Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Evaluating Your Race Performance

You just completed your goal race.  Whether it was a 5K, triathlon, marathon or ultra... the post-race
analysis is crucial to your ongoing improvement as an endurance athlete.

Don't make rash judgments on your performance in the first 24 hours post-race.  Let the emotions (positive and/ or negative) settle down.  Then do an honest self-evaluation.  What made the race a success?  Did you hit your goal time?  Was it a PR?  Did you complete a distance for the first time?  Was finishing the ultimate goal?   Was your performance good considering race day conditions?   Was your race day focus good/ bad?  How was your training... really?

What went wrong?

  • Did you go out too fast?   This is the #1 error.  Most runners go out too fast.  Proper pacing takes a tremendous amount of discipline & patience.  You learn this in training. Marathon Pacing Made Easy 
  • Did you pick a goal that did not realistically reflect your current fitness?  What evidence from your training did you use to pick your racing goal?  Was it sound and scientific?  Or a wild guess?  Breaking Through the Wall
  • Did your ego/ impatience/ adrenaline get in the way?   Happens to all of us.  Don't compare your fitness, results or race pace to anyone else.  Focus on YOUR race. 
  • Did you stray from your nutrition/ hydration plan?  Sometimes we just forget to eat and drink. Many runners do not take the opportunity in training to figure out exactly what works for them.  Marathon Nutrition Tips
  • Did you think that lingering injury would magically disappear during the race?  Did you think the rules of injury/ recovery don't apply to you?   Runners Are Dumb

What went right? 

  • You hit your goal performance?  If so, document everything in your training log and your race recap so you can repeat the formula next time.  You obviously did many things right.   You stayed injury free.  You can tweak things with each training cycle as goals, fitness and experience change.  But you have the basic blueprint for your own personal success.
    Average weekly mileage
    Injury prevention methods
    Race goal & strategy

What would you do differently?  Whether you judge the race "great" or "poor", there are always
things to tweak for the next training cycle and race.

  • Do you need more race specific pace work?
  • More/ less speedwork?  Running Fast to Race Fast
  • Tempo runs? 
  • More/ fewer long runs?
  • Clean up your diet to get close to ideal "racing weight"?  Every pound helps.  Racing Weight
  • Find the root cause of your injury and FIX it.  
  • Listen to credible sources of training & racing advice?  
  • Find a training group.  There are many advantages to groups: advice, camaraderie, distraction, safety.  
  • Hire a coach to avoid many of the basic training and racing errors.  Get a Coach (Or At Least Think Like One)
Learn from your races.  Don't make excuses. Don't keep making the same mistakes.  

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter Facebook

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CSE Running Form Workshop: Learn To Run More Efficiently

The Can't Stop Endurance Running Form Workshop is aimed at helping endurance athletes learn to run more efficiently, smoother, lighter... and faster.    I feel there is a real need for runners to be aware of their form flaws and improve those weak spots.  I do not believe in a total overhaul of a person's bio-mechanics.  I do believe we can all make the most of our personal bio-mechanics to run smoother, faster and less prone to injury.   I have attended three different running form clinics in the last 10 years.  I gained valuable lessons/ self-evaluation that I use on a daily basis on my runs.  Those lessons have helped me reduce injuries and run more consistently year after year.

This 90 minute clinic focuses on a few key areas:

Body Awareness
Running Posture
Learning to Lean
The goal of the clinic is to smooth out your natural bio-mechanics, reduce heel strike and hopefully make you less injury prone!

The session starts with an overview of body awareness, positioning & posture. Then we incorporate those ideas into moving forward.

The clinic ends with personal form evaluation and feedback.

Comments from some of our attendees:
"The clinic allowed me to focus on more than just running farther or faster. I hope to be able to continue to work on what I learned so I can run injury free"

"I was amazed at how focusing on two simple things like lean and cadence helped my form.  I can't wait to see the results from focusing on those two ideas!"

"Loved the small group 1:1 attention.   Simple approach."

Sign-Up Instructions: Click on the link to check for scheduled dates: Sign Up Here
Select your desired workshop date. You will then receive an email from Coach Kevin with Paypal online payment instructions that will confirm your reservation.  The Workshop fee is $85.00.

The workshops are limited to 6 participants to allow for personalized attention.
Group workshops are available for teams, clubs, etc.

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter & Facebook

Monday, August 18, 2014

But I'm Doing The Best I Can. Really?

A running friend sent this to me from Seth Godin's marketing blog, but it applies to endurance sports as well!

Doing the best I can ... is actually not the same as. "doing everything I can."
When we tell people we're doing the best we can, we're actually saying, "I'm doing the best I'm comfortable doing." 
As you've probably discovered, great work makes us uncomfortable.  
~ Seth Godin

As a runner, and a human, I use plenty of excuses to explain away poor performances.   I am very good at "letting myself off the hook!   Granted, in the big scheme of life, most of us are doing the best we can to get through the day and take care of our responsibilities.

But when it comes to achieving peak performances we are not doing the best we can.  My training log does not lie.  It is the proof of the work I have, or have not been doing.

Getting stuck in your comfort zone is fine.  Sometimes.  It is a calm place.  Low expectations, low stress.  If you are content in your comfort zone, fine.  But stop complaining about not reaching your desired fitness level, racing weight or racing goals.

Am I doing the best I can?  Or am I in my comfort zone?? It is a decision we get to make.  Every day.

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter & Facebook

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Breakaway Bardog 5K Free Entry Contest!

Love a grassroots race?  How about a downtown Memphis course with lots of swag, post race food, beer
& live music? Now add in great door prizes, a dunk tank AND a meatball eating contest??
And the clincher?  

Don't miss the 5th annual Breakaway Bardog 5K on August 17th.  

You can win a free entry into this year's race courtesy of Breakaway Running and the Bardog Tavern.   
Breakaway is our great local running store.  
Bardog Tavern is a "runner-friendly" local pub downtown that also serves as the "clubhouse" for the Salty Dogs Running Group.  

Register here: RacesOnline

If you are already entered you can win an entry for a friend... because runners are awesome! 
Enter to win a free entry! How?  There are several ways.  Yes, if you do all three you get three chances to win. 
  1. Go to the CSE Facebook page and share the post about this contest.
  2. Go to the CSE Twitter feed and retweet the post about this contest.
  3. Leave a comment on this post telling us why you love running in Memphis.
Coach Kevin is an RRCA Certified Running Coach, National Coach for the St Jude Heroes Program & Team McGraw.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Germantown Half Marathon Course Preview

The Germantown Half-Marathon is a popular race on the Memphis and southeastern race calendar. With a  $6,400 prize purse the half-marathon draws a competitive field of 1500 runners with another 500 in the accompanying Mayors Cup 5K.  After 16 years the race has established itself as a well-managed race with great amenities and a fast, but challenging course.   The race directors take good care of their runners:

The race starts at 7:30am at the Germantown Athletic Club (GAC), 1801 Exeter.  There is plenty of parking at the GAC and the shopping center just south of the center.  Arrive early in order to park, walk to the GAC and then make the short 1/8 mile walk to the start line on Neshoba.   

The course is challenging due to the hills in the first few miles and the final mile, but there are minimal turns and plenty of downhill and flat road to make this a fast course if you approach it with the right strategy.  

Miles 1 - 5:  The first hill, on Kimbrough, starts out as a "false flat" just past the one mile mark.  It then climbs steadily for a mile before pitching up in the last 500 yards as you approach the stoplight at Dogwood.  Hold effort on this stretch but don't be afraid to let your pace drop a bit.  Relax and don't stress over that mile 2 split.  There is a nice long downhill after you turn left on Dogwood that will allow you to get back on pace and make up any lost time.  Going too hard up this hill can make the final miles more difficult.   By the time you get to mile 3 you should be back on your target pace.   Just after mile 4 runners turn left on Forest Hill and enjoy a slight, 3/4 mile downhill to Wolf River Blvd. where they turn right and pass 5 miles.

Miles 5 - 10: The next 5 miles are on Wolf River Blvd with two quick detours through parks.  This stretch of road offers few turns or hills so runners can really dial in their pace and effort.  If it is a windy day this is where you will feel it.   The next race landmark is Houston High School and Houston Levee Park. Runners turn in at mile 6 and make the one mile loop around the park.  The halfway mark is inside the park and when you exit back onto Wolf River Blvd you are headed towards the finish with less than six miles to go.   Take the opportunity in the park to reassess your form, nutrition and pace.  Get ready to tackle the second half of the race. The next 3.5 miles on Wolf River Blvd. and Farmington Ave. are flat and require runners to stay focused and on pace. The quick loop through Cameron-Brown Park ends with a short steep exit back onto Farmington.   The incline is less than 20 yards so just get up the incline and get back on pace.  Runners soon reach mile 10 and begin the final 5K.

Miles 10 - Finish: A gradual false-flat greets runners at mile 10 all the way up to the Kimbrough intersection at mile 10.5.   You are too close to the finish to relax now so just keep pushing.  Turn right on Kimbrough and get ready to attack the final hills in the last mile.  After two left turns runners are heading south on Brierbrook. Just after mile 12 runners are greeted by the most challenging part of the course.  The hills are not overly steep but there are several rollers that will test runners, especially those that started out too fast. Be sure and save a bit of mental and physical fortitude for the finale: the 400 yard hill from Exeter and Farmington to the finish line.  

*Course Records: 1:14:12 Janet Cherobon, 2010, 1:06:02 Michael Green, 2005  

For half-marathon training tips: Conquer The Half-Marathon    

Coach Kevin is an RRCA Certified Running Coach, National Coach for the St Jude Heroes Program & Team McGraw.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jackal Trail Marathons race report

Jackal Trail Marathon, June 22, 2013
Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, June 23, 2013
Jackson, TN
Sunny, 90+ degrees
Trail: This trail, near Union University, is in great shape and heavily shaded for 90% of the 3.7 mile loop.  Mostly dirt single track.  Roots, some small hills, lots of twist & turns.  This is another great, grassroots ultra from Run It Fast.

Normally I would call this a stupid idea.  Running two trail marathons back-to-back in 90 degree temps in June makes no sense.  But, as runners, it is what we do.  When Josh Holmes, at Run It Fast, announced this race I knew it would be a perfect training block heading into the Leadville Trail 100 in August.   The cornerstone of ultra training is big double long run weekends.  The Jackal races were an hour from home and put on by a great grassroots group of runners.  Sometimes, running is stupid, and so am I.

Jackal Trail Marathon, Saturday: I approached day one as a normal weekend long run.  Pacing and fueling would resemble a 50K much more than a standard road marathon.  No pre-race stress or time expectations.  Just run, fuel and most of all, hydrate.   The goal for the first 3 laps (7 total laps) was to run under control, keep my heart rate down and hydrate. In a small trail race, the field quickly separates and it is highly likely that you will run for hours on your own.   I was able to run for a bit with Josh, the race director and Run It Fast founder.  Then we caught up with JV, a fellow Memphian and talented runner, who ended up 2nd overall female.  The conversations made for a good distraction as we rolled through the laps with surprisingly steady splits. Finish time: 4:48. 8th overall.  No cramps, no blisters, no falls.   The day unfolded the way I wanted: a normal, uneventful long run.

Recovery:  As soon as I finished I drank my GU Brew Recovery/ protein powder/ Amazing Grass Green Superfood/ Udo's Oil recovery drink.  The goal was to get re-hydrated and refueled as much as possible in order to have the best shot at a good run on Sunday.  I put on my compression socks and dry clothes and made the one-hour drive home.  Along the way I picked up a veggie sub for lunch and two bags of ice for my ice bath.

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, Sunday: Day Two would be run on the same trail, but in the opposite direction.  When my alarm went off it felt like the movie "Groundhog Day".  Same breakfast, same gear, same drive to Jackson, same venue.   Race strategy would be the same: run under control and hydrate!   The goal of back-to-back long runs is to run on tired legs and battle the accompanying mental and physical fatigue that would surely arrive in the later miles.  Legs felt good and pace was steady through the first three laps.  I was feeling a hot spot on my foot so I changed shoes at the aid station.  By focusing on a quick shoe change I failed to properly hydrate.  In addition to drinking a whole 20 oz bottle (with a GU Brew electrolyte tablet) each lap I was drinking an additional half bottle of water at the aid station.  Skipping this extra water caught up with me on lap 4.  My bottle was empty early in the lap and I felt "dry". No cramps,but sluggish.  The hills felt a bit steeper and the pace a bit slower.   I made sure I paid close attention to my hydration the rest of the race.  I was able to run most of the day with another fellow Memphian and "Can't Stop" runner, Courtney. The distraction was good, but it did get very quiet as we both managed our own internal struggles.  (Courtney ended up 1st overall female)  The late race fatigue showed up and I went to the "dark place" a few times in the last 10K.   I wasn't distressed though... that is the exact feeling I wanted.  I needed it to get hard and I needed to work on my mental and physical stamina.  Again, no cramps and no real problems, other than the expected fatigue.  Stay calm, just keep moving.  I was ready to be done by the time we started the final lap.  Just keep moving and in 45 minutes I could stop... and sit down.   I ended up finishing in 5:10, 8th overall.

Fueling: One bottle of water with GU Brew electrolyte tablets every 45 minutes, one S Cap per hour, one GU energy gel every 90 minutes, a few bites of boiled potato at the aid station.

My legs were fairly well crushed on Monday, but I made the point to get out for an easy 4 miles.  The big mileage weekend had been a success.   It provided a good confidence boost that Leadville training was on track.  The lessons:

  • A long race in 90 degree heat is a hydration contest.  Just keep drinking.  And never pass up a chance to top off a half empty bottle, even if you don't think you will need it.  
  • When it gets hard...and it will get hard... focus on the basics: form, fuel, hydration.  
  • If you feel a blister, chafing or other such issue... take care if it early before it derails your day.  
  • Aggressive recovery:  ice, compression, refueling... works!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Consistent Runner

Attention runners and endurance athletes:   There are no secrets to peak performance.
It is really basic: Run smart, train hard, race fast.
The big key to prolonged success is... consistency!

There are many "shortcut" training methods that will, in the short-term, reap fast performances: training too fast for current fitness, running every run too fast, improper recovery, over-training, etc.   But these methods typically lead to injury, fatigue and athlete burnout.

I am much more impressed with a runner's streak of injury-free training, than I am with any other meaningless mileage statistics.

What do you mean by the "consistent runner"?
It is not just about running regularly.  We need to be consistent in all things that lead to better, faster injury-free running.

Consistent Nutrition:  Do you eat a regular diet of fast food, processed food, soft drinks?  Why handicap yourself with a terrible diet?  Don't deprive yourself of a treat now and then.  But soft drinks?  Totally worthless to the endurance athlete.   Be aware of what you are putting in your body.  Nothing tastes as good as a PR feels!

Consistent Sleep: Put down the iPad, turn off the tv, go to sleep.  Our biggest gains in fitness come during recovery, and sleep is essential.  Be sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis.

Consistent Maintenance: If the foam roller keeps your IT Band happy... don't skip the foam roller! When we feel good we ignore our daily preventive maintenance.  Only when we get injured do we pay attention.  Avoid injury and doctor's offices by listening to your body and paying attention to your particular weak links.

Consistent Base Endurance: Train, Race, Recover  Repeat.  It is that simple.  The long breaks from running cause our base endurance to erode.  We have to start over from the beginning to get back to racing shape.  Maintain a year round long run.  I like my runners to run at least a 90 minute long run every two weeks, even in 5K season.  That deep, consistent endurance base will translate to better performances at all distances.

If you can't get to the starting line fit and healthy... you can't ever reach your finish line goal!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Swampstomper 50K 2013 Race Report

Swampstomper 50K, Shelby Forest, TN – 1/13/13 
photo by Jessica Grammer
After a soggy start to January, the trails at Shelby Forest were expected to be a sloppy, slippery mess.  Somehow, they were dry and in excellent shape.   A dry trail and nearly perfect running weather removed the possibility of external excuses for poor performance.  I was just beginning to build my mileage so the race would be a good indicator of January fitness.  My plan was to run aggressively (for a 31 mile race) and then hang on.  Not ideal race strategy but I wanted to test/ push my mental and physical fitness as I head into the winter ultrarunning season.   There are parts of the trail that are somewhat technical due to roots, holes and hills.  There are other parts that are faster and very runnable.  I wanted to survive the trickier parts and push the runnable sections.   
The Start - The race begins with a half mile of paved road before hitting the trail.  As we entered the woods I was in good position behind a group of four.   I knew all four were faster than me but I tried to keep them in sight.  By the time we hit the Red Loop, at mile 3.5, the group was out of sight.  This was probably best because after a fast start it was time to focus on my own pace.  Bjorn, a great training partner, had come up behind me and we would spend the next three hours running together.  The Red Loop…  usually referred to as the ----ing Red Loop… is a 3 mile loop with some of the most technical, steep climbs in the area.   This is best approached in survival mode.  Just get up the hills with heart rate under control and down without falling and getting injured.   
Halfway - Bjorn and I hit the 25K mark in 2:45.  That is a minute faster than I have run that loop.  I was feeling good and under control.  Stomach was in good shape and no problems with my feet or legs.  I was on pace for a course PR but I knew I would give up some time in the second half of the race due to the aggressive early pace.   I wanted to run steady, stay under control because I knew that last hour was going to hurt.

One Hour to Go – At the Group Camp aid station, if all went well, I knew I had an hour or so left to run.  I had just been through my toughest stretch of the race.  Bjorn and I got separated at a previous aid station and then he took a wrong turn, which cost him some time.  I would run the final two hours solo and would visit the dark place a few times.   I have been trying to experiment and tweak my nutrition to get rid of some GI distress that has popped up in some previous long races.  My stomach was pretty good but I felt it rumble a few times.  I don’t pay much attention to mileage or pace per mile in trail ultras.  I try to focus on the mile in front of me.  And I love the countdown.  One hour to go… 45 minutes to go… 30 minutes to go… especially when I have a good race going.  I was paying the price for the aggressive early pace.  My legs were getting very tired and my stomach was on edge.  I had to pull out all of the tough love:  just keep running… it hurts because it is supposed to hurt… it’s hard because you are running your best time ever on this course… just keep pushing… what story do you want to tell?   It got really hard.  But it was all worth it due to an 8th place finish and an 8 minute PR for this course.  I ran the second half in 3:00 for a finish time of 5:45. 

  • To run fast you have to be aggressive, but not reckless.  I was borderline reckless in the first 30 minutes.
  • I am finding that simple sugars, water and S Caps are the key to a calm stomach that doesn’t bloat and get upset.   I think my GI issues stem from too much sugar at once and not enough plain water to help my stomach absorb the sugar.  This is especially a problem when running at race intensity.  It is not as much of an issue on my long, easy training runs. 
  • Walk the walk – when it got hard I gave myself the same speech I give my runners.   
  • Runners are awesome – the spirit and camaraderie on the trail is such positive mojo.  Friends, runners I know by sight and total strangers all rooting one another on to the finish. 

What’s next?  Jackass 50K and Sylamore 50K in February and the Mississippi Trail 50 Miler in early March.  Lots of great trail miles to come!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  He also writes the Memphis Fit blog

Monday, September 3, 2012

Leadville 100 Trail Run - 2012 race report

"When a miner stands at the bottom of that mineshaft and stares at that solid wall of rock... that is called "The Truth".  And that is exactly where you stand this morning, staring at that wall... The Truth." ~ Leadville pre-race meeting

Leadville 100 Trail Run, Leadville, CO - August 18, 2012

I arrived in Leadville on Monday of race week to get acclimated and rested.  It was a great week of hanging out at the coffee shop, hiking, and lying around.  As my Crew rolled in during the week my excitement grew.  Sharing the experience and the pre-race nerves made it a bit more tolerable.   My training had gone so well.  I had done the work.  I had run more training miles than I had ever run in my life and avoided injury. I was healthy and rested and in the best shape of my life.  I stood at the start line with a deep healthy respect for what was coming, but confident that I was ready. (For some background you can read a previous post: Leadville: The Big Goal)

The Start, Saturday 4am - The race starts in the early morning darkness and heads out of Leadville towards Turquoise Lake and the mountains beyond.  I remember telling myself to relax, slow down and soak it in.    Every experienced Leadville runner had told me to hike the early inclines.  Many runners were running the uphills.  I soon realized that runners are runners and, whether a 5k or a 100 miler, they will lose sight of the plan, ignore the advice... and go out too fast thinking the rules of payback do not apply to them.  I stuck to my plan.   I also took a "GU Energy Gel" and an "S Cap" every 45 minutes when my watch beeped.  We made the loop around the Lake towards the "May Queen" aid station without incident.  My goal was to roll through May Queen (mile 13.5) in 2:20. I went through in 2:21.  I grabbed a few bananas, a few cups of GU Brew and kept moving.   I would not need extra nutrition or gear this early, so I instructed my Crew to skip May Queen and just meet me at the Fish Hatchery aid station.   We left May Queen and immediately hit the first climb of the day over Sugar Loaf Pass (elevation 11,071').  This is not a super steep climb.  It is just a long gradual grind.  The scenery, combined with sunrise, made for a good distraction.  Once over Sugar Loaf Pass the quad pounding descent of Powerline awaits.  I ran this long steep downhill but tried to do it under control to avoid a fall and protect my quads for later in the race.  

Fish Hatchery Aid Station, 8:10am, mile 24 - It was great to roll into the aid station and see my Crew for the first time in four hours.   Big crowds and big energy here.   I went through the aid station and grabbed a handful of PBJ sandwiches and bananas.  My crew awaited with a restocked running vest and I traded my arm warmers and headlamp for a visor and sunglasses.  It was quick and smooth and I was off, hiking out of Fish Hatchery trying to get down the bag of calories that I would need to fuel the day.  The GU energy gel was my base line fuel but to make it through 100 miles it takes real food to get in the necessary calories.  As much as I didn't want to finish the bag of food, I did.  The next few miles were... just... ok. I think my stomach was trying to process the food.  Finally it settled down and I felt good again.

Half Pipe Aid Station, 10:06am, mile 30 - I felt good when I saw my Crew at Treeline just before the Half-Pipe aid station.  They refilled my nutrition and applied sunscreen. The weather was beautiful with sunny skies and temps approaching 70. 

(Self-check: six hours in, 30 miles, and I felt really good and relaxed.  I had one hot spot on my foot that I knew was a developing blister.  My stomach was in good shape.  No leg cramps).
The route from Half-Pipe to Twin Lakes is one of my favorite trails.  Beautiful rolling single track along the base of Mt. Elbert that ends with the beautiful descent into Twin Lakes.  

Twin Lakes Aid Station 1, 12:40pm, mile 40 - This tiny village is where the Crew spent the majority of their day.  It's the gateway to the double crossing of Hope Pass, so crews wait here for hours on end for their runners to make the 20 mile round-trip to the turnaround at Winfield.   Up until this point everything was easy and relaxed.  No problems.  I went through the aid station and medical check-in.  My Crew waited for me a few hundred yards down the road with supplies and my trekking poles for the Hope Pass climb.  They did their best pit stop routine and had me restocked and on my way in minutes.  We high-fived at the end of the road and I set out down the trail towards the infamous Hope Pass climb.  
(Self-check: Hope Pass just ahead, no stress yet, legs feel pretty good, Crew was in good spirits...wait... what??  My food?!?  Where's my food bag?? Crap.)  
Somehow I got out of town without my food bag.  Big giant error #1:  I looked back and town seemed very far away... too far to go back...  I had my GU and the next aid station was less than 5 miles away.... just keep moving forward.  

Hope Pass #1, mile 45.5, 2:40pm - The double crossing of Hope Pass is what makes Leadville famous... or infamous.  Runners go from the low point at 9,200' to the high point on top of Hope Pass at 12,600'... in five miles, with most of the elevation gain in the last 3 miles. .  It is a slow, steady lung-burning climb.  As the air thinned and my legs got heavy, the missing-food-bag-bonk ensued.  It wasn't a big ugly bonk, just made the climb tougher and much slower.  I had an awesome cup of potato soup at the top of Hope Pass and then started the descent down the back side towards the turnaround at Winfield.

You would think it would be a relief to get over the top.  It is, briefly.  The backside of Hope is very steep and rocky and did I mention... steep?  So now take a bonk-weakened brain, paired with feet and quads that are getting chewed up with each downhill step... and you get ... the DARK PLACE.  Crap.  I finally made it down to the turnaround at Winfield.  But I was not happy.  I was not feeling good.  And I was now over an hour behind schedule.

Winfield, mile 50, 5:25pm - Karen, my first pacer, was waiting. She noted my delayed arrival and haggard appearance and sprung into action.  Another friend, Daniel, was at Winfield and helped get food and fluids  stocked up for our return.   We didn't waste much time at the aid-station.  Karen took over the key role of a Pacer: thinking for your runner.  As you leave Winfield you are, of course, faced with the soul crushing reality of going right back over Hope Pass. Off we went towards the steep climb back over.  In the two miles before the climb Karen was making sure I ate and drank until I had finished most of the food bag.  I actually recovered from the bonk and was moving well.  Kudos to Karen for getting me ready to go back over the Pass!

(Self-check: Ok, made it to Winfield.  That was brutal but I am still moving. Recovered from the bonk. Having a Pacer helped brighten my mood.  Legs are back.  Can't wait to change my shoes and socks at Twin Lakes and get this nagging blister taken care of.)

Hope Pass #2, mile 55, 7:40pm - The ascent up the back side is so steep.  It was all about one-step-at-a-time.  Just keep moving... and breathing.  The top would eventually arrive.  I think Karen enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of the Pass.  I did not.  I was in tunnel-vision mode.  Finally... back over Hope Pass.  A short, brief victory.   As we restocked at the Hope Pass aid station, a few sobering realizations:  I was way behind schedule.  My plan to be back to Twin Lakes by 7pm was gone.  It was getting dark.  Fortunately, Karen had a headlamp.  But only one.  Big giant error: There was never a thought of being this far behind schedule and getting back to Twin Lakes after dark. We headed down the mountain towards the deep forest... racing sunset. We didn't make it.  Again, Karen did an awesome job getting me down the mountain, on a technical trail, in the dark.  Not sure how, but she did.  That's what great pacers do. 

Twin Lakes Aid Station 2, mile 60, 9:00pm - I still didn't realize just how far behind I was.  

(Crew notes from Ted:  "The return trip to Twin Lakes aid station was expected to be around 7:00pm.  Good thing Karen and I put a headlamp in the pocket of Kevin's jacket, because a night time trek down the mountain was not planned on.  Arrival at Twin lakes at 9:00 was a full 2 hours later than expected.)
We rolled into Twin Lakes feeling good.  I had eaten well and was in good spirits.  My Crew was waiting.   Ted & Crew had fresh shoes, socks and food ready.  I went straight to medical to have my blisters repaired.  It was quite amusing and reassuring to have my friend and mentor, Marshall Ulrich, leaning over the doctor giving blister-repair advice.  Marsh is an endurance legend and drove up to assist the Crew.  He ended up staying with us all night.  Ward would take over pacing duties and was ready to go.  Repaired blisters, fresh, dry shoes and socks, food, a few layers of clothing and we were off. 
(Self-check:  In a good place mentally & physically.  All things considered, feet and legs feeling good.  No realization of time or distance... just... keep moving.  We are doing this!)

Twin Lakes to Half Pipe - Ward did a great job of keeping me fueled and hydrated... and distracted.  We made the long steady climb out of Twin Lakes and then were moving well on the rolling forest trails of Mt. Elbert.  There was some bargaining over food and "not another gel, please".  But like a good pacer, Ward did the thinking for me and kept me on schedule.  But then an interesting thing happened.  I heard another runner discussing "cut-off times" with their pacer.  There are rolling cut-off times to reach each aid station.  Arrive after a cut-off time... and your race is over.  "Cut-off times??  I never fathomed that I would be worried about cut-off times at the aid stations".  

I asked Ward if missing a cut-off was a concern? 
Ward: "You want the truth?"  Of course.  
Ward: : "You were less than 45 minutes ahead of the cut-off back at Twin Lakes"  WTF?  It hit me how much time I had lost on Hope Pass.  There was no panic.  Just the sobering realization that things were serious and there was some added urgency.  I later learned that my Crew was well aware of the time concerns and was already planning ahead to manage the issue. Again, Crew thinks, runner runs.  

Half-Pipe Aid Station, mile 71, midnight - Ward handed off pacing duties to Jeff.   

(Crew notes from Jeff: "I got my marching orders from Ward: S-Caps, one every hour, make him eat every thirty minutes, drinking every fifteen minutes or so…and keep him moving.  Kevin isn't really wanting to eat much, but he should…and soup is working well for him and still appetizing")
 I drank a cup of soup because it was warm and my stomach was handling it well.  As Jeff and I headed out, Marsh walked along for a bit giving some tips and motivation.   Jeff and I had a short, flat 5 mile leg on the valley road that leads to the Fish Hatchery aid-station.  No big deal.  A good place to make up some time.  No... this would be the road to... the reckoning!  I was getting a bit chilly.  I had on a hat, two layers, a windproof jacket and gloves. But... no pants or tights.   Much more than I ever wear in the winter.  Big giant error #2: I didn't realize the effects of the cold on a body that had been up and running for 20 hours.  
(Crew notes from Jeff: "At the time…cold did not appear to be of issue. No complaints, no warning signs. Marshall was concerned about cold at this point. As we continued to walk, he felt Kevin’s legs; they felt warm enough. “Do you want pants?” he asked. No…Kevin affirmed he was fine. “Are you sure?” Yeah")  
We hit the valley road and the temperature had dropped below 40 degrees.  I starting getting a few shivers and my legs were feeling cold.  
(Crew notes from Jeff:  "Kevin is getting colder…and quieter. I thought nothing of the silence. Would I feel chatty after running for 22 hours? Probably not. But Kev is obviously getting colder…and starting to comment on the wind. He’s fading, but I’m still not thinking it’s EXTREME. Just COLD.")

I feel myself fading a bit.  Jeff had shed his coat and put it on me. I'm shivering head-to-toe.  Trouble talking.  Hip flexors and quads are stiffening rapidly   WTF is going on??  And then... stopped... in the middle of the road... in the middle of nowhere... in the dark... I can't move.  
(Self-check: Brain is fuzzy.  In that instant I felt the entire thing unraveling.  I was certain ... if I made it to the aid station... that medical would pull me from the race.  I never once considered quitting... or not making it to the finish line.  To be pulled from the race by medical?  No!  It can't end this way)
(Crew notes from Jeff:  "Then it happens. Or rather, STOPS happening. Cramps. Hip flexors, he tells me. Even with the cold, I’m not certain that this is the cause.  He tries to stretch, we keep moving, but things don’t want to turn loose. Slowing makes things even more cold…and it brings that cutoff time even closer.  Ted suddenly appears in the dark, having headed toward us following my last text about Kevin's condition. He throws a ski jacket on Kevin, which helps"  
(Crew Notes from Ted: "At 2:45am something wasn't setting well with me, so I told Ward to monitor his phone, that I was going out to see for myself what was going on.  When I found Kev, he was shaking, stumbling and freezing.  I asked what was wrong, he replied he was cramping.  I asked if he wanted my ski coat, he snapped ”I don’t know.”  With that I took it off and wrapped him in it, and called Ward to tell them Kev was hypothermic and needed blankets, soup and pants.  He almost stumbled off the road, but I pushed him back on.")
Somehow, I started moving again.  

Fish Hatchery Aid-Station, mile 76, 3:00am
(Crew Notes from Jeff: "We keep moving, finally making it to the transition area…and it’s all hands on deck.  We are inside the cutoff time, but barely. Kevin is walked into aid station.  Here’s some soup. Eat it. Someone has come up with long underwear to pull up over his running shorts. More soup. A blanket…over the ski jacket. Another blanket. The “Endurance King” is massaging his legs. We've got to hurry. Tick. Tick. Fill up his water bottles with hot broth. "Guys, you've gotta go", says Marshall. Tick. Tick. "They will pull him from the course if we don’t get him out…NOW". 

I sat there in the aid station and felt the energy coming back into my body as it warmed.  There was a flurry of activity going on around me.  I was handed a cup of soup and bottle of broth.  Marsh was kneeling in front of me telling me what I was going to have to do.  And it suddenly hit me.. this thing is NOT over. A race official whispered something in Marsh's ear.  Marsh reached down, grabbed me by the jacket and picked me up and said it was time to go.  I later learned the official said that if they didn't get me up and out that the medical staff was going to take a close look. 
(Crew Notes From Ted:  "After 8 minutes and with only SIX minutes before the cut-off, Marshall said his friend told us to get Kevin out of there!  We got him standing and he proclaimed “let’s do this bitches!” We walked him out of the aid-station")

Fish Hatchery to May Queen - (Self-Check: Ok,  I'm back.  Wow.  It is not over. Not sure how it happened but I am moving with purpose.)  
Brandon has taken over pacing duties and we are headed towards one of the toughest climbs of the race.  Powerline is a long climb with several false summits.  Brandon does an amazing job of keeping me fueled and in a rhythm.  The Powerline climb takes one hour & forty minutes. Not a bad time, especially in light of what had happened just two hours earlier.    We try to make up time on Hagerman Pass Road.  But my quads are mush and I cannot run the downhills.  We move with purpose though.  Brandon is keeping a close eye on pace and cut-off times. I don't want to know.  I just listen to Brandon as he implores and encourages.  And then... the sky begins to change.  It is sunrise # 2 of the race.  Hmm, that's quite interesting.  I've been out here a really long time.

May Queen Aid Station, mile 86, 6:40am 
Well, it all comes down to this.  I make it out of May Queen with FIVE minutes to spare.  Just over three hours to make it to the finish line in Leadville, 13.5 miles away.  I never imagined that my day would come down to this.  There was no other thought or problem in my world at that moment.  It was simple. Just keep moving.  Doug took over pacing duties and made sure I was aware that I would be "the last runner to beat the 30 hour cutoff and get a belt buckle or the first one to miss it".  It resonated in me and I assured him that I would give absolutely everything I had.  I ran when I could and walked with purpose when I couldn't run.    We reached the road that signals 5.5 miles to go.  I was fully engaged and alert and I knew the 30 hour time limit was in jeopardy.  But quitting was NOT an option.  I was going to finish this race.
With a few miles to go, Brandon rejoined the pacing crew and decided the only shot we had was a 3:00 run/ :30 walk pattern over the final few miles.  I didn't think.  I didn't say much.  I just listened to Brandon's countdown and ran when he said run... and walked when he said walk.   I am really not sure how I was still running at mile 97.  The mind is a powerful thing.  Don't think.  Just run.   
With one mile to go, I knew we were going to miss the cutoff.   But my Crew kept me running and we eventually crested the final hill.  With the finish line in the distance, I heard the telltale shotgun blast signifying the 30 hour time limit.  We kept running.  
There was a big crowd at the finish and the outpouring of support from them and the race announcer was amazing.  I reached the finish line.. and finally... could stop.  30:05.  Missed it by 5 minutes.  A race official congratulated me and placed that Finisher's Medal around my neck.   My crew grabbed me to keep me stable and the emotion of the ordeal sunk in.   All of the training, all of the sacrifice, my amazing Crew, the support of my giant running family... and I was finished.  I had run 100 miles.  It still sounds surreal. 

Yes, I missed the 30 hour limit and the belt buckle.  But I wouldn't trade that 30:05 for anything.  To bounce back from several big mistakes including nearly being pulled from the race and only miss it by 5 minutes?  To have the support of such an amazing group of people who gave of themselves unconditionally for MY goal?  There's no belt buckle that can ever top that.  Now, don't get me wrong... that 5 minutes is already gnawing on me.  I have to go back... and get my buckle

There are several basic lessons I will take back to Leadville:
Food - more real food earlier. And more liquid calories. 
Gear - Always have a headlamp in your pack after halfway.  Always.
Clothing - Always have extra layers handy, including pants.  Always. 

There is no way I would have ever finished this race without the total, selfless support of my Crew.  I didn't have to beg or bribe anyone to crew for me.  Each stepped up and said "I am in."  They are all special people and amazing friends.  I can never repay what they did, but I will try.  

Back: Brandon, Doug, Ward, Jeff, Marshall
Front: Ted, me, Karen
And thanks to some of the Memphis ultra community who offered me great training and racing advice and encouragement: Feb Boswell, Nick Lewis, Les Jones.  Super congrats to James Holland, the only Memphian to run under 30 hours this year!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  He also writes the Memphis Fit blog