Monday, April 29, 2013

A Day of Snow - Alger Alp 50k

The alarm went off promptly at 8:30 which meant time to get up and get ready for Alger Alp 50k. Already knowing what the forecast was for the day, I decided to look out the window to verify my suspicion, yes it was raining. What a great morning for running. 

Soon the weather was about to change. Within the hour of me waking up and walking out the door, I watched it go from rain to snow. I was a little surprised as there was no snow in the forecast but was delighted to see it snowing as running in the snow is more fun then running in the cold rain. Upon arriving at the start the roads were lightly covered in snow and the weather was showing no signs of slowing up. I got my bib, chatted with some friends and attempted to stay warm and dry before the start of the race.

We were off into the white wilderness not knowing exactly how the day would turn out. Knowing the course really helped as I settled into a pace to sustain me for another 5 laps. The snow on the first lap did not slow me down much but I was anticipating the later laps to be more hazardous after all the foot traffic. The fresh powder on the first two laps were comforting to run on. As the laps went on, trails through the snow formed on the logging road section. They were nice to run on.

At the end of the first lap, coming around the backside of the lake, I suddenly heard a crack and felt all this snow fall on me. The runner I was running with at the time, froze as did I.  We had no idea what to do. The thoughts racing through my head when it happened were; run, stop, fetal position. You have absolutely no time to react. A tree branch had broken loose and fell right at the edge of the lake. We were very lucky that it was a small branch and that it had missed both of us.  This was the first time that a branch had broken off from a tree over my head. All of this snow was burdening the trees and shrubs along the trails which caused them to lean over the trail and many to crack. 

By the time the third lap rolled around the snow was beginning to slow up and turn to some light rain/mist. The sky too was beginning to get brighter! At this point of the race, my gloves were soaking wet causing my hands to go numb. At the beginning of the third lap I struggling to decide if i should take off my sopping wet gloves that were not keeping my hands warm any more and bear the cold or to leave them on in hopes that they may help a little. Just as you turn off the trail leaving the park, I decided to take the gloves off and leave them there at the intersection since you return there to finish the loop back to the start. This was probably one of the smartest ideas I made all race. As my hands were so cold, I pulled out an old trick. I slowed to a walk and slid my hands down along my hips to warm them up. I have done this many times in the past and it has worked beautifully to warm up my hands. This is something to keep in mind if your hands ever get cold.

My hands were so numb at the end of the third and fourth lap, I made it my mission to find a way to warm my hands up. I noticed the grill was going and quickly ran over to it and asked politely if i could place my hands over the grill. The answer was yes and so I did. My hands were less than a inch from the grill and it felt like it was off; that is how numb my hands were. Not good at all when running as you need them to carry your water and eat food. After several minutes I acquired feeling in my hands again. While getting my hands warm, I changed my shirt and jacket as it had stopped raining and was drying out. As I was leaving the aid station on my fifth lap, Candice offered me a pair of her gloves and some hand warmers for the next lap. I could not turn down the generosity of the race director and a really close friend. Thanks Candice.

On my fifth loop things were getting sloppy and icy as snow was packed down from all the foot traffic and muddy as all the snow was melting. The melting of 3-4 inches of snow can do havoc with a trail, especially with 50+ people running on them. I slowed down on this lap as I helped a fellow 50k runner, a newcomer to the sport, through his fourth lap. It was fun to help him out. It was also nice that the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds. After getting him back to the aid station, I set off for my final lap. This lap was uneventful except for the fact that there was finally a view from the top. Yippee!

Finishing the race was a great accomplishment for me. This was my longest run since running H.U.R.T. 100. I had been suffering through one injury after another and it felt good to be back out there running again. My body (IT Band) was telling me it was not necessarily ready, but mentally I was ready for a new chapter!

Thank you Candice and all the volunteers who helped put on this race, I had a blast!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ow Canada! - Cap Crusher

The weekend of the 23rd started off as a early one. We were up before the sunrise only to hop in a car and drive north, to Canada. We were on our way to run the Cap Crusher, the first of four races in the new Coast Mountain Trail Series that Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford have started.

The Cap Crusher has both 8k and 13k races with 3300 to 4200 feet of elevation change.  Heather's and my choice of torture for the day was the 13k.  The course was filled with a lot of technical trails, elevation change and scenic views. You could not ask for more from a race course.

Race morning was a cold one as we all stood around trying to stay warm before the start. We all knew we would be fine once the race started, but that didn't stop the shivering beforehand. The view from the starting line was breath taking as we stood by the Cleveland Dam and looked up at the surrounding mountains. What a great location for the start of a race!

We were off at 9 am sharp into the unknown as neither Heather or I had run in the Capilano Canyon before. We crossed the dam and entered the trails. It was time to have fun and enjoy the trails. Right off the bat we were heading up hill on some steep technical narrow trails. I knew I was in for a tough race, as I should have already known that as it is Gary Robbins race.

With in the first couple of little climbs I realized two things. First, I was going way too fast for my level of conditioning and second, I was already mentally lost in the maze of trails. I adjusted my pace and was able to settle into a groove and take in the new scenery around me. The trails reminded me a lot of the stuff I train back home in Western Washington.

Somewhere about half way through the first loop we popped out on to a wide gravel bike path. I had remembered that Gary said you would pop out onto this path and be on it till you hit a aid station and turn around. This was a nice change of pace, as I needed a little time for the legs to recover. You were not on the gravel for long as you were pointed back into the woods after the aid station and heading back towards the start.

Toward the end of the first loop, we were sent to this little view point to look up at the dam. As I made the turn to the view point, the  course marshall warned me that the it was wet and slippery. I acknowledged him and thought to myself, I will be fine. Lo and behold, I slipped coming back off the lookout. Oops, I should have slowed down.

There was a nice big stair climb right before the start and finish line, which you ran through and headed out for a second loop that was shorter and different then the first. 

As I continued on the second lap I was slowly catching this guy in front of me. I had let him go early in the race and found myself slowly catching him. Right around the time I caught up to him I started to recognize some of the trails and realized we were almost back to the dam. I got in front of him right before the last climb as we both settled into a hike up the hill. On the other side I made a few risky leaps and jumps to open up a little lead and was able to hold him off to the finish. I was happy with the outcome of the race, however I could not believe that there were so many stairs. I had never witnessed so many stairs located in one location.

After the race, Linda Barton took Heather and I up Grouse Mountain (BCMC trail). We had a blast hiking up, seeing new terrain and hitting the snow line. where spikes were needed. The views from the lodge were spectacular as we looked down at where we had just run the race. Thanks Linda for the hike.

The next day Heather and I went up to Squamish and ran the first preview run of the Squamish 50 mile course. It was the last 23k of the course. The weather was great, our packs were full and we had directions; it was destined to be a great day. We took off with the rest of the group and settled into our own pace, which was slow and steady. This would be the only time to enjoy the scenery as come race day it would all be a blur. We both agreed that the trails and views were fantastic. The Squamish course is beautiful and I can not wait to see the rest.

Thank you Gary and Linda for being such great hosts and thank you Gary and Geoff for putting together a great weekend full of running.

FYI : If you want to see a suspension bridge and do not want to pay 30 dollars to go see one, you should go see to Lynn Canyon which is free and a fantastic view of a water carved gorge far below.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This Little Light of Mine

This was a great little run held at the Lutherwood Camp & Retreat Center in Bellingham, WA. The distance for the race was 5k, not a common distance I race.  The neat thing about this run was the fact that it was held at night. The night element added a unique factor to the race.

Arriving at the start, there was a good sized crowd waiting, anticipating the start. Many of the runners were wearing a Magicshine headlamp. These are some of the brightest headlamps on the market.

The instructions were given, jokes were made, and we were sent on our way. As we set off, I could tell that this was going to be fast and hard. I got off to a good start and was up towards the front which is where I was expecting myself to be. As we entered the second turn the top 4 or 5 guys missed white arrows and line of bright orange cones leading the way to the trail entrance. I got a good laugh and entered the trail first. Not too much later I was passed and settled into a comfortable pace. I tucked in behind a guy and tried to stick with him for the rest of the race. I did just that but was not able to catch him by the end.

The great thing about the course is that you never really knew where  you were. It would make a left and then a right and go up and down, only to confuse you and make for a challenging course. The course would swing you by the start finish area as you think you would be finishing but only to swoop you away. You never really had a sense of how far you had gone or how far you had left to go. It was a blast.

The course was tough and had me red lining most of the time. I am not used to a race that took such a short burst of energy. My last short race was in 2009 at the Tulip Run in Mount Vernon. It was fun to get out there and challenge myself on a shorter race again.

What a night! The course was great, my headlamp was bright, and I had a blast pushing myself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


One of my long term goals is to obtain a sponsor. It has finally come true for me. I am excited to be sponsored by I first heard of this company last winter from a friend who I run with on Wednesday nights in Bellingham, WA. By the end of winter running, this past spring, over 75% of the runners who ran on Wednesday night had obtained one. By the start of this winter that number was up over 90%. The reason is that these are the best running lights on the market and when you are running on technical trails, you want a bright light.  

Now a little bit about the company. is a factory authorized distributer of Magicshine products across North America. Their headlamps were originally designed for bicycling but they found that many runners were using them successfully. This is where I come in. Part of what I am helping them with is providing feedback on their products from a runner's perspective.

They have quite a few different headlamps. The brightness of the headlamps range from 400 to 2200 lumens. These are the brightest lights that I know of on the market for running. One of the unique things about Magicshine is that the battery is separate and not mounted on your head. Most headlamps that I know of have head mounted batteries. The Magicshines are different and can be mounted in many different places. You can place the auxiliary battery in a waist belt or backpack. This has its up and downs. The nice thing about having this battery pack is the fact that is rechargeable and you will save tons of money on batteries. On the down side, you have to wear a waist belt or backpack to hold the battery. When it comes to running 100 milers, I know that most people will wear a backpack at night. I know that I do this for ease of being able to carry more things at night as you slow down during this time of the run.

With these lights being originally designed for bicycling, they are still working on coming out with a perfect head mount for their lights. Currently they have 3. Personally I have only tried one and will be trying the other two in time. Stay tuned for more information on my experience with Magicshine products and reviews of their performance on the trail! If you are a local runner, you can check them out in person at Fairhaven Runners in Fairhaven, WA.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

H.U.R.T. 100 Recap

Now four weeks later and fully recovered from H.U.R.T. 100, I am ready to train for my next race, but first a recap of H.U.R.T 100 2013. Going into H.U.R.T. this year I was planning to be in peak shape, but unfortunately, with three injuries leading up to it, I was just hoping for the best.

The temperatures were predicted to be 5-10 degree cooler this year. The trails were drying out after some rain the week before.  The competition was deep in both the Men's and Women's fields. It was shaping up to be a good year.

I arrived in Hawaii on the night of the 17th tired but ready for this years race. Within the first hour of being in Hawaii, our pre-ordered taxi was screwed up and our driver got a speeding ticket. What a start to my trip in Hawaii!

The next morning I woke up in Hawaii with the sun shining through the window and the air a comfortable 70 degrees. It was quite the change from the Pacific Northwest weather. That afternoon was the race packet pick-up and briefing. Showing up at the Nature Center brought back many memories and anticipation for this years race. I caught up with friends, listened to the briefing, and got my energy wrist band. New for this year the race directors gave us a wrist band that was supposed to harness energy to help you finish. In order for it to work, you had to dip it in water that they obtained from Canada, the United States and from abroad.

This year, I was happy to have the opportunity to represent my sponsor--MagicShine--at the race. I used their lights in 2012 and loved the brightness and functionality. It was great to again be using their top of the line 1100 lumen headlamp in the night portion of the race.

Friday night I laid out all my running gear in the attempt to figure out what I needed at what aid station. I was able to figure it all out thankfully. It has been a while since my last 100 miler and I was a tad rusty. The next morning came quickly as I rolled out of bed at 4 am. We all crammed into the car and were off to the start of the race. On the drive over, it was starting to dawn on me that I was going to be running 100 miles in less than 2 hours. In all the time leading up to this I had thought nothing of it.

When we got to the start I started my pre-race rituals which involved a lot of checking and double checking of the gear. With only 10 minutes before the start they began to herd us toward the starting line. We were all in good spirits as we knew there was a long trail ahead of us. We waited patiently, standing there on the bridge, for 6:00 AM to hit and the conch shell to be blown. Gary Robbins started counting down 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. NOISE and we were off. My plan this year was to go out slower on the first lap and to hike more throughout.

On my first lap, I ran with several different people. Some were first timers to the H.U.R.T. course while others had run it the previous year. I came through the first aid station at Paradise feeling great and some where in the top 15. I quickly refueled and threw out trash and was out of the aid station with my new running partner Brian. Brian is from Texas. We ran and chatted most of the rest of the lap together. At the next aid station I dropped off my headlamp, grabbed some food and was on my way again, not wasting any time. 

As I came into the start finish area, it was really nice to see Heather standing there waiting and ready to help me get refueled and back out there on the course. As I was leaving the aid station I looked at the time and could not believe I was already done with one lap, knowing that it would be the only time I would be thinking that during the race. 

Despite telling myself time and again that I was to slow down on my first loop, I managed to do so by only 6 minutes from the previous year--not nearly as much as I would have liked. 4:23 was my time for the first lap, aka too fast. On the beginning of the next lap, I told myself that I would slow down a little to help maintain a steady pace and have a solid finish--and I did.

Brian and I stayed together for a little bit longer until Hannah Roberts caught us. Brian was picking up the pace and I let him go and decided to run with Hannah for a while. It was nice to have some new company. The two of us were in and out of the first two aid stations real quickly but the way back out of the 2nd aid station and heading back up to "The Flats" Hannah lost me. She was moving too fast. I settled into running by myself for the next 2 laps. I had brought some things along to this race, food related, that I was excited to try and see how I would handle in the heat. I brought along a chocolate/nut/coconut energy ball that was a recipe from Scott Jurek's new book.

I had also brought some coconut water and baby food that I was excited to use during the race. I had placed two baby foods in each of my drop bags. I ate these periodically through out the race. The one thing that I was really excited to try out was the coconut water. I had only tried out coconut water once previously, at the Carkeek 12 hour. It worked well there. My original plan with this was to get one bottle with coconut water and one bottle with water every time I came through the start finish area starting on the second loop. On occasion I would refill one of my bottles with coconut water either at Paradise or at Nu'uanu aid station. Coconut water worked great for me, as by the end I went through 2 1/2 liters. I was shocked to hear I had consumed that much during the race. 

On lap 4 I decided to call upon an old trick that I had learned while pacing my friend Terry Sentinella at Badwater. I was having a tough time staying awake on lap 4 so I asked the start finish aid station if they would mix one half water and the other half coke in one of my handhelds. Man that was good! I used the coke and water all the way through that lap. 

As for the rest of my nutrition I relied on GU Chomps for the beginning and end of the race and supplemented with bananas, grapes, wraps, chips, honey peanut butter sesame balls, pretzels and oranges. During the whole race chocolate did not look good to me at all. I tried to eat one of the chocolate energy balls but it just did not hit the spot. Oh well, sometimes things just don't look good while running the race even though they have worked in other races for you. Thats just the way it is.

I caught up to a guy coming out of Nu'uanu aid station. We ran together for the next half a lap and helped each other through some rough times. I had some low points on my fourth loop, getting sleepy and trying to stay on top of my nutrition through the hardest loop on the course. Before running this race last year I heard that the 4th loop was the hardest loop in the race and I totally agree after finishing the race that year. Going into the race this year I knew that I had to get through that 4th loop in order to finish. It is the crucial lap in this race. When he and I came into the start finish line after our 4th loop, I did something I have not done since I started running ultra's and that was listen to music. 

I knew that Heather had her iPod in her bag and I knew that it was going to help me get up the first climb. I am thankful she had it with her. Leaving the aid station with my music in and running companion along side we hit the first hill on the 5th loop together until nature called. I pulled off and he slowly went on but apparently it was a long stop and I did not catch him till the aid station. Just as I turned right after the Manoa Falls and the last section before the aid station Gangam Style began to play. This made me smile and move faster. I replayed the song 3 times before hitting the aid station. 

At the aid station I picked up my pacer, my lovely girlfriend Heather, and headed out for the last 13 miles to the finish. It was nice to be running with her, she is a great running partner. She previously had just paced our friend Candice Burt on her 4th lap. The sun had already risen by the time she picked me up. This was the first time she had seen the trail in the daylight, and oh boy was she giddy. She absolutely loved it and is looking forward to putting in for next year, she told me.

She got me in and out of the next aid station quickly as we knew we had to keep on moving as both Candice Burt and Jamie Gifford were right on my heals. It was motivation to get to the finish line faster. For me this year, one of my goals, was to get under 30 hours again. This too fueled me on to the finish. The views that morning were fantastic. It was a brand new day and I was almost done. As we came down the last stretch of trail less than a 1/2 mile from the finish I got passed by Daniel Scarberry. This stretch of trail is a rocky, tricky section to move fast. I slowed down a little trying to not to fall on tired legs and in the process I ended up getting past. It happens and I was ok with it. My race went really well and I made it to the finish line. For this year, that is all I was asking for.

As I crossed the finish line I was super relieved to be done. It was all over with. Yippee! I walked up to the sign and gave it a big kiss and made my way over to a chair to sit down for the first time in 28 hours. My official finish time was 28:05, an hour and 25 minute PR from last year's time. I am very pleased with the results of this years race.

I could not have done any of this with out my girlfriend Heather, great race day support, an amazingly organized race, and superb companions on the trail.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pre H.U.R.T. 2013

In 2012, I ran one of the hardest 100 mile races in the country. I had heard all these stories about how technical it is, how muddy it can be and how unforgiving it is. After running it, I can now understand what everyone was talking about. I agree, it is one of the hardest 100's in the country.

After completing a hundred mile race you usually get a low for a day or two and wonder if you ever want to do a race that long again, but after H.U.R.T. it took a lot longer. Mentally I was destroyed. I had never felt so exhausted in my life after running a 100 miler. It lasted for nearly 3 weeks. I was forcing myself to go out for short runs to help with my physical recovery, which was not nearly as bad as my mental was.  When I finally got back into the swing of running consistently again and having fun doing it, I looked to the future: What am I going to do next? Will I ever sign up for H.U.R.T. again? 

I planned on doing several 100's throughout the year. Some were races while others were my own adventures at the 100 mile distance. The big question was, am i going to run H.U.R.T. in 2013? As you may already know, yes I decided to put in for H.U.R.T. 2013 and I got in. I was all excited and started to set my training plan to get ready since I was disappointed with my previous result. As I began to ramp up my training, I was plagued with three injuries in a two month period. It was frustrating and even devastating to me. I had never had this many injuries at once in my 10 plus years of running. I wanted to do really well, but now all I wanted was to be healthy and finish. With only a few days left til the start of the race, things are looking up!! The ankle is getting stronger and my excitement for the race is returning. It is time for H.U.R.T. 2013.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Traveling & Running

My Experience:

A few months ago I had to go on a business trip to Eastern Washington. We arrived at the hotel late after a five hour drive through fog and smoke. I knew I need to go for a run as I had not run that day and surely was not going to be running the next day either. After checking in and getting my bearings in the hotel room, I decided that it was not a good idea to go out and explore the town as it was late and I had no idea what the layout of the town was like. A pet peeve of mine is I like to know how far my runs are. So, I found my way down to the hotel gym. 

However, I am not a treadmill runner. When on a treadmill, I start to get light headed and dizzy. This usually occurs when I stop. I was dreading this feeling but knew that I needed to run. This was not just for me but for the sake of everyone around me. I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. When stopping and hopping off, I actually felt decent. There was no spinning or dizziness. I was surprised. After discovering that I was ok on the treadmill I then subsequently ran twice on another trip to the East and even ran a few times at the local gym at home when time was short.

My Advice:

My reason for this post is to help people with running while traveling either for business or vacation. My above experience is an example of how you can fit in running while traveling. I recommend when traveling that you scope out the town where you are going for good places to run or to ask the hotel before going if there is a gym and treadmill. When scoping out a run in a new place, I would recommend calling up the local running shop and see what advice they have for you.

If there isn't one i would go on to the internet and look up parks in the area. If that fails you can go to google maps and create a route from the hotel of a desired distance. There are occasions when you just may not have the time for it and would like to just hit up the treadmill. This is what I had to do. The treadmill is not my cup of tea but had to do it to get in my run.

Another idea is if your trip is only a day or two, you can plan your day off for the week for the couple of days you are traveling. I just did that this past week. I went home for Christmas and knew it was going to be tough to run as I have not seen my family in two years. I am also slowly recovering from an ankle sprain. I decided that if I got one or two runs in, I would be happy because I know that my ankle would need some more time to recover. H.U.R.T. 100 is on the horizon.