Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comanche Wilderness Loop

The day's loop (in red): 23 miles, 4,500'. Click to enlarge. Map from

Got up to Pingree Park with Pete yesterday morning for a little more recon on our proposed Comanche 50 mile race route. We have an amazing loop just about figured out that looks like it will come in at around 51 miles with a touch over 10,600' of climb and a high point in the low 11,000' range. This race will happen next year, if the Forest Service is willing, but probably as a very low-key test run with a small group. If all goes well, and assuming we can get the necessary permits, we'll look to put the race on for real in 2012.

Current thinking on the 'Comanche Peaks 50' (not the loop described in the video below, which would involve running in RMNP: Problematic with regards to permitting).

Anyway, the loop yesterday was counterclockwise from the Beaver Creek trailhead: Fish Creek - Little Beaver Creek - Flowers - Browns Lake - Beaver Creek for approximately 23 miles and 4,500' of climb. The opening stretch on the two creek-side trails were about as mellow and pleasant as is possible in the higher mountains out here. Fish Creek descended about 1,000' over 5 miles, before hooking into Little Beaver Creek which then ascended a symmetrical 5 miles at about the same grade largely under cover of trees. Both creeks were flowing well, and the beavers clearly are very active out here among the pine and aspen, with pond after pond as we ascended to the aptly named Beaver Park.

One of many beaver ponds on Little Beaver Creek.

Looking back down the Little Beaver Creek valley.

Once to Beaver Park - an open meadow with a couple of large beaver ponds - there is a four-way intersection with the Flowers trail, which we took southwest up the only aggressive climb of the day. The Flowers trail from Beaver Park ascends about 2,500 feet over three or four miles on loose doubletrack. While it was all runnable, I was definitely still feeling some pretty good leg fatigue from Wasatch.

Above Beaver Park.

At about 10,800' there is a small plateau with a cairn marking a side trail to the site of a WWII B-17 crash. I took the time to check out the wreckage before proceeding up to timberline and the two to three mile stretch of ridge running to the Browns Lake intersection. This was the high point of the loop with the ridge rolling between 11,200' and 11,500'.

WWII B-17 Wreck
Cairn showing the way to B-17 site.

From the north side of the valley, Comanche Peak dominates the views to the south. Mummy Pass and a couple of Mummy peaks were also impressive to the southeast, but the vista was definitely all Comanche.


The trail from Flowers dropped a sharp 800' to the Browns Lake cirque, which was thoroughly majestic. This would be a supremely beautiful spot to camp and hang out for a couple of days, but I shot straight through, following the trail that dissected Browns Lake and the smaller Timberline Lake. Sometimes I wish I would take a little more time to enjoy these panoramas, but that's the trade off with trail running, especially the trail running I do, which generally involves maximizing moving time within the time windows I have.

After rolling by the lakes, the trail plummeted another 800 feet or so on steep, loose singletrack to Comanche Reservoir where it intersected the Beaver Creek trail, which taken east completed the loop on a net-downhill, but rolling six mile stretch back to the Beaver Creek trailhead.

This time last year, we'd already had our first snowfall, however this year so far fall has been most pleasant. Fingers crossed for a few more beautiful fall weekends that will allow for a final scout up around Signal Mountain, which is the only section of the proposed Comanche 50 route that is a bit uncertain.

Week Ending September 26

Monday - Off

Tues - 6 miles (1,000') easy at Reservoir Ridge with FCTR.

Weds - 5 miles easy (800'). Falls loop.

Thurs - 7 miles (1,700'). Towers TT effort. 31:20. Went pretty hard, but felt totally labored and nowhere near recovered from Wasatch.

Fri - Off

Sat - 23 miles (4,500'). Comanche loop.

Sun - Off

Total: 41 miles (8,000').

Still feeling the effects of Wasatch and a long season this past week, but it's great to have the fitness and desire to get out and run 23 miles in the mountains when the mood dictates.

In the midst of heavy training blocks this spring and summer, off days were mentally tough. This past week I learned that the drive to get out every day has become somewhat hardwired, but not so hardwired that I can't back off and take 0 days. It feels good to get out and run when time and desire dictate, rather than have running dictate that time and desire. Four days was all that I wanted to run this week, so that's all I ran. The next few weeks will be no different, but I'm still planning on running a few races for fun.

This Saturday is the Bacon Strip 10 miler (so named because of the rolling nature of the country roads it takes place on), which is a great option for anyone not running the Bluesky Marathon on Sunday. I'll be manning the Towers aid station for that and then enjoying a few bevvies at the post-race shindig in a bid to train my now-poor drinking skills in time for the upcoming beer-mile season. The post-race for Bluesky is a little over a mile from my house, so the run home should offer some good training feedback.

Anyone looking for a fun trail race in two weeks should consider Silent Trails (10 miles) up in the Happy Jack area between Laramie and Cheyenne, or if you want something a little tamer and closer to home, then consider the Pineridge 4 mile trail run on Sunday. The Pineridge race kicks off the Fort Collins Running Club's handicapped Tortoise and Hare fall/winter series, which I'll be directing again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Malmbergs: Putting the Hurt on the Hill

Nebraska natives, Sam and Jen Malmberg both had disappointing days on Pikes Peak in August, but since then they've been leaving a trail of hill climbing destruction in their wake.

After destroying both the men's and women's fields at Jelm Mountain in Wyoming last weekend, with Jen setting a new women's course record (1:29:19) in the process, the Eaton-based couple continued their dominating ways last night at the bi-weekly Towers Time Trial here in Fort Collins.

Jen, already the holder of the fastest known time (FKT) on the hill, sliced almost a minute off her best time by storming up the 1,750' hill in 35:14. Her husband Sam, after a 30:34 fact-finding mission two weeks ago, became only the third guy to go under 30 minutes and the first to go under 29, putting the hurt on my previous FKT by a convincing 37 seconds.

Next weekend, both Jen and Sam will be running the Bluesky Trail Marathon, which features half of the Towers climb as part of the course. Given their current form, they have to be considered red-hot favorites for a third sweep in as many weeks. All hail the king and queen.

Records (Fastest Known Times):

Sam Malmberg: 28:50 (9/24)
Jen Malmberg: 35:14 (9/24)

Bike: Dwight Hall: 26:07 (6/23)

The route

Previous results and misc

7/15 Towers post with a couple pics

Bike times up Towers

Times through 9/24

....Prev best...7/15....7/29..8/12...8/26..9/9...9/24

Adam (2).............................37:25...DNS...DNS...DNS
Alex A....43:00..44:24..41:30.39:04..39:30.38:58.38:07
Alex M...38:14...37:49..DNS....DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS
Brian W.44:55...45:48..DNS...47:29..46:16.47:16.47:15
Brian R...N/A.....42:50...DNS....DNS...DNS....DNS..DNS
Dan T....35:06....DNS.....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Dan J...................................37:18..DNS....DNS...DNS
Jeff S..........................36:02..DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Jen M........................37:17..37:15.36:10!.36:08!.35:14!
Ken Sr.....N/A....43:36...DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Ken Jr.....N/A....35:19....DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Kim........N/A..Mill Creek.DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Mary G...66:10..72:59..70:25..66:58..DNS...68:50..DNS
Mary B...44:58..45:28..42:23..43:41..43:58.47:25..43:16
Mary F...40:57...46:25...DNS...42:00..41:41..DNS...DNS
Matt P...................................39:30..37:10..DNS...DNS
Mike H...33:30..33:17...32:11...DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Mike M..80:00...42:40....DNS...42:34..DNS....DNS...DNS
Mike M (HS).................35:26...DNS..DNS.....DNS...DNS
Nick C...29:27!.31:41..32:18...30:04..34:26..DNS..31:21
Nick M............................................37:36..36:12.35:50
Suzie Jr..N/A......HH+....DNS.....DNS...DNS....DNS....DNS


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Signal Mountain/Lookout Mountain Looper

Got out with Jason O this Sunday for a first proper run since Wasatch, with a spot of exploration in Roosevelt National Forest and Comanche Wilderness. The proposed route went from the Dunraven trailhead, which is at the end of Dunraven Road and accessible from the Drake/Glen Haven Road, north to Donner Pass with a quick tag of Lookout Mountain before heading west out to the Signal Mountain trail to summit Signal and then completing the loop by heading back to Dunraven by continuing on the Signal Mtn trail. As with any route-finding mission that involves me as the primary navigator, there was some significant off-route detouring, which resulted in a slightly modified loop.

Lookout Mountain from Buckhorn ranger station

We started out from my house at 5:30 with my neighbor's house party still banging and a thick fog rolling in. We were off and running by 6:30 and off course by probably 7:30. The play by play on avoiding our mistake is to get up the first mile to gain Bulwark Ridge, head straight through at the first intersection, and then follow the signage at the intersection for Donner Pass (right) rather than heading left up the Miller Fork.

In my defense, the maps clearly show this as a route, but the right we needed (and that was indicated on the map) never emerged and we ended up taking the Miller Fork spur to its nondescript terminus on a trail that faded to a state of serious overgrowth the further upstream it headed. There was some flagging designating the trail (presumably a forest service future trail clearing project), but without it we would surely have turned around earlier in frustration. Anyway, we reached a fork in the creek, and after a good 15-20 minutes of attempting to find the continuation of the trail, we put our tails between our legs and backtracked the two miles to the previous signage for Donner Pass and took that route.

Quite comically, the sign indicated that it was 2.5 miles to Donner Pass, but I would estimate it at much closer to 4.5 miles. Total climb up to the pass was approximately 3,200' from Dunraven, but with our detour we were over 4,000' once we hit the pass. Having wasted so much time route finding up to Donner, we skipped the one mile, 1'000' climb to the summit of Lookout (10,626') and instead took the Lookout Mountain trail (a roller) west three miles to hook into the north/south Signal Mountain trail. Once on the Signal Mtn trail, it's a solid one mile, 800-900' foot hump south to the summit.

The 360 views atop Signal were fantastic, as ever, although views to the south were somewhat hazy due to the smoke coming from the Cow Creek fire, which has been burning now since mid-June. From what I understand, the fire is contained and just smoldering. Either way, there was still a ton of smoke coming from the north end of the North Fork canyon so there must be plenty of fuel left to burn.

The drop from Signal is a little over 3,000' and close to six miles with pretty loose and steep footing in places near the top. With two summits and no detours I'm estimating this loop at just under 20 miles with 6k of climbing, topping out at 11,260'. There are derivations of this loop that could easily produce a full-on 50 mile loop. Much more exploring to be done up here, so hopefully I'll be able to get out a couple more times for a little more scouting before the snow fully lets loose. Ultimately, I hope to figure out a good 50-mile, 6-7 peak route to use as an informal 'among friends' fatass 'race'.

Video from the day (sorry Jason!):

Fortnight Ending September 19

Mon - 1 mile with Alistair at CSU race.
Tues - 3.5 miles (1,000') easy with FCTR at Reservoir Ridge.
Weds - 4.5 miles (1,000'). Horsetooth Falls loop.
Thurs - 0 miles.
Fri - 104 miles (27,000'). Wasatch 100.
Sat - 0 miles.
Sun - 0 miles

Total: 113 miles (29,000')

Mon - 0 miles
Tues - 0 miles

Weds - 0 miles
Thurs - 6.5 miles easy at Pineridge with FCTR crew.
Fri - 0 miles
Sat - 0 miles
. Hike up West White Pine with D & A.
Sun - 20 miles (6,100')
. Lookout/Signal loop from Dunraven.

Total: 26.5 miles (6,100')

Got out for a couple of runs this week but nothing really until today, which was probably a little longer than it needed to be, but it would have been criminal to let the beautiful weekend get away without some kind of higher-peak action. Felt great to be out enjoying the mountains with no particular training or racing focus. Still some residual stuff in the quads on the downs from Wasatch, in addition to general leg fatigue, but things generally felt good.

Will look to keep a similar running schedule for the next few weeks, which means I'll be looking to get up high exploring on the weekends for as long as the weather allows, while taking at least a couple of days off through the week.

Probably look to run the Silent Trails 10 mile Memorial Race in Laramie Oct. 9 and maybe the Bacon Strip 10 mile (which was the first race I ever ran in Colorado) Oct. 2. Heart Center of the Rockies Half Marathon Nov. 7 could be fun too. Haven't run a road half in quite some time, so that would be a good opportunity to firm up my half PR. Maybe a bit of snowshoe racing this winter.

Looking further afield, I've been thinking through some options for next year, and while I really have no idea what the main focus will be, I know I'm feeling pretty lukewarm on returning to Western States, but have definitely been giving some thought to a long trail FKT attempt. Seems John Muir, Colorado Trail and the Long Trail (VT) are the big three as far as shorter long trails are concerned. Will probably do a separate post on some of the research I've been doing on those in the near future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wasatch Front 100

There is something singularly unique about the mountains that define the eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley. I don't know if it's the almost sculpted definition provided by the deep canyons and muscular ridgelines, or the sheer and abrupt rises from the valley floor that so fascinate me about the Wasatch Mountains, but every time I find myself in the Salt Lake area I am unfailingly awestruck by their beauty and scale. Having only admired them from afar until this past weekend, I was - to say the least - more than a little excited at the opportunity to get in among the peaks, valleys and waterways on the north-south tour of the classic Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Having overloaded myself with all manner of lengthy and grueling footraces this year, the competitive aspect of the weekend was noticeably lacking from my thoughts as the days and hours counted down to 5am on Friday morning. I was bound and determined to make the most of this experience, to get out and enjoy a day in the mountains from dawn to the wee hours without having to curse the mountains too badly for the pain they might inflict. As it turned out, the race was a little crueler to me than I was anticipating and as much as I wanted to be out having fun there was still the small matter of having to cover 100 miles and 26,000 feet of vertical gain and loss at elevations of up to 10,500 feet above sea level.

The day started out with coffee and toast at 3:00am and a brief run down on crewing logistics with Rick Robinson who had been gracious enough in the weeks leading up to the race to offer up his house and crewing services for the weekend. Having crewed his son-in-law Scott Jaime at all but one of his many 100-mile races, Rick - to say the least - knows the drill. Add to the fact that he literally grew up in these mountains and has a deep passion for all things granite and vertical, and you have yourself the perfect handler. Scott also managed to procure me an equally outstanding pacer for the last 25 miles on the day, but more on Christian later.

So we got to the race start with just a few minutes to spare and it was all a bit hurried. With the race director announcing two minutes to the start, I found myself in the port-a-john thanking the GI gods for a most timely of sphincter releases. With 30 seconds to go, I was at the check-in desk letting race staff know that I was there, and then just as I was rudely elbowing my way to the start the race got underway, leaving me in a second pack of runners a few meters behind a lead group of four to five guys. I was content to keep it that way through the early sections of the rolling baseline trail that would take us the three or four miles to the first and biggest climb of the day: Chinscraper.

Just as we were all settling into place, the reality kicked in that a very long and potentially painful day and night of running was lying in wait, and while I made light of it with a comment to the pack, I proceeded to settle into a fairly gloomy train of thoughts about the next 20 hours: Why am I doing this? Should I just drop out at the 18 mile aid station? And on and on. These thoughts would reappear throughout the day, but would be shared with other more uplifting thoughts, such as how independent my son is becoming and how exciting it will be to see him play the role of big brother when our second child is born in January.

Anyway, as we made our way up the opening mile or two of the 4,000 foot/5 mile Chinscraper climb, I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Jared Campbell who informed that he was embarking on just the first leg of a monumental two-day adventure that would finish with a 200-mile bike race starting at 6:00am on Saturday (25 hours after the start of Wasatch) with a goal of finishing by the Wasatch cut-off (36 hours total)!

Photo: Eric Lee

I eased past Jared a mile or two into the climb to take up the lead and set the race pace. Nick Pedatella and Luke Nelson followed suit and before long we were crunching through the dusting of snow that had come down a few hours earlier. A couple thousand feet up the ridge and we were sitting in the clouds, getting colder by the stride, all the while taking a lower-leg lashing from the aggressive brush that was reclaiming the trail. I had figured that there would be some hiking thrown in on this climb, but the grade never really justified a hike until we hit the bowl at the top of the mountain, which required a short stint of scrambling before we launched into a nice (but cold) section of high ridge running.

Photo: Eric Lee

While I knew the views of the central Wasatch off this backside would be fantastic, I had to use my imagination as we would unfortunately run in a cold mist for the first 20 miles or so of the race. Luke, Nick and I switched on and off in the lead up here as we each made various adjustments, before Luke dropped off the pace a bit leaving Nick and I to cruise the smooth dirt road descent down to the first aid station.

Pulling into the 18-mile aid (Francis Peak). Photo: Eric Lee

Photo: Ser13gio
PI-S teammate Darcy Africa completes the male/female sweep. Rick Robinson looking on. Photo: Eric Lee

Nick, Nick and Meltzer at Francis Peak aid. Photo: Nate Grigg

I got into the aid a few strides up on Nick (who yelled at me somewhat frantically that we were under course record pace), switched out bottles with Rick and then was on my way down a pitted and puddled forest road. Before long the course markings had me following what appeared to be a game trail through a section of the course that was intensely overgrown. It didn't look like there had been much human movement through these parts in quite some time and I wouldn't be surprised if the people who marked the course were the only people through before me since last year's race. With the overnight rain/snow, I was drenched from the vegetation within seconds, and with the sun still obscured by the clouds it was all a bit chilly. However, the sound of the lively creeks and the fun of bushwhacking kept my spirits up and I popped out from the thicket to emerge at the Bountiful B aid station where I got a refill from Rick and some encouragement from those assembled before heading back out on my way.

To be honest, I don't remember a great deal about the next few sections of the race. I know that there was a good climb in there on a heavily switchbacked section of trail that was annoyingly slippery at times, I also remember scaring the crap out of a herd of sheep and feeling sorry for the black-coated one among them. There was an absolutely sensational section of net-downhill, yet rolling, ridge running in here too that had me whooping and hollering as the sun had finally burnt away the fog offering up sensational views of valleys and peaks for miles around. I remember feeling very in tune with the run right here and really feeling like I was pushing a good pace.

Zoning out. Pics: Robert Athey (Wizard of the Wasatch).

The next thing I remember with any clarity is crossing a road after a long switchbacked descent into the Big Mountain aid station where I saw Eric Lee dressed up as the tin man with a pair of tinfoil boobies. It's weird for me to have such vague memories from a run, but really that is about all I remember. There was something of a climb out of Big Mountain and then rollers on well-maintained trail. It was on this trail that I completely missed a turn down to the Alexander aid station. Funnily enough, I distinctly remember seeing the tape hanging high from a tree at the crest of a hill that marked the 90 degree intersection, and I also remember hopping over a couple of small logs on the trail (which of course I thought nothing of as I'd been hopping logs and downed trees all morning) as I passed the marker, but I somehow completely missed the fact that there was a well-defined trail with markers heading down to my right.

Photo: Ser13gio

Dropping down into Big Mountain. Photo: Eric Lee

Luke Nelson. Photo: Eric Lee

As the trail to this point had not been that regularly marked beyond the key junctions, I thought nothing of the fact that I didn't see a marker for the next 10-15 minutes. However, there comes a point when you think you're off course that you have to make a decision, and as I was starting to sweat the lack of trail markers, another trail intersected the one I was on with no sign of any markers to suggest a turn or to keep going. I unleashed a volley of profanity, but inexplicably kept heading the wrong way down the trail, convinced that the next corner would reveal a dangling duo of blue and pink markers. Five minutes later and I finally gave up on my fools' errand and turned around for the always painful run to get back on course. I timed my return trip to the last-known marker at 18 minutes, so I must have been off course for a total of at least 35 minutes, but I figure it was closer to 40 given that I was foolishly racing to get back on course.

So anyway, I finally got back with the markers and found my turn, and soon thereafter saw some movement ahead. I think Erik Storheim and his pacer were the first guys I passed on the descent to the Alexander aid, and they told me that they were running in sixth or seventh place. I was pretty demoralized to hear that I was now way back in the pack, but figured that with more than half the course still to cover I could still get back into it if I was sensible and measured about things. Soon after passing Erik, I went by Neal Gorman and then another guy I didn't recognize. At Alexander, I learned that I was in fourth, a minute or two behind Kevin Schilling and 15-20 minutes behind Nick and Luke.

The section out of Alexander was tough. The trail went through exposed grassland on an uphill gradient that wasn't particularly harsh, but just at that point where you know you need to be running but really don't want to. With the day beginning to heat up noticeably, and with the energy that I had expended trying to get back into the mix, I was really dragging here. I passed Kevin quite soon after the aid, and he was kind enough to offer some encouragement despite the fact that he didn't appear to be in a particularly good place himself.

Rolling into the Lambs Canyon aid station I was slightly buoyed by the fact that I was past the halfway mark. I got various different time checks from people on the course as I was coming in, which varied from 15 minutes to 8 minutes behind Luke and Nick. Rick was right there at the aid and he gave me a fairly serious talking to about taking it easy and realizing that there was still a ton of running still to be done. He was of course right and his sanity helped me cool my jets to get back on with finding a groove that I could take into the finish. Karl Meltzer and Catherine Horton were also at the aid and offered exactly the same advice, hammering home the need to forget about the missed turn and focus on what lay ahead.

On leaving Lambs, I saw Luke in a chair taping his knee. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was having some serious mechanical issues, which would essentially put him out of the race for positions, but to his immense credit he still gutted out a strong sub-24 hour run. So this put me in second, 8 to 15 minutes behind Nick with a lot of miles and vertical relief still left to cover. All things considered I was pretty happy, although tired, as I made my way up the canyon road to the next section of trail.

The two mile, 1,500 foot climb up Lamb's Canyon was pretty steep, but at just the kind of grade I relish on fresh legs. On this day, I hiked pretty much the whole thing, a fact that indicated that I was really beginning to get tired. As I wasn't running, I focused on regrouping and trying to get a good amount of calories down, all the while thinking that Nick was either in the same boat as me or pulling away significantly. When I finally hit the pass, I felt much better and was able to run the moderately technical and steep descent at a convincingly fast clip. I popped out on the Millcreek Road feeling good. Rick was right there and informed me that it was 3+ miles of steady uphill, all road, to the Upper Big Water aid, oh and that Nick had just 4.5 minutes on me. I ran the whole stretch up to Big Water at just over a shuffle and finally caught sight of Nick shortly before the aid station, which we essentially entered together.

Having caught sight of the lead, I decided that I would take a few minutes to make sure that I was well fueled for the next climb, so I wasn't concerned at Nick taking off well before me from the aid station. While I don't normally eat aid station food, the chocolate chip cookies they had there were looking (and tasting) particularly good, and I think I consumed five while standing around drinking Sprite, taking another four with me for the climb up to Desolation Lake.

The trail up to Desolation Lake was wide, perfectly groomed and easily the best of the whole race. The grade too was very manageable so I was able to run a good portion of this section. About halfway up, I passed Nick for good. We exchanged a few words, both confessing that we weren't having our best days and wishing each other well for the remainder. I felt good about finally getting back to the front of the field and was hopeful that Nick would hang on for second.

After a steep grunt up to the ridge from the Desolation aid station, there was some really nice ridge running at about 10,000 feet to the Scott's Peak aid station. For all the climbing and gnarly descending that this race throws at you, the high ridges really help lift the spirits. I caught a true second wind on this section and felt like I was gliding into Scott's. The guys there informed me that it was all downhill to Brighton on decent jeep track and then asphalt road. I knew it was five to six hours from Brighton to the finish, which while still intimidating was enough within the realms of a long training run to seem manageable.

Rick had driven Christian, my pacer, up the road to meet me for the run down to Brighton, and I immediately got a boost from his calm energy. We cruised efficiently down the big hill, ran the short uphill to the lodge and geared up for the last 25 miles through the night. I certainly could have been more efficient here, but was again cautious about making sure that I was doing the right things with regards to fueling such that I would get to the finish without a big meltdown.

Brighton Lodge parking lot. Photo: Eric Lee

Brighton Lodge. Photos: Eric Lee

Christian and I did a stocktaking of sorts on the climb out of Brighton to the high point in the race, while also pushing out a strong hike and a convincingly strong run around the reservoir, which is where we flipped on the lights for the night. Christian had everything from splits to fuel to sage words of advice and, most importantly, to advance warning of what lay ahead for literally every turn through the last 25 miles. The day before, we had discussed my desire to get under 20 hours, and while I had given up on any kind of time goals long ago, Christian was adamant that the potential for a 19:xx finish was still a reality. I let him tease me with it for a while, but ultimately knew that I wasn't going to get from Brighton to the Homestead on the legs I had in under 5:20.

As we crested the pass over Sunset Peak, we listened to a coyote howling and then soon after to elk bugling. It was a beautiful night. At Ant Knolls we were told that Anthony Culpepper was 15 minutes back on us, which had me a little worried, especially as I was convinced I heard cheers soon after we left: an elk whistling, Christian said. The remainder of the run from Ant Knolls came at me in waves of energy and exhaustion, which were mirrored by the relentless nature of the wicked rollers we humped up and down.

My stomach was beginning to go south on me through these rollers, and while I didn't think I was going to launch anything from the abyss, I knew that food and liquid consumption was out of the question until things settled down. My pace dropped noticeably. Right on cue, Christian broke our silence with a menu of items that he was carrying, the first of which was Tums. I hadn't said a word about my stomach, but clearly Christian knew I was fading and so must have figured. I ate a couple of the chalky tablets and soon felt better - not to the point that sickly sweet gel sounded appetizing, but better.

At the next aid, we got a confusing split on Anthony from the prior aid station, which I calculated in my head as 'he's about to pass you,' but which Christian calculated at 25 minutes. I thought he was lying to me to keep me sane, but I said nothing. And then at Pot Bottom all of sudden we were told that the gap was an hour. More confusion and disbelief on my part, but I allowed myself to get caught up in Christian's enthusiasm about the win being a formality.

Coming into Pot Bottom, Christian had given me a root by root, rock by rock and turn by turn verbal preview of the last seven miles, telling me that there was an uphill, yet 'very runnable,' two-mile section of dirt road right off the bat and that we still had a shot at going under 20 hours. I walked 75 percent of the road and verbally threw in the towel on 20 hours soon after we left Pot Bottom. To his credit, Christian was happy to let it go and we cruised the rocky jeep track descent from the dirt road at a steady, but safe clip. I relished the curvacious last mile or two of singletrack before we popped out on the road for the one-mile victory lap to the finish.

The soft feel of the grass across the Homestead lawn to the finish was bliss.

The Wasatch 100 is a tough, tough race, with some sections that will bring you to your knees and some others that will leave you breathlessly begging for more. All three of the 100 mile races I have run have been intensely rewarding, but the epic nature of the Wasatch course, mixed with the history and the win probably make this one stand out most for me right now. I went in with little to no expectations and came out the other end with a deep appreciation for the history of this race and the beauty and ruggedness of a sensational mountain range.

It is an absolute honor for me to have my name added as the 31st winner of the Wasatch 100, an honor that heavily outweighs my slight disappointment at not bending under 20 hours. I am indebted to both Christin and Rick for helping me drag my sorry arse across this beautiful mountain range and keeping my head in the game when I could so easily have thrown in the towel. I am of course also indebted to the 350 volunteers who manned aid stations in some very remote (and cold) locations, updated a superb race-tracking website, and provided an impeccably well marked course.

A note of congratulations to the amazingly consistent Neal Gorman, who managed to hang tough for second overall, while also dipping under the 21:30 he needed to set a new cumulative time record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch), besting Joe Kulak's time from 2003 by a scant quarter of an hour. And another tip of the hat to training partner and friend Pete Stevenson for persevering on a tough day/night/day in the Wasatch to finish out his Grand Slam quest.

Pete Stevenson at the Wasatch 100. The good and the ugly! Photos: Eric Lee

Now for some rest and a refocus on my beautiful wife, son and impending addition to the family.

Fun & games at the awards ceremony. Darcy, Nick & Neal G. Photo: Christian Johnson

100 milers will do this to you. Sporting the Royal Order of the Crimson Cheetah Induction Hat.. Photo: Eric Lee

2010 Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run from on Vimeo.

Good times!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Week Ending September 5

Mon - 6 miles (500'). Valley easy.

Tues - 5 miles (1,100'). Reservoir Ridge easy with FCTR crew.
Jan: 252 (33,700')
Feb: 189 (33,500')
March: 488 (70,000')
April: 482.5 miles (72,700')
May: 439 miles (79,500')
June: 334 miles (49,000')
July: 279.5 miles (64,400')
August: 302.5 (50,100')

2010: 2,766 (452,900')
Avg: 346 (56,612')
Weds - 6.5 miles easy (1,600'). Falls - Spring Creek - Wathen - Horsetooth.

Thurs - 6.5 miles easy
. Pineridge social run with FCTR.

Friday - 13.5 miles easy (1,700'). 2:00. Bluesky Half Marathon route from home. My longest run of the week and it was a bit of a suck-fest. It was hot (of course) and my ribs were again preventing me from getting a full tank of air, which led to choppy running with a constant focus on my breathing and how my body was not getting enough oxygen, which made my legs feel depleted and on it went down the chain. I'm kind of resigned to the fact now that I'll be dealing with this rib issue in some shape or form come Wasatch. I'm also resigned to the fact that I may have to pop a couple of painkillers along the way to keep the pain from continually putting a 3/4 limit on my oxygen intake. This is not ideal, and a practice I typically avoid, but as long as I am judicial with the pill intake (if it comes to that), I should be okay.

Sat - 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Horsetooth - Summit - Wathen - Spring Creek - Soderberg. Had originally planned a trip up Round Mountain, but failed to get out of bed, so kept things local with a summit of Horsetooth and a drop on a trail I don't run nearly enough. The Wathen descent is easily the smoothest and most curvacious in the whole Horsetooth/Lory trail system, and I quite simply don't give it the love it deserves. Anyway, today was my last trip to the summit of Horsetooth before Wasatch, so, as I did the weekend prior to Western, I took the opportunity to thank my running muse for its unyielding willingness to put me through my paces. Hung out at the top for a little longer than usual taking in the stunning 360s it has to offer with the simmering plains to the east, Longs and Meeker to the west, Laramie plains and Poudre Canyon to the north, and the beautifully hogbacked bluesky valley to the south. The Wathen descent came on legs that weren't nearly as fluid as I would have liked and my ribs were still a source of pain and breathlessness, but it was still a great day to be alive and in tune.

Sun - 5 miles (1,000') easy. H'tooth Falls loop. Ribs promisingly better, but I've been faked out a few times already with this injury, so we'll see over the next couple of days if the improvement is for real.

Total: 50 miles (7,700')

Kind of a blah taper week. Legs didn't feel in the slightest bit fluid at any point on any one of my runs the whole week, probably because I was so preoccupied with my ribs, so hopefully things will turn around a bit through the next few days of rest.

I really have no expectations for Wasatch. I could have a great day just as equally as I could have a nightmare sufferfest - that's the 100 mile distance. I never really know how to prepare for these things with regards to logistics, as it all seems so daunting when you think about it for too long, so I just have to keep reminding myself that it's no more than a one day supported run. A few extra items of clothing should it get cold up high, a light for the night portion, adequate fueling supplies, and then it's off to the races. Simple really.

For me the most important aspect is the race plan, and in my opinion that should also be kept as simple as possible. The plan, as it was for States, is to get to the start line and run according to how my body feels. I got a good day in Squaw, so rolled with it. I'll see what I have to play with in the first few hours from 5am on Friday and then go from there.

I'll certainly be taking (mental) splits with me to have an idea of how I'm running comparative to others who have covered the course before me, but more as a matter of curiosity than for any type of pacing help. As with any race of this length, you have to get yourself to the business end of the course (mile 75 in the case of Wasatch) before there can be any serious mental discussion of time possibilities. Charge too early and you set yourself up for disaster.

More than anything, I'm looking forward to checking out the central Wasatch Mountains - which are of course legendary for their beauty, brutality and ruggedness - and then hopefully being able to engage in bit of head to head racing.