Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vitargo Gel, Chuckanut 50K, and the Boulder Spring Half

Since two weekends ago, I’ve raced two races so here are a couple quick write ups. The Chuckanut 50k is probably distant in everyone’s memory, but for the locals here in Boulder, this morning's Boulder Spring Half was finished only a few hours ago.
Chuckanut.. Michael Lebowitz photo

Chuckanut had been on my radar for years, knowing many racers who’d gone up over that time raving about it. My pal Bryan Dayton was the first of many to recommend it, but it hadn’t quite been in my wheelhouse of 50 milers and 100ks, so it got backburnered until now. This year the competition was hot with a bunch of road marathoners going up against ultra, so I couldn’t resist, even though I knew I would likely get torched. Turns out it rained hard and snowed, putting a mild cooling effect on the competition. I woke up Saturday morning to rain and snow, and was psyched to the technical footing games at hand. Fellow Bay Area hotel mates Gary Gellin, Jean Pommier, and a fine gang of folks kindly gave me a ride to the start, checked in, and we were off in the rain.

The first 10k of somewhat flat crushed gravel path must have taken it out of me, as by the time we hit the singletrack I started dogging it up the rolling climbing singletrack. The first third of the race was kind of a blur as couldn’t quite accelerate the climbs. I knew the lack of recent speedwork was the cause, and settled in to try to find a groove. . Apparently I wasn’t the only one having an off day, as I surprisingly passed Mike Wolfe in about 15th place. Fortunately for me, the rest of the race I rebounded as I once again kept fueling with Vitargo and felt stronger as the race progressed (oh no.. now 50k is "short" for me), passing soon to be daddy Tim Olsen (will he now race faster? I think so) and other guys all the way to the finish. The snow was wet and sloppy, making for fun sliding and splashing the rest of the race. This is the stuff I run for, and the nastier the better, and I tried to use it to my advantage. The Chuckanut Ridge trail was super fun rolly singletrack roots and rock, and my choice of the Bondi B was a good one. Even though the tread on the Bondi is minimal, I had no problem on the snow and mud.

Coming up the last of the steep snowy climb of Chinscraper trail in 6th place, I looked back and saw two guys close behind and gunned it to the top. This was the steepest grade of the course, actually hand over hand in the snow; I was glad I’d thrown a one pair of Injinji on feet and one on hands for warmth.

The 1600’ descent was all on dirt and snow road back to the 10k fast section to finish, and one guy was right behind, pushing hard the whole way. I couldn’t go any faster, but knew my energy was high and he or anyone behind would have work to do to pass me. Hitting the last aid and the feared 10k, I didn’t look back and just tried to focus on turnover. Just then, the sound we all fear of footsteps slapping came up from behind. Jim Rebenack, who had run solid at the Golden Gate 50K, put on a spurt and passed me and put a quick 10 seconds on me. I then made the dreaded mistake of looking back and seeing Tim Olsen and three others only 20 seconds back. I decided that moment was do or die, and I was not going to finish any lower than 7th, and maybe even higher even though no one was in sight far ahead. I put a surge on to pass Jim, hoping this would slightly demoralize him temporarily, and pushed best I could. Just then a runner I hadn't seen before came out of nowhere with a pacer, and I guessed he was not in the race given the race rules. He then proceeded to get a drink from a crew a half mile ahead and drop his pacer off. I was more than ticked off at this as I realized he was in the race, and tried my best to catch him, but he pulled ahead. I felt this was very poor form, as he was the only one running without a hand bottle in this 6th through 13th position of guys, had obviously been running with crew help, and didn’t even respect the efforts the five or so other guys in his immediate viscinity in such a tight race, but just cruised on by.

Into the final mile, I recognized Jason Louttit up ahead, who’d gone out fast. I really respect his spirit and aggressive race style though (which he used at AR 50 last year) , and congratulated him on his effort as I passed. Into the park under overcast and cool skies, was an awesome finish area with about all the ultra friends I have in North America. Thanks to Krissy Moehl RD, who did a fantastic job of organizing this new classic to add to my perennial attendance list.

Turns out leader and monster Max King had made a wrong turn on a mis-marked last descent (not anyone's fault; these things happen), and roadie Sage Canaday took second to Adam Campbell. Welcome to ultras, Sage, and the other fast roadies who came out; happy to have the sport elevated like this! Fellow Boulderite and Hoka team mate and travel mate Jason Schlarb ran hard for third. For the ladies, it was no surprise that Ellie won... again.

Feeling the need for some speedwork, I jumped into the Boulder Spring Half Marathon this morning. The top times at this packed dirt race were pretty stout (sub 1:10) in the past few years, so I'd had hopes of top 10 maybe at best in the middle of my race cycle. Turns out the really fast guys were sunbathing today, and I somehow took 3rd place men and 1st master and 1st ultrarunner who-should-know-better. A fine morning of training in the thin air and heat.. 80 degrees F here in the Front Range CO today.. (but sub 32 here and much faster.

Lastly, one of the other Iron Mikes, Mike Wardian, was in town this weekend, so I gave him a tour of the moonlit local peaks on a Friday night run. In talking with this guy, his motivation is truly astounding. I know he is talented, but he is further proof that it motivation is more important than talent when it comes to success.

Finally, what many have been waiting for...How to make Vitargo gel!