Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Beast of the Trail-Running East, Brian Rusiecki. Running TImes - 8/12/14.

Still catching up on some past articles.  This one lost a little bit of time relevancy over the past couple of weeks, but still nice to give a non-West Coast ultrarunner some press.  Brian Rusiecki is a super nice guy and I hope he does well at UTMB. 

The Beast of the Trail-Running East

Monday, August 11, 2014

Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Burro Race 2014

Two weeks ago we took a DQ at Fairplay.  Last week I skipped the Leadville 21-miler, not wanting to put myself out there that long with my current lack of endurance.  Between Fairplay and today's Buena Vista race though, I did get two short but meaningful training runs in with Yukon Jack at his home in Idaho Springs.

After that Fairplay result, I was probably more nervous than before.  Yukon Jack is strong and fast, and I didn't want a repeat of the Fairplay race where I lost him and didn't catch up for a long time.

At the starting line, I hung back towards the rear and only moved to the front just before the race start.  Yukon Jack got tangled a bit with someone else's burro and he delivered a kick to another racer's calf.  I of course felt bad, but couldn't do anything at that point other than move back 2-3 rows deep.  As wild as he is, I let his jack chain hang loose since he hadn't responded positively to that pressure.

Thankfully though we started at a reasonable pace. Yukon picked his way through the field in a somewhat dangerous zigzag and we were soon into the lead, and unlike last week, there without an all-out sprint.  We cruised down Main Street and hit the bridge over the Arkansas River first.

Photo by Caleb Wilson.

And then 5 minutes of absolute chaos started. 

Yukon didn't want to cross the bridge.  The rest of the field came up on us and forced him across.  He had a rough entry onto the bridge, wedging himself between another burro and one of the two steel posts that block the bridge to cars.  And then on the bridge, Hal W got sandwiched between Yukon and his burro.  He wasn't happy and let out a yell, but fortunately shrugged it off post-race with the "burro racing is a full contact sport" acknowledgement.

Just a few feet from clearing the bridge and getting onto the singletrack though, a burro or person clipped my heel and my shoe came off.  The entire field of racers and burros is trying to get across the bridge, and I had to backtrack a few feet to collect my shoe, and then get it, fortunately still laced, back on.  It was a pretty bad situation and we fell back to 10th-place or so, immediately behind George Z.

I was convinced that this was my typical burro racing struggle and that my race would grind to a halt here.  

George encouraged me to get around, thinking that I had a real shot at winning here, but the singletrack through here is dicey enough without trying to pass.  At one point, Yukon headed off trail uphill, I tried to spin him, and did, but I slipped and fell to my back across the trail.  Now I was lying underneath of David C's burro Elroy in a pretty dangerous position on the trail, considering how many burros were coming through.  I definitely recognized the severity of that position and got up right away, holding onto Yukon's rope the entire time. 

With a few aggressive passes, we gained a few more positions.

One veteran racer scolded me, "You'd better get control of him!"  It grated me a little as I actually thought I was doing pretty well - if I hadn't have held on at any point here it could've been real hell with Yukon racing through the field.  I yelled back the only answer I had, " I...AM...TRYING...SORRY." 

We eventually passed enough racers that we were in fourth or so and the lead three just stepped aside and told me to pass.  It was clear that Yukon was hell-bent on leading and they didn't want any part in blocking his way.

And so just like that, 5 minutes after the bridge chaos, and a few minutes after I was on my back on the trail, we were back in the lead.  And running.  After a few minutes, I looked back and it was Hal W and Pat S in tow.  A few miles into the race and it was already clear that one of us three would likely win.  With most of this happening uphill, I was huffing and puffing quite badly and my biggest concern was my ability to complete the race at this pace.

Fortunately the flats were enough for me to settle down.  Hal was really vocal and kept our group moving.  As he'd come up on Yukon, Yukon would pick the pace up to ensure that he always stayed in the lead.  Pat did the same and his chatter was enough to send Yukon into an all out sprint at one point.  I held on with both hands and weathered the storm until the pace subsided.  Generally, I needed as much leverage as I could get in these instances and never let Yukon leave my right shoulder, running side by side like that for nearly every step.

As we hit the turn around point, Pat and I began to open a small gap on Hal.  We hit some longer descents and sprinted pretty hard to increase our distance on third.  My legs and lungs benefiting with each downhill step.  Still, we stayed in the lead with Pat, in his Luna sandals, immediately behind.  He was incredibly encouraging the entire way.

Photo by Caleb Wilson.

Given Yukon's hesitancy on the way out, I knew the bridge would again be a tricky spot and indeed, for the first time in a long time, we surrendered the lead.  Pat and his burro crossed the bridge first and we followed.  He immediately started driving his burro hard to the finish, maybe a half mile away in downtown BV.  He was much more vocal than me, indicative of his superior fitness.  He went up by about 10 seconds and I didn't think that we'd be able to mount a charge.

Photo by Caleb Wilson.

But then I saw him struggling, his burro wouldn't stay on the road and kept going to the side, back and forth.  I ran a little faster, and then a little faster, and then Yukon sprinted to pull even with about 100 meters to go.  We edged forward, in a perfect straightline towards the finish, and won by a mere second or two.  At first they announced the finish time as 1:34, a new course record, but then changed it to 1:35 something, just over the existing course record, I think.  We earned a $1,000 cash prize and a nice wooden plaque for our work.

Photo by Brad Wann.

And so it was a pretty incredible day, enough to give me encouragement for next year, particularly the Fairplay 29-miler, the World Championships.  As always huge thanks to Bill Lee at Laughing Valley Ranch and Brad Wann for their continued help and encouragement in this sport.

Photo by Brad Wann.

Yukon Jack's earlier training partner, photo courtesy of Amber Wann.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Where are they now? Uli Steidl. Running Times - 7/31/14.

Where are they now?  Uli Steidl.

Matt Carpenter v. Uli Steidl at the 2007 and 2008 The North Face 50 really got me interested in ultrarunning.  I caught up with Steidl a few weeks ago, before he was a surprise 5th at last weekend's White River 50.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 Fairplay Burro Race 15-miler

Burro racing just doesn't get any easier for me.

In 2010 I was DFL in the Fairplay 15-miler, then 4th in the Fairplay long course in 2011, and then 8th (?) in the Buena Vista 12-miler in 2012.  I sat 2013 out, missed last weekend's Idaho Springs race, and showed up in Fairplay today.

Brad W, the burro whisperer, had Yukon Jack ready for me.  They said he was fast, the fastest, but they always say that.  I confessed that I wasn't in the same shape I was 3-4 years ago, but thought for certain I could get through a 15-miler with a somewhat agreeable burro.

I learned a little about Yukon's history.  They'd saved him from a trip to a Mexican slaughterhouse.  He'd spent some time at 2013 World Champion Hal W's ranch, but Hal found him too fast to race and sent him back to Brad W / Bill L.  And so he was paired up with me.

I saw lots of folks at the start, people that I didn't know were coming up saying hi, caught up with Jeff O, answered a ton of questions from spectators, and felt good.  Somehow Yukon figured out that the tube coming from backpack had water in it and I swear, he grabbed the tube and sucked on the nipple for a good 30 seconds.  I cleaned off on my shirt, but with the race starting in a few minutes, didn't have any option but to drink after him.

I did have a bit of a trouble with Yukon at the starting line, wrestling him around to get going the right direction - he is a Jack, he still has his balls.  His balls are bigger mine and he let me know that soon enough.

The race started and we sprinted to the lead, as fast as I could go.  I wasn't too worried, figured he'd calm down when out of town.  I lost him for the first time leaving South Park City, giving up on the rope to avoid hitting a train car.  That's should've been lesson learned, this boy is the real deal.  I took this as an opportunity to catch my breath - I was huffing and puffing already.  Yukon didn't have anywhere to run fortunately and was easily retrieved though.

10 people or so went by, so got back on track and he sprinted back up to the lead group.  I was again huffing and puffing, but hanging on.  Outside of town, maybe a half mile into the race, my bib came off of Yukon's pack.  I thought about leaving it, we were moving fine now, but it was right there, leaving it would be littering and besides, I needed to catch my breath again.  I retrieved the bib and started to put it in Yukon's pack.  I had the bib in one hand and Yukon with the other.  And giving him that room turned out to be a huge mistake.

I tussled with him for a few seconds, but he sprinted away from me and I had to let go.  He galloped up to the leading 10 or so racers, going the right direction at least, but got a good 200-300 meters ahead of me.  I yelled and one or two guys tried to grab his lead rope without luck.

Previously I might've been able to sprint back up there and gather him myself, but I was still huffing and puffing, heart rate sky high.  I jogged after him.  Probably the low point in the race came when George Z and Jack trotted by me - they were going faster together than I was solo.

The racers turned off the road and onto the trail.  Yukon followed them.  Single file on the trail, the pace slowed down and I was able to catch up.  I was within inches of Yukon's rope, twice, and once dove towards it.  That was dumb, I could've been dragged.  Thankfully Yukon sprinted away from my grasp then.  And so this went on for at least a 1.5 miles probably.

Eventually the racers went left to the inside of a fence.  Yukon went right to the outside of the fence.  Two bystanders joined the chase.  The racers cut further away from where Yukon was and he came to a stop in a fenced corner.  I got ahold of him without incident and walked back to an opening in the gate.  I knew the rules, I should've gone back to the half mile mark where we'd first became separated, but I didn't see that as an option and readily accepted a DQ.  I had my hands full and if I could just keep from losing him the rest of the race, I'd be happy.

We were in the back 2/3 of the race at this point, but gradually passed burros all the way to the turn.  One other guy worked well with me and with me in front of Yukon and he and his burro behind, we managed an easy trot for a long stretch.  I kept Yukon in line with my right shoulder and my hand on his jack chain just above his nose nearly the whole way - I wasn't going to risk losing him again. I caught a few comments, some veteran racers called Yukon too wild.  I didn't think so though, it was my fault he got away, and my fault I didn't catch him sooner. 

When we hit the turn, the guy I'd been working alongside kept going for the long course.  We were solo then and without company settled into a walk.  Someone we'd passed came back on us and Yukon wouldn't go with him.  Someone else we'd passed caught up to us and we had company for the return trip to town.  We gained back the spot we'd lost and led this group back to town.  Based on what I'd seen at the turnaround, we were maybe in 10th - although I'd tried to tell each aid station to call in my DQ.

And so we started up the big climb up to the road and back into town, just a half mile to go.  Yukon came to a good sized step and froze.  After a pause, he made a giant jump over the boulder, scared me a bit actually.  We were 80-90% up the hill and I stopped to talk to Jeff O here, we were just walking after all.  I still had Yukon next to my right shoulder, holding on to the jack chain.  Unfortunately this meant that downhill was to Yukon's right.  And he took it.

He pulled me down a bit and it was clear that I wasn't going to spin him back uphill.  I let go and he went straight down the hill, making his own path as he went.  I rock hopped my way down, expecting to spend two hours looking for him.  Thankfully, one of the racers behind, the third of our group, heard my calls and was able to grab Yukon's lead.  We made a second trip up the hill.  I stayed on the right side still, but strong armed him enough that we made it to the top.

And then we jogged into town.  We finished with a 3:00 or so finish time.  I again told them to DQ me.  We were out of the money though, so I'm not sure if they did or not.  My legs were destroyed.  I think it was the most fun I'd had burro racing though.  

I let Brad know how fast Yukon was, the fastest.  Apart from our early problems, he generally worked with me.  I'd race him again, but I think Leadville's 22 miles is too much for me right now.  Maybe, maybe we'll pick up the short course in Buena Vista in two weeks. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Checking in

July, a pair of anniversaries always fill this week.  Last Sunday marked three years that my younger brother passed away.  Thursday marked two years that my friend TJ passed away. 

I skipped the Idaho Springs burro race last Sunday then.  I don't think because of the sad memories - I was leaving a burro training run in Idaho Springs a few days before that race when I got the news three years ago - but I just didn't really want to do it.  I will be in Fairplay this Sunday for the 15-mile race though.

Last night I joined a small group in Boulder for a run, one that TJ used to love and always took visiting friends on as a Boulder showcase run.  It was good, funny, funny to see us all in the same lot.  I think apart from one in this group, everyone is only in their early 30s, but generally 10 pounds heavier and a lot slower than 4-5 years ago (the one not in his early 30s is nearing 40).  There was some talk that 6 miles was a long run, and that someone had only run twice in the last 6 weeks, but we still managed to close it out with a hard pace.  It just leaves the legs a lot more tired than it used to.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Speedgoat 50K Will Feature Frosty Competition - Running Times, 7/17/14.

Not going to Hardrock, felt like I couldn't really add anything to what had been said there, and wanted a female article this week.  So, just a short one, but a brief bit on Anna Frost going into this weekend's Speedgoat 50k.