Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fortnight Ending June 28

Mon 15th - 4 miles easy

Tues - 4 miles easy

Weds - Off

- Off

Friday & Sat
- 102 miles (18,500 feet). Big Horn.

- Off

- Off

- Off

- 3 miles very easy. Legs still sore, hip felt arthritic but runnable (just).

- 4 miles easy. As above, but hip much better.

- 6 miles (1,200 feet). First real attempt at a training run. Hip began hurting halfway through and intense midday heat made breathing hard. Felt way out of whack on this run. Discouraging.

- 8 miles (1,650). 1:14. Legs felt much better, climbing felt good and aerobic effort felt almost normal. Still slight soreness in hip, but definitely no more than bruising. Really encouraging run. Beginning to feel like I can get a good week of training in next week as I ramp up for Leadville Marathon in two weeks.

- 13 miles (2,200 feet). 2:00. Another good run and further confirmation that I'm ready to put a good load on through the next week and a half.

Total: 144 miles (23,500 vertical feet)

All systems seem to be go after some fairly major soreness in the three days after Bighorn. A few lingering sore spots in the legs that appear to be nothing more than bruising. Aerobic fitness feels good, so I plan on putting in a solid ten days of training before a mini taper for the Leadville Marathon, which I'm already getting excited about.

The field at Leadville will include Duncan Callahan, Bryan Dayton and Corey Hanson - all legit mountain runners - so I'm pretty excited to test my fitness and strength on the tough Leadville course against a competitive field.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bighorn 100

I trained hard for this race, harder and more intensely than I have for any other sporting event in my life. Although I came up short on a couple of the goals I set for myself, the weekend will most definitely go down as a resounding success.

The goals I had set were many-fold: get to the start line, finish, avoid getting chick'd (sad but true), win, set course record, beat Karl. I guess three out of six ain't bad. This journey was made all the more special as I was able to share it with my parents, wife and son, in addition to a wonderful group of trail-running friends from Fort Collins and beyond: a true family affair, under the organization of a very close-knit community in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Getting ready for the road trip out

Fort Collins Trail Runners doing the 100: Marie-Helene, Pete and me

We arrived in Sheridan the day before the race under very dark clouds. As we pulled into town, my sense of calm and confidence from the weeks leading up to the race had turned to intense nerves and doubt. Coming into town, the mountains were completely obscured by dense clouds, and the reports at registration of non-stop rain for two weeks prior to race day actually had me in something of a panic. At the medical check-in the nurse took my blood pressure twice before asking me if I was nervous, which I was, as my blood pressure was so high. I needed to get running and stop over-thinking this thing.

We woke up to clear skies and a hot sun on race morning. The mountains looked lush.

There was a definite sense of nervousness among the assembled runners as we shuffled around waiting for the start. I lined up with Bryan Goding, Harry Harcrow and Hank Dart at the start as we made small talk waiting for the off. Finally the months of waiting were reduced to a ten-second count down. And they're off. Boy did it feel good to be running.

Soon after the gun (Photo:Eric Lee)

The course started out with a mile of dirt road to allow runners to gain a comfortable pace and position before hitting the singletrack. Karl and, I think, Phil Shaw took up the early pace with me, Bryan and Harry close behind. We hit the rocky singletrack and I let Harry set the pace as we watched Karl pull away a bit. Phil looked to be taking a very conservative approach, walking some very moderate hills, so we soon passed him, and after watching Karl pull away more than I was comfortable with, I pushed past Harry to sit with the lead for a while to get a feel for the pace and the kind of inclines that Karl was and was not prepared to run.

After the opening two to three miles of moderately ascending singletrack, alongside the charging Tongue River, the course opened up into the expansive and amazingly lush Tongue River Canyon which would lead us 3,500 feet higher over the course of the next six miles. The trail was good, and I was encouraged to find it exceptionally well flagged as I am a past master at getting off course. About half way up the climb, I decided to put my pre-race plan to work and eased into the lead, running a little deeper into the climbs than Karl was prepared to. The plan was fairly simple: build an early lead and try to hold it.

I never really built much of a lead and Karl was soon back on me as we made our way up to the crest of the climb before a steep drop down into the Upper Sheep Creek aid station. I filled my water bottle and Karl didn't - that was pretty much the last I saw of him until the turnaround 40 miles later. Harry and Bryan, running three and four were out of sight behind, and so began my 20 hours of virtual solitude, just me, the moose and the water.

From Upper Sheep (8.5 miles) to the first crew access point at Dry Fork (13.5 miles), it is five miles or so of very runnable dirt road and singletrack. I missed the turn onto the singletrack, but quickly realized my mistake and bushwhacked a bit to get to the orange flag I had spotted on the trail. I wasn't feeling particularly comfortable through this section, and was very worried at how tired I felt. I was ten miles into what on any other day would have been a very easy-paced run. Not a good sensation when you have another 90 miles of rugged mountain trail ahead. I was buoyed, however, by the fact that I would soon be seeing my family, even if only fleetingly. I came into Dry Fork on a gravel road, and my mom had a gel cut into a bit of water waiting for me.

Coming into Dry Fork aid

I scoffed a couple of salted potatoes, gave everyone a quick hug and followed the jeep track down and back up to Cow Camp (19.5). This was a nice easy section of the course, which allowed me to find my rhythm and regain some confidence.

Heading out of Dry Fork

At Cow Camp I quickly shot another diluted gel before getting back onto the singletrack, which through the next section would become increasingly difficult to make out as it was partially obscured by heavy sagebrush. The wildflowers through here were pretty spectacular. Up to this point the trail had been remarkably dry, allowing for comfortable running. I didn't spend much time taking in the scenery, as the trail was so technical, but the one time I did take a look around I saw a moose grazing in a meadow set against a dramatic cliff face. I'm sure I ran past countless other examples of natural beauty, as the Bighorns are unceasingly breathtaking, but the technical nature of the trail would not allow me to take my eyes off the dirt beneath for more than a few seconds at a time.

After a few miles, the trail passed through a wooded section and became increasingly soggy as small brooks crossed the trail or ran with it. The guys at Bear Camp (26.5) were just setting up as I got there, letting me know that Karl had passed through eight minutes earlier. I downed a handful of nuts and set off for the river. I knew the drop down 'The Wall' to the river was going to be fairly sloppy in places, and immediately leaving the aid I was sinking ankle deep in sticky mud, almost losing a shoe a couple of times. The slop was thankfully short lived, but my feet would essentially stay wet for the remainder of the run.

The drop down The Wall was pretty intense, with not a switchback to be found. There was a ton of loose rock and a number of small brook crossings so I had to be very careful with my footing.

At the Footbridge aid station (30), I weighed in at a skinny 139 - six pounds lighter than the day before - picked up my drop bag, taking the time to change my socks and shoes. After eating some potatoes and shooting a gel I had lingered for probably five minutes. Just as I was getting ready to leave - in the wrong direction - third and fourth place cruised into the aid station. I didn't recognize either of them. After being shouted back on course, I started the long 18-mile ascent to the turn at Porcupine.

I ran the 3.5 miles upriver to the Narrows (33.5) aid station pretty hard in a bid to build a solid gap on the guys behind. Narrows looked like a nice place to hang out, and I was kind of envious of the volunteers enjoying their day in the woods around the campfire. A young teenage boy watched me get a shot of gel ready with the kind of expression I have seen kids wear as they watch unfamiliar animals in the wild. I tried to humanize myself by engaging him in a brief conversation, but he remained pretty mystified.

The running up to Spring Marsh (40) through the woods was decent, with perhaps the best and least technical singletrack of the entire race. I was really beginning to find my stride, relishing the fact that I felt strong, mentally alert and ready for more. Coming out of the trees, the course faded to, at best, deer trail. It was marker to marker here for a few miles. The Spring Marsh aid station finally materialized at 40 miles after a long stretch of hiking and running on the 2,500 foot climb. Karl now had a 25-minute lead. From here to Elk Camp (43.5) the trail was either submerged by bogs or rutted by elk hooves - tough running. I got a great cup of noodles at Elk Camp and pushed on to the turn through increasingly marshy sections of meadow. By the woods, a couple of miles before the turn, I had to work through some very deep snow drifts, which at first were nice and cool on the legs but after a while caused me to loose feeling in the lower extremities. I was looking forward to dunking my feet in warm water at the turn.

Karl came storming through the drifts at some point here, bug-eyed and telling me to watch for some very angry moose - apparently he had been charged and kicked twice. Thankfully Karl had done enough to send them on their way for the day, and I didn't catch sight of any moose through the last mile to Porcupine (48).

Dana ran me into Porcupine where I took a seat and set about getting my sopping shoes and socks off. I had a mighty crew working for me here, with Victoria getting me noodles and coffee, Eric handing me caffeine pills, Dana fetching dry shoes and socks, my parents hooking up my lighting and getting out warm clothing, while an aid station volunteer got me a bowl of warm water to quickly soak my feet - bliss! By the time I was ready to go, I had two new pairs of socks on, dry shoes, a warm jacket, lighting and a happy stomach. I felt like a new man. Those assembled gave me a good cheer as I made my way out, approximately 9:30 into the race.

Dana running me into Porcupine at the turn

Heading for the weigh-in

Barking orders

Crew chief at work

Almost ready to get back at it

Back at it

I saw Harry making his way to Porcupine as I climbed back out. He was looking pretty good and was much closer than I thought third would be. I upped my pace. Somehow I completely missed the turn back onto the trail and continued running the ranger station road, finally hitting Devil's Canyon Road in completely the wrong spot. What! How the hell did I manage that? Rather than backtracking, I decided I would try to find the trail intersection by running down Devil's Canyon Road. The problem with this strategy was that I didn't know which way the trail was or if I was even on Devil's Canyon Road. I ran for half a mile in the wrong direction before turning around and running the other way to find the trail, which ultimately I decided wasn't going to work anyway because I would then technically be DQF'able for not following the course. I turned back around again, and headed back to the ranger road towards Porcupine and the VERY WELL MARKED turn onto the trail. This stupidity on my part cost me at least 30 minutes. Doh!

I've been off trail enough times during the course of a trail race that I didn't allow myself to get too flustered, despite being furious with myself. I figured I was now in fourth or fifth as the sun was coming down and I turned my lights on. I asked the next guy coming down the trail how many had passed through, and I was thankful to hear that just Harry had been able to take advantage of my stupidity. I guess the others had made pretty slow progress getting up to Porcupine. With 52 miles to go, I was in no hurry to reel Harry in. The next guy I saw told me that Harry had five minutes on me. The race for first, however, was essentially over.

I picked up Harry's light pretty quickly and we came into Elk Camp (52.5) together. I tried to engage him in conversation to get a read on where he was at mentally and physically. He had nothing for me. Normally, it is close to impossible to get a word in edgewise against Harry. Tonight he was stony quiet. We both ate some broth and noodles. Harry got out a half minute before me. Sloshing through the marsh we leapfrogged in second and third for a bit, losing the trail in places as our eyes adjusted to the moonless dark of night.

Coming to a river crossing, we both looked for the log bridge, which was not immediately obvious. Harry went the right way, I went the wrong way. I caught back up to Harry as he was getting across, and as I tried to catch up my legs gave way under me and I took a spill into the freezing cold river. Thankfully, I was on the upriver side of the bridge, so was able to cling onto it and jump back on. I had submerged up to my waist, not a great place to be at 9,000 feet in the middle of the night. After getting out of the river, I soon took a spill in a marshy spot on the trail. What the hell was going on? What happened to the guy full of confidence coming out of the turn?

Thankfully I was able to regain my senses, slow down, get into a rhythm and concentrate on running a sensible race. On the drop back down to Spring Marsh aid (56), Harry and I were pretty close, but my attempts at conversation still bore no fruit. Screw it, I was going to press on and try to secure second out of the aid station. I had a grip on my senses, my night vision had kicked in and I was ready to roll.

By the time I got back into the woods towards Narrows aid (62.5) there was no sign of Harry's light. I continued to press here taking advantage of the smooth trail. Narrows finally came and I enjoyed a delicious cup of broth and yet another disgusting shot of gel. I was running well and feeling strong despite my earlier comedy of errors.

By the time the descent finally bottomed out at Footbridge (66), I was ready to start climbing, or more accurately, I was ready to stop running and start hiking. I would get my wish with the 3.5 mile, 2,000+ foot climb to Bear Camp (69.5). By the time I finally made it up, the two volunteers were both fast asleep in their sleeping bags. I didn't want to wake them, but I guess I was stumbling around a bit, which roused them. I got a cup of cold broth and headed out on what I knew would be a tough section to Cow Camp (76.5). I was now in the deepest, darkest section of the night; my legs were beginning to scream at me and I still had a 50k to run. Uh!

I could no longer figure out if I was running uphill, downhill or on the flats here; it all felt the same and I couldn't pick out depth in the light of my fading headlamp. I mainly ran at a shuffle, taking a couple of walk breaks when I was sure I was moving uphill. I couldn't take my mind off the fact that I had so far to go and that the sun was still two hours away. The true absurdity of this undertaking was really beginning to sink in. Nothing to do but keep moving.

To add insult to injury, my stomach was beginning to get sloshy, which in the past has meant that a revisit of lunch, dinner or breakfast was not far behind. I stopped drinking and forged ahead.

I was looking for the spring water pipe, which meant two miles to Cow Camp (76.5). It never materialized in the dark of the night, but Head Dunk Tank did, which meant no more than a few minutes to Cow Camp. You beauty! I ate a couple of slices of plain bread in a bid to soak up the excess liquid in my stomach, and ate a bunch of orange slices. Wow, it's amazing what a bit of bread, some human interaction and ten to twelve orange slices will do for you. I was a new man.

I ran the jeep track down to the creek, before hitting the climb back up to Dry Fork (82.5). The birds were coming into full chorus, I barely needed my lights, and I would be seeing my family in a few minutes. Game on. I lingered a bit at Dry Fork, relishing the warm tent and the conversation. I told anyone who would listen that I would never be running one of these ridiculous races ever again.

"100s are absurd"

Harry's wife Gina was there and told me that third was at least 40 minutes back on me, according to radio reports from Cow Camp, although she didn't know if it was Harry. I was pretty sure second was in the bag now with just 17 miles to go. My poor family had slept in the car through the night, just to help me get through Dry Fork. If they could make that sacrifice, I could most definitely push on and get this thing done without making them wait around any longer than they had to. I told my Dad I would be done in three to three and half hours.

My legs had seized up a bit standing around at Dry Fork, but I was able to break out a run up the hill from Dry Fork. I wanted to show strength in case Gina was watching me head out. My legs eased up and I got into a great rhythm on the sweet, sweet singletrack. I was enjoying the run again.

At the top of the final climb before the descent down the Tongue River Canyon I let out a huge scream of triumph. A bit more primal than Julie Andrews, but if you can picture her in a meadow of wildflowers in the high Alps busting out a chorus of The Hills are Alive, you might get the idea. I was still 11 or 12 miles out, but the sun was coming up over the canyon, second was in the bag and I was about to finish up a journey that I had been working towards for months, boy did I feel good.

The steep, steep descent down the canyon hurt, no two ways about it, but I didn't really care. The last four or five miles of dirt road were also torturous, but again the finish line was so close it was just a matter of grinding it out. I thought about walking some of the ups, but just wanted this thing done so pushed on. I finally saw the bridge over the river into Dayton, did the victory lap around the park and crossed the line to the cheers of my hardy family. What an epic journey.

Finishing up with my boy




I didn't quite realize what I was getting myself in for when I signed up for Bighorn. The course looks kind of tame when you compare it elevation-wise to other mountain hundreds, but believe me the technical nature of the trail (when it is there), the bogs and marshes (this course literally leaks water), the snow, and the extended climbs take their toll like no other course I have ever run. When they say this place is wild, they ain't joking with ya.

Sub-24-hour finishers: Karl Meltzer, me, Harry Harcrow, Phil Shaw, Jai Ralls, Bryan Goding


Upper Sheep (8.5): 1:37

Dry Fork (13.5) : 2:24 (46) ................ Dayton (Finish) - 21:29 (3:15)
Cow Camp: (19.5) 3:19 (55) ............... Dry Fork (82.5) - 18:14 - (1:26)
Bear Camp (26.5) - 4:37 (1:17) .......... Cow Camp (76) - 16:48 (1:39)
Footbridge (30) - 5:16 (38) ............... Bear Camp (69.5) - 15:09 (1:22)
Narrows (33.5) - 6:01 (45) ............... Footbridge (66) - 13:46 (41)
Spring Marsh (40) - 7:32 (1:31) ....... Narrows (62.5) - 13:04 (3:28)
Elk Camp (43.5) - 8:26 (54)
Porcupine In (48) - 9:31 (64) ...........
Porcupine Out - 9:36 (5:16)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bighorn Results

Looks like they failed to do live tracking.

Top three (rest still running when I left):

1. Karl Meltzer (CR) 19:15 (absolutely killed this run in pretty trying conditions)
2. Nick Clark 21:29 (30 mins off course, fell in river)
3. Harry Harcrow 22:20 (much puking)

Don't ever let anyone tell you that running 100 miles is fun. In the words of my friend Felix: "A pure suffer fest." I'm not averse to a bit of suffering while running, just not for 10 hours straight. Now to bed. Race report to follow.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Go Time!

Arrived in Sheridan, Wyoming just after lunch today after riding through some very dark and nasty clouds due south of Sheridan. It has reportedly been raining for two weeks straight in the mountains, so chances are the course is going to be pretty sloppy ... for everyone. Nothing to be done about that. We play with the hands we are dealt.

Been surprisingly nervous and fidgety for much of the day, and especially so at the race check-in. Right now, I just want to get running. I have run a total of eight miles all week, and haven't gone beyond a walk in two days. Legs feel good and rested, so I feel like I am ready to roll, despite a few last minute doubts in the back of my head.

Anyone interested in following the progress of runners during the day can, I think, do so at this link: Looks like they will have live splits from five points along the course.

Let's do this thing!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Last Hurdle: Horsetooth Trail Race

Despite my misgivings about running this race so close to my main goal race of the year, it went off without a hitch: not too much stress, no twisted ankles, and one more confidence boost before the big day.

Jogged the short half mile to the Horsetooth trailhead, and race start, from my house and chatted with a few of the local runners already assembled. Got out for a short warm-up with Dan Turk, who was also running the short course, and chatted briefly with The King of Horsetooth - Corey Hanson - who was looking for a four-peat over the long course. We scoped out the competition a bit, trying to locate the fabled 'German Trail Running Champ,' who we identified as a guy in a green and white Werder Bremen running club outfit.

Steve Cathcart - owner and operator of Runners Roost Fort Collins - got us assembled for the start, reminding us that this race has raised over $7,000 for Larimer County Parks over the years, before setting us off to the tune of his bull-horn siren. My usual plan of starting out slow and gauging the lead pace went the way it normally does, with me blasting out from the gun and setting the pace. I managed to rein myself in within the first few hundred meters and let someone else lead up the hill. I thought I recognized the guy who took up the pace, but couldn't put my finger on where I recognized him from. He had built a 10-meter lead by the time we passed the Southridge access road 3/4 of a mile up the hill, and he promptly made a wrong turn onto Southridge. I shouted him back on course and we continued together the last 1/4 mile to the Horsetooth turn and the start of the singletrack section. We got to the turn, at exactly one mile, in just over seven minutes - quick.

Steve gets us ready for the off. Photo Pete Stevenson.

Setting the early pace. From left to right: Sam Malmberg, German dude, Dan Turk (red), Frank Antonelli (yellow), Steve Saleeby (goatee), me, Corey Hanson. Photo: Pete Stevenson.

I should mention here that I run this section of trail on an almost daily basis, so I know each and every rock, root, twist and turn. With this in mind, I wanted to make sure I got to the turn first so I could build a lead, which I was confident would happen, without having to wait for a spot to pass. I got the corner first and set off up the trail. By the first switchback I had already built a ten-second lead and continued to build as we made our way up the one-mile section of the Horsetooth trail. By the time I topped out (18 minutes flat), at exactly two miles and over 1,000 feet of vertical, the chase pack was out of sight. I was pretty surprised to be moving this fast at what felt like a relatively easy effort, so decided to keep hammering to see what kind of time I could post.

Getting ready for the last mile of descent.

I had checked results from the last three years, and knew that Zach Crandall had run 55 and change in '08, so made that my goal. With nobody to push me, this was adequate motivation to press. I can't really remember my splits for the rest of the run, but cruised the ridge to Towers without killing myself on the few remaining climbs. Chugged a bit of water at the Towers aid and ran the descent pretty hard, without totally killing it. I kept it this way down Herrington, making sure to pay very close attention to my footing on some of the more technical and muddy sections. Pushed hard on Spring Creek to the final mile and a half on Soderburg, which I again pushed in a bid to get under 54 minutes. Crossed the line, feeling good and in control, in 53:58.

Photo: Roger Clark (Dad)

Mission accomplished: no injuries, a hard effort without totally blowing a gasket, a win, and a sub 54.

Steve Saleeby crossed second in 56:55 for a PR and Frank Antonelli rounded out the top three in 1:00:23 (a rough day for Frank - chin up buddy). Dan had a great run, even letting out a rebel yell as he crossed the line in just under 61 minutes (a PR) for the masters win.

I hung around to watch the end of the half marathon, as I was eager to see if Corey could pull off the four-peat, or if he would be beaten by the early leader or our mystery guest from Germany. Corey (of course) came in first in a smoking 1:45, followed four minutes later by the early leader, Sam Malmberg, with Steve Folkerts rounding out the top three in 1:56. The guy from Germany came through in fourth in 2:02. I think he had a tough time with the altitude and hefty climb.

Hanging out by the water cooler: me, Steve, Frank, Dan

Alistair enjoyed his morning, too, but didn't want to hang out with his stinky dad!

Chatting with Sam after the race, I finally placed him as the guy who had taken up the pace at the Wyoming Marathon before dropping off the pace at the halfway mark, having run a 2:48 a couple of weeks earlier at the FoCo Marathon.

A great morning with friends and family. My parents were on hand to watch me race for the first time in Colorado, having arrived from the UK just two days prior. They will be making the trip up north to the Bighorns on Thursday to help Dana and Alistair with the crewing.

This is a great race on the best trails Fort Collins has to offer. The winning streak continues. Is there one more in the tank? I'll find out in the Bighorn mountains in five days...Bring It On!

Week Ending June 14

Mon - 8 miles easy (1,650 feet). Horsetooth/Audra route.

Tues - 8 miles moderate (1,650 feet). 1:07. Out with Kenny, who doesn't appear to know the meaning of 'easy run'. Ended up running this one harder than usual, but was pleased to find the effort easy. Is the taper finally beginning to kick in?

Weds - 8 miles (1,650 feet). More of the same, but slower.

Thurs - 4 miles. Night run to test light set up for Bighorn. Something of a disaster. Fell twice on trails I know like the back of my hand. Learned some important lessons, and that night running isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Will be back out next week for another go.

Fri - 6 miles easy with Amy on Redstone Canyon.

Sat - 7 miles (2,100 feet). Gentle run up Round Mountain with Chad.

Sun - 9 miles (1,700 feet). Horsetooth Mountain Trail Race (7.5 miles, 1.5 mile warm up). 53:58 - 1st.

Total: 50 miles (9,000 feet)

Easy week. Felt strong, strong, strong climbing at Horsetooth Trail Race today. Not feeling too beat up, so hoping for quick recovery in time for Bighorn on Friday. Not much left to do but jog around and wait.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Look at the Bighorn Field

I had a bit of spare time yesterday, so decided to take a look through the list of registered runners for the Bighorn 100 (yeah, I know: need to get a life). I didn't recognize too many names so decided to do a bit of stalking by way of the Athlinks database. Here's what I've come up with in terms of competition and characters. First the guys I know or know of:

1. Karl Meltzer. Have to put him first on the list as he's probably one of, if not the, best-known and respected 100 milers in the country. After his victory at the Massanutten 100 on the east coast last month, I believe he has succeeded in winning at least one 100 miler every year for the last 10 years: definitely the guy to beat. In addition, he holds the course record at Bighorn (20:12), and according to notes on his website, it sounds like he's in fine fettle and ready to run hard.

2. John Anderson. He beat me at the Collegiate Peaks 50 by five minutes in early May (five minutes off Anton K's CR), he has 100-mile experience and an impressive set of results from '08. From running, racing and chatting with him at Buena Vista, I know he's in good form and well trained.

3. Harry Harcrow. Met Harry in Buena Vista too. I think I got about two sentences in during our half-hour conversation. This guy can talk. He's also a very experienced 100 miler and has gone sub-20 at Leadville (19:33) at least once in addition to finishing runner up to Anton K in '07. Third at Bighorn in '07. I doubt he'll win, but I wouldn't bet against him finishing top three.

4. Bryan Goding. A Fort Collins local and good friend. Bryan set the course record at the Wyoming Double Marathon a couple of weeks back (bettering Hal Koerner's long-standing mark) and seems to be running strong. He hasn't beaten me in a while, but this will be his fourth 100 after strong finishes at Leadville and Bighorn last year, and Leadville in '07. He is Mr. Consistency with his pacing and will pick off anyone dropping off the pace from the front.

On his way to setting the RMDM record

5. Pete Stevenson. Another Fort Collins'ite and friend. Pete ran the Vermont 100 last year in 22 hours or so, and had a good run at the Ghost Town 38.5 in New Mexico early in the year. He's been laying low on the racing front since then, but I happen to know he's put in a very solid block of training, is in good form and ready to race.

Pete on far left

6. Tim Long. Seems he picked up a bit of a knee issue in the last few weeks, but from last blog post sounds like he'll run. Won Ghost Town 38.5, beating Andy Jones Wilkins by five seconds earlier in the year

Now some of those that I don't know, but look like they could be in the running based on previous results:

1. Phil Shaw. Third at Tahoe Rim 100 in '07 (20:50). Also appears to have low-16 minute 5k leg speed, 1:15 half. Ran 21:50 at Leadville in '07; second at Cascade Crest last year (21:15).

2. Cameron Hanes. This guy appears to be something of a legend and TV personality in the bow hunting world (!). From a cursory scan of his website, it sounds like he's been training pretty hard for Bighorn and, well, looks to be tough as nails and enjoys downing bears with his bow and arrow. Pretty good credentials for running 100 miles in the mountain wilderness, I'd say. Oh, and he was third in the 50 miler last year.

As you do!

3. Trevor Hostetler. Ran a 6:36 at the Oregon Road Runners Autumn Leaves 50 miler last year. I'm assuming this is a flat course, but that's still pretty fast.

4. Sander Nelson. Came second at San Diego 100 in '07 (18:40)

5. Jesse Berwald. Fourth at Cascade Crest last year in 21:47, 1:21 half in February.

6. Hank Dart. Sixth at Coyote Two Moon 100k this year. Looks to have put in a solid block of training for BH.

That's all folks. I'm sure there are others I have overlooked, and probably some photos that don't match the person, but I can only reproduce what Google gives me. Good luck to all!

Horsetooth Mountain Trail Races: Nick, you're an arse


I'm not sure how wise it is to be racing five days before Bighorn, but that's what I intend to do. I've been back and forth on this one in my mind all week, and know full well that I have nothing to gain in running this race and lots to lose, but so be it: live by the sword, die by the sword. The race is taking place on the trails I train on daily, so the temptation to lay one down is just too strong to resist.

Originally I had planned on doing the 13-mile, two-loop version of the race in a bid to put to rest two horrible times I have run over the course in recent years, plus I really, really want to race Corey Hanson: three-time champ, course record holder and friend, but as a concession to the wiser side of my brain I'm just going to race the 7.5-mile version.

The course is 60% rocky, rooty singletrack and 40% forest service road, climbing close to 2,000 feet. A blow-by-blow description of the course can be found here.

On the Horsetooth trail

Halfway up the first climb there is a nasty set of steps to negotiate

There is always a good stable of local runners who show up for this race, and there was chatter on the Fort Collins Trail Runner listserv yesterday from a number of guys who sound like they'll be gunning for course records. This got my competitive juices flowing, but the icing on the cake was news that a "German trail running champ" is signed up and looking to show the locals how to run trail. I don't know if he's doing the short course or long course, but being a Brit I really don't need much more motivation!

I have a pretty good understanding of my competitive nature these days and know full well that if I line up at the start, I'll be giving it whatever it takes to cross the line first. I'm just hoping the short distance and familiar terrain will make this a relatively stress-free affair with regards to recovery. I feel like something of an arse for potentially jeopardizing my chances at Bighorn, a race that I've been working towards for months, but, well, I guess I'm gonna spin the wheel.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Week Ending June 7

Mon - Nada.

Tues - 8 miles easy (1,650 ft). Horse/Audra.

Weds - 8 miles easy (1,650 ft). As yesterday.

Thurs am - 7.5 miles easy (1,600 ft). Horsetooth trail race loop. Woke up 15 minutes before I was scheduled to meet a group from FCTR group. Got to the TH right on time, but had to drive, which I think is a first (TH is half mile from my house). Was still thinking about bed and a lack of coffee when we got going. Felt worryingly sluggish on this run to the point where I could barely keep up with Dan T's easy pace. I'm putting this one down to poor preparation, but will be headed out again this afternoon to see if things feel any better. Taper psychosis is in full effect.

pm - 8 miles easy (1,650 ft). Audra/Horsetooth. Felt like a different man from this morning, although legs still not fresh.

Fri am - 11 miles (2,000 feet). 2.5 mile warm up to Soderberg TH from home, followed by 3.5 mile TT up Towers with group from FCTR, and five-miles home on Westridge & Horsetooth.

pm - Biked 10k with Felix, measuring T&H course.

Sat am - 20 miles (4,500 feet). Lumpy Ridge loop at RMNP w/Bridal Veil & Balanced Rock spurs plus extra trip up to Gem Lake from parking lot. Out with group from FCTR. Did not feel as easy as I wanted this run to. In fact it was a bit of a struggle and I was tripping and stumbling all over the place. Putting this one down to altitude and body adapting to reduced mileage load. Taper madness continues.

Pete, Karen, Marie-Helene and Wendy C (Zach C's mom) from FCTR

Chilling with a baby pine between Gem Lake and Balanced Rock
Bridal Veil Falls
Gem Lake
Flowers in a meadow on back side of Lumpy
The rock that is balanced

Sun am - Biked a few miles setting up T&H 10k course. Never found the time to run, but in the back of my head didn't really want to anyway.

Total: 62.5 miles (12,000 feet).

This was a much bigger cut-back week than planned. Going in I was hoping to hit 85-90 miles, but the week never really got going for me, and I struggled through many of the runs. I'm hoping that my legs will start to freshen up this week. I'll probably shoot for similar mileage and then just jog around a bit the week of Bighorn.

As much as I've been looking forward to the taper and getting my life back, the mind games and second guessing are in full effect. I've also lost a lot of motivation with regards to grinding out miles. Got to keep reminding myself that the work is banked and ready for withdrawal starting 11:00am, June 19.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Congrats to the Happy (Ultra) Couple

Congrats Ryan and Meagan!

Yes, that is a Leadville belt buckle and a pair of trail shoes!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Towers Time Trial

The run for the tower

Six of us from the Fort Collins Trail Runners group showed up at the Horsetooth lower parking lot (Soderberg) at 6:15 this morning to take a shot at Dan Turk's fastest-known time (FKT) up Towers Road. Included were myself, Dan Turk, Pete Stevenson, Frank Antonelli, Dennis Vanderheidan and Eric Bergman.

Of all the hills in town, Towers is probably the best-known grinder and a favorite among runners and mountain bikers looking to test their fitness. I am sure others have run the 3.4-mile, 1,700-foot hill faster, but for those who keep track of such things, Dan's time of 34:42 was the mark to beat.

The route starts from the trail map at the Soderberg parking lot, and opens with a half mile of relative flat on the singletrack connector to Towers, where the climb begins in earnest. There are four real grinder sections on the road, the first of which comes about 3/4 of a mile into the run: A short sharp U-turn after the opening two to three minutes of climbing. The grade drops off a bit after the big U-turn allowing for an easier stride and a slightly faster clip. The first mile comes just after the Stout intersection, which is swiftly followed by an increase in incline to the Loggers intersection, and an even steeper grade to Herrington. After Herrington, there is a short stretch of flat to moderate downhill to be taken advantage of before the second major grinder.

Once you summit the second grunt, the incline levels off a bit allowing for a decent stride until you hit the curved push (third grunt) to the Mill Creek turn, an equally naughty grade over a slightly longer stretch. From here it is a slight downhill sprint to the final major climb. The three-mile point is just at the bottom of the final grinder, which takes you up to an intersection. The Towers route is to the left here. At the T after the left turn it is a quick right into a clearing. The Towers route ends at the farthest building, the corner of which needs to be slapped before the watch is stopped ... and breathe.

The end of the line

Frank demonstrating the finish-line slap

Five of the six guys out this morning came in under Dan's FKT. I took it out in the opening half mile but was soon overtaken by Eric once we hit Towers. Frank sat on my shoulder up to the Loggers intersection. We hit Stout right at 9 minutes and the second Herrington intersection at 17 minutes and change. By this time Eric had a lead on me that looked insurmountable, unless of course he blew up. I kept chugging and began to pull away from Frank as our train made its way up The Hill. By the Mill Creek grind, I was sure there was no catching Eric, who was almost up the climb just as I was gearing down for the jump in grade. I pushed hard up the hill and on the flat to the last hill, which I also ran as hard as I could. Made the turn, got to the clearing, saw Eric - hands on knees - and slapped the trailer, stopping my watch at 31:56. Frank came in a minute or so later. Dan followed and Pete came barreling in soon after like a page from the audio book of the Karma Sutra.

Five go under Towers FKT: Pete, Nick, Eric, Frank and Dan

Eric set the new mark at 30:47 (!), Dan beat his FKT by 58 seconds and Pete dropped under Dan's now-shattered FKT by a second. Dennis was out for a training run and came in a few minutes later.

All six starters

A great morning with some of Fort Collins' best hill runners. I turned at Westridge on the way down to take the ridge across to the Horsetooth trail and home for an 11-mile, 2,000 foot morning. Not sure I have a sub-30 minute climb in me, but I'll be back to take a stab on fresh legs later in the summer.

Update: Sept 16, Steve Folkerts goes 30:36, shaving 11 seconds off Eric's time.

Update: Sept 26, Eric Bergman goes 30:15, with me 10 seconds back.

Next up: Round Mountain.