2021 Hellgate 100k++

I used to be very good about writing race reports, but not so much these days. So this is only 4 months late, and won’t have much detail.

But with that said, I will write a little… Some of you know I had sort of lost interest in most races, and this was before covid even started. I’m not sure why I lost interest, but traditional races like WS100 or UTMB that I once had on my bucket list, no longer called to me. Maybe it’s temporary, maybe not. What did interest me were crazier races and events, such as Barkley Fall Classic, Rogaines (24 hour orienteering events), and “projects” — self supported efforts like the Linville Gorge grand loop, SCAR, the Quad, etc.

But one day late September, Hellgate suddenly popped into my head… Not sure why, but I thought that would be “fun.” I figured it would be sold out, but a quick search found that it is application based and I had a week until applications were due around the 1st of October, so I waited for the application to be published, filled it out, and waited to hear something.

Funny thing — I received the following text from David Horton, legendary ultra runner, Barkley Finisher, and the RD:

Guess he couldn’t read my writing on the app! I responded with:

“woohoo! That’s exciting! And Terrifying!”

So now my current training philosophy would be put to the test — I want to be able to jump in to *any* *event* (running, biking, hiking – anything!) with just 2 months notice. With minimal run training (10-15 mpw), now I suddenly had two weeks to get ready to run 66.6 miles with 13,000′ of climb.

Quick report: Felt really good until about mile 45, then there was the “forever section” which was rocks and roots, all covered by a thick layer of leaves. I think that strained my R knee, which began to really hurt around mile 55, where I was reduced to a shuffle. And my feet started to fall apart. I went from being close to a “Horton Time” of 15 hours, to a finish in 16 hour 49 minutes. But now I want another shot, to have a good run here! Lack of run volume really caught up to me after mile 45…

And some photos:

On the one hand…

I fell short of all my goals. 😦

But on the other, I had a solid year. 🙂

But falling short of all my goals is a bit harsh — these were the distance, time, and elevation goals, that were always going to be a big stretch!

My most ambitious goal this year was to climb 365,000′, or average 1000’/day, across all sports — running, hiking, walking, biking, including indoor/virtual running and biking. And I was close!

The other big goal was to “strength train” for 50 hours. As I’m 51 and counting, maintaining strength and muscle is quite important, and while I love the endurance sports, those aren’t helping to fend off sarcopenia. Again, super close here, and just as important, the graph shows I was a lot more consistent than in prior years – not many flat line sections at all:

The distance goals for biking and running were a bit further off, but with the elevation goal, that is somewhat expected:

Biking distance
Running distance

And time – here I had 550 total hours which would include the 50 of strength… So a bit further off, and slightly less than last year, but still nearly 500 hours of “exercise.”

So, on the other hand — a solid year? Why say that? Well, I had another sub 8 hour Uhwarrie 40 (and another top 10), I did my 1st expedition length adventure race in 15 years, the FL Sea 2 Sea race, and I finished Hellgate (not quite as strong as I would have liked – blog post to come on that later). And outside of racing, I also got a couple more 14er’s in, and as you can see from the “exercise time,” spent a lot of time doing what I love — hiking, running, and biking, especially in the mountains.

At this point I’m keeping all the goals the same for 2022! It’s good to have big stretch goals even if I know it will be hard to hit all of them. I will again prioritize elevation and strength in 2022.

Current race plans are: Uhwarrie 40, Fl Sea 2 Sea, Barkley Fall Challenge

Addition projects I’d like to tackle: The Linville Gorge big loop, and to Everest (probably on the bike, and probably indoors!)

UPDATE: I forgot these two screen shots from Strava which have a a little additional info:

I like this one as it shows how I did elevation-wise per month:

And then this just included total days active and total distance:

37,000 feet

Putting this out there — maybe the public notice will get me motivated.

I set a goal this year to climb 365,000′, across all disciplines – running, hiking, trekking, biking, including virtual runs/rides (treadmill / trainer), and while I started the year well, I have fallen way behind.

Almost 37,000 feet behind! Or roughly 1300′ per day.

Aug 2021 – Mt Massive

We got Jase to the start line of the Leadville 100 at 4 a.m., had coffee, met some old friends, and then headed to Mt. Massive. I was slated to pace Jase from 87-100, so had a lot of time. Why not get in another 14er? One problem was that the road to the trail head was closed, so we had a long lead in, which we jogged and walked and talked. We ended up coming down the shorter way, but we still has a 16 mile, 6000′ day! And that put me up to 32 miles and ~ 15k of climb in just 3 days! I felt pretty strong on all of this, especially the climb (even though it is slow-mo after 13,500), but was a bit slow on the way down… This was the highest I’ve been to date at 14,421′

Aug 2021 Mt. Bierstadt

I flew out to CO to help Jase out at Leadville, and got there a few days early to hang out with Ben and Karrie and family. Since I had a day were they were all working or at school, I headed out to Bierstadt. I hit the climb pretty hard and ran down a fair bit, but the altitude finally hit me on the last mile which is relatively flat. Had to slow way down as I was at the edge of bonking! Once I stopped I was fine, but just shows you that hitting a 14er less than 24 hours from coming from sea level is always hard. :-). I’d note that I climbed Hope Pass the 2nd day, and Mt Massive the third day, and did much better!

Not many photos as I was solo and have summited this peak a couple times already.

Strava data:

2019 – June – Mt. Bierstadt

Ok, almost 2 years late, but I realized I never shared anything about this 14er, and in the interest of documenting them all, as well as just having started to track (google sheet link), here’s a quick post…

Reece and I flew out to CO for the Man Maker project — a 5 night canoeing trip on the Green River in Utah — and we had a couple of days before heading that way. Reece wanted to see snow, so we originally were going to a 10k peak, but on the way (Evergreen?) decided to take a chance on Mt. Bierstadt and his first 14er (age 13 at the time). We had every intention of not summiting if it wasn’t the right day since we weren’t super prepared, but we made it up and down safely.

Reece was super strong on the way up, and I warned him that it would only get harder! But he kept pushing it, until about 13,500, where it always becomes slow motion, at least for me. We were early in the season so there was still A LOT of snow up there! And we were a bit under dressed and didn’t realize how cold it was until we got to the top. We both started shivering as soon as we stopped climbing, so only stayed a few minutes before heading down.

And that is when the altitude and the effort hit Reece! I’ll let the photos do the talking for that, but will say that I did have to carry him home some of the last mile.

2021 Florida Sea to Sea


Update: I’ve decided to add links to a longer article as well as the gofund.me page that was created to aid the families.



It’s now just two days from the end of the 2021 Florida Sea 2 Sea expedition length (72 hour) adventure race, and it’s still difficult to describe what happened.   I’m writing this now while it’s still a little emotionally raw, to hopefully help me process everything.

This race was my 1st expedition length AR in about 15 years, and my first AR in maybe 10.  I have done lots of ultra running in that time, and some other adventures like the MR 340 mile paddling race, the World Rogaine championships, etc.  But this was AR — back to “my roots” in endurance sports — paddling, trekking, biking, and lots and lots of navigation.

I’ll bullet point some memories from the AR aspect of the race below, or more likely a separate post, but the reason for the emotions is as follows.   My team was coming in from our last trekking section, about to transition to the final 40 mile bike ride to the finish, around 4 a.m. Sunday morning.  This was after 66 hours of racing in which we had done ~200+ mies of mountain biking, +40 paddling, and 20+ on foot .  As we came in to the TA to check in, we were told the “course was closed.”  We immediately guessed what had happened, and it’s a blur but I think Ryan asked if there was an accident and if someone had died.  The race crew said yes, and then he broke down crying.  I think we were the first people he had to tell.

It wasn’t clear to us what would happen, other than we would wait to find out.  We made it back to our gear in a state of shock.  At 66 hours with limited sleep, I think we all dozed, but it was not restful.  In my mind I didn’t know if the course was re-opened if I would want to continue.  I didn’t think so. After an hour, the race crew called all of the racers that were in the TA together and told us the race was over.  They would shuttle us back to the finish, and even go out and pull everyone still on the course off using the big rental trucks.  

I think this was the right call given the situation.  Over the last two days as details have emerged, we found the accident occurred just a little north of the last TA, about 90 minutes before we had come in and were about to head that way.   All teams had ridden the same road (US 1) to get to the TA, and then would have taken that same road north to head towards the finish.  The accident occurred about 2:30 a.m., as a car veered into the bike lane and hit all three riders of a three man team.  One died on the scene, and the other two were air lifted to local hospitals.  I understand that those two are now in stable condition.    Also from the news reports, we found that the man who died was engaged to one of his female teammates.

My own team had our own close calls with cars…  One pick up veered close to us — seemingly on purpose, though who knows?   We also had an 18 wheeler get close enough that we all were muttering under our breath (or out loud!) and had an  extreme adrenaline rush…  While the race keeps us off major roads as much as possible, it’s impossible to get across the state without utilizing some roads.  Typically the roads are used to connect various wilderness areas, where the bulk of the racing occurs.  But you can’t get from wilderness area to wilderness area without using some roads.  We tried as much as possible to chose routes that avoided major roads, and all of the big roads are off-limits according to the race directors’ rules and clearly marked as such on the maps.  But there’s only so much you can do to make it across the state.   All riders have flashing red rear lights, as well as bright handle bar and/or head lights on.

So what was an amazing “return to my roots” of AR was marred by this tragedy.  That is what is hard to process.  I had an amazing time, even though we struggled with some aspects of the race (navigation).  Other than that, we raced well together, felt strong, and were doing well.  And it was beautiful to be in areas of FL that many people never see.   I love the remote areas of FL rivers and swamps – so beautiful and pristine – there’s nothing quite like them that I have seen. 

As we were racing I kept thinking about coming back and entering as a soloist next year, rather than a team.  I am impressed by those that have taken on this event on by themselves!    We’ll see how I feel in a week, or a month, or when sign up comes around for next year’s event.  I’m sure even more precautions will be taken than ever before.  But at the end of the day, we all take risks each time we step out the door, whether it’s to drive to town to the grocery store, or whether it is to run, bike, and paddle across a state.  We have to understand and mitigate those risks as best we can.  There is a “living” part of life that has to be fed, and each one of us feeds that differently.  For me, one important part of that is to get outside, to move under my own power, and cover epic distances, and to see and experience the beauty of God’s creation up close.  

My heart is broken for the lost life and broken lives for those close to the racer who was killed and those who were injured.  I’ve left out details of names and locations, though they are easy to find online.  I may modify this write-up to include those details, but wanted to write something while my emotions are still quite raw.

2021 Uhwarrie 40 miler

Year 9 of the 40 miler!! I’m thinking one more to get 10, and then maybe take a break. I love this race and course so much, though, we’ll see if I can hold to that. 🙂

Anyway, this year would be different due to Covid. Half the field in all the races, modified courses on the 8 and 20 (now 16), though the 40 would remain the same. No shuttles, so parking near race start (which is a tight turny country road, so a major concern, but I heard from the RD that it went well.)

I’ll cut right to the chase… I ended up on the 1st row, socially distant with 20 other runners in wave 1, so was 2nd onto the 1st big climb. I knew that was a problem, so let 2 others get by, and within a minute, those first 3 were gone. Then I had a couple more on my back, and I was going too hard to soon, so I let them go, and they soon were gone. And I was by myself — for about 33-34 miles! Well, at mile 13 or so, one runner passed me, and a guy he was with stayed with me for maybe 5, 10 minutes top. Other than that, I was 100% alone!

I felt good and strong, and hit the turn in 3:52 — much slower than my best year, but I guess those dats are behind me. 🙂 At 3:52, though, I figured my “super stretch” goal of sub 8:00 was gone, and was thinking 8:15-8:30 was more likely. I was in and out of the turn in a minute, 90 seconds top, and just kept running. It was more lonely on the return this year, with just half the field of 40, and none of the normal 20 milers coming by.

As I watched the time, I kept thinking I somehow still have a shot at sub 8:00, so I just kept running. I knew it was getting really tight. I got to the aid station at mile 35 with just under and hour to go, and figured it was over. But then I remembered this aid was at mile 4.5 on the way out, not mile 5, so I had a little less distance to the finish than I had been calculating, and it was back on!

Coming in to mile 35 — can I still make it?

I ran much more of the last 4 miles than ever, and somehow pulled it off! Going down the steep rocky section in the last mile with speed was a bit scary, but I had enough energy to push here, and got to the finish in 7:56, good for 7th place! Again, a smaller field, but I’m still happy. And besides, my goal is time based here, not placing. (Unless I can ever get top 3 which is where the big pottery is awarded! 🙂

I’m going to update the table I’ve used in past years, and put in the splits for the years they are available, as it shows that this was my strongest 2nd half, even though I’ve had faster overall runs.

YearTimePlace1st 202nd 20
2010 7:57 (short course) 30/71
2011 8:50:22 30/88
2012 7:57:17 27/148
2013 8:49:06 33/90
 20158:05:07 17/883:49:134:14:32
 20167:31:30 7/1013:33:423:57:48
 20177:43:54 9/943:29:044:14:18
201820 miler….11/1903:25:37
(no splits included in this years official results, but those are roughly correct from my watch)

So I did break 4 hours on the return in 2016, but was still 24 minutes slower than the way out. This year, in my 50 year old body, I was only 12 minutes slower. Most years, most runners, even in the top 10, are 15-30 minutes slower, so I’m pretty happy with that!

Fuel: pre-race oatmeal and peanut butter; tailwind; 4 vFuels and 3 coconut date rolls that I carried; 1 cup of potato soup at the turn, 1-2oz Mountain Dew at aid stations 29, 32, 35, 38.

Gear: XOSkin shorts, 200 weight ice breaker long sleeve half zip top (should have worn short sleeves!), 2 buffs, one started to keep my ears warm and one to be a face covering at the aid stations, injinji toe socks, Topo Mountain Racers (so far, love these shoes!); calf sleeves (was ready to pull them off a few times but didn’t want to stop).

Oh, and a Coros Vertex – received the night before so I had literally no experience with it. My Garmin had serious GPS failures on 2 of the last 13-14 runs, so I replaced it last minute. (Actually ran with them both, and the Garmin was several miles off, while the Coros with just shy of 40 miles.)

Here is what Kelly posted to Instagram since I didn’t take a picture of my pottery:

Then race analysis from Strava:

2020 Uhwarrie 40 miler

Ok, this is very late — but I didn’t realize I forgot to write a blog post last year! Doh!

Here is what I did post to Facebook:

So I eeked out a top 10 finish but did not break sub 8:00.

Looking at the training log, it’s not hard to see why!

(Blue was swimming….)

Perhaps a better way to see it is run volume / distance:

Not a whole lot of distance there, so not hard to see why the 20 miles back took 38 minutes longer than the 1st 20!

As this was over a year ago, I don’t have much memory about any of the run itself. :-/ But I did just finish the 2021 40 miler, so stay tuned for another update soon!

2020 training summary

Well, I realized I skipped the Q3 update, but here is the year end summary, and thoughts on next year.

The big goal was total elevation, which I set at 250k, significantly higher than prior years. That includes all sports, not just running — so add hiking, walking, biking, etc. With COVID hitting, Kelly and I both signed up for the Great Virtual Race Across TN, which had us both walking a lot more. Also, there was the Ascent Challenge Memorial Day weekend got me climbing a ton — 31k in a week! (That was all running…) And finally, the addition of virtual riding via Zwift also contributed. With all that said, I crushed my goal with well over 300k of climb, and have set a goal of 365k in 2021! Not sure how likely that is — depends on if I do any more virtual events, etc.

Next up is my time goal, which I set somewhat arbitrarily at 500. After looking through “The Uphill Athlete” last year, I realized my yearly hours trained were pretty tiny compared to some athletes! Now, this number does include a lot of hiking and walking — but only walks when it was somewhat of a workout, not just walks that were super casual. And again, I hit this target with just (barely) over 500 hours. I went ahead and bumped this to 550 for 2021, mostly because I want to (need to!) get serious about strength training now that I am 50, and I have made it a goal to lift 50 hours in 2021. Now, I may include mobility and balance in one umbrella – I’ve not quite decided. But I do some of that kind of stuff outside of a training session — just when I walk by a balance disc or am sitting in front of the TV.

Next up is running, for which I fell just short of my 1000 mile goal with 978 miles. I’m not disappointed in that at all, as I feel like a more well rounded athlete doing all the other sports again, especially mountain biking! I’ll keep this at 1000 for 2021, though a lot of that will depend on which races happen next year!

And finally biking…. I set an aggressive goal of 2000 miles, but I rode the mountain bike more than expected (as apposed to Zwift or road riding), which is always going to be fewer miles per hour. But I had a blast doing it and wouldn’t change that. I’ll probably change the 2021 goal to 1500 or 1750, but I am Zwift’ing more now than last year, so maybe 2000 is within shot and I should just keep it the same?

I doubt I’ll keep up with quarterly updates going forward — not sure anyone is really interested. 🙂 But I do enjoy tracking this kind of stuff, so will continue to do so. A shout out to the Elevate App, which is chrome extension which enables me to track this level of detail from my Strava data..

So a table to show 2021 goals:

Elevation (all sports)365,000′
Running1000 miles
Biking2000 miles
Strength Training50 hours
Total time (all sports)550 hours