Sunday, August 24, 2008

Running with a Legend

In 1982 and 1983 Rob Landis won the Wasatch 100. He was the first person to complete the course in 24 hours. Since then he has set mountaineering records in several states of the American West and recently became the Outdoor Program Director at The Community School in Sun Valley, ID. This happens to be the school at which I currently work.

So, it is not surprising that Rob and I found each other.

Last year I had the honor and privilege to pace Rob (wearing bib #1) to an outstanding 11th place finish at Wasatch on the 25th anniversary of his first victory there. The experience was inspiring and humbling to me and got me thinking about what it would take to win the race like he did those many years ago.

Fast forward to last week. I was in Rob's office discussing the logistics for our upcoming Fall Campout. A three day period during which we take 215 kids in 14 groups out in to the Idaho backcountry for a three day backpacking experience. Rob, in his characteristically understated way, assured me that he had everything under control and then pulled out a map. I, in turn, began to freak out.

"I was thinking we could go for a run this weekend. I know you're tapering for Wasatch and this might be perfect." Rob said.

"Hmmm" I muttered, non-commitally and all that, "Sounds good. What do you have in mind."

Well, one thing led to another and at 5:30 AM this morning Rob and I met in the school parking lot. We drove out to Copper Basin (7,800 ft) and begin a truly outstanding run through the Pioneer Mountain Range of Central Idaho. We ran by five incredible alpine lakes (two of which were over 10,000 feet) we summitted Stanhope Peak (11,875 ft.) and then, just because, we threw in another trip up over 11,000 ft. to take a look over in to Surprise Valley. Needless to say, the 4,000 foot descent back to the car after that was excellent quad seasoning for Wasatch and made me think, "I love this guy!"

With that, inspired and motivated, I am ready to start school and gear up for Wasatch. Inspired and motivated by the likes of Rob Landis who wouldn't be?!

Train well, my friends.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Wasatch Training

Over the last week I was lucky enough to get onto the Wasatch course for four solid days of training before settling in to the start of school here in Sun Valley.

On the first day I drove up to Lamb's Canyon and ran over Bear Ass Pass and back. The trail was in good condition and the climbing was stout. As usual, I felt myself thinking how great it would be if I felt this good on race day.

Day 2 I drove up to Brighton and ran over to the Upper Big Water Aid Station and back. This is a section that has haunted me ever since the race in 2006 and I spent quite a bit of time on the first half of the run checking intermediate splits and analyzing some of the more intricate sections of the course. On the return trip (in the direction of the race) I concentrated on keeping my effort under control and hitting the splits I thought I could. Again, the trail here was pretty buffed out due to all the mountain bike traffic and I think, if I play my cards right, I could make up some time on this section during the race.

On Day 3 I started again from Brighton and ran Tempo Pace to Pole Line Pass. The goal here was to set a hard standard for this section so that the slower pace on race day would feel respectable. I know it sounds strange but if I have run a section of a course hard in training it somehow helps me mentally go slower and be OK with it on race day. So, on this section I got to Point Supreme in :41, Ant Knolls in :58 and Pole Line in 1:30. That was sweet! Then, on the return trip I enjoyed the scenery, ran The Grunt out-and-back twice, and generally just enjoyed a relaxed hang out pace. I threw in a trip up to the top of Sunset Peak at the end of the run to get a little more altitude (I think that peak is around 11K)

On the 4th day I broke camp early to join Roch and his buddy Dave at Brighton for a Brighton to the Finish classic. After dealing with the car shuttle we started off over Catherine's shortly before 7AM. My goal was to run about 15% faster than 21 hour race splits and enjoy the company on the trails. I also wanted to test my now tired legs against the crux of the course. We nailed Catherine's in :45 and hit Ant Knolls in 1:03. We pulled into the dust bowl of Pole Line in 1:42 and made it to Rock Springs in 2:30. Then it was time for the toughest section of the course, "Irv's Torture Chamber". I was ready for the pain and agony of the Dive and the Plunge and the other descent that really deserves a name and it was, indeed, real pain. However, the trail seems to be settling in and if I am ready to take some risks on race day I may be able to match our split of 1:25 from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom. The hike/run in from Pot Bottom was great and we nailed the entire thing in 5:20. Of course, 6:20 would be great on race day but it was nice to go with the flow on this day.

Sitting in the shade at the Homestead with Roch and Dave post-run made me think about how great it is to be able to do this thing we call ultrarunning. I also reveled in the fact that I had enjoyed a solid long weekend of training without feeling totally wiped out. At this point, with some fine tuning at altitude and a few tempo/speed/hill workouts, I just may be able to take a stab at the Master's Record my friend Leland set years ago. A worthy goal, indeed!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


August is the time to recharge. After Vermont and two weeks relaxing on Cape Cod I am back in Idaho and feeling good. It's time. The last few weeks have been filled with family time and school planning and now I feel like I am in the home stretch of summer. That's good. It's always a bittersweet time for me as I know I will miss the time for training but also get psyched up as the new school year approaches. As this will be my third year here in Sun Valley I feel more comfortable going in to the new year.

As for the training, it's certainly time to do some hard work to get ready for Wasatch. With Mr. Skaggs on the entrants list the race is shaping up to be a great race for second place. But, nonetheless, I still need to do the work. In the next few weeks I hope to get some quality runs on the Wasatch course and spend significant time in the high country here in the Wood River Valley. It's actually the best time of year to get up into the Sawtooths and Pioneers (at least, if you like to go there when there's no snow!) I am also looking forward to connecting with old friends at the Outdoor Retailer Show in SLC this weekend.

So, all in all, life is good. These are the Dog Days of August and a great time for big miles.