2016 North Face Endurance Challenge 50M

No real time to write a full race report but I did run the 2016 North Face Endurance Challenge Gore Tex 50 Miler. That’s a really long race name.

I didn’t train for it in a way that would let me work on a personal best or really push my limit – but I still ended up pretty wiped out and exhausted.

It filled an important need I had to get out and do something since our pending move was taking longer than expected and I needed to take out some of my frustrations on some trails. As usual, Carrie was more than kind in allowing me to do this.

The other reason I was so excited about it was because it was my brother Kerry’s first Ultra as well. He was running the 50k. Throughout the day I hoped I would be able to catch up to him – I started earlier but I also had an extra 20 miles to run.

I did catch him the last five miles and it was great to be able to share this with him. The little brother in me took some sadistic pleasure in his struggle to power through the last few miles but I was mostly encouraging.

In the end I finished in just under nine hours: https://www.strava.com/activities/824544051

Gear

As usual – thanks to Brooks for some amazing gear. Their shorts and shirts don’t get enough love. They have some really nice fabrics that are great to run in.

What a Wonderland Trail!

I’ve beens so busy with getting ready to move the family – more on that in a future post – that I’ve neglected to write about one of my favorite running experiences – a two day self supported circumnavigation of the Wonderland Trail. Since it’s been a while I’m just going to repost what I put on facebook when I first did it – with a bit more color and some links.

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As paternity leave and Summer wound down Carrie was kind enough to support a crazy adventure I’ve been dreaming of for a very long time. Ever since I heard about it I’ve wanted to hike the Wonderland trail – a 93 mile trail with 22,000 feet of elevation gain that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. With work and family responsibilities I don’t really have a week to do it – so instead I put an ultra spin on it and ran it in 2 days. The first day was a 60+ mile 18 hour day and the second was 35 miles in 11 hours. It was the adventure of a lifetime the highs were worth all of the lows. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in terms of running. I did it solo and I carried all of my own water and food. Although I did resupply between day 1 and day 2 when I slept at the National Park Inn at Longmire. 

It definitely felt that I was pushing my limits. There were a few moments when I questioned my choice to try to do this including:

  1. When I first started out all alone at 2:30 AM from the Mowich Lake campground. Something about wandering into the darkness in a remote portion of a National Park gave me pause…
  2. Route finding over river crossings in the dark. It wasn’t easy to find my way over the river sections since they are marked with Cairns and small log bridges. And it was dark. Really dark.
  3. At lunchtime on day 1 when I was so excited to get to the Sunrise snackbar and get some real food – only to discover that it had closed down the previous week. Luckily I had packed plenty of nutrition.
  4. At the end of day 1 when I just wanted to get to the Paradise Lodge and it was dark and I was exhausted and lonely. But when I did get there it made the hot food they had waiting for me taste even more wonderful

Highs:

  1. Spectacular views of the mountain and enjoying how the views changed as I traveled around it.
  2. Setting into a rhythm and getting a feeling for the pulse of the park. The ups and downs reminding me of the trail of life. The trail really is just a sequence of cimbs up to ridges by glaciers with wide open views followed by decents down to river crossings of the rivers that are created by the glaciers. Really cool geology going on.
  3. Bear! I saw my first large predator while running.
  4. Saying goodbye to my mountains and filling up with their specticle before moving on to our next chapter

I’ll always cherish these two days on the mountain I love so much I named my son after it.

Strava Tracks:

Day 1 part 1: https://www.strava.com/activities/730402457

Day 1 part 2: https://www.strava.com/activities/730330627

Day 2: https://www.strava.com/activities/730433721

Gear:

Shout out as usual to Brooks! Ran this one in the Cascadia and it was great. I like the new Cascadia a lot.

Also I’m loving my Black Diamond Headlamp. They has awesome customer service as well. Had an issue with the lamp and a new one was sent out to me no questions asked – even though it was a couple of years old they sent me the latest model.

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Summer Runnin’ – Having a Blast!

Each quarter the members of my running team (SRC-Brooks) submit a short write up for the club. Here’s a preview of mine.

My focus this Summer was visiting as many of the classic NW trails as possible. My Brooks Pure Grit 5 and Cascadia 11s were perfect for bagging some epic peaks and Alpine Lakes. This summer I ran up the following for the first time:

  • Mailbox Peak – everything they say about the brutal incline up the old trail is true! Insane climb to the top with epic views. Loved every minute of it.
  • Gem Lake / Snow Lake – ran up it early and beat the crowds. Beautiful lakes and peaks. I saw my first avalanche up close but luckily not too close.
  • Granite Mountain – It was a beautiful clear day and an awesome run. Great 360 degree views.
  • Sahale Glacier and Hidden Lake Lookout – It was overcast for most of the day when I ran these two. However, I was able to get above the cloud level on my way up Sahale and was treated to a majestic cloud waterfall.
  • Kendall Katwalk – Great views and a really unique trail.

I did a few semi competitive races. I took first place at the Access to Justice 5k in my Brooks Racer ST 5s. I also took first rockin my Pure Grit 5s at the August Cougar Mountain Trail Series 5k.

I ran the Sundodger 8k open with the Cross Country team and took 275th in 30:50. It’s always fun and humbling to go up against the collegiate athletes.

I ended the Summer by completing an adventure run I’ve been dreaming of for a long time – a two-day circumnavigation of Mount Rainier on the 93 mile 22k feet of gain Wonderland Trail. It was the adventure of a lifetime and the hardest thing I’ve ever done in terms of running. I did it solo and I carried all of my own water and food – although I did resupply between day 1 and day 2 when I slept at the National Park Inn at Longmire. I loved how the views of the mountain changed as you traveled around it. I also appreciated the rhythm of running down the switchbacks, crossing a river, running up the switchbacks, and getting overwhelmed by natural beauty – repeated 10 times.

I’ve assembled 15 photos each from a different run that were my favs of the day.

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Olympic National Park – Near Deer Lake

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Olympic National Park – Pyramid Peak overlooking Lake Crescent

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Stuart Peak outside of Missoula Montana

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Goose Rock Deception State Park

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The eponymous Mailbox

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Gem Lake

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Hidden Lake was hidden in the clouds but the Paint Brush was amazing

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Sahale Arm

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Hampstead Heath

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Poo Poo Point

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Granite Mountain

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Squaw Peak, UT

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Kendall Katwalk

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Mount Rainier at sunrise. A sight for sore eyes after 4 hours of night running.

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Mount Rainier on Day 2 of my Wonderland Trail adventure

 

 

Adventuring on the Olympic Peninsula

My longest bike ride ever, alpine lakes and waterfalls, and mountain peaks were the backdrop for some  adventure on the Olympic Peninsula over Memorial day weekend.

Biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail – 37.5 Miles

In order to allow the family to have a more leisurely morning but still reserve a good site at Fairholme campground I rode my bike from our hotel in Port Angeles to the campground along the Olympic Discovery Trail. It  was a fun bike ride – but let’s be honest – I’m really just not a biker. I would rather be on a mountain trail. I got a bit lost and ended up on a mountain trail around part of Lake Crescent and had to carry my bike along some cliffs. I’m not sure if the actual bike route was closed or if I just missed a turn. I also had a nice crash when I was riding my bike on the hiking trail and I tried to go over an erosion control ditch that was deeper than I thought it was. However I survived and I snagged us a great campsite. It was my longest bike ride ever.

Alpine Lakes from Sol Duc Trail Head

This trail was much more technical than what I’m used to. Lots of rocks and water to navigate through. It slowed the pace but finding the Lakes was worth it. After some rainy weather earlier in the weekend the sun actually made an appearance. Found some snow at the higher elevations. When I completed I noticed on Strava that I was second to none other than my friend Kieth on one of the climbs. Would have loved to push further with some more time…

Pyramid Peak

This trail was much more runnable than the trail from Sol Duc. About as much gain but a much faster pace. Rode my bike from camp to the trailhead. It was a really fun peak to bag. Blasted down at a good clip – it was a kick in the pants. Saw that a few folks were camped out at the top – might like to try that some time.

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Wore my Brooks Cascadia 11s for both runs. Great long haul trail shoe that can take a beating on a technical trail.

May 2016 Cougar Mountain 10

The start of the Cougar Mountain Trail Running Series feels like the inauguration of Summer for me. I’ve run the Cougar 10 Mile six of the last seven years.

I had another PR this year – 1:22:18 which was good enough for 6th place. Last year I ran it in 1:24:46 and won the race. This year the field was significantly more competitive.

I had a ton of fun catching up with the local runners and enjoying my favorite trails. Excited for the next race in a few weeks.

The true prize for me was the awesome photos by Takao Suzuki. One of my all time favorite photos of me running.

Still loving the Pure Grit 4 as my go to speed shoe on the trails.

Crowd Surfing, Salsa Dancing, Hot Dogging, and Running the Boston Marathon Twice in One Day

As I mentioned in my last blog post when I signed up for the Badger Mountain Challenge I knew that I wouldn’t be in peak form for the Boston Marathon due to the different training strategies for a 100 vs a Marathon and the lack of adequate time to recover.

So I decided to have fun this year and really soak it in rather than all out racing it.

And then I decided that if it would be fun to do it once it would probably be twice as fun to run up from the finish to the start before the actual race, and then join up with the real race on the way back down  – the 52.4 mile Boston Double (this was inspired by Gavin Woody – someone that it’s dangerous to be inspired by). So that’s how this hair brained adventure came to be.

What transpired was perhaps the greatest bit of buffoonery ever inflicted upon the hallowed Boston Marathon course. I took a lot of pictures so I’ll mostly just stick them in here and add the captions similar to what I posted to twitter the day of the race. If you are curious to see how it all went down on twitter you can find it here: #2xboston.

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Starting at the finish. 5:48 AM

It was surprisingly hard for me to navigate my way up the course despite the fact that there are only like four turns on the whole course.

I wanted to make sure to get to the start before they unleashed waves of runners down the course as I knew it got tight up towards Hopkinton. So I decided to run the first half faster than the second. I aimed for around a 3:45 marathon on the way to the start – which has significantly more uphill then the traditional course.

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Hit the half before the Wellesley scream tunnel was in place.

I was right on pace at the half. It was a beautiful morning to run. I entertained myself in the following ways:

  1. Thanking all the cops, soldiers, and volunteers that were setting up
  2. Thinking up comebacks to all the people who told me I was going the wrong way. My favorite: Wait – I could have taken the bus to the start? Ahh Man!
  3. Trying to come up with witty things to post on twitter
  4. Posting useless photos to twitter

It was cool to see all the elite women and the wheelchair folks come racing by in the early starts.

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Arrived at the start in time to get a pic of my teammate Evan who ran a spectacular 2:38

When I got to the start I had time to hand my running vest off to my friend Bob and his wife who were there to cheer on their daughter. I probably should have hung out at the start for 30 minutes or so and actually started the race with a slower wave. But I wanted to find some of my team members so I jumped in my corral. This made for a messy start because I was already in somewhat rough shape. The day had been a bit hotter than would have been ideal and I spend the entire previous day walking around Concord instead of resting. Add to that the fatigue from taking a redeye and sleeping in a hot as an oven hostel with a large shirtless Russian and overly friendly Canadian it was shaping up to be a long day.

 

As we started I tried to run a 8:30 pace. However I had 7000 folks behind me that all wanted to run a 6:30 pace. This caused some difficulty. I mostly tried not to get ran over and hid at the aid stations every so often as the first wave rushed over me.

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I did pick up enough speed to capture this shot of Derek who ran an awesome race as well (2:46)

This is when the buffoonery began. As I was running so much slower than everyone else I began to goof around with the crowd. When do you get a chance to run in front of 500,000 people? They are such a fun crowd and support the race so well that I wanted to really savor the opportunity to interact with them. So I high fived every kid I could. I ate more orange slices than I probably should have. And then I started to try to come up with some creative ways to play with the fans.

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I love Beagles. And when I saw this one I knew I needed a picture to show to my two beagles at home.

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This crew from Mexico was having a great time. I stopped to do a little Salsa dancing with them.

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Is this seat taken? Enjoying the relative peace between waves.

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The frat party was more than happy to accommodate my request to crowd surf. This place in Framingham had already been going strong when I passed them on my way to the start at 8:30 AM. It was even more wild on the way down.

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Was so excited to see this poster. Abby Jo is my daughters name and seeing that on a poster with my name too was a great photo op. Super nice folks.

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I’ve seen Santa every year but this year I was excited to take some time to share with him my Christmas wishes (more amazing Brooks Running gear of course).

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Having been a missionary I was so excited to spend some time with this crew. I actually stopped here for about 30 minutes because I was just beat and it was a great place to relax. Two funny things happened here. One was that a woman in an Oiselle singlet tried to kiss an Elder which scared him out of his wits. He managed to evade the kiss but jumped about 12 feet in the air. The other was that they all lined up for a huge cheer gauntlet to send me off when I finally left. Love the Massachusetts Boston Mission!

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Hot dog I ate while spending time with the missionaries. I needed some real food at this point. Didn’t cause too many issues for the gut. My only regret is that there wasn’t a higher meat to bun ratio.

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This guy played the Rocky theme for me on the trumpet. It was amazing.

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I’m trying to wag my finger at the Wellesley girls since all my kisses are for Carrie but I’m horrible at selfies and didn’t bring my stick with me on the course

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I see these folks every year as well and it always swells my heart with Idaho pride. This year we had a nice chat and I sang the Idaho State Song with them. Here we have Idaho…

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Made it to the top of Heartbreak and decided that I had better stop taking pictures and just finish this thing or I would miss my flight

The last few miles were emotional. If you look back at all these pictures you will see a ton of smiles, a mountain of joy. I love that the people of Boston come together and give running this gift each year. They not only put up with all of us descending on the town in our dorky jackets and turning it into the Disneyland of running but embrace us in a breathtaking fashion. I get choked up the last few miles every time.

In retrospect I probably didn’t need to do the double to have a fun experience out there. That was mostly hubris. Mostly it came down to what I would remember 20 years from now and tell my grandkids about when I am a grumpy old man. I’m satisfied that I completely fulfilled that goal despite an official time of 4:55:13.

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One last photo down Boyleston

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Last step before getting on the plane. My first ice bath. I think it helped.

Gear Used

Brooks Singlet, Compression Socks, Launch 3 shoes.

My favorite piece of gear this year has been the Brooks Sherpa 5″ shorts. Love the fabric and the pockets for gels and wrappers. The sweat resistant back zipper pocket is perfect for a couple of gels and although this is a little gross I love that it warms the gels up enough to make them nice and smooth going down the gullet.

Track on Strava.

Whats Next

Running the Cougar 10 on May 14th but plan on backing off some the rest of the season with the baby coming and due to a bit of burn out. I’ll probably end up racing as many of the Cougars as I can because they are my favorites.

 

 

It Turns Out 100 Miles Was Just Enough

Last week I completed my first 100 mile race in 20 hours and 45 minutes. I finished in 2nd place. I exceeded all my expectations. It went better than I could have imagined. I ran the second half nearly as fast as the first and never really hit a real wall. At the end I was feeling really happy. Before the race I wrote a blog entry trying to make sense of why I had decided to run a 100 miler and I didn’t feel that I really had any good answers for it. Primarily I was concerned with my tendency to always be looking for the next big thing and wondering if anything was ever going to be “enough”.

After completing the race I feel like I’ve found many of the answers I was looking for – and that I found them in some unexpected places. Throughout history people have gone to the mountains for solitude and to find hidden knowledge. I feel like I came back down from the mountain having learned some important things about myself physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually

Physically

I am always surprised by what my body can do when pushed to it’s limits. Part of the draw of these events is about finding out what your limits are. I love that with hard work and training you can take a challenge that was previously impossible into one you not only complete but also feel like you have mastered. When I first signed up for the 100 miler I had notions that I would be lucky to simply finish. But as I trained and developed a better understanding of the challenge and what it was going to take, I felt like I could do it in under 24 hours. Due to the hard work I put in and seeing tangible results when I tested my fitness leading into the event, I started to feel confident that not only would I finish but that I could compete for one of the top spots. My expectations went from over 24 hours to under 24 hours to 18 hours and then settled in at around 20 hours.

I had a wide array of interesting physical sensations throughout the race. I followed the advice of some great mentors and keeping my effort level in the aerobic level and not running at a level that was unsustainable for the long haul. At first that was somewhat difficult. I’m used to running out in the front and make a sustained push at the limits of my ability. It was hard but also enjoyable to hold something back. I started feeling great. I showed up to the start injury free and as fit as I’ve ever been.

I had the hardest time physically from mile 34 to 44. The sun was at it’s hottest and the course was a set of exposed rolling hills that seemed to be endless. It looked like this should be relatively flat on the elevation map but it was undulating and tedious. As I finished the first 50 mile loop I started to have some back pain and I was discouraged about having to do the whole thing again before I could finish.

Then something astonishing happened. I stopped at the aid station at the turnaround and had a warm welcome from my family. I was able to sit down for a few minutes and eat some real food. I took an ibuprofen. I changed my shoes. I was in the aid station for probably 10 minutes. I stood up and started back up the mountain and I felt really fresh. I felt great. I settled into this state of euphoria that lasted about five hours where i was just eating up the miles and having a great time. All my little aches and pains fell away. I was running the flat and downhill sections well and hiking up the steeps vigorously. I felt like the longer the race went on the stronger I was getting.

As the carnage set in among the front runners and I started to pass people or others in front dropped out and my place in the standings went higher, I felt better and better.

I was goofy in the aid stations – making conversation with anyone who would talk to me and inviting them to come and run a few with me. It was just really fun. I was so happy. I did start to feel more tired around mile 85 to 100 but I was still moving well and in high spirits.

Nutrition was an interesting. I feel like I did a good job winning the calorie race. My mentors often pointed out the need to make sure you didn’t get in a calorie deficit and I did a good job eating a lot on the course. I’m sure I got at least 200 calories per hour. I ate as much real food as I could in the aid station and tried to eat at least 1 to 2 energy gels between aid stations. With 18 aid stations per loop that translates to well over 30 energy gels in less than 21 hours which grosses me out more each time I write it. But my body handled it relatively well with only some minor stomach issues.
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Winning the calorie race

When I finished the race I was still running and ended feeling happy and satisfied – it was a far cry from the pain fest I felt when I finished the Scout Mountain 100k two years ago.

Socially

Running is often a very lonely sport – especially for me as I rarely train with other people. However, this race really brought me closer to people in a way way that I’m very grateful for. It is interesting to see people’s responses when they find out you are going to run a 100 mile race. This was a big deal for me – it’s something that I’d thought about doing for a long time and had never done before. As I told people about it I really appreciated their encouragement and their support. Very few of them told me how foolish I was and made fun of me.

The folks at work did something very special for me. The day I left the office for the race they performed a Indian ceremony for me called a Tika to give me strength and good luck. The ceremony consisted of marking my forehead with vermillion, sprinkling some rice on me, and putting a garland around my neck. Although I get very uncomfortable being the center of attention I deeply appreciated the sentiment. I have worked with these folks for several years and spend so much of my time with them. I appreciated their support and interest. Along with the ceremony they had my favorite Indian dessert – Gulab Jamun – and some energy gels. In addition my friend Avais gave me a sweet 100 grill for my fist.
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A huge send off from the team!

I met some really interesting people on the course. I ran for about 10 miles with the race founder and former race director Brandon. We had a great time discussing our families and how we got into this crazy sport. I also ran with a few of the women who were leading the 50 mile race. One of them totally puked her guts out at mile 40 but got right back up and started running again. It was super impressive – that woman is tough as nails. My favorite people are the aid station workers. They are lifesavers to the runners out there trying to chase their crazy dreams. It was so fun to share the experience with them and thank them for sitting out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night waiting for a runner to show up every hour or so. It was a huge boost to have them help me out and get me some food and to just talk to me after running alone in the dark for several hours.

My wife Carrie and my family were amazing. I was also excited that my little sister Mindy and her family came to the race and they even found a way to drag my Dad out. Since the race starts a mile from Carrie’s parent’s home they were also there throughout the day to support me. It was so emotional for me to roll into the aid station to a huge crew of cheering fans with posters smiles for me. They were even willing to hug a stinky ultra runner. They were so excited to share the signs they had made which had a different theme for each aid station based on something we love – Disney, Star Wars, The Amazing Race, Harry Potter, and Light Up the Night (glow sticks for the aid station they met me at after dark). I was so glad to be able to share the experience with the people I love. Getting hugs from my little girls at the aid stations was a huge energy boost. Giving Danny the opportunity to see me doing something I had worked so hard for was important to me. Carrie is my rock – this just again reminded me of why marrying her was the best thing I’ve ever done and how staggeringly lucky I was that she picked me. Having my Dad there was extra special. Like most fathers and sons our relationship can be complex – but all of that fell away when he was there at the finish to cheer for me and give me a hug at 3:45 AM.

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So although I’m a lone wolf, when running this race reminded me of how many great people I have in my life and how willing they are to help me reach my goals.

Mentally

At a certain level a 100 mile race is as much about mental toughness as it is physical. There are so many opportunities over the course of 21 hours to decide to give up. Although I didn’t hit nearly as many physical lows on this race as I have on some of my other races I did find myself in a few spots where I was tempted to call it quits or to slow down. There is an option at the half way point to stop there and get an official time for a 50 mile run rather than a 100 mile run. To combat that I just didn’t let myself contemplate that option. Plus my sister made it very clear when I arrived at the halfway stop that I was not allowed to stay very long.

Throughout the long night of running it was often thoughts of all the folks that were rooting for me that kept me pushing forward. I wanted to finish for all the folks at work and my family that had been supporting me all day. None of them probably cared too much about my time though. It was the SRC Brooks running team that I’m a part of that gave me a bit of competitive fire to want to place well. All for the glory of team SRC Brooks!
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Dad and I at the finish

Spiritually

There was a moment at about mile 65 at dusk as I was running up Red Mountain for the third time that everything just fell away. All the concerns of life and the weight of being me was overshadowed by the experience of just being alone running up a mountain. It’s in these moments that I feel closer to Diety than at any other time. When my body is fully engaged in propelling me up the hill, my heart is full of the joy of all I see around, me and my senses are overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. My spirit soars and I feel like I’m flying.
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View from the top of Red Mountain at dusk

Why did I do it?

For all of the above reasons – although many of them I didn’t consider until I was actually in the middle of the experience. The real reason is closer to a combination between the drive to always try to do something bigger and harder (because it’s there) and a curiosity to simply find out what it’s like to run 100 miles. I was reminded that I don’t really need a great reason to try something like this – it’s more about the process and journey than any specific reason. I’ve decided to reject the idea of “enough” when it comes to taking on challenges – no matter what kind of challenge it is – running, career opportunities, parenting adventures, etc… I never want to be in a place where I am not curious to find out what’s next and take on a big hairy opportunity when it presents itself. I’ve lived in my own skin long enough to know that I’m not wired like that. What I do want to work on is making sure I’m being deliberate about the choices I’m making when I do take on these challenges. Am I ready to pay the price to reach the goal? Is it the right time for it? What will I have to sacrifice? I don’t feel I want to run another 100 miler right away. But I’m sure if the right challenge comes along at the right time I’ll be ready for another journey of discovery. Barkley Marathons anyone? Just kidding Carrie :-).
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Single track down McBee Ridge

What’s next?

Boston Marathon in 2 weeks – April 18. When I signed up for the 100 miler and made it the primary race on my schedule this year I knew it likely would impact what I could do at Boston. My training this week has made it clear how painfully right I was. I just don’t have the leg speed to run a fast marathon in two weeks. Instead I’m going to enjoy the experience and I’m still looking into doing the double Boston. Since I’ll be having fun with it I should be able to do some live tweeting @whatsnextmatt with #2xboston

After that I’m planning on backing off for a bit and letting my body catch back up. I may run a half in late spring since I’m feeling so fit.

Is Running 100 Miles Enough?

As I’ve been training for the Badger Mountain Challenge this Friday I’ve had a lot of time to think about really obvious questions like:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why would anyone do this?
  • Am I stupid for doing this?
  • Just how stupid am I for doing this?

But the question I’ve really been interested in lately:

  • Is 100 miles enough?

You see – I have a bit of an addiction to running and like any addict I’m always looking for the next high – as reflected in my blog name and twitter handle – whatsnextmatt. But as the challenges get bigger and the PRs take more and more training to reach, I find myself looking for a way to be satisfied instead of always looking for more. I wonder if I can do that one race or reach that one goal that will calm the beast inside and stop the quest for more and more.

I’m sure that my wife would love for me to find that place as well – especially with #4 due in a few months and some other big life changes potentially looming.

My Conclusion

As I’ve thought about it I’ve realized that 100 miles will totally be enough.

It’s the old addiction treatment where you indulge so much in your addiction that you get sick of it and break free. I’m sure it will work. I’ll finish that magical 100 mile barrier and feel like I’ve arrived. I’ve completed all the goals I want to complete. I will now have a positive relationship to running and I’ll be satisfied with 15 miles a week to be healthy and finishing 5ks in the middle of the pack. I won’t look at every new mountain I see and think about how hard it will be to run up. I won’t secretly research the best running spots as soon as we decide where our next vacation will be or my next work trip is planned.

Instead I’ll spend more time with my children being a better Dad. I’ll spend a little more time in the office and become a better manager. I’ll serve more at Church and help others with a happy heart instead of thinking about the adventures I’m missing out on. I’m sure I’ll be much happier with this newfound maturity.

My Real Conclusion

Enough is not an amount. The definition of enough and finding satisfaction is all about expectations and deciding on what you need to find peace. No matter how far I run or how amazing the view is from the next mountain summit I’ll never find enough out there. If I want to find peace I have to find it between my own ears and in my heart.

Do I really think that my running is preventing me from being a good dad, crippling my career, or preventing me from being a good member of my church? No. I know that running has huge benefits for me in all those areas. I have some of my best ideas on the run and it’s incredibly therapeutic to deal with the stresses of life. It has taught me irreplaceable lessons about discipline, improvement, and dealing with adversity. It’s strengthened my body and improved my health. I love how the training has enabled me to see things and do things that I would never be able to do without the fitness and skills I’ve gained. It was amazing to be able to wake up at the Grand Canyon in the morning and run to the bottom and back up before lunch.

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Where Do I Go From Here?

If the answer is in my head and in my heart – how do I find what I’m looking for? The fact that I’m pondering this so much is evidence that I feel like something needs to change. I do need to find some moderation. At the very least I need to have more healthy expectations around what running means to my life and be deliberate about what my goals are. I need to stop chasing after something I’ll never catch and instead figure out some better reasons for doing what I do. If that changes the amount I run or the challenges I decide to take on – that’s great. I know that I will be doing it because it’s valuable to me and not just because it’s bigger than the last goal and might be the event where I finally find enough.

So what are these better reasons for doing what I’m doing? What is this hidden knowledge that will bring me peace? How will I grow up and take a mature perspective on this consuming sport? I’m not sure. But I’ll have about 24 hours to figure it out this weekend during the race. Maybe I’ll have more to share then.

Three Early Season Races

I’m a bit behind on my blogging so but I wanted to record the two races I’ve run so far this year. In one I embraced having a cheering section and got along with a little help from a stranger. In the other I ran a tactical race and had fun pondering strategy.

#1 2016 Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival

Bridle trails is always a good start to the year with the Running Club. It’s a fun course and a good vibe as it starts so late in the afternoon. People pay money to run in the dark – go figure.
This year I ran the 10M again. Last year I took 3rd place in 1:05:08. This year I was 5th in 1:04:45.
This year my family had a low key day planned and decided to come and watch me race! It was great to see them at the start. Since I completed two laps of the five mile course I got to see them two more times during the race. Each time it was great to see their smiling faces.
I hit a rough patch about 2/3 the way into the race where I felt myself slowing down. A guy behind me caught up to me and I realized I had some more in me and could hang with him for a while. In my head I was thinking that I should just take it easy. I knew I wasn’t going to win the race and probably wouldn’t pass anyone. But I wanted to still run hard and I had already worked hard in the race so I should complete the effort and hang on.
Eventually I discovered that the guy I was drafting off of was actually running the 50k. So instead of competing it became a cool vibe of cooperation. We spotted a few more racers ahead of us eventually and he encouraged me that I could catch them and it definitely gave me a boost of energy.
I pulled ahead of my 50k friend (who would go on to win the 50k) and caught a few more people on the way to the finish – although another guy came up and passed me that didn’t seem to be working at all.
Lesson learned – it’s nice to have someone to work with.
On Strava.

#2 2016 Frost Eagle Half Marathon

As I build up to the 100M race I’m running on March 25th I’ve been looking for excuses to get milage in. As part of the prize pack for winning the Cougar Mountain Trail Running Series last year I received free entry into a race from NW Trail Runs. I spotted this event on their calendar and signed up – figuring it would give me a good excuse to get some more milage in. I decided I would run the half marathon and then go out for some bonus time after.
I think this is the first time I’ve run what I would call a tactical race. I knew I wasn’t going to win with a few really fast people there and knowing I had already had a hard training week and needed to keep something in the tank for my bonus milage. With that in mind instead of using the pace I looked for folks running a little slower than my body felt like it wanted to push it and use them to pace myself.
At the first I also just wanted to hang with my teammate Dustin Hinkle as long as I could. After chasing him for about half the race he started to slow down and another runner caught us. I paced off of him until mile 11.5 and in the process we passed a younger running that had gone out too fast and blown up. That put me in fourth place with 1.6 miles to go. I decided to push for third and passed the guy I was drafting off of. He didn’t have much in the tank to counter my move and I was able to pull ahead for the 3rd place finish.
I’m hoping to find someone I can draft off of in a similar fashion for the 100 miler. It’s good to have someone setting the pace and keeping me motivated.
I went out on the course for another eight miles of bonus work after the race. Getting strong for the hundred!
On Strava.
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#3 2015 Lake Sammamish Half

I decided to use the Lake Sammamish half as a build up race for the hundred as well. Rather than starting with my wife at 7:30 at the starting line I ran up the lake from home which put me at about 17.5 miles before the race started. I ended up getting a 35 miler in for the day and ran the half in 1:41. After I finished the first time I ran back up the course and caught up to Carrie at mile 11 and finished with her and Becky.

I’m feeling pretty good going into the 100 mile Badger Mountain Challenge on March 25. I’ve trained about as well as I can with everything else going on in life – probably more than I should if I were actually a responsible adult. I felt like I could have easily logged another 20 to 30 miles at 8:30 to 9 minute pace. I plan on running the 100 much slower.

Track on Strava.

Shoes
Pure Grit 4 for Bridle Trails and Pure Grit 3 for Frost Eagle. I love them about equally. The Ravenna 7 was great for a long road day for Lake Sammamish.
What’s Next?
Also have a blog post of about some epic trail runs at the Grand Canyon, AZ and Snow Canyon, UT I completed in February that I need to get around to posting.

What’s Next in 2016?

2016 will be another #RunHappy year for me as part of the Seattle Running Club Brooks Competitive team. I’ve been salivating over the new shoe lineup and look forward to putting some miles in on the Ravenna 7, the Launch 3, the Cascadia 11, and the Grit 4. So far I’ve loved the Grit 4 and it performed well at the Bridle Trails 10M.

Along with that I have a few goals for the year.

  1. Complete the Badger Mountain Challenge 100 mile race in less than 24 hours. If this goal is accomplished all of my friends can look forward to see this belt buckle a lot this year:935653_10200746945532446_1607728304_n
  2. Run the Double Boston. My friend Gavin Woody did this a few years ago and told me about it before I ran my first Boston. Start at the finish line early in the morning and then run up to the starting line arriving about when you are supposed to start. Turn around and run back. Since the SRC Brooks team is focused on ultrarunning I figure this is a good way to turn Boston into an Ultra. My first two Boston experiences were so focused on a time goal that I didn’t really enjoy running in front of a half million people as much as I should of. So the plan this year is to slow down, take some selfies, tweet a lot, and run it twice.
  3. Write more interesting blog posts. I write a lot of generic self indulgent race reports. This year I want to write more about why I do these crazy things and what I learn about running and myself as I test my limits and have new experiences.
  4. Successfully balance adding a fourth child to the family in July with running and all the other demands of life…

So some good things to look forward to! What’s not on the list? Setting new PRs. I plan on being competitive on the trails this year and I’ll continue to train hard – but I won’t spend as much time on the road chasing a few more minutes on my marathon PR. This year is about being on the trails and enjoying what I love about running. If I set a new PR that will be a bonus – but with everything going on this year I kind of doubt it will happen.