Friday, October 27, 2017

Superior 100 Race Report

2017 Superior 100 

Pre race photo - Ian Corless
Me and the crew boss. Photo - Jen

Me: Any sections that are particularly difficult? Dan: No. It’s just relentless.

That was the abbreviated version of a text conversation I had a few weeks before the race with a friend who lives in MN and has run Superior. Not surprising given the motto of the race is ‘Rugged, Relentless and Remote’. More on this later, but needless to say it’s a spot on description of the race.

The photo below sums up my race day. Yes, it was indeed Rugged and Relentless!

The finish. Photo- Jen

The Superior 100 has been on my short list of races to run ever since I finished my first 100 (Wasatch) in 2010. Superior is often on the same weekend as Wasatch and a few weeks before the Bear, so it has always eluded my schedule.  It’s one of the original 100 mile trail races and sports some 21,000 feet of elevation gain almost entirely on single track. Check out photos here!

I purposely didn't race too much this summer so I wouldn't have a lot of post-race recovery time. I ran the Antelope Island 50k in March, Squaw Peak 50 mile in June, and the Mid Mountain Marathon in August. I had a really good time training through the spring and summer, getting quality workouts and long runs in. I knew that even with 21, 000 feet of elevation gain that there was going to be a lot of runnable terrain so the last few months I focused on sustained running workouts. I stayed healthy and by August I was mentally and physically ready for Superior.

Race day started out sunny and cool, but that quickly changed to warm and humid (at least for what I’m used to) as the sun got higher in the sky. I knew from reading about the course that there was going to be a lot of water and mud, but for the first 20 or so miles I was constantly stepping in sloppy mud puddles. I was soaked from sweat, mud, and water! Despite the humidity and wet feet, I rolled into the second aid station where I saw my crew (Jen, Mara, my dad, and Kirk) for the first time feeling completely at ease and in a great mood.
Feeling good early on

Pretending to run in front of the camera
It was after this section that I started to notice how rocky and full of roots the trail really was. We got a bit of a reprieve from all the mud and water, but now I was soaking wet with sweat, and unlike what I’m used to, I never dried out. My shirt was soaked and heavy and my feet felt like I stayed in the bathtub way too long.

I slowed down a bit from Silver Bay to Tettegouche knowing that I didn't want to push too hard in the heat. I felt ok making my way from Tettegouche to County Road 6, but on the steep descent to the aid station I started noticing that the bottoms of my feet were getting tender and I was moving really slow and cautious on the down hills. I got to Country Road 6 where I changed shirts, got refueled, and took off.

The next section to Finland was gorgeous and mentally I was feeling great, but all the running and constant up and down without any real sustained sections was wearing on me. That and my feet were really starting to bother me. I arrived at Finland and sat for a handful minutes and probably complained about my feet and the course having too much running. I got up and slowly made my way to Sonju Lake.

It started to cool off here and that always helps my running, but I thought that it was only 4.2 miles to the aid and it was actually 7.5. Not good for my mental state. I grabbed a light and some food from my drop bag and worked my way to Crosby Manitou aid station enjoying that it was finally getting dark.

I was feeling pretty beat up at this point and knew that I just had to keep moving. My feet were getting worse and any sort of downhill reduced me to a slow shuffle. I got a second wind running up to Sugarloaf where Kirk and Jen met me once again. Kirk decided to run with me to the next aid station. It was uplifting to have him along.

The next few sections were really hard – it was so difficult to run any sort of downhill even though I felt good mentally and was having no problems eating food. The only recurrent thought that I had was that I wished the race, some 20+ miles still, was all uphill to the finish. I slogged my way to the last aid station where Jen and Kirk were again waiting for me. Kirk asked if I wanted him to run with me to the finish and I was excited that he would join me. Having him along for that last section made me push the pace way faster that I would have if I was alone. Towards the end we saw a few people presumably hiking up to meet their runners and it started making me nervous that I was going to get caught. So once we passed over the Temperance River, I pushed it as hard as I could to the finish where Jen was waiting for us.
Coming into County Road 6. I don't think we look to upbeat!

At least I have a dry shirt on.

I finished in 23:42:45 – good for 6th place overall. The second slowest I’ve ever run a 100 (only Hardrock has been slower). This might have been one of the hardest times I've had during a 100 mile race, although my 2 Western States runs might be comparable! I knew going into the race that it was going to be hard – it definitely didn't play to my strengths, which are long ups and down, but I prepared well and felt like I could run a good race.

In hindsight there’s not too much I would have done differently. My training was good and I had no stomach (thanks Electro-Bites!) issues the entire day. The only thing I should have done was to change shoes at 2-3 times during the run. My feet were a major problem starting somewhere around mile 40. I failed to appreciate how hard it was on my feet to be wet for almost 24 hours straight without any chance to dry out. Wet feet combined with the constant technical (rocks and roots) nature of the trail ate up my feet and it was just something that I’m not used to living in Utah. Everything dries so fast here.   

Superior is an awesome race. The course is beyond spectacular – almost entirely all on single track through the woods. This is something that we just don’t get out west. John Storkamp and his crew put on one most well organized and supported race I've done. Thanks! People were super friendly, volunteers were amazing, and crew access is second to none. I’m so glad that I had the chance to run Superior. There aren't many 100s that want to run again, but Superior has quickly become one of my favorites. I will be putting my name in the lottery again for next year! I’d like to say that this is a hidden jewel of a race, but clearly Midwest/East coasters already know what I only recently discovered.

A special thanks to Jen, Mara, my dad, and Kirk for all their support before and during the race.

Thanks for Fuel 100 Electro-Bites for keeping me fueled during my training and racing. Andrea and Michelle are great and have a unique fueling alternative to sweet gus and gels. Thanks to Altra for continuing to make zero drop shoes.

All photos without a credit came from the Superior 100 website photos

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer Running

I've spent the summer mostly just running in the mountains and getting ready for the Superior 100 in September. Besides a few local bandit races, the only race I've done this summer was Squaw Peak 50. I put in a good effort there - I felt steady all day and managed to put down 3+ miles of 6:45ish pace at the end to finish in 3rd place.

Thanks to Fuel 100 Electro-Bites for an excellent alternative to sweet fueling options. Electro-Bites are my go to calorie source for both training and racing. They have 2 new flavors coming out - Zesty Ginger and Cocao. I've tried the Zesty Ginger and it has become my new favorite (along with Salty Vinegar). It's very similar to a slightly salty ginger snap. The ginger flavor is fairly mild and not overpowering. I can't say much about the  Cocao as chocolate doesn't agree with my palate.

Thanks to Altra for shoes. The new Timp has quickly become my favorite shoe.

Here are photos from the past few months:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bear 100 - 2015 and 2016

The Bear 100 – 2016 Edition

Centerfold of the December 2015 Edition of Ultrarunner Magazine. Feeling good early on in the race. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer. Thanks to UR Magazine for the photo.
Before I go into the 2016 Bear, I need to recap the 2015 edition since I hadn’t posted anything about my run. I went into last year’s race with very little pressure or expectation on myself – I started the race simply to try and have fun day in the mountains and minimize any head/feet/stomach issues that might arise during the day. I wanted to stay within a relatively easy pace through Logan River (mile 68) and then I see how I felt at that point than then decide how my day was going to end.

It was a hot day and I was managing the heat well and running comfortably all day. Jen and Mara were crewing for me and I was in and out of aid stations quickly. After a long climb out of Temple Fork (mile 45), I felt relaxed and energized running into Tony Grove (mile 52). The next section to Franklin Basin (mile 62) is my favorite part of the course – It’s scenic and involves a little climbing, but most of the running is a mix of technical and smooth single track. I arrived at Franklin again feeling great and stopped for a few minutes to see Mara and Jen. Before I started the race I asked Jen not to tell me how many people were in front of me or how I was doing compared to previous year’s splits. But as I was leaving Jen told me the first place guy had just left the aid station. What? I asked how many people were in that group. She said, no, THE first place guy just left. One guy. That’s it. I was surprised since I was sure that there were at least 5 people in front of me. As soon as I left the aid station, I said to myself, I guess it’s time to start racing.

I caught the lead guy a few minutes out of the aid station and we chatted for a few minutes. I then took off at a good clip up the steep climb. The flight or fight response kicked in, my heart rated soared, and I was determined not to let anyone catch me even though I knew that there were several very fast guys behind me. I would push the next 35 miles as hard as I could with the assumption that a handful of guys were right behind me.

I arrived at Logan River (mile 68), downed a can of coke and took off. I ran most of the climb up Peterson Hollow and flew down to Beaver Mountain (mile 75) just before 8:30pm. I loaded up for the last 25 and told Jen that I feel great – food was going down well and my feet and legs felt fresh.

The last 25 miles were stressful and invigorating, yet they were uneventful - I was all alone with no one in front of me. I had no stomach issues and my body felt great. I had no idea how close anyone was behind me, so I just kept pushing all the way until the end. I finished in 1st in 19:01:07.

It was a special day for so many reasons including having my wife and daughter crew for me. 

Award ceremony with RD's Leland Barker and Errol Jones

The 2016 Bear 100

The Bear is one of my favorite races – The course is difficult with a good mix of big climbs, technical single track, some fast terrain, and unpredictable weather. These are a few of the reasons I’ve started the Bear for the past 6 years. 2016 was my 5th finish.

Just as last year, I went into the race with no other intention than having a fun day in the mountains. I was running sans crew this year as Jen and Mara stayed home due to the weather forecast, which called for rain, snow, and cold temps through midday Saturday.

We started off and once we hit the trail there was a group of about 10-15 guys that were in front of me. Within 10-15 minutes, it started pouring and wouldn’t stop until well after I finished the race. It was going to be a long, wet, and muddy day. The only thing I was focusing on was staying relatively warm throughout the day.  

Photo: Nan Schmid

Photo: Nan Schmidt

I took it easy all the way through Temple Fork and ran into the aid station with Ryan Weibel. At this point he and I were in the lead with several people a few minutes behind us. I was feeling good and eating a lot due to the cold weather. I grabbed a few things out of my drop bag and headed up the long sloppy climb to Tony Grove. I was climbing well and thought that I would put some time on the people behind us. As I arrived at Tony Grove (now just over the halfway point since the course had been changed to an out and back) Ryan was leaving and a few minutes in front of me. He looked like he was moving well. Another few minutes of digging stuff out of my drop bag and I was on the move again. Maybe 2-3 minutes out of the aid station the first woman (now 3rd overall) came flying by me along with several other guys who weren’t far behind. I guess everyone else was climbing as well as me! It was a super fun descent back to Temple Fork – We were running down in what felt like 6 inches of sloppy mud. 


Photo: Sunaad Nataraju‎
I got to the next aid station (Spawn Creek) and Ryan was leaving just as I arrived. I made the gradual ascent along the creek trying to run, but the mud was so sticky and heavy that it just didn’t make any sense so I kept up a good hiking pace. I got to the gravel road and looked back and the first place woman was a few minutes behind me.

I picked up the pace on the descent into Right Hand Fork and again saw Ryan leaving a few minutes ahead of me. Once again I saw the first place woman just as I was about to start the long climb up Ricks Canyon. She was the only one I saw, so I figured I had at least put a few minutes on the group of guys behind me. Again, I decided to try and push the pace on the climb to see if I could put some distance on the people behind me. This was the last time I would see anyone behind me. The climb felt really long and I managed to catch Ryan and his pacer Barry at the top of the climb.

We chatted a bit and made the descent into Cowley Canyon. We talked about how well the woman behind us was running and that we should work together to put some space between us and the rest of the field. I think I jokingly said that if it comes down to it, we’ll sprint it out on the last block to the finish line for the win!

Over the next 25 or so miles Ryan, Barry and I constantly pushed each other to move a bit faster, eat a bit more and not slow down. It really seems that Ryan and I were complementing each other – he would be moving a bit faster in sections when I was slowing down and vice versa. I’ve come to enjoy running 100’s without a pacer, especially at night. That said, the constant conversation of architecture, travel, kids, etc. between the 3 of us made the miles fly by.

We arrived at Leatham Hollow, stocked up and made our way up the last significant climb of the race. It started to snow and get frigid at the top. As we crested the summit, all 3 of us clearly needed to get down to lower elevation fast. I was soaking wet and starting to really get cold for the first time all day. We slowly made our way down the rocky, loose, wet, ATV trail to the last aid station. We stopped for a few minutes to get some warm liquids in us, but all of us started to shiver and decided to make the final 6 mile push of rolling Bonneville Shoreline Trail back to the finish. We didn’t say much and I think we all knew that we weren’t going to get caught. We simply moved to well over the last 30-35 miles for anyone to catch us at this point. We hit the road and savored the last mile or so before the finish line. Ryan and I finished as co-winners in 19:33:30. 

Final Descent. Photo: Bryan Schlinkmann
Thanks to Leland and crew for putting on such a great race and all the volunteers who sat in the cold and wet weather all day and night to support the runners.

Thanks to Fuel100 for their support and making Electro-Bites. It’s nice to have a unique non-sweet source of fuel. 

Thanks to Altra for shoes. 

Thanks to those who let me use their photos.

RD Leland Barker.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Carb BOOM! Gel Review

Carb BOOM! Gel Review

For me the true test of a gel isn’t whether it taste good at mile 20, but rather if I can still eat it at mile 85.  I’ve tried everything on the market and the only gel that works for me that late in a race is Carb BOOOM energy gels.  

I first discovered Carb BOOM gels in 2011 at the Mesquite Canyon Ultras in Arizona.  Since then they’ve become the cornerstone of my training and racing nutrition.  

Here’s why they work for me:

Ingredients:   The calorie source and composition varies from company to company, but I think BOOM nails it.  They have 27g of carbs (110 calories) of which 24g comes from maltodextrin and the other 3g comes from natural fruit concentrate.  This provides both a complex carb and a simple sugar in a 9:1 ratio – ideal for endurance athletes.  They only have 50mg of sodium, which I prefer since I don’t like a lot of sodium when I race.  This also allows one to use other sources of sodium (capsules) when needed rather than get a high dose of sodium with every gel.  Finally, most fueling sources on the market have 100 calories per serving.  BOOM has 110.  This might not seem like a huge difference and might not be for shorter races, but if one consumes 50 gels in a 100 mile race that’s 5 less gels you’d have to take to get the equivalent calories.  Ask any one that has run a 100 mile race – they’ll agree.  
Taste and flavor:  What first attracted me to BOOM was the flavor.  The flavor isn’t overpowering and actually tastes natural.  My favorites are Grape Pomegranate and Strawberry Kiwi, but all the flavors are great.  Fruit flavored gels are going to be sweet, but since BOOM is primarily maltodextrin I find them to be slightly less sweet than others on the market.  They also have a consistency that is somewhere between Gu (thick) and Powergel (watery). 
What I like to see BOOM do next:  In my racing and training I’ve been including a small amount of fat (~1-2g/1.5 hours in the form of MCT or coconut oil) in my nutrition plan.  I’d love to see BOOM add 1g of MCT oil to their gels.  This would make a ~120 calorie gel.  This would be ideal for me. 
Only the Orange Vanilla flavor has caffeine.  It would be nice to see the full line up of flavors with and without caffeine.  Not necessary, but it would be nice. 
If you’re looking for a great tasting gel without a lot of additives, give Carb BOOM energy gels a try.  They have free shipping and a variety and sample pack available.
Use code UPDMY4 for $5 off any 24 pack of gels.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fuel100 Electro-Bites Review

Electro-Bites Review

SummaryElectro-Bites are the most innovative, non-sugary, calorie source for any athlete looking for an alternative (or complement) to gels
I first came across Electro-Bites at the Zion 100k.  I grabbed a few packs and then completely forgot about them until I was gearing up for a long run.  I thought they looked interesting based on the ingredients and figured I’d try them out. Gels are great and they work for most of us, but I think every ultrarunner gets sick of them at some point during a long run or race – I know I do.

About midway through a 100 mile race I often crave salty foods – mostly potatoes with a lot of salt.  That works, but potatoes are bulky and don’t have enough calories relative to the volume of food you have to eat.  I’ve made my own salty/savory potato/rice flour/MCT oil mixture before, but it’s always messy and the consistency was something I couldn’t quite nail down.
During my run I finally cracked open the Electro-Bites and was completely surprised!  I thought they were going to be another sweet solid fuel, maybe something like a GU Chomp, but they were salty, had a subtle flavor (I opened an Apple Cinnamon), and unlike anything else I have ever tried.  Finally a salty fuel that had 100 calories and wasn’t impossible to chew!
I instantly thought how well these would work in combination with gels.  So for the rest of my run I would alternate every 30 minutes with a package of Electro-Bites and then a gel.  They go down really easily and if you have a little saliva (or water) in your mouth, they almost dissolve into nothing.  They are nothing like Gu Chomps, Sport Beans, or any other solid fuel on the market.  They are round (about the size of 2-3 stacked Cheerios – similar texture as well, but not hard or crunchy) and an entire pack can be eaten easily in a few bites.  One package is 100 calories (23g compared to a gel at ~40g) and has 190mg of sodium. 

It seemed like I finally found a fueling plan that could work for an entire 100 mile race!
After a few training runs I decided that I was going to use Electro-Bites (along with gels) as my main fuel at the Hardrock 100 (race report).  My fueling plan worked well and the Electro-Bites went down really well. I never got sick of gels and was able to eat (mostly!) every 25-30 minutes.  The Electro-Bite/gel combo will definitely be my main fueling strategy for races!  

So what’s the secret?  A combination of potato starch, coconut oil, a touch of agave syrup, and salt.  The coconut oil, which is a MCT, make up almost half the calories (about 40 out of the 100) and is used directly as an energy source by the body.  The potato starch gives them the slight crunch and makes up most of the volume.  The agave syrup gives the Electro-Bites an ever-so-subtle hint of sweetness that balances the saltiness. 

So, is there anything I don’t like about Electro-Bites?  Not much.  I found out that they are going to make the bites a little bit bigger, which will be nice.  You have to be careful not to crush them or they’ll end up all smashed up – not necessarily a bad thing as they are still easy to eat.  I personally like to get in 250-300 calories an hour.  I’d like to see a few more calories in the Electro-Bites - maybe another gram of coconut oil and a gram or 2 of agave syrup.  I don’t think this would change the flavor all that much.  Finally, although they work well for me most of the day, Electro-Bites were a bit hard to get down in the heat of the day.  I might just have to stick to gels for the hot stretches.  Other than that, they are truly an innovative product worth trying out on your next long run.  

I always give an honest review of all the products I use.  I use them because they work well for me.  Altra shoes fit my feet and are super comfy, CarbBOOM! gels are the best I’ve tasted, and Electro-Bites are the most unique, salty fueling source available.

If you’re interested in trying Electro-Bites use the coupon code ‘MICKTOLDME’ for a 20% discount on your order at the Electro-Bites page.