Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run

From the darkness I heard a voice and felt myself being shaken awake. “You passed out, can you sit up?” In a haze I opened my eyes to stare into the face of a mountain biker leaning over me. Covered in dirt and blood my 100 mile race would be defined by just eight short minutes.

The Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run (TRT100) is run on two loops of a 50 mile dusty course in the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe between Carson City and Incline Village, Nevada. More than 80% of the miles are run higher than 8,000’ above sea level with a high point at Snow Valley Peak of 9,230’. Known for the spectacular views of nearby Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe TRT100 is expertly run by Race Directors George Ruiz and outgoing Race Director David Cotter along with their team of first class race organizers. Every detail was covered starting with the mandatory runner’s meeting on Friday afternoon prior to the race, down to the volunteer staffed wilderness aid stations, complete with a constant variety of warm food, blenders for Ensure smoothies and to my delight frozen sorbet on Sunday morning. Even though some of these aid stations required volunteer access via 2-4 mile hikes they rivaled the best I’ve experienced any where in my race experience. No description of TRT100 would be complete without mentioning the level of detail put into the handcrafted buckles awarded to all finishers. You would have to look far and wide to find a more impressively designed and made finishers buckle in ultra running.

On Sunday, July 21 at 4:00 p.m. the 2013 edition of TRT100 would close with just 118 finishers out of 200 starting ultra runners who braved record heat that found temperatures pushing 90° with single digit humidity at 8,000’. This was the lowest finishing percentage in the eight year history of TRT100.

My TRT100 Race Report

Walking to the start

Walking to the start

Parking 1/2 mile from the start at Spooner Lake State Park my wife and I took a private shuttle ride (we were the only one’s in the van when the next one pulled up behind us so the driver decided to go on with just us) to the race start drop off point. Walking through the dark forest with flood lights in the distance was surreal. It felt like something out of a sci-fi movie. I don’t like to stand around getting nervous so I only had 25 minutes before the start when we arrived, as 5:00 a.m. got closer the excitement built throughout the crowd of runners. A few short minutes before the start last minute instructions and encouragement was given by RD George Ruiz followed by an emotional playing of our national anthem. It doesn’t matter in what setting I hear our national anthem it always chokes me up, on July 20th at 4:58 a.m.
Photo by Joseph Azze

Photo by Joseph Azze

holding my wife in the flood lights deep in the forest might have been the most emotional I’ve ever been.

TRT100 starts with close to one mile of dirt road before turning into beautiful single track running on the way to Marlette Lake and the first aid station, Hobart, seven mile from the start. With 200 starters the single track forced mid pack runners into a fast uphill hike for the next three miles with no realistic chance or reason to try passing the line of runners ahead. Close to Marlette Lake things started to open up on a one mile downhill section of trail before joining into dirt road again. This was the last time it would be an issue with other runners on the trail blocking progress. Running along the shore of Marlette Lake was beautiful but just a very small taste of what we would see in the coming miles.

Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe (in the distance) from above.  Photo by Erin McKnight.

Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe (in the distance) from above. Photo by Erin McKnight.

Arriving at Hobart aid station I topped off my water and quickly moved on to immediately start the climb for my first look at Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe from above. Except for the spectacular views of both lakes things were uneventful through Tunnel Creek aid station where I weighed in 3 lbs. over my starting weight, the infamous Red House loop and on to Bull Wheel aid station at the top of Diamond Peak. From Bull Wheel aid station it’s over 8 miles to the next aid station at Diamond Peak ski resort. As the heat was setting in early I had 65 oz. of water when I left Bull Wheel, I’d need every last ounce of it. Continuing to climb I finally reached the turn off to Diamond Peak and a sign that read ” — 5.4 miles “. This stretch was all downhill, most of it steep enough to be jarring and made me aware it was too early to bomb down a grade this steep if I expected to finish the next 75 miles.

Knowing I had chicken soup waiting for me at Diamond Peak aid station I wanted to hold off taking another S!Caps in this stretch for fear of getting too much sodium at one time. But as the heat rose I decided around mile 28 not to wait. Trying to open the front pouch on my waist pack turned out to be too challenging as I bounced down this section of the trail. Just as I was about to give up I passed a mountain biker fixing a flat tire, 50′ further down the trail I pulled up fast when I spotted a couple 4′ high boulders that looked like a perfect place to sit down and grab an S!Caps. I remember climbing onto the middle boulder and looking down at my waist pack, the next thing I remember was the mountain biker shaking me awake. Before I was able to get to my feet several other runners with concerned faces stopped to help. As I slowly got my wits about me I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses on, I found them crumpled in the dirt next to a boulder (I sent them to the repair department at Maui Jim yesterday, we’ll see how good their 2 Year No Questions Asked Guarantee is). For the next 72 miles as I passed and got passed I heard over and over “You’re still running? I saw you passed out next to the trail this morning?!”. Having dealt with dehydration in most of my races I immediately assumed I was already suffering from dehydration and my weight was going to be way down when I had to weigh in at Diamond Peak aid station less than two miles away. Surprisingly I felt good when I stood up and started down the trail, covered in dirt and blood. Trying to brush the dirt off was pointless as it just smeared into my sweat and turned to mud. Less than a mile from Diamond Peak I crossed a creek where I took off my shirt, soaked it and attempted to clean myself up before my wife saw me in a few minutes.

Reapplying sunscreen at Diamond Peak aid station

Reapplying sunscreen at Diamond Peak aid station

Running into Diamond Peak aid station shirtless I immediately dropped my water bottles and waist pack to reluctantly step up on the scale…163.8 I was told. “What did you start at”? Uh, “164”. “You’re good to go, let’s clean up your face, what happened”? I refused the facial and got ready to leave Diamond Peak when my daughter found me. With my wife looking for my white Zane Grey 50 shirt and knowing I don’t run shirtless I’d gone right past without her recognizing me. During the conversation with my wife she asked if I fell…”yes”…end of story. No way I was going to tell her what really happened, that could wait until I could prove somewhere later in the day it wasn’t a problem. After cleaning up more and reapplying sunscreen I changed from my handhelds into my Ultimate Direction SJ Vest and grabbed my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles for the 1,800’ climb over the next 2.25 miles up Diamond Peak.
This is after my eye was cleaned up.  I don't know what it looked like before.

This is after my eye was cleaned up. I don’t know what it looked like before.

This was the worst section of the race for me, from the point I passed out, had too long of an aid station layover, then climbed Diamond Peak in 90° heat it took over 2:30 to go barely over 3 miles. For the rest of the day I would press to make up time on my self imposed 30 hour cut off.

As the temperatures rose so did the trail. It now felt like the trail was uphill in both directions to and from Diamond Peak and the forest seemed to open up and expose the trail to the hot sun every chance it got. Conserving energy and trying to stay hydrated were my only thoughts as I made it back through Tunnel Creek still on my exact weight and moving through Hobart aid station before starting the climb up to Snow Valley Peak, the highest point on the course at 9,230’ and easily the most beautiful. At Snow Valley Peak the Boy Scouts manning this remote aid station greeted me with an enthusiastic “Hi John! Welcome to Snow Valley Peak”. At this point I was feeling the best I had all day and ran the entire way from Snow Valley Peak into the 50 mile aid station and start of the second loop at Spooner Lake.

The Second 50

Changing socks and shoes at the 50 mile mark

Changing socks and shoes at the 50 mile mark

Waiting for me outside Spooner Lake aid station was my crew, consisting of my wife and children, as well as my safety runners for the rest of the way, Rich and Erin McKnight. When I reached the aid station I weighed in at 163.8 again. Completing the first 50 miles nearly two hours behind my desired schedule sucked but I still opted for a change into clean socks and different shoes. I also felt the best I had all day so felt I could make up the time down the trail somewhere.

As Rich and I left Diamond Peak I found it hard to get moving again. All that running coming into the Spooner Lake didn’t equate to running out of it and I found myself walking down the road before reaching the single track. For the next few miles we would hike, lay down (just me), get up hike some more, sit down (just me) and throughout the whole thing swatting mosquitoes and flies away from any exposed skin they could find.

With my first safety runner, Rich McKnight, leaving Spooner Lake

With my first safety runner, Rich McKnight, leaving Spooner Lake

Thankfully by time we reached Marlette Lake a second time the mosquitoes seemed to have given up on us and we made our way into Hobart aid station close to an hour behind my first loop pace. As we entered Hobart Rich suggested it was time for me to switch from my favorite e-Gels to solid food as I had mentioned it was getting harder and harder to take a gel. Reluctantly at Hobart I had a small piece of melon and some chicken noodles. Then had a small bite of freshly grilled hamburger, before I would leave Hobart I had eaten the rest of the hamburger and drank three small glasses of Coke.

We barely made it past the high point after Hobart where Rich got his first and only view of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe from above before darkness set in. My original plan was for Rich to have close to four hours of light to run in and we would hopefully make it through A Taste of Hell on the infamous Red House loop while it was still light enough to run hard downhill. That plan was out the window when I passed out at mile 28, now it was all I could do to keep moving through the night and try finishing. After grabbing my Ultimate Direction SJ Vest and Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles I had left at Tunnel Creek aid station after climbing Diamond Peak on the first loop Rich and I made the two hour trek through the Red House loop. Just before reaching the Red House I lost my balance crossing water and soaked both my feet, I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time but quickly started feeling friction and knew I was going to have to change socks again when I got back to Tunnel Creek. This time in the dark Red House was decorated in Christmas Lights and the aid station volunteers were dressed in festive Christmas outfits. Ho, ho, ho..ly hell. This loop seemed to fly by earlier in the day when it took me less than 1.5 hours, this time the turn off to climb back out seemed to never get there.

Weighing back in at Tunnel Creek my weight was once again 163 so I was still at my starting weight, I switched socks while Rich got me an avocado wrap and we were down the trail toward Bull Wheel 3.5 miles away. Time kept moving but I seemed to be standing still as we made it through Bull Wheel and finally started downhill toward Diamond Peak. Passing a few other runners on the downhill I kept watching for the place where I passed out. A couple times I told Rich “there it is” only to change my mind, I never did recognize the area. We finally made our way into Diamond Peak as the sun rose. Still weighing in at 163 I refused once again to get my face cleaned up and a butterfly put on my eye. I’d had it cleaned three times already and it just kept breaking open so I would worry about it after the race since the swelling had already gone down and it wasn’t bothering me at all. My feet were really sore at this point so I took the time to sit back, eat three pancakes and drink a cup of coffee while medical attended to my blisters. It turned out later this was a big waste of time…except for the pancakes and coffee that fueled me for a few hours.

With safety runner Erin McKnight

With safety runner Erin McKnight

It was now Erin’s turn to be my safety runner. Already apologizing to Erin for my slowness we passed a solo runner at the base of Diamond Peak and started our climb. The climb alone took me just over 1:40 on the first loop so I was expecting a 2 hour climb at least. Much to my surprise in the cooler early morning air we reached the top in just an hour on this second loop. As Erin and I made our way through Bull Wheel and onto Tunnel Creek the aid stations that seemed so far apart during the night were popping up unexpectedly fast now. With my weight still at 163.8 at Tunnel Creek we made our way as quickly as I could to Hobart aid station. By now I felt like I knew everyone there on a personal level and yelled “Hi Honey I’m home!”. Thinking we were running alone I was surprised to have two other runners enter the aid station less than 30 seconds behind me. Erin let me take a quick rest and ushered me out with the urgency that she didn’t want me to get passed. Honestly I didn’t care. I don’t run to pass other people or worry about what place I finish, my goal is to finish and be close to what I consider a respectable time for me. I told Erin it was ok to get passed but I felt she had other ideas as we made our way to the Snow Valley Peak turn off and my last big climb of the day. I mentioned earlier I think this is easily the most beautiful part of the course, and even though it climbs 1,800’ in three miles it doesn’t feel that hard because the views are so distracting.

Nearing Snow Valley Peak aid station.  Photo by Erin McKnight.

Nearing Snow Valley Peak aid station. Photo by Erin McKnight.

Entering Snow Valley Peak aid station once again we were greeted with an enthusiastic “Hi John!” by the local Boy Scout troop and given frozen raspberry sorbet as a special Sunday morning treat. Sitting in the aid station were the first two runners I’d seen since we left Hobart. Erin and I were out fairly quick and less than a mile later we were passing runners. First it was six different runners spread out over a hundred yards, Erin was so excited but I didn’t care, I was running hard and feeling great even though my feet were killing me and I’d already traveled over 93 miles. I complained about my feet most the way from Diamond Peak but honestly they hurt worse than I’ve ever felt. Every step was intensely painful and I remember telling Erin at one point they hurt so bad when I walked and just as much when I ran…so I might as well just run. After passing the first group of runners I was expecting more but we ran hard for what felt like a couple miles before seeing a lone couple trying to hike/jog quickly downhill as we passed them. Then there were more. With every runner we passed Erin gave me encouragement and her enthusiasm and competitiveness started to rub off on me. Passing runners was giving me even more energy and taking my mind off my painful feet.
Coming out of the trees toward the finish

Coming out of the trees toward the finish

Before we reached Spooner Lake and started the long last 1.4 miles along the shoreline to the finish I was starting to get emotional about what I was about to accomplish. It always happens so I shouldn’t be surprised but I always find it hard to choke back the tears and wipe the smile off my face. Coming out of the trees to run along the shore I heard the cheers from my family and Rich from across Spooner Lake. Passing one last runner less than a 1/2 mile from the finish line I was met by my family and told my children to run in with me as I neared the finish line where I was greeted by Race Director George Ruiz who congratulated me as he shook my hand, 31 hrs, 33 min after I started.

The Aftermath

The "finish train".  Running 100 miles is a group effort in my house so we all enjoy the finish line equally.

The “finish train”. Running 100 miles is a group effort in my house so we all enjoy the finish line equally. Photo by Rich McKnight.

Missing my self imposed 30 hour cut off and not getting the silver buckle is a big disappointment to me. If we’d had the cooler mid 70’s temperatures I was expecting I don’t think it would’ve been a problem for me to be close to the 28 hours I had in mind before the start. But simply completing TRT100 under the circumstances, especially after passing out early in the race is very satisfying. Also, finishing as strong as I did is very satisfying and thanks to Erin McKnight I have a whole new perspective on running ultra races. I think I might look at them more in the future as “races” and not just “runs”.

From a medical standpoint three things jump out at me as I look back.

  1. My weight in the first aid station was + 3 lbs. after that I was between 163-163.8 the entire 100 miles. For me this is amazing because I often times lose 10-15 lbs in shorter races even in cooler temperatures. I ran the entire race on water, no electrolyte drinks ever. I attribute this to following the advice of Crank Sports, maker of e-Gel, President Mike Mathewson. I’ll be reviewing e-Gel soon in an upcoming article for Trail Running Club.
  2. Not as bad as it originally looked

    Not as bad as it originally looked

    I didn’t have any muscle soreness in my legs after Monday and what little I had on Monday was no worse than a normal leg workout with weights at my gym. As I poked around at my blisters they didn’t hurt on Monday either. But five days later I still have a lot of pain in the pads on the bottom of my forefeet directly behind my toes. It feels like this area is severely bruised but there is no discoloring at all. It feels like the nerves are on the outside of my skin. I might have recovered quicker in this area but we spent 2 1/2 days walking around Las Vegas on the way home, I’m sure several miles walking on concrete didn’t help.
  3. When I was getting my blisters worked on at mile 80 the medic asked me about the blood that had once again run down my face from my eye. When I told him what happened and it wasn’t dehydration he chuckled and said I probably just stopped too fast, my legs had been helping circulate the blood and suddenly weren’t. To top it off I’d looked down at my waist pack which could squeeze the arteries in my neck. All of these things combined just dropped the oxygen level going to my brain to fast and I blacked out. He laughed it off and didn’t seem too concerned. Of course I told him 50 miles after the fact so it was obvious the concern level would be a lot less than if he’d seen me less than a mile after it originally happened.

Right now my plan is to make Western States 100 my next 100 mile run…er, I mean race. I’ll enter the lottery in December for a normally less than 10% chance of getting my name drawn. If I get in I’ll train my butt off (and pray for cooler weather) to get that sub 24 hour buckle. If I don’t get in I’ll keep trying to qualify but I’ll do it via 50 mile races each year. I just don’t see any other 100 mile races that get me excited right now and I’m not a person who likes to run just to say I did it. Maybe that will change or maybe I’ll find a race I think is so neat I have to add it to my bucket list but I don’t see that happening any time soon.


My Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run finishers buckle

My Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run finishers buckle

I loved my experience at TRT100 this year. I want to give a big shout out to my family for their support over the past six months of training and crewing for me during the race. Also a huge thank you to Rich and Erin McKnight for being my safety runners and getting me through the last 50 miles. Never was there a thought of stopping because I knew they were there to help me and I would not only be letting myself down but them as well. I’d also like to thank Race Directors George Ruiz and David Cotter along with their incredible staff of volunteer organizers and aid station volunteers for putting on a first class event. I can’t think of one single area that I’d change or they didn’t do an excellent job of planning and executing.

If you have any thoughts of running TRT100 in 2014 I’d encourage you to do it. But be ready on January 1, 2014 when registration opens at midnight PCT. This year’s 2013 edition sold out in less than 8 hours and I’ll guarantee 2014 sells out even faster.

Until the next time..be safe and have fun!

A Few Final Random Photos

Friday bib pick up and check in

Friday bib pick up and check in

Waiting for the start of the race

Waiting for the start of the race

Leaving Diamond Peak the first time

Leaving Diamond Peak the first time

My starting weight, 164 lbs.  10% high or low and I'm out of the race for good.

My starting weight, 164 lbs. 10% high or low and I’m out of the race for good.

Weighing in at Diamond Peak aid station after 80 miles

Weighing in at Diamond Peak aid station after 80 miles

On course photo

On course photo

2/3 the way up Diamond Peak around mile 81.  Photo by Erin McKnight.

2/3 the way up Diamond Peak around mile 81. Photo by Erin McKnight.

On Snow Valley Peak looking at Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe.  Photo by Erin McKnight.

On Snow Valley Peak looking at Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe. Photo by Erin McKnight.

Leaving Snow Valley Peak aid station.  Photo by Erin McKnight.

Leaving Snow Valley Peak aid station. Photo by Erin McKnight.

Climbing Diamond Peak Thursday before the race

Climbing Diamond Peak Thursday before the race

Receiving my finishers buckle at the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon

Receiving my finishers buckle at the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon

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Final Update Before Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Is it just me or does everything go crazy just prior leaving town? Seems like life just goes on without incident month after month then a week before I leave town every time BAM! POW! WHAM! holy chaos Batman…everything goes crazy. I’m no way ready to leave for Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Endurance Run, but guess what? I’ll walk out the door as planned, get in the car, take a deep breath and push all of it out of my mind and start focusing on running…and running…and running…and running some more.

On the way to Lake Tahoe I’ll stay overnight in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I only mention this because I’m REALLY excited to see Mammoth Lakes. Don’t ask me why because I don’t really know. Maybe because it sits at 8,000′ above sea level and I know it’s going to be cooler than Arizona. Maybe it’s because I just love being in the mountains and Mammoth Lakes looks like a neat little ski area with cool restaurants and lodges. I’m only going to be there long enough to eat dinner, sleep, get up, do a short run, then get in the car and finish the trip to Incline Village where I’ll stay for the race.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked several questions about the race, I thought it would be fun to share a few of them here and try to answer them.

Q. What happens when you get to the race?
A. When I get to the race Saturday morning I just start running. I don’t like standing around getting nervous so I normally try to get there 15-20 minutes prior to the 5:00 a.m. start.

Friday is the big day. 100M packet pick-up, pre-race med checks and drop bag collection will be from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Carson City, Nevada. Then a “MANDATORY” 100M race briefing will begin at 4:00 p.m. in the Legislative building. At this meeting up‐to‐date conditions, any changes in race rules or procedures and last‐minute instructions will be provided.

Part of the pre-race medical check is to have our weight taken. That information will be noted on a medical wristband and placed on our wrist. We must wear the wristband for the entire race. During the race if our weight drops past a certain amount runners will be held in an aid station until their can get my weight back up. If it falls too much they’ll pull runners from the race.

After all that I’ll go back to the condo I have rented in Incline Village, eat a light, early dinner and try to relax with a good book.

Q. How long will it take you to run this race?
A. Stop asking me that! No seriously, I don’t really know. For every race I’ve ever entered I’ve had a good idea what my finishing time should be. For TRT100 I can’t figure it out. I started at 26-28 hours, after seeing split times from previous years I had the crazy idea sub 24 hours was a realistic goal. Then I started reading race reports from last year and found some reports from runners who I know and I started wondering if I could even break 30 hours. So now I don’t think about it and have tried very, very hard to push any time ideas out of my head completely.

Q. If you don’t have a time goal what is your goal?
A. Good question. My goal is to run a “smart” race. How am I going to measure that? First of all I need to stay on top of my hydration, that’s the one key item for me that I always struggle with. Instead of laying on a medical cot for a couple hours like I did at the Adrenaline 65K (and multiple other races) I would be better served slowing down, drinking more and being able to keep moving the entire time. My other action item it to stay strong mentally and stay in the moment the entire time. To do that I’ll run aid station to aid station and enjoy the journey. By simply doing that my time will take care of itself and I’ll end up finishing where I deserve to finish.

Q. Are you ready?
A. Yes. Physically I’m pretty sure I am but there’s nothing I can do about it now if I’m not. My training started on January 21st. I’ve shared a few of my runs with you like R2R2R in the Grand Canyon, Humphreys Peak loop and the Adrenaline 65k Night Race. I reached my highest mile weeks in late June when I ran 103 miles the week of June 17 and 98 miles the week of June 24 (201 miles in 13 days). After that I started a three week taper doing 70 miles, then 44 miles last week and this week I’ll do three short runs totaling 18 miles prior to Saturday’s race start.

Mentally I am absolutely ready. I’m excited to get there and to start running. I’m also ready to suffer and suffer a lot. I’ve had races where I thought I was so ready it would be easy and paid for it. I know TRT100 is going to be really hard and there will be times of suffering and pain, both physical and mental. I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to pushing through it.

Q. Is there a way I can track your progress?
A. Yes. The easiest and most reliable way will be to go to www.ultralive.net. You can search the “Entrants” in the left navigation and select my name and save me as a “Favorite”. From then on you can just go to your favorites or you can view “Top Men” and look way down the list to find my name.

Also, I think my crew will update Facebook for me but not sure. They will only see me a few times during the race so it won’t be a high priority for them.

Final Thought

I’m really looking forward to this race. I’m sure by Friday I’ll be so nervous I’ll have thoughts and doubts of why I’m doing it but that’s normal and it will pass as soon as I cross the start line Saturday morning.

If you want to learn more about the race itself visit the official race website at http://www.tahoemtnmilers.org/trter/TRTindex.html

Until next week when I’ll write my race recap…be safe and have fun!

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Chasing Women and Drinking All Night Long

In your 20’s when you go out chasing women and drinking all night long it was called “sowing wild oats”…now 30 years later it’s called “ultra running”. Although the actions and ultimate goals have changed drastically it really isn’t that much different. June 8, 2013 with my wife and kids out of town and the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance 100 Mile Run only six weeks away I made my way out to our local county park for the Aravaipa Running Insomniac Series Adrenaline Night Run. My goal was to run 65K (40 miles for you metrically challenged readers), chase women (and men) in hopes of passing them and drinking enough water all night over that distance to survive the 106° start time temperature. Basically all I wanted to do was get some miles on my legs, as it turned out it was a night I won’t soon forget.

At the start.  106° and looking forward to running 40 miles.

At the start. 106° and looking forward to running 40 miles.

I can tell this story in the long version or the short version, I’ll spare you a lot of the details and give you the short version. As I mentioned the temperature was hot, driving into the park 20 minutes prior to the start my truck thermometer read 106°. The local runners had been watching the forecast all week so it wasn’t a surprise that most of the prerace favorites weren’t “racing” but simply out to get some miles and enjoy their friends. A week prior to the race local favorites Jay Danek and Paulette Zillmer had conspired to run a few laps together to use the race as a supported training run (more on Jay Danek later). Chris Stanfield fresh off finishes at the brutally tough Zane Grey 50 Mile and Jemez Mountain 50 Mile races dropped after two easy loops (16 miles) as he prepares for the Tahoe Rim Trial Endurance Run in July and Seth Redden, who’s always a podium threat, ran one eight mile loop with the leaders then joined his preteen children as they competed in the shorter distance races also taking place on the same loop course. The only local runner putting in a full effort was the cyborg Cristian Rios. Do they really call him “The Cyborg”? I doubt it but he ran like he wasn’t human in the heat to pull away with an impressive 40+ minute victory. In a sport where age and experience is a big advantage this 20 year old out of Phoenix, AZ looks to have an exciting ultra running future ahead of him. But I digress…back to chasing women and drinking all night long.

After the sun went down the shirt came off.  It was still 90°+ but felt cool with a slight breeze in the desert.

After the sun went down the shirt came off. It was still 90°+ but felt cool with a slight breeze in the desert.

As I made it through the first of five, eight mile, loops I had been running as a very conservative pace and drinking 21 ounces of water every four miles plus chugging more water at the aid stations. In my 20’s I chugged beer at the bar, we thought of them as “aid stations” at the time though. I did this for the first 24 miles of the run and things were fairly uneventful except the last ½ mile of each loop was uphill and I would enter the start/finish line aid station needing a minute to get my heart rate down as volunteers filled my water so I could go back out. At the end of 24 miles friend and local favorite Jay Danek came over to talk for a few minutes. As mentioned previously Jay had just been out for a few planned loops to get some training miles in and stopped after 16 miles. Jay asked if I wanted some company on the next loop but I declined. As most of you know Jay runs every day…as in 923 days in a row until he took one day off last year on 9/23/2012, and hasn’t missed a day of running since then. Jay was hanging out until midnight so he could go back out to get in four miles then go home. I felt good but it was approaching midnight, way past my normal bed time so I was feeling tired when I went out for my fourth loop.

After a few miles on loop four I tripped for at least the 10th time and hit the ground deepening the bruises on my already sore hands and taking more skin off my already bloody knees. After a string of four letter expletives I picked myself up and heard “John? You ok?”. It was Jay. He’d taken off at midnight to get his daily miles in but caught me before he turned around. So Jay and I took off down the trail talking and laughing and simply enjoying each other’s company and getting some miles in for training. When we approached the half way aid station on the loop I still had some water in my bottle, which I shouldn’t have, and had them top it off before heading out without drinking extra as planned. Jay and I were making good time for me at this point in the run after close to 30 miles. As we hit the last ½ mile uphill section I suddenly got extremely light headed at the top of a short but steep climb. Oh shit! That’s not a good sign and I immediately knew I was over the edge of dehydration.

Jay trying to get me to move...Jay's not a very sympathetic person I found out.

Jay trying to get me to move…Jay’s not a very sympathetic person I found out. (There are pictures of me in my 20’s bent over ready to hurl floating around too I’m sure.)

With Jay telling me to get moving and me trying to go slow and keep it together neither of us won as I went down on the trail within just a hundred yards of the start/finish line aid station. Before I made it the last few yards I had a medical EMT and race officials bringing me a chair then a cot to lie on. I quickly learned EMT’s don’t have a good sense of humor when they’re responsible for your well being…they take their responsibility very seriously.

As I laid on the medical cot the EMT took my blood pressure…90 over 70. She tried taking my pulse but couldn’t get a pulse. After several failed attempts I tried to explain that I did in fact have a pulse but no matter how hard I tried she wouldn’t let me leave. One by one as I laid on the cot, shivering and shaking because what blood I had left in me had left my extremities to protect my internal organs and keep them working (according to the EMT) I watched runners pass me and my 5th place position slowly turned into dead last. After 1 ½ hours being held captive by the EMT my blood pressure was up to 97 over 70 but still no pulse. This entire time my loyal sidekick, Jay Danek, sat by the cot listening to my nonsense and insisting he wasn’t going home if I was going back out on the trail. The EMT finally and reluctantly allowed me to sign a release form, I filled my water bottle and I was back on the trail.

While I was slogging down the trail Jay ran into a friend, Lisa Larabell, who was going out for her last loop too. This was the longest run Lisa had ever attempted so I told Jay to stick with her no matter what, as it turned out all three of us ran the last eight miles together. It was one of the most enjoyable eight miles I can remember as Jay and I bantered back and forth, laughed at how stupid I was to put myself “on the cot” and watched Lisa run nearly every single step of the way. Her determination was inspiring and made me remember why I enjoy these long runs so much. It’s not about the miles or the physical speed, it’s about the mental determination and perseverance.

When I finished, in dead last place, I found the EMT that helped me. During the 1 ½ hours on the cot I gave her such a bad time, always jokingly but I’m pretty dry and pretty sarcastic so it’s hard to tell sometimes if I’m joking or not. When I got close to the EMT she gave me a big hug, told me she was so proud of me for finishing but still thought I was an idiot for going back out.

So in the end I got my 40 mile training run in with a little 1 ½ hour + rest and a lot of personal satisfaction. And just like in my 20’s I let every single woman get past me and even though I drank all night long I once again experienced the feeling of not drinking enough. AND I know there are some embarrassing pictures floating around out there that haven’t surfaced …yet. I’m sure if I run for public office in 2014 it will take less than 24 hours for Justin Lutick and James Bonnett to post those pictures on the internet.

Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run Training Update

Since the fateful 40 mile night at the Adrenaline race I took it easy by running 70 miles the following week. Then this week I put in my longest week to date in this training cycle by running 103 miles.

Monday: 20 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 12 miles
Thursday: 20 miles
Friday: 12 miles
Saturday: 26.5 miles
Sunday: 7.5 miles

Most days I woke up between 3 – 3:30 a.m. trying to beat our Arizona June heat. Saturday I woke up at 2:10 a.m. All fun stuff? No not really…it sucks, especially when I don’t turn the lights off most nights until after 10 p.m. But it is what it is and I’m finally this week feeling like I’m both mentally and physically close to being ready to tackle 100 miles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Lake Tahoe where the average altitude for the race will be more than 8,000 feet above sea level (a high point of 9,214 feet above sea level). Have you ever been in the mountains? It not flat up there either! Tomorrow, Monday June, 24 I’ll take a day off from running, my first in almost two weeks. I’ve run 19 out of the last 20 days so I’m looking forward to not running tomorrow and only lifting weights at the gym. Then Tuesday I start another week where I’ll run 94 miles over six days before starting my three week taper going into the Tahoe race.

Thanks for reading and all your supportive comments. Until the next time…be safe and have fun!

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Humphreys Peak – 12,633’ Above Sea Level

IMG_20130601_133510Just a few weeks after running Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon I was back at it last Saturday running with friend Andy Gage in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness – Coconino National Forest. By itself the Kachina Peaks Wilderness with 18,960 acres of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forests in a roadless wilderness is a trail runners dream. Add in the fact that it also has the San Francisco Peaks which contain the highest peaks in Arizona and its easy to reach trail running nirvana. The following peaks are all found in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area:

• Humphreys Peak, 12,633 feet
• Agassiz Peak, 12,356 feet
• Fremont Peak, 11,969 feet
• Aubineau Peak, 11,838 feet
• Rees Peak, 11,474 feet
• Doyle Peak, 11,460 feet
• Kendrick Peak, 10,418 feet
• Shultz Peak, 10,083 feet

Our run on Saturday took us from the Kachina Trail to Weatherford Trail up to the Doyle and Fremont Saddles before passing along side Agassiz Peak and finally climbing the summit of Humphreys Peak. After a quick summit of Humphreys Peak we took the fast descent down the Humphreys Trail for a round trip total of 22 miles (normally 21 miles but we ran a mile at the start looking for the actual trailhead for Kachina?!).

Starting at 9,304’ above sea level Andy and I dropped down to a low of 8,795’ above sea level before climbing all the way to the peak of Humphreys at 12,633’. I’ve been sleeping in a Hypoxico altitude tent to get ready for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Run in July but only for the past two weeks so it’s likely done more harm than good at this point. I didn’t feel the typical affects of altitude like headaches, lack of oxygen etc. but it certainly slowed down my running pace.

Weatherford Trail is like running on marbles

Weatherford Trail is like running on marbles

The trail went from smooth and groomed on Kachina to five miles of running on marbles when we hit the Weatherford Trail…then it got bad. All week we wondered if we would get a chance to see some snow near the top, by time we hit the Doyle Saddle we had more snow than we ever cared to see. In places we could see where there were landslides/avalanches since last Fall and snow was at least 6’ deep and more in several places as we post holed our way through not knowing most the time where the trail even was. It took us over 48 minutes to go one mile, then 35, 27, 48 and 37 minutes over the next four miles. I wouldn’t do it again this weekend but its great to look back on and something I’ll not soon forget. Meanwhile as we were plowing through the snow at 11,000’ above sea level the temperature was 106° at home, less than two hours away by car.

After reaching the peak of Humphreys we had a rocky one mile descent back to the main trail then five miles of roots and hell to the parking lot. Maybe the Humphreys Trail isn’t that bad if you start out on it but after climbing over 4,500’ between 9,000’-12,600’ and 17 miles the roots and rocks on Humphreys sucked. I was glad to see out of shape people in jeans and sandals walking on the trail, that meant I couldn’t be very far from the parking lot, and sure enough in less than a mile I came out of the trees to a narrow open meadow (a ski run in the winter) left to get to the parking lot.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this run was a 12. I can’t wait to do it again but I’ll gladly postpone it until after I run the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in late July so the snow has a chance to melt.

Until the next time…be safe and have fun!

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Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R)

Last Saturday, May 11th, I ran R2R2R in the Grand Canyon for the first time. It turned out to be one of those great moments in life that lived up to all the hype I created in my mind before hand. You know all those things in your life you’ve looked forward too for so long and got so excited about but when they finally arrived they turned out to be “just ok” or worse yet they sucked? For me running R2R2R in the Grand Canyon wasn’t one of them, it was everything I anticipated and much, much more.

There is only a small window of time in the Spring and Fall when a sane person would run R2R2R in the Grand Canyon. That time of year when they have the water turned on all the way across and on the North Rim but it’s still not too hot to attempt it. Those times are early May and mid October each year. This year I planned this trip with four other local friends and runners for May 11th but kept that date somewhat flexible based on the weather and water conditions. On May 6th the National Park Service posted on the back country information area of their website the water had been turned on at the North Rim and all areas of the Canyon so we were good to go.

The morning of May 11th I had the alarm set for 3:50 a.m. but it didn’t matter, friend and fellow runner Andy Gage was sharing a room with me and he was already up and had the coffee going. We needed to eat and get ready so we could catch the 5:00 a.m. Early Hikers Shuttle out of Bright Angel Lodge. More friends and running partners Deron Ruse and Marc Thompson showed up in our room and we hurried around to rush over to the shuttle stop. Not know exactly where the shuttle stop was we parked in the first place we could find. As we got out of the car the shuttle went by and we were already running, but we weren’t in the Canyon, we were running down the road trying to catch the shuttle! Jumping on the shuttle we already had our heart rates up, our blood pumping and a funny moment to remember for several years to come.

After a 30 minute shuttle ride to the S. Kaibab Trail we were ready to start our run. Standing in the parking lot it was 36°, I turned my GPS watch on only to find out the battery was low, low as in it ran for one minute and shut off, even though it had been charging all day the day before. Garmin GPS watches suck, I can’t recommend anyone owning one unless you have a high tolerance for frustrating, high priced technology that you honestly can live without. From that point and for the next hour and forty minutes everything went downhill. Not as in everything went bad, I mean literally every step I took for the next hour and forty minutes was downhill into the Grand Canyon.

Running down S. Kaibab Trail

Running down S. Kaibab Trail

The views were beyond spectacular. We were six adults running down the trail acting and feeling like little kids on their first day of summer vacation from school. Half way to the bottom we passed a mule train carrying supplies to the bottom, a mile later we ran past two deer grazing at the side of the trail with no cares at all humans were running past them. Through this section and the entire day it was rare to run more than a mile without seeing something that just amazed me. Often time I would take my phone out to take a picture, put it away and 100 feet later round a corner only to see something even more amazing.

Too early for Lemmy but the water spigot worked and was ice cold.

Too early for Lemmy but the water spigot worked and was ice cold.

Our first water stop of the day was at Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the Canyon after we crossed the Colorado River. We refilled our water and got back on the trail to weave our way through The Box on the way to Cottonwood Campground. The Box is a very cool stretch that crisscrosses Bright Angel Creek several times as it passes through sheer rock walls that appear to be a thousand feet high (or higher, I’m just guessing on the actual height but it was really tall).

Nearing Cottonwood Campground

Nearing Cottonwood Campground

Nearly seven miles after leaving Phantom Ranch we arrived in Cottonwood Campground. From here for the next two miles the trail would climb steady then take on a sudden steepness five miles from the top of the North Rim that had me concerned, I didn’t want to be carrying any more than I had to at that point. We refilled our water and unloaded weight out of our packs in the way of extra food and clothing. I brought along a nylon bag just for this purpose, after filling the bag with unneeded items we hid it behind a large rock and would retrieve it when we came back down off the North Rim later in the day.

Looking back on the "easy" part of N. Kaibab Trail

Looking back on the “easy” part of N. Kaibab Trail

Remember what I said about new and amazing things every few miles? Going up the North Kaibab trail is a perfect example. Only 1.6 miles before reaching Cottonwood Campgroup we passed Ribbon Falls. 1.4 miles after Cottonwood Campground was Pumphouse Residence, 0.7 miles later was Roaring Springs, 3 miles later was Supai Tunnel and 1.7 miles after that was the top of the North Rim, 21 miles from where we started. In between all this the landscape turned from low desert like we have around home to the heart of the Ponderosa Pine forest with huge pine trees in every direction and the smell of fresh pine filling the air. With the North Rim at 8,250 feet above sea level, nearly 5,800 feet higher than Phantom Ranch, it was windy and much colder at the top. The views were also spectacular as we could make out the snow filled top of Mt. Humphreys to the south, about 80 miles away outside Flagstaff.

Proof I made it to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Proof I made it to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

After spending close to 30 minutes on the North Rim (way too long) Deron Ruse and I were on our way back down the N. Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch. On tired legs going down the steep trail and hopping over the bazillion steps created by the National Park Service was not as enjoyable as one would think. But it was faster than going up and it allowed for me to put in the next 14 miles with a much lower heart rate than I had on the climb up. By time I reached Cottonwood Campground to retrieve the extra food and clothing I’d stored on the way up the temperatures were in the lower 90’s. We were also back in the lower desert with no tree cover so the next seven miles into Phantom Ranch would be hot but there would be some intermittent shade provided in The Box by the canyon walls.

Getting to Phantom Ranch before they closed at 4:00 p.m. was a major goal since I’d heard so much about the “Lemmy” lemonade. With my GPS dead I was running on nothing more than a guess as to how many miles I had left and if I was running at the correct pace to arrive in Phantom Ranch on time. As luck would have it I did make it to Phantom Ranch in time and purchased Lemmy’s for both me and Deron who was somewhere behind me. Prior to going to the Grand Canyon I had read numerous recaps from other runners and they all raved about how good the Lemmy was. Did the taste live up to the hype? Yes. Am I glad I drank one? Um, sort of. It’s like many things I’ve done in my life, I’m glad I did it once but I have no plans to do it again. After waiting five minutes for Deron to arrive and resting at Phantom Ranch again for way too long we took off down the trail for the Colorado River. Almost immediately I wished I hadn’t drank that Lemmy (and the refill) as the sugar was really starting to upset my stomach. For the next few miles walking through the sand along the Colorado River I drank as much water as possible trying to dilute the Lemmy. It was the only time all day my stomach bothered me. The next time I do this I might take a sip of Lemmy just to taste it and stick to water like I should have this time.

The Devil's Corkscrew.  It's name says it all.

The Devil’s Corkscrew. It’s name says it all.

Leaving Phantom Ranch we had 9.9 miles left, but that included almost 4,500 feet of climbing over the last eight miles with the steepest miles being the last five out of Indian Garden. By time I hit the Devil’s Corkscrew I felt good but was taken back by how winded I got going up through the Corkscrew. It wasn’t until I reached the top and looked back that I realized even where I was and how steep the section of trail was that I just climbed. From there into Indian Garden was just a mile but it seemed to go on forever. I had stopped to take several videos along the way and was now behind Deron and going solo.

I thought I was feeling good as I entered Indian Garden, I had a nice visit with an old timer who had been hiking since 7:00 a.m. and thought at the pace he was going he wouldn’t be out of the Canyon until close to 1:00 a.m. Little did I know until after I got home and was watching videos I’d taken that I might have felt great at Indian Garden but I was actually delirious. All along the trail I kept talking to myself about “Indian Garden this…Indian Garden that…blah, blah, blah”. But in my video I immediately started it with “I’m approaching Phantom Ranch” then later in the video I called it “Phantom Ranch” again. If I’d been riding one of the Grand Canyon mules up out of there I could’ve been arrested for riding under the influence the way the video sounds.

The rest of the hike (there was no running up those steep trail left in me at this point) was uneventful other than the number of people I passed. It’s unbelievable with all the warning signs posted on the South Rim, and along the first few miles of trail toward the top, the number of people sitting and laying along the trail out of water and only little 16 ounce convenience store bottles in their hands that once held what precious little water they had. It’s also amazing how many people you see in flip flops, sandals and flats instead of decent shoes one would think appropriate on a trail in the wilderness.

As I reached the trailhead for the Bright Angel Trail after being in the Grand Canyon for 48 miles I knew I was the last person in our group out of the Canyon. My friend Andy was waiting for me with my hooded sweatshirt and that “where in the hell have you been” look in his eyes. I had slowed down considerably coming up the trail from the Colorado River but it wasn’t just physical. I have over an hour worth of videos and close to 50 pictures on my cell phone to prove I can waste as much time not moving on a scenic trail as anyone.

To finally bring this to a close I want to make a couple quick statements. First of all the Grand Canyon is an absolutely beautiful place and the diversity of it’s views and mini ecosystems tucked around every corner are something everyone should see at least once in their life time. But that’s only a small part of what makes running in the Grand Canyon so great. Taking time to notice the incredible number of man hours it took to get the Grand Canyon trails and campgrounds where they are today is mind boggling. If the Grand Canyon was virgin territory today and we had to start over with unlimited man hours I can’t believe we could accomplish in the next 20-30 years the amount of work that has already taken place. To think about the bridges being built, the number of buildings, stone walls and tunnels built through thousand feet high blocks of granite, all without the use of modern construction equipment is more than my simple brain can imagine. And last but not least what makes running in the Grand Canyon memorable is the people you meet on the trail and in the campgrounds. There are so many interesting people from all over the world in the Grand Canyon, if you don’t stop to say “hi” and visit with them for a few minutes you aren’t fully experiencing the Grand Canyon.

So what’s next? It sounds like a trip to Flagstaff to run the trails around and to the top of 12,637 feet high Mt. Humphreys is in the works for early June. Then on June 8th I’m running in a 65K night race on trails near my house. If all goes as planned I’ll go an extra 8.2 mile loop when I finish to get in over 49 miles as I peak for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run on July 20.

Until the next time…be safe and have fun!

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Back in the thick of it…

Yesterday’s Run

It’s beautiful in Arizona this time of year, the temperatures are cool in the morning and moderate during the day plus the desert has been in full bloom for the past several weeks. Yesterday I ran for 5.5 hours taking my time while climbing the tallest peaks in the McDowell Mountains next to my house. I took a few pictures I thought you would enjoy, because I enjoyed the sights in person.

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A Quick Update Since Last Year

After a less than stellar racing season in 2012 where every race I entered experienced record heat (me running 50 to 100 miles on sunny 90°+ days is not a good combination) I’m back in 2013 with a new outlook on training, a completely different training period and a new attitude on running. It goes much deeper than what I’m writing here but here’s the gist of each.

New Outlook on Training. In the past I’ve focused on simply piling on the miles. All these miles were run at the same speed and I just pounded my way through them. It worked in 2011 when my goals were conservative in relation to finishing time. But in 2012 when I tried running faster times (yes, in record heat each time) I found I only had one gear and trying to race faster resulted in slower finishing times and a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish).

So in 2013 I’m changing my training paces by doing very fast (for me) track work, followed by a very slow recovery day, followed by an intense hill climbing day, followed by a very slow recovery day, then my long runs on the weekend. The result so far is I feel stronger at this stage of my training than ever before and my perceived effort level has changed dramatically. I still “feel” the same when I get tired on long runs but when I look at my pace it’s ofter a minute to minute and a half faster than in past years when I felt tired. I’m cautiously optimistic this is a big improvement over past years but I haven’t had a chance to test it past 25 miles yet so we’ll see what happens when I go for a real run.

Different Training Period. The last two years my main focus has been on one key race in October/November with other races sprinkled in as training. This made my training start in late May early June and all my miles were done through the heat of an Arizona summer. In 2013 my focus is on running the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run. This is a much harder 100 mile race than I’ve previously attempted with over 24,000′ of elevation gain and more than 80 of those miles being higher than 8,000′ above sea level. With Tahoe Rim Trail 100 being held in July my training started in February and I’ve been running in a lot of cool and sometimes cold Arizona mornings. I’ll also get a taste of the heat starting in June and when I taper in July but I’m really looking forward to finishing Tahoe Rim Trail 100 then taking a break from training in the dog days of August and September.

A New Attitude on Running. Maybe it’s just a new attitude on racing but focusing on a race is the only reason I run anyway and it’s my blog so I’ll call it what I want. In the past I’ve focused on the miles, both in training and for a race. Notice my blog is still called “My Quest to Run 100 Miles (in less than 24 hours)”. My new focus is on where I run and not how far or how fast. I’ve decided if I wouldn’t go somewhere on a family vacation to just chill out and enjoy the scenery then why would I go there and beat my brains out trying to run 100 miles. After all this is supposed to be enjoyable isn’t it? So this year enter the Tahoe Rim Trail, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Maybe I’ll carry a small paperback book with me and if I have trouble running I’ll sit down in a beautiful place and read my book instead. HA!

Upcoming Adventures

Going into Tahoe Rim Trail 100 I have a few things I’m going to do as training. The first will be in early May when I run Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) in the Grand Canyon with a handful of friends. The route we are taking is about 48 miles. Living in Arizona I’ve visited the Grand Canyon a few times and taken a day hike with my family but this will be completely different. I’ve wanted to do this run for the past few years and almost did it last year before my plans fell through. To say I’m excited is an understatement. My only concern is…drum roll please…the heat! Yes, early May on the rim of the Grand Canyon will be spectacular. But in the bottom temperatures can typically reach 105°-110° at midday, which will be our return time off the North Rim as we venture back across the Colorado River and start climbing our way out. I’m still looking forward to it and doing it with a small group of fun people.

My other planned race right now is the Adrenaline Night race in early June. This race starts at 7:00 p.m. and goes through the night as June in Arizona has the highest average temperature of any month. I look at it like the old joke about NASA sending astronauts to the sun…they’ll land at night so they don’t burn up on impact. I’m signed up to run 65K (which I calculated and it’s really 66K+) and would like to run an additional 8.2 mile loop after I finish to get close to the 50 miles I want for Tahoe training.

Vote For Jay

vote_4_jay_2For those of you who haven’t seen my pleas to help my friend Jay Danek win a sponsorship giveaway by First Endurance he needs your vote. I created a page on my running blog “Trail Running Club” explaining who Jay is and why he deserves your vote. You don’t have to be a runner yourself, just trust me, Jay deserves this and needs help winning. I’d greatly appreciate you voting for Jay and share his profile on your Facebook asking your friends to vote for him also. Here’s the link: http://www.trailrunningclub.com/blog/2013/04/11/help-jay-danek-win-the-great-sponsorship-giveaway/

One Last Thing…A New Blog Name

I think it’s time to change the name of my blog, “My Quest to Run 100 Miles (in less than 24 hours)”. That was accomplished in November of 2011 and doesn’t really mean anything at the current time, although it brings back great memories when I think about it. So if you have any suggestions I’d like to hear your ideas. Leave them in the comments section and maybe one of your ideas will be forever attached to this famous media spectacle I call a blog. :-)

Until the next time…be safe and have fun.

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Oops, I did it again!

OK, I’ve decided this silent treatment doesn’t work for me. I need to start writing again. So here’s what’s been happening since JJ100.

Trail Running ClubThe first piece of business is I launched a new website Friday with the help of a couple running partners. It’s called www.trailrunningclub.com. It’s a running website, mostly geared toward trail running but anyone that runs can benefit from the articles and information. Check out the website, I’d be interested to hear any comments you have and if you’re on Facebook click the link and join our group. We welcome runners of all shapes and sizes, runners who run 1 mile or 101.4.

I had very little motivation to run through December and most of January. In January I started having problems with my right knee, then my right hip, then when I didn’t think it could get any worse I was at the gym working out three weeks ago and my back popped. I couldn’t stand up straight and it took me 15 minutes to get out of the gym to my truck…about 200′. Luckily Laura was in the gym and could drive home. I spent the day in bed and in more pain than I can ever remember and over the next few weeks, a Dr. visit, then an MRI, then an appointment with the pain specialist all agreed on one thing. My knee and hip problems were because of my back and I didn’t know all the signs to realize it. The MRI had words like “tear”, “leakage”, “impingement”, all the way from L3 to L5-S1. The pain specialist told me L4 is out of place to the right and pressing against the nerve, thus all the problems with my right knee and hip. I walked out of the office not willing to take his advice, steroid shots in the spine.

So now I’m better. That’s like saying the ocean is less wet. I can tolerate what I have now for normal activity. But I’m still having problems that prevent me from running the miles that I want and need to run. I have a good week then a bad week. This was a bad week. Saturday I ran 20 miles on the National Trail in South Mountain with friends. Didn’t feel very good pounding down the side of the mountain on the rocky trail. I’m thinking serious about the evil doctor sticking a needle in my spine now.

Zane Grey 50 MileSo why did I title this “Oops, I did it again”? Soon after I finished JJ100 the next race I wanted to run was quickly filling up. Zane Grey 50 Mile is run on trails built under the Rim in Arizona between Pine and Christopher Creek. The Zane Grey website says it’s “Regarded as the toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 mile trail runs in the country.” Just thinking about Zane Grey 50M excites me, it’s in one of the most beautiful parts of Arizona and a place I love to visit. I waited as long as I could and even though Mrs. Vaupel needed a break from my running I had an “Oops, I did it again” moment and signed up anyway. Of course I’m smart enough not tell her immediately that I did this. :-) Because of my back problems I’m a little behind in training and have decided not to run in a scheduled 50K training race on March 11. Instead I’ll do all training on my own and with friends until race day on April 21. My training will be different than Javelina Jundred. I’ve been training going up and down the mountains near my house more, trying to run on loose, rocky trails and generally anything that seems too hard to run on I do because I think it’s not hard enough.

I’m hoping by sharing all this it will help push me through my current physical barriers and motivate me to get to the level I need to be at to do well at Zane Grey 50M.

So now I’ve confessed. Hey I feel better already…not really but I will.

Until the next time…be safe and have fun. And make sure you check out www.trailrunningclub.com!

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A Wife’s View

When I asked John for one last post, I thought my intent was to going to be to give my view of this last seven months and all the things I wanted to say along the way, but bit my tongue instead. Instead. I start this post thanking him for letting me be a part of this crazy journey he took us on and letting me have the last nine miles of it with him. It was one high point of my life with him, and I really didn’t expect that.

I will step back and say when he asked me if he could do this and said with a serious straight face, “now this won’t effect you”, I should have sat him down right then and there. The training for this effected us every day he ran, whether he realized it or not. When he was out in the mountains running at 3 AM, somehow my body knew and sleep was lighter or shorter. When the kids and I went places without him so he could sleep or work, we missed having him with us. I think he would still say it didn’t effect us, but maybe we just tried to make it so he could stay focused on the goal and accomplish his quest successfully. That was our way of participating along the way and supporting him, because that is what family does. It isn’t any different than having a demanding job that takes you away from your family, and this was equivalent to, a full-time “job”. I guess my point to make is that whether you are the runner or the support staff, this type of quest does consume your whole family, and be aware of that and stop to say how much you appreciate it often. There are sacrifices by all on quests like this.

I found being his crew and his pacer was right up my alley though, and let me be a part of his race, and not just wonder how it was going, which in past races is what had occurred when I stayed home. In the future I’d find someone to watch the kids, as they were not as gung ho about staying at the race base camp and waiting for him every 3 1/2 to 4 hrs. Having friends come out helped not only him, but me get through the laps during the day.

Today, a week later, I ran the final 9 mile loop on my own in 1:34, as opposed to the 2:24 time John and I did. The memories were great to relive as I ran it, recalling where we had to walk and recover along the way, what our conversations (mostly mine) were and the feeling of elation as we came down the final mile, knowing he really was going to do this. I thought I had to train to run this last nine miles with him and was out there every week hating that trail with each step. As the weeks though unfolded, I even began to enjoy trail running and have decided I will now continue it even though the race is past. So, thank you, John for exposing me to this. What I want to say though is my training didn’t prepare me for this last nine miles with him. It was all about just keeping him moving and any tricks to do that was what was required.

So those who know me have heard me say “never again” to being open to letting him do another 100 mile race. I’ve decided it’s like childbirth though, you quickly lose the memories of all the hard work, sacrifices and pain, and only remember the great parts and feelings when the end goal is accomplished. If we lived every day doing the same thing day in and day out, when we were on our deathbed, there would never be any highlights that stood out. I don’t want that for him or for me, and this was definitely a life highlight. He has already asked me if I’d be willing to him entering another one next May. I haven’t said yes, but I haven’t said no either. It’s nice to be asked though, and have a vote in the decision. At least we aren’t going in so naive on the committment it takes from us ALL this time.

Thanks John for one final blog. Thank you for all the memories from this Quest I’ll have years to come. You did awesome.


John on Monday after the Javalina Jundred spinning at the gym.

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Mission Accomplished!

My Quest to Run 100 Miles (in less than 24 hours) is over. On Sunday morning, 23 hours, 45 minutes and 43 seconds after I started Javelina Jundred I finished 101.4 miles! It never would’ve happened if not for the support of my family, pacers and friends. It was an amazing day and one that will never be forgotten. Read my race report here for all the details.

The final tally for miles since my training started over 5 1/2 months ago was 1,551.58 miles. Enough to make it way north of Edmonton, AB or far enough east to pick peaches in Atlanta, GA. It’s crazy what can be accomplished just a little at a time if you stick with it.

What’s Next?
Oh boy, I could get in a lot of trouble with this one. I don’t think Mrs. Vaupel has recovered enough from me chasing 100 miles in less than 24 hours to allow me to even think about what’s next. But I have some ideas. I’d like to someday run Western States 100, the original 100 mile ultra race and granddaddy of them all. I’d also like to improve on my time at Old Pueblo 50 Mile. I want to run Zane Grey 50 Mile to complete what I think of as the Arizona Trifecta, all three 50 mile races held in Arizona. There are several options. But #1 on my list is to run a double crossing of the Grand Canyon or most commonly referred to as Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R). Because of weather concerns in the Grand Canyon this is best attempted in late Spring (May) or Fall (October/November). So stay tuned, when I’m ready to commit we’ll do this all over again!

Thank you for following along on my Quest to Run 100 Miles. It’s been a lot of fun for me and interesting to talk about it and see the genuine interest from people as I made my way toward the finish.

One last bit of housekeeping before I close this chapter. Mrs. Vaupel has asked for and been granted (what was I supposed to say, no?) one more opportunity to write on my blog. Heaven only knows what she has in mind and I’m afraid to ask. But stay tuned, over the next few days I would expect her to take a few minutes and share some her own final thoughts with you.

Until the next time…stay safe and have fun!!

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His Quest is Completed

John has completed his quest. He crossed the finish line at 23 hrs, 46 min and 6 seconds (I think. I was crossing too) The last miles were pretty rough out there. Lap 6, he did end up with a pacer, Ricardo Maldonado, who he said if he had not had him, he would have never got through it. Ricardo told me about half mile after starting Lap 6, John decided to lay in the desert and be sick again with stomach issues and light headedness. He got him up and moving though and they were off. They had a good downpour out there also, which caused the course when I got out there to be pretty muddy. It didn’t seem to bother John though. In fact he told me he enjoyed the rain when it came (obviously, more light-headedness). They finished lap 6 at 3:20, giving us about 2 hrs and 40 min to complete the final 9 miles. I thought this would be a breeze since when I started running my worst time doing this was 1:55 min. Well, I soon discovered it was going to be a lot of walking (I’m not sure why I trained to run it) and me helping him just not think about his stomach. His spirits were good though and he was determined he was going to get in under 24 hrs. We talked about everyone that helped him over the weekend and how great it was that people came out, we talked about everything I could think of and then some. With 4 miles to go, I ran out of talking but he needed the distraction and at that point I remembered he always said when he needs to get through tough times, he counts his step. So, for most of 2 miles, I counted to 100 with each step. I discovered I personally don’t like this method for myself, but it seemed to work for him and we made it down the Tonto Tanks trailed at about a 10 min. pace. With 1 mile to go he could feel that he was going to make it in time and got all relaxed and appeared to enjoy the final mile. We crossed the finish with both kids (thank you to our great friends, the Forman’s for bringing the kids out and having them last night) and a huge smile on his face. At the finish were the entire Forman family, his friends Todd and Tom also.

We let him bask in the moment for about 45-50 min. out there and packed up and just got home. He said from start to finish he only lost 5 lbs and that is great news since in the past it has been a whole lot more. He’s now stiffening up and feeling it in his legs (which were strong until about mile 88) and is ready for bed after being up 28 hrs. I am on the same lack of sleep but will let him have first dibs at some rest. He ran a bit more than me.

I am sure he will post it all (what he remembers) here in the next day or so. Until then though, know that he appreciates all the support he received through this journey and words of kindness and powerful thoughts. Until then, stay safe and have fun……

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