Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Outside Magazine - ROTY

From: http://www.outsidereaderoftheyear.com/

Outside Magazine is looking for our next Reader of the Year - a real subscriber or fan who has demonstrated a commitment to adventure and living the active, engaged lifestyle that Outside is all about. This could be you!

If we pick your nominee, you will receive $1,800 worth of our favorite gear + a 3-year subscription to Outside Magazine, as our way of saying thanks. Plus, your nominee will become our next Chief Inspiration Officer for all of 2011--we'll celebrate them in the magazine, and turn to them throughout the year to contribute inspirational ideas for our readers.

There are no strings attached. Just tell us why you or someone you know deserve to be Outside's Reader of the Year, someone whose personal story and accomplishments best exemplifies the spirit of Outside magazine. You can nominate yourself or another fan of Outside in either of the following categories:

A) A person who has had the most inspiring adventure, demonstrating a commitment to living the active life that is at the heart of Outside magazine.
B) A person who has gone to great lengths to change their life or change the lives of others in the world Outside, through achievements in such areas as travel, fitness, sport, environmental work, exploration, or innovation.

Friends, I need your help. If you believe in Human Potential and you believe that we've done some good in the world by maintaining this blog and getting to that starting line every single time... we need your nomination. You can nominate by going here: http://www.outsidereaderoftheyear.com/enter.php

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Step Back...

(Russell Pond Courtesy of Vantagepointimages.com)
It's very easy to get discouraged after you fail to reach your goal. I had a million goals it seems for this year. As the summer comes to an end here in New England, it's a really good time for me to reflect and that's exactly what I did this past weekend by heading to where it all began. I made my way up to Russell Pond Campground in Thorton, NH for a night of tenting under starlit skies and cold blustery breezes. Russell Pond is a place that my parents took me when I was younger, around the time my love affair with the outdoors truly began. After a night at the Pond, I headed through Lincoln, up the Kancamagus Highway, down Bear Notch Road and into Crawford Notch. A few summers ago, Crawford Notch is where I spent every weekend while hiking New Hampshire's "48," it is where I stayed when trail running and running long distances first came to my mind.... and so it was.
There is no better way to reflect after a DNF, or a GNA(Goal Not Accomplished) then reconnecting with your roots. It's like getting tired of X-box and Playstation and heading back to play the Atari or NES. OK.. well... maybe a bit far fetched but you get my point. After an amazing weekend in the Whites, no rain, cloudless skies, warm summer sun, cold almost autumn nights and a crackling fire, I came to a few realizations... and they are as thus.

I Have had one AMAZING summer/year. I managed to finish one loop at Barkley. I got married. I went to Western States and got a Belt Buckle after 4 years of trying to even get in. I got to run Vermont again, seeing parts of the course in the daylight I never get to see at night. I went to Colorado to run in Leadville. I spent a week in Vegas. I went backpacking in the Pemi, I ran a presi-traverse and even clowned around in Waterville again.

These thoughts got me to thinking about the BIG picture. I started running in 2004. I couldn't run a friggin' mile without walking that fall. I worked my way up to the Marathon, then the 50K. Hated running, thought I'd never run further then the 50K.. and then I started running 50's. I checked out the VT100 and knew I had to run 100. In my short time running ultra-marathons I've run 100 miles or more 13 times. I've crossed the finish line in all 12 of the 50 milers I've started and all five 50K's.I've run 8 marathons. I've run across whole stretches of highway, I've run across an entire state, not once but twice.  Hell, I've even run a marathon or more in fifteen of the United States.

I know that I have NOTHING to be ashamed of. This year is far from over. The Vermont 50 is right around the corner as is the 2010 Run Across New Hampshire, where I intend to tackle 125 miles of mountainous trails. So I didn't complete the Grand Slam on my first try. As I've said to others, if I really want it, if I ever really wanted it at all... it'll happen. I'll try again. I'll run the 4 races and I have nothing but time on my side. At almost 29 years of age, I'm still 16 years away from the prime of my ultra-running time. I am in no rush and I need to remind myself of this. In a few short years I've conquered much. Sometimes I know I tend to want to conquer it all. This is good, it's healthy. DNFing at Leadville is good, it's healthy. It's humbled me. It's made me hungrier. I have a reason to go back when I'll want it more.

After going through some old records here at home last week I came across my static weight from 2008.. I weighed 147 pounds. Somewhere along the road I've gained a whole lot of miles and 20 pounds of weight. This disgusted me and sent my mind in a maelstrom. I know that the MAIN reason I DNF'd at Leadville is because I didn't train enough. How dare I think I could run the Grand Slam, 100 after 100, on minimal miles and lackluster fitness. I know it can be done on minimal miles.. but on both minimal miles and lacking fitness... not going to happen. So... this week I'm heading to Crossfit, starting my new training program and whipping my ass into shape. I DNF'd, the time reaper got me.. it's time to feel the burn and get back to where I was at my ultra-running prime. Buckling VT like it's old hat, clicking off the miles with ease and having something to show for my work and effort. It's time.

Human Potential... it's time to find that fire again, get it going with a blow torch.. and give it hell.

I just want to also take a moment to thank all of you who sent encouraging words after Leadville. Your support is both humbling and inspiring. I hope as the days, weeks and months continue to roll by, you'll continue to join me on this journey in adventure. Lets discover things together. Let's find our true potential and share in its good tidings. It's folks like you that encourage me to continue to repeat left and right... it's those of you who encourage and support me who helps me reach that mountaintop.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

RR: 2010 Leadville 100

Grand Slam Race #3
Project 2010 Race #5
Leadville Trail 100
August 21-22, 2010
Leadville, CO - 100 Miles
Cold As Ice
The starting line seemed miles away as I stood out on Harrison Avenue in downtown Leadville, Co. The race starts here at the corner of Harrison and 6th St. 6th St. is all ready full of runners, and their crews. It's freezing cold, a balmy 38 degrees while I shiver and shake in my shorts, wearing a pair of Moeben Arm sleeves underneath my North Face windbreaker. 38 Degrees is a temperature I haven't felt since the beginning in May and it's a drastic contrast to the hot and humid summer we've been having in New England this summer, a far cry from the heat of Western States and the heat and humidity of Vermont. The countdown ends, and we're all off.. into the wild.

I say goodbye to Samy and Dan, my new friends from Crossfit New Hampshire who made the trek out to Colorado to help out. They seem more excited then I am. I'm cold, I'm tired.. and for the first time all year I'm nervous. So nervous that as I walked around town in the cold morning air, my lower back pounded with nervous back spasms, spasms so harsh I couldn't breath, my abs tensed up and my eyes welled up with tears. That was over now, as I ran down the 6th St. hill with the silhouette of Mt Elbert and Massive in the distance.

As we make it to the very first incline of the race, half the field slows to a walk. This incline didn't even qualify as a hill and I couldn't believe the number of folks walking all ready. Perhaps this was testament to the number of folks running their 1st 100 here in Leadville... over 450 of them. As they slowed to a walk I thought, out loud, "It's going to be a long day if you're walking all ready." I was thinking about the real hills to come, the times you'll HAVE to walk because you don't have a choice. On this lame hill, on this flat section... nows the time to stretch out and put some time in your pocket. The response out of the crowd came from an unknown, "See ya later mate." I replied, "Maybe you will..." "Hope you brought a check book." Interesting interaction for an ultra...

You Can Lead A Horse To Water...
The paved roads of Leadville soon turned into the dirt back roads on the outskirts of town. And those roads, with few potholes but plenty of wavy compact dirt, soon turned into rocky single track. Things quickly got treacherous with the single file line of some 700 runners slowing the field down immensely. I settled in behind whomever was running, and trotted along as best I could. It was extremely hard to pass anyone, and when you said, "on your left" and tried to go for it, you got a bit of attitude before they stood aside. This is what you get folks when a race is too big for its britches. Somewhere around Turquoise lake, I stepped aside for my first #2 bio break of the day. I began to wonder what happens with all the bio waste from 700 runners out on this 50 mile course. I was getting upset...
While along the cold shores of Turquoise Lake, the sun began to rise in the east. Silhouettes of mountains grew darker as the morning sky grew brighter. There wasn't a cloud to be had, and as the sun rose it illuminated the mountains in magnificent ways, mostly providing us with spectacular Alpenglow. I continued to pass folks, one guy saying, "Yeah good luck with that" after I had run by. This, so far, has been a very interesting group of ultra runners. Someone needs to feed the bears some coffee and educate them in the ways of the community. As the race would go on, I vowed to do my best in taking this task on.
Soon, we entered May Queen Camping Area where the first aid station was located. I was ushered into a large white tent, inside was a few dozen chairs, runners, volunteers, food, drink... and a heater. I knew right away to just grab a handful of fruit and walk out the door in my attempt to not get sucked in by the warmth of the heat vs. the cold frigid air outside. As I exited the tent, I spotted my crossfit boys, who immediately gave me a boost, a gel, swapped out my waist pack and I was out of there. Total aid station time was all of 2 minutes or less... perfection.

Into The Sky
The course makes its way out onto Hagerman Road, as we climb ever higher, we were rewarded with magnificent views of Turquoise Lake and the surrounding mountains that make up the valley Leadville sits within. I climbed the road with a gentleman from San Antonia, Tx who was wearing a pink wig and a pair of stylish green sunglasses. Beside me was a man by the name of John who was running in his first 100 miler ever coming over from Tri-land. These guys were such a breath of fresh air. Fun to talk to and have some real conversation. Finally, I was running a race out west and enjoying conversation with  a variety of runners. Brian Gaines had caught up to me and we shook hands and said hello. I ducked off into the woods for bio break #2... I sensed a problem starting and was not happy.

After coming out of the woods, I picked up the pace and eventually caught up with those that had left me. We descended Powerline where I spoke to a nice woman who used to live in Maine. It was nice to discuss some of my local hot spots for training and enjoying the outdoors, I don't get to do that often in ultra's when other folks are from all over the place. I often times get home sick during races far from home, besides the fact that I was in Colorado, talking about New England really soothed me in a way. Paige from Chicago yucked it up with me a bit too, laughing at me for having to poop twice all ready. "you're like a phantom.. coming out of no where.."  "Don't ask...."
After running down Powerline, the course dumps us out onto a short road section that takes us quickly into Fish Hatchery. I immediately found my crew here and we walked fats up hill into the barn. I walked in, grabbed some food and walked out. As I walked down the road I chomped on food while my crew switch my belts out. These aid stops were super fast and mechanic-like. I was loving it. They gave me a preview of what was coming up and off I went.
I'm beginning to grow ever more frustrated at the amount of these races that advertise "mountains, tough, deathly" terrain we'll have to cross. And when we get out there and take it on, you tackle long flat sections of pavement. I hate pavement, I have flat sections. I suck at them. Today was no different. The sun is getting high in the sky, it's hot. I shuffle down the road section and am passed by a constant buzz of cars. One runners crew stopped to chat with him and while they were chatting, a car came up behind them and tried to pass them on this narrow road. I couldn't believe it and I was sure to say something to them about slowing down and taking their time. They drove a black Jeep Cherokee... they were young, cocky and idiots saying "Runners aren't supposed to accept crew here." He wasn't accepting crew, they were having a conversation and they had 3 hours, at least, to get to the next stop which was all of 5 miles away. Are you serious..??

The strange things continued. I saw a guy running in a pair of Brooks Cascadias. In my experience those shoes hurt on the road, so I asked him, "You're feet hurt in those shoes yet?" His response, "You're talking out of your ass mother f-er." Now I've been called a lot of things in my day.. a few things during races.. but never this extreme. I was floored. I told him that I was just curious and sorry to have offended him. Wished him well and told him, "By the way.. I'm not a mother f-er." His response, "Someday you might be." Ok.... seriously...
Further up the road I asked another runner how he was doing. He had a beard, long hair tied back in a pony tail. "I'm moving forward aren't I?" he said in a snippy voice. Well.. he certainly had me there. I was perplexed. What the hell is going on out here? So many grumpy runners? I know we have ours ups and downs but my god. Finally, as we duck back out onto some road sections, I hook up with a woman whose crew were hilarious. They flew a pirate flag and were having a blast. As we reached tree-line she ran off and got some help. I had no idea where I was and was shocked to see my crew. They jumped out of the car and switched out my bottles for me.. then I kept going. 30 seconds... didn't even stop. The woman caught up with me and we had a conversation about some of the grumpy gusses out here... we had a great laugh while putting it all into perspective together.
From Tree line we head to Box Creek (Halfmoon II). This section of the course is amazingly beautiful. We ran through a variety of fir forests along a hidden dirt road that only seems to go one way.. IN. We followed along a hillside, all the way into Box Creek. I ran most of this section with Nichole from England, this as her first 100 and she was doing very well. When we enter Box Creek I stop and write a message on a white board for Mike Siltman to "get the lead out." As I go to leave the station.. I feel it again... and I'm in the porta john. When I come out, I walked back to the aid tent to ask for some vaseline. I rubbed it on... and it burned like hell. I am now entirely frustrated and I now know the rest of this race is going to be a hell of a fight and I'm all of 30 miles in.

I leave Box Creek and start passing some of the folks I've been leapfrogging all day. When I catch them they chuckle... they know where I've been. I caught up to Brian Gaines again and have a brief conversation with him. I offered him an apology for an altercation we had had through e-mail. Thankfully he was accepting o my apology and we enjoyed some time together. He really is a top notch runner, attempting his 4th 100 miler.. hoping to finally finish one. I feel for him and wish him well before taking off.
From here I ease into a comfy pace leap frogging with a girl named Erin and the ponytailed guy from earlier who was still moving forward. I got ahead of these folks while really enjoying the run through the Aspen groves. It was tremendous in here,  I felt so at home, so comfy and so energized. We weaved our way around the bend, over a ridge and passed the trails for Mount Elbert. I had my photo taken by a helpful runner in a small meadow with Elbert behind me.
I continued to run on some mint single track when Twin Lakes finally came into view down below. As I looked out across the landscape I started to realize just how far down I had to run with only a few miles left to the aid stop. I eased into a grove and just enjoyed the single track allowing the miles to just float on by. I was feeling great. The trail sinks quickly down onto a winding roller coaster of a jeep road that brings us all the way down and into Twin lakes Aid station. When I arrive, I can hear Bryan, a friend from college who recently moved to Golden and offered to come out and help. I was truly happy to hear his voice because now I know.. everyone is here.
I walk into the aid station and grab some food. I head over to a chair and the med team kicks me out saying the chairs are for those in need of foot care only. I walk outside and find a chair and we put it under a tree. I stop and take some rocks out of my shoe and step behind a tree to lube up with body glide. At this point in the race, I've gone to the bathroom a record seven times. (Yeah.. I've only mentioned a few to spare you the gory details.) As I finish up in the aid station, I rise from the chair and walk slowly down the street. It's 1:07pm... I'm 9 hours and 7 minutes into the race at 39 Miles and I feel pretty good though I fear that my bio breaks into the woods and the long slow sections of road are attempting to do me in. I'm Relaxed, just enjoying the run, the journey. I can't help but keep the Grand Slam in the back of my mind, but its dangerous to do. So many people asking me how it's going, I tell them I'm tired.. but I'm digging like hell to get this thing done.

As we pass the crew vehicle, the guys hand me my jacket as I prepare to take on the biggest climb in the race. I head off into the tall grasses of this wide valley, doing a shuffle trying to ease back into comfort. As I walk through the muddy meadow, I'm surrounded by tall peaks.. I continue to be blown away by the beauty of this place.

Baptism and The Gates To Heaven
After the grassy meadows, the course winds us around to a section of river crossings. As I approach the first crossing, I see a young runner sitting down to take off his shoes. I know he's just wasting time. You can see the tiny rocks everywhere, you can hear the rushing water of crossings to come. I slow down and look for a way around myself.. I snap out of it.. and just plunge in, shuffling through the frigid water.  I continue forward and there is another stream... and then another... and another... and then finally.. the river itself. The first few steps in find me up to my waist in water, the runners to my right are only ankle deep.. what the hell?!
At the main river a long black rope is strung out from bank to bank, myself and two other runners grab onto the rope and start to cross. The river is surprisingly strong as I feel it pushing my legs down stream. Water wells up against my legs, the water so cold that my legs quickly go numb. It felt so good until we get out on the other side, my legs instantly feel like lead and jiggly quite a bit. Either way.. the water felt great and long term I knew it was going to be helpful. The only downside now would be my soaked shoes, all ready blistered and tender, I worry what might become of them.
We enter the woods and immediately start to climb up the Mount Hope Trail (aka. Little Willis) which runs briefly along the Continental Divide Trail. The trail climbs steeply and reminds me of some trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Rocky and rooty while climbing along a babbling stream. For the next 3 miles I would climb 3,000' of elevation. I felt fine climbing the hill, the hard part was just being stuck behind those having a tougher time. It was never easy to pass, and the front runners were all ready coming down the hill at a blazing pace. As a runner would come flying down with their pacer, you had no choice but to step aside. A fellow Grand Slammer stopped to puke, I kept moving. Runners were seen laying down, sitting down and it was just all out mayhem on the incline.
We continue to climb ever higher. I feel great, not surprisingly yet I stop to take a rest anyway. Just then, Jack Pilla comes screaming by and gives me a high five. I get back up and continue to push. I hook up with Nicole again from England. She's having a really hard time and is doubting herself immensely. I stop and look at her and listen to her worries, then I turn and look up the mountain. We can see near the top now as we wander through meadows. I look back at Nicole.. I empathize for her, having travelled so far to do this.. I want her to give it hell.. so I slow down, get in front, and pace her towards Hopeless Aid Station.

As we get to Hope aid station, I saunter in and sit down next to a few runners. I sip on some soup, the top of the pass at 12,000+ feet is just beyond here. You can see it, you can feel it. After drinking some soup and getting a few hellos from fellow runners, I rise back to my feet as Nicole asked me to head out with her. We exit the shelter and get a real kick out of all the Llama's grazing in the meadow. This is how the gear was dragged up this high as there are no roads leading to here. We thank the crews and leave.
We weave back and forth along the high mountain switch backs while our mouths are open. Not from lack of oxygen, but from the stunning view. I was awe struck. We continued to have trouble with all the runners coming back from Winfield. We had to stop constantly to let runners by and there's virtually no space to do this. We trudge forward eventually making it to the top of the pass. We both breath a sigh of relief, fresh air and then.. I look around. I'm stunned, almost motionless, and after catching my breath, tears just start streaming down my face. This is the most gorgeous place I have ever been in my life and words cannot describe it. I take out my camera and shoot some video.
After soaking in the views, I begin to head down the other side of Mount Hope when I see Nathan Sanel coming up to the top with his pacer Adam Wilcox. I was so happy to see them, glad I had someone to share my elation with. Nate looks tired and beat... but I know he's strong. Quick math indicates he's under 24 hour pace. I take a picture of the two of them and send them on their way. I start to work my way down the mountain, running as much of these switch backs as I can. The constant downhill pounding is killing my Right IT Band. I run gingerly at times, and again... still stopping for what seems like forever to allow runners to now come UP the mountain.
After a long while of weaving in and out of rocks, own switchbacks and between runners, I finally make it to the bottom of the trail where I see my crew member Dan heading up the hill with another runner. He's pacing now.. and I'm so happy for him and his runner. I'm always so happy when my crew gets to participate in these events in ways they never imagined. I hit the road... and I'm a mess. Mentally I'm feeling defeated. I know that Hope Pass had taken quite a bit out of me, but more then the elevation, more then the trail.. were the hundreds of runners I had to get out of the way for that took a lot out of me.  And now, down here in the valley, hundreds of cars are whizzing down the road out of Winfield kicking up a cloud of dust that wrecked havoc on my lungs instantly.

My eyes itching, my lungs burning and my brain a mess... I walk as fast as I can towards Winfield and the 50 mile turn around. Samy came out to see if I was ok. I hurried into the aid station as fast as I could. He egged me on to run.. I was doing my best. I see the runner from San Antonio and he tells me I have a half hour to get into Winfield. I do some math... Oh Shit. I pick it up as much as I can and get into winfield at 5:45pm. As I sit in a chair, the aid workers yell out that I have until 6pm to get OUT of the aid station or I would be DQed. I am starving.. I need food. Samy makes me the worlds worst Grilled Cheese sandwhich, try and not very good, it's hard to chew and swallow. I have chips, and fruit. Runners all around me are talking about quitting while some are trying to cheer others on. It's chaos, it's madness... I stand up and look at Nicole... she's done and she mouths to me.. "Go get It."
I walk out of the tent and head for the road. I have my pacer, Samy, in tow. We're leaving as fast as we can and head out of the mat at 5:50pm. I have until 9:45pm to make it to Twin Lakes.. 11 miles in 4 Hours. 11 Miles that contains 2500' of gain and 3000' of loss. It took me 4 hours 43 minutes to get to Winfield from Twin lakes. My mind is racing... how the hell am I going to do this? I stop thinking, put my head down and get into the zone...
We run down the road as fast as I can, stopping ever so often to give me legs a much deserved yet short walk break. Bryan and his girlfriend Liana drive by in the crew vehicle and hang out the window to take a few pics. They wait at the base of the climb go give us one last kick of encouragement before we head back into the woods. It's here that I really feel grateful for my friends in this world. They do so much for me without even being asked. Bryan read I was coming to Leadville and he immediately offered his services. I'm humbled by their dedication and willingness to participate.
Samy and I duck into the woods and start to climb immediately. This side of the mountain doesn't have as much elevation gain.. but it is shorter and steeper. We weave back and forth on the tight switch backs while the sun starts to set. I'm pushing quite hard to climb back up to Hope. My heart is literally pounding out of my chest as it gasps for air. I have practiced a few ways to get air into my lungs quick, and switched over for muscle use. We come across a young runner wearing red, splayed out on a rock gasping for air. We tell him to take deep breaths.. and he can't. He starts coughing. Up ahead is a twin, whose brother is also in the race and nearby. He's having breathing troubles. Samy and I motor past them, on a mission.

As we break out of the tree's we watch in continuous awe as the sun continues to set. The shadows are deep now and I've left my camera behind. The flash is broken anyway and I didn't want the extra weight. Now we wished we had it, but this is one of those times in life where we own these views and they are engrained into our souls.. ours and only ours forever. I'll never be able to forget what I saw up high this day, how I felt, what I heard... how it affected me. We kept hearing screeches amongst the rocks and I finally found what is known as an American Pika. A tiny rodent that looks like a huge hamster that lives amongst these rocks.

We top out on the pass and I ask for a time update. 5 miles from Winfield to here and it took 2:15. I have an hour and a half to run 5.5 miles to Twin Lakes. In my mind I'm not sure I can do it.. but thats why I'm out here.. to see what I'm capable.. to find that human potential. I dig in again as the sun sets finally. We see Twin Lakes down low and it looks forever away. We run when we can amongst the loose rocks up high. We get into Hopeless and I quickly down a cup of soup. We take off, laughing at the randomness of the llamas in the fields. Into the woods I put my headlamp on. It's getting cold very fast. Samy's headlamp was broken at Winfield and I now realize he is without one. He's relying on my light to get by.

We run and walk understanding that not only do I need to get to Twin lakes by 9:45.. but I need to have enough gas in the tank and in my legs to get me out of there and moving down the course. With urgency, we move downhill. In front of us, a bobcat races across the trail, as we see the flash and his shiny eyes. We pass a variety of runners as we crash downhill, each time they file in behind us. I'm carrying a train of runners downhill, but as quick as they file in.. they file out. Down back on the flat we're behind a runner who asks what time it is.. and how many miles to the Aid. Samy and I both say, "Just keep running.. you need to run." Taking my own advice.. thats what we do.
Tap Out
We trudge back through the river crossing. Samy has been whipping me down the hill, pushing me to run harder, try harder. I've given it all I have. I'm tired, my legs burn and the cold water is not helping. My blisters have all popped from the pressures of downhill running. I'm falling apart. I lied to Samy, I told him 3 crossings and it's more like 7. I got a good kick out of it while we ran through the crossings and the grassy meadow. Samy was blown away at my effort as I ran every single step back up to the road. In the lower parking lot, I see a few runners walking. I know we're over the limit and so do they. Yet I yell out, "Hey, just because we're over doesn't mean we're done.. get running." And then.. there were 5 runners, side by side by side, running uphill to Twin lakes aid station.
As we ran down the final .25 miles to the aid station, an aid worker comes down the hill and says, "you guys can slow down now." I was furious that he said this. I paid $300 to be here before air fare. I know I'm out of the slam. I know I'm out of this race.. but that doesn't mean that I get to leave my pride out there too. I dig even deeper and run even harder as if I was sprinting into the finish line all the way into the barn. There, the gentleman who is 3rd in charge of the race looks at us all and says, "yeah... you guys are done." I thanked him for being so compassionate in our time of disappointment. I walk into the barn and see Jake Gyllenhall off to the side. They cut off my medical bracelet and I weigh in. I was down 9 pounds from the start of the race. I turn and a woman gives me a huge hug and tells me how good I had done.. and then... I start to cry.

I'm not sure what happened out there. I was ahead of the clock and then quickly I was chasing the clock. The elevation had no ill effect on me, I felt great the entire race. I've been thinking long and hard and can only pin point the line of runners coming from the opposite direction on Hope Pass's climbs, my constant crapping in the woods.. And then I start doing the math. I missed the Twin Lakes 2 cutoff by 15 minutes, arriving at 10:00pm. With 39 miles to go, I had 12 hours to complete the course. Some argue that the cutoffs are acurate.. and for some I'd agree. But not for this cat.. I know I could have done it. I was getting hot.. getting better. The return trip from Winfield took me 4:09. Over 30 runners who finished over 29 hours in the race took longer to do this section then I. 30% of the sub 29 hour finishers took longer... I know I could do it.. but maybe thats they story that is Leadville. It's not the course that'll get you, not the elevation.. it's the cutoffs. Either way... my quest to run the Grand Slam came to an unfortunate and unexpected halt. I gave it my best.. and had one hell of an adventure. I won't be going to Wasatch now, focusing my attention to the Vermont 50 and my October Adventure.

As far as Leadville...2011... I'm there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Get the lead out...

This past weekends race out of Leadville,CO will be something I'll likely never forget. For the first time in my ultra running career, I timed out at a 100 mile race. After 61 miles of running and hiking through some of Americas most amazing country-side, after 18 hour 5 minutes, I found myself 20 minutes over the cut off on my return to the Twin Lakes aid station.

While running those final miles into the station, I knew I was over the limit, yet I continued to run hard. As I ran the final hill, I called on my fellow ultra runners, who were walking it in, to finish with pride and to pick it up. 5 wide we ran together. When an aid station worked told us we could "slow down now" we refused... And continued to run it in.

Many lessons were learned, many pictures and even a few videos were taken. In the next few days I hope to put a report together for you here. It goes without saying it but I am now out of the grand slam for 2010, and I will not be heading to Wasatch. Perhaps some other time in the future the grand slam will call upon me once again. For now, team Sherpa moves forward with the October project... And the running of the Vermont 50.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Race Preview: Leadville 100

It's been 5 weeks since the Vermont 100, mildly disappointed to not have buckled there though very thankful to be alive in this years Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. The slam started with 28 runners, we're down to 19 as more then 700 runners toe the line at this years Leadville 100 Mile Endurance Run now brought to you by Lifetime Fitness.

Throughout my running career, when people hear that I've run 100 mile races, often times I am asked if I've ever run Leadville. It's akin to the age old annoying question, "Have you ever run Boston." I've been asked if I've run Leadville more times then I've been asked if I've run Western States. Could this race be the real big dance in ultrarunning? With over 700 runners in this years race, it is undoubtedly the most populous of the 100s. Thanks to prior articles on the Tarahmura Indians having run here and the now popular book Born To Run, no lottery and no cap on the number of entrants... Leadville is the new 100 mile free for all in the country.

It goes without saying that I am very excited to be heading back to Colorado after a 4 year absence. I hope to even call the state home this time next year. For now, another visit will do the trick. I am not worried about the altitude, not worried about the climbs or the peaks. I'm worried about the shear size of the running field. 700+ runners bottle-necking on single track trail does not sound like fun. Being careful to not get sucked into someone else's race and running my own race looks to be a tough task. This is where experience comes into play. Another 100, another day, another place... it's time to take to it an try and stay alive in the Grand Slam.

Race Goals:
1.) Finish
2.) Sub 28 hours
3.) Sub 25 Hours

Weather Report:
Friday Night: A 10 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 9pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 38. West northwest wind between 5 and 10 mph becoming calm.

Saturday: A 10 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 73. West northwest wind around 5 mph.

Saturday Night: A 10 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 41. Northwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm.

Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 71. West southwest wind around 5 mph.
The trick about this race thus far is having to arrive in Leadville with gear to battle anything weather wise. From rain to wind to snow to blazing sunshine. It's going to be a hell of an adventure and I cannot wait to tell you all about it when I return home.

HUGE thanks to my crew in advance. Samy and Dan who have provided a rental car and a hotel room. Bryan for coming in from Golden to help you. And my friends at Headweats, you guys all rock!

Follow live via twitter! http://www.twitter.com/sherpajohn

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting High

This weekends Leadville Trail 100 Mile Ultramarathon is known first and foremost because of it's elevation. Of all the races in the Grand Slam of ultra-running, this one reaches the highest elevation of 12,620' above sea level. This spot is known as Hope Pass, and runners don't just go there once.. they go there twice.

Leadville starts in the old mining town of Leadville, CO at an elevation of 10,152' and it's lowest point is 9,200'. It sounds pretty high for a guy from the east coast who lives at 197' above sea level. Truth is, it is pretty damn high even if you live in the Front Range around Denver or Boulder, CO. My training brought me to the local 4000-6000' peaks of New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains. I spent a few days running long runs up and down the various peaks of the range. It's all I have time for, all that I can afford. And while the twitter feeds come streaming in from my fellow runners all ready in town trying to acclimate... it's getting harder to ignore the questions people ask me about my worry for the altitude.

Truth be told, I'm not at all worried about the altitude. Mainly because it is what it is. I don't have a full time job, hell these days I don't even have a part time job after quitting Eastern Mountain Sports. I'm puttering along in this grand slam of ultra-running like gramma at Walmart sitting in one of the store electric carts, trying to get something off the top shelf. At least this is how I feel. In 2006 I flew to Wyoming and ran the Grand Teton 100, a race that runs mostly at 8000+ feet elevation with 10,000' being the highest mark. I know what the elevation did to me there... what's another 2000'? (Mark these words now folks..)

So what is the big deal about elevation anyway?

The Facts:
Temperature drops 3 degrees per every 1000' of elevation gain.
As the air gets colder it gets drier, there is less oxygen and more UV light which causes the following:
Dehydration, Hypothermia, Severe Sunburn, Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or wet lungs, High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) or wet Brain.

Now.. Oxygen... essential for life. Gets to your bodies cells via Lungs --> Alveoli --> Hemoglobin (Blood). Hemoglobin molecules are in red blood cells. When people talking about "blood doping," this refers to some maniacal a-holes pumping more red blood cells into their body to help carry more oxygen to the cells... = better performance especially at elevation.

How does altitude affect O2 concentration?
The surrounding atmosphere is about 20% oxygen, 79% nitrogen and 1% everything else.
Partial pressure of O2 at sea level is 20% of 760mgHg = 152mmHg. (millimeters of mercury)
Oxygen saturation at sea level should be close to 100% saturation of O2 in the blood.
As you increase elevation... partial pressure does not change... but available oxygen does.

0' =             1 atm   760mmHg  pO2=152  ApO2 = 100 sea level
9000' =    3/4 atm   570mmHg  pO2=114  ApO2 = 100
18,000' = 1/2 atm   380mmHg  pO2=76    ApO2 = 75 Mt. Saint Elias

OK...lets put this together in english. You get higher... the pressure stays the same but the amount of oxygen in the air available for human consumption decreases. To top it all off... it's colder.. and drier up there because therese less water in the air.

Ok... here are what I have to look out for while at Leadville:
Shortness of breathe during exercise
Sleeping in short naps with frequent awakening
Increase urination
Thirst mechanism gone haywire.

Compared to what normally occurs during a 100 mile race... well... it sounds like a pretty normal 100 mile race actually.

Treatment for Acute Mountain Sickness: (from the SOLO Wilderness First Responder Booklet)
"If symptoms do not improve in 12-24 hours... descend." Ok.. so by the time I notice a problem... and with the time I need to see if there is any improvement... I'll be heading home.
"Descending 500-1000 meters is sufficient for improvement" Not sure how many feet this is but I think from Hope Pass to Leadville falls within this range and then from Leadville to Denver..

HAPE and HACE are both treated much the same ways. Give oxygen.. go down mountain.. the end.

OK... so now... I come to the fun part.. for me. Look all you oxygen-tards out there.  There are a few trains of thought on all of this out there in the running world. One is, you show up a week or two before a race and acclimate to the thinner air. Staying at altitude allows your body to adjust by creating more red blood cells given the elevation and need to transfer more oxygen to cells via amount of red blood cells available.

Two... you show up before the race and just run the damn thing. You don't give your body a chance to realize it's even at elevation. You blow short fierce breaths through tight lips which helps aid in opening your alveoli in your lungs which assists in oxygen saturation.

I've heard it all in the weeks leading up to this race. Am I going out early? How am I training for the altitude? Look.. I'm not climbing Everest here. I've run at 10,000' before with no acclimatization and without any issues aside from being sleepy. All of the symptoms of these illnesses are common symptoms I'm all ready going to experience during this 100 mile race.. even if the race was at sea level. Yes.. the effects might be elevated.. so be it. I'll buckle down, get that stubborn shit going that I'm know for and cross the finish line in 29:59:59 if I have to.

I am not worried about the elevation. I've been taking iron pills for the last week and will continue through this week to aid in blood cell production. I'll show up in Denver on Thursday. Sleep in Leadville Thursday night into Friday... Start running at 4am Saturday morning.. and by the time any issues arise during this race... I'll be done, heading back to Denver and boarding the plane home for Boston.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Coming!

THE 2010

Official details about this years adventure will be revealed sometime in September.
All I can tell you right now is that this years Run Across New Hampshire will be a trail run and a run that's never been done before.

October 16-17, 2010
125 Miles
26,576' of Elevation Gain
26,266' of Elevation Loss
52,842' of Elevation Change

At this time we are in need of the following:
Additional Crew Members.
Companions to run and/or hike sections of the run with me.
A non-profit (in need) to run on behalf of.

Without their help, this year would not have been such a success

Monday, August 9, 2010


Dan Westergaard is perhaps a name you might not have never heard before. While many runners in our country have read Ultramarathon Man and the all mighty Dean Karnazes' account of his running the Badwater Ultra-Marathon, they all know who Dean is.  Often times, we find it hard to believe that anyone, not even Dean can run the race in Death Valley, and then a guy by the name of Danny Westergaard comes along.

I did a little research on Danny to find out who he was. After all, as the regular readers of this blog may have caught on, I find it discouraging that the runners with the REAL stories are often times forgot in our sport, tossed aside to make room for the front runners, those who are considered "fast" and "talented." What I found out about Danny is that he seems like a pretty average runner. Running Ultramarathons since 1990. Five Angeles Crest finishes, fourteen Avalon 50 mile finishes and four Badwater finishes during that time. He's even rode his bike in the Furnace Creek 508 three times. He's no stranger to these endurance events. No body has ever uttered his name, his times are al mostly mid-pack... your "average" runner. Then on Monday, August 2, 2010 his name rang out through the internet forums. Danny Westergaard had completed running the Badwater Ultramarathon route... six consecutive times. Thats 876 Miles of scorching July Death Valley heat in 20 Days, 5 Hours and 42 Minutes. He has no book, no website, no Indulgence film. He's just your average athlete... who completed an amazing journey... and his name has all ready disappeared back into the abyss.

So it got me thinking about those other folks I know about, who get little or no recognition for what I have always thought are achievements far greater than those who win a race.

Who Is Joe Desena?: Joe lives in Vermont, the place he decided to settle his family after retiring from the busy life of New York city and running the 300 miles into Vermont to his current home town. No one talks about the man who in one year completed over 12 Iron-man triathlons. The same man who ran Badwater the flew to Vermont to run the VT100.. buckling in both and then heading to Lake Placid to compete in the Iron Man, all in the same week. In 2008, Joe rode his bike over 3000 miles to Death Valley California from his home in Vermont.. then competed in the Furnace Creek 508.

Who Is Sam Thompson?: In 2006 Sam ran 50 Marathons in 50 States in 50 Days becoming the first person to do so. During the same time Sam was on the road, Dean Karnazes was working his media machine talking about he was going to be the first person to accomplish the feat. Sam didn't have a big ass bus or even a sponsor. The only thing he had that he often times ran with was a 2x4 as a way to send the message across America to help the victims of Katrina. Even though Sam beat Dean.. Dean continued to cruise coast to coast claiming to be the first. Sam would eventually become sponsored by The North Face... but you seldom hear his name.

Who Is Terry Hitchcock? It was 1996 when Terry ran 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days from his home in St. Paul Minnesota to the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympic Summer Games. No it wasn't 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states... but 75 marathons in 75 days.. find me a man who has done something similar! This guy was a single father running to raise awareness for other single parents and their children. He had never run much of anything prior to his journey and get this.. he was a doctor!

This got me thinking about some of my fellow Grand Slammers. Like Keith Straw who ran Western States, then finished Badwater in under 40 hours only to arrive in Vermont that same week to run in and finish the Vermont 100. Keep in mind, he did all of this in a pink tutu! How about Jasmhid Khajavi who ran in and finished the Hardrock 100 in the SAME WEEK as the Vermont 100 and finished Vermont as well?!

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of stories like the one's I've listed above, yet publications continue to focus on the runners who come in first or second, the men with the chiseled-tan body, those runners who can bring some cash to their paper or magazine. No one cares about those who simply work hard, stay under the radar and continue to, in my opinion, out perform those at the top. Out perform because they don't train with their legs, they train with their heart.

Happy Trails

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I get a lot of curiosity questions from my fellow runners these days. Most of them are centered around asking how I'm feeling and if I am ready for Leadville. It's funny how the gears in my mind turn when they ask me these questions. So many thoughts pop into my mind that revolve around the grand slam. Western States was a difficult race. There was a lot more running on flat surfaces there then I had anticipated. It wasn't nearly as hot as people say it can be, I was disappointed by the overall experience and regardless of all those flats, all those hills kicked my butt.

I remember landing in Las Vegas after Western States ended and breathing a sigh of relief that I had a month in between Western States and Vermont. And then, after flying home from Vegas and actually thinking about it.. I remember my feelings of surprise and the inevitable "Oh Shit" when I realized that after a week in Vegas, I was all ready two weeks out of Vermont. I had counted wrong, I never had a month. I had 3 weeks and one was all ready gone, given up to slot machines and walking around Vegas while sipping on Frozen drinks harvested within an 80 oz. plastic guitar.

I was asked quite a bit how I was feeling after Western States. I was sore for longer after that race then I have ever been after any race I'd done to this point. When asked if I was ready for Vermont, the answer was "I have no other choice." There I was 30 miles into the Vermont 100, legs all ready cooked and yet I was pushing up and down those hills until I could hardly take it anymore. Sitting in a chair at Tracer Brook (Mile 60) trying to wrap my head around this game known as the Grand Slam. Still on track for a buckle at Vermont knowing then and there that I was going to have to let it go... and concentrate on surviving. I had nothing left in my legs... and strategy in my mind. Strategy not geared towards finishing ONE race... but finishing them all. I had a meeting with my crew and tried to change their mindset from buckle to finish... it took quite a few hours for them to get it it seemed. They were so jazzed!

So here I am. I'm two weeks out of the Leadville 100. About to head to Colorado to run at an elevation most average athletes/runners would think of impossible. 12,000+ feet in the sky... 2 miles up... running 100 miles. I'll have had a 5 week break between Vermont and Leadville. I'm squeezing in the runs when I can but when it comes down to it.. "my last long run" before the next 100 has been the 100 I'd just run. I'm lucky to be able to get to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and just run and hike. Get some miles in. Time on my feet. Am I ready for Leadville? I have no idea... I'm honestly a little nervous. Constantly thinking about surviving Leadville so I can get to Wasatch.. and then, immediately then, thoughts change to my being terrified of Wasatch.

I'd say that over these last 3 months I've learned that as hard as the Grand Slam is physically, it's equally if not more difficult mentally. It's very hard to wrap your head around one race when you've got another race right after it. It's hard to fathom running at altitude when you live at sea level and you have no money to spend extended time away from home. I will say that this adventure in Slamming has been my greatest adventure thus far. This year in running isn't going to end with the Grand Slam... I've got a big project on the Horizon and I'm trying to wrap my brain around that as well.

I'm as ready for Leadville as I'm going to be.
I'm nervous
I'm Tired
and I'm sore.

Thanks for asking

Monday, August 2, 2010

Western States Thoughts

I've really sat on this post for a bit of time now. After all, it's been a month since I ran in the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. In the time since I ran the race, I've had quite a bit of people congratulate me on my success out in California. Especially while running in this years Vermont 100, pre-race, post-race, in aid stations, out on the course... I received a lot of "Hey SJ, Congrats on Western States." I've really put some thought into how I feel about receiving these congratulations as well as how I feel about the Western States Experience as a whole. People have asked for my opinion, and they've had bits and pieces of it, but now it's time to just let it all flow out. The good, the bad and the ugly of my Western States 100 experience.  You wanted it, you've got it.

I waited 4 years to get into the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Waiting is not as easy as it sounds. This means that for the last 4 years, I've qualified for the race and placed my name in the entry lottery, was a two time lottery loser, ended up in the "Fire Year" debacle, and then got in on a provisional lottery for two time losers. Once I got into the race, I ended up having to shell out $350 to enter.

Other race entry fees during the Grand Slam (total entry revenue):
Vermont 100: $200 ($60,000)
   Leadville 100: $250 ($225,000)
Wasatch 100: $175 ($42,000)

So let's try to figure this out. 417 runners lined up at the starting line of the Western States 100, each paying $350 to get there. This amounts to $145,950. This does NOT include the fee paid by other runners who had made it into the race and did not show up on race day. So after having run in this race, I have to wonder where the hell $145,000 went! Consider for a moment that this race crosses very few roads so there is virtually no traffic detail necessary via police departments. They have an army of volunteers, the aid stations are much like the aid stations at other races. So where does this money go? Of course I understand the costs of Belt Buckles, insurance, permits, etc... but I find it hard to believe, as a former race director myself, that all of this costs over $50,000 never mind $140,000!


There is something about races out West that is seriously disconnected from the races in the East. Compared to the races in the East, people just don't seem to want to talk out West. It feels like that "road runner" mentality you get at a road marathon. That feeling that "this is serious" and it's an actual race against each other. But further more, after a few discussions on the course with fellow runners from back East we determined that unless you were in Team Diablo or part of The Auburn Running Company, you were a nobody at this race... and treated like a nobody. This trend continued to rear it's ugly head especially so at the finish line area.

There are some pro's and con's of the aid stations during this race. First of all, unless you have TWO crew's, there is no way in hell that you'll see your crew at all of the aid stations. I saw my crew a total of 4 times at Western States. 

Number of Handler Stations at the Other Grand Slam Races
Vermont 100: 10
Leadville 100: 12
Wastach 100: 9

While I understand that the wilderness the Western States course runs through plays a major role in this aspect, it causes some negative effects on when your crew is actually there. First and foremost, the Aid Station Captains are both "over the top" with their iron fist over the aid station and at times even rude to the runners. Crews are contained within yellow roped off areas and are not allowed to provide services for runners outside of these areas. My crew wasn't even allowed to fill my bottles for me. Though I will say that the races Medical staff was VERY friendly, knowledgeable and professional. They know their stuff and they are more than willing to help you get to the finish line, more so then any other race I've ever done. Red shirts are everywhere, when you run into an aid station a red shirted volunteer approaches you to get you whatever you need... this is where the bottle filling is accomplished however... most times I haven't seen my crew yet to get my bottles. This confusion adds up to a LOT of wasted time and inconvenience to the runners. Red shirts seemed to be good enough to grab you snacks at the stations. Pacers had tables of their own at some stations... (ie. Runners and Pacer tables were separate). Overall... I found the aid stations to be overly cluttered with people, excess volunteers, confusion and too much dictating going on. This made aid stations the most stressful place on the course to be.

The course was amazing from start to finish. From alpine meadows to Sequoia and Redwood forests. I felt like I was in a new ecosystem around every corner. I've never seen to many butterflies and lizards in my life. The dust, dirt and ash made for quite a kaleidoscope of color on my legs and shoes. There was rarely a rock or root to be found compared to what I am used to. The climbs were challenging as were the downhills. There was cold, heat, snow, dry, rivers, lakes, amazingly huge pine cones.. the place is an amazing area to run through. There was a lot more running on flat sections then advertised or anticipated but over all, the course itself was well worth the trip.

Race Entry: $350
Airfare (one way) for self and 1 crew member: $685
One Night Stay in Hotel: $80
Fuel for crew vehicle: $80
Food for Crew and Runner: $100
Total: $1295
This was the total cost of my trip to Western States. Thankfully it was a part of my honeymoon. At the end of the race, I flew to Vegas for a week.. and then flew home from Vegas. However, if I were to have flown from Sacramento back home, the race would have cost me an extra $600-700. I also lucked out thanks to the help of Bret Sarnquist, who flew up from Flagstaff, AZ to help out. He picked Sarah and I up in Sacramento, drove us to his parents place up near Donner Pass, which allowed us to save some money on added lodging costs. He drove up from the airport in his Sister VW Camper Van, which saved us money on needing to rent a vehicle for crewing. Thanks to Bret we likely saved an additional $500. Bottom line, Western States can easily cost a runner $2000 +. I'm certain that I ran the race on the bare minimum for a runner coming out of town.

At the end of the race, Bryon Powell of irunfar.com asked me if I felt the race lived up to it's Hype. At the time I told him I "wasn't sure... a lot of money to come here. I can see where some of it goes.." I think back to reading Dean Karnazes' Book "Ultramarathon Man" and his description of the race from beginning to end. I think about all of the online bickering, and blogging, magazine articles, podcasts and everything else that is enough to make you drown in a sea of repetitive information... and I realize in the end that no.. Western States doesn't live up to the hype.
I think that in terms of bang for your buck... Vermont 100, Massanutten, Grand Teton... all of these races are above and beyond what Western States provides the runner. I think Western States is priced as high as it is due to supply and demand. It's an expensive race to travel to. There is a ton of frustration with aid stations and crew access and it's VERY cliquey. Given it's history I can see it being one of those races you run once, just to say that you've been there and you crossed the finish line. I understand it being a part of the Grand Slam of Ultra-running. I can attest to you here that in the future I will only try my luck at getting into Western States again providing that my plan is to run the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. I'd love to return to try my luck at winning that Sub-24 Hour buckle with only having this race to concentrate on... but I'm not sure it's worth the couple thousand dollar price tag. It's been said many times before and I'll say it again... there are plenty of quality, top notch races in this country that are worth running, are more accommodating and offer more bang for your buck then the classic Western States. I'll be reserving my money for those.

Happy Trails