This update is long overdue. I haven’t stopped writing in the past 6 weeks, but have struggled to find time to update the blog with all the travel and post hundred mile fatigue. I apologize for the somewhat abridged and less insightful notes. I have so much more to write about, but was forced to cut out many of my notes and thoughts to keep the length manageable. I hope this still provides an interesting glimpse into my recent adventures. I will be writing more about Japan at a later date.
I watched part of Déjame Vivir on the plane ride back from Vegas last night. I was crammed in the very back row, grinning the whole time in my own little bubble. This might be my favorite of Seb’s movies although I’m still partial to his first flick Flight of the Frenchies. Déjame Vivir was great on so many levels, from the intimate filming style, to the music, and of course Kilian’s incredible feats. I was immediately stoked to get back out in the mountains.
My body is still tired and tight from Whites, so I head for an acupuncture session with aQui Mizrahi at Boulder East West Acupuncture. To me, part of the using acupuncture for healing comes through finding the right therapist. I really click with aQui’s style, so the sessions have been immensely beneficial. All relaxed after an hour and half on the table, I head to the gym for a quick climb to further loosen up the body.
I caught up on work this morning, but have difficulty focusing from the usual post-hundred fatigue. Everything seems slightly more laborious to get done and I get easily distracted. I find that running, particularly long distance, connects me with a slower, more natural rhythm that makes it harder for me to engage with the higher paced demands of daily life. Thankfully, this typically only last for a week or so post-race.
The New York Times posted an article on Ueli Steck’s solo climb of the South Face of Annapurna. It’s interesting that the main thread of the article focuses on the lack of proof of his climb rather than the immensity of his feat. Integrity and honor are a large part of these endeavours and while cheating does exist, and there are numerous, controversial examples of this in the past, I don’t believe such climbs should be tracked more than they are already. Similar to FKTs, I think too high of a focus on the competitive aspect and ratification is kind of missing the point of these endeavours.
Went for an easy run with Deanne in the neighborhood this morning. I have no injuries or pain other than some pretty significant hip tightness. My chest and lungs also get tight and tired post- hundred and this time is no different. Tony and I went for another climb at the gym in the evening. It’s nice to see some decent progress for both of us after 3 months of regular sessions. I’m thinking this will translate well to some summer run/climb projects.
In the evening, Deanne, Tony, Mauricio, and I meet up with Geoff and Corlé for a cookout at the Mount Alto picnic area on the Switzerland Trail. It’s a chilly night, but the fire, drinks and laughter keep everyone warm.
Still feeling tight on the run today, so I walked mostly just to get the blood flowing in the legs. It’s always good to be outside. Deanne, Tony and I went to comedy night at the Bohemian Biergarten. The show takes place every Sunday evening and features a variety of stand-up talent. I was impressed with length of the show and the level of professionalism of the acts. There were some really funny jokes, others were crass, and some terrible, but overall it was an entertaining night. Stand-up is incredibly difficult to do well, so I’m always impressed with anyone who gives it a shot and with a little beer most things become pretty funny.
Climbed the First this morning and continued on to summit Green. I used the Inov-8 Mudclaws for the first time on the rock. The rubber felt very secure and I never felt sketched even with the high lugs. I will be using these a lot in high country this summer. It’s so good to be back scrambling!
Cleaning! I spent the morning cleaning out our spare room, which has basically become my gear room. It was in great need of a tidy. I don’t clean often, but it’s very satisfying when it’s done (at least for a short while). I ran a couple of repeats on Lickskillet Road before heading into town to meet a friend for a lap on SoBo via Shadow Canyon. Between the burn last year and the flood, Shadow is a lot more rugged trail making it a really engaging climb and descent.
I did another couple repeats on the Skillet followed by a quick ascent of the 2nd Flatiron with a friend and then brews at Sherpas. I got a late evening climbing session in with Tony. We were both exhausted and didn’t accomplish much.
Florian Reichert, a fellow Arc’teryx athlete from Germany, was in town for a visit, so I took him up the Second Flatiron followed by a Green Mountain summit via the goat route. It was great to show Flo some local trails and see the palpable stoke on his face for his first ascent of a flatiron.
It’s a beautiful, warm spring day today. Tony and I did an leisurely ascent of the First, then sipped espressos on the outdoor patio at Spruce Coffee Shop.
Tony and I got some climbing in on the Buttresses. A bit of soloing, some leading and some harder toproping made for a productive session. We were both well spent after a full evening on the rock.
It snowed about a foot last night! I ran up the Anemone trail and down over to Canyon to explore some trails back there. I found a lost dog, Dolly. At roughly 15lbs of body weight she wouldn’t have stayed alive much longer in the deep snow and cold. Luckily, I was able to reach her owners from the number on her collar. We met up shortly after at the Centennial Trailhead. Her owner was waiting ready to wrap her in a pink panther styled fleece coat.
In usual style, last minute prep for Japan is completely frantic. I’m off for 3 weeks, so I want to be sure not to forget anything, while still trying to fit all my running gear for UTMF in a carry on bag. I have little trust for checking bags, from losing bags way too many times, so I always try to bring only carry on bags. Deanne and I messed up coordinating with the cars and I left the truck down in Boulder, which means I need to leave Gold Hill earlier than expected. Tony and I rode the bus to the airport together getting there 4 hours early. I guess it’s better to be on time and have a couple beers, than be rushing in last minute.
The 12 hour flight to Tokyo was painless. I sat next to a mom and her baby, who remained incredibly well behaved the entire flight. The time difference with Japan and the US is such that travelling to and from both country alway feels like a timewarp to me. I lose all sense of time and spacial references.
Long day today. We arrived at 4am in Tokyo and drank about 8 cups of American coffee translated as “weak coffee” on the machine at the hotel. Tony, Núria and I did a short press conference for the Japanese press. I then went for a run with Núria and Fujio (BUFF Japan athlete) around the Imperial Palace finishing in a hazy, blood orange sunset. It was a struggle to get through the day, but I’m glad to not have slept so hopefully my rhythm will be synced come tomorrow.
Ken Imaya is our host. He runs a sports marketing company, BlueTag and is the distributor of BUFF in Japan. He lived for 8 years in Australia so his English has a lil’ twang from Down Under. He’s super organized and a remarkably gracious host.
Núria , Fujio and I got in another run around the Imperial Palace, this time we did 3 loops. The legs felt a bit tired. I was grumpy on the asphalt and in the humidity and smog of Tokyo. It’s pretty incredible how many people get after it on this 5k loop- folks from all different walks of life. Some are dressed like runners in tights and road flats, other still have their work clothes on and run carrying a briefcase. I love seeing this type of dedication.
We ate sushi at the fish market. I like sushi, but there are so many other Japanese dishes I prefer such as the brown curries, udon or barbecue.
Jools, the UK distributor for BUFF and founder of SueMe, is accompanying us on our 2 week trip. He’s quite the character. He’s wearing a shirt with an elk on it and the words “Force of Nature” along with flower pattern made from curtains. He tells us how he got roped into riding wild ponies across Mongolia, retracing Genghis Khan’s ancient trade route. He hadn’t ridden much before the trip, but he accepted the challenge and proceeded to ride 1000 kms through the Mongolian steppe. This story would be one of many epics (suitable use of the word) that Jools would casually bring up in conversation throughout our trip. Badass.
I ran roughly from the last aid-station to the end with Núria and Fujio.
A8-A9 UTMF course recce - an amazing section through the Tenshi mountains with Iso, Tomo and Núria. We ate black bear Houtou (a local flat noodle dish). I have mixed feelings about eating bear, but was assured it’s a fairly common dish here.
Fun run with the Buff team at Lake Seiko.
Easy run A3-A4 on the UTMF course. I met up with Seb on the top of the first peak. He seemed slightly less chipper than usual and mentioned he’d been struggling with ups and downs in his training since his severe dehydration at TransGranCanaria.
Easy lakeside run. My legs are feeling a little better, but still have a lot of accumulated fatigue in them. I don’t have any real pain, just tightness and fatigue. I think I might have some delayed muscle soreness from Whites. Deanne made an interesting observation today that I put my body through so much stress while running, that I should really focus on gentle, non-invasive recovery. I respond best to treatments like acupuncture, gentle massage, and stretching, so this makes a lot of sense to me. Essentially, I’m trying to find recovery methods that promote recovery directly rather than further stressing the body.
Another easy lakeside run. Met up with Clarkie and a few others.
I got a final short, easy run in before the race tomorrow. My legs and hips are still tight and pretty fatigued. It’s a long race though, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to shake the lethargy.
I went to see Arnaud Tortel of Active Patch 4U who helped me with some stretches and applied patches to areas that are tight in my body (I left with a lot of patches on me). I’m not one to jump at any claims for a miraculous cures, but I will endorse something that works. The patches provide nearly instant relief and while I don’t expect to be fully fixed in one session, I am more confident in how I feel physically going into the race tomorrow.
UltraTrail Mt. Fuji - a few race highlights.
I hadn’t planned on doing two hundred milers three weeks apart, but when I got into the White Mountains 100, I booked my flights right away for Alaska, and then only subsequently got into UTMF. I decided to run both races, trying to be as conservative as possible for Whites to leave a lot in the tank for UTMF. It was an experiment and overall a pretty interesting one. I don’t regret choosing to do both races. Whites went very well and I also had another fantastic experience in Alaska. I wouldn’t want to take that away in favor of a better run at UTMF.
Expectedly, I arrived in Japan feeling pretty fatigued 2 weeks after Alaska. Until arriving in Tokyo, I hadn’t experienced any pain or soreness in my legs, but after a couple of runs pounding the pavement around the Imperial Palace, I was surprised to feel very tight and beat. I’m not too sure what was causing the issues, maybe the humidity, the jet-lag, the road, or simply delayed muscle soreness from Alaska. Regardless, I spent the week leading up to UTMF trying to get my legs to feel fresh again. By race morning, I was feeling decently rested and limber, no small thanks to physio Yoshihito Sato and Arnaud Tortel.
I felt pretty flat for the first 3 hours of UTMF, running on a mix of road and rolling trails. I was hoping to have a little more pep in my legs, but it’s a long race, so I settled into an easy rhythm, reminding myself to be patient. Despite having a copious lunch, I felt really hungry early on and ate 4 sticks of shot blocks in the first hour and a half. That’s definitely not normal for me and a first indication that I might be starting the race on already depleted reserves.
For the following 8 to 10 hours I coasted along on autopilot. I moved up in the field, not because I was accelerating or running particularly well, but because others were dropping out ahead. I could tell my body didn’t quite have it and was unable to engage the race with a higher intensity. Mentally, I was feeling very relaxed and knew that with steady pacing and patience, my body might eventually come around.
My goal was to reach the Tenchi mountains at 100kms feeling good and use my strengths on the steeper more technical terrain to move further up in the field. Unfortunately, as I started up the first major climb in the Tenchi’s I was overcome by a deep sense of fatigue. I’ve never experienced this type of intense sleepiness in a single day event. In fact, only at the ITI have I ever not been able to stay awake while running. I decided to reward myself at the top of the climb with a 30 second nap on the side of the trail. Closing my eyes even for a few seconds provided for the most intense feeling of relief. Just as I was about to fade off into deeper sleep, Núria came by, got me up and told me not to sleep here, as I would get cold. We shared the following several hours together, talking little, but enjoying a stunning sunrise over Mt. Fuji and bumbling our way along steep, engaging trails to the next checkpoint.
A large part of running hundreds successfully is having enough reverses to tap into when you really need the energy, usually from mile 70 to the finish. I came into the race depleted and was already pretty burnt by the halfway point. All I could do was keep moving and fight for a finish.
My energy didn’t really turn around like I’d hoped and the long stretch of road coming into the last checkpoint just about got the best of me. I was hypoglycemic, super dizzy and on the verge of collapse, but having been in this situation before I knew that some fluids and sugar would bring me back to life pretty quickly. I shared the last 10km with Christophe Le Saux and we came in together in a little under 24hrs.
Crossing the finish line, I could have curled up in a ball and gone straight to sleep. While I didn’t have the race I was hoping for, I was satisfied with how I ran with what I had on the day. Through the struggles and low points, I felt a new sense of mental ease in running hundred milers that I haven’t really experienced before. This is encouraging as it suggests that when the body does cooperate, my mind is in the right place to execute a very good race. Among the many great performances (and there were many), I was particularly inspired to see Núria run so well. Her focus and determination in preparing for the race really translated into an exceptional performance. Congratulations to all those who made it around the hill and gave it their best.
UTMF with its flawless organization is an exceptional event that I’d highly recommend running. The road sections weren’t anywhere near as bad as I thought, and while more trail in some parts would be welcome, overall I found the road-to-trail ratio to be similar to UTMB. The trails are fun and engaging. They are very steep, but not particularly technical, resembling trails of the Pacific Northwest. The mix makes for a varied, fair course that demands a good mix of skills to be successful.
I’d like to give a special thanks to Ken Imaya, Fujio, Pau Zamora, Jools, Albert, Núria and all the rest of the BUFF team for truly exceptional support during my entire stay in Japan. Thank you also to Tetsuro Ogata for his brilliant crewing skills and knowing exactly what to do and say when I needed it most at the checkpoints. His help was invaluable as was that of many other friends in Japan who showed nothing but love and encouragement. Thank you!
Absolutely exhausted. I could barely stay awake long enough to grab a meal post-race and crawl straight into bed. I slept the entire night without waking once.
I’m super swollen from water retention and electrolyte imbalance. I haven’t been since swollen post-hundred since my first UTMB. Wallowing in post-hundred fatigue, we head to the hot springs and I get a painful massage before returning to Tokyo.
We visit a temple near the Tokyo Tower in the morning and a couple of different districts in the city. I’m mainly just sleep walking and have a hard time focusing on anything. It is really nice to spend time with the BUFF crew and just enjoy some casual relaxation and conversation.
Núria , Ken, Jools and I rise early to head to a kids trail running event that Fujio is organizing. I admire Fujio’s passion and desire to get kids interested in trail running at a young age. The event feels like a large family picnic and parents and kids alike gamely participate in the different race distances ranging from 1k to 5k. The event is a great success and one I hope will see much growth in the future.
I got home at 2am after a remarkably seamless trip. I somehow got upgraded to a first class ticket for my flight back from Tokyo to LA. I stretched the seat out fully into the bed position and slept most of the way. Occasionally, I stirred to give a disapproving look to coach passengers trying to use the first class bathroom, just to really fit into my role.
Once home, I slept on and off for a good part of the day and enjoyed catching up with Deanne after having been apart much too long.
So nice to be home. Hiked up Niwot mountain in on good, hard-packed snow. It felt so nice to be up in the thin air again.
Niwot Mountain again. Bells decided to chase a huge white hare on the top of the peak. It was close to the same size as her. She gave chase for 5 minutes, then gave up.
I went to acupuncture for another restorative session with aQui before heading to the climbing gym for a final day this season. I won’t be heading back to the gym until the fall when the weather turns again. I nearly got a 5.12a, which was a nice way to end the indoor season on a high note.
Hard work day today. I felt really tired. I had to take a mid-afternoon nap to get through the day and had a hard time getting out of a full body fatigue and funk.
Deanne and I hiked/ran on the Buchanan pass trail. It was a nice sunny day, albeit a little windy. I got an evening lap on the first flatiron, a nice easy cruise.
I spent 4 hours running and exploring trails up and around Mt. Sanitas to find a good all-trail link back up to Gold Hill. It’s coming together, but I don’t quite have it dialed. Four hours was probably a little longer of an outing than I need as I was super spent coming home.
Scrambled the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth flatirons today. I felt really good on the First topping out in a decent 13 minutes. I then decided to downclimb the Second, which is more fun than I remember for doing it last summer. The Fourth is always a bit of a mess. It’s dirty and disjointed and the weakest the five in my opinion. The Fifth is my second favorite flattie with the North East Arête being an absolute joy to climb.
In the evening I joined the group run at Under the Sun with Deanne, Geoff, Tony, Mauricio and others. It was a super fun evening with great food and company as well as a free beer.
It was a super stormy day. I went up Niwot when the sky cleared, but as soon as I reached the summit the clouds moved in fast. I was in a complete white out, with lightning and thunder cracking all around me. Lightning is absolutely terrifying. Luckily, I quickly made it back to even tree cover and ran as fast as I could back down to the truck. That was way more excitement than I’d hoped for in an easy evening outing.