Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Have Fun on the La Sportiva Mountain Cup

Number 1, find someone willing to do foolish things with you.  Your chances seem better with younger folk, but I am 40.  Plus my friend Bernie who's 48 seems to be willing to do foolish things so maybe age doesn't matter.  My foolish someone this weekend, Everett Russell, a La Sportiva Marketing guy.

Number 2, don't worry if what you doing seems necessarily wise.  This sounds seems odd for me to be saying as I told Everett that one of the life lessons I think people should learn is to stop and ask yourself, "Is this a stupid thing to do?"

Number 3, run more on trails... at any time.

To shorten my foolish story, I drove up to Reading, PA with Ryan Woods on Saturday for the Chilly Cheeks trail race as it is on the La Sportiva Mountain Cup.  Ryan wisely chose to run near the hotel, get something to eat, and relax at the hotel.  I got Everett to meet me and we went over to run the course in the dark, in a light rain and heavy fog.  The Petzl headlamps were a must for rough trails and no moon.  The new Nao light is like having a car headlight lighting the way.  Not sure exactly where the course was, we roamed around a bit until we found some flagging.  We were running it backwards, but that works for me.  It was muddy, so at times you'd start sliding downhill and it was best to just go with it.  It was rocky, so it was best not to crash down onto them.  It was really foggy, so it was just really hard to see some rockiness, mud, or even course markings.  It was a blast and great to get to know Everett more.  It was the right kind to stupid for my head.

Everett and I got some food.  Then I went back to the hotel to grope Ryan's butt.  He made me do it.  Don't take me too seriously, Ryan is a professional... chiropractor.  He was just having me help him do some active release on a tight glute muscle.  But I am going to try it on Alison.  I then did some self massage which I have been doing quite a lot of lately, seriously.  Actually, I think it has helped a lot with my back issues.  So back to Reading.  Shortly after we got there race morning, I saw Matt Byrne who I expected to be there.  Later I saw Jordan McDougal.  I knew he'd be quick and near the front.  I've gotten to know several folks up in that area from the races I do there, plus several come down to my 10km Trail Championship every year.  It was good to see some of them.  Megan Kimmel was also out from Colorado for the women.  Races seem to be almost as much visit with friends as race.

Photo from last years finish.
I had been tight all week from the Red Hot race and actually took a couple days completely off.  Instead of running, I did an hour plus of yoga and another hour plus of self massage one day.  Then on the other day off, I did more than 2 hours of self massage.  I was a little unsure how the race would go. Quite a few guys went out fast.  I had seen the first mile of the course during warmup and decided to be a little conservative.  There was steep, bushwhacking scrabble about a 1/2 mile into the race.  I was back past 10 place.  Once up that on the road briefly before the trail I settled into 8th.  My legs were still feeling the Moab.  Nothing hurt, there just wasn't a lot of life and I noticed it most on the climbing.  Plus I spent a lot of the race thinking about various things, not entirely focused on racing.  I had moved up to 5th about 3 miles in and could see the white singlet of 4th throughout and often catch sight of another yellow La Sportiva singlet.  I thought this was Ryan, but it turned out to be Matt.  I kept thinking if I could keep focus I might catch 3rd, but I kept having trouble with the focusing thing.  Eventually I stopped seeing the yellow singlet and just tried to focus on 4th.

Coming up to the aid station at 4 miles I could hear the cheering for 3rd as I was close enough to know it was not for the 4th place guy.  I was told that I was 2+ minutes back of first.  I was actually surprised to hear I was that close with how I felt and my lack of focus.  As I was nearing the big, technical climb at 5 miles, I was closing on 4th.  I put my head down and set about closing the gap.  A couple of minutes later, I looked up to see Ryan coming back down from missing a turn.  I took the turn right in behind 4th and Ryan.  Honestly, I knew the next 1 and 1/2 miles were technical and suited my strengths.  My instincts were to race.  Ryan and I traded place a couple of times across the hill.  We turned steeply up and I thought I could pull by, so did.  Then it was my kind of tough, technical down.  I got a small gap on Ryan in getting down the next 3/4 mile.  Now we were on more flat terrain for a almost 1/4 mile.  I knew Ryan was close, then I could hear him closing.  I knew there was a short trail and steep climb about 150 yards from the finish.  I thought to just run like the turn onto the trail was the finish.  As I turned onto the trail, I could tell Ryan was now on top of me.  Then I looked up to see Matt.  I had a quick thought of whether I could catch Matt, but knew he was only 50 or so yards from the finish.  There was a guardrail to go over which I hopped cleanly.  Now we were on the climb and I knew it would be hard for Ryan to get by there.  But there was a flat 30-40 yards at the top.  I hopped over the last big rock at the top and sprinted.  Ryan was right on me, but said that me hopping up that last rock left him with no chance to sprint in with me.

 I felt a bit bad about beating Ryan that way, but between gun and finish all my instincts are race.  I then found out that Ryan had actually been in 2nd when he went off course.  I had been seeing Matt throughout the majority of the race.  I felt bad for Ryan.  He was really cool about it and knows that's one of the sucky things with trail racing.  I had a missed turn last year in New Mexico that ruined a race.  It just sucks.  On the drive home, Ryan pointed out that I had been 5 minutes behind he and Matt last year.  Last year was a similar distance and in the same area of trails.  I was just 11 seconds behind Matt and 2:48 behind Jordan.  I am feeling quick.  I'm looking forward to next weekend at Nueces and feeling really good about my fitness and speed going into it.  Especially with my races these last two weeks.  I have done a bit more speed work on the track this winter.  Plus I've done 10 x 1 mile with 1 minute recovery a few times over the winter.  My last mile repeat workout started in the low 5:50s and finished at 5:45.  I'll see how it goes in a week.

If you want to see my race coverage and Mountain Cup standings report, go to  Also if any of the folks up in PA got some pictures again this year, I like to get a couple again.  I really appreciate the ones I got last year.  Sorry I wasn't able to stay and visit more.  I hope to see you at my 10K this year.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Something is Wrong with Me, Mountain Cup - Moab Red Hot 33K

Running over Private Arch
I went out to Moab knowing that Red Hot is not my best course, but then again there aren’t many courses that really match my talents.  Though some courses are better than others.  Overall, Red Hot 33K has more of my less preferred terrain, than my more preferred terrain.  There is a lot of road or jeep road on the 33K course.  Actually, the whole course is road or jeep road, but about half is drivable with any SUV 4x4.  The other half would need a need a modified, big wheel, high clearance 4x4.  There is a decent climb at the beginning, but it is only a mile and not steep.  I’m not sure that there is another sustained climb for the rest of the course, but there are several steep ups and downs in the middle 9-10 miles.  I like this part of the course, except I need to work on my slickrock navigating skills, or it’d be helpful to run the course more before the race.  I spent a bit of time stopping or at least slowing down to try and find the course markings.  I wasn’t the only one.

Double O Arch - Arches National Park
As for how my race went, it was unique I guess, but positive.  I led up the climb of the first mile which I wasn’t too surprised by.  Once we crested and the road flatted, a parade of runners cruised by.  Again, I’ve grown very accustom to this.  I heard from some of these guys that they were doing low to mid 5 minute pace.  Not a pace I do for more than 1-2, maybe 3, miles and then stop running.  I was quickly in 6th and by the first aid station at 4.4 miles, even 5th place was completely out of sight.  I was very glad to finally get off the dirt road.  The course mostly climbed up to the aid station at 8.1 miles.  This section was good for me as I got into 5th and even 1st was in sight as I approached the aid station.  The section between the second and third aid station was a challenge to follow the course.  I was never really off course, I just couldn’t click along at a pace.  Again, I wasn’t the only one.  However, Justin Ricks knew the course a little better and made good use of this knowledge to break away.  He and second place made a point to get out of sight quickly so no one could follow them.  For me, it was run, then slow down or stop to look for flagging.  James, the guy who I’d caught for 5th, kept directing me back to flagging and I eventually gave up on breaking away from him as he was better at finding the flagging.  We eventually caught 3rd and 4th, one of whom being Josh Brimhall.  We searched for flagging and ran as a group to the third aid station.  I knew the last 5 miles were on relatively fast jeep roads that were flat to down.  I was screwed.

Speed is not a talent of mine.  I had meet Josh in 2011 when we ran at the IAU Trail World Championships in Ireland.  Ireland was harsh, my kind of course, like really my kind of course.  Well, except for some road sections.  I knew Josh had good speed.  I could tell the other guy that James and I had caught with Josh had good speed.  James seemed to have solid speed as well.  I would say that it was decision time in the race, but that is not entirely true.  I’d made my decision well before the gun was shot at the start.  I was there to race.  At times it doesn’t matter what you may be good at or not be good at.  I knew it was time to take all systems to the red line and see how long it’d last.  The only other option was to surrender and jog it.  Not an option as far as I was concerned.

Alison running up a spine in Arches NP
I have noticed that I have the ability to access basically whatever speed that I have regardless of fatigue.  I’ve noticed that can be hard for others.  The abuse of climbs and descents does not kill my legs or the speed they can produce.  I have trouble doing 5:30 for 1-2 miles fresh, but 6 minute pace is available almost anytime.  So at 15 miles I dropped my pace to 6 minute pace or just under and was going to hold it for as long as I could.  I was a little surprised to be catching Josh who had gotten out of the aid station first.  I worked by him, slowly.  I could hear the other guys behind me, but no one was pulling up on my shoulder.  Eventually, I could only definitely hear one guy close, breathing hard.  Just over a mile from the finish he pulled ahead and now I was hanging on.  Again, what other choice was there, I was racing.  As we got closer to the finish, he created a small gap.  Then we hit a steep, rocky downhill.  I knew that was now in my wheelhouse and was able to catch him and get a very small gap.  Then it was flat again and again he was able to pull by.  A couple more turns and I saw the jeep road get rocky again.  Problem was I could also see the finish less than a 100 yards ahead.  Too few rocks and too late.  I hate getting beaten right at the end.  Seconds after crossing the finish, I got the guy’s name, Trent Briney.  No consolation, I hate getting out kicked.  As my friend and former high school coach said, “The good thing about getting out kicked by good people... you were at least racing with them at the end.”  You know what, I hate getting beaten right at the end.

Landscape Arch - Arches National Park
Okay I’ll stop with that.  There does seem to be something wrong with me.  I'm still getting ever so slightly faster as I get older.  Turning 40 has actually had some negatives physically, but some positives.  The biggest positive being my improving performance.  I surprised myself in that last five miles.  I had honestly expected all three guys to run away from me in those last 5 miles to the finish.  Though I was not just gong to let it happen.  I felt really good about that finishing section.  That was definitely out of my comfort zone, but rewarding in that I feel that I performed reasonably well.  The getting out kicked is still eating at me.  For most who read my blog, you expect my honest feelings at this point and I wanted that place.  I was glad to set a new masters course record by several minutes, breaking that of my friend Bernie.  My final thoughts on the race, what is up with me breaking previous course records and not winning races?  I've done this at least 10-15 times over the past few years.

I'm headed up the Reading, PA next weekend.  I always seem to enjoy the races in PA, plus I'll get to see several folks I know up there.  In two weeks I head to Texas, for Nueces 50 mile which the bulk of my training has been geared toward.  I've done a little more speed workouts over this winter, plus some 10 x 1 mile with 1 minute recoveries this winter.  I've been doing these miles at 5:50-55 pace with the last one a little faster.  Seems to be working based on Saturday.  I hope that I'm ready to knock off a bit of time from my previous performances there.  I'll find out in two weeks.

For my race coverage and Mountain Cup results/standings, check my website Mountain Goat Racing
I also hope you'll check out my race on that site as well.  Plus I hope you check my previous blog and give more input on my 10K course, what is too tough?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Designing the 10km Trail Championship course. Is this guy crazy? Your job to keep me Sane.

What is too hard?  Does such a thing even exist?  Want to have some input into a Trail Championship course?  What is Jason talking about?
East Coast Hills - Reading, PA
See you in a couple of weeks.

I am doing some races at Beech Mountain this year with one of those races being the USA 10km Trail Championships.  Thus I have been working on laying out a new course.  At my new site there are options of twisting single track multi-use trails, grassy ski slopes, wide tree covered trails between slopes, and some primitive off the mountain single track trails.  My previous race, Continental Divide Trail Race, got to be known for its challenging layout.  I like challenging courses.  When I think "Trail Championship", I think about, well... trails, mountain trails.  I actually looked up the definition of trail, which of course there are several definitions of trail.  Plus we use the word trail in many ways and add bike trail, horse trail, but I digress.  The definition from Free Dictionary was "a marked or beaten path, as through the woods or wilderness."  I like words like "beaten," "woods," "wilderness."  Merriam-Webster defined trail as "a track made by passage especially through a wilderness; a marked or established path or route especially through a forest or mountainous region."  Again words like "mountainous," I like that.  "Trail Championship" to me doesn't mean a run through the local park that requires basically the same skill set a running on the road.  Nothing against running on the road, but my sport is "trail" running.  IT IS a different skill set.  Trail running has very little to do with setting a rhythm and getting in a groove.  It is the antithesis of rhythm.  Trails are all about irregular, off-balance steps, so do you have the skills to maintain speed on that.  Trail racing is about the ability to constantly shift gears, from a grinding uphill hike, to nearly flat out speed across a ridge or valley, to almost unconscious plummets downhill, and so on.  Trail racing is a mental exercise of constant focus, yet loss of time or distance traveled.  Trails often travel irregular terrain to get somewhere inconvenient often up and down steep grades.  Trails are about taking a path less traveled.  Maybe I will have to stop writing now because I've made myself want to go for a run in the mountains.

Okay I'll keep writing for now and look forward to running some Moab, UT trails this weekend.  Alison says I can take things too far.  I would disagree, but I do have to acknowledge that after listening to others comments about me for 40 years, I am an extreme personality.  I had learned to keep some of my thoughts, and activities, to myself.  Though when I found the trail community, I found my people.  Quite a few in the trail community seem to find me almost normal.  Well maybe at least not too out there by their standards.  So anyway, about laying out the course for the 10km Trail Championships.  I took Alison to run my idea for the course.  I think she knew that it would tough, but she thought it may be a little too tough.  I'll confess that I love to virtually dive straight off a mountain or grind straight back up, which you can see below.  It is the shortest, quickest way down or up.  But this route has a 1/2 mile 20% descent that Alison thought was a bit much.  I just said, "Bend your knees more and think quick feet.  It's kind of the position of downhill skiing, but you're running."  This descent was followed by a 1/4 mile run on a fireroad, then a 3/10 climb at 30%.  Yes, it goes straight up the mountain.  So does this sound like too much?

Just look at that beautiful dip!
A friend, Ryan Woods, has agreed to go out to preview the course with me.  He has said that I hate road runners.  Not true, I love trails and mountains.  I've never seen a mountain too big or a trail too hard.  Not to say that I won't someday, but not yet.  But I don't care for road runners complaining about trail running not being running.  For my previous Continental Divide course, Bobby Mack converted that track and road speed into a win, a second, and a third on that tough trail course.  Another great example is Max King.  He has run fast on road and track(6th in the steeple at the 2012 Olympic Trials), plus is the 2011 World Champion at mountain running.  Don't tell me that covering hard mountainous trails has nothing to do with speed.  I'll have to ask Max for his opinion.  But here is your chance to give me your opinion.  Help me plan the USA 10km Trail Championship course at Beech Mountain.  Seriously, I want your input.  Don't be afraid to be honest, Alison gives it to me all the time.  You can tell me that I'm a psychopath, just let me know that you like said psychopath.  I will take any input into consideration, but I reserve the right of final decision.  As I see it, my opinion and that of Joyce Hodges-Hite are top of the list.  She is 70+ and has finished Continental Divide every year winning her age group.  Her opinion will carry a lot of weight as I want a course she would do.  Finally, keep in mind that challenging trails are just my opinion of what are fun trails.  I like the challenge and beauty offered on most tougher courses.  I believe variety is good, if others like more tame trails, that is the course they should design.  I have no problem with parks or gentle paths, just this is my idea of what a trail championship race should be.  But I would like it to be an event others like as well, thus my call for your opinions.

Interview on MTN 18

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Uncomfortable Uwharrie Mountain Run 2013

Sean Andrish, Alison, JB
Yesterday I ran the Uwharrie Mountain Run.  I didn’t run any races in January and had only run one small uphill 5K since my DNF at Hellgate 100K in early December.  I have been enjoying just going out to Doughton Park running from the Longbottom area every weekend in January.  Training has been going well with several fast long runs(16-18 miles), some solid mountain workouts, and some good track workout.   The back has been mostly manageable, just becoming more irritated in the last week.  I started having some exceptionally sharp and harsh pains just under my right shoulder blade about a week ago.  My back pain tends to bounce from side to side and up and down.  It is seldom consistently just in one spot.  So that left me a little concerned going into Uwharrie.  I had been hoping to go for really fast time yesterday, but had begun to doubt that in the days before the race

Race morning was rather crisp with the temperature at the start around 17 degrees.  Once we were off, the cold was never a problem and I could have actually done with a few less clothes.  Sean Andrish and I took the lead fairly quickly after briefly going up the wrong trail in the first ½ mile.  I knew in the first 3 miles that it was not going to be an especially fast day.  I was tight, uncomfortable, and the right leg wasn’t functioning correctly.  I turned the right ankle 4-5 times in the first 5 miles as I was not feeling the ground fully with that foot.  Plus both of my plantar fascias were aching.  Oh well, I figured that I’d try to stay relaxed and hope for the best.  I was prepared to face another DNF.  Sean and I stayed together for the first 14 miles or so.  It was good to talk a little off and on, plus a nice distraction from my discomfort.  I didn’t talk as much as I am sometimes known for in races.  I was just too distracted with own discomfort.

On Longbottom loop with Jan Kriska
I had finally loosed up some and the right leg started to feel mostly functional after about an hour.  Around 14 miles, there is the steepest and longest climb on the out section.  As climbing comes quite naturally to me, I pulled away from Sean a little on the long climb.  I had enjoyed Sean’s company, but I was hoping that things might come around a little more and I could possibly surge a little on the return trip for a sub 6 hour time.  I hit the turn around in 2:55 and thought I might be able to get under 6:00.  My feet were aching something fierce though and this rocky, technical trail was not helping.  The best part of the day really had to be heading back into all the 40 and 20 mile runners.  I was surprised by the number of the runners who greeted and encouraged me by name.  That was simply humbling.  I wanted to run a fast time for all the runner’s encouragement.  But my body just was not cooperating.  It was a long day as I was never really comfortable.  The last 12 miles was all about thing in small pieces and don’t look at the watch.  I try to lose track of time and distance, just keep moving efficiently.  I was glad to see the finish in 6:05.15.   I was ready to sit down and give my feet a rest.

Me looking normal?
Alison was waiting at the finish after winning the 20 mile race for the women.  Congrats to Duncan Hoge on winning the 20 mile race.  It was great to see Shannon Johnstone and Anthony Corriveau at the finish.  I think I’m known for enjoying some post race socializing which I indulged in yesterday.  My back began to relax fairly quickly after finishing so hopefully things are going in the right direction with it.  Strangely, my back has actually hurt less after the race than in the days before.  My plantar fascias are going to need a few days to recover now.  Otherwise I don’t have much else that is very sore.  Up next is something fast, the kickoff of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup at Moab’s Red Hot 33K.  I plan to do some Mountain Cup coverage on my new website,  I hope you’ll check out some races that I’ll be putting on this year at Beech Mountain, info on my website.  The first is a 4.7 mile ~9% hill climb on April 6th.  Then the USA 10km Trail Championship on June 29th, more coming soon this race.

40 Mile Results
1. Jason Bryant - 6:05.15
2. Sean Andrish - 6:19.20
3. Sebastian Welterlin - 6:30.04

20 Mile Results
1. Male: Duncan Hoge - 2:47.32                Female: Alison Bryant 3:17.45

At Mt. Rogers with Jan a couple of weeks ago.
On the way up to Mt. Rogers Summit

More of Alison’s quotes taken out of context: 

“Size doesn’t matter to me, obviously.”