I’ve now had the good fortune of racing in the stunningly picturesque Marin Headlands on two occasions. Interestingly, both races have been thwarted by freak weather conditions on both ends of the spectrum. Last December, racers including myself were greeted by some appallingly wet weather that forced last second course changes and, ultimately, a lot of confusion at the front of the TNF 50 mile championship. Ironically, it was the exact opposite kind of weather that stymied our race on Saturday. The weather was so nice that it was literally dangerous.
By now everyone has heard all about the atrocious conditions that greeted us in the Bay Area this weekend. We’ve had a disturbingly warm Indian summer here in Aspen and, by all accounts, fall has been extremely pleasant on the West Coast as well. My girlfriend, who has recently moved to San Francisco, along with many friends in the area, billed this past weekend as the “storm of the year.” Perfect timing. Thoroughly in need of a vacation and long run, I tried to ignore the foreboding weather forecasts and stay positive and appreciative about my opportunity to take part in this race. I felt like my preparation was strong and that the heinous weather might just work to my advantage. Either way it was going to be another fun day, racing in a new place with many great friends and amazing athletes. (more…)
With the Bandera 100k approaching rapidly, my training has entered the last week of high volume before I allow my body to absorb all it’s hard work over the past couple months. Since October, my training has been laser focused on this particular race. I can say with full confidence that I’ve never been this fit or enthused in any December of my life. Still though, the winter months have already begun to drag and I’ve found it difficult to conjure inspiring running that will keep me entertained for more than 3 hours at a time. The critical long training runs have not been as easy to come by, so I jumped at the opportunity to join in the festivities at Nick Clark’s Chubby Cheeks 50k last weekend.
First of all, the boys over at The African Attachment have done it again. Below is a link to their most recent piece highlighting the recent victory of their fellow countryman, Ryan Sandes, at this year’s Leadville 100. It’s amazing how much of the story this tells in less than six minutes. These guys are doing great things for our sport and have produced tons of stunning material in one short summer. It feel fortunate to have been a small contributor.
Bill Dooper is my idol.
Training for me has been pretty poor recently. In the five weeks that followed Leadville, I felt horrible on nearly every one of my daily jogs. My seemingly unending lethargy had me concerned to the point where I considered visiting the local doctor to get some blood work done. I seem to have turned the corner in the last week though, and am finally feeling somewhat normal again, albeit a little fat and slow.
I got back in the yoga studio this morning after a few weeks of absence, and the instructor certainly made me work for it. I think yoga has been a huge factor in my ability to improve as a runner (particularly with the mental component of ultras), so I plan on reintroducing consistency of this practice into my training throughout the winter and beyond.
Speaking of winter, Aspen mountain is getting it’s first dusting of snow as I type and the 24 hour forecast is predicting a few inches of snow in town by tomorrow morning. Hard to believe that it’s almost time to dust off the shred sticks. Skiing is obviously another strong passion of mine so the change in season certainly won’t mean a decrease in mountain shredding. I think practicing a complementary sport in the winter is a good way to ensure I don’t burnout on running early in the year, and allows me to peak at the right times during the summer. Kilian certainly seems to have this system dialed.
There are some very exciting things developing for me in 2012. I’ll save details for when it’s appropriate but I will say that, even in the midst of a break from serious training, my stoke level is at an all time high. My enthusiasm for my home and my athletic pursuits is growing every day. Fire it up.
The Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop has become somewhat of a must-do adventure in Colorado ultrarunning circles, and for good reason. Much like the Grand Canyon R2R2R, it can be done over the course of a few hours or a few days. For those who choose the single day push option, get ready to sweat. The route is somewhere in the neighborhood of 26 miles depending on where you start. Don’t be fooled though, this is far more robust than your typical trail marathon. With about 8,000 feet of climbing and descending, runners have to work for every mile, and must negotiate climbs to 4 separate passes of 12,500 feet. All in a day’s work.
My day started at dawn in the Maroon Lake parking lot. There were already about 20 photographers set up to capture the first rays of sun about to hit the beastly twin faces of the Maroon Bells. I got a few curious looks as I trotted down the gravel path toward the Crater Lake Trail. It was the beginning of a lonely but beautiful day in the backcountry. (more…)
First of all, hats off to Fred Abramowitz who sets the standard for ultra race direction in Colorado. The conditions this year were absolutely horrendous and Fred’s army of volunteers selflessly braved the elements along side the runners to ensure everyone’s safety, even as afternoon carnage ensued. Fred still had his characteristic energy all day and made it look easy. Well done on a first class race, Fred.
Secondly, huge props to every runner who finished today. It was winter-like in Steamboat and Mother Nature threw pretty much every undesirable condition she could at the athletes. The attrition this year was massive. Any finish on that course today is hugely impressive. (more…)
Hundred milers are completely ridiculous. The challenges they offer are uniquely painful and profoundly humbling. My experience at the Leadville 100 last Saturday was very special. The distance whittled me to my core and left me genuinely appreciative of my existence, and the people I share it with. Ironically, there is nothing more life affirming than crossing the finish line of a 100 miler feeling like a dead body. It is incredible.
The race started at a casual and conversational pace with a large group of us chatting and catching up in the pre-dawn darkness. We had an awesome group and it was fun conversing with so many guys whom I look up to in the sport. As expected, Mike Arnstein was already way off the front by the time we hit the Turquoise Lake Trail, while our pack hit the bottle neck (more…)
Leadville is finally upon us. This wonderful occasion has utterly consumed me ever since I successfully crossed the finish line last summer in my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. To say that I am nervous would not due justice to what I’ve been feeling leading up to this historic race. The emotion is much closer to absolute terror. Physically I feel very strong, fit, and rested. Still though, (more…)
I’ve long had the desire to complete the storied voyage from Aspen to Crested Butte under my own power. Much like the 4 Pass Loop, it is sort of a right of passage on the local hiking/running scene. After many summers I was finally able to execute my own version of the trip and check this one off the bucket list.
I left the Jeep behind at the Maroon Lake parking lot at 6:30 on a typically priceless Aspen morning, and made quick work of the frustratingly rocky trail that covers the 1.6 miles between Maroon and Crater Lakes. The sun was just making its way into the Maroon Valley and I quickly found a decent rhythm on the climb up West Maroon Pass. (more…)
Just outside of Aspen, the twin peaks of the Maroon Bells stand guard over an otherwise unassuming high alpine valley. At the base of these gnarled and jagged mountains there is a sign warning overeager mountaineers of the dangers inherent in every summit attempt. The sign simply reads, “These Mountains Don’t Care.” This simple sentence took special resonance with me last weekend in a different mountain range in Southwestern Colorado.
The stoke train disembarked from Aspen Thursday evening and arrived in Silverton Just as the sun was setting on Hardrock eve. I made contact with team Joe as they were finalizing race strategy at camp, which had been erected ten steps from the start line. I retired into the luxurious accommodations of my Jeep’s trunk and slept fitfully anticipating the long day ahead. After the gun sounded, team Joe indulged on coffee and pastries from local ultra java lounge, the Mobious Cafe, before heading to the first crew access point at Cunningham Gulch. (more…)
In the weeks that followed the 2010 Leadville 100 I dug myself into a massive hole of exhaustion by being overly ambitious in my training and over confident in my body’s ability to recover. Included in this learning experience was a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit punishing, Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop adventure run, followed a week later by a 50 mile race at Steamboat’s Run Rabbit Run event. My race at RRR50 left me utterly shattered and finally injected some long overdue rest into my life. I didn’t feel right again for two months. This startling episode of immense fatigue is something I intend to avoid for the remainder of my life as a runner. (more…)
My California runcation started one week ago today with a late afternoon flight out of Aspen on an unreasonably beautiful Western Colorado day. Courtnee and I arrived in Santa Barbara a few hours later to a warm welcome from good friend, crew member, and SoCal cultural ambassador, Ryan McInally. We headed south to Ventura where we we were to spend the majority of the next week enjoying the incredible hospitality of the McInally family.
Coincidentally, a cousin of mine was also graduating from UCSB that weekend so we made a trip up to campus on Thursday to join in the celebration. It was great to see so much family who provided me with endless encouragement for the terrifying endeavor that lay before me. We left for the San Diego area early Friday morning and spent the afternoon attending the pre race meeting and preparing gear for the adventure of the following day. I was able to sleep well and awoke at 5am feeling rested and ready for the challenge. It was already shaping up to be a glorious day as we nervously clustered at the start line awaiting the gun.
The First 60
Photos by Brett Rivers
Shortly after we took off, I was happy to feel a serious pep in my step. I had done a lot of resting in the previous few weeks in hopes of arriving at the start line with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Yassine Diboun quickly took the lead as Rod Bien and I settled into what felt like an honest, yet easy pace. We introduced ourselves and had a nice conversation about various running related topics for the first 5 or 6miles.
Soon thereafter, I pulled away from Rod which began a long day of lonely yet beautiful and enjoyable running. Yassine was already a few minutes ahead running strong but I did a good job of removing any thoughts of competition in the first half of the race. Miles clicked off with ease as the sun rose over course and the temperature slowly climbed.
In typical Dylan fashion, I managed to get off course for about 5 minutes shortly before the aid station at mile 23. Thankfully I was able to keep my morale high and accept my minor mistake without single “F-Bomb.” I caught back up to Rod, who had passed me while I was off course, shortly after the Penny Pines aid station and we commented on the unexpected heat and technical footing of the ensuing descent. I am especially bad technical downhill runner so I felt super slow here but overall I was having a lot of fun.
The only hitch in my race was a slightly off stomach that was already unhappy with gel consumption, and getting even more upset with every mile. I can typically eat gels til the cows come home but, for some reason on Saturday, they were just not sitting right. I was still able to force it down but would struggle with gagging for a solid minute after every bite. Needless to say, I was concerned that this was happening so early on but my body and mind were in a good place so I continued to motor without giving it much thought.
On the long climb up to the Pioneer Mail aid, I occasionally caught a glimpse of Yassine who was moving well about two minutes ahead of me. It looked like we were both running virtually every step of the climb which I took as a good sign since RD Scott Mills had called this section “The toughest part of the race.” Thanks for the Popsicles Scott. That was a great touch.
I pulled into Pioneer Mail at mile 44 a few minutes back of Yassine and not feeling great. The heat and sun were starting to get to me and my stomach was in knots. Still though, I was cool headed and staying business oriented. I walked for a few minutes out of the aid station trying to collect myself for the rolling but gradual descent to Sunrise aid and the race’s halfway point.
The next section is very exposed and I was becoming quite unhappy. The trail (PCT) was beautiful however, and would have been a lot more fun had I not already endured 45 malnourished miles. I chalked it up to a rough patch and figured I would pull myself out of my rut quickly. Unfortunately my condition deteriorated even more all the way through the Sunrise aid which I exited at about the 8:10 mark – still only a couple minutes behind Yassine.
Again I walked for a few minutes out of the aid trying to encourage myself with the cliche statement, “You’re halfway there, only 50 miles to go.” Needless to say, this thought does more to deflate you than anything when you have already ran for 8+ hours and 50+ miles. Oh well. Nothing to do but man up and try to be smart.
That is exactly what I did for the next 7.5 excruciating miles to the Stonewall Mine aid at about mile 60. At this point, I could no longer even open my gel flask without gagging. My stomach just quit cooperating altogether. I could feel my race unraveling and my attitude was growing increasingly bad. I began walking some of the downhills approaching the aid station which was pretty embarassing but totally necessary at the time.
When I arrived, my crew could tell I was in bad shape. I relayed the issues about my stomach and decided it would be wise to chug a Red Bull and fill up one of my bottles with Coke. It turned out this would be my nutrition plan for the remainder of the race. The best decision I made all day.
The Last 40
As soon as the Red Bull hit my blood, my race totally changed. I was back. I began having a great time again as the sun slowly lowered in the sky and the tempuratures steadily dropped. The Stonewall climb was a welcome challenge as I hiked most of it while trying to focus on my exhales. I reached the turnoff and demolished the ensuing descent, following Yassine’s Inov-8 tread the whole way.
When I got to the bottom and the Paso Picacho aid, I was very pumped up. I was moving better here than I had in the first ten miles. Those positive feeling quickly turned to panic when I learned I had arrived at the aid station in first place. I hadn’t passed Yassine and figured that I somehow cut the course and was going to be DQed. I was reassured by the aid captain that I had indeed been on course the whole way and that I must have been Yassine who had been lost. I wasted no time pounding another Red Bull and filling a bottle of Coke. Soon thereafter, I left in lead and would never relinquish it.
My new nutrition plan (liquid diet) continued to pay off and I felt great. I passed through the aid at mile 72 and grabbed my headlamp and flashlight for the lonely night section. The sun slowly set and soon enough I was alone in the dark cruising a beautiful and remote peice of singletrack. It was awesome. Near the top of the climb, runners started passing me going the other direction. I felt for them as they still had nearly 50 miles to go and long night ahead of them.
I went back through Sunrise aid again at mile 80 and got more Coke and Red Bull. The next 7 miles challenged me greatly. I felt like I was off course the whole time. Whenever I would see a flag, I would be overcome with joy and if I hadn’t seen a flag for a few minutes I would have similar feelings of dread. Convinced I was off course, I even back tracked a few times only to find that I was on the correct route. Finally, at about mile 85, I went way off course, costing myself close to 15 minutes and almost the race.
I was very upset but took my critical mistake in stride. I was still running literally every step of the gradual uphill and my legs felt great. I got back on the correct trail convinced I had blown it but continued to crush the PCT all the way back to Pioneer Mail at mile 87.
I arrived at Pioneer Mail to find that I had somehow remained in the lead. This was a huge boost to both me and my crew who had grown very concerned about me during the previous stretch. As a special bonus, my crew had also secured me a pacer to escort me for the final half marathon. I, of course, intended to run this whole race alone but when the opportunity for companionship arose that late in the game, I was happy to take it.
My pacer turned out to be a ringer by the name of Jeff Hines, the inagural winner of the SD100 event back in 2001. Jeff had already consumed a six pack of beer but was an eager and priceless friend to have for the last stretch. We dominated together and had a great dynamic that I really valued. We knew that I had the win and CR all but sealed up so our race became about being smart and enjoying the moment.
The campground was welcomed sight for me as we approached one in the morning. Jeff and I crossed the finish together in 18:00 and I was beyond stoked. Lots of hugs and high fives were exchanged as I tried to collect myself and absorb the fact that I had managed to win.
All the joy was also accompanied by serious concern for my own well being. You see, I hadn’t really urinated since 8am and had been consuming many liters of fluid throughout the day. I tried to pee probably 8 different times throughout the race and was only able to muster a few ounces of dark orange liquid just a couple times. I know the damages that ultras can inflict on human kidneys, so I was very concerned. This was compacted by the violent episode of projectile vomiting that occured not long after I crossed the finish. I felt like absolute shit but was also very happy. It was a strange moment in time for me.
At about 4:30 in the morning, after tossing in my bed for several hours, I finally urinated. It was a small victory for me as I fist pumped alone in the dark bathroom of our hotel. I even woke up Courtnee to inform her of my accomplishment. Soon after, the flood gates opened and my stomach settled. I was ok. I was ecstatic.
This was another awesome ultra experience that I can add to the list. SD100 is an absolute top notch event. I dare say, a must do. The trails and weather were beautiful, and with 95 miles of single track, what more can you ask for? Big thanks to RD Scott Mills and his army of volunteers! You guys were awesome. I will definitely come back to this one.
Finally, thanks to my wonderful crew! I love you guys and appreciate that you are willing to support me through even my most questionable endeavors. You are the best.
Next is pacing at Hardrock! Gonna be Epic. Stay tuned.
In just over a week I’ll be standing at the starting line of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run anxiously anticipating the agony and ecstasy that lay before me. This will only be my second attempt at the hundred mile distance but I hope to draw on what little experience I have, in hopes of producing a result that I’m proud of. My training has been pretty mellow by design since Collegiate Peaks, and I’m finally starting to notice that energetic feeling in my legs again after about a week of legitimate tapering. Needless to say, I am so excited to test my mettle against this abusive distance again and can hardly wait to get the pilgrimage under way.
I am not approaching this race with any concrete competitive goals. In fact, I hope I can keep racing out of my mind well into the second half of the day, and instead focus on running as well as I can given my current level of fitness. That all being said, I am very excited to race against the very competitive field that has been assembled. Of course, the field is not as deep as another California 100 in June (we all probably missed on the lottery), but it still should be entertaining to follow the front pack throughout the course of the day.
In thinking about this race during the last few weeks of preparation, I have determined a few things that I would like to accomplish for myself next weekend:
1. Stay ON Course – Easy enough right? Well not really for me, especially for how confusing this particular course is. I have been studying the maps and have every intention of running with my head up all day. Seriously though, this is my #1 goal. Seriously.
2. Stay out of my own head – The mental meltdown I suffered during Collegiate Peaks was quite startling and discouraging for me. Quite simply, I cannot let that happen again, especially at the 100 mile distance. Instead, when I hit inevitable low points, I intend to focus on how fortunate I am to do what I do. Staying positive and optimistic will be hugely important.
3. Stay THE Course – Finish by whatever means necessary. To this point, I have finished every ultra I have started. I don’t intend to break the streak. Simple.
I will have a pretty solid team of friends and family there to support me along the way, but I intend to run this race pacerless (“Meltzer-Style” or “Soul Shredding”) which should be interesting. I’ll be wearing a somewhat fresh pair of Fireblades, rocking Sportiva Yellow, and chugging liters of EFS, Water, and Coca-Cola (nutrition of champions) along the way.
That’s it. Ain’t nothin’ left to do but to do it. Fire it up.
All things considered, I am very happy with the effort I put forth on Saturday in Buena Vista. Ryan Burch was absolutely on fire and I was lucky to stick with him as long as I did. I was even luckier to hang onto second place as I endured a very difficult second lap highlighted by a 12-15 minute detour at about mile 30. Getting off course is becoming a very unfortunate habit of mine that I really need to address. More on that later.
The race started comfortable and conversational as Ryan, Duncan, and I ran within a few steps of each other on the road section leading to the trail. When we hit the dirt, Ryan and I broke away from the rest of the 50 milers and started making up time on the few 25 milers that remained ahead of us. We began yo-yoing here and exchanged the lead several times over the first 18 miles. Ryan would dust me on the downs and I would make up time on the ups or flats. Pretty typical for me really.
I felt pretty good and it was nice to run with Ryan for a while. The aid station at mile 18 was when Ryan finally shook me. He got out quickly and hit the ensuing long screamer downhill with a vengeance as I fumbled with my bottle. Before I knew it, he had opened up a 60 second gap. The lead grew to 90 seconds at the turnaround and I could really feel Ryan pulling away. I still felt decent and was confident that I could maybe make up time on the long climb to the aid station at mile 32.
This is where things went all wrong for me. I had my head down trying maintain a good pace on the dirt road section knowing that flats are my strength. All of the sudden I realized that I hadn’t seen anybody going in the opposite direction for several minutes and I started getting that sick feeling that I was off course. I continued on for a couple minutes until I saw a mountain biker who confirmed what I had been dreading. Of course, I turned into a huge head case and immediately entered panic mode. Very poor way to react to such a situation.
When I made it back to the turn I missed I was furious with my mistake. It was literally the best marked turn on the entire course. So embarrassing. I was running way too fast on the climb and had abandoned efforts to drink or eat anything. Quite simply, I totally lost focus. I asked a runner heading the opposite direction how many people were now ahead of me and I was surprised to learn that I was still in second place. I was heartened by the news and stole a quick glance over my shoulder. Duncan was like 30 seconds back and looking very strong. Again I chose to panic and run way too hard.
When I reached the 32 mile aid station I was in a bad place mentally and physically. It was hot and I was sure that Duncan and Corey would pass me at any second. On the ensuing downhill I began to really entertain the thought of dropping. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I am a total mental cupcake sometimes. After all, I was still in second place and on pace to run a pretty stout time. I reached the aid station at the bottom of the hill and was glad I didn’t see my old man (who had been there on the first lap) because I probably would have caught a ride back to town.
Thankfully I began to regain my composure and nutritional discipline. The rest of the race was a grind but I am very happy I got it done. The last five miles were probably my best of the entire race and I crossed the finish feeling strong just under 6:58. I was so pumped to hear how well Ryan’s race went and I can’t wait to see what he puts together at States. He’ll be a serious sleeper there. Corey Hanson rounded out the podium while Duncan endured a pukey episode to finish fourth – his third strong 50 miler in like 9 weeks. Total freak.
As for my habitual navigational errors, I suppose I just need to concentrate more. When I do get off course, I really need to focus on staying positive and not losing my marbles like I did for 10+ miles on Saturday. I am very encouraged that I still managed to run a very respectable time under the circumstances of the day though. I really did have a great time and enjoyed the course and the whole race experience thoroughly. Plus I got another great tan.
This was my first trip to Buena Vista which is a fantastic little town. The race is a Colorado classic and I can certainly understand why. Very well organized with a low key feel which is exactly what I like. I’m very excited to put together a better race here in the future. It was great meeting many new running friends and hanging out for a few hours after the race. I’m so happy I have fallen into such a great community of athletes/human beings. It almost makes the race experience itself seem secondary.
I wore my trusty La Sportiva Fireblades again and crushed about 18 ounces of EFS during the race. I can’t overstate how much I love these performance products. I’m truly fortunate to have the support of such quality companies.
Next up is the San Diego 100 on June 11th! Hugely stoked about this race. Fire it up.
I accomplished my goal of getting a great tan in Fruita this weekend at the Desert RATS 25 mile race. I approached this race more as a fun, well supported training run but still managed to make it hurt a little bit. When the gun went off Tim Parr and Daniel Goding shot out front in hot pursuit for the $100 preem that awaited the first runner to mile 1.3. I thought about trying to stick with them but wisely chose to keep the effort sufficiently chill.
Timmy got the 100 beans and quickly slowed the pace significantly. Dan took the lead as Timmy and I fell into a similar pace up the initial climb. On the ensuing descent a guy I didn’t recognize came blowing past us looking very strong. I was pretty sure that Timmy was the one to beat so I didn’t feel tempted to give chase so early on. So, for most of the first seven or eight miles, Timmy and I ran in 3rd and 4th place chatting about our plans for the coming summer months. Timmy is going for the Leadville, Wasatch double. What a freak.
Soon enough we caught up to the leaders, who were also running together, and ran as a 4 man group for a bit. The trail flattened out here and I immediately felt more comfortable. I’ve found that all the road running I’ve been doing for the past six months has made me very clumsy and slow on really technical trail, particularly anything with a downhill grade. I’m hoping for a rapid spring thaw so I can get back on the local trails and build back the type of agility necessary to be a truly fast trail runner.
Anyway, I took the lead here for the first and only time of the day. Timmy was in tow and we quickly built a bit of separation on the other guys. We continued like this until about mile 12 where there is a short but steep climb to another flattish plateau section. Timmy jumped in front here and slowly began building a lead on me. He ran through the aid at mile 13 as I stopped to fill my bottle. By the time I was back on the trail he had at least a minute on me and I pretty much figured I couldn’t catch a guy with his speed.
Still I gave chase as well as I could and ended up finishing a couple minutes back of Timmy in 3:11 which was good for 2nd overall. What a beautiful morning of running. This course is stunning. I am glad I didn’t run the 50 miler however. Right as I was finishing we could really start feeling the heat of the day. It was probably only 65 degrees but, when you’ve been running in 20s and 30s for many months, it feels much hotter. Last year I ran the 50 in similar conditions and really suffered during the second half, especially since I had never heard of salt pills. I was a crampy mess and wasn’t man enough to do it again this year.
I could only stick around at the finish for a few minutes and was happy to see Ashley Arnold, a fellow Roaring Fork Valley resident, crush the field on her way to the female victory. Ashley is a very strong runner. Look for her to be a dominant force this summer.
Huge congrats to Duncan Callahan on his convincing win in the 50 miler. He looked rock solid at the 25 mile turnaround and was apparently able to crush his second lap and finish in 7:38. Stout time on a tough course.
I highly recommend the Desert RATS series. The organizers are very passionate about putting on a quality event and it shows. Great aid stations, great marking, and great atmosphere. Pumped to come back.
I drove directly from the finish line in Fruita to Invesco Field in Denver for the annual CU vs. CSU Lacrosse battle. It was great to see all the old Lax bros again especially during a convincing Ram victory. I am officially on vacation until May 12th and couldn’t be happier. Time to get in shape. Next is Collegiate Peaks 50 on May 7th. Fire it up.
I had a highly successful mini-vacation this past weekend out in the Salt Lake City area. On what was one of the last busy weekends of the season in Aspen, I managed to sneak away to indulge in a long hard effort on some dry trail. The vacation started for me on Thursday afternoon with Apres beers to celebrate my 25th birthday. I practiced moderation all night and was in bed not long after midnight in anticipation of the weekend’s race.
Courtnee and I hit the road early Friday morning and managed to make it to SLC in one piece after 7 hours and some pretty sketchy driving conditions. After checking into the luxurious La Quinta Inn, Courtnee and I headed out to Antelope Island to check out the course a little bit. After a 20 minute jog we headed home, ordered pizza, and retired early.
The 4am wake up came quickly, and before I knew it, I was chatting with Duncan Callahan at the start line anxiously anticipating the gun. The pace felt very easy to me on the initial climb. I took the lead from the start and immediately opened up a slight gap. I felt super solid and continued motoring past several Buffalo who were roaming around in the pre-dawn darkness. About two miles in, right before the top of the climb, I came to a fork in the road with a cone marking the left turn. Thinking the cone marked the correct trail, I led 5 or 6 of the front guys left. A short time later we reached a view point to find that the trail dead ended. Damnit. I should have paid attention during the pre-race announcements.
I apologized as our lead group turned around to meet the correct trail. In all, we probably lost 7-8 minutes. I was pretty upset with my mistake and immediately turned up the pace to a near uncomfortable level. My goal going into the race was to really go for the victory. I had never run with this mentality before so I was okay with the very real possibility that I would experience a meltdown at some point. I finally caught back up to the new leader, Scott Dickey, on the short loop around mile 7. I jumped right behind him and we started chatting all the way up the mellow switch-backing climb. Right near the top I could feel that I was pushing him harder than he was comfortable with (I later learned Scott is recovering from pneumonia. Jeeze.). I scooted around him here (~mile 9) and never looked back.
I crushed the ensuing Elephant Head out and back before tackling the long gradual descent back to the start area around mile 19. When I got to the aid station I grabbed a full water bottle and EFS Liquid Shot flask from Courtnee and cruised over to the East side of the Island. When I got to the start of the long, mostly flat ~22 mile out and back, I had the chance to get a read on the competition. I was very pleased to see that I already had nearly an 8 minute lead. I still felt like I was running well within myself so I never felt tempted to take my foot off the gas.
The way out to the mile 33 turn around was pretty tough. We had a stiff head wind that also carried a bit of a chill. It was comforting to know that we would have this same wind at our backs for an equal amount of time on the way back though. Courtnee was again waiting for me at the turn and executed another flawless aid station transition. I left totally prepared to suffer the last 17 miles in order to sustain my lead.
I clocked my lead on Duncan at the turn around to be close to 12 minutes. Having first hand knowledge of Duncan’s late race strength, meant that I really never felt comfortable. I just continued to run at a pace that I felt was aggressive yet maintainable. When I got to the end of the monotonously flat out and back, I relished the steep graded single-track that indicated that only 6 miles remained.
From here in I essentially knew that I was going to win, barring a catastrophic failure, and began focusing on knocking a bit of time off the record. I had been very disciplined in my gel and water intake and had really solid energy levels all day long. With a half mile to go I took one last look over my shoulder and was pumped beyond description. I knew I had the win and the course record in the bag but still chose to dump out my bottle, stuff it in my shorts, and hammer the last several hundred meters to the finish. I crossed the line in 6:15 knocking 16 minutes off Ryan Burch’s record set last year. Major stokeage.
After the race I had the pleasure of meeting ultra-celeb’s Bryon Powell and Nick Clark (who had a very strong showing in the 50k) as well as many other awesome competitors. Duncan and I got massages from some volunteering therapists that were both soothing and very unpleasent for my aching legs. It was great sharing time with the Callahans who are expecting a baby right around Hardrock time. Ultra-fatherhood.
I continue to be inspired by the community of athletes I’ve come into contact with through my participation in Ultras. I feel privileged to be able to do this. Jim Skaggs puts on one heck of an event out on Antelope Island. I look forward to coming back to this one many times in the future.
After a long drive home, I managed to get a short and humiliating jog in yesterday afternoon. It’s safe to say my legs are toast and I couldn’t be happier. Next up is Fruita 25 miler in mid-april. Fire it up.
A photo for the ladies:
Well, Moab turned out to be a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience. It was nice to get out of town for a while and see a different, yet equally beautiful, Western American landscape. Courtnee and I left Aspen after work on Thursday and rolled into Moab just in time to catch dinner and a beer with a college friend of mine at the Moab Brewery. We were staying across the street at the La Quinta and retired early to sleep off the drive.
We got up really early and had a low key day on Friday that consisted of a 30 minute run on the course, and a long drive/hike around in Arches national park. Absolutely stunning. That evening we went to Pasta Jay’s with several other racers to gorge on carbohydrates and talk at length about the following day’s race. I had a good amount of nerves built up already so I left dinner extremely psyched up about returning to competition. Again we retired early to await the not so bad 6:00am alarm.
When I finally found myself at the start line all the nerves subsided and my spirits were high. A large pack of maybe 20 runners went out fast at the start. I was content to sit right in the middle and allow my legs to find a comfortably fast, yet sustainable pace for what would be my longest effort in many months. After the first real downhill the field had strung itself out and I was sitting in probably 10th place feeling good but cursing the consistent rain and howling wind.
Ryan Burch and I quickly fell into a similar pace on the climb towards the first aid station and had an opportunity to catch up with each other. Ryan has been a huge inspiration for me since I first learned about this weird little sport, so it was good to hear how well he’s doing. We continued to climb strong through aid #1, quickly making up time on a few guys who had taken the pace out too fast. We reached the top of the first major climb together and prepared for a long and fast downhill. Within 2 minutes of the start of the descent, Ryan had opened up a gap of at least 100 yards. This would become a theme for the day. Dude is a freak on downhills. This gap opened considerably so I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t keep up, and settled into what I felt to be an honest pace.
When the trail flattened out again I could see Ryan off in the distance with what I guessed was probably a 90 second lead. I slowly made up time on the flat section and subsequent uphill until I finally caught him again. We ran together some more until we hit aid #4 at the top of the last major climb at about mile 23. Ryan finally broke me here and was able to run away from me for good. I was still moving pretty well however and was confidant I could push for another 11 miles for a respectable finish. I hit a bit of a low point on the rolling slick rock section around mile 27 so I downed about 2 ounces of gel from my flask to avoid a late race collapse. I cruised through the last aid station and through the mostly downhill last 5 miles to finish 4th overall in 4:15.
After the race Dakota, Tim, Ryan, Duncan, and I sat around discussing our races and plans for the new year. Very classy group of guys who are invariably humble considering their incredible talents and accomplishments. I look forward to many more conversations (and runs) with these guys in the near future.
Lastly, I’d just like to express how much I loved this particular race. It has a low key, small race feel, while still drawing a very competitive field. The landscape was something totally unique from anything I had experienced in an ultra and the volunteers were all top notch. I look forward to coming back to Red Hot as an early season fitness test for many years to come.
Next up is probably Antelope Island 50. Fire it up.
Well, it’s February and race season is right around the corner. It’s hard to believe given the arctic conditions we have recently experienced in Aspen, but today is brilliantly sunny and the stoke level is at an all time high. Much has happened since I last contributed to the blog, but I have certainly been making the most of what free time I have. Like I have mentioned, my recreation has largely centered around skiing, but I have also found ample time to accumulate miles in an effort to be ready for next weekend’s race in Moab. I certainly don’t feel nearly as fit as I did last summer, but I’m confidant that I have what it takes to be at least slightly competitive with some of the fast guys in the desert. The field looks to be super deep and the course should be in good shape, which means exciting stuff could happen up front. I’m just hoping I can be a spectator for a little while.
In addition to being my first race in 2011, Moab is also very exciting for me as it will be the first time I fly the La Sportiva colors in competition. I am absolutely pumped to have the support of such respected company and am inspired by their commitment to the mountain athletics I love so much. La Sportiva has recently debuted the beginning of their ski mountaineering line with very cool looking alpine touring boots and bindings that I hope to get my hands on very soon. Very excited about the future.
Big things are sure to happen in 2011 which is more than enough motivation for me to get out and enjoy healthy amounts of suffering everyday. Here is a look at my tentative race plans for the new year:
2/19 – Moab Red Hot 55k
3/26 – Antelope Island 50 mile
4/20ish – Grand Canyon R2R2R
5/19 – Jemez Mountain 50 mile
6/11 – San Diego 100
7/2(?) – Leaville Marathon
8/20 – Leadville 100
9/10 – Imogene Pass
Just putting that list into writing makes me all tingly inside. For know though its time for a little rest in anticipation of next weekend. I’m just excited to run on dirt again for the first time since October. Fire it up.
It has been rather difficult for me to readjust to life without a daunting goal ahead of me that involves running silly amounts of miles. That being said, I have absolutely relished the last couple weeks which have been highlighted by copious amounts of rest and relaxation. Life has moved slowly, I’ve been able to pack on a few extra pounds, and I’ve been content to spend my free time enjoying non-athletic pursuits. Until today I had only run a handful of times since Run Rabbit Run, and hadn’t ventured outside of pedestrian 30-45 minute jogs. While I have enjoyed this period of relative inactivity, it has been slightly difficult to stay out of my running shoes with how beautiful the weather has been. The last couple days have finally started to feel like Autumn and I can’t help but feel slightly nostalgic about the 2010 Summer race season.
It must have been this slightly melancholy feeling that got me to lace them up this morning and head out to my most frequented trails. It was drizzly when I went out this morning, so I cut my typical coffee/crossword/bookreading session short so as to avoid the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms. The run itself was rather lackluster. I headed to Smuggler/Hunter Valley for a ~11 mile out and back that is really the bread and butter of my day to day training. It has good ups, good downs, and long sections of cruisers that seem to draw me in several times a week. That, and its close proximity to my front door, made it my obvious decision for today.
I felt rather lazy and slow for the duration of the run and it took me close to 8 minutes longer than usual which was slightly discouraging. I feel really out of shape for the first time in a while. I know this is not the case however, and am interpreting this sluggishness as a sign to keep it park for a little while longer. As I said, I have no immediate racing goals so I feel comfortable indulging myself in immobility.
I am sure that I will feel the urge to begin exercising again soon and I am eager to focus my fitness related ambitions towards something rather different. Of course I am referring to shredding the blower Aspen gnar in a few short months. I will still be running this winter but my athletic priorities will likely revolve around shred sticks, skins, and snow gear. I have also made a point to get a membership to a local yoga studio in an attempt to round myself out a little more as an athlete. I think it will do wonders for me in terms of core strengthening, flexibility, and recovery. My brother is a highly skilled yogi and has been an inspiration when it comes to having a calm, strudy, healthy demeanor. Soon I hope to be able to do this like JBo…
With the return of the mellow energy that is a staple of the Aspen off seasons, chilling seems only that much more appropriate. It will be good to start setting racing goals again but until then I won’t be living quite as Epic and will enjoy every second of it.
Last week in Steamboat I endured what I am calling a good learning experience at the 4th annual Run Rabbit Run 50 miler. I won’t go into nearly as much detail as I did with Leadville just because the race and the result weren’t nearly as inspiring to me. Still, RRR50 is a classic race that I would highly recommend to any interested runner.
I wasn’t too sure how my body would respond at Steamboat after a completely draining race at Leadville less than a month prior, but I felt good enough to give it my best shot. My training hadn’t been ideal and I contemplated bagging it until I finally pulled the trigger on a hotel room the Wednesday before the race. In the end, a tremedous fear of missing out (FOMO) got me to the start line. Sometimes that is all the motivation I need.
I arrived in Steamboat on Friday afternoon to bright sunshine and gloriously colorful vegetation. I checked into the dumpiest hotel in Steamboat (still pretty nice) and headed directly for the pre-race meeting. The race director, Fred Abromowitz, was as unique as ever and kept each of us entertained for the duration of his presentation. There were endless raffle items and it seemed like everybody in the room won something. I was lucky enough to walk away with a brand new Nathan hydration pack. Very cool.
My alarm went off at 4:15 the next morning. I slowly got up, reassuring myself that this would be the last time I would be up at this hour for several months. Shortly thereafter I found myself at the starting line shivering but confident next to some very accomplished runners.
Geoff Roes, Ryan Burch, Bill Fanselow, Jeremy Duncan, and I quickly separated ourselves from the group and had nice conversations all the way up the initial 6 mile, 3,000+ foot climb on the dirt road of the ski area. We were still together at the first aid station (mile 6) where I had a very poor transition. Something about filling my bottle and dropping my headlamp took forever and before I knew it, I was 100 yards behind the top three guys trying to catch back up. I was a little pissed about this inefficiency since I am usually very quick at aid stations.
This really began a long day of me being inside my own head. My legs just refused to move at a pace that would allow me to be competitive which, for me, was pretty demoralizing. It turned out I would never catch up to the front three and would quickly fall into survival mode for most of the entire race.
At the turnaround the leaders had about 10 minutes on me and 5th place was nipping at my heels. I was being really negative all day and just couldn’t shake the funk that I was experiencing. I even entertained the thought of quitting somewhere shortly after the turnaround. This is something that I had never experienced as I am typically pretty good with the mental side of the game. My body was just not psyched about racing this distance so close to Leadville and refused to cooperate with my attempts to accelerate. I suppose this will get better as I continue to build a solid base. I kept reassuring myself that it was almost over and that I could take a break from racing as soon as I crossed the finish line. It is sad but this was the most positive thought I had all day.
I came back through the last aid station at the top of the ski resort and had long since abandoned any thoughts of catching anybody in front of me. I thought the downhill would be a nice way to finish since I was so gassed, but it turned out to be the most painful part of the race. I really did not want to give up 4th place and forced myself to maintain a respectable pace simply out of fear that someone was closing. I finally crossed the finish line in 7:50 securing 4th place.
I wasn’t too happy with the result but under the circumstances of that particular day, I’ll take it. I was still able to run the 5th fastest time on the course which is a very small consolation. I learned after the race that the guys in front of me didn’t have their best days either which is too bad. It would have been really fun if we had all felt fresh.
It was good chatting with the Gunnison contingent after the race. In finishing 3rd, Ryan Burch was able to secure himself an automatic entry into Western States 2011. Ryan has been a huge inspiration to me and I have already committed to pace/crew him there if I don’t get in myself via the lottery. Scott Drum was also able to finish a very strong 6th place. There must be something in Gunnison’s water that produces sick endurance athletes.
Although I make my experience in Steamboat sound mostly negative, I am really glad I did show up to compete. It is such a great race and the people who put it on are all top notch. After getting lost for 30+ minutes last year, I was looking forward to getting my redemption on the course. Although I was an hour faster than last year, I am sure I still left significant time out on the trail. For this reason, I am really looking forward to coming back to RRR50 and having a good day. All in all, it was a beautiful and fulfilling day and a great end to a fantastic summer of running and racing.
I calculated that I raced 312 miles in 6 ultra races in 5 months on top of thousands of training miles. This was much more than I bargained for and, for this reason, I am very comfortable saying that this was absolutely the best Summer of my life. Now it is time for a short break. Soon it will be time to ski again (and run some more)!!! Stay tuned.
“Adventure is simply emotional and physical discomfort recollected in tranquility.” -Tim Cahill
Trying to describe my experience at the Leadville 100 is like trying to describe the meaning of life. Let me start from the beginning…
Leadville had been a goal of mine for upwards of a year. The instant I learned that the race existed something inside me became instantly intrigued and slightly obsessed. When I say it was a goal, I really mean it absolutely consumed me for many long months to the point where I literally dreamt about it. The race became a carrot on the end of a very long stick that I had to chase incessantly to ensure proper preparation. To make a long story short, my entire summer (and really my whole life) revolved around training for success on one particular Saturday in late August.
After a strong performance in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Trial Run in july, my confidence as a runner was at an all time high. I felt like I was invincible. Post race fatigue seemed nonexistent so I made the somewhat ill-advised decision to not recover. Two days later I went for a 25 mile training run and saw every ounce of confidence I had crash down around me. I was shattered. Literally nothing left in the tank. This experience startled me to the point where I actually took 3 whole days off from running, something I NEVER do in the summer. Unfortunately the extra rest did not seem to help my underlying feeling of complete fatigue and exhaustion. I tried to stay positive however, and continued to train like an animal on a daily basis, though I was sure I was digging myself into a giant hole right before the biggest race of my life. The five weeks before the race were marked by this lack luster attitude and very low energy levels. To ice the cake, I convinced myself of an impeding sickness in the week leading up to the big day so I really felt like garbage until I arrived in Leadville on the Thursday night before the race.
My mom had booked a really great little house in Twin Lakes that would become the headquarters for Team ShredBo over the next couple of days. Friday passed quickly with a speedy medical check and a pep talk from Ken Chlouber that got me absolutely jacked up. I was happy to spend the rest of the day relaxing in Twin Lakes, away from the nervous energy of Leadville that is only natural in an environment of hundreds of runners preparing for the longest day of their lives. Soon enough my alarm went off (2:30am!) and before I knew it I was standing on the start line wishing Duncan Callahan and Marco Peinado good luck before the shotgun sounded and we galloped into he darkness.
My first 10 miles were marked by the same feelings I was having in the month leading up to the race. I felt terribly flat with no pep whatsoever in any of my awkward steps. Sure enough, about 8 miles in, I clipped a rock and went face first into the Turquoise Lake Trail. Ugh. I picked myself up feeling discouraged and continued down the trail. The runner behind me courteously asked if I was okay to which I responded with a dejected “Yeah.” He then said “You’re Dylan right?” I was surprised but identified myself as the person in question. This is the story of how I met Zeke Tiernan, a fellow Roaring Fork Valley resident and 2008 LT100 3rd place finisher. Freak athlete. I felt silly running in front of such a proven runner but we quickly fell into a nice conversation about our lives in the valley and our summers of training. Soon thereafter I had my first gel and my day completely turned around. I was relaxed and perky and absolutely ready to rock.
Zeke had to peel off to use the little boy’s tree so I continued on and hit the pavement of the Mayqueen Campground in a very positive state of mind. I quickly high fived my Old Man at the aid station while a gracious volunteer filled my bottle. I sensed that I had maybe been moving too fast through the first section but I felt unbelieveable so I kept hammering. When I reached the Colorado Trail section that leads to Hagerman Pass Road, I saw the blinking red lights on the back of Duncan Callahan’s head lamp. I made the remark that I was going to chase him all day like I had at the Leadville 50 a month earlier to which he responded with encouragement. Very classy champion.
The climb up Sugarloaf pass was pretty uneventful. Zeke caught up here and promptly gapped me by a minute or so as I ran relaxed about 10 seconds behind Marco Peinado. I continued to climb strong and caught up to Marco right as we began the long powerline descent to the Fish Hatchery. Marco was battling stomach cramps already and I was moving well so I moved ahead of him and gradually caught up to Duncan and Zeke on the second half of the descent. I was still feeling great but I was careful not to pass these seasoned runners so early in the day.
The three of us hit the short road section leading to the Fish Hatchery simultaneously and continued pretty much three abreast all the way to the aid station.
I paused very briefly in the aid station garage to down a couple cups of cola before heading back out for the flat road section leading to the Treeline crew access area. I grabbed a new bottle and gel flask from Courtnee without breaking stride and was back out on the road with Duncan and Zeke hot on my heels. This would be the first of many very efficient interactions I would have with my crew throughout the day.
About a half mile out of the Fish Hatchery I made a concerted effort to slow down. Duncan was right behind me at the time and I made the remark that I was going to take my foot off the gas if he wanted to come on by. He thought it would be a good idea to ease back a bit also, so we ended up running side by side for a short time while Zeke closed the gap. As we took the right hand turn onto Halfmoon road the first thing I noticed was Hope pass looming way off in the distance. Duncan commented that we would all be there shortly and that the race was now 1/4 of the way done. Rather than being a deflating thought, this actually served to fire me up considerably.
Still, it was very early in the race and I was careful not to push any harder than what felt like an effortless pace. Again, Duncan, Zeke and I entered Treeline pretty much simultaneously and began receiving aid from our respective crews. I could feel the day heating up and decided that it would be a good idea to get some skin protection on what was turning out to be a beautiful cloudless Colorado day. Courtnee and Kiley began administering sunscreen like a seasoned pit crew and had me out of there in a very timely fashion. My mother, who I’m sure was a nervous wreck, informed me that we had been averaging 8 minute miles to this point. This concerned me a bit so I left Treeline verbally reminding myself to chill.
I let Duncan and Zeke slowly pull ahead of me until, for the first time all the day, I was running alone. I still felt relaxed and confident and tried to fight off any thoughts of racing so early in the day. I pulled into the Halfmoon aid station solo and downed some more cola while a ski patroller filled my bottles. Soon after leaving Halfmoon I saw Duncan, Zeke, and Bob Sweeney (?) heading back toward me on the trail. The four of us back tracked a short way until Duncan recognized the turn off we were supposed to take. I was very lucky as this short detour only cost me a couple hundred extra yards compared to the half mile or so added to the day for Duncan, Zeke, and Bob. We would later learn that many people went off course in the same place, costing a few front runners significant time.
Once we were back on course, I again let their little group go and focused on running well within myself. This part of the course is quite beautiful. It is mostly shaded with a very gradual incline and many nice rollers. In training I would classify this section of trail as a “cruiser.” I had been very conscious of my food and water intake all day and really made a focus here to keep filling the tank. Soon enough I caught Zeke and we began running together again. The trail started its relatively long descent into twin lakes, which my legs really responded positively to. I think Zeke could sense that I was feeling better on this particular downhill because he quickly stepped aside so I could pass. No more than a minute later, I almost led us way off course on a very poorly marked trail intersection. I would venture to say that someone had deliberately removed marking here because on the way back it was marked very clearly. Luckily Zeke noticed the correct trail and we didn’t lose any time.
We arrived in Twin Lakes to a raucous cheering crowd. My crew was waiting there with everything I needed so after a few more colas, I was out of another very quick crew transition. This was the first time I saw the Aspen contingent of my crew which served to give me a huge mental lift. They were ready to rock and so was I. My crew was growing to an obnoxious size which I had no problem with. Travis and Courtnee cruised through Twin Lakes with me before I headed out on my own to hopefully dominate the crux of the Leadville 100 – The dreaded double crossing of Hope Pass.
The section of meadow leading to the base of the climb went by in a flash and before I knew it, I was hunched over in a serious power hike making my way up one of the biggest climbs of the day. I made a point here to not run at all, even if people started catching up to me. Even so, I was nervous that I was losing time so I hammered this hike as hard as I could without a jogging cadence. Soon enough I popped out into the flatter mountain meadow leading to the Hopeless aid station and could not help but get my run on. I saw Zeke leaving the aid station as I approached and guessed he probably had two minutes on me. The gracious and gritty individuals that man this high mountain oasis were top notch. I tossed my water bottles to a teenage kid who had them full again before I could even eat a cookie in the adjacent tent. Probably one of the most unique and remote aid stations in ultrarunning.
I power hiked pretty much everything else to the top and briefly let my legs adjust to the downhill before I really opened it up. I crushed the descent on the south side of Hope Pass while making a serious effort to again fill up on fluids and calories. About halfway down I passed Bob Sweeney and promptly started chasing after Zeke some more. Shortly before the base of the descent Anton Krupicka and his pacer Dakota Jones passed me on their way back to town. This meant he probably already had a 50 minute lead on me. What a freak.
I ran conservatively on the road section that led to the turnaround at Winfield. I distinctly remember thinking that it didn’t seem as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. Either way I pulled into Winfield in 8:20 still fresh and feeling good.
I picked up Clint here, who would serve as my first pacer on the day. We cruised back down the dirt road towards Hope Pass giving and getting lots of encouragement from fellow runners. I chugged a whole bottle of water before the turn off and again hunched down in power hike mode for my second go at the pass. I ate a couple Little Nell chocolate chip cookies on the climb which really tasted great and sat well in my gut.
We were maybe a minute behind Zeke and his pacer who were also climbing very strong. The second climb seemed to go very fast and Clint was full of encouragement. He was spot on with advice to relax and breathe and eat. He could sense when I felt weak and seemed to respond with the perfect words of encouragement. Soon enough we were back at the top and we both let out a rebel yell before sailing back down the north side of Hope towards Twin Lakes. Clint went out ahead of me before reaching Hopeless aid and had my bottles refilled by the time I got there. A brief pause for some cola and I was in cruise control again. We had passed Zeke at the aid station and we continued our forward momentum with a very consistent and fast pace. By the time we hit the marshy meadow that leads to Twin Lakes I was absolutely amped. I had the hardest part of the race behind me and didn’t seem any worse for wear. Clint and I continued to move well and about a mile later I was running through the Twin Lakes visitor parking lot towards my waiting crew.
I took the longest break of the day here to change shirts, administer vasoline, and drink a whole can of Coke. Still I was in and out in about a minute.
Cameron Short, another friend and coworker from Aspen, would serve as my next pacer. We left Twin Lakes and began the long climb back to the Colorado Trail talking strategy. I didn’t feel very good on the climb and was moving rather slowly, even for having already run 60+ miles. Soon enough Zeke and his pacer caught back up and passed us. This was not discouraging to me at all at the time. I was rooting for Zeke and he was rooting for me so I continued to focus on myself and chat with Cam. Cameron is one of the nicest dudes I know and he was really good to have on this section. My mood brightened as we hit the long gradual downhill that leads to Halfmoon. We soon caught Zeke again and the four of us ran together through the Halfmoon aid without much pause.
Things started to deteriorate at this point and fatigue was really starting to catch up to me. Within a mile or so Zeke put at least a minute on me as I just tried to survive until Treeline where I would see my crew again. Around this time, an eager spectator began running with us asking us questions about how I was feeling, where we were from etc. I knew my crew would be nervous to see Zeke come through Treeline before me, so before the guy sped off towards Treeline I told him to tell my mom that I was on my way. I learned later that he did relay the message which made my nervous mother a little weepy but offered her some comfort. She was a champion all day long.
I came into Treeline feeling like absolute garbage. I walked through the crew access point as Team ShredBo attended to my needs. I chugged a whole bottle of gatorade and tried to encourage myself by thinking outloud that there was only one marathon left in my day.
I picked up Andy Lesavage here, who would take me the four road miles back to the Fish Hatchery. Andy is one of my best friends from childhood and had nothing but encouraging words for me as I suffered to maintain a running cadence on the flat road. I thought a gel would help to pull me out of my funk so I ate one and immediately vomited all over the road. Andy could tell I was hurting bad and even wiped a grotesque glob of gel mixed with saliva and puke of my face before I had a chance to do so. Friendship. This was the first time I had puked during a race so I was a bit concerned. I did seem to feel a bit better afterwards so I continued to soldier on. As we took our left hand turn onto the road leading to the Fish Hatchery, my brother, who had driven up from Boulder to watch me finish came driving by. He rolled down his window and yelled “I F&%*ing Love You!!” It seemed my crew was going to continue to grow! This did a lot to help me through the last mile to the Hatchery.
Andy and I came into the hatchery to lots of encouragement and love. I picked up Travis here who would take me the final 23.5 miles to town. I felt okay coming through the aid station and felt like I could still finish strong if I remained smart. As Travis and I left however, these positive feelings quickly evaporated. I was quickly headed for the my epic collapse of the day. We jogged to the powerline climb where things went decidedly wrong. I felt like shit. Zeke, who had only been a couple minutes ahead at Fish Hatchery, was now way out of sight and I was struggling to even walk up the steeper inclines.
My stomach was in knots and I refused nearly everyone of Travis’s requests that I eat or drink. Travis was extremely patient with me here and was a tremendous asset to have. Despite my pitiful condition, we continued to climb at whatever sorry pace I could sustain. I looked over my shoulder constantly knowing that at any minute someone would come flying by. This never happened however and after a very long climb and a couple of bathroom breaks, Travis and I reached the Sugarloaf pass summit. I began running again and a few minutes later I felt great again. I turned to Travis and said “Alright, I’m back baby!” We started motoring down the dirt road exchanging high fives. It is very strange how one’s condition can fluctuate that dramatically during the course of prolonged physical exertion. Either way, we made quick work of Hagerman Pass road and the Colorado Trail section and soon found ourselves on the pavement leading to Mayqueen campground. My crew had grown again and was now at least 20 strong as people were coming from Aspen and the front range to witness me run. I am a very lucky dude.
I entered the aid tent at Mayqueen to drink Coke and was happy to see running friends Ryan and Meghan Burch here. Ryan gave me lots of veteran encouragement and told me I was looking good. I was actually feeling good here so I believed him. As I left the tent my dad informed me that Anton had dropped. Sure enough I looked back and saw the legend himself lying in a cot, not looking good. I was one of the many people who were pulling for Anton this year so I was actually bummed to hear the news.
I left Mayqueen with Travis knowing that I was going to finish this thing as long as I didn’t do anything stupid. We put on the headlamps and hit the Turquoise lake trail with a very conservative pace. Travis, to his credit, continued to pester me about fluids and calories which I hadn’t had much of since leaving the Fish Hatchery some 10 miles and 2+ hours earlier. My gut was on the rebound so I began taking in as much as I could stomach hoping to avoid another pukey display. This really did a lot to help me through the last section.
As we approached the Tabor Boatramp we could here my crew screaming and cheering quite loudly. My spirits were high at this time though I was still moving very conservatively and not feeling that great. I suppose I could really smell the barn here and was comforted by the fact that it was almost over. Then, about a half mile from the boatramp, I clipped a rock and went face first into the Turquoise Lake Trail for the second time which was not awesome after 92+ miles and ~18 hours of running. Travis picked me up while I unleashed a volley of Rex Ryan-like F Bombs. Ugh.
My spirits were lifted once again as we passed the small nomadic community of Team ShredBo at the boat ramp at about mile 93. Travis got the last of the water we needed while I hobbled through. I turned around before leaving the crew behind and asked my brother if there were any headlamps behind us. He assured me that there were not. This was a huge relief to me at the time but I later learned it was a huge lie. Apparently Neal Gorman was closing on us fast and his lights were clearly visible to my waiting crew. They were careful not to reveal this information to me.
Sure enough about 10 minutes outside the boat ramp, we heard a roar of cheers come from behind us. I knew that this was Neal coming through the boat ramp himself and that he would be chasing my ass to the finish. Travis and I immediately looked at each other and knew we had to go. I really did not want to get passed this late in the race and dreaded the prospect of actually racing with someone in the last few miles to the finish. We put our heads down and hammered the last section of the Lake Trail. We really crushed it. We were running scared at this point and could not help but look over our shoulders constantly. We finally crossed the road and sped down the power line cut which leads to the short road section before the boulevard and were still moving really well. At the end of the 5+ minute road section, before we took a right onto the Jeep road that leads to the boulevard, we took one last look behind us. Nothing. I knew that it would be tough to for Neal to make up several minutes in the last 3 miles especially with how fast we had been moving so we again entered conservative, just-get-it-done mode.
Still we moved well up the boulevard and were both ecstatic that it was almost over. We finally hit the pavement that signaled we only had a mile to go and I could not help but smile. It was here that I finally got up the nerve to ask Travis a question that had been bugging me for a few hours. I turned and said “Travis, are we in 3rd or 4th place?” Travis laughed and responded “I wasn’t gonna say anything, but when Anton dropped, you moved into third place!” This was really the first time all day that I really thought about my finishing placement and I was genuinely gitty. We crested the last small little roller and could finally see the finish line. Even with a half mile still to go I could hear Team ShredBo screaming. It felt like we sprinted the last stretch and with about 50 yards to go I knew we had done it. Travis and I were beside ourselves and sort of half hugged and high fived and laughed down the red carpet and across the finish line. Absolutely the best moment of my life!
Afterwards, I did my typical shake uncontrollably routine in the medical tent for about an hour next to Zeke (who finished 2nd about 10 minute ahead of me) before heading back to the house in Twin Lakes.
Looking back at my experience at Leadville, now a month later, I still get the chills. It was an absolutely extraordinary day. I owe a huge thank you to my entire crew for doing an unbelievable job getting me to the finish line. You guys were beyond words and I love you. I don’t think that it was any coincidence that Duncan, Zeke, and I finished 1,2,3 and had the three largest crews in Leadville that day. I can only imagine what Team ShredBo will look like next year! At this point I can say with confidence that I will be back in Leadville in 2011 for a second crack at the course with more experience under my belt (buckle). I would like to tackle a different 100 miler before that though. It is such a unique and challenging distance, I cannot help but be intrigued. There is something extremely rewarding about intentionally subjecting oneself to extreme mental and physical discomfort in order to accomplish something great. There is no feeling like it. I’m a better person for having experienced it.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned. Live Epic.