The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or fly fishing but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2017 initial race calendar

Shorter races this year.  I got beat up over the last couple years and took most of the second half of 2016 off.  Now feeling hungry to go fast.  Specifically I want training to be more of a lifestyle rather than a frantic/stressful buildup.  Better balance throughout the year.  Pretty stoked for 2017

Friday, May 27, 2016

Racing Spring 2016- Antelope, Boston, & WhistleDick

Remember when blogs were all the rage?!  Well now my reports end up as a couple pictures and a short post.  Sad really as I used to post details that were important in framing my experience in the ultra world.  I've learned a lot over the years and documenting those experiences has been helpful in looking back.  Not just fun memories but important documentation of learned experience through racing.  Although these aren't as detailed, I'm still documenting...

2016 however is all about 1 race, Hardrock 100.  Having spent 7 years qualifying and putting into the race, I'm in and ready to tackle the most challenging event of my life!  Here are my Spring 2016 races, all of which building to Hardrock- Antelope Island 25k, Boston Marathon Double, WhistleDick 13, & Ecotrail Oslo 45k (coming later).

Antelope Island 25k
Having run this shorter race last year and having such a fun time, I returned.  These shorter races are fun as you can really cruise.  Ultra's are all the rage but I can see myself doing more of these shorter races.  This year my only goal was to try and go under 2 hours.  Last year I ran 2:03.47 and felt like I was in better shape this year.  I definitely started a little faster and felt good.  I moved well and was really enjoying myself.  Aid stations were quick as I only took a 12 ounce bottle.  Using only 2 gels and a couple salt tabs the race went very well.  The last 4 miles I tried to pick up the pace but couldn't quite move as fast as I wanted.  I finished in 2:00.37 and in 3rd place. Strava Segment.  Happy with my effort and plan although wishing I could have moved a little quicker in the finishing miles to break the 2 hour barrier.  Fun start to the year!
Credit: Lori Burlison
Boston Marathon Double
This is my 4th time running Boston twice.  Having thrown my back out in early April (lots of problems in that arena...) I went in sensitively.  Ended up having some great people join me including Ian Sharman, Nicole, Keila, Stephan, and Alison Memmott.  Despite some early heat and late headwind, I ran out in my usual 4 hours flat.  I LOVE it!  Every year its amazing.  The way back was my hardest yet.  The lack of training and my back problems led to my slowest and most painful return trip.  I made it through just fine however with a slower yet still respectable time of 3:56.44

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 12 fish of 2015

2015 was the best year of fishing I ever had!  I felt dialed all year and seemed to hit every hatch, river, and lake perfectly.  Here's to the top 10 fish of the year along with a few of my favorite videos thrown in.  4 years ago I couldn't have even fathomed how good this years fishing was.  2016 will probably have a few more running days but I'm sure I'll have a few good days on the water too!
#12- Smile for the camera!
#11- Nothing says "I love you" like a 23 inch male Brown Trout!

#10-- Picture doesn't do it justice, this 21.5 inch Cutt was caught while stalking with a small dry fly.  Perfection.
#9-- Green Drake hatch...enough said.
#8--  This 22 inch Brown was caught bouncing this streamer against a log.  When it saw my streamer it came up out of the depths and snatched that thing up in full view.
#7-- Fattest Rainbow trout I ever caught.  I couldn't stop laughing
#6-- Pays to fish through a rainstorm!  Thats when the BIG fish come out and feed!
#5-- And I named it Pigbow!
#4-- Best fish with the absolutely worst picture.  Yes its 25 inches and yes I caught it sight nymphing!  Wish the picture was decent or it might be #2.
#3-- Thickest Brown Trout I've every caught.  24 inches of pure joy!
#2-- This hog leapt out of the water four times and and fought bigger then the image indicates.  Amazing 23.5 inch Brown Trout that changed my life...
#1-- Largest trout I've ever caught.  27 inch Rainbow!  Should have measured the girth...this thing was amazing...and caught sight nymphing.  I mean wow!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2016 Race Schedule, Coming together!

Whoa, another year has past by!  2015 was an exceptional year for me on so many levels.  I moved to a new area, bought a new home, grew my company, and checked off several bucket lists including the big one...UTMB!  2016 looks to be equally spectacular with my next major bucket list race, Hardrock 100, secured.  Here is how my schedule lines up so far:
  • ? USATF Snowshoe Marathon Championship- Snowbasin Feb 28th.  A big maybe and depends on my training over the next 6 weeks.  If I go to Hong Kong then its a no...
  • OR
  • ? Translatua 50/100k- Hong Kong March 12th.  This is my hope and #1 goal for Spring.
  • OR
  • ?Antelope Island 50k- March 19th.  Clearly a no if I head to Hong Kong.
  • Boston Marathon Double- April 18th
  • Zion Traverse- April 29th (not a race but I need to schedule it if there's any hope of heading down...)
  • EcoTrail challenge 80k- Oslo, Norway May 22nd
  • Squaw Peak 50- June 3rd (10th Squaw!)
  • Hardrock 100- July 15th (Focus race for the year!)
  • August- Alaska and other high alpine adventure runs...
  • Bear 100- Sept 23rd  (unless I have a change of mind and put in for Wasatch 100 in the next 3 weeks...)
Usually something is adjusted and I'm not sure about the first couple races.  However, the year is looking pretty locked in and absolutely fantastic.  I feel like I need a little change to elongate my season so I'm leaning towards Bear 100 instead of Wasatch.  Weird but I suspect I'll be manning the Altra aid station and pacing Wasatch 100 instead of running.  Excited to revisit the Bear, particularly so because of my new proximity(I live 2 miles from the start!).  Anyway you slice it, 2016 should be another great year!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

UTMB 2015

2015 marks the 10th anniversary for my ultra running career.  I ran my first ultra as a 23 year old clueless young inexperienced runner.  Since that time I’ve completed over 50 ultra trail races, managed 2 running/outdoor shops, graduated college, started a shoe company (Altra), had 3 kids, and moved 8 times.  It’s been a wild ride!  I’ve also closely followed the expansion of the ultra community that I have grown to love.  Over that time, it became clear to me that despite my experiences there was one race that had established itself as the premier ultra event in the world, the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc. 

UTMB is a 105 mile race boasting nearly 34,000 ft of vertical climbing and an equal amount of decent starting and ending in Chamonix France.  During its circumnavigation of Mt Blanc it traverses through glacially carved valleys, up and over mountains, traverses exposed ridgelines, and generally takes you through a mountain running paradise.  The aid stations are made up of remote outposts, ski lodges, and small cobblestoned Alp villages in France, Italy, and Switzerland.  In its 13th year, the three country journey now has over 2,600 starters from an astounding 87 countries!

  Despite running several difficult 100 milers over the years including Wasatch 100, Ultra Trail Mt Fuji, Bear 100, and Cascade Crest 100, I was still rightfully intimidated.  My summer was filled with running more of a growing business than mountain running but I found a healthy balance.  I made sure I had plenty of time for my highest priority- family.  My wife and youngest daughter even got to tag along to France!  I was ready and excited to tackle this monumental challenge!
  Race week came quickly and was filled with press conferences, expo working, and athlete meetings.  Altra is picking up steam in Europe and we were well represented during the expo.  We worked with Polartec to launch our “Better than Waterproof” Lone PeakNeoshell at the event to much acclaim!  I rested when I could but business called.  Soon it was time to take care of business from the running end and by 5:30 pm August 27th I was in the town square with 2,600 other runners ready to tackle this epic event.  I made a tactical decision to start in the back.  I wanted to start slow and feel good through the race.  The race festivities were unparalleled with an estimated 70,000 people cheering us on, music blaring, and bells ringing.  
  At 6pm sharp, the gun went off.  I waited…and waited…and finally I took my first step!  It took me 5 minutes just to get to the starting line!  With the throngs of people the race funneled quickly but the feeling was electric.  Within a mile the race widened and I was able to start passing people.  I was slow and methodical but the first 20 miles went quickly.  I even ran a few miles with local friend Kendall Wimmer!  Soon the headlamp was turned on and the first night began.
The string of headlamps extended as far as the eye could see both in front and behind me.  It added such depth seeing where we had to go and how far you’d come.  Having a full moon only added to the beauty!  The mountains, and particularly the glaciers, where illuminated beyond belief.  The miles quickly flew by and before I would have imagined the first glimmer of light shown in the east.  I was so happy and it sparked what would become the greatest 10 hours of running I’d ever experienced!
The decent into Lac Combal will never be forgotten nor would the sunrise at Arete du Mont Favre.  I stopped there for 5 minutes just soaking in the moment.  In my wildest dreams I’m not sure I could have created a more beautiful place or perfectly timed moment
  The decent into Courmayeur was long but being on such a runners high I backed off trying not to get more of an adrenaline rush.  I floated down and did a full analysis of my situation.  The Courmayeuar aid station (Mile 48) was full of chaos, people, drop bags, and….my crew!  Frank, Altra’s European Manager, and Colleen, ICON’s PR Director, were there to help me get through efficiently.  I was about an hour slower getting there then I wanted but I wasn’t worried, as I felt great with no issues.  Having started at the back of the pack cost me that hour but I was ready to push on.  New clothes, food, and optimism followed me out the door!
Temperatures were beginning to rise into what would become the hottest UTMB on record.  I climbed strongly out of Courmayeur knowing that I was only half way.  I LOVED the section of trail from Refuge Bertone to Refuge Bonati.  The views and trail were spectacular.  I felt strong.  I had a rag, which I dipped in every stream possible, soaking my body in cold water.  This section was exposed and becoming hot but I moved well and soon was descending into Arnuva
Once at Arnuva (Mile 59) I didn’t want to eat anything.  After 10 hours of the best running I’d ever had, the heat and distance were catching up.  I now had to tackle the biggest climb on the course in the heat without much to eat.  I forced fed myself what I could and started the climb to Grand Col Ferret.  I struggled.  I was hoping the decent was better but it didn’t help much.  I was still moving but I was so hot and couldn’t eat much. 
  It finally started to cool off and entering Champex-Lac I was relieved.  My crew AND my wife were there.  I had struggled for the last several hours and I needed help.  They quickly began force feeding me...and my stomach didn’t rebel!  I also got a massage for 20 minutes on my quads while letting the food settle.  I switched into the new Olympus 2 shoe, put on a dry shirt and left feeling totally refreshed!
I was originally worried about the second night but I was feeling back like myself.  I knew I had 3 stout climbs and descents of this last 30 miles.  I found a grove and began pushing.  I felt like I was picking up steam!  I clicked through Trient quickly and flew down into Vallorcine!  I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling!  I got a little drowsy leaving Vallorcine but with 1 climb left I was determined!
  I’d heard the last climb was the steepest but wow it didn’t disappoint!  It was brutal but I was happy with my methodical approach.  Just before the top I saw a glimmer of light to the east.  I couldn’t believe my luck that upon arrival to Tete aux Vents the first ray of sunshine hit Mt Blanc!!  I was on such a runner’s high and this time I didn’t hold back but pushed harder then ever feeling like a million bucks.
I flew down the mountain weaving through the last of the nearly 2000 people I’d passed in the race!  At this point I was thoroughly enjoying the final miles of the race.  With ½ mile remaining I throttled back and emotionally jogged through town listening to the cheers of the town and contemplating my accomplishment.  I couldn’t believe the high I was experiencing as I saw the finish line and crossed in 38 hours, 29 minutes.  518th place out of 2,600 starters and 1,600 finishers.

Happy Happy Happy!  This was such a great race for me and truly the pinnacle of ultra running.  As I recover, I prepare for Wasatch 100 which begins less than two weeks from the time I finished UTMB.  Living my dream, finding the balance, and trying to enjoy every second of it!
Now go run!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Boston 2015

I've now been to the Boston Marathon 4 out of the last 5 years.  It has become not only an annual occurrence but a ritual!  I have such a deep affinity for the Boston Marathon.  Perhaps it's because Altra was launched here 4 years ago.  So every time I arrive it reminds me of packing up my Suburu and driving across the country starting my company.  Seeing the fruits of those labors is very gratifying.  I expect myself and Altra to be in Boston for many more years to come! 
Busy Busy Altra Booth
It could be that I love Boston because of the history of the race.  All these Boston Qualifiers are here because of what they've worked and sacrificed for.  The energy is so apparent it seems to permeate every meal, conversation, or thought.
3rd Row Seats to the Red Sox
Maybe I'm so connected because of all the amazing experiences I've had.  Although many of the races I have done are much more difficult, the Double has this special wrap around my heart.  I can't quite explain it but I seem to glean all sorts of positive life lessons every time I come. This year the theme was perspective.

This year, the experiences that stuck out to me the most all framed around the humbling concept of perspective.  I was thoroughly humbled and it made me more grateful for my spoiled life.  The first was around mile 11.  I see two runner's ahead of me walking. I think "Those guys look like they are doing the double too!"  NOPE...they were doing the QUAD!  David Clark was at mile 64 and ready to do 40 more.  Zero Limits all the way!  Read more about his incredible story of overcoming addiction here:
David Clark doing a Quad Boston!
12 miles later I went through my first and only low point.  I probably hadn't eaten enough, it started raining, and the road became steeper.  It was the first time in all 3 attempts where I thought "Seriously why am I doing this?!" My thoughts drifted to my busy and stressful life.  I felt under-trained and overwhelmed.  Then like a freight train, it disappeared.  Boston gives certain people an early start to avoid commotion and allow them a bit more freedom from the throngs.  As the first of these runners arrived, I was firmly put in my place.  Tears welled up in my eyes and my life's problems dissolved (see below picture of my inspiration). From there to the finish, 29 miles later, I don't think I had another negative thought cross my mind!  I couldn't and wouldn't allow it.  Life is good, no other thought is worth entertaining.
I arrived at the starting line in 3 hrs 54 min.  My feet felt incredible in the new Altra Torin 2 despite the now pouring rain.  I grabbed a blanket that one of the elites had ditched and headed into the local convenient store to eat a protein bar, 2 banana's, a bag of potato chips, and a couple of Gatorades.  After an hour I headed out to brave what had turned into quite the rain storm.  The next 26.2 miles seemed to float by rapidly.  I was caught up in such a positive flow of energy that it carried me to the finish line in 3 hrs 45 min.  I was happy, inspired, and grateful.  "Good times never felt so good!"

A few more Reads:
KSL article about myself and 5 other Boston Experiences