Hello, I’m back.

It’s been a while. 9 months, in fact. So, what has changed? Most everything, really.

I turned 30. I had my first DNF (racing term, Did Not Finish). Dad passed. I left my employer. I traveled through Asia. I joined a new company. I moved to Colorado.

Where did I leave off… Hellgate. It’s was a good race for me. It’s too far past to write-up in full. The start was at midnight. The conditions were tough… it went from rain, to freezing rain, to sleet, to wintery-mix, to snow, and everything (is there anything else?) in between. I think I got 6th overall. Rob and Travis were at the finish to greet me - amazing.

From there I went to SoCal to race the inaugural Sean O’Brien 50 miler. I started way too hard. I couldn’t help myself. There was a stacked pro field and I wanted to run with the big dogs as long as I could. Truth be told, I wasn’t there physically, mentally, or emotionally. I’ve always thought that if I have any one of those three, I can probably persevere. Without, I decided to drop at mile 42. My first DNF.

Then back to Kansas City.

Then over to Asia. I toured for nearly five weeks - most of it with Rob. We were in Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. He went on to Thailand while I went to Indonesia. I raced a 50k in HK. It was my most difficult 50k. Racing over there is very different. I can’t wait to do it again, and generally return to Asia.

A quick trip to Mexico before returning to Charlottesville for the long goodbye. During a great party at our favorite spot, Mono Loco, I quietly hugged a select few and then ghosted. Sean escorted me out of town the next morning, as I drove West on 64 - a bittersweet moment.

Now, I “live” in Denver - Five Points, naturally. I work in Silicon Valley. And after a bit of a break, I’m back to racing. I “eased” back into things with a 50 miler at the base of Mount Rainier - White River 50. It was fun, so I decided to get back after it. I’ve got events scheduled for each of the next five months. Colorado, Utah, Virginia, California, Hong Kong. I’ll try to keep things a bit more current around here.

Product Testing

I recently lucked into a sort of three-for-one shoe deal. I’ll admit to being a running shoe fan, so I’ve been having fun testing out these new shoes on the Appalachian Trail.

Last weekend I drove out to where Route 56 passes through Tyro, VA before crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can climb the Three Ridges if you head north, but I chose south to climb the Priest. I knew it was a big hill, but figured I could possibly run up twice, swapping shoes between. I started out with the Pearl Izumi Trail N2. I had been wanting to try the Pearl Izumi trail line. Their soles have a nice rocker shape, similar to the Hoka’s that I really like. They are a bit less shoe than my Hoka Stinson Evos - hence my intrigue. My legs were more fatigued than I had realized. The Priest was more mountain than I had realized. There was no second climb.

Today I opted for an easier route to ensure I could get both remaining shoes tested. I headed out to the relatively flat, less technical stretch along the AT south from Rockfish Gap. I started in the Pearl Izumi Trail M2 shoes. They are very similar to the N2, but with a bit of support. I think they may have been laced too tight; I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as I remember enjoying the N2s. Perhaps I really am more of a neutral runner these days? After 10K I swapped out for the Hoka One One Rapa Nui.  The Hoka Stinson Evos have been a dream for me. Their clownish amount of cushioning saved my legs during many long runs. The Rapa Nui is a lighter, slightly less cushioned, performance version. I loved the ride.

It’s fun trying new shoes. The Stinson Evos had been my go to trail shoe, but I’m excited about the prospect of this new lot. It’s less than two weeks until Hellgate 66.6 miler, so I still have a bit more time for testing ;)

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Tina Redse, a girlfriend to Steve Jobs, 25 years later

Mountain Masochist Trail Run (MMTR) 50 miler

Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 miler is an eco-x event, started by Dr. David Horton, and now run by Clark Zealand. It is a point to point race that goes through George Washington National Forest from the mountains west of Lynchburg north to Montebello on Route 56. It climbs 9,400 feet and is a very storied, long-running event. This was the 31st edition. 

Truthfully, a large part of why I signed up is because completing in less than 11 hours qualifies for the prestigious Western States 100 mile race’s lottery. After supporting David at Leadville, I became inspired to maybe go for a 100. Which better than WS100? …So sub-11 was my goal.

In some ways sub-11 should be an easy goal. Jake from The Aid Station said I should go sub-9 based on my Highland Sky 40 result, but I didn’t want that pressure. Additionally, I completed Ironman Lake Tahoe 40 days prior with all sorts of inflammation and tendonitis and couldn’t really put in much focused training. I had never run a 50 miler, so this would new to me. Lastly, it’s a 50 mile race through the mountains; much can go wrong… “easy” is a very relative term. 

The night before I had a Chipotle dinner (complete with Guac!). In the morning I had 2 Noosa yoghurts (honey variety) and a gel. I would repeat this breakfast; it seemed to work well for me. I expected there to be coffee somewhere, but there wasn’t… so the rest of the pre-race is a sleepy cloud.

My race had four stages…

The Early Miles: Things started quick. I wanted to be toward the front, as it can be hard to pass on single track. I let the front group open a gap and ended up leading the chase group. I settled into a groove and ran through the darkness. The hour or so before the sun came up felt like free miles. I’m pretty sure I was still mostly asleep.

The Middle Miles: We ran mostly on fire roads - big, long climbs, then descents. Jake told me that the race really “starts” at Long Mountain aid station (mile 26, halfway up an 8 mile, ~2,300’ climb), so I took a measured approach and didn’t push too hard on the climbs or  open up on the descents. I was happy with the steady effort.

The Struggle Miles / The Loop: Hours 6 and 7 were tough. Moustache Mike pulled me through the first half of the loop and up to the Mount Pleasant summit. The view was incredible. As I tried to climb back down from the summit my ankle tendonitis really flared up. It made descending a real chore. I was feeling very weak. Mike disappeared ahead of me in a matter of seconds. I ate a 100mg caffeinated gel, hoping it might help, but it was too much. It hurt my stomach terribly, and I now had to fight off fatigue, tendonitis, and nausea. As I staggered out of the loop, Mike called out to drink the broth at the aid station. I took his advice, along with three ibuprofen, and continued on.

The Second Wind: The 8th hour was markedly different. The nausea vanished; the pain subsided; I started feeling strong again. Before I knew it, Mike was back in view. I hadn’t expected to see him again until the finish. It was uplifting. Each of my last 8 miles was faster than the prior - the final three miles: 7:10, 6:41, 6:26.

I finished in 8:18, 17th overall. I was extremely happy with this effort. The finish line was a party. There was food being grilled, comfy couches, sunshine, smiles, dogs, kids, friends, and family. 

Notes:

The foliage was beautiful. Normally there shouldn’t be this many  leaves still on the trees, but I guess we got lucky (and lots of rain, maybe?). The colors were fiery, especially as the sun came up.

The Loop was the only technical section. Much of the rest was runnable fire roads and jeep trails. 

I ran into Charlottesville friends Oliver and Natasha on the Mount Pleasant summit… that was unexpected and nice. They were on a hike. I feel a bit badly, because they saw me at about my lowest point (the highest point of the race) on Mount Pleasant (it was not for me).

There were so many aid stations and wonderful volunteers. It really made nutrition and hydration a piece of cake. Lots of gratitude goes out to all of them.

Next up: Hellgate 100K, December 14th at midnight.

Rainy day on the AT through SNP. McCormick Gap trail wisdom and panorama from Little Calf Mountain summit.

Ironman Lake Tahoe #1358

Ironman Lake Tahoe venues. Kings Beach and Squaw Valley resort.

Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

If you know my racing habits by now, you know that I like to save experiments for race day, especially my A race… that’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? IMLT was no exception. Two experiments for this races were, 1) squeezing gels into water bottles and diluting them for nutrition on the bike, and 2) going into the race following an all liquid diet (idea borrowed from Sami Inkenin’s post). I’d say for the most part both worked out. I will certainly repeat tactic 1 - it’s easier than dealing with gel wrappers. Before we get to the race, let’s talk a bit about Saturday…

The day before the race, conditions were hilariously horrible. People were freaking out… online, at the expo, at gear drop off, you name it. It was cold, windy, and precipitating. Brother-in-law Dave pointed out the window laughing and said, “Look at the snow!” Sure enough, the mountains surrounding us were enveloped in snowfall. Donner pass, linking Truckee to the West, was closed for a bit, and later required chain control. The waves crashing on the beach were over three feet high - very uncharacteristic. People were freaking out.

But on to the race…

Race morning it was 30 F. Thankfully, the water temperature was closer to 60 F, so it felt great leaving the frozen sand and scampering into the lake. There was steam rising from the warm water, and the visibility was actually much better under water than through the air. This made sighting the buoys hilariously difficult. You just sort of looked off into the mist, following the crowd, hoping they knew where they were going. Above the mist we were surrounded by beautiful snow capped peaks. It was magical when the sun appeared over the mountains. The light was simply brilliant. I wanted to stop and stare, but resigned to catch glimpses with each oxygen deprived breath. In the end, I completed the swim in 76 minutes. I was very satisfied with that time - currently 780th place overall.

Transition 1 was a nightmare. Tons has been written about it already, but gist is… with the cold temperatures folks were taking care and time to get changed into warm, dry clothing. As a result, it took longer than it normally does. As a result, there was a backlog. When I say backlog I mean that I could not even get into the changing tent. There were so many cold, wet, dudes (mostly naked) packed tight as sardines that I wanted none of it. I opted instead to duck into a port-a-potty (almost Clark Kent style) for my change. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked. My T1 time is usually around 5 minutes… this time it was 15. Covered with compression calf sleeves, a (wardrobe-malfunctioned) trisuit, arm warmers, EJ’s gifted Buff neck wrap, Fortuna jacket, and gloves purchased the day before… I set out.

I should say to all the Fortuna riders who tease me about showing up to cold rides with tri-shoes and no socks, knee warmers, or any sort of warmth… it paid off. I was plenty used to numb feet by the time IMLT came around. Who needs to feel their feet (or really, legs below the quads) while biking? My bottles were frozen too; that made drinking my liquid nutrition somewhat difficult. There was also frost on my seat. Did I mention it was cold?

This bike course was no joke. It advertised 6,500’ of climbing, which in and of itself would have been pretty big… but most reports show that individual Garmins captured much more gain. I haven’t uploaded yet, so I cannot say, but this informative post and many others suggest something just shy of 8,000’ gained. To put that in perspective, the Boys and Girls Club century from last weekend came in at 6,500’ - in flat, ol’ Central VA (note to outsiders, Central VA is NOT flat). Honestly, the climbs made keeping my power in check extremely difficult. I set an alarm to alert me when over 240 W, and the darn thing would not shut-up while climbing into Northstar and then Brockway Summit. I was in my easiest gear, turning the cranks at a knee-grinding 40 RPM and my power was reading 270 W, spiking well over 300 W. Perhaps I needed easier gearing? I have a compact and consider myself a good climber… Tough stuff. And then there were the backsides of these hills. Holy smokes I was flying down the descents. I cannot wait to see what my max speed was… I imagine 50 MPH. I was grinning from ear to ear - shooting past the more cautious. At some point I decided to unglove one hand - to test the temperature. That garnered lots of comments, mostly MJ related. It was fun chatting with the other riders. I ditched the gloves and jacket for the second lap and exposed my back to the sun. It wouldn’t be the same without my annual tri-wings burn. The ride takes you along the lake, and at one point I looked left to see tall pines framing the beautiful, blue lake sounded by white mountains. It was breathtaking and filled me with emotions. I got to Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 Olympic games, 5 hours 53 minutes later - now 137th place overall.

Transition 2 was uneventful. I didn’t get the volunteer help I would have liked (pulling my calf compression off for me), but whatevs. 

I was hoping to run a 3:20 marathon. I ended up with a 3:34 (cat’s-out-of-the-bag, COOTB)… the same time as at Vineman last year. This is really an area that I want to improve. I do believe I am capable of a 3:20 marathon off the bike. Just not here, not today.

Again, incredibly beautiful and picturesque. Although it was hard to enjoy. At mile 2 I developed pain in my left knee. I ignored it. At mile 8 pain came to the left ankle. I ignored it. The run was along the Truckee river. It was perfectly clear and tinged blue. You could see the reflection of pines, mountains and the sky. But I had my eyes closed probably 30% of the run, so I didn’t catch all of it. I needed to focus inward to sustain. The hills were darn hard. I thought this run course would be easy, but I was wrong. Perhaps it was all that climbing on the bike. It hurt unimaginably. At mile 20 my stomach started cramping. I tried to ignore it but couldn’t and had to start walking stretches. At mile 24 I determined to gut out the last 2.2 miles. I powered through the pain and finished strong. In the village and through the chute people were going nuts. I wish I would have high-fived the spectators at the finish (as I had been doing on the previous miles), but I literally had tunnel vision. I heard Mike Reilly (The Voice of Ironman) yell my name… but that was about all I could take in. I didn’t even see my finishing time. 3 hours 34 minutes marathon - finishing 77th overall.

So, yeah. That hurt. A lot. Still does. But it was epic. I’m very happy that I did it and was able to complete this event. I want to thank Ryan for sticking around to see me finish. I want to thank my parents, family, and friends for supporting me through it all. I want to thank BRC for all the bike support. I think this was the hardest event yet for me… but I seem to say that each time. I hope they don’t change the course. They often make epic courses easier so as to appeal to the masses. It’s an Ironman. It’s supposed to be hard. I need to figure out this knee issue. Perhaps I need cushier shoes. Or to consult with my local orthopedic specialist.
 
Final notes:
     A) Only 4 people in my competitive division (Male, 30-34) ran sub-3:30 marathons - none sub-3:20.
     B) Only 1 Age Grouper went sub-10 hours (compare that to 63 at Ironman Canada a month prior).
     C) 2700+ registered, 1719 finished - 63% completion rate (91.4% at IM Canada).

Some decent analysis:
     A) Coach Cox analysis
     B) Run Tri analysis 

Interesting discussion:
     A) Slowtwitch thread: IMLT Race Report (hilarious; amazing)
     B) Slowtwitch thread: IMLT DNF Rate

Pictures and training analysis to come.

Spring Break - Colorado, 2013

I always enjoy going to  Colorado - spring, summer, fall, winter… it’s all good. This spring I was fortunate enough to make two trips. In early March, I was with EJ and Doug in Aspen. That was (always is) wonderful, but I want to quickly touch on my late March trip to Beaver Creek.

Three days before flying into EGE a bunch of us got together in southwest Virginia for the Terrapin Mountain 50 km race. Next thing I knew, I was recoverying in the hot tub, basking in the sunshine, looking up at the snowy peaks. I had big plans for this trip.

Day One: I brought out my buddy’s big mountain ski setup, complete with skins. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but figured things out and skinned my way up the main slope under the chairs. Once I got to mid-mountain, I peeled off the skins and spent the rest of the day cruising around - alpine skiing for the first time. I took to it pretty quickly and was bombing the blues in no time. I wanted to push harder but had to remind myself that this was just day one.

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Day Two: Emily and I popped up to McCoy Park for some traditional cross-country skiing. It was her first time, but she was a natural. I’m sure the beautiful setting didn’t hurt things. We had a nice picnic lunch (wine included, always) at the Discovery Overlook.

Day Three: I gave my mom and Emily lift tickets and agreed to meet up at McCoy Park. With my rented skate skies strapped to my pack, I snowshoed (again, the direct route under the lift) up the mountain to meet them. The rest of the day they snowshoed around McCoy while I skated along, ahead, and back again. This was my first time skate skiing, and it took a minute to get the hang things. Pretty soon though, I was flying around and two-poling up the hills with speed.

Day Four: The rest of the crew left after breakfast, but my flight wasn’t until the afternoon. I took the opportunity to go for a run down the mountain into Avon. It was rather warm at the lower elevation, so I followed a shaded trail along the Eagle River over to Arrowhead village. 90 minutes later I was back in Beaver Creek village. I found my way to the hot tub, and staring up at the mountains, closed my trip just as I had started it.

What was so exciting about this adventure was that I did six different actives in four days with no repeats: skinning up the mountain, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skate skiing, and running.

I am headed back to Colorado next month to pace my friend running the Leadville 100. I always look forward to my next adventure in Colorado.

Highland Sky 40M

This race can be summarized in a single word… steady.

I was very excited to head up to Tucker County, WV for the Highland Sky 40M event. After having learned about the nordic skiing at White Grass, I made the journey this last winter and had so much fun that I returned twice more. I started to feel a bit as though I knew the area… but what did I know? I hadn’t even seen the place without the cover of snow. The Highland Sky race gave me that opportunity to return in the summer and better understand this alpine plateau.

This race was a sign-up, show-up sort of event. I did glance at the elevation profile to notice two big climbs, but that was about the extent of my research. I made two goals, 1) not blow up (a la March’s Terrapin Mountain 50k), and 2) run sub-8 hours.

We lucked out with the weather. The temperatures were perfect, low-60s maybe? The shine was shining, but not intense. It was not raining, as it had been doing much of the week. However, all the week’s rain added to the already saturated ground, characteristic of Dolly Sods to make for a very wet and sloppy run. We spent many early miles running through dark, muddy creeks. One could imagine these were normally trails, but not on this day. I kept it easy, nervous about the footing below the black water. I didn’t want my day (or season!) to end with a bad step. On multiple occasions you’d step into the water and your leg would sink knee-deep into the muck. At one point the mud almost stole the shoe right off my foot… I didn’t not want to go blindly digging. I also realized that bringing my phone (and having it in my shorts pocket - no where else to stash it), might not have been the best idea. But it seemed like there might be good photo opportunities.

That said, once we hit the high meadows… the views were stunning.

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This is exactly what I had hoped for in my return to Tucker County.

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A curious thing happened in these vast areas of openness… I would spot a runner far off in the distance and slowly, steadily reel them in. Then I’d be alone again for some time until another would appear.

With about six miles to go, things started getting difficult. My experience over the last ~10 miles suggested that things had gotten “difficult” for other runners already, so I calculate that if I could just hang on and keep my effort steady… it might turn out to be a good day. Keep pushing.

Next thing I knew, the last aid station was in sight… along with another runner. I passed him coming out of the stop. Four miles remaining. At this point I was prepared to give everything I had. No longer was I walk/running the hills. With sore, dirty, tired legs I climbed each of the final hills. Two miles to go. Another runner in the distance. I caught up to him, and we entered the Canaan Valley Resort together. With one mile to go I surged ahead. 

The cow bells were ringing. The finish was just ahead of me. And… crazily enough the timing display hadn’t yet hit 7 hours. I crossed the line at 6:51 and ended up taking the final podium spot - 5th place! 

This was such a fulfilling race on many levels… my return to Tucker Co., the gorgeous views, the volunteers, the steady effort, the overall results, and the community. I spent time with Charlottesville friends, Gill and Francesca from Bad to the Bone, Robin from tru Pilates, and made new friends, Regan, Rupert, and Jake and Jeremy from The Aid Station. Hooray!

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