Friday, December 31, 2010

Frozen Trail Fest 50K

I was looking for a small event to run sometime between JFK and Bandera and was pleasantly surprised to discover that a local (and extremely active) running event management group Eclectic Edge Events was hosting a 50K with 5 (!) other shorter options at Mt. Pisgah. The course was hilly and very muddy. We ran 4 loops around the park, with 2 of the laps taking us close to the top of the hill, one nearly to the top and the last loop up and over. This was probably not quite as the hilliest 50K in Oregon, McDonald Forest, but was muddier than the muddiest 50K in Oregon, Hagg Lake 50K. My goal was to get in a long run at a good (but not race) effort. I also wanted to do a good job of nutrition and hydration. Everything went well, I won the race in 4:34 (out of maybe 20 entrants) and didn’t take too long to recover and get back into training. Pam Smith, from JFK 50mi and who will also be running the Bandera 100K with us in a week, won the women’s race. Ultras are much different to organize than road races, and I thought the folks at Eclectic Edge did a great job. The following photos from the race are from Michael Lebowitz, who did a great job of capturing the event.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

JFK 50

The JFK 50 in Maryland on November 20, 2010, was an interesting mix of ultra-running and old-school small town road race. For example, when I entered, I sent in a return address stamped envelope which I received back with a little slip telling me I was entered. Of course, I could also just look at the online start list.

At any rate, I seemed to have a good thing going, so after the McKenzie 50K in September, I was on the lookout for another race. I’m happy with how JFK race turned out but in the end, I realized I had lost some of my momentum between September and late November.

My goals for the race included:

1. Run under 6:00 and get a qualifying time to be considered for the USA National 100K Team

2. Score some points for the Montrail Ultracup.

3. PR for 50 mi (6:18 at American River)

4. Get into the top 5 to win some prize money and payback a bit of the cost to get to the race

5. Gain more experience.

6. Participate – JFK is the largest ultra in the USA and has an interesting history.

Start and Appalitaion Trail

I felt good at the start and the weather was just right: sunny and in the mid-40s at 7:00 am. We climbed up a paved road for about three miles before jumping onto the Appalachian Trail. The trail was as promised: rocky and covered with leaves. The footing was tough. I thought the trail section would be my strong suit but when I found myself in the lead, I was a little surprised. I decided to go with it and was rewarded with this live coverage report: “Dan Olmstead of Oregon is the leader, reaching Gathland Gap in 1:05 and looking fit, fast and on fire."

The first 10-15 miles of an ultra are always so much fun. I could probably win most races if I just stopped at 15 and let everyone else keep going.

Tow Path

Around mile 16, the trail dumped us off onto the long flat tow path, a “rails to trails” project. I was still in the lead for a few miles before the eventual winner and first time ultra-runner, Brian Dumm, caught up to me. He was very friendly, and looked comfortable. He was going a bit faster than felt good, so he slowly pulled away.

The tow path had mile markers so I was able to easily check my splits. However, over time I realized they were off. I’d run a 6:45 followed by a 7:45. I really wasn’t sure how I was doing with respect to my 6-hour goal until I got to about mile 30 and realized I was falling behind. Around mile 24, Jacob Edwards, who ultimately came in 3rd, caught up to me and we ran together for a long ways. He also had never run an ultra but had just PR’ed in the marathon in 2:31. He didn’t think we would see Brian again either because he was a 2:27 marathoner. This was mildly frustrating because I have run several 2:26’s. But that was some time ago, and I was not in that kind of shape. A lot can happen in an ultra and I thought there was a chance I would see them both again. I was wrong. Shortly after Jacob, David Riddle, the 2nd place finisher, caught us. As the three of us came into an aid station, two others joined us. By the time I fumbled my way out of the aid station, I was a distant sixth.

A Short Side Note About Aid Stations

My aid stations at this race were horrible. The folks with pitchers of fluid were usually behind the table, busy filling Styrofoam cups. I would stop at the table and start dumping half-full cups into my bottle. After about the fifth cup, someone with the pitcher would usually understand what I needed and would then fill me up. Most of the other guys seemed to have support as best I could tell. I did stash a bag with some Gu’s, a banana and a small bottle of chocolate milk at mile 30. Chocolate milk helps during a slow hilly 100K. At 7:10+ pace, it just makes you a little sick for a few miles should have known that.

It was clear I wasn’t going to get under 6 hours, but I was resigned to stay focused and get as close to pace as my body would let me. Near the end of the tow path at mile 42, I caught Michael Wardian and one other guy. I was now in 4th.

Last 8 miles on paved Road

I was excited about moving into 4th, but was cramping in several places, my legs were trashed, and I was getting desperate. I was taking extra salt, Gu’s, and fluid, anything I could think of to keep me together for a little while longer. With about 7 miles to go, I noticed 5th place moving up. He passed and put on another about 3 minutes by the finish. I was doing about 8 min pace, which, all things considered, I was quite happy with. I scooted across the line in 6:10:30 an average of 7:25’s and was able to hold onto 5th place.

Last thoughts

I’m glad I got to run JFK this year. It was quite a different experience and I really enjoyed the history of it all. I think I made the most of my fitness; I was able to stay in the race mode even when I was really struggling, I set a PR, and made it into the top five. This race beat me up much like a road marathon would, but I’m now feeling motivated to improve my training and get ready for the Bandera 100K in early January.

Congratulations to Amy Sproston and Pam Smith of Oregon who went first and second for the women!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Twilight River Run 5K, 9-29-10

Well I decided to jump into a 5k that started right outside my office at EWEB. I ran a 15:38 (avg. 5:02 /mi) I ran together with a friend Jeff Druet from the Eugne Running Company through half way then inched ahead for 1st place. It has been a long time since I tried to run more than one 5 min mile, and I was thankfull I didn't pull anyting doing so. It was a fun run on the bike path, however it wasn't easy. That last mile was violent. (to use a term from Matt Lonergan)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MCKenzie River 50K

I seemed to be on a roll as McKenzie turned out to be another good run for me. My recovery after Waldo was going well so when the chance to enter the McKenzie River 50K came, I jumped on it. McKenzie is another local race that is well run, competitive, has plenty of history, and is incredibly beautiful. We in Eugene are lucky to have such great races so close to home. Many of the racers, their friends and family stayed in Ice Cap campground the night before the race, so I enjoyed an evening of laughter and campfires. I was thankful for the late(ish) 7:30 start however, I didn’t sleep all that well and probably would have been ready to go at 5:00. Due to a bridge replacement project at the Carmen reservoir and construction at the Ranger Station, the race course was modified this year. The race started up in the Ice Cap campground, the turnaround was extend (uphill) on the Santiam Wagon road, and the finish came prior to passing Paradise campground but instead took us uphill on a gravel road for about a half mile before a quarter mile downhill to the finish.

At the start Jeremy Tolman, Steve Richards, and I decided to take the lead. Jeremy was leading us quickly up the trail towards Clear Lake. After a brief wrong turn towards the waterfall overlook (I think I did that last time also), we rearranged our order and Steve took the lead. The three of us stayed together up through the lava field on south side of Clear Lake. The twisty-turny technical sections are slow but don’t seem too bad when you are running them. However, as the day progresses you realize they really take a toll on your body. At the north end of the lake we turned right onto the out and back portion of the course and started passing the early starters. At the Santiam Wagon Road aid station (6.1mi.) I met Tom Atkins who took my warm cloths, and gave me my water bottle. We then had a short out and back section along the road that took us a short ways uphill.

During this whole first hour together the three of us were having a good time joking and taking in the scenery. We were of course wondering the whole time how the rest of the race would unfold. On the west side of Clear Lake Steve met his crew and stopped to exchange some clothing, and I think decided to back off a bit for a while. From that point on Jeremy and I were on our own.

Like Waldo, I made a real effort to stay on top of my fluids, calories, and sodium. Jeremy led the entire way, and I felt comfortable just drifting up and back depending on our various trail strengths or if I was fumbling around with gu’s. I always kept him in sight however.

I always feel a little guilty racing at McKenzie River because it is such a beautiful place. I gave a ½ second glance at the blue pool as we passed, but I really couldn’t spare more than that without tripping.

I had no idea what pace we were running. The pace felt comfortable from the Trail Bridge aid station all the way to the last aid station at Buck Bridge. I had hoped to beat my 3:44 time from four years ago, but based on how I felt, I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. I had recovered well from the Waldo race three weeks ago, and I had a surprisingly good 10 mile steady run the week before. However I just didn’t have enough confidence in how my body would handle the late miles. I was content to focus on racing and not worry about the time. The great thing about having run a 100k recently is that this 50k was feeling short. I remember thinking “wow we only have an hour left of running”. Jeremy was still looking relaxed and I was starting to think about the end of the race. Tom met me at the Deer Creek aid station (23.5mi) and swapped bottles with me again. His work had saved me a lot of transition time through the aid stations. He wasn’t going to be able to meet me at Buck Bridge because he needed to go back and crew other friends. Jeremy and I only had about 7.5 miles to go and it was only 3.3 miles to the next aid station. The pace quickened. I decided I would fuel up, drink almost all of my fluid, take a few more S! Caps, and just blow through Buck Bridge. I knew I had a good hard 4 miles left in me. Jeremy was still looking relaxed and was also drinking a lot. I was starting to think he had the same plan. Things were going to be interesting.

As we approached Buck Bridge the trail widened and I was getting ready to go. Then suddenly Jeremy caught a root and went down! I didn’t know what to do, my body was starting to push and my head said to stop. It didn’t seem right to make a move when he was on the ground. I stopped, jogged back a few steps. He seemed ok, and was getting up so I jogged ahead. As he made his way over to exchange bottles with his crew, I decided it was ok to go and took off. I went hard to the finish and aside from some calf cramping it felt great. My final time was 3:35:14, second fastest time on the course. I had an awesome time and enjoyed seeing everyone else come in.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where's Waldo 100K 2010

On my third attempt to run this race, I finally made it to the starting line not only healthy, but fit. Waldo this year meant a lot to me for many different reasons. It’s a high caliber competitive race with prize money, two Western States spots, and a part of the Montrail Ultra Cup series. Also it’s local—co-directed by my good friend Craig Thornley—and is a beautiful and challenging course. Most importantly, Waldo would be a trial for me. After my 2008 Western States experience, I endured an incredible period of self-doubt, and I set Waldo up as a litmus test—an indicator of my ability to run well at longer distances.

Courtney and I stayed in a hotel down in Oakridge with Sunsweet teammate Meghan the night before the race. On race day, I think Courtney was more nervous than I was. For the most part, I was just looking forward to spending the entire day running on the awesome wilderness trails. Megan had recently given me Brian’s (her husband) headlamp to use for the first section that would be in the dark. Brian passed away in early August, and using his light at the start of this great adventure felt symbolic and reassuring.

The climb up the ski hill felt comfortable. I loved looking back down the hill and seeing all the bouncing lights slowly working their way up the hill, and into the day ahead. Around five of us were loosely grouped together as we filtered through the Gold Lake aid station. Courtney met me near the road crossing and took my light and extra clothing. Lewis Taylor and another runner gapped us, and I didn’t see them again until nearly the top of the Mt. Fuji.

Tim Olson summited first, and then was gone. The picture to the left is possibly the last clear sighting of Tim anyone got until the Mt. Ray aid station. Part way down I stated getting reports about Tim: “He is about 2 minutes up… He has about 3 minutes on you… That guy was flying – he has about 7 minutes on you!” Officially, he had put 4 minutes on me in a little under 7 miles. Ouch. Courtney met me at Mt. Ray and I had some banana. Lewis was right behind me. I decided to work a bit on the grind up to the Twins aid station to see if the gap was for real or just a crazy downhill effort by Tim. By the Twins aid station—theme: Heaven and Hell—Tim had put another minute on me, so he was obviously was not just a great downhiller. I backed off a bit and felt a little relieved I was free to run my own race.

At Charlton aid station I met Courtney again. She gave me some chocolate milk, a banana, my second water bottle, and a hug. What else could I need? I was half way, feeling relaxed and in control. However, I knew that with the day warming up and the Twins & Maiden Climbs ahead, the hardest part of the course was still to come.

Shortly after the Charlton aid station I started to get some minor cramping in my calves. This slowed me down a bit, and I wasn’t able to take advantage of the downhill section into Road 4290 very well. I thought I had been taking enough salt and it was still fairly cool, so I figured I must be a dehydrated. I started drinking more, knowing I could refill both bottles soon at the 4290 aid station.

Out of the aid station, on my way to summit the Twins, the cramping wasn’t too bad because it was mostly flat and uphill. The Twins were work, but I felt like I kept the pace going well. Heading downhill to return to the Twins aid station I quickly realized that I hadn’t fixed the cramping and that is was now a big problem. I needed salt, and lots of it. I had been eating a little food at the aid stations and taking gels regularly which seem to be enough to keep my energy up, and my legs still felt good. Because of the cramping however, I felt like I really lost out on some good quick running down from the Twins to the Maiden Peak aid station. I had used up the last of my S! caps when I got to the aid station and they were able to give me four more, but only after some negotiation with the aid station captain.

The climb up Maiden peak was hard. I was able to keep a good hike/jog pace going for part way but as I got closer to the summit, I was really struggling just to hike. Eventually the trees started to thin, and I knew I was almost there. I was really looking forward to the short out and back near the summit. Maybe, just maybe, I would catch a glimpse of Tim (I didn’t) and I would get a chance to find out who might be behind me. No Tim, and no one within 9 minutes behind me. It would have been nice to see Tim, but this was once again my ticket to just run my own pace. I was feeling good again. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to catch me, and I didn’t have to kill myself trying to win.

At the Maiden Lake aid station I received a nice face wash from the volunteers and a one man pep rally from Ed Wilson. I still had some cramping on the way down, but after some extra S! Caps at the aid station I was ready to go. All things considered, including the the previous 54.5 miles, I felt fantastic on the last section. As I got closer, I realized I was not only going to break 10 hours but I would be way under. It was possible for me to be competitive at these longer distances and I could prevent myself from falling apart at the end.

I had passed my Waldo test with flying colors. Overall this was beautiful day on wonderful trails supported by some of my best friends… oh, and one more piece of good news: I didn’t get lost.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mt Hood PCT 50 Mile

I signed up for this race early in the year and as the date rolled around it looked like I was going to be off backpacking with Courtney that weekend. Then our schedule changed (because I got a new job!) and I became available. I wanted to get in another long run/race prior to the Waldo 100K in late August. Waldo is fairly hard and I want to make sure I’m ready.

This was a last minute trip and I didn’t do to much planning, so I had hoped to just find a place to camp, do the run, and then drive home. I was told that all of the camp grounds were full, but being a national forest, the “campground” appeared to be nothing more than a bunch of dirt roads that wondered off to various camp sites. I had no problem finding a place to roll out my bag.

At the start of the race we all took off down a gravel road. After about 300 yards the leaders stopped and the entire race pack bunched up. “Does anyone know which way to go?” yelled someone towards the front of the pack. Turns out we missed the very first left and the whole bunch of us turned around and ran nearly back to the start. It was a funny start to the day.

The race was two out and backs along the PCT. It used to run up to the Timberline Lodge, but due to trail restrictions it was shortened and the second out and back was added. Four of us that found our way to the front of the pack and quickly put in a small gap on the rest of the group. I was trying to stay comfortable and found myself drifting up and back from the other three guys as they tested each other out. I have no idea why, but I was letting go of a lot of water early so I figured I need to salt up a bit. Nothing salty at the first aid station, but at the second they had some S-caps so I stocked up. I was feeling relaxed, taking small snacks at each of the aid stations and taking a gel around every 20 to 30 minutes. The first out and back was generally rolling uphill with a downhill section at the end. At the first turn around (mile 14) we were all mostly together, but I got out quickly and decided to push it just a tiny bit to see how the other guys would react. They were still feeling competitive, so I backed off and let someone else take the lead again. On the way back to the start / finish however, (mile 28) two of the runners fell off.

At the start/finish I downed about 1/3 of a quart of cool chocolate milk, grabbed a whole banana and headed out for the second part. I never felt rushed at the aid stations but did a good job of getting what I needed and getting out. I got the whole banana down while running easy out of the aid station. I was feeling relaxed, it was hot but shady, and I just got in some good calories with no problems. Things were looking good for the next 22 miles. The next section was almost entirely uphill to the Red Wolf pass. The race website called this aid station mile 32, but the aid station folks and my split put it closer to mile 36. The first place runner and I were chatting on and off the whole way and I was really glad to have a running partner. From here you descend quickly through some over grown areas and are deposited on a gravel road. We stopped and looked around for a while and at first didn’t see any other ribbons. Then we saw two hanging on the right side of the road and guessed we should go that way. We didn’t see that the trail continued down the hill about 50’ down the road. We set off on the road and settled into a quick but comfortable pace. I didn’t see any other ribbons which was a bit nerve racking but my partner remembered hearing that there was a difficult gravel road section. The road was exposed and hot. It dead ended at a paved road which seemed right, but our split was a little long and there was no aid station. We stopped once again and then headed back, trying to conserve what we had left of our water. We passed about five other runners on the road, which reassured all of us that we had actually gone the correct direction. About a mile of climbing away from the trail junction, my partner said he needed to walk for a bit. I was thirsty, but was still doing great and continued on up to the Red Wolf pass aid station. I drank a lot and set off for the last push back to the finish. I was excited that I was in the lead and enjoyed running fast down the hill. I had some cramping in my arms, which worried me a bit, but I knew it just from the lack of fluid not that I was slowly shutting down. I finished in 6:34 and it was by far the best I have ever felt for that distance. I felt like I really got everything right. I ran comfortably and took care of myself. The race director gave me a Nathan hydration pack for winning, which I’m really looking forward to trying out. Later, I discovered that we had in fact gone the wrong way, and the next day I discovered that I had been DQ’ed. That was a real disappointment, since I had a great run that might have even been a course record I wanted it to be documented. But that’s the rules and I got what I came for. This run has given me the confidence boost to try and run well at the Waldo in a few weeks. At work I did some mapping and figured our route had less hills, but was about 2.5 miles longer, in the sun, and with no aid. That made me feel better also, it’s never fun to discover you did well but cut it short. That’s two races now, No more getting lost!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Orcas Island 50K

The Orcas Island race was beautiful and a whole lot of fun. Between the isolation, runner cabins, post race party, and easy going nature of the participants, Orcas Island felt much more like a running camp than a race. Being the first race since Western States and my seizures last year, my goal was really to just have a good long hard run. I carpooled up with Tonya Olson from Eugene and then Yassine Diboun from Portland and it was great to get to know each of them. We had no trouble making the ferry and had a nice ride over. After the check in (complete with pot luck dinner), we stayed with a long time friend from Eugene, Susannah Beck who recently moved to the island. The park is beautiful with lots of old mossy growth forest, ever changing twisty trails and some hidden lakes. From the start there were about 5 of us together up front, spreading out and then grouping up again depending who was better at the climbs or downhills. After summiting Mt. Pickett (no view) we found our way back to the start at Cascade Lake for our first aid station at mile 9.7. At this point there were three of us within about 20 seconds, Alex Henry who would go on to win by a large margin, myself and Yassine. The climb up the southwest face of Mt. Constitution was quite steep and generally just followed the power lines. The lead runner, Alex was fast out of the aid station and quickly put a big gap on Yassine and myself. It seemed his climbing skills had doubled since our first big climb of the day. Along the way we got to pass many of the 25K runners which made it fun to chat with folks along the way. On the north side of the mountain we had an amazing downhill section that when on for miles. I felt amazing, and then some woman who I hadn’t met heading up the trail for the 25K say’s “go Tapeworm!” And another woman says “go Sunsweet” “my husband runs for Sunsweet”. I still have not figured out who she was. Anyway I had a huge smile and energetically greeted everyone going up the hill. “Dude, you are in first place for people wearing a smokey the bear hat!” By this time, we had passed a number of signs that said “50K first time, 50K second time”. I was starting to lose track which ones we had passed already. Yassine caught up to me at a junction near twin lakes and we ran down together to Mountain Lake. At an unmarked junction near the lake (about mile 17-18) we made a right hand turn and should have made a left. Along the way we asked a few folks “did you see the first place guy go this way?” Two parties said yes, so we thought we were still on track. However pretty soon we saw the first place guy running towards us. “All well” I thought, I remembered the course circled a lake and this seemed to be it. So what did it matter what direction we go? Well I was wrong, you only run about 2/3 around the lake and then head up Mt. Constitution for the 2nd time. Anyway it took us some time to get things sorted out, but eventually we found our way back. My high times were now long gone, as was my motivation and energy. Yassine and I settled in and tried to just focus on enjoying the run. At the top there was an amazing view, and not having to worry about place I stopped a few times to take it in. In the end, going the wrong way forced me to not overdo it, which I probably would have done if I had stayed in 2nd place. At the top I took my time, re-fueled, tried to take a mental picture, and started down the hill towards Cascade Lake and the finish. I was getting pretty tired by the end and was really glad I didn’t feel obligated to be pushing it hard. I think I came in around 35th place and 5:42. Hard to say what I would have run. At the finish camp we had food, live bluegrass music, beer, and (thanks to Susannah) homemade pizza. The post race party went on well into the night, but by 9pm I was cooked and ready to go to bed. On the drive home we added Sander of Corvallis and had lively conversation that cut the drive in half. It was a fantastic weekend. (I stole the above photo from Sander’s 2008 collection)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Summer Seizures

Around 5:00 am on Saturday July, 18, 2009, I had a grand mal seizure. My wife Courtney woke because the bed was shaking and she looked over to see my body contorted, seizing uncontrollably. She called 911. Apparently, the seizure lasted about 20 seconds, but I was out for another 20 minutes. When I woke, the paramedics had arrived, and five men in blue surrounded the bed. My tongue hurt because I had bit it, but otherwise I felt ok, though tired. We went to the hospital and they checked me out to make sure the seizure wasn’t caused by a brain tumor or stroke or anything else obvious. The doctors didn’t find anything—whew!—and sent me home that morning. At home, I made some phone calls, and because Courtney wanted to go for a run, we called Harold, Courtney’s godfather to keep me company. I was falling asleep on the couch and around 10:15 am, I had another seizure. Harold called 911, and when I came to, a new bunch of strangers in blue surrounded me, but also a good friend, ultra running mentor, and fireman/paramedic, John Ticer. A quick Ticer side story: Before Western States, I was getting ready to paint the house and had taken the address numbers off the house. We hosted a pre-race party and John said: “You better get some temporary numbers up in case the paramedics have to come looking for you!” Sure, I thought, but what are the chances? After 37 years of living, I’ve never called 911. Luckily the first ambulance found us early that morning through Courtney’s descriptions to the 911-operator, but John, in on the second call, knew right where to go. After you’ve had 2 grand mal seizures doctors technically classify you as having a “seizure disorder” or as it used to be known, epilepsy. The two weeks that followed the episodes were a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, discussions with friends, a lot of reading, and a lot of thinking. This is what the Mayo Clinic website has to say about grand mal seizures: Because I had just attempted Western States a few weeks before, I thought a logical link between the issues I experience there—Rhabdomyolysis and two days in the Auburn hospital—might be connected. However, the neurologist and the other doctors I saw all thought that there was no link between Western States and the seizures, though they all admitted they couldn’t really know for certain. The neurologist was more interested in what I described to him as déjà-vu experiences—about two years ago I had moments in time while washing dishes, brushing my teeth, or walking the dog when I felt as though I was living what I had just dreamed the night before. If I let these times go very long—because I always felt I could stop them—I would eventually start to feel sick to my stomach and dizzy. I almost didn’t mention this, but the neurologist said that these were probably “mini seizures”. A short time after the grand mal seizure, I had an Electroencephalogram (EEG). In this procedure, you are sleep deprived and the technician flashes lights at you to stress your brain while they measure the electrical activity. This also didn’t yield any problems… or answers. I am now on an anti-seizure medication, Dilantin, for two years. Initially Dilantin made me a little dizzy and unmotivated. I haven’t had any more problems and the side effects are largely gone, although I often still feel unmotivated to take out the trash. Aside from the pragmatic downside of the very real health issue, all this has given me another “wake-up-this-is-your-life” kick in the pants, for which I’m always grateful. Overall, I’m feeling a less invincible and a little more excited about life.