The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or fly fishing but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bear 100 '09

Another year and another 100 mile race. This year was different. As Roger Smith and I would say for the next 27 hours...we are always on time. I had splits but A: it didn't matter because I wasn't going to worry or care if I was fast or slow and B: we hit nearly every split within minutes! It ended up being a super rewarding and dare I say easy(ier)? 100 mile race.

The first climb we just got in line and walked. After several miles I was a bit worried we had started too slow but we had great conversations with the likes of Tom Remkes, RD Bruce Copland, Eric Johnson, and several others. The weather was pleasant although a bit warm. But we just meandered our way up the mountain. 1st aid station was no rush and a few minutes slow but it's a hundred miles so we didn't care. Roger and I ended up running the next 10 miles with Shane Martin which is always a pleasure. We did however begin to noticed a trend that would occur frequently over the next 75 miles and that was passing people who went out too fast.

AS #2 and we were in and out and closing in on AS #3. It was already starting to warm up a bit and so I drank as much as possible. I had a drop bag at AS#3 with another water bottle and some food. Who knew 22 miles would go by so effortlessly? The climb to Cowley is beautiful, remote, and ever so gradual. With the temperature rising I took every opportunity to bath myself in the cool stream which we crossed numerous times. I was still holding back when minutes before the aid station I drank the last of my water. It was perfect timing...literally in fact as we entered the aid station 3 seconds behind schedule! Not a bad prediction for 30 miles. I filled my water bottles with ice and Nuun, ate a bunch of solid foods including stuffing a hand full of pretzels into my pockets, and was off. Roger started to feel a bit queasy over the next section but he kept pace as we motored along. Soon we reached a pivotal junction and noticed a runner far ahead who had missed the turn. We shouted and yelled for 10-12 seconds before the runner heard us and turned around. It was the eventual women's winner Katherine Dowson. However, moments later I felt so good going down into Right Fork that I gaped Roger by the farthest of the race, 2 minutes, as I cruised to AS #5 mile 37.
My wife was there and we took our time changing socks, eating food, and refilling our again empty water bottles. I knew the next section would be bare and hot so I loaded up and off we went. To my frustration I slipped while crossing a stream not 10 minutes from the aid station soaking my right foot. Nothing I could do but keep moving and hope the blisters could be kept at bay. I always hate this next section. It is exposed and miserably hot. I again ran out of water but by drinking at the aid stations and polishing off all my water in between I managed to stay relatively hydrated. Again at Temple Fork my wife was there to greet us and get us what we needed. I didn't need much. After 45 miles I was barely feeling warmed up and off we went. With more shade and being late in the day, it cooled off nicely. Roger started to feel better and soon we were having an emotional experience flying through the mountains. It was great.

Tony's Grove is always a wonderful welcome. It's gorgeous this time of year especially at that time in the evening. As we entered the AS Roger saw Dave Hunt and yelled at him to come run with Dave with that gleam in his eye sprinted to his car, got dressed, grabbed the necessary nutrition, and was sporadically running with us, all in a mere 10 minutes! It was awesome. Dave grandfathered me into ultra running and it was so fun having him along for the next 11 miles. White Pine is incredible. Truly the most beautiful part of the course and with the sun setting it only increased the beauty. I started to feel the effects of running nearly 60 miles at that point but I quickly snapped out of it with Dave and Rogers enthusiasm. Soon we we cruising effortlessly on the long gradual descent to Franklins. We ran with Mike from CO for most of the later half and passed friend Davy Crockett. With flashlights ablazing we entered Franklins AS yelling and hollering with excitement. In 3 minutes I had on a fresh shirt and an overflowing backpack fresh with goodies thanks to my wife and Matt . Dave had left us but Golden Harper was now on pacing duties. With lights and trekking poles (one each) we were continuing onwards. What was a terrible 7 miles in 2008 seemed like a cake walk in '09. We had moved from 36th place to 18th place and there we would stay. It was quiet now but Golden took great care of us despite my stomach turning a bit sour. I barely blinked at the spot I dropped from the race in '08 and as we entered Logan AS to the triumphant musical greeting I smiled at the prospect of what I was doing. Once past that point, the monkey was off my back and I was redeemed. Roger however was gorging himself on the homemade salsa, which after a moments reflection I quickly followed suite.

The temperature finally started to cool down but it didn't effect us. We were in the zone. My feet were getting a little sore but otherwise I felt great. For being only 7.1 miles this section did drag on a bit but entering mile 76 Beaver AS was great. A bustle of activity as Golden, Dave, and soon to be pacers Danny and Brian Tavoian waited on us hand and foot. It was touching to me and a perfect example of what true friendship is. I am indebted to all of them. Roger and I by this point, although wordless, were going to finish together no matter what happened. This experience sealed our friendship, and thankfully we now had 2 pacers to look out for us. I did hit my first major slump leaving Beaver AS. I just got tired and my stomach wanted to know nothing else. We walked up most of the next 5 miles to Gibson AS where I had some of the best soup and watermelon of my life. It hit the spot and we were off. I was feeling great now but I could tell that my feet were breaking down. Roger also struggled a bit through this section but with little hesitation we made it to AS #12 mile 85. Golden and Dave were waiting at 4:45am to help us out.
The next 7 miles were tough. Roger and I yo-yo'ed back and forth with random highs and lows. My blisters blew up and I had to resort to a mere shuffle but on we went to the final aid station Ranger Dip. With the sun coming out and the smell of the finish line before us we didn't wait around long. Neither of us could eat much aside from soup and by this point both of our feet were toast and that technical downhill to finish the race was ridiculously painful. For the first time in the race we slowed down past our goal splits but we didn't care. With friends helping us on and an awesome pregnant wife, we ran the final stretch. It was super emotional for many reasons yet I had overcome and accomplished. Tied for 18th place in a time of 27:25.37 Roger Smith and I crossed the finish line. I was so happy.
Miracously I have recovered so well. Maybe it was giving Geoff Roes a ride back to his car from the finish line that kept the adrenaline flowing, or the incredible grilled trout and shrimp at the finishing BBQ, or maybe it was my new even midsoled "zero drop" shoes, possibly is was the outpouring of love and friendship involved in getting me to the finish line. Regardless, this race just did it for me. It's indescribable but undeniable. The Bear 100 '09 just rocked my world!
Thanks to all the volunteers and race directors, family and friends, congrats to all finishers, may you all hybernate well this winter. Keep fueling the Bear!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Closing in on the Bear

It draws near...100 miles. It's always such an anxious feeling. This year in particular as I have had two tough 100 milers over as many years and without a huge base it makes me a bit unsettled. The nice thing is that I have decided to begin at a very conservative pace. No grandeur goals this year. My tentative splits put me at 27 hrs but that is after a slow start. To achieve that goal I will have to run much of the second half of the race, which by all means I intend to do. 100 milers have a way of forcing you to adapt though.
I do have some interesting plans for shoes, nutrition, hydration, lighting, and a trekking pole (I've become quite fond of using a single trekking pole as of late). We shall see how it all turns out and I'm excited for the challenge.

Competition looks hard to predict. After his huge performance at Wasatch Geoff Roes has to be the standout favorite. Some young relative newcomers Luke Nelson and Nick Pedatella will be in it for 2nd and 3rd but will be tested by none other then The King himself Leland Barker. With so many runners coming from out of state I didn't see too many other standouts. There's probably of few of them out there though. Good luck to all...I know I need more than my share!

Anyone else get excited looking at this?

The Bear!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Uniquely Wasatch 100

This years Wasatch was unique in so many ways yet despite the fact I didn't run it, I feel so much closer to it. It started with the need to get my volunteer work for the Bear 100. I sent an email to the Wasatch race directors and found out that they needed help at the Sessions Lift Off aid station at mile 28.3. I contacted Kent Cravens the aid captain and we were off on quite the off road bumpy journey.

The hype pre-race was huge but when the first runner was spotted in the distance my heart rate sky rocketed. Geoff had made an early move and had several minutes on Meltzer. As I watched them run it shocked me how effortless they ran. The quickness wasn't blatant but they were so relaxed and smooth. It seemed so natural. Frankly I was shocked. The shock only furthered throughout the day as I kept hearing splits and the eventual finishing times! Congrats to those two for going way under record pace while pushing the human body and mind. Incredible. Nearly as impressive were Betsy and Mandy showing us men what true competition and toughness are.

This was only the start for my day as nearly 250 more runners needed attention. I had a blast filling water bottles and shouting hello's to all the runners. When everyone was through Sessions I had nothing to do and tons of extra food so I decided to check out the race at Millcreek. I didn't get there in time to see the leaders but the aid station seemed to need my help and appreciated the extra food. It was great helping out and seeing nearly everyone having great races...Erik, Dave, Peter, Christian, Chad, Phil, Scott K, Roger, Matt, Tom, Davy, Scott M (who ended up wearing my arm warmers from Millcreek to the finish because he somehow didn't pack anything but a light jacket!), and especially friend/student Matt Galland who I would get to pace from Brighton to the finish. Running around getting soup, convincing Neal Gormand that we would need at least arm warmers before Brighton, filling water bottles, taping Chucks feet, grabbing drop bags, etc was more fun then I could have possibly imagined!

Soon I headed off to grab some real food and meet Matt at Brighton. After 14 hours of aid station work I was tired so I took a quick 45 minute nap but it didn't last as I was wired from watching the race all day. So I went in to see most of the above mentioned guys a 3rd time before starting my pacing duties. Matt arrived at 1am and we didn't mess around. After only 10 minutes we were off in good spirits. Matt had taken care of himself all day so I pushed him. Needless to say we passed 14-15 runners for a 27 hr 14 min finish. Matt ran super strong that last 25 and I personally loved every second of it having drawn so much closer to the race.

Congrats to all Wasatch runners and I will hopefully get my name drawn as one of the lucky few to toe the line in 2010. For now the excitement is turning to the Bear 100 as I taper and prepare. Matt's pace was perfect preparation as my goal time is sub-27 hours. Lot's of excitement and anticipation in the Beckstead household. It's my turn next week.

Congrats Matt

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ben Lomond, Mtn Goats, and I...

After a long weekend of work (aka huge Labor Day Sale), I was aching to get out on a nice run. Quite literally actually as I had tweaked my back slepping a kayak around at work. So I hit my favorite trail...Ben Lomond. I went out at a conservative clip but felt solid and just maintained the effort. 45 minutes into the run I realized I hadn't walked a step and still felt great. On a whim I committed myself to running every step of the way.

I wasn't breaking any speed barriers but I was just motoring along with effortless strides under very moderate and comfortable temperatures. As I was nearing the final mile which I knew would be a grunt I looked up to behold a small herd of mountain goats!....then another group...and another! To my dismay I counted nearly 40 goats on the face of the mountain. It was incredible and with the surge of adrenaline it only furthered my determination to run the peak.

Those who have run the peak know what the last mile is like. Torn up trail, steep switchbacks, and on this occasion, mountain goats in every direction. As I neared the summit fatigue set in and the pace slowed but my determination never faltered as I grunted up the final section to what felt like the top of the world. My time to the top: 1:41 via N. Ogden Divide without walking or stopping for a second. I felt great and was quite proud of myself. To my surprise there were 5 more mountain goats feeding not 20 yards away! It was surreal.

The way down was equally impressive as the mountain goats were even closer. I took my time and relaxed making it down in exactly an hour. It's amazing what we have at our disposal along the Wasatch Front. On a side note, I will be manning the Sessions Lift Off aid station this weekend and pacing a buddy the last 25 miles. For those running a huge GOOD LUCK is in order.