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Saturday, June 27, 2015

San Juan Solstice 2015

 San Juan Solstice 2015


Prologue (or something)

Well... I haven't posted for a while. One can only do so many things in life and Leadman training that I was posting so much about a while back came to a grinding halt. Well... Posting halted but training has been great. I love not having a coach and just being able to ad lib it. It seems to be working pretty well. I hope to make some backward posts about as many details as I can remember to get caught up eventually but this race is most freshly on my mind. I wish I had cool pictures but not badly enough to have carried a camera this race. Hopefully, I find a cool photo or two on the web in the near future to add to this report.

Friday June 26 rolled around and I was almost a week from finishing the Leadville Trail Marathon. I had laid down a decent training week but some late week storms cut into what I felt was a really key training week for the next bit at the Leadman series with the two Silver Rush 50s just 3 weeks away. That leaves just two solid weekends for training and I didn't want to do anything huge the weekend before over 4th of July. Friday rolled around and I got an ultra-signup alert that there were 7 slots open for the San Juan Solstice 50. I thought that couldn't be right. That race always fills up within minutes and this year there was even a lottery which meant probably a long waiting list. Anyhow, I called the RD, and asked him if that was right. He said absolutely! I proceeded to tell my boss I needed to leave work early (priorities!) and called the wife to beg her permission for this last minute decision. As I registered, I was intrigued as I wanted to beat last year's time where I was very ill prepared but I didn't want to hurt my bid at Leadman. I seemed to be healing fast from other events this year and I figured if I just ran the race and not raced and took the next two weeks easy, I just might be ok. I punched the clock and raced home to pack my bags. Thankfully, I didn't commute by bike that day due to the ill forecast that was 100% wrong. I quickly packed some food and drop bag and race items and said my goodbyes to Anna and wished her and my son well. I felt kind of bad leaving them as our house was still all torn apart from our toilet flooding incident the weekend prior while we were in PBville.

I really wanted to make the evening checkin cutoff at 7 PM but as luck would have it with a combination of Friday Afternoon mountain traffic, construction in several spots only allowing one way traffic, I found myself zooming south on CO 149, which is arguably the most beautiful drive in the state in order to make it. I rolled into town at just after 7 and picked up my race packet and number at the race check-in, this year at an Art gallery vice the Armory town gym. I left my drop bags while I texted my friends Andy and Sarah from NM. I met them last year at the Pagosa Springs Devil Mountain 50 and then ran again to them again at Jemez this year. Turns out they were camping just up engineer pass road. My dad and I had a great time at Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grill last year so I thought I would give it another shot for dinner. This race does a cool thing and gives $15 vouchers for any of several local restaurants. This is cool for the local business. After plopping at the bar and ordering a tasty beverage, I was informed that the wait was 90 minutes plus so I gulped my drink down and bounced. I made my way over to Poker Alice and ordered me a Bison Burger while I readied my gear for the next day. After getting my food, I drove up Engineer Pass Road to find Andy and Sarah huddled in their Tacoma away from the skeeters and we chatted for a while and caught up while I scarfed my delicious burger. We were bedded down by 9:30ish and as always on my first night of camping, I slept horribly.

Race Morning

4AM came quickly and I went on with the usual morning routine. I was already dressed for the race and just put on my socks and shoes and quickly broke down the tent and threw my gear in the back of the Prius. I missed having my tacoma with the "mobile bed" to sleep in and not have to setup a tent but getting 52 miles per gallon on the round trip was also nice. With a slathering of sunscreen, a quick poop in the woods, and some key swipes of vaseline in my bits and bytes, I was about ready. I sipped my warm coffee from my thermos as I ate my signature pre-race pop-tarts. Breakfast of champions! By 4:25 we were on our way into town and got rockstar parking at the city park. It was eerily warm at probably 60 degrees so I decided to start in a t-shirt but with gloves. I carried the hand bottle with the small pouch for snacks and the fanny pack bottle with my rain coat and minimal medical supplies and a lighter. With an afternoon rain forecast for over 40% I was sure we would get rain and I was just hoping to be out of the alpine before it happened. Pre-race I ran into Mark Porter who I also met at Devil Mountain and Jemez where he beat me and then I beat him. I also saw Rocque and we said our hellos as he was surprised to see me. I had bib number 246 of 246 with my late signup. I said to a few other familiar faces and met some other new ultra friends as we waited anxiously for the start. 5 mins before the race, I realized I was still sporting my pink and purple kids headlamp and I didn't want to carry that so I dropped it in the car.

Start to Alpine Aid

At 5AM sharp, the starting gun went off as we all lined the street. A little smarter about the course than last year, I started near the front as we began running through town in the dark. As always the front few runners went straight and missed the right turn for Engineer Pass road where we would do the first 2.7 miles. I was torn on this gradual climb as for a race of this difficulty and distance, my strategy would be to keep the heartrate below 160 and stay back from the front so I could pass people later if I was feeling good. I learned the lesson last year though that if you do this, when it pinches to single track after you cross Henson Creek (rushing river) you will be walking and waiting in line at the umpteen river crossings behind folks that had no business sprinting up the road and are now causing traffic jams. Ok, that was a little harsh, naturally with that many people, there are going to be traffic jams no matter the speed. This year, I am in much better shape than last year and will honestly not be in this good of shape the rest of my live. Leadman and the commitment is kind of a one time thing since I value my family and my marriage.

After this year, I will go back to only ultra running and drop the biking racing part. I will still ride for commuting and recovery but not at training levels. Bottom line is that last year from the start of the year to the race, I had 177 hours total of training and half that was January and Feb and almost none in the several weeks prior. Last year my determination and history with 14ers and altitude got me through this race and I was puking for 2 days after because of putting my body through more than it was in shape for. This year, I had roughly 329 training hours before the race and was feeling much better with even a couple of 3 a day workouts. Anyhow, back to this race. To stay roughly 1/3 of the way back in the pack, I was having to do sub 7:30 pace the first couple miles up the gradual hill. I was trying to keep my heartrate below 170 as we climbed which was already too high but I was willing to sacrifice. As we climbed, several folks passed me huffing and puffing hard and I wondered what they were thinking. The last half mile, I realized I let too many pass me as the road steepened and I didn't want to deal with that at the river crossings so I picked up pace and passed 20 or so bringing my heartrate to something like 185 before crossing the bridge onto the singletrack where I found myself right behind Mark Porter. We jogged up through the trees as we chatted. I was glad to have a more relaxed pace now and brought my heartrate down to the 160-165 range and hiked some of the steeper small spots. This was gravely different than the forced hike here last year. As we arrived at the first river crossing, we skipped across. I think it was slightly lower water levels than last year. After a couple more, the feet were numb and would just start to warm up before we got into another. Most had ropes this year where I think none or 1 did last year. Only one time was there a bit of a jam as people waited for one that allowed you to walk on a log. With the clock ticking, I didn't want to be standing around so I decided to just forgo the rope and log and go through the water. OOps. There is a reason they were waiting, I ran and quickly found that it was deeper than appeared as I stepped almost up to my waist and fell and soaked my gloves. I was just hoping it wasn't too cold up high to freeze my wet hands but this is why I wore the OR gloves and not leather biking gloves.

After the last river crossing I busted out a honey stinger waffle and my first salt cap. After I ate the waffle, I went right into a bag of honey stinger chews. Somewhere in here, I realized that I dropped Porter. It was nice chatting with him but I figured he would catch and surpass me on the descent because that is is his specialty. I just kept one in my cheek almost the whole race from then on out. The climb began to steepen up the mountain and the mixed running and hiking turned almost to 100% power hiking as I saw a good 20-30 folks all strung out in front of me for as far as I could see up. I would run any small section just to keep my legs remembering this was a Run. I kept my HR below 165 the whole way up. I was much faster than last year where I was pushing 180 all of the way up this too which is a testament to proper training. I passed a handful of guys and what I later found was the lead female on this section who had passed me below after one of the water crossings. I arrived at Alpine aid feeling fresh and finished one 24oz bottle of Gu Rocktane. I thanked the kind folks for being there but didn't take anything as I swapped bottles for the remaining distance to Williams Creek.

Alpine Aid to Williams Creek

From Alpine Aid, the climb continues. The few guys who were behind me all stopped to get aid so I got some distance there as I focused on the next gentlemen in front of me. It was a really tall guy. I notice funny things about people as I am running. Surprisingly, I was able to run more than not to the top of the climb out of the trees. With some more ups, down, and sideways through the alpine terrain, I outhiked a couple more guys as I took note of the extreme beauty that we are so lucky to have in this state. There were a couple of snow crossings but they were already soft. In no time, I was descending towards Williams creek. I tried to keep the pace modest so as not to blow out muscles that would be needed later. Rather than rocketing down, I kept the HR around 150 and the pace around 8 min/mile. Just above treeline, I had to stop once to dump a rock. About a mile before Williams Creek, I saw Porter 100 yards behind me. He caught up like I thought. I decided to slightly pick it up here to the aid. Felt good to be able to do this as last year I was already walking downhill here and hurting badly. I rolled into the aid and was glad I had no drop bag to slow me down here. I just had the race crew top off my 2 bottles with AcliMate, grabbed a handful of fruit and a handful of tortilla guacamole thingies. I think I got here 20 minutes faster than last year and was feeling a whole lot better.

Williams Creek to Carson

I was in and out in well under a minute and said hi to Jason Schlarb on the way by like were friends or something.  haha. Other than him serving me a burger at Run Rabbit Run last year, he has never seen me and probably has no reason to recognize me but said hello anyhow and smiled. I ran down through the campground and began the gradual climb up the dirt road towards the next section of hte course. Last year, I walked much of this partly because I was hurting and partly because of the popped water bladder fiasco. This year, I was running and trying to keep the Heart rate around 160 and keeping the pace around 9 min/mile average. A couple short miles later, I managed to eat all of the fruit and dissolve some of the guac tortillas in my cheek. No one passed me on this section but a couple of gents caught up to right behind me. As soon as we turned up the steep 4 mile climb to Carson, I began to hike and took another salt pill. I was just about on schedule of one per hour but was a little past on this one I think. This section is steep jeep road for the next few miles so I mostly speed hiked as I put some distance on the couple of dudes behind me and passed a couple in front. Knowing this section was only about 6 miles from aid to aid and the next was much longer, I decided to go heavy on the liquids. My goal was to to finish both 24 oz bottles of aclimate before reaching Carson. One gentlemen went jogging right up the road and passed me quick and was gone. I thought about running and knew it would be faster but didn't want to burn out energy I needed later. With the HR around 160 still I kept pushing and it was beginning to get warm. The last mile or so, the road mellows a bit and I ran maybe 2/3 of the time and hiked the rest to keep the HR in check. I slowly reeled in the 3 guys I could see in front of me and came into Carson right behind them feeling good. I finished off my second bottle right as I pulled up. Already 4 X 24 oz bottles down in the first 20 miles! There, I got my first drop bag and re-slathered sunscreen and swapped bottles. I decided to go with 3 full 24 oz bottles. 2 of Electrolite and one of H20. This meant one in each hand and one on  the back. I also decided to drop the gloves and not pick up the leather biking gloves. I always run with gloves in case of a fall but I decided to risk it today. Right before I bounced, I chugged 2 cups of Coke. My first of the day but great timing for the next long long hard section.

Carson to Divide


The wonderful aid crew sent me out with a baggie of fruit. This was nice as I am used to carrying it in my gloves or whatever. I hiked out and settled my pace taking my second pee of the day. I kept the hike moderate as I sucked down the fruit. A couple of guys were close behind out of the aid and the guys that I had caught had gained some distance. The ebbs and flows of an ultra... As we got back up above treeline, it was still heating up but I was feeling good and glad I took it easy for a while to eat the fruit. I knew this section was long but it was the last of the major climbing except for the Vickers climb. Really I think 75% of the climbing is in the first half of this course. In the final amount of climbing to the top of the divide, I passed a couple more and was trailing a few more guys. I had no idea where I was in the pack but figured I was in 50th or something. Not really sure but I just kept moving. I hiked where it was steep and ran when possible to keep the HR around 160 sometimes now falling into the upper 150s where my MAF really is for fat burning maximum. Right at the high point of the course, the 3 in front of me stopped for a quick breath and pee and I took the liberty to pass. Just after this is the 25 mile mark and I was just under 5:30 for time. This was an hour faster than last year and I was feeling much stronger still. There were darker clouds off in the distance but I was sure I would be back in the trees before they arrived (at least I hoped). Luckily, I have been in the mountains long before running and have a good aptitude for reading mountain weather. The divide has some ups and downs but you stay above 13K for quite a while. I was feeling good through here going around the snow fields where needed. Somewhere in here, I stubbed my toe that I forgot was recently broken and remembered the pain. Right after that, I took a pretty big slip in the mud and ate it hard. I realized I was getting a bit tired so I sucked down a gel. After a final really soggy section before starting to really descend to Divide, the downhill began. I was cruising along but still tired. Looking at my 3 X 48 oz bottles, I had just enough to make it to Carson without running out. I was immediately glad at my choice for 3 bottles vs. 2 as I saw another runner pack some snow in his bottle. I got passed by 3 I think on the descent here and took another slip in the mud just before the aid as I face planted this time. Another gentlemen asked if I was alright and I said... "Of course, It's just mud you know" I was really feeling it at this point and figured I was losing it and wondered if I would just stay a zombie for the remainder of the course of I would rise back from the dead. I hiked up the final hill to the aid at 31 miles where I wrung out my socks I had on best I could and suited back up while the awesome aid folks  served me about 5 cups of coke. I tried to eat a pickle here and spat it out realizing I was over  salted. I figured this was why I was starting to slow down and zombify so I asked the aid folks for just 2 bottles of water and no electrolyte. I grabbed a handful of pb&J and this crew sent me with another baggie of fruit.

Divide to Slum

Coming out of the aid, the lead female I had passed earlier was rolling in. She caught up and was right behind. I came out of the aid far behind the guys who had passed me on the descent and I could barely see them going over the next ridge most times. Another guy caught up and we both hiked up out of here. We talked a bit but I could tell he was about as fatigued as I was so we silently hiked. I would jog/hike some and then go back to hiking thinking the lead female would surely catch me here. Finally, we took the left turn and started to descend towards Slum. I went back to solely running for a full couple of miles and managed a 9-10 min pace finally forcing myself out of my over salted slump I began to distance myself from the guy behind me. When I got to where I could see the small climb up the pass to the rest of the descent, the guys in front were just cresting. They had well over a mile on me now. I hiked some of that climb in the decent headwind that teared up my eyes well before starting the descent. I was able to still run but I was probably averaging about 9 min pace. Sometimes faster, sometimes slower, I made my way down to the aid. My heartrate was locked right at about 155. I couldn't really push harder but the fat burning zone felt great and sustainable. I rolled into the aid at just under 8:20 I think. Last year, I was at 10 hours here. I suddenly wondered about the possibility of completing the race in 10:30.  This blew my mind as last year the last 10 miles took me about 2:30 to complete but I was feeling much worse. I quickly said hi to Sarah who had dropped at Williams due to IT issues and messed around with my aid bag restocking my honey stinger chews and having the aid crew take my trash, give me about 4 cups of mountain dew and coke and a baggie of fruit and I was gone jogging through the woods again. Much of the previous few miles, I could see no one behind me or in front of me although there were some runners sitting at the aid. I wondered if they were Williams Creek drops or if they were up here too. Either way... I finished off the second bottle of H20 just as I rolled in and felt like my salt was back under control.

Slum to Vickers

Just down the trail, I heard the aid station cheering in another runner. Someone else was catching me. I was torn here. I didn't want to go too fast and hurt Leadman with this bonus race but I really wanted sub 10:30. It was me vs. the clock. After navigating the faint trail back down to the road before the big climb, I tripped pretty good. I could tell I was tired and it was HOT. I started the big climb in a hike when I saw a guy behind me (like right behind) and then a guy and gal right behind him. I used them as motivation to keep moving. I managed to jog some less steep sections. Once we got into the aspens, I decided to just hike for a while as it was so humid around all of the green flourishing plants. Another guy passed the others and was right behind me. Near the top of the climb, the grade slightly eased and I ran some finally seeing 2 others in front of me earlier that we had piggy backed a couple of times. I made some ground on them until I decided to dump a rock. Of course, my shoelace knotted and it took me forever to untie. After I got all laced back up and moving, the rock was still there. It must have been in my sock. Oh well I thought, I really want 10:30. Through the descent, I could see the other two just too far to reach. I just kept moving and was feeling surprisingly good. My pace was still decent here and far far better than last year. I reached the Vickers aid having finished another bottle and 3/4. I had the crew just top off one bottle with water. I actually passed one guy right before the aid and found out he was from Georgia. What a BA to be running this fast from flat land. I didn't know how he was doing it. Right as I was pulling in, the other gentlemen bounced.

Vickers to Finish Line

After grabbing a handful of watermelon to go, I missed the turn and started going up again. Nicely, Georgia ran around the corner and shouted at me and said I was going the wrong way. I came back down to the aid and swore I was just wanting to climb some more haha. I made my way down the trail feeling great still but now a couple minutes behind the next guy. Suddenly, I had a spark and really wanted to make sub 10:30. I was still under 10 hours at this point thinking that last year at this point, I wasn't even at Slum yet. I picked up pace down the steep descent keeping it around or below 8 min. Based on my watch last year, I remembered it read 50.9 miles and that the run once off the mountain into town was longer than expected. I kept doing math thinking if I ran sub 9 min pace, I should make sub 10:30. This year I was crushing the descent where last year, I was barely able to hike it. I was shouting out loud like a crazy man in the heat. I was jokingly complaining to myself trying to keep the spirits high. I would shout It's effing hot out here at the top of my lungs. If anyone heard me, they probably thought I was crazy. I shouted other things like "KEEP IT TOGETHER MICAH." I was talking to myself and pepping myself up. For a while I think I was even singing Marine Corps running cadences "C-130's running down the strip, MICAH MORGAN is gonna take a little trip... Somewhere I stepped on a rock that jumped up and bit my ankle as I hollered OUCH. I was now less than 100 yd behind the gentlemen in front of me. Finishing the descent into town where it was pretty flat, I kept pushing wondering if I would make the 10:30 mark. I crossed the bridge behind this guy still running at around 8:30 pace which is all either of us could manage as we went for the finish. I looked at my watch and realized I was well under 10:30. Why did I go this fast? Oh well, maybe I should finish strong. I ran strong down the home stretch into the finish line and nabbed a 10:13. I was absolutely ecstatic. I dropped 2:17 off of last year and feel good vs like I wanted to die. The doc sat me down in the shade which I really didn't need but took a short break before looking at the finisher board. My tag was in 10th place. I was in disbelief as I asked the finish crew if that was correct. They said yes. I couldn't believe it. I knew I would be faster than last year but not by this much...Shortly after Rocque (who I never saw and figured was in front of me as usual) came in followed by the lead female and then Porter. To my surprise the finish line did not have beer which I think is the one main thing this race is missing. I grabbed my only 3 beers out of the ice chest and shared with Rocque and Porter in the hot sun. It was fun sitting there and cheering in all of the other runners. I hung around until around 13 and a half hours cheering folks in before making the decision to drive home. I was between staying the night to drive back early or driving back late. I really wanted to see Andy finish but Sarah was not yet down so I figured he was still pretty far back. I rationalized my decision with the fast that my family takes priority over Andy  even though I think he is one cool dude. I drove back home enjoying the views and pondering the day as I downed all sorts of liquids without needing to Pee.

All in all, I had a very successful day and much I think can be attributed to "holding back" for Leadman. One of the main key to races of this length is restraint early on not to goo too hard. I think I had about 3 gallons total of liquid between electrolyte drinks, water, and all the coke I drank along with one gel, one honey stinger waffle, 3 packs of honey stinger chews, tons of fruit, some pb and j and the delicious guacamole tortilla wraps. What a beautiful weekend, a beautiful run and a great time meeting old friends and new ones. I hope to do this race several more times in the years to come! Now the focus comes back to Leadman as I try and recover the next 2 weeks until the Silver Rush 50 MTB and Run on consecutive days. I'm sure my legs will be fine but the real key of focus is the endocrine system. I need full recovery so I don't bonk hard late in those events from 2 hard weeks of racing.

Until next time... 

See you at the top!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Leadville Trail Marathon 2015: Leadman Series Round 1


All of this training and the race is finally here. I decided that I would do this series back in December when I really locked down my training after gaining 10 lb. on my 2 month break from almost no running. By the time I signed up in January, it seemed so far away that it would never happen. Thankfully, I have been consistent with my training all year through the highs and lows (including the broken big toe. Throughout the broken toe times, I was able to focus on my biking and get it to a better place thus far and have been happy. I was even able to squeeze in a surprise 50 miler down at Jemez a few weeks ago as a final training push towards this goal. Before breaking my toe, my goal was to run this race in sub 4:30. I believed this was possible based on my last year's Salida Run through Time time of 4:00 and my Pikes Peak of 5:07 where I dogged it hard on the descent. I knew with solid training and a good race this would be possible. The first "test" race came this year at Salida where I hoped to shave 15 minutes and get a 3:45 as a healthy sign. Unfortunately, that race went well for the first half before ending differently than expected with the bonus miles and quad crippling cramps that forced downhill hiking. A 4:30 at Salida normally would indicate 5+ hours at this race based on statistics but I knew I had an off day that day due to the 12 hour puking episode the day prior. Anyhow, long story short, Leadman is about a path. It's not about winning or losing or place, but more about the personal Journey. This is all story of my journey including the toe and my expectation with the toe issues was honestly to pull a 4:45 at best given the lack of time on feet from expected. The Jemez race was an eye opener to what proper rest and recovery can do and my end result on this race was far more than I could have hoped for on my journey to earn the title Leadman.
(All photos courtesey of unless otherwise noted)
 Now, I am no stranger to earning titles which includes my history in the US Marines where I assuredly earned that title. While most people find one thing they are really really good about or passionate about where they find that their natural talents exist, I have consistently been troubled that I have never had that one thing. I find myself to be one of those jacks of all trades where I am pretty good at most anything I try but never among the top. What I have realized thus far through my Leadman journey is that I do in fact have one thing that I can pinpoint. No it isn't endurance running or technical mountain biking. The one thing that I am really good at is that I try really hard. Kind of like the movie Rudy where he isn't very good at football and is far too small but he tried really hard, I do that with all things in my life. I don't give partial effort on anything and the result is that I come out doing well at most things. You can call it determination or strong focus, but the bottom line is that the one thing I really have going for me is that when I decide to do something, I commit to it.

The journey this year towards Leadman showcases that strong commitment. Only thing is that I am also strongly committed to other things. This is not an excuse but to show that determination. I have a Wife and Son whom I care dearly about and who get some time that would be otherwise training. I also was wrapping a Master of Science in Systems Engineering degree this spring that I ended up with a 4.0 in. Ok. now you get the point. I don't want to sound like I am bragging. Just trying to relay that I give 100%. Being sold on the Maffetone method a little over a year ago, I understand the importance of training smartly and at sustainable paces. I also understand the importance of minimizing cortisol. The way to do this is training at or below Maximum Aerobic Function efforts but also minimizing general life stress. While having a busy life filled with family, school, a job that includes shift work, and taking care of my grandmothers finances, I have figured out how to not be stressed. Basically, I decide to not let stuff stress me out. The one negative consequence is that things on the fringes are definitely effected and thus the reason this kind of training effort is a one time gig. Things like normal honey do chores around the house and hanging out with friends and family members have to be sacrificed. I hang on to the bare minimum of things that include time spent with my family when not training. So here we have it. Low Stress+Adequate Recovery+Consistent training+resting adequately=Recipe for success. I think the biggest strength so far is my flexibility. If I was planning a long run for a certain day and wasn't feeling up to it, I simply didn't do it. Sometimes I just did it the next day. Sometimes I skipped it. Point being that I never dropped off the radar and stayed consistent as displayed by 300+ hours of training from 1 Jan until this race.

Ok, so now that I talked your ear off, I haven't started reporting on the race yet. Well. Hold your horses or scroll down or something like that, there is more... So major advice to future Leadmen. When you sign up in January, book your lodging right then. Don't wait for open registration for other races as it becomes increasingly difficult to lock down lodging. I am already staying in Buena Vista for the 100s because I waited too long. I was able to snag this cool house for the Marathon though and I highly recommend the house and the owners. We stayed at 1010 Harrison Ave just a few blocks up from the start in a dog friendly house that was advertized to sleep 7. I found this house on for a decent price and it was perfect for our fam. I brought my wife, son, parents in Law, and my Bro in Law and his GF who were running the Marathon and Heavy Half as well. We all fit with beds to spare.
We drove up thursday night and arrived a bit late after my son puking 3 times on the drive up from windy roads and then without realizing fed him a kids energy bar as part of his dinner that had him up and crazy half of the night. Friday was filled with a big family breakfast and then a walk downtown to pick up race packets. By afternoon, we put down Eli and the runners plus the wife's dad went for some up high scouting of the course. We parked at Aid station B and went up from there. I slow jogged up feeling the soreness from last minute speedwork on Wednesday where I had to prove to myself that I can still run 8 miles in under an hour (even after biking home from work). Worried about my soreness, I kept the effort at an easy jog up the soggy trail. I ended up turning around at about 12,900' at about 2.5 mi up from the car and then raced back down with my dog Baz to meet the others about half mile above the car and hiked to the finish. The amount of shoveling was apparent and the race crew did a lot of work to get this thing ready. Imagine running on wet, muddy, softballs though.  The run refreshed my legs. That evening we went to Tennessee Pass Cafe for happy hour and some appetizers where the food was spectacular. We went home and had Moma's famous Lasagna at my request for dinner.

Race Morning

Finally!!! It is here and Finally I am done babbling about pre-race this and that but this race does mark a large milestone in this Leadman journey. Waking up race morning with a much better night's sleep, I began the pre-race routine. Coffee... Check. Two poops... Check. Pop tarts.... Check. Two hard boiled eggs... Check. Gatorade, check. Coconut water... Check.  The weather was nice enough that I went sans Jacket. I carried one 24 oz water bottle with GU rocktane and a small pouch for snacks and TP. I carried a couple gels and a couple honey stinger chews. I rocked my normal faded Strava Leadville 100 2013 hat (which I did not run) and my Jemez shirt and mountain biking gloves since I seem to trip a lot. For shoes, I went with my Altra Olympus 1.5s as I am still babying that broken big toe. Pre-race weather was gorgeous. We did the obligatory family photos pre-race and I did a 10 min warmup up the avenue and back on top of the 5 minute walk down to the race from the house. I was ready and psyched. Just before the race, I ran into fellow Leadman, Marvin Sandoval, who got 3rd place overall last year on his third time becoming a leadman. It was a privilege to get to talk with a guy like this who has proven he has what it takes in the past. I also ran into another Leadman from New York. We talked for a bit and exchanged numbers. He and another prospect were going to do a training ride up St. Kevins the next day and said I could join. They recognized Active Duty and Vets which was cool and then played the National Anthem and then Thunderstruck by AC DC. I liked Thunderstruck but I was a little peeved they cut into the end of the Anthem with it. Then, shortly after Ken Choubler's famous words, we were off at the sound of the shot gun.

The Race

Start to Aid Station A (6.1 Mi)

At the sound of the gun, we were off. Leadman has officially started. People began to sprint up the avenue like a bunch of banshees. I quickly settled into a pace that kept my heartrate in check between 165 and 170. People were literally skyrocketing by. After a mile or two after splitting off the heavy half course a ways, the road quickly steepened and most people reduced to a hike. I was able to continue my jog without going into the red on my heartrate and the passing began. Running a marathon, strategy is very different than a 50 mile as I would never run on grades as such on a 50. From my Pikes Peak marathon past, I was very comfortable running at this steep grade. From there, there was a steeper downhill section that I noted we would have to re-climb coming back. Passing the water only Aid station, I think with the downhill, I had a sub seven minute mile but still keeping the HR in check to 165 range. Some folks passed me here going even faster but I didn't want to destroy the legs in the first 5 miles. After the short downhill, it was back up. We went on the road for a short second and then onto another dirt road. It was a gradual but steady grade and most were switching between running and walking. I felt comfortable continuing to run up this maintaining 163-165 HR. Keeping the steady run, I was steadily passing folks but not worried about going too fast. After a while, the hill steepened even more and I eventually had to run/walk combo to maintain heartrate range. We climbed up, up and up to over 12K just in front of Ball mtn. Right around here, I busted into my first pack of honey stinger chews. Apparently, the single track section that traditionally goes behind was too snowy/muddy still so we had an altered course. After reaching over 12K, we began to descend pretty fast down to aid station A at around 6.1 miles.

Aid A to Aid B

I had the aid station top off my bottle with electrolyte drink and began the bomber descent. Pretty sure I had my fastest mile of the day through this section and after a quick couple miles downhill and being passed by one or two, we began a steady climb up the next road where we took a right. Many ahead hiked this climb and my steady running enabled me to catch up to a few getting into Aid A 1/2. I topped off my bottle again here. Just after the aid, I was all alone so I took  a quick pee. Through here, I started passing several half marathon folks. Around the corner we started the road that climbed to the top of mosquito pass. After this quick turn, the lead female passed me here and she was looking strong. I was feeling the heat and just kind of cruised into the Aid station B.

Aid B to Aid B

I think I caught the family off guard as they did not see me coming or have all my stuff ready. I snagged a fresh bottle of GU Rocktane from them and continued on. I kept a jog up the road as water was running down. I was able to run most of the section to the Aid but with 10 hard miles under my belt, I had to walk more than the training run the day prior which was expected. I felt like I could run all of this but I feared burning out on the return up Ball mtn later on in the heat would be the result so I played it smart. Shortly after the aid, the lead half marathoners came a blazing down the trail. Passing the un-announced alpine aid station at around 12k, the half marathon pack was becoming hot and heavy. This got worse and worse and is my main frustration with this race. This should be run like Pikes Peak where the half is on different day than the full. It was a full pain traffic Jam to try and pass folks up on mosquito pass as half marathoners were coming up and down in full force with the faster Marathoners weaving in and out of them haphazardly. It's amazing that more people didn't get hurt in this gaggle but I made quick work up to the top of the pass even passing a few marathoners. At the top, several halfers were taking pictures of the view. I just did an about face and headed back down. Immediately, I began to experience heavy calf cramping. I had been taking S-CAPS hourly was still in bad shape. I immediately slammed an extra SCAP and kept trucking while I dodged and weaved halfers having collisions with a couple trying to control speed. I tried to warn as much as possible but there isn't a lot of room for the varied speeds of traffic up there. I had to stop once to stretch the calf and one marathoner passed me. I had fun crossing paths with other fellow Leadmen and leadwomen and cheering them on. By the time I reached the unannounced alpine aid, I went for a refill on electrolyte and while they were filling my bottle, I keeled over from a calf cramp. The med staff tried to pull me aside. I ripped my bottle from them and jetted. I didn't have time for that. I made it my goal in the next couple short miles back to aid B to finish this whole bottle. I also managed to snag some watermelon on the way out. I'm thankful for the med staff watching out for us out there but I knew I would turn out fine once I got back in balance. I made good time on the way down but not as good as I think I could of. I held back to not bring the cramps back but still was cruising at sub 8 min pace. Coming back into Aid B several other runners cheered me on saying "GO LEADMAN" and just before it, I ran into Cre, my Bro-In-Law who was also doing the Marathon. He was on the way up cruising and smiling. I gave him a big hug almost plowing him over. Shortly after, I was back at aid B. I swapped bottles with my wife, gave my son a five, took half a honey stinger gel, and grabbed another pack of honey stinger chews and I was off to finish the race.


Aid B to Finish

There was the short downhill out of Aid B and then the gradual climb back to A1/2. I cruised by a couple half marathoners here and I think a couple of marathoners too but was a bit frustrated with the heat. I managed to run but it was by no means fast. After that climb, there was the nice downhill and then the big climb back up to Aid A. On the downhill, one runner caught up and passed by pretty strong. Once on the climb, it was getting hot, I was altering between speed walking and running. The guy who had passed me caught another guy. I kept them in my sights and focused on running more than they did and made steady progress catching and passing both of them. I ended up passing one more guy just before aid A. Getting to Aid A, I took one final bottle of electrolyte and a handful of watermelon and began the descent. Two guys passed me right off as I am not as good at down as I am up. I saw our high point earlier off the shoulder of Ball mtn. and was dreading this late race final climb. Much to my surprise, this alternate course does not require you to re-climb all of the way up. I had wondered because the turnaround at mosquito was more like 13.9 or 14 miles instead of 13.1. I stayed strong through the descent with a few guys in front up in my sights. Once we got a ways down, one guys very annoying girlfriend began to cheer him. Since she wasn't as fast, she chased him down the trail cheering him on. "You effing go baby." It was so so annoying. She proceeded to follow up the last small climb before the final descent to town and I had to hear her over and over. It's one thing to cheer on loved ones but to run along and shout a mile up the road to them in between other racers is quite annoying. Eventually, we dropped her and got into the final descent. I passed one other marathoner at the water only aid in this climb and only hiked the final bit to the top before turning on my game face for the finish. I came down the pavement at a hard pace kicking it in and cheering on other half marathoners. I crossed the finish line in 4:25:something and was very happy with my time. Just as I crossed, they announced Marshall Urlich. He was doing the heavy half and was right in front of me. It was fun to talk to him for a couple of minutes after the race. I had met him at Pikes Peak Marathon last year just as I was reading his book. What an inspiration and a privilege to be running with that bad ass dude. The race staff had notified me that I was the first Leadman to finish. I couldn't believe it. I figured with a time like that I was somewhere around 3rd or 4th. The winner had broken the course record this year and finished almost an hour faster than me. Within 3 minutes of my finish, I think at least 3 other Leadmen came in. Within 10 minutes there were 6 and 20 minutes 12 or 13. That is awesome. This means the win is still anyone's bid for the year. We have no Dave Mackeys or Travis Maceys this year crushing everyone so the competition will be fun and close all summer. Not that any of us are in it for place but still fun. After settling in, I got to meet other finishers while we sipped beer in the shade. My time was good enough for 19th overall and I think 10th in my age group so 9 of the top 18 were my age haha.

Post race

After having 2 beers, I went back to the house with my wife and showered and re-hydrated a bit. We put our son down for a nap and left him there with his Moma (grandma) while we walked back to cheer on Cre and Mary. I got the pre-race meal and we had more drinks and watched Mary finish the heavy half. It was so great to see her coming in smiling. The race had one other problem and that was that they ran out of beer at the beer garden before everyone finished. This is unacceptable for a mountain race! I ran back to the house to grab a few beers for when Cre finished and got back just in time to jog in the final yards with him. He did so awesome! We cracked our own beers and enjoyed all of our accomplishments before walking back to the house to get cleaned up and eventually have Moma's famous homemade ice cream. The next day I went for the test ride up St. Kevins and found out just how steep it is. It seemed really hard on marathon legs but was a great time getting to know a couple of fellow Leadmen a bit better. It was also awesome getting to ride with David who has rode the Leadville 100 multiple times and was very familiar with the course. It kept me from pulling out the map over and over figuring out where to go. The ride did wonders for shaking out my legs. I can't wait until my next round in a few weeks with the Silver Rush 50s. For now it's time to get back to work! Training never stops for Leadmen. Here are some more pics from athlinks. I will try and get more from my wife later.
Until next time...

Monday, June 1, 2015

May 2015: Monthly Training Summary

Actual Numbers:
Miles Run: 182.8
Miles Biked: 200.1
Total Running Time: 32:08
Total Biking Time: 11:01
Running Elevation Gain: 18,711'
Biking Elevation Gain: 7,015

Total miles:  382.9
Total Time: 43 Hours
Total Gain: 25,726

Loose Training Goals From Apr For May:
Miles Run: 200
Miles Biked: 450
Total Running Time: 35 Hours
Total Biking Time: 25 Hours
Running Elevation gain: 25,000'
Biking Elevation Gain: 20,000'

I came up shy of my goals this month. Much of this can be blamed on the unusual amounts of heavy weather we had. Every day was forecast for a monsoon and thunderstorms. I get in most of my bike miles by commute to work but it is on the plains so there is no where to hide from lightning. I kept joking, I have a rain coat but not lightning coat... With all the water, the trails were to bike without ruining and most were no fun for running. On top of that, I was replacing the engine in my Honda CRV that I had blown in the end of April. I decided to do the job myself after my Graduation early in the month. Ok ok. enough excuses. I was able to finally start running again and ramping up the running miles which was a good thing. Considering I was just getting back into it, my miles were great going from almost 0 to 182 when normal is just over 200. Each week, I just went a little more and a little more. Mid month, I tried my first training long hill run and took my coveted chance at Mt. Rosa on the Colorado Springs skyline sitting at about 11,500'. I started encountering snow at just above 10k' and by 10,700 it was solid and about waist deep. Up by the summit, it was chest deep but I was walking mostly on top. Just in the small amount of time I took on the summit, I was post holing bad on the descent. I wanted to descend the North side and come back around the other way but couldn't find the trail so I came back the way I came up until I hit the old road. I decided to take that N. vs the trail back down. It was postholing nightmare for a couple miles before becoming a deadend. I didn't want to go back through so I bushwacked down to 7 bridges and then up Buckhorn and around back to the parking lot to finish. It felt good so I signed up for Jemez 50 miler the following weekend. With the small volume, I was very pleased with my results at Jemez and excited for the summer. My continued biking in April, helped me to not lose too much fitness. All in all, while my lowest volume month of the year, I was happy with the end result. June, I expect to get back to my 60 hour mark while I start the Leadman Journey in the Marathon.

Loose Training Goals For June:
Miles Run: 200
Miles Biked: 450
Total Running Time: 35 Hours
Total Biking Time: 25 Hours
Running Elevation gain: 25,000'
Biking Elevation Gain: 20,000'

Until next month...

See you at the top!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Training Week 27 Apr to 3 May 2015

Weekly Totals:

Miles Run: 33.1
Hours Run: 5:03
Running Elevation Gain: 719'

Miles Biked: 103
Hours Biked: 3,760'
Biking Elevation Gain: 6:01

Total Training Time: 11:05
Total Elevation Gain: 4,499'

Not quite the numbers I was hoping for but still got it done when possible. With a busted, car I am left no choice but to commute. Weather was bad Monday and Friday so I missed a day and a half of bike commuting. Happy to have the numbers over 100 miles there but would have liked to see in the 150 range. Running, I was hoping for a 40 mile week but it just didn't happen. With my Master's degree graduation going on, there just wasn't time to get stuff done. This time loss forces me to really ensure the toe is healed before hammering it. It gives me no pain while running so that is good. I haven't decided what races I will be doing this month but I will be doing something so stay tuned. Next week, I hope to have normal numbers posted from pre-broken toe. I would like to see 50 miles running and over 100 biking with some good elevation gain numbers on both. The weather is forecast bad this week and I have to commute cause my vehicle is in the garage all dismantled so this week could get interesting. I will be riding in rain and be forced to lose out on miles for thunderstorms. I am also working to finish the car. The old engine will hopefully come out tomorrow and the new one shows up around Thursday. I hope to be installing it Saturday so I can have a working car as soon as possible.

Until next time..
See you at the top!

April 2015: Monthly Training Summary

Actual Numbers:
Miles Run: 57.4
Miles Biked: 569.2
Total Running Time: 8:03
Total Biking Time: 41:24
Running Elevation Gain: 2,556'
Biking Elevation Gain: 37,802'

Total miles:  609.8
Total Time: 48:16
Total Gain: 40,434'

Loose Training Goals From Mar For Apr:
Miles Biked: 600
Total Biking Time: 40 Hours
Other Time: 20 hours (Other will be hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, elliptical)
Biking Elevation Gain: 25,000'
Other Elevation gain: 15,000'

Well, overall I am happy with the month. Despite having a broken toe, I only ended up about 12 training hours shy of my normal 60 hours per month goal. I am quite surprised on how close I came on my biking goals. With the goal of 600 miles, I actually ended up at 569 but my elevation gain was much more than I thought I would get. Much of this was based off the fact that my predictions included mostly commuting and I had that week where I went to the Space Symposium on the west side and had tons of climbing. What else you will see here is running miles. More of a typical number from a normal week before but I am ecstatic to have any for the month at all. My original goal had no running miles at all for the month so this is great and I didn't do my other category at all like I thought I would. While it was the biggest biking month of my life, I could have done more as I had a week or two in the single digits for training hours. The past couple of weeks have been a slow build back to running and I would have actually run more but life just gets in the way. Things such as attending my Master's degree graduation took a front burner and working out a back one. This forced me to ease back in without re-injuring it except that I am having dreams at night about doing the Jemez 50 mi in on the 23rd of May even thought I should be feeling that is a bad idea. I need to make it to Leadville and be ready to run and not more injured. I had some good saddle time on the mountain bike and had my first taste of mountain bike racing after being worn out from a full week of commuting. It is also crazy to think that at this point last year, I had trained over 100 hours less than this point this year and this month last year, I only trained 28 hours total between running and biking so even with a broken toe, I am on a good track. Looking towards next month, I hope to be fully back on track with normal months from before. I want May to look like March did as far as numbers for gain and whatnot although I would like to still see more biking than that and running should be identical. My gut feeling is to run even more but reasonably, I will be very happy to meet March's numbers as Leadville gets close for the Trail run and I have a couple weeks to finalize training before the first race. No idea what I lost from running but it wasn't much because my pace at MAF isn't half bad. Biking has really maintained it. Sitting here now, I am excited that I can actually run and pain free at that. The toe still lets me know it is broken when I bend the wrong way once in a while though.

Loose Training Goals For May:
Miles Run: 200
Miles Biked: 450
Total Running Time: 35 Hours
Total Biking Time: 25 Hours
Running Elevation gain: 25,000'
Biking Elevation Gain: 20,000'

Until next month...

See you at the top!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Training week 20-26 April 2015

Weekly Totals:

Miles Run: 20
Hours Run: 300
Running Elevation Gain: 171'

Miles Biked: 188.6
Hours Biked: 12:57
Biking Elevation Gain: 10,548'

Total Training Time: 15:57
Total Elevation Gain: 10,719'

Summary: Well April is shaping up to be a decent month. My toe healing is getting better and better but moving it in just the wrong way reminds me it is still broken sometimes. Beginning with running, I got no gain for the week but that was more of a product of weather and situations than injury. I was happy to have some solid miles under the belt. I ran 4 miles each Mon, Wed, and Fri, with 8 miles in the rain Sunday all feeling great and each one slightly faster than the previous at the same heart rate. 20 seems so low but it is higher than last week and last week higher than the week before. Its all about a slow build back to where I was. This week I plan to be over 40 and then hopefully after that back to the normal 50+ range with 7-10K gain per week. The problem with gain now is being on day shift. I work at 6:30 and If I wanted to brave going to the incline before, I would have to give up a bike commute. If I do a long run on a weekend day, I would want the other for a long ride. Luckily, I don't have school so perhaps the incline one evening a week isn't out of the question. Now onto the riding. One of the rare occasions where I commuted all 5 days for a total of 140 miles. I got hailed and rained on a bit Mon and Tues due to poor weather man forecasting and 40 mph of headwind to deal with on Friday on the way home before wishing I didn't ride that day. Friday was a debate already being the day before the Ridgeline Rampage 50 Mile Endurance Mountain Bike race and my first ever bike race at that. I was sore from the previous days riding but I wanted the training aspect of the high mileage.for the week so I compromised and said I would ride easier. I plan on writing a whole other post outlining the experience of the race but it was fun. Ended up with 188 bike miles on the week which blows my best ever by over 50 miles. While sore on Sunday, I was reluctant to get out and run in the rain but my 8 mile jaunt turned out to be very therapeutic. It worked out many kinks and I finished feeling much better and confident in my toe getting stronger

In the weeks to come, I plan to continue steadily increasing my running volume and maintaining a relatively high biking volume. I am willing to sacrifice biking to ensure my running catches up as the first Leadman event at the Leadville Trail Marathon is less than 60 days now. I plan to bike commute as many days as possible to work (which is mandatory now with my car in the shop) and do weekend long runs in the 25+ mile range along with weekend long rides in the 3+ hour range (more when time permits). I have no other races paid for between now and Leadville, but I may jump in on a few. Still on the fence for the Battle the Bear 60 mile Endurance Mountain bike race in 2 weeks on May 9, then May 23 I have the Tener tour which will be more gain intensive than mileage intensive. May 30, I am on the fence between the 66 Mile PV Cycle Derby MTB race in my backyard practically or else the Big Mountain Trail Run Marathon in Cheyenne Canon the same day. One way or the other I will be busy getting after it. In the mean time, I have to figure out how to get some elevation gain this weekend around my graduation Saturday and party Sunday.

Until next time..
See you at the top!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Garmin Ant+ dead plus broken toe update

I've been a little quiet on here the past couple of weeks. I accidentally broke my ant+ usb plugin to upload workouts from my watch so I have ordered another. The toe is healing up nicely but still have some pain when I move it too much. That said, the reduced volume in running has come at a good time while I wrap up my Master's thesis and have had tons of extra work stuff. Either way, I am still getting enough biking to maintain fitness. I haven't got the 150 miles per week as planned but I have gotten over 10 hours per week and this past week over 9k feet of climbing on the bike so I am staying solid. Also have not gained too much body weight. I did the incline one day once last week and came back down the incline so I didn't have to run downhill. I also didn't run to or from it but rather parked right there at the bottom. At 155 heartrate effort, I was at 32 minutes which is actually faster than other times at same. This may be due to increased leg muscle from all the biking. I dunno. I did my first run yesterday exactly 3 weeks after breaking the toe. I just did 4 flat miles on the Rock Island trail. It felt great. I was wearing the Altra Olympus 1.5 for extra cushion and felt nothing but a little different feeling. No pain unless I made sudden movements such as turning so that was good to see. Surprisingly, my MAF pace didn't get too much worse and it may not be any worse considering how windy it was during the run. Consistent biking has really kept me level but not necessarily getting any fitter for running. Still have to work to earn back those running specific movements and muscles on a slow build. As the toe feels better and better, the running volume will continue to increase until the Leadville Trail Marathon and biking may even drop slightly to accommodate missed time at some point. After that, it is full game on in both sports again but with heavier focus in running since that makes the bigger time gains overall in Leadman. The near future will include shorter distance runs to ease back into it and a consistent focus on the biking. I may take it a bit easier late week to do better on the Ridgeline Rampage 50 mile mtb race in Castle Rock on Saturday. I will try and post the weekly training summaries for the past couple of weeks in the next day or two.

Until next time...

See you at the top!