Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Laramie 100 Race Report

Place - 1st Overall
Time - 23:21:00 Vertical gain - 13,000 ft.

I chose this race because it was cheap and I could run it and another 24 hour race in September (that I've now decided not to race) for the same cost that was refunded to me for not getting into Wasatch. I knew nothing about the race other than it is on a loop course and it is in the middle of Wyoming. I made Matt and my 13 year old son, Tyler, come along with me as crew and pacers.

Gear for the race:
Altra Instinct shoes - the best shoe ever. I had never done more than 36 miles in a single shot in them, but was confident that they would be the best shoe for the race. They were better than I could have imagined. If you haven't checked out Altra yet, do it now. They are more than just another shoe company, they are redefining what shoes are meant to do to enhance running altogether.
Life Is Like a Run shirt - my friend creates these amazing shirts. His phylosophy is in the name. Life really is like a run and was very much like this race.
Ultimate Direction water bottles - UD makes the best handhelds in the business!
Wasatch Running Center - for all my other running gear and needs. These guys are the BEST!

The drive out is actually worth noting. First, it's a long drive. Second, it's even longer because we got stuck for an hour and a half in stand-still traffic because the freeway was closed due to a diesel truck that caught on fire. We spent our time throwing the football and playing sudoku on our phones (I really, really suck at it). We then stopped at a Pizza Hut in Laramie for dinner and received a full-on redneck welcome. Scary. We didn't get to the start/finish campsite until 10ish, quickly set up camp and settled in. The race wasn't supposed to start until 9am so I was looking at a really good night's sleep.

The Laramie 100 is actually four different races; a 100 miler (there were 9 registered and we were considered the 'hardcore' dudes), a 24 hour solo, a 24 hour relay, and a 12 hour solo. All four events were to start at the same time and run the same course - a 5.6 mile loop up through the mountains in the Happy Jack recreation area. I was excited because while the overall elevation profile was pretty good at 13,000 ft of climbing total, the description said that in each 800 ft of elevation gain each lap, 700 ft came in a single climb that lasted 2 miles. 350 ft/mile sounded cruiser. I would soon learn that like much in this race, that was not accurate.

I woke early, about 6:30am and we were all up and moving around by 7am. It didn't take long to realize that the biggest challenge of the race would be the mosquitoes, at least for Matt and T. After a short pre-race meeting the gun went off and we were rolling right into a short section of single-track. I was in 4th behind a 24 hr guy and two relay dudes. After only 200 yards I passed the 24 hour guy (Jay) and the two fasty relay guys took off at a sprint. I was in the lead for the 100 milers.

So here's what I really found out about the course. It's about a half mile of single-track to another half mile of dirt road. Then finally another .6 miles of double-track until you cross two streams. This is all very mildly downhill. At that point you start "the climb". As it turned out it wasn't a single climb for 2 miles, but a series of short, steep climbs that crest, then drop, then rise again. The actual profile would look more like a roller coaster than a long, easy climb. While runnable on fresh legs they were brutal on tired ones. After the last steep climbs (the last three and hardest climbs I named "the switch backs", "the bitch", and "the whore" - sorry for my swearing) we rolled over to the top little aid station then cruised downhill through a few easy rollers and then a steep plunge back to the start/finish. Each lap we'd alternate directions, which is great because you can always see how close you are to those behind and in front. It's also a wonderful way to cheer on people and make friends.

I came into my first aid stop about 5 min ahead of 2nd place. From then on that lead would continue to grow. He (Jeremy) pushed me for about 10 hours, always staying within 20 - 30 min, but then he kind of crashed for a while and I knew I had it in the bag at that point. Let me just hit on a few of the interesting points and shorten this thing up.

I had my usual "doubt myself and want to quit" at mile 20 like I always do. Once I put my headphones on that went away though.

My quads were wrecked by mile 30. Seriously, dead tired. I just figured that the pain couldn't get any worse and I might as well keep running hard. I attribute the fatigue and pain to moving my home earlier in the week.

Matt and T could start pacing at 8pm, 11 hours after the start. When they started their first lap with me I was on mile 56 and was having some cramping in my diaphragm. I felt good and wanted to push hard, but I just couldn't with the cramping. I was really grumpy and this was my lowest point of the race. I knew that if I could get it to go away I could go strong again. The boys tolerated me for that lap and then forced some real food in me and I was immediately fixed. T ran one more lap and then settled in for a few hours around the fire, hoping to run the last two laps with me at the end for a total of 22 miles and 3200 ft of vert. On that 2nd lap with the boys I told them that things slow way down during the night in a 100 miler. But, looking at Matt, we had spent all winter running in the dark and we were going to 'own the night'. And own it we did. After Tyler took his rest Matt and I really began to push. Within two laps we saw the lead on Jeremy (2nd) go from 25 min to 40. I don't know if it was demoralizing to him or if he just bonked, but he disappeared soon after and we thought he dropped.

This was at about 3am. Matt and I were a barrel of laughs. We'd stop at the top little aid station and joke with everyone and then cruise down and do the same with the RDs and the relay people who were still awake. They loved us. Tyler was always around and was the most popular person at the race. Everyone was blown away by how cool this 13 year old was.

With 5 laps left I was asking about the "short out and back" we'd have to do at the end to get our full 100 in. Once they did a little math they realized that with this slightly shorter course (by .2) this year we needed to run a full additional lap. Sheesh. That was a blow. Oh well, we just kept pushing. It got very cold at the start/finish and the lower sections of trail in the early morning, but up high it was very nice all night long. When the sun came up just after 5am Tyler jumped back in for the last two laps. Matt was looking at a full 45 miler, 13 miles farther than he had ever run before. Tyler was looking at 22 miles; his previous long run had been 6 miles on flat ground. As we started into my very last lap Jeremy reappeared and started racing again, now almost 4 laps back, but still in 2nd place. Two other people we thought dropped also miraculously appeared and were moving strong again. Tons of respect to those dudes.

I really pushed the last lap. In fact, I think it was almost 10 min faster than my previous 6 laps. Matt and Tyler were having a hard time keeping up. I finished to subdued cheers and lack-luster fanfare by the organizers. Instead of a trophy I got a 1st Place medal, which was to take the place of my finisher medal. Not even a belt buckle. Oh well, I don't really care. We hung around for another hour or so to cheer on a few people I wanted to see before leaving and then took off. The drive home gave me a lot of time to think about the race and the experience. Here's what I walked away with.

1. My win means much less to me than seeing my son Tyler go 22 miles with 3200 ft of vert. He blew me away. I get emotional thinking about how incredible he was the entire weekend.
2. Matt is, hands down, the best crew and pacer ever. Not only is he a machine, but he always knew just what to do. I owe this race to him and Tyler.
3. While it may not seem as cool that I won against a small field, it is worth noting that I was the least experienced of all the 100 milers (by quite a bit). Apparently, people were approaching Matt and Tyler the whole race asking who that guy in orange was and saying how strong I looked. I guess other racers would come in talking about how fast I was. I never felt fast, but I always felt consistent.
4. Goeff Roes has been loosely quoted as saying, "being successful in a race isn't as much about pushing hard when you are feeling good, but being able to push hard through your low points". I found that to be completely true and a huge part of my success. When I was feeling slow and tired I'd just push harder and it really made a huge difference off my time.

Finally, win or not it was an awesome experience. The course was great. The format was really fun. The people I was able to associate with made the whole thing amazing for me. By far my biggest success of the whole experience were the relationships I made. What a pleasure it was to associate with such amazing people. I love running ultras!

Photos and video later in the week.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trail Tuesday

Last week I decided I needed a full day of running to myself for two reasons; 1- I needed the miles as a last long run before my 100 miler in 2.5 weeks, 2- I just needed a day to myself. I set my sights on the trail system in Draper/Corner Canyon as I knew there would be more then enough real estate to meet my needs. I had no planned route nor a desire to find one. I just wanted to park my car in a centrally located position to use as an aid stop.

I arrived at my home base, Red Rock Trailhead at 6:30am and was out of the car and on the trail within minutes. I started by running east on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BoSho) all the way to Corner Canyon Road. I had passed several mountain bikers along the way and one trail runner. We bid each other hello and continued on. It's nice to see how active the area is that time of the morning on a weekday. I then went up Corner Canyon Rd all the way to the top at the Clark's Trailhead. Instead of turning down the trail I took a left up into the dirt road system of Jacob's Ladder. I crested two small hills and took a short break as I took in the views of Lone Peak and Timpanogos. I had been running for just over an hour, had gone just over six miles, and gained more than 1600 vertical feet.

Looking up towards Lone Peak
Utah Valley

I continued east for another quarter mile then turned south down into a ravine with a very rugged dirt road in it. I knew this road would take my all the way to the bottom of Hog Hollow. It was really beautiful along this part of the course; the birds singing and fresh leaves on the trees.

Once down by Hog Hollow I took a wrong turn, but quickly corrected myself and headed up the appropriate road. There are roads and trails everywhere and it is pretty easy to get away from your intended course. Once in Hog Hollow however I had no problems getting all the way back up to the ridge. The road/trail is very runnable even though it is rocky near the top. I was amazed at where it let out and was very happy to find myself right back at the top of the Clark's trail. I chose to head west towards Suncrest and View Benchmark Peak. Normally I just run the dirt road over to the paved road, but last week I spied a possible trail that would take me further into town without having to run on pavement. A couple of the hills were a little steeper and I chose to walk them to conserve energy. The trail was awesome and dropped me off very near the crossroads. From there I continued on pavement up to the View Benchmark trailhead. I took a short break to fix my shoe laces and then hiked/ran to the summit. I couldn't believe how perfect the weather was. I could see down into both Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Timp in the background.

My legs were already getting tired and I was only 16.5 miles in. Last week's climbfest had really taken it's tool. I was in good spirits though, had plenty of energy, and looked forward to the technical trail down to South Mountain, a trail I've run several times. The steep downhill section I refer to as "The Wild Mouse" as it reminds me of the Lagoon roller coaster, constantly giving you this feeling you are out of control. Once I got to South Mountain I could choose to go down the steep ridge back to the car or continue over the summit ridgeline to the base on the west side. I chose the harder route. The climbs along the ridge are brutal, but I took it really easy and felt ok. Then the nasty downhill begins. It is REALLY steep and loose. I got several rocks in my shoes that had to be removed when I hit the bottom. In the picture below you can see how steep the trail is.

From that point back to the car is a very casual run along the BoSho. There are no really significant hills, but the heat was bearing down a bit and I needed to refill my water. My legs were also pretty tired from the pounding downhill. I was ready to sit and eat something normal. I got back to the car at 4 hrs 30 min with exactly 22 miles of running. 

When I was at the trailhead of View Benchmark I had spied a new trail to the south I wanted to try, so leaving the car I headed up towards the new trail near the downhill mountain bike trail. The first part of the trail is gone due to construction of a new water tower, so I had to bushwack up the steep hill. It really sucked some of the energy out of my legs. I was able to run the next mile of uphill, but then had to walk/run the next half mile until I hit the steeper section. From there it was just a slog through the switchbacks to the top. I made my way to the trailhead of the new trail I wanted to hit and started down. It was here that I put my headphones in for the first time after 5.5 hours of running. That trail was pretty cool. It winds down through the ravine to a dirt road that links into a small housing community on the south of View Benchmark. As I ran through the neighborhood I said hello to people watering their lawns and then continued down Suncrest Rd until I found another dirt road that would link me back over to Hog Hollow. 

Now going up Hog Hollow for a second time I wasn't nearly as spry as my first go. I was able to run about half a mile of it then had to slow to a walk for the rest. It was very hot and I was low on energy even though I had been fueling and taking salt. As soon as I got back to the top, however, I pushed back into a trot and made my way towards the Canyon Hollow trail, absolutely favorite trail in that whole area. It is so green and beautiful and the trail is so moderate that even on tired legs I was able to cruise at an 8 min pace. I forked over to Ghost Falls, stripped off my running vest and Ipod (which I had turned off a while back) and sat my hot, sweaty butt right down in the middle of the pool. Ah, it was so nice to soak my tired legs. I had been running for over 7 hours and more than 33 miles. I sat for about 5 min before getting out. I then refilled my water reservoir in the falls and took off back towards the BoSho. 

Looking back at Ghost Falls. I took this while standing in the water.

I only had 3 miles left, but I had just taken my last bit of fuel and was very low on energy. I had to walk every hill, but could still run the flats and downhill. I got back to the car in 7:56:18 and 36.25 miles with 7000 ft of vert. It didn't get as many miles as I wanted, but the tough vert made up for it and I had an amazing time running such beautiful trails. I really felt like I had that whole mountain to myself. What a day.

Summiting View Benchmark