Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward

I don't know about you, but I'm sure looking forward to 2010. It's not that 2009 was a terrible year, but it had some difficult moments. My best four-legged friend and primary training partner, Kiwi, had some pretty serious health issues that plagued her from Last February through most of the summer. Seeing her in so much discomfort and shelling out more money than I want to think about in vet bills, added some major stress to the better part of the year. That stress definitely affected my running performance, and not for the better.

But that was 2009. Kiwi's health is much better now, almost a year later. She's running again, although not quite as much as she once was, and getting better each month. She may not ever be out running 20+ mile runs again, but she's certainly able to go out and do 5-8 without issue.

My biggest concern, looking forward to 2010, is keeping all the dates and deadlines for races straight in my head. Getting a spot at popular ultras these days is nearly as hard as procuring Pearl Jam tickets to an intimate venue. It's exciting to see the sport gaining in popularity, but it's frustrating to be on the outside looking in on so many of these races.

For example, Andrea and I were just in Portugal. I knew that Way To Cool had gone to a lottery this year, and I knew that lottery opened on Dec. 13. Unfortunately amidst all the excitement of being abroad during the holidays, I neglected to get my name in the lottery by Dec. 19th. Thus, another year goes by without me running Way Too Cool. That means I really can't miss the January 9th registration opening for the Chuckanut 50k, just one week after Cool.

I've realized that I just need to block out two hours in order to line up my 2010 race schedule set. Those 2 hours have just been hard to come by. Don't get me wrong, I've got my plans more or less set, but I can't afford to miss any of these all too crucial sign up dates.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to 2010. Last year I started to feel a little burnt out on racing. I thought that maybe I'd just lost some of the desire to compete. However, now, as 2009 comes to a close, I'm itching to get back out and race hard in the new year.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Whew!

I did it. I made the cut for Inov 8's 2010 team. I'm pretty sure it was a decision based on my career resume, and not so much on what I did in 2009. Outside of a mediocre race at Chuckanut and a win at the Sun Mountain 50k, my season was pretty lackluster.

Ahhh, but that was 2009. I've got some new tricks up my sleeve for 2010. First and foremost, as I've already stated, I'm taking a break from Western States. That just feels good to say. Anyway, I'm going to focus on 1 or 2 other hundred milers. Bighorn fits nicely into the mix, because it's only a week before Western States, and my last few years of training have been geared toward a June 100 miler. And it sounds like Hal, Ian, and the Rogue Valley Runner's crew may have a hundred happening down their way in September. That will hopefully be the second of my 100's. Then, of course, I'll sprinkle in a handful of 50k's and 50 milers to round out the year.

I'll be wrapping up my running for 2009 in Portugal. There won't be any racing, unless I stumble upon a local road race, but it'll be fun to log some miles abroad. Andrea's family is from Porto, so we're spending Christmas with them. It's not completely new running terrain for me, as this will be my fourth time there, but it's still a whole lot more novel than my daily run-commute to and from work.

Enjoy the holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Almost Forgot

This coming Saturday is a very big day for many of my fellow ultra runners. For myself it'll be just another Saturday in Seattle. I have nothing at stake in the most anticipated lottery in the sport of ultra running, the Western States 100 drawing. I can certainly appreciate the nervous anticipation and excitement around the lottery. I have been a bundle of nerves myself on lottery day. However, I must admit that I almost forgot that this Saturday was the WS lottery. I've got nothing at stake in this year's random selection, and I'm quite happy about it.

Don't get me wrong. I do love the Western States 100, yet I harbor a lot of ill feelings (I won't say hatred) about it at the same time. As many of you know, Western States hasn't been exactly kind to me. I'm talking purely about the race itself, not the people involved. The canyons, the saw briars, and the heat, oh the scorching heat, all have gotten the best of me. And lets not forget the rubber. Yes, the perfectly smooth rubberized track of Placer High, that got me too.

I've decided that I need at least a year off from beating my head against the Western States wall. I'm not admitting defeat, I'm just recognizing the need to channel some energy elsewhere for a year or two. I like the timing of a June hundred miler though, so I'm thinking about running Bighorn. I've decided I just need to get a little confidence back in running that distance.

Good luck to all those who are eagerly awaiting their lucky draw on Saturday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wintumn

Alright, I admit it! I've been suffering a bit from PPJTD. You suspected as much, right? What do you mean you've never heard of PPJTD? You know-Post Pearl Jam Tour Depression. Well I won't call it a full blown depression, but it qualifies as a legitimate bummer. Now they're off gallivanting around Australia and New Zealand while I'm stuck in the gray Seattle drizzle. Ahhh...to be independently wealthy.

Well, my leg is mending nicely, and my mileage is steadily climbing back up. As soggy and dark as Seattle becomes this time of year, it's a wonder anyone runs at all. Yet for some strange reason, I love running in this weather. It makes you feel like you're really accomplishing something, something more than JUST a run. There's an element of being hardcore, and maybe a little crazy, when you're out logging miles in the wind and driving, sideways rain. I love it. Yes, spoken like a true Northwest kid, I know.

It's not quite winter nor fall. I'll call it wintumn

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Board Room

The beautiful thing about laptops is that you can blog from just about anywhere. Like right now I'm sitting in the Alaska Airlines Board Room, awaiting a flight to Newark, NJ. The Board Room is a new place for me, and I must say I could get used to it. I believe that it's typically reserved for First Class passengers and frequent flyer types. Andrea managed to get her paws on a couple of complimentary passes, so now I'm sipping a complimentary Bloody Mary and blogging away in a very comfy leather chair. I'm not a big fan of flying, thus me sipping a Bloody Mary, but I could get used to this.

Anyhoo, why are we going to Newark, NJ? Alaska had a direct flight available to Newark from Seattle. We're actually headed to Philadelphia to see Pearl Jam, and Newark's only an hour and a half away. We're going to catch the final two shows ever at the Spectrum as Pearl Jam closes it down for good. Oh, I can't wait. Rumor has it that the 11pm venue curfew has been lifted for Saturday night's show, and there's talk that the show could push into the wee hours of Sunday morning with special guests galore. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much, but it's so dang hard.

Let's get back on track. This is a running blog after all. My foot is feeling much better and allowing me to run. Last week and this week will be in the 40+ range. My foot is like 95% healed, but those last 5% are sure taking there sweet time to get right. Nonetheless, it's no longer slowing me down and it feels good to be upping the mileage.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

Right now as I type, my foot is immersed in a bucket of ice water. I know what you're thinking. Is Brian even running enough right now to be hampered with an injury? Sadly my friends the answer is NO, not even close. But the point is that I want to be running that much.

Unfortunately I have been set back these past two weeks by some bizarre ailments. So the week leading up to our Nicaraguan vacation and the whole time we were gone, I hardly ran. Typically I take a break in October or early November, but the way our vacation was timed and the fact that I had no upcoming races, I opted for a slightly earlier break. My intention of course was to be back running strong by the time I'm normally cutting back for a little r&r.

The problem is that two weeks ago, after running moderately hard a couple of back to back days, I was struck by an incredible pain in my big toe. After a quick inspection and a self diagnosis I pegged it to be an ingrown toenail. Having never had an ingrown toenail, I had to turn to the internet and friends' experiences for advice. For two days, I hobbled around on it and even tried to run through about the most excruciating pain I've ever felt. I thought for sure that a trip to the doctor was in order, that is until I finally was able to drain it. Without going through the gory details, I'll just say that once the pressure under the nail was alleviated the pain went away immediately. I felt like I'd really dodged a bullet and got back to running, making up for lost time.

So now cut to this week. I was steadily building mileage up through Thursday, when on my way home I was suddenly aware of a tenderness on the outside of my foot. Ahhh, what now? I took Friday off from running and spoke to our in store doc as soon as I arrived to work. Turns out that because I was overcompensating for my toe injury, I've now aggravated my peroneal tendon by running and walking on the outside of my foot.

I'm only 31. I'm not old enough to be dealing with such setbacks, or am I? Without bragging about it, I've always taken great pride in my ability to run injury free. Hopefully this is just a little stretch of tough luck and I'll be back to training in no time. In the meantime, I'll keep my foot numbed in ice and my fingers crossed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vacation Nicaraguan Style

Well I've got some good news and bad news. Good news first, right? Well our two week vacation in Nicaragua was splendid, completely fantastic. And the bad news? Surfing, or at least attempting to surf, was so much fun that I may just give up running and focus wholeheartedly on waves. I'm just kidding of course, but it's a kick in the pants as well as a great workout.

We arrived in Managua on August 30th and headed straight to San Juan Del Sur, where we spent the whole first week. We rented a "casita" at Rancho Cecilia, and our lovely hosts Scott and Liz picked us up at the airport and drove us the four hours back to their wonderful piece of property in San Juan. Scott and Liz are from California, but having sailed to Nicaragua 3 years ago, they fell in love with it and moved there. Now they rent out the "casita" and teach surf lessons. Not a bad way to make a living, eh? Their property is 7 kilometers outside the town of San Juan Del Sur, and literally carved out of the jungle. They even have a troop of howler monkeys on their lot. It's just beautiful and so incredibly relaxing. They are literally "off the grid" as well. Their larger home and the casita are powered entirely off of solar power.

During our first week in Nicaragua life was pretty simple. We'd typically head down to the beach at 9:30 or 10am and begin surfing. Usually by 1:30 or so we were taxed enough to take a short break from the waves and dine on fresh fish tacos. Now let me make it clear that there is no restaurant or hotel or any such thing on this beach. There's simply an open air tent with a grill and two folks fixing up the most delicious tacos I've ever sampled. Lunch was followed up by yet more surfing, and usually around 5:00 we'd wrap things up and make the 40 minute trek back to the casita. Like I said, life was pretty simple, but that's exactly the vacation we were seeking.

We stayed exactly one week in San Juan Del Sur and loved it. It was actually quite tempting, since we had no reservations, to stay the duration of our trip in San Juan. We were however lured away by the temptation of Ometepe, a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua. For about ten bucks we were able to catch a taxi (If you can call it that. Cars in Nicaragua are serious pieces of S#*t!) to the ferry terminal in San Jorge, 40 minutes away. From the terminal it's about an hour by boat to Ometepe. And boy if I thought the cars were crummy, don't even get me started on that rust-bucket of a boat. The cruise across Lake Nicaragua was a little unsettling, but once back on terra firma, I was struck by the lush, green beauty of Ometepe. The island is shaped like a dumbbell with a larger, active volcano at the north end and a slightly smaller, dormant volcano on the south end. If memory serves, the island is approximately 78 kilometers around.

We spent 4 nights on Ometepe and enjoyed it immensely. We hiked a bunch, biked a bunch, and even rode horses. As much as I enjoyed trying to surf, Andrea and I both agree that Ometepe was our favorite spot on the trip. The highlights were hiking to San Ramon, a magnificent 40 meter waterfall and summiting Maderas, the slightly shorter of the island's two volcanos.

From Ometepe we headed back to the mainland and the city of Granada. Granada is a beautiful colonial city right on the west shore of Lake Nicaragua. Although the city itself lacked the adventurous atmosphere of Ometepe, we found the most exciting activity of the trip just outside of Granada. Right on the flank of Mombacho, the volcano rising above the southern end of Granada, we zip-lined our way through the jungle canopy. The zip lines crisscrossed their way through the treetops on a total of 13 platforms. And unlike the cars and the ferries, the zip line tour equipment was remarkably well kept. Andrea and I both agreed that the zip lining was the single most enjoyable activity of the entire trip.

We expected to have a great time in Nicaragua, but having never been there ourselves and not knowing anyone who'd been there, we really didn't know what it would be like. Now speaking from experience, it was probably the coolest place I've ever been, and I would go back in a heartbeat. Neither one of us ever felt even slightly unsafe, especially after we realized the machete wielding locals are just going about their day-to-day work, and the locals could not have been more friendly. And the beauty of the country is completely breathtaking. Go to Nicaragua and do it now before it really becomes a more touristy locale.

*I'll get some photos up as soon as we get them all organized*

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Nice Reprieve

Today Andrea and I are taking off for a two week vacation in Nicaragua. Yes, it is safe there, or so they tell me. Everyone seems to think that Nicaragua is still a nation in the midst of a revolution. When we tell people that we're going to Nicaragua, we're usually asked if it's safe there. Supposedly, we've never been, it's very much like Costa Rica, just slightly less touristy. I'm just looking forward to getting a way for a bit.

Hopefully I'll come back itching to run. This season really hasn't gone to plan, and I've been feeling a bit burnt out on racing. Of course, Western States has become a huge thorn in my side these past 3 years. Knowing that I'm not running there next year feels so liberating. Also, I think that Kiwi's health issues have really worn on my ability to race to my capabilities this year. That sounds like a bit of a cop out, but she's like our child. Seeing her struggle with her illness has really stressed me out and zapped some of my motivation to race and train as hard as I'd like. But there's nothing like a good vacation to recharge. I plan to come back in two weeks with a little better outlook on things.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obsess Much?

Am I totally crazy to be going to 5, yes I said 5, Pearl Jam shows in a span slightly longer than a month? I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. They will play a completely different set each one of those nights, in fact, they'll play a different set every night of the whole tour. Plus, they only tour about once every 3-4 years, so if you're a fan, you've got to make the most of it when they do. So beginning September 21st I'll be attending 2 Seattle shows, 1 Vancouver, BC show, 1 Portland show, and one very special show on Halloween in Philadelphia, PA. It is a bit obsessive isn't it?

Well I know I've been blogging a lot about non-running things, but there's still been plenty of running happening as well. Lately I've done most of my running to and from work. It's such a great way to energize yourself before work and unwind after. The weather has been fabulous here in Seattle, so run commuting has been a real treat recently.

Speaking of real treats, on Sunday evening Andrea and I were fortunate enough to attend the wedding of my old runnin' partner the "Alabama Hammer." It was a beautiful ceremony, and even though I despise him for no longer running with me (only kidding), I couldn't be happier for him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like Sophie's Choice

I realize this is in poor taste, but I just couldn't resist the comparison. To be honest, I've never even seen Sophie's Choice. I know the basic premise of the story though. I understand that Meryl Streep is fantastic in it, but I digress. My point here is that I'm faced with a terribly tough choice. Since I have no children and only one border collie, I can't relate to having to choose one of my children over the other. What I CAN relate to is having to choose between Pearl Jam shows. (I warned you that this was in poor taste didn't I?)

So I've already got tickets to see Pearl Jam in September at Key arena on the 21st and 22nd. That's great. Since then I've kept hearing rumors of a Halloween show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. I guess I've become caught up in that hype, because now I feel like I can't miss that show. It will be the last concert ever at the Spectrum, by the way.

Andrea and I decided that if that show was announced that we'd go. But here comes the Sophie's Choice part. On Monday they did officially announce the Halloween show, but along with that, they also announced shows in Portland and Vancouver, BC. We can't justify going to all of these shows, so Andrea has laid it out for me. We can either go to the one Philadelphia show, which has the potential to be spectacular, or we can go to both the Vancouver and Portland shows. A practical person would realize that two shows is better than one, but like I said, I've become entangled in the excitement surrounding this final show at the Spectrum.

Oh, having to choose between these events is agonizing. Maybe it'll come to me in my sleep, because by 9am, when tickets go on sale for Philadelphia, I have to make a decision one way or the other.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Many Decisions!

What's a guy to do? Pearl Jam just announced the Philadelphia show on Halloween that I'd been waiting for. Great news, right? Well they also decided to add Vancouver, BC and Portland. Andrea and I are going to have to sit down and check out the finances. This could get pricey. Yikes!

More Tour Dates Added

08.10.09

We've got some great news ... Pearl Jam has added some dates onto their North American tour, on both coasts.

DATE CITY VENUE 10C PRESALE
Oct 31 Philadelphia, PA Spectrum Arena* Aug-12 @9am PDT
Oct 27 Philadelphia, PA Spectrum Arena* Aug-12 @11am PDT
Sep 28 Salt Lake, UT E Center Aug-12 @1pm PDT
Sep 26 Portland, OR Amphitheater Aug-12 @3pm PDT
Sep 25 Vancouver, BC GM Place Aug-12 @5pm PDT

General sale tickets for the Philly shows will start August 14th through www.comcasttix.com. The Portland and Vancouver general ticket sales will also start August 14th through www.ticketmaster.com. The remaining west coast dates will go on-sale to the general public through www.ticketmaster.com on August 15th.

Ten Club will be hosting a swift pre-sale for these shows beginning August 12th and ending August 13th at 5pm PDT. Coordinated dates and times are listed above.

You must be an active member as of August 9, 2009 to qualify for the ticket pre-sale. Tickets will be sold online only at https://www.pearljam.com/max with a Visa or Mastercard only. Two (2) tickets per show. No single tickets.

For wheelchair accessible or disabled seating, please contact the Ten Club at 1-800-724-8038 before making a ticket purchase.

*The Philly Spectrum has graciously provided Ten Club with a more-than-usual allotment of tickets for our eligible members. However, after our usual allotment, seat allocation (for these additional shows only) will be comparable to general public sale tickets, but still assigned by membership seniority.

Ten Club tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis and available only while supplies last. Seat allocation for the additional west coast shows will be distributed by membership seniority, with the exception of rows 1-2 and 9-10 which are randomly assigned regardless of seniority.

Tickets are not mailed in advance. Tickets are distributed at the venue on the day of the show. The Ten Club member must collect the tickets with a valid photo identification.

By opting to purchase tickets, you agree to all Ten Club policies. All ticket sales are final. No refunds, exchanges or transfers. Please visit here http://www.pearljam.com/ten-club/tickets for a full description of the Ten Club ticketing policy and procedure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Speed Scramblin'

I've just been craving time in the mountains lately, and today was no different. I had the day off, so I decided I'd make the most of it by heading to the east slope of the Cascades. The objective of the day was to climb Mt. Daniel, a peak that I've wanted to get up for some time, and to do it as quickly as possible.

I was up by 4:30am, but everything seemed to take much longer than it should have, and I didn't get on the road until 5:30 or so. I arrived at the Tucquala Meadows trailhead at around 8am. Not really knowing how long the climb would take, I wasted no time getting started. I was solo today, so I slung my pack on and cranked up the tunes as I briskly started up the trail.

Unlike Sloan Peak, I was on a well established trail for the first 5 miles of the climb. Jim Nelson's book said that it should take about 3 hours to reach Peggy's Pond. From there the route was all off trail. Given that I was setting out to do this climb quickly, I knew that it wouldn't possibly take 3 hours to get to Peggy's Pond. I have run from this same trailhead a handful of times, so I was somewhat familiar with the terrain. Of course, I was carrying a little bit more gear than I would for just a run. After one brief wrong turn, I arrived at the end of the trail in less than an hour and a half.

The temperature was actually quite cool and there were some foggy clouds shrouding the view of most everything above. However, it seemed to be a very thin layer, and it was only a matter of minutes before everything was bright blue and sunny. The route up Mt. Daniel is really straightforward, and there are few technical difficulties. In uneventful fashion, I reached the summit in 3:02 from the car.







Although it was clear and sunny, the wind was howling up high, so I didn't get to savor much downtime on the summit proper. I wrote an entry in the summit log, ate a bar, refilled my water, and made my way back down to a more protected position. The descent was simply a return down the same route. However, it was a little more eventful than the ascent.

There was one section of the ascent that was a little dicey. For those of you that have climbed or do climb, you probably realize that downclimbing is significantly trickier than ascending. I thought that I could take a more direct line down the mountain and avoid downclimbing some semi-technical terrain. Unfortunately my plan backfired. 100 feet or so above the last snowfield, I came head to head with some pretty sketchy terrain. All of a sudden the rock became quite rotten and loose. The pitch was steep enough that if I were to slip, I probably wouldn't be able to stop until I reached the snowfield. It wouldn't have been a fall off a sheer cliff, but I didn't want to find out what damage could be sustained by such a tumble. I climbed part way back up the face and traversed toward the direction I had originally come up. In hindsight, I should have just climbed all the way back up and descended the exact route of the ascent, but I was being stubborn and just wanted to get onto the snowfield as quickly as possible. There was another line with some more solid looking rock that I had picked out from a distance. Following that path to it's terminus I was now only 50 feet above the snowfield. Again I traversed across the fall line to another promising looking rib of solid rock. This one looked like it led down all the way to the snowfield, but it was really steep. Rather than face the down sloping angle, I spun 180 degrees and began to very carefully downclimb. Every hold that I grabbed hold of or stepped on had to be carefully inspected for structural integrity. Many of the solid looking hand and footholds broke off without so much as a good tug. With about 20 feet left to descend to the snow, I spun back around and sat on my butt. There were no solid holds left to downclimb. Everything that I put any weight on was just crumbling and sliding down onto the snow. At least at this point, I knew that a fall would not be costly. If I did start to go, I may even have been able to run it out onto the snow. Thankfully I didn't have to find out. Without losing control, I was able to negotiate the final 2o feet and exit onto the snow.

The rest of the trip was without incident, and I arrived back at the car in 5:32. It was another fantastic day in the mountains. In the last few weeks, I've been able to get out to climb two peaks that I have wanted to do for some time. Now let's see what kind of shape this climbing has me in when I race Waldo in two weeks.











Tuesday, August 4, 2009

White River Report

Feeling a little bit downtrodden after another disappointing attempt at Western States, I thought that helping a first-timer through White River would be the perfect remedy to add a little fun back into running. My uncle, Bill Ames, has been contemplating running 50 miles for some time now, but he's had a great deal of trepidation about the distance. I proposed to him, that if he would sign up to run White River, I'd run the race at his pace to help him through.

Needless to say, he signed up, and I was committed to helping him through it. Uncle Bill kept assuring me that I could back out on our deal and run my own race. However, I was dead set on running with him. In all honesty, it was for both non-selfish and very selfish reasons. Obviously sacrificing my own race, to get him through his, was a selfless decision. On the flip side, I was really relieved to have a good reason not to have to go out and race. Feeling so drained after another Western States debacle, I just really needed to go out and run with no pressure.

And run with no pressure I did.

At 6:30 am the race got underway. It was strange not to be lined up at the front of the pack, but it didn't take long for me to start really enjoying a more casual pace. I couldn't believe how many more people are on the trail when you're in the middle to back of the pack. For the first 3 miles it was like a conga line of runners. However, as the grade steepened, people started to spread out a bit more. Bill was really moving well up the unrelenting climb. In fact, I was a little taken aback by the clip that he maintained.

Uncle Bll arrived at Corral Pass looking very strong and in seemingly good spirits. We were 17 miles in and everything was going quite smoothly. We seemed to make good time on the out and back, and it wasn't long until we were filling up at Ranger Creek and preparing for the 6 mile descnt to the midway point of the course. The section from Ranger Creek back to Buck Creek is a quad-burning downhill. Bill looked very strong initially, but as we neared the bottom, I could tell things weren't going well.

Our pace had slowed a bit, although we were still passing people. When I asked how he was doing, his responses became a bit more curt. I wasn't too concerned at that point. More people than not are pretty wiped by the bottom of that windy plunge down the creek drainage. We were very close to the Buck Creek aid station, and I figured a little change of terrain and some food would change things in a hurry.

Buck Creek provided an incredible reprieve from the monotony of the previous six miles. The aid station was bustling with people. We were greeted by many familiar faces, and I heard from numerous people that I appeared to be having a lot of fun. Unfortunately Uncle Bill was not having quite so much fun. His legs were pretty hammered, and he took a moment to sit down in a chair while he ate. I was a little concerned about his race, but having run this distance before, I knew that things can turn around quickly.

With food in our bellies, we struck out on the trail again. I explained to Bill that I always enjoy the second half more than the first. It was true, but mostly I was trying to remain upbeat, because it was becoming more and more clear to me that he was mentally and physically waning.

About a half mile up the second climb, Uncle Bill sat down on a log and told me that his day was probably over. "No, this can't be," I thought. UB has climbed El Cap, traversed the Bailey Range solo, run 17 5ok's, and survived numberous other harrowing climbing adventures. He couldn't possibly be derailed by 50 miles. I saddled up next to him on the log and tried to get a picture of what was going on. He explained to me that his legs were just shot and that even hiking was feeling like too much work. I convinced him to eat a couple of gels, and to his credit, he stood up and pressed onward.

Ultimately though, he stopped again, this time for good. He decided that it just wasn't his day. Again, I tried to keep him going, but I also respected his decision. It's not as though I've never dropped out of a race, obviously. So with UB out of the picture, what was I to do? I thought about just walking back to the start with him, but I didn't need another DNF. I was then reminded of my two friends Dan and Eric. They were somewhere in front of me, by how much I didn't know. Maybe, just maybe, I could catch them.

Having taken it pretty easy through the first half, I had some legs, so I began to run hard up the climb. As I rolled into the next aid station at Fawn Ridge I was disheartened to learn that Dan and Eric had arrived 25 minutes earlier. I had hoped to catch them by the Sun Top aid station, but that was seeming pretty far fetched with only 5 miles to go. Nonetheless I put my head down and continued to hammer upward.

Just before the summit aid station, there were two women taking numbers. I asked when Dan and Eric had come through. I was ecstatic to learn that just 3 minutes earlier they had checked in. I was going to catch them. To my surprise, as I crested the hill and the aid station came into view, I saw Dan and Eric. I filled them in on Bill's race and asked how they were doing. Both of them were in great spirits and we all set off down the road together.

Dan had run 50 miles once before, at the San Juan Solstice this past June, but Eric was running his first 50 miler. In fact, Eric had never even run a 50k, so he was in uncharted territory. Both of them seemed to be moving well as we chatted our way down the Sun Top road. By the bottom of the road though, Eric showed that he was indeed human. His IT band had tightened up on him. Not being in any hurry, I was content just to stick with Eric and Dan and do whatever I could to keep Eric upbeat and moving forward.

We hiked most of the final six miles, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was so impressed with Eric's determination. Clearly he was in discomfort, yet he remained so seemingly upbeat. We crossed the finish line in 10:30 or so. It was about 3 hours longer than I would have been out if I was racing, but it was really enjoyable. Of course, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to finish with Uncle Bill, but I was glad to play at least a small role in Eric's first 50 mile finish.

Friday, July 31, 2009

So Much to Write

I have every intention of sitting down to write up a report from White River, but it's been hard to find the time of late. Just to give a quick overview, I set out to run the race with my uncle. Unfortunately he hit about the 50k mark and called it a day. I finished with two other friends and really had a great time. I even have some more photos to post from the day.

On the Pearl Jam front, there are some crazy rumors flying around about a Halloween show at the Spectrum in Philly. They are scheduled to play there October 28th and 30th, as it stands now. The Halloween show would be the final concert ever performed at the Spectrum before it's torn down. I've become engulfed in the hype, and now I'm hoping to attend this show. I know it sounds crazy, but I love me some Pearl Jam. Have you heard the Fixer yet? That's the first single from their forthcoming album. It's taken a few listens, but it's really growing on me now. Good stuff.

I'll be gone most of the weekend, but hopefully I'll have a White River report with photos early next week. And maybe I'll have some more definitive news on this Halloween show. I think my fingers will be crossed all weekend in anticipation of a Monday announcement.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

That's Better

Three years ago I did a VO2 max test. The results of which left me feeling a little discouraged. Considering that I'm at least a somewhat competitive endurance athlete, I figured I'd have a decent VO2 max. Well, in reality, my score was pedestrian, measuring about 54. Clearly it didn't mean that I wasn't going to be able to continue to run well, but I left the clinic feeling a bit inadequate.

Well, just this morning, I was given the opportunity to be tested at the Seattle Athletic Club. They have just begun to offer the service and, in order to promote it, I was offered a free test. I had a bit of trepidation going into it. I mean what if my VO2 max had declined? Would my fragile ego be able to handle an even more paltry score?

Thankfully, my numbers did not decline. In fact, my max today was measured at 64.8. That's still not in the elite range, but I feel much better about being over 60. Maybe this means that I can go back and run well at Western States next year. Let's see if I can sell Andrea on that argument. "C'mon Andrea. I finally have a VO2 max over 60. Can't I go back next year?" Ya, that'll go over really well I'm sure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Speed Scrambling

Well, you've heard of speed climbing, right? Dean Potter, the Huber Bros., and Lynn Hill have all helped to create and advance the sport of technical speed climbing. Big vertical walls are generally the target for these rock climbing cheetahs. But have you ever heard of speed scrambling? It seems like such a familiar term, but "Google" it and you'll find nothing in the first two pages about climbing.

A little over a week ago, my friend Dan and I decided to take a little break from running and head to the mountains. We were both wanting to get out for a day, but needed a bit more adventure than what comes from a 4-5 hour trail run. Having not climbed for much too long, I proposed we tackle Sloan Peak via the Corkscrew Route. Dan, ever the good sport, seemed psyched on the plan, even given his lack of climbing experience.

Dan picked me up at 5 am Friday morning, and we arrived at the trail head by 6:30 or so. Our plan was to go light. We had ice axes and lightweight crampons, but we planned only to wear our trail shoes all the way to the summit. Having never climbed Sloan Peak, we were simply going off of Jim Nelson's description of the route from Selected Climbs in the Cascades: Volume 2. The trail is definitely not maintained and offers a couple of "interesting" sections. The first of which is encountered within the first half mile. Being that the trail is unmaintained and seldom traveled, for that matter, there's no bridge over the North Fork of the Sauk River. The river looked tame enough, but the ford was sketchy for a couple of steps through waist deep flows. Once across the river, it took a few moments to relocate the trail. When we found it, we started to put our running fitness to work on the steep uphill grind. We certainly weren't running, but we seemed to be making pretty good time power hiking. It was as we began this push upward that Dan shared with me the notion of speed scrambling. Evidently he and another friend,Eric. had just taken ownership of the term a week earlier, on Granite Mountain. A scramble is simply a non-vertical, minimally technical, climb up a mountain, and of course, speed-scrambling is just doing that quickly. So there we were "speed-scrambling" up Sloan Peak.

We really never stopped until we reached the saddle at the top of the first snowfield. It was here that we pulled out the book just to double check the route before ascending the Sloan Glacier. We chose to pass on our crampons. The snow was so soft that they would have just balled up with slush. The glacier had a handful of obvious crevasses, but we easily navigated around them. The only nervewracking section of the glacier, at least to me, was traversing underneath the towering cliff face of the summit. There were several very large chunks of rock scattered about the glacier, and I had no desire to have to dodge a couple hundred pound piece of rock careening down from above. Fortunately there was only about a ten or fifteen minute window were I felt vulnerable. Once off the glacier, we stashed our axes, crampons, and all other non-essentials as we began the final ascent up the goat path leading to the summit. This is the point where the Corkscrew Route gets its name. The path winds around the back side of the summit formation then steeply switches back and forth. We made a couple of route finding errors, and even ended up climbing a class 4 gulley, but with relative ease we reached the summit in 4:21 from the car.

The views from the summit were breathtaking. Glacier Peak looked like you could just about reach out and touch it. We could see Mt. Baker to the north and Rainier to the south. We signed the summit register and ate a bit of food. Dan took a photo of me and tried to text it to our wives. His cell phone was showing a signal, but he couldn't get the photo to send. Finally, Dan pulled out a small Gatorade bottle with about two swigs of whiskey in it. He took the first pull and I knocked off the second. You'd never know that Dan was a rookie, as he brandished the whiskey like a seasoned mountaineer.

Whether it was the whiskey or the food in our bellies. We seemed to have a little extra zip in our step as we made our way down from the summit. Once we reached our stashed gear, we really kicked things into another gear. Even though we were only in running shorts, we managed to glissade most of the way down the glacier and even the lower snowfield. Once back on the trail, we continued our quick descent, even mixing in a bit of jogging in the less technical sections. The descent was mostly uneventful, aside from a couple good spills. Once back at the river, we realized that we could cross a log jam slightly downstream of the ford. I was relieved not to have to make those couple of steps through the current on tired legs. Once across the river, we were able to jog most of the last half mile to the car. We stopped our watches as we popped out to the trailhead. From car to car, we climbed Sloan in 6:45. Without setting out to, we may have the fastest known time roundtrip on Sloan Peak. Leor Pantilat and Colin Abercrombie did the climb in just over 7 hours. Most everything Leor does is the fastest known time, so I can only assume their time on Sloan was the previous fastest. Regardless of the time, we had a fantastic climb, and I hope to get out and do more of the same very soon.





Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Post-Western Life

Whew, things have been quite busy since I last sat down to write. Where do I even begin? There's been Pearl Jam anxiety, fly fishing excursions, a climbing adventure, and even a little bit of running. Alright, so maybe I haven't been THAT busy, but I'll share a few of the highlights.

Let's begin with my favorite topic, Pearl Jam. It turns out that Mike McCready was not being straight with me, a month or so back, when he came into Seattle Running Company to get some shoes. He told me that they were playing September 21st at Key Arena. As it turns out they're playing the 21st AND the 22nd. Where were you on that one Mikey? I thought we had really hit it off.

Thanks to the 20 bucks a year that I kick into the Pearl Jam Ten Club, I was able to get first crack at tickets last monday. The process was actually quite smooth. Generally when trying to get Pearl Jam tickets, even fan club tickets, there's a great deal of stress and uncertainty. Pearl Jam insists on selling their fan club tickets through their own website. That's great except that their website has typically not had the bandwidth to handle the demand for tickets, thus leading to site crashes and me yelling multiple expletives (not so good when I'm at work). For example, Eddie Vedder embarked on a solo tour last spring, and fan club members were able to get tickets first. Andrea and I chose to go to Vancouver, BC. That particular tour probably had 12-15 dates, all of which went on sale at the same time. As always, the tickets went on sale at 10 am, just as the store opens. To make a long story short, I twice had tickets in the cart ready to pay, and the website crashed. Meanwhile I'm answering the store phone and trying to help customers while still attempting to log in and get tickets. Finally at 10:53 am, I managed to thread the needle and get to the ticket cart and purchase them unscathed. So that's been a pretty typical experience when trying to procure PJ tickets. This time around, the ticket sales were staggered, and I had tickets to both shows within 2 minutes of them going on sale. What? I didn't even get to shout a single 4-letter word.

To calm my Pearl Jam anxiety, I've been spending a bit of time fly fishing. I really haven't been having much fishing success, but I've been exploring some gorgeous new places. Lately I've been stuffing my 3-piece rod into my running pack and incorporating a run into my fly fishing time. It really allows me to quickly get to some very cool and distant places.

Since I'm running out of time this morning, I'll leave you with this. Last Friday my good friend Dan and I did a fantastic climb up Sloan Peak. It was such a great day in the mountains that I will devote an entire post to it. Oh, and guess what? I even have some pics to go with it. My blog won't be recognizable.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Report

As I've already alluded to to, Western States 2009 was not the race I was hoping for. Once again I was beaten into submission by this event. However, I'm not feeling nearly as deflated, following this year's race, as I have each of the past three summers. Although I ultimately gave up, it didn't come without a real fight, and I'm proud of that.

In 2006, I had the race in the bag, only to mismanage the final 2.9 miles and ultimately ended up with a win-that-was-not and a trip to the hospital. As you might imagine, that was an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. At this point, I can look back on that race with a great deal of pride, but at the time I couldn't find anything positive in that experience. 2007 was a huge disappointment for me and a race that I'm not proud of at all. I was in very good shape leading up to the race, most likely even a bit overtrained. I became sick a couple of weeks before the race and had not recovered by race day. Knowing better, I went against my gut instinct and started the race. The end result was a drop only 35 miles into the course . It was a frustrating day all the way around. In 2008, all of us who had spent the last year preparing, making sacrifices, had the rug yanked right out from under us. Forest fires in the region forced the cancellation of the race for the first time in 35 years. To put all the hard work and focus into such a big moment only to have it snatched away was probably the most devastating blow I've been dealt by Western States. This year, although ultimately disappointing, has felt a lot less demoralizing than my previous three tries.

Okay, so what happened out there? Well as I had mentioned leading up to the race, I was fighting a really nasty bug. However, I must admit that I felt pretty dang good by Wednesday. Heck, I was even feeling pretty spunky on Tuesday. I left Seattle around 6:30 am and arrived in Auburn about 8 o'clock. Feeling antsy and needing to stretch my legs, I drove down to the river and ran from No Hands Bridge to Highway 49 and back. The warm air and the smooth trail were just the ticket after being crammed in the car for close to 13 hours. On Wednesday I ran about an hour at Diamond Peak, a small resort above Lake Tahoe. That too felt good, and my mindset really began to shift. I thought, "Maybe all this rest really will pay off." Thursday was more of the same, as I met up with some friends and headed up to Five Lakes Basin. Running uphill at 6 or 7 thousand feet was surprisingly effortless. I was convinced, really convinced, that I was going to pop a great race on Saturday. Friday rolled around and I felt very relaxed and confident. I stayed well hydrated throughout the day and ate well. As I laid in bed Friday night, I envisioned what it would feel like crossing that finish line upright, and in the top ten. That's really what I thought possible.

Western States had something different in mind for me, as it turned out. The day started out well enough. Besides following the lead pack up a wrong turn in the first mile, the initial 22 miles felt smooth. I was able to drink consistently and eat every half hour. Loping into Duncan Canyon, I was able to see my crew for the first time. I was in the top twenty, and I felt like I was just biding my time. With the field assembled this year, I knew that guys would go out very fast and most would probably end up paying the price. My plan was to move up as the pace and heat exacted their toll on the frontrunners later in the day.

Unfortunately things don't always go as planned, especially in hundred milers. Oh, there was carnage alright, but I was part of it too. Shortly after leaving Duncan Canyon, my stomach began to feel unsettled. I'm still not sure why, but as I left Robinson Flat, I placed my hands on my thighs while bent over and purged the contents of my stomach, EV-ER-Ything in my stomach. Worst of all, I didn't really feel any better. I walked a bit and tried to calm my gut, but still something wasn't right. I'll spare some of the gory details, but by the time my crew saw me again at Dusty Corners, I had begun to show some real wear and tear. "How are you feeling, Brian," Andrea asked. "Not good," I said. "I've been throwing up." Determined to get beyond Dusty Corners, I swapped my bottles and waistpack and slowly jogged down the trail. The trail is mostly downhill from Dusty Corners to Last Chance, but my insides were in such turmoil that I had to walk. My stomach was empty at this point, and I knew that I needed to get some fuel onboard. Gels weren't tasting good, or staying down for that matter, so I went for the solid food. Peeling the wrapper back I began to take small bites of my burrito. It didn't taste great, but it was an improvement over the gels and blocks.

About a mile or so before Last Chance, a group of about 4 0r 5 runners passed me, and I was able to fall in behind them and run for a bit. Being that I hadn't kept anything down for a few hours, I expected to be down in weight as I stepped onto the scale at Last Chance. It read 168. I was 43 miles in and only a pound down. The descent from LC down to the Swinging Bridge actually felt doable. In fact, I only threw up once before crossing the bridge and beginning the heinous climb up the Devil's Thumb. For the first time all day, I was really starting to feel the heat. As I bent down to soak my visor in the creek, Krissy passed me. She too seemed to be going through a rough patch, but we agreed to tackle the thumb together. Well, she turned out to be stronger than I, and it took everything in my power just to keep her in my sight. As we neared the top, it became obvious to me that my mind was beginning to lose a battle with my body. I felt nearly as weak as I ever have, as I rounded the final switch back and trudged into the aid station. I was honestly starting to have flashbacks to my climb up Robie Point in 2006, so I knew I had to get things under control or else there may be trouble. This time my weight was 167.5. I still had not lost any significant weight, so that was somewhat reassuring. I plopped myself down into a folding chair and luxuriated in the sensation of being off my feet.

It didn't take long before the volunteers started asking questions. I explained to them that I had thrown up everything that I'd ingested for the last 18 miles. Not only that, on the climb up to the Thumb, I began dry heaving, because at that point there was nothing in my stomach. They told me that I looked good and seemed very alert and mentally on the ball. Eventually I was able to eat a little bit of fruit and a couple of popsicles. Ginger ale too, seemed to go down without issue. I threw up a couple of times while seated, but eventually the food and drink stayed down. As a precaution, one of the volunteers took my blood pressure. It was a little low while seated, and it was dropping a bit when I stood up. I still don't quite understand what that means physiologically, but the med volunteers took note of it. After about an hour of sipping water, broth and ginger ale, I stood up and decided to attempt to make it at least to my crew at Michigan Bluff, another 7 miles away.

Much to my relief, Jeff Phillips had just come through Devil's Thumb, so I was able to catch up to him and make the descent into El Dorado Canyon with company. We both commented on the heat, yet it never felt as hot to me as 2006. We reached the river together, and I was feeling reassured, having not thrown up for some time. I refilled my water bottles and grabbed two Oreos as we began the steady climb up to Michigan Bluff. The cookies tasted good and went down without issue, however as I neared the halfway point up the climb, I was again doubled over and vomiting. "This F'ing sucks," I thought, as I tried to wipe my mouth with my dusty singlet. Within a mile of the aid station, I saw two men standing on the side of the trail. I didn't think much of them until I got closer. It turned out to be my Uncle Bob and my pacer, Dan. They had come down to look for me, since I was so far off my predicted arrival to Michigan Bluff. Both looked relieved to see me, but I could tell from their faces that I must have looked like hell.

Relief came again as I made the hard right into the aid staion at Michigan Bluff. It felt comforting to have my wife, uncles, and friends so nearby. As I came into the aid station, I was led again to the scales. This time I came in at 168 again. I stepped off the scale and proceeded immediately to the med tent. I sat down in the first chair I saw and explained to them my predicament. I still wasn't ready to call it a day, but it's pretty hard to run 100 miles on an empty stomach. As they questioned me, I was reminded that it had been at least three hours since I had peed. The med volunteers, who were all wonderful, determined that I should stay there and rehydrate until I could pee. Well, another hour or so must have passed, but finally I was able to get enough broth and Gatorade in me that my bladder felt full. I got up to pee and was reminded to go into a cup, so they could determine how dehydrated I was. It looked pretty yellow to me, so like an excited child, I rushed over to the med staff with my urine. "That's pretty good, huh?" They weren't quite as convinced as I, but admitted that it didn't look too bad, only slightly concentrated. That was good enough for them to turn me loose again on the trail, however, they cautioned that if this pattern of vomiting continued until Foresthill, I should pull the plug.

I walked out of the tent with a little swagger in my step. I even managed to joke a bit with my crew. Sure I'd lost an hour here and an hour there, but I was still in it, at least to finish. My legs were still feeling really good, my stomach was all that held me back to that point. Unfortunately as soon as I began to hike out of Michigan Bluff, I could feel the cramping starting to build deep in my stomach. It wasn't long before I was again bent over and spewing. Somehow amidst all of the vomiting, I managed to run pretty well on the descent into Volcano Canyon. It was killing me to have some spring in my step, and yet, due to my stomach, not be able to take advantage of it. Eventually I emerged at the base of Bath Road and was greeted by my two pacers, Uncle Bill and Dan. We hiked the whole way up the road. About halfway up I fought to control the dry heaves. Nearly at the top, I lost it, and I mean LOST it. Right there with UB and Dan sympathetically watching, I had the most violent, gut-wrenching puke-fest of my life. Like a wave slowing building, the dry heaving became more and more intense. Finally reaching it's climax my stomach exploded and sent it's contents violently outward like the wave crashing on the sea shore. The convulsions seemed endless this time. Knowing that it was the final straw, time seemed to stand still. Things must have been bad because, as I was bent over I could make out Dan and UB's shadows. When I really started to come undone, I could see my uncle's shadow making a throat-slitting gesture to Dan. When all was said and done, my stomach felt a little better, but mentally I knew this meant the end of my day and another failed attempt at Western States. As I ambled into Foresthill, I could hear a young boy ask his dad why that guy was walking. I thought to myself, "kid, if you only knew the half of it." It did however spur me on to jog into the weigh-in area. Again, I weighed in at 168. I headed straight to the nearest chair and again sat down. This time I was pretty sure I wasn't getting back up, at least not to continue the race. However, I gave it some time and tried to get some calories back on board. I gagged up a bit of the broth. "That's it," I thought. Once that doctor at Michigan Bluff told me to drop at Foresthill if I continued to puke, I wasn't about to ignore his warnings. I know it's courageous to push through adversity and hardship, but after what happened to me in 2006, I'm not about to tempt fate. With a great deal of reluctance on her part, the woman at the runner checkpoint accepted my resignation and clipped my yellow band thus ending my 2009 Western States.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gordy Ainsleigh, You Old Son of a B... Gun!

It's all Gordy's fault. Well first off, he is responsible for this crazy circus we call Western States, but that's not even the half of it. In all honesty, I greatly admire the guy for successfully running 100 miles on foot in 1974 and thereby creating the sport of 100 mile trail racing. My beef with Gordy goes back to 2006. Gordy Ainsleigh spoke to a group of us at Scott Jurek's camp Western States camp, and to this day, I'm haunted by his words.

I can't completely recollect what he said word for word, but I've got the gist of it. "Don't let this race beat you," he said. "Because if it does, you'll never forget it." Gee, thanks Gordon. Those words were seared into my brain, and now beaten three times (4 if you count the fires in '08), Gordy's words are playing on a loop through my head AGAIN.

It's easy to say, "Oh well there's always next year. You'll get it. It just wasn't your day." I hear a lot of things along those lines. And yes, maybe that is all true. But for my own sanity, and for that of Andrea, I've got to take a year off from this race. So there will not be a Western States for me in 2010, and as hard as this race has become to get into, I don't know for sure when I'll get to toe the line at Squaw again.

So until then, I get to fall asleep at night to Gordy's words playing on repeat through my thoughts. It's just a race, and yet it's so much more than that. I really can't do it justice with words, but there's something very magical about Western States. As much as I may hate the race, I'm absolutely captivated by it at the same time. Just like I may be haunted by Gordy's words, I see them also as a crisp orange carrot hanging at the end of long, but hopefully not endless, stick, that I may some day satisfyingly chomp into. Thanks, Gordy. I know I'll one day appreciate what you told us. But until then...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oh Pretty Please


Brian is down in California, heat training or something. I'm not too convinced about his strategy since part of this "heat" training involved not using air conditioning in the rental car until he started sweating during his non-stop drive from Seattle to Auburn. I'm his wife, and he asked me to guest blog and write about Western from my perspective.

I'll be honest with you - I hate this race. More than anything, (oh pretty please) I just want him to finish it this year and come home with a buckle that we can add to our very unorganized collection of ultra running memorabilia. Then maybe, just maybe, he won't have to go back next year. (I wonder if he's second guessing the free reign he gave me to guest post.) My perspective is that Western States has become, for our little family anyway, way too much of an emotional journey and too big of a hooplah. For Pete's sake, I was telling a friend about it today, and I started crying in the middle of Chipotle (Chipotle?!?!) as I shared the moment when Brian came into the stadium in 2006, and I awaited him with tears of happiness - just to have that rush stomped out in a split-second - as he collapsed for the first time and the realization hit me that something was seriously wrong.

This race though has its positive aspects, and for that I respect it. I love the crews that come out with their A-game on: matching t-shirts, posters, babies in arms, and relatives in tow from around the world. I love the volunteers who are super friendly and put in long hours. I love the runners that travel here from abroad to participate in this wild race. I love how Auburn turns out in mass to cheer these passionate runners on all day long. I love the runners that start in Squaw knowing it will be 28 + hours for them, but they're doing it anyway. I love catching up with the friendly runners and their relatives that I've met over the years. I'm excited to see Nikki, and I really hope that her cousin is there with his conch shell. I look forward to seeing Hal and Carly and hope that Hal looks as cute this year as he did gliding to the 2007 finish. And I hope Don Mukai is there; I haven't seen him in a while and he gives good hugs.

So Western States 2009, please, pretty please, smile down on Brian this year (and on me too for my sanity) and let the guy finish!

(Shhh... don't tell Brian, but I secretly hope that he finishes 11th or higher b/c that means that he doesn't automatically get to go back next year. Is that terrible? I've been trying to convince him to try other long races like HURT 100 in Hawaii or the Tour de Mont-Blanc. A girl can always dream...)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Turning the Corner

Well thankfully I've made some real headway the past couple of days, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to head down to States and give it what I've got. I really appreciate those of you who have taken the time to offer some encouragement. I'm generally a pretty upbeat person, but it's easy to get overwhelmed with a bunch of negative thoughts, especially surrounding this race. So, I may still not be 100%, but I was able to put a couple hours in on the trail yesterday and feel pretty good. With five days until the race, I think I'll be ready to line up and stare down 100 miles Saturday morning. I'm really curious to see what happens out there following this forced two week taper. My hope is that I'll run a very smart race because of it. I had a similar scenario in 2007 when I raced White River coming off a long battle with a virus. My pace through the first half was quite conservative. In fact, I think that I was 17th or so coming through the halfway point, but as I just started feeling strong in the second half, people in front began to falter. It seemed that every hill I crested and every turn I made, there was another runner to pass. It was one of the most satisfying races of my career, and I ended up finishing 2nd overall. It was a very distant 2nd, but nonetheless it was a tremendous feeling to surge through the second half of the race. Let's hope I can do something similar on Saturday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh Come On!

You won't believe this. No really, you all are not going to believe what I'm about to reveal. I am sick. Sick. Sick. Sick. Well it's probably not all that shocking to those who know how cursed I seem to be at Western States. It's really almost laughable how bad my luck is this time of year. I'm really trying to stay upbeat about this and hopefully beat this crud. If I do, there's no doubt that I'll be coming in well rested. I literally have not run a step since Tuesday of last week. No surprise to anyone, that's not really the optimal way to lead up to your biggest race of the year.

So how did this happen? Well I came into work the Sunday before last, having just finished the store run and wrapping up my final big week before the race, when I was stopped cold in my tracks by the deep rumbling cough emanating from the back room. One of my co-workers was obviously very sick, and I quickly encouraged him to pack up and go home before spreading anything. It was a mostly selfish move, but obviously customers don't want to receive service from someone who is hacking and sniffling, especially with the fear of swine flu. So on he went, and I wiped everything down and continuously, neurotically, washed my hands throughout the day. In the end, it was all for not. My immune system, heavily compromised from training, caved in to the bug, and I've been sick ever since.

I'm on day 10 now. Slowly I'm improving, but I need to see something change drastically in the next couple of days, or else I'm going to pull the plug on States. That kills me to say, but I got sick in 2007 and tried to run. I knew starting the race that I probably would not finish, and I certainly could not be competitive. That year I ended up dropping at Dusty Corners, and I felt miserable about it. I really don't know if I'd feel any better just not starting, but I promised myself that I would never start a race that way again. So I've tentatively set Sunday or Monday as my drop dead date, meaning that I'm going to make a decision one way or another by Sunday night or Monday morning as to whether or not I go to Western States.

In light of all that, I did have a very exciting moment at work the other day. Exciting enough to have taken at least a little sting out of being sick right now. Mike McCready, yes THE Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, wandered into Seattle Running Company the other day. Thankfully I was working and got to help him out. Rather than beat around the bush, I flat out told him that I was a huge fan. He seemed genuinely pleased to hear it. The guy seems incredibly down to earth and was quite friendly. He asked me a lot of questions about my own running. We even talked about Western States and what it's like to run 100 miles. Without coming across as a freaky fan, I told him that I thought the performance of "Got Some" was great. Again he seemed truly excited to hear it. The new album, he told me, is eleven songs long, and he described it as having a new-wavey feel. He said that it was great to work with producer Brendan O'Brien again. They last worked with him on 1998's Yield. He was in the store for about 20 minutes or so and ended up getting a couple pairs of shoes. Interestingly, he's not so much a runner as he is a cardio boxing participant. He even shared with me little news about a certain Seattle band playing a certain Seattle venue in the fall. It was pretty darn cool.

So unless you're a Western States frontrunner, keep your fingers crossed for my health. And, by all means, if you have any special remedies please share. PLEASE!!!!

PS Hal, I asked Jeff Dean what "coctupe" meant. It was so filthy that I can't even share it here on my blog.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Whew!

Well I'm thoroughly hammered. This has probably been the most rigorous four weeks of training that I've ever experienced. And although I feel like I've been working my ass off, my body is holding up quite well (knock on wood).

If I'm not ready to compete at States right now, then I never will be. Really, I'm not one to exaggerate, so you'll just have to trust me. For as hard as I trained in 2006, I don't think that I matched the likes of these past four weeks. But don't tell anyone. Right now I'm not being discussed as a contender, and I like it that way. I flew in under the radar in 2006, and I hope to do the same this year.

My mileage has been relatively low (85-95 miles), but I haven't run any "junk" miles. Don't get me wrong. I've certainly run some easy recovery jaunts, but I haven't run a step just to add 2-3 worthless miles to a weekly total. The bulk of my weekly mileage has come between Friday and Sunday.

Each of the past 4 Fridays have been spent running repeats up and down Mt. Si. For three weeks in a row, I ran 2 times up and down (6400 ft. of ascent). Then to cap off this block of training, I punched out three repeats this past Friday. All three ascents were negative splits. Saturdays have been the big, long runs. The first Saturday of this stint was 69.88 miles in 10:37 as part of a twelve hour race. The ascent was minimal, only 4k, but it gave me some real confidence going that distance after a hard day before. Each of the next two Saturdays were spent at Tiger Mountain, running 12 peaks. It's a local run in which you hit all six summits of Tiger out and back, for a total of 12. The run logs over 9000 ft, covers 34 miles, and takes just over 6 hours. This past Saturday I opted for a slightly more runnable course. I hammered out two loops of the Cougar 14 miler. Again, this is a staple local run. I ran the first loop in 2:09 and the second in 2:03. 28 miles. 5300 ft. of ascent. Not too bad after triple Mt. Si's. And each of the last 4 Sundays I've spent leading the Seattle Running Company trail runs. These runs are typically 2-3 hours and cover 14-16 miles on hilly terrain. So in three days I've been knocking out 16-18 grand of climbing.

Hopefully, it's still just my mom and sister reading this, because I really do hope to avoid the pre-race hype. I'm writing this mostly to satisfy myself. I can certainly feel how hard I've been working at this, but it's nice to take a moment and put to paper (computer screen, in this case) the training I've put in. Well it sounds good, so let's see how it all plays out in less than 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Got Some

I'm giddy watching and listening to Pearl Jam's new song "Got Some". Check it out here and let me know what you think. . Their new album, slated for a fall release, is tentatively titled Backspacer.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Does It Get Any Better?

I'm feeling pretty damn good right now. Why? Well my training is going great. I logged another big weekend. I was slightly slower on my Mt. Si repeats Friday morning, but I ran 6 minutes faster on 12 peaks Saturday, and I was able to hammer the SRC group run Sunday morning. Now I'm enjoying a day off, at least off from running. Maybe I squeezed in a 30 minute sauna session with some push-ups and core work, but that's it. Otherwise it was a day of recuperation.

That's all well and good, but why am I in such a great mood. Well, for starters I was treated to dinner at the in-laws this evening. Now that may not sound all that great to some of you out there, but if you had Portuguese family you'd definitely understand. Portuguese food is the best, especially when you've been logging your biggest mileage of the season. Oh so good!

And for me the best part of the day hasn't even happened. If you can believe it, I'm still awake and it's nearly midnight. For those of you who know me, you understand how rare that is. There's really only one thing that would keep me up this late, especially in the midst of peak training. Any guesses? Yep, Pearl Jam is playing on the premiere of the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Word is they will be playing songs (yes, plural), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bubble Wrap

Well it must almost be June, because my ankles and knees are feeling pretty crunchy. Maybe it's also because I'm 30 now, but I know I'm training hard when my joints sound like there filled with bubble wrap. It's mostly my ankles, but lately my knees are feeling pretty hammered too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not injured at all. It would be nice to be immune to all aches and pains, but in some twisted way I enjoy a little bit of wear and tear. It lets me know that I'm doing the work that's going to pay off in just one month.

I don't want to jinx anything, but I have to say that I'm feeling pretty good about my current level of fitness. I've raced a little less this spring, but I've made the most of what I have raced, and my training has been solid. It's quite amazing that a couple big hard weeks back to back can completely change one's mindset. Just a month ago I was feeling like my training was utterly schizophrenic. When I look back at this month as a whole though, I really feel good about it. I've done long runs of 40, 70, and 34 miles. Each of those runs was preceded a day earlier by hilly threshold runs.

On top of feeling great about running, I've still been managing some quality time in the gym. My sauna sessions are getting longer and feeling more comfortable. The problem is that the sauna at the new gym is always more full than it ever was at my old gym. Therefore, I feel a little awkward doing pushups and jumping jacks in front 2 or 3 other guys. I've continued to hit the weights too, with most of the focus now being on core and legs. On a whim today, I decided to measure my body fat with the goofy electronic hand-held device. I put no stock into it's accuracy, but when I last checked three months or so ago, my body fat percentage was 11%. Today it was measured 7%. So regardless of the accuracy, it still shows an increase in fitness. It's always nice to have some measurable numbers to back up the way your feeling.

In a moment, I'll stand up and grab a glass of water. Inevitably my ankles are going to snap and crackle, but I'll be smiling thinking about the runs I did to get to this point. I love this time of year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

At Last

Kiwi finally has a diagnosis. The results from her endoscopy came back from the lab, and it turns out that she does indeed have IBD. There's good news and still some lingering questions that come with her diagnosis. Evidently the labs revealed that she has MILD irritable bowel disease. That's good as far as treatment goes, but the specialist said that a mild case may not explain everything that Kiwi has been experiencing. That's a little frustrating, but at least we can start treating something. Kiwi will be on prednisone for the next month or so, and supposedly we should see some pretty immediate results from that. According to the vet, once we get the inflammation down, Kiwi should be able to resume a pretty normal life, which includes running.

Speaking of running, I've been doing a little of that. It's amazing how much weight has been lifted off my shoulders with Kiwi's improvement. Last week was my biggest of the year. Friday and Saturday combined for my biggest back-to-back ever. On Friday morning, Adam Lint and I headed out to North Bend for a double ascent of Mt. Si (my first of the season). Both times up were under 50 minutes and felt great. On our way back from Si, Adam and I flagged the five mile course for Saturday's Cougar Mountain race. Then on Saturday I took part in the Watershed Preserve 12 Hour. 12 hours of running a 5.3 mile loop was not my idea of fun, but I felt like it would be a great opportunity to figure out my nutrition plan for Western and get some solid time on my feet. I actually only ended up running 10:37. In that time, I ran 69.88 miles. With 80 minutes or so left to run, I could have pushed well into the mid 70's, but I didn't want to put myself into too great a deficit. I feel great about having run 90 or so miles in two days. My week ended up at 127 miles. I know that's become quite pedestrian these days, but for me that's a HUGE week. With about 4 weeks of hard training left, I'm feeling really good about my current fitness.

And the last little bit of good news comes from the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. His debut is June 1st, and his first musical guest will be none other than my favorite band PEARL JAM. They will evidenty be playing new songs from their forthcoming album. That rocks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Consistently Inconsistent

Training and blogging have been mediocre at best this past month. I've been as inconsistent as Kiwi's stool, well formed and solid one week, sloppy and unstructured the next. Please pardon the comparison to my dog's waste, but it really speaks to what I've been dealing with now for well over a month. As I've alluded to in previous posts, Kiwi's health has really been set back for the past two months. She's more or less fine, although she can't run with me at the moment. We still don't know what exactly is causing her GI issues and lethargy, but it is suspected that she has Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). Sounds really pleasant, huh? I've realized a couple things over the last month or so. First off, I must have lived a pretty stress free life up until now, because I never knew how much stress can screw things up. And second, I don't handle stress very well, especially when it is stress related to my dog-child. I've literally worried myself sick over Kiwi. I've definitely made her my top priority for these many weeks, at the expense of my running. That sucks, but it puts things into perspective a bit too. Obviously, Kiwi takes precedent over any race, yes even THE race.

Things aren't all bad though. Last week I hit my biggest mileage of the year, topping out over 100 miles for the first time. I even managed to get out for a hard 40 mile run with Jurek and some others. I realized that he's in better shape than me, but I don't feel like I'm that far off. There's still a handful of weeks to really hit it, so if Kiwi can continue to show small signs of improvement, I feel like I can get back on track to run my best at States.

So where do things stand with Kiwi? Well she underwent an endoscopy last Thursday, and we're awaiting the results from the biopsy. Theoretically they'll diagnose her with IBD and then we can began the proper treatment. IBD is a lifelong condition, but not a life shortening illness. Evidently it can be successfully managed with diet and medication, and she should even be able to start running again. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get a diagnosis and can begin treating something. So far, the vets have only told us what she does NOT have.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Build-Up

Okay, let's get back to it. It seems as though I haven't posted anything of much value since the man crush topic. I think that may have been my blog's high point. I mean really, how can you top an ode to Hal Koerner? Well even if that was as good as it gets, I'm still going to keep at this whole blogging thing.

So what's been happening? Well as I briefly mentioned in my last post, I ran the Sun Mountain 50k. I actually won the whole darn thing. That felt pretty good after getting hammered by my "man crush" at Chuckanut. Hal and I were discussing, after Chuckanut, the fact that I had beaten him nearly every time we'd raced. However, the collective margin of victory, of about 5 or 6 races, was probably less than 5 minutes. Well Hal soundly beat me by 10 or 11 minutes at Chuckanut, and made me realize I've got a lot of work ahead of me before we race again at States. Thus, winning the Sun Mountain race felt good and it seems I'm on the right track.

The race at Sun Mountain turned out to be quite exciting. My mindset going into the race was just to go out and have a good solid training run. I had trained through the week and even did a single Squak ascent at threshold pace on Friday. Therefore, my legs weren't anywhere near fresh, at least not at the start. The lead pack went out at a pretty fast clip. Fast enough that halfway through the first of 3 ten mile loops, I realized I wasn't going to hang in there at that pace. I slowed down slightly and watched the four or five guys in front of me pull away. If I was to stand any chance at catching up, they were going to have to slow down a lot, because my legs just weren't up to that clip. Thankfully for me, midway into the second loop, I started to gain some ground. The brisk first loop was already weighing a heavy toll on the front pack. By the middle of the second loop I had passed all but the lone front runner, and he still had a sizeable lead on me.

Strangely my legs started feeling better as I struck out on the third and final loop. I was content with the move I'd made in the second loop and would have been quite pleased maintaining my place to the finish. However, about 1/3 of the way through that final loop, I caught sight of the front runner. He was no longer so far out in front. Suddenly my competitive instincts took over, and I was back in the race to win.

I caught up to Chris Twardczik at the top of the final climb. With less than 2 miles to go I put my head down and hammered the final descent, finally able to pass and even get a little separation from Chris. I didn't really ever look back, but I had a reassuring feeling that I'd be able to hang on. I won in a time of 4:19 and Chris finished second in 4:24.

So, the season is still early, but Western States is quickly approaching. I'm really pleased with my runs at both Chuckanut and Sun Mountain. Next up, I'll be heading down to Olympia for the Capitol Peak 5o miler. My intention was to run Miwok on May 2nd, but due to Kiwi's ever growing vet bills, I've decided to scrap the trip and stay closer to home.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Quick Recap

I apologize to all of my loyal readers for my lack of words lately. Kiwi, who is doing slightly better, still isn't 100%, and really the vets haven't pinpointed exactly what's going on. Unfortunately I've had myself worried sick about her, and thus haven't had much desire to write. That being said, I guess if I'm taking a little time right now, things must be a little better. In fact, I just returned from the beautiful Methow Valley where I ran the Rainshadow 50k and hung out with some friends. It was a nice little get away, and returning home tonight, I was enthusiastically greeted by a very happy border collie. she seems pretty wiped out again right now, but she's making very small steps in the right direction. Anyway, the race was great. James Varner put on another great event. Due to some lingering snow, the course was three 10 mile loops, which is not normally my cup of tea. However, it was very fun loop with some unbelievable views.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some Thoughts on States

This is from an email that I sent to Craig Thornley in regards to a post he just published on his blog http://ix.cs.uoregon.edu/~thornley/2009/04/02/the-haggin-cup/. I started to ramble on a bit, but I thought some may find it an interesting read.


I'd love to offer some input about my 2006 experience at States. I'll begin by saying, and I know it sounds cheesy, but I truly believe that if you set your mind to something, it really is attainable. It's amazing how strong all of our minds are and how hard we are able to push ourselves. I think that to run any ultra distance you have to be headstrong, but I feel that the mind becomes exponentially more important the longer the race gets. No doubt you have to be in great shape to run 100 miles, but I believe that it's even more important to be tenacious and strong willed. Now going back to my first point, I truly believed that I could win Western States in 2006. Some may say that's brash or cocky or perhaps naive, considering I'd never run there, but I set my mind to it and worked my ass off toward that goal. I definitely was not the fittest or fastest runner out there that day, but I was so determined and solely focused on that goal that I was able to rise above my shortcomings (ie. minimal 100 mile experience, WS rookie, unproven, etc...). So, even though I didn't win, it really made me realize that by setting a goal and really working toward it, you can overcome an awful lot.

The scary thing is that sometimes our drive to succeed , which we have to have to win, pushes our bodies to a dangerous place. I can speak from personal experience on this, because I did push too hard at Western States in 2006, and it put me in the hospital. Thankfully there was no long term damage, and I turned out only to need about 36 hours on IV's. The REALLY scary thing is that they don't even know exactly what caused my collapse. I won't go into it too much, because I'm not a doctor, but it's really crazy how little is known about what happens to the human body when running 100 miles. Some people with a medical background have made me believe that I nearly died, and others have made it seem much tamer than it looked. One specific I will share is that my CPK level was up near 450,000 while in the hospital. The medical staff at Auburn Faith were horrified to see such high numbers. CPK is an indicator of tissue breakdown. The dangerous part of having a high CPK count is that all of that broken down tissue has to be filtered through the kidneys, thus potentially leading to shutdown and failure. The interesting part of this is that when I received my email sometime after the race showing the CPK averages of the 2006 finishers, my CPK at the finish line was slightly below the average of all the runners. I've found out since that the CPK level will reach it's peak 24 hours after the event. My point being that most runners don't end up in the hospital and therefore don't see those high numbers that may actually be much more prevalent than we think. So what brought on my collapse, and did I see it coming? The answer to the first question is that doctors I've talked to seem to have differing opinions on the matter. I was initially led to believe that I was hyponaetremic and therefore collapsed due to overhydration and lack of sodium. Dr. Lisa Bliss has studied my bloodwork pretty thoroughly and is of the opinion that I simply collapsed out of exhaustion. Yes, I was slightly hyponaetremic, but I was also dehydrated, which doesn't quite jive with a collapse due to lack of sodium. Anyway, I believe that I collapsed once inside the stadium, because mentally I felt that I'd done it. Physically I think that I'd been on the brink since the climb up Robie, but mentally I was able to override the physical desire to pass out. However, entering the stadium and seeing the finish line so close, I let my mental guard down. In doing so, my body which was pretty taxed, took over and the result was repeated collapse. The answer to the second question is simply NO. I had started to slow slightly on the crappy descent to No Hands Bridge, but only because I was having a hard time on all the loose rock. Seeing the lights of the stadium in the distance, I had no doubt whatsoever that I'd finish. Whether or not I'd win, I had no idea, but I knew that I could finish. That all changed at No Hands Bridge though. I don't necessarily want to rehash a lot of what if's, but the fact is that a pacer change was made unbeknownst to me. Leaving No Hands Bridge I was running scared, based on some misleading information given to me, with a fresh pacer. I know I left No Hands at a harder effort than I had arrived, and somewhere up the climb to Robie, I was starting to unravel. Honestly, my memory of events is a little fuzzy from the time I reached the houses at the top of the hill until I awoke in the med tent. It's so crazy how quickly things went from uncomfortable and ready to be done to completely out of control and blacked out.

So how about the lasting impressions of such an experience? I don't think that I'll ever be the same runner that I was before that day in June 2006. That's not to say that I can't run well, but literally every run I've set out on since, I've thought at least for a split second about States. Will I ever be able to push myself to that point again? I really don't know. Obviously I don't ever want to repeat those events, but I want to believe that I can still run intelligently and fearlessly. Being that I don't have an official finish at Western States, I really focus, sometimes to the point of obsession, on that event. I was so fired up to run last year and get that monkey off my back that when the race was cancelled, it's no exaggeration to say that I became very depressed. Somehow I need to find a healthy balance of peaking for Western and giving it my all, but not allowing it to take over my life if it doesn't unfold how I'd like it to.

Although I'm terribly disappointed not to have won Western States in 2006, I'm still very proud of my run. And again, it really made me believe that if you want something badly enough and you work your tail off, you might just accomplish it, even if it's as far fetched as winning Western States. For me that experience forced a great deal of character building, and I believe I'm a stronger person for it. I'm hopeful that as the saying goes, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. For as hard as we push ourselves and abuse our bodies, thehuman body is an incredibly resilient thing.