Friday, October 5, 2012

The 2012 Bear Chase 50 Mile Race Report...

DNF.  I'm still trying, and struggling, to wrap my brain around those three letters.  DNF.

Normally, I go into mind-numbing detail in my race reports, about pretty much everything and anything.  I have verbal diarrhea when it comes to re-living my ultra running experiences and think of them as kind of blueprint for the newbie ultra runners out there (like me) - and what they can maybe expect in these kind of events.  This time though, I'm going to do things a little differently and focus primarily on the physical and mental aspects of my race, as opposed to every minute detail from start to finish.  Why focus on that?  Because right now I'm angry...  But don't worry, there will still be plenty of verbal diarrhea.

I could talk about what a beautiful morning it was - how the huge harvest moon setting behind the foothills of the Front Range, with dawn breaking at our backs, was simply a spectacular sight to behold as we headed out westward from the start line.

I could talk about my typical race experience of overhearing conversations of the fairer sex's relationship trials & tribulations - this time the story being an "Erik" with a "K" vs. an "Eric" with a "C" mistake almost ending in relationship tragedy.

I could talk about crossing paths with four large doe's - two of them bounding across the trail 15 feet in front of me.

I could talk about the ominous sight of afternoon thunderstorms rolling in over the foothills, or some early morning rain over the skyline of Denver, far in the distance to the East.  And how those sights will be locked in my minds' eye forever.

I could talk about how much I enjoy interacting with the other trail runners; Helping out #31 with an equipment malfunction about a mile into the race, by simply handing over one of my race bib safety pins, since she was down to just one.  Or, helping out a runner who was apparently suffering badly from leg cramps coming into the 33 mile Fox Hollow Aid Station, by sharing a couple of Salt Stick Caps with him.  Or just simply asking others who appeared to be struggling on the trails if they were OK, and trying to give them a little a little bit of motivation and encouragement - "Great job!  You're looking good!  Keep up the great work!"  On second thought, I am going to talk about that, and the mental aspect of it to me, but a little later on.

There are lots of things I could talk about and share and go into mind-numbing, drool inducing, detail about... but I'm not in that frame of mind right now.  Right now I am extremely disappointed, angry, and simply in a state of WTF.  And I've let those things spill over onto the World.

I went into this year's Bear Chase 50 Miler setup fantastically for a great day and a great race.  I'd done my second ever 50 mile race, The North Fork 50 Mile - a relatively tougher race (in my opinion), with with a lot more climbing and at higher altitude - at the end of June, and while I had some difficulties, I finished and ended up with a result I was happy with.  In the middle of August, I paced my buddy Chris for the final 40 miles of the Leadville Trail 100 - a task that took over 12 hours, through the entire night, from sunset to sunrise.  My regular training, while on the light side, had been good.  I'd been feeling stronger than I had ever felt.  My comfortable pace was faster than normal, my HR was down, and my climbing was constantly improving.  I'd busted my ass to get out of bed at 2:45am on Sunday mornings to do my long runs, so that I'd be home for when my girls were waking up and I wouldn't miss out on family time with them.

By mile 23 of The Bear Chase though, still only my third 50 Mile race ever, none of that made a lick of difference.  Mentally, I had reached the lowest of low that I had ever reached before.  The only things going through my mind were; "Why the f*ck am I out here?  I have no business being out here.  I'm not a runner.  WTF was the point of all my training?  It was all for nothing - a waste of time.  I could have been in my nice warm bed sleeping and having morning snuggle time with all of my girls."  I was having a total mental collapse.  I'd gone through low points in each one of my previous races, but never anything like this.  It wasn't supposed to be this way.  Today was MY day.

I personally don't care about where I place in these ultra races that I've come to really enjoy and love in a short time.  I'm out to beat me and my own goals, and no-one and nothing else.  Maybe if this was a lifelong thing that I'd been doing, and if I was actually fast, it would be different.  But I'm not fast, and the 2012 Bear Chase was the one year anniversary of my first ultra - the same race in 2011.  That race almost killed me (or so it felt at the time) but I finished it.  At this point I've been running for less than two years total.  It started out as a way to get fit, that came about because of my Doctor telling me I was a heart attack waiting to happen.  I find it to be a challenge - physically and mentally - and I enjoy that.  I love the solitude, and the immersion into nature and the outdoors, that is trail running. I enjoy the logistics involved in long runs and races.  I enjoy learning about the physiology involved, and what my body can, and cannot, do.  I enjoy the people, the camaraderie, and the brotherhood and sisterhood that permeates the sport.

I have a problem though.  I've let the ultra running community reach an elevated status in my mind and have come to believe that ultra distance trail runners are a perfect example of all that is good in people.  I've allowed the idea to become greater than it actually is.  What I really NEED to do though, is see ultra running for exactly what it is - a microcosm of society in general. What I tend forget, and Chris just reminded me of just moments ago, is that everyone is different, and everyone has different goals. I tell that to myself all the time - but needed a big reminder of that after this event.

I'd set some goals for myself before the race.  1. Finishing in more than 11:00 hours would be a disappointment for me.  2. I'd be very happy with a 10:30 finish.  3. I'd be over the moon with a sub 10:00 finish - and so I did my pace charts with a target of a 9:59 finish.  Last year took me 11:40.  I was looking for a a significant improvement in that time, which I based on my fitness and newly-gained experience at these events.

"When you give it your all, it’s hard to feel comfortable the whole time. Being out of your comfort zone and being OK with that is an important part of running ultras. It’s fairly easy to feel comfortable and want to keep that state all the time. To do great things, you need to step out of your comfort zone and be vulnerable." - Timothy Olson.

I'd read that quote just a couple of weeks ago and it struck a chord with me. Chris and I came up with a new acronym and had been discussing 'JBC' frequently on our lunch runs.  JBC = Just Beyond Comfortable.  This is personally when I feel my best, and typically perform my best, when running - when I'm JBC.  I wanted to put that to the test today, and so I did. I got dialed into JBC fairly early and was feeling pretty good about it all.

The first lap (12.5 miles) of four, I came in 12 minutes under my pace goal (which was 2:10) at 1:58 and was pretty much running a PR for the 1/2 marathon.  Faster than I planned, but I felt good and was running JBC, and not over-extending.  My HR was about 10 beats higher than it had been in training recently, but fueling was on track as was hydration, so not to worry.  My only real concerns on that first lap were a little bit of a sloshy stomach, and the three river crossings.  After the three river crossings, my feet, most specifically the index toe on my left foot and the index and middle toes on my right foot, were feeling some discomfort on the toenails.  It wasn't a big deal and the discomfort subsided before long.  I never really gave it a second thought.

End of First Lap - Feeling good
I was still going strong on my second lap, but dialed it in just a bit.  There was no way I could maintain the pace of my first lap (high 8:00 and low 9:00 mile splits), and my plan was to dial it in by about 1:00 per mile pace each lap.  By mile 15 my legs were getting a bit tired which I expected.  And I hit the standard 20 mile wall a bit early at about mile 19. Again, to be expected, but this felt more like a third lap effort, and not a second lap effort, which it was.  Had JBC been too much?  This is the physical and mental barrier that I've always had to, and was always able to, push through.  But the water crossings on this lap, right around mile 20, absolutely killed me.

My three problematic toes now felt like the toenails were going to rip right off.  The first lap was just some discomfort for a while after the water.  This time though, was much, much, worse.  I'd taped my toes before even starting the race.  My left index toe I'd lost my nail on a month or two prior, and it was still a little bit sensitive.  So, I taped it.  I taped it in training and I had taped it at Leadville - nothing different this time.  My right foot index and middle toes, I'd noticed a few weeks prior, would become irritated just a bit by a small ridge that had developed on the insole of my MT1010's.  So, I taped them.  If they bothered me just a little bit on a short run, they'd probably be toast on a 50 miler.  I'm a big proponent of being proactive when it comes to my feet.  I've read too many horror stories about blisters and toenails ending someones race.  I've always been proactive, and this time should be no different.  I had taped them with 3M Nexcare Absolute Waterproof Cushion Tape.  I've used this stuff tons, and love it.

So, I was hobbled a bit and feeling a good amount of pain in these three toenails.  It only slowed me down a bit but mentally, it destroyed me.  Just three miles later I was deep in the mental pit of anguish I described earlier.  I was at my 20 mile wall, which I've always had to push through, but now I had the extra toenail issue too, which I would not expect to have in a million years.  At the same time, I had the inkling of some pain in the tops of my feet - really minor, but there none-the-less.  Thanks to my deteriorating mental state, everything just seemed magnified and seemed to hurt that much more.  And I'm amazed at how fast it hit me.  Within 35 minutes, the time it took me to get from from mile 20 to mile 23, things had taken a huge nose-dive on me - and the worst was yet to come.

I came in 18 minutes faster than my plan at the 25 mile point at 4:15 elapsed.  I'd shaved even more time off and had those minutes in the bank. I planned on closing out that bank account and use all 18 minutes to regroup at the half-way point - if not physically, at least mentally.  My girls were all waiting for me at the start/finish line cheering me on.  Of course, as is always the case, the tears started as soon as I saw them.  Just like last year, they had made me some awesome signs with the very vibrantly colored words "Go Daddy!" and "Yay Daddy!" written on them, and they had ice packs ready for me so I could cool myself down (they were disappointed that there we no sponge buckets).  It looked like they were having a lot of fun hanging out and playing at the start/finish line.  I told Diana that I was in a deep, dark, pit mentally and that I was majorly struggling.  She made the point of telling me "You said that last year too at this point.  You can do it."  But today, I somehow knew, was different.

I had the fleeting thought of changing into my MT110's that I had in my drop bag.  I opted for fresh tape on the toes, and a dry pair of socks instead.  No shoe change.  I was convinced that the shoes were not the issue, since I'd done 40 miles at Leadville in them, new, right out-of-the-box with zero issues, and that fresh socks and fresh tape would sort things out.  My tired legs I could struggle through on - I did it last year here.  And my feet, well, they couldn't get any worse.  Never once did I think that the combination of cushiony/spongy/stretchy tape, wet feet, wet socks, and wet shoes could be the issue.  I ran this race last year in Merrell Trail Gloves with no socks.  No issues.  But, I'd never tested this exact, wet, combination before.

After my 18 minutes of re-grouping was up, which seemed to fly by in about 2 minutes, off I went - at a trot -  with my girls yelling "Good luck, Daddy! We love you!"  I probably wasn't even out of sight of the start/finish line before I was walking again.  Yes, my legs were sore, and tired, and my hip flexors were screaming, but it was my feet that were the real problem.  Specifically, the tops of my feet.  They were sore as hell.  And not dull, achy, sore, but, red hot poker stabbing sore, right on top of my foot immediately above my arch. WTF is that?!?  Whatever it was, resting at the AS for so long did nothing to help it get anything other than worse.

I was barely doing 20 minute miles, and my feet felt like someone was driving spikes right through the tops of them.  Every step was complete agony.  There was no way I'd finish the race under the cutoff at this rate and I'm really not interested in just finishing.  Been there, done that.  I want to at least be sub 11:00 hours. My left foot was hurting, but the right one was by far the worst.  I'd try to run by compensating for the right with the left but that wasn't working so well.  It was just too painful.  Even walking hurt like crazy.  Never have I ever thought about quitting during a race before.  Today was my first.  I wanted to quit.  I was not having fun, and I wanted to quit.  Before I even got to the Pelican Point AS, only 3.2 miles from the start/finish, I was planning my drop.  I'm not sure why, maybe because I was still clinging to a sliver of hope, but I continued right on through the AS and kept on going.  It was 4.6 miles to the next AS and I would drop there - if I could even make it that far, which I was far from certain that I could.  There were the three river crossings that I was dreading but there was a chance my girls would be there waiting to cheer me on, and I could just ride out with them, tail tucked between my legs.  I was so pissed and frustrated, that every once in a while I let out a loud "F*CK!!!" from between clenched teeth, or pickup a decent sized rock and hurtle it as hard as I could at a nearby tree.  Why don't I have the testicular fortitude to get my sorry ass moving and  to finish this godd@mn race?!?!?!

There was a constant stream of 50 mile and 50k runners passing me on this third lap.  Hardly a one even noticing me literally hobbling and limping along.  And here is where my "problem" from above, about an elevated status of humanity in the ultra community, comes into play.  And I needed Chris, and his seemingly infinite wisdom about trail running and ultra races, to give me a good kick up the arse about, and remind me of.  I'm actually embarrassed now to share my feelings - but I'm going to be brutally honest about how I felt at the time, in the moment, and even for a few days afterwards, and try to show how low I had sunk, and how far south my mind went on me.  So here goes (and if you are going to get bent out of shape, or have easily hurt feelings - just stop reading now);  Maybe everyone else was just buried in their own misery, and that's fine, I've been there in that misery, but never have I not tried to motivate or cheer on another runner, or make sure a runner was OK.  I continued to do that, even now still.  Even cheering on the runners going past me; "Hey, looking strong!  Keep it up!"  That to me is the essence and fabric of the ultra running community - everyone looks out for everyone and everyone wants everyone to succeed.  But my outlook at this point suddenly took a big turn towards the "F*ck you" spectrum.  My mental state had sunk that low.  I'd become the person I never thought I could be out on the trails.  Ultra running is my haven; my fortress of solitude; my escape from the real world of sh!t on the news telling me about people having their wheelchairs stolen, or people beating their grandmothers to death, or bomb threats at a daycare.  Ultra running is where my faith in humanity is intact and strong.  I switched off and talked to no-one, unless spoken to (which would momentarily help restore my faith in humanity, but only momentarily - one time being when I shared the Salt Stick Caps I talked about earlier).  Like I said, I was in the shit, and descending into the bowels of hell (how's that for dramatic?).  My feelings before writing this report, and even in the early stages of writing it, were that I wanted to immensely thank the handful of people that did take the time to slow down and make sure I was OK.  That I wished I had noted your bib numbers so that I could thank you individually by name.  That these good folk, in my opinion, have the spirit of true ultra trail runners.  I tried to chalk it up to this being an 'urban' trail ultra, and that hoity-toity road runners were out here trying to show up the trail runners on a "fast course."  That "city" runners had no class and were too self-absorbed to care about anything other than themselves.  "Mountain" runners and mountain ultras were different, were better.

What a load of nonsense.  It's complete and utter bollocks how I was feeling at that moment of the race, and  even continued to feel for days afterwards.  I feel like such a fool now.  But, that's how I felt at the time.  Amazing how the mind works.  Amazing how I projected my anger and disappointment in myself onto others for my own shortcomings.  I'm sure I wasn't the only person limping along out there.  And, did I really expect every single person out there to ask if I was OK?  It's not like I was collapsed in a ditch.  I was upright and moving.  I was just feeling sorry for myself.

How do I feel now?  Chris put it best - "I just know that putting too much hope/thought/stock/whatever into how people behave during an extreme hours-long physical/mental battle against others/course/internal demons/whatever is a losing proposition that is best saved for the finish after everyone has a couple of beers in them and can laugh about being pushed off a cliff by that one fast guy."

My real problem was that my feet were shagged, and that I was suffering a total mental collapse, and not the fact that someone didn't ask me if everything was OK.  It's a godd@mn race, not a love in.  Just because I'm not out to win it, or place top 10, or top 50, or whatever, doesn't mean others aren't in that situation.  Like I've said a ton in the past - everyone is different - I'd just forgotten that.

The cold water at the river crossings felt not too bad for a moment, being cold enough to numb things a bit, but that was fleeting and things were pretty much just getting worse.  When I arrived at the Fox Hollow AS, and was asked by the volunteer what they could get me I said; "My family.  I want to drop."  Problem was, my family wasn't here.  Casey (sp?), from Fargo, ND, was an angel of a volunteer, texting and calling my wife (leaving voice mails) to let her know I was at the AS and having problems.  I sat on the medical cot there, and waited, wallowing in my misery.  Finally Diana called back on Casey's phone.  I told her what was up and she told me that she'd get a hold of Chris, who was out looking for me along the course, and let him know what was up.  About 10 minutes later, Chris came screaming in on his mountain bike carrying all of his camera gear (he was out and about taking pictures of the race that you can see here).  If there was any hope of continuing, Chris, an ultra-marathon and trail running machine, would help me figure it out.
Not feeling so great at the river crossings.
I explained to him what was going on - basically that my feet were toast.  He was wearing his MT110's and offered those up.  I was reluctant, but I took off my MT1010's, my socks, tore off the useless tape, and  tried 'em.  A few little jogs back and forth... No difference.  He asked me how my arches felt, and it took me more than a few minutes to clue in to what he was talking about.  Just in the past few weeks I'd developed occasional, but pretty intense, arch pain mostly in my right foot.  It was when I was running in my MT1010's.  Today my arches were fine, but maybe it was some kind of clue into the Top of Foot Pain.  We threw ideas back and forth, and brainstormed, and then he came up with the Tylenol idea.  He asked the AS volunteers for some Tylenol, if they had any - and they did.  The thought of taking pain meds hadn't even crossed my mind, probably since I'm not a believer in taking them - at least for events like this.  At least Tylenol isn't an NSAID, which are downright dangerous in endurance sports (hyponatremia, kidney failure).  It was 4.7 miles back to the start/finish and maybe some pain killers would get me through to the "end" at least.  I downed two capsules and wolfed down a ton of PB&J sandwiches, potato chips, coke, etc..  Chris also had the idea of taking a doggy bag with me and so I packed up a Ziploc with chips and M&M's.  So, after spending about 45 minutes at the Fox Hollow AS, off I went (after first making sure they didn't officially drop me), trying to make it to the 37.5 mile start/finish - where my intentions were to drop.

It was rough going and I kept checking my watch and waiting and wondering if/when the Tylenol would kick in.  Eventually it started to help out a little bit, but it took a long time, and wasn't 100% effective.  I'd say it brought down the pain by about 50% though.  Chris would pop-up from time-to-time along the trail, snapping pictures of me as I struggled past.
Credit:  Chris Boyack ©
By the time I got to the Cattail Creek AS (mile 10.1 on the lap) I was told that I had about 20 minutes to make the cutoff for the final lap - 2.4 miles away.  With my pain somewhat under control, and my legs feeling fresh now from all the walking and sitting I'd done, I decided to push it to the start/finish.  I was still planning on dropping at 37.5 miles, but I kind of wanted to leave myself the option to continue if a miracle were to occur.  My last two mile splits were a 9:53 and a 9:08.  At one point coming down the final hill, I checked my watch to see that I was doing a 5:32 pace.  I was fueled by my rage at that point, grinning and bearing the still substantial, but no longer worsening, pain, but knew already that I had just missed the cutoff.  My day was done, and didn't even have the option of continuing on having missed the cutoff by 4 minutes and 42 seconds.  I was an emotional disaster and not to be consoled.  37.5 miles in 8:34:42.  DNF.

Looking back on it now, and going over theories with Diana and Chris, this is what we came up with as the root cause of my feet issues;  I'd probably been favoring my toes, because of my toenails, subconsciously.  In the typical style of a new barefoot/minimalist runner, where you seem to most commonly hear of TOFP (Top Of Foot Pain), people seem to arch their toes up in an exaggerated fashion to protect them more with their new forefoot strike (at least that's my/our theory).  Though I'm not new to barefoot/minimalist running I was probably doing the same kind of thing - moving my toes into some kind of more comfortable, but exaggerated and unnatural position, subconsciously, and causing strain on those top of foot muscles, tendons, etc..  If I feel my way up the tops of my feet, using my fingers, starting at the toes and working towards the ankle, the pain lines up exactly with the problem toes, and none of the other OK toes.  Stopping at 25 miles for so long (18 minutes) didn't help and only caused the muscles, etc., to cool-down and seize up.  And I think my toenails were an issue because of the combination of the tape, and the wet socks/feet.  The repeated soaking would soften my toenails and nail-beds, and the cushiony/spongy/stretchy tape would have a pulling effect on everything, since the tape and socks were now wet and having a clinging effect on each other.  In hindsight, I may have had no problems at all, if I had not pro-actively taped my toes.  I wish too now, that I had tested my MT1010's in water crossings (or at least got 'em good and wet) sometime in training.  That might have been enough to at least clue me into a potential problem.  I wish too that I had given going sock-less in the MT1010's a test, because the 4.6 miles I did do sock-less felt OK, except for a little achilles rubbing on my left foot.  But, as the saying goes, you wish in one hand...

As far as my mental state sinking so low, and not being able to pull out of it...  I really have no idea why that happened.  I was just fixated in the most negative fashion on everything - and I let me beat myself.

I know now that in the grand scheme of things, a DNF is not that big of a deal.  Most people have been through it, and why should I be any different?  I'll learn from it, I'll grow, and hopefully it will provide motivation in the future.  I've got my health, I've got my legs, and I've got the pleasure I get out of running.  It sure could be a lot worse.  I just need to get over it, which the process of writing this report, and the support of friends and my family, is helping me do, and move on.  And, as I always say; what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

I think I'm going to take a break from running and training for a few weeks.  I'm looking forward to coming back with a fresh attitude and outlook and decide what the future holds.  I'd been mulling over some grand plans for 2013, which I told myself hinged on the outcome of this race, but for now, I'm just gonna rest and let my body and mind heal.  I'll blog in the not-to-distant future with a "Reflections & Plans" posting.

Here is the link to my Garmin data.

Final words:

To Casey, the Fox Hollow AS volunteer from Fargo, ND - if you read this...  Thank you for everything!  I'm sorry I bailed before personally thanking you face-to-face.

Thanks to my friend Chris, for all the support, advice, and wisdom that you continue to provide.

But, thanks most of all to my three girls - I love you - and I couldn't do any of this without your love, your understanding, your patience, and your support.

Training - 09/24/12 - 09/30/12

12.19 miles on this final taper week.  Are my miles TOO low coming into the Bear Chase 50 on Sunday?  Feeling good and feeling pretty strong though.  Confidence is high.

Monday, September 24 - 5.56 Miles, 10:33 pace, 150 HR. 164.8 lbs.  Super easy effort (though it didn't feel super easy) at the Boneyard today.  Spent the whole run chatting with Chris about all things running, and mostly about the fueling/hydration mystery.  Fueling and hydration while training vs. racing, and, to fuel/hydrate a lot, a little, or somewhere in between?  That old chestnut...  Also noticed something with my MT1010's today, post-run.  After 140 miles in them, and being only a little over 5 weeks old, the uppers are showing signs of wear. It's not severe, but we'll see how they look after this weekend's race at which point I'll have almost 200 miles and 6 weeks in them.

MT1010's - 3 wear points - same on the other shoe.
The two upper highlighted spots seem to be 'pucker points' on the shoe.  You know, a place where the fabric bends and flexes a lot.  The seemingly stronger, honeycomb-like, material seems to be intact still though, and might be helping to reinforce and hold things together.  Another thing I've noticed is that now that my feet and toes have made their impression in the liner/in-sole, the ridge that has formed along my toes, has started to irritate the very ends of my toes.  The ridge is in both shoes, but irritates the right foot only.  Any long runs and I'll have to be taping the ends of my toes or their could be problems.  The Bear Chase 50 has 12 water crossings in total and so we'll see how things go with that.  The water will definitely throw a new variable in there.  I almost wish now that I had tested the MT1010's without socks for a period of time, but, based on my sockless MT110 experience (not good), I decided against it.  Testing them out wet would have been ideal too.

Tuesday, September 25 - .  0 Miles - Rest day. 161.2 lbs.

Wednesday, September 26 - 4.05 Miles, 9:03 pace, 158 HR. 160.8 lbs.  An out and back on the High Line Canal.  Faster pace for the first 3 miles and then and easy last mile.  Feeling good.  I ate a Clif bar before the run just to test the stomach a bit.  No issues.

Thursday, September 27 – 0 Miles - Rest day. 158.8 lbs.

Friday, September 28 - 2.58 Miles, 11:04 pace, 159 HR. 158.8 lbs.  Very easy, slow, taper run.  Running this pace seems like harder work and I'm feeling lazy today.  HR is high for such an easy run.

Saturday, September 29 - 0 miles - Rest day. 159.0 lbs.  

Sunday, September 30 - 159.0 lbs. Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race Today!  Here is the race report...

Nutrition - Stayed true to being gluten and dairy free.  Ate mostly carbs and easily digestible foods starting Friday to try and minimize GI issues on Sunday.  That's something I'm going to experiment with more in the future - eating more protein and healthy fats instead of just mostly carbs.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race - Fail...

Epic fail at The Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race, for the one reason that I would not have ever suspected would be the cause - my feet. The New Balance MT1010's really let me down today. First two laps (25 miles) in 4:15. 3rd lap - 8:35 elapsed - missing the cutoff for starting the final lap by just under 5 minutes. I wouldn't have made it the 37.5 miles that I did without the support of my awesome wife and my 'baby' girls (who will always be my babies). And, the support of a great friend that would give you the shoes off his feet (literally) - Chris Boyack.  Race report to follow...

Update: In hindsight, the MT1010's didn't let me down - I let myself down.  Can't blame the shoes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race Tomorrow...

I picked up my race packet for the Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race today and will be #120 this year.  Race starts at 6:30am MST tomorrow - Sunday, September 30, 2012.

#120 for the Bear Chase 50 Mile
Time to get the drop bag ready and get everything sorted out.

Here are my pace goals - - unlike last year where my goal was to finish, I'm shooting for sub 10 hours this year.

I've been feeling pretty good, and my taper has been good too.  If anything, I'm probably under-trained. But better to be under than over...

You can track the race online here -

If you are an app person, there are these:

iPhone -

Android -

Good luck to all the 10k, 1/2 marathon, 50k and 50 mile runners tomorrow!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pacing Chart for Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race...

The Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race (Sunday, September 30, 2012) consists of 4 x 12.5 mile laps.  Last year, the Bear Chase being my first 50 miler, or race of any distance actually, I managed:

Lap 1 - 2:18 (11:02 pace)
Lap 2 - 2:40 (12:48 pace)
Lap 3 - 3:10 (15:12 pace)
Lap 4 - 3:30 (16:48 pace)

Total time: 11:40.

This year, with better fitness and more ultra experience under my belt (not much experience - only a 40 mile pacing effort at the LT100 and the North Fork 50 mile), I'm going to shoot for;

Lap 1 - 2:10 (10:24 pace)
Lap 2 - 2:23 (11:26 pace)
Lap 3 - 2:36 (12:29 pace)
Lap 4 - 2:50 (13:36 pace)

Total time: 9:59.

Now, there is no way it will ever pan out exactly as planned.  No run, race or not, ever seems to.  There will be something to deal with; weather conditions, hydration issues, fueling issues, spent legs, etc., etc..  And, there is the possibility (definitely highly likely) that I am just over-estimating my abilities over 50 miles.

I'll be somewhat disappointed with a +11:00 hour finish.  I'll be very happy with a 10:30 finish, but would be over-the-moon (a harvest moon at that on September 30!) with a sub 10:00 hour finish.

Training - 09/17/12 - 09/23/12

25.19 miles this week.  Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race is now less than a week away. With so much smoke in the air from all the wildfires from Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington, my breathing has definitely been affected.  I’m an asthmatic, allergy induced, but very rarely have to ever use a rescue inhaler.  The smoke in the air has left me short of breath recently though.  The other night I found myself having to take ‘talking breaks’ during normal conversation, just so that I could catch my breath.  On runs, I’ve been consciously telling myself to ‘look up’ and ‘raise your head’.  As a trail runner, I typically keep my gaze fairly low, to watch for obstacles, etc., on the ground.  Lifting my chin up higher seems to help open my airways some and lets me get more air in – albeit crappy quality air.  

Overall I'm feeling good about my training, despite the low miles.  I've been consistent with a 10:00'ish pace on similar terrain, and climbing, as to what the Bear Chase 50 will be.  And my HR is responding better and better all the time.

Monday, September 17 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 163.4 lbs.

Tuesday, September 18 - 7.08 Miles, 10:06 pace, 155 HR. 161.0 lbs.  It was a rough outing again – this time at the Boneyard.  Legs are sore and heavy.  I tried to do some harder efforts occasionally to try and shake things out.  That seemed to work a bit, and was feeling a bit better by the end of the run.  Gotta wonder how much the air quality is affecting me, and my legs.  And, am I still fighting some kind of cold, or flu shot side-effects?

Wednesday, September 19 - 0 miles - Rest day. 162.0  lbs. Took the day off of work and spent the day hangin’ with Diana.  Worst nutrition day in a LONG time.  It all started with Lamar’s Donuts for a coffee and an apple fritter in the morning.  It was all downhill from there.  Lost count of how many Mexican Cokes (natural sugar – no HFCS at least) I drank.  And then there was pizza and calzones.  It was my first gluten or dairy in two and a half weeks – and, as always, I felt like total garbage with some major stomach and GI issues as a reward.

Thursday, September 20 – 8.05 Miles, 9:59 pace, 156 HR. 164.8 lbs.  Stats show a good day at the Boneyard for me.  Besides the lingering stomach and GI issues, my legs and feet were telling me otherwise the whole time though.  Legs were heavy, tired, and burning – though I wonder how much the gluten, dairy, and gluttony on Wednesday is to blame for that, on top of air quality.  But my feet were the worst.  I’ve suddenly developed extremely painful arches, with my right foot being the worst.  Am I possibly over-trained, or maybe under-trained?  I like the fact that my average HR was only 156 at that pace at the Boneyard.  That reinforces that my fitness should be good for the Bear Chase, but right now, the legs and especially the feet are bit of a concern.  Wondering if I should dial back my taper even more – if that is even possible.

Friday, September 21 - 0 miles - Rest day. 161.8 lbs.

Saturday, September 22 - 0 miles - Forced rest day. 162.6 lbs.  Logistics to run today just didn't work out and I was NOT motivated to get up at 3am to get in a 10 miler.

Sunday, September 23 10.06 Miles, 10:02 pace, 149 HR. 163.6  lbs. It's my long taper run day and decided to do the Bluffs, in both directions.  Motivation was very hard to come by and it was rough getting out of bed.  The run felt like a mixed bag to me today.  At times it was very rough, other times I felt pretty good.  That's what next Sunday's BC50 will be like so it was probably a good thing for my mental preparation.  The foot pain in my arches was less of a factor today, and am confident that with a very low mileage taper week, that I'll be fine for the race.  I'm excited, and a bit puzzled, that my HR was so low on this run. Typically I'd be around 155 - 160 on an effort like this with almost 960' of climbing.  I typically down 18oz of H2O when I wake up - today, I only took in 8oz.  And while running, I took in only 24oz of H2O.  The more I read about people's experiences, the more I think about less H2O and less calories in.  I'm going to test that out more this fall.

Nutrition - Nutrition was not good overall, and my weight reflects that.  I’m not going to change anything now, but we’ll see what post Bear Chase will bring as far as my diet/eating plan.

My biggest problems as a food addict are;
*Cheating.  If I cheat at all, it's game over.  I binge and can't stop myself.  I have to be 100% strict to be successful.
*Quantity.  I may be eating healthy food, but my portions/serving could feed three or four people.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Training - 09/10/12 - 09/16/12

32.92 miles this week. Miles have been really low leading up to the Bear Chase 50 Mile, now only two weeks away.  I've been trying to do every-other-day runs since I seem to be best recovered that way. I'd rather be under-trained than over-trained and I've been feeling good so I'm not too concerned about the low miles, which may come back to haunt me.  I've been getting in a decent long run every weekend too - until this one - so that is a positive as well.

Monday, September 10 - 9.51 Miles, 10:14 pace, 158 HR. 163.2 lbs. Boneyard run with Chris. Felt good and strong at first, but was tired after mile 5 from keeping up with Chris on some faster pace stuff.  Did a couple of small hill sprints at the end just for giggles.  Good day.

Tuesday, September 11 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 161.6 lbs

Wednesday, September 12 - 0 miles - Forced rest day. 161.2  lbs. Terrible weather outside so decided on Thursday/Friday back-to-back days -which I typically suck at.  Hindsight - should have just toughed it out.

Thursday, September 13 - 6.10 Miles, 9:16 pace, 161 HR. 161.4  lbs. Plan was for intervals with Chris, and 10 miles, on the High Line Canal.  Got a phone call from my wife that my oldest daughter had had an allergic reaction at school (she has a peanut allergy) and obviously called it a day right way to go see her - but I was 3 miles away from my car.  Fortunately it wasn't a reaction to peanuts, but something environmental, so no EpiPens needed.

Friday, September 14 - 10.20 Miles, 9:54 pace, 159 HR. 161.0 lbs. Great day at the Boneyard today. I was pretty tired by mile 7 but find that when I push my pace to just beyond comfortable, and don't just sit back at that comfortable pace, I tend to have pretty good days.

Saturday, September 15 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 159.4  lbs. Feeling really lousy today so glad it's a rest day.

Sunday, September 16-  7.11 Miles, 11:47 pace, 136 HR. 160.0  lbs. Headed out to get 18 miles on my weekly long run.  Before even getting out of bed (30 minutes late at 4:10am) I knew it was gonna be rough.  Motivation was in the negatives and I was feeling lousy.  By mile 2 I had resigned myself to getting in only 7 by at least completing a single lap of the Bluffs, at whatever pace I could muster.  Fighting a cold or something, plus maybe having some symptoms from the flu shot I got on Thursday afternoon. Two weeks until Bear Chase.  Don't need this nonsense now.  If there is one positive I can take away, it's still doing a sub 12:00 pace, feeling like garbage, and walking so friggin' much.

Nutrition - Nutrition was good, until Sunday. Feeling lousy, I lit it up on Sunday night.  Definitely nothing wrong with my appetite.  I stayed gluten and dairy free (two straight weeks now), but I'm not even trying to do paleo or follow my training diet.  I've been feeling really strong and really good - why mess with it?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reflecting on Pacing at the LT100...

More than a few weeks have passed since the Leadville Trail 100, and I've been thinking a lot about how things went, what I could have done differently, and where to go and what to do from here.

Push the pace?

At the LT100, and over my almost 40 miles of pacing, could I have pushed Chris more?  Helped more to get an even better result than his 28:45 finish?  BTW, you can read his race report here, and my pacing report here.

Well, I'm not 100% convinced I could have helped more.  Chris is a veteran ultra-runner, and knows the course, and his abilities, very well.  Based on his fueling, hydrating, and pacing plan, I expected him to come into Twin Lakes in good shape, but he came in with dodgy lungs.  The same thing has happened to him in the past at Leadville, along with severe swelling issues, but fortunately this year wasn't quite as bad.  There were times though when his breathing was so bad that he would start a sentence, but couldn't get more than a couple of words out.  If it were that it was just his legs that were tired and sore - well, that's a different story - but his lungs, that's serious, and I was being cautious.  At least he had no swelling issues this year.  Sometimes, unprompted, he would try to jog/run, and would have to shut it down, so it wasn't like he really needed the motivation to at least try to run.  Maybe I could have suggested more than the 4 -5 times that I did to maybe try a little run, but most likely it would have resulted in a well deserved 'Get bent!'

Hydration - too much, not enough, just right?

There is so much conflicting information out there to find about hydration.  Some people say that in general, you're drinking too much, that you should just drink to thirst.  Personally, I think that's not enough - at least for me.  A co-worker of my wife's also participated in the LT100 this year.  He got a DNF after dropping at Winfield.  When I asked him what he thought was the root cause, he said; "I listened to the Doctor."  I guess at the pre-race meeting (I wasn't there), everyone was told by the resident Doc that most people will over-hydrate and risk hyponatremia and/or hypervolemia - that you should only drink to thirst.  So, he did that. Boom.  Done.

Based on Chris's past troubles at Leadville, he and I did some research pre-race and could find nothing that didn't lead down the road of just more confusion and more questions.  Add salt and electrolytes into the equation and it's a total nightmare.  Here are a couple of sources we came across in our research; - I carried this chart with me at Leadville. - Hammer Nutrition's Little Red Book. A fantastic resource and one of the best nutrition and fueling reference guides I've found - though, I do think they cater mostly to marathoners and to triathletes.

And, in my opinion, one of the best and complete general ultra-running reference guides out there - the Western States 100 Participant's Guide (though it preaches drink to thirst!);

With constantly changing conditions over such a long distance, well, that just adds even more variables in there.  Hot during the day, cold at night, ascending, descending, pace, altitude, humidity, breathing rate, vomiting, urinating, defecating, etc., etc..  All these variables are going to affect you; your sweat rate, excretion rate, the rate at which you lose water just breathing...  Now, I'm not saying pour as much H2O, or whatever your drink of choice is, down your throat as fast as possible (that would be extremely dangerous!) - but I think that once you are thirsty, it's already too late - you're dehydrated - and you and your performance are going to suffer.  Can you bounce back from that with-in the confines of the race time limits?  Maybe.

For both Chris and I, during our time together, we stopped A LOT for pee breaks.  Like every 20 minutes or so I would guesstimate.  We weren't drinking excessively as far as I was concerned (Chris had only 2 water bottles on him), and I chalk it up to the brain/body regulating fluid levels to maintain a proper hydration level.  I think that your brain does a pretty good job of regulating your body - within limits - as long as you can keep things within moderation.  On endurance events like this though, that can truly be a thin line.  Hopefully you are in tune with your body enough, and have experimented enough in training, to recognize warning signs and know how to respond to them.  I think with each passing month/week/run I get better at being able to do that - but I'm not there yet.  Only way to get there is through time and experience.

Fueling - too much, not enough, just right?

Mostly on my mind is, how much is too much?  I've read in different places that the body can only process about 250 - 300 calories per hour.  Any more than that and, under these extreme endurance conditions, you're probably gonna puke or have some tummy troubles.  Other people I read about, they're taking in as many calories that they can, as often as they can (mostly at aid stations where the supply is endless).  What way is the right way to go?  If you don't fuel enough you'll bonk. But, if you're burning anywhere from 500 - 1000 calories (maybe more, maybe less - and I've read that you burn more calories, faster, at altitude) an hour, and you can only process 300 an hour - the inevitable will happen. Toast. Is it possible to throw 500 - 1000'ish calories down your throat in an hour and not spew?  Can your body actually process that much?  Maybe elite folks can. Schlubs like me? Probably not.

I've given some thought to just taking in as much gel, carbs, etc., as I possibly can on my long runs just to see what happens. Then I go and read something like this;

Earlier in the year I was doing the glycogen debt training thing, and I was eating paleo as strictly as I could (which wasn't very strict most times on weekends).  During that time, I was running fairly strong too - on a low-carb diet and no-carb training.  In addition to testing taking in as many calories/carbs as possible, I think I need to get back to trying this again too.  Running without carrying a ton of gels, chomps, bloks, etc., has huge appeal to me.  I've got enough fuel on my body (fat) to carry me a LONG ways.  I just need to train my body to utilize it efficiently, and efficiently enough to carry me long distances at a decent pace (not walking).  The potential risk there, according to some, is muscle cannibalism.

With all that being said, at Leadville, I think that my mixture of gels, potato chips, Roctane/GU drinks, and ramen noodles worked very well for me.  I never had any stomach issues, no tummy/GI issues, no bonk...  nothing.  Pace and HR probably had a lot to do with me not bonking, staying out of glycogen debt.

Electrolytes - too much, not enough, just right?

I've never been one to suffer from leg cramps.  I can count on one hand how many leg cramps I've had in my entire life and not one of those fingers would be for when I was running.  Chris told me that at one point on Hope Pass, he had to sit.  While sitting, his calves were twitching uncontrollably, so he popped some salt caps and that fixed him up.  Other than that, he avoided salt caps.  That was his plan going in, and I think that it was a good one.  We had talked a lot about salt, and that it was critical to not over-do it.  It was going to be a reactive process, instead of proactive, and that worked.  One test I've read about, and actually had an aid station volunteer tell me to try during a race, is to lick your arm.  Does the salt taste good?  If it does, then you may need salt.  Does the salt taste bad?  If it does, you may be over-doing it on the salt.  Personally, I didn't take any salt-caps while performing my pacing duties.  Like Chris, I got enough from all the nutrition/fuel that I took in over my 12+ hours on the trail.

So, what was my biggest challenge on the trail?  Probably just the length of time on my feet.  My legs were tired and they were sore - but that's 12 hours at Leadville (or anywhere really) for you.  More fitness and more training would have helped, sure, but there aren't too many people that can say that that wouldn't help.  Having more opportunity to train at Leadville altitudes would have been huge, but you do what you can with what you have.  I get to train at 6,000' every day so can't complain much.  But training at 9,000' - 12,600' is a whole different ballgame.  And the climbing, well ya - there's the climbing that you can't duplicate anywhere.  Would hydrating more, or taking in more calories have helped?  Not convinced of that. Was I over-hydrated or over-fueled?  Not convinced of that either.  I'm pretty sure that my nutrition, fueling and hydration were dialed in just right.  Equipment, gear, etc.?  I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Since Leadville, it's the oddest thing, but I've been longing to run in the mountains and for climbing - most specifically - Powerline.  I'd really like to try out Hope Pass too, but I've done powerline two times now, and each time kicked my arse.  I'd like to get to a point where powerline isn't such an arse kicker for me - but that may never happen.  I'm not a great climber, and I can probably only improve at it, so that is a positive!

My main takeaway from all of this, and I've said it before, is that 'Everyone is Different'.  You have to experiment, be prepared to fail, and to struggle, but at the same time learn and gain knowledge.  I still have a TON of that to do...

As far as my first-time pacing experience...  Would I do it again?  Yup.  In a heartbeat.  It was an amazing experience, and can't thank Chris enough, for asking me to be a part of it with him, and for my family for supporting me!

What's next?  I have the Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race on September 30th.  It will be my third ultra and my second time doing it.  I'm going to use that as a gauge.  A gauge for what?  If, with my family's support, I should attempt the LT100 next year myself...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Training - 09/03/12 - 09/09/12

34.55 Miles.  Even less miles than last week.  Not sure if that's a good thing, or a bad thing, leading up to the Bear Chase 50 mile.  I'd rather be under-trained than over-trained though so I'm not too worried - and I'm feeling stronger than I ever have.

Monday, September 03 - 2.74 mile hike (not counted) - 160.6 lbs.  Holiday Monday!  My girls and I hiked Devil's Head and had a great time. Spectacular views and weather both.

View from Devil's Head.

View from Devil's Head.

My girls!

View from Devil's Head.

View from Devil's Head.
Tuesday,   September 04 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 162.8 lbs.

Wednesday,   September 05 - 7.09 miles, 9:40 pace, 162 HR - 161.2 lbs.  Boneyard run and I felt great. Any time I can do sub-10:00 pace at the Boneyard is a great day for me.  I didn't walk/hike at all but was ready to be done after 6 miles.

Thursday,   September 06 - 7.36 Miles, 9:49 pace, 155 HR. - 160.8 lbs.  High Line Canal today.  Legs were tired and feeling heavy. I was toast after only 4 miles at an easy pace.

Friday,   September 07 -  0 Miles - Rest day. 159.2 lbs.

Saturday,  September 08 -  20.10 miles, 11:08 pace, 152HR - 160.4 lbs.  Long run in the HRBC and Douglas County East West Trails. Not too happy with my pace today. Lots of hiking/walking, which is more my norm, but a 180 from last weekends long run.  Ran into Woody Anderson on my way back home and chatted for a bit. Cold and dark at 3:00am, with no clouds.

Sunday,  September 09 -   0 Miles - Rest day. 161.2 lbs. It was nice to sleep in after Saturday's 2:40am alarm clock.

Nutrition - Saturday night date night again. Popcorn at The Landmark Theater, Coke Zero, a glass of red wine, and some organic chocolate covered espresso beans. Figured I'd earned it with my 3am, 20 mile, run. Oh, and on the way home, some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups from Safeway.  Sunday night I was ravenous, and hit buttered popcorn at home, some Late July - Sea Salt by the Seashore - Organic Corn Chips, and a Sprite Zero.  Still, I managed to stay gluten free, and dairy free - though definitely not paleo.  I've started drinking coffee too - black.  Just a cup a day kind of thing. I started easing into it a couple of weeks ago. So far, so good. Plan is to keep on doing what I'm doing until race day - Sunday, September 30th.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Training - 08/27/12 - 09/02/12

35.93 Miles.  Not high mileage, but overall I'm happy with the week - especially my week-ending long run.  I did have high HR issues early in the week, but seems to have sorted itself out by Sunday. Only 4 weeks until the Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race.

Monday, August 27 - 7.85 Miles, 9:56 pace, 164 HR - 166.6 lbs.  Ran the High Line Canal.  First 3 miles felt really good - then I died a thousand deaths.  Probably chalk it up to dehydration, how bloody hot it is, the terrible air quality because of all the wildfires in the North West, and the fact I'm probably not recovered fully from Leadville.

Tuesday,  August 28 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 162.6 lbs.

Wednesday,  August  29 - 5.54 miles, 10:44 pace, 157 HR - 162.6 lbs.  Ran the Bone Yard today, and it was a very rough outing. I had absolutely no energy.  It was strange - my legs felt good, and strong, but I just had zero energy to keep 'em turning over.  Very hot out, and again with the high HR (though not quite as bad as Monday).

Thursday,  August 30 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 161.0 lbs.

Friday,  August 31 -  8.06 Miles, 9:48 pace, 161 HR - Rest day. 160.0 lbs.  High Line Canal again.  Decent day overall.  I can feel a new level of fitness in my legs, though I still have that deep down fatigue from Leadville. I'm feeling stronger on the hills, and my average pace is better.  Wasn't quite as hot today, and my HR was a bit better again. Slowly coming around.

Saturday,  September 1 -  0 Miles - Rest day. 160.6  lbs.

Sunday,  September 2 -   14.48 Miles, 10:06 pace, 160 HR - 160.6  lbs.  Long run on the East West Trail and Highlands Ranch Back Country. This was probably one of my most consistent and strongest runs - ever.     I usually walk a fair bit on this course, but today I hardly walked at all - only very short periods on the steepest sections. Definitely have reached a new level of fitness. My legs are feeling so much stronger, and the normal lactic acid burn that typically slows me down and brings me to walking (often) was a non-factor today. It would be GREAT if it stayed that way! I started to get a bit tired at mile 8, but at mile 13, I was ready to be done. Still don't have that endurance. Only three more long runs until BC50.

Nutrition - I did pretty good this week. I was very disciplined. Only really bad stuff was Sunday night date night. Popcorn (buttered - which is actually some kind of 'healthy' coconut/canola oil concoction they serve at The Landmark Theater), Coke Zero, and a glass of red wine.  And Ted's Montana Grill before the movie - glass of red wine, and a bison burger (sans bun and cheese) with sweet potato fries.  Other than that, I did really well, and never gorged or binged even once.  Despite that, I'm still in the 160's - but my body is feeling pretty strong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Training - 08/20/12 - 08/26/12

After pacing Chris at the Leadville Trail 100, I took the week off and binged.  Next week I'll get back at it - I hope.  I signed up for the Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail this week so I need to get cracking.

Monday, August 20 - 0 Miles - Rest day.  163.2 lbs.

Tuesday,  August 21 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 164.4 lbs

Wednesday,  August  22 - 0 miles - Rest day. 164.6 lbs.

Thursday,  August 23 - 0 Miles - Rest day. 165.2  lbs.

Friday,  August 24 -  0 Miles - Rest day. 165.0 lbs.

Saturday,  August 25 -  0 Miles - Rest day. 164.2  lbs.

Sunday,  August 26 -   0 Miles - Rest day. 166.4  lbs.

Nutrition - Terrible, terrible, terrible.  I told myself that after Leadville, I'd be a good boy and eat healthy - so much for that.  Name something not good for you - I ate it.  Monday to Sunday, up 3.2 lbs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Leadville Trail 100 Pacer Report...

When Chris asked me about six weeks ago if I wanted to consider pacing him for a portion of the LT100, I was pretty excited, and definitely felt honored.  I got the buy-off from my family, and Chris and I settled on me pacing him for the 40 mile section from Twin Lakes to the Finish.  I had never paced before and I was excited about what I would learn from the experience, but mostly about the fact that I'd be helping out my good buddy, who's been a huge running mentor to me, and helping get him to the finish line in under 30 hours - or even under 25 hours (big buckle!) if things played out just right.

I arrived at Twin Lakes right at 5:00 pm.  Based on Chris's split times from past LT100's, the earliest I was expecting him was at about 6:30 (with an anticipated 7:00 - 7:30 sweet spot), so I had plenty of time to get myself sorted out.  I did a quick reconnaissance drive through the town trying to scope out a primo parking spot, but the place was absolutely frantic.  It became apparent, very quickly, that Twin Lakes was a prime spot for pacers to pick up their runners, and a also a prime crewing area.  I quickly decided to just head back out the direction I came in and take the first decent spot I could find along the road side.

Twin Lakes - The view from my parking spot.
After parking, decision number one was on what shoes to wear for my pacing duties.  Would it be my badly beat up New Balance MT110's or my brand spanking new MT1010's?  I kind of got caught in a bad position of an "old shoes" / "new shoes" cycle at the worst possible time.  After a training run in Leadville two weeks prior, my MT110's were left in really bad shape and I was hoping that a pair of MT1010's were going to be in my hands (or on my feet) much sooner than the day before the LT100.  With no drop bags to have an extra pair of shoes waiting for me somewhere down the trail, it was critical to decide on the right shoe right from the start.  It might seem like; "What's the big deal?  Just pick a shoe!"  Thing is - Chris is really depending on me.  If my shoes or feet give out, then he's on his own.  That's unacceptable.  I can't, and won't, jeopardize my ability to be there for him the whole distance.  After "breaking-in" my new MT1010's on Friday night and Saturday, just wearing them around the house and such (no runs), it ended up not being that hard of a decision.  And, it was one I was 100% confident in.  The new MT1010's it was.

Next decision - clothing.  Actually, mostly just a "shorts" or "tights" decision. The forecast for the race was looking pretty decent.  No snow or rain in the forecast, but it was going to get down into the 30's.  Again - easy decision; Tights.  I might be too warm at first, but at 4am, it would be the right decision.  For my upper body I'd start out in just a tech t-shirt and my Boulder Running Company logo'd Headsweats running cap.  I'd carry with me an extra pair of socks, arm warmers, a long sleeve zippered tech shirt and a light Saucony running jacket, plus some gloves and a warm hat.  And, let's not forgot my trusty Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp with two extra sets of 3 x AAA batteries, with each set in separate plastic zip baggies that were a perfect size for that.

As a pacer, I'd have full access to all of the Aid Stations - all the same stuff Chris would have access to.  Based on that, I didn't have to carry a crazy amount of nutrition and fuel.  I would carry about a dozen GU Roctane Gels, some ginger chews and a dozen each of S Caps! and Salt Stick caps. All that and 70 oz of Amino Vital in my CamelBak bladder to start out.  Everything else I'd get from the aid stations.

I'd also carry with me an "emergency kit" of sorts that had; toilet paper, band aids (big and small), Lanacane,   Nexcare waterproof tape (I love this stuff), tough utility tape, Neosporin, a Leatherman Micra, and a single AAA battery mini Mag-lite. In a separate ziplock baggie I had a map of the course, an aid station cut-off chart (which I had written on with the exact distances between aid stations and cumulative pacing totals), and an S! Caps hydration/electrolyte chart.  And, finally, what modern-day ultra-runner geek would be without his smart phone?

The jacket I tied around my waist and I zipped the gloves into one pocket and the warm hat into the other.  On an inside pocket I put easy-to-access copies of the same course map, aid station cut-off chart, and S! Caps chart as I had ziplocked in my pack - plus a pen.  All the rest of my gear and supplies went in my CamelBak Octane LR running pack.  I was good to go.

During my drive up, and while getting ready, I put down 24oz of Hammer HEED, 24oz Amino Vital and a packet of Quinoa and Brown Rice - about 750 calories total, over 3 hours, of primarily carbs.  I was feeling good about my nutrition, not only for today, but for the days leading up to race day as well.  I ate smart and I ate disciplined - which can be a major challenge for someone with a food addiction.

During the weeks leading up to the race, Chris and I talked a lot about his strategy, his fueling, his hydration.  Anything and everything we could think of that could and would affect his race.  His strategy would be to be conservative and consistent.  He'd be deliberate about his hydration, taking in extra fluids in the form of Coke at aid stations, and finishing off water bottles before re-filling.  He'd be consistent with fueling and getting his calories, taking extra gels at the aid stations.  Salt caps he would stay away from, unless he was symptomatic of low electrolytes.  In the past he has had some issues with severe swelling of the extremities and with his breathing.  His strategy this year was designed to mitigate the risk of any of that happening this year.

By 6:30pm I had checked in at the Aid Station and had signed a Pacer Waiver form - which was kind of comical.  First, there were no pens, so a big, fat, sharpie had to be used.  Second, all the waiver forms must've been photo-copied from a previously filled out form.  The volunteer told me "You're Jason Lee today.  Sign it."  I did scratch out the other person's information and put in my own at least, though the volunteer said it didn't really matter as long as I signed it.  Third, I got only one safety pin for my pacer bib. "We're running kinda low.  Just tuck it into you waist or something.  You don't need to have it visible anyways, except at the aid stations."  So, I folded it over once, and pinned it to the bottom of my shirt.

My LT100 Pacer bib.
There was a steady stream of runners coming through the AS (Aid Station) and I watched intently for Chris just outside the AS door.  I bumped into a friend of Chris's - Scott Williams - who started the race but had to drop going up Hope Pass.  He was light headed and having stomach issues, leaned against a tree to rest, passed out and a couple of people found him that way.  That was the end of his day.  We chatted for a while, and then I moved down the course to position myself in a better spot where I could get an advanced status from Chris and be better prepared for what we would need to accomplish at the AS.  Some runners were coming in strong - others - not so much.  I saw Woody Anderson when I first got there (he was with his pacer Leila Degrave), and I saw Brandon Fuller coming through with his pacer, Nick Pedatella, as well.

Twin Lakes - The yellow cones mark the road crossing.
More of Twin Lakes inbound.
I decided that I would wait down by the restrooms where runners first come into Twin Lakes.  I tried occasionally turning on my phone and hitting the mobile site for live-timing on the race.  There had been no new data since 2:04pm when he hit Hope AS outbound.  They were having problems getting data from Winfield and from Hopeless AS, I overheard at the Twin Lakes AS.  It looked like some data was coming in, but not all.

Twin Lakes - by the toilets - people waiting on inbound runners.
Just before 8:00 I started to worry - he "probably" should have been here by now - it's cooling down, and it's getting dark.  He's got no light.  All of that gear is here at Twin Lakes in his drop bag, since he fully anticipated being here before dark.  So, I headed out down the trail hoping to find him.  I was properly geared for a night run, and would go until I found him - where-ever and whenever that might be.  Fortunately, I didn't have to go very far...

"Nice work two-nine-four!"  I tucked in right on his tail between him and another runner trailing him.  He didn't make any indication that he saw or heard me so I just tailed him back to the parking lot just past the toilets, where I laid a hand on his back - "Good to see you, man.  How are things?"  He seemed pretty happy to see me.  Despite all the hollering, cheering, cow belling, and the general din from the enormous sea of people, I managed to discern that Hope Pass had taken it's toll on Chris.  Let's just get to the aid station and get things sorted.  On our walk up and over to the aid station we chatted about the status of some of the other runners he knew, that I had seen.  That was a mixed bag.  Some runners were going strong, some questionable, and some - done.

We found Chris's drop bag (hot pink and easy to spot - he had one at every AS) and got to a chair inside the little fire station, now a makeshift aid station.  We talked about his hydration and fueling a little bit and he seemed pretty dialed in on that.  In past years at the LT100, Chris had had some issues with breathing and severe swelling of extremities.  Prior to the race, we'd talked at length and done a ton of research about what the possible causes could have been.  Could it have been too much salt and too much water?  Too much salt and not enough water?  Too much water and not enough salt?  Not enough salt and not enough water?  Or was it something else?  We never really figured anything out for certain but strategized on "best guess."

I was doing everything I could to be helpful had and gotten into my pacer mode quickly - whatever that mode was, since this was a new experience for me.  I'd try to take queues from Chris and I'd try to be pro-active and helpful without being an irritant.  I also kept reminding myself about rule #1 - take care of yourself first and foremost.  A broken pacer is useless to his runner and the last thing you want is to be any kind of hindrance, even in the slightest.  This is your runner's day, not yours.  He broke out a Ziploc with a jar of Vaseline and a rubber glove. 'Whhhoooaaaaa...' I said. 'You're on your own with that one chief!" - which we had a good laugh about.  While he was changing into a new pair of shoes, I topped off his two bottles with water, grabbed some GU gels for both of us, and attempted to get some Ramen Noodles that he requested.  Of course, the soup station had just run out and a new pot had been put on to boil - "A few minutes..." the volunteer says. She did manage to get out some broth at least, though that was a pretty painful wait as there wasn't much sense of urgency from her.  I took that to Chris and went back for the noodles.  The person waiting next to me stuck her hand on the side of the soup pot to check the status for herself - "This thing is stone cold!"  I had to go to Chris with the bad news.  It was a negative message that I didn't want to delivery.  "Dude, sorry, but there aren't gonna be any Ramen Noodles for you at this stop."

If you have your heart set on something when you get to an aid station, be prepare to be disappointed.  In this race, with 800 or so runners, unless you are near the front of the pack, there are going to be lines, and Murphy's Law dictates that they are gonna be out of, or in-between re-stocking, what you really want. Personally, I crave certain foods, and those things are what I really want.  So, it's better if you can have a few things in mind that might sound good to you so as to not have your spirits totally crushed when you don't get it.

We spent close to 18 minutes at the Twin Lakes AS and now it was dark.  Definitely time for lights.  I did a final check on everything I could think of with him, while he downed some Coke.  "Got your headlamp and handheld? Got enough warm clothes; jacket, gloves, hat?  Enough gels to get to Half Pipe AS? Enough H2O?  Did you drink some Coke and get enough nutrition from the AS?  Do you need to relieve yourself from either end?  Any trash you need to ditch?"  Good to go.

Immediately out of Twin Lakes, we were walking/hiking uphill - and so was everyone else.  In past runs we had discussed our pecking order - who would lead. We had determined that Chris would lead and that I would follow. I fell right in behind him.

Whoever was behind us had a super perky pacer.  We got to hear all about her "engagement kayak" (and not "engagement ring"), and so on, and so forth...  We had a good laugh about it, as did some others that could hear her as well.  It took us some time, but we finally pulled a good enough gap where we couldn't hear her any more - except occasionally on switch-backs.  Before too long, and too much aggravation, she was gone.

It was about three miles to the Mount Elbert Mini-Station and we got there pretty fast it seemed despite the climb (~1,300') and the amount of hiking we were doing - though Chris was hiking strong, and I'd let him know it from time-to-time.  A quick check to see if he needed to stop for anything here got me an "I'm good" response.  So, we just carried on right through without stopping.

The Half Pipe aid station came a little bit sooner than I had anticipated - distance-wise at least. Since I had picked up Chris at twin Lakes, 3 hours and 9 minutes had elapsed, and we had gone only about 9.25 miles. Time was passing pretty quickly, at least for me, just chatting the miles away.  We had another good 10 minute stop here.  I would take care of getting Chris settled into a chair, find his easy-to-spot hot pink drop bag, get his bottles filled, get him some GU and this time successfully acquiring some Ramen Noodles for both him and me.  I was running low on fluids, so I topped up with 70oz of GU Roctane.  Of course, the cap on my bladder didn't go on correctly, and sure enough, freezing cold Roctane spilled all over my legs, soaking my tights.  Son of a B*$*&%!!!  This reminded me of how I really need to research some different packs.  While there are things I like about my CamelBak Octane LR, there are more things I dislike.  Filling the bladder is high on that dislike list.  Once I got the bladder fixed and zipped in, and on my back, ready to roll, I found that I couldn't get any liquid out of the mouth piece.  G*DD*#%$ it!!!  So, off with the pack again, to fix the tube where it inserts into the bladder.  This was actually the second time today that this had happened to me (the first being at Twin Lakes while waiting for Chris).  I have no idea how it managed to pop out all by its little self, because it takes me about 2 tons of force to either insert it, or to pull it out myself.

We'd grab some Cokes, suck down some GU's, pocket a bunch of regular GU gels and some Roctane gels, and off we'd go leaving Half Pipe AS behind us.  Only about 30 miles left to go.  Ugh.

Both of us seemed to be peeing a lot, but Chris even more-so than me.  I wasn't too worried about it, but Chris seemed a bit concerned.  I took it as a sign of being well hydrated, as long as the color was good - which it was for both of us.  It was getting pretty chilly, and our pace didn't have us sweating all that much.  I had gone from TL all the way to Half Pipe with just a t-shirt and arm warmers.  Only at HP had I finally put on my light running jacket and my gloves.  If we're not sweating it out, then I guess we'd be peeing it out.  I think Chris was mostly worried about peeing out electrolytes, but other than his breathing, everything seemed to be fine.  I'd quiz him fairly often about dry mouth, being lightheaded, his stomach, craving salt, craving sweet, etc., etc.  Everything always checked out OK, but now his breathing was starting to deteriorate.  We'd have to monitor that, but there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it.

From Half Pipe to Fish Hatchery was probably the most challenging of the night for me.  I was getting really tired, as in sleepy, from being awake since about 7:00am the previous morning, even though it wasn't really that late at night yet.  I could only imagine how Chris felt having started running at 4:00am the previous morning.  Back home, my wife and girls would be sleeping soundly in their nice, warm, cozy, beds.  I spent quite a bit of time admiring the clear and moonless sky.  The stars were twinkling brilliantly and I would take time to pick out a few of the constellations, and planets, that I could identify.  While we did chat a lot, there were also periods of silence, where all there was was the sounds of footfalls and of breathing.  It gave me time to think and reflect about how of big a world it is, and how much of it there is to explore.  I imagined how this race would look to someone watching from high above - and how we'd all look like little ants, carrying glowing beacons of light, carving a long trail through these enormous mountains. This was awesome.

We went through an area called Treeline, where there were tons of cars parked, and people out cheering us on - though mostly from comfy chairs and all bundled up like they were in the middle of the frozen tundra.  We did a long stretch of pavement/road running, not too long after Treeline.  I remember at mile 15 thinking, "This road nonsense is kicking the crap outta me" and my legs were now starting to feel it.  I kept thinking, "If I'm feeling it, Chris has it 100 times worse, after 75 miles now."  This stretch between Half Pipe and Fish Hatchery we got passed a lot - and that was mentally taking it's toll on Chris I think.  He'd comment a lot about how many people were passing us.  I'd try to spin some positivity into it.  "You probably passed them ages ago, and now they're trashing themselves - we'll be passing them again before the day is done."  I'm not sure he was convinced but I was trying my best to keep the mood positive.

The psychological effect in these ultra endurance events is usually bigger than the physical aspect, especially in the later stages.  You have to try and stay positive, and build-up your runner - but sometimes you have to wonder if just commiserating with them might end up having a positive effect as well.  A "misery loves company" kind of thing.  It's also a thin line between trying to push a bit, and pushing too much.  During the whole night I gently suggested, maybe five times only, that we try a little jog.  Chris was good about pushing when he felt he could push.  I'd give the occasional speech about getting some fast twitch muscles in action again and maybe that would help things feel better.  Every so often I'd give him a "Great effort there..." or "You're looking strong right now..." - and I wasn't BS'ing him.  Considering the situation, he really was doing very well.  Chris's lungs were a real problem now though.  We discussed a lot about what we thought the cause was.  He was short of breath and could not get a deep breath in at all, so much so that at times, even short little jogs were impossible.  We chalked it up to the altitude, exertion, the dust being kicked up by other people, and the smoke in the air from all of the wildfires burning in the North West.  He had no swelling of extremities and was still peeing a lot - probably every 20 or 30 minutes.  I wasn't a whole lot different with that schedule.  Our fueling schedules were on track still too.  All night long I'd time between 30 to 45 minutes for fuel and would give Chris indicators like - "2 minutes until 30 minute GU."  Sometimes he'd want to wait until some specific geographic marker before fueling if it was really close by.  He never went much more than 45 minutes between fueling though and I stuck to his schedule for the most part too.

It was getting colder as the night went on, maybe in the mid-40's now and Chris was still in his shorts.  We'd talked about getting warmer gear on him, most specifically his tights, at Fish Hatchery.  He wanted to accomplish that without removing his shoes, since he had those dialed in perfectly, and didn't want to muck that up.

About 16.5 miles, and five and a quarter hours since first meeting Chris at Twin Lakes, we finally got to Fish Hatchery at 1:45am.  Chris wanted to try some broth here, but took one sip and that was it.  No more.  He'd be sticking with gels, water, and Coke.  I, on the other hand, greatly enjoyed a couple of cups of noodles.  Tonight, that seemed to be my thing.  That, and Coke.  I helped him get his tights on, which took some real doing, and we must've looked pretty comical - though the people passed out on the medical cots and others huddled up to space heaters probably had other, more serious, things to worry about.  Chris wasn't even close to being voted "in worst shape" at this AS.  It was pretty hot in the AS, and when we finally stepped outside after another 10 minute'ish stop, taking down some Coke and gels just before as usual, we got hit with a wall of freezing cold.

Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am

Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am

Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am
Chris was freezing, and so we tried to get to a good pace to generate some body heat.  I was still felling good in my same gear and had offered Chris my warm, long-sleeve, tech shirt a few times.  I was also now carrying a warmer jacket for him in case he really needed it.  Pacers are allowed to mule for their runners, but Chris wasn't so into that.  The jacket though, I pretty much insisted on carrying.

We still had Powerline to climb too, and that would generate some heat - fast.  Powerline is 3.5 - 4.0 miles of some serious climbing (while not the biggest of the day for Chris, it was the biggest for me with ~1,500 of climbing and +20% grade at times).  This was probably the toughest part of the night.  The pace was painfully slow with lots of stops to relieve ourselves.  We had developed a good technique where Chris would unbuckle his waist pack, I'd take it and hold onto it while he hit the woods, and then I'd hold it in a manner where he could easily get it back on again.  The tights and shorts combo he had on for warmth made taking the belt off an unfortunate necessity.  At some point during the climb, about six hours since turning it on when leaving TL, I had to change my headlamp batteries, which I timed with a visit to the woods for Chris.  Chris did end up holding his flashlight for me, once he was done, so that I could see what I was doing - since holding it in my mouth wasn't working out so great.  Six hours on expensive lithium batteries seemed pretty weak to me.  Chris's 4 x AAA Black Diamond lamp was still going strong though.  Only three more hours or so of still needing the headlamps, and then dawn would break.  The sun would be a welcome sight.

Powerline - 3:00am.
By now, with our 20:00 - 30:00 average pace climbing Powerline (by far the slowest pace of the night), I was starting to watch the time and AS cut-offs very closely indeed.  Next stop, and the last AS, was May Queen at mile 26 from Twin Lakes.  There was still 13.5 miles to go from there.

A short while after summiting Sugarloaf (11,100' or so), we hit Hagerman Road.  Chris found some good legs and we opened it up and made some great progress to the Colorado Trail section, passing a few folks along the way.  I let know he was kicking some serious ass now.  It felt good for me to get some fast twitch muscles working again after climbing Powerline for an hour and forty minutes.  Once at the Colorado Trail, we couldn't move too fast due to footing and slower people in front of us, but we were passing more people than were passing us.  Still, anyone who did pass us, Chris was none too happy about.  I was watching my Garmin even more closely now.  The 30 hour cutoff is getting tight and we gotta keep the pace up.

We got to May Queen at just over 9 hours elapsed.  Chris's pink drop bag was waiting for him, just like they had been at all the aid stations, and we ditched his now un-needed jacket that I'd been carrying.  He wanted only water, but only half bottles this time.  He'd cut back on his fluids, which still seemed to be OK.  I gave Chris his bottles back and he told me that he would head out and for me to just catch up with him since I still had to sort myself out.  I had a volunteer help me fill my bladder - with no issues this time.  When I filled up at Fish Hatchery, it was a super sweet GU drink, and so I added just water this time to dilute it.  I was surprised to hear that there were pancakes at this AS but they were all out right now.  Bummer.  Those would have hit the spot.  So, I ended up going with noodles and Coke yet again.  Probably for the best since if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  It had gotten even colder, now that it was almost 5am, and we were down near Turquoise Lake.  It was probably in the mid-30's now.  This was a sub 10 minute stop this time, and I took off down the road after Chris.

A short while later dawn was finally breaking, and there was some beautiful scenery to behold, where the sun was starting to illuminate the sky from behind the swath of 14ers to the east of Leadville.  It was a beautiful, clear, morning and I was anxious for the sun to peak out and start to warm our chilly, tired, bones.

Inbound from May Queen along Turquoise Lake.

Inbound from May Queen along Turquoise Lake.
Somewhere around here, I let Chris know that we needed to pick up the pace.  Twenty minutes miles isn't going to cut it.  That seemed to light a fire under him and he found some new life.  I almost couldn't believe how strong he started running.  Again, he was kicking ass and I continued to let him know it.  "Dude!  What did you take at the AS?!?"  He'd joke that it was just me, cracking the whip on him.  I'm not sure how many people we passed along the lake, but it was a lot, and I'm pretty sure no-one passed us.  We were doing an average of 13:00 - 15:00 pace now.  We were even running some of the rollers.  We had more close calls on this section, almost eating dirt due to tripping or kicking obstacles, than any other section.  Most others we saw were walking, and were going to be very close to the 30 hour cut-off going the pace they were.  All night long there had been a lot of "Great job...", "Nice work...", "Keep it up..." etc., being exchanged back and forth while people (us included) were moving like zombies.  Now, we were hearing "Great job!", "Nice work!" but with enthusiasm and I think probably a bit of shock and surprise about how well we were moving on the trail so late in the game.  Chris had commented in the middle of the night how much he appreciated me doing all the talking to the other runners around us for him, so that he could conserve his breath.  There is great camaraderie on the trails between everyone out there - and everyone is pulling for and cheering on everyone else.  What a great sport, with great people.

Early morning mist on Turquoise Lake.

Turquoise Lake.

Chris, somewhere along Turquoise Lake.

On the railway service road.
Just before mile 34 (Chris's mile ~94) we stopped for what would be our final pit stop, plus Chris had his first blow-out of the night and so had to re-tie.  There is some crazy downhill stuff here with crazy loose rock footing - my crappy picture doesn't do it justice.  It absolutely killed my knees and my quads.  Fortunately at the bottom was the dirt road that leads to a paved section of Turquoise Lake Rd and we were able to keep moving well on it.

Right around mile 34 (for me).
The last 3 miles of this course is nothing short of a total beotch.  I was hurting and ready to be done now.  There is a section where you take a hard left off of a railroad service drive and hit a nasty, though short, climb through some rough terrain.  I had looked down at something for a minute, and when I looked up, Chris was about 75' ahead of me picking his way through people!  We'd been banking such good time with the pace along the lake, Chris was shooting for a sub 29:00 finish now.

I kept checking my Garmin and doing the math.  The 29 hour finish was in the bag for him.  We could even crawl it in if needed, we had banked so much time coming around the lake.  We didn't crawl, but we did end up walking a lot of that last 3 miles.  During the walk, Chris showed me his now swollen hands.  The cutting back on the drinking, and therefore lack of urinating, had had an effect - but with only a couple of miles to go, it would be irrelevant.  When we reached the pavement with less than a mile to go, Chris picked up the pace again.  28:45 was on now.  I had thoughts of "Right, I'm smoked.  Tell Chris you're going to drop back and you'll see him at the end."  But there was no way I was going to bail on him now.  There's only another half mile and I'm going to see him to the finish.  I started thinking about what a great journey it had been.  And even though it was extremely tough, I had a ton of fun doing it.  I started wondering if by some small chance my wife and girls would be at the end waiting to cheer us on.  Emotions started to well up inside me and I was teary eyed coming up the avenue towards the finish line. I fell back and told Chris to go claim his victory and watched as he broke the tape at the line.  I was smoked - and Chris was smoked - but I managed to succeed in my tiny little part of helping Chris in his monstrous achievement of finishing his fourth LT100.

Chris's finish - 28 hours 45 minutes.

28:45 - LT100 Finisher - Chris 'The Agile Fox' Boyack!

The Finish Line - taken from outside the medical tent.
I ended up running 39.38 miles with Chris in 12 hours, 23 minutes. Climbing 4718'.  A pace of 18:53.  My 3rd, albeit unofficial, ultra finish.

Here's the Garmin Connect data.

Elevation & HR

Elevation & Pace

HR & Pace
A huge congratulations goes out to my good friend The Agile Fox!  You came in to Twin Lakes looking and feeling pretty rough - but you gutted it out achieved a great finish.  Well done.  It was an honor and a pleasure pacing for you.

I'll do a post "Reflecting on Pacing at the LT100" in the near future once I've had time to actually do some reflecting.

And finally, as always, thanks to my wife, Diana, and my two little girls (all the loves of my life) for putting up with all my craziness.  I love you.