Thursday, September 29, 2016

Never Summer race report

Colorado

I landed Friday morning in Denver and met my dad and my sister (who flew in the night before).  We headed over to REI and then the local running store to buy a headlamp (I had one, but the bulb died and I didn't know where to get a new one).  We ate breakfast at a place called Syrup in Cherry Creek (hit the spot).  Thinking we should be acquainted with the general area of the race we then headed through the pass to Granby.  We had a hotel there, but it was still an hour or so from there to the race start in Gould, which indicates how remote the area of the race was.  We drove up and took a gravel cutoff road that was supposed to save time.  It had a little place to stop and overlook towards the Park Mountains to the west:



At this point I took a short jog and felt the 8,000+ plus elevation and was little worried that I was going to attempt 64 miles pretty much all above where I was.  Hopefully a night of sleep up high would be what I needed (it had helped with the 14er White Mountain in California the year before). We checked in at the start area and drove out in the park where the aid station for 50 miles At this point my sister said she would join me if I was still moving at this point the next day.

We then drove back to Granby and had dinner at an Italian-type place.  I had a beer and it was after 9pm so we headed back to the hotel.  I don't know how much sleep I got, the usual waking up several times during the night.  I had a the pack with two bottles and decided to wear the singlet with a shirt over top (it was not that cold, but I did shiver at the start).  I made a drop bag for mile 30 with a change of socks and shoes and not much else, I was carrying the headlamp in case I needed it at the start.  My family dropped me at the start area and went to park at the offsite spot.  It was dark, but getting lighter:


The Race

The start elevation was slightly over 9,000 feet at the Gould Community Center.  It had about 2 miles before it started seriously climbing as it headed towards the summit of Seven Utes Mountain.  I had debated the idea of walking from the start (there was going to be plenty of walking), but everybody started with a bit of a shuffle so I went along and shuffled as well.  It was pretty much daylight and the lamp was not ever needed.  There was a water-only stop and I just kept going as I hadn't drank much at all.  Then the climbing started.  It was still very crowded, I was going back and forth with a number of folks.  I was walking all the up and even stopping for a break on a couple of places.  I took photos as my excuse to stop:


Covering the first 4 miles in roughly an hour I had a bit of time ahead on my schedule.  I pushed to get to the top of Seven Utes and it was a great view from 11,500.  The sun was coming up over the rocky mountains to the east and I could see where the course went generally down and around.  The descent off Seven Utes was super steep, I had to slalom a bit just to make it without falling (and still wound up on my butt briefly).  I had studied the elevation profile, but stupidly focused on the two big climbs and ignored the stuff between.  It was all hard at that elevation and it went right back up 300 feet.  People were getting really spread out now, but there was almost always a person or two around, passing back and forth.  


I was hoping for an aid station and to see my family who were going to be at mile 10.  It was a short walk in for them to meet on the course.  The course was going down steadily and it was right up against the highest of the Never Summers--Richthofen and the spectacular Nokhu Crags.  At the foot of these is Lake Agnes, complete with a rocky island.  
And there was a photographer on the course here catching us at our most picturesque (and early enough we could muster a run to look like we were moving!)


My family appeared just over this ridge and I ran down to meet them and insisted they go a little further and check out the lake and view there.  It was another 1/4 mile for them up trail.  I think the area is up there with the Tetons for quality of mountains and view.  The aid station was further than I though along a flat road which I attempted to run, but could only manage a minute or two on and then a couple minutes off.  This established a bit of a threshold for my elevation tolerance--9,000 to a little over 10,000 I would be able to move ok.  Anything above 10,500 I was going to struggle.  

After the aid station the course climbed again.  I was not really expecting this part to climb so much. I was walking pretty consistently and stopping to catch my breath.  The views were still outstanding as we flanked Nokhu Crags from the south and then the east.  I stopped to take a bunch of pictures:



Progress

I had worked steadily through close to 15 miles.  The first hour I had picked up the extra mile and I still held that time, averaging around 3 mile per hour for the next stretch.  I was 5 hours and 16 miles covered by 10:30.  The next aid station was 18 miles and then it went straight up to the highest point on the course North Diamond.  My family was waiting again at the aid station.  I probably should have stayed longer and had more to eat and drink, but I was still moving and wanted to roll with it. The sun was up and I was feeling the effects of the 'heat.'  The first part of North Diamond was covered mostly with trees and I would rest in the shade as the climb got steeper.  There were a lot of insects, which I did not expect at 11,000 feet.  A couple that were running together were behind me (I had passed them before the aid station) were making better progress and passed me by, but were mostly in sight for the rest of the climb.  Once we got above the treeline I struggled completely.  I was traveling 30 feet and stopping to rest.  It was also so steep sometimes the best strategy was to sit down, so I was sitting when clouds would pass.  At one point from the bottom there was a view up the full hill and I could see all the people in a line moving up the slope, which was neat.  Too tiny to show up in any pictures, though. Here is what did show up:


There were people at the top!  On the right is a friend I made on the way up.  We started down the other side together, but eventually I did not have the pace to keep up with him.  Later he went off course and the sweep found him and brought him to the aid station at 40.  The couple who also passed me were at 40, but that's for later.



From the far side of North Diamond.  The elevation on top was 11,826 and the highest point on the course.  The aid station at 18 was somewhere around 9,600 and it was less than 3 miles to reach the top. The steepest section was climbed about 1,000 feet in half a mile.  Virtually as steep as it could be and still have humans climb it.  The trail stretched along the ridge and stayed above 11,000 for 4 more miles.  It was tough for a flatlander like me.  There was a much-needed aid station at 23 mile before the big descent to Ruby Jewel.  I really felt like I got my legs back on this descent.  The slow climb up North Diamond hadn't really taken much more out of me, maybe even got something back because I was moving so slow.  Once out of that 10,500 threshold I could move a bit and felt Ok.  At Ruby Jewel I told my family I was pushing for 50 and I had a hour cushion before the cutoff time at that point.  I was eating anything Nutella on the course this time.  

Things get worse

I knew there were still at least 3 more climbs along the course from 30 miles onward.  I don't think I appreciated how much they would still require out of me.  I was down below 10,000 but it shot right back up pretty quick from Ruby Jewel.  I was ok on the first part of the climb, but it crossed a pass and descended right back down.  And when I looked around I was in a valley and the only way out was up and up.  The sun was still over the mountains and draining the last amount of energy from me. I was ready to figure out an exit strategy.  


After 35 miles, this just looks brutal.  Elevation 11,100 feet and still going up.

The course even crossed a pair of rock scrambles.  I really had to step carefully to cross.  Somebody behind me said they just stopped and sat and didn't want to further.  I think the sweep collected them. I was thinking about my family and I didn't want them to be waiting at 50 and I stop somewhere else. I had a little battery life left and strangely got enough signal in the surrounded-by-mountains valley to pass the word.  Apparently they had just settled down for a short nap before coming back to meet me later that evening.  Oops.  The battery died and these are the last pictures.



At this point I had decided to drop and I was trying to figure out the easiest way to do so.  I knew there was an out-and-back section and I didn't want to have to go any extra distance.  There were folks about 2 miles down this valley by Kelly Lake that were checking on people medically for anything extreme. But I could still walk I was just tired of doing it.  They sent me along the course and I had to finish all the way to 40 where the aid station was a bit of a party with music and lights.  I had taken 5 hours to go 10 miles from 30 and it was not much fun.  They had a car acting as a shuttle to 50, but it was about to take some folks that had gotten there earlier.  So I waited in the dark with a lot of folks I had seen around on the course.  We had some hot broth, a PBR, and other usual aid station goodies.  I tried to sit, but would have to stand up and walk around periodically.  I asked about the cutoff and they said they were supposed to discourage anyone trying to go further at 9pm and that's just about when I reached the stop.  So I either quite on my own accord or was a victim of the cut off, whichever sounds better.

Later I checked the profile and there is no way I would have made the 1,000 foot climb in 2 miles that constituted the out-and-back.  It just looked brutal.  I confess I did feel a bit sad when I saw folks with their headlamps on the course trying to finish it out as I was being shuttled off the course.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Never Summer 100k: A long walk in Colorado.

Never summerGould

The Never Summer Mountains are a big Moose area.  However, I don't think anyone saw any.  That remains one of the highlights of the Bighorn 50 in Wyoming from a few years back.

Background

Originally I had plans to run the Zion 100.  It was in the 8 week window after a marathon when I like to stretch out and attempt crazy ultras.  I love the park and the area.  The severe case of plantar fasciitis that struck a couple of hours into LA meant that any race in March and April was going to be questionable.  I went over the list of Western States qualifying races a few times and isolated the few 100Ks that remain.  Bandera was January so it had already passed.  The Never Summer 100K was domestic and had a generous cutoff time.  Basically if you could finish, you'd get a ticket.  So in mid-March I took the plunge and signed up for the race.  I appreciated the average elevation and the total climb involved, but i'm not sure one can ever be truly prepared.

(Skyline Drive from Stony Man)
Skyline

Training

I needed to get on the trails immediately.  I needed as much climb as I could get and as much elevation as one realistically could get living on the east coast with a high point at only 6,684 feet.  I queried the sections of Virginia that had long sections of trail, that also went above 4,000 feet, and were less than 3 hours drive from Baltimore.  A few places worked out including Reddish Knob (on the Grindstone 100k course) and sections of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. I was only covering 15 or 16 miles on my runs, but I was spending 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours on the trail, so it was something close to appropriate ultra training.  I also wasn't completely destroying my legs so I could do regular miles during the week, with a few days to rest.

At - roan At - roan

April was a pretty bad month.  By the second half, I had to get away and my first thought was North Carolina to get up into those 6,000 foot mountains.  I headed to Boone and hiked 17 or 18 total miles of Appalachian trail through the Roan Highlands, standing on peaks that were 5,800 to 6,286 feet.  Not quite the 9,000+ that I would face on the course, but it was better than 75 feet above sea level where 90% of my training occurs.  I also singed up for the Dirty German 50 miler in Philadelphia in May as a 'training' run.  And I had a mishap with my hand-held water bottle and an area in Virginia called Big Schloss which involved some light rock climbing in order to fetch my car key.

May and June

(not your typical ultra scenery in Philly)Cigv2o7W0AAsSUrSanta Fe forest
image
(looks harder than it was)

The Dirty German didn't quite go as planned.  I picked up some sort of bug during the week and didn't arrange for proper dog sitting.  I made it through one loop of the three loop course on pace, but the second became a death march.  I was back at the start finish after 35 miles and was walking most of the way.  I decided to quit at that point and drive back home.  Total time was just short of 7 hours.  I am thinking something closer to 10 or 11 hours would have been helpful in hindsight.  But another loop was 4 hours at best, and probably 5 hours to get back around.

Things got better as I managed to find the time to get on a plane to Colorado to briefly train at course elevation.  It was late May and there was still snow down to 12,000 feet in the mountains so I chose to head south into New Mexico and see if things were better there. Santa Fe Baldy was the target and despite signs of snow at the top I went for a hike/run towards the summit.  Turning back without reaching the top due to the aforementioned snow, the run was still 5 hours staying above 10,000 feet with several thousand feet of total climb.  I had survived a longer run at altitude and was still moving at 20 minute pace at the end, which was the pace needed to stay on course at Never Summer.  It was worth a little extra credit because the trail had periodic snow piled up which was really bad for progress.

After the New Mexico trip my sister and I headed almost up to Canada to climb Mt Marcy, the highest point in New  York State.  It was still cold and possibly sleeting at the top but we stood on the highest point.  It was cloudy and there were no real views.  But it was another brick in the wall and as June turned into July I had to think about tapering.

...continued in part II

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LA Marathon

Rolling down the Imperial Highway...
Santa Ana winds blowing hot from the north

(the course doesn't go anywhere near the Imperial Highway, and the Santa Ana winds blowing hot were a worst-case scenario)

La part 2

The Plan

Train as hard as possible and hope for a decent day to run a PR. Sacrifice to the gods of good weather and try to no overdo things watching the Olympic trials on Saturday.

The Reality

Trained well until the snow back home. The race weather was warm and spent half the day standing at the trials.


The Start

Got a taste of that famed LA traffic and nearly missed it. Was dropped at the gates to Dodger Stadium and had to rush down to the corrals. Found people entering through a gap and went in there, but only got as far as corral D. Started in a sea of people and had to resort to going off course a little to manage some sort of pace. Out of the stadium things opened up I started to run my race.

Early Miles

Felt ok. Maybe not so peak tapered, but early miles were relaxed at a PR pace. Caught up to to Ryan and Brennan downtown and make some bad joke that I can't remember as I went past. They told me to get up further and I listened. The hill out of downtown was tough and I felt like a bit of work, but got to relax a bit on the down side into Echo Park. Made a reference to Warren Zevon and the Pioneer Chicken Stand that no one got as I crossed Alvarado Street. Was taking water about ever other stop, but more wound up on my head than anything else. I also started chasing shade as the buildings on the left made shade along Sunset and later Hollywood Boulevard. At mile 8 I had to run over the Elliott Smith wall, which is from the cover of an album that people don't even seem to like. But I didn't really care, I was taking in the sights of Tinseltown.


More of the Same

Everything was going ok through the middle of the course. It was warm, but not enough to cause a melt down. Plus it's a dry heat. Saw my brother and sister around 14 along the Sunset Strip. Made a 'lol WTF is a record' joke when we passed the former Tower Records (nobody laughed). The course turned and went through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. Saw somebody run off course to take a photo of the Beverly Hills signs, so didn't feel as silly about the wall detour earlier. The course entered a long stretch of no shade around mile 18 through 20. The foot pain crept in around here, which was annoying but not enough to cause much beyond a slight slowdown.

The Problems

The foot pain, the return of some plantar fasciitis that has been an intermittent problem in the last couple of years. I think it was exacerbated by running in the far left of the course chasing shade in the middle miles. And possibly the result of the shoes I was wearing (or just the fact that I wore the same shoes for that extended amount of time). I had thoughts that I wasn't going to be able to finish because the pain had become so acute. I stopped and put my number on my shorts and ditched the singlet. I walked for what felt like an eternity before trying to run again. It worked to an extent cause I was able to get moving for a little while before the sharper pain returned. I got off the course the best I could, even went completely behind an aid station at one point. I also was grabbing water at every opportunity and cooling myself down. If I hadn't stopped to walk with the foot issues I might have run into trouble with the heat catching up with me. I can't really be sure about that. Somewhere around 24 and half the fog rolled in and the temperature cooled down. I had the idea at some point I was just going to tough it out and at 25 seemed like the time. Finished at 3:32 and had to walk probably more than half a mile at the end to get to the 'A' reunion zone. Good planning, there.

GPS here:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1052262468

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ashenfelter 8k - Glen Ridge, NJ

New Jersey, the ancient ancestral Anderer homeland.
I have wanted to do the Ashenfelter 8k for a few years now. The race is no turkey trot, it's quite competitive, as it should be. Horace Ashenfelter is Penn State's most accomplished Track and Field alumnus, with the fancy indoor track named after him. He won the 3k Steeplechase in the '52 Olympics, the United States' only 3k steeplechase medal (so far). He set the American record in the prelims and the world record in the finals. He lived in Glen Ridge, NJ after college and was an alumni representative to prospective students in the area, including my dad in '65. So with all those reasons in the world to run, I finally made a point to make the trip this year. I had no marathons in surrounding weeks which had stopped me in the past.

Of course there were a few reasons why maybe I wasn't going to be at optimal fitness for this one. I just ran my highest mileage week in over a year and I wasn't going to drastically cut back my miles this week either. I doubled on Monday and ran quicker at Fed Hill group run in the evening. I went to the TTWSS pre-Thanksgiving meal at Outback (eating later than usual and having steak instead of carbs). I didn't go home until after 11 and got up just after 5. But I should be in better shape than I've been for a while (see highest week comment two sentences previous) and I took Wednesday off completely, so it was worth putting 100% forward to see what happens (ignoring the fact I tend to go for it once the starting gun goes). Anything sub 32 would make me happy, hopefully closer to 31 flat than 32. It's weird that I stress so much about 30-40 seconds in shorter races sometimes. 31 Wouldn't have resulted in a top 100 mug, regardless.
Despite not quite getting up when I should have, light holiday morning traffic meant I was up there in plenty of time to warm up out on the course. In my head I was expecting a pretty flat course, but I should have not thought that at all. The town is called 'Glen Ridge' after all. I saw my friend Mike and chatted for a minute or two. He wound up top 20, but not as satisfied with race I think. Also, there was a guy for NJ track club that wore Maryland flag shorts with his Jersey singlet. I don't know him, but maybe somebody out there does.

The start was a bit of a mess, folks were getting back from their warm-ups and just going to the front of the mass of people and stopping. They had a line for the start, but the timing strip was up from that. I think we started in front of the actual line, but that was pretty much the only thing that could happen. Folks moved back a bit, but at a point they just stopped. The race crew made announcements about only folks who run sub 6 should be right at the front, but I was expecting close to 6 flat given the way I usually start races too fast.

Race details - first miles were quick, 6:03 and then 6:13. Started to tie up after, getting through 5k in 19:25 or so. The race passed by the start/finish line around 3.5 and does an out-at-back which was demoralizing. Mile 4 had a short hill which shouldn't have been that bad, but felt tough. Finished with 31:50 on the watch, 31:45 gun time. Might have been closer to the 31:50 if the start line was indeed behind the fast folks up front. Approximately equal to a sub 40 10k and a smidge faster than the 12k 10 days ago. Progress?

On the way home I stopped at the Ebright Azimuth, which is the highest point in Delaware. It's a short trip up Naamans Road from 95, within sight of the PA border. Parked and crossed the street to the sign and the benchmark which was paradoxically in a slight depression by the sidewalk. This counts as my fifth state high point if you include DC, I've done more marathons than high points. Might need to work on that.

Strava link

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Katahdin hike

I left the champagne at home and did the Hunt Trail ascent of Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park, northern Maine. I took a few photos along the way, most have some clouds as they rolled through pretty consistently throughout the day. The starting elevation was around 1,000 ft and the peak is nearly a mile high at 5270 feet. The whole route is about 5 miles each way and took my sister and I over 8 hours. There was some running, but quickly it became a hard scramble over boulders. A few folks were finishing their long sections of the Appalachian Trail which was great to see. And several folks commented on the Fells Point on my shirt. The climb out of the forest became a scramble. Not necessarily harder than the one I encountered in the Tetons, but more intimidating for sure. At one point we climbed up over a sort of ridge where it dropped off quickly on both sides. I worried about it on the way down, but somehow most of it was easier going down. After quite of bit of scrambling, with a few iron bars to scale harder climbs it flatted out (relatively) into a broad, flat area. But it was still going upward. There was concern in this area about harming the endangered plant life up there. The clouds were constantly moving around us. At some points you could see them raising up as they hit the mountain. It was reminiscent of a volcano at times. The top was something else. At the bottom we spoke to a ranger who said Nation Geographic had named it the second-best summit climb and I can see why. The far side fell away drastically down to a green valley. The peak extended as a ridge to the east, the aptly named 'Knife's Edge,' a thin pile of rocks. I wanted to try climbing a bit, but the way up was enough for me at the point. At the bottom was a waterfall that races along the path. When we reached this, we knew we were close to the bottom. On to the next one. Season is running out, so maybe next year for Long's or a try again at Grand Teton.