Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bighorn 100

This weekend was fantastic! My finishing time certainly wouldn't indicate that, but I couldn't have been happier with the hours I got to spend in the beautiful Bighorn mountains. It was strange to be away from my family for that period of time, and perhaps even more strange not to have my wife out on the course crewing for me, but it was a great trip, and we had a fantastic Father's Day when I got back on Sunday.

To give a brief summary, the race began Friday at 11am, and I started out fast (thanks to my Prefontaine 'stache), but not too fast. I watched the front runners rolling up the canyon, but stayed at a nice pace. I was still in the top 10 coming into the 30 mile mark, and still in that neighborhood at the 48 mile turnaround spot. I felt great, but could feel myself simply running out of energy (which I knew would happen eventually due to lower mileage training...). So I embraced the fatigue and moved on. Night fell just as I hit the turnaround, so I was fortunate enough to see the whole course in daylight. The night was clear, the stars bright, and the temps pretty chilly, but the night passed quickly. Saturday morning's dawn was spectacular, and I was surprised by a lovely red fox bounding past me up "the Wall." I vividly remember grubbing on some fantastic bacon at the Cow Camp aid station (mile 76), which fueled me well.

Toward the end, my body was completely cashed out of any possible energy reserves, but my mind kept pushing me on, even though I was moving slow. The last 5-6 miles are quite flat and on a gravel road, but with no energy left I had already resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to speed hike it the best I could. After just a few minutes of that though, I simply couldn't take it, and drew up energy from nowhere to really hammer those last miles in. I finished utterly spent, and incredibly happy.

It was fun to see my friend and teammate Mike Wolfe out on the course just eating it up. He ultimately destroyed the previous course record by 35-40 minutes... simply awesome. The wildlife was fantastic, the wildflowers abundant and vibrant, and the Bighorn Mountains were simply a thrill.

This was a great race for my mind, and I think it was a great first step in getting my body back to where I'd like it to be for actual 100 mile racing shape. Huge thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and race directors who made Bighorn such a special time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back on the 100 Mile Train

It’s been a while since I’ve run 100 miles. In my mind it’s “been a while,” but I had to look at the calendar to figure out just how long it’s been. The last time I ran over 100 miles was at the Ultracentric in November. The last time I ran an official mountain 100 mile race was Cascade Crest last August. Yikes. I love running 100 milers. I really do. It’s been far too long.

So today I’m headed to Sheridan, WY and the Bighorn mountains to undertake the Bighorn 100. My training has been minimal, but it has involved a high percentage of miles with the added benefit of pushing 2 babies in the Chariot stroller.

I don’t have a pace chart. I have no pacer. I have no crew. I have yet to figure out drop bags, etc. I got a great course briefing from a friend who’s run it before and a few solid pep talks from my friend and TNF teammate Diane Van Deren. I’m not a huge planner in the first place, but I am going into this adventure with a new level of lack of planning. This is by no means to say that I don’t care about the race. I definitely do and I hope to do well. I simply have no real reason to expect it. My main goal for this race is to have fun, and enjoy a spectacular long run mountain adventure through some ridiculously gorgeous terrain, and if that results in a good time on the clock- cool.

For the past year or so I’ve grown and shaved a large mustache for any big races I had, and I’m continuing that tradition this weekend. I do this in celebration of the running spirit that Prefontaine embodied. I plan to run Bighorn in a similar fashion. Many would call it stupid. I call it fun and for the love of the sport. I’m going to run hard from the start and just see what happens. Hopefully it comes down to a “pure guts race” (as most 100’s tend to), and this weekend’s race for me is all about having fun in the mountain playground I love. Go Pre!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Commercializing the Outdoors?

Last weekend I engaged in some really fun multi-sport action. My buddy Brock and I rode our bikes from my house in Seattle around the top side of Lake WA and out to the mountains (50 something miles), where we met up with another friend and made a quick trip up and down Mailbox Peak. Then it was off to some friends' house out that way for an intense evening mountain bike race- pretty short, but super technical and fun. The weather for the whole day was unfortunately un-summerish (pouring rain and quite chilly), which resulted in my coming down with the flu the next day. But I digress...

So, to come around to the reason for my topic (commercializing the outdoors), I'll focus on the Mailbox Peak section of the day's activities. I've run Mailbox many times, and am there quite frequently doing repeats- it's one of my favorite local mountains within easy striking distance of the city. That said, when I go to the mountains I love nothing more than the feeling of getting away from the city, away from the vehicles and the branding and the noise. On this particular day up Mailbox, I arrived at the peak to a shocking new addition- corporate branding. There was a bright yellow newspaper box attached to the mailbox post with a huge First Ascent logo emblazoned on it. I have a large problem with this.

Granted, a mailbox in and of itself at the top of a mountain is a bit strange and out of place, but it's part of this particular mountain's story and personality. It makes it unique and is completely anonymous and in the spirit of the outdoors, with a registry for trail-users to share comments, etc. Seeing a local outdoors company take corporate branding to nature is not only offensive, but sad. While it's a unique free advertising idea (their box apparently is full of temporary tattoos of their logo...), it simply has no place in the outdoors. I'm uncertain whether or not First Ascent officially placed this box up there, but they are clearly endorsing it on their Facebook page, and the guys who put it up there blatantly documented their actions. All my feelings about corporate branding in nature aside, this is a criminal act in that it's vandalizing/littering on public lands in a national forest, and it's just plain lame.
I'm curious to hear what other people's reactions might be to this. Have you seen anything similar elsewhere? I realize we see a lot of corporate logos at trail races at aid stations/starts/finishes, but those are temporary and the logos are from sponsors actually supporting the race. To me, this is an example of an "outdoors" company blatantly exploiting the outdoors. Anyone else have similar experiences seeing branding outdoors? Is this the wave of the future? Will we start seeing bumper stickers on trees in remote wilderness next? Either way, next time I go up Mailbox (within the next few days...), I'm going up with a prybar and coming down with that offensive yellow box. Oh, and I'm certainly not buying any First Ascent stuff. Ever. Poor form, First Ascent. Poor form.