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!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Random Christmas Post

I didn't wish for too much this Christmas but I wished for and expect to have the best year of running ever! I received some luck from the lottery gods for 2013.  So far I got into Boston Marathon, Miwok 100k AND Devils Backbone 50.  I also expect to get into Wasatch 100 with two tickets in the lottery. After pacing two years in a row to 23:40, my training begins this weeks to achieve the same time.  Having run Cascade Crest 100 in 23:40 earlier this year it seems like the magic number for me!

I'm looking to expand my racing into different avenues.  I'm excited to get two long time bucket list races off the list for 2013.  I seem to get 2 races added for every one I check off but there are many things to do...

On my run the other night I figured out the problem to life...I need more running!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lottery Mania 2013...apps are in.

As I was filling out my Wasatch 100 application today I was giddy.  However, as I was filling out my Hardrock 100 application, my heart sunk.  My Hardrock app needed to be in yesterday.  Very upset about that.  I rebounded by putting my Wasatch application in the mail as well as the Devils Backbone 50 which should give me a rugged experience.  I have now submitted apps for the following races:

Miwok 100k
Western States 100
Devils Backbone
Wasatch 100

Still thinking about putting in for UTMB...and I'll surely do a couple more races.  I also have plans to complete the double Boston Marathon again as well as another stab at the Uintah Highline Trail.  I definitely think I'll need to train for this next years schedule! We will see over the next 2 months what the lottery gods think...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

2013 Racing plans...already

Having come off of multiple races over a brief time period, my body is finally feeling normal.  Not normal enough to train but enough to be longing for next years racing season.  It looks to be fairly aggressive but one of the most exciting and diverse years I've ever had!

Races I'm putting in for:

April- Boston Marathon Double
May- Miwok 100k
June- Western States/San Juan Solstice
July- Hardrock/Devils Backbone
August/Sept- UTMB/Wasatch
October- Antelope Island 100k

Ideally my schedule would be Miwok, San Juan Solstice, Hardrock, UTMB.  But we will see how the lottery gods pan out this year!  There will probably be 1 or 2 smaller races I plug into the schedule for fun but we shall see.  I've got 6 months of dreams...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shinetsu 110k Race Report

Short Version-
An amazing race through Japanese mountains and forests with forays into the pain cave, extreme heat and humidity, vomiting, intense fatigue, cramps, and other masochistic fun.  Finished 54th out of 600 starters in a time of 15 hrs 47 min.
Plenty of Japanese Altramaniacs.  Seriously, Altra's were everywhere!
 Really Long Version-
One of the perks of my job is traveling around the world promoting Altra.  I have a Japanese distributor who has done very well with the product as the Japanese love low profile foot shaped shoes.  Altra has been a smash hit in Japan!  Takashi, my distributor, has been inviting me to Japan for 8 months.  Finally he begged saying that he really wanted me to come run a race in Japan and spend a week traveling around the country promoting Altra.  I looked at my schedule (his number), thought about it, and said YES!  Check out Altra Japan
Going over race plans and course with the locals.
The race happened to be the Shinetsu 110k, one of the most popular and difficult ultra's in the country.  Even though it was 3 weeks after Cascade Crest 100 I thought I would be fine and looked forward to the challenge.  The weekend came quickly and after pacing at Wasatch 100, I had an ankle that was still not recovered after running Corner Canyon 50k, Cascade Crest 100, and pacing Wasatch 100 in 4 weeks.  Shinetsu would practically be my 4th ultra in 5 weeks.  I was a little worried and went to my PT/Chiro/masseuse/magician Dr Eric Brady 2 days before flying out and 4 days before the race.  Dr Brady is amazing.  If you live in Utah County and need something fixed, he is the man!
Standing Banquet and Pre-Race Meal
Enthusiastic Taiko Drummers
I'd never been to an Asian country and was excited to experience Japan on several levels.  I arrived with my ankle and spirits feeling good.  I was immediately treated royally by Takashi and Manabu my hosts.  The night before the race was a carnival of people, drums, food, and race preparation excitement.  I loved it. Only 1 other non-Japanese runner was in the race that I was aware of, Justin Angle.  Patagonia athlete and super-stud, we chatted about how different the culture was but the same ultra-vibe.  As a business and marketing professor we had a great conversation about how Altra got started by 3 guys in our 20's from a basement in Utah.

Many Japanese runners approached me testing their English, which typically was very poor, but the smiles and bows made me feel like I knew every word they were speaking.  The Japanese ultra community has been very receptive to our concepts and there were people wearing Altra's all over!  It was so much fun seeing people from halfway around the world wearing my shoes!  When the excitement died down, I headed to bed.  Prep'd and ready to go I toe'd the start line.

Game face
600 runners and over a 1000 volunteers
The first few miles of an ultra seem to always fly by.  This one was no different.  We hiked up a ski slope and started a circumnavigation of the first of 5 mountains.  It was a beautiful trail that went through rice fields, 10 foot high grass, and old growth forests.  After 5-6 miles my stomach wasn't feeling so good.  Very unusual so early in a race at such an easy pace.  I took a gel at mile 7 and within 30 seconds found myself on the side of the trail pucking my guts out.  Not the best start...but I immediately felt better and continued on. Eating extremely different food the two days before an ultra is not a great idea...

This picture was taken at 5:50am...the sun was up and 75 degrees
Beautiful early section of trail
I loved the next section as we turned straight up the mountain.  This would be the steepest section of the course and I felt at home.  The forest had a high altitude tropical feel.  One minute I felt I was in Park City and the next I felt I was in Hawaii.  Very cool.  Up and down I was feeling good and moving well.  I was in-and-out of the first major aid station at mile 14 and running through incredible single-track.  It was 8am in the morning and I was sweating profusely.  I couldn't believe how hot it was already.  I decided that I would back off a bit as it was early and I had already lost some liquid at mile 7.

Up and over mountain #2 I found myself on a long dirt road that I didn't like.  The footing was horrible and I longed for the beautiful singletrack we had left a few miles back.  There would be 3-4 long dirt road sections on this course that were just brutal.  They don't use gravel but instead used rocks ranging from the size of a marble to that of a baseball and everything in-between.  My ankle started to hurt.  We came out of the forest through a little town.  The low point of the course, hotter than Hades, and spectacularly beautiful with small Japansese cottages, farms, and mountains in every direction.

Cooling off!
Still Smiling...
Aid Station #3 was a welcome sight.  I soaked the body, drank some water, and was off.  Within 2 miles I was in trouble.  It was 10am and in the high 80's with 90% humidity.  I didn't know my body was capable of sweating that much.  I was still moving but the heat was really getting to me.  Aside from heavy legs and tired body, I felt ok.  I was eating, ankle/knee felt fine, feet felt great, but I just couldn't move very fast.  At 40km/25m I was already tired.  Soon I was out of water.  I also stumbled upon Justin who sadly was done for the day.  I wished him the best and kept moving.  Coming to the 52km aid station was a relief.  Takashi and crew went to work cooling me off and getting me to drink.  I also took an additional hand-held for the next sections.  I left with a rejuvenated mood.
Oh yeah!
I was now going through another ski resort which had planted acres and acres of flowers.  There were tourists riding the ski lift looking at me like I was crazy (yet to be proven!).  It was surreal as the flowers seemed to go on for miles.  Finally they ended as I was heading up another horrible dirt road.  The hi's and low's seemed to be rather close and I went to another low.  I decided to focus on nutrition and ignore the several runners who were able to run by me.  It was a 5k climb that seemed to last forever.  Soon it leveled out and turned onto a technical single-track.  My energy was coming back, probably due to my eating and drinking on the climb, and I re-passed everyone who had passed me on the climb.  It was the best I'd felt all day.  There was a VERY steep decline and incline that was brutal but I seemed to thrive.  We ended up in an old growth forest that was a perfect trail.  I was buzzed and loving it.  It lasted all the way to the next aid station nearly 5 miles away.  I passed a dozen runners and was smiling all the way.  The subtle differences of terrain seemed to accentuate the feeling.  I'm not good enough with the English language to describe these differences but it was stunning scenery running through old Japanese forests, fields, and pathways.

Coming into the Aid Station
I swear I drank a bathtub of water...and was still dehydrated.
At the 67km mark I hit my crew with smiles.  I felt great.  I swapped bottles, socks, and shoes feeling really good about the next 40km. The Superiors continue to impress but I swapped to Lone Peaks for the last 43km for additional protection. However like the day was going, the fun wasn't there to stay.  On a long climb at the 70km mark it all came crashing back down (they had signs every 10km telling you how far you had gone!).  It was another long exposed dirt road and I was drained.  I didn't even know what was wrong aside from I could barely move.  The heat seemed to sap everything away.  I plotted along as best I could.  I definitely seem to thrive on single-track as after a couple miles I was back climbing up the most remote overgrown part of the course.  I think I'm more comfortable in this terrain and I think its cooler temperature.  It was apparent that I was not prepared for the heat/humidity.

I gained momentum on the climb and cresting the top was now in the shadows on the east side of the mountain.  Again I was feeling better and moving well.  Several of these sections were severally rutted and overgrown with mossy roots but I loved it.  I came down to a lovely lake at dusk with bugs buzzing everywhere and silhouetted mountains in the background.  It looked like it was from a movie.  I was not flying but still running well.  I seemed to be in no-mans land seeing almost no other runner for miles.  I passed two runners through here but saw no-one else. 
Typical terrain and view of the course
One highlight was an ancient shine with thousands of tourists.  We ran about 1/2 mile dodging tourists to then see this amazing site.  I'll need to research more about the place but a sharp left turn took me away from the crowd and shine.  It was on a wooden pathway through old growth forests.  Beautiful.  Suddenly several runners appeared both ahead and behind me.  Having seen nobody for hours the pressure was now on...and I was tired.  I pushed into the last aid station with the group.  My crew gathered around giving me Coke and chips.  18km left.  I gathered what I could and left too quickly.

Sunset in Japan
Mustering the courage to leave the last major aid station
Within minutes I had to turn my headlamp on.  There was a huge climb to the hi-point of the course.  I was dead set on distancing myself from those behind and taking in the 3 runners that were within minutes of me.  I powered up the hill the best I could.  It kept going and going.  Finally at the top I stopped to adjust my laces and cramped up fiercely.  I had to sit down for 3-4 minutes watching what was a couple close lights bound away.  As I got up and started down the mountain, I was struggling terribly.  My ankle was trashed, I was dizzy, cramping, tired, and I just couldn't get a rhythm going.  With 10km left I was a mess.  I found myself walking into the next aid station where I sat for 20 minutes hyperventilating and trying to pull myself together.

I drank 4-5 glasses of soup (they had water, soup, and chips...nothing else at this last little outpost).  I was four miles from the finish and DEAD!  After watching 10 people pass by, I started walking.  Desperate to finish and just plan tired I walked for over a mile.  Slowly I increased the speed and was slowly running.  I vowed to let nobody else pass me.  Soon I saw a light ahead.  I was re-passing someone!  Within a mile left I was giving it all I had and managed to pass 2 more people.  The last mile was coasting down the mountain.  I knew the finish was close and pushed all the way down the mountain.
Triumphantly Done!!
I had finished.  Worn out primarily by the heat, fatigued from travel, and too much racing on not enough base but I had finished.  54th place (600 starters) 15 hours and 47 min.  It wasn’t my goal finishing time but I left everything I had on the course.  The experience as a whole was quite incredible.  Amazing course, more volunteers then ANY US race (they had people at every turn..yes, every turn!), better organized then any US race, more festival like then but still a good ole fashion ultra feeling.  Thank you to the volunteers, my gracious hosts, and Altra Japanese supports.  I hope to come back soon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Getting Prep'd in Japan- Shinetsu 110k

So I am in Japan getting ready for the Shinetsu 110k ultra marathon.  The real reason I'm in Japan is because the Japanese love Altra but the benefit is that I get to race while I'm here!

In 5 weeks I will have raced a 50k, 100 miler, paced Wasatch 100, and now a 110k.  With as little base as I have, its a bit much.  My right knee and ankle are sore from a rotated Fibia but other then that I am feeling great and ready to race.   I'm hoping to go under 13 hours and place top 20.  Takashi, my host, will be crewing me in what looks to be a tough, beautiful, yet runnable 69 mile stroll through the mountains of Japan.  I'm aware of 3 Americans who have run this race over the years, including Krissy Moehl.  Its become one of the most popular ultra's in Japan and is a UTMB qualifier.  I'll report back next week on how it goes....
36 hrs before the race I'm getting as much food as possible...
Squid, cow tongue, octopus, cow tendon, pork intestines, and lots of sushi!!!
 Altra ad in Japan!
 My hosts Takashi and Manabu
 Looking out on the course from my hotel room.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wasatch 100 2012 pacing

For the 6th straight year I found myself at Wasatch 100.  This year I was pacing Roger Smith from Brighton to the finish.  Roger really wanted a sub 24 in his 7th Wasatch.  As I headed up to Brighton looking at his splits it wasn't looking good.  It was great seeing long time friends and meeting some new ones as I hung out at Brighton.  Rogers splits had him there at 9:45pm but his estimated arrival at Brighton was 10:55pm after leaving Scotts....sub-24 out of reach.  However, at 10:40pm he stormed in shouting out orders.  He was in and out in mere minutes.  As we started up the mountain he looked at me very seriously and said "We are running a sub-24.  OK?!  I can do this."

I was doubtful.  Leaving Brighton at 10:44pm I didn't know anyone who had left that late and still made it.  But I thought I would push him to see how close we could get.  He simply told me "I'll do anything you questions asked.  Just get me there before 5am."  So we pushed it...HARD.  I honestly didn't think he could hold it.  From Brighton to Ant Knolls in 73 minutes.  His drop bag at Pole Line he ignored and left within 20 seconds after arrival.  He didn't stop at Rock Springs.  As we were leaving, I was blown away by his perseverance, but we were still on the bubble.  However, he finally had me believing!  I wouldn't let him talk...everytime he said something I would tell him "if you can talk, you can run.  Shut up and run!" 

We stormed down the Plunge and the Dive picking out headlamps and picking them off one by one.  Heading into Pot Bottom, he was doing sub 7 minute miles!  As we pulled into Pot Bottom I smiled...we had plenty of time!  Rogers GPS had died and he had no idea how much time he had left.  I didn't let him know, but kept pushing him.  As we hit the singletrack 2 miles from the finish I called the family.  Roger still didn't know how much time he had left and was pushing with everything he had.  Over the phone I told his family and him, that he was going to be a Cheetah!  He was emotional over the next mile and coasted to the finish in a time of 23 hours and 42 minutes.  13th Place.

He ran the last 25 miles in 6 hours flat!  It was amazing to behold.  23:40 is now my new magic number.  After pacing Ben Corrales last year to 23:39, running Cascade Crest 100 in 23:40, and now pacing Roger Smith to a 23:42!  I'm sensing a trend! Next year should be my turn at Wasatch...

Congrats to Roger and all other Wasatch 100 finishers!  Magical race.

Thursday, August 30, 2012