Monday, May 15, 2017

Some Frustrated Rambling About Getting Rocked at Quad Rock 50

I signed up for Quad Rock 50 quite awhile ago knowing it was going to be my first ultra of 2017 and since September. After taking a few months off of racing, I have been focusing on trying to get the training back to where it was. So far it has been a struggle mainly due to running not being my full time focus anymore (bills gotta be paid). Before I would not have imagined racing over 50k without a single 200 mile week. This training block my max week was 140...woah. All my runs have been quicker and feel better though (who woulda thought). I have been getting up to the mountains on my off days for hard longer runs while during the week staying flat and running faster.


The week prior to Quad Rock I came down with a nasty cold that wiped me out in what usually is my most quality week before a race. I tried to just take it as a test. With doing less miles it was only fitting for something like that to happen to make me taper, which I never usually do. I managed to get two decent 30 milers in during the week with three off days laying in bed and chugging oj. I started feeling decent around Monday despite a lingering cough that stayed through to race day.

Jennie and I headed to the Fort Collins area on Friday where we camped near Carter Lake. We were excited to check out the area after hearing great things. We went on a nice shakeout up a small mountain that a ranger pointed us towards, checked out the cool college town, then had some Mexican food for dinner like usual. Race morning I felt real great from the gun with all intentions to go hard for the W. I had seen the previous year's winner and CR holder had dropped down to the 25 miler so assumed there would not be anyone taking it out too crazy. I led up until the first decent where I first thought to myself, "oh shit this is a real trail, not a smooth California single track." I was thankful to have had some practice running in C-Springs with some decently tough trails, but I instantly knew I need more practice bombing down rugged trails. This is where - who I soon found out to be - Jim Rebenack went by me. This got me real excited as I wanted to run a fast time and knew I could not do it alone.

Jennie got some good shots.

For most of the first loop I would get Jim in my sights and then he would surge up and put some time on me. This went on until around mile 20 when my gosh darn hamstring started going haywire. I had felt this back at Way to Cool 50k a long time ago. Back then I came to the decision that it was from over striding, but that was when I was running a lot of slow miles. Going into this race I had been running much faster which made me really pissed off when my hamstring felt like it was about to rip anytime I opened the stride up. The last 4ish miles of the first loop are a smoooth downhill singletrack before you turn around and do the loop backwards. Right before this decent I took a moment to try stretching my hamstring thinking 'hey maybe it is just tight'....NOPE, that guy felt like it was gonna tear. So instead I was punching/massaging it while trying to run a decent pace down thinking how pissed I am to be running 7:30s when I had been catching Jim and should be bombing this decent. By the time I got to the turnaround and saw Jennie I decided to accept the struggle and take what my body was giving me. 'Fine I won't run like Walmsley, I will just keep the turnover short and quick and hope to baby Jesus this goes away.'

Turning around to do the backwards loop I kept getting splits that I was around 4-5 minutes back. This stayed the same which made me ask who the hell that dude in front of me is, but also stay positive that at least he wasn't gaining time. Going up to Towers aid station was a total ass kick. My hamstring had been doing much better (somehow) but I think my efficiency had gone to crap or something. That climb felt much more mentally destructive than it should have been. Hiking up it and yelling out loud like a zombie did not make it go by any quicker. I then realized that 82 degrees is f-ing hot to what I have been used to running in and that I am not drinking anywhere near enough water. The first signs of what were to come.

The decent into mile 40 was a blessing. Some much needed downhill to see Jennie. When I got there all I remember telling her was 'this makes the Headlands look like child's play' and that 'I am going to die.' I loaded up on Honey Stinger gels and took only one soft flask of water....again screwing myself. At this point I was now 11 minutes back and got a burst of competitiveness, which lasted a whole 5 minutes. From here on out became the biggest suffering of my young life. Every little kicker I hit became an instant struggle. I tried to brush it off and keep grinding but it only got worse. The final 4.5 mile climb came and I was DONE. A mixture of dehydration and what I can only guess is what people call 'blown quads.' Every single time I tried to drive my knee uphill I got dizzy, my heart rate spiked, and got extreme cramping in my booty and quads. I was forced to hike....then forced to walk because hiking made me feel like I was going to collapse. I had a mild case of this back in Chico 50 miler where it was hot as hell, but that eventually turned around.

I continued walking the final climb and attempting to run any flat section, which even then made me feel like I was going to melt into the ground. I started looking behind me waiting for somebody to pass. Then started looking at shady spots considering laying down hoping after a short rest I could run again. I walked into Towers aid, chugged water like a mad man, popped some Run Gum, and then shuffled into the final 4 mile decent which led to 2.5 mile of flat singletrack to the finish. At this point I knew I could 'jog' downhill, there was no excuse. What I was unsure of was if I would fall over and pass out.

As much as I want to finish on top the podium every race I do and try to make something of myself in this f-ed up sport, the real reason I enjoy ultras is for the suffering, as most people do. The first few ultras I did every time I finished I said 'oh that was the hardest one yet.' Then came a great string of races last year at Way Too Cool and Sonoma, then a complete learning experience at Run Rabbit 100. So before this race I was confident that I have experience now and know how bad it will hurt. The last ten miles of Quad Rock completely changed what I thought about pain. It was the feeling I have normally got after finishing an ultra and laying down...times ten...and I still had miles to run.

I let go of any expectation of time I had and focused on getting to the finish in second place no matter what. At this point I knew if I collapsed somebody would find me. I walked then shuffled 12 minute pace, seeing the finish slowly come into view the entire time. Everything I did to distract my mind failed and focusing on finishing involved desperately begging for the world to not go black. Every single muscle in my legs was randomly cramping trying to make me fall down. A mile from the finish I ran by a campsite where a loose dog chased me barking viciously. I was helpless as it ran towards me and thankfully it ran back to its owners, who I managed to mumble a 'Screw you' too. All the way to the finish I was basically moving forward without bending my legs as to not let them cramp and for me to eat it in front of everyone. Jennie got a video of me finishing and I think I yell out some vulgar language so I apologize to anyone there!


The most frustrating thing was after laying down for some time I felt much better...I knew it! But doing that in the race most definitely would have cost me 2nd place as Gabe Joyes was just a few minutes back. All in all that was hands down the darkest place I have ever been to. Partially from fatigue but mostly from pure pain in my legs. I was extremely proud of myself and if anything this race reassured me of my pain tolerance.  It will take some time to piece together what went wrong. Right now I am just happy I did not end up in the medical tent or worse. Quad Rock is an unbelievably challenging, beautiful, and well put on event. I even got $200 woohooo #ultraballin. I would love to go back next year and try to put things together. For now I have a hell of a lot of thinking to do about my training....I do have a race with 40k of gain coming up....

Jim ran a great race. 3rd fastest time. 

Thank you to all the volunteers for spending the day out in the brutal heat, to Honey Stinger and Run Gum for trying to keep me energized, and to Jennie for making this all possible.

I truly appreciate anyone taking the time to read this nonsense.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Delayed Post About 2016

I have wanted to write a post about last year for a while now just to have something to look back on and remind myself of a few things. I am a lazy sloth by nature though and when I have free time writing my thoughts down does not sound too appealing.

2016 was a crazy year for me. Finished school in December 2015 and then decided to take some time for myself. I don't even really remember making an executive decision to commit a year to running. I think that sort of just happened after a couple months went by. Enough money in the bank to get me by and after being stressed from school for the prior three years, running seemed like the natural thing to focus on. Those 10ish months I had to focus on running seem like so long ago now. Time becomes a strange concept when everyday is spent waking up, eating, running ~20 miles, eating again, napping, running ~6 miles, eating, and sleeping more. I loved every moment looking back at it. Now I am working full-time and trying to discover the work/life/running balance again like back when I was in school. It is tough to not think about running full-time again on a daily basis.

Many times over the course of 2016 I debated what the main goal for the year was. I thought at times it was to win a big race, to get a sponsor, or to prove myself. Towards the end of the season I realized I had accomplished my true goal, to prove to myself that I can compete at a top level. I have never really been able to do that in my running life. As a 15:59 track 5k and 25:30 xc 8k guy, it is pretty amazing to compete in ultras with low 4 milers and low 14 5k guys. I have thought about why this is possible and honestly there is no answer, but I can compete with them and that gives me so much confidence in my place in this sport. I still am unsure if accomplishing these finishes I had in 2016 require me running 200+ a week full-time. At some points in the year I thought that was true and towards the end I thought otherwise. I truly enjoy running 150+ miles a week consistently more than anything else in life but for 2017 I am going to need to find a balance. Maybe down the road I will be able to pursue this full-time for longer than ten months. 2017 is going to be a test as to whether I can stay competitive in this sport. I will be going into this year knowing wins are not impossible for me and not needing to constantly question my ability on the trails.

After Run Rabbit I did not plan to take a lot of down time. Just like most of my training it just kind of happened. I spent some time looking back at my training logs from my junior year of school to mid-September after Run Rabbit. Looking at those logs just blows me away. I don't think you really realize just how damn fit you are when you are deep in the middle of focused least for me. 2014 (when I had not even done an ultra) I ran 5,318 miles for an average of 102 mpw, when the year before that I had only gone over 90 one time in my life. Then 2015 when I was booted from my xc team I ran 5,890 for an average of 113 mpw. In 2016 when I had no job I ran 5,410 for a 104 mpw average. I had not taken an entire week off since before 2014. I was so deep into running it makes life now seem so different. A lot has happened since even the end of 2015. Now living in a new area with a new job on a new adventure. Not racing for five months has pulled me away from running but given me a new outlook as I start to gear back up. I have given an incredible amount of time and suffering to running and still remain just a small flicker in this sport as a whole. That is what makes running so appealing, it is so unbelievably challenging to go from good to great. It takes so much more that is out of our control than just talent or work ethic. There are endless opportunities in this sport for self satisfaction and discovery while there are so few for course records or national spotlight. I have learned it is about chasing the right goals and sticking to a pursuit that brings joy while lighting the competitive fire when I need to. Everything else will fall into place.

Mt. Rosa 

Top 2016 Highlights:

  • 5th at Lake Sonoma in 6:37 & getting robbed of that ticket :)
  • Finishing my first hundred in 9th at RRR
  • Ordnance 100k - Running 7:47 and still getting 2nd because Ryan Neely is a beast. 
  • 3:31 at WTC 50k then coming back the next week and getting 2nd at MUC 25k in a race I finished stronger than ever before.

Ordnance 2016


Ran my first race since September the other day. It was the first Mad Moose Events race for Jennie and I. Pueblo Marathon just south of C-Springs. Was a really fun day and we were both so happy to be back to racing. I have only been gradually running 100 mpw to get back in shape with a few workouts here and there. I had told myself many times before I would not do a marathon unless I was fully ready for it but... I decided to say screw it! It was a great opportunity for a fitness check and to see how 100 mile weeks are working for me. I just wanted to have a fun day, not blow up, and have a hard effort by the end. Ended up running alone after sharing some miles with the second place finisher Shane Angelovich. I focused on running a pace I thought I could maintain and finish strong with. That turned into being around 6:15 miles. The second half I tried pushing more but it ended up being the same pace, usually how it goes. So honestly I think I could have gone out much harder for a better time, but I am happy with a good experience that leaves me wanting to train for a competitive marathon someday, rather than hating life at the finish. Glad to have got the w in 2:42, just over my low-key goal of 2:40. I was puuushing to get under 2:40 there at the end. The last 20 minutes of a marathon is a very strange place to be mentally, I enjoyed it. The course had more little hill kickers than my gps data showed. Fast downhill on pavement hurts! Proud to represent an awesome race organization like Mad Moose. Also, honey stinger gels are so damn delicious compared to other gels I have had. 


Next up got some big goal races. Still need to pull the trigger on signing up for a couple. 

- Quad Rock 50
- Silver Rush 50
- Mad Moose Pikes Peak 30k champs
- Ouray 100
- Leadville 100 (if I qualify, and if I am in for a crazy back-to-back)
- & probably Run Rabbit 100 again (cuz why not).