12 December 2018

Metabolic test at Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy

Nerds love numbers! And when it comes to training/nutrition/gear/bike fit I am a huge nerd.

In the past, I have performed a VO2 Max test and when I heard about this Metabolic test from my friend Aaron Ostrovsky it sounded really interesting. Seems many of my friends like to geek out on the same stuff that I do (go figure...) so after learning about this, I had to do it too. What is a Metabolic test? According to Real Rehab where I had the test, "Active Metabolic Profile Testing provides insight into your efficiency in utilizing fat stores as energy during exercise."

Remember when every coach and sports nutritionist only ever talked about carbs? Well in case you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years, using fat as fuel and optimizing your bodies ability to metabolize fat is all the rage now. Not to mention Paleo, Keto, etc., etc.

If nothing else, you get some cool pictures when you do one of these tests.

Why this fascination with your body's metabolism and metabolic efficiency? It's pretty simple really. An average, healthy person can store about 500 grams of carbohydrate. Roughly 400 of these are stored in your skeletal muscle (frequently referred to as "muscle glycogen"), about 100 are stored in your liver, and the rest (25 grams or so) are stored in your blood and circulate through your body as glucose. These 500 grams are about 2000 calories of carbohydrate. The math is simple, one gram of carbohydrate contains about four calories. Protein is roughly the same by the way.

Fat, on the other hand, contains about nine calories per gram. Even a very "lean" athlete has at least 5 lbs of fat stores in their body, usually more like 8-10. Since most athletes (or people) are not super lean, let's assume 10 lbs to make the math easy. One pound is about 450 grams so that means each of us has a minimum of 40,500 calories stored in fat.

Let that sink in.

If we could burn fat as efficiently as carbohydrate or instead of carbohydrate, we would not need to eat for a very long time. That means as long as your body is able to metabolize fat, and you have fat to spare, it's pretty much impossible to bonk.

That, in a nutshell, is why so many endurance athletes are all talking about optimizing their fat burning engine/system. And a Metabolic test measures just how efficient you are at doing this.

I was told 70% of your fat burning efficiency is determined by your diet and only 30% is due to training. My takeaway from this is it confirms my belief that going for a run or ride without food to "train" your body to burn fat is dumb. Better to fuel your body while exercising and to eat properly when not exercising. If you do want to train your body to burn fat, exercise at an effort level that is conducive for this. For most folks, this is zone 2.

Here is how this test went down.
  • The test was explained to me.
  • I got fitted for the mask.
  • I took the test.
    • 10 minutes of warm-up which consisted of walking on a 2% incline at 3 mph.
    • Roughly 50 minutes of walking/jogging/running, every five minutes the tester would increase the speed and/or the steepness of the incline.
    • 5-10 minutes of cooldown to see how fast (or slowly depending on your perspective) my body recovered and was able to use fat as fuel again.
  • The results were explained to me and I got to ask questions.
  • I wanted to know how efficient my system was! As you get older you get slower but I had some of my best ultra trail running results ever in 2018 at age 54 due to better pacing and fueling. If this test could help me net an additional gain it would be awesome to stay the hands of time for another year or two.
Here are my complete results, and here is a great article from Uphill Athlete that will help you interpret the results.

Here is the Reader's Digest version (assuming I'm always running on a treadmill with a 2% incline).

Test duration: 50 minutes
Start: 2% incline, 3 mph (20:00 pace), 72 bpm
At 6.5 mph the incline was increased to 3%.
Finish: 3% incline, 7.5 mph (8:00 pace), 149 bpm
Crossover Point: RER (Respiratory Exchange Ratio) = 0.85
Metabolic Efficiency Point (same as crossover point): 144 bpm, 7.0 mph (8:34 pace) at 3% incline
  • This is roughly equivalent to a 7:51 mile on flat ground.
Zone 1: <83 bpm, <3.4 mph (17:38 pace)
Zone 2: 84-134 bpm, 3.5-6.4 mph (17:09-9:23 pace)
Zone 3: 135-147 bpm, 6.5-7.4 mph (9:14-8:06 pace)
Zone 4: >147 bpm, >7.5 mph (8:00 pace)

My recovery was slow. Within one minute of passing the crossover point/starting my recovery, my body was burning 100% carbohydrate and it took a full five minutes before it slipped under the crossover point (50% fat, 50% carbohydrate utilization).

This took two full hours from start to finish.


No big surprises here...!

If I run at 7.0 mph (8:34 pace) for an hour with a 3% grade my total calories burned is 1137 so I should consume 110-300 calories of carbohydrate-based snack every 1-2 hours. This supports my practice of "less is more" when fueling as I rarely consume more than 200 calories per hour during a race and even less if it's a 50k or shorter. Another way of looking at this is you should only consume 10-30% of your caloric expenditure per hour for a given effort.

Because it took my body a long time to recover and because the spread between my fat and carb consumption lines is not so great close to my crossover point, I should train more intervals. Basically, my body is used to churning away at a steady state and when I up the tempo, it has a hard time adjusting and I have a hard time recovering.

Interestingly, this is very much the same advice I got when I took my VO2 Max test. I guess I need to trust the science!

My recommended training week looks something like this.
- 2 days of zone 2/3 (5-10 minute intervals with 3 minutes of recovery)
- 1 day of zone 3
- 1 day of short zone 4 efforts with 5 minutes of recovery
- the remainder of the week should be no more than easy running/recovery or zone 2

  • Perceived effort is tough to convey. The tester kept asking me to rate my perceived effort on a scale of 1-10 after every 5-minute interval. I started at 1 and ended up at 7 for whatever that's worth. I think wearing the mask made it feel harder than it really was.
  • Running with a mask (that is attached to a very short tether) is rough. Turns out I bounce a bit when I run and I'm taller than most people they test. I also like to look around a lot. In this situation, you can't turn your head very far at all and you need to stay in just the right spot on the treadmill. Not so easy for me.

  • I was told my body is pretty efficient at burning fat! Considering how much my diet has been supplemented by chocolate and beer lately that is awesome news.
  • Once again these zone numbers confirm that my zone 2 matches up perfectly with the Phil Maffetone 180 Formula. You just can't prove that shit wrong. To burn fat, spend more time here (meaning in zone 2).
  • This test was another great reality check. Most athletes, including me apparently, spend too much time in zone 2/3, the "junk miles" zone. Instead, more of us should spend more time in zone 2 with occasional, short forays into zone 4. You need to mix up the pace in training to teach your body to go fast, move efficiently and to recover fast. And you need plenty of recovery in between these faster workouts.
  • Training by feel, except in very few cases (odds are you are probably not one of these), is not going to work if you want to maximize your potential. It will work just fine if you are only trying to maximize your fun or are just trying to live a healthy, active lifestyle. To really leverage this kind of data you need to use a heart rate monitor and/or a power meter.
Here are all my pictures.

Here is my not so accurate Strave file. For some reason, it appears my watch tried to use the GPS even though I selected indoor run so the distance is way short but the time is pretty accurate. The blip in the middle of this run is when I accidentally hit the emergency shutoff on the treadmill. :( We started it back up as fast as we could.

25 November 2018

pacing Lucca at the Seattle Marathon

Wow! For three reasons.
  1. 2018 is the SEVENTH time I have run the Seattle Marathon with Lucca.
  2. Somehow I frequently manage to injure myself several weeks prior to this event so end up running a marathon essentially "off the couch". Ouch.
  3. Lucca doesn't seem to be slowing down so this isn't getting any easier!
Thankfully (surprisingly?) I managed to get the job done and not so surprisingly Lucca keeps logging Boston (and New York, etc.) qualifying times. Way to go Lucca!

I'll get the Martin stuff out of the way stat so we can talk about the real star here, Lucca.

In my early years of running, I would routinely get overuse injuries. This was in part because I was overusing my body but also because I was not wearing the best shoes for me and because I did not know how to take care of myself. This year my injury was a real accident and not related to running at all. On October 20 I was riding home on my scooter when it slid out in a corner and I landed on my ass. Hard. Say hello to soft tissue injury! This injury was bad enough that I couldn't do anything for one week and could only do light gym work the second week. The third week I was able to ride my bike to work but I couldn't actually run until a little later. This left me just a few precious days to get in some miles and to taper/rest.


Okay, the first thing I abandoned was the taper. After a couple of super duper cautious and short treadmill runs I ventured outside, my progression went like this.

Oct 21 - I try to ride my bike before I realize how serious my injury is and abort and hit the couch, sideways, because I can't actually sit on anything
Oct 22-28 - go stir crazy
Oct 29-Nov 11 - some light gym work + walking
Nov 12 - 3 miles on a treadmill
Nov 13 - stair workout
Nov 14 - 3 miles on a treadmill
Nov 15 - 6 miles on pavement
Nov 16 - 2 miles on a treadmill
Nov 17 - 6 miles on pavement
Nov 18 - 10 miles on trails
Nov 20 - stair workout
Nov 21 - 6 miles on a treadmill
Nov 22 - 10 miles on trails
Nov 23 - 6 miles on pavement
Nov 25 - Seattle Marathon

Now for the real story.

Lucca's official 2019 Boston qualifying time is 4:00 but because this race is so darn popular, her "improved" time is 3:55. So we set out with a goal of 3:55 and a dream time of 3:50. Lucca's Marathon PR is just sub 3:45 but she was recently coming off of a three-week break from running so didn't have the luxury of ideal preparation either.

Some numbers:
3:55 = 8:57 pace
3:50 = 8:46 pace

We both agreed that as long as we were seeing an 8:50 pace on our watches most of the time we should be good.

Ready, set, go!

As in years past, I carried all of our nutrition. Not needing to stop at aid stations in ANY race reaps you big rewards and hey, there is no rule that you have to use the nutrition supplied by the event so as usual, I was about the only person looking like I was heading out for an all-day adventure in the woods instead of like someone running a supported marathon.

I had two bottles up front and an extra one in back and I was carrying enough gel for both of us. I was also carrying my wallet (which contained my bus pass) and phone so I wouldn't be stranded in the event of a worst-case scenario. One real benefit of wearing a vest is you can use it to stash your clothes and as it happened, we had a freaking perfect day for running. It was a little cold (for me anyway) at the start but by the finish, neither of us were wearing gloves, Lucca had ditched her Buff and I would have been more comfy with one less shirt. Not too shabby for late November in Seattle! Another bonus of carrying your nutrition is you always get to eat/drink exactly what you want. And yes, I'm looking at you Hammer Nutrition, this stuff is SO good.

This year we got into the runner's corral a bit too far back. You would think it's easy to pass people on a four-lane road but not so much when it's this many people. At the very least you need to expend some extra energy weaving in and out of the crowd and it took us all the way down 5th Ave where we finally turned onto the I-5 Express Lanes before we saw the 3:45 pacer. Whew, now we could relax and slowly let them get out of sight again. :)

The course for the Seattle Marathon was new again this year. Gone is the iconic, scenic stretch along Lake Washington Blvd and instead we got to run a big out-and-back along the Burke Gilman Trail. And then another out-and-back on the Burke Gilman Trail.

First, some history.

Last year, because of Link Light Rail construction, the promoters had to abandon the out-and-back on the I-90 floating bridge. To make up for the lost miles they added some (hilly) miles in the Arboretum and to get to Lake WA Blvd from downtown Seattle you had to climb up and over a ridge. I guess some people complained about the extra elevation gain?! Anyway, this year they kept pushing the Burke Gilman route as a good thing.

"That's 25% less elevation gain on the half marathon course and 21% less on the full marathon! You're welcome."

Road runners... sheesh.

When I first heard that we were running on the Burke Gilman Trail I was 1) horrified (so flat, so boring) and 2) worried that this relatively narrow stretch of pavement would cause real safety issues with running traffic going in both directions. On a trail that is super popular on the weekends! Thank goodness my fears were mostly unrealized. When we saw the lead trio of runners, they only had one lead bicycle in front of them which I thought was insufficient but everyone else was spread out enough by the time they got to the trail to avoid any serious issues. The turn around on the Burke was kind of tight tho...

The route took us from Memorial Stadium south down 5th Ave as usual which is pretty cool. You are running under the Monorail so if you don't watch out, you might run into one of the concrete supports for the track. :)

From 5th Ave we turned onto the I-5 Express Lanes and headed north. On most any other day this would have been a highlight since these lanes are covered and it's usually pissing rain in Seattle this time of year but on this day it was just a few miles of running on really worn out concrete. Not that exciting. Until you pop out into the open, then you have a great view of Lake Union and Gas Works Park. And the race course is FIVE LANES WIDE. We took the 42nd St exit, dropped down one block to the trail and headed north on the Burke Gilman.

Lucca was doing great so far! And luckily, so was I! Our main concern here was just not going too fast. We still had the 3:45 pacer in sight but it's tricky to slow down just a few seconds per mile, especially since our GPS watches were telling us we were running anywhere between 8:00-10:20 pace. Not so helpful.

Running on the Burke was thankfully not nearly as bad as I anticipated. I was predicting a massive, soul-sucking experience mixed with chaos from all the race and recreational traffic but luckily my imagination was (as usual) overly active and running along with Lucca was pretty fun. We sipped, snacked and chatted our way out to Magnuson Park and then back to Fremont. On the way it was a thrill to see David Papineau who was running his 50th marathon on his 50th birthday. Boom! He was easy to spot due to the pointy, sparkly birthday hat he always wears at this event.

Lucca was stellar. I kept track of the elapsed time and whenever I handed her a bottle or gel, she took a sip or gulped it down. And when we had drained our first bottle, she even managed to pull the full bottle out from my vest and swap it with the empty one while we ran. Awesome. I guess I hate taking my vest off while running...

After rolling through Fremont we ran the second out-and-back which takes you a little further down the trail toward Ballard. This section was dull and had it not been for the Hale's Brewery aid station - WHERE THEY WERE HANDING OUT ACTUAL BEER - it would have been hard to muster much enthusiasm. As we ran past this aid station table, I saw some growlers out of the corner of my eye and reflexively my body swerved right toward the table.

Me: "Woah... are you guys handing out beer?"
Hale's Volunteer: "Yeah, but hurry up, they're kinda trying to shut is down..."

By this point, my body was fully and completely locked into our 8:50 ish pace. And I was exceeding my fitness by a LONG shot. In fact, I had not run a road marathon since this time last year and I had not run this long period since the Pine to Palm 100. Yikes!

After stopping to drink that tiny cup of beer I set off to catch Lucca. Oh. My. God. It was everything I could do to run at an 8:00 pace for the quarter mile or whatever it took to catch her. I'm just glad I was able to!

When we got to Fremont we turned left up Stoneway for what I thought was the last hill. We climbed up Stoneway for a few blocks and then turned left to climb up to Aurora and then climbed the gentle hill that is the Aurora Bridge. So far so good.

I had purposefully not been obsessively checking my watch every 30 seconds so when I glanced down near the top of the bridge with just over one mile left to go and with about 10 minutes to go before we hit 3:50 I got pretty excited! As we started to descend I tried to calmly tell Lucca that I thought we could make 3:50.

If you have ever been close to your limit you know it's easier said than done to increase your pace. But I wasn't worried, I figured if we just didn't slow down 3:50 was in the bag! I just wasn't going to advertise that fact too loudly since it's never over till it's really over.

Then we turned right off Aurora. And we were faced with a 3-block climb. Oh no...

Lucca dug deep. Eating and drinking were not going to help at this point so it was just a matter of pushing harder and gutting it out. We did slow down but we did not walk! And boy was it nice to finally turn left and see the entrance to Memorial Stadium ahead instead of the traditional last hill the old course had.

I tried to gradually ramp up the pace on the descent and Lucca was totally game! As we entered the stadium I was moving about as fast as I could and Lucca was right in front of me. I could see the clock above the finishing arch and right then I realized we were going to be a few seconds short of 3:50 but only seven!

You want proof that Lucca pushed hard? Here you go. Magically, her husband Bil caught this on camera.

But as soon as Lucca threw up (and it wasn't much at all) she was fine. Way to go Lucca!

What an awesome/amazing tradition! These past few years I have just been signing up for the Seattle Marathon as soon as possible because that is the least expensive price but more importantly, I'm 99% sure Lucca and I will be on the starting line again. Even if I get injured.

After the race, Lucca and I limped around for a bit and soaked in the relative warmth. It was a spectacular day! Then Lucca and Bil walked back to their hotel to get cleaned up and to take the train home to Leavenworth. I put on some warm, dry clothes and walked over to Feierabend to meet some friends for beers and brats. Yes, that walk felt good. Oh yeah, so did the food and drink.

Here's to another year of running with my sister! And here's to Lucca for being so darn rock solid throughout and being willing to dig that deep at the end. Did I mention we had consecutive race numbers? That was fun. And hearing the race announcer mention both of us as we approached the finish - while pronouncing "Criminale" correctly - is so cool.

Here are all the pictures and videos.

Nutrition (before)
  • water
Nutrition (during)
In total, the two of us consumed the following.
Nutrition (after)

07 October 2018

Moran Constitutional Relay

Way back in 2015 I got invited by some friends to participate in the Ragnar Northwest Passage relay race. It was a blast! So when I heard about the Moran Constitutional Relay, I immediately plagiarized the Ragnar team name (Whistle Tips) and invited those same friends. #doneanddone

First things first. I didn't know what "Whistle Tips" meant until this weekend, here's the scoop.

Hahaha... Kids.

This relay race had 12 legs and our team was six people so we each got to run twice. Eight legs were held on Saturday and four on Sunday so two people had to double up on the first day (but then they were didn't have to run on Sunday). Leg length was about 3-8.5 miles but the shorter legs usually had much more elevation gain so the time it took to run each leg was roughly equivalent. Case in point, three of the shorter legs gained about 2.000'.

When we chose our legs I told everyone I didn't care what I get. Guess what legs were left over, the two with the most vertical gain. :) I got to run up the Power Line Trail climb on Saturday to Little Summit and on Sunday I ran up the Cold Spring Trail from Cascade Lake to the top of Mt Constitution. Go!

One trick with relay races is coordinating transportation to transitions. Ideally, it's an exercise in hurry up and wait. You get there a little (not too much) before the runner shows up so you have time to warm up but not so early that sit around and cool down. It can be hard to predict when each person will finish their leg, that's part of the excitement.

I have run these trails several times during the Orcas Island 50k. The climbs I was supposed to "run" up are pretty much 95% hiking during an ultra so I was a little psyched out but freshness makes a HUGE difference. On this weekend I ran every step of both climbs. Yes! And being able to do this was an enormous confidence booster, it made the climbs much less intimidating.

I'll cut to the chase.
  • My time on the Power Line Trail climb was 51:01, that was almost four minutes slower than 1st place but about 50 minutes faster than last place.
  • My time on the Cascade Lake to Mt Constitution Summit climb was 43:50. 1st place baby!
  • It's hard to estimate your finishing time, I ran up to the Mt Constitution Summit so fast I beat my teammate I was handing off to by almost 10 minutes! Good thing we were not hyper-competitive. :)
  • Our team took a wrong turn. Twice. That cost us about 15 minutes in total.
  • Our team was great! We had some beers the night before, after the first day, and after the second day. That's my style.
  • Rosario is THE place to stay. And the spa is included.
  • Island Skillet in Eastsound is awesome! But they are not open late so don't delay.
  • A co-ed team is the way to go!
I recommend this race! It was well organized, most meals are included and the trails are all amazing.

Here are all my pictures, too bad no one got any of me actually running...! :(

  • 4th - Overall leg #4
  • 1st - Overall leg #10
  • 9th - Overall Team
  • official results

30 September 2018

running through The Enchantments

Believe the hype!

I have been trying to do this run for years. Twice I got turned away because of forest fires and once because of an injury. I guess the fourth time is the charm. I'm SO glad to have made it out here.

The Enchantments are in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness just outside of Leavenworth, WA. It's a series of (enchanting) alpine lakes in an area that was carved out by glaciers which left behind tons of exposed granite. The rock is (I think) alternately bleached from the sun and black from lichen which makes for spectacular scenery.

At times you are running across giant stone slabs that have been worn smooth, almost like the sandstone Slickrock Trail near Moab, UT. In other spots, the rock is jagged and sharp. All the lakes are an incredible blue and the water is crystal clear.

The trail is about 20 miles long. Some over-achievers will also run the eight-mile connector (four miles of pavement and four miles of a steep, dirt road) but we opted for the aptly named Loop Connector Shuttle. I approve of this option.

Most people will hike or run this trail in late September or early October as that is when the Larches turn. If you time it right, the hills are on fire.

If you plan on camping up here you need a permit which is really hard to get because The Enchantments are so popular this time of year. Through runners needn't worry about a permit.

I did this run with a Seattle Running Club (my running club) group. We took a lot of pictures! So many in fact that I can't possibly highlight them all in this blog post. Instead, here is my entire photo album.

Did I mention that we had amazing weather? The stars sure did align for this run.

The only bummer was spraining my left ankle pretty badly with about four miles to go. I heard what sounded like a ligament snap and for a few minutes I was on the ground feeling pretty awful. Experience has taught me that movement is best so as soon as I could I started to walk and eventually I was jogging. I managed to run the rest of the trail but had to walk tight corners and rocky sections. Hopefully this heals soon, it's the third time I have sprained this ankle.

Oh yeah, and the pack I took was too small. It was cold at the start and up top so whenever I wasn't chilly I had to tie some items around my waist. Boo Hoo.

Nutrition (before)
  • water
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

08 September 2018

Pine To Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run

In this distorted, niche community of ultra running that I sometimes get lost in, people have started to say things like, "100 miles is not that far." Well it is. And although you can have a very rewarding time running (and walking) 100 miles, and although #type2fun is still mostly fun (thanks to the human brain's amazing ability to selectively save the good stuff while discarding much of the bad), for most people it takes (lots of) training, support, and a few years to get it right. I'm here to tell you that I am most people. I ran the Pine To Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run for the first time in 2016 and did not have a great day. I've wanted to come back and get it right ever since. #doneanddone

[Photo credit Ben McKinley.]

Thanks to Hal Koerner and Rogue Valley Runners for putting on an epic event.

First and foremost, thanks to Shelley. She drove most of the eight hours down to this race, supported me from start to finish (while getting exactly as much sleep as I did), and then drove ALL THE WAY BACK HOME so I could relax. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thanks also to Lucca (for once this post is not just about me). As we led our separate lives after college we had unintentionally grown apart for some time. I like to tell the story of me emailing her and my father six years ago after completing my first ultra all excited and proud. Lucca replied, "Oh yeah, that's a cool race, I've done it."  Boom! I had no idea she was into running, much less ultras. Fast forward to now after running four editions of the Seattle Marathon together, one 50k together and traveling to Switzerland for an amazing race together and wouldn't you know it, running has helped us get to know each other again. How cool is that?

And I can't forget to thank Bil (Lucca's husband) and Danielle (Lucca's pacer). And my accidental pacer.

Sometimes you just get lucky. It happened to me once when I ran the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run and then happened AGAIN at this race... Huge thanks to Ben McKinley for being proactive and seeking out a runner to pace after his buddy had to drop. And Ben was a super pacer! We talked about tons of stuff (kids, football, skiing, being tall), not much if it related to running. Which is just how Martin likes it.

ASIDE - so there I am running up the dirt road to Dutchman Peak when this car pulls up next to me and the driver rolls down the window. "Hey, do you want a pacer?" Uh, yes please. We introduced ourselves and agreed to meet at the aid station. When I got there Ben was nowhere to be seen but this guy has quantities of team spirit. Once he did get there and discovered I had already left, he freaking ran me down! It was on a section of the PCT about five miles later and I could tell a headlamp was gaining on me. I decided to pull over and let them by and the runner said. "Martin...?" That made my day. Or night as it were.

Let me jump right in with the knowledge nuggets. I try to learn something every time I run an ultra. I can only do so many of these things and at this point, I'm not getting any faster so I figure I should at least "enjoy" each one a little more.
  • Nutrition during a 100 is tough. I've absolutely nailed it all year long but all the other races were 50k or 50 miles. I tried to apply the same formula here and I stumbled, figuratively. This is a work in progress for sure.
  • Although I'm not a faster runner than when I started this adventure in 2012, I am smarter and that's worth a ton. I was just reading a quote from Karl Meltzer (the winningest 100-mile runner ON EARTH) who said that he is much more efficient than he used to be and that this is the main thing which keeps him competitive. I concur. I keep spending less time at aid stations, being smarter about what goes in which drop bag, tweaking and tuning my gear and nutrition, getting better at pacing myself, and it's paid off big. Usually (read: hopefully) it's me passing others at the end of an ultra and not the other way round.
  • Having a crew and pacer is fantastic. I have never started a 100-mile race intending to have a pacer but happened into one twice. And having Shelley support me at two of these has also helped a bunch. All that no-trekking-poles and loving-the-solitude-of-the-woods stuff only goes so far. For me.
  • Speaking of which, trekking poles rule. Hey, not everyone uses them or even likes them but wow do they work for me. I have a herniated disc in my lower back and anything I can do to keep my spine aligned is a godsend as the day wears on. Now my legs/fitness are the weakest link which is the way it should be. Not some dumb, old injury.
  • I have never listened to music during an ultra prior to this race. I took along an iPod Shuffle and turned it on around mile 60. Wow! That was nice.
  • Changing shoes and socks is also nice. I changed both (and washed my feet!) at mile 43.5 and then socks only at mile 67.
  • It takes time for a body (especially my body) to adjust to this kind of distance. I know, right? When I started running I had loads of fitness from bicycle racing and ramped up my miles way too fast and consequently had various injuries that I could have avoided. It's just been the last two years that I have finished ultras and only felt tired and sore instead of destroyed or hurt. And you know what? I like this feeling better.
  • Trekking pole quivers are cool. More about that later.
  • Shoes matter! OMG do they matter... I continue to be blown away by how comfy my Topo shoes are. Unless I stub my toe or similar, I have not had a single foot issue all year long. No blisters, no bruised toenails, no problems in other words. That's pure gold.
For a change, it wasn't just me taking pictures at this race, it was everyone else! Here are some highlights/lowlights in chronological order.

Here I am warming up outside of the Applegate River Lodge (where we stayed the previous night) before heading out to the start. I recommend this place by the way. Quaint building and gas/food/beer/wine across the street. Also, lots of blackberries around and no one appears to want them.

[Photo credit Shelley Criminale.]

The start. And you can see me on the right in the red shirt 18 seconds in.

[Photo credit Shelley Criminale.]

I don't have a photo or movie (or soundtrack) of this but the crew at the Steamboat Ranch aid station (mile 21.5) were playing all Mac Miller all day long. They were young and male, go figure. It was kind of touching actually.

Pulling into the Seattle Bar/Applegate River aid station at mile 28.5. If you listen closely you can hear Shelley comment that I am ahead of schedule...

[Photo credit Shelley Criminale.]

Someone else's support crew, doing yoga while they wait...

[Photo credit Shelley Criminale.]

Someone who looks a lot fresher than me.

[Photo credit Lucca Criminale.]

Leaving the Squaw Lakes aid stations at mile 43.5.

[Photo credit Danielle Micheletti.]

One of my favorite sections of trail around mile 50. Turns out Lucca thought so too.

[Photo credit Lucca Criminale.]

The Squaw Peak fire lookout. This is at the top of the first out-and-back which you need to run after arriving at the Hanley Gap aid station (mile 52).

[Photo credit Lucca Criminale.]

The Siskiyou Gap (mile 73.5) aid station. The night was an ocean of DARK and every aid station was an oasis of light. It was super cool.

[Photo credit Ben McKinley.]

How Shelley felt after having this guy park behind her with his headlights on for two hours.

[Photo credit Shelley Criminale.]

Shelley helping me at the Grouse Gap (mile 80) aid station.

[Photo credit Ben McKinley.]

Bil helping Lucca at the Grouse Gap aid station. Lucca discovered that plain yogurt was working for her. I am taking notes.

[Photo credit Danielle Micheletti.]

Lucca sumitting Wagner Butte at mile 86. That's right, still looking fresher than me.

[Photo credit Danielle Micheletti.]

Danielle and Lucca on top of Wagner Butte.

[Photo credit Lucca Criminale.]

Lucca finishing her second 100-mile race!

This race was a new experience for me. Cascade Crest starts later in the morning so unless you are pretty speedy you will finish in daylight. And the last time I ran this race I also finished in daylight. Finishing in the dark was not so bad!

I usually save maths for the very end of a race but this time I started working things out way too soon. Prior to the start, I had the brilliant idea of having Shelley write splits on my forearm so that I would have a gauge for my pace.

I used splits from Phil Kochik (owner of Seven Hills Running Shop) who was the slowest sub-24 time in 2016 (he finished in 23:30). The numbers wore off in a hurry (turns out a Sharpie is no match for 100-mile sweat) so I kept asking Shelley how I was doing compared to the splits. And she kept telling me I was ahead! I think it was 30 minutes the first time I saw her at mile 28.5 and it crept up to FIFTY MINUTES by mile 80. Of course, it didn't take long for my mind to race (way) ahead of my body and soon I started to fantasize about a sub-23 hour time.

Was I having an inspired day or was I going to pay the proverbial Pied Piper? Turns out a little of both.

When you get to the Squaw Lakes aid station at mile 41 you need to run a 2.5-mile lap around the lake. It's pretty darn flat but I had to walk a couple of times. This is what happened to me in 2016 so I was getting worried.

But when I left the Squaw Creek Gap aid station at mile 59.5 and started marching up the road, I felt much better than I did in 2016. Two years ago I was about ready to throw in the towel here and this time I was looking forward to meeting Shelley and to the lights and music this aid station is known for.

By the time I got to Dutchman Peak (mile 66) in 2016 I had thrown in the towel big time. It still amazes me how I finished that race. This time I got out of my wet clothes stat, drank some broth and started right back down to the parking lot where Shelley was waiting for me. I was cold, but not defeated.

ASIDE - this course is super scenic and the aid stations and volunteers are awesome but the actual course marking is not so hot... I got confused once heading up to Stein Butte around mile 37. The trail I was on went straight ahead but there was also a trail that went up to the Stein Butte Lookout on the right. Where was the ribbon located? On a bush right in the middle of the intersection. C'mon... The two guys I was with at the time spent at least five minutes exploring the lookout trail until I convinced them (and myself) that we needed to continue straight. Thank goodness I was right. Another time I was on the PCT and suddenly the trail dumped you out onto a four-way dirt road intersection. For the life of me, I could not find a ribbon. I walked at least 50' down each road looking and letting my headlamp linger. I eventually found the ONLY ribbon marking the trail and was able to continue.

On the way up to Wagner Butte (around mile 83), I got "stuck" behind two other racers and their pacers and I didn't have the zip to pass them. We did eventually scoot by on a descent but as soon as we established a gap I promptly had a moment of indecision about the route. Suddenly the trail went down pretty steeply and I vaguely recalled that once the trail got steep, you were on the final descent to Road 2016 and the Weasel Creek aid station at mile 90. I did NOT want to miss the out-and-back to Wagner Butte so told Ben to stop. We spent at least 10-15 minutes dorking around with his iPhone trying to get enough of a signal to see where the heck the trail to Wagner Butte was. Without success. While we were standing there, the four runners behind us caught up. My indecision was enough to make them pause too so now we all stood there for a bit until we finally decided that since none of us had seen a sign for Wagner Butte, straight must be the correct way to go. It was, whew.

On this four-mile out-and-back I definitely started to fade. Twice while scrambling to the final summit of Wagner Butte I put my foot down, put weight on it, and felt myself start to tip backward. Yikes! I was tired.

When we got to the Weasel Creek aid station all I could do was stumble over to the support crew truck, lean against it and pee into the woods. Ben was nice enough to grab my pin flag from my pack while I was peeing and handed it to the race staff. And then I had to sit down in a chair. Ouch. I managed to yank myself out of my stupor and get moving in fairly short order but for all my planning of running these last 10 miles they started out at a walking pace.

Eventually, I managed to break into a jog but it didn't last long. I had one sustained stretch of jogging (not even five minutes I suspect) so it was walk/jog for the next eight miles. Finally, after we had been on the MTB trail for a bit, I started to speed up.

Just after the last aid station at mile 95 we stopped one more time unsure of the direction to go. There had been a mountain bike trail sign on the right that was causing Ben to hesitate but we double checked the route description (since my brain was shot at this point) and quickly realized we just needed to continue down the road. I guess running at night does sometimes have disadvantages.

Just before this dirt trail turns to pavement Ben's headlamp died. Luckily he had a replacement so he told me to run ahead while he switched lights. I felt a little bad leaving him but did as I was told. One mile to go!

And then it happened. As I hit the pavement I had a vague, uneasy feeling in my guts. Within the span of perhaps 60 seconds that vague feeling became extremely specific - I was going to shit my pants.

ASIDE - I've had to poop in the woods before, most people that hike or run do. But not during many races. In fact, only during two. The first time I got saved by an outhouse at the Badger Mountain Challange 50 Mile earlier this year. This was the other race. Usually, I'm good to go if I can attend to my business prior to the start, these ultras tend to shut my system down... not so much today.

As I ran along clenching my butt cheeks tighter and tighter it became patently obvious there was no way in hell I was making it to the finish without really embarrassing myself. What to do...? Here I was running through some expensive homes in suburban Ashland and there were streetlights along the road.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and finally, I had to do something. In this case, "something" meant hopping off the side of the road that wasn't lit, sliding down a hill covered in dry leaves, grabbing a tree to arrest my slide, turning off my headlamp and dropping trow.

Oh man, how do you spell relief? Never mind, you get the idea.

As I was crouched in the leaves I saw Ben's light approaching. "Hey Ben, wait a sec... I had to take a nature break!" I scrambled back up to the road (not an easy task, those dry leaves were slippery!) and managed to rejoin my pacer.

There was no time to be gained here and I could finally smell the barn (olfactory reference intended) so we just ran it in.

To sum up this maths distraction, if I had not hesitated at intersections and made the correct navigational choices I could have gone sub-23. Oh well. As Ben kept telling me (I must have been lamenting my lost minutes), my time was awesome and in short order I was in full agreement with him. Plus, navigating is part of these events! My only goals going in were sub-24 and winning my age group. I had accomplished both (by a big margin!) so shut up already.

Here are some more stats from this run.
  • Garmin Connect claims I burned almost 12,000 calories. I think I agree. I weighed myself Thursday morning and was 190. Two days after the race and after eating this on Monday (I'm writing this post on Tuesday) I am still at 180 lb.

  • Apparently, my stomach is not as "iron" as it used to be. After finishing I could barely eat or drink anything. After a shower and a nap, I went back to the finish to cheer on Lucca. On the way, I found Standing Stone Brewing Company and could only manage this sampler size glass of beer.

I'm proud of how easily I got my Salomon Custom Quiver to work with my older, not-designed-to-work-with-the-custom-quiver pack. I found some existing loops, attached the quiver, wrapped tape around the hooks to prevent them from sliding off and ditched the elastic "4D Trekking Pole holder". Then I ran the synch cord through another existing loop at the bottom of the pack and used the same tape to reduce the size of that opening. It worked great. I am SO MacGyver.

What an experience. Thanks to everyone that helped make it happen. There will be more.

Turns our Ben McKinley made a video of his pacing experience.

And Lucca also wrote a fantastic race report.

Here are all the pictures and videos.

Nutrition (before)
  • cold brew coffee, no cream or sugar
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

26 August 2018

pacing Dave VanMiller at the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run

Sometimes (read: usually) it's not about me.

This weekend I had the chance to pace my friend Dave VanMiller at the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run and it was awesome! More to the point, Dave was awesome!

Pacing and volunteering have got to be the best ways to give back to this sport of trail running. Pacing and being paced has also been some of the best experiences I have had running.

For the past several years I have been running with my sister Lucca at the Seattle Marathon. Some years it's just been for fun and some years she was really going for it and I believe her Marathon PR was set on this course one of the years we ran together. It's become somewhat of an annual tradition. We have also run all of the Sun Mountain 50k together.

I had the good fortune to happen onto a pacer myself when I ran Cascade Crest and it was a fantastic experience. So when Dave said he was looking for a pacer and my weekend was free I jumped at the opportunity.

Cascade Crest lets you pick up your pacer at about the halfway point. Dave's wife Gretchen was going to run with him from mile 54-69 and I was going to take him from 69 to the finish. Since I wasn't going to start running until about 11:00 PM and since there isn't much you can do prior to running except for relaxing, I opted to drive to the halfway point (the Hyak aid station) early to meet Gretchen and Dave.

It was a little surreal sitting there in the John Wayne Trail waiting for runners to show up knowing what they had just covered... One thing that always impresses me is how comfy I am running in these relatively mild temperatures but how freaking cold I get just sitting around in them. Glad I planned for this and packed some layers.

And it was comforting to see that not everyone else was immune to the relative cold.

I met tons of friends that were also pacing. It felt like half of my ultra running friends had either gotten into this race or were helping out. So cool!

Gretchen and I connected, discussed logistics, and then there was nothing ot do but chill until Dave showed up.

Watching the leaders come and go was impressive. The first runner had a 50-minute gap on 2nd place! I was told this guy has won this race twice and was going for a course record. When he took off with just his wet t-shirt and two handheld bottles into the cold night and the higher elevation sections of this course I had my doubts... turns out he did win but didn't beat the record.

Dave arrived a little ahead of schedule and looked like he was having a super day! We gave him his pitstop and I managed to snap a quick picture.

After Dave and Gretchen left, I just cleaned up Dave's drop bag, put everything in Gretchen's car, locked it up and drove myself to the next transition.

And had absolutely. Nothing. To do.

This is the tough part for pacers (or a support crew). You show up early to ensure you don't miss your runner and then you wait.

It was too cold to hang out in just my running clothes so I put layers on over the top, got all my shit ready, reclined my car seat and tried to relax/nap.

Except you can't really nap or you'll miss your runner. I was parked in a turn on a dirt road and the runners would come by me pretty quick. I could only see each one for perhaps 10 seconds and then they were past my car and heading up the road to the aid station. I was really hoping I didn't screw it up.

Luckily I saw Dave and Gretchen approaching. Thank goodness most people have a unique running style which I can recognize immediately. As they ran past I got out and proceeded to grab my gear. Funny how you think you have everything laid out and ready and then it takes WAY longer to actually shed your outer layers, put on your vest, your headlamp, grab your trekking poles, lock the car, reassure yourself that you really locked the car, run through the mental checklist, and jog up to the aid station.

"Dave! Dave, are you here?"

But it worked. I found my runner, found Gretchen, gave her the car keys, told her where it was, and then Dave and I disappeared into the night. And onto the most technical trail of this race - the "trail from hell".

Dave had told me before the start that his goal was 22-24 hours. Gretchen had told me he was having a great day but didn't mention any specifics. I figured if we just didn't slow down much it would be a super finish. The next aid station - Mineral Creek at mile 75 - was not far away in terms of distance but because the trail is so tricky and because it's always up or down, it takes most people about 1.5 hours to get there. Dave is a pretty good trail runner and didn't slow down at all here. I ran in front so I would occasionally turn around and shine my headlamp on the more technical sections to help Dave descend without tripping. There is one creek crossing just before you get to the aid station and you had to rock hop across. I made it over dry but Dave dipped the toe of one shoe in the water. He didn't seem worried so I wasn't either.

We arrived at the aid station and Dave was Mr. Efficient so we were moving again in no time.

From Mineral Creek (mile 75) to No Name Ridge (mile 82) is one big dirt road climb. The one time I ran this race I walked most of it. Not Dave. He kept breaking into a jog. Even when we were walking Dave was moving. On this road we slowly caught another runner, I think he was a great carrot.

Up on the ridge it was colder for sure. Dave was in and out of the aid station again but I grabbed some soup to warm up and had to catch up.

This section of the race takes you along the "Cardiac Needles" so named because the elevation profile looks like an EKG. Our carrot was really strong and it was a challenge to stay in touch. I checked in a couple of times to see if the pace was okay and each time Dave said it was. Dave was really impressing me up here. This is not fast terrain, especially after 80+miles, but Dave was moving really well.

The cherry on the top of the Needles is the Thorp Mt fire lookout. To get here you need to do an out-and-back from the aid station at mile 86 and climb to the high point of this race. Dave (as do most people) opted to skip the aid station on the way up. To prove you ran this section there was a book attached to the lookout and you had to grab the page that corresponded to your bib number. Dave was all business and so we arrived at the aid station again in a hurry. Dave grabbed some food, I filled his bottles, and we were gone.

Suddenly Dave said, "I forgot my poles!" Damn, I had failed one of my pacer duties and let Dave leave equipment behind. I was just about to tell Dave I could run back and get them when he said, "Forget about it. I have a friend at the aid station and can pick them up from him later." Turns out this was a prescient decision.

Dave was still pushing hard. I was SO impressed with his ability to move. Our carrot was still around too, I was starting to worry about Dave blowing up but this guy has loads of experience so I just tried to help and encourage him along.

Dave is the most appreciative and humble runner I know. Every time I told him, "Good job!" or, "You're doing great!" he would say thanks. He even apologized for the occasional grunts he was uttering from the effort. I was like, "Grunt away Dave, you are killing this!" A few minutes after leaving the Thorp aid station Dave slowed just a bit and grunted. I stopped, turned around and he had thrown up. Now this is not a super rare occurrence in ultra running, especially when you are pushing hard (which Dave was!), but people take varying amounts of time to recover from it. Dave took about 10 seconds. I've never puked while running but I imagine it can actually feel good depending on the circumstances... We didn't stop to discuss this topic as Dave was already moving again. What focus!

The climb to the Thorp fire lookout is not the last "needle" and on the next climb, Dave suddenly asked for my trekking poles. No problem! Glad to help. My poles are longer than Daves but the difference is not extreme. At the top of the climb, he just handed them back. Nice! This is how we rolled over the next couple of hills.

Dave was still doing okay when we got to French Cabin (mile 89) although he had slowed a bit on the climbs. Our carrot kept pulling away on the ascents and we would catch him back up on the descents. I filled another bottle here for Dave and we were off.

Over the course of the last big climb and the next few miles, our carrot slowly pulled ahead. Suddenly he was going faster on the climbs and descents. Dave didn't get rattled and we just continued on as best we could.

I thought we were in no man's land so when a headlamp started to approach us from behind I tried to stay calm. When it came time for them to pass, they said hi, it was our carrot! He had taken a break to fertilize the trees and was just catching up. Dave took it all in stride but we couldn't hang with him as he ran past and slowly, very slowly, his light disappeared up the trail again. On the upside, no one had caught us. :)

As we approached the Silver Creek aid station (mile 96) Dave had the presence of mind to ask me if I would fill a bottle for him as he ran straight through. Yes! It only took me about 60 seconds and then I was chasing Dave down.

I'm no maths wiz and my watch was not displaying the time of day so it was hard for me to give Dave any sort of ETA or time goal to shoot for. Luckily Dave was content to, and able to,  just go as hard as he could. As we hit the pavement, we closed just a little on our carrot but we couldn't catch him. When we finally started running along the train tracks toward the fire station, Dave looked at the finish line with the giant clock and said, "It's not 22 hours yet!"

Oh man, if you can sprint after running 99+ miles then that is what Dave did. Wow!

This guy is amazing! I only hope I can channel this much focus during my next 100-mile race.

Kudos to you Dave!

18 August 2018

Pacific Crest Trail - Section J (Stevens to Snoqualmie)

I have had Section J (Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass) of the Pacific Crest Trail on my long list for years. Funny how things can suddenly come together.

Turns out my friend Bryan Estes has wanted to run this too. Bryan has hiked this section, and various portions of it, numerous times but he has never done it in one push. We had been talking about this since we both ran the Seattle Stairway Foot Tour in June so when his calendar opened up a few days ago, and I was free too, I jumped at the chance. Did it fit in perfectly with my training and racing calendar? No, but when opportunities come along you need to grab them. You also need to keep your racing in perspective - I do this for fun and fun is exactly what I hoped this run would be about. Fun and adventure.

Warning: this blog post contains pictures of bloody knees. :) Nothing too gross hopefully but just so you know.

We did not plan much! Bryan is a very experienced ultra runner, backpacker, and outdoor enthusiast, I could not have picked a better partner. My only decisions were how much of what types of food to carry. Ironically, I made some bad ones in this category. But other good decisions helped me through.

Transportation also was a dream. I was able to drop a car at Snoqualmie Pass Friday evening with Bryan's help and Saturday morning Bryan's in-laws just happened to be driving to Lake Chelan over Stevens Pass and offered to give us a ride. Nice!

At 11:00 AM we were ready to head out from Stevens Pass.

Let me just say that the PCT is amazing! In WA there are so many lakes, views, spectacular trails; we were taking pictures ALL THE TIME.

One of the first treats was running (pun intended) into my sister Lucca. Turns out she was running from the end of Icicle Creek Road to Stevens Pass and we met about 2.5 miles from her finish/our start.

I'm still blown away by how much trail running has helped us reconnect, so grateful for this sport.

The PCT is really well signed. At about 90% of all the intersections, you see this.

And if there isn't any sign it's obvious which way to go. You just follow the natural flow of the trail and avoid the path that is not "natural" or deviates from the obvious line.

Bryan and I both brought along four 500+ ml containers for water but never needed more than two at a time. There are tons of lakes and streams this time of year and we only got low on water twice but each occurrence was not a crisis and I was able to catch up on my hydration eventually. Something to keep in mind is that we were "running" and a hiker would need more time (and water) to cover the same distance. I put running in quotes as any trail runner knows, running usually includes some hiking. And it can include a LOT of hiking when you go this far.

I seem to have a reputation for falling down while trail running and on this trip I, unfortunately, kept my streak alive. :( The first tumble looked spectacular but once I got myself cleaned up it was no big deal.

Here is the "I just fell down" picture.

And here is me a few miles after washing my legs in the creek above.

Magic, right?

The second fall was a bummer. It happened less than 8 miles from the finish and as usual, it was because I was getting tired and not lifting my feet high enough. This one was a little worse.

Most of the rock around here is granite and when I landed I scraped my right thigh across a wedge of it. But again, looks can be deceiving and after a warm shower, I looked much better.

This second fall managed to put a significant gouge in the Gorilla Glass of my watch!

Okay, no more gross stuff, I promise. And rest assured I was super conscious of lifting my feet those last few miles... I think on longer runs I get into this mode of trying to maximize my efficiency and lifting your feet less is more efficient than if you lift them more. Until you trip.

Technology is fun! Of course, you should not rely on it 100% when out in the wilderness but having a GPS tracker along that let me send people progress reports and which let the recipients of these reports reply (great motivation!) was really cool. It was also fun to be able to check our progress on our phones with a mapping app and to have the ability to take all these pictures! Remember giant SLRs? And disposable cameras? Hahaha... We did have a printed map for backup.

I was amazed by all the through-hikers we saw. The PCT is freaking popular! I guess this is the time of year most folks are finishing their north-bound journey. There were also loads of other hikers and backpackers. Don't go here this time of year if you want solitude. :)

I'd like to apologize to those campsites we walked through in the middle of the night with our headlamps on... Normally it would make perfect sense to camp really close to the trail or even right in the trail, right? I mean who's going to show up on a trail at night? One tent was literally in the middle of the trail and it was right at a river crossing so Bryan and I walked around this spot multiple times to be sure we were headed in the correct direction. Finally, the guy in the tent mumbled, "Go down to the water..." I suspect he really meant, "Get the eff out of here NOW!" Sorry guy. Did I mention I love my new headlamp? It's super bright and lasts all night long.

Lately, Seattle has been inundated with smoke from various forest fires and we saw it and felt it on this adventure. Sunday evening it hurt a little to eat and I can still feel my throat Monday but I wouldn't say it's terrible. This trip was so worth it and my throat is already 90% again.

We still had super views but they were not the "I can see for miles and miles" kind. Cases in point.

We didn't have an agenda or time goal but ended up covering ground faster than anticipated. I was hoping to run the last 30 or so miles in daylight as that scenery is some of the most spectacular but we ended up there in the dark and really only had light again for the last 10-12 miles? Rats. But a very contextual rats, this was a freaking awesome trip.

Movies really are the new pictures so here are a few fun snippets of video.

Leaving a lake after filtering water.


Running along the PCT.

There was plenty of water and various cool "bridges" across it.

Climbing at night.

The weather was perfect! It never got too hot and we never needed to put anything on at night! Bryan and I spent the entire time in the same outfit. In fact, during the night we commented numerous times how warm it was, the few cool breezes we did get were very much appreciated.

At night all the smoke was unfortunate. I was hoping for an amazing night sky with zero light pollution. Instead we got a blood orange half moon amidst total blackness. Pretty cool, but not what I was hoping for.

My nutrition was not perfect, Or rather, I need to figure out some alternative fuels for adventures when I'm not racing or when there are no aid stations. I experienced my most dramatic case of "sweet fatigue" and within perhaps 10 miles I was already sick of food bars and within 20 miles the mere thought of a food bar or gel was enough to almost make me throw up. Thank goodness I had brought along alternative fuels! Even so, there were stretches where I was running on fumes more than I wanted to. Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Endurolytes Fizz turned out to be lifesavers! The mild flavor of Perpetuem was something I could stomach start to finish and Endurolytes Fizz was always delicious and the electrolytes in them helped drain the water from my gut in a way I have never experienced. There were a few times when we guzzled plain water and each time I felt bloated and like the water was sloshing around in my stomach. That was never the case when I drank water + Endurolytes Fizz. Both of us packed way too many food bars (better safe than sorry I guess) but the number of bars I brought along was laughable. I think it was 20? I ate two and choked down the third. Ditto for the gel. On the upside, we were SO ready to help anyone on the trail that had run out of food... :)

Retelling the entire journey step-by-tedious-step would be just that, boring! I'll try to just provide highlights.

Getting shit ready. And by "shit" I mean nutrition. Everything else (technology, shoes, gear) is pretty much on autopilot these days.

Turns out both Bryan and I like to take pictures, but I think Bryan won that contest on our adventure. Here he is documenting the PCT logo at the trailhead sign at Stevens Pass. I think it was the 10th picture he had taken and we hadn't even started running yet.

Climbing the very first hill through the Stevens Pass resort. There were wildflowers start to finish!

I hear that equestrians use the PCT a lot. We only saw horses once, it was on this same first climb. The riders were really friendly and the horses were very well behaved.

We encountered almost every type of terrain you would expect in the Pacific Northwest. Flowing singletrack, switchbacks, rocky shale (is that redundant?) and water crossings. Sections of this trail were AMAZING, other sections were amazingly resistant to efficient forward motion. :)

At 54 years old I still like to pose next to big rocks. I also like to jump and touch low hanging signs while walking down the sidewalk, see how far I can make it down a beach while only stepping on driftwood and not on the sand and balancing on parking lot dividers as I walk from my car to the mall/hospital/store. Sue me.

It really was cool to be able to communicate with friends and family while out on the trail. Here I am typing an update into my phone (which was connected to my GPS tracker via Bluetooth) while walking. Barely. I almost tripped a couple of times while doing this but we didn't stop moving! :)

I couldn't get enough of all the water! It helped me clean up, was delicious, and even sounded awesome as you approached it.

We were able to stay dry for all but one water crossing.

The one where we had to get wet was about 20 miles from the finish, right where we woke up that camper in his tent. It was the middle of the night and perhaps there had been an alternative route but we didn't feel like searching. And the water felt REALLY GOOD. In retrospect, I should have stood in it a little longer and cleaned up my legs.

Water from that wet river crossing was the only issue I had the entire trip. My feet stayed wet the rest of the way and 20 miles at our pace was a long time so I had some peeling skin on my heels and the balls of my feet at the finish. But it cleared up within 24 hours so no biggie.

I guess even filtering water can be a blast!

The Kendall Katwalk never fails to impress. Even if it is socked in, just knowing about the exposure and potential views makes it awesome.

Here I am sending another update from the south end of the Kendall Katwalk. This shot captures a lot, some epic scenery, a small person next to big mountains, the smoke, what a day!

Our shoes at the finish.

Two happy guys at the finish after spending 21 hours together.

I learned a lot doing this.

  • Nutrition - it's not (thank god) just about bars and gels. Next time I plan on packing some things like cheese curd (Lucca gets credit for that suggestion), potatoes with olive oil and salt, smashed up avocados in a ziplock bag, you get the idea. All of these things should keep fairly well.
  • Good friends are, well, good. Turns out Bryan and I were very compatible fitness-wise on this adventure and neither of us complained which is a HUGE BONUS. We also love talking about things besides running. That is so refreshing to me.
  • Good gear, especially shoes, are so, so, SO important.
  • The pack I wore was too big. Sure, it's nice to have the room but even if I had needed all of my clothing (I was carrying a wind shirt, raincoat, undershirt, buff and light gloves) it would have fit in a smaller pack. What I wore had a 22-liter capacity, what Bryan wore had a 15-liter capacity and even he had his pack synched way down to minimize the bounce. That 10-15 liter size seems to be the ticket for most outings.
  • My favorite pack has almost everything in the front. That includes TWO bottles, trekking poles, your phone/camera, food, lip balm, etc. The main compartment in the back should really just be for extra clothing or larger items that you won't need very often. I have not found my ideal pack yet but I'm still looking... the Ultimate Direction BP Adventure Vest 3.0 (not the 4.0) comes really darn close. The pack I wore today (because I ripped my Adventure Vest and have not replaced it yet) was comfy on my back but is going straight to eBay. Don't get me wrong, it's freaking well made and freaking technical, it's just not for me and it's too large (in terms of fit, not in terms of capacity necessarily).
When I ran the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run I chose the Topo Athletic Ultrafly 2. Officially this is a road shoe but in my day-to-day training, it's been so darn comfy that I figured why not run an ultra in them? Boom. I have a new favorite ultra shoe. The Terraventure is normally my go-to trail shoe (and it still is), it has a rock plate and lugged sole but if traction will not be a big concern and the course is not especially rocky, the extra cushion of the Ultrafly pretty much compensates and it just protects your body that much more.

Here are all of Bryan's and my pictures. And there are a lot...

Nutrition (before)
  • Water
  • A smoothie around 7:00 AM
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)
Gear (that I used, I carried a lot more)

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