Time to Play

What ever happened to my 2018 New Year’s Resolution of writing a blog-post once a month? Hmm. I’ll have to get back to that. Let’s knock one out now…

Nature’s all about balance and the final 1/3 of 2018 is proof of that, with equal ups-n-downs. My fourth showing at Run Rabbit Run was tough but I gutted out another top-10 finish, when half the Hare (and Tortoise) field dropped. I did a bunch of Hypoxico sessions on the bike leading in to the race but it didn’t seem to matter once I got over 10,000′ in the brilliant mountains inside Routt National Forest in Colorado. Living in Sonoma County, at 125′ above sea level does, sometimes, have its drawbacks. Since the high elevation essentially put a governor on my effort, I simply wasn’t able to get the most out of my body on the day. It was frustrating. My legs always felt amazing but a bad belly from 40-60 really set me back. I got that shit done though and I’m thinking about making another go in 2019. Why the hell not? That race is BEAST.

With a double-fisting Ann Trason and Chris Denucci at the finish line of the inaugural Overlook 50mi back on 9/29. Ann’s dog paced for a while, then got bored and dropped us!

In 2018, the Overlook Runs from Epic Endurance Events were only two weeks post-Run Rabbit instead of three like the previous year. And to make things even more interesting, Overlook added a 50-miler to the mix. Uh-oh… So, my thinking was, less time to recover and then run the 50mi instead of the 50k. Let’s go! With me coming off a 100-miler, just two weeks prior and Chris Denucci returning from injury, I figured we were pretty evenly matched. Chris is a buddy o’ mine and a former teammate, but I was out for blood after not being able to run to my potential in Colorado. I enjoyed running with Chris for the first 50k but then I just buried myself to the finish. That was a satisfying day of racing.

Chris encouraged me to come run Rio Del Lago 100mi with him in early Nov. After a week or so it started seeming like a better and better idea. Ha-ha. It’s a GU sponsored event so I could just run it from aid to aid and crush. With Chris and I pushing each other we could run a really fast time. I signed up.

Soon thereafter, the wave of fitness I’d been riding finally crested, and things came crashing down. I got this fairly sharp pain in my left soleus, below the calf but above the achilles. I rested a bit and, three weeks out from Rio, I tried to do a long run at Lake Sonoma. After 2mi, I had to turn around and limp/jog back to my truck. Then, to make matters worse, I got a nasty head-cold that hung around for 10 days or so. Total shit show. Looking back I’d clearly gotten a nice bump in fitness from Run Rabbit and that allowed me to run really well at Overlook 50mi two weeks later. That doesn’t mean I was 100% recovered from Run Rabbit. That big effort, two weeks post-100, put a fork in me.

Yeah so, I took myself out of Rio del Lago about as fast as I’d entered it. In training, I’ve made three-weeks-out a “training barometer” of sorts. I want something BIG in the tank at that specific point in the going. I NEVER want to half-ass a 100mi. Confidence is everything so making the decision to bow out was easy. In hindsight, the decision was clearly the right call. I was happy to see Denucci did have some competition late in the going at Rio and managed to push hard to hold on for the win. I now have $375 invested in the event, so guess what race I’m finishing up 2019 with? I prefer the mountain 100s but in 2018 I continue to find that I still absolutely LOVE to run FAST >>>

After the smoke from the Camp Fire finally dissipated and my head-cold cleared up I had just enough time to put up a 75mi week for Peacock Gap 30k, to be held in early December. Three weeks out I was sittin’ pretty. Health returned and fitness followed. Off the wet start line, no one goes with me, not even the leader of the half-marathon. It turns into a 2.5hr time-trial. It felt good to push outside my comfort zone the entire way. Running in the 7oz Hoka One One JAWS EVO I flew over the course. Since running in this shoe for all my 30k and 50k events since summer, I’d been contemplating making a change in running shoes since I’d been having some struggles with Hoka anyway. Peacock Gap was a honest effort and I pushed that sucker to the finish. It was a nice speed session for Woodside 50k two weeks later. >>>

Peacock Gap 30k with Inside Trail Racing RD, Tim Stahler.

I’ve been enjoying these “race phases” throughout the year, where I keep overall run volume low so I can regularly crush some 30k and 50k events, taking full advantage of the Bay Area trail-racing scene. At Woodside, Chris Denucci and I were again shooting the shit before the start. I told him there was at least one guy here that was gonna blow us out of the water today, since that seems to be the regular trend at these shorter, faster events. That runner manifested at Colorado’s Matt Daniels, a former sub-4min miler and all around wicked fast dude. Soon after the start, Chris asked me as we were dicing back-n-forth in the early going, “You think we’re gonna see him again?” To which I replied, “No way. That guy looked solid.” After the race, when I found out Matt would be at Bandera 100k with Chris, I laughed and joked, “You’re gonna have your hands full with that.” Chris and I finished within 4min of each other. Matt beat us by over 30min. Just incredible. Chris makes a good point though—all that speed and power doesn’t necessarily translate to the longer distances. Nonetheless, I’ll be experiencing serious FOMO on Jan 5th, when Bandera goes down.

Note: Word just went out that the Bandera course is completely changed for 2019. Sounds like they moved it an hour and half away. ??? Folks will need to flexible and just roll with the changes. As I tell my athletes going into every race, “Expect nothing and be prepared for anything.”

With Chris Denucci at Woodside Ramble on 12/15.

Dissonance. After the fires in the fall of 2017, here in Sonoma County, with half my training grounds burnt to shit, not to mention, closed, I’d bowed out of both Bandera and Black Canyon 100k’s in 2018. Since I had deferred entries to both I re-scheduled them both for 2019. Chasing Golden Tickets into Western States 100, after all, has become my national pastime. I love it. Travel’s expensive, as we know, and my fall finances have been a little tight. Hoka informed me in early Dec that I’d have no travel allotment for 2019. Fine. I just could’ve used that information about two months earlier, for planning purposes.

I needed to slow my roll into the new year, so I asked Bandera, Black Canyon, and Georgia Death Race (GDR) to take my name off their start-lists. I got myself into Sean O’Brien 100k though; travel would be more affordable, the course plays to my strengths, and the Feb time slot would be excellent. Mojo was high to run it again too; the full course this time. Then the goddamn Woolsley Fire scorched the hills above Malibu and the 100k was canceled, just like that. The tickets would roll into Canyons 100k at the end of April. I was already planning on being there for that one. But what the hell was I going to do leading up to it? I needed to work on shoring up some financial reserves so I could get myself out to Bighorn 100 in June and to some other mountain 100 in September. That was the plan.

Since I’d been running a lot, and doing well, in that minimal Hoka JAWS EVO, and I’d only be getting product from Hoka in 2019, I started thinking, what if I ran for someone else?  My time with Hoka had run its course. I came onboard in 2013 when the maximalist movement had gained some good traction in the trail-running world. Before that I was a Salomon guy; my weapon of choice was the original SPEEDCROSS. Let’s be real:  Salomon makes sexy trail-running shoes. The quality is next to none. I’ve been struggling with shoe-fit over the last three seasons too—and a M8.5 from Salomon fits my foot better than any other shoe out there. In wet conditions though, when you stop and cinch up your Salomons with that sweet lace-lock system?! Nothing feels better. Or faster.

If I’ve learned anything with Hoka, it’s to go after what you want. Nothing’s gonna happen if you don’t make it happen. You have to put yourself in the position to win. Thus, if I started up a new relationship with anyone it was going to be Salomon. I mentioned my interest to friends at Healdsburg Running Company, connections were quickly made, and just like that, I’m on Courtney’s team. The sport takes care of its own. I’ll be putting my full weight and six years’ worth of experience supporting a shoe company, behind Salomon. David Goggins’ book, Can’t Hurt Me, reminds us that new beginnings are essential to staying in the flow of life; always building new skills to meet new challenges. Literally, and figuratively, Salomon represents a damn good fit!

It’s important to acknowledge everything Hoka One One has done for me over the last six seasons. The support allowed me to spread my wings and put myself in the mix of so many of the country’s toughest, most prestigious, ultra-marathons. I met so many great people along the way, whose friendship I continue to cherish.

So, sitting here on Jan 1st, things are lookin’ good. I’m on a new team and my coaching roster’s coming together nicely. On winter break from teaching, every day’s been meeting with ultrarunners, phone calls, and setting up season plans. My teaching year’s about 185 days while the remainder of workdays on the calendar gives me plenty of time to take good care of my athletes. Armed with a growth mindset, the teaching–coaching–running lifestyle keeps me in the flow, happy, and evolving. I like that notion that all we need to be happy in life is something to be excited about. I know that’s true for me.

I might be a day late and a dollar short to run Bandera 100k but I’ve put my name back on the start-list for GDR. After all, that course has gotten into my bones having raced it the last two years. It’s where I earned my Golden Ticket into Western States in 2018. And I know I can go well under 12 hours on that gnarly course. I mean, hell, I’ll be in Salomons. That’s 30min right there! > > > 😀

I’ll be happy to race my heart out chasing Golden Tickets in Georgia and then back here at home at Canyons 100k at the end of April. If a ticket doesn’t pan out? Oh well, I’ll have had two more amazing ultra-distance race experiences. And, I’ll see you at Bighorn 100. In 2017, I had a 30min lead on the field by mile 65, before succumbing to hypothermia and dropping. I learned stuff, like a Gore-Tex rain-jacket is a nice thing to own. Fun memories but I’d like to set the record straight. So, if no Western States then it’s gonna be a summer of love—Bighorn followed by Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in mid-July (I’d like to get my 5-year belt buckle). Rocking these two hundreds will prime the body and mind for another Run Rabbit Run 100 in September. With the spectacularly updated course and the fierce competition, it’s not hard to imagine doing this one again, although I’ll have to buckle down (no pun intended) and save my pennies to make the trip possible. Then, in early November, I’ll wrap up my season with Rio Del Lago, where I’ll shoot to lower my 100mi PR and try for the overall win. I think I can sustain some good speed over the relatively fast course. Never given; always earned! Let’s party.

Parting shot: the start of the Woodside 50k. Second podium finish in December. My last race representing Hoka One One. Chris and I stand between the runners who will put up new course-records for the guys and gals. Photo Credit: Doc Tanaka

A heartfelt note of appreciation to my beautiful and highly supportive wife, Amanda.  |  Thanks to all the athletes I coach who inspire me with their passion and dedication to this crazy sport. It’s always such a treat to be out there on these race courses with you! #point_positive  |  Thanks to Hoka One One for all the support over the last six seasons!  |  Thank you to Salomon Running for bringing me onboard for 2019. #timetoplay  |  Thanks Healdsburg Running Company for helping me connect the dots with Salomon!  |  Gratitude to Casey Rolig from BUFF USA for the continued support and friendship  |  Thanks to Drymax Sports, for making the most comfortable, durable socks out there.   |   Squirrel Nut Butter Elite Team in 2019. I’m ready to slide into this!  |  GU gels and “Summit Tea” Roctane continues to fuel ALL my efforts—Faster. Than. Ever. #guforit  |  Thanks to Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy for taking great care of my athletes. It’s reassuring to know I have someone I trust to go to when shit hits the fan!

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