Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Why and How of My Western States and Angeles Crest Double

For the past 5 weeks I've been in training for Western States 100 and Angeles Crest 100. The plan is to train with semi-structured, higher-than-ever high mileage, and peak for Western States with enough endurance to race well again at AC in 5 weeks. Historically, this has been the undoing of the majority of runners who ran a summer hundred (or a few) before AC in September. AC is now in August, so how can I have such optimism for such a difficult double?

For me, this is what life's all about. Though I'm a mere 27 years old, I've been around the sport for 6 years, and thoroughly enjoyed the accelerated and compacted self discovery. There's more to this sport than long miles in the mountains; there's friendships, opportunity, cathartic meditation, inspiration, crushing pain, accomplishment, encouragement, and a lot of really bad jokes. I think of my years at each of these two races and feel like I've crammed in a ton of living in the past 5 years.

AC100, August 28 2010

In the San Gabriels, I first laced up my MT100's in 2010 with a humble, talented, patient, hard working, and courageous man named "Chivo Loco" or Jorge Pacheco. I ran into him after we had both ran Badwater, and we happened to both be running Baden-Powell. I respected him immensely, and he acknowledged my enthusiasm for competing in the sport by sharing more and more miles with me (albeit, I was gasping for breath/bonking/crumbling, and he was gently encouraging and patiently waiting for me). I grew more as a runner in the last three and a half years with Jorge and the San Gabes than I did in the 10 years before that. To say AC is special is a huge understatement; the race (and Jorge) have made me grow so much and I've found so much happiness in it that it's impossible not to feel its magic every year.

AC100, Aug 29 2010

Like many other ultrarunners, I got into the sport reading stories about Western States and "dreaming desperately" of getting a chance to race through the High Sierra in the crisp morning air, sweat through the scorching canyons, and turn my body inside out over the last 40 miles. Though I wanted to get into the race the second I heard of it, I learned of the talent level the race amassed and am glad I've had to wait this long to join the competition.

Pacing Timmy Olson, Western States, June 29 2013
 
It's a very surreal feeling because in my very first ultra, the PCTR Sequoia 50k in 2008, I ran against the 2006 WS champion Graham Cooper. An aid station worker told my Mom and Dad that I was doing well because I was within 10 minutes of him at the first aid station. For a few years, that was the closest I got to running near a champion of the race, and I always held those "Cougar Hunters" on a very high level. It might sound silly, but I haven't believed I could train hard enough or race hard enough to even break the top 10 at Western States until this year. For whatever reason, my mind doubted my body so much that I honestly thought it was impossible.

Yet, as I pile up miles and vertical feet, I feel like I have more of a structured and proven training plan that makes me believe I do belong amongst those "M#" bibs. I feel like I've started to understand high mileage training for 100 milers, and that I am getting ready to uncork my best 100 miler performance on the best stage in the trail ultra world. Jim O'Brien coached AC100 runners in the 90's to hit 10 straight weeks of 100+ mile weeks to build a "Full Blarney" base. I actually have never done this, and am starting to see the training as more than just a physical demand on the body, but also a mental demand on the mind to find creative ways to get miles out of a sore body. It's similar to how a ninja's fist must be hardened before it breaks a wooden board.

As far as tactics go, everything I've got to witness in 4 years of pacing at Western States has taught me lessons on nutrition, training, mental strength, and race tactics. Jimmy, Erik Skaden, Katie, and Timmy all ran Western differently, and all exposed the dangerous parts of the race and the required antidotes. I feel I am staring far deeper into the race than the first time I read Dean Karnaze's account of his first run at Western.

The first mile of Western States, 2013

So, as I look forward to the next two months of hard training, I'm eager and excited. There's not a whole lot of doubt about what I need to do. I've been blessed with great training partners here in the local mountains surrounding Los Angeles. I rarely run alone or uninspired to push the pace. The goals are reinforced daily and the imperfect work-training-life balance is pushed to its limits. I work 45+ hours a week at work, and I run 15-25 hours a week on the trails. They feel equally challenging, and I am learning to put more passion into each to get more out of each. If there's a perfect week, it's a week that I run farther, hit faster times on Strava, get more parts shipped at work, make people smile, and get enough food and rest to do it again next week. I don't live from week to week with unrealistic expectations, but rather an optimism to build from week to week, strive for the best, and accept what happens with the silver lining of lessons learned.
 

Timmy and Eric last Friday at Sam Merrill
 
The last 5 weeks of my Full Blarney (10 weeks above 100 miles, a la Jim O'Brien):
  1. Feb 10-16: 102.4mi, 15:35, 16,079ft+
  2. Feb 17-23: 102.1mi, 19:01, 27,742ft+
  3. Feb 24-Mar 2: 100.6mi, 16:17, 18,074ft+
  4. Mar 3-9: 108.7mi, 17:42, 20,530ft+
  5. Mar 10-16: 120.3mi, 20:02, 24,618ft+
Overall, it's been much more stable and positive than last year. I'll be training through Gorge Waterfalls 50k, and holding the 100 mi/week standard ;)
 
 



The new Chromeo album is looking really, really good. It's so good, even the remixes are sick:


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sean O'Brien 50 Mile Recap - Western States/MUC Manifest Destiny

Mile 24, Photo by Jayme Burtis

This story starts on Sunday, December 8th, 2013 at San Francisco Running Company. In the back of the store, Scott Wolfe and I were listening to Topher Gaylord's presentation for the Ultra Trail World Tour and after a few minutes, Scott casually asked if I was excited about running Western States in 2014. I muffled a shocked "WHHaaaatttt?" and Scott chuckled realizing that no one had told me that I was going to be running Western States through a sponsor spot from Injinji.

The truth of the matter was that I was not likely to place in the top 3 or 4 spots in the any of the highly competitive Montrail Ultra Cup (MUC) races, and that this was going to be a gracious thank you for the 4 years of pacing I'd done at Western. A few weeks later when I talked to Russell (Injinji), he conceded that it would be unlikely for me to out run a slew of talented runners signed up for Sean O'Brien 50 mile, and that he'd rather me focus for Western States training than peaking too early to win my way in. As luck would have it, I ended up doing just that (unofficially, but more on that later).



Chris, Jesse, Jorge, Jonathan, and I met with a bunch of runners for a training run in the first week of January to run the 22 mile Kanan-Zuma lollipop loop. I felt good that day, and in my arrogant endorphin high, I told Chris that if I was in 4th, that I would wait for him at the finish line to get him a Western States spot if he was in 5th. It was more of a joke, as I had never beat Chris in a 50 mile before, and I had no reason to believe that I could beat him and a list of other elites growing by the day. However on race day at mile 42, it became less of a joke.

The race started off with freezing temperatures on the east side of the ridge, that quickly turned to 50's as we climbed up out of Piuma. Jokes were exchanged for a mile or so before the pace quickened heading onto the fireroad. Chris Vargo, Mike Aish, Josh Arthur, Mike Wolfe, Dylan Bowman, and Jorge Pacheco floated up along the climb as Chris Price, Jesse, and I settled back and struggled to keep within a couple minutes of the leaders. I couldn't keep up with Chris, and found myself living out my worst fears of getting dropped on the first climb.

Mile 6, Photo by Monica Morant

I had done a photo shoot a couple days before for New Balance, and the 50 x 10 yard sprints had left the legs feeling a bit flat. It was frustrating to run alone so early in the race, but at the very least it was a beautiful morning to suffer in the Santa Monica Mountains. The dead feeling persisted from miles 2-22 as I ran along feeling slow and labored while the lead pack was cruising along conservatively. When I left Bonsal at mile 22, I puked, re-affirming my fears that today was not going to be a good day. I had two long climbs in 8 miles to run on one water bottle; yet for some reason I didn't worry about it.

I put my head down and chipped up the long climb up to the fire road, avoiding hiking anything more than a couple yards. I caught Jesse, Jorge, and Josh Arthur who had fallen off the lead pack. On the way down to the bottom of the second climb, I was encouraged by the idea that maybe the lead pack wasn't running so easy, and that maybe I was going to place better than the suggested 9th place on irunfar's race preview. Still, I had a long 20 miles back to the finish, and I had to find a way to speed up and commit to running hard with a sensitive stomach.

Climbing douche grade, Photo by Jayme Burtis

I jogged over Buzzard's Ranch, slowly reeling in William Tarrantino, but I lost time once I crested and felt nauseous again. I stopped and ate some Tums and ran conservatively down to the singletrack at mile 33. As I cruised through the station, I heard a cheer for Mr. Timmy Olson who was running only to get his legs ready for Trans Gran Carnaria. He had already climbed around 30,000ft of vert since Sunday, so the extra 11,000 feet of climbing at Sean O'Brien was supposed to slow him down a bit. I was so shocked and astounded by him running on tired legs and still stalking me like the freak of natures that he is, that it made me want to run hard to at least justify being in his presence.

The race still hadn't turned around for me, and I told him how frustrated I was with it. Timmy suggested that this terrain that was extremely similar to Cal Street and that it was a good place to build some character and push myself hard just for the sake of adding some extra training for Western States. I felt weak and convinced that my legs had nothing left to offer, but I refused to look weak in front of someone that tore through bullshit excuses like a Grizzly. So, I picked up my stride and I started pushing dirt back a little faster.
 
 
Photo by Katie DeSplinter

We talked a little bit, but we mostly just focused on committing to that pure ultra running ideal of "running hard when you're tired." We flew into Kanan at mile 36, and saw Vargo in his warm-ups and William in the aid station. Timmy and I quickly refilled, packed gels, drank cola, and left the aid station; 2 places gained in 30 seconds. Timmy hammered like he'd taken in an IV of soda, and I jogged up the hill burping a bit as I settled my stomach. I ran with Jamil who was sick and having a tough day in the 50k. I started to feel much better and I caught back up to Timmy. We rolled through Encinal with reports from Bryon Powell that we were now only 1:50 behind Chris Price who was in the last Western States spot in 4th. Another few cups of soda and some watermelon, and we were off diving into the canyon.

I contemplated settling with 6th for a moment, but I was genuinely having fun, and decided to keep working with Timmy for as long as I could. The climb to Castro Motorway went smooth and as we entered Upper Solstice Canyon, I spotted Chris and let out a yell. The trail was a mix of technical switchbacks and smooth straightaways, and Tim and I flew through the narrow Chaparral Tunnel enjoying the old Chumash trail like it was a proper hunt.

Photo by Nadia Ruiz

Tim paused to pee, and I continued on reeling in Chris on the douche grade ascent out of the canyon. When I caught up to him, I reassured him that I was not going to Western States without him and I'd wait to cross the finish line for him. He said it wasn't the way he wanted to get into Western States, but he really didn't have a choice as I sang (badly) to him "I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you, won't let nobody hurt you" by the Pretenders.

Timmy, Chris, and I came through Coral Canyon together at mile 43. The long downhill still was a little less than 3 miles away, and I tried to pull Chris along, but he didn't want anymore singing of the Pretenders. I ran ahead with Tim who was still enjoying being exhausted and hammering. We eventually caught up to Krista and Bob who were finishing up the 50k. Timmy elected to finish with the family, and I elected to run a little ahead of Chris to make sure that he didn't let William catch up. We met up on the downhill, and we worked together to click off some 6's into Piuma. Cruising past Jayme, he let out a "hell yeah, SoCal!!" and I felt a big surge of pride for all the hard work Chris and I had done in the past few years, manifesting in this moment of endurance at mile 47.

I pulled us along over the last tiny prison camp hill, and onto the road. We ran the last third of a mile side by side, and I paused a few feet from the line to give Chris a second to notch 4th place and a ticket to the big dance in Squaw with Jesse and I.

 
Photo By Katie DeSplinter
 

Photo by Ivan Buzik

Strava Results

The day was about as good of a day as I could have hoped for. I think my fitness was around 6:45 for an A+ race. However, after all the throwing up/nausea, flat legs, etc. etc. getting to share that WS qualifier with Chris and nab the 4th/5th spots was really special. Both of us can go to Squaw and know that we belong there, that we truly are some of the best runners in the country, and that sunny Southern California is rising up on the national ultra stage.

 
We're going to Western States! Photo by Katie DeSplinter
 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Train?

 
I spent Sunday running around Mt. Wilson with Timothy Olsen. Like many world class ultra runners, he speaks very vaguely about his training in public, in hopes of not coming off as boastful. He's a humble and hard working guy, and he sees his high volume training as justified and relatively normal for his goals of winning big races. As we clicked off miles running up Kenyon Devore, we talked about what I was planning on doing for training for Western States. A gradual, ambitious, planned ramp up to a 175-200mi peak in May got him excited and got us talking about how we were both inspired by Anton Krupicka's blogging of peak weeks of hitting 200+ miles in preparation for Western States or Leadville. We more or less learned from Tony's blog, that there was a pathway to epic performances, indulgence of the soul, and an understanding of the body's true endurance capabilities.

 
I got to pace Timmy last year at Western States and it was the most amazing running performance I have ever witnessed: hammering every single mile down Cal street in 100+ degree, humid, stifling heat. Rob Krar had much faster PRs them Timmy, but Timmy's huge training block before Western made him invincible on race day. We talked about the training he did to get to that point, and it was really, really, really hard stuff: Steep and fast treadmill runs, mid-day runs, lots of sauna time, lots of long runs, lots of hard miles, lots of "long tempo", lots of bonking, lots of struggling. It resulted in a level of performance that more talented runners couldn't match.

We hammered down the Rim Trail, and cruised onto the Gabrielino Trail into Sturdevant. The indulgent pace caused me to bonk on the climb up Sturdevant as Timmy flew up, enjoying the steep grade and the scent of Jeffery Pines. In an instance, I'd gone from enjoying the technical and scenic route to feeling weak and lightheaded. I had another thousand feet to grunt through on fumes before I reached the top. As I begun to curse myself for foolishly showing up hungry and low on calories, I caught myself in the realization that this training in struggling was what we really loved and what made us grow as runners.

Forcing the body to find metabolic efficiency is a nice term for bonking, which is never a nice experience, but serves as a valuable tool. It trains the body to respond to low points in races not with rest, but with persistent determination to switch fuel sources quickly and push on. This is a huge part of the reality of ultrarunning; lows are unavoidable, and they're defining moments in races. It's a problem solving that isn't of the mind, but of the body and soul. Every bonk in training is a chance to become a little bit better at taking lows on stronger and faster.


I believe my specific reason for training hard, is fairly rational. It feeds my need to get the very best out of myself. I got into the sport because I thought it would fulfill my need for challenge in life, and I've found it challenges every aspect of my life. For me, ultrarunning is 95% training. Race day is just a display of what you've really accomplished thus far, and how well you've trained your mind. I go out and train hard because my real limits will never come out in races if I don't train with a purpose. Everyday is a chance to achieve and to supersede perceived limits; anything else is short sighted. I say this because I know the feeling of joy from training well and racing to my limits, and I also know the feeling of not training hard enough and feeling regret on race day.



Below are two huge tracks from the "Into the Mind" soundtrack.





Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Balance 1400v2 Trail Review

A big perk of running for New Balance is that they have a lot of really good shoes, both on and off the trail. The volume of new designs that come out of 20 Guest Street is impressive. They've taken so many risks and done so many experiments over the past 5 years of re-invention, that there's a real precision to specific shoes they're putting out now. Few other shoes have as much dialed in fit, function, and performance in as light a weight as the 1400v2s.
New Balance 1400v2, Sulphur with Blue & Race Red

The essence of the shoe is, a soft stable yet flexible heal, a dialed in Japanese last, a snug fit, and a firm toe off, all packed into a 6.3 oz (178g) package. To understand this, you've got to try it on. The experience is something like "hmm, these feel pretty light in my hand, ok, *lace it up* nice arch wrap, *walk around* pretty comfy *jog around* WHOA, that's LIGHT!"

Upper:
The upper is built on the NBJ last (New Balance Japanese) that has been constantly perfected to deliver a shaped fit. By shaped, I mean, it's curved precisely around the foot, with the upper sewn in under the foot (see below) to better hug the foot. There's no baggy-ness and no slop between the foot and the sole of the shoe. However, at the same time I find the toe box wide enough to let my foot splay naturally. It's still a precise fit for slicing up single track on the balls of my feel, and it gives me a lot of confidence in any terrain. The fit is improved upon from the 1400v1, and it performs much more like a shoe with a 4mm drop. In fact, I'd argue it's better than most 4mm drop shoes with sloppy uppers (it's a 10mm drop, but it doesn't feel like it) when you're in them.

The upper wraps the foot because the upper is stitched in the middle, go ahead and check if your shoes are constructed like this (they're probably on the sides). 

Midsole:
I know many low-drop aficionados have not read my irunfar article on why drop is a relative thing, but I'll still try to explain why this shoe performs like a low drop shoe. Runner's World has tested the shoe in their objective shoe lab for raw data on what's in the shoe. They found that the heel was rated a 98 (meaning, it's softer than 98% of the shoes) and the forefoot is a 17 (meaning it's firmer than 83% of the shoes). So, if you stand in the shoe, you'll sink 81% lower in the heel than in the forefoot. What's the effective drop? I'm estimating 5-6mm, but you have to try it to understand it. If you compare this to the 1400v1's ratings of 80 and 18 on a 11mm drop, you'll see that we're in the same ballpark, but the 10mm drop and the softer heal make this edition's effective drop, significantly lower. Coincidentally, it's the same stack height as the Adidas Adios, which has been worn by many ultra runners over the years (most notably Hal Koerner) except it's an ounce lighter.


Sometimes you need stability, sometimes you need flexibility, and sometimes you need cushion. The diamond cutout pattern was kept, and the soul of what makes this shoe so lethal on the trails was kept. In general, most running shoes have a hard time giving runners flexibility, support, and cushion without adding weight and sacrificing one for the other. What the diamond cut out allows, is for medial and lateral cushion on the edge of the foot and arch, while still allowing for torsional flexibility when a technical piece of trail requires it. The diamond shape is a perfect design because it gives limited torsion until the edges collapse on each other and stop. I find it to be a natural extension of my foot while still protecting me in rocky conditions.

Tread:
The rubber seams to wear very well, and is definitely not a weak spot on the shoe after 400 miles. It's not toothy, but it's soft and grips well enough for most trails. As the shoe gets broken in, the forefoot might seem less protected, but it still can handle 30+ mile runs for me. I'll have more info after I race 50 miles in it in a couple weeks.

Summary:
The shoe might run small and feel too snug at first (you might need to size up), but as you break it in, it becomes a perfect, lightweight extension of your foot. The 10mm drop is a lie, because once you put it on, the drop is much lower. The upper is tighter than before, but still seamless and durable. It's not quite a mountain running shoe, but it's very, very fast on trails. For $100, it's much cheaper than the Sense, and worthy of competitive trail runners' time.

New Balance 1400v2, Sulphur with Blue & Race Red

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Recap

This has been a year of growth. Mentally, physically, emotionally, I feel a sizeable difference in the way I look at the world and myself. I wouldn't say there's a dramatic difference, but I specifically feel like a stronger runner, a smarter engineer, and a more confident and cogniscent human being. Early in the year, I started a new job in LA, moved in with Katie, and started running with a pack of runners (Guillaume, Andy, Josh, Elan, and few others) that fed growth. Contrastingly, my life in Costa Mesa was in a job with little room for growth, distance and time between me and Katie, and uninspired weekday runs.



My job as a junior product engineer was basically sustaining designs with little creativity, mechanical understanding, or initiative required. It laid a critical ground basis for sound engineering organization and paperwork, but it held me back from deeper design and manufacturing experience. Moving to my new job as a Manufacturing Design Engineer and then Director of Manufacturing threw me into a hands-on world of assembling complex products and designing tooling. This shift felt like going from knowing the parts of a car to actually physically knowing their direct function, criticality and method of production. I think I learn much more when I actually put my hands on a part, assemble it, take it apart, reassemble it, and ship it.


The responsibility as the D.O.M has made me appreciate how hard leadership really is, and the duality of how critical teamwork is with a large group of people. I understand how engineering companies work and also have a healthy respect for how hard it is to run a successful one. Shipping a quality part and making money is not something to take for granted. This is a larger metaphor for the interactions of our economy as a whole, and how vast human ingenuity is. Sometimes my head just spins for hours about how amazing an airplane is.

Similarly, my running with good friends has increased my daily running dialogue and helped me learn a lot through sharing experiences. I don't know what aspect of ultra running we haven't talked about yet, but I think we've got a good grasp of the key facets of a good runner after picking apart race performances. What's more, I've ran through more sunrises this year than I've slept through, and I've gotten some really rich moments on the trail.


As I go through building my base up again for 2014, I'm excited to push some Strava CR's to their proper times. The idea is very clear that the daily 10-40 minute climbs in the southern Santa Monica Mountains have a lot of potential for building power and speed, and the 1-2 hour climbs in the San Gabriels will develop my strength for my goal summer 100's. I'm exactly where I need to be to push myself to the next level.

 
Going into 2014, I'll be in my 6th year of ultras. If I had to explain the essence of the sport to anyone, it wouldn't be about being tough or just doing a lot of running, it'd be about knowing yourself really well. I think those brilliant moments of high performance are the result of knowing how to train yourself to a level of fitness and mental confidence to take successful risks. There isn't doubt or fear, but a pure indulgence of the body and mind that leaves a lasting mark in the form of a smile that you can't wipe off for days.

My goal in 2014 is purely to know myself: physically and mentally.

 
I'm motivated for 2014 because I this is a clear directive that is greater than just a time goal or a place goal. I've proven that I can compete in 2013, and I doubt my main goal of knowing myself won't be accompanied by some strong performances. My two goal races are Western States 100 and Angeles Crest 100, and I can guarantee they'll be the best races I've ever run.

Oh, and..
I ran 3,454mi and climbed 755,671ft in 2013


"oh I'll be better.."
Shakey Graves - The Many Man

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dad

I learned a lot from my Dad both in life and death. The harshness of death drives home certain lessons he told me many times over. I have many specific things to say about his perspective on life, but one powerful thing I've learned about the process of coping with death is that it makes you slow down and study a person's life. Some lyrics that hit me after his passing were: "people seem so ordinary when they're seen at such a fast speed." We have too many two second decisions in life, and we miss out on a lot of golden qualities in people.

My Dad probably told me thousands of times "don't worry, you can do it." I thought when he said these things about school, engineering, or sports that he was oversimplifying things because he was so smart and talented. I remember my quick reactions to these moments that kept me in endless self doubt: "Dad, you're way smarter than me" "Dad, I'm not as talented as you" "Dad, I can't do that". Yet, upon further inspection of his life, I realize we're actually not that different: we never accomplished great goals without a good amount of struggle.

He earned a full ride scholarships to UCLA for his good grades, but he still wasn't a perfect student. He was a starving student that would go on long rides up PCH (I did the same except running) and when he graduated with a PHD specializing in electrical engineering and lasers, things still weren't easy. He interned at Hughes in Culver City and earned a patent, but when that door closed he had to commute 90 minutes to TRW in Tustin (down the street from my first job at Cannon), and he bounced around a bit more until he secured a job at the RAND Corporation doing research and analysis for the military. Even there, he struggled with managers that disagreed with his work, but he was resolute in his mission to keep troops safe through superior technology and tactics.


When he would tell me "don't worry, you can do it" he was really telling me that worrying is worthless, and you will find a way things work. His perspective was that you can either live life worrying yourself sick or enjoying all the hills and valleys. He found success and comfort in confidence and patience.

To be Dr. Jonathan Grossman was to do difficult things with a good attitude, even when things seemed most bleak. When he got Parkinson's disease, it took him a long ways back from doing backflips and doing high level research and analysis, yet he still maintained a good attitude. It was like he just understood life's rhythm of setbacks and success and played as best as he could with the cards he was dealt.

I was lucky we got some really good memories together and we were close in his last years. We both knew that his outlook on life was moving on through me. In the big picture, we're all just trying to figure out life well enough to be happy. You have a unique pathway to your happiness, but good parents serve as guides. If your parents are happy, and they get to show you how to make your own happiness in life, well then, I think it's about as good as it gets.

Though it's true I'll always miss him, I'll also always be grateful for the moments we had together. Being his son was a honor, he was a great guy.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Angeles Crest 100 Film

On the day before the 2013 Angeles Crest 100, I was getting ready to head to my hotel when RD Ken Hamada approached me and asked me to give an interview for two film makers. I hesitated, and then walked over and gave a quick interview. The next day's events were pretty interesting as I went from running course record pace to crawling to re-birth to a hard finish. David and Alex caught most of it on film, and this is their work: Here's the direct link if you're having touble viewing the video: http://trillionpictures.com/#ac100 and youtube


It was the last race I'd share with my Father, and I'm eternally grateful for the memories they've captured. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Management

I got a promotion at work that comes with a lot more responsibility and stress, but it's actually not a bad thing for my running. I think after all the different situations I've been in, this is the first time that I have the skills and responsibility to be accountable for very tangible success and failure. It's teaching me that an environment that has more immediate rewards and repercussions for your actions puts a heightened degree of honesty into your preparation. As a student, I understood that I would get a degree with As, Bs, or Cs on my report card. That's a really weird feeling compared to the business world where your deliverables really require you to do A+ work all the time.

If you don't want to lay people off (which I have been) or get fired yourself, you have to strive to be successful every quarter. I think that idea of a "range of success" made me more complacent as a runner and an engineer, whereas an ultimate "demand for success" makes me feel really engaged in my new job and plans for 2014. It can be tough, disappointing, upsetting, and stressful, but it can also be rewarding, exciting, passionate, and beneficial for many other people's careers. That human element is a big part of my job.

I spend probably 60% of my day talking to people. When you manage people after being managed yourself, you know that what your coworkers are really looking for is meaning in their job. More pay is always nice, but a real reason to wake up and come to work excited is worth much more. The quality of that reason comes down to the feeling of being utilized for your strengths and not punished for your weaknesses being exposed. Personally, my favorite thing is changing someone's work environment for the better and putting a smile on their face. It's empowering to free someone's skill set, which makes me realize that I can do that in my own life. It shatters the perception that the "rules of the world" allow us only a range of success. In that sense, the extra hours, the stress, the heartache, the worrying, etc. is completely worthwhile to me to engage my passion for success.

To compete on the next level next year, I feel a real determination coming into my psyche to gradually add mileage, eat healthy, cross train, and do hard workouts consistently. I think this is why I got into ultras in the first place: I wanted limitless success. I don't want to go through the rest of my life believing I can only run so fast based on my last 26 years, I want to run like I'm building a campaign for my most sincere belief that I can do anything.



I've been off the blog for awhile due to not much going on in my running life. Things fizzled out as I went through my first couple weeks on the job setting things up. I know what I truly have to do to nail a 50 miler and, I'll be training longer and harder than normal for a good showing at Sean O'Brien 50mi in February.. This is week one of training.

If you habla espanol, check out this Spanish interview with Abel. If you don't google translate does a really bad job, but you can gather my basic message. Kinda.


I really like the mellow Mutual Benefit tunes. Very honest stuff.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Los Pinos 50k 2013


The start. Photo: Ivan Buzik

Over the past 5 years of racing ultras, I've had this distinct concept of myself as a young, aggressive, "go out hard, fade to the finish" runner based on how most of my races have turned out. I'm usually too busy pushing the pace to take in many calories, and usually wing the last few miles of a race. Yet, on Saturday, I did the exact opposite (kind of on accident).


Brisk. Photo: Ivan Buzik

Jon Clark is 39 years old, but he runs shorter trails with the speed of a 20 year old. I describe it as my tempo pace on roads while going up and down technical trails. The first 12 miles went by quickly, with Jon running just under 7 minute pace on the technical and rolling San Juan trail while I bridged the gap between him and the chase pack. Going into the race, he looked like the favorite to dominate his home trails, so I kept him within a minute to stay in the race even though it felt a bit fast for my legs that had been in idyllic vacation mode.
Bombing into Lazy J. Photo: Pedro Martinez
 
I dropped my handheld at Lazy Jay and picked up my camlebak that I had pre-mixed with a blend of gels and a scoop of PowerBar recovery. I had planned on having it mixed slightly concentrated for the bottom part of the Los Pinos climb and diluting it at the halfway aid station to "nail my nutrition". Unfortunately, at 7:30 AM, the bottom half of Los Pinos was way hotter, humid-er, and more exposed than I expected. The dew on the hillside was turning to steam, the thermoclines were in full effect pulling all the warm air up the ridge, and the sun was brighter than Einstein, making for a little slice of hell as the peloton caught up to me and began to pass me one by one.

Climbing up Los Pinos, slowly. Photo: Ivan Buzik

The heat and hard climbing made me thirsty, but the more I drank, the more calories I stuffed in myself making me feel hot, bloated and dehydrated (super deluxe combo). Eventually the rest of the field settled into a hike and I stopped losing time for a bit. I sipped small gulps of sugary-protein water and paused wondering if I should call it a day at the top. I was breathing hard, getting nauseous, and dehydrating myself with every small climb. When the Black Hole aid station finally came into view, I grunted up the hill and stopped there for a few minutes trying to dilute my stomach and bladder with cool, clean water. Eventually I felt like I'd rehydrated enough to continue and I jogged out of the aid station in the back of the stretched out peloton.

As far as I knew, Jon, Brian, Will, Fabrice, James, and Michele were in front of me, methodically
taking apart the climb. Since I didn't (as stated) ever finish fast in races, I thought I'd call it day at the Trabucco aid station at mile 20. I had no good memories of the rocky and clumsy Trabucco Trail, and I didn't think a hot climb up Horsetheif would do anything but reinforce that I was in fact, sucking today.

Unbeknownst to me, almost everyone else in the field was slowing down and struggling. I reeled James back in a few minutes and felt encouraged as I looked across the ridge and saw Fabrice walking a hill that I planned to run. Another few minutes later I was yelling "Bonjour!" as I slipped by into 5th. The top of Los Pinos is where there actually are a handful of pine trees, and I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment enough to think I might catch Michele. I came into the aid station and called out exactly what I wanted, ice in my pack, a couple gels in the water, and a gel for my shorts. I doused in water and took off down the Trabucco Trail after Michele who had just left.

My feet fell wherever they could feel stable on the trail, and I moved un-athletically down the trail. I snuck up on Michele and picked up a little bit of speed as I got in a rhythm. I counted I was in 4th and tried to visualize the next three guys crawling up Horsetheif. I didn't know how far behind I was, but I knew if I ran as much of the climb as I could, I would certainly catch one or two more people.

I counted down from 30 a few times, refusing to let myself walk until the arbitrary number 0 had been reached or I made it into some shade. The mind tricks worked and I caught up to Jon Clark hiking through a low. I may have made a comment about how hot it was, and how we should just take off our clothes, but that could be blamed on the heat baking my head.. When I reached the top, Dan told me I was 2nd and was nine minutes back of Brian.

Leaving Trabuco 2, mi 29. Photo: Panda. 

The Main Divide is basically the "Lame Divide" that I've become well acquainted with on the Old Goats 50 mile course. After the adrenaline rush of technical, narrow, harrowing singletrack, the Main Divide fireroad is open, barren, exposed, un-inspiring. The brim of my cap went down and I grunted along checking over my shoulder for a reincarnated Jon Clark. I made good time reeling in Brian by another couple minutes, but the last split of 7 minutes for a mere 2.3 miles meant second was as good as it would get. I cruised down the last few miles of fireroad and enjoyed the last stretch of singletrack on the Falcon Trail into the finish line for a finishing time of 5:06, bettering my time by 12 minutes (or 22 minutes, Jon Clark believes the course was 10 minutes longer).


 

Small band with big heart, saw them at the Notch. We danced hard.
The Show Ponies - Choppin' Wood

As far as training goes, I'm right around 50 miles a week, but still feel kinda fit. I'll probably do a few more miles as AC seems to have washed over by now.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creator Relationship


I cannot claim to be very religious, but I can testify to the fact that I am spiritual. I believe that this universe and all the fascinating physics at play are so wondrous that there is more of an origin to it all than pure serendipity. In astrophysics, we can trace our universe's expanding nature to a big bang theory. Yet the big bang theory hinges on many important basic relationships like mass exhibiting gravity, electron and proton attraction, basic thermodynamic principles, etc. etc. If we lived in a universe without these principles, planet Earth would never exist; atoms would simply fly around and never join enough to even form a single drop of water.

Middle Palisade and Normal Clyde Peak
So, whatever your perspective may be: religious, spiritual, atheist, whatever, there still are some amazing basic truths to our universe that allowed our planet to form and allow us to be living, breathing, organic life forms that do some amazing things with our surroundings. What's more, we share these basic physic relationships with the natural world. Our bodies have perfectly adapted to our surroundings like plants, animals, mountains, oceans, valleys have been shaped by bigger forces. When I see a mountain, I see a perfect adaptation of trees, rocks, streams, lakes, and animals to all the natural forces at play. I suppose that is part of my contempt for human design being flawed.

The human world of cities and towns is the product of our limited understanding of the natural world and our desire to perfect it. We might put a "smart" or an "i" in front of something yet we still live in a world of pollution, traffic, car crashes, disease, and unhappy endings. To study a human design is to study inefficiencies, but to study a natural design is to study perfection. It's not surprising when our best designs utilize natural designs like honeycombs, photosynthesis, and river systems.

After indulging myself in several months of high mileage running, I took the past few weeks off to let my body heal and live completely inversed in the man made world. I went out to eat, I drank lots of beer, I watched TV, I went shopping, and I visited the zoo. The end result was that I felt further away from the creator, and closer to the designs of whatever humans designed the train I was riding, the Panda enclosure I visited, the shopping center I walked through. In this sense, I felt less spiritual and more depressed about the problems in our world.

The East Face of Mt. Whitney
I've had these running withdrawal symptoms before, but I've never been able to pinpoint the causes until this weekend when I went to the Eastern Sierras. As I left the comfort of my car and the man-made world at the trail head, I entered the steep, rough, and challenging world of the Mountaineer's Route. Unlike the Mt. Whitney trail, the Mountaineer's Route is not manmade except for the occasional cairn and small stretch of cleared dirt in the trees. Much of it simply is loose rocks, boulders, or granite slabs. The intimacy of the route is painful at first until the eyes gaze upward at the hulking pillars driving into the sky.

The Mountaineer's Route

For me, these moments are blazing signals of a creator whose wisdom resulted in a wilderness that the epitome of perfect design. The joy I feel in scrambling the last few vertical feet over the ledge is not merely a sense of accomplishment, but a joy in understanding our creator's perfect design both in the environment and within ourselves. Running is a vehicle for passionately studying the brilliant designs of our creator, and as long as your eyes are open, I promise you'll never waste a day spent in the wilderness.

A design at work, inspired by mountains.
 
Running was very casual for the past three weeks:
 
Aug 05, 2013 - Aug 11, 2013
  • 23.0mi
  • 3hr 34m
  • 1,706ft
Aug 12, 2013 - Aug 18, 2013
  • 20.1mi
  • 7hr 42m
  • 1,478ft  
Aug 19, 2013 - Aug 25, 2013
  • 52.4mi
  • 12hr 17m
  • 16,924ft
But the good news is that I feel great again, and have no lingering injuries. I'm actually having a hard time deciding where to race next.. I might not do much just so I can enjoy the late summer and fall in the Eastern Sierras.



New favorite artist: Shakey Graves mix of folk, blues, and eclectic lyrics
 

Friday, August 9, 2013

2013 Angeles Crest 100 Recap

The start, Photo: Ivan Buzik

There's no better feeling than being ready to run on your favorite course in the world, yet as we drove up to the start line at 4:15AM, I had early morning nausea. For some reason, my stomach gets confused when I'm awake before it's light out. I munched on cucumbers to try to settle the stomach, and hoped for calmness. The energy in the community center was electric and the small room made it feel like there were a thousand people instead of the 120 that were starting the race.

My crew was decked out in custom New Balance unicorn shirts, and I had the feeling of a really special day on tap with the excitement they all exuded. Guillaume didn't know he'd soon be screaming and cursing me onward into Chantry to catch Ruperto, Pauline didn't know she'd be chasing me around with a cucumber, Eli didn't know I'd soon have some version of his exercise induced asthma, Jesse didn't know he'd have to walk so much through Chilao, Chris didn't know that the "I believe in Unicorn" shirt he wore would soon be tested, and Erik didn't know how stressful the last 26 miles with me would be. In the end, they all did an amazing job and they were the tactical difference in my 30 mile battle with Ruperto to the finish.


 Chris is Estatic.

The first climb up Acorn went very well, I run-hiked strong and put a little time on Jorge. I still had trouble with my stomach though. I tried to avoid 2011's puking and put down as many calories as possible and slowed down. Jorge caught up as I was tying my shoe and we ran together for a few miles enjoying the amazing purple, pink, blue, and yellow sunrise together. I pulled ahead on the downhills and came into Inspiration point a minute early.


 Inspiration Point, Photo: Mike Epler

Guillaume and Erik grabbed my headlamp and bottles and handed me a fresh bottle in a flash. As I ran and hiked the hill out of the aid station, the excitement got to me again as it had in 2011 and I threw up as I crossed over to the other side. Frustrated and mad, I slowed down and gradually took in two gels on the way to Vincent Gap (mile 13). I remembered a voluminous amount of performance food exiting my mouth in 2011 here, and I slowed down as I came in and sat for a second to take down my 4:1 carb-protein PowerBar Recovery drink and some Tums that would prove to be an essential combo over the day.

I had been reading about stomach PH and randomly decided to buy some Tums on Friday. They proved to be very effective at keeping food down the rest of the day. I took in enough sugar throughout the day to normally make my stomach an acid pit, but a single Tums tablet at each aid station kept my stomach relaxed. I hiked up the first hill out of Vincent Gap with a stomach refilled to the top, and eased into the climb trying to forget about the race. I knew this would be a terrible early sign if I couldn't run the first 26 on record pace, but I also knew I couldn't ditch my race plan to have strong nutrition at the start. So I let Jorge pass me and hiked along with Ruperto.

Climbing to 9,300ft. Photo: Ivan Buzik

Eventually the stomach settled and I got to work run-hiking up Baden-Powell. The delay at the bottom proved minor and I polished off the climb in an hour. Larry Gassan's lens came up as I crested the trail and headed over towards Throop Peak. The huge views went on forever: Baldy, Mount Wilson, the LA Basin, the southern Sierras, and the high desert. The rollers went very well and I ran-hiked near Jorge up the short climb toward Throop. We swapped spots on the downhill to Windy Gap and I blended speed and calories for a fun downhill into Islip right on time with Jim O'Brien's ghost at 9:20 AM.

 The scene at Islip (mile 26) was a bit chaotic. Cars were everywhere, my crew was running around every which way, and my weigh-in included a blood pressure reading that seemed to last forever. I took down some more recovery drink as the sleeve slowly tightened and my crew grew angry as the medical personal didn't check Jorge's blood pressure. Finally they let me go and I swapped shirts out and got onto the Williamson climb, 3 minutes behind schedule.

Islip blood pressure boiling, Photo: Suzy Degazon

I knew training splits would never include a perfect aid station split, but the blood pressure reading had really angered me as I had fast goals for the next section. The stomach subsided 2 minutes into the climb and I ran a large amount of the climb hitting 24 minutes (28 with the aid station delay). I saw Jack Chang and a flutist at the top and dove into the downhill splitting :48, 5 minutes behind my goal. Though it wasn't the hottest day, the heat was starting to turn up as I was hammering to keep up with the ghost.

Cresting Mt. Williamson while being serenaded, Photo: Jack Cheng

At Eagle's Roost (mi30), my crew got me so wet and cold I got a headache. I got out of the aid station determined to put up a good fight in Cooper Canyon. Keirra yelled some incredibly motivating words at me and I put the hammer down on the road though my actual splits weren't blazing. I ran as much as I could up to Cloudburst, but the 34 previous miles zapped some pep out of my step and I ran 90 minutes for the section, 10 minutes slower than my goal. I fought hard all the way up the climb and I was gassed when I got to my crew. They pumped me with more recovery mix and cold water and I got after the downhill with a heavy heart realizing my first two important race goals had slipped away.

Cold shower, Photo Jayme Burtis

The legs felt mediocre on the gradual downhill and I pushed them to keep within my goal pace. They didn't respond and I plugged away making do with what I had. I stopped to go #2 and I realized I was already late to Three Points (mi43) with a couple miles to get there. I arrived at the aid station at 12:25, thirty-three minutes behind Jim. The record was out of reach if the legs didn't respond soon.

I kept my nose to the grindstone and sailed through the traverse to Sulfur Springs at the base of Mt. Hilyer. My plan was to get to the road and jog every step up, but my lungs had begun to tighten and force me to walk every couple minutes. These were the nails in the coffin for the course record dream. I normally would enjoy the 5% grade and run it like it was flat, but I couldn't catch my breath. By the time I got up to the aid station at 1:30PM, I was 40 minutes behind. I took down cups of Coke in between my hyperventilating. Something was definitely wrong.

My favorite downhill into Chilao (mi52) was a nightmare. The slightest uphills caused me to walk and I was scared that I wouldn't even finish in 24 hours despite covering the first 50 in 8:30. I wondered if I would walk in with Katie if I couldn't get my lungs back on track. At the aid station I was mobbed by the documentary crew and everyone else wondering what was going on. I sat for 3 minutes gasping for breath and the blood oxygen meter only read 88%: the same reading when I had hiked up to 13,000ft on Muir Pass. Chilao is only a little over 5,000ft and I knew something was seriously wrong for my lungs to have seized up so tight.


No fluid in the lungs, but a very low 88% reading from the blood oxygen meter on my finger.
Photo: Colin Cooley

I can only guess that since I've never had exercise induced asthma and the doctors could hear no fluid in my lungs, that my lungs were extremely irritated by the purple poodle pollen that had started showing up on the course since Three Points at mile 43. Though this wasn't a problem in training, I wasn't running as hard as I had run that day. The strain placed on my lungs made them more vulnerable to the pollen of the Turricula.

Jesse hiked with me through the thick of the poodle dog bush country around Chilao. We did breathing exercises to try to stretch open my lungs and cough out the pollen, but the air was so thick with Turricula pollen that it was a zero sum game. My downhill legs kept the section from taking 2 hours as I crawled through in 93, some 29 minutes slower than Jim for that section alone.

Begging my lungs to open up, Photo: Mike Rafferty
 
Gasping and jogging at Shortcut, Photo: Mike Rafferty

Guillaume came in and assured me that we would recover as the poodle thinned out on the way to Newcomb (mi68). Yet, as I looked over the side of the fire road, I saw huge blooms of it growing tall and odorous. We slogged along as my body would occasionally speed up with the massive amounts of caffeine I had taken to kick start my lungs. However it also caused diarrhea and we had a couple pit stops. At the bottom I washed in the river to cool off and start a fresh climb up to Newcomb. The lungs still were tight and we shuffled along for a few seconds at a time before I succumbed to a hike. If my race was going to die, I was going to make it kill me first. We reached Newcomb in 1:45 and I buried my head in my hands wondering how much uglier things would get.

The descent into Santa Anita was more of the same. A suffocating feeling throughout my body that seemed to get better for a bit before the lungs would tighten up. Just as I was thinking how strange it was that it had been over 20 miles of hypoxia with no one chasing me, Ruperto came flying down the trail. He'd stalked me for a few switchbacks and decided to make his move with all deliberate speed (in all fairness, I'd have done the same thing). The only thing he didn't plan on was an adrenaline rush kickstarting my lungs, freeing me from my hypoxic prison.

My first thought was "shit, I'm going to get second, I hate second place," then my next thought was "I've got to try to chase him, right now is my only chance." So I trotted along gingerly with a little more vigor as Guillaume got excited that I still had fight left in me. I had no clue how to explain things to my him, all I could do is try to follow Ruperto for as long as possible and maintain contact. Guillaume excitedly shouted instructions and exclaimed that I was Geoff Roes in Unbreakable. At first I thought, "no you're mistaken, Geoff comes from behind chasing Tony and then he passes him", then I realized he was just trying to say that I could win if I kept fighting. So, inspired by JB's footage of the 2010 Western States 100, I fought on pushing my legs back faster and faster keeping Ruperto just within 50-100 yards as we raced through the technical singletrack.

Guillaume exclaimed that we were hitting 6:15 pace, and I knew that this was as legendary as it gets. I was terrified to imagine going this hard all the way to the finish (another 30 miles), but something made me believe that I was ready to bleed out every ounce of training I had put in. Emotionally I felt strong thinking back to the 153 mile peak week I finished that concluded with a fast sub 5 hour final 25 miles of the course. If Ruperto wanted a Ram, he was going to have to go low 5 hours or better to beat me. It would be terrorizing to keep looking over my shoulder for 25 miles, but this was nothing different than what Tim dealt with at Western States. This was a proper foot race for this historic course.


 Rocky speech by Jesse, Photo: Ivan Buzik

We ran almost every step up the climb to Chantry as Ruperto started to hike. He came into the aid less than a minute ahead of me and we entered a complete chaotic rodeo. Guillaume was shouting at my crew both to let them know I was coming and to let Ruperto know I had not gone away. My crew swarmed me and swapped in a pair of 890's while I downed some more Recovery drink and broth. There was nothing else I needed so I started hiking out figuring Ruperto would be following any second.

 
Tension at Chantry (mi74), Photo: Ivan Buzik

Erik and I ended up getting a 2 minute head start and we made the best use of it running most of the way to Winter Creek. I knew Ruperto had hiked very fast earlier on Baden-Powell and put my head down doing my best to match his pace uphill. Still my lungs were 75% and I couldn't run anything but the short flats going up Winter Creek. He gradually reeled me in at 2/3rds of the way up and the terrifying feeling of having a 20 mile drag race crept in. He didn't pass me so I continued to fuel up with a bottle of recovery mix and 3 gels mixed in. The fuel reved my energy levels back up and we powered over the top 15 minutes later. We ran hard as the sun set, pushing the pace all the way down to Idlehour (mi83). A small 5 minute lead on Ruperto was all I had for another 17 miles.


Idlehour. Photo: Victoria Williams

I didn't know how close or far he was at Idlehour so we barked out orders at the aid station workers to quickly get me water, coke, and my headlamp out of my bag. Trey, Tiffany, Luis, and a bunch of coyotes were excited and confident I would win, but I had nothing but fear and competition on my mind. The Idlehour section is especially technical and overgrown at night and I had to nail every switchback and every climb to hold on to the lead. Erik and I focused on pure efficiency, running every descent in control and fast, and power hiking the climbs until I could run and then quickly switching back to a fast hike when I couldn't. I thought we were making good time and in the end it proved to be enough to put 6 more minutes on Ruperto (:11 lead).

As we reached the aid station (mi89) I mentally prepared myself for the worst case scenario in the last 11 miles. I would have to destroy my feet and quads to hold onto the lead, so I better get used to the idea of being cripple next week. We left the aid station with high hopes but I quickly had to go to the bathroom. The momentum couldn't be stopped and I started making good time running down the technical Sam Merrill Trail. Eric would call out warnings of dangerous spots, but I would find a way to keep moving fluidly without pausing.

We were constantly looking uphill searching for Ruperto's headlamp. There was no way he could be turning it off on such a technical downhill, but we still couldn't figure out where he was. As we neared the traverse over to the Sunrise trail, we saw a headlamp a good 10 minutes uphill. I didn't know for sure if it was Ruperto or if he'd dropped his pacer, but I felt a degree of confidence that I had ran a solid split.

Erik and I dived into the Sunrise trail in good spirits, but as I stopped to go to the bathroom yet again. I worreid to myself "this race is too important, he must still be fighting to chase me down." I got back to business and asked Schulte to call in and get and update on the splits at Idlehour. Michael Ryan got back to us and said 7 minutes which scared me into believing a minute a mile was possible for Ruperto to reel me in. Erik told me "run this last section into Millard like you're trying to drop me" and I did my best to push ground back as fast as possible. We breezed in and out of Millard (mi96) dropping off my pack and refilling with sugar water. We committed to running every step of the small climb out to the Arroyo. As we rounded a corner, I looked back at the headlamp above Millard and I felt as confident as a hunted man could possibly feel.

There was not ambient light under the canopy in the Arroyo and Erik and I guessed on a lot of the terrain, trying to pull memories out from past runs. We sliced, diced, leaped, dodged, and hammered every last stretch of trail until we hit the fire road and knew the work was nearly done. Still, Erik pushed me along and as we crested the small climb up to the streets of Altadena we were shocked to see two lights come up behind us. A fit of cursing and yelling at Erik to go identify them persisted for 20 seconds until we realized it was Rony and a friend cheering us into the finish. My Peroneous Longus Tendon (outside of my midfoot) started to flare up as we flew through the streets, but I didn't care as the finish was so close.

My crew was shocked by my 44 minute split from Millard but excited to see me in front. The cheers that I'd waited to hear all day finally came, and I crossed the finish line in 19:06:03, the 9th fastest time in race history.


Finished, Photo: Rony Sanchez
 
 
I can't say the race was a success because I missed out on my CR goal, but I can say that it taught me a lot about myself and about the course. There is a vortex on raceday that takes strong runners and grinds them down. If you're capable of a 17:30, the raceday conditions can add a lot of time to that value. I believe it's a combination of stress and the relentless layout of the course that gives that 17:35 CR the equivalency of a sub 17 hour effort. I know Jim O'Brien's progress was much quicker than mine-banging out the CR in 3 years of experience, but I still value this journey I'm on. I'm 26 and I have a lot of time to hone my experiences. My body (other than my Peroneous Longus Tendon) feels very good and I have big training goals for 2014. If I can find a way into Western States, I'll take my chances there as well as AC. I also have a mindset of pure dedication for 100 mile season next year, the speedwork, the base mileage, the committment is all apart of my master plans for bigger mileage for 2014 (and killing every Purple Poodle Dog Bush on the course).
 


Ramicorn. Photo: Gareth Mackay
 
I'm extremely grateful to my crew and all those that believed in me on Saturday. I wasn't the most obvious runner to take down the record on paper, but I think a lot of friends knew how much this race meant to me and how hard I trained. I'm more resolute in 2014 to only focus on races I care about and run my very best. I can't say enough about how thankful I am for this community, my tenacity and committment are the result of all the support I get. Thank you all.
 




In my head for many miles: The Alabama Shakes - Ain't the Same