theZeph

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Posts Tagged ‘running

Moab’s Red Hot 55K

with 10 comments

4:35 AM.

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.

Diet

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

The Shoes

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.

Thanks Holly for the Photo

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.

The Body

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

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.

the Beer Brothers (get it Samuel Adams) [snicker]

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:

The Crew

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.

Family Dynamics

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:

Sam’s kids?

Attentive. Focused. Smiling.

My kids?

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!

Shout Out

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)!

Written by eber

February 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Squaw Peak 50

with 20 comments

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

Dropped

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.

Anyhoo.

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.

Moving on.

Course Recon

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.

Up

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:


The view down into Springville from the top of the first climb (the headlamp is really just for show):

Sadists

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)

The Dive

The Plunge

Irv’s Torture Chamber

Chinscraper

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.

Random Hallucinations

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.

The Beast

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):

Going Down

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.

Finish

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.

PS

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:

Written by eber

June 7, 2010 at 7:38 am