Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to Business

Monday
AM-6 miles - Mount Sanitas before a meeting. At 8:30am, it was already pushing 80 degrees. Looks like I'll be doing my afternoon run in the dark. 2 miles of climbing followed by 3 miles of descent, then a gradual climb on the streets back to work downtown. Fantastic run. despite not eating breakfast, I still felt pretty good.

PM-4 mles - Just the typical loop on the Goose/Boulder Creek Greenways. Running in the dark is fun. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a manchild who gets freaked out in the dark. Made for a much needed farltek workout.

Tuesday
PM-5 miles - Just a run about town and on the Boulder Creek Path. Not enough time to hit the trails this morning since I had to report to the Res a 6:30. Still managed to get muddy and sweat a lot. These runs serve little purpose other than to practice my "comfortably fast" pace for long races(extra emphasis on the comfy part).

Wednesday
AM-9 miles - Met up with Ely and Archie for the typical route up Gregory and Ranger, then Down Bear Canyon to Mesa. I hadn't run that route in nearly 2 weeks, and it felt great to get on it again, even if I'm still not 100% yet. Ely and I compared notes on Leadville and casually did the route. I was nearly late for work, showing up to a staff meeting with all the stank of the day on me.

Thursday
6 miles - Planned on going up Green again, but got light-headed inexplicably. Headed up Green Man to the Saddle Rock Trail instead. Good run other than the near fainting spell. Damn my finicky body.

Friday
8 miles - Chatauqua toGregory Canyon to Long Canyon to Green Mtn West Ridge to Summit then played with chipmunk for 10 minutes then Greenman to Gregory to Chataqua to McDonalds. Not feeling creative enough to use sentences. I was in a pretty good groove coming down Greenman, I took my eyes off of my feet for one second to look up and see ultra legend Scott Jurek standing there. I'm sure I had a "deer in the headlights" look for a second or thirty, then we exhanged pleasantries before I bolted down the hill again. Pretty cool to share trails with my running role models. Playing with a chipmunk was also pretty awesome. Why the hell are they so tame on the summit of the mountain?

Saturday
AM- 5 miles - 5 miles on the Goose Creek and Boulder Creek paths. My parents were in town, so I thought it would be a good way to show them some of Boulder while I got a short workout in. They rode bikes with me, so I had them pedal at a comfortable pace while I tried to keep up.

The Flatirons, Me, and Dad on the bike. Photo: Mom

a couple miles of barefoot on the Creek Path.
PM- 3 miles - A little stair workout.

Stairs across from the Cog Railway Station at Pikes Peak
Reportedly 1.5 miles up to the top.
My friend Rob Sanchez told me about this "stair workout" some of the olympians do when trainin in Colorado Springs. My family and I were waiting for our train up to the Summit when we noticed the stairs. I then realized it was the stair set Rob was talking about. The time was 3:15. The train was leavin at 4. I made it to the top and back by 3:55, much to the dismay of my agitated, yet not suprised family. A bit of an impromptu climb in my khaki shorts. I bruised my hands a couple times from falling on the loose gravel.

Sunday
4 miles - Hiking on Green Mounntain with the parents. They were brave for a couple of sea level dwellers. Not a great deal of training merit, but I tried to practice my "power hiking" and stair climbing as I slowly trudged up the mountain.
Almost to the Summit



Have you ever seen anything more touristy than this?

Total: 50 miles. Mostly good stuff as I ease back into running after Leadville. I played the recovery pretty cool since I don't have any races coming up in the immediate future...or do I?

I'm not sure which made for better training - my entirely running based life back at WMU, with its unchallenging terrain and high quality, high volume training, or my career based life here in Boulder, with its inconsistent, high quality trail running? Like it or not, I have to learn to share the rest of my life with running if I want to be a balanced person.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Glory to Dust: A report from the Leadville Silver Rush 50

The dust has settled and the aches have subsided. Time to write a race report.

My preparation for this race could be barely be described as recreational running. The Leadville 50 mile would be the first ultra I've done since my (hopefully not so) temporary move to Boulder. Though I'm thouroughly loving my time here and enjoying every mile of trail I get to run, those miles haven't been as frequent or as plentiful as I'd hoped. Many factors have gone into this but they can be summed up as follows:

life happens

Working an unpaid "big boy" job in therapeutic recreation has proven to take up much more of my time than my lacksadaisical approach to academia. 30-60 hours a week have been the first thing to take their toll on my running.

Leaving the majority of my support group has proven to be more of a detriment to me than it has for them. Without my arsenal of joggers to drag me out on multiple daily runs, my motivation has waned. This has taught me the value of support from others. Give it when you've got it, take it when it's offered.

Now that I've compiled a hefty list of excuses, I will go out on a limb and say that I did do a few things right. Nearly all of my runs consisted of higher intensity climbs. My fascination with peaks has driven me to climb Green Mountain, Bear Peak, or Mount Sanitas most of the days I hit trails. My road runs had been mostly quicker efforts or long climbs on mountain roads. I let the terrain dictate my training.

Did a substitution of higher mileage and more runs for higher quality and more fun work out for me in the end? I think there are too many variables to tell. My recovery from Mind the Ducks was slower that expected, but I did manage to steadily work my way up to a 75mile week before leadville. My longest run since moving to Boulder was a 3 hour run at altitude that took me a marvelous 13 miles. Clearly, I was resting on the laurels of my 12 hour, 77.24 mile run back in may.

How woould a decent midwest runner do when completely out of his element? I've won a couple 50milers, a 12 hour, and placed in a few others over on the east side of the Mississippi. I don't feel as though my adaptation  to mountains was complete before this attempt, but time waits for nobody.

Like how I start each race report with a line of excuses and bullshit? On with it already.

Okay, the weekend itself

Sam and I slept in on Saturday morning, knowing we would be deprived of our precious slumber in due time. We both sleep like infants for some reason. Once I finally rolled out of bed, I got a few things done that I knew I wouldn't be motivated to do in 48 hours. Mowed the lawn, prepped the car, cleaned up outside the house, all that boring stuff. Sam was getting into "crew/caregiver/general saint" mode and made an awesome lunch of pancakes and fruit.

We checked to make sure we packed everything, I put on my most adventurous hat, and we were off. I remembered the easy drive to Leadville from our last trip up there, so we kept the GPS in the glove box.

A couple hours of road trip music later, and we were at 10000ft. Our first order of business was to check into our campsite and get our tent set up. Sam and I are different combinations of frugal and adventurous, but we both decided that our little Coleman tent would serve as the most effective means of housing.

I don't know what the hell that string is for.

After getting set up, we meandered back into town. It was a bout a 4 mile bike ride into downtown Leadville, so we took the bikes off my roofrack and made some tracks down the gravel road. I wanted to see if I could avoid getting up at 4am and pick my race packed up early. No dice - I missed the early packet pickup time. Oh well, I needed to add a challenge anyway, right? Why not throw a 4am alarm into the mix?

We rode down the hill to the start/finish area to catch the tail end of the mountain bike race. The atmosphere was pretty cool, but after looking around a bit, we headed back into town for ice cream. It only seemed fitting that I eat Rocky Road flavor.

The ride back to our campsite was all downhill, so we made it back quite a bit easier. The ride in the AM to the race start was going to be a cold, dark, bitch of an uphill ride. Oh well. We hopped back in the car and went back to town for the best reason to do any type of physical activity. Authentic Mexican food by the pound! I was quite suprised to be the only runner in the restarante at 8pm the night before a race. Don't other people know the power of refried beans, tortilla, cheese, and some good hot salsa? It' lead to some success in the past and it sounded good, so we went with it.

Back to campsite, where Samantha and I had an obligation to fill. That obligation is to eat several S'mores in the presence of a campfire. We would have been in remiss to not enjoy the wonder of marshmallow, graham cracker, and chocolate...and Pabst.
My 1-woman support crew, roastin' some mallows.

Hold the "Brokeback Mountain" jokes. The ignorant author attempts
to start a fire without the use of 1.5 gallons of gasonline.
We sat up talking until about 12am. I know that neither of us fell asleep until at least 1. Not a big deal. It's not like we had to be up early or anything.

...3 hours later...

Alarm goes off. Sleepy. I contemplate just staying in bed. "The race is chip timed, right? I could just start it at 9!" Of course, I did get up a few minutes later, even if it was rather reluctantly. Brushed my teeth and changed with my headlamp on, threw on some pants, a couple shirts, and a jacket. The weather app on my phone said it was about 36 degrees. Since I was rather limited on breakfast options, I had one Carnation instant breakfast, then packed another for when we got to the race start. I threw on my backpack with my race supplies in it and headed to town with Sam.



little known fact: Im a professional phtographer.

 Without further ado - the race


I rolled up in the dark to a a few folks setting up EZ-up tents. The ski hill at the start has outdoor lighting, a few minutes after I arrived, the lights turned on. People started shuffling in, taking their pre-race deuces and fidgeting with this and that. Some smiled happily as they milled about, talking to anyone about anything. Others anxiously avoided eye contact and did strange calisthenic type movements. I've learned not to take anything like that personally. In spite of my passive attitude, I know that running 50 miles at 12000 feet is a big deal. We all deal with the anticipation in different ways. I just sort of wandered around, filing my water bottles, stuffing my shorts pockets with GU, drinking some weird energy drink, covertly adjusting my...unmentionables.

I drank a bottle of water while standing around

shivering at the start line
The announcer called out "5 minutes to race start!" so I eagerly made the 6 to 10 foot journey to the start line. It suprisingly took less than 5 minutes. I always do that. The RD explained that at the top of the ski hill pictured above, there were two silver dollars-  one for the male and one for the female that reaches the top first.

Bang.

I've never seen a candy machine that takes silver dollars, so I just hung midpack as adrenaline pulled me up the hill.

I climbed this hill two weeks ago with Sam. After that, I had no intention of actually running up it on race day. The surge of adrenaline drove me up the hill much faster than I anticipated. I weaved in and out of the hoard of people, relentlessly clawing my way up to the top. By the time I got there, I had actually made it into the pack that was after the silver dollar. Probably not the best strategy for someone who was trying to be steady, so I backed off a little and just tried to get comfortable after the course leveled out. I tried to fight the urge to pass people as I felt like I was in ROTC formation. As I slowly learn from my experiences in ultras, I've created a simple motto: don't resist anything.  If you feel like running faster, run faster. You will hurt later, whether you keep tugging at the reins or not, so let it fly. This goes against the grain of conventional ultra wisdom, but our sport is entering a new era - speed rules.

The first few miles went pretty smoothly, I talked briefly with a group of people as we hung together. My plan to stalk the leaders immediately went to shit. I just started running my own race. After a few attempts at a surge, I decided that the diesel of a man next to me was going to be my pacer for a bit. He looked like my friend Phil, so just refered to him as such in my head.

After a completely silent 7 miles, we reached the first aid station. I estimated that there were roughly 7 people ahead of me. The sun had come up and I was treated to the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen. The snowcapped mountains blazed in an orange glow as if they were molten hunks of the ore that lie undiscovered inside them. The beams of light pierced the pines as we ran through the trails on our way to the high country.

At the first aid station, I removed my flannel, tech shirt, and knitted hat. (I hope I get them back). Shirtless, sweating, and running through the mountains with some of the best runners in the world. I was living a dream and everything was perfect. I was presented with a few creek crossings. I had faith in my shoes' water draining abilities, so I carelessly splashed through them as the trail turned upward. The guy I had been running with had started taking long strides, hiking up the mountain. I was losing ground as I "ran" behind him. I emulated the true mountain runner and immediately felt more comfortable. This was where I met Craig. He's from the Boulder/Longmont area, so we talked a bit while we scrambled up the trail into the thin air. One volunteer commented out how comfortably we carried on a conversation as we drove our knees up the incline.



Craig Howie and me running up a flooded trail. Photo: Zazoosh.

Craig and I caught up with Matt, the guy I had been running with earlier in the race. After a few miles, comraderie takes precedence over any competition. We chatted as w trotted a downhill to the 13ish mile aid station. This was where it really started to feel like a big mountain race. There were support crews, volunteers, and aid station workers everywhere. People cheering, tending to our needs. I felt the urgency in the air. I was further up the pack than I had originally thought. I didn't bother to ask where exactly I was, but I didn't waste any time. Craig and Matt had both taken off, so I decided to give chase.

I slowly made up some ground on these two, but quickly lost it on the next long uphill. Who gets dropped on any climb longer than 3 minutes? An asthmatic from Michigan in Leadville, thats who. I also got passed by another guy. I didn't get a good look at him since I was running with my head down. Some miles of climbing passed, and I had reached air that was thinnner yet. The trees were smaller and I had reached what I assume was the tree line. As the trail leveled off, I saw the next aid station. This was the Rock Garden AS, where Samantha was working along with other volunteers at a rather desolate looking station. She was a sight for sore eyes as I was exhausted and out of water.

The view from this AS was spectacular. A 360 degree view of snowcapped mountans.

Sam walking me into the mile 18 AS

I was informed here that I was in 4th place. It didn't really put any pep in my step.
I swapped a full bottle with Sam, ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, stuffed a few more GUs in my pockets, and headed off toward the Stump Town turnaround point. There were some nice downhills into a beautiful valley. There was snow all around me as I ran in solitude through the grassy valley. This was certainly a high point for me as I ran up a winding path through a snowy section of trail.

The next section consisted of a long, mostly downhill gravel road to the turnaround. A mile or so from the turnaround, I realized I've seen nobody coming toward me. Before I can even finish the thought, I see Craig, the guy who was running with me earlier in the race. He put some serious ground between us and it was awesome to see him on his way back to the finish already. He was in first place in his first 50! This meant that despite my rough patches so early in the race, I was still in decent shape. I surged on to the turnaround, where I fiddled with my drop bag for far too long and grabbed by bandana to cool my neck off as the sun grew higher and hotter.

The long, technical downhill before the turnaround was an even longer, nastier climb as I hiked up to the snowy peak again. There was a creek crossing on the way to the top. On the way out, I took the rickety bridge across because I was the only one nearby. Now that I was on the return trip, the rest of the pack was doing a conga line across the bridge. I didn't want to wait, so I just hopped in and cooled off. The water was nearly waist-high as looked up and saw my fellow racers crossing the bridge. As the trail wound up the hill for me, it was winding down for pack that was running toward me. I remembered how tough the downhill was, so I moved out of the way as best I could for them. Most of them looked a hell of a lot better than I felt, so I figured I'd rather nurture their good condition instead of nursing my poor condition. At this point I started to get light headed, but kept climbing. I then noticed that I was stumbling, but the trail wasn't all that technical. Just when I started to realize that I was probably feeling the effects of the altitude, it happened.

I proceded to projectile vomit on the side of the trail. Sitting there alone on my knees, puking up GU and Carnation instant breakfast on the side of the mountain.

Inexplicably, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt free. Maybe it was the realization that it simply wasn't my day. I realized that no matter how this day turned out, I was living a dream that I've had for two years. I was in Leadville, Colorado, running with some of the best athletes in the land, giving the race everything I had. That in itself was enough to make me feel happy. Not every day can be mine, but I can always do my best for that given day. I wasn't just on the course anymore, but rather becoming a part of the race. How did I celebrate this revelation? How about a quick snow angel to pay homage to my long Michigan winter training runs?

A little hiking and some pleasant exchanges later, I was back at the Rock Garden AS to visit Sam again. I have to confess that at this point, I was seriously contemplating just quitting. I felt like shit, I was sick, and I had an easy out. Not if Sam had anything to do with it. I jogged up the aid station and was greeted with encouragement from Sam and her fellow volunteer Ann. They offered so much that the thought of escape evaporated from my mind. At this point I was still in 7th place. I knew more passing was imminet, which shook my fragile runner's ego. I was physically able to continue, so I did. I fueled up, drank some coke, and switched my shoes.

Looking more like an elite bowler than a hobbyjogger ultrarunner, I fuel up at Rock Garden.
The cool folks at New Balance sent me a pair of shoes to wear test, and even took some consideration to send them in time for Leadville. Switching into them for the last 20 miles of the race helped because it gave me a sense of purpose, even if it was just the miniscule task of field testing some prototype shoes.

I've passed out before, but never intentionally sat down in an ultra.
I guess there's a first time for everything.

I plugged along, feeling lighter knowing that I dropped a few ounces off of each foot after swapping shoes. Out and back courses are such a double edged sword. Strategically, they offer an advantage because you know the entire course when you're halfway done. The negative is that it seems so daunting when to me when I think, "I felt shitty when I was here 3 hours ago!" The path kept descending the narrow, rocky road while I picked up a couple empty GU packets. Odds are they were mine anyway. Back on a dirt road, where I saw an older guy standing there directing racers. This guy made me smile as he gave me the thumbs up and told me I looked good. I hadn't seen my reflection, but I know what I look like after I vomit. I could probably have passed for an extra in a Bruce Campbell zombie flick, but this guy knew what it was all about. Pushing past glamour and pride to see what we're made of. The guy wasn't bullshitting me and telling me that I looked good, he knew I was digging away at myself. That is, of course, based on the assumption that this man did exist and that he's an exististential overanalyzer like me. Thank you for the encouragement, sir.

More wide dirt roads, none of them flat. I headed up one of them to the 13 mile AS. I was told that I was in 8th place. I should have at least tried to look more enthusiastic as I smiled and shrugged. I was on my death march, just circling the drain. The entire pack could have stormed by me and I would have let them go. Refill the pockets, drink some nasty GU Brew drink, shuffle onward. The 3-4 mile downhill that Craig, Matt and I so effortlessly flew down a few hours ago was now an uphill shuffle into thin air under a scorching sun. My water had evaporated from my bandana and I could feel a sunburn creeping into my skin. I heard footsteps behind me, but didn't feel like turning around. After hearing the footsteps for a few minutes, I decided to make sure it wasn't a mountain lion. Thankfully, it was just another dude coming up for a pass. This time it was Ely, who I found out is another Boulder resident. He, like Craig, was doing his first ultra at Leadville. We had similar backgrounds, and both sort of laughed as we realized we were probably the only ones "dumb" enough to wear racing flats and no socks on such a notoriously nasty course. Run how you train.
I noticed that niether of us were sporting watches either. After running mountains for a bit, you get tired of a clock telling you how slow you are. During a race, why wear a watch when the answer is always, "go faster?"

Ely and I crossed a few creeks, ran some downhills, and parted ways after I gave him one of my Roctanes. He was cramping up a little, I had enough food to get me to aid, so I helped him keep his mojo goin' and he took off looking great. I, on the other hand, let him go as I barfed in the bushes again. Damned altitude. Why wouldn't 5 weeks be enough to acclimate from sea level Michigan to Boulder, then Leadville the day before? Excuses galore. My apologies.

I passed through the final AS, but had shoes full of rocks, so I sat down for a second to dump them out. I rested up, drank some coke, at a peice of bread, and decided that I wasn't done yet. I set the goal to run every step of the last miles of the course, no matter how steep or rocky the hills were. It wouldn't change my standing in the race, but I owed it to myself to give it everything I had. I may never get the chance to do this race again. I stormed off, knowing I was in for some hurt, but also knowing that it was what I came for. We don't do it because its easy, we do it to see what we're made of(and to blog and get buttloads of swag).

I vaguely remembered being on these trails earlier in the day. It had been so long ago. The sun wasn't even up yet the last time I passed through there. It was now sunny and hot, but even more gorgeous than it had been at dawn. The sun was shining brightly onto the bodies of water off in the distance as the wind whistled through the pines. I was completely alone as I kept pushing forward. Maybe it worked out for the best. This section of the course was awesome, and running it alone was just what I needed.

On I ran, feeling pretty quick for the first time in a few hours. I was on a flat section of power line that I remembered from the start. Deciding that I would take advantage of a flat section and down one more GU on the run, I stuck my hand into my shorts pocket. Plain. Why the hell did I grab "plain" flavored GU. I've nver had it, but I hate plain flavored anything. I needed the energy, so I ripped the top off and squeezed it. It hit my lips, and I immediately started gagging. So much so that wretched and vomitted all over in the grass along the trail. This was right up there with the scene from "The Exorcist" with regard to distance. I didn't miss a step, flushed my mouth out with my remaining water from my bottle and pressed on. No more GU for me. Another mile went by and I reached a puddle I remembered running around early on. Realizing that running through water filled my shoes with rocks(at this point I was sorely missing my inov-8 195s), I decided to gingerly run around the mud puddle. This would be my final mistake of the day. Snagging my toe on a rock, I went down like a ton of bricks, face first into the mud. Damn, I really thought I was better at running than that. For some reason, I still wasn't frustrated, and just kept chugging along. Another downhill through the municipal disc golf course, and I was in sight of the last mile of the course.
A grassy hill that wasn't any particular trail was the very last climb of the race. I, in a futile fit of stubbornness, powered up that hill as if it were the first one of the day. Nobody was taking the spot that I had earned in the last feet of the race. My stride opened up and I descended the final winding hills on my way into the finish line. I could see it. I could hear the announcer saying my name. Through the cattle gates. Over the beeping mats. Bend over and let the volunteer hang the medal on my neck.


I completed my first mountain ultra, the Leadville Silver Rush 50.

pensive...or sleeping?

The feet survived the day, and I get some shiny stuff to show my mom.

I gasped for air when I ran my first mile ever to impress her. 6 years ago.
 I'm glad she's still here.

I was worried that my standing in this race would hurt my ego as "post race blues" set in. It's been a week, and I still feel pretty good about what happened. I got to run with group of truly first class athletes and I felt honored to have been there. I played the hand I was dealt, and I hope some other people got some sort of benefit from my presence. Every single competitor that I met was a class act, and I hope to race with them again.

Recovery

The day after Leadville, it was back to the grind. I taught a kickboxing class, coached paralympic swimming, and helped instruct a water aerobics class. The following day was 5 hours of adaptive waterskiing at the Reservoir and my first attempt at wakeboarding(abysmal failure...I'm a skier). Can't argue with the swiftness of recovery. Something about these mountains is awesome. I'm going to find a way to stay. This state has become home in just over a month.

Don't ever let an overdramatic, self indulgent race report sway you. You can do it. you were made for it.

J.S.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Touching Base

Another week in paradise as Summer flies by. Sam and I headed up to Leadville for me to race the 50miler.

My sister and brother in law are here visiting and it's good to see familiar faces.

I'll be writing a race report for leadville soon, but here are some unimportant figures.

11th place overall-dropped from 4th after
2 vomitting episodes
1 snow angel
30 packets of GU
1 hell of a sunburn
countless memories
I underestimated the difficulty of this race

...but still raced it - my way. A report will be up soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pre-race rambling and a year in review

Another 50 mile race is upon me. Ready or not, I'll toe the line at 6am in Leadville, Colorado. I don't know the results, or even what to expect, but the goals are clear now.

As one could tell by my posts regarding racing, I'm trying to nail down the real reasons I love the sport of running(not ultras specifically). I'm not naturally gifted - every time I talk sports, I'm told I look like a swimmer. My old addiction for the adrenaline rush still lingers when I bomb down a hill on my mountain bike. My blood boils when I see a muddy dirtbike in the back of a truck because I miss hucking 250 pounds of metal into the air. Knowing all this, why is my preferred method of self destruction a slow, arduous trek over mountains and into thin air?

As much as I obnoxiously pursue minimalism, I'm a gear nerd. I wear test shoes for several companies. I visit running stores and peruse the web just to see what new offerings have surfaced. I have an entire porch full of trail shoes outside my door with mud and shale dust on them. My girlfriend has one lone pair of Merrell Trail Gloves that are falling apart, but far from retired. Which of us is the true minimalist? When I talk about it with her, she smiles and shrugs. I admire the simplicity. Is it the simplicity of running that appeals to me? I'd like to think so, but my closet and browsing history beg to differ.

Maybe I love the attention. Our society has experienced a boom in the popularity of running. I've won a few small races. I'm proud of these accomplishments, but every win has come with a little bit of a stigma attached to it. I can't help but feel guilty, wondering if success was a result of attention and praise-seeking behavior. I write this blog, hoping people will read it and get something out of it. My fear of poorly sourced motivation stems from a disdain for such behavior. Could I have such an avoidance of such attitudes that ended up resulting in me becoming what I hate?

After some talking with others(and myself...I'm obviously crazy), I've realized what I'm looking for. I've drawn on past feelings. I've mentioned in earlier posts the feeling of elation that comes over me on random occurrences and during a few key races. Everything is right- body, mind and spirit seem to all be getting the right idea. On these rare occasions, I'm fully engaged in what I'm doing, yet unattached to any results. The pain in my legs feels good somehow. I'm aware of who's ahead of me and behind me, but not preoccupied about it. Not a magical out of body experience or anything like that, but everything just feels damn good.

I'm looking for that rare time when the actor becomes the play, the runner becomes the run. Of course I'd like to win every race I enter, but not at the expense of another having a bad day. Maybe I'm still looking for that performance where I feel like I truly perform to my potential, where I have the most profound experience. If any one's ever tried meditation, you might be able to relate when I describe what I'm feeling like this:

"I've been at it for quite a while now...I'm so in the moment. This must be what meditation feels like....
Oh shit, I'm thinking again, aren't I?"

While writing this, I realized I've posted on this blog 76 times since starting it exactly a year ago. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. I went back and read my first post, and consequently thought of how I got started with all these endeavors to begin with. I started out as a heartbroken kid who used his hand-me-down bike to show his departed idol just how much he meant to him. Though Mike is no longer the inspiration behind every run, he still helps me get my head back into the game when my ego starts to take over. His memory reminds me that life isn't about medals around our necks or articles written about us in the paper. It's about searching relentlessly for peak experience. It's about enjoying those moments when everything is right and realizing how right things are even when they seem so wrong.
Losing my big brother was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, but as I learned from him, there's good in everything. This tragedy lit a fire under me that has yet to go out, a burning in my heart to squeeze as many perfect moments as I can out of life. As this fire was a gift to me, I want to spread it around. My life's goal is to help other people figure out what makes them feel alive. I'm still figuring out how to make it happen, but each day brings me closer. I;m not the only one to be affected.

Though total clarity is more of an ideal than an attainable goal, the fog between my mind and an understanding of pure experience is slowly lifting. With each race, each peak, and year, I get closer to finding out what it's all about. All my thinking is my own worst enemy.


Sam's going to take some pics of runners while volunteering at Leadville,
so she was playing around with her camera.

My taper was so long that my tan faded. Not a good sign!

Footprint of barefoot and a nearly bare foot.

New Balance was kind enough to overnight a care package.
Thanks Ryan!
Here I am, watching Hot Rod, greatest movie ever made, sipping a PBR. The excessive taper is complete. I'm anxious to see the mountains again. I grew up a fat kid with asthma. Bring it on, thin mountain air!


.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You Have to Exercise to Call it a Training Log

I was going to do my usual, boring running log stuff, but running has been far too inconsistent this week to bother with that format. A combination of heat, malaise, and work hours took it's toll on me this week. In my usual pre-race routine, I've sabotaged myself out of any type of confidence. a 35 mile week, two weeks before a 50 mile? A bit sad if I want to do well.

I don't have to read old blog posts to notice a pattern. Almost every race I've run in the past two years have been preceded by a couple crappy weeks. How long will my luck last? Is it luck at all? What could I accomplish if I actually possessed work ethic?

I just need to look at the bigger picture and stop being pessimistic. The past week of running has consisted of a few sporadic jogs, but all have been of pretty good quality.
Monday was a long, arduous trek up Bear Peak and down Shadow Canyon in the rain. Its a somewhat smooth ride up the first couple miles, then an all out crawl up the summit. My heart was racing, but I was hitting a whopping 35 minute mile pace up to the rocky 8500' peak.

Mid week was pretty lame, consisting of a few 3-4 milers. No watch, just cruising around Boulder and "running" some errands. I just ran by feel, focusing on posture and staying smooth. Fun runs in good weather.

Friday was the next day I got out the trails. My favorite route up Gregory Canyon to Long Canyon Trail to the Summit of Green. This run was a milestone for me. Though I had no watch to confirm, I think this was my best run up a mountain yet. I didn't stop, or even take a walk break up the entire 3.5 mile, 3100' climb. If I can run 3100feet in 3 miles, then maybe the 8000' of climbing in 50 miles won't be so bad(I'm fragile, indulge me, will you?).

The weekend was spent at Rocky Mountain National Park! I wasn't running or on vacation, but working. My internship program, where I work with people with disabilities, took a group of campers for an overnight trip into the park. We hiked around Bear Lake and a couple adjacent trails.
No training merit, but the views were spectacular as I watched the sunrise over the mountains, the only benefit to not sleeping more than 10 minutes all night.


The bus I drove, the mountains we watched, and the campsite we stayed on.

small picture of Bear Lake. Nice loop that was easily
 accessible for all of our participants




My phone takes crappy pictures. Here's the beautiful sunrise I caught while all the other
campers were sleeping.


 In other news, My friend, fellow blogger, and virtual training partner Rebecca Schaefer and I were pictured in ULTRArunning Magazine. The photo of us after the finish of the Mind the Ducks 12 hour was used in the most recent issue of our sports magaxine.
I don't have a subscription to ultraRUNNING, so I have no idea the context in which
this was used. I assume it was a public service announcement about
 creepy dudes attacking fast girls in parks.
I'll probably post again this week about anxiety, self doubt, motivation, and where I'm going to carry 40 GUs before I race Leadville this weekend.

...Wish me luck, I'll need it. Here's to going out of comfort zones!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

SXUC Winner Sunglasses Review

As much as I'd like to believe that it's my running prowess that gets me swag to review, I'm inclined to think that it's almost entirely attributed to my blogging and general attention-seeking internet presence. I don't plan on writing reviews for any toaster ovens or vinyl siding, but being approached to review items that don't strap to my feet is pretty exciting. When I was asked to review the SXUC Winner shades by sunglassesshop.com, I had to think about my boundaries as a blogger and a writer. Will I review anything? Can I be bought by any company that throws some product my way? These are questions that we have to ask ourselves if we want to maintain our integrity. My answer? Yes and no. I feel that reviewing everything that comes my way would be a bit sleazy, but I also want to be well informed about all things running gear, so I felt compelled.

Though the marketing folks at sunglassesshop.com are interested in me as an advertising vehicle for their product line, they also seem to have a genuine interest in their audience. I'm reviewing a sport-specific model that is intended to be used for running and cycling. To make sure I'm not pulling the wool over anyone's eyes, I'll state that sunglasses were given to me free of charge for the purpose of reviewing.

Exploring the mountains with my SXUCs

The homely author.
These would be a tough sell for me. I'm generally not a fan of wearing sunglasses unless I'm driving and the sun is shining directly in my face. I chose to review the glasses because I was curious as to whether a quality pair would sway me over to the darkened side.

Design
As one can tell from the pictures, these glasses are of the "blade" variety with no full frame to hold the lenses in. This proved to be a nice feature that I hadn't really considered. Not having the entire lens surrounded by frame helped keep my vision clear and less distorted. A huge concern for me while wearing sunglasses is that my vision will be altered slightly, making really technical trails tough to manage. On all the the most technical of trails, this wasn't really an issue. The frameless bottom half of the sunglasses also helped sweat drip off, rather than pooling up in the bottom of the frame. This is something I noticed while I was chugging up Gregory Canyon with my head down, sweating bullets in the 95 degree heat under a cloudless sky.

Performance/Fit
The protection from bright sunlight proved to be an asset. After a full afternoon of running the rocky canyons in the sun, my eyes typically have difficulty adjusting to sunset and darkness. The SXUC Winner prevented that. The glasses are also very light. Most might not be overly concerned about the weight of something as small as a pair of sunglasses, but my full running getup consists of a small water bottle, a scandalously small pair of shorts, and a 7 ounce pair of shoes. I don't count grams like a cyclist, but I sure don't like wearing heavy gear. As I mentioned before, The vision distortion I had been concerned about was not an issue. A quality pair of sunglasses will only alter the amount of light getting in, not the objects in the lenses. On really technical trails, I still put the glasses on my head and ran without them. For road running, however, they're quite impressive.


Another huge positive for these glasses is that they lenses haven't fogged on me yet. This is one of my huge pet peeves with most sunglasses, so I was happy

Negatives?
I'm not typically a huge fan of the "blade" style of sunglasses. Even though they reminded me a tiny bit of early 90's NASCAR racing, they still earned my girlfriend's style seal of approval. The styling is now quite popular with cyclists and triathletes, so I don't feel that out of place with them on.

Though the fit feels comfortable, I still found the lenses to be a bit small. When I first put them on, I could see light coming in from the bottom. I'm cautious in making this complaint because the lenses have yet to fog on me. The smaller lens may be one thing to attribute that ventilation to.

The Verdict?
Sunglasses are like lots of other sporting equipment - the best stuff is the stuff you never have to think about. If I have to think about my sunglasses, I'm leaving them in the car. This is why I haven't got a 12 page article for you on the SXUC Winner. They work, they protect the eyes, and don't look too shabby.

Sunny day near Leadville, CO
Buy a pair from http://www.sunglassesshop.com/ and keep me in a sponsorship! I know seem to be bit of a whore when it comes to free swag, but I do turn down more than I accept. This company has good customer service and some good product. 

If you skimmed to the bottom to avoid my babbling. Here you go:
Pretty darned good sunglasses for about 17 bucks!

Note: I've had the glasses for about 2 weeks. I won't hesitate to post an update with regard to durability.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rather Evenful Week

Monday
AM - 6 miles - Ran a loop on the greenways here in town to loosen the legs up. Kept an honest pace, but nothing stellar. The weather was cool for a change and I just kind of enjoyed the jog.
PM - 9 miles - Up the hill through town to Mount Sanitas Park. Ran up Mount Sanitas, Racing some guy's relentless collie up the trail. Sat at the top, watching the sun go down for a minute, then took the East Ridge Trail down to the streets. I arrived at home to get a text from Sam, asking me to bring her some food at work. I was a running courier for the last two miles of the run.

Steady as she goes. Today felt pretty good.

Tuesday
14 miles - what a garbage run. All on the Goose Creek and Boulder Creek Paths. Flat, mostly paved with the exception of the gravel on the South Boulder Creek. Waited until it cooled down and missed the opportunity to run trails after dicking around all day. Pace was decent, but the run wasn't really of any quality. The silver lining is that it reminded me that I need to be consuming more on longer runs. 2-3 GUs per hour is my typical ultra race regimen, so I have to remember that for future reference. The scenery was good as I cruised down the path in view of the Flatirons. Something about running through a prairie with Johnny Cash in your ears just feels right, even if the run hasn't much training value. Tweaked my soleus on Monday, so I'll be nursing that the rest of the week. Oh well, its time to make friends with the hurt while I sharply peak.

Wednesday
5 miles - After I finished coaching wheelchair racing, I decided to do a few miles of my own on the track. Nothing crazy since I hadn't eaten or drank much in the heat of the day(99 degrees today). 2 mile warmup at a 6:30-6:50 pace, then a handful of 400s at a 5:10ish pace with a quarter mile rest in between. Ran on the lines of the track since its torn to shreds from spikes. My bare feet are incredibly sensitive from lack of skin-to-ground time. All this rugged mountain running is giving me sissy feet.

Though I did these repeats,  didn't do them to exhaustion. I got bored. Running at high speeds for a change was a short-lived thrill; it felt like work. The intensity of running up Sanitas on Monday was higher(to the point where my head was spinning), and it was a blast. It's quite amusing that running at an 18min/mile pace can be more intense than 5:15 I do miss workouts with my club at school, but for now, I think I'll chose trails whenever possible...Just wasn't in the cards today.

Thursday
9 miles - Decided to do a little "speed hiking" to balance out yesterday's speedwork. Three hours(stops included) of powering up Green. Instead of quick turnover and running light, I decided to load up my backpack with a full 100oz bladder, a couple books, my camera, and my Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket. I also opted for the use of trekking poles this time. Though slow, this trek rates very high on my list of great runs. The adventure part was comparable to my 30 mile post holing trek in the back country with Jason Robillard. I had fun vaulting over rocks with my poles sliding on the slick rocks.

The weather was looking a bit ominous, so I packed my coat. I'm glad I did. A strong wind blew up as I hit the summit, bringing hail, rain, thunder and lightning with it. Apparently, if you want some solitude, you have to brave a little bit of shit weather. I'm from the Midwest. I consider this to be pretty bearable. I sat there, perched atop my favorite peak(what the hell do I know? I've run to the top of 4 mountains since getting here), watching a beautiful lightning storm roll in. Everything, for some reason, felt absolutely perfect, like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.


The strange feeling of happiness that came over me while sitting in a lightning storm atop a mountain eating Oreos(12 chocolate double stuft) is something I'll never forget. I have these moments of clarity sometimes. Everything makes sense, and that safe feeling of home fills my mind. I'm no longer homesick for that place that has ceased to exist. If I could capture that feeling and always keep it with me, I could wander forever...and I just may.
I have a face better suited for radio than blogging.
I'll try to keep the camera pointed the other direction from now on.



Friday
13 miles - Pretty typical route. I'm not bored, but it gets boring typing the same thing into the log every time. Green Mountain again, but this time I had to duck out of the trails and hit the streets when it got dark. Better start bringing a headlamp if I insist on procrastinating all the time.

Saturday
AM - 6 miles - Run/hike with Sam. Parked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research(NCAR) and explored some trails there. Its close to my usual routes, but I typically have 7 miles or so on by the time I get there. This where more of the Open Space and Mountain Parks trails are. Hiked up to Mallory Cave and ran back down, then hit the Skunk Canyon loop. Sam's getting in great shape. Since she's my only running partner, I hope that means that I am as well. 

PM - 4 miles - Had some time to kill between some work stuff and getting home from the hike, so I put on some music and went for a run in the sun on the Goose Creek and Boulder Creek Paths. I didn't look at my watch, but ran comfortably fast. Turns out, I had a couple quick miles in there. The whole run was under 7 minute pace, and the middle miles were about 6:20-6:30. Shit, I'll take it.

Sunday
7 miles - Drove up to Leadville to check out the town and see some of the course. Due to my lack of planning, the course prerunning was a complete bust. Once I got over the ski hill at the starting line, I had no idea where I was going. The maps provided on the website show only the course, omitting the myriad of other two tracks that fills the area. No matter, Sam and I still got some hiking in at 10,000 feet and figured out where we are camping the weekend of the race. I didn't get nearly the miles in I wanted today(roughly half), but I'll try not to define myself by the number of daily miles run...even though I'm secretly freaking out about my lack of preparation.

Total: 73 miles
The Good: steady progression since Mind the Ducks 12 hour and move to Boulder hit the "reset button."
The Bad: I'd like to be pushing 100 miles before peaking
The Ugly: Leadville is in 2 weeks. Time think about tapering- ready or not.
This is the Mountain College's ski hill. The race starts and then immediately climbs it.
It's not long, but its steep

Sam hiking one of the two tracks.

I can see them closer now. I just have to figure out how to get there.
Desperately want to run these snow covered peaks before I leave.

See you in two weeks, Leadville!