Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hardrock 2014


I dropped at Mile 58 (Grouse Gulch) around 3am (21 hours after starting).

There were lots of "epic" stories from this year's Hardrock.  Dakota summarized a lot of the more talked-about ones here, and I am positive that there were just as many stories to tell from the back of the pack as well.  Of course, Kilian's dominance and course record still has everyone buzzing.  However, the more times I take on this course, the more impressed I become with those who can endure through the second day and beyond.  There is the story of Amanda Grimes pushing with all she had left from Cunningham to the finish, beating the 48-hour cutoff by just 10 minutes.  Seeing her at the finish line completely spent but with a huge smile on her face reminds me of how special any Hardrock finish is.

So for me, there was rain, hail, lightning, flooding, and vomiting, but that really isn't a "story" at Hardrock, it is expected.  These mountains and this course provide a challenge like no other and that, along with the unsurpassed beauty surrounding you, is definitely what makes this event so alluring.

By the third significant climb, Oscar's Pass, I am already struggling to the point of considering a drop at Telluride (Mile 28).  That is not a good sign for a 100-miler, but not that uncommon for Hardrock.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the weather on Oscar's doesn't allow me to rest up there.  A couple of zaps of lightning has me running as fast as I can down the flowing river, presumably the trail, into the Wasatch Basin and Telluride below.

Completely soaked, I see my crew for the first time in Telluride and I am able to drink and eat a little.  This gives me the strength to push on, but again I would soon fall apart on the climb to Mendota Saddle and Virginius Pass.  Just before coming into view of the awesome volunteers on Virginius, I duck behind a rock hoping to empty my stomach.  It would have been very disappointing to puke at Kroger's Canteen, the best aid station on Earth.  I sit at Kroger's taking some chicken soup from Roch and his terrific crew, while thinking in my head that I am now dropping in Ouray.  Just then, Kirk Apt takes a seat next to me and I feel ashamed to even having those thoughts in my head.  This was Kirk's 20th visit to Kroger's Canteen, on his way to his 20th Hardrock finish!  So again, I push on.  I actually run quite well into Ouray and have hopes of turning things around.

I again see my crew and ask Kristel if she is willing to pace me.  I feel as though I need her more now even if she can't pace me all the way to the finish (which I know she would have done anyway).  I get down a little bit of food and head out with Kristel with still quite a bit of daylight left, which is encouraging.  What is not encouraging is how much I am instantly struggling to climb out of Ouray.

The climb up Bear Creek Trail towards Engineer Pass is a struggle.  I keep replaying in my head where I fell apart on this same stretch two years ago and these memories do not help.  And then it is just like a self-fulfilling prophecy and I fall apart again.  Kristel gets to witness some nice puking action, which unfortunately doesn't make my stomach feel any better.  We somehow manage to get to Engineer aid station in pouring rain and I curl up in a sleeping bag under the Tyvek cover protecting everyone from the intense storm.

After sensing a slight drop in the intensity of the rain hitting Tyvek roof, I know it is time to get out of there.  Kristel and I grind our way over the pass and now I have to succumb to walking all the way down the jeep road to Grouse Gulch.  A couple of attempts to muster up some semblance of running only leads to inevitable dry heaves.

Just like two years ago, I am rolling into Grouse Gulch around 3 in the morning, knowing that I can just stay there for hours if I need to.  I know there is no need to drop out upon arrival like in 2012.  Take as much time as you need to get feeling better.  You think I would have learned my lesson last time, but I didn't.  I instantly find the aid station captain and tell him to remove my wrist band and add me to the drop list.  This course, this direction, has beaten me again.

It is extremely tough to be in Silverton while you know you should still be out on the course.  I don't know why I struggled so much more this year than last, but it was obvious that I just wasn't ready this time.  You then try to tell yourself it is just a "race".  Get over it.  Well, I probably won't ever get completely over it until I finish this thing again.  Maybe I will get another chance soon, but I also feel that so many others deserve a chance before me.

My frustration led me to run the Crawford 100 the next weekend (report to come).  This course was no joke and, despite wanting to quit there as well, I pushed on to maybe my best 100 mile finish ever.  It definitely helped my confidence, but now I wonder why I couldn't do the same at Hardrock.  I am definitely still learning.

Thanks to my crew (Regina, Sam, and Kristel).  Thanks to all my friends I saw out there on Hardrock weekend.  Thanks Kristel for enduring the longest 15 miles ever with me out on the course.  And finally, congrats to all 100 of you finishers this year!  For good or bad, Hardrock is in my blood.  It is different than all other "races" and I know I will be back.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Some of the most spectacular mountains (if not the most spectacular) in all the Rocky Mountains, the Tetons!  Kristel and I spent the 4th of July holiday weekend barely scratching the surface of this great network of trails in and around Grand Teton National Park.  With tentative plans of doing a full Teton Circumnavigation, it was still a bit too early and the deep snow made the trails nearly impossible to follow over the passes.  We ended up covering much of this loop, however, over two days.  Day one took us from Jenny Lake, up Cascade Canyon, and eventually near Hurricane Pass.  The next day we ran up Death Canyon from Phelps Lake to the Alaska Basin Trail.  We then made our way as far as we could toward Static Pass, again to be denied by the snow.  I can't wait to come back again, next time a little later in the summer.

Day one:


Day two:


Thursday, June 26, 2014

San Juan Solstice 50

Five years was much too long of a wait to return to this race (my first 50-miler in 2009).  Lake City is great!  The San Juan mountains are great!  This race is great!  Although I wasn't as fast as I would have liked (did someone say "training race"?), you can't complain when you get to soak in the beauty of the San Juans.

When my sister Regina asked which 50-miler she should do in honor of her 50th birthday, I immediately responded San Juan Solstice 50.  Besides, I wanted to run it again too.  Unfortunately, Regina's race ended at the Carson Aid Station about halfway into the race due to the time cut-off.  The experience of just half of this course, however, beats what most other courses can offer in a full 50 miles.  She seemed to agree and was not too disappointed by her abbreviated race.  I know she will knock off an easier 50 miler soon and it wouldn't surprise me to see her back at this race some day.

My race.  Well I hadn't gotten above treeline until race day, and it probably showed.  I didn't feel like eating at any point and I realized you can't just fuel on PBR for 50 miles and get away with it.  I took Jaime's splits from last year as a guide to my A+ goal of sub-11 hours.  I was on track until Carson (mile 22), but slowed significantly from there.

First of many stream crossings

Williams Creek Aid (Mile 16)
I spent some time with Alabama Rob up on the Continental Divide.  Although he didn't get into Hardrock this year, he still made the trip out to play in the San Juans.  The views were amazing (it was a snowstorm in 2009) and Rob and I were just soaking it in at a leisurely pace.

The Divide Aid Station (mile 31) and the drop back down below the trees seemed to take forever to arrive.  I got passed by Amanda and held on with her to the aid station, but it was clear she had a lot more in the tank than I did.  She kicked my butt, once again.  Great race Amanda!

Am I done yet? Slumgullion Aid.

Some mashed potatoes and watermelon at the aid station gave me just enough energy to slog my way to Slumgullion (mile 40) where I got the news of Regina's shortened race.  Another PBR, some more watermelon, and I was ready to get this race over.  I asked Kristel if she wanted to join me for the last 10 miles (they allow pacers from here) and she was in.  We left to a Tarzan call from my sister Robin, who also made the trip out to support her siblings.

Let's go Kristel.  Get me back to Lake City.

I was just about crawling on the final ("easy") climb to Vickers, but I made it.  I am pretty sure Kristel has never seen me move that slow, even after pacing me at Hardrock.  I then ran, somewhat respectably, the downhill to the end to slip under 13 hours (12:56).


I am so glad we got to run the traditional course, as the high water and deep snow was putting that in doubt until the week before the race.  The stream crossings were raging, but fun.  Postholing up to your waist at times on the Divide was a little less fun, but not much.  It's the stuff like this that makes this race special.

I'm so proud of Regina for coming from sea level to take on one of the toughest 50-milers for her first 50.  If the cutoffs weren't so tight, I'm sure she could have completed the course.  Congrats to so many of my friends who also raced this year, especially to Kristen for getting her first 50-miler and making it look easy.  Also thanks to all my friends out there on the course providing their support and my awesome crew and surprise pacer.  Thanks Robin and Kristel!

So I guess it is taper time for Hardrock.  Too bad, I don't taper.  Bring on summer in the Rockies!

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Land of Rocks and Roots

A great Memorial Weekend filled with family and friends in the North Maine Woods and lots of time on my favorite trail, the Hundred Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail.  On Saturday morning, Dad dropped Kristel and I off in Monson as we took the scenic route to Camp Pine (the family retreat).  Getting rained on most of the day did not dampen the fun one bit, even if it did make the rocks and roots even more challenging than they already are.  A solid push through the 30 miles from Highway 15 to the KI road still took us almost 12 hours.  We probably would have been even slower if we hadn't met up with Whisper at Chairback Gap.  The way she was moving proved that my big sister is more than ready for the San Juan Solstice 50 next month and we only kept up with her because we knew she had food in her car at the KI road crossing.

On Sunday, Kristel and I headed out for another 16 miles under some wonderful sunshine.  We continued up the AT for an out and back to the Carl Newhall lean-to and then added a loop around the incredible Gulf Hagas.  We met the first SOBO (South-bound thru-hiker) of the year.  A young guy from Texas starting his journey to Georgia.  Inspiring stuff!

Day 1:

Our starting line, the southern end of the HMW.

North Pond outlet.

Little Wilson Falls.

Big Wilson Stream.

Wilson Valley lean-to.

Long Pond Stream.

Barren Mountain


Some typical terrain in the Chairback-Barren Range.

A little sunshine on Fourth Mountain.
Third Mountain.
Chairback Mountain.

Day 2:

West Branch of the Pleasant River.

Gulf Hagas.

Screw Auger Falls.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cheyenne Mountain 50K

Races hurt! I don't care if it's a 5K, 50K, or 100-miler.  The Cheyenne Mountain 50K was actually my first time racing this distance.  So at least it was a PR.  Some pretty nice trails there in Cheyenne Mountain State Park, but it took a double figure eight course to come up with an ultra distance.  It's never easy to pass by the finish line multiple times before actually getting to stop.  Anyway, I did slip into the top 20 with a 5:33 but far from what I was hoping for.  At least I beat the future Leadman by over an hour.  I hate the term "training race".  I was there to race, not to train. However, on a day that I never really felt good, endured some good pain, and pushed through to the finish, I will chalk it up as a good training race.

I did make a fun weekend of it down in the Springs, getting out on the big mountain (Pikes Peak) the next day.  Kristel and I took on the Incline and then a pleasant, easy run up to Barr Camp in some fresh snow.  I think I have got her convinced to take on a Pikes Peak Marathon some day soon.  A beautiful morning on the mountain and an official start to my altitude training for a couple of fun races in the San Juans that will be here before I know it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rim to Rim to Rim

The classic double-crossing of the Grand Canyon is now checked off from my list of "runs to do".  Kristel and I welcomed the first full day of Spring taking off from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim on a crisp, cool morning.  After jogging along the crowded Rim Trail to the South Kaibab Trailhead, we made our descent to the Colorado River where the temps quickly hit 80 degrees.  After crossing the Colorado and eating lunch at Phantom Ranch, we made the long 14 mile climb to the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail, hardly seeing anyone all the way up.  It was hard to leave the cool air, beauty, and solitude of the North Rim, which was still closed to the public, but we eventually made our way back to the river before grinding our way back up to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail in the dark.  A total of 49.5 miles according to the trail maps.

Leaving the South Rim on South Kaibab

Colorado River coming into view

River crossing

A warm Phantom Ranch

Another water stop and trying to beat the heat

Views on North Kaibab Trail

The South Rim looks so far away with the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff in the distant

A cool and quiet North Kaibab Trailhead