Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spartathlon 2014: A stranger in a strange land following in the footsteps of Pheidippides.

USA Spartathlon Team! Who will be next?


I definitely was feeling a bit apprehensive as the final ten seconds were counted off by the throng of 349 fellow Spartathletes; my heart was definitely beating hard; could feel my pulse throbbing in my neck; butterflies in my stomach. After all it had only been 66 days since I finished the Badwater 135 in strong fashion. It was anybody’s guess how I’d be able to handle another 200km++ race so soon after.

However, I had no reason to worry. I had a pretty good race overall. Had some stomach issues mid way through the race that gave some scares about my ability to keep under the strict cutoff times but I rallied and finished well. Honestly had no expectations going into this race other than to survive to the finish. My final finish time was 31:46:50 (12:26 pace) and 49th place overall and a healthy 4h 13m 10s under the 36 hour cutoff. By virtue of Katalin Nagy, a dual US-Hungarian citizen who finished in 28:55:03 and 16th overall, choosing to represent Hungary I was technically the first finisher from the United States, and first from the Western hemisphere (North & South America). Not too shabby!

Read on for more detail about my race. Warning: it is quite lengthy in my traditional stream of consciousness narrative kind of way!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 Badwater Ultramarathon. Everybody's a rookie this year.

Moments after my finish of the 2014 Badwater Ultramarathon. (Kathy Youngren)

Thanks to my wonderful crew, wife Kathy Youngren and Bryce Carlson, I finished my second Badwater 135 in 28:03:35. Good enough for 7th overall and 6th master. For the Badwater event this was also a 3:10 personal best. Took the first half fairly conservatively and still struggled in the heat a bit on the stretch from Lone Pine to Keeler. Once night fell though I was ready to roll and covered the second half of the course much, much faster.  While this year’s course didn’t pass through Death Valley I strongly believe that the overall difficulty of the route is roughly time equivalent to the traditional route. In short, the huge increase of climb (17,000’ up from 12,000’) AND descent (12,700’ way up from ~4000’), the crew-less 16 mile gravel road climb/descent of Cerro Gordo and still impressive triple digit heat pretty much made up for  the lack of wicked Death Valley heat. At least that’s my take.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Long Haul to Spartathlon (Guest post by Bryce A Carlson)

 Synopsis:  After racing the Rocket City Marathon on December 14th, 2013 to a 2:57:10 finish (not bad considering conditions and not really being fully invested in making a solid effort) I'd spent the better part of the next few weeks not running hardly at all. My wife and I were on vacation in Colorado over the holidays; snow-shoeing, snow-mobiling, snow biking, etc... but no serious run training. It was a restful time. Then, the weekend after we return home I discover on the Spartathlon Facebook page that there are new qualifying standards for the 2014 event. The long and short of it was that my 2011 Badwater 135 finish was too old to use for a qualifier. Crap! What's worse, Spartathlon entry was about to open up and by all estimation the race would fill in short order. So, panic set in as my wife Kathy and I tried to figure out what to do. Very quickly we found a 100km race outside Tampa, Florida that I could use to attempt to qualify. To qualify I'd "only" have to run a sub-10:30 which is right over 10:00 min/mile pace for 62 miles! No sweat! Ha! So, only home a week from Colorado I suddenly found myself on a plane to Tampa; with decent leg speed but woefully undertrained for ultra distance! I'd have to rely on muscle memory and a wealth of experience and life time miles. In the end I was successful, though the effort certainly wasn't ever easy, finishing the Long Haul 100km in 9:51:07; more than good enough to punch my ticket to Greece! So now I've entered the Spartathlon 246km and am awaiting to hear back if my entry was accepted...

What follows is a more detailed account of my race mostly through the eyes of my friend Bryce Carlson who was in the same Spartathlon qualifying predicament as me.