Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Monday, July 28, 2008

6 myles - 53:21

Mt. Falcon - noon
mid 80's, partly cloudy, dry
mind/body - ready/ready to go
easy effort

Went up to the shelter and back via Turkey trot, 31:08 up and 22:13 down. As you can see, I did not push the pace I merely wanted to see how the legs felt after 1/2 hour of uphill.... felt good and seems like the legs are recovered. I say that now but 25 myles a day for 4 days will be the true test as to whether they are recovered.

Has anyone been up Mt. Falcon lately? Notice anything different? I noticed the rocks on the trail are disappearing and it's becoming a super highway - they might as well pave it at this point! Someone has put in some serious hours to remove all those rocks! So much for those gnarly, ballistic, out-of-control, face plant downhills. Gotta find a new place....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This day in 1972

So what was going on in 1972? Well... HBO began, American swimmer Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals, Richard Nixon was re-elected president, Atari introduced the first arcade game "pong", Hewlett-Packard introduced the first hand held calculator for $395, Evel Knievel jumped 35 cars and broke 93 bones. Shaquille O'Neal, Cameron Diaz, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem, and Mia Hamm were all born. Seems like a long time ago doesn't it? 36 years to be exact! And on this day 36 years ago Rae Jean Robinson delivered her first child - Nicole Robinson, my wife.


Here is what Nicole got for a Birthday present:

(me, Nicole, Jaxon, Myles, Cooper, and two weeks worth of luggage) came back from Silverton all hanging outta the windows. Go ahead, add it up. Doesn't (shouldn't) fit in a Ford Escape! We had officially outgrown our cars. So it was time to go against the grain and buy a fuel hogging V8 Chevy Tahoe. Got all the bells and whistles and got a great deal cause they can't sell 'em. Nicole likes it and that's all that matters. I love you Nicole and thank you for all you do! ...anyone wanna buy a 99 Audi A4 w/ 101K?

Last, but not least, guess what national holiday it is today in Finland? That's right - National Sleepy Head Day!! No joke! Check it out. Anyone who knows Nicole knows she likes to sleep and today she slept until 1:30 p.m. - hey it's her b-day, she can do anything she wants. I guess she's catching up on all the sleep she's lost feeding Myles 3 times a night.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

10 K - 42:08

Lone Tree loop - 9 a.m.
upper 70s, partly cloudy, no wind
mind/body - normal/feeling good
medium effort

Not an official race today. Just racing my ghost for the fastest time on this course. I thought a little tempo work would shake out all the kinks and any residual dead legs I still may have. I felt pretty solid from the get go, clocking a 17.24 on the actual loop (17:12 is the fastest I've done this 2.7 mile loop). I really pushed hard up the hills to take me into the anaerobic zone for a bit then backed if off. Overall my time was the fastest I've done this loop so that's a positive sign heading into Mtn. RATS.

In regards to Mtn. RATS no sense for me going any longer since it's just right around the corner. I might as well just get in a few more short runs to keep the legs moving and then see what I have for the race. I'm really not sure how my body is going to react....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

16 myles - 1.52:48

Daniels Park - 7:00 a.m.
clear, South wind, 80s
mind/body - clear/still recovering
medium effort

Ye ol necessary evil runs today. I guess recovery is still happening because I was really weak going uphill starting at 10 myles. This route has about 1500ft of climbing so it was a good test to gauge where I'm at. First/last splits were: 6:44/6:52 and believe me that last split was killing me.

I've got exactly one week before Mtn RATS begin. 4 days of 20+myles in the beautiful mtns near Steamboat Springs - more like a backpacking trip if you ask me. I'm in the process of collecting all the mandatory gear and realizing it's gonna be hard to shove all that stuff into a 1200 cu in backpack. The only way it's gonna happen is if I don't take a change of running clothes and skimp on the food. I guess I'll learn to be a minimalist real quick.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

8 myles - 54:15

Grigs out/back - 9:00 a.m.
mid 70s, clear, dry
mind/body - eager/very responsive
medium effort

Very good run today! Night and day compared to yesterday. So I guess that answers the question I posed yesterday as to what's better: no run or bad run? I believe the recovery, bad runs are necessary evils, at least in my book. I need to suffer through a couple of workouts in order to recover quicker and become stronger.

I picked up steam today the longer my run went and wanted to go longer but I stuck to the 8 myles I set out to do. I have a tendency to run until it breaks when I feel good. My first/last splits were: 6:47/6:24. I guess the ice must have helped my ankle because it felt pretty stable today. So kiddo's if you're reading - R.I.C.E. all soft tissue injuries! You are not invincible. What's good for the goose...... yeah, you got it.

Apparently word is starting to get out about Team Pearl Izumi-Smith because I saw a post today in which Bryon Powell has done some real good investigative work on the team. Check it out. There has been no "official" announcement and the team manager probably won't be "officially" launching the team until January of 2009.

Monday, July 21, 2008

11 myles - 1.17:22

HR East/West loop - 6:00 a.m.
65 degrees, no wind, clear
mind/body - a little foggy/a little groggy
medium effort

Right ankle still hurt. I thought it would loosen up but never did and seemed fairly unstable taking right turns. Although when I got back I iced it for the first time.... I'm such a knuckle head because if I listen to my own advice I might heal properly. The ankle actually felt much better after icing and should be fine within a couple of days.

The legs didn't wanna move today either. I thought they'd loosen up as well but never did. I'm really not asking for too much am I? I know from past post race weeks I'm always slow to recover and even though these runs aren't quality, in my mind it's better to have a bad run than no run. Right or wrong? By the weekend I should have at least a good 2 hour run in me before Mtn. RATS.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Firm" Believer

Pearl Izumi Syncroseek II

Pearl Izumi Syncroseek II after Hard Rock

Hard Rock has come and gone with much success. Success from finishing in my goal time. Success for having a supportive crew and family. Success from the race committee for putting on a spectacular race. And, of course, success from my sponsors for providing the best products.

There are many things that can go wrong in Hard Rock (and any race for that matter). This was my 3rd running of Hard Rock and the two previous times I have had trouble with my feet. The first time I wore the Montrail Hard Rock shoe which provided tremendous protection but didn't breath and was maybe a little too stiff. The second time I wore the La Sportiva Fireblade which had a stiff bottom but really didn't provide any protection whatsoever. Both times my feet caused me to slow either from having to empty my shoes of rocks or stopping to pop blisters. Having said that, these are both great shoe companies but they just didn't work out for me.

La Sportiva Fireblas

Feet after Hard Rock last year

I couldn't endure the thrashing of my feet again so I took faith in my sponsors shoes - the Pearl Izumi Syncroseek 2. I had trained in these shoes the month leading up to Hard Rock to make sure I wasn't gonna have any blister issues - check. I also made sure there was enough protection underneath from the rocks - check. And last, I made sure that there was enough ventilation and protection on the uppers - check. The only thing I couldn't account for was the feet being wet for 30 hours - what was the drainage gonna be like?

I have a fat-flat foot that is especially fat in the fore foot area. Growing up I always had to get triple E shoes to fit my Flintstone feet. Shoes can stretch but only stretch so far. Once they stretch to capacity of it's structure it's either gonna rip or resist. When the shoe resists and pushes back I form nasty blisters (as anyone would) on the pressure points. I particularly get blisters under my big toe nails from shoes that have a low profile in the toe box and minimal toe protection.

Going back a few years (2000) to when PI launched their shoe line. I was running road marathons at the time, wearing PI singlets and shorts. I always wanted to look good so getting the shoes to complete the kit was natural. Let me just say the shoes for the first two or three years were tanks! I was turned off and with so many shoes on the market, probably wouldn't return. Enter Bob Africa. Bob and I met at Red Hot 50K in Moab earlier this year and I noticed he was wearing the new Peak XC that I'd seen in magazines. He had told me of the transformation PI shoes had made over the last several years and to give 'em a go again... he sent me a pair and to my surprise they were light, flexible, and had a nice roll to them. The rest is history.

Back to Hard Rock and the PI Syncroseek 2. The Syncroseek 2 delivered and here's why: 1. underneath protection (not too much) 2. flexible 3. nice curve on the sole for a smooth transition 4. upper protection in the toe box 5. upper protection were it meets the sole, and 5. ventilation. Hard Rock offered all the same obstacles: rocks, rocks, rocks, wet feet for 30 hours, fast down hills, and snow as in previous years. But I'm happy to report that the PI Syncroseek 2 did the job that no other shoe could for me. I had minor blisters and wet feet in the end but the shoe provided just the right amount of protection underneath, the right amount protection in the toe box, allowed my feet to breath, and not too bulky. After the race when I started to take my shoes off, my crew gathered round because they remember how bad my feet were last year. This year they were sorely disappointed and didn't even warrant a picture.

Whatever your reason for NOT wearing PI shoes for all your running events, take my story into consideration and give PI shoes a try (again). Pearl Izumi got it right! I know you won't be disappointed.... RUN LIKE AN ANIMAL!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

6 myles - 41:44

Grigs out/back - 10:00 a.m.
clear, upper 80s, no wind
mind/body - good/good
easy effort

Same 6 myles as yesterday with the same perceived effort - pretty easy run. Although my first/last splits were: 6:53/6:46 showing me that the body is quickly recovering. A lot of people out today just enjoying the weather - good to see. Denver will approach the triple digits today for the first time all year. Anyone wanna heat train??

Usually a week after a race my body tells me what I've strained or what significant damage I may have incurred. I remember during Hard Rock I cracked the inside of my right ankle on several rocks and also kicked it with my left foot repeatedly. It swelled up shortly after the race and didn't think anything of it until this morning when I woke up and it hurt. The initial swelling was good because that's indicative of soft tissue damage bleeding out. But right now it just plain hurts right on the crown of the ankle bone. I think maybe now it's formed into a hematoma (blood on the bone) because as I move throughout the day the soreness diminishes but it still hurts with a slight limp. Nothing that I haven't experienced before with soccer so I'll get through this one as well, just some added discomfort. Hopefully it will be gone by Mtn. RATS

Friday, July 18, 2008

6 myles - 43:15

Grigs out/back - 4:00 p.m.
North wind, partly cloudy, mid 90s
mind/body - fresh/slow to respond
easy effort

After a week of Mcdonald's, Coldstone, Domino's, Garlic Jim's Pizza, Krispy Kreme, Brook's Steakhouse, sweet cereal 6x/day, and loads of candy....... I am back in saddle! Not that I was eager to do so but after all that I was just about to double my weight! ...jk

My normal home "hilly" run seemed a bit flat today. In fact, I used muscle's that I haven't used in a long time to run - muscles usually reserved for running flat road that is. I had this weird sensation to lean into my run today and kept falling over myself, what's all that about?? Anyways, it was good to get out today and get the legs moving again. My first/last splits were: 6:53/7:07, showing me that my legs and body are still tired. I will most likely run tomorrow and Sunday but no more than 10 myles each time.

My next race is Mtn. RATS starting on July 31st and consists of 4 days of running in Steamboat Springs. We have to carry everything we will need on our back so it's more of an adventure run than anything else. I'll be chasing the hometown boy Allen Belshaw around on trails he runs all time.... hope I can keep him in sight! Click on the link and read the story he wrote about Desert RATS - very humble champion and very well written!

On a side note, got a call from the Durango Herald today letting me know I made the front page of the paper the day after Hard Rock - pretty cool eh??

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hard Rock 100 - 2nd 29.50

What an unbelievable place! What an unbelievable race! One that I will remember for the rest of my life!

This has to be the highlight of my ultrarunning career - even though I might be remembered as "that guy" that finished 2nd behind Kyle Skaggs by 6 and 1/2 hours!!! Kyle Skaggs has got to be one of the best (if not THE best) ultra runner in the world right now. What he did at Hard Rock will go down in history as one of the all time greatest performances. I told him after the race I was just happy to know him and to have raced with him. Everyone of us in the race knew he was gonna break the record but by how much... turns out by over 2 hours! Karl Meltzer (king of HR) was the previous owner of the CW record since 2001. Scott Jurek is the record holder for the CCW direction. I'm sure Kyle will come back just to get the record in the other direction.

Before the race I told no one of my race plan. My crew simply had time of day splits from 2004 and 2006 races and to make my arrival based on those. In my mind though, the goal was simple enough - finish under 30 hours! I feel it almost taboo to talk about going under 30 hours. In fact only 13 runners in 15 years have ever gotten under 30 hours. I knew my work was cut out for me. Here's how it went down in my mind:

As the race started Kyle immediately took off. I was running with James Varner and a guy from Belgium. The guy from Belgium looked at Kyle then asked us "is he for real?!?!" James and I laughed and I finally said, "go stay with him and find out." He didn't think that was too funny because I think his plans for winning were just shot in the first few seconds. Anyways I ran with this guy from Belgium - Wouter I think his name was - Phil Kiddoo and Ricky Denesik up the first climb not much conversation just thought about what we were about to do. Going over the first climb we lost the trail and flags. Phil went left, I stayed on a high point with the Belgian when he said "you go that way and I stay on high ground" I laughed because he thought I was stupid. We finally found the trail no thanks to Wouter and continued to run through KT in the time that I wanted - 2.45.

Next sections were pretty uneventful climbing over Grant-Swamp, down into Chapman, and then over Oscar pass. As we crested Grant-Swamp I got little tingles in my head and that's always a good sign of feeling good. I was climbing strong and coming down real easy. I ended up going down the scree field on Grant-Swamp, whereas Phil and Ricky took the much faster snow route. They were a good 800 meters ahead of me as they were at the bottom and I was only half way down. After Chapman aid station I caught a glimpse of Ricky (former HR winner) and really wanted to test his climbing. I soon caught him, he turned around and said "you're climbing real strong" "thanks, you too". This was the first of many encounters throughout the next 25 + hours.

At the top of Oscars pass starts a long descent into Telluride. Ricky let me pass at the top, indicating he as going to save his knees. I wanted to lose Ricky by Telluride because that's his home town and he would get a charge out of running through there. Within minutes of me leaving Telluride I heard a tremendous roar - Uh Oh Ricky wasn't far behind. It gave me more motivation to get up Bear Creek and to the top of Virginius. It took me a little less than 2 hours to get to the top with me passing Phil Kiddoo and keeping Jared Campbell in sight. Coming down Virginius was a blast - a lot funner than I imagined - basically glissading for a mile almost into Governor aid station.

I didn't stop at Governor because I was feeling good and I wanted to get Bird Camp road outta the way. They say this direction is "easier" because of places like Bird Camp, Engineer, and Handies road are all down hill. Well I say it doesn't matter because if you're not feeling good then your gonna walk anyways. By the time I got to the bottom of Bird Camp I wanted to walk - which I did and James Varner flew past. As I got into Ouray, James Varner was leaving and I told him I didn't want to see him again - no death march this year, he laughed. I stayed in Ouray for about 10 minutes, gathered myself, then left with my music on. The music only motivated me for about 15 minutes as I started the long climb to Engineer.

One of the two places that I felt terrible was right before Engineer aid station. In past races when I start to feel this way I don't eat because I feel I will throw up. This time I forced down 2 packs of shot blocks, which almost came up. When I finally got to Engineer pass, the forceful eating finally paid off and had a good pace getting into Grouse just after 9 p.m. I had lost about 45 minutes but my crew felt I was doing a better job pacing. I stayed in Grouse for 10 minutes telling my crew and Dale I wanted to wait for Ricky and his pacer for lights on Handies.... bad idea. Ricky was running strong and soon left me in the dust. I think it made him mad when I told him I was waiting for him, like I was jabbing him. That probably motivated him to lose me but I sincerely wanted to use his lights as I didn't have a pacer. I didn't think I would see him again.

On the way up Handies, the wind started to blow and it was getting cold. I was in no mood to even walk at this point. Right at the top of American Basin I caught James Varner and we started laughing at the mere thought of us sitting side by side trading shot blocks for gel packs. We both were in the same state. Although the GU he gave me seemed to give me a jump start so I left and got over Handies about midnight. Going down the smooth Handies road should have been a piece of cake but the GU was wearing off and I hit my second bad spot. I walked most of the road and finally got into Sherman at 2:30 a.m. I sat there for 15 minutes when Diana Finkel came in with a sense of urgency. Something clicked inside my body, maybe it was the 3 cups of coke, breakfast burrito, bottle of HEED, and potato soup.... whatever it was it never left from that point on.

I got up Cataract gulch in a hurry! I didn't want to see their lights behind me. Turns out the marking up at the top of Cataract was a mess. I had lights all around me, getting totally disoriented. I saw footprints on the trail and followed them... turns out the footprints were Jared Campbell and his pacer. He was in a bad spot but he and his pacer hitched on and I pulled them up to the top. Once there they tried to lose me but I ran every time they did. We reached Pole line aid station just before 6 am together. They informed us Kyle had just finished..... WHAT?!?! He was only a mere 20 myles ahead of us. Again, leaving the aid station Jared tried to detach me by running in spurts. I still felt OK and decided I would follow until Maggie Gulch.

Leaving Maggie Gulch is the second to last big climb. I followed Jared and his pacer seemed to slow. Jared pulled over, took his shirt off, then I was off. I took a chance this early to see what I had left. But as I was cresting that climb I looked back and saw Jared stopped about 10 minutes back. It was very motivating for me to see how far I could gap him by the next aid station. Turns out I had made 20 minutes on him.

As I got into Cunningham aid station (mile 91), I had lost all sense of breaking 30 hours and resided myself for 3rd place. That's when my father in law said "You can catch Ricky! Go get him!" Seeing everybody there after a long night was enough for me to give it everything I had. I have NEVER, EVER been so focused on getting something done. 10 minutes out of the aid station I caught a glimpse or Ricky and went faster. I didn't want to pass him too early because it's a long steep climb but I knew I was faster going down from earlier in the day. When I caught him he said "Where the hell did YOU come from? I left you for dead on Handies." I just told him I got my second wind and was on my way.

When I got to the top of Little Dives pass from Cunningham in 1.05 I now started to think about going under 30. I had run the trail leading into town with Brian Fisher two days before the race. We ran out 20 minutes and I knew exactly where that was. I needed to make it there by 29.40 in order to get to the rock. I made it there by 29.30 and that's all I needed to see.

But before I get to the finish, way back on the road as I was coming off of Little Dives a jeep was parked in the middle of the road and a guy yelled out to me and said "turn around, have you ever seen anything like that before?" I turned around and there was a billy goat as white as snow. He was like a statue placed on a little mound of rocks. The first thing I thought was "I guess that's the Master Speedgoat himself giving me his nod of approval".

As I'm coming off the trail and into the ski area, here comes Dale Garland on his bike. (I think he was a little surprised to see me and not Ricky). I said to Dale, "I guess I won -huh?-" He said "what?" "Yeah, I won the "human" race" we both laughed.

Every time I finish an Ultra (especially with 100s), I am overcome with emotion. I think of the sacrifices I've made. I think of the sacrifices my family has made. I think of all the hard work I have done for more than a year for this one race. Hard Rock is my super bowl and to see my family, my parents, my in-laws, my friends - all cheering me on was a dream come true. My son met me in the road about 1/4 mile to the finish and I lost it. He hugged me, started to cry, and said "Dad I am so proud of you, I love you so much".

29.50:53 was my final time as I kissed the infamous Hard Rock. 2nd place overall. But as I've said before, the place doesn't really matter, it's the time. I am no Kyle Skaggs or Tony Krupicka (nor will I ever be), so I must race myself and beat the demons that try to take me down each and every time.

A sincere "Thank You" to everyone who helped me along the way. I could not do this without you!

Me and boy wonder the next morning

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hard Rock 100 - 2008

Well here we go folks!

It's now Thursday morning and I didn't sleep well last night as I ran HR in my sleep 3 times! I was hoping to sleep good but my mind was racing. It's a good/bad thing to get here in Silverton so early: good because you get to see everyone else in the HR family and acclimate, bad because all I want to do is to get it on but I have to wait.

My family finally got here Tuesday night - boy was it great to see them! Talk about recharging my battery! I've been here since Tuesday night, July 1st so that makes it a week all alone. In that time away from mainstream life, I realize how important my family is to me. They mean the world to me! I am truly blessed to have a family (wife, parents, in-laws, and friends) to be so supported of such a selfish sport. It isn't the actual race but the training for such a race over the last year. The race is the celebration for me and my family- I get to celebrate successful training and my family gets to reconnect with other crews/friends. But together we get to enjoy the amazing scenery and experience.

Now about the race itself, I have no expectations but to finish. In fact, normally I carve out splits for my crew but I haven't even thought twice about that. I have provided them with time of day splits from the 2004 and 2006 splits and to gage my arrival based on those. With the snow (and just being Hard Rock), expectations or predictions are futile. Expect the unexpected here -always! Karl Meltzer put out his traditional odds and for the first time I made his list with 8-1 odds. Thanks for even mentioning my name Karl, I'm honored! If Kyle Skaggs stays safe then it's his race to lose. He's an amazing runner and for just 22 y.o. he's amazingly mature. I did trail work with Kyle last year and came to find out what a really nice guy he is as well. Stay safe Kyle!

On another note, my pacer Brian Fisher is now #3 on the wait list. He's in for sure. In fact, we spoke with the race director last night at dinner and he told Brian to pack his drop bags. I said, "hey wait a minute Dale, you mean to tell me you're gonna let Brian off the hook and not sweat it out all night like I had to last year?!?!?!" All in all I'm happy for Brian because he looks forward to this race just as much as I do. I basically did it w/o a pacer last year and can do it again. Although it woulda been nice to have the extra light going over Handies...

That's all for now until after the race. Checkout this website to get updates every 15 minutes. Oh and one more photo for dexterity - The beauty is nothing like I've ever seen!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Virginius and Oscar's Pass

5 more days until the big day - Hard Rock 100, 2008 edition!

It's now Sunday afternoon and the town of Silverton is slowing down from the 4th of July weekend. I came into town on the 4th and turned right back around to my campsite because there was no place to park and the street was filled with people - not cars. Silverton has one of the best fireworks show I have ever seen. I didn't see them this year but a few years back my family and I watched the entire mountain side light up for 30 minutes of nonstop explosions. Good for the town of Silverton because their winter's are so harsh they need the tourists to last the winter. In fact, the coffee shop I'm sitting in "Steam and Steel" (formally Mobius) just barely opened because the previous owner didn't make it through the winter.

So here's what I've been doing the last couple of days: Friday I drove up bird camp road and "attempted" to get to the top of Virginius (1.42). Saturday I took a day off and drove to Durango to relax. Today I drove up to Ophir pass ran down the back side and up to Oscar pass (2.32).

This is why I "attempted" to get to the top of Virginius. This is only the first pitch of three. Since I was alone I didn't want to risk being hurt in such a remote place. I hadn't seen any other tracks so it would be quite some time if I slipped and fell before someone found me. I made it up to the rocky outcropping on the left of the photo but turned around and slide down testing out my crampons.

Here are my crampons. I'm debating whether I should strap them to my Nathan pack. They did slow me down but once I got comfortable sliding down the slope I pretended I was skiing, seemed to work. The snow was soft enough for me to dig in and I made sure I was up there at the same time I think I would be there in the race. The slope is steep and it eerily reminds me of the slope in which I had set an avalanche and broke my femur 20 years ago. Most people might not be spooked but I envision how fast I can go down a slippery slope with nothing to grab onto. Might not be that bad during the race with people around and adrenaline flowing.

Believe it or not there is a jeep road under that snow leading up to Virginius. You can see my tracks dug into the side. It doesn't seem that bad but when I'm in the middle of that slope and look down, I notice it's all funneling into a chute. This side-hilling takes a little practice so I'm glad I got a chance to build my confidence.

This picture is looking up towards Virginius basin. Virginius pass is to the left out of the picture. I put this picture up to show the beauty to entice some of my friends to come check out the San Juans.

This picture is looking up to Oscar's Pass. This is one of the most brutal of climbs about 20 myles into the race. Only a couple of snow fields to traverse and from this vantage point they don't look that bad, do they?

Well, here is one of those snow fields when you're right up next to it. A little bit more daunting, considering the slope.

So you wanna know how much energy an avalanche carries with it? Take a look at this METAL gate twisted up. I couldn't fit the uprooted trees that were lying next to this gate. Pretty impressive!

This picture is taken from the top of Oscar's pass looking back to Grant Swamp Pass. The actual pass is dead center, top of the picture. Remember my last post I put a picture up from the top of Grant Swamp?

And finally, my trustworthy companion - Cooper. This is the place he sits and waits hours on end. I can't tell, does he look mad to you??

So far this week I've put over 50 myles and 10 hours on my legs. I've previewed the course to give me enough confidence to power through those scary places. I said last week before I left Highlands Ranch "the work is done" - that statement was premature. I can honestly say that the work is now done and the outcome of my race is sealed. I have some big expectations but with Hard Rock I just have to take what it gives me because no matter how hard I've trained and how well I've been racing, Hard Rock will chew me up and spit me out in a heart beat. Let my mind wander for just an instance and my race could be over, get behind on calories or fluid and my race could be over - concentration and attention to details is needed for 30 hours straight. Just like Western States is to so many, this is my "Big Dance" of the year.

That's all for this post. I will update again on Wednesday right before the race. Take care all and see you soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Handies and Grant Swamp pass

Hi Everyone! How ya doing? I'm great, thanks for asking!

Sittin' in Mobius coffee shop in Silverton, CO. I deem the San Juan's the most beautiful place in the world! If you've never been, what the hell you waitin' for?? If you love the great outdoors - If you love sleepy little mountain towns - If you love the crisp, clean, cool air - If you love high mountain tundra covered with wild flowers - If you love awe-inspiring granite peaks - If you love all these things and have never been to the San Juan's you are a poser!

I got here on Tuesday night and have since had two spectacular days of running! Wednesday I went from Grouse Gulch to Handies and back. Today I went from Kamm Traverse to Grant Swamp pass and back. Here are the details:

Wednesday, July 2nd
Grouse Gulch to Handies:

This is a view from the top of American Basin looking at Handies (14er). Most likely I will be going over Handies in the middle of the night so it was a good preview to see it in the day.

This is the trail that I just came up for the final climb on Handies.

This is looking back at American Basin. Last year there was only snow on the pass but as you can see there is a boat load of snow this year. The trail comes over the top at the center of the picture and ends up in the left corner of the picture. Yesterday there were no tracks and it had not been marked yet so I was doing a lot of route finding via rock cairns. Yesterday the snow was soft but will it be soft in the middle of the night??

From Grouse Gulch to Handies and back took me 3.49, getting to the top of Handies in 1.52. I know I'll be slower in the race but at least I have a good idea of what to expect.

Thursday, July 3rd
Kamm Traverse to Grant Swamp Pass:

When I start thinking about going over Grant Swamp Pass I get butterflies in my stomach. It's steep. It's high. It's rocky. It's damn scary! I had to go up and see how much snow was on the top to give me piece of mind.

This is the final climb up to Grant Swamp. The pass is the rock formation in the middle of the saddle. I was happy to see there was not that much snow.

This is looking down Grant Swamp. The top part is shale and the basin is full of snow - great! Now if I lose my balance I will tumble down the shale into the snow.

Here's an unobstructed view of Grant Swamp

Another view of Grant Swamp. This picture doesn't do the steepness justice. What you can't see in this picture is the drop off, the snow looks closer than it really is.

I made it up to Grant Swamp pass in 1.31 from South Mineral Camp ground via Kamm Traverse. The river crossing was fine because someone had laid a bunch of logs together to make a bridge. Last year the river crossing was bad because you had to go across a raging river on a slippery big log. Lots more snow this year up around Island lake right before hitting Grant Swamp but it's firm snow so it should be fast. I made it back to the car in 2.32 where Cooper was sleeping in the back of my car. I don't even think he knew I was gone because he was sooo tired. I've been taking him on an hour hike for the past two mornings so that he'll sleep when I'm running... seems to have worked. I feel bad for him because his hips are not in good shape - major atrophy in the muscles. I'm basically having to lift him in and out of the car because he's turfed it a couple of times.

Since I'm adding pictures and I've got some time on my hands I might as well add one from Desert RATS. I got a CD full of pictures from a professional photographer right before I left. This picture is my favorite. Allen and I on the 52 mile day. Stride for stride, 6 straight days.

11 myles into a 52 mile stage

OK. One more picture with me and my crew

That's about all for now. I'm headed back up to my campground at 11,000ft to settle in for the night. I will be back in touch before the weekend comes to an end. Take care.....