Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Run Woodstock -- Hallucination 100-Mile -- 2019

"Run for 20 minutes and you will feel better.
 Run for another 20 and you might tire.
 Add on another 3 hours and you'll hurt.
 Keep going.....and you'll see, smell, hear, and taste the world
 with a vividness that will make your former life pale."
                                                                             --Scott Jurek

Summer High


After my summer adventure at Lake Tahoe, I was riding an unbelievable high.  Finishing something as hard as the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs 100 Miler from the spot I was in around mile 69 was just miraculous.  It's a "high" I hope everyone encounters in their lifetime.  You could ask me to do something, and I was 100% positive I could accomplish it.  My runs during August were all spectacular because of my newfound belief in myself.

So, just six-and-a-half weeks later, we had a planned trip to return to the Run Woodstock trail running weekend at Pinckney State Recreation Area in Hell, Michigan.  I say 'we' because this trip was originally started by my friend, Jody, back in early 2019.  The Hallucination 100 was my very first 100-mile race and my first 100-mile DNF (Jody was there to pace me).  But, once I heard Jody was going....there was no way in Hell (pun intended) that I was gonna let one of my friend's go back and finish the race I quit before I got a shot at it again.  So, I signed up.  In total, we got four members of our running group (Jody, Don, Andy and myself) to sign up for a weekend of ultra-running!

Showing off our buckles...motivating Don!

This race meant something to everyone.  Don was trying for some redemption after DNF-ing his first 100-miler.  Jody wanted another buckle.  Andy wanted adventure.  I was there to redeem my 2016 performance.  In the end, I think we were all there because of what we get from those deep, dark moments in an ultra race where you get a good look into yourself and what you are made of.  It's a place you don't often find yourself, and getting there and back is a journey not to be underestimated.  I like the way David Blaikie so elegantly phrased it:
"...perhaps the genius of ultraunning is its supreme lack of utility.  It makes no sense, in a world of space ships and super computers, to run vast distances on foot.  There is no money in it and no fame...frequently, not even the approval of peers.  But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than the logic and common sense.  The ultrarunner knows this instinctively.  And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary.  They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort.  In running such long and taxing distances, they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being ... a call that asks who they are."

Hallucination 100 - Pre-race


So, we headed to Hell, Michigan for a weekend of running!  The drive up was uneventful, but full of talk about running, dreams and aspirations.  The Hallucination 100 differs from other ultras because it starts in the late afternoon (4pm).  So, we spent the day lounging, enjoying everyone's company, eating carbs and resting!
Me and Angela just relaxing the day away.

Don and Andy completely relaxed.

Jody out.
Eventually, we had to get up....lace up....and get ready for our race!

I really like the start of Hallucination 100.  Prior to the actual start, they play the Star Spangled Banner just like Jimi did at Woodstock.  And then....we are off!

Lap #1 -- Miles 1-17


Hallucination 100 is a loop course.  Each loop consists of single-track trail and gravel roads for approximately 17 miles.  So, six laps for the 100-miler.

I never intend to run an entire race with someone.  But, Andy and I stuck together thru lap #1.  It was me leading the way thru a course that is 100% runnable.  That is the dangerous proposition at CAN run the whole thing....but what will that do to your body?  And, can you keep that pace up?  Well, we came thru lap #1 in 3:01:39.  Not terribly fast, but certainly not slow enough.  We even had the conversation a few miles from the end of the lap about how Angela would be angry with me for going out so fast.  I do remember Andy tripping and falling during the loop at some point....but he wasn't injured....because he's a total BADASS.  Lap #1 at Hallucination is great because it's like a quick "course preview" before the sun goes down.  Nearly everyone gets it done before dark.
Lap #1 reapplying necessary umm....stuff.

Lap #2 -- Miles 17-34

Lap #2 Andy led the way.  We were continuing our stunningly fast pace without much effort.  Both of us were fueling well and just plowing thru the course.  And then....POP!!....SLAM!  Yup, as I am prone to do, at mile 11-ish, I rolled my ankle over a tree root and slammed to the ground.  This is EXACTLY what happened in 2016....I rolled my ankle, continued about 12 more miles and then quit.  So, just as my day was starting, I had already made a pretty grave mistake.  I cursed myself.  Andy helped me up.  We walked a bit.  And then....we got back to it....finishing lap #2 in 3:47:xx.  Yeah, we slowed down a bit (mostly me) but we were still killing that 24-hour pace of 4 hours per lap.  Unfortunately, when we returned from lap #2, Jody was sitting in the tent.  His knee was acting up and he had quit at mile 21.  I was heartbroken for him.

Lap #3 -- Miles 34-51

Lap #3 the darkness had settled in.  It was past 10:30PM, the moon was less than half, and there was really nothing to do but keep your eyes on the bright spot created by your headlamp and continue your forward progress.  Andy and I hadn't said much during our first two laps, which is HIGHLY unusual for the two of us.  But, we were two very focused men who were both having the same thoughts...."damn, I wish he'd walk once in a while so I could rest."....but no one was saying it.  I started the lap in the lead without much thought.  Later, Andy would tell me he wasn't in a great mental spot here but my persistence kept him moving.  From his physical demeanor, you couldn't tell he was hurting in any way.  We slowed our pace due to the nighttime darkness and the ever increasing mileage, but we finished lap #3 in 4:18:xx.  Our 50-mile split was 11:06:26.  Still FAR below the 24-hour pace we both had agreed would be completely do-able for this race given the flat profile of the course.

Lap #4 -- Miles 51-68

Lap #4 was where I started to really feel the fast start catching up to me.  We walked more, but we also talked more.  It was still a good lap for about 12 miles.  Eventually, I was coming to the realization that my ankle was bothering me, my mind was failing me, and I wasn't going to be able to keep pushing this.  Andy stayed with me the entire lap, but I was just holding him back.  Our goal was to finish the lap as the sun rose, leaving just a 50k for the daytime hours.  However, my decreased willingness to run tanked our pace and we saw the sun rise with about two miles to go.  We finished lap #4 (68 miles) in 4:55:xx (16:01:16 elapsed).  STILL at the 24-hour pace.

Crazy Hippies!!!
After the completion of lap #4, I needed a LOT of attention.  I was chaffing on my inner thighs so badly it was bleeding.  I was chaffing in my buttcrack.  My left ankle was tender.  The bottoms of my feet were just killing me (we think it was the 6 miles of gravel road each loop....they were hard like cement).  I needed a solid 15-20 minute break to reapply diaper creme, biofreeze, intake food, tylenol, etc.  I FINALLY convinced Andy that we needn't stay together.  He had a race to run and he was only getting stronger.  He left me and never looked back.  His laps continued to tick away and he finished in 23:24:28!!  He just got stronger, managed the pain, and kicked that course straight in the arse!

I wish I could say I got up from that chair at mile 68 and re-energized myself....but I didn't.  But, I don't remember having any "I am quitting" statements.  I felt like real shit, but I was here for one thing: to finish, no matter the cost.  I went thru a routine, tried to pull myself out of that dark place, laced up my shoes and got ready.  In fact, I was so depressed about how it was going, it spurred Jody to lace his shoes back up and join me to start the lap!  I was really glad to have Jody pacing me.  I owe so much to him for this ultrarunning journey, it's nice to share it with him.

Lap #5 -- Miles 68-85

Jody and I eventually started lap #5.  The only thought in my head was that halfway thru this lap was where I quit before, and that's where I wanted to surpass this time around.  When we arrived at the first aid station (Gracie), Jody took his pacer bib off and handed it to my friend, Mark.
Mark .. always cheerful!
I can't say this development made me enthusiastic.  I love Mark.  But, I knew he wasn't gonna take my shit.  He wasn't gonna baby me.  He was going to continually harass me thru the rest of this.  And, thru the rest of the lap, that's exactly what he did ... "Do you think you can run here?...Let's go.".  We weren't running fast by any stretch of imagination, but we managed to finish lap #5 in 4:59:xx (21:00:34 elapsed).  We were still headed for a very respectable 24-26 hour finish.

Lap #6 -- Miles 85-100+

As Andy and I had talked several miles earlier, we laughed at how "easy" this race was and both wondered what adversity would come our way.  As we started lap #6, the bell lap, adversity was rearing it's nasty head at me.  I had nothing nice to say, no pleasant thoughts, and I was just generally pissy.  Not even ringing the bell for the final lap encouraged me:

This is where I was really displeased with myself.  I managed to come back at Tahoe and really finish strong. I was looking for that magic here....but it just wasn't there. I kept taking inventory of my physical condition:
  • Left ankle tender and minor swelling
  • Inner thighs chaffed and bleeding
  • Right armpit chaffing painfully
  • Soles of feet just tender and in extreme pain
  • Tendons behind both knees painful from overuse
But, I was still moving forward....even if it was approaching that dreaded "death march".  I was angry at myself for not being able to pull it together.  I was not happy that I was there, but I was going to finish.

To add insult to injury, with about 12 miles to go, my contacts were so dry they became blurred.  I couldn't see the trail in front of me, making it even more treacherous than necessary.  This just was not my day.

Mark kept me moving.  He kept talking and I would just listen and walk.  Not even the sounds of the finish line spurred my emotions to happy place.  Mark convinced me to run the final 200 meters "for show".

Hobbling in right at the 27-hour mark (27:00:37) after a 5:59:57 lap wasn't ideal, but it was done.  It was my fastest 100-mile finish.  I walked right to a chair and sat down.  I told Angela and the medical staff that I couldn't see.  They provided me with some eye drops.  Add in the tears of disappointment and my vision cleared up.


I know I should have smiled.  I know elation should have rushed over me.  I know I should be thankful I can complete things like this.  But, this was depressing. I didn't even want the buckle when Angela showed it to me.  This wasn't a happy finish.  I spent 91 miles babying my ankle. I spent 60 miles in a very dark spot that I couldn't emotionally dig myself out of.  I have learned thru the years how to get my body, physically, through these things....but the mental part is still a real struggle for me.  Someone once said "An ultra is 90% mental and the other 10% is in your head."  I couldn't agree more.

Hallucination 100 -- Post Race


I mean...I finished, right?

Take that Hippies!!!


I am SUPER THANKFUL for my friends who came along and helped me through this one.  These ultra races are a real journey for me, but they are journeys that I wouldn't want to do alone too often.


Jody -- I have said it before, and I will continue to say it....Jody is one-of-a-kind!  He will go anywhere and do anything to see his friends succeed!  His day was cut short due to injury, but he put that aside so that Don and I could finish our races.  He needn't ever ask if I will help him run a race...he just needs to tell me when.


Mark -- Mark put up with me for about 30 awful miles.  What a baby I was!  He kept me moving, he tried, time and time again, to keep me running.  He entertained me.  If I could share my buckle with anyone, it would be with Mark (but I won't....he's already got two Hallucination buckles).


Andy -- My "brother from another mother" .... we just can't stop doing crazy shit together!  I was glad for his company, his energy, and his persistence.  It was great to see he finished sub-24.  Whatever stupid idea we think of next.....I. AM. IN.


Don -- While we didn't get to run together, I was super excited to see him finish!  Congrats!!!  Don's consistency is something we should all strive for!


Linda -- I don't know how you do it.  She continually is prepared for everything.  I do my best to avoid letting her change my stinky shoes/socks, but she is always willing to jump in and help.  She is as reliable as a person gets!  Thank you for everything you do!!!!


Angela -- Once again you were there for me when I needed it most.  You didn't waiver on your belief that I would finish.  It's always one of the best feelings to see you at the finish.  I'm glad my partner in life is willing to watch me suffer so much for something as stupid as a belt buckle!!! I LOVE YOU!


So, where do I go from here?  Anywhere I damn well please!!  It's taken a few days, but the high of finishing another ultra has settled in.  My body has recovered.  I'm ready to find another adventure.  Andy and I have a few things in our heads that we might get accomplished.  In the meantime, each of my 100-mile finishes this summer have been Western States qualifying races, so I WILL be putting my name into that hat, regardless if my odds are slim.  Until the next adventure......adios!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs - 2019

Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs - 100 Mile

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure
with no loss of enthusiasm” -Winston Churchill 

It’s no secret that my attempts at 100-mile endurance runs have ended poorly, with one exception. But, if you know me or are regularly around me you know that my LOVE of trail running has never diminished because of those failures.  I take a smidge of pride in knowing I atleast attempted something difficult enough that most people can’t imagine, let alone attempt, furthermore...finish.

So, in 2014, I decided I wanted to run bigger races. But, I wanted to see these races firsthand before throwing my hat in the ring. That led me to Lake Tahoe to pace an endurance runner thru his 100-mile journey. In 2015, we came back and I finished the 50-mile race.  Since that moment, I’ve wanted to come back and tackle the 100-mile race.  I can draw you a map of the course from memory and I watch the course preview video with regularity.

Selection and Training

Midnight on December 31st, 2018, that dream became a reality when my name was chosen in the lottery and my credit card was charged.  I was fresh off another DNF courtesy of Hitchcock and it’s grueling hills and elevation why not tackle a mountain race of nearly the same elevation gain but 8,000’ higher?

Like I've done numerous times in the past, I planned out my training based off of Hal Koerner's back-to-back weekend long runs.  My plan started in early March....but week #1 was 56 miles, so for a couple months ahead of March, I had to increase my mileage in preparation for a 20-week training plan.

This go-around, though, my children are all older and more involved in sports, clubs, school, etc.  Most weekends, my Saturday long run was cut short by about 10-20% due to family responsibilities.  And, my Sunday runs were either totally ignored or shortened to 10-16 miles.  I wasn't getting the training in, but I was running and cross-training would have to be enough!

Slow Down

In the past, I like to go out hard and probably too fast.  I'm okay with that, but it hasn't been successful.  So, this time around, I had two friends (Andy & Mark) who kept prodding me to "go out slow".  I talked to my friend, John (who I paced at Tahoe for a bit in 2014), who finished Tahoe, and he told me to "walk the first 6 miles".  So, I found a feature on my Garmin (Fenix 3) that lets me set an alarm whenever my pace is faster than 13:00 min/mile.  Yeah, I know...that's not that fast....but try running 13min miles for 12 hours sometime and come tell me that's not fast.  So, I got that alarm set and went out to give it a whirl.

On Friday, June 29th, I setup a tent at a local state park(Crowder) and went for a solo night run.  I ran from 8:45pm to 5:45am.  Every time that damn alarm beeped and buzzed at me, I would slow it back down.  It actually forced me to walk quite a bit (and my walking pace is faster than 13min/mile, too).  It was after that night of running that I got it in my head that I was ready.  The summer humidity and heat of Missouri had beaten me down, but something told me I could do this.

Lake Tahoe from Brockway Summit (~8,000')

Tahoe -- Family Vacay

Lake Tahoe might be my most favorite place on the planet (yes, better than Colorado!).  The high fresh mountain air, the crisp, blue water, the amazing's all just right for me.  So, like we've done in the past, we drove out a week early and stayed in a rental house for the week.  I got up early each morning and made my way to a summit to watch the sun rise and reflect on the task ahead.  Once the kids were up, we hiked each morning as a family and swam every afternoon in the frigid waters of Tahoe.  I wasn't sure carrying a 35-lb child on my shoulders every hike would be good for me come race day, but......whatcha gonna do?

Flat Russell

Race Day -- Finally

Well, after a week of goofing around, race day finally arrived.  My pre-race ritual didn't change....lay out my clothes, find all my gear, eat lots of pasta.  In our race bags was an elevation tattoo.  I've always wanted one during a race, so I gladly applied it:
Pretty cool elevation tattoo!

I know this course like the back of my hand, but it was nice to have a gentle reminder of what lies ahead.

The race starts at 5am at it's lowest point (Spooner Lake, 6800').  The weather forecast was highs of near 80 and lows in the mid-40s.  PERFECT.  If you know me, my luck in signing up for races has put me in some just terrible weather from pouring rain for 20hours to sideways sleet to 6" of snow.  Finally, I was getting a race where the weather wouldn't get in my way.  So, wearing my Hitchcock shirt (intentionally) as a reminder that I've done harder things, we made our way to the start.
45º at the start!

The first four miles of the race is a climb up single-track trails to beautiful Lake Marlette.  I did exactly what John suggested and I fell in line (near the back) and just walked it out.  There was nothing wasted on this section and it felt good to reach the sparkling shores of Lake Marlette and run for a bit.  A quick climb and we were already at Hobart AS (mile 8.5).  A quick look of my watch and it was near the 2-hour mark.  This was perfect....four miles per hour....24 hours.....pretty darn close to a 24-hour finish.

I climbed just a bit out of Hobart up Marlette Peak and then up Harlan Peak.  The views up there are just amazing with both Tahoe and Marlette in focus.  In my head, though, I just wasn't in a "racing mood".  It was the most mundane race I had ever done.  I was really just enjoying the hike and views.  I couldn't care less about how I was doing.

Marlette (foreground) and Tahoe (background)
After a quick jaunt along the ridgeline, you get 2-3 miles of switchbacks and descent down into the busiest aid station, Tunnel Creek (mile 13, 19, 35, 63, 69, & 85).  I wasn't stopping long at aid stations.  Just long enough to refill my handheld water bottle and top off my hydration pack.  I'd grab handfuls of food and just run off.  This was all part of the plan...just keep moving, drinking and eating.

Right out of Tunnel Creek, you plummet about 1,000' down the next 3 miles to Red House.  Red House, Incline Village and Spooner Lake are the only points on the race below 7,000'.  It's a quick, steep decent to Red House, where.........after a quick fill-up and some turn around and climb back up that 1,000', sandy climb to Tunnel Creek.  I marched right thru the uphills without any problems.

Back into Tunnel Creek and out again, I made my way to Bull Wheel AS.  It's just a quick water stop before heading off into the back country for about 9 miles of switchbacks and descent down to Incline Village.  I walked into Incline Village AS, at the base of Diamond Peak ski resort in about 7:15 (30 miles).  This was exactly where I wanted to be.  I felt great, I was hydrated, fed and ready to go.

The climb out of the aid station at the base of Diamond Peak is quite possibly one of the worst in trail running.  It climbs about 2,000' over two miles.  It starts out easy enough, but it quickly becomes evident that the sandy road and the elevation are going to tear you apart.  A quick look ahead of you and you can see other runners virtually straight above you just gasping for air every 10 seconds.  I think it's no stretch to say that someone in lesser physical condition, making this climb, at elevation, during the peak heat of the day....would be life threatening.  It's no joke.

 A glimpse of Heaven and a taste of Hell.
I put one foot in front of the other and methodically climbed Diamond Peak.  I wasn't trying to race up it.  I wasn't wanting to elevate my heart rate.  I just kept walking and I managed it in 68 minutes.

This is where I think the race really takes it's toll at Tahoe.  Yeah, Diamond Peak is a bitch....but all those switchbacks you got to descend into Tunnel Creek....all those descents down Harlan Peak and Marlette gotta go back up.  AND THEN....when you are finally back up to Hobart have to climb another 3 miles up to the climax of the race, Snow Valley Peak, at just over 9,200'.  For the next 12 miles after mile 30 AS, I climbed and I wrecked myself in the afternoon sun & heat.

Halfway there!

I managed the last 20 miles in 7 hours....for a 14:15 first 50 miles.  This was nothing special, but it was what I wanted so that I could just get thru this race.  I sat in the Spooner Lake AS (mile 52-ish) and fixed everything.  I ate.  I changed socks.  I changed shoes (in fact, I threw away the pair I used for the first 50).  My 10-year-old daughter was there to watch and she said "Daddy, why are you doing this?"  I told her I was doing this for her and her sisters.  I told her I wanted her to see that anything is possible.  She said "Well, I'm never doing this...this is CRAZY!"

It is here that I grabbed my pacer, Don, and we headed off for loop #2.  I told him we'd walk to Lake Marlette.  I could tell Don was antsy to run, but he willingly walked with me to Marlette.  We jogged some flats and downhills, but I was getting slower and I felt beat up.  We hiked up onto the ridges between Harlan Peak and Marlette Peak.  I started having doubts in my mind and cramps in my hamstrings.  In my head, I said "Let's just get to Tunnel Creek and give that Red House loop a try to see where we are at."  We hiked and jogged our way down the switchbacks and into Tunnel Creek.  I was bummed that loop #1 took me so long, so Don wasn't getting any pretty scenery because nightfall had already come and we were running by headlamp in the forest.

At Tunnel Creek, we refilled our hydration, ate, and headed out to Red House.  Unfortunately, my running time was behind me.  We walked down the downhills because it was really triggering my cramps.  Cramps have devastated me in the past and I was fighting them hard to keep them at bay this time.  We managed to get to Red House and then start the hike back out.  On the way up to Tunnel Creek, I was pretty defeated.  I wasn't sure how I was going to climb Diamond Peak again.

Finally, we made it to Tunnel Creek.  I immediately laid down on a cot in the First Aid tent.  I rolled my hamstrings, I ate soup and tater tots.  But, my head was in pieces and I was done.  There were atleast six others in that tent and they were all dropping and waiting for a ride out of there.  I told the aid station worker that I'd like that ride, too.  It was 69 miles into my day and I just couldn't keep doing this.  I think my body has a pretty great self-defense mechanism that triggers quite easily for self-preservation reasons.  It was doing it at mile-69 and I was listening.  The aid station worker told me they didn't have room and I'd have to wait 2-4 hours for a ride.  I was content with this option.  I put a couple blankets on and quickly fell asleep.

I was only asleep 10-15 minutes before I was awoken by someone shaking me.  Don was asking me to drink more soup and seeing if I was ready to go.  I told him my day was done.  I was apologizing to him for dragging him all the way to Tahoe just for another DNF, but I wasn't cut out for this.  I sat up and texted Angie.  I told her I was done.  She told me to get up and keep going.  I fought back.  I said we'd hike to Bull Wheel...another 3 miles, but if I wasn't feeling it, I'd quit there and hike down Diamond Peak.  That option seemed better than undertaking the 13 mile route back to the Incline Village AS to meet her.

Something changed...

This is where I topped off my water, my hydration pack and ate some more.  And, then....miraculously, I stood up, started walking around and told Don we'd start hiking.  I think he was as shocked as I was.  I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but we could walk.  So, walk we did until we hit Bull Wheel AS.  I was still ready to quit, but the hike DOWN Diamond Peak seemed worse than the 9 mile route around and to the bottom.  So, I don't think we hesitated very long at Bull Wheel....we just filled some waters and left.

The next nine miles is kinda a blur to me.  I watched Don's heels for hours as we just trudged along in the boulder-strewn, dark forest.  Somewhere in that stretch, the sun came up.  The sun rising had meant I was out there for 24+ hours and it would still take MUCH longer to finish.  I started doing math in my head (not a good idea during an ultra) and decided I couldn't climb Diamond Peak again and still make it back to the finish.  I was content with getting to Incline Village AS (mile 80) and quitting.  We walked most of that 9 miles down into Incline.

I remember farting ... A LOT.  I remember farting most of the way down to Incline Village.  With about 2 miles to go, I realized the next fart would have more than just gas with it and I'd better stop before we have an accident.  I told Don I really needed to get to the aid station and use the bathroom.  I don't think it increased our pace that much, but it gave me something else to focus on, ironically.

We walked into Incline Village AS around 8am.  Angie came out to take my picture and meet us.  She asked "What do you need?"  I told her, "I'm not fucking leaving this Aid Station.  I'm done."  I walked right past her to the bathroom.  After several minutes in the bathroom, I came out and sat down.  I told everyone I was done.  I think Don was resigned to that fact, but I could tell he wasn't beaten up yet.  Maddie was there and you could see the worry on her face that Dad was pretty down.  Angie refilled my water bottles and hydration vest.  My father-in-law, Joe, and Angie, both helped change my socks and remove my calf sleeves.  I was preparing to shut it down and just be done.

Then Angie handed me her cell phone and said "You need to talk to Andy."  Andy, my "brother from another mother", had called.  He was telling me that I've been in this spot before.  That I would be fine tomorrow.  That I wasn't done.  That I had more.  Angie reminded me of the "Navy Rule of 40."

The "Navy Rule of 40" is simple.  When you are done....when your body is beaten down....when you've had are really only 40% done.  Your body can do 60% MORE!  You just have to get your head out of the way.

I continued to tell Andy that I was done, but while I was doing this, Angie, Joe, Don and Maddie were giving me ibuprofen, putting biofreeze on my legs, feeding me, etc.  They were just getting me ready to head back out.

Diamond Peak

I don't know what it was.  I don't know how to explain it.  But, in my head, I said "Fine.  I'll go start up this goddamn mountain and show them that I'm too broken to do it and I'll come back down and quit."  And, with that, I stood up, laced up, put on my hydration vest and said....I'm outta here.  Don was still getting ready and I told him, "Just catch up when you can."  I headed out of the aid station and up Diamond Peak!

I still can't explain it other than just sheer DETERMINATION.  Early in the climb, I thought "Well, this ain't so bad, but I know it gets worse."  I just kept my head down and my feet moving at what was a pretty good pace.  Every so often, I would look back and see Don climbing behind me.  I just kept climbing and before I knew it...I was at the top.....TEN MINUTES FASTER than the first time I climbed it (58 minutes).

I won't lie.....I shed a tear right there.  That was the hardest thing I had done in my life.  Climbing that damn mountain a 2nd time with 80 miles on my legs.  That was the crux of the race.  The finish line was obtainable.  My mood switched immediately from defeat to euphoria.  Eighteen miles left?  Shiiiiiit...I can do that in my sleep.

There was one last worry, and that was the time cut-off at Tunnel Creek.  We had to be there by 11AM.  My watch said 9AM.  Two hours to walk/jog/run/hike/crawl three miles.  I filled my water bottle and said to the aid station worker at Bull Wheel, "If you see my pacer, let him know I went on ahead and to come catch me."  They asked me if I was dropping my pacer, to which I replied, "I'm trying to."  This was nothing against Don, his pace, or his effort.  This was a sign that I was getting stronger and finishing was my only goal...with or without him.

I took off running....yes...RUNNING.  This was like a second wind, but stronger.  Yeah, if you look at my pace, it probably wasn't anything spectacular....but it wasn't dying on a cot in an aid station, now was it?

Don caught me about a mile later and we rolled into Tunnel Creek in the mid-morning hours and in VERY good spirits.  We both had some breakfast burritos and a semi-celebration....we had made the final time cut-off with time to was 9:58am.  Some quick math and it was obvious that even walking 20-min miles the rest of the way, we had this in the bag.

I tempered my celebration a bit because I knew the climb up Snow Valley Peak was still looming, but I was ready.  We hiked the switchbacks and made our way back to Hobart.  Somewhere a couple miles before Hobart, Don stopped to fix a problem with his ankle/achilles and I told him I'd keep going.  I told him I would take the lead from there on.  I outran him to the aid station where I got a good rest in.  We had some good food and I remember trying to leave.  Don was still trying to get food.  I was backing out of the aid station and using both hands to lure him towards me.  The aid station workers were getting a kick out of it.  My energy level was thru the roof and I was ready to roll!

We started the climb up Snow Valley Peak somewhere just past noon.  It was hot and sunny.  Don was wearing down a bit (I mean, he had done 40 miles so far), and the elevation of the climb was getting to him.  But, he plugged along without complaint.

We finally hit the Snow Valley Peak aid station ran by the Boy Scouts and we had a nice sit and eat.  I almost broke into tears because all that was left was 7 downhill miles and we had like 3:45 to do it.  We eventually left the aid station and we ran.  We ran downhills.  We ran switchbacks.  We passed people non-stop the last 20 miles of our day.  With about 5 miles to go, we had to pass a group of people and we had just talked about not doing anything stupid to get hurt....just get to the finish.  Well, as we passed that group of people, I jumped a couple boulders and Don said "That was kinda showing off."  Yeah, yeah it was.

Not possible without Don's selfless help.

With two miles to go, I hastened my walking/jogging pace and let Don make his way behind me.  The last two miles, I was almost in tears and all I could think about was Don's sacrifice.  He spent 18 hours with a grown baby, walking thru the darkness only to have to pick up the pace during the heat of the day.  He didn't complain once.  There just aren't many people in this world who will do that kinda thing for you, but there he was.  I wanted to turn around and hug him, but I knew we could do that at the end.  With about 1/4-mile to go, I picked up that jog and ran hard to the end.  Thirty-three hours, forty-three minutes, and twenty-seven seconds after I started, I FINISHED.



A buckle to remember.
I can hardly explain in words what it's like to go from the cot in the aid station at mile 69, to crossing that finish line.  Thirty-plus miles and 180º of difference.  I'd like to take credit for it, but it wasn't just me.

Don -- He tirelessly made his way thru all 50 miles of the course with me.  He put up with my whining.  He kept us moving.  He didn't look tired when we finished.  I COULD NOT have completed this race without his friendship, guidance and perseverance.

Angie -- She's always there for my craziness.  She's always positive that I can do it.  I need to stop overthinking it and just listen to her.  She's right.  Her willingness to let me keep trying these crazy things is amazing.  I love that woman.

Joe & Remi -- It was nice to see Angie getting some company and it's always nice to see people you know at aid stations.  Especially, late in races.  It gives strength to Angie when she needs to confront me and tell me how stupid I'm being.

Andy -- My man.  I know it was just a phone call, but it was a pep talk I needed.

Maddie --  My daughter, who when I finished said "That was cool.  I wanna do it."  I want nothing more than for my children to see that nothing is impossible and with enough perseverance you can triumph.

Me -- Is that selfish?  You're damn right it is.  So what?  This race changed me.  It might not have been pretty, or fast, but I know I can do this now.  I know more about myself each time I attempt an ultra.  Our final twenty miles were our fastest.  I was a different man and a different racer that last twenty miles.  That's a high like I've never gotten before.  The human body is amazing, if you can just get the mind out of the way.

Monday, December 17, 2018


I grew up in Nebraska.  So, naturally, my childhood was dotted with trips to Runza.  And, like everyone else from Nebraska, when we go back to visit friends & family, a trip to Runza is ALWAYS included.  In the last 7-10 years, I've learned to enjoy cooking, and especially baking.  One item that has always eluded me was the right recipe for making Runzas.  Everyone has a recipe from their mom, aunt, grandma, whatever....but none of them are the same.  Sometimes it's dough from a can, just rolled out.  Sometimes it's more of a casserole.  Sometimes, it's shaped like a little dough ball.  But, it never is quite the same.

So, I found a recipe (I can't remember where) but it's really, really close to the restaurant product!  So, here I am making 'one of those' food posts!  I always swore I wouldn't do a baking post, and if I did, you wouldn't have to scroll thru 87 paragraphs, a life story, and 16 pictures of me chopping veggies to get to the recipe.  So, here it is:

Now, you can go start baking....or casually scroll thru the rest of my description, tips, etc!  You're welcome!

Start with the dough!

It takes just a few minutes and you get some really great, elastic dough.  That elasticity comes in handy later when you are trying to shovel in all that yummy beef & cabbage mixture!

So, take 1¾ cups flour, ½ cup sugar, 1tsp salt and the yeast and turn on the mixer.  Let it stir all that together while you put ¾ cup whole milk, ½ cup water, and ½ cup shortening in a bowl and nuke it.  Get it hot...somewhere north of 120º.  Add the eggs to the dry mixture and the hot liquids.  Mix it all on low speed for about a minute.  Then, crank it up to medium for 2-3 minutes until it starts to look really elastic.  Take it out of the mixer, spread a little flour on the counter and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes.

Grease up a bowl with shortening, toss the dough around in it, cover it with a light cloth (or plastic wrap) and set it somewhere warm (I put it on the stove-top with the oven set to 250º) for an hour or until it doubles.

The insides....simple as can be.

Now, you just gave yourself an hour to get everything else ready.  Dice up the onions and cabbage.  DO NOT BUY MORE THAN ONE HEAD OF CABBAGE.  A head of cabbage will yield like....8-15cups of diced up cabbage.  Even if you are doubling or tripling the head of cabbage will be PLENTY.  Trust me.
Chopped cabbage

Chopped onion

Get a big stew pot,  throw the ground beef in and get it browning.  Add the onions and cook until they are clear.  Drain the mixture....and drain it well.  You don't want the juices from fatty beef to come out in your Runza or you'll have a soggy bottom.

Beef & Cabbage mixture

After you've drained it well, add the cabbage and keep cooking until the cabbage is wilted.  Add the seasoned salt (and you can use whatever seasoning you like), the garlic powder, and pepper.  Be VERY liberal with the teaspoon just isn't enough.

After an hour (or when it's double), punch the dough down.  Divide it into 12 separate balls, place them on a baking sheet and cover them.  Working with just one ball at a time, roll it out to a 6" square.

Easily rolled out to 6" square.

From here, I like to lay the cheese on the dough because that will be the top of the Runza and as the cheese melts, it will make it's way into the meat mixture.  Cheddar cheese has worked best.  I used Gouda, but it melts easier and gets kinda greasy.  I haven't experimented with any pre-sliced cheeses.....I'll keep slicing from the block.

Sharp cheddar cheese is my usual.
Gouda cheese for something different!

Then, pile on ¾ cup of the beef & cabbage mixture. Yeah, it's gonna look like a lot, but it will barely be enough.  And, your dough should be elastic enough you can pull it further out and close it.

From here, grab the ends and fold them on top of the mixture.

Now, fold the part furthest from you on top of the mixture.  Pull the closest part to the top and overlap.  The dough should pull and stretch enough to make it work.  Tuck under the ends and pinch the seam closed.

Lay the seam down on a covered baking sheet.  I manage to get about 5-7 Runzas per sheet.

Throw that sheet in the oven for 18-20 minutes.  I like to set it for 18 minutes and check on them.  If the tops aren't brown, I don't pull them out.  Not golden or lightly toasted....brown.  When they are brown, I get them outta the oven and onto a cooling rack ASAP.

Finished product....browned to perfection!

The tops will be brown and somewhat crusty.  A quick tap on several of them with your fingernail will tell you that it's done.

That's it!  It really isn't hard at all!  An hour's worth of work can yield a pretty big supper for the family!  And, you don't need to follow this recipe....experiment!  I put together scrambled eggs, bacon, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes and spinach into the same dough and made a breakfast Runza that was to die for!

Breakfast Runza!

We will definitely be experimenting with more mixtures for the insides as the years go by.  But, to me, nothing really beats the original cheese Runza, so there will always be plenty of those at my table.  Everything from scratch in this recipe just makes it so much better!

Make it right....make it from scratch!


Monday, December 10, 2018

Hitchcock Experience, Round 3

Hitchcock?  Again?  Seriously?

Yes, seriously.  Like the fourth Thursday of November, the last Monday of May, or first Monday of September.........early December means Hitchcock to me.
Sunrise over the Loess Hills of Western Iowa.
The Hitchcock Experience really is the perfect name for the race.  To normal ultra runners, like myself, it sounds like more than you can chew.  Twelve-and-a-half mile loops.....EIGHT TIMES.  Twenty THOUSAND feet of elevation gain.  Early December chills in Omaha/Iowa.  But, I've always heard it said, "I'd rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity."

And, I've been doing quite a bit of 'choking' at Hitchcock.  In 2016, I could only muster 75 miles before pains from a swollen tendon in my right knee had me quit.  In 2017, I managed to finish all 100 miles.  So, in 2018, I went in with the motto that this was gonna be "Best 2-out-of-3"!

Like usual, if I sign up for a race....the weather isn't going to be "sunny and 75".  A week prior to race day, about 7-10" of snow fell on the Omaha area.  Temperatures were expected to be highs in the 20s and lows near zero.  Thankfully, I love cold weather and in particular...snow.  This was playing into my hands.


I really don't like early race starts, especially for 100-milers.  Like....why the !@#$% do we need to start at 4am or 5am?  Can't we all agree to start at 10am?  I mean, most of us are still gonna be out here tomorrow at 10am.....let's not get up early when we have to stay up for longer than a day!  But, that 5am start at Hitchcock is perfect.  You get a lap in before the sun comes up (or atleast make it to the final ridge just as the sun is rising...see pic above), which is a great start to your day!  You get a taste of how cold it will be overnight so you can think on it during the day and plan accordingly.  But still....that 3:30am alarm....SUUUUUUUCKS.
Beardcicles during the first loop!

My plan was simple enough this time around.  I was gonna start in the back of the pack.  I was going to let the half marathoners catch & pass me (they have a short out-and-back half-mile loop at the beginning).  I wanted everyone else on course to stomp down the snow for me and I was happy to let them do so.  I think my plan worked well enough as I blazed thru lap #1 in 2:49:13 in 7th place.  Night running in the pretty damn awesome....

The course, for having so much snow, really wasn't bad.  You just had to be patient and careful on the downhills....this wasn't a day for bombing down them.  But....if you started to slip....just go with it and let gravity run it's course....which meant flying down the hills sometimes.  One hill in particular, at about mile 5.5 was really steep.  My first loop, I slipped...both poles flew outta my hands and slid down the hill as I fell on my arse and started to slide, too.  I slid about 60 feet, grabbed my poles, stood up and continued running.  I realized, almost immediately, that the best way down that hill was to slide like a kid on a sled.  So, that's exactly what I did the rest of the day......
I was like a little kid in a playground all day.  The ground was soft because of the snow.  The temps were low 20s, but the sunlight and all the climbing kept me warm to the point of sweaty.  I only had my sweet red tights, one layer of socks, and a running shell on, but it was more than enough.

During loop #1, it might have been me, but the Campground Aid Station (Mile 3.5-ish) wasn't open.  Everyone just turned right and kept I followed.  The Oasis Aid Station (mile 6.5-ish) didn't seem to have food ready either, so I refilled water and left.  The Ski Patrol station only had water.  By about mile 11, it dawned on me that I hadn't eaten.  In a half marathon, this wouldn't be a big deal to me.  But, 11 miles into 100 miles, I should have been eating....and drinking more.  At some point during lap #2, I was greeted with a slight twitch in my right groin, right hammy, and right quad.  The cramps were about to start.  Cramps are debilitating to me and the end of my day.  I swore at myself and promised that I'd intake more calories and nutrition for the rest of the day.  I think the jury is still out on the EXACT cause of cramps and every day I am more convinced it is mostly a neurological condition.  From that point on, every single aid station was Oreos, M&M bars, ramen noodles, pickles, granola bars, and coke for me.  I tried to drink my handheld water bottle (20oz) down between each aid station and refill with my Shaklee Hydration mix.  By loop #3, the cramps had subsided and all was under control again.  This was a HUGE win for me.  Usually, when the cramps begin...they don't go away.  Man, I was knocking out the laps, controlling my nutrition....I was just killin' it!  I managed to make my first Facebook Live video during lap #3....

Since I've had several hundred miles of experience on the trails at Hitchcock, I feel like I can draw the course map from memory.  I know the downhills, the uphills, the aid stations, etc.  I was really running the flats and downhills, power hiking the uphills and generally just enjoying rolling thru the course.  Lap 1 was 2:49, Lap 2 was 3:10, Lap 3 was 3:10, etc. I am, however, what people call a "social butterfly".  I like company, regardless of pace.  I would stop and talk to nearly everyone as I passed by them.  They all seemed to have one thing in common....I was lapping them.  THIS scared me.  I've been told, time and time and time and time again, that I go out too fast.  I repeatedly asked Andy if I was going to fast.  He said 'No', and he also said "If it feels good, just go with it."  And, about the time I was really starting to feel good about lapping people, Cory Logsdon, the course record holder and eventual winner, lapped me.

I will pause here to say that ultrarunning is the best sport because the elites run with the newbies.  There is no division.  We are all out there to conquer some demons and get thru the same race.  I talked to Cory and his pacer for about 2 minutes.  I've chatted with him in races past -- both during the race and afterwards.  What an amazing athlete he is and what a great and seemingly humble guy, too!  Speaking of running with elites, I ran into Kaci Lickteig in the main aid station and she gave me some quick tips on keeping my toes warm.  She had won the half marathon and I congratulated her.  She stuck around and started the 50-milers off later that night.  I mean, how cool is that?  You think LeBron James will be on the same court as me this week shooting hoops?  Yeah, no chance.  The G.O.A.T.z runners are so incredibly lucky to have Cory & Kaci.  Top notch athletes, but more importantly, just top notch people.

I rounded out Lap #4 in 3:15-ish for a very, very, very solid 50-mile effort of 12:32:42.  I was aiming to finish 50 miles in the daylight and I just missed it by minutes.  A 24-hour finish was a semi-goal for me, but I knew even under the best conditions that would be hard.  At this point, I was just trying to keep knocking down 4 miles every hour to finish in 25 hours.  I was smiling and enjoying every minute of just playing in the snow!

Post-50 Miles

I took a little longer stop at the main aid station at mile 50, but it wasn't for bad reasons.  I needed socks changed, headgear changed, etc.  It wasn't long and Andy and I set out on the course.  Andy was roaring to go because he'd seen my sweet sliding video earlier in the day.  I was super pumped to slide down the hill with Andy!

Lap #5 was pretty uneventful.  Andy and I did plenty of catching up on everything .... course conditions, next year's aspirations and life in general.  We slid down the hill and just knocked out the miles in a very "business-like" manner.  About 10 miles into the lap, I noticed the pains in my muscles were getting pretty noticeable.  Yeah, they were hurting earlier, but this sport is about a certain level of suffering and I didn't think much of it more than 'over use'.  I told Andy my ankles were sore (I hadn't rolled them, amazingly enough), as well as my IT bands (yes, both) and hip flexors (yes, both).  I think this was from all the sliding around.  Every step had a little bit of slide to it.  The pains really grew quickly and I told Andy we needed to walk.  We hiked it into the main aid station, completing lap #5 (Mile 62.5) at 16:27:xx into my day.  This was still a pretty good place for me to be.

Something really triggered a switch in my brain just prior to finishing Lap #5.  My brain was telling me to "Stop idiot, you're gonna get hurt".  I came into the aid station and told Angie, "I don't wanna go back out there anymore.  I'm done."  Both Angie and Andy told me to get fixed up and let's get back out there.  I took my shoes off and put on a warm pair of socks.  I avoided Andy, intentionally, because I didn't want his positivity.  The self-inflicted pity party had begun in earnest.  I went upstairs and laid on a bench.  Angie agreed to let me sleep for 20minutes.  I don't know how long it was, but it was more than 20.  Angie kept reminding me how I wouldn't let her life flight out of the Grand Canyon in September and I made her walk out.  I told her Hitchcock wasn't going to kill me so it was different.  In my head, I was so pissed at her.  I just wanted to scream "!@#$% off!!!".  According to my Garmin, we spent two hours in the main aid station.  I finally decided that neither Andy nor Angie was going to let me just quit.  So, rather than lay around and shiver, I laced 'em up and headed out again.

Immediately, I told Andy there would be no running.  He said we'd try.  He kept saying things like "next lap, we'll be running this part".  About two miles into lap #6, we came up the hill on the backside of the campground.  I told Andy, "I am done and will be heading to the aid station to quit."  I knew we could shortcut up the road and quit at the aid station just 200meters away.  We stood up on the road and Andy said "Fine, let's quit and get outta this cold.".  I didn't catch it then, but I know now, he was using that "father psychology" on me like I was a child.  Fine, you whiny little shit...just quit and be a quitter your whole life!  I thought for a minute and then, surprisingly, I said "No, we are gonna keep on course until we hit the aid station."  We trudged along thru the cow field with a very chilly wind at our backs.  The course makes a U-turn and we headed back into that wind at a snails pace.  I was freezing and shivering.  I tried to run, repeatedly, but to no avail.  I think this was the point Andy realized I was actually trying....but it wasn't there.  We reached the aid station a couple miles later and I quit.

Quitting sucks.

So, that makes me 1-for-5 on 100 mile races in my lifetime.  I've managed 100k+ in all of them, but that doesn't make it any easier.  I keep saying, "Maybe I'm not meant to do this....".  But, just like can suck really, really bad at it....but you make one chip shot from 12yds off the green....and you'll come back the next day.  I keep signing up.  Anyone who knows me, knows that the flames of competition burn inside me and I HATE quitting.  It tears me up.  You gotta get me to a really bad place to get me to quit.  And, I like to live by the motto that it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked only matters how many times you get back up.


First, and foremost, my wife Angela.  She understands me and this crazy need to beat myself up and keep trying.  She sacrifices time, energy, money, and sanity for my dreams and aspirations.  She's there at every aid station to change socks, offer food, chide my attitude and encourage me to push through.  I love that woman....and it's not just because she buys me new shoes every 6 weeks.

Next, Andy.  My pacer.  My friend.  My co-hort.  I'm glad Andy lives 3+ hours away, because if he were any closer, we'd get into some real trouble about every weekend.  The last two times Andy has paced me it has been blistering, wintry conditions....and he doesn't complain.  He would pace for 99 miles if you'd let him.  He's a badass and a hard-ass.  I was glad he was along for this adventure....I only wish we could have slid down that hill another 3 times!

Lastly, Ron Ruhs and the GOATz.  Alongside my local Trail Nerds organization, the GOATz running group in Omaha, Nebraska is just fabulous, amazing, outstanding, wonderful people.  I don't keep going back to Hitchcock because I like the pain (OK, maybe a little...).....but because people like Ron will greet you by name at the end of every lap.  Because the aid stations are rocking and SUPER helpful.  Because the Hitchcock Nature Center is an amazing secret tucked away in the hills.  The Hitchcock Experience is aptly named because it's more than a race.  And, to me, the race should be at the top of every ultra runner's bucket list.

I will, however, lodge one complaint with Ron.  Bib #150.  That bib is a steaming pile of dung.  In 2016, I quit at mile 75 while wearing bib #150.  This year, I quit at 66-ish while wearing bib #150.  Every time I wear #150, I quit.  So, next year, don't give me #150...please?  Seriously...this is #science.

And yeah, you heard me right..."next year".  Angie doesn't know yet (until she proofreads this).  I'm making Hitchcock an annual holiday for me.  There's no way I miss the 5th anniversary edition.  Plus, I might have said best 2-of-3......but with this latest beating Hitchcock gave me.....let's make that best-of-seven?