Thursday, September 30, 2010

Harper's Time Trial

This morning I had the opportunity to run the Harper's Time Trial. It is a somewhat nondescript 2.3 mile section of trail ascending 1000 feet through the Idaho Mountains north of Ketchum. That, taken alone, is pretty ordinary. However, what makes this particular run extraordinary is its connection to the Sun Valley Cross Country Ski Team. You see, this run is the creation of Rick Kapala, the legendary coach of the Sun Valley Ski Team. For the past 10 or so years Rick's athletes have used Harper's as a proving ground in determining their fitness going into the season.

The list of names and times who have tackled Harper's is impressive. Olympians Morgan Arritola, Noah Hoffman and Simi Hamilton have tested themselves here as have members of the Norwegian Ski Team, collegiate Nordic skiers from across the country and countless other cardio beasts. Rick keeps meticulous records of the runs and everybody who tackles the trail has their eye on something. The seemingly unbeatable overall Course Record of 11:50 is held by Ben True, a Dartmouth grad and 3:40 1500 meter runner. Morgan Arritola, not surprisingly, holds the women's record of 13:41.

I headed out there this morning to test my fitness along with a handful of the studs on the SV ski team. We started at 1 minute intervals and redlined the entire time. I started out hard and just pegged my effort. In the end I finished it in 14:10 tied with Scotty Phelan and 25 seconds behind Torin Tucker (son of Montrail Founder Scott Tucker). It was great to get out there with some real athletes to test myself. In fact, I am thinking of going out there again in a couple weeks to see if I can break 14. As Pre used to say, "It's always good, once in awhile, to completely blow out the carbon!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

One of those runs

Have you ever had one of those runs that you just want to bottle up and save forever?

One of those runs that sneaks up on you when you least expect it and teaches you a thing or two?

One of those runs that, when all is said and done, reminds you of why we do this every day?

Well, I had one of those runs this morning...

The alarm went off at 4:30am and I quickly turned it off. All the usual stuff ran through my head.

I am not training for anything, I have a long day of work ahead, I need the sleep because I've just returned from a kid's soccer tournament, etc, etc, etc...

But, when the alarm went off again, on cue at 4:39am, I got up, padded my way to the coffee maker and started the pre-run routine. Before I knew it I had my shorts on, then my shirt, gloves, hat, and finally, shoes...I said to myself, "Just get the run in, at dinner you'll be glad you did." I headed out with no other goal than to get it done.

And then, It happened. Soon after heading out the door I got to the turn by the Y in 5:40 and the Highway Crossing in 9:20. I crested the Saddle in 12:50 and passed by the school in 15:50 (my previous PR was 16:00 to this point). I passed Sun Valley City Hall in 18:14 and crested the Dollar Mountain Hill in 24:10. "Hey, wait a minute, if I can keep this up I could PR the 9.3 mile Elkhorn Loop." I said out loud as if anyone could hear me. And, I got competitive with myself. I got to the turn to Elkhorn Village in 30:10 and crested the Big Climb in 36:00 flat. By the time I ran past the Sun Valley Reservoir I felt like I was floating. Through the cold, dark, predawn air I was moving totally and completely free. The rest of the run was a blur but in the end I PR'd the Elkhorn loop by 30 seconds over my previous best which was a full two years ago!

Does this matter to anyone but me? No.
Does anybody reading this care about my Elkhorn Loop PR? No.
Will this matter in my build-up to Western States next year? Of course not.
But, on this day, did this make me a better man? Absolutely!

Today's run was indicative and emblematic of what I love about running. No matter who you are, no matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how much you care and no matter who is looking, running, the sheer act of getting out there, makes us better. Running makes us better at who we are and running makes us better at who we want to be. In fact, for those of us who truly embrace it, running is who we are. And that, for me, is enough to get me out there again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grand Teton 100 Race Report

I have been meaning to write this report for several weeks but life has gotten in the way. In addition to that, something about the way this race transpired has made it more difficult to put in to words. That, coupled with the fact that I have just been getting through the day-to-day, means that this is a 17-day old race report.

But, for what it’s worth, here goes:

My family and I traveled to the Tetons for Labor Day. Jay and Lisa hosted us in grand style and the race promised to be a good one. Indeed, with 17 entrants it was not exactly the place to be seen and it wasn’t likely to be a barn burner but I knew it would be fun. After the first 25 miles I knew it would be fun, and stressful.

You see, Duncan Callahan was running.

Yes, that Duncan Callahan.

Two-time Leadville Champ Duncan Callahan.

Trains with Tim Parr Duncan Callahan.

Nordic Skiing, cardio monster Duncan Callahan.

27 year-old Duncan Callahan.

It was a “Scalp Fest”

After enjoying a relaxing first 25 miles Duncan and I fell into a stride for stride rhythm on the second ascent up Fred’s Mountain (2500 feet in 2.3 miles) and we began to chat. Life, spouses, races, Tony’s lack of sunscreen, etc…no topic was off limits. It was the best 2 miles of the day. Of course, on the way back down we got down to business and leaving the 30-mile aid station Duncan made his move.

By mile 35 he had a 3-minute lead and by mile 38 it was 6 minutes. He was clearly testing me, poking me with a man-beyond-his-years kind of pluckiness. Hell, he’d won Leadville 2 weeks before, what did he have to prove? I took solace in that thinking he’d come back. But, he poked on. And, I got nervous. Not scared, just nervous. The good kind.

By mile 40 his lead was 8 minutes and I couldn’t let him go. Cruising through Rick’s Basin I kept him in range and my boys told me that by Mile 50 the gap was back to 4 minutes. Comfortable. Patient. Relaxed. I began the third ascent of Fred’s. This was really a race.

Within 10 minutes I saw Duncan a switchback or so ahead. He was leaning slightly to the side and laboring. Not badly, but just enough to keep me motivated. I crested the hill one switchback behind Mr. LT and knew that the game was on…By the time Mile 70 rolled around I smelled blood in the water. I am still not sure what brought him back to me but the puddle of puke by the side of the trail around Mile 72 may have had something to do with it.

By the time we rolled into Mile 75 we were, once again, together. Stride for stride. 3rd place was 2 hours behind and the Course Record was in reach.

I grabbed my bottle, gutted down some soup and got out of there for the final ascent of Fred’s, hoping to finish that whole deal before sunset. Duncan took a seat on a chair and relaxed. I knew then, I had to go. My kids said, “Run the whole climb!”

By the summit I had a 5-minute lead and by Mile 80 it was up to 12 minutes. In the end it was 30 minutes but that does not provide an accurate indication of what Duncan and I did that day.

Yes, it was a small 100 miler.

Yes, by mile 30 it was a 2-man race.

Yes, we were not going to run 15:06, 15:42, 18:35, or 23:23 (epic times run by Geoff, Matt, Geoff, and Kyle) and yes, this race was about fun not glory.

But, we were going to kick the crap out of each other and get Ty’s record.

And, we did both!

I know Duncan has many more battles to fight and wars to win than I do. But I also emerged from this experience knowing that a 42 year-old guy can go to toe-to-toe with a 28 year-old guy and level the playing field a bit.

Also, I learned that, at the end of the day, finding the flow that is so much a part of this 100 mile game can go a long way toward making what we do meaningful, purposeful, and successful. Alone and together, that is what makes our sport transcendent. And, it’ll keep me coming back.