Closing Chapter 1, Beginning Chapter 2

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,

Adam 🙂

 

 

 

Deadman Peaks Marathon Post-race Report

Deadman Peaks Marathon Post-race Report

“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!

Gemini Adventures 50K @ Boulder Res Post-race Report

Gemini Adventures 50K @ Boulder Res Post-race Report

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!

2013-2014 Colorado Runner Events Winter Distance Series Ambassador Program

2013-2014 Colorado Runner Events Winter Distance Series Ambassador Program

From Colorado Runner Events website: “It’s difficult to keep training through Colorado’s harsh winters, but the Winter Distance Series helps by motivating thousands of runners to keep moving. The series offers three events in Littleton. The first race is the Santa Stampede 5K/10K (formerly Rudolph’s Revenge 5K/10K) in December, followed by the Frosty’s Frozen 5 and 10 Miler in January, and then the Snowman Stampede 5 and 10 Miler in February. Each race offers a party-like atmosphere with flat and fast courses along the banks of the scenic South Platte River. Run a great race, and then toast your friend’s finishes with a cup of steaming coffee or hot chocolate. Register for the whole series, or just one or two races.”

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I have the pleasure of being an ambassador for this series, and am honored at the extraordinary opportunity that Colorado Runner Events has given me. As such, it is now my job to bring the race to the forefront for people who don’t know about it. As opposed to trying to “sell” you on reasons to participate in this race, let me just talk about why I believe in it and support this series in particular.

First off, lets face it – Colorado winters can be brutal. The inclement weather can make it difficult to even get out of bed sometimes, much less an athlete who is trying to stay active. You could go skiing or snowboarding sure, but what if your plans don’t involve leaving the area? How do you maintain some semblance of fitness where everywhere you turn someone is sticking those all-too familiar Holiday treats in your face? That’s where Colorado Runner Events Winter Distance Series comes in! It gives athletes something to look forward to and train for, it keeps the runners accountability there, and it’s just a blast of an event to participate in.

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A breakdown of the series is as follows:

Santa Stampede 5K & 10K on December 14th

Frosty’s Frozen 5 miler & 10 miler on Jan 18th

Snowman Stampede 5 miler & 10 miler on Feb 22nd

All races are family friendly and held on a flat and fast course near Hudson Gardens in Littleton.

Be sure to enter my code: WDS2 for discounted prices.

So, if you’re looking to stay active and upbeat this winter, don’t let winter force you into inactivity – register!

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Fighting the anti-climactic off-season

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.

Cheers.

Fall Evergold 10 miler post-race report

Fall Evergold 10 miler post-race report

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.

Bear Chase Post-race Report

Bear Chase Post-race Report

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.

Are frilly events and “fun-runs” ruining the competitive spirit of races?

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I saw something recently in The Wall Street Journal that prompted me to write a blog. The gist of the article was that with the increasing number of “fun runs” and other like-events, competitiveness has dwindled over the years as a result. This sparked a passionate debate online, with everyone chiming in from every angle on the subject.

First off, I am 29, and I guess that makes me a “generation Y” baby. I can’t deny that over the years I have seen a general increase in the entitlements and expectations some younger people have of the world around them. This is troubling to me because I feel like this type of attitude is likely setting one up for failure, and is not very realistic or indicative of the real world and everything it can throw at you. If you live in your own bubble where everyone is always a winner no matter what, how will you ever find motivation to strive for better or personal growth?

Ultimately though, I believe that personal success is relative. There are a lot of different aspects of this that come into play – such as ones goals, motivations, and personal aspirations. I would never wag my finger at someone who is otherwise a couch potato that decided to run in one of these “fun” events that are becoming so popular. Who am I to criticize their personal journey with fitness? Unfortunately the reality is we live in an era where the conveniences of technology and commerce have us living more sedentary lifestyles. Frankly I’m happy to see people up and taking in some fresh air. This is the first part of my mental construct when it comes to this issue.

On the contrary, the second part of my thought process tends to have me turning a bit of a cold shoulder to these types of events. While any person who decides to get some physical activity has my full backing, I can’t help but feel like some of these frilly events dilute the true experience of running, and potentially send the wrong picture to aspiring competitive runners. Much of our modern day entertainment now has to be such a huge production in order for our attention spans to escape the micro second range, do we really need to drag that mentality into everything else? It is hard-wired into my DNA that when I race, I am racing to win and place in the top brackets. The journey I have while pushing myself to my mental and physical limits is plenty good for me, sans splashing color all over myself or prancing around in a costume.

In conclusion, I don’t think there is a clear answer, and once again it always comes back to a persons personal goals. The fact of the matter is that competitive runners will always emerge to be competitive. For some the victory comes simply by finishing. Others simply want a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Whatever your motivation is and whatever your goals are, own it and go out and get it.

My road to trail, ultra, and mountain running

“This has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever done, once this is over I am done with running.”

Among many other expletives that peppered my thoughts that day, that particular thought was the one that pulsed through me during the later miles of my first ultra in fall of 2012. I felt physically and emotionally defeated, and even began rehearsing in my head what I had planned to say to do damage control on what my friends and family who were waiting on me to finish may think if I quit. After a mental high rope balancing act, teetering between decisions, I decided to continue and eventually did finish, purple toenails and all. It was only at this point that I knew the power of the human spirit, and that a person’s will, determination, and heart can drive them to do amazing things.

More than a year has passed since I fell in love with running, yet it still manages to teach me something new every time I do it, like some sort of eternal spiritual guru or guide. It remains my instructor and I its student whose bond is always evolving and changing, yet at the core is strong and pure.

In retrospect, I didn’t gravitate towards running the way I had previously with other sports. There was no grand spectacle or production to be seen, no arena filled with fancy strobe lights, loud sounds, and screaming fans. I had been an athlete all my life, but suddenly sports I had participated in no longer held interest for me. I didn’t want the crowds, nor the spectacle. I didn’t want trendy or watered down. Many of the same issues were also present in my every day and personal life. I, like so many other people, had gotten sucked into the frenzy of social media, news-feeds, and the seemingly endless void of mindless consumer culture. All this hip, snobby superficiality coming at me from every direction telling me I wasn’t cool if I didn’t buy the latest I pod, update my status every 5 minutes, or didn’t know who each celebrity was having relations with. I didn’t buy into it anymore. I needed something different. I needed simple. In fact, it was everything that running WASN’T that made me love it. There was no gimmick; just put one foot in front of the other. Just move. It was that simple. You could go as long or as fast as you wanted, it didn’t matter. It was amazing, and I think it’s the very fact that running is so simple and back-to-the-basics that makes my connection with it so special. I now believe with all my heart that this notion that humans need to be “connected” and “plugged-in” to each other’s lives through endless avenues of communication is nonsense. In fact, I think it’s the very things that promise to make us closer that are actually driving us farther apart. I promise you, the freedom of thought and internal dialogue you’ll have with yourself while running is so much more valuable than frantically refreshing the page on a computer or smartphone to see what “the latest” is.

Personally, this journey with running has been one of the most significant ones of my life, and better late than never to have discovered something that was in front of me the whole time.

Remember, it’s simple: one foot in front of the other. (Even I can’t screw that up)

Xterra Marathon of Trail Races Post-race Report

Xterra Marathon of Trail Races Post-race Report

Cheyenne Mountain Park was buzzing with activity on Sunday as Xterra hosted it’s 8th annual trail race series. I had come down to Colorado Springs on Saturday night so I could avoid a lengthy drive on race morning. The park is situated directly across from Fort Carson near the very south tip of town.

I opted to run the 1/2 marathon as I was still kinda beat up from the 50K I ran in Wisconsin the previous week, as well as trying to shake a minor case of the sniffels that I had all week – most certainly the result of traveling and a long week at work. The only explanation I can offer up as to why I subject myself to such torture is a simple: I love doing this. I love to travel and test myself in new environments. I love meeting people who are just as crazy as I am, and I love the thrill of confronting the unknown.

The race went off at 8am just as planned, and I knew fairly early this was just gonna be a non-competitive, maintenance-type of run for me.

The race winds back and forth through the trails near the base of mountain, and features some pretty technical terrain – definitely a course for intermediate level trail runners. I had a tough time finding a pace since my mind wanted to go faster than my body would allow. This frustrated me initially, but I eventually found solace in just tuning in to the trail and just having fun, after-all I thought to myself, what’s the point of any of this if I’m not having fun?

Several stream crossings made things interesting, as I finally got see how my puregrits performed wet – and just as I suspected, they did amazing. Thanks Brooks!

Before I knew it, I came up on mile 13 and decided to finish the last .1 miles in my characteristic sprinting fashion. I ended up with a time of 2:19, 4th in my age group and somewhere around 40th out of over 150 people. Not my best moment or performance out on the trails but as good as it could’ve been under the circumstances. This was my first race in Colorado Springs and back at altitude, which if nothing else served as a good readjustment to Colorado trail running.

Thanks to Xterra, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and the tenants at the Travelstar Inn for helping me round-out my spanish skills.