Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wasatch: Another Lesson in Humility and Altitude



From the beginning I said the plan was audacious. The Order of the Hrimthurs followed by the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. All of this just a few short months after completing the Super Midwest Slam. After my finish at Arrowhead I felt that anything was possible. I could finish any race I put my mind to and then Western States slapped me down. It was a hot day with difficult conditions in the high country. So the Slam was out but I carried on and suffered through a finish at Vermont. Then came Leadville where I felt so good until the climb at Hope Pass which cost me too much time and got me cut off. So be it. In the immediate aftermath I considered not even going to Utah to give Wasatch a try. But I did go and this is what happened.

The Wasatch 100 is one of the oldest 100s in the country, this being the 38th running. This year would be special due to the possibility of smoke filled air from the many forest fires out west and possibly the highest temperatures the race had seen. Again I would be facing my big three weaknesses: Heat, altitude and relentless climbing.

Wasatch does not play around when it comes to getting the steep ascents going. After a short bus ride from downtown Salt Lake City to the start, we set off  down the trail meandered along a ridge looking down at the suburbs of Salt Lake. Before the sun had even had a chance of rising, we made a sudden turn to the left and there was a trail that looked like it went straight through the trees into the sky. This was the beginning of a nearly 5000 foot climb  over 5 miles. It was slow going and very steep in most places. Eventually, the trail left the trees and I could see where the climb likely ended, and it was so far away. The tiny figures of those ahead of me showed where the trail snaked up the slope.

After 2 hours I reached the top and began a steady descent down a dirt road that skirted next to 2 radar domes, which I assume were for the airport. I expected the climb to be long and hard. I felt good since I was able to stay relaxed and not strain myself going up since this was so early in the race.  The descent was long and I expected the first water station to be coming any time. A first sign of trouble was that I was being passed regularly by other runners on this portion. I wasn't moving as quickly as I probably needed to.

I reached the water station after what seemed way too long and after I had emptied my 2 liter bladder pack. Arriving at the table, one of the volunteers calmly stated, "We're out of water. They are bringing some  if you want to wait or it's 5 miles to the next station if you think you can make it." To say I was furious would be an understatement. How a race of this stature runs out of water at the very first stop is beyond comprehension but there I was. I felt I didn't have the time to spare waiting so I put my pack back on headed off, cursing.

The next 5 miles had ups and down as we went in and out of canyons. Maybe due to the lack of expected water or, more likely, due to my declining motivation over the past months, I began to slip into a negative place. I realized that this wasn't going to happen based on my pace, my attitude and the throbbing pain in my left big toe that had kicked a rock firmly at mile 6 of Leadville 3 weeks before.

This next aid station was uneventful. I got my water refilled, ate and quickly moved on. There was still a chance but it was not looking good. It was only 17 miles and I was feeling like mile 70 already. Not good. By the time I rolled into the station at 26 miles, I decided I was done. There was no point in struggling to a finish that wasn't going to happen. I could end it early and get a good start over on my training for next year. However, when I tried to quit at this station they told me it would be hours before I could be driven out and it was 4.4 miles to the next stop. Then he pointed to a peak off in the distance and said you get there and then descend into the next station. I didn't want to but I set off.

This next section ended up being the easiest of any so far and began to have me questioning my decision. I was almost an hour ahead of the cutoff but over 11 hours to do 31 miles means I would have to go at a faster pace in the next 69 miles. That was not going to happen. Another massive defeat at the hands of a western mountain ultra.

Now what? There is a slight feeling of humiliation since I boldly put this attempt at the Grand Slam out there publicly and have failed in 3 out of 4 of the races. Not a very good showing at all. A major dose of humility is what I got and that can (and I hope will) be a motivator going into the future. Like I said above, after Arrowhead I felt I could finish any race I started. Confidence is a good thing but I have learned it can also lead to complacency. This led to allowing myself to slack in training with the belief that since I had been successful in the past that I would be so in the future. This may work for a brief time but I eventually had to pay the price.

Success, however, is arbitrary. I gave myself a goal and fell short. Perhaps the true success was in the attempt. I suppose if I had finished every race I would be satisfied but I do savor the opportunity to return to each of these races and finish them, which I believe will make the finish even more satisfying. I failed in my first attempt at Tuscobia but in that failure I learned what I needed to know to get it done. When I returned this year I applied that and succeeded. In getting over the previous obstacle, I found new ones that were even more difficult but I was prepared. So when I return to each of these races, I will be ready because I feel I now know what it is I needed to know to succeed.

Ultrarunning is extremely humbling. This is one thing I love about it. There is no faking a 100 mile finish. There are no easy 100 milers, only ones that are more difficult than others. These races break you down and give you a glimpse of your true self. Often, I don't like what I find but then I have the opportunity to make changes and improve myself. I believe when we do this we also make life better for those around us.

In the end of it all, none of these things mean much of anything. All we do falls into the past and will eventually be lost and forgotten by everyone we know. The past is gone and the future is not here so finding meaning and joy in the present is all we have. I'm not going to dwell on my failures, which are many, and I'm not going to worry about the future. Next year's plans are set for the most part but all I can do is try to enjoy the work I do today.

I can reset now both physically and mentally. My body needs a bit of a rest and my mind needs to return to the place where it needs to be to get through 100 miles or more. I have had a very good 18 months of racing, even if it didn't end quite the way I wanted it to. There were many positives and, most importantly, many special experiences. This little hobby has led me to places I never would have seen and to meet beautiful people I never would have known. For all of that I am thankful, regardless of the outcome of a race.

Enough rambling for now. I have decided I will be taking a break from running for the rest of September. I plan on having a "fun run" at the St. Pat's 24 Hour Run in Indiana in October. No goal and no pressure. I have 24 hours to run as much or as little as I want. The rest of the year will be focused on working on my weaknesses prior to the 2018 schedule which will be revealed at a later date.



My Wasatch pictures:
























Monday, August 28, 2017

Leadville, Too Damn High

While reflecting on what I would post for this race report, another blog post came out that you may want to read first because it captures much of what I was already thinking.

http://www.irunfar.com/2017/08/a-leadville-dnf-believing-in-not-yet.html

As my previous post covered, I have been dealing with some (minor) issues that have been making running not that fun to me lately. Over the last 18 months I have run many long races and, for the most part, have been successful. I failed to finish Western States which was disappointing but I accepted it in the immediate aftermath. As time has gone by, I have been questioning what could have been in that race. I "succeeded" at Vermont but found very little joy in running a race on a course that, in retrospect, was idyllic and beautiful. This was how the table was set going into my attempt at the iconic Leadville 100.

If you've read Born to Run, and if you run you probably have, then you would be somewhat familiar with Leadville. The course is roughly 50 miles out to the turn around at Winfield and then 50 miles back to Leadville. The elevation at the start is just over 10,000 feet. Thin air to be sure. There are a few ups and downs before the big climb just after 40 miles. This is the climb up to the high point of the race at Hope Pass, around 12,600 feet above sea level. You then drop down into Winfield, turn around and go back.

I flew into Denver on Thursday and drove down to my hotel in Frisco. From there I met up with Scott from Ten Junk Miles Podcast who had offered to crew and pace and we headed down to Leadville for the annual Leadville Beer Mile. This was my first beer mile and was bit more difficult than I thought it would be. It was, however, a great time. I even earned a finisher's award.
Four beers. One mile. No puke. 


I picked up my race packet and relaxed on Friday. Unlike my last few races, I had a fitful night of sleep, waking up around 2 AM. I had plenty of time to dress and have some breakfast before the 4 AM start. I felt a little sleepy but not bad as the excitement of the race gave me some early energy.

Ready to go


The start line was packed with runners with their friends and families. The temperatures were perfect for running. The countdown began, a shotgun blast and we were off. The first aid station at May Queen was 13.5 miles away. The loose cut off time was listed as 7:15 AM so I wanted to run easy but still get there without worrying about cutting it too close. I tried to get over early race excitement and settle into a relaxed pace.

It was around 3 miles in that we finally reached some single track trail and the conga line effect set in. This can be frustrating when I am stuck behind someone going too slow but it also can be good by keeping me from going too fast early in the race. A little after the 6 mile mark I tried passing one of these slower runners and suddenly slammed my big toe into either a root or rock. I caught myself on my other foot and both hands and began running again. That one kind of hurt.

We followed the trail along Turquoise Lake as the sun came up. Around 6:30 I rolled into the campground at May Queen ahead of what I expected. Things were looking good. As I ran in I saw my brothers and sister in law standing just ahead of the station. I gave them all a hug as it was a special treat to see them all. I grabbed some food in the station and move the far side and sat to take a look at my toe, which was still throbbing from the incident earlier.

Leaving May Queen we immediately started to climb. The slope was not too bad but slowed everyone to a hike. We switched back and forth and could look back over the lake and look down on the campground we had just left. I felt very good and was moving well. I enjoyed the views and took a moment or two to take them in. I wanted to just stand and look at the scenery but there was still along way to go.

Climbing up out of May Queen


Reaching to top of this long climb was not so bad. I was hiking well on the climbs and running the flats. A little over 20 miles we reached the Powerline/Sugarloaf section which in this direction is a long descent into the second aid station called Outward Bound (formerly Fish Hatchery). This section was a little steep in places but not too bad. I ran down trying to gain some time but also trying not to wear out my quads taking it too fast. It seemed to go on for a while and I was thinking that it would be quite the climb on the way back.

I arrived at the station a little after 9 AM which put me nearly an hour ahead of cut off. My crew was there which gave me a little bit of a boost. I was in and out very quickly not wanting to waste time. I was a quarter of the way through the race and felt great. I was feeling like this was going to happen and not be a problem.

The next section followed some roads and I was quickly in touch with my crew again after just a few miles at an alternate crewing location prior to the next aid station which wasn't for another 4 miles or so.  I rolled along talking to other runners here and there, just letting the miles go by. The Half Pipe station was uneventful and again I was quickly in and out.

The next nine miles to Twin Lakes consisted of a long gradual climb and then a gradual decent into the station. I was getting a little tired but still able to run most of the flats with short walking breaks mixed in. You could see the aid station almost 2 miles before getting there as we wound down and around the trails waiting for the turn that would send us towards it.

I arrived at Twin Lakes at 1 PM, which is 40 miles in 9 hours, better than 4 miles per hour and plenty fast enough to finish in time, at least to this point. My crew was waiting along with my brothers. This gave me another boost. I lubed up some hot spots on my feet, which were holding up nicely, and grabbed my trekking poles for the climb up to Hope Pass that was just ahead. Again, I was in and out quickly. I had 5 hours to get up and over the pass to Winfield, just 10 miles away. Sure, it was a long climb at altitude but then I would be descending and would make up some time. 2 miles per hour to make the cut off seemed easy to do.

It was a couple miles across some open valley plains before reaching the climb. I could see the pass off in the distance and kept looking to get the climb started and over with. The open fields ended and there in front of me was a path going what looked like straight up forever. Here it was. All I had to do was get over it, head back and shuffle through to the finish.

I was moving well at first but then the same thing that happened at Western States started to happen here. My heart rate would spike and I couldn't catch my breath. I would try to slow my pace but nothing would slow my heart down so I would feel a slight panic and stop to try to breathe. This repeated itself over and over. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt I must be getting close to the top, I saw a sign that said, "Hope Pass 2.5 miles". I was crushed. There was no way it could be that far after how long I had been going. I trudged on slowly and finally came to another sign that said the pass was 2 miles away. I sank further.

I looked at my watch. I told myself that if I made it to the pass at 4 PM I would have 2 hours to get down the 5 miles into Winfield. Plenty of time with a descent. I hit the Hope Pass aid station and saw that there was still a 600 foot climb to the top of the pass. Crushed again, but I still had time to make my 4 PM goal at the top, which I did eventually make on the nose.

On the descent I started to feel better. There was traffic coming both ways regularly now as runners were making the return trip back up the pass. I figured I would make it to Winfield with a good half hour to spare which was not ideal but at least I would make the cut off. Time ticked away at it seemed I never got any closer to the station. After an hour I passed some volunteers guiding us at a turn and they told me it was about 3 miles to the station. I ran for another half hour and started asking runners how much further. 2.5 miles. There was no way. How could it be that far still? Time ticked down and I began to realize I wasn't going to make it. How was this section so long?

I ended up running into the station about 5 minutes after the cut off and immediately sat in the chair my crew had for me. I spent a few minutes letting it sink in that it was over before walking over to the station. A line of large men stood across the road with a little lady in front of them. This was the dreaded Cutoff Queen. She held the scissors in her hand that cut off the wristband showing that I was participant in the race. She told me I did great and gave me hug. It was only halfway but my race was over.



Good bye friend

This was another failure but this one was different. I failed at Western States and was ok with it but still questioned whether or not I could have done something different. I still do. Vermont was a "success" but I did not find any joy in the race. I was miserable the entire way and finishing, while helping show I could still do this thing, was unsatisfying.

What made Leadville different was that I had fun. The views were beautiful and the people I met and spent time with were wonderful. I appreciate the time I spent in the mountains with friends, family and with myself. As the post I referenced at the beginning discussed, I just didn't have what it took this day but I know I learned something. 

Given another chance at it I truly believe that I can do much better with what I have learned. Nearly two years ago I failed halfway through the Tuscobia 160. That failure taught me a very valuable lesson. Thinking about what it takes to complete these races is often much different than what you actually encounter. At Tuscobia I learned what happens after 80 miles of bitter cold and wrecked feet. I learned what to do to take the next step and a year later I finished that race. In failing I was given the knowledge needed to succeed later. It was only a matter of time and doing.

So I learned a few things in Leadville. First, I need to be in much better shape. I've race too much and not trained the way I should. That is easily fixable. Being in better shape would also help me not have to carry so much weight over Hope Pass next time. Mentally I need a reset too. I'm cutting back on races next year to give myself time to physically train properly and time to mentally recover properly. I learned that getting over the pass requires a mental toughness I didn't have this time. Of course, next time I think I would arrive earlier and try to acclimate better to the altitude. I am now certain that altitude is a weakness for me that I will be working to improve on.

The good thing is I also had some lesson in what went right. I think I have finally found the right socks to prevent (most) blisters. I have reduced my aid station time immensely which means more moving time and finishing faster. I've improved my hydration and nutrition intake as well which helps keep me running later in the race.

It was strange to wake up the days after the race to feel like I barely did anything. I had one day of mild soreness and that was it. The toe that kicked the rock has been another story. It was hurting enough that I went to the doctor fearing it was broken but X-rays showed it was not. I tried running on it but stopped due to the pain and wanting to let it heal as much as possible before Wasatch in September.

I'd like to thank Scott, Julio and Angela for taking the time to crew me. I looked forward to seeing you all at each station and your support was very helpful and appreciated. I owe each of you a great debt, so if you ever need anything, just ask. I only wish I could have given you the chance to pace me on the way back. 

Thanks also to my brothers, Matt and David and sister in law, Karen for coming out. It is always a treat to see you and especially out on the trail. It would have been great to celebrate a finish this time but we'll get there. I love you all and appreciate you coming out. 






Monday, August 14, 2017

Mashed Potatoes and a Leadville Preview

This is a post I was planning on getting to at some point. If you came for a purely running blog post then this isn't the one for you. It may be oversharing but it is what it is. Read at your own discretion.

Ultrarunning has been a stabilizing factor in my life. The pursuit of goals and the regular structure of training has given me some needed purpose and a method of dealing with life's problems. The small progress and even occasional setbacks of each day's workout, builds up to a race where all the work and discipline is put to the test. The race appears to be the goal but I have learned that the daily pursuit is the true source of joy and self discovery. Training for and running a 100 miles or more teaches you that any plan you have will need to be adjusted or just scrapped for a new one on the fly. Problem solving and flexibility will be the best tools to have. Accepting the current conditions for what they are and not trying to control what you can't control will keep you from wasting energy worrying and getting angry about things you can't change. All of these can be applied to life overall. Often easier said than done but there is also the lesson that perfection is an impossible goal. In fact imperfection is what makes life interesting.

This being said, running has not been fun for me recently. My best guess (and hope) is that this is simply burnout from running too many races over the past 18 months. By my count I have finished 9 races of 100 miles or more in that time, DNF'd another 2, and run several 50 milers. There has not been any real recovery time or a good few months of training build up. All this led to the DNF at Western States and the race in Vermont where I finished but did not enjoy any of it. It has led to me struggling to get myself out to run in an effort to stay fit enough to make it through the next race. If I do manage to get myself out, I just want it to be over and don't get the satisfaction from it I once did. This led me to start thinking about the mashed potatoes analogy.

What is that?

I saw this post going around a year or two ago with a screenshot of this:



This made complete sense to me and maybe it will to some of you as well. It made sense to me because I have been through it, probably most severely in 2009, due to and likely greatly contributing to a doomed marriage. It was a very difficult time in my life but I eventually came out of it and it led me to the very good place I am in today.

Through running I found my way out of a very low time. I found a coping mechanism. Lately, however, running and some other activities in life have started to taste like mashed potatoes. Only a little bit though so while I am concerned, I can still use the lessons I've learned from running to problem solve and adjust. Running long distance teaches you to become very aware of everything that is going on in your body and mind. I've learned to recognize the signs of depression in myself and feel it is time to take some steps to work on this.

Now I'm not sure if how I'm feeling is related to simply being burned out. The more I learn about concussions and CTE with the potential behavioral and mood altering effects associated with them, the more I worry about the price to be paid for playing football. Getting hit in the head several thousand times over nine years cannot be a good thing. However, my current state could be due to any number of things. Whatever it is will eventually be sorted out.

I hesitated to even post this but my motivation in sharing is twofold. First (and least) is to adhere to the spirit I started the blog, to be candid and document for myself this running journey and attempt at the the Order and the Grand Slam. Second and most importantly, is to show others that it is OK to discuss these issues and, hopefully, this will lead to those affected getting the help they need. We still live in a society where just bringing up mental health issues makes people uncomfortable. Mental health is somehow not treated in the same way as "physical" health. I do believe it is improving but there is still work to do and I hope I can do my small part to help that.

And to just finish up on this topic for now, I'm fine. No need for concern. It's just a health thing that requires some attention but I appreciate your understanding and support. The response I get from people who have been reading the blog has been motivating for me. Thank you so much.

We are now a week away from Leadville. I rested for a week after Vermont and, as I implied above, my running in the meantime has not been the best. I keep telling myself that I just ran 100 miles a month ago so I should be fine. Leadville, however, is a race at altitude, starting in the city of Leadville at around 10,000 feet above sea level. From there it drops a small amount but eventually crosses over Hope Pass, the high point of the race, at 12,600 feet.

40 to 60 miles looks fun!



There are only 11 aid stations, so they is a good distance between each one, meaning I will have to carry plenty of water and calories with me. The time cutoffs will be tight for a big slow guy like me. I will need to push to get out to the 50 mile turn around in a good time to give myself a chance at finishing. I am lucky to have some friends offer to crew and pace which will be new and helpful to me as I have only had a crew at my first 100 and never had a pacer. My brother and his wife will be out spectating and, hopefully, we will be celebrating together at the finish line. That is a big motivator to get there.
Considering my current physical and mental state combined with this course and the inherent difficulty of running 100 miles, I have my work cut out for me. I am looking forward to the challenge and a chance to be around ultrarunners, who are inspiring, good people. I am hoping to have a good time even when it is miserable and difficult.



Check out the folks over at Defeat The Stigma Project for the great work they do raising awareness of mental health issues. Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/defeatthestigmaproject.org




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nausea and Resentment in Vermont



There are times where it is necessary to evaluate what you are doing and determine if the reasons you think you are doing it are honest and worthy. I reached this point in the middle of the night in hills of Vermont this past weekend.

Coming off of a DNF at Western States, I wanted to do well at Vermont. I had decided that even if the Slam was over I would still finish out the races I had committed to. Vermont was the "easiest" of the four races so I could get over my previous failure with a solid finish there.

I made the drive out to Vermont with a overnight stop in Albany on Thursday. I checked in about as early as possible on Friday morning and had the rest of the day to relax, which I did by napping in my car despite having a tent set up. After the pre-race meeting and meal I went to the tent to read and ended up falling asleep very early. This was fine since the race started at 4 AM.

I had an alarm set but was awakened by other runners getting up and moving about. I threw my running clothes on, ate couple Cliff bars and made my way to the start line. There was, of course, the stop at the porta potty on the way.

In the three weeks since Western States, I had run some and felt decent. I felt this was due to the fact that I had only gone 62 miles instead of the full 100. So physically I was definitely up to Vermont. Mentally was another story. I was disappointed in the DNF for sure but at the same time I knew that I had done what I could. Unfortunately, some of the "what if" thoughts had started creeping. What if I had pushed harder to get to Foresthill in time? What if I hadn't missed the turn? Could I have pushed to make the rest of the cutoffs and come in gloriously in the final minutes. Maybe. Possibly.

No. These thoughts were ridiculous. I would push them away but this just presented another set of problems. Maybe I'm just not good enough to continue doing this. I'm a faker who has only gotten lucky to finish what I have finished. I mean, look at how many of these races I have just scraped by. You can't keep that up for long without being found out and Western States was just the beginning.

As you can see, I wasn't in a very positive state of mind when I reached the start line that morning in rural Vermont. But there I was and it was time to go, so I went, hoping things would turn around, I would finish, and everything would be ok,

From what I had researched, Vermont is known to be a warm and humid race but the forecast appeared to be looking good on race day. It was in the low 60s at the start with a slight chance of rain during the day. The high was expected to be in the high 70s which would be manageable.

The sun came up and revealed misty green hills. Before long the horses and riders started passing which was a fun diversion early on. I was moving well and feeling not great but ok. Early on the downhills I started feeling some pain in my right shin which was concerning but in the past I know these types of pains go away. Eventually it did.


One piece of my 100 mile gear is a pace chart showing the aid stations, the distance between them and the pace needed for certain time goals. I had one made for this race but ended up forgetting to bring it. This freed me in a way to just run without worrying too much about pace. I could just run what I felt was comfortable.

The aching muscles began somewhere around 20 miles, which is typical. I was soaking wet since it was too humid for my sweat to evaporate. I closely monitored my fluid intake but kind of slacked on the food since the aid stations were only about an hour apart. Regardless of how I worked to keep my pace comfortable and my hydration and nutrition up, I felt like I was sinking and getting nowhere.

It was around 30 miles I had a mini breakdown. The fact that it occurred so early only made it worse. I felt desperate and incapable of going on. I felt like there was no way I could go another 70 miles and I was just lying to myself and everyone else about being an ultrarunner. In retrospect I don't know what caused this, especially since the difficult parts of the race were still coming. My pace was good and even if it fell off I could make a decent time. Still it seemed everyone else was moving so much better and I should be too. I started thinking about quitting. My heart was not in it at all.

I kept moving but a bit slower. It was all about just getting to the next aid station now. I knew it was a low and that things would get better but at that moment my trust in that was next to nothing. My stomach started tightening up. At each aid station I would look over the food choices and want none of it. This is not normal for me but I would try to grab a couple things and get them down, which became harder and harder to do.


 Finally reaching Camp 10 Bear station (mile 47) in 11 hours was a milestone for me. It was the first time I allowed myself to sit down. It was a chance to get my drop bag and change socks. This small act and knowing I was so close to the halfway point gave me some new life. Then I stood up and saw Hal Koerner, 2 time winner of Western States and a winner at Hardrock. He was on the opposite side of the station, the side used at the 70 mile mark. The man was 23 miles ahead of me. Amazing.

The second half began and I continued to slow more. The climbs seemed to become longer. My quads were burning more with each downhill. The ball of my right foot would burn in these sections as I could feel the blister forming. With each climb I would try to power through and just get it over with. At the same time I was saying to myself that this whole thing was idiotic. What was I doing? There was no enjoyment. No sense of accomplishing anything. All I was doing was climbing up and down hills in some random place in the middle of the night. Is this really what I do and why? Why?

The miles slowly melted away. Aid station to aid station. I would sit briefly and try to get some food down. My stomach felt terrible. I thought throwing up would make me finally feel better. A couple times I would run and keep running in an effort make myself throw up. It wouldn't happen.

To add to the nausea and aching body, around 10 PM (which I think was around 70 miles), the sleepiness started to hit me hard. I began to stagger like a drunk person. I hoped runner coming up from behind me wouldn't see. There was at least 7 hours until the sun would come up and it would start to get better. This was so long. Too long. I kept moving on to the next station.

It went on like this until the sun did come up. Even then it took a good hour before I could move without feeling like I was going to fall asleep on my feet. As the sun rose, I could tell that this day was going to be hotter than the previous one. Thankfully the sun occasionally moved behind some clouds.

Finally I hit the last aid station 5 miles from the finish. I was going to make it. I trudged along over a few more hills. I could hear the cheers for finisher when I was still a good 10 minutes away. And then it was my turn. I ran the last couple hundred yards and that was that.

I met my goal of finishing. I proved to myself I could still do it. The problem was that I did not have fun or enjoy this race at all. It is unfortunate because the course was so interesting and beautiful. Rolling green hills and idyllic farms throughout. Horses and cows in the pastures. I spent much of the day in a very negative place. I tried to turn in around because negativity in an ultra only drains you further.

I spent a large portion of the day reconsidering my decision to run these races or even continue running ultras. I seriously thought about giving this hobby up. I felt it was meaningless. In the end what does it mean? What is good does it do?

What it does is show me that even when I feel my worst, believe in myself the least, I can still somehow work my way though it. I understand now that I would have felt awful today if I had given up on that race. I would have added exponentially to that doubt from Western States. Finishing Vermont doesn't fix everything. I know I likely need a break from racing to fully recover and train properly. I have Leadville and Wasatch that I committed to and I will be at both. I will do my very best and then work on getting stronger for whatever is next.    





Monday, July 10, 2017

Vermont 100 Preview



You would think that one of the oldest 100 mile races, part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, would be well known in the ultra world.  Western States and Leadville have storied histories. The aid station names are known. The winners are celebrated. The Vermont 100 is a mystery. You can't even find a course map. 
So how do I preview this race that I know next to nothing about? I do know is that it started as a horse race like Western States. In fact, unlike Western, the horses still race at the same time as the runners. Other than that, I have heard that this race can be hot and humid, which does not bode well for me. There is about 14k feet of climbing with no ridiculously long climbs but constant smaller ones. And that is about all I know. 
I took a solid week off following the last race. When I finally got back to running, I felt good but only after a couple miles. The following week was spent in Montreal with my wife, where I got a couple runs in. I also got a bunch of beers in along with just about every food Montreal had to offer. Three weeks between races leaves no time for any real training so I decided to just enjoy myself. 


I suspect this was actually a sharing portion of poutine.

It feels like Western States was both a long time ago and just yesterday. It has only been just over two weeks. In that time I have not been doing much in the way of preparing for Vermont. I've seen some of the post race recaps and videos but find them hard to watch. I said I was OK with my DNF. That is still mostly true. I am convinced that there was really nothing more I could have done that day. It wasn't my day, the circumstances didn't cooperate and I wasn't prepared enough. All that being said, I am still disappointed and regret that I have to wait, possibly a long time, to get another chance.
I have found it typical to go into a sort of depressive state after a race, successful or not. This appears to be a normal thing as I have heard other runners talk about it. Even after finishing a race well, I come down off the emotional high and sink into a week or two of lows. I don't know the true cause but after going through it multiple times, I come to expect it and know that it will pass once I get back to a regular running routine. 
This time around I have been left questioning whether I am able to still do this and if it is even worth doing. I haven't been dwelling on this or considering it seriously but, nevertheless, the questions have been popping up in my head. Part of the appeal of ultrarunning to me is getting to a low a point and then somehow working through it, coming out the other side and accomplishing the ultimate goal. Western States may have been a low point. It also may only be the beginning of a downward slide, since there is no guarantee of a finish at Vermont or any race coming up. The lesson learned from this silly hobby is that when things do go wrong, you keep working and, eventually it gets better, even if it doesn't happen as soon as you'd like. 
So I got knocked down but I am getting back up and giving it another go. I'm not sure I'm ready for another 100. That doesn't matter because the time is here. It is very possible I could fail again. I would rather do that than not even try. 


Friday, June 30, 2017

The Big Year Interrupted: A Western States DNF Story



I said before this race that I would be very disappointed if I didn't finish. I suppose that is true if you leave out the modifier "very". Of course I am disappointed. This is a prestigious race. My goal was not only this one but the following 3 races to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. All of that is out the window, at least for this year. It may be years before I get another opportunity. I'm fine with that. At the same time, however, I am reflecting on what happened and will be working to correct my mistakes and learn from my failures.

As always, I began watching the weather forecast going into race week. The temperatures in Squaw Valley and Auburn were hovering around 100 degrees F. This was my main concern, especially since I had repeatedly heard how the canyons section of the course would be hotter due to the stagnant air in the canyons. When I arrived in Sacramento, the rental car thermometer read 109 degrees at one point. This had my attention.



Friday morning I went out for a a brief run to try to relax and loosen up after a long day of travel. I then headed out to the race check in. The second I stepped out of the car, I already saw someone I knew. Over and over during the morning I would see and talk to people I had run with or met at other races. This made me feel at home even though I was far away and made me realize how small our community really is.

This guy has no idea what is coming


I had my picture taken with my bib number. Nikki Kimball, female ultrarunning bad ass, put on my wristband and then I received my bag filled with Western States swag. The pre-race meeting was filled to capacity with runners and crews, the room heated by all the bodies and excitement. I still couldn't really believe I was there. None of it seemed real. I went back to my room and tried to relax but could not sit still.
When they cut this off, you are out of the race.


I ate dinner early and got into bed around 7 with the intention of trying to get around 7 hours of sleep. It was difficult to relax but eventually I slept, though it was fitful. I still woke up before the alarm and surprisingly did not feel tired. For the first time ever, I had all my gear completely arranged the night before. All I had to do was get dressed and head to the start line. This is one of the first times my race mornings felt completely stress free.



I arrived at the start with plenty of time for some breakfast and to try to get myself into the proper frame of mind. The time on the clock over the start ticked down. The time passed quickly. I was excited but not overly so. I knew I had a long day ahead but felt good and confident that I would get it done. The crowd of runners counted down the final seconds, a shotgun blast went off, and we all headed across the start line, up the Escarpment and onto one of the most courses in ultrarunning.

The race starts at the Squaw Valley Resort. Directly from the start the course climbs around 2500 feet in 3.5 miles. I figured this was a good way to start since the climb would force me to take my time and not go out too fast. The sun had fully risen by the time I reached the top. The rest of this section to the first aid station at 10 miles was difficult and very slow due to poor footing on the deep snow that had not yet melted away. Where there wasn't snow, it was muddy. The mud was very deep in places and a couple times I nearly lost my shoe in it. Many of the runners around me were extremely tentative crossing the snow which slowed me down even more. I must have picked the right shoes because I could cross the fairly easily without much concern about slipping on the sloped snow.




My arrival time at the first two aid stations was a good hour later than I expected due to these course conditions. I already felt far behind where I wanted to be but was not too worried. I considered that taking it slow early would pay off later. In the meantime I tried to enjoy the scenery which was wonderful. When I wasn't looking to keep my footing I would gaze off at the snowy mountains in the distance. I had never heard much talk about this aspect of the race before and it was an excellent experience.

The next section has us descending into Duncan Canyon and then climbing out and that is when the heat started to affect me, even though I never did feel too hot. The climb out was exposed to the sun but I had stopped at a couple creeks and doused myself well with cold mountain stream water. I was already a bit off on my eating plan but didn't really feel hungry. I was not too thirsty either but I feel like I kept up well with drinking. By the time I reached Robinson Flat, 30 miles in, it was already early afternoon. I took a few minutes to take care of a couple hot spots on my feet, which felt remarkably good compared to my races over the last year. Again I wasn't there in a time I wanted to be but I still felt very confident about having plenty of time to finish.

Climbing out of Duncan Canyon


The canyons section of the Western States is known for the heat. What I really wasn't prepared for was how steep and relentless the climbs up Devil's Thumb and Michigan Bluff would be. The combination of the heat and the climb took everything out of me. The descent into the first canyon was steep and I tried to not fly down in order to save my quads for later. I doused in the stream at the bottom and looked up to see a steep canyon wall. The climb was steep and my heart rate shot up. I tried to keep moving, even if it was slow but had to stop to try to catch my breath and get the heart rate down but it wouldn't.

I somehow got through this climb and was face with doing the same thing again going into Michigan Bluff. Again the descent wasn't too bad and the climb wasn't quite as steep but it just went on forever. I was beginning to fall dangerously close to the cutoffs. Prior to this climb I had paired up with a lady who had her headlamp at Michigan Bluff and asked if she could share my light. It did help to run with someone for a bit though both of us seemed to alternate in who was suffering from the heat.

Pulling into Michigan Bluff, I had around 20 minutes until the cutoff. I decided I would take 10 minutes and move on to Forest Hill. On the way in to the station I met up with Quinitn who was crewing and waiting for his runner to come in. He walked me in a gave me a bit of a pep talk. I really needed this and ended up only taking 5 minutes at the station before moving on, determined to make up some time on the cutoff at the next station.

The headlamp I had with me was my back up as I had my good primary one at Forest Hill. I had originally expected to get there around sundown but now I was way behind. At Michigan Bluff I had put new batteries in my backup lamp but it was still dim as I left. I tried sticking with it as long as possible, even asking several runners who passed me if they had batteries, which they didn't. I ended up pulling out my phone and using the flashlight app as a light source.

From Michigan Bluff to Forest Hill is 6.3 miles. I had 2 hours and 15 minutes to make the cutoff, which didn't seem too bad. I tried running here and there but was loosing my will. I still had hope that it would turn around at some point. I wasn't going to quit but I started to think that missing the cutoff was very likely. Most of this section followed a gravel road and at one point I realized I had not seen a course marker. I kept going for several more minutes looked back and didn't see any lights behind me. Had I missed a turn off onto the trail? I went back the way I came and about 10 minutes later saw the turn off I had missed. I had easily lost around 15 or 20 minutes. I pretty much knew at that point it was over. I would still try to keep going and make the cutoff but I knew. You may expect that I would be devastated at a mistake like this costing my race, but I also knew that even if I made the cut off at Forest Hill, it was still a very outside shot at finishing.

The Forest Hill station never seemed like it would come. As the cutoff time ticked down, I heard cheering up ahead, and it was too far away. They were cheering as the station closed. It was over. 11:45 PM. I was surprisingly OK with. There were no tears or overwhelming disappointment. It just was. I had done the best I could do this day and this was how it turned out. About 5 minutes after the cutoff I walked up to the school where the volunteers were furiously packing up.

No one took any notice of me for a minute or two. This was more upsetting to me then the actual end of my race. Eventually, someone walked up and asked if I was a runner and led me to the medical room where I lay in a cot and immediately cramped up painfully. After an hour or so I was driven to the finish line where I would spend the next 10 hours watching runner finish. It was inspiring to see people finish but it also stung a little bit. It was super inspiring to see fellow Arrowhead finisher Lourdes cross the line with about 15 minutes to spare.

So that was that. It was over that quickly. The Grand Slam was gone. My Western States lottery win was wasted. I was surprisingly fine with all of this and, in general, I have been in the days since. The only disappointment is in not knowing when I will get a chance to try again.

I have been replaying the race over and over since it ended. There is no place, other than the missed turn, that I honestly feel I could have done anything to get a different outcome. I did let me nutrition and hydration lapse slightly but overall I thought I did that fairly well. My pacing and effort level were good. My feet were in the best shape of any race over the last year. When I see the elite runner times and hear how they struggled, I am left wondering if I even had a chance. At the same time, others finished so, why couldn't I? The reasons I have come up with are in no way excuses and I think there are important lessons to learn. The reasons I have come up with are in no way excuses and I think there are important lessons to learn.

First, the conditions were a huge factor and those are, for the most part, out of my control. I should have worked in some more heat training but I feel that would have only given marginal improvement but, perhaps it would have been enough to get me over the hump.

Second, my schedule this year did not give me an opportunity to get the proper training build up. It was well into April before I started to feel "normal" again after the Hrimthurs. This resulted in not getting in the miles and/or training time necessary. I was worried about this and thought that maybe I could just be stubborn and tough my way through it. That is a dangerous game to play and sooner or later you lose. I did this time.

Third, I keep intending to do more strength and speed work. I did very little prior to this race, due once again to fatigue after the winter races. I don't think I need to do too much but I do feel that the climbs exposed my weakness here and I need to fix that.

Fourth, my weight going into the race was a good 10 pounds over where I thought I should be. Again, combined with strength training this would help in the climbs but should also help mitigate some of the effects of the heat.

Lastly, I don't think I respected the course as much as I should have. Maybe I have grown complacent, assuming I could just show up and finish any 100 miler because I have so many times before. The climbs were much harder than I thought they would be. The heat was much hotter. Western States is no easy, runable race for someone of my skill level. It was extremely humbling and I very much needed that.

I have to admit I over committed this year. I knew this but I went for it anyway. I'm still glad I tried. I have had a good streak of completing races. There is some creeping doubt now and I wonder if now I am just a fraud. Will I ever be able to finish another? This is probably foolish but the seed is there now.

So now what? In less than 3 weeks I will be headed to attempt 100 miles again in Vermont. I suppose I could have thrown out the remainder of the schedule since the Slam is over, but that would be giving up. It would be giving up on my commitment to these race. It would be giving up on an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. It would be giving up on a chance to run 3 other iconic ultras. It would have been giving up on myself and all the good I have done for myself by trying these crazy things. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to show up in Vermont at 4 AM on the 15th of July and do my best to finish that race.












Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Western States Preview


I was laying on the floor doing the corpse pose in a hot yoga session yesterday when it really hit me what is about to happen. I am only a few days away from running Western States. It is easily the most well known and followed race on the ultra-running calendar each year and I will be there. Not only will I be running this big race, I will be beginning an attempt at the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of four of the oldest 100 mile races over a twelve week period. 

The four months since the end of my winter racing season have seemed to fly by. I was exhausted in all aspects: physically, mentally and emotionally. The idea of running another series of races was still months away so I counted on the idea that I would be able to recover and get some good training in prior to Western States. It took a good couple of months before I started to feel somewhat normal again when I ran. The Lumberjack 50 gave me a ton of confidence by showing me that I could run 50 miles without it being a huge struggle. I thought back to this race often over the last couple of months. This was probably the turning point for me. Since then, I have not trained at the volume nor as with as much intensity as I intended. Still, I am feeling very confident that I will get to the finish one way or another. 

Other than the 50 mile race in April, I have had several long runs that, while not fast, went reasonably well. In the last couple of weeks I have even run a couple 5ks and a 10k, which were rather eye opening since I ran at speeds I didn't think I had in me after this past winter. To my amazement, I PR'd a 10k last weekend by 3 minutes. To be fair, I never run 10ks but I believe it indicates that maybe I am in better shape than I think I am. 

I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning hanging out at the Mohican 100. I was able to observe runners passing through aid stations in the later parts of the race. This was very helpful at getting myself into the mindset needed to handle a 100 mile race mentally. I'm not looking forward to the extreme discomfort that is coming. I will, however, accept it and do all I can to remain positive and focused on moving forward and not wasting time in aid stations feeling sorry for myself. 

The taper madness has not been too bad this time, likely due to the fact that I never really sustained high mileage for this training block. I averaged between 50 and 60 miles a week, which compared to others is not that much. The need to recover from the winter dictated this so I feel it will be enough. At this point it will have to be.

Western States is a point to point 100.2 mile race with around 18000 feet of climbing and 22000 feet of descent. This much descent can make it a fast race but can also overload the quadriceps, slowing a runner to a snail's pace. The race begins in Squaw Valley, California and finishes on the track of Placer High School in Auburn. It passes through the high country, in and out of super heated canyons, and across rivers. It has been documented and filmed more than any other ultra that I know of.  

All downhill?


The forecast is calling for highs around 100 which will be even hotter in the still air of the canyons. Hot yoga and commuting without A/C have been my heat training. The heat factor will be the most concerning to me and will require much attention to hydration and pacing. 

There has not been a single run I have done over the last few months that I have not thought about running onto that track at the finish. I'm expecting it to be a very emotional experience. Finishing a 100 miler always is for me but this is one that I have thought about over and over and over. I have to get there first. Lately, I've finally been really craving to be out there and mid-race miserable again. I will also continue to remind myself that getting on that track is just another step. 

I try not to think about the possibility of failure but it does cross my mind. I suppose there is some pressure to perform since I have been discussing it publicly. I would be very disappointed if I didn't finish this or any of the four races coming up. However, without the possibility of failure there is no satisfaction in completing the goal. 

So, now all the time for talk is over. The race is only days away. I'm scared and excited at the same time. The next twelve weeks will be very difficult. It will hurt. It will also be fun and rewarding. I will be meeting many new people with similar experiences who I can learn from and share in the moments. I will be running races that many other ultra-runners would love to run. I will be running in beautiful places with wonderful people. I'm very lucky no matter the outcome. 



Western States has good runner tracking and you can track me here: 

The Western States site has good info about the course, results, etc. 






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finish Lines

Somehow my silly hobby got me an interview on a running podcast. It just so happens that I am of huge fan of said podcast. I also happen to know the host since we ran the crazy Hrimthurs races together and several other races it turns out. He does great work with the show. It was a tremendous opportunity to tell people how running has become part of my life and made it better. I was very nervous about it and hope someone found something redeeming about it. The one thing I have learned was that even in a long form, two hour interview, you only get a very small fraction of the story. This is no fault of the host, who has the difficult job of getting to all the topics in a timely and engaging manner, which Scott does marvelously. It is up to others to judge my performance as I can not impartial. I put myself out there and open myself up for judgment.  I'm fine with that.
Each story that was told, each race that was mentioned had much more going on below the surface. Being on the show was a great chance to get some of that out. This format is my chance to further elaborate on the details. A chance to self reflect and to share the rest of those stories. If you're here reading then it is because, maybe, you want to hear these things. Thank you for that.
One example of a topic briefly covered was the story of my first marathon finish. The months leading up to this will have to covered in another, deeper dive of a post but they were not the best of times. Running began to become a release form the stress in my life. I started to be consumed with the idea of running a marathon. It was the ultimate feat of endurance that I knew of. Well, maybe an Ironman triathlon but that was just some insane fringe sport {wink}. I finally decided it was time to commit to it and the 2009 Detroit free Press Marathon was my target.
I looked online for how to prepare for a marathon. Like so many before and after me, I found the Hal Higdon program. The mileage for each day and each week was laid out simply and logically. My engineer's mind ate this up. I printed it out and began the first week of June 2009 for the race which took place in late October.
Week One consisted of short runs around 3 or 4 miles. The long Sunday run that first week was a whole 6 miles. I had never run over 4 and it seemed to be a daunting task. For some reason I trusted that I would be able to get through the 18 and 20 mile runs later in the plan. I went out and did that run, not knowing if I could. I recall feeling good the whole way. Coming into the last mile I realized I was going to do it. 6 miles. I was so proud of myself and, honestly, it is still a special running memory. In comparison to what has happened since it doesn't seem so amazing, however, nothing that came after would have happened without that day. It was a critical first step. I began learning how to face seemingly difficult tasks and realize that I am capable of doing more than I think I can, as all of us are.
As the weeks went on I built up my confidence. The long runs became longer and I was finishing them. Every day there was work to do towards the goal. I still had no idea if I could really do it or what it would be like. I was afraid to miss a workout and I did the exact mileage called for every time. I felt I had to follow the plan exactly because if I didn't there was no way I could succeed.
The long weekend runs kept me away from the home environment which was always tense and uncomfortable. My wife at the time and I were rarely talking any more or doing anything together and when we did it was just a waiting game for one of us to get angry about something. Running was my place to think. It was my place to focus on other things. It was where I could succeed or fail on my own terms. I didn't know it but I was learning a way to address and cope with issues I was having with myself, which will have to be another post (or 2 or 3).
As the race approached, I was nervous but started to feel that it was entirely possible. I struggled with an 18 mile training run but had felt great during the 20 mile run. The lesson that has carried over is that not every day is your best but struggling and getting through difficult days is the real test.
I left very early race morning, worried about finding parking and getting to the start on time. The race takes place in late October which in Michigan can swing between freezing or high 70s. It was freezing at the start. It was a long cold wait for the starting gun. I became a bit emotional as the crowd started to move forward. My first race ever was beginning.
There is really no need to give a detailed recap of the race. I felt good for the first half marathon. I fed off the crowds that big city marathons have every where. As the half marathoners veered off, the race became a little lonely. At 20 miles the day was heating up and I hit that wall marathoners talk about for the first time.
The last 6 miles was a mix of walking and running. It was somewhere here that my decision to divorce began to take shape. I had committed to the marriage and still for some reason hoped it could be saved. That faded the closer I got to the finish line and was gone by the time I jogged the final half mile with tears in my eyes to the finish. Everything would be different from then on.
The 1st finish line when it all began


That brings me to finish lines. I crossed that first finish line alone. I didn't know a single person that was there cheering. I had no one there supporting me or encouraging me. Though I had made a momentous decision, the moment I crossed the finish line wasn't some magical, cinematic moment. I simply ran across an arbitrary point in the universe. The next second life still continued just as before. I still had problems to deal with that finishing a race didn't solve. I'm sure I was not alone in mistakenly thinking that the completion of monumental goal will instantly produce positive results.
Since that race, I have worked my up to ultras and still occasionally have that flawed expectation of a triumphant finish.
Crossing the finish line of an ultramarathon can be one of the most anticlimactic events you'll experience. There are rarely large cheering crowds. Ice Age 50 had a nice group gathered along a finisher chute clapping as runners finished. When I finished Grindstone 100, it was  somewhere between 4 and 5 AM, and by the light of a single weak flashlight, I met the race director, who handed me a shirt and buckle. That was that after more than 34 hours of struggle. After finishing my first 50 miler, a huge step in my running development, I was handed a medal and then sat by a tree and cried.
No one I knew was there to share in that moment.
The rare exceptions stand out. My wife at the finish of my first 100. My brother, who met me at the finish of both Tuscobia and Arrowhead. My parents at the Marquette 50. My friend Chris most recently at the Lumberjack 50. These are are all very memorable to me. I cherish them.
Mohican 2014


Mohican 2016

As I run more races and get to know more people in the ultra running community, I recognize more of them at finish lines. Whether it is someone I've known for a while or just met that day on the trail, seeing them at the finish, congratulating each other, makes this sport fun. The triumphant finish isn't really what I needed, even though I thought I did. Getting to any finish line is a only temporary goal. The work and struggle to get there is the important part. Interacting with my fellow runners, who share similar experiences is important and helpful to me.
Personally, I enjoy hanging out at the finish line to cheer others on at the end of a race. From 5k to 100 milers you get to see the faces of those who fought to reach a goal and accomplished it. It is inspiring to, perhaps, see the moment when their lives have changed, even if there is no movie soundtrack playing or fireworks exploding.  I'm looking forward to my next finish line and what lies beyond.






Check out Ten Junk Miles Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts

Western States 100 Preview post coming next week




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birthday Miles, Rare Beer and Metal!



The idea came to me back in February when I was putting together my training plan to prepare me for Western States. I wanted to be building up mileage to peak about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the race. The idea was to get a hundred mile week in the first week of May and to run my age in miles on my birthday, which was the last day of that week. 45 miles was the goal . Following that I would maintain and try to work on heat, strength and a bit of speed training.
I've been over it enough times but the miles after the winter races have felt slower and harder than in the past. It has improved as I expected it would. The Lumberjack 50 showed me that I will be just fine this summer, however, I always want to be faster and better. The discipline of putting in the work and time required is not one of my strengths. I've noticed some complacency has set in. I've finished 100s multiple times and start to just expect to finish every time. This is is positive, yes, but I'm also afraid this can lead me to taking things too easy and getting a rude awakening at one of these races. Then again, the list of things worse than a DNF at a race is about as long as possible. I can't take it too seriously. Its just running.
My peak week thus far had been 60 miles so jumping to a 100 allegedly carries the risk of injury or getting "over trained". I came up a little short on my miles leading into my birthday run on Sunday. I don't care because, after all, what real difference is there between 95 and 100 for the week? It is not going to change anything on June 24.
The morning was very cool but the sky was clear and it turned out to be a beautiful day. A member of the Dirtbag Runners met me and we ran the first 8 or 9 miles together, which made those miles go by very quickly and easily. After that it was just me and the constant stream of mountain bikes. I tried to keep the pace slow and comfortable but often find myself going faster than I should. I was often to lost in thoughts and reflection as you tend to be on long runs.
Running repeated loops is harder for me than going from one point to another. Between miles 9 and 18 I kept thinking about the fact that I had to do the loop three more times. I'm not going to lie and say it was no problem. It was overwhelming and I started thinking that I didn't want to do it. It was too much. What the hell had I been thinking? In other words this was perfect practice for a 100 miler. Eventually the end comes and it was a huge relief. I was happy with the way it turned out. Even though I walked some of the last loop, my pace overall was just fine. I could tell myself I was ok.
The next week I took it very easy. I ended up only running 3 days for a total of 22 miles. I knew getting a weekend run in would be tough due to my plan of attending Dark Lord Day.
What is Dark Lord Day? Turns out it was what I though of as an ultra for craft beer. One day a year, Three Floyds Brewery releases their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. They hold an event at the brewery that has lots of beer, food and metal bands playing all day. Tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. I finally decided to go this year and enjoyed it immensely. You are allowed to bring beer in and most people do. There is an atmosphere of sharing rare and desired beers with strangers around you, which starts in the line to get in and continues all day. These aren't any light beers either. Most we tried topped 10% abv with many going higher. Just like an ultra, it was all about a slow pace.
Breakfast base

Not running
My first taste of Dark Lord

Nearly $400 worth of beer
So back to ramping up miles again. Less than 6 weeks to go. I'm starting to feel like I really want to race again. Things are looking good!