First race of 2014

First race of 2014

I enter 2014 with a renewed sense of hope and focus. While 2013 left me tattered and war-torn, I have had some time to recover and consider my direction going forward. I’m another year older, another year wiser, and another year more seasoned at a sport that I adore.

That said, I’ve got my eyes set on my first big test of the season. I had ran a Gemini event back in October and had a great experience with them, so I’ve decided to return to them once again for their 24 Hours of Utah event in March. I’ll be running a 100K on a beautiful course in Moab. I’m fired up and ready to return at peak form.

My training regimen is significantly different this year, as I’ll be placing more of a focus on the anaerobic side of things this year to include high intensity interval training, tempo/pick-up runs, cross-fit, and essentially any other high intensity cardio-pulmonary exercises. I now realize it’s not just about mileage, but also about pulling everything I can from my endurance and will. I want to be a better and stronger athlete “overall” as opposed to just being able to run far. In a recent interview ultra running great Hal Koerner discussed how he still does various non-running related workouts such as push-ups, sit-ups and plyometrics because he believes that it takes a strong person “overall” to run 100 miles….that it’s the culmination of strength between all muscles and body systems that allow someone to successfully complete that distance. I agree completely and that is part of my strategy this season.

I’m also happy to have made friends with the good folks at Denver Run House who are hosting “Bergen Peak Sundays” that are open to anyone. Pat is a great guy and I had a blast this past Sunday. Bergen Peak is one of my favorite places to run and I’m sure the company will only get better. I anticipate being in peak form by March, weighing significantly less, and having some killer cardio.

I can’t wait to get out to Utah and deliver a performance I know I’m capable of. See you in March Gemini Adventures!

The best Christmas present I got this year

The best Christmas present I got this year

As I came into work on December 24th, tired and a bit put out with the rat-race that goes along with the Holiday Season, I had no idea that I would open my email to something that would make my heart jump, and completely re-motivate and re-focus me for 2014.

It had been a nail biting few weeks since I had submitted my athlete application to GU Energy Labs, and frankly I was prepared to be told no thanks. I understand that rejection is a part of the game, but it had been such a long and trying Summer for me. I had sunk so much of myself and my resources into trying to take things to the next level. While I loved every minute of traveling and racing, my goal from the get-go was to see how far I could take this. And that’s why I was smiling from ear to ear once I opened my email on Tuesday morning.

I’m honored to share that GU Energy Labs has welcomed me to their 2014 Pro Program. I’m so grateful to have their support, and thus am planning to make 2014 a banner year. I am a huge believer in their products! The bar has most certainly been raised for my goals, and I couldn’t be more excited to face another season of epic challenges and self discovery. Shout out to all #GUCrew athletes new and returning, I’m so stoked to be a part of the family and look forward to meeting and exchanging stories of adventures with you all!

My schedule for 2014 is still in developmental stages, but I am starting to zero in on my selections. Most of my races will be at the 50 mile mark or above. Legs don’t fail me now!

That said, it’s just another few weeks of “coasting” before I pick things up into high gear. It’s looking like I may be staring a 100K in the face as early as March, so it’s definitely time to begin making plans.

Well wishes to everyone and your goals. Here’s to climbing new heights in 2014…cheers!

Carbohydrates and Conjugations: Is too much emphasis being placed on competitive results in the sport?

Carbohydrates and Conjugations: Is too much emphasis being placed on competitive results in the sport?

Interestingly enough, I wrote about a similar topic earlier this summer. As more and more people are toeing the starting line of trail and ultra races, the dynamic of our quickly growing sport is changing. The question of whether or not too much emphasis is being placed on competitive results is a bit of a paradox, and one that ultimately is at the mercy of an individual runners goals and aspirations.

Perhaps the real issue here is understanding the evolution of a sport as it grows and everything that comes along with that growth. We are seeing amazing records being set, and feats conquered that nobody would dare to dream of a decade ago. There’s talent out there now that’s at another level. However, we are also seeing entry fee prices increase, heavy corporate influence, and sponsorship’s come into play. I think this is where a lot of people philosophically and morally separate, and start to be at odds with each other. Where is the line drawn between a community with a grassroots beginning but an impending transition to a more “mainstream” crowd? Personally, novelty and stylized runs/events have never really held much interest for me (and even less now) as I find them to be more about monetary gain and notoriety as opposed to what I believe are innate aspects of trail running like community and minimalism. I’ll take a small-scale race with an intimate crowd and nominal fee any day rather than an over-inflated, overpriced, over-hyped event that (in my opinion) just dilutes the entire experience, not to mention raises other issues that have come up recently like environmental impact, runner safety, etc. And while I have been fortunate enough in my experiences to cross paths with 99% very cool and humble people in the sport, I do believe there is a small percentage of trail running athletes and organizers that could use a fundamental overhaul of their attitude and self-awareness. More frequently as the sport grows and distances and difficulty increase, there’s an unfortunate minimization I think one feels of their accomplishments, at least that’s the case with a person like me. All of a sudden I find myself feeling insignificant because I haven’t run 100 miles yet, then it’ll be 150, then 200. In some respects I think this energy and attitude in the scene is healthy in that it certainly pushes the envelope and breeds spirited competition, but can’t help but think where I will eventually draw the line between a challenging personal journey and extreme, possibly dangerous masochism.

In conclusion, I think it’s important for runners to realize that the journey they have with the sport is their own. You want to run fast and attempt to place in the top brackets? Wonderful, train hard to run fast and place. You simply want a healthy outdoor activity to stay fit? That’s great too. I think the question of whether or not too much emphasis is placed on results is really a personal question that can only be answered by that individual, and possibly part of larger questions like “where is the direction of trail running really going?” Only you can be the judge.

“I’m just a regular guy who likes to hit the trails.”

TrailRunner Magazine: trailrunnermag.com

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!

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.

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.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Wisconsin 50K Post-race Report

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Wisconsin 50K Post-race Report

I had the weekend of a lifetime. After months of nail biting waiting for 9/14 to come around, it was finally time to pack my bags and head out to Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin for The North Face ECS 50K trail race.

First off, before I even get into the details of the race, I just have to say how beautiful, green, and lush the Wisconsin landscape is. When I flew into Milwaukee, I immediately noticed flourishing farms and the blue glow of Lake Michigan. Coming from a rather dry climate in Colorado, it was a rare treat for me to see fog and so much green. After orienting myself after the flight, I left Milwaukee and headed out to my hotel in Waukesha, which is about 20 miles southwest. I knew the next morning was gonna be a long one so once I got settled in I just relaxed and tried to get my mind and body focused on the next days task.

Race day. 5 am came really quick. I got up, showered, ate, and headed out to the course start at Ottawa Lake in Kettle Moraine State Park. There was an eerie fog as the sun came up, and it was definitely cooler than I expected. I could see my breath. Once on sight, I went through my usual routine of warm up and stretching. Before I knew it, it was time to get started and they paged everyone to the starting line. It was then that one of my hero’s, Dean Karnazes, addressed the crowd and wished us a good race. Go time.

The first thing I noticed once moving was how I seemed to breathe a lot easier and didn’t fatigue as quickly. This was most certainly due to the significantly lower elevation, and definitely welcome by me! I settled into a brisk, but comfortable pace as the trail twisted and turned, up and down. There was a dynamic mix of dirt road, single trail, and equestrian grassland, which gave me the opportunity experience some different terrain. I really focused on my breathing and cadence this time, which really seemed to help out. The aid stations were well stocked, and everyone was super supportive.

I felt great until about mile 22 when I started to cramp a bit and get stiff, but I was no stranger to this and realized that this is when the mental aspect comes into play. I took a few brief walking breaks to regather myself and kept on. I stayed well hydrated as I went through about 70 fluid ounces of water and several energy gu’s. At last after about 4 hours and 45 min in, I had reached the final aid station. I had the equivalent of a 5K to reach the finish. Piece of cake. I picked up the pace and knew I was close – it’s always at this point that a flood of emotions come over me all at once. It’s a wonderful feeling of triumph, adrenaline, reflection, and affirmation that I have accomplished something really cool. Me being the softie that I sometimes am, I usually just kinda chuckle to myself as I try to contain the inevitable tears that I know are there.

When I came out of the forest to the road opening leading to the finish, one of the sheriff’s who was directing traffic for the race told me “1/2 a mile, come on, keep going.” I picked up the pace even more and could hear the announcer and people cheering. Once I saw the finish line I just sprinted with everything I had left. This has become something of a routine for me when I finish races, perhaps it’s just my way of expressing victory over something that could have defeated me if I let it. There at last. Turned in a time of 5:40, new 50K PR for me.

Post race party was cool, food was great, and ice bath was amazing and much needed. This was really a fantastic and well put-together race. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t do it again next year. Maybe opt for the 50 miler.

Thanks for the memories Wisconsin, I’ll see you again.