Archive for the ‘Silver Rush 50’ Category

It’s always amazing to me how quickly time goes by.  As I excitedly get my gear ready for the race this year, it doesn’t seem like it was a year ago that I was preparing to go up to Leadville for my first go at the Leadville 100.  Its strange, because the race last year impacted me so much, and in the end so positively, but of course it always takes time for the positive impact to be felt.

As people reading this might have noticed has been spent chasing the Leadville 100 this year.  Last year, going in, I was so confident I would finish that when I didn’t get that buckle a type of self-doubt I had never had before in regards to running crept into my mind.  That doubt caused me to be much more critical of my training, my pace, everything.  This self-defeating thought pattern was reinforced by 1-1:30 min/mile slower paces at races, and training runs.  It was also reinforced by the romanticizing of my training runs in 2012.  As I walked to the start line at Silver Rush 50 this year, that same thought pattern sat firmly entrenched in my mind, and it really destroyed the first half of my race.

After the race, I was determined to figure out what was going on.  So I started pondering this idea, and it started to click on a rainy Sunday

training run on Hope Pass.  I had gone out for what was supposed to be a double crossing of the Pass, but after climbing in cold rain all the way

a Flower and the Rainbow that emerged from the downpour I was expecting as I started my run at Deer Creek Canyon

a Flower and the Rainbow that emerged from the downpour I was expecting as I started my run at Deer Creek Canyon

up to 12,100, we decided it would be smartest to turn back.  Jim is an incredibly talented runner, and he is fast.  After we turned around and were running the new Winfield Trail, I decided that I did not want to hold Jim back, so I started diligently looking for ways to make it so I could go faster.  I started to focus on the moment I was running in, and it felt good, I was almost keeping up, then we found the new trail cutoff the race is using this year.  It is a well graded, super soft, pine bed trail, perfect for running with little restraint.  Jim opened it up, and went cruising down.  I wanted to keep up, so I intentionally shut my brain off and let loose, and kept up.

The next day, as I was getting ready for what I thought was going to be another rainy run at Deer Creek Canyon on my own, I started to think back on my run with Jim the day before.  What had happened?  I decided I would go out today, and set my intention on figuring this out.  As I got out of the car, there was a huge rainbow, and the sun came out, I was energized, and I just ran.  As I worked my way up the switchbacks, I started to think to myself “don’t let your heart rate go too high, conserve for later”, and then stopped myself.  What the hell was I doing?  My mind was looking for an excuse to go slower.  That moment was the key that unlocked a huge realization for me.

The best runners are not out there looking for reasons to slow down; they are looking for ways to go faster.  Even when they power hike, it’s a question of how fast to power hike, not a question of slowing down.  So why was I doing this?  I contemplated this as I ran and realized that last year I had nothing to judge myself against while training for a mountain 100.  I just went out and ran.  I ran with all my heart.  When it was tough, I pushed on, and didn’t think about how hard it could be, or should be, I just ran. This whole past year, because of the doubt that last years DNF put in my mind, I was convinced that if my runs were not at least as good as last years in regards to time, and how I felt, I was going to fail at Leadville.  What I didn’t realize is that was setting me up to fail.  There is no such thing as an ‘easy’ mountain run, they are all tough, they all feel hard, but because last year I had nothing to judge it against, it all ‘felt good’ so I expected the same this year.  When I would go out and it felt hard my desire to chase my perception of the prior years runs would feed the self-doubt and I would start thinking about how much farther I had to go, then I would start finding reasons to slow down.  It was a mental trap that was literally the equivalent of pouring led into my legs.

At that run in Deer Creek Canyon, as I spiraled up and around Plymouth Mountain, I found myself running in the moment again.  For the first time in a year I was able to truly let go of the doubt that had plagued me because I understood where it came from, and how to beat it.  I was able to stop chasing the ghost of the runner I had been, and focus on being the runner I am.  I focused on reasons to go as fast as possible, and as I focused on being the best runner I could be in that moment, I found myself flying up and down the trails with a feeling of utter freedom.  I was seeing the beauty of the trails again in a way that exceeded anything I had ever experienced before.  As I looked down at my watch when I got back to the trailhead, feeling energized, fantastic, and like I could run another 100 miles, I also saw that I had run that route faster than I had ever run it before.

There is a quote from the Buddha that I really love, and feel applies to this situation perfectly:

“Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is. The future is yet to come. Look deeply at life as it is in the very here and now, dwelling in stability and freedom.”

As I walk up to the starting line this Saturday at 4am, I will take this with me.  This year I know that the ghost of the race last year is just that, a specter that lives in the past, behind me.  I have already passed him long ago, and I do not have to worry about surpassing him, I already did that.  I will also walk up to that line knowing that no matter what happens, I will be the best runner I can be, I will be the best runner I have ever been.  When I am running through the beautiful Colorado Mountains, as long as I stay focused on every beautiful second, I will have the most amazing race I could ever hope for.

The day after this amazing race experience, I am honestly struggling to process it a bit.  It was an incredible experience, and I think that may be part of the problem.  I was able to really find my center on this run, experience substantially more happiness than difficulties, and finish strongly despite an awful lot of ups and downs in my life outside of running.  I kind of feel like processing this experience is like chasing the will o’ the wisp through the woods; some things may be better left to ones own internal machinations as opposed to trying to regurgitate and risk spoiling the joy in the process.

Regardless, there are not a ton of Race Reports for the Silver Rush 50 that detail the course, so I am going to try to write this in a way that expresses the joy I experienced as well as course details for anyone headed out next year…

The Lead Up

 I am happy to say that over the last month and a half, I have met, and started dating an amazing woman who supports my running in every imaginable way.  I mention this because having her support impacted me and my ability to train enormously.  This allowed me to get up to Leadville and run at elevation nearly every weekend in June after Dirty 30.  During the week I focused my training on difficult single track trails in the Front Range and Evergreen, making a weekly Tuesday after work pilgrimage to BergenPeak, and running with Runners Edge for Trail Runs every chance I had.  Going in I felt strong, despite not knowing the course and set my sites on achieving a PR for the 50 mile distance. 

 My previous PR was set on a much flatter course in Denver, and stood at 11:31:56.  I wanted to

a photo I took of Jenn doing Yoga on Indpendence Pass the day before th race, it was cool just chilling out acclimating

come in at 11 hours flat if possible. I knew it might be a tall order, as I was going out to run this as a training race, so no killing myself to make this happen.  I would have to complete this task with energy to spare.  I built a split chart, shared it with my friends from Runner’s Edge of the Rockies that I would be out on the course with and began the process of mental preparation.  I was able to pick up everything I needed pre-race from my favorite running store, Runner’s Roost, on Thursday, so I had all the honey stinger waffles and chews I needed.  I felt like I was good to go!   

 Jenn (my wonderful girlfriend) and I drove up Friday night after preparing and packing what I refer to as my bucket of pasta, and made the 2 hour drive to Leadville.  We located a spot to set up camp at the informal camping area next to Clear Creek Reservoir just south of Granite, Colorado, had a beer (I was carb loading after all!), then hit the sack as early as possible. 

 I can’t sleep much past sunrise when I am camping, so we were up by 7am on Saturday morning.  I made us some coffee, and decided I would spend the morning showing Jenn some of he beauty this part of the world has to offer.  We drove up to independencePass, where she did some Yoga at 12k feet and I soaked up the acclimation before heading back down to Leadville for packet pickup.  On the drive in we could see dark clouds over the area the course was in and saw lightening pop periodically.  I made a mental note of the time.  The race day forecast was identical, so having that info in my back pocket was important to me.  I wanted to be back to Rock Garden from Stumptown before those clouds gathered during the race and having an idea of when the storms may build was invaluable to me.    

I picked up my packet and timing chip, and waited to meet up with my friends.  Lisa showed up first and mentioned that she didn’t remember the finish looking the way it did now the previous year, but assumed that was the result of being tired the last time she was out there.  The Mountain Bike version of the race was underway, and while we stood by my car, we heard the announcer bring in the 1st place cyclist who set a course record.  As the announcer was regaling the accomplishment he mentioned an important tidbit; the course was a mile-ish longer than previous years.  A well known fact about this race is that it is shy of 50 miles.  Previous estimates placed it at around 47 miles, however given the difficulty of the terrain, no one has ever complained much.  LifeTime Fitness purchased the race series on 2011, and it seemed they were doing their best to get that number closer to 50.  The issue was, no one knew where those changes were made off hand.  And did I hear that right?  A mile?  Really?  Hmmmmmm, that might effect my spilts…

 The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Jenn and my other friends who would be out running the race before hitting the sack around 7pm.   I was a bit worried, as the other folks in the campground were stoking fires, and I hoped that it wouldn’t prove to be an issue with my asthma.  Luckily, the haze wasn’t too bad, and we fell asleep with no problem. 

Race Day

 I woke up at 330am, and after a wet, chilly night I didn’t spend much time twiddling my thumbs. 

Left to right: Samantha, Me, Dean, Lisa, Front: Elizabeth and Jessica. All with Dutch Henri Hill in the background. Photo by Jenn

Jenn and I got dressed and were on the road to Leadville in no time.  We arrived at the start/finish area at 450am with plenty of time to drop off bags, take care of business at the porta potty and meet up with the group.  We got some group photos, and lined up, ready to go.  The race started promptly at 6:01am. 

Start to Black Cloud

 The course starts at the bottom of a steep hill, and runners have to reach the top to cross the timing mat that starts your race. Not wanting to waste energy just to get to the start, I hiked the hill along with 90% of the rest of the field.  I was able to gain a good position as I hit the runable trail on the other side, and seemed to be with people of a similar pace. 

 The course follows a double track trail for the first half mile, where there seemed to be a real problem with bottle necks, even on downhills.  Elizabeth caught me pretty quickly, and we bypassed a slow train moving down a steep hill on the right side, before hitting the first of many wide dirt roads. 

 I knew Elizabeth was a faster uphill runner than I, so I opted to not try and stay with her.  As

Jessica hiking up one of the Hills a little more that 3/4 of the way to Black Cloud Aid Station. This was where the hills started to show up.

soon as Elizabeth passed out of view, Jessica and Samantha caught up.  We enjoyed the moderately graded course, as it left Leadville and worked its way to Iowa Gulch.  The mantra I repeated every time I started pushing harder than I knew I should for this race was “remember this is a training race”.  My goal was to behave the way I knew I would need to during the Leadville 100 to maintain the entire race, and this section made it hard to judge what my pace needed to be, and did I ever feel good!  This was not a bad problem to have.

 Overall, the biggest difficulty of the section leading to Black Cloud Aid Station is not the steepness, but the lack of difficult steepness for much of it.  In comparison to the trails I had been running this was substantially more moderate.  While there were some hills that are obvious “power hike me” hills, most is completely runnable, and a on a normal training run I wouldn’t think twice about running.  The result was me asking myself more than I should have “should I be running right now?”.  98% of these trails are on dirt roads, and I was reminded of ColligatePeaks.

 We arrived at Black Cloud Aid Station feeling solid, but excited to make our first psychological check point.  This aid station is listed as a “Fluid Only” Aid Station outbound, so I expected to be able to down some water and go.  What was not advertised was that this was also a cup free aid station.  I checked my camelback, it was fine to get me to Printer Boy, so we headed out.  Apparently, shortly after I passed through the Aid Station ran out of water… Apparently this is the second year this has happened…

Black Cloud to Printer Boy

 From this point you can see the course up above on a road that parallels the track you are

Looking ahead just above Treeline, the road you end up on is on the side of the mountain to the left, its hard to see in this photo but its there.

running on.  Jessica Samantha and I maintained a strong pace, while the route continued to go up at a moderate angle.  Nothing terrible, but enough to wake you up and say “hey dummy, you are only 7, 8, 9 miles in, don’t push it”.  Jessica and I decided to stick with the pace we were maintaining at this point and not pass anyone, it was too early and there was plenty of running ahead.  The views of Iowa Gulch, with DyerPeak over head with the sun low on the morning horizon was breath taking, literally.  The lack of trees, and the sweeping views of the gulch reminded us we were nearing 12,000ft, and the oxygen is not a thick here.  Despite the lack of O2, we maintained a talking pace, and chatted as we discussed the fact that these moments are why we do this.  Absorbing the beauty, we pushed onwards and upwards.

 The switchback that signals the fist of 2 points above 12k is visible for a couple of miles, but the trail rather abruptly curves left and tops out at about 12,000ft onto a well graded dirt road.  As we crossed onto the road, Dean caught up and let out a whoop of triumph, we had just topped out at 12k for the first time of the day, and respect had to be paid!  With that, we all

What you get to look at headed up into Iowa Gulch

started running down the road towards the next mental check point. I took stock of this, and the fact that I would be going up this later, but enjoyed the 3 mile run back down to treeline. 

 At a little over 13 miles in, the dirt road becomes paved road, and follows this up to the Printer Boy Aid Station.  I felt incredibly good coming into the aid station, which was stocked with everything imaginable, and was filled with clanking cowbells, and cheering crowds.  My watch read 2:55, 1 minute off my predicted split.  Bonus!  This is always invigorating, and leads a person to linger too long, which was a mistake we did not make but still ended up there for almost 4 minutes because I

Jessica took this as we headed up into Iowa Gulch outbound

struggled to get my Camelback bladder to close properly.  We headed out, crossing the timing mat 3 hours into the race.  We were doing awesome!

Printer Boy to Rock Garden

 Jessica, Samantha, Dean and I all left Printer Boy Aid Station, food in hand, running down the forested single track trail.

Rock Garden in the distance.

  Again, I was taking stock of all this down hill, it would be a piper that would have to be repaid later, however I wasn’t going to let that ruin my fun now.  We talked about the joys of running, coming close to nailing our splits, and spending time running with your friends through the ColoradoMountains.  I think we all knew that this moment would not last forward and that the time we would start to break apart would be coming soon, so we enjoyed it while it was there.  After a good bit of down, we crossed a paved road and started up again.  From here the trail moved up consistently along wide roads and ATV trails.

 Some of the trails once you start heading back up are less than scenic, and I was starting to miss Iowa Gulch.  After the downhill double track right after leaving Printer Boy, the trail dumps out onto a dirt road, which then dumps onto an ATV track.  These hills were much steeper than before, and there was no question about whether to run or power hike.  This was the land of the power hiker.  I found myself tempted to dive down the road of negativity, but as Dean caught up to me he immediately took to chatting about the happier things in life, like the fact we were not so far away from seeing the people we care about at Stumptown. 

 About 17 miles in, we turned briefly on, then off a road, and found ourselves hiking up to treeline quickly.  As the sun shone over head, and wide open vistas came back into view, the song “Stairway to Heaven” popped into my head.  I misquoted it to another runner badly, but didn’t care.  Seeing the wide open Colorado sky seemed to call to my soul.  Before I knew it we rounded a corner and we were at Rock Garden.  The aid station volunteers were amazing, and had water in jugs waiting for runners to arrive.  One of them helped me deal with getting my G2 packets into my water bladder and refilled it for me.  I hit the Coke pretty hard, drinking 4 cups of pure sugary goodness, snagged some PB&J and was on my way. 

Rock Garden to Stumptown and Back to Rock Garden

 We headed out of Rock Garden as a group, but this wouldn’t last.  Samantha, Dean and I got out ahead on the uphill right

Samantha starting the first downhill after Rock Garden

out of the Aid Station, and as we turned right, heading back downhill into the trees I started to feel my body.  The upper teens are normally my hardest miles, and the sudden, steep and rocky downhill made me feel a little more stiff then I wanted.  I had gotten a little bit behind on my salt, but overall was doing well, just running this downhill less gracefully than I would have liked. 

 Samantha caught me quickly on the downhill, and passed me, but Dean and I caught her as the slope flattened out a bit and the next major climb came into view.  The leaders were now coming the other direction, looking like the badasses they are.  I focused on moving strongly upward as we made our way to the top of the 2nd Highpoint.  This part of the trail was definitely steep, and reminded me of some of the steepest sections of the BergenPeak trail, except without trees.  When we got to the top we felt like the worst of the outbound trip was over, even though Samantha let us know we would have one more decent climb coming into Stumptown, which we could see from halfway down the pass.  There were hardly any clouds in the sky, but the ones we could see were obviously clouds to be reckoned with if they grew up too fast. 

 Dean and I were out front, with Samantha just behind as we worked our way into Stumptown.  We saw Coach David about a half mile before the turn, and he sent us with promises of popsicles upon our return.  Dean and I were spurned on by the thought that more friendly faces would be waiting, but we were still ahead of our splits. 

 About a Quarter mile from Stumptown we saw Elizabeth coming the other direction looking incredibly strong, we pushed in.  I looked hard for Jenn, but as we worked our way up and around hill after hill, I couldn’t see her.  Dean and I were starting to wonder where the hell the aid station was, as the course seriously routed us up and down what started to feel like every available little hill before a volunteer let us know we had a short downhill jaunt into the aid station.  We found out later that this is one of the areas distance was added in.   

 When I got there, nothing looked good to eat.  I drank a couple of cokes, and dug through my drop bag to get more G2

This popsicle was like mana from heaven!

packets, but nothing looked good at all.  A volunteer helped me with my water and even opened my G2 packets for me, which I cannot state how grateful I was for, but I was slipping a bit.  I wanted to see Jenn so badly, it had kept me moving, but we had gotten there too early and she wasn’t there.  I pulled a muscle milk out, and tried to drink it, but it was nasty. At Rocky Raccoon I had used Chocolate, and the Late flavor was just too bitter and acidic for my stomach. Nothing seemed to be working in that moment.  Samantha convinced me to just get moving, that maybe Jenn had gotten there while we were at the Aid Station, so I headed out.

 As we left, a truck started backing out, and it was John Hill.  I was so excited to see another friendly face, and he was encouraging, which got me going a bit, but I really wanted nothing more than to see Jenn, but went ahead and resigned myself to the fact that I had come in too early, and missed her.  I still had a race to run. 

 Samantha and I picked it up and as I asked Samantha if she saw a trash can for my muscle milk.  I was not about to carry it the 6ish miles back to Rock Garden. I started scanning ahead for a trashcan or someone who looked like they would be friendly enough to toss it for me and saw red hair.  Wait, that’s Jenn’s red hair!  I couldn’t have been happier.  I gave her a huge hug.  This was worth so much to my morale!  I was halfway through, and I got to see this wonderful woman who I knew wanted to see me succeed.  Elizabeth’s husband and kids looked so sad that they missed her, but I let them know she was running really strong, and was tearing up the course.  I only spent a minute there, but when I left I felt so much better. 

 By the time I saw Coach David again, I was stoked and ready to tackle the 3 big hills to get back to Rock Garden.  I took advantage of a popsicle, which turned out to be the best popsicle in the history of mankind.  I saw Samantha out ahead, and was happy that I had almost caught back up.  To boot, I saw Lisa coming down the hill.  She came into this race after fighting an ITB issue that almost kept her from starting.  I was so happy to see her looking so strong!  Samantha and I powered up the first major hill out of Stumptown, which was a long dirt road.  I had expected it to feel much worse on the way up than it did.  I started down the hill, and the balls of my feet started screaming.  There was no way I was letting this drag me down, so when I reached the bottom of the hill and the stream crossing I totally ignored the small bridge in favor of a direct stream crossing.  The cold water felt so good on my feet that I was actually excited for the up, and the second crossing of what I was now calling ‘Hope Pass Jr”. 

 Clouds were building in, providing periodic shade from the sun, but were not threatening yet.  I knew making it back to Rock Garden wouldn’t be a problem at all, but felt like I was going to be getting wet at some point. 

 It felt good to pass people as I worked my way up, but started to struggle with breathing.  I felt my lungs tightening up, and half way to the top had used my albuterol inhaler.  It helped clear out my lungs a bit, but the side effect of speeding up my heart rate, nearing the top of the pass, was not what I was looking for.  Again, I put my head down and reminded myself that this is heaven we are in, and the solution to all of my problems here live in my head.   I celebrated where I was at and how I am here because I love being here and kept moving.

 I was happy to be on the far side, but was also ready to get the final hill between Stumptown and Rock Garden.  I had gotten ahead of Samantha on the way up the pass, but she caught me again on the down, I was feeling clumsy on the downs and wasn’t moving as fast as I could.  I was just… off.  I pushed myself to stay with Samantha on the up to Rock Garden and we rolled in with Dean right on our heels. 

Again, these aid station volunteers rocked.  I forced myself to eat some watermelon and had 6 cups of soda.  They put tons of ice in my camelback bladder and I felt 90% ready to go, but something was holding me back. 

Rock Garden to Painter Boy (Inbound)

 I pulled my ipod out as I left Rock Garden, feeling like it was time for a pick me up.  I was dragging still and a half mile

Jenn took this photo of me coming back into Printer Boy Aid Station inbound

out and I figured it out… my GI track was angry.  I remembered seeing a porta potty out there in the trees, and low and behold, there is was.  I prayed it wouldn’t be locked, and it wasn’t.  I pulled off without saying a word to Samantha and Dean, I didn’t want them to be thrown off or worry about me at all.  I was worried I would have to have this moment in the woods, and I dodged it!  I lost 5-6 minutes to the G.I. issue, but I discovered what had me feeling so upside down.  I headed out, feeling more alive then I had in a while, I turned my ipod on as I started running again and the song “Hi Friend” by Deadmou5 popped on.  I was feeling good running again, feeling alive and much less clumsy.  I knew I had a lot of downhill ahead, and I had time to make up now.  All I needed to get me going was a friend to go with the song, low an behold I saw Jessica out ahead.  I picked it up to catch her and happily pulled the headphones off to run with a friend. 

 We made our way down the hill, and before I knew it we were ready to start back up the last hill to Painter Boy.  I saw

Oza, (someone I had volunteered with at Greenland 50k and had seen with her husband at every race I had run this year) out ahead and decided I would try and keep up with her.  Normally, I am a talker while I climb with people, but she encouraged me to focus on the climb, and keep each other motivated by trying to push each other without wasting energy talking.

 There was truth to this, I put one headphone is and focused on moving.  Before I knew it, the trail started to flatten and I could hear the cowbells.  We rounded a corner, and there was Jenn again!  She cheered me on, and Elizabeth’s kids had come up with a cheer that was really cute. 

Jenn took this photo of me slamming soda instead of solid food at Painter Boy inbound. It was just easier.

 Seeing Jenn there was great!  I decided not to refill my camelback here, but hit more coke.  I was finding that liquid calories really were going down the best, and were keeping me as fueled as possible.  Jenn walked with me over to Coach David and… more popcicles!  Yup, at this point 80% of my calories were Popcicles and Cola.  I left the Aid Station ignoring my splits entirely.  I knew I was doing ok, and could still make 11 hours if I pushed hard. 

Painter Boy to Black Cloud (inbound)

 Leaving the Aid Station I was feeling good, but the bottom of my feet were really starting to hurt.  I was regretting not switching to the Wave Ascends like I had planned on at Stumptown.  I think those would have accommodated the swelling in my feet a bit better than what I ended up wearing.  I knew I was hydrated, so I took a couple Tylenol to cut off the edge, and kept the tunes pumping.  Before I knew it I was out ahead of Dean and Samantha and started focusing on reeling in other runners ahead of me, rather than how my feet felt. 

 I had one last climb over 3 miles to 12,000ft, and knew it was 90% down from there so I would set my sights on a runner out ahead, and push myself to catch and pass them, then another and another.  Each time was a bit of a boost, and took my mind off the long uphill climb.  Even though this is not a steep climb, the length, and the altitude definitely have an impact.  The clouds were sparse now, and the sun was making this exposed uphill section toastier than I had hoped, but it was worth it to not have to worry about lightening. 

 Dean caught back up to me a half mile before toping out, and making the turn onto the 3 mile track down to Black Cloud.  As we turned, you could see storms sitting on the SawatchPeaks to the West, and I knew that it would not be long before those storms hit us and was very glad that I would be safely below treeline when they did. 

 Heading down this trail was much more painful than it should have been.  The balls of my feet were really starting to hurt, and it was slowing me down on this rocky trail.  I had the strength to go faster, but my feet felt like someone was pounding them.  I was not about to walk any of this I didn’t have to, and started focusing on my music, my footing, and nothing else.  I knew I had slowed down, as a couple of people passed me, but I was hell bent on coming in as close to 11 hours as possible, and this still felt completely doable if I could just ignore the issues with my feet for another 10 miles.  I knew I can do anything for 10 miles.  I kept moving on an intensely painful IT Band issue for almost 25 miles at Rocky Raccoon, this was nothing to that.

 I took to singing out loud to my music when I didn’t think anyone was too close by, and before I knew it was at Black Cloud Aid Station.  More Popsicles from the wonderful Coach David, a refill on my Camelback, a bunch of Cola and I was out.

Black Cloud to the Finish (gimme some excitement!)

 Leaving the Black Cloud Aid Station, the skies were starting to mimic the Aid Station name.  The storms were on us.  There was no way we were dodging them, it was just a matter of time but I really didn’t care.  I was worried about time, but the softer dirt of the trail on this section was making my feet hurt less to run on.  I was starting to have some GI issues again, and was passed a couple times as I let cramps pass, but I wasn’t stopping for anything now except to pee once.  Relentless Forward Motion. 

 Once the storms hit us, people started to stop to put jackets on, but I was having none of that.  I figured that with only 5 miles left all a jacket would actually serve to do was trap heat and humidity on my body, and knew I would quickly sweat it out.  If this was the 100, I would have done something to cover up, but not here.  I was looking to this to bring my core temp down a bit, and hell, it felt good to experience running through the rain like I did at Dirty 30. 

 I was power hiking the few uphills, and periodically had to drop to a walk to let the pain in my feet pass but overall, I was moving.  I passed several people, and eventually had one last group in my sights.  With 3 miles left, I was determined to finish ahead of them.  There is nothing to win or lose at this point in the race for me, but it provided me with the motivation I needed to keep going strong, so I did my best to catch the group of guys, all of which looked like they were in my age group, bonus!  I could move up a tiny bit in my division rank!  I passed them running around 2.5 from the finish, I looked at my watch, 10:45, there was little chance of me making the 11 hour mark, but I could still beat these guys in, I knew that.  As I passed them I determined I wouldn’t show that my feet were hurting at all, no weakness, this was going to be a fun game for me.  .

 Shortly after I passed them, the group picked up pace and passed me then promptly dropped to a walk… hmmm… I passed them again, and they repeated passing me again in the same manner as before.  This was a game now, and I was all in for some chess with 2 miles left in a 50 mile race. 

 I decided to stay behind them for now, keep up a strong walking hiking pace, and when they slowed down, picked it up enough to get them to push harder to stay out ahead.  They kept looking back at me, so I got the sense they were watching me, and my strategy was working.  With the exception of my feet, I actually felt really good.  My GI issues were completely manageable for the remainder, and this was entertaining me to no end. 

 As we pushed up the last long hill, I came up close, could have passed, but decided to bide my time, and to demonstrate weakness.  We were on top of 11 hours and about a mile left, so 11 hours was gone, but I could still win this game.  I played up my feet hurting, and hung back a bit waiting to see the clearing that would signal the top of the hill we had climbed at the start.  I knew from the day before that I would have about a quarter mile from there to wrap around the top of the hill, go down and cross the finish.  I cut back the distance between us, and as soon as I saw the timing mat that marked the top of Dutch Henri Hill, I turned on my run.  I wanted to put distance between me and them and knew if I started running at an out and out sprint to pass them, then maintained an up tempo run down to the finish it would be hard for them to catch me.  As I passed them one of them actually complimented my turning up the pace, and I could hear them behind me, so I knew that they had picked it up as well. 

 When I hit the top of the hill I unzipped it, and pushed it in like I was doing speed work with

me crossing the finish… I actually paid for a realy copy of this without the crap lettering but the digital copy for $10 hasnt come yet…

Runner Edge, playing Coach David’s metronome in my head.  After 50 miles, this may not have looked quite like it would in Speed Work, but I was definitely moving.  I kept it up across the finish line and was ecstatic!  As I crossed the line I saw Jenn, Dean and Elizabeth all waiting.  Its so awesome to have friends out there when you are finishing a difficult race, but finishing as strong as I did made it even better.

 We all hung out and waited for the entire crew to finish, a couple had to leave a bit early but were there in spirit as every one of my friends finished the race.    

 I missed my time goal by 8 minutes, about the time I lost to GI issues after Rock Garden, but I think trimming about 22 minutes off my previous Personal Record for the 50 miles on a course like this is pretty good.  As far as the guys I passed at the end, I have no idea if they were actually trying to stay ahead of me or not, but I have to say their presence made that last couple of mile an awful lot of fun.  One of the biggest things for me is finishing these races strong, and they helped motivate me to do that.  In fact, this may be the strongest I have finished an Ultra up to this point.  So I have to throw a thank you out there to them.    

 I was very interested in getting my shoes off, and as soon as they were, the pain went away, so I am pretty certain it was swelling that impacted my feet, and the pain I was having.  I should have switched to my Mizuno’s at the turn around, but just didn’t have the motivation.  This is something having a crew for will help with at LT100. 

Also, I have to put a huge thank you out there to the Race Staff and Volunteers.  Even though Black Cloud outbound was lacking a bit, every volunteer was incredible, the timing was super cool (they actually pulled off live updates that friends and family could watch at half marathon intervals) and the professional race staff was kind, and endlessly helpful in helping my locate the drop bag I forgot to grab as I left. They helped make this race an incredible experience. 

Now for Leadville 100 on August 18th… let the count down begin…