So theWife sends me a harmless text today asking me to remind her to tell me something.
Which begs the question: why not just type a reminder to yourself in the phone instead of typing a text to me in the phone to remind you to tell me something? But that is neither here nor there.
She also asked if I’d go to the grocery store for her. To which me – being a recent father of twins and all that comes with that including…how shall we say…a prolonged time off – responded (below in blue):
She said “lots.”
With an exclamation point!
To which I responded with this (again, below in blue):
To which she responded with this:
Nothing. Crickets. Text silence.
I took it too far didn’t I?
I’m not looking forward to the drive home tonight. Well, not so much the drive as the “errand” on the way.
Here’s the text exchange between theWife and I this afternoon:
For a minute there I thought I had wriggled out of it.
She didn’t buy it.
Things only got worse from there:
Most days I am just so glad I am a boy.
Today is not most days.
Did Not Finish (DNF).
Okay, that may be a bit melodramatic. There are worse acronyms.
DOA, SOL, GOP – all infinitely worse than DNF.
But for an endurance athlete (again, I use that term loosely) having those three letters show up next to your name on the results page of any race is disheartening. Especially a race you were all geeked about.
So what happened at Pierre’s Hole? Nothing.
I had nothing from the word go. After twenty-five miles still nothing. No spark. No passion. No energy.
I’ve said it before, the mantra for endurance events is “no matter how you feel now, it’s gonna change”. As such, I kept going, hoping the lifeless feeling would eventually morph into something better. But as the miles ticked by…30…35…45…I never felt better. By mile 45 I was spending more time off the trail than on it while letting other racers pass. So at the end of lap two – mile 50 – I stepped off the trail and laid down on the grass. When theWife asked what I needed, I responded:
“I just need to lay here and ponder the meaning of life for a bit.”
And then slowly I slipped into a depressingly deep state of introspection.
It was only my fourth DNF in 10 years of endurance events. I’ve bailed on the Wasatch 100 twice and missed the time cutoff at the Butte 100 – but in none of those did I feel so desperately at a loss.
When I dropped at Pierre’s there were maybe twenty people from the Draper crew milling about. As time passed, I sat there two feet from the race course I had previously suffered on…pondering. Until at long last, it was just me. Sitting in a camp chair. Alone.
At one point I looked down and noticed I was wearing only one shoe – the other I must have pulled off earlier in the day. I hadn’t remembered removing it. If you were a stranger passing by you might have thought I was a lost, homeless, single-shoed mountain biker. We all know the scene in endurance event documentaries – you know the one, as racers still speed by there sits the one who dropped – his face solemn and forlorn. Wondering what might have been. What went wrong.
Yep. That was me.
Truthfully, for about a month leading up to the race I had felt the same way on training rides…lifeless. As I puzzled about what might be wrong with me , I thought seriously whether I was really sick. Was something terminally the matter? Did I have a tumor? (right now theWife is reading this, rolling her eyes and saying you are SO extreme. hi Wife!).
No. Nothing was wrong with me. Well, other than I eat like a glutton, train like a couch potato, and have too many balls in the air.
I am officially losing the battle with busy.
But sitting in that camp chair on that lonely August Saturday in Wyoming I wasn’t just thinking about the DNF at Pierre’s. No. No, on that day I sank much deeper into the recesses of regret.
I thought about the training plan I had worked up late in 2010 to prepare for a killer race year in 2011…DNF.
I thought about the disciplined diet I’d hoped to maintain leading up to and through the big races of the year…DNF.
I thought about the lawn I was going to mow before leaving for Pierre’s…DNF.
I thought about the horrific mess in the garage I’d promised theWife five years ago (and every year since) that I’d clean up…DNF.
I thought about that side business I’ve been wanting to start for the last two years…DNF.
I thought about the journals I wanted keep about my daily interaction with my sons (the same journals I’ve been meaning to keep for seven years now)…DNF.
I thought about visiting my best friends dad before he passed away from stomach cancer…DNF.
I thought about dying.
And wondering – when that day eventually comes – what my life list of DNFs will look like then.
Busy is a brutal tyrant. It can rob us of things in life that are infinitely more important.
On that Saturday in August, I learned a priceless lesson in life…enough really is enough. If it isn’t, we all risk missing out on what really matters most during our short time here.
So it’s one month later and I am still not winning my battle with busy – life has become even more hectic. But, I’ve lost ten pounds since I dropped out of Pierre’s and am eager to give the Park City Point to Point race hell on Saturday (although we all remember how that worked out for me last year).
But more importantly than the race, I’m paying more attention to what is really important and working on shortening that final list of regretted DNFs.
Life is short…don’t DNF.
P.S. by far, the highlight of Pierre’s Hole was seeing our good friend Brandon “Evil” Banks cross the finish line after 15 hours in the saddle. Brandon went through two years of endurance race DNFs before finishing (and completely destroying) three of the toughest races in the region this year. Brandon taught me another great life lesson that August day…how to persevere. Nice work Evil and thanks for the lesson.
So the title of this post is, um…interesting.
But for those of you prepping to race the 50 or 100 mile version of the Pierre’s Hole MTB race next Saturday, the title holds significant meaning – race course beta.
Let me start by saying I don’t think there is a purdier race route out there – it’s definitely the most amazing scenery I’ve raced in.
So the plan for today, was to solo the full 25 mile loop and send back recon data to the Suncrest crew. That was until I noticed on the following note updated on the race site yesterday:
“if you see the grizzly, ride faster. she has two cubs.”
So much for that solo idea. Considering the bear bugaboo, I opted to start my ride at the Teton Canyon parking lot (aid station #2 @ about mile 5.5). This puts you at the base of the first major climb of the race. This climb is a lot like South Suncrest – gradual 6-8% grade up about 1,100 feet in 3 miles to the Dry Creek turn off.
On race day, the course descends the pine covered ridge in the middle of the image below and then ascends the winding pavement.
The descent down the Dry Creek double track is going to be fast with good potential for chaos. There are some tricky rut sections that sneak up on you at high speeds – I almost kissed a lodgepole pine at 25 mph on the way down. Keep your speed in check here, especially on the first lap.
Below is a shot of the descent down Dry Creek Ridge.
Once you roll down Dry Creek you come to Heslin Ranch – an amazing piece of property tucked up in the foothills. This is private property, but the owners are part of the trail council and welcome racers on race day with food and a sprinkler shower to cool off. With this not being race day I wondered how they’d feel about an unexpected guest in tights. I rolled onto the property and made my way up to the ranch house and barn area. The scene was bucolic, but eerily quiet. As I rode towards the barn a sheep dog trotted out friendly enough with a brief glance my way, then made off after realizing a fat guy in spandex posed little threat. I started to roll into the barn when out galloped a young black colt – “holy crap” I thought, “I’ve let their horse out of the barn…how the hell did I do that!?”
I watched the colt make it’s way down to the other horses and thought I better head back to where I saw a 4-wheeler parked down the hill. As I did so I heard the bark of an agitated and much larger dog than the peaceful fella I’d met earlier. Looking across the pasture I could see a large white dog not very happy about something. Cujo made up my mind for me – I was getting off this property and fast.
As I rode back down the drive, I noticed a man out in the pasture holding a metal detector. I asked if this was the Heslin Ranch. He motioned that he couldn’t hear me so I got off the bike and hopped over the split log and electric fence. Walking up I introduced myself and asked if this was the Heslin Ranch. He confirmed it was and introduced himself as Buell – the owner of the place. He was very friendly considering some random stranger had just hopped over his property line in pursuit of idle chatter.
I asked if it was okay for me to ride through his property. He was very nice and told me how to get through the paddock and over to the gate leading to the ATV trail that leads back to the course. He said on race day the gates will be open and his family would be cheering on the racers from the barn. I thanked him for his generosity and asked if I needed to watch the electric fence when I crossed back over – he replied that it wasn’t lit up. But he did warn me about his “other” dog that wasn’t as nice as the first (I presumed he meant Cujo). Said he’d seen that white dog chase off a bear, kill a coyote, and bite the leg of a friend of his. I asked what the best approach would be should I encounter the white dog at close range. “Should I stick out my hand and let him smell it?” I asked. “Ride faster,” Buell said matter-of-factly. “If he gets close, put your bike between you and him and hope that keeps him back.”
Okay then. Thanks for the advice.
Making my way back up to the barn I spotted the gate to the ATV trail on the far side of the paddock. I made my way across only to find the gate locked. I picked up my bike and started to hoist it over the gate when…BZZZT! I staggered back, trying to comprehend why I just felt like someone had rolled out the defibrillator and put about a thousand volts through me.
Buell didn’t mention anything about the FULLY LIT electric fence running across the METAL GATE on the other side of the paddock. Holy shit.
The jolt had not only knocked the sense out of me, but also shocked the bike out of my hands and onto the other side of the gate. After gathering my wits, and as I was looking around for a less hair raising way to get to my bike I heard a noise that made me pee in my pants a little. Cujo.
He had come across the pasture and was none too happy to find me standing inside his property. In fact, he was pissed. And barking. And running. Straight for me!
I wheeled around and ran for the wooden fence post next to the metal gate, thinking I could reach the wood and catapult myself over both the electric ribbon and the fence in a single bound. BZZZZZT! I swear the second jolt was more volts than the first. It felt like my heart had exploded in my chest. I was staggering around like a drunk in a leotard. I didn’t look to see, but I’m sure the horses in the paddock were standing stock still wondering “what the hell is up with this guy.”
After shaking the cobwebs outta my head I started to panic. I had Cujo racing across the yard looking to take a pound of flesh, I’d been blasted back off the fence line twice, and my bike was stuck on the other side of an electromagnetic nightmare! I ran for the barn, hopped an inside fence and then through the corral to another fence with no electric ribbon. I raced across the back pasture and damn near hurdled the property line fence behind the barn. Bushwacked my way back to the metal gate, picked up my bike, took a quick pick of the fence and got the hell out of there. I don’t know where Cujo ended up, but all I heard as I pedaled furiously up the ATV trail was his horrifying bark behind me.
If you ever see a metal fence with a fancy white ribbon like this – it ain’t no Christmas present. Stay away from it.
Bustle Creek Climb
After leaving Heslin Ranch, you face a 1,500 ft climb over the next 4.5 miles of double track. The trail isn’t used much, but Troy (the race director) has cut back the grass and cleaned up the trail well. There are a few short, stiff pitches, but all in all the climb goes by fairly quickly. Maybe not by lap 4, but the first couple of laps shouldn’t be too bad.
Here’s a shot looking back down the Bustle Creek climb:
The Bustle Creek double track takes you back up to Ski Hill Road where you have another 2 miles or so to climb on pavement to Targhee. The best part of the entire course is just north of the resort in Rich’s Basin.
Miles 16 to 22 are by far the best miles of the course, which is saying a lot, because the rest of the course runs through some pretty amazing country. Rich’s Basin holds miles of single track through pristine meadows of wildflowers and groves of aspen and pine. Have a gander at some of the beauty in the area:
Entering into the basin:
Aspen & Pine:
Range east of Rich’s Basin and just south of the Tetons:
An infusion of yellow wildflowers as you work out of the basin:
After leaving Rich’s Basin you’ve technically finished the 25 mile lap, but I started 5.5 miles in so I thought maybe I’d venture out on the new Lightning Ridge Trail that represents the start of the race and leads over to Lighting Ridge and Papoose Creek (where Mama Grizz and her progeny had settled). The trail is new and a little bumpy, but nothing too bad. I made it about half a mile in when the woods start to creep in on top of me and that’s when I started hearing things. You know things like the sound of human bones being crushed in the jaws of a Grizzly. I got spooked. Turned around and headed back to the start line. I know…I’m a pansy. I’m not normally afraid of being out on the trails alone, but the suggestion that a mama had been seen with her cubs really got in my head. With two new cubs of my own coming in September, it just didn’t feel right today.
At any rate, I took a shot of Lightning Ridge from Ski Hill Road so you can see what we have in store:
We’ll ride that jeep road on the first lap and then the single track below it on all subsequent laps. In hindsight, I’m very glad I turned around on Lightning Ridge – as I was developing this film I noticed something in the shot that when you zoom in is pretty darn scary:
Mentally it didn’t feel like I had done much climbing on the lap, but in hindsight I’d climbed about 3,800 feet in 20 miles. The site says 4,100 feet p/ lap – so 16,400 for the race – that could hurt a little.
If you raced the Crusher in the Tushar a couple weeks ago and you were sold on your tire choice then – those will be the perfect tires for Pierre’s Hole. I am going to run the Bontrager XR1 Team Issue again – the rolled well on the pavement and provided plenty of grip on the one and two track.
The horseflies weren’t nearly as bad this year as last year, but they are still out and about – best to reduce the nuisance and sport some bug spray.
If you are bringing your family up for the event there will be plenty for them to do including swimming, hiking in Rich’s Basin, Frisbee golf on the mountainside and rides on the lift. The camping site for racers is a beautiful meadow just below the resort – one of the best race camping sites I’ve seen. There are 8 or 9 Honey Pots setup nearby so you don’t have to run up to the lodge.
I’m thinking this will be one of the best races I’ll participate in this year and maybe ever – at the very least, the scenery will be unsurpassed.
Can’t wait to get going on Saturday.
I awoke to the sound of a jetliner flying overhead.
And immediately my mind started racing. Have I trained enough? Will my food plan work? Are my shoes too new? Will the weather hold? Why am I doing this to myself…again?
The roar of another jetliner brought me back to the moment.
“Wait. Another jetliner? No jetliners fly that low over Moab. What the…”
WIND! Incessant. Ever loving WIND.
Not gonna be a fun day. Nope.
The weather wasn’t going to hold. We’d been watching the forecast closely for the previous 10 days, our spirits falling with each passing day as it went from “50s and sun” to “30s and snow”. But Kevin Freaking Eubank never said ANYTHING about wind!
Dread is a powerful emotion. I began envisioning only worst case scenarios. We’d spend the day soaked to the bone, shivering uncontrollably, running with 5 extra pounds of mud stuck to each shoe, and ultimately we’d all die from exposure somewhere on the bluffs of Moab.
After cowering under the blankets – suffering through an hour of mental anguish – I willed myself out of bed and into the shower to wash off the bad mojo.
15 minutes later, I summoned the courage to go outside and see what we were in for. I planted my feet firmly as I opened the door expecting the arctic blast to blow me across the room. Then, as I slowly opened the door…not so much. Windy yes, but also baaaaaallllmy. It was like 45 degrees under partly cloudy skies. Now we’re talkin.
Sam, Adam (Sam’s brother) and I grabbed some grub, packed up and headed out for the adventure. 34 miles of running across the Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, and Poison Spider trails.
It didn’t take long for the rain to start, but we were on our way and focused on the task at hand.
The First 17 Miles
It was a pretty mucky start as we ran up the Gemini Bridges road and eventually into Little Canyon. The climb was somewhat steep, icy, and wet with some exposure to the left. I started to worry about theWife and Holly trying to climb this in the Soob and Murano as they made their way to the first aid station. Surely, they would see how icy and technical the climb would be for their two less-than-monster-trucks and turn back.
Photo of the lead pack on the first climb thanks to Todd Olsen at ShotU.net
Wouldn’t you know it – about three miles into the canyon, here they came, rolling up the canyon. Holly and Cic climbed the first pitch like it was nothing and were cruising to the first aid station. When I asked Cic if she was nervous on the climb, she responded “not really, it’s just what we do for you guys on race day.” Once again, I was amazed at how much seeing her smiling face can improve any rainy, dreary situation.
But about a mile later, that all changed as I helplessly watched my life flashed before my eyes.
There was another steep climb that included some steps – no problem for a jeep with clearance, but for a Subaru? Whole nother story.
I was running up a pretty technical section on the climb as Holly rolled up and over it with reckless abandon (she was driving a company car so no worries, right?), but when Cic tried it in the Subaru she got stuck halfway up the step. And then started to go BACKWARDS! I felt helpless watching my wife, two kids, and one of Sam’s kids going the WRONG DIRECTION down a sandstone cliff (Cic would later say she was TOTALLY in control of the situation). mmm hmm.
When the car came to a stop all I could see through the windshield was a giant white toothy grin and the emphatic waving of her hand gesturing me to “just keep running, don’t worry about us.” I paused. How would I explain THAT to her parents? That I just sorta left. You know…to finish the race as their daughter and grandchildren careened off a 10,000 foot cliff.
theWife assured me they were good and told me to keep going. Reluctantly, I did so (looking back I clearly see this as a husband fail). The next half mile was agonizing as I kept looking back to see if they were coming around the bend. I caught up with Holly and was about to tell her about me being the worst husband on earth having left his wife and children (and her child as well) to die in a barren wasteland of sand and sage. Then just before I broke the news to her…around the corner came the Soob! They were ALIVE!
Okay then. On with the run.
In all the races I’ve done, I have yet to figure out the perfect race day diet. At the Park City P2P I fertilized the trail at about the halfway point. I suffered through the rumble down under at the Squaw Peak 50. And during my second attempt of the Wasatch 100, I’d decided at mile 30 that fasting was the best way to settle my stomach – that one definitely didn’t work as I abandoned the race at mile 62, whimpering in the fetal position.
So, for 3 months I’d considered a measured, all-liquid race day diet. I’ve been a fan of the 90 calorie CarboRocket for a little over a year, but had yet to try the new 333 calorie “half evil” version on any run longer than two hours.
I thought I would be running for about 10 hours this day and did some research to learn that the bodies of endurance athletes (I only loosely apply that term to myself) can typically only digest between 250 and 300 calories an hour during a race. Basically, the carnage and destruction that occurs during the event places too much stress on the body to efficiently process many more calories than that. Which explained why my previous races have been fraught with gastro-intestinal malfeasance.
So I measured out my stash and kept an eye out for the DEA.
Long story short. I had just about the best race day stomach ever. I chugged half a bottle of CR333 about every 30 minutes and consumed just over 6 bottles of the stuff.
Bottom line, I am hooked and highly recommend CarboRocket 333.
That said, I have a load of Shot Rock Turds, Gu Chomps, Shot Blocks, and Hammer Gels available if anyone wants them.
The Next 17 Miles
After suffering through dead legs on the long, straight, forever dirt road that drops off the Gold Bar Rim I started again to feel pretty good. I’d seen the crew at the mid-point aid station which sufficiently buoyed my spirits and I was finally running downhill – the presence of “downhills” on the earth truly strengthens my testimony of a divine creator.
About this time, I came into my favorite part of any endurance race. That point where nothing hurts so badly that the pain completely occupies your mind. The noise of life is left on the side of the trail miles ago and everything becomes centered in the quiet serenity of now. For me, these are the “golden windows” of every race. The thump, thump, thump of music from my iPod is replaced with the sounds of a heartbeat in my ears; the rapid, but rhythmic inhale/exhale of air from my lungs; and the labored, but lifting crunch, crunch, crunch made by the soles of my feet as they work their way down the trail.
That mixed with the surroundings is the opium of the endeavor.
Photo from race day thanks to Greg Norrander
Now to be sure, the hangover is a real doozie. But very much worth it.
The euphoric high soon faded as I came upon this broken down heap at about mile 20 and thought to myself matter-of-factly: “you know something? my left leg kind of feels like that too.”
Photo from the race thanks to Greg Norrander
At the suggestion of my in-laws, I bought me a pair of magic shoes for Christmas. This was the first real distance event I’d worn them in and I am convinced, they ARE magic shoes. Ridiculously light. Ridiculously cushioned. And yes, ridiculously expensive. But worthy of every dollar (all 170 of them even – ouch).
The best part of these shoes? They make you haul ass on the downhills. There is so much padding on the bottom you can’t feel a thing you are stepping on. All rocks, sticks, and Hobbits get absorbed in the squish of each footstep. After 30 miles of suffer, you can just open it up on the descents because your aching feet don’t feel a single poke, prod, or jolt from any terrestrial troublemakers.
Surprisingly stable too.
I made up some good time on the descents in these babies, cause I basically said “whatever” and let er’ rip!
Here’s another shot of the Waffle Stompers in action. Kind of like wearing Donald Duck’s moon boots.
Not sure exactly what my hands are doing in this shot, at first glance I wondered if I was adjusting my cup, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn that thing since high school baseball. At any rate, it is what it is. Whatever it is.
I didn’t do a whole lot of running in preparation for this event. I know, shocking right? But, I’ve tried to shed the egg nog flab over the last two months with some strength training, yoga, and hamster runs on the treadmill. But still don’t think I put much more than 75 miles on the legs since the half marathon I ran back in September.
I was a little worried about it, but over the years I’ve become pretty adept at my patented “under train, then suffer” race strategy. But today was different. I think it was a combination of the CR333, the shoes, the strength training, and finally being out in the church of the blue dome after a long winter hibernation that pushed me pretty hard throughout the day.
I certainly had some bad moments. Had my first ever bout with race day cramping during the last twelve miles. All of it in my calves. The first twinge I felt while climbing a steep slick rock face – it kind of wigged me out. It felt like someone from behind pinched my left calf. I actually jumped a little, stopped, and turned around to see who was mucking with my leg. Then the cramp set in – whooooooweee, those things hurt. It’s like somebody has locked you into a really long titty twister.
I was attacked again, both calves this time while climbing this hill:
Photo from the race thanks to Greg Norrander
The cramps hit simultaneously and so hard I stopped mid climb, bent over, grabbed both calves and just howled like a coyote.
Despite the cramping, there were many times during the day I marveled at the capacity and stamina of the human body and mind. The longest run I’d completed this year was 13 miles in early February. And yet, I was clicking off miles 25, 26, 27, 30…and didn’t feel that much worse for the wear. Don’t get me wrong, I was hurting, but felt like I could just keep on keepin on.
I thought a lot about a saying J Dub often uses with respect to endurance events: “no matter how good or bad you feel right this moment, don’t worry about it – cause it’s gonna change”.
Kind of a metaphor for life really. But fascinating that our minds and bodies can just keep going, despite the wear and tear of distance and time.
The finish came quicker than I had anticipated. Partly because I’d listened to Sam who said the last 12 miles was all downhill and as I had yet to experience much of anything “all downhill” I thought I still had a ways to go.
Cic and Holly told me I was only about 10 minutes behind Sam and Adam at the halfway point so I just kept telling myself “go catch those Crazy Ass Clark Boys” and looked for them around every turn.
And I did. Catch them that is…7 minutes after they crossed the finish line. Dammit.
34 miles. 6 hours and 51 minutes.
A pretty solid day for me considering the lack of miles I’d put in. An encouraging sign for a long 10 months of racing ahead. Can’t wait for the next one (or maybe I can – looking at the Moab 100 trail run next month – that one is gonna hurt. I’m talking like whimpering in the fetal position kind of hurt).
Here’s the data for the day:
Racing wouldn’t be as much fun without the awesome Draper Wives as crew. It was a smaller group of wives this time, but supported by a large group of Draper Kids. I think it’s safe to say they all had a great race – collectively they likely covered 100 times the miles that Sam, Adam, and I did just scampering around the wild. If I had a tenth of the energy these kids have I’d have won that race in like 2 hours and 6 minutes.
On a side note.
As I was going through the pics from the race I couldn’t help but notice a few things in the next photo:
Attentive. Focused. Smiling.
Umm…not so much.
Oh and if anyone was ever curious about why my kids are always sporting their galoshes – this picture pretty much solves that mystery. Love you Cic!
Remember earlier how I was talking about how fascinating the human body is? Well sometimes bodies have the odds stacked against them.
I spent a good part of the race last Saturday and much of the past few months thinking about my Aunt Karen – she’s kind of like my Other Mother. She and Uncle Galen introduced Cic and I to some of our very most favorite parts of the world and her zest for life has been intoxicating.
So Karen’s body has been up against it since October – battling cancer in her kidney and now on her brain. This woman has just about hiked across the entire planet, climbing some of the most challenging peaks in the world. Now she’s working to get over probably the most difficult mountain yet. There aren’t many who read this blog, but those who do – maybe send some positive vibes down Tucson way to my Aunt Karen. I know she would appreciate them.
Keep going Aunt Karen. We love you so dang much (you too Galen)!
Some days you are the hammer and some days you get the crap kicked out of you and then have your nose rubbed in it. My experience last Saturday at the PCP2P, was pretty much the latter.
It all started well enough off – at the start I’d tipped back an Ensure, the temps were mild, the vibe was good and it was shaping up to be a solid day. There was some confusion during the pre-race sort, I think because the first call was for 6-7 hour finishers which wasn’t a legit start group (should have started with 7-8 hour finishers I think). I’d intended to jump in with the 9-10 guys, but because I counted groups starting from 6-7 hours, instead got into the 10+ hour crew. Which as fate would have it was a bad omen.
Kingdon, me and JJ rolling out at the start. After the race, JJ said “this was the fun part.”
Things were going swimmingly during the parade lap around Round Valley – pace was mellow, riders were easy, the air was crisp and filled with 28 lbs per square inch of dust and anxiety. When riding directly into the sunlight, visibility went to zero as dust particles made it look like I hadn’t washed my windshield in years.
But all the dust aside, Round Valley really is good trail and the first 8 miles were a lot of fun. Which was a bonus, because the next 50 miles weren’t…so much.
Things started going downhill (certainly not literally) at about mile 9. I was on the wheel of a very courteous rider climbing up out of the Meadows Drive section. As we moved up on slower riders he would politely ask to get by when there was a good spot to pass. When he went by I would also chime in with a “one more, if that’s okay.” Everyone we passed was very accommodating and would respond to our “thank you’s” with a “no problem” or “your welcome”. Everyone seemed to understand it was a race and that most of the course was single track – hence you’d have occasion to pass slower riders. It’s all good, right?
Everyone that is except one upstanding, albeit slightly larger fellow racer.
Curiously, this guy didn’t say anything in response to my new riding partner’s request to pass. He just moved over and didn’t so much as grunt in response to the first “thank you”. At the time, I didn’t know why I paid particular notice to his silence, but 3 minutes later it became clear why I was so curious.
The difference between this guy and the other riders we had passed was that he quickly grabbed the wheel of my partner, so rather than follow our normal passing pattern I just sat in and found a good cadence. Until it was clear that he couldn’t hold the wheel in front of him and quickly fell off a couple bike lengths. That’s when I chimed in with a “hey, when it’s convenient I’d like to pass too, thanks”. Again, no response. But as before, he moved to the right. So I accelerated to pass. And wouldn’t you know it, right when I came up alongside, he moved back into the center of the trail and locked up my handle bar yanking my wheel to the right, undercutting him and causing us both to go down in a heap – unfortunately with my new found riding buddy sandwiching me between him, my bike, and the ever so soft sage bush to our left.
Now, crashes happen. I think we all get that. So my first response was “dude are you okay?”
His first response? Rage and words from his mouth in very high decibels.
“IT’S AN 80 MILE RACE AND I WAS RIGHT ON HIS WHEEL!” was the gist of what he had to say.
To which I meant to respond with:
“Well, fine sir I am not sure what distance has to do with it, as you mentioned, it is a race after all and pray tell what do you mean you were right on his wheel, it was clear he was rapidly distancing himself from you.”
But what came out instead was:
“WHAT THE [bleep] DOES THAT MATTER…”
To which he responded with…nothing. Back to the silent treatment he was. He got up and pedaled away. I hurried to get back on my bike to continue our friendly dialogue when I noticed my handle bars were twisted into my navel. My seat was skeewampus. Half of my pulley hangar was snapped off. A spoke was broken. And I was bleeding down my leg. I think it is safe to say that The Silent Type came away from our little scrape in better condition than I.
Needless to say I littered the air with expletives as I tried to get the bike back together. Once I was back in the saddle I felt a surge of adrenaline and my focus was turned to REVENGE! Which doesn’t work so well in general and certainly not during a mountain bike race. While busting down the trail powered by my rage and fury I neglected the trail at hand and two miles later washed out hard on a sharp right turn. Now my right leg and arm were bleeding. Then I began to REALLY come unglued. I jumped back on the bike and started racing down the trail only to hear parts of my bike falling off behind me. Stopping to assess, I saw my bike tool and tube lying in the trail. In my rage and haste I had busted the zipper on my seat bag and it’s entrails were strewn across the single track.
Oh for the love of all that is holy – I’m only at mile ELEVEN!
Pulling into the aid station I hadn’t cleaned up my language much and greeted my crew with a “some dumb [bleep bleep bleep] crashed into me, can you pull off my seat bag?” Only I didn’t say “mother father” (sorry mom). theWife said I was visibly shaking while at the aid station. I chugged another Ensure and was off again – still plotting my revenge amidst a surge of adrenaline.
Update: So as you’ll see in the comments below, turns out I actually know the guy I got tangled up with in Round Valley. Amidst the dust, confusion, emotion and his speedy departure we didn’t realize with whom we had just intertwined. His name is Pat Terry and he is a really good guy and a solid rider. So Pat did indeed move to the right, but unbeknownst to me had to move back left into the trail because of a sage bush that would have sent him flying ass over tea kettle. You can read his version of the story here . If you read my previous edit of the story, I need to apologize to Pat – I went a bit over the top on his weight. Pat’s not fat, he’s just big boned. Sorry about that Pat.
I passed Dug and Sleepy along the Rail Trail and shouted an incoherent obscenity laced summary of my last 4 miles and continued up the trail. Dug responded with a typically even and mellow “that doesn’t sound like a very good start to the day” response. It wouldn’t be the last time Dug would try to help me get through the day.
At the Solomere junction I chugged down 26 oz of CarboRocket and another Ensure.
Then six miles later all that adrenaline was gone. And by gone I mean I could barely turn the pedals. I had crashed so hard from the adrenaline rush it felt like I hadn’t slept in weeks. Less than 20 miles into the 76 mile day I was completely spent and on the easiest and most enjoyable section of the race no less. And then came Dug, happily rowing up the trail behind me. We rode up over Snow Top and up about half of Deer Crest together, but I couldn’t hold his wheel and dropped off. I saw him as I came into Silver Lake and quickly chugged down another Ensure and another bottle of CarboRocket. theWife asked how I was feeling and I could only respond with “I am SO tired”. She said the difference in my physical appearance between the first aid station and the third was amazing – from shaking to lethargic in less than 20 miles. Not good considering the next 2 miles presented one of the steepest climbs of the day up to Bald Mountain.
I left the station before Dug, but it didn’t take him long to catch me. When he rolled up on me I was standing in a stupor on the trail. It was bad enough that I was so tired, but I had no spark. Zero. Nothing. He gave me some of his CR 333 to tug on, which I did. That little sip was either one of the bigger mistakes of the day or one of the crucial turning points. It was mixed pretty strong and I think probably acted like baking soda to the vinegar already churning in my belly. Dug seeing that all was lost continued up the trail and left me for dead.
I made it to the top and started the downhill. I am normally pretty fast on the descents, but I just couldn’t get anything going. Some lady blasted past me like I was standing still. Something wasn’t right. I was feeling bloated and felt like my kidneys were detaching with every bump in the trail. I limped around Bow Hunter, totally wasted the awesomeness that is Dear Camp and started into the trees on Flagstaff. Then all hell broke loose.
At first there were a few innocent wretches. Then the wretching turned to roars. If you’ve ever heard a T Rex mating call – it sounded like that. Over and over and over. Then an atomic puke bomb went off in my head. Then 4 or 5 more of them. The sheer volume of stuff coming out of my face was SPECTACULAR! It was like the pie eating contest in Stand By Me – only pink. The hills were alive with spewage and ruckus. Banks said later as he was coming up the hill he could hear the carnage and thought to himself “that sounds like Bright”. Say what? He recognized my wretch? I think we have spent to much time together.
After throwing off excess ballast things started feeling a bit better. I started to have clarity. The encounter in Round Valley followed by the subsequent adrenaline rush had overridden my body’s ability to digest all the liquid calories I’d consumed during the day. Even though my stomach was full – I was running on empty. I had burnt through the adrenaline jet fuel and had clogged the fuel pump while I was at it. At least that’s what I think happened. I only play a doctor on this blog.
I was a little worried that I had 5 miles to the next aid station with no food in me whatsoever, but I also started processing what I needed to do: get to the next aid station and regroup. Sit down, eat some solid food and just regroup. And so I did. During the second pass through Silver Lake I learned that Dug, Jason and Erik were already on their way. Banks, Kingdon, and Shellenberg rolled in behind me and things were starting to look up. I ate some fruit, peanut butter and jelly’s, and a coke and started feeling like I could at least get up and go.
The section between Deer Valley and Park City was long and hot. I ran out of water. But rather than dunk my head in and quaff a portion of Shadow Lake, I found the head of a little spring that was running down the trail and guzzled as much as my stomach could hold. As I was slowly making my way across this section, Banks caught me again and after a particularly steep climb back up double track to the lift below the brown shack we looked at our clocks. It was 1:19 PM – we had just over 2 hours to go 12 miles to make the cut off time. I was doubtful, Banks wasn’t – he was certain we’d make it. Banks’ confidence we’d make it was the second critical point of the day for me, once he said we could do it I was ready to make the push. We walked up the rest of the steep double track with a lady pushing a single speed and when it turned back to single track I got on and went, no looking back. Turns out I should have maybe looked back at least once, because Brandon missed a turn that eventually ended his day. Sorry Banks. But thank you for the boost to get me to the PC aid station in time.
Coming into PC I saw my dad at the top of the ridge line. “3:06″ he hollered – 24 minutes to spare, whew.
I rolled in to see the carnage that was Erik R. – he looked like someone had only just brought him back to life with the defibrillator. Stomach issues. theWife told me Dug and JDub had left ten minutes earlier. I decided to wait until 3:30 to make sure Banks rolled in and to get fueled up for the last 20 miles. The last 10 minutes waiting there hoping to see Banks crest the horizon was painful. I knew how important a finish was to Banks and we all were sharing in the anguish of anticipation. 3:30 rolled by. No Banks. With heavy heart I set off for the next 2 miles of climbing up Spiro.
About 10 minutes into my Spiro climb I saw a ghost. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I saw coming down the trail on a bike. It was Banks. Descending the trail he should have been ascending after making his wrong turn. We passed each other in a blink, both wading in thoughts of regret (Banks in making the wrong turn and me in not waiting). Well Karma was about to return the favor.
Spiro wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated and getting to the top got me over a pretty big mental barrier. I was about a half a mile across the buttery section of the Mid Mountain Trail when suddenly my seat fell out from under me. At first, I thought the collar had come loose and my seat post dropped to the bottom. That would have been good. Instead my frame had cracked and come apart just above the top tube and the entire seat post folded back to the tire. That was not good.
18 miles to the finish and I was standing there with seat shrapnel in my hand. Perplexed, but not really surprised given how the rest of the day had gone I worked through the options. I could go back to the PC aid station and drop. No way. I already had one DNF this year at Butte. So buck up lil’ camper and start riding.
I started with the seatpost in my left hand resting it on top of my handle bars. That lasted about one minute and 12 seconds or until I had to brake quickly and realized that holding the seatpost and trying to brake with the same hand isn’t really a good idea. So I slid the seat post and seat down my jersey and rode Quasimodo style for about two miles. Standing up. That wasn’t going to work either. I knew my legs wouldn’t last another 16 miles without any break from standing up, getting off the bike to rest every two miles wouldn’t get me in before dark and walking certainly wouldn’t get me in before dark.
So I pulled the seat back out, removed the broken piece of frame and slid the seat post back into the seat tube to see how far down it would go. Naturally, it went all the way down. It wouldn’t tighten (because the collar was attached to the broken piece of frame) so it swiveled freely. That should make for an interesting ride. Scenes and lines from Cast Away started playing in my mind.
“YESSSSS! Look what I have CREATED.”
And off we went, me and my new BMX bike. I settled into a rhythm alternating between the middle and small ring on the front and leaving it mostly in the biggest cog on the back. I could power up most of the mild climbs sitting in the saddle albeit with strain on my lower quads and knees. The big climbs I climbed out of the saddle and powered up.
“This could work.”
Riding so low in the saddle I felt like an Oompa Loompa blasting through the forest, but I was moving and that was all that mattered. The low center of gravity made me feel surprisingly in control even at high speeds. Before I knew it I was passing people, including Shellenberg who I didn’t even recognize. I was in the zone. The miles started ticking off…13 to go…9 to go…5 to go. Being forced to focus on the problem and how to resolve it cleared my head of everything else that had gone wrong during the day. I didn’t think about the Round Valley Rumble. My stomach was no longer bothering me. And I had some spark!
Coming around a corner at about mile 73 I saw J Dub standing in the middle of the trail. Pondering the possibilities of life, maybe? I don’t know, but he was just standing there and I was really glad to see him. We made the final push up and over the torture of the last 1,000 foot climb before the finish. Riding in front, every now and then I’d hear J Dub chuckle.
“It’s like I am riding behind a little kid on his BMX bike!”
The comedy of the situation made the final miles go by real fast. Losing my seat was probably the best thing that happened on the day. Those last 18 miles were by far the best 18 miles for me. I was so focused on keeping the seat pinched between my cheeks and powering up the climbs that I didn’t even notice how bad the re-route of Mid-Mountain was and the brutal climb up Ambush didn’t really feel that brutal.
Blasting down the pavement between the barricades and cheering crowds was such a highlight. The crowds were cheering so loudly I felt a bit embarrassed. A sheepish grin stole across my face and I gave a brief wave to the crowd feeling so undeserving of their cheers, but so grateful nonetheless.
J Dub and me crossing the finish line – BMX style baby! (that smokin’ little number in green to the left in the background is theWife – such an amazing partner and crew chief – you rule Cic, thank you so much for getting me through it):
*thanks to MoBe Photo for the picture
The day ended on a super positive. Looking back I really loved racing the PCP2P. I’ll do it again for sure. The course was amazing. The organization was the best I’ve seen and with one notable exception the people were so much fun to be around.
A huge and heartfelt “thank you” to the Draper Wives for once again providing the best crew support out there – you all make the day so much better.
Thank you and congrats to all of the fellas on a great ride especially Banks, Dug and J Dub for being there during some pretty dark parts of the day. It is so great to roll up to the start and finish lines and share stories with all of the friends from the biking crowd. That’s what makes these events great – shared suffering and triumph with really great people.
Next up? Cyclocross and some trail running.
Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim anyone?
I have a friend named Sam. Sam is semi-bionic (more on this later).
A few days after finishing Leadville last year Sam called and we had this conversation:
Sam: “Hey, tell me about that Wasatch Back race.”
Me: “The relay?”
Sam: “No, no the one you did.”
Me: “THE WASATCH FREAKIN’ ONE HUNDRED!”
Sam “Yeah, that one. I am looking for our next big challenge.”
Me: “Sam, we just finished one of the hardest mountain bike races out there. Let me bask in the glory of my accomplishment for at least a week. What do you say?”
Sam: “We need to do something harder. I want to try that run.”
Me: “Sam, that run is a bitch – and I mean that sincerely. Both times I’ve started that race I ended with DNFs and both times I left the race in the fetal position. How about we try something a little less apocalyptic first?”
Sam: “Okay, let me think about it.”
Me: “Yeah, you do that. Think long and hard.”
Thankfully, Keyes was able to talk some sense into him. So we signed up for the Squaw Peak 50 instead; a 50 mile trail run up, down, and around the mountains above Utah County. The race was yesterday. Today I am sore.
Here is the beta:
Distance: 50.74 miles
Elevation Change: 14,000 feet of elevation gain/loss (felt like mostly gain)
Pain Factor: massively massive
Like I said, Sam is semi-bionic. The kid is just plain fast. On a bike – fast. Running – fast. Love making – not sure, don’t really care to know.
Needless to say, anytime I go ride/run with Sam I get dropped. Usually on the first climb. Well, Sam took it to a whole new level yesterday. He dropped me before the race even STARTED. We arrived together, I went to relieve myself, Sam went to check in. Next time I saw him was at the finish line Saturday evening.
It was for the best – the time Sam posted would have burnt me up way too early in the race. But still, it’s kind of like rubbing my nose in it. Don’t you think? I mean the gun hadn’t even gone off for Pete’s sake.
I need to fire my recon guy. Admittedly I didn’t spend enough time looking at the course maps and elevation charts before race day. I thought we were going to start with a nice easy run down the paved Provo Canyon trail and then turn up Squaw Peak road. Wrong. We ran like a mile of the pavement and then to my dismay turned up onto a really steep single track trail. I’d told someone earlier that I thought there was only like 5K of elevation gain. We did that before we’d even hit 25 miles.
Like I said, my recon guy is getting the pink slip.
That first climb went 2500 ft up over the next 4 miles. Then at the top we ran down for like 3.86 seconds then started up again. This would become the recurring theme for the day. Here’s the elevation profile for the race:
While I’ve only participated in a few endurance running events, it’s clear the race directors for these events take great pleasure in turning the suffering dial up to Bleeding From Ears. A common practice is to require runners go up and down trails that aren’t really trails. More like routes weed whacked into the steepest face they can find and then appropriately named either descriptively or in honor of the race director. Here are a few examples from the SP50 and WF100:
Bozung Hill (more on this abomination in a bit)
Irv’s Torture Chamber
The next time you run an ultra event – check the map. If you see any section names like those described above – beware. It’s gonna hurt. Maybe scar you for life.
I’ve also determined that God doesn’t really like how trail runners destroy their bodies by running ridiculously long and hard in the mountains. How else would you explain these strewn along the course throughout the day:
Being forced to agonizingly climb over and under felled trees in the middle of a FIFTY MILE race is God’s punishment for trail runners.
When you are wandering trails in the wild for long periods of time your mind inevitably drifts down strange paths. Meaning at some point along the way you start to go a little bit crazy. Yesterday I started to lose it at about mile 20. I’d gotten into a rhythm on a down hill section and found myself all alone on the trail – not a soul in front nor behind me.
I thought I was either winning or lost.
Those of you who have ridden or run with me are now chuckling to yourself and saying matter-of-factly to the computer screen “you weren’t winning.” Thanks for that, but the point I am trying to make is illustrative of what a lonely wilderness trail and suffering can do to your mind. For a brief moment I actually wondered if I really was winning. Trail running is hallucinogenic that way.
When finally I saw someone on the ridge line ahead of me I realized I wasn’t winning [sigh], but thankfully wasn’t lost.
Then not long after the realization that I wasn’t winning I started noticing a repetitive swishing sound occurring with each stride. It sounded just like the [ahem] larger lady in panty hose who walks swishingly around the office. I was horrified. Here I am running a 50 mile trail run and I think my inner thighs are swishing against each other. Look away! I’m hideous.
After a 5 minute ballet of gyrating, probing, and adjusting to isolate the sound I figured it out. It was the number bib rubbing against my shirt – I’d only started to notice it when I began to lose my mind after 20 miles. Once I’d gotten over my panty hose panic I didn’t notice the rubbing the rest of the day. No, I had bigger things to worry about – like the throbbing of my entire body and the lake of fire and brimstone in my stomach.
The Rumble in the Jungle
Even with all the events I’ve done (marathons, ultra-marathons, bike races) I still haven’t figured out a race diet that doesn’t make my stomach completely sick. Yesterday was the worst day of all. Starting at the Rock Canyon aid station (mile 10) all the way to the Windy Pass aid station (mile 41) I was suffering from a ridiculously foul stomach. No matter what I ate my stomach grew more upset. Unfortunately everyone running around me during those 31 miles was also suffering from my foulness. Suffice it to say my farts were prodigious and would make a bovine blush. In addition to the toots, my burps were EPIC. My fellow runners had to think they were running with Shrek.
Needless to say I am hopeful that Keyes’ pending CarboRocket wonder juice will be the elixir that will once and for all solve my race day stomach issues.
After running off the ridge line down into Hobble Creek Canyon we began the long climb to what would be the race high point – geographically, certainly not physically or emotionally. We’d be spending the next 12 miles climbing up 4,000 feet to the course summit at 9,450 feet. Doesn’t sound too bad I guess – except for that almost half of the gain would happen on the last 1.25 miles up Bozung Hill [wretch].
As I was prepping for my ascent (you know, sun salutations, animal sacrifices, etc.), a guy runs up to me and asks “do you know where this Bozung Hill is?”. Pointing across the way to the monstrosity with people strewn like little ants up and down the face I said “it’s that beast, right there.”
“Son of a BITCH!” he yelled. Then bent over, put his hands on his knees and just shook his head.
Putting that hill at mile 39 is ridiculously cruel.
Sam had invited a couple of our friends (Jason, Josh, and Sam’s brother) to come pace us from mile 33.5 to the end – including Bozung Hill (we didn’t tell them what lay ahead). While running Jason’s wife called and asked what it was like.
“Hell on earth” he replied.
Sam’s brother was so cooked after climbing Bozung he opted to belly slide down the snow on the opposite side of the summit rather than run down the steep 200 yards to the aid station. Suffering makes people just a little crazy.
At the foot of the behemoth (hard to see the people slowly working their way up the ridge line towards and up the sliver of snow on the left):
And on the snowfield:
I was going so slowly up this climb, one painful step after another, that my Garmin kept auto pausing because it thought I had stopped. After about the thousandth bee-boop from the device telling me I’d stopped I shouted at it “I. AM. STILL. MOVING. DAMMIT!”
Clearly, I’d totally lost my mind by this point.
At the summit (apparently gasping for all remaining oxygen):
It took me over an hour to ascend the 1.25 mile Bozung Hill, but once at the top I knew it was a 4,000 foot descent to the finish. My goal all day was to finish in twelve hours. I was on pace until I hit Bozung Hill – then there was no hope. Reevaluating I set a new goal to try to get in before 6 PM and still salvage a 12 in front of my finish time. Going down is my strength so I felt I had a shot. Then we hit the snow and mud on the north face of the descent and everyone slowed to safely navigate the steep snow pack and slippery mud.
Once through the snow pack I knew I had to move and started barreling down the trail, desperate to get in before 6. I started hollering 50 yards out asking runners ahead of me if I could get by – all of them were so great, they’d move to the side and holler their encouragement. Trail runners are good people.
I turned on some of the most adrenaline pumping songs on my iPod:
It’s a Long Way to the Top – AC/DC
Wild Side – Crue
Megalomaniac – Incubus
Baba O’Riley – The Who
I was clocking 7.5 to 8 minute miles for about 4 miles and was MOVING!
Until I wasn’t.
In my haste I didn’t see a nefarious root sticking up from the trail. I rolled my left ankle on it and couldn’t arrest the fall. I rolled twice down the trail proper and then bounced off and down into the steep scrub off to the right. I felt like Brer Rabbit in the thicket. Only I didn’t really want to be there. No, not so much.
Bee-boop. Auto pause.
I really hate that Garmin auto pause feature.
The fall took most of the wind out of my sails and the fast descent after 47 miles on the trail had completely imploded my quads and feet. Try as I might I couldn’t get back to 7.5 minute miles and involuntarily slowed to a 9.5 minute pace down to South Fork Road where I knew I would be seeing theWife. The toil of the day mixed with the thought of seeing her, bubbled tears to the surface more than once. When I finally saw her silhouette coming up the canyon road, arms raised shouting her encouragement, I let out a jubilant whoop and likely got back to that 7.5 minute pace covering the distance to her. She rules. It was SO good to see her.
She ran the last couple of miles down the canyon with me and watched as I finished in 13 hours and 24 minutes. I’d missed 6 o’clock by 24 minutes, but was so happy to finally finish an ultra running event that it didn’t really matter.
Sam who had literally run only 150 miles in prep for the race and had just recovered from tearing his calf 2 months ago finished 38th at 11 hours and 17 minutes. He is either semi-bionic, a mutant, or both. The kid amazes me. He beat me by two hours at Leadville, now two hours at Squaw Peak – I am going to start timing him when he mows his lawn or washes his car to see if he beats me by two hours in those events as well.
Me and Sam at the finish:
My feet and legs at the finish – those aren’t leggings folks. That is the grime of pain and suffering:
Me at home – my youngest took one look at me and wouldn’t come any closer. Can’t blame him really, I was looking pretty awful. You can see the carnage from the duster on my leg, elbow, and shoulder:
Squaw Peak 50. Check.
Had the pleasure of running a bit with Grant Holdaway. If you ever feel like you just can’t do something, you should read up on Grant. At 79 years old he was running Squaw Peak yesterday. Grant was one of the reasons I wanted to try the Wasatch 100.
Here’s what I wrote in an earlier post about my first experience with Grant:
You want to know why I twice toed the line of the Wasatch 100?
It’s because of the 70 year old man who came across the finish line 30 minutes past the 36 hour cutoff time. Shuffling along, bent over at the waist from exhaustion, but determined to cross that line. The rest of the finishers and their families were already spread about eating the post race dinner, sharing stories of their two days of suffering on the trail. A collective hush came over the entire crowd as eventually everyone began to notice what was playing out at the finish line behind the post race scene. The hush quickly turned to rousing applause and cheers as the crowd stood to give everything they had to help will that man across the line. It didn’t matter that it was unofficial. He finished. He inspired.
Grant moving along, one step at a time. Werd: