Wednesday, March 28, 2012

new website!!!! i will be posting here for a little while longer but have moved my website to an easier to remember and much sleeker domain

thank you to ovonovo designs - you can see their portfolio at

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TNF50 end of season

I’ll say one thing about ultras – when things don’t go as planned, you generally have a long time to think about it before getting to the finish line.

I went out with the leaders yesterday at the (North Face Challenge 50mile championships. Or the North Face 50. Or the San Francisco 50 North Face Challenge. What the hell are we calling this thing? TNF50?) TNF50 (redundancy noted). There was talk that the lead pack went out too fast. Even some annoyance at the leaders that were setting the blistering pace.

But, a. when there’s $10,000 on the line, of course it’s gonna go out fast and b. two or three people didn’t think it was too fast because they maintained the pace all the way through and made some money in the end. 

I was not one of those people. I finished 34th which, like I said, gave me some time to reflect.

I knew what I was getting in to with this race. I knew that the best competition in the States would be present. I knew that it would go out fast. I knew that it would be won in a blistering fast time (okay… I didn’t think it would be run in 6:19!). I knew that it would hurt and, still, I thought I could win it. There, I said it. I thought I could win. I didn't sign on a 10k car on friday but, in the weeks leading up to the race, I did meditate on the later stages when I would need to suffer.

Running with Mike, Geoff, Dakota, Galen, Adam Campbell and several others in the pre-dawn morning, chatting about later stages of the race, each of us wondering what a few hours might bring, it seemed clear that most of them thought there might be a chance that I’d still be fighting for position near the finish.

As Geoff passed me, Dakota, Adam and finally Galen - the sun hadn’t even risen - I realized that that was why my legs were filling with lactic acid. That was the root of my fatigue. That was why I would continue to drop from the top five to top ten to top twenty and finally 34th.

I wanted it too much.

I wanted this race so much that I didn’t waste any time in October with resting. I remained positive through Muir Beach(12m), Cardiac(18m) and even McKenna Gulch(23m) when I was over three minutes behind the lead pack, thinking I might be able to reel them back in, but my legs just wouldn’t cooperate. By Stinson Beach(28m) I knew I was done. I traded my hand held bottles for my small pack and prepared myself for a 22mile death march.

Anna Frost passed me shortly after. She was flying. 1,400 vert from Stinson up to Cardiac. Anna was “giving this hill a bit of hell” as she said when she passed me. She saw me suffering. She told me to join the pace, which I did for about 20seconds before sending her off. People’ll be thinking she pulled me through Trans Rockies, I thought, but then didn’t care what people thought. Ellie Grenwood passed me on the other side of Cardiac. She was also giving it hell.

I learned that my season ended three weeks ago. It just didn’t occur to me until 20miles into a 50miler.

Finishing 34th is just as painful as finishing 1st, I concluded. It just takes longer.

I’m happy to not be running for a little bit. I got on my bike today and rode from the city, over the bridge, into the headlands and back into the city. I love my bike.

My season is over. I did what I wanted and dabbled in distances that I wasn’t familiar with. I had success and failure.

What I really want, though, is for some Ultra Runners to step up to the same challenge and try out some short races. Not just try them out, but train for them. Work hard for them. What I saw at TNF50, for the first time in US ultra running, was a field of runners as talented as the Mount Washington field. That alone, made my 34th place finish a great success. I’m not saying this because I want to beat a bunch of people that just beat me. In fact, I’m saying it because I think just the opposite. I think they might be able to win it. Hell, Matt Carpenter won both! Maybe somebody will do it in the same year….

Am I ranting again?

Anyway. Prove me wrong. Mount Washington is slated to be the selection race of the 2012 US Mountain Running Team. In the past six years I’ve seen the team grow from a middle of the pack crowd to podium. The women have taken the win and will again. The men have placed third and second. First is not out of reach.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Here's a video made by a friend that I met in Antarctica.

Six days away from Pikes and still feeling the Death Race a little bit. It's going to be interesting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Canadian Death Race

Now that I've completed my first ultra I'm suppose to write a long and detailed report about my race, right? Isn't that what us ultra runners do?

Okay, let's see,
Um, well at first I felt good.
And then I felt really good.
And then I felt just plain ol' good again.
That lasted for a while.
And then I started feeling bad.
And then I did feel bad.
This only seemed to last for a while
because I started to feel good again
This lasted until a mile before the finish
Where I bonked.
But luckily,
in my pocket
I found some m&m's.
And then I finished feeling good again.
Somebody gave me a beer and then I felt great.

Here is a graph of my race on Saturday:

But for really this time...

That was fun.

It was meditative, calming, beautiful, lonely, exciting, painful, slow, and so many other things.

I found the course fascinating for reasons entirely different than what is advertised - running through the city dump, through a coal processing plant facility, scrambling through what is known as "slugfest" - miles of torn-up trails through a boggy, northern rockies forest.

My mom and I drove the 1750miles from Grande Cache to Woody Creek in two days. I got on my motorcycle the next morning and rode 400miles on my motorcycle to Salt Lake City for the Trail Runner Uphill challenge. I finished 2nd to Matt Byrne by .01miles. Rode 400 miles back.

Elephant legs... with all the great advice i received before the race, nobody seemed to mention the probability that I might come down with a bad case of elephant legs following the race.

Pikes is two weeks away. Trans Rockies immediately after where I'll be lining up with my Teammate Anna Frost. That's gonna be a hoot.

Here's some photos:

stuck in construction traffic, mom, enjoying a roadside snack

exhausted shoes - morning after

prayers for the death racers...

after 12 solid hours of running, i got edged out for third place in the teams.

Here's a story in the Aspen Daily News by Chad Abraham about the race.

And finally, for no particular reason - a panorama of the Athabasca Glacier off the highway headed up to Grande Cache.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mid Season....

This morning I crossed the 49th parallel headed into Canada in Orange, my trusty Volkswagen bus (ehem… reverse is beginning to grind suggesting a failing clutch that I replaced all too recently). I’m halfway through my summer racing season with a collection of mixed, but far from unsatisfactory, results.

Following the Black Canyon race in the middle of May, I knew that I was on my way to getting myself back into the shape I was before I left for Antarctica, but still with some work to do. Back home, near Aspen, I resorted to doing the age old repeats that I’ve been doing since I was in high school… on, none other than, my high school track. Quarters. 4x4x4. Simple as it gets, really, but effective as they come. I watched my times drop, second by second, week after week. As much as I dread them, there’s nothing that compares to an old fashion speed workout. They are as honest as the laws of physics.

The speed workouts and the hill repeats paid off and by the time Mount Washington rolled around I was beginning to feel like a runner again.

Mount Washington itself was a thrill. I chased young, Glen Randall off the gun. I didn’t want him to get away as he did at Pike’s last year. Admittedly, I thought nothing of it when he took off like a bullet at Pike’s and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He held the pace for less than a mile and I found myself leading comfortably through the third (of 7.6) mile.

My pace slackened and looking back I found, to my surprise, Tommy Manning hot on my tail. I don’t know why I was surprised that Tommy was right there. He’s a top-notch runner, which he proved at the World Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia last year where he was the fourth and final scorer for the US team, solidifying a silver medal for us in the process. Tommy passed me, put a hundred meters on me and for the next three miles I did all I could just to keep him in my sight. It’s a different mantra for every race I run and this time it was keep rollin’, keep rollin’, keep rollin’, keep rollin’. And I did. I reeled him in with a little less than a mile to go and gapped him with a half mile to go taking the win with my second fastest time on the Big Hill.

I spent a few extra days in the New England visiting some good friends from the South Pole, running the Presidential Range, cycling around Martha’s Vineyard and drinking some fine, home-made hard cider.

From there I flew to San Francisco and drove to Tahoe where I paced my Salomon teammate, Kilian Jornet to his first win in the Western States 100. With the exception of losing the trail for nearly 20 minutes, Kilian had a flawless race, running casually the entire time. After a few pleasant days in San Francisco I returned home to begin the training for my biggest project in years – my first ultra.

The ultra marathon never use to interest me. Quite simply, the idea for running 9 minute, 10 minute, heck! 15 minute pace for 10, 20, 30 hours had absolutely no appeal. However, over the past couple of years, talking to more and more people that have been brought into the sport, the idea of spending hours and hours…. the entire day, for that matter on the trail has taken my interest to a new level.

I’ve been very lucky to be able to pick the brains of Scott Jurek, Tony Krupicka, Joe Grant, Geoff Roes, Kilian Jornet and many others. The advice I’ve been given has ranged from how to carry a water bottle most efficiently, how much to eat, controlling the highs and the lows, on and on.

I decided on the Canadian Death Race for my first ultra for several reasons but primarily because it fits nicely into my summer schedule and getting there provides a great reason for a road trip which is where I am right now – day 9 behind the greatest automobile to ever roll the earth, with a wonderful and seasoned travel companion – my mom.

The training for this adventure has been wonderful and I’m becoming aware of the emptiness that I’ve been told might hit me in the days before the race – the time when the training has to end. Making myself hit the trails for five or six hours at a time has been pure bliss. In the past month alone I’ve logged hundreds of miles in the White Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, San Juans, Elks, Tetons, Glacier and Yellowstone. Really, what more could one ask for.

I am not, however, “switching over” as more than one has accused me of doing (mostly in jest). I am not “switching over” because I am beginning to believe that there is no “over”. It is my belief that the many factions that have formed in trail running are part of what keeps it resting in niche. 10k trail, 10k mountain, 1/2 marathon trail, marathon trail, 50k trail, 50 mile trail, 100k trail, 100 mile trail…. Doesn’t anybody else agree that there are entirely too many divisions in the sport?

The sport is reaching a new level of competitiveness and attention where runners are not only doing well at all of these distances, but are quite simply dominating. I’m speaking of Max King and Kilian Jornet – the former taking it a step further by dominating off the trails as well (2:15 marathon?)

Okay, enough ranting.

As for the Canadian Death Race… I have no idea how it will go. I have good feelings about it. I’ve learned as much as I can learn without actually doing the race, though I suspect the learning curve is going to be steep come Saturday. I’ve trained as much as I can train without risking serious injury (and that includes narrowly getting struck by lightning). At this point all I can do is lace up and run.

It’s past 11 o’clock at night and there’s still light in the sky. A herd of elk is tromping through the pond just outside Orange. Sandhill cranes are squawking loudly to keep them from trudging through their nesting grounds. My mom is snoring.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black Canyon Ascent and... yes, another Road Trip

Trying to escape what is becoming one of the most oppressive Springs on record, here in Colorado, I loaded up my motorcycle with running shoes, camera, and lots of warm clothes and headed to Southern Colorado and into Northern New Mexico. With no real itinerary, I simply pointed the bike in the direction of Alamosa where my good friend Simon Gutierrez lives and hoped for the best in weather.

Simon and Me

Six hours of riding left me ready for some beers and a burger at Simon's favorite place in Alamosa - The San Juan Brewery. It was Wednesday. I told him that i might head to the Grand Canyon by the weekend and he quickly informed me that the Black Canyon Ascent was on Saturday. It didn't take much to convince me to do the Black Canyon Ascent - a race that I've known about for years but have never made it to the starting line. Simon also mentioned that there's a $200 purse for nabbing his course record.

The next 72hrs I spent, rushing the 350 round-trip miles to Albuquerque and back to visit my sister and her husband. She and I went for a run, which we've never done before. She showed me some fine desert trails not far from her place - complete with the New Mexican flair of discarded couches, chair and mattresses along the way. Pizza and beer.

Running outside Albuquerque

Sleep. Coffee and a scone then back to Southern Colorado for some fun in the Sand Dunes for the evening and morning.

Looking North towards Crestone

Back across the Rockies for a second time, avoiding the many deer that line the road as you approach the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. A friend and I met up with Simon and Brandy Erholtz on Friday night. Burgers, beer, bed.

Just before the Saturday morning start, I got to talking to a runner who mentioned that this would be his last year to try and break the 50-59 age group category (he'll be 60 next year). Chuck Smead, he tells me his name. Winner of the 1977 Sierre Zinal and probably the first American to travel to Europe as a mountain runner. He told me that he just finished reading my memoirs to which I replied that I'm 29 for five more days - much too young for memoirs.

L to R: Chuck Smead (Colorado Flag), Myself, Scott Drum, Marty Wacker, Brandy Erholtz, Simon Gutierrez

Simon took the race out somewhat fast, which is something that he's good at. I caught up to him one mile in and maintained the lead to the finish. Based on my effort (I didn't have a watch on to check mile splits), I felt like I was in a good position for the record. Rounding the final corner and seeing that I was in fact 1:30 slow was a little disheartening. This is training fuel, though - being behind. Brandy won the women's race without any problem but also found herself several minutes behind her own course record (which I don't see getting broken by anybody but her).

The course was beautiful - finishing only a few hundred feet from the rim of the Black Canyon - truly one of the most awe-inspiring canyons that I have ever been to. The race was very well organized (complete with a bluegrass band at the finish!), and the organizers gracious. Following the race we were treated to a wine tasting on Main St. in Montrose.

After a peaceful night of camping and a casual 16miler with Brandy and Simon in the morning I returned to Woody Creek to a still persistant winter and much training to be done for the upcoming months.

outside Albuquerque

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring, 2011

Let’s see… where was I?

I was in the desert the other day. South of Moab, where a friend owns a small piece of property with an Airstream trailer that hasn’t moved in 20 years, I realized that I’d hardly been in a single spot for over a week in nearly three months. For a brief moment, I actually felt bad for myself as the constant moving has had an effect on my that’s somehow not fatigue, but something more like numbness. Four continents, four countries and one non-country. But I quickly reminded myself that none of the places I’ve been have sucked.

In January, myself and three others were scheduled to fly from the South Pole Station to McMurdo Station (on the coast) to compete in the Antarctica Marathon. A friend and former winner of the Marathon flew out on a Friday for the race on Sunday. By late Friday night, all Saturday flights scheduled to fly in or out of the South Pole were cancelled, dashing any hopes to compete in the Marathon.

When life gives you lemons…

With the help of several people around the station, we designed a Marathon course around the South Pole Station. The surveyors helped us get an exact distance (Start at the South Pole, run once around the Station and five times up and down the airplane ski-way, finish back at the Pole). Official timers, aid stations (this was no more than a duffel bag at the end of the ski-way complete with hand-warmers, hot broth, hot chocolate, a two-way radio, a sleeping bag and a small toilet bucket which, thankfully, was used minimally), photographers, etc made what we had dubbed the South Pole Contingency Marathon.

The temperature remained steady at about –18f for the duration of the race. The wind, however, brought the chill down to –40f/c or colder depending on which direction you were heading on the ski-way. Several people joined us for the first few miles of the Marathon and even more showed up at the finish. The station manager approached me after the race, very excited, saying that he thinks this might become a tradition. I said, god I hope not.

Though I appreciate the distinction that goes along with the race (2nd marathon ever to run at the South Pole – check out www…. to see a disastrous first marathon run by Dean Karnazas and three others in 2002), I really had my mind set on the McMurdo marathon – running on sea-ice, past penguins, volcanoes, in relative warmth (they were running in t-shirts!)- and still hope to someday be able to compete in it.

Good write-ups on the Marathon:
From Marco
From Pablo

New Zealand
I left the South Pole on the 15th of February. First flight in, (2nd to) last flight out. From the LC130, I waved goodbye to the winter-overs, who would not see another plane come or go for the next eight months.

I was fortunate enough to have a one-night layover in McMurdo before continuing on to New Zealand. I made the most of the 24hrs I was there and ran nearly every trail that McMurdo has to offer – most with Christina Knoblocker who was also scheduled to run the McMurdo Marathon but had to run the South Pole Contingency Marathon instead (becoming the first and only woman to run a marathon at the South Pole). We ran to Scott’s Hut, Castle Rock, towards Mt. Erebus, along the sea-ice (where, after four months on the continent, I finally saw some fricken penguins!) and back to McMurdo. I attempted and broke the FKT up Observation Hill (former record 7:07 or 6:40 depending on who you talk to. I ran 6:06. It’s a hill – these are minutes and seconds, not hours). I drank Laphroig at $3/shot late into the night and bid farewell to the continent I called home for the previous four months.

Waiting for me in New Zealand was my trusty steel-frame Trek 500 laden with panniers full of camping gear and extra clothes. I was soon on the road heading south out Christchurch with nothing on my mind but covering miles and miles. Having been deprived of vegetation, warmth, humidity, smells and wildlife for 1/3 of a year, I had every intention of running wild like a madman along world famous trails across the South Island, which, given the contrast of the two landscapes, is a perfect recipe for an immediate injury. I tweeked my Achilles’ tendon only three days into my trip. The pain prevented me from running again for the next five weeks. On the bike, the pain was mild and manageable so I continued on and rode 1300 miles before returning to Christchurch.

I returned to Aspen with bald tires and an itch for skiing. I dusted off my Hippy Stinks and managed to get in five full days of telemarking in before heading to Boulder where my trusted masseur had my Achilles’ feeling better in a matter of several painful minutes.

A run up Green Mountain with Dakota Jones, Scott Jurek, Joe Grant and Geoff Roes the following morning had me wishing a little that I’d have not pulled up my roots from this town – a town that has served as the American Mecca for cycling, climbing, collegiate running and now trail/mtn/ultra running. I returned to Boulder – the others continued on to Nederland, some 25 miles up the trail.

I arrived in Nice at the beginning of April and was quickly brought to a small village an hour’s drive down the coast where Salomon was hosting a fifth annual “Advanced Week” where several Salomon runners from across the world congregate, check out the newest shoes and products and give feedback – what we’d like to see for future products. It must be said that there are few programs that compare to this – where an athlete gives a suggestion and the results are visible in the product the following year.

My Achilles’ felt better throughout the week, running along the Mediterranean, amid Herbs de Provence. I raced a fun, bush-whacky 29k on Saturday, finishing in abnormal heat (90f) coming from very far behind (70th place at 5k) to place 4th. On Sunday, feeling a bit better, I ran a 21k race with several other members of the International Salomon Team, finishing second behind none-other than our very own team manager – a former Mountain Bike Racer who’s been doing a lot of closet training.

I returned to Boulder for a few days before getting back on a plane for Mexico where I met up with a long-time friend for an eight-day run-around. It is safe to say that we redefined what is possible to accomplish just over a week in Mexico. We visited three Pueblos Magicos, climbed two volcanoes over 15,000ft, visited three museums (Kahlo, Rivera, etc) drank much mescal, ate many tacos, quesadillas, chile relleƱos, attended a brutal bullfight and managed a very solid week of fast and numerous miles.

So now I’m at home, trying my best to stay put.

Some changes that I’ve been contemplating for this coming summer: I will again be pacing Killian Jornet at Western States. I will be pacing Julien Chorier at Hard Rock. I will be returning to Mount Washington in June to try and better my time. I will be returning to the Vail Teva Games for the 1/2 Marathon and 10k. In August, I'll be pairing up with Anna Frost to compete in the Trans Rockies six-day stage race. Lastly, I will be competing in my first ultra – the 80 mile Canadian Death Race in Alberta Canada. To prepare for it, I have grown out my hair and beard, painted my toenails and upped my miles.