Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lake City and Beyond.

Five days have now passed since I ran my first Ultra in Lake City, Colorado. To be honest, it barely seems like it happened. I am not crippled or ill or suffering any great trauma physical or otherwise from it. Even on Sunday I commented that I was indeed feeling "freakishly well," just a lot better than I thought I should. I've hurt a lot more for a lot less. Regardless a quick and smooth recovery is nothing that I am going to complain about.

I did chronicle a good part of the weekend and the race on video which can be found at . There are a lot of details regarding the race in particular that are not evident in the video so I will include them here.

The morning of race, time was going by too fast. As I was getting ready I wanted time to slow down and give me a few moments to mentally prepare for the day ahead. Maybe I was just wanting to stall? At any rate I walked to the armory in Lake City prepared to meet the day and whatever it had in store for me.

It is hard to explain how I feel at the beginning of a big race like that. The nervous energy is so different than any other kind I feel. First there is fear, fear of a lot of things, not finishing, getting hurt, other things going bad, fear of trying to start and just having nothing in the tank. All of those unknowns flying around in my head. Emotionally I am usually on the edge... If I speak my voice will crack. I am typically on the verge of tears, not because I am sad but I guess it is all of the raw emotion trying to bleed off somehow. Anyway, this morning was no exception. I tried to stay as calm as I could, keep things in perspective and also just look ahead without allowing the magnitude of the course, the time I was going to be out or just the day in general overwhelm me.

The race starts and I begin running with everything feeling just great. Breathing is fine, legs feel miraculously fresh, and no significant aches or pains are present. My confidence went up 500% in the first few minutes of the race as I continued on in the dark.

This was my first Ultra. I've done some other hardcore races but nothing on this scale, ever. From a self confidence point of view preparing for this was tough. For example the night before the race there is a dinner where you check in and they give briefings on the course, etc. When I was there I looked around the room. To me, most of these people look like hardcore veterans of some nasty Ultra races and here I am the nube trying to fit in. I felt like an impostor, like I didn't belong, intimidated. To set things straight I was not there to compete with anyone, I just wanted to finish.

As we ran through the dark up the first canyon, I could feel that I was in a good place in the pack, maybe too good of a pace. I didn't feel like I was burning out or at too fast of a pace so I kept it up.

In order to break the course down into manageable pieces in my mind, I decided to look at it in four hour chunks. The first four hours consisting of the climb up Alpine Gulch, some time above the timber then a run down to the Williams Creek Aid Station. Approximately 15.7 miles. In retrospect this first segment is very similar to the second segment, but about 1/2 the size in distance.

I knew going into that the climb up Alpine Gulch contained a few creek crossings. Getting wet was going to be unavoidable. I'm not talking a few inches of water here or some rocks to jump across, no. I am talking about knee to mid-thigh (for me) water which until probably hours before was still in the form of snow or ice. COLD WATER. Here is one of Andy's dirty little secrets... despite how much I love the outdoors and love spending time in the mountains, whatever, I will do whatever is necessary to stay dry and warm. Wet and cold I do not like at all! The first creek crossing was simple with some logs across the water but the second one was unavoidable. I had to go in.

I stopped sort of to the side in case anyone wanted to pass. I knew this was going to happen. I planned for this by having dry socks in my pack to change into once we got past the water obstacles and also by having dry shoes waiting at the net aid station. Still I did not want to go in. Someone passed me on the left and without hesitating right in they went and then so did I. To be honest it wasn't that bad in the water but once out, the freezing water which was still being held by my socks and shoes would numb my feet to the point of extreme discomfort. The water would be shed, some feeling would come back and then it would be time to go back into the creek. The good news was that as we got higher, the creek became more shallow and easy to cross.
I did slip once and I did end up getting the bottom of my shorts wet. That was as bad as it got really.

The rest of the climb up Alpine Gulch was just like any other grind. The aid station at mile seven was great and it was there that I changed my soaked socks for some drier ones. That felt soooo good. Even though they were soon damp from my shoes, it was still a great improvement.

From this point there is still some climbing (about three miles) then next comes the descent to Williams Creek (another 5 miles with a 3500 foot elevation loss.) This descent took a lot longer than I anticipated and the distance felt longer too. This would happen a lot during the day... certain distances or climbs would end up longer or steeper than I had imagined in the scale in my mind. Finally I made the Aid Station at Williams Creek at about 9:15 in the morning. 15.7 miles down... a hell of a lot more to go. It was also here that I picked up my Garmin Forerunner to help me keep track of distance, pace, etc. I sent it here as it only has an 11 hour battery life and I wanted to have it work until the end of the race as opposed to dying before the finish.

The Aid Station was great. I changed shoes and socks... filled up bottles, got my ball cap, ate and drank a bit. I was happy to be there. I was more than 1/4 of the way done both time wise and distance wise and so far things were feeling pretty damned good. "Let's just keep it that way," I thought to myself.

Leaving I knew the toughest parts were about to unfold ahead of me. The climb from Williams Creek to the summit of Coney Peak is about 4000 vertical feet over a distance of 10 miles with the greatest bulk of the climbing in six miles. Now is when the work started.

The next road up was steep on the way to the Carson Aid Station, mile 22 or so. A combination of things at this point were really slowing me down. I needed to eat, couldn't eat.... breathing was difficult because with every deep breath also came the strong urge to hurl. I had to breathe as shallow as I could to keep from yaking. Generally I was just feeling like crap and if there was a segment in the race where I was contemplating dropping this was it. To admit defeat at mile 22 though? Not even 1/2 of the way through! Unthinkable... but feeling as crappy as I did, tempting,

As I climbed higher it got cooler. I stopped to put on another layer and drink some. I was also starting to feel more comfortable/better. I probably ate too much at Williams Creek and drank to much too. Trying to eat the Cliff Bar coming up the road while struggling to breathe probably didn't help matters much either. No matter the reason I was so glad to start to feel better again with my optimism returning.

One of my fears leading up to the race included the weather. As that week wore on, the worse the forecast became. What was a 10% chance of rain or storms the previous Monday, had become a 50% chance by Thursday. On Friday it got a little better with the forecast adjusting to a 40% chance of precipitation for Saturday.

An hour into my climb to Carson, right at 11:00 am, that 40% chance turned to 100%. The rain came in quietly, quickly and it was very cold. I think it only rained for maybe a couple of minutes before it turned into sleet... I put a light jacket on, the only one I had and my gloves and just kept going. Carson could only be a mile or so away and there I had dry clothes, warmer clothes, things that would be appropriate for the conditions to come.

The Carson Aid Station actually came into view about a 12/ a mile sooner than I thought it should which in hind sight was a good thing as it was not so far past Carson where things got really nasty.

In regards to Aid Stations, losing time, and any other unhappy things... it all seemed to happen here. They could not find my drop bag when I got there. I freaked. If I did not have my drop bag there was absolutely no way I could continue. It would have been impossible. It is raining and snowing, cold and wet as hell with god knows how many runners huddled under one little picnic awning. They found my drop bag (thank god) so I had to change... but where? I found a spot under a tree to get out of my wet clothes and into clothes which were more dry and with a little more insulating properties. Being "somewhat modest" I was trying to figure out how to accomplish this without creating such a show... well there was another runner by another tree and she seemed to not care about such things so I got busy changing myself... this was a challenge as I was wanting to keep the clothes I was putting on dry as I got dressed while the tree was dripping on me. I don't know how I got it all done but I did.

I had on my long sleeve wicking shirt from the morning still, a heavier Under Armor shirt/jacket and my parka shell on top. My heavy thicker running pants on the bottom. A warm cap, gloves, and in my pack I optimistically threw in the dry shorts from my bag in hopes of changing into them at a later time. I accidentally forgot my ipod in my drop bag when I returned to the Aid Station Crew. I had sent it ahead to this point to give myself something to look forward to. Anyway, I went to find my bag again but said screw it, I don't need it and with these conditions I would be better off without it, so it stayed.

With my bottles topped off and somewhat bundled up I headed up the road. My hands were freezing from being exposed all of that time and my thin gloves were just soaked. I shoved my hands as far into my jacket pockets as I could and just kept going. I could feel them warming up in there and it was comforting. So here I am, above timberline, about 12,000 feet in elevation, driving snow storm, I have nearly 30 miles to go to the finish, 9 miles or so to the next Aid Station just plodding along warm dry and comfortable.

I was SO happy that I thought out the drop bags the way that I did and I had the gear that I did. Even more so as I passed runners coming down from the divide who were giving up and just looked miserable.

The climb to the summit of Coney Peak from Carson is about three miles in distance, and two thousand feet in elevation gain. The Coney summit sits at 13,334 feet. The higher I got the worse the conditions got which was not surprising. Probably a mile from the summit visibility was only a matter of yards if not feet. It was like being in a ping pong ball is how I like to describe it. Even though it was cloudy and snowy and nasty the light reflected from the snow was hurting my eyes so I had to dig my sunglasses out which were warm and wet with condensation from being in my jacket. They helped but it took some time for them to dry out and get to the point where I could really see through them. At least I was not squinting anymore.

Ahead of me in the distance I could see the another runner, just a dark shape really. He/or she proved to be a good guide showing me the nature of the trail above. I could not see the summit of Coney Peak but it has to be up there somewhere. Up, up, and up I went, and through a lot of switchbacks to boot but no summit was visible. It was not until I was coming off of the summit, going in the general direction of down that I finally got a clue as where I was. It was here that I knelt in the snow (which felt really good on my knees btw) and retied my shoes.

I made it. I am up on the Continental Divide and though there will be some climbs between here and the next Aid Station some seven miles away it won't be anything like the climb of the previous two hours or more. Rolling terrain, nice.

It took some time for the conditions to get better. I almost made wrong turn down gulch instead of going up to a saddle which would have been disastrous. Fortunately my instincts made me stop and look around to find the next marker instead of just going on. Even though it was cold and wet and snowing and just crappy conditions in general, I was actually having fun. Snow is better than rain in my book and even though it was nasty, there was no thunder and there was lightning. Conditions were relatively "safe" at least.

Eventually the snow let up and it was just beautiful in its own way. Quiet. Very, very quiet up there. No wind, everything was still. I love that. I was moving along, dropping in elevation as I went, feeling better and better until I finally hit the timber again and just felt great knowing I had just covered what I anticipated to be the toughest part of the course in less than ideal circumstances and I was still intact, actually I was doing great and I felt it.

I made the Divide Aid Station at mile 31 feeling pretty good. A little rough around the edges but for 31 miles in surprisingly well. I tried to keep that thought out of my mind... the new place that I was in because I had never gone that far before. I did not want to focus on that and lose my mental game or momentum.

A lot of people were at this Aid Station and they were dropping. They had had enough. Not me though... I ate some ramen, a sandwich had a couple cups of Mountain Dew, filled my bottles and took off.

19 miles to go and I had about six hours to do those in I think. Most of it downhill at least until the next aid station nine miles away. Of all the parts of the course the next nine miles proved to be the most underwhelming. The weather started to get a little nicer, after a surprise climb leaving the Aid Station I was left in some serious above timberline (again) open space that just went on forever. It took a lot of time to hit the timber again and really start dropping to the Slumgullion Aid Station at mile 40. This is where things began to wear on me.

Not bad yet, but I'm getting tired. I am tired of being wet, tired of my wet and heavy shoes and socks. It had warmed up and I had my jacket tied around my waist which I don't like. I'm carrying extra weight and running through mud that just cakes onto my shoes adding even more weight. To add insult the injury, when I expected to be close to the 40 mile aid station according to my Garmin, I ended up having at least one more mile to go and from the psychological standpoint, that did a small bit of damage.

Finally I made it to the Slum Aid Station, great! I forgot to mention that cut off times had been a concern of mine for the last 2 hours or so. If I didn't make the 40 mile mark by 6:00 p.m. the race was over for me. Fortunately I was able to leave the Aid Station with 19 minutes to spare from the cutoff time.

Leaving I felt great. Dry socks, dry shoes, dry shorts, no more jacket, I was lighter and feeling great as I was moving fast again. Trying not to get too optimistic because I knew the next ten miles would still pose a challenge I pushed on. I knew that I was close.

Everything was going great until I hit the hill on Vickers Ranch. Now I had studied the course and and the elevation profiles and I knew that this hill would be a challenge but I forgot how bad it would be actually. Silly me, I was thinking maybe only a few hundred feet in elevation gain while in reality it was more like 2000 feet of vertical in two miles. This hill was almost my undoing and where I suffered the most through the day.

On and on it went. Up and up it went, winding through the aspens, twisting and turning with no end in sight. When I thought that I would be close to the end of the climb the trail would turn and go up even more. This hill punished me both physically and mentally and when I got to the top it was such a struggle to get going again. I was wiped but I did regroup knowing that I had only seven or eight miles tops to to the finish.

I stopped at the Vickers Aid Station briefly to fill up my bottles and off I went. They told me that I only had four miles to go... three downhill and one flat. Four miles. Four more miles after traveling 46 miles of some of the toughest terrain in the state. Four more miles after being on my feet for nearly 15 hours straight. Four more miles with the light beginning to fade. Four more miles... Three down and one flat...

By now I am as tired of going down hill as much as I am tired of going up hill. My quads are just beat and the downhill running I was forced to do was to steep and tricky to just open up and go so I was breaking more than running. Loose rocks littered the trail and I feared one of them would grab my weak ankle which had done so well all day and down I would go. Those were a very cautious three miles while trying to go fast at the same time. It is after 8:00 p.m. and I have less than an hour to the cut off time. I can see the town below me now... it is there, the minutes ticking away as I run, the town getting closer way to slow for my liking.

Ahhh.... the flat, smooth surface, I can move on this. I strain seeing how fast I can make my legs move which is not very fast but fast enough. I see two runners in the distance ahead of me, I am gaining on them and I pass them. I am following the signs into and through the town. A couple cheers me on and tells me that after the next left turn I only have two blocks to go. I know these are small town blocks and the distance is not far at all. I am pushing, I can see the end of the block and I know the park is right there. Trying to look good, look strong and fast and I feel as if I am actually pulling it off as I hear the announcer call out my name as I am 100 yards or so from the finish. My eyes water and I choke up as I bound across the finish line. I did it. 15:44:46, just over 15 minutes to spare. I can't believe it.

I wander around in a daze in the park as people congratulate me. I am in awe. I feel great which scares me as I am afraid of when the crash will happen and just how devastating that will be. I eat some chili of all things and have a soda sitting at a picnic table alone in the dark. While my taste buds are in delight over the taste, my stomach just isn't in the mood so I toss the rest and go to the armory to grab my drop bags and head back to my cabin.

In the cabin, my shoes are removed... phone calls made, finally a hot shower and off to bed I went. Sleep did not come instantly as I struggled to find a comfortable way to lay but eventually I did go to sleep and slept great through the night.

It is five days later and as I mentioned, it is all a blur. My next race is in less than three weeks and that is a marathon in Leadville. The bigger brother to the race I did 2 years ago. I'm already scheming on that one and can't wait to run it. Things are going great...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Less Than a Week to go until Lake City.

Less than a week to go until the San Juan Solstice in Lake City. I am probably as ready as I'll ever be but of course I am not sure what ready actually means before a 50 mile race.

This past week I logged 54.69 miles and I think that might be a new record for me for a week. Maybe some years ago I may have beat that but this is actually recorded and logged by my Garmin.

Things I need to do yet before I leave next Friday. I need to get my drop bags ready and packed for the three drop bag aid stations on the course. I have a list for each bag which includes what types of clothes to pack, how many Power Bars and packs of Gu, and what not.

Today's long run was interesting as this will be my last really long run, mileage and time wise until next weekend. Parts were very difficult while other parts were equally easy. My recovery and pace coming off the mountain indicated that I was doing rather well. The toughest yet possibly the funniest part of today's outing occurred on the way down.

I was probably 2 miles below Barr Camp and I could have sworn that I was catching a whiff here and there of a cigar. I didn't pay much attention to it because at that point in my outing I could have been imaging whatever it was that I was smelling quite easily.

Not to far in front of me also going down the mountain but hiking I saw a guy and his dog. When I passed him I smelled it again and stopped dead in my tracks and asked him if it was just me or was he smelling a cigar as well.

As it turned out he was the source and showed me his smoke. ARRRRRGH!!!! I was so jealous as I have had to ignore my collection the past couple weeks and probably won't have a cigar until sometime after the race next week. Anyway... it was sort of funny. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

2007 Pikes Peak Double - Revisited.

I don't have much to write about this week. It has been an exhausting week. I did 43.8 miles total according to my Garmin. I have no idea on the number of vertical feet but I am sure a fair amount of that too.

I blew my "allowance" yesterday on more weights for the house, approximately another 200 lbs or so. That being said my post-run/weight workouts are going to be more intense too.

This week I have tried very hard to not think ahead so much about the San Juan Solstice or the Leadville race but my mind has been wandering off in that direction. I can't wait until the marathon is done in March so I will have some idea of where I am in regards to training and performance. Basically I want to get it done to start building some confidence.

I have also thought a lot this week about my 2007 bid to complete the Pikes Peak Double which I did. Often then I considered that to possibly be the high point of my running career. Ironically though, after this year "The Double" will only be a footnote in the past.

Anyway, I am re-posting from another source my experience that weekend doing both races. Enjoy.

17 August 2007

Months, weeks and days have been reduced to mere hours now. In less than 48 hours my attempt at completing the Pikes Peak "Double" will be concluded. There is no telling how this is going to turn out. The die has been cast. My fate sealed two or three weeks ago yet I will not know what the outcome will be until it is all over.

Training went well this year. I did things I never thought were possible. I ran stronger than I possibly ever have. Of course with that comes the psychological adjustments that must happen to keep the rest of reality in proper perspective. I worked hard this summer, ran hard, but I also played very hard for a bit just to counterbalance it. It is funny how I must always do that.

I have been in taper mode for the past three weeks. This is always a difficult period for me. I am exhausted from the routine of months prior, but also in a mode where I am so used to continuously pushing through physical pain, mental burnout and hell, just spiritual fatigue as a whole. I tend to feel more sluggish through this phase and less productive. With running less comes the time to think more, and thinking more about things I probably shouldn't be thinking about. Mostly though time is allowed to think about the run, what do I want to do, how do I want to do it, what are my goals, will I pull this off?

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life, sitting around and waiting. At least it feels that way. Last weekend was great weekend with just Roxy and I camping up in the mountains at 11,000 feet in elevation and away from everything. The best part of the trip was Saturday night as I was laying next to the campfire, drinking beer (carb loading), smoking a great Arturo Fuente cigar, looking up at the stars, the milky way and the meteors. The second part, climbing a 13'r that I have wanted to climb for years Roxy and I did on Saturday afternoon. My last two bigger runs were also last weekend. Since then it has just been taking it easy. Rest on Monday, two light runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, yesterday and today have been off days. Tomorrow I get up early and do phase I of the weekend. The Ascent.

I am not concerned about the Ascent. That is only the gateway I believe to the entire experience that will be this weekend. The plan is simple. Get up, get to the starting line, get to the top of the mountain, then get down as quickly as possible. Right now I do not allow myself to think of Sunday and the Marathon. I am only thinking of the Ascent tomorrow. Of course, after doing the Ascent I am going to have to completely forget it, put it out of my mind and HOPE that my body does not remember either. I have to by some Jedi mind trick J have my mind convince my body that it is 100 percent and fresh again come Sunday morning.

Get there, get up, and get down…. Once down I am going to re-hydrate, eat, and hopefully have both my hydration and blood sugar balanced out as quickly as possible. Then it is back to pretty much sitting around like I am now. Resting, feet up.

I am closing this for now and I will add to it two more times, once after the Ascent, and again after the Marathon.

18 August 2007 14:02

Well I have been home for a little over two hours. I have consumed a ton of water, two Banana's, a ribeye steak and some spinach. I was hungry. :)

This morning was so-so. I got up at 5 as planned, fed Roxy, showered, got dressed and got the rest of my stuff together to go. I was out of the house by 5:50 and stopped in the garage real quick to do some lifting just to warm up a little, not a full workout. In the Jeep and off to Manitou Springs at 6:00.

Parked a bit from the starting line then walked to there. Looked for Erich and for the first time ever I couldn't find him right off. Weird. Actually I got concerned. Erich is never late to anything, ever. Actually his timing is typically 5 minutes prior to what most people would call early. It's a quirk of his and after 20 years of friendship one that still gets me at times. We finally synced up at 6:45. He had some issues getting his packet and stuff pre-race as it turns out.

I really don't know how to explain how I felt this morning. Obviously nervous which was apparent by grossly inappropriate flavor of humor that I was enjoying and sharing this morning. That's just me being me I guess. Even though I was nervous at the same time I was quite relaxed.

The race started and as I feared my legs felt a little dead, more like cold. I've felt worse though. It was a reminder for me to just relax, take it easy and think only of "my race" and not about anything going on around me. Always at the beginning the distance, time required to cover that distance and the elevation to be gained to the summit always seems damn near impossible. This morning was no exception.

It just did not feel like things were going great. I just could not seem to find my happy pace or groove. The first four miles or so which are tough to start with challenged me appropriately this morning. My mind tried to wander so much, and extra effort was needed to stay focused. Legs still feeling a bit tired, not in my best stride, and on top of it all, it was warm.

The heat was a factor for me today. It wasn't terribly hot per se but hot enough to be a factor and make things uncomfortable. The heat stayed constant pretty much all the way to treeline. Finally it started to cool off when I hit the 3 mile to go mark.

3 miles to go... the mile between 3 to go and 2 to go to the summit has always been the toughest part for me on the course. Going up, or going down, that mile just F'ing kills me. I thought I had it licked this year as all of my training runs went really well through there, amazingly well. It wasn't to be that way this morning. I suffered every precious inch of that stinking mile. But I gutted through it and started reaping my reward through the last two miles.

See, a lot of folks end up going out way to fast. Don't think their way through the course as they should. The end result is above treeline they suffer greatly. Me this is where I do my best work and today was no exception. I would see someone in the distant and mark them as prey more or less and would not relent until I was past them. And I know it's probably not sportsmanlike but it is fun to see other people crumble, knowing you did the work, and they didn't.

I knew I was close to a PR as I got through the last mile. My best time last year of 3:33:33. I was fading though and fast within the last quarter of a mile. Hard to keep going and maintain the same level of intensity. I was close and I wanted to beat that time so bad.

I threw myself to the finish line and it was a goat rope. Actually I crossed before the guy to my left did and they pulled his number first so I don't know how that will play out. As for my time I'll have to wait and see what it is. I didn't see the clock and though I thought I stopped my watch, I didn't hit the button hard enough. That being said my time may be in the 3:32, or 3:33, or 3:34 range. I am guessing that I am in the upper 3:33 range and not a PR.

My friend Dana met me at the top before going and spending the rest of the weekend with her boyfriend in Denver. She got me down off of the mountain as quickly as she could and back to Manitou to the Jeep so I could come home.

All in all, today was tough, but it still went well. The best part is I recovered completely within five minutes of being on the summit. I know that today if I had to I could have easily made the 13 mile trip running back down the mountain, no questions asked.

The big question is, can I do it tomorrow. We will soon know.

18 August 2007 16:39 UPDATE - The times were just posted. My official time is 3:34:04. I am not sure how I feel about that right now. Sort of pissed knowing they jacked around at the finish pulling my number and they pulled the guys tag to my left before mine, and he crossed after I did. I’m just going to have to concentrate on tomorrow. If I get a personal record (PR) on the Ascent tomorrow it will still stand as a PR by itself. Now if I want to go for the whole ball of wax, PR on the Ascent and PR in the Marathon. Times to beat will be 3:33:33 and 5:56:02, respectively. I gotta start thinking on those terms now. Time to eat and drink more. :)

19 August 2007 16:25

I will add more later but here are the cliff notes. Woke up this morning feeling absurdly well considering. Mentally wondering why I would want to do what I was attempting but still got ready and went. The trip up the mountain was okay but i was not faster than yesterday. My ascent time was around 3:45 and change. Not bad, today the heat was way worse than yesterday and I figured I was still well within the tolerances to get a PR.

A PR did not happen. About 1.5 miles down from the summit I went down and went down hard. Rolled my left ankle again. At first I nearly cried thinking of all the work the past few months just went up in smoke and my bid to complete both races was over. Took some Aleeve which thank God I put two in my pack for just in case, took a few minute break, tested, my ankle and it seemed okay. For how long I was not sure but I was going to get as much out of it as i could. Started back down.

Around two miles down met a nice running partner to pair up with as long as I could. We talked a lot and that kept my mind off of my painful and swollen ankle.

Gave up all hope for a PR of course and was fine with that. Ran down the entire 12 miles or so after rolling it, well, I did roll it again around mile 19-20. Oh did I yell. It got hot as hell coming down.

Finished strong with my time of 6:10:48. I am happy with that. I will write in more details later. But the big thing is I did it. My first Pikes Peak Double, both races and both races done well. Time to open another bottle of wine. :)

20 August 2007 09:27

It is truly the morning after. My ankle is way worse than I ever thought. The swelling and visible bruising is quite pronounced. I think this is way worse than when I originally sprained it in April. I am still not upset, disappointed or anything like that. If anything I am quite grateful because I know that when it went crunch yesterday, and I flew things could have been a lot worse. Worse being, I could have been cut up pretty bad on the trail, at least skinned up pretty bad. Or something more serious like hitting my head on a rock.

To fill in the gaps from yesterday... I woke up at 05:00 and felt absurdly well. A little tightness in my left calf but I knew that would be worked out after being up and moving around for a few minutes. I felt like my energy level was good and I felt completely recovered from Saturday. As I said early the only thing bothering my was lack of motivation or purpose for going forward with my quest and running the Marathon. Regardless I got ready and my buddy Erich and I left here at 06:00 when he came to pick me up.

The starting line was not the circus it was the morning before. Two different races to different kinds of people in each. Erich got some cool photo's at the starting line and we hung out and just BS'd about what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.

Before the gun went off, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone who knows me, knows how I can be a little emotive... sentimental, whatever. Every time I hear that song it always moves me. Yesterday was no different. I was thankful to live in a country where we have all of the freedoms and liberties that we have and for those who have all made that possible through personal sacrifice.

Mental state was relaxed when the gun went off. My strategy was to go out and just do what I could do. The race and my result would just be what it would be. My pace was 3 minutes off 7 miles up the mountain from the day before. But hey, there was a day before, it's not like I am 100% refreshed and recovered to do this. Three minutes in the grand scheme, is not that much. I also had 19 more miles or so to go and anything could happen.

Sunday was much hotter than Saturday and heat was a big factor. Even above treeline it was a lot hotter. My time to the summit was 11 minutes slower than on Sunday. Again, the heat, running the day before, and holding back to have some for the downhill leg played into that. Again, nothing I was concerned about, I actually felt that I could pull a PR on the Marathon at this point.

When I got to the summit I was craving chocolate... bad. They didn't have any. But they had some animal crackers. I turned around up there quickly handful of animal crackers and I think when I at the first one, I might have messed my shorts up a little! :) They were that good. But anyway, I am on the downhill leg. My plan was to get more water 1.5 miles or so down, not get water at the top. So far it was going well.

Negotiating going down with runners coming up the rocky and craggy trail can be difficlut. I was careful not to do anything stupid to get hurt. I knew in a bit I would be on somewhat smoother trail and could begin to open up. The goal, lose as much altitude as I could, as quick as I could and get more air.

I stopped at the traverse aid station 1.5 miles down from the summit, refilled my water bottle and got a handful of those wonderful animal crackers again and M&M's. I was in heaven. This was my error.

Running, completely blissed out with the crackers and M&M's, and not paying a damned bit of attention. I hit a soft spot, rock, what I don't know. All I remember is hearing/feeling a loud "crunch!" I was airborne then I was down, hard.

It took a second or two to come around and realize what had just happened. When I realized completely the nature of the situation I almost threw up. I almost cried. I began to unravel as I saw the work, planning, etc, etc, all go up in smoke. I am 11-12 miles from the finish and I am hurt pretty bad. People stopped to ask if I was okay, if I needed the Search & Rescue Medics to come up/down. I told them I wasn't sure. Not yet. I calmed down. It wasn't going to go down like this. NO. I will not let it.

My ankle could support weight. Then I tested it to see if I could walk on it and I could. I remember saying to myself that if I have to walk the entire way down (which the thought of really didn't appeal to me) that I was going to finish this Motherf*cker one way or the other. I was not going to not finish the freaking double.

I walked a few steps then came the big test. Can I run/jog on it? I could and it hurt. Could I bear the pain? How far will my ankle last? The pain seemed tolerable. I just didn't know how far I could go. So off I went. Slow at first, then as I felt more comfortable, I picked up speed. I had to pee really bad and had decided to take care of that at the two mile point down from the summit at a rock I have used many times for that very purpose.

Stopped at my rock and did that. When I came out I ended up in a herd of people who seemed to be going at a pace I was comfortable with. After a mile or so ended up running alone with just one person from that pack. She and I ran together the rest of the 10-11 miles to the bottom pretty much the whole way. I lost her when I rolled my ankle again around 5-6 miles to go but then caught back up. She was a godsend, as she was quite chatty, which kept my mind off of my ankle, and she had a great pace which pushed me at times but then as it turned out, I pushed/pulled her along at times a little bit too.

Erich was expecting me around six hours and started to get nervous when I wasn't there. He figured something had to have happened, and he was right. He got the great photo of me blasting towards the finish line.

I crossed the finish with great form, and the way I like to finish races like this. I was intact. I wasn't bleeding (could have been), I wasn't throwing up, I wasn't fainting. I did it with dignity and class and after a minute people were asking me if I had really ran. :)

Erich and I got back to my place. Called my folks then we drank a great bottle of German Spatelase in the backyard and I smoked a superb Nicaraguan Cigar and we talked about it all. Of course my ankle is wrapped with ice on it by this point. It was a great part of the whole day.

I am happy with the way this weekend turned out. Grateful for many things. A PR was never truly a part of the equation for either race. Would have been nice but it was not to be. My original goals were simple. Finished the Ascent in just under four hours... did that in 3:34:04. Finish the Marathon in just under six hours, well that was 6:10:47. Looking at the two times and the differences in goals it is a wash, and actually I am a head of my conservative goal.

Getting to sleep last night was a little hard. Every time I would close my eyes I would be falling on the trail again. I hope I shake that soon. :)

141 people did the Double this year, running both races, both days. Of those 141 people, I came in 30th. I'll take it! :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sleep Running

What a strange and bifurcated weekend this has been. I found out Friday afternoon early that I was going to have to work Friday night which was the result of the outage we had the Friday before. Not that I was planning anything great but I did plan to have the evening to myself. To make a long story short, took a break from work around 2:00 p.m. to go run then I saw the movie Defiance which I planned to see later in the evening. Came home ate some Chinese take-out then started working at 8:00 and that lasted until two in the morning. On the upside I didn't get to have my Friday/weekly cigar so I am up one there.

Slept in Saturday then the same thing as normal... went and ran, came home and lifted then went to run errands. Nothing outstanding to report except for an unexplained impulse to go to my least favorite mall in town for no apparent reason. I went, I walked around and I left.

Something did occur to me when I was walking Roxy Saturday afternoon. I was trying to figure out what I was going to have for dinner and then I realized that in fact I was not that hungry. Uh oh. Not good.

I ran four miles Saturday morning after eating really nothing more than a granola bar. Then I came home and lifted, then I had left over Chinese food for lunch around noon or so. It was then four in the afternoon when I realized I was not that hungry. So yeah, "uh oh." Bad sign... a definite possible symptom of over training which I have been on the edge of for weeks now.

I've been feeling down and feeling a lack of motivation... another sign of over training. Then I catch the lack of appetite? Thankfully I caught it as early as I did. I mean this isn't anything new, I've been here SO many times. However, I typically don't catch the eating thing for a few days after it begins. I got it day one this time.

SO! To combat this issue, I ate a whole medium pizza with the works last night and watched a movie. |) It didn't solve all the problems but at least a step in the right direction.

I went to bed early last night and guess I was sleeping funny, I had strange dreams... hmm, could have been the pizza? Anyway, I had this dream that I started my run for Sunday then my run was over but in my dream, though the run was over and my Garmin showed me the time and distance I did not remember a thing from the run! Not a thing. Like I did the whole run while in a black out. Well I woke up then a little before four and I couldn't get back to sleep, but that is what I mean by "sleep running." I must add that I was sort of ticked because I felt like having to run today then was almost repetitive, regardless if I remembered the run in my sleep or not!

It was twelve degrees above zero when left the house this morning. I had time to kill so instead of making breakfast I went to my favorite place close to my house to eat. I knew I had a lot of miles ahead of me so a big breakfast wasn't a bad idea especially now that I am aware that I might not want to eat and could forget. I have to stay on top of this eating thing until this phase passes.

I STILL had time to kill so I went for a drive through The Garden of the Gods. It was cold as I was saying and sort of foggy. The cold was making the fog just freeze so it was really beautiful in there this morning. I got the bonus of having a couple cool songs playing on the radio too, so it was almost like my own in real life music videos as I was driving. Learning to Fly by the Foo Fighters was the first song and then Blurry by Puddle of Mudd.

My run was great and completely different than last week. It was cold still and stayed cold the entire 4.5 hours I was out. My IPod froze, no kidding, after 2.5 hours. I was in a really cold spot when that happened. I was concerned because well, I'm just not in the mood to replace that IPod yet. Fortunately it warmed up in my pack and started working again an hour or so later.

After my run hit McD's and came home and woofed that down before hitting the weights. Even my weight workout went well.

YAY! Now I get a real day off tomorrow! No running and no lifting. What is really great is that now I am at the phase of my training where I start having TWO days off a week. Mondays and Fridays. Of course my mileages go up all of my other days but having those two days off will go a long way to help keep my from getting injured or more burned out. I should start bouncing back soon.

It has been an interesting week... a good week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Wall

"The Wall" exists in many forms and can show up at anytime. Not just in running or long distance races but in life itself. The past few days have been all about the wall.

I am the only person that I know of who has ever ran into a wall, literally. When I say run, I mean running at full tilt, all out, head first into a brick wall. It happened when I was in the second grade in gym class. The summation of that event was that I bounced off the brick wall somewhat, looked at the coach (so I was told) and down I went. My next memory is of smelling salts being waved under my nose as I was regaining consciousness. This was probably my first time ever experience with the wall so to speak.

Sometimes you don't even have to run to the wall. Sometimes it comes to you as was the case this Sunday morning for me. I think the wall was somewhere between my bed and my shower as I was getting ready for my Sunday run. Somehow it managed to stay just feet in front of me, continually the entire morning.

Compared to the run the week before this one was supposed to be nothing. 6-7 miles up to Barr Camp, a 4000 foot elevation gain... no biggie right? Heck even the weather was cooperating for change. But no, it was just one of those mornings where nothing feels right and you just can't pull it together. For those of you familiar with my training issues from last summer, this past Sunday was VERY reminiscent of that. Things felt off, out of balance, not right... no rhythm.

I did okay really the first mile or so but after that, I fought for every inch of trail and elevation gain. Ten times I bet I tried to talk myself into just turning around and calling it a day. But that's not me... quitting like that. I knew if I did that in the end I would only be more miserable.

It took a lot longer to get to Barr Camp than normal for me. I was off by 30 minutes or so. Of course not only was I not feeling well and needing to take that into consideration but the trail was still icy and snow covered in spots and that sucks up time too. As I got closer my main motivation was to get inside the main cabin, sit down, warm up and have a coke and hopefully some M&M's if they have them. Sometimes it is just the little things that can keep ya going, ya know?

Made Barr Camp. Got a Coke, got peanut M&M's and I got to sit down by the stove and relax for a few as I contemplated the 7+ miles back down the mountain I needed to run. The Wall.... was I already there. Was I possibly done for the day only I didn't really know it yet?

Thankfully the run down went great. I took off sort of slow but then got bored I guess. Cranked up the I Pod and started tearing down the trail. My time down was pretty good all things considered. Extra bonus... the lower I went down the warmer it got as well. Ahhhhhhh.... nice....

Finished out the day doing everything else I needed to do, I ate then I lifted then I lounged on the couch for couple of hours before getting ready to go out with friends for a steak dinner and cigars at 15C that evening.

As I sat on the couch at 15C enjoying my Cohiba Siglo IV, I was so thankful that I pushed through that morning and somehow managed to do what I wanted to do. Little did I know another wall was right around the corner, but this time in the form of an elephant. The proverbial "elephant in the room," you know the one that folks try to not talk about?

This time, he came to me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Grand Plan for 2009.

My first blog entry in the new format. I am migrating everything from MySpace to here and to Facebook. My plans include migrating my earlier entries from MySpace over to here as well. Maybe not all of them but the best of the best.

The past 24 hours have been big. I stayed up way too late last night to register for the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Run. Info here: In November I verified with the race director that my prior races would qualify me for this event so I knew that I was good to go, and all I would have to do is successfully register. This race only had a field of 200 and anyone registering after the first two hundred are filled go onto the wait list. Those who know me know that "Andy" and the word "wait" never belong in the same sentence. That being the case I was up way late last night until 12:59 a.m. MST when the registration opened to register electronically on It took some time but finally at 1:12 a.m. I had my registration confirmation in my e-mail in-box. Great!

The second big thing to happen today came via the USPS. I received my entry confirmation for the Leadville Trail 100 race. This is the last race in my "plan" for this season and it is scheduled for August 22-23. To be more clear, 04:00 a.m. is the start on the 22 August and the race closes 10:00 a.m. the next day. 100 miles, at altitude, 30 hour cut off time. No kidding. Average 15 minute miles over the course and I am in great shape... 18 minutes per mile, I get to finish. 20 minutes per mile, DNF, Did Not Finish.

Those are two of the races in my plan as I mentioned there are more and yes there is a plan. I don't know if this should be called my mid-life crisis running tour or what, but it is going to be significant regardless. The idea actually came to me last fall after the Pikes Peak Ascent which to be honest, there for a bit seemed like the end of my mountain running career. Synopsis, FREAKISH weather, snow, nasty cold, mild hypothermia, the works. I finished before they closed the course, I was lucky.

But anyway, after that race and while I was up bowhunting for elk I was taking breaks from hunting and running up around camp which is at 11,000 feet in elevation just thinking about things. I decided a change was in order and set my sights on a 5K in MD which I could run at Thanksgiving time when I came home. My goal being to actually do speedwork in the fall and work hard to run a hard and fast 5K and do respectable. And that is what I did, coming in 4th in my age group out of a field of 69. Instead of taking my fall break from running as I usually do, I ran harder. Speedwork at 40... let's just say it is uncomfortable. But I have to brag a little, I did clock a 6:27 mile last fall. I'll take it. :)

I have never run an ultra before. A real race that is greater in distance than a traditional marathon which is 26.2 miles in length. I've run some nasty races including mountain marathons where you burn at least 2x the energy than in a flatland marathon but I've never done an Ultra. Sometime around Thanksgiving the idea came to me... Do the San Juan Solstice in June as your first Ultra. Keep up my momentum from the fall training and just keep going. Great! It's a plan.

After Thanksgiving and returning to Colorado I called an acquaintance of mine whom I know has run the San Juan race and Leadville many times. I informed him of my decision to run San Juan and asked what he suggested I do to start training for the 50 mile course. I was surprised when he started outlining races. The races include a marathon in march, a 25 mile run the beginning of May, followed by another 32 mile run the next weekend. To run a marathon in March in Colorado is nothing I had ever considered feasible before. Yet it made sense and I pretty much started training for it the first week of December.

So... by the first or second week of December my race schedule was starting to look like this if I were to be doing the San Juan Solstice.

March 14 Run Through Time Marathon - Salida
May 2 Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 25 mile
May 9 Greenland Trail 50K
June 20 San Juan Solstice 50 Mile

It is aggressive but I really think doable. The big question came to be then, "What do I do next?"

The Leadville Marathon looked good in July and I've been wanting to do that since I did the heavy half there back in 2007 when I was training for the Pikes Peak Double. So I threw that one on the plan. Oh and the Barr Trail Mountain Race (BTMR) is the day AFTER Pb Heavy Half and Marathon this year. So BTMR will be that weekend too. Two races in one weekend. It will be interesting.

Then what next? Pikes Peak Ascent? Pikes Peak Marathon? Do the Double again? None of these appealed to me at all. It felt completely like taking a step backwards.

No, the only logical move left (okay logical to me) is doing the Leadville 100 this August. So in reality that is the big goal of this year. San Juan is just the cornerstone as I see it. If I can do okay then maybe the Leadville 100 will be fine as well. That confirmation I received in the mail today as I mentioned earlier.

To be honest, Leadville has been on my agenda for over 15-16 years I bet. It is just that back then it never seemed possible. I've spent the last decade and a half maybe preparing for it, if not preparing then definitely moving in that direction. Running the Pikes Peak Double two years ago was ALWAYS in my mind as a stepping stone towards Leadville.

So there you have it... At least the rough outline of my grand plan for this year. I am not kidding myself. It is not going to be easy. For instance how do I prevent burnout between now and August? How do I stay healthy and uninjured? How do I maintain some level of balance in my life in regards to other pursuits and interests? How can I train and do all of this and still have a life? These are answers which I presently do not have but I have faith that these questions/issues will unfold and possibly solve themselves as time passes.

If nothing else it is January and I am stronger and faster than I have ever been for this time of the year. I am curious to see what it all looks like a few months from now! We'll just have to wait and see.

March 14 Run Through Time Marathon - Salida
May 2 Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 25 mile
May 9 Greenland Trail 50K
June 20 San Juan Solstice 50 Mile
July 11 Leadville Marathon 26.2 mile
July 12 Barr Trail Mountain Race 13 Mile
Aug 22-23 Leadville Trail 100

*** Pikes Peak Ascent August 15 - Optional