leadville silver rush 50





i want to stand as close to the edge as i can without going over. out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.

- kurt vonnegut










it begins

the only differences between the start of this race and the othefr recent ultras i've attempted were: the guy ready to announce the start with a shotgun, and the 200ft, 30° climb just beyond the starting line.  

around 60% of the starters are from colorado, so the one other difference was that everywhere i looked there were wiry, badass, mountain goat looking motherfuckers, seemingly ready to destroy this course, and i found msyelf seriously considering whether my... let’s call it midwestern frame, would be able to keep up.

spotted greg, in from new york, and it was great to catch up with him and to have a buddy there.  (was even better when we got to meet up at the finish line (he finished way before me))

along the way

seems fine to leave it to the pics for many of the sections:







at the peak of the first 12,000 ft ascent, i feebly remarked to the group:

“that was fun”

a few runners laughed, as best as one can laugh in an oxygen-deprived stated.  which is to say, i might be confusing a sharp exhale with a laugh.

even though it was hard, it really was fun to be soaking in this environment and experience for the first time.

coming down after the first 12k 
progress; printer boy aid station (mile 13.5)

next, ran through some forest and cruised down for a while, then climbed again for a while.  

the second climb seemed a bit harder, and fortunately i had met and was chatting with another guy from chicago, matt. he's an engineer who works at a construction firm in chicago, and the firm he works for happens to build trade floors for exchanges and financial firms.  ha.   amongst other conversations (nanoseconds per foot), i told him i wondered if the elevation would have a cumulative effect or if it would feel about he same with each climb.  little did i know.

i think matt said it first, and we both had the exact same thought in mind:

on top of the world

starting down after that second 12k.  the way down is steep and tricky.  as far as you can see in the picture, we ran, and then we ran some more.

 half way, stumptown aid station

things were going well at this point.  took my time with the aid station bag, realized i needed to switch music sources, merged unused vitargo, etc.


someone at the station to a runner: “how’s it goin out there?”

runner: “i’m really suffering”

me: “hey, isn’t that what we signed up for?”

runner “well in that case, i’m getting my money’s worth”

on the way out of stumptown, family and friends cheering on runners

from there, it's sort of level for a bit, and then it's all uphill, again.


12,000ft climb #3, or "out on the edge"

what edge?  

the edge of what i was capable of doing. 

what is there to see, out on the edge?

this time, i saw my self.  

there was nothing else to see. 

the lack of oxygen simplifies thoughts and feelings beyond words.

concepts of past or future fade away.  

there's no looking forward like "if i do this, then i'll ..."  or "i did x before, so i know i can do this now."  

it's just me.

it's just now.  


simple sentences play in the mind:

"can i?  





fuck it.  


find me,  






made it.  




(no words)"




over the peak and back in action.  it seemed amazing to discover how quickly our bodies can shift from near shutdown to dancing down a descent.





looking back, another runner (matt from chi!) is coming up the hill:


the fourth climb was slow and steady, so it was not as acutely intense.

nonetheless, it was hard.  all these people kept scurrying on by on the way up, just like on the previous climbs.  
"you guys are from around here, aren't you?"
being at high elevation relative to day-to-day life seemed quite different from midwest or sea level ultras, in that it's really hard to spend as much time chatting and getting to know people, and that is one of my favorite things about doing these things.  
it's hard because you are either throwing your body down a decline for 5 or 10 miles at a time, letting gravity do its thing, or you're pushing so hard to make it up an incline that you can't use any of the oxygen that you're taking in for talking.  
a few times i found myself saying "would love to keep talking and getting to know you, and instead i have to use this oxygen to keep my body moving."

many times i had to just stop on these climbs.  bending over with hands on knees seemed to feel the best, and to allow the most oxygen in.  every time, i heard the same thing:

"need any help brother?"
"nope, just collecting oxygen, thanks"
"i'd give you some if i had it"
of course...










finally over the last peak and making my way down, it seemed evident that i had done the previous downhills too quickly, as my body was in a lot of pain and as much as i wanted to run down, walking or stumbling was the only option for a while.



down below, the clouds were rolling in, or maybe that's the wrong perspective and it was that i was arriving where they had rolled in



lightning, thunder, and hail followed.
higher up and a few minutes before this, some guy who looked like a local said:
"we need to get down into the trees before this hits"
not knowing exactly what that meant, i headed for the trees, as quickly as i could


what followed was a warm light rainfall, then a cold downpour, then a freezing downpour, then hail, then more freezing downpour.  7 miles to go, wishing i would have grabbed my raincoat (was forgotten in the car, not even drop bag), wishing i would have snuck a trash bag from that aid station, was convinced that i would either have to run hard to stay warm enough or to get taken to the hospital at some point for hypothermia.  it was cold.  my hands were freezing at the beginning of the day as the thing started, and now they're freezing again.

an intersting thing can happen during ultras.  miles 40-42 before this storm were absolute torture.  body was busted and hurt badly all over. maybe it was the cold rain and hail, maybe it's just part of deal.  next thing i knew, i'd been running for a few miles, and everything felt great.


finish line

must be some kind of a cruel trick, we joked a few times, especially after thinking we were going to be making the final descent only to realize we still had several hundred feet of climbing.

even though we're racing for position # 250 or so, it's still fun to try to hold your spot at the end, and to pass people.  passed a dozen or so runners in the final miles, and when it came to more climbing at the end, i just let it go.  

the two guys in this pic passed me, one a leadman (did the 50 mile bike race the day before), and the other a leadville resident.

as the starting pic showed, there was a steep incline to start the race.  arriving back in at the top of this steep incline did not indicate that final decline of the race.  wtf???  meandered around the course a bit more, only to find an even steeper decline, on a surface that looked like it was fashioned for tobogan descents, not for running.  





after stumbling down that thing, finally, the finish line:







these are the things that when said repetivitely for some stretch of time (like in tune with every step for as long as it stays on the mind), or when brought to mind occasionaly, seem to help time pass or seem to help pain fade.

"pain just hurts"

"fuck yeah"

"this is what you signed up for"






course notes:

tricky.  most of the time, probably 75%, you really have to watch your footing so that you don’t trip.  lots of large rocks, loose rocks, uneven terrain, etc. 

a lot of times i wanted to look around at the mountains and couldn't because you have to watch where you’re going.  this is where it’s helpful that it’s an out and back course, because the part you’re running down you’ll be walking up, and the other way, so you really get to soak it all in.

with the widely varying terrain, there was no need for the usual tempo-synched long running mix, so this playlist of fun songs was used.  other than when a peak song hit in the middle of a 22 minute mile, and i had to tear my headphones off and throw them off a cliff, this worked out pretty well.

nutrition notes:

following the advice and research of tim noakes' new book waterlogged, tried to minimize sodium intake, and tried to drink to thirst and eat to hunger, with some minimal attentiveness just to make sure that really long periods of time don’t go by without enough water or calories. 

seemed to work fine.  salstick+ around mile 30, mostly for the caffeine.  happened one other time, and also had some perpetuem solids, again for caffeine and for change of pace (one flavor of vitargo can get boring).  so all in that’s only 500+mg of sodium, 10% of what might be recommended for this distance.  weather was not too hot, and there was a nice breeze, so sweat rates were low.    this is the part where i do not go on a tangent about “the establishment” or “the man,” or about gatorade being a myth-creating evil force in the sports world. 

beyond that, no idea how many calories of food or ounce of water were consumed.  

gear notes:

along with not tracking calorie and water intake, for the first time the gps watch was only used to show realtime elevation, just to get a sense for what different elevations felt like.  this worked out well.  drank when thirsty, ate when hungry, and ran as much as my body would let me, and didn't worry about anything else.  

food storage:  need to find a better way to carry the vitargo supply around.  maybe it’s because there was only one drop bag setup at this one.   though if there were more, i’d not want to keep going for a drop bag.  at start and mid departure, there are 4 bags with 2oz of powder each, and this gets bulky. 

two amphipod stretchy belts.  one with camera, and one with vitagro.  a bit too bouncy here and there.

used the back pocket of my shorts for my iphone (in lifeproof case).  bad move. it can get really annoying to try to open a zipper with one hand when you are carrying 2 handheld waterbottles and have been running for 9 hours.  the headphone jack on the lifeproof case is weirdly shaped, so it often took minutes of frustrating effort just trying to get the thing back in my pocket.  was taking it out to take pictures, to read msgs on uphills, and to make it start playing music again when it stopped randomly a couple of times.  can not deal with this during the hundred.  will probably just use 2x nanos and no pockets for music next time.  

is good to get msgs tho….




almost wrapping it up

no pictures even come close to feeling what it is like to be there, to be immersed in it.  

lost count of how many times i started weeping at the beauty of nature and the wonder of the challenge.  

even though it’s hard to get oxygen into your blood, the mountain air is crisp and fresh.  the water that flows throw streams or creeks or puddles you pass along the way, it reflects light without oil streaks or dirt or algae.  just clean and pure and beautiful.  dipping your hat in it and splashing your face is a nice way to cool off, and being that connected to the natural source feels pretty good too.




it always seems weird to me to return to the reality of day to day life.  happy to be home, happy to hug my family, and prepping to transition back into the normal kind of of work the following day, everything feels good.  the next morning, it all starts out fine as i bike to the train, arrive downtown, and order my coffee at the train station coffee shop (though the walk down the stairs prior to the coffee part is usually a bit of a reminder of what i've been up to). 

after getting coffee and being reminded what hot, fresh coffee tastes like (doubled up on years-old instant packets at the motel before the race sunday morning), i walk out the door of the train station and it hits me.  

flat sidewalks.  

equally spaced, artificially positioned trees.  

the peaks are the tops of buildings.  

machines take us to the tops of the peaks.

the view can be nice, though it is seen safely from behind a glass wall in stale, climate-controlled air.

we're no longer fully immersed in nature, sensing it from beyond periphery, soaking in the freshest air and seeing the brightest natural colors.  

want to be back there, want to only ever be there.



skipping back in time a bit:  haniging out right after the race, greg and i saw an old timer, a guy who he had seen at the training camp.  the guy was holding an age group award, and we guessed that it was for 60+.  aware that we're a part of a growing trend, we talked about how bad ass and inspiring the old timers are, and about what might happen with the trend, and about how we hope we keep coming back, finding our way to the edge, year after year. 



friends and i have joked about some of the peeps you talk to during ultras, when they say "oh this is just a training race, i'm really just getting ready for ___" 

___ is one race or another.

for me, it's beyond one race or another.  

it's getting ready for feeling alive.

for voluntarily and intentionally doing something that is really hard, and hoping at the start there's a least a possilibiliy of finishing, and right along with it, knowing there's also the possibility of not finishing.  and maybe that's what makes it real and makes it feel so good.  our parents or grandparents or their parents had some real shit to do.  they had to make their way out there, fight in wars, claim new land; it wasn't all certain.  

now, we don't have to do anything.  

but we can.   

and from what i've found, the reward is worth it.

the leadville trail one hundred is next.  comparing finishers' data from last year indicates that for me it might not even be advisable to try this, and that i'm in for the long haul if i do (<10 hours indicates under 25 hours/nets the big buckle, and >11 hours indicates closer to 29 or 30 hours, aka the cutoff; i'll probably be close to the cutoff). 

maybe this warrants one more of scott jurek’s quotes:  

"sometimes you just do things"  

in his case it’s win, in my case it will be just to try.  finish or not, it’s going to be an epic journey, and i am thankful and excited that some of my best friends will be there to help along the way.


Guest Post: Umstead 100 Miler - Pacer Race Report

Brandi paced and crewed with me at Umstead, and here's her write-up of the experience.

Umstead 100 Miler – N. Carolina - 40 miles pacing 

I was at The North Face 50 miler last fall & came upon a guy I gave an Alieve. I have a lot of interaction with people during ultras, so when he was with his sons & he thanked me afterwards, I sorta didn’t really remember him. Not because I didn’t care, but because I really care about everyone out there, especially those who may not be having their best day. Someone sent me his blog & I went to TNF50 FB page & he thanked me on there. So, basically, I helped him, he got connected with our NLUR group & I guess he was hoping I would give him another Alieve or something (foreshadowing) I didn’t, for his 100 miler cuz he asked me to pace him. 

I got there with my family & immediately see my friends Karen & Jen. Whew. Two solid women who will take care of themselves & anyone in their paths. The times I saw Leah...wow. There are no words for a woman who runs 100 miles with the same joy, peace & tranquility as a casual bike ride. It practically frightened me. If running 100 miles for her is this easy, does she have any idea what she is capable of? Only time will tell. Seeing her on the course, at the A/S, finishing, it’s all a piece of cake for her. Eric, her fiance was out there too, always wearing colors that no doubt were manufactured just for him. A small group from Illinois, but we made lotsa noise.

I spent about half of the time Cory was out there with him. When he started, I would have his Dad give me updates. Ugh. He started off too fast. That first half marathon, darn it. And his 50 mile point, come on Cory, remember those pacing talks we had? I know what this meant. I told his Dad a couple times to tell him to slow down. He will learn on his own, that’s why he is out there. I got there before he went out for his 5th lap, “Are you here to pace me?” I was so hungry to run, but I wanted him to look foward to me jumping in, spend a loop thinking about the company he would get next time he gets here. I went out with him for a bit, we made small talk, but I was really intimidated by that dang Go Pro & wanted to get the heck away from it. So, I stopped at a place I could see Eric. I helped runners & crew members with directions (if u know me, u know how crazy this sounds), took their trash, encouraged them – every single one of them are my heros. Especially the mom with the 4 real little kids, cheering on her husband. I took her camera & got a picture of the clan. She is a true hero.

I was talking to some 20-somethings in a truck after chatting with Juli Aisters & they looked familiar. They said their dad was out there. I looked at their eyes, their perfect skin, all their “prettiness” & realized I talked to their Dad several times. Tom. He was so happy. I called them the kids in the truck. The kids that weren’t gonna pace their dad? Wtheck? I told them how insane their Dad was & how tuff it gets. One daughter then said she would go out, like, um, the last loop. Yeah, I thought so, lol! 

Why pace when you can race? Let’s face it, I didn’t earn my way there, I just got a “pacers pass.” And I’m o.k. with that. I love authentically complementing runners when they pass by. I love having tons of energy & being able to be that person who can entertain, engage, if only for a moment. When I first met Michele & Juan, I remember feeling like I didn’t want to do “these”, but I could use my “spiritual gifts” (1 Peter 4:10) of mercy, service & helps for others. I still feel that way. I have run so many ultra distances without metals, without proof, but with tons of fun, with one friend or several dozen to see the finish. I get to put miles in without any pressure & in a sense, at events/group runs like that of the ultra distance – we all pace each other. Nothing ever goes wrong for me when I am pacing because I am not there for me, just others. Once, I was doing math in my head. STOP, I said! Loops. Focus on loops. Only 3 loops.

The guy who I reminded him of some actress named Samantha was the main AS comic relief. I mean, besides all the exposed feet & falling bodies & “move aside, we have a runner coming in” people who weren’t so lucky. I loved Irish Joe. He just looked like a character, smiled like one & had an attitude we all should have. Until I “got” that attitude, I wondered what drugs these people where on to be happy during an ultra, because I would try to fake it, but it took me a while to lock it in & live it. 

The mom who didn't come to run 50 miles, she came to run 100. Wow. I wonder if she finished. The entire med team was working on her feet for about an hour. They were perplexed, never saw anything like it yet, not sure if they can fix her up & even if they did, they aren’t sure if her feet are going to hold up. As tears streamed down her face & her daughter was at her side, I wanted so bad to say the thing to her that would dry her tears. Tell her how proud I am of her & I know she worked so hard, spent countless training hours...and....and what? Will they let her go back out? I sat next to her, said some things to her with all my heart. She is a mom. She is an ultra runner. There is a kindred spirit there. 

Dr. Tom had been in NC for only 4 months, he is gonna rehab, do a 50 & qualify for Umstead & how fun would it be to be at “his” aid station next year to serve him. He fixed Cory's feet, telling me “you made me realize I can do more than just hand out coffee, now look at me, I’m a Dr.” Always making me laugh. You just never get to meet those people unless you do the work to get on course. Then there was the 2 back surgeries - can't do IM or ultras anymore, so she volunteers. She said that with a smile, but I sensed the disappointment. JT was there too, “u better get outta this aid station or I'm gonna start chargin’ u rent.” So cute.

The frog was orange & yellow. Weird. Camoflauge or something. Up ahead a little more – the snake matched the frog. I love reptiles. I admired him stood beside him looked down at his coiled body & upturned head. It was pitch dark, but yay for my headlamp. “You aren’t from around here are you? If I were you, I’d keep moving,” a couple said, “That is a copperhead, a poisonous snake.” I kept questioning them, I wanted to play with & hang out with him for longer, so I did. I had lost Cory, anyway. The last A/S, he went into the bathroom, & just before that I told him to never worry about me. If I stop to talk or whatever, keep going, I’d catch up. Plus, it gave him time to breathe & think without me there. Maybe his body was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it cuz I was there. I told myself he snuck outta the bathroom, & ran at breakneck speed, past the four people I ran past. The Haiti guy who came back, took Ambien, & showed up an hour late to the start. Oops. Duh, Brandi, call Cory. Viola. Reunited.

The song rings true, the freaks come out at night. The energy I would sometimes see made me think they better check themselves before they wreck themselves. Some guy booked past us, “It must be the french toast.” He said as he sped by. Cory & I looked at each other - there was no french toast, I said, maybe he did too, idk, but it entertained us forever. U stretch moments, thoughts, anything u can out there because one thing u have out there is time. I heard heavy breathing, cheetah like footsteps, fast, faster, pounding, “I AM RUNNING 6’s UP THE HILLS!” What? Michael was dying whenever I saw him. Cory met him earlier when he was still coherent. He was a flipping madman. He said some funny things we will never forget. I wish I had a video of his reflective gear because u wouldn’t believe what coffee & Gu can do to a guy in the middle of the night towards the end of a hundo. 

Oh yeah, then there was Cory. Booking away from me whenever I would have to revisit an AS, or when I would stop to chat with people. The guy who said he wasn’t doing good, but I can tell when people aren’t doing good. He was doing great. He was determined. “Sorry I can’t talk, but can u talk. Tell me a story.” Bam, u got it. It was pretty ideal for me. As long as I didn’t have to touch those feet that kept exposing themselves at A/S’s & on the trail. I’ve never had so much as a blister, so I just deemed myself “unhelpful” in that arena, but I could find others who could help him. Clothes, even dirty clothes, food, finding stuff, I’ll do that, just leave the feet to the pros.

There was a difference between pacers on the course & runners. Hey what’s up, how are you, singing a song, calling something out to them, whatever I did to interact kept me entertained & pacers would typically respond. “Oh u r the pacer,” I would say. Yep! Not this time. Tony from Boston responded & he started name dropping people from Chicago, I think he used to live here. Ed Kelly was one I remember. “Why are you so alert?” I asked. "Just a training run." For Bad water. Yep, that’s the kind of people you meet at 100 milers.

There was the peeved off woman in black not looking the part of a rapper at all, but blasting hip hop music while her two friends chatted & walked behind her. 

The 27 hour guy. He runs the circuit down here & doesn’t put space between his sentences, I could listen to his energy forever in the middle of the night. “I used to care about time.Now I don’t.27 hours, that’s what I do 100’s in.No one cares about your time, sheit, u just ran 100 miles.I run 100’s.Woo.Hoo!Yeehaw!Giddyup, ride ‘em cowgirl.” He must have said this 10 different ways & I coulda heard it 100 times over. I just like time to pass & interesting things to happen. Those two things, I am always certain of in an ultra. I really liked everyone’s accents. 

Have you ever ran in the dark, all night, never feeling there was an end to it, but not really caring? Feeling as if this was what it was & how it felt? I remember Karen telling me, “There is something about running all night & until the sun comes up. When it started happening, I remembered, here it is. The beautiful sky is visible again, trees you could get lost in (heck I would have if it weren’t for Cory). We ran all night. Dang. We are THAT good. 

Speaking of Cory, when he would eek out a teeny complaint, I didn’t hear it. Telling him there is nowhere else I'd rather be, this is where we were meant to be, right here right now (watching the world wake up from history ☺. I don’t remember what we even talked about for so long. Music, parenting, nutrition, idk, I think I just told him everything about me, and Logan’s Run, & my neighbor, my stepdad, idk, just anything to keep his mind on something other than how insane he was to be still out here.

Dan Peironi we met towards the end. He has done 44 ultras (I thought he said 100 milers), this was his slowest, 71 years old, biking 300 miles next weekend, we were holding him back, he wanted to start running up the hills, but liked the company. 

Oh yeah, Cory. I don’t feel like I really did anything for him. I was there, I knew he was going to have to figure everything out on his own. I COULD mule, but why? Muleing isn’t something that typically happens in an ultra, so I didn’t want to do that for him, although it was legal here. He was educated about nutrition. I felt like I could be his company. His bumper, in case he was gonna turn in the gutter. The worst thing for me is someone pushing me, annoying me, acting like they know stuff when they don’t. I wanted him to know I was there for him, that’s it. And to have a boatload of fun. Well, I could be whatever he wanted me to be, but just my luck, what I liked to do, he wanted. I was waiting. Waiting for Cory to fall apart, waiting for him to lose it, waiting for him to puke so I could tell him it was o.k., “get it out, there ya go”, like moms do. But nope. None of that. I WAS “on” I FELT “on”, I didn’t realize how “on” I was until I turned off. I turned off immediately when I saw the hill of the finish. I ducked into the woods, letting Cory & Dan finish on their own & just before I did that I heard Dan, “You go first, go ahead.” I never tire of hearing that. Someone gives up their place for you. So, I see Russ, Cory’s Dad, & the curtains close on me. I wanted to go change out of my stage clothes, shower, but wait. One more smile for the camera. In the aid station, Cory offered me a sincere hug of gratitude, said some words I don’t remember, but I had already left my mind. Now, I am tired. We hopped in the car & my eyes closed & that was that. 

umstead 100 mile endurance run



"The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for a water table.  That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and that which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing.  The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite."

pi patel








mother nature gives us a few freebies.  the heart flutters of a grade school crush.  the excitement of your first home run.  a first kiss.  wedding day.  your little baby napping on your chest.  

and then we got older. and we settle into routines.  and the routines can be kind of banal.  those special moments, the ones that happened once and again, amidst the endless magical discoveries of being a kid, become fewer and further between.  

can we still feel it?

it turns out that crossing the finish line after many hours and many miles on the trail can inspire a similar sense of overwhelming wonder, joy, and excitement.  it's actually not even crossing the finish line...  once you have that epic goal in mind, getting together at the starting line in the early hours before the sun comes up, being out there smiling at each other and cheering each other on at mile 42.3, or even just a normal day of training before the big day can all lead to moments of feeling really fucking good.

so, in short...  because my babies are too big to nap on my chest.

next: everything you wanted to know about ultrarunning and didn't want to ask because you don't actually want to know that much about ultrarunning.  there's a loop by loop recap of the effort, a general course review, gear list/review, nutrition recap, emotional ramblings, and a bit of french toast.

overall recap

laps 1 and 2 were great, zoning out to music and making friends on the course.  lap 3 was a living hell because i couldn't get the downhills right and it was really hurting some infrequently used muscles and tendons.  thoughts like "if this hurts this bad now i'm just not going to be able to function well enough to finish the whole thing" kept trying to make their way in.  after much focus, finally got the form right near the end of the loop, and started feeling good.  lap 4 was great.  50 miles in 10:30 or so.  brandi and fam were there, and my dad and karen and jen were there, it was great to see everyone.  at this point i knew for sure that i would finish.  lap 5 was also great, brought the gopro out, cruised.  ran most of the downhills without pain.  brandi joined me for lap 6 and we had a blast.  near the end of that lap i began to feel that i had consumed too much water and food.  it wasn't really like being nauseauted, it just didn't feel right and it was really hard to move well.  end of lap 6 led to lying on my back on the floor in the main room, staring at my eyelids, and trying to will myself back to feeling OK.  luckily this is when the night storm rolled in, so we we missed the lightning and heavy rain.  headed out for lap 7.   this is about the time when blisters and skin damage really caught up with me, leading to some unwanted slowdowns.  tom at AS#2 helped out with the feet issues, and the "not right" feeling faded, so there was some occassional running, though it was mostly slow going.  the final lap was rather relaxed.  it was hard to do much more than walk, and it was a beautiful morning, so we made the most of it. even though there were about 5 hours of really rough going, i maintained a mostly clear head and a kept positive attitude.  like: "so what if i don't feel right, of course it takes a lot of learning to really dial in the nutrition, so just enjoy being out here and it will pass."  and it did.  brandi ran the last 3 laps with me and was so helpful!  we had so much fun with each other and with the other runners.  i met so many great and inspiring peeps, and truly enjoyed every minute of the experience.


emotional ramblings


instant we

i call it "instant we" or "instant us."  you can skip the formalities and skip the small talk when you fall into stride with your fellow ultra runners, be it running a downhill or walking an uphill.  we are here.  we are life long best friends.  we help each other.  we push each other.  we pull each other.  we do it together.  we care.  we.


i saw more smiles from passing runners during those 27 hours than during the last 27 days or maybe the last 27 months of my life.  and we're in pain out there!  

great job!

imagine that for a day, everyone you pass in the hall at work says "great job today!" and they really mean it.  or that one day your kids continually remind you what a great parent you are.  or that all of your friends keep calling you up and telling you that you're a great friend and to keep it up.  that's what it is like out there with everyone encouraging each other, and it never seems to get old.  

be thankful

there was a girl with one leg running.  she looked fresh and happy and smiley every time i saw her.  she was going much faster than me.  every time i saw her i cried.

mike morton

i have a crush on mike morton.  he won, and he set the course record.  i had read and was deeply inspired by the article about him in the march issue of ultrarunning, and thought he sounded like a really great guy (set the western states course record, in '97, was injured in the navy and stopped running, and recently made a comeback).  suddenly, there he was on the same course as me!  about half way through, he passed me while i was walking up a hill.  he was running, and he looked like he was in a bit of pain.  he stopped for a second; he winced.  then, he bent this way once, bent that way once, and blasted back into stride and over the hill.  amazing.  later, he passed us at mile 96.  by the time we caught our breath, and looked down at our watches, we all knew he had a course record in sight.  fortunately we were at the top of a hill, so we could see him zig zag down hill, flowing, leaping, and bounding like a wild animal in it's natural habitat.  it was beautiful and inspiring.  


somewehere around lap 6 or so i saw a guy i ran with earlier seeming like a nearly incoherent, stumbling zombie.  a few hours later, he blasted past us going uphill.  it was amazing to see the absolute contrast in his form and demeanor.  for me, the ups and downs seemed to come in waves of gradually increasing frequency.  first it was hours of good, hours of bad, then back to good.  as the night progressed it would seem like "ok let's run for a bit" only to feel like i could never run again 15 seconds later.    

the course

the course is beautiful and quite runnable.  much of the grade is not super steep, so unlike some uphills on other courses where there is no option but to walk, you can jog up some of the hills without losing too much efficiency.  there are a few out and back sections connected to the loop, allowing you to see other runners for 5+ miles of the course.  this is great for getting to know who is out there with you, seeing where people are at, high fives, smiles, etc.  and in the middle of the night, when you've been alone on an isolated section for an hour or two, it's relieving and encouraging see the other runners and remember that we're out there together.


umstead and similar ultras are as low as $1.50 per mile, and you get all the food you can eat!  oh, and guess how much the event photos cost?

aid stations

the aid station volunteers could not have been any more helpful!  and there were so many of them...  i was never waiting for other people to clear out or a volunteer to free up.  they take and fill your water bottles, help you get your food picked out / put it in a bag if you wish, smile, joke, banter, etc.  also someone runs to grab your drop bag for you out of the storage area if you need it, gets your stuff out, does stuff with your stuff, puts it back, etc.  






lap by lap

lap 1: miles 0 - 12.5, 6:00AM-8:21AM: here goes everything

we all migrate outside. the clock ticks down.  blake fires the starting gun.  and we're off.  contrasted with a road race where everyone shoots out of the gate, it is a very peaceful start.  we adjust our packs, fine tune our headlamps, greet each other, wish each other well, at an easy jogging pace.  we move forward, the crowd thins, and we're off into the woods.

the woods are quiet. some birds chirp.  ahead of you, and behind you, there is a quiet and steady stream of headlamps and reflective gear.  slowly, trees become outlined in blue.  

time for some music.  somehow, the mp3 player decided to play this on repeat, and it was already playing as i put the headphones on.  with a bit of creative abstraction, it was quite an appropriate song to listen to and soak in the opening miles of a first hundred-miler

no time?  no time but the present.  no time like now. 

here's what the stream of headlamps looks like when captured on film.  in person it is one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen.



lap 2: miles 12.5 - 25, 8:21AM-10:46AM: steady start and good conversation

met up with some dude named jeff early on in lap two.  instant we.  he has been deployed to iraq, afghanistan, and africa multiple times.  he is still enlisted, and in his free time he goes on wilderness expeditions to help soldiers expand their survival skills.  we cruised this lap, probably just a bit too fast because it was early and we were feelin great and having a great time talking with each other.  it's kind of sad when you get back to the aid station because it's time to go your separate ways, even though you want to stay together the whole time.  at least you know you'll see each other out there again.  jeff, even though you'll never read this because you are too busy doing epic shit to spend time on a computer, thank you for your service, and thanks for hanging.



lap 3: miles 25 - 37.5, 10:46AM-1:27PM: i might not be able to finish this

this lap sucked.  chicago is mostly flat and i'm not used to running on a 10% decline for a mile+ at a time.  this began to take it's toll and i realized i really needed to focus on form and to find a way to get down the hills that was not slow and that did not hurt a lot.  by the end of the lap the form came together, only after a couple of hours of wondering if it was going to be possible

the downhill of a few hundred feet goes on for a mile+.  to me, this was harder than the uphills.

coming in from lap 3.  determined to keep form and feel better during lap 4



lap 4: miles 37.5 - 50, 1:27PM-4:19PM: feelin good!

good times.  just cruised, feelin good.  probably a bit slower than 1 and 2 but no issues and feelin good the whole way.  

during this lap and a few others i ran into eric and leah, who are also from IL.  it sure was nice to see familiar faces out there!  

ran into this kid.  he is 16 and was on the final lap of his first 50-miler!  

hills are my friend?  i'm not convinced

came in after 50 miles at 10 hours and 14 minutes, beating my previous 50 miler by a good 30+ minutes.  also, brandi and her family were there, so when i rolled in the enitire crowd was calling out my name and cheering loudly.  this feels reaaaaalllyy good!  



lap 5: miles 50 - 62.5, 4:19PM-7:33PM: into the great unknown...

when the farthest you've gone is 50 miles, everything after that is new and exciting.  what will happen?!  what is mile 60 gonna be like?  70?  80?  90?  

fueling up at AS#1, Sally's Asylum, before heading out.  I recommend the 1/2 potato 1/2 lentil soup mix, and the veggie chili was delicious too!


headed out with the gopro on lap 5.  it was a lot like lap 4.  just felt really solid and cruised along.  

met up with michael, the (self proclaimed) asshole from boston.  we had a great time chatting for at least half the loop, lamenting of repressed childhood memories.  he had started two previous hundred milers (beast of burden NY, summer and winter versions).  both times he DNF'd at mile 82, and we were both feeling solid as we wrapped up lap 5. 

us laughing about who knows what

AS#2: Tom & Jerry's Ptomaine Tavern

here's the results of wearing the gopro for a lap.  seems that my headphone cord was constantly touching it which led to a lot of clicking sounds instead of any audio.  the video is mostly sped up 20x except for stops at the aid stations, mike morton cruising past, and some old timers taking some pictures together on the course (it's probably best to play at 720p in a new window)



lap 6: miles 62.5 - 75, 7:33PM-11:42PM: a range of emotions, high to low

before heading out for this lap (i think, maybe it was the prior lap) i needed to change out of my damp clothes, and didn't feel like walking all the way to the bathroom.  what to do?  make a changing room out of a couple towels and change right there, of course!  karen and jen held up a couple of towels, and luckily i didn't fall over!

the first half of the lap was great.  brandi was there and we were having a blast.  we were saying and doing ridiculous shit with/to everyone we met.  the guy who was doing umstead just to train for badwater?  field day!  the abanoned pacer.  the guy i said had beautiful eyes?  we should probably tell him and all runners behind him to run faster because the guy in front of them has beautiful eyes.   people having fun and laughing and talking: "hey, why are you laughing, don't you know this is a hundred miler and you're supposed to be suffering"!

eventually the fun wore off because i was sufferring.  we finished up the lap.


i think it was later on in this lap that we saw michael again, and he looked like shit.  like a zombie stumbling around.  i was concerned.


the scene in the main room around lap 6 or 7

this guy was trying to sneak a peak at our nips.  the conversations that unfold after 75 miles, in the middle of the night, even while suffering, can be quite hilarious!  brandi put him to work filling up my water bottle.



lap 7: miles 75 - 87.5, 11:42PM-4:38AM: a range of emotions, low to high

thus begins lap 7.  luckily, i was down for the count, awake and waiting for the overwhelming bad feeling to go away, and outside a storm rolled in.  it was raining for some time after this. 

while sort of coming to and then chilling around getting ready to get moving, some guy came in who had finished, and he made it to the table next to us and collapsed, right next to us.  it was weird to watch.  even though the medical staff was extremely attentive and quickly took care of him, he was laid out for at least 15 minutes before starting to show signs of being ok.  

we headed out.  the first half of the loop continued to suck.  

i wanted to fall asleep.

we made it to AS#2

hanging out with tom at mile ~82.  this guy helped fix up my feet a couple of laps in a row.  why is this awesome guy staying up all night and helping fix people's feet when he could be in bed?!

this guy said we were gonna have to start paying rent if we kept hanging around as#2

somewhere after this i lost my pacer!  had my headphones on in the bathroom, and couldn't hear her looking for me.  luckily both our phones were on and had enough juice left at the time!

by the end of the loop i was finally feeling really good again!  also, michael came zooming past and was also back in action!



lap 8: miles 87.5 - 100, 4:38AM-9:49AM: let's enjoy the scenery

chilled in the room at AS#1 for a bit.  michael was there and we saw him as he was heading out.  i happily called out as he was leaving "michael... you made it past mile 82!"   he had that confident look in his eyes and we both knew he was going to make it.

as we headed out a few minutes later, one of the guys who i know came in to the room, so i was (loudly) cheering him on... his pacer gave us the "stfu, he is dropping" sign, and it was an emotional experience to try to move past this.  brandi and i felt like we could help, wanted to help, would do whatever we could, and yet i had my own thing to deal with.  also, we were cuckoo in the middle of the night and didn't realized that he was a lap behind us, so taking him out with us, even to walk the whole time, wouldn't have helped anyone much.  between watching some really fit guy collapse the lap before, and seeing a friend just about to drop, it was interesting to experience a whole other range of emotions that can come along with the ultramarathon experience.

once we were out there, i kept wanting to try to go faster (which isn't saying much, i think trying to run was slower than walking by this time).

in response to me even talking about, much less trying, going faster, brandi kept pointing out (something like) that we were in a place that we should be, at a time that we should be, and that we should just enjoy it.  even though i agreed and tried to soak it in at the time, 24 hours later while strolling in to work it really hit me: that was a special time in my life.

at one point i stopped to fix a blister (really, a blister can make you want to stop, when you're only barely walking?!), of course all passers-by checked in to see if i was ok or needed anything, just like we did when we saw people stopped or slowed earlier.

here's dan pieroni, the oldest finisher 3 years in a row.  this was his 40th ultra.  he is insane.  you can really meet some neat people out there.  how is he insane?  won a racquetball tournament on a broken ankle.  helped his brothers up a mountain in a lightning storm on a different broken ankle (making a cast of duct tape and a hiking boot).  he gets dropped of in the yukon territory for "violent" cylcing training comprising himself, a gun, a bike, whatever gear he can carry, and a button to call a helicopter in case of emergency.  three months later, someone picks him up.  3 years ago he beat prostate cancer.  he's been married 49 years and only has sex with his wife.  

it's an unwritten rule that you have to run up the hill for the last lap, so dan and i did this together.

now this is about the only time during an ultra when you feel "almost there."  to you, it may seem like when your runner is at mile 85 of 100, that they are getting close and probably think that they are are almost there, and that just isn't the case.  15 miles can be really hard.  even 5 or 3 or 1?!



the good and the bad

what went well

  • almost everything!  there's not anything that i wish i would have done to make this a better experience.  even when i felt terrible physically, in my mind i was very happy to be out there, very optimistic that i would finish, and remained hopeful that the bad feelings would pass.

what did not go well

  • dowhnills
    • i knew going in that i was not properly train to run downhills
    • onlookers would call out "don't worry you're almost to the downwhill"
  • foot issues
    • blisters
      • i thought i had this dialed in from lots of previous runs at 50, 30, and 20 miles.  24+hours in light rain and humidity changes the game.  should be easy enough to make some minor tweaks to prevent this in the future.
    • callus thing
        • there was about a 3/4 diamater inch callus thing near the front mid of both of my feet.  when the rest of your foot is moist and skin is pulling apart/etc, having this big chunk of a thing was quite a detriment.  will spend a bit more time with the ped-egg before subsequent 50+ milers
      • shoe tieing / foot sliding
        • i usually leave my shoes rather loosely tied (because i don't like the feeling when laces push against top of the foot tendons or veins).  when running steeper downhills, this leads to your foot cramming forward into the front of your shoe with every step, which lead to some mild discomfort at the time, and a toenail or two that will probably fall off within the next few weeks.  this was only an issue in the 110s, the toe box of the montrails has a bit of a different build so it's good that these shoes were there for a backup option
      • gaiters
        • somehow i didn't hit submit on my gaiter order, so i picked up whatever rei had in stock on thursday night: a pair of gaiters held on by a shoe string across the bottom of your shoe.  this doesn't work to well when your shoe is flat.  the shoe string wore out within the first lap
        • lots of tiny rocks continued to get into my shoes after this, causing hot spots and discomfort, and leading to lost time due to dumping out my shoes at each aid station and sometimes along the way
        • having good gaiters would have saved at least 30 minutes and prevented lots of unneccessary pain!
    • nutrition
      • the mile 70 wall / shutdown was terrible. i think i had just too much water and food, probably 10-20% too much.  it's hard to describe. i wasn't nauseated.  it was just... too much.  
    • accidentally applying lotion to my melted inner thighs instead of aquaphor at mile 80something.  at least this woke me up.  and set some perspective to know that the other pain could be worse.


    • lucky trippy race shirt
    • 2 x smartwool ultralight 150 NTS
    • 1 x smart wool mid weight 200 crew
    • salomon minim shell / rain jacket
    • 1 x icebreaker distance shorts, 150
    • 1 x icebreaker distance shorts, 200
    • CEP compression sleeves
    • 2 x injiji perforamce toe socks
    • 2 x smarwool toe socks
    • 1 x smart wool PhD sort of compression sock
    • ipod nano
    • duracell charger thing (for garmin and for iphone)
    • iphone
    • lifeproof iphone case (waterproof/awesome)
    • salomon hat (for cool looking rain in eyes prevention and sweat routing)
    • rei hat  (for normal looking rain in eyes prevention and sweat routing)
    • neck cooling ice pack thing (stupid)
    • neck cooling tie thing (stupid)
    • salomon xt one water pack
    • 8x 2oz rei plastic bottles (for storing pre-mixed nutrtion at AS#2 for easy mixing into water bottle)
    • size 10.5 new balance mt110
    • size 11 new balance mt110 (for foot swell/later)
    • size 11 montrail rogue fly (for later if more cushion and 10mm drop (instead of 4 on the mt's) seems necessary)
    • 2x etymotic er-4 headphones.  good thing there were two!  rain clogged up the first pair before lap 3?!
    • gopro w chest strap





    • for the stuff i brought, each lap (12.5 miles / 2.5-5 hours) i had:
      • 2x 2oz power carb (200 calories) + 1/4 serving life's basic plant protein.  the power carb is a highly refined carb that supposedly has a low insulin spike and slow(er) absorption.  they claim you can take up to 1000 calories per hour with no digestive issues.  the incremental servings of protein was from a recommendation to have some protein in "a step beyond"
      • 12x now foods organic chlorella (for vitA+C)
      • 2x satlstick 
      • 2x vega vegan DHA (from aglae)
      • 2x vega vegan vitamin E
      • a few gu roctane
      • a few gu blackberry
    • from the aid stations, it was mostly
      • 2x 1/4 size pb+j squares
      • some chips.  lays wavy (probaby bad oils?)
      • orange slice
      • banana half or quarter
      • grapes
      • melons
      • mini snickers
      • occasional gatorade
    • and special aid station treats:
      • vegetarian chili (i think mile 50?)
      • 1/2 potato, 1/2 lentil soup (i think mile 62.5?)
      • pizza (mile 88)

    garmin data

    elevation data.  the race organizers publish 8,000ft up, 8,000ft down

    weather data:


    upcoming races

    earth day 50k in CL.  this will be a fun training run/race and i want to try to go fast!

    ice age trail 50 in WI in May.

    angeles crest 100.  if i was gonna do a "shit ultrarunners say" quote then it would be that umstead was just training for ac100.  i know i can go the distance now, but ac100 is going to be a different animal.  it has more elevation change than western states, at 2x+ the up and 3x+ the down when contrasted with umstead.


    everyone who sent me a message during the run.  i feel like this borders on being "too connected" and that people might say i should be out there and experiencing the purity of the run on my own.  for me, it feels good (that's an understatement) to know that my family and friends are thinking of me.  also thanks to karen and jen for being out there to pace for others and occassionally help me out.  if karen wasn't there i think i would have headed out for every lap with only one shoe tied!

    special thanks

    ann.  i try to run at times that are convenient for the fam.  early mornings, lunch time during work, late nights.  regardless, it must be tough sometimes. "i'm going for a run, be back in ___." and who knows how long ___ might be.  running shit all over multiple rooms of the house?  usually.  talking about running?  probably too much.  

    dad.  thanks for being there and for helping me haul me and my stuff around and keep it organized.  it was such a relief to know that you that you were a phone call away and to know that you'd be there whenever i needed you and at the finish line.  

    brandi.  would i have finished this race if you weren't there?  i don't know.  would i have missed a cutoff because i had taken a nap in the rain on the side of the trail, if you weren't keeping me awake?  probably.  would it have been an absolute blast and a party to run through the night after running all day?  no way.  thanks for being there and for cheering and talking and listening and helping.

    wrapping it up

    finishing an ultramarathon of any distance feels great.  i mean, even though it might actually feel like sheer self-torture at the time, or for part of the time, feeling the happiness of knowing that you did it far outlasts the pain or suffering that can happen along the way.  and unlike the 5k, half, or big city marathon you might be eyeing as a future goal, an ultramarathon includes a very special deep sense of community.  for all but a select few, this is not a race to see who is fastest, it is a race just to see if we can do it.  together.

    maybe brandi said it best...

    "Insert your body in this picture. You will be forever changed."