"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bighorn 100 Report

I went out to Bighorn with three levels of goals: 1) Buckle (i.e. finish), 2) PR ( better than 27:37), and 3) a sub 24hr finish. I like this approach to setting a range of goals for ultras because anything can happen out there over the course of 100 miles and it's good to have backup goals to keep you focused in case you're feeling extraordinarily well or not so great.

The gear plan:

* mi 0-15: New Balance 790s and 2 Hand held bottles
* mi 15: Quick sock change and into the La Sportiva Crosslites
* mi 29: Sock change and pick up 1 headlamp
* mi 46: Garmin #2
* mi 49: Long sleeve wool top, nathan pack (drop hand bottles), a fresh pair of crosslites and another light
* mi 63: More socks, body glide
* mi 82: Jettison anything I didn't need (e.g. lights, warm clothes).

I almost botched this run very badly right from the start by leaving my hand bottles in the car which Elena locked before heading up the trail 1.25 miles where she would watch me come by and let me know how many folks were ahead. About 10 minutes before the start I realized the car was locked and went running up the trail to get the keys from her. Fortunately I ran into Squonk after < .5 mi and explained the situation quickly. He didn't hesitate and sprinted out to get the keys from Elena and then sprinted back to the start (~1.5 mi) opening the car with just moments to spare. That got my heart rate up and the extra .75 mi tempo run I did there was a nice warmup! I did get some strange looks from the other runners...

The start was a blur. All of a sudden we were running and I was trying to count where I was in the pack of ~120. Squonk yelled out "Go Weezyl" from somewhere and I had a good chuckle. When we got to the single track 1.25 mi later Elena yelled out 17th, which was about where I wanted to be. Everyone around me was moving pretty well and there was no real bottleneck as we hit the Tongue River Trailhead where it turned to singletrack and the climb began. From there we proceeded up the Tongue River Canyon in pretty warm temperatures. I drained my bottles quickly in the heat and was ready to refill about 5 miles in. I thought we had water stop at 6.5 but I never saw it and didn't refill until the aid station at 8.5miles. Unfortunately, I wasn't particularly well hydrated before the start either and this became a bit of a problem (I didn't pee until mi 50).

I saw Elena, Squonk and Paula again at mi 15 which came after a fast downhill into the Dry Fork Aid Station. I was running 15 or 16 back and not too far off the lead pack at this point. The first 15 miles had taken us through a tough climb with 3400' gain (up to 7500'), shown us how hot the canyons can get, and took us through some of the muddiest/snowiest mess I've ever seen. I remember saying to Elena and Squonk several times that this was a *really* hard course. I expected the early miles to slip by unnoticed, but I was already feeling beat up and had 85 miles to go.

Dehydration continued to be a problem for me through the next 15 miles. I got a little nauseous during the climb up to Riley Point at 8500' and threw up shortly after that. Lovely. I was really hoping to just cruise through the first 50 and could not believe that I was having trouble at this point in the day. Luckily I started to get back on track and piled on a bunch of 7 min miles on a big downhill section leading back into Dry Fork at mile 29, arriving in 6:10 or so.

A quick change of socks at Dry Fork, grabed my iPod (which I was reserving for emergency use) and I blasted the next 7.5 miles out to the Cow Camp aid station over muddy, rutted jeep trails with lots of stream crossings. I stopped at Cow Camp to do some preventative maintenance on the feet which had been wet for most of the day and were beginning to prune. I passed a few folks on the next section heading to Bear Camp and the really wild side of the course heading toward Footbridge. Here I met up again with a guy I had spent much of the early miles with, John Teeples of Georgia, who was running well with Kyle Amos from Kansas. We had a blast running together and talking about everything from race directing to raising kids. We ended up running together all through the night and most of Saturday.

The time went by quickly with the sun lingering just long enough to give us good light as we got down a very steep and rocky section to Footbridge at mi 46 around 9:00 pm. A quick out and back section brought us back to Footbridge and then we hit the 50 mile point around 10.5 hrs. We turned on the lights and made our way through the short solstice night running all the flats and downhills and walking the uphills at a good pace. There were a lot of tricky technical downhill sections but our lighting was good and all 3 of us were comfortable running at night. Kyle really kep the pace up here and John and I just let it flow as we passed a lot of folks who slowed down as the settled into the night.

The climb up to Bear Camp was tough but we did well for "flat landers" even passing a couple guys from Colorado here. At Bear Camp I changed socks again and rather than carry my wet ones with me, threw them on the fire there. They had served me well on many training runs and at Quicksilver 50 and this seemed like the most honorable burial I could give them.

Dawn caught up with us at 4:45 am around Cow Camp, mi 74. A quick stop for some soup and then the big climb up over Riley Point again. At this point I started thinking about the time and realized that we were probably "on pace" for sub 24hrs (whatever the hell that means with 25 miles to go). We moved well up to Riley Point and then were pleased to find that the night time conditions had frozen the snow and mud, making it much more runnable! This was the luxury of getting there quickly and many of the middle pack runners would be slipping a sliding through this section a few hours after we passed. Kyle got ahead of us by 10 mins here but John and I stuck together. We had to dig a little to ran some of the flats up at 8500' but managed to hold on and then descended into Dry Fork at 7:00am for the 3rd time at mi 82.7. That left 4 hrs to cover the remaining 17 miles for a sub 24 finish, but we had a couple more climbs to contend with and then the heat of the canyons in the last stretch.

We took off from Dry Fork at 7:06 and walked quickly up a long uphill section, running quickly when it flattened out. I found this section to be some of the most enjoyable running of the course - lots of very narrow winding single track that was just technical enough to keep you awake. We passed a couple more folks here. Then a steep climb before descending into Tongue River Canyon. We hammered the narrow rocky downhill trails here, quickly reeling in another runner, Tim Englund from WA. As we approached him we noticed he had lost a shoe in the mud near a stream crossing and was struggling to get it back on and get moving. He looked a little disappointed to be dropping back 2 places at this stage of the race (he must have been in 8th or so), so as we passed I told him we were on a mission to break 24 and encouraged him to come along. He had gotten some bad information about the distance remaining and was surprised that sub 24 was still possible. He quickly perked up and we welcomed him to our little group, exchanging information on pace and distance remaining.

We slowed down a bit as we approached the Lower Sheep Aid Station at mi 92.6 and a pack of folks joined us, including someone with a Patagonia Ultrarunning Team jersey who had been stalking us since Dry Fork (Oh that was Roch Horton! We'd been swapping positions with him and his pacer since the turnaround). Someone on the trail told us we had 10 miles remaining at this point and everyone shot forward, blowing through the aid station thinking sub 24 was going to be tight. I lingered a bit to get some mountain dew and checked my GPS which said we had 7.5 miles left. I asked the guy again and he said that yes it was really 7.5 but that he had just told the rest of the folks 10 miles! At this point I had 1:50 minutes left to come in under 24hrs and after doing the math it became pretty clear that it was in the bag. I figured I was somewhere around 12th, but within striking distance of 8th. I ran a bit farther at a good pace while doing a quick inventory of my goals, finally deciding around mi 94 that I'd be satisfied with anything sub 24. The real celebration started as I peeled off the single track at mile 95 to the cheers of the aid station volunteers there. At this point it was easy gravel roads to the finish and mild temps (later runners would face 90+ here in direct sun). I was all alone this last hour for the first time since mile 35 and it was nice to reflect on the events of the day, the training I'd put in for this, and the new friends I'd soon see at the finish.

Coming in to the finish at Scott Park in 23:42 I was greeted by cheers from Kyle, John and Tim. This was a PR by nearly 4 hrs over my 2000 Western States 100 and I hit my stretch goal. Elena and Paula showed up surprised to see me about 30 minutes later (the mark of a good run) and Squonk joined us around 7:50 after finishing up the 50 miler and taking some great pictures that are posted out here.

Results are here. In addition to getting a new 100M Buckle, I was inducted into the "Rusty Spur Club" for sub 24hr finishers and will be getting a special award in the mail any day (see picture left). The Rusty Spur Club is akin to Wasatch's "Royal Order of the Crimson Cheetah" or Uwharrie's "Organ Donor" list. A nice addition to the resume.

All in all this was an extremely well run event and one of the most beautiful locations I've ever run. Highly recommended!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The night before Bighorn

Drop bags are packed and en route to Dry Fork and Footbridge Aid Stations.

Nickel sized hail outside...

Scott Jurek

I met Scott Jurek at the Bighorn 100M Packet Pickup this evening and got some great tips on nutrition and hydration. 3 quick tips from Scott...

1: Your body needs carbs during ultras. I knew that but never knew how much. Scott says take your body weight in kilograms (divide lbs by 2.2) then multiply by .7. That's the number of grams of carbs you need per hour. Cool!!

2: Dehydration is bad, but don't panic if you're only 1-3% below your starting weight. At 4% you better be focused on getting back on track quickly, because it's a slippery slope to 5%+. At 5% you're likely experiencing nausea. A sweat test will give you a good indication of how much you need to drink. Sweat test procedures are i) weigh yourself naked, ii) run 60 minutes without drinking or urinating, iii) weigh yourself naked again, iv) Subtract iii from i. For each lb you loose that's 16 ounces of fluid you need per hour to remain at constant weight.

3: Electrolytes are key, particularly sodium. How much you need really depends on your body mass and how much you sweat. Find what works for you under different conditions (e.g. you need more electrolytes when it's hot). Be careful if you're gaining weight. Many runners will increase electrolytes at this point, but it is probably better to stop drinking until you start peeing again.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is every bit as majestic as they say it is. I'll write more later... too much going on!