Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Pine 2 Palm 100 Mile Race Report

One of the many gradual downhill gravel roads at mile 77 or so. That's where I found myself moving the to side of the road trying to throw up. I'm horrendously horrible at throwing up, but I was trying. My stomach had been uneasy for hours, and something needed to change. I'll try anything, so I bit an S-cap in half. Gagging, eyes watering, stomach probably too empty to throw anything up, I was spitting on gravel in southern Oregon, slurring together curse words.

Or maybe the aid station just a couple miles back from that failed puke spot. Where I sat icing my quads that were toasty to the touch, shivering, body undergoing a full blown shut down. Wyatt staring at me, hoping I can get up. 

But it was probably 200 yards from that aid station where the moment came--the moment which many ultrarunners look for-- the moment where you get the opportunity to see what you're made of. I had forgotten to take food with me from the aid station, even after sitting there for what felt like five minutes but Wyatt said it was more like 15 or 20. I was so cold even though it was 80something degrees outside. My body had been going through hot flashes for the past hour, and now my hands were on my knees, again. Head spinning, a moment of utter misery while Wyatt ran back to get me food. He had asked what I wanted and I'm pretty sure I muttered, "I don't care." He came back and I walked a few steps before I had to put my hands of my knees again. Then I said what I'd been thinking for the past hour and a half. 

"I don't see me finishing this Wyatt."

I was completely honest. I was dropping things, fumbling food, blurry eyed, and pretty sure going hypothermic. But you know what Wyatt said?


Hahahaha. Oh man. I can't remember how I responded but I think it was something like "I am a bitch!" I would have walked right back to the aid station and quit if Wyatt wasn't there. So no, I'm not made up of some far-flung tough-guy stuff. I just have a really good friend who didn't give up on me when I gave up on myself when I thought I was dying. 

Those were just the bad parts of the race. I'm writing them down so I don't forget how much they sucked. Up there was also mile 90 right outside of the aid station. Ten miles to go on a gravel road, 2am, and I couldn't move because my ass was chaffed so badly. My pin legs COULD run, but my ass wasn't having it. It wasn't pretty. It was comical and it sucked. Wyatt and I kind of gave up there even with three guys pretty close to us. We walked four miles rapping wrong lyrics to each other until we got passed. Then ran the rest in a glorious daze, both of us hurting. Wyatt had flown from Indiana, crewed me all day, then ran the last 35 with me. He was rocking best friend status before I picked him up at the Oakland airport Friday morning, but now...

Let's talk about the good parts of the "race!" I put race in quotations because I did not RACE this 100 mile endurance run. And it worked quite well for me. For one, 100 miles is really freaking far, so it's pretty foolish to focus on competition when the number one thing is to take care of yourself. Before I ran Bighorn 100 in mid June I was thinking of running Pine 2 Palm, but after Bighorn said nooo wayyy. I'd race a fast 50 mile or something instead in the fall. But once I started my job in the Bay Area I realized I didn't have the energy to train for a fast race. I'd rather just have an adventure. And buddy Jack Finn was running P2P and getting me stoked on it. So what the heck, I'll go run 100 miles. Oregon is sweet, I have no pressure on myself, AND Wyatt offered to fly in as he was aching for an adventure himself. So my former roomie and I had some good laughs catching up and driving to southern Oregon. We met some cool folks & barely made it to the start line on time. I joked that I was going to win the "most casual runner" award for this one. Never once did I focus on the other people around me, my position in the field, getting caught, or doing some catching! My goals for the day were to finish with enough time for Wyatt to catch his flight at 4pm out of SFO (so I couldn't run more than 26 hours), and to HAVE FUN! The latter required me to not care about positioning, and indeed made for a fun time. 

A good spot to sleep!

The first climb was huge. 5thou feet up, never really steep, but consistent and GAWGEOUS. I was somewhere in 30th place and It was fantastic. I possessed no ego. No "I got second place at hellgate, or second at PL, or whatever, I should be up there in front!" No, I knew from Bighorn that half the dudes up front are going to fade big time. I also knew that 100 miles is really far. Did I say that already? But the climb. Huge Doug-Firs in a recently burned area, fire retardant on the ground, single track. Mmmmm I was in love. The decent off the backside was steeper than the climb up the front, and I had to use my quads a bit more than my liking to brake frequently. Knowing none of the course, the next 13ish miles of downward trending gravel road was interesting which I banged out pretty quickly with nobody in sight in front or behind me. I basically ran the first 45 miles alone. 

Wait the race starts in five mins? Photo: Wyatt

On the road smoke started to become visible. A nearby 100,000 acre wild fire was causing a ton of smoke in the air, which made for some really eerie and entertaining light. I came into the mile 28 aid station happy and smiling. I was somehow 10 lbs underweight, which was definitely not true. I weighed in 15 lbs heavy than normal Friday evening--not something you want to see before you run a really long way. But, I would rather be overweight and undertrained than underweight and overtrained going into a 100. I undoubtedly gained some upper body muscle mass with my new job. I also undoubtedly gained a pound of fat the week before the race as I let myself indulge a little too much in lots of ice cream that was meant for after the race. Oops.

Hands full of goodness out of mile 28! Photo: Wyatt

The climb out of the mile 28 aid station was hot and smoky. I was moving well but slowly, which is A-OK for a 100 miler. I ate my homemade PB&J and hiked everything. You don't really ever want to move fast I think. Around mile 40 came a flat 2.2mile loop around a lake. I saw Wyatt before and after the little loop. A pleasant and quick 22 minute loop which included a pit-stop and a cool jump/dive in the lake, I was HAVING FUN! I locked eyes with Wyatt and gave him a big ol' smile. It's a good day.

Climb ~mile 30. Soft trails. Photo: Wyatt

Coming into the lake loop, mile 40. Photo: Wyatt

Soon I found myself at mile 50 a tad under 10 hours. That 50 miles had almost 14,000 feet of climb! What! (That's a lot). A little 2 mile out and back up to a peak to grab a pin flag, I saw about 10 people which was nice to see other runners. I exchanged encouragement, feeling good vibes. On the climb I felt fat and slow. Mostly fat. I sat in a chair for the first time all race at the bottom of the climb, iced my quads a little, and got back at it. Two dudes left the aid station right with me, and here came a big highlight of the race. Brian, Stroh, & I exchanged some great positive vibes and made good work on some slightly climbing road. We split up a little bit but would mesh back together. Stroh pulled away, really motoring and ended up with a spectacular finish, while Brian & I chatted about previous adventures while hiking & climbing. I was really chatty, a bit uncharacteristic. Having fun!

Mi 52. Pretty happy getting down some ultragen. Good hair day too. Photo: Wyatt

Getting up to 7,000ft and Dutchman Peak, I started to vibe. The high was mounting, crews were at the top of the peak, runners were descending, the sun began to set while pop songs blared from a speaker. I crested the mountain with a catchy unknown beat played through the speakers. I looked to the sunset and lifted my arms to a flying position, and briefly closed my eyes and felt the wind. Cloud nine. 
Pre-sunset from Dutchman Peak, Mile 65ish. Photo: Wyatt

Hungry, I started grabbing a bunch of food. It was past dinner time. Wyatt found somebody to drive my car to the finish and he could pace me the 35 miles in! Heck yes! We chatted and ran two miles downhill to where the car was parked and stopped to get night gear and clothing. Here came a pivotal mistake. I needed my PB&J and I forgot it. Realizing it a quarter mile out of the car, Wyatt asked if we wanted to go back for it. I said no. Dumb dumb dumb! Another mile or so down the trail I started to fade, out of fuel. We turned on our headlamps and almost instantly my high turned into rock bottom. We walked downhill on the PCT miserable. How things can change so quickly. Here came the low points previously written.

Real high, coming off Dutchman Peak. Photo: Wyatt

After the failed puke attempt, we settled into a 2 min jog/2 min walk routine, which turned into running all of the slight downhill. I started to bounce back after my initial sleep cycle weaned off. We started up the last big climb, and we got caught by a runner and his pacer. Wyatt was dying and I had a four miles out and back to a peak, so he waited for me while I ran with the runner and other pacer. Seeing a lot of dudes on the out and back made for lifted spirits and I chatted with the runner's pacer, probably too much for the runner's liking. I was joking, asking if he had any fizzy lifting drink from Willy Wonka to help me burp. 

Topped out of the climb, I ran the whole downhill, including the few slight ups, because, hey, all of the climbing is done. We still have 15 miles though. Don't think of that. A steep decent took Wyatt and I into the sleepy mile 90 aid, and the race was basically over. Although we still had almost 2 hours. Woof. The final four miles we ran hard, and I crossed the finish line a little after 3:30am. A happy occasion. 

I want to put some subjective grades on aspects of my race.

Pacing: B+: I did NOT go out too fast. I intentionally wore my heart rate monitor at the start, which I intended to wear for the first 28 but did for the first 42. I kept my HR mostly below 150, which is just a nice number that has a small amount of meaning behind it for me according to various HR algorithms. The pacing is not an A because when I felt really great at mile 60 I pushed too hard. A fine game btwn capitalizing on feel-good spots and pushing too hard when those spots arrive. The same thing happened to me at Bighorn where I got caught up passing folks in the 60-75 mile range and worked too hard. It is tough to learn that miles 80-100 matter a lot. I have much to learn in the 100 game. It is not my strong suit. I think I am too young to be really good at 100s. 

Legs/feet: B+: My legs felt pretty darn good, but my quads were toast early. I didn't put in any big miles for this race as I'm generally exhausted after dragging brush all day at work, so the late miles were certainly felt in the legs. My feet were good though after blisters formed and stayed on the tops of my pinky toes. I wore the same Solomon Sense Ultras I wore for the first 66 of Bighorn (that I wished I didn't change out of) for the whole time here at P2P. Injinji socks, which were my backup pair because my first pair were two lefts, as I had found out about 10 mins before the start while I was getting dressed in my car about a half mile from the start line. I developed an odd pain on the outside of my lower left shin that pulsed whenever I hiked after mile 60, but it was tolerable. I took three ibuprofen throughout the race: one around mile 50, one around mile 67, and one around mile 92. I took two tylenol or something while I was dazed out at the mile 74 aid station. I felt the ibuprofen pulsate through my legs instantly after taking it. That was weird. 


Stomach: B: I give it a B because I was able to eat every half hour almost throughout mile 70 or so. I ate a plethora of stuff, including gels, the whole time. The rating isn't higher because my stomach was uneasy from mile 65 on, like it didn't want to take anything else, understandably. Also my bowels were causing me to stop quite frequently in the first 50k of the race--something that's never happened to me in a race before. Imodium solved that problem eventually. The race was not overwhelmingly hot but definitely hot. I took electrolyte pills on a non-consistent basis. 

Mentality: A: So stoked on my approach to this race. No pressure on me. New trails, I was almost constantly engaged and present in what I was doing at the time. I focused on the process of the race and not the outcome. I was excited to run, unlike Bighorn where I wasn't feeling many emotions pre-race. I surprisingly only listened to music for maybe 2 of the 21.5 hours I spent running. I listened to music for about 12 hours at Bighorn. I was encouraging to my "competitors" and all around positive and happy for the other runners. The A is not an A+ because of my mega low point from ~mi 68-75, and that I was discouraged and felt fat on the climb around the half way point when I took my shirt off. Dumb. 

Overall: A: I accomplished my two goals for the race and really can't ask for too much more. Could I have run 20 hours if I didn't fade the last 25 miles? Yeah, but whatever. Starting work has made me realize that running is just running. It is a hobby. A hard hobby to keep when doing laborious work 8 hours a day. Running is not my job and there are thousands of better runners than me in the world. I do not seek to "go professional." I seek to better myself and I hope that I can continue to do so. That said, running is really hard with my job as an arborist. I'm making it a point for running to stay in my life, but it is not my life. I will not run another ultra in 2014. I will not run for 10 days. I have other things I want to do, like read. I am happy with a 100 mile PR on a tougher course than Bighorn--nicer trails and lots of road, but much more elevation change. 21:32:40 and 10th place. The top 10 is nice.

Beautiful & Smoky. Photo: Wyatt

Monday, August 18, 2014

Half-Year in Review

I'm way late getting on this, but after reading this midyear assessment article a month or so ago I thought, "yep assessing twice a year is such a great idea because we easily forget what happened 8, 10 months ago." Even though it's middle of August, I'm gonna stop at the end of June for sake of the "mid year" review. It's not going to be very long or revised due to time constraints (no longer a student to my dismay), and might be for my own purposes than the masses. You'll see a lot of the same positive adjectives.

Is it too cliche to say in every "review" article that it's been the best time period of my life? I suppose that is college. Unsure if I'll be able to say the same for the second half of the year, but really the first six months of 2014 were fabulous.

Cold as the ice queen this month! Started doing a few running workouts, which I had never really done before. Still remained in off-season mode, certainly not running a ton but still running for fun and getting out and moving. Started "Friday funday" which involved snow this month. Started last semester of school, noticeable changes there. Everyone being friends and just jolly moods everywhere. The ultra team and tri team started to mesh in a really fun way. Went camping one weekend in sub 15 degree temps--a first really cold weather camp for me. Great run that next morning trying to warm up with Dmack and Darren. Signed up for Bighorn 100.

Started logging consistent workouts, mostly on T/R/Sun. Started to see some drastic improvement in speed and 10k times only after a couple of weeks. Won Mt. Cheaha 50k in Alabama which I didn't taper for. Put zero pressure on myself for the race and it went super well. I think racing this close since a good down/rest period made me have plentiful endorphins and adrenaline to succeed here. Darren & I ran most of the race together quite quickly which showed us that we can run all 30whatever miles fast. The trip in general was just spectacular with good weather, good friends, and good running. Continued to camp a couple times this month. Skipped crewing Holiday Lake due to a cold (I think?).

The big miles started here, perhaps a little too early in the training block. I wanted a consistent high-mileage build for Bighorn, partly due to the fact that you have to run a lot to run a lot and partly because I had the extreme luxury of time. I previously had done a couple of months of high mileage for the Gstone that never was but now felt prepared to do it again and do it well. Continued to road/camp/party lifestyle. I picked up a part time job researching trees for a professor. A highlight was a wine party on Friday night that got a tad rowdy, then waking up at 8am, forcing Danny Luciani out of his bed, literally, and driving down to the Linville Gorge in NC. Weather was great, camping was great, the hiking/running was Type 2 fun, spectacular weekend. I remember being tired here and needed rest, but I went for the camp to keep racking up these east coast experiences while I could.

Ran Terrapin Mtn 50k and placed 2nd in a fast time, faster than I expected. Like Cheaha, Darren & I ran most of the race together. We did about 85% of this semesters training together. Unlike Cheaha, Darren was the one pushing me this whole race. I never felt bad, but I didn't have that extra boost that I had at Cheaha. Definitely because I had been running 90/95 mi/weeks the two beforehand and finished the Terrapin week at 100. No rest = less endorphins and adrenaline. We had a great crowd for Terrapin and it was a great event. That night after the race, the "adventure club" subset of UltraVT hiked up 2000' in our backyard hills on the AT and camped in a shelter with some beers. Cold but fantastic. Woke up and ran 10 miles which was pretty rough but we got it done. Again, great vibes this month.

The week after Terrapin Darren & I fastpacked some AT, putting in 15/30 mi days. Great fun staying active but not specifically running. I love fastpacking for this reason. It's not boring backpacking, but it's not concerned-with-time/HR/effort/etc running. Earlier in the month I did a solo short fastpack in NC Roan Highlands which was cold but fun to do that solo.

The month started with pacing Brett Sherfy at Umstead 100 and being uber inspired by him. The month continued with hitting multiple 100+ mi weeks, including 112 in there. I won a low-competition, hilly, road half marathon after running out of my mind and not really knowing what I was doing going out at 10k pace. That afternoon Glove, Mike Jones & I did a double and saw the sunset from a firetower. Special moment I'll remember. Stayed that weekend at Gloves. The travel continues. Went home the next weekend to see family. The following weekend was Promise Land, a favorite race, and raced hella fast, again with Darren. The vibes were totally on for PL. Looking back I think I adapted to the high mileage to the point that I wasn't as worn down as I was in March. Again, I didn't taper. Wasn't too disappointed at yet another second place finish.

The energy of May is always palpable, but this May was graduation month. Everyone was trying to squeeze in as much as possible, social-wise, so it was a great month of friends and parties that I'll always remember. One Saturday Mike Jones & I picked up a thru hiker and threw a party for him. On the running front, no May races, just really dialing in on the training and throwing down some really good Sunday day-after-long-run medium-distance tempos (usually 10 miles, thanks to Glove). My T/R workouts had faded a little bit, but Sunday was always there and Darren and I had been doubling most mornings. Late April/early May had a few memorable rainy easy morning runs that were oddly peacefully entertaining. Everything was meshing athletically and socially.

The vibes continued, but the golden age all came to a close in the middle of the month upon graduation. All the sudden BAM your daily life is gone. No more walking over to best-friend's houses on a Tuesday evening for a beer and movie, no more Saturday blackout parties or Wednesday bars, no more always being around everyone your age. I'll leave it at that as I could get a hella lot sentimental.

The end of May I found myself in Colorado with Darren & Glove.

June was the simplest month I've ever had in my post-high school life.  Living with D&G out of our cars or in Darren's backyard, our daily schedule was thus: eat, run, eat, read, nap, eat, read, run, eat, read, sleep. That is basically all we ever did. It was as fabulous as the Colorado mountains themselves. The training took a sharp turn obviously as dictated by the terrain, specifically when we spent the majority of our time in the unpopulated Sangre de Christo range. I strained my quad with 10 days of hard training left which really put a damper on my mind, but it eventually worked out. Life was simple, and we were living it. Put in a 28/35/28 mi long runs on consecutive weekends somewhere in there. I remember after running 28 up/down Pikes Peak, Darren and I ran a low 00:38 10k on a gravel path the next morning. That was wild.

Camped for a week and a half in the Bighorn Natl Forest by myself preparing for the race. Probably overkill, but it's fun to camp alone every once n awhile. The taper was hilarious as I had NOTHING to do in the forest besides read. One day it snowed and I spent 22/24 hours in my tent. I was sleeping around 12 hours a day, basically just napping all day long.

Ran an interesting Bighorn 100.

Crewed Glove at WS100 and spent some more time in California. The week inbtwn Bighorn & States was one of the greatest weeks. My best friend & roommate Wyatt Lowdermilk & I were just road tripping together, doing whatever we wanted spontaneously. Rodeo, saloon, ice cream, a makeshift game of pinecone bocci ball, accidentally running 12 miles instead of 6 after missing a turn in Tahoe National Forest, you name it. The week was abysmal for Bighorn recovery, sitting in a car most the time, but whatever.

Next Review will be at the end of December. Who knows what I'll be up to? Working for sure. I'm currently living in California working as an arborist. The transition is taking a bit of time to adjust to, but I'm getting there. I no longer have the will/time to put in 80+ mile weeks, and I'm currently ok with that. Having a new job is a fun new challenge in a totally different way and I honestly don't think about running when I'm at work. I'll probably write a blog on work/life/rest soon. I by no means have conquered distance running, but I'm such a newbie at the practical-arborist duties that the new challenge is more intriguing than running currently. The trails here are sweet. It is indeed TRAIL running, not mountain or technical running. 6/7 runs/week have been solo as I've yet to find folks my age, but the time will come, I'm attempting new things and trying to be patient with the transition phase. Cheers friends.

California Love

3 mis from my apt, Tam in the background

Play, not at work

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ebb and Flow

Oh how mindsets change so abruptly! After a bleak last blog post, I feel like I should glean something from my quick switch from not-excited-about-much to excited-about-everything. Changing scenery isn't always practical, but I'll take it when I can get it. What's the difference?

Mountaineering just means glad to be here
No climbing is required.
Simply from being in the mountains
It will arise spontaneously of itself,
For sheer joy in wild terrain.
      --Doug Robinson, 1970

Old man Grossman captures a gem

Vastness via Mike Jones

Some kinda party in Cheyenne, WY

School pals

Mt. Massive via Grossman

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Problem With Running Really Long

The problem with running really long is...not running long. The common knowledge of "post-race depression" is accepted but not talked about beyond mentions. The issue with ultrarunning, or any over the top activity, is that during the event we feel such strong feelings. Our blood pumps unlike in regular life. We're in ourselves and the community of the race; we don't have to deal with (insert real life issue) while we're running. So some of us just keep running. It's at least partially why the culture of over-racing exists in ultrarunning.

Early in my running career I quickly realized that real life just doesn't compare to ultrarunning. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday after a spring 50k aren't depressing, they're simply less rad than Saturday's race. How do you focus on identifying trees when you just spent all of your energy and smiles barreling down a mountain two days ago? I can't.

Even if a race isn't magical, if you don't achieve flow (read: Bighorn 100), you still experience feelings that aren't typical or normal. I don't want to cry on a daily basis. I don't have my best friends whispering, "you're ok Rudy" to me every time I wince. I don't need to pull out parts of me that I didn't know existed on a daily basis. I'm glad I don't do those things frequently, because they tear apart your endocrine system. I can't live my life as a skeleton, but I can't live my life without those feelings.

Recovering from a hundo is like recovering from hard drugs (from what I've seen from the movies at least). Somehow you're happy, but immediately upon finishing you start shaking, your head is screaming at you, and your body is literally throbbing. It is horrible. I felt it after Bighorn and saw Glove shivering on a cot and clenching his teeth at 5am after WS100. You fight it and wake up the next morning feeling better, but you can't do normal things. You feel stupid. Routine questions and decisions take time to process, and nothing really matters besides eating. A week later you feel like you can run and you can, but your hormones are still messed up. Daily life is a low-lying steady state of underwhelming existence. It's not bad, but it's not great either.

Of course I'm dramatizing a bit, but am I totally off? Maybe I'm just having a rougher recovery because it was my first hundo. Maybe I'm just freaking out because I start a job that I somehow feel unprepared for despite carrying a 3.87 and two degrees into it. I've gotten myself into this fantastic, crazy, addicting, loving world of ultrarunning, but I have to cope with it. Feelings of isolation during the months preceding a race?You bet, just talk to my man Henry Wakley about sacrifice. I have to cope with the not-awesomeness of not running long because I'm trying to be smart and take a long-term approach to this lifestyle. I think we as ultrarunners all have to cope and NOT sign up for another race immediately. What should we do instead? Besides eat, sleep, and be merry, of which we get our fill rather quickly, I'm not sure.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

2014 Bighorn 100

The sun is high in the sky; barely any white dots the blue landscape above. It’s 10:15am on Friday June 20th, 2014 and a whole bunch of nervous energy is sitting on a bridge, twenty yards away from the start line, jockeying for shade and a seat. Us runners can’t do anything but wait for forty-five more minutes. It still doesn’t feel like I’m about to run 100 miles. I just feel the sun and don’t know what’s about to happen in the next day. I’ve been ready for this moment for a while now. The aura is tense—“why can’t we just start running now?” everybody seems to ask. I sit near the bridge, oddly relaxed, like I should be more nervous, or excited, or something. Patrick McGlade and I exchange terse comments about the time and heat.

Waiting with good company! 

My miles. 0-30
I stop at the first stream crossing, dip my hat in, and splash water on my chest and neck. Stop, squat, dip, splash. Stop, squat, dip, splash. This routine defines the first chunk of the course; it’s so hot. How is it so hot? I’ve been camping in the Bighorn National Forest for the past nine days and basically haven’t taken a jacket off since I arrived. I’m overheated nonetheless. It’s no surprise that I see other runners lying down in the streams, looking like zombies. I’m a tad reassured to know that I’m not the only one feeling like we’re in Mexico.

Fifteen minutes in. That's a forced nervous smile. 

            The first few miles were easy but by no means slow. Three miles in and I was around 30th place. Is this a 50k? I thought these 100 milers were slow and jovial. Everyone is breathing laboriously. People pass me hiking up out of the canyon, which, by turning around, looks like we’re on another planet. I tuck behind Ford Smith, an 18-year old from Texas, and I attempt to find a groove hiking. My heart rate eventually slows. The field begins to thin. I share a couple of miles with Eli who also grew up in Ohio, but he takes off ahead of me too. I don’t feel great, but it’s mile five. I’m not worried, and I’ve recovered from the shell-shock of 30 people speeding from the start of the race.
            I run the next 25 miles alone. I bop into Dry Fork Aid Station and smoothly get new gels from my drop bag. They don’t taste good like they normally do. It has to be the heat. My stomach feels full of water but I can’t pee. Jog to the next aid station. The course is just gorgeous. Double track as far as the eye can see, we parallel a small creek. I arrive into Cow Camp Aid Station thoroughly hot. I respond to inquiries with “uhhh, I feel moderately okay.” It’s a lie, but I know that I may be able to trick myself by saying it out loud. I’ve been taking S-Caps and Tums to figure out my stomach. Nothing seems to work.

View from Dry Fork AS on a training run

            I move slowly. I’m alone. I’m annoyed with the slow pace. I should be 30 minutes ahead of where I am, not at the front but near. It feels like I’m in the middle. The time passes and I just try to keep moving. Today is not magical. No fireworks or genuine smiles. I curse the muddy, divot-y, trail. I get passed again. Do it anyway. I tell myself, stealing a line from Eric Grossman's blog. My dad and friends are here for me. I can’t stop now, but I definitely don’t want to keep going. It’s 18 miles to the turnaround once I hit Footbridge, and walking 18 miles sounds abhorrent. I need to sit and cool off. I haven’t eaten anything in three hours. What can I tell them? Obviously I’m not dropping, but there’s maybe a 5% chance that I finish this thing.
            This train of thought occurs as I’m walking down the ~2mi, 2000’ decent into Footbridge AS. I get passed. The first and second women come up by me, and that kind of gets me to jog. Historically, not many women break 24 hours. If I’m behind 24 hour pace already I’m done for. I did not come here to walk 100 miles in over 24 hours. I came here to run well and run competitively and run around 20 hours.
            I walk across the footbridge and up the little hill where my Dad shouts with excitement. They know I’m behind schedule…by 45 minutes only 30 miles into the race. I pour the rest of my water on me and hang my head. I can’t look at him. I’m a letdown. I should be up there. I’m not as tough as I thought I am. Fuck this. I want to go home.


            Immediately I sit and look like hell. My head is slightly spinning, and I can’t verbalize what’s wrong. A medical dude comes to me and asks if I’m ok. “Overtrained,” I respond. Maybe seven 100+ mile weeks was too much. I get doused with water and it feels heavenly. I complain to my crew, but they remain calm. Training partner and best friend Guy Love remains level headed. Obviously I planned to use my crew as a pit stop, in and out in a minute, but we need to adjust. Guy says my lethargic legs are from the taper and I’ll turn around soon. It’s still early. Roomie Wyatt Earp begins to dress to pace me to the turnaround, although that was not planned. (Due to Bighorn’s 11am start time, pacers are allowed from mile 30. While this rule is totally cheating in my opinion, it is legal, and there was no way I was going to run to mile 48 alone. I planned to pick up pacers are 50, but having Wyatt with me on the climb made continuing sound not-awful.) Once he’s ready, we leave, walking. A bad, bad, start to my first 100 miler and the race that I trained for since February.

Wyatt’s Miles 30-48
Now on the east side of the mountain, the terrain changes dramatically. We’re under trees and running next to a river. My mood changes with the change of scenery. I talk to Wyatt, haven’t really spoken to anyone in the last five hours. Having him makes me run steps here and there, and although I don’t feel good, I can run. We hit the first aid station in 45 mins and it felt like 10. Good sign. We pass a couple people.
            The terrain opens into massive grassy fields. We jaunt as I sip Coke and eventually listen to music. The sun switches sides of the mountain and the temperature begins to cool. The combination of company, coke, music, and cooler temperatures lifts my spirits. If only I had believed that the heat would pass I probably would have taken it easier in the first 30 and not been so mad and distraught. The first 30 miles in 100 don’t even matter.

Fields. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk

            The rest of the climb passed quickly. A couple laughs were exchanged, and things weren’t so bad after all. Topping out of the climb we started to see the dudes in front. I wasn’t really too far back. We must’ve climbed well. Seeing folks, especially Patrick who was in fourth and only 10 mins back, got me pumped. I told him it was going to be his night, and he was going to catch them. A heretofore-new sensation of pep sprang up in my legs, and I dodged the bogs and mud at the top of the course while Wyatt had to stop for el bano. Very near the aid station, I saw Rod Bien, a vey accomplished pro runner, looking pretty poorly. I’d catch him. I felt good, finally, and came into the aid station with cheers from crews. It took 48 miles, but this is fun.
            The AS went well. Efficient but not rushed…although I did leave my food bag. I had switched to all solid food. I took a baggie with potatoes and random gatherings (self-made trail mix of pickles and peanuts and nilla wafers ha!) and nibbled on that while running. I stomached the solid food, something I’d never done before in a race. Still, I wasn’t eating enough or consistently enough. Do it anyway.

Guy’s Miles (48-66)
Guy is clutch because he has a wealth of running knowledge and two 100s under his belt. We’ve spent probably around 500 trail hours together, and he knows me well. He knew my goal of sub-20 and knew I was more than capable of that; he wasn’t just going to jog with me to the next aid station. We were going to run. And indeed we ran. It felt good. We whipped out a portable speaker and started blaring some tunes. That coupled with seeing people climbing up to the turnaround, made the next 15 miles pass easily. Our headlamps turned on, and I strapped in for the long haul on darkness. Thunderstorms pop up in the distance, and rain makes for a small bit of drama. We pass maybe eight runners on this section. Things are going well. Guy reads a note from my mom and made some comments about how “you’re these rocks crushing this trail.” He leads a bit of the tricky decent into footbridge in some pink and green girl running shorts, which is hilarious. Guy keeps my spirits up and my legs came around on this section—he was so clutch.
            I started to get sleepy coming into Footbridge; close to 1am. In the aid station I change socks and shoes (socks were nice, wish I kept the shoes). Chrissy, who I really hadn’t run too much with, is set to pace me in to the finish. She’s visibly amped, raring to go, and we make good work in the aid station although I sit. I never pictured myself sitting in this race, but every time I saw crew I allowed myself a brief sit, which served as a small reset button to get me to the next aid station. I had no problem getting out of the chairs.

Chrissy’s Miles (66-95)
I stop running. Chrissy stops. “Turn off your headlamp.” We look up. Stars, milky way, lots of stars, beautiful stars. We pause like this for 30 seconds, then continue up the climb. A hard climb, we make it up well. I’m sleepy, listening to music, and hiking. The miles are starting to wear on me, but headlights are ahead. We catch one person, then another. Making purposeful passes intentionally. After the second or third pass I just want to get into a steady groove of a jog, but it seems like we’ve come upon a train of runners. I should just relax behind this next one, but we’re on him quickly. It’s uphill but I pass. “Good job!” he yells. I run hard for three minutes, but haven’t dropped him completely. He latches onto us for the next few miles, then takes of screaming on a downhill as he passes up. Bummer. That was a bad pass.
My body knows that it should be sleeping at this time, but Chrissy and I fight it. I’m able to take a gel. Every time I burp, Chrissy burps. It’s our form of communication as we don’t talk. Every time I grimace, which comes more and more frequently, she says, “You’re okay Rudy.”
Twilight comes slowly and we see a new person in front of us who keeps turning around. We play this game for a few miles. Dry Fork AS is in sight. I don’t want to pass this guy before the aid station, so we walk behind him for a couples miles into the aid station. It’s cold up here. I don’t want to go into the tent because I’m afraid it’ll be too comfy. I sit outside the tent. The sun isn’t up, but it’s light now. Daylight, finally. I realize how tired I am. The medical lady asks, “do you need anything from medical? That’s me.” I look at her, looking super motherly, and can only ask, “Can I get a hug?”

Early morning into Dry Fork, late miles

Chrissy and I walk the road out of the aid station. We learned that it’s 18 miles left, not 15 like I thought. Those three extra miles make my heart break. I have my jacket on, but I’m shivering with cold. I’m stiff, I can barely move. My lips are blue. My body says no. We walk slowly. We attempt at a downhill jog but I can barely go. “I just want to walk in.” Chrissy is internally worried and says “you didn’t come here to walk in Rudy, you trained too hard for that!”
We make it to an aid station. Five downhill miles in an hour and ten minutes. Ouch. The guy asks what I want to eat and doesn’t have any solid food that isn’t PB&J. I sadly accept a simple piece of bread. My hands are on my knees, and I feel my eyes welling up. We still have at least three hours. I just want to sit and wait till I get warm. Chrissy makes me move. Good Chrissy, thank God for this woman.
All downhill to go, Chrissy takes the lead and I’m chasing her down the decent. We’re flying and I look down at my watch. 12:30 pace. Downhill. NOT flying. We run through the aid station to get to mile 95. I’m close, but still so far away. It’s hot now, the sun is up and I’m melting like the wicked witch of the west.

Team miles (95-100)
The last five miles of the race are on a flat dirt road. Because of this, race directors allow infinite pacers. Wyatt and Lauren join Chrissy and I. They’re running ahead of me, and I’m gasping. Slow down, I have to tell them. Where is the pavement? Where is the pavement? I don’t look back but they do. We hit the pavement. For the first time all race I beam. I let out a pathetic yell of excitement. We did it! We cross into the park, I cross the finish line.

Two miles left. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk

That was utterly type 2 fun: no fun while doing it, but fun afterwards. I made so many mistakes. I’m glad it’s over. My next 100 will be MUCH better. I know it was dumb of me to make lofty goals for my first 100, but I WAS capable of top three at this race. Everything just went wrong. Which of course makes sense cause I was a complete 100 mile newbie. The distance is far and it demands respect. It demands patience. I did not expect a perfect race, but I did expect me to do much better. My crew carried me, and my pacers made me run. I would not have finished without them. I would have dropped at mile 30. I would have walked from mile 82. Dad, Glove, Wyatt, Chrissy, Lauren—THANK YOU.

I’m super stoked that Patrick finished second. He had a great race and is a great dude. Read his race reportBig things to come! Recovery-wise, my legs feel fine but I can tell I’m endocrine-ly messed up. I’m moody and tired but can’t sleep very well. So it goes. Now it’s time to crew Guy for a top-10 at states this weekend! Cheers. 

Worth it


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Initial Bighorn 100 Thoughts

(I'm not going to have internet for the next five or six days, so I thought I'd write something now although I'm only 24 hours removed from finishing my first 100 miler, the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Trail Run. Obviously, my body, mind, and thoughts are still scrambled eggs, so we're gonna go bullet points and save for the narrative and fancy writing later). 

  • I would not have finished without my crew and pacers. Number one. 
  • I was in shape to break 20 hours, yet almost nothing in my race went according to plan
  • The first 30 miles were 30 of my worst ever ran. First sidestitch came at mile 2. 
  • About 30 people went out extremely fast. I became quite overwhelmed (and overheated).
  • I was 45 mins behind schedule at mile 30. I walked most all of the 2000' decent into that aid station
  • I would have dropped at mile 30 if it wasn't for my crew. I gave myself a 5% chance of finishing there.
  • I would have walked in from mile 87 if it wasn't for Chrissy
  • I almost cried at mile 87
  • I usually eat gels and honey stingers. That only worked for 2.5 hrs. Switched to all solid food.
  • Ate waaaaaay less than planned
  • Ramen and broth are delicious, especially in the cold night
  • I'm so sick of PB&J
  • I ate more bacon in those 22 hours than I had in the past four years combined.
  • I ate shrimp at mile 95?
  • Making purposeful passes on uphill is a poor idea in open terrain
  • Bighorn National Forest is gorgeous with more wildflowers than I've ever seen
  • 100 miles is physically and moreso mentally stressful
  • I felt good for maybe 15 of the 100 miles
  • I felt okay, like I was able to keep going, for about 30 additional miles of the 100
  • I felt absolutely terrible for the remaining 55 miles
Alright, almost all of those bullet points are negative. The race, during, just was not very enjoyable! Still, some things were awesome:
  • Wildflowers, canyons, moose, scenery
  • Wyatt and I walking 15 miles together
  • Glove and I blaring tunes out of a portable speaker at mile 50
  • Chrissy and I turning headlamps off at 430 am and listening to the birds in the twilight 
  • Turning competitive around mile 60
  • My dad slapping me at mile 30
  • Patrick McGlade getting second place!
  • The fact that I ran through an entire night
  • All the people I knew who were cheering for me
  • Running relatively quickly the last five miles which take place on a dirt road
  • This: 
21:51, 7th place. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Week Before Bighorn

‘Twas the week before Bighorn,
all through the national forest,
no people were stirring,
save for Rudy alone.

At the turnaround he slept,
some ten hours a day,
while the snow melted,
praying, yes, please go away.

The moose active,
indeed he saw one on the course.
A majestic, powerful creature--
inkling of the magic alive on the route.

They say,
“you live your whole life in one day!”
Eagerness, ease,
Despair, angst.
Happiness, love,
Depression and hate.
All of the feels.

Pain and pain,
and pain and pain.
Hunger and blisters,
cramps and soreness.
The heat and cold,
sun and wind.
He kids no one—
it will not be perfect.
The highs are higher,
the lows are lower.

Mental fortitude,
smiling through it all.

So seven days to go,
taper in full effect.
The miles are logged,
the cup is full,
the hay in the barn.

The muscles twitch,
repair and rebuild.

The high mileage life has taken its toll.

Stronger than ever,
I’m ready to roll.

(There’s my attempt at poetry. Whatever to pass the time, sitting alone in the middle of nowhere. I took a creative writing class once. The first thing the teacher said in the poetry unit was, “poems that rhyme aren’t real poems.” I walk the line, perhaps.

The Bighorn National Forest is beautiful. Meadows show the vast expanses, while the pines still make it feel woodsy. I’m pretty sure the wildlife outnumber the humans here. I managed to run ten miles of the course yesterday and saw innumerable tracks. Mostly moose I believe. The course is super, save for the snow still present in small but deep patches. Other spots are quite wet and bog-like. I am at the turn around though, about 9,000ft, which is the highest point on the course, so everything should be more dry and warmer below. We’re quite north, basically in Montana. I did hit some super singletrack yesterday before I came to a large creek that I didn’t feel like fording so I turned around.

The next seven days are easy and simple. I basically just wait around. I move camp sites Sunday to mile 12 where I’ll be able to see one of the climbs on the course. Tuesday I move to the start line where Wyatt and Glove will meet me. Chrissy, Lauren, and my dad come Thursday, rounding out an all-star crew. I’m not only excited to run 100 miles, I’m excited to feel like a team. We’re all going to make this happen together. Wyatt, Glove, and Chrissy are set to pace. The last five miles are on a dirt road going into town for logistical ease. Everyone is allowed to pace and mule there. I’m visioning us running five wide on that road, breaking 20 hours, and breaking tape. I’ve never run past mile 66 before, so perhaps I’m a fool to set lofty goals. Yet I am fit physically and mentally. Whatever happens, I’m going to wisely destroy myself and tap into magic. And have the best time.)

ps. You can download the app “It’s Your Race” on your phone to receive live updates from the major aid stations, miles ~12, 30, 48, 66, 84, 100. The race starts at 11am MST.

pps. It's now Tuesday--the race is on Friday. I haven't had internet access until now. 


Some lakes, CO. 

Horn Peak, Sangre de Cristos. Favorite pic I've ever taken.

Music pass

Bighorn course! Mile 50ish

Creative showers

Dry Fork AS, mi 12.5 & 85. 

Just a taste