Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fat Dog 100 mile - Julie Treder's Race Report

The saying of the day… WHAT THE F!!!

Well, Angela and I did it!  We found out what was worse than Horton miles… Canadian miles!!

Angela convinced me to sign up for this point-to-point 100-miler in Canada – the Fat Dog 100.  This course is run on “non-technical trails” in remote mountain settings outside of Vancouver.  They gave runners 38 hours to go the distance, a time we were led to believe was very attainable… especially since the course ascended and descended 17500’ a piece.  I’m in!!  We got our passports, convinced Brian to join us girls on another trip, and headed for the border. 

Unfortunately, that border delayed us long enough to miss the mandatory race briefing and bag drop off.  What was supposed to be a relaxed meet n greet with our fellow runners, while methodically packing our drop bags turned into a frantic stuffing of bags (hopefully the right stuff in the right places!!) while the contents of our suitcases were spilled all over the side street.  The RD, Peter, and volunteers were so patient with us, which gave us a great first impression of the people we’d come in contact with over the next few days.

The race started on a narrow wooden bridge at 4AM on Friday, to the sound of what I thought was a firework… but in actuality was a bear bomb.  We were off!!  After a few run steps, we were soon reduced to a hike up, up, and up some more.  The first hour or so was in the dark, but we were soon greeted by the appearance of the sun over the mountaintop.  It was a beautiful sight.  We ran on tree-covered trail, we ran on exposed mountainsides, we hopped over mini-streams, we slugged through mud pits, we hopped over large rocks… just about all the way on singletrack.  There were muddy sections, which I tended to always find, regardless of how hard I tried to avoid them. 

The knees took a beating early on as we headed down a long downhill leading to the 27K aid station.  The trail was on a slope with soft dirt that seemed to give way when you tried to run… so I was constantly twisting my knees.

The river crossing was such a sight for sore knees.  We crossed this rushing river, with crotch-deep, cool and refreshing water.  As we made our way across the rope, we had to fight the rocks and the current that tried to push you down stream.

After crawling out of the water, it was along Hwy 3 to our second drop bag at 54K.  The time?  3PM!!  11 hours to go 54K!!  What the F?!?!  Angela and I each got a nice pick me up at this aid stop… as Brian was patiently waiting for us to help us continue on our way.  After filling the camelback and letting me pose for a few pictures, I was on my way with a little extra spring in my step. 

Unfortunately, that high didn’t last too long, as I totally bonked along the next 16K.  I was dead man walking up the climb to the next aid station.  No energy and pretty nauseous, I tried to eat and drink at the remote 70K aid station.  Some soup, some Coke, and a nice rock to sit on was much welcomed.  Still feeling like death, I continued on… knowing I would eventually come around.

The setting sun and cooler temps did the trick.  My motivation was to see Nicomen Lake in the day light, since the picture on the website reminded me a lot of this serene lake (Waterdog Lake) that Brad, Cassie, and I got to hike to in Colorado.  I just made it to the area overlooking the lake as the sunlight faded to the west and the near full moon rose to the east.  The scenery couldn’t have been more perfect!  Despite how bright the moon was (I was continually mistaking it for other runners headlamps), when I turned my light off in the woods… I could not see my hand in front of my face.  Man, did I hope the batteries in my flashlight held out!!  Hearing the highway in the distance was a welcome sound… something you will rarely hear me say – but it meant that I was getting close to the point I got to pick up my tough pacer, Brian.  106K in 22 ½ hours!  What the F?!?!

Daylight came a few hours later… which meant a new lease on energy – but more heat of the day.  Lucky for us, the next 30K didn’t have too many nasty climbs… so Brian and I ran/walked along.  The quiet of the trail was so refreshing.  The only sounds you heard were the birds, my heavy breathing… and the intermittent yelps from Brian each time we came across a pile of bear crap on the trail.

We were so pumped to see the last manned aid station at 136K… meaning we had about 16 miles to go.  Unfortunately, those last miles were mostly climbing and it was taking people 6 – 7 hours to get through.  OK, no problem… we made it this far.  What’s one more climb???

This climb was the mother of all climbs.  We were told that a water drop would be at the halfway point… so it gave Brian and I something to set our sights on.  The switchbacks were constant and killer… and you did not know what direction the course would take you, which pass the trail would take you over… so you could head to the lake at the finish.  You thought you knew the way, but then the trail switchbacked away from where you thought.  The sun was beating down on us, the climbs got steeper, the curse words became more frequent, Brian and I were both seeing some crazy stuff on the trail (from Schwann’s trucks to guys laying in the middle of the trail to guys sitting on lawn chairs on top of rocks… from bears to bighorn sheep – all of which ended up just being rocks or stumps once we got closer).  We were 5 ½ hours into this 8-mile segment, with still no sight of the supposed water drop.

We came across a group of hikers who cheered us on and informed us that the water was “only” 30 minutes away.  Thirty minutes away?!?!  What the F!!  Thirty minutes was still a long way, but at least we had an idea of where that water was.  We turned a bend around the 30-minute mark, when AAHHHHH…. WATER!!  We filled up our water, I made Brian get up from his nice shaded seating area… and we were off for the final stretch.

Unfortunately, the trail still had a few more inclines for us.  The trail HAD to take us up each of the remaining mountainsides overlooking Lightning Lake and the finish line.  The final downhill section started off pretty rough, with steep descents along loose rocks and dirt… but eventually gave way to a nice pine-lined, soft-packed trail with a smooth descent.  Ah, relief!

We come out at lake level, ran around Lightning Lake, and were greeted by the applause and cheers of Angela, the RDs, the volunteers, and fellow racers.  It was an awesome way to finish… with the Peter (the RD) there to congratulate you with a hug and lots of praise.

What an experience… what a tough experience… but what memories!  We were taken care of so well by all the volunteers, some of whom had to hike in several miles to set up their aid stations and deal with countless bugs.  All the volunteers spent way more time than anticipated to tend to all us runners.  The RDs were such motivation each time we saw them, and were at the finish line to congratulate you by name.  Total strangers were extremely generous with advice, good cheer, and Canadian loonies to park at certain aid stations.  What a great bunch of people!  You couldn’t ask for a better experience.  We definitely got our money’s worth for this race… as it is estimated to be around 30K over the 100 miles advertised.  Phew!

Swollen feet, swollen tendons, swollen calves, swollen knees, blistered toes… but I still have a smile on my face!  Who’s up for this next year?!?!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More from Duluth... Cobie's Race Report...

Much is decided before you even get to the start line of a race.  When you have a total of three long runs in all of June and July, the longest of which was 26 miles at an average pace of 15:20, the best you can hope for at Voyageur is to hang on.  I knew that this was going to feel a little unsettling, a bit like going on a roller coaster and not having a seat bar come down all the way.  Knowing this I wisely decided to follow the advice from Beth Simpson-Hall and wore my camelbak.  "Even if you don't need it, you'll feel great being able to blow through most aid stations in seconds," she told me.  Her advice was right on the money.

I did my usual last person to cross the start line thing, and then we were off.  A bit of pavement for a little over half a mile and then a quick decent onto trail, rocks, roots, and mud.  True to form I started sweating like crazy after mile one, and was taking about 2 s caps an hour, and drinking on a regular basis.  At mile 8.5 I filled my 3 liter camelbak which was almost completely empty!  This means I would have gone through about one water bottle every 2 miles during what was the coolest time of day, and a part of the course that had relatively little elevation change.  The camelbak helped in other ways, too.  I had extra storage and didn't need use my drop bag at all, and having my hands free allowed me to eat more easily, which I did a lot of.  Every other aid station I'd fill a quart sized zip lock bag as fast as I could with whatever looked good, and in between eating aid station food I munched on the powerbars and raspberry gel blasts I was carrying.

Fast forward to the power lines.  The Duluth paper had a great picture on Sunday of a row of people trudging up them that gave you some perspective of how steep they are.  I didn't see anyone sprint them.  However, on the way to the turnaround they weren't that bad because a blanket of clouds covered the sky and the temps were still fairly cool (I hit them just after 9am).  A little over a mile from the power lines there was a long downhill that gave me some concern as I felt my IT band tighten.  I looked at my Garmin, 35 miles to go. CRAP!  I feared the worst and slowed my descent as much as I dared, aware that I was losing much more time on the up hills than I had thought I would.  Luckily the IT relaxed on the next ascent.

I hit the rain about an hour before the turn around.  The rain refreshed me and spurred me on to the turnaround where popsicles awaited.  My legs felt a little dead even at the turn-around and I started walking off and on all the way to the power lines, but I hung on.  Soon I gave up on navigating rocks across the creek crossings.  It was much nicer to just cool my blistered feet in the water for a couple of seconds rather than have the anxiety of slipping on muddy rocks.  When I reached the power lines the sun had come out.  Although the sun had dried much of the single track path up and down those steep hills, the heat also made the effort that much greater.  I crawled up them on my hands and feet grabbing at the dry dirt.  Not because I had to, but because this way I wouldn't see how far I still had to climb to get up them.  Somehow staring at the dirt inches from my face made the climb easier: don't worry about the top, just keep moving, just hang on.  Man, was glad I had my camelbak instead of my hand held water bottle!  I got into the aid station at the end of the power lines beating the cut-off by 15 minutes. 

Now that the sun was out and temps had risen to the mid to upper seventies fluids became even more important as I struggled up the 2 miles of slow uphill after the power lines.  Only Ten more miles, I told myself, just keep hanging on, the ride is almost over.  I reached the final aid station at 7:00 PM, 15 minutes before the cut-off.  I knew that once you make it to this aid station you were home free, and that your time would count no matter how long you took getting to the finish.  However, my goal coming to this race was to finish in under 13 hours, so I walked as fast I could over the rocks and roots of the last section to the corner that turned to go to the finish.  Then I sprinted... because, hey, you gotta look good crossing the finish, right Tom?

BONUS report from Craig Swartwout:  "I went... I ran... I finished. That's all that was left of my story after I cut out all the expletives about the course."

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Bee or not to Bee, that is the Voyage(ur)

Race Report by Robert Wehner...

Last year at the Voyageur 50 Mile trail run, I was swarmed by ground wasps just 2 miles into the race.  It was a total shock, and while I kept going for awhile, the venom and my body’s histamine reaction to it eventually ground me to a halt - my first DNF in a 50 miler.  This came on the heels of 3 straight disappointing runs at Voyageur the previous years, marked by dehydration, nausea, and dizziness over the latter stages of the race.

Flash forward to 2010, and I’m heading back to Carlton, MN, with a group of LPTRs – Craig Swartwout, Tom Bunk, Dave Dehart, and Cobbie Behrend.  Joining us on the starting line the following morning would be Brad Birkholz and Jim Blanchard.  The ride up proved to be fun, with an opportunity to expand one’s language skills.  New phrases picked up included:  “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end of a running grizzly bear” (this one may prove beneficial to Jeff Mallach next week), “draining mountain dew from big red”, “dropping the Browns off at the Super Bowl”, etc.

Race morning found us facing typical mid-west summer conditions, with humidity in the 90% range.  The Voyageur course is very difficult, but high humidity has been at the root of my problems in this event.  So while I knew many of the other runners, my plan for the day was to run my own race, take an S cap every ½ hour, and keep the fluids going in; goals were to avoid some of the past problems, and finish stronger over the last 10-15 miles.

The first stages of the race went well, although I was sweating profusely.  It was a constant reminder to me to watch my pace, and keep the sodium and fluids coming.  The rain we had the night before had left parts of the course muddy, but that is the norm.  At times I found myself running with friends, which was great, but I didn’t hesitate to stick with my plan, and dropped back when I needed to.  Best of all, I seemed to be getting past the bees this year!

After the turn at 25 miles, we started to get some rain.  This actually felt good, and I’m sure it helped me keep a steady pace going on the way back.  Fortunately, it wasn’t a rain like we had at the KM100, and it ended in less than an hour.  What I didn’t realize, was how it might affect some of the trail that lay ahead of me.

When any race veteran talks about the Voyageur, their tone turns grim when they mention the “Power Line” section.  This is a couple of miles of clear-cut big, steep hills, with the path straight up and down.  Getting through this section upright when it is dry is difficult; when it is wet you will be on all fours.  The rain had turned the dirt into greased slides; adjacent trees, bushes, and grass hand-holds were needed to get both up and down.  More than once I found myself moving backwards; not the best direction for finishing a race.

Getting through the power lines provides a little lift; you now have only 10.5 miles to go.  At this point my plan had worked well, and I was able to keep a steady effort going.  For most of the second half of the race I had been alone, so I was surprised to see runners ahead of me as I worked my way back.  I ended up passing 5 runners over the last 6 miles; finishing with a course PR was the icing on the cake.

They had record numbers this year for entries, starters, and finishers.  Out of 140 starters, there were 119 finishers, and the LPTRs were 7 for 7.  My pick for the performance of the day has to be shared by 2 people: Tom, finishing his 23rd Voyageur (the most ever), and Cobbie, scooting in just under 13 hours.  The difficulty of this event cannot be over stated; one Voyageur virgin summed it up nicely by saying he had received “a world-class ass beating today”.

Curiously, there were no LPTR women at Voyageur, so my initial thought was that this would erase the shame of the KM100 for the men.  But alas, I then realized that the women would counter that some of them opted to run 100 miles that weekend, not 50 measly miles like the men had done.  We are not worthy!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

San Juan Solstice 50 Mile: Julie Treder's Race Report

Elevation.  Multiple ice-cold creek crossings.  Tough course.  Small town atmosphere in Lake City.  State I’ve never ventured to… Colorado.  A race?  I’m there!!  It wasn’t too hard to convince myself that this year was as good as any to try my luck at the San Juan Solstice 50.  I just needed to convince myself that this was something I’d be able to finish… in one piece.

Brad and I traveled out to Lake City, CO, a few days before the race… in an attempt to get acclimated.  Going on a few hike/runs to check out sections of the race course prior to the race made me understand one thing… there was no way I was going to get acclimated by race day, which was going to make for an interesting run.

The race started out at 5AM, under clear skies.  Brad and I decided to start together, since the race started for a mile plus on a wide gravel road.  It was nice having company at the start, but I was so darn freaked out about the day in front of me that any time that I tried to talk to Brad… I felt like throwing up.  Silent (and puke-less), we ran. 

I lost Brad as soon as we hit the single-track trail… knowing in order to finish, I had to run my own race.  Unfortunately, my own race meant that I was going to be passed by dozens of runners on the long climb up.  I’m talking dozens!!  The runners are frickin’ goats out here, none of them seeming to have as many problems breathing as yours truly was.  This first section was littered with creek crossings, some of which could be crossed by the logs across… some of which had to be crossed through.  Can I tell you how cold mountain water is… darn cold.  Cold enough to numb your feet for several miles after.

Soon we were up and over the first big climb… meaning a screaming downhill.  This section was a welcome sight, since Brad and I had hiked it a few days earlier.  Familiarity was a blessing for me.  I hit the second aid station to be greeted by the friendly face and cheers of our very own, Cassie Scallon.  What a treat!  She helped my fuel up at the aid station… and kicked me out to send me on my way.

The next section really messed with you.  There you are starting on this nice gravel road, fairly flat.  Then, boom, you hit this dirt road that goes up… way up!  The course sent us up this fairly steep 5-mile segment.  You know how long it takes to walk a mile… just think of how long it takes to walk 5 miles up a steep incline.  Let me tell you… it’s a LONG time!

We finally reach the next aid station, only to find out we still had another 3 miles to climb before we level off for 6 miles before the next aid station.  Three more miles???  Ouch!  Although that climb was TOUGH… I can not even begin to describe the scenery we got to soak in.  You could see for miles… snow-capped mountains surrounded you!  Loved it… even if I cursed it!!  The level section was not much easier to run, since it was scattered with rocks and snow.  The snow crossings had you following in prior runners footsteps… and their butt slide marks.  There was only one way down one of those snow crossings… sliding.
I had absolutely nothing in the tank at the next aid station.  I reached it feeling very nauseous and light-headed.  Not good considering we had another 9 miles before the next aid station.  I tried to eat, figuring ramen soup is usually a good thing to eat in ultras… but shrimp-flavored ramen was not going down well.  Ah well, continue on…

I needed to take a few breathers along this section… stop, put the hands on the knees, and catch my breath.  This seemed to help, as it allowed me to run the flat sections.  But what really helped in this section… the downhills.  Gravity and momentum are ultrarunners good friends.  These downhills led to the second to last aid station… Slumgullion.  Heck, it’s only 10 miles to go from here!  How hard can that be?  I’ve done plenty of 10 mile runs before.  I chowed down the tastiest Popsicle you can imagine and headed off.

What went down, went back up… way back up!  Yet another climb, but it was the last climb.  Unfortunately, my Popsicle sugar buzz wore off very quickly… and it was a death march uphill.  I had the most difficult time just getting my feet over downed trees.  One step at a time…

When we finally made it to the top, it was all aspen forests and bone-riddled fields to the last aid station.  The aid station was manned by the people who owned the private land that we were able to run across.  I was greeted by the friendly volunteers, who graciously offered booze (and aid too!)… and even had a show as some of the ladies performed different line dance routines.  That group was having a darn good time… but we only had 4 miles to go before I could cross that finish line – so I was off!

The last 4 miles are either downhill or through town.  Hiking this section earlier in the week, I knew what was ahead of me.  I ran what I could… and was so pumped to see Lake City in the distance.  The trail kept swithbacking down the hill, but seeing the city meant that I was getting darn close.  The trail section ended and it was all city streets to the finish.  There were people at some intersections welcoming you to Lake City and cheering you on… it was awesome.  They all pulled me to the finish line.  I had to have had the biggest smile on my face leading up to that line… what an adventure, what an experience!!

This had to have been the hardest race I have ever done.  I don’t think I have walked as many miles in one race… even counting 100 mile races.  The course was either going up or down.  It was rare to come across a level section.  The views, though, were unlike anything I have ever seen… easing some of the pain I felt while earning that view.  But, man, did I LOVE it!!  If you want a challenge, this is definitely the race for you!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dances With Dirt - Devil's Lake: Race Report by Marcel Uttech

What a great race this turned out to be-with scenery second to none. I ran the 50k at Devils Lake on July10th while temps pushed their way into the mid 80’s…a hot and humid day which left many people deciding 50k was enough for them.

The race started at 5:30 am, shortly after zero dark thirty. Starting so early was nice knowing the heat was coming. It was nice to see some familiar LPTR faces there, although I believe Bruce and I were the only ones running the 50k. Everyone started together, which was fine until were led into a ‘bottleneck’ of sorts entering the woods which slowed everyone to a near walk. It didn’t take long for everyone to find their pace and their space, and the run was on. We started by heading up the ski hill at Devils Head Resort, and then down the slopes alongside the lifts- very steep here! Could have easily turned it into a slip and slide and rocketed down on backs or bellies…I did entertain the thought briefly.

 Through the woods we made our way to the bluffs of Devils Lake, so at about 18 miles we were doing some pretty serious stair repeats up the stone temple like stairs towards the tops of the bluffs. Here I ran into rock climbers, hikers, a couple of aid stations, and of course “crampers”, myself included! I don’t know if I just didn’t take enough fluids soon enough or if it was from being slightly dehydrated the day before, but my legs were just full of cramps from then on. I put it past me the best I could and ran on. Jill and Connie came up to crew for me, and I can’t thank them enough for all their help and encouragement. Then out of the blue I saw Todd at one of the road intersections, and that was a real blessing having him help pace me towards the end. It makes such a difference when you have those people that just happen to show up right when you could use a boost! As I came into the final miles, I came across a woman who informed me that the rest was ‘downhill’…I checked my Garmin-2 miles yet, all downhill??

Sure enough, the elevation dropped and the next thing I knew I’m just flying down this hill… I knew if I stopped I would just cramp up into a quivering mass so I let gravity help me out and just tried to maintain some balance and stay on my feet. Coming into the final stretch, a woman missed the final turn so Todd went and reeled her in, much to her delight and repeated “thank you’s!”

Crossing the finish line was a huge sense of accomplishment as always…the food there afterwards was amazing and the people were just great! We went down to Devils Lake for some much deserved soakage and cooling off, admiring the bluffs above…thankful I didn’t sign up for the 50 miler…lol. Dances with Dirt put on a great race, and I would recommend Devils Lake to anyone looking for a tough 50k to test their quads on…good bet I will be there testing mine next year.

-Marcel Uttech

Editor's Notes:  Also participating from the LPTRunners were Brian Seegert (1/2 Marathon, 33rd, 2:05:16), Bruce Udell (50K, 4th, 4:45), Chris Derosier (50K, 75th, 6:58:05), Julie Treder (50Mile, 29th, 11:28:51), Brad Birkholtz (50Mile, 30th, 11:28:52) and Jeff Mallach (50Mile, 32nd, 11:36:29).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Badwater 2010 - Pacing and Crewing for Iso,,,

Badwater is a daunting race that covers 135 miles, 3 mountain ranges, 13,000 feet of cumulative ascent, and temperatures that climb over 120 degrees.  The vistas along the course are just stunning. The race unfolds in front of you and allows you to see where you are going and see where you have been.

 I had plans to put together a long post chronicling the amazing experience I had pacing and crewing for Iso and friends this past week, but the images and memories are so numerous, I’m not sure I could properly convey it or do it justice...

Instead of trying in vain to describe something that maybe shouldn’t even be explained, I will leave you with just one image - the view from the top.

With less than 3 miles to go and the sunlight waning, we stopped for a minute.  Looking across the valley, stretching out along the winding portal road to Lone Pine, was a long line of blinking hazard lights from the crew cars, pacers and runners climbing this final ascent toward the finish on Mt. Whitney.   Each light representing a single runner, having a single unique experience, and yet each connected to create a long string of lights and a long connected chain of experiences.   Words don’t do justice to the power that image held for me, and the emotions that build when I recall it.

I found out later that a thousand miles away, my aunt and Godmother, Christine, died while I was out there in Death Valley.  I can’t tell you exactly where I was along the course when she died, but her long battle with leukemia was over and her string of lights ended with her passing.   Yet her passing created something for those who lost her.  Her death adds another experience, another flickering point of light to the chains of those who knew her and whose chains continue on. 

This race really impacted me.  I can’t adequately explain why or how, but I know another point of light was added to my chain.  Parts were both difficult and joyful, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

Thank you to Iso and my new friends from our crew for including me… 

Kevin Grabowski (Me), Dave Clark, Iso Yucra, Jerry Armstrong, Cindy Yankee and Marty Ellison.

Iso finished in 37:26 and became the first Bolivian to complete the race and the first person on the planet to compete the Brazil 135, the Arrowhead 135 and the Badwater 135 in the same year. (He also did Western States in 21 hours, 2 weeks before Badwater...)