Sun Mountain 50 Mile 2011 (part 2)

(Copied from previous post): I crashed early, as a few nights with ‘lesser-than-normal-amounts-of-sleep’ had caught up with me, and I woke up on Sunday (race day) fresh and ready to go. The forecast was calling for highs in the low 60′s and mostly cloudy skies… both of these predictions had me super excited! The race started at 7:00am with what felt like a very fast pace….

(New): The fast pace had me slightly nervous as we rolled along in a rather large group. The start of this race included very gradual terrain, and when coupled with the low altitude, the pace was fast. My legs felt slightly clunky but I knew if I could just keep with the front group for an hour or two then I may be able to hold my own as the race went into its later stages. Despite my legs feeling slow, my energy levels were very high and my GI tract felt perfect. These good signs boosted my spirits as 1-hour clicked over to 2-hours and the pace ramped up again. I found myself running with Nick Triolo from Portland, OR and we opened up what seemed like a gap on everyone else. We ran strong as we moved from dirt road onto a jeep road/single track section and I was astonished to see my watch read 2:23 (or so) at mile 22. (Or so the sign said). The signs seemed so exact that I did not question any of the distances. I was fired up that I was running so fast. We started what I knew to be a long gradual uphill section which took us to the high point of the course. I felt super strong here and decided to open up my stride a little and see what I had in the tank. Within a mile I had opened up a gap on Nick and I was feeling stronger than I had so far throughout the race. These long gradual ‘diesel-engine’ climbs are my ‘bread-and-butter’ and I was happy to have one at this point in the race.

I continued on for another 4 to 5 miles of climbing feeling stronger and stronger. The cool temperatures and overcast day helped me tremendously as I ran past the 50km mark and into a long gradual downhill section. I could not make myself tired through here and I soon found myself on the steep and slightly warm climb back up to Sun Mountain Lodge at approximately mile 35 of the race. I kept on plugging past the lodge, back down onto the gradual terrain again and onward to the final aid station which I was surprised was taking so long to get to. I ran out of liquid and any food about 35-minutes prior to this last aid station at mile 44, but just as I was starting to fatigue slightly and weaken I came to the paved section that took us to this aid station and beyond. After re-fueling on the run, within 5 minutes I felt invincible again as I grunted up the last solid climb on course. At another gate (there were maybe a dozen on course) I noticed there were no more course markings. Zero. Nothing. Crazy! Perplexed, I headed left through another gate and onto what I thought was the correct loop. I was feeling so strong, which made it extremely frustrating to be feeling that good and questioning every step. After leaving the previous aid station, there was a clearly marked turn to the left that took us off the road and onto the final miles of the course. After that marker, there was nothing, but I continued to run blind ‘none-the-less’ knowing that there were no other trails out on this section.

As I looped around the mountain and back toward the gates I had gone through several miles prior, I stopped to ask several hikers if they knew where I was. Most of the hikers were helpful, but did not have any answers. Just then I ran into Nick Triolo and David Papineau, 2nd and 3rd place in the race who had taken the opposite direction (opposite from the direction I went) around this loop. Confusion indeed, but we came to the conclusion that they would run basically what I had run (only in the opposite direction) and we would call it ‘fair-and-square’. At this point, with no course markings and no real idea how to get back to the finish line, this was the idea we came up with and it seemed perfectly reasonable to all of us. I flew back down to the unmarked gates, back down to the road and back to the mile 44 aid station. Once there, many of the aid-station workers did not know where the course went but they did know that the start/finish area was just a mile up the road. I headed that way only to find a course-marshall who told me that indeed I was on course. He pointed me onto a trail which lead to the final mile back to the finish line. I crossed the line in 6:16 and told the race director about the lack of course markings and confusion. To his credit, James went straight out to that part of the course, marked it and came back to sort out the results. David Papineau finished in 2nd place with a time of 6:43 and Nick Triolo was a solid 3rd place in 6:48. Nice work guys.

This turned out to be a great day as I truly have not felt that strong in a running race in two years and that leaves me with an abundance of confidence as I move into more training and the ‘gear-up’ phase prior to the Hardrock 100 in July and the Leadville 100 in August. Here’s to a great summer everyone. Thanks for reading. Live well. Train well. DC.

Sun Mountain 50 Mile 2011 (part 1)

It was a great honor to be part of a good friend’s wedding in Winthrop, WA on May 21st. Originally (several months ago) I was scheduled to be in Japan on May 21st to race the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji. With the devastation and cleanup efforts in Japan following the March earthquake and tsunami, the race organizers made the proper, respectful, and respectable call to cancel the event for 2011. I wish the best for the Japanese as they ‘get back on their feet.’ Of course, my heart went out to the people of Japan and I was not disappointed to not be able to race in what is sure to be an epic event. I was tremendously happy to be able to attend my buddy Brian Gregg’s wedding in Winthrop, WA though. Brian is a good friend from the collegiate Nordic ski racing days as we were teammates and training partners for two solid years on the Western State College of Colorado ski team. He and I shared many adventures that I am very grateful for. Brian had a tremendous impact on my life during my ‘early-life-crisis’ when I was a clueless college kid and he has remained a spectacular friend as we are still able to see each other several times each winter across the country on the Nordic ski circuit. I was so excited that he and Caitlin were getting married!

The groomsmen: Chuck, Chad, Casey, Brent, Duncan, Chad, Paul. Brian in front

Once I knew I would be attending Brian’s wedding in a different part of the country, I set out to find an ultra event that I could race on the same trip. I did not have to search far as I quickly found a 50 mile event in the same tiny town of Winthrop: The Sun Mountain 50 mile. Other than one family trip to Seattle as a 4th grader and a couple other times in the Seattle airport, I had never spent anytime in Washington. Winthrop and the whole of the Methow Valley proved to be one of the most amazing places I have ever been. If you ever get the chance to go to Winthrop… do it! I jumped at the opportunity to race in this beautiful area and certainly plan on going back sometime in the future.

An iphone Photo of the Methow Valley just north of Winthrop, WA

I flew into Spokane and made the 4 hour drive up to Winthrop on Thursday, May 19. As soon as I made it to town I went right to the trails on Sun Mountain and jogged for an easy hour. I felt horrible but incredibly inspired to be on new trails in a new part of the country. I met up with Brian and others to grab some dinner and set up a few things for the wedding. I then headed off to bed at another great friend’s family house: Chad Hons. Hons and I had many great adventures in college as well, and he too has impacted my life greatly. Hons and his family could not have made me more comfortable. Thank you! Friday dawned and we headed out on a 1 hour 40 minute run as a group of groomsmen and other friends. For the most part, all these guys are world-class Nordic skiers, so they had to drag the ‘jogger’ (me) with them, but it worked out well and we were able to run in another great area of the valley. The rest of Friday passed with us eating quite a bit, finalizing the set-up for the wedding, and enjoying a great gathering that night with a BBQ and slideshow. Great stuff. Saturday, the wedding day, in short, was awesome as we hiked the 1000 vertical feet and 1-mile up to the ceremony site above the valley for the ceremony. Over 200 people made the trek up to the ceremony and those who could not make the hike were able to ride on the fine machine pictured below!

‘The Tank.’ Might be nice to use this in a race someday!

After a splendid wedding and fantastic meal of pork, baked beans, salads, and cake, the rest of the wedding day passed quickly and I found myself talking many of the wedding party into racing the 25km the next day (wasn’t that hard.. these guys and gals are competitors!). I crashed early, as a few nights with ‘lesser-than-normal-amounts-of-sleep’ had caught up with me, and I woke up on Sunday (race day) fresh and ready to go. The forecast was calling for highs in the low 60′s and mostly cloudy skies… both of these predictions had me super excited! The race started at 7:00am with what felt like a very fast pace….

(Stay tuned for part 2 ….)