Tag Archives: ultrarunning

Waterfall Run – Rim to river to river to Rim

We have a somewhat annual tradition of a running road trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving to be with family. This year we once again were able to put together a great run. Our original plan was an ~35 mile run in Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. After sending out an invitation to a group of local runners and friends, Roch proposed a run in the Grand Canyon that he had been dreaming/scheming of for many years. We called the run the Waterfall Run or Rim to river to river to Rim (R2r2r2R). Roch promised we would not be disappointed and of course he was right.

We all arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Saturday night for a chilly night of camping before heading out the next morning. Our route would took us from the North Rim, part way down the canyon meeting up with a series of waterfalls that we followed all the way down to the Colorado River. At that point we climbed above the Colorado River, traversed above the river then dropped down and then back up from the river on trails that are used by river runners. We then followed the next set of waterfalls down and back up the canyon before joining our original descent trail and returning to the north rim. We estimated the run at 30-36 miles and between 9,500′ and 11,000′ of climbing. I knew we would be on a slow pace since I have run less than 60 miles in the 3 months since Leadman as I tried to get healed.

Nine of us (Roch, Catherine, Walter, Matt, Sarah, Evan, Clint, Emily, and Chad) left out of camp at 7:30 for a day we knew would blow our mind. The run was fabulous that included steep rocky terrain, great runnable terrain, a couple great stream crossings, incredible views of the Grand Canyon absolutely every minute of our day. We had absolutely beautiful weather with cool temperatures in the morning, warm weather by the Colorado river and then cooler temperatures coming out of the canyon as darkness set in. The waterfalls were absolutely phenomenonal! One of our highlights of our run were viewing Condors in flight. It was an amazing time with friends and running – what a great combination. We ended up with a great 31 miles run with 9,500′ of climbing. Thanks to Roch for a fabulous run! We ended the night with a great meal and hanging around the fire telling stories.

Check out some of our great photos from the waterfall run and Matt Hart’s photos and video.

We continued our road trip for two nights in Sedona for a great trail run and road ride then onto Scottsdale where we had a great time with family, shopping, pool time, road biking, and of course we always run a double traverse of Camelback. We are excited to return to PC and ready to start skiing again and enjoy winter.

A Painful Wasatch PR

I was very excited for and had very high expectations for this year’s Wasatch 100. I had been training hard and had a good Bighorn 100 (100 miler PR) and really learned and practiced things that I needed to improve on from there.

I ran the entire Wasatch course and some parts multiple times over the last few months. Also, my long runs 3 weeks out were just short of the total miles I was planning but they were from 10,000 to 14,000+ feet in Leadville, CO, and included three 14ers so I felt like they were good miles.

I also spent a lot of times with determining my splits. I took my last year’s splits and chunked off time that I thought was appropriate. I run a little different from others in that it takes me a little while to “warm up” then I stay pretty steady the entire race. I was bummed that I was going into this race and would not have Chad, my number one pacer, with me on the course due to his back injury in Leadman but knew I had great pacers and would have him there at the Aid Stations.

     Start line with Amy Blackham

The race start was a warm and we headed off from East Mountain Wilderness Park in the dark at 5a. I always find the first 40 miles quite difficult. Coming into Francis Peak (m18.76), I was about 10 min slower than my goal pace but still 20min faster than last year’s time. I continued on through the other aid stations to Big Mtn (m39.6) and came in about 20 minutes behind my goal time.


     Running into Big Mountain

     Getting in and out of Big Mountain Aid Station

I came into Big Mtn feeling very strong. It was great to see Chad, Anny, Emily S, and to pick up Ann to run with me through the next 13.5 miles of the journey. It was pretty hot but I was keeping ahead on my eating, drinking, electrolytes, etc. This section went really quickly as I had great company and I know this section very well. I’ve actually run the last 3 miles into the Lamb’s Aid Station about 15 times this summer and that really helped me on this section.

     Smiling coming into Lambs

    Fueling quickly at Lambs

     Heading out of Lambs – Chad informing Meghan how to keep me going

I had an absolute amazing number of friends at Lamb’s to cheer me through (thank you to Emily S, Corrie, Christian, Berkley, Mischa, Andy, Anya, Brooke, Amanda, Jenny, Kristin, Ray, and anyone else I may have missed). I had a quick stop to get some food and dry cloths and off we went. It was great to head out with Meghan Hicks as I knew she would be great for me and I was excited to hear about her recent UTMB adventures. We headed up Lamb’s and passed a number of people. We kept a great hiking and sometimes running pace up Bear Ass Pass then ran down the other side. We then fast hiked and even ran a couple times up the road to Upper Big Water (m61.68). It was one of my goals to get up to that Aid Station when it was still light out and I made that (rather than 3 miles earlier in 2011). On this section we were exactly where I wanted to be on my splits and made up time from what I had lost earlier in the race so I was super psyched.

It was just after Upper Big Water where my stomach really turned. At first it felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach and then kept getting worse when I was exerting energy. This race turned into nothing I’ve ever experienced where the uphills became very painful and the downhills were actually where I could pick up the pace and not feel quite as much pain – this is very different from my normal uphill strength even at the very late miles of big races. I also started trying everything to fix my stomach – ginger, eCaps, electrolyte Enlyten, energy Enlyten, real food, broth, coke, bars, gel, chews, etc. It was frustrating that I felt like I had these races “figured out” with what works for me but nothing was working. Meghan and I just kept the pace as fast as I possibly could without “falling off the fence”. With the fact that my stomach had never hurt as bad as it was now we had a couple serious conversations about not continuing at Brighton because I couldn’t imagine being in this much pain for another 25 miles (little did I know it would get worse). I decided that, because my legs were good and my mind was perfect, there was no reason to not keep running and hope my stomach would “reset”. I was also looking forward to running with Roch Horton and knew he would have the answer to my issues.

We got into Brighton (m75.61) at 12:32AM and Chad and Roch got some soup, Ensure, and hashbrowns into me, then Roch and I took off. About 3 minutes out of Brighton I threw up about 4 times. I was nervous about losing what I’d put into my body for fuel but Roch said it was OK, that we would replenish, and hopefully I got out of my body what was causing the issues. My stomach was a little better for a while but I still had to hold it back a little with the exertion. We were able to fly down from Point Supreme to Ant Knolls (m80.27) passing about 5 people so that was super and gave me good confidence. At Ant Knolls, I had some broth and coke and not 5 minutes later I threw that up too. It was a constant battle to put a little food in my belly and keep moving as fast as we could which was a lot slower than my planned times which was extremely frustrating. We “grinded” up the hills and ran down as fast as we could on the other sections “slaying dragons” whenever possible. We just kept plugging away at the miles while Roch pulled every trick out of his sleeve and my stomach did not respond to anything – it was so broken. We finally made it past the last climb after Pot Bottom (m93.13) and it was go time. I had made a promise not to leave anything on the trail and this was the time to push it to the limits. I know my speed wasn’t what it should have been but I gave it my all to the very best of my abilities. I only stopped to walk a couple seconds a couple times when I again felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach but when we hit the pavement there was going to be only running Homestead and sprinting to the finish line from there. It was great to see Chad, Ann, and Anya waiting for me to come off the trail and great to have Chad join Roch and I running the final stretch into the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 27:45 which was a half hour better than my last year’s time but it was still a bummer that my stomach held me back and I could not have taken more time off.


     Running in the last mile with the Master (Roch)

     Crossing the finish line

     Happy to be done

     Fantastic pacers

I feel good about my race and know that I ran as fast I as could given the circumstances. The frustrating part is that I’m not sure what caused my stomach to be so upset. I really felt like my fuel up to that point was correct as I was paying close attention to my eating, drinking, electrolytes and didn’t try anything “new”. A couple items that could have come into play were the high temperature, talk about some “bad water” somewhere as many others were sick. One item that I thought would do good but actually was quite the opposite is drinking a recovery drink with protein going out of Brighton that probably upset my stomach more. I’ve got some new things to try for next time and will chalk this up to a fluke experience and hope that it does not happen next time.


     Getting my 3rd Wasatch 100 belt buckle

Thank you to Ann, Meghan, and Roch for taking care of me and keeping me company on the course. Thank you to all of my friends and family who cheered me on in person or in spirit. Thank you to all of my friends that I train with and make running fun. My deepest gratitude goes to Chad for all of the support in training, every other aspect of my life, and crew extraordinaire.

Leadman – A Rough Finish

“That’s the mark of a great crew. When your masochism weakens, their sadism strengthens.” – Jim Knight

It’s hard to know where to even start, but that quote definitely sums up my race.  I love running 100’s and out of all ultra’s, they are my strong distance.  I have a great ability to suffer and just keep going.  I always know a 100 will hurt, but going into them, I always know that I can persevere and finish.  I was not so sure for the Leadville Trail 100 this year.  After 2 massages and a chiropractor visit, my back was not much better.  On Friday I drove to Aspen for what I called a full body reboot.  I visited a deep tissue release specialist.  It really felt like a full body reboot.  It left me sore, but I felt many times better than prior to ‘the reboot’.  This gave me some great mental strength going into the race.  Friday night was spent in the normal fashion, dinner, crew briefing, and early to bed.

I awoke Friday morning excited to race.  We were staying 4 blocks from the starting line and I was going to use this as a quick warm up.  I quickly realized on the way to the starting line that my back was not in good shape and I started having real doubts about running 100 miles. I resorted to my backup plan and took a Percocet and put 2 more in my pocket. 

LT100 Starting Line – 3:50AM

When the race started, I was not able to run at all.  I jogged the first 3.5 miles downhill and then resorted to walking with short bursts of jogging.  I was not able to run at all and the fastest jog I could maintain was ~10min/mile.  At the boat ramp on Turquoise Lake (mile 7), I was ready to quit due to the pain.  Since my crew was not going to meet me until May Queen (mile 13.5), quitting wasn’t an option.  I walked most of the rest of the way to May Queen arriving around 2:40 instead of my planned 1:53. I told my crew I was quitting as I was in severe pain and couldn’t imagine suffering another 87 miles and 24+ hours.  My crew talked me into continuing convincing me that my back could loosen up (it is not uncommon for me to feel crappy the first 12-15 miles of any long run) and that I don’t want to throw away Leadman quite so quickly. 

Emily Sullivan convincing me not to drop at Turquoise Lake

I felt moderately better climbing up to Sugar Loaf Pass and was able to pass many people.  Unfortunately, I was not able to run much of the downhill on Powerline due to the stress it put on my back.  I made it to Fish Hatchery (mile 23.5) feeling miserable, but no worse than before.  Since my stride was so screwed up from my back, I had to do some foot work due to already having sore feet.  I left Fish Hatchery willing to give the suffering another chance.  Similar to my experience around Turquoise Lake, I was not able to run the flats (especially the paved parts) and walked the next 4 miles to the Pipeline Crew Stop.  I sat down and said I was quitting and they should go climb Mt Massive since we are so close to the trailhead and I would sleep in the truck.  My crew (or sadistic crew according to Jim) would have nothing of it.  They convinced me that if I took poles, I could take the stress off my back and I would feel better. 

Brent & Emily convincing me not to take poles and keep going at Pipeline

I left Pipeline with poles and it definitely helped.  I was able to keep a slow, but consistent jog and the flats, gradual climbs, and descents.  I came into Twin Lakes still miserable, but for the first time, actually looking forward to moving on.  I kept moving through the aid station and continued on for the long climb up Hope Pass.  The climb went well and since climbing is my strong suit, I was able to pass quite a few people and was enjoying getting up high.  I only stopped long enough at Hopeless Aid Station to fill my bottles and kept moving.  The next 6 miles to Winfield went by quickly as I was meeting many friends and it was great to cheer people on and get cheered on.  There is a new section of the Continental Divide Trail that allowed us to avoid the horrible and dusty Winfield road.  The trail added about 2.5-3 miles round trip, but it was well worth it as it was a great section of rolling single track and I would do anything to avoid the cars and dust of the Winfield road.  I arrived at Winfield in about 12:40, one of my slowest 50 mile paces, but I was happy to still be making ‘relentless forward progress’ (a statement that had become somewhat of a mantra for me during the day), and excited to be picking up Emily S as a pacer.  As with all aid stations, I sat down to eat, drink, and hopefully reduce some of my pain which was now in my back, glutes, hamstrings, knees, and feet.  Emily S and I headed out of the aid station for the long slog up Hope Pass.  Emily pushed me just hard enough and we made the pass in good time and soon were on our way back to Twin Lakes.

Happy to be at Hope Pass, the 2nd Time

Twin Lakes River Crossing

The face of someone who has been in pain and miserable for 60 miles and 16 hours.

At this point I was just in the mentality of keep moving forward at whatever pace wouldn’t kill me whether it was walking or jogging.  Due to my messed up stride, many other muscles and joints were getting more beat up than my back.  My right glute and hamstring were in rough shape so Emily S gave them a good massage at both Twin Lakes and Pipeline (mile ~73)

This is how you know you have a GREAT pacer!

Emily S continued pacing me out of Twin Lakes and we had a long stretch to Pipeline.  To add to my misery, my stomach had also gone south.  Emily S had her work cut out for her in the next 13 miles to Pipeline where. We continued the standard of walking as fast as possible and a slow jog and were happy to see Brent and Emily B at the crew stop.  Since my feet hurt so bad I decided to try running in Hoka’s. I bought a pair this summer but had only run in them for 20 miles and had not liked the way they felt.  I usually wouldn’t try something new in a race, but at this point, I had nothing to lose.

I was not looking forward to the next 4 miles of road to Fish Hatchery.  I was unable to run it at mile 25 so I doubted I could run it this time – I couldn’t.  Since I couldn’t run, Emily S marched me at a 13:30 min/mile pace all the way to the Fish Hatchery Aid Station.  It always feels good to pass people who are running when you are walking.  Upon arriving at Fish Hatchery, I changed into my magic tights in hopes of helping relieve some of my knee and hamstring pain, filled up with food, had 2 Advil with a Red Bull chaser and took off with Brent for the next 10 mile section up Powerline and over Sugar Loaf Pass.

Brent and I set off on my normal pace of the day, but after about 30 minutes my Red Bull/Advil cocktail started to kick in and I started feeling better than I had felt all day (although just a lower degree of miserable).  I had trained hard on the Powerline climb and knew it was 3.2 miles and 1,600’.  Brent pushed me hard with happy thoughts of skiing powder and using good skimo climbing form.  We continued to catch racer after racer and made the May Queen Aid Station (mile 86.5) at close to my 22 hour goal split pace.  I made it through May Queen just wanting to get done with a modified goal of beating the sun rise (my original goal was 21:45 and I was now hoping to squeak in around 26:30).  I refueled with pancakes and sausage as I walked out of the aid station and had my best pacer (my wife Emily B) taking me to the finish.  I continued to suffer (sometimes worse than others) over the next 13 miles, but we continued to push and to pass people.  It was amazing as I was passing people who were 2-3 hours ahead of me at Winfield.  I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t feel any worse than I had felt the entire day so I was able to slow down much less than other people who were suffering.  Emily pushed me the entire way to the finish line.  I was doing great, but at 500M from the finish line my back totally went out and it was all I could do to keep a jog across the finish line for a finish time of 26:12.

My 2012 Leadville 100 was my second slowest 100 run, but I learned a lot about the power of a motivating crew and my ability to persevere and suffer. Had I dropped, I would have had a very long mental recovery for not finishing Leadman.  Having finished, I have a solid 2-3 weeks of recovery ahead of me, but I also have the extreme pride of being able to persevere and become 1 of only 124 people to complete Leadman with a total time of 46:26. In the last 8 days I have raced ~212 miles and I have learned a ton about how my body reacts (both positively and negatively) to this type of intensity and duration.  I am extremely happy to have finished Leadman and I am looking forward to a fall with no races on the calendar and lots of adventure running.

Leadman Hardware

Final Note: I can’t thank my awesome crew of Emily B, Emily S, and Brent enough.  Without them, I would not (and probably could not) have finished.  They had their work cut out for them with my back issues, but when I didn’t think I could go on, they kept me on track to become a Leadman.

Leadman – Silver Rush 50 – 2 Down, 3 To Go

I had plenty of nervous anticipation leading up to the Silver Rush 50 race.  After the massive cramping I had at the marathon, I was unsure how my legs would respond.  I had numerous good training runs since the marathon, but was still nervous.  I spent the week of the race getting out on the course to see the remaining miles and resting up as much as possible.  Saturday was the Silver Rush 50 Bike.  I went to watch the start and then back to see the finish.  It was great to see local Wasatch SkiMo team member Tom Goth come in 6th.  Utah took 3 of the top 6 spots. 

I have started the liquid diet that has been working so well for Emily for the last couple years on the day before the race.  So far after using this diet for 2 races, I have had great luck with limited GI issues while racing.  The challenge of the diet is that you are eating (rather drinking) non-stop all day, but you just don’t feel fulfilled.  Since a liquid diet takes a lot of planning in order to get enough (and quality) calories, I included my liquid calorie intake for the day before the race below.  The beer was critical as I really feel that it relaxed me and allowed me a good night sleep.

Race morning I enjoyed my first cup of coffee in 2 weeks, a quick bowl of oatmeal and was off to the starting line.  It was a cold morning (low 40s) so standing around the starting line left me cold, shivering,and worried I would not be able to get my legs warmed up.  Luckily as soon as the race started we quickly warmed up with the climb up Dutch-Henri hill and the fast pace the lead group set once we started running at the top of the hill.  I was feeling really good and the miles were clicking away quickly and I was running on a sub 8:30 pace.  I was ecstatic with this since my goal was 9 hours, but I knew I needed to go sub 8:30 for my overall Leadman time and to keep from dropping more places in those standings.  I was able to move in and out of aid stations in only the amount of time it took me to fill my water bottle and felt like I was being very efficient.

I reached Stumptown, the 25 mile turnaround, in 3:54, I quickly refueled from my drop back (new gel bottle, Roctaine powder for my water bottle, chugged an Ensure, and chased it with a Red Bull.   My calculated 8:30 split was 4:04 and I left the aid station at 3:57.  I was really happy with this split, but I knew I had a long way to go and had to keep it together.  It was a long climb from Stumptown back up to Ball Mountain and I settled in for a mixture of running and steep hiking.  I don’t know why, but for some reason after dropping down off the back side of Ball Mountain, I started to feel a little bit of cramping.  This was the exact same spot I started cramping during the marathon, only I was at around 30 miles instead of 21 miles.  I increased my Endurolyte intake and kept pushing the pace.  After circling Ball Mountain, I know I had 2 long descents and only 1 climb left.  I was worried about the final descent knowing that it would be a knee and quad trasher since it was a rolling 10 mile descent.  Everything went great, I had a good last climb and started the descent carefully knowing I had a long way to go.  For the most part I had been running mostly alone.  At this point in the race, I was getting passed by a few people who were very strong descenders, but also catching some of the people who had gone out too hard and were fading so I had figured that I was maintaining about 20th place.  In the final 3 miles, the wheels were starting to come off.  My left knee was starting to hurt quite badly, my sesamoid bone issue on my right foot hurt, and my quads were trashed.  I slowed more than I would have liked at this point (probably about 45-60 seconds/mile), but kept pushing it and was able to catch 1 more person during this time and pass 1 person who had passed me at around mile 45.  I didn’t know if I had it in me to ‘race’ to the finish, but luckily, it seemed like no one else did either.  When I knew I could finish in under 8:30, I was hoping to make 8:15, but I just couldn’t push the last 10 miles hard enough for that.  I came across the finish line in 8:24:45 for 18th out of 479 racers.  In my age division I was 10th out of 134.  I was extremely happy with my race since I was able to set a PR by over an hour, felt great for almost the entire race, and fought off the cramps when they started to rear their ugly heads.

I drove back to Park City after the race and am glad to be home for 11 days before heading back to Leadville for 2 weeks of acclimatization and training before the next 3 races of the series – 100 mile mountain bike on August 11, 10K on August 12, and 100 mile run on August 18.

Silver Rush 50 Elevation Profile

Final Silver Rush 50 Results

Silver Rush 50 Photos

And as part of a past post, here are some links to photos from the Leadville Marathon.

Leadville Update – Tour de Mt Massive

I focused last week on recovering.  My recovery seemed to be going slowly at high elevation so on July 3 I drove to Salida to get to a lower elevation for a day of recovery.  The lower elevation definitely helped and I felt much better on Wednesday.  I had a couple of great mt bike rides on Wednesday and Thursday, then ran from the Winfield road over Hope Pass to Twin Lakes and back on Friday with local SLC speedster Jay Aldous.  I was hesitant about the run due to my calves, but after 9 miles, the lactic acid seemed to move out of them and they felt very good.  Saturday I rode a section of the LT100 Bike course (Half Moon Road to Twin Lakes).  It was good to get out on the course.  I was hoping to see the entire course last week, but that didn’t pan out with  my recovery so I will need to do that on my next trip out prior to the races.  I will have a busy 2 weeks before the LT100 Bike and run as I will want to see ~60 miles of the bike course and ~30 miles of the run course.

The highlight of my trip so far has been Tour de Mt Massive with Jared Campbell on Sunday.  Jared and Mindy came through Leadville Saturday on their way to Silverton for Hardrock 100.  We hung out on Saturday, had a great meal at Tennessee Pass Café, then watch the movie “Race Across the Sky” which features the 2009 LT100 Bike.  It was fun to see the movie again, it had some great course footage to help bring back some of my memories from when I road the race in 2004, and it helped to get me excited about the race.

Jared and I wanted to get in an adventure run on Sunday.  Mt Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado at 14,421’.  It has 5 summits over 14,000’ on its 3 mile ridge plus another 2 summits over 13,000’.  The mountain truly is massive with there being over 1/2 square mile over 14,000’.  It has the largest area over 14,000’ of any peak in the continental US.

   Mt Massive ridgeline as viewed from the Silver Rush 50 Course East of Leadville

Jared and I wanted to hit all of these peaks.  Since we had the luxury of a car shuttle (thanks Mindy), we put together a route up the North Ridge from the Windsor Lake Trail Head and down the South East Ridge.  In total, our run was 11.5 miles and 5,300’ of climbing.  We were only on a trail for ~1.5 miles which made it a great run.  Since we both have races next weekend, we did the route at a very easy pace, not running any of the climbs, very little of the ridge, and keeping the pace easy on the descent.  The run turned out to be fantastic.  It was great to have a running companion for this trip, we spent a significant amount of time over 14,000’ which will pay us back for our races, and we got to do a full ridge traverse of Mt Massive which is looked at from Leadville everyday.

Starting at the ridge, we hit the following high points

  1. Point 12,875’
  2. Point 13,125’
  3. Point 13,801
  4. Point 14,169’
  5. North Massive: 14,340’
  6. Massive Green: 14,300’
  7. Mt Massive: 14,421’
  8. South Massive: 14,132’
  9. South, South Massive: 13,630’
  10. Point 12,381’

Here are some photos of our run.  Click here for full size images.

Chad at Windsor Lake.

Picture 1 of 10

Chad at Windsor Lake.

Mt Nebo Traverse & Loop

On Independence Day Emily S, Mindy, and I ran the 3 summits of Mt. Nebo and made a loop running back to the car on the Bench Trail. We put this run together very quickly: Jared showed us the trail on Google maps, we found a couple rudimentary maps and descriptions and decided to go for it and knew we could find our way as we are very capable women who love an adventure.

Tuesday night we ladies set out for Maple (to meet up with Brent) to camp and enjoy a nice night out under the stars and get closer to the trailhead for an early start. We enjoyed dinner and a beer at the campsite. We woke up to wonderfully cool weather which felt very good with the hot weather we have been having in the valley.

We hit the trail just a few minutes after 8a (elevation 6,670’). The trail up to the South Summit was a great trail but steep enough that there were very few runnable sections. There were also several sections that were super steep. After we made it up to the South Summit (elevation 11,851’) we proceeded on what we could see of a “trail” to the Middle Summit (elevation 11,814’) and on to the North Summit (elevation 11,933’) of Mt Nebo. There was a lot of scrambling and route finding in this section and we ventured a little too far down in a scree field between the Middle and North Summits which added some time to our adventure. The information that we read about this part stated that it would take ~2 hours and it was ~1 mile and it took us a little over an hour even with our bonus vert during this section. There wasn’t anything that was sketchy, just lots of places where we had to be cautious of every move as a slip could have big consequences. This section was super fun and challenging.

     Mindy and Emily S scrambling between summits

     Mindy and Emily S scrambling between summits


   Emily S and I on the Middle Summit with the South Summit in the background

     Mindy and I on the Middle Summit with the North Summit in the background

The trail down from the North Summit was very well defined and although steep and scrambling in a few sections the majority was very runnable so we were able to click away a few miles faster than the first 9ish miles up and across the summits. From the North Summit Trailhead (mile 12.32 and elevation 9,260’) we ran the dirt road for approximately 1 mile before we hit the Bench Trail. The Bench Trail is a 12 mile trail which would take us back to the car at the South Summit Trailhead. We thought this would be an easy 12 miles as we had read that there was only 800 feet of vertical gain (which actually ended up that from the Trailhead to the highest point on the this trail was 800 feet of vertical gain and the actual vert gain was around 3,000’) and we thought it would be a very well defined trail.

We cruised along for a number of miles stopping at a few springs and small snowfields to fill and cool off our water supplies. The hardest part of our run was miles 17-20 in which we affectionately named the “Magic Trail” because one minute we would see it and another minute it would be gone and we would have to search for the trail, see it in the distance, and make our way “cross country” to get to it. Once we hit the main trail we were able to run the whole way down back to the car (with the help of Emily S magic jelly beans for energy).

The whole day was filled with our expressions of gratitude for the perfect weather, wonderful scenery, and beautiful wildflowers, and excellent company.

This was an amazing run and a great day with fabulous girlfriends!\

     Gamin Connect route of the run

The Summer of Leadman

Ever since first coming to Leadville in 2004 to race the Leadville Trail 100 Bike Race, I have loved the Leadville area.  Not being an ultra runner in 2004, when I heard about the Leadman competition during the awards ceremony, I thought it was crazy.  Fast forward to 2008 when I returned to Leadville to race the Leadville Trail 100 Run as my first 100 mile run and I became very intrigued with the idea of completing Leadman.  After 3 years of running 100s, when we returned to Leadville in 2010 for Emily’s Leadville 100 Run, I was sold on the idea that I had to do Leadman at some point.

What is Leadman?  Leadman is the completion of 5 of the 6 Leadville events over the summer:

  • Leadville Marathon on June 30
  • Leadville Silver Rush 50 Bike or Run on July 14 and 15
  • Leadville 100 Bike on August 11
  • Leadville 10K on August 12
  • Leadville 100 Run on August 18-19

The crux of Leadman is obviously the final 8 days when you have to complete the 2 longest and hardest events as well as a 10K.

When planning my race schedule each year, I apply for Hardrock 100 and everything else revolves around ‘if’ I get into Hardrock.  With this year’s failed lottery attempt, I am not 0 for 4 at the Hardrock lottery.  Since Emily was planning to do Wasatch 100 again, I decided this would be a good year to attempt Leadman.

With the less than average winter in the Wasatch, I came into running season strong and fast from skimo racing.  I started training hard in April adding in more than my normal amount of biking along with my normal amount of running.  I have had some large training weeks with 70 miles of both running and mountain biking in the same week and had planned not to race anything other than the Leadville series.  This has made for a strange spring since it is now the end of June and I haven’t raced yet – I am ready too start racing. 

Training has been more of a sacrifice than normal.  Since the Leadville events are very runnable, not a huge amount of vert, and not real technical, I have had to focus on running instead of the fun adventure running that I like to do.  In the end, this won’t be too big of a deal since I will be done racing August 19 and have late summer and fall for adventure running.  In order to do as best as possible in the events and minimize my travel between Park City and Leadville, I decided to only make 2 trips to Leadville and stay for 3 weeks at a time.  Since house rentals were expensive, I decided that camping was my best option.  I will be in Leadville from June 25-July16 and July 29-August 19.  This will be a long time away from family and friends, but spending that time at altitude and being able to train on all of the courses, will definitely pay off on race days.

While I am in Leadville, I will be taking some time off from work, but will also be working.  My base camp has AT&T 4G service and the great guys at Goal Zero Solar set me up with a couple of solar panels and battery pack so I will be able to spend some time working from camp.  For the rest of the time, I will be working from the Leadville Public Library.

     Leadman Camp 1 – Half Moon Creek

     Leadman Camp 1 – Mt Elbert

       My Goal Zero Solar Powered Work Area

My goal this week is to get out on the marathon course to see all the trail at least once.  After the marathon on Saturday, I will be dedicating my time to the 50 mile run and 100 mile bike courses.

On Tuesday, I attempted to run the first 8 miles of the marathon course.  I drove up to the aid station locaiton around mile 8, then road my mountain bike back to town.  I took a couple of wrong turns on the maze of mining roads, but still ended up at Ball Mt so I had a pretty good idea of what the first 8 miles of climbing will be like.  I had a great run with a good afternoon thunderstorm thrown in for some extra fun in the high elevations.

     Leadville Marathon Elevation Profile

     Mosquito Pass (marathon turn-around) from the mile 8 aid station

2012 Big Horn 100–A Great Day for a PR

After running Zion 50 a few weeks ago I had a little anticipation going into Bighorn. I felt really demolished after Zion due to the intense cramping my legs went through with the severe dehydration (I already feel better a couple days after Bighorn than I felt after over a week after Zion). I figured out that if I’m going to go harder than I’ve done in the past I need to make up for that with increased nutrition and hydration. I took it easy for a week after Zion to really give myself time to recover and was planning on putting big miles in over Memorial Day weekend as a final training push before Big Horn. Unfortunately, the weather really got the best of this plan so I had a little bit of intrepidation going into Big Horn.

I had the confidence that with improved nutrition and hydration I could go out harder and the world will not fall apart. I took what I learned from Zion put together my Big Horn strategy. A large part of this strategy was to start the race harder. I have historically took it easy in anticipation of the long miles, time on the feet, etc. to make sure I “felt good” later. I decided that there really is no such thing as really “feeling good” so I might as well get as many miles under my belt before it got dark since I was not picking up Chad until mile 48 and it would for sure be dark. I knew that he would be able to push me at that point.

Kristin, Chad and I left for Sheridan Wednesday after work. We traveled to Bighorn the same way that Chad has done the past 3 years by driving half way on Wednesday night then just have 4 more hours on Thursday morning. That was nice and allowed me to have over 8 hours of sleep for a number of days prior to the race. I was so happy to be going into this race feeling perfectly healthy – no coughor sore throat and body feeling great (I definitely know what difference that makes)! On Thursday, we got into Sheridan, I went for an easy 2 mile run, relaxed, then went to check-in and medical check.

The 11AM start was really weird for me. We woke up at 7:00a and had almost too much time before we had to leave at 8:20. The pre-race meeting was at 9:00. I found myself uncomfortable in my flip-flops concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to put my shoes on even though I knew we had the drive to the start line and would have more than enough time to do everything I needed before the start.

Big Horn 100 Start

Since my plan was to go out pretty hard so I went out with the front pack. The run on the gravel road was fast and then we started climbing up the single track. I felt I kept up a good clip and focused on eating and drinking in this section. This race was very competitive – women wise – I was in 2nd place until mile 4 which I knew I shouldn’t be in but I was listening to my body. Suzanne and Missy passed me at that point and my goal was to keep them in sight. There were also a couple other women that were leapfrogging all of usduring this section. I came into mile 13.4 and Kristin and Chad got me in and out very quickly that I was able to get ahead of a few others that came in before me.

The next portion of the course was a great downhill, rolling, easy running. It felt good to tick away the miles. It was overcast and sprinkled on us a little bit so the weather was absolutely perfect. The wild flowers were blooming and the colors were spectacular. There is a steeper downhill then short up to the Footbridge Aid Station at mile 30. I was feeling great. I switched out my waist pack for my new UltraSpire Kinetic pack. This was my first significant run in this pack and I loved it with all of the pockets that are so easy to access and so comfortable.

Running into Footbridge Aid Station

I headed out with warmer cloths and lights. I put on my arm warmers and gloves on around mile 40. The section before Porcupine was swampy, muddy, wet, and snowy which slowed me down a little bit. I kept anticipating the front runners heading back down towards me. I saw Mike Foote when I was around mile 42. It was fun seeing people on their way back and knew I’d be one of those soon. I saw Suzanne and David heading out 0.2 miles from the Aid Station. I got in and out of Porcupine as fast as I could as it was very cold and I really wanted to keep moving. I was 5th place woman at this point.

This next section was one of the toughest for me. It was a lot downhill but for some reason I just couldn’t run downhill. Chad tried to coach me in my form to get moving faster but for some reason I was struggling to a great extent making that happen. I also had issues with rolling my ankles which I did again and again. I would have to shake it out then keep moving as quickly as possible. This section only took me about 10 minutes less going down than going up (and it is a 4,000’ net descent) which tells you how absolutely slowly I was moving. It was incredibly frustrating. Chad and I got into Footbridge and I got some food in me, grabbed my poles, switched headlights, dropped some cloths, and took off.

I took off doing one of the things that I’m most strong in – power hiking uphill (I’m even better when I’m tired). I really focused on the fact that I struggled on the downhill so I really needed to make up some time on the uphill. I pushed myself as much as I possibly could on the uphills and found that I was running a little better on the downhills. The sunrise in this section was so beautiful!


Sunrise on the climb to Bear Camp Aid Station

We smelled the bacon at Cow Camp before we got there. When we got there Chad handed me a piece of bacon. I didn’t know if I could stomach it but I made myself eat it and my stomach felt better right away. We quickly left the aid station with a few more pieces of bacon and homemade chocolate chip cookies (I didn’t try it, but Chad said bacon, chocolate chip cookies are awesome when you haven’t slept in 25 hours). It must have been the fat that coated my stomach and made me feel better.


Running towards Cow Camp Aid Station in the early morning

As we headed up the long ascent into Dry Fork we could see a number of people in front of us including two women. David and Suzanne were right ahead of us and we waved to David. When I got into Dry Fork I quickly took a bathroom break and changed my shoes and socks. Suzanne and I were in the Aid Station together and it was great to see her looking so strong. She and David left just a minute before Kristin and I did.


Running into Dry Fork Aid Station

Kristin and I headed up the road and were able to jog quite a bit of the first section. Right as the trail got a little steeper downhill I lost my downhill legs again. I can’t even profess how frustrated I was looking down at my watch and seeing a 16 minute mile and I was “running” downhill. I couldn’t believe it. There was absolutely no reason why my legs could not run this terrain. What made it instantly worse is that the 50k racers started to pass us on this single track. So not only was I not moving as fast as I should be able to but others were passing and shooting down the train and would be out of sight in minutes. It also took time to move off the trail many, many times while people were passing which I felt took extra time. After a few rolling miles and some frustrating descents, we hit the gravel road and I was able to take off again. I ran almost the entire 5 miles of road with just a few very short walking breaks – even running the uphill sections. This section was super hot and I couldn’t wait to be done. This was a good section because many people passing express that they are impressed at the 100 mile racers. I was passing a lot of 50kers at this time and as I passed one guy who was walking I had to ask him if he was really going to let a 100 miler pass him. That was all it took for him to take off running (he later found me at the finish line and thanked me for getting him going). Even though I was moving really well this last part was tough on me mentally because I was totally set up for a under 26 hour finish and I was not able to meet that due to troubles descending. Kristin was doing major math to see what I could do I decided to just push as fast as I could at that point – while not falling apart – and try to be as much below 26:15 as I possibly could. I crossed the finish line at 26:11:44. It felt so good to be done.


The Finish

It was great to see Suzanne and hear about her fantastic finish of 25:46. Kristin and Chad got my calf sleeves, socks, and shoes off and I went straight into the river to sit down. The cold water felt so good on my legs. We enjoyed the beautiful afternoon watching other runners come into the finish line for a few hours. We then returned to Sheridan for a much needed shower and a now traditional Sheridan great Mexican meal (a margarita is always good after a 100 mile race and it’s always good to feel well enough to want one).


Recovering at the Finish Line

Sunday morning we attended the pancake breakfast and awards the next morning. I was happy to accept the rock prize for 3rd place woman in my age category (behind Darcy Africa and Suzanne).


The Wasatch Contingent – 2 of the 4 top women!

All my thanks to Chad and Kristin for all that you did for me crewing and pacing. Just knowing you both are there either at the aid stations or beside me on the trail made me feel so much more at ease so I could focus on just racing and not gear, food, etc.

I will spend the next 2+ months getting ready for Wasatch100 focusing on fast downhill running, strong uphill hiking, core and strength work, and continuing with the speed work and running that I’ve been incorporating all spring.

For full size images, view the Big Horn Photo Gallery.

The Land of Zion–Zion 50 Race Report

Due to the lack of snow and my early races I started out my race training earlier this year than previous years. I was still feeling strong after all the fall running that I did (Coyote, Zion traverse, etc.) and the SkiMo racing over the winter. I planned my training schedule for the Zion 50 with a very determined goal time in mind. I trained on fast, rolling hills where I worked on running the majority of each training run – even running the hills as often as possible. I also had a great training partner, Emily S, who did a fantastic job in helping me increase my speed and was a great training partner. I, in turn, had the privilege of helping Emily S with her training schedule and getting her head wrapped around her first 50 mile race.

Since we were both running the race we decided to make it a weekend and invite our guys to join us. We left first thing Friday morning in order to get to Springdale and enjoy the afternoon. On Friday afternoon, we had a little bit of time to sit by the pool and swim at the Desert Pearl Hotel before we had to pick up our racing packets. The guys were able to get in a road ride in Zion National Park.

Saturday morning we were up at 4 AM to get breakfast and drive to the starting line in Virgin. We started the race at 6 AM in perfect cool temperatures.

Zion 50 Start

I felt great really pushing my speed for the first 4 miles. We then had a very steep uphill for a little over a mile to climb to Gooseberry Mesa. I love to hike those steep hills so that was great for me. At that point we ran the entire mesa which consisted of rolling terrain, slick rock, sand, and pretty tough navigation. Numerous racers got lost in this section.

I came into the first aid station and immediately noticed that there were a couple people at the aid station who didn’t pass me so I at first wondered if I had caught a couple people. The gentleman filling my water bottle let me know that this was mile 20. I then asked him if he meant 21.33 (what my Garmin was reading) and he said no and that I must have gotten some bonus miles. That was confirmed when I talked to Chad just before the 27 mile aid station and he let me know that there were 3 girls that got ahead of me when I was “off track” and now I was in 6th place (of women). Between miles 27 and 41 I pushed it to catch the 3 women. I passed 2 and then finally caught the 3rd at the 41 mile aid station. I left before she did but she quickly caught and passed me.

Descending from Little Creek Mesa


Descending from Little Creek Mesa

I was on track for my goal to finish in under 10 hours until mile 44.9 (mile 47 on my) when I totally melted with what was a combination of dehydration, heat exhaustion (90+ degrees), and probably some nutrition issues. Luckily Chad was with me at that point and had to help me walk into that aid station. I was pretty scared about how my body was reacting to these conditions and at that point didn’t think I could continue the race. I sat at the aid station and tried to get a lot of calories, liquid, and get cooled off. The aid station had water misters which were a savior. The cramping and the lightheadedness took a while to decrease. After a 2 hour recovery, I was finally get up and jogged the 4.8 miles to the finish. It was still a PR for me but definitely not as good as I was hoping for. I really think I might have pushed too hard in the beginning which is actually a big accomplishment for me as I’m not usually mentally able to do that.

Zion 50 Finish

At the end of the race, I was 10th woman in 11:46. Emily S was able to win the women’s division in her first ever 50 mile race. I am so proud of her for this.

Emily Sullivan – Zion 50 Women’s Winner

The Zion race crew did a great job at the finish. They had a shower that you could stand under as you crossed the finish line which was absolutely heavenly. There was a live band and it took place at a lovely park and great food (so I was told – my stomach was not quite right to eat yet).


Feet in tough shape from the heat and swelling

We spent Sunday morning sitting by the pool while Chad went on a road ride. Then Brent and Emily S took us to a great climbing spot in Zion Park. We hiked in about a ½ hour in and I watched Brent, Emily S, and Chad climb (my blisters would not let my feet into climbing shoes). It was an awesome wall with large hueco’s for holds. Brent climbed a beautiful 5.12a called Namaste and the rest of them climbed Half Route a fun 5.10+

Brent leading Half Route


Chad climbing Half Route


We then hiked back to the car and enjoyed a couple beers in the warm desert sun before driving home.

It was a great weekend spent racing and with friends.

Relaxing with a beer at the end of the weekend.


More photos can be viewed in the Zion photo gallery.