Monday, September 15, 2014

Run Rabbit Run 100 (107) - It Feels Good To Feel Good!

I registered for Run Rabbit Run 100 on the fourth of January with the sole intention of just doing a race this year that would help me to maintain my qualifying status for the Hardrock 100 lottery since they dropped Leadville as a qualifying race.  Back then the decision came down to Run Rabbit Run in September or Bighorn in June.  The more I thought about it, I did not want to be staring down a 100 in less than six months, having to train through the winter, and with all of the upcoming life changes that were developing... Bighorn just did not fit the bill.

Since I did not get into the Leadville 100 MTB, I ended up doing Leadman again but that information, the lottery result, was not available until March, at which time I decided to do Leadman.  That meant that after the LT100 run I would only have three weeks and six days between the races.

Run Rabbit Run was not a total unknown to me.  I had paced my friend Ben there in 2012 from Dry Lake to the finish.  My opinion after that experience was that no way would I ever go back and do the full race. Ever.  But as outlined above, necessity dictated otherwise.

In July, during the middle of training and racing the Leadman series, I found myself, quite to my surprise, becoming excited about the prospect of doing Run Rabbit Run.  The more I studied the course and tried to visualize a plan for it, the more I looked forward to it.  I had a total shift in thinking.  Yes, Leadman finished in August but it wasn't the end of my summer. Twisted enough, that last week in Leadville was my last big training week for Run Rabbit Run in my mind.  Afterwards, I recovered, got the legs moving again and started getting serious about going to Steamboat and doing well. 

To spice things up, I was going to do this one without any support or pacers. I decided to have three drop bags on the course at places that I would go to at least twice and that was it.

Then things really got interesting.  On August 22, I was working out my plans for the race and this picture pops into my news feed on Facebook.
Run Rabbit Run had introduced a sub 30 buckle instead of just the standard finisher buckle.  "Ooooh!  That's the one I want!"  Planning then got a lot more serious.

So the goals for this race are starting to shape up in varying degrees. Get the race done to stay in the HR100 lottery was goal one.  Pull off a 100 so close after Leadville.  Do the race solo, sans crew and pacers. Then finally run my ass off the best that I could to get that pretty and shiny gold buckle.

That's a pretty big order right there...

The race... I loved it.  I don't know if I will do it again myself, but I highly recommend it for anyone who is in Colorado or close to Colorado who runs 100's.  The field size is small'ish, the aid stations are awesome and the volunteers are just simply amazing.  And the course?  It's pretty damned challenging.  (As a side note, I don't necessarily agree with the decision that dropped the LT100 from the HR100 qualifying race list, but I definitely believe that RRR100 is more appropriate of a qualifying race than Leadville.)

Running the first 40 or so miles of the course I felt great and really enjoyed running it.  My mantra for the day was "it feels good to feel good!"  Seriously, this is the best I have felt in forever.   Nothing hurt, I wasn't tired, and I wasn't dogged by the fatigue that had plagued me all summer.  It was also fun to run with and meet a lot of new people.

The late night hours though things started to change some.  I think that I experienced some weird slow down between Summit Lake and Dry Lake and I was also starting to slip into some low point without realizing it.  When I got to Dry Lake I was rather done.  I had to hang out a few minutes longer to eat some real food and regain my composure.  Not long after that though I started to feel a lot better.

The sun came up when I was almost back to Summit Lake which would leave me with 20+ miles to finish.  I knew it would cost me time but I took a break there after dealing with my drop bag and ate a ton and even sat for a few.  I was behind schedule but I thought that I could come in under 30 hours if I really pushed it and when I left Summit Lake, that is exactly what I did.

I had a great run from Summit Lake to Dry Lake but then started to struggle again between Dry Lake and the Mt. Werner Summit. I had not realized just how much climbing there was in that section and it just seemed to go on forever.  I was still on pace to come in under 30 hours but just barely.  What I really wanted was a nice time cushion to jog down the steep Mt. Werner service road and take it easy but that was no longer an option.  So I did what I had to do and hammered down the best I could the last 6.5 miles telling myself to keep going and that I can feel good some other time.  I pulled it off and crossed the finish line in 29:43:09.

This race seems like a total game changer for me.  Going into it I believe that I put to use all of the years of ultra experience and knowledge that I had gained and there is no way I could not have done it without relying on that.  The same goes for the actual execution of the race.  Being out there solo, you have to have a high degree of self-awareness as to everything that is going on, both external and internal.  Self-care becomes even more critical too, such as knowing when eat more, or back off just a little, or push just a little harder.  There is so much more that I wish I could explain.

Now for some rest!  No running for a while but I will probably get on the bike in a week or so for fun rides only.  I will run the Golden Leaf Half with Melissa in two weeks but I am running that solely to help her.  After that I might start looking at some smaller races through the rest of the fall and early winter.

And of course, I will be putting in for the HR100 Lottery! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Packed For Steamboat - Run Rabbit Run 100

This is what I am in for this weekend.  Lots of climbing but I think if I just gear down and keep it steady it will be a lot of fun.
I am notorious for waiting to pack for trips until the last minute.  Okay, maybe not the absolute last minute, but more like the second or third to last minute before a trip.  Getting everything together for Run Rabbit Run this weekend was no exception.

Part of it is that packing for races has become a lot easier over the past several years.  When I packed for my first ultra ever, The San Juan Solstice in 2009, I packed more for it and had more stuff in my drop bags that I had packed for a seven day, fly in, bear hunt in northern Saskatchewan that I went on in 2005.  When I ran Leadville in 2010, I think the entire back of a Jeep Wrangler was filled with my stuff. This year, I handed Melissa and Annie three little duffel bags.  Guess I have simplified it some.

The logistics though for this race have been a fun challenge for me.  I am doing it without a crew and without pacers so that means I have to have drop bags. But then the questions of how many bags, what to put in them, etc, etc, comes up.  I settled on only three.  One at Long Lake which I will go through three times, one at Olympian Hall in town which I will hit, twice at miles 20 and 30, and then another one at Summit Lake which is the aid station for miles 56 and 81. 

Then I had to figure out the timing of it all.  How many of X in each bag based on when I might arrive, etc.  Where do I pack the warm clothes, headlamps, extra goodies and snacks and so on?  And again the question of quantity came into play, with how many packs of drink mix, gels, etc, based on hours to get to each aid station and to the next.  It has been fun and I am damned glad that I sat down two weeks ago and sort of hashed out that rudimentary pace chart to give me something to go by.

Anyway, packing is done. 

As far as everything else goes, I am really excited for this race.  I feel great, nothing is hurting, and I think I am going into this one way more rested than anything I have done the past few months.  I am not going into it with the thought of still being beat up from Leadville or anything like that.  Seriously, Leadville? That is so 3.5 weeks ago!  I talked to Melissa about it last night and I told her that in my mind Leadville is deeply rooted in the past and so far back now that at least in my mind it has no bearing on anything else.  Even if it was less than a month ago, it is still that far back to me.

Looking at the past three weeks though it has been really interesting.  The first week, well I didn't really do much of anything except walk around town, eat, drink and sleep.  The second week started on the bike and some runs and EVERYTHING still hurt. But all of that dissipated by the third week where all of my workouts were relatively short but had some ass kicking intensity thrown into them.  My longest run was the Sunday before last when I did the loop from the apartment, up Sunnyside Trail, to Hunter Creek and then down.  It took 3.5 hours and was a long day on trails.  That ended a 45 mile week of running too.

I am relaxed and definitely more confident than I have been in quite some time. I have no delusions or misconceptions that this race is going to be an easy one.  Not by a long shot, but my plan is to just go into this thing relaxed, keeps things conservative, but steady and just have a good time.

It is 100 miles... anything can happen. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A New Kind Of Limbo - Getting Back Into Running

I pretty much took all of last week off.  Rode for an hour at the ARC on Sunday and that was a challenge to keep the HR up in the MAF zone.  Legs were not too happy either.  Yesterday, Monday, I ran six miles, super slow and today I did eight with a bit more effort.

Structurally things feel about 90% there.  Still some tweaks here and there but overall okay.  Running the past two days was fun though as it was more about running than training.  There was some structure involved but more like framework than actual targets to hit during the run.

But this phase I am in now... recovering from Leadville and staring down Run Rabbit Run in just over two weeks.  I am recovering, resting, tapering, all the while prepping for a race, a long race, just right around the corner.  I've never done back to back 100's a month apart so this is all new territory.

One of my concerns the past few months has always been what would my mental outlook be like between the 100's?  Would I be so beat down from the summer that RRR100 would just be this dark and ominous thing looming on the horizon or would I actually be able to get excited about it?  Thankfully it is the latter.  Actually I started getting excited about the run in Steamboat BEFORE the 100 bike even.  Now I am really looking forward to it.

It is something new and there are other twists.  No pacers, no crew and I doing it totally solo.  That adds a new level of adventure to it all.

More awesome good news!  I have a contract on the house now and it is set to close on the 12th.  So, I am going to have to go to Colorado Springs next week and be there all week getting the rest of the stuff out of the house.  The final pages to the chapters or book of my life of living in Colorado Springs is finally - after all of these years coming to a complete close.  I look forward to no longer being bound energetically to that place and not having any more ties whatsoever.  A complete and total clean break. 

I was digging through my files earlier today looking for a document for a colleague of mine and I ran across this.  A few months ago a college professor in Denver asked me to write something for her and her class about running after a break.  I enjoyed reading it as it spoke to me today in the sense that I need to be careful about everything I do the next two - three weeks, especially in the expectations department.  Enjoy.


Getting back into running after an extended break due to injury, illness, or in some cases, just life, can be both challenging and discouraging.  If you take into consideration the average runner can become 100% detrained in about twelve weeks it is easy to see that it just does not take long until you find yourself at square one and starting over.

As a general rule, it takes about two weeks of running to make up for one week lost to get back to a certain level of fitness.  For example, if I caught a cold and that kept me from running for two weeks solid, I could expect it to take four weeks after starting again to be back to where I left off.

Here are some rules and guidelines to consider when starting running again.

  1. If you had to stop running because of an injury make sure that you are healed and ready to run again.  If you can not walk without pain or the without aggravating the injury keep taking time off.  When you can walk without pain then try to run.
  2. Walking is good if you are injured and can walk pain free but can not run pain free.  A few years ago I was injured in a marathon in mid March and could not run more than three miles at a time without my knee completely giving me fits.  However, I could walk pain free, so that is what I did, every day.  Instead of running the miles for my workouts, I walked and after seven weeks when I could run again I felt pretty good and estimated that through those seven weeks of just walking that I was able to keep at least 80% of my fitness.
  3. Be realistic.  If you dropped a sub 40 10K last summer but have taken a few months off since, don’t expect to automatically be able to do duplicate that effort, speed and pace from the get go.  Set realistic goals for your self.
  4. Be patient.  This goes along with being realistic.  Don’t beat yourself up for being slower or if you are not able to run as far as you previously were.  It takes time to build a base.
  5. Be kind to yourself.  This follows up and includes both being realistic and being patient.  Again, don’t beat yourself up but rather be glad that you can run and for wherever you may fall on the fitness scale.
  6. Do not try to do too much too soon.  Don’t try to log a heaping ton of miles your first week back after an extended break.  That is just inviting an overuse injury.  The same goes for intensity.  Start off slow and warm up slowly and allow yourself to time to cool off too.  This will also prevent burnout and the need for taking more time off.
  7. Focus on staying within your aerobic zone when first starting over.  Dr. Phil Mafetone wrote the book, literally, on heart rate based training and how to use it to stay healthy.  When starting over it is best to stay in zone two to rebuild the aerobic engine and base fitness.  “Nobody ever gets injured in their aerobic zone.”
  8. Observe the rest day and keep it holy.  You only become stronger after stressing the body and allowing it to adapt to that stress and that only happens when you are resting.  Make sure you get lots of sleep.
  9. Be aware of any overtraining symptoms and adjust accordingly.  Look out for maybe a depressed mood, inability to sleep, elevated resting heart rate and loss of appetite.  If you feel like you were making progress and all of the sudden feel as if you are going in the opposite direction, take an unplanned day or two off to unload the accumulated fatigue.  If you keep running the only thing you will end up doing is running yourself into the ground.
  10. Even though we might like to think we could, 99.9% of runners are not paid to run.  It’s not our job which puts food on the table.  Keep this in perspective if you become frustrated.  This is what you do for fun and enjoyment, don’t forget that.  If the fun goes out of running it is a sign that something is amiss.  Pay attention to that.
  11. Running can be a cruel sport in the sense that what we love, running, usually causes our injuries and the only way to get over those injuries is to refrain from doing what we love.  But running should be about health and wellness and not just about medals and PR’s.  Don’t forget; never go to the start line injured.  Being tired is okay, and maybe being a little under trained is okay, but starting a race injured is just asking for problems which could result in more time off.
  12. Assuming there are no injuries or other outstanding issues, consistency is key.  Stick to your training plan and stick to your rest days.  Don’t try to get creative switching runs and days around if you don’t understand the impact it could have. Just try to have one good training day at a time, one good training week at a time and after you string a few good weeks together, that’s when you are doing something.

After more then twenty years of running these are the 12 things that I always consider after a break or even during a breakdown in training.  When working with athletes I can usually narrow a problem down to one of the items above unless there are other issues such as nutrition, hydration or just a lot of life stress.  Follow these guidelines and you should have a fun and healthy experience in running and training be it for a 5K, The Marathon, or any other distances.

Andy Wooten
Life Coach and Author

Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Pass SWAG Run Rabbit Run Pace Chart

Since nothing like this exists that I could find I sat down and sort of doped this out.  I didn't include EVERY single aid station for Run Rabbit Run as there are so many so I chose to just do splits for the larger chunks.

I am in the Tortoise category and supposedly the fastest in that group should come in around 24 hours so I just started from there using the predicted times based on the 2014 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile distance and aid station guide.

My goal is to finish in under 30 hours for this one.  Based on my LT100 finish time, I could come in around 28.5 hours so that is why I have that split.  But I computed the rest in 1.5 hour increments all the way from 24 to 30 hours just to have more information.  I included the 36 hours predicted splits in case things really go sideways.  I did not compute anything between 30 and 36 because after 30 hours the ratios begin to get too wonky for me to want to fiddle with.

Anyway, it's more of a guideline I guess than a hard super detailed split chart but I think it is accurate and usuable and can at least give someone a guide of where they might be if they are on pace for under 30 hours.
Rudimentary, but I think it is at least a good guide to start from.
Still recovering this week.  Lots of walking but nothing else. My left knee (MCL) is the last  thing that seems to really be bugging me but it is getting better.  Seems worse in the mornings than in the afternoon and evenings.  I suspect it will only be angry for another couple of days and will go away.  Headed to the ARC to go spin on the bike for a bit and get the blood flowing again.

Running to Glenwood this evening to run errands and soak at the hot springs.  That will be nice!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Picking Up the Pieces

Two Leadman Trophies.  Two Awesome Summers.
The week after Leadville is always messy.  Lots of gear and stuff to sort, put away, wash, put away, etc.  Even with my minimal amount of stuff it is still a chore that takes time. But it is nice having the apartment look like the apartment rather than a running/cycling shop that puked up all over itself.

No running yet this week and that has been nice.  I log into Training Peaks each day and I really enjoy seeing the sea of nothing on the horizon for the near future.  That won't last long as I have to start gearing up for Run Rabbit Run but between now and then it will only be active recovery and hell, a taper if  you will.

Eating like a fiend this week too.  What else is new. Not sure how much of it is post 100 miler eating or how much of it is I don't care and just want to eat.  Regardless, I am enjoying that too!  :)  

Post Leadman II thoughts... First of all.  I could have never done this without the full support and buy in from Melissa and Annie.  I dragged them through the ringer last summer with the first go around.  And even though I tried to minimize their direct involvement this year I know it was drag on them as well. They endured months, especially since March with me fretting, planning, training, whining, scheming, etc.  No way could I have done my first Leadman without them, doubly so for this one.

Leadman II... it was hard.  A lot harder than I remember last year being.  For starters it was a lot more stressful.  See... to do Leadman once, you have to finish five out of five races.  To pull it off twice, ten out of ten.  In my mind that drove up the risk of something happening during a race to knock me out exponentially.  Especially when it comes to the bike where the risks are even greater when things like wrecks, bad mechanicals, or something like that can just happen.  So a lot of stress there.

The first time I had a certain amount of excitement fueled by the fear of the unknown that I did not have this year.  I believe that had an impact as well. I just never felt as "fired up" as last year.  Other factors play in here as well, as last year we had a really solid core of athletes training together and supporting each other from June until the Finish.  This year, not so much.

This year has has also been a major life change year for me.  Moving, changing careers, going into business for myself, each of those being great things but I know the stress from all of that weighed me down considerably regardless of how much I tried to minimize that truth from myself. I don't think it hampered my races but it was just more on the mind, at least in the back of the mind.

Do I think I could have done better this year?   No.  I gave each race in the series my best and walked away from each one knowing that.  I might not have done as well I wanted but I did my best.  I just want to be clear that I am not making any excuses for anything or sitting here lamenting over what I fucked up, or was fucked up, etc.  I don't have any excuses or reasons for excuses.  I'm not looking back going, "only if..."

As a personal growth journey is concerned, I believe I gained WAY more from the series this year than last.  Many lessons in patience, humility (not humiliation), and being humble, were gained from this summer.  Also a very renewed sense of gratitude just for my life and all of the wonderful things that I am able to do and can do. 

There will not be a third go at Leadman.  At least not anytime soon.  Two years back to back with basically everyday consumed by it was a lot to go through and endure. I want to do other things now and focus on other races.  Run Rabbit Run for instance, as well as hoping to get into Hardrock next summer.  But past that, there are so many cool races over here on the West Slope and just around here in Aspen to keep me plenty busy, both on the mountain bike and running.

I have five LT100 Run finishes now and I am happy with that.  Not saying that I will never go back.  I've learned that lesson.  But I can't see myself going back for a bit.  Like I said I want to do other things.  I love Leadville, I love the races, but it is time for a break after running races up there for seven years.  The 1000 mile buckle has never been in the plan and even though I am halfway there right now it still does not resonate with me.

The newest addition is on the far right.  I think I have enough Leadville Buckles now.  Especially considering I would never wear any of them! 
My second Leadman finish, my second Big Buckle in the run and finishing tenth overall in Leadman seems to me to be the perfect time and way to walk away.  I'm good with that.

Time to eat...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Leadville Trail 100 Run

Hugging Merilee at the LT100 Finish and getting my medal  24:51:25.  JT was still on the Powerlines busy getting chicked by Amanda.
Saturday was the fifth and final race of the 2014 Leadman Series.  The Leadville Trail 100 Run.

In short it started out fine but once I started running down the powerlines, everything just started to feel off.  It was then that I started to suspect that I was feeling the effects from the bike ride the week before.

By the time I hit the Outward Bound Aid Station (Formerly Fish  Hatchery) everything really began to unravel on me.  Pretty much everything from the waist down just felt shattered.  My mood, energy level, general outlook on life, all of that just evaporated.

I have never been in a dark spot like that for so long and so early in a race.  The next 16 miles to Twin Lakes was just pure hell.  I got myself through it but damned if I know how.  When I arrived at Twin Lakes at mile 40 I was just a total wreck.  All I wanted to do was to crawl under some shady spot and cry and wish it all away.  I got to Twin Lakes in about 7:45, about a half hour off of where I wanted to be.

Melissa did a great job "handling me" and getting me to where she was set up.  She was stern yet empathetic as she pretty much just ordered me to keep my shit together.  She asked me if I wanted anything past what I needed to pick up and I said ibuprofen and a Mountain Dew.  I took three of the IB's and slammed the Mountain Dew before leaving the parking lot.  Now to jog across the clearing to start the climb up hope pass.

I was able to start motoring again and by the time I was to the river crossing after going through some other deep water crossings I was starting to feel a lot better.  Actually I was looking forward to the climb up Hope Pass as it doesn't wreck  havoc with me like most.

I had left Twin Lakes in 194th place.  When I got to Winfield I was in 119th.  Things were getting better.

I picked up my pacer Paul D. at Winfield and we did not waste anytime getting out of there.  Annie had taken him there while Melissa had stayed at Twin Lakes.  I told Annie to tell Melissa that I was definitely feeling better.

Paul and I had a great climb and descent off of Hope Pass.  It was bout halfway down to Twin Lakes that I started to do some math in my head.  We would be hitting Twin Lakes about about 15 hours.  I was kicking it around in my mind wondering if we could do a sub 10 hour return the last forty miles back to town.  I was definitely feeling better and was seriously considering this.

So I broached the subject with Paul.  He thought it was doable.  We would just not have any room for error, or time to waste stopping and anything that was runnable would have to be ran. Period.  We started hatching our plan and figuring out what to do.  There would be no real stopping at Twin Lakes on the inbound now.  The tape job on my feet seemed to be holding up so no need to waste time changing shoes, socks, tape, etc.  Of course that introduced some risk as I did not know if the tape job could hold another 40 miles.  But by the time we were at the river crossing we had decided to go all in.  We were out of Twin Lakes at 15:05 and I was in 106th place.

Of course we would have been plenty safe enough to just cruise in and take it easy to finish in the 27 hour range possibly, but with the prospect of actually getting the big buckle out there, even with the ridiculously narrow time margins, made it a race again and not just a run.

Paul and I ran our asses off and by the time we were back at Outward Bound, I was in 82nd place and 18:16 into the race.  This was where I picked up my pacer Jeff M who would take me the rest of the way in.  Melissa had already briefed Jeff that this was going to be an all out effort so when I got him he knew what the game was pretty much.  Except for hiking up the Powerlines, Jeff and I ran pretty damned near the entire rest of the course all the way to town.  We left Mayqueen with about 3:20 left in order to come in under the 25 hour mark.  We knew it wasn't going to be easy but we pushed it.  We made that in 3:13.

And I pulled it off in the end.  86th overall and  24:51:25.  Another big buckle and Leadman #2 done.

But this run... this magical last 40 miles was unlike anything I have ever accomplished. It was a gamble on so many levels.  But it was also a black and white, pass or fail situation.  Binary.  Either we pulled it off or we didn't.  There was no room for close, almost, or maybe.

And it was fun.  Fun in that weird sort of way.  My pacers could have coddled and babysat me for the last forty miles and we could have been relaxed and just goofed off and still got it done.  Little did they know they would be part of much bigger effort.  I am guessing it put a bit of pressure on them but it also made things more interesting I am sure.

I don't think I have ever been more proud of a run and for me putting it all out there than this one. Ever.

I will do another write up about finishing the Leadman Series. It was definitely different doing it a second time.

Here are the aid stations, my placement, and splits for the run.

MQ    114 2:08:26
OB    147 4:27:37
HP     153 5:38:41
TL     194 7:45:04
HP    133 9:53:58
Win   119 11:15:35
HP     93 13:24:11
TL     106 15:05:26
HP     96 17:03:48
OB     82 18:16:30
MQ    82  21:38:36
Pb      86 24:51:25

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


This is starting to look like a problem... I aim to expand the Pb buckle collection by one more come Sunday.  They are actually in order of the year that I raced.  I am particularly fond of the old school LT100 buckle on the far left.  
Still powering up from the weekend.  It is a slow process for me.

Yesterday, Monday, just rode the bike around town running errands and getting some things done.  Took it real easy just to get things moving again as that was the only goal.

Today, sort of the same thing, just a walk with Asia, walking to run some other errands and then I did an easy 20 minute MAF run just in the neighborhood around the blocks around the house.  Kept it flat and simple.   For the most part everything feels fine.  Okay, maybe not fine, my legs are still tired and I am still tired, but nothing hurts in a sinister like fashion to cause me any concern.  I feel like I am really right where I am supposed to be.

I do know that things hurt a lot more last year at this point.  My right knee area especially as I was icing and compressing it like crazy the 48 hours before the run.  This year none of that is going on.  I do wish that I remember what my energy level was like the days before so I could compare it to this year.  If I had to guess I was probably just as tired as I am now.  I just wish I had written some notes to reference.

I am definitely looking forward to getting back up to Leadville in two days.  The bike race is fun and all of that but the crowd, the participants, the mood, and energy of the two events is totally different.  The run is just more authentic in my opinion, the runners more mellow, and the overall experience just a lot more relaxed. 

Now for a twisted POV on the big picture... this week?  Yes it is the LT100 run, and yes it is the last event in the Leadman race series... but it is also my last BIG training week before Run Rabbit Run 100.