Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Monday, June 27, 2011

Western States 21:18 58th place

Well THAT didn't turn out how I wanted. It never does and that's the luring part - you just never know. Just check out this video clip of the finish and that'll be enough to tell you that everything turned out a-OK.

It's been a ritual for me in 100s to bring my boys across the finish with me. They watch me all day and support, I want them to enjoy in the celebration of finishing one hundred myles. What I've always said "finish what you start" and I have to lead by example. Here's my story:

Western States was my big peaking race for 2011. I went into the race very well rested, with a week prior in Lake Tahoe, and some solid training courtesy of Lucho. I have never felt so prepared for any one race and with the stiff competition I knew I would have to run my best to crack the top 10. I really do like the highly competitive races because it tends to bring the best out in me. All year I've gone to the races that have attracted the best runners just so WS was not a star-studded shock to me. Must have worked cause I felt right at home towards the front right out of the gate.

Climbing up to the escarpment my legs and lungs were working beautifully, running just behind Hal for most of the time. I settled into around 10th place and once we got onto the snow I felt absolutely alive - I was buzzing! Mike Foote and Ryan Burch soon came on me and we took a back seat to the front pack with our mini-pack. Our strides and leg speed are very similar so I felt very comfortable with our pace. We stayed this way all the way through Mosquito Ridge aid when, to our surprise, we were in the lead.... wait. What?! Mike Wolfe, Killian Jornet, Nick Clark, Dave Mackey, Timothy Olson, and Hal Koerner apparently got off track for about 12 minutes and slowly came up from behind. But to even add more confusion, I had a drop bag at Mosquito Ridge packed with EFS liquid shot, they tell me they have no drop bags there... What?! I took off with some GU and brownies from the aid totally confused. Still don't know how that happened. As the leaders passed us our the Robinson Flat loop it broke up our mini-pack as Ryan and Mike sped off a bit in front of me.

Now I'm running just behind PI teammate Timothy Olson through Dusty's corner and Last Chance. I feel amazing and debating whether I want to speed up or not... I decide to hang behind Timothy, good choice. At the Last Chance aid they weighed us and I was down 11 lbs, so the scale says. They weighed me on another which only put me down 7 lbs, still concerning because I was eating and drinking very well. I decide to take 2 S caps, hoping that will make me drink more for the heat to come. Timothy and I descended into the Devils Thumb canyon and the minute we started uphill I became very weak. No power. For me that's a big deal because my strength is climbing... "just get to the top and suck down more fluid and food", I said under my breath. A few people passed me, not concerned in the least bit cause it always comes back around. I got to the top and now was nauseated. Ironically, I sat in a chair next to Geoff Roes who was not feeling it. We commiserated briefly as I chased Tracy Garneau out of Devil's Thumb. Not much better getting out of El Dorado canyon either, still climbing very weak and spent a few meters with Geoff again.

Now into Michigan Bluff and so far there was virtually no heat. This was probably a very mellow year for heat because from what I can recall I was in the shade most of the time with upper 80s, maybe a tad bit past 90 in the bottoms. I finally see my family at Michigan Bluff and it was a relief and a spark. I again sat in the chair next to Geoff, talked with my crew, and I was off. I left with Joelle Vaught and we ran together all the way to Bath road. She looked and sounded great but later heard she had to drop. It's been a few hours now and I can't seem to shake this overall malaise. I just had no energy, did not want to talk, but eating and drinking were fine.

Up until Foresthill I did not know what to expect so everything seemed really long. I've paced twice before from FH to the finish so I knew what I was in for and the way I was feeling did not look forward to it. PI teammate Josh Brimhall came out to pace me and I was thrilled because he had paced me at the Bear and knows how to motivate and get conversation going. Josh, once again, did an amazing job doing the Scott Jaime shuffle-ball-chain. Patient but yet persistent. I know he didn't sign up for 9+ hours but that's what he got - a few bonus hours at no charge. Thanks Josh.

Going along the river was probably the worst I had felt all day and if I could get out of that canyon to take a ride back, I probably would have. We were doing 20 minute miles! And Josh would say, "alright Jaime that one was kinda slow, we need to make the next one at least a 15 minute mile on this flat section" And I would reply with "meh." That's all I could muster. I think it was at Peachstone where I ran into Thornley and we were both in the chair totally miserable. We both made it to the river about the same time and I got to ride in the boat with him and his brother. Earlier in the week the Jaime's spent time with the Jones-Wilkins and now I get to ride the boat with Thornley - both names that are synonymous with WS. Great experience.

OK so now I'm going up to Green Gate I get actually get a little spark. Hmmm... could this be the turn around? I also knew I'd be seeing my wife and father in law so that also gave me a little motivation. Must have given me something because I ran all the way to ALT... OK well 99% of it. It was a shuffle but my trustworthy pacer told me I was crack-a-lackin below 10 on a few of those myles. I should have never sat down in that chair at ALT because after that my legs were stiff boards. I had lost any mojo that had returned.

15 myles to go and I was a hurtin' unit. I really don't remember much beyond the slew of people passing. In particular, Roch Horton passed with his runner Helen Cospolich and he is such an amazing motivator. The way he says things makes you not want to let him down. He tried to get me going but it just was not happening. Well, I'd say I ran about 10 steps till his light was out of sight and then I walked again. Thanks Roch for trying. Into and out of Brown's bar, Hwy 49, and no hands with nothing really to add. At this point it was all about getting done to see my family.

And I knew my family, including my boys, would be there waiting. That was enough to give me the strength to get to Placer High School.

Thank you to all who support me. In particular, my wife and two boys who are always by my side, my trustworthy in-laws who love this sport as much as I do, and my parent's who support and watch my every step. You know I cannot do any of this without all your support. It's going to be one hell of a good time in France! Also big kudos to Kody and Cassie from PI and Aric from Smith Optics who came out to cover WS and support the team! Thanks guys! I had high expectations and I know some of you did for me as well. I am bummed but there will be another day. Everything happens for a reason.

Congratulations to all who toed the line! It takes a lot of preparation and guts to be there, whether you finished or not, it is admirable. And special congratulations to my Pearl Izumi teammates Nick Clark (3rd) and Timothy Olson (6th) for their amazing runs! Honored to be part of the PI team with them.

And a quote to leave you with: The more you learn, you learn the less you know. The more you think you know, the less you learn.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

WS Thoughts

It's finally here! Thursday morning in Squaw Valley already has the feel of Christmas morning. People are starting to roll in, the snow is melting fast, Pearl Izumi deliveries from UPS, and the pre-race splits and drop bag planning has begun.

My family and I arrived in Reno on Sunday for a much needed family vacation. With me being gone most of the year on a plane somewhere, it was finally nice to have my family at my side on a plane for once. We settled into the PI house and for the past several days have been doing the activities in and around Lake Tahoe. The weather in these parts have been absolutely spectacular, clear and hovering in the upper 80s. I could see myself as a Tahoe City resident very easily. Andy Jones-Wilkins and his family joined us on Tuesday and it has been quite a treat hanging out with them at the house. While I've been tapping into the immense WS knowledge, Nicole and Shelly have been sharing ultra crew war stories, and the boys have been enjoying their time with the JW boys.

On the running side of things, I have been feeling amazing! To give you an example, I did mile repeats on Tuesday in 5:54, 5:59, 6:02, 5:53 and did not feel stressed, just cruising. These were supposed to be done in ~6:20 but just couldn't hold back. I hate to even say how good I feel because I don't want to jinx it but I can't deny how refreshed my body and mind feel. For the first time all year I've taken a proper 3 week taper: 65, 45, and probably 22 myles this week. Going through a taper is always such a mind game; one day feeling like you have never ran with sludge in the legs to the next day feeling like you can run sub 4 minute mile repeats while having a conversation. I'm sure the body doesn't know what to think and only responds to what it's been used to; 80+ myles and 12 hours of running a week. To be quite honest, I think I have finally broken through the taper twitches and at the same time don't have any real aches when first rising in the morning.

Blog wise it's been fun looking at all the predictions and I don't think it comes as any surprise the top 5 are: Roes, Killian, Clark, Koerner, and Mackey. There are so many talented runners from all over the world so it will be interesting to see how things play out in the end. That's why we run the race. Who will have the best day? Personally I hope to not get caught up in the hype, run my race, and enjoy the experience. Good luck to all, and in particular, my PI teammates Nick Clark and Timothy Olson.

Tonight Pearl Izumi will be hosting a low key BarBQ at 6 PM at the PI house. If you are in town, stop by and say hello. Nick Clark will be signing autographs...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 6-12

13 days. The big juan can't come soon enough! These next two weeks are brutal: excitement, doubt, anxiety, weight gain, and planning. All going on in the head while trying to maintain some sort of normalcy in the family and work life.

Everyone hates the taper because it's not an exact science. What is known though is that rest is needed to unload fatigue and restore the endocrine system, especially for 100 myles. I've done 4, 3, and two week tapers for 100 mile races. I even entered Wasatch a few years ago with no running at all in 22 days... albeit a injury, not recommended because fitness was definitely lost. Going into all 4 of my races this spring I did not take a taper, hoping to build endurance. Going into WS I will have a proper 3 week taper (65, 45, 20), something like that. While decreasing the volume, the intensity will go up to keep the tension in the key muscles. Hopefully the right ratio to get me to the start line ready to go.

My spring racing has been mediocre at best. I'm OK with that. I approached races differently this year; going in a little cooked and hoping for the best. In years past I would have a proper taper for each race with a 4 week mini cycle between each, creating multiple peaks. This year I've sacrificed races in hopes of making one peak on June 25th. We will see if it works. Take a look at my weekly - monthly mileage up to this point:
83, 80, 69, 85 - 344

83, 80, 74 (race week), 79 - 319

87, 83, 64 (race week), 89 - 351

80, 100 (race week), 90, 103, 73 - 399

82 (race week), 61, 88, 87 - 353

107, 65 - 147

Here is my latest week:
Monday - rare day off
Tuesday - 6 myles Bluffs
Wednesday - 9 myles Backcountry progression run
Thursday - AM 10 myles Bluffs Interval hill work
Friday - 4 myles Grigs

Total - 65 myles, 9 hrs 1 min, 10, 295 ft climbing

One thing to point out, I didn't actually run up Pikes Peak on Saturday but rather on trails around the peak. The route was Longs Ranch Road, Bob's, Barr, Elk Park and back. I firmly believe that the Elk Park trail is one of the finest single track running trails in the nation! It's about 6 myles long (all above 10K) with everything from smooth and flat, rolling hills, one lung busting climb, technical stuff, beauty, and best of all - hardly anyone on it. Next week I'll put up some stats on some killer climbs some of my friends run and compare it to the ones I know. For instance, Sun Valley has Carbo, Ft Collins has the Towers, Boulder has Green, Denver has Mt Falcon (to the shelter), and Colorado Springs has Barr and Longs Ranch Road. To give you a glimpse, Longs Ranch Road is 3.3 myles and 2500ft of gain. I busted a lung yesterday in a time of 35:14 - ouch.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

May 30 - June 5

My 10 day 'camp' ended today. Final tally was 177 myles, 29,756 ft of climbing, and just over 26 hours on the feet. In fact, in a 7 day period I logged 124 myles and 22K of climbing.

Why 10 days you might ask? Well to be quite honest it was the amount of time, after all my travel, until I had to start the proper taper. It just came out to be 10 days. My initial goal was 200 myles and 30K of climbing so I didn't quite make those numbers but I didn't think about easy days either. Overall, pretty happy with my fitness. Now it is time to dial it in! I've never been good about a proper taper so this is where Lucho cinches down the bolts and makes me sharper than razors edge. The volume will come down but the intensity will go up. And hopefully over the next 3 weeks I will unload the fatigue and restore the endocrine system.

On another note, I commented last week that it was a 3 man race for the Montrail Cup. It is and it isn't. I read on Mackey's blog that all he had to do was finish WS to win it... I was perplexed so I went back to actually read the rules. Turns out they take the 4 highest scores. And as Dan Olmstead commented on my blog, Mackey is up by ~7 hours, based on a 15.30 winner at WS. Dan is up on me by ~20 minutes and PI teammate TAO is behind me by 2 hours. Now it's all predictive of the winners' time at WS but at least that gives us a ballpark figure. There is no doubt in my mind Mackey deserves the cup, he has been relentless by winning all his MUC races.

Last, I watched the news last night and saw that the Sierra's got blasted with another foot of snow! Maybe I should get some insurance on my plane tickets huh? I can't see them canceling WS but you never know. I happen to like all the snow. Reminiscent of Hard Rock.

Here's how the week unfolded:

Thursday - AM 8 myles KC
PM 8 myles HR backcountry
Friday - 6 myles East/West trail (some with Jaxon)

Total - 107 myles, 14 hrs 31 mins, 17,003 ft of climbing

I'll leave you with this photo I took from last year at the pre-race.

Check out the guy on the far left. That guy is SERIOUS!