Friday, July 18, 2014

Catching up (again)

Well, here I am again, trying to get caught up on three months' worth of goings-ons.  Honestly, everything about my training has been less structured this year and more "take it as it comes".  Consequently, I haven't been religiously posting here either.  Something about registering for Leadville last year put the fear of God into me.  I was genuinely scared of that race and knew that if I didn't train my ass off, I'd have no hope of finishing.  Funny thing is, I don't have that same fear of Cascade Crest, even though in reality Cascade is probably a tougher course overall (but at much lower elevation).  About a month ago, I was looking back at my running log from last year and was almost astounded by the workouts I was putting in in preparation for Leadville.  Like, shocked that I could even complete some of the weekends I did.  It's been MUCH more laid back this time around, and that is partially by design.  Running is supposed to be a hobby, not a way of life, and this more laid back training regime is my way of proving to myself that I don't have to be a slave to running.  Still, I have been putting in some decent miles lately as Cascade draws closer.  Oddly, finally buying the plane ticket to fly to Seattle for the race lit more of a fire under my ass than registering for the race itself.  Whether or not it'll be enough remains to be seen.  My goal for Cascade is to run a sub-24.  That seems foolish on several levels but, hey, aim high, right?

In any case, a couple of highlights from the last few months.  First off, my first ever pacing gig at Bighorn in June.  I've run all four distances (30K, 50K, 50M and 100M) at Bighorn over the past 5 years (one 50M DNF in there), so this year I had to decide which distance I would run again.  I ultimately signed up for the 50K because, well, I don't know why.  Just because.  Then, a couple weeks later, I found out my friend Mike had registered for the Bighorn 100.  I immediately offered to pace him, as this seemed much more interesting and exciting than running the race I had registered for.  I'd never paced before, although I've wanted to for a few years now, and I actually know the Bighorn course fairly well, so I hoped maybe I could be of some legitimate assistance.  As long as I could keep up, that is.  Mike is a fair bit faster than me under normal conditions.  At the pre-race meeting just a couple hours before Mike started, the race director's one tidbit of information for pacers was to stay with their runner.  As she put it, "If you can't keep up with your runner, you shouldn't be pacing them".  Mike immediately said "don't worry", but, truth be told, I was kinda worried.  My only hope was that he'd be slowed down to something more my pace by the time I started pacing at mile 48.  As it turns out, that was the case, and we ended up running an enjoyable 34 miles together through the night.  Mike was ahead of his anticipated splits the entire way and didn't really slow all that much the entire stretch that I was with him.  Just a steady diet of running the downs and flats and hiking the ups.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  He ended up running strong all the way to the finish and coming in easily under his 24 hour goal.  Welcome to the Rusty Spurs Club, Mike!

A week later was the 4th running of the Black Hills 100.  As usual, the directing of a 100 mile race was much more exhausting than the actual running of one, but all in all things went smoothly, despite Mother Nature's best efforts.  Once again, she had an ace up her sleeve, this time in the form of scattered heavy rains Saturday morning and into the afternoon.  The course was a mud pit early on, but eventually dried up a bit when the rain finally stopped for good.  Mud be damned, Ryan Burch laid down an impressive course record run in the 100M, becoming the first person to ever break 19 hours.  The bar has been raised (or lowered....whatever).

That's really about it, I guess.  Honestly, don't expect to hear from me again until after Cascade Crest. I've got some training to do...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I suck at blogging

The title pretty much says it all.  Been kinda dead around here for, oh, 9 months or so.  Which basically coincides with the neverending winter we had here in South Dakota.  So, yeah, that's my excuse.  It was too cold.

Okay, quick recap of what's gone down since the new year.  First, and most importantly, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.  Not running related at all, but something that I honestly never thought I would witness in my lifetime.  I've been a Seahawks fan since I was 7 or 8, so around '85 or '86, and I've seen a lot of really bad Seahawks football over the years.  One near miss in Super Bowl XL and a few decent season before and after, but a lot of suckitude overall.  The Hawks' sorry history, combined with hearing non-stop smack from all the damn Broncos fans around here, made it gloriously fun to watch the Hawks completely dominate in the Super Bowl.  Boring as hell to the rest of America, but I was glued to the TV for every second of it.

I also started brewing my own beer.  Again, not directly running related, but since so many runners (or at least runners I know) also drink beer, the two kinda go hand in hand for me.  So now the free days that aren't spent running are spent brewing or bottling.  And drinking beer (i.e., "rehydrating") of course.  It's the ultimate recycling program, really.  Drink a beer, clean the bottle, refill the bottle.  I'm saving the earth one beer at a time. Future generations will thank me.

On to running matters, I tossed my name into two lotteries this past fall/winter.  Didn't get drawn for Hardrock, nor did I really expect to (or really want to this year, honestly....just trying to build up some points for future lotteries).  I did, however, get drawn in the Cascade Crest lottery, so I'll be heading to Washington (Seahawks Country!!) in August.  I've wanted to run this race for a few years now, just based on the pictures I've seen, not to mention its reputation as one of the "old school" 100s.  As a bonus, I have family in the Seattle area (hence my Seahawks fandom) and my dad lives relatively nearby in Oregon, so I'll get to visit some aunts/uncles/cousins I haven't seen in years, and my dad is going to crew for me, witnessing his first ultra in the process.

As for other races, Ryan and I take a trip to a 50 miler somewhere every spring.  The last two years, that race has been Quad Rock in Ft. Collins.  This year, we decided to shake things up a bit and flew down to AZ to run the legendary Zane Grey 50.  And legendary it was.  All winter long, as I trained in blowing snow and sub-zero windchills, I kept thinking that there was no way I would be prepared to run a 50 miler in the AZ heat in April (and when I say "heat", anything over 60 qualifies if you're an unacclimated South Dakotan who has just emerged from a 7 month winter).  Turns out that wasn't a problem.  We ended up running in what has got to be the coldest Zane Grey in the 25 year history of the event.  Temps in the mid-30s, wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow, flooding creeks, mud....other than a plague of locusts (it was too cold for locusts) and the four horsemen (too muddy and rocky for horses), it had just about everything.  Conditions were bad enough that they ended up stopping everyone at the mile 34 aid station, so it basically became the Zane Grey 50K.  It was a good decision given the weather and I was more than happy to call it a day at that point.  Of course, the next day we were golfing in Phoenix on a 75 degree, bluebird sky day.

The only other ultra "race" I have planned this summer is Bighorn.  I signed up for the 50K right away when registration opened because I knew it would fill fast, but as it turns out I'm gonna be a DNS in that one.  When I found out my friend Mike was planning on running the 100, I immediately offered up my services as a pacer.  This excites me much more than the idea of running the 50K because, for one, I've already run the 50K, but have never paced, although I've wanted to for awhile now.  Also, although I know Mike doesn't feel I owe him a debt, I would like to return the favor for him pacing me for the last 13.5 miles of Leadville last year after he had already paced 2nd place finisher Nick Clark earlier (much earlier) in the day.  Hey, Mike might be able to claim that he's the only person who paced two runners in the top 150 at Leadville last year, now that I think about it.  He should probably get a buckle or something for that.  In any case, since I've run each of the available distances at Bighorn over the past 5 years, hopefully I'll be able to impart some course knowledge that will help Mike join the prestigious Rusty Spurs Club (sub-24, for those not down with the Bighorn lingo).  Either way, there will be homebrew at the finish line.

And, of course, I'll be co-directing the 4th annual Black Hills 100 a couple of weeks after Bighorn.  In the past three years of the race we've had severe thunderstorms in 2011, unseasonable heat in 2012, and damn near perfect conditions last year.  Given how this year has gone weather wise, I would not be shocked to see snow this time around.  You heard it here first.

Stay tuned for my next blog post.  Could be next week.  Could be 6 months from now.  Ya never know...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Still Alive

Awhile back my friend Bill gave me some shit for not updating my blog often enough.  That was like two months ago.  So, here ya go Bill.  Hope it makes your day brighter! Anyway, Bill is right...I've been slacking.  Honestly, there wasn't much to say after Leadville...or at least not much that really compared to Leadville.  But, it's a new year, so I may as well get this thing going again.

First, I guess a quick recap of post-Leadville 2013 is in order.  Took me a few (5) days before I could even walk without pain after the race.  Legs felt alright, feet felt like total hell.  Never had blisters like that before.  Not sure why I did get blistered that bad, but I guess maybe changing out of my wet shoes/socks at some point might've helped (duh).  Lessons learned.  They healed up eventually and I was back to running.  And, I gotta say, it was quite liberating to just run whenever the hell I wanted with no set plan telling me what to do every damn day.  One week, I'd put in 40 miles, the next I'd hit 70 plus.  No rhyme or reason to it, just doing what felt good.  Race-wise, I ran the last couple of races of the Black Hills Trail Running Series, including a personal best at the series-ending South Dakota Trail Running Championships (Unofficial and Unsanctioned).  Ended up earning the 2nd place rock in the overall series standings for the year.  No bonus points for Leadville (damn).  I also made a trip to Utah to crew/pace my friend Ryan in the Bear 100  The plan was for me to run the last 25 or so miles with him, but he ended up calling it a day at mile 51, so I never actually did any running.  This was actually probably a good thing as at the time I was fighting off a lingering chest cold/cough and running through the night in low 20 degree temps probably wouldn't have help....not to mention that I couldn't run more than a half mile without stopping to cough violently.  Still, I got to see the race up close and it's definitely on my list of 100s to do in the future.

In December I took my longest ever break from running.  It wasn't a voluntary break, but the timing worked out well, I guess.  I've had a hernia for years....I mean, I honestly don't even know how long and for a long time I wasn't even sure if it was a hernia or something else.  It kind of just came and went.  Never really hurt, but some days I would "feel" it more than others.  One night in November I made the mistake of casually mentioning it to my wife. I was in the doctor's office the next day.  Got it repaired on Dec. 4th and the doctor gave me strict orders of no running for two weeks (I actually was surprised she didn't say longer).  As it turns out, the first few days after my surgery the high temp was on the wrong side of zero with -30 windchill, so I wasn't too torn up about not being able to run.  Plus, the soreness from the surgery (my first ever real surgery) for the first 7-10 afterwards was enough that even I knew it wasn't a good idea to push things.  I did jump back on the horse exactly two weeks after going under the knife and those first couple of runs were pretty rough.  Hernia felt fine, legs felt like shit.  How does it take so long to get into shape, but you can fall out of it so damn fast??  Doesn't really seem fair.  Actually, a month later, I'm still trying to get back into the groove.

And I'd better find the groove quick.  The first race on the 2014 calendar is the Zane Grey 50 down in Arizona on April 26th.  I've heard it's got a couple of rocks and a few hills.  As for the rest of 2014, I threw my name into the Hardrock hat but didn't get drawn (nor did I really want to get drawn this year).  I'll also enter the Cascade Crest lottery in February.  If that doesn't work out, then I'm considering the Bear or maybe Superior.  I'll also be at Bighorn in some form...maybe racing (50K if I do) or maybe pacing someone in the 100.  And the Silver Rush 50 back in Leadville is also on my list of maybes.  A lot of it is still up in the air, pending lottery results.  For a pastime that is kind of on the fringe of what most people consider sane, it sure is frigging hard to get into some of these races, isn't it??

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!!! - It isn't hard to get into the Black Hills 100 (yet).  Sign up today!!!  END OF ALERT

Anyway, there you have it.  I'm still here, plugging away.  I'll try to post more often, Bill....God forbid you actually spend your work days working! :)