Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheyenne Mountain 50K Report / Training Week 4/18-4/24 / Colorado Running

The Cheyenne Mountain 50K (actually 32 miles long) was an awesome race. On the heels of running 101.5 miles in 7 days, with zero tapering, I finished 15th overall with a time of 5:25. I felt strong, in control and confident. The weather was great for racing but put a damper on the race-day family activities the organizers had lined up, including a petting zoo and Easter egg hunt. It was in the 30s and 40s, overcast and a bit windy. I saw snow at a few times in the day.

Overall, I was pleased with my result, though I would have liked to finish sub-5 hours as I usually always do in trail 50Ks. If I'd tapered and approached this event as a race and finished 15th, I'd have been not so happy. Honestly, the story of this race, besides the fact that the course was harder than I anticipated (10,000 feet of total elevation change--more on that below), was the incredible surge of strength and energy I experienced at mile 29. I ran hard the last 3 miles (again, the race was actually 32 miles), passing two runners and hammering it into the finish at sub-7:00 pace with a ton left in the tank and my confidence sky high. When you're training for a 100-mile mountain race like I am, feeling a major surge like I did and finishing a 32-mile race with a lot left in the tank are very good indicators.

The race started promptly at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and traversed the trails at the base of and part way up Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. You do two 25K loops, with the 25K runners starting a half-hour later. The race actually takes place in Cheyenne Mountain State Park with brand-new facilities and tons of parking at the start/finish. Interestingly, Cheyenne Mountain is where the super-secret NORAD is located. According to the organizers, the 50K race has about 5,000 feet of climb and 5,000 feet of descent, totaling about 10,000 feet of elevation change. There were few flat sections; for most of race you're climbing and descending dirt trails with a fair amount of rock in some areas. The entire course is between 6,000-7,000 feet of elevation--very manageable. From start to finish, this was great practice and an awesome opportunity to get my trail legs back after road running for much of the winter.

Among the things I liked about this race:
  • Excellent location. Cheyenne Mountain and really everything about the land in Colorado Springs is beautiful.
  • Tons of nearby parking.
  • Nice facilities at the start/finish.
  • Excellent organization, well-stocked aid stations (though I'd have liked to see some soup since it was cold out), and friendly, helpful volunteers. For a race in its first year, the organization was superb.
  • Overall a well-marked course though one turn wasn't marked at all. Someone placed a stick there to help guide runners.
  • Awesome finish-like food catered by Carrabba's Italian Grill. When you've just run 32 miles and cross the finish line with immediate access to grilled chicken, pasta, bread sticks and salad, that's a good thing! A generous lunch really aided in my recovery (more on that below).
A few things I didn't like:
  • Race registration was on Why not support the ultrarunning community by having registration on
  • I'm not a fan of Hammer Heed, but you have to go with what your sponsors provide, right? I survived most of the day on Coke and water and a few cups of Heed.
  • I'm not crazy about the tee-shirts, which are mostly polyester but have a cotton look and feel. If you know me, you know that I wear my race tee-shirts all the time. I'd have liked to see a technical-fabric tee-shirt. This is a very minor gripe.
Bottom line: The Cheyenne Mountain 50K was an awesome race that I may return to in 2012. Highly recommended for beginner, novice and experienced ultrarunners. But, if you're a beginner or novice, be forewarned that this isn't an easy course.


When I crossed the Cheyenne Mountain 50K finish line, I'd run 101.5 miles in 7 days--from Sunday, 4/17 to Saturday, 4/23 (the calendar week). The mileage for my training week (Monday, 4/18-Sunday, 4/24) was actually 90.64 miles. I did hill repeats on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday and, of course, the 32-mile race on Saturday. On Sunday, I ran an easy 10.1 miles and felt fantastic--fresh and strong.
  • Total miles for the week: 90.64
  • Total runs: 10
  • Total time running: 13 hours, 5 minutes
  • Yoga and core strengthening
Total miles for the year: 1,045.55

The goal for this week is to recover from a big, challenging training week, getting in about 60-70 miles. Ryan Hall, who finished 4th overall and as the top American at the 2011 Boston Marathon, recently said a secret to training is to let the training come to you, not allow yourself to become a slave to arbitrary distance or time goals. That's what I'm trying to do--run on feel, listen to my body, but also push myself on the days and weeks I'm capable of breaking down new barriers.


When I felt so good on Sunday, it occurred to me that maybe I'd done some things right with my post-race recovery, which consisted of:
  • Generous lunch of chicken and pasta right after finishing
  • Full serving of Hammer Recoverite within 30 minutes of finishing
  • Compression socks for the next 36 hours, which aided in promoting circulation in my feet and calves. I'm a big believer in compression socks.
Oh, and a few Fat Tire beers.... Fat Tire is currently my favorite beer.


With Cheyenne now behind me, my sights are set on the Jemez 50-Mile (or 50K) on 5/21. Between now and then, I'll be spending as much time as possible on the trails and also doing hill repeats. Places I'd like to go for training include Sanitas in Boulder; Green Mountain, Bear Park and/or South Boulder Peak in Boulder; and Deer Creek Canyon. Gotta get in some good vertical. I don't want Jemez to sidetrack my Leadville 100 training or prevent a strong Leadville Marathon on 7/2, so I'm going to make a decision as to whether to drop down to 50K as the race gets closer. We'll see where my legs are by then.


It occurs to me that the level of athlete here in Colorado is phenomenal. I'm sure this is due to the facts that a) we live at elevation, which creates certain advantages, and b) Colorado, with its natural splendor, is a magnet for national- and world-class athletes and outdoor lovers. It's no surprise that many of the top ultrarunners have chosen to live in Colorado. I recently read that, when young children are born at altitude or move to a place like Colorado at an early age, their lungs actually grow larger than compared to the average person. Many Coloradans, I read, are more "barrel-chested" than non-Coloradans. For adults moving to altitude, the lungs do not grow; it's really a matter of the blood adjusting among many other significant changes. I can tell you that my legs are undergoing a dramatic change with these long climbs and bomber drops we have here in Colorado. The fact of the matter is that no hill I've ever run out East could even begin to compare in difficulty to, say, a bee-line up one of our mountains here. Unless you're superhuman, the adjustment of moving to Colorado takes time and patience and can often be humbling.

With that said, the Colorado altitude and these mountains have been a huge adjustment for me. Back East, just about every ultra I entered I finished top 5, even if I hadn't tapered (look at my results for 2008 and 2009 and you'll see what I'm talking about). Here in Colorado, not only do you have supremely talented runners and athletes on the course, but also extremely difficult terrain and elevation. Don't get me wrong; there are great athletes back East, but here in Colorado there's a huge concentration of impressive talent. If you're a runner who's moved to Colorado, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Here in Colorado, it's going to take some time for me to fully adjust. I'm running just as hard as ever before, but clearly my results have dipped. I just hope by the time I do adjust I'm still young enough to do some things!

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review: Running on Empty, by Marshall Ulrich

Marshall Ulrich makes even a hardcore ultrarunner look like a cotton tee-shirt-wearing hobby jogger out for a stroll through the 'burb. Look at what this ultrarunning and adventure racing legend, who also happens to be a highly accomplished mountaineer, has done and it makes finishing a 100-miler look like a few laps around your kid's soccer field.
  • Quadruple Death Valley crossing, totaling 586 miles through 120-degree heat from a low point of 282 feet below sea level to the top of 14,500-foot Mount Whitney, to raise money for poor women and children
  • (My personal favorite) Crossing Death Valley unassisted and self-contained while pulling a 200-pound cart full of water, ice, food and other life-saving necessities--again, for charity
  • Conquering the Seven Summits (which include Everest) on his first attempt
  • Winning the Badwater Ultramarathon four times
In case that's not enough, how about finishing the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run and Pikes Peak Marathon in the same weekend? Yeah, he finished "The Race Across the Sky" and then drove 3 hours down to Manitou Springs, Colorado for a little run up and back down a 14,115-foot mountain. Just another day at the office for the dog-food magnet from Idaho Springs, Colorado.

This is the Marshall Ulrich I came to admire and respect as an ultrarunner and sometimes think about when the chips are down in a race. This photo is of Marshall pulling a 200-pound cart across Death Valley in 120 degree heat during a solo, unassisted crossing.
Born in Kersey, Colorado on the Fourth of July, Marshall has lived quite a life and shares his story in his long-awaited autobiography, Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America. On the surface, Running on Empty is about Marshall's greatest challenge yet--an attempt to break the speed record for running across the US (still held by Frank Giannino). But it's about so much more. Over 320 pages, Marshall humbly bares his soul and shares the good, the bad and the ugly of his dramatic 3,063-mile, 52-day run across America in the fall of 2008 at the tender age of 57. The book includes an entertaining, funny and downright awesome foreward by Christopher McDougall.

From page one, Running on Empty is a stirring, thought-provoking and deeply moving autobiography that is uniquely different than the Everybody's All-American MO of Dean Karnazes. Marshall tells of his profound sadness over the loss of his first wife and high school sweetheart, Jean, to invasive breast cancer. Their love was sweet and innocent. "I was completely taken with her, and by the time we were seventeen, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Jean," Marshall recalls. Such emotional honesty isn't what you'd expect to hear from a guy as tough as Marshall. I can't imagine what Marshall endured or the pain he felt not only as a widower, but as a dad, when Jean died at 30, leaving behind Marshall and their daughter.

The pain stemming from the loss of Jean was devastating. Marshall discovered running as a way to cope with his grief, reduce stress (and his high blood pressure) and keep a distance from loved ones, even his own children, out of fear of losing them, too. And he did lose many in his life--a dear friend he'd quickly bonded with, his dad, his father-in-law with whom he was particularly close, and a hero in the great Ted Corbitt.

Marshall never got beyond the pain of Jean's death (is that really possible when you lose a spouse?), and seems to have channeled his grief into achieving super-human feats as part of a bucket list of sorts, while keeping his family at arm's length. In the midst of his many daring adventures, he endured two divorces and had children before meeting his soulmate, Heather. Heather was faithfully with him on his trans-American run and, through the highs and lows, a source of support, comfort and affection. But the book's title is a dead giveaway as to what was going on deep inside Marshall for so many years. In many respects, Running on Empty is a book not only about an ultrarunner, but also a grieving spouse, distant dad, family in crisis and blossoming new marriage.

But the book has lots of great ultrarunning reflections, for sure. Recalling his famous 586-mile Badwater Quad, Marshall writes, "Well, sure, I was in a state of overuse, but that's where ultrarunners live, in that place where you feel as if nothing's left, no more energy, no more reason, no more sanity, no more will to go farther. Then you push forward anyway, step after step, even though every cell in your body tells you to stop. And you discover that you can go on." I loved his stories about Ted Corbitt and Yiannis Kouros, which really show a deep respect for the sport of ultrarunning and its great ones. Marshall is among those giants, too. And I loved the story of his Everest summit with a Russian team full of fun, colorful characters.

As I read his book, I kept wondering if this was a cautionary tale--not cautionary in terms of running in and of itself, but rather in terms of allowing a pursuit that requires extraordinary discipline, time, effort and energy to create distance between you and what really matters. Is Marshall telling us that ultrarunning can be an addictive endeavor that can fracture families? Were all those super-human feats, such as his Badwater Quad, the Everest ascent (which he did while still having young children in his care), and so many other epic runs, worth it? I'd like to think they were worth it, because Marshall's always inspired me. But let's allow Marshall to answer the question himself:
"The real sacrifices? Family relationships often suffer in the ultrarunning community; clearly, mine are no exception. The time away from home, solitariness, the stubborn self-reliance all took their toll. Marriages are ruined, children alienated."
He continues later in the book:
"I do, still, have intense feelings of inadequacy as a father. The times when I fell short, when I wasn't up to the task of parenting, all remain vivid in my mind."
It's that kind of brutal honesty that makes Marshall's book intimate, genuine, believable and truly helpful for other ultrarunners who constantly battle competing priorities.

The majority of the book is, of course, devoted to his epic trans-American run, which he completed faster than any other master's or grandmaster's runner...ever. The run started as a collaborative effort with Charlie Engle, co-star in the well-known "Running the Sahara" documentary put on by Matt Damon. Charlie has many connections to Hollywood that ultimately attracted a film crew to the trans-con run to put together a documentary called "Running America." But it's fair to say that Marshall would have done the run with or without cameras, though clearly he wanted the exposure or else he wouldn't have reached out to Charlie. It is worth noting that Marshall's run raised money for the fight again childhood obesity through the United Way.

Charlie had moments in "Sahara" where he really came across as somewhat of a me-first guy. In Marshall's book about the trans-con run, this impression is only reinforced. The two men, who started the run in San Francisco as friends, eventually suffered a terrible falling out after Charlie was forced to drop due to a leg injury. Marshall paints a picture of Charlie as an antagonist, jockeying to undermine and even destroy Marshall's charge to New York, even dragging Heather into the spat. It's only fair that Charlie should be entitled to his own defense, but this might be a difficult proposition since he's now behind bars in a Beckley, West Virginia federal prison, serving time for mortgage fraud. Despite life in the slammer, Charlie does keep a rather interesting blog that shows a likable guy (more on that below).

Getting beyond the book to the soap-opera story of Marshall and Charlie's deteriorating relationship, it's rather troubling that, while the former writes of awful confrontations with his antagonist (the latter), in "Running America" everything between the two looks peachy. I guess Marshall's willing to show the seedy underbelly of the run, while the documentary film producers want nothing more than apple pie and ice cream on a Sunday afternoon in Mayberry. Incidentally, on his blog Charlie promotes "Running America" but offers no endorsement of Marshall's book. I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Marshall, but my guess is there's more than meets the eye, and I think eventually Charlie will tell his side of the story. Credibility certainly favors Marshall.

Ultimately, Marshall tells a wonderful story of his trans-American run, the people he met, the towns he passed through along the way and how it brought him closer to his wife, Heather. Through injury, drama and plenty of conflict, he did what he's always done: put one foot in front of the other and tough it out, never giving up no matter the pain.

Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America, published by the Penguin Group, is recommended.

Related: Read my recent review of Dean Karnazes' new book, Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hill Repeats

Yesterday I started hill repeats as I get ready for the Leadville Trail 100 (and the Jemez 50-Mile on 5/21). Hill repeats will be a part of my weekly training program (as will tempo runs and track workouts) for the next four months. The last time I had a serious commitment to hill repeats was going into my win at the Mohican Trail 100 in 2009. Focused like a laser beam, I was out there every Tuesday morning hammering up the boulevard into Chagrin Falls, and then jogging back down for another repeat, followed by another and another....

Hill repeats at over 6,000 feet, like I'm doing now, are a different ballgame than sea level repeats. Right now I'm starting rather conservatively and will add more intervals on every week, and perhaps extend the distance a bit, too.

Runners respond to certain elements of training differently. For me, hill repeats build strength and speed for late in the race, and obviously make me stronger on the climbs. I remember two things about Mohican in 2009 that have always stuck in my head as far as the value of hill repeats:

1) I did a seriously challenging 13-mile hill run--at about 6:30-6:45/mile pace--in South Chagrin Reservation a few weeks before Mohican and just flew up and back down the dirt trail hills, never weakening and just basically feeling stronger with every step. I remember thinking to myself as I effortlessly cruised up and back down the constant hills in South Chagrin (and if you've run in South Chagrin, you know what I mean), "Wow, I'm in really good shape." To this day, that was one of the best confidence-building workouts I've ever had. A few weeks later I was the first to break the tape.

2) Late in the race at Mohican, I felt strong as an ox and was cruising up all the hills to the horror of my pacers who feared I'd eventually bonk. But I never did! When I came into the 80-mile aid station and someone told me the leader wasn't too far in front of me, I knew I'd reel him in because I was feeling so strong....and sure enough I did. I credit hill repeats for making me so strong late in the game.

I think my commitment to hill repeats at that time really made the difference. And it's clear to me that hill repeats were a huge missing component of my Leadville 100 training last year. My hope is that hill repeats will help me achieve my goal of a sub-20-hour finish at the 2011 LT100.

If you're interested in starting hill repeats, here are a few suggestions:
  • I like a hill that's not too steep but is steep enough to give you a good workout. I like to shoot for a distance of 1/4-1/3 mile but occasionally I'll extend the distance. If the hill is longer than the interval distance you're running, no worries--just run a section of it; that's what I do!
  • I like to do an easy warm-up of 3-4 miles beforehand. What I do is just run to the hill and then begin my workout (and then run back home).
  • Back in Ohio, I was able to cruise up Chagrin Boulevard at about 6:00 pace, which isn't far off from my 10K race pace. Here in Parker, Colorado, right now I'm at about 6:15 pace, and I'm sure I'll see improvement with time and sustained commitment.
  • Be in control. Focus on proper form and arm movement. Don't look at where you need to go because that might discourage you; take it one step at a time.
  • Jog back down for your next repeat. There is no need to hammer it back down the hill or else you risk injury. Also, if you need to take a quick breather once at the top, go for it.
  • How many? This week I started rather conservatively with *only* 4 hill repeats but I plan to build up to several more over the next four months, potentially getting in 10-15 repeats in the late stages of my LT100 training (in addition to lots of mountain trail running, which works the quads nicely). Whatever you do, don't overdo it in the first few weeks. You want to gradually build so that you peak at just the right time.
  • Hill repeats will tax your hamstrings (making them stronger). Keep them loose, being sure to stretch afterward. I love yoga for stretching and usually do my yoga stretches about every other night and always after a tough workout. I'm a huge believer in yoga. Also, go easy the day after a hill workout. The next day is not a day for going super long or super fast; it's an easy day.
Good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recovery Week 4/11-4/17

This was not one of my better recovery weeks. I'm still not sure what exactly had me, but my guess is that I got hit with a vicious cold early in the week. My head was congested and "foggy," I was tired and my balance was off. I ran 4.4 miles on Monday, zippo on Tuesday and then got 'er going the rest of the week, finishing with a paltry 58.4 miles that included a 21-mile Sunday.

On Saturday, I ran 10 miles, really feeling some fatigue and achiness in my legs. On Sunday, my legs felt good through 10 miles and then kind of went into the tank during the last 7. I added on 4 more that night for a 21-mile Sunday. All weekend my energy level wasn't at its normal level; I was tired.

I have a new level of respect for the elite guys and gals who can churn out quality race after quality race, recovering inbetween each effort. I don't know if the years are catching up to me or if I'm in some of kind of funk, but I haven't felt good in a few weeks and, more than a few times, I've even felt the 6,000+ feet of altitude here in Parker. My suspicion is that allergies are plaguing me. With the Cheyenne Mountain 50K this Saturday, my goal is to just get in a quality training run and not try to be my own little hero. At any rate, I still have four months before the Leadville 100, so I'm going to try to exercise some patience.

Totals for the week:
  • 58.4 miles running (recovery week)
  • 7 hours, 46 minutes
  • 7 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening.
For the year: 954.91 miles


My goal this week is to get in 90 miles including 31 at Saturday's 50K, but if I'm still feeling trashed late in the week I'll take a day off and cross-train. I need to feel solid on Saturday so that my confidence is in good shape going into the Jemez 50-Mile on 5/21. Here's the course profile for Jemez, followed by some commentary (click here for a larger profile):

So, yeah, let's just get the obvious out in the open--Jemez is a freaking monster!

Miles ~1-4: The opening section looks very manageable and is run under 7,500 feet.

Miles ~5-9: A nice "little" 1,750-foot climb up to Gauge Ridge at about mile 7.5, topping out at just under 9,000 feet, and then a steep ~600-foot drop. Steep descents are a signature attribute of the Jemez course.

Miles ~10-14: I'll be climbing from 8,000 to 10,500, which I hear is a bee-line (as in, no switchbacks) up Caballo Mountain. From the top, it's a nice, steep 1,750-foot drop.

Miles ~15-20: All things considered, this section doesn't look too bad unless you consider a short, steep climb of 1,000 feet followed by a ~5-mile downhill section brutal. It's in this section that 50-mile runners can drop down to the 50K distance. Temptation....

Miles ~21-30: Significant climb up to Cerro Grande, starting at ~8,500 feet and topping out at about 10,250 feet. It's downhill for the next 6 or so miles, dropping about 2,250 feet. I'm sure my quads are going to be loving it!

Miles ~30-36: This is the section that I've heard is brutal. With 30 punishing miles on your legs, you're climbing about 3,000 vertical feet--a beeline ascent--up Pajarito Mountain over a distance of about 6 miles. This climb, from what I hear, is ridiculous but scenic.

Miles ~36-40: Ah, we're at the top of Pajarito! A few more "little" climbs totaling about 600 feet of vertical and then it's all downhill from here, baby!

Miles ~40-finish: A 10-mile downhill run that drops 2,500 feet--from ~9,800 feet to 7,200~.

Add it all up and you have about 25,000 feet of combined climb and descent. The good news is that aid stations are plentiful. Jemez is going to make for an interesting day, indeed. If I finish in under 11 hours I'll be happy. For comparison's sake, the winning time will be around 8.5-9 hours. For me, this will be valuable time on my feet and an introduction--merely an introduction--to the Hardrock Hundred, which I dream of doing one day.

Hill repeats are going to be a big focus over the next 4 weeks.


Over the weekend we saw "127 Hours," the film about Aron Ralston, who had to cut his own arm off to free himself from a rock in Moab back in 2003. You know the story. This was a good film. If you haven't seen it, what's stopping you?

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Road to Leadville

My blog is now getting about 300-400 page views per day. That comes to about 128,000 page views per year from readers logging on from across the world. Through the power of analytics, I know that this blog reaches folks from the US and Canada to the United Kingdon, France, and far off and far out places like China, Russia, Australia and other areas of the world. When I started this blog in late 2007, never could I have imagined such a readership. This is both gratifying and humbling.


With the Eisenhower Marathon now behind me, my eyes are beginning to set on Leadville. But before I go into my return to "the Race Across the Sky," I'd like to confess that this week has been very difficult. I've been fighting something that has left my head congested, my mind foggy and my body weak. Maybe a cold or mild case of the flu? Maybe allergies? I'm on Claritin and hoping for the best. I went into the marathon well-rested, so I don't think this bug has anything to do with post-event exhaustion.

Until a few days ago, I was kind of down in the dumps about what went down in Kansas last Saturday. My initial reaction, when I crossed the finish line with the clock at 3:10 and change while Anne and Noah cheered for me, was, "The weather wouldn't allow for a PR today; I did my best." I remember saying to Anne as I crossed, "Don't worry, I'm not mad." And at the time I kind of meant it. She was surprised to hear this from me because I usually get really pissed at myself when I fail to achieve a goal. This is both a good and bad characteristic.

But then on Sunday and especially Monday, I started to feel really depressed and was beating myself up over not achieving a PR, much less breaking 3 hours when I'd broken 3 in my last three road marathons before Eisenhower. I convinced myself that I'd lost my mental toughness and determination and that the Wyatt of 2008 or 2009 would have overcome the heat, humidity and wind to set a new PR. All the while I felt like crap from this cold, flu or allergy problem, so really I was in a cycle of self-doubt and flagging self-esteem.

On Tuesday night I seemed to have made some kind of transition, because I started to feel much better and think about my next race. I have added the Cheyenne Mountain 50K on 4/23 in Colorado Springs to my calendar. This looks like a pretty runnable course and good practice, especially when I've spent much of my winter and early spring on the roads getting ready for Eisenhower.

For whatever reason, this reminds me: My foot is doing much better. I haven't felt any plantar fasciitis pain in a while. An injury that sidelined me for seven months seems to now be behind me. The key is avoiding a re-injury, because plantar fasciitis can end a running "career." My orthotics have served me well, as have yoga stretches, especially my resistance bands and the "Downward Dog" stretch.


So here's what things look like going backward from my next big goal race, the Leadville 100:

8/21: Leadville Trail 100 - The Big One. My Own Super Bowl.

7/2: Leadville Trail Marathon - Excellent practice for the LT100, but unfortunately not on the 100-mile course. This race is all at 10,000+ feet and tops out at 13,185 feet for 26.2 miles of ass-kicking action that hopefully I'll have done in less than 4:30, which is a pretty good time. This race, while not technically an ultra, leaves you feeling like you've just done an ultra.

6/18: Mount Evans Ascent - No time goals here except a quality effort between 10,000-14,200 feet on one of Colorado's greatest mountains. Planning to run back down for a total of 29 high-altitude miles on the day.

5/21: Jemez Mountain 50-Mile - 10-11 hours on my feet (the winning time will be between 8.5-9 hours--yeah, this course is beastly). I'm considering dropping down to the 50K option, but this will depend on how I'm feeling going into the race. My concern is that 50 miles on the Jemez course might severely trash my legs at a time when I need to be getting in some quality training for Leadville. If you want an idea of how hard Jemez is, click here for Lucho's report. By the way, Lucho finished top 10 at Leadville in 2010. But don't take my word for it. Here's the 50-mile course profile:

4/23: Cheyenne Mountain 50K - The goal is quality practice and some time on the trails. FYI, Cheyenne Mountain is in Colorado Springs and home to NORAD.

If time permits, I'm planning to venture to Cleveland in late July to pace my pal, Ted, at the Burning River 100. If there, I would go the last 30 or 40 miles with Ted, making for a great time and an excellent final long training run for the Leadville 100. Of course, it'll be wonderful reuniting with the old crew in C'town for a few days.

In between my races, I'll be running the trails here in the Front Range and up in the mountains. In June and especially July, I'll spend quite a bit of time in Leadville covering every inch of the course.

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Eisenhower Marathon - Quick Report

I finished the Eisenhower Marathon today 5th overall and 1st in my age group (very pleased) but with a 3:10:24 (not so pleased). I knew when I was on the out portion of the race, running literally into gusts of 20-30+ mph, that a PR would be difficult, but doable. I ended up taking turns drafting with a guy who was gunning for a 2:49 (he ultimately finished 6th overall--right behind me--and we really worked well together as far as drafting). I hit the turnaround in 1:29:09, about 2 minutes behind pace, and was really psyched by the thought of running back with such a strong tailwind pushing me. And the tailwind was nice. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. The problem on the back was the heat and the damage done to my legs when I was running hard into the headwind in the first half. The sun was scorching hot, the humidity was around 80%, and when I finished the temperature was a balmy, sticky 77 degrees. The last 6 miles were horrendous for me, as evidenced by my 1:41 second half. The temperature in Abilene hit 91 on Sunday.

Here's a great article about the 2011 race. In this article, the winner, Daniel Craig, 30, who ran a 2:40 (slow by his standards) and also won last year's race with a 2:32, talks about how the conditions affected his performance and really presented safety concerns. I was also interested in what the runner-up, Timothy Mashall, said about conditions.

I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. I think what happened was that I worked so hard running against the wind in the first 13.1 miles that when I turned around I had less in the bank than what I needed to cross the finish line in under 2:55. So I ran the last half with tired legs that turned into trashed legs, while fighting dehydration. When I stopped for a quick pee at around mile 17, my urine was almost red. Not good. And I'd been hydrating well all day--or so I thought.

So, hey, I'm not going to make excuses. I came up short of my goal--about 15 minutes short--but, on the good side, I finished top 5 and 1st in my age group with a Boston qualifier time. Historically, the top 5 guys are always sub-3 hours in this race.

Am I disappointed? Yes.

Did I give it my all? Yes.

I think the Eisenhower Marathon is a wonderful race with friendly people. Abilene reflects the values that made America great, and the town is very proud of its connection to Dwight Eisenhower. I visited the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum with my dad about 14 or 15 years ago, making for great memories. The race was a great experience. I only wish I'd achieved my goal.

It's hard to believe, but 4 months ago I could barely run because of plantar fasciitis, and now I just finished a marathon on only 10 weeks of training.

I'm psyched about the racing season and am now going to transition to Jemez 50-Mile training.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When Weather Doesn't Cooperate

According to, here's the forecast for Saturday, April 9, when I run in the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, Kansas:

Isolated thunderstorms
High: 85
Low: 57 (Friday/Saturday overnight low)
Wind: From SSE at 16 mph
Humidity: 63%
UV Index: 7 High
Sunrise: 7:02 AM CT
Avg. High: 68°F
Record High: 85°F (1952)

Um, yeah, the weather for Saturday isn't looking too good! And it's gotten worse with every passing day. A few days ago the high temp was 70. Now it's 85, which would tie the record!

With exception to a few miles, the race is mostly an out-and-back following a north-south route. You go south, and then turn around and head back going north. So the out, with 16 mile-per-hour winds, may kind of suck. But I'd rather run against the wind on the out than the back!

However, it's not the wind that bothers me. It's the temperature! I have run 100 miles in 90+ degrees. When I won the Mohican 100 in 2009, the heat and humidity made the air feel like pea soup. But running 100 miles in 90+ degrees is different than running balls-to-the-wall for 26.2 miles in temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

If in fact the temperature is 57 at the start, my estimation is that by the time I cross the finish line, which hopefully will be around 9:50 a.m., the temperature will be in the low 70s. That's still a tad warm but it's doable.

Weather can often throw us for a loop. We just have to make the best of the situation, stick with our goals and then adjust those goals as circumstances warrant.

This will be my last post until after the marathon. I'll try to chime in on Saturday afternoon with a quick update on my result and will write a full report on Sunday or Monday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Taper Week 3/28-4/3

I just wrapped up what I think was a pretty proper taper week for the Eisenhower Marathon on 4/9. I ran just 44.8 miles, which was 6-8 miles below my goal. A few factors prevented me from reaching my goal. First of all, my run on Pikes Peak on Sunday, 3/27 left my legs much more sore than I ever anticipated. Second, my right ankle, which I sprained descending Pikes, was still bothering me early in the week. Third, I didn't sleep well all week because I was under the weather, possibly due to allergies. So I did what I could and still managed some decent quality. Going into a marathon PR effort, a little extra rest can never be a bad thing.

Monday - OFF

AM: 8.8 miles on the HOA treadmill, maxing it out on speed. 3x1 mile at 6:00 each. Legs and right ankle still feeling it from my Pikes Peak run on Sunday.

Wednesday - EASY
AM: 8 miles easy on the Tomahawk loop. Legs better.

Thursday - EASY
AM: 5 miles easy on my treadmill.

Friday - TEMPO RUN
AM: 8 miles at tempo pace in Parker. The goal was 4 miles at tempo pace--not pushing it too hard but still nailing some nice turnover--and I hit it. Splits were 1) 8:13 (warm-up), 2) 6:20, 3) 6:19, 4) 6:14, 5) 6:18, 6) 7:58 (cooldown), 7) 7:51 (cooldown), 8) 8:02 (cooldown). Very pleased with these splits even though much of it was on a decline.

Saturday - EASY
AM: 8 miles on the Tomahawk loop. Legs felt pretty good.

AM: 7 miles on my treadmill. With winds in Parker gusting at over 50 mph, I elected to remain indoors and run at marathon goal pace on my treadmill. Splits were 1) 7:52 (warm-up), 2) 6:39, 3) 6:39, 4) 6:36, 5) 6:35, 6) 6:35, 7) 7:55 (cooldown).

Totals for the week:
  • 44.8 miles running
  • 5 hours, 33 minutes
  • 6 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 850.98 miles

My aggregate mileage for the year to date is about 120 off from last year due to my plantar fasciitis at the start of 2011. I'm trying not to be depressed about my yearly mileage because I'm running well right now and I'd rather perform well in races than rack up big yearly totals. We'll see where I wind up for 2011 but I would imagine I'll go north of 3,800--which is usual for me.

My Eisenhower Marathon goals are:
  • Goal 1: Sub-2:55
  • Stretch Goal: Sub-2:50
Right now the weather for Saturday's race is high of 74 and low of 53, with isolated thunderstorms and winds from the east at 10 miles per hour. Not bad but not great, either. The race starts at 7:00 a.m., so my guess is that by 10:00 the temperature will be in the mid to high 60s. Again, not bad. Since this will be my first race at sea level since moving to Denver a year ago, I don't really know what to expect with my performance at a marathon run at 5,000 feet below where I live and train every day. Because I respect the distance and the effort, ny approach will be to remain in control and on pace (6:40) and to avoid going out too fast. I would like to cross the half split around 1:27 and the 20-mile mark around 2:12 or 2:13. What I do in the last 10K is all about heart and whether or not I did enough quality and long stuff in my training.

After Eisenhower, I'll transition to Jemez 50-Mile training, which will mean a few weeks of mountain trail running to get ready. My plan is to average 90 miles per week in the last half of April and through May. But, honestly, I think Jemez is going to be a tough race for me since I've spent so much time on the roads getting ready for the Eisenhower Marathon. I will not aggressively taper for any other races through the summer except for the Leadville Trail 100. I'll more or less train through every race on my calendar, though I'm quite sure Jemez is going to require maybe a week of recovery.

Speaking of recovery, on the advice of my new coach, who shall remain nameless for the time being, I've started consuming Hammer Recoverite after every run and I've been pleased. I'll be sticking with Recoverite through the Leadville 100 to help me stay as fresh as possible.

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.