Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bighorn 100

Or how to not run a 100 miler in the heat. In some ways this race was a spectacular failure, but I did learn it’s possible to run 100 miles through the mountains peeing blood, vomiting, and only eating about 3,000 calories, and still get 35th. Ain’t no reason to not finish a hundred.

The race start in the Tongue River Canyon west of Dayton was characteristically sunny and uncharacteristically scorching hot and humid. I think we must have been topping 90 degrees and a dewpoint in the high 60’s. Shirts were already soaked through just standing around. 

Crossing Sheep Creek, photo by W. J. Wagner.

After the national anthem the crowd of runners roared down the gravel road. I was somewhere around 40th when we consolidated into a conga line and turned off onto the rocky canyon trail. People were itching to jump ahead and, presumably, blow up as fast as possible in the heat. I already went through an entire bottle of water by the time I reached Lower Sheep Creek at 3.25 miles. I grabbed a nectarine and got the heck out of there as fast as I could, hoping that temperatures would cool off as we ascended the 3,500+ foot climb up to Horse Creek Ridge. 

That hope faded fast. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun baked the expansive drainage. You could feel the heat of the trail through your shoes – at points you could actually see the waves of heat convecting over sections of dark trail. When we topped out at 7,500 feet there was a slight breeze but it was little help.
When I reached Dry Fork I was in good spirits but was feeling exceptionally hot. My shorts and shirt were both completely soaked through with sweat, something I’ve never experienced in a race before. I made a quick stop for water, Sasha refilled my gel flask, and I trotted off down the hill. All that did was get me back to the heat! Dropping down the dry, dusty jeep track from Dry Fork was like lowering yourself into an oven. With no trees for miles there was no cover from the sun. I blew through my water in about five miles and spent the last mile and a half on the way to Cow Camp thinking about how many cups I was going to chug in the aid station. It turned out to be four. Thankfully I got word that the Creek Spring only 3.5 miles out from Cow Camp was absolutely overflowing with cold water, so I headed out in good spirits ready to tackle the rolling hills over to Bear Camp.

This is where I noticed something was not quite right. I was feeling dizzy and had a mild migraine headache, and my ability to dance around obstacles on the trail was diminishing. I realized I hadn’t peed in, well, hours, so I decided to try to force it so that I could evaluate the situation. What followed was a trickle of very dark red urine. Nothing sinks your heart more than that, especially when it happens only 21 miles into a race. I calmly proceeded to the spring, on the way getting harassed by a falcon that kept dive-bombing my head, and chugged an entire bottle of water. I kept moving on to Cow Camp where I again chugged water just standing in the aid station. The heat was surreal.

The descent to Footbridge with Montana in the distance. Shamelessly pulled from Larry Sandhaas' blog (http://qcrunner.blogspot.com/2013/06/bighorn-100-wild-and-scenic-trail-run.html).

The descent to Footbridge was actually pleasant and I felt like my strength was coming back. I stopped to pee on the way down, again having to force it, and it was still a bit pink – better than red, still pretty bad. When I hit Footbridge I was greeted by an army of medical staff who instantly inquired about my hydration, whether I was hallucinating, whether I had brain fog, and if I had peed recently. The fact that my headache was gone and that I was lucid gave me a pass to keep moving so long as I promised to keep pounding water. Sounds good!

I was booking along the rocky, wet singletrack next to the Little Bighorn River with someone from Minnesota when, in the middle of our conversation, I abruptly pulled over to the side of the trail and unleashed a torrent of puke. I must have vomited multiple bottles worth of water. Everything I’ve been eating and drinking for the past hour has just sat in my stomach. This was the start of what I’ll call the Little Bighorn Vomit Comet. From Cathedral Rock at mile 33.5 to Elk Camp at mile 43 I would puke just about every 30 minutes. I’d pull off, do my business, and then resume hydrating and eating, all the while ascending from 4,000 feet to almost 9,000 feet. 

Nothing worked. Taking it easy and barely drinking anything would result in dry heaves. Hydrating with salt and eating crackers and other inoffensive food would just make the vomiting productive. Broth seemed to calm things momentarily. Sort of.

Here’s the thing about running in the heat that I didn’t appreciate. When the warning signs show up, it’s already too late. The bloody urine is an indication that you have long passed the tipping point of dehydration. Trying to keep moving is counterproductive. What I should have done is just sit at Footbridge for 30 minutes drinking water, eating salty food, and waiting until I was out of it. Instead, I kept slogging along in the blind faith that I could kill two birds with one stone – cover mileage and completely rehydrate. I think that as I stayed dehydrated for so long, I disturbed my stomach and my body so much that it became unable to absorb anything. I can’t fathom how messed up my system must have been. 

 The "creek" crossing on the way to Jaws. Also shamelessly stolen from Larry Sandhaas' blog (http://qcrunner.blogspot.com/2013/06/bighorn-100-wild-and-scenic-trail-run.html).

I made it to Jaws just after 9PM feeling a little more upbeat. I ate a quesadilla, had plenty of broth, and headed out into the darkness ready to tackle the downhill. I thought I had recovered. 

Not a mile out of Jaws everything came up. I was still riding the roller coast of feeling sick, vomiting and then feeling better, and then feeling worse as I tried to rehydrate and eat food. You cannot run 100 miles and not be absorbing food or water for over 7 hours. The vomiting finally stopped shortly before Cathedral Rock at 62.5 miles in the dead of the night. It took a while to get there because I had such bad tunnel vision from the lack of calories, and to top things off my feet started to feel like crap.

Footbridge was grim. I slammed pancakes and broth but I could tell that the dehydration had done a number on my feet. The skin on my pinky toes had elongated and become folded under the neighboring toes, and the skin on my heels and arches was red and raw. A volunteer drained the blisters and wrapped them in duct tape, saying that they “weren’t looking good” and would “probably just get worse”. I was actually really happy to hear an honest assessment instead of some motivational candy-coating, because I realized this was now about finishing and not about hitting time goals.

The climb up to Bear Camp was unbearable. Because I had not been able to take in any calories for about 30 miles, I was actually drifting off to sleep as I pulled myself up the infamous “Wall”, 2,000 feet in a bit over 2 miles. Despite that I was passed only once. I got to Bear Camp and collapsed onto a log, the last thing I remember. Then I woke up, broth in hand, to a volunteer asking if I wanted coffee. Oh yes, give me that delicious, dank instant coffee, and keep it coming.

I don’t know if it was just time, or the coffee, but something reset my stomach and I was suddenly very hungry and very thirsty. I obliged these unfamiliar sensations with more coffee and some waffles. My body had finally turned the corner and it was ready to work again! At this point sub-24 was totally out of the question but I was going to make every effort to finish as fast as possible. 

I ran most of the way to Bear Camp where I had bacon and soda at sunrise, a very balanced breakfast, and hitched onto another runner and his pacer. We ran most of the way up to Dry Fork, which was really starting to heat up in the morning sun. Seeing Sasha lifted my spirits, and I apologized for messing up so badly and being so far behind my goal times. I’m sure it just sounded like the rantings of a lunatic, or someone who was covered in their own vomit, essentially the same thing. Pickles seemed oblivious to everything going on around him, so totally normal. After broth and fruit I was ready to just finish the damn thing.

I ran alone to Upper Sheep Creek, not another runner in sight, not passing anyone or getting passed. I was thrilled, which makes it sound like I really lowered the bar for myself, but to be honest after the never ending saga of body breakdown earlier I was surprised I could still move at this pace. The hike up to Horse Creek Ridge was backbreaking and at times I felt like I might fall backward down the impossibly steep slope. It's called "The Haul" for a reason. At the top of the ridge I took a moment to let the view sink in, the wildflowers on the high ridge giving way to endless meadows sloping down to the river, the rock walls gently funneling everything into a narrow, twisty canyon. In the distance I could see Dayton and beyond it the High Plains. I wished that I could capture that moment and all of its emotions in a painting, but I realized I’m an awful artist and that I didn’t want to relive such an inglorious end to a race.

 Heading back down to the Tongue River Canyon. From the Bighorn 100 website (http://www.bighorntrailrun.com/photogallery.html).

I strapped in and began the quad-pounding descent, letting the trail guide my body down thousands of vertical feet of steep, rocky trail. In the blink of an eye I was at the bottom of the canyon at Lower Sheep Creek and roaring along the rolling canyon trail, passing the occasional hiker curious to see 100 mile, 50 mile, 50K, and 30K runners at the end of their journey. When I hit the road the reality of the final 5 miles set in.

 Giving the wizard sticks a go. I stashed them once I got my momentum back - don't want to be too embarrassed coming into the finish. Photo by W. J. Wagner.

So lonely, so endless, that gravel road snakes on forever under the hot sun. It’s nearly flat, but somehow the little hills feel like mountains. There was no breeze and I could feel the humidity from my sweat enveloping my body. I dumped water on my head and just kept plodding along. Just a few hundred feet from the Homestretch aid station some kids on bikes were handing out Otter Pops. I’ve never been happier to eat frozen sugar water and yellow #5. I knew at the Homestretch aid station that I could start my semblance of a kick into the finish. As soon as I saw the familiar streets of Dayton filter into view across the river I gritted my teeth and ran hard – down the street, across the bridge, into the park, and into the finish. 

I’ve never run in that kind of heat before and it absolutely destroyed me. I took in so few calories that I ran the entire race on fumes. But I still hung on, and I managed to snag 35th out of 331 starters in just over 26 hours. I refused to entertain any thoughts of dropping, because dropping is just not worth it, ever. What’s worth it is accepting your mistakes and your inability to handle the conditions, facing the challenge, and finishing what you started. The regret I feel from every 100 miler I’ve dropped from still weighs on me to this day. Conversely, every time I finish a 100 miler after blowing up I learn something and am better for it. I still have a long way to go in understanding my body, but I think this race taught me a lot, and I know I’m getting better at handling these bad days. 

When you toe the line at a 100 miler you have one duty: to finish it, to dig deep, and to never stop until it’s over, even if that means swallowing your pride and some B.S. about how you “could” run faster. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Zion Traverse

When Brandon asked if I wanted to run 48 miles across Zion National Park it took about one second for me to respond with a firm “Yes.” I’d heard of the Zion Traverse but had no idea it was such an epic run. It’s not as talked-about as the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, but it allows you to see the entire park from east to west in a day. There are all sorts of pros and cons for choosing a particular direction but in general it probably doesn’t matter. We opted to get the climbing out of the way early and start running at the East Rim.

From a weather standpoint, we were expecting highs in the 90’s - it’s May in southern Utah, after all. We were instead treated to partly cloudy skies and a high barely pushing 70. It was by all accounts the best weather we could have had.

 The East Rim, just after the "rock test".

The sandy East Rim Trail climbs gently through the cedar trees, succulents, and grasses, occasionally passing a dry creek bed. It’s a strange part of the park – the canyons are shallow and snake their way around, so you’re only ever able to see so far. Eric’s metatarsals had been a problem in the weeks before the run and we pulled ahead of him on this section so that he could at least enjoy the sunrise over the canyon without killing his feet.

Starting the descent into the main canyon.


 The main canyon in the distance.

As you climb up and over the canyon rim the landscape rapidly shifts to alpine forest and hummocky scrubland. The hollows were shrouded in an icy mist that sparkled in the dawn light peering out over the pines. Steeply-sloped red rock cliffs filtered into view through the trees as we snaked along the rim of a massive canyon, the curvy sandstone strata forming shelves for scrub and gnarled pine trees. The initial descent here was rapid and extremely technical. When we reached the bottom we snaked through the looping rock shelves and trickling streams.

The slot canyon on the East Rim. I ruin my own pictures.
After running through a slot canyon and riverbed we stumbled into view of the main canyon, with Angel’s Landing and craggy rock walls towering over us. The amount of time it took to run down this steep canyon trail made clear the amount of effort it was going to take to get back out on the other side. After a short run on the park road to the Grotto, where we refilled water, we connected with the trail up to the top of Angel’s Landing.


 The main canyon.

Paved trails make knees sad.

At this point the crowds were starting to arrive, and we had to dance around people over the next two miles up what is likely the most popular trail in a park that pulls in 2.1 million visitors per year. After reaching the overlook we turned west and continued climbing up and over Angel’s Landing to the behemoth mesas above. The rocks became more misshapen and we found ourselves in a sort of meta-canyon atop the mesas above the canyon. When we finally topped out on the West Rim we had climbed well over 3,000 feet above the main canyon floor. 

 Past Angel's Landing and still climbing.

 Almost to the top...

 The West Rim summit. The main canyon is barely in view, somewhere to the right and around the corner.

The West Rim is an alien landscape. The views fade quickly and you find yourself running through grassy meadows sheltered by rolling hills, the so-called "Potato Hollow" - I guess because its oblong shape makes you think a giant potato left the indentation in the hills? A mileage sign read “Lava Point: 4 miles”, so rather than detouring to find a spring or water source, we pushed on to meet our one-man aid station at Lava Point. This would turn out to be a mistake, as the actual distance was almost 8 miles. The last 3 miles to Lava Point are exposed ridgelines with little reprieve from the relentless sun and wind, and we found ourselves without water nearly an hour before our rendezvous with Chris at 25 miles. 

 Peering out over Hop Valley.



So of course our mile 25 aid station turned into a massive feast. I slammed an IPA and an obscene amount of solid food while Brandon tended to his blisters. We made really good time on the gently-sloping descent through Wildcat Canyon and into Hop Valley. Running this direction gives you an amazing view of the valley and its contrasting lush green trees, sandy scrubland, and red rock spires. As we descended the temperature started to climb, and when we met Chris again at 35 miles it was baking.

 Looking back east over Hop Valley to the main canyon mesas in the distance.

Brad’s IT-band started to flare up but we pressed on after more refueling. The first couple of miles after the Hop Valley trailhead are desert: very dry, sandy trails that arrest any forward progress. We accepted a slower pace and shuffled along under the blinding sun, catching the occasional glimpse of a lizard or beetle.

 Heading deeper into Hop Valley. The far canyon wall is our target. For perspective, it's probably about 2000 feet tall.

 Paying respect to the lone tree on the bottom. We think he's survived more than a few flash floods in his time.

Soon the trail dips into trees and slopes downward to the river valley below. The river in Hop Valley is perhaps the most well-kept secret in Zion and the most beautiful area in the park. The river itself is barely an inch or two deep and maybe ten feet wide, and it meanders gently through the greenest valley carpeted with grass, pine, and dogwood. We saw white frogs leaping through patches of swampy grass and aquatic plants. It’s truly an oasis.

 Running the canyon walls.


Watch where you step!

Almost at that far canyon wall...

As we ran down the valley the walls deepened and the river widened, its sandy banks growing steeper. We picked up the trail as it wound its way up and over a small, rocky ridge to the smoky-blue La Verkin River, its dark red banks shaded by mesquite and dogwood. The trail ran along its shore for a couple of miles until abruptly turning north and beginning the relentless climb to Lee Pass. At this point the sun had settled behind the hillside enclosing Zion’s borders. 

 The walls near Lee Pass.

After far too many river crossings, steep embankments, and downed trees, we caught a glimpse of a road, and then a culvert, and then a parking lot. The last few miles going this direction are painful but I think they build some character. You know you're getting close but you can't really guess how much you have left. All you can do is watch canyon after canyon pass by to the east.

The Zion Traverse is incredible. You will see parts of the park that almost no one does, and Hop Valley and the La Verkin River are sorely underrated. I think finishing with those river valleys, despite the uphill at the end, makes the entire trip worth it.

I’m proud of everyone else that ran this, because to show up to such an undertaking with an injury and gut it out as long as you could, or to hang on when you get injured and have to slog it in, takes enormous will and dedication. It was inspiring to be out there with Eric, Brandon, and Brad, and Chris is a life-saver.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Long run mania

Reservoir Ridge 26, March Madness 37, Round Mountain 30, Crosier 26, Quad Rock 25...

Just over a month of consistent long runs every weekend in the 5+ hour range has left me energized rather than toasted. Part of the journey has been re-learning my pacing and working on my form late in the run. The other part has been just showing up, putting in the miles, and letting the benefits come rolling in.

I think it's all coming together. Yesterday I ran 3:50 at the Quad Rock course preview, subsisting on 2 gels and a couple of 13oz bottles with a single refill at 10 miles. I ended up running my fastest splits over the last 8 miles, and I felt so energized coming into Soldier Canyon, I'm confident I can play the first lap out exactly the same way on race day and turn around for a good second lap.

It was really simple: I took it easy on the first climb up Sawmill/Stout/Towers and the first descent down Spring Creek into Horsetooth. I stayed in control on Horsetooth and opened it up a bit on Mill Creek. And then I started to push on Howard and Timber. Amazingly, by not blowing it all in the first 90 minutes, I was able to steadily crank the dial from start to finish. I have gone out too hard in these races early on, and in the past I have not put in enough of a gauntlet of long runs. Because Round and Crosier were so vert-heavy, the Quad Rock course feels way more cruise-able. I think that's the best part of the Spring Vertical Series: you get so used to this steep, gnarly stuff that when you finally get runnable terrain, it's bliss.

So that's the plan for Quad Rock: come into the turn-around in 3:50 or so, having slowly increased the pace all morning, and then start dropping the hammer. Hard. I want my energy to snowball that second lap. None of this power hiking crap, which comes from running too hard too early. No stomach issues from running hard at the start and not getting my nutrition dialed in early.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Week ending March 22

Monday: 16 miles (2500 ft), Foothills trail out to Reservoir Ridge and back with the Laporte dam ascent/descent.

Tuesday: 8 miles (1000 ft), Foothills trail. 90 minutes heavy weight training.

Wednesday: 18 miles (3000 ft), 2x Mill Creek repeats. Starting at the Arthur's Rock trailhead, I did two laps up and down Mill Creek+Towers Summit.

Thursday: Off. 90 minutes heavy weight training.

Friday: 10 miles (2000 ft), Foothills trail + Laporte dam ascent/descent.

Saturday: 37 miles (6500+ ft) March Madness Horsetooth Reservoir circumnavigation, via Pete's insanity route, tagging Horsetooth and Arthur's Rocks along the way for a good chunk of vertical. Ran with Mike Hinterberg, Mike Aish, and Nick Clark for a bit until about mile 22, when I started to feel a bit dehydrated. Took a break at Lory Visitor's center to chug water and slogged it over to Reservoir Ridge with Sam for a bit until I felt better. I caught back up to Mike H. and brought it home under the scorching sun. Beer never tasted so good.

Sunday: Off.

Total: 89 miles, with a respectable 15,000 ft of vert and lots of quality technical trail. I'm not shooting for a weekly mileage at this point, just want to feel like I'm working hard and getting quality runs in at a variety of distances without feeling wasted by the end of the week. I think next week's mileage will be a bit reduced, but not much. A trip to Greyrock plus the Round Mountain Ladder will probably up the vert at the expense of mileage, but that's good. I need everything I can get - Quad Rock, Bighorn, and Bigfoot are races with big ass climbs and relentless terrain. This sort of weekly mileage with 20,000 ft of very would be ideal and I think it's on the cards next week.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


My calendar is more sparse this year than in the past, but the races from here on out are ballbusters: Quad Rock 50 in May, Bighorn 100 in June, and the insane Bigfoot 200 in August.

I've retooled my training a lot to focus on three things:
-Long runs at a variety of paces
-Building muscular strength and general body-hardiness
-Raw mileage

My workouts vary incredibly in distance, intensity, and focus from day to day, and this has allowed me to pack on quality miles and workouts without getting injured. It's like microcycling within microcycling, or basically what every coach probably tells their athletes to do - whatever, reinventing the wheel works.

The past couple of weeks I've been pushing harder and harder, without feeling exhausted or over my head. The pi-day group run up and down Towers Road 3.14 times (for just shy of 22 miles and 6000ft of gain) was sandwiched at the end of a high-mileage week:

Sunday: 6 miles to the gym, 90 minutes of lifting.
Monday: 12 miles out to Reservoir Ridge and back, easy
Tuesday: 10 miles on the Foothills trail, 5 miles at tempo
Wednesday: 14 miles out to Reservoir Ridge and back, easy
Thursday: 6 miles to the gym, 90 minutes of lifting
Friday: 8+4 miles double, both easy
Saturday: 22 miles up and down Towers @ 35-40 min up, 30 min down.

This past week has been equally intense. I followed up the Towers long run with repeats up the Mill Creek climb, the infamous, body-destroying penultimate climb of Quad Rock. I think I'll keep hitting that and Spring Creek hard in the coming months, sort of a weekday grinder.

I've put on about 25 pounds since I started weight lifting a year and a half ago. I've focused on deadlifts, incline/decline bench, shoulder work (rows, hanging pulls, Arnold press), and a miscellaneous assortment of other free weight movements. I think deadlifts, more than anything, have helped me get to the point where I can train at high mileage and remain injury free. I just needed more back, glute, and upper body strength to balance my legs and strengthen the entire running motion chain.

Quad Rock is coming up, and the end of March and April is shaping up to a big mileage month with lots of vert and miles - March Madness (37?) miler, the Crosier Triple Bagger, Quad Rock training run, and Round Mountain Ladder are all on my agenda.

I'll be doing the Zion Traverse about 10 days after Quad Rock, followed up by some high-er country runs to get those big climbs/descents I need for Bighorn.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hagg Lake 50K

It’s been a few years since I’ve run Hagg Lake, but the lack of mud in my life in arid Colorado finally got to me. Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to give Oregon a week of sunshine without rain and, tragically, the course was relatively dry. No mud-slicked hills, no careening around corners, just a few muddy, wet spots here and there. Most sane people would say that’s great, but really, this course and race is the best when it’s a slog-fest the whole way. 

I also love Hagg Lake because it’s one of those early-season races that brings out good competition every year. This year I toed the line with the likes of Tom Brooks, Jeff Browning, Jason Lemon, and Neil Olsen, and for the first time got to experience the race way up front.

It all starts with a 3 mile out-and-back up a 1,000 foot hill on a muddy gravel road. As always, the pace was enthusiastic, but it was a good way to feel out who was in the running. I stuck with a lead pack of 6 guys on the hill and then tucked into formation as we started the first lap around the lake. The first section after the out-and-back is always a bit of whiplash as you’re thrust onto the steep rolling hills and hairpin corners of the trail as it hugs the rugged coastline of Hagg Lake. The mud was conspicuously absent, with wet leaves and wooden bridges proving more of a challenge for footing.

 First lap around the lake, photo by ORRC's official photographer.

At the 8 mile Dam aid station, Jeff and Jason made a fast break down the hill and I gave chase, with Tom Brooks close behind. This was the definitive move that split this lead pack from the rest of the racers. It got pretty conversational here as we navigated through mossy forests, green meadows, and the occasional drainage creek that had washed over the trail. Shortly after the 13 mile aid station at Tanner Creek, things got a little less conversational as everyone sized each other up and thought about making a push into the second lap. Instead of a tight formation, we were becoming more elastic, with Tom Brooks leading the charge and absolutely floating over each hill. It was already clear he was going to have a good day and we weren’t even halfway through.

Jeff and I were first through the start/finish to kick off the second lap, and he pushed hard to pull into the lead. Tom passed me not a few minutes later and disappeared into the twisty singletrack. I kept stealing glimpses of both of them ahead, but I knew I needed to hold my pace steady or else I’d crash. Jason and I kept within a close distance of each other until the Dam aid station, where he pulled ahead. From here on out, we’d stay separated by about a minute.

 Lead pack, yikes.

The last two sections, from the Dam at mile 21 to Tanner at mile 26, and from Tanner to the finish at mile 31, were lonely and really, really hurt. I got a little bit dizzy and realized I hadn’t been super diligent with water or gel. I was toying with a bonk and it felt awful, but I did what you have to do and just pushed through it. Of course, when you have to scramble up steep 100 foot hills and immediately run back down over wet leaves and mud, arms flailing wildly, the extra effort doesn’t get you much in the pace department.

As I neared Tanner I could see Jason just ahead and Neil closing the gap behind me. This was a panicked stretch of trail as we all realized that 3rd-5th were up in the air. I ate an extra gel at Tanner and got the heck out of there as fast as I could, and pushed really hard up until the last mile, trying my best to make up time on Jason and hold Neil off.

But not all goes to plan. If I had fueled better over the previous section I might’ve been able to push harder, but trying to make up a calorie deficit while simultaneously kicking it in doesn’t work forever. I hit the sloppy mud along the lake in that last mile and really started to get sluggish. The mud had started to dry out in the now warm morning sun and every step was like trying to pull my foot out of thick molasses. Soon I was running with an extra couple of pounds caked on each shoe. In my totally trashed state I had serious trouble producing any sort of forward momentum as I careened to and fro through the mud. Neil worked his way past me and we exchanged some words about that darn mud, and how ridiculous this last stretch always feels, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t hang on to him. 

 There was in fact some mud out there, photo by ORRC's official photographer.

I finally mustered a little kick through the dry, twist singletrack into the finish and gave myself a soft landing on the grass hill just feet past the finish line. My feet and ankles were so toasted that I could barely stand up. It’s not often that a race so short can leave you so destroyed, but such is Hagg Lake.

At any rate, this was a good way to start the year. For a while I tried to just race the longer stuff but I’ve realized that 50K’s are one of the most valuable distances to throw in the race schedule. I feel like I’ve relearned pacing and nutrition (hey, no stomach problems or bathroom issues this time) and I got to run with some really cool folks.

The finish times tell a story: 3:47:21, 3:51:29, 3:56:22, 3:56:43, 3:57:04, 3:58:21, 4:09:43…Tom and Jeff took first and second with decent margins, and 3-6th were within 2 minutes of each other and a full 11 minutes ahead of 7th, which was another 7 minutes ahead of 8th. Seriously unreal in a trail 50K to have that intense of a lead pack.

Pace for the first 17 miles: 7:11
Pace for the last 13 miles: 7:35
Elevation gain: 4000ft
Time: 3:57:04
Place: 5th