Conditions are Perfect…

For a XC race! Montana Cup 2013!

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Yellowstone Alpine Klimb 2013

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Around 100 miles of the YAK course across Montana and Wyoming. I outlasted my GPS battery, so the loop is not complete. The Beartooth Mountains are in the foreground.

Last Saturday I completed the Yellowstone Alpine Klimb for the second consecutive year.  The “YAK” is a 141-mile loop over and through the Beartooth Mountains which begins and ends in Red Lodge, Montana.  Last year, as the ride was 41 miles longer than my previous longest ride (plus mountains), my goal was just to finish—and I barely did.  Probably in no other event (barring injury) have I wanted to drop out so badly.  This year, being more acclimatized to the elevation, plus another year older and better looking, I figured I’d go for a better performance which I achieved primarily by stopping less.  The downside is I took less pictures than last year along the route; the upside is that I was 42 minutes faster, even with a breezy headwind in spots.  So, for more pictures of the course, please refer to 2012′s Yellowstone Alpine Klimb in Photos.

I’ve posted a few rest-stop pics, plus Val and Dax met me at the last rest-stop so she was able to snap some shots of the last few grueling miles.  Speaking of rest stops, this ride had great support and great food!  According to my Garmin watch, I burned over 10,000 calories on Saturday—that’s about four days worth of food for the average human!  Here were some of my eating highlights from the rest-stops:

  • Delicious breakfast burrito and coffee and stop 1, mile 40.
  • 2 Snickers bars along the course
  • Peanut butter and honey sandwich
  • Lots of banana halves
  • A late afternoon Coca-Cola
  • Rice Crispy treats

If you like eating, you should really consider going on some long, supported rides!  Ok, on to the rest of the story in pictures.

Mile 74. Snickers really satisfies.  This was my favorite moment of the ride--almost didn't get out of that chair.

Mile 76. Snickers really satisfies. This was my favorite moment of the ride–almost didn’t get out of that chair.

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Mile 81, top of Chief Joseph Pass, Wyoming, 8067 ft.

Mile 106.  This is where I almost didn't continue last year, but this year I'm looking a little happier.  Beartooth Mountains loom in the background.

Mile 106. This is where I almost didn’t continue last year, but this year I’m looking a little happier. The Beartooth Mountains loom in the background, but I’ve been there and done that.

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Mile 139. Climbing the final hill.

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Mile 139. That’s me and my new friend Mike from North Dakota, doin’ work! Mike rode with me for the majority of the ride. He’s a flatlander, and I was amazed that he was able to conquer all the climbs on this ride. Well done!

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Mile 141. I love this photo so much. That’s my boy watching us finish. Thanks Val!

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Mile “142″. EARNED! A tall, cold Glacier Ale from Red Lodge Ales Brewing. Good days end like this.

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Boston 2014

I’m in…again!  I couldn’t resist going back to Boston, especially after what happened last year.  This year’s Boston Marathon is expected to be the biggest ever, and I feel compelled to participate in what will be a worldwide collective renouncement of terrorism.  When the Grinch tried to steal Christmas, the Who’s sang anyway.  This event will demonstrate what the words “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” actually mean.  Over 30,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators will be celebrating, in Boston, on Patriots’ Day.  I’m proud to be a part of it again.

As for now I’m training for a statewide Cross Country race in November.  After that, I’ll take some time off and do some strength training, before beginning my marathon training in earnest.  2:58 is my time to beat!

Look for some summer rewind posts in the days to come because I just didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to this summer.
Boston 2014

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Bridger Ridge Run.

The Bridger Ridge Run Route.  19.6 miles.  6800 feet up, 9500 feet down.

The Bridger Ridge Run Route. 19.6 miles. 6800 feet up, 9500 feet down.  Ouch.

Due to the extreme logistics of a staging a point-to-point race across a mountain range on mostly single-track trail, the Bridger Ridge Run is generally capped at around 300 runners.  The Ridge Run uses a pseudo-lottery process to select participants.  I say pseudo-lottery because you get a chance to plead your case for running in a 50-words-or-less essay when you apply.  Here is what I wrote:

I am pretty studly on the road or track.  I believe it would be good for my ego to have my ass handed to me by a bunch of guys (and girls) whose calves are bigger than my quads.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

I am reminded of the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”  As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I knew going into this one that I was undertrained and ill prepared for such a task.  Therefore, my main goal was to finish, and to finish in one piece.  That I did, but barely:  there were a couple of close calls stumbling over boulders, and my knees were screaming descending the last few miles.  Though I am now a Ridge Run Finisher, which is an accomplishment few can brag about, I still have to say that those mountains own me.  They broke my spirit.  This race was treacherous and brutal.

Will I try it again?  Yesterday I would’ve said absolutely never again.  But I don’t like to be dominated like I was yesterday, and with some proper training, I’d have to say I think I could easily set a P.B. with another go.  I’ve already written my next plea to get into the race when I decide to try again.  It involves taking back my dignity and the little piece of my soul that the Bridger Mountains currently own.

I did snap some decent pictures during the race with my trusty IPhone.  Enjoy the rest of the story in pictures!

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At the top of Sacagawea Peak, Mile 2, 9600ft.

A runner descends from Sacagawea, from where you can see the entire Ridge laid out.

A runner descends from Sacagawea, from where you can see the entire Ridge laid out.

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A runner traverses Ross Pass, at 7700 ft, one of the low points on the course, and one of the more gentle portions of the trail.

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Mile 7. Posing with Ross Peak in the background, I was still able to muster a smile–probably because I was steps away from an aid station, and food.

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Mile 11. Bridger Bowl Ski area looking toward Saddle Peak.

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Long approach to Saddle Peak.

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Still going up Saddle Peak. See his body language? Yeah, me too.

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Sometimes it’s good to look back to see that you’ve made progress. Sacagawea Peak (Mile 2) is the lefthand twin peak in the far background.

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Mile 13? Not loving life. Saddle Peak (9100ft.) in the background.

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Better view of Saddle Peak and the trail, sans my ugly grill. No complaints about the weather–it was perfect.

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Mile 14. Approaching Baldy (8700ft.)

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Mile 14. Runners descend toward Baldy and the final major aid station.

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At the last major aid station on Baldy, about 5 miles to go and almost all downhill–way downhill.

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Bring on the Ridge!

All these people volunteered for this.  These people look brave.  I can do this.

Tomorrow will be a SuperEpic Day! My first Bridger Ridge Run.  The Ridge Run is a 20-mile trail run along the incredible spine of the Bridger Mountains, just north of Bozeman.  With 6,800ft. of elevation gain, and an even more brutal, 9500ft. of elevation loss, mostly over the last five miles, this race will mentally and physically challenge the toughest human beings.  Runner’s World gave the race the title of “Most Raw Exposure”, and Outside Online named the Ridge Run one of its Top 10 Bucket List trail runs in the WORLD!

In September 2011, I hiked the Ridge while vacationing in Montana (Bridger Ridge Hike Photos).  At the time, I was training for the NYC Marathon, had heard about the Ridge Run and was intrigued by it, so I hiked the route solo.  Little did I know that the next year I’d be living in Montana, and have an opportunity to participate in this amazing test of endurance.

I’ve been feeling a bit undertrained for such a feat, so I have no expectations other than to finish and to have a good experience.  Although this race is intimidating, there has only been one race that has ever truly struck fear in my heart—the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  That race, with a mile-and-a-half swim through the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay, was uncharted territory for me, and I felt so anxious about it.  However, the morning of the race, as 2000 athletes were packed together in one huge ferry en-route to the start, I felt a strange, communal sensation, knowing that there was no turning back, and that everyone on that boat was in this together.  It was calming.

This afternoon, at our pre-race prep meeting, I felt that same peaceful, community sense as I looked around the room.  I thought, “All these people volunteered for this.  These people look brave.  I can do this.”

So tomorrow at 7am, around 300 of these brave souls will venture up Sacagawea Peak and then along that infamous Ridge.  I can’t wait to tell you how it goes!

Here are some pictures of past Ridge Runs from Montana State University.  The pics say it all—SUPER-Epic!anacker6

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And one more that I took from a training run/hike last month.   This is looking back on the first half of the course:

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Happy 1st Birthday to Big D!

Happy 1st Birthday to my favorite boy, and future training buddy, Dax Hanley!  Love you D!

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Dax has helped me bring home the hardware in two consecutive Madison Duathlons. I always run a little faster when Dax is at the finish line! Happy Birthday buddy!

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Weekend Race Report: Missoula Half Marathon.

Last weekend I returned from Las Vegas and the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s National Conference, which was outstanding.  I basically had four days of filling my brain with knowledge from some of the best coaches and exercise researchers from around the world.

As I flew back to Montana on Sunday, two of the athletes I work with had a big race:  The Missoula Half Marathon.  Both ladies definitely had this race circled on their calendars, and both let loose with outstanding personal best performances.  Congratulations Melissa and Cristin!  Athletes who work hard and achieve goals make for very happy coaches!

Melissa set a personal best of 1:54:34!  Melissa's goal was to break the 2-hour barrier for the first time, and she smashed it!

Melissa set a personal best of 1:54:34! Melissa’s goal was to break the 2-hour barrier for the first time, and she smashed it!

Cristin set a personal best of 1:42:34.5!

Cristin set a personal best of 1:42:34.5!  Her goal was to break 1:50, run pain-free, and have fun:  Done, done, and done.

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Happy 4th

Happy 4th from the Summit of the Sphinx in southwest Montana! 10,800ft.

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AWOL

Shame, shame, shame on me. I’ve been away from WeCanBlaze for far too long.  Here is a litany of excuses:

  • The weather got nice. (BS–it was cold in May and it rained the whole month of June.)
  • I’ve been busy. (True, but no busier than usual.  Our busyness only proves where our priorities lie if we don’t take time for what’s important.  But, alas, real life trumps blogging sometimes.)
  • After the Boston Marathon, and the events that transpired there, I didn’t feel like writing much, and I got stuck in a rut. (This one is probably my most legitimate excuse.)

It’s true, we are creatures of habit, and momentum is a powerful thing.  I know personally, that when I neglect something for too long, then I procrastinate coming back and giving it attention because I feel a little guilty–which only exacerbates the problem.  The good news is I also believe in redemption, so here I am offering my sincere apologies to myself and anyone who reads this blog:  I’m sorry I kept us hanging in suspense for the past couple of months!

I have been busy outside on the trails and the roads, and the fact that I haven’t written in a while just means I have a lot to catch up on.  Hopefully, in the upcoming days, I can fill you in on training, summer adventures, broken fingers, and getting into one of  the toughest trail runs in the country.  For now, here are a few highlight pictures from May and June to hopefully get you excited for more, and for your own summer adventures!

Bridger Mountain wildflowers in full bloom.

Bridger Mountain wildflowers in full bloom.

Carin and geocache on Baldy Mountain.  Someone was good enough to leave me a beer!  Next person up got the energy gel I left in the box--don't know if that's a fair trade but sometimes you get lucky!

Carin and geocache on Baldy Mountain. Someone was good enough to leave me a beer! Next person up got the energy gel I left in the box–don’t know if that’s a fair trade but sometimes you get lucky!

Sean rapping down a face at Bozeman Pass.

Sean rapping down a face at Bozeman Pass.

The Ridge from Saddle Peak.

The Ridge from Saddle Peak.

Skyler looking tired and happy at 9000ft.

Skyler looking tired and happy at 9000ft.

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Top 10 Reasons to Commute by Bike!

Here’s a blog post that I wrote for work, but I thought it was plenty appropriate to share on WeCanBlaze. Enjoy!

May is National Bicycle Month, and this week has been National Bike to Work Week. Blessed with super-nice Montana May weather, Cristin and I are a perfect 4 for 4 in commuting to work via bicycle this week. Going to go for five in a row tomorrow! I was inspired this morning during my commute to come up with a “Top 10″ list. So here it is:

The Top 10 Reasons to Commute to Work via Bicycle.

10. For one week a year, I get free coffee.

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Many local businesses participate in National Bike Month and National Bike to Work week. Here I am enjoying a free ‘Cup of Joe’ at the Sola Cafe.

9. Time

  • In some cases, depending on how far you live from work, traffic patterns, and your parking situation, it’s often quicker to ride. I love it when I get to bypass traffic, not have to search for a parking spot, and roll right up to my building.

8. Money

  • The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gasoline per year by increasing cycling from 1% to 1.5% of all trips (Source: Trek Bicycles). Multiply that by $3.40 per gallon. That’s a lot of coin! What will you do with all that money you’re not spending on gas?

7. You get to be outside, in Montana

  • I don’t feel like I need to elaborate much on this one. (At least from May-September!)

6. Emissions

  • 60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively, and 40% of all automobile trips are within two miles of the home. (Source: Trek Bicycles). The only thing that bicycling burns is fat. 26,000 people across the country taking part in the National Bike Challenge have already saved 631,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in just two weeks of riding. Our MUS Wellness Team is responsible for saving 455 pounds of auto emissions so far! Way to go Team!

5. It gives you a great excuse to roll your pant legs up to reveal your super cool socks

Rockin' my Space Invader socks for the morning commute.

Rockin’ my Space Invader socks for the morning commute.

4. It’s good for your brain

  • More and more research links exercise to improved cognitive function. If you want to think better, move more. Case-in-point: I thought of this blog post on my ride in.

3. Weight Loss

  • The average person loses 13 pounds their first year of commuting by bike. Wow! (Source: Trek Bicycles) That’s because riding at a moderate pace burns around 500 calories per hour.

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2. Better Overall Health/Reduced Health Risks

  • Just three hours of bicycling per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%. (Source: Trek Bicycles). Reminder: Heart Disease is the Number 1 killer in the U.S.

And the Number 1 reason to commute by Bicycle: It’s Fun!

  • Remember when you learned to ride as a kid? Remember the thrill of movement and the freedom to go anywhere? It’s still there! Biking is Fun!

Happy Bike Month and safe travels! Ride aware, wear your helmet, and have fun!

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