Video Interview with UTHC

I recently did a video interview with some people who work behind the scenes for Quebec's Ultra Trail Harricana. It was a fun interview covering a bit of everything, and conducted by two industry professionals who work for CBC as their full time gig. I hope you enjoy it. Here's a link to the full French version of their write up about it.

Just one error worth mentioning, when I was asked what my favorite running book was I said Born to Run and was actually thinking Once A Runner. Cendrix was on the same page as me and we continue to talk as if I had said Once A Runner as I'd meant to, which is kinda funny really. I would also like to thank Cendrix and Frederic for there time and commend them on such a great job.



Not Quite Ready to HURT

It's never easy to decide against doing a race when you are healthy and fit. Harder still is pulling the plug on one of your absolute favorite events that you've had nothing but success at.

It's taken me quite some time to come to terms with this, but I won't be lining up at the HURT 100 in just under one month's time. If you follow me on any training sites such as Strava or Movescount you've probably been thinking "what the hell, is he not posting his workouts right now" (I realize none of you are paying that much attention but let's pretend).

As a quick visual reference above, I gave it a solid shot upon returning from South Africa on December 1st, but by December 10th I was questioning my decision in pursuing HURT in such a close time frame to the Salomon Skyrun (the triple on the 7th is actually a double in which I stopped my watch early).

I've struggled mightily with motivation over the last ten days so I went ahead and got blood work done to ensure I wasn't facing any base line issues with ferritin (iron) or anything else for that matter. I received my results yesterday and my numbers were up across the board, as in it was the best baseline blood work I've actually had in many years, at least since I started training harder. I was kinda hoping for the opposite in which I'd be able to see what was causing my fatigue, and really in the end, that told me all that I needed to know. It's time for a break right now. Thankfully there are no injuries and no baseline blood indication of issues, so those two things are to be celebrated I guess.

Through further assessment I realize that I usually take scheduled downtime in the fall and then ramp up for HURT through a huge mileage push in December. The fact that I somehow hoped I could pull off one of the hardest 100km races out there in the Salomon Skyrun (a difficult 13h46m effort) and then turn around and tackle one of the hardest 100 mile races out there just 8 weeks later was a bit of a pipe dream.

The hardest part about this is that I'm confident I could show up in Hawaii and still have a very good, even great race, just piggy backing off of my current fitness. However, I no longer make race to race, month to month decisions like I used to. I step back, assess a year or more, and ensure I'm taking care of my body and my mind/soul/heart in all that I do. My mind needs this more than my body, and in the end the mind gets what the mind wants. You take the good with the bad and the strength with the weakness. There are a series of cheques and balances that need to be met, and I'm currently tapping into my overdraft. It's there, it works, but it's never a good idea to do so.

On the bright side, MORE WINE, MORE BEACH, MORE FUN, LESS STRESS...hey, wait a sec, why haven't I thought of this before?

Merry Christmas to each of you, I hope Santa is good to you this week.


4th Place at Rockyman Brazil


4th Place at Rockyman Brazil

I would say by all accounts it was mission accomplished for Team Canada at our first ever appearance at Rockyman Brazil. A unique format event in which teams compete for the lowest combined time. Six individual disciplines are contested by five team members, with any one team member competing in two events. As a full team of five you add one member (a steersman) for a six-man outrigger canoe race, and then you cap it all off with a team run over trail, sand and pavement in which all team members must stay together but the team is allowed to carry and use a skateboard as they see fit. Yeah, that's about as unique as it gets right.



Finding My Way, at the Cascade Crest 100


When I signed up for the Cascade Crest 100 miler it was with the full knowledge that attempting to run 100 miles just six days after directing three trails races over two days, plus a film festival component was never going to be easy. The Squamish 50 is my baby and I’d never do anything to compromise the race day experience, so I went about business as usual and waited until the show had concluded on Monday to take stock. Nine hours of sleep was what I’d managed over the three days of the race and in all honesty that was more sleep than I’d expected and right in line with what I was hoping to pull off.

The week leading into Cascade involved unavoidable daily naps flanked by pulling course flagging and attempting to tackle all the post-race logistics. Our very close friends Eric Purpus and Kelly Bolinger had rented a cabin (house) in the forest just fifteen minutes from the starting line of Cascade Crest and on Friday Linda and I drove down to Easton, WA. Around dinner time I realized I hadn’t run at all in four days and thinking that couldn’t possibly be good prep for running 100 miles the following morning I hopped out the door to run up and down the service road for twenty minutes.

“That should just about do it. Alright body, you ready for this?”

“Not at all.”

“Perfect! Nothing could possibly go wrong.”

Cascade Crest is a race that Linda’s been trying to get me to do for quite a few years now. The only reason I hadn’t yet targeted it was due to the timing surrounding UTMB. Having gotten sick in France last summer and failing miserably in my attempt at a top ten finish I was starting to wonder if it were possible to direct a high level and highly stressful event just a few weeks before a big goal race. Cascade Crest was an experiment in timing as much as a test of fitness and resolve. Given that the start/finish is all but a six hour drive from our door in North Vancouver there was little to lose, at least in terms of the financial investment surrounding international travel.

Race morning came early, though with a 10am start time it’s quite a civil environment. The CCC (Cascade Crest Classic) has a strong family feel to it, especially for us given that Linda is from Washington and has run the race herself before. The RD, Rich White was in Linda’s wedding party and most of the aid station captains and volunteers are good friends of ours. We arrived on site about an hour early and simply got wrapped up in social hour, which is quite pleasant in contrast to the stress that normally prefaces such endeavors. In hindsight, I realized that I only drank a few cups of coffee prior to the 10am start, as in no water, no other fluids and a very slight breakfast. Fatigue and dehydration were about to become the themes of the day.

That National Anthems were sung and off we went. A competitive field had gathered which included pre-race favorite and recent 2nd place Western States finisher Seth Swanson (15h19m!). In all honesty, my goals going into CCC were to shoot to better the course record time of 18h27m (Rod Bien) while also recognizing that barring injury, Seth was sure to better this mark himself. Secondary goals included shooting for sub 18 hours and attempting to be within fifteen minutes of Seth with twenty miles to go.

Go Time

After a few flat and easy miles the race climbs over 3000ft through Tacoma Pass. I told myself going into this race that I’d be certain to start off slow and easy and I’d successfully done just that over the first sixty minutes. Seth was leading away with Matt Hart in 2nd and myself, feeling comfortable in 3rd. A pack of runners including Phil Shaw (former winner), Jeff Hashimoto and Andy Reed trundled along just behind us.

Two and a half hours passed without issue. I’d let Seth and Matt pull away slightly as I stuck to my “take it out super easy strategy” and I found myself running alone in 3rd. We started into what appeared to be our first sizeable descent and it was evident very quickly that things were off, way off. My legs started cramping up. It was a warm, sunny day with temps getting up into the thirties, but it was also the end of August and I’d been running in these temps all summer long. It was mid-day and the sun was beating down, but this was very abnormal pain. I started the self-assessment, where had I gone wrong? What did I f#$k up already? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I hadn’t take it out too hard. I was on top of my calories and fluids. Was it just pure fatigue from the weeks leading into the race? I had no idea, but I went about rectifying it in the only way I could, I slowed down further and ate more.

By three and a half hours in it had only gotten worse as my legs were fully seizing up on me. I’d only had this happen to me during a race twice before, in the 2009 Western States 100 and the 2011 CSP115 in Spain. At Western I was 80 miles in and at CSP I was half way to the 115km finish line. In both instances I sucked it up and walked my ass to the finish line. In both races race day temps were pushing 40 degrees.

I was now forced into a full walk on any downhill terrain as my legs were completely tweaking out on me. I could power-hike uphill just fine but could not run uphill. Flat terrain was runnable but not without shooting pain in my quads. WTF was going on?

Stampeded Pass is at mile 33 / kilometer 55 and I was death marching my ass there with what seemed to be a certain DNF awaiting me. This angered me to no end. I had DNF’d UTMF back in April with a foot injury and UTMB one year prior after falling sick on race day. Prior to that I’d never DNF’d a 100 miler in my life and for a brief period in time I was convinced I never would quit on myself in a 100 mile race, yet here I was, about to quit for the third time in my last four 100s. There wasn’t a monkey on my back; there was an ape that had me in a headlock. How could I be so weak? What has happened to my resolve? Who am I and what’s happened to character I used to know as being stubborn and tough enough to finish anything no matter the cost? Why, just why?

As I slogged my way towards Stampede runners started streaming past me. Canadian Andy Reed was first to do so and I patted him on the back and told him to have a great run and to make Canada proud. The towel had been tossed. My day was done and the self-loathing had already begun.

“I’m done with this sport. I suck at this. I’m too old for this shit. I’m a quitter and I’m okay with it.”

“Are you Gary? Are you really? Does any of this sit well with you?”

“F#$K no, of course not!”

“Then find a way. You used to be really good at just finding a way.”

“The finish line is still over 110 kilometers away.”

“How much time do you have left to get there?”

“All damn day, 24 hours or so.”

“Then let’s go just go for a walk and see what happens. You can do that right?”


 “Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us.”
―Lewis Gordon Pugh

I had to let it all go. Ego, expectation, hope, every single goal I’d had for CCC save for one. Just to finish.

As I approached Stampede Pass good friend Phil Kochik from Seven Hills Run Shop was out cheering runners in.

“G-Rob! Yeah man, good stuff!”

“It’s not my day Phil.”

“Sure it is! Still lots of race left to go buddy!”

I stumbled into the Stampede Pass aid station. my crew consisted of my wife Linda Barton-Robbins, Justin Jablonowski (5th CCC 2013), elite WA based runner Maxwell Ferguson who was to meet up with us later in the race, and Ben Gibbard who ran my SQ50k race in 2013.

This was the second time my crew had seen me, and even a few hours earlier they knew that my day was not progressing as we’d all hoped. As I arrived plenty of friends were cheering me along, but I stepped aside to chat with my crew and I asked to sit down. Aid station captain James Kirby looked at me in disbelief,


It was the tough love that any great aid station captain should deliver, but Linda gave him a solemn look and he understood immediately.

“What can we get you Gary?”

“I don’t know, watermelon I guess.”

Ben darted away only to return a few seconds later with the lowest chair in the history of mankind. I sat down all of two inches from the ground and questioned if I’d ever get out of the thing under my own steam.

I ate, I drank, I sobbed internally and maybe even a bit externally. Runner after runner came through, spent less than a minute on site and continued on. Linda, Justin, Ben and now race director Rich White were all gathered around attending to me. Time stood still for me but not for anyone else and twenty minutes had passed before they were all attempting to get me out of there. James Varner of Rainshadow Running came over in his coconut shell bra and frilly grass skirt. James has been a good friend for years.

“What’s going on Gary?”

“I don’t know, my legs just aren’t working; they’ve seized up solid over the last few hours. I can’t run at all and it’s gotten to the point where even walking downhill is painful.”

“What have you eaten? How much fluid have you consumed? How’s your electrolyte intake?”

“Lots. Lots. Not much actually.”

“It’s pretty hot out here today, here take four of these electrolyte tabs now and two more every thirty minutes for the next little bit. What’s the worst that can happen right?”

James’s words rang out like an air raid siren in my head. Had I really made a rookie mistake like this? I know electrolytes are a “hot topic” of debate these days, but on a personal level I’ve always needed a regular consumption of electrolyte tablets to race cramp free, especially during hotter races.
James Kirby came over to check on me and give me a nudge that it was time to get out of his aid station. He saw what was going on and had heard everything I’d said. He asked me point blank:

“Do you want to finish this race?”

I looked at him, “Hell yeah I do.” And I did. I didn’t care how. I just did.

While I was downing my electrolytes and going over things in my head my crew were up in my face mocking me to no end, in that loving “you need to get the f#$k outta here way.”

Justin “Do you need to poop? Maybe you just need to poop?”

Rich “I always feel better after I poop. You should poop.

Linda “Don’t poop your pants?”

Ben “Pooping your pants would be bad, you should poop.”


Having the right crew saved my ass, from poop. They got my poopy pants off and got me moving again. I walked outta Stampede in 8th or 9th place, but at least I was moving again and I now knew that no matter what, I was going to finish the damn race, even if I had to walk the damn 110km to get there.

Maybe the heat was getting the better of me. Maybe fatigue from race directing the week before had taken it outta me. Maybe my lack of actual water consumption prior to the race had dehydrated me. Maybe I just gaffed on my electrolyte consumption. Core body temperature can also be a factor in cramping, so on top of adding in regular electrolyte consumption I started detouring to every water source on course to get myself cooled down.

Go Time - Take Two

Within thirty minutes of departing Stampede, I started to rally. I had honestly given up on much of a turn around and was just content to continue working towards an actual finish, but all of a sudden the seizing ceased. My legs started to work again. The damage had been done, however. My quads were fried. I felt every single step in each quad muscle, but something wonderful was also occurring: it wasn’t getting any worse. I started to up my cadence a bit and shortly thereafter I passed a runner. This simple act of passing one person completely triggered my compete level again.

“Maybe it’s not over just yet.”

Mile 38 and I passed Phil Shaw who was also suffering from what appeared to be cramping. I offered up what I had but he said he was “fine” and he cheered me on as I ran past. Gotta love the comradery of ultra running.

By mile 40 I was feeling better than I had all damn day, minus the quad tightness, but again, it had gotten no worse. I resolved myself to the fact that I’d feel every step all the way to the finish line; however, not only would I reach the finish line, I would do so while competing and attempting to salvage my race.

At the mile 40 aid station I congratulated Ultra Pedestrian Raz on his then recent accomplishment of a fully self-supported traverse of Washington State, though in the moment the details eluded me and I spit out something along the lines of,

“Raz, congrats on your, uh, thingy-mer-bob. Nicely done and stuff.”

To which of course he laughed. My crew were here including my dog Roxy and I went about my new mission of eating each aid station out of soup. After about five minutes I was politely ushered out.
At mile 47, Scott McCoubrey of Seattle Run Co. and White River fame was taking care of business, as he does every year.

“You look great! You’re in sixth. Second through sixth are all within ten minutes of you. Second looks terrible and is likely gonna be the first to falter.”

“What! Really?”

“Yeah man, they’re all within striking distance.”

“What about Seth.”

“Off the front.”

“Figured as much.”

I delved into the soup and spent far too long at the aid station, but I knew that my body was still fickle and the best way to ensure success over the final 53 miles was going to be utilizing the aid stations and not rushing through them.

“Time for you to go Gary!”

“Yeah yeah.”

Hyak Lodge is the virtual mid-way point of the race at mile 52. You arrive at Hyak via a decommissioned rail tunnel that’s two and a half miles long! Hyak was but five miles away and the pack were about ten minutes up on me. I wanted to get back on board while I was feeling well and I told myself I’d close that gap now before it became too late and in case things started to truly go sour again. I pushed harder than I had all day, a little too hard however for as I was clicking out the flat miles through the tunnel at slightly under seven minute mile pace my entire left chain, from calf to hip, completely lit up. I hadn’t experienced pain like that since my first 100 miler at Stormy back in ‘08, but I didn’t even care. I felt like I’d already been through too much to give it a second thought and I grimaced as I plowed through. I knew that the flat running was brief and it seemed to be aggravated by flat more than anything.

Hyak Lodge, the mid-way point. My full crew in attendance including Max as he was now ready to jump in and pace me. They erupted.

“You look amazing! One guy hasn’t left yet, he’s still sitting in a chair. The rest have only been gone five minutes and they all took their time getting out of here. You definitely looked the strongest coming in just now.” (minus Seth who for all intents and purposes won’t make an appearance in this write up again until the finish line, much like on race day :)).

I took this with the grain of salt that a parent compliments their child, but outside of the shooting pain in my left side, I did feel great. My head was in a wonderful space and I was 100% back in the race and shooting for 2nd, 1st if Seth faltered at all.

“Okay, headlamp, soup, electrolytes. Let’s GO!”

I had scouted the CCC course with RD Rich White in early July and knew what lay ahead. Fifteen miles of service road with a few thousand foot climb at the apex. I thought there was no way I’d have the legs to run this, but with my music in one ear and chatting and singing with Max we collectively lay into this climb. We picked off a runner after about twenty minutes to put me in 5th. Ten minutes later we caught good buddy and my former teammate while I ran for Montrail, Matt Hart. Matt definitely looked rough and in that moment I didn’t think he would finish. I said hey and cheered him on as we ran past but he said little in response. Post-race he says to me,

“I had so many things I wanted to say to you there, most of them really funny, jokes, but my brain wasn’t fast enough and you were gone before I knew what’d happened.”

Post-race I say to him “Nice work on toughing it out. You looked like you were in a rough spot when I passed you.”


Max and I pulled into the Kacheelus Ridge, mile 60 aid station just as Jeff Hashimoto and Andy Reed were departing.

“Hey guys.”

“Gary! Nice rally.”

Max to me: “You just ran the fastest split for that section in the history of the race.” (1h27m) (at which point we did not know that Seth was faster still 1h20m)

“You’ve gotta be shitting me!”

“We’re crushing it, man.”

I had just made up an eleven minute gap (splits from aid station to aid station), in eight miles. Game on! The sun had since set and after taking down another half-liter of soup, we were outta there and chasing two beams in the darkness.

I dialed it back a notch on the descent into Lake Kachess aid station. Lake Kachess prefaces The Trail from Hell. In my pre-race course scout this was the one section where I knew conclusively that I would outpace everyone else. The Trail from Hell is a five mile stretch in which the fastest times in the history of the race are all about ninety minutes. It’s non-stop undulation with short steep climbs and descents that are littered with highly technical roots, rocks and natural obstacles, and it’s run at night after 70 miles are already on your legs. In my scouting run, I’d knocked it off in 45 minutes. I hit the aid station at mile 68, continued on my soup mission and after another five plus minutes, Ben and Linda were pushing me outta there. I walked the road through the campground while finishing the cup of soup I took to go, then I looked at Max. After my soup consumption mission at Kachess and my walk through the campground 2nd was 10+ minutes up and 3rd was 7+ minutes up.

“Whadaya say we go about getting back into 2nd place right now?”

I devoured the trail, dropping Max three times in the process as I danced through the nastiest bits of the route. Max would push hard on the less technical to catch back up and by the half-way point we caught up to Andy and his pacer Simon Donato.

“Nice work, Andy.”

“Great job, Gary.”

And then a perfectly timed high-five from Simon as we flew past, into the darkness and into 3rd place.

Jeff Hashimoto was no slouch on technical apparently and it took right up until the final mile heading into Mineral Creek to catch him. Turns out Max knew him and they started chatting as we all hit Mineral Creek collectively. Two miles from Mineral Creek you’re allowed to have your crew drive in to meet you. I was switching pacers here between Max and Justin, so we simply tagged the aid station and continued up. It was the horrible grade in which you’d run if you had the legs and you know that others around you are running it and gaining time on you. I’d put forth the effort I’d hoped to on The Trail from Hell and bettered the fastest times by over ten minutes at 1h19m, and I even gained ten minutes on Seth in the process, not that that was going to change anything in the running for first though :)

As I walked the two miles up the road to my crew, Jeff cruised on past like it was nothing. My brief stint in 2nd lasted about twenty minutes but I still held hopes of regaining it again before the finish.
Max and I reached the crew and I decided to sit down for a minute to get some hot fluids and calories into me. This proved to be a terrible idea though as the warm day had given way to a very cool evening and within minutes of taking a seat I started to shake, eventually violently. Shit, I thought, this is bad. Linda and Ben threw a blanket on me as I took down the final calories. Max’s pacing duties were done and Justin was in. He was sporting a blue wig I’d worn to pace Linda at Grindstone and a crazy mish-mash of brightly coloured clothing, including some insane print tights. I put on every layer I was willing to carry to the finish and as I shakily stood up to depart, I turned to Andy Reed’s family and crew, teeth fully chattering:

“Be sure to tell Andy I looked like a million bucks when I left here, okay? :)”

Justin and I headed out on a painfully long six mile uphill walk. I knew that the final 20 miles are almost all single track while going over what are known as the Cardiac Needles. Smack dab in the middle of that you reach your highest point on the course, Thorpe Mountain at around 8,000ft and there is a 4,000ft descent into a flat final four miles to the finish. Like is the case in most 100’s, the race doesn’t even really begin ‘til mile 80.

Seth was gone and he was all but guaranteed to smash the course record. Jeff had passed me before I sat down so he was likely closing in on a ten minute gap ahead of me and Andy was just minutes behind me. It appeared that I was fighting for 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. I really wanted 2nd, but also really didn’t want 4th, so I started playing a bit more defense rather than offense.

Up, up we went. Justin almost begging me to run.

“I need this. I’ll run the final 20, promise, but right now I need the physical and mental break until we get to No Name AS.”

Good friend Laura Houston manages No Name year after year and this year another good friend, Besty Rogers joined her. Less than a mile from the top there is a quarter mile long sweeping switchback in the service road. All of a sudden my light was shining directly down towards Andy’s, him being all of a few minutes behind me now.

Hi to Betsy and Laura, more soup and more soup to go and Justin and I were out. It was now back to offense for the remainder of the race and I got my mind locked solidly into catching back up to 2nd place.

At Thorpe Mountain there is a one mile out and back. I crossed paths with Jeff just as he was completing his out and back and Andy crossed paths with me just as I had completed my own. We were all about evenly spaced in ten minute intervals. This meant that I had made up a few minutes on both Jeff and Andy over the last few miles.

French Cabin is the second to last aid station on course and Eric Purpus told me that if you’ve got the legs, it’s less than two hours from there to the finish. I arrived in about 17:03. Sub 19 hours was somehow still in range and that became my only goal. If I could close out in under two hours I’d happily take whatever position that gave me, whether it was 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

I absolutely thumped down the final 4000ft descent with a complete disregard for the now excruciating pain my quads were suffering through. Nothing else mattered and I simply cranked up my music and let gravity do its job. I still held illusions of catching 2nd as I knew I was moving incredibly well.

Along with Justin, we came screaming into the final aid station. I didn’t even ask for splits I just grabbed some chocolate and started in on the last four miles to the finish. The barn was near, the result all but certain. Neither Jeff nor Andy were anywhere in sight, but I wanted this thing over, and I wanted my sub 19 hour finish time.

Justin to me: “If I knew we were start sprinting for the finish at mile 95 I would have packed my track spikes.”

I felt no pain, only pride. Some twelve hours earlier I had my head in my hands, anger in my heart and my butt in a really low chair. The finish line wasn’t just in doubt at that point, it felt like mission impossible, yet here I was about to snag 3rd while closing out with a faster pace than I’d sustained all day long. We made our way through Easton and the finish line came into view. Emotions swelled up inside me and I damn near sprinted across the line.

18h54m. 3rd place and the 7th fastest time in the history of the race, and somehow, all of this after facing demons, doubt, cramping, crying and having my crew use the word poop no fewer than a dozen times. It’s a funny sport this ultra running. Just when you think you know something, it’s time to step back and remind yourself that you know nothing. No two days are alike, no two races are alike. Show up, put your heart into it and don’t quit on yourself. Sometimes you might just surprise yourself with the outcome and the resolve you find.

Race Director Rich White handed me my belt buckle and almost immediately it lept outta my hands and onto the rocks below, getting dented and scratched all to hell in the process.

“Shit, do you want me to get you another one?”

“No. It’s perfect. Just like my race.”


Some Splits

Gotta throw a huge shout out to the best crew ever.

Linda Barton Robbins, Maxwell Ferguson, Justin Jablonowski and Ben Gibbard. I honestly have no idea how I would have finished this race without all of your contributions to it. Thank you so much for helping to make this race such a special experience for me.

Sponsor Shout Out:
Salomon – Sense Pro / S-Lab Adv Skin 5 / S-Lab Light Jacket / Start Tee / Trail Short
Suunto – Ambit2
Princeton Tec – Apex rechargeable
Hammer – Bars, gels, endurolytes, seat saver
Drymax – Maximum protection trail running
Moveo Sport and Rehab – for keeping my body from breaking down on me and allowed me to start these races in the first place.


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Team Canada at Rocky Man Brazil

Brazilian visas in hand, Team Canada is ready to tackle Rocky Man Brazil for the very first time!

An opportunity I obviously could not pass up on, Rocky Man Brazil is a team race with each person racing independently for the lowest combined team effort. There are twenty teams with six countries represented. All teams consist of five team members with one person needing to compete in two events. Teams can select which two events are covered by one person, and all but one team member must be from the team's country of origin.

Solo disciplines include: Surfing, SUP, Skateboard Mini-Ramp, Mountain Biking, Male and Female Mountain Running.

Team disciplines, to be completed side by side include: an outrigger canoe paddle and a road/beach/trail run.

All racing takes place on Saturday, November 8th.

Team Canada consists of:

Anne-Marie Madden - Woman's Mountain Run

Is a trail and road runner from Vancouver, BC, Canada.  She is a member of the Arc’teryx trail running team and winner of the 2014 Canadian Mountain Running Championships.  In 2014 she won six trail races ranging from 13 to 60km, set multiple new course records and achieved new personal bests on the road in the 10km (35:03) and Half Marathon (1:16:35).  Her upcoming 2014 races include RockyMan in Brazil and the North Face Endurance Challenge 50mile race in California.

Greg Day - Mountain Bike

Lives in Squamish, BC Canada, and has been a racing bikes for the better part of 2 decades. He has spent the last 5 years racing on the Canadian Professional Rocky Mountain Factory Team, and will continue with the RMB squad in the 2015 race season. Greg has taken the overall BC Bike Race Team of Two Pro Men title in both the 2013 and the 2014 season with two of his Rocky Mountain Factory Teammates. Greg’s focuses on mountain bike stage races, and single day marathon races. He enjoys longer more technical racing, and is happiest when he has two wheels beneath him.

Keegan Sauder - Skateboard Mini-Ramp

Born Nelson, BC. Skating since he was ten years old. Lives in Oakland, CA and is a full time student/nerd/skater.

Andrew Logreco - Surf - SUP

Was born and breed in Encinitas, California. He is 30 years old and for the majority of his life he has been in and round the ocean doing more less all of the above- surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, stand-up paddling, running and so on... In turn he became an ocean lifeguard at the age of 18 in San Diego, California. Around the age of 22 he moved to Oahu, Hawaii to continue his lifeguarding. 

Gary Robbins - Men's Mountain Run

Likes to run, preferably in mountains and over super technical terrain.
Born and raised in eastern Canada in Newfoundland I moved west in search of mountains in 96 and never looked back. I have called British Columbia home for more than a decade now after a lengthy stop in the Alberta Rockies along the way.

After dabbling in expedition adventure racing for many years I moved onto ultra distance trail running in 2008 where I truly found my niche. 

If I find any kind of "follow along" details I'll be sure to link them. Wish us luck! Go Canada Go!

Saturday, Nov. 8th
7h - 9h30: Surf
8h - 11h: MTB 
8h45 - 9h20: Skate – free training
9h30 - 13h30: Skate
10h - 16h: Men’s and Women’s mountain running 
14h - 15h15: SUP
16h30 - 17h45: Outrigger Canoe 
18h - 19h45: Team Running
20h: Award Ceremony and Closing Party

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Transkarukera 120km, Guadeloupe - Follow Along


Transkarukera 120km, Guadeloupe - Follow Along

I've kept my latest racing plans a little under the radar over the last eight weeks. This was nothing more than wanting to ensure I was 100% recovered from the lingering foot issues I've dealt with this year and not wanting to outwardly commit to a racing goal until I knew I was good to go.


Guadeloupe. What? Guadeloupe. Where? Guadeloupe. How? Guadeloupe. Huh?



The Short And Sweet Of It, An Attempt To Get Fitter While Injured

The short and sweet of it, cross-training. The short and sweet of that, shorter higher intensity workouts.

Anyone that's been paying attention to my training over the last few years has likely observed at some point that I'm usually a high mileage runner. June of 2013 is a prime example in which I ran almost 500 miles with over 100,000 feet of elevation, most of it on trails of course.

I also rarely cross-train with much more than a gym session here and there, and the last time I did any form of track work or structured speed work was while leading a run clinic a few years back. Even while leading that run group the track work was about them and I was leading a learn to run group. I've actually never in my life done any structured speed work. I have been to a track, I have run some intense sessions with a purpose, but I've never joined a club or fallen into a weekly speed session routine. 

When I had my one and only coach back from 2004 - 2006 while residing in Whistler, a lady by the name of

Val Burke

who has since relocated to New Zealand and is currently working with some N.Z. Olympic athletes, she quickly observed;

"You get bored with structure and really need an adventure component to what you do don't you?"

That observation right there sums up who I am, why I love trail running, and why I have so naturally gravitated toward high mileage training. I just love being outside, in the forest and on the mountains. As long as I don't get injured I find running for hours on end over singletrack terrain to be almost infinitely easier than going to a track and running in circles for thirty minutes. It's just the way I'm wired. I know the benefits of speed work and structured workouts, but I've found success and peace while spending large chunks of my time in the forest while focusing on muscular endurance and perfecting the ability to run downhill for huge chunks of time at a high pace without it taking as much of a toll on me as it does on many others. Those are my strengths.

My weakness is something I've known for many years now. This lack of high intensity specific training means I've got room to improve that part of my engine.

Enter the road bike. The great thing about this metatarsal foot injury, which to clarify one final time is the opposite foot to which I've twice broken, is that although it has kept me from running for the better part of the last month, it does not in the slightest affect me while on my bike. 

I bought my road bike a decade ago, brand new and on sale for all of $1000 at Snow Covers in Whistler, which in case you were wondering means it was never a high end road bike. Ten years later and I consider her a clunker that keeps on ticking. There's a slight wobble in the rear wheel that cannot be fixed without a full new wheel set AND drive train. If you know bikes you know this means that the drive train and the chain have stretched out in unison over the years and as such I have myself a very reliable yet very low end ride. My bike was ridden all of one time in 2013, approximately twice in 2012, another half a dozen times in 2011 and was last utilized as a regular training companion back in 2010. I once had bike skills, am a competent mountain biker, and can "track stand" my road bike for minutes at a time, through the longest of traffic lights. It's actually been quite fun to get reacquainted with riding again. 

The point of riding a road bike is to ride fast…most of the time :) Road bikes go fast so you want to make them go fast. Traffic lights suck, so you want to go fast to beat traffic lights. Other riders are slower than you, so you want to go fast to get in front of those other riders. Every 300 meters of pavement has a separate Strava King of the Mountain section on it, so you want to ride fast to get a decent ranking on Strava. Hills on road bikes are quite challenging, you can't simply walk it out or take it down a notch, so you want to ride fast to keep your cadence up and make it up the damn hill. Here is my typical day of riding my bike. In my own head;

"I'm not really feeling it today, I need to get out and do something though. I guess I'll just go for an easy ride to get the blood flowing."

"Huh, I don't feel nearly as sore or tired on the bike as I thought I would today."

"Huh, maybe I'll ride a bit harder, might as well get this loop done a few minutes quicker."

"Well that traffic light is about to turn amber, if I kick it up a notch I won't have to stop."

"I'm pretty sure there's a Strava section hiding in here somewhere and I don't want to embarrass myself" 

"That person up ahead of me on that cruiser bike with their child in tow is totally competing against me right now"

"What's my heart rate at? Oh I can totally push harder than this"

"These cars are totally competing against me right now"

"I'm pretty sure I'm in personal best time range for this ride right now" 

"Those birds are totally competing against me right now"

By this point I have a metallic taste in my mouth and the hair on the back of my neck is on end…

"That airplane is totally competing against me right now"

"There's DEFINITELY a Strava KOM section here, f#@king hammer already!"

"The sun is totally competing against me right now"

Linda to me, "How was your recovery ride sweetie?"

My workouts are solid and my foot has finally started cooperating again. We've determined that tight peronials, some scar tissue in the arch of my foot, and a slightly altered biomechanics due to these two things conspiring together was preventing my foot from rolling through properly. My foot was slapping down and my second and third metatarsals were taking the brunt of the impact. Since gaining these insights via the joint efforts of local all star practitioners Adam Janke and Jenn Turner I have gone about a daily release of my arch via super painful golf ball rolling, I have borrowed an at home ultrasound device that I use regularly, and I've started attacking my peronials with the ferocity of cornered squirrel with his nuts caught in a bear trap...go ahead, envision that...sorry I scared you like that, there is no cornered squirrel with his nuts caught in a bear trap, you may ask yourself though, which nuts was I really referring to there?

I have had about twelve full days of pain free walking mixed in with five relatively successful short runs. On one run in particular I was fired up over the fact that I was in fact running pain free and although I had put a distance cap of just seven miles on my run, I have also learned that running faster, which gets me up on my toes more, actually causes less stress to the recovering metatarsals, so off I went. 

A tip from the pros, if you happen to be wearing a heart rate monitor on your run for the first time in half a decade, because you've been wearing one on the bike to confirm just how hard you've been working, don't confuse the "current heart rate" screen with the "average heart rate" screen, or you may run yourself to a near heart attack while your brain does back flips while attempting to figure out why your heart rate wont rise above 138, but this is not the point of my story. 

Near the end of my run there is a section of climbing that's just over four minutes long, and I've used it as a test section for over a year now. I have the Strava KOM on here and always go for it when I find myself running that area, so there I was and off I went. Four minutes and ten seconds later and I had taken my best time down by five full seconds. 

I've ridden close to 500km in the last three plus weeks and my main observation is this, bikes don't beat you up, they build you up. I'm fairly confident I've finally turned a corner with this foot injury, and I'm excited to start increasing my running mileage again, though while staying true to "old blue" my road bike and not losing site of just what's gotten me back to good in the first place. The short and sweet of it. 




The Fatigue of Failure

It's been just over two weeks since UTMF and somehow I don't even feel like I've recovered from the jet lag yet. It's almost unbelievable how much sleep my body has demanded as of late and especially so over the last five to six days. Daily naps are out of my control, nightly sleep is extended and motivation to move is at an all-time low.

I do recall after Linda and I returned from Japan one year ago that we felt it took an inexplicably long time to readjust to our regular Pacific Standard Time Zone, and maybe I've just lost sight of how draining international travel really is. I would also wager to bet that returning from Italy and Salomon's Advanced Week just twelve days prior to flying to Japan added an additional layer to the apparent confusion my body is currently expressing.

On top of these factors though, there is the emotional baggage carried forth with failure. Had I had a successful race around Mt. Fuji I would currently confidently be in the middle of three weeks of down time. That's exactly what I did one year year ago. I was embracing fatigue and an abundance of sleep as a part of the process, yet somewhere in the inability to finish the race the self doubt and the feelings of "I need to train harder, I need to run more and I need to work my way past this" prevail.

In the fifteen days since the race I've been able to do less than four hours of specific training. Initially this was through lack of access to a bike in Japan, but it has since snowballed into feeling completely flattened. Following the race, my foot would not allow me to run, and it was a further four days before I was to fly home. If I'd had access to two wheels I may have attempted to ride them, but alas nothing. I returned home and went straight into a full day of work the following day, which likely the best thing for me as it got me up and going on my local schedule again. I was completely done after spending eleven hours on and off the phone though, working with my coaching clients, and I promptly passed out.

After two nights of relatively decent sleep I was treated to a 2am internal wake up call that wouldn't allow me to get back to sleep. Eventually, around 5am I got up and attempted to embrace the day. I managed some activity for the first time by going to the gym, and I then drove to Seattle to surprise a friend for her birthday and to meet my wife the following day after her successful run at the Miwok 100k (she flew in and out of Seattle).

The following morning, eight days after UTMF, I finally attempted my first run. To put it mildly, it did not go well. My left foot metarsalgia (not anything to do with when I broke me right foot a few years ago) was still aggravated (this originated near the end of the HURT 100 in January).

A seven kilometer run, taking far too long, was all I had in me. Every step left me more frustrated than the last.

On the Tuesday, now ten days out from the race I finally got onto a spin bike again. It felt amazing. There was zero pain in my foot, which is exactly what I'd anticipated, and it was my first true workout since the race. It was exactly what I needed, though maybe a bit too much so. Later that day as the sun was setting I was simply dying to attempt another run, so I threw on my shoes and went to the 330 meter dirt track around a soccer pitch that's just a block away. I started running in pain, but the faster I ran the less it seemed to hurt. My run was undoubtedly being fueled by my own anger and frustrations at my race and my subsequent injury and I continued to increase my pace each and every lap until I ran a low five minute mile to close out a low 18 minute five kilometer run. My foot was not entirely happy, but my mind was finally at ease.

The following day, eleven days out now, and I start thinking I'm back in training mode again. Why wait three weeks after a successful race when you can wait less than two after a failed race right? I hit up the gym again, this time for a high paced spin session and an hour later I've had one of the more intense training sessions of my year. I feel amazing. I feel fit. I feel ready to put things behind me and to start working towards my next racing goals, yet I end up struggling to get out of bed for anything but work for the next three full days.

Back to back high intensity workouts within eleven day of running for twelve hours--a twelve hour run that covered over 105 kilometers with nearly 15,000ft / 4500m of gain and loss in which every step from around hour two till ten felt like a near maximal effort just to keep from dropping out. But I didn't finish the race, so how can I be tired, right?

The high intensity workouts likely leveled my glycogen stores and put me horizontal for the back half of this week. It's only today, Sunday and now fifteen days out, that I was able to get moving again.

I'm going about my recovery from UTMF in an emotional state and not a rational one. I am fit and I know this deep down inside, but it's as if I'm trying to prove it to myself for no good reason. I put forth a great effort while running the majority of the way around Mt. Fuji, yet up until I completely spelled it out for myself, all I was seeing was the DNF. Not all DNFs are the same, and the distance I covered in Japan makes it the 9th longest run of my entire life. It's time I start treating it as such.

The fatigue of failure.



The Fine Line Between Race Successes and Failures

There's a Japanese proverb that goes "He who climbs Mt. Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool."

Photo Credit Yuma Hamayoshi
Why did I return to UTMF this year? What were my true motivations in travelling around the world to run a 100 miler in which I'd already had my day and already experienced the journey around Fuji? The answer is simple, it was to run against a perceived deeper field of runners and to ideally have my day on what was going to be a much more public stage this year. That was the main driving factor in my choice to return. After Krissy Moehl won UTMF last year she gushed "Wow, this is a huge breakout race for you!"

I felt the same. I had shown, at least to myself, that I could run with and even ahead of such great runners as Seb and Julien as I found myself in second place at mile 85. I definitely faded before the finish, but snagging fourth simply felt incredible. It was one of the absolute highlights of my 2013. Upon returning home however, I was surprised to see how little attention UTMF had gotten. If you weren't directly paying attention or emotionally invested in the race, you likely didn't even notice. My main motivations in returning this year were rooted firmly around simply replicating my 2013 run in front of a much more engaged ultra community. Though these motivations are not flawed per se, they are fairly far removed from the usual driving factors that draw me to international events. By no means am I saying that I did not want to return to Japan for all that it offers outside of the race itself, just that I very likely would have waited at least another year before returning, had I not seen just how competitive the race was going to be and as such just how much of a following it would garner.

I've struggled to move past what transpired at Mt. Fuji for UTMF, primarily because I know that even though I was forced to drop out when a foot injury flared up, I was in no way shape or form having the race I was capable of having on that day up until that point in time. Even if I had managed to continue to rally and to have somehow fought my way back into the top ten, I would have been left wondering how and why I was unable to have pulled off a near top five performance on the day. I was fit enough, I was rested enough, I was primed for a great race. So what went wrong, before it all went wrong? What could I have done differently? How much was beyond my control and how many small consecutive errors had I made to eventually bring down the ship?

Photo Credit Yuma Hamayoshi
I watched a documentary once about how the average plane crash is not caused by one major failure, it's caused by up to a half a dozen small errors that when combined can lead to tragic consequences. It raises the question of how many near misses are we never aware of? To parlay this into ultra running, and my own ultra running, how many mistakes did I make in Japan? How many mistakes are maybe typical and preventable going forward? Are there some that have become habitual, yet in their own right have not lead directly to race failures? Basically, it's time to slice and dice things a bit more as these thoughts won't be put to rest in any other manner. 

I figure the best way to do this is to take my five best efforts and contrast them with my five worst, my DNF's and "I should have DNFeds"...yes, that's a word.

First and foremost though to dispel one thing in regards to UTMF 2014 vs 2013. I did not start off any faster this year than I did last year. In 2013 we had the lead runners blasting off the front at near sub six minute mile pace. I held back in 12th or so in six minute thirty pace. This year the lead guys weren't blasting off quite so quickly and when I found myself mimicking my 2013 start I was much higher up in the field at the very start. Through the first mile I was in second place, high fiving all the spectators and attempting to take in as much positive support as possible. I continually referenced my watch to ensure I wasn't getting carried away and as I stayed on a high six minute mile pace eventually a few more runners caught up to and surpassed me. My first two miles in 2014 were about ten seconds faster than my first two in 2013. I did not start out faster than I had already proven I could upon that course. But is there still a lesson to be learned here?
Also worth mentioning is just how well the returning top ten runners from 2013 did in comparison to the much more famous group of runners that showed up this year. Outside of myself, Hara and Seb, the rest of the top returning runners all had similar or better performances than they did just one year ago. I show this to make a point, that this year's race, outside of Francois D'Haene's simply astonishing run, was no faster than last year's field. The race was a bit deeper, but if I had even come close to my race from one year ago I would have been right where I knew I could have been, and that was fighting for a top five finish.

So here we go: Best Five Races vs Worst Five Races (I settled on six races in the end)

Worst six are relatively easy as all but one are a DNFs. Listing DNFs in this format is to explore the idea that these DNFs could have been prevented with a better race day and pre-race strategy 
-UTMF 2014
-UTMB 2013
-Speedgoat 2012
-Knee Knacker 2012
-Miwok 2010
-49th place finish at Western States 2009

Best six results
-UTMF 2013 - 4th
-HURT 2013 - 1st CR
-Knee Knacker 50k 2013 - 1st
-HURT 2010 - 1st CR
-WS100 2010 - 6th
-Mountain Masochist 50m 2009 - 3rd
-I purposely left out more top local and close to home results in an attempt to get a better cross section

How best to assess the similarities and differences in these races and these results? I've come up with a standard list of questions and a point score associated with them. A lower score is better. The highest/worst score would be 41 while the lowest/best score would be 14, though that would only be possible by running a local race that you've run before while having zero expectations and zero stress, both internally and externally. Pre-race is the combined sum of the eleven questions posed that can be answered before you even line up, and Race Day is the combined sum of the three questions surrounding your own race day decisions.

The questions and associated points:

Travel/unknown and unfamiliar surroundings 
(1: no travel 2: continental travel 3: international travel)
Jetlag / time change 
(1: no jetlag 2: different time zone 3: proper jetlag)
Familiar with course / run it previously 
(1: run it before 2: trained specific to terrain 3: no course experience)
Internal stress/pressure/expectations 
(1: low 2: med 3: high)
External stress/pressure/expectations
(1: low 2: med 3: high)
Motivations / what lead to the choice to run that event 
(1: new area/beautiful course/travel 2: mix of travel and competition 3: competition, to compete against best)
Environmental, heat, elevation, fast, mountainous
(1: similar to home 2: slight challenge 3: major challenge)
Competition, how deep was the field of runners
(1: not super deep 2: reasonably competitive 3: internationally recognized runners)
Pacing, specifically pacing in the first 30 - 45 minutes of the race
(1: started slow 2: started reasonable 3: started fast)
Own race vs getting caught up
(1: throughout 2:  reasonably influenced by other runners 3: completely influenced by other runners)
Fueling during race
(1: wasn't an issue 2: some issues 3: major issues)
Training leading up to race
(1: solid training block 2: average training block 3: low training block)
Tapering into race
(1: normal taper 2: abnormal taper)
(1: overly confident 2: reasonably confident 3: self doubt)
Music during race
(can't effectively assign a number ratio to this, I have become a big believe in the benefits of music while racing and simply have this here as a personal reference)

The Findings
A full list of more specific race breakdowns is below should you care to delve further. The results are interesting but not surprising, and all around fairly predictable, though it's much more meaningful when you lay it all out like this.

My best races have a statistical overall score of about 17% lower than my worst races.
My best races have a statistical pre-race score of about 15% lower than my worst races.
My best races have a statistical race day score of about 35% lower than my worst race.

What does it all mean?

The very first conclusion to draw from all of this is of course the glaringly obvious race day mistakes. In all but one of my best races I had a score of about half that of my worst races. Race day mistakes, by and large, are the number one contributor to race day disappointments.

My best races also have a pre-race correlation to success. There is an obvious link that can be drawn here between lack of major travel, and lack of true depth of the fields. The further you travel, for the more competitive events, the higher stresses you place on your body and mind. Knowing this in advance of the races may allow you to address things differently or at the very least to anticipate things better. If I'm going to travel to the ends of the earth for competitive races, I'm going to need to give myself ample travel time, and to learn to deal with all the additional stresses that come with big time events. Gaining course insights in advance of a race is also hugely beneficial if at all possible.

I think the biggest thing I'll take away from this mini-study of my own racing habits is just to know that I have rarely had racing disappointments around events where I've run my own race and started conservatively. To compete in ultra running today you absolutely have to take some chances and to lay it all out there from time to time, however, going into my future events I am going to reel myself in a bit at the beginning. There is very little detriment to starting conservatively, especially when you're looking at races with average finishing times of over fifteen and close to twenty-four hours.

I think my UTMF 2013 race had an anomaly in it in terms of the fact that I started off fast and still had success. I think I took a race day chance and it paid off, though I took that information to mean that I could always successfully start 100 milers at six and a half minute mile pace. Even if this information contains some truth to it, it is still not an effective racing strategy. I need to slow it down a bit off the start in my upcoming 100s.

Not readily available within this small data sample is just how difficult it is to run your own race while lined up at super competitive events. A primary example is UTMB. These races start off far too fast for 90% of the runners, yet everyone just gets towed along for the ride. The level of confidence in one's own abilities and racing strategies to start conservatively at such events is one of the hardest skill sets to attain in ultra running. A fairly unknown runner by the name of John Tidd is a master of this. In 2013 he finished 6th at UTMF and 10th at UTMB, both times coming from way back in the race to snag top ten positions. If the average runner had as much insight and confidence into their own abilities as John does they'd end up with better results across the board. I possess this insight and confidence, but I seem to have temporarily misplaced it.

I want to continue to show up and compete at the most competitive of mountain ultra races, but I am ready to turn a corner in my own racing to start running smarter, to own my results, and to move past these race day debacles. I'm glad I took the time to look at this a bit further. It's exactly as I'd expected, but it just hammers home the point so much more while looking at it all in this light.

So, what race day mistakes do you seem to continue to make?

What strategies do you have in place to prevent race day errors?

What questions would you have added or removed from my personal assessment above?

Have you ever broken down your successes and failures in this manor? If so what did you find and did it allow you to address it going forward?

Full list of race assessments below.


UTMF 2013
4th, 20h20m
Score 31/41
Pre-race 24/32
Race Day 7/9
Travel: (3) / Jetlag: (3) / Familiar: (3) / Internal: (3) / External: (2)  / Motivations: (1) to run in Japan on a course that was known to be techincal / Environmental: (1) a beautiful spring day / Competition: (3) a very deep field of European runners / Pacing: (3) I started way faster than I usually do / Own Race: (2) / Fueling: (2) some issues eating later in the race / Training: (2) was pretty much sustaining fitness off of HURT / Tapering: (1) / Confidence: (2) I was stressed but confident in what I could do / Music: yes, for five hours during the night
Assessment: I stared off much faster than I normally would, and I was rewarded for it with a strong race. In hindsight though, this is against my normal running strategy and likely against my best interest. In comparison to my other best races this race was the one where I took the greatest chances early on. Taking chances like this can go either way though, especially over the 100 mile distance, and the best racing strategy, for me at least, likely resides somewhere slower than how I started here and a step faster than how I have started at other races.
I faded significantly late in the race and dropped from 2nd down to 4th, while 5th was closing ground on me. I believe that had I started slightly more conservatively I would have been rewarded with a stronger finish and potentially a higher placing. I believe this one off, though not blind luck, would be the exception to how I should run and may have contributed to me believing that I could and even should be starting faster in my longer races. I have not come to terms with this until just now as I've only looked at this race as a successful template and not critically assessed it prior to today.

Knee Knacker 50k
1st, 4h41m
Score 24/41
Pre-race 19/32
Race Day 5/9
Travel: (1) / Jetlag: (1) / Familiar: (1) / Internal: (3) / External: (3)  / Motivations: (2) / Environmental: (1)  / Competition: (2) a very talented albeit local field of runners / Pacing: (2) / Own Race: (2) / Fueling: (1) / Training: (1) was in the middle of my largest training block ever / Tapering: (2) I didn't taper at all. I ran 120m the week prior / Confidence: (2) I had questions going into the race around if I'd simply not taken enough/any recovery time leading into the race / Music: yes, for full second half of the race
Assessment: A unique race in the fact that I did very little in the way of tapering. The week prior I ran 120 miles and the day before the race I had my hip seize up and briefly make me question if I'd even be able to start. A low stress race on home turf allowed for very intelligent race day decisions. Lack of external variables such as travel, unfamiliar terrain, external pressures all allowed me to completely run my own race and to not make any race day mistakes.

HURT 2013 
1st CR, 19h35m
Score 22/41
Pre-race 18/32
Race Day 4/9
Travel: (2) / Jetlag: (2) / Familiar: (1) / Internal: (2)  / External: (2)  / Motivations: (2) I broke my foot on the HURT course and this was a very emotional and pure journey. I wanted CR but just finishing would have been a success / Environmental: (2) a fairly hot and humid day / Competition: (2) I ran within six minutes of Jason L for 85 miles / Pacing: (1) / Own Race: (1) / Fueling: (2) / Training: (1) / Tapering: (1) / Confidence: (1) I was in a very good head space heading into this race / Music: yes for final 20 miles
Assessment: The perfect day. A comeback race over the very course that I broke my foot on, while running toe to toe against the runner who'd won the two years I was away. I doubt I'll ever see another 100 mile race go as smoothly and almost as effortlessly as this one did. It's probably best to assume this race was a one off in all the positive ways a race could possibly go. 100 milers should be and almost always will be tougher than how this race played out for me.

Western States 2010 
6th, 17h06m
Score 29/41
Pre-race 24/32
Race Day 5/9
Travel: (2) Yes / Jetlag: (1) No / Familiar: (1) yes, I'd finished 49th one year prior / Internal: (3) yes, I was looking to prove to myself that I could succeed in high pressure, highly competitive environment / External: (2) yes and no. I was there as a part of the Montrail team but had recently suffered from overtaining symptoms and DNFed Miwok 100k/ Motivations: (3) To run the race I knew I was capable of against one of the deepest fields or runners/ Environmental: (3) a very hot race, and overall a very runnable course / Competition: (3) as per usual, the most competitive 100 in NA that year / Pacing: (2) I started off conservatively and worked my way up throughout the day / Own Race: (2) / Fueling: (1) Very good. I was on it from the start and all day long / Training: (2) After DNFing Miwok I didn't run a step for three weeks. In the month of May I ran less than 100 miles, while everyone else in top ten ran at least 400-500 miles / Tapering: (2) kind of a reverse taper, I ran everyday for the two weeks leading up to the race, though most were short runs / Confidence: (2) I knew the course and I'd prepared for the heat better, but I ran very little in May after my Miwok DNF / Music: yes
Assessment: I had a very questionable final seven weeks leading into the race but a very strong year of training otherwise. I had nothing but top ten aspirations but was still very much an underdog on the day. I ran an intelligent race while allowing the lead pack to separate as I forced myself to stay calm and to work myself into a good race pace. It was a very solid race for me but in all likelihood I was helped along by my Miwok DNF and therefore eliminating an element of expectation both internally and externally.

HURT 100m 2010
1st CR, 20h12m
Score 21/41
Pre-race 17/32
Race Day 4/9
Travel: (2) / Jetlag: (2) / Familiar: (2) the HURT course is identical to our North Van terrain/ Internal: (2) I was shooting for and attained Geoff Roes CR / External: (1) absolutely nobody knew who I was / Motivations: (2) to run in Hawaii / Environmental: (2) some heat issues / Competition: (1) there were some very talented runners but from 20m to the finish I ran alone in the lead / Pacing: (1) / Own Race: (1) / Fueling: (2) / Training:  (1) I had a then best ever training block heading into the race / Tapering: (1) / Confidence: (1) nothing to lose and everything to gain. I felt very quietly confident heading into this race / Music: no
Assessment: I was so confident that I'd have a good day on the HURT course, in just my 3rd ever 100 miler, that I let everyone go off the start and just did my own thing. I need to get back to this. This is the only way you should ever start a 100 miler.

Mountain Masochist 50m 2009
3rd place 7h00m28s
Score 24/41
Pre-race 20/32
Race Day 4/9
CR before Geoff Roes killed it on that day was Dave Mackey 6h48m
Travel: (2) yes / Jetlag: (2) not noticeable, three hour time change / Familiar: (1) yes, I'd run it the year prior and finished 2nd, though with a slower time / Internal: (3) yes, I was shooting for top two and auto WS entry / External: (2) yes, I had finished 2nd one year earlier / Motivations: (3) WS entry, to improve upon 2009 time, to run sub 7hr / Environmental: (1) very runnable course, cool fall day / Competition: (2) / Pacing: (1) I started off conservative as I did with all my races at the time / Own Race: (1) / Fueling: (2) I remember struggling with calories in final two hours but fudging my way through it / Training: (2) Not crazy, I took down time in months leading up to race, but I knew course was all runnable and trained more for running all of my long runs / Tapering: (1) I don't recall, likely two weeks / Confidence: (1) I knew the course and had trained more specifically for it. I knew I was fit enough for my race goals / Music: no
Assessment: I had a great day and came within 29 seconds of breaking the seven hour mark, something only a handful of other runners had done. I completely ran my own race from start to finish and that's why I had success.

**Miwok 2008 (I fully accidentally assessed seven races. I'll leave this in since it only help to reaffirm the overall findings)
12th place 9h22m
Score 23/41
Pre-race 19/32
Race Day 4/9
First question might be why I'd chose this as a top result. This was beyond the unknown for me at the time. I'd only run a handful of 50k races plus one 67k race. I had calf issues in the months leading up to the race and spent two full months training only on a bike. I would have run sub nine hours and finished in 8th place if I had not taken a full five kilometer detour. The top four runners that year were Dave Mackey, Jon Olsen, Geoff Roes and Scott Jurek. I knew none of them. I knew f#@k all and yet I ran an incredibly well balanced race while up against a fairly deep field at the time. If there was ever a race I'd run where I would have had every excuse to mess it up, this was the one, yet I pretty much nailed it right out of the gates.

Travel: (2) yes, first time to San Fran / Jetlag: (1) no, same time zone / Familiar: (3) not at all / Internal stress: (2) I had expectations of myself by zero pressure / External: (1) nothing / Motivations: (1) new challenge, new area, travelled with great group of friends / Environmental: (1) a very runnable course on a hot day in May / Competition: (2) very competitive but I didn't even know / Pacing: (1) I started off way slow as it was such an unknown distance for me / Own Race: (1) /  Fueling: (2) I don't recall the specifics / Training: (2) I trained hard but a lot of it was on the mountain and road bike / Tapering: (2) I was kind of rushing to get time on my feet, off the bike in the weeks leading up to the race / Confidence: (2) I was scared but excited, confident but hesitant, it lead to holding back just enough early on and running a very smooth race / Music: no
Assessment: I was too inexperienced to make the mistake of trying to do anything I didn't already confidently know my body could handle. I ran my own race from start to finish and had a great 100k debut.

Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama
Western States 2009
49th, 23h07m
Score 32/41
Pre-race 23/32
Race Day 9/9
Travel: (2) / Jetlag: (1) / Familiar: (1) / Internal: (3) / External: (2) / Motivations: (2) / Environmental: (3) / Competition: (3) / Pacing: (3) / Own Race: (3) / Fueling: (3) / Training: (1) / Tapering: (2) / Confidence: (3) / Music: no
Assessment: I ran a dumb race on a hot day and paid a price for it. I got caught up in the hype and by the third mile my fate on the day was likely sealed. I'm still incredible proud of even being able to gut this one out just to claim a finish. My kidneys were shutting down and I was peeing blood. It took me over a month to recover from this one.

Miwok 2010 
DNF around 50km mark
Score 29/41
Pre-race 21/32
Race Day 8/9
Travel: (2) / Jetlag: (1) / Familiar: (1) / Internal: (3) / External: (3) / Motivations: (2) / Environmental: (1) / Competition: (3) / Pacing: (3) / Own Race: (3) / Fueling: (2) / Training: (1) / Tapering: (1) / Confidence: (3) / Music: no
Assessment: I set out to run a race I was incapable of running, and I pretty much knew it all along. If I had set out on a more reasonable 8h45m'ish run pace I very likely would not have DNFed and not ended up getting the blood work done that told me I was having iron deficiency issues. The bad with the good I guess.

Knee Knacker 2012 
DNF after first climb
There's little need to dissect this race as I woke up with a fever on race morning and shouldn't have even started.
Assessment: Shit ass bad luck

Speedgoat 50k 2012 
DNF around 40km
Score 36/41
Pre-race 28/32
Race Day 8/9
Travel: (2) / Jetlag: (2) / Familiar: (3) / Internal: (3) / External: (2) / Motivations: (3) / Environmental: (3) / Competition: (3) / Pacing: (3) / Own Race: (3) / Fueling: (2) / Training: (3) being sick all of July didn't help things / Tapering: (2) was hardly training and just attempting to get better / Confidence: (3) being sick more of July let me know I wasn't fit enough for what I was hoping for / Music: no
Assessment: I did just about everything wrong for this race and it started with signing up for a super competitive race at altitude and just hoping for the best on race day. Though I made race day mistakes at Speedgoat there is very little, if anything I could have done differently to have prevented this DNF due to severe altitude sickness

UTMB 2013 
DNF after 30kms
Score 34/41
Pre-race 27/32
Race Day 8/9
Travel: (3) / Jetlag: (3) / Familiar: (1) / Internal: (3) / External: (3) / Motivations: (3) / Environmental: (2) / Competition: (3) / Pacing: (2) / Own Race: (3) / Fueling: (2) I was already struggling with calories by the time my race ended / Training: (1) / Tapering: (2) directing the SQ50 less than three weeks prior throws a kink into things. In two years of directing I have yet to sit down for over 40hrs on race weekend / Confidence: (2) / Music: no
Assessment: I managed to get sick around race day but there's still a part of me that thinks I could have at least finished the race even while being under the weather. I headed in with high hopes and plenty of self imposed and perceived external expectations, though I was fully confident in my fitness and abilities. I still think of this as a lost opportunity to perform on a big stage. I had top ten fitness but was was likely still shooting for a result just beyond my fitness level. I should have gone into this with the goal of finishing 8th, 9th or 10th, not 4th, 5th or 6th.

UTMF 2014
DNF after 105km
Score 32/41
Pre-race 25/32
Race Day 7/9
Travel: (3) / Jetlag: (3) / Familiar: (2) I knew the course but it being run in the opposite direction made it slightly less than completely familiar / Internal: (3) / External: (2) / Motivations: (3) / Environmental: (1) / Competition: (3) / Pacing: (3) I started out at the same pace as last year, though I think started slower would have been beneficial to my overall race / Own Race: (2) / Fueling: (2) / Training: (2) / Tapering: (2) I had some funky issues with my legs after Salomon's Advanced Week / Confidence: (1) I had already succeeded on this exact course / Music: yes, for twelve full hours and it's all that kept me alive and from dropping out of the race early on.
Assessment: I was equal parts stressed and excited, but I never would have expected to not be in the mix for top five. I absolutely had it within me to be in the top five mix. If I could attempt the race all over again tomorrow I would start slower and just do my own thing. No matter the foot injury would have stopped my race, but at least I would have likely been having a better race when that all occurred. I was incredibly proud to have fought so hard to make it to 105km. This is one of the few positives to take away from the race. There's an element of misfortune and confusion over why my climbing legs / hamstrings never seemed to show up on race day though. I was doing great on the flats, the downhills and even the gradual grades, but the super steep terrain felt impossible on race day.




Just want to say thank you so much for all of the incredible support. Pre-race, during the race, post-race, I am a part of a wonderful community and feel incredibly fortunate to have so many people, from friends and family to acquaintances and people I have yet to meet who are so forthcoming with with their constant support.

The long and short of it. It wasn't my day from early on in the race, but I was determined to stick with it and to figure it all out. I had the better part of eight hours of feeling like shit while barely holding on enough mentally to keep myself from removing my bib and calling it a day. In the middle of all of this I also missed a turn and added an additional two kilometers to my race, though the nearly 60 year old man who without hesitation took off running at a decent clip, leaving his wife behind, to run me back onto course was certainly one of the highlights of my day.

Somewhere around the eight hour mark, about 65km into the race, things started to feel normal again. For the first time all day I felt like an actual runner. I somehow knew that the worst was behind me and as such I managed to go from survival mode back to racing mode. I started clipping people off one at a time and by the midway point at A7 (81km) I had resurrected top ten aspirations. My big race goal of finishing in the top five again this year was dead in the water, but I knew that if I could just keep doing what I was then doing top ten would come back to me. (Looking back on the race a day later, the two runners immediately behind me at A7 went on to finish 7th and 8th overall)

From km 80 to 95 was almost all downhill, and almost all on a paved surface. I was clicking off the distance as I found myself in a very positive head space for virtually the first time all day long. Earlier in the day I told Justin Jablonowski (a good friend from back home and just one of my incredible support team) that "I think my day is done" and yet there I was some 60kms later feeling better than I had since the first aid station.

With about 4km left to go on the descent after A7 (~90km) I felt a click in my left foot, not quite a pop, but a click. It took me all of one full second to know what was happening. During HURT100 in Jan, at mile 90 my left foot all of a sudden went completely numb. I pushed through without giving it much thought. I later learned I had an injury called metatarsalgia. I dealt with this through Feb and into March, but hadn't really thought about it since.

I needed to clench the toes of my foot to keep my metatarsal from collapsing and to help nullify the pain. I did this through the 95km water station and onto the 105km aid station. Very near the 100km mark my altered biomechanics became my undoing. My entire left side was seizing up while simply attempting to keep my left foot as protected as possible.

I came into the 105km aid station in a very good position in the race. Top ten was undeniably still up for grabs. I had fought my tail off to get through the first eight hours of the race only to come out the other side feeling the best I had all day long. Hours eight through twelve had felt almost euphoric in contrast to hours two through eight. It was like a reverse 100 miler in which the toughest miles were presented earlier rather than later, granted I wouldn't get the chance to fully test that theory. To see if I could have continued pushing over the Tenshi Mountains and to have gotten myself back up onto the big stage podium finish this year.

My bib was removed and I was officially out of the race. I did not attain what I set out to do this year at UTMF, in fact I didn't even come close.

I did find myself tested in new a creative ways by my body and by my mind, and I didn't quit on myself. I fought harder in this 100 than I ever had to before. Maybe the ultimate curse in running 100's is to have ever had a perfect day, to have ever been disillusioned by a single perfect 100 miler is to believe those perfect races should or could somehow become the norm.

What I'll take away from this one is the fact that I was faced with new and daunting challenges and I continued to power through them. I did not quit on myself at any point in time. Injuries suck but they are a part of it all.

I did not get what I came for, I got something else entirely. I'm not about to sit here less than 24hrs later and wax poetic about how that's a good thing. There are silver linings to be found in most things and undoubtedly I may eventually find one here too, but for today let me just say, this sucks. I'm leaving incredibly disappointed. I finally had a world stage, a world class field, and a course in which I'd already succeeded on to perform on. The disappointment that washes over me is absolute.



GR + EC Coaching Services

I've had good interest over the last few years from people inquiring about if I offer coaching services, but I've always politely declined and passed along contact details for others who specialize in doing so. I myself have created a handful of coaching programs in the past for close friends, and I've always enjoyed the process, especially watching those runners achieve their personal running goals.

The main reason I've never seriously entertained the run coaching business is because I'm acutely aware of just how much work is involved in it all. I know I have a passion for it, but I also know that while coaching you absolutely need to be all in, and as such I always held back as I realize it has to be all or nothing for it to be fully beneficial to the people you're training.

Enter into the fray my good friend Eric Carter, who's currently a PhD student studying the effects of altitude on elite endurance athletes. Eric also has his masters in Kinesiology and is a pretty accomplished endurance athlete himself.

Eric and I have gotten to know each other quite well over the last twelve months and for most of the winter season we've discussed at length how we should go about entering into coaching as a team, bringing our complimentary skill sets and years of hard earned knowledge together to offer up the best possible end product.

We are both very excited to announce that we'll be working together as a coaching tandem. We'll be offering two levels of coaching, a one-on-one personalized service, or a a one time purchase of a 20 week training plan that would be slightly customized towards your first 50k or 50m race, whether that be the Squamish 50 or the Knee Knacker.

Since this is our first time working together on this we have decided to open up with a limited capacity of just ten one-on-one clients.

Programs will officially start on March 15th with the application process now open.

If you have any questions whatsoever please do not hesitate to contact us. Whether we become a part of your training process or not, I wish you all the best in your forthcoming racing goals!




Alpental, WA - My First Ever Skimo Race

The after party and the fresh snow goodness
The Sport

Ski Mountaineer racing, or Skimo for short, is by no means a new sport having even been a part of an Olympic Games way back in 1948. The European Skimo circuit is thriving and has produced a cross over athlete who's taken the trail and ultra running world by storm over the last few years, that person of course being Kilian Jornet, a multi time World Ski Mountaineering Champion.

Skimo racing in North America has been slower to catch on, and as observed by Kilian himself via an early season tour of some US ski resorts, not widely understood or accepted. It was completely shocking to him that the majority of US ski resorts had strict rules in place that prevent skiing up the mountain, whereas in Europe this is apparently the standard with resorts having a set 'skin track' area (you use climbing skins on your skis to ascend the mountain).

It would appear that the North American Skimo scene is ripe for a bit of a boon in the next few years as the reverse scenario to Europe seems to be occurring, that being trail and ultra running stand outs now converting to Ski Mountaineering and Skimo racing during the winter months. Names worth mentioning in this regard include recent UROY winner Rob Krar, Colorado based Skyrunning Champion Stevie Kremer, Canadian speedster Adam Campbell, and as of this past weekend Oregonian Max King. I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the few North American, ski mountaineering to ultra running crossover athletes Luke Nelson, as he was the US National Champion in 2012.

With many of these known trail and ultra runners coming into the sport, with strong established racing and endurance backgrounds, it seems only a matter of time before at least some of them dedicate themselves towards figuring out the intricacies of the sport of ski mountaineering. The presence of these athletes alone however is granting Skimo racing a social media presence in front of an active audience that it seemingly has failed to connect with to date. It'll be interesting if the North American version of the sport can experience a long overdue growth cycle and if in fact the current push to attempt to bring Skimo back into the Olympics (currently a push is on for 2018) can ever materialize.

Skimo is similar to trail running in that you basically race up and down a mountain as fast as you can. Skimo is very different from trail racing in terms of how that's accomplished and the skill sets necessary to do so at an effective race pace. To be an elite level racer you must possess equal parts of aerobic capacity, a finesse at technical ski climbing, and a confidence that borders on reckless abandon at the high speed descents. I possess two of these three skill sets, having been an endurance sports athlete since 2004, and having established a firm grip on reckless abandon style skiing via many years as a ski bum in Banff, AB in the late 90's and then Whistler, BC in the early 2000's. Of all these skill sets I would say that the downhill skiing is certainly the hardest to develop from scratch and as such the sport certainly favors those with at least some background in skiing specific sports, whether that be nordic or alpine.

As a gear intensive sport Skimo is certainly not a cheap endeavor. A top of the line race kit will cost you north of $3000, and that's just for the skis, boots, bindings, skins and poles. Tack on a racing pack, mandatory helmet, spandex racing suit or whatever works for you to not line up in your birthday suit, goggles, gloves etc, and you'll be toeing the fine line of what you want, what you need, and what you can actually afford.

This being my first season of looking at the sport of skimo, and a kind of reentry into skiing in general after an absence of six years, I already owned much of the 'this'll work if it has to' style gear. My goal was to get into the sport on the cheap this year while acquiring gear that would ideally allow me to get a feel for it all without going broke. I lucked out in early October with a pair of 'last pair in stock' sale skis at M.E.C. for just $150. They were a few levels below a racing ski but light enough to race on. I used some wedding present R.E.I. gift certificates for my touring poles and I found a pair of bindings on Craigslist, again just below race caliber gear. Lastly I invested in a year old pair of boots for a great deal from a friend for $400. The boots new would be nearly $1000, and yet again the gear was a few levels below top of the line racing gear, in which the boots alone can crawl north of $2000 for brand new off the shelf. I passed on the $300+ spandex racing suit in favor quiver I already possessed in the form of some Salomon tights, a lightweight breathable pant, a merino wool top, and my Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket. Salomon also set me up with some ski goggles and when all was said and done I had found my way into the sport for JUST $775.

The Race

I'm 4th from the left

The race was at Alpental, WA, which is located at Snowqualmie Pass, about an hour out of Seattle. The race course consisted of two climbs and two descents with vertical numbers of approximately 4200ft / 1300m over a distance of about 8m/13km. Alpental has apparently always attracted quite a few recreational skies to the race and as such the race director announced that they were the largest skimo race by attendance in the US. I have not confirmed this information but with nearly 150 people around it certainly made for a great atmosphere.

Three of the four guys I've been ski touring with, and learning the sport from this winter were also in attendance, and all of them were podium threats. They have generously offered up racing tips and advice over the last four months and as such when the gun went off I knew we supposedly had to sprint out on our skis for position before the race fell into a single pace line. This effectively felt like running a 100m sprint race before then settling in for back to back 10k race pace efforts that were somehow split up by a bobsled ride down a mountain, to create a visual if you will.

White helmet, green pack

The race was all of sixty seconds old and I already had that nice metallic taste in my mouth that you can experience at near maximal efforts, BUT I found myself settled nicely into 8th place, with a pretty stellar field of experienced guys ahead of me. The pace settled and I felt good as our group started to pull away from the field within the first five minutes of the race. As the terrain steepened it necessitated switchback style climbing. The guys would say to me after the race this this Alpental course was one of the more technical courses on the circuit. I was nailing my kick-turns, which made me happy since I didn't even know what a kick-turn was just a few months prior (picture taking a tight singletrack turn with two extended planks on your feet, your lower leg turns into the turn leaving you V legged, you then have to kick your heal into your upper slope ski to force it to pivot up towards your toe and hence to swing the ski up and over the snowpack above you so that you can get both feet around) but I was starting to slip and loose traction on the climbing between the corners. The terrain was effectively just a smidgen steeper than I was comfortable with and balanced on, and after multiple small slip steps backwards the worst case scenario unfolded. I slid back with both skis, toppled to one side and ejected from a ski. I looked up as the lead pack left me in their snow dust. I fumbled about before realizing I needed to get both skis off. I clicked out and then boot packed my way up to a flat spot to place my skis back on. Lost spots = three as I had recovered just as the next group of skiers caught up to me, so I was now in 11th. This scenario unfortunately unfolded a second time just a bit further along and I was in 15th before I knew what had happened. My lack of experience was glaringly evident.

I was now behind guys that were moving slower in general, but who weren't making any mistakes as they went. I kept looking uphill for when an opportunity might present itself to pass some people and it appeared we were coming upon a wide ski run where the terrain flattened out a bit. I put in a push as soon as the trail opened up and I immediately passed and gapped three guys while pushing hard over this wide flat section of the course. I was back in 12th. We skied past a chairlift, back into the forest, took a hard turn to the right and started in on some switchbacks again. I stared up at the next group of guys who were four corners ahead of and went to work on closing the gap. Thankfully with the fresh snow falling, and now being further up the mountain, the icy conditions of the lower part of the hill were behind us. I was no longer struggling with traction and as we approached our first bootpacking section (skis off your feet, onto your backpack, as you climb what are effectively stairs in the snow that are cut out from ski boots, IE very steep terrain) As we removed our skis for the bootpack I caught up to the guys who'd passed me after my first mishap lower down the mountain.

I knew by general time in my head that we must be on the upper reaches of the first ascent and just a few minutes later I was able to peer up into the now blowing snow above and see where our transition area to the descent would occur. I could see two people pulling their skins, two more just arriving, and there were two guys immediately in front of me. Sixth place was effectively within site. We all pushed the pace up to the transition area and I was completely stoked over my transition as I out transitioned one of the guys who'd arrived ahead of me and I departed down the slope immediately behind the other racer I'd arrive with. I was now in 11th and I was now in my element.

I made short work of the descent, successfully toeing the line between recklessly in control and yard saleing. I scooped up 10th in our first rutted out bowl, 9th as I kept my speed through the following steep section, 8th as we found ourselves on the bottom half of the descent as the snow became icier again, and 7th on the final approach into the start/finish gate. Game on!

The Bell Lap

I had a great transition back into my climbing skins but made a critical error. I had been advised that a single set of climbing skins would not last a full race. Meaning that eventually the glue that adheres the skin to the ski would fail due to the careless way in which you have to rip and store your skins while racing, getting them covered in snow and effectively causing the skin to freeze up. I KNEW I should reach into my back pocket of my pack and switch into my backup skins. I got caught up in the moment of the guys I'd just passed coming in behind me and I threw my slightly compromised initial set of skins right back on the skis. I raced out of there with but one guy getting ahead of me and as the now 7th and 8th place racers we created a gap over the guys behind us.

This side of the course was much different in that the climbing was not only steep but much of it was done through fresh snow, meaning there was a 'loosness' to things if you will. The guy ahead of me faltered and I for once made up a spot due to someone else's struggle. This was not to last long however as I could now see the back 1/4 of my right skin wasn't even attached to my ski anymore, it was dangling off to the side and with each step up I was loosing additional tack between my skins and my skis. I slipped backwards, I fell over, and I went about my Bambi snow show as I clicked my skis off. I then bootpacked in knee deep snow up to a flat spot, and made the hard but necessary call to do a full skin switch. I attempted to zone out and focus on the task at hand, but my peripheral would not grant me this luxury. 8th - 9th - 10th - 11th all went gliding by and in that span I managed to get rattled and loose focus. I simply could not get my one ski boot to click into my bindings. Every time I stepped on the ski it shifted in the snow, click - miss - shit, click - miss - shit, click - miss - shit "C'MON GARY!" on my sixth attempt I got my ski back on. There was no one in sight above me, and no one in site below me, and we were all of about fifteen minutes from being done.

With the new skin on I found the necessary traction and fell into a nice rhythm, clicking out kick-turns and gaining elevation towards our final transition. As the upper part of the mountain presented itself I could see one skier up ahead of me. I pushed towards the turnaround, transitioned faster than him, and found myself in 10th. Nothing but downhill ahead. I had no idea of where any of those who passed me on the climb might now be but I leaned into the descent with fleeting hopes of finding one or more of them.

Half way down as my quads were screaming at me I hooked a ski. Instinctively I raised my leg to sweep my ski back around to center before it could catch on the snow below and send me for a tailspin. I chuckled to myself. This sport is awesome I thought. Just a few minutes later I flew through the final turn of the race and a ski patroller directed me down the last straight stretch to the bottom. I could just make out a racer half way down so I straighlined it in the hopes of catching him, I made up all but three seconds on the guy, but it turned out he was in the short distance event. Oh well, 10th place in 1h44m and my head is reeling from all that I learned on the day and all that there is still to learn. I can't wait to do it all over again!

Huge congrats to Nick Elson for placing 2nd, Eric Carter for 3rd, and Stano Faban for 5th. Stano was just bettered by a few seconds by some guy named Max King (a life long skier, 2h14m marathoner, World Mountain Running Champion, famous ultra runner and now first time Skimo racer as well). It's an exciting time for Skimo in North America, here's hoping for plenty of growth within the sport in the coming years.

Fuel: 200ml water mixed with one Hammer gel and a half dozen scoops of snow.


If you find yourself free and with nothing better to do this Tuesday night, Feb 18th, you should swing on by the Salomon West Vancouver store and check out some films and slides while I wax poetic about ultra running. Link here



HURT 100 Finish Line Interview

I had completely forgotten about this archived footage from last weekend's HURT 100 until Linda stumbled across it last night. Here's my finish line interview via Ultra Sports Live TV

I was also able to locate some fun footage from my second time coming through the Nuuanu aid station at mile 34, where I was in the zone and having fun. You'll have to fast forward to 57m20s if you want to see my free throw skills.

Video streaming by Ustream

I'll be working on my race report throughout the week and am happy to say that Ian from Talk Ultra will be giving me a call tomorrow for our annual HURT conversation :)




HURT 100 - Follow Along

If you're interested in following along during this Saturday's HURT 100 here are a few useful links:

My Twitter Feed that Linda will update through my first 80 miles (she'll be pacing a friend after that)

My 2013 Race Report via IRunFar

My 2010 Race Report

Personally, I'm busting at the seams a little bit right now. I'm excited to lay one out there this weekend and I feel like even though I came down with a chest cold at what I thought was the absolute worst time, right at the end of November, I managed to get past it at just the right time, near the end of December. My training through the back half of December and into the first week of January was flawless and going into this weekend I am 100% fit, healthy, rested and without excuse. It's time to race!

A few of my favorite pictures from the last few months of playing outside




Finding Motivation

The rains are back in these parts and with that comes decreased motivation to train along with the coinciding increased personal guilt trips to get my body to move out the door.

Today was the first truly wet run that I've embarked upon in months, in fact I struggle to remember the last real weather challenged run I had to overcome. Off the top of my head it was likely a pre-UTMB exploration in France, though there was no lack of motivation to run in the Swiss Alps on that day.

So the question I'm posing is, where do you find your motivation? What are the most challenging days and/or weather conditions that you have to overcome to get your sweat on?

One of the biggest things I've learned over the years is that lack of motivation can come in many different shapes and sizes, though the vast majority of a lack of motivation exists entirely in our own heads. Being mentally fatigued is far more difficult to get past than simply being physically fatigued. As an example, if you're fired up for a run, let's use the Grand Canyon as an example, you're going to make that run happen no matter what your body might be physically telling you. If however you find yourself at the peak of your health and fitness but are not excited by the terrain you're covering that day you're run is going to be a challenge to complete. The mind controls what the body will and will not do more so than the body controls the mind.

Back in 2005 I was training for my first ever expedition adventure race, that being the 2006 Primal Quest, Utah. I was then residing in Squamish, BC, the aptly named "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada." I was months into my training for a goal that was so daunting that the fear alone got me out the door each and every day. I wasn't feeling necessarily physically beaten down, but everything just became more of a challenge to complete. Day in and day out for weeks on end was an absolute slog. My motivation was nearing zero, I wasn't having all too much fun and I started to wonder if I was experiencing some underlying health issue.

Seven years on I forget what lead me to the following recognition, but as I assessed my training routine I came to terms with the fact that it was exactly that, a routine, completely repetitive. On my scheduled three hour ride day I'd take my mountain bike out on the three hour route I knew. On my two hour paddle day, I'd lug my kayak to the river and paddle down into the sound and back. A two hour run was always completed over the same known two hour route. There was a 90 min loop, a 60 min loop, etc. The adventure was gone and the whole reason I had even been enticed by the sport to begin with was because it was called ADVENTURE RACING.

I metaphorically threw out all of my known, set routes and went about exploring and embracing the unknown wilderness surrounding me. Like an overdose of caffeine, I was wide awake again within days. I started paddling the waters further south of town and quickly discovered hundreds of years old native rockwall art on the sea exposed cliffs near Furry Creek. On foot I found a whole new access point to get up The Chief via a gully scramble. On my mountain bike I learned new trail linkages and started discovering old logging artifacts. I couldn't wait to get out the door and to see what I'd find next. I had to remove the structure to do so though. I had to embrace the unknown and keep the adventure within what I was doing. I met one of Canada's most experienced adventure racers at the time and I was asking him for some training tips, he responded with,

"Training? I've never trained a day in my life."

"Excuse me?"

"I play everyday, but I never go out to train. I go outside to play in the woods and to interact with nature. When I stop enjoying it like play then it becomes work. Work, no matter what form it may take, will always feel like work."

So as I sit here after a successful run on a day that's calling for 80mm of rain it is with an awareness that I consciously went onto a trail system I am less familiar with. I woke up early and was struggling with the mental image of where I wanted to run today. I started rifling through areas in my head and as soon as I thought my way to a trail access point that felt like it excited me I packed my bags and headed straight there. My run, and day of play was salvaged because of this.

Tracking back to the point of this posting, here are a few things I realize I use to motivate me when I know it is nothing more than my own head that's preventing me from getting out the door.

1) Remove The Blinders: The aforementioned day of exploration. Remove all expectations from your day and simply take every new trail turn you can find. Your current favorite routes were once completely unknown to you. Never lose sight of that.

2) Socialize: Training partners are great at keeping you honest. Like most I embrace running as a primarily solo pursuit, but there's nothing better than a planned group run to prevent the snooze button and to make the miles fly by underfoot

3) Mission Possible: In the true doldrums of our longest months which contain the least sunshine I create mini-missions for myself. Taking last winter as an example, we experienced an early and unexpected low snowline that refused to recede. One of my mini-missions was to grab my snowshoes and run from home to the snowline on Mountain Highway. I'd then start snowshoe running up to the tracked high point in the snow and go about breaking trail for 1/2 - 1km further uphill. The snow usually being hip deep while doing so. Once I completed my mission I'd turn around and retrace my steps home. By the end of this I'd have been on my feet for multiple hours, climbed 5-600 meters in elevation, and most importantly not once thought about the run itself. Creating a mission for yourself removes pace, distance and elevation expectations and allows you to go through the motions without over-thinking the going through the motion process.

4) Music, Podcasts and Audiobooks: My necessity for noise distraction to overcome lack of motivation goes in this order. A) no noise, I like to run in my own head as much as possible B) music, nothing distracts my mind on the 'I'm about to over think this running in the rain' days quite like music C) podcasts and audiobooks, on the days when I know I need an entire distraction of the mind to get out the door I fire up a good book or my favorite podcast. I haven't looked for research saying so but my own anecdotal experiences tell me that having to actually listen to a voice and process what it is saying, rather than just humming along to a song, takes the mind into a deeper state of distraction and concentration. My worst weather training days have a great audiobook on standby to conquer them. It has yet to fail me.

5) Dream Big: Throw down for that big race you've been dreaming of. Just because you aren't fit enough to attempt it today does not mean you can't and won't be ready to do so in eight or nine months time. A big-ass scary-as-shit goal will make short work of your alarm clock. I used to be the captain of the under-motivated, then I signed up for the biggest adventure race in the world in 2005, for the 2006 event, and my life has never quite been the same for it.

6) There's More To Running Than Just Running: IE cross-training. Having recently gotten past some neck and back issues I'd been dealing with I've really attempted to get to know some of other sports that I love once again. Primarily this involves gym work, squash, skiing and likely some hockey again, albeit the floor version instead of the ice version, but I find all of this exciting, and fresh and familiar all at once. This guy had it right, way back when.

There are very few people who can train in such repetition so as to pound out the miles five, six and seven days a week, week in and week out, month after month and not suffer through injury in doing so. Personally I am fortunate to be able to log heavy mileage without the standard issues a lot of people attempting high mileage may encounter, however there is not a single one of us who wouldn't benefit from cross training in the form of gym work, cycling, etc. You know that guy Kilian who seems to be a pretty decent athlete, he uses a road bike as cross training, in fact most European mountain runners spend a decent amount of time road cycling. It's interesting to me that we don't see that same mentality on this side of the pond. When you're mind and body start to feel the impact of the pounding of repetition, mix it up, stay healthy and continue to get stronger instead of being forced to the sidelines.

7) I Do Not Want To Suck: For me at least, I find motivation in competition. This is touched upon in five, but that's more in reference to the fear of not being able to finish a certain goal. Whether your goal is a podium finish or a personal best time, competition can be a great motivator. I attempt to pick the most competitive races I can find so that it keeps me honest. There is nothing quite like day dreaming about the best ultra runners in the world and how hard they themselves train to help me get past my rolling mental excuse list.

8) Talk It Out: Conversations ongoing in my head;

"I don't wanna." and be sure to say this in the most childish pout mouth you can.
"Why not?"
"Cause it's wet outside."
"You've gotta be kidding me."
"It's weally, weally wet outside." an Elmer Fudd voice will suffice here
"Yeah that's called rain, it does that here sometimes."
"It looks poopy outside."
"Listen are you injured or severely fatigued here?"
"No. It's poopy outside."
"Yeah, I'll pack a diaper for you, get you're ass out the GD door you pansy."
"But, but, but...."
This is where I put myself in a headlock and it becomes incredibly violent until the stick a soother (Salomon flask bottle) in my mouth and get on with it.

Giving it a voice can give it meaning. Most of our excuses not to do things are entirely trivial and they feel even more trivial when reviewed internally or even spoken out loud.

9) Give It Twenty: That's it, give it twenty minutes. That's my only rule on the days where I'm really in doubt of if running is a good idea. By the twenty minute mark things usually make sense again and I can't believe I fought so relentlessly with myself to begin with. I think in all the years I've been enforcing the twenty minute rule I've only turned back once at twenty five minutes. That day it was the absolute right call, but the other 100 times I've instituted this rule on myself I've ended up with some of my best, some of my longest and certainly some of the most rewarding days of my year.

10) Give It A Rest: Seriously, shut it down for scheduled maintenance on an annual basis. Training/playing creates stress on your body. As runners/athletes we become incredibly efficient at dealing with this stress and seeing it as positive stress. On a cellular level though your body is just dealing with stress and trying to keep you healthy. Your body does not differentiate between what we know to be healthy and unhealthy stress levels, it just knows a stress response.

Ultra running specifically has grown into a twelve month a year pursuit for many runners. With large money events now taking place in September and December there is little downtime to be had unless it is specifically structured in at the beginning of your year. In 2013 I lined up for seven ultras, three of which were 100 miles in length. All but one of those races went as close to 'according to plan' as could be suggested. When I sat down to plan my year I structured in the downtime and then stuck to that plan. Following each of my three hundred mile races I enforced three weeks of near downtime. Doubt the validity of my statement? I've posted all of my workouts this year to my MovescountStrava feeds. I was not injured following any of these races, I was embracing forced recovery.

Following each of HURT, UTMF and UTMB I shut it down in a big way compared to my regular training loads. Even following UTMB in which I only made it twenty miles I shut it down following the event. Why? The physical and mental stress of the training leading up to a big race is what really takes it out of you. In a five week span while training for UTMB I logged over 1,000km, almost all on trail and while averaging nearly a vertical kilometer of gain per day. Whether I made it to mile 20, 50, or the finish, my mind and body needed the break. Without structured downtime the best of the best have two years in them. By the third year there's inexplicable issues that arise either through injury or over-training. Schedule in downtime and enforce it or your body will do so for you, and it won't coincide nearly as nicely with your personal racing goals.

Newton's first law of motion, though not scientifically applicable certainly rings true when jigged to state that 'objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion.'

The less you do, the less you'll want to do. The more you do, the more you'll want to do. So get out and do something and make it habitual. Whether your goal is to win a race, to finish a race, or you're just attempting to get/stay healthy, your body desires movement. Don't let your head get in the way of that.

My challenge to you. Go and run a completely new route this week. Take one day, one run, one hour and find something new out there. You'll be thankful you did.


So how do you motivate yourself to get out and get after it?



Trip Report - Wedge Mountain Scramble - A 3100m / 10,000ft Day Out

Wedge Mountain - 2892m / 9488ft

Party: + Mark Fearman

Conditions: Beautiful mid Sept day. Shorts and t-shirt weather with a light jacket as we climbed higher. No snow on the route.

Timing: 13h30m non-stop timing. We spent about twenty minutes at the Elfin Lakes shelter talking to a few campers and about twenty minutes on the summit. Our ascent time was 7h20m and our descent time was nearly six hours, though we were slowed significantly when one headlamp died within five minutes of turning it on. Always check the batteries I guess :)

Total Distance: 15.5m / 25km

Total Elevation Gain: 3125m / 10,250ft

Pace - Easy/Honest/Intense: Honest. We started out with a good brisk pace but as the day wore on my partner who had just flown in from Australia was showing signs of rust on his mountain legs. On the descent we also had one headlamp malfunction and were slowed further as we shared one beam of light. No dilly dallying along the way and only twenty minutes on the summit. It's a long day via this approach no matter how you slice it.

Technicality: The route is nothing but a very long slog with 75% of your time spent on shifting rocky footing. My core muscles were actually a wee bit sore the following day from simply being off balance for the better part of 9+ hours.

Gear Used: Basic trail running gear, collapsible trekking poles, and full emergency supplies including emergency bivy, fire starting kit, headlamps, etc

As a side note you get full 3g phone service from atop both Parkhurst and Wedge. It's worthwhile to pack along a phone as an additional safety device.

To The Trailhead: Drive time from Lonsdale in North Vancouver was 1h45m at 5am with no traffic and a slightly heavy foot.

Access: You can drive right to the Wedgemont Lake parking area in a 2WD. There is a large signboard with full map and bathroom access.

The Route: Straight forward as listed in the Scrambles in Southwest BC. Once you arrive at Wedgemont Lake there is hut, camping and a pit toilet.

As you gaze across the lake in a southeasterly direction you catch your first glimpse of Wedge as it's the distant glaciated summit. Make no mistake that Wedge Mountain from this approach is a long day out. The summit proceeding Wedge is Parkhurst and that's where your approach to Wedge officially begins from.
Circumnavigate the lake in a westerly / counter clockwise direction to cross it at its drainage. If you decide to proceed in a easterly / clockwise direction ensure you are aptly trained and prepared for glacier travel. Your target to gain Parkhurst is the Southwest ridgeline.

An Addendum To Info In The Scrambles Book: which states "From directly below the col, climb a snow slope / gully between two cliff bands. The snow slopes here are steep and have bad run outs; an ice axe is recommended. Above the cliff bands follow a long snow slope / bench that traverses right until it is possible to ascend a snow slope / ramp back to the left...."

We encountered none of this as the near decade since this information was gathered has taken its toll on the glacier. I should say that our Sept 11th approach was near the culmination of one of the sunniest summer's on record. There is the chance that earlier in the season may still hold snow on the route but here's what we personally encountered; The crux of our route was the very first scrambly bits at the far side of the lake as you initiate your climb up to the Parkhurst / Rethel Col. There was mud sliding over the remaining ice near the initial bits of snow on this listed route. It was slick and sketchy but brief with only a few hundred meters to navigate. Once through this, at the 90 degree right turn up the slope to gain the first cliff band, we were through the snow entirely. On our return journey two small sections of this listed crux had slide into the water below. It won't be long before this scramble route will be completely free of all snow in the late fall season.

A note re the top of Parkhurst: After a six foot tall summit rock cairn you expect more of the same along the route, we saw next to none. From this limited vantage point we were nearly deterred from continuing by the incessant and significant rock slides occurring off of Wedge itself. We continued on with increasing doubt that we'd be able to safely complete our route on the day, only to discover that the rock slides were filtering into a large basin acting like a baseball glove. All this to say that there is a very safe route even if it doesn't present itself from the top of Parkhurst.

Assessment: A very long slog of a day in the mountains. Not to be attempted in one push by unfit and unprepared parties. At 2892m Wedge is the highest peak in Garibaldi Park, which in and of itself makes it a very worthwhile target. The views from the top are of course some of the most spectacular you'll get in the area, and you are seemingly surrounded by a sea of glacial ice in all directions. The scramble itself however leaves much to be desired. We guessed that most parties terminate their Wedge aspirations from atop Parkhurst as the views from Parkhurst are plentiful and the summit of Wedge still looms high above. If you're true target is Wedge, be prepared to overcome these thoughts and push onward and upward. Gaining Parkhurst twice, inbound and outbound, is a bit of a bitch though you won't regret doing so in the end.

GPS via Movescount: click here

Summit Video: Since it was three days before I got married we decided to have an improv bachelor party


The trekking poles were packed away immediately following this pic
Alpenglow anyone?
Now if only both of our headlamps were working