Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Little Scare in the Mountains

A week has passed since our little scare in the mountains but it really rattled me enough to write a quick post about our experience. Basically, in a nutshell, Joe and I went out for what we thought was going to be a 21-mile loop through the Columbia River Gorge that involved some good climbs and descents...probably like a 4 hour run or so. Specifically, we headed up the Herman Creek Trail at 8:30 am and took just enough food and water for that mileage. Based on the mild weather in Portland and at sea level we both wore shorts and thin water resistant running jackets with hoods. I had a beanie cap, some thin running gloves, and some knee-high Smartwool socks, which turned out to be a life saver, almost literally.

Long story short we expended a lot of energy as we powered up through the mountain. I felt that I was kind of rationing out my energy output based on how far we would be running. I was also rationing out the small amounts of food that I had, which were three Gu Roctane Gels, three Medjol Dates, and 20 oz. of water. We started off running up some beautiful mossy trails in the foggy mild morning at a pretty solid pace. As we got higher and higher the temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and snow started to fly. It reminded me a bit of when I used to live in Colorado and the weather would change so rapidly coming over the continental divide.
(one of the many waterfalls we passed on the way up the Herman Creek trail)
(rocky section on Herman Creek trail as we started getting higher)

We made it to the top where it was really ripping with wind and snow and we ducked into the hut seen below. Picture this hut below without the sun...and snow and wind blasting through the windows while we danced around inside. We made the brief stop and agreed to head down the ridge to get out of this mess.

We bombed down the ridge and started hitting some deep spots in the snow which actually slowed us down and demanded a lot of energy. We finally made it down to another intersection and again agreed to take a pretty obvious route. By this point we knew we were not going the planned route but thought that we could get to a similar destination with similar mileage, etc.

The miles kept ticking by and we were getting really, really cold. Joe's ankle was bleeding from his legs crashing through the ice. Even though we dropped down a ways it was still dumping snow. We trudged along the forest road for a few more miles before we made the wise decision to turn back and re-trace our steps, which were quickly being covered by the rapid precipitation. It was a tough pill to swallow because my Garmin said that we had already traveled about 19 miles and now we had about 14 to get back to the car.

Normally 14 wouldn't be that bad but I burnt up so much energy getting to where I was that it seemed like 100 miles away with some tough climbs. It became such a mental game and Joe reminded me to stay positive. We finally made it back to the hut and I was in extremely rough shape. Rougher shape than I have ever been in on a run, whether it was a race or training. I mean even in ultras when you're really hurting you have aid stations every so often where you can nourish your body and mind. We had nothing and we couldn't stop either because it was so cold. The combination of energy depletion and hypothermia is a dangerous and scary place to be. I kept thinking about the climbers and hikers that never get found out there, and I had to focus on one foot in front of the other and staying strong.

As we headed down toward the car I could barely see. Not because it was dark but because my vision was blurred big time. The only comparison I have for this is when you get really, really drunk and you have to close one eye to focus in on something. Also, I was losing coordination in my legs. As I slowly made my way down I fell a couple times, re-grouped, got into a zone, and then I was brought back to the pain and suffering again and again.

The last few miles took me a long time as I had to stop and walk. I had nothing left but I wanted to be finished so badly. It was starting to get dark and I couldn't believe we spent nearly 8 hours out there. Thankfully, Joe ran ahead and warmed up the car. I collapsed into the warm passenger seat and devoured calorie after calorie in my bag. I was trembling violently but so thankful to be sheltered.

We both learned a few things that day and it was an experience I'll never forget. Mother Nature is so powerful and we humans are so small and helpless in certain situations. It's important to bring a little map and compass and sometimes maybe a little extra food. However, it was great ultra training...but I don't recommend purposely doing this! I have much respect for the mountains and the power of the human body and mind.

Here is a brief video about the psychology of ultra endurance events. Is it all about suffering?

That run capped off a 91-mile week for me and after a day off on Monday I was able to get back into training after I finally warmed back up ;o) I started tapering down a bit for Orcas Island 50k on Saturday. It looks like it's going to be a fun event up there and I am feeling like I'm getting some good fitness back.

Well, I always do this...I say I'm just going to write a quick post and there I go rambling and yapping on forever! ;o)

Joe Grant captured our experience nicely and in better detail on his newly formed blog. You can read his account by clicking HERE.

I'll finish with a great quote I came across via Jimmy Dean Freeman's page by William James. It goes like this:

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Capitol Peak Ultra Report

(Mt. Rainier from Capitol Peak)

The Capitol Peak 34 miler took place this past weekend and I was looking forward to bumping it up a notch (since Badass) in a somewhat more race-like atmosphere even though this was still technically a "mega fat ass event." For those of you that don't know the lingo it basically means that there aren't really aid stations (just water jugs every 10k or so), no timers, no real entry fees (I gave a $10 bill for donation to the forest)...just another post holiday trail training run get together in the Pacific Northwest. This particular venue was nestled about 20 miles south of Olympia, Washington just under two hours north of Portland.

Trevor picked me up just after 5am Saturday morning and we hit I-5 North heading to the forest. I got a few updates from The Capitol Peaks Facebook page stating that the course was going to be pretty muddy in some places which was to be expected. The temperature was very mild though and again I am so pleased to be running trails in shorts in mid January. Fearing completely destroying my new Inov-8's that I just received (I know...I just couldn't do it this early though!) I decided to wear my old faithful Roclite 285's. Again, they served me well traction wise in these conditions.

I was really surprised how organized and how many people came out for this event. Search and rescue were present and the race director John Pearch made everything very clear in our pre-race meeting, including that it would be a 30-miler and not 34. We had tents for shelter and to cover food, burners for pots of soup, tables, lots of snacks, warming fires...I was impressed.

Once we got going I was also pleasantly surprised by the trails and area we were running through this misty morning. Nice singletrack mixed in with some doubletrack here and there that passed through areas of clear-cut forests. Mostly we were in the beautiful thick moss green forests that this part of the country is so well known for. I started off at a pretty good clip. My goal was to take the intensity level up a bit from my last event. There also was a 17-mile race taking place so it was difficult to know who was doing what race. Most of the time I just asked but some guys had on headphones.

I felt really strong Saturday morning. My energy levels were high and I felt properly fueled for the day and I wanted to keep it that way. I've been doing some research on carrying the least amount of things with me and not making unnecessary stops throughout long races. I had an Amphipod pack on my low back that held a 20 oz. bottle of water, and a little pouch that held a Clif Bar and some block shots. In my shorts I had a couple GU Roctanes and in my light jacket I had a few S-caps and a little flask of Perpetuum. This turned out to be the perfect equation for the distance. I could have probably did it on less but I'd rather err on too much than too little! I stretched the 20 oz. of water the whole way except to re-fill the bottle half way quickly at a water I probably drank approximately 30 oz.

As we made our way to the 15-mile turn around at the top of Capitol Peak I was really tackling the hills and felt good about that fact. Typically this is an area that I struggle and usually hike but I really felt like I was improving this weekend. I didn't expect some of the climbs out there this weekend either. Race director John Pearch guesstimated that it was probably about 8,000 feet of elevation change for 30 miles...not bad! I got to the top, grabbed my rubber band out of a zip lock bag to prove that I made it, and headed back down the mountain. This is where I really started turning it on! I was hopping down the mountain trails and taking some of the switchbacks banked turns fearlessly. I had a few minutes on the other guys at this point but was impressed on how well they were doing too. Trevor was looking really strong and Matt was working hard as well. Then I saw fellow Portland ultra runner Geoffrey Donovan and then Shawna Wilskey (who passed me in 100 in the Hood) who also was looking focused and fit.

I would say miles 17-27 were some of my strongest miles. Times I felt like hiking I just pushed through and I got into some nice rhythms. I didn't have a watch on so I wasn't sure what sort of time I was making or where I was in terms of mileage. That kind of freedom was nice though...I just ran and enjoyed the surroundings. I felt that by like mile 28 or so that I probably had it wrapped up and figured that I should be getting close.

Then I came across some very large trees that were covering the trail. I don't remember these?! Uh oh...I'm going the wrong way...What!....back track!...I made a wrong freakin' turn somewhere! As I ran and cursed myself I finally figured it out through the process of elimination and running all over the place and got back on track. I came across a woman that I had previously passed and I asked her if anyone came through. She said a couple guys came whizzing by a few minutes! Bummer! Then I saw the finish and I finally made it in with a time of 4:16 for third place behind Matt and Trevor. I probably ran about a mile and a half out of my way and probably would've finished right around 4:05 if I didn't make the wrong turn.

I just want to say that the course was marked really well and I really appreciate that for those who took the time to do it. I still had such a great experience and was thoroughly pleased with my performance. Apparently, I was just thinking about what I was going to eat, probably fantasizing about sitting around the fire in dry clothes and lost focus for a second, and sometimes that's all it takes to get off course!

I am registered for the Capitol Peaks 50-miler on April 25th too so I am glad that I got to meet some nice people up there and get a sense of the lay of the land. Good work to everyone up there this weekend and thanks again to John Pearch and all the volunteers.

I guess I just needed to get that full 50k distance this weekend...regardless... I had a really fun time!

Next up: Orcas Island 50k way up in the San Juan Islands...should be another gem of a race!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why Don't You Just...Stuff It!

Ever wanted to say that to someone? Or have you? Well, this blog post isn't about unleashing some built up resentment against another person, it's about a pretty nifty little product I got as a gift from my wife for Christmas a few weeks ago. It has worked like a charm ever since.

The product is called Stuffitts Shoe Savers. Click HERE to learn more about them.

As a newcomer to Oregon I found out that the nickname for Oregon's first sports teams was "Webfoots". The name originated from a group of fishermen from the coast of Massachusetts whose descendants settled in Oregon's Willamette Valley. When the University of Oregon was founded in 1876, "Webfoots" was the natural choice for the school's nickname, because of Oregon's reputation for wet weather. That eventually changed to the Oregon Ducks. my opinion this inexpensive tool is almost a necessity for someone who lives and runs in the Pacific Northwest.

It's very simple: 1) You run. 2) Your shoes get soaked. 3) Get home and take off shoes. 4) You insert Stuffitts. 5) Repeat.

When I first started running my buddy Harland showed me a little trick to dry out very wet running shoes. You just save all newspapers in your front closet. When your shoes are extremely soaked you just crumple up newspapers and stuff them into your shoes. Voila! The newspaper absorbs all the wetness and the following day your running shoes are ready to go. While this is also a very economical and simple way to get the job done it just doesn't have the same benefits offered by Stuffitts.

Here's the difference: Stuffitts have an insert that consists of Aromatic Eastern Red Cedar that absorbs the wetness. So not only does it absorb the moisture very quickly but it leaves stinky trail running shoes smelling like the forest you just left. Trust me...guys and gals...your spouses, house mates, etc. will really appreciate this. That's probably why I was given it as a gift! ;o)

Here is a quick example of how effective this product proves to be:

You then replace the inserts every six months or so and your shoes keep their form, don't smell or have any bacteria growing in them. I can honestly say that I've put these in my Inov-8's in the morning after returning from a run and by the evening my shoes were completely dry. They're also great for traveling so you don't stink up your luggage with your wet, musty shoes.

Speaking of Inov-8's...I am expecting some new shoes arriving here any day. I will be getting a pair of the X-talons 212's, F-lite 220's, Roclite 295's, along with some F-lite 230's and Roclite 285's. This will be my rotation for 2010. I am also definitely looking forward to adding the X-talon 195's some time this spring or summer. I'm so grateful to be sponsored by such a solid trail running shoe company. I really believe in the philosophy and design of Inov-8 and excited to be part of the 2010 team.

That leads me into congratulating fellow Team Inov-8 member and friend Aliza Lapierre for tying another good friend of mine Jill Perry at the Bandera 100k this past weekend. Nice job ladies! Both of them earned a spot into Western States 100 and have definite shots at top ten out there in June.

I had another solid week of training but decided to back off a little this weekend due to a little arch pain. It's not anything fact I can run pain-free but I don't want it to turn into plantar fasciitus! Thank you Gary for letting me borrow the "boot". I'm hoping this thing will be completely off the radar in the next few days.

I'm looking forward to heading up to the Olympia, Washington area (about two hours north) for the Capitol Peaks 34-miler on Saturday. It'll probably be a wet and muddy one...but I'm glad I have my Stuffitts!

Happy Trails! :o)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Badass 50k

The Badass 50k takes place in the high desert area known as the badlands about 25 miles east of Bend, Oregon. It's really a different type of terrain, beauty, and weather than the Portland area and I'm so glad I made the three hour trip. It is put on by two experienced ultra studs and super nice guys Sean " The Colonel" Meissner and Jeff "Bronco Billy" Browning. I got a text message from Jeff on Friday afternoon while he was marking the course stating that it was in great shape, hardly any snow, and that Saturday was going to be partly sunny with a temp of about 46. Perfect! Also, a Fatass event is supposed to be a no entry fee, no sponsors, no aid stations, sort of fun training run...not really a race....Yeah right!

(Co-Race Directors Jeff and Sean)

My good buddy and training partner Joe Grant and I decided to head down and we both agreed that we were just going to have fun, enjoy the weekend, and not run super hard. ha! We milled around downtown Bend Friday night and found a place to do a little carb-loading even though we didn't taper at all for this event. In fact Joe and I both did this run as part of relatively high mileage weeks using it as our long run. For me...this would be by far the longest run since 100 in the Hood on September 26, 2009.

Joe and I, being extremists, decided to camp!...yeah camp!...on Friday night January 1st. When we pulled back into the badlands near the start/finish area Joe says, "we should go up to the top of that hill". Having the All-wheel drive Subaru Forester and with the sandy, red ATV-type road somewhat solid giving us traction, we powered up to the top of Cinder Butte...barely! Little did we know that we would be climbing this butte several times the following day as part of The Badass 50k!

Check out the video of what we woke up to just before sunrise!

After getting some breakfast and caffeine we looked down the butte to see Jeff and Sean setting up the start/finish area. Then people just started piling in...way more people than I expected. It was such an honor to meet world class runner Max King, and a host of other ultra runners. Such a friendly group and this is one of the great things I love about the sport.

Jeff gave us some instruction and we all just took off! It was great to be running in shorts with a bunch of like-minded people on January 2nd. I wore my Roclite 285's and they proved to be a good choice for the course. There were some nice sandy spots and also some loose rock and, like I said, the terrain is just so much different down there. I really like it!

Needless to say Max was way out in front and a bunch of us settled in for the first few miles. Then as the race went on the pack started to string out a little. I ran with Sean and Jeff a little picking their brains about Bighorn 100 and talked with Andre briefly about him leaving us for beautiful Colorado. Joe decided that he was going to try and speed up and try to hang with King...which was definitely something I was not interested in this weekend...(not that I could anyway!) I was really just being uber-focused on not feeling any complications and if I did just to stop at mile 22.

Josh Nordell, Jeff Browning and myself ran the bulk of the race together and enjoyed getting to know each other. It really just makes the miles tick by. By the time we made it to our final loop I was super impressed to find out that Joe caught up to Max and they were running together about ten minutes ahead of us. Also, by this time the talking became more sporadic as fatigue started setting in and I think we all were just trying to make it to the finish feeling a little bit of the holidays in our guts and muscles. Josh broke off to use the Juniper trees and Jeff and I coasted down through the canyon and made the turn for our final climb up the backside of Cinder Butte. This is where Jeff would lose me as I had to power hike sections of this somewhat steep climb. I would look up every so often and see Jeff running up the mountain and it inspired me to dig deep and run, and then I would throw in some hiking. Once we hit the summit it was a steep downhill to the finish. It felt really great to conquer the distance on such a beautiful day.

I really recommend this social training run, race, post holiday get together, whatever you want to call it! Good people...good clean fun!

Click HERE for the 50k results

Great to see some familiar faces: Geoff Donovan and his wife Rachel, Andre-Paul Michaud, Sean and Jeff, Sascha, and great to meet Ashley and Josh Nordell, Max King, Kari, Fatboy and all the others that came out for whatever distance. It was great just hanging around the fire afterwards and it felt awesome knowing that we got that first 50k under our belts...and there were some really solid 50k times too!

Here are some more pictures:

(Top two sub four hour badasses!)

(Juniper burns nicely!...feeling good talkin' shop around the fire afterwards)

(Good dog're an ultra legend!)

It feels good to know that we are now officially Badasses! Great work everyone! Let's keep it rolling into the new year!

Next up: Explore the forests at the Capitol Peaks 34-miler on January 16th