Tuesday, August 27, 2013

50 and 100 Mile Races - There are no Myths

There are no Myths when it comes to running 50 or 100 miles. 
You just have to be too stubborn to quit.  And, you have to put in some very long training runs.

In the last article we discussed training for and running your first 50K.  The step from a marathon to a 50K is pretty easy.  Now I am going to talk about how to take the next step,  how to train and run your first “long” ultra, a 50 miler.  There are three keys to successfully running a 50 mile race.
1.                   Train long and hard.
2.                   Prepare correctly.
3.                   Run intelligently.

The step from a 50K to a 50 mile trail race is huge.  There are five major differences or maybe I should say difficulties that the  “average” runner will encounter in their first 50 mile race. 
These are:
1.                   Time on the trail - Dealing with the highs and lows and fatigue associated with very long runs.
2.                   Hydration over a long period of time
3.                   Staying fueled
4.                   Night running (for many runners)
5.                   Staying Focused
The average trail runner will need between 8 and 11 hours to run an easy 50 mile race.  A hard 50, like Lookout Mountain 50, the times will jump to between 10 to 13 hours or more.  That is a long time to keep everything in balance.  It is also a long time to stay focused on what you are doing.  Lose your focus and things begin to unravel in a hurry.

So how does someone deal with running for 10 or 12 hours or more? 

Lets start with my training schedule.  Remember, this works for me.  It may not work for you.  IF you have time you should run more than three times per week.  I am just not willing to give up that much of my life to running.   It works good enough that I have finished six 100 mile races using this exact training schedule. (some times.)
50K to 50 Miles – 25 weeks - Listed in Hours Run

Step one is simple.  Long training runs.  I train for a 50 Mile race about the same way I train for a 100.  Below I have inserted a training schedule that I use to progress for a 50K race, or from my “holding pattern,” to a 50 or 100 mile race.  My holding pattern (the  level of fitness I like to maintain when there are no races coming up in the next few months) is usually alternating between 3 and 4 hour runs with varying numbers of hill repeats.

The week after completing a marathon or a 50K I would run an easy hour on Tuesday and Thursday followed by an easy two hour run over the weekend.  On Tuesday of the next week I would ease into the schedule above at week one if I planned to run my next 50 or 100 miler in 25 to 28 weeks.  This schedule will allow you to build mileage slowly and hit your training peak six or seven weeks before the race.  Stay at the peak mileage for three or four weeks and start the taper to race day.  If you are training using this or a similar plan pay close attention to how your body is doing about week 11 or 12.  It is easy to overdo the training as your weekend runs get into the 6 to 8 hour range.  Back off if you need to for a week or so then jump right back in.  Those 6, 7 and 8 hour training runs are the key.  This is where you learn how to stay hydrated, stay fueled and cope with the serious lows all ultrarunners must deal with from time to time.  They are also where you find out that you can recover from those lows and feel great again. 

At the Leadville 100 in 2009 I ran out of water on the way up Hope Pass outbound, (about mile 42) the 12,600 ft high point of Leadville.  I was so dehydrated by the time I reached the summit of the pass I had to walk all the way down the other side of the pass and the 4 miles to the Winfield turnaround at mile 50.  I was sure my race was over.  I would never make the cutoff at Twin Lakes some 10 miles away and back over Hope Pass.  I had to walk from Winfield all the way back to the start of the climb (4 miles downhill) and of course, walk all the way up to the top again.  After reaching the summit, I still had to walk down to the Hopeless Aid Station located at timberline at about 11,800 ft.  As I left the aid station I began to feel better.  I ended up being able to run most of the way back to Twin Lakes with time to spare before the cutoff.  I was able to recover and finish one hour before the 30 hour cutoff and actually felt good most of the rest of the race.

How did I manage to go from about as low as I have ever felt in a race to finishing strong.  I managed to get everything back in balance.  Marye Jo, my wife, was waiting for me at Winfield.  She made me sit down, take my time, eat and drink for about 20 minutes.  I didn't feel any better when I left the aid station but by the time I reached timberline on the way back over Hope Pass, the toughest climb of the race, I began to feel better.  It still took a while, but I eventually recovered.

Those long training runs are where you and your body learn to deal with the difficulties  you will encounter in a 50 or 100 mile race.  Your body will become accustomed to the punishment of the long runs and you will learn how to keep you body going. 

If you anticipate still being on the trail after dark in your first 50 mile race, get a good headlamp like the Black Diamond Storm.  It has a maximum output of 100 lumens and will last all night on 4 AAA batteries.  I also carry a flashlight like the Fenix LD22 with a maximum light output of 200 lumens and almost 6 hour burn time at 95 lumens.  In any race I will be be running after dark I always start the race with a Fenix flashlight in my backpack.  That way I always have a backup, Just in Case.

                        Storm Headlamp                                                                        Fenix LED Flashlight

How to Actually Run the “Long” Ultra.
My personal rule in a 50K is to walk up the steep hills, run down all the hills and run the flats and reasonable hills.  You will learn the definition of a “reasonable hill” in your training runs.  In a 50 or 100 mile races everything changes.  In a 50 I still walk up all steep hills but my definition of a reasonable hill changes.  I still run up easy hills, especially early in the run.  In 100 milers I walk up almost all hills, run down all hills unless they are 4 to 8 miles long like the hills in the Rockies and alternate on the flats.  In ultras it is perfectly acceptable to walk when you need to, even downhill. 

In 100 mile runs a lot of very fast people use a two minute "run-walk" plan.  That is, they run two minutes and walk two minutes on flat or very gentle up hill sections.  They will walk up all steeper hills and run down just about all hills.  I find I am most comfortable running 2/3 to 3/4 of the flats very slowly, walking all up hill sections and running all downhill sections, to a point.  Ultras in the Rockies (I have run races in Colorado Rockies, Sierra Nevada Range in Nevada and Wasatch Range in Utah) and in the Shenandoah Mountain Range in Virginia and all have some very long descents ranging from 3 to as much as10 miles.  Here I will again alternate running and walking, usually running the reasonable grades and walking the steep sections.  You can blow out your quads in a hurry running for miles down a steep grade. 

Don't go out too fast.  A fast pace early can lead to serious problems late in the run.  In a typical road marathon or 10K, you probably try run every mile as close  to the same pace as you can.  This does not work in trail ultras.  There is so much variation in the trails on an average 50K, a steady pace is simply not possible. (Not to mention there are no mile marks in ultras, only aid stations every 4 to13 miles.) You have to go by "feel."  Instead of trying to maintain a constant pace, try to maintain a constant effort.  You should start at a  pace quite a bit slower than your marathon pace, especially in the first half of the race.  BEWARE:  Just like in a marathon, those last 4 or 5 miles can be killers.  If you ran your last marathon at a 4 hour pace you might consider starting at a 5 hour marathon pace for a 50K.  So here are my rules for how to run a 50K: 
            1. Walk up all steep hills.
            2. Walk up gentle hills if you need to.
            3. Walk if you are struggling.  But Don't Stop!
            4. Your pace early in the race should feel comfortable.

My Rules for 50 and 100 miler:
1.                   Walk up all hills
2.                   Run down all hills that are not too steep or long
3.                   Alternate walking and running on the flats
4.                   Start at a pace that feels like you are crawling
5.                   Do Not Stop!  Do not sit down Unless you are going through your drop bag.  Keep moving, even when                    eating.

Hydration  and Electrolytes:
One of the biggest problems ultrarunners have is staying fueled and hydrated during long hours of running.  The longer the race the harder this becomes.  You are burning calories faster than you can replace them and your body does not absorb water as fast as you are losing it.  It is critical to begin drinking a lot of liquid (NO ALCOHOL) several days prior to the race.  The day before the race drink even more.  I drink so much water the day before a race I end up hopping out of bed every 2 hours to run the the bathroom.

One of the major causes of stomach distress during a run is too much in your stomach.  If you are drinking as you are supposed to, the "too much" will likely be water.  So how do you avoid too much water sitting in your stomach?  Usually the issue is not drinking too much water, the problem is the water is not being absorbed fast enough.  If you are not taking enough electrolytes the water will not be absorbed fast enough and will start sloshing around in there.  That is when you start feeling really sick at your stomach.  Of course, if you're taking too much salt (electrolytes) that will make you sick too.  That is a major part of the balance you learn to maintain in those 8 hour training runs.

My rules for staying hydrated: Racing and Training.
            1.  Drink a lot of water for several days before the race.
            2.  Drink even more water the day before.
            3.  No Alcohol for at least 2 days prior to the race.
            4.  Do all training runs using electrolyte supplements.  (Follow the directions for each product)
            5.  Use electrolytes before, during and immediately after the run or race.
            6.  Increase electrolyte intake in hot weather.

Fueling During the Race:
In this section I am talking about "Long” races, that is, races that will take at least 8 to 10 hours to complete.  In these longer races, it is necessary to eat and drink all during the event.  This is a foreign concept to most road runners.  Just about everyone uses GUs and gels these days and if you are not, you should start.  They really work.  Most runners can tolerate them for a several hours and you probably can run a 50K eating nothing else.  At some point in a Long race, the thought of another GU will make you sick.  I suggest you start trying various other foods during your training runs.  Here is a list of things you will typically find at aid stations in 50K to 100 mile races:
            Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches
            Other types of sandwiches and roll-ups (100 mile races)
            M&M, and other types of candy
            Potato Chips
            Soup or Broth  (Usually over night in 100 mile races and during the day in cold weather)
            Cooked Potatoes and a bowl of Salt to dip them in.
            Cokes, Sprite, Gatorade, etc.
            Several types of Cookies and Crackers.
            Bananas and other fruit.
            Coffee  (Overnight in long races only)

You will need to figure out what you like and what you are able to eat while running. Start practicing.  When I started training for the Pinhoti 100 in 2008, I would take an assortment of food in my car to Oak Mountain for all my long training runs.  After several hours of running I would stop by my car to refill water bottles and try a few new snacks.  I also carry various snacks with me on the run.  Every two to three hours I would have a quick bite to eat.  I treated my car like an aid station.  I stopped just long enough to resupply and keep on running or at least walking while I ate.  What I have found out is that I can eat anything that looks good at the time.  If it doesn't look good I just don't eat it.  At Grindstone last year I actually ate a barbecue sandwich at about mile 65 and it was great.  Over a period of about 1.5 hours near the turnaround I ate 2 entire grilled cheese sandwiches.  They were awesome.

Sometime during every long race most runners will will have a few  stomach issues and starts to feel a little queasy.  One trick I have learned is to always carry Ginger Chews candy.  You eat one and a few minutes later you feel fine.  I do not know of any local stores that have them, but Zombie Runner (zombierunner.com) sells Ginger Chews and they are cheap.  A product called Enlyten strips also do a good job of settling you stomach.  You just eat a couple of strips like candy and in a few minutes the stomach problem is gone.  Find these on the internet.

One very critical issue regarding food is what to eat, or more importantly, what NOT to eat the night before an ultra, especially long ultra.  Everyone that ever slipped on a pair of running shoes knows to eat carbs the night before a race and this is important.  Running ultras creates new issues, however.  Because you will be running for many hours you do not want to have heavy, slow digesting food sitting in your gut that might come back to haunt you in later hours of an ultra.  Stay away from any type of roughage.  A grilled chicken or salmon salad might be a great healthy meal any other time, but don't eat it the night before an ultra.  Some people go as far as suggesting runners eat nothing more than soup or even a drink like "Ensure."  Just eat light and eat what can be easily digested for a pre-race dinner.

Managing all the STUFF in an ultra.
Running a 50K is pretty simple.  I grab one or two of my Nathan “Quickdraw” 20 oz hand-held water bottle and a few Thermolyte Caps,  my “Speed Belt” with three or four 10 oz bottles, each containing 2 scoops of “Carbo Pro” and head out the door.  Once I arrive at the race I will take out the three 10 oz bottles and add water to ONE.  I then put all the bottles in slots on the “Speed” belt.  I will fill the next bottle when the first runs out.  (No extra weight.)  I will already have estimated how long it will take to get to the first aid station and add just enough water to the Quickdraw “hand-held” bottle to be sure to get there.  A few minutes before the start I eat a “Honey Stinger” gel and head to the start line.  Remember, this is for a 50K.

Next, a 50 miler.  Now you add an additional dimension, Drop Bags.  A few days before the race you will need to estimate what time you will arrive at each aid station.  Then figure out what supplies you will need at each AS.  For example, in the Lookout Mountain 50 the first drop bag aid station is at Covenant College (also the start & finish) at about 22.5 miles.  There are two interim aid stations along the way but they are not drop-bag aid station.  I estimated it would take me about 5.5 hours to get back to CC.  I will have to start the race with enough Carbo Pro and Salt Caps to get that far.  In the drop bag at Covenant College I will need enough supplies to get me to the Long Branch aid station at mile 34.  In the Long Branch drop bag I will need enough supplies to run the 4.5 mile loop back to Long Branch at mile 38.  From there it is 12 miles to the finish.  At my pace it will be dark long before I reach the finish so I know I will need my headlamp in the Long Branch bag.  I will need an extra jacket and gloves because it will be getting cold by then.  The Lookout Mountain race is mid December.  I will need several more Nathan 10 oz bottles with Carbo Pro, enough for the 4.5 mile loop back to Long Branch and for the 12 miles to the finish.  I will have more salt caps and enough of my snacks to cover the distance too.  I also throw in an extra pair of socks.

Before you even consider running a 100 mile race you should run at least one or two 50 milers and perhaps a 100K.  You may just find out some of the things you are doing in training runs and 50K just don't work in long races.  The 50 milers really are the steeping stones to the 100s.

Other Tips I have Learned along the way: 
1.   If you run trails very often you know every few miles you have to stop and dump the sticks and rocks out of your shoes. I have run 100 miles and never removed a shoe.  How?  I have a pair of gaiters, but not just any gaiters, Dirty Girl Gaiters.  They are simple, weigh absolutely nothing and Cheap!  Actually, I have three pair.  Go to their web site and pick out a style.  (They must have 60 or 70 patterns.)  You will never get on a trail again without your “dirty girls.”  And you get some really interesting comments when your not around trail runners.

2.   If there will be night running in your race start the race with a backup flashlight.  One that you never intend to use.  It is possible that your drop bag doesn't make it to the aid station.  (If it doesn't, you probably put it in the wrong place to start with.)  Your light could have accidentally been turned on and the batteries are now dead.  The light might just decide not to work.  It is a good idea to put extra batteries in the night time dropbags too.

3.  Create a checklist.  There is so much stuff to remember for long ultras it's easy to forget something.  This could be a disaster in a 100 mile race.  Ken Sayers has a helpful website and has a check list you might want to copy at http://www.ultrunr.com.

There are a few other very important things to remember:
1.                   Sunscreen
2.                   Sun Glasses
3.                   A Hat
4.                   White or light colored wicking top in  hot weather.
5.                   Cooler with your drinks for after the race or run.
6.                   Your Drop Bags!
7.                   If you have a problem with chafing, apply GLIDE or similar product.
8.                   Place Band-Aids on sensitive places.
9.                   Don't forget to bring your bib number.
My Disclaimer:  What I have presented in this article works for me.  It is exactly what I have done for the last 5 years of trail running and races and it is exactly how I train, or at least how I always plan to train.  It may not all work for you but I think there is a pretty good chance most of it will.  You just have to be committed and stick with it.  OK, now get out on the trail and start trying this stuff.

Why so much hype about Ultrarunning

Why is there suddenly so much hype about running on trails?  What has fueled a growth rate of over 20% per year of ultra trail running?  I have been giving the subject some thought ever since Alex asked if I would write the “Dirty Running” column.  Why am I addicted to the trails?

At first it seemed the answer should be pretty obvious.  I came up with the usual clichés, the peace and quiet of the woods, being one with nature, the solitude, the beauty. OK, that's enough.    While these are certainly all contributing factors to the trail running phenomenon, after all, there certainly is no “peace and quiet” running along the Green-way next to Lakeshore,  but none of these reasons (beauty of the trail, being with nature, etc.) are responsible for the exponential growth of trail running and ultrarunning in the last 10 years.  After all anyone can drive out to a local park, walk a few hundred yards into the woods and experience these things.

While the tranquility and beauty of trail running certainly adds to the pleasure of running trails, that is not what has so many, including me, totally hooked on the sport.  For me, the real draw to the trails is not what you see and experience every time you hit the dirt, but rather, those rare moments, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime moments that happen while trail running.  Some of these moments startle you, some take your breath away, some cause you just stop and stare in wonder, some scare the Hell out of you.  All, you will never forget.  Sure, such moments could happen 300 yards from the parking lot, but not likely.  It is too easy to run for the protection of your car.  Let me tell you about a few of these rare experiences that I have had on the trails.  These are the kinds of things that get you hooked on the trails.

I think I will divide these experiences into three categories, like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”
We will start with the good. 

Several years ago it snowed overnight in Birmingham and I love snow.  Trouble was, it was just too warm for any of it to stick in town.  When I got up Saturday morning the snow had stopped but I figured there was a good chance there was still snow on top of Double Oak Mtn. so I was off for a run.  There was nothing down low but about half way up I started seeing snow.  By the time I reached the top of the Red Trail the ground was solid white.  I took the red trail over to the north end and followed the Blue Trail back I ran the entire length of the Blue Trail on a 2 inch bed of snow.  It was absolutely beautiful.

2010 Christmas Snow along the Blue Trail at Oak Mountain Sate Park

On the subject of snow, in 2011 I ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  The western mountains of the US had received over 100 inches of snow in April of 2011.  Huge show fields still remained on the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The race happened to coincide with a full moon.  The Tahoe Rim Trail crisscrosses the ridge crest and the views were unbelievable.  Look off to the west and Lake Tahoe was illuminated by the moon, off to the east, the Nevada Desert was almost glowing.  Crossing the endless snowfields on the ridge crest I could have turned off my headlamp and have seen just fine, that is except for the course marking.

Running at night is a truly surreal experience that is unique to trial running and I love to run at night.   My first race experience with night running was in the Pinhoti 100 in 2008, my first 100.  After running through pitch black woods for miles with no one around, I start hearing noise in the distance, then it is gone.  Then it is back and louder.  I thought it is music.  I wasn't sure if I was imagining it, or if it was real.  Then I spotted a light off in the distance, then more lights and more noise, people yelling and cheering.  I realize I had reached the Adams Gap Aid Station, mile 52.  Out of nowhere there were people, lots of people, tents, music, a huge fire, and hot food.  The temperature was near freezing and I settled down by the fire with a cup of hot soup, a dangerous thing to do.  The longer you sit the harder is becomes to get up again.  I finally did get up and head down the very dark, cold road, but at that point, I know I would finish.

One other thing I remember from Pinhoti was the “Strobing Spiders.”  I was running along the Silent Trail on the way to Adams Gap and I kept seeing these tiny strobing lights on the ground.  I finally stopped and took a very close look.  They are tiny little spiders and when my headlight hits them, their eyes reflect the light back in brilliant flashes.  I have seen them in almost every overnight run I have done.  I think it is something to do with the LED lights in headlamps and flashlights but it is an amazing sight to run along a path of tiny strobing eyes.

In the 2009 Leadville 100, I was on the crest Hope Pass at 12,600 feet just as the sun was setting.  The mountains to the south of the pass were a crimson red that would make an Alabama fan cry.  If only I had a camera.  Late in the race I was climbing up “Powerline” headed to the top of Sugarloaf Pass at about mile 83.  I hit a short traverse and looked back down to see a line of headlamps snaking up the climb below me.  It reminded me of the scene in the Disney movie “Fantasia” during the piece “Ave Maria” where the monks were carrying torches.  Their movement was almost imperceptible.  I just stopped and stared at the amazing sight.  About two miles later after cresting the pass I reached an overlook where Turquoise Lake was faintly visible in the early morning light.  On the far shore I again saw a long procession of headlamps moving in slow motion along the far shore of the lake 2000 feet below.  It was an awesome sight.  It also created a degree of envy.  I still had 15 or 16 miles to go.  They were 10 or 11 miles from the end.  Again, I wished I had my camera.

Back to normal trail running.  Several years ago I was running in the early morning at Oak Mountain with a friend along the Red Trail on Johnson Mountain.  We were on a traverse when something flew across the trail just in front and above us.  My first thought was a large hawk.  It was pretty big.  As I focused on the movement I realized it was a deer.  It had jumped from the hill on our right above our heads and was flying through the air and landed well below us.  In a few seconds disappeared into the woods.  I had no idea a deer could jump that far.

Next, A little Bad:  About three years ago I was out for an early morning run at Oak Mountain.  I started hearing thunder as I was running up the White Trail from Maggie's Glen.  I planned to run hill repeats and had finished the first by the time the lightning started getting close.  As I reached the ridgeline on the second repeat, there was a blinding flash and instantaneous BANG!  I decided to get off the ridge and run down low for a while.  I followed the Yellow Trail around Tranquility Lake and down by the dam and along the creek below.  I was hoping over large black roots when one of those roots took off to my right as I stepped over it.  I stopped and looked back, rather startled, and saw a very large Water Moccasin staring back at me, probably as surprised as I was.  I was glad I didn't step on that root.

And a little Ugly:  About three years ago I decided to run a few hill reps at Oak Mtn because there was a severe thunderstorm headed straight for the park.  I parked at the North Trailhead and headed up the Red Trail. I reached the top and stated back down as the storm closed in.  I made it about 1/4 mile back down when the bottom fell out.  It was raining so hard the trail turned to an ankle deep river.  The lightning was hitting the ridges above me every few seconds and the wind was roaring through the trees.  Conditions became progressively worse and I ran progressively faster.  I figured I was about to be fried or flattened by one of the limbs raining down out of the trees.  The wind was really picking up and I reached the connector trail over to Maggie's Glen and stopped under the small shelter over the sign at the trail intersection.  At least I was out of the water running down the trail.  My immediate concern became the two large pines directly behind the covered sign.  I was sure they were about to blow over on top of me so I stood so I could watch them.  Then the wind velocity just about doubled and pieces of trees started falling all around.  Next over a period of about 20 seconds the wind shifted around about 120deg.  I realized a tornado was passing very close by and decided it was better to be a moving target than a sitting duck.  I took off down the trail again, a very unwise decision!  At the shelter I had a tin roof over my head, I could watch for falling trees and I was not running down a river.  Now I was out in the open with nothing over my head.  I was again ankle deep in water with lightning still hitting all around and limbs were still falling around me.  By the time I decided I should go back to the shelter, the storm was moving off so I continued to the car to wait.  When the storm passed I ran decided to run up the trail again and only then saw how much damage had been done.  A number of large trees were down along the trail and one that had fallen across the trail.  The forest floor was now green, covered with fallen limbs.  I will never forget the experience and I have will not intentionally go run in a storm again.

There are a lot more of the “Great Experiences” I could talk about, like running in the early morning fog atop Double Oak Mountain where you can only see 30 or 40 yards ahead.  Trees just materialized out of the fog as you ran along the trail.  Several times I have reached the crest of a mountain ridge just as the sun is appearing over the horizon.  I always stop for a moment to enjoy the sight.  The huge Owl I spooked that was so large I thought it was a turkey, until it landed on a limb a short distance away.  The shadow of a bird directly overhead and looking up to see a hawk land on a tree limb no more than 15 feet above my head.  Watching the light slowly dim as you run along the trail until everything in your world is pitch black except the small area illuminated by your headlamp.  Then, just a few hours later watching the glow on the eastern horizon become brighter and brighter as the new day dawns.  I love it!!! This list could go on and on and fortunately almost all are the “Good.”  Yes, these are the things that makes trail running so special to me. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The 2013 Hardrock 100 - From the Outside

For 5 years now I have been trying to gain entry into Hardrock with no luck.  This year I was # 13 on the wait list of "Never Ran" entries of which there were 35.  There was not a chance.  Two years ago I went out to Silverton (Actually Telluride) so I could do trail work for an extra lottery ticket.  Last year I was aid station captain for Engineer Aid Station at mile 53 and got one lottery ticket extra.  This year I decided if I am going out there I was going to do trail work and be the Cunningham Aid Station Captain (the first and therefore, easiest aid station.)  That will earn me 2 tickets and maybe Next Year, well, who knows.  I also offered to sweep the course from Cunningham to Sherman, a total of about 20 miles that turned into quite an adventure and a very unpleasant night.

The following is my account of the week in the Ouray/Silverton area with a bunch of pictures.
Here is a link to the Hardrock 100 Web album.

What an amazing week at Hardrock.  If you have never volunteered for one of the major 100 mile races, you should sign up.  It is a great experience.  This was the third year I have gone to Silverton, CO to help.  Of course, the point in my trip was to get additional lottery tickets for the 2014 race and I did accomplish that with two extra, one for trail work Sunday and Monday and one as Aid Station Captain for the Cunningham Gulch aid station.  But it is such a great experience it would be worth the trip just to be there.

I arrived in Durango on Saturday, July 6th and drove immediately to Ouray where I hiked up Bear Creek, Ouray, to a mile long section of trail blasted out of a cliff.  I intended to take some videos with my new GoPro but I had apparently turned the camera on in my luggage and wiped out the battery.  I just enjoyed the hike and ran into the trail marking group headed by Charley Thor who I had met two years before. 

Trail Work:  Sunday morning I met up with the trail work group at the old powder magazine in Ouray.  We were doing trail work up a trail near the Box Canyon and Ice Park in Ouray.   That trail is about the steepest trail I have ever hiked up.  But we were not JUST hiking up.  We were carrying up 8X8X30 timbers to be used for steps.  We carried them up over 800 feet in elevation gain.  I made four trips carrying 2 steps each trip.  Then, I made one additional trip carrying up a 4x4x12 timber for cribbing.  (All were pressure treated and heavy.)  After that we started setting the steps, or that is, we reset old steps and added new ones.  Using a 4lb. sledge I spent hours trying to drive 2.5 ft. rebar into ground that is about 80% Rock.  Monday I returned to the same area but this time I just set steps all day.  9 days later, I still have blisters.  Here is a link to a 3 minute video of the trail.  Ouray Trail Work

Saturday afternoon all the trial workers met at a Mexican Restaurant in Ouray for dinner.  I went over to Rick Trujillo’s house and rode with him to eat.  I got to know Rick two years ago working with him for three days on trails.  Rick is a true legend in trial running.  He won the Pikes Peak Marathon 5 times in a row in the 70’s and at the age of 47 set the time record for ascending all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, 15 days, nine hours, 55 minutes.  Here is a link to an article in Runner’s World about Rick Trujillo. (http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/twilight-mountain-god?page=single)  He is an amazing guy and a blast to hang around.  He is also a mining engineer and knows every square foot of the mountain in mining districts around Ouray, Silverton and Telluride and the history.

Aid Station Preparation:  When I finished trail work Monday, I drove over to Silverton, checked in with the Hardrock staff preparing food at the American Legion Hall and registered for the rest of the week at a campground on the northeast end of town.  I took a shower to remove several pounds of dust from the earlier trail work and drove up to Mineral Creek, location of the KT Aid Station at mile 89 (10,700 ft.) to camp.  I found a site where apparently people had camped before but the ground was so slanted I had to set my tent up against a large pine so I didn't roll into the creek.  Below is a short video of Mineral Creek just below where I camped.  This is NOT a good spot to roll into the creek.  The only other campers up there were at a sight about 2 miles below where I was.  About 10:30 p.m. I was suddenly awakened by this frightening, almost human, scream.  Once I was over the initial shock, I realized it was a coyote and very close. The third time it howled I decided that was enough and clapped my hands very hard.  I never heard from the coyote again, but it was a fairly windy night and the tent was moving in the wind.  I kept thinking the coyote was sniffing my head through the tent wall.  Maybe it was.

The Silverton American Legion Hall.  Center of all pre-race Aid Station Preparation.

Tuesday morning I got up before sunrise and planned to heat up some water to make oatmeal and coffee only to realize the small propane bottle I purchased would not attach to my tiny camping stove.  I drank a bottle of “Boost” and headed up the Kamm Traverse to Island Lake and Grant-Swamp Pass at 12,980 ft and 85.6 miles into this year’s race.  The hike up is pretty spectacular and from the top of the pass I could look north over to the Ophir side and see the trail that runners will follow down from Oscars Pass, 6.4 miles across the valley.  (Oscars is the top of the climb up from Telluride.)  To the south, the side I came up, I was looking down on Island Lake.  There are a bunch of pictures from the hike especially of the wild flowers along the trail.
Here is a YouTube link to the video of my hike up to Island Lake and Grant-Swamp Pass
The pictures are in order, starting low on the trail.  The color of the flowers were beautiful.  
They just don't show up in the pictures as beautiful as they were.

It is pretty easy to see why the call it the Kamm Traverse

I think there was a fawn close by.  She never got very far away.

Flowers above timberline.

The purpose of my hike, Island Lake

Looking over Grant-Swamp Pass toward Ophir.  The course descends the mountain range in the distance, Oscar's Pass, on the faint trail in the left 1/4th of the picture.

After the hike, I drove back to Silverton to eat breakfast and drank a couple of cups of coffee at a small
coffee shop in town.  When I walked in, Joe Grant was seated on a couch working on his computer and some guy was at a tables interviewing Sebastien Chaigneau, (I think that is who it was.)  Two people were there I had met doing trail work a few days before and another couple I met the year before.  The place was obviously the hangout for Hardrock runners. 

I spent Tuesday night at the campground in Silverton and drove up to Cunningham Wednesday morning to check out the Aid Station site.  The place was full of motorhomes and campers.  I would not be able to set up the aid station where it had been the previous year.  I headed back to Silverton and talked with Lois Mackenzie about options.  Basically, she said “It’s your aid station; do whatever you want.”  That afternoon I gathered up some of our supplies at the American Legion Hall and went over to Rodger Wyman’s warehouse to pick up a large, 10X20 tent and all the stuff to keep the tent from blowing away in a storm.  The tent had a true test Thursday night.

I drove back out to Cunningham Gulch and set up my tent for the night.  It was still pretty early so I decided to hike up the mountain toward Dives-Little Giant Pass on the trail Hardrock runners will descend to Cunningham Gulch.  I hiked up 1.6 miles and 1700 ft. of elevation gain where I ran into a guy from Mexico I had met Saturday marking trails with Charley Thor and again Sunday doing trail work.  I think he said his name was spelled “Non” but I am not sure.   He is the only person to ever finish Hardrock from Mexico.  We talked a few minutes and he headed on down.  I climbed up a little further and decided it was too late to go higher so I headed down too.  He ended up helping out at Cunningham. 

I was hoping one of the campers would leave Thursday morning so I could grab their spot for the AS but everyone seemed to be there for the duration.  I walked over to a motorhome near where I had decided to put the aid station and it turns out the guy is Steve, one of the Cunningham volunteers.  He had met the campers in “circle,” where the aid station usually goes, and said he was sure they would let us set up the AS there.  Turns out all the people camping were there to see the runners go through.  Most had been coming for years.  (And none of them even run or could run for that matter.) The guy camped in the middle of the circle said we could put the tent right by his trailer so we marked off the area and headed for town.  I brought back the big tent and by the rime I returned several other of the Cunningham crew had arrived and together, we all set up the thing, the 10X20 tent.  That was no easy task.  After that, everyone else set up their campsites and took it easy.  I decided to hike back up to the mine and boarding house ruins on the way up to Little Giant pass, 2,000 feet above.  I was keeping an eye on the time to be sure I made it back for the 2:00 p.m. meeting. 
The Cunningham Aid Station tent is just visible in the lower center where the turnoff "Y" to the right.

 Dives-Little Giant Pass.  Runners come down the scree field in the center.

 Believe me, it is every bit as steep as it looks.

Looking in the mine that runs all the way to Silverton.

Apparently the boarding house had been leveled by an avalanche.  Everything was smashed flat trailing down the mountain. The tunnel, I learned from Rick Trujillo, ran all the way back to just above Silverton where an aerial tram with cars still attached stretches across the highway.  His father worked in the mine back in the 60’s just before it closed.  And of course I took a bunch of pictures of the mine, old mining equipment and the boarding house remains.

When I returned to the camp to get ready to leave for Silverton I saw a couple running down the road headed toward the aid station.  They looked like serious runners and a little familiar.  I asked them if they were trying to get in one more training run before the race tomorrow and the guy said, in a very strong accent “I’m German.”  Meaning he did not understand what I said.  I immediately realized it was Wolfgang and his wife who I met doing trail work two years ago.  They rode with Marye Jo and me over to Ouray from Silverton for trail work and it took all four of us to be able to communicate.  They were not running, just wanted to come back to be part of the event, all the way from Germany.  The ultrarunning community is indeed very small.

Thursday afternoon following the meeting we all went back to Cunningham and had an ultra-style cookout, “on a Coleman Stove.”  There was still a fire ban in effect for ANY type open flame that could not be turned off instantly.  The ban included a charcoal fire.  The fire danger was just about to end!!  In fact, the first storm hit while we were eating.  We put the tent to good use.  It stormed most of Thursday night.  It also got a lot colder than it had been the previous several days.

The Aid Station:  Cunningham is the first aid station at mile 9.3, when the course is run in the Counterclockwise direction as it was this year.  (The race starts at 6:00 a.m. and the cutoff is 10:45 – 4 hours and 45 minutes to cover 9 miles.  It took the lead two guys, Joe Grant and Sebastien Chaigneau almost two hours to reach Cunningham.  Give that some thought.)   Cunningham is only about 12 miles from the start line in Silverton (by road) up a gravel road most cars can handle.  About 7:00 a.m. cars started arriving.  We had set up a restricted area for runners and AS workers only but the road was lined with cars in two directions for about 1/3 a mile.  Early on, there were probably 200 people waiting for the runners to come through.  It was pretty exciting especially for the first 80 or 100 runners.   After that, most of the crews had left and things slowed down considerably.  Before 10:00 a.m. the last runner was through and we took everything apart, loaded up the supplies to go to the other aid stations and I sat down to wait for the Sweeps from Silverton to arrive.
Everything is ready Friday Morning and we are watching for the first runners to come into sight.

The entire crew just before tearing it all down.
Sweeping from Cunningham to Sherman: They didn't arrive at Cunningham until 11:30 a.m. and we couldn't get permission to continue sweeping until about 12:30 p.m.  Then, we were off on what turned out to be quite an adventure.  My two partners were Horhay from Argentina and Paul form Boulder.  Paul had run Hardrock twice and finished once.  We climbed up toward Green Mountain and Buffalo Boy Ridge, both over 13,000 and then on to the Maggie’s Gulch aid station at mile 15.4 or 6.1 miles away from Cunningham.  When we arrived at Maggie’s the AS crew was waiting on us with food and water.  Maggie’s is located at the end of a very long mining road at almost 12,000 ft.  We spent a few minutes talking with them and were off on our way to Pole Creek Aid Station.  All afternoon storms had been sitting on ridges just to our east but we had only had a few sprinkles.  As we were headed over the next pass and down to Pole Creek at mile 19.7 and 11,500 ft. the sky darkened, rain moved closer and it got colder.
Just above Cunningham as we started the sweep.

           The bowl at center is near the top of Dives-Little Giant Pass, the location of the mine ruins
          I explored. The race route down to Cunningham climbs over the pass not visible at the left of the                   image then traverses through the cliff bands center right staying right of the drain below the basin.
          The the lower part of the traverse is visible near the bottom of the cliffs.
A closeup shot looking back at Dives-Little Giant Pass.  The runners come down the orange scree filed visible on the right side of the basin.  The trail is faintly visible traversing down from the basin.

As we near the top of the first pass, the next ridge over is obscured by rain.
Pole Creek is a hike- to aid station where the crew actually comes over the pass we had just climbed from Maggie’s Gulch.  The supplies are brought in by pack horses.  The Pole Creek bunch was waiting on us since they were spending the night at the location anyway.  Paul had been forced to drop at Pole Creek a couple of years before and knew most of the volunteers.  It was now raining lightly and we didn't hang around too long.  The next stop was our Destination, Sherman Aid Station, 9.1 miles away.  Ahead of us was very gentle climb, relatively speaking, for 4 miles to Cataract-Pole Creek Pass and the continental divide.  After about a mile we noticed the sky behind us was almost black and the lightning was pretty intense and  getting closer.  We picked up our pace intent on staying ahead of the rather frightening weather especially when you consider we are well above timberline and the tallest lightning rods in the basin.
The Pole Creek Aid Station Crew.

The storm closes in after Pole Creek AS and I quit taking pictures.
Horhay was ahead moving quickly and Paul was beginning to lag behind.  (They had swept 9 miles further than I had after all.)  Horhay, following the trail marking, I assumed, made a right turn up toward a pass.  We climbed for about a mile when I saw him walk right past a trail intersection and there was no flagging.  I will not repeat my initial thoughts at that moment.  Hardrock Trail Marking is amazingly sparse.  On sections where there is nowhere to get off course they may go half a mile or more with no marking.  But every trail intersection is marked with two markers. TWO MARKERS!  This one had none.  I knew we missed a turn.

I yelled at Horhay and he stopped.  I asked where he had picked up the last marker.  He didn't remember.  Paul finally caught up and was sure we were on the correct trail.  I said that was impossible because there were no markings at that last intersection.  Paul was sure we would see Cataract Lake from the top of the ridge above so we continued.  By now the storm was squarely on top of us.  It was very dark, the rain was pouring down and lightning was hitting on the ridges around us.  And, we are on top of a ridge at 12,300 ft., the place you never want to be in a lightning storm.  To make matters worse, we had been so consumed by the idea of staying ahead of the storm we had not put on our rain gear.  We were totally soaked and now very cold.

I agreed to continue to the top of the pass despite the fact that the only footprints on this trail were the hoof prints of elk.  After all, Paul had run the course before.  When we reached the apparent pass, it was not the pass at all, just a false summit, so we continued until we did finally reach the top of the pass.  When we looked over the other side of the ridge, on the wrong side of the Continental Divide from where we were supposed to be, of course there was no lake.  Paul was sure that if we just hiked around a ridge about a ½ mile in front of us we would be able to see Cataract Lake and we could just hike down to it.  That was where I drew the line.  It was about 1.5 miles back to where we missed the turn and I was ready to tell them to go on if you wish, I am going back to find the correct trail.  It was almost dark, we really had no idea where we were, and we were in the middle of a pretty bad storm.  Oh yeah, and it was getting really cold by then.  Night at 12,000 feet is never pleasant even in the best conditions but we are soaking wet!!

Everyone agreed to go back and find the trail we missed.  By the time we were off the pass the rain had let up some and the lightning was moving away.  It was by now dark enough to turn on our headlamps.  We knew the trail we were looking for turned left of the trail we came up in the vicinity of where we turned right.  I hiked up a ridge to the left and could see nothing.  We continued further up the trail and I kept scanning the ridge above for trail markers.  Suddenly I saw two markers glowing above us, but there was no trail.  Hardrock frequently sends runners cross-country where there is no trail at all or the trail is so faint it is impossible to follow.  Then I remembered,  I thought I saw Horhay pick up two trail markers but when I reached the spot there was no trail so I figured he was just carrying a marker he had not put in his pack.  Horhay had walked about 1 mile without seeing a single trail marker, walked right past a trail intersection and continued on until I yelled at him.  I wonder how far he would have gone before he realized he was lost.

Now we were back on course.  We stopped and put on our rain gear which helped a little, but very little.  We reached the top of the pass and started down to Sherman 5.2 miles below and we were all freezing.   I tried to stay in the lead to be sure we didn't make any more wrong turns but every time I stopped to pull up a marker Horhay would shoot ahead.  I would stay right behind him to be sure we didn't miss another turn but Paul was lagging so far behind I had to stop Horhay every few minutes to wait on Paul.  Horhay kept saying he was really cold and needed to hurry but obviously we could not leave Paul behind.  We continued this pattern for what seemed like hours.  Horhay would be flying ahead with me in pursuit and Paul would disappear in the darkness somewhere behind us.  It was taking Paul longer and longer to catch up and I was getting concerned.  He came down a particularly steep section and I noticed his headlamp was almost out.  That was part of his problem, he could not see.

I always carry a backup Fenix LED Flashlight in my backpack anytime I will be running at nigh so I gave it to Paul and we continued.  Unfortunately, Paul did not speed up very much so I kept stopping Horhay who would dance around trying to stay warm while we waited.  Finally we descended below timberline and started following a creek that would eventually take us all the way down to Sherman.  I told Horhay to go ahead, just “DO NOT PULL UP ANY TRAIL MARKERS.”  After that, I didn’t have to tell him to wait on Paul.  When I stopped, he stopped. 

At some point we all realized we were near the end.  Horhay said all he wanted was hot soup.  I told him I wanted to get in someone’s car and turn the heater up to full blast.  Then we passed a US Forest Service box where you register before you head up a trail and Horhay took off.   I kept stopping for Paul and finally he told me to go on down.  He was stopping for more water and would be along shortly.  I did.  I ran down several more switchbacks and then saw an arched bridge over the creek we had been following for 3 or 4 miles.  We were at SHERMAN, at only 9,640 ft.!  It was 11:30 p.m.

I crossed the bridge and everything was dark except Horhay’s headlamp.  There were no people, no food, no lights, nothing.  There was one 20X20 tent with an open end and 4 pop-up tents and a bunch of tables and chairs.  There was a Coleman stove and lanterns and there were coolers with cold and frozen food in them.  Well, we will make the most of what we have.  First, I decided to find my drop bag with warm, dry clothes and shoes in it.  NO DROP BAG!  Ok, where are the sleeping bags?  NO SLEEPING BAGS!  TENTS?  No tents.  This was not good.  I was soaked, had no dry clothes, no sleeping bag and no tent and the temperatures were in the low 40's. We cranked up the Coleman Lanterns and tried to light a large propane grill but the propane bottle was empty.  I found a small propane bottle and connected it to the Coleman stove and lit it.  By then Paul had also arrived in Sherman.

The long night at Sherman: Paul and Horhay had their drop bags and Paul had a sleeping bag and bivy in his.  Horhay only had a down jacket.  That was it.  I found a bag of frozen hash browns and dumped them in a pot and put then on the Coleman Stove.  The potatoes stuck and burned to the bottom of the pot and the potatoes on top got warm and tasted awful.   I ate some but they were pretty bad.  Then I heated a pot of water and made some hot chocolate then a second cup.  That was it for dinner and I decided it was time to figure out how to stay warm the remainder of the night.  There were three rain flies from tents lying on a table.  The flies had been used to spread the drop bags out on the ground.  I decide to wrap up in one and use it like a life blanket.  I dragged a plastic folding table (folded up) into the big tent and used it as a sleeping pad.  I removed my shoes and rolled up in the rain fly and laid down on the tabletop.

Sherman in daylight.

This worked great for a while.  I actually warmed up and fell asleep for maybe two hours.  I slowly became aware I was very cold again but could not figure out why at first.  It seemed every time I moved I suddenly was freezing.  Finally I figured out what was happening.  Moisture was condensing inside the waterproof rain fly.  The water would then get chilled while hanging on the fly.  When I moved it would pour down on me.  By the time I figured this out I was shivering uncontrollably.  I kept trying to get into a smaller and smaller knot to stay warm but nothing worked and I knew I had to go to plan “B”, that is, as soon as I figured out what plan B was.

I had noticed that Paul and Horhay left the Coleman lanterns burning and I had an idea.  I forced myself to unwrap myself from the fly and put on my very cold shoes.  Surprisingly, it was not very cold when I crawled out of the fly.  Rather it was not much colder outside the fly than I was inside it.  I retrieved one of the lanterns, sat it down in the middle of the folded up table, placed the rain fly over my head and sat down with the lantern between my feet.  There was an air vent in the top of the fly and I positioned it right in front of my face so I didn't die of carbon monoxide poisoning.  I had to sit with my arms outstretched to prevent the fly from coming in contact with the hot lantern and melting or igniting, but soon it began to warm up under the fly.  Within a few minutes I was actually warm and for the first time in about 6 hours I actually stopped shivering.  I have no idea how long I sat there holding up the fly with my arms but I knew I would eventually give out so I revised plan “B” and came up with plan “C”. 

I reached out from under the warm tarp and put on my ice cold shoes again, dropped the fly to the side and headed out to the tables under smaller tents out front.  I grabbed two metal folding chairs and brought them into the big tent.  I opened the chairs and positioned them on the folding table just far enough apart that I could sit up between them.  I pulled the rain fly over both chairs, placed the lantern under the seat of the chair in front of me, adjusted the vent in the fly so the chair in front would hold it open and started trying to get warm again.

Plan “C” worked great, at least from the standpoint that I no longer had to hold up the fly. There was one flaw however.  I could not stop cold air from coming in under the edges of the rain fly.  Despite my best efforts, cold air flowed under the fly all night.  The plus was the top half of my body stayed warm, my shirt eventually dried out and I knew plenty of oxygen was coming into the tent.  The minus was my bottom half stayed cold, especially my feet.  I kept trying all kinds of things to get them warm but nothing worked.  I wrung the water out of my socks and laid them on the hot chair seat hoping the heat would dry them but the cause was hopeless.  (The lantern under the chair seat got the metal seat pretty hot, just not hot enough.)  I finally gave up and decided to be content with “Half Warm.”

I know I dozed some because I would catch myself falling over from time to time but I don’t think I slept more than a few minutes at a time.  A couple of times I tried lying down under the chairs but the table top was just too cold.  So I sat!  Finally about 5:00 a.m. it began to get light.  At 6:00 a.m. I decided I had had enough and got up.  Horhay and Paul got up at the same time.  I don’t think they slept any more than I did.  Somehow there was a single instant coffee stick in my hydration pack and I made a cup of coffee.  Then I made a cup of hot chocolate and, I think, a second cup.  I am sure there was coffee somewhere in the AS stuff but we couldn't find it.

The shuttle from Silverton was supposed to arrive about 7:00 a.m. to drop of the people sweeping the next section of the course, over Handie’s Peak and on to Grouse Gulch.  The shuttle would then take us back to Silverton.  A truck arrived and we thought it was our ride but it was the guy with a trailer to haul all the aid station supplies back.  About 30 minutes later our ride finally did arrive.  It was a guy from Tennessee that had brought his sons (both were outstanding cross country runners) to help with Grouse Aid Station and experience Hardrock.  In the meantime a couple of people appeared out of cars parked at the Sherman Trail Head and aid station.  One was the aid station caption that thought when the weather got bad we had gone back to Pole Creek, I guess because we were so late.  Of course, she had received a radio transmission that we had left Pole Creek headed to Sherman.  Apparently they had put away the sleeping bags thinking we would not need them.  No one knew anything about my dropbag.  If we had known those cars had aid station crew members in them we would have been banging on car doors at midnight.

It was probably no more that 22 or 23 miles back to Silverton but the drive took over two and a half hours.  The route is a spectacular section of the “Alpine Loop” that runs from Lake City to Ouray with a section down to Silverton.  It was a beautiful drive but incredibly rugged in sections hence our slow progress.  When we did finally get back I went straight to the Black Bear Cafe and had pancakes, sausage and eggs, and COFFEE.  Lots of coffee!  My drop bag had been sent back to Silverton.

In all of the six 100 mile races I have done thus far, I have never been caught in a storm like the one I was in Friday at Hardrock, especially in high mountains.  I am rethinking my dropbag supplies and what I carry with me for Leadville.  Part of the problem was going so slow late in the night, waiting on Paul, but I intend to be better prepared next time.  I also intend to find some gloves that will keep my hands warm even in icy rain. 

Although Friday night was a very long, very miserable night, I wouldn't trade the experience of sweeping part of the Hardrock Course for anything.  In fact, I wanted to sweep all the way to Grouse Gulch at mile 43 but if I had, I would have missed my Saturday flight home.  We climbed over 6 passes in excess of 12,000 ft. and two of those were over 13,000.  (And 5 of  those passes were actually on the Hardrock Course.) We covered 23 miles, survived a lightning storm on a pass at 12,300 ft, found our way back onto the race course in the dark, just about froze and had no food to eat except a few GUs and a banana we got at the 2 aid stations along the way, and did all this in only 11 hours.  Although I was soaking wet when I got back to Sherman and the temperatures were in the upper 30s, I actually managed to warm up "partially."  For the weeks work, I earned two extra lottery tickets for the Hardrock Drawing in 2014.  I met a bunch trail runners I didn't know previously and saw quite a few I had met in previous years.  I also got to spend some time with all those people that make Hardrock possible and eat several meals at "Handlebars," another Hardrock hangout.  I will be back next year, whether to do it all over again for extra lottery tickets or to run the race.  Next time I will adjust my flight schedule so I can sweep more of the course if I don't get in.