UTMB Race Report

Its 4pm Friday evening and its go time!  Paulo and I make our way to the start line and contemplate where to cram in to the hoards of runners.  As we approach the church a race official motions us and proceeds to move one of the barriers to allow us in.  Then as we enter I am stopped short as the race official points at me and says “NOT YOU!”.   You see, Paulo had a low bib number that qualified him as an elite and making him eligible to move up to the very front of the start line.   Our plans to start and try to finish together were suddenly in jeopardy.   Paulo looked at me, then looked at the head of the line, hesitated for a second and looked at me again.   “Have a good race man!” he said with a smile as we hugged and said goodbye.  Not that I blame him I would have done the same thing if I had the opportunity to stand just meters from the likes of Anton Krupicka, Timmy Olson, and others!.  Plus he worked hard for that bib – having a great race at AR50 and Western States the last year.

 

Shortly after our goodbye I squeezed myself squarely in the middle of the pack of runners.  “So this it what sardines feel like” I think to myself.   Gray clouds loom above us.   The  UTMB theme plays loudly (Conquest of Parradise – Vangelis) as the French announcer speaks indecipherably but commandingly into the loudspeakers.   I hear bits of French and German from the other runners surrounding me representing over 70 countries.    As the countdown clock approaches five  minutes to the start, suddenly the clouds open up and fat, cold rain drops begin to fall creating the perfect landscape for one of the hardest ultras in the world.   Could it really get any better than this??  The runners around me quickly reach into their packs to grab their rain jackets.   Finally the countdown begins “CINQ!,  QUATRE!, TROIS!, DEUX!, UN!” and the crowd cheers loudly as 2300 runners and I begin are slow march through the streets of Chamonix towards Les Houches.

More to come! Check back soon!

Lost Sierra Race Recap

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a race report. The Lost Sierra 50km deserves some attention because of the challenge, support and great course that it provides. And, that it is in a section of the Sierras that are less traveled by trail runners. Several founding membIMG_4225ers toed the line (Kathy Hess, Ben Tedore, Carol Walker, Susan Reynolds, Javier Castellar, Paul Sweeney), though Javier was the only one proudly wearing his golden “Unafraid” jersey.

IMG_4822It was a chilly start. I was wearing a beanie and gloves till moments before the start. I shed the extra warmth and moments later we were off running down the highway. A mile and half of pavement (felt longer) and then we were in the woods. This gradual climb of about 10 miles varies between fire road and single track. It was all in really good shape and easily runnable. I ran the first 1/2 marathon with Ben Tedore and one other dude. We reached the top of Mill peak together which would be the end of the social part of the race. The fire road descent to Gold Lake was just to0 fast for me this day.

A few minutes behind I came into the aid station where Helen was waving the jersey for me to wear (because I asked), but I declined, just stopping for a small bit to eat and drink before heading into the super scenic and challenging portion of the race. I tried to keep my head up and enjoy the area. But the trail is so darn rocky that I was more concerned about falling.

Miles of up, down, around numerous lakes before we reached the Long Lake dam. A small aid station and the climb up Mt. Elwell began. The climb started by maneuvering over a large boulder strewn trail before it hitting dirt again where it just got steeper and steeper. The switchbacks and the top seemed to never come but when it did, the start of the decent was so technical that it seemed to be just as slow to go down as it was going up.

The toughest sections were behind us but there was still a 7-mile downhill to tackle. As we progressed down the temperature gradually got warmer. Wth 5 miles to go we got to the last aid station where the Castellar Crew was waiting. With a quick stop, some ice to cool off we departed for the final, seemingly never ending, last 5-mile stretch. The finish line was changed from the first year I did the race. This time we finish in a big open grassy park. We were greeted by an enormous amount of festivities, food and the biggest bounce house I’ve ever seen.

The small town of Graeagle really makes a great venue for ultrarunning. The small town and its vibe exemplifies so much of what ultra runners look for in racing. I’ll be back again for this race.

 

Tahoe 137.7 Mile Fun Run, Martis AS Shift & Ramblings About My Year in Running

I could write a short book about all of my thoughts and experiences from the Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run and the months leading up to the first ever single loop 200 mile race in the United States. However, I will just share a bullet list of highlights from the race, after some ramblings about the last year of running for me.10639654_291591154379317_7273935876725203020_n

The funny thing is that I never really considered myself a runner until I completed The Bear 100 in the fall of 2012. Sure, I had run the Lake Tahoe Marathon a couple of times back around the turn of the millennium and completed the Silverman Full(Iron) Distance Triathlon in 2009 and 2010 just to check them off my list, but running was still only something to distract me in between climbing, skiing and biking. I always felt like running was really hard and didn’t actually enjoy it as much as one would think for how many miles I had run in my life. It always made me uncomfortable when people called me a runner and I certainly did not have running at the forefront of my mind like I do these days.

 

Oh yea, did I mention I was actually a running model before becoming a real runner?

Oh yea, did I mention I was actually a running model before becoming a real runner?

Shortly after completing The Bear, having let my mind and body heal from those nearly 26 hours of being on the move, I decided that I should probably start calling myself a runner. I also was tired of the dumb-founded looks people would give me when I would tell them that I am not really much of a runner, probably managing to offend a few runners in the process.

Not only did I become comfortable saying “I am a runner”, but I had become hooked on running and signed up for several races in 2013. After going into a few races over trained and suffering more than need be at the end of them of all of them, I made a very conscious decision about running in my life. I decided that every day I hit the trails for now on, whether for a race or just to get out in the woods, I would make sure that I was always having fun. If I was not having fun or feelin’ the trail love out there, then I would call it a day or turn my run into a hike or a peak bagging mission.

My new attitude about running seemed to have worked well as I went into my last race of 2013, Founding Member Sean Ranney’s infamous Euchure Bar Massacre, feeling rested and ready for some fun. This was a race I was excited for and scared of at the same time, because as near as I could tell from the vague info Sean provided on the FB event page, he was going to have us going straight up and down the trail less and cliff strewn mountainsides of the American River Canyons, provide us with no course markings and a couple of pages of written directions on how to navigate your way through the course. As the day and the course unfolded, I managed to survive the massacre better than most (less than 10 people managed to even complete the course)and made it out of the canyon depths and to the finish before everyone else.

Winning a race for the first time since middle school sure made running seem a lot more fun and fueled the competitive fire in me. Then along comes the Tahoe 200, a race and a distance that suited my strengths on a course that runs right through my backyard trails.

This is something I felt I could be competitive in!

So I started training like a mad man. I also volunteered to organize an aid station in exchange for  guaranteed entry into this sought after event that went to lottery in its first year because so many people were interested in giving it a go. For those who have not heard the story yet, the AS became the catalyst for the Donner Party Mountain Runners.

I now was part of a running club to train and motivate with, made lots of new running friends and had an incredible race around our beloved Lake Tahoe to look forward to. Running was becoming more fun by the minute!

Enter the 2014 race year. My first race,  The Me-Ow Marathons, went great. I was pleased with my results and despite getting lost several times on this unmarked, and often trail less course, I had more fun than I had ever had in a race. 1 for 1 on the year so far.

Injured... but still having fun as I hobble into Foresthill and my dropping point at States.

Injured… but still having fun as I hobble into Foresthill and my dropping point at States.

Next up, the iconic Western States 100 Endurance Run. Ideally, I would not have gotten picked in this year’s lottery because I already had a lot on my plate for the season, but who in their right mind turns down their ticket to States?!? I felt rested, confident and like a caged animal going into States, but my body rebelled only 34 miles into the race, and I ran/hobbled another 28 miles before dropping and barely being able to walk by that point. Sure it was disappointing, but I managed to keep things fun and enjoyed the full experience(minus the finish and the coveted buckle), sleeping on the track with everyone else and attending the awards ceremony. Helen told me I was the only person that stood when they asked all those who DNF’d to stand for an ovation. DNF’ing and the resulting injury were something that never crossed my mind before starting the race. 1 for 2 on the year now, with my first DNF.

2014-08-08 15.46.33After States, I was having difficulty walking and working, and running was not even a possibility for the next almost 2 months. That was definitely not giving me any confidence of being ready for the rapidly approaching T200. 6 weeks after WS100, I finally felt just slightly confident enough in my injured leg to not cancel the 2 week backpacking trip I had planned in the High Sierra with my wife, Liz. The backpacking was awesome and I felt like I was not doing anymore damaged to my injured leg, but I still could not fathom running yet. After 2 days rest from our backpacking trip, my leg was still talking to me and it really started to sink in that I might not be able to start the T200, that was now less than 4 weeks away.  I mentioned to Liz how I was feeling and we decided I would continue resting and wait at least a few more days before making the call.

Two more days of rest and with a little too much time on my hands to kill before my next physical therapy appointment , I decided to spend that extra 30 minutes that I now had, by taking a walk in the woods. As usual, I tried running a few steps, but for the first time in almost 2 months, my leg felt OK. I ended up going about one and a half miles that afternoon, running probably 1/4 mile of that distance. Not bad.

I then went to my appointment with Physical Therapist and Founding Member, Kristan Walstad, and got the yellow light from her to start testing things out.

The next morning before work, I put in 3.5 miles on the trail and ran about half of it. Still no pain! My thinking changed and I began considering starting the T200. Later that morning, Sylas Wright from the Sierra Sun, gave me a call and put me on the spot as he is was about to write his pre-race article on the Tahoe 200 and is always good about featuring our local runners. Without really thinking, I told him that I decided I was going to toe the line and see what happened.

I felt mildly confident that I could at least, maybe go out and hike the 200 miles, but would drop from the race in a heartbeat if I felt anything even remotely close to an injury going on with my body.

Tahoe 200 Race highlights:

~ I ran more in those 49 hours than I had in 2 months! I did not suffer at all while out there in comparison to the MANY sufferings I have put myself through in life. Only 2 tiny blisters that did not show up until the end of my race at Tunnel Creek AS. The flare up in my foot/ankle that took me out of the race did not start talking to me until the top of Tunnel Creek Rd and did not cause me any pain until a few minutes after I stopped at the AS. It did not become an injury because I stopped as soon as it told me to!

~ I was 45th out of 90 at the first AS 10.5 miles into the run. Just where I wanted to be and running my own race. I had some good conversations en route and was really soaking it all in, including a few minute stop at a rock outcropping overlooking the Lake about half way up Homewood.

~ Spent some quality miles with Founding Member, Jon Arlien, out on the Rubicon/McKinney Trail and the most remote part of the course.

~ The first real break took place on a comfy and large log on the Rubicon with UltraPedestrian Ras, Willie McBride, Jon Arlien and another guy. No hurries and no worries.

~ Great time with Rob French, Mark Cangemi and Kent Dozier making our way to Sierra at Tahoe from Wright’s Lake. We decided to stay together through a large portion of this stretch for safety reasons, as it was so remote and Rob and I had gotten off course for about a mile at one point. Mark, Willie and I would continue to leapfrog each other all the way to Tunnel Creek AS where I dropped from the race.

~ Picking up my good buddy, Mike Ehrlich, at Sierra at Tahoe and having him pace me to Big Meadow. The stretch from Showers Lake to Big Meadow was my strongest in the race and I really enjoyed those miles with Mike. It had been a lot of years since we had spent that much quality time together.

~ 20 minute nap in the sand on the side of the trail during the heat of the day as I ascended out of Big Meadow and suddenly couldn’t keep my eyes open. I just hoped that no one would come along and disturb my rest and no one did. Felt great again after that.

~ Chillin’ at Armstrong AS with my friend, Tattie Baily (who was volunteering there on top of all the course marking and cleaning she did), Willie’s crew and my pacer/crew extraordinaire Mike.

~ Skinny dipping in Star Lake, moments before the sun went away for the day and while still warm enough to go for it.

~ Text from Founding Member , Jeff Brown, as I was dropping down into the Heavenly AS seeing if I wanted him to pace me at all since his runner, the current TRT Unsupported record holder JB Benna, had unfortunately dropped early in the race. “Hell yes, how about picking me up at Spooner?! I should be there around dawn”

~ 3 hour nap and half of a cold, yet gourmet, burger that I got to enjoy in bed before dozing off. Damn, that thing hit the spot.

~ Heavenly to Spooner section. Mike was back on pacing duty and I felt rested and strong. Fun miles with some solid running in between the fast walking.

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Getting ready to depart Heavenly with Mike Erlich after my gourmet burger and 3 hour nap, Photo Credit: Jerry Gamez

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Just grin and bear it! With Jeff Brown at Tunnel Creek AS having completed my 137.7 Mile Tahoe Fun Run.

~ Spooner to Tunnel Creek with my new pacer, Jeff. I have known Jeff and his wife for many years, but never had the chance to spend this much quality time with him. Good conversation sure makes the miles go by faster.

~ Hugging it out with Willie in the middle of the descent to Twin Lakes on the TRT just before Tunnel Creek Rd as he and his pacer, Yassine Doubin, passed Jeff and I on the long  and gradual downhill. Willie is a good friend of Mike Erhlich’s, and someone that Mike told me I should look out for and hopefully meet while running the Bear 100. Willie happened to be the first person that I spent miles with at the Bear and after chatting for a few, we finally introduced ourselves and were psyched that at the small world moment of our meeting. Willie is also a climber, so we got to talk climbing while running 100 miles. Good times.

~ Gearing up mentally for what it would take to finish the race since everything was going so well up until the top of Tunnel Creek. My pacers and I both thought I had it in the bag as we ran from Heavenly to Tunnel Creek. That part was really fun and satisfying for me since it had been so long since I could really run.

~ My awesome wife and our good friend, Marianne Klemm, showing up at Tunnel Creek AS shortly after I arrived. I realized only about 15 minutes after being their that my foot/ankle had flared up on me and was likely going to force me to drop, so it was great to have them there for comfort and a ride. Surprisingly, Liz was not letting me pull the plug as easily as I would have liked, but she knew how important this race was to me and wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision for ME. Jeff was the perfect pacer to have at this point and put no pressure on me to continue as he understood what I had just been through with my injury at States. He understood that I was not going to let anyone talk me into continuing if I thought an injury might to occurring. I was in a fair amount of pain while at the AS, until the ibuprofen really kicked in. My foot/ankle was super sore to the touch and swelled to softball size. I really appreciated the Reiki work Marianne performed on me while there.

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Good times! Photo Credit: Jerry Gamez

~ Putting in an approx. 24 hour shift at the Donner Party Mountain Runners’ Martis AS. That was an amazing and humbling experience on so many levels. I am so appreciative and proud of everyone that helped out up there and wound up working way longer hours than they expected. We were much busier up there than anyone could have ever imagined. Not one single person involved with the race could have ever guessed that 67% of the racers would have made it the 152 miles to our AS, let alone the 202 miles to the finish. Everyone I talked to, including myself, guessed about a 30-40% finishing rate. We had 62 runners with their pacers and crews come through. It was all handled smashingly well by the DPMR, with many “Best AS yet!” comments from runners and crews. However, we all learned a lot about what it really takes to run an aid/sleep station that is 152 miles into a 200 mile race and open for 45 hours.

~ Showing up to the finish line in Homewood with Liz, 2 minutes before the 100 hour cutoff, and witnessing Koishi do a head first “Pete Rose” slide across the finish with 4 seconds to spare!!!!!!!!

~ I am going into the end of the running season injury free! I have never injured myself like  I did at States and will not be letting something like that again

~ THE DONNER PARTY MOUNTAIN RUNNERS!!!

The Blue Bunny gets it!

The Blue Bunny gets it!

Next Year? There is a good chance that I will attempt the T200 again next year. I have my own entry for helping out with the race beyond  just our AS and the DPMR will still get a free entry for running our AS. I WILL NOT run, though, if my body is telling me “No”. So we’ll just have to see how she goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DPMR Aid Station at Tahoe 200

IMG959738Warning! Humble Bragging Content Below

I’m not exactly sure what it takes to run 200 miles (ultrarunners are sooo crazy), but I have a pretty good idea now of what it takes to handle a 48-hour aid station during a 100-hour race.

It takes a solid group of enthusiastic, untiring, caring ultravolunteers and a kick-ass Aid Station Captain. The Donner Party Mountain Runners 152 (ish) mile aid station had all of these, led to success by our fearless leader, JP Prince.

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JP and Joel, all business.

We were fortunate to have Mike Tebbutt have the advanced vision and organization of the aid station in the months prior to the event, which was conveniently held the week after Mike returned from Burning Man.

Tahopia, his camp at Burning Man, came straight from the playa and was converted to what we were later told (multiple times by runners, pacers and crew members) was “the best aid station yet”.

The Wednesday prior to the event, Mike,Liz,  JP, Kathy D, Pete,Erin, Siri and Joel set up all of our structures.

Stephanie, Mark and Kale spent the day on Saturday at a west shore beach and then stopped by Homewood to pick up all of the AS food from the organizers and drove it up to join the rest of the opening crew for the final setup and the long day(s) ahead. This included putting the rest of the playa dust covered tarp walls on the sleep station, making creative and fun signs for the racers as they neared and entered our AS and arranging the station in a way to create a good flow and get runners through efficiently.

Covered in Playa Dust, our opening crew had everything set up and ready for runners by 6:00pm on Saturday night. For fun, we put together a little pool to bet on various items like:

1. Time the first runner will pass through (we were all WAY off)

2. Number of drops at our aid station (we were all off – it was ZERO!)

3. Number of runners to reach our aid station (we all under-estimated this one by a lot)

4. Number of runners to cry at our aid station (none- we were all wrong)

5. Number of runners who would arrive a) happy or b) angry (we were off- more were happy than angry)

6. Number of runners who say this is the “Best Aid Station” (almost everyone did!- and a lot of them without our pointedly asking the question) :)

We had a little meeting to go over the aid station instructions, runner tracking, protocol etc. JP said we should do a trial run to prepare for the first runner. His line of questions:

“What’s your bib number? Ok. Do you want to drop?”

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Mark setting up camp

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Mark and Stephanie

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Kael Blume and Siri Broomhall helping with signage (artwork courtesy Stephanie Blume)

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Stephanie with one of her killer signs

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so we later changed the word “facts” to “science” and added a couple “ish”es as we were learning that our numbers were not quite correct.

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Mark. Unafraid of playa dust.

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ready, set , wait….

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Diana, Sam, Mark, Stephanie, Jenelle and JP (not pictured)

Diana, Sam, Joel, Stephanie, Jenelle and JP and Mark (not pictured) the first night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The waiting game began, and around 12:30 a.m. we decided that the 1st place runner was at least 4 hours away, so we shut down the generator and took a 4 hour nap.

After a restful few hours, we were all up, lights, music, bicycle horn  ready as the first runner, John Burton, came into the station at 5:03 a.m. (11 hours after we had arrived at the aid station).

He took a one-hour nap, refueled, and was on his way at 6:50 a.m.

Shortly after he left, crews began arriving for runners. Our kids on hand made friends with Jackson, from Australia, who was waiting for his dad Ewan.  We decided to go for a little hike to watch for his dad, expecting to see him in about 1 hour. He surprised us by showing up within 5 minutes, and the kids helped run him in to the aid station.

He was pretty stoked when I told him he was less than 2 hours behind the leader. He left the aid station running in a matter of minutes, and gave Jackson a high five on the way out.

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Race winner Ewan Horsburgh is second runner in to our station as his kids Jackson and Avian, along with Siri Broomhall, pace him for the final bit in. With the good news  that he is closing the gap on the leader, the race is on!

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Ewan getting some love from his son Jackson

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welcome sign by Avian

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hoping to clear up any confusion at the hwy 267 crossing

We were expecting more runners, but no one was coming. I took off down the trail to see if I could see anyone, and found a few runners, who were distraught that the aid station was further along than they expected (which would become a recurring theme). So, we increased our signage and did our best to let everyone know they were getting close.

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Runner Kerry Ward with the Blue Bunny. Kerry just got back from Burning Man also so he felt right at home with us!

As the day went on, business picked up at an increasing rate.

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JP leading Gia, first female, into the aid station

Our first female came through, noting that she had dropped her pacer. She left after a couple hours rest, pacer free, and ready to win.

Pete Broomhall went from working the AS to pacing the second place female finisher, who was in a little rough shape upon her arrival, to Tahoe City. Pete loves that kind of work! He then hitched a ride from TC back up to the AS  to continue his shift.

At one point, we had a runner from Australia, who was solo without pacer or crew. Looking a little scared and super stoked to have “people to talk to”, until JP asked him, clipboard in hand, if he could show him his visa. After a panicked look he relaxed and laughed with us.

Mike Tebbutt joined the party after completing over 137 miles of the course in 49 hours. He was shut down due to an ankle injury, but his spirits were not hurt and he was excited to help and provide support for the other runners.

Shortly after Mike arrived, his pacer from Spooner to Tunnel Creek, Jeff Brown, stopped by to see if we needed anything. He made a grocery run for us, since more runners than anybody ever anticipated were making it this far in the race. We had more than 60 racers, along with pacers and their crews, come through the Martis AS. This is about 70% of the starters!

By the time I left for the night, the aid station was filled with crews, spectators, pacers, volunteers, and a steady stream of runners.

JP, Sam, Julia, Lucas and Mike worked tirelessly throughout the night and next day, on little or no sleep.

SuperCaptain JP made it on less than 3 hours of sleep (Saturday night), working the longest stretch, nearly 45 hours straight!!!

Responding to a post on FB, DPMR member Julia and her boyfriend worked the night and morning shift. Everyone was grateful for Julia’s expert blister treatments. Lucas also stepped up to pace Ingrid from Brockway to Tahoe City and played a crucial role in getting her to the finish as she chased the cutoffs!

Just to add to the bizarre atmosphere that racers were experiencing in their sleep deprived and hallucinatory state on Sunday night, they ran through a full blown and quite real “Full Moon Rave” out in the woods near Martis Peak and about 5 miles before reaching our AS. Most runners knew that it was too good to be true that they were already arriving to the Martis AS, and the bright laser show in the distance and the ground shaking beats heard from 1/4 mile away made them wonder just what kind of AS was coming up. Though disappointed that they still had further to go to find us, they were elated to finally find a use for their glow sticks that were a part of the mandatory gear.

On Monday, Helen, Joel, Dana and Stephanie came up and assisted with the final runners and “cleaning the shit out of everything” as JP put it.

It was an inspiring and exciting weekend and we can’t wait for the next T200!

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Aid Station crew Sunday afternoon with a few pacers/crew/other volunteers

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Mike Tebbutt, who had to drop after 137 miles due to an ankle problem. Not slowed down by 49 or so hours on his feet, Mike worked throughout the evening into the next afternoon.

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One of Sam’s famous tacos, prepared for the RD herself.

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Hey NICE SHIRT

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Ruby taking requests from her superstar pacer mom

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Liz ready to sprinkle unicorn fairy dust on the runners

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Joel and Pete with their new BFF

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Julia tending to a runner’s trashed feet. He later finished the race with 4 seconds to spare, in 99 hours, 59 minutes, and 56 seconds.

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Koishi, who finished the 200 mile journey with only 4 seconds to spare, spoke almost no English. He did however, very clearly communicate 2 things as he entered the AS, “number 1-4-6″ and “beer”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 and a half beers and over an hour later, Koishi leaves the DPMR station only because it is 1 minute until the cutoff.

 

Speedgoat 50k Race Report

After the race, Sarah and I went back to our hotel room where I opened my laptop and re-read my Canyons 50km race report and had to laugh. I felt I had run a pretty good race in Foresthill and I wrote of “running with gratitude and smiling”. Speedgoat was a completely different beast, almost a different sport, and involved a whole lot of swearing, snarling and teeth grinding.

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Speedgoat elevation profile (without the new finish climb)

Once at the start area I tried to position myself sixty or so runners back as I had decided earlier that seemed like a reasonable place to start. Karl sent us off and we immediately began our first climb of the day.  It was close quarters for a while until the field sorted itself out over an hour later. Some of the running here was off trail, but nothing too rowdy yet.  We emerged out of a meadow and onto the rocky switchbacks leading up to Hidden 1 AS.  Sarah met me and got me in and out quickly.

The grind up to Hidden One

The grind up to Hidden One

The descent to Larry’s Hole is where the sun emerged and the wildflower extravaganza began.  Flowers I recognized like penstemon, indian paintbrush and phlox but then lots of other stuff I’d never seen before. I was quick through Larry’s Hole AS and after a short climb, began the descent to Pacific Mine.  I found myself at the top of what looked like a steep, boulder choked dry creek bed but was actually an ATV trail and part of the course. Mary Ellen Gulch…my worst nightmare. (I had popped my ankle at the end of training run three weeks earlier.  I had stayed off of it, cross trained a bunch, acupuncture, massage, etc. but hadn’t made the final decision to race until the Sunday before the race.)  My ankle was feeling great at this point, but what I saw in front of me made me feel like a hemophiliac in a razor blade factory.  The trail got progressively less techy and I was able to rejoin the pack and start picking a few people off. I moved into Pacific Mine AS quickly got water and bailed.  There were lots of racers milling around here and I gained quite a few places.

The climb out of Pacific Mine back to Larry’s Hole is largely in the aspens which afforded a fair amount of shade.  It was still hot, though, and a small group of us worked up the multitrack. Around this time I developed a blister.  At first I thought it was a rock in my shoe so stopped and emptied.  I stopped again shortly after because I thought the culprit was in my sock.  I swore as I put my shoe back on and at that moment a woman piped up, as she ran by, “Hey…I’ve got some second skin.  Jog along with me.”  Score! Stopped a third time to apply.  My new best friend and I rolled into Larry’s Hole together.  I refilled, ate a few oranges, grabbed a handful of potato chips, put some ice in my headband and I was out.

As I would soon learn, this is where the course gets serious. This climb up to Mt. Baldy was the second to last climb of the day and it was a bonafide chinscraper. Mostly off trail, I worked up the mountain like I would boot up a snowy couloir, occasionally throwing in some French step to give my calves a break. The slope was south facing, I was cooking at this point, and there wasn’t a whisper of wind to be had. I saw several people in front of me take a step up, struggle, wobble, list over and catch themselves. This section of the course was also choked with the brightest wildflowers imaginable. The beauty/pain dichotomy was too much to wrap my brain around. All I could do was laugh out loud to myself.

After I crested the ridge I turned north and began the descent to Tunnel Aid Station. I entered the tunnel, which spat me out on the other side of the mountain, and I began my descent down to the Ridge Trail. Once at the bottom the course worked its way up the Ridge Trail to Hidden Peak 2.  This is where the real high quality swearing, snorting and teeth grinding went down. Karl had been sending us through stupid terrain, aggressively, all day, and it was beginning to grind me down.

But wait …more lactic acid and wildflower fireworks. One guy hung on to a pine off trail and wondered aloud why he kept puking and couldn’t keep anything down. More carnage littered the ridge as My Second Skin Hero and I slogged towards the tram station at Hidden Peak. I pushed up the last section of Hidden Peak to the applause and cheering of an almost European sized crowd.  I was in and out of Hidden 2 quickly and began the final descent.

For the time being, my quads wanted to cooperate on the downhill and I quickly picked off a few runners in the first few minutes out of Hidden.  I was in the groove, down climbing a loose ravine when I heard heavy, almost panicked breathing above me.  I looked up and saw a woman who I had seen earlier in the race.  She had an expression that is best described as desperate and crazed. “Oh hey!” I said, expecting either a wounded howl or a string of expletives as a reply. Nothing. Just the sound of loose rock tumbling down the ravine as she took the fall line.  We were soon running together and began talking about the new finish and the additional 100m of climbing.

On cue we left the trail and were routed into more subalpine mixed terrain. More steepness, off trail and totally demoralizing.  We had been hammering on fast multitrack for good while and now we had to deal with this crap?! We slogged onward and eventually thought we might be lost and running the beginning of the section of the course, not the new finish.  Line of sight on the final few miles was short and we hadn’t seen anyone at all in at least fifteen minutes. Soon enough we had convinced ourselves that we were lost.  Oddly there was no discussion of backtracking. We struggled through this last hateful bit of the course and got spat out onto some multitrack where I soon saw a photographer. Saved! I’m not gonna DNF after all.  The base area was in sight at this point so I unloaded, separated from Animal Girl and picked off a few more runners to cross the finish line in 8:08:20 and 82nd place.

SG finish

TRT50 – 1st 50 Miler Race Report

The day started not too hot, not too cold but my nerves were on OVERLOAD. I had self-doubt of the splits that I sent to my crew. Was I over-estimating my training? Was I being overly confident of how the day would go? I stood next to people with course records and friends of mine that I know are just going to kill it. I was feeling very much the novice. At 6am. we were off and I kept my pace conservative because I knew it was going to be a long day. At my first pass through Tunnel Creek A/S, I was met by my crew, including boyfriend Judd, and their homemade signs of encouragement in true marathon form. I was up until now, just a marathoner. My nerves and stomach still had not calmed down yet and was wondering if this feeling was going to go on all day. After picking up full water bottles, I headed out of TC on pace.

The morning started to get warm on the Red House Loop and my focus steered away from nerves and was more on just how hot would it get out there. The climb back to the aid station was really hot and exposed but I ran into fellow DPMR, JP. Asking each other how we were doing, there was talk of regret, guns and bullets, and other synonymous tortures we felt like we were going through. That all changed when JP reminded me what was up ahead… “I see your #1 fan is out here this morning…”. It made me laugh and I knew my crew was just a short ways ahead. That got me running again up the second pass through Tunnel Creek. I was now feeling so much better and was happy to get some ice in the water bottles and in a kerchief around my neck. Off I went, on pace, for the stretch of 13 miles before I would see my crew again. It was mostly downhill on the last 7 miles and downhill is not my forte. It was hot, my hamstring started to get tight and all kinds of people were starting to pass me, including Gordy Ainsleigh.

I arrived at mile 30, about 20 or so minutes behind schedule feeling hot and defeated. My crew was ready with sponges and ice plus an awesome guy with a hose was right there before we headed back out. I was so thankful for that aid station. I cooled down and was a new women! There I picked up my pacer, and quoted “#1 fan”, and we headed up the heinous Diamond Peak. It is considered the toughest part of the race and it was getting to be the hottest part of the day but we killed it. I had trained on that hill quite a bit and knew exactly what I had to do to get it done. Leaving myself an hour to get up to the top, I was able to gain some lost time by summiting in less time than I predicted. We passed a few people up that climb, even taking a few seconds to look back at the view of the lake. At the top, we ran into husband and wife DPMR couple, Laura and Kynan, who were running their first 100miler. The aid station there had no ice and was totally exposed to the sun and heat of day. I felt so bad for those volunteers, they likely didn’t sign up for such a brutal job but they helped us out with smiles and encouragement anyway.

So, it was now Judd and I running the last 20 miles back through to the Tunnel Creek aid station for the third time. I was hitting distances I had never ran before but felt surprisingly good. I made my last stop at Tunnel Creek quick to keep the momentum going. I was surprised at how much running I was still managing to do. I thought I would have been walking the rest of the way but we were doing alright. Then came the last climb of the race up Snow Valley Peak. I underestimated the amount of climbing involved in this section. The weather and my mood started to cloud over. The thunder was rattling our teeth and we were headed up an exposed peak…hello lightening!

We could see the storm coming towards us with a curtain of what I thought was rain. As we climbed up towards the summit, my breathing became labored and my legs were starting to feel the accumulated mileage. Here, I was reminded that even though I spend a good amount of time in Truckee, I am a flatlander.

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The amazing wildflowers on that peak gave me something else to focus on and we eventually peaked the last climb and were running downhill off the mountain before the lightening. I was off my time by about 30 mins and knew that a sub-12hour finish may not happen at this point. My pacer reminded me that the lightening was going to chase us down and we better get a move on. The thunder started getting super loud and I saw it as my dad’s way of telling me “Andiamo! Andiamo!”, translates to “come on, let’s go” in Italian. He was a long distance runner and passed away few years back before I became a runner.

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The storm moved directly on top of us just as we headed back into the trees. The course was all downhill from here but that was of no comfort to me. Downhill, again, is not my thing. Then the rain started to come down harder and my most awesome pacer asked if I thought we should put on jackets. I was not functioning at 100% and left it up to him. And he made a good call! Though the storm was rejuvenating at first, we were later getting pelted with hail. I saw the hail bouncing off the ground but I did not feel it too much because of I was dressed properly. I was thankful to have had a crew who made sure we thought of all the possibilities. I was also feeling grateful that I was blessed with the ability to run such distances no matter how fast or slow.

DSCN0382Then, my mind went back to the task at hand and the last aid station was all I cared about. Spooner Lake A/S was only 1.7mi from the finish and I just wanted to be passed it. Around every bend, I was anticipating to see the tent, not that I needed it, I just wanted to be past it and on my way to the finish. It seemed like many grumpy miles before we finally hit it. A little boy from the aid station called out to us, “Do you need any of our stuff?” He was so cute that I wanted to stop and grab something but Judd had said a short time before that we had about 22 mins to get under 12 hours. I was not able to run all the way in at this point. As Judd tried to encourage me to keep running, I kept walking, then I would start running again and change to walking. I was almost home and the pain was at it’s peak. I knew if I didn’t push, I’d have to settle for a time over 12hrs and then I’d have to run another 50 miler to reach my goal. Not having looked at my watch since we put on jackets, I really didn’t know the exact mileage or time at this point.

After whining and whimpering and fumbling through single track with puddles of various depths, we made it to the last turn. Judd told me that he knew how much it hurt but I had to give it hell to get my time. I could hear my friends in the distance cheering and yelling and I did all I could to finish in 11:58:22. I was so happy to have made it through unscathed and to have felt the love from my crew who braved the hail storms waiting for me to finish.

Finish

Daniela and Judd at the finish

Runners Take on TRT Endurance Runs

The Donner Party Mountain Runners had a strong showing at last week’s epic edition of the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs! With 23 founding members toeing the line in all three distances (50K, 50M, and 100M), we had a lot to cheer for all weekend.

(Photo by Jenelle Potvin)

(Photo by Jenelle Potvin)

The 100 mile runners endured multiple lightning storms, which included hail and flash flooding on the course. Leading the way for us was Chaz Sheya, finishing 11th overall. This was Chaz’s 3rd TRT 100, and with a time of 22:35:31, he nailed it this year, earning that coveted sub-24 buckle. In the under-30-hours club, we had two Truckee runners going for their first 100 mile finishes: Jeff Brown (28:12:09) and board secretary Helen Pelster (29:10:34). I made Jeff’s acquaintance at mile 67 where he was looking strong. Helen was smiles all night when I saw her pass several times through the Tunnel Creek Aid Station, paced by her husband Javier and board member Betsy Nye. Speaking of husband and wife, Kynan and Laura Matz made a great team out there! They’ve been posting solid race times all season, and their hard work paid off this weekend when they crossed the line together in 30:52:48 to earn their first 100 mile buckles. (Laura also earned herself the worst case of 100-mile cankles I’ve ever seen. I hope they’re gone by now, Laura!) And yet another first-time 100 miler was Paul Berquam who made his debut in 32:26:31. I’m so proud of how many first-time 100 mile runners we had out there! And no less awesome were those of you who gave it your best, but it just wasn’t your day. Carrie Hyatt, going for her 3rd TRT 100 finish,  had to drop early due to some mysterious but severe quad pain. Cheryl Lloyd gave it her all in a strong attempt at a first 100, but was timed out at mile 80.

Team Matz! (Photo courtesy Laura Matz)

Team Matz! (Photo by Alvin Lubrino)

 

In the 50 mile event, board member Jenelle Potvin crossed the line in 9:41:28 finishing 3rd female in a race with strong competition. Rumor has it Jenelle blazed the last 7 miles from Snow Valley Peak in a 7:47 pace! Abe Haen of Truckee finished his first 50 miler, finishing in 10:55:26. Also out of Truckee and new to the 50M distance, Nicholas Martin struggled through some queasy low points to bounce back for a strong finish in 11:21:09. Given his enthusiasm for the race, the volunteers, and the camaraderie among DPMRs, I have a feeling Nicholas will be back to TRT in the future! Joel Tebbut overcame a lack of training due to injury to cross the line in 11:43:12 for his first 50 mile finish. Daniela Porri snuck into the top ten in the women’s race with a time of 11:58:22. It was also Daniela’s first 50 mile finish. Joe Sellner, who downgraded from the 100, crossed the line in 13:02:29. Before the race I invited him to join me up at Tunnel Creek to help out on the night shift, but he declared his firm intent to be intoxicated by about 7:30 PM. Given that he crossed the line at 7:02, I’d say that was an impressive goal. (How’d it go, Joe?) Jennifer Hemmen, coming off a strong finish in her first 100 at Bryce, enjoyed her day, finishing in 13:43:26. And our president, Peter Fain, really went for it but had to call it a day at mile 40 due to severe dehydration.

Nicholas Martin climbs Diamond Peak.

Nicholas Martin climbs Diamond Peak.

Nicholas and Joel Tebbutt at the top of the climb.

Nicholas and Joel Tebbutt at the top of the climb.

 

Jenelle Potvin looking strong at Diamond Peak. (Photo by Bruce Aldrich)

Jenelle Potvin looking strong at Diamond Peak. (Photo by Bruce Aldrich)

Crossing the line first overall in the 50K division was new member Donald Montgomery with a time of 5:08:36. Congrats, Donald! Right behind him was Reno’s Ben Tedore, finishing second in 5:12:09. I managed to take first female honors after downgrading from the 50M due to injury and lack of training. I finished happy in 6:31:41. I was also lucky enough to share some trail miles with JP Prince who kept me entertained and finished with a time of 8:00:8. JP and I shared some post-race food and drink with Sharon Fong, who finished in 9:09:35.

After my race, I spent some time on the night shift at Tunnel Creek AS where I witnessed the endurance and heart of all those 100 mile runners. I especially enjoyed spotting all the DPMR gold shirts, and meeting some club members for the first time. TRT is always an excellent event, but seeing so many familiar faces and sharing the trail makes it even sweeter. I’m guessing next year, there will be even more of us hitting the trail together there!

(Photo by Jenelle Potvin)

(Photo by Jenelle Potvin)

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Race Report

This was my 3rd TRT100 in 3 years and my goal was to finish sub 24 hrs and get that gold coin in the middle of the buckle.  My training had finally come together; I felt confident.  I logged 1300 miles and 220K feet of climbing (440k total change). The last 3 weeks focused on heat training while tapering with proper nutrition and recovery.  I had the feeling that this was going to be my day, I was excited, peaceful and happy leading up to it. My plan was to start conservative early and finish strong. The National Anthem plays and We are off at 5am.

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One minute until go time

 

I got to Tunnel Creek mile 17 at 8:40am, 3hr40min (10 min behind goal). The dreaded red house loop was better this year, I chatted with Bradley and next thing you know, Peter Fain (50mile started at 6am),slaps me on the back as he flies by, “feeling strong” he says, “flying” I say, and I decide to press the effort just a little. Wearing the gold Donner Party Mountain Runners shirt was a good choice! All through the day and night I heard, “go Donner Party” “nice shirt” “way to go DPMR”. Each time, I got a nice energy boost! So many DPMR members were on course and had amazing days.

The dreaded Red House Loop... not so bad!

The dreaded Red House Loop… not so bad!

I was moving faster,  I reached the 30 mile Diamond Peak aid at 10:51am, 5hr41min, (9 minutes faster than my goal) but at a very relaxed effort. At mile 20 or so, I had felt hot, my usual tight back and hip flared up, and hamstrings were cramping. Crap, not again, “hydrate and salt dummy”, so I did and by the time I left the aid station I was back. Thanks to Betsy Boopstinator Nye for hooking me up with 1 aleve and 2 tylenol and crewing for me. More inspiration, she just finished her 13th Hardrock and was here to crew all day and Pace Helen Pelster for 30 miles. Her energy and encouragement were just the ticket, “go get out of here, you look great”.

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sun shining on Marlette Lake

The infamous climb up Diamond Peak(2mi and 1700ft) was over in 35 minutes and I passed 3 people, however that was not my goal. I was running my race today, not worried about passing or getting passed. “Find the speed that you can run as fast as possible”, but also where you can finish 100 miles running strong not hobbling. Listen to your body, stay cool, what do you need at the next aid, no more than 2 minutes, in and out, keep moving, be happy and thank the volunteers.  Those thoughts were repeated all day and night.  Enjoy your fellow runners and the view, embrace the pain, accept it and push through, drink, drink more!, salt, coke, watermelon, ice, more ice, in my hat and neck gaiter, stay cool, go, move.

Just past Snow Valley Peak the clouds rolled in and the temp dropped 10-15 degrees, finally I could run with more speed.

Thunderclouds on Snow Valley Peak

Thunderclouds on Snow Valley Peak

I pulled in to Spooner at 50 miles at 3:26pm 10hr26min, (20-30 minutes ahead of goal), but at my desired perceived effort level, (60-65%).  A quick 4 min stop and Pete Broomhall took charge of pacing me.  We were ahead of the crazy weather but it kept us moving as it followed us up to Marlette Pk.

Thunder and lightning surrounded us, but only a few drops. Quick stop at aid, my formula was fill 2 handhelds with ice and top with water, take 2 Scaps, 2 wedges of watermelon, 2 cups of coke, keep ice on me and get out. With Pete taking over mental functions, I could focus on running smooth, enjoying the view and a few laughs, making plans to run some cool places and keep at a 12 hour total pace for the 2nd 50 miles. I was now going for sub 23hrs! Pete kept saying, “under 12 hour pace, your moving good, stride is right on”, it worked! I believed him and we picked up the pace on the downhills without thrashing my quads. Power hiked the climbs and ran the rollers. It’s funny, but the more technical the trail, the more fun I have, hopping from rock to rock, finding the fastest line, in tune with the trail. I guess the change in stride helps to loosen me up, but flat even trails I get locked in to a cadence that wears on me.

TRT Selfie with Pete

TRT Selfie with Pete

Seeing Gretchen Brugman at Tunnel Creek is always the highlight for me, and 3 times is even better!  She took care of me with noodles and broth, iced coffee, tums, salt and encouragement. All that, after winning the 50k earlier that day, she is awesome!  On our way to Diamond Peak, “eat this rice cake, here’s your salt”, we were having fun and making good time. The sunset on the trail was spectacular, and Pete captured the moment on his phone.

More inspiration. I was ready to up the ante, “Running with Jesus”(based on Rolling Stones “driving with Jesus”)  kept playing in my head after that and we pulled in to mile 80 aid at DP at 10:15pm 17hr15min, (45 min ahead of goal).  I changed socks, downed a coke, and hugged Pete as he had exceeded his goals and I felt great and ready to head out.  Eric Toschi took over and we climbed DP in 48 minutes passing 2, he kept me cool by icing the back of my neck. I asked him if anyone was gaining, he reminded me that it doesn’t matter, run your race and stay on track and all will be fine.

Sunset on the Tahoe Rim Trail

Sunset on the Tahoe Rim Trail

Back through Tunnel Creek, thanks John Trent, Noe Costanon, and Gretchen one last time, iced coffee, noodles, coke, water, baby powder for the chafe, outta there at Midnight! I can cruise in the last 16 miles under 5 hours, but we were going for a 4 hour split or better. Leaving there I felt great, power hiked the climbs and steady down. Eric kept me eating Pete Broomhall’s famous rice cakes, salt, chews, and water.

On the last 1.5 mile climb up to Snow Valley Pk, (elev 9200), I spotted 3 runners moving slow and I started running almost all out. I passed 2 and the 3rd got away at the aid station.  I needed fuel, not much food all day, a smoothie, some coke, salt and outta there at 2:15am. That gives me 1hr45min to go 8.5 mi to break 23 hours. After the first 1.5 miles of rocky technical trail it opens up. We stayed on track and kept pushing but not all out. I kept seeing lights behind me, but not closing.

We finally hit the right turn to the finish and laughed and talked about how it all came together. Never catching the guy in front of me but content all the same. Nothing like seeing the finish line of this race, we did it!  22:35:31 in 11th place overall. Total satisfaction and gratitude enveloped me.

TRT100 finish line

TRT100 finish line

A shower and nap then back to the finish to cheer our fellow runners and to know the feelings of relief and joy as they cross that line, it’s almost like you are crossing it again each time someone else does. Three years and thousands of miles and adventures and I finally struck gold, maybe we are more like the settlers that came before us than we think.

22:35:31

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Gold Finisher's Buckle

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Gold Finisher’s Buckle9

Western States Endurance Run DNF Report

My story with the Western States Endurance Run begins on the Thursday afternoon before what should have been the start of the 2008 running of the race. That afternoon I received a phone call at our catering company from one of the ladies involved with the race, I believe it was Shannon Weil (considered the “Mother Superior” of the race), letting me know that the race had been cancelled due to fires and smoke and that they were looking for someone to cater a BBQ the next day for upwards of 300 people. The WSER folks are such a class act that they wanted to make sure they ended the WS festivities, or lack there of, on a positive note. Fortunately, we were available and our crew was willing to pull an all nighter to prepare food for this group, who had just been delivered a devastating blow to their dreams of running this iconic route.

An example of their attention to detail!

An example of their attention to detail!

While I was excited to be catering for a group of fellow endurance athletes, I expected to show up that afternoon to a somber attitude, since all the hard work and money that people had invested into coming to Squaw Valley had just been burned away. However, we instead arrived to one of the most gracious group of folks that we had ever had the honor of serving! Sure, I heard a few remarks of disappointment, but really it was just a celebration amongst exceptional people that realized how fortunate they were to be there in the first place.

At the end of the BBQ, at which we ended up serving 375 people, Shannon and the legendary 25 time WSER finisher Tim Twietmeyer, brought our whole crew up to recognize us for pulling off this catering with such short notice. They also presented me with a really nice WSER Mountain Hardwear Jacket and coffee mug. I have met so many great people over the years, but I was really taken aback by the special group of people that I met on that particular day.

The Challenge is on!

I had known about this crazy 100 mile running race that went from Squaw to Auburn for many years. Every June I would start to see the runners arrive as they would be, very slowly, running around our town. I had long been a fan of getting out for 20-60 hour sleepless endurance days. I had run the Lake Tahoe Marathon a couple times BITD, and had long wondered if I could actually run the 100 mile distance, but had yet to set it as a serious goal. So when Shannon and Tim handed me that jacket and mug, I immediately knew that I would be finding out the answer to my question. That was my introduction to the world of ultra running!

We have since sold our catering business and moved on to enjoying a lot more free time in the summer!!!

Six years, two Ironmans, one 100 miler, three 50 milers, four 50ks, countless training miles and three lotteries later I was finally going to toe the line in Squaw Valley. I was excited beyond words to be bringing this chapter of my life full circle.

Let the Festivities begin!

I arrived to check-in on Friday morning and was immediately handed a clipboard by a smiling woman, with a couple of releases to sign. She then offered a comfy chair to sit in, rather than standing or bending over a low table to read and sign the papers. From there, I was whisked through about 20 other stations, with many more happy volunteers, including DPMR Board Member Gretchen Brugman. This was a check-in experience like no other. So that’s how it going to be, huh?!

Though short, I slept solid Friday night and arrived to Squaw Valley feeling feeling rested and calm. I was surrounded by family and friends while we waited for the gun to start the long day ahead.

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Topping out the Escarpment. Photo Credit: Bill Clements

As we slowly ascended Squaw’s Mountain Run, I met and chatted with JB Benna (fellow Tahoe 200 entrant), spent some time and with my friend, Sean Ranney and began seeing the first of many DPMR members that would be providing me energy and inspiration throughout the day. I was feeling great and made it to the Escarpment at the top of Squaw Valley feeling warmed up, relaxed and ready to throw down a solid run. Just before topping out, I took the obligatory moment to turn around and soak in the sunrise over Big Blue. There were several DPMR members at the Escarpment to really boost my energy, not that I was needing much boosting at this point.

Descending the back side of Squaw felt effortless as I made sure to control my speed and save myself for the many miles ahead. The wildflowers were lighting up the mountainside through this section as I fell into the train of runners descending towards Auburn. I wound up behind someone in particular that I was hoping to be able meet this weekend.

My “A” goal for this race was 20 hours and I was feeling decently confident that this might possibly be a realistic goal. My fantasy goal was to run sub 20, so I wrote down and brought along the splits of a gentleman, by the name of Andy Jone-Wilkins or AJW, who ran a smart and consistent 19:25:47 at last year’s near record hot race. AJW is a storied character of the WSER and has a self proclaimed love affair with the event. He calls it Statemas, is fortunate to have a family that shares his passion and achieved his 1000 mile buckle this year. I have been following his weekly column on IRunFar.com, that has been dedicated to his personal experiences surrounding Statemas and knew that he would have been at the cancellation BBQ in 2008.

After a few minutes of being on the heels of AJW, I finally introduced myself and told him the story of my introduction to WSER back in 2008. We chatted for a few and continued down the narrow and often scrappy and loose single track. In an effort to make sure that I paced myself well, I made sure to NOT pass AJW anytime soon as the running still felt easy and we came in to Lyon Ridge AS at mile 10.5. We arrived a few minutes under AJW’s 2013 split.

Shortly after leaving Lyon Ridge I fell back in right behind AJW and also Nikki Kimball, another WSER and ultra running legend who was  last year’s second place female finisher. Those two were chatting away and catching each other up on their lives when Nikki mentioned working with a blind bi-athlete skier and so I chimed in about how we catered for a group of blind cross country skiers for about 10 years, Sierra Regional Ski for Light. It turned out that Nikki works with the Ski for Light organization of Montana, so we talked about this for a bit as we made our way to Red Star Ridge AS, 16 miles in, still a few minutes under AJW’s splits. I felt comfortable with the pace so far and hoped things would continue in this fashion.

On my way from Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Nate Dun

On my way from Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Nate Dun

I shared some more miles and fun conversation with Nikki as we ran our way to Duncan Canyon AS and mile 23.9. I discovered that Nikki also had lots of experience in the food service industry and had even catered a few parties/weddings for some close friends. As much as I was enjoying the miles and dialogue with Nikki, I stayed with my comfortable pace as she eventually inched away from me, making sure to not try to keep up with someone else’s pace. I made it to Duncan Canyon still under the split and feeling good.

My Super Crew Awaits!

My lovely crew!

My lovely crew! L-R My beautiful wife Liz, Karyn Stanley & Jessica Zimlich. Photo Credit: Frank Aldana

The next AS that I had to look forward to was Robinson Flat at mile 29.7, where my Super Crew led by my wife Liz, along with Jessica Zimlich, Karyn Stanley and my pacer Frank Aldana, would be waiting to pamper me with whatever way I needed.  I made my way uneventfully to Robinson Flat, arriving just about even with Andy’s 2013 split and just starting to feel a little fatigue from my legs. I had hoped to not feel any fatigue quite this early, but nothing to be very alarmed about. My crew immediately velcroed the neoprene ice pack around my neck, as I had instructed them to do each time I came into an AS. I only left this on for about a minute as I wasn’t really hot yet. They did not have much time to take care of me here because I left quickly, not wanting to stop for long this early in the race.

Cruising in to Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

Cruising in to Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

After I left Robinson Flat my thoughts turned to gearing up for the mental and physical battle that laid ahead of me. The running still felt fairly easy as I made way to Miller’s Defeat at mile 34.4 of the race. About a half mile before reaching Miller’s, I noticed a twinge developing in my left hip flexor, but didn’t think much of it since these things tend to happen on long runs and always seem to work themselves out over the miles. I made it to Miller’s, now just a few minutes behind the fantasy goal split, which was no big deal considering how far I still had to go. I had slowed a little, but felt I had a lot of strong miles left in me before really slowing down.

Being attended to at Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

Being attended to at Robinson Flat. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

Things take a turn for the worse….

After I stopped for about a minute to refuel and let the volunteers refill my water bottles. I slowly started running out of Miller’s, still feeling the little bit of pain coming from below my hip. Within about half a mile, the pain dramatically increased and started shooting towards my knee, so I started walking and stopped a couple times to do a little active stretching, confident that this would pass. Still walking and playing it cautious, the pain increased and I began to develop a limp.

By the time I reached mile 38 and the great volunteers at the Dusty Corners AS, including my friend Sarah Kane who greeted me as I entered, I was really questioning continuing on. I feared creating a real injury. I hung out there for 20-25 minutes getting iced, fed and stretched by a multitude of volunteers. I tried jogging a couple of steps in the AS and it didn’t seem to be getting better, but the volunteers kindly talked me in to gearing up and leaving, to see what would happen.

The long gradual downhill to Last Chance and mile 43.8 escalated the pain to a level that made me realize that this was likely going to get intolerable rather work it’s self out. I tried to convince the volunteers that I needed to drop. All the while they pampered me with food, advice and encouragement. Simultaneously, they once again talked me in to continuing on. They cleverly explained that it was best to make it to the Devil’s Thumb AS, telling me I would be more likely to get an early ride out from there. I am pretty sure they weren’t being entirely forthcoming about my chances of getting a ride from Devil’s to Michigan Bluff, where my crew was anxiously awaiting my tardy arrival.

Hobbling down the steep trail to the river crossing at the burned out Swinging Bridge turned the pain level up another notch or two. I was certainly in no hurry at this point, so I hung out in the river for about 5 minutes. Convinced I was going to drop at Devil’s Thumb to end my day, I decided to roll with the fact that the uphill felt much better than the down, and put it in high gear for one final push in what was turning out to be a long training day. I felt better and better as I ascended, though still knowing that I needed to drop, and ended up passing about 20 people en route to the top.

Super Crew patiently awaiting my arrival to Michigan Bluff

Super Crew patiently awaiting my arrival to Michigan Bluff. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

“So, they told me at Last Chance I might be able to get a ride from here to Michigan Bluff?” The look on the volunteers face instantly said, “Fat Chance!” I tried to hang out there and mentioned that maybe I would just wait for them to close and catch a ride then. The kind and smiling volunteer, just like at the last 2 aid stations, proceeded to talk me in to convincing myself that the easiest way out was to just follow the path of yellow ribbons only another 7.9 miles (burly and hard miles) to my Super Crew in Michigan Bluff.

I had taken a couple ibuprofen way back at Miller’s Defeat since I was plenty hydrated and not really fatigued enough to worry about over stressing my kidneys. These took the best effect when I finally got into a groove and ran a solid few miles of downhill to El Dorado Creek and another welcome AS. I enjoyed some quality deep life type of conversation with James from South Carolina on the descent, which also helped in making the downhill running a little easier to bear. Once again, the steep uphill to Michigan Bluff felt great and I pushed hard up the hill, passing many people on my way to what I thought was the end of day.

I hate to disappoint, but I am DONE!

Dropping from the WSER  is a very difficult thing to convince the volunteers and your crew to let you do! As somewhat expected at this point, I get whisked away again by volunteers that bring me and my crew to a massage table in the back. Julia Millon, who moved to Truckee just the week before and has already connected and ran with the DPMR crew, happened to be the talented therapist that went to some serious work on trying to get my hip and leg to loosen in an effort to release the sharp pain that was hindering me. Also back there, were Founding Members Bill Hunter and Zachary Carter to help my crew in encouraging me to continue on.

I tried to explain to my crew that this was not fatigue or a low point, that this was something different. I told them it was becoming excruciatingly painful and that I feared real injury. This is when Karyn Stanley took over and did exactly what your crew is supposed to do. She told me what I was going to do and how I was going to continue on to mile 62 at Foresthill and that they would see me when I arrive there. She could not let me quit without challenging my will, making sure that I was truly ready to throw in the towel. My crew then led me to the little station they had set up for me and proceeded to feed me, clean up my feet, change my socks and send me hobble running on my way.

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Departing Michigan Bluff. Photo Credit: Karyn Stanley

Just after I turned the corner from my crew’s sight I started walking and let the pain get inside my head for a short while, still walking as quickly as I could. I just wanted to get to Foresthill as soon as possible so that I could finally end my run. The steep downhill into Volcano canyon had me grimacing and holding my breath to control the pain. However, once I got to the creek at the bottom and began to ascend, I felt strong again and kicked it back in to high gear for the last final push.

The AS volunteer at the base of Bath Road hurried me through so I could get up the road and to my crew sooner than later, now just 1.4 miles of uphill asphalt away. Immediately after leaving the AS, I tested the running legs on this smooth and moderate uphill. They seemed to be receptive so I continued running and looked up to see my pacer, Frank, approaching me from above. We ran the final 1.3 miles up to Foresthill, with the girls joining us for the last 1/4 miles. This is where I finally convinced all those concerned, in to believing that it was finally time for me to drop.

After leaving Miller’s Defeat and first realizing that I would likely have to drop from the race at some point, a wave of thoughts rolled through my head, from mine and my crews disappointment of not completing the goal, to all the explaining that I would have to do as to why I pulled the plug on something that I had trained and so hard for. I expected that Monday morning would dawn a gray day in my own selfish world. Today is Monday, it has turned out to be a fine day for me and my leg is already feeling better than expected.

Awards ceremony. All of those people standing in a row are REALLY fast!!

My attitude from mile 34.4 to mile 62 was changed from being ready to cry and hold a self-pitty party, to being amazed at and grateful for what a truly classy event the Western States Endurance Run really is. For me personally and for my crew, it was the right thing to do, to continue my run to my finish at Foresthill. I have absolutely no regrets for continuing this far and no regrets for also dropping from the race here.

We ended up camping, since none of us were awake enough to drive back home to Tahoe, on the lawn at the end of the track field and finish line in Auburn. We awoke to some tasty breakfast served by more kind and smiling volunteers. We all hung out and enjoyed the morning and festive, yet exhausted atmosphere. I was able to catch up with several of my friends that completed the race and met another fellow entrant of the Tahoe 200, Ken Michal.

I knew that I was in for a special experience through my running and participating in the Western Sates 100, but I really had no idea just how “over the top” every single aspect of this race is! As a former catering business owner, I am more than aware of just how difficult and complicated putting on events of this nature is. Attention to detail is a must and the all of the great folks involved with this race make sure no stone is left unturned in this department. They even asked the runner’s who did not finish to stand up at one point during the awards ceremony, as they wanted to acknowledge us for our effort. I humbly stood to an incredible ovation!

I look forward to completing this race in the future and getting the “monkey off my back”, as they say. I also look forward to crewing, pacing and volunteering over the years to soak in all the components of this special event.

Thanks again to all my family and friends for the support, encouragement and energy you provided me with!

My Bighorn 100 Adventure

Finding Inner Peace at The BigHorn 100

 

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100 miles by no means is a short run. 100 miles takes grit, courage and determination to complete. The Bighorn 100 was no different as there was a large majority of the first half where I wondered if I would even finish. This was hands down the hardest run I have taken on in my brief Ultra career. This was my second 100 but this is simply a harder run then the TRT 100. Not to say TRT was easy this was just more technical, contained more climbing, mud, snow, and night running. I would also like to add the disclaimer that this race report is not short as I just can’t put my entire experience in a short amount of writing.

 

I arrived in the bighorns on Wed before the race and met up with my Father who would crew me at the race. We setup camp and got some food shopping done. The campground we stayed at was located about 100 yards from the finish. Bighorn has a family feel to it and is easily felt at the campground. The race starts at 11am Sharp on the 3rd Friday of every June. The 11am start is a real mental challenge out of the gate as one is fully tapered and feeling like a caged animal awaiting to go on a hunt. The one positive is that one can sleep in and get a big breakfast.

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The river at the start

The start is very casual as the race director counts down from 10 and we are off. The first two miles are on dirt road which lead into single track along the river. The first 8 plus miles are basically all a steep climb but once at the top everything opens up and you feel like you are in the Mary Popins movie where she is running through the big wide open grass fields. I guess the once difference is the scenery looks like that but in reality I was running on single track full of awkward hoof prints in hardened mud.

 

The first 13 1/2 miles went flying by as I rolled into the dry creek aid station grabbed my drop bag and refilled my water bottles. At this point I was all ready battling cramps which would last for several hours but were manageable as long as I got my endurolytes into me every 20 minutes. It was a bit hot to start the race and frankly all the way into night.

 

The next part of the course is just amazing scenery so it was easy to keep moving. There was a lot of leap frogging on the course but I did very good at just running my own race. The downhills were very technical so I was a bit a slow on them and it is clearly an area I will focus on improving over the remainder of the summer. The uphills treated me well as clearly that was my strength especially as the race progressed.

 

Around mile 26 at the bear camp aid station things started to cool off a little bit. However this was the steepest downhill and what would surely be the steepest uphill on the way back. We ran down the wall!!! I got passed by several runners but I would see them all again later. My friend Kelly joined me into the Footbridge aid station. This is also the first time I saw my Dad who was crewing. I was not feeling the greatest coming into the aid station and I made a few changes. I downed my first soda of the day, had a red bull and dropped my nathan pack in favor of a second hand held. Funny things happen in 100 mile races.

As soon as I began the 18 mile climb up to the turn around point I started to feel really good again. I was able to really work the uphill into the next aid station and I was able to pass a few runners along the way. I had my best rhythm on the uphills/flats and even downhills I had felt all day. However after going through the next aid station and making a few more miles up this feeling was gone quick. I got the worst cramps I had felt all day and was reduced to a slow hike. The cramps lasted into the Spring Marsh aid station.

 

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 Scenery of the Bighorns

At this point I started to eat chicken soup as I needed some change. I also ate some ginger for the second time in the race. I took an extra Edurolyte at this point as well. I think I am still clearly making nutrition mistakes at this distance but I seemed to once again pull it together at the Spring Marsh aid station. I really think ginger saved me on this day as well.

 

I would say by no means things went great going up to elk camp from here but my stomach started to feel better and I started to hike with more of an authority and even started to be able to run uphill again. Over the course of 13 miles I went through several changes and I without a doubt hit my lowest point.

 

I got to elk camp and grabbed some more chicken soup, drank some soda, refilled my bottle and got ready to head to Jaws and the turn around. The course got pretty serious here mud wise. I have honestly never run through mud like this but I was able to pick and choose my lines through it. At this point my shoes were muddy and wet for the rest of the day however. I also was finally able to get through an hour without cramps and things were really looking up for the second half.

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Elevation Profile (Only 3 hills :))

 

I rolled into Jaws for what would be my longest aid station visit on the day. After this none would last longer than 2 minutes and 15 seconds. I had my dad help me pack my nathan with warm clothes for the night as dark was about to fall and really was already there. I filled my water bottle with powerade and got another refill of water in the second one. I was finally feeling ready to push and felt as good as I had felt since the start and the first few miles. I am not sure why but in my both of my 100′s now the first half has been a much bigger struggle then the second half. I came out of jaws feeling refreshed and ready to charge so I quickly started running fairly hard.

 

I ran into Aron who was crewing Kelley and he gave me some gu brew and gu roctane as I desperately needed something besides tailwind for a couple of water bottles. Going back to elk camp I was making very good time but I was unable to pick my lines through the mud and I made a decision at this time to say whatever!!! We are out running and having fun and I just charged the quickest path for the rest of the day. Mud or no mud nothing was going to slow me down. Just to make the run a little more hectic a really awesome thunder and lightening storm hit and along with that came rain.

 

I hit the elk camp aid station and made very quick time of it. It was really raining hard and I hit wide open meadows for the next several miles. The rain really just made it fun and this section was easy going as I was passing several people going up and a few going down. Everything was fairly uneventful all the way down to the footbridge aid station as I continued to make quick time I didn’t see anyone. I think I passed 2 or 3 people early on but once out of the meadows and more into the trees along the river I was very alone. However I found a real peace and serenity a real calm came across me.

 

As I arrived at footbridge for the second time I found several runners at the aid station. I once again made very quick time through there but 3 of the runners got up and joined me for the march up the “WALL”. I initially opened up a gap on them but I missed a turn not to much further and found myself hiking through a mud bog. Fortunately the 3 behind me guided me back to the proper trail. At this point I went up the wall with the youngest runner in the field at the age of 18. We enjoyed the company of each other and grunted up. Once the hill leveled a little I caught back up to the other 2 as well.

 

All 4 of us rolled into bear camp again. I ate some more ginger again here as my stomach started to feel a hair off but just wanted to stay on top of it. It worked as I ran really strong from here to dry fork. I was the 4th one out of the aid station but quickly asked to get by them and did. I ran strong in the last parts of the dark. Once again all alone and finding that inner peace that feels so good when running well. This section is much more rolling with some slight uphills. Anything that went up though I was power hiking at a decent clip. The flats I was moving really well and the downs were sufficient.

 

I rolled into cow camp as the headlights were no longer needed. They got me in and out there quickly and I was ready to move to dry fork. I really found another gear from here as it is 6 miles from cow camp to dry fork. Out of the aid station I ran the first up hill there and everything started building. I continued to roll on the downs and hit the flats hard. I also started passing a few people through here. Since I am competitive I continued to run harder to ensure they wouldn’t try to keep up. The dry fork aid station is visible from a long ways away and I continued to push really hard on the ups as I closed into dry fork. As I rolled into dryfork to meet my dad for the final time I was told by the aid station that I was moving to fast for 83 miles into the race. That felt good.

 

I was out of the aid station and working hard up the the final few uphills that lead into upper sheep and just past. This was more time spent alone and I quickly made my way to the upper sheep creek aid and got to take on the final 13 miles of downhill. The final uphill before that however was much steeper then I remembered but I worked my way through it. Just before the lower sheep creek aid station I got passed and lost my 10th place position but thats ok. My legs were pretty zapped but I was able to keep running. The final 5 miles are along a fire/dirt road with a slight downhill. I was able to run 9-10 minute miles for the first 3. The last 2 were very difficult to keep moving but before long I came into the park where the finish was. At this point there was no choice but to keep running until I passed under the finisher banner. Which I did with a time of 22:47.

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Just after Crossing the Finish

I walked away from this race feeling very happy with my time and the run I had. 100 milers are all about troubleshooting on the fly and maybe some day I will put together two good halfs instead of 1. Maybe I don’t want that though as being slowed in the first half has probably helped me in the second half. 100 miles is without a doubt a long ways and is always a journey. I leave this years 100 and I find myself all ready focused on improving my nutrition both in life and while racing. I also want to now work on my technical skills especially on the downhill. I guess one could say I am a bit obsessed with this 100 mile distance and the desire to always improve at how I run them.

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Induction into the Rusty Spur Club

 

I would also like to touch on the Bighorn run in general. I just want to say wow. A top notch race. A very hard course with amazing scenery and just the best volunteers one could ask for. I camped out next to the finish and the campground was filled with runners. Such a great community and family feel at this race. I will without a doubt be back to the bighorns I am just not sure when. I highly recommend this race to anyone if nothing else just to enjoy the amazing experience the Bighorn team puts on.

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Picking Up My Buckle

See ya all on trails!!!!!!!!!