Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Case Study: Buckle Fever

Buckle fever is localized in and around 100 mile running events

Buckle fever, or chronic ego driven exhaustion (CEDE), has been known to cause premature DNF and extreme remorse. This case study is taken from the 2015 Western States Endurance Run

  • Patient is a 43 year old white male with signs of over-exertion, gastric distress, severely blistered feet and piss-poor attitude admitted to the Michigan Bluff Aid Station one and a half hours before the cutoff.

  • Patient's chief complaints include bloated stomach, sharp joint pain, lack of enthusiasm, lack of confidence, lack of focus, lack of energy, general malaise and frustration. Additionally, patient claims his body is "shutting down" and "only has one gear". Patient claims he "does not want to continue and does not want to do this anymore."

  • Present illness began at race start in Squaw Valley early that morning. In an effort to secure a silver buckle, the patient exerted an unacceptably high effort at altitude in warm temperatures. Over approximately 40-50 kilometers the patient sustained heart rates at or above 80% of maximum. Additional complications arose from in-race nutritional supplements containing beets, which darkened his urine to the point of alarm. This resulted in over-hydration until the source of the problem was correctly identified and normal hydration was resumed.

  • Patient's family history includes parental marathoning, sibling middle distance running and overall health improvement through regular exercise.

  • Patient's social history shows numerous examples of epic challenges, including but not limited to: Alaskan commercial fisherman, previous WS100 finisher, long distance sailor, avid ultra runner. Patient also appreciates fine craft beers often.

  • Physical exam reveals some chafing, lack of color, salt-caked skin, thousand-yard stare and a curious odor.

  • Assessment: Patient requires tough love and the confidence that finishing is still possible. While reasoning with the patient is unlikely, shaming and guilt can be used with moderate success. Thought exercises illustrating the remorse of dropping have shown high rates of success.

  • Patient treatment course: Patient was given ten minutes to get his shit together, after which he was given two baggies containing sandwiches and fruit, along with the necessary lighting and water to make it to the next aid station, Foresthill. Patient continued on through the night, utilizing his "one gear" to stay ahead of cutoffs and eventually finish the race. This was the sought after outcome, and treatment was deemed to be successful.

Friday, June 12, 2015

2015 Western States Preview: The Hay is in the Barn

Shooting for a darker finish in 2015
This time last year, I was going to pieces. My anxiety levels were compounded by taper madness. Too much time to kill and not enough distractions. A year wiser, I feel better going into my taper for Western States. I only feel anxious when Sally McRae posts her damn countdown to Facebook:

"15 days. 20 hours. 38 minutes.  Heartrate: 107"

Knowing exactly how little time is left is almost as bad as trying to wrap my head around the whole course at once.

Knee issues did not derail my training, much. My peak training block, centered around the Memorial Day Training Camp, boosted my confidence; I felt strong. I know my goal is within reach, and I know it will not be easy.

Last year, uncertainty about the distance and my own instinctual self-preservation made my "A" goal of sub-24 hours easy to abandon soon after the shotgun. My best efforts to streamline my support ended up being a hindrance or simply neglected. This year, I have adjusted accordingly. I still plan to provide log sheets for my crew to document my progress, but my actual support will be simpler.

2015 Aid Station Worksheet

Most of the work sheet is for the crews benefit. The strategic, motivational language in the middle is what is important to me. At each aid station, I will have a zip lock bag filled with everything I need to get me to the next crewed aid station. That way, crew will only prepare a couple of handheld bottles with Tailwind. Barring surprises, this approach should enable me to trade bottles, drop my trash, grab the baggie and go. I can pack up the supplies on the trail, and having an extra baggie is handy at the other aid stations. Fill it up and take the buffet to go!

Another big change this year involves my pacers. In 2014 they also participated in pre-race festivities at Squaw and helped to crew me during the early stages of the race. This year they are off the hook until pacing duty. I ran Torrey into the ground last year, and David pulled almost as many hours awake as I did. Fresh pacers ought to help me sustain my momentum in the dark hours when I am trying to justify my desire for a silver buckle. Why is this important again?

And that brings me to the crux of this year. My "A" goal is a sub-24 hour finish. Last year I said it, but I knew it was impractical. Finishing my first 100, especially at States, was much more important than my time. This year, it scares the crap out of me. I know it is possible. I know it will hurt. I know I'd rather have two different buckles than two bronze buckles. I know I am ready. The hay is in the barn. Shaving off over four hours is not unheard of (see Pam Smith's ten hour improvement from 2012-2013), but it is a tall order.

This buckle needs a sibling
As always, I have a couple of other goals to fall back on in case the race gets away from me. My "B" goal is to improve upon last year's 28:06. During my crew meeting, I instructed everyone to not let me off the hook here. If I fall off 25 hour pace, I don't want to walk-in a 27:50 and call it a success. I want to put my best foot forward. I want a finishing time indicative of my training and preparation. I want to suffer for it.

And so my "C" goal is to finish my second 100. I imagine if the wheels come off this badly, I will be suffering more than the previous two scenarios. I try not to think about what may lead to me chasing cut-offs, or worse, getting cut.

I am returning to the WMS Medicine & Science in Ultra-Endurance Sports Conference, held on Tuesday and Wednesday of race week. I enjoyed the distraction last year, and it led to many changes in my training paradigms this year. The Alpenglow Festival is also being held race week, offering plenty of other activities to keep me occupied, such as a "pub run" sponsored by Salomon on Wednesday night (Salomon hash!) and movie night with JB Benna.

The home stretch is here. One more long run this weekend, lots of A.R.T. to keep the niggles at bay, some PT and strength training for my knee issue and one more Monster Massage on the Thursday before the race - then the big dance. I think I have everything under control, but then I remember it is the things outside my control which make this such a thrill.

See you at Squaw!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ignorance is Bliss

MRI of my right knee
I have long been a fan of quantum mechanics and the plethora of theories attempting to describe our universe. Some of my favorites stipulate that nothing exists until it is observed, described or contemplated. And so it has gone with my knee injury. Stemming from a fall during the Miwok 100k in May, discomfort in my right knee was the catalyst for a series of medical evaluations. My primary care physician referred me to an orthopedist, who took x-rays and then requested an MRI. I ran through all of this, building to a big ten day training block focused around the Memorial Day Training Camp for Western States.

Training Camp went well; I taped the knee all three days and kept the Vitamin I intake on the low side. I ran about 130 miles in nine days and never felt any significant pain in the knee, although my quads took a beating.

The discomfort abated, becoming more of a stiffness than a pain. The MRI results came back last Monday. I have a bruised patella and a torn meniscus. The doctor gave me the green light for States and prescribed some PT. The patella bruise, he said, will take up to four months to heal, but running should not cause any further damage. The meniscus, however, will not improve. Eventually I will have to have the damaged section removed. I had a similar issue with my left knee in the late 90's. I had it repaired during ACL surgery, and it has held up well.

So now I am hyper-aware of a torn meniscus every time I run! Niggles be niggles though, and knowing what's going on there doesn't change anything. Or does it? I'll be mindful, and take precautionary measures like taping and icing. I may taper a little more aggressively in the coming weeks to rest and minimize inflammation. 

In my experience, the niggles I worry about going into a race never end up being the niggles I have to deal with during the race. Hopefully that will hold true on June 27th.

See you at Squaw!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Backpacking Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon

Buckskin Gulch, photo by Christopher Brothers

Photo by Christopher Brothers
While attending Northern Arizona University in the 1990's, my friends and I explored the surrounding wilderness almost every weekend. Backpacking the Mogollon Rim, Sycamore Canyon and the Grand Canyon provided an escape from the collegiate workload and nurtured my love of the outdoors. When I was asked to spearhead a research project in a tributary of the Colorado River just East of the Grand Canyon National Park, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Paria River had been classified as "impaired" due to high beryllium concentrations. I was to hike the canyon and collect water and sediment samples ten times over the course of two years. A rag-tag group of students would accompany me on three day blitzes of the 40 mile long stretch of remote canyon. Paria quickly became a special place for me; my own place of worship. Towering canyon walls, hanging gardens, narrow slots and hundreds of river crossings made for a surreal experience.
Stranded owl hunkers near pool, photo by Christopher Brothers

Given our short time-tables for each trip, I was never able to explore some of the more interesting side canyons of the Paria. Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in North America, would beckon as we collected samples from its confluence with the Paria. We would explore the lower mile or so before hurrying down the Paria. Years later, in 2006, I was able to hike the gulch with Twirly. We spent two days in Buckskin before hiking out to White House.

Last year, my father told me Buckskin and Paria were on his bucket list. I rounded up the boys for a five day trip from Buckskin Gulch to the end of the Paria at Lee's Ferry. I had not realized how long it had been since I saw the length of the Paria. I won't let it be that long again!

The confluence of Buckskin and Paria

We camped at the Wire Pass Trail Head on Monday night after dropping cars at Lee's Ferry and White House. Two of our five would be replicating the trip Twirly and I did in 2006, exiting via White House on the third day. My friend Jason, my father and I would head down Paria Canyon for the last three days, covering 44 miles.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Miwok 100k

The Miwok 100k, held every May in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, is one of those legendary races that gets into your blood. I was fortunate to be selected in the 2015 lottery, marking the 20th anniversary of the race and the debut of a new course (the reverse of the 2014 course). With eight weeks between Miwok and Western States, it was a great opportunity to practice race day tactics and see how my training was playing out.

The race starts and finishes in the hamlet of Stinson Beach, utilizing the Community Center as headquarters. The first 50k loop through the Muir Woods National Monument and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The last 50k take the runners north from Muir Beach up the Coastal Trail, traversing the West slope of Mount Tamalpais State Park to a turn around at Randall Trail head, then returning to Stinson Beach via the Coastal Trail and Matt Davis Trail.

Miwok 100k course
2015 course profile, elevation gain 10,558 feet

I felt ready but anxious race week. I had successfully completed a tough training block in the three weeks since American River 50 Mile. I negotiated hill repeats, tempo runs, long runs and track workouts while staying healthy. Niggles were immediately dealt with via massage or A.R.T. sessions. Comparing ultrasignup results from 2014, it was obvious that sub-24 hour runners at Western States were finishing Miwok in around 12 hours, about 11:30 minutes per mile. My average pace for trail racing in the Marin Headlands is about 12:30 pace. I had my work cut out for me. My "A" goal would be sub-12, "B" goal sub-13, and "C" goal would be simply to finish and establish a qualifier for the 2016 WS100 lottery.

Rather than focusing on pace, I decided to keep my effort between zone 2 and zone 3 for the duration of the race. This meant I would be running more of the climbs, as my heart rate tends to recover quickly when I hike. Fueled by one bottle of Tailwind (200 calories), one packet of the sweet Clif Organic Energy Food (affectionately referred to as 'baby food') and 5 grams of Master Amino Pattern every hour, I was prepared to give it my best shot.

32ten screening room
I picked up my bib at San Francisco Running Company on Wednesday afternoon and did a final shakeout jog through Tennessee Valley. Thursday night Twirly and I joined others at the San Rafael showing of the Trails in Motion Film Festival. The films were awesome, but the venue cooler still. It was held at 32ten Studios, the original Industrial Light and Magic special effects studio and screening room. We were told the courtyard where we milled about drinking beer and eating was where Star Destroyers were blown up!

One of many set stills lining the halls of 32ten Studios

Race morning dawned balmy, and it was a quick trip across the bridge and over the hill to Stinson Beach. Twirly dropped me off at the community center before heading straight to Tennessee Valley to catch some shut eye until I drew near. After three years of crewing ultras, she realizes that the start is one place she doesn't need to be.

Race Director Tia Bodington gave the pre-race instructions without amplification, so I doubt anyone more than ten feet back heard a word she said. At 5:00 am, she counted us down and we all ran the pavement leading to the Dipsea trail and the single track climb to Cardiac. Some funny guy behind me yelled "ON YOUR LEFT!!!" as we all slowed to file onto the single track trail. It was cool and humid. Fog blew through the Dipsea Moors illuminated by 300 headlamps. I chose to use my handheld flashlight, as my hands were free. I used the Mountain Hardware pack I got at States in 2014. It holds two bottles on the shoulder straps.

Steep Ravine was socked in. My Julbo Venturi's fogged up! I kept a steady effort on the climb, setting the first of many Strava segment PRs for the day. As I made the turn from the Dipsea Trail to the Deer Park Fire Road, I was startled by a bagpipe player starting up his swooning tune.

The conga line spread out on the descent of Deer Park fire road. The sky began to lighten, birds began to sing, turkeys gobbled in the woods. I shadowed a small group along the runnable Redwood Creek Trail, leaving enough space between me and the three runners to avoid being on the bouncy footbridges at the same time. Overcast skies kept the temperatures cool, and everyone I crossed on the out and back to the Muir Beach Aid Station looked to be in good spirits. I exchanged high fives with Leigh-Ann on my way out to the Middle Green Gulch climb.

Middle Green Gulch, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt
Inspired by Bob Shebest, my Garmin showed only my heart rate, the time of day, and lap distance. I hit the lap reset every time I left an aid station, comparing the time to the split sheets taped to my bottles. The lack of mile splits was refreshing, and the distance between aid stations turned out to be the most useful information my watch has ever provided during a race, besides heart rate. I felt good climbing Middle Green Gulch, running much of it as if I were on a training run. My fueling plan was on track, I had no niggles or discomfort, and I was successfully navigating the mental side of 62 miles. Namely, I was running aid station to aid station. I set another Strava PR for the climb.

I rolled into Tennessee Valley fifteen minutes ahead of 12 hour pace. Twirly had gotten a spot near the aid station, and we executed an efficient bottle swap and thank-you-kiss. The grind up Marincello felt never-ending. I continued my run/walk strategy dictated by my heart rate, leap frogging with a few runners.  The leaders came back at me after I gained the ridge line Bobcat Trail. Ben Stern led, followed by Galen Burrell and Chris Wehan. Gary Gellin was just two minutes back, in fourth. I gave him encouraging words, but I could tell he wasn't in a good place. He had led the first 20 miles, and ending up dropping around mile 35. Lake Sonoma had taken some of his mojo. The skies remained overcast, and the breeze along the ridge lines kept me cool. I found my stride along the SCA trail and even managed to hold off a few runners that had caught up to me, putting a gap on them in the technical sections.

At Bridge View Aid Station I mixed a fresh bottle of Tailwind and was back on the trail efficiently. On the descent to Rodeo Valley I realized I had to pee. I let the only runner near me pass, and successfully relieved myself without stopping. Usually that ends up being a mess, but I gauged the wind correctly this time, and didn't lose any ground. I passed a few more as we hit Bunker Road and the short detour along the pavement before climbing Rodeo Trail back up to the ridge. A group of three younger guys were running faster than me, but I continually caught up to them as they hiked the climbs. They blistered the downhill return to Tennessee Valley, and I told them that if they could run the final miles of Matt Davis Trail that way I would be impressed. They stopped at Tennessee Valley while I ran through. I wouldn't see them again for a while.

I ran along the floor of Tennessee Valley, feeling good, but shuffling a bit. I hear a runner coming up behind me fast, and hear a "good job" come as he passed me in a blur. Alex Varner, Lake Sonoma winner and 2:28 Boston finisher, made me feel stationary as he comfortably sprinted down the road on a training run. His heels never touched the ground! By the time the Coastal Trail climb came into view about a mile later, he and his partner were almost done with the hill! We may run the same courses, but the elites are playing a different game altogether.

Pirates Cove, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

I got back to Muir Beach and the 50k mark just under 6 hours into the race. I was still about 15 minutes ahead of 12 hour pace and had no issues. Twirly replaced my Tailwind bottles, baby food and MAP supplies. I got a little testy with her when I realized she was adding mix to the Tailwind I had left in the bottles I had given her at TV instead of mixing a fresh batch. It has taken me a while to figure out exactly how strong I can handle the Tailwind mixture, and she had deviated from my plan. "I'd rather you dump out the old stuff and mix it right", I said. I admit, I was grumpy. I had to empty rocks out of my shoes too, making the aid station the least efficient of the race thus far.

Deer Park Fire Road, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt
Leaving Muir Beach the second time I felt the first signs of flagging energy. I let a runner or two pass on the Redwood Creek return, and slogged my way back up Deer Park Fire Road. I tried to conserve energy and momentum, but by the time I reached Cardiac Aid Station I was almost ten minutes off 12 hour pace.

Enter the apathy.

Jessi Goldstein and Brett Rivers got me squared away with another mix of Tailwind for the seven mile stretch to the next aid station, and I headed towards Pantoll not caring about my finishing time. I had held my desired pace for over 30 miles, but it didn't feel sustainable anymore. At the ranger station, I stopped to use the bathroom, which had a line. By the time I got back on the trail I was 15 minutes off pace, and decided to just cruise comfortably for a while.

Once again, I found a group to shadow from about 200 yards back, and paced myself well for the long traverse to Bolinas Ridge. The leaders came back at me again along this stretch. I recalled how crowded this section was during the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile. Today it was blissfully sparse of runners. As Ben came by at 6:00/mile pace with his pacer looking like they were out for a xc workout, I easily made room for them. Galen and Chris were still in pursuit, albeit a bit further behind.

Coastal Trail above Stinson Beach, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

Coastal Trail is skinny; at times, grossly off-camber. About a mile and a half before the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station it became so sloped it was difficult to carry any speed due to the lack of footing. I came around a corner with too much speed and the trail disappeared from beneath my feet, sending me sliding down the hill. I arose gingerly and tried to regain my pace. A few moments later a loose rock got caught up in my feet and I ended up kicking it like a soccer ball with the top of my left foot, which hurt like hell. The wheels were coming off!

Coastal Trail, photo by @Ultratrailmatt

I managed to regain my composure and catch the group I had been following as we climbed into Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, and I chatted with Chipp from New York about the day so far. The sun had come out and the temps were climbing. I used my collapsible cup to guzzle ice water (about 16 ounces), mixed another bottle of Tailwind and had some pieces of melon. Nate Dunn gave me some encouragement as I left the station. I spied pizza in his hand and asked him to save me a slice for the return trip.

Put the ice water down, Ken. Photo by Nate Dunn

100 yards out from the aid station my stomach revolted. Too much ice water had me bloated and wanting to puke. I slowed my pace and stopped drinking Tailwind for a spell, which helped. The Bolinas Ridge section of trail was relentlessly rolling. It reminded me of the Lake Sonoma course, except for the enormous Redwood groves. I swear I saw a stump that was 30 feet across. Ironically, as soon as my stomach settled, my right knee ignited with searing pain, reducing my gait to limp. I had dealt with some IT-Band Syndrome/runner's knee in January and February, but it had not been an issue since. I was confused, and worried. For the first time I found myself seriously considering dropping from a race. A stream of runners passed me as we approached the downhill into Randall Aid Station. My pity party was in full effect.

I had three options: If I was in fact injured, dropping might save my knee for States in June. If my knee would hold up, I could take it easy and finish under the cut-offs, giving me a guaranteed qualifier for 2016 WS100, or I could take some Ibuprofen and still put in a solid effort and post a time indicative of my fitness. As I hiked down the road to the aid station, I didn't know which way I would go. All I was sure of, is that I HATE having to walk downhill!

Icing at Randall, Photo by Twirly
Immediately upon entering the aid station I asked Twirly to get ice. I knew that regardless of how it played out, I needed to ice the knee. I gave the volunteers a hug for giving me special treatment (they filled a gallon zip lock for me) and stood icing while Twirly got my resupplies squared away. The second big SNAFU materialized as Twirly told me she left the bag with my Ibuprofen in the car, which was parked far away. Jesse Jay saved my day with some of his own Ibuprofen, and the wheels, though wobbly, stayed on my train. I spent 5 minutes icing before gathering myself together and setting out for the climb back to the ridge.

Having fun again, photo by Nate Dunn
Going uphill was easier on the knee, and I had enough energy to run when the trail allowed for it. The 13 miles from Bolinas Ridge down to Randall and back was a parade of runners encouraging each other, and the energy was contagious. I saw many familiar faces along the way, and by the time I got back to Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, my knee felt better. I negotiated a slice of pizza, and filled my cup with Coke. It was great. I told Nate I had no qualms about my finishing time. I screwed around in the aid station for about five minutes, enjoying the novelty of pizza and Coke.

I set out for the final 10k with my pizza and coke, talking with a runner who also happened to be signed up for States this year. As we chatted, he realized I was running faster than he wanted and bid me a good race. I realized I felt spectacular. I looked at the time: 17:15. I had 45 minutes left to break 13 hours. I only had about 4 miles left, so I ran.

Cruising Coastal Trail, photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Coastal Trail, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

Coastal Trail, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

Photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

Photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

Coastal Trail, photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt
Each time I saw a runner up ahead, I reeled them in. I slowed down for the tricky parts, taking care not to trip again. By the time I got back to Matt Davis Trail I had 25 minutes to descend the last two miles of technical, root-strewn switchbacks. I ran hard; so hard, hikers verbally recognized my pace.

Photo courtesy of @Ultratrailmatt

I kept glancing at the time whenever the trail would allow me to look away. The minutes ticked down as I watched for the landmarks of the descent. The tricky left turn, The low hanging branch, the big rock signifying the final switchback, the bridge across the creek. And then the final stretch through the woods and into town. I felt like I was flying.

Not knowing what the race clock said, I sprinted into town, eliciting looks of concern on Tia's face as I ran into the chute at 5:15 pace (according to the deets). The clock said 12:58. I had done it. A large group of friends were amassed at the finish line, and I felt a huge wave of relief as Tia handed my my official Miwok 100k key chain. Twirly had all my post race gear ready: coconut water, beer, dry clothes, etc. I grabbed my swag bag, a plate of food, and changed clothes. It took a while to relax.

Sprinting it in, photo by Jessi Goldstein

I executed well. Despite not meeting my "A" goal, I gained confidence in my potential to improve my performances in the future. I finished so strongly that I surprised myself. Never before have I gone so low and bounced back so starkly. I set personal records on 27 Strava segments over the course!

The event was extremely well organized, and had that low-key hometown feel that has become so sought after in today's ultra scene. The volunteers were all knowledgeable and supportive. The crowd of finishers staying at the finish line to cheer in their fellow runners was impressive. We stuck around until the cut-off, cheering in Leigh-Ann with 45 seconds to spare!

Leigh-Ann gets her DFL, photo by Chris Jones

And, they gave everyone an IPA from Lagunitas. *pro-tip: use the Coca-Cola ice baths to chill your swag beer*

Decompressing the day, photo by Chris Jones
Miwok is a race I will do again, for sure; despite my abhorrence for out and back single track. It encompasses some of my favorite trails in the Headlands. I was unsure of how to approach the 100k distance, but now I realize it is like a mini-100 miler. There is enough time for things to go awry, but you're not out there overnight. I think it may be my favorite distance so far. I managed to maintain my average race pace of 12:30 for a Headlands race. Not the improvement I was looking for, but at least it indicates my stamina has returned. My slowest mile of the race was when I was in Randall Aid Station icing my knee. If I can pull off a similar time to Foresthill in June, I may have a shot at silver.

Here are the deets:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Joanie Bumpus Daffodil 10k

"You go ahead, I'm not going to race it in," Rose said as I began my finishing kick. I could see Western Gateway Park and the finish line of the 2015 Daffodil Run. I had sat on Rose's hip for the duration of the race, as my Garmin had died during the Hotshot Half Marathon the day before. I latched onto her as we passed the first mile split (8:45) and we enjoyed talking about everything from her upcoming Boston Marathon to poison oak remedies.

My legs were weary from the previous day's effort. I ignored the discomfort, shooting for a nice negative split over the out and back course. Makie "Hula Girl" Ohler came back at us, leading the race with young Devon in her pocket. She said afterwards that he tried to back off a few times but she kept him honest, beating him by less than a minute in the end.

Rose and I kept edging the pace up, hitting an 8:15 mile on the home stretch. As we crested the last small hill, she told me to go ahead. I set my sights on a guy who looked like he might be in my age group and reeled him in as I entered the park. About 150 yards from the finish, I hear spectators cheering Rose in as she sprinted to catch me, nipping me at the line by 0.2 seconds. That's the last time I fall for that trick, Rose!

54:20 was a good effort for a rest week with back to back races; I stuck around for the awards because the age group listings had me in third, but they were wrong. I was fourth. Which is fine, I don't need any more medals, just miles ;)

The Gold Country Grand Prix is off to a great start in 2015. I highly recommend you visit the foothills and take in a race this summer.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Hotshot Half Marathon

The Inaugural Hotshot Half Marathon was held at Bullards Bar Reservoir near Camptonville earlier this month. I was able to squeeze it in as a training run a week after American River 50 Mile. The race benefits the Wildlands Firefighters Association and is dedicated in memory of Mike Kelly, a Tahoe Hotshot and Smoke-jumper who was killed when struck by a car in November 2013.

I was excited to run this course; rolling single-track for most of its length, with somewhere north of 2000 feet of gain. Rumor had it that the course was a bit longer than 13.1, which worked well for my training plans for the weekend.

I was surprised to see Bay Area runners Christy and Erica in the parking lot before the race. There was little to no advertising West of the foothills. Turns out Erica had heard about it from someone in Cool, and she was stoked that the results would not be on! I recognized many local runners amongst the throng of firefighters lining up at the start. 

I knew the first three quarters of a mile were downhill on a fire road, and that the next 12 miles would be single track or double track trail. So, I went out fast trying to secure a spot near the front of the conga line. The plan worked pretty well; I passed a few people after hitting the trail and settled in at the front of a group. After three miles, I could tell I was running too fast. My legs painfully reminded me about the fifty miles I had run the previous Saturday. I dialed it back a little bit, and the conga line began cruising by me.

By the time I reached the first aid station, I was in need of a pit stop. Fortunately, the course ran right past an outhouse, which I availed myself of for a couple of minutes. I rejoined the conga line and held onto my spot for the next few miles. My Garmin died somewhere in these miles, and the rest of the race I ran on feel. It was quite freeing to be without the data. Not something I would choose to do.


Around the midway point, the course climbs "7-ball trail". I had heard it gained about 800 feet in one mile, but it ended up being really runnable. Another aid station at the top offered fruit and candy, which I enjoyed before beginning the return trip along the ridge above the lake. The next few miles were wonderful downhill running on easy double track. A few runners passed me looking strong, but for the most part I felt like I was holding my own.

By the time the course rejoined the lake-level trail, I was running low on energy. The last three miles seemed to go on forever. Finally, with three quarters of a mile left, the single track gave way to the fire road and one more big climb to the finish. I ran/walked until I could hear the finish line, and ran it in the rest of the way for a 2:23:59 finish (103/226).

The finish line festival had a small town feel. Loaded baked potatoes and chili were available, along with ice cold water, Gatorade and coconut waters. I hung out for an hour or so, cheering in friends and taking an informal poll of those with GPS watches. Most reported somewhere between 1600 and 2600 feet of gain over 13-14.5 miles. 

Bay Area representing, Christy, me and Erica (photo courtesy of Erica Teicheira)


The race was well organized and executed. The spectators were effusive, filling each campground we ran through. I hope they continue this event, as it benefits a great organization and recognizes the important role wild land firefighters play in our community.