Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Five Weeks Ending May 11

Chipping away here to see if I can't get caught up on this blog before I toe the line at Western States in three and a half weeks. It has been an incredibly busy last couple of months, so the old blog has had to take a back seat as other priorities have demanded my time. With the summer season now pretty much in full effect here on the Front Range, things are finally beginning to ease up a bit and I can start catching up with other items on the to-do list.

The long and the short of the last few months is that I raced a couple of big races, a 100 miler included; put on a 50 miler; traveled a good bit for work; chauffeured kids around town; turned 40; squeezed in mileage; knocked out my 100th Horsetooth of the year; and attempted to be a good husband to boot. The usual stuff. Next year, I plan on calming things down significantly by taking a few things off my plate. I really don't enjoy being madly busy.

And now I find myself a few short weeks removed from the 'Big dance,' 'the Track Race,' 'the Showdown in the Sierras.' That's right, Western States has crept up and it's almost time to start thinking about tapering. The last three weeks - missing from the recap below - have been pretty solid, so I'm happy enough with where my fitness is right now even if, in relative terms, I might be a half step behind where I've been in past years. But the beauty of the 100 mile race is that pure fitness is by no means the be all and end all of competing successfully. It's important for sure, but so is being in the right head space, having experience, possessing superior physical & mental toughness, and a whole host of race-day intangibles. Throw a Yahtzee on race day and I could end up PR'ing and challenging again for a podium spot - fitness be damned. Launch an air ball, and, well, you know, I may not even get to the finish line. Such a fickle distance.

Anyway, I am very calm about this year's race, especially as I've barely had a moment to think about it, and I'm quietly confident that I'll end it out with another top 10 finish to my name. In the name of keeping things simple, I'm setting no other goals.

In other news, I'll be heading off to South Africa in November for the race of a lifetime at SkyRun South Africa. Not only is the race taking part in a fantastically remote subrange of the Drakensberg Mountains bordering Lesotho - navigation skills required - but this will be my first ever trip to the African continent and one that will include a host of other non-race-related activities that promise to be equally as fun. This has already been an incredible year for run-travel opportunities, so I really couldn't think of a better capstone to a memorable 2014, my 40th year on this planet.

Anyway, to get caught up:

Week Ending April 13

This was Mount Fuji 100 minus three weeks. The plan here was to put in a regular week of training to be concluded with a training race weekend at the Lake Sonoma 50. The week was composed of mainly Horsetooth summits, a 31 minute Towers time trial and otherwise easy mileage.

The Lake Sonoma weekend was as fabulous as always, with picture perfect weather, a fun wine tasting the day after the race, and a hugely impressive field of runners to watch perform on race day. My plan going into this one was to pace things at slightly quicker than 100 mile effort, perhaps run at the pointy end of the women's field, test out the UTMF gear set-up, and come out the other end feeling intact and ready to race 100 miles in two weeks time.

Ian Sharman and I had exchanged emails leading up to the race and had decided to run the race together as we were both looking for nothing more than a solid long-run workout, but as he was in the port-a-john when the gun went off that never happened. Instead, I found myself running the first half of the race in the small three-runner group of lead women. Emily Harrison was doing most of the running, with Stephanie Howe and Jodee-Adams seemingly content to follow. About 20 miles in, Emily made a decisive move that would be good enough to propel her to the win and course record. Meanwhile, I was happy to keep things steady, take my time at the aid stations and generally enjoy the day.

Lingering in the penultimate aid station, with 12 miles left to go, I was a little surprised to have Kaci Lickteig catch up to me, clearly running a well-paced race and forcing me to notch my now-lazy effort a rung or two. The last 10 miles passed by a lot quicker than they have the last two years when I've typically found myself slogging pretty hard to get to the finish. Coming into the quarter mile out and back down to the last aid station, five miles from the finish, we passed Stephanie Howe in second. This clearly lit a fire under Kaci and she was off to the races, while I hung out at the aid station shooting the breeze with the volunteers for a couple of minutes. Heading back out I crossed paths with Ian and he would (finally) catch up to me with a few miles left to the finish. A couple of miles out from the aid we caught back up to Kaci and tried to drag her along to see if we couldn't track down Stephanie. We never did, but it was fun to finish out the race with an up-tempo last couple of miles, and to also keep the Ian & Nick bromance alive by crossing the line as one, ending up in 7:37, good for a mid-teen finish in the overall placings against a fast crop of runners.

I got back out to the lake the next day for an hour or so of super easy mileage and felt great, closing out a 100 mile week with 20,000'+ and feeling like I'd put in just the right effort the day before. I came away from the Sonoma weekend with a good sense of confidence for a strong run in Japan.

The bromance lives on! Pic: Ultrarunning Magazine
Week ending April 20

I typically do a three-week taper before goal 100 mile races, but as UTMF sat right in the middle of the Western States training block, I decided instead to begin a shorter two-week taper after Lake Sonoma. The only goal for this week therefore was to knock out the six remaining Horsetooth summits I needed for 100 on the year before my Saturday flight out to Tokyo. Mileage was right around 60 on the week, with something in the vicinity of 10,000 feet of vert.

Ziggy gave me a kiss for my 99th summit.
Downing Sake at 6:30 am for my 100th Horsetooth of the year. With Celeste, Pete, Slusher, Ryan, Sarah and Emily.
Week Ending April 27

Flew out to Tokyo on the Saturday and arrived on Sunday feeling not too worse for wear. I checked into an economy room I'd booked by the airport, which was a whole lot bigger than I was expecting, and then snuck out for a gentle five miler on some of the Narita back roads. Geez, I even found a little section of trail to roll on for a while. The trip was off to a good start.

Trail and greenery in Narita.
After another morning jaunt on the Narita loop early Monday, I caught a train into Tokyo to meet up with the incomparable Takashi Fukuchi, Altra's man in Japan. With the help of his wonderful wife, Rae, I would be given the royal treatment for the rest of my stay. Really, as fun as the race itself was, the lasting memories from this trip will come from the wonderful human interactions and generous hospitality that I encountered while in Japan.

We stayed a couple of days in Tokyo, visiting a few trail and outdoor store accounts of Takashi's, getting out for the classic Imperial Palace 5k loop, and eating tons of great food. The trail market is clearly thriving in Japan, just as it is in the United States, probably more so when one considers the Japanese love of gear, a love affair that might even rival that of the continental European need for trail-running 'stuff.'
Views from the Imperial Palace 5k loop.
First pair of Olympus Altras to hit Japan at Run Boys! Run Girls!
More Japanese Altras.
The Altra crew.
Wednesday, we met up with one of the Altra founders, Brian Beckstead and his (very pregnant) wife, Zanna, before taking off for Kawaguchiko and the general Fuji area. I'll save the rest of the Fuji experience for a separate post, but the short and dirty is that the first 70 miles were about as good as they get. However, a bowl of miso soup soon thereafter turned the whole race on its head and I ended up facing a tortured, stomach-turning last 30 miles. Somehow, I still managed to crack the top 10, and ended up being incredibly happy to simply get to the finish and complete the circumnavigation of a truly impressive mountain.

With the race and various jogging outings, the week came in at about 128 miles w ~30,000' of accumulated gain.

Week Ending May 4

Flew back to Colorado on the Monday, then took the next few days off despite feeling remarkably unscathed from the 105 miles it took to get around Mount Fuji.

I got out Thursday for an early 8 miles with Sarah on the Blue Sky Trail, and while I could definitely feel a good bit of fatigue in the pins, soreness was almost completely lacking. Nonetheless, I capped the run at 8 miles rather than the originally intended 10.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, I got out and bagged Horsetooth summits (101, 102, 103), with runs of between 6 and 10 miles. Total running on the week was 31 miles w/ 6,000' of vert.

Week Ending May 11

Despite feeling like I got out of Japan in pretty good physical shape, I decided to keep to the game plan of taking two weeks of significantly reduced mileage to aid the recovery process. Maintaining discipline here was aided significantly by the fact that I had a 50 mile race to pull off that weekend.

The week consisted of two Horsetooth summits (105) and the course-marking process which began Wednesday in a hailstorm and ended Friday afternoon with JoeGFM on a casual Horsetooth loop to take care of the loose ends on the heavily trafficked trails near the main trailhead. Saturday and Sunday I didn't run a step.

As always, it was extremely gratifying to put on the Quad Rock Trail Races. This year, we catered to over 360 starters and enjoyed our typical mixed May conditions of sun, cloud and rain. All in all, Pete and I were happy with how the day unfolded, and judging from the post-race survey we conducted it seems that most of our runners were too. We'll be sharing the results of the survey here in the near future once we've (well, once Gary David has) been able to convert the raw data to a digest'able report. In the meantime, we've got a post-race wrap of the day on the race website here.

Total on the week was 40 miles w/9,000' vert. 

Stay tuned for more gripping catch up reporting and maybe even a race report or two.


  1. Thanks, Alex. Yeah, just about hanging in there.

  2. Bromance time again in 24 days.

    1. Wanna run together for 100 miles, then sprint it out on the track?

    2. Wow. That might land you a masters title Nick, but the 7 years the younger legs would heavily slant the odds to Mr S. on a showdown on the track ... if you really want to make it interesting for us track fans you have to hit the track with a 3 second lead.

    3. 8 x 400 last night George. I'm sharpening both ends.

  3. Working on it, bro. Working on it.

  4. Good luck at WS. Nice meeting you at Sonoma. You are a first-class ambassador for the sport.

    1. Much appreciated, Tom. Great to meet you too.

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