Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 SpeedGoat 50k

Not posting much this year since its an "off" year for me (no 100 milers, no hard training) so I can stave off the burnout and knee issues and get ready for a 2010 "on" year. I ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 miler on my b-day - I try to run at least my age every year. Also had a great race a couple weeks ago at the Logan Peak 28 mile trail run finishing strong and making some new friends.

This last weekend I started my third Speedgoat 50k hosted by Karl Meltzer at Snowbird ski resort. I had plenty of time left to finish it, but decided to drop at the mile 22 aid station (but still had to jog the 3 miles back to the finish). I started too fast and mixed with seasonal allergies (wildflowers? cottonwood? who knows) I enjoyed a rare visit from my pal asthma and had a good struggle on the first climb to the top of the hidden peak tram. I backed off the pace and had a great come-back on the way up and over Mt Baldy - one of my favorite peaks to hike and ski in the spring after Alta closes for the season.

After a screaming fast descent with my buddy Olaf into Mineral Basin, up Sinners Pass and down Mary Ellen Gulch I thought the worst was behind me. I caught quite a few people that passed me earlier and I was making up all the lost time from the first climb. I knew from last year that the climb back up to Mineral Basin would be hot and miserable so I spent some extra time in Roch Horton's awesome American Fork aid station cooling down. Unfortunately, the 90+ degree heat and the long, dusty climb up rugged jeep road conspired against me and respiratory problems were the order of the day. Normally I can find my "granny gear" and grind my way uphill at a slow, steady pace no matter how bad I'm feeling but the chest pain would build until it would force me to come to a stop and sit down. Immediately upon sitting the swarm of mosquitoes that were chasing me caught up and went to work and motivated me to stand up and move on - thanks to them I made it out eventually.

While moving at the glacial pace of about 1 mile per hour, I realized that any hope I had of finishing in a timely manner was shot and I would be lucky to make the generous cut-off time, so I decided to just accept my death march and try to enjoy the scenery along the way. Near the top of the climb back to the top of Sinners Pass, I found a great little patch of old snow in the shade with a panoramic view of the Southern portion of the Wasatch 100 course as it makes a dip close to Mt Timpanogas. I sat down in the snow, put some reggae on my ipod, pulled out some snacks and invited the hot and ragged looking runners passing me to stop there at Ryan's Oasis for a few. I'd probably still be there, but I knew that there were aid station volunteers waiting for me to get my butt in gear so they could go home, so I finished paying my sweat and blood penance, crossed Sinners Pass and topped out at the 22 mile tunnel aid station (colloquially known as the "Basshole" after Snowbird owner Dick Bass).

Somehow, I managed to make it to the aid station with 10 minutes to spare before the 3pm cutoff but I was worried about Lindsay who had yet to catch up to me so I decided to wait for her. 3-o-clock struck and she still was nowhere near, and I knew that the course sweeps would take care of her, so I decided that I would run for a mile and see if maybe my chest pain would subside so I could eek out a finish. It didn't, and I didn't, so I enjoyed a leisurely jog down single track to the finish area to drop officially and enjoy watching my friends finish. It was tough telling everyone that I had dropped and its weak to try and list off excuses for why I wasn't up to the task of finishing. I thought for sure that the Speedgoat would be in the bag for me, but the last year has been a humbling lesson in a series of dnf's. Like most of my beat-downs - I'm just trying to find the pieces of wisdom that I can keep and use next time. By the time I'm 70, I might even be good at this sport!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moab Red Hot 50k+

Well, haven't posted in a while because I basically took the entire winter off from running to give my knees a break and do a lot of backcountry skiing and bouldering. I decided that this year will be an "easy" year where I don't focus on any 100 milers and instead just have fun at shorter distance ultras and work on improving my fitness and racing strategies. To kick my lazy butt into shape, Lindsay and I signed up for the Moab Red Hot race conveniently held on valentines day. It gave us a chance to get out of town to enjoy the lack of snow on the trails and see some great scenery around Moab and Arches National Park (we got about 5 miles of hiking in the day after the race).

The race has a 33k (about 20 miles) and a 50k+ option (the plus ended up meaning around 34 miles). Lindsay opted for the shorter distance because we have both been running less than a couple miles a week. I went for the whole enchilada because I love a good suffer-fest and I didn't want to miss out on all that bonus mileage.

The first 5 miles or so of the course are shared by both races and left from the Gemini Bridges trailhead just outside of town. It was fun to watch all the fast guys take off at the start. I aspire to be at that level of fitness someday... but I knew with my non-existant training I needed to settle into a nice easy jog. After the first 5 miles, us 50k+ers split off to the North for our extra 14 mile loop. I knew with only about 5k feet of elevation gain for the whole race that the hills would be pretty mellow, but our next hill was called "Metal Masher" and that did make me a little nervous. Luckily, it wasn't that bad for us runners. I would definitely be walking a bike up it -- it was obvious how it got its name. The hill topped out right on the brink of the 1000ft tall cliff that towers over the parking lot where we started. I took the opportunity to stop and enjoy the views while I peed over the edge. I hope no one was down there.

From the airy precipice, we had a long and fast double-track downhill back to the 5 mile fork to rejoin the 33k course. I picked up a lot of time there and my 20 mile split was around 3:30 - a lot faster than I thought I'd be. It didn't last. My lazy vacation from training caught up to my and my back, quads, calves and hamstrings all cramped and locked up at once. Unfortunately, the rest of the course was much more rugged and was constantly up and down on cement-like slickrock and momentum sucking sand. It gave me a lot more time to enjoy the views -- I could see for at least 50 miles or more in every direction from the snow covered La Sal mountains to the petrified sand dunes of the slickrock trail to the deep slots of Canyonlands N.P.

I tried all my tricks to calm the cramping -- salt tablets, drinking more water, force-feeding more gels (pu) but nothing worked until finally, I managed to score some vitamin I (ibuprofen) from a shady looking guy at the last aid station. He made me promise not to tell so I wont incriminate him any further. With 5 miles left, a long and gentle downhill and comfortably numb legs I was able to pick up the pace again and cruise into the finish. The last couple miles down to the Poison Spider trailhead were some of the best too. I loved running down to the edge of the Colorado river while the sheer thousand foot sides of the mesa we were just on grow above.

I definitely need to bring a camera when I run the Red Hot 50k+ next year, but I doubt it would do the race course justice -- so sign yourself up!