Friday, September 25, 2015

Crystal Mountain Marathon

Slow down, slow down, slow down. I only got faster by slowing down.

By faster I mean not dying or struggling towards the last few miles of my long runs. I don't think I'm an endurance athlete. I don't have the gift of enjoying the easy cruise, on the bike or on foot. 25K to 20 miles is my favorite distance. I love nothing better than pushing 10k effort for up to a 30k race.

Training the last few months for Crystal Mt. I've had to force myself to GO SLOW. Really slow. Again, I'm not fast to begin with, but adjustments needed to be made in order to finish.

I heard Adam H. say at a discussion at Seven Hills Running Store that "if you wouldn't do it at mile 95, why would you do it at mile 5?".

 Damn good question!

Since then I've had that rolling around in my head like a giant ass bowling ball. My effort needs to be level. Needs to be tamed. Needs to be under control. I learned from earlier trail races this year and last year that I can give up huge chunks of time on climbs, because I can catch most on the downs.

In runner terms: I can push marathon pace on the ups and hit 5k speed on the downs.

Running downhill means pushing the effort out and forcing gravity. (5k-10k effort). I get upset with myself when I feel I'm running downhill "too pedestrian". To the point that I often yell out loud at myself, "What the Fuck are you doing!". However, the last few long runs I've realized that slowing down altogether both uphill and downhill helps in the final few miles. (I know – Shocker!)
I’ve been keeping it fun, quick pace on the downs, not pushing just an easy flow and never to the point where I feel  winded, tired, or end up paying for it later.

 Taking this approach into the race on Saturday I never really felt like it was a race.

 My goals for the day:

1. Aid Station #1 (mile 3) in an hour. More would be too slow, less would be too fast

2. Make adjustments early, within minutes, not hours (as usual)

3. Stop and use the Aid Stations to fully restock and reevaluate the day

4. Reach Aid Station #4 (mile 21) with my legs under me

5. ############### Hidden goal

Morning started off great. Had my Bear Crew supporting me and hoping to see them at a few aid stations. Saw lots of friends and familiar faces that I was really glad to see.  Going to make for a great day!
Matt, Tif, Levi, Penny. Photo by Alley

 The 1st 3 mile climb bites off about 3000ft. When the race started I was in the back and just started a quick fast-ish hike. I was 3rd from the end as everyone else shot off. About a mile later, still fast hiking I easily passed about 25 people. The sun came out about half way up and really warmed things up. I pulled off and vented as much as possible not to overheat and sweat too much. In my mind I compared the first 3 miles to the swim in an ironman. I needed to finish it feeling like I’d just warmed up and was ready for the day start. Reaching the top I glance at my watch about 20 yards from the aid station and it read 59:58. Cool.

Took my time at the AS, talked with Earl and got on my way. – Time - 9:00 in, 9:04 out. Perfect!

I ran easy across the ridge taking in the views and smiling SO damn big. Minor headache. I hit the next section, which can mostly be described as extreme downhill and couldn’t wait to test myself on it. Without hesitating I jumped over the ledge and bounded down to the scree field that laid below the initial drop.

I love me descending a good scree field : ) too much fun!

The climb back out of there was a little rough, but short. Once back on the ridge trail, mile 4.5ish I’d guess, the trail is just plain iconic northwest trail running at its finest. The 5 mile descent was the  most amazing section leading into AS#2. I grabbed up two more people passing without much effort and telling myself, “You’re not racing, just stay steady. We’re not trying to catch anyone.” The last person I caught up to was a woman that was moving quickly on the downhill. She kept looking behind her so I rolled in about 10ft behind her and yelled out that I wasn’t looking to pass, was just going to eat and that I’d give her room. I backed off about 30ft, broke into my Trailbutter (Mmmmm) drank some more fluids, rested about 30 seconds then called out “On your left”. It always amazes me the closing speed on downhills. Up and around her and enjoyed the last mile and a half by myself.

Photo by Alley
Outside of AS#2 I saw my Bear Crew: Alley, Matt, Tif, Penny, and Levi. I ran straight to Penny, I knew if I ran past she’d drag whoever was holding her. I did a full change of shirt, pullover, arm warmers, gloves, and hat. I was doing a good job at controlling heat, but my clothes were all soaked through. Hit up the AS for a restock of fluids and off I went. - Time 10:00 in, 10:06 out. Perfect!

Legs, mind and body felt great leaving the AS. Seeing my peeps was great. About 3 minutes after the AS a tough climb sucked some of that away. Then a long uncomfortable downhill stretch on a service road was really hard to run without feeling jarring. I ran with a guy for about a mile then told him I needed to lay off, I slowed up but the grade on the road eased up at the same time making it possible to run the downhill with really no effort. So I laughed as I past him, not 1 minute later saying, “The knees decided not to lay off”.

That descent led into a climb about half a mile below AS #3. Not the hardest climb, but outside of the first 3 miles, the longest so far. I got through AS 3, refueled, talked with a friend Erin, who was working the AS and started out feeling pretty good for mile 14.5.

Somewhere in the back of my mind this next climb is still going on. I’m leaning against some branches so I don’t fall backwards back down to the bottom.

This section is the teeth of the day.

Mile 14.28 elevation – 3148ft

Mile 18.27 elevation – 6152ft

No fucking around.

I saw 3 people throwing up along it. 2 people sitting down with that gone look on their face. It’s a four mile climb that I was a bit naive about. I got out the top of it at four hours race time and found a piece of ground and sat my ass down for 4 minutes. Trying not to lose focus and trying to deal with this headache that started to come to life. Changing out of my wet tank top, gloves, buff, and hat. The only dry thing I had left was a dry wind vest. Oops. Headache growing.

Splits for miles 15-18:

15           23:29.6  1.00      

16           32:39.7  1.00      

17           30:11.1  1.00      

18           20:03.0  1.00      

I got up and started and easy jog at best, head started to pound a bit, was able to ignore. Then about 5 minutes later I heard a loud buzzing noise and looked around just as my right arm lit up. I grabbed my arm and ran as hard as I could for about half a mile to the edge of the ridge. Reserve energy out the window. I stared at the mist pouring into the valley below as it started to lightly rain. Head was pounding and all I could hear was  my heartbeat way too load in my ears.

About mile 18.5.

New game plan. Make it to AS#4(Mile 21) as fast as possible. Run with my hands squeezing my head. Cold, wet, and only having a wind vest on, not the wisest choice throwing my jacket to Matt back at AS#2 cause the sun was out. Bad move. I figured back along the ridge to AS#4 and I could rest and get warm there.

Then the arrow pointed down. -awww shit......

Again, my bad for not knowing the course. We had to take the course the same way we went out on. Which meant back up through the scree field, clawing our way up to the ridge. So what I thought would take about 30 minutes back to the AS ended up being just over an hour.

Climbing up the scree field I couldn’t ignore my head anymore and yelled at myself for signing up for one of these things again. I wanted to drop, wanted to quit, wanted to be warm. Just wanted my head to stop pounding. I can usually set any discomfort aside in my head and focus on turnover, breathing, form, anything, but not this time my head just hurt so much. I reached the top, passing Glenn and ran mostly because I was freezing and needed to get to the AS.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama 

I saw Alley and ran to her, I couldn't look at anyone because I knew I would just completely fall apart. I was trying not to cry, but think I did a really bad job at hiding it. I sat down, Matt and Tif helped me get some warm clothes on and Alley fished out some ibuprofen for my headache.

Photo by Alley
Heading to the AS a runner caught up with me and was right next to me as I talked with the B Crew. A woman directing runners to the AS yelled out "Runners! AS to your right." I laughed out loud as I putting my hand on the guy next to me and said, "She must be talking to us?". Running seemed like something that happened way earlier in the day. We got to the AS and Earl once again got me refueled and restocked. I took my time.

Five miles to go. My goal was to have legs at the last AS to be able to work the last 5 miles.

 I’ve had my head hurt the last few times I’ve been running up above 6000ft. I kept thinking, the sooner I get down the sooner the pressure will let up. 

I left the AS and skipped a few times to see how the hips felt. Something I started doing a few years ago. Pretty good. Broke into an east run and felt fine. The descent is aggrieve to say the least. You lose about 600ft in the 1.5 miles, 2300ft overall in those last 5 miles with about 500ft of gain. And it’s a somewhat technical descent based on speed. Very rocky and narrow. Within the first half mile of the descent I knew I had my legs under me. 

If I could maintain I wanted to hit the last five miles in an hour. Legs felt great and as I came down the head felt better. I passed 2 people before the 1st lake, then another at Bear Gap. There was a small climb to the PCT and I could see 3 people up, and had to be calm, no energy on the climb, but I knew it was short. Hit the top as I just caught two of the three guys I saw before, said,”Fellas, see you guys at the bottom.” and bolted.

I knew that point at the PCT sign was about 2 miles to the finish and free of anymore up hills. I kept saying over and over. “In 15 minutes this will be over, in 15 this will be over. Enjoy.” I passed up 2 more people, pace was 7:25-8:45, crossed the little bridge and I knew the finish was close. Down the service road, then onto a little rocky trail that I wasn’t expecting. Which was great cause it cut down straight instead of looping out farther on the service road. Then the light at the end of the tunnel, the hard right at the end of the tree line straight down to the finish. I had my legs still and opened my stride and kept hard through the wicked little descent.

Photo by Alley 

Man was I glad to be done, and what a HELL of a last 5 miles. My personal hidden goal was to actually race the last 5 miles, not just survive. I feel like I left it all out on the course for the last 5 and am happy with how the day went. Barring the headache, everything pretty much fell into place.

Time: 6:42
Last 5 miles 1:01 with a 8:40, 7:10, split on the last 2 miles : )

Thanks to my Bear Crew who were amazing and really got me through one of the roughest points of an event that I’ve been in. Well, at least that I can remember : ) and to Seven Hills Running Store for ALWAYS understanding and helping out with any and everything!

Until next time…..

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dodged a hot mess of a day

Sun Mountain 25K – 

Hell of a weekend. Man was that some fun! If you ever want to humble yourself, in two ways,  go plant yourself on course surrounded by sweeping vistas of mountains and valleys. I think too many people forget how small they are in the scheme of things. Next sit there in the shade as 100’s of people pass by in 80 degree weather running in the direct sun. Nothing but deep respect for those racing the 50M/50K on Saturday.

Alley ran the 50K and I couldn’t have been prouder of how she handled her day in the heat. As well as our friends and housemates MCM and Kay!

To say the least I was a bit worried about the heat for my race on Sunday. I haven’t done well in the heat for the last few years and Saturday I was sweating in the shade. Ugh. I kept drinking and eating as much as possible, but man that can get tiring throughout the day.

All in all, worth the risk to be out supporting friends on Saturday. plus I got to go on Moose Trail!

Sunday morning
10am race start sounds great, but man not if you wake up at 5:45. My stomach wasn’t feeling right all morning from the time I woke up. Had the usual breakfast no surprises there and dinner wasn’t an issue the night before. Finally rolled out to the start about 8:50, but stomach still not on board. It had been raining hard through the early morning so the worry of being too hot during the race wasn’t a factor. About 42 degrees at race start. I headed out for a quick few miles before the start to get the body ready. I felt tight and my left foot was aching a bit, I climbed a bit and turned back to see how the knees felt on the downhill and all systems felt ok, barring the stomach.

I was laughing with Alley before the start because I had Shakey Graves “Built to roam” in my head:
Sit back and watch me go, 
Bored and lazy. 
Watch me go; 
Just passing through. 
Follow me beyond the mountains. 
Go howl at the ol' big moon. 

It sounds like something a snail would use as a race theme song. But none the less it was stuck in my head.

The start was fast, or should have been. 

The group of 8 or so people in front of me pushed back instead of forward. Odd, it was cool to see the people from the sides funnel in front of us. I usually never worry about bad starts, I feel like it keeps me from running too fast at the begin and sorts out a mile or 2 down the trail.

We hit the lake and I was with a good group of about 8 people. Roughly 8 minute pace. I knew at mile 2 a 2 mile climb would start, after that another 4ish mile climb, so I backed off a bit only pushing at a comfortable pace. On the climb I did intervals of 45 seconds run, 15 seconds power hiking. Easy run on anything that wasn't up.

I was sweating  badly and my stomach felt like I was running with a watermelon under my shirt. The climb twisted up through some outlooks that only revealed cloud cover over the nearby mountains and foothills. Still awe inspiring, and the banks of mist and fog we ran through was much needed.

Surprisingly enough I was actually running when I glanced over and saw Glen as the trail went through amazing hillsides of wild flowers. At least it felt like running  : )

Some short flat(ish) ridge lines had the group of 5 of us at 6:50 pace. I was having trouble with the asthma but didn’t want to reach for my inhaler. I know, but sometimes the little movements seem like a huge effort. At this point my left IT band started to pull and pinch a bit. Rounded a sharp corner and someone yelled, “aid station qtr mile up.” What a grunt up to the AS, about mile 8.6.  The group of 5 turned to 3, turn to 2. From there it was just over a mile to the downhill. *tongue licking lips, tail wagging on high. However, the service road was in bad shape from the rain, the sides were too soft with mud and the middle was hard and really hurt my left side.

Old man ailments list:
IT Band pulling, left foot cramping severely, stomach not happy, sweating profusely, hips aching. 

From the profile I needed about half a mile to the downhill, but this damn service road was NEVER going to end. Finally I saw the person in front of me by about 40-50 yards pull off the road and heard a loud. 

“FUCK! Ugh JAMESSSS!” I knew, as Alley put it before, that was the sound of the Rainshadow Effect. The service road was steep, but the trail off the road was crazy steep.

Finally I hit the downhill, about 1.5 miles, but the hips wouldn’t give it up. Both hips a bit frozen from the 9 miles of climbing. I skipped a bit at the beginning to sort of jumpstart the hips, has worked in the past. And slowly they came around, about a minute in. I could see the group, 4 about 20 seconds up, and wanted to catch and be past them before too long.

"As fast as a body can drop" - Adam Hewey

Downhill and closing speed amazes me, the whole gravity thing. I love it. 

First person about 10 yards in front, technical footing, I bound and jump into the pull of gravity. Like hauling ass on a snowboard, or what I image downhill skiing would be like. Pulling the legs up towards you to drop faster. I have to remember to breathe. Before I say on your left I’m by him. Two more about 15 yards up, I’m coming in hot and yell on your left. It’s a game, the best game ever. The two yell out as I pass, “Yeah, get it!” I know there’s one more up here, spot her and pass as she laughs and yells, ”Where the hell did you come from?!?!”. I run out of decent just as I spot 3 more runners (rabbits).

A sudden uphill puts the game at bay for a few then it opens again. This time on a descending service road. Not my fav, but I can still gain on others. Pushing 6:25 pace, trying not to blow up.  I run small stretches with my eyes closed, repeating “let the legs work, rest the heart” and feel my pulse calm. I catch two of the three. As I pass the woman I’d been chasing for the last 3 miles, strong woman, I tell her “stay in it, under a mile.” I struggle to decide whether to lay up at the top of the little false flat, then hear horns and cheers from the woods just in front of us. I bolt through the sharp left turn and suddenly realize it’s the little area I took my morning warmup run on.  I bit of a downhill so I went all in ignoring the voice in my head yelling to stop and play it safe. Crossed the road and was happy as hell to see the finish line, high fiving James as I crossed the line. Phew! 

2:16:47 45th Place

Shoes: Merrell - Allout Peaks -----Thanks again Phil! 7Hills
Vest: Ultimate Direction-SJ
Fuel: GU- Macchiato Carmel / Clif Shot Blox / Trail Butter / Nuun

Not my most ideal race. I had fun moments in it, but the stomach thing to start the day and the IT and foot cramping during. I felt I lost a minute or 2 on the road section due to stopping and stretching the IT. The foot cramp, it hurt, but I knew it was just a cramp. It wasn’t going to break or anything.

I can’t stress enough how looking around when things started to hurt and repeating, “Look at what you get to run through. This place is amazing. Be thankful you get to hurt in a place like this.” I ‘am proud that I didn’t give up throughout the race at any point, even thou I kept lining up my reasons to stop and have a great pity party. I saw too many people the day before pull themselves through way worse conditions to do that.

Next up is Deception Pass and Taylor Mt Half before Crystal Mountain Marathon.
Hope to see a few of you out there! –Bill

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: Rest, recover, recharge...

Hell of a year. So many races this year, so much sharing with friends. From early trail races: Bridle trails, Orcas island, Fragrance Lake, Lord Hill, and Squak. To Ironman Whistler, Kirkland, Grand Ridge, and Seattle Half. What a fun and well rounded year this has been. Again, it's really the friends you surround yourself with that gets you through ALL the miles and hours, both during training and racing.

Thinking of the highlights and memory flashes from this past year a few that jump out.

  1. Rolling through the downhill at Orcas Island 25K: "Holy Sh*t this is amazing, this is amazing. So lucky, so lucky"on repeat through my mind.
  2. Flying down from Fragrance Lake through the switchbacks. Falling then catching the 3 people that went by. SO. MUCH. FUN.
  3. Climbing 4.5 miles up at the Gorge in the rain and hail then bolting back down to the bottom to see Alley finish her Gorge Waterfalls 50K.
  4. Trying to catch Joey during training on the Whistler bike course and yelling to myself, and the local bears, "That's Joey MotherFu*ck'n Compton up there!" I was out of my mind on the bike in the heat. Good times, good times.
  5. Flashes from IMC that seem to of gone by in about 2 minutes. Mostly seeing Alley on mile 8 of the run and having her pull me back from a full blown meltdown. 
  6. Spending the day running at Deception Pass with Alley and the Bears. Beautiful day running trails in the sun.
  7. Going full gas during the Kirkland Tri up Juanita 2x and pulling a 20 minute run. I love and missed the hunt of a short race.
  8. Running Kendall Kat Walk with Alley, one of the best days out running this year!
  9. Catching and yelling out loud to Ryan during Grand Ridge half, "WOO, NOW the fun begins!" As we passed group after group on the downhill.
  10. Hellish 100 miler with Joey that every right turn was a brutal climb. 

This year ended with an unexpected rest that was much needed. I was feeling a bit tired and some aches never seemed to go away, so after the Seattle half I called it a day on 2014 and pulled out of a few races. I should of called it after Grand Ridge, but managed to talk myself into Seattle. Which magically the message was loud and clear during Seattle. Sometimes the body just knows better. I told a friend that I just wanted to run and not train or be tied to any race date.

I needed to take time off of my left foot, but couldn't with Orcas Island coming up. And if I did take time off to recover I wouldn't be ready for Orcas. Which you just can't screw with a course like Orcas. It's beautiful and amazing, but it'll kick your ass. So I dropped both Orcas and Bridle trails from my schedule. Which after looking at the would-be schedule for 2015 I think the 6 weeks of rest will be a great way to recharge.

The running when I feel like it will be a huge recharge for the mind as well. When you want to go along, and not have to go, regardless. It's a huge relief.

I was hitting some burnout from a season that started just about a year ago. 

Last week I jumped along with the Seven Hills Running Shop up Tiger Mt from Uphill Running's store. I knew it would be as hard as I wanted to make it, said "Don't wait for me" about a dozen times, but it was great. I enjoyed the climb, said I wasn't there to push myself to myself. Also, told myself 'you have no endurance for this, so just enjoy it.' I was last up, but only by a few minutes. I can live with runs like that for a few. I can be honest with myself and know where my level lives.

So with some time off and the 2015 schedule becoming clearer and clearer by the day, I'm excited to rest up then dig in for another round.

This next year's on the trails mostly, half's up to maybe one 50K, but mostly looking for some adventures to jump off to with Alley and the bears.

Fewer bibs, more exploring ; )

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Got it half right at least?

Sunday was the Seattle half marathon and it was a reminder, sadly always right around the middle of
the race, that I realized, or was reminded again, you can't ask for more than you put in. Sure there's some percentage of race day magic, but really there should be no surprise to ones self when you cross the finish line.

I had plenty of reason going into Sunday to be cautious (and maybe not run): rolled my ankle 2 weeks ago, bottom of left foot hurt w/ any run over 4 miles, sick 10 of the last 14 days, oh and I kind of pulled the plug on running 2 weeks ago after Grand Ridge trail half.

On the bright side I kept telling (lying to) myself, "GR was your long run with 2 weeks of tapper, you didn't really have GR in you (I did) and you did great, GR was really really tough (it was) so this will be easy (Hmmm)."

Once the early excitement of being in a race on a crazy cold beautiful morning has worn off...

There's that point in the race when the group you're running with, in the 2nd half of a race, stays on pace and slowly moves away. The point where it shows without hiding anything what you've put in. That's the point I usually tell myself that those are the people that have trained, the ones ready for these last miles.

It does two things during these moments:

One it's humbling, the feel of, 'I should be running up there', quickly followed by, 'I should stay trained to run up there', etc. Nothing worse than knowing you could be in with a group if you'd just done the work.That you get to enjoy the day having fun beating on yourself, rather than just suffering through the beating.

Two, how do I get back there and do I start by taking a bit of a rest?

Looking back at the last few weeks it has been all the little things getting missed that sort of take its toll. Stopped doing core workouts, stopped strength training, stopped stretching, stopped doing recovery runs. On and on and on. Getting sick didn't help, but I didn't feel that it was the biggest part.

I often tell people trying to get back into it that at least they've been there before and know what level of work it takes to get back. I enjoy the work, enjoy the pay off, enjoy staying up with the groups that I feel I should be running with, or get to run with. I've never taken running for granted, too many injuries over the last few years to ever assume anything.

That fire gets lit on days like that also, to jump back in the fray, but also some lines get redrawn. I think the best way to get back there is through plenty of rest up front and letting a few bothering injuries take care of themselves. After that getting back to what's fun and keeping it simple. Really simple.

Looking to 2015 I've cut back on the races that I'll be doing. I wanted to do roughly 11 races, all trail. Not a huge amount, but thinking it over the last few days and wanting to get the most out of the races I do enter I'm thinking I'll cut it down to just 5. Plus one long adventure that I want to work on for next summer. 

The priority in 2015 is leaving more time for just getting out and running in the mountain with the Girlie and the bears. Some long trips just knocking through the woods and enjoying what the Cascades and Olympics have to offer. 

No bibs, just a run vest, a pair of mutts and a woman crazier than I am. Cuz really, that's what I love!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Even a bad day can be a great day.

Lead up to race day was amazing! Whistler is one hell of a place to throw a race party. We got up to town on Thursday and of course zip-lined about 2 hours after arrival. Thought, better do it sooner, than later. I’m a touch scared of heights, so why the hell not. Let the adventures begin!
OH Crap, no turning back now!

Zip lining was crazy fun by the way. Only had a death grip on one gate that was hanging about 150ft from the forest floor. A bit hard to let go : )

I was calm and never really nervous the days leading up. Maybe it was because it was my 3rd one or maybe because I still didn’t think I was actually going to be doing another IM.

Hmmm, either way.

My left shoulder got damaged a few weeks before, so I knew the swim was going to be a big question mark. And for some reason I was ok with that. The bike was the bike and I was worried about the flat out and back in the middle of the course, but I figured it would work out. And the run, I was ready for the run, wanted the run, couldn’t wait for the run.

I couldn’t get over the feeling of happiness when I got around friends. Alley and I  rode up with Nick, Matt and Tif and had a great time. Felt way more like vacation than heading to a race. When I saw Josh, Joey, Ryan, Aimee, or anyone from the team I’d feel like it was Christmas morning and everyone had new toys to play with.

Race Morning...

Woke up about 2 minutes before the alarm went off, this is going to be a long day. Up, dressed, eat, out the door. Alley and Tif dropped Matt and I at the buses and the nerves were still at bay. 
There’s nothing like the morning light on a swim start. Snow peak mountains all around, amazing.

Race Start –

Swim was brutal, no need to sugar coat or over dramatize it. Should of given boxing gloves to everyone before. Shoulder started hurting with about a mile to go. Got out of the water and felt like I’d put in as little effort as possible, but my shoulder ached  more than I had anticipated. Felt like I spent an hour in T1, but it was only about 7 minutes.

Whistler was an amazing arena for an IM. The town/city absorbed the race and even had areas that didn’t even know the race was going on. There is everything to do that you could imagine.

The course, especially the bike is phenomenal, a true test for a well-rounded bike rider.  I had my moments on the bike, and man were they sweet. I love climbing and this course had plenty. The pain in my shoulder never went away and ached everytime I went into areo postion. 

I cracked after the last climb to Green Lake at about 105 miles in.

The heat finally had its way with me and my head  was swimming for the last 6 miles. I couldn’t lose any heat and finally the stomach and the head went south right when I first saw the lake heading back into town. I was out of water and my sports drink was hot, hot, hot. 

My Bear Crew

I remember looking at my tires over and over again, thinking that I had flatted both and that's why I was moving so slow. I had one rider about 50 yards in front of me and none behind and kept thinking – I’m the last one on course, how long have I been out here. How did this happen? This kept repeating over and over in my head.

T2 was a bit of a blur. I had lost a contact so needed to drop in another one and that was the last thing I remember until mile 4ish. 

(After the race Alley showed me pics of stopping and posing with her right after T2 and I still don’t remember any of that.)

Dazed and confused
 I was hot and couldn’t get rid of the heat. I kept telling myself don’t talk to anyone you don’t make any sense. You’ll get pulled from the race. 1st aid station was 8 cups over the head, ice down the shorts and one water in the body. Still couldn’t talk and could only walk. At mile 3 (one hour in) I gave up was crying and was starting to looking for someone to give my bib to, I thought if I could just get my bib off and hand it to someone I could get out of the heat. My head was on fire, but my shoulders and legs were freezing. I knew that was far from good, and just over the line from just having a bad day.

Alley really appeared out of nowhere and I could see the concern on her face. I wasn’t aware of much, but seeing her face I think scared me the most. I quickly remembered Teresa saying when you see your support crew out there you DO NOT show them your distress! They have 1 maybe 2 seconds to see you after standing for hours to see you.

I wanted to drop, but in an instant you remember all the nights in the basement, early swim starts, time and sacrifices both you and your loved one has made over the last year. Hearing myself reassure Alley that I was going to be ok, I quickly believed I wasn’t lying. The head and the stomach were gone, but the legs could go.

New game plan….Walk as much of the 1st lap as possible, then run and depend on your legs for the 2nd lap. 

I told Alley after I couldn't comprehend that the laps were 13 miles each. Just that the 2nd lap would be shorter, because I'd be running more. Hopefully.

Photo by Bri Leahy
2nd lap started and everything started to turn. 

Lack of nutrition was catching up, but the legs and stomach actually felt like running. 

3x's I had other runners tell me to stay on them. Just move your legs and follow my numbers. Stay on my hip and ignore everything else. Amazing how everyone looks out for each other.

My nutrition for the run:
30+ cups of water
8 cups of coke = to about one coke can
1 Ruffle potato chip
1 Gu – which took a mile to suck down

Going into this Ironman I felt like it was my last one and I soaked it all in. The training is long hard hours away from family and friends. It’s never about the day, it’s about the 8 months leading up to the day. 

The day, there is nothing like the day of. 

Support crews, yours and others. Athletes, teammates, pushing you on to have your best day while they fight their our battles. It’s a long long day and too many things happen to remember. I felt like I was fortunate to turn the day around after pretty much a full blown meltdown. 

At one point on the 2nd lap I sat down on a water cooler and had this conversation with myself after getting started again: Just four more miles. Four more miles and we’re done. We’re not an endurance athlete we just have to quit thinking we are. After these four we’ll never do this again….but I can run, no one else is running, I can run. I love this.

Would never have finished this one without my Girl.

I don’t know if I need to go back to Whistler for the Ironman again, but I also know I don’t have to say now or ever that I won’t ever again.  On Wednesday after the race Alley asked if it was too soon to start thinking about how I might have done if I’d had “my” day out there. I laughed and we talked about how just 15 minutes too long on the bike cooked the rest of the day. And “How next time” slipped into the conversation several times without either of us questioning it : ) 
Just because you knock a man down dosen't mean you got him beat - Ray L.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Getting your ass handed to you and other wonderful sights.

Orcas Island 25k, 4480ish ft of elevation in under 16 miles.

OK, sign me up.

A few months ago we signed up and I figured, sure, I won’t be in great shape, but it’ll be fun and we’ve never been to Orcas Island. So what the hell.

Training was ok but I was really feeling a left foot injury that I needed to take care sooner rather than later so my trail miles were down to maybe just 30% of my weekly mileage.  And my weekly mileage was way down to around 18 miles a week.  Also, there hasn’t been any serious hill trailing work in the last 3 months, ugh. Really only had a quick 14 mile loop  at Grand Ridge last weekend with Alley.

Before I get into the rest. What an amazing weekend. I still can’t get the 2nd downhill out of my mind. Good friends, sunny, otters, eagles, and a well-organized race.

Looking at the course profile the first real climb started at roughly 5.6 miles in.
Which meant no racing the early miles and keeping the running easy  and light. That held for the most part, but some of that part was so damn fun, you couldn’t help but go a little overboard. Everything felt great heading into the first aid station. I rushed by only grabbing a GU just in case. I was running with a Camelback on and had fluids, Bloks and Gu onboard. I really dislike stopping at aid stations. Always feel like they stop any momentum. 


Right after the AS the Power Line climb started. From the profile I was thinking it would be like Cleator Rd. on the Chuckanut course. Just find a rhythm, settle in and climb steadily. It was more like Chin Scaper 3x. Straight up, relentless, and unforgiving. I was moving as slow as I could without going backwards. Finally at the top it felt really good to run again.

The downhill – part one

Held steady with a group of 7 that I caught up with and fell in behind. I felt the pace was a little too easy, but also knew the next climb was in about 2.5 miles down the trail. I picked my places to past a few people still running easy, about 8:45 pace. We rounded an amazing outcropping of stone and saw that the trail fell away then zigzagged back to the right. NOW

Photo by  Glenn Tachiyama Photography, LLC
I gave one “on your left” and bolted to the front, my buddy Michael yelled out “Go get it” within about 10 second I was running alone and flying. Pace at 6:45, that I slowed to 7 because there was still a climb to come.

I love this part. I can climb all day if I know there’s a chance to fly from the top.  It’s like snowboarding. Everything goes quiet, the focus amplifies, and speed and momentum are used with what feels like unlimited effort. Through my head I say, avoid by jumping over, some of the most rock and root filled sections I never step foot down. I jump, launch, my quiet steady voice in my head screams, “Over”, calmly.

I hit the climb and was up the switchbacks 3 minutes before the group behind me hit the base of the climb.

You know that sinking feeling when you know the day is starting to turn. About 2/3’s the way up the switchbacks I felt ice cold, the last drink and Gu I took still sitting at the top of my throat. I knew I didn’t have the endurance for the whole climb so I was trying to go as slow as I could, but I was done when I got to the top. I ran across the summit  to the aid station and grabbed a drink and just kept walking.
My hip had frozen up from too much climbing and I couldn’t really run. Everything felt hard, and my feet were killing me. I hit the downhill and kept saying, “I’m taking these too pedestrian” pace was at 10. Ugh. But it was something.

The same thing happened at Chuckanut 30K last year, after some great running my hip froze up and keeping even 10 min. pace on the downs was painful. So I had a little pity party, then looked around and soaked it up. Then my right inner thigh pulled, which I was expecting. When you’re breaking with every step going down you flex your inner thighs more than you should and whammo. Ouchiness happens.

PB  Glenn Tachiyama Photography, LLC
SO that’s when I decided to just sit down. I made myself sit for 2 full minutes, calm down, breathe deeply, let a few people pass, then started a walk, then got back to an easy jog, then rounded a corner and the switch flipped and I was running back at pace on the downs again. ???

I kept hearing as I ran by people, “isn’t that the guy that was sitting back there?” Not sure what the deal is with that, but as long as it comes back??? I guess it’s just something I  just have to work with.  The course was amazing after that again. Hitting the lake for the last time, I wasn’t sure how close the finish was as I knew my Garmin was off by at least a half mile.

I was sort of chasing this woman out of a little zigzag field that ended at the base of this nasty little hill. She looked over her shoulder then back at the road with a look of “we doin this?” meaning are we going to race this in or not. My legs were dead, I cramped 3x had to sit down once to work that cramp out. I yelled out to her. “There’s no one behind us, not going to risk cramping again this late. Not gonna try and pass you.” She let out a loud “thank GAWD!” and we picked up an easy quick pace to finish it out. About 200 yards from the finish.

Otters playing in the lake
What a day, I sat down after crossing the line watching this dog play. She’d get excited then lose her balance and fall. Had something wrong with her, but as happy as could be. I felt much the same. I was dehydrated, freezing cold, and couldn’t really move, but I was happy.  I could wait to see Alley come across the line and hear how her day went. She’s a freaking rock star on the trails, and she eats up the downhill’s also. Fun fun!
Eagle fly by hiking on the beach

So yeah, I got my ass handed to me, but that was expected, that was OK. Always something to learn, always moving on, always pushing. Plus the next day we hiked with the pups and saw a romp of otters playing in the lake about 2 miles into one of the trails we ran on the day before.
How can you beat that? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rest, relax, mend, repeat.

I wrote this 4 weeks ago and forgot to post. Oops...

It’s looking like this years trail season has come to an abrupt end. Nothing broken or twisted just the rise of a few tell tell feelings that I hope to head off before they turn into something I can’t walk or run away from.

Inner thigh – hip  tear from the beginning of the year seems to have set sail again and a nagging left foot problem that has been squawking louder and louder with every other run. Instead of my usual proven plan of “ignor-tion” I thought rest, relax, and mend. And just to make sure I got sick and came down with an ear infection to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid, like sign up for a half at St. Eds or 20 miles at Cougar Mt : /

Recapping this last year

Amazing – this year has opened up SO MUCH in perspective and falling in love with running again. Not just miles on the legs, but miles in the woods, through valleys, up mountains, across ravines, and rivers. Across that field of having to, to wanting to. Excited from the thought of what’s beyond the next ridge or meadow. Laughing out loud on screaming switchback down hills. Run, leap, pivot/swing, full gas, jump tight, bank, back to run…breathe. I love the downs - Peregrine diving towards earth.

Looking back on the races this year…

Squak Mt, first time my back crumpled from climbing, not after the first 1300’ in 2 mile stretch, but on the 2nd 800 ft mile climb. And the 1st time I fell trail running. BOOM, then silence. Mostly I remember the screaming downhill, the fog at the top, and thinking I lost the lead group, only to find out after that I was only about 30 seconds behind. Brutal, but can’t wait to dance with it again next year.

Chuckanut 30K – the first time I trained through a race. I had 34 miles on the week before the start which included a hill repeat 2 days before of 1200’ over 8 miles. The beauty of that course, amazing, a playground. Brutal climbs that I focused on like hill repeats. 2 minutes on, 1 minute rest/hike/walk, that lasted for 43 minutes!!! I learned never shelf what you think you can do. Hips tightened up and couldn’t run downhill for about a mile, painful, then it opened back up and I flew for the last 4ish long miles down to the finish. I pushed it so hard, hunting as many as I could find. 14th overall I think, tough, fun day.

Taylor Mt – I have a love/hate with Taylor Mt. This year the course won, I was hurting like no other race. Dehydration set in and I was out on fumes crossing the line. 

Grand Ridge – I love this race, the half course has it all, steep climbs, steeper downs, rocks, streams, tight tight switch backs roller coasting turns through the trees. FUCK YEAH! By far my best race start to finish. Trust the game plan. Let everyone go at the start, run your own race over the climbs, then full gas engage everything on the twisting 4 mile downhill. Fight back out of there until the last downhill to the finish and everything gets burned to the ground. I crossed the line leaving EVERYDAMNTHING on the field. Good day.

Volcanic 50K, St.Helens, I just laugh thinking back on this one. The website clearly said, “This should not be your 1st Ultra”. I was ready, but what the hell was I thinking? Have to do again in 2015 : ) 

And fun is what it all was -  and really what it comes down to. That constant mantra all season of – Fu*k this is cool. Gawd look at that. Holy Sh*t, hang on, this is SO –MUCH-FUN! Killing yourself up Si, Tiger, Cut Throat, Sqawk, etc…but damn it was like playing. Like seeing a new 2 story jungle gym on the play ground.

Training runs with the Girlie. New playgrounds just an hour from the house. A new community that’s excited to see others just try. Personal limiters raised, pushed aside, then raised again.

All year I’d say to myself, “It’s hard, that’s why it’s hard.” Running up Mt. Si comes to mind, but what fun. Looking across to Alley after some beast of a training run and knowing, yeah… that was sweet. That kicked the shit out of us, but that was sweet! 

I’d like to thank Seven Hills Running for keeping an ear open for all the questions I had about my 1st Ultra and trail running in general. Also, his crew at the store that always keeps it real and down to earth, even if they’ve just raced and won some 50k or 50 miler that morning. Great work there Phil!

So for a few short weeks I’ll take it a bit easy, but 2014 and all the fun and excitement that that has in store will start to unfold all too soon. Today I even came home with another wall calendar for 2014 and a list that I’ve had with rough scribbles of dates and codes scrawled on it.  Better get started and get that thing loaded up, feel like I’m behind already ; )

See ya out there sometime…