Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The God's Honest Truth: Leadville 100-Mile Run Report

Note: These are some post-race thoughts that could be characterized as "raw." I'm still processing the entire experience.

I have no idea how I finished the Leadville 100 this past weekend. Between non-stop vomiting from Winfield to the finish, severe leg cramps (the likes of which I've never experienced in my life) and the horrible consequences of those cramps (totally trashed legs), I don't know how I finished, much less crossed the line in 24:03--three hours slower than my goal time--to earn another big buckle. I think it came down to what Ken Chlouber told us on Friday afternoon at the pre-race meeting: "dig deep."

Noah and me coming into Pipeline outbound (mile ~27)

Leadville is such a hard race as the course is between 9,200-12,600 feet. It's difficult to put up consistent performances there every year because the mountains are so fickle. I looked at several regular Leadville athletes' times over the years and they're mostly up and down. That high mountain air sometimes isn't too bad, and then other times it tries to destroy you. Over the weekend, I was stripped down to nothing; the course and terrain tried to hurt me, and they did. But I refused to give up.

When I look back on it, things went to hell in a hand basket when I was on the way to Twin Lakes outbound and experienced at about mile 35 what was without question the most painful leg cramp I've ever had. It was in my left quad and it happened when I stopped to pee. My quad seized up and I just fell to the ground screaming in pain. I couldn't put any weight on my leg for 3-4 minutes. It was awful and a few concerned runners asked me if my leg was broken. One runner put his arm around me, which I really appreciated. It was such a delicate moment that I thought about my mom and dad.

Eventually, the cramp let up and I was on my way to the lakes, only to have another wicked cramp after crossing the river and preparing for the big climb up Hope Pass. My legs never recovered from those cramps. The best way I can describe the aftermath is that it felt like my legs had been wrung dry. They had nothing in them--at all. They were drained. Every step hurt.

Between Pipeline and Twin Lakes outbound, about where I got hit with that first cramp.
Credit: Lifetime Fitness


Despite it all, the climb up the frontside of Hope wasn't too bad. I ran into my friend, Scott Schrader, who would go on to finish the race shortly after I crossed--his first 100-mile finish. And I had some amazing mashed potatoes at the Hopeless aid station. But then when I began to descend the backside, things turned bad. My quads were gone. Nothing. So it was an incredibly slow, morale-killing descent. Despite my dejection, it was amazing watching Mike Aish and Rob Krar climb that backside as I was going down. Krar looked to be in the zone and he went on to win with the second-fastest time in the race's history.

Descending into Twin Lakes outbound (mile 40).


Winfield was a tough spot. I got into mile 50 hot and dehydrated (like most other runners), apparently down 15 pounds (which I still don't believe), so I got right to work with refueling...only to puke it all up right there next to the tent. Diana Finkel was there (once again) to help me through the moment. I cannot say enough good things about Diana. She's supportive in every way. I would hug her if she was here now.

After about 15 minutes of sickness, I was on my way up the mountain with my pacer and good friend, Mark T., eating some Fig Newtons and a gel before that nasty climb up the backside. It was just after cresting Hope on the return trip that a horrible case of puking and dry-heaves happened. I lumbered back down to Hopeless and got in some calories, thinking maybe I could turn things around. The descent from there was slow. The quads wouldn't cooperate.

It never got better. At Twins Lakes inbound (mile 60), after refueling in the hopes, once again, that I could turn things around, I began vomiting and dry-heaving before crossing the timing mat--right there in front of hundreds of people. After vomiting and dry-heaving easily a dozen times in front of the mat, the lights went out. I fainted, falling to the dirt road. My brother later told me seeing me go down like that scared him. I came to quickly and heard the doctor say, "you're going to need to drop; I gotta put an IV in you," to which I said, "I'm not dropping from this race; I intend to finish." He was irritated, I could tell, but that was how I felt--dropping wasn't an option. As I left Twin Lakes, still tasting puke and my nostrils burning from the vomit, I saw Tim Long and Shad Mika and said, "It never always gets worse" (a well-known saying in the sport). And, honestly, it didn't get worse; Twin Lake was the bottom.

Under no circumstances would I drop. I remember the pain of my 2012 DNF all too well to ever drop from a race again unless permanent damage is a real consideration. So I more or less ignored the doctor and went on my way with my other pacer and friend, Scott W., by my side. I left Twin Lakes with zero calories in me. Scott later managed to get some Fig Newtons in me, but they were too little, too late. The magic I experienced in 2013 in those last 35 miles wouldn't happen this year.

So from Twin Lakes inbound on I was running on empty, as my stomach could keep nothing down. It was a game of burning body fat. I actually ran a fair amount, albeit slowly because my legs were shot. And that's how the rest of the race unfolded--eat a little, puke it back up. What was my nutrition? I had water and VFuel gels for the first half, along with some Carbo-Pro starting at Pipeline. I supplemented all of this with things like Coke, Fig Newtons and Ramen. None of it stayed down. I even puked up watermelon and soup at Mayqueen (mile 86.5). It was one of those days.


With Mark at the finish line. We were friends before the race; now we're even closer.
We went through a lot together. Scott unfortunately missed this photo.


I am so thankful for the support my pacers, Mark and Scott, provided every step of the way. They were amazing. I don't even know what to say to these two guys who gave up time from their busy schedules to help me run Leadville. I am eternally grateful for the love and support of my wife, Anne, and our son, Noah. Without them, I couldn't have finished and that's a fact--they inspire me to be the best man I can be. It was a thrill having my brother, Will, and sister-in-law, Gretchen, there with me. They showed love and support from start to finish, attending to my every need. I thought often about my mom and dad; I knew they wanted to be there. It's humbling to get that much support.

I also want to thank the many runners, crew members and volunteers who were out there working hard on Saturday and Sunday. It's just an awesome display. Several people told me how helpful this blog was in their preparation. I appreciate it all. Whatever I can give to others, I will give...moral support, a hug, words of advice, a gel, whatever I can give.

Josh Colley, his team and all of the volunteers nailed it. This was a spectacularly-run race. Every detail was well-executed, though I wasn't a fan of the new Outward Bound field, which was laced with random holes (these holes just need to be filled in before next year's race). I loved the surprise aid station atop Powerline (amazingly, I actually ran a little of Powerline). It was obvious Josh and his team took all of the feedback from last year's race and made some major improvements. To those who sought to throw the baby out with the bathwater--in this case, one of the original 100s and a race with more history and legend than 99.9% of other ultras--after last year's troublesome Leadville, I say this: I hope you are now satisfied. Leadville has turned it around. What say you now?

The big buckle--my fourth El Plato Grande buckle.


As for me, I'm not sure I'll return to Leadville next year. I have already booked our cabin, in the event that I do return, but at this point it's 50/50. If I get into Western States, there will be no Leadville for me in 2015. This race has more or less vexed me since I began this adventure five years ago. I've never figured out fueling at Leadville--what works one year fails the next--and to this day I'm unconvinced I've run my own perfect race. Maybe I never will, or maybe I will. The altitude and my stomach seem to do me in every time. I am seeing a nutritionist specializing in fueling in ultras next week. I need help. My daily diet is very clean; it makes me think that I'm just not used to the sugary crap I consume on race day, though this summer I did train with VFuel and had pretty good results.

Huge thanks to all who made the weekend a special one.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

If You Want to Finish Leadville, Here's the #1 Most Important Thing You Must Do

Damn, I love provocative headlines!

With the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run now a little over two weeks away, those of us entered in "The Race Across the Sky" are undoubtedly in our taper or about to begin the taper. Leadville is a fairly unique race in that it's between 9,200 feet and 12,600 feet the whole way. One hundred miles is hard enough; throw in some high altitude and mountain passes and the challenge becomes even tougher.

If this is your first time toeing the line at Leadville and you're unfamiliar with what it's like in the high country and Colorado Rockies, this post is for you (as is my two-part Guide to Finishing Leadville)!

A lot goes into successfully finishing Leadville. You don't want to go out too fast. You need to stay hydrated and fueled. Your stomach needs to stay happy, though you can almost bank on a few queasy moments (or worse). You need to show grit when you're doing the big climbs and thoughts of hopelessness (pun intended) are swimming through your brain. All of that is important, and it's what you'll hear about on Friday afternoon when we all gather for the very motivational pre-race meeting, which I highly recommend.

But there's one thing you may not have thought about, especially if you're coming from sea level. Hell, I even know a few Coloradans who have overlooked or forgotten about this one super-important thing. It's something that can totally end your race.

Are you ready?

Me in the finisher's tent after
crossing the line last year. Note the hat,
sweatshirt and vest. I also had gloves--
and I was still cold.
Stay warm and dry. There's a saying here in Colorado and it goes something like this: "If you don't like the weather in Colorado, give it five minutes."

At Leadville, expect everything from sunny skies and temps in the high 70s during the day to hail, rain/lightening storms of the biblical variety and, yes, snow, especially when you're on Hope Pass. Even if during the day the temperature is in the 70s and the sun is out and life is beautiful, you can expect the mercury to plummet into the 30s after sunset. Cold nights in Leadville are the norm. It's especially cold around Turquoise Lake, which you'll be running along very late in the race (with no other aid stations before the finish). If you aren't in warm clothing after the sun sets and especially along the lake, you will risk hypothermia. And, if you go hypothermic, your race is pretty much over.

So, be sure to have:
  • Rain gear. Get a waterproof jacket and hat--maybe some waterproof gloves, too.
  • Warm clothing that will keep you toasty in temperatures as low as 30 degrees. Usually when running in cool temps it's OK to dress on the light side as our bodies heat up with movement. Not so in Leadville after night fall. Dressing on the light side after sunset will get you a DNF.
  • Emergency poncho. I highly recommend you carry one at all times, especially if we have cloud cover.
One final note: Under no circumstances is littering acceptable on the trail or anywhere on the course. Sometimes stuff falls out of pockets and we don't notice. But it's totally not OK for anyone to intentionally throw trash, such as an empty gel package, on the trail. That is not cool and it will result in a disqualification.

As for me, well, I'm in shape (I think). Those long tempo runs and long trail runs seem to have me ready even as I dropped my peak weekly volume buy 15%. I did a MAF test yesterday morning and averaged 6:30 pace for five miles, with a one-second drop in time when you compare my mile-1 split with my mile-5 split. Not bad. It's my best-ever MAF test result. But MAF tests don't mean much when you're climbing Hope Pass or Powerline. So, we'll see how things shake out. But I do think I have experience on my side and I also think my nutrition plan is solid.

Have a great taper and race. I hope to see you in Leadville!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Five Weeks Until Leadville; Thoughts on Leadville Being Described as "Flat" and Kilian's New Hardrock CR

Five more weeks and then the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run is here. My training is going really well and--so far--I'm healthy (it's not easy showing up at the starting line healthy), though this morning I endured a 24-mile sufferfest due to the heat, beat up legs from a Pikes Peak outing on Friday, and inexplicable stomach issues. While my overall average volume is down just a tad to about 80-83 miles/week, I'm doing much longer runs than ever before--and I imagine I'll hit triple digits before tapering. On the weekend, it's not uncommon to do a 30-miler on the trail. Forty-mile weekends, which include long tempo runs, are the new norm (through Leadville).

The week that just ended was pretty solid: 87 miles, 13.5 hours and 10,000 feet of climbing. Next week should be about the same except hopefully I'll get more vertical in. I'm planning a Hope Pass double-crossing--always a good idea in the lead up to Leadville. The backside of Hope Pass, which has a few very steep sections, has always vexed me. I lose a lot of time there, and it doesn't help that there are usually hundreds of runners coming down the mountain in the opposite direction (I'm coming from Winfield, they're going into Winfield).

The North Fork 50K on June 28 told me my endurance is developing nicely--probably from those long runs on the weekends. Although the 50K race didn't have a lot of fast guys or stiff competition (except the guy who won, Chuck Radford, a friend of mine, is a burner for sure and could beat lots of other fast dudes on any given day), I was quite pleased with my fourth-place finish. I felt like I handled the 32 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing quite well--mentally and physically. The altitude wasn't really a factor--we topped out at 8,000 feet a few times but over the years I've come to handle 8K pretty well. What left a lasting impression on me were the exposed burn areas we ran through as a result of several fires in the North Fork area over the years, including the very awful Buffalo Creek fire of 1996. So, all in all, North Fork was a success and I loved the fact that the race had a down-home vibe. I (now) hate the term "old school" but North Fork was just that.

It'll be interesting to see how things at Leadville go this year. My feeling is that LifeTime Fitness has learned--the hard way--what the course can and can't handle. Leadville will likely always be a big race; it's just a matter of fielding the right number of runners. I think the right number is between 600 and 700. This year, I've heard we'll be looking at 800 starters. I think 800 is manageable. I think anything beyond 800 is too much. That's just my opinion based on four Leadville 100s.

Honestly, there's no section of the course that really scares me anymore except for the backside of Hope Pass. It used to be that the Powerline climb got to me but I pretty much slayed that dragon last year as I ran up the climb. Don't get me wrong; Powerline will always be hard, but I've come to mentally understand how to handle and approach it 78 miles into the race. Conversely, the backside of Hope isn't just a mental challenge; it's physically punishing. If I can somehow minimize the damage and stay positive on that very steep, gnarly climb up to the pass and run well back down to Twin Lakes, I think I'll be in good shape for a decent finish. If you can get to Twin Lakes inbound (mile 60) in good shape, that's huge.

Speaking of which, there are still some (including someone who just did a podcast interview) who continue to refer to Leadville as a "flat" race. To me, it's just plain inaccurate to describe Leadville as flat. With 17,000 feet of climbing, is Leadville on par with Hardrock or UTMB? No, of course not. They are different races altogether, as in apples and oranges. But it's still a challenging course between 9,200-12,600 feet, with a double crossing of a legit mountain pass that will eat your lunch if you're not prepared for it. So, I think it's just ridiculous to describe Leadville as "flat." If it's so flat, why have so many great mountain runners struggled there when you look at their times at other races versus their time(s) at Leadville? Should I name some of these great runners?

Finally, a word on Kilian Jornet's new course record at Hardrock (full post-race coverage here). It's easy to cheapen Kilian's amazing career on the grounds that he's probably the richest ultrarunner (in terms of sponsorship support) on the planet thanks to his relationship with Salomon. That's the world we now live in--cheapen and marginalize the accomplishments of the successful ones. Some describe him as the "Tiger Woods" of ultrarunning, which I see as a compliment and veiled insult. Fact is, he obliterated Kyle Skaggs' course record and clearly did so with time to spare. This was a great performance and my suspicion is that his course record will stand for a long time. So, as much as I was rooting for Scott Jaime, who finished fifth overall and, to me, is someone I can identify with much easier than a dude like Kilian (although Scott is way faster than I am), I'm really happy for Kilian. He seems like a good guy and I love his passion for the mountains and his bond with other runners (during his Hardrock course record, he stopped a few times to take photos of the scenery and wait for Julien Chorier). Hats off to the great Spaniard; he's a mountain running legend.

(By the way, does anyone in the sport have a cooler name than Julien Chorier? That dude has a badass name.)

Here's a great video of Kilian, Timmy Olson, Chorier and Dakota Jones descending Grant Swamp. Watching Kilian go down the mountain, I just don't know what to say. Except wow.


Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Leadville Trail Marathon Report

Saturday marked my fifth Leadville Trail Marathon. It seems like yesterday when, one Saturday in early July 2010, I lined up in front of the Sixth Street Gym full of excitement as I was about to take on my first Leadville race.

The scene on Saturday morning was exciting. The marathon kicks off of the annual Leadville Race Series, which includes the always-competitive Leadman and Leadwoman competition. I can't possibly describe the excitement I felt as I drove into town for the race, knowing I'd not only run an awesome race but also camp out at 10,000 feet above sea level.

One might look at my result on Saturday and mistake it for a "bad race," especially given my time last year of 4:19 (which placed me 12th overall). Here's how the numbers on Saturday shook out:
  • 5:04:51
  • 55th overall out of 434 finishers
  • 6th 40-49 male out of 104
The plan going into Saturday was an 80% effort. That's what my coach and I both determined would be the soundest approach. An 80% effort would allow me to train through the race and also do something productive the next day in Leadville (like run up Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass and back, which I did). At my age, I can't afford to "race" every race; I need to pick my battles. So, this was about a long run at elevation. As my coach often says to me, "keep your eyes on the prize (August)!"

On the week, I got to 80.1 miles and logged almost 12,000 feet of vertical. So, it was a good week and the Leadville Trail Marathon and my Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass adventure the next day helped get me there.

A few thoughts on the race itself. First off, because of the deep snowpack up in the mountains (Ball Mountain reportedly has six feet of snow on it), we ran a modified course.This modified course was harder than the standard route and threw in an extra 800 feet of climbing, to bring the total on the day to about 6,300 feet. My climbing was solid; where I suffered the most (no surprise) was running downhill. I also felt the effects of the altitude at times. There was a nasty climb from mile 20 to mile 21 that got to me a bit more mentally than physically. Still, because this was an 80% effort, I didn't worry too much and instead focused on good practice at elevation. I even helped a few other runners out, giving them Salt Sticks.

My fuel of choice was VFuel gels, water and Coca-Cola. Except for a few swigs of Coke, I was entirely self-supported. Looking back on it, I probably should have had more aid station fare, but I really wanted to test out VFuel. So far, so good.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well I did on the Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb and descent the next day. This is a critical section of the return trip during the 100-miler and it can break you (not even joking there; this section can destroy runners). So, it was good for me to hit this section while up in Leadville. I had hoped to summit Mount Elbert but I didn't want to tangle with the snow, so Powerline it was.

In summary, LifeTime Fitness did a nice job with the race. It was well-organized and the modified course was a great fix.

My next race is the North Fork 50K in two weeks. That will be more a race effort.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Kindred Spirits

"Many of the world's problems could be solved if we just ran trails together."
--Someone

One of the things about society today that is most troubling is our penchant for labeling people and creating divisions amongst ourselves based on things like skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, etc. My experience as an ultrarunner is a big reason why all this labeling and dividing troubles me so deeply.

Let me explain.

Errol "the Rocket" Jones
Last night, I sat down and read the most recent issue of Ultrarunning Magazine. It includes a gem of a column by none other than Errol “the Rocket” Jones. Errol has been a part of this sport for decades – since the early 1980s – and has seen it all, from the Western States Endurance Run and Badwater Ultramarathon to The Bear and many other iconic races. In his column, Errol chronicles the big changes that have taken place over the years (gear, nutrition, number of races, etc.), adding in the end that the one thing that hasn’t changed is the community aspect of the sport.

Almost any ultrarunner, especially those who have completed races of 100 miles or more, will tell you that the distance eventually strips you down to little more than the marrow of your very being. This would explain why at various times in races I can get emotional, especially when I think about my family. Sometimes I have long conversations with God. At that moment in time, you are a stripped-down, naked human soul moving over the land in pursuit of one goal: to finish. You’re surrounded by dozens or maybe hundreds of other runners involved in that same pursuit. When you have that kind of dynamic, all we see in each other are kindred spirits.

And when you have kindred spirits in nature, you have love, friendship and true community. This is why in our sport the best of the best will drink beer at the finish and trade war stories with the back-of-the-packers. In large part because of what we experience on the trail, we all know none of us is better than the other, whether you finished in first place or last place, whether you are black or white or some other “race,” whether you are from “here” or “there,” whether you prefer the opposite sex or your own sex, whether you're a "conservative" or a "liberal," whether you're a doctor or a drifter living in the back of your truck. That stuff is immaterial on the trail—and it should be immaterial in life. Alas, it isn't that way in the real world; that stuff creates divisions in families, among friends and among strangers.

Because of the many powerful experiences I’ve had in races, over time I, like probabaly you and many other ultrarunners, stopped noticing skin color, sexual orientation, political beliefs, ethnicity, etc. and started focusing on what’s inside a person. Because we’re kindred spirits, we look out for each other; we help each other out, even if that means giving another a gel or half of one's water; we encourage each other, even if that's at 12,600 feet on Hope Pass. Even as many of us are out there to compete and achieve a given result, at the end of the day this is about like-minded folks enjoying nature together while puttting one foot in front of the other. When you have that, nothing else—not skin color, not sexual orientation, not politics and, in some cases, not even one's time—matters.

All that matters is that we’re in this together, doing something we all love.

If only that were the way of the world in which we live. We can only hope.

For more on Errol "the Rocket" Jones, check out this podcast.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stretching the Limits

A lot of people have asked about my training, since I’m with a new coach. Without giving away too much info, here’s what I did last week:
  • Monday – 6 miles easy (did these on the treadmill as it was cold, snowy and icy outside)
  • Tuesday – 9 miles easy
  • Wednesday – 8x800 meters at the track (did each in the range of 2:55-2:57)
  • Thursday – 9 miles easy
  • Friday – 6 miles easy
  • Saturday – 33 miles via Waterton Canyon/Section 1 of the Colorado Trail (5,000 feet of gain on rugged trails)
  • Sunday – 10 mile tempo run (focused on finishing strong, with mile 9 in 6:39 and mile 10 in 6:40)
I hit a total of 82 miles last week.

That’s actually less quality than usual as I was still recovering from the Colorado Marathon last week and we decided to cut one quality session. Usually I do quality on Tuesday and Thursday, a long run on Saturday, and a long tempo run on Sunday. For example, this week (the week we’re in now), I’m doing track intervals on Tuesday, hill repeats on Thursday, a marathon-distance trail run on Saturday (24-28 miles), and a long tempo run on Sunday.

With 43 miles run over the past weekend alone, today is an off day. I’m not taking a step but may do some dynamic stretching tonight.

One thing I’m learning is that my focus is now on nailing my daily workouts and not on aggregate mileage as it used to be. In other words, I’m not paying attention to what my weekly mileage is or chasing numbers; I’m just trying to hit my workouts as they take a lot of focus and can be daunting at times. It wasn’t until Sunday that it hit me that I ran 82 miles for the week.

Another thing I’m learning is that you—and no one else—are your biggest obstacle to breaking through and stretching your limits. Not before Saturday had I ever done a training run beyond 30 miles, races notwithstanding. Over the past few years, my long runs have been in the 20-25 mile range. I’ve come to realize that’s too short. On Saturday, I stretched my limits. A training distance (33 miles) that had rattled my cage now seems doable.

And that’s not all. On the heels of Saturday’s 33-miler, never in a million years would I have attempted a 10-mile tempo run the next day. But my coach ordered it and I did it. It wasn’t easy, but after 5 miles things loosened up and I felt pretty good actually. It’s in workouts like these that you learn something about yourself. Today, as I rest and recover, I can look back on last week and know I put in a good one. And I'll feel the same way in a few weeks when I take a step-back week to recharge.

So far, all systems go.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Colorado Marathon - Just Another Day at the Office

Wow, what a great race. It all starts with Fort Collins, a gem of a town nestled in Northern Colorado right up against the mountains. Less than an hour from Denver, Fort Collins is the home of Colorado State University and many other major employers. Rarely will you find a town with such a bustling urban area--mom and pop shops, restaurants galore, walkable areas, bike shops, boutiques (if you're into that stuff), cafes, great pubs, etc.

The race started at 6:30AM but we had to be at the buses by 4:30. The ride up into the canyons took about 45 minutes and was relaxing as I talked with a runner from Albuquerque. The gun went off on time--always a good thing. After the start, it's mostly downhill via canyon roads for the first 16 or so miles, and then the course levels off, with a few little hills here and there. The biggest hill is at mile 19 but it's not bad at all. The race starts at 6,100 feet and ends at a little over 5,000 feet. The weather was mostly nice. When I finished just past 9:30AM, the temperature was probably 70 degrees and the sky was fairly clear.

I ran a 3:04:19, finishing 28th overall out of 1,086 finishers and second among the masters. In the last six miles, my pace slowed from about 6:50 per mile to 7:25-7:30. I didn't blow up by any stretch and never at any time was I "in trouble"; I just slowed down. I'm not sure why that happened because I did a good job of fueling; it just did. Fortunately, I kept running but at a slower pace and ultimately crossed the finish line proud of the result, especially given that I had not felt well all week and had a tweaked left lower calf. With a time that betters my Boston qualifier by more then 10 minutes, I am now virtually guaranteed a spot in Beantown next year if I decide to make the trek to the northeast (would be my third Boston).

Here's a photo my son took of me within a few steps of the finish this morning.

Yep, displaying good form, as always.

I'm still not convinced my days of sub-3s are over. I think I can break 3 again but it might have to be at a sea level race and it would need to be in the spring, when I'm fresh (versus the fall, when I'm usually a little hung over from the summer racing season).

This was my first race since last October--a 7-month layoff. I think it's really beneficial to take a true off-season. Too few runners these days take an off-season. It's the lack of an off-season, I think, that causes short "careers," burnout and chronic injury.

Next up: the Leadville Trail Marathon on 6/14!