Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Hagg Lake Double (50K and 25K) - February 15th & 16th 2014 - Forest Grove, OR

Running the Hagg Lake Double in 2014 was one of the most painful running experiences of my life.

Photo by Paul Nelson.

SATURDAY - THE HAGG LAKE 50K

Snowmageddon in PDX!
Rollin' to the start in my PT Cruiser, the rain was falling steadily. The "snowmageddon" that devastated Portland the weekend prior, compiled with about 1 inch of forecasted rainfall between Friday night and Saturday night, prompted general expectations of muddy trails. But by the end of the race on Saturday, most people were calling this THE MUDDIEST year in the race's 12 year existence.

My body was feeling pretty good at the start, and my confidence was high. In 2013, I somehow pulled the 3rd fastest 50K time out of my ass (on a dry course), and that prior success was giving me all kinds of swagger. My goal for the day was for a top 3 finish, and my plan was run the race like I had nothing to lose.

THE COURSE

Okay, so this is my 4th blog about this race. Instead of diving into the intimate details of the course, I will say that it starts with a short 1.5 mile out-n-back on a gravel road before going around the lake twice for the 50k (once for the 25k).

For those that lack imagination, check out this 4 minute video of the course that some handsome guy made with his GoBro.

COURSE VIDEO


3.....2.....1....ka-CHOW!

I took off like a cocky lightening McQueen. Taking advantage of the dry road, I pushed the pace to a barely uncomfortable uphill effort. Jacob Puzey FLEW by me on the downhill last year, so I wanted to get a little head start on him. Shortly after reaching the turnaround first (King of the Mountain?), I hauled downhill. Soon enough, Jacob Puzey flew past me, followed by Gordo Freeman. Then to my delight, they "allowed" me to catch up to them. By the time we reached the start/finish and entered the Hagg Lake trail, there were about 6 of us running together in a party train. Nobody was trying to win the damn race at this point, and it turned into an enjoyable group run.

Photo by Paul Nelson.
The mud was sloppy, but navigable. Some portions of the trail were turning into definitive bodies of water, and the uphills were like running on banana peels. The party train didn't break apart until the Dam road (mile 7). My flat road running pales in comparison to Zach and Jacob, but I ran OH so hard to keep up with them on the pavement. As we jumped back onto the slick trail, it was just the 3 of us running together.

At the first aid station, Zach Gingerich actually drank water. That was the first time I've ever seen Zach drink anything during an ultra, and both Jacob and I were in disbelief. Given that Zach was the 2010 Badwater champion, I can't imagine how low his thirst threshold is when running in 45 degree rain.

The three of us chatted for the next several miles and enjoyed each other's company, and I ended up in the lead by way of courtesy. Eventually, I had to bail off into the blackberry bushes to drop it like it's hot. In the amount of time it took me to pull my pants down, I went from 1st to 5th place. Holy shit! I had no idea that Neil Olson and Monkey Boy were so close behind us, but I probably should have expected it. Nonetheless, I fell behind by about 1 minute and instantly felt lonely. The next several miles were spent trying to rejoin the party, which may have exacerbated issues that would eventually lead to my demise.


Photo by Paul Nelson.
The rain was absolutely ceaseless, and the trails collected much of the runoff as it flowed towards the lake. The mud was getting thicker, my shirtless body was getting colder, and my frustrations were beginning to bruise my feet. It was so hard to grip anything, I started pounding my feet into the mucky muck, desperately searching for traction. My hip flexors were also getting sore from trudging with mud covered boots and dragging my feet through ankle deep mud/water. The course was tearing me apart. As the first lap ended, I gave up pursuing the front runners and decided to coast the rest of the race. After putting on a shirt (sorry ladies), I began lap 2 with a 'survival' mentality.

The mud was much worse on the 2nd lap due to both the rain and the 300 pairs of footprints that morphed the trail into something real muddy and ugly....mugly. Runners were passing me here and there, but I didn't care anymore. I just wanted to finish the race with enough of legs for a 25k the next day, and ideally without serious injury. My mind started visualizing the growler in my hands in all it's glory (the prize for completing both the 50K & 25K), because there was very little else that could possibly prompt a positive attitude...growler...growler...growler.....1984 Kevin Bacon...growler...

Photo by Paul Nelson.
At last, the finish line cometh, ending a suffer fest that left my hip flexors pulled and my feet bruised. Jumping in Hagg Lake certainly helped, but the damage was done.


RESULTS: 4:18:33, 7th out of 210 Finishers
PACE: ~8:19 min/mile

Shivering from the Hagg Lake soak, Dana shuttled me to my car (thanks Dana!), and I helped myself to some brief nudity, dry clothes, and my car's heat vent. The rest of the day was spent eating grilled cheese, drinking hot chocolate, and cheering in my friends as they finished. The rain may damper my spirits, but it will never douse my Love for this stupid race and the community that it gathers.


RECOVERY - SATURDAY NIGHT

Recovery consisted of pizza, skinny jeans, and watching Footloose (1984) with some good friends. Best night ever.


SUNDAY - THE HAGG LAKE 25K

Holy mother of OW! Waking up, my feet were so sensitive to any pressure on my forefoot(s). But this was my 3rd time doing the Hagg Lake Double (50K + 25K), and every year there was always something that made running the 25k seem impossible. So I sucked it up, put on some dry shoes, and journeyed back out to Hagg Lake...with by GoBro.

Every GoPro needs a GoBro. Photo by Paul Nelson.
My description of running the 25K could be summed up in one sentence:

ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..mierda..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..shit..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..balls..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..Taylor Swift..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..

I seriously thought I may have had a Jone's Fracture in my right foot, mainly from running off trail on the cambered grass surface. It was bad. Twice I seriously debated dropping out, but I somehow found enough reasons to finish the 25k. One of those reasons was to complete my GoBro video of the course. Being one of the muddiest Hagg Lake years to date, I felt compelled to document the race not only for myself, but for everyone else to send to their "spartan race" friends and show them what a real mud course looks like.

Also, running with Megan was another reason why I was able to finish the race. Given that she was running with a fractured pinky toe, we became suffer partners and helped each other stay positive by singing Timbers chants, songs from Grease, and various pop songs. Megan, thank you.

RESULTS: 2:59:46, 125th out of 280 Finishers
PACE: 11:34 min/mile

Me and Megan! Photo by Paul Nelson (Dana Katz).

Growler time. Photo by Paul Nelson (Dana Katz).

Me, having a moment. Photo by Ann Peterson.


THANK YOU

Thank you Trail Butter, I'm honored to be a part of the Team this year! I Love this stuff.

Photo by Paul Nelson.



Thank you Float Shoppe for the peace of mind, and for the recovery.




Thank you Sean Meissner for being out of town.




Thank you Paul Nelson, and everyone else who was out there taking photos!!!


And last but not least, thank you Race Directors and Volunteers for enduring the cold weather to help hundreds of masochists finish the muddiest race of their lives. You all were amazing.


FINAL WORDS

I'll definitely be there for the Hagg Lake Double next year.


Much Love,

Jbob

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jbob's Orcas Island 50k Race Report - February 1 - 2014

I want to know what Love is...I want you to show me!

Sunset on Orcas Island.
THE MINDSET
Orcas Island would be my first race in over 6 months. The physical impacts of running the Bighorn 100 were aggravated while running the Mt. Hood 50 mile race in July last year, and I opted to give myself a long recovery period through the winter. After all, taking a break from crazy ultra running for at least a couple months allows the body a chance to be happy instead of being pissed off all the time.

Building up training for the Orcas Island 50k was not a smooth road.  In the month of January, there were 4 "injuries" that could have mentally prevented me from running this race.
  1. A seemingly chronic ache located where my right achilles meets the lower part of my calf, which has been coming and going for the past 3 months.
  2. A likely case of Morton's Neuroma that started causing bruise-like pain on the bottom of my left middle toe, forcing me to run in Hokas through half the month until it went away. The use of toe spacers, golf ball massaging, and icing seemed to help the healing process.
  3. A rolled ankle (or minor sprain) 1 week prior to the race that didn't pop, yet caused minor swelling and stiffness in my left foot.
  4. Sore hip flexors from falling hard after rolling my ankle (see injury 3). My hip flexors likely suffered from the impact and strain of landing on my knees while cruising downhill. They were plenty sore throughout the week, but started to feel better just a few days prior to the race.
Thankfully, none of these issues affected my race, however, I never felt 100% confident that I would run the race without dropping out.

THE COURSE





RACE DAY MORNING

Many runners opted for the early start at 7:30am, including most of my Portland friends. The course was slow and tough, and everyone wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to finish. Also, anyone who starts early gets to see how the race unfolds when the 8:30am front-runners come passing by. I was excited to be able to see my early-start friends during the race, and it gave me something to look forward to.

3...2...1...SHAMU!


Adam Hewey's mustache, leading the way. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
The race started on a gradual downhill, and Adam Hewey's mustache assertively jumped into the lead before the road turned to rolling single track. The trail ran through gorgeous foliage and streams of probably delicious island runoff, and slowly but surely I found myself in a comfortable position (top 10-ish). Andrew Miller and I started to run together just before the first climb up the Mt. Constitution road (asphalt). Not before too long, Andrew kicked into a pace that put me out of my comfort zone. I stayed with him, and together we kept within site distance of the most of the runners in front of us (Jonathan, Hal, Jodee, Hayden). By the time the climb ended, my legs felt worked.


Andrew (eventual winner),
Jonathan (red), and Me (blue shorts).
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Beginning the first long descent, Andrew pulled away like a fearless teenager and just flew down the technical terrain. I mean, that kid was footloose. Andrew and I stayed close until we hit Aid Station 1 (mile 6.4), and then he bolted out of sight while I filled one of my water bottles. That would be the last I saw of him during the race. As a matter of fact, I didn't see a single front runner between the miles of 6.4 and 21, which allowed me to focus on running my own race.

The trail along Mountain Lake and Twin Lakes was rolling, beautiful, and serene. My legs recovered well along this stretch, and before too long, I was running happy! My legs felt strong on the hills, and I enjoyed interacting with the early starters. One of the early start runners in particular was having issues going down a set of stairs, and then I realized that he was running with a prosthetic leg. Turns out his name is Edward, and he originally attempted the 25k race held the previous weekend, but his prosthetic broke after only 2 miles. After that happened, he resolved to run the 50k the following weekend with a new prosthetic, and you can read his blog here. Inspiring guy!

The climb up to Mt. Pickett was gradual and runnable. The open areas of the forest had a fresh dusting of snow from the previous week that gave a sparking white contrast to the lush green ferns and moss covered trees. It was so pretty, it made ME feel pretty just being there! The next uphill climb involved a series of switchbacks that were steep enough to hike, followed by a quick downhill to Aid Station 2 (mile 14.2). I left the aid station with a mouthful of grapes and peanut m&ms for me to nom nom on the downhill. The trails mostly rolled downhill towards Aid Station 3 (mile 20.6), and this aid station was the gateway to the Powerline Trail. Knowing what was ahead of me, I ingested calories and salt prior to leaving the aid station. As I left the aid station Andrew's father told me to go catch his son. Really? I asked. Go get him! He replied. Okay! Said my mouth.


The Power Line Trail
during a past race.
Photo from the website.
The Power line trail is what some people would call a female dog. It climbs ~2,000' in ~2 miles, and it's steep enough in places to get on all fours if you really wanted to.  When I reached the Power Line Trail, I finally saw a couple of the front runners hiking laboriously up the trail. After shoving another GU in my gut, I hiked steadily with hands on knees, slowly closing the gap. Hayden Teachout (just ahead of me) dropped his water bottle, but he quickly caught it with his foot, otherwise it would have tumbled all...the way...to the bottom. Close call for him. He looked like he was struggling, but I felt awesome despite my quivering calves. Every now and then, the trail would turn gradually runnable, and I pushed myself to run every runnable stretch that I could. Hal was hiking in the distance, but I couldn't quite close the gap. He just stayed 100 yards ahead as we both hiked and ran at the same pace.

At last! The climb gave way to a ~2 mile descent, and my legs shifted gears. Running steady, I slowly caught and passed Hal. As always, he had a big smile on his face and offered words of encouragement as I ran by. The trail soon turned into a steep (but not too steep) climb, the last significant climb to the top of Mt. Constitution. I tried running, but hiking was a wiser choice at this point. Some switchbacks were runnable, but it was mostly a hike-fest. After about 1.5 miles of ascent, the trail dumped into the aid station on the top of Mt. Constitution (mile 25.8). The views were PHENOMENAL! I knew a couple of the volunteers at the aid station, but I didn't recognize them since my mind was too focused on what my body needed. Quickly downing coke, salt, and calories, someone told me I was 3rd male and 4th overall with Jodi just minutes in front of me. The last 6 miles of the race were mostly downhill, and my feet were ready to set sail. After thanking the volunteers, I flew down the trail with the hopes of a top 3 finish. Get on your horse, Jbob!



Near the top of Mt. Constitution. Photo by the stellar Glenn Tachiyama.
Shortly after running past Glenn Tachiyama (photographer), my right hamstring quivered. Gah! No no no no no, not now! The transition from the uphill push up Mt. Constitution to the downhill push for the finish line was not a smooth one. Fearing a total cramp of my hamstring, I stopped to stretch it for 10 seconds before restarting into my downhill gear. Now, my mind was filled with the fear of an impending cramping. My mantra at the time:...don't cramp, don't cramp, don't cramp, don't cramp... 

A pack of mountain bikers appeared on the trail before me, and it took my mind off things for a bit while trying to keep up with them. The last rider kept looking back at me to see if I was gaining on them, and they stopped at the next intersection and let me pass. Score 1 for the runner.


Within a mile of the finish, I saw her. Jodee was still going strong, and she was hiking the last hill on tired legs. My legs were tired too, but I was slowly closing the gap. I had no idea that I was within a mile of the finish line at this point, so I kept my pace strong/conservative considering my legs were borderline quivering. When we hit the homestretch, I knew there was no way I was going to catch her. She'll always be the one that got away...and I'm okay with that, because she's outside of my age group/gender and she earned it.



RESULTS: 4:46:59, 3rd male (4th overall) out of 200 Finishers
PACE: ~9:10 min/mile

After hugging the Race Director, James Varner, my right hamstring seized and I was on the ground in pain...smiling and laughing. There wasn't a single moment during the race where I wished I was done, and that says a lot about how much I enjoyed the course. My mood was blissful as I was lying on the grass laughing, full of joy and gratitude that my body held itself to the very end.



Mad Props: Andrew Miller, 17 years old, won the race with the 3rd fastest time ever! He's a humble kid and super kind hearted. I'm excited to see how well he runs at Zane Grey 50m this year.


Beer'd.
Photo Credit: Gary Wang.
After showering at the nearby bunkhouse, I cheered on my friends and enjoyed great food/beer as the after race celebration was slowly getting started. Most of the runners stuck around for a while, and the party went well into the night with a live bluegrass band The Pine Hearts playing their hearts out. Eventually, the evening turned dark, the lights went down, and people started dancing. I was amazed at how limber some of these runners were, considering they just ran a tough 50K. One guy was jigging so aggressively, I prayed for his legs.


Samantha, Ann, T.J., Kevin, and Jesse! Photo Credi: T.J. Ford's Camera
T.J., Samantha, and me. Photo Credit: T.J. Ford's camera
The Pine Hearts! Photo Credit: T.J. Ford.
Not every race ends in a party that goes until 2 am, and certainly not every race celebrates community & achievement quite like a Rainshadow race. I would return and run the Orcas Island 50K again in a heartbeat, and YOU should definitely consider running the 25K or 50K someday.

Thank you James Varner, the volunteers, Glenn Tachiyama, Project Talaria, and everyone else who helped make this race happen.


Also, a special thanks to those who've helped me in my journey, especially: The Float Shoppe (Recovery), Trailbutter (Sustenance), and Dr. Brad Farra (Sports Chiropractor).


Shout out to my bunk mates who helped make my weekend so special: T.J., Ann, Annie, Samantha, Jesse, and Kevin. Love you guys!


Trailbutter on Orcas Island

The improved "Tribute to the Trails Calendar" at my work
Thanks for reading!

Much Love,

Jbob

Friday, December 27, 2013

Jbob's 2014 Race Schedule

“I know who I am and who I may be, if I choose.” - Don Quixote


My Hagg Lake ice bath.
Photo by 
Long Run Picture Company.
The year 2013 has been the best year of my life so far (as every subsequent year has been since my birth), and this past year's adventures and accomplishments have been crucial in solidifying my understanding of not only who I am, but who I can become. To those who have only ever encouraged me, I appreciate the shit out of you.

That said, I feel like I've been in a path of constant growth and improvement in my running ability, and I couldn't be more mentally ready for the race schedule that's lain before me in 2014. This coming year, I'm excited to participate in every race in my calendar (see my full race schedule here). However, there are 3 races in particular that I'm ecstatic about:


WESTERN STATES 100 MILE ENDURANCE RUN - SQUAW VALLEY TO AUBURN, CA (website)


If you haven't heard of this race, then let me introduce you to probably the most popular 100-mile race in the world. It's the "world's oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race", and I was one of the lucky ~275 runners chosen via lottery out of ~2700 applicants to run the race in 2014. It's not an easy race to get into, and this is an opportunity that I don't want to take for granted. Also, the competition is STACKED, and I'm looking forward to running with some faster runners.

Quick Facts
Total Climbing: 19,000'
Total Falling: 23,000'
Historical Weather: Hot
Twitter Activity: Severe during the race
Shit-My-Pants Rating (pre-race anxiety): 7/10
Crew: My Family
Serious Question: Does chasing cougars at 80s night count as Western States training?



SQUAMISH 50 MILE RACE – SQUAMISH, BC (website)

In 2012, I had the fortune to volunteer at this race by marking ~15 miles of the course (with a memorable last minute course marking shift at 2am with GR). Running those trails were magic, and I can’t recall having so much fun running, jumping, and hollering like a kid on a roller coaster. It’s fun shit, and I can’t wait to go back and run the full 50 miles. And since GR has enticed an impressive field of fast mother f*ckers, this 3rd edition of the race has potential to be all kinds of epic.

Quick Facts
Distance: 50 miles
Total Climbing: 11,000'
Total Falling: 11,000'
Twitter Activity: Severe in the months prior to the race, Moderate during the race.
Shit-my-pants rating: 9/10
Beer Rating: 5/5. The Howe Sound Brewery has some very, very good beer.


MOUNTAIN LAKES 100 MILE RACE– OLALLIE LAKE, OR (website)


The inaugural attempt will forever live in infamy due to epically inclement weather that flooded the trails, created hypothermic conditions, and even managed to crush a couple of cars (thankfully, no one was hurt). The inaugural 2013 race was cancelled 15 hours into the race due to unsafe weather and trail conditions, ending with Ken Sinclair and Ashley Nordell in first place at mile 80.

The course is very familiar to me, and chances are I'll know somebody at every aid station. There's no better feeling than running a race when surrounded by so many friendly faces. The course itself is beautiful and gradual, and it mostly takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail just south of Mt. Hood. I can't think of any better race directors for this race than Todd Janssen and Trevor Hostettler, and I'm looking forward to being a part of the first complete running of this race. (Check out the other races in the NW Mountain Trail Series here).

Quick Facts
Distance: 100 miles
Total Climbing: 10,800'
Total Falling: 10,800'
Twitter Activity: Moderate during the race
Shit-my-pants rating: 5/10
Knock on Wood: There's NO WAY the weather can be as bad as it was in 2013.

See the rest of my 2014 Race Schedule HERE


SOME FAVORITE PHOTOS OF 2013

Clouds Rest, Yosemite

SEE THE FULL VIDEO HERE

Dancing around Mt. St. Helens (Mt. Adams in the background).

SEE THE FULL VIDEO HERE


Ascending Mt. St. Helens before dawn, looking towards Mt. Adams
Mt. Rainier from Mt. St. Helens

Sunrise from Mt. St. Helens


Bro #2 (Brandon Sullivan)
(Mt. Hood 50m)
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
Bro #1 (Mt. Hood 50m)
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.

Banana Face #1 (Zane Grey 50m)
Photo by Map Photography.
Banana Face#2 (Mt. Hood 50m).
Photo by Paul Nelson.




HUGS!

Hugging Glenn Tachiyama before the Peterson Ridge 40 miler start
Photo by Paul Nelson
Hugging Hands with Rick at the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 miler
(his dog Jake took 1st place)
Photo by Paul Nelson.
Hugging my cousin Casey after he crewed for me at Zane Grey
Photo by 
Map Photography.
Hugging Dana after we both finished the Bighorn 100
Photo by the Fabulous Samantha Pinney.
Zach Violett and me at the Bighorn 100 awards ceremony.
We ran the first ~30 miles together.
Photo by Maria Sharoglazova.
Megan consoling me after I brought 2 left-footed trail shoes
to the Mt. Hood 50 miler.
Photo by Teri Smith.

Hugging Brian After getting into Western States!
Photo by Paul Nelson
Hugging Yassine (M9) after getting into Western States!
Photo by Paul Nelson.

Cheers to 2013, and here's to 2014!

Much Love,

Jbob


Monday, September 23, 2013

Classified Ad - Handsome 100 mile Pacer

Hello Ladies...


Would you like someone who can handsomely assist you in fulfilling your life's ultimate dream in completing a 100 mile trail race? You're in luck! Allow me to be your certified Handsome Pacer, and I can make your late night hallucinations come true. Why yes, I am wearing a kilt in my Blog Cover Photo. Imagine staring at that pleated celtic ass all night long. Or maybe my cheetah shorts will be more to your liking? Purrr...


Ladies, you deserve the handsomely best,
so put those caffeine GUs to rest,
because my stride will stimulate your mind,
like a tachycardia rhythm in your chest.

That's called poetry...sweet sweet poetry that I will recite for you through the night. Heck, I'll even sing countless moderately tempo'd romance songs for you, if it makes you forget the pain in your feet. Because there's no pain that can't be overcome by the feeling of a light-heart, being massaged by lyrical professions of romance.

What's that? Your legs are cramping? Good thing I always run with a bottle of massage oil. Lucky you. Oh, your laces are untied? Allow me to bend down and double knot the shit out of those bunny ears. No extra charge. Oh, now your lips are chapped? Good thing I just put a fresh dose on my lips. I can think of one way to transfer that Vanilla SPF 15. Sparks may occur. Use caution.

So Ladies, if you yearn for some late night company, then allow me to shuffle with you from dusk till dawn on the trail-way to heaven. My treat.

Yours Truly,
To the Finish Line and beyond,

Jbob

Pacing Amy for a total of 1 mile into Forest Hill.
That was probably her favorite mile of the race...I mean, why wouldn't it be?
Photo by Bob MacGillivray.

P.S. And no, the fact that I was labeled a 'Handsome Pacer' at the Happy Girls half marathon this past weekend did absolutely nothing to my ego...at all.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bighorn 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report - Dayton, Wyoming - June 14-15

Love hurts...this must be Love.

THE MINDSET

Bighorn has been on my punch list for a while, especially since literally everyone who has done the race has great things to say about it. Beautiful, tough, wild, the best volunteers, a real classic. Last year, I was signed up for this race, but decided to drop out because of Plantar Fasciitis. Without going into too much detail, many lessons were learned last year due to my stupid eagerness to disregard the health of my body for the sake of doing something epic. But to tell the truth, there's a large piece of the Venn Diagram where the terms "badass" and "complete idiot" share a common space. Many runners have been there, and others may be headed there without even knowing it. I put myself there last year, but it became such a blessing and I'm fortunate for the learning experience.
Through the lessons I've learned in 2012, the year 2013 has allowed me to build up to the Bighorn 2013 with a clear mind, a strong heart, and a complete focus on being a smart runner. Humility over eagerness, confidence over anxiety, gratefulness over frustration, optimism over pessimism...but I guess the fact that I'm running 100 miles still makes me kind of an idiot.

THE COURSE

Course profile, taken from the website.
The course is essentially an out-n-back that starts and ends in Dayton, WY. There's approximately 18,000' of total climbing, and the altitude gets as high as 9,000' in altitude at the halfway point. The terrain is fairly technical throughout the race. Note: all distances mentioned in my blog are approximate,  and I only mentioned about half of the aid stations.

WAKE UP

With the race starting at 11am, Dana and I were able to sleep in to a decent hour. Who's Dana? She's this Portland friend of mine with whom I shared logistics. She's rad, and she was also running the race. We got up around 7am to get ready before heading to the 9am pre-race meeting, which was held at the Finish Line (at some park). As the race directors gave their shpeels, I sat and people-watched all the crazies that were scattered throughout the park. It's always interesting watching the different types of people that sign up to do these 100 mile runs. Some people you would never have guessed they were any kind of endurance nut, however, everyone had the same crazy look in their eyes.

John, Kara, Dana, Rick, and me. My mouth is full of Trailbutter.
Photo by Maria Sharoglazova
Driving from the Finish Line to the Starting line, we had to travel along 5 miles of flat gravel road. This road would be the final homestretch of the course, and it already looked miserably exposed, endless, and torturous. I couldn't imagine what it would feel like after running 95 miles.

3...2...1...SEE YOU TOMORROW! - 11:00 AM

The lead pack took off at a moderately easy pace, although it was easy to see how anxious we all felt. After weeks of tapering, everyone was maxed out on potential energy, but starting out too fast would be extremely detrimental later on in the race. I found myself running with Zach Violett (a friend from Bend), and we helped pace each other up the first major climb of the course. This terrain wasn't runnable, and we hiked our way up. Some racers decided to run the uphill, and Zach and I just looked at each other and silently judged them. The trail would climb steeply for the next 6 miles or so as it climbs out of the Tongue River Canyon. The scenery was stunning as we climbed amongst the wildflowers and wide expanses of green fields.

Tongue River Canyon (taken on Day 2). Photo by Noé Castañón.
Eventually the trail became runnable, and Zach and I continued to stick together. Great guy! We've met before this race, but we didn't know each other very well. This made for a great partnership, and it helped pass the time by having someone to run with. And just by talking, we were able to moderate a sustainable pace that wasn't leaving us breathless.

DRY FORK AID STATION - MILE 13.4

Coming into the Dry Fork aid station, Zach and I were tied for 16th place. Dana Katz's crew (Samantha, Jessica, Tina, and Brian) were there and cheered SO LOUD when I came through. It was amazing! It was only 13 miles into the race, but they really got my tail wagging. Since my plan was to run without a crew or pacer, Dana's crew became sort of my 'Part-Time Crew', and they cheered for me whenever they saw me. They were the most beautiful Part-Time Crew I've ever had.

Photo by the Lovely Samantha Pinney.
Leaving Dry Fork.
Photo by the Amazing Samantha Pinney.
After a quick transition, I left the aid station without Zach. Part of me wanted to wait for him, but I think we both understood that neither of us wanted to hold each other back. So off I went, down the road and into a rolling section of ATV trail. The weather never really got too hot, although it soon came time for my shirt to come off. It was about this time that I had to take crap #1. While in the bush, I got passed by Zach and a couple others. Such is life. After some gradual hussel, I caught back up with Zach and we continued to run together and pass a few folks.

Photo by Foto-Sport.
The trail eventually turned off the ATV road and onto some great rolling single-track trail. My body was generally feeling okay, but my hamstrings were feeling a little strained. This didn't concern me too much, but  I took note of it in my mental Captain's Log. My feet (and plantar) still felt great, and the rest of the body was solid. Zach and I were really having such a great time, and it saddened me to have to take crap #2. Bah! Already? I hope this doesn't become a constant throughout the race! Maybe my dinner wasn't as safe as I originally thought. Zach took off down the trail, naturally, as I took care of business.

BEAR CAMP AID STATION - MILE 26.5

After leaving Bear Camp Aid Station, the trail descended sharply and and technically. The trees soon disappeared, and the landscape became an unobstructed panoramic view of the canyon below surrounded by millions of yellow wildflowers. The beauty of the landscape inspired me to holler, but my voice was still recovering from having a mild case of bronchitis the previous weekend...so my high notes disappeared, and I had to switch to low-toned whooping. Imagine William Wallace not being able to yell, and that's how I felt. "Alba gu bráth," he whispered.


Photo by Noé Castañón.
FOOTBRIDGE AID STATION - MILE 30 - 4:30 pm

The 3.5 mile descent from Bear Camp was super pretty, fairly steep, technically rocky, and it ended at the Footbridge Aid Station. Zach was leaving the aid station as I arrived, and we waved at each other before he ran up the trail. A volunteer brought me my drop bag, and I chugged a coconut water and strapped on my Mountain Hardware Fluid 6 pack. The evening forecast for the Aid Station at mile 48 was 20 degrees Fahrenheit (at 9,000' altitude), so I also wrapped a fleece jacket around my waist in preparation for the eventual freeze. At the moment, the weather was warm and sunny at 4:30pm (at 4,000' altitude). The next 18 miles would climb steadily from 4,000' to 9,000'.

While running up the trail, my pack felt heavier than ideal. Being the "better safe than sorry" kind of guy I am, my pack had lots of gels, Trailbutter, 2 headlamps, arm sleeves, beanie, Patagonia Houdini windbreaker, and a small knife...you know, in case I ran into a hungry grizzly and had to defend myself. Ounces equal pounds, and my ounces were pounding my thoughts with regret. Oh well...only 20 more miles and I'll lighten my load with my next drop bag.

Despite the brief lull in optimism, my legs were able to run a decent pace on a very runnable section of the course. Despite the gradual climb, my legs felt fresh as I ran through rocky switchbacks and open fields of single track. The trail paralleled the Little Bighorn River, passing through random open expanses of green beneath the tall canyon walls. The serenity of the scenery gave me feelings of both respect and gratitude; and although there were hundreds of runners on the course, I felt contently alone in a quiet gap.

Not too far after the 40 mile mark, the trail abruptly ended at well-moving stream. Across the way, I could see the trail continuing on the other side. Since the weather was hours away from a below-freezing forecast, the thought of wet feet was not too appealing. But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and so I stepped in the water without a second thought. *splash* Brrr! Halfway across the stream, the water rose just above my knees and my feet were barely stable due to the swift current. Looking to my right, I noticed a footbridge about 20' away that safely crossed the stream...........Profanities later, I continued trudging through the water to the far side, found the trail, and jogged-on in my soggy boots with an idiotic smile on my face. *squish*squish*squish*...

Getting close to the turnaround, the hills became harder to run due some combination of steeper terrain and/or higher altitude. There were sparse patches of snow, and the ground turned rather swampy with about 4 miles before the turnaround. The melted snow created small lakes in the trail, and it was a tricky b**** to navigate around. It was almost impossible to escape this section of trail without wet socks and shoes, unless you wore Hokas and magically floated on top of the boggy swamp. Even though my feet were still somewhat wet from my stupid stream crossing, I twinkle toed around the swampiness to avoid losing my shoes in the mud.

THE TURNAROUND - JAWS AID STATION - Mile 48 - 9:00pm

Photo by Noé Castañón.
The climbing soon leveled off, and it was a relatively flat 2 miles before reaching the mile 48 aid station at Jaws trail head. This aid station was a CLASS ACT! As soon as I entered, a volunteer named Art catered to me and helped me with my every need. He even helped me switch into dry socks, which had me sitting on a cot for a minute or two. Beware the chair! I then dumped most of my food and any extra gear that I surely didn't need into my drop bag to help lighten my load. With a headlamp on my head, a headlamp around my waist (backup), gloves on my hands, beanie on my head, and a fleece jacket on my burly body, I thanked Art and headed back towards the canyon. After a mile, I soon crossed Devil's Canyon Road and barely recognized Dana's beautiful bundled crew! The temperature was now below freezing. Seeing them was awesome, and Tina tried to run ahead of me to get a photo. Too bad the picture couldn't nearly capture how pretty that sunset actually was!

Mile ~49. Photo by the Wonderful Tina Harrison. Great effort, Tina!
HEADLAMP ON - NIGHTTIME RUNNING BEGINS - 9:30pm

Although, changing into dry socks at Jaws was probably futile since I was now running back through the marshy bog, I was able to avoid getting my foot entirely soaked. My feet did get kinda wet, but not too bad. The temperature started to get warmer as I ran, since the elevation was dropping and the trees blocked any wind. My bandanna felt warm on my neck, so I decided to take it off (this required removing one glove). With my glove shoved under my armpit, I untied my bandanna and shoved it in my pack while walking. When I was done, I realized that I dropped my damn glove. I backtracked to find it, but a black glove at night is not an easy thing to find. Eventually, I said screw it and continued running with 1 glove on my right hand and nothing on my left hand. At least the temperature wasn't freezing anymore! ....*slow clap*...bravo, Jason.

The gradual downhill was easy on the knees and fun to run. But rather than being full of determination and purpose, my mind resolved to lollygag at certain periods throughout this 18 mile downhill stretch. Part of the distraction could have been the interactions with the runners who were still headed the opposite direction towards the mile 48 turnaround. But a big part of it was just a simple lack of focus. And after 50+ miles of running, can you blame me? A pacer would have definitely helped at this point, but I was content to travel the 100 mile journey solo (minus my 25 miles with Zach), mainly to see how well I knew myself. Apparently, I like to lollygag.

Running past numerous headlamps on the trail, I eventually pass a headlamp that was off in the bushes.

Jason: You gotta do what you gotta do!
Jessica: Jason?!
Jason: Oh, Hey Jessica!...Hey Dana!
Dana (from the bush): Hey!
Jason: How's it going Dana?!
Dana (from the bush): Great!

It was an awkwardly amusing moment, considering that the only time I would ever see Dana and her pacer (Jessica) during the race happened to be when Dana was going to the bathroom. But Dana sounded very enthusiastic, and she seemed to be making great progress. We hastily, yet heartily, said our goodbyes and carried on. Good luck, Dana!

Eventually, I passed by the runner in DFL (dead f-ing last), and things got real quiet on the trail. Knowing how wild these trails can be, I occasionally scanned my surroundings with my headlamp to look for wild eyes. Moose, bears, mountain lions...who's watching me? Glancing to my left, I actually saw a pair of wild eyes. Mother Fluffer! That split second when you realize that you're being watched by something wild (at night), it's a freaky feeling. Stopping to figure out whether I should shit my pants or not, the eyes turned and bounded up the hill, then stopped to look at me some more....It was a deer! *relief*...Trying to be friendly, I said hello, but the doe just leaped away...Typical.

FOOTBRIDGE AID STATION - MILE 66

The end of the lollygagging! Footbridge was a huge checkpoint in my mind, knowing that I was only 34 miles from the finish (ha! only...). Both my legs and mind were weary of running downhill for 18 miles, and I was ready for a steady climb! And holy crap, the next 3.5 miles were one hell of a grind. The steepness of the incline was horrendously misjudged when I ran down it earlier in the day, and my legs had one hell of a time keeping a consistent pace. Runner Jeff Rome and I hiked together, and we chatted about the typical things that runners do. How you holding up? Yeah, we're on sub 24-hour pace for sure. Where you from? Where the hell is Livingston? How many hundreds have you done? I've heard awesome things about the Bear. Where'd you grow up? What inspired you to do 100's? Man, I've taken 4 craps already. The chatting helped pass the time, and it kept both of us generally awake. After forever and a day, the trail crested and it became runnable again. Knowing that the next aid station was close by, I started running a faster pace and lost my running buddy. Coming into the Bear Camp Aid Station, I commented to the volunteers "Man, that climb was a female horse!" The cowboys chuckled.

A not-so-steep section of the climb out of Footbridge (I climbed this section at night).
Photo by Noé Castañón.
The next section was composed of some great single-track surrounded by a dark dense forest. I could smell the barn, sort to speak, and my mind focused on keeping a sub-24 hour pace. Using my Garmin, I was playing games with my average pace. By running long sections of the trail, my average pace got faster. By hiking steeper terrain, my average pace grew slower. It was fun until it got obsessive, so then I started singing Flight of the Conchords songs in my head. Then I somehow decided to re-write the lyrics to the "Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" for Dana's beautiful crew. That kept me amused for a while, and here's what it turned into. Oh, the loneliness of the long distance runner...

ATV Road leading to Dry Fork. Photo by Noé Castañón.
Sunrise is probably the most influential stimulant for anyone during a 100 mile race. Even if someone is practically sleepwalking, the sun will bring them back to life. For me, I never felt tired during the night. I saved all my caffeine for the night time, and that seemed to work perfectly. Also, getting a full night's rest before the race helped. The sunrise was significant for me in that it allowed me to see all the pretty views and to enjoy the nature that surrounded me. At this time, I was about 2 miles from Dryfork (mile 82.5), and I could see the bloody aid station already. It looked so close, but it was OH so far, since the ATV road was all uphill to the aid station. Hiking the gradual uphill made the most sense at the time, and I gave as much purpose as I could. The temperature had dropped significantly, and it felt like 20 degrees fahrenheit again. My left hand began to get cold (my gloveless hand), but tucking it into the sleeve of my fleece jacket helped. My body was cold, but I wasn't shivering. The sun hadn't yet crested the hill, and so the only source of potential warmth would be inside the Dryfork aid station tent. When I finally arrived at the aid station, I went inside to warm up and grab food/water. Also in the tent was Gary Gellin, and the poor guy was bundled in layers of jackets, tights, and shivering in front of the heater. Stomach issues had gotten the best of him during the night, and he didn't look good at all. I took it as a sign to get the hell out of that aid station before I started freezing my guts out. So with a good luck and farewell to Gary, I headed towards the rising sun in 6th place.

Within a couple miles of leaving Dryfork, the trail crested the hill and the sun greeted my body like a warm hug. With only 15 miles to go, I tried my best to run at a consistent pace. It seemed like every little incline, I took a short walk break to recharge my legs before running another section of trail. My strategy was to get to the top Tongue River canyon (mile 89) and bomb down that last downhill section without mercy. But until then, I would try to sustain a steady pace and keep rolling with the terrain. After stopping at the Upper Sheep aid station (mile 87.5), Jeff Rome caught up to me. I knew I was only one hill away from the canyon, and so I pushed the pace a little bit until I reached the foot of the last big hill. This hill is called 'the Haul', and it's short, but also the steepest part of the course (in my opinion). Each step up the hill was slow and laborious, and it seemed that time was in slow motion. Hands on knees, my body ascended one heavy step at a time. Gah! Give me downhill or give me death!

FINALLY, the Tongue River Canyon came into view, surrounded by the yellow wildflowers and green wild grass that first greeted me approximately 20 hours earlier. The trail was skinny single track with somewhat rocky terrain. My quads had plenty of life left, and so I pushed the downhill HARD! My feet danced around the rocks like they did at Zane Grey, and my quads absorbed the descent like they did in Yosemite Valley just 3 weeks earlier. There was mind numbing pain in both my legs, and every step hurt in ways that only 90 miles of running could make you feel. But in some masochistic way, my mind found pleasure in the pain that my body was going through. With every painful step came some sick feeling of pleasure, and it's hard to explain, but that mindset allowed me to push with the pain rather than trying to avoid it. After a certain point, there's no avoiding the pain that a 100 miler will put you through, it's just a matter of how you run with it. And right now, I embraced it.

Arriving at the bottom of the canyon, I passed by a small aid station. They said the next aid station was only 2 miles away, so I kept running without stopping. 2 miles? That's nothing. The trail rolled sometimes up, but mostly down. I started out running strong, but I had to slow down a little bit. Then suddenly, a runner by the name of Boots passed me as if I were standing still. Boots was moving so well, I almost assumed that he was a part of the 50 mile race that started earlier that morning. There wasn't a single thing I could do about it, as his pace was beyond my abilities. It was incredible. Shortly thereafter, the final aid station appeared. From this point, there was only 5 miles left in the race, and all of it was on that flat exposed gravel road. 5 miles...just 5 miles...gaaaaaaaaah come on legs!

HOMESTRETCH - 5 MILES LEFT

I wanted to walk the rest of the way. My legs were trashed, everything hurt, and I was ready to be done. But with one last jump start, I started to run again. Ow..ow...ow..ow..ow...Each step physically hurt, but like on the downhill, my mind felt pleasure. The gravel rocks poked my feet, but not one of my discomforts were going to slow me down at this point. With 3.5 miles left, I saw a guy (named Seth) running behind me. He was gaining on me fast, and I turned on the turbo to try to pull away from him. After 30 seconds, my body ran out of gas, and I settled back into a sustainable pace. Seth pulled up beside me, and we cheered each other on before he continued ahead of me. I ingested one final GU and kept running. Searching for the finish around every bend, I kept finding disappointment. For-ev-er! This road is so long, the Road Warrior would say DAMN!

At last, the gravel turned to pavement, and the finish line was less than a mile away. Crossing the highway and entering the park, I ran past a small group of kids playing baseball. They all stopped playing and cheered me on as I ran by. Running stronger and stronger, I gave an epic push to the finish line (it felt fast, but really wasn't).

RESULTS: 22:17:33, 8th out of 125 Finishers (~169 started)
PACE: 13:22 min/mile

Photo by Foto-Sport.
Pretty!
For 5 minutes, I laid on the grass catching my breath. Even after finishing, it seemed hard to imagine all the ground I had covered in the past 22 hours. I wished Dana and her beautiful part time crew could be there to share the moment with me, but that time would come soon enough. Dana ran a strong race, and I'm happy to have been able to watch her finish. A journey that ends in tears of joy is one of the purest moments in life, and I'm glad got have shared that moment with such a great person and friend.

Love you Dana!
Photo by the Fabulous Samantha Pinney.
The award ceremony was held the next day in downtown Sheridan. Pancakes were served, buckles were distributed, and age group awards (rocks) were handed out. It was fun meeting Dana's friends from California, they really were a great group of people. Congrats everyone! And I would like to thank the Race directors and volunteers for doing an amazing job, I would highly recommend this race to anybody.

This is the 2nd race this year where I received a rock for finishing a race (Zane Grey awarded pet rocks to all finishers). And fun fact, apparently you need to take large rocks out of your bag when you go through airport security.

Gary Gellin, Dana Katz, Jason Leman, Rick Gaston, Jon Lacanlale, Kara Teklinski, and Noé Castańón. 
Zach Violett and me.
Zach finished 4th in 20:16:41 in his first 100! Stud!
Waiting for our flight in Billings, MT.
Brian August, Jbob, and Chris Rennaker.


REFLECTION

100 miles is no walk in the park, but it's nothing compared to the journey of life.

Some say running 100 miles is 'crazy', but nothing is crazy if you're prepared for it. You'd be surprised, you're capable of the incredible even if you don't know it yet. How does one physically prepare for 100 miles? Running, cross training, commitment, lifestyle, self-centeredness, passion, sleep, lots of eating, etc. How does one mentally prepare for 100 miles?...Self confidence. Once you are convinced that you can run 100 miles, all you have to do is endure the physical and emotional challenges of the race. Emotions...

How does one emotionally prepare for 100 miles?

At the beginning of the race, my goals are very material. I'd like to break 20 hours. I want to add to my belt buckle collection. I want to see the beauty of Wyoming. I want to see how many GUs I can consume before throwing up. But as the race goes on, my body aches, my mind loses focus, and my emotions become raw. All of a sudden, the race becomes a metaphor for my current struggles in life. Numerous times throughout the race, I found myself reflecting hard on my memories of the past. Over the past year, I had my fair share of dark moments: severe plantar fasciitis, 2 months of walking pneumonia, the death of 2 roommates from substance abuse, the near death of 1 roommate from a bike/car collision, eviction notice (later resolved), 2 roommates with totaled cars, heart surgery, and a crashed hard drive...these events are hardships that I shared with others, and we've become closer because of it.

Every single person has and/or will experience such things, and that's life. What matters, is how you grow and find light in even the darkest of places. For me, my light comes from the strength of Love with my family, roommates, friends, and running community. So compared to the challenges that surfaced over the past year, running 100 miles really doesn't sound so bad. It's just a race. But throughout the race, whenever I hit a rough patch, I relied on the same things that give me strength in life. So thank you friends and family for all your support in my 100 mile journey, you mean more than you know.

SPECIAL THANKS

TOMMY BOY

Tom, it was great catching up with you! We enjoyed great post-race food and beer at all the places that you recommended in Billings. Über Brew was particularly fantastic. Cheers bud, I hope to see you soon! (Battle in Seattle?)

Tommy Boy!!! And his restored Ford Galaxie. College buds reunited in Billings.
Thanks for dinner!
DANA'S CREW

Thanks to Dana and her Beautiful Crew for allowing me to join them for all the race logistics and celebrations. You're a volume button. <3

Team FOMO! Brian, Tina, Dana, Jessica, and Samantha.

NSPiRE

As always, thank you NSPiRE for your support throughout the whole racing season. My life would suck without you.

Live race results, streaming via iPhone App, Twitter, Facebook, online, and at the finish line on these huge-ass TVs. 

TRAIL BUTTER

I Love this stuff! This nutritious calorie-dense spread has been fueling my adventures all year. Please support this small Portland business, they've got a good thing going on!

Ridge Running in Sequoia National Park with Trail butter
FLOAT SHOPPE

By floating in epsom salt infused tanks of water, I've noticed a huge benefit to both my pre-race preparations and post-race recovery. With all the training required for Bighorn, it was important to me focus on getting my body recovered between crazy long training runs in order to help prevent injury and help calm my race anxiety. Injuries often happen through the accumulation of overuse, stress, and strain on the body; and floating has been key in keeping both my body and mind healthy and focused throughout my training.

My first float after Bighorn was the first time my body passed out and slept the entire 90-minute session, and that's a real testament to the effects that floating can have for a stressed body.

DR. BRAD FARRA

Thank you Brad for helping me maintain this well-oiled machine throughout the past year. You've been a great mentor in helping me stay injury free, as well as helping me become a smarter athlete. And yes, I need to do my core exercises more religiously...thanks for always reminding me!

VEGA

VEGA nutritional and protein powders started out as an experiment with my training/nutrition, and it's amazing how much better I felt after I started using it. I've been drinking a VEGA shake almost everyday since March, and it's definitely helped my body recover faster and train harder. I imagine other recovery products would also give the same benefit, but the fact that VEGA is completely plant based, vegan, and gluten-free makes it sound superiorly healthy. The taste was interesting at first, but after a while I began to crave it. I totally recommend this stuff!



FINAL WORDS

Life's a Happy Song