Monday, November 4, 2013

Stagecoach 100 - Flagstaff to Grand Canyon

My first 100.

Wednesday night.  I could feel a cold coming down hard on me, and as I hit confirm on UltraSignup about an hour before the cutoff time, I wondered if I was going to even be able to show up.

I spent the next two days ingesting every remedy of cold therapy I could find.  Raw jalapenos, raw ginger, raw garlic, ungodly amounts of throat coat, echinacea.  I even dabbled in the genre of the homeopaths  (just dont tell anybody).  All be it said I awoke Saturday morning sick with a cold.  I did take an illegal mount of nyquil at about 8 pm the night before so I was at least rested.  I managed to find the start and prepared myself for a long cold night.

The race started at 2 pm on Saturday near the bast of the The San Fransisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff.  The weather was clear and perfect, but the sun would drop all too soon, only to give way to a full moon across northern Arizona for the remainder of the night.

Races put on by runners are always the best, and when it comes to Ian Torrence and company, there's no one better.

Once again I was unsure how my run was going to go.  It was again (as with UROC) the furthest race I had ran, and was unsure if my nagging left IT band would act up, or if my cold would just destroy me at any part of the run.  The biggest variable being the long night and the enduring cold.  This would indeed be the crux of this run, and just managing my temperature throughout the night proved to be trying.

I had the honor once again of sharing the trail with Brian Tinder of Flagstaff.  Its been great seeing him at all these races, and hes a very entertaining and supportive guy to share the trail with.  The first 30 miles or so of the race were quick.  I felt getting as many miles in as possible before the sun and temperatures dropped would be the best approach leading into the night.

Besides getting lost around mile 90 for a good 30 minutes, the run went off without any major hitches.  Post mile 80 I found myself unable to stop as my IT band would seize up, but as long as I kept moving I was fine.  An early morning finish in Tusayan with friends and family and I found myself completing my first 100.  1st place 17:41

I have a major debt to repay to Paco Cantu and Tyler Zander, my pacers and crew who kept me warm and entertained on the trail.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ultra Race of Champions (UROC)

With my apparent interest lately in high profile races, I was delighted to see a run billing itself as the 'World Championships of Ultra Running' approaching quickly.  I quickly was in contact with the folks at Bad To The Bone racing, and found myself registered for the biggest race of my life.

I think that any race, especially in the sport of ultra running, billing itself as a world championship is difficult.  With so many other races in the month of September, we all find ourselves having to pick our events and leave some behind.  Such races as Run Rabbit Run offer a larger purse than UROC, and being only two weeks before, many world class runners opt for other such races.  A host of other issues makes a single day race championship event difficult, but I believe the progression of this race is making an honest attempt and may be the closest thing that we can come to having such an event.

The field that did end up showing up for the race lived up to the hype.  It was an honor to toe the line with many runners that I highly admire i.e. Dakota Jones, Rob Krar, Killian Jornet, Sage Canaday, Luke Nelson, just to name a few of the big names.  Being that this was my first exposure to this atmosphere of international racing, I was just happy to be a part of the scene for a day, and to find out if I could run at that level.

My knee was still bothering me the weeks leading up to UROC, and I was unsure how it was going to react.  I figured I would either drop out after 5 miles at the first aid station, or I would have a good day.  I was still unsure what a good day really meant considering this was my longest race up until this point, but I figured a top ten performance, in this field, would suffice.

The weather race day could not have been more perfect for a a day in the mountains.  The day before brought in an early winter storm, which influenced me away from my campsite near the course outside of Breckenridge into a hotel for the night.  The storm brought a fresh covering of snow, especially at the passes, but the sun was out come race morning.

The race itself went good.  I immediately let the lead pack get way out in front, and told myself I wasn't really competing for a top spot.  This mentality is something that eventually led to my psuedo-success for the day, but one that would ultimately bother me for months to come.  I was lucky enough to share some early miles with a good friend from Flagstaff Brian Tinder, and eventually fell into a pace alongside Luke Nelson and Andrew Boch for most of the day.  (Follow Luke here).

Andrew and I decided to come in together after spending the last ten miles with each other, and we were able to round out the top ten.

Considering this was a race of experience for me, I was overall very happy with my top ten finish.  One thing I attribute to my success was the fact that I was never trying to win, or really race.  This allowed me to stay at a comfortable pace all day, so I never blew up and dropped to a lower place or time, but I also was never even close to the lead pack. 

More than anything, I LEARNED ALOT from UROC.  That yes, I can compete respectably in these higher profile events, but the hump from 9th to 1st at these events, is an even bigger mountain than anything Colorado offered up race day. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Paatuwaqatsi Run

With the addition of UROC to the schedule, this run got pushed into more of training run for me than an actual race.  Leading up to the race, my body was feeling pretty awful.  I was overrunning the previous few weeks, somewhere in the 120 miles per week area and ended up aggravating my knee. Work the previous week didn't help and was bothered by a sore back, which by race day had more or less run its course.

The Paatuwaqatsi Run is a pretty unique event in that they dont market the race as an actual race at all, its more of a communal run with the theme of water awareness especially for the tribe.  With that said, its a popular event on the ultra running circuit, which means people show up to race, and people show up to win.

The whole informal attitude towards the event got a little carried away this year, I believe in part due to the extremely heavy monsoons that we received this year in northern Arizona.  Poor course markings, no porta-johns, oddly distanced aid, etc.  This all would have been fine and even enjoyable if it had not been for the fact that at the only crucial turning point on the course, their was no signage and no person there to tell myself and another runner to go right instead of left.  We went left, and reached the 25 mile aid station after only running about 16. 

At this point the race which had already turned into a training run for me, was more of a fun run since we were out of the running for the lead.  The option to run the 6 miles back to where we turned off, and complete the course after some 40 miles sounded appealing, but my knee started to act up a bit.  With UROC just two weeks off, I decided to drop.  My first DNF.

Its an odd experience to drop from a race.  Lots of runners have written about the emotional mess you find yourself in afterwards.  For me a came away from the Paatuwaqatsi run with a very bitter taste in my mouth.  I believe a made a good call, and we will see how my knee holds up for UROC.

On a brighter note, the trip up with Paco Cantu and Tyler Zander was thoroughly enjoyable.  East clear creek swimming, Hopi radio, sodas and squash.  Congrats to both of them on an impressive run, and for Paco his first 50k.  Go Team Beard!
Team Beard enjoying a post race watermelon @ East Clear Creek.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Captn Karl's Night Runs 60k Colorado Bend State Park, Tx Report

Location: Colorado Bend State Park, Texas Latitude: 31.049131 Longitude: -98.483592
Race Time: 7:00 pm
Distance: 60km
Elevation: 1025 ft
Weather: Hot, Humid
Place: 1st
Time: 5:37:24 *new course record

I was unsure what to expect from texas trail running.  The previous two weeks of vacation were spent running through city parks in both New Orleans and Austin, trying to acclimate to the humidity.  Although both cities offer great urban trail systems, its hard to train for an actual trail experience, especially one at night.

I arrived at check in around 6 pm.  With the temperature still lingering around 100F, I was feeling uncomfortable about the heat, and debated on just running the course for fun in my sandals.  Around 6:30 I decided I felt good enough to run for the win, and put on my shoes.

The first hour of the race was undoubtedly and predictably the hottest, yet I was very pleased with the tree cover for the entirety of the route.  There were very few moments of actual direct sun.  

With every race there is always a group of 10 or so runners that separate from the pack quickly.  I kept this group in sight for the first 10 miles or so.  I told myself before the race that I wanted to cover as many miles as I could during the twilight hour, as it is significantly cooler, yet you can still see with natural light.  When we approached a technical downhill section, I realized that this was going to be were I would have an advantage given the trails I am used to running.  I separated myself from the group here, and did not see another runner until approximately mile 30, when Steve Moore would make a race out of the night.

Pacing is always a tricky thing, especially at this distance.  It is not quite long enough to run in endurance mode, and its too long to run for time as in a 50k or a marathon. Pacing is especially difficult running by yourself for the majority of the race.

I took it relatively easy from miles 15-25 or so, saving myself for the last 10 or 12 miles of the race.  I figured there was no need to extend my lead, or myself if I wasnt chasing anybody down.

At the second to last aid station, just as I was about to leave, I saw Steve coming in.  With about 10 miles to go, I quickly ran the next section to give myself some distance.  The last aid station was the same story.  As I was leaving, Steve was coming in.  

The last three miles is a technical downhill track which saved the race for me.  Being from Northern Arizona, I tend to feel that the rockier, steeper, and more technical the better.  The last 1/2 mile is a sprint on a jeep road and was able to hold off Steve's attack.


With being my first night race, and have not ever running these trails, I was unsure what to expect for my time.  The pace was slower than I expected given night running can always make you think you are running faster than you are.  All in all it was a great run on a great trail.

Crossing the finish in 5:37:24.