Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pod Trod

The first annual first-ever Pod Trod was held last Sunday at gorgeous Clinton Lake park in Lawrence, Kansas. Man, was it fun. The idea was that you download a narrated course description the night before the race onto your mp3 player - and don't listen to it! You then show up the next morning, and when the race starts, you start listening and running. Or listening and standing. Or listening and running back to wherever you just were. Whatever.

I convinced my friend Theresa to run this one with me. Actually, I had several friends say they would, then they bailed. Whatever. We got down to the lake about half an hour before the start, milled around for a bit, and got ready for the race.

I had downloaded Clinton Confusion. Theresa didn't have a working mp3 player so our solution was to use the speakerphone on my iPhone so we could both listen to the description. It actually ended up working pretty well. You could choose from one of three courses; Clinton Confusion, Lumbering Luddite or Mud Babes Revenge. All three transversed basically the same area around the blue, red and white trails at the park, they just all went in different directions at different times.

Gary Henry gave the pre-race briefing to the 50-or-so assembled runners which mainly consisted of "have a lot of fun out there". I had a feeling we would. With that Gary sent us on our way, or "ready, set, play".

The first part was easy, run to this big brown house. Check. Everyone kept running past it and we hadn't listened to the next track so we just followed them while listening to Greg "LeCompton" Burger tell us to head down to Lands End. Lands End is this 5 or 6 trail intersection only a Brit could really appreciate. We came down this hill to the sight of 30 or so runners just standing there, heads cocked, looking up in the air, intensely concentrating on something. If someone would have seen it and not known about the race they seriously would have thought that the aliens had just turned on their brainwashing devices and we were all standing there waiting to get picked up. It was hilarious.

You have to pick up tokens during the race to prove that you passed the several checkpoints. Greg sent us down the blue trail for a while to some stairs, which we were to climb, then get back on the white trail and end up at Lands End again. Check. No ticket yet. Odd.

We then took off the other way on the blue trail, randomly passing people running in all directions on the trails, very reminiscent of the museum scene at the end of The Thomas Crown Affair when there's "guys with bowler hats all over the place". It was hilarious.

We found the #2 'token' which got us real worried about where #1 was. We decided to keep moving on. We were directed to the red trail along the shoreline, headed West, for about half a mile. This was a tough section as it was very rocky and rooty and narrow and there were people passing us going the other way. After a while and some turns we found the #3 'token'. Easy. Dammit, where was #1?

We were directed back to Land's End and told to head to the finish. We started that way but stopped before there deciding we needed to find the first token. We re-traced our steps and found a bucket at the first set of stairs that said "CCC #1". Yeah, that wasn't there when we headed out.

The way back to the finish was along the white trail. We could hear the folks at the start/finish so we decided to cut through the woods and out onto the field instead of trucking all the way back to Land's End to hit the finish. The Nerds at the finish were like "where the hell did you guys come from?" when we came out of the trees. "Shortcut." I said.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Perfect Weather, Pefrect Run

The two days of (constant) rain we just had must have washed whatever was left of summer away, greeting me this morning with fall's relaxing scent. You know, fall just has that smell to it. I don't know what it is, but it's great.

I have a metric butt-ton of samples to run today in the lab but I decided they could wait for me to get a quick run in this morning. Few things make or break my day more than a good run. I wanted today to be good, so, go for a run it was.

It was about 60 degrees when I set off, not wanting to accomplish any great distance, maybe just to Loose Park and back. Simple except for the hill up Wornall. Oh well, I'd take it easy, no need to push it and hurt the foot. Maybe I'd run over to Coleman Heights, my Grandma's house route, through Valentine. I decided to run wherever, it didn't matter.

I took the Loose Park route. Headed through the Plaza and up Wornall. I didn't push it, I just enjoyed it. Few people were around, the streets were empty, I felt like I had the city to myself, and the most amazing thing happened, I didn't think about anything at all. It was great. I just ran. I just enjoyed the run. My foot didn't hurt. The weather was perfect. The wind was strong but manageable. It was exactly the run I needed.

My foot felt fine but I wasn't going to test it. I headed back home after one lap at the park. Going back through the Plaza I noticed all the Pitch newspaper things (I don't know what they're called). It was odd seeing a picture of me running while I was actually running. Going down Ward Parkway I imagined seeing the one in front of Kona empty, hoping that over the weekend copies had been taken up by all the girls inside who were taken aback by that striking silhouette of the man on the cover. Creating wonderful stories about him and waiting for him to walk in so they could shower him with drinks and attention. But alas, it was full. Yes folks, these are the kinds of things I think about when I run. Totally random crap.

So, it's a perfect day. Hopefully an indication of the fall to come. I wanted to keep running. I wanted to find a good book (*cough* non-science *cough*) and curl up on a porch with a cup of coffee and a sweatshirt and enjoy the chill. Not today though. Today it's a day-date with the mass spec. At least it's giving me perfect chromatograms, so far. It's a good day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Patriot's Run

The Patriot's Run was yesterday (Thursday, Sept 11th) at Two Trails Park in Olathe, Kansas. There's several options to the run. You can run a certified marathon or you can just show up and run for however long you want. My plan was to show up at noon, for the race start, and run until 9:11 at night, the end of the race.

I set myself up for disaster on this one. School has been taking up a ton of my time, keeping up with classes (or not keeping up), getting ready for my bi-weekly classes, and trying to get my research in line has put me under a ton of stress lately. If I have a fault (yes, I'm sure I have many) it's that I take on too much stuff at one time and won't admit, until it's generally too late, that I've taken on too much. Maybe this run was trying to tell me that.

I got to the park around 11:30, got my packet and got my stuff in order. The race is run on a .75 mile loop, all asphalt. It's fairly flat, well, flat until you've ran the same loop 20 times, then it's hilly as hell. I didn't know how I'd react to the asphalt (hint: I didn't like it). I looked around and didn't like it.

I was also very nervous headed into this race. I'm not sure exactly why. I think part of it was that I'd be running around people the entire time. With most ultras I've been around people for only very short amounts of time, usually headed off into the woods, countryside, or darkness by myself. Here I'd be with people the entire time. It didn't sit well with me for some reason.

It was also raining, not hard, but consistently all day. Running in the rain is generally one of my favorite things to do (behind snow and the beach). But I wasn't feeling it today. Maybe for a two hour run it'd be cool, but eight hours of it...hmm, it wasn't sitting well.

Back to the race. There were about forty people in total running. I think it was divided equally between marathon runners and run-however-long runners. We all kind of huddled under a shelter, milling around. I stretched, tried to not think about what it would feel like to run for nine hours. Talked to some folks, etc.

Around noon we were herded to the start, facing south, meaning we'd be running counterclockwise. We were on our way. I started easy. Focusing on keeping my pace at a steady 10 min/mile.

I did fine for the first hour. I held my pace. It was hard to zone out though. There were so many people around and we were passing the start so often I couldn't get into just running. I was busy thinking about other things, which made the running harder. I was already questioning if I could mentally handle the entire run. Oh well, I kept pushing it.

My parents showed up not long after, the first race they've been to. My mom immediately tagged me as looking like crap. I told her thanks for pointing out the obvious since I'd been running for an hour in the rain in a circle. She said it was more than that, I just looked beat.

She was right. I was tired. My legs burned way more than they should have on the very easy uphills the course offered up. I started walking about 1/10th of each lap - the part that was the steepest grade. This wasn't going well.

I stopped to take an ibuprofen and some salt tablets. Maybe that would help. I ate. Maybe that would help. Nope. Nothing. No energy, legs burned, mind wasn't in it. God, was I not going to finish? Was I going to have to quit?

I set off on another lap. I ran but immediately found I had nothing to keep me going. WTF? I walked for a while. See if that would help. Nope. Nothing.

I stopped wondering if I'd quit and started looking for reasons to quit. Was my foot hurting? Well, yeah, a little, but not horribly. I'd ran on it in worse shape. Maybe if I kept running it would start hurting more. I wanted it to hurt. What was wrong with me? Why would I want that?

The foot would just be a good excuse to stop. Everyone told me to stop if it started hurting. If it did hurt then I could justify stopping. That was my excuse, everyone would accept it and tell me I was smart for stopping. Then I wouldn't have to tell them that I just couldn't get my head in it. I couldn't get my legs into it, they didn't even show up. They were still at home, in bed.

I kept doing the laps, walking a lot, putting off the inevitable until the next lap. Finally I decided that was it. I was done. 3 hours and 30-ish minutes, 18 and some odd miles. That was my limit. I turned in my number and headed home. Tail between my legs.

I'm not too sore today. My foot does really hurt a little, but not a lot. I avoided talking about the race with folks at school who knew I was running. "How was the race?" "Aww, it was ok, not great, just ok." New topic.

I didn't really DNF, as it's an open-ended run, at least not on paper. Yet, in my mind I quit and it really sucks. I've approached my running to this point with the attitude that there's nothing my mind can't deal with. That's pretty arrogant, I know, but it's how I've seen it. Maybe now I know my mind has limits. I don't want it to. I want to think my mind can deal with anything. Limits show weakness. At least to me. I can rationalize anything, I can say 10 miles into a 50-miler that I'm 1/5th of the way done, not that I've got 40 miles left. Not yesterday.

One thing I'm sure of, it wasn't my muscles or bones or body that failed me yesterday, it was my mind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trail Nerds in The Ptich

The Trail Nerds got a great write-up in our local weekly paper, The Pitch. You can find it here.

As part of it they included a kind-of-obscured picture of a runner at the Mud and Muck 5k two weeks ago...number 71. Hey, I was number 71. Go figure. I'm on the cover of The Pitch for being a Trail Nerd. Life couldn't be better.

Patriot's Run tomorrow. Let's hope my foot decides to play nice.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friggin Foot

Yeup, it still hurts. I haven't been running on it much and the dumb thing won't heal. I think it's doctor time.

Did the Mud & Muck 5k on Aug 31st. It was a nice 5k with a 25 yard or so mud pit about a quarter of a mile from the finish. Just like Dirty Duo but cheaper, better organized, and a whole lot more fun. I didn't hydrate properly the night before the race (read: I drank waaay too much and went to bed way too late) so I chalked this one up to nice and easy 5k. It was fun.

The North Shore Trail Run was last Saturday, the 6th of September. Another great Trail Nerds event. I hadn't run the Clinton Lake trails before so I was really looking forward to it. Jeremiah and Tayler joined me for this one. Tayler brought Bentley (a 115 lb Swiss Mountain Dog) with her. Fun for everyone.

My foot was feeling a little funny before the run but I decided to do it anyways. I didn't push it very hard, just kind of enjoyed the scenery and the other runners.

I'm seriously considering not doing the entire 9 hours and 11 minutes of the Patriot's Run if my foot acts up too much. We'll see.

In case you care about my other life (the trying to get into a MD/PhD program life so I can have no life) I got asked to give a talk in October at the Gibbs Conference on Biothermodynamics over the research I did this summer (and am still doing, actually). I'm totally stoked about that. Well, stoked and scared. "I'm an undergrad, please be gentile".

School is killing me this semester. Between research, my classes, and teaching two nights a week my running and sleeping are really suffering.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Time Off

I ran today for the first time in 8 days. It felt like it had been forever.

I have two reasons. First off, I had to give my foot a rest. I have no clue what I did to it but the top of my left foot has been killing me when I run. It started during Mt. Hood, continued through San Francisco and kept getting worse. Finally it started hurting when I wasn't even on it. Bitching about it wasn't making it feel any better so I finally stopped running on it. This has been my longest break from running since my IT band injury back in April.

My second reason is that school started up again. I'm taking Biochem, Instrumental Analysis and P-Chem at Rockhurst. I'm also taking Genetics at KU from a guy who both wrote my book and who is on a first name basis with either Crick or Watson (well, Crick is dead, but you get the point). On top of that I'm leading a two-night a week review class (called Supplemental Instruction) for Organic Chemistry which means I get to go to all the Organic lectures (again). Oh, and about P-Chem...this class scares me. It's all calc based and the only calc I remember is how to do the derivative of x^2. I'm so screwed.

How am I going to keep up a good running schedule?

Anyways, enough complaining. My foot felt ok today. It hurt a bit, but nothing like last week. It was a short run, 3 miles. I'll give it another few days and see where I'm at. Perhaps an x-ray is in my future.

I signed up for another 100-miler...a road race along route 66 in Oklahoma. The Mother Road 100. Should be a nice experiment as to what running on a state highway will be like in preperation for the run across Kansas.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Komen Race For The Cure

On Sunday, August 10th I ran in the Komen Race for the Cure 5k in downtown KC. The irritating sore throat I had on Friday had evolved into a full-on head cold by Sunday morning. This dictated my race strategy for me - just run easy.

I got there with my friend Erin around 6:45. I was looking for a bunch of people before the start but managed to find nobody. There were 25,000 people there...makes it tough to find anyone. Around 7:20 I headed up to the start and nervously placed myself in the 7 min pace group. I didn't think I'd try to run that fast, we'd see.

Right before the race started Jon found me, then about two seconds later we found Jeremiah. Jon wanted to run sub 20 minutes which is actually pretty difficult on this course. There's a long steady uphill in the middle and a pretty sudden uphill towards the end. Jeremiah was going to pace Jon to a sub 20 minute finish. I, stupidly, decided to keep up as long as I could.

We got going in short order and Jon took off way too fast for me. I wasn't wearing my Garmin, again, so I didn't know how fast we were running. Jeremiah said somewhere around 6 min miles...way too fast for me. So, I let them go and fell into a massive crowd of people.

I kept a good pace, faster than I should have, for the first mile of the race.

Right around the one mile mark I was coming up on a lady and a guy running near each other. The course was pretty packed and I was planning on running in-between them. There was plenty of room for someone to fit between. As I came up to them the guy moved over to the right fairly suddenly, completely cutting me off. Now, I probably should have slowed but, I didn't. I tried to cut behind the lady, thinking I had the room. I didn't. She kicked my shin, loosing her balance and almost knocking me over. I stayed up, she didn't. She went down, hard, face first. It was terrible. I was thinking "no way this just happened".

I stopped to try to help her. She didn't move for a few seconds which kind of scared me. I immediately noticed her shoulder was bloody, road rash. She got her head off the ground and me and some other folks helped her up. She had a pretty good gash above her left eyebrow. I didn't see any other obvious cuts on her face but she was wearing her sunglasses so I don't know if they were covering something up.

There was an ambulance not very far behind us and I offered to walk her over there but she said I didn't need to go with her. She walked off, and I ran again, completely devastated at what had happened. That pretty much ruined the race for me. I felt horrible. I know it happens a lot and it probably happened more than once yesterday but that doesn't change how bad I feel.

I just ran after that, I didn't care, I wanted to finish. There was several bands along the course, few spectators save for the start and finish. Nice morning, pretty cool. I finished in 22:01. Sigh.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Psycho Wyco Night 10K

On August 8th the Trail Nerds put on the much coveted, much looked forward to, much hyped Psycho Wyco Night 10k at Wyandotte County Park. About 70 folks showed up for the 8pm start. It was a nice August night by KC standards - about 85 and the humidity didn't feel too bad.

I was a bit sore still from the SFO marathon last weekend and was coming down with some sort of a cold so I didn't feel like pushing it very hard on this one. I had the "this is going to be a fun run" attitude going into the race.

If you're not familiar with the Wyco course just think of a really rocky, rooty, muddy and extremely hilly trail, then make it hillier. I had helped mark the course on Thurs night and thought the mud was pretty bad - ended up covered in it, actually.

The race started off with the usual speech from Bad Ben about the course and the wildlife and flora you may encounter on the trail. It was pretty funny. Around 8:15 we were sent on our way, across a open grass field, up a hill and into the woods.

Somehow the course wasn't as muddy Friday night as it was the Thursday night before - no clue how. I fell into a nice rhythm, towards the front of the pack, and decided to keep myself there, not pushing too hard, not taking it too easy. I was actually running sans Garmin for the first time in a race in I don't know how long. Don't know what made me not wear it, just didn't feel like it for some reason.

The course was as difficult as it promises, with the hills extracting their toll with each step both uphill and downhill. The .95 miles of the Wyandotte Triangle were as tough as ever with downed trees and sharp turns. Yet, they were fun, as they always seem to be on a trail run.

I finished in 58:25, in 16th place. That is, oddly, a 10k PR for me. Take into account that the last time I ran a 10k was about 4 years ago in Georgia. I don't remember the time exactly but I was over 60 minutes.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

San Francisco Marathon

I must say, the best thing that happened to me during the San Francisco marathon was that I didn't chafe. Not one bit. Oh, and I PR'd, by a lot, but I'll take the no chafing over PR'ing any day.

My buddy Erik chose San Francisco as his first marathon. I think it was between San Francisco and the Grandma's marathon in Duluth, Minn. I'm glad he chose San Francisco, I love this place, even though it did nothing to help my 'run a marathon in each state' goal, oh well. Erik's girlfriend Lilli came out as well as did our friend Josh and his girlfriend Lisa. Can anyone say fifth wheel? I can! Actually, it wasn't like that at all.

Because I heart Delta way too much I did my typical fly-to-the-East-coast-to-fly-to-the-West-coast thing and took a KC - Cinn flight to take a Cinn - SFO flight. It took me all day but I didn't have any super-annoying kids sitting in front of me testing my patience (see my Mt. Hood race report) so, I got a lot of work and reading done. That was good. I got in real late on Friday night, took BART to the hotel and crashed in short order.

On Saturday we went for an early morning jog, just to make sure the legs were working. I was a little nervous at first since Josh is kind of quick. By kind of quick I mean six minute miles are like a nice jog in the park to him. I didn't want to wear myself out keeping up with him. Being the super nice guy he is he ran a subtle 8:30 pace with Erik, Lilli and me. We were staying at Embarcadero and Market so we just ran down along the Bay to Pier 39 and back. It was a nice morning and a nice jog. I chafed a bit (again, I refer you to my Mt Hood report, the theme of which was: my crotch is on fire) but not too bad, I could manage.

We showered and ate, met Lisa, and headed down to packet pickup. As far as marathon expos go this one was pretty lame. It was in a tent on a pier and had the feel of a flea market to it. I spent most of the time collecting as much free food as I could and did pretty well if I do say so myself. I also got brain freeze a few times off of the free smoothies they were giving out. Thank you Smoothie King!

We went to get our packets which had our heat assignments in them. I got mine and was surprised to find I was in heat 3. This heat is reserved for the 3:30 - 3:45 marathoners. I did not fall into that category. My PR was 3:54 from LA in March. Josh was in the first heat, Erik was in the fifth.

I wasn't sure what to do. Part of me wanted to change my heat, part of me said "this is a good challenge, go for it". For some reason I felt like I could run a 3:45. I figured after running up Mt. Hood the week before a 26 mile, relatively flat race wouldn't be that tough. I was trying to calculate my pace...3:45 is 8:45 miles. That's fast for me over 26 miles. Most of my training runs, which are 5-8 miles are at an 8:30 pace.

After not much deliberating with myself I decided that I could run a 3:45. I tried to forget how much my legs hurt the last 5 miles of LA and how bad my second half was there, and told myself I had it in me to run a 3:45. Oh, if I only knew.

We didn't do much the rest of the day except eat, a lot. The hotel had a nice (albeit very expensive) pasta buffet that night which we all over-indulged in. Gluttony is fun.

I think Josh's alarm went off around 3:30 the morning of the race. His start was 5:30, mine was 5:35 and Erik's was 5:45 (I think). I was awake but had that "I don't want to get out of bed" feeling. I moved around a bit and found that I had ate so much the night before that I didn't feel like eating any breakfast. That's very odd for me. I forced some stolen-the-day-before breakfast bars down as well as a fair amount of water and Pedialyte as chasers.

Copious amounts of Vaseline were applied in the necessary spots while I was getting ready. I also managed to position my underwear in such a way that kept everything snug and hopefully chafe-free. Amazingly it worked - I didn't even feel the pain once during the entire race. What a relief that was.

We made it down to the start around 4:30, stretched, ran a bit, etc. After what seemed like not a very long time I moved into my corral and waited for the race to start. The way-too-cherry-for-5:15-in-the-morning announcer was telling us all sorts of stuff about the race. He introduced the race "host" Dean Karnazes to say a few words before the start. I used to really respect Dean but now I think he's kind of a tool. My issue with him is that he acts like he's the only person who runs ultras. Yeah, he's fast, but he's not the fastest, and he's tough, but not the toughest. He seems to forget what the sport is really about; the camaraderie, the peacefulness, and the personal challenges that you have to overcome during an ultra. Branding yourself the ultramarathon man is just lame and disrespectful to all the other ultra runners out there. I digress.

Before I knew it the 5:30 group was off, then heat 2 was off a minute later. We started at 5:35 and were herded up to the start in short order. I was pretty close to the front so it was odd to stand there, at the start, ready to take off when the horn sounded. I'm used to having a quarter mile jog to the start. Whatever. At 5:35 the announcer sent us off, down the Embarcadero in the darkness with a few fans scattered along the street, and lots of drunks driving by cheering us on. So pleasant.

The first four to five miles of the race are basically flat. There's some gradual uphills but nothing insane. After a few miles of running I started thinking I really need to pee. No biggie, I'll just pull over along the course and relieve myself. Thing was, nobody was peeing. WTF? Usually within the first few miles of a marathon everyone hops off the course at one point or another to take a leak. Hmm, what to do? I had to pee eventually. Well, we started to run through a small park and I decided I couldn't take it anymore. So I found a nice tree and went for it. I think I started a trend, as soon as I went other people came over and did the same. Oh, so satisfying to be a leader.

We hit the Golden Gate bridge around mile 6. Thing is, as you're running up to it, you realize it's really far up in the air and you're really low on the ground. I thought about this and tried to ignore the inevitable conclusion that we'd have to run up a extremely steep hill to get to it. I was holding a really fast pace at this point and didn't want to slow down much.

Then we got there, right after the second aid station. Man, it was a steep hill. I'm talking like 40 degrees steep. You could hear people wincing as we approached it. The only thing I could tell myself was to hold my pace up the hill, don't speed up, don't slow down, run through the hill. And I did. I kept my pace pretty much spot on for this climb. I was so surprised. Now, I was super winded at the top, but I wasn't hurting too bad. Actually, it was more like a hill, with a short plateau, with another hill that took us up onto 101. Whatever, I managed.

We merged onto the Golden Gate, running on the East side of the roadway. They had closed off three lanes of the bridge for the runners, one lane running North, one running South, and the third as a sort of buffer from the traffic.

Shortly after getting onto the bridge I saw the first Southbound runner approaching. He was, I assumed, leading the marathon. He was moving, fast. He passed me and I saw two more people coming. Hmm, one of them looked familiar. It was Josh! He was flying. I still can't believe how fast he was going. I managed a "Hey Josh!" as he flew by and he acknowledge me. I felt cool, looking around me and thinking "yeah, I know the guy in third place". (Actually, Josh was in second place at that point. The guy in front of him was actually running the half, not the full.)

I spent most of the bridge crossing simply enjoying the view. It was very foggy but you could still make stuff out, and the fog adds a nice touch to everything. We ran around the turnaround, the 7.5 mile marker, and headed back South on the bridge. I figured I'd see Erik at that point and I finally spotted him about halfway across. I told him Josh was in third and apparently this did a lot for his spirits. Well, it at least kept him from asking me how my crotch felt in front of 50 totally random people.

At this point I had done 7.5 miles in 1:04:05. That means I was holding an 8:32 pace. I felt good and I wanted to keep pushing it but I had a really bad feeling I'd pay for it later in the race. Screw it I figured, I'd keep at it and see what happened. I had only told one person my goal of finishing in 3:45, everyone else thought I just wanted to PR. I'd make it.

We meandered South to Golden Gate park after the bridge. It was hilly through here. Not those nasty San Francisco hills that you're probably thinking, but hills nonetheless. Hills that when you see them you start to hurt and worry about if you'll make it to the top.

In retrospect I realize that I really kicked butt on the hills, but I didn't think about it during the race. I passed tons of people on the hills, I never got passed on an uphill.

As we approached the half marathon mark I spotted Lilli with Erik's Dad and stepmom. I managed to say hi and say Erik was a few miles behind me. They told me I looked great (probably due to my awseome tan line from my bike shorts) and Lilli took some pictures.

I hit the half marathon point at 1:49:30. A PR for me. This also means my pace had dropped to an 8:21. A significant drop from the 8:32 I had held for the first 7.5 miles. Hmm, I thought to myself that I felt good, my legs felt strong, I wasn't breathing hard at all...was 3:40 within reach? Nah. Shoot for that 3:45, don't kill yourself. 3:40 would be nice though.

Golden Gate park was hilly, we ran downhill for a while after the halfway point and I knew that meant we'd have to fight a long uphill shortly. I was rewarded with a 2 mile uphill shortly after that thought. Yay. I pushed through it, passing folks, holding my pace, not slowing for the hills.

I took my first Tylenol in the park. I had left my Ibuprofen in KC on accident so Lisa spotted me three Tylenol for the run. I was hurting a bit and figured it would help. I also downed a couple of salt tablets. I'd end up taking 7 salt tablets and 3 Tylenol before the race was over.

Around mile 18 we hit the last major uphill. There were lots of fans there (well, lots for this race) telling us this and it was nice to hear. We were out of the park, which I was glad for because the roads we were running on winded throughout the park, I prefer the nice long straight roads of the city to those of the park, although the scenery was quite nice.

My pace was holding. Each passing mile made me feel like sub-3:45 was within reach. I wasn't ready to admit I was going to pull a 3:40 off, but my confidence in that was growing as well. I looked forward to the downhills on this part of the course, as I knew the end was mostly flat to downhill. Well, I looked forward to them until I actually saw them. These were brutal downhills. It would have been nice to run them, but they were just too steep. I had to slow myself down on them as they hurt too much to run hard down. It kind of ticked me off. I'd find later that most people agreed with me, they were just too steep.

Miles 20-24 weren't too scenic. You run East of 101 and South of Market which is a large industrial area. Fan support here was little to none which made this part of the race an exercise in mental motivation. I kept myself going by reminding myself that a week ago I wasn't even halfway through Mt. Hood. Reminding myself of the pain of that run and the despair I felt climbing up that pile of rubble. A few more miles of a marathon were nothing.

By the time I hit mile 24 I knew I'd beat 3:45, easily. Doing the math I also realized I could pull a sub 3:40 off if I kept a good pace. I think I needed to run 9:30's for the last 2 miles to hit 3:40 on the dot. I pushed it. I wanted sub-3:40. I knew I could. It was only 2 miles of running. 2 miles is nothing. 2 miles is a nice warmup. 2 miles of pain? Pfft, totally manageable.

This is the first time my ultra running has really affected me in a race. I'd ran 62 miles once. What was 2 miles? Nothing, really. It really provided me with the mental toughness to finish the marathon strong. I totally ignored how my legs felt. I just ran as fast as I could.

We ran past AT&T park (or whatever they've named it lately) and I noticed the plaques on the sidewalk celebrating various Giants accomplishments. I saw Bond's 500th, 600th, and 700th home runs. I ran cautiously by these, wondering if I'd get stuck by a used needle. Then I spotted the 755 plaque (or is it 756?). It was just too tempting to resist. I worked up a big lugie and let it rip right onto the plaque. Nailed it.

I was getting closer to the Bay Bridge, so I knew I was close to the finish. I don't really recall seeing the 25 mile mark so I can't say how I felt with a mile to go. I just kept running as fast as I could.

Shortly after that I hopped back onto the Embarcadero, the finish within sight. I pushed it. Sub 3:40 was almost certain. As I passed the 26 mile mark I knew I'd beat 3:40, heck, I'd beat 3:39, wow. I couldn't believe it. I crossed the finish, 3:38:32. Wow. WTF happened? How did I do that? I was still standing. This is kind of lame to admit but the first thing I thought when I finished was that I didn't run that race as fast or as hard as I could have. I scolded myself for being so arrogant. I should have been happy, I just PR'd by at least 16 minutes. Still, I couldn't help it. I could have run faster. That's ok, I will.

I got my medal which had a odd windmill on it that we couldn't figure out what it was. I also got as much food and drink as I could carry and headed off to where Josh and Lisa were standing. Josh had finished in 2:42, 8th place overall. I ate, I was hungry.

Erik crossed not too long after. He ran a 3:51. I hated him. It took me four marathons to run faster than that and he did it on his first. Actually, I was proud of him too.

We all sat around, I was a bit afraid to sit down as I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get back up. I made some phone calls, sent some text messages, and basked in my PR.

We meandered back to the hotel, put some non-sweaty clothes on and found a Mexican restaurant to gorge ourselves on. I took a nice long nap that afternoon. The rest of the day was filled with a lot of laying around and eating - perfect.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mt. Hood PCT 50-Miler

Oreos are my new favorite ultra food. I'll get to that in a bit.

At the suggestion of Trail Nerd extraordinaire Bad Ben Holmes myself and four other Nerds headed out to Portland, Oregon for the The Mt. Hood PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) 50-Miler on July 25th, 2008. This was Ben's third year running the race, the rest of us were noobies to this one.

My trip started, and remained, an exercise in sleep deprivation. I flew out of KC on Friday, originally planning on leaving at 11am, catching a connection in Atlanta and making it into Portland around 7pm. Because I'm a super-duper frequent flyer on Delta I get to change my flights for free on the day of travel. So, my plan was to catch an earlier flight out of KC on Friday in order to catch an earlier connection to Portland in Atlanta. I didn't feel like getting to Mt. Hood in the dark but when I originally got the ticket the flights I had were the best option (award ticket...).

So, the bright thing for me to do would have been to get a good nights sleep on Thursday night, making sure I was fresh for my long day of traveling on Friday (it's a 6 hour flight from ATL-PDX). Did I do that? Pfft. No. See, Step Brothers came out on Friday and my friend Erin is a die-hard Will Ferrell fan. This means she wanted to see it at 12:01 am on Friday. I tagged along. Of course, the movie which didn't end until 2am. So, I got home sometime around 2:45. Hmm. If I was going to make the 7:10 I had to be up and lively by 4:30ish. I still had laundry to do and, true to form, hadn't packed yet. No sleep, here I come.

I somehow managed to get my laundry done and my packing done fairly quickly - with enough time for a 1 hour power nap. Midway through the nap a nice little thunderstorm hit. Generally no big deal, right? Right... Apparently I have a leak in my room. I woke up about halfway through my "nap" to the sound of water hitting the carpet. Gaarrgh! I didn't make the 7:10. I got back on my original flight.

Flights are generally inconsequential. My Atlanta to Portland one was not. I was hoping to catch some sleep on this one since it was so long and the seats were much more conducive to sleeping than my first flight. Shortly after boarding I realized that would probably be a pipe dream. This family got on with their four young kids, probably ranging from 3-8 years old. Something about them told me they didn't do a good job controlling the kids, I'm not sure what it was, I just had a feeling. One of the boys sat in the seat in front of me.

Almost immediately the kid took an interest in seeing how annoying he could be to me and everyone nearby. He was quite successful. His favorite thing to do to me was to recline his seat back and look at me to see my reaction. His dad was sitting next to him and kept telling him not to do it but he kept at it. Sigh.

The only good thing about the flight was the dinner they served us. The stewardess asked me whether I wanted the chicken or the fettucini. Uhh, that's a tough one, carb loading - sweet! It was actually a really good meal. Delta generally does a good job with that I must say.

I made it to Portland, so did that kid, although it was close a few times. I got my rental car and started the 97 mile drive to Mt. Hood.

By the time I got there it was pretty dark. I managed to find my campsite with no directions. I also found the race start, which was only about seventeen and a half feet from my campsite. Quite convenient. I parked the car, got the headlamp on, and got my tent pitched. (I wonder if I'll ever get to a point where saying that doesn't make me laugh...I sure hope not.) I crawled in and proceeded to try to get a few hours of sleep. It was about ten o'clock when I first laid down. I couldn't sleep. WTF? Sigh.

I got up and walked around a bit, meandering out to the road to explore a bit. The stars immediately caught my eye. It was amazing. There were so many. I hadn't seen stars like that since my trip to Yellowstone six years ago. I was totally absorbed in the view. I could faintly see the dusty arm of the Milky Way, the obvious constellations, and many more things I had no clue what they were but wished I knew. I could have sat out on that road all night.

I finally got tired and headed back to the tent. It had gotten quite chilly and I was glad I had some extra layers of clothing to keep me warm. I found a comfy position and finally fell asleep.

I had set my alarm for 5:15. I woke up at 4:30. Hmm. Tried to go back to sleep, no dice. So, I figured I'd head over to the race start to see what was going on. I got all my stuff packed in the car and moved my car out of the campsite. I strolled up to the race start, got my packet, and watched the folks who had opted for the 5:30 start begin to stumble to the start line. This race lets you choose if you want the 5:30 or 6:30 start, the idea being that if you need more time to complete the race you've got extra daylight to do it with if you choose the 5:30.

The 5:30 starters

Fellow Trail Nerds Gary and Bobbi had opted for the 5:30 start. Gary's wife was there also. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures, etc. Not long after the race director sent the 5:30 folks off and I was left to change into my running gear and to see how many bagels I could stomach over the next hour. I made a horrible mistake at this point. When putting my stuff on I forgot to apply copious amounts of vaseline to my groin. I would pay for this, horribly, for pretty much the entire race.

Around 6 I saw Ben and his son Matt pull up. Within about five seconds of getting out of the car Ben hooked me up with a brand new Trail Nerds sleeveless shirt to run in. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, I wanted to run in my Run Across Kansas shirt, since I had to start promoting that run. Plus, I don't do so well with a sleeveless shirt and a camelback. Chafing generally occurs.

Greg Burger was also there and he lined up for the 6:30 start with us. We got some last minute instructions from Olga, the RD, which included some pointers for not getting lost on the trail because there's some parts where it's not marked so well. I was wondering "well, why don't you mark it better?". I'll complain about that later.

The run starts out on pavement, probably just short of a half mile of it, before turning onto the PCT. The trail is mostly single-track so running next to a buddy is pretty difficult. I fell in behind a lady who was keeping a nice pace and I could hear Ben chatting it up a few folks behind me with Greg nearby. With all the folks on the trail there was a lot of dust being kicked up and I could taste it, which kind of sucked, but wasn't anything a few swigs of water couldn't take care of.

About two minutes after getting onto the trail I noticed that I was already chafing in my groin. That's never happened to me so early on a run. Thinking that this could present a problem I started hating myself for not putting vaseline on before the start. It wasn't bad, so I just put up with it.

Crater Lake is the first aid station, about 6 miles from the start. The scenery leading up to it was just amazing. We spent some time running along Timothy Lake, which was this immense body of water surrounded by tall pines. The trail was nearly perfect, somewhat technical, but not too much, and offered a nice soft dirt layer for us to run on.

The Crater Lake aid station was interesting. To get there we had to run along these wooden planks which covered a marsh of sorts. It was a little tough when you'd encounter a runner headed in the opposite direction as one of you had to kind of step off the planks for the other to pass. I found them quite enjoyable for the bounce factor. If you hit them just right you got a nice little bounce off of the planks. That's totally something my dad would have yelled at me for when I was younger.

Many things about a Camelback suck, especially how much of a pain in the arse it is to refill it. It takes too long to open it up, open the bladder, and get it filled. Plus you have to take the dumb thing off, which is kind of a pain. I really need to either start running with just water bottles or see if a Nathan pack is easier to use. This is my excuse for how much time I spent at most of the aid stations - Ben was generally in and out before I could even get my Camelback off. It was kind of depressing.

I caught back up with Ben and Noah, a teacher from California who we had saved from a confusing section of trail shortly before Crater Lake aid station. The three of us ran together for most of the next leg, to the next aid station which was only about 3.2 miles from Crater Lake. I don't think this one had a name. It was just a canopy on a dirt road staffed by some friendly volunteers. Nothing looked appetizing at this aid station but I knew I had to eat, so I ate as many potatoes as I could and got going again.

Bad Ben's good side

I can't remember anything particularly exciting about the section of trail between aid station #2 and the Thong aid station (yes, it was called the Thong aid station). There was a pretty slow and steady uphill climb but nothing that wasn't too runnable.

We got to the Thong aid station, greeted along the trail by thongs hanging from trees and signs. There were thongs everywhere! I loved it. The folks there were really nice and all seemed to be having a good time. I ate what I could, got more water, and got going.

After leaving the Thong aid station you're greeted by some long switchbacks which will take you up to a pass then down to the fourth aid station. These were pretty brutal for me and I'm not sure why. I hadn't been running real hard, but my legs were feeling very sore. It was kind of confusing and a bit demoralizing. Add to that the chafing I was dealing with. Man, it was painful. There's really no good way to describe it, it just burned, horribly, with every step. I had some vaseline with me and I applied it, but it didn't help. It just burned.

I kept up with Ben as best I could, Greg took off ahead of us. I was struggling to get to the top of the pass. My calves had cramped up pretty bad and I was starting to feel sick. It wasn't a pukey sick feeling, it was that I'm-getting-a-cold sick feeling. My throat hurt a bit and my nose was running. Great. I was totally blaming that kid from the flight for it too. Little bastard.

We got to the fourth aid station, me somehow keeping up with Ben. I took a little extra time here, getting more food in me and just relaxing a bit. I knew that I had a pretty nasty climb ahead of me...I had no idea how nasty it would be though. Ben took off ahead of me and I ended up in a group which included Greg and some other folks - including a nice guy from Minnesota who gave me a great piece of advice for the race: "It's a 2/3 1/3 race, you put 2/3 of the effort into getting to Timberline (the 25 mile turnaround) and 1/3 of your effort into getting back to the start". I had no idea how true that would be.

Just to re-iterate my situation at this point. I'm at mile 20-ish, my groin is on fire, I feel sick, my legs are just generally sore, my calves are cramped, and I've got a 5 mile, 2,500 foot climb ahead of me. I was also a disaster mentally.

I lost the group I was running with because I couldn't keep running with them. I had to walk the uphills, and the entire dammed leg was uphill. My calves were killing me. I had taken some extra s-caps at the last aid station to try to deal with the cramping but it wasn't helping. I couldn't figure out why. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I just had to keep going. There were some stretches of the trail here that were covered by snow, which was kind of cool. The scenery was great, of course. If only I wasn't not even halfway through a run I would have been having a wonderful friggin time.

Somehow I made it up and out of the tree line, not yet to Timberline lodge, but it wasn't too far off. This is a pretty "famous" part of the course for the runners. The ground turns into this very soft, very fine, sand-like dirt that is absolutely impossible to run on. It's one of those surfaces where you end up taking half a step backwards for every step you take forward. Going uphill it was completely un-runnable. It also made me hate life even more than I did earlier. My groin was still burning, I was still sick, except now I felt like I was going to puke. The most efficient way to walk up the trail at this point was to walk with your toes pointed as far out as possible in order to get the most surface area of your shoes pushing on the sand.

After a few, well, many minutes of completely hating life and wanting to quit and thinking I'd never make it up the mountain I, for a reason I'll never know, thought of Winston Churchill's famous "if you're going through hell, keep going" quote. Pretty lame, I know. But it worked for me. This was seriously hell to me and the only thing I could do was keep going through it.

After a while I saw Gary on his way back down the mountain. I hated him for having already gotten to the turnaround. I think he took my picture...I don't want to see it! I'm sure I looked like a total a-hole.

Finally I got to Timberline Lodge. I was in bad shape. I saw Ben with his son, nephew and brother. He gave me five and told me good job. Later I'd find out that he thought I looked like total hell, a good observation at that point. Knowing Matt was up there made me think about dropping and catching a ride back down with him. I wanted to save whatever skin I had left in my groin and I thought I was sick so I didn't think another 25 miles of running was such a great idea. Hmm, should I drop?

Well, I found my way over to the aid station, got my camelback filled, found my drop bag, and on a whim grabbed a handful of oatmeal raisin cookies. I found a nice secluded area to die in and sat down to change my shoes and take stock of my situation. I started to eat one of the cookies and immediately became completely enamored with these things. They were amazing. I couldn't stop eating them. I think if you would have talked to me at this point the only thing I could have managed was a "Mmmmm, cookie!". Seriously, you would have thought I was a mental patient. The only thing I focused on, thought about, or did for the next five minutes involved those cookies.

I got my shoes changed once I got my focus back and took my long-sleeve undershirt off. I also took an ibuprofen and two s-caps. And then I was off, back down the mountain. I had spent about fifteen minutes at the aid station, trying to get myself back together. My groin was still killing me, I wasn't as sore anymore, but I still felt kind of sick. All told it took me about an hour and forty-five minutes from aid station #4 to the point where I was headed back down the mountain. That's slow. Luckily forces were conspiring to get me back down much quicker than I had gotten up.

I started back down the mountain still hurting a bit. But I was feeling better. I wasn't getting my hopes up. About a quarter of a mile from the aid station is the highest point of the race. There was a guy standing there telling us that. I don't know if he was just a spectator or a volunteer or what but him telling me that did a huge number on my mental status. It felt so good to know it was all downhill from there. Shortly after that a photographer asked me about my shirt as I ran by, asking if I had run across Kansas yet. I said I hadn't, but was planning on it. He thought it was awesome and he really liked the shirt (something I heard many times in the race). All of a sudden my legs didn't hurt anymore. I didn't feel sick anymore either. Hmm. What's going on?

The sand was even fun to run in. I was taking pretty big strides, really enjoying the softness. I started picking my pace up. Wow, I felt pretty good. Then my ipod decided to join in and played Journey for me, Don't Stop Believin'. I picked it up some more. There's an exceptionally steep section of the sand which I really struggled getting up. I hit that section on the downhill and basically jumped off of it, taking a few steps to kind of control my out-of-control self. As I was coming down a lady going the other way said "wow, you make that look fun". Hell yeah it was fun. Ok, I'll try running a bit didn't hurt. Well, except my groin.

I kept going, I kept passing people, lots of people. Two guys got out of my way and said "wow, you're moving dude". Hmm, thanks guys. I looked at my Garmin...I was doing 7:20's. Whaaa? No way. I kept running and the watch was pretty consistent, 7:30, 7:15, etc. I wasn't even breathing hard. My ipod kept helping, randomly choosing some great songs with good beats to keep me going - Stronger, Top Gun Anthem, No Way They Can Stop Me Now. It was great.

I got back into the tree line, actually missing the sand since it was so fun to run down. Then the endorphins hit for the first time. Wow, they felt amazing. They started in the back of my head, as usual, engulfed my head, then moved down my back, radiating out to my limbs. Ahh. And they stayed for a while, I couldn't believe it. So, I kept my pace up, kept passing people, keeping my somewhat out of control downhill self going. I only walked twice between Timberline and aid station #4, and not for very long.

On my way into aid station #4 I kept my pace up and was greeted with a "you're flying man" from one of the volunteers. I felt great, and wanted to keep my pace going. I did another round of ibuprofen and s-caps along with more food than usual just in case. I also grabbed some Oreos, kind of on a whim since I didn't think they'd sit very well. I headed out and proceeded to eat everything I had in my hands, including those Oreos. Wow, they were tasty. They were super tasty. I started craving more Oreos.

I knew I had the Thong aid station to look forward to, and I was sure they had Oreos there. I wanted more. I walked much of the uphill after aid station #4 but ran when I could, passing even more folks. Along a flat section near the top I came across Greg, he didn't seem very talkative at that point. I asked him where Ben was and he grunted out something along the lines of "about 200 yards ahead". Hmm, thanks dude. I caught up to Ben. I think he was surprised to see me considering what I looked like at Timberline.

We ran together for a bit but I still had a bunch of pent-up energy and got going ahead of him. Most of the rest of the trip to the Thong aid station was downhill or generally flat so I enjoyed that. I got there and made a beeline for the Oreos. Yumm. Hmm, maybe eating just cookies wasn't a wonderful idea. I ate some potatoes, watermelon, potato chips, gummy bears, M&M's, and more Oreos.

I got going, knowing I had a relatively long climb ahead of me to the next aid station. I tried to run what I could, but had difficulty, so I did a lot of walking on the uphills. The view from here was amazing. Mt. Hood is off in the distance and there's a flat expanse below you, it's quite breathtaking. I was the only person around so I stopped for a bit to just enjoy it. It made me feel very alone, just me and nature with this imposing mountain which controlled everything around it, including, earlier, me. No other sport gives you that.

I made it to aid station #2 still in good shape, except for my groin. It was killing me, worse than I could ever have imagined it would get. If the government ever gets tired of water boarding people they should really look into inducing chafing in men. I'd have told you anything at that point to get it to stop.

The 3.2 miles between aid station #2 and Crater Lake felt longer than it should have, even though I made it pretty quickly. I was really ready for the race to be over at this point. My muscles felt great, I had energy, it was just my dammed chafing that was holding me back. Every step was an exercise in mental pain management.

I made it to Crater Lake, chatted with the volunteers, who referred to me as "Kansas", probably because of my shirt. Actually, most people were calling me that now that I think of it. I'm guessing they called most of us trail nerds "Kansas". It was a nickname I wore with pride. I ate a bit more, grabbed some...wait for it...Oreos, and got going again on the last leg of the run. Ahh, it felt so good to know that the next time I stopped would be the last.

I took some time to really enjoy the scenery on this last leg. It really was a beautiful section of trail. There was a creek (river?) which fed into Timothy Lake that we ran along, and then there was the lake itself, so vast. I kept a good pace, passing some more people along the way. Grimacing every step because of my groin. I did walk most of the uphills, but I ran some also, knowing I had the energy to complete the run. I passed a guy who was doubled over on the side of the trail. He was ok, just cramping really badly. He said he didn't need anything and I moved on. He didn't look so hot at that point. I also passed two women running with their dog. I know at least one of them was in the race, I assume the other was a pacer. The dog was awesome, running all around them, excited to be out in the woods playing. Once I passed them, after a minute or so, I felt something hit me in the back of the foot. WTF? It was that dog, it had ran up behind me and sniffed my feet. After the race I found them and told them how much I loved their dog - the lady apologized for it running up on me but I didn't mind at all. Apparently they're trying to break it of the habit of doing that to people. I think it's funny.

I kept running, knowing the finish had to be close. I ran up one last long uphill feeling like it was the last, since I remembered that the trail started with a long uphill I knew a long downhill would be the last section of trail during the race. I was right. I came up over the hill and was presented with a long downhill section. Off to my right I could see the road that led to the finish. Finally.

I turned onto the road and relished the fact I was almost done. I picked up my pace as best I could but was limited from the groin pain. The chafing was insane. I was scared to see what it had done to me.

I got to the small trail which led to the finish, motored up the hill to cowbells and cheering from the crowd, and made it across the finish. 10 hours and 12 minutes. Dang. I got a big hug from one of the RD's (Olga, I think) and a nifty running hat for finishing. Gary was there, having finished a few minutes before me (he likes to point out that he beat me even with his one hour head start).

Walking was painful, mainly due to the condition of my groin. I didn't want to move, and when I walked it was more like swinging my legs from one point to another, not really walking. I grabbed some water, a pop, and sat down near the finish, waiting for Ben and Greg to finish. I chatted with some folks at the finish (who ended up putting the idea of visiting Powell's books into my head in Portland - bad idea). About twenty minutes later Ben and Greg came up the hill, together, and finished in spectacular Trail Nerd fashion.

I found my way over to the grill for a spectacular veggie burger. It was quite tasty after such a long run. Ben's entourage showed up a few minutes later and we all moved over to a picnic table to move as little as possible and reminisce on the race. Gary and his wife fished beers out for those who wanted them, I wasn't in the mood for some reason. I stuck to water, dreading trying to walk again.

Ben and Greg finishing

A gaggle of Trail Nerds

After half an hour or so of chatting I figured it was time to get going. We took some pictures and I headed over to my car, slowly, very slowly. About the time I got my shoes off I realized I had forgotten to get my drop bag, dammit. I went ahead and got changed and proceeded to try to clean myself off with some baby wipes I had snagged from Ben. The first area I headed for was the place of the worst chafing. Yeah, that was a horrible idea. I've been in pain before. Never like this. It put me on the ground. It hurts to think about it. God. No way I was showering that night, no way. Water would just kill me.

After a few minutes I regained some of my composure and went drop-bag hunting. This was quite an effort since it involved walking. I found one of the RD's and asked where the drop bags where. She told me they weren't back yet, and probably wouldn't be for another couple of hours...what? Seriously? Now, I'm a pretty laid back dude, there's not a lot you can do to really get to me. This really pissed me off. Not to be mean but that was pretty ridiculous. I had left the turnaround almost 5 hours ago. I even put my drop bag in a special "bring it back" section. How in the world could they not have been brought back - and how would it be a few more hours until it showed up? I was pissed. She said they would be left at the start overnight so I could get it anytime. Super, that's real convenient for someone staying in friggin Portland.

Yeah, I could have stayed and waited, but seriously, after ten hours of running, that isn't really an option. Plus, I had to cover 97 miles to get to my hotel. I had to decide if I cared that much about what was in my bag. A pair of socks, one of my long-sleeve undershirts, and a pair of shoes. I've got about 200 miles on each of my current shoes (I have three pairs of the exact same shoe and I rotate them). During the race I was thinking about how they felt pretty bad and how I needed to replace them. Well, I decided the shoes weren't worth it. The only thing I really cared about was the shirt, but I didn't care enough to wait a couple of hours for it. I said screw it, and left. But, it still does piss me off. Sorry folks, but getting drop bags back in under five hours seems pretty simple to me.

The drive back to Portland was pretty uneventful. The sun was getting lower and I was driving right into it, which is one reason why I wanted to get going, I remembered on the drive there that when the sun was low it was directly in my rearview mirror, which wouldn't be comfortable to drive into.

I made it to my hotel, which surprisingly wasn't difficult to find, and stumbled in, past a bunch of folks sitting outside waiting for something. I was covered in dirt, was wearing flip-flops so I had super-white feet and was walking very oddly. I can only imagine what they thought of me. I probably scared them.

The nice lady who checked me in asked me what I was doing in Portland, probably to assess if I was insane or not based upon my appearance. I told her I had just ran a race near Mt. Hood. She asked if I meant on horses. Umm, no, on foot. She did think I was insane. I got the standard "I can't even run a mile" out of her. We chatted for a bit, she seemed interested in ultras. Maybe I got her to go try to run that mile again, I don't know, I hope so.

After getting to my room I sprawled out on the floor, not wanting to take a shower, or do much of anything really. I ate my subway that I had picked up on the way and watched some Sportscenter. Avoiding the inevitable shower.

Finally I willed myself into it. It had to be done. I did stand there for a few minutes, watching the water, delaying the inevitable. Finally, I stepped in. It hurt, bad. Not as bad as the baby wipe did, but it hurt. But, amazingly, after a few minutes the pain got a little less worse. I could stand it. Whew.

The rest of the night involved me sitting on my arse moving as little as possible. I passed out fairly early, probably due to the fact that I'd slept about seven hours in the past two days. I paid my sleep debt, I guarantee you that.

All-in-all I really enjoyed the race. The drop bag thing still pisses me off but I'll get over it. There were some confusing parts of the trail which could have been easily marked but weren't. I know it caused some confusion for some folks and it's only somewhat irritating because the RD's were mentioning it before the start. The volunteers at the aid stations were great - very friendly, especially the Thong aid station, I loved that one.

It was also fun to check out Portland. It’s my first time here and I really like the city. It’s a bit Emo for me so I kind of stick out, ok, I really stick out, but it’s still a fun town. The public transportation is great, I wish we had something close to similar in KC. Wishful thinking.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Off To Portland

I'm off to Portland for the Mt Hood PCT 50-miler. Everything just kind of came together the past few days and I feel like I can kinda relax. Today is the last day of summer class, the first batch of technical shirts for the run across Kansas are done, and I finished and submitted my abstract for a talk at The Gibbs Conference. Whew.

Add to that I've never been to Portland...heck, I've never even been to the Pacific Northwest. Plus, there's a fair number of Trail Nerds headed out for this event. Should be a good time. Except for that 6am flight thing...twice...dammit. (That will be after I go see Step Brothers at 12:01 tomorrow morning with some way-too-obsessed Will Ferrell fans).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lunar Trek

If you ever get the chance, do an overnight run.

I really never imagined I'd say this, but I really enjoy running at night. I'm taking like late, late night. Like 3am night. Most of my friends think I'm nuts for running ultras to start with. Add in an overnight ultra and I can tell they really start to wonder if it's intervention time.

I was a bit hesitant at first about this race, waiting until the last minute to sign up. I'm glad I did. The first annual Lunar Trek took place on July 18th in Scandia, Kansas. Where's Scandia you might ask? Here, of course. This race has a 10k, 10mi, 20mi, 30mi and 40mi option to it. I chose the 40 mile option. Word on the street is that next year there will be a 60 mile option.

My race-day preparation was poor at best. I've been doing weights twice a week lately. On the Wednesday before the race I did a pretty typical weight workout...typical except for the extra lunges with weights I added into a superset. I figured two days would be plenty of recovery time. I was wrong on that one.

The other thing was what I did Friday during the day. See, instead of sitting on my butt doing nothing physically taxing I spent the day shadowing a doctor. Now, this isn't just any doctor, this is a fellow Trail Nerd as well as someone who honestly walks faster than anyone I've ever met before. I think I spent most of the time slow-jogging just to keep up. Shadowing doesn't facilitate a lot of sitting either, so I didn't get a lot of tush-in-chair time during the day.

Basically, my recovery time was the three and a half hour drive to Scandia on Friday night. Excellent.

I got to Scandia around 9:30pm. Found the high school and got checked in for the race. Race director John Neal did a good job of describing the course to me. He basically walked me through the entire route, hills, bridges and all. The funny part was when he was talking about some mud on the road about 5 miles into the race. "We put hay down to make it easier to run over." Mud? Ha. Pfft, I was looking forward to it.

Some fellow Trail Nerds were already there, fully decked out in their race gear. I was like, "uhh, you guys know the race doesn't start for another hour and a half, right?" They didn't seem to care. I milled around in my flip-flops for a while before starting to put my stuff together for the race.

Sometime before the race started we were treated to a wonderful rendition by Gary Henry of a poem about the moon that, for the life of me, I can't remember what it was called. Either way, it was great.

Around 11pm we all started to move to the start line. As all the Trail Nerds got together for a picture I realized that we made up about a quarter of the race participants. That's pretty good turnout! Apparently we travel in packs and intimidate others.

Shortly after 11pm we were off. I had my headlamp on but there were enough folks around with headlamps on that I didn't really need to use it. Add into that the full moon and mostly cloudless night and you had pretty spectacular night running conditions.

After about half a mile I caught up with Sophia. She was going to do the 30-mile run, meaning she would turn around at the third aid station. Her pace was a bit faster than I wanted but she hooked me with the promise of walking for 30 seconds after each mile. So, there you go. I ran with Sophia for the first 15 miles of the race. We basically kept close to a 10 minute pace the entire time.

The course was great. It was basically all dirt roads surrounded by farms. At first I didn't think there would be much to look at since it would be so remote and so dark but I was pretty surprised by the amount of scenery.

Close to mile 5 we came across the mud that John had talked about earlier. Being the generally over-arrogant runner that I am I ignored the nicely laid out hay path and just ran through the middle of the mud, not really caring about what I was stepping in. It wasn't too bad. I ended up ankle-deep a few times but nothing horrible. I don't really think the hay helped too much, it kind of ended up getting stuck to your shoes which was almost worse than just getting muddy.

Apparently running at night is deceiving to my sense of elevation change. I kept swearing that we were constantly running uphill. Not steep uphills, but gradual uphills. Sophia didn't agree with me but I didn't listen. I figured out she was right on the way back when I kept waiting for those constant downhills and they never came.

Mile 15 is when I lost my pacer and had to continue on alone. This was also one of the coolest aid stations I've ever been in. Some guy opened up his barn and put the aid station inside. There were several tractors and I jokingly asked if I could drive one. I don't think he knew I was kidding, nor was he amused. There was also some pretty 'interesting' music being played here, no genre was off-limits at this aid station.

The next five miles weren't too bad for me. I was still running pretty strong. Aid station number 4 (number 3 was mile 15, 2 was mile 10, and 1 was mile 5) is only about 3 miles from the high school where we started. That makes getting there a bit depressing as you know you're so close to the finish but you still have to turn around and run the entire course again. I changed shoes here and in doing so I took my headlamp off and put it on top of a cooler. In my rush to eat whatever I could and get going I forgot my headlamp...oops. I realized it about a quarter of a mile down the road but didn't really want to turn around to get it. It was bright enough with the moon and I hadn't had many problems seeing.

The route back is just a backtrack of everything I had just ran. The only part I wasn't looking forward to was hill 88, a very steep hill at the 10k mark going out, so about 6 miles from the finish.

After a few more miles I started really enjoying the dark. I was sans light and running partner but I was really relaxed. I turned the iPod off and just kind of took it all in. It was very quiet (except for the random rustling of the bushes which I'm sure was some ghastly animal silently stalking me as a possible meal) so the only noises I heard were my feet hitting the ground. I guess it was the lack of sensory input that I found most relaxing. There wasn't much to take in so what I could was all the more satisfying.

The roads did seem to go on forever. With not many turns the run becomes pretty tough, as you're just wanting to get to that next turn. Finally, amazingly, I made it to hill 88. I'd been running for a while and figured I should walk up the hill. Well, I kept running and saying "I'll walk after that rock", etc. Finally, I was halfway up the hill and figured I'd just run the entire thing, which I did. Thing is, right after hill 88, there's a downhill followed by another steep hill which seems almost as bad as hill 88. I ran that one too. Go figure.

I made it to the last aid station, ate what I could, chatted with the volunteers, and headed off on the last 5 miles of the run. I made it back through that mud with little difficulty and noticed that the sun was starting to come up. The skies were just starting to lighten up and the clouds that hung low in the East were beginning to glow. It was beautiful. The full moon was still up to the West, the terrain was still shadowy and colorless, and the sky was slowly turning blue. Find me another sport that gets you that.

I ran the last leg except for two short walks up hills during the last mile or so. I was sore, but I was determined to keep running.

Once I came over the last hill I saw two crazy people sitting in lawn chairs in the middle of the road. I was thinking "what the hell are they doing?" Then I notice they're sporting Trail Nerd t-shirts and realize it's Debbie and James. I can't say it seemed completely sane to be sitting in the middle of the road but I was sure glad to see them.

The finish was pretty anti-climatic. It consisted of John, the RD and Sophia. Sophia ran the last 20 feet with me, careful not to spill her recovery drink in the process.

I felt pretty good at the end, no real pain. I wasn't even tired, which is what I thought I'd be dealing with the most during the race. I never once got sleepy or felt exhausted. That's not what I expected.

After a quick shower we all hung out and waited for Gary to finish. I found myself sitting in the middle of the road exactly where James and Debbie had been when I came over the hill. Apparently it wasn't so dumb of an idea after all. It was also, as James pointed out, oddly, the most comfortable road I've ever sat on. Really tough to explain, it just was.

We all grabbed breakfast at the Kaffee House (I think that's what it was called). I had an excellent ham and cheese omelet, hash browns, toast, coffee, and leftover biscuits and gravy that Sophia had taken from another table's leftovers. Yummy.

I was a bit worried about the drive home. I hadn't slept and wasn't sleepy, yet. I knew it'd hit me eventually, but I wasn't sure when. About an hour into my drive I started getting REALLY sleepy. I was trying to eat espresso beans to stay awake but it wasn't helping at all. So, I pulled over at a picnic area, crawled in the back of the car, and slept for about an hour.

After waking up and a stop by Sonic for ice cream (I have no idea why I was craving ice cream at ten in the morning, but I was) I eventually made it home. I unpacked the car, took a shower, and tried to study. Yeah, that didn't last long. I ended up passing out on the couch and waking up at 5pm. Oops. Luckily it didn't screw up my sleep schedule too bad.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Run Across Kansas

For quite a few years I've wanted to do some kind of
charity fundraiser. Never have because other things in my life got in
the way; work, school, whatever other excuse I could come up with at
the time. It was quickly becoming one of those things I'd always want
to do but never actually get around to doing. With med school on the
horizon (hopefully!) I could see no way I'd get around to doing
something in the next, oh, 10 years. So, I decided it was time to
figure something out. Running seemed natural for me, although a pub
crawl would also be pretty natural. I knew I needed something most
people would think comes with a high degree of mental instability
(trail nerds excluded, of course) but that I knew I could handle. For
some reason I got the idea of running across the state. Figuring that
was dumb I dismissed it for a while, then I started seriously thinking
about what it would take. After a while it didn't seem so

So, there you go, I'm going to run across Kansas as a fundraiser for
the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. 7 days (okay, maybe 8, haven't
decided that yet), approx 55 miles per day, mostly along US-36. March
7th - 13th, 2009...heck of a way to spend my spring break. Yes, I
know 7 back-to-back 50-milers is pretty crazy.

Why'd I choose the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network? Well, I'm pretty
fortunate in that none of my family or close friends have been
affected by any specific condition that I could run for. I looked at
various other charities, talked to a few, finally decided on them.
I'm not really sure what pushed me that way, maybe meeting some folks
at the hospital who were fighting it.

My friends and family think it's a really cool idea. One of my
friends, Jeremiah (my best friend since first grade and the guy who
got me into running) thought it was so cool he has decided to run with
me, in support of another charity. Now there's two of us. I've had
several people tell me they'd run a few miles, or even an entire day
with us, which I think is exciting.

I just registered the website yesterday and threw up some text as a
placeholder until we get the site designed.

That's all for now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

2008 Shawnee Mission Park Triathlon

Against my better judgment I signed up for the Shawnee Mission Park Triathlon about a month ago. Why against my better judgment? Well, because I'm about as graceful in the water as I am smooth with the ladies - that's to say; not so good.

The long course, the one I chose, was a .6 mile swim (1000 meters), 18 mile bike ride and 4.5 mile run. The bike and the run, no problemo. The swim, big problemo.

I've been trying to train for the swim at the pool but haven't had much success. I think I need a swimming lesson or something. I just don't keep good form in the water which leads to me getting tired which ruins my form more, etc. A bad cycle. The only thing I really had going for me was that I can sidestroke for a long time, an ability I picked up several years ago when I used to go to the gym with a co-worker who also happened to be a former SEAL. See, we'd do laps in the pool, mostly sidestroke, I'd go down and back, he'd go down, hop out, do 10 push-ups, get back in, swim to the other side, do 10 more push-ups...all before I made it down and back once. Discouraging.

I got up around 4:30, ate, took my time getting ready, etc. I made it to the park about an hour before my 7:10 start. I was pretty impressed with the organization. Everything ran smoothly at the race - I got my chip easily, got body marked quickly, had a lot of time to hang out and look at the water and think about how far I had to swim. Dammit.

I found Jon shortly before I had to get to the beach for my start. He did the short course and didn't end up starting till 8:10, pretty late. We chatted for a bit, he was nice enough to reply to my fears about the swim with a reassuring "yeah, that's a really long swim". Thanks dude.

To start the race you had to swim from the boat dock over to the beach, perhaps a 200 yard swim. Well, this was it, let's see how I felt. I walked down to the beach, put the goggles and swim cap on, and headed out into the water. It was a very nice 80 degrees, even at 7 in the morning. This might not be that bad.

I started out with a slow freestyle, keeping my head above water the entire time. I made it about 100 yards before I got pretty tired and switched to the sidestroke. Not a good sign. That's 1/10 the distance I was going to swim for the race. I rolled over to my back a few times just to relax on the way over there. That's the one way I'm actually fairly buoyant, as long as I keep kicking, that is.

I got to the beach without drowning and found all the other folks with similarly colored swim caps as me. They were all talking and laughing and having a generally fantastic time. They were old pros at this. I was scared.

My strategy was simple. Start slow, stay slow, swim near the buoys so I could grab onto them if I needed. I decided once I was in the water that the sidestroke was the only way I was going to finish this. Screw trying to freestyle it.

After being herded like cattle out of the water and into a swim corral we were ready to go. Right before we started the lady asked "who's a first timer?" I slowly raised my hand with a few other people. The guy behind me in the water moved in front of me before I got my hand back down. Comforting.

Shortly after, we were off. The pack moved out pretty quickly relative to me and a few other stragglers. I stayed right, did some freestyle swimming, but mostly stuck to the sidestroke. I made it from the beach back to the boatdock...barely. I was dying already and needed something to grab onto to rest. Apparently nobody figured that someone would need a rest so early and didn't put anything out to help folks. I embarrassingly swam near the dock, where people were standing, and grabbed on, taking a few seconds break. Oh well.

My goals for the swim quickly became to make it from buoy to buoy. I stuck to the sidestroke and took a rest almost every buoy for the first three or four. Then I oddly got really comfortable in the water and was able to start skipping every other buoy. I don't know what clicked, but something did. I just felt better.

Now, that doesn't mean I was swimming like I knew what I was doing. See, there's divers in the water with nice orange floaty things looking to help out folks like me. Apparently I looked or sounded like I needed help...I got asked 5 times if I wanted a rest from one of the divers. While it was really nice of them it was also a bit embarrassing.

Anyways, I kept going, sticking to my every-other buoy strategy. Perhaps halfway through the course I started to get passed from people in the heat behind me. They looked fast. Shortly after that, I started to get passed by people from the heat behind them. Super.

I kept at it. After a while I noticed there was a couple of people in my heat back with me in the water. What?!?! What are these people doing here? I thought I was the only horrible swimmer. Wow. I might actually beat some people in my heat out of the water.

And I did. I think I beat four green caps out of the water. I did not expect that at all.

I ran up the hill, dried myself off, put my bike jersey and shoes on, and was off. I was hoping to make up time on the bike considering how long the swim took.

I didn't do very bad on the bike. I got passed by a few folks but not many. I was doing most of the passing. Especially on the uphills. Apparently I can climb. No idea why or how.

My other advantage was the downhills. I don't know if people were scared of them or what but nobody was going as fast as I was down those things. I love them. I like the speed, it feels good. I also like the momentum you can carry for part of the next hill.

I ended up averaging 19.3mph on the bike course. That matches my record from the airport one day. That's personally impressive when you consider how much hillier the park is compared to the airport.

On the last lap I had some wonderful momentum going up this really bad hill. I was about to pass a guy on a mountain bike, on his left, when all of a sudden he took a hard left right into my way. The only way I could keep from hitting him was to swerve over into the running course, almost hitting a female runner. I almost fell off the bike and I did completely stop. On an uphill, a bad uphill, in a lower gear than I could easily start up again in. It kinda pissed me off, but it's not like there's a lot I could have done. I guess it would have been worse if I would have wrecked.

I finished the bike and got into my running shoes. Ah, it felt good to be on the last leg of the race. I got going and felt like I was forgetting something but I wasn't sure what. Hmm. About .25 miles into the run I looked at the person in front of me, noticed their number, and realized I had forgotten to put mine on. Dammit. I briefly considered going back then realized that was stupid. I had my number written on me in four places, and I had a timing chip on. No way anyone would care.

I guess I didn't stretch well because almost immediately the muscles on top of my shins got real tight. It made the running uncomfortable. At the second water stop I walked for a few feet just so I could do little circles in the air with my feet. I had to get those muscles loosened up. Actually, running uphill helped them, so I looked forward to that.

I didn't get passed on the run, not even by the short-course folks. Again, I did a lot of passing. Especially on the hills, that felt good.

Surprisingly I feel like I'd want to do another tri. I need to do something about my swimming, it's horrible. But, I had a lot of fun. We'll see.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lenexa Freedom Run

Well, it took 11 years, but I finally broke my 5k PR!

New: 21:08
Old: 21:30

Probably could have done better had I not gone out drinking the night before. Oops. Whatever, it was a fun run, lots of people, terrible shirt. Nothing seems to change.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Trail Nerds Are Rockstars!

Well, close.

Ben and Kyle were on a local radio program today, The Walt Bodine Show, talking about trailrunning and ultra-marathons. Pretty much the coolest thing I've ever heard on the radio.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My First Century Ride

102 miles.

I'm REALLY late in posting this one. For no real reason I decided to go for a "long" bike ride last Tuesday in Denver. I wasn't real sure where to go but I knew I wanted to stay on bike trails as much as possible. So, I went to Barnes & Noble, grabbed a cycling Denver book and did some research.

The longest option seemed to be the C-470 bike path. It follows most of C-470 around the city. Problem is, it seemed really open and not real scenic. There was also the Platte River trail and the Cherry Creek trail. Hmm, those looked better, but both involved taking the C-470 trail to get to.

So, what did I do? All three, of course.

I started out in Highlands Ranch and headed to the C-470 trail. This involved all road riding, not fun for me. Especially not fun when during part of the trip I got my front tire caught in a crack in the road that was just wide enough for the tire to fit in. Yeah, almost wiped out in traffic. That would have been bad.

I took the C-470 trail East to get to the Cherry Creek Reservoir, at which point I'd take the Cherry Creek Trail into downtown Denver. The ride along 470 going East is pretty dammed boring. It's all highway so it's noisy and smelly and just not fun. Also, the trail crosses several busy streets, so you can't ride continuously, you have to stop and wait at crosswalks. And these were not pedestrian or bike-friendly intersections.

Anyways, I made it in one piece to Cherry Creek Reservoir and stopped and ate lunch. By this point I was only like 25 miles into the ride and didn't really have my heart set on any particular distance. I just wanted to make it downtown.

I was really surprised at how desert-like the area East of Denver was. It was extremely dry and there were very few trees. Not really an area I'd want to live in. Also, the mountains seemed so far away, it was almost sad. I'm definitely not a fan of the East side of Denver.

After eating I headed towards downtown on the Cherry Creek trail. I was headed to Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek dumps into the Platte River. It was an excellent ride. The path was nice and generally shaded and not a lot of people were out so I could move pretty quickly on the bike.

I hung out at Confluence Park for a bit, just relaxing. There were people out doing random stuff, people playing in the river, etc. It was really nice.

Leaving Confluence Park I headed South back towards Highlands Ranch. The entire path follows the Platte River. You get pretty decent views of downtown during the first part of the ride. The entire ride is nice. Once I got into Littleton I came across this coffee shop that was only on the trail - not on the street. It was just for folks who were out running or biking to stop and get a drink and relax. It was awseome. I really wish we had stuff like that here in KC.

Once I got back to the C-470 trail I figured I'd head back towards Highlands Ranch but I looked at my odomoter and saw that I'd done about 60 miles. I started thinking that it would be cool to say I did 100 miles in a day. It's always bad when I get ideas like that in my head. So...I took a right instead of a left on the C-470 trail and headed West.

God, the trail sucked at this point. It was cracked and someone did a piss-poor job of sealing the cracks. The tar would get on your tires and would just suck. Argh, it still pisses me off.

Finally, near Golden, I turned right onto a trail that follows 285 East back towards the Platte River Trail. This trail was interesting also. It was pretty well maintained, except for random parts that would go through parking lots. Very odd.

I headed back South on the Platte River trail, again, and made it to Highlands Ranch in generally one piece. The weather was getting bad towards the end of the ride and I was getting worried about being caught out in a rainstorm and not having a lot of energy left. Luckily I made it back to Chris's before it started raining.

102 miles.

Pikes Peak

I'm back from Colorado. I didn't have much time to write while I was out there...spent too much of my free time playing Wii. I also didn't have my usb cable to get files off of my camera, so there wasn't much reason to post while I was there. Anyways, here goes...

I got out there Sunday night at around 10pm. The drive wasn't bad at all, went by really quick. I had decided before I got there that I was going to try to hike Pikes Peak on Monday. Mostly because the forecast called for rain in Denver Monday but not in Colorado Springs. So, I got to bed around midnight on Sunday night and got up again at 4am on Monday morning to drive down. I knew I'd need lots of rest since the hike was going to be tough...good thing I got it, all three hours of sleep.

So, my plan was actually to run as much of the trail that I could. Pretty stupid. I did Barr Trail, which starts around 6,500 feet and ends, of course, around 14,100 feet at the summit.

Barr Trail is easy to get to, just drive through beautiful Colorado Springs on I-25 at 45 miles per hour (WTF!?) then head over to Manitou Springs where the speed limit is like 20mph everywhere. These people don't like driving fast.

The trailhead is just past the Cog Railway parking lot. There's a specific parking lot for the trail as the folks at the Cog will tow your car if you park there, at least, that's what all the nice signs say. Anyways, there was plenty of parking for me at 5:30 in the morning at the trailhead. Now, this was later than I wanted. I had actually wanted to head up right at sunrise, but I didn't expect the drive down 25 to go so slow, or the drive through Colorado Springs or Manitou to take so freaking long. Whatever. Around 6:00 I got all my stuff put together and headed up the trail.

Now, the really cool thing about the trailhead is the signs that remind you that mountain lions have been sighted recently and/or how bears are in the woods and how you should deal with them. There were some kids (I say kids, they were probably 22, God I'm old...) who were joking about the signs. They said: "You know what the trick is when you're hiking with your friends and see a bear? Bring a friend who is slower than you are". Now that's just spectacular advice for someone hiking alone. They noticed me, by myself, and gave me this pitty look of "you're totally screwed dude". Dumb kids.

The trail is very easy to follow. It's very non-technical and marked quite well. The only hard part is the grade. It's a 13% (~7600 feet of gain over ~11 miles) grade...uphill...the entire way. There's very little flat or downhill sections. Being the bold, intelligent, determined ultra-runner that I am I figured I'd start out running it and would see how far I could get. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for me?

The route from the trailhead to Barr Camp was pretty uneventful. My run was more like a really, really slow shuffle. I walked some of the sections that involved navigating some rocks or psudo-stairs. I think it took me about an hour and a half to get to Barr Camp. The cool thing was when I would get passed by people running up the same trail I was. That felt awseome! I'm pretty sure that trail, up to Barr Camp, is a pretty popular running/hiking destination for the locals. Especially those who train all year for the Pikes Peak Marathon (something I'd actually like to do at some point). I was sucking wind like it was my first time running and these folks were just movin along chatting and laughing like it was a normal run for them. Pretty amazing.

Anyways, I hung out at Barr Camp for a bit. It's a pretty neat place. It's more-or-less a store where they sell some supplies, food and drinks. They were making some amazing pancakes when I got there and offered me as many as I wanted, at no charge! I bought a gatorade and hung out on the deck with a pile of pancakes and just relaxed for a bit...waiting for a bear to come ask me for some of my pancakes. Never happened.

After about 30 minutes of enjoying the scenery and the food I started back up the mountain. I was above 10,000 feet and was having a pretty tough time running, so my run turned into a walk.

There's really wasn't much to talk about. The scenery was beautiful, the trail was easy to follow, I didn't see a lot of people. I really couldn't ask for much more.

Once I hit 12,000 feet I was hurting pretty badly. I imagine the low oxygen concentration was really taking a toll on me, as I couldn't walk but a few yards without getting short of breath. I was walking, not running, mind you. I was taking breaks about every ten minutes at this point. Just stopping and sitting on a rock.

I was also taking a lot of pictures. This is a sore subject for me as not all of them came out. I have no clue why. I got some pictures, not nearly as many as I took tho.

So, up to 13,000 feet I went, struggling along, stopping a lot. Around this point you hit this section called the "17 Golden Stairs". Bullshit they're golden. It's more like the 39 gates of hell. Whoever named the stupid things was oxygen deprived and couldn't count. Each stair is really a switchback. A steep switchback. In a boulder field. Not easy hiking.

I stopped a lot through here. First off, I had to since I was getting so exhausted so quickly. Secondly, the view was absolutely stunning. You could see forever. It was honestly unreal. Plus there was literally no noise up there. Occasionally the wind would pick up, but that was about it. It was amazing.

After what seemed like forever I finally saw the peak, and all the people carelessly frolicking about on top of the mountain after riding the cog up. I hated all of them. I heard a few "hey, look, there's someone hiking up", I heard one "why would you do that?". Lazy assholes.

I made it to the top. People looked at me funny. I probably didn't look too super but I wasn't up there looking for a date so I didn't care. I had a pretty bad headache, I imagine I was in pretty bad shape at that point. So, I sat down on a rock and ate and drank some water and thought about my hike down. Then it started snowing. Yeup, June 23rd and it's snowing. Super. It's ok, it's not bad, I'll hike down in the snow. Then it starts thundering and lightning. Nope, no way I'm hiking down in that crap.

So, I walk over to the cog ticket office and ask how much for a ticket back down the mountain.

Me: "Hi, can I get a one-way ticket?"
Her: "Sure, $20."
Me: "Cool, when does the train (that's literally right next to me) leave?"
Her: "Oh, that one is full, you'll have to take the one in two hours."
Me: "F#@k that."
Her: "(mouth agape)"
Me: "Thanks. I'll find another way down. Have a super day."
Her: "(mouth still agape)"

No way I was waiting two hours to get off that pile of dirt. Lesson learned here folks, if you're going to do this hike, buy a one-way ticket down at the bottom of the mountain.

So, I was kinda stuck. Then I met another pair of hikers and we engaged in a five minute bitch session about the weather and the annoying cog railway. They had done the hike a few times before and suggested that we hitchhike back down. Now, white-bread me from Kansas is not big into hitchhiking. That's about as sure a way to get man-raped as is federal prison. They assured me it was safe as usually the only people who take people down the mountain are other hikers. Well, I didn't feel good, I was tired, and I really felt like I needed to get down from that altitude. So, I figured I'd try anything.

So, we sat by the road at the top of the mountain and waited for folks to drive by. I let them go first, and I caught the next person who drove by. It was a very nice and very old couple from Florida. They asked me what I was doing (hmm, I had on a jacket, shorts, a small hiking pack and smelled like ass...I wonder). I told them I hiked up and didn't feel safe hiking back down and was looking for a ride. They said sure. So, I went on my first hitchhiking adventure.

They really were very nice. We talked the whole way down the mountain...well, I talked when I didn't feel like I was going to puke. The further down we got the sicker I got. I wasn't about to blow chunks in their car, so I was having a fun time holding it in. Once we got further down I noticed that we were on the West side of the mountain, not the East side. I didn't really realize it but the road down is in a different place than the cog. Dammit. I asked them about this and they confirmed that the way up the mountain wasn't in Manitou Springs. Hmm. They quickly offered to drive me over. Damn, that was nice of them.

It was even more nice of them considering how bad I smelled. The guy driving kept rolling the window down every once in a while. I'm sure to get my rank smell out of the car.

So, we made it over to Manitou Springs and up to the cog railway parking lot. It was about another 100 yards to my car from where they dropped me off but I really felt like I'd puke if I didn't get out right then. I thanked them a ton, wished them luck on the rest of their trip, etc and got my butt out of that car as quick as possible.

I managed to make it to my car, after stopping several times, without puking. I got my stuff off, sat on my hood, and just tried to relax. Yeah, my stomach had a different idea. About a minute later it all came up. Bread mixed with red powerade. Interesting combination. I puked and puked and puked. I was puking up nothing eventually. That's when I really started getting worried. I haven't thrown up in a while, but when I did it was usually just once, just to get something out of my stomach. This was violent dry-heaving.

I stopped puking eventually, sat down on the ground, and closed my eyes. After about ten minutes of not moving I figured I should get some water in me and see if I could keep it in. I did, it stayed down. All told I sat there for about an hour, barely moving, trying to recover.

Now, I'm not sure if I came off the mountain too fast or what. But something about that hike made me really sick. It really scared me too. I had this horrible picture of me dying because my dumbass got the bends or something while trying to be tough.

The next nightmare was the drive back to Denver. I had to motivate myself to get into the car and start driving. This ended up being harder than motivating myself to finish that 100km race a few weeks ago. I just didn't want to move. But, I tempted myself with a warm shower and a nap. It worked. I got going, managed the drive somehow, and found myself back at Chris's house.

Surprisingly, by the time I got to the house I was feeling pretty dammed good. So good that I called a friend of mine in Boulder to see if she still wanted to meet for dinner that night. During my dying hour back at the trailhead I had convinced myself I was going to sleep until Thursday at least.

So, I took a shower, didn't take a nap, ate some food, and drove an hour and a half up to Boulder. Go figure. I was fine all night. No leg pain, nothing. Heck, I even had two beers and didn't even feel the alcohol. I was really surprised.

I survived my first fourteener. Wonder what the next one will be.