Bittersweet

Not all race reports are fun to write…this was one of those.

Race week could 100% NOT have gone any better.  Easy travel into Squaw, quick drive back to the Patagonia Reno Outlet on Wednesday for a pre-WS100 panel discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOzT5M3mH8s  (thanks Ginger Runner for moderating!), couple normal easy hikes and runs, plenty of rest and time to get appropriately focused.  Karma smiled upon Meredith and me twice as we had the opportunity to host and share time with the legend David Horton in our rental condo, and also 20-time finisher Jim Scott and his wife Mary Jo joined our crew for support at Robinson Flat, Bath Road, and Rucky Chucky far side.  Weather was looking to be nice and warm, not quite 2013 hot but warmer than 2015 for sure.  No excuses, all systems GO!

Race started controlled and with a healthy respect for the day ahead.   The hike/run up to Watson’s Monument felt super easy and the first couple aid stations at Lyon Ridge, Red Star Ridge, and Duncan Canyon had me exactly where I wanted to be (15 – 20th place, a couple minutes slower than anticipated, within striking range of 10-15th place) without having to play any matches or over exert myself.  The miles came easy in the high country, footwork was smooth (NO falls this year), and my crew of Meredith and training partner & friend Troy Bertram took phenomenal care of me at Duncan Canyon mile 24, ice bandana #1!WS2016

The climb up to Robinson Flat from Duncan Creek had historically been a relative low point for me the last 3 years, but with some minor adjustments she let me arrive in great spirits and feeling superb.  Jim and Mary Jo had a fresh ice bandana and good calories waiting at Robinson Flat, and the subsequent climb up to Little Bald Mountain came equally as smooth.  With 30 of 100 miles neatly tucked away and a gorgeous dry sunny day ahead I methodically motored on…

Again, Troy and Meredith and the good people at Dusty Corners took great care of me 8 miles later, staying wet, ice bandana, good calories, etc.  The super-fun descent down to Last Chance and Deadwood Canyon came off without a hitch and I took some extra time at the spring on the far side of Swinging Bridge to get wet, reload my simple water bottle for staying wet, and embarked upon the Devil’s Thumb climb, which I’ve done so many times now between training camps and racing that I know not even to think about running the early sections and instead settle into a steady power hike and work my way into it.  This year, however, by the time I emerged on top of the climb, WHOOOFFF, that was harder than it should have been!!!  Okay, no problem, relax, be patient, take your time here, get cool, get iced down, there’s still a LONG day ahead…huge thanks to Joe Uhan and others for catering to my every need here!

2016michiganbluffOnward to El Dorado Creek and enroute perform some self-triage in anticipation of the climb up to Michigan Bluff, which, much like the climb up to Devil’s Thumb, ended up being WAY harder than it should have been.  Okay, no problem, keep rolling, get to your crew at mile 56, rally, things WILL come around!

At Michigan Bluff, I traded the Best Day Ever visor that I had been wearing for a tropical bucket hat loaded with ice.  SMART move, that felt great!!!  Volcano Canyon can be super hot and today was no exception.  Totally submerged in Volcano Creek and Jim was eagerly awaiting me at the base of Bath Road like the total pro he is!  We made good time up to Foresthill at which time Troy and I set our sights on Cal Street (his first time!) – plenty of work to be done…

2016WS Seemed I had slipped into somewhat of a no-man’s land with few runners close enough to trade spots with.  Still we pressed on towards the river, making tidy, efficient, business-like work of the 16 mile stretch.  Poor Troy selflessly gave himself whiplash turning his head around so many times checking on me.  Crossing the river on foot via cable no doubt was a highlight, expecting the cool baptism to stoke the competitive juices for the remaining 20 miles.  Dang that felt great!  Meredith, Jim, and pacer #2 Lee McKinley were on the far side and sprang into action with cold drinks, positive encouragement, and course updates.  I felt ok, but continued to fight on.  I welcomed the calories on the climb, but did not embrace spouse encouragement.  It was here she decided I would be best motivated staying with Lee to the finish.  Onward after a quick shoe change from Claytons to a fresh pair of Clifton 2s.  THANK you Jim for the advice to stay with the same pair of socks which were working fine and just change shoes only, that worked great!

paul WSLiving in Auburn, Lee knows the stretch from Green Gate to Highway 49 as well as anybody and we did our best to make it to Brown’s Bar without turning on our headlamps.  We ALMOST made it, but not quite.  After a quick encounter with some wildlife eyeballs on the Quarry Road, we kept the pace up, continually scanning ahead for headlamps and fading runners.  None to be had unfortunately.  The Highway 49 aid station could not come soon enough and my only focus was to grab my bottles and keep moving as at the time I thought that a sub-18 hour finish might still be possible.  Nothing to be gained by lingering here. All I knew was I wanted to get up to the Meadow SO BAD!!!  Lee caught up and we kept chipping away at the remaining 7 miles.  At No Hands Bridge the reality of going over 18 hours set in yet as 2 good friends experienced at ultras we kept up the charge knowing full well that the quicker it’s over the closer we were getting to dinner!

Oddly, at the base of the Robie Point climb, we passed a runner and his pacer very slowly making their way up the climb.  Hmmm…THAT’S interesting…Lee asked me if I knew who that was, to which I replied, “Lee, I think that was Jim Walmsley!”  (2016 Bandera 100k and Lake Sonoma 50 champ and former race leader).  You just never ever know what is going to happen and that is why you “NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP.”  A 5th consecutive sub-24 hour finish is nothing to sneeze at, and Meredith and Troy enthusiastically greeted us at the Robie Point aid station for the quick jaunt on the pavement through the neighborhood to the track.  While the day didn’t play out as we had hoped, collectively as a team we keep fighting for it and giving it our all.

paul and bob All in all, I’m once again incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits.  Meredith and I are SO eager to see what the 2nd half of 2016 has to offer up!!!  HUGE thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for helping make these journeys possible.  Mahalo for reading.

 

-Paul

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How Do You Feel About How You Feel?

Before we head into the spring training and racing season, let’s get in a little recap of the winter.

These recaps have been LONG overdue so I’ll work from what’s freshest in the mind (RR100) and work backwards to Bandera.

2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 USATF Championships 

 

The goal going in for RR (4 weeks after Bandera 100k) was to repeat as USATF 100 mile trail champion, compete for the overall win (i.e. keep Ian Sharman somewhat within striking distance), go sub-14 hours (last year went 14:05), and run a sub 3-hour final 20-mile loop (last year ran 3:16 for the last loop). Meredith also “recommended” I be at least 40 minutes in front of the women’s winner (last year Nicole Studer crossed the line just 17 minutes after me). Ambitiously, I thought that a 2:35/2:35/2:40/2:45/2:55 progression of lap splits was possible resulting in a 13:30 finish time. My splits last year were 2:33/2:39/2:44/2:53/3:16. Without further adieu, here’s how it played out…

Loop 1: 2:33. Ian took off like a jackrabbit and I settled into a smooth comfortable pace with eventual women’s winner Sabrina Little and last year’s women’s winner Nicole Studer. The two of them were chatting it up and absolutely hammering the Triple C Trail sections (aka Superhighway due to the regrading) into and out of Damnation. Was cautious to give my right hammy plenty of time to come up to operating temperature before the sun came up, after which I passed my gloves and Drymax arm warmers to my crew.

Loop 2: 2:39. By this point I had separated from Sabrina and Nicole, Ian already had 5 minutes on me at the start of the 2nd loop and would more than double it to 11 minutes by the end of the loop. All systems were GO and my crew of Meredith and Justin were in GREAT spirits in the crisp morning. Julbo Aero sunglasses were PERFECT for picking up the roots and nuances as the trail weaved in and out of the shadows. USATF representative Jason Bryant conducted his first of 2 “live, on-trail” interviews during this loop.

Paul Terranova – Interview on the Run2 from meredith on Vimeo.

Loop 3: 2:46. Despite falling off my projected splits, I was feeling GREAT and moving really really well. No headphones, sunshine and clear skies keep me clicking off the mile splits of 3-3-7-3-4 for each loop. The night before the race, I listened to the UltraRunner podcast interview that Eric Schranz and Sarah Lavendar Smith did with Matt Fitzgerald, author of the new book “How Bad Do You Want It?” My takeaway for the race was one that Sarah mentioned, “How do you feel about how you feel?” This phrase got lots of airtime in my mind, along with that new Justin Bieber song “Love Yourself”, ha!

Loop 4: 3:02. Justin jumped in as my safety runner/pacer and we made what felt like quick work of it. Jason’s conducted his 2nd “live, on-trail” video during this loop. We easily would have come in under 3 hours had I not stopped briefly to take advantage of the porta-potty at the gate right before the Park Road aid station. The sun was starting to set and my crew got my gloves, arm warmers and a short sleeve shirt ready for the final loop.

Loop 5: 3:22. Meredith took Justin’s place at the Nature Center aid station and our goal was to get as far as possible past the Damnation aid station before having to turn on our headlamps. For some reason, we both felt that I moved so much better this year even though the time doesn’t reflect it in comparison. Proud to have run every single step this year, having done a little bit of hiking the last 8 miles of the race last year.

All in all, absolutely thrilled with how the race played out. http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/2016-usatf-100-mile-trail-championship-results/   14:24 total time and 39 minutes behind Ian (was 33 minutes behind him last year). OF course I would have liked to run faster, break 14 hours, go sub-3 for the last loop. Heck, I had PLENTY of motivation with pounds of New Zion Church BBQ waiting for me at the hotel room. Sabrina finished 31 minutes after me. There is still work to be done!!

Many thanks for the work that physical therapist Dr. Kevine Norris substituting for out-of-town Dr. AJ Zelinksi at Little River Healthcare Chiro & Rehab and their team did on me the week before the race to get me ready. Thanks too to Lisa for the pre-race massage and Jamie for the finish-line massage!

2016 Bandera 100km USATF Championships

Having no pressure to earn a Golden Ticket by virtue of my 10th place finish at States last year, I came in wanting to podium, earn the USATF Master’s title, and apply lessons learned from my tactically deficient 2014 race where I went off the front like a buffoon. It’s no secret that minimizing your positive split from loop 1 to loop 2 is the key to doing well here. My plan was a 4 hour first loop and a 4:20 second loop.

Loop 1: 3:59. The Hill Country State Natural Area treated us to a BEAUTIFUL morning and a relatively tame start that broke apart somewhat going up towards Ice Cream Hill but then for some reason regrouped shortly after the Chapas aid station at mile 11. Denucci made a cheeky acceleration coming through the fields after Mendoza stepped off the trail briefly to take care of some business. Mario quickly caught back up and by the time we hit Cross Roads at mile 16 I was a couple minutes back but stoked to be within striking distance. Fellow Texan Ford Smith and I ran together through Last Chance (mile 25) before he accelerated and gapped me coming into the Lodge. Meredith had me in and out of the Lodge for loop 2!

paul at bandera

Loop 2: 4:40. I kept pressing the whole loop knowing that just about anything can happen in a race of this distance. The cool but sunny and breezy conditions out here can be deceptively dehydrating, and cramps can appear without any notice. Walmsley, Denucci, and Mendoza were absolutely crushing it in 1st/2nd/3rd positions. Caught back up to Ford on the approach to Sky Island and we motored into the Nachos aid station which nothing but a water bottle fill-up for me but Ford needed to catch back up on calories. Meredith kept encouraging me at each aid station to stay on the gas which I was happy to oblige. Seeing your wife selflessly crew and ride her mountain bike from aid station to aid station brings out many grateful and humble feelings. Coming into the Last Chance aid station with 6 miles to go, Meredith informed me that Mario left only 6 minutes before and was walking with his wife towards the finish. Patiently, I kept my eyes peeled up the trail for him around every corner, tree, and bush. Unfortunately, I never saw him and crossed the finish line thinking that I was still in 4th place, only to be informed later that Mario turned back around to the Last Chance aid station and pulled the plug having succumbed to the effects of the flu. SO, an 8:39 finish which was about a minute PR for me out here.   http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/bandera-100k-usatf-100k-national-championship-results/

All in all, I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits. Meredith and I are so eager to see what the rest of 2016 has to offer up!!! HUGE thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for helping make these journeys possible. Mahalo for reading.

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End of 2015 Review – Time Flies when you are having fun

Got in a lot of “firsts” after States this year; the plan was to go run and experience terrain/conditions/fatigue in different ways to expand the ole’ comfort zone…

 July 2015: (photos Paul Nelson)

 

-ate WAY too many Girl Scout cookies, THAT will not happen again!

-tackled the Speedgoat Triple (Vertical Mile/50k/Quadbanger) in Snowbird, UT. Finished 3rd overall behind HOKA teammates Timmy Parr and IronMike Wardian. Not only is Speedgoat Karl an accomplished athlete but a seasoned RD as well.

August 2015: telluride1

-Experienced my first taste of the San Juans at the Telluride Mountain Run, CO. Dakota and Reese keep it simple, the way most trail races used to be!

-Revisited my night running skills at the Capt’n Karl’s 30k at Reveille Peak Ranch, Burnet, TX.   Brad Quinn and his Traverse Running team have us Texans running ALL summer long!

 

September 2015:

-Almost pulled off The Rut Triple (VK/25k/50k) in Big Sky, MT, but smartly opted for the 11km on day 3 instead of the gnarly 50k. RDs Mike and Mike bring the whole festival, kids run, and even snow up at the top of Lone Peak!   Thanks to Myke Hermsmeyer http://mykehphoto.smugmug.com/ for catching a sweet photo from the 25k that appeared in the November 2015 issue of Competitor Magazine http://issuu.com/competitormagazine/docs/201511 .

-Joined my Rogue Running teammates for another edition of the Zilker Relays Hard to beat 2.5 miles of speedwork at 5:38 pace and a great summertime post-race party on the Zilker Park lawn.

-Revisited the Lighthouse Run for a 10-mile trail run followed by a 55-mile bike ride home with Mer, and some mid-ride snacks.

midride snacks

October 2015:

-Finally experienced a Spectrum Trail Racing event out at one of our favorite places to run McKinney Roughs Nature Park. RD and longtime Pure Austin trainer Mallory Brooks also keeps my ass in shape (and me uninjured when I inevitably hit the dirt) by virtue of her Monday morning class, a staple of my weekly training!

-Served as a volunteer mentor at the Team RWB Trail Running Camp http://trailrunningcamp.org/ Always a gift to be able to give back to a community that is so appreciative and thankful. HUGE shout out of thanks to sponsors and supporters Drymax socks, patagonia, Rogue Running, thinksport, Bonk Breaker, Simple Hydration, Oral IV, TriggerPoint/Implus, and David Fuentes for their product and/or gift card donations to help the weekend “run” smoothly. Be sure to check out the transcript from my “This I Believe” testimony to the campers posted here:

Paul Terranova: “No excuses, do the work. This I believe.” October 2015 No excuses, do the work. This I believe. The consistent theme in my journey to an ultra trail runner has been and continues to be doing the work and not making excuses along the way. As a 7th grader, I didn’t make the school soccer team, but I showed enough hustle to make the basketball team. As an 8th grader, I got cut from the basketball team and instead channeled my energy towards tennis. As a high school doubles tennis player, we won a state title my junior year. And as a collegiate lightweight rower, I never made the first boat but we won a bronze medal in the JV boat my senior year. Doing the work at a young age paid off in the Army with graduation from Airborne, Sapper Leader, and Ranger schools. Not making excuses in the Army paid off in the civilian world as my interests now turned towards marathons and adventure racing. The work invested up to then continued to compound into triathlon, Ironman, and now into ultra trail running.When grinding away in a deep block of training or running through the cold night on trashed quads, my belief in the body of work that I’ve assembled keeps me going.Times when others have given up on their minds and their bodies and are content to lay on the couch all weekend, I strive to be the antithesis of that.And when the weather turns nasty and people start griping about it, my belief in doing the work, in chopping wood and carrying water, gets me out the door. No excuses, do the work. This I believe.

 

-Featured by Redbull in their Adventure Essentials series http://www.redbull.com/us/en/adventure/stories/1331755382921/adventure-essentials-paul-terranova The end result of the piece left us somewhat “chafed” at it wasn’t EXACTLY what author Whitney Boland and I had in mind…the submitted piece had a lot more content and meaning to it.

-Returned the IronSherpa favor for Meredith at Ironman Cabo San Lucas and got to brush up on my VERY stale conversational Spanish! Made some amazing amigos along the way.

 

November 2015: Mmtr win

-Defended last year’s win at Mountain Masochist 50 miler while banking some family time with my parents and sister’s family and kids. Weekend trifecta with Meredith’s birthday and a return to the land of Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter porter! As always, Clark Zealand and his Eco-XSports crew have this race dialed in.

-Honored to be named 2015 USATF Men’s Master Trail Runner of the Year: http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/usatf-mut-council-announces-2015-runners-of-the-year/

 

December 2015:

 

– While December started a little surprising, each day brings us closer to a new year and has been filled with many wonderful positives to fill each day.

-The Running Event 2015 Always great to see in-person what is coming down the pipe, witness the Beer Mile World Championships , and take HOKA co-founder Nico Mermoud for a run on one of my favorite trails here in Austin!

-2nd Masters at TNF50 and super-proud of our team for grabbing 2nd place men’s in the inaugural USA Ultra Trail Team Invitational Hopefully, there will be more team events like this in the future!

-Humbled to be named among Olympic Silver Medalist and HOKA teammate Leo Manzano and the indominatable Gilbert Tuhabonye as the best runner in Austin. http://www.austinfitmagazine.com/December-2015/2015-AFM-Best-Of-Awards/

-Excited about the grassroots efforts of http://runcleangetdirty.org/ to promote clean, PED-free MUT running.

-PRed the 2nd annual 12 Workouts of Christmas.

 

 

All in all, I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits this Christmas season. Meredith and I are so eager to see what 2016 has to offer up for everyone!!! Mahalo for reading.

 

“Let us be what we are, and let us be it well.” – St. Francis de Sales

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A 2015 WS100 Reflection: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” –Dr. Seuss

I said it during the Trail Runner Nation podcast on tapering http://trailrunnernation.com/2015/06/whats-in-a-taper-with-aliza-lapeirre-paul-terranova/ and I’ll write it here again: the weeks and days before and after any Western States (or any “A” race) are downright bittersweet (but still more sweet than bitter). The long journey is almost over, race week goes by SO fast, race day goes by EVEN faster, and the days after are spent playing and replaying the events of the journey in your head, in your dreams, with crew and pacers, via photos, videos, interviews, liking, sharing, tagging, etc. My reluctance as of late to tap out race reports seems to stem from wanting to hold on to and savor the experience for as LONG as humanly possible. Normally I’m ready to quickly move on to the next training block and/or race, but the build-up to States for me is a 20+ week process. Writing it out somehow feels like the closing finale, and dangit I have some Girl Scout cookie eating to do!

“Driving slow on Sunday morning, and I NEVER wanna’ leave…” – Maroon 5

This reflection will merely serve to fill in the gaps and/or elaborate on what the results, post-race interview  and post-race roundup may not have captured.

-Catching your toe and hitting the dirt/rocks HARD early on the high country with fellow 40-49 AG competitor Sondre Amdahl right behind you was NO fun. Tuck and roll, baby, tuck and roll. Thankfully, Sondre helped me recollect my scattered bottles and get back moving. Was thankful to have arm sleeves on to minimize the damage, left knee took the brunt of this first fall. Had the crew proactively slap some cycling cream (DZ NUTS) on the knee (and later on quads, hammies, calves, etc.) to keep things from tightening up at Dusty Corners, Foresthill, and Green Gate. “Thorough preparation makes its own luck.” – Joe Poyer dznuts

-Ultralegend and ultraphotographer Gary Wang was seemingly EVERYWHERE on course. So cool to see him and other friends and supporters out there capturing the race in images and video. ws2015

-Catching your other toe and face-planting in the dust on the descent down to Swinging Bridge (right after the new smaller bridge) was even LESS fun. Thought one of my two bottles was going to plunge down the cliff (which would have left me with only one for the hot climb up to Devil’s Thumb) but was saved by the Diego Maradona “hand of God” If a runner falls in the woods and there is no one to see him/her, did it really happen? fun meter-Catching your other other toe and supermanning into the ground almost at the end of the descent down to El Dorado Canyon totally PEGGED my fun-meter! Gosh, I got to the aid station absolutely filthy and livid with myself for falling a third time as I’m sure the aid station volunteers there can attest. However, taking the time to get wet (and partially clean) before the climb up to the oven (aka Michigan Bluff) was well worth it! Super thankful for all the cross-training, hot yoga, and sauna sessions (i.e. training multipliers) I continue to put in year after year at Pure Austin . Other than my upper body being mildly sore 6 days after the race, any 1 of those 3 falls could EASILY have ended my day.

“This summer’s gonna’ hurt like a mother…” – Maroon 5

-High-fiving HOKA teammate Mike Morton, yeah THAT Mike Morton , coming through Michigan Bluff was a total surprise and incredibly motivating!!!! Thanks Mike for being out there!

-High-fiving HOKA teammate Jorge Maravilla, aka the happiest man in ultrarunning, coming through Foresthill is equally as motivating, thanks Jorge!!!

-Putting ice in your arm sleeves really helps. In 2013 I wore an Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest and we put loads of ice in the back pouch that worked really well too.

-Pretty sure I saw a tarantula on the side of the gravel road between Michigan Bluff and Volcano Canyon, didn’t stick around long enough to confirm and I was lucid enough that it definitely wasn’t a hallucination!

-Was ever so briefly in 10th place between Cal-3 and the River after getting around Ryan Smith and his pacer Ashley Erba, before getting absolutely steamrolled by the Australian express Andrew Tuckey at Sandy Bottom. BMort and I hung tough and kept him in sight to the river crossing, reminiscing about the 2013 battle for top-10 here with Patagonia teammate Jesse Haynes and Jeremy Humphrey .

-Yes, crossing the American River on foot by cable feels as refreshing as it looks!!! Next year, God willing, I will pull/float myself across the river like Krar did, seems like an efficient way to get across without having to navigate your feet around and over the big slick submerged rocks.

-Smart move: Made a game-time decision (coming up Bath Road) to change shoes and Team RWB socks at Green Gate this year. The past 2 years I’ve swapped out shoes/socks at Foresthill. This year worked out really well. Changed from Challenger ATRs to a lighter (and drier) pair of Cliftons (same ones I wore at Rocky Raccoon 100 this year) for the last 20 miles.

-Green Gate to Highway 49: BMort and I just kept pressing forward and staying positive, we knew that someone in front of us was going to have to crater or fold and we just needed to be in position to capitalize on it. Hal, yeah THAT Hal Koerner , gave us a heads-up at his Brown’s Bar aid station that we might be seeing Francois sitting in a chair at Highway 49. Time to move bro’! When we got there it was all business, grab bottles, Meredith walked me through and gave me a quick update (MAJOR thanks to Mike and Cindy for keeping my crew updated with the latest tracking information), and Justin and I were off. Heard cheering about 2 minutes after we left so either Francois had rallied or we had company from somebody else moving well. Bombs away! RUN HARD FOR MACKEY.  Huge props to Francois for rallying after getting sick pre-race, being in the lead and top 5 nearly all day, and then sticking it out for the finish.

-FINALLY had a good climb up to Robie Point and on the pavement!!! HUGE thanks to Patagonia teammate and States legend AJW for meeting my crew and me for the celebratory run to the track. WOW, we had fun and it’s definitely satisfying to put forth an effort that he and others appreciate and does this event the justice it deserves. Finish line hug 2015

When the sweet ache of being alive,
lodged between who you are
and who you will be,
is awakened,
befriend this moment.
It will guide you.
It’s ache is what moves you.

~Mark Nepo~

-The aftermath: another well-earned post-race In-N-Out Burger feast and post-awards ceremony Pete’s Brewhouse Monster Cookie and Delta Mudslide Pie

-The after-aftermath: bookend workouts…Tuesday afternoon road my beater mountain bike (aka billy-goat) to the library to drop off/pickup books and got absolutely DUMPED on by torrential rains. Two weeks before States I hit the Austin High track on an early Sunday morning for my last hard track workout, I call it the Igloi 7k and it ABSOLUTELY came down in buckets the entire time I was out there. The gift was I had the track ALL to myself and got treated to some double rainbows. Good karma indeed. Thanks for reading, see you in Squaw 2016.

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Now THIS is 40!

Yes, it’s Meredith Hijacking the blog…

I was starting to worry about turning 40: a turned ankle/swollen painful foot at Mt. Masochist and then two weeks later strep throat and deep self doubt, fear, and really just feeling icky.

In February I completed Ultraman Florida. I thought, “cool that’s done let’s move on.” But I couldn’t quite move on. I knew the Ultraman World Championship was lingering out there over Thanksgiving weekend…9 months after Florida. I went back and forth with Julie (Julie Shelley who won the women’s race at Florida and we kept in touch). It was almost a dare to each other: “I’ll put in if you do.” And so we both did. AND, we were both accepted. From the beginning it felt so different than Florida because circumnavigating the Big Island of Hawaii seems sooo much bigger than a jaunt through Florida. I had never raced in Hawaii while Julie and Paul were Hawaii Ironman veterans. They seemed to have a feel for the island that I couldn’t fully wrap my head around.

The true training began in May, with what I knew Mike Le Roux would put the finishing punishment on starting in August. As he said it wasn’t just about swimming, biking, and running, it was about becoming strong enough for the ocean swim; having the strength and power for the winds and the climbing on the bike; and then getting to the run. With me he never worries about the run. He knows that even if it’s not on the schedule I always seem to find a way to run. He liked to remind me that this race is about being able to get through days one and two not so thrashed so that I could have a good run, meaning I would have to focus on the bike. My darn lack of cycling always bites me in the butt J

So I made some big choices if I truly wanted to be prepared to survive what the Island had to throw my way. I would seek out the hills and the wind in Austin. I would spend 10 days riding in Colorado and learn how to climb for over an hour and descend with less fear. And I would take advantage of every ounce of heated sunlight to get ready for the hardest race I would ever attempt. I can still remember the great training days: climbing Cheyenne Canyon, riding every climb around Golden, CO (don’t know if I will call the descent one of my finest…might have eaten through my brake pads and kept asking Paul if I would need spare brake pads for Hawaii), a Sunday morning fartlek run on Magnolia Road after days of punishing climbing and descending (might still be cursing Silke on these), riding Bandera to Leakey and the 5 mile climb…I kept thinking how can you possibly climb for 5 miles in TX, well you can and I did; 4x1K swim for my birthday, and my very last Hamilton Pool repeat ride. But, with those came the hard days: riding Hamilton Pool repeats into the middle of a cold front while ignoring the beginning of strep; a few days I chose the trainer vs. road for no good reason; so many runs that I just felt darn slow; and after 4 hard long days really being over my own company. Would all of this be enough? It was a question I couldn’t stop asking myself no matter how much Mike and Paul tried to have me believe.

Finally, the week was here. We arrived in Hawaii, got settled in, and made plans for our first pre-race workout. We met Gary Wang for an amazing swim to Captain Cook monument and back. It was a wonderful 2 mile swim to remember how saltwater ocean swimming is. I had a bike ride on the schedule as well, and Gary suggested riding the first climb from the water. After lunch that day Paul dropped me off at the swim exit and off, ummm up, I went. I maxed out my gears, my heart was in my throat, and all I could think was “MERCY.” All I could think is that I would be the first person to DNF 2 miles into the ride. How could I finish this ride? I wasn’t ready? OMG! I continued riding up, and finally at 7.5 miles turned back and DOWN to the house we had rented. To say I was shaken was the understatement of my life. Julie came to our house that night and I shared with her the only piece that I was feeling comfortable about…the weather looked like it would be forgiving. Sure enough she went for a ride the next morning, and cursed the heck out of me because I stirred Madame Pele and the winds with my prediction. Lovely.

That Tuesday we hitched a ride with the Canoe Club out to the last 1.5 miles of the swim. The waves and swells were screaming. Apparently there would be NO gifts from the Island for me. The swim was rough, but honestly the canoe ride out was rougher so I felt at peace with whatever the water would deliver. I met Karen and Rebecca from the Canoe Club. We set a plan of Karen paddling and Paul riding on the boat to care for me. They were wonderful. I felt so calm with them and loved their genuine excitement for me, my race, and Hawaii. They didn’t even know me and were willing to give of their days to support me and then come back and cheer for me. I was and still am speechless.

Tuesday night was the one true break from the pre-race thoughts as we had family Thanksgiving with Sarah, Todd, Julie and Alyssa. I think there were times in training that Julie and I were looking more forward to this meal than the race. And, YES, there was turkey because apparently it is NOT Thanksgiving without Turkey.

We did check-in Wednesday, and then pre-race meeting on Thursday. There was definitely more of a calm during this process than in Florida. Maybe it is because I had done it before or maybe it was the looming bigness of the race that made all of the other details seem so minor.

Thursday afternoon and evening was filled with eating my pre-race dinner, legs up, and then the ridiculousness I decided to put myself through. I start examining the % grade of each and every climb I was about to face. What in the world was I thinking? Who does that? The work was done, and all of a sudden I was put myself into a self-doubt panic. My head starting saying, “this is impossible. I am not a cyclist. I can’t do this.”

And, then I woke up the next morning and this happened…

There are so many stories. Really, there are too many stories. But if you want to hear:

  • Our buddy at the Hostel passed out drunk and then having a beer at 5AM so that he could retrieve his sunglasses
  • Changing bike shorts at the side of the road at mile 30 Day 2
  • My love for Fanta
  • My crew concocting chemical concentrations of fuel
  • My apologies to the Lava
  • A bottle spike on Day 1
  • A “I didn’t come out here to walk” bottle spike during the run
  • And, the best exchange between Dan (Julie’s husband) and Paul before I finished: D “how did you get her moving so well again” P “I pissed her off”

Take me to lunch, let’s grab a drink, or let’s go on a hike and share stories!

HUGE additional thanks to: Jack and Adams for EVERYTHING on my bike, Pearl Izumi, Drymax, Bonk Breaker, and Organic Valley.

Until then, thanks for reading and sharing in my journey with me!

mer

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2 Minutes to What?

MMTR 50 bib_Oct 31, 2014“2 minutes!!!,” David Horton told us as we ran downhill past him as he mountain biked uphill from the mile 11 Dancing Creek aid station. “Two minutes to what?” I thought to myself, maybe 2 minutes downhill to the aid station, that’s not too bad. The only problem was we were way more than 2 minutes out from the aid station. Hmmmmm…I looked over to my running companions, 2-time MMTR 50 winner and defending champ Brian Rusiecki and Anthony Wind from the NYC, and conjectured about what David could possibly be talking about. Soon enough the aid station was upon us and upon departure heard someone say, “3 minutes.”   Hmmmmmm…is there someone in first place in front of us? Only time would tell. The 3 of us motored on down the trail, eventually encountering a mud-slinging Jeep Rubicon for which we wisely stepped off the trail and let by us. At the next aid station, mile 15 Parkway Gate, we got the confirmation that the couple minute splits we had received were for the first place runner, Californian Gary Gellin! Somehow he had gotten out in front of us, maybe under the cover of darkness with the 6:30am start, a sneaky move by the wiley veteran whether intentional of not!

Fortunately, this news provided us with a nice sense of mission and patient purpose to gradually reel him in. This was my 3rd time running MMTR 50 and Brian’s 4th time, so both of us have a healthy respect for the masochistic course profile, 9200’ of climbing and 7200’ of descent, the bulk of which occurs in the 2nd half of the course. Time is your ally out here so we kept the pace honest while appreciating the dissipating light drizzle, brief glimpse of a sunrise, and generally crisp fall morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the course of the next 3 aid stations, Robinson Gap at mile 17, Irish Creek at mile 20, and Reservoir at mile 22 (which might not have been set up yet when we got there), we widdled Gary’s lead to 90 seconds and every now and then caught a glimpse of his royal blue race kit and black knickers. Halfway up the steady 5-mile climb to Long Mountain (mile 27), we methodically motored past Gary who was obviously slowing after his quick start.

 

Mile 16Coming into Long Mountain, I quickly found my drop bag holding a pre-filled handheld bottle and a fresh supply of gels for the 2nd and arguably harder half of the race, which starts with another 3 miles of climbing up to Buck Mountain (mile 30). Brian, Anthony, and I paced ourselves well, yet Anthony soon was off the back. (after the race I learned that he had strained a hip flexor and ended up dropping). From then on, Brian and I ran virtually step for step for the next 20 or so miles. I enjoyed hearing about his Vermont 100 win and UTMB experience earlier this year before wrapping things up for the season here in Virginia. Brian and his wife Amy are from Amherst, Massachusetts so they normally dial the running back during the winter, whereas I’m starting to wind things back up after a post Run Rabbit Run 100 break. Two friends hitting the trails hard, running through the wind, over the wet rocks and leaves, and through the occasional snow flurries up top. Hard to ask for more. At one point Race Director Clark Zealand did chide us to stop “holding hands” and “start racing already!” We got a good chuckle out of that.

 

Far from being on autopilot, Brian remained alert at all times and kept us on trail and moving really well, him more so than me. In between Forest Valley (mile 42) and Porter’s Ridge (mile 47) I let me concentration lag just for just a couple of seconds and BAMMMM, down I went having clipped my toe on a leaf-obscured rock. UGH, that stung. Fortunately, I got upright lickety split and resumed running with Brian. Within a couple of minutes, the white course markings were nowhere to be seen and the snow flurries weren’t helping visibility any. The route we were heading FELT right, but smartly we backtracked a couple of minutes until we caught sight of the last white ribbon, looked around to see if we missed a turn off, realized we had not, and resumed down towards Porter’s Ridge. A couple of miles later, who else but David Horton again comes riding up the trail on his trusty mountain bike asking us if the course was marked properly!!! We informed him that the last mile and a half or so was void of ribbons and thanked him for confirming we were right about to the last aid station, which is where things finally start to get interesting…

I’m totally out of fuel at this point having taken my last GU gel shortly after my fall. No gels at the aid station so I opt to half fill my bottle with water. Meanwhile Brian is getting a splash of cola in his handheld, whoa good call, so I quickly take a mouthful of cola myself and give chase. We are running HARD and I’m doing my best to stay on Brian’s wheel while not taking another tumble, clearly envious of Brian’s bottle of “GO” juice!!!! Metering my effort is really my only realistic option at this point. (Flashback to this race last year: 2008 winner and MMTR veteran Eric Grossman catches me with 2.5 miles to go and I am holding on for dear life trying to preserve a 3rd place finish. Flashback to 2011 and Brian catches Eric at Salt Log Gap mile 41 before relinquishing the win to him by a mere 72 seconds!) Relax, breathe, and store whatever remaining energy you have for the last 1.5 miles: a steep smooth descent followed by a ¾ mile drag race on asphalt to the finish line. You can do this.

We’re here; exiting the rough Jeep trail Brian mutters something to the effect of, “well here we go…” My stride happily opens up and we’re moving FAST. Turnover is great and my eyes are fixated on nothing but the trail ahead. Orange spray-painted line marks 1 mile to go. 5 minutes of work, you can do this. Just like last year…I keep pressing forward until there’s no more acceleration to be had…

Pavement, yes this feels good, push off the toes and drive the elbows back, ¾ of a mile. A quick glance back and Brian is still running hard, “quit” is just not in his vocabulary despite the small gap. I know better than to lay off the throttle at this point and keep it pegged wide open. I’m out of the shaded trees now and Meredith spots me from the finish line and cheers me in like she has so many other times. After a pair of 3rd places here in 2011 and 2013 it’s sweet to finally win!!!

Thanks for reading y’all. None of this was possible without all my amazing sponsors, supporters, friends and family!!!!! -Paul

Sweet baby Jesus_Oct 31, 2014

Pre and post-race beer, Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter chocolate porter from DuClaw Brewing in Baltimore, WOW!!!

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Planning the Work, Working the Plan – 2014 WS100!

So the race reports lately haven’t exactly been racing themselves to your respective inbox or news feed. Quite the contrary. They’ve definitely been taking a longer time than usual to find their way from my stream of consciousness and on their way to paper (i.e. ones and zeros). Maybe it’s my internal subconscious way of savoring the race experience for just a little while longer. Selfish, I know, but letting a fantastic race and race experience marinate and soak in for a couple extra days can’t hurt right?! I figure that you’ve been mostly preoccupied with World Cup soccer and Hardrock 100 coverage lately (thank you www.irunfar.com and www.drymaxsocks.com !), but both of those recently concluded this past weekend, which just leaves the Tour de France to keep you busy during the day at work and/or in the evenings catching the highlights. Did turning 40 in December make me more thoughtful, pensive, and introspective? Hard to say for sure, but it feels GREAT, heck downright CATHARTIC to finally carve out some writing time (on a delayed plane flight from Baltimore back to Austin) after getting re-assimilated into the normal routine at work, making it through the 4th of July holiday weekend, and then spending a couple of very relaxing days visiting my parents and my sister Nicole’s 3 kids in eastern Long Island. Sprained Ankle - March 26, 2014(1)

As you know from my post back in April, turning my ankle BAD at the end of March with 14 weeks until Western States caused a rippling effect of GOOD tweaks and adjustments. The rehab went GREAT, the travel plans got adjusted, races like the Rattler 100k and Lake Sonoma 50m got replaced with different races like Brazos Bend 50m and Quicksilver 100k, Western States training camp went off without a hitch, and I got FOCUSED on getting myself in the best possible shape, attitude, and position to take advantage of what ultimately turned into a very concentrated 10 week build into States.

My crew (wife Meredith, friends Bryan Morton and Justin Wendling) and I enjoyed a super clean travel day to Reno on the Wednesday before the race, stocking up at the grocery store for their “training camp” and the end of my taper before Saturday’s race. Seriously, my crew probably logged more collective miles (running and swimming) in the 3 days before the race than anybody else’s! We’ve been here before and were perfectly comfortable flying under the proverbial radar and doing our own thing. We also enjoyed watching plenty of World Cup soccer matches as well as the USATF Outdoor Track Championships going on in Sacramento.   paul VC

 

As always, race day arrives before you know it, and 20-time finisher Jim Scott and his wife Mary Jo helped my crew send me off with sage words of advice. paul and jimMy goals going into States this year following my ankle injury evolved into: show up to Foresthill ready to run GREAT on the Cal Street Loop with my first pacer, Granite Bay local and 4-time finisher Lee McKinley; have Lee deliver me to Green Gate in still phenomenal shape ready to hit the 14 mile stretch to Highway 49 HARD with pacer #2 Bryan (and make it there without needing headlamps); and have Meredith bat clean-up and get my ass to the finish line. As a newly minted 40 year old, hopefully this recipe would land me in top-3 Age Group territory competing with the likes of Mike Morton (M3), Nick Clark (M6), Jesse Haynes (M7), Karl Meltzer (M10), Wolfe, Hara, AJW, Barger, Speirs, Gaylord, Skaden, Eadie, Gellin, Hewey, Lantz, and last but certainly not least Redpath. (I think that’s all of us…my apologies if I missed any) Knowing how deep the men’s field was this year, if another top-10 finish was in the cards it would be the result of a perfectly executed day on my part and some serious mistakes and/or misfortune by the talent in front of me, only one of which was remotely within my sphere of influence. [note: Mike Morton would unfortunately not start due to injury]

paul MB

Race morning was absolutely gorgeous and the running was easy up top. My strategy for the high country was to not burn any matches with my competition and to not make any mistakes (especially ankle-related) in this more technical stretch of the “Western States Killing Machine” as Joe Uhan coined it http://www.irunfar.com/2014/06/the-western-states-killing-machine-part-one.html . Although my early pace was slightly slower than my “best case” scenario, it worried me not a bit and I went out about methodically working my way from aid station to aid station. Some of the early miles were spent with one of the women’s favorites Emily Harrison (F7) and later with men’s favorites Yassine Diboun (M9) into Red Star Ridge and fellow Hoka-wearer Karl Meltzer into Robinson Flat. Not bad company to be in right? paul 2

My crew took GREAT care of me at Duncan and Dusty, and volunteer & friend Sam Jurek, and Jim and Mary Jo were friendly faces at Robinson Flat. Exiting Robinson Flat, I came upon a slow-moving Dom Grossman and offered him some aid and gentle encouragement. Things were not looking good for Dom early on yet he was still moving forward which is always a good thing. Karl bombed the downhill section after Little Bald Mountain and would be out of sight until shortly after Last Chance at mile 43. The trail was majestic and I soaked up every possible bit of it through sights, sounds, and smells, a lot of which had changed quite a bit following last year’s American Fire. I really ran a great clean stretch down to Swinging Bridge and the quick dip in the river was a nice refresh before starting the 30+ minute climb up. Downhill legs were perfect and my ankle was 100%. I smartly filled my 3rd water bottle with cold river water, not for drinking but for squirting on my head. Found my hiking legs right away and went to work despite not having anyone visibly in front of me or behind me.

Came into Devil’s Thumb thoroughly under control, greeted by Joe Uhan (thanks for the help!), refilled bottles, grabbed a pina-colada popsicle, which after one lick I knew was not going to sit well so I had to discard the frozen contents minus the stick which I stuck in the pocket of my race vest (no littering and good trail karma per RD Craig!). Upon leaving the lively Last Chance aid station, I caught back up to Karl and asked if he was ready to start running down some young guys yet? He just replied that his downhill legs were not treating him so well today, which surprised me given how eager he was to let it rip coming off of Little Bald Mtn. Back to the business at hand…

Meredith and I (and many others we’re sure of) absolutely love the descent down to El Dorado Creek having enjoyed it many times in both the race and training camps. All systems were go the whole way down and I came into the El Dorado aid station chipper and ready to get back to work on the climb up to Michigan Bluff. The report I got was surprisingly that Clarkie was next man up on the trail. Sure enough, a couple of switchbacks into it and Clarkie’s legs were having none of it today. Offered him some aid and Tylenol and/or Advil but he politely declined and I scooted on by. With experienced 100-milers like Dom, Karl, and now Clarkie fading early my strategy of not burning any matches appeared to be spot-on. No sense in deviating from it now I thought, despite being about 20 minutes behind my “best case” scenario pace. Back to the business at hand…

Before long I came into Michigan Bluff energetically telling my crew that, “Lee better be ready to RUN when I get to Foresthill!” Traded in my race vest for 2 handhelds which felt FANTASTIC to get a break from it. Upon leaving, Pam Smith’s (F1) husband Mac cheered me on from the shuttle bus, so I wasn’t certain if Pam was in front of me (and Mac was just leaving Michigan Bluff) or she was behind me (and Mac was just getting to Michigan Bluff). Either was I was super-motivated and greatly looking forward to Volcano Canyon and running the climb up Bath Rd with Justin. After running this section a few more times in training camp in May it went by much quicker than the previous 2 years. Justin was waiting as expected at Bath Rd and we made easy work of the climb (thanks for the ICY COLD towel Justin) and the run in to Foresthill aid station. My crew set to work swapping out my Hoka Bondis for Rapa Nui Trails and a fresh pair of Drymax Trail Team RWB issue V5.0 socks. They also deftly switched the timing D-Tag which I had safety pinned to a neoprene ankle strap (see photo). Lee and I set off and he brought me up to speed on the competition and how the race was playing out in front of me.

Some nice perspective upon entering the Cal St trail is the view of Squaw Valley Peak off to our left which Lee pointed out to me…how far I had come already, 62 miles in just a little over 10 ½ hours!!! Lee and I ran this section in training camp together at right about the same time of day as a “dress rehearsal” of sorts, so I’m not surprised that we found our groove immediately with me setting the pace in front of him. We made quick work of Cal-1 and  were on the hunt, exactly the position we expected to be in!! Believe that we first overtook Yoshikazu Hara and his pacer and soon thereafter Yassine and his pacer. So far so good…after Cal-2 we reeled in Gary Gellin and his pacer and fellow-Team RWBer Zach Bitter. Gary was quick to ask, “Where’s Karl?” I barely managed a shoulder shrug instead focusing on the work ahead. Later, Lee and I would chuckle that wherever Karl was he was probably now hunting Gary more so than me! In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Lee and I were at Rucky Chucky nearside and I made quick work of the obligatory weigh-in, oblivious to a laid-out Michael Aish at the aid station, before hitting the cable crossing, finally, no boat crossing this year!!! Lee and I were totally stoked to wade across and be greeted by Meredith, Justin, and Jim on the farside, where the report I heard from the aid station was 13th place (more on this later). We boogied outta’ there and Meredith set a perfect tempo for all of us, including Jim who didn’t miss a beat AT ALL, shooting some GoPro footage along the way. I guess you don’t knock out 20 of these (3 of which were top-10) and not have some damn good legs under you!!!! J Upon exiting Green Gate, I caught a glimpse of Jorge Maravilla (2014 Bandera 100k champ) in a chair and thought to myself, okay, that makes me 12th, top-10 might actually happen again. Back to the work at hand…paul thinksportpaul gg

Bryan and I set off and just like with Lee we dialed in our pace immediately. We’ve run together so many times since 2012 that it’s almost second nature. This year, we didn’t have the back and forth competition of Jesse Haynes to spur us on, but we were motivated to catch Vajin Armstrong before Auburn Lakes Trail and then David Laney (2nd at 2014 Bandera 100k) at the ALT aid station (mile 85) itself. Sorry Vajin for not being so talkative when we came by, had some serious work to do!!! Admittedly I did shush Bryan for volunteering our identity as we came by, run silent run deep. Soooooo….that should have put me into 10th place but upon exiting ALT the volunteer told me I was 13th! What, how can that be, I was 13th at the River and passed 3 people! Bryan rightly corrected me that I was really 16th at the River so we still had significant amount of work to do to reach 12th place Chris Price (Hoka), who was 16 minutes ahead of me after being 18 minutes ahead at Green Gate. Back to work we went…paul green gate

A quickie pit stop in the woods after ALT meant I forfeited some time going into Brown’s Bar, and there was nothing left to do except make it to Highway 49 with the remaining daylight, which we did right at 9pm. I knew that unless your last name is Olson or Krar, a 60 minute split for the last 6.2 miles is unheard of so a sub 17 hour finish was out the door for me. Chris was 13 minutes up and barring a complete meltdown had 12th place locked up.

Meredith rightly got the spurs into me, encouraging me to fight for every last step. We targeted a 70-minute split and planned to run it at twilight during training camp, but instead opted for an earlier 2nd run of the day. Emily Harrison and I nailed this section during training camp but that was in the late morning, not at 9pm, not with headlamps, not at night. Ugh, I diligently pressed ahead but it was not enough and lost a healthy chunk of time that Lee and Bryan had helped me work so hard to make up. Maybe I needed something to run for…although a PR was in the bag, no other time goal of any significance was worth attaining (Chris easily came in sub 17 with a 16:58), and there were no headlamps in front of me or behind me…until we hit the last climb up to Robie Pt…a lone headlamp…could only be Karl right? Never uses a pacer! He had certainly once again resurrected himself and his downhill legs from the dead I thought to myself! I don’t think Meredith saw the light but I sure did and it lit a fire under my butt to make sure we hit the pavement at Robie Pt with a comfortable enough gap to somewhat enjoy and savor the last mile with my crew and coach Steve Sisson who had come over from the USATF Outdoor Championships. When we made it there, Meredith was on me like white on rice to get moving and stop chit-chatting with my crew. Needless to say she was not happy with me despite what felt like to me was a brisk pace. Wow do I have some recalibrating to do!!! She did give me a hard-earned finish-line kiss though! paul finish linepaul pushup

Either way, we got the job done in a 30-minute PR of 17:26 and 2nd in the 40-49 AG to 10th place finisher Jesse Haynes in 16:36 who just ran a TREMENDOUS race. Jesse and his fiancée Keira and I also shared some miles together during training camp and I know how much time, effort, and dedication they put into this race. So proud of him and his team.

 

And who was the owner of that lone headlamp stalking me at mile 98? Not Karl, but none other than 19-year old Jared Hazen, who only finished 4 minutes behind me, holy crow watch out for him!!!!!

What I used & wore:

  • Hoka Bondis (start to mile 62)
  • Hoka Rapa Nui Trail (mile 62 to finish)
  • Drymax Trail v5.0 Team RWB Issue socks (nothing better)
  • Patagonia Strider Pro shorts (love the fit and pockets!)
  • Patagonia Air Flow Tank (thanks to Tik Tok Ink for the custom print job!)
  • Patagonia Duck Bill Cap
  • thinksport sunscreen
  • Bonk Breaker bars
  • Oakley Radar Path sunglasses, G30 lens
  • Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest
  • Petzl Myo XP headlamp
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