Sunday, November 21, 2010


For several years in a row Gaby and I have returned to Vail for the opening week of ski season and to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We arrived in Vail Saturday evening, after spending a night and day in Boulder, to find our beloved retreat blanketed in a deep, puffy blanket of glorious early season powder.  Some say the recent and current snow storms have produced the best opening ski week conditions in over a decade.  We have not been up the mountain yet on skis but we will soon.  The challenge is each of the past few years my desire to bundle up in heavy clothes and clunky boots, and lug heavy skis has waned.  In addition, the thought of wiping out and getting injured, thus taking running away, is scary at best.  So instead of procuring pricy lift tickets and expensive on-mountain bread-bowl-soup lunches, I layer on thin, light, wicking fabrics and tacky trail shoes.  The Sandstone Hill entrance of Vail's North Trail network is some 200 yards from the door and a welcome gateway to the steep mountain trails I now love more to run up than to ski down.  All of this is to say we came to Vail to ski, the conditions are 'epic', and I would rather run in the powder than ski.  How ironic.

Running in snow is great fun.  Unfortunately, taking it easy and, more to the point, not running, is still a priority.  Over the past two weeks, since Masochist, I've run a whopping 10 miles.  Rest is simply something I must do right now; it is my job.  The unfortunate byproduct of this current workload is additional forced restraint thanks to the extra time on my hands courtesy of the upcoming holiday week, the fact that we're only footsteps from miles of killer trails and snow is in the forecast for all week.  This, too, is sadly ironic.

I will continue following the self-prescribed rest order but not getting some sort of trail fix, at least a little, during the current epic conditions here in Vail would be a sin.  And when not running, or skiing, or working, I hope to do more of the following.
Visiting the farmers market in Boulder.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Saturday is the Richmond half-marathon and marathon.  And with Saturday comes the third weekend in a row of race spectating- since last Sunday was the Potomac Heritage 50k.  Since my legs aren't clocking miles of their own at the moment the next best thing is cheering on others get after their own goals.  Friends and family will lace up their sneaks and chase the pavement during what is forecast as another beautiful and warm fall weekend.  So, without further ado and much ado about nothing further...drum roll...

On the left:  Rob "Don't-even-think-about-it" Sturdevant
On the right:  Colin "Beer-me" Campbell

Brother-in-law #1:
Height: 5'11".  Weight: 612 marshmallows.  Runs his first half-marathon Saturday.  Race goals include not barfing, eating waffles at aid stations and hiding from his Richmond City police officer buddies directing course traffic.

Brother-in-law #2:
Height: 6'2".  Weight: 524 empty cans.  Runs his second half-marathon Saturday in as many months.  Race goals include tripping up Kenyans, scouting new restaurants along the course and looking cool at the finish line.

Clearly, each BIL is humble in their race day ambition.  Who will come out on top?  Who will eat more pizza after the race?  Tune in Saturday.  Good luck to the runners.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Masochist Indeed

Keith Knipling warned me to run well at Masochist one has to be in great shape due to the all-encompassing conditions that the course throws at runners.  The course includes mostly double track trail and jeep roads, with decent climbs, some flat road and single track trail, speedy competition and definitely fits the bill as a runners course.  My smallest hope was to finish Masochist with a time beginning with 7.  Fortunately, that worked out.  The rest?  Not so much.  Don't get me wrong, it was a fun day and Masochist is a worthy event for any and all lovers of long distance running.  The weather was nice and cool for a long day on mountain trails.  The sun shined.  And the fresh snow presented along the second half of the course after surmounting Buck Mountain was a nice surprise.  I realized early on yesterday- as in around mile four or five- that my body lacked a certain amount of energy necessary to run strong for 50 miles, especially once the climbing began in earnest.  So for me, it was a hard day.

Masochist starts along the Blue Ridge Parkway northwest of Lynchburg, Virginia and tacks an eventual northeast route, culminating a 2,000 ft net elevation gain (9,200 ft up, 7,200 ft down), and finishes in the picturesque surroundings of Montebello; a quaint mountain hamlet offering numerous activities for the eager outdoors lover, in addition to sweeping mountain vistas.   The race began with a brief out and back stretch of road running along the Parkway.  It was fun, though likely unwise, clocking 6 something minute miles with a crew of running friends and acquaintances during the pre-dawn hours.  Once we hit the trails not too long after crossing the James River for the second time, at Cashaw Creek, the actual running up began and my body asked the unthinkable: do you mind if we walk a bit?  I acquiesced.  I was asked this question often throughout the race and, more often than I am proud to admit, consequently reduced my stride to a hike.  I knew I would be challenged with tired legs going into Masochist, and at this early stage of the race the general state of fatigue I have endured since completing the Slam surfaced once again.

Fortunately, I am fairly stubborn when it comes to running and was not about to let this situation interrupt the day's main priority: enjoying one last go of mountain running competition before escaping to a wonderful hibernation of rest and recovery after a fun year of uninterrupted running.  Very shortly after Cashaw Creek the front group thinned out and a few lead runners continued forward, including- eventual winner- Scott Jamie, Chris Reed and Jeremy Ramsey among others.  I eventually caught and passed two or so other runners before too long and was then passed by Adam Hill on the speedy descent to Irish Creek.  Adam's passing, I believe, left me in 6th position and I followed his distinct, red shirt up and down the bending jeep roads until it finally disappeared halfway up Buck Mountain.  At this stage, the "race" became completely uneventful for me.  I was all alone, comfortably running through my fatigue, and would only catch glimpses of two other runners for the rest of the day.

By the time I entered to The Loop, at mile 33.6, I was only moments behind Chris and Adam, eventual 2nd and 3rd place finishers.  Halfway through The Loop, climbing the technical, leafy, snowy single track, then running down the same, in my basic Asics trainers, my gas needle edged closer to red.  Climbing and technical single track trails I enjoy very much, though this section was a stark reminder of my woeful unpreparedness for this day's race.  I walked a lot of the climbs, though eventually somehow passed another runner exiting The Loop and claimed 4th position.  It was of no great consequence since by the time I exited The Loop I had surrendered additional minutes to Chris and Adam.  Moreover, Scott was clearly out of reach.  The next few miles of down hilling were a welcome reprieve as I made my way to Salt Log Gap.  After a few more lonely miles of up, then down, then punishing up to Porters Ridge, the only bit of real "race" excitement all day caught me off guard as I approached the last aid station at mile 47.1.  An unnatural sound of rustling leaves to my rear roused my senses, and I turned my head to see Jon Loewus-Deitch right on my tail, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.

Immediately my race/survivalist instinct surfaced and I realized that the somewhat pitiful, though enjoyable, pace I had grown accustomed to since The Loop would no longer suffice.  I zipped through the Porters Ridge aid station and pressed on the gas.  Jon lost a few steps here I think and I clocked 6 something minute miles for the next two miles, descending Porters, until he was completely out of site.  I reached the pavement for the last mile of my Masochist debut, committed to enjoying the fleeting moments of 2010's final competition, though constantly looking over my shoulder for Jon.  He was not there so I stepped off the gas a bit and cruised to the finish for a 4th place time of 7:55.  Thanks to Gaby, as always, for the excellent company and support, and all of the fun spirited volunteers.  Thanks to David Horton and Clark Zealand who host a top notch event in the Mountain Masochist Trail 50 Mile; all of the positive stories I have heard are true.  I am sure all of their races are just as fun, and tough, and look forward to running them all eventually.  Congratulations to all of the finishers and to Scott, Chris, Alison Bryant and Jill Perry, for securing 2011 Western States slots.

Clark Zealand's warm greeting at the finish.  Picture ripped off from Clark's Flickr page.