Wednesday, August 22, 2012

LEADMAN FINALE - Leadville 100 Trail Run

This is nothing new to me, I have been racing in multi-sport events since the summer of 1997.  It is what I do and I love it.  Each new year brings a different set of challenges and fun obstacles to tackle on my way to a few more sprint triathlons, an Ironman, multi-stage mountain bike races, ultra trail runs or attempting to PR a marathon.  This year was different.

What I embarked on for the summer of 2012 was far more difficult than anything I have ever done.  And far more rewarding.
Time for the Family picture at Twin Lakes Inbound, mile 64
 Heading into the week of the 100 mile run, I was anxious.  Continually going over the past months and years of training to determine if I had done enough to survive this weekend.  Did I climb enough peaks, run downhill as much as I needed or come close to simulating the pain I would endure?  There was no way to answer these nagging questions without getting out there.  This was my first 100 mile run.  Coming six days after the Leadville 100 bike and starting at 10,000 feet nonetheless, dropping to about 9500 a couple times. Completing well over 16,000 feet of vertical gain and 16,000 feet of subsequent loss.  How do you possibly train perfectly for an event such as the Leadville 100?  You put in the hours and hope for the best.

I was also anxious about the weekends logistics, which were simplified greatly after I procured a home to rent, on Monday of race week in Leadville.  This gave us a perfect base camp for the family and kids, floor spaces for the crew to take naps and a close by kitchen to prep.  Man I got lucky!  But I also had my parents coming into town to help, my great friends Jared and Malia flying in from CA to be there for us and several other of the best friends around to lend their support.  Even an overturned semi didn't stop them from coming up for a few hours of sleep before our 4 am start time.

We walked to the start line as a nervous group ready to run into the unknown.  Nicole was excited for me to be done, but I could tell she was a little scared that I may not enjoy this as much as I thought.  My mom was definitely freaked out, as I can now relate, having 2 crazy sons to chase after.  Jeff and my brother Jared were so amped up you would have thought they were running too!  Malia and Jared, still half asleep from an epic travel, were like high school cheerleaders doing flips and screaming as I was getting prepped. 

Sliding my way up to the front of the start line was not too hard and I was able to position myself right next to Anton Krupicka, sizing him up to see if I could go out at his pace!  Haha, right, but cool to hang with him at the start. The shotgun echoed through the mountains and we set off on our journey, pitch black for at least the first 2 hours.  I controlled my pace, hung out with some people and just tried to relax. When we entered the single track I realized how crappy my headlamp was and this problem is only exacerbated by how bright everyone else's headlamps are.  I couldn't see SHIT.  A few stumbles, but slow running got me through to Mayqueen no sweat and I was within seconds of my predicted time.  The crew was right there and they would be at each and all stations, ready with all the hand offs and exchanges and I was off to the first climb, running and hiking conservatively.  Up Suglarloaf, down Powerline and across to Twin Lakes, which at Mile 40 was the first time I saw Nicole, Rocco and Sawyer. My family, my life.
Seeing my wife, sons, parents, brother, best friends gave me so much energy and I was so pumped leaving the aid station, ready to charge up 3600 feet in 3 miles to the top of Hope Pass.  This was going to be a breeze.  Damn it, I was way off, the steepness of this climb and the rocky terrain just drain everything from you.  Even the Llamas at the aid station, 800 feet short of the top, aren't enough to speed a person up.  And then descending into Winfield was far more difficult than anything I had ever imagined, maybe a preview would've been a good idea!  But I made it to the turn around, quite a bit off my predicted time, which I had been within minutes of during the first 4 aid stations.  I was tired, hungry, lost 5 pounds and ready to spend time with my pacers.

My brother Jared was dressed and fired up. He had the backpack loaded, bottles in hand and we were off.  Not carrying your own food and water gives so much relief alone, but the conversation and constant monitoring that a pacer provides is even more important.  He was gauging my vitals, continually feeding me different foods and drinks to get me re-hydrated and then we started climbing.  I was powering as hard as I could, charging that mountain and trying to drop him.  Didn't shake my bro, but I did end up going much faster back to Twin Lakes than I had come out to the turn around, making up some time and enjoying the insane mountain views and trails with my brother.  We had a blast.

Rocking back into Twin Lakes and seeing the family again, plus now best friends Kevin and Taylor, this had just turned it into a party. I was loving it!  So much love and energy.  After some liquids, a shirt change and some cold soup, I was ready to go.  Both Rocco and Sawyer high tailing it with me out of the aid stations, best boys ever.
Cold Soup? What? Even Kevin was disappointed!!!
 Now I had Heath Kirschner running along side of me, making jokes and having fun. Heath has done more miles running with me over the last 3 years than I can possibly count.  I have only done 2 or 3 trail run outings without him and he knows my pace and attitude to the letter.  But the real surprise he had in store was a few pages of encouraging emails from my closest family and friends from all over the country.  He read aloud the anecdotes, encouraging words and sometimes disparaging words (from those who know that making fun of me gets just as much motivation) while we were hiking and running along the next 18 miles.  It was such an amazing gesture by him and I can't thank Heath and all of you that wrote to him.  THANK YOU.
Leaving Pipeling, Sawyer and Georgia running after...
We had a big 3 mile climb and then a lot of rollers that I was able to jog, walk, run, jog, walk, hike, run through. I have to say this was a long stretch and I handled it okay, not great.  You just don't know what to expect and how hard to push at this point, but the trail was amazing and I was with one of my best friends, what an awesome time.  We made it to Pipeline aid and I needed more soup, got refueled, layered a shirt on and we took off at a blazing walk pace.  But this was also the first Starbucks Double Shot station, and by the time we were running the road to Fish Hatchery, I was flying.  In my mind, going at a 6 minute pace, but in reality, more like 8 minute per mile.  At mile 77, I will take that.

Running into Fish Hatchery was really cool.  It was dark out and everyone was so excited for me, we could feel the end nearing, only 5 or so hours left.  I grabbed some more soup, Potato this time, got my new pacer and another best friend Jeff Koski to carry the load.  Jeff is all business and I could not have come close to making these times on the 100 bike or the 100 run without him.  But he is also becoming a super strong runner and was really there for me climbing up Powerline.  We knocked off 5 to 6 other runners on this climb, knowing that for me the climb was where to make up time.  This climb, just like the bike ride, has 5 false summits and while it was again pitch black, this took forever.  We stayed focus, took in as many drinks and calories as we could, setting up for the finish.  Going down Sugarloaf was a slugfest and the single track into the last aid was very sketchy.  I stayed upright, even passed a few more runners and we were at Mayqueen, ready to embark on the final leg.

At Mayqueen, some more soup and another Starbucks and we were off.  My brother again running by my side, we entered the uphill single track.  But wait a minute, I was actually running uphill, this was mile 90, I should be walking only by now.  Once we switched headlamps and I was wearing the spot light, my energy picked up.  I started running a little faster, turning the legs over, flying by rocks and stumps, just having fun.  Jared was hooting and hollering from behind, loving every minute of this and I just kept dropping my pace.  I felt great, as if I had just started and wanted to knock out the miles and time.  We did the half loop of Turquoise Lake very fast and I was on cloud nine, ready to finish this journey.  After we exited the woods, Jared's job was done, running over 20 miles with me today on a torn Achilles tendon. But I knew he could not have been happier as he passed the baton to my best pacer, best friend and wife.

Nicole was so cute in her head lamp, just chatting away as if we were running down 7th avenue in Congress Park.  I love her so much and to have her by my side during this final hour was amazing. Our section was uphill, dark, gravel and desolate.  But she lightened the mood, asking if this would "count" as her workout since I was walking so much.  Trying as hard as she could to get me to run ten or twenty steps.  I dug deep, kept moving forward and made some running attempts.  The Boulevard is difficult, but a great build up.

When we left the gravel, got onto the road, I knew we had 1 mile to go.  My other pacers waiting at the stop sign were ready to run.  Jared, Heath and Jeff joined up and with a massive sigh of relief from Nicole we all headed down up the final mile.  Walking the first hill and then running the remaining stretch to the finish line with my gang.

I was overcome with emotion, threw my hands in the air and could not believe what I had just accomplished.  The Leadman Challenge is hard and cannot be completed alone.  My out of breathe cries when I hugged my wife, mother, father, brother and best friends could not be contained.  I don't think I had the energy to scream in celebration, so the gentle sobs of a grown man had to do.  This is not the end.  Thank you so much to all that supported me along this way.

I finished the Leadville Trail 100 Run (104 miles this year!) in a time of 22:14.  Placed 24th overall out of 800 that started the race.  Moved from 5th to 3rd overall Leadman, behind Tim Waggoner and Troy Howard, just amazing athletes and friends.  What an awesome adventure.

Malia took some video along the way. Check out her trailer!  Movie coming in Sept...

My Family and Leadman Crew, thank you from the bottom of my heart. There is now way I was doing this without you.
Nicole Berg with my boys Rocco and Sawyer
Don and Gretchen Berg, best parents ever
Candice Preslaski, my amazing sister in law
Jeff & Shannon Koski, best friend ever
Jared Berg, best brother ever
Heath and Amanda Kirschner with their girls Ella and Georgia, best friends ever
Jared and Malia Marcell, best friends since 2 years old
Kevin Curtis and father in-law Tim, best friend ever
Taylor Fenn and son Oliver, best friend who can still make fun of me while I am running at mile 63
Josh Ross, Kevin Curtis and Wade Vogt - TEAM ADDAERO

LEADMAN Challenge 2012 - Stats done be me before official Leadman results posted...

99 - registerered for the summer series.
65 - remained after the Marathon, 50 Mile bike or Run, 100 mile Mtn Bike and 10k run
34 - athletes completed the Leadman challenge for 2012

14 - sub 9 hour Big Buckles for the 100 mile Ride
7 - sub 25 hour Big Buckles for the 100 mile Run

 - Tim Waggoner
 - Troy Howard
 - Joseph Berg
 - Jeffrey Spencer
 - Mark Wallace (2 timer)
Bringing the total to 7 people ever to Complete the Leadman and double Big Buckle!  More people have walked on the moon...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Leadville 100 Mountain Bike & 10k Run 2012

Unlike some, I don't remember the precise moment when the desire to race the Leadville 100 mountain bike race began to gnaw at me.  But to cross that finish line, after 8 hours and 37 minutes of mountain biking insanity, I was overwhelmed.  It wasn't just the 103 miles and 12,600 feet of gain, all above 9,200 feet that we completed on Saturday that meant so much.  This touches deeper into your sole as you know your own personal road to make it to Leadville and come home with the BIG Gold Belt Buckle.  For some it is an annual tradition, others a lottery, others a performance spot based on a Q race and for me and a few other crazy folks, signing up for the Leadman Challenge gained us our entry into the Super Bowl of mountain bike races.  So we will be back 6 days later to run another 100.  More on that, but first, here is how bike shaped up.

Our family stayed in Vail and as another struggle to determine how to logistically overcome the Leadman Challenge, one of my best friends in the world, Jeff Koski, awoke at 2 am and drove from Denver to pick me up and get to the start line.  Then entire drive, still tired, but crazy excited, we discussed the course, the aid stations and my needs while racing. Jeff has done the 100 bike before (now wearing his buckle) and understands the importance of a race crew and a good plan.  Due to my decent time in the 50 mile bike, I was granted a 2nd corral spot, behind only the top pro mountain bikers.  At the start line early, chilling with my great friend, neighbor and new dad of a 5 DAY old girl, Rob Kosick made the time go by quick.  Talking parenting, racing and life.  He had a stellar day of 8:19 w/ mechanicals.  The 2nd corral spotting helped sort out the field and passing riders was never an issue.  The gun shot started the race and CRAP it went out fast. 

The Start -
Flying downhill, just trying to stay off the wheel in front of you required maximum concentration.  Do not go down here is what I kept telling myself. 

This fast pace riding did not let up until the first climb up St Kevins. 

The UPS and DOWNS -
This climb was a great start and I just relaxed, rode along side my old friend Mark Barrett.  Another screaming decent and we were climbing again up Sugarloaf. This climb wasn't much of a big deal.  The only issue is that I no longer love aggressive downhill riding in these races and knowing the death trap of Powerline descent was coming quickly, I wasn't too jacked.  So when we started descending, I was gaining confidence, this isn't so bad, I like this.  Well, I wasn't on Powerline yet.  The group that I climbed with was gone, so I was alone when it got steep and rutted, PERFECT, no one putting pressure from behind.  This allowed me to cruise on through and I was down before you knew it.  We rode hard to the aid station where Jeff had his sweet homemade hand off bag all set.  But the shoulder strap was too long and instead of crashing, I wisely slowed up, grabbed my nutrition and he gave me a shove off.  The long stretch here was so needed.  Ride with some new friends and get ready to see the family.  I was a happy camper, mostly because I had never ridden up the infamous Columbine climb.

I stopped at the aid to see Nicole, Rocco, Sawyer, Heath, Ella, Georgia and Crew Chief Jeff.  They got all the nutrition and chain lube on well before I was finished peeing.  Better time than any NASCAR pit.  Seeing my kids, my wife and my two best friends gave me the rally I needed to go after this climb.  
Columbine Climb -
Why, why, why would you bike up this route?  I just kept asking myself as we dug into each winding turn.  I knew it was far to the top, but I had no idea how long that would actually take.  I never felt completely drained riding up Columbine, but it never stopped. Knowing that this is the climb just to get to the halfway mark of the race, you do need to hold off on the effort.  When we finally got above treeline, I was actually relieved, we had to be nearing the turn.  I was excited that I only walked a hundred feet or so, and to be honest, that just loosened up my legs.  As we summited the climb and turned downhill, I let loose and opened up the brake levers.  Going down faster than I have in years, yelling encouraging words to the hundreds of riders coming up.  My legs felt great as I saw my crew again at the aid station and I just kept jamming the pedals into the wind. 

Road Race into the wind - 
The flat stretch before the last two climbs I was catching and passing groups and groups of riders until a new friend Craig joined me.  He and I worked together up to the Powerline climb.  This first section of Powerline was so steep and fun I almost had to laugh.  Mike Hogan offering me Starbucks, riders trying to ascend with all their might.  Then you realize that similar to the last climb, this just doesn't freaking end.  Who signs up for this?

Closing out my ride up to St Kevins, feeling sleepy and tired, I was drained.  I had never been on my bike longer than 7 hours before.  And especially this year.  My biking has been next to nothing in relation to what it should be for this race.  Let's see if that run endurance can pay off.  Thankfully I had a few other people to ride with through to the end.  The few of us working through our rough spots while drafting and then catch some energy to take your turn and pull the crew.  This team work brought us to the end and when we saw the finish line, tears were held back.  And having my great friend Kevin and his wife Marti at the finish line to help me take it all in was so cool.  Nicole and Heath were a little delayed due to a perfectly timed crap in pants by my little guy!

My Leadman journey only began when I realized how badly I wanted to ride and earn my Big Gold Buckle.  Well, I did it and I will be back to crush my time of 8:37. 

10k Run -
Oh yeah, we had to get back up to Leadville, pick up my buckle and then toe the line, run an all out 10k against a couple fresh runners and the rest of the Leadman competitors.   I ran a pedestrian time of 45 minutes, but at 10,000 feet and coming off that ride, I will take it. 

These two days whittled the Leadman participants down to 65, of which I currently sit in 5th place.  But more then placing in the Leadman, getting to know Tim, Troy, Al, Jeff and the others, sharing in these amazing experiences and achieving more than should be humanly possible is the reward.

Back on Saturday August, 18th for the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run.

Thank you so much to Jeff Koski for his unbelievable planning and help, my amazing wife Nicole, my boys' Rocco & Sawyer as well as the best cheerleaders in Ella & Georgia whose Dad dragged them through quite the day to be there for me.  You guys are the best!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Bike & 50 Run - 2012

Silver Rush 50 Mtn Bike Race Report - 

This years' Leadville Silver Rush weekend was setting up similar to 2011, but my expectations were a little higher after having some great success last year.  I would be racing along side my older brother Jared for the first time in a few years, which was really cool.  He and I headed up early Saturday morning and it was shaping up to be a perfect day.  But this year was quite a lot different.  Since Lifetime Fitness purchased the Leadville Race Series in 2010, their marketing and promotion has been top notch and has been continually attracting more and faster athletes.  This makes for a really cool event and those finishing times really drop fast!
After we geared up and set the right tire pressure, we made our way to the start line.  The race series is kind enough to provide priority starting for the Leadman competitors, front and center.  But it still means we have to run and carry our bikes up Dutch Henri hill.  This does give a more dispersed hole shot for the chip timing, but takes a good amount of breath out of your lungs.  I made it through right on and was in good enough position to never worry about passing racers the rest of the day.  Just relax and do my thing.  The whole ride I really just cruised at a solid intensity, but not too hard of an effort, knowing throughout, that I would be running the same track the next morning.  The course was much rockier and some how steeper than I remembered.  Did they dump a couple truck loads of boulders to make the course more challenging?
Unfortunately I passed my brother a couple times before the halfway point as he and several other riders had flat tires galore.  When I hit the turn around I was phenomenally greeted by Rocco and Sawyer just screaming and yelling, no better way to race a bike.  Nicole was snapping some pictures and smiling like always.  And along side her were my great friends Kevin and Wade, sporting the Addaero team kits and cheering like mad!  

We made the turn, which now includes a wicked steep hike a bike through the chip timing.  I refueled and headed back up the course.  I was able to maintain my level of power and also keep my heart rate in check.  Kevin and Wade spun their mtn bikes to the top of climb #5 for the day and it was so refreshing to see some familiar faces again.  A quick water bottle hand off and I was on my way.  The next climb and downhill to the finish were hard, but it felt great to be able to open up the bike and have a blast to the finish line.  Crossing the line in about the same time as last year, on an extended course felt great, but my 4:40 placed me in 51st position, much lower than I would have hoped for, but 2nd in the Silver King division of athletes that were biking and running the 50 miles this weekend.
Finish line of the Silver Rush 50 Mtn Bike
Silver Rush 50 Trail Run Race Report -

After a relaxing night in Frisco, down the hill a little ways from Leadville, I was not too pumped to set my alarm for 4 am to get to the start line.  The Silver King race is much more than covering the distance on a bike then running.  It is a mind game that gnaws at you from the first pedal stroke on Saturday morning to the last foot strike on Sunday afternoon.  Good news is that you know the race course which is great, but the bad news is that you know the course, which sucks.  Covering a 4 mile descent on a bike is a blast, but running is painful and taxing.  At the start line, I talked with Leadman competitor and new friend Troy Howard, who ended up taking my Silver King crown from 2011.  Congrats to him!  It was great to meet Troy and we actually ran together and talked much of the first climb.  

I felt good the first 10-13 miles of the run race and then started to lose energy much sooner than I had planned.  And that lost energy translated into evil little demons inside of my head.  They started the chatter with thoughts of quitting and justification for quitting.  When those thoughts enter your head so early in an event, where do you go?  

 I kept repeating to myself that I am not a quitter.  

But this race doesn't even count for the Leadman Challenge...I wouldn't be quitting anything, I could just chalk it up to a great 25 mile training run.  

I had that speech rehearsed and prepared to tell Nicole at the turn around.  When I got there, my mindset was 50/50.  Should we pack up and head to Denver or suffer through to the finish.  In my head, the decision lay with Nicole and her energy and support.  As soon as I slouched over and told her I was done, she kicked me in the rear, yelled to me that we are not quitters and to get going.  Wow, I couldn't believe that.  There was no way she was letting me stop.  "How could you live with yourself?" she asked.  Not sure I even responded, but I knew that I wouldn't go down like that. 
Turn around of the Silver Rush 50 Trail Run
Immediately after the turn I saw new friend Jason Vieth heading back into the aid station that he just left, forgetting his water bottle and doubling back to get it.  Jason is running the 100 as well, so using this as a training run, he was really cool with lending me some much needed camaraderie and kinship.  The two of us ran together for much of the next 12 miles, getting past 2 more evil climbs and to the Printer Boy aid station.  
The last road climb was just as bad as last year, a combination of power hiking and slow running, knowing that the top meant a crazy boulder downhill of 3 miles, then a 7 mile moderate descent.  Nicole and the boys made there way to the final 2 aid stations to cheer and lend support. I am so blessed with the most amazing wife and sons.  Being able to see them 4 times during the last 25 miles of this race was the main reason I had any energy and desire to make it to the finish.  When I crossed the finish line, my sense of accomplishment was so high.  
I had much better success last year, added nearly 50 minutes to my time in 2012 for an 8:34 total, but battling the mind over body for almost 8 hours makes this experience even more valuable.  In an email discussion with a good friend, he sent this note, all too perfect. "Sometimes my worst races are my greatest achievements… Quitting is simply not an option but the satisfaction that comes from working through that is awesome and character building.  Finishing when you are rocking and feeling great is easy.  Finishing when you feel like you are going to die is a lot harder!!!"  - Mark Barrett   July 16th, 2012

Thanks to Mark and all the other competitors that lend encouragement and support along the race day.  In the past 3 races in Leadville I have learned a lot about myself as a person, athlete, friend and husband.  I cannot wait to tackle the 100 bike, 10k and 100 run with the same love of the mountains and competition.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Leadville Marathon 2012 Race Report

An hour before race time!
 Holy crap!  Quite hard to find the words to explain the never ending panoramic mountain views, unbelievable kinship with fellow racers and sense of accomplishment from finishing the Leadville Marathon.  This Saturdays' race, my first in the Leadman Challenge has to be considered a success and I am so excited to have this ball rolling.  I did not feel much like a runner during this 26.2 mile, never flat mountain run, but I made it out feeling healthy and hungry for a more.  This is a much more competitive field than anyone could have predicted. 

Heath and I in the front at the 30 foot mark, chatting with TIM W (2nd Place overall!!!)
What was in the air to make 2012 the year that all of these guys wanted to string together this 10,000 plus foot adventure in insanity along with me?  Tim Waggoner, Troy Howard, Jeff Spencer, Al Thresher and Chris Westerman are the 5 guys ahead of me in the Leadman standings and all are such cool guys that had great marathons runs.  And so many other great racers right behind.

My race started out okay and did not get much better.  The Leadville Race series had to have been developed with the notion that the shorter the race, the harder the terrain.  So if you are looking for an easy out by doing just the marathon, look elsewhere.  My time on this course was nearly an hour slower than another trail run from 4 months ago and even slower than a 32 mile trail run from last year.  Was it my lack of taper or level of difficulty?  Not entirely sure, but I was just never able to get my legs to turn over like I typically can.  I ran most of the day in out of a couple groups of runners.  Chatting up with new friends Luke Crespin of Denver and Scott Swaney of Highlands Ranch.  Great guys that had awesome results.

Our first climb, right out of the gates gained 2000 feet in 6 miles, dropped us down to 11,200 and into the aid stations.  Then we made our way up Mosquito Pass to that glorious 13.1 mile mark at 13,185.  The climb up was much more of a heart pumping, fast paced hike.  I am sure the top guys ran a good portion of that 3 mile stretch, but us mortals did all we could to find solid traction and carry upward and onward.  At the turn I felt my spirits lift, knowing we just had to crank some massive downhilling and one climb and we'd be home.  But this descent was far from what the Doctor ordered. 

The "good" line of the trail was being used by the uphill hikers, so going down required picking through endless loose rocks, boulders and 2-3 foot drops.  Check out Marathon runner Nick Lee's video.  Going downhill fast, in this fashion is scary, fun and damned dangerous.  I made it down unscathed but my stomach turned upside down and I had quite a headache.  I made a short pit stop, cruised through the aid station and buckled down for the final uphill.  This dirt road turned to single track climb never ended and I tried to keep some guys in sight and not let too many others gain on me.  We all had a similar, sagged shoulder form about us, just trying to get through it all. Getting to that final aid station at mile 22 was awesome, all of the volunteers were so helpful and really fun.  WE CANNOT do these events without them, I continually try to thank them and feed off the energy.  One guy screamed, "4 miles! All downhill!"  That got me fired up, but I seemed to remember a little uptick after a few unmanned water coolers.  I hit the water coolers, poured some cold h2o over my head and cruised up the hill and tried to drill the final 2 miles into town. Towards the end, I get so excited to see Nicole and my boys that it drops minutes off of my per mile pace.  That finish line was so far down the road, but my stride picked up and I was so stoked to see Rocco run towards me right before the finish line. 

I was pumped to be done and had fun recapping the race with lots of new friends and competitors.  I want to thank Nicole and my boys for their crazy support.  Heath (finishing in 3:50, awesome race bro!) and Amanda Kirschner with Ella and Georgia cheering wildly! Kevin Curtis, one of my best buds for his support, picture taking and cheering as always.  Paul Landry for the on course cheering and my great bud Pat Sullivan for showing up unannounced after climbing a couple 14ers earlier that day.  So cool to see everyone.  THANKS ADDAERO for the amazing support!  Pics and sum up below...
Finishing up!

W/ Sawyer and Spiderman Plane (last known whereabouts, if you find this plane, please let us know!!!)

My big boy Rocco.
Love of my life, Nicole!
Heath and I at the finish of our third 2012 Marathon of together.
 We are made well aware of the millions of sedentary people in our society and it is disheartening to say the least.  But the public also needs to take note of all of these exceptional, yet very normal people going above and beyond their physical limitations to compete in endurance events around the country every day.  It was amazing to see nearly 600 other friends and companions climbing and climbing to the turn around at Mosquito Pass - just to run back. Smiles, laughs, picture takers and competitors made up a field of amazing athletes, Congrats to all who partook in the Leadville Marathon!

13 days until the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile BIKE and 50 mile RUN...

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Beginning - Leadville LEADMAN 2012

Tomorrow, June 30th, will kick off the Leadville Leadman 2012 Epic Challenge.  It is going to be an amazing journey from start to finish of each event.  I have had the great opportunity to work myself into the best fitness of my life over the last couple of years only to start the real challenge now.

Am I nervous? Yes, but mostly regarding the things I cannot control.  Mechanical, weather and the other factors that can shut down a racing season.  The difference with nerves and the LEADMAN Challenge is the fact that we race on 6 separate days over the next 9 weeks.

Leadville Marathon,
50 mile Mtn Bike,
50 mile Trail Run,
100 mile Mtn Bike,
10k Run and
100 mile Trail run... 
How do really ever calm down?

After tomorrow, "one" down and "five" to go does not ease the anxiety.  That damn 100 mile run looms overhead and completely overwhelms any positive vibe on a good training effort or race performance.  But I signed up for this!
Nicole and the boys in Telluride!
My good fortune starts at home. I have had such unbelievable support from my wife Nicole and my boys Rocco and Sawyer through it all.  With their help, I have been able to spend insane hours running, biking and cross training in preparation for the madness. 
Jared & I on top of Grays Peak 14er...windy!
It has all gone to plan thanks to my Coach and brother Jared who has provided none stop coaching, advice and joined me for some mega workouts.  Just awesome man. Thanks for putting up with my year and guiding me on this journey.
Heath & I after 14er Pikes Peak Ascent 2011.
I have also had my best friend Heath Kirschner rise and shine with me on nearly all of my trail runs over the past couple years.  His never say die attitude is contagious and has helped me get to where I am.  Thanks dude!  I still can't believe 3:45 AM was your breaking point, puss...

The other training buddies for this ramp up have been great in their support.  Thanks to Jeff Koski, Taylor Fenn, Pat Sullivan, Rob Kosick, Patrick Garcia, Paul Landry, Will Johnson and Jason Tischer.  Awesome guys!

Lastly, the guys at Addaero have been ridiculous.  Their belief in my abilities and what I am trying to accomplish, illustrates to me that there can be a long life to my plan.  Thanks Kevin, Josh and Wade! 

I am really excited to meet the other Leadman competitors, hear their stories and create some awesome memories together.  These will be my brethren for the rest of the summer and the only other people that will understand the real pain and suffering. This event can only be defined as a competition with yourself, fighting back the demons in your head to persevere to the end.  Let's get after this and stay healthy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Training

Sunrise from Belcher Trail @ White Ranch
Had a lot of fun this weekend with an old college friend Jason Tischer coming into town.  We planned some great trail running and a little biking for the weekend.  The penultimate run taking place in Golden this past Saturday.  We netted just over 27 miles, with about 6900 vertical gain (  For Jason to come from Minnesota and accomplish this fitness weekend was nothing short of spectacular.  But being a college friend, we still had to give him a hard time and try our best to break his body and spirit.  He survived with some scratches and a broken Garmin watch.

Video and Other highlights included:

  • Jared nearly executing on the steepest mountain bike climb out of White Ranch, showing off extreme power and focus, despite my vociferous live action play by play from behind his rear wheel. He made it 98% of the climb before extreme exhaustion and an off camber log sent him into a trail-side bush.
  • Heath screaming like an 8 year old girl, leaping clear out of the trail at the sight of a 20 inch Garter Snake.
  • Jason tumbling off the trail at Mt Falcon and recovering for the fastest final descent, knowing he would not have to run up another mountain for months!
  • Tree trimming, yard work and beers for 6 hours on the Sunday "recover" day.
  • 2012 Kortsch Maryland Crab Fest with Mint Julips, beer, wine and the best friends in the world.
The weekend was made successful with the amazing support and understanding of my wife and the help of my friends.  I am so fortunate to have the best group of people that are willing to wake up earlier and earlier to partake in the madness of training for Leadman 2012. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Salida Trail Marathon 2012

Salida at 7000 feet above sea level, is a small town nestled within three mountain ranges in the middle of our amazing state of Colorado.  You can view fifteen, 14,000 foot peaks from various locations in town as the panoramic views never end.  I chose the Salida Trail Marathon as my first race of 2012 for a number of reasons.  The race distance and course set up perfectly for March, the location is under three hours from Denver and the race field attracts top competition.  No sandbagging in this event, these guys are for real.  I wanted to test my metal against a faster crew of runners at a shorter distance.
At the start w/ Heath Kirschner & Rob Kosick. Neighbors and best friends!

My training going into this race had been great.  Running volume was high, getting 8 to 12 hours weekly and even my cycling hours were up to about 5 or 8 a week.  My fitness was growing steadily and I was gaining confidence as each week increased in time and intensity.  Then the Great Head Cold/Flu of 2012 took me down about 8 days out from the race. Life and training came to a screeching halt as I had no energy and congestion beyond belief.  My symptoms cleared a few days before the race, which is more than I can say for a few others I knew toeing the line.  The silver lining had to be how great my legs did feel.  The rest time off (3 days) and easy running loosened my hamstrings and eased a lot of muscle soreness built up over the last year.

I was feeling great as the family rolled into Salida on Friday afternoon and the spectacular views energized my racing spirits. We were so fortunate to rent an amazing little Brownstone home right in town for us and the Kirschners. Never using our cars once we parked. The house was complete with an under stair play nook for the kids and full kitchen, so we could control our ingredients and watch our wives cook another amazing pre-race meal.  Thanks love!

The weather forecast could not have been better with mid 40s to 50 degrees expected for the entire race.  Even knowing with certainty that the sun was shining and the temps were plenty warm, I can't fully explain the hilarity of grown men discussing and choosing what to wear for a mountain race.  Nervous about being too cold, too warm and not matching!  Hours of deliberation still had us shedding layers only seconds before the race started and shorts and tees were the way to go.   

My plan was to take this race conservative and push the effort closer to mile 18, not at mile 1.  Out of the gates, runners pressed and soon the lead pack and half marathoners were well up the road.  Heath and I settled into our rhythm and made a lot of passes when we hit the single track climb at mile 2.  The first section of single track, miles 2 thru 8, was some of the most fun running I have done.  We cruised up and down and around with snow covered peaks viewable from every direction.  My legs and lungs felt great and I was getting really excited about my potential for the race.  
Mile 4.25 mark, big smiles!

We popped out onto a dirt service road that lead straight uphill with no end in sight.  At this time I realized my pre-race research was pretty far off from where the course would lead us to now.  I had found a 2010 course description and elevation chart that was not at all similar to the race we actually completed.  All the more reason trail running is so fun, unpredictable and an ultimate test of your mind and body.  Even at this 'short' distance, not knowing the course and how the elevation gain plays out can be a mental struggle. Dealing with this unknown and enjoying your surroundings and the race camaraderie was much more fun then dwelling on an unexpected 4 mile uphill section.  About a half mile from the top, I was able to see the lead runners descending before heading back into the network of trails and crap they were running fast.  

When I hit the turn around I pressed my downhill pace and felt great.  I was amazed at how many guys were in front of me at that point, maybe 12 runners and many more quite close behind.  At the second aid station, about mile 14, we hit some dirt trails and this is where the snow and mud portion of the race began.  This section appears to be a sustained downhill, but the unsure footing, mud and 20 to 30 foot rolling climbs really made it difficult to conserve energy and cruise.  This is where I find trail running to trump mountain bike racing in level of difficulty.  When I run these sections and realize how little rest there is in a run race, I long for two wheels and sustaining momentum up and down these climbs.  A few miles into this section, my new friend Ryan Kircher caught up and we had some great conversation about ice hockey and running in Evergreen, his training for the Western States 100 and life.  This helped pass the time, as we had to pick our way down some really steep, loose and gnarly rock trails.  Jamming down this section was fun, but destroyed my quads for the upcoming final descent.  When we arrived at the mile 20 aid station I refilled the water bottle and Ryan and I shared a PBR.  Yeah, a mile later, the beer was about as good an idea as it seems!  

The final 6 miles were some of the most difficult running and were somehow not all downhill.  Ryan took off down the trail and I was just trying to hold my tempo and finish strong.  The undulating and tight single track was so hard to run fast. I felt like my leg stability was at an all time low and the back and forth rhythm that trail running requires turned into a downhill survival game.  In my mind, I had planned on this section being a straight section of downhill dirt road, not at all, but this was much more fun.  When we finally rounded a corner and you could see the town of Salida down in the valley, I felt great about the home stretch.  Then I saw my buddy Rob running up along a ridge, about a half mile ahead.  Two thoughts entered my head. First off, I was super bummed for Rob, he is a much faster runner than I and was in 4th place when I saw him at the turn.  He must have blown up his Achilles and was just suffering into town.  Secondly, what the hell was he doing up so high, did we have to climb another damned trail?!

Sure enough, the last aid station was another 4 minute climb that was not bad, but lasted plenty of time.  After a small cup of Coke and some water on my face, I tried my best to speed up and descend into town with dignity.  It was a great finish, swooping under a bridge and up to the tape.  As I looped around the trail, my eyes fixated on Nicole, Rocco and Sawyer cheering and smiling as I crossed the line, all the negative thoughts and pain disappeared.  I had conquered another trail race and was extremely proud of myself.  Being a father at the finish line is the best.  My boys gave me the biggest hug, not that they understood how far we all traversed, but because they hadn't seen me in about 3 and a half hours.  Their love isn't predicated on my placing in the race or even whether I race at all.  They were so excited to say HI and even more stoked to show me their new Toy Story airplanes and fashioned capri pants for stream crossing.

This event is a must do, The Chaffee Cty Running Club does an amazing job with support, trail marking and executing this wonderful event.  I am so thankful for all of the love and support of my family and friends this last weekend, I couldn't have done so well without them.  I will definitely be back for another go around in Salida, this was way too much fun.  The official results place me at 18th place, finishing in a time of 3:49.  Here is my Garmin link for the race statistics, they look so docile, Garmin needs an Embellishment button for times like these, the race was WAY harder, haha, (.)

Next up, Boston Marathon April 16th!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Energy Source ~ FRIENDS

Ring, Ring
"Joe, I hate to bother you with this. Got a quick question about running shoes..."
My second favorite phone call of this week.

I have friends that are as active and psychotic as I am in relation to running, biking, triathlon and outdoors. And I have other close friends that are much more realistic and are enjoying life in other ways. At times, the two worlds merge and a friend will get motivated to compete and the flood gates open.  I LOVE this process and get so motivated each time I talk to them, expounding on the ins and outs of training, whole life balance and executing on the goal.  

Through the years I have gained fitness knowledge from personal experience, secondary research and via friends/racers.  I constantly apply this knowledge in my search for how I can best balance my fitness, racing and life.  Being able to talk with newcomers about this process is my favorite part of being an Ambassador of Crazy.  I do not take this task lightly and feel blessed to have people look to me for advice and guidance.  Not entirely altruistic, these conversations are additional fuel I need to continue my quest. After a quick sharing of training thoughts, race experience or shoe advice; I want to get outside and fire off another run or ride.  Being able to utilize my best friends as sources for energy and share my passion for fitness with them is another component to keeping my focus and motivation.  

I respond, "These phone calls are awesome, I love that you are getting after it. Never stop asking questions and please let me know how I can continue helping."

Currently, I have been passing along a lot of running shoe advice.  I have many pairs of kicks that serve different purposes.  They have been collected over the years and some have well over 1000 miles on them and I still use them. Running stores don't like me much...
My shoe line up: 
Vibram FiveFingers - Training tool that keep my form and build up discreet leg muscles.  Weekly Miles 10 to 15. 
Inov8 X-Talons 212 - No support, minimal trail runner. Trails only, don't want to wear out the claws. Weekly Miles 12 to 30.
Nike Lunar Elite - Road cushion shoe. Weekly miles 5 to 30.
Nike old school - Flat, no frills shoe. Treadmill running or easy road. Weekly Mile 0 to 15.
Nike Air Pre - Road cushion, no support. Office runners with cushion.  Weekly Miles 15 to 50.
Nike Trail Runners - Beefy trail shoes that I use in the city when conditions are bad, with some YakTrax. Weekly Miles 0 to 20.
Puma FAAS 250 - Marathon racing shoes. Cushion, super low profile. Weekly Mile Racing only.
Puma Yugo Run - Cushion, no support. Fast trainers for interval and speed work. Weekly Mile 10-30.

In a given week I will run 7 to 10 times and cycle through each pair, not letting my legs to too used to a single runner.  The website is where I purchase most of my shoes now.  Great pricing and free shipping and free returns.  If you are unsure on sizing, a good buddy taught me to buy 2 sizes and return the one that doesn't fit...

"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts." -Steve Prefontaine

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


In 2012, I plan to raise the stakes, put it all on the line, give 110% and any additional cliche that can be applied.  The challenges have been lined out and I am excited about the road ahead.  I can't even imagine competing in any of my 2012 events without the support of my wife, her support is unwavering!!! She and our boys are the motivation that gets me to work so hard and to the finish line. Thanks Nicole!

This is not a New Year's Resolution or Pre Mid-Life Crisis.  I have been training my legs, lungs and mind for this cause, much of the last 15 years.  The extreme focus began one year ago; since then, we have been executing on a well formulated plan.  With the help of my Coach, using, we have tested my base training, plans for increased distance and speed work.  All with the goal to test my limits and determine if the 2012 LEADMAN Competition was the next logical step.  I was able to rack up 2600 miles of running and another 4200 miles of cycling in 2011.  The results of my racing as well as how my body held up were great and I have been maintaining the level of training throughout my "offseason".  

So there it is, this coming year, it is really on.  
I plan to race:
January 21 - 30k Snowshoe Trail Run - Nederland, CO
April 16th - BOSTON Marathon
May/June - 50k Trail run to be determined

Then the Leadman Competition.  To get a better idea of what the Leadman entails, check out the great video the organizers put together.  Only difference being, I will be racing both the 50 mile Bike and 50 mile Run in July, opting to hedge the chance of bike malfunction (great idea P.Garcia!) and as a great high altitude training weekend.

The Epic Challenge spans June 30th to August 18th and will be 6 weeks of awesome.
2012 LEADMAN Competition
June 30th - Leadville Marathon 26.2 Mile RUn
July 14th - Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Bike Race
July 15th - Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Run Race
August 11th - Leadville Trail 100 Mile Mtn Bike Race
August 12th - Leadville 10k Run Race
August 18th - Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run Race

Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.