Monday, September 23, 2013

Week Ending September 22

Mon - Off

Tues - 7.5 miles (1,500') easy. Jogged a few of the trails in Horsetooth from the upper lot to get a look at the situation on the Blue Sky Marathon sections of the park. Falls were roaring and creeks were running in places I'd never seen them, but the trails appeared to be in great shape. Went: Falls - Spring Creek - Stout - Towers - Herrington - Stout Spring Creek - Soderberg. Legs felt okay, but my knees - I have to say - felt 'old'.

Weds - Off

Thurs - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Great to get back out with the Thursday morning gang - Mike, Justin, Scott, Celeste and Ziggy - for a casual trip to the top of my local rock. I think she's been missing me (and yes, she's most definitely a 'she'). Longs and Meeker were looking kinda white and there was some good fog in the low lying valleys to the west. Beautiful morning and a massive moon above Buckhorn as we were making our way up. So good to be back out running for nothing more that the sake of being out running: #racingisoverrated.

Fri - Off 

Sat - 7 miles (3,500') 14ers. Mike and I got a super early start to make it to Alma for the second annual running of the Kite Lake Triple 'race,' the Democrat-Cameron-Lincoln-Bross '14er' circuit (without an actual tag of the privately situated Bross summit). Heading up Democrat, my calves were immediately barking while aerobically I felt grossly out of shape. Dropped any ideas of trying to do the loop fast and enjoyed the outing for what it was, a rare (this summer) alpine outing, being especially pathetic on the bruising descents. Got around in 1:49, then enjoyed a couple of beers while getting to know the Breckenridge stoner ski/run/mountain crowd a little better. Won a bottle of Breck Bourbon in the raffle - to rival Mike's Kelty fold-up table score - before heading back home. Fun morning.

About 30 seconds in and already realizing that this was a really bad idea.  Pic: Vertical Runner of Breckenridge.
Sun - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Woke up with a sore knee, but felt good enough to get out with Tony as planned. On the way down we bumped into Boulder friends who were out enjoying the FoCo trails - a rarity (Boulder'ites in FoCo) - as an alternative to their currently closed and severely compromised open space options.

Total: 26 miles (8,200')

A little more running than planned this week, but it felt good to be out despite a pair of legs that felt like they needed a couple more weeks of inactivity.

Will continue to keep things casual for the near future, hopefully with some quality Larimer peak bagging/bushwhacking/thrashing activity as the main/singular outdoor focus.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three Weeks Ending September 15

Week Ending September 1

Mon - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Tues - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Thurs - 4 miles easy. Bluesky.

Fri - 10 miles (1,800') easy. Marking Black Squirrel course with Justin.

Sat - 2 miles. Checking Black Squirrel markings.

Sun - Off.

Total: 31 miles (6,300')


Week Ending September 8

Mon - 5 miles (1,500') easy. 100th Horsetooth summit of the year.

Tues - 4 miles easy. Bluesky

Weds - 4 miles easy. Bluesky.

Thurs - Off. Travel day to Salt Lake City.

Fri - 100 miles (26,500'). Wasatch 100.

Sat - Off

Sun - Off 

Total: 113 miles (28,000')


Week Ending September 15 

Mon - Sun: Off

Total: 0 miles


Playing catch up here. Not a whole lot to report from the training side of things. Basically a couple of taper/recovery weeks, a race and another recovery week. Yup, that's pretty much your summer if you take on the Grand Slam. While the whole series of races has been a lot of fun, and it's been a summer I won't soon forget, I do feel like June through September kind of passed me by a bit in terms of getting out and enjoying the high country. And so it goes.

I promised myself that I'd be serious about taking significant rest after it was all said and done, so that is exactly what I'm doing until the end of September. From there, I'll see about getting back into some running and finding some fitness. Traditionally in the fall/winter, I've enjoyed working on turnover stuff in an attempt to feel like a real runner after months of shuffling around. I'm thinking pretty much the same this time around.

As far as races go, I've got very little on the calendar. I'll race the Silent Trails 10 miler up in the Laramie area in mid-October and then probably get my ass handed to me as always at the Turkey Day 4 miler here in town, but that's about it. If you're interested in Silent Trails, it comes highly recommended. I've run it the last three years and it is one of my all time favorite races, simply because it puts you on beautiful trails in beautiful country, with an absolute minimum of fuss, among a group of hardy Wyoming runners in celebration of eight guys who will never have the chance to enjoy those trails again. And, you're almost guaranteed adverse weather conditions. And wait, there's more ... it costs a whopping $5 to enter this year. There really is no better way to celebrate the turning of the seasons in my opinion.

Speaking of races, Pete and I put on the inaugural Black Squirrel Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago and really had a good time doing so. People really seemed to enjoy the event and we're excited about making this a mainstay of the Fort Collins trail racing calendar. We have a little recap over on the race website if you're bored and wanted to take a look.

We had fun manning the Steamboat 70 mile aid station this past weekend. It was great to see the runners come in and do their aid station things. The race was definitely on up front with the lead guys and girls flying in and out, and then it was fun to hang with slower runners who were definitely a little more relaxed (and social) about their aid station experiences. I was chewing on caffeine gum to stay awake, but it was a totally worthwhile experience. The after party the next day was as fantastic as it always is in Steamboat (12 kegs this year). So, yeah, Fred got things figured out in the 100 miler. He has a fantastic crew of helpers up there in Steamboat and the race was a resounding success that will no doubt grow significantly as a result. Come run Steamboat next year, I'm planning on it.

We came home to massive flooding across the Front Range, both in the plains and in the canyon communities. Many of these communities have been totally devastated by the floods and airlift operations have been flying overhead now for days. Estes Park is completely cut off, with the three roads out of town (34, 36, 7) in various states of devastation. Highway 34 up the Big Thompson looks to have come off worst of all and initial assessments suggest a two-year rebuilding process. From a recreation standpoint this is a massive bummer as the canyon is a favorite playground for tons of outdoor enthusiasts in Northern Colorado, myself included, but in light of the damage that occurred to life and property up the canyon, those worries seem pretty trivial.

It appears that Fort Collins got off a good bit better than Front Range towns like Boulder, Lyons, Longmont and Estes Park, all of which have major drainages flowing into town from multiple directions. The Poudre here in Fort Collins certainly burst its banks but the devastation does not appear to be anything like it was in the aforementioned communities.

I got out for a run at Horsetooth yesterday to take a look at the trails there on the section of the Bluesky Marathon course that runs through the park, and everything looks great. The trails are fine and all the waterways are still flowing strong. I've yet to assess the Bluesky section of the course, but as I understand it, those trails are just fine too. We are fully confident that the race will take place as planned and we still have spots open if people are interested in running.    

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grand Slam of Ultrarunning - The Trophy

This just arrived at my door anonymously (although I have my suspicions) to complement my coveted Golden Goat Skulls:

Hilarious! Now I have a trophy to call my own.

Thank you Anon!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Wasatch 100 (2013)

Hanging around at the Wasatch start this year, I was struck by just how warm it was at 5:00 in the morning. In 2010, it had been a chilly start to the race with a good covering of crusty frost coating the dirt and shrubbery over the course of the first 20 miles.

Heat, indeed, would be the story of the day in 2013.

With four miles of rolling Bonneville Shoreline Trail taken care of, and a good sweat lining my brow, I knew it was time to get serious about building a gap on Ian. With 4,000 feet of climbing to the top of the wonderfully named Chinscraper and the subsequent contour trail that winds its way along the upper ridgeline of the dramatic eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley, I put into effect the basic plan I had been contemplating for a couple of weeks: Run the entire climb, get a gap, grow it, hold it. 

Popping over the top of the eastern summit ridge of Chinscraper, I snuck a glance back down the summit bowl and saw Ian a good ways below, maybe five minutes below. I didn't feel like my effort had been exuberant, so I was pleased with the state of play after two and a bit hours of running. 

Topping out on Chinscraper: Lane Bird
The section that follows is one of my favorite on the entire Wasatch course. The trail up here clearly doesn't see much action, or - if it does - the mountain mahogany that is trying to reclaim the trail is simply a stronger presence on the mountain than the humans trying to beat a path. In either case, the ribbon that wends its way across the top of the Salt Lake City watershed is pure, skinny joy. The trail flips occasionally over to the western side of the ridge offering fine views of the valley below, but spends most of its time on the eastern side offering commanding views of the megalopolis of the Salt Lake Valley below, just as its inhabitants are beginning to stir for the day.

Like all good things, the trail eventually comes to an end, giving way to jeep track and then full-on groomed dirt road. The final few miles down to the Francis Peak aid station at mile 17 are undoubtedly the fastest of the whole course. Glancing back over my shoulder, I could see Ian a good ways back as I rolled into Francis. This would be the last time I would see him - or any other racer - all day. 

I ran with a dog for a good two miles on my way to the jungle. At first I tried to shoo him away, but eventually gave up, realizing that the herding instinct was strong in this one. The dog accompanied me through the rough jeep roads to my junction with the dusty trail that connects to Bountiful B (mile 24). Three years ago, this section had been lush with free-flowing creeks. This year everything appeared dead, the creeks were barely moving and the 'trail' was ankle deep in dust. 

And the mercury was rising.

Photo: Derek Lytle, Competitor Mag.
The road was long to Sessions and glances over my shoulder confirmed that I had a good lead, with Ian nowhere to be seen, something of a surprise as my splits were coming in a couple minutes slower than in 2010 and my pace seemed reasonable. Out of Sessions, after filling my 8oz Isomeric handheld with a fresh mix of diluted EFS Liquid Shot, I found the only mud hole on the whole course and took a headlong bath, somehow slipping and then super-manning through the boggy mess. I was quite literally covered head to toe in stinking Wasatch mud, with nary a creek to be found to wash it all off. 

Halfway up the ensuing climb, I went to take a nip of EFS only to find that I'd lost the cap to my bottle in the fall. I had a mild moment of panic at the thought of going the next hour without fuel, but then reassured myself that I'd gone a whole lot further than that in the past on nothing but fumes. Fortunately, the ridge running through this section is quite fantastic and it offered up a good antidote to the moisture-sucking mud that was rapidly forming a crust on my arms and legs. 

I was able to wash a bit at Swallow Rocks, first with Gu Roctane drink before being told I had the wrong jug, and then with water, but they were a remote aid station and had limited water, so it wasn't until Big Mountain that I could truly get some of the grime off. Luke Nelson did the honors and gave me a bush shower to remember. Bottles exchanged, I was off with my pacer and all-around fantastic guy Jeremy Humphrey

We were off in search of the Wizard - the Wizard of the Wasatch. 

The Wizard.
He had been there in 2010, and I knew he'd be there again this year, right on top of his perch at Pence Point. I called out to the Wizard, he responded by name, "Nick Clark?" 

And like that I'd received my blessing. I knew from that point on that I was going to win the race, but of course had no idea by how much.

Following the dusty road to see the Wizard: Photo: Wizard of the Wasatch.
I needed to beat Ian by 69 minutes in order to lay claim to the fastest cumulative time across the four races that make up the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, but quite honestly that had become very much a secondary goal for me in the weeks between Leadville and Wasatch. In the moment, my only concern was to bring home a second career win from the mighty mountains surrounding Salt Lake.

Jeremy occupied me with tales from Idaho: big game hunting and climbs in remote locations. We plotted future plans together, with a promise to next year meet between McCall and Fort Collins for a run at the wonderfully isolated high point of Wyoming, Gannet Peak, in the Wind Rivers.

We searched in vain for the spring that might have helped take the edge off the heat through the inferno-like Alexander Springs section of the course, but eventually gave up on our fools' errand. The Wasatch was parched. Lucky for me there was plenty of ice at Lambs Canyon, the halfway point of the race. I lingered, really trying to get my core temperature down, and also delaying the inevitable need to keep moving. I would spend a massive 53 minutes in the Wasatch aid stations trying to get calories in and cool off. 

Predictably enough, the altitude and raging heat had done a number on my stomach, and calories were now going down at not much more than a trickle. Just a mile up the road on the way to the next trailhead, I couldn't resist a waterhole I'd spied in the decently running creek and wallowed like a pig in mud for a minute or two. Refreshed, we continued the jog up to the trailhead and quickly bopped our way over to the Mill Creek side for the long road grind up to Upper Big Water. 

I'd run all of this in 2010 and was determined to do the same this year. With the exception of a few minor grunters we did indeed jog out the stretch to Upper Big Water, but I could feel a bonk coming on, having not really fueled since Lambs. Five Oreo cookies, some oranges, some Coke and too many minutes later, and I felt like it was time to get going again.

There are big game trails all over the Wasatch making it something of a hunter's paradise, with the section of trail up to Desolation Lake and Scotts Bluff holding more than perhaps anywhere else on course. The creek was running pretty good alongside the main trail and Jeremy was literally sniffing out the elk as we crossed path after path forged by the beasts of the Wasatch. And then, boom, 10 meters off to our right a big bull moose went crashing through the creek, fortunately up slope and away from us. 

"Big hindquarters," Jeremy remarked.

A mile or two further up the trail and I stopped to empty my guts. It came on quickly, was over quickly, and the numbing nausea subsided almost entirely.

After what, in all honesty, was a pretty pathetic climb up to Desolation Lake, the terrain opened up and we were treated to good honest alpine beauty, with exposed peaks, ridgelines and lake-filled bowls. I lingered again at the backcountry Desolation Lake aid station, trying desperately to get some calories in,  not really bothered about the gap back to Ian. I just wasn't finding any motivation in the Grand Slam record for some reason. My primary concern was in avoiding an almighty bonk or stomach episode that would prevent me from winning the race. 

The trail on the high Wasatch Ridge above Desolation Lake is a thing of beauty, both in terms of its runability and also its commanding views of the lake itself, juxtaposed against the sneaking views of the city thousands of feet below and the dominating awesomeness of the rugged Cottonwood Canyon peaks ahead.

The cruise down to Brighton was a good one and the road offered comfort to my legs. Again, I took an age at Brighton, enjoying some noodle soup, changing shoes and generally lingering. Karl was there whispering numbers into my ear: 34 minutes at Lambs, slowing down, 40 minutes at Scott's. Again none of it meant much to me. I was in survival mode and I knew the toughest 25 miles of the entire Grand Slam were ahead. 

Seth Wold took over pacing duties at Brighton and all of a sudden I was running with the energizer bunny. The pacer/runner dynamic at these moments can be quite comical. Here I was a beaten down shell of myself, content to just plug along at a steady enough rhythm to secure the Wasatch win, with a pacer, Seth, who was seriously geeked and ready to go break some records. 

Seth pushed me up to Sunset Pass, forcing a run where I would have hiked on every flat to rolling opportunity around Catherine's Lake. I flipped on my light at the pass and then readied for the gnar-filled descent down to Ant Knolls, racking up falls number 'lost count' and 'lost count' along the way. The pizza at the Ant Knolls aid station was good and once again I lingered. The running over to Pole Line Pass was even better and we got a seriously good head of steam going through this short stretch, but the inevitable was laying in wait.

There are many nicknames for the stretch of 'trail' between Pole Line Pass and Pot Bottom, all of them descriptive of the heinous nature of the route, the hills and the general lack of enjoyment that is to be had through here after 80 miles of tough Wasatch running. I had not so long ago asked Seth to give me some head space and he obliged, which in turn allowed me to find excuses not to run sections that I should have. I fell constantly through here, feeling totally drained and ready for the race to be done. We did the Dive, we did the Plunge, we roller-coastered the Seven Sisters and finally hit some runnable trail on the way down to Pot Bottom. Never have I been more grateful to come into an aid station. 

More lingering, and then it was delightful groomer forest road for much of the last eight miles to the finish. I heaved the contents of my Pot Bottom stop for good measure a mile from the aid station and then got my head down to finish out the long descent into the finish.

Seth asked me through those miles what feelings I had about winning, and quite honestly I was pretty numb about the winning part and more excited just to be done. It had been a very long summer, and the Wasatch Front 100 was just a tough, tough way to finish it out on a historically hot day for the race. Fortunately, I felt a million times better at the Wasatch finish than I did at Leadville, so I was able to shower and then go about the process of rehydrating and getting calories in. 

I was soon able to reflect a little on the win and felt entirely at peace with my summer of racing. The win felt good and I was truly excited for Ian's new standard across the four races that make up the Grand Slam. I had no regrets. The aid station stops were necessary and allowed me to keep moving forward. I could have been quicker for sure, but at the end of the day I don't think quicker stops would have changed the series outcome. 

Pic: iRunFar 
I shan't go on too much more with this report, but I do feel the need to thank everyone who has helped me along the way this summer, beginning with my wonderful wife, Dana, and children Alistair and Stella, who have supported me unquestioningly the whole way.

And my pacers/crew:

Western States: Bob and Sue Gerenz, Rob and Christy Barnard (or at least soon-to-be Barnard), and The Wesir.

Wesir, Christy, douchebag, Bob, Sue, Rob.
Vermont: Fred Abramovitz and Jim Garcia

Former Vermont winner, Jim Garcia coming into mile 90 ahead of me at Bob's Aid Station.
Leadville: Dana, Alistair, Stella, Slush, Hinterberg, Wesir and Mindy Clark(e)

photo: Rob Timko.
Wasatch: Jeremy Humphrey, Seth Wold, Rick Robinson.

With Jeremy Humphrey. Photo: WOWASATCH
Thank you all. 

And finally, I have to give a huge shout out to Abby McQueeney Penamonte who asked way back in November if I would help her get ready for The Slam. It has been a fun journey, and Abby has been a constant source of inspiration for me the whole way. She is one very tough and determined lady.

For the record, Abby is now fourth all time among GS women, and was third fastest overall this year, coming in well under 100 hours: a huge summer.

I even got to hold the trophy.
And congratulations of course to all the Grand Slam finishers this year. The series is no joke. You are all amazing.

The Grand Slam record has been tightened, but there are still hours out there for someone to snag with the perfect summer. There's an hour at least at both Western States and Vermont, not much if anything at Leadville, and a good hour and a half at Wasatch. I'm hoping somebody is plotting already...records are there to be broken.  

Enjoy it - the Grand Slam is quite the trip!