Since the completion of the inaugural Grand Kona Slam in 2012, a common question that friends, family, and supporters ask me is, “So, what do you have planned for next year?”, “How many hundreds will you do this year?”, or something to the effect of “How the heck are you going to top that?” Well, the cat is out of the bag now. Golden Ticket (thanks to Joe Uhan for the motivational thought: in hand after placing third overall at the Bandera 100k USA Trail National Championship last weekend http://www.tejastrails.com/docs/Bandera_res_2013.html , I will return to the start line at Squaw Valley on June 29, this time as a Montrail Ultra Cup automatic entry! (last year I got in via lottery)
“Everybody wants to know what I’m gonna’ do this year. What am I gonna’ do this year?…”
I took a good full month (almost all of November) really easy after Kona, caught up on home and vehicle projects that had been deferred all summer, and then eased back into it with some of the basics including cross-training classes, yoga, core work, and easy running. Rogue Running’s http://www.roguerunning.com/ El Sendero 60k in early December was a great way to get in a hard, long run (almost 5 ½ hours) and gauge where my fitness level was. (That was also my 39th birthday so I got to run my age in miles including warm-up and cool-down!) Two weeks later, Team Terranova (Flyer and Shiloh too) hit Bandera for a 2-day weekend training camp, got in 35 miles on Saturday, a 15 miler on Sunday, and previewed the critical climbs multiple times. (this capped off about a 100-mile week, which is a lot for me). The following weekend was Tejas Trails http://www.tejastrails.com/ RD Joe Prusaitis’ annual Christmas Ridge Run, a 21 miler on the road through many of Austin’s toughest hills, during which Steven Moore and I spent some time together lamenting not getting selected in the Hardrock 100 http://hardrock100.com/ lottery. The weekend before Bandera, my 3-hour Livestrong Austin Marathon http://www.youraustinmarathon.com/ co-pacer Bryan Morton and I got to knock out a practice pacing run hitting 6:52 miles on the first 8 miles of the course. Long story short, I knew I had good legs and was ready to go to the well on Saturday, estimating that it would take a near-35 minute positive split to nab a Montrail Ultra Cup slot. (to the best of my research, Joe Uhan’s 38 minute positive split last year to grab his own Golden Ticket set the bar pretty darn high http://joeuhan.blogspot.com/2012/01/bandera-100k-race-report.html). At last year’s Bandera in my first-ever 100k, I clocked a 9:09 with a 63-minute positive split – (ouch).
Following the 7:30am start, race favorite Sage Canaday http://sagecanaday.com/ and returning Masters Champ Dave Mackey http://davemackey.blogspot.com/ did more than slowly separate from everyone, after the climbs up Sky Island (mile 2) and Ice Cream Hill (mile 4), they were gone and out of sight! At this point, I did my best to just manage the gap to another race favorite Dave James http://www.runlivelearn.com/runner-profile-dave-james-usatf-100-mile-national-trail-running-champion/ , who finally came into view on the #8 trail, when simultaneously Cactus Rose 50-mile champ Erik Stanley http://erikstanley.com/ bridged the gap up to me. So there we were very early in the race, 3, 4, & 5 all together coming into the Chapas aid station at mile 11, where I traded my Nathan handheld bottle for an Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest http://www.ultimatedirection.com/p-600-ak-race-vest.aspx?category=signature-series that Meredith had waiting for me. At this point in the race I was content to find a good rhythm and run as a small pack as we still had 50 miles to go. The flats were not especially kind to me and legs were a bit heavy, so I focused on fueling, hydrating, breathing, and just being as efficient as possible as we slip-slided away. Dave and Erik did most of the talking and we made quick work of the 6-mile section to Crossroads-in.
My wife and crew chief Meredith did an AMAZING job getting me in and out of all the aid stations without stopping (maybe we said 5 words to each other all day?!). This allowed me a couple of minutes to really relax and run alone before Erik and Dave caught back up to me on the way out to the Three Sisters (mile 19). The three of us made really good time and we screamed back into Crossroads-out 43 minutes later. Another quick bottle swap and I was out of there and on the way to Lucky Peak. It took Erik a couple of minutes to catch back up and when he did Dave unfortunately was not with him. As Erik and I made our way up Cairn’s Climb (mile 27) and Boyle’s Bump (mile 29), I started getting mentally prepared for the turnaround at the Lodge (mile 31 in 4:14) and the 2nd loop, fully expecting the trail conditions to be a bit worse (i.e. more mud = more calories = more water = more salt).
Another lightning quick bottle swap, saw Karl http://karlmeltzer.com/ and another runner (Chris Lundstrom http://struggletowardtheheights.blogspot.com/ ) just a couple minutes behind me as I was heading out on Loop 2 so there was absolutely no time to waste. Quick feet, quick feet, quick feet!!! No wrong turns, don’t do anything stupid, and stay out of sight for as long as humanly possible. Fortunately, I managed my efforts & energy really well here and the trail conditions on Loop 2 turned out to be drier/better/faster than on Loop 1. Meredith had her loaded-up “dance-party” mp3 waiting for me at Chapas (mile 42) and off I rolled into the fields where I caught another glimpse of the “Red Bull Express”. “Do not get caught!” I thought to myself, and continued to lay down a solid split coming into Crossroads. Huge thanks to Dave James for coming back out to pace (after dropping at mile 26) for the 9-mile stretch from Cross Roads-in to Last Chance (USATF’s Roy Pirrung announced at the pre-race meeting that USATF modified their no-pacer rule). Dave kept the pace high by staying well in front of me so I had no choice but to run every single step. It’s obvious that Dave has run this course many times as he intuitively knows the best lines to take.
The last 5 mile stretch was hard, no doubt about that. I stayed on the gas for all the flats, “went long” (like Joe Uhan) on the downhills, only allowing myself the “pleasure” of powerhiking the steepest pitches of Cairn’s and Boyle’s. Finish line around the bend, an ultrarunning mentor and Western States 100 pacer Matt Crownover was waiting with his 8-year old son Micah (25k finisher BTW!) who happily paced me barefooted the last 100 meters, priceless!! High fiving and blowing kisses to my wife, I came in for a 3rd place landing, capping off an absolute dream day where everything went my way, hydration/fueling plan was spot on, and it’s always fun to race well at a local event where so many friends are also running, volunteering, and cheering. Total time: 8:55. Loop 1 time: 4:14, Loop 2 time: 4:41 (27-minute positive split!) “…I’m gonna’ be on my feet busting my ass for almost nine hours at the Bandera 100k…”
In memory: A close friend Greg Bourgeois from business school at UT passed away from cancer right before Christmas at the young age of 34. His initials “GB” were on all of my bottles on Saturday. Many times I thought of how hard he fought to stay alive, and even though in the end it wasn’t enough, that kept me pushing the pace late into the race. Thanks Greg! http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesman/obituary.aspx?pid=161995843
As always, sponsors played a huge role in last year’s Grand Kona Slam and in Saturday’s performance. Big thanks to Rogue Running, Jack and Adams Bicycles, Pure Austin, Advanced Rehab, DryMax Socks, thinksport, Bonk Breaker Bars, Soleus watches, High Five Events, Allan Besselink’s RunSmart, and of course Eating & Living Healthy. Thanks also to Tejas Trails for another superbly run event!!!
As always, thank you for reading and for ALL of your encouragement and support!
“…What are you gonna’ do this year?”