Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recovery and Rediscovery

In the weeks that followed the 2010 Leadville 100 I dug myself into a massive hole of exhaustion by being overly ambitious in my training and over confident in my body's ability to recover. Included in this learning experience was a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit punishing, Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop adventure run, followed a week later by a 50 mile race at Steamboat's Run Rabbit Run event. My race at RRR50 left me utterly shattered and finally injected some long overdue rest into my life. I didn't feel right again for two months. This startling episode of immense fatigue is something I intend to avoid for the remainder of my life as a runner.

Now, a little more than 2 weeks removed from SD100, I am happy to report I feel very strong. I took six full days off after the race (total of 8 zero days now in 2011), and have been slowly building back towards consistent two hour days on the trails. I've been very cautious about this feeling of strength and fully intend to listen to what my body indicates is a reasonable amount of mileage in the coming weeks. So far, I've been successful practicing this body awareness and have cut a couple outings short when my legs just weren't feeling it. I've also made a few appearances in the yoga studio and have visited local miracle worker Andrea Rubel for some glorious massage and chiropractic work. I believe very strongly in the benefits of both these activities and intend to consistently implement them into my training and recovery. My hope is that this gradual and conservative approach will leave me primed and peaking in late August - specifically around the weekend of the 20th.

We have finally emerged from the seemingly endless winter here in Aspen, so it certainly hasn't been easy to practice moderation in my training. I've been like a kid in a candy store recently, eager to have lonely sweat sessions in the backcountry and get reacquainted with my favorite ribbons of dirt. I look forward to a long summer of discovery and adventure in my beautiful backyard.

My next adventure will take me to the mighty San Juan Mountain Range in Southwestern, Colorado just over a week from now, where I'm thrilled to be pacing/crewing for Joe Grant at the unforgiving Hardrock 100. My involvement in Joe's race was sort of a last minute development due to a very unfortuante injury which has sidelined ultra legend Anton Krupicka from his scheduled pacing duties. Under the circumstances, I'm happy to come off the bench for one of the world's best in order to help Joe's cause. Hopefully I can hold up my end of the bargain.

Joe and I still haven't met in person yet, but our recent phone conversations have me confident we will have a good dynamic come game time. Tomorrow we are meeting in Twin Lakes for an evening assault of Mt. Elbert followed by a slumber party in Aspen. Should be excellent team building. As of now, the plan is for Joe to run solo until Telluride (Mile 72), where I'll be waiting to escort him through the night back to Silverton. I'm truly excited to experince a 100 miler from the crew/pacer perspective and am looking forward to enjoying the atmosphere of this epic event. Fire it up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

San Diego 100

The Before
My California runcation started one week ago today with a late afternoon flight out of Aspen on an unreasonably beautiful Western Colorado day. Courtnee and I arrived in Santa Barbara a few hours later to a warm welcome from good friend, crew member, and SoCal cultural ambassador, Ryan McInally. We headed south to Ventura where we we were to spend the majority of the next week enjoying the incredible hospitality of the McInally family.

Coincidentally, a cousin of mine was also graduating from UCSB that weekend so we made a trip up to campus on Thursday to join in the celebration. It was great to see so much family who provided me with endless encouragement for the terrifying endeavor that lay before me. We left for the San Diego area early Friday morning and spent the afternoon attending the pre race meeting and preparing gear for the adventure of the following day. I was able to sleep well and awoke at 5am feeling rested and ready for the challenge. It was already shaping up to be a glorious day as we nervously clustered at the start line awaiting the gun.

The First 60

Photos by Brett Rivers
Shortly after we took off, I was happy to feel a serious pep in my step. I had done a lot of resting in the previous few weeks in hopes of arriving at the start line with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Yassine Diboun quickly took the lead as Rod Bien and I settled into what felt like an honest, yet easy pace. We introduced ourselves and had a nice conversation about various running related topics for the first 5 or 6miles.

Soon thereafter, I pulled away from Rod which began a long day of lonely yet beautiful and enjoyable running. Yassine was already a few minutes ahead running strong but I did a good job of removing any thoughts of competition in the first half of the race. Miles clicked off with ease as the sun rose over course and the temperature slowly climbed.

In typical Dylan fashion, I managed to get off course for about 5 minutes shortly before the aid station at mile 23. Thankfully I was able to keep my morale high and accept my minor mistake without single "F-Bomb." I caught back up to Rod, who had passed me while I was off course, shortly after the Penny Pines aid station and we commented on the unexpected heat and technical footing of the ensuing descent. I am especially bad technical downhill runner so I felt super slow here but overall I was having a lot of fun.

The only hitch in my race was a slightly off stomach that was already unhappy with gel consumption, and getting even more upset with every mile. I can typically eat gels til the cows come home but, for some reason on Saturday, they were just not sitting right. I was still able to force it down but would struggle with gagging for a solid minute after every bite. Needless to say, I was concerned that this was happening so early on but my body and mind were in a good place so I continued to motor without giving it much thought.

On the long climb up to the Pioneer Mail aid, I occasionally caught a glimpse of Yassine who was moving well about two minutes ahead of me. It looked like we were both running virtually every step of the climb which I took as a good sign since RD Scott Mills had called this section "The toughest part of the race." Thanks for the Popsicles Scott. That was a great touch.

I pulled into Pioneer Mail at mile 44 a few minutes back of Yassine and not feeling great. The heat and sun were starting to get to me and my stomach was in knots. Still though, I was cool headed and staying business oriented. I walked for a few minutes out of the aid station trying to collect myself for the rolling but gradual descent to Sunrise aid and the race's halfway point.

The next section is very exposed and I was becoming quite unhappy. The trail (PCT) was beautiful however, and would have been a lot more fun had I not already endured 45 malnourished miles. I chalked it up to a rough patch and figured I would pull myself out of my rut quickly. Unfortunately my condition deteriorated even more all the way through the Sunrise aid which I exited at about the 8:10 mark - still only a couple minutes behind Yassine.

Again I walked for a few minutes out of the aid trying to encourage myself with the cliche statement, "You're halfway there, only 50 miles to go." Needless to say, this thought does more to deflate you than anything when you have already ran for 8+ hours and 50+ miles. Oh well. Nothing to do but man up and try to be smart.

That is exactly what I did for the next 7.5 excruciating miles to the Stonewall Mine aid at about mile 60. At this point, I could no longer even open my gel flask without gagging. My stomach just quit cooperating altogether. I could feel my race unraveling and my attitude was growing increasingly bad. I began walking some of the downhills approaching the aid station which was pretty embarassing but totally necessary at the time.

When I arrived, my crew could tell I was in bad shape. I relayed the issues about my stomach and decided it would be wise to chug a Red Bull and fill up one of my bottles with Coke. It turned out this would be my nutrition plan for the remainder of the race. The best decision I made all day.

The Last 40

As soon as the Red Bull hit my blood, my race totally changed. I was back. I began having a great time again as the sun slowly lowered in the sky and the tempuratures steadily dropped. The Stonewall climb was a welcome challenge as I hiked most of it while trying to focus on my exhales. I reached the turnoff and demolished the ensuing descent, following Yassine's Inov-8 tread the whole way.

When I got to the bottom and the Paso Picacho aid, I was very pumped up. I was moving better here than I had in the first ten miles. Those positive feeling quickly turned to panic when I learned I had arrived at the aid station in first place. I hadn't passed Yassine and figured that I somehow cut the course and was going to be DQed. I was reassured by the aid captain that I had indeed been on course the whole way and that I must have been Yassine who had been lost. I wasted no time pounding another Red Bull and filling a bottle of Coke. Soon thereafter, I left in lead and would never relinquish it.

My new nutrition plan (liquid diet) continued to pay off and I felt great. I passed through the aid at mile 72 and grabbed my headlamp and flashlight for the lonely night section. The sun slowly set and soon enough I was alone in the dark cruising a beautiful and remote peice of singletrack. It was awesome. Near the top of the climb, runners started passing me going the other direction. I felt for them as they still had nearly 50 miles to go and long night ahead of them.

I went back through Sunrise aid again at mile 80 and got more Coke and Red Bull. The next 7 miles challenged me greatly. I felt like I was off course the whole time. Whenever I would see a flag, I would be overcome with joy and if I hadn't seen a flag for a few minutes I would have similar feelings of dread. Convinced I was off course, I even back tracked a few times only to find that I was on the correct route. Finally, at about mile 85, I went way off course, costing myself close to 15 minutes and almost the race.

I was very upset but took my critical mistake in stride. I was still running literally every step of the gradual uphill and my legs felt great. I got back on the correct trail convinced I had blown it but continued to crush the PCT all the way back to Pioneer Mail at mile 87.

I arrived at Pioneer Mail to find that I had somehow remained in the lead. This was a huge boost to both me and my crew who had grown very concerned about me during the previous stretch. As a special bonus, my crew had also secured me a pacer to escort me for the final half marathon. I, of course, intended to run this whole race alone but when the opportunity for companionship arose that late in the game, I was happy to take it.

My pacer turned out to be a ringer by the name of Jeff Hines, the inagural winner of the SD100 event back in 2001. Jeff had already consumed a six pack of beer but was an eager and priceless friend to have for the last stretch. We dominated together and had a great dynamic that I really valued. We knew that I had the win and CR all but sealed up so our race became about being smart and enjoying the moment.

The campground was welcomed sight for me as we approached one in the morning. Jeff and I crossed the finish together in 18:00 and I was beyond stoked. Lots of hugs and high fives were exchanged as I tried to collect myself and absorb the fact that I had managed to win.

All the joy was also accompanied by serious concern for my own well being. You see, I hadn't really urinated since 8am and had been consuming many liters of fluid throughout the day. I tried to pee probably 8 different times throughout the race and was only able to muster a few ounces of dark orange liquid just a couple times. I know the damages that ultras can inflict on human kidneys, so I was very concerned. This was compacted by the violent episode of projectile vomiting that occured not long after I crossed the finish. I felt like absolute shit but was also very happy. It was a strange moment in time for me.

The After
At about 4:30 in the morning, after tossing in my bed for several hours, I finally urinated. It was a small victory for me as I fist pumped alone in the dark bathroom of our hotel. I even woke up Courtnee to inform her of my accomplishment. Soon after, the flood gates opened and my stomach settled. I was ok. I was ecstatic.

This was another awesome ultra experience that I can add to the list. SD100 is an absolute top notch event. I dare say, a must do. The trails and weather were beautiful, and with 95 miles of single track, what more can you ask for? Big thanks to RD Scott Mills and his army of volunteers! You guys were awesome. I will definitely come back to this one.

Finally, thanks to my wonderful crew! I love you guys and appreciate that you are willing to support me through even my most questionable endeavors. You are the best.

Next is pacing at Hardrock! Gonna be Epic. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

SoCal Stokefest

In just over a week I'll be standing at the starting line of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run anxiously anticipating the agony and ecstasy that lay before me. This will only be my second attempt at the hundred mile distance but I hope to draw on what little experience I have, in hopes of producing a result that I'm proud of. My training has been pretty mellow by design since Collegiate Peaks, and I'm finally starting to notice that energetic feeling in my legs again after about a week of legitimate tapering. Needless to say, I am so excited to test my mettle against this abusive distance again and can hardly wait to get the pilgrimage under way.

I am not approaching this race with any concrete competitive goals. In fact, I hope I can keep racing out of my mind well into the second half of the day, and instead focus on running as well as I can given my current level of fitness. That all being said, I am very excited to race against the very competitive field that has been assembled. Of course, the field is not as deep as another California 100 in June (we all probably missed on the lottery), but it still should be entertaining to follow the front pack throughout the course of the day.

In thinking about this race during the last few weeks of preparation, I have determined a few things that I would like to accomplish for myself next weekend:

1. Stay ON Course - Easy enough right? Well not really for me, especially for how confusing this particular course is. I have been studying the maps and have every intention of running with my head up all day. Seriously though, this is my #1 goal. Seriously.

2. Stay out of my own head - The mental meltdown I suffered during Collegiate Peaks was quite startling and discouraging for me. Quite simply, I cannot let that happen again, especially at the 100 mile distance. Instead, when I hit inevitable low points, I intend to focus on how fortunate I am to do what I do. Staying positive and optimistic will be hugely important.

3. Stay THE Course - Finish by whatever means necessary. To this point, I have finished every ultra I have started. I don't intend to break the streak. Simple.

I will have a pretty solid team of friends and family there to support me along the way, but I intend to run this race pacerless ("Meltzer-Style" or "Soul Shredding") which should be interesting. I'll be wearing a somewhat fresh pair of Fireblades, rocking Sportiva Yellow, and chugging liters of EFS, Water, and Coca-Cola (nutrition of champions) along the way.

That's it. Ain't nothin' left to do but to do it. Fire it up.