As we head into fall, it’s about time to reflect on the end of summer…
Following completion of my 5th consecutive Western States 100 in late June, and the appropriate couple of weeks to decompress, indulge, re-calibrate and reset for the second half of 2016, I had the opportunity to knock off some rust and return to the Capt’n Karl’s Muleshoe Bend trail race on July 16th. Originally I had signed up for the 60km, but smartly dropped down to the 30km knowing full well that A LOT of rust had accumulated in a short 3 weeks and this would be my longest run since States. For those of you not acquainted with the Capt’n Karl’s series of races put on by Brad Quinn, these have become a central Texas summer tradition with their late-afternoon/early evening start times of 7 to 7:30pm, guaranteeing at least a couple hours of night time running and a small respite from the daytime heat, perfect for honing some of the skills I would need at the Cascade Crest 100 miler in late August. Driving out to Muleshoe Bend park, I dropped Meredith and her bike off so she could ride the rest of the way there while I got ready to run. For this run, I returned to a tried and true gear setup for me: ultimate direction AK vest with 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle of fuel, ORAL IVs, and 2 gels on board just in case. This ensures that I get plenty of fluids in, especially in the blazing heat of a mid-July day. Fortunately, Meredith would be able to crew me in several locations on the 2 loop course and resupply me with fresh fuel and water bottles. Despite taking it out conservatively from the gun, the suffering was immediate as the rust ached, grated, and grinded against ever fiber in my body. Fortunately, the aid station splits are only 3.5, 3.5, 2.5 miles for each loop, so they come fast and furious and are +/- 30 minutes apart, totally manageable. Mer had ice cold bottles ready which I desperately needed. Lights on, head down…you only have to bust the rust off once and then it’s done I told myself. Caught back up to a couple folks during loop 2 who went out much harder than me which buoyed the spirit, but then caught my left foot in a horse-hoof hole which rapidly sent me to the ground and returned me to the reality of night running. Thankfully crossed the line 7th place overall. WHOOF, that was hard work and was glad to be done for the night. After a quick dip in adjacent Lake Travis to clean off, Meredith drove us home as the heat and effort of the day/night had me a little queasy.
After a couple more productive weeks of training with my training group, the next Capt’n Karl’s race was at Colorado Bend State Park on August 6th. Fortunately, another classic Austin/Rogue tradition was earlier that day: the Run from Hell, which is a 20+ mile road run on many of the biggest hills that central Austin can dish out. After knocking that out with my Rogue teammates BMort and Jess (and others), quick breakfast, then hot yoga, I was ready to start the drive north up to Lampasas with friend Justin and the dogs. Once again, Meredith would be riding her bike 120+ miles north to meet us before the race. Needless to say, it was Texas HOT, and Meredith was a champ navigating the rural roads between Austin and Lampasas. We picked her up at the Corner Store and got ready to run at our friend’s Lisa and Marc’s ranch (complete with their dog Boo & a kegerator of Shiner). Fortunately, this 30k went SIGNIFICANTLY better than Muleshoe Bend!!! The one loop course had aid stations at miles 3, 8, 10.5, & 16. Was able to reel in the eventual winner to within eyesight at around mile 11, but then he took off never to be seen again. 2:42 total time and about a minute behind the winner, so real happy with that. We made our way back to the ranch (and the awaiting keg of Shiner) to enjoy the rest of the evening shooting the breeze on the porch with Justin and night-owl Marc.
Got a couple more quality workouts in August before Cascade Crest, including an 18 mile out and back on Lime Creek Road with Troy, a mid-week 6 x 1 mile workout at 10k pace and a Saturday 17 mile easy run. Finally things were turning the corner and another 100-miler didn’t feel so daunting. Intel from CC100 veterans Steven Moore, Jason Lehman, and course record holder Seth Swanson were invaluable in helping with the preparation and planning for this effort. Meredith would be doing Ironman Couer d’Alene the weekend before in Idaho as a training race for Ultraman Hawaii which left me with time to get the mind and body ready for the task at hand. #1 priority was to get a fresh Hardrock 100 qualifying race for the upcoming lottery in December, #2 priority was to beat the sunrise to the finish on Sunday, and #3 goal was around a 19 hour finish time. Pacer and crew-member Troy would be joining us in Washington state as he had a follow-on work trip in Seattle the week after the race. Patagonia teammate Krissy Moehl and her crew would likewise be joining Team Terranova at the rental house in South Cle Elum.
Without boring you with mind-numbing details of how the race played out, here are the mentionable highlights:
-9am start time is NICE! Normal 3-hours before start time “breakfast” of coconut cashew Bonk Breaker bar with peanut butter and copious amounts of coffee went down easy as usual and pre-race VESPA CV-25 and Junior worked like a charm. Got going at a sensible pace and eased my way into the day, spending some early miles with the likes of Hal Koerner and Benjamin Bucklin.
-either the early steep hiking or debris in my shoe caused the outside of my right heel to rub raw within about 10 miles, which I successfully managed until mile 54 with copious amounts of aid-station Vaseline smeared inside my Drymax Team RWB issue sock, before a shoe change at the Hyak aid station. It never affected my gait so I manned up knowing that the damage was done and it wasn’t going to get any worse.
-generally stayed on or ahead of my 19 hour split card until the new Little Bear mile 20 aid station, and then chased 15 to 45 minutes behind it until it got away from me at Thorp Mtn mile 86, pushing to an hour and then finishing 1:18 over 19 hours. Still pretty happy with the consistent effort throughout the whole day and night with no low moments to speak of.
-going back to the basics with the vest and 2 bottles (1 fuel and 1 water) for the majority of the race worked like a champ. Supplemented every couple of hours with VESPA Ultra Concentrate, ORAL IVs, and a few gels here and there as needed.
-enjoyed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) section and the “hollow” sound that the ground makes with each foot strike. Julbo Blast shades were perfect in and out of the shadows.
-pierogie at mile 49 Olallie Meadows was fantastic, thank you Scott!
-descending the roped descent section and the 2-mile tunnel prior to mile 54 Hyak was super fun and got to put my marathon road running skills to use in the tunnel and the frontage road section after Hyak. The shoe change from HOKA Challenger ATR2s to Claytons at Hyak certainly helped as well and my crew had it all set up for me including my Black Diamond double-light setup (thanks Roch!) and even some well appreciated sweetened iced coffee!!!
-Seth Swanson’s advice to “run all the roads” kept ringing in my ears all day and hopefully I did his advice justice especially the 15 mile gravel/Jeep road stretch from Hyak to Kachess Lake (mile 69).
-pacer Troy and I made efficient work of the 6-mile “Trail from Hell” leading into Mineral Creek (mile 75) and were duly impressed by the foothold notches chainsawed into the giant trees laying across the trail. Mer met us enroute after Mineral Creek for a quick on-the-move shirt change and to don arm warmers and grab thin gloves, beanie, and vest as a “just in case” measure for the last unsupported 20 miles at night.
-looking up, up, and UP at the reflective markers through the Cardiac Needles section (generally miles 82-90) can be somewhat disheartening at times and best approached with healthy doses of humor…“REALLY, we’re going up THAT?!”
-thank YOU to the selfless aid station volunteer at Thorp Mtn (mile 86) who shared his cold coffee with me, that was awesome!!! P.S. that out and back climb up to the Thorp Mtn lookout is a BRUTE!
-big props to the French Cabin (mile 89) aid station for their hot cheese quesadillas and cold Starbucks Frappucino, totally hit the spot at 3am!!
-for as much downhill as the last 7 miles is from French Cabin to Silver Creek (mile 96), pretty sure I gave it a good push for the first 3-4 miles and then really battled to maintain foot speed and turnover the last couple miles. Could not wait to get to Silver Creek!!!
-Krissy, Mer, and I pre-ran the 4-mile stretch from Silver Creek to the finish on Friday (and collected some Trail Karma along the way and soaked our legs in the Yakima River) so definitely felt home free at this point…UNTIL Troy and I made it to the airfield and suddenly we had COMPANY no more than 50 meters behind us in the form of a 4th place runner and pacer exiting the woods!!! Troy saw it immediately and started ratcheting up the pace and I just tucked in behind him and held on for dear life. (I’m no stranger to close finishes having fended off former winner Eric Grossman for 3rd place with 2 miles to go at the 2013 Mountain Masochist (MMTR) 50 miler and then dueling with defending champion and Patagonia teammate Brian Rusiecki in the last mile for my first MMTR50 win in 2014.) The flat running at this point felt fantastic and gradually the gap extended by the time we hit the pavement and Meredith joined us having parked the car at the finish line fire station and ran backwards to meet us. She enthusiastically encouraged Troy and me on and confirmed that it was Ben Bucklin and his pacer wife (and 2016 Hardrock 100 finisher no less!) behind us. Ben had an excellent Green Gate to the finish at this year’s Western States 100 and got around me somewhere between Green Gate and Hwy 49.
-such sweet relief to eyeball the railroad tracks leading to the Easton fire station finish line under the cover of darkness, and to be greeted by co-RD Adam Hewey with a well earned CC100 buckle and hooded sweatshirt. Super proud of Meredith and Troy for keeping me on the ball all day and cracking the whip especially the last 2 miles to hang on to 3rd place, earn the 2017-2018 Hardrock qualifier AND beat the sunrise! Other than leaving my Julbo shades in the back of my pack all night I can’t think of anything they should have done differently :O ! Thanks to Ben for fighting to the finish and keeping me honest all day.
-after a quick retreat to the rental house for a hot shower and an enormous breakfast at the Cottage Cafe, Mer, Troy and I finally got a couple hours of early morning shut-eye before Krissy and her crew arrived for breakfast #2 at the house. Major props to Krissy and her #rookiecrew for the win!
-for me, Cascade Crest offered up the best “back to the basics” combination of Wasatch Front 100, Leadville Trail 100, and Run Rabbit Run 100 minus the altitude.
All in all, I’m once again incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits. The 2nd half of 2016 has already offered up some enormous gifts. HUGE thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for helping make this “back to the basics” journey possible. Mahalo for reading.