Friday, September 28, 2012

Another go... The Grindstone 100M

Post RRR Recovery Activities  @ Dads of Bracebridge "Hoe Down" Dinner and Fundraiser Bracebridge Ontario

After a thoroughly humbling experience at the Run Rabbit Run (RRR) 100 in Steamboat, I am giving the 100 mile another shot.  With a deployment to Iraq last year, no luck at the Western Sates lottery this year and now a DNF at RRR, a 100 mile finish is well over due. 

My body wasn’t all that banged up after the 50 or so miles I ran at RRR and I am more determined than ever to finish my first 100.  More importantly, RRR really taught me some essential lessons on “running” mountain 100 milers.  Had I been told patience is unbelievably important, did I know walking (not power hiking) for periods of the race doesn’t mean you are out of the hunt for a win, did I know there would be low points, of course, but that wasn’t enough.  Learning by doing and observing proved much more powerful than being told.  While I only did 50ish miles at RRR, I feel I learned some huge lessons that will be instrumental in future 100s. 

One goal, or rather expectation, I have for this year is to qualify for both the Hard Rock 100 and UTMB and the RRR was to be the means.  Fortunately there is another race that qualifies me for Hard Rock and I believe gives me the points for UTMB I need and lastly, isn’t too close to the December 1st Keppler Challenge in New Zealand… The Grindstone 100 Mile.  The Grindstone 100 is October 5th   in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.  The race boasts 23,000 feet of climbing on an out and back trail route and it just so happes one of my best friends in the world, Matt Lowe, lives in Virginia and can crew me.  The course record, 18:46, is held by none other than RRR champion and teammate Karl Meltzer.  What I didn’t know until a few days ago was that Karl will be racing this year as well.  The race looks awesome, I have support and the body is feeling ready.  Time to do it.  

Here are a coupe videos from Hoka and the RRR

Hoka Speedgoat 50K Video:

Pre-Race RRR Interview with Bryon Powell:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Missing The Boat

Missing The Boat

Run Rabbit Run Race Report                       

**** This is a long report, skip to the "***" for the meat or even just read the last paragraph.  

Kendrick Callaway so graciously volunteered to be my crew for this race and we had a great time hanging out Wednesday through Sunday morning.  Thursday evening and Friday morning Kendrick and I put together a plan for the race, something I found to be way more involved that I thought it would be.  So involved, that I didn’t have the finishing touches for the plan or the packing of equipment and nutrition until 12:35pm before the 1pm race start.  While the plan ended up being a great success, I should have mapped things out earlier for the sake of me and the crew.   

Matt Bourquin and his Girlfriend Allison drove all night Thursday to arrive at 4:00am Friday to watch my race and help crew.  It was awesome having them join.    
Thursday night I slept in 2ish hour chunks starting at 1:00am.  Sleep is never “good” for me the night before a race and this time was no different.  The day or two leading up to the race my legs were feeling pretty good and I had no real problems to speak of with regards to my health or my taper. 
Toeing the line, I was ready to go.  As planned, I power hiked most of the monster climb up the ski runs to the peak of Steamboat hovering around 5th to 7th place behind Dylan Bowman, Tim Olson, Lara Miguel, Mike Wolf, Karl Meltzer, some other guy I don’t know and surprisingly, Lizzy Hawker.  Things felt fine and I honestly think I was spending less energy, breathing easier and sweating less that most my competition up the steep first 5 miles.   Once at the top and through the first aid station, I was in 6th with Karl and Dave James behind me by a minute or two at the most.  I felt good, but not great running down the trail towards Long Lake.  Leading up to the race I was very much insecure on how a 100 mile race would go and as we started the downhill running, I felt things were fast and the pace was not what I expected.  I got caught in the moment and kept pace.  Not long after the top I caught Miguel Lara and Dave James caught up to me.  Dave and I then ran into Dylan at the first of a number of less than well-marked trail intersections.  There was a wooden sign for long lake with a race sign pointing down hill for the 100 mile.  Fortunately, we realized we needed to go to long lake first… something Nick Padatella didn’t do.  As we arrived at the lake Miguel, who caught back up to us at the junction, stopped to drink out of the lake and I didn’t see him again after that.  Almost to the aid station, we saw Wolf and Olson just 45 seconds out of the aid station as we arrived. 

Down, the three of us continued running pretty aggressively, more aggressively than we should have.  Just before the road, Dylan stopped to get water out of the creek and Dave and I kept going where we caught Wolf, Olson and Nick Pedatella.  Nick knew he was done, but seemed to be in good spirits and would end up placing 3rd the next day at the 50 mile after a 20+ mile jaunt in the 100 mile.  Dave took the lead by 15 seconds and Pedatella, Tim, Mike and I enjoyed some light conversation to the high school.  Catching Mike and Tim, I wasn’t feeling that great at all, but was happy to be distracted once running with good company. 
My crew was flawless and efficient and I was treated with a 1 mile jog with Matt across the busy roads of Steamboat.   Enjoying a little lead on the rest of the guys due to fast crewing, I jogged on.  I hid under the excitement, as I knew I wasn’t feeling as I should only a quarter into what became a gnarly, carnage filled 100 mile that I wouldn’t see the second half of.  I felt much worse that I normally do at the 25 mile mark in well executed 50 milers.  I quickly transitioned into a hike up the ski hill across town where the off trail route was only a few degrees away from hands and knees scrambling.  I always feel best on the steeps, it felt like I was taking a break and I sort of was as it was all hiking.  At the top I once again was confused and ended up taking a round about line that added a minute or two to my time.  ALL the trail markings were yellow… at the height of fall colors in a place that is world famous for it’s golden Aspens.  Dave was close enough behind to see my route and followed suit.  Once back on route I saw Tim running the correct route a half mile back and that would be the last I saw him until I was in a car driving down to the hotel 3 or 4 hours later. 

The next 30 miles was the strangest 30 miles of my running life.  I wasn’t feeling at all like I felt I should for the first half of a 100, but not bad, as again, I was climbing up.  I shared the lead with Dave on much of the up hill, casually climbing and going back and forth with each other.  Likewise Dave was right on my tail going down to the Cow Creek aid station.  I was keeping pace, but I began to know I wasn’t going to be able to keep this up.  Leading still both in and out of Cow Creek, I was encouraged by my crew and I flew through the aid.  On the dirt road and hitting mile 30 I was just waiting to blow up.  Waiting to blow up in the lead at a race with $10,000 for first, strange.  I was well nourished with nearly 400 calories of Vitargo an hour, s-caps and more than enough water.  Feet were happy in the Hoka Bondi and Injinji Socks.  The equipment, crew and even weather was cooperating, but the body and mind wasn’t.    

**We were now passing a lot of Tortoises (they started in the morning) and one lady said to me as I passed “you are the WINNER!”, it was too much and I told her over my shoulder “I’m the leader, the leader”.  On the trail and approaching the 1/3 mark of the race I began to barely run, then finally I pretty much had to walk.  I was in the lead and walking.  I was just waiting for Dave and wondering what I would say.  He passed, but was also slowing down and encouraged me, even turned around and told me to look at the cow pie on the trail someone turned into a smiley face. 

Unfortunately the cow pie didn’t work and I continued to walk.  I walked and walked and walked.  For over 30 minutes I walked and I began to really wonder where the heck Tim and Wolf were, had they dropped, had they taken a wrong turn, was Dave and I the only ones even in the running for this race?  My complete ignorance and inexperience in the 100 was at it’s absolute best here.  Walking for ages, I was fully committed in my dropping and having a huge pity party.  While yes, everyone slowed here, I was living in a 50 mile race mindset.  I was unbelievably under equipped to be walking.  I had at least 7 more miles to the next aid, it was nearly dark, I was on single track, I had no light and I had no shirt.  I enjoyed that I was going to be in the dark, freezing and in the mountainous forest.  I wanted to be punished, I sucked.  I decided to stop walking and stretch.  I stretched for 3 or so minutes when Dylan rolled up.  Instantly I snapped out of my punishment session and made the excellent choice in running with Dylan.  My legs were sore, but moving.  Dylan wasn’t having a great time either with a good bit of moaning and even a little dry heave over some gel.  We walked most of the steep and not that steep up-hill.  I appreciated the company and magically my legs, energy and attitude was improving.  I was in disbelief. 

**We made our way down in the dark and things weren’t too bad with Dylan’s light.  The last off-trail 35% slope was ridiculous, I fell on my butt twice.  At the aid station, I grabbed some clothes, drank some water, filled up with Vitargo and was off… in second place again.  After another wrong turn for a minute or so, we were across town and to the high school where I had just a little time on Dylan.  From the high school I went straight up the road following the yellow flags… and missed the right turn to go up Fish Creek Falls.  Apparently people were yelling after me and Fred, the RD even drove after me.  I was running well, confident and ready to run 100 miles.  For the first time since the first 5 miles, I really believed I could get this race done.  I ran most of the 5 miles and 1,500 foot climb and was eager to catch up with Dave and surprise him with a come back from the dead, a dead walk at least.  Running into what I thought was mile 49, I was given the news that I was at the mile 62 aid station. 

*It all sunk in that I had taken a wrong turn.  I wasn’t furious, I was just bummed and in disbelief.  All sorts of things flooded the brain… I can’t run all the way back down and then up, I’m done, I was in second place and pushing, I am feeling good, it is over, I’m done and then… a guilty satisfaction of stopping.  I finally got the brain to focus and proposed someone drive me to the bottom and that I’ll re-start the race from there.  After what seemed like a long, albeit comfortable, drive down the dirt road and arriving at the high school, again, Bryon Powell contacted the RD and I was clear to go.  I was dropped off, running and in shock.  10th place was at the aid station.  I started running on awkward, but functioning legs.  I was passing all sorts of people, mostly Tortoises and right away realized I had not been passing anyone on the other trail, how dumb of me.  In the Air Force and military, when you make stupid decisions under stress and in a wartime environment, that propensity to be stupid is called the “fog of war”, well I was deep in the fog of war running up Spring Creek instead of Fish Creek Falls. 

***Still feeling good I made my way up and eventually caught a seriously hurting and walking Mike Wolf.  Mike was unbelievably positive and gave me all sorts of encouragement after I told him my mistake and how I was all of a sudden behind him.  As I left Mike he said “pass them all!”  I was still doing great and was optimistic for all of the climb.  As the trail comes to the top and flattens out for the last mile or two I fell into a deep and dark place once more.  I was walking, I was in the dumps and worst of all I was feeling sorry for myself.  “I ran an extra 5 mile and 1,500 feet of climbing; it is over”, this was my mantra.  It was frosty cold and I immediately sat down by the fire once at the aid station.  I bundled up and began an uncontrollable shiver that further made me feel sorry for myself.  I had hit a low and I was in the wrong place, a place I could easily quit.  I signed up for a ride down that “is leaving now” and started to stumble and shiver my way to the vehicle.  Deep inside me the voice of Ultramarathon reason spoke, “you should try to run”.  I tired to run in the parking area where the ground was rough and uneven with weeds, ruts, dirt and rock.  I couldn’t really “run”.  I tired once more and then I quit the race.  I quit, I failed myself, and those who believed in me.  I had some bad luck, I wasn’t on my A-Game, but nonetheless, I didn’t make the right decision and completely failed to meet my baseline goal of finishing when I damn well could have. 

***On my way up Fish Creek Falls I witnessed people walking up the trail, in pain, alone and five hours longer at it than me.  I passed people who aren’t gifted as I am in endurance running, I passed people who have 9-5 jobs and obviously less time to train than I do.  I passed Bossic at mile 30, who was on blood thinners and had blood clots in both his lungs shortly before race day.  They didn’t quit.  They pushed on.  They finished what they started.  This wasn’t track, or cross country, a 10K, a marathon or even a 50 mile, where place, pace and finishing times are often the focus, this was a mountain 100 mile.  The essence of this race, and I’m confident it is true for all 100 mile races, is to finish no matter what.  Being convinced I wasn’t going to place well in the race and that I couldn’t “run” at the moment, I quit.  I completely ignored the spirit of what it was all about.  I’m embarrassed and utterly disappointed.  Despite knowing the 100 would be different, I didn’t see this coming and this has been a really tough, emotional lesson to learn.  I have the highest level of respect for everyone who finished the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile.       

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Mountain Rat-Race & RRR 100 Previews


Our travels.  
Here is a chronological listing of places or areas where we spent a significant amount of time over the last 4 months of travel:  

-Los Alamos, New Mexico
-Flagstaff, Arizona
-Durango, Colorado
-Silverton, Colorado
-Lake City, Colorado
-Ouray, Colorado
-Telluride, Colorado
-Grand Canyon National Park
-Banff National Park, Canada
-Lake Louise, Canada
-Jasper National Park
-Bozeman Montana
-Missoula Montana
-Flathead Valley Montana
-Glacier National Park
-Seattle, Washington
-Squamish, British Columbia
-Whistler, British Columbia
-Grand Teton National Park

Preparing for our long adventure I thought I would have formed some definite favorite, or a place that I considered “the best”, but that “best” was never realized.  We have visited a few places that after we left, we both felt we had seen what we wanted, but the overwhelming majority of our 4 months has been spent in a paradise where we felt hungry to spend more time.  The details of how nice the weather was, the costs of visiting, rather the surrounding towns were to our liking, or rather or not we saw the “best” of the area, were really just part of the adventure and in the end, being in the mountainous alpine environment always satisfied, entertained and was all together a fulfilling experience… with challenges. 

Our time has indeed been spent in the most amazing parts of North America’s mountains.  A wonderful aspect of North American’s mountains is it’s unbelievable diversity.  As I look at Mount Elbert right now, I truly enjoy looking at it, camping by it and playing around and on it.  It doesn’t have to have a massive glacier, huge cedars, a giant creek with waterfalls, a nearly un-climbable face, a small town with only the “coolest”, progressive, like minded residence close by, or any other particular component that other mountains have had that we have visited before or that we have heard of having.

Instead of coming to a grand conclusion on the “best” mountains and surrounding community, I believe we have developed a great appreciation and ability to enjoy the mountain environment that we and especially I, really didn’t have before.
Cheesy as can be picture of Mike Devloo and I enjoying a simple mountain view

 I have directed nearly all of my energy, time, passion and money over the last 9 years, outside of work, towards being in the mountains.  Over those 9 years I was driven to conquer, to see, to find and do the “best”.  Not always, but often, I was rushed, frantic and a model weekend warrior.  Without thinking about it, I was often competing with both myself and others, to reach some upper echelon of mountainous accomplishment.  Highest peaks climbed, most and best Class V paddled, most international mountains visited, deepest and steepest powder skied and cliffs sent, best mountain photos and now in the last year and a half, running on the “best”, wildest, steepest and scenic mountains was a serious underlying motive.  Can one overcome this as a weekend warrior, absolutely, but I struggled to diverge from the mountain rat race. 

I can’t honestly say I no longer play in the mountain rat race, in fact, I know I will get caught up in it at times, but these last 4 months have really been a much-needed therapy.       
Taking a 30 footer... OK, 25 footer 


Here are a few previews for the Run Rabbit Run 100 that takes place this Friday at 1pm in Steamboat... my first 100 miler (yeah, I'm scared):

Karl Meltzer's Preview / Bryon Powell's Preview

I would be extremely happy to live up to these predictions.  As I told Karl, I feel like I'm signed up for a  Nordic Skiing race or some other event I have no clue about. The 100 is certainly a new frontier that I am anxious to explore.  1st goal is to finish the race.   

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


We are a week shy of 4 months on the road.  For the first time in those nearly 4 months I am traveling alone without Felix and Maggie for more than a few days.  As can be imagined, traveling for such a long time can be challenging on relationships and we both are looking forward to some therapeutic “away time”.  

On my first day away from Felix and Maggie I was excited for a little change and did enjoy the freedoms of moving at my very own pace and selecting activity with no one else in mind.  In the early evening on this first day alone, I was driving from Copper Ski area to Leadville and was beside myself admiring the splendid golden and orange aspens painting the mountainsides.  After the initial awe of the beauty I immediately was disappointed Maggie and Felix weren’t there to enjoy the fleeting splendor of the fall colors.  

Later on in the grocery store, I realized that I could debate over my salad dressing selection for however long I wanted (way to long for most people) and I relished this freedom.  Then, as the sun began to set over Twin Lakes, I found that I wasn’t really enjoying how lonely it felt without my travel companions, my son, my wife… my best friends.  I drove 5 miles back to the first place I could get cell reception to tell my family how much they were missed, with no regard to leaving my clothes, food and everything else sitting next to a stream.  I miss them.  I acknowledge how fruitful a little break is, but I am also experiencing some painful withdrawals.   
My Wonderful, Missed, Family

Monday, September 3, 2012

Glacier N.P, Whister B.C, Seattle WA, Teton N.P.!

Joffre Lakes, BC

It has been a while since my last written post.  The month of August has had some high points and low point for running, but overall my running has been productive.  Our travels have taken us through Missoula Montana where we spent a week with Jeremy, Tiffany and Autumn touring around the Flathead Valley and Glacier.  
Wolfs, Schlarbs and Schwitau in Glacier NP

We were also fortunate enough to have Mark Schwitau travel with us for over two weeks.  After Montana we traveled to Seatlle and British Columbia.  We spent two one weeklong stays in Whistler and Squamish between two visits in Seattle.   
Michael Frianti, Yoga at Wanderlust in Whistler BC

In Seattle we stayed with our generous friends the Murphs, the Feists, Ben Brown and his girlfriend Annica and the Masons.  After the Pacific Northwest we headed to Teton National Park in Wyoming.  
Death Canyon in Teton NP
Visiting the Teton has been on the top of my list for years after seeing pictures and skiing Jackson Hole.  Exploring the Tetons has really lived up to our expectations boasting numerous large lakes at the base of massive mountains climbing nearly 7,000 feet up from the valley. 

Our travels have been overwhelmingly successful and full of fun.  We have stayed in a cabin on Whitefish lake in Montana, rafted around the lake and swam.  We have hiked and run through Glacier National Park, to include a one way hike for Maggie and Mark from the pass to the Loop.  I have whitewater kayaked the Cheakamus, a class IV/V river in Whistler.  
Waterfall on the Cheakamus run I did (not me though)

Mark, Maggie and our friends have mountain biked the world famous biking trails of Whistler to include watching a bit of Crankworks, a huge downhill biking festival.  Maggie and I enjoyed watching Michael Frianti while doing Yoga at Wunderulust in the Whistler Village.  We left the camper in Seattle and tent camped by a creek for 4 nights in Whistler.  In Seattle Mike Feist biked with me for a 31 mile long run on the never ending trails of Anacortes, which is an impressive feat considering the up and down technical trails of the area.  Felix continues to grow into an outdoor boy, hiking, swimming, playing and exploring the amazing outdoor places we continue to travel through.         
Teton NP picture from my long run

Running Highlights-
-One way 24 mile with over 5,000 feet of climbing rom Girabalidi Lake near Whistler to the Black Tusk and down the backside
-27 mile, 4,500 feet of climbing one way run on the Sea to Sky trail and other trails surrounding Whistler
-1st Place, course record, in front of last year’s series overall winner, at Canada’s most well known running series, 5 Peaks, on the top of Blackcomb Mountain.
            Anotherarticle on the race
-31 Mile run in Anacortes WA with Mike Feist (Mtn biking)
-27 Mile run in Anacortes WA the next day
-One way 29  mile run with 6,200 feet of climbing (up to 10,800 feet) around the Tetons in Teton National Park.  Ran up Death Canyon, the Teton Traverse, down Cascade Canyon and around Jenny Lake
Copper Lake Teton NP

Finally, I finished my training for Run Rabbit Run 100 (before my taper) with possible my best week ever:
-Sunday, 31 Miles, 5,000 Feet Climbing
-Monday, 27 Miles, 5,000 Feet Climbing
-Tuesday, 11 Miles 2,000 Feet Climbing
-Wednesday, 10.5 Miles 1,500 Feet Climbing
-Thursday, 8.5 Miles, 2,000 Feet Climbing
-Friday, 12 Miles, 2,000 Feet Climbing
-Saturday, 29 Miles, 6,200 Feet Climbing

126 Miles Running
23,000 Feet Climbing

Black Bear I saw on my run in Teton NP

Vitargo Re-Fill

School House Glacier Teton NP

Moose I saw on my Long Run in Teton NP

First Golden Aspen of the season!

Glacial Lake Swimming in BC

Felix is a Star!