Friday, December 28, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I can look back and reflect upon the different highs and lows that made up this past year. I am both blessed and thankful for both highs and lows. I know that each help to strengthen me for future endeavors.  A huge thanks goes out to my wife, Judith and my boys, Skyler and Dakota. Without them supporting my crazy runs and many hours on the trail, I truly would not have been able to achieve what I did this year.
I was honored to have been selected for the 2012 La Sportiva Mountain Running Team and their support far exceeded my expectations. I had many opportunities that I would not have had without their support. I was also excited to have the support of Mountain Khakis. A company that embraces the outdoor lifestyle and the extreme side of life outside. Thank you La Sportiva and Mountain Khakis!
Throughout the year, I had 3 DNFs (did not finish) for various reasons. Each one taught me what I needed to do and what I shouldn't have or should have done. I also had some successes. I won the Oriflamme 50K, various podium finishes, and attempted a challenge through the mountains around Big Bear that has paved the way for others to attempt. I also had a tremendous opportunity to attend the Idaho Mountain Festival to put on clinics about trail running, lead group runs, and race in a trail half marathon. The weekend was incredible with all the climbers and trail runners.
On the family side, I am extremely proud of my twin boys. They have excelled in their sports of choice with Skyler making a travel basketball team and Dakota making a travel soccer team. Adding these into the mix will surely make 2013 an interesting year. Trying to coordinate different practice schedules, games, my training, and my!
For 2013, I am looking to keep things much more focused with two 100 mile races, one 24-hour race, and a handful of 50K races. My training is beginning to ramp up now and I am looking at my first race in February. I may also work in my second attempt on the Seven Summits of Big Bear Straight Through. This may involve removing a hundred mile race from the schedule. I have also signed for another year with La Sportiva and look forward to another tremendous year with them. These guys are always there to help and in my "unbiased" opinion, make the best trail/mountain running shoes on the market.
I know my blog posts have been few and far between, but I am going to make a better attempt to keep more frequent post for 2013.
To everyone, Happy New Year and I hope you are all setting your goals high. With the right plan, those goals are achievable!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tough Challenges and Even Tougher Decisions

On July 28th, I took on a challenge that has not been done before. When doing something like this, no matter how much planning and preparation that is put into it can anticipate the unknown variables that unfold throughout the day. The challenge was to run the seven tallest and most prominent peaks around Big Bear Valley, California established as the Seven Summits of Big Bear. To add to the difficulty, I was to run these and link them all together beginning and ending in the Village of Big Bear Lake within a 24 hour period.

My challenge had me leaving the Village at 6:16am. I would need to run over one ridge, and down into a valley for a total of eleven miles before even starting my ascent to my first peak. At my first check point, I was right on schedule and feeling great. 
Getting my Wilderness Permit

From there I began my eighteen mile ascent to the top of San Gregornio Mountain. During the climb, I ran out of water about twelve miles in. The day was hot and dry and the water went fast. With running out of fluid came cramping in the legs which had me walking. I was able to reach the peak at 11,503' where a hiker was kind enough to give me a bottle of Gatorade. 

I spent very little time taking in the peak and its gorgeous views because by now, I should have already been coming up close to my next check point. Feeling better and cramping subsided, I was able to run again. I headed down the trail as fast as safety would allow. However, by the time I reached my next trail junction, I was out of fluid again. Fortunately, a couple was resting by the trail and stopped me for directions. They were nice enough to offer me a couple of bottles of water, and I was on my way again. As I continued to run, the trail seemed to go on endlessly. Fearing I was lost or had taken a wrong turn, I checked my GPS frequently. To my surprise each time, I was on course. Just when I thought I was nearing my check point, I ran out of water again. Unfortunately, calculations on the computer had my mileage way off. I still had at least three miles to go and my mouth was so dry, I could not even spit. To make matters worse, I had not cell coverage to let my wife or other crew member know that I was OK. At nearly three hours late, I was finally able to find cell coverage and quickly called my wife. She was at the Ranger's station and they were about ready to call Search and Rescue. I met up with her before the next check point to avoid any mishaps. I refueled, rehydrated, and discussed the timing for the next check point. I felt great heading out and was determined to make up some time. Following my GPS to the next trail, I found it was off by over a mile and a half and I had to turn around backtrack putting me another forty five minutes behind schedule.
Finally on the next trail to Sugarloaf peak, I realized that in my haste to make up time, I forgot to grab my head lamp. I ended up summiting Sugarloaf peak in the dark. The trail was extremely rocky and difficult to follow in the night making my progress extremely slow and running an impossibility. Typically, I would be running down the hill at a fast pace, but was reduced to poking my way though the single track trails putting me way behind schedule. Finally emerging from the forest and onto the road where my next check point would be, my wife was not to be found. Afraid she may have become too uncomfortable waiting in the middle of the night for me on a road in the middle of nowhere, I headed to the highway and made my way towards my next check point. Upon reaching the city, she found me. I could see a wave of emotions on her face that ranged from terrified, to angry, to relief. No communication from me for hours and I was in the forest in the dead of night; I could not fault her for any of those emotions. It also made me realize that I was not the only one taking the risks out there. My wife had been driving around looking for me on roads she did not know, in the dark, with our eight year old boys in the car. Additionally, my friend was going to meet me on off-road trails near the other peaks. I had a decision to make. Do I continue on, face other potential setbacks and put others in danger? I thought about it and decided that while the two toughest, farthest peaks were out of the way, the dangers far out-weighed the benefits. So at sixty miles and nearly 16,000 feet of climbing, I called off the challenge in the interest of safety.
A week later, I look back at the decision and do not regret it one bit. The challenge is not dead and I will attempt it again in the near future. I have gained experience that could only have been gained out on the trail. I know what trails to take now, what the demands of the mountains are, and what additional supplies I need to take. 
So until another day, I will continue training and having fun with my new found passion of running to the summit of any nearby peak I can find. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

La Sportiva Vertical K Review

 I received the Vertical K's on February 28th and when I pulled them out of the box, I just could not wait to get them on and hit the trail. They are feather light and very flexible right out of the box. I could tell that they would not require the break in time that other shoes, even minimalist, would require. Once I slipped them on, they felt almost slipper-like and I was slightly worried about the support in the upper for off camber trails. I was worried that my foot would slide around. The heal cup felt good and stable. The lacing was the easiest I have tried from Sportiva. It was very easy to get the right tension on the laces throughout their span. This, I could tell, would be beneficial in ultras with shoe adjustments.
Once on the trail, the traction and cushion were the first two items that impressed me the most. Most of my training runs start on a very steep half mile gravel road stretch. Unlike other minimalist shoes I have tried, I did not have the issue of rocks rolling under each step. The Morpho-Dynamic "waves" really help to grab the trail. They also allow the sole to flex, providing more cushion and eliminates the need for a rock plate. On the down hills, the cushion really was nice. Don't get me wrong, these are not some bulky, thick-soled shoe. These are a low to the ground trail racer. My next test was single track with some off camber sections to test out foot movement and roll. I was extremely impressed that my foot felt so secure. The reinforcement stitching on the upper really holds your foot in place.
I have put about 85 miles on these shoes so far and the wear is very minimal. The first trail race I did in these shoes was a great success. I also completed a very technical trail marathon this past weekend with rain for about half of it. The shoes held very well on the wet rocks.

All in all, these have become my go to trail shoe for both training and racing. Although I have not taken them on anything past 26 miles, I will not hesitate to do so. One suggestion I do have to anyone considering these is to go up a half size to a full size.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts for the coming year and races.

As I reflect on last year, I am fairly happy with what I have done. I had some good finishes, a couple of DNFs (did not finish), and some near DNFs. Overall, I did not "pick" the races I did. I merely looked at a race and if it sounded fun, I entered it. I didn't take the time to figure out if I could peak for the event. As I started putting my schedule together this year, I noticed that I was doing the same thing. So, now I am taking a step back and will make an effort to look at this year with purpose.
As of this week, I have some great support lined up for the year and do not want to disappoint. Each race I pick this year, I will figure in the time I need to rest and start training again. One thing I learned last year is that each race is different. The obvious is that if the race is hilly/mountainous, you train on similar terrain and include hill intervals. For flatter events, you work on your speed more. I did very little of the latter.
I am excited to start this year and my first event of the year will be the Rocky Road 100. Last year it was my very first ultra race ever. I was stoked with a 3rd place finish and under 20 hour time. This year, the event has attracted its share of fast runners. I will have my work cut out for me this year. I am figuring that this year I will need to run in the 16 hour range. That will be a full 3 hours faster than last year! The race if fairly mild with regards to hills and terrain, therefore, I have changed my training in the last few weeks to get used to running faster. I hope to see good results from that.
As of right now, I do not have a scheduled laid out. Once I do, I will get it posted up. I am looking forward to an exciting year with some growth as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cucamonga Peak

This Saturday, I decided it was time to start knocking off running to the summit of each of what is known as the six-pack of peaks in Southern California. They are: Mt. Wilson at 5,712,  Cucamonga Peak at 8,859, Mt. Baldy at 10,068, San Bernardino Peak at 10,649, San Jacinto Peak at 10,834, and San Gorgonio at 11,503.
I met up with a group of fouor other runners at 6:30 am on Saturday to run Cucamonga Peak. The morning started crisp and clear and we had plans to actually try to do two peaks by including Ontario Peak, the smaller sister to Cucamonga Peak. With the warm weather in Southern California recently, we didn't see snow/ice until near Icehouse Saddle at close to 7,000 feet. Once past Icehouse Saddle, the snow cover was very icy. It took us longer than expected to reach the summit due to the slippery conditions. Even with Yaktrax and spikes, each foot step had to be carefully placed. Once at the summit, there was no snow at all due to the exposure of all day sun. The winds here can get very strong too, but for us, it was nice and calm. The views were awesome and we spent a little time taking it all in. We determined that trying to hit Ontario Peak would be too much for the day since the ice was making it very slow going, so we just decided to head back down. The decent was fairly safe, I only ended up on my rump once and slid a few feet like I was on a sled. Total run was 16 miles with 6,100 total vertical feet round trip. This was a great trip with great people and I'm looking forward to hitting the other peaks in the coming weeks. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Chimera 100K

On Saturday, November 19th, at first light, the Chimera 100K began. The day started out overcast, and slightly chilly. It was perfect running weather. I had a goal for the day to break the top time on the course of 14 hours and 20 minutes. My plan was simple: start out easy and just keep a steady pace throughout the race. At the end of the first 10 miles I was sitting in about 19th place and felt good with that knowing that others may have started out fast. At around mile 13 we began a decent of nearly 5 miles and 2500 feet elevation loss. The trail was a single track, rocky, and technical in some spots. I was able to catch two runners through this section. The next section is where the climbing of the race really began. We ascending roughly 3,800 feet in 7 miles. Again, I was able to pick off a few more runners. By the next aid station at 30 miles, I was sitting in 7th place. So far my strategy was working and I was still feeling really strong. The next section of the course was another long downhill. While downhills may seem like a rest, they begin to take a toll on your quads. During this decent, I was able to pick up one more place and move into 6th. For the next 12 miles, he and I would trade positions which helped the miles pass a little quicker. Following the downhill section was a 3 mile single track climb that seemed straight up. I took it easy here, knowing that all the elevation I gave back on the downhill would have to come back. For the next 14 miles, we ascended the 3,700 feet back up to the 5,500 foot peak. At the aid station at mile 48, I was still sitting in 6th place. I knew that I had better pick up the pace or I will never catch the other runners. As night fell, the course took us down a very steep and technical single track. A few times, I nearly ran off the trail due to the slippery rocks and sand. Night also brought on the cold. All day we had been running in and out of the clouds and through intermittent light rain. Thankfully I picked up my vest at the 48 mile aid station. Once down the steep single track, it was back on to the fire road for the remainder of the race. Still sitting in 6th, I pushed up each hill and began to wonder if I made my move too late. The miles continued ticking away and there was no one in sight. No headlamps in the distance, no signs of leaders anywhere. As I headed up to the second to last aid station indicating 5 miles to go, I ran into 5th place. Once he saw me he took off. I quickly filled my water bottle and took off after him. I seemed to be gaining ground on him on the uphills, but once we hit the downhill, he pulled away. At night, I have a very difficult time with depth perception and the rocks made it tough even with a bright light. I plugged away as best I could, getting frustrated at myself, but chose to be cautious rather than end up with an injury that could take me out for a long time. To save time, I blew through the last aid station. I figured with only 2.5 miles to go, I wouldn't need anything. With a mile and a half to go, the trail became asphalt and I picked up the pace again. Unfortunately, I had lost too much time. The final section was single track, and I had a great time running through it to the finish. I finished in 5th place with a time of 13 hours and 22 minutes.
At the Start/Finish line, they were grilling up cheese burgers and I could not wait to get my hands on one. After eating energy gels, and PB&J's all day, I knew it would be a real treat. However, once I stopped running it got real cold, so I headed to the car to change and warm up. I got into my beanie, jacket, and warm Mountain Khakis and headed back out to get my burger. As I imagined, it was fantastic!

Kudos go out to all the volunteers at the aid stations. The food selection was incredible and they were willing to help in any way possible. They even had warm quesadillas!

Final Thought:
Leading up to the race, I thought a time in the 13 hour range would be what it took to win, however, the competition was tougher today. Overall, I was very happy with the race. I felt strong all the way to the end and accomplished what I set out to do. Success is not always winning, but setting a goal and accomplishing it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

6 Days and Counting

My next race is the Chimera 100K located in the hills between Riverside and Orange County on November 19th. Touted as one of the toughest 100K's in the nation, you are either running uphill or downhill, no real flat spots in between. Much of the course is also run on technical single-track, so mental awareness is key especially later in the race when you are tired and sloppy.
My training up to this point has not been where I have wanted it to be, however, with a short 13 miler yesterday, the legs felt really strong and fresh. I am hoping that my endurance is there though. Last weekend I ran a 23 miler with nearly 4800 feet of elevation gain and felt good as well. That was my longest such run since September. There is not much more I can do training wise from this point until the race. As they say, "the hay is already in the barn." Now is the time to get mentally prepared and get plenty of rest.

Currently the course record is 14hours and 20minutes. This shows you how tough this course can be. The weather forecast right now shows rain on the day of the race. While I enjoy running in the rain and the cooler weather, this will add yet another difficult element with the mud.
I have been looking forward to this race for the good part of the year and am excited to see what this race will throw at me.