Mount Sanitas Fun Run Friday – A Foolish Exercise

“You always have to be the wise guy, eh?  I am going to start calling you Jake…..the village idiot.”

–Frank Guzek, my dad 1987

A blue net hat from a trip to Hawaii somehow made its way from the bottom of the hat drawer and into the living room and I saw it and had the same thought that most anyone would – “I can use that hat to make a kick ass 70s runner costume and run up Mount Santias this Thursday morning!”  Throwback Thursday was born!  Well, my two small kids screwed up my Thursday run so it was pushed back to Friday and so Throwback Thursday died as quickly as it began and Fun Run Friday was born!

Net hat, jorts, tube socks and funny shades. A tradition was born.

And so it began shortly before 6 AM on June 8th 2012 at the base of Mt. Sanitas.  A man in a net hat and jean shorts set out to change the world….that man’s name was me.  My idea was to run up in that outfit every Friday.  I would be like a ghost emerging from the morning mist on Friday and then disappearing as quickly as I came.  I’d be elusive.  Some would doubt my existence.  Others would speak in taverns (in whispered voices only) of their encounters with me.  It would be magical.  Spiritual.  But that first run taught me something.  It taught me that jean shorts chafe.

With that, I knew the strategic vision of this operation needed to change.  Any summit wearing or carrying anything ridiculous was fair game and the more ridiculous the better.  Thus began a weekly ritual of spending Thursday nights running around the house pulling out old clothes and props to assemble something I could run to the top of Sanitas with. I have two rules.  Rule 1 is to wear proper footwear.  I just couldn’t live with myself if I broke an ankle because I tripped in Wonder Woman boots.  Rule 2 is to not be offensive.  I don’t mind if someone thinks running up and carrying a wooden patio chair is a stupid idea (mainly because it’s absolutely a stupid idea), but if people start getting pissed off then it’s just not worth the wigs and morning make up.

Over the weeks I have come to know many familiar faces on the mountain…many of them with horrible fun run ideas such as (keep in mind these ideas were at the height of our very hot summer) Eskimo, snowboarder, scuba diver  and  lumberjack with working chainsaw…..  I suppose when you are at the top of the mountain talking with a guy who just ran up with a tray of drinks and lots of flair, no idea seems off limits. Nevertheless, seeing a good number of people truly get a kick out of it makes me think “yes, it was worth all that time in the basement looking for the George Mikan protective eye glasses in order to pull this costume off” and “that hour with the table saw to make that banner instead of helping my wife with dinner was worth it.”

I’ve learned a lot these last few months running the 1500 vertical feet from my house up to the top of Mount Sanitas with prop or costume every Friday morning.  I’ve learned carrying a wooden patio chair isn’t as hard as it might seem, while being dressed as Atlas and carrying a giant globe is very hard.  Unless they see it in the commercial, most people just think a Snuggie is a long funning looking robe.  Too many people in Boulder can watch a guy run by them in a tie with a briefcase and coffee and not smile.  Dribbling a basketball along a rocky ridgeline trail is a risky endeavor.  If you are carrying some swim noodles and you ask someone if the pool is still at the top, too many will genuinely think you are looking for a pool at the top.  Moses did not carry a Fed Ex package and a volleyball with a red handprint on it, Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway did.  Good friends will run with you, but those who run with you in costume are just as stupid as you.  Treasure them.  Even Jake the village idiot needs friends.

GALLERY 

(click a picture to launch viewer)

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Bear Chase 50 Miler Race Report

It’s not up to men to decide what time they have.  It’s up to men to decide what to do with the time they have been given.

-Gandalf

The finish!

“Just get to mile 1 and see how you feel” is the first thing I told myself when the alarm went off at 4 AM.  Of course the comfy bed would feel preferable to running 50 miles, so I had to make sure I got moving and gave this thing a fair shot before deciding if I wasn’t fit for duty.  So I ate my toast with peanut butter and honey and drove the 45 minutes to Lakewood with the mindset that I was running this race.

I had been sick all week with a low fever and green stuff coming out of my lungs. On race day (and even now 4 days later) I was sporting the fever.  If it was a training weekend I would not have trained, but this was a race weekend, and if I was going to run 50 miles for the first time, it had to be this race.  With the latest addition to our family in February, the first half of the summer was spent doing family things with little training and no racing.  The informal agreement was that in the back half of the summer I could cut my teeth on a few ultra trail runs and walk away from 2012 having raced little, but completed things I’ve never even attempted before.  There are no other 50 mile races left this year within an 8 hour drive of Boulder.  And even if there was, I couldn’t just wait for another race a few months later because training time is a luxury I do not have at the moment.  I spent all my training time funds already and my account balance was at zero.  It had to be this race or no race.  And while I wasn’t thrilled to try my first 50 mile run with Zicam in my drop bag, this was the situation I was in.  And the pain of running 50 miles while not feeling well would be far less than the pain walking around Sunday and not running the 50 miles.  And so I just wanted to get to mile 1 and see.

Mile 1

The race director had the timing dialed in perfectly with the gun going off at 6:30 with just barely enough light to see the trail.  Of course, I was still rooting around in my bag as the race started, but I managed to cross the starting line only a few seconds late.  The first few steps felt good and I started to believe.  If I tried to take a deep breath I would fall into a coughing frenzy, but easy shallow breathing seemed to work, and I definitely felt better than all of my “runs” during the week that disintegrated into dejected walking and even sitting time wastes of crappiness.  So the fact I was running at all was no small accomplishment and a welcomed surprise. When I hit the one mile mark, I knew that unless I injured myself, I was going to finish.  I was above whatever threshold you need to be to run 50 miles (which is part physical and part being mentally deranged I believe).  Normally when I run, to make the effort not seem so bad I hit the one mile mark and say “only 9 more of those and I am done” or “just do that 5 more times and that’s it”.  As I passed 1 mile I said to myself “only 49 more of those and I am done.”  I got a little depressed and I stopped playing that game.  49 of anything is too many.

The course was fairly tame with only one signification climb on each of the four loops with 3400 feet of total elevation. I settled in with a group of guys running just under a 9 minute mile pace.

Traveling in a pack at mile 5

It felt easy and comfy. It’s hard to believe that you could say a 9 minute mile might be too fast, but I was worried it might be too fast!  It’s pretty hard to assess how the steps you are taking now might impact you 9 hours later.  Overall I felt good and sucked throat lozenges in between aid stations and occasionally hacked up goofy stuff that had made its way into my throat.  The main thing was that I was “good enough” to race and I wasn’t going to squander this chance.

Eventually I found myself at the back of a train led by a fairly fit looking lady and I figured that was a good spot.  Women generally seem to have the best sense of pacing.  Maybe they don’t have quite the bravado and ego that men do?  Either way, judging by her calves, I could tell this was someone I should not be passing and she helped the last miles of loop 1 fly by.  I hit the start/finish of the 12.5 mile first lap in 1:52.  I was definitely ahead of schedule.

Loop two was much of the same except now the 50K folks were on the course.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on and the first few people I passed I was thinking “how in the world did that guy out run me the first lap!?!?”  I hit the significant climb at the midway point of the lap and on the way down is when I felt the first signs of a fatigue.  I was about 18 miles in and I still felt good, but the battle was beginning in earnest now.

Just after the descent there are 3 stream crossings which made it……interesting.  Some chose to go a little down the stream to try to hop across on rocks but most just blasted in.  I blasted in and took a brief moment to splash my head, arms and legs.  Refreshing!  Then of course it was a couple miles of squishy running.  I hit the 25 mile halfway mark in 3:58.  Based on time I was doing great, but I was way more tired at this point than I planned to be so I had to “adjust” some expectations going forward.

.

Really? More stream crossings?

I knew going in that the 3rd loop would be the hardest.  I can’t tell myself “last lap”.  It’s not an out and back so I can’t say “ok, headed for home!”  The lap covers miles 25 – 37.5 which aren’t close enough to home to be motivating, but are enough miles to be exhausting.  So I took a good 5 minute walk break to kick it off and didn’t pressure myself to run a certain pace or try to avoid any walk breaks.  I just tried to move forward while taxing myself as little as possible.  And that sounds good and all, but it still felt like crap!  My pace slowed considerably and I finish loop three at 6:44 total time with a 2:45 lap split.  The one thing going in my favor was that I had absolutely no chaffing, blisters, sunburn, corns, calluses, bunions, Ebola, elephantitis of the face, shingles, weak stream, whooping cough or paper cuts.  I fully expected that sort of “collateral damage” to be the hardest part of the race.  But other than a small blister on my foot that didn’t even hurt until mile 49 I was entirely free of all those things which was HUGE.

For the last lap I switched my watch over to total distance instead of lap distance, mainly because I thought it was cool to see 40+ miles on it.  Barring a catastrophe I was going to safely beat any cutoff times, so my goal was just to cover the last miles while not putting myself at risk for any type injury or circumstance that would jeopardize the finish.  It seems silly to have covered 45 miles, but still question if you can cover the last 5, but a finish still seemed in doubt up until seeing the finishing chute.  It wasn’t just about muscular fatigue. My joints hurt.  My bones hurt.  I had this fear that something would just stop working and I’d crumple into a heap on the side of the trail.  Towards the end I was doing about the same amount of walking as running and I was really really tired.  A few times I just stopped and put my hands on my knees just to give my quads a break for a few seconds.  I did not dare sit because if I sat I knew that I would probably not stand again for a very long time.

Lap 3 mile 30. Let the pains begin!

At mile 49 a guy passed me and asked if I needed anything.  He asked if I wanted to run with him and finish together. I told him to just go on ahead and run his race and that I’d be fine.  He apologized for passing me!  I said, “look dude, this race! Passing people is exactly what you are supposed to do. No apology is needed.”  As he pulled away I started thinking of an Ironman a few years ago where towards the end of the bike leg a guy pulled in front of me an proceeded to take a leak and spray me and other cyclist as well as spectators.  Never mind that in two minutes he’d be in a changing tent with bathrooms.  The guy was too “completive” to waste time in a bathroom so he chose to piss on people.  And here was this fellow in a trail run apologizing for passing me.  It’s certainly not an absolute that tri folks are jerks and trail folks are great, but there is absolutely a different vibe at these races.  There is much more of a “we are in this together” mentality instead of “hey, there is a guy in a red shirt…..I am going to take a leak on him!”  And that’s pretty cool.

There is a quad pounding downhill just before the finish that went something like this “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”  And then as I rounded a corner  I saw the most glorious thing I had seen all day…..the finish!  I was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction that I haven’t experienced in a while.  I can’t think of the last race I started where I truly wasn’t sure if I could finish.  Chasing the finish line instead of chasing seconds here and there is an altogether different experience.  And given the last 7 months with the endless sleepless nights dealing with an infant, the stress and busyness of a new life with two small kids, the uncertainty with sickness and injury leading up the race, I had truly reached the finish line of a long, hard and unpredictable journey.  And I was pretty happy about that.

9 hour 43 minute finish.

Loop 1 1:52

Loop 2 2:06

Loop 3 2:46

Loop 4 2:58

Results: http://www.hallucinationsports.com/event/show/27817391#/person:&entry_id=48:1349284740162

Mt. Werner Classic 50K Trail Run – Steamboat Springs

This was to be the longest I had ever run and I was a little underprepared going into the race.  I had been running consistently and enjoying a steady diet of big mountain runs, but not nearly the distance needed to set up a good race, particularly when the distance was a new frontier for me.  Life with a 2.5 year old and a newborn at home makes getting in the miles a little harder than it used to be.  I signed up a month before the race, did some crash training which built to a 20 mile run 2 weeks before the race and left the rest to my willingness to suffer to get me through.  And this course was no cakewalk with 6,000 feet of elevation and most miles ticking by at over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Things got off on the wrong foot before the race even started. Maxon was not very comfortable in his “new bed” where we were staying and was up 3 times during the night with the real dagger being the 4:30 AM wake up where I wasn’t able to get back to sleep after paying him a visit.  Cooper wasn’t happy either waking twice in the first 30 minutes we turned the lights off to sleep which eventually led me down to sleep on the couch.  6 hours of broken sleep wasn’t what I was looking for!  But that’s life with kids.

Mt Werner Run Profile

Just over 60 competitors gathered at the base of the ski resort for a cool morning start.  I was reminded of how chill the trail running race vibe is compared to triathlon. The course goes up nearly 4,000 feet in the first 9.5 miles so if you didn’t have that second cup of coffee, you were in trouble.  The course crisscrosses the ski trails while it works its way up the mountain which was pretty cool.  I never knew there were trails under all the snow!  I was hanging in around 15th place all the way up and was feeling pretty good.  The only issue I had was trying to eat and drink.  The sustained effort and high elevation had me breathing hard and my stomach wasn’t interested doing any work to process what I was putting in there. I got to the 9.5 mile aid station at the top of the climb at the 2 hour mark and settled into the 6.5 rolling section out to the turn around at Long Lake which hovered between 10,000 feet and 10,700 feet.  This section was awesome.  The trees and elevation kept things cool and the views were great.  The trail was really runnable and a welcomed change from the first 2 hours of climbing.

I hit the turnaround at mile 16 about 25 minutes behind the leader (which I was thrilled about) at 3:05 into the race.  With 3,500 elevation loss going home I had visions of breaking 6 hours dancing in my head.  I ran well the next few miles getting a push from some mountain bikers who opted to ride behind me instead of passing me because I was running a “good pace”.  I felt pressured to keep my foot on the gas!  Around mile 20 some fatigue started to set in, but I wasn’t too concerned since the last 9 miles were all downhill.  “Just get to the aid station at mile 23 and you are home free!” I was telling myself.  I knew I was going to break 6 hours and I kept looking at my watch as each mile ticked away thinking “if you can average 10 min miles the rest of the way, you’ll break 6”.  And how could I NOT do that given it was all downhill??

Here’s how.

I took a few small spills while closing in on the mile 23 aid station as my brain and body were having a harder and harder time working together.  The legs were getting heavy.  After passing the aid station and beginning the descent in earnest, a pretty fresh looking fellow caught me and we chatted and I was trying to pace off him.  Again, I took another tumble, this one more serious.  I wasn’t significantly injured, but I was scraped and I smashed my calf against a rock.  After a few minutes I was running again, but it was clear now that I was breaking down a bit and had to be a little more strategic about covering the last 8 miles. I reached down for some Gatorade and realized I lost my water bottle and my gel flask in the fall which amounted to all the calories I had.  It wasn’t a death blow, but problems were starting to compound making things a little less fun.

The descent was relentless and I progressively got worse as I went.  I wasn’t expecting the downhill to take it out of me the way it was, but some of these sections were brutal to run down.  I don’t know how many times I fell or almost fell but it was really pissing me of!  A few people started to trickle by me and it was clear who the experienced trail runners were and who was the rookie cutting his teeth (as well as some of his skin) on the slopes of Steamboat.  The 6 hour mark came and went and I didn’t really care.  I slipped down to 23rd place and crossed the line at 6:20.  Even with the struggles at the end, crossing the finish of something I’ve never done before is extremely satisfying.  I woke up as someone who had never run a 50K, but I will go to bed as someone who has.  Of course I wanted to finish stronger, but I knew going in that my prep would likely put me in a real challenging spot down the stretch so I’m not too upset about it.  I’m glad it was really hard.  I’d hate to have done all that and not feel like I learned a little about myself….and what I learned was you can fall a lot when you are tired!

http://www.runningseries.com/sites/ssrs.signup4races.com/files/u4/mwc50k_-_preliminary_race_results_08.04.12_1.pdf

Family part of the trip.

Mount Sanitas Summit x 5

Sanitas Run Profile

I made the mistake of noting my start and stop time on a run to the top of Mount Sanitas a few months ago. Of course then each subsequent run had to the beat the time from before. And then it wasn’t just a “sometimes” run, it was a weekly run. And then I was running it twice a week. I hit the internet to see if I could find out what a “good” time to the top actually was and I landed on this site (http://www.wwwright.com/climbing/speed/sanitas.htm) which lists nearly every permutation of conquering that mountain you could come up with. Shortly after realizing my times paled in comparison to the fastest time, I saw someone had run five loops to the top and back. I was instantly drawn to it and a quick text and response from David Glover gave me a running buddy. The game was on.

We were off on the wrong foot when the forecast predicted sustained winds from the west up to 50 mph with gusts up to 100 mph (http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_19327805?IADID=Search-www.dailycamera.com-www.dailycamera.com) . And of course our ascent was on a westward facing ridge. However, as we headed out around 8, the conditions were only moderately breezy. Our course was up the west ridge approaching from the south and heading back down and home on the north side/valley trail. My initial goal was 5 hours leaving 1 hour per loop, but I thought 4:30 was possible. The climb up Sanitas is steep and rocky with endless 2-3 foot step ups and virtually no place to recover. You go 1300 feet up over 1.2 miles and 1.8 miles down and home.

That will be our summit 5 times today

The first two ascents weren’t that big of a deal (25:05/25:40 mins) and we decided to reverse direction on the 3rd loop and head up the valley floor. It was on this loop that I felt the onset of the will to aggressively cover the course beginning to slip away. This direction was a longer way up and took us 30 minutes which was still a good time, but we both knew we were going to be entering the pain zone soon.
It was about this time Mother Nature delivered in earnest on her predicted winds. The wind was literally blowing me over boulders on the descent and I was aggressively hitting the breaks for fear of being launched like a champagne cork down the trail. It did make for our fastest time down from the summit though despite a number of near wipeouts.

The 4th ascent may have been the hardest because it wasn’t the last and the wind was at its worst. I was leaning in at a 45 degree angle digging in like a lineman pushing a tackling dummy just to make any progress at all. Periodically a gust would come along and stand me straight up and back on my heels. Just as quickly, the wind would shift directions and blow me across the path. This was quite unnecessary for quads that were already being pushed to their limit. Later in the day when I took a shower I was washing dirt and pieces of leaves out of my ears that had been blown in there.

Lap 4 Summit

I struggled to keep up with the Glover, but managed to hang in and we submitted in 26:46 which I was pretty happy about given how we felt. The runs down were getting particularly tricky now as they were very technical (and neither of us are skilled) and the fatigue had set in on our legs in earnest. Upon finishing lap number 4 I realized not only should we beat 4:30, we had a chance to go under 4 hours for the run. My quads attempted to protest any time goals, but my brain (at rest anyway) was all for it.

The spring in my step was long since gone and the initial stages of climb 5 had me questioning the rational for doing 5 loops. Whereas overtaking someone on the trail was normally a mental boost, I was now dreading it because I feared a total collapse at any moment and absolutely embarrassment as I crawled into the fetal position in front of someone I just passed on the trail. Right around the halfway mark I had to take my first break and take about 5 seconds and regroup. Glover was strong and I sort of yo-yoed from right behind him to 10 yards back over the next few minutes until I could see the summit about 5 minutes away. I told myself “no more stopping” but several thousands 1 legged squats hoisting my 200lb carcass up this mountain caught up with me and all screamed at once to “stop!”. After one last 5 second recovery I vowed to keep going to until I was at the top. Several minutes later I tapped the lap button on the watch at the summit in 27:46 and collapsed in exhaustion on rock that had been my friend 4 other times today.
Glover and I snapped a quick picture and then headed down the trail. Sub 4 was easily in our grasp, but smiles turned concern as wobbly legs led to a face plant by Glover. Bruised and scraped, but not broken, he walked it off and again sub 4 was ours. But one final test came when I completely bonked hard with .25 miles to go. I was fine, then out of nowhere my legs buckled, eyes fogged over and it was like my head was a balloon and someone just let the air out. After about 30 seconds I ran again and with some sense of urgency….sub 4 was nearly slipping away. We managed to make it in 3:58 but I had to walk most of the mile home because I was flat out out of gas. I’ve never fueled for an event quite like this with its hard/easy thing and I obviously didn’t do it right.

I felt like absolutely crap for a couple hours, but some food and a short nap had me right as rain…rain that walks with a slight limp, a bit of a grimace and drinks a Red Bull to make it through the rest of the day, that is.

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 3:58:50.2 14.44 16:32.5
1 -up 25:04.2 1.20 20:54.8
2 -down 20:42.9 1.69 12:14.1
3 -up 25:20.7 1.20 21:08.8
4 -down 20:21.8 1.79 11:24.4
5 -up 30:48.9 1.78 17:17.9
6 -down 17:20.6 0.84 20:42.3
7 -up 26:46.7 1.20 22:13.5
8 -down 20:48.4 1.75 11:54.2
9 -up 27:46.5 1.18 23:30.0
10 -down 23:49.2 1.81 13:10.0