Bradley's View

Bradley's View

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Devil Mountain 50k Recap

      Pagosa Springs is a beautiful place.  From town looking north you see the awe-inspiring landscape that is so typical of Colorado, featuring beautiful and abrupt peaks and jagged or flowing ridges connecting one to the next.   The most prominent in the area is the town's namesake, Pagosa Peak, which rises about 5,000 ft above the town.  Looking south, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of quintessential South Carolina, with pines dotting the nearly flat countryside.  The Devil Mountain races were wedged nicely between two contrasting landscapes, and the course embraced the hilly terrain wholly, with no dramatically steep ascents or descents, but not much flat to speak for, either.

      The race had nearly ideal organization and atmosphere, and all proceeds from entry fees went directly to GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors), which is based in Pagosa and provides scholarships for individuals who hope to participate in NOLS courses and the likes.

       The morning of the race was great, temperatures were low (around 32, I think), but a fire at the start brought everyone together for warmth, laughing, and gabbing. 

       The following scenario may be a little TMI, and I'm sorry if it is, but I feel the need to share in hopes that it will never happen to you!  There was a long line for the provided Port-A-Johns (surprise, surprise!), and one poor soul was using his headlamp to navigate his (seemingly) private facility, and the dozen or so of us that were waiting in line were able to see his silhouette, which was very well defined...   I'll say no more, but I will advise you to turn off your headlamp upon entering a portable toilet!!

      Anywho, the race started without any big hullabaloo, and we all trotted down the gravel road for a couple of miles that would take us to the Chris Mountain Trail.  I stayed true to myself and my goals by letting people start at their own pace, something I've desperately needed to work on.  It was a nice mental test, watching 40 some odd people running ahead of me on the long road, but I passed with flying colors.  Then began to do some passing of other runners as the climb began.  I was delightfully surprised at how runnable the climb up Chris Mountain was, as the elevation profile made it seem a steep, direct ascent.

      I ran with a group of seven or eight folks during the descent from Chris Mountain to the aid station.  It was a beautiful grade for downhill running, and I knew that this in combination with having company was making me run a little faster than I had planned.  I reached the aid station a few strides ahead of the group, refilled one of my bottles and stopped to pee.  People whizzed (pee pun, ha) past me as I was off the side of the trail and when I stepped back on I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I could choose my speed and keep it as comfortable and smart as I wanted.  "Holding back, holding back...", was a blurb of advice given to me by a wise runner regarding how I should feel for the first half or two thirds of the race.  So that became my mantra for the next three miles of descending.  I was passed by 6 or 7 more people in this time period, and was forced to check myself repeatedly to ensure that I wasn't pounding my quads with the same tenacity that many of them were.

      Once that descent came to an end I knew I was entering my comfort zone, with a 3000 ft climb coming over the course of the next 6 or 7 miles.  The first couple of miles I hung with a couple of folks in particular, but then I was able to convince myself that my climbing abilities were capable of handling greater speed comfortably, so off I went.  I must've passed a dozen or more people over the next couple of miles, because I received word that there were now only about ten people ahead of me.

       I caught up with a fellow named Paul and altered my speed a bit, since he seemed a wise fellow and to be moving at a reasonable pace.  We took turns pulling each other the rest of the way up the hill and on through the third aid station.

      The descent from Horse Mountain (~9,900 ft) brought about a most unfortunate reunion with my arch-nemisis of old- the IT-Band!  An unshakable twing of pain in my left knee struck fear in my heart.  My muscles weren't tired, I felt hydrated and had been fueling well up to this point, but it continually beckoned me to walk far more than I wanted.

       The 50 miler was the race for which I was registered, but at about mile 20 I started thinking:  if this IT-Band pain heats up when I'm on the desolate 8 mile stretch on the way out, or the 8 mile stretch on the way back from the 50 mile turn around, its going to be a really long day.  I could do some damage that could put me out of running for a couple of weeks or more.  Whats more, Scott is coming out west next weekend and wants to do the Four Passes Loop at Maroon Bells, it could be my last chance before snow falls, I ought to save my legs.  Not to mention the first running of the Welcome, Winter 50k in two weeks...  Anyways, my logic won out against my ambition of the day, and I resolved to move myself to the 50k race at the next aid station.

      Sandi reeled me and Paul in a couple of miles out from the aid station.  I kept bouncing back and forth off Sandi's heels in between stretching my IT-Band and her straight kicking butt.  We arrived at the aid station shoulder to shoulder with another fellow, Dave, a few seconds behind us.  We were then informed that we were 1, 2, and 3 in the 50k race.  I thought, "well, what comes after the "holding back, holding back" part?  "Oh yeah, you go!"  So we all took off.  I later realized this to be my mistake for the day- I was due for some fuel, but got a little caught up in the idea of racing this thing out with Dave and Sandi and neglected that crucial component.  Sandi and I took turns leading for a couple of miles as we were not much short of flying down the descent from the aid station.

      As the trail popped out onto a gravel road it turned to an incline and my adrenaline wore off and I lost about a minute on the duo.  Our gravel road crossed another and began descending.  Looking down the road I was astonished to see they were out of sight.  So I took off, determined to reel them back in and I ran up the next hill and back down its other side and realized that, much to my dismay, there was no way they could still be that far ahead and that I hadn't been looking for the pink flags along the way...  So I backtracked about 4 or 5 minutes, still running hard, and asked a guy cutting firewood which way the other two runners had gone, and he told me he hadn't seen anyone.  Major bummer.  So I continued back a bit further and noticed some flagging off to my right and a trail sign, though there was no evident trail to speak for leading across the meadow, but flags were present.  I couldn't believe I had missed it!

      The next couple of miles went by pretty slowly, my energy was fading and I was getting hot.  The trail was beautiful, as it had been all day, so I relished in that and resolved that I had squandered too much time chasing dervishes down a dead end road to close the gap.  I settled into a comfortable pace to finish out the race.  

       After running gravel road a couple of miles the finish line was in clear view!  I had made it, my ITB pain had subsided, my muscles felt strong, my stomach had- wait, wait a second!!  About a tenth of a mile from the finish, I hurled.  I stood hunched for a minute or so and hurled a couple more times, laughed a little bit, didn't feel bad, and jogged my way to the finish line.  

      I was delighted to have come in 3rd out of 65, the best placing I've had in any race I've run thus far.  I was even more delighted (no offense, Dave!) that Sandi was able to pull out the overall win, finishing really strong, about 14 minutes ahead of me, and 10 minutes ahead of Dave.  You go girl!

      In summary, I got smarter and stronger yesterday.  I'm excited for my upcoming adventures.  The Devil Mountain Ultra races offer fantastic trail and community.  I would highly recommend any races that Morgan puts on to anyone, I'm glad to have been a part of it.

      Thanks for reading, once again!  There were people snapping pictures on the course, hopefully I'll be able to put some of those up on here before too long. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week In Review 9/17-9/22: Jonathan Seagull

   A couple of days ago I stumbled across a reference to an award-winning novella by Richard Bach, written in the early 1970's, titled Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  The piece is short, sweet, and saturated with wisdom; I'd recommend reading it.

   Its' arrival in my life could scarcely have been more timely.  My most recent "races" (or runs that I paid money for, since I wasn't racing, per say), have been... disappointing to say the least.  I'm yet to familiarize myself with the experience of running an ultra well, and I believe that would enhance both my enjoyment and performance.  I've received wonderful advice from wonderful athletes who have botched hundreds more races or runs than I, but who have also flirted with the elusive perfect day.

    One of the first ways in which ultrarunning was described to me was as a discipline.  Sure, its a sport, a game, a bit insane, but above all it is a discipline.  Thus, it takes time, dedication, passion, patience, and persistence to reach a new level and soar to new heights.  That brings me back to Jonathan Livingston Seagull: I know that I am strong and that I have trained reasonably well to make myself this way, but competing in races brings new challenges, with which I am not familiar and not always prepared to overcome.  This being said, in Saturday's race, when I falter from my patience and begin calculating splits, thinking about how much longer another 25 miles can feel, reflecting on the elevation profile and the climbs that lay ahead, I'll bring this quote to mind:

        "Don't believe what your eyes are telling you.  All they show is limitation. 
 Look with your understanding.  Find out what you already know
 and you will see the way to fly."

     During the race, if I find myself running at an unsustainable pace at an inopportune time, then I will have the following quote to help me remember that running my race on that day will impart upon me far more fulfillment than will busted quads and vomit down my shirt.

       "You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed.  And that isn't flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light.  Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn't have limits.  Perfect speed, my son, is being there."

      Anyways, this coming weekend, my objective will be to be smart, patient, and present.  It is foolhardy to convince myself that pausing to consume calories will save me time in the long run, because too few calories can slow me to a walk and eat up the clock.  Its naive to ride the assumption that running my tail off in the first half will put time in the "bank" and allow for a decent finish despite poor running in the second half; in actuality to run strong and consistently, despite not breeching 8 or 9 minute miles, will produce a far stronger finishing time.  

    Thanks for reading through, heres the week in review:

Monday 9/17-
        6 miles out and back on the Pine Creek Trail with Mel and Luna, 1:00, 400 ft

Tuesday 9/18-
        11 miles with Luke on the CT (from Clear Creek Res.), to the Pine Creek Trail, 2:05, 3,000 ft

Wednesday 9/19-
        3 miles with Luna to and from a fishing hole, 35 minutes powerhiking, 600 ft

Thursday 9/20-
       23 miles with Luna, 3 laps of the Highline-RockCreek loop at the Fish Hatch (Travis joined the last lap).  Lap 1- 1:20, Lap 2- 1:19, Lap 3- 1:22, 4:01, 4,000 ft.  I was really pumped about this workout, focused on my fueling by having a visit to the aid-stationwagon to start each loop, and felt strong the entire run.

Friday 9/21-

Saturday 9/22-

Sunday 9/23-
       8 miles with Luna on the CT south from Wurt's Ditch Rd, 1:20, 1,200 ft

       51 miles, 9 hours, 9,700 ft

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Run Rabbit Run Recap

      In the days leading up to the race, I felt as strong and confident as I've ever felt for an event.  I wasn't remotely anxious, as I've felt in the past, mostly due to the fact that I had no expectations for myself of running with or near the lead pack, I was just comfortable and excited with the opportunity to relax and have my day at my chosen pace.  The pre-race briefing was jovial yet serious as we discussed turns, crews, dropbags, and flagging(?!).

     The 1:00pm start time was a little bit funky; Mel, dad, Luna, and I enjoyed a short hike up to the dog park off the Spring Creek Trail during a morning of lounging after enjoying a hearty breakfast.   I got my goodies together, got a smile stuck to my face that would not easily be shaken, and headed to the Start/Finish at the base of Mt. Werner.  Then it began.

    Everyone started out with a light jog to begin the initial 5 mile/ 3,500 ft ascent of Mt Werner which utilized the mostly insanely steep and rugged ski slopes before switchbacking on some forest service roads at a more modest grade.  The climb to the top was leisurely, to say the least, conversation was plentiful, laughter echoed, and I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face.

     Once on top of the mountain we rolled along the Mountain View Trail for about 6 miles en route to the Long Lake Aid Station.  Unfortunately, about a half mile from the aid station I (along with innumerable other people) followed the wrong flags and began a premature descent of the Fish Creek Falls Trail.  After about a mile of this some other runners who suffered the same fate were running my direction and informed me of our folly.  We were disheartened but not defeated as we scampered back up to the aid station.  Once at the aid station, I felt far more rushed than I should have and elected not to rummage through my drop bag to replenish my gel supply and carried on after filling up my water bottles.  Another mile or so from the aid station I reached for my gel supply in my waistbelt where, much to my dismay, I was only carrying one gel!?  I scolded myself pretty heartily for this as my primary objective for the day was to take my time and never lose control of my nutrition.  To top things off, I had tainted half of my water supply by adding a Hammer Fizz to a bottle, which promptly aggravated my stomach upon consumption.

      After about 5 miles of descending on quite technical terrain I reached the base of Fish Creek Falls and knew I was in for an easy 3.5 mile cruise down the road to the aid station at the high school.  But wait?!  What's this?! there goes my lunch.  Another step... there it goes again!?  And again, and again!?

      I didn't begin to worry, though, thats all part of the game.  You throw up, feel better, then replenish the calories and fluids that you lost.  Oh wait, I botched up at the previous aid station and don't have any calories, nor do I have any fluids that don't make my stomach turn.  Shit.  Well, at least its all downhill.  So I began running.

      About ten feet later- BOOM!  Lost my breakfast, too.  My most sincere apologies to the mother and her two children that saw and heard my most unfortunate situation.  I began walking, figuring the stomach would quell itself.  Okay, we're good, lets run.  Five feet later- WHAMMY!.   Damn-y is more like it.  My slog down the road continued.  1, 2, 3, *yarf*  4, 7 people passed me.  The temperatures were quite warm and the road quite exposed, so I had no retreat from the heat and, still, nothing to settle my heat exhaustion.  I began walking at a brisk pace up a hill, my head began to spin, I lost my balance and last night's dinner.  I was feeling beyond defeated.  With a mile left to trudge to the aid station I would spew another handful of times before finally arriving.  Mel and dad greeted me, wondering how and why I had taken an extra two hours to descend than I should have.  They attempted to refuel me but my stomach lurched at everything.

     Mel and I eventually started the walk across town to the next aid station together but with my body completely void of any nutrition, I couldn't do it.  I found myself sitting down, hardly able to speak, hanging my head, and, ultimately, hanging my hat for the day.

     So I made it a whopping 22 miles (24 with the detour) into the day, without a bit of soreness in my legs to show for it.  I'm glad I didn't find reason to beat myself up about the outing though, I mean, one DNF may be a good thing, its just the nature of the beast.

     We returned to our lodge where my body expelled my innards again once I was in the shower.  Mel and dad treated my to ginger ale and saltines, and the trusty pedialyte to turn me around, just has they had in my childhood.  After a good nights sleep, I was rejuvenated and we went out for a run.  

     I would've loved to finish the race alongside the few and the proud (15/50 finished), but it was not my day.  Fortunately, not being injured or sore, I'm able to continue running as strong or stronger than before and will be smarter and more prepared for my next adventure.

     I want to say that I am incredibly grateful to everyone who made this effort possible through their love and support.  Most notably my lovely wife, who was there to crew, there through all the training, and ever-willing (how should I take this??) to drop me off in the wilderness somewhere so I could run back to civilization, if that's what we're calling Leadville...  Of course my dad who was there to crew, and my wonderful mother, though she left Colorado the day preceding the race saying "I just can't bear to stand around watching my loved ones suffer", certainly respectable.  The WNC Trailrunner crew for texts and posts of encouragement, the thousands of runners I've had the pleasure of befriending at City On A Hill this summer in Leadville, and of course Luna for being the most steadfast (and downright fast) training partner a guy could ask for.

     I also just registered for the Devil's Mountain 50 next weekend in Pagosa Springs!

Mel, me, and Dad at the startline

Me and Sandi, ready to roll.

A line of Tibetan Monks?  People waiting to summit Everest? No!
The first climb of the Run Rabbit Run 100.

Feeling crumby upon arriving at the high school

Dad, enjoying the day fishing while I was floundering.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Week In Review 9/3-9/9: Its Showtime!

     Well, here it is, the race is a mere two days away- my first 100 miler!  Excited, nervous, and ready, are three good ways to describe how I'm feeling right now.  I've had a super fun week with beautiful, easy runs, and culminating with a nice hike up Mt Elbert.  

      It has been such a treat to have my parents come from North Carolina to visit us here in Leadville.  Its been a truly fantastic experience, which has loaded me up with all the more appreciation for the slice of country in which I'm situated and the cozy towns that surround me.  

      Ma and Mel went horseback riding, while me, Dad, and Luna scooted up Elbert.  We then drove through the whimsical autumn colors up, up, up and over Independence Pass before nestling into camp in the Maroon Bells Wilderness.  We had the pleasure of seeing a mama bear and three cubs while we were in Aspen, too!  The next morning we coaxed ourselves out of our sleeping bags to go enjoy a cup of tea/coffee while witnessing the rising sun shining it's light on the Maroon Bells over Maroon Lake.  Once at the lake we were greeted by three moose!  The rest of the day was spent hopping around the Fryingpan River outside of Basalt, CO, trying to figure out where they kept the fish- but to no avail...  Our drive then took us north through Glenwood Springs as we looped our way back home, to Leadville. 

     Now the time is upon me to pack my drop bags, brief my crew, and figure out what I'm going to wear for the race.  I'd really rather not have to think about it, though, and just get out there and run!

     The race starts at 1:00 PM Colorado time, feel free to track my progress online here

Monday 9/3-
        Went mountain biking for the first time ever. It. Was. Awesome!  Will do it again before winter descends.

Tuesday 9/4-
         14 miles with Andy and Luna up the hills in the backyard(Ball Mtn photo at bottom), 2:20, 3,000 ft

Wednesday 9/5-

Thursday 9/6-
        9 miles with Sandi and Luna on the CDT (north) from Cottonwood Pass, 1:40, 2,000 ft

Friday 9/7-
        5 miles with Mel and Luna alongside Twin Lakes, :50, 600 ft

Saturday 9/8-

Sunday 9/9- 
       9 miles up and down Mt Elbert with dad and Luna, 3:15 ascent, 5:00 total, 4,000 ft

Totals: 37 miles, 9 hours 50 minutes, 9,600 ft

The ladies went horseback riding.

Me and dad on top of Elbert
Luna earned her snacks

Rocky Mountain high

A pair of moose cows on Maroon Lake

A bull as well.
Me, Mel, and my folks in front of the bells and Maroon Lake

Christmas card?

Luna enjoying the view

We fished the fryingpan

A hoppin' good time!

The view from the side of Ball Mountain (~12,300 ft)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week In Review 08/27- 09/02: Scouting And Dragon's Tails

    Familiarizing my feet with some of the Run Rabbit Run 100 course will prove invaluable in about 11 days time.  Steamboat is a really beautiful area.  This race is going to be pretty darn tough.  That is what a I learned on my trip to Steamboat Springs.  I brought my camera, but did not take any pictures- maybe I'll take some during the race... Not likely though...

    The Week In Review:

Monday 8/27-

Tuesday 8/28-
         Visited the Denver Aquarium, doesn't count as a workout, but it certainly exercised awesomeness!

Wednesday 8/29-
        AM- 18 miles up Buffalo Pass Rd, out on the CDT to Long Lake and back on Fish Creek Reservoir jeep road (all part of the 100 course), 3:20, 1,500 ft.   This run sucked, I made the slow rocky drive up Buff Pass only to realize I had a total of literally 8 ounces of water in the 5 different water bottles in my car, combine that with 18 miles and temperatures above 80 degrees, and you have yourself a longgg last 5 miles.  I guess feeling miserable was very practical practice for the upcoming race...
        PM- 10 miles up and down the Spring Creek Trail (both directions are part of the course), 1:30, 2,000 ft

Thursday 8/30- 
      5 miles out and back to Rabbit Ears Pass, 1:00, 800 ft

Friday 8/31- 
      7 miles up and down Mt Sherman with Luke, Luna, and Luna, 2:00, 3,300 ft

Saturday 9/01- 

Sunday 9/02-
      10 miles up the Boulders Trail and down Elk Run with Luna, 1:30, 1,800 ft

Totals:  51 miles, 9 hours 20 minutes, 9,400 ft

This is what it feels like when I run downhill, except I only have one strand of hair flowing behind me.

Which brings me to this...

This is what my "dragon tail" looks like to me....
This is what the untrained eye believes it is...
Either way, will the "hundred mile braid" become extinct after the race?
Only time (and possibly my wife) can tell