Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tahoe 2, Sean 0, Draw 1

That's my record this year at Tahoe. I dnf'd the TRT 100 in July, just dnf'd the Tahoe 72 on Sunday, and the draw is WS.

I went to the 72 with pretty high hopes; definitely a sub-10, but really thinking more along the lines of sub-9:30. So I went out fast. As it turned out, too fast, but really, after averaging 5:26 at the Bigfoot 10k a week earlier, low-7s/mi seemed superduperpuper easy for the first 20 miles (which I went through, at Spooner Summit, in 2:28). I easily ran through 50k in 3:49, and hit the 1/2 way point, 36 miles, in 4:23. Hm, I thought, if I keep this up, I'll easily be the first person to run sub-9 (Rae Clark holds the record of 9:06).

I had slowed a bit by 40, was shuffling slowly and puking LOTS the next two miles (non of the little spit-up pukes I occasionally do - even Fatboy would have been proud!), and walked very slowly the 43rd and 44th miles. I was freezing, puking my guts out, couldn't keep anything down, and was just having a miserable time. Eventually my crew drove back towards me to see what was taking so long (I had been hitting my 5 miles splits between 35-40, and now it was well over an hour). I saw the car, walked up and got in. I had made up my mind that I was done, and I was. Sure, I probably could have sat in the car for a few hours, warmed up, maybe eventually got some calories in me, and walked/jogged the final 28 miles in 7 hours, but really, that had absolutely zero appeal to me. Going back to the hotel, showering, sleeping, then eating sounded waaaaaaaay better. So that's what we did. And I was (and still am) confident in my decision.

No big brain-teaser about what went wrong here. I ran too damn fast too early and for too long. That's the way it goes. If I could have held that pace, or even slowed just slightly, I had a good shot at the course record. And I believe the only way to know your absolute potential is to go for it from the start. Many times you end up crashing and burning, but occasionally you uncork an incredible performance. Fatboy often reminds me that's how Eric Clifton got all of his course records, many of which still stand after more than 10 years. I'm not in any way comparing myself and times to Eric's, but I do respect his philosophy. He has definitely crashed and burned a lot, but DANG he has some sweet records.

Anyway, so I think I'm changing up my racing plans for the rest of the season. I had wanted to finish my 100th ultra by the end of the year (I'm currently at 95), but I'm scrapping that plan. I think I'll just run one more ultra this year (Sisters Poker Run), and really focus on trying to break that magical 2:40-marathon barrier at CIM. After Boston, quite a few friends actually suggested to me that I try again at CIM this year. I hesitated to commit because of my ultra plans, but always kept it in the back of my mind. I'll still run the fun short fall races that I've come to love (McDonald Forest 15k), but really re-focus back to the roads. If I keep my training strong and consistent, and run the kind of marathon at CIM that I did at Crater Lake, then I definitely believe I'll break 2:40.

I must rewind a minute and congratulate Oswaldo Lopez on his victory in the 72 (no results are posted yet, but he was on pace for right about 10:00 with 16 miles to go), and Peter Lubbers for his hat-trick of Super Tahoe Triple victories! Way to go, guys - you're both studs!! And, of course, I would be a bad person if I didn't thank my uber-crew extraordinaire. In the first time ever crewing, all of my wants and needs were met flawlessly...thank you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thirty-three Forty-four

That's what I ran for the Bigfoot 10k in Bend last Sunday. A p.r. I was very surprised. I had hopes of running around 34:30, about 15 seconds faster than last year. My splits went like this: 5:18, 10:56 (5:38), 16:17 (5:21), 21:42 (5:25), 27:04 (5:26), 32:34 (5:30), 33:44 (1:10). I also p.r.ed for 5 miles, and I got 5th place in a very competitive race. (Thanks for the picture, Ryan.)

On this fast, mostly gradual downhill course, I went out fast, but not hard. The 2nd mile is the most "uphill" of the race (which isn't really that much, but compared to the rest of the course, you kinda notice it). Then I just got into a good, hard groove. I felt great and was definitely surprised that I was maintaining sub-5:30s the rest of the race. I kinda got mentally weak the last 1/2 mile, and my splits show that. I was catching up to uber-masters runner Chuck Coats. Chuck always easilty kicks my butt. So I think when I started getting close to him in the 5th mile, I got a little scared, like I shouldn't be there. So I was weak and didn't go continue my chase. But regardless, I was elated when I finished. Both Chuck and 3rd place Jeff Caba were surprised to see me so soon at the finish and commented that ultrarunners aren't supposed to run in the 33s. That was cool.

I ran in the oh-so-cool new Nike Lunaracer. Oh, baby, that is a sweeeeeeet shoe! Ritz even wore his in Beijing. In case you haven't seen it or heard about it, it's a super-light racing flat with new technology that allows for the shoe to actually be cushy and light weight. There is a memory foam that is oh-so-nice underfoot, and a new upper made out of Nike's new flywire technology. It hugs like a glove, and my women's size 10.5 weigh in at just under 5 oz.! Definitely not your daily trainer, and not for moderate-and-above over-pronators, but if you're a neutral to mild overpronator, and you want a superduperpuper lightweight flat for your fast days, give the Lunaracer a try. It's fun.

My quads did take a bit of a beating from Bigfoot, so I've been taking it super easy this week in preparation for the big lap around Tahoe this weekend. Sascha and I went for a flat 9-miler on Tuesday night, then today I had a nice (painful) massage, and tonight we just jogged up Black Crater. While going up Black Crater, I thought about just how much I love running uphill. It's awesome! That's why I organized the Pine Mountain Hill Climb a couple weeks ago. I got to thinking that I really need to have a race on Black Butte, too. So my mind started working...oo, a series, perhaps. A mountain series. The Meissner Mountain Series...nah, kinda blah. Meissner's Mountain Madness...a bit corny. Meissner Mountain Menagerie...him, better. Oo, oo, I know, I know...Meissner Mountain Menage a Trois! Yeah, baby! Of course, that means I need a 3rd mountain to add to the menage. Perhaps Grey Butte? Grizzly Mountain? Lookout Mountain? I'm not sure yet, but I'm definitely excited about the Meissner Mountain Menage a Trois! Or does it sound better as Meissner Menage a Trois Mountain Series? I kinda like the 3 m's in a row, alliteration thing in the first title, but maybe the second title makes more sense. I don't know...what do you think? About the whole idea? Are you as enthusiastic about it as I am? I'm definitely thinking 2009 would be the first year of the series. Are you tough enough to run all three??

I'm off to Tahoe in the morning. Seventy-two miles of paved pleasure!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The past couple of weeks

Well, in the time that it took me to write my short novel about TransRockies, Sascha and I actually did some other cool stuff. After taking 3 days off to recover from TR, and with Sascha going bonkers, we decided to hit the mountains for a couple hours of playing. I absolutely love this time of year in the mountains! Cool, crisp mornings, warm days, pleasant evenings, and as a bonus this year due to super-late snow melt, lots of really pretty wildflowers are still out! Sascha kind of reminds me of Garfield, running and frolicking through big wildflower-filled meadows. It's cool to watch her play...and catch the occasional mouse and eat it.

The next day was the big cross country season kick-off race for all of the local high school teams. Mud 'n Blood is a super-fun 5k race, basically a scramble more than anything. There is a creek crossing, log jumpings, scramble up a steep hill, single track, and one more creek crossing at the finish. It's a blast! There is first an open division, then the kids get to race, with each grade being a different race, rather than just having varsity and j.v. races. In each race, the girls get a 3 1/2 minute head start, making for some great finishes between the sexes. Only 5 days post-TR, I surprised myself with a course p.r. of 19:01, good for 2nd in the men's division, 6th overall in the open race. I was also happy that my time would have put me on the Sisters Boys Varsity that day (it's the little joys in life... :).

Then on Friday (the next day), Fatboy and I decided to climb the Middle Sister. Neither of us had done it before, although Sascha and I had two attempts that were aborted not too far from the summit (she has a good way of telling me when she's at her limit). FB and I started at Pole Creek TH, ran most of the way to Chambers Lake, then just kinda bee-lined it, part cross country, part climber's trail, to the summit. There were some pretty steep scree slopes where it was easier to climb on all fours. We made it to the top in about 3 1/2 hours and were surprised to see 5 other people already up there! We chatted with them, watched some cool rocks crash off the side of the mountain and into the glacier, and enjoyed some snacks (mmm, Babyruth, mmmmmm...). About 10 minutes later, a group of 12 started summitting. So yes, on a random Friday in September - after Labor Day - there were 19 people on the freakin' summit of the Middle Sister. Really none of us could believe it. So FB and I took that as our cue to head down. We took a longer, not as steep route, back down to the lakes, which let us do a bit of glissading and running a bit more cross country through some open fields of wildflowers. Sascha would have loved this section! FB and I eventually made our way down the trail and back to the car. The total roundtrip took us about 6 1/2 hours, which included stopping time for whatever, and we estimated that we got 23ish miles in for the day. Climbing the Middle Sister is definitely a fun adventure!

Since there's really no rest for the weary (or fit-feeling after spending a week running at 10,000'), the McKenzie River 50k was just a day after the Middle. I was looking forward to running this beautiful trail, and with my past week and a half, I didn't burden myself with any real time expectations. I started amongst a sea of RVR Green, and also very conservatively. I easily just cruised through the first 8 miles, enjoying the company of ultra virgin Will and one other guy from Eugene. Then as usually happens in ultras, I gradually increased my pace and effort, catching up to my friend Steve from the Bay Area. With a loud, obnoxious, and very cool Hawaiian shirt, he was dressed Fatboy-style. Steve and I spent most of the run together, talking about how non-technical Rod told him the trail was (Rod is a liar), how much he likes CarboPro, and how he's getting back in shape for a big run at Quadipsea this year. Our little duo eventually turned into a quad, as we caught up to Todd and John caught us all. With all of that testosterone flying around, the pace naturally increased and I forgot to take a gel. Oops. So I had a little bonk from 23-26, where those guys easily distanced themselves from me. Oh well, I never got too out of it, so I didn't lose too much time and was able to pick up the pace again after 2 quick gels. I would never catch those 3 guys again, but I did notice I was oh-so-close to the golden 4-hour barrier. So I tried to go harder a few times, but my legs reminded of TR from only a week ago and the Middle from yesterday. However, with 3 miles to go, I did notice that I was now slightly ahead of my 4:04 time from last year. My new goal became finishing faster than that. So I zigged and I zagged my way along the cushy trail under the lush forest canopy next to the rushing McKenzie to the finish in 4:01, 7th place. I was happy. With no expectations coming in, I felt I ran a good race, enjoyed the comraderie of others, and didn't go down at all, despite the sharp and pointy lava rock (I went down 5 times last year). It was a good day.

Much of the next week was spent prepping for the Pine Mountain Hill Climb, for which I was the race director. I even got to show-off the course to Aaron Schartzbard, who was in town from Virginia for a few days to play in the Central Oregon mountains. You can read all about the race here.

Thinking back on my last few weeks and months, I've had a pretty kick-ass summer! I'm kinda sad for it to end, but, as I have for the past 7 years, I'm really looking forward to heading to Tahoe at the end of the month for a little pavement pounding fun!

Monday, September 8, 2008

TransRockies Report

TransRockies was easily the best running experience of my life. I've had many, many, many really cool running experiences in all sorts of different places with all sorts of different people. By day 2, somewhere up on Hope Pass, TR had risen to the top.

I was super stoked to be TRing with my buddy and fellow Montrailian Matt since we found out we were in sometime in early Spring. We had both planned on this being an "A" race, and we were going to kick some butt.

Matt picked me up from DIA, we had an uneventful drive to Buena Vista in the nuun van, and the party was on! We checked in, got our gear bags, checked out the town, and found a great camping spot outside the community center, where dinner and breakfast would be. Perfect.

Dinner was fun...seeing all of the uber-fit teams, talking smack to old friends, being nice to new friends, everyone dashing inside when the sky opened up in a sweet, late-afternoon Colorado monsoon. Those are cool.

Day 1 was a 13 miler on gravel roads, with a slight uphill the whole way. I liked it. Matt didn't. At the 7 mile a.s., he got behind me and hung on almost until the finish. With only 1/2 mile to go, I had a slight mentally weak moment, where he began to pull away. I realized this, kicked myself, and we finished in 1:34, 9th on the day. I think we could have run closer to 1:30, but was happy with our first day's effort.

After a nice soak in the Arkansas River, we took a shuttle to the first of 5 camps / tent villages. Camp is where we got to meet some of the coolest people ever. On this first night, we also got to see Goat's 18 gear bags!

Day 2 was only 10 miles, but I knew for me, it was going to be the toughest stage. After running the first 2 flattish miles waaaaaaay too fast (just over 14 minutes), Matt and I began our ascent of Hope Pass. I was already in oxygen debt from the first 2 miles, and the 2.6 mile, almost 3,000' climb didn't help. I was breathing hard and working harder the whole way up. Matt could see I was in difficulty, so he just got behind me and pushed. And pushed. And pushed some more. He pushed me a lot that day. I was really glad he did that! I was happy when we reached the top, you know, in an oxygen-deprived sort of way. Tony was up there cheering, and that gave me a little boost for going down. Now, normally I'm not a great downhiller, but I am okay at it. Today I wasn't even okay. My leg muscles had absolutely zero oxygen in them, so I was basically a weeble-wobble the whole way down. Not much better than going up. And I even got a gusher of a bloody nose on my way down. We finished the day in 1:57:08, 12th on the stage, and me looking like Matt had beat me up.

A whole gaggle of us then enjoyed a lazy afternoon in downtown Leadville, with Tony even stopping in to tell us a bit about his possible future plans. We also heard and talked more about the cheating that happened going up Hope. It seems that Saab / Salomon boys didn't like the switchbacks, so they cut 'em. Apparently a lot of 'em. They ended up crossing the finish line first that day, but I wouldn't call it a win. There was never an official protest filed, so they didn't get the 2-hour penalty that the rule book clearly states they should have. Plus, it just put a bit of a damper over camp for a few days. Bad Saab / Salomon boys...Bad.

Day 3 was the long stage - 24 miles of mostly rolling terrain. Matt and I were hopeful to start catching up here. Despite me getting a bloody nose at like mile 3 (and it staying with me most of the day), we ran fairly solid the first 14 miles. The funniest moment of the whole race happened around mile 9. The Salt Stick boys, one of the teams we duked it out with all week, ran by us up a jeep road. A mile later, they were stopped at a creek crossing (probably 15' wide and 5" deep), clearly searching for a way across. They saw us, started to ask how we were going to get across, but before they were 1/2 way through the question, Matt and I were on the other side, running and laughing. It was pretty funny. However, they did go on to beat us that day. Hm, maybe we should have kept our feet dry.

Somewhere on this day, we hopped on the Colorado Trail for a good section of sweet singletrack. My nose was gushing and legs were tired, my it was some of the best running of the week. So, so, so beautiful. It's too bad the last 3 miles of that day were in a big, flat, wide-open valley, run on a dirt road, where we could see the finish line for a loooooong time. We finished up in 3:40:09, 10th for the day.

This night at Camp Hale was easily the best night of the week (well, maybe expect for party night, but that doesn't count). We were camped out in a big, beautiful valley, completely surrounded by big mountains, with no cell coverage or internet access. Everyone actually had to talk and hang-out together. The campfire that night was pretty much attended by all. Clif Hot Chocolate recovery drink is really good.

Day 4 was a good, tough 14 miler, and as it turned out, Matt and my best stage. I took off running slightly ahead of Matt on the mellower sections of the big climb, but he caught up on the steeper section. As usual, we were bouncing back-and-forth with Wings of Glory and Salt Stick, and we found ourselves on top of the climb between these 2 teams. Wings was up front, and as they had proven throughout the week, they were the best downhill team between the 3 of us, and they flew on down all the way to Red Cliff ahead of us. I really enjoyed this downhill. It wasn't too technical, so was fun to just pound down. Well, until we hit the freezing cold creek we had to run through multiple times, and for really long periods (I think the last time was 1/4 mile stretch). My feet hurt so bad I thought I was going to cry. Much to Matt chagrin (good word, eh?), I had to slow down...I couldn't help it. But then we eventually popped out onto a sweet hard-packed, smooth, gentle downhill, dirt road for the final 2.5 miles. We flew down it, easily at sub-6 pace, using the studly coed LaSportiva / Goretex team as our rabbit. It felt awesome to fly across the finish line in 2:15:48, 8th on the day.

That afternoon in Red Cliff was a nice, lazy, sunny day. I decided to add a little excitement to my life by doing a little shave-down. I figured since we were in cowboy country, I should shave off the chin part of my goatee and leave a sweet handlebar mustache. Oh yeah, I was a looker. The worst part of it, though, was that some people thought it actually looked good on me (or so they said). No! Absolutely not! Mustaches are not cool and they do not look good. Well, unless you're old. Then maybe. But I'm not old, and the handlebar 'stache looked lame. Really lame. And that's the reason I had it - to look lame!

Day 5 was set to be my best day. At 23 miles, it started with 10 miles of climbing on mostly jeep roads, gaining 3,000'. The perfect, runnable, Sean-type, grade. I was pumped for it. I took off pretty much from the gun. I felt great and was 100% committed to run with the Fluffy Bunnies. After a few miles, I looked back to see how Matt was doing. Oops, Matt was in difficulty. So I cut back until he caught up, then reminded him to eat. That didn't do much for him, so finally Matt made the decision to get towed. So I tied our pants together, another pant leg to my pack, then the last pant leg around Matt's waist. We ran as a little choo-choo train for the next hour, most of the way up the mountain. I felt like a sleddog. We eventually hit some good downs, so we unlatched and Matt seemed to be doing better. Finally we topped out on Vail Mountain. It was so beautiful up there! I arrived and left slightly ahead of Matt, which was fine because he then caught me on the down. This was another fun down, but also very, very loooooong. We passed a couple teams who had blown-up that day, and tried to hammer to last few miles. With about 1.5 miles to go, I kinda blew-up. This was a bummer, since it was on such an easy, fast, downhill grade. So we slowed down a bit, almost caught a team, then basically jogged it in, finishing in Vail Village in 3:52:06, 9th on the day.

It was crazy to finish the posh little Vail. After being out in the middle of nowhere, with basically only other stinky, dirty runners for a few days, I think we all felt a bit out of place amongst the masses. But we got over it and enjoyed our cell phones again, and even a trip to get ice cream! The awards ceremony was slightly tainted that night by a team who got lost, adding probably 30-45 minutes to their time, then they ended up in 3rd in their category for the day. They were, oh, uh, not so happy about this and felt their time should be adjusted accordingly. This is a race in the mountains, girls...open your eyes. Their time wasn't adjusted, rightfully so, and so they did a lame mini-protest during the awards by not going up when they were called for 3rd, but instead, waiting until the studly, always smiling, and sometimes showing their butts (at least one of them) Banff / Yellowstone Trail Trash team was called up for their hard-fought 2nd place podium position. So YAY to B/Y TT for not beating up the pissy girls, and BOO to the pissy girls.

Day 6, 21 miles, within 4 minutes of Wings and Salt (both of them ahead of us)...it was going to be an epic day and it was going to hurt. Matt and I talked of letting it all out and trying to hang with the Bunnies for as long as possible. Well, that didn't work. They started quite a bit faster than we did. So, as usual, we ran near our arch-nemesises, Salt and Wings. Today, Matt and I decided to separate a bit more than normal (but staying within our 2 minute allowance). I would go ahead on the climbs, then he would catch and pass me on the downs. This seemed to be a good tactic; too bad it took us 6 days to figure it out. We ran hard. We ran our guts out. So did Wings and Salt. And unfortunately for Matt and me, the other guys ran faster. They beat us on the day, and thus, for the race. We crossed the final finish line in Beaver Creek in 3:25:11, 7th on the day. I was very happy to be done. Goatboy joined us at the finish for a nice little group hug. Matt and I finished in 16:44:36 overall, good for 9th overall and in the Boy's Open Category. We were both definitely hoping for top-5, and hey, if we would have, well, run faster, then we would have been there. But we didn't, and others did. But what we did do was race our guts out against a whole slew of really fast, tough people. It was very impressive to see how tough some of those adventure racers and mountain runners really are.

Congratulations all around to the Salt Stick boys and Wings of Glory boys. You 4 helped make this race truly epic. It was definitely way better to be racing so close to you guys, rather than us all being 1/2 hour apart. It was much more of a race this way. Thank you.

The awards ceremony / party on Saturday night after the final day was really fun. Lots of food was eaten, lots of beverages were consumed (I even had some beer!), nuuntinis were concocted and drank, sombreros were worn, war stories of the week were shared, hook-ups were hooked, tequila was shot, hugs were given out freely, ugly-feet contests were had, and lots of friendships were solidified. It was an unforgettable evening after an unforgettable week.

Thank you so much to all who made this week the bestestest ever running experience of my life...with special thanks to: Bryon, Martin, Erin, Jeannie, Jonathan, Chris, Tyson, Kevin, Duncan, Mark, Max, Erik, Adam, Michelle, Courtney, Leslie, Meghan, and of course, most of all, Matt.

I look forward to it again next year!

Monday, September 1, 2008

TransRockies Run

Real quick here (I'll write a biggie later): TransRockies was easily my best running adventure to date. Nothing even comes close - and I've done many, many, MANY cool running adventures in my life. Obviously I wish Sascha could have joined in the fun, but some of my new friends reminded me of her.

Thanks for all of the e-mails, voicemails, texts, etc., during the week wishing me well. I really appreciate all of the support.

Matt Hart is the best teammate. Ever.