not risk dnf'ing by going out like a maniac and instead risk not getting on the podium but in return increasing the chance of me finishing decently. Looking back maybe that was a dumb decision as I did really want to podium, but driving home with a dnf for my first 100 sounded so much worse to me.

Arriving at Cow Creek (mile 30ish) after feeling decent all day, things simply went to crap. Looking back at it I should have been so much better at limiting the damage of the situation. My legs never felt great before that and then a few miles before that aid station the legs just felt horrible. Mentally I went into a downward cycle thinking that the legs should not hurt this bad so early on. I had been drinking waaay too much Tailwind with not enough pure water for how high the temps ended up being early on. So I was dehydrated, grumpy, and rapidly falling apart. The next section was me having a good ol' pity party constantly asking myself how the hell am I going to run another 60+ miles with legs that would not carry me up hill if my life depended on it.

Descending into Olympian Aid (mile 42ish) I had been passed twice and then passed a few hares that looked surprisingly worse than me. I tried to let this fuel me as I always do when I see others hurting. I told myself some things that I ended up repeating all into the night. 'It can always get worse, your legs are supposed to hurt after 40 miles, and 100 miles is a long time.' I started to feel a tad better right before seeing Jennie at Olympian.  I threw on some warm clothes for the night, grabbed my UD vest and soft flasks, through on the headlamp, and left into the night knowing that things were going to get real interesting.

The sun went down and I kept shuffling away with the legs not really getting much worse. Thinking back on things now I am still unsure whether it was mental weakness, the hours and hours and hours of darkness, being alone 90% of the time, or if it really was my leg pain that left me running slow for the rest of the race. Some sections, especially up at 10,000ft, were pathetic where I was fast walking basically flat fire road. Other sections I was running as hard as I could to get to some more bowls of Top Ramen while yelling out loud in frustration, literally convincing myself that the next aid station did not actually exist.

Mentally going over the race again I think I was much more delirious than I thought I was at the time. I am pretty positive I went probably seven hours only eating Top Ramen and chugging water at each aid station with nothing in between. Around mile 80 was probably one of the most inspiring things I have experienced in running. Making my way up a huge climb to Summit Lake Aid I was being followed by a headlamp for miles. Finally it caught me and I saw that it was the woman's eventual winner Courtney Dauwalter. Her shuffling by me made me quit whining and start shuffling up the climb too. We went back and forth, running then walking, working together. She was the first to say anything, asking me how I was doing. Here I was whining to myself trying to not let my manhood get stepped on by trying to not let her pass, and she is looking out for me asking how I am doing. It shifted my mood drastically and seeing her gap me inspired me all the way through the last 20 miles.

The section before sunset was difficult to say the least. Even with the full moon and my bright as can be headlamp, it was very dark and very technical for 80+ mile tired legs. I don't think I have ever stubbed my toes so much. Once the sun came up it was non-stop 'running' to the finish. I had no idea what my time or place was going to be. All I knew was that I was going to finish my first hundred, maybe be top 10, and have had a damn crazy day of running. 

Even with everything that went on throughout the day I was extremely proud at my ability to keep moving and never seriously consider the idea of quitting. The last descent I told myself it doesn't matter where I finish and that this was a great experience. Looking back now it is hard to not be upset after having dedicated almost an entire year to ultras, training at an almost all-day consuming effort... especially when I finished just one spot from getting some $. In reality though that is what this sport is about and why I do it. It is going to take a lot more than just under two years of ultra running to get it down. Running takes a lifetime of learning to get even close to being successful. Running 100 miles in itself is something most do not get the chance to experience and I get the option to experience that more than once while also getting to run every single day. Constant enjoyment in the process is the only thing that will continue my success in this crazy sport. The entire 21 hours was hands down one of the best things I have ever endured.

Congrats to everyone that finished and all the studs that showed me how it is done at the Distance of Truth. Thank you to all the insane volunteers, spectators, and RDs for putting on the most well organized race I have done. Every aid station, the post party, course markings, etc. were phenomenal. Not a single complaint.

9th place in 21:38

Two days out and I am shockingly not that sore at all in the legs. Just the left achilles and my back are tight. Right after the race I was crying in pain barely able to move. I guess laying in bed drinking Coors and watching Netflix the entire next day is the way to recover....or I just ran too slow.


La Sportiva Helios SR -  Surprisingly did not have any real feet pain like I did at Sonoma 50. Only one blister and one painful toenail.

La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Drymax socks
Ultimate Direction AK vest (the old kind)
Ultimate Direction bottles / soft flasks
MOP hat
Cotton t-shirt
Long sleeve Under Armour

Photo Cred: All Jennie

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Updates, Decisions, & the Future

There has been a lot going on lately in my life so I thought it may be a good idea to throw a post together.... Since I did tell myself I would try out this whole blogging thing.  Jennie and I recently (it has now been awhile) took a major road trip to Colorado to check out some places we have been talking about moving to for some time now. Although the Monterey Peninsula is one amazing place to live and train, it is quite pricey for two poor recent graduates to live on their own. This is especially true since we are looking to finally getting a place with just us two and no more multiple roommate situations.

We have been looking into Colorado for a while after hearing such great things and getting destroyed by runners who are from altitude. The altitude, cheaper living, and the mountains are all big factors in this. I grew up near the Sierras and although the ocean is great, there is something special about training in the mountains. The need for adventure also is inspiring us to make this huge move.

We have lived in Monterey for the last four years going to school and running cross country at CSUMB. Now we are both graduated and deciding what the next chapter is going to look like. With most of our ties and responsibilities in the Monterey area diminished, it is the perfect time in our minds to go search for a new place to live in and explore. Our attitudes seem to be that if we do not love it after a year then we can search for a new area to begin another chapter.

Our roadtrip came as a little bit of a surprise when Jennie randomly got a week off work. We had done some planning but not nearly enough. Things always turn out more fun when there is less planning. The trip consisted of about a 3,000 mile loop where we would go through the four corners area, through Colorado, then back down through the Phoenix area to San Diego where we would visit Jennie's family, and then back up north to Monterey. We only had about 9 days till we had to be in San Diego, so we had to make the time count. We took Jennie's new car packed with a couple bags of clothes and a tent. Some nights were spent sleeping crammed in a Civic in hotel parking lots while others were spent outdoors in some beautiful country.

Some cool stops we made!

  • Flagstaff & Grand Canyon

  • Silverton & Ouray

  • Crested Butte 

  • Salida, Buena Vista, & Leadville

  • Colorado Springs

  • Alamosa

  • Joshua Tree & some more desert 

After this trip we honestly were more confused about where to live then before we left. Driving through the mountains and then ending in the bigger cities made it hard for us to consider not living in a city like Ouray or Buena Vista. As much as we would love to live simply in a small mountain town, we decided being in a bigger spot with more career opportunities should be at least sought after...for now. If attitudes shift in different directions after a year then we know we can always say screw it and look for living situations out in the hills. Colorado Springs was an absolutely beautiful city with some amazing mountains, endless trail networks, and close proximity to the deeper mountain towns. The next year will surely be an interesting one. Things will be missed here in Monterey but this is simply a new chapter and who knows what will come and where we will be after next year. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lake Sonoma 50 (Long Overdue 1st Race-Recap / Blog Post Nonsense)

I have put off this blogging thing for some time now as I've thought it is silly to vomit my thoughts into the 'cloud' for only a handful of people to stumble upon. I could be wrong though, maybe some peeps out there care what I gotta say! Blogging is a huge trend in trail-running now too so I guess I better get with it. I decided that I will give it a try and start blogging for a few reasons:

1. Race recaps will be very useful for me to look back on and see all the stupid mistakes I made. I have read other people's recaps of a race I am looking into too so maybe it will be useful to others out there.
2. Now that I am out of school I should probably write every now and then to ensure that my IQ does not drop to zero.
3. Share experiences to the few that may be interested.

Most likely I won't put a ton of time into making these posts nice and clean, so ignore my rambling and grammatical disasters. Also sorry it took so long, it takes a long time for me to think back on these races and really grasp what happened. So here it goes...

I originally signed up for LS after The North Face 50 at the end of last year. That was the first competitive long race I had done and I saw what real ultra racing is all about. I learned that it's not just a really long survival run and is an actual race. So I ended up entering the loto for Sonoma based on its past history of being super competitive while still keeping a low-key trail race vibe (TNF upset me in many ways by being the opposite of this, but that's another story). I definitely wanted to make up for mistakes I made at TNF and do as well as I knew I could at Sonoma.

Leading up to Sonoma I did a good amount of racing and training. Some probably think it was too much racing, but I never felt too beat up and love this trail racing thing A LOT. After TNF I took a few down weeks then did Inside Trail Racing's Pacifica Trail 30k (3rd place) in January, Inside Trail Racing's Ordnance 100k (2nd) in February, Way Too Cool (6th) in March (which I won an entry from Sufferfest Beer Company), and then the Inside Trail Racing's Marin Ultra Challenge / La Sportiva Mountain Cup 25k (2nd) a week later. 3 out of 4 of these races I was behind the man himself, David Roche. I met him a few races back and knew he coached a ton of great athletes. He had been trying to get me to drop my mileage and do some workouts for awhile. After getting destroyed by him over and over again I decided to take his advice.

So for the last 4ish weeks leading up to Sonoma I incorporated workouts he was giving me as well as taking in all of the awesome knowledge he had to share. It really has been nice having some guidance and support in my training. I am a very difficult person to coach because of my stubbornness and obsession with running lots o' miles. He has been open and really allows me to make the final calls. It was all very new to me adding workouts. Although there were some flashbacks to college days doing workouts, overall I was still able to enjoy some pure running and always being on trails. My confidence remained high as my average pace for runs drastically dropped from the shuffle I do when pushing 170+.

I had tried to preview the course a few weeks before race day with my amazing gf Jennie. We chose probably the worst possible weekend. Camping in the pouring rain led to inaccessible trails. I got a taste of the course though and saw that the insane rolly elevation profile was no joke. It made me a tad worried as there truly were no major climbs, where I usually am best.

Jennie and I arrived in Healdsburg on Friday evening. My entire family came down for the race, which meant the world to me. It was their first time seeing an ultra so I knew they would have an interesting day! Before din-din I met up with Meghan Hicks of iRunFar for a little interview. It's always great to get some recognition even though it was my first real interview and I am awkward... I guess a lot of runners are though! This did put some pressure on me as I really wanted to live up to the hype. I probably let my nerves affect me too much for this race. Come morning though I felt surprisingly ready. Much better than I did during my first real taper for this race. Perfect weather and springy in the legs. Can't ask for more!

I actually really enjoyed starting on the road for the first 2.5 miles. It allowed me to chill and see everybody who showed up to the start. Mario Mendoza seemed to be the only one ready to rumble as he shot to the front. I instantly thought of Roche at Way Too Cool and moved into second behind Mario. It then became apparent that it was a very sustainable pace and then he dialed back until the chasers and I caught up as we hit the trails. It was a group of about 8 or 9 running single file on some beautiful trails. Within another couple miles there was nobody to be seen behind us. I was the only one to stop at the first aid as I was trying to drink my bottle between each aid. This had me drop to the back of the pack. Ben Koss ran ahead of me along with a Japanese runner who I had heard great things about. Ben let a bit of a gap form between us and the lead group of six. I stayed with him as we were only a few second back. I remained here until about a mile till the mile ~12 aid. I had lost sight of the main pack right before rolling into this aid and once I got there I could see them in the distance already stringing out. I knew someone dropped the hammer. I would later find out that Jim Walmsley was going for it.

I guess we're doing this thing. 
PC: Oscar Mejorada 

I went quick through the aid with the help of my fam and gf. I knew it was race time now as everyone was trying to link back up to that single file. Part of me was extremely upset that I even let a gap form. I could still see Mario and Dylan so I tried to relax and just grind. My greatest weakness was still very apparent as every downhill I would lose time. I hit a bit of a bad patch from around miles 13-18. Usually I hit a bad patch early because of stomach issues, but this was just fatigue in the legs which was very weird. I think it was because of the rollers and taking the legs longer to get into the groove. Finally I got to the only 'real' climbing section before the turn around and things got much better. I was moving very well and knew No Name Flat was close. That is when Jim passed me going the other way. I didn't realize how much he was destroying the course till I finally did get to the aid. He was at least a mile and a half ahead of me when I saw him! Absolutely way was I gonna pull a miraculous W that was for sure. I continued to move well till No Name Flat and the confidence jumped back as I saw Mario heading out of the aid probably one a minute or so ahead of me.

Rolling into No Name Flat
PC: Todd Williams

I grabbed what I needed from my lovely crew including some tunes and took off. I usually only use music in training and not races but I wanted to really mimic my training at Sonoma. Climbing out of No Name Flat Mario was surprisingly nowhere to be seen. I thought to myself that he must have saw how close I was and took off, so I focused on taking off also. I reeled in Matt Flaherty who looked to be battling a low patch. I knew I was in 5th now and used this to motivate me. After pushing all the way back to Madrone and still not seeing anyone else I became a little discouraged. The next 8 or so miles felt extremely long. I had heard it is the most important section because of the relentless hills catching up to people. It serves as a kind of 'do you really deserve to be in the position you are in' section. Although it was dragging on a lot, I felt as if I was really staying consistent. I only hiked once for about 5 seconds and was working the entire time. Glancing at my watch though it was clear my splits had gone to sh*t. I tried to ignore this and focus on grinding. Once I FINALLY got to Warm Springs aid again and saw my crew I knew it was time to give whatever I had left. I heard that Mario now had 10 minutes on me, but I tried to blow that off. I knew that anything can happen in the last 10 of any ultra.

Hurts so good. Somewhere before mile 38.
PC: Todd Williams

It is funny where the mind goes in that last 10ish miles of an ultra. I love that pain so much and hate it twice as much at the same time. I'm not big on mantras but for some reason I kept repeating a phrase over and over. "Believe, relax, don't make it harder than it needs to be." This seemed to really help me. I am super proud of how I finished this race. I had basically ran alone for the last half of the race only seeing other runners/spectators on the out and back as well as aid stations. After mile 40 I had no clue where the next guy ahead of me or behind me was. I was totally in my own head grunting through the never ending single track. I never really gave up on myself at any point. Even after I thought I broke my toe at mile 44 after slamming it into a fallen down tree. Many curse words were yelled.

Last stretch 
PC: iRunFar

I had run the last 3 miles during my preview run on the course so the adrenaline of being close to the finish allowed me to push it in well. I think I was yelling that entire stretch like a mad man, which I have done the last few races. I think it helps me somehow soak in the intensity of the situation and smile no matter the mistakes I had made the previous hours in the day. I need to learn to tap into that adrenaline earlier before the last section. I ended up finishing in 6:37, only six minutes back on 4th and seven back on 3rd. This was tough to hear cuz that is nothing in a six hour event and I knew I could have been up there. Even though I didn't come for the Golden Ticket it sure would have been nice to get one and the podium had always been the goal. At the same time though I was proud at finishing that last section stronger and making up time as well as running 25 minutes faster than at TNF.

Crossing the finish was awesome. My entire family and gf were there as well as a ton of fans. The Tropical John I had heard a lot about truly did put on a great event. The trails were absolutely awesome for a fast yet challenging 50 miler. The single track all day was just too enjoyable. I will definitely try to make it work so I can come back next year. Thanks to everyone who came out to watch as well as the support from my family and Inside Trail Racing. Thanks for reading too.

Get a beer in me after a race and I'll talk nonsense. Jennie knows...
PC: Todd Williams

Final thoughts:
1. First time I actually ate & drank enough. Plan was finish bottle between aid no matter what and Gu every 30 minutes. Finished bottle almost every time between aid. After hour three I decided I needed more Gu. Ended up going through I think about 16-18 Gu/Chomps.

2. Gear choice was best I have used so far. Finally ditched the handheld and found a belt choice that works. Used Simple Hydration bottle along with the FlipBelt. Got the idea from Eric Schranz at URP and gotta say it worked great...except major chafing/cutting on my back. Didn't notice till afterwards. I'll suffer through that any day for the efficiency.

3. Altra Instincts were great as always. Tried out the new 3.0s. Didn't need much grip for this course so they were just dandy.

4. Never let a gap form. Subconsciously I think I held back thinking I would reel them back in. Stupid. Need to suffer early just to stay in contact. I can handle it.

5. I never made any real conscious moves/surges except for prior and a little after the halfway mark. I do not know why. Maybe because I was alone most of the time.

6. I need to stop being nervous. I haven't been for a long time until Sonoma. I had lots of confidence leading up to this race so there was no reason to get any doubts at all. At least it went away at the start.

7. I continue to improve as well as enjoy myself A LOT and that is all that can really be asked for.

8. I think Jim Walmsley has a real shot at winning Western in his debut 100. He is that good. Also, Tim Freriks made me upset by how much he destroyed me. 6:17 in his first ever ultra?! That ain't even funny. Huge future for that guy.