Stomping Ground

Tuckerman's Ravine from near HoJos.

Tuckerman’s Ravine from near HoJos.

I spent the first 18 years of my life in northern New Hampshire, surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, with the Presidentials looming on the southern horizon. Technically, the famous Mt. Washington was in my home zip code. In terms of east-coast mountains, this is as big and bold as it gets. We climbed up and down it and on the surrounding mountains many times in the Scouts and after I came home from college. Even after two decades living elsewhere, including 12 years living amongst mountains twice as tall or more, the old rock pile is a source of great home-town pride for me.

Crystal Cascade half a mile in on the ascent.

Crystal Cascade half a mile in on the ascent.

I’ve always been fit, but I wasn’t particularly athletic or ambitious until my mid-20s. Somewhere in the midst of grad school, I got bitten, in rapid succession, by the rock climbing, back packing, and caving bugs. Then I moved to Colorado and became a mountaineer and trail runner. Mighty deeds were done in the larger-scale geography out here, but in the back of my mind was always my home-town hill. How fast could I go up there with my new light-weight style and with Colorado-trained lungs and legs? Finally I got the chance this summer and it was… interesting.

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Momentum: 100 miles in the Bighorn Mountains and Other Places

Mile 59: Dawn of a new day.

Mile 59: Dawn of a new day.

I signed up for this race because it has an 11 am start and I could get a good night’s sleep beforehand. So why am I wide awake now at 3? Oh, right. Eight months of twice-my-usual-volume training, eight days of stressing over logistics, and eight hours of driving across state lines, all comes down to the next 30-something hours. My first hundred-mile race and hopefully my first entry into the big belt buckle club. Or maybe not. Did I train well enough? I’m certainly well above the level needed for any of my previous 50-mile races. I’ve been having some intestinal issues lately. What about those weird knee twinges I had on Monday and Tuesday?

A lot of things to worry about, packed very efficiently.

A lot of things to worry about, packed very efficiently.

Oy, why can’t I sleep!? What if I can’t get a good night’s sleep the night before? There are so many decisions that could be wrong. Is changing shoes at mile 82 the right strategy or should I have planned on changing them at mile 67 instead? Did I remember to put the Body Glide in that drop bag? What about the time cut-offs at the different aid stations? Is my projected timeline realistic? What happens if I have to drop out at some point? Be honest, it’s a very real possibility. Will I have the fortitude and forgiveness to try this again or will I have to live with my DNF for the rest of my days? I’ve done all the pieces, but never put them all together. Will I have the heart to go through all this training again? Eight hours until go time. Plenty of time to think about it.

Brian and I at the start.  Nope, no nerves here.

Brian and I at the start. Nope, no nerves here.

Fast-forward seven and a half of those hours and we’re sitting in rapidly-shrinking puddles of shade in the tall grass, marinading in sunscreen, nerves, and over-jovial starting line buzz. It’s hot and only getting hotter and the late-morning start is seeming a little excessive now. Maybe a 9 am would have been sufficient. Minutes to go and all I can think of is the volumes of advice I’ve gleaned from friends, gurus, and books: “If you think you’re going too slow, slow down.” “The best way to run 100 miles is to take it really easy for the first hundred miles.” “Relentless forward progress.” “You can’t bank time in an ultra.” “Win one for the Gipper.” “With your shield or on it!” Continue reading

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Bighorn, the short-attention-span version

bighorn_logoIt’s going to take a little while to muddle up a coherent enough reaction to Bighorn to post here.  So for those of you following with baited breath (if any), here’s the short short version.  Race went pretty well.  There were highs and lows and emotional breakdowns and feet that look like hamburger.  I finished in 31:21 under my own power, with my shield not on it.

More news and photos in a week or so.  In the meantime, here’s the finish photo:10499501_10206837387195212_4809560704706549814_o

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Bighorn Preview, Part Duh.

bighorn_logoAm I ready?  I have no idea.  I’ve run a lot in the past eight months; 900 miles just in the first 24 weeks of 2015.  This is about twice the volume I’ve ever done before, even on “big” years.  Certainly I’m more than ready for any of my previous 50-milers.  Am I ready for two in a row?  I’ve done all the components; let’s see if I can put them all together when it counts.  

Put another way, I’m more than ready to get this thing over with.  The training obsessively has been fun and I feel great – light, fast, tough, and prepared.  But I really need to devote some time to job and family (not necessarily in that order).  Summer is rapidly approaching half done.  Once I can see past this race, there will be all sorts of fun.

Will I ever do this sort of thing again?  Will Amy ever allow me to do this sort of thing again?  No data.

See y’all on the flip side!

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Bighorn Preview, Episode I

bighorn_logoI don’t normally post race previews. That kind of fanboy nonsense I leave to Bryon Powell and his fine crew at However, I’m tapering and have some time on my hands and apparently the way I taper is by geeking out with maps and pacing charts and so forth, so here goes. This willmay be a two part post: first, a description of the course and logistics for those following along at home to familiarize you (and me) with the geography of a place I’ve never been. Second, if I’m feeling self-aware enough, will be my thoughts about my mental and physical preparation for this thing. Or maybe not.

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Sand Lilies!

Sand Lilies!

It’s t-minus three weeks until Bighorn. Time for one last hurrah of big training before tapering! On tap was a double-header of 20 milers after a couple hard days of shorter stuff (8 and 6 miles at a solid effort). Running on tired legs is the reason and who am I to question such things?  

Friday – Chimney Gulch and Beaver Brook

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Up All Night to Get Lucky

Boulder from Green Mountain at night, a view I've seen many times, but never quite like this.

Boulder from Green Mountain at night, a view I’ve seen many times, but never quite like this.

I run at night a lot.  As the co-leader of the Boulder Trail Runners Night Run, I log several hours each week in the dark on everything from pavement to gnarly technical terrain. Many of my favorite and most profound memories have been forged during night runs.  But I’ve never run ALL night.  Given that I’ll be doing so in less than a month (ulp!), I’d rather figure out my systems for staying awake, moving, warm, and sane now rather than at miles 45-60 of Bighorn. I’ve heard things can get a little weird in the wee hours of the morning.

Why would you do that?

A classic night summit from October 2014.

A classic night summit from October 2014.

As part of my training Master Plan, I set out to do an all-night run to work out some of these issues (also, to get in yet another 20+ mile training run). The logistics of a long training run aren’t so complicated (which is one of the reasons I took up trail running): go somewhere, run, go home. Maybe you’ve got some friends, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a way to resupply mid-run or maybe you’re carrying all the food, water, and gear you need for 6-12 hours on the trail. Continue reading

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