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I may not be fast but I’m motivated
Monday, 21 January 2013 17:03
Last Updated on Sunday, 31 March 2013 06:21
I decided to take a couple weeks off from blogging so I could wrap up writing the first draft of my book and after some solid days the last couple weekends I was finally able to submit my first draft for edits. My goal for this autobiography was to make a book that anyone could read and while it does contain running material this book is not just for runners. I tried to use the inspiration of others that I have come across during my adventure along with my story of running 923 straight for my dad to try and inspire others to get out and go after a goal. We often start a journey and things get in the way of finishing and while I was heading that direction with my book I finally had the right motivation to finish. Running is such a great distraction in life but sitting down in front of the keyboard may have helped me achieve my goals even more. It is nice to put your goals out there for others to read and even if they don’t care you’re holding yourself accountable to achieve them.
I have been trying to set new goals for my current running streak and while I don’t have a stop date I have been so inspired by what I saw at the trail running camp in November that it makes me not ever want to quit running. I saw the veterans from Team Red, White, and Blue out battling through so many obstacles that most people could never even imagine and it has made me want to run and run and run. During my last running streak I found myself rolling out of bed some mornings wondering how I was going to make it through another day running and I there was nothing holding me back from going out and run at least four miles while so many of the veterans we worked with were struggling from stress of returning to everyday life, some were amputees, and others were just looking for a way to regain the mental and physical spirit they had when they signed up for the service. What was my excuse for not wanting to get out of bed? That is exactly where I am right now and I have no excuses for ending my current streak of 120 days and I have no plans on doing so anytime soon because I have no excuses. I have said I would love to get faster, run a sub 3 hour marathon, set a new PR in the 50 and 100 mile run but if none of these happen this year or ever I will be okay because just like when I ran for my dad I know there are better reasons out there to run than for personal satisfaction. It’s great to accomplish goals like being fast but I would much rather raise awareness for a cause such as the National Blood Clot Alliance and Team Red, White, and Blue. Both of which I have extremely strong feelings for and when I finish a run I have much a much greater satisfaction that I helped people than I would have if I ran a fast time or won a race.
By no means am I saying it is not great to go fast and accomplish your personal goals because that is up to the individual; but I think it is important for me to have other goals. We would all love to have great paying sponsors and win races but at the end of the day I‘m happiest right where I’m at in my life. My job is great and they take care of me unlike any place I have ever been in my life and my family supports me whether I’m fast, slow, or just run every day to clear my mind. While most sponsors are not going to pick up a 36 year old average ultra-runner I’m lucky enough to be part of another team I believe in and that is the Wasatch Speedgoat team. This team does have some elite runners but the majority of the team is a group of tough ultra-runners who never say die when their out running. This motto fits my personality better than any running team I have ever come across because it takes a helluva lot for me to quit something I started. If you read this and say you just quit Pine to Palm 100, well that is the only time I’ve ever thrown in the towel while running and unfortunately medically I couldn’t proceed past mile 67 after being very ill for 25+ miles. This is a team that takes pride in finishing races and just like Team Red, White, and Blue we are a group if people that love to battle.
Since the start of the year I have really started to notice an increase in my endurance and drive for running. For the first couple months after day 923 I started to lose interest and found myself struggling to run each day but as time has gone along I find myself haunted by my DNF at Pine to Palm 100. It now drives me crazy not to finish my entire workout. This past Saturday I could have had an easy out since we were doing the 8 mile Bell pass challenge but my schedule had me down for 30 miles for the day. I’m working my way towards being a stronger runner for Miwok and in order to do so I know just how important my long training runs are to me. In order to run 30 miles on Saturday before 10am with a race at 7am I had to be a little creative with my schedule. We decided to start from my house at 5:15 and run to the trail and get in 9.5 miles before the start of the run. At 6:50 we would return to the trailhead and get ready for the 8 mile Bell Pass challenge. This is a 1700 foot vertical run in the first 4 miles with the majority of the gain in the fourth mile. We set this up as a staggered start with handicapped times so each runner will finish at approximately the same time. This gives runners something to shoot for as they make their way back to the parking lot in pursuit of the others. I can usually run up the hill in 39 minutes and the best runner can make it up in 34 so there is quite a bit of ground for me to make up on the way down the hill. This is one of those brutal challenges that will put most people on their couch for a long nap after finishing but I needed to run an additional 12.5 miles. We ran home from the trailhead getting another 5 miles and after taking a 10 minute break I decided it was time to go back out and do some pickups on the greenbelt before my wife left to go running. I wasn’t trying to break any speed records but I did want to run no slower than 7:15 a mile which was a good clip after 22.5 miles. I only had time for 5 miles so I came home and set the treadmill at 10 mph to finish up the last 2.5 miles. My out was after the Bell Pass challenge when our coach said that was good for mileage for the day but there was no way I wasn’t going to finish the 30 miles. I know in my mind that if I start ending workouts early that I will also start quitting races early and I’m going to do my best to never let it happen again. While I didn’t win the challenge I was a close second and ran it faster than I ever have in the past.
For anyone in the Phoenix area don’t forget about Grandpa Jim’s upcoming event for Sunshine Acres on February 18th. For more information be sure to check out his website at
Grandpa Jim's 50K
National Blood Clot Alliance
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Mogollon Monster 100 Preview
After a lot of prodding by Michael Duer and company I decided to forgo sleeping tonight so I could bring you a Mogollon Monster 100 preview. The first couple years of the race saw major carnage out on the course and last year the nasty storms on the rim wreaked havoc causing a shortened race. [caption id="attachment_7199" align="alignright" width="200"]
Sion heading up the rim at Washington Park[/caption]This year the weather looks to be perfect but I’m going to put it out there now that it will feel down right hot to those not from the southwest. Early summer races always favor those that get in extra heat training and mountain races tend to favor people that train at elevation but the Monster rewards those that are good in the heat, running on rocks, and experienced hikers. I know this is supposed to be a running race but with four major climbs on the course this race will be won by the person that can power hike the fastest. The course is slightly longer than past years due to some trail improvements by the boy scouts. Most of the addition is between the start and the first aid station. While the distance is a little longer you may find that it is faster because of trail conditions. The reroutes takes runners on “smooth” single track for 10.3 miles to the top of the rim. This climb was originally around 8.5 miles but again it takes about the same amount of time. For those that are hiking this section I would allow three hours to make it up the 2900 foot climb. Last weekend it took us three and a half hours to mark this section and we hiked almost the entire way up.
I know you’re here for a preview of the competitors but first I want to put a contest out there. Normally I would have people pick the winners but this year I want you to tell me how many finishers and as a tie breaker what the average finish time will be. For example, there will be 49 finishers and they will average 33:47. I don’t need to know the seconds unless you have OCD and feel it is necessary. Since I’m doing this contest on a whim I haven’t come up with a prize yet but I will make it worth your while to enter. We were just given a couple great prizes so start putting your times down. Everyone is eligible to win, not just runners. Forgive me, I’m not an evening person and it’s 8:30pm and I’m on a computer. I like to be in bed before its dark. After all I reiterate to our 7 year old daily that nothing good happens after dark. I hope she remembers that when she is a teenager. If you want to be eligible to win something you must enter your guess in the comments on this page, not Facebook.
For most races you can scroll down a list of runners and start naming off elite runners who could compete in the race but the Monster chews up and spits out elites and non-elites alike so making predictions is a little tougher.[caption id="attachment_6405" align="alignright" width="200"]
Brian Ricketts at Mogollon Monster 100 Photo by AP Photography[/caption] If you don’t like my predictions I apologize. Wait, no I don’t.
1. (1-2 odds) – Sion Lupowitz. Coming back after a storm shortened year in 2014 Sion is hands down the man to beat. While still relatively new to the ultra-scene Sion has proved he can compete with the best. He may not have a 100-mile finish under his belt but he does have some crazy fast 50-mile finishes on horrendous terrain. One thing for sure about Sion is he doesn’t quit. A storm cloud seems to follow over his head wherever he races but it never keeps him from finishing up front. I think Sion will become only the third person to collect the coveted sub-24 hour buckle on the Monster. He squeaks in a time of 23:58 and proposes to his girlfriend at the finish line. (CLEARLY JOKING BUT IF I GET THAT RIGHT I WANT A PRIZE)
2. (2-1 odds) – Jared Scott. While Jared has been relatively quiet in big ultras the last couple of years there is no diminishing this guy’s talent. The course doesn’t care how fast you can run, it cares how fast you can climb. Jared has not only competed in some of the biggest 100-milers over the last few years, he’s also dropped some incredible times on mountain courses. Reigning from Colorado the biggest issue for Jared will be the heat. If he can stay cool out on the course look for him to cross the finish line second in 24:32.
3. (Odds 10-1) Brad Botsch. Yes you read that right. This 23-year old stud climbs better than a bighorn sheep. Stop looking at ultrasignup results and pay attention to what I’m about to tell you. Last year Brad summited Echo Canyon at Camelback Mountain 12 times in less than 12 hours. I hear the naysayers saying I climbed Camelback when I was on vacation and it wasn’t that hard. You did it once! This mountain is 70% rock scrambling and the worst downhill in the state of Arizona. It takes the average person 1.5 to 2 hours to go up and down the mountain. He did it 12x in 12 hours. That is 14,000+ feet of vertical and decent. Coming back for his second year at the Monster I can tell you he will be on the podium with a time of 26:04.
4. (Odds 12-1) – Daniel Scarberry. I’m placing Daniel just out of the podium but don’t be surprised if he not only competes for a spot in the top three but gives the leaders a run for their money. There is no actual money so that is a dumb statement. Daniel is no stranger to terrible terrain so the Monster will favor his ability to overcome obstacles. He has been quiet so far in 2015 but has competed in some grueling races in the past couple years including Santa Barbara 50M (won in 8:27), HURT 100M (28:03) and killed it at Canyon De Chelly in 4:38. If he is feeling good he could easily knock one of the top three off the leader board but I see him finishing in 27:54.
5. (Odds 15-1) – Jeremy Bradford. Most years I would put Jeremy right up there to win the race but he has raced a ton in 2015 and I don’t seeing him pushing the pace. His race schedule in 2015 is harder than coming down the Donahue dungeon at mile 102 (you will all get to experience it). Jeremy isn’t one to shy away from hard races and this year he made up his own Grand Slam of ultra-running consisting of Leadville 100, Ouray 100, Western States, and now the Monster. If there is an ultra, you usually see this guy’s name on the starts list and in the top of the finishers list. Jeremy finishes just behind Daniel in 28:03.
Other runner to look out for this weekend:
Cody Bradford, Julio Palma, and Alex Kaine
This year’s women’s race promises to be a classic. I’m pretty sure they all know going into this race that only three women have ever finished this race. Last year Angela Shartel was well ahead of course record pace when he weather turned downright nasty and had to be called so the record stands at 32:04 by Rachel Ballard.[caption id="attachment_6410" align="alignright" width="300"]
Texas sweep at the finish line[/caption] With Saturday’s conditions looking damn near perfect I think this is the year for a high percentage of ladies to finish and also for the CR to fall. For the record I think the ladies will have a higher finishing rate than the men. This is one tough and talented group of runners.
1. (1-3 odds) Olga King. For those of you that don’t know this savvy veteran of the sport you will after Sunday morning. Olga doesn’t just run races to run them, she prepares meticulously and knows every detail about the course. Olga has been relatively quiet the last couple years while coming off injuries but prior to that she was dominating the field at big mountain races like Black Hills 100M (1st place), Massanutten, Bear, Hardrock 100, Bighorn, San Diego 100 (1st), Wasatch 100 and Western States to name a few. I know past stats are not indicative of racing in the present but hands down she is the best female runner in the field. This crazy Russian will be paced by the KGB at night so not even a mountain lion attack will stop her from finishing as first female in a time of 29:28. Did I mention that no one from the state of Texas that stayed with me prior to the race didn’t win and set a course record? That alone guarantees a win. (I just realized Brian Ricketts stayed with me and didn't win. Damn you Brian!)
2. (odds 5-1) Nadine Haluszczak. One of the best up and coming runners around. Nadine doesn’t shy away from tough courses and she is a fierce competitive. In her first 100-mile appearance she took the lead late and came home with the win at the 2015 San Diego 100M. Spending some time on the Mogollon course and being used to running on rocks puts her pushing for a top spot at this year’s race. I think Nadine will hold strong with Olga for the first half but will come up just short in the end. Nadine crosses the finishes line in 30:35.
3. (odds 6-1) Susan Kramer. I don’t know anyone quite as tough as Susie when it comes to ultras. We all know that most ultras runners get better after having a few years under their belt and Susie is no different. Some people shy away from tough courses and competition but Susie thrives on it. She finished second in San Diego 100 this year, won the McDowell Mountain 50M, landed 5th at Antelope Canyon 50M, 5th at Javelina Jundred, and in the last few weeks she competed at the Pike’s Peak Marathon and two weeks later ran the Run the Rut 50K with over 12,000 feet of vertical. I have her listed third but if Olga or Nadine struggle at all Susie will be right there to take home Sasquatch. Susie finishes in 31:05.
4. (odds 10-1) Susan Donnelly. How many ultras have you ran in your life? 10? 20? Maybe 30? Susan has ran over 200 ultras and landed in the top 1/3rd in all of them. I’m not talking about someone who runs flat 50K races. I'm talking about about a lady with more brutal ultra finishes than Dan Brendan. It is clear that Susan likes to compete in the big mountain races. She is a staple at races like Massanutten (5th), Kettle Moriane 100M, Double Top 100M, Superior Fall 100M, and the difficult Lavaredo ultra trail 118K in the Dolemites, Italy. This course plays well into her wheel house and she runs an incredible race and also finishes under the previous CR in a time of 32:00.
5. (odds 12-1) Kristel Liddle. Reigning from Colorado could be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing. Running the massive mountains in Colorado teaches you to handle the elevation and mountains but heat can be a factor for runners that come to Arizona. Kristel has shown she is a tremendous mountain runner competing at the highest level in races like Bryce 100M (6th), Quadrock 50M, Bear 100M (6th), Bighorn (17th), and Wasatch (15th). These are all similar courses in terrain to the Monster so look out if she is feeling good. Kristel finishes 5th in 32:31.
Well there you have it. Some predictions that are really meaningless when it comes down to things but fun none the less. I want to leave you with some bold predictions.
Michael Duer will try to survive off grapes and bacon bits but will realize at mile 56 that no one finishes this race without eating at least one doughnut and grilled cheese.
Mark Cosmas will start at the back of the pack, make his way to the front of the pack before calling it quits at mile 56 because Cade wants to watch U of A football. Good choice Mark, 109 miles isn't fun.
Faced with a serious case of snake PTSD Jenn Thompson will make it through the day without seeing any snakes, but she will come across two bears. They will look at her and realize she is bat shit crazy and the wrong human to mess with. They will immediately run away.
Alex Kaine will take the lead group out like Dave James does at every ultra but will be forced to take a three hour nap at Pinchot cabin. He will be revived by a quart of chocolate milk and somehow will finish under the time limit earning his second Monster buckle.
Tommy Lunetta will be late to the starting line despite staying with 5 other people that are racing, and staying just two minutes away.[caption id="attachment_5005" align="alignright" width="300"]
Is Tommy done yet?[/caption] Leaving Washington Park at mile 27 Tommy will take the highline back toward Geronimo for 2 miles before realizing he is supposed to go up the rim. Tommy will finish the race but not before my daughter asks 50 times if he is done yet. “Dad, remember that time at Zane Grey where we waited for Tommy in the rain for 5 hours. Did he even get a jacket for his finish time”?
Pompillio Romero will bring 10 mushrooms to Washington Park for us to take care of while he runs. Everyone will look at each other like he is nuts, but we will keep them in the U-Haul and remember that he forgot to take them when we return the truck.
One runner will turn right at the end of the Geronimo trail and will run through the 25 red ribbons on the bridge and end up at Washington Park. They will have no idea how they got there but everyone else will. They will yell at us for not marking the trail but when they go back they will realize even I would have sen that.
The men’s finishing rate will be 57% and the women’s finishers’ rate will be 80%.
15 people will have to ring the quitter’s bell at Washington Park at mile 56. Who will tap out first?
We will get cursed out by at least one person because we don’t have something that meets their dietary requirements. Bring your own protein shake mixes.
I will work 36 plus hours making grilled cheese that no one will eat. Okay, let me rephrase this statement. My wife will run the aid station and I will stand around trying to look important.
There will be four bear sightings and one mountain lion sighting although the mountain lion will be a hallucination by Ricky Haro and Liza Howard.
Everyone from the state of Texas will finish the race. If you don't finish you'll be a let down to your entire state. Everyone from Texas that has started this race has finished it.When you want to drop remember "don't be a pussy today!"
Twelve runners will finish from Arizona.
[caption id="attachment_7380" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
You will all look likethis at the finish line[/caption] Well there you have it. I have nothing else to say except I’m ready to go to bed. If you want to be eligible to win something you must enter your guess in the comments on this page, not Facebook.
Read the Full Story
Squaw Valley to Auburn is now complete
I went in thinking it was all about a buckle, and I left knowing it's all about enjoying the experience with family and friends.
Waiting for my nerves to kick up as we pulled into the parking lot of Olympic Village, but I found myself to be relaxed and confident. It was a calm, mild morning and while most people seemed to be anxious to start I stood with my crew and felt at ease. Runners and crews were hustling around taking care of last minute details but I stood stoic waiting for the gun to go off. There was nothing I could do at this point that was going to make or break my race so I just watched the clock tick down. Shuffling toward the middle of the crowd I found myself surrounded by members of Team RWB. Knowing my teammates were standing next to me about to embark on the same 100-mile journey allowed me to stay loose.
The energy of the field was electric as we made our way up the Escarpment. I knew working hard on the climb wasn’t going to pay dividends so I found a comfortable hiking pace. The bright ball of fire began to rise as I got closer to the top. One of the most amazing sites I have ever seen in a race. Being just a few miles into a long day there was no reason not to momentarily stop and catch the incredible sunrise. [caption id="attachment_7466" align="alignright" width="300"]
My crew and pacers[/caption]Winded and tired from the climb I was hesitant about taking off on the first long stretch of downhill. We were only at 8700 feet of elevation but my lungs felt like I was breathing through a straw. Not quite a wheezing sound but very labored. I was gasping for air at one of the most inopportune times. My race plan was completely dependent on making up time running hard downhill while conserving energy on the climbs. I was only seven miles into the race and my energy level just kept dropping. I wasn’t being passed by other runners but I found it hard to keep up with anyone running downhill. My body was working hard on the downhill even though I was keeping a smooth, steady pace. The pace should have been well within my comfort zone without elevating my heart rate but I couldn’t control it. I could feel it spike when I was running a 7:30 downhill mile. Just two weeks prior I was running 5:30 downhill at ease, and now I could barely muster the energy needed to run downhill without taking a break. While exercise induced asthma clearly affects me more at altitude I should have been fine dropping down the hill. Immediately thoughts of calling it a day started to pop into my head but I just kept repeating “don’t be a p**sy today”.
If I was going to have a good day I would need to run uncomfortable at times. Slowly my breathing improved and before I knew it I was entering Duncan Canyon aid station. This aid station is extremely difficult to get to, and requires a three hour drive from the start but it was packed with crew, volunteers, and friends. My enthusiasm increased as I saw friends and heard the cheers of the crowd. I was in and out with a quick change of gear and bottles and off I went to Robinson Flat. [caption id="attachment_7469" align="alignright" width="300"]
Climbing to the Escarpment[/caption] Flying out of the aid station I descended as hard as I could down the hill hoping to change my mental state until I reached the next climb. The three plus mile hike to Robinson Flat immediately began to take its toll on my body. Every step felt like I was lugging my pre running day’s body up the hill. Stumbling over tiny stones in the path reemphasized how little energy I had. It would have been difficult to slide a cheese slice underneath my feet as they were barely coming off the ground. I was tripping over every rock and struggling to navigate the hill. Barely able to catch my breath I found myself fading further and further behind runners I was just with moments earlier. Reaching the top of Robinson Flat had already taken its toll on me and I needed to sit and gather myself for a mental check. Everything was going according to plan except my inability to climb and acclimate to the altitude. My frustration was at an all time high since this is an area that I work on 4-5 times a week. Climbing up a 1000 foot hill should not have felt like it was my first day trying to run. For someone who lives just above sea level this was an incredibly tough start to the race for me. This 29-mile section is a constant grind with very little relief provided. Leaving the aid station left runners with a small climb to the peak and then there would be some opportunity to open up the legs. The wide road wound its way down to Miller’s defeat and then to Dusty Corners. Finally after 34 miles I felt strong and ready to run. The three miles prior to Dusty Corners were the easiest miles yet and clicking I was now passing runners left and right. Pumped up and excited to finally be coming down from elevation I felt reborn. I was in and out of Dusty Corners and making my way towards the canyons. The temperature was starting to rise but nothing that concerned this Phoenician. [caption id="attachment_7468" align="alignright" width="257"]
Trying to gather myself at Robinson Flat[/caption] From Last Chance to the bottom of Devils Thumb was one of the most beautiful 2.5 mile stretches of trail I have ever been on. Single track running through the shaded woods kept me cool and the long switchbacks made the trail easy to maneuver at a fast speed. At the bottom of Devil’s Thumb was our first reward of the day. Sliding off the trail just a couple hundred feet I jumped down the rock faces and made my way to the river. Without hesitation I dove in head first and within seconds I had forgotten how poor my race had been so far. Jumping back over to the trail I made my way to the largest climb of the day.
Looking at the treetops from the river bottom wasn’t exactly good for my psyche. I knew the climb was about a 1.5 miles but I was not expecting it to be a Euro style hill where it felt like we were going straight up the side of a cliff. The switchbacks are only spaced by a few hundred feet so there is little time to gain rhythm before getting a change of direction. The carnage was mounting as I made my way up the switchbacks and I was one of them. My breathing was now at an all time low as dust filled my lungs and my mind kept telling me I wasn’t making any progress. My mind was right as the first mile coming out of the canyon had taken me 36 minutes. That is an understandable time if you take a medical stop at an aid station but unacceptable when you’re actually hiking. I found myself faltering in the second mile as well. Taking a break every couple hundred feet to gather my breath only increased the pace at which my heart beat.
Finally reaching Devil’s Thumb after 69 minutes I knew it was a nice downhill to El Dorado Creek. My muscles were over exerted from the climb but my brain was telling me to try and go. I would start and stop. This pattern continued for about a mile until Karl Hoagland came up behind me and asked me why I was holding back. He flipped the switch in my head telling me to get moving and I began weaving in and out of runners for the next few miles making up for lost time. I hit the bottom of the second canyon in no time and knew there was only one large ascent left before I left the canyons.
Going on 10 hours of wet feet it was clear that I was starting to develop hot spots on the balls of my feet. Never having had more than a tiny blister in a race I shut my mind off to the idea that continuing with wet feet for another 14 hours could be problematic. With quick drying shoes and it being the heat of the day they were bound to begin to dry out. As I began my ascent to Michigan Bluff I was again hampered by poor breathing but now I was also dealing with foot issues. [caption id="attachment_7463" align="alignright" width="225"]
Heading out of Foresthill with revived energy[/caption]The last thing I wanted to do at this point was to remove my shoes and see what my feet looked like. Besides removing a pair of wet compression socks is more painful than running 100-miles. I tried to hunker down and change my stride but everything felt the same. At this point I could tell that my feet were already a disaster so the best thing I could do was to block it out until the finish. From Michigan Bluff to Foresthill was only seven miles and crew could meet me at Bath road about a mile and a half in front of the aid station to bring me into town. My mind switched to making it to the next aid station where I would be able to pick up Jeremy to start pacing me. I was dying to for someone to talk to as the field of runners was all pretty quiet and my ipod had died when I took a swim in the river a few hours earlier.
Leaving the single track trail we bounced out on to Bath Road where we were greeted by asphalt to run on. I was well behind the pace I wanted to run at this point but it was still daylight and I was shuffling along decently. The asphalt was a complete shock to my legs so I was forced to hike the long road. After several changes of direction in the road I began to feel extremely dizzy. I need to sit down immediately and try to remedy the situation. No sooner after my ass touched the ground did I feel like I had spent a long night drinking and I was ready to purge my body of sugary gels I had been consuming for 13 hours. My heart was racing and my body was preparing for the inevitable. I tried to speed up the process by sticking my fingers down my throat but my gag reflexes made it unsuccessful. Minutes later running down Bath road was Traci and my sister Jill. I knew I was about to get an ear full for sitting on the ground but I was sick. Not ready to get any lip service I put my head down on the asphalt only to have my nap interrupted every 2 seconds by passing cars asking if I was okay. [caption id="attachment_7465" align="alignright" width="300"]
Little encouragement to get moving[/caption]No sooner did they arrive that another car stopped and without hesitation Traci said “he’s fine”. I could hear the annoyance in her voice. What happened to that nice girl that I married 13 year ago? A couple seconds went by and then she said “just throw up and get moving. You can’t just lay here in the middle of the road”. I had just thrown up and wasn’t ready to move and then she said “if you go another 100 yards there is phone service and you can face time Petra”. Not having seen my daughter in over two weeks as she was at sleep away camp was enough encouragement to get me up and moving. Running still wasn’t happening but I was walking faster than I had in hours. Seeing that little girls face on the phone lit a fire under me and hearing her tell me how she was following the race had me pumped up.
I grabbed Jeremy at Foresthill and we made our way to the best section of the course yet. Foresthill to the American River is mostly rolling downhill and very runnable. I was an hour and a half off 24-hour pace leaving Foresthill and knew if I was going to have a shot at that silver buckle this was my opportunity. Ever so slightly pushing the pace on the easy terrain sub-24 was coming back into the picture. We were now walking just over a 13 minute mile and running around a 10-minute pace. When we were walking the runners in front of us weren’t making up any ground on us so we continued this was all the way to the river. We began picking off more runners than had passed me in the previous 6 hours I was back and feeling great.
Hitting the river we slipped on our life jackets and grabbed a hold of the rope to cross the river. The cold rush of the water felt great against my tired legs. I dunked my body down into the water a couple times to stay cooled off as we crossed. Just across the American River is the 1.25 mile climb up to Green Gate. My hands never left my quads and we pushed the pace passing 5 more runners on the way up to the aid station. I was beat down but I was starting to believe that sub-24 was still well within reach.
At Green Gate I picked up my brother in-law Kevin Conte and right out of the shoot he had me running. My watch was now dead and I couldn’t tell the pace but he was clearly watching our pace closely on his Garmin. He said we needed to run anything downhill or flat and would hike anything higher than his head.[caption id="attachment_7464" align="alignright" width="225"]
The final 100 meters[/caption] Luckily he is not a tall guy or I would have collapsed much earlier. Reaching Auburn Lakes aid station (mile 85.5) we were now within minutes of sub-24 pace. In and out we went and then it hit me. I began to lose my balance and the narrow single track felt tighter and tighter. My feet continually kicked each side of the trail from my blurred vision. Several hours with only a headlamp and sleep deprivation do some funny things to the mind. I was completely out of energy and my feet were absolutely wrecked. Twenty hours of wet feet had now given me a serious case of swamp feet. There was absolutely no point in changing my socks and shoes now with no more rivers to cross but the hot spots were growing in size. Not able to run at all we were forced to walk all the way from Auburn Trails aid station to Brown’s Bar (mile 89.9). My feet were done, I had zero energy, and even though I could smell the barn door I couldn’t will myself to move any faster. By mile 91 going sub-24 was officially gone. I would need to run 11 minute miles all the way to the finish and it simply wasn’t in the cards.
Kevin and Jeremy flipped out pacing duties at mile 93 but any hope of sub-24 had gone away. Kevin pushed me as hard as he could but my body wasn’t cooperating. Jeremy and I left Highway 49 (mile 93.5) just after 4 o’clock and even with beautiful downhill single track through the meadow I couldn’t run. [caption id="attachment_7467" align="alignright" width="225"]
Finally done[/caption]The sun was rising in the distance and as much as I wanted to run faster my breathing kept shutting it down. Even with the addition of my inhaler my breathing was far too labored to pick up the pace. The dry, dusty air had filled my lungs for the last 24 hours and there was nothing left to do but hold on.
Shuffling down to Swinging Bridge (mile 96.5) we quickly grabbed some aid and began the final ascent to Robie Point. While California may be short on water, their surely not short on gorgeous trail. The climb up to Auburn is a thing of beauty. This is a perfectly groomed trail ascending into the town with the river gushing down below. Just before hitting the asphalt we bumped into Scott Bajer from Flagstaff, AZ and we decided we would take the rest of the race in together. Both of our crews met us at Robie Point and within seconds they had us running through the town and toward the track. We made the final left turn and as soon as my legs hit the track I was overcome with emotion. I had finally done it. I set out to run Western States 100 five years ago and today I crossed the finish line. Scott and I ran across the line together in 25:21. While we were both looking to run sub-24 it didn’t matter. Running a sub-24 would have been great but some days it’s not in the cards. It would have been easier to give up when sub-24 went out the window but my crew and pacers pushed me until I crossed the finish line. This race was a complete team effort and that is what makes this sport so great. Think about how great it is to have friends and family that have stood around for 25 hours helping you accomplish a goal. Huge thank you to them as this goal does not happen without them. For those wondering my feet are shredded like a fine cheese. This is the first time I have ever had something like this happen but 25 hours of wet feet are bound to do damage.
If you would like to watch the finish video click here:
Scott Bajer 86Jay Danek 160Posted by
Western States Endurance Run
on Sunday, June 28, 2015
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Trail Running Camp 2014
[caption id="attachment_7125" align="alignright" width="300"]
Camp Nueces[/caption] I’m often looking for something to write about involving running but lately there hasn’t been much to report. Even though I’m still running every day I have completely lost interest in racing for the remainder of the year. My interest in running has turned to helping others. While I’m not a coach and have no training in coaching I’m interested in putting together information to make others better runners. One of the ways I have been able to help others is through Yes, I laid down in the middle of the desert in the dark. While I was laying down it quickly reminded me of Zane Grey 2011 but seconds later I started to think about how running has changed me over the last five years. I was immediately taken back to how running took me from a deep depression over the loss of my dad to finding a way to cope with his loss. With trail running camp just a couple weeks away I'm excited to share my journey of running with this years participants but I'm more eager to hear about their experiences and learn from them.
A few years back I was selected as a volunteer for the inaugural
Team RWB Trail Running Camp
in Rocksprings, Texas. It was an honor to be selected to mentor veterans in trail running skills but more than anything it was an opportunity for me to sit and talk one on one with individuals who were looking at running as an outlet. Some of the veterans were experienced runners and others had never ran a day in their life but they were all there to learn. The camp is split up in different groups depending on past experience and broken down at a ratio of 1 mentor for every 5 participants. The mentors are made up of elite ultra-runners, nutritionists, and members of the trail running community that have used athletics as a way to connect with others in ways they previously didn't know were possible. How many of you use athletics solely for personal performance? I would bet this is a very small percentage of people and the majority actually use athletics as an outlet for the stresses of everyday life and also as a way to interact with others. Look around at your friends today and ask yourself how many of them would you have met if you never started running? [caption id="attachment_5526" align="alignright" width="199"]
Eric Browy crushing the obstacle course[/caption]I would bet a large percentage of you would say very few. I’m not saying running is about gaining friends but it is about gaining a community to help support you.
I remember the first time I lined up at an ultra-race and I looked around sizing up my competition wondering how I would fair. Now I line up at a race and look around to see how many people I know. While it’s still a relatively small community in terms of people, it is a large community when I think about it's strength. It’s made up of people from all different backgrounds and ways of life but the bottom line is we all found a sport that brings us together. I mean who would seriously thinks about lining up for 100-mile races if they don’t like the people they’re around. You know you’re going to be out there for 15-36 hours so you learn to trust your peers. Your peers become your friends; and then they become your good friends. Can you remember how quickly that happened to you when you started running? Remember when you first showed up to run and you didn't know anybody? I bet you were intimidated and nervous but by the time you finished the first few miles you felt like you were part of the group. The nerves vanished, you let down your guard and opened up to a group of people you never knew. For some anxiety is an issue when it comes to large groups and others fear leaving their house to do simple tasks but running groups help individuals bridge these gaps. Getting together to run has a way of breaking down these barriers and provides us with outlets we never thought were possible in life.
Why do I bring all of this up? I want you to think back to the day you started running and remember what a positive impact it had on your life. Take a second to remember how the simple act of running can change the way you see yourself. Running isn't a vanity sport where the best looking and most popular people succeed. Runners succeed by surrounding themselves with people who provide a positive impact on their life. There is not one person in this world who can’t benefit from positive people. Negativity is all around us and sometimes we struggle to escape it but when you lace up your shoes it all goes away. Even a bad run will help you forget about life’s daily stresses. Remember how great it felt when you found an outlet and a whole new group of friends? As a mentor for Team RWB trail running camp that is the feeling I want to bring to every single person that walks through the gate at camp Nueces in two weeks. I know there are tons of you out there who would love to help our active military and veterans out but don’t know how. I urge you to take a look at
and read about all the great things this organization has done over the last few years to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. You don't need to be a veteran or active duty to sign up, this is an organization for both civilians and our military.
Most of us will never understand what it is like to return from deployment only to find your life completely different than when you left 15 months prior. Your kids have grown up, started talking, walking, started school and life has gone on while you were gone. Now you’re back home and trying to fit into everyday life but you’re not sure where you belong. As the days go by and life continues you’re reminded of the last 15-months. What you saw, what you heard and how there was only time to live in the moment. Letting your guard down for five seconds could have been fatal to you or your team. There was no time to rest and think about your life but now your home and it seems like there is nothing but time to think. Thinking about the time you missed with your family and feeling like no one understands what you’ve been through. This is why Team RWB has been so instrumental for so many. This small organization that had 3000 members in 2010 is now 55,000+ strong. Team RWB is made up of veterans, active duty, and civilians and as they say you would never know who is who. This is a team and it is the team members that give each other strength.Their goal is to focus on creating connections between citizens and servicemen and women with invisible wounds.
trail running camp
put on by Team RWB is just one of many activities they offer to help reintegrate veterans but this camp is a special place. I have seen first-hand the power of this camp. Both years that I have mentored I have experienced so many eye opening experiences. On the first night of camp veterans check in and we take them out for night run to get to know the group. As you can imagine morale is a little low in the first few moments since they are a little nervous about what they will be tackling over the weekend. [caption id="attachment_5527" align="alignright" width="300"]
Group running heading out for some speedwork[/caption] Most of them have not ran since being on active duty and very few had ever run a trail so our job is to earn their trust and show them just how much they’re capable of. The first year of camp as we headed out for the night run with our headlamps lighting up the night sky you could feel the anxiety of several of the participants. How far were we going to go? Would they be able to keep up? Our objective is not to make ultra-runners out of them but instead show them that anyone can learn to run. That evening our large group we made our way up the trails and gathered at the highest point in the camp. There were a few asking how far we've gone but most had just began to smile. The anxiety of running at night and on rocky terrain was going away and a funny thing happened. They began to trust us as mentors. The silence of the group turned to laughter and excitement as they realized they just ran 4 miles. Some of these people had never ran before in their life and now they just completed 4 miles. This was an active group that had lost some confidence or had suffered some setbacks over the past few years but the moment they walked through the Camp Eagle gates it was clear nothing was going to hold them back.
The camp is set up like a summer camp that you attended as a child where everyone stays in dorms and eats all their meals together in the mess hall. The first day participants look for friends they already know but after a couple runs everyone is intermingled. During the day the camp is broke up into different groups and participants learn trail running techniques, nutrition,hydration, first aid, and listen to talks on everything from depression to running 100 miles. By the second morning this group of strangers has started to form tight bonds and conversations change from running form to personal stories. Within a matter of hours these strangers have found the same thing we found in the running community. A bond, a friendship for life and someone they can confide in. They no longer feel alone and they stop thinking no one knows what they’re going through. They know this is a place to share and talk about their feelings but it is also a chance to learn to use running to control their emotions. The group dynamic is incredible and by day three you would think these individuals have been friends their whole lives.
[caption id="attachment_5517" align="alignright" width="300"]
An amazing group of people[/caption]Each year at camp I'm reminded how great it is to have someone to talk to that understands. One of my new friends at camp pulled me aside after hearing me talk during a seminar and told me he knew exactly how it felt to feel lost. When he was deployed for active duty not only was he going to be away from home for 18 months he also found out his dad received a lung cancer diagnosis and was getting worse by the day. With his upcoming deployment his family life started becoming more stressful. He spoke about how hard it is on a soldier to leave for active duty and the stress it can put on the family is more than anyone could ever realize. There is the fear of going away but there is also the fear of missing out on life. he told me not only would he worry about being away for 18 months he would also worry about how he would fit back in when he returned.
Shortly after learning of his father’s cancer diagnosis he was hit with more unfortunate news. His wife had decided that him being away was too much for her and within months he would not only be suffering through the loss of his father but also a divorce. He had lost his father at a young age just like I did but he would be far from home and would have to deal emotionally without family around him. Just as I had tried so many times to talk to counselors, friends, and family he was also realizing it was tough to get past the anger. The anger that goes with loss of a loved one is one of the toughest things to get through in life but just like me he had decided after some time that he must move forward and make a change. My change was prompted by my wife Traci and his change was brought on by dreaming big. As of today we’re both in better places and within moments we were sharing a hug after exchanging our stories. I’ve always been a very emotional person and for him to pull me aside and say my story touched him really made me remember why I run. I didn’t start running because I wanted to win races or become a fast runner, I started running for therapy. Running is still my therapy and just like my new friend I remembered how important it is to find something you enjoy and enjoy every moment of it. I couldn't have been happier than to share some time with him during our run.
[caption id="attachment_7002" align="alignright" width="300"]
Just something magical about the eagle.[/caption] Each year I'm ecstatic to be part of this camp and talk to our countries real heroes. I wish we could bring everyone that ever wanted to learn to trail run but unfortunately there is only funding for 60 veterans each year for the camp. With that being said I want you to take a minute and consider helping us send more veteran’s to camp this year. We have had some civilian cancellations and have room for additional participants that we would love to fill with veterans. You can donate as little as $5 and you can rest assured that no matter how much you donate 100% will go to bring another veteran to camp. Your donation pays for plane tickets, housing, food, transportation, and for this nonprofit camp. The camp is centered around Veteran’s Day but this year it will be the weekend following Veteran’s Day. Since it is only two weeks away we do need to act quickly if we’re going to be able to invite a couple more people. I hope you can see the value in this camp as much as we do so if you have a little you can donate please
. I If you just want to sign up to be part of Team RWB we would love to have you join for free at Team RWB.
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Western States jealousy
I haven’t sat down to write a blog since I finished
the first week of May. I have been thinking about getting back into writing and possibly starting a second book but not really sure I have the time. If there was ever a week that I had time to blog and come up with some book ideas it would have been this week with Petra away at camp. I have been throwing out a few ideas for books with friends but I haven’t found anything that has stuck as a great idea. I’m always open to ideas if someone wants to throw something out.
Normally I can just sit down at a computer and start writing about my latest epic failure while racing or something exciting going on. Unfortunately today I have nothing except my continued jealousy for those that get to run
Western States 100
and a short story on staying positive.
I have pretty much all but sworn off 100 milers at this point except for this race. While I enjoy getting out there and competing it has become clear that I struggle like most at the 100-mile distance. My last two 100-mile races both ended just north of 100K and I have done fairly well recently at 100K so I have adopted that as my preferred distance. Clearly there is nothing easy about the 100K or 100-mile but I do enjoy being able to go home and go to sleep at night. I guess if I was faster I would get to bed sooner but I still prefer to keep my runs between 10-12 hours.
When I started running ultras I became a little obsessed with running Western States. I just figured it would take me a year or two maximum to get drawn but now I’m 0-3 and starring down the lottery again this December. For most runners the Boston Marathon or a similar race is the pinnacle but for me it is Western States. Maybe it’s the electricity around the event or maybe it’s just that I think the course sets up well for me but it’s a race I must do. Of course a silver cougar belt buckle would be nice too but that is not what it is about for me. I want to feed off the energy that surrounds the event and find myself running a race that every one of my workouts is geared around. Earlier this year when I didn’t get drawn I said I was going to center my training around this race for the next year and a half and for the first six-months of 2014 I haven’t strayed from it. My daily routine consists of waking up at the crack of dawn, strapping on a headlight and navigating up unforgiving hills. Each morning I think I will be a little stronger than the day prior but running at a 30-40% grade rarely gets any easier. Even when I wake up feeling poor I still seek out the hardest routes to try and toughen myself up mentally. This is the one area that I have improved the most in over the past few years. I used to be broke mentally during racing and now I’m enjoying the experience of being out there.
Coming off Miwok 100K and starring down a marathon three weeks later I wasn’t sure if I wanted to switch up my routine or stick with the daily grind in the mountains. I chose to forgo track workouts and road training and just run the race. As my goal has been the last few marathons I wanted to break 3 hours but once again I came up just short. Even though I came up short I still had a PR in the marathon but for the first time ever I didn’t want to jump in front of a bus at mile 22. My end miles gradually got slower but it wasn’t because I mentally gave up; it was because I gave that race everything I had up until that point and ran out of steam. My mind never went south and I stayed positive the whole way but I still have some work to do to get under 3 hours. I keep telling myself that I may have to face the fact that I’m a 3:02 marathoner but there is still part of me that thinks I will go out and nail one of these races and then I can walk away into the sunset. I would love to run the perfect race and hit my time goal but as I told my brother-in law last week there is much more important things in life. Goals are fun and great to hit but it’s not the end of the world if you come up short. One nice part about coming up short is it constantly gives you something to strive for. All I have to do is keep pecking away at my time and eventually I will get there.
I wanted to share a story about how hard work does payoff for those that put in the effort. While I am biased because she is my wife I am still amazed at what she did at the
Mountain 2 Beach marathon
. Traci started running shortly after I did five years ago and has had the misfortune of suffering through several foot and other injuries along the way. Her goal from the day she started running was to get into the Boston Marathon. Obviously this goal differs quite a bit from mine but I have always encouraged her to go for it. For the longest time I don’t think she was convinced that she could run a qualifying time but her friends encouraged her to keep pushing forward. [caption id="attachment_6460" align="alignright" width="300"]
Trail running camp where dreams become reality[/caption]She had good days, she had horrible days and the same went for her races. I could see the disappointment in her face when she would finish a race because of how hard she was working but the truth was she was struggling because injuries were holding her back. Not wanting to give excuses for a poor race I don’t think she ever took her foot problems into consideration when she kept coming up short of her goal.
This past November at
Trail Running Camp
I told her to sit down and talk with
and see if she had a different approach than she had been trying in the past. Clearly Traci was nervous to try something new but sometimes a different approach is best. Liza was excited to have the opportunity to work with her and said there was no doubt in her mind that this goal was attainable.
After a few email exchanges they formulated a plan on how to take Traci from a 4:03 marathon runner to a sub 3:40 runner. Traci is the type of person that needs to see everything in writing before she will buy in. She also wanted to feel positive feedback along the way to help her build confidence. After she talked with Liza and saw the plan you could tell a major weight had been lifted from her shoulder seeing that these are two of Liza’s biggest strengths.
There plan included dropping the workouts that made Traci feel like she wasn’t making any ground and incorporate new and exciting training routines. Change is always tough but when you finally go all in you will quickly notice the difference. The biggest change they made was dropping the track workouts in exchange for speed work on the roads. Since she would be racing on the road and not on the track Liza felt like she needed to know what it was like to run hard on the road, not just on the soft track surface. This change seemed to be easy for Traci because the track never translated well to her races. She would have a strong track workout here and there but her times seemed much different when running on the road.
The next big switch was going from a 6 day a week runner with very few miles each day to a 4-5 day a week runner with longer runs. This would give her foot more time to rest in between hard workouts and also increase her mental strength. [caption id="attachment_7002" align="alignright" width="300"]
A magical day and shirt[/caption]For some runners they put all their marbles into the weekly long run but the medium long runs at a quicker pace really pay dividends. The long slow run helps you build your endurance but the other days help you build your speed, strength, and mental state. It is good to get out there and suffer one day each week because eventually those key workouts will get easier and easier which will result in more speed.
Going into the race Traci was feeling close to 100% for the first time in a couple years and was excited to race. The day before the race she was feeling quite a bit of stress from work and I for one was quite worried about how the race was going to go. She was on the phone putting out fires for 8 hours and finally at dinner she had a moment to breath. It was clear that she had lost was mentally beat down from the day but her body language never gave that impression.
On Sunday morning she woke up ready to go and said she was excited to race. She had put in the work and now it was time to see if she could run a sub 3:40. Running a sub 3:40 was her “A” goal, PRing was her “C” goal with a “B” goal somewhere in the middle. Everyone around us knew she had a 3:40 in her but I could tell she was still a little rattled from the day before. Our plan was to go for sub-3 hours and then go out and pace Traci her last couple miles in. When I came across the finish line I found her parents and told them I was going to walk across the road to the 24 mile mark and pace her in. When I arrived the 3:40 group was going by, then the 3:45, 3:50, 4:00, 4:05 and no Traci. I figured she may have had to drop with an injury to her foot or maybe she was just struggling somewhere out on the course. I made my way back to find our friends and family and lying on the ground was Traci. She was curled up in the fetal position and I cringed when I asked “are you okay, did you have to drop?” [caption id="attachment_7004" align="alignright" width="300"]
Taking it all in after an amazing accomplishment[/caption] Traci’s stomach was in pain and she was clearly a little woozy but she looked up and said “no I finished.” This is a relatively small race and I couldn’t figure out how I could have missed her on the course. “When did you finish? I have been looking for you for the past hour.” “I ran a 3:30 and change.” All I could think and say at the time was “Holy Shit!” That is absolutely incredible. She had set out to run a sub 3:40 on a great day and just busted out a 3:30.
So the question obviously is how was she able to do this? Using the key workouts and building her mental strength over the last six months she blocked out everything going on around her and just went out and ran. She turned her watch off half way through the race when she made a bathroom stop as to not upset her and from that point forward she kept her foot on the gas. Everything she worked on during that training cycle she applied in some way to best a goal she never thought was possible. Who would have thought that a 43 minute PR was in the cards for her during that race? Honestly not me but the moral of the story is surround yourself with positive people and you will see positive results. With that being said I remain positive that when my name does get drawn for Western States I will be ready. If I get drawn in December great, if not I will make it a 2.5 year training cycle getting ready for the 2016 race.
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