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As I look back on my recent string of trail running, which spanned 28 races and 4 states, I can’t help but feel overcome with emotion. Gratitude and appreciation for the experiences I’ve had, humbleness and inspiration from the amazing people I’ve had the privilege of sharing the trails with. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I have learned so much about myself over the last year. Emotionally it’s been a roller coaster. I now realize that hills come with valleys, good times come with bad, and everything in-between. At present my journey right now needs to be one of rest, reflection, rejuvenation, and quiet. It was becoming increasingly apparent to me that in the weeks leading to my Seattle trip and especially after, I needed to step away for a bit. Burnout is a very real thing, and the funny thing is, sometimes the signs themselves are fleeting and subtle. For me, it manifested as a nagging feeling of malaise and apathy. I wasn’t sleeping and recovering as well from workouts, and it seemed I always had a little sore throat here, a stuffy/runny nose there. The body is an amazing machine, but it will tell you what you need to know/do if your are tuned into it. Ultimately, I knew it was a time for a much-needed break and return to some semblance of a normal life. I’m looking forward to recharging, enjoying the holidays, and not having to deal with the frenzied chaos of airports and hotels, at least for a little while.
While I’ve set any serious plans for winter racing aside, I plan to focus on my ambassadorship with Colorado Runner Events, promoting the winter distance series, and sending off some introduction letters of my own to companies/events to inquire about upcoming opportunities for 2014. I’ll be hooking up with trail veteran “Sherpa” John Lacroix to participate in his “Fat Ass” group trail runs through winter to stay fit, as well as doing some cross training of my own. It’ll be nice to run in a non-competitive format and simply find my balance with all this again. I also owe it to my family to finally “get-around” to spending time with them as I’ve been promising over and over.
As for 2014, without allowing myself to get too preoccupied about it, I plan to make it a big year. I’ve got my first 50 miler and 100K booked, and am possibly entertaining the thought of a full 100 miler. Rather than do what I did this year, which was basically race every weekend, I think it may be more conducive for me to try to follow a 1-big-race-per-month (or every other month) format. I plan to escape even deeper into the mountains once the snow thaws.
Exciting things are ahead, and I’m grateful for the newly gained perspective on so many things that trail running has given me. It’s allowed me to escape the vanity and trendiness of novelty and stylized gyms and fitness. It’s allowed me to experience and embrace a more minimalist lifestyle that’s unadulterated and free from the frantic superficiality of social media and consumer culture and consumption. I have it to thank for some of the most intense endorphin rushes and sensations of being alive that I’ve ever felt.
In closing, I’d like to simply wish everyone well this winter. May your success continue in 2014. I will still absolutely be maintaining this blog so continue to stay tuned.
May your trails be happy and healthy,
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“On the job training in courage” is a phrase that comes to mind when I reflect on the 2013 Deadman Peaks Trail Marathon. The race is in its 4th year and is held each fall in Cuba, New Mexico – a town situated in “middle-of-nowhere” Sandoval County desert, about an hour and half northwest of Albuquerque. My journey actually began over 24 hours earlier and 400 miles north by boarding a plane in Denver and flying into ABQ on Friday morning. I was greeted with very pleasant warm and sunny weather, which is typical of the New Mexican fall. Once getting settled in at my folks house and enjoying some authentic New Mexican cuisine, I tried to relax and get everything situated for the following morning.
Race day. My alarm was blaring in my ear at 3:20am grrrrr! I showered, ate, and hit the road for Cuba. My folks had never actually been to an event like this, so I just tried to explain the ins and outs of the logistics of how trail races work, despite them looking at me like I was an insane person for wanting to put myself through such “torture” as they put it. Once we arrived on site it was cold….like, holy shit cold. The car said it was 19 degrees, so much for wondering if I needed my thermal gear. I got myself checked in and the bus arrived at 6:30 to take the marathoners to the start point at the opposite end of the course. My folks wished me luck and we were off. After taking in the surrounding scenery on the bus ride, I thought to myself “Damn, you lose it out here and you’re gonna be in a world of hurt.”
By the time we reached our start line, the sun had come out to illuminate the desert landscape in fantastic fashion. Harsh but beautiful landscape as far as the eye could see. At 8 am, race director Kim King wished us well and sent us off for our 26.2 mile journey back to the finish. I had some concern about possibly biting off a little more than I could chew considering I had run a 50K in Boulder just 5 days earlier, thus my conservative and cautious pace in the beginning. The course really was magnificent – picturesque mesas that shot up skyward, and cliffside portions that were as inviting as they were dangerous. Once reaching the first aid station I was fully warm and feeling pretty good, subsequently causing my competitive spirit to come knocking. It was time to start the hunt, and begin to advance positions – my body willing of course. Considering the scenery around me, it was so easy to get lost in the rhythm of my own cadence and breathing. The fun really came for me after aid station 2 – by this point I had managed to advance on and pass a few people. I felt great and really started to glide over the some of the rocky sections. I was still mindful of my heart rate and breathing, but admittedly there were some parts of this course that were too damn fun to be cautiously shuffling through. I was taking in an energy gel about every ½ hour, and made sure to stay plenty hydrated.
Reaching aid station 3 was a relief, as I knew this was the final aid station on the course. Home stretch. They told me it was 9 ½ miles to the finish. I grabbed a few energy gels, filled my water, and went toe to toe with the hardest portion of the course – which is basically an insane scramble up a mesa that would even set the incredible hulks legs on fire. Feasibly there was no way I could run any of this, and settled into a steady speed hike, using my arms at times to propel myself forward and give my legs any possible slack. Once reaching the top and gathering my lungs who were currently on strike and hiding behind a tree at that point, I continued down the dirt trail and final descent. The last portion is a welcome “cruise” of a descent back to the finish line. Relief washed over me as I came around the final bend to see the cars and people waiting at the finish. My folks were there to greet me as I crossed the finish line at 5:43. I immediately plunged my legs into a bucket of ice water and began chowing down on food. Some of my first thoughts post-race were about how much of an unassuming course this appears to be on paper, but a completely different story when you actually get out there. It was definitely a confidence booster to have run in such a harsh, unforgiving environment.
Before leaving I thanked RD Kim King and told her I would be back next year, most likely for the full 53 mile ultra version. I can easily see this race growing into a super popular desert classic, and I’m glad that I got to cross it off my bucket list this year. What an amazing experience!
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Normally Sunday is considered a “lazy” day by most. Not the case this past weekend for runners and organizers alike at Boulder Reservoir for the annual 24 Hours of Boulder Event. The race offers 3 events in which racers can “pick their poison” – a full 100 mile event, a 100K, or a 50K. I chose to run the 50K on Sunday.
It was a crisp morning at the reservoir, and I remember thinking how chilly it must have been for runners that had been going all night. We had our pre-race meeting with Reid at 6:45, and he sent us on our way right at 7 – just in time to catch an amazing sunrise coming up over the res. I settled into a swift but comfortable pace, and tried to focus on taking in plenty of fluid and gels. The course consisted of an out-and-back 7.14 mile loop around the reservoir with some minor hills and a mix of non technical single track, pavement, and open dirt road.
All was going well until about mile 24 when I started to cramp up pretty bad. Up until then, I had been taking in a steady flow of water, electrolyte solution, and energy gels but in my own foolishness neglected to take in enough salt/sodium. Thankfully, a fellow runner out on the track noticed I was in the hurt locker and saved the day by giving me a few salt caps. At this point I was on my last out-and-back loop. Once reaching the aid station at the other side of the reservoir, I took a few moments to rub my legs down, stretch, and scarf some chips. Once leaving, I literally felt like I had new legs. My body absorbed the salt, and I felt rejuvenated. I knew I had to make up whatever time I could so I smoked the last split of the loop, desperately trying to get back to the finish before 5:40 (my prior 50K PR) I literally felt like I was in another dimension the last few miles – an out of body experience if I’ve ever had one – and managed to cross the finish line at 5:32. I was ecstatic to get my PR, and come to find out, I was first across the finish line under age 30, 6th overall. Nice little comeback at the end.
This was my 3rd 50K of this year, and I learn something each time – most importantly about my own nutrition needs and how to push through the barriers I know are coming. The post-race hangout was cool – plenty of food and even got to spend some time in the recovery suit, which is basically a lower body suit that provides compression to aid recovery. Met a lot of cool people, and had a great time. Big thanks to Reid and the Gemini Adventures crew, and the Boulder Reservoir. I’ll definitely be back for another Gemini event soon!
With winter fast approaching in Colorado, it unfortunately means that for a lot of people the running racing season has come to a close.
This can be a tough time of year for many. For me personally, I struggle finding acceptance of the shorter days and lessened exposure to sunlight. It affects my mood, and of course the colder weather makes it more difficult to get outside during winter months.
However, not all is lost. For a runner, this can be a fantastic time for personal reflection, peace, and rejuvenation. In the frenzy of a busy racing/training schedule, it can be difficult to remember to stop and take moments to appreciate the entirety of the experiences you’ve had, and pat yourself on the back for the job you’ve done. For someone like me, this is especially true. Often I find myself never being satisfied – always thinking of those people that passed me or if some of my times could of been better had I pushed harder. I see elites that are my heroes and look up to talk about distances and times in a casual, nonchalant manner that boggle my mind. I want to accomplish so much more. I want to be on their level.
In retrospect though, once I settle the overly competitive part of my brain down long enough to think logically, I had a great time this summer and had several milestones of my own. Overcoming IT band syndrome, several PR’s, and even began traveling to feed my trail running addiction. I met a lot of amazing, inspirational people along the way. I’m grateful to be part of a community that is still grassroots, and where everyone supports each other. It’s wonderful to toe the starting line with people who are just as crazy and eccentric as I am.
That said, the season continues on in full swing as far as I’m concerned, with only a few minor tweaks. I’ll be traveling through the winter months to different states so I can continue to run trail races while I wait for the harsh Colorado winter to pass. On times that I can’t get on a plane or drive far enough, there are several indoor endurance events that I’ll be participating in to stay sharp. I refuse to let the cold push me into inactivity, especially considering that I want to make 2014 a banner year.
In conclusion, I wish everyone well on their personal journeys this off season. I hope you find fulfillment in whatever you choose to do to stay active.
As for me, I’m coming with everything I have to bring the house down in 2014.
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Due to the recent flooding, this years Fall Evergold Trail Race was moved from Lair O’ Bear in Idledale to Alderfer/3 Sister Park in Evergreen.
It was a chilly morning, and as you can see there was still a light dusting of snow on the ground from a recent storm. The race went off at 9am, and featured a stunningly beautiful 2-loop course through the parks trail system.
I went out hard but still with a pace I knew was gonna be manageable. There were a handful of quick descents, but make no mistake, there were also some pretty tough climbs that definitely made my legs burn. My favorite parts of the course were the flat single trail sections, which I was able to rip at a high pace.
It was a battle at the front end, with the handful of us duking it out for position. I actually felt better on the second loop as I was fully warm and settled into my pace. I tried to really turn it on for second loop but some of those climbs are pretty unforgiving, which in turn had me doing some brief speed hiking.
The race comes to a clearing on the final section where you can see the finish line. I crossed my fingers on the last icy section, and crossed the finish line at 1:31. 4th overall.
The moment quickly faded into anti-climactic bliss as I grew a little sad that this was the last race in the series. What a summer it’s been. I really enjoy the trail races hosted by Evergreen – they’re simple and minimalist in style. Sometimes it’s nice to run a race without the grand production and flash of a bigger one. With Evergreen, it’s just a bunch of people getting together who love to run and test themselves against nature, and that’s more than fine with me.
Big thanks to Kendra and the Evergreen Parks & Rec. Can’t wait for next season to come around and hit these beautiful mountains again.
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A lot of adversity came this year to the Bear Chase Trail Race Series, which is held every fall in Bear Creek Park. The flooding has reeked havoc on the park, which actually caused all the course distances to not only be re-routed, but due to the continuing rain actually forced the race to host all the races on one day.
Before I get into the details, my hats off to David Mantley and the crew that puts this race on. I’m sure they were pulling their hair out this year trying to keep it together.
That said, I hate to be harsh, but I really didn’t enjoy this years race nearly as much as last years. I ran the 50K last year and opted to run the 1/2 marathon this year as I’ve been in the grips of a stubborn chest cold the last week or so and didn’t want to overdo it so as to render myself useless for the following week.
It was hard for me enjoy myself out on the course, as it felt like a big clusterf**k from the get-go. A great deal of the race was on pavement due to the re-route, which made things miserable and uninteresting to me as I despise running on pavement. With all the races consolidated into one day, it meant all 100K, 50mile, 50K, 1/2 marathon, and 10K runners were all out on the course at the same time. At several points I saw many racers simply looking lost and the course overall just felt clustered and confusing.
I guess one of the positives that actually did come of this race is my ability to deal with adversity while out on the course. It tests your physical and mental stamina to have your “groove” thrown off so many times by different factors, so at least it added to my tool-bucket in that department.
I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a dick, but I really think I would’ve been better off heading up to Vail that weekend to run the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) Oh well, it is what it is and I realize that there are always gonna be circumstances that are out of anyone’s control.
My time corresponded with my mood (not great) at 1:52:32 and 40th out of 378 people.
Hopefully next year will bring better luck to the Bear Chase. Onward and upward.