Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 running wrap-up

I have been and always will be a nerd so not showing the numbers from 2016 would be a crime.

I can honestly say that I'm super-happy with the way things went this year. I was able to get in a number of great races, remain injury-free and have some great experiences in the meantime.

In the clouds of Montblanc near Chamonix

My races for the year included:

In hindsight, the best thing about running in 2016 had nothing to do with my personal accomplishments as a runner but as a coach, mentor and leader of the trail running community here in the East Valley.

I have come to enjoy the social element of running much more than the actual pursuit of buckles or medals. There is a part of me that wants to continue and train and be fit but the part that's taken over this year was finding ways to bring people together - whether it's for trail work, group runs or Christmas parties. I'm extremely proud of what I've helped others accomplish this year.

May 2016 crew cleaning up San Tan
I'm not sure what 2017 holds for races - the calendar is largely blank. I would like to pursue my coaching certificate and help others achieve their running goals for the year.

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 awesomeness!

I hope the San Tan Trail Runners group continues to grow. I hope new friendships emerge. I hope others are inspired to set new goals for themselves in the coming year.

Happy 2016 to you all.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Race report: Tahoe Rim Trail 100

The Shadows of Doubt

There is never a great time to train for a 100-miler. It takes time, a commitment to early mornings and a huge sacrifice by your family. Well, what happens when you/they don't have that time to give?

You honestly just do the best you can.

The final 6 weeks heading into my training for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 would be spent traveling and floating through this quasi-vacation-drinking-beer-eating-ice-cream-mode while visiting family and friends in North and South Dakota. Don't get me wrong, I had been running consistently (shorter distances) and focusing on leg workouts during the week, but the prospect of getting out for long-runs was a sad combination of laziness, humidity and the previous nights beer consumption.

I felt strong but a little rusty given that my last ultra-distance was almost 4 months prior on a very flat course.

As I lined up to start my hundred mile TRT journey, I couldn't help think of the many things working against me that day:

  • A new, unproven nutrition "strategy"
  • A single 20-mile long run over that 6 weeks
  • A forgotten Garmin (yes, I left it at the hotel)
  • A shit-ton of climbing and descending (18,000'+)
  • Being above 9,000' (with no elevation training)
I'm not the kind of person that freaks out about this stuff though. I go with the flow...and that's exactly what I planned to do.

The First 50

The start of every race is an exciting rush of the unknown. Yea you watch the videos and read everyone's race report but there's nothing ever quite like putting your feet on the trail and feeling the air thin as you ascend into the mountains. I was just excited to be there and taking in the experience.

A blessing and a curse. Great for mileage and aid, bad for seeing what lies ahead!

My strategy was simple - hold a conservative pace (i.e., hike a ton), eat often and don't take any risks.

Well, you know how strategies go sometimes...

As expected, I hiked most of the ups but didn't realize the rest of the course would be in such great condition and a perfect grade for running. There are a couple steep sections (Red House loop is the only mental scar I have) but for the most part you can expect to confidently run quite a bit of this course.

I would have loved to stop more often to take pictures - the altitude, landscapes, blooming flowers and the Lake Tahoe-filled-horizon were indeed breathtaking - it's one of the many reasons I love being able to power my adventures with my own two feet.

It turns out that my pace estimates and crew guidance were complete shit. Despite not having my Garmin and experiencing a bit of nausea above 9,000' I was fueling well and making good time. How good? I arrived at the 50K mark (Diamond Peak) almost 3 hours ahead of my projections. [Strava link]

The shitty part about that was I had no crew waiting for me. I wouldn't see them again until mile 50 and they had my Garmin...

Without wasting much time or energy at Diamond Peak I psyched myself up for this supposed-son-of-a-bitch-climb out of the aid station. I overheard someone tell their runner as I was leaving, "Don't worry, it will be easier the second time". As I slogged up those 2 miles I kept thinking to myself, how the fuck is this going to be easier with 80 miles on my legs?!

After climbing that ski slope and turning around to enjoy the view of Lake Tahoe, I realized that I had a pretty good shot about being half-way done in just over 13 hours. This was a bit more aggressive than I expected but I was more excited that it would leave me 21-22 hours to do the loop again.

Somewhere before Diamond Peak
Leaving the Snow Peak aid station however, it was clear to me that the downhill portion of this race was taking its toll on my knees. There aren't enough lunges in the world you can do during training to help your knees from the constant downhill pounding. Good thing the last 5.5 miles are all downhill [sarcasm]!

I would arrive at the 50-mile mark just about 7 pm. The aid station was a huge party with runners and crew all over the place...

The Last 50

I took a chair in the medical area to have a couple blisters on my left foot attended to. After what seemed like an eternity, a medic finally came over and started cleaning, lancing and taping my toes. The funny part is that I changed my left sock and kept my right one on (if it ain't broke, don't fix it!).

Soda, grilled cheese, Ramen soup, jacket, headlamp, more soda, cold quesadillas and a change of clothes topped the priority list as darkness began to fall at Spooner Lake. GG and I would take off for the final 50 miles and disappear into the night.

I was able to ice my knees at the aid station too. It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time but turns out it literally crippled me leaving that 50-mile aid station.

GG: "Let's try and run this flat section"
Trevor's knees: "Screw off."

GG: "Can we run now?"
Trevor's knees: "No. Screw off."

GG: "Are we going to walk all night?"
Trevor's knees: "Yes. So screw off."

30 miles. All night. Through the dust. Through the windy ridge-lines. Power-hiking the ups and gingerly walking all the downs.

It's funny looking back and thinking about all the excuses I was trying to make to drop out of the race...
"...my knees hurt"
"...I don't want to walk another 50 miles"
"...I don't want to chase cut-offs"
"...I don't want to eat any more gels"
"...I'm choking on all the dust"

After voicing a few of these to GG over the course of a couple hours, he finally shut me down with some simple math.

"Look" he said. "You have 21 hours to go 50 miles. Even if you walked at 3 miles an hour, you'll be done in about 17 hours."

It was basically his way of saying, "Shut up. Quit whining and do the work." That's what pacers and crew are for I guess. (I still called him a dick under my breath...)

There's always a point in these races where the mind shifts though - what seems impossible, becomes possible. Where improbable becomes probable. "I can't" changes to "I WILL". I needed reasons to get through the dark and dreary times...

I knew GG needed this training run.
I knew LP and MK were waiting at Diamond Peak.
I was missing my son's birthday.
I added up how much I spent to get here.

Dawn would break about the same time I got back into the Diamond Peak aid station for the second time. Cold, tired and already dreading that long climb up the ski slope, I would pick up a new pacer (LP), some delicious pancakes and hot chocolate.

I threw out a few hints that dropping at 80 miles wouldn't be the worse thing in the world but the funny thing about experienced crew and pacers is that they just laugh and ignore you. My friends are assholes :-)

Who drops after 80 miles though?!

Want to hear something funny?! That climb up the ski slope WAS easier the second time. Granted, it was earlier in the day but LP and I completely crushed that 2 miles and were well on our way to the finish. Now, the only thing left to face was the downhills...

[side bar]
If you have the chance to have a woman pace you at the end of a race, I highly recommend it! I love lady pacers...but probably not for the reasons you think.
As a dude, that pride kicks in. You don't want to look wimpy or like a total d-bag. So you suck it up. Ladies also have a wonderful way of nurturing and ass-kicking at the same time so that you feel good about being in pain. Having a strong woman in your corner is just the best.
[end side bar]

LP took such great care of me - checking in, creating some chit-chat and even taking pictures/video during our 20 miles together. Her energy and newness to the event was really infectious and kept me power-hiking those hills and starting to run the final 10 miles. We cumulatively spent maybe 10 minutes in the last 4-5 aid stations. Grabbing gels, water and enough of the excitement to propel us forward.

Leaving the final aid station felt glorious. Partly because I pounded 5 Ensure fruit smoothies, but I knew it was in the bag at that point. I just had to make it another 7-ish miles down the hill and along the lake into the finish.

Of course my attitude improved despite the pain in my knees getting worse...I ignored it all. I shut my brain down and ran as best I could...

Blisters on top of blisters.
Short liner rubbing.
Reactivated sunburn.
More. Stinger. Chews.

Those are probably the longest 5 miles I've ever run. But we did it. With plenty of time to spare. We arrived to cheering kids at the Spooner Summit water station...it was awesome to have such energy at the end.

We would walk in the final 1.5 miles to the finish (yes, I ran/hobbled the final 0.2 into the chute) to find GG, MK and the rest of the crew cheering me to the finish. [Strava link]

It was glorious to finally sit down, take off my shoes and pound some real calories.


This race was always a bucket list race for me. The prestige, scenery and pure challenge made it a destination that I'm so-so happy to have experienced and finished. I'm forever in debt to GG, LP, MK, my family and wife for allowing me to traipse across the wilderness for 33 hours.

I would highly recommend that any ultra-runner put this destination on their list. Whether for the 55k, the 50-miler or the 100-miler it truly is one of THE best races I've done. The volunteers, organization and amenities are truly the best.

I'm sad (and relieved) however to say that don't have any more 100-milers in me. Like a fighter gracefully accepting retirement after the main event or a quarterback stepping down after an illustrious career, I know that it's time to be done with this distance.

It's part physical but it's also priorities and money. Time away from family and the money it takes to earn a buckle is incredibly selfish. I have new friends, great memories and love the idea of helping others achieve these same goals but I need to make room for other things.

By no means am I done running or participating in this amazing community...I just don't need to do any more 100-milers. They hurt.


In case you're wondering what got me through this race:

  • Shoes: Altra Olympus 3.0 (first 50 mi), HOKA Sinson 3 (second 50 mi)
  • Shorts: Brooks
  • Shirts: INKnBURN, Brooks, Nike Pro Combat compression
  • Socks: Injinji mid-weight trail
  • Nutrition: 4,000 Stinger chews, Humu/Stinger/Clif gels, Bonk Breakers
  • Other stuff: Glide, Base Performance electrolytes and Garmin Fenix 3 watch.
#TRT100 crew, pacers and friends

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ice, ice baby...

It all started about 3 months ago when I got a red puffy spot on my heal. It was kind of itchy but mostly just swollen and very sensitive to both hot and cold. Desperate for answers I self-diagnosed a mild case of athletes foot before eventually going to the podiatrist.

He honestly wasn't very helpful with the diagnosis (partially because I was experiencing both plantar fasciitis symptoms along with this swelling and redness).

After about 4 days, the swelling and redness went away and I was back to running. Move forward a couple weeks...the same thing was happening to my opposite foot! Convinced it was athletes foot, I was spraying, cleaning and disinfecting all my shoes, the shower and sandals hoping that would prevent future instances. I thought the Tanactin was getting rid of symptoms...

Move forward to last Saturday. I got home from a long run and prepared for my traditional post-run stretching and foot-care rituals. My feet get a little self-massage with Bio-Freeze followed by some ice packs. I usually don't bother with the towels (meaning, I place my feet directly on them) typically for about 20-30 minutes.

Not moments after finishing my 20-30 minutes on the ice packs did my right heel start to sting and throb. WHAT THE HELL! I thought I was over this...

It turns out that ice pack burn is a real thing.

I had heard that putting your skin directly on the pads was like the warning to little kids about sticking your tongue on the icy pole...tempting fate but not necessarily bad for you. Besides, I've been doing this for years...

It's like a sunburn though - the cold burns the skin, blisters and can damage the nerve endings. Except, it's from the cold ice packs...go figure. So note to self - use the little cloth wraps that come with the ice packs!

Also, you shouldn't ice for more than 10 minutes at a time. Even better is that you should ice for 5-10 minutes and then alternate some heat for another 5-10 minutes...3-4 sets of this cold/hot combo.

What are the remedies you ask? Time, aloe and rest. Like you would treat any other burn really. Depending on the severity and location, see a doctor first if you think you need professional care - otherwise, wait for it to heal.

So hear I sit for 3-4 days waiting for this pain to go away (again)...but now I know. And so do you!

Have fun and be safe out there!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes, I have Plantar Fasciitis

I know, I know...the situation is dripping with irony.

Not hours after posting the previous article about recognizing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis did my own heel start to swell up making walking (and life) generally uncomfortable. It's one thing to be ignorant but seeing that I JUST wrote an article advocating rest, stretching and time off I was hardly in the position to be a hypocrite to my own advice...

So I took it...

I stretched.
I took time off.
I iced.
I drank beer.

Since it appeared, the pain has never really felt like PF - more of a burning sensation accompanied by some patchy redness, dry skin and swelling. I mean, who needs a doctor when you have WebMD.com?! According to my online diagnosis, it was a small case of athletes foot that would clear up in couple days...

The actual doctor would tell me otherwise unfortunately. X-rays would show a clear calcium spur on the bottom of my heel. And while the initial symptoms have subsided, the dull throb of aching muscles deep within my heel seem to be signaling that my online doctorate degree has failed me once again. If you've ever had PF, deep down you know when it strikes (again). You may not want to believe it, but that won't make it go away...

I'm no longer of the age where mental strength and wishful stupidity will get me through a grueling 100-mile race without causing long-term damage and threatening my training for TRT100 in July. However, being smart and knowing your priorities never makes these emails any easier...

Withdrawing from a race always hurts
So for now, I will lick my wounds, spend some time volunteering at SD100 and try not to think about all the money I've parted with in preparation for this race. Time for rehabilitation, rest and preparing for TRT100...

Monday, May 2, 2016

Do I Have Plantar Fasciitis?

There is nothing worse than hearing those dreaded words from the podiatrist that you have plantar fasciitis (PF). I've been there. It's a knock-out blow to both your psyche and activity level. Now I'm no doctor, but experience has shown that often times the symptoms of PF present themselves well in advance of the actual diagnosis.

If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may have plantar fasciitis and should really take a break from running.
  • Does it hurt to stand on your feet for any period of time?
  • Is the pain worse first thing in the morning?
  • Does the pain go away later in the day or when you run?
  • Have you altered your stride (walking or running) to avoid pain in your foot?
  • Is there a specific spot on your foot that is tender when you press on it?
  • Do you feel any unusual pressure with your existing insoles or shoes?
Here's the honest truth though. We (ultra) runners are stupidly stubborn. We always try to 'run through it'. This NEVER works. I think subconsciously we're afraid of the potential diagnosis and lack of activity that we ignore the signs or secretly hope it's something else that will go away with 1 or 2 days rest.

Don't let your ego or stubbornness get in the way of letting your feet heal
Again, if you've answered 'yes' to any of the questions above, you are faced with 2 choices.
  1. Force yourself to take some time off (from running).
    • We're not talking about a day or two, we're talking a couple weeks minimum. During this time, your focus should be caring for and rehabilitating your feet. We'll talk about this a little bit later.

  2. Keep running and ignore the symptoms.
    • The body is an amazing machine. It does not deal with abuse for very long before shutting down. If you're unwilling to take the time off, your body will eventually force you down whether you like it or not!
You might be thinking to yourself, "Geez, I have to take time off regardless of what option I choose". You'd be right! But would you rather it be a couple weeks or a year or MORE (I dealt with PF for over 2 years). The great news is that those weeks pass by quickly when you're focused on rehabilitation, cross-training and stretching instead of being stuck in a walking boot.

If you find yourself taking a couple weeks off, fill your days with any of the following. They're great distractions and ultimately will help your feet, legs and supporting muscle groups for when you ultimately return to running.
  • Squats, lunges or calf raises
  • Cycling (stay in the saddle)
  • Core/ab workouts

If you're going stir crazy during this time, it's usually acceptable to do some light hiking provided the pain is tolerable. If you spend time on your feet at all during this time, it's important that you ice them and/or take ibuprofen after you're done.

When folks tell me they have PF, I do what I can to save them a little money...physical therapy sessions, massage, acupuncture and other clinical treatments will help speed along recovery but they're also expensive and not typically covered by insurance. If you have the resources and money, you should take advantage of any of these services. They're typically focused on healing and strengthening the foot to ensure the issue doesn't pop up again.

Don't be tempted to buy anything from a catalog that says it cures plantar fasciitis either. You'll soon find out there is no silver bullet to 'cure' this condition overnight. You have micro-tears in the fascia ...so unless these tears heal, you'll never be 'cured'.

OK, on to the good stuff now. What can you do at home to help rehabilitate your feet? I'll start with the least expensive ones and go from there...
  1. Shoes/sandals* - your days of walking around without shoes or sandals is over. They prevent the tile or hard floors from bruising and/or irritating your feet.
  2. Frozen water bottle* - regardless of whether you exercise or not, icing your feet with the frozen water bottle reduces inflammation. Do 2x-3x a day if you have the time.
  3. Self-massage* - applied with lotion or BioFreeze to relief stress and pressure. Do 1x-2x a day if you have the time.
  4. Ibuprofen* - 600 mg every 6 hours is also a great way to keep the inflammation down and improve the blood flow to the area.
  5. Traumeel - a homeopathic anti-inflammatory alternative to ibuprofen. Comes in gels, pills or injections. Prices vary.
  6. Golf ball - pressing and rolling the golf ball on the target area helps stretch the fascia and tendon. Do 2x-3x a day if you have the time.
  7. Reusable ice packs* ($15) - less messy than frozen water bottles and cover more surface area at once. Plus you can apply them to other areas easily.
  8. Medi-Dyne ProStretch* ($20) - great to keep the achilles and calves stretched out (these muscles affect your heal and arches). Do 2x-3x a day if you have the time.
  9. TENS unit* ($30) - Trans-cutaneous-Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit puts a current through the muscles, tendons and connective tissue  helping increase blood flow (e.g., healing) to the specific areas. Great for feet, backs and shoulders...you'll wonder how you lived without one for so long :-) Make sure to check Groupon or Living Social for occasional deals...
  10. Straussberg sock ($40) - this sexy piece of hardware keeps your foot flexed at night when you you sleep to ensure the muscles and fascia stay stretched. Without it, the muscles tighten and then tear again when you step down out of bed.
* to be clear, these are things you can do as preventative measures after every run...not just when you start to feel pain.

If the time comes and you decide to go see a doctor, I would remind you that the fundamental injury needs time to heal. Nothing they can provide will guarantee your recovery. So be wary of (1) custom inserts (2) cortisone shots (may give temporary relief but they hurt like a motherf*cker) or (3) surgery. The only thing I would buy from a doctor is any sort of anti-inflammatory medication - topical or internal.

Overall, the key is rest. I know active people HATE hearing that word but it is honestly the only way you'll get rid of plantar fasciitis. You may speed up the recovery by doing the at-home remedies we talked about but don't set yourself back by thinking your foot feels good enough to do a crazy run on it...you'll re-injure it and start the entire process again.

Take the time to care for your feet immediately. If you don't, PF could set you back months, maybe even years. Like your mom used to say, "They're the only feet you've got so treat them well!"

Let me know if you have any other questions. Stay healthy out there!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Redemption at Old Pueblo

It's a fair statement to say that I've had Old Pueblo on the brain for the greater portion of 3 years now. After a DNF in 2014 (yes, the year of epic flooding), I would have raced in 2015 but sat sidelined with an injury. Fortunately, I was allowed to roll my registration over to this year and the time had come to dance with the devil that had dented my spirit.

First, let me just say that I wasn't thrilled with the course changes. I caught wind that one of the mining companies had reactivated their claim along the course and rendered the roads/trails as private property.  Sometimes these things are inevitable so there's no use crying over it - but the idea of running 2 loops of the same course for 50 miles didn't really get me excited. I decided to let it slide knowing that the weather conditions were expected to be awesome (e.g., warm and no rain!).

Course location

Loop 1

What started as an unusually warm morning at Kentucky Camp (high 40's?) would make for ideal running conditions for this first loop. The sun crested the mountains of Coronado National Forest at about 7 am highlighting the faint dusting of snow still present on Mt. Wrightson off in the distance. A reminder of how awkward the temperatures and weather can be in this part of Arizona.

Without much fanfare, we would follow the jeep roads for a fair portion of the first loop. Granted, there were sections of the course that hopped onto the Arizona Trail but in summary, I'd venture to say that the course is 3/4 Forest Service roads and 1/4 Arizona Trail. Here's some pros and cons I contemplated during my time out on the course:

Forest Service Roads
  1. Easy to follow, minimal marking required
  2. Very smooth in quite a few places
  3. Very rocky in quite a few places
  4. Easy to get into a rhythm on long stretches
  5. Minor ATV traffic, some campers in case you get into trouble
Arizona Trail
  1. Best views of the course (especially after Melendrez Pass)
  2. 95% of it is pristine, runnable single track
  3. Remote sections were overgrown with grass and cat's-claw (ouch!)
Course profile with aid station locations (approximate)
In summary, my first loop felt great as the temperatures started to rise. Soaking in the newness of the course, I was being somewhat aggressive with the climbs and taking advantage of ALL the downhill and/or flat sections of the course. I found myself running A LOT! There were a couple climbs that gave me pause but for the most part, they're short-lived and immediately provide a welcome downhill or flat stretch to regain your composure.

If memory serves, I would return back to Kentucky Camp just after 11 am to replenish my pack, get spritzed with sunblock (again) and head out for my second lap.

Loop 2

All morning I had been plagued with what I can only describe as an elevation headache. It wasn't bad nor was it debilitating but it was there...a dull pressure at my left temple. Just annoying enough to make me doubt my stamina and whether I could keep going. It's a looong 9 miles to the first aid station leaving Kentucky Camp - especially after a marathon. I would fill my pack with ice and water to make sure I could arrive at Melendrez Pass in one piece.

In case you're wondering, a pack full of ice and water at elevation after 25 miles on a 2% incline feels like it weighs 50 pounds. I might have been wheezing for a while but eventually, I got used to the additional weight and started to get into a solid rhythm.

Now I'm not going to lie - it was warm out. Was it blistering hot? No...but warm enough that hydration was an issue for some folks. For perspective, I was going through 2 liters of water every 6 miles...and went pee once.

It wasn't until I got to the Gardner Canyon aid station did I realize that I would be close to finishing around the 11-hour mark. Right as I was leaving this aid station, a volunteer mentioned I was in 8th place...and the 7th place runner was about 2-3 minutes ahead of me. Anyone that knows me will tell you that yes, I'm naturally competitive - more with myself than anything (or anyone). I left that final aid station with the notion that finishing around 11 hours would be a great goal.

So I ran.
I ignored my blisters.
I downed one last gel.
I focused on the finish line.

Eventually, that 7th place runner would come into sight. I felt like I was gliding over the final stretch of jeep trail leading down to the final turn onto the Arizona Trail that would deliver me home to Kentucky Camp. Words of encouragement were exchanged as I passed him - not a primary goal, but a welcome boost of satisfaction. Looking at my watch, it would still be very close if I wanted to finish under 11 hours (notice how that goal changed!).

Turning on the Arizona Trail, it was everything I could do to quell my anticipation and the need to see those Kentucky Camp buildings. A comfortable run turned into a full 10-minute-per-mile-sprint :) Crew started to dot the side of the trail and I knew I was getting closer. Applause and cow-bells rang out as I closed in on the final 1/4 mile. Of course it's rocky and uphill but I didn't let that deter me. Still sprinting and pumping my arms, I shouted and rejoiced as I glimpsed the race clock - 10:59:19.

Had I fiddled with a gate or stopped to tie my shoe, those precious seconds and a sub-11 time would have passed me by. Funny how those things work...

Catching my breath...
Teen angst
Happy to be done!
The vibe of the race was different this year. RD Bob Bachini has raised the bar and made some impressive changes. While I initially poo-poo'ed the 2-loop course, it is logistically safer and pretty darn predictable for everyone. The swag was way too generous (2 pint glasses and 2 t-shirts?!) and the aid stations/volunteers were top-notch. Thank you to all who made this a successful race.

"That's what I'm talking about!"
7th overall, 3rd AG
Thanks for everyone who supported me along the way and my wife who let's me spend the entire day traipsing about in the mountains...for fun :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

You Down With BCT?

OK, I freely admit I was a little over-dramatic with my Facebook post when I said that I never wanted to do the Black Canyon 100k again. You think crazy things when you're side-stepping down two flights of stairs with blistered feet and picking cactus needles out of your toes. 14 hours and 23 minutes in the desert sun can cause a guy to get a little baked and frazzled in the head!

And yes, I was also slightly disappointed in missing my goal time of 12 hours but as I started to write up this blog (and get feeling back in my toes), I was flooded with all the memories of that morning's start and the sheer majesty of the trail heading out of Mayer that morning of the 13th. Rolling single-track, exposed and sweeping vistas of the local mountains and the absolute perfect weather made it one of the most enjoyable runs I've done in a very long time.

Well, at least until I caught up to Mr. Miller at mile 24. I've done several runs with 'Old Man' Miller and every. single. time. I happen to catch up or pace with him, I know my race strategy has gone off the rails in some way, shape or form.

Zane Grey.
Black Canyon.

It's typically only downhill from there :-)

No, that's not a fake smile at all...
I arrived to the Mariana Mine aid station (mile 24) just after 11 am and halfheartedly patted myself on the back for following my race plan...even if it was an aggressive (e.g., foolish) race plan. Mr. Miller and I exchange a few words about the weather and ice cold water before he would disappear down the hill leaving me to stew in my own thoughts again.

While there's something to be said about ignorance being bliss, there is also the fact that reality sucks more. Sitting under that tent, I would grab my pack and load it up with water, ice and food before heading out into the escalating temperatures of the desert sun. It was just long enough to reconsider my race strategy, pace and whether I should be so eagerly clipping at Mr. Miller's heels. It was clear I needed to take a chill-pill and ease off the throttle if I was going to get through the day in one piece.

The only other thing that could have ended my day early was leaving my electrolytes unchecked. Leaving mile 24 I could already tell things were headed south - cramping, stomach pain and let's call it a weird feeling in my head...probably the kind you get right before fainting (except I didn't mom, I'm fine!) :)

Holding it together...barely
Enter Tailwind Nutrition. Chock-full of all the electrolytes a growing boy needs, I managed to cruise through mile 36 on nothing but luke-warm Tailwind, some gels and those three glorious creek crossings. Waiting at Black Canyon City, Greg found me a little bit thirsty but in decent spirits and anxious to keep moving through the heat onto the next aid station.

As the heat of the day slowly started to yield to the longer (and cooler) shadows, I could feel the hunger creeping in as I tried to balance the caloric volume of my Tailwind and the gratuitous electrolytes it provides. As we crested one of the hills he kept making me run (f-ing pacers), I felt the need to purge. Barf. Yack. Pausing, with hands on knees, my chest lurched...once...twice...no. "Keep it together", I told myself. Besides, I had nothing to give. Nothing to gain from emptying what little was in my stomach. I chugged some water, cracked another gel and managed to stave away the hunger pains and what would be my only purge-related incident of the day. I also appreciated Greg trying to capture that whole sequence on video. Asshole :)

The Table Mesa aid station (mile 51) appeared just as the sun was setting on the day. The timing could not have been more perfect. With the heat of the day gone and the crisp evening air taking over my lungs, I grabbed a chair to change shirts, ate some solid food and revved myself up for the final 11 miles of the race. I had long given up on the 12-hour goal and hoped that my right knee (which had been locking up for the last 5 miles) would play nice long enough to make it to the finish line. Turns out, the first 7.7 miles out of Table Mesa are rocky as fuck and mostly uphill. Now normally, I'd throw some curse words out there about climbing mountains this late in the race but as long as we weren't going downhill, my knee stayed content and we kept making decent time.

Enjoying the hospitality of Team RWB at the Table Mesa aid station
We would run into Mr. Miller again somewhere after Table Mesa. Staggering and weaving on and off the trail, he relayed that he hadn't kept anything down since mile 42 (or so). Genuinely concerned, Greg and I kept him company for about 15 minutes while making sure he took a gel and some water to at least have a shot at getting to the next aid station. We would press on knowing he's one tough hombre' with more race experience than both of us combined...

There was an air of relief and excitement at the final aid station despite being dark and chilly. "I just want to be done", repeated almost every runner that came into the station. While I shared that sentiment (in my mind), my knee was still acting up so there was no point in trying to bang out the final miles and risk permanent damage. So Greg and I cranked up his 'I-can't-wait-until-my-divorce-is-final-playlist' and made the best time we could to the finish. Now somewhere along the way, the fabled runner's high must have kicked in because my knee pain went away and I was pushing the pace with Greg in tow until we reached the finish line.

So yes, looking back I felt like I had a good day on a great trail despite the heat. If the temperatures had been even 10 degrees cooler, I could have been a faster race for me but I'm not sure what else I could have done better related to fueling and hydration. Even though the run is a net loss in elevation (which I think contributed to my knee pain), there is plenty happening on the BCT to make you think twice about being so aggressive.

If anyone asks, miles 0-36 are splendid. Miles 36-62 are less-than-splendid :-)

One of the biggest changes I made to my race plan was to only look at this course aid station-to-aid station. Not once did I think, "Man, I still have 38 miles left". Instead, I took the bite-sized chunks between aid stations and focused on knocking them out mile by mile. With this in mind, I was able to stay mentally sharp and motivated to do what was necessary to get to the next aid station. It removed the overwhelming magnitude of 62 miles and dissected it to smaller manageable pieces that were easier to think about.

By the way, 'Old Man' Miller would show up at the finish line about 30 minutes after me. One tough SOB, right?
So hungry and happy I didn't even pull my pants all the way up!
Congratulations to all the finishers and thanks to Aravaipa and their army of volunteers who took care of us throughout the day. There is a slight possibility I'll be back to the BCT for another buckle but let's see how the rest of the summer plays out.

Have fun and be safe out there!