Monday, February 21, 2011

Red Hot

Well, Moab turned out to be a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience. It was nice to get out of town for a while and see a different, yet equally beautiful, Western American landscape. Courtnee and I left Aspen after work on Thursday and rolled into Moab just in time to catch dinner and a beer with a college friend of mine at the Moab Brewery. We were staying across the street at the La Quinta and retired early to sleep off the drive.

We got up really early and had a low key day on Friday that consisted of a 30 minute run on the course, and a long drive/hike around in Arches national park. Absolutely stunning. That evening we went to Pasta Jay's with several other racers to gorge on carbohydrates and talk at length about the following day's race. I had a good amount of nerves built up already so I left dinner extremely psyched up about returning to competition. Again we retired early to await the not so bad 6:00am alarm.

When I finally found myself at the start line all the nerves subsided and my spirits were high. A large pack of maybe 20 runners went out fast at the start. I was content to sit right in the middle and allow my legs to find a comfortably fast, yet sustainable pace for what would be my longest effort in many months. After the first real downhill the field had strung itself out and I was sitting in probably 10th place feeling good but cursing the consistent rain and howling wind.

Ryan Burch and I quickly fell into a similar pace on the climb towards the first aid station and had an opportunity to catch up with each other. Ryan has been a huge inspiration for me since I first learned about this weird little sport, so it was good to hear how well he's doing. We continued to climb strong through aid #1, quickly making up time on a few guys who had taken the pace out too fast. We reached the top of the first major climb together and prepared for a long and fast downhill. Within 2 minutes of the start of the descent, Ryan had opened up a gap of at least 100 yards. This would become a theme for the day. Dude is a freak on downhills. This gap opened considerably so I came to terms with the fact that I couldn't keep up, and settled into what I felt to be an honest pace.

When the trail flattened out again I could see Ryan off in the distance with what I guessed was probably a 90 second lead. I slowly made up time on the flat section and subsequent uphill until I finally caught him again. We ran together some more until we hit aid #4 at the top of the last major climb at about mile 23. Ryan finally broke me here and was able to run away from me for good. I was still moving pretty well however and was confidant I could push for another 11 miles for a respectable finish. I hit a bit of a low point on the rolling slick rock section around mile 27 so I downed about 2 ounces of gel from my flask to avoid a late race collapse. I cruised through the last aid station and through the mostly downhill last 5 miles to finish 4th overall in 4:15.

After the race Dakota, Tim, Ryan, Duncan, and I sat around discussing our races and plans for the new year. Very classy group of guys who are invariably humble considering their incredible talents and accomplishments. I look forward to many more conversations (and runs) with these guys in the near future.

Lastly, I'd just like to express how much I loved this particular race. It has a low key, small race feel, while still drawing a very competitive field. The landscape was something totally unique from anything I had experienced in an ultra and the volunteers were all top notch. I look forward to coming back to Red Hot as an early season fitness test for many years to come.

Next up is probably Antelope Island 50. Fire it up.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Big Things

Well, it's February and race season is right around the corner. It's hard to believe given the arctic conditions we have recently experienced in Aspen, but today is brilliantly sunny and the stoke level is at an all time high. Much has happened since I last contributed to the blog, but I have certainly been making the most of what free time I have. Like I have mentioned, my recreation has largely centered around skiing, but I have also found ample time to accumulate miles in an effort to be ready for next weekend's race in Moab. I certainly don't feel nearly as fit as I did last summer, but I'm confidant that I have what it takes to be at least slightly competitive with some of the fast guys in the desert. The field looks to be super deep and the course should be in good shape, which means exciting stuff could happen up front. I'm just hoping I can be a spectator for a little while.

In addition to being my first race in 2011, Moab is also very exciting for me as it will be the first time I fly the La Sportiva colors in competition. I am absolutely pumped to have the support of such respected company and am inspired by their commitment to the mountain athletics I love so much. La Sportiva has recently debuted the beginning of their ski mountaineering line with very cool looking alpine touring boots and bindings that I hope to get my hands on very soon. Very excited about the future.

Big things are sure to happen in 2011 which is more than enough motivation for me to get out and enjoy healthy amounts of suffering everyday. Here is a look at my tentative race plans for the new year:

2/19 - Moab Red Hot 55k
3/26 - Antelope Island 50 mile
4/20ish - Grand Canyon R2R2R
5/19 - Jemez Mountain 50 mile
6/11 - San Diego 100
7/2(?) - Leaville Marathon
8/20 - Leadville 100
9/10 - Imogene Pass

Just putting that list into writing makes me all tingly inside. For know though its time for a little rest in anticipation of next weekend. I'm just excited to run on dirt again for the first time since October. Fire it up.