photo: Abe Morrison

Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 The Bear 100 Race Report

After crewing for my friend Jimmy in the 2012 Bear, I became intrigued by the 36 hr time cutoff as opposed to the 30 hr cutoff at Leadville that I'd battled for the previous few years. On the drive home, I started looking at other nearby 100 mile runs with longer time allowances and chose to try Bighorn and The Bear in 2013. As I sit here with swollen, tight legs, I couldn't be happier about having finished both of them well within the time cutoff and having a great year of running.

I had a few potential crew/pacer commitments early in the year but all of them had something come up or couldn't make the trip out to Utah mid-week. So I then decided to run solo without crew to simplify everything. The Saturday before the race, I mentioned the race to my Dad on the phone and he asked if I needed him to come out to crew. The gears started turning and he flew out from NC last minute! We drove 8 hours across Wyoming and sat in the Logan Super8 with this weather forecast for the next 2 days (pulled off a friend's Facebook page).


The weather was so grim that they cancelled the pre-race meeting and the race director said something along the lines of "we'll see you in the morning, all I can promise is that it will be better at the finish". After a last minute panic-induced shopping spree at Sports Authority for more fleece, gloves, and hand warmers, we scouted out the start line which was hidden behind a complex detour and I felt as prepared as I could be for the day to come.

The race went incredibly well for me aside from some knee annoyances toward the end, and being pretty cold most of the time that I wore a shirt, hoodie, softshell and puffy throughout the night. The night was long, drawn out (mile 50 to 84), and somewhat lonely but slowly the miles ticked away, the graupel faded away and I joined the black bear club with a finish in 31:24. Most of the story can be told in photos.

Just before the race start. I think my headlamp lasted about 15 minutes, luckily I survived by mooching off runners around me.

On the first mega-climb, daylight came showcasing frost on the trees

Looking back down to Logan
High up on Logan Peak, snow was about 2-3 inches deep.

Near the top of Logan Peak, the sun finally broke through the clouds making for a magical sight.

Dropping down into Leatham Hollow (mile 20) canyon walls and red maples were beautiful.

Appropriately marked course for the most part.



Aspens almost in full glory.


Coming into Right Hand Fork (mile 45)



Crossing the state line prior to sunrise

After cresting the last climb at Ranger Dip, the finish line is visible 7 miles down the hill at the shore of Bear Lake.

Suffering through the final downhill in this wonderful fall display.

Finisher plaque and belt buckle

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 mile run

Bighorn 100
June 15, 2013

After spending a week in Spain for a work conference, I spent 24 hrs in airplanes and airports and finally arrived home at 10:30 PM on Wednesday. Thursday morning I spent with Hannah and then finished up packing and hit the road with Ryan by 10:30 AM. We arrived in Sheridan to lush green scenery, near perfect 80 degree weather, and relatively small crowds at racer check-in and packet pickup. I weighed in, had my pulse ox and blood pressure measured and picked up my packet and race bib. I was awarded the luckiest of numbers:
We then headed to the pre-race dinner buffet at Ole's Pizza where I stuffed my face with pasta as my last good food for a while. I recognized a runner who gave me some good advice at Leadville in 2011. I had admired his long list of 100 mile finishes and sought out some last minute advice. Another nice result of the low key aspect of this race is that I was able to get a hotel room on the spot at America's Best Value Inn in Sheridan. I'd been too busy to figure out where to stay and guessed I'd be able to find somewhere to camp, but it sure was nice to score a hotel. We ran into a runner at the hotel's continental breakfast and after hearing his long list of finishes and that he was from Utah, I recognized that he was Davy Crockett. He said "yeah, my name's kind of hard to forget". The hotel's continental breakfast left a little to be desired so I was glad I brought a couple blueberry muffins with me. After eating those and downing some light tan, translucent coffee and we headed 30 minutes up to Dayton for the pre-race meeting.

Along route, I stopped for gas and got some adrenaline flowing when a forest service official almost backed into my car while I was pulling up to the gas pump (might have been partially my fault as I sort of snuck up to the pump, in between pumps). It could have been a rough morning, but luckily he saw me at the last minute and slammed on his brakes and then verbally scolded me because his "rig" was "tax payer's dollars".

Once finally briefed to excruciating detail on which streams have drinkable water, where crew should park, and what temps to expect, we then found logistical help for Ryan, my pacer, who wanted to leave the car at Dry Fork (mile 13 & 82) and catch a ride to Jaws trailhead (mile 48). We then had an hour to kill before race time where I began to get hungry for lunch and had a slight headache from not enough caffeine.


Finally 11 AM rolled around and the race began. I let almost all the runners go by and just started jogging way behind the pack. I settled in with another runner and enjoyed the first big climb. Here is a picture of the elevation profile collected by my watch during the race.

Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run elevation profile as recorded by my watch. The blue line is my speed, so when it spikes, I was momentarily stopped. That shows where the aid stations are.


The first climb starts from the Tongue River and steeply climbs to 7500 ft. This is a good intro to the race because I could settle in to a relaxed hike. Soon we climbed out of the steep canyon into high wild and scenic meadows. It was really really beautiful and lived up to it's name.




I cruised into Dry Fork at a leisurely pace a good 20 mins ahead of my predicted split based on previous 33.5 hour finishers. I caught Ryan off guard as he was sitting next to a port-a-potty reading star wars. I switched from handheld bottles to my pack as planned and headed down the hill. Apparently from Dry Fork you can see the turn around point some 35 miles away. Maybe it's the snowy ridge over my right shoulder in the photo above. Maybe not.




The wild flowers were in full force and the trail became tight singletrack as it would remain for the next 70 miles. My body was warmed up now and feeling pretty good. I was eating and drinking well and just was focused on getting to mile 48 feeling good. The course then drops pretty abruptly down to footbridge and this downhill was steep and fun to run. I was making good time but keeping everything well under control.  I arrived at footbridge plenty early ahead of my goal time and took a seat and got items needed for the upcoming night time.


The climb out of Footbridge was nice and gentle and I was hiking along as I knew I was well ahead (40 mins) of my planned splits. Just at dusk, Zach Miller came running downhill about 18 miles ahead of me. 20 minutes or so later I passed the would be winner. My focus was still on just taking it easy and getting to Jaws (mile 48) feeling good. Around 1 AM I arrived at Jaws and was 1hr38min ahead of my planned split. I sat down, changed shoes into my waterproof hokas, ate a donut that I put in my dropbag, downed a bottle of coconut water and headed back out with Ryan as a pacer. I was excited about having a pacer as I'd been running pretty solo for a good while.


Unfortunately most of this next section from 48 to 60 was too risky to really run much in the dark as it was rocky and sloppy. Around 4AM, the sky started glowing orange but wasn't light enough to run with out headlamp until 5 or so. I was finally able to pick up into a jog at times and then cruised back into Footbridge at mile 66 where I dumped my night clothes and gear and changed back into shorts/short sleeves.



I was well aware that the climb out of footbridge was very steep (and often thought to be the most difficult part of this race) but I continued to make pretty good time hiking up the hill with my hands on my quads. 


At this point I felt that I had the finish in the bag because everything was still feeling really good, I was running well on the flatter sections and well in front of my planned times. However I noticed that if I could crank out a 6 hour final marathon, I would just break 30 hrs. That seemed like a nice round number and a good goal so I changed my pace from mellow and relaxed to pushing harder. I also started to get pretty tired here and kept looking forward to aid stations to grab a gulp of mountain dew.



After some more hidden turns and ups and downs, we arrived back at Dry Fork at 25h19m. After the medical check and swapping some gear, that left me 4h30m to run 17.5 miles to the finish. There is one more steep climb and a serious downhill and then 4 miles on a dirt road left. The Aid Station volunteer hassled me quite a bit here about hydration and when I'd last peed. I was less than worried about that and was more interested in getting outta there quickly. She made me drink a bottle of water before leaving and then I headed out, running solo again with a goal.

The final descent was outrageously steep and narrow and slowed me down quite a bit. My knee started to complain a little with this downhill so all I could do was run with modified stride and then stop and rest a bit. I saw so many snakes on this section that slithered away right before I planted my foot.

Eventually the steep slope mellowed and I was able to run normally again and my knee pain went away. I had 7.3 miles to go and 1h45m to break 30 hrs. I pushed hard but had to stop for a couple things along the way, was running low on food/energy, and really had to go to the bathroom. At 5 miles from the finish there was the last big aid station with public restrooms.



I continued to do pace math and eventually switched my watch over from low resolution GPS Ultratrac mode into normal mode and figured out that if I could run 13 min/miles for 5 more miles, I'd make it. I ran for a while at 11 min pace but quickly maxed my HR. I had to walk for a while then ran on and off but soon realized I didn't want it bad enough to make it in under 30. At this race the cutoff was 34 hrs so 30 was just a round nice number to shoot for. I felt extremely happy with the whole race and realized that there's no real additional benefit to breaking 30, plus I didn't know how accurately my timing and distance estimate were to the actual finish line so I just jogged it in and quit looking at my watch. I spent 1h09m in the main drop bag aid stations and lots of unaccounted time in the smaller aid stations, which may be something I should work on in the future. I'm pretty happy with fairly even splits of 14 hours out and 16 hours back considering the course is 4 miles longer on the way back. All in all, I think everything went perfectly for me in this race. No blisters, no injuries, no stomach issues, just a great run in some gorgeous mountains.
Thanks to Ryan for pacing and crewing me and for all the support from my family.





Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Some quick photos from Spain


Started out in Madrid and used a long layover to go visit some of the city




We think the church building behind us is from the 1300s and the oldest in Madrid

Then began the eating fest.



Finding Vegan food in Spain is often thought difficult according to web searches but we found great restaurants. Here we're eating at Vegania. Big salad and paella


Then we went to an art museum and saw plenty of Picasso and Dali works. Dali had a spectacular stache.


Then found a cool vegan restaurant called La Oveja Negra (the black sheep) that is listed as having an "anarchist atmosphere". Anyway they played good music and had an amazing chocolate cake dessert.


We then went back to the airport and flew to Granada.
More food. I'm an olive addict now, Spain totally changed my opinion on olives. 


Teas and spices for sale in bulk on the street.


Granada has an amazing cathedral that took 180-some years to build. Pretty amazing.



Found a good but pricy vegan restaurant in Granada up a little alley. Had a Sangria here for the first time.


Then we took the 9AM bus from Granada to Pradollano along with 3 other people. The 3rd highest peak in Spain sits above town and the bus took us all the way to 8000 ft trailhead. Although the town was totally dead in the offseason, there were a lot of hikers and climbers. We had fantastic weather but neither of us brought the right clothes. I wore jeans and Heidi had capris and tied her scarf around her bare calves to stay warm. The peak is over 11000 ft directly behind Heidi.





There was this cool old telescope house that looks like it used to house an instrument that may have moved to a new shed on a nearby ridge that we could see. We explored the observatory.






View of Mulhalcen (highest peak in Spain) from the summit of Pico del Veleta









Granada has a famous palace called Alhambra on the hill. I didn't get the chance to go see it but could see it from afar.