Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pikes Peak Ascent

The curtain call of my 2011 season was a beast of a race. The Pikes Peak Ascent is not particularly long, but this half marathon only goes up. And by that I mean, the race begins in Manitou Springs, right outside of Colorado Springs, a town resting at 6300 feet above sea level. The gun goes off and you begin an uphill journey for the next 13 miles, finishing atop one of Colorados' 54, 14,000 foot peaks (14,115). The rule of thumb in estimating your time is to use your marathon PR clock time as guide to traverse this HALF marathon distance.

This was my second year racing the Ascent and I was really excited up until three days before the race. This particular Wednesday will go down as a bottom 10 day in my history book. A completely random jury selection to a three week criminal trial, a nearly split in two right patella in a fluke commuting bike accident and another superficial, but amazing let down. My wife and kids were healthy and that was all that mattered. Never mind that I would have to miss the next three weeks of work and could barely walk, let's run up a 14'er!!!

Race morning came and Heath and I rolled down to the Springs and laced up. The trail running scene is really chill, people know who is going to ascend fast, so they give them their space. There are not many pretenders gunning out of the gates, as this race is not won within the first 5 miles. In fact those are the most painful and gut wrenching miles of the race. Just a brutal trail of never ending switchbacks. I did not feel good at this point of the race, my breathing was off, the four ibuprofen had not quite kicked in and many other parts of my body just ached. I let Heath pull me up the hill until I felt like somewhat of a runner. At this point it was still false hope and he went around me again to drag me up further. At this point, the voice in my head was screaming, "what could possibly be the fond memories of this race?" carry on.

Carrying just one bottle of GU Brew and a few GU ROCTANE Gels, I took down a cup of gatorade at the first three aid stations and dumped some cold water on my head to cool my core temperature. The weather was hot, even 50 degrees at the summit, just unheard of 14er weather. But at that 4th aid station, something clicked and I started to feel it, or maybe I stopped feeling the pain in my knee and just went for it. Either way, I picked up the pace even though we had just reached 9000 feet. Making our way up and over several trail obstacles, this technical portion was a real fun mix of running and power hiking. At one moment, I pulled my right foot across a rock and ripped the top of my shoe right off, this minor set back was more humorous than anything.

My form and pacing just felt right and I began to separate myself from our pack. I bridged another group in front of me, then another, until I had caught many of the days Elite runners above the 13'000 ft mark. As usual, I was continually cheering and talking to every runner I passed, oddly, not many responded...

Within the last 3 miles, which took me over an hour last year, I was able to drop that time to 48 minutes and smiles all around. I was flying high and could not believe my time of 2:56 and 41st overall of the 1700 runners. My solid year of training, Pikes Peak race experience and ibuprofen all accounted for an 18 minute drop in my previous years time. A fantastic success for the last race of 2011. Heath made his move a little later and finished in a stellar 3:07, identical time to his first marathon and 22 minutes faster than his last years Ascent. The weather was great and race support unbelievable. I am a little bummed I won't be able to race this event for a couple years due to already planned races, but it will be great to come back and explode my lungs for another Ascent.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Laramie Enduro Mtn Bike

July 30th 2011
Race Report from Laramie, WY

Laramie Enduro Mtn Bike Race 111 Kilometers

This was the second time that I have competed in the Laramie Enduro mountain bike race and it won't be the last. What a phenomenal event! The race organization was great, the volunteers were unbelievable and the course was a mix of gnarly to really gnarly. Since the first time I raced in Laramie in 2007 the race has exploded to a lottery and wait list. This narrows the participants down to the 500 brave souls looking to test their physical and mental toughness on a mountain bike. The course is never flat. Constantly climbing and descending, check out the Garmin link above to see the EKG profile.

Having had so much fun racing the Silver King in Leadville and doing so well because I stayed within my means and raced my own race, I decided to do the same in Laramie. Go out strong, but even. I got a good jump on the first steep climb before several hundred of us went to single track. Placing yourself well there is key to settling into your rhythm. I felt great and my heart rate regulated and we were off. I was with a pack of 4 other racers, about 15 positions back for the first 20 miles and then shook a couple guys off and kept riding along and chatting with my new friend Kris Keller of Lafayette. We had a good pace going, rallying each other on the ups and cruising the downhills. The weather was perfect, but steadily rising temperatures tested all the athletes. I stopped at 4 of the 5 aid stations to make sure that I always had fluids and fuel. In total, I drank 7 bottles, ate 2 GU Chomps, 3 GU Roctanes and a Honey Stinger Waffle. A good amount of calories, but not too much.

My riding pace was strong but not out of my comfort zone. I knew all to well how difficult the last 25 miles of the race were going to be. Containing the two largest climbs of the day, 86 degree temperatures and very technical single track. All of those factors require solid nutrition and complete focus throughout the race day. Around mile 45, Chris couldn't hang on any more and I started to push it even harder. I was told by a volunteer that I was in 15th position as we had to carry our bikes over some makeshift stairs that protected us from 4 lines of barbed wire. One of the many obstacles other than dirt, rocks, roots, loose gravel and cattle shit. I felt good about 15th, but had a feeling I was stronger than a few gentlemen up the road. So I keep slugging away and pushing the climbing and redlining my downhills lines. I was able to pick off 5 more racers in the last 15 miles, all of whom were strong riders, but looked like they had had enough for the day.

The final descent was tremendous, a very technical downhill with multiple obstacles and rock ledges. I could not believe how much I had the throttle open, this was the fastest I was going downhill in years. After a broken pelvis injury in 2008, followed by a separate broken wrist injury in 2009-present, my downhill governor has been working overtime. It felt great to have some MOJO back and I was anxiously awaiting the Fat Tire Amber Ale at the finish line. As I made the final turn, I spotted my friend Mike Hogan just across the finish line, bent at the waste with some solid muscle cramping. He finished a very strong 9th place and I was just moments from catching him!

I am very pleased with my 10th place overall finish in 5:20:43. I took over 40 minutes off of my race time from 4 years previous. Finishing just behind top PRO mtn bikers from Team Honey Stinger, Team Trek and Team Horizon Milk. This caps off my mountain bike race year and I am excited to finish with some success and free of injury!

The most fun aspect of this event was the strong showing by Team Schneider Electric with 8 racers (Doug Andrew at 6:06, Matt Langley at 6:15, Dirk Shaw at 6:20, Will Johnson at 6:45, John Warren at 7:00, Josh Ross at 7:06 and David Deihl at 7:55), sporting the sweet team issued White & Black kits (now with thousands of brown specks of dirt and cow shit!). By far the most represented team in the field. All of our racers did great and bettered their previous years or previous race times. I also had a lot of fun catching up with two former MN training buddies from the mid 1990s, Mark Barrett (racing Leadville 100 for the 7th time this year) and Kevin Grafft. These two showed up from sea level to race in Laramie, an event that never dipped below 7600 feet and they did great. Also racing with good pals Mike Hogan of Justin's Butter and my great friend Kyle Boschen. Knowing all of these friends were on the course with me really helped the motivation and focus. Congrats to all! Stay Thirsty...