Thursday, December 19, 2013

Red Baldy

Yesterday big Teague, Layne, and Josh decided to break away from the monotony of resort walking for a proper day in the mountains.  With the terrible, low coverage and weak structure, we've been mostly just hiking in bounds so as to not wreck our skis or our knees (Teague reprimanded us yesterday for complaining, saying that if we are in the mountains and there's snow to ski then we should take it as a blessing).

With low expectations, I figured we might not ski much but I just wanted to stand on top of a mountain.  Here are a few pictures of a nice day we were just able to sneak in before this nice little storm.
Clear up high while the PM2.5 was pushing the red zone at 144 down low.  Yuck.

The boys falling in line.

Teague is pretty psyched on his new gear.  Aliens and Magicos!

Getting a little boney

Dang.  Out of snow.

Looking to stand on top of something.


They guys are psyched!

Any skiing is good skiing!

Josh dropping in for home

Also of note, the Utah ski mountaineering racing scene is exploding.  Our last Citizens Race was Tuesday evening at Brighton and again, we had nearly 100 people in attendance.  Layne Caldwell took his turn to set up the course and bring pies for the winners.  His nice write up and pictures can be found here.  

The next race is January 7th at 7:00 PM.  Come enjoy a night chasing friends and train for your bigger goals in the mountains.  Hope to see you all there.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wasatch Skimo Citizen's Race #1: Skin the Turkey

Well, maybe it's the crappy snow pack or maybe people are buying into the "light is right" movement cause we just had nearly 100 racers show up for the first Citizen's race.  Thanksgiving morning was a huge success not only because of the massive participation but it was well supported by, the Sport Loft, Kate's Tram Bars, BCA, and my closet which keeps spitting out some hand me downs at these events.   Thanks to Jason Dorais, Chad and Emily B, and Tom Goth for setting the course!  This year, eight individuals are in charge on one race each so we'll get some different perspectives on what makes a great race.  Also, we are nearly half way to our goal of $2500 of donations to fund the series and pay for insurance for the whole lot of you!

Here are a couple pics and an awesome video made by Kyle Walcott:

Wasatch Citizen Series from Kyle Walcott on Vimeo.

Waiting around for me to draw a crooked start line and yell, "GO!"

90 people streaming up the icy skin track, earning their turkey!

The insanely fast Gemma Arro Ribot!

Jason and Tom putting the hurt on each other
The next race is Tuesday, Dec 3rd at 7PM.  Park by the church.  Please visit to register and make a token donation and fill out waivers before hand.

Also, Brighton has been incredibly generous to allow unrestricted uphill traffic but we are in danger of losing this privilege as some folks have been wandering too close to avalanche control operations on snow days.  The new rule passed down by the Ski Patrol is that if it has snowed at all, please check in with either a patroller or anyone in the parking lot with a radio to find out where it is safe to travel.  So rational.  So generous.  So easy.  Do it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Utah Ski Mountaineering

Given the success of our little Tuesday night races, we felt it was time to get organized and make the Wasatch Ski Mountaineering Citizen Series a real entity.  A few of us that have put a good deal of time into setting the races, obtaining prizes, and getting the word out have banded together to form an LLC that we are calling Utah Ski Mountaineering or Skimo or something equally dorky sounding.

The goal is to provide some protection and organization to make the series sustainable.  One of the major concerns has been the question of insurance as we typically have 50-75 people careening through the night with dinky headlamps as their only guide.  Another concern was the lack of "voice" amongst the Wasatch "Skimo" crowd and the lack of accepted uphill traffic at most of Utah's resorts.  Our hope is that this organization will solve both issues as well as open doors for further opportunities.  Here's how:

First, we will be asking for a small donation/race entry this year.  This is really nominal at $30 for ALL EIGHT RACES!  For those who have been in the past, your chances of winning something worth $30 is pretty significant...not to mention the value of racing your friends until you taste blood, laughing it off at Molly Green's, and then trying to crawl into bed and sleep without waking family and loved's a great midweek rush.

Alternatively, for those only able to come to a race or two, we think $5 per event is reasonable.  We will be set up to accept payments by paypal, and card, cash, or check at the event.  Of course if you don't have the means, come race anyway.  I would hate to turn people away as the whole point of these shenanigans was to create a community of folks interested in getting faster with ALL people being welcome regardless of gear, skill, etc.

But, we need to create some funding to cover insurance which has been quoted at $2500 for the entire series and will cover anyone who shows up. 

Also, we are still awaiting non profit status and if granted, any and all tax deductible donations will be gladly and thankfully accepted. 

Just to highlight all the great benefits beyond just the racing, this year we anticipate ongoing great support from many of the big players in the ski industry as well as from some more local companies.

The Sport Loft will take a prominent role with great prizes weekly., Gear 30, Kirkham's, and other local companies have had a generous presence giving a number of quality prizes in the past and we hope for their ongoing support.  Bigger companies like Scarpa/Ski Trab, La Sportiva, Outdoor Research, Powerbar, and others are also lined up to make this little race series a great well supported tradition.

So, head to the Citizen Series website to check out the dates for the year and then to for more info on our organizing body and to sign up for the series/make a donation.   Our first race is Thanksgiving morning at Brighton at 8:00 AM.  Be there and earn your turkey!

Maybe you'll win a pie for your Thanksgiving feast!
In the same vein of trying to move fast, this coming Friday (Nov 22nd) at 6:30 PM, Jason and I will be giving a brief interactive talk at the Sport Loft, mainly talking about how to speed up in the backcountry be it by gear, training, or other time saving tricks.  For many people speeding up is counter to their reasons for being out, there but others might find being able to ski more powder in a given amount of time a good thing.  We hope to see some of you there besides our mom.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Grandeur Kind of Week

I'm done running.  For now, I'm a walker, but soon I'll be a skier again.  For those of us lucky enough to live next to the mountains, it seems now is the time to get in some vertical to gain sport specific fitness so we can go faster, farther, and longer once it starts snowing (edit: it started snowing again).  As far as I can tell, there are two ways to ski more in the backcountry (given a fixed amount of time); use lighter gear or get fitter.  Since I'm utterly geeked out on gear, I better put in some work.

Salt Lake City is surrounded by many small mountains that rise directly from the city.  With vertical gains of one to four thousand feet it's the perfect training ground to blast vertical fast before work.  Over the past week, I've gone up Grandeur Peak (3300 vertical) many many times (every day) to work on volume, intervals, and time trials.  I've probably seen a lot of you out there too.

Recently, the FKT for the west side of Grandeur was set at 39:41 by Wasatch newcomer John Tribbia. This was after an epic back and forth battle with Burke Swindlehurst where they both bettered each other's times from 41:xx to 40:09 to the current record.  Past comments indicated that 39 minutes used to be commonplace for Grandeur's west side "back in the day" by local high school kids.  I doubt that.  There is nothing commonplace about John's current time.

Inspired, on the 29th, I went up to make myself tired, managing to do so after 4 summit trips, some intervals, and a lot of quad bashing steep downhills.  I figured I'd crammed in a few days of training into one so that yesterday I could focus on this:

Meet Teague, born Oct 29th weighing 8 pounds 2 ounces and measuring "short", just like his uncle.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First Turns 2013/14

Went up to Alta today not expecting too much but we were blessed with great snow and first tracks down Main Baldy.  Unfortunately, it seems like we maybe got a little too much a little too early.  Hopefully it keeps snowing.  

Alien ballet

UMMMMMM!  Untracked Main Baldy

Tom was all smiles

Better than expected

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The 2013 Bear 100

One hundred mile runs are ridiculous.  Thursday morning, I gathered up multiple pairs of shoes, jackets, gloves, tights, dozens of little packets of slimy gel, two headlights, a couple hydration devices, duct tape, a Sharpie, water proof drop bags and other miscellaneous items.  I had arranged for a hotel in Logan and one in Garden City on the shore of Bear Lake.  My sister-in-law, Amanda, and my sister Aimee were going to meet me at mile 30 to assume crew duties.  My wife and not yet two year old son, Lars, were to join me at mile 62 to also follow along after getting off work and making the drive.  Tom Goth and Dominique Maack were going to spend their weekend doing whatever it took to help me along this journey with Tom acting as pacer and Miss Maack joining the crew.  Add to that 13 aid stations with genuine buffets and cheery volunteers and these events seem to be more like an expedition than a race.

And yet again, just as in Leadville, I found pure freedom for the first half of the race.  The air was crisp with a coating of tacky snow along the high passes.  With dramatic swirling clouds, brilliant aspens and the threat of precipitation, I felt energized by the weather.  I was grateful for a healthy body that was allowing me to run even if it was a bit gingerly.

Over the six weeks since Leadville, I had been hampered by a inflamed plica on my left knee.  Ice, ibuprofen, a medrol dose pack, and a steroid injection had done little to correct the problem.  Oddly, I was able to hike and descend some of the steepest slopes in the Wasatch foothills without pain.  I didn't commit to actually starting the race until the week of and was willing to "walk it out" if needed.

Jogging on the pavement from the start, my knee felt fine but I was determined to play it conservatively, especially given my debacle at Leadville.  Heading up the first long climb, I hiked in the chase pack at a comfortable pace intermittently chiming into the conversation and switching back to Frightened Rabbit and Lord Huron on the Ipod.

Contouring towards the first major descent, our footfalls were padded by recent snows and my knee felt surprisingly normal.  Descending, I let a half dozen runners go by so as to not aggravate anything and in the process became distracted by the stunning scenery and started taking pictures and "instagramming" while on the run.  I was so psyched I wanted to share what I was seeing.

Crazy alpenglow over the Wellsville mountains 
Over the next 50 miles, I enjoyed talking to Aaron from Durango, Cody from Ogden, Anthony from Silverton, Jeason from Carbondale, Mick from Salt Lake, and a few others.  I moved up steadily to 3rd by mile 37, energized by the wintry weather, seeing Aimee and Amanda, and soaking up encouragement from Ben Lewis who was supporting his incredibly fast wife.

Even the roads were goregeous

At one point around mile 30, so absorbed by the moment, I opened my arms to the skies as if to become part of my surroundings...all this while Katy Perry sang on rambunctiously...

Let's go all the way tonight
                                                                 No regrets, just love
We can dance, until we die
You and I, will be young forever

I confessed this to my sister and Amanda who had a good laugh at my expense somewhere along the way.  By the long climb toward Tony Grove, I began to feel some pain in my injured knee as well as the "good one" which I suspect was from 50 miles of compensating unknowingly.   I knew I had been dying a slow death since the start but I had been so engrossed in the moment that 4 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, had passed and it was as if I had been out for 30 minutes.  Passing 50 miles in around 9:30 it was clear that my knees couldn't ignore the passing miles.  I decided it was time to slow down, walk as needed, and to definitely quit eating gels.  I had already had a blessed run.  

Typical - course markings inside some old skull (photo taken from Joey Luther's blog, check it out for more great pictures)
I trotted into the Tony Grove aid where it was lightly snowing and started to eat.  After my third bowl of soup and multiple pieces of pumpkin chocolate bread the volunteers where aghast at my gluttony.  The previous few runners had all breezed through  and I'm guessing they were a little worried by my lack of urgency and appetite.  Not caring and laughing I yelled that number 44 was checking out.  This was received with more weird looks and my sister corrected me and checked number 64 (mine) out.  I had convinced her to pace me from there to the Franklin aid (62) and we were beginning our march into the snowy afternoon.  

Pretty common sight this year

She has just started running with much reluctance this summer but has stuck with it and I think will make a fine runner someday.  I hope she enjoyed slipping around in the snow and then barely jogging the long down hill into the Franklin Basin.  I definitely enjoyed her company and found it quite special that our first run together was 10 miles of incredible fall colors, single track, and a few cows that we ushered off the trail.  

Afternoon walk through the snow with sister Aimee

I think Aimee decided that she likes trail running

At the Franklin aid, I was delighted to see my wife and son along with Tom and Dominique who were joining Aimee and Amanda.  Lars ran up and gave me a little hug.  I lingered beyond reason while a couple more people ran through before deciding to finally give chase.  Hiking quickly uphill was pleasant.  Running (jog/walking) the flats or downhill less so as the impact was increasingly bothersome.  Tom was a first class pacer and downloaded the GPS track onto his watch and could always tell me that we were exactly on route and how far it was to the next aid station.  

At Logan River, night had fallen and it was frigid.  I tried to sit in the tent for a while but was quickly becoming chilled.  I waited long enough for my grilled cheese sandwhich to come off the grill and then walked out eating on the go.  Greasy cheese in one hand, I tried to balance my way across the river on fallen logs but fell in, soaking both feet.  I cursed for a second but realized it didn't matter.  I'd change shoes in a few miles.  

This pattern continued for the next 20 miles.  Hike hard up, pass a runner or two, get passed on the down, eat a lot, and repeat from aid to aid.  The night was clear and the high passes had a delightful amount of snow through which I shuffled to limit the impact of running.  Doing the math, I realized that in spite of taking the foot off the gas since mile 45, I might still finish under 24 hours.  Which while not "fast" in terms of being competitive, most seem to agree it's the mark of a decent 100 mile mountain run.  

More soup.  More Coke.  More hiking.  Now my calf is aching and I think I may have strained it.  I'm getting worried and my math is fuzzy.  I tell Tom that we are going to just walk straight through the last aid station.  Ten minutes later while still fumbling with a pair of wind pants I get passed again.  

Hiking up the final climb I pick up a stick and hobble my way up.  I'm kinda pissed as I think the 24 hr mark is out of reach.  Finally cresting the climb and seeing the lights far below I allow myself to look at my watch again.  I'm confused.  It's 3 AM and I've been out for 21 hours.  Pity party over, I start trying to run again, this time with the governor shut off.  

For 42 miles, my mind seemed unwilling to let my legs hurt and limited my running to a shuffle.  Now with the end in literally in sight, I could shift from conservation mode to racing again.  My race looks a lot like a JV high school runner - start fast, die a little, and then charge home!

Although "charging" is probably too dramatic.  I jogged to the finish, gave Tom a sincere thank you, hugged my wife and really didn't feel too emotional.  I thanked Leland for the incredible race, sat down for a few minutes, and then drove to the hotel and went to bed.  Certainly relieved to be done, I think I was sort of sad to no longer be "out there" among the wild, moving solely from moment to moment.  I had just finished but already felt a sort of nostalgia for the day. 

The race exceeded every expectation and was a beautiful contrast to the scene at Leadville.  In the end, I finished in 22 hours and 28 minutes which was enough for 8th place.  After, a couple hours of sleep, we got up and walked down to the lake where we skipped rocks and Lars splashed around on the beach.  The day was calm and time had slowed.  Life was simple and I was content.   

Lars splashing in Bear Lake on September 28th

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sensing Winter

With a few days under 90 degrees lately, I'm beginning to smell winter around the corner.  Soon, the leaves will change, the nights will require a jacket, and the first snows of the season will work us into a frenzy to ski rocks and grass.  Adding fuel to the madness is the release of all the ski movies and events like the UAC fundraiser at Black Diamond next month.

This year, the Powderwhores have made the mistake of putting me and Jason in their movie.  I haven't seen it yet but always appreciate the local scenes and characters as well as a thoughtful soundtrack from which I always discover new artists.  I think our segment will mainly feature our attempt to ski Mount Rainier as fast as we could but who knows what other embarrassing footage they were able to blend in.

Here's the freshly released trailer:

And if that's not enough check out the party to support the Utah Avalanche Center on September 12th. Details below:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Leadville 100: A Beautiful Failure

"100 miles is not that far to run" 
-Karl Meltzer
For about 10 hours last Saturday I was buying into Karl's slogan.  A few hours later I could no longer run and began to wonder if 100 miles might not be that far to walk.  Shivering with trembling disobedient quads, I "walked" into the Mayqueen aid station at mile 87 bearing more weight with my arms and poles than my legs.  I was being pity clapped by spectators as they told me I was looking strong.  I could only laugh along with Jason and John who were there to support me because I certainly looked anything but.  And that's were it ended.  My mind and stomach were strong and my energy high but my body had failed me.  I now know Karl is full of shit.

Muscle Failure from Jason Dorais on Vimeo.

Rewind a few days.  We're driving to Leadville; me, Jason, Amanda, and John with his family caravaning behind.  I'm apprehensive, never having run a hundred miles.  We pull into the Super 8 and sneak Amanda up the stairs to avoid extra charges since only two people are allowed per room.  Already the altitude is giving us headaches and I'm breathing just climbing to the third floor.

Friday is spent checking in, attending meetings, gathering supplies, and stressing about which of the six pairs of shoes I brought should be worn at which point in the race. Lars arrives and we shake out our legs on a two mile jog.  Why don't we feel tapered?

The alarm is set for 2:45.  We sleep a little, waking every hour thinking surely the time is upon us.  It finally goes off but I'm already awake.  The routine is familiar as we pin our numbers to our shorts and gather our gear.  At the start, it's 39 degrees but comfortable.  A thousand people cram into the coral but Lars and I are on the front line as Ken counts down from 10.  The blast of a shotgun is unexpected and startling.  We surge forward and I realize that I'm "one of those douchebags" as I look back and see that I'm a couple meters ahead of everyone.  I ease back with Lars and let a couple other guys chase the pace car into the dark morning.

The tentative plan was to run easy to mile 50 with Lars and then as we entered unchartered physiology we would do our individual best.  All summer, I had joked with Lars, tossing around an old Prefontaine quote that the best pace is a suicide pace and that today was a good day to die.  Over the first few miles, he's reeling me back repeatedly while the big boys ease away.

Somewhere along the shore of Turquoise Lake, the lead pack takes a wrong turn for a minute or two and I find myself leading the race.  I make sure to enjoy it for a mile or so and then usher others to pass on the rocky single track.

Coming up to Mayqueen at mile 13, I'm floating.  The predawn air feels thick and I'm breathing easily in spite of the elevation. I'm sucking down gels every half an hour and can tell that today will be a great day.  Unfortunately, Lars is struggling to find a similar sensation.  He asks to slow down and is more serious than normal.  I offer encouragement but then on the climb to Powerline, I run away from him without muttering a word.  I'm such an ass.

I don't dwell on this though as I'm now truly feeling invincible.  I stride largely down the steep grade arms wide as if to take in the scenery with my body.  In and out of the Outbound aid station at mile 23, someone tells me I'm in around 10th place.  This was never my plan but I am psyched!  The miles tick by and Timo Meyer pulls along side.  We chat a bit and his enthusiasm boosts me even further.  We pass a few more runners and then suddenly catch a glimpse of an orange singlet through the trees.  It's Scott Jurek.  I dismiss my immediate concern that I've been running too fast.  This feeling is undeniable and I'm determined to milk the euphoria as long as possible.  I figure that as long as my HR is low and it feels easy then I'll be OK.

50K goes by in four twenty something then I hit the Twin Lakes aid station (40 miles) in 5:50.  Luckily my crew has arrived earlier than our specified 10:00 AM optimistic split time.  The place is charged and it's great to see familiar faces.  I mention to Jason that I'm having the best race I could have imagined and he's psyched.  He'll be pacing me on the return and is into the race now, even though initially he was reluctant to make the trip from SLC for this.  I mention casually that my quads are starting to hurt but I otherwise feel great as I trot off towards Hope Pass.

Up the pass I'm committed to just power hiking.  This is familiar.  This is just like Skimo and I'm gaining on Scott again.  Hitting the pass, I let out a whoop.  The scenery is far more spectacular than I anticipated.  I feel better and have gone faster than I would have ever expected.  But then I crest the pass and running down my quads really hurt.  I shrug it off thinking I'll hit the turn around soon and then have Jason to keep me going the rest of the way.

Cresting Hope Pass casting a glance to see if anyone is gaining (photo stolen from Ricky Gates)

Running up to Winfield (mile 50), I count the runners coming the other way.  First about a mile out, I see Michael Aish, then Ian Sharman, then Nick Clark.  Arriving, Jason, Amanda, and John are there, obviously excited.  Jurek leaves as I enter and I realize I'm now in 5th.  This is stupid but I'm taken by the moment, plus, how bad could it get?  Even if I have gone out at a suicide pace, I'll always be able to jog or walk it in.  Right?

Hiking up to Hope Pass (photo taken from Leadville FB page)
On the return, spirits are high, my mind is strong, and my stomach is handling everything I shove into it.   Some 800 odd runners are openly cheering me on as we pass each other on the single track heading up or down Hope Pass.  I'm struck by the feeling of family and community even at a huge race with hundreds of first time runners like myself.  I try to return the encouragement as excitedly as I can.  I pass Lars on the way up and he is having a terrible race.  He mentions he plans to drop but instead of complaining keeps telling me how happy he is that I'm having a great race.

Over the pass, I find myself lingering at the Hopeless aid station and then gingerly running back to Twin Lakes.  En route I get passed by a guy charging down hill and I finally realize that the dream is over.  It's getting dire but if I keep moving the day will be a tremendous success.

The night before the race Luke Nelson called to wish me well and gave the advice to just keep moving no matter how slowly when it got tough.  Ok.  I can do that.

Jason and I hike out of Twin Lakes and then start jogging the descent back to the 70 mile aid station.  I can manage 8-10 min miles on shot quads and am aided by Jason who is a professional pacer even though this was his first experience.  He is yielding to give me the shortest line around turns, changing sides of the road to offer the most shade, and reminding me to eat on schedule.  He's encouraging and tells me that I'm cruising still even though I know it to not be true.

Still "cruising" around mile 70

Somewhere just down the road from the Fish Hatchery aid station the quads go from painful to nonfunctional as they are cramping without rhyme or reason.  But I'm still able to walk and keep the pace under 15 minutes per mile.  Some quick math reveals that if I walk this pace all the way back I'll still finish under 20 hours.  I'm more than cool with that and a hundred miles can't be that hard to walk.

Except, I'm finding out that I'm wrong.  Timo passes with a huge smile that wills me forward.  Sully goes by with pacer Billy and they tell me they'll see me down the trail. Walking is proving difficult as I'm cramping just walking on the flat road out of the aid station.  This is a pretty sudden crash but I should have seen it coming for the last 40 miles.  I consider dropping but John offers to walk with me over Powerline to see if, "I get it back".  I'm not too hopeful but I owe it to those who supported me to give it a try.

Up we go and this actually feels better.  I've been climbing well all day and the change in mechanics suits me now.  John and I laugh and talk about life and families.  We've known each other for 12 years and never would have guessed that at this point in our lives we'd be walking at one mile per hour on some dark dirt road feeling cold but happy.

People are streaming by me now and every single one tells me to hang in there, that there isn't too far to go.  "Almost" might as well be an eternity now as thoughts of compartment syndrome and renal failure begin to cross my mind.  I have a few dark moments where I sit on a rock and try to get down on myself but John will have nothing to do with that.  I decide that I won't allow negativity to creep in either.  I had the most magical 60 miles of my life and now my ailments seem to complete the experience; to balance it and teach me about the spectrum of physical sensation.

I'm hours overdue at the next aid station and my crew knew I was walking slowly when I left the last one. Suddenly there's a light running the wrong direction and Jason appears laughing through his breathing in the darkness.  He immediately pulls out a camera saying that I'm gonna want to remember how crappy I felt.  I remind him that I feel great but that I just need some new legs as he films me hobbling, challenged by even the smallest steps.

It's dark and I'm not going to achieve any of my goals but I'm at peace.  I'm happy and feel fulfilled although not by my performance.  Rather, I'm glad that I could be a part of and witness a certain vulnerability that comes with trying to run a hundred miles.  I'm grateful for friends and family who were willing to spend time and money to support me whether I was near the front of the race or later when I was being spit out the back.  I'm proud that I went for it in spite of this being the stupidest race plan for anyone trying to run their first hundred.  I ran by feel.  I felt great and ran great even if it was just for a short time.  I'm also able to apply dozens of other things that went so well to the next one.

Fast forward 5 days and I can again perform simple tasks like walking up and down stairs and using the toilet without pain.  I'm fully aware as I type how terrible I looked and how foolish it must seem to have started fast and crashed so hard.  But as the soreness fades from my quads so do the painful memories and I want to run  And, I want to run it fast and free and never tire, cramp or get sore.  I'm already thinking again that a hundred miles just might not be that far...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Speedgoat 50K 2013 Recap

The Speedgoat has become an annual sufferfest for me and the 2013 edition was no different.  Being familiar with the course, I had hopes of running under 6 hours but a 2 hour pity party in the middle of the race altered my plans on the fly.  My thoughts went from thinking I should quit, hating Karl Meltzer and maybe pausing to puke to feeling a rebirth or sorts, surging to the finish with energy to spare.

I don't have the answers yet but I enjoy the questions and the ensuing experiments.

Good memories from this year's Speedgoat started the night before when friends both local and from out of town joined us for a pot luck/BBQ at our house.  Other highlights have to include the cool overcast weather, distinctly enjoying running through the wild flowers in Mineral Basin, that popsicle just before the tunnel, and then for the first time in four years, being able to run hard from Hidden Peak to the finish.

Things to fix seem to be staying positive throughout the whole race, fueling more evenly, and maybe training more specifically with more intensity.  Oh yeah, and not falling down.  Midway through the course, there is a long descent into Mary Ellen Gulch that is choking with talus and quite treacherous. If there was anywhere to fall it would have been here.  But, my fall came on the smooth flat out-n-back section just after the Pacific Mine aid station.  I was having fun seeing friends ahead of me and behind me and somehow caught my toe and fell right at Matt Stewart's feet.  I think he was shocked at my ridiculousness but offered a hand to help me back up.  I tried to wave him on but he insisted.  What a guy!

Out front, the big boys put in some incredible efforts with Sage taking the win in a record 5:08 and Tony K closing hard just behind in 5:09.  Two other notable performances in my mind, having known these guys for years, were by Luke Nelson and Lars Kjerengtroen.  Luke is probably better known as a 100 mile specialist but he was fast and consistent throughout finishing in 6th.  Lars is an All American runner and the namesake for my boy but he has taken the last decade off of competitive running.  He was in contention for placing 5th-10th the whole race until sore feet and tired legs dropped him a couple places over the last few downhill miles.  Watch out for both of them in coming races!

On a final note, I need to thank some good people that supported or inspired me throughout the day.  First up, thanks to Jared and Aaron for running around on the course and trying to convince me that I was doing better than I was.  They snapped me out of my mid race funk and got me psyched to try and chase down some people over the last few miles.  Thanks to SCARPA and OR for the great gear. Also, thanks to Laura Howell for accepting my poles and waist belt on the fly as I crested Hidden Peak for the last time.  I felt so free shedding that gear for the final descent even though I'm sure she really really didn't want to touch my sweaty nasty belt.  And finally, thanks to Jessie and Lars for coming up to offer support.  Jessie is pregnant, works full time, is a great mom to Lars, and lets me run around the mountains all day all the time.  She does it all with grace and I can't wait to support her when she returns to running competitively.

Some friends took some pics which I'll post later but for now, here are some links to some great photos by Matt Trappe and others.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Training for Leadville

My running career began back in the early 90s.  My main event: the 100 meter dash.  Now, over 20 years later I'm looking to run my first 100 mile foot race.  I guess that shows how successful my sprinting career was.

Living in Salt Lake, I had hoped my first one would be the Wasatch 100 but the lottery is rigged and I didn't get selected.  Luckily, viking Lars has given up ultimate fighting and picked up running with a vengeance.  He urged me to sign up for Leadville so we could race each other to the death.  This back up plan has become the main plan and I'm getting excited.  I'm anxious for the experience and expect that I'll have a brush with euphoria, pain, and find new appreciation for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

So in preparation, I have been trying to run more and tailor my running to the Leadville course, which is long and apparently mostly runnable (i.e. flat).  I've never been one that had the time or I suppose patience for high mileage but one of my goals this summer has been to push this parameter in hopes of a positive physiologic response.  But there is always a trade off and that has been no climbing and little scrambling as increased vertical or ruggedness of travel means slower going and less miles. I've done more city/park miles than in recent summers but am reminded that I just love running for the sake of running.

So, since June 15th (last post about the Corner Canyon race) my weeks are summarized as below with highlights mentioned. 

Week starting June 17th:
Total miles 60.  Long run 21 miles.  Highlights included some 200s on the track (I wanted to stress speed and mechanics a bit and 200s are just fun.  8 x 25-28 seconds) and the Mill D loop which is one of my favorite runs in the Wasatch.  This can be done as a loop starting at various points but I typically start at Mill D North and run to Desolation Lake, join the Crest Trail, work down to Millcreek, head back to Dog Lake, and then out Mill D.  It's around 13 miles and tallies something like 3000 feet of climbing.

Week starting June 24th:
Total miles 80. Long run 25 miles.  Highlights included a run up the Pfeiff with Layne, ambling about on the Speedgoat course at Snowbird with Jason, some more track work for a fast mile (for me) and some 400s, and then a nice flat 25 mile run along the Seattle waterfront.  Going from the heat of SLC to the relative coolness of Seattle coupled with an elevation of maybe 5 feet gave me a feeling that must be similar to blood doping.

Week starting July 1st:
Total miles 85, 18K Vertical,  long run 21 miles.  Highlights included a long run around Snowbird and Alta, more Seattle running, tagging a couple foothills here, and my go to Sugarhouse Park loops on grass.

Week starting July 8th:
Total miles 101, 22K Vertical, 17 hrs, long run 50 miles.  Highlights included a nice 25 mile loop tagging Hidden Peak, Baldy, Catherine's Pass, Clayton Peak, and Peak 10420 before returning down Gaurdsman and back to the Bird.  The other big run for the week was an out and back of the Mid Mountain Marathon course.  I got completely lucky on that one with rain and clouds for the first 30 miles.  Starting from Deer Valley the car thermometer read 54 degrees!  I love cool weather.  Nutrition, the weather, and a nice spring in my step led to a consistent evenly paced, even enjoyable 50 mile solo run in 7:50ish.

Week starting July 15th:
Total miles 60, 15K Vertical,  Long run 18.5.  There weren't a lot of highlights this week as I felt pretty flat from the steady ramp up over the last few.  I did get out on Timp with Jason for an exhaustingly slow run where the wildflowers were utterly brilliant.  I also jumped in the bandit Millcreek 50K but shortly after midnight I realized that I wasn't doing myself any favors and that I'd be better served by going home and going to sleep.  Finally by the weekend, I was feeling a little more spry during a run around Snowbird with Teague.  This was somewhat of a recovery week before the Speedgoat and hopefully one more week of good volume before a big taper.

I am now at odds with myself as I've been trying to run flatter and longer but am realizing that the Speedgoat 50K is in 5 days.  I wish I had done more vertical!  And as it turns out, my "high mileage" wasn't really that high but that's really a relative term.  I've never really done much more than 50 miles per week consistently so I've definitely noticed some cumulative fatigue from the past month.  Time as always is the frustrating factor as in spite of the suffocating heat, I'm still enthusiastic about running.

Upcoming this Saturday is the Speedgoat which will have ridiculous talent from around the world.  Leadville is August 17th and then from there I hope to run the MidMountain Marathon and finish the year with the UROC 100K from Breckenridge to Vail.  After that, I can think of a few adventure runs I'd like to do before the snow flies....

And then it's time to ski again!

Also upcoming is another little me.  Our second boy is due just in time to see the first flakes of the year!  We are currently fielding viking names for our next Scandinavian/Korean boy...
Pretending to be fast when really all I do these days is "ultra-shuffle".  This photo was staged from a standstill and taken by Jason.

Even the mountains is Utah County are patriotic

Really wishing I had skis to get down.  
Picking flowers for mom.  Lars version 2.0 coming this November

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Corner Canyon 50K Recap

Yesterday was the Corner Canyon 50k, which is a beautifully administered race over some really great terrain above Draper, UT.  I had never run in Corner Canyon but have heard much about it from mountain bike enthusiasts.  Their praise typically seems to equate to smooth runnable trails that are never very steep. Those were definitely in abundance but the race organizers had just a little sickness in the head too and these smooth trails were punctuated by multiple short but heinous climbs for a total of 6600 vertical ascent.

This is a special race for more than just the course.  It has served as a platform for supporting those battling cancer and has developed a really cool tradition of selecting one person each year as the beneficiary of any funds generated.  More than the monetary support for those dealing with insane medical bills, the strength of the running community to support one of the "family" who can no longer run freely as we love is really inspiring.

This year, my sister-in-law was chosen and it was great to see her before the race giving a short speech in which she gave simple advice.  Be grateful.  Enjoy health.  Enjoy running.  More on her story here.

The Race:

With a significant portion of SLC's trail running talent competing at the Steeplechase across the valley, we all looked around and tried to size up our competitors on the line.  I don't have a ton of miles on the legs just yet and was sort of hoping for a pleasant long run rather than a vicious pace from the start.  Unfortunately, there were some fast guys in the field like Matt Stewart, brother Jason, Jared Inouye and Seth Wold. Fortunately, they are nice guys and the first few miles we enjoyed some laughs as we warmed up.

The lead pack, consisting of the above mention guys and a fellow named Joe, rolled through the first aid station all together.  Some spicy Thai food the night before mandated a quick stop but I was able to catch up to the other guys after a few miles. 

Ultimately, Seth withdrew from the race after probably racing too much recently and Jared and Joe fell back just a touch but were always threatening in the distance.  Matt won the race at the last minute, Jason cramped his way to second, and I maintained third.  We finished within a minute of each other but ran drastically different races. 

Jason ran easy for ten miles or so and then put in a strong move for the next ten.  At the top of the course there is a short out and back section where I saw him running gingerly.  He kept it together for the last six miles but had to stop and stretch out multiple times.  Just 200 meters from the finish line, Stewie passed by, sheepishly offering to carry Jason to the finish.  Jason probably tried to kick him and then probably cramped up again but was able to walk it in just seconds behind Matt.

Matt ran a very even race, and after running well in control with me through the first half, seemed to speed up through the second.  He deserved to win and is my dark horse for a spectacular Wasatch 100 later this year. 

My day went as well as I could have hoped other than some GI issues that hobbled me throughout the middle section of the race.  Once I was able to straighten out and run smoothly, I feel like I was able to finish strongly, gaining around 5 minutes on the other guys over the last 6 miles and finishing around a minute back.  This was a relief as I tend to go out too hard and blow up and because I was worried about Jared and Joe.  I don't like to lose to Jared.

Here's a clip of my closing speed...

Full results here.

Jason's account here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mount Rainier Speed Skiing: 3:57:55

Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful and massive mountains in the United States.  It has a long history of mountaineering and has been the training ground for many of the greater ranges around the world.  Naturally, on a mountain that gets a lot of attention and traffic, a friendly competition has developed.  It's an old game of simply trying to see how fast one can climb and descend a peak.  The guides have typically dominated this arena as they become intimate with the route and conditions and no doubt are aerobically talented.  For many years, Willie Benegas held the round trip record from Paradise to the summit and back via the Disappointment Cleaver route with a time of four hours and 40 minutes.

Last summer, Jason and I wanted to join the fun and tried to ski Rainier as fast as we could.  We ignored poor conditions, a bad weather forecast, and the plain markings that would have guided us back to Paradise.  We ended up lost, walked along the Nisqually River, and hitchhiked back to our car. We arbitrarily stopped the watch when we ran out of snow around five hours and chalked it up as a learning experience, one that has been begging to be rectified for nearly a year.

Then, a couple weeks ago, Eric Carter and Nick Elson left their mark in this story by setting a new all comers record (skiing or running) of 4:19:12.  By report, they had great conditions and crushed.  Shortly thereafter, I started getting texts about their effort.  We worked ourselves into a frenzy, unhealthily motivated to return and do our best.  Fortunately, we had planned a break in work months ahead of time.  Now we just needed a break with the weather.

Arriving in Paradise on Sunday, we strode into the ranger station full of optimism given the blue skies and predicted week long high pressure.  Seconds later, a spunky red headed ranger was doing his best to shatter our hopes by telling us that no one had summited in a week and a half and that the upper mountain was not in condition.  He communicated that the guides were finding a few persistent weak layers that were giving them pause in their goal of resetting the route and safely taking their clients to the summit.

Apparently, the upper mountain had opened up earlier this year than normal and a ladder was in place spanning one particularly large crevasse among other smaller ones.  Since we were trying to balance speed and safety, we were reliant on the route being "opened" by the guides and were really grateful for the work they were doing.

The next 3 days were like the movie Groundhog Day.  We'd wake up, talk to the rangers, find out no one had summited, and then ski on the Muir Snowfield.  We had nearly every modern amenity at our disposal and we were going crazy with boredom.  Expedition glacier life would kill us.

Jason out for a stroll during a rest day

Just hanging around waiting for conditions to improve

Finally, it became apparent that Wednesday would be the day.  Sustained high pressure had healed the snowpack, a private party had pushed to the summit, and the guides would surely be taking their clients up.  Each day had been successively warmer with the freezing levels nearing 13000 feet and conditions on the lower mountain noticeably worse every morning.  We were worried we had missed our ideal window.

Getting ready with the HR monitor
that I was going to ignore
After a very restless night's sleep, I bounced out of bed before the 5AM alarm.  We geared up, battled dumped, choked down a light meal, caffeinated, and walked out into the very bright morning just before six.  Clad in speed suits, we carried race packs with beacon, shovel, crampons, ski crampons, whippets, extra layers, extra skins, a liter of fluid mixed with gels, harnesses, and a small rope.  It was least amount of gear with which we felt comfortable given the uncertain conditions on the upper mountain.

We knew Eric and Nick's splits and with some encouragement from Eric, we were gunning for them.  Our optimistic schedule was to start at six, hit Camp Muir in an hour twenty, the summit as close to three hours, and then ski down as fast as possible to hopefully slip in under four hours round trip.

From the "gun" Jason set the pace up to the Muir Snowfield.  Without a solid refreeze, the surface was soft and we were both worried we were fighting a losing battle.  Wearing a HR monitor, I knew I was going too hard (i.e. HR >180) but ignored it.  On the Snowfield, we found an unsupportable crust and persisted in the uneven tracks of others but as we climbed higher, the crust became stronger and we found a nice smooth skin track.  I was in front now and could feel Camp Muir.  I started pushing as we were gaining energy from the climbers standing on the edge of camp watching us approach.

6 AM start
We rolled through in 1:22 as the climbers cheered us on.  I guess the full spandex gave us away.  Or maybe it was the strained look on my face and the fact that we didn't even pause as we skinned through.  Either way, it was great to have some moral support because it was about to get hard.

Around the corner, the Ingraham Glacier was beautifully broken up and I could see a couple parties high above the Cleaver.  Everything was coming together perfectly.

Except, it was becoming a struggle to keep up with Jason.  He turned and yelled at me to keep pushing.  He screamed, "This is supposed to hurt!"

Just before the Cleaver starting to get uncomfortable

We alternated booting and skinning with ski crampons on the Cleaver and narrowly averted disaster when Jason fumbled a ski that began to slide off toward the jaws of the huge crevasses below.  I sprinted laterally to block it but luckily a small wind lip stopped it just above me.  I grabbed it, booted 15 feet up to Jason and we were off again.

Above the Cleaver, we mostly skinned with ski crampons but were forced out of our skis a couple times, most notably when we came upon the ladder.  In my mind, I thought I would just walk right across but Jason dropped to his knees and began to crawl.  Standing and waiting my turn, that just seemed like a much better idea and onto my knees I went.  Laughing, Jason tried to take a picture but missed it.  Here we were trying to go faster than anyone before on this mountain and we were literally crawling.
Final push for the summit
The next couple thousand feet were filled with mind numbing discomfort.  The crater rim came into view but looked impossibly far away.  However, my pain addled mind was in a time warp, because seconds later, we crested the rim and found ourselves in a white out.  Of the 9000 feet of ascent, 8950 were brilliantly sunny and then the last couple minutes were anticlimactic as we followed wands and unceremoniously transitioned.  Our friend Noah, who graciously joined us on the trip to offer support was on the summit.  I wanted to talk with him but only grunted a few unintelligible sounds as I ripped skins.   We then turned around to see how well we could hold it together for one of the longest continuous ski descents in the lower 48.  The watch read 3:15:39.

Once out of the crater, I was fighting cramps in my quads, adductors, and hamstrings.  This was going to be difficult.  Mercifully, I found the upper mountain to ski quite well and was able to relax as Jason thought it slightly more difficult.  Onto the Cleaver, we were cruising and perfect corn made this portion fast and easy.  Jason glanced at his watch and said sub four hours would be hard.  I thought just getting down the last 6000 feet without stopping would be hard.

We side stepped up the gentle rise back to Ingraham Flats and then skied all out.  We slashed turns to the side of multiple parties who openly cheered us on.  I was psyched for their support and glad to be able to get by quickly without interfering with their adventures.  While rocketing across the Cowlitz along the gentle traverse back to Camp Muir, I glanced at my watch and saw 3:43.  Sub 4 was still possible but we needed a little luck with the conditions.

Arcing big turns on the upper Muir, we joyfully found perfect corn and mostly smooth snow.  This effortless skiing couldn't last and as we descended along the lower reaches of the snowfield, sticky isothermic glop started grabbing at my skis.  Then I was summersaulting, hoping not to have may day ruined so close to the finish.  Back on my feet unscathed, one second later I was tearing after Jason.

I caught up with him 30 seconds out of Paradise as he was standing there looking for me wondering what the hell I was doing.  We pointed 'em for home and I started screaming out of joy, relief, and the satisfaction of giving my best effort on that day.

Pretty happy to be done

Jason's wife was there shooting photos and we lounged around enjoying the moment.  Soon Noah came down leading to more celebrating before the reality of the impending 12 hour drive set in.

Now, back in Salt Lake, I'm psyched that we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy Rainier in the style we hoped for and in a time that represented a solid effort for the given conditions.  While I believe our time of 3:57:55 to be the fastest round trip known to date, it would be foolish to think it will hold up.  I predict runners will summit well under three hours and that skiers will be able to cut significant time from this.  I'm just glad to play a part in the progression of the speed game on this classic North American mountain.

Two dorks in tights 

For Jason's account see

Friday, May 31, 2013

Late May Pipeline Powder

A few others had the same idea before us since rain in the valley still means snow at the upper elevations this time of year.  We found tracks in and out of the Pipeline but inconveniently, the booter had vanished with the swirling winds.   Both Jason and I appreciated the contrast of the deep green valleys, white snow, and dark clouds that were messing with the sun.  All in all it was quite a beautiful morning.  It's the end of May and above 9000 feet on northerly aspects the skiing is still quite good.  

Not too bad for the end of May in a dry year...
Jason on the west summit of the AF Twins

Getting down to the skiing

It was almost "powder"