The Checkpoint Zero / Inov-8 adventure racing team recently took the top spot in the Odyssey Adventure Racing's Wild Wonderful.
Last year's edition of the Wild Wonderful was a tough battle against Berlin Bike and EMS, but in the end we had come out on top. Subseqently, heading into the race this year the team had high hopes for another good finish.
Unique to this race, is the guided white water rafting segment which features two four person teams paired up in the same raft working together to get down the river as fast as possible. This was the third time that we have done this paddle leg in three different races, and for whatever reason, we always seem to get a slow boat, this time was no exception. Nevertheless, we soldiered on, knowing we'd have plenty of time to catch up later on.
After the paddle, we had a quick run up and out of the New River Gorge to our bikes. No Odyssey race would be complete without lots of elevation, and once on bike we were sent via old coal mine trails back down into the gorge. If one took the time to sight see along the white knuckle ride you got beautiful views of the lush greenery and sheer rock walls that make this area of the country so beautiful.
Dismounting the bikes, we set out on for for the meat of this course. A long foot rogain section. Before the race, we had asked the race director if the course was clearable, and the response was "one or two teams" might clear it. We figured we had a good shot at it and plotted out a route that would take us to all the points. We were taking a bit of a risk in that if we ran into time constraints, we didn't really have a good exit strategy.
As we started knocking off the points one by one, it seems as though we might beat our own expectations and get it done early. As we have come to learn, that's rarely the case. As darkness fell, we started to have problems finding some of the points. After giving up on one, we bumped into Berlin Bike and swapped tales of our adventures. We decided to give it one more combined effort, in the hopes that eight pairs of eyes would make the job easier. Fortunately, that's all it took and I marched right to the point. We had similar luck on one of the last points. We had given up and were on our way out of the woods when we came across the flag. I was fairly sure it wasn't where it was plotted on the map, but at that point I wasn't going to argue beacuse we needed to get out of there.
Getting close to our self imposed time limit, we started to descend off the plateau back to the river to get on our bikes. What should have been a short hike down, turned into an hour plus long slog down a creek. Just before we hit the road we happened upon a two man team that was looking rather defeated. When they saw us, they commented on how fast we were moving. I told them we weren't going to miss any cutoff and they were welcome to follow us out. I think the prospect of running down this creek was a little too much and they resigned themselves to missing the cutoff.
As we finally made it back to the transition area, we quickly jumped on our bikes and started the long road ride back to the finish. It's a tough thing to be under the gun for a time limit, but be at the darkest, hardest time of the race. I always have a hard time staying awake around 3 AM and from the wavering lines being ridden by my teammates, I knew they were sleepy as well. Digging into my pack I pulled out the caffeine and we all took the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee in a couple seconds and waited for it to kick in.
As the chemical rush started, we started passing teams and shouting encouragement as we went along. I envisioned a large Tour de France style peloton cruising to the finish, but many of our competitors didn't have the enthusiasm we did. As day broke, we came screaming into the last transition area 20 minutes before the time limit. Knowing we were safe was a huge boost, as we knew it was a short run to the finish line.
Although we were fairly confident that we were the only team to collect all the points on the course, you really aren't sure until you cross the finish line. When we did, we were pleased to learn that we were the only team to get them all, which meant a first place finish.
Relieved and exhausted, we spent the rest of the morning gorging ourselves on the wonderful feast put out for us by the race, and spent some well deserved time napping in the cool shade of some local trees before getting in the car and driving home.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Now that the running season trickles into the summer I've really been enjoying Inov-8's new performance last shoe for 2009. Being an avid fan of the F-lite 230 series I was impressed by function and form of the X-Talons. This shoe is a wonderful marriage between the 230 fit, but with the added tweaks that makes this truly an off-road shoe. The sticky nubs grip any terrain be it grass, rocks, mud etc.. A true test was lacing up the shoes this spring on a particularly gnarly single-track trail system after a deluge of rain the night before. The trail consisted of slipper clay, which made the surface very slick on the uphills and downhills. The Talon's tract the terra-firma like grappling hooks and I was able to keep a strong clip throughout the run without having to feel too cautious.
The X-Talons are an ideal XC running shoe for short and fast races. They fit like a glove and I have worn them comfortably on 20 mile runs and my feet still being very happy at the end.
Type rest of the post here
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Team Checkpoint Zero turned in a strong performance at the 3.5 day 2009 MIX adventure race held on May 13-16 in Traverse City Michigan. This race was the second 3 day race the team has completed in just over a month.
The 2009 edition of the MIX featured over 95 miles of paddling, 160 miles of biking and 80 miles on foot making it the longest race of the season for the squad. Coming off a second place finish at the E-Fix, the team was fired up and ready to go.
The race started with a treacherous paddle across Elk Lake, Lake Skegemog, and Torch Lake. With stiff winds whipping up 2-3 foot waves, our 16 foot canoes were easily tossed around by the elements. The start was not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Not all the wind worked against us though, as once we turned downwind we were able to unfurl our home made sails and harness that same energy to move us forward through the course.
Following the paddle was a series of bike, trekking, and more paddling legs. We road sandy roads, beautiful singletrack, trekked through budding forests, and canoed and rafted down fast moving rivers. The race directors did an excellent job of keeping the legs long enough to get some distance in, but short enough that you didn't get bored of endlessly slogging through one area or another. It's rare in a race this long to walk away saying that we actually had fun most of the time.
While it is hard to pick just one thing, the highlights, or shall we say, most exciting moment of the race, was running into a mushroom hunter. Check out this blog post for more details. It certainly gave us a bit of a scare and put the spring back in our step, if only for a little while.
Coming up next for the team is a trip back to West Virginia to compete in Odyssey Adventure Racing's Wild Wonderful.
Team Inov-8 member Kevin Tilton finishes 2nd at Wachusett, just under 4 seconds out of first place. On a new course that had changed due to road construction, Ryan Carerra edged Kevin for the win on Saturday at the 17th Annual Mt. Wachusett Race.
The new course featured a combination of up and down mountain racing, including some paved road, technical single-track and double-track. The race had over 300 finishers, many of whom got their first exposure to racing in and up/down race.
Complete results for the race are here
Scott Mason's photos from the race are here
The Inov-8 USATF-New England Mountain Circuit next moves to Pack Monadnock in Wilton, New Hampshire on May 31st. Because of course changes at Wachusett and Ascutney, The 10 Mile race at Pack Monadnock is the only race of the Mountain Circuit that will take place completely on paved roads. Racers who complete all 6 races and are a member of USATF will qualify to bypass the 2010 Mount Washington Road Race Lottery.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Congrats to Chad Denning for his 2nd OA (6:42) at the Pineland Farms 50 mile this past Saturday in New Gloucester, Maine. Back on May 9th Chad won the overall title at the Wapack Trail Race 21 miler in Peterborough, NH with a time of 3:31. Christian Burke made his ultra debut a successful one, taking the overall title at the Nanny Goat's 24 Hour Trail Race. Great job fellas.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Inov-8 USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit starts off this Saturday May 23rd at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA. Wachusett is part of the 6 race mountain series that provides a great exposure to a variety of mountain racing terrain across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Series is in its 13th year. Runners who complete all 6 races are awarded the coveted "Mountain Goat" t-shirt and a bypass to the 2010 Mt. Washington Road Race Lottery.
The series will see a few new wrinkles in it this year with new courses at both Wachusett and at Ascutney. Because of these changes, that leaves only the Pack Monadnock race as the only one left that is all on road with no trail sections. Wachusett this year changes to an up/down format on both road and trails, which will be a great opportunity for runners to test out the new Inov-8 X-Talon 212s, as well as the complete line of Inov-8 shoes.
Here is a great course preview put together by Mountain Circuit Founder, Dave Dunham:
Be sure and stop by the Inov-8 table at the race to see the full product line of Inov-8 shoes and to get more information on the whole series.
The Entire Inov-8 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit Schedule:
05/23 Wachusett Mountain
05/31 Pack Monadnock
06/13 Northfield Mountain
New England Trail Championships
06/28 Cranmore Hill Climb
USA & NACAC Mountain Championships
07/05 Loon Mountain Race
07/12 Ascutney Mt. Challenge
This year the series also includes the USA & NACAC Mountain Running Championships at the Cranmore Hill Climb on June 28th. This race will serve as a qualifier for the US Mountain Running Team and already has elite athletes signed up from 16 states, as well as Mexico and Canada, including Inov-8 athletes Gina Lucrezi, Amber Moran, Kevin Tilton, Joe Gray, Aaron Saft and others.
Visit the USATF-NE Mountain Ultra Trail site for series history and details on how to bypass the Mt. Washington Lottery
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Not as much going on this weekend that I'm aware of right now. On Saturday Paul Low will be racing the Wachusett Mountain Road Race (4.3 mile point to point uphill race) which may be altered this year due to construction. The Wachusett Mountain 4.3M is part of the USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit and Inov-8 is a sponsor of the series. On Memorial Day, Wynn Davis will be at the Brian Kraft Memorial 5k also designated the USATF Minnesota 5K Championships for 2009. The race course goes around Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis. Plenty of fast wheels there I'm sure. Lastly Christian Burke from Team Feed the Machine, will make his ultra debut in a big way at the Nanny Goat 24 hour Race in Riverside, CA on a one mile looped course. Good luck fellas.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Race morning dawned cool, but muggy. I went out with Karl Meltzer for the first 13 miles or so. I had to stick with him in fact as my headlamp broke apart about half way up the first techical climb and I had to follow in his tracks to stay on course. So much for changing my batteries the night before. I was feeling fine and running comfortably with Karl through the first two aid stations. Leaving the second aid station we started a pretty serious climb and I'm just no Karl Meltzer so he pretty quickly pulled away.
I was enjoying the morning despite the very humid conditions. Glen Redpath, who I desperately wanted to beat, caught up with me at some point around 28 miles or so. We were running together and had the pleasure of meeting a box turtle. We were quietly pushing each other for a half hour or so. Sensing a little weakness, I opened up a few minute gap on him. It was getting hot, I was out of water and knew he had to be hurting for water too as he was carrying less water than me.
I started having some cramp/heat issues somewhere around mile 40 or so. Glen also caught back up with me somewhere in there. I started doubling down on the Succeed caps, hitting the gels and trying to keep it together. We pushed each other pretty good through a bunch of technical trail miles. I was having a pretty good time still, but starting to hurt some. We finally came out of the woods and hit the road for a three mile downhill. Again, we were pushing at each other pretty hard. By the time I hit the next aid station, I was spent.
Topped up at the mile 50 aid station. This is a big one as you do a pretty long climb and it's steep. Left there feeling bloated. Nothing was getting digested. Glen quickly pulled away. I made it close to the top before I got sick. Threw up a lot of stuff and sort of staggered up to the top. After about 20 minutes of walking, drinking and eating I started feeling better. Plus, we got hit by a huge thunderstorm as I was coming down the mountain. It was fantastic. Huge downpour, lots of lightening. There was large hail I heard but I was spared that.
Took off pretty fast at that point. Not much happened until I saw a huge rattler on the trail. The rain had passed and I just thought to myself, "I better keep my eye out for a rattler the conditions are just right." Literally, I just thought it and 20 seconds later there it was. Well, my friend Mike Mason, was gaining on me. I was petering out a bit and needing some solid food and he was coming on strong. He passed me in the next aid station (65?). I pulled it together shortly thereafter and caught up to him. We ran pretty hard together for the next 24 miles or so. We got hit by another great T storm. I was loving life. Then it just rained and rained. It was cool, the woods was great and life was good for most of those miles. Mike and I were back and forth some in terms of strength but the last 13 miles we were together he had the day in hand. We did a whole bunch of 9 minute miles in the dark, rain on rocky trails. Mike dropped his pacer as he was bent on catching up with Glen Redpath. I was just trailing along for the ride as he was an animal. We were able to close Glen's 10 minute lead (Karl was too far away and out of our league to mention here) over the next 13 miles. So we caught Glen at the second to last aid station and had about 11 miles to go or so.
Problem was, I was done after catching him. So those guys took off and I was feeling spent but OK. Thinking no problem, 4th place. My goal was 5 MMT 100's with 5 top finishes. Anyway, I hit the last aid station and picked up another of Mike's pacers as he lost him while they were trying to find the trail. So we leave, climb all the way to within 100 yards of the top and take a wrong turn. So, we go right when we should have gone left and end up at the same place. Then, instead of turning right and heading to the finish, I turn left and end up going all the way back to the the last aid station. It's even worse as going down the trail the wrong way highlighted a couple of other opportunities for me to go wrong and I went wrong at every one of them. I waste 1:50 minutes and did I don't know how many extra miles. I came into the aid station, quit, swore a bit and then went back out and finished. Joe Kulak was instrumental in getting me back out there. He was suffering badly and said, come on get this done. I could see he was suffering very badly and was going to finish. We were hanging out the night before and he spoke about the importance of finishing.
I have a whole different perspective on finishing now. Karl Meltzer and Joe Kulak both spoke about the importance of it earlier in the day or the day before. Going back out and finishing after making a whole extra climb was not an easy decision. My feet were in agony. I was tired and was ready to be done for the last 4 hours at that point. In a lot of ways, this was one of my more satisfying experiences.
I was intending on not running this one again, but the course is so great and the people are even better. I'm thinking I may have to go for the gold belt buckle and do it 5 more times.
Of course I have to give credit to my wife Dee for taking great care of me all day. Ice in my bag and shirt all day. Helping get me in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible. It's not an easy job finding your way around those large, dark VA mountains in the rain and fog. In fact one crew wrecked their car and had to be hospitalized.
Inov-8 shoes were great. I was running in the 318's. The rocks were slippery as all get out but not a problem. While the outside of the shoes got a little shredded, these shoes still have another few hundred miles on them.
Sorry for the long race report. Hope you all enjoy it despite the length.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Team Roam/Inov-8 finished 6th OA (5th Co-ed) at the 24 hr Atomic AR. Unfortunately a 6 hour time penalty for not having a flare gun (mandatory gear) put them out of contention early on but they persevered and finished very strong. Speaking of perseverance, Todd Walker finished 7th OA (22:51) at the Massanutten 100 which had some pretty epic conditions this year with heat, humidity, wind, hail, lightening etc., you name it they had it. Todd missed some turns in the dark and rain and estimated he lost almost 2 hours of time very late in the race but he forged on for another strong finish. There were 101 finishers out of 173 entered this year. DeWayne Satterfield got 4th OA (1st Master) at the Twisted Ankle Trail Marathon under some pretty steamy conditions in GA.
Kevin Tilton finished 22nd OA (40:11) at the Bedford 12k with a speedy 5:24 pace per mile clip. Wynn Davis jumped into the 7th Annual SnoHawks "Uff Da" Trail Half Marathon in his F-lite 230's and bagged 2nd OA (1:15) and broke the CR. Amber Moran raced in Columbia , SC at the Providence Heart & Sole Women's 5 Miler. Amber was 3rd OA (29:49) in some pretty warm and steamy conditions which is nothing unusual for central SC. Aaron Saft tied for 1st OA at the Retro Run 4 miler in Fletcher, NC. Ben Nephew one week after a 50 mile ultra, raced strong at
the Soapstone Mtn 14.5 Trail Race in Stafford Springs, CT where he finished 2nd OA and has some great things to say about his shoes of choice the F-lite 230 pk in his race report attached below.
Soapstone Mountain 14.5 mile trail race 2009
Stafford Springs, CT
It probably isn’t a good idea to race one week after a hard 50 miler, but I enjoy Soapstone, and my legs felt good enough to race. Although it’s not the easiest race, it is one of the faster courses, and isn’t as abusive as some of the other New England races. It was actually an interesting week of training prior to the race. The 50 miler was on Saturday, and I could barely walk on Sunday. I took a one hour bath on Sunday night, and threw in some Epsom salts for the hell of it. I don’t know if they helped, but my legs felt much better on Monday, which was surprising (I was expecting a good deal of delayed onset muscle soreness). In the past, I’ve found that uphill running, even a hill workout, is better for your recovery than any other sort of running due to the decreased stress on pulverized muscles. Since I now have a treadmill in my garage, I figured I’d do a hill run Monday night. So I ran 9-10 minute miles for an hour at 13% grade, and it felt pretty good. When I tried to run on the trails on Tuesday, my quads got pretty sore on the downhills after about 30 minutes. Wednesday was another easy day on the trails, and then I went back to treadmill for a workout Thursday night. I ran another hour at 13%, but this time I ran under 9:00 pace for most of the workout, which was considerably more challenging. It probably wasn’t the best idea in terms of being fresh for Soapstone, but I race too often to taper for everything. I ran easy on Friday, and while my pace was relaxed on Saturday, I was out for 2 hours on hilly terrain in Blue Hills with Greg Lowe. Greg is a newly discovered neighbor of mine in Mansfield, and since I typically never have anyone to run with, I couldn’t pass up his request for a tour of the Blue Hills.
When I got to Soapstone Sunday morning, I was very surprised to see my CMS teammate, Jim Johnson, as he had raced a hard 12k in the low 40 minute range on Saturday up in NH. On top on this, his only other trail experience was a miserable 20 mile race which left him staggering through the woods eating berries. We were somewhat pressed for time, but I tried to give Jim a general idea of the course, and suggested that he could just run with me if he wanted. We started the race at a moderate pace, and the pack soon strung out on a half mile dirt road section. Brendan Callahan took the lead into the singletrack, and Jim and I followed a few seconds back. The course climbs a ridiculously steep hill about two miles in, and Brendan lengthened his lead by running sections that we were hiking. I picked up the pace on the following downhill, and was able to catch up with Brendan. I told Jim we were making good time, so there was no need to make a pass and try to force the pace. Just as Jim and I were getting comfortable with the pace, Brendan took off quite suddenly. He was definitely stronger on the uphills, and we had to work hard to gain back time on the technical descents. I started wishing that the trail was more difficult, as Brendan was rolling on the runable sections.
By the time we got to a one mile section that basically runs you down a stream bed, I knew that I needed to take advantage of the terrain and try to pull into lead. I managed to catch and pass Brendan pretty quickly, but he responded by staying right with me on the lower section, with Jim in tow. We took a hard left, and I led up the first uphill section after the stream. When the trail widened, Brendan continued to charge up the hill. We couldn’t match his pace, and he soon disappeared into the woods. Jim and I tried to accelerate as much as possible without blowing up, but didn’t seem to be cutting into the lead at all.
As we reached the last water stop, we were informed we were at 11 miles. If that was true, we ran the last 3.5 miles in 18 minutes, which includes 3 large hills! Jim continued to stay right on me with the exception of the last steep hill on the course, where I pulled a few seconds ahead. Since the Grand Tree Series scores depend on how close you are to the finisher’s time, I was trying to limit the damage as much as possible. I figured Jim would catch me on the road section after the hill, but I guess my legs felt a bit better than his at that point. I maintained a 10 second lead to the finish, where I was 1:20 in back of Brendan.
Although I would have liked to win, it’s important to put things into context. This was my third hard race in a row, I had a solid week of training, the time was good for the course, and I got beat by a guy who would absolutely destroy me on the roads (51 min 10 mile/1:08 half marathon). Most importantly, my legs were not too sore after the race, as I had been worried about doing more damage after the 50 mile last weekend.
My experiment for the day was my shoe selection, the 230PK. These are marketed as an urban assault shoe, but I thought they might work as a trail racer. This is yet another great racing shoe from Inov-8. The sticky rubber provided excellent traction on both wet and dry rock, the foot protection allowed me to run downhills aggressively, and the traction was good on everything except deep mud. The 230PK is a great all-around shoe that can handle road races, mountain races, shorter trail races, as well as a frontal attack on your favorite urban landmark!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
A look at Ben's race report reveals some comical ways to ingest NUUN. A great product which offers our athletes a pro deal but perhaps should come with an instruction manual. Regardless a great race by Ben coming off the heels of his 7 Sisters Race only 6 days earlier.
North Face Bear Mountain 50 miler 2009
How not to run a 50 mile
This race account will mostly consist of things not to do during a 50 miler. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased with my race, but there is certainly room for improvement.
It’s important to put this race in its short historical context. Last year, the first running, only 19 out of 90 people finished the race. This was partially due to a horrendous storm at the start, and partially due to 14,000 feet of climbing. For this year’s race, they made the course much easier, with only 7,000 feet of climbing over the single loop. I think everyone thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Leigh Schmitt, Brian Rusiecki and me had run 7 Sisters only 6 days ago, and we were just hoping for a rational start to the race. Didn’t happen.
Soon after the 5am start, I asked Leigh and Brian if we were starting with the 50k runners. No? Really? Why is everyone running so fast? I had been part of manic start at JFK a few years ago, so I wasn’t totally surprised, but this wasn’t JFK. I figured it would settle after a mile or two, especially since we had entered some rocky singletrack and it was dark and foggy. Brian jokingly asked if this were a 10 miler. People were passing each other back and forth like we were approaching the finish, and oddly enough, there was some guy running with a walkie-talkie. As we approached the first aid station, someone had a huge flash set up for pictures, which blinded everyone as we came out of the woods. At this point, Brian and I were in the back of a pack of 12 runners, and most everyone tore through the aid station without grabbing anything. We were racing!
Leigh was actually up in the front pack, and may deserve some of the credit for the fast start, but not much, as he was getting passed quite regularly. As we got further into the race, I started to wonder if my goal of top 3 was some sort of pipe dream, as I could not imagine holding the pace were running for 50 miles. I thought that maybe doing 7 Sisters was more than a slightly bad idea. I yelled to Brian and Leigh that my 7 Sisters race of 12 miles (where the three of us tried to kill each other) had actually been done at 50 mile race pace, a tempo run. One of the reasons for my concern with the pace was that the 5 am start had not allowed me to go through my normal pre-race routine. I was in need of a pit stop. I finally decided to pull off the trail around 60 minutes into the race, and wondering if that was the last I would see of the bullet train lead pack. My stop was about a minute, and I picked up the pace a bit to try and reel in the pack when I got back on the course. It seemed as though they had slowed a bit on a technical downhill section, and I was surprised to get back in touch within a mile or so.
At about 70 minutes into the race, we hit some short, steep hills that I would have mostly walked if I had been leading. The large pack started to disintegrate into a lead pack of 4 (Leigh, some guy in orange shorts, and Jason and Ben?) and some stragglers, included Jack Pilla, Brian, and me. At first, I decided to get up with the lead four. I could easily manage the pace, but it just felt way too fast for 50 miles. As we approached two hours, I made a decision to back off. I wasn’t looking forward to suffering through the second half of the race, so I slowed down, waited for Brian, and asked him if he wanted to run together for a while. I do all my training by myself, so I try to take advantage and run with others at races. Brian agreed that the pace was too aggressive, and we wondered how the three guys up ahead would do. We both know Leigh pretty well, and considering his ridiculous win percentage in 50 milers, we wouldn’t be surprised if he kept up the pace. At the mile 14 aid station I decided to try electrolyte tablets for the first time, ever. I didn’t realize that NUUN tablets are meant to be put in water, not in your mouth. That was unpleasant, but I think I managed to get some of the electrolyte foam into my system.
Brian and I caught up with Jason and Ben sometime after 2 hours into the race, and went back and forth with them for a while. I think they made a pit stop, as suddenly, they were gone. None of us had seen Leigh or the guy in orange shorts (who may have been PF Potvin) for a while. I was just glad to be running a comfortable pace, and looking forward to the latter miles rather than dreading them. Brian and I both were betting that Jack Pilla, who is known for running steady races, would pick off a lot of runners and probably finish right in back of us at the worst. By the time we got to the 20 mile aid station, we had been running for 3:30. When Brian predicted a 9:13 finish based on our pace, I almost punched him in the head. With the new, faster course, I was not expecting a 9 hour 50 mile. He said he preferred to be pessimistic, and I commented that he was doing a good job of that. I loaded up on my concentrated Gatorade with some NUUN tablets, and we headed back into the woods. As we entered the woods, we spotted the guy in orange shorts holding onto a tree, stuffing a sandwich into his mouth.
Miles 20 through 40 at Bear Mountain have some nice runable sections, and are not as hilly as the first 20. Although it was not too warm, it was humid, and I was going through quite a bit of fluid. The aid stations in this section were 6-7 miles apart, which seemed long at our pace. By the time we got to the mile 27 aid station, Leigh was gone; I think the aid workers had mentioned he had 7 minutes on us. I told them that was nice, good for him! They laughed, and I then informed them that we were going to go get him.
The hills started to return as Brian and I passed 30 miles. We exchanged the lead a few times on this section, but were still running together as we reached the 34 mile station. Shortly after we left the aid station, my legs began to fade, and Brian picked up the pace. I kept him in sight, but I was starting to really feel 7 Sisters, and possibly my effort to catch up after my early race stop. My quads were tired on the both the uphills and downhills, and I wondered if anyone was gaining on me. My energy level was good, and the NUUN tablets seemed to be working for me, as I wasn’t cramping at all despite the humidity. I was very relieved to hit the 40 mile aid station, as there were only a few more small climbs left in the race.
With my quads worsening, the descents, usually one of my strengths, became more of a weakness. I focused on running as smoothly as possible to avoid more damage to my shredded muscles. The 50k course overlaps with the 50 miler over the last 10 miles, so I had regular traffic to pass, and the trails were pretty muddy. I was still running most of the moderate hills as I passed through the 45 mile aid stop, but definitely walked Timp’s pass, and I’m not talking about the uphill. After reaching the top of this climb, you are faced with a 400 foot descent with some of the worst footing I have ever seen. It looked like someone took all the reject cobblestones and dumped them on this trail, routed a stream down it, and sprayed it with mud from a fire hose. I did actually run down it, but it was ugly, and I passed a number of people who were walking. The last few miles were thankfully easy, and I crossed the line in 8:12. Leigh won in a quick 7:44, and Brian finished second in 8:05. Jack Pilla did end up charging through the field to get fourth, and he also ran 7 Sisters the week prior to the race! The finish of the day had to belong to Amy Palmiero, who beat the finish cutoff by 30 seconds with one prosthetic leg!
I believe that we (me and the 8-10 people in front of me) were on pace to run in the low 7 hour range up through 8 miles, which included a good deal of climbing and a lack of sun. It probably would have been a good idea to back off the pace sooner, but I don’t think it would have changed my finished position much. My legs might be happier right now, though. My Roclite 320’s performed great; no blisters, no falls, no toenail issues at all. This is in contrast to Brian’s Montrails, where the toebox totally exploded at some point during the race.
The organizers did a great job with this race, and the aid station workers were first class. However, despite the decent weather (it was pretty wet through a number of sections), only about half the runners finished. I know these things are supposed to be challenging, but I feel bad for all the people who missed the time cutoffs and had to be pulled from the course.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
This multi-day expedition race is part of the Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Racing Series presented by Inov-8.
The race began at 7:00 this morning with 18 teams setting out on the first paddling leg.
LIVE coverage, made possible by Series sponsors Inov-8, MPGear.com, Numa Sport Optics, MyTopo.com, nuun Active Hydration, Headsweats and the soon-to-be-launched Adventure magazine features SPOT-based GPS tracking, leaderboard, race blog, "shout outs", competitor map and more.
There are a couple extremely tough and long races this weekend where Team Inov-8 athletes can be found. We'll get things started off down in Dawsonville, GA at Amicalola Falls State Park where Team Roam/Inov-8 is tackling the 24 hour Atomic Adventure Race. Check out the link to the race site where team members Paul Humphreys, Dwight Shuler, and Julia Radman are one of the featured teams. There is a great write up on each member and the international mix they bring to the table. Inov-8 is one the "gold level sponsors" this year for the Atomic AR providing gear for prizes and we are providing all racers with pint glasses (Dwight see if you can snag me one of those!)
Our other epic challenge is one of the toughest 100 mile ultras in the US. The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. This super technical course has lots of climbing and more rocks than you can imagine. Our defending champion Todd Walker will be wearing the heavy #1 bib number. He'll be chased by a talented field this year.
Up in Bedford, NH at the Bedford 12k Kevin Tilton will be racing for the New England Grand Prix 12k Championship on a slightly less technical course. Good luck to everyone this weekend.
Team Roam/Inov-8 - Atomic AR
Todd Walker - Massanutten 100
Kevin Tilton - Bedford 12k
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
In this addition of 50/50 we head west to California, which is quite possibly one of the most popular destinations for racing and running within the silent sports world, particularly ultrarunning. Northern California and the Marin Headlands area are home to a plethora of trails. Although it is difficult to choose just one trail system, the Santa Barbara Trails are some of the best Cali has to offer. Situated in the rustic and beautiful Santa Ynez Mountain range offering panorami views of the ocean's coast. It reminds me quite a bit of Duluth, MN with its steep hills, and trail system overlooking Lake Superior, of course the winter months are much kinder in Cali. Recently there have been wildfires that have scorched and damaged parts of the front country. Although it will heal, it is essential that this wilderness be protected. Due to its location and other variables, the uncertainty still looms.
read more below...
By the 1950s many of the historic front-country trails had fallen into almost complete disuse. Among them were the Arroyo Burro, Franklin, and Romero Canyon trails. Concurrently, much of the private land, held in large blocks since the era of the land grant, was being broken up into smaller parcels. Foothill properties were subdivided and used for speculative purposes and ownership changed somewhat frequently.
As the land passed through a series of hands, owners became accustomed to the lack of trail use. In fact, many of the owners weren’t even aware that historic trails passed through their property. Once closed, few owners who found out about trails going through their properties wanted hikers to begin crossing their land again. Private property signs began to go up on many ranches and large land holdings.
Some who did so were avocado growers, such as the owners of Rancho San Roque, who feared that a fungus known as cinnamon root rot would be brought onto their property on the soles of hikers’ shoes. Others had purchased property away from the city to live in the peace and quiet the foothills offered and didn’t want scores of hikers invading their solitude. There were those, too, like the owner of the land above the San Antonio Creek Trail, whose land value would fall as much as $600,000, according to appraisals, should trail users be allowed to cut through the middle of their property.
Today, the Santa Ynez Mountain trails and those found in the back country are as popular as ever. Despite legal problems affecting a few of them they offer us something special: a place to get away when life in Santa Barbara gets a little too hectic; the joy to be found in a quiet canyon filled with the flow of cascading water and the cheerful sounds of chaparral birds; the physical release that comes from an energetic hike.
Few other locales have places such as these to offer their communities. In an environment where we can enjoy both the beauty of the sea and the majesty of the summit within minutes of one another, the mountain wall offers us still another of the treats which makes Santa Barbara so special.
The history of this land, the geology, the chaparral plant community, and and perhaps an understanding of ourselves can be found in the exploration of this country. There is also the heritage of the people who lived in this land—the Chumash, the pioneer miners, and the homesteaders.
The trails, and the hidden places to be found along them, are there to appreciate, and to enjoy. They are both beautiful and fragile, and they need the care of all of us.
These mountains have many messages to offer. Please take care of them
Demographics: Below are just a few of the excellent trail options that can be found along the Santa Barbara Trail system.
Arroyo Burro Trail
This hike is a challenge. It's one of the rare front country hikes that has uphill both on the way up and on the way back, and all of it is steep. It's a long hike, too. 12 miles.
You will have to hike part of the way on paved and dirt roads and through private easements that are constantly in flux.
The Arroyo Burro Trail is a historic trail. In the days before automobile travel trails the only way over the impenetrable mountain barrier between the coast and the interior. Arroyo Burro supplied a route for miners and other trade. The trail continues over the other side of the mountains to the Santa Ynez River. This other half of the trail is shady and very lovely, but not described here.
The hike is 12 strenuous miles round trip with an approximate 4000ft elevation gain. The gratuitous 500ft. drop you do in the middle of the ascent adds that extra 1000ft.
Cold Spring Trail and Montecito Peak
Cold Spring Trail begins gently in shade by a creek that almost always has plenty of water. After a gentle uphill for 1/4 of a mile you reach a bench by the creek where you can sit and clear your mind with the gentle sounds of small waterfalls. This bench is at the junction of the West Fork of Cold Spring Trail. To stay on the main Cold Spring Trail, continue from the bench without crossing the creek. The trail climbs up and out of the shade to an Edison road with power lines. If you are tall enough to see over the bushes you'll get a good view of Montecito. On the way up to this spot, be careful on one of those switchbacks that you don't head straight and get off the trail. You will end up on a loop trail that brings you back to the trailhead. Another place to find this loop trail is from the power lines by turning right (west) and following the Edison road. Either one of these detours will provide you with a nice short work-out hike perfect for after work or early morning, or just when you feel like a shorter hike.
After reaching the power lines the trail continues eastward in chaparral up a very steep, rocky climb all the way to East Camino Cielo Rd. Before reaching the top is a turnoff to Montecito Peak, a very steep, but short climb to a pointy peak in the mountain range. There is a box hidden somewhere at the summit for logging your triumphant summit. At the top of Cold Spring Trail at East Camino Cielo Rd. by the water tower the trail actually continues down the other side of the mountain and deep into the back country. That part of the hike is described under Camino Cielo Hikes as Forbush Flat and Blue Canyon.
Gaviota Peak and Campbell Trail, with a side trip to the hot spring
The entire trail is a wide path that leads upwards with successively higher vistas of the 101 freeway winding through the hills. There is vegetation along the trail but not enough to give much shade so wear a hat. The trail is uniformly and moderately steep most of the way but gets slightly steeper at the end. At the top of the peak you get a fantastic view of the ocean which is hidden throughout the rest of the trail since you climb from behind the mountain. There is a register kept in a sturdy metal can at the peak where you can record your achievement. A nice side trip is a short hike from the trailhead to a hot spring. It's nice to take a dip in the pool after the hike or just sit on the rocks with your feet dipped in.
• If you do Gaviota Peak, your total will be around 6 or 7 miles.
• If you do the Campbell trail loop, your total will be around 11 miles.
• If you just go to the hot spring, it's about 1 mile total round trip.
There is a fee to park your car. Last time I was there it was $2 but it could change. The trail is part of the California State Park system.
Tunnel Trail is one of the most popular trails in Santa Barbara. It is within 5 minutes from downtown and has enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep hikers interested. Unfortunately it's mountain-biker mecca, which means you are likely to be run off the trail.
Described here is the basic trail from the trailhead to La Cumbre Peak, the highest peak in Santa Barbara at 3995ft. Along the way are little side trails that you might be able to find if you are alert. If you are interested in an all day adventure you can try one of these steep, super-primitive trails, but use your head. People have gotten lost up there and have needed the Search and Rescue Team (and even Search and Rescue has gotten lost!) For that reason those trails aren't actually described here, but they are there for the discovery.
Tunnel Trail begins on the same paved road as Inspiration Pt. The road is an access road used by Edison and lasts about a mile until it becomes a dirt road. You can ride your bike or hike up the dirt Edison Road if you like. That is an excellent hike all its own.
Tunnel Trail starts a bit past the end of the pavement and goes up the mountain steeply for about 3.5 more miles. Along the way are gorgeous views of the city. The trail is usually very dry with one creek that runs only after rains. If you go up there shortly after a good strong rain you can see the waterfall, which can be impressive. The waterfall, when dry, is an impressive rock formation and makes a nice lunch/view spot. At the top you reach East Camino Cielo Rd. From there it is a short walk up the Road to La Cumbre Peak where there is an old fire tower, picnic table, and the fanciest outhouse I've ever seen. There are also breathtaking views of the rugged Back Country on the other side of the Santa Ynez range.
The hike is about 9-11 miles round trip (depending on if you go all the way to La Cumbre Peak) with an elevation gain of about 3000 ft.
Romero Canyon Trail
Romero Canyon is a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers. The trail is shady and along a creek bed for the first half. There is a strong scent of bay laurel in the air. The creek almost always has plenty of water, making the first half of the hike a tranquil forest hike. Then about 2 miles up, there is a junction with a fire road. Mountain bikers often use this road because it offers a challenge without being a complete death trap. Follow the trail instead of the road for a challenging climb up and over the Santa Ynez range to East Camino Cielo Rd, which is a dirt road where the trail meets. Follow East Camino Cielo leftward to the water tower and follow the old fire road back down to the junction. Then choose to follow the shady trail or the interesting, shaley road back to the trailhead.
There are wonderful views of Montecito and the ocean from the summit of this trail, and sweeping vistas of the wild back country when you reach East Camino Cielo Rd. Keep your eyes open where the trail meets East Camino Cielo for a rusty sign announcing Romero Trail continuing down the hill into Blue Canyon, a nice destination for a backpack trip.
Currently the Santa Barbara trails have experienced sporadic wildfires, which seems to have been caused by a brush fire to prevent a wildfire in the first place; a paradoixcal situation you could say. I advise checking with the Santa Barbara Trails Alliance if you plan on treking these trails in the near future, as to see if any are temporarily closed.
Please pay great respect to this trail system, by leaving it cleaner and healthier than before. This trail system needs all the support it can get, so that its future does not remain uncertain.
Races: Santa Barbara 9 Trails, D.R.T.E. 100mile
Monday, May 11, 2009
Team Checkpoint Zero / Inov-8 will be competing in the 2009 edition of the MIchigan eXpedition Adventure Race starting Wednesday morning. With 300 miles of racing it will feature plenty of paddling, biking, and trekking through upper Michigan. Check up on the team during the race at Checkpoint Tracker.
Wynn Davis ran a strong 2nd OA (6:46) at the Ice Age 50 mile Saturday. Dwight Shuler was 5th OA at the ISO Series 12 hour. Ben Nephew was 3rd OA (8:12) at the North Face 50 mile Challenge. Congrats to Gina Lucrezi on her new CR (see post below) at the Greenland Trail 8 mile race.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Today I raced an 8 mile trail race in Greenland, CO. This was my first serious trail race when I arrived in Colorado last year. I was really excited to see how things were going to roll today after experiencing a full year of trail running, and finally getting some legit training.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Congratulations to team Inov-8's Ben Nephew who once again flexed his range at the 7 Sisters race against some tough east coast contenders. You can read his race report below.
7 Sisters 2009
Throwing Down on the Sisters
Hang on everyone; this was one of the more exciting New England trail races. The 7 Sisters 12 mile trail race is the most demanding sub-ultra trail race in New England. If you are from the East, it’s as technical as it gets, and if you are from the West, you can’t even comprehend how horrible the footing is on this course. It will rip the soles right off your shoes. The course climbs 3700 feet over the 12 miles of the out and back course, with numerous climbs requiring the use of hands, especially fingernails. Most descents require rosary beads and a quick Hail Mary (pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our deaths…). There is never an easy year at this race, but the competition that showed up this year made the race particularly demanding.
Both Leigh Schmitt and I have won the race a couple times in the past, although Paul Low has dominated the race in recent years. Greg Hammett won 6 trail races last year, and had just won the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile in a solid time over Brian Rusiecki, who was right behind me at the Peak Snowshoe marathon this winter. Greg had mentioned that Brian was doing DOUBLE 7 Sisters in training, so I was expecting him to be pretty strong. In addition to the above 4, Kevin Tilton emailed me to tell me he was coming down from NH to run the race. Kevin has been on two U.S. mountain running teams, and had placed 2nd to my 3rd at the Merrimack River 10 mile trail race two weeks ago. When I saw that the weather would be nice and cool for the race, I began to think I had a chance at breaking 1:50, which has only been done by 4 people (including Leigh).
As the race started straight up the first 500 ft climb, I was not surprised to see someone go flying by me into the lead. For some reason, there are always at least one or two guys who take off at a ridiculous pace, in spite of the difficulty of the course and the presence of a quality field. This year, it was a gentleman in cut-off hiking pants. He actually looked pretty fit, and I was surprised that the lead pack caught him and passed within a few minutes. By the time we reached the first summit, I had been passed by Kevin, Leigh, and Brian. Leigh and Brian were setting an aggressive pace, with several exchanges of the lead, and I was content to hang off the back at that point.
The racing between Leigh and Brian certainly kept things moving along. I noted that we passed the water stop at around 19 minutes, and that I thought we usually passed it at around 20 minutes. Apparently, this pace was not quick enough for Kevin, as he took the lead around 25 minutes into the race. Kevin is a very strong climber, and he quickly gapped Leigh, Brian, and myself. Although he had a good lead, I was surprised to see that he couldn’t really get away from us. I was hoping that he was keeping enough in the tank for the second half, which is always hard to do the first time racing 7 Sisters. I was still perfectly happy following Brian, who clearly knew how to run the ultra technical descents on the course. On one loose, steep downhill, Leigh ended up saving himself by grabbing a tree, which he swung from like Tarzan.
By about 40 minutes into the race, Leigh mentioned something about running negative splits, and I remarked that he was either smoking crack, or being sarcastic. The four of us were hammering, and it was clear the second half was going to involve a great deal of suffering. On the long downhill to the turn around, the pace lagged a bit after we passed Kevin. He had turned his ankle on an exposed rock slab, and had to take some time to get back to speed. We hit the turn at about 52:15, which was over a minute faster than I had ever run the first half. Oh well, time to hang on!
Kevin immediately started to pull away on the 850ft climb, but we managed to maintain contact 10-20 seconds back. I felt comfortable on the climbs, and began to think I had a shot at the win. However, Leigh and Brian were really flying on the downhills and over the extremely rough sections, and Kevin was still holding a safe lead. Brian stopped trying to pass Leigh, and I started to notice that he also looked pretty comfortable on the climbs. Usually, at this point in the race, none of the top three can see each other, and here the four of us were within a few seconds. It would have been fun if it wasn’t so painful. We were all starting to suffer from the fast pace, and Kevin’s lead was shrinking by the minute. We all knew there was a huge climb up Mt. Hitchcock just past the last water stop which was going to be the place where the gauntlet was thrown down, whether we wanted it or not. It’s the type of late race wall that exaggerates any slight differences in fitness or endurance. Climbing hills you need to claw up with your fingernails tends to do that.
The four of us were all together as we hit the bottom of the hill, and then the race exploded. Brian flew by Leigh and went right after Kevin, who was still climbing well. I struggled past Leigh and tried to get as far away as possible. Brian continued to surge past Kevin sometime soon after Hitchcock, and just disappeared. I knew he looked strong on the earlier climbs, but that was insane. It happened so fast, at first I thought he missed a turn. I myself passed Kevin when he slightly missed a turn, with Leigh trying to run me down. On the second to last climb, I knew I had to put some time on Leigh prior to the final downhill, and pushed so hard my knees almost buckled as my quads started to go numb. Leigh finally broke, and I quickly pulled away on the upper section of the climb.
Unfortunately for me, Leigh wasn’t ready to call it a day and kept me in sight up the final climb. My legs were trashed by the time we started the final descent, which includes talus, ledges, and boulder fields. At one point, I dropped 6 feet off a ledge onto a flat boulder. I tried to throw myself down the mountain, but my coordination was lacking, and Leigh bounded by as I jokingly threw an elbow. We’ve had a number of close finishes, and he always manages to hammer the downhill finish. As I struggled with my dying legs, Leigh pulled away from me. I decided to give it one last shot, and finally managed to open my stride up and pick up the pace. I bounded down the last 200 meters not really caring where my feet landed, just trying to reel in Leigh. When I realized I had a shot at getting by him at the pace I was going, I scanned the finish area for passing room. The finish of the race consists of the bottom of a steep singletrack intersecting with a road. There was no room to pass, but all I could think about was cutting between two trees and smashing into the side of a truck at full speed. At the last second, I decided against it, and finished with my hand grabbing Leigh’s singlet to avoid pushing him into traffic.
Brian ran a personal record by about 7 minutes to win in 1:47:46, with Leigh and I at 1:48:18. That was a 2 minute PR for myself, and Leigh just about matched his fastest time. This was the first time three runners had ever broken 1:50, and Kevin ran a very strong 1:51:20 in his first attempt at the race. Oh, and six days after this race, Brian, Leigh, and I are all running the Northface 50 miler in NY with 7200 feet of climbing!
Ben Nephew will be switching over from snowshoeing and short trail races to a very challenging ultra race at Bear Mountain, NY, the North Face 50 mile Challenge. Ben is no rookie to ultra races and is perhaps one of the more diverse trail runners out there, willing to tackle just about any distance and any terrain. In the upper Midwest we have another 50 mile ultra, The Ice Age Trail 50 loacted in the Southern unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest in WI along the Ice Age Trail. Wynn Davis will do battle on the scenic, rolling and mostly single track trail. In Helena , Montana Dewey Peacock will toe the line at the Don't Fence Me in Trail 12k. Gina Lucrezi will be racing on the Front Range of CO, at the Greenland Trail Races. She will be racing the 8 miler option. Paul Low will be at the point to point uphill 10k road race at the Green Mountain Hill Climb in Ripton , VT. Lastly Dwight Shuler will be defending his crown from 2008 at the ISO Series 12 Hour AR in Hanging Rock State Park, NC.
Ben Nephew - NF 50 mile
Wynn Davis - Ice Age 50 mile
Dewey Peacock - Don't Fence Me In 12k
Gina Lucrezi - Greenland Trail 8 mile
Paul Low - Green Mtn. Hill Climb
Dwight Shuler - ISO Series 12 Hr.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Some great running this past weekend starting with Joe Gray who ran a speedy 36:49 (19th OA) at the Bloomsday 12k road race in Spokane , Wa. Ben Nephew was 3rd OA at the 7 sisters Trail Race in Amherst, MA. (times and OA results were not up yet on their website as of this posting) DeWayne Satterfield was 5th OA (5:34) at the Strolling Jim 40+. Greg Feucht was 37th OA with a fast 1:13 half-marathon at the One America 500 Festival. Scott Dunlap battled wet, cold and stormy conditions at Miwok 100k for a 30th OA (10:43) showing as he continues his WS 100 prep work. Lastly I got the date wrong for the Green Mountain Hill Climb which will be this Saturday, May 9th, my apologies.
Kelli Lusk was 2nd female and 11th OA (3:34) at the Collegiate Peaks Trail Race 25 miler.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The Cranmore Hill Climb, sponsored by Inov-8, is serving as the USA and NACAC Mountain Running Championships this year. Course Profile, Maps and Photos have just been added. Select from the links below:
Note: The below picture is of a course flag that's still up from last year's Cranmore Hill Climb. It survived a winter of snow and wind on the mountain.
Interactive Map with Photos
Congratulations to Mark on winning the 31st annual Strolling Jim 40mile road race. Mark Cruised to an impressive 4:55 finish time and capturing the only Gold sub 5hr standard. The race saw a mix of just about everything from pouring rain to a 1 mile detour that added on some extra minutes. For more on the story click here
Type rest of the post here