Chasing the sun since 2010

Chasing the sun since 2010
Chasing the sun since 2010

Monday, April 6, 2015

Jbob's Hagg Lake 50k/25K - February 14/15 2015

I hate this race, but I Love this race.

Moe, Shane, Megan, Gordo, and me!
Photo by Lisa Kroth.
RACE CULTURE

Every time someone asks me about the Hagg Lake races, I usually respond with something synonymous with "self-inflicted torture". The race in 2014 was by far the worst I've felt after any race (including the 100 mile races I've finished), because it was so muddy and I was pulling muscles and bruising my feet while trying to finish in the top 3 men.  This race demands a certain respect for the course, because in poor conditions you simply can't run over it...you stumble-fuck your way through it.

Moe and his Larry 5.
Photo by 
Kristen Nelson.
That said, there's a growing number of people who are not only running the 50k on Saturday, but they are coming back the next day to run the 25k as well. Why is that? Some do it to earn the coveted growler of beer awarded to those completing the Double. Others do it...well, let's just say most people do it for the growler. This year would mark the 5th consecutive Hagg Lake Double finishes by Moe Codino, and it would have been Larry Stephens' 5th year as well.

Gordo with his Larry 5.
Photo by 
Kristen Nelson.
Unfortunately, Larry was unable to make the starting line due to a serious injury he incurred just weeks earlier. To honor Larry and symbolize how much he means to this race and community, Moe decided to run with "Larry 5" written on his body. This trend caught on, and many other runners wrote Larry 5 on various parts of their body in support. Some runners also wrote Desiree Marek's name on their bodies because she was also injured and couldn't race the Hagg Lake Double. This running community is super close, and it continues to inspire me how everyone supports one another through both victories and temporary defeats.

Moe's Legs. Photo by Jeff Fisher.

THE 50K RACE - SATURDAY

Course Description: A short out-n-back up a gravel hill, followed by 2 laps around Hagg Lake. Here's a video of the course in wet weather.

3..2..1..GO!

Photo by Kristen Nelson.
The course started with swift running up the gradually steep gravel roadway. Surrounded by good company and fast runners, we ran as a group for the most part. After the turnaround, we galloped down the hill like wild stallions, running 6 abreast at one point while chatting and cracking jokes. Once we reached the single track trail, we ran in a party train led by Jeremy Tolman.

Jeremy leading the train.
Photo by 
Kristen Nelson.
Now, Jeremy was feeling rather fresh this fine morning...shitballs. He led a pace that was reasonable for any All American steeple chaser and a sub 4-minute mile runner, which he was in his college days. But for a guy like me, my heart rate was uncomfortably high. Even Zach Gingerich (Badwater 135 and Arrowhead 135 champion) was like "are we starting out a little fast"? Probably. Yes. Ugh. Jacob Puzey didn't start this fast last year. I miss that guy.

The trail around Hagg Lake this year was drier than most, which translates to faster race times. In years like this, the podium finishers seem to always be the runners that start out fast and hold on the longest. Being 1 of the 8 front runners in this race, I decided to see if I could hold on. My high heart rate was concerning, and it felt unsustainable for a self-predicted 4 hour finishing time. Only time will tell.

Everyone and their Mums stopped at the first aid station, except for me. That's where I took the lead, followed by Jeff Browning, Tom Brooks, and Nicholas Davis. Since no one else wanted to lead, I took the liberty of dictating a manageable pace while trying to get my heart rate below 170, which never really happened.

HALFWAY

The four of us ran together through the first lap, but then Jeff and Tom took off and had a race of their own on lap 2. After ripping off my shirt in sexy fashion and unfastening my bra strap...I mean heart rate monitor...I started racing Nicholas for 3rd place.

After the dam aid station, I noticed Nicholas wasn't running the hills very strong. So, I made a move and jumped into 3rd place while trying to appear like I was feeling fresh. But I wasn't. I was hurting, and for a good portion of the 2nd lap, I wanted to pull over and cry. Through a combination of starting out too fast, having no thrust, and running semi-scared, I was not happy. That's the way it goes sometimes, and there was only one way that I would be proud of my race...so I vowed to keep pushing until I finished. Because I'm Jason Fucking Leman.

In the last 4 miles of the race, there are three long stretches where you can see far ahead of you and behind you. Of course, I spotted somebody chasing me down. Come on baby, hold together. Digging deep, I pushed a push that Salt-N-Pepa would be proud of. I gave one last glance behind me with 1/4 mile to go...I see a dude, but I can't see the whites of his eyes. I'm good.


RESULTS: 3:56:22 - 3rd out of 154 finishers
PACE: 7:37 min/mile

SPENT. Photo by Renee Seker.

LITTLE DID I KNOW

Neil Olson finished only 21 seconds behind me, I thought it was Nicholas this entire time! I had no idea Neil was even racing that day until I saw him at the finish line. Every year he runs this race the same way, he always comes from nowhere and one by one hunts down the leaders. He's a smart runner, and if he had one more mile, he may have beat me. Next year, I hope to run like him and give the leaders a head start before hunting them down. It sounds way more fun that way.

RECOVERY

After soaking in the lake and hanging out at the finish line, I ate lots of food and Trail Butter, then I drove home to take my nephew to Monster Jam for a bro-mantic Valentine's Day outing. My hip flexors were a little sore from the race, but my legs otherwise felt okay.



THE 25K RACE - SUNDAY

The drive back out to Hagg Lake has a very Déjà vu feeling, for obvious reasons. It's less stressful for me because I have less anxiety about how fast I run. For the past 3 years, my Hagg Lake 25k's have been slow, extremely painful, and care-free. This year, however, I was feeling the best I've ever felt the day after the Hagg 50k. Then a little thought bubble popped into my head...

If I'm feeling good, maybe I can break my previous Hagg Lake Double record...

In 2013, my combined times for the Hagg Lake Double were (3:40:53 + 2:19:10) = 6:00:03. If I had a good day, I knew there was a decent chance of beating that combined time.

3..2..1..GOOO!

Photo by Kristen Nelson.
As soon as the race started, I took off. Things were heavy, but I was moving well. Strangely, the trail conditions seemed better today then during the 50k. After the first mile or two, my left hip flexor began to hurt with a dull, but constant ache. To my delight, it worked itself out by mile 5.

Contrary to the 50k, I was actually enjoying my run! My heartrate was about 10 bpm lower, but my pace was almost the same as my overall 50k pace. That was very interesting, and it really made me regret starting the 50k so fast. What I couldn't figure out was why I was running and feeling so good during the 25k race...oh well! At least I was having fun! As I got closer to the finish line, I set 2 hours as my finishing goal. It seemed within reach, and I pushed hard to get under that time. When the finish line came into sight, my legs felt good enough to sprint.

RESULTS: 1:58:43 - 18th overall out of 353 finishers
PACE: 7:38 min/mile
NEW COMBINED 50k + 25K RECORD = 5:55:05


Photo by Kristen Nelson.
LESSONS LEARNED

My two races were run at almost identical average paces (7:37 min/mile for the 50k and 7:38 min/mile for the 25k). My heart rate for the first half of the 50k averaged 175 bpm before I tore the damn heart rate monitor from my chest. My heart rate for the entire 25k averaged 165 bpm on tired legs, yet my pace averaged the same as the 50k. FASCINATING! Next year, I'm going to run the 50k race like Neil Olson. I'd much rather see if I can pull some kind of ridiculous negative split and finish with a sprint and a smile on my face. That's how I prefer to race, but often times I get so caught up in the competition that I end up letting someone else dictate my race. I've got a feeling this is one of those lessons that I'm going to learn over and over again...so it goes.

MY 4TH DOUBLE

Being my 4th annual Hagg Lake Double finish, I earned my 4th growler for completing the two events in the same weekend. If I finish my 5th Double next year, I'll earn a growler with my name engraved on the bottle. I'm hoping Larry Stephens will be hoisting his engraved growler with me and Shane Kroth in 2016.

Photo by Phil Brundage.
RESPECT

On top of running the Hagg Lake Double, Moe also marked the course on Friday, becoming the only runner to ever complete the Hagg Lake "Triple". Why did he do this?! Because he's Moe. He earned the shit out of his engraved 5 year growler, and he celebrated in true Moe fashion by hosting a gathering at Moe's Trunk Tavern in the parking lot.

Moe, Megan, and Shane after the 50K.

Moe after the 25K.
Fitting decor at Moe's Trunk Tavern

SPECIAL THANKS

TRAIL BUTTER

Trail Butter is my favorite pre-race breakfast and long run snack. This delicious fuel is #trending throughout the Pacific Northwest, and it has honorable mention by Gear Junkie, Trail Runner magazine, and others. Trail Butter is being sold at these following retail locations, try some if you haven't already!





FLOAT SHOPPE

The Float Shoppe has been a regular part of my training and recovery for the past 2 years. For one, there's so much Epson salts dissolved in the water that it causes you to float, which is a cool experience all in itself. But there are lots of researched benefits associated with floating. Check this place out, it's also Wellness Center featuring Yoga, Acupuncture, Massage, Counseling, and a Community Space.

Float Shoppe Logo


ANIMAL ATHLETICS AND ULTRA U

Both of these groups offer running coaching, fitness classes, and adventure runs. They currently both offer fitness classes at the new Evolution Healthcare & Fitness Center. Check them out!




EVOLUTION HEALTHCARE & FITNESS

This is a brand new center for Sports Chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Physical Therapy, General Medical Practitioner, Sports Psychology, Personal Training, Strength and Conditioning Classes, Altitude Training, Yoga Classes, Tai Chi, and Nutrition.

That's a lot of stuff. Brad Farra is one of the masterminds of this new operation, and he's been my sports chiropractor and one of my most trusted advocates/coaches for staying injury free with all the running I do. Oh, and the facility has a High Altitude Room that simulates elevations up to 17,000'.

Evolution Healthcare and Fitness



FINAL THOUGHTS

I still find this hilarious. The high five was eventually had.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Jbob Musings, 2015 Motivation, and Lessons Learned from 2014

Je suis croissant.

How I felt by the end of October 2014
OMG, 2014 was a blast, but I need to do things a little differently in 2015. What I'm talking about is mostly running related, but there's a whole life/running imbalance that I believe is the reason for my eventual burnout in 2014.

Having completed my 10th ultra (12th race) of the year at the Oregon Coast 50k in October, I found myself burnt out and in much need of a break, plus my tight ass was killing me. My summer was planned as if it were the last year of my life, filling each weekend with opportunities to race, crew, volunteer, or simply run in some magical faraway place. After the Oregon Coast 50k, I hung up my shoes for a month as I recovered from my year by way of hot chocolate, cookies, and almost daily naps. My body and mind were cooked.

Naps!
This burnout that I felt stemmed mainly in my mind, thankfully. Often times, us ultrarunners push ourselves to injury before we realize that our bodies are pissed off and need a break. But given that I wasn't necessarily injured, my main reasons for taking a break were mainly fatigue, lost motivation, and hardly any social life. It's frustrating how something so fun and rewarding can be so draining, and that's why my life needs more balance.


2015 MOTIVATION & MUSINGS

"Run for Farah!"



Now that it's 2015, I'm finding myself motivated again for another big year. For one thing, I'm only planning on doing 5 races, and the rest of the year will be devoted to running in the Alps around Mont Blanc, exploring the Northwest Volcanoes, dancing (you're invited), and having fun. For me, the most motivating aspect of trail running is that I keep getting faster every year, and I'd like to keep improving and truly discover my potential. That's why I'll be pushing myself to attempt some FKJ records this summer (Fastest Known Jbob). Namely, I have some goals for myself that involve running around or up volcanoes in true FKJ fashion: Fast, dancy, and with Taylor Swift on repeat. I'm dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go, and that's what they don't kno-ow.. Mm-hmm! 

video

(you know you want to dance with this guy)

Running has become such an introverted source of energy for me. Most of my training runs are run alone for different reasons, typically because I have no idea where I'm going, how far I'm going, how fast I'm going, or when I'll be home. It's empowering to not to have to rely on anyone but yourself for a day of exploration. But at the same time, the camaraderie of the Trail Running community is a huge reason why I'm in Love with this sport. Love should always be capitalized. I hope I get the chance to run with others more this year between my races and Jbob time trials, because its running with others that can really help rejuvenate my passion for the running lifestyle.

Every year I change up my training and try different things. For example, I now run with a watch or GPS tracker thing to both keep track of my runs and to hold each run to a Jbob standard. I used to just run and not care about gauging my fitness, but I'm starting to see a huge motivational factor to figuring out how fast I can summit Council Crest from my work or how to control my heart rate on longer runs. And I'm totally using Strava now, which has its fair share of followers and critics. I could care less how I compare to others, and I don't give a damn about the motivational trophies....but hot damn, it's one hell of a training tool. Comparison is the thief of joy. Just do your thing.

Another focus for 2015 is to work more on core work and to do some more indoor rowing. I've invested in certain weights that should make it easier for me to jump out of my bed and into my exercises...but I haven't figured out how to wake up early enough to do strength training AND be on-time at work. If I'm late to work, the penalty is $0.25 in the "late jar", so being punctual has been more of a priority lately. Lazy Ultrarunner, a true irony.

If anyone out there speaks French, bonjour! Voulez-vous d' avoir une conversation et le café? Et un croissant? Et une baguette? Et peut-être un peu de fromage? Je essaie d'apprendre le français et je voudrais pratiquer avant que je explore Mont Blanc. Merci beaucoup!


LESSONS LEARNED IN 2014

ORCAS ISLAND 50K (blog)
  • For most "first races of the year",  nobody is in peak shape...except for that one guy. Relax and enjoy the run.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

HAGG LAKE 50K/25K (blog) (video)
  • Don't fight the mud, the mud will always win.
  • Blackberry bushes make a poor bathroom.
  • 40 degrees Fahrenheit and raining is cold, wear a shirt.
  • Ice baths help recovery...A LOT
  • You are 60% more likely to wipeout in front of Paul's camera.
Photo by Paul Nelson.

GORGE WATERFALLS 50K
  • Bonking at mile 2 is a terrible way to start a race, but it's better to start slow and finish strong than vise versa.
  • Will Emerson is a smart runner.
  • Not caring about how you place is a great way to enjoy a race.
Photo by Paul Nelson.

PETERSON RIDGE RUMBLE 20 MILER
  • Juggling a soccer ball minutes before a race is a terrible way to warm up your quads, especially when they were hammered from the day before.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

CAPITAL PEAK 50 MILER - 2nd Place
  • Don't eat 1000 calories for breakfast before the race, or you will throw up at mile 6.
  • Don't start a 50 miler at a fast pace, especially with 1000 calories in your stomach. You will throw up at mile 6.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

MACDONALD FOREST 50K - 3rd place
  • Andrew Miller is a badass.
  • Hokas are terrible in mud.
  • 2 weeks barely isn't enough time to recover from a 50 miler.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

BEACON ROCK 50K
  • Hokas serve their purpose in preserving my legs for a 50 mile weekend with 16,000' of climbing.
  • I probably shouldn't have done the last 25K loop of the race, my knees were a bit shot.
Photo by Samantha de la Vega.

WESTERN STATES 100 MILER - 22nd Place (blog)
  • My Family is awesome.
  • Don't get a deep tissue massage 2 days before a 100 mile race. My hamstrings were still sore for the first 50 miles.
  • Don't consume S-caps when you've never really consumed S-caps before. They're quite potent, and they can fuck with your gut.
  • A fun game: Try to drop your pacer every time they go to the bathroom.
  • I still haven't figured out why I threw up at mile 93, but I felt amazing afterwards.
  • By starting off the race relatively slow (not by choice, my knees were painful in the canyons), I had a strong final 40 miles. By the time I finished, I wished the race were 5 miles longer so I could try to catch more people.
  • I'm immune to poison oak! I think...I haven't tried wiping my ass with it yet.
Andrew and me running stride for stride at Foresthill. Photo by Brooks Leman.

BADWATER 135 MILER - CREW/PACER (video)
  • Before drinking from the spray bottle, make sure your crew members aren't filling it with grey water.
Photo by AdventureCORPS.

SQUAMISH 50 Mile - 13th Place
  • Don't wear sunglasses for this race, the forest is super dark and dense.
  • Run this race, and you will understand why Gary Robbins dominates at the H.U.R.T 100. The terrain is technical and relentlessly hilly, but holy crap it's fun!
  • Be ready to give a public speech after you finish the 50 miler.
Photo by the Lovely Catherine Yu.

VOLCANIC 50K - 1st Place (blog) (video)
  • Every now and then, you have a perfect race.
Photo by Paul Nelson.

MOUNT RAINIER, WONDERLAND TRAIL - 90 miles
  • This trail is incredible. Do it if you ever get a chance!
  • A supported 3 day circumnavigation is incredibly enjoyable, but it should be treated like a 100 mile race in terms or training and tapering.
  • Stacie is an Angel.
Day 3. Photo by Gary Robbins.

OREGON COAST 50K
  • Just because you sign up for a race, doesn't mean you should run it. My body was still destroyed from circumnavigating Mt. Rainier just 2 weeks prior, and I probably shouldn't have started the race. Big thanks to Joe Chick for the good company through the long day!
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama, taken immediately after I was
rolling my left ass on a rock for some myofascial release.

SUPPORT

I owe a lot to these folks who have been a huge support in keeping me strong, healthy, injury-free, and well fed. Thank you for everything, and I'm looking forward to 2015!










FINAL THOUGHTS

I read "Unbroken" while recovering from my heart surgery, severe plantar fasciitis, and other unfortunate events in 2012. Since then, I've never taken my health, or my life, for granted. I just want to take my legs as far as possible before I can't anymore.

I heard the movie was okay, but the book is amazing. Read "Unbroken" if you haven't already, it's an incredible story.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jbob's Western States 100 mile Endurance Run - June 28, 2014

"Everybody hurts...sometimes." ~ R.E.M.


Photo used by Ultralive.net
MINDSET

I got this. There's so much to say about this race. For one thing, it's one of the most revered 100 mile races in the world, and I was fortunate enough to be selected via lottery to run it. A week before the race, I was starting to get anxious, but I wasn't nervous. My training was as good as it could have been, and I was confident that I could attain my goal of 19 hours...so long as nothing went horribly wrong during the race (i.e. sprained ankle, epic chafing, cougar attacks (animal and/or human), stomach issues, explosive diarrhea, etc). Leading up to the race, I was sleeping like a baby knowing that I was as prepared as I wanted to be.


Wearing cheetah shorts IS my heat training.
CREW

My family! Both my parents and two sisters traveled from the Bay Area and Portland to crew me. They decorated the car, had custom t-shirts and hats made, and brought the nice camera to take pictures with. I'm blessed to have such a loving family to come and support me, and I Love them dearly for it.


Portland Sister, Dad, California Sister, and Mum!
PACER

The "kid" from Corvallis, Andrew Miller. He's a stud, and he's won most of the races that he's ran this year including the Waldo 100k. Though he's only 18, he was 3rd place at the Pine to Palm 100 miler last year. With his speed, 100 mile experience, and positive attitude, I was stoked to have him pace me for the last 40 miles of Western States.


Andrew, on his way to winning the Orcas Island 50k.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
GEAR
  • Shoes: Saucony Peregrine 4
  • Water Source: double fisting 26oz bottles
  • Hat: Trail Butter Trucker Hat
  • Headlamp: Petzl Myo RXP (this headlamp spent 20 seconds drowning in the Rucky Chucky River, and still worked afterwards)
  • Shirt: Animal Athletics Patagonia Capilene 1
  • Socks: Drymax socks (the Peterson Ridge Rumble finisher's prize)
  • Bandana: White with a sewn pocket for ice to be inserted
  • Arm Sleeves: Mountain Hardware
  • Nipple Tape: Sexy Rock Tape
  • Lube: None

THE COURSE

The course starts in Squaw Valley, CA (near Lake Tahoe) and ends in Auburn, CA (near Sacramento). After going through the high country, much of the the trail goes in and out of the American River Canyons.

Western States Race Profile.
Read from RIGHT to LEFT.
RACE MORNING

The start at Squaw Valley was cold at 4:45 am, but it was tolerable in shorts and a t-shirt. As I joined the rest of the nervous runners at the start, I greeted as many friends that I could. It was easy to tell which of my friends were too nervous to sleep the night before. As the clock counted down, Gordy gave some last words of encouragement, challenging female elites like Pam Smith to beat every runner but one (as Ann Trason did in 1994). Then the gun went off.

Photo by Brooks Leman.
RACE BEGINS - 5:00 AM

Hundreds of journeys (not the band) led to this moment. Photo by Brooks Leman.
There were so many friends and family lined up to cheer on the runners as we all started running up the mountain, it was impossible to tell which yelling faces belonged to my family. Onward and upward! Soon enough, the running turned to hiking, and I mimicked almost every step of Monkey Boy and AJW, two smart runners who know this course inside and out (this was AJW's 10th Western States). When they ran, I ran. When they hiked, I hiked. It definitely helped restrain my tapered legs from chasing runners who I wanted to beat...Run smart, be efficient, and have patience...it's 100 f***ing miles, not 20. After committing to the idea of allowing runners to outrun me for the first 50 miles, I settled in and focused on controlling my breathing and heart rate.

The runners stampede up the mountain,
as my Sister and Mum watch.
Photo by Brooks Leman
The legs felt heavy, but I attributed that to the altitude (9,000'). The first 3 miles were fairly gradual on an uphill cat track, followed by some single track through a field of wildflowers as the sun was rising. It was über pretty, and I was filled with gratefulness.
Photo by Luis Escobar.
The high country trail was very single track, crossing little runoff streams and rolling mostly downward. The AJW and Monkey Boy party train was at least 10 runners strong, without much chatter. The  people who were talking the most were Stephanie Howe and Nikki Kimball, and they were chatting up a storm! The group started spreading out after the Lions Ridge aid station (mile 10), and that's when Stephanie made her move. As she bounded down the trail in front of me, I politely yelled at her to keep the dust down. She laughed, I think. That was the last I saw of her, and Stephanie would eventually finish first place woman.

The high country was filled with big leafed plants that were definitely not poison oak. Knowing that the inevitable would happen soon, I grabbed a handful of leaves and shoved them in my shorts for future use as toilet paper. Seriously, those leaves were the Charmin of the forest! The Red Star Ridge aid station volunteers laughed at my ingenuity after they saw the ration of leaves poking out of my shorts. The leaves were put to good use around mile 22.

Running with the likes of Pam Smith (she won Western States last year), I felt like I was finally in a rhythm. I did my best to keep Pam in sight, knowing that she was a smart runner and probably trying to win the race. As we climbed out of Duncan Canyon towards Robinson Flat, I saw the first carnage of the day. James Bonnett, aka fast motherfucker, was walking slowly with a hamstring issue. I wished him well as I pressed on to Robinson Flat.


ROBINSON FLAT - MILE 29.7 - 43rd Place Overall


It felt amazing to see my family and Andrew at the aid station, and it gave me a huge emotional boost. My legs felt like they just ran 30 miles (go figure), and my family helped me replenish my pockets with GU, replaced my ice bandana, and handed me my precious Coconut Water. I left the aid station full of food, water, and life.


Robinson Flat. Photo by Brooks Leman.
Shortly after Robinson flat, the trail begins a loooong gradual 15 mile downhill to the swinging bridge. Yay, lots of downhill running! Wait a minute, why do I feel like throwing up? Feeling a disturbance in my gut, I stopped for a brief second to take a deep breath. Using my superior problem solving skills, I realized that I had broken one of the golden rules of 100-mile races:

"Don't do anything different on race day that you aren't used to doing!"


Having consumed an S-cap (salt pill) at the previous two consecutive aid stations, my stomach was like "WTF?". S-caps contain a ton of sodium, and I wasn't sweating nearly enough salt to warrant taking the supplement. Also, I never use S-caps during training or in races, probably because I don't sweat that much (thank you, Pacific Northwest weather). So of course, popping salt pills made me feel bloated in the gut and nauseous, therefore causing me great discomfort. Of course I eventually recovered, but I went through at least 1 hour of discomfort, as seen in this photo by Glenn Tachiyama.


Feeling Terrible. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama before Dusty Corners.
After Dusty Corners, the trail leveled off for a while before dropping down towards Swinging Bridge. On the way down (at about mile 40), I noticed a sharp pain in both knees isolated directly beneath the knee cap. Perhaps my form was a a bit off, or maybe my glutes weren't absorbing the downhill impact like they should, but my knees were hurting on all steep downhill grades. Crap! Downhills are my favorite! Why is this happening? Is it getting aggravated or staying the same? Will this cause me to drop out of the race? Lots of thoughts were going through my head. I tried braking less on the downhills, but the pain was mostly inevitable. The good thing was, the uphills and flats didn't hurt. So after soaking in the river crossing below Swinging Bridge, I knew I had 2 more excruciating canyon downhills and 3 more climbs before arriving at Foresthill (mile 62) where the trail becomes more gradual. Come on knees, get to Foresthill!

After passing an uncharacteristically slow Emily Harrison, I feared that her day was over. I resolved then to get to the finish line, even if my knees forced me to walk. Come on body, don't blow up.

Just beyond the Swinging Bridge creek crossing (mile 44), is a climb called Devil's Thumb that leads out of the canyon. There's something like 37 switchbacks before reaching the top, and so I started counting the switchbacks one by one...then I lost count...then I just kind of fell into a groove. The climb up Devil's Thumb wasn't terribly steep (by Columbia River Gorge standards), and I was able to catch several people on the climb. After arriving at the top, I was weighed, sweet talked by Ma Boggess, encouraged by Denise (saying I was in 41st place), sponged by volunteers, hugged by Trail Butter Jeff, and got my bandana iced by good friend Joe Uhan. After getting stoked on their positive energy, I was feeling more optimistic about my race. Just 2 more canyon descents...


Mortally wounded in vain.
Running downhill strong, but not terribly fast because of my knees, the temperature was getting noticeably hotter as I dove deeper into the canyon. Poison oak was becoming a constant border for the trail, and I was being careful not to OOF!...ouch...system check...bottles still in hand, legs fine...what did I land on, rebar? Shit, stupid stick. Not knowing what I tripped on, I face planted into a poison oak bush near the edge of the trail, nearly impaling my shoulder on a stick that was sticking out of the ground. With my arms, shoulder, bottles (and consequently my mouth) draped in poison oak, I was going to find out soon how allergic I was. Lucky me, I'm apparently not allergic. Smiley face.

MILE 50 - HALFWAY


At the bottom of the canyon was the El Dorado Creek aid station. It wasn't so hot that I needed to jump into the creek, but I decided to anyways. It took some scrambling to get down to the water's edge, and I was happy to be feeling so limber at the 50 mile mark of the race. After getting pleasantly soaked from a refreshing submersion, I left the aid station wet, refreshed, and ready to hike hard to get to Michigan Bluff (3 miles away). AJW had passed me at the aid station, but I was able to hike past him and a few others on the uphill. My climbing legs still felt great, and hiking was easy. Just before Michigan Bluff, I began feeling the energy of the aid station and started running towards the noise.


AID STATION #10 - MICHIGAN BLUFF - MILE 53-ish - 40th Place Overall

Coconut water, new GUs, knee straps for my knees, a sunscreen rub down from my family and Todd Janssen, a first and last sip of Perpetuem, lots of water melon, and off I go.


Flamingos. Were. Everywhere.
Photo by Brooks Leman.
My first and last sip of Perpetuem. Bleh. Photo by Brooks Leman.
My face leaving the Aid Station was that of an internal systems check for my knees, gauging the usefulness of the knee straps. There was only one more steep downhill left before reaching Foresthill, so hopefully this would be the last of the excruciating descents. I ran as much as I could, but the steepness definitely slowed me down in places. Frustration ensued, because I LOVE running technical downhill...but I was almost walking downhill at this point.

More carnage. The Pixie Ninja (Kaci Lickteig) stepped aside to let me, AJW, and one other pass by. She was struggling with hip flexor issues, I think.

At the bottom of the descent was a stream just big enough to soak in. I'm starting to really enjoy these streams! Finally beginning the ascent, I unambitiously hiked behind AJW until we reached Bath Road, where my pacer Andrew was waiting for me. This moment was my turning point, and I enthusiastically ran most of the uphill portion of the road without feeling any fatigue. Perhaps my slowness in the canyons was a blessing in disguise, for my legs still felt fresh as I was was approaching mile 62.

AID STATION #13-ish - FORESTHILL - MILE 62 - 38th Place Overall


Photo by Brooks Leman.
Foresthill was packed with crews and pacers awaiting their runners, and the energy was incredibly uplifting. My family was perfectly addressing my needs, and the aid station volunteers were very professional. 

Family: "Hey Jason, do you need a sponge bath?"
Me: "Depends on who's doing it...*sees two cute volunteers holding sponges*...YES!"

After getting my neck rubbed down, I collected by replenished bottles from my family and began tearing down Foresthill Road towards Cal Street with Andrew.


Stride for stride, picking up the pace for the final 38 miles. Photo by Brooks Leman.
As we ran, I gave Andrew the rundown of my first 62 miles and how my legs were feeling. He took the lead and we scampered down the trail at a solid pace. AJW suddenly flew by us with his pacer, Bryon Powell. There's a man who knows when to kick it in gear. Before long, AJW was out of sight, out of mind. But slowly, Andrew and I began passing other runners one by one. We flew by Nick Clark (paced by Jacob Rydman) who looked absolutely blown up. We gave him some encouragement as we passed by.

Pretty soon, we caught up to Adam Hewey (and pacer), who I'd been leapfrogging with all day. We were running the same pace, and I wasn't too keen on passing him just yet. Knowing that he walked after every aid station in order to help digest his food, we decided to make our move at Cal 3 aid station.  By calculating ahead of time what I needed (watermelon and some electrolyte beverage), we were able to make a quick aid station transition and ran past Adam on the downhill thereafter. We also passed AJW as he was yakking on the side of the trail, which is only fair, since earlier he passed me while I was taking a shit in front of him.

Heads down, we pushed hard to put space between me and Adam, and we consequently caught a couple more runners as we made our way to the Rucky Chucky River Crossing. In 2013, I was hanging out at this aid station where I witnessed Jeremy Humphrey getting pulled from the race by the medical staff because he had a head rush and blacked out for a second. I was feeling fine, but I made sure that I was hydrated and fueled enough so that my body would at least appear functional when I arrived at the aid station.

AID STATION #17 - RUCKY CHUCKY RIVER CROSSING (near) - MILE 78 - 32nd Place Overall

"Hold me closer, Joe! Seriously, I need to get a rock out of my shoe, hold on to me for a sec."
My family, pacer, and Joe Uhan at the Rucky Chucky (near) Aid Station.
Photo by Brooks Leman
Moments before my headlamp fell in the water.
Photo by Facchino Photography.
Andrew, holding my headlamp. Photo by Facchino Photography.
HIGH FIVE! Photo by Facchino Photography.
After crossing the river, Andrew and I hiked for a little ways while our balls recovered from the cold river crossing. Then we began run/hiking up the gradual climb to Green Gate, focusing on putting more space between me and Adam. Little did we know we were untouchable.

Reaching the Green Gate aid station (ironically, the gate wasn't green), the trail leveled off, and I jumped in front of Andrew. The sun was fast approaching sunset, and the temperatures were dropping lower and lower. Maybe it was the refreshing river crossing, or the dusk air, but my legs felt phenomenal. My legs had very little fatigue, and there were no signs of imminent cramping. We were flying, and we were both surprised by how fast we were moving.

One by one, we were catching runners. As soon as our headlamps came on, it became easier to hunt the runners ahead of us. At times, we turned our headlamps off so we could sneak up on runners before blowing by them at a demoralizing pace. I never thought I could have so much fun 80 miles into a 100 mile race. Unfortunately, one of the runners we passed was our friend Pam Smith and her pacer Dennis. She was having quad issues, and her pursuit of a repeat championship was now yesterday's dream. As with everyone we passed, we gave them words of encouragement.

AID STATION #22 - HIGHWAY 49 CROSSING - MILE 93.5 - 28th Place Overall


Blazing through the Highway 49 Aid Station.
Photo by Brooks Leman.
After a quick transition, we ran out the aid station like blood thirsty cheetahs. We could smell the barn, and we were going to catch as many people as possible between Highway 49 and the finish line. My stomach was full of Coconut Water, potatoes, salt, and watermelon. As we climbed out of the aid station, I tried burping...unsuccessfully. On my third attempt, I threw up everything in my stomach. When I was done, we hiked, then we ran. I soon ingested a GU to see if my stomach was still upset, but thankfully the GU stayed down. Everything still felt good, so we continued to push. Hmm...perhaps the coconut water and salt didn't agree with one another. Doesn't matter now. Carry on, my wayward son!

Hammering down to "No Hands Bridge", we passed Jorge Maravilla, Mauclair Nathalie, and Yoshikazu Hara. As we crossed the bridge, I made Andrew look behind us to see if anybody posed a threat. To my delight, he wasn't worried. We ran everything until the final steep climb to Robie Point. With a mile left, we received word that the next runner was 2 minutes ahead. We turned off our headlamps (stealth mode) and climbed the road in the dark, surprising several of the neighbors as they sat and cheered for us. The last thing I said to Andrew as we neared the finish line at Placer High School track: "Thanks man. Let my family know that I may throw up." I then ran hard around the track and sprinted through the finishers shoot. The entire race, I never knew what time of day it was, or any of my splits until I saw the clock at the finish line. It was a nice surprise.

RESULTS: 18:36:51 - 24th overall out of 296 finishers - 22nd male
PACE: ~11:08 min/mile


Photo by Brooks Leman.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Hugging Andrew. Thanks Seven Hills Running Shop for featuring this photo on your wall.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama. 
Hugging Siiri. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
My crew. Teresa, Mum, Andrew, Brooks, me, and Christine.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Elated. Proud. Grateful. Stiff. Hungry. Nauseous. Happy. That race was an crazy awesome experience, and I felt unbelievably incredible the last 40 miles of the race. I finished almost wishing I had 5 more miles to catch more runners, I was having that much fun. Luckily, my knees didn't slow me down for the last 40 miles. I'm not sure why they were hurting so bad in the canyons, but perhaps it was due to some slight overtraining.

RECEIVING THE SUB-24 HOUR SILVER BUCKLE


The Silver Buckle with the Western States Cougar.

SPECIAL THANKS

Craig Thornley & Co, and Volunteers. Never have I run a race with more energy, hype, and prestige. This truly is the Boston Marathon of ultramarathons, and I had a blast running this race. Thank you Craig Thornley (RD), Western States Board members, Aid Station Captains, Volunteers, and those who did trail work and helped remedy the damage done by last summer's fire. The organization of this race was exceptional and professional. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime.

My Family. Thank you for traveling to support me in my 100-mile endeavor. It was a blast having you all around, and you were a huge help to me throughout the race. I couldn't have asked for a better crew. I Love you all unconditionally.

Andrew. Andrew, you were the perfect pacer. You were always positive, encouraging, and fun to run with. Thanks for the journey, you got me running faster than I thought possible at the end of a 100-miler.

My Friends. Thank you to those of you who followed my progress throughout the race. I felt your energy every time you hit the refresh button. 

Seven Hills Running Shop of Seattle. I bought my Saucony Peregrines at your store! And thanks for making sure my pacer had a shirt to wear.

Trail Butter. Thanks for the pre-race fuel that kept me running all day long.

Animal Athletics & Ultra U.  Thank you for the encouragement and support throughout the past year. You guys are awesome!

Float Shoppe. Floating has become essential in helping me recover and relieve the stresses of training for a 100-mile race. I can't say enough about the benefits I've been feeling by continually floating between races and long runs.

Dr. Brad Farra, Sports Chiropractor. Thank you for helping me stay strong and injury-free throughout my training. My life would suck without you.

24-Hour Fitness. All those awkward Sauna conversations paid off and helped prepare me for running hot weather. Also, now I know that lathering my body in Honey while in a sauna will make my skin look sexy and amazing. I learned that from a dude.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This race has opened up a whole new can of confidence for me at the 100-mile distance. As I continue to improve through the years, I hope one day I'll be able to compete with the elites when they're having a good day. I'm getting closer...

Though this race now has a special place in my heart, I will not be applying for the 2015 lottery. Instead I'll be chasing other things on my "To Do" list.


Much Love,

Jbob