Endurance and Perseverance

The definition of endurance is “the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” 

The definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

The initial draw to running was that feeling of winning a race. I loved the purity of a footrace and seeing if I could get to the finish line before my competitors. I remember reading some of Steve Prefontaine’s quotes and identifying with his competitive drive.

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine

“Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it ” – Steve Prefontaine

I still enjoy pushing my body to its limits and letting my competitive nature take over. I still enjoy the purity of a footrace and testing my endurance. However, today I understand that when I run a race I am building much more than just physical endurance. When I run a race, I am building perseverance. Perseverance does something in our character, deep within our spirits, that makes us better people. James 1:4 says “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

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Photo Cred irunfar

Although Perseverance and Endurance have very similar definitions, in sport related terms, endurance refers mostly to our body’s physical capabilities. Once you you’ve reached your endurance limits, your body begins to break down. But what is it that drives a person to the finish line when their body has already gone past the point of its endurance limits? I believe it is the perseverance in the spirit and mind of man that keeps him going. Beyond physical capabilities, the spirit of man can stay strong and will them to continue moving forward. It is an inspiring thing to see someone persevere and make it to the finish line when their physical capabilities have told them to quit.

Perseverance has many other benefits as well. For example, it has taught an impatient man, like myself, to have faith and hope that good things will come from struggle and difficulty. It has chipped away at pride and selfishness of wanting every race to go well and has helped keep me from dropping out of races that weren’t going well. It’s easy to run a race when your body is at its peak fitness and you are accomplishing your goals. But to commit to finishing a race when things aren’t going well takes courage, strength, and lots of perseverance!

The apostle Paul said, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” What a blessing to be able to get more out of sport and training than just the physical. I get to choose each day where I find value and where I will put my heart. It is by choice that I want to focus on the shaping of character and get more out my endurance training. I want running to continue to be a positive influence on every aspect of my life.


4/11/16 – I actually wrote most of this post a week before Lake Somona and it has been neat to look back at what I wrote and see if I could actually put it into action. It is one thing to know how to better oneself intellectually and another thing to actually live it out. Why is this? Because it usually takes suffering to break a weakness or a character issue. At some point you have to be unselfish and put some effort into it if you want change. Here is a quick summary of what happened leading up to the race and during it.

After struggling with a hip issue for 6 weeks I was able to get through Chuckanut 50k successfully and excited to have run a great race there. I was able to put in another 30 mile training run the following weekend and planned to take an easy week two weeks out before Lake Sonoma, since i’d be at an orphanage in Guatemala for a few days.

Things were looking great….until I got sick again. This time it was the cold. Two days out from the race I wasn’t sure if I should start the race. I knew if I started the race I could not make excuses and the responsibility was on me. I was afraid the same thing would happen again as in the Bandera 100k. I kept replaying how painful it was there to run with a cough, headache, and low energy levels. My biggest fear was just not making it to the finish line.

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Race morning I woke up and my respiratory system felt better. I started to feel a lot more optimistic about finishing the race and decided to give it a go. As hard as I tried to stay positive through the first 25 miles, I can admit, there were a few rough patches. There were thoughts about dropping out and some whining about the circumstances I was in.  It was between miles 15-17 where the breakthrough finally happened. I made the commitment to just run the best I could on this day and to focus on finishing the race that was in front of me. I was running in 5th place and kept praying for the ability to push through my weaknesses and negative thoughts. It was here that I realized the opportunity I had ahead. I had the opportunity to learn perseverance and to strengthen my character. If I run to glorify God with my best effort each time, i can’t fail.

Lake Sonoma 50 is a beautiful race. You are always going up or down over the green grass hills and the middle 10 miles of the race you hit 3 big climbs. By the time we hit this section I had embraced the challenge and I was now enjoying the familiar faces and the encouragement from my wife to keep going.

At the 25 mile mark Jim Walmsey had a huge lead. I was still running with Matt Flaherty at that point and knew that Daniel Metzger was less than a minute behind us. I wasn’t sure how far Dylan Bowman was in front of us but I wanted to give it all I had to get on the podium. The next 8 miles were pretty solid for me. I moved into a strong 4th position, and knew I was picking up the pace. My climbing legs were not there so I pushed all the downhills and stayed focused on keeping my rhythm up on the rolling single track. I believe it was around mile 38 that I caught glimpse of Dylan. I closed fast on him thinking he’d let me fly right by him but I was wrong. Dylan rallied back really strong. Each climb I could see he was only 40 seconds or so back and I was not gaining on him. The race was on for the last podium spot!!!

At the last aid station with 4.6 miles to go I saw Dylan come in just as I was leaving. Knowing he would be in and out of it quick I figured I had maybe 30 seconds on him. It was time to dig deep on the next few miles of climbing. I stayed calm and kept pushing on the climbs. As the time kept clicking and I could not see Dylan anymore, I thought I had finally dropped him. But with one mile to go Dylan catches back up to me quickly and flies right by shifting into his kick. He is moving really fast for having run 49 miles already, and immediately my adrenaline kicked in. I told myself I had not suffered this much to let him go without a fight. I shifted into my kick and hung right behind him. With a half a mile to go I passed on the inside and just shifted into sprinting mode without looking back. It wasn’t until 200 meters to go that I realized I had put some distance and that I was going to secure 3rd place. It was a really awesome battle that I will never forget and I give big thanks to Dylan. Those last 100 meters I just let it all sink in and gave thanks for the chance to cross another finish line. For me, this race was a huge victory, much more than the 3rd place and the western states qualifier, and for that I give thanks.

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Thank you irunfar for the interview

What I used during the race:

nike zoom kigers (www.nikerunning.com)

4 hammer bars and 6 hammer gels (www.hammernutrition) 

Enduropacks Sugar Free Electrolyte Replacement (www.enduropacks.com)

1 20 oz bottle tucked into tights that I switched out 3 times during race

Recovery and reaping the benefits of racing

Twice this year i’ve stepped up to a new ultra distance i’ve never done before, and have been able to still race successfully at shorter distances within a few weeks.

First it was at the 50 mile Trail USA National Championships in New York. Two weeks after winning the race, I ran my fastest half marathon on trails breaking Max King’s course record on the dirty half marathon course (from the Half Marathon Trail Champs in 2011). I also finished 19th at the World Long Distance Championships a few weeks after that and was the 3rd scorer to secure the silver medal for the U.S. Team.

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The next time I stepped up distance was at the UROC 100k. After my runner up finish in the 62 mile race with 11,000 feet of climbing and a high of 95 degrees, I won the USATF Marathon Trail National Championships……So what has been the key to recovery and performance?

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The key to racing at various distances has definitely been hitting the recovery the right way. Most runners rush getting right back into training. They start planning their next workout and worrying about loosing fitness in between races. My approach has been to make sure I am fully recovered and rested before I go back into full training. I don’t focus on what the next race is but rather on getting my body back to feeling strong.

If you are like me, the race fatigue doesn’t set in until 3-4 days after a race. I’m not referring to just muscle soreness here, i’m referring to overall fatigue, and its important to know the difference. Don’t wait until the overall fatigue hits you to back off, or think that because your leg muscles are recovered that you are ready to train hard again. Be proactive about recovery and you can bounce back much stronger from races. Here are some of the ways to be proactive:

  • Do cross-training at low intensities. Low intensity will keep your heart rate down, but promote blood flow and muscle repair. I like going to Recharge and hopping on the eliptigo. But swimming, biking, or even just hiking can work in the same way. Flushing stuff out without doing further damage should be the focus. My rule of thumb is if my body feels better as I warm-up then keep going. If muscles start tightening up then STOP and wait a few more days.
  • Get a massage. This one is tricky and is more focused on just muscle repair. You shouldn’t get a massage if your muscles are still tender. Wait until you can press into your muscles without feeling pain and until you can roll out on the foam-roller and it feels good. This is usually around 4-5 days after a race. Then the massage will actually feel good on the body and be beneficial for you.
  • Epsom Salt Baths and Hot/Cold contrast baths. Anything that is flushing blood through your muscles without making them get tight is very good. Too much ice and cold on your muscles without warming them back up can make them tight. But if you alternate between hot and cold you are promoting blood flow and loosening knots up.
  • Sleep and Nutrition. The best cellular muscle repair happens when you are sleeping. Getting quality sleep and good calories in will speed up the recovery process as your body rebuilds. After a hard race I like going for a balanced meal. Everyone talks about the 4 to 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. I think throwing in some healthy and natural fat is very good too. Keeping your stomach happy without overindulging will help keep your body in recovery mode and your metabolism active. I usually crave some fatty meats like pork carnitas or even tacos de lengua (cow tongue) with some avocado. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Aside from the proactive things you can do to recover, there are also some mental aspects that are very important. I see so many people finish a race and immediately start planning what their next workouts are. Calm down and relax! Understand that racing is the ultimate training. For example, if I just raced a 50 mile race, thats 50 miles of a hard aerobic effort which is far more than i’d normally get in a week. And usually races have a ton of vertical, so I probably got more climbing than I would in an entire week. It’s important to acknowledge and have confidence in that you just worked out the body very hard and that if you rest appropriately, you will reap the benefits. But if you rush back into training you will not reap the benefits of a hard race effort and will likely start feeling burnt out or even injured. Have faith in the process and work on some patience!

Think about how strong the body feels after a hard training block and some tapering. Now try mimicking the same thing after a race, but instead of going through the full taper process again start ramping the training back up slowly until your body and mind tells you its time for full intensity.

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Furthermore, if you are recovering from a really long race you are dealing with glycogen depletion. Your muscles are broken down to the cellular level and doing full intensity right away is only going to make them feel worse. Instead, have mental confidence that you’ve done the training and start with an easy to medium workout, as you ramp the training back up. I like doing a similar workout after a race to what I would normally do on race week. If I just ran an ultra, I won’t do a workout until at least 7 days after the race.

I don’t want to share too many secrets but one of the things i’ve done in the past is to do a light uphill tempo after a race because the slower pace gives my legs a break but still keeps my cardio sharp. Why not set the treadmill at 12% and go 8 minute pace for 30 minutes instead of trying to do a flat fast tempo and further deplete the muscles that are trying to rebuild.

Moab Trail Marathon – USA Marathon National Championships

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Photo Cred Tad Davis

Quick thoughts about my last race of the season:

I am beyond grateful to end the season on such a high note. I don’t believe God fixes races and chooses who is going to win this race or that race, even though he easily could. He made this world with free will in order for there to be the full ability to love. That is why there are many awesome things that happen in the world and also some very broken things too, because love is a choice. But this whole season, regardless of whether i’ve won a race or not, he has blessed me. I have been in a whole new state of spirit and state of mind that i’ve been able to enjoy races like i’ve never enjoyed them before. I think that really makes a big difference in racing well and I find its no coincidence that this has been my best season. I did believe I could win this race, despite being an underdog. My climbing was the best it’s ever been, my tempo runs were the best they’ve ever been, and I was coming off a really good ultra which meant i’d have the strength in those last miles to close hard. But above all, I was full in my spirit and excited to race. Despite being a muddier year I was able to run 2 minutes faster on the course and felt like I paced it perfectly. This year on the big climb I was able to run the entire way and keep Joe Gray in sight as we headed back down the other side of the mountain with 8 miles to go. I closed the gap slowly between miles 20-23 and with 5k I felt like it was time to go for broke. I told myself that regardless of how things played out I was going to give it all I had until I crossed the finish line. The win was a huge blessing and I thank God and all the people who have supported me.

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Buying and Eating What is Free

This season a big goal of mine has been to enjoy every race i get to run, regardless of its outcome. Making changes to your character starts with the little things. Instead of just focusing on how awesome it will be when I get to the top of a mountain, I want to live and experience the journey and challenge of getting there.

I almost did not start the Ultra Race of Champions 100k. The week of the race the expected high went from 82 to 95 degrees. Not ideal for someone training in Bend where 9 months out of the year the morning lows are under freezing temps. To make things even more interesting, I had never raced over 50 miles before. I asked myself, how the heck am I going to enjoy running a 62 mile race in 95 degree temps. Nevertheless, Jade and I drove down to Auburn and met up with my sister. I let them know several times I did not know yet if I would actually start the race, but that I was leaning towards it. I told them I did not want a Did Not Finish next to my name and that if I started I would finish.

I woke up at 4am before the sunlight, still full of fears and doubts. My goal of enjoying this race was not off to a good start and the odds were against me. I had a decision to make. I could play it safe and go back to sleep, or I could see what the day had in store for me. I chose to block out all negativity and take this opportunity to build character. I prayed to God for his strength and was excited to get on the trails and see the sun finally come up.

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At 6:30am we were off. Just enough daylight to not use a headlight but still 20+ minutes from the actual sunrise. It was beautiful and still very pleasant running weather at 65 degrees! When the sun came up through the canyon it was incredible. Justin Houck and I were out in the lead before mile 10 and we both marveled at how awesome the canyon lit up. Justin said “you know you are ready to race when you are having fun” and it was exactly what I was thinking at the time.

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So who is Justin Houck? In running related terms Justin is an accomplished Division I runner at University of Portland who has been tearing up the trails and is sponsored by Salomon. Justin is quickly becoming one of the best ultra runners in the country and if it wasn’t for all of the difficulties he was dealing with at Western States I have no doubt he would have been top 10 there. As a person, Justin is even more awesome. Really friendly and humble person who builds cool stuff as a carpenter in Pheonix, Az.

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First 30 miles of the race the temperatures were still bearable. In a race this long its important to stay very patient and enjoy what your doing. You want those first 20 miles or so to go by fast and that’s exactly what Justin and I did. We stayed under control, focused on fueling, and kept filling up our water bottles with ice. We took the downhills controlled and paced ourselves on the uphills so that our heart rates were not maxed out. Although we did not get to see our crew (Jade and Lisette) until mile 38, we made sure we were getting enough calories in at each aid station and we encouraged one another. At mile 31 we had a 4 minute lead, but in the next 10 miles that lead built to over 30 minutes because we were running steady and patient.

42 Miles into the race and things really started to heat up (literally and metaphorically). I had been putting ice in my bandana and by now it was melting within a couple of miles as we approached a high of 95 degrees. Justin and I were still running side by side and working together up to this point. We joked, laughed, built camaraderie, huffed and puffed as the miles clicked by.  We were dialed in at each aid station and continued to build on the lead over the rest of the field. Although we did not speak about it, we both knew that at this point the race was up for grabs. Justin made the first move on a long gradual decent between miles 45-48. He built maybe a 45 seconds gap at most and knowing how much longer we still had to run I decided to be patient. When we started climbing again I could see Justin’s shoulders drop down a bit and that I was closing in fast. I caught back up and we left the next aid station with 15 miles to go again side by side.

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Not really knowing how hard the next climb would be I decided to take advantage of how well I was climbing and make push. The western states trail climbs 1,000 feet in one mile. Our pace went from 7 minute miles to complete powerhiking at this point. This is the one time in the race I built a slight lead. But it did not last long. By the top of the climb my body was overheated and when it came time to start running again my heart rate would not go back down. It was so dang hott I cannot explain in words how tough it was. By mile 51 Justin started gapping me again and this time I had nothing left. I didn’t know how I would be able to finish and to be honest I thought I would get caught by the chase pack considering how slow I was now running. I was nauseas and could not drink enough to quench my thirst. I wanted to change socks and shoes so bad but it was no longer an option. At mile 55 I felt a blister pop and drain as I ran. I told myself just ignore pain, don’t think about it. Keep moving, no matter how slow you have to go just keep moving. As I ran by a lake I daydreamed of swimming in it and how nice the cool water would feel. I seriously considered ditching the race and jumping in.

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With 5.5 miles to go everything in my body was screaming for me to stop and my stomach was in knots. My feet were bloody, my quads were cramped, and my hamstrings kept tightening up. I knew I was running slow at this point, close to 10 minute miles, which meant It was still another 50 minutes to the finish. NOooooooo! I wish I was bad at math and could have tricked myself. How in the world can my body even do this? I did not know. But again I chose to block out all doubts and committed to finishing this race, even if I had to walk. This is the point in the race where my character was being tested. My flesh was completely done and I had nothing left in me.

Honestly, this type of running is not healthy. Not in 95 degree weather. Plenty of times in the last 15 miles I kept questioning my own sanity and if it wasn’t for having committed to this race and wanting to finish so bad I would not have put myself through this kind of pain. But this truly is where I believe I made the biggest progress in my character. I submitted my mind to finishing this race and let my spirit take over. I prayed that God would let me make it to the finish and that something good would come out of this race. The last couple of miles I actually started to feel better. I was able to run up the last big hill and started to get really emotional. I was still in the middle of nowhere, no crowds cheering, no familiar faces, but I seriously felt so full.

My spirit was so full and as I finally turned into the finishing stretch and towards the crowd I thanked God for his strength and for this journey. Ive never been so happy to cross a finish line and to see Jade and my sister.

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I was able to hold on to 2nd. The intense heat was affecting those behind me just as much, if not worse. Huge congrats to Justin who dominated the last 10 miles. Who woulda thought training in the 100+ heat of Pheonix would have it’s advantages!? A well deserved win for him.

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“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

Friends, the joy and peace I get to experience is free. It’s for everyone. It has nothing to do whether I won a race or Did Not Finish. In fact my last race before UROC I fell pretty hard and hit my tailbone. The rock ripped through my shorts and I thought I had seriously injured myself because everything was numb. But even then at the Rut 50k I saw the mountains light up with the sun in a way i’ve never seen before and I enjoyed running on these new trails of Montana. Go out and enjoy what is free and you will be rich. Encourage one another while you run the race. Here are some pics from recent fall adventures!

USA Mountain Running Championships Preview of Men’s Elite Field

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presented by Nike Trail Running and Visit Bend

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The MEN’s ELITE FIELD

The qualifier for the USA Mountain Running Team is this Saturday in Bend Oregon. Top 6 men will be heading to Wales for the World Championships on Sept 19th. This years team is looking to be a medal contender for sure. With arguably the most competitive US field assembled on any trail/mountain/ultra course in the country, here are the guys with the best chances of making the team. Expect to see a lot of lead and position changes. In a race this competitive, guys can gain or loose multiple spots within seconds. Come watch the race unfold on a very spectator friendly 4k loop. Men will be running it 3 times with an elevation gain of 248 meters each loop.

The Top 4

It’s extremely hard to imagine any of these top 4 guys not making the team. It’s looking like a slug fest between these 4 guys on who will be crowned the national championship and then another slug fest with about 15 guys fighting for the last two spots. The national title will likely come from these top 4. These guys are not just track/road/cross country studs (making USA teams), but they’ve proven themselves plenty of times in the trails, mountains, and even ultras, setting records all over the place and winning National Titles.

1) Patrick Smyth – Nike Trail Team, 1:02 Half Marathoner  Patrick Smyth has pretty much won every trail race he’s entered, other than his runner-up at last years Mountain Championships (likely his first mountain race). His first year on trails he won the Xterra Trail National Championships and then the World Championships finishing ahead of both Joe and Max. His second year he finished second at the Mountain Championships and 9th at the World Chanmpionships (top American there), and won titles at the USA Half Marathon Champs and the Xterra World Champs. He also went ahead and took down Max King’s course record at Way To Cool 50k and it seems as if nobody has been within 2 minutes of him at any trail race he has run in the last year and a half.

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2) Joe Gray – Scott Sports, 1:03 Half Marathoner Joe is the two-time defending National Champ. He’s won the USA Mountain Runner of the Year the last who “knows how many years” in a row and wins at least 3 National Titles every year (including club xc and NACAC). Joe is both a great climber and descender. The 10-12k distances seem to really suit him and training in Colorado Springs will help on a course like this being run at elevations of 6,000-7,000 ft.

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3) Max King – Salomon, 1:03 Half Marathoner Hard to imagine a former World Mountain Running Champion on an up-down course not win the national title on his home course. Max is a great competitor and you can bet he will be after the title. Max has won more national titles than you can count and has people chasing his course records all over the country. He also has two World Championship wins under his belt (Mountain Running 2011 and 100k in 2014). Need to say more? Just google max king and you’ll see 😉

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4) Andy Wacker – Adidas, 1:03 Half Marathoner There are plenty of reasons why Andy has a good shot at the National Title. First reason is he is a great climber and appears to be even better at altitude (which will play a factor in this race). He was 3rd at last years Pikes Peak WMRA Challenge and Runner up at this years World Long Distance Mountain Championships in Switzerland (Leading team USA to a Silver Medal in Zermatt). He appears to be in the best shape of his life finishing 2nd at Mt. Washington and winning the Barr Trail Race after starting the race 7 minutes late. The guy crushes kenyans on the climbs and the question here will be how well he can handle 4 minute miles on the long descents and be able to climb fast back up

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After being on the course multiple times, speed will definitely come in handy. The downhills are not technical and they are pretty gradual so you likely won’t see the track studs faltering. It’s scary to think that there are still plenty of sub 14 minute 5k guys in the field, guys who’ve made the USA Mountain Running Team many times before, and guys who have won Trail National Titles who will go home without a spot on the team.

Here are the next batch of guys who will be battling for a spot. 

Zach Miller (Nike Trail Team) – 4th at last years Mountain Running Champs and 3rd at the Mt. Washington Road Race. Rumors have it that Zach is a great downhill runner. Combine that with his climbing abilities and altitude training and he has a great shot at making the team. 10636519_10152339294473015_1671468289466684686_o

Ryan Bak (Nike Trail Team) – Bendite who was 8th at last years Mountain Running Champs (while dealing with an ankle issue) and looking to improve on that this year. When Ryan Bak is healthy he is one of the best trail/mountain runners in the country and if he is fit and ready could be a contender for a top 3 spot or even a win. He’s qualified for multiple USA XC Teams and also has 13:30s 5k on his resume with plenty of great performances on the trails. 11136622_10204407803618645_208665516335425246_n

David Roche (Nike Trail Team) – 6th at last years Mountain Running Champs and won the 10k Trail Championships. David was also just part of the USA Team who took silver in Zermatt and appears to be better at the 10-12k distances. After doing some altitude training, David is prepped and ready to make another USA Team.

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Andrew Benford (Team Run Flagstaff) – 9th at last Years Mountain Running Champs and only American male to run for the US as both a Junior (2006, 12th) and, later, Open (2009, 13th) running at the WMRC.  An 8:39 steeplechase PR does not hurt!

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David Laney (Nike Trail Team) – David is a 2:17 Marathoner who has blazed plenty of trail and ultra marathoners. He was recently part of the USA Team that took silver at the 50 mile World Championships (he was 2nd scorer and 12th overall), and finished 9th at the 2013 Mountain Running Championships.

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Mario Mendoza (Nike Trail Team) – Bendite who is writing this preview so he is not allowed to talk about himself. He just got married and went on a honeymoon so don’t expect too much 😉

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Ryan Woods (La Sportiva) – Ryan has made plenty of USA Teams before and will be one of the most experienced guys in the field. He also has a sub 14 5k PR and recently placed 6th at the NACAC Mountain championships. He has both the climbing and descending ability to make the team. 19389_10102649068202999_2764828257798203433_n

Zach Freudenburg – former team USA member at the World Mountain Running Championships. former team USA member at NACAC Mountain Running Championships.  Battled Michael Wardian for US Marathon record while pushing a baby stroller.

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Jordan Chavez – 7th at the 2014 Mountain Running champs and 7th at the 2015 NACAC Mountain Running Championships images

Wait, there is still more! If the field was not stacked already, there are still plenty of sub 14 5k guys who will be making the Mountain Running Debut and could potentially pull a Sage Canaday and either win the title or take a spot on the team.

Track Studs in the Elite Field with potential to make the team. 

Thomas Morgan – New Bendite and also a 13:25 5k guy. Thomas has been gaining experience on the trails. First placing 3rd at the Horse Butte 10 Miler behind Ryan and Jarred. And then placing 3rd at the Dirty Half Marathon behind Max and Mario.

Jared Bassett – New Bendite and also an 8:36 Steeplechase PR. Jarred is a former University of Portland All American and has also been gaining experience on the trails placing second to Ryan Bak at the Horse Butte 10 miler.

Kenyon Neumon – 13:40 5k guy who ran for CU and lives and trains in Boulder. Kenyon grew up in Bend and has done very well at the Cross Country championships and has torn up the racing scene around Boulder.

Other Elites Contending for a Spot

Nick Schuetze – 2007 NACAC Mountain Running Champion

David McKay – Bendite who was 4th 2013 Pikes Peak Ascent 2013; 14th 2014 USMRC; DIII XC All-American and Regional Runner of the Year at Luther

JP Donovan – Multiple-time Squaw Mountain Running Champ.

Ian Sharman – Bendite known for his ultra-running success and 100 mile wins but recently placed 4th at the Dirty Half Marathon and is a great competitor all around.

Jason Bryant – Multiple USA Teams and a straight up mountain goat. Jason will be competing for the Master’s win but could potentially knock out some of these young bucks.

 

Closing Remarks: I apologize if I missed anyone or missed some of your PR’s and amazing race results. The goal of this blog is to help people realize the type of competition out there on the course on Saturday and to help get the sub ultra distances more exposure. Being an ultra runner myself, I believe this is the strongest USA men’s field assembled on any trail/mountain/ultra course. There are some serious studs in this race and even though speed does not matter as much going up a hill, a lot of these talented track/road/xc guys have already proven to be aerobic machines on the mountains and in Ultras.  Hoping to have a crowd out there on the course this saturday. I know the Bend community is really excited for this race. Thank you to Visit Bend, and Nike Trail Runner for helping sponsor this event. And huge thanks to USA Mountain Running, Nancy, Richard, and Max for building up the sport and organizing this event (http://www.usmrt.com/).

“The Flesh is Weak, but the Spirit is Willing.” Flesh vs Spirit.

In the last couple of months i’ve finally experienced some serious ultra-running (hehe). Up to this year, I had run plenty of 50ks and one 60k (Angels Staircase), but I had not been tested in the trail distances the ultrarunning world cares about. In the ultrarunning scene, the prestige is in the 50m, 100k, and 100m distances. I don’t compete in trail or mountain races to please people or for the attention, but i’ll admit, a big part of me really wanted to see how I would do in the longer distances. The first big test came at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k. I had been putting in some really good training with my teammate and good friend Ryan Bak. Felt really good and strong leading up to this race and through 20 miles things were going perfect. I felt really in control, felt like I was just warming up, and was pacing myself conservatively. Unfortunately someone tampered with the course and we went off course for 3 miles. I was pretty upset and devastated. I could not believe someone would do such a thing. Instead of focusing on nutrition I got really anxious and started looking for the right course. After many miles and minutes lost, I was back on course but in a completely different physical and mental state. I was done. My flesh had been broken and as much as my spirit wanted to continue and to finish my body gave way at roughly 45 miles of running.  I could not take another step and my stomach was in knots. After some weeks of recovery, I was back to training. Found out I was selected for the USA team heading to Zermat Switzerland for the World Long Distance Mountain Championships.

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

After the Gorge I was so burned out from long runs I stopped doing them for 6 weeks and just focused on getting my speed back and climbing legs ready for the World Championships. I won an 18 mile trail race in the Mckenzie River and then decided to run the Trail Factor Half Marathon to use it as training for #teamUSAzermatt. Knowing an uphill Marathon would take close to as long as a 50k I figured it would be good for me to run the 50k at Trail Factor as well. So a week before the race, I did my first long run of 2 hours and then one more speed workout. I got the crazy idea that maybe I could win both races since I would have one day in between to recover a bit and shakeout my legs, but I hesitated to sign up for the 50k. Morning of the Half Marathon I felt great. I was not tapered but my legs felt really strong and I was excited to run in Forest Park. I ran conservatively for 4 miles and then just pushed enough to get a comfortable win. Even with stopping for 3 minutes to see if I was on the right course I was able to finish the race feeling like I had just done a hard training run and had so much fun out there. Thank you Todd Janssen at GoBeyondRacing and Paul Nelson for all of these incredible photos at Paul Nelson Photography.

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

The next day was spent with family, eating, laughing, and just celebrating the upcoming wedding with my loved ones. I was able to get out for a 30 minute jog in the evening and felt decent. Ryan Bak said he was going to head down to do the 50k too and use it as training for Western States by now I was committed and excited for the 50k the next morning. Morning of the 50k I still felt good. I don’t know why but my training had finally clicked the last few weeks and even though my legs were a bit tight I could tell that my fitness was there. With some solid competition, including the Puzey Brothers from Flagstaff, I was excited to get back on the beautiful forest park trails. The plan was just to stay controlled as long as possible. Ryan and I had decided if we found ourselves in the front we would just cross the line together and save a race-effort for another day. We had a good pack of 4-5 guys for at least half way and then on some of the climbs it was down to just Ryan, Thomas Puzey, and myself.

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

At the mile 21 aid station Ryan and I stopped and Thomas gapped us by a bit. I told Ryan we would be fine and we worked together to close back in on him in the next couple of miles. Around mile 25 Ryan’s feet just started hurting from all the heavy mileage he had been putting in. He was training for Western States and this race was just a training run so he gave me the signal to go ahead and see if I could hang with Thomas. Hats off to Thomas for running such a strong race and coming back from a year of injury. The best part was seeing how happy he was to be back to racing. Well done sir!

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

At mile 28 I was still feeling great, so I just stayed patient and told myself to keep this as close to a hard training run as possible, but hopefully manage the win. On the last climb I was able to put a little gap on Thomas and picked up the pace until the finish. The top 4 guys broke the course record and my time of 3:31 was a good 14 minutes faster. I finished the race really excited about how good I was feeling. I still felt good and didn’t feel like I had gone into the well.

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

After finishing the 50k on Monday, I had this feeling that I needed to go race the 50 mile trail national championships in NY. I was not sure how I was going to make this possible in such a short amount of time and the thought of racing 94 miles in 8 days sounded crazy to me. I felt like God was telling me to go run this race and I just could not get it out of my head and heart. So I contacted Ian Golden who was so awesome and welcoming that it made the decision to go easy. With only 6 days to recover I focused on getting good sleep, doing two light jogs a day, and eating healthy. The time change in Ithaca was no fun but I was feeling recovered by Sat and was excited to get this ultrarunning another shot. I got to room with Andrew Benford whom I had raced at the Half Marathon Trail National Championships and we set the alarm for 4am (1am Pacific Time). Aside from Andrew, there were some other solid guys in the field. The biggest name was probably Tyler Sigl who had the two fastest 50 mile times last year and won the 50 mile road champs. I heard there was also a 2:15 marathoner and a 2:20 marathoner Jared Burdick making his 50 mile debut. After some oatmeal, banana, coffee, and cinammon bread it was time to race. I did not know a ton about this race or course, other than it was beautiful, and that there would be a ton of steps! I knew we had to do two 25ish mile laps and that my main goal was to finish so I went out pretty conservatively. We climbed steps, crossed rivers, ran through mud, and up a 600 foot climb in .5 miles. I focused on fueling and refilling my flasks at every aid station and kept getting updates on the leaders. Found myself running alone and in pursuit of the lead pack after 10 miles, but I wanted to give myself a shot at winning this race. Looks like the leaders had a good 5+ minutes on me at the halfway split. I took a split when I saw them going back out for the second loop and it seemed like more like 8-10 minutes but either way I was hoping I would catch someone in the next 10 miles.

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I knew they were all close to each other and if I could catch one guy i’d probably be able to get to the leader at some point. I did not ask for any more updates and just focused now on racing to the best of my abilities. Whether that would be 4th or 1st didn’t matter now, I wanted to finish and see how high I could place. So I started taking less time in the aid stations and was more aggressive on some of the technical sections. I began to pray and think about all of my loved ones who were following the race and praying for me. I told the Lord thank you for letting me run this race and the opportunity to compete. I prayed that his spirit be with me and that on this day I could compete to the best of my ability. I know he doesn’t care whether I win or loose but that I glorify him in whatever I do. So I focused on that and since he made me competitive I ran with the intention of winning.

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Excited and Honored to wear the USA Uniform again.

At the underpass aid station (31 miles) I found out 3rd place had just left. I got pretty pumped because it was earlier than I had expected to catch him. I went past him in the next half mile and started the steepest climb of the race in 3rd. I ran the entire 600 foot climb and spotted 2nd place.  As I passed Tyler Sigl I asked how far first place was from him. He said Jared was moving really good and that he was probably 5 minutes ahead at this point. I stayed focused on my nutrition (eating more solid food like PB & J) and kept rallying. At the next road crossing one of the volunteers said Jared had 2:45 seconds and it looked like he had been timing it on his stopwatch so I felt confident I was closing in. Three more miles of up and down, mud, and beautiful singletrack I crossed another road and heard he was less than a minute ahead. As I approached the Buttermilk aid station (38.5 miles), I finally caught a glimpse of Jared and he was leaving the aid station as I was coming in. I gave thanks to God and the momentum kept building.

I was closing fast and I could see Jared turning back on the next section of stairs. I stayed patient and just kept my rhythm going. Before mile 40 I found myself in the lead and things were looking great. I had 10 miles to go and I felt like I had the Lord and everyone praying for me, right there with me in spirit. After a few miles of running I turned back and could not see anyone. Watch this video, thanks to Mountain Peak Fitness, and get an idea of how beautiful and challenging this course was.

With 8 miles to go I hit the last aid station, that I would stop at. I did not want to rush it so that I could get to the finish line from here and took my time hydrating. My stomach was telling me it could not handle much more so I only took a piece of a banana. As I was leaving the aid station I heard people cheering for Jared who was in sight. I wanted to make sure I secured the win in the next few miles so I just took my two filled up flasks, put my head down, and ran with whatever I had left. With three miles to go I look back down the long climb of stairs and could not see Jared. I still felt good and had a big smile on my face as I enjoyed the last few miles into the finish. Here is the post-race interview:

I’m incredibly blessed for all of your support and prayers. Thank you! Huge thanks to Ian Golden for helping me make this race possible, to USATF for putting on the National Championships, and to Red Newt Racing for hosting it! Thank you to my sponsor Nike Trail Running for all of your support. I also want to thank Focus Physical Therapy and Recharge Sport for keeping me healthy! Above all, thanks be to God.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:40

So how does ultrarunning tie into these words Jesus spoke just before he was betrayed and arrested. It’s only in these longer races that i’ve experienced my body being completely exhausted and weak; i’ve reached the breaking point. I’ve gotten to see that moment of defeat where my flesh is completely weakened and now my spirit becomes tested. It has been amazing to see the spirit stay strong and want to continue. In no way does it compare to what Jesus did, but for me it’s been a little glimpse of how his spirit stayed strong (for each one of us) even as his flesh was beaten and crucified. That is my inspiration.

Running the Race – 2014 Trail Season Recap

Most of us are running the race. For some it’s an actual competition against others, and for some its a race to better themselves. I feel blessed to get to experience both. I’ve learned a lot from competing in trail and mountain races that can be applied to the race I run every day. For instance, it takes faith and hope that your preparations and efforts will produce fruit and carry you to a good result when the big day comes; regardless of what race you are running. You never know for sure whether you will win the race, but you prepare yourself the best you can and then have faith that you will perform on race day.

To try to win a race you have to go into strict training. You beat your body all the way down right before its breaking point, and then let it recover. You train with purpose and discipline. You listen to your body and rest when it tells you that you can’t keep pushing. Then you pray and hope that you’ve done it all with wisdom and with knowledge so that the strength and power is there on the day of the competition.

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Running up South Sister for some Training

In Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul talks about running a race and getting the prize. He says he does not want to run aimlessly and that he is running for a crown that lasts forever. This season I’ve really gotten to enjoy reflecting on why I run and what I am running after. Pushing my bodies limits is fun, winning races is exciting, competing against others is thrilling, and the recognition can be quite nice. But none of that is constant. None of that lasts forever. It brings happiness but not constant joy. All it takes is a bad race or an injury and you are back to being unfulfilled and waiting anxiously to perform better the next time.

The last 9 months without posting any blogs have been spent reflecting on why I want to run and compete and whether i’m chasing the crown that lasts forever. I guess I wanted to know where my motives were behind all the strict discipline, training, and all out race efforts. A part of me even questioned whether it was worth so much effort. During this time of reflecting I actually had my best and most consistent season yet. Most importantly, I found that I love running, the mountains I get to climb, the trails I see, the awesome people I get to meet. All of that is constant because its in my heart and it does not depend on a result. I found that if I focus on the things that are in my heart then I don’t put the pressure on myself to perform well. If I focus on the pureness of the sport and the excitement of competing to see who is faster, I can run a race with the heart, and not in my mind. I also found that I can glorify God through running, and that I should not feel guilty for enjoying it because this is where he wants me right now.

After the Gorge Waterfalls 50k I did not race on trails until June. I struggled with a few calf strains and then decided to do a track race for fun. Once I switched back to the trails I started off with some local half marathons here in Bend. First was the Dirty Half Marathon (1st) and then the Haulin Aspen Half Marathon (1st).  Then I headed off to Squamish B.C. for the Squamish 23k. It was my first time in Squamish and did not realize how awesome this trip would be. It was the most beautiful place i’ve ever seen. They have the ocean, huge mountains, snow-capped peaks, rivers, water, lakes, lush green, all kinds of trees, and trails everywhere. Pretty much everything I love in nature in one place. If it wasn’t for the winters i’m pretty sure i’d move here!

 

 

Fortunately, the race went really well too. I was quite nervous about the technical downhills. A lot of the U.S. guys struggled in the 50 mile and 50k because of the grueling terrain and I heard some predictions that i was going to get slaughtered on the downhills. I decided to start out conservative and let the Canadian guys make the first moves. I stayed right behind them on the first 3 mile climb and then decided to push to the front after 4 miles. I opened up about a 30 second lead by 5 miles and then started a 2 mile technical downhill section. At the end of the downhill I still had the same lead so my confidence was up. From then on I just kept putting more distance on the uphills and then maintaining on the downhills. Finished the race with a win and a 3 minute lead and a new course record.

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Running up South Sister for some Training

 

Next up was the 10k Trail Championships in NC. I was hoping to defend my title here but got sick the week leading up to the race and had some stiff competition from my Nike Teammate David Roche. Was happy to pull of 2nd here and then took 2nd again at the Xterra Trail National Champs.

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Running up South Sister for some Training
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Running up South Sister for some Training

 

My next race was the hardest race I think i’ll ever do :). I decided to run the Sky Running Championships in Flagstaff thinking it was only 24 miles so it shouldn’t be that bad. The race started off at 7,000 feet and went straight up to 9,000. We ran a lot of technical and rocky terrain for miles and miles before climbing up to Humphreys Peak which sits at 12,000 feet elevation. The climbing wasn’t even the toughest part of the race, it was the terrain. So much of the terrain was on rocky and uneven surfaces. When we started the 4,000 foot climb we went straight up ski slopes through long thick grass. It was awesome! After getting lost early in the race I sat it 4th at mile 6. I knew it was still early so I stayed patient and slowly moved my way into 3rd and then 2nd. 1st place was pretty far ahead but I knew I was closing in on him. At mile 16 I heard I was only 2 minutes behind and then only 1 minute at mile 18. I kept praying that I would see him because I knew if I had him in sight I would win this race. Right at mile 20 I saw him on a big climb and then ran into the last aid station with him. As soon as we started the last big climb the race was over. I was quickly putting time on him and ended up winning by 14 minutes. Sounds like a lot of time but if you could see the terrain we ran on its really not that much……It took me 4 hours and 10 minutes to run only 24 miles. Haha!

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Running up South Sister for some Training
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Running up South Sister for some Training

 

With only two weeks recovery from this brutal race, I decided to go back down to the half marathon distance and run the Half Marathon Trail National Champs in Bellingham. I could not miss out on the competition that Al and Tad had put together and on the awesome trail scene in Bellingham. To be honest, I was expecting to place maybe top 5 at best here. This was a really stacked race and I still did not feel recovered from the sky running race. I took the first couple of miles easy and just sat in a pack of 7 guys. Then quickly realized I felt better than I expected and that my climbing legs were back. I started pushing the pace and found myself in 3rd at mile 4.

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Running up South Sister for some Training

 

By mile 8, Patrick Smyth had 1st locked in but I had my eyes on 2nd place and taking 1-2 for the Team. I stayed patient and kept cutting down the lead. At mile 10 I caught 2nd place and then put a gap on him before the last couple of miles. I was very stoked to get 2nd here. I was not expecting it and felt blessed that I had a good day out on the trails 🙂

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Running up South Sister for some Training
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Running up South Sister for some Training

This season was all about the championship races and facing the best competition. I decided to finish the season with the Moab Trail Marathon National Championships. I had been 2nd at 3 national championships already and was hoping maybe I could win one haha. I heard this race was hard, but did not realize how hard the obstacles really were until I was in the race. I had to run up ladders, jump boulders, use a rope to get over a cliff, crawl, and climb mountains. I will admit, I think this race should be considered more of an obstacle course. Its a lot different than running. On the trail sections that were runnable I kept finding myself in 1st and telling myself to be patient because we still had a lot of racing to do. But once we got to the real obstacle courses and a brutal technical climb, Dakota Jones took the lead and I never closed in again. He was a better obstacle course runner than I was and hats off because he ended up kicking my butt by 4 minutes. I finished the race in a strong 2nd after getting lost a few times and struggling on the obstacles. I was very happy with 2nd and very happy to finish this tough course. Hats off to Justin Ricks who ran a great and tough race with me. He put up a great fight and I really enjoyed running with him.

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Running up South Sister for some Training

After Moab I seriously considered running TNF 50 in Dec and finish the season there. But I bruised my heal after hitting a rock with it in Moab. This time it was not as bad as before but putting in the training and the miles was still painful and I did not want to run my first 50 and DNF. I decided to call it a season and be happy about how it went. Here is a summary of the whole 2014 year on trails:

Gorge Waterfalls 50k 1st

Dirty Half Marathon 1st

Haulin Aspen Half 1st

Squamish 23k 1st

USA 10k Trail National Champs 2nd

XTERRA Trail National Championships 2nd

Flagstaff 35k Skyrunning 1st

USA Trail Half Marathon National Champs 2nd

USA Trail Marathon National Champs 2nd

It was an awesome year and I thank God for it. I also thank my loved ones, family, friends, and sponsors for supporting me. I’m so honored to be part of the Nike Trail Team and grateful for the support they continue to give. Thank you to Focus Physical Therapy and Recharge for keeping me healthy, to Powerbar for my nutrition, and my job at Foliotek for giving me flexibility.

I pray that all of you are blessed with a great year full of love, friendships, mountains, trails, health, and lots and lots of running. If you’d like to hear more about anything, please let me know. I will be better about blogging in 2015!

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Drive on, it don’t mean nothin.

One of my many favorite Johnny Cash songs is “Drive On.” This song is about an expression that the troops used in Vietnam as they experienced the horrors of war. They were in the middle of battle and there was no time to cry and mourn for a friend getting shot. These men had no choice but to say each other “drive on, it don’t mean nothing,” and move on. No room for a soft heart or a crybaby (like myself).

I was going to sit here and complain about not being able to race Lake Sonoma 50 this weekend. The calf strain injury I had early March is still lingering. My calf has not fully healed and running a 50k with 6,000 feet of climbing on wet and technical terrain was not a brilliant idea. I’ve spent the last week running on an a flat half a mile loop to let the calf heal. So yes I am bummed and disappointed I can’t race and run against arguably the most competitive Ultra Running field assembled in the U.S….. But the truth is the only reason I really wanted to run Lake Sonoma is to prove to myself that I can run a 50 miler and compete with the top guys in the country. It’s completely selfish of course. I am chasing after my own glory, which even if I achieved it, in the end, doesn’t really produce much good for anyone else. Reading Mr. Martin Luther King’s book “Strength to Love, “(and listening to some Johnny Cash) has put things into perspective. The things we complain about are mere pebbles on a 14,000 foot mountain.

 

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Here is part of my 800 meter loop at Drake Park. Can’t complain!

Instead I will be grateful that I can still run and I’m not completely injured. I will enjoy the spring weather in Bend, friendships, and be content that I got to race a 50k at the Gorge(ous) Waterfalls. If I stick with it, there is a good chance I’ll get an opportunity to compete in a stacked trail race like this soon. If not, I’ll at least make sure I am enjoying the journey of getting there.

 

Race Report on Gorge Waterfalls 50k:

The race started with a pack of 6 guys running together through 7 miles before a runner from Ashland started hammering the down hills. I did not want to loose too much distance on him so I would close the gap slowly each time he put on a surge. He managed to narrow the pack down to 4 as we all grouped back up together again on the next climbing section. The same guy made another push before the 9 mile aid station on the down hills. As we came to the aid station the four of us were still only 10 seconds apart. I took a nice fall on the muddy turn into the aid station, then took a couple of gels with me and refilled my water bottle. Travis (from Colorado) started to make a push here. In the next 3 miles it was down to just the two of us and I noticed he was really good on the technical stuff. I kept telling myself it was still too early to make a push so I just stayed patient. Somehow I managed to put maybe 30 seconds or so on him in the next big climb. I could see him staying fairly close on every switchback and wasn’t sure if it was just part of his strategy. I knew there was a long 2.5 mile road section around mile 18. There was a good chance that I would have more leg speed so I waited to try to extend the lead until them. As we hit the next aid station I stopped again, refilled my bottle, and took a few gels with me and a delicious peanut butter sandwich. In ultras, anything tastes good! Travis was very quick at the aid station and we pretty much took off on the road section together with me only 10 seconds ahead. I got into a nice rhythm and decided not to look back until we hit the trail again. After 2.5 miles on the road and the savoring of my sandwich, I realized I had a 2 minute lead at this point. Things were looking good and we were finally getting into the final stages of the race.

If you are still reading my long race report you need a break. Here is a cute picture of Taylor Swift.

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I <3 T-Swift

The last 10 miles of a 50k is where you realize if you were pacing yourself correctly and fueling well. I was taking around 400 calories an hour and my energy was still consistent after 23 miles of intense mountain running. I fell hard one more time around mile 24 on slippery rock that I stepped on. I seriously only fall about once a year in the trails in Bend and before this race I had only tripped once in a race. I’ll blame it on the brutal course! As I hit the last aid station I knew I needed to fuel well because we were about to hit the hardest 1500+ foot climb on the course. I drank some water and also took three gels with me + another peanut butter sandwich! I was able to turn around and see that Travis came into the aid station about 45 seconds after I left it. So I figured I had only a little over a minute lead and that he was still well within striking distance. I decided I’d work hard on the big climb and see if I could seal the win. The entire 2.5 mile climb is all switchbacks. I could see that Travis was coming hard but I was putting some more distance between us. Each switchback tells you how many you have left and so you think you are at the top of the climb after 11 of them but then you turn off on a technical (and super steep) trail and keep climbing. I kept on keeping on and could no longer see Travis on the switchbacks. I thought the race was over at this point and was happy because I was starting to feel tired. I knew once I reached the peak it was all downhill and then a flat mile left to the finish. I took the opportunity to retie my shoe before starting the long downhill. As I started the downhill I noticed my quads were having a hard time waking back up. Luckily, I remembered I had taken 3 gels with me in the last aid station and had only used 2 of them so far. That last gel helped me tremendously and my quads woke back up.

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Travis the beast coming after me!

Halfway through the downhill I could see Travis again on the switchbacks coming down hard. He managed to close a minute on the descent and was sprinting all out to get me. I had no choice at this point but to start pushing hard again. I started matching the speed Travis was going. I kept looking back on each switchback to make sure he was not closing in anymore.  Finally, we hit the flat section and I could tell he had given up hope of catching me. I was able to enjoy the last half mile into the finish and think about the delicious pizza I was about to eat. Hats off to Travis for his determination and incredible efforts out there. Thank you for the competition good sir.

****Yup I did crash into a hiker who was wearing headphones last year and did not hear me yell that I was coming from behind. I was left with a sprained ankle when I dove off the trail but they were not hurt 🙂

My friends, if you are going through some rough patches in running or in life, don’t loose heart. Drive on, it don’t mean nothing!