Not as anticipated…

Thursday, July 30, 2015

One of the major factors in my deciding to drop at Western this year was the thought that I would avoid the 2 months of painful and frustrating recovery I dealt with last year. However, this shin issue just won’t go away. I’ve started running twice, both times after taking at least a week off, only to have the pain come back after 2-3 runs. So instead of last year where I kept pushing my body to do something it clearly didn’t want, I’m backing off even more. I’m going to take as much time as this thing needs to get itself sorted out. I’m rather frustrated, as I’m missing all this lovely summer daylight running, but at least I don’t have any races on the calendar (officially) until TNF50 in December. I had been toying with the idea of jumping into the Headlands 50k on Aug. 29 as a long run, but that doesn’t seem prudent right now. However, that may change depending on how this thing resolves.

In the meantime, I’m getting familiar with the paved and dirt roads around Tam on two wheels. I’m getting some ultrasound done today to see if they can spot anything in particular, but other than that, it’ll just be PT a couple times per week in effort to get this thing to work itself out. On the up side, the couple of runs I’ve been on have been lovely. I’ve gotten to run with Rachelle which doesn’t happen too often when I’m training and I was feeling good enough to participate in the Widowmaker run last weekend. Despite the shin feeling solid during that, it got sore again on Sunday night and forced my hand to take a larger chunk of time off.

View from a run with Rachelle. On danse sur le pont.

View from a run with Rachelle. On danse sur le pont.

Look at all these people I found at the summit of Tam!

Look at all these people I found at the summit of Tam!

For those unfamiliar with the shin issue, it first cropped up in the couple of days before the World Championships in Annecy. It was just shin tightness and it didn’t bug me at all during the race itself. I would have taken more down time afterwards, but just 2 weeks after Annecy was The Dipsea. So instead of healing, I was just trying to get it good enough to race on again. Mixed biking and running and PT sessions got me to the start line and again, I didn’t notice anything during the race. Then, 2 weeks after The Dipsea, it was time for Western States. Once more, biking, running and PT and I toed the line having run only a handful of times since The Dipsea due to lingering shin pain. The shin pain was not the cause of my drop at Western. In fact, like the prior 2 races, I didn’t feel it at all during the race. It’s amazing what your mind can block out when the adrenaline starts flowing.

If you’re still wondering why I haven’t seen the obvious yet, I have. Clearly spending 4 weeks of running/racing trying to get my shin just good enough to get me to each sequential start line took its toll. In an ideal world, I would have rested and gotten everything back to 100% immediately after Annecy, but the race calendar doesn’t always work that way and it just so happened that 2 incredible important races fell in the following weeks. I’m paying for it now, and while I am frustrated to be missing out on all this summer fun, I hope to be back relatively soon. In the meantime, I’ll be on the bike. Anyone want to keep me company??

Two wheels on Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. A strange sensation.

Two wheels on Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. A strange sensation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Western States 2015 – Squashed

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I toed the line at Western States feeling as close to 100% as I could. My shin bugged me enough in the weeks leading up to the race that I didn’t run at all the weekend before. During race week, I ran about 5 miles a day and saw my PT, Hal, twice. The second time (Thursday) I left feeling basically 100% with no pain in my shin. Rachelle and I drove up to Squaw mid-morning, arriving around 1pm in time to grab lunch in the Squaw Village. Inevitably, we bumped into friends and hung out for a bit before checking into our hotel across the valley. We had dinner that night with my parents, had a couple of beers with the Gu and Nike crews, and were in bed at a reasonable hour.

I went for a shakeout the next morning before watching the start of the hill climb, and ended up running with Bob Shebest (San Diego 100 winner) who was warming up for the climb. My shin felt pretty good – not quite as good as Thursday, but good enough. After that, we ate a late breakfast with some SFRC folks, went to the runners meeting and headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening and dinner in Tahoe City.

Saturday morning saw us up around 3:30am. We packed the car and drove over to the start, arriving around 4:15am. I pooped twice before the race (quite a pleasant surprise as I usually go during the race –the coffee helps with that, as I didn’t start drinking it pre-race until February). The start was considerably warmer than last year. I didn’t even consider wearing arm warmers, while last year I was happy to have them. Nike teammate Ryan Bak even decided to shed the shirt he was wearing before the start. I said a few final goodbyes/good lucks to Rachelle, my dad, and other runners and made my way to the front of the start. Within a couple minutes, we were off.

10549660_10153364525942114_79071095481589287_o

21seconds to go… (Photo Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Last year, I took it really conservatively in the early miles, and especially on the first climb out Squaw. I wanted to be a bit more aggressive this year, and stay with the front pack, as I had greater ambitions knowing what lay ahead (versus last year where I really didn’t know what to expect). I ended up getting to the top of the climb in first, with Bak and Ryan Smith immediately behind to me. Laney, DBo, Krar, Seth, a couple of Frenchmen, and several others were right with us as well. Coach Koop was up at the top and gave me the “pump the brakes” sign, but I was only a couple of minutes faster than last year when I stopped twice to poop on the climb, so I wasn’t worried. I didn’t convey that to him at the time, but knew how my body felt and things were really relaxed.

CIggrMHUsAABS8F

Hiking up the escarpment with Bak and Smith (Photo Credit: Mike Hermsmeyer)

I led initially on the descent towards Lyon Ridge, but was passed by several guys when I tripped and went sprawling harmlessly into some grass. The trail is fairly technical in the high country and I was wary of it. I didn’t want to try to move too fast and stay with the group of 5 that went on ahead, so I settled down and found myself in front of DBo, Krar, Seth, and Gediminas Grinius. We basically stayed in that order through mile 10 at Lyon Ridge. Things were going well so far. I was a little annoyed by the rocks on the trail, as I spent the entire time looking at my feet making sure I didn’t turn an ankle on a rock, but I knew that the trail mellowed around mile 30 and that there was plenty of time to run. My shin wasn’t giving me any problems and the rest of me felt pretty good.

However, at some point in the next 2-3 miles, I slowly came to the realization that I wasn’t having fun. At first, I had thought it was just my annoyance with the trails, but as I kept moving, it became clear that I was in a mental funk. I couldn’t quite place why, but I did know that entering the race, my excitement was nowhere near the levels it was last year. I didn’t think much of it, but after a long spring of successful racing (Sonoma, Boston, World Championships, Dipsea), I think I was just worn down mentally. I found myself dreading running another 85 miles, even if my body felt pretty good. About this time, Krar, Dbo, Seth, and Grinius all moved past me. I could still see the leaders on certain turns, and was only 2-3 minutes back, but something told me they were already out of reach.

Heading into Lyon Ridge (Photo Credit: Bob Shebest)

Heading into Lyon Ridge (Photo Credit: Bob Shebest)

I spent the next 4-5 miles trying to figure out if I wanted to continue with the race if I wasn’t having fun. I know that sounds silly, but it plays a huge part in why I run. The races I’ve run this year were fun and inspiring. Sonoma was my first big race of the year and I really enjoyed it, not only because I won, but because there was a lot of strong competition to test myself against. Boston is impossible not to have fun, and Annecy, while difficult, was also fun because it was the World Championships and the course was absurdly beautiful. Western was fun last year. Maybe ignorance was bliss, but knowing what lay ahead (hours of pain and suffering) just took me to an unexpectedly dark place very early on. I figured that if I could keep moving, the funk would lift. I didn’t want to drop simply because I wasn’t having fun.

As I was wrestling with whether I wanted to keep going, my knees started barking. Quietly at first, but steadily louder. By the time we hit Duncan Canyon, they were rather painful and the prospect of running 75 more miles on them was seeming like less and less of a possibility. I started trying to remember Rachelle’s phone number so I could call her and tell her I dropped. But, I resolved to get to Robinson Flat. Last year they started hurting (due to tight IT bands I suspect) about 30-35 miles in, but didn’t get really bad until Cal Street. It took me nearly 2 months to recover last year and the prospect of putting my body into that sort of situation again (both during the race and in recovery) was completely unappealing. I started hiking more in the hopes that they would calm down, but they didn’t. When they started hurting while I was hiking uphill, I knew a drop at Robinson Flat was inevitable and spent the rest of the time coming to terms with it. Someone likened it to a death in that you go through the 5 stages of grief: denial (it’ll pass – they’ll feel better if I hike a bit), anger (why are they hurting so early? Why is my body letting me down?), bargaining (just make it to Robinson and my crew and maybe things will turn around), depression (#pityparty), and acceptance (I’m listening to my body. I told myself I’d do this before the race and it’s the sensible thing to do. I’m ok with that). I probably lapsed back into the anger/depression phases multiple times as my blood sugar rose and fell with Gu consumption. Even though I ultimately decided I would drop, I forced myself to keep eating and drinking just in case something miraculous happened (spoiler: it wouldn’t).

Heading out of Duncan Canyon (Photo Credit: Luke Tamagna-Darr)

Heading out of Duncan Canyon (Photo Credit: Luke Tamagna-Darr)

Anyways, back to the physical realm… For a while, I was worried that I was off trail, as no one came up behind me for probably half an hour. Then, Sondre, Sharman, Laney, Houck, and Terranova all made their way past me. We exchanged words of encouragement and soon I was coming into Robinson Flat. I saw lots of people I knew (Tanner, Matt Trappe, Bryon Powell, many Marin runners, and my crew) and all were cheering. On the trail, I had come to terms with myself, but seeing other people suddenly placed a big weight on my shoulders. I felt like I was letting them down by bowing out. I couldn’t even high five The Big Stapler when I reached my crew. I just put my hands on my knees, my head between my legs, and cried. I sensed Rachelle coming over, along with Tim Tollefson and Monica (the rest of my crew). I think I mustered an “I’m done. I’m sorry,” through the tears, but it may not have been audible. I didn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I felt like I had let my crew down.

11539013_869026746504071_3369739856944108070_o

Thinking I’m in good spirits hiking towards Robinson Flat (Photo Credit: Chasqui Runner)

10169241_10155833984520374_6495036338676849398_n

Running my final steps into Robinson Flat (Photo Credit: Nancy Hobbs)

After a few minutes, I stopped crying, slowly stood up, and made my way towards the volunteers, who were asking if I was all right. I told them I was going to drop. One guy decided that needed to be announced to the entire forest and yelled: “WE’VE GOT A DROP” about 3 times at the top of his lungs. In retrospect, this is hilarious to me but at the time, I wanted to tell him to shut the hell up. They seemed like they were in a rush to summon the aid station captain, who was the person who had to officially remove my wrist band, but I don’t know why – I wasn’t going anywhere. She appeared with a pair of scissors and asked twice more if I was sure. I said I was and with an inaudible snip, my race was over.

I walked back over to my crew, drank some water and Coke, and tried to eat but realized I wasn’t hungry at all. In what would become a theme for many throughout the day, I had drained my water bottle completely before the 2nd and 3rd aid stations. For it only being 9:45am, it seemed abnormally hot. Almost every racer that came in after me was taking on ice either in arm sleeves or a bandana, which is not something I noticed last year. As more time passed, I felt increasingly upbeat. I saw that Bak was still in the aid station and went over to talk to him for a bit. He would end up dropping there as well, unfortunately.

We waited around a bit and cheered Brett, Stephen, DeNucci, and many other friends as they came through. Then, we drove to Michigan Bluff. In the car, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy that I was done running for the day, it almost seemed wrong. I had saved myself hours of pain and suffering (both mental and physical) in the present, and weeks of recovery in the future. I had also saved a couple of friendships, as asking Tim and Staples to go for what would have been very long hikes with a very cranky runner would have ended poorly for our personal relationships. We spent a couple of hours at Michigan Bluff, which would claim many competitors, including DBo, Houck, and Topher. We cheered those we knew and those we didn’t, hung out with various crews, and had a great time. As I saw the state in which people entered (save for a few), my decision to drop was continually reaffirmed. Finally, we headed back to Auburn, showered, ate, and went to the track to watch the finish. It was a lot of fun and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how impressive Krar (holy balls), Seth, and Jared were on the day. Magda, my pacer from last year who I desperately tried to get to pace me again, was first woman, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Kaci and Stephanie also ran very strong races and deserve huge congratulations. So does every person who finished. It was a day in which the elements conspired against the racers, and those who made it all the way to Auburn are stronger than they know.

11693831_10206030309613595_5522871592530957433_n

Nike team – Thanks for all the support guys.

For me, the immediate future will be spent getting myself back to 100% on all fronts. While my shin didn’t bother me on race day, it is back to feeling a little iffy again. I was rushing it and forcing things in the weeks before Western and now I want to give it a chance to recover on its own. Mentally, I think I’m a little burned out at the ultra distance for the time being, but it’s nothing time won’t fix. I’ve now got a score to settle with States (although I highly doubt I’ll try to get back next year). My current mental state makes sense to me, as I’ve had a pretty big year so far and feeling the need for some down time is natural. I’m signed up for CCC in August, but have yet to book my plane flight, and may not. I’ll have to see where I am in a week or two. Regardless of that decision, I know that I am already excited to race some shorter road and cross country races in the fall, which makes me not too worried that I will re-find my stoke for the longer distances in the near future. If anything, this experience has imparted to me how important being mentally ready and excited for an ultra is. Ultras are long, hard endeavors and I now realize that I can’t run one competitively if I’m not in it mentally. Like many runners, I run because I enjoy it. I race a lot because it’s a ton of fun and don’t see that changing. But, I don’t ever want that to disappear because I placed myself in races that didn’t enable me to toe the line with that nervous energy we all know so well. It’s something that needs to be nurtured, and racing with high expectations too often seems like a good way to kill it. For those supporters out there, don’t worry. Like the sand people, I’ll be back, and in greater numbers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

The 105th Dipsea Race

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ah, Dipsea Sunday. Arguably one of the most challenging and fun days of the year. This was one of the first years I wasn’t really nervous about the race in the weeks and days heading into it. I think that was mostly due to the fact that it fell directly between the race in Annecy and Western States this year. I had 15 days to recover from Annecy and I was feeling pretty good come race day, save for a nagging shin issue that began a bit before I left for France. It’s not debilitating in that I can run on it with just mild discomfort, but it’s been going on long enough and is present enough that I’ve been dreading runs. Not a fun place to be. So that, combined with the fact that I knew I would likely feel some residual fatigue from France, really put me in a mindset where I was just going to run and see what happened. Rickey Gates was back and I knew Gus was in decent shape (Galen was unfortunately dealing with some injury issues himself), so it seemed like a good a year as any for my streak of fastest time awards to end. I was ready for that for the first time since the streak started 2009 and I think that also contributed a lot to the unusual sense of calm I had heading into the race.

On race morning, I was up fairly early and ran the mile up to Equator coffee in downtown MV to grab a cup. I bumped into several folks I knew, exchanged pleasantries and well-wishes, and headed back to my apartment to poop. Then I headed back to downtown to meet up with Gus and Lucas before we started.

7028655_orig

Scratch Men’s Start (Credit: Mill Valley Patch)

The start line is always a fun place to be on race day, as you get to watch each group head off and the Bob, the announcer, gives you some sort of fun fact about someone in each group. At 8:54am, we watched the Z runners head off and at 8:55am we were on our way. Gus and I were close through the top of the stairs, with him being about 10 meters in front of me all the way through Windy Gap. Heading into Muir Woods, I took Suicide while he took the longer route, but we ended up with the same gap between us, as he was able to open up since the longer route was completely empty and Suicide was packed. We hit the creek in around 15:10 with little incident and headed up Dynamite. People were, for the most part, accommodating, with the inevitable one or two folks who don’t know how passing works in this race or just refuse to move. Gus maintained his 10m lead on me through halfway rock, where I moved ahead. I caught Galen in the rainforest and knew he wasn’t having a great day, but he was still moving pretty well. I crested Cardiac at 33:20 (18:10 for the climb which is pretty decent for race day), about 30 seconds ahead of Gus as I would later learn. DBo and Harmony and Claire were all up there but I didn’t get the split to Rickey as I think they were busy cheering (YOU HAD ONE JOB :-P). At least they made it there in time this year. Baby steps…

11423845_10155661674250463_5858921951849926599_n

Top of the stairs (Credit: James Norton)

Dipsea 2015-110

Grinding to the top of Cardiac (Credit: Steve Disenhof)

Anyways, over the top of Cardiac and onto the open, sweeping turns heading into Swoop. I tried my best to move as well as I could, but my legs just didn’t have that top end gear that I’ve had in the past. I made it down to Swoop passing a couple of people and I think I was in around 15th at that point. I could hear Gus’s handheld bike horn coming down behind me and realized it was just a matter of time before he was back on me, as he was clearly descending much better than I. I managed to hold him off and nip a couple more folks through Door 1 and Kiernan’s crossing, but Gus was right behind me in the Grotto and made his move once we got onto Highway 1, saying, “Don’t take this personally, baby,” as he went by. I think he knows this, but he’s the last person who needs to say that to me in this race. Again, I felt a complete and total lack of speed on the pavement heading into the finish, and I knew that even if I managed to run faster than Rickey, Gus would get fastest time as he finished about 3 seconds in front of me. As it turns out, we were about 25 seconds slower than Rickey, finishing in 49:33 and 49:35 to Rickey’s 49:10. Gus was 8th, I was 9th, rounding out the scoring for the Pelicans (Matias 2nd, Rickey 3rd, Alan 7th, Gus 8th, me 9th), and Mark McManus rounded out the top 10. Pretty impressive to have 6 out of the top 10 and I think that’s what it’s going to take to win the race going forward. The Pelicans repeated as team champions, which completely eased any disappointment I had about losing the fastest time award. I also want to say huge congratulations to George Torgun and Mike Broom, who finished 34th and 35th respectively, to earn their first black shirts. And I want to acknowledge Lucas Agricola for his great run to finish 36th (argh!) and Victor Ballesteros for finishing 40th. May you both be in the black next year! The rest of the afternoon was spent eating and drinking at Roger’s and watching the Warriors at the Deuce.

image

Pelican Inn Track Club – Team Champions: Matias, Alan, me, Gus, Rickey (Credit: Paul Wais)

I woke up Monday morning tired, but not really sore, indicating that I definitely had not left it all out on the course. That top end speed was severely lacking, but it wasn’t surprising, even in the moment, as I haven’t trained that gear for months. That’s something I need to remember heading into next year, if I want to get that fastest time award back (which I do). My run on Monday felt ok except for the shin issue rearing its head again. It gets better as the run progresses, so I don’t think it’s anything too serious, but it’s really damn annoying. I saw Hal for some work on it on Tuesday, but only ran a mile because it was still uncomfortable. Same thing happened yesterday – only made it a mile before calling it quits. It did feel better/different though, which was good. I’m nonetheless quite frustrated as I’d like to be able to run, but at least it’s close enough to race day that I’m not missing out on any fitness gains. If anything, I’ll be well rested and over-tapered, but I’m hoping that it will clear up soon and I’ll be able to taper via running. We’ll see what comes. The most important thing right now is to get it taken care of and get to the start line of Western as close to 100% as I can.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

2015 IAU Ultra Trail World Championships

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Whoa… I did not realize my last post was over a month ago after Boston. Time flies when you’re having fun. Anyways, following Lake Sonoma and Boston, I was pretty fatigued, so I made sure I was fully recovered before getting back into workouts and ramping up for the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships. However, about 2 weeks later, I came down with something and slept from 8:30pm on a Friday to 3:30pm the next day. Rachelle and I had been talking earlier that week about going for a hike over the weekend (and I was planning to propose during said hike), so when I woke up and she got home, we went on our hike and I proposed on the 2nd flight of the Dipsea steps. She seemed fairly surprised, but had known it was coming because her father called her immediately after I called him back in March to ask for his permission. Oh well… despite having time to think about it, she still said yes and now we have a wedding to plan (don’t ask when).

Anyways, with that settled, I was able to get back into training. Unfortunately, the timing was not great, as that was 3 weeks out from World’s and I had been scheduled for a couple of solid workouts/long runs, but I was able to make up for them the following week (for the most part), with 5 workouts in 7 days (including the West Valley centipede at Bay to Breakers which is always a great time). Then it was time to start backing off and the taper was happening.

Hill

Coming off the Hayes Street Hill (Credit: unknown).

I traveled to Annecy, France on Tuesday, arrived Wednesday evening, and spent the next 2 days running a bit, but mostly relaxing and preparing for the race, and getting drug tested. When I was asked to represent the USA at this race a couple of months ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I know it might leave me a bit fatigued for the Dipsea and Western States, but the chance to run in a USA jersey was too good to pass up. I’ve been dreaming about this for a couple of years now, so it really wasn’t a hard decision. The other members of the team were David Laney, Tim Tollefson, Alex Nichols, and Yassine Diboun on the men’s side. For the women, we had Krissy Moehl, Cassie Scallon, and Amy Rusiecki. They’re all great people and I had a wonderful time hanging out with them during the trip. Most of us were wearing the red, white, and blue (well, really just red and white on the singlets) for the first time, and that really became a theme of the trip – of just how much it meant to us to run for the USA at an international competition. Running as part of a team really adds another level of accountability and motivation that is lacking in other races. You want to run well not only for yourself, but also for your teammates and country. That played a big role in all of our races. Despite this, however, as Alex Nichols also said, the hours before the race were filled with a sense of dread. I’m not sure if it was the course or the weight of some internal and external expectations, but I was not particularly looking forward to racing. Still, I knew I had to give it my best and got myself ready accordingly.

2015-05-27 21.06.17

View from the hotel

2015-05-28 14.01.25

Annecy-Le-Vieux / Venice of the Alps

IMG_20150529_094630

I lost to Laney in the blood race and the real race (is that a banana in your pocket?!) (Credit: Richard Bolt)

2015-05-28 19.09.00

Opening Ceremonies (Credit: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

On race morning (night), we were up at 1:30am for the 3:30am start. We’d been awakened during the night by torrential downpours, but they had stopped by the time we left the hotel. Coffee and Picky Bars were consumed (Smooth Caffeinator and Cookie Doughpness before the race http://pickybars.com/shop/) and we arrived at the start about 45 minutes before the gun. The start of the race was unlike anything I’d experience. Tons of people cheering, flares, and loud music stood in stark contrast to the unremarkable pistol or whistle that graces most US races (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQirVC3rTqw). It amped me up and the first mile was accordingly covered in something like 6:15. We definitely startled some of the late-night revelers still out along the lake, as they didn’t know quite what to make of 300 runners bearing down on them with headlamps and poles.

11337032_921722234536414_8406294729857586329_o

The start (Credit: unknown)

CGOR2nAVAAACbx_

Laney and I nearing the top of the first climb – 4,000ft in 11 miles (credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell).

The first climb of the day was the longest (~11 miles) and took us to the highest point on the course (around 5,500ft for 4,000ft of climbing). I found myself picking my way through the technical parts more slowly than I would have liked. The combination of dark and heavy rainfall the night before left me a bit cautious, but whenever the route opened up, I was able to move up several places and basically maintain my position in what came to be the second group on the mountain. Tim was up ahead in the lead pack, but I figured we had a long day ahead and I wasn’t rushed. My legs felt good and I was ready to run well. David found his way up to me during that first climb and we hit the top together with more flares and music. It was still dark so I kept my headlamp on me, which was very useful when we dropped down the first descent and went through some really dark, forested patches. If I’d been cautious on the uphills, I was downright timid on these descents. I don’t have anything like this to train on Mt. Tam and it showed. I lost a couple of places and was running pretty solo early on. David and I went back and forth a bit, but he eventually gapped me and would stay ahead until the finish. On the 2nd major descent, I was having a really rough go of it. It was really slippery and despite being light out, I managed to go head-over-heels but luckily no major damage. It was during this descent that Alex Nichols came scampering past me and was quickly out of sight. I was in 4th for the team and was slowly realizing that I was in for a long day. I began to wonder how I would cover 30 more miles of similar terrain and basically just had a little pity party for myself.

CGO02qfUgAAVj6t

Nearing the 2nd aid station in the midst of a pity party (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Coming into the 2nd major aid station, I was finally able to open up and run a bit on the flat roads. I saw Bryon Powell (http://www.irunfar.com/) who was encouraging, but I basically informed him that this was feeling like a training run (which I’ve never really felt in a race before). I got some coke and headed back out. The next climb was about 7 miles long and part way up it, I came across Tim who was walking. He said he’d hit a rock with his foot and was going to have to drop. I was suddenly the 3rd guy for team USA and my mentality was forced to change. I knew I had to do my best for the team. The climb had a couple of false summits and ended with a nearly vertical scramble up (48.5% grade at one point according to Strava) through a goat herd which was one of the most absurd and amazing things I’d ever experience in a race.

10003727_10153302998917114_8947637363052895582_o

Pain Cave about 50km in. But LOOKIT HOW PRETTY (Credit: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

Roc Lancrenaz 1650m (km 57) – 2nd to last climb. We headed up through the herd and then over to the left where you can see those folks at the top (Credit: Pelloche)

DSC03576

More goats and rocks (Credit: Pelloche)

885548_10153302998342114_1937179701389758354_o

Luis Alberto Hernando (finished 2nd on the day) braving the goat herds (Credit: Kirsten Kortebein)

The views were beautiful which helped with the pain. On this climb, I’d made my way into the middle of a group of 4-5 guys (2 Spaniards, a Fin, a Canadian, and an Italian). One of the Spaniards I recognized as having been a pre-race favorite for a podium finish and he looked like he was having trouble, but as soon as we started the descent down the most interminably steep fire road I have ever encountered, they all dropped me like a bad habit. My legs were in a lot of pain, to the point where I was forced to stop and recover on the downhill, which I did not like. When it finally leveled out, I saw the Spaniard sitting on the side of the trail. Continuing into the 3rd aid station, I saw Meghan Hicks who said that we were in silver medal position and that the Spanish were imploding.

CGmsM6ZUQAAzOVZ

Me and a Spaniard heading up to the goats. I would pass this guy at the base of the final climb only to be re-passed during the final descent (Credit: Pelloche)

I didn’t know how many guys they had in front of me, but resolved to get back to the guy who had slipped away during the descent. Sure enough, as I turned the corner into the aid station, there were 3 guys exiting. I took a quick stop, got some more Coke, and headed back out. I was informed by Tim that we were in bronze position (clearly he and Meghan weren’t communicating :-P) and that I was in around 18th, and all I knew is that I had to run my ass off to try to secure a podium finish. I didn’t want to be the guy to let us down. Alex and David seemed to be having great races and I wanted to bring it home for us.

20150530_105317_200

Coke at the 3rd aid station. Learning that we’re in medal contention (Credit: Richard Bolt)

In the first couple miles of the climb, I passed a few guys (that Spaniard, a Brit, and 2 Frenchman, 1 who had dropped) and found myself and an Italian scrambling up to the top for the 2,700ft / 3 mile descent to the finish. I was absolutely dreading this descent because my quads were absolutely shot, but I thought I had put a decent amount of time into the other guys that I might be able to hold my position. Wrong. I passed the Italian who was walking the initial part of the descent, but was passed by a Lithuanian, then the Spaniard, then the Italian again who refound his legs, and finally an Irishman. Each step stabbed at my quads and the descent never seemed to end. It was all I could to stay upright on the flat 1.5km into the finish and almost fell over the little platform they set up across the line (one guy actually did). I ended up finishing in the exact same place I was heading into the final climb. Gotta work on those downhills… All in all, this was easily the toughest and most beautiful course I’ve ever run. The views were stunning, which kind of made the pain more bearable. I was unprepared for the damage that the descents would do to my quads and paid the price. However, there really wasn’t anything I could do to prep for them, as the highest mountain nearby is Tam, at 2,500ft, which makes it impossible to prepare for 4-5-6 mile descents that drop several thousand feet. Oh well… lesson learned and I’ll do what I can next time I race something of this nature.

11041561_10153399545136474_8491224473095887318_o

Views (Credit: unknown)

f28

Top of the final climb. Not sure what was worst, the climb or the descent (Credit: unknown).

CGPvKodWcAAtJOZ

Laney tackling the final descent of 2,700ft in 3 miles (Credit: Trails Endurance Magazine).

At the finish, we were told almost immediately that we had placed 2nd as a team. Alex was 6th, David 12th, and I had finished 18th. The scoring was done by time, and we were second to the French by a couple of hours, and ahead of the Brits by about half an hour. We were ecstatic. Coming into the race, the French and Spaniards were heavy favorites, and we knew we’d have to have some really strong performances to even get on the podium, as there were several other countries with good teams in the fight as well. That result really made all of the hard work worth it. I wasn’t terribly pleased with my own race, but in the context of the US team’s finish, I couldn’t be happier. The French were simply dominant on the day, sweeping the men’s and women’s team and individual titles (felicitations!). The women also had less than ideal days, but they all persevered and finished strong.

CGRW4aYUAAAWO8z

Team Silver! (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

IMG_20150530_200108

Precious medals, precious rum, and Meghan and Bryon of iRunFar. Thanks for the support and updates and coverage! Bryon really kicked my ass into gear at one point. #pewpewpew

We savored the awards ceremony and I made sure to really soak it all in. Who knows if we’ll ever get an opportunity like that again. Then, just like that, it was over. We celebrated a bit on Saturday night, but the fatigue ultimately won. I took the TGV up to Paris on Sunday, stayed with my cousins there, and flew home Monday morning. It’s had more of a chance to sink in now that a couple of days have passed, and each day I get more and more proud of what we accomplished as a team. Alex (http://team.inov-8.com/alex-nichols-why-ultra-running-is-not-always-a-selfish-sport/), David (http://davidlaneyrunning.com/2015/06/02/iau-world-trail-championships/), and Krissy (http://krissymoehl.com/blog/2015/6/2/team-usa-world-50-mile-trail-championships-thoughts) have already touched on this a bit, but the feeling you get being part of a team, especially one that is asked to represent your country, is unparalleled. It easily transcends sponsorships, geography, and personal ambitions/rivalries. There’s an enormous sense of pride and responsibility, and you feel more connected and accountable to your teammates than you do at other races. Everyone knows the stakes are high and doesn’t want to be the person to let the others down. No one did that on Saturday. I know Tim, Yassine, and I aren’t particularly pleased with our individual races, but the team silver easily banishes those demons and is something we all will cherish for a long time. Congrats to Alex and David for monster performances. They really carried the day.

2015-05-30 19.45.17

More precious medals

On a final note, I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible – USATF/MUT/Ultra Running, Trail Butter for creating that awesome flavor, and all of our individual sponsors for allowing us to take this opportunity. A huge thank you is also due to Richard Bolt, who was our manager extraordinaire and, despite it being his first time crewing an ultra, performed amazingly. He was at all of the aid stations with everything ready to go (no small feat), coordinated all of the trip logistics for us, and basically just made everything run smoothly. Otherwise, we’d still be at the front desk arguing over how many nights we were being billed for.

Next up is Dipsea in 10 days and then Western States in 23 days (!!!). Time to get rested.

Strava Data: https://www.strava.com/activities/315262976/overview

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger 3 (custom US colorway)

Fuel: 2 Picky Bars before the race, 3 during the race. 12-13 Gu’s.

A few galleries/results links:

http://www.irunfar.com/2015/05/2015-iau-trail-world-championships-results.html

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ski-run/402179249794434?sk=photos_stream

https://www.facebook.com/claude.eyraud.7/media_set?set=a.10203111459107148.1073742068.1826677317&type=1&pnref=story

https://plus.google.com/photos/115310154814901140749/albums/6154968680750020993

https://plus.google.com/photos/+RichardBolt/albums/6155477200345867281?authkey=CKHxz-GCnKXytQE

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

2015 Boston Marathon

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Boston. There’s really not much else you need to say to most people, runner or not. There’s something about it that captures a marathon runner’s imagination, as it’s become somewhat of a gold standard for marathoners. Before I ran marathons, people would ask me what my marathon time was. When I didn’t have an answer, they’d ask what I did, and I’d try to explain that I ran local cross country races and road and track. They didn’t understand. So I ran a marathon and had an answer to their question. But it was always followed up with, “Have you run Boston?” So as soon as I qualified for Boston, I signed up and ran it. This year was my fourth time traveling to Boston for the race and my third time finishing it (dropped out in 2012 due to an injury).

Each of the past 4 years, I have become more familiar with the race, the course, and the spectators. I have never ceased to be amazed by the support that the crowds show to ALL runners. It’s fantastic and I look forward to enjoying it for years to come.

Heading into the race this year, I was more focused on simply not doing something stupid and hurting myself. My legs were pretty thrashed after Lake Sonoma, so I took it very cautiously. I avoided all hills in the 9 days between the races. I flew out to Boston on Saturday, met up with Duncan, Jenn and Kim for dinner before joining some of the Nike folks for a bit. On Sunday morning, a group of us (Jonas, Duncan, Jenn, Malcolm, and Taylor) did a shakeout around Boston, and I was surprised to find that my legs felt really good. That left me feeling optimistic that they might feel good on race day. After the shakeout, I wandered around the expo with (a different Jenn), Russell, and a few others before meeting up with some West Valley/SFRC folks for dinner in the North End. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to head to the buses.

Once we got to the runners’ village, we milled around, and found our group of Ezra, Jonas, DeNucci, Marion, and Bobby. We all walked over to the corral together. The weather was cool and overcast. It rained a bit before the race, but the start was dry and I hoped it would hold off while we were on course. The gun sounded and we were off. I had talked to Koop going into the race and we agreed that I’d start out at an earnest effort and see how it felt for the first several miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to push. If I felt bad, I’d slow it down and have a nice long fun run. Well, long story short, my legs felt much better than I thought they would. Much like New York, the wind was constantly in my face. I have no problem running at the front and was content to do so and break the wind for some other guys, because it allowed me to dictate the pace. My first couple miles were very conservative, so I ended up catching a decent amount of guys in the first half, and not far into the race, found a good group to run with, including an old college teammate Johnny Baker. There were probably 8-10 of us rolling along through Wellesley and the half (1:14:05). Around mile 14, I stepped off the course to go pee and gave up 20-30 seconds on that group. I knew that would happen but still held out hope that I’d be able to regain contact. I slowly worked my way back up to them and ended up moving on past them on the Newton Hills, bringing a couple of guys with me. I felt really strong on the hills which I appreciated, as last year I really suffered there. My hip flexors held out and the only fatigue I really felt during the race was in my calves.

Heartbreak? (Photo Credit: Jim Rhoades)

Heartbreak? (Photo Credit: Jim Rhoades)

After the hills, it was just a steady grind into the finish. I made sure to enjoy myself as much as possible, saw Sayles out cheering (thanks!), and basically just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. My butt and hamstrings started to get a little tight in the last couple miles, but they held it together quite well and I felt like I finished strong. My time was 2:28:14, not quite good enough to get Wardian, who ran 2:27:xx. He’s off to run Big Sur this weekend, which does not sound like fun, as my calves are still pretty wrecked. I was really pleased with how well I executed. I was able to keep my pace despite the wind, the hills, and a pit stop and ran basically an even split of 1:14:05/1:14:09 (so a negative split if you remove the bathroom stop). My body felt strong basically the entire time and I can honestly say I had fun the whole race. The worst part of the race was after the finish, where we had to walk something like ¾ of a mile to pick up our clothes. The wind and rain picked up considerably and the space blankets they gave us to keep warm weren’t all that effective. Eventually, I made it to my clothes, changed, and headed back to the hotel.

Monday night was composed of celebrating, seeing old friends, and making new ones, and my alarm sounded a bit too early on Tuesday morning. I got home Tuesday night, immediately sat on my foam roller, and started working on my calves, which are still recovering. Other than that, I feel surprisingly good, although I have yet to try to run. We’ll see what happens today…

Next up are the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in Annecy on May 30. Between now and then, I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of powerhiking, as the course has around 17,000ft of vert in 53 miles. I’m excited for a new challenge, as I’ve never raced in Europe, and I can’t wait to toe the line with my teammates.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Lake Sonoma 50

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I don’t think my race at Lake Sonoma has sunk in yet. I look at pictures and watch videos but can’t seem to put myself back in the moment. It’s probably because I was so wiped when I crossed the finish line that my state of consciousness was questionable at best. Either way, I keep telling myself it happened, but for some reason it remains a little hard to comprehend.

Last year Lake Sonoma was my first 50 miler and I learned A LOT. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to Western States, where I learned even more. Then, I didn’t race an ultra until the TNF 50 Mile in December where I was thankfully able to put some of that knowledge to work. I didn’t race Way Too Cool in March as I just wasn’t feeling it. I can’t really put my finger on why I wasn’t feeling it, but my gut told me to leave it be and train hard so that’s what I did. My training leading up to Sonoma went very well (aside from a minor quad issue in early February) and I knew I was fit coming into it. Koop reiterated as much on the phone the week before and that gave me a nice confidence boost as well. Race week passed interminably and I had the usual symptoms of a taper tantrum – sleeping poorly, being a bit more on edge, etc., etc. However, I did notice that I was not feeling quite as squishy early on as I had in past tapers. I wasn’t sure what was up, but for some reason, my body acted a little differently in that regard. I finally got a bit of it the night before the race after eating 3 plates of pasta, pizza, and salad at the race dinner (which was fantastic and I highly recommend it).

11134037_10153225423484725_4802669579755215536_o

Waiting at the start with Burrito Gary (Photo Credit: Chris Jones)

On race morning, I was up early, had some coffee (new pre-race ritual #getthingsmoving), ate 2 Picky Bars (Smooth Caffeinator and Cookie Doughpness) and before I knew it, Tim and Lindsay were picking me up and we were on our way to the starting area. After milling around a bit, it was go time. The first couple miles were pretty uneventful. However, as we approached the transition onto the trails, I purposely positioned myself up near the front of the pack. In my previous 50 and 100 miler races, I had started out rather conservatively and worked my way up the field as best I could. I realized that one constant was that the last 10-15 miles of every race just plain sucked. About a week before Sonoma, I figured I’d try a new tactic and go about a bit more aggressively, try to keep myself near the front, and hang on as long as I could because those last 10-15 miles were going to suck no matter what and I might as well be near the front if I could. Also, at Lake Sonoma, much of the course is singletrack which makes it harder to pass, so while the front and back of a group are moving at the same pace, if there are 4-5 guys in the group, there’s still a big gap and someone can go off the front and you can’t cover because you can’t get there if you’re the caboose. I hit the singletrack in 2nd place, behind a guy I didn’t recognize but was later informed was Jim Walmsley. The only thing I really remarked about him was that he had a really, really high knee kick which looked like it belonged more on the track than on the trails. But I knew the name and that he had won JFK and so deserved some respect. Anyways, he promptly went off the front as soon as we hit dirt and was 30-40 seconds up on us before I knew it. It definitely crossed my mind that perhaps Lake Sonoma was again going to be won by an early move off the front by the JFK winner (Zach Miller did that last year). Behind me, Ryan Bak and Mike Aish settled in, with Rob Krar, Seth Swanson, Jared Hazen, Tim Tollefson, and Jorge Maravilla following them along with a few others.

11053498_10153180032917114_2587602044976627269_o

On the road at the start. Tim’s shades are protecting his eyes from our uniforms. (Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer)

Bak and I exchanged the lead a couple of times, but no one was really pushing and we ran very comfortably into Warm Springs. I had my shorts laden with Picky Bars and Gu’s and in the first couple hours of racing, downed 2 Picky Bars before switching to Gu’s for the remainder. At Warm Springs, we were told Walmsley was up maybe 1-1.5 minutes on us, but before too long, we began to catch glimpses of him around corners and at the tops of climbs. He definitely came back to us more quickly on the climbs but each time we’d gain some ground, we’d crest, and he’d push it back out. We finally got him on the big climb up out of Madrone and he looked like he was cooked (He would end up finishing 5th, proving that thought wrong). Bak, Aish, and I continued to work together to the turnaround, where DBo was waiting with several Gu’s for me. I tried to put them in my pockets, but they fell straight through my shorts to the ground. I tried again. They hit the ground again. So I grabbed them and stuffed them in my waistband. As a result, I was a bit behind Bak and Aish coming out of the aid station, and decided I might as well pee and get all of the time loss at once that way if things heated up later on, I hopefully wouldn’t have to stop to pee. After peeing, I could see them only 20-30 seconds ahead of me and gradually made my way back up to them. We ran together for a bit before Aish started to fall off and on one of the climbs, I found myself pulling away from Bak. It wasn’t a conscious move, but I had kind of been waiting for it to happen as I was still feeling really strong. I put some ground on Bak up the climb to where Schranz and Dom Grossman were waiting. The URP Golden Shower was quite welcome, as we’d been running for several hours now and Dom’s yelps of encouragement made me chuckle. Cresting the climb and heading down the road to Madrone, I didn’t see Bak behind me, but when I made the turn onto the singletrack and headed towards Wulfow, I saw him coming down, less than a minute back. I committed right then to run for the win.

11100011_10153171108072114_5953649761126336726_o

Coming into Warm Creek with Bak and Aish (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

11136264_10100807810942311_2109368024013184320_o

Heading towards the URP/Schranz’s Golden Shower with Dom yelping (Photo Credit: Dom Grossman)

All the way back, through Wulfow, and to Warm Springs, I felt pretty strong. My legs were fatiguing, but they were doing better than they ever had this far into a race and I was confident that I would be able to run well to the finish. I kept having visions of Krar passing Sage in the last kilometer last year, which was a huge motivator to put my head down and push since I did not want that to happen to me. It was great seeing several familiar faces on the way back, and I did my best to exchange pleasantries, but I was starting to grind, so I apologize if I came off as short. I saw DBo again as I dropped down that final descent into Warm Springs (12 to go!) and he said I had at least 3 minutes on the next guy, which was reassuring, but I didn’t know who the next guy was and basically just assumed whoever it was was rolling on me. I got a few more Gu’s from the Picky Bars crew who had made the trip down (thanks Angela and Sarah!) and as I crossed the stream and dug for another Gu in my pocket, it fell out of my shorts. Not just the Gu, but the entire pocket. In the shorts/Nike’s defense, these were shorts that I’d raced in at Western States that had the pockets heat sealed (not sewn) in and I’d also used them in almost every race since. They lived a good life and I was sad to see them go, especially in the middle of a race, but I didn’t really have any other options. So I picked up the pocket (Gu still in it), stuck it in my waist band, and kept trucking. About a mile later, I was brought to a complete stop  as my left hamstring almost cramped. You can see it in the big downward spike on the pace chart right around mile 37.5 on my Strava data (link at bottom). I took a step. It almost cramped again. Tried to stretch. Almost cramped. Panic. Repeated 4-5x. Realized that I might be walking it in. Ate a Gu. Cramps immediately stopped threatening. Started running again. Got scared again.

10553921_10153173629547114_3919321750340619348_o

Alone on the way back (Photo Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer)

I managed to make it into Island View in one piece, although my quads had started threatening to cramp along with my hamstrings. I couldn’t stretch one or the other really well because whichever one wasn’t being stretched would start to cramp. My goal coming into Island View (which is 0.2 miles out and 0.2 miles back) was to get in and out of the aid station and around the next corner before anyone behind me saw me. Mentally, that would help me, as I would have at least 2-3 minutes on the next person. If they saw me, they’d know I was close and it would motivate them to chase. Ideally, it would also motivate me to push, but my legs were close to completely cooked. Just around the bend out of Island View, I had to stop and manage my quads and hamstrings again. I managed to get things in good enough order and pushed on to the finish. I was walking many of the hills, but found that once the terrain flattened out or descended, I could run well. The pain in my legs was pretty bad, but only in the sense that my muscles were threatening to cramp. As long as I could keep the cramps at bay, I could run. The last couple miles dragged on forever, and finally I hit the 1 mile to go sign. I hadn’t seen or heard anyone behind me for quite a while and it slowly started to dawn on me that I was going to win, assuming I didn’t cramp or fall. I came around a corner with about ¾ of a mile to go and there was Billy Yang with his camera and my friend Paul. (Check out Billy’s teaser video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d0JBSuFJ5w) For some reason, I was pissed. Not because they were there, but because that’s arguably the rockiest part of the course and it climbs up a bit to the parking lot and they were running it like it was nothing (in reality, it is nothing. At the end of a 50 miler, it’s Everest). I could hardly pick my feet up at this point and it took all of my concentration and strength to navigate the trail. They urged me on, said something about the course record (I swore at this point), and cheered. Eventually, I made it up that last hill and headed down into the parking lot to the finish line. I managed to actually run through the finish and heard Tropical John say that I’d broken the course record. I ran 6:09:39, a little over a minute faster than the record set last year (and each year the race has been run (8x) has seen a new CR). I hardly remember any of it, but I do remember vaguely crossing the finish line and collapsing almost immediately. I was on the ground for several minutes before I got helped up (thanks again, TJ!) and staggered around. As soon as I was coherent, I did an interview with Nike teammate Ryan Ghelfi who was doing coverage for USL.tv https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Xk9LZH59c. They’re hoping to bring live tracking to the Canyons 100k in May and maybe even Western States!

CCVvCRqUwAAtVPU

Managing to pick my feet up nearing the finish (Photo Credit: Paul Wais)

image

Spent. (Photo Credit: Jenny Maier)

Finishing in 2nd was Nike teammate Ryan Bak, who ran just about the same time I did last year (6:23) and now gets to decide about Western States (no pressure). Krar, Aish, Sharman, and Victor (among many others) had dropped. As I recovered a bit more, I changed, ate, drank some beer, and milled around the finish watching people cross. Jorge had a tremendous run, finishing 4th and may get a spot at Western depending on Bak’s decision. Nike teammate Tim Tollefson was 7th overall, gutting it out to the finish (https://timtollefson.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/lake-sonoma-50-recap/). The women’s winner was Stephanie Howe who absolutely demolished the course record by about 15 minutes and looked much better than I did at the finish. Her interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxyJcXGOqNE

As the afternoon wore on, there were more and more folks to swap war stories with. Bryon and I did a 26-minute interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JZDcp8g15Q) which didn’t feel that long, probably because he made me wait until I was on my 3rd beer, but it was fun as always. The Nike women, Kaci Lickteig and Lindsay Tollefson (in her first 50 miler!), finished 5th and 6th, respectively, so it was a strong showing for the team all around. Some of the Nike folks took off while a few of us waited around for our friend Jess to finish. While she was punishing herself on the course, we ate and drank more and didn’t move very much. Once she got in, we headed back to Healdsburg, showered, and got dinner at Bear Republic where we saw many other runners and had several beers. Angela and Sarah from Picky Bars had even waited around for us, and hanging out with them was a ton of fun.

11102922_10153225461389725_3052273073464509399_o

Hans! The dude is incredible. #Dipsea (Photo Credit: Chris Jones)

2015-04-13 15.33.14

Some of Team Nike: Ryan, Tim, and me. Feeling a bit more recovered (Photo Credit: Jarret Tong? – pulled from IG).

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Reflecting on this race, I think it’s easily the best I’ve ever run. Not because of the time, but also because of the execution. I knew I was fit, but there’s only so far that can get you. You have to be confident in your ability to win and you have to be willing to put yourself in a position to do so. Something Bryon said to me in the pre-race interview kind of stuck with me throughout the race. It was something along the lines of, “You haven’t really won anything since your 2nd ultra (Bootlegger in Nov. 2013).” I took no offense to it, because it was true, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t provide a little extra motivation on Saturday. It was something that I was aware of before he said it, but having someone else say it to your face makes you realize you’re not the only one thinking about it and adds a level of accountability to the whole thing. So while I was out there, I was constantly telling myself to go for it. It’s much better to go for it and fail then to never be in a position to go for it at all and I raced that way on Saturday. Even before Bryon said anything, I found myself thinking during some of my training runs, “What if I can never win a big one? What if there’s always someone else who shows up who’s faster than me? Top 5 isn’t so bad. Maybe I’m just a top 5 runner.” I hoped and certainly didn’t want that to be the case, but was definitely wrestling with the thought. Thankfully, I was able to get that self-imposed monkey off my back and it feels great. I may never win another race, but at least I’ve shown I can.

Realization dawns... (Photo Credit: Bob MacGillivray Drymax Technologies Inc )

Realization dawns… (Photo Credit: Bob MacGillivray Drymax Technologies Inc )

Gear: Nike Zoom Kiger 1, Nike team kit, Amphipod Hydraform Handheld 20oz. with surgical rubber, Suunto Ambit 2

Fuel: 2 Smooth Caffeinator bars (ate half at a time – they’re 200 calories, so 100 calories per half), then somewhere around 10 Gu’s (not sure of exact count). I tried to eat something every 3-3.5 miles and was pretty good about it, which was nice because my stomach never revolted.

Strava Data: https://www.strava.com/activities/283626139/overview

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Another Year, Another Mile

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s been a while. Mainly because not a ton has happened racing-wise since 2015 began and I usually focus my posts on races. I got back into running workouts, still under Koop’s guidance, and recently finished up a VO2 max phase which involved many rounds of grinding up Marincello, up to Coit Tower, and around the track 3 minutes at a time. That phase left me a bit more beat up than I had anticipated, and I felt as though I was constantly dealing with little issues that were cropping up one after another. First it was the area above my left knee, which forced me to take a couple days off following the Kaiser Half Marathon in early February. I ran a PR (1:07:56) there and 2 days later had a very strong 10 x 1,000m workout on the track but had to take 2 days off following that due to the pain in my leg. I was able to get it under control, thankfully. But then just a couple days later, two new areas started voicing their displeasure. My upper left leg and lower right leg (Achilles/Calf, specifically – felt like someone had their hand wrapped around my Achilles at times – lots of fun) posed minor problems through the last week of VO2 max, and once I had a couple of easier running days before breaking into the current tempo phase, I was able to control them too and they’ve held since (knock on wood). So now I’m about a week into the tempo phase, and I don’t know how long that will last, but I’m fairly certain it will take me at least through Lake Sonoma (April 11) and Boston (April 20).

Before moving forward, I want to touch on Kaiser. I was really happy with the way my race played out. I wasn’t sure of the kind of shape I was in coming into it, but figured it couldn’t go much worse than last year, when I attempted to pace a teammate (did a terrible job of it), my calf decided to shred itself about halfway through, and on the limp back down the Great Highway, I had to dive into a port-a-potty as I almost had to stop and poop on the highway itself. Not my greatest race, but it was PR at the time (as the only half I’d run prior to that was the Brazen half with 4,000ft of climbing yielding a slower time). So I was ready for a PR, I just didn’t know what it would be. I started out running a bit behind the lead pack and basically just stayed there. I was with a couple of others and was content to lead/be lead whenever we happened to shift places. I pulled away from a couple of guys when we turned on to the Great Highway and ended up running the next 4-5 miles with one guy. He gapped me by about 10m around mile 11 and I was content to let him go on ahead, but then someone from the other side yelled “Varner, you’re running too easily!” and I saw Jonas and his wife and they were cheering and I decided “No, I want to beat this guy.” You can even see where I made the decision on the Strava file as my heart rate ticks up right around mile 11.7 (https://www.strava.com/activities/249209907/overview). I ended up making a decisive move past the guy (don’t know who he was) and almost closing on Crosby (fist shake). At least he was running scared, or at least that’s what I heard from someone ::cough::Larissa::cough::

IMG_2419

Kaiser Half after the move (Photo: Jonas Oppedal)

Looking later into spring, I’m really excited to open up 2015 at LS50. The competition will be strong and already having a spot in Western, I can do what I need to do and focus on learning more about the 50 mile distance. That will definitely come in handy in May, as I was picked to represent the US at the Ultra Trail World Championships, which will take place on May 30 in Annecy, France. It’s an 85k (53 mile) race with around 16,000 feet of climbing (close to what Western has in half the distance), so we’ll be out there for a while. My teammates will be Tim Tollefson (https://timtollefson.wordpress.com/) , David Laney (http://davidlaneyrunning.com/   ), Alex Nichols (http://negativesplit.net/wddf/index.html#!/page_Home), and Yassine Diboun (http://yassinediboun.com/) on the men’s side and Krissy Moehl (http://krissymoehl.com/), Amy Rusiecki (http://runningrusieckis.blogspot.com/), and Anita Ortiz (https://twitter.com/ortizrun) on the women’s side. I think we can do some damage and look forward to putting it all out there with these folks. More info here: http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/u-s-team-trail-world-championships-announced/. In case it wasn’t evident, I am freaking pumped to have made a US team. It’s been a long-time goal of mine (and I know the same goes for a couple other members) and I am also rather excited to get some more time in France, as this makes 2 trips there this year (CCC is still on).

I think the race will be a good springboard to Western States in late June, kind of how the NYC Marathon worked as a jumping point for TNFEC back in the fall. The biggest downside is that I withdrew from the Canyons 100k (http://www.runcanyons.com/) on May 2, simply because I think it would be too much racing this spring. I hope to run that race one day, as the course looks fantastic and the race organizers have been incredibly gracious with my decision.

And speaking of Western, I’ve got my crew/pacers all lined up for this year. Since Magda decided to go and qualify herself (congrats on the SOB win!), she’s going to be my pacer for the whole thing! Just kidding, but that would be awesome. No, my crew will be Rachelle (she did such a fantastic job last year without knowing what to expect, so this year will hopefully be easier), Vargo (who was my crew/pacer last year so he knows how to deal with the bullsh*t I’ll throw at him later in the race), and Tim Tollefson (who will be warned by Vargo what to expect when you’re expecting I get ornery). So get excited, kids. Time for round 2!

10394128_10100639163583150_2224943799583950938_n

10700164_10104665548250769_8238979986157115956_o

These two idiots (the one covered in mud on the left and the mug on the right) have volunteered to pace me at Western. The guy on the right even wanted to do it again!

                And finally, since my last post was a look back on 2014, here are a few resolutions I made at the beginning of the year, but forgot to share:

  1. Listen to my body. I’ve done a good job of this so far, namely with the minor issues I mentioned that I experienced during the VO2 max training phase. Hopefully I can continue to do so and nip problems in the bud before they become larger issues.
  2. Thank more volunteers. Admittedly, doing so verbally is a bit harder in shorter, faster races when breath is harder to come by, but a smile, nod, or wave/thumbs up can go a long way in showing a volunteer that you appreciate their time.
  3. Be less obsessed with mileage (kind of). I mean this in a larger context, as in not pushing to get 9 miles on an easy day rather than 8 so that my weekly mileage is higher, or needlessly extending a tired cooldown in search of the same goal. If I can do that, I’m totally fine with letting myself run a couple of circles around a parking lot at the end of a 13.9 mile run to bring it up to an even 14 (like at the end of this run: https://www.strava.com/activities/239917350 ).

So I think that’s about it for now. I will be cheering/spectating at Way Too Cool in just over a week, so for those running, good luck! And if you’re so inclined, stick around Auburn Saturday night. Should be a good time ;-)

And just for jealousy’s sake, here are a few photos from a couple runs this year:

2015-01-11 08.53.16

View from the top of Tam en route to Pt. Reyes

2015-01-11 09.47.17

Looking back at Coastal Trail en route to Pt. Reyes.

2015-01-11 11.20.17

The French saying: Il pleut comme les vaches qui pissent (it’s raining like cow piss) is quite apt.

2015-01-01 MV to MHBB

New Year’s Day Run to MH Bread and Butter (a staple in all Marin ultra runner’s diets).

2015-02-22 Northside Shred

Northside of Tam with the SFRC dudes this past weekend (Credit: Mario Fraioli)

2015-02-22 Sunny Side

Rounding a corner on the sunny side of Bon Tempe this past Sunday (credit: Mario Fraioli)

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments