Thursday, March 27, 2014

Making A Trail Running Film

When Jason Schlarb and I went to Patagonia in January, we were in search of a videographer to put together a film about the trip.  The Help Wanted ad read something like this:
Must be able to travel to Patagonia for 2 weeks, run over 20 miles per day consecutively , keep up with two ultra runners while carrying camera gear, get along with two people you’ve never met before, work in a high wind and wet environment, cannot be afraid of heights, don't snore, proven track record of filming and editing trail running adventure videos.
Patagonian Office - just plug into the fence.  Photo: Jeremy Wolf
This criteria narrowed the list of qualified candidates down very quickly.  We were lucky to have Joel Wolpert accept this assignment and document our adventure around Torres del Paine and the El Chalten regions of Patagonia.  If you attended the 2013 Mountain Running Film Festival, you saw Joel’s last film, In The High Country, featuring Anton (Tony) Krupicka.  We knew that since Joel could keep up with Tony, he’d be able to keep up with us. 

3 guys, 2 weeks, 1 small car.  Photo: Joel Wolpert
While the majority of this video is based in Patagonia, Jason and I wanted to incorporate our training grounds of Missoula into the film.  Missoula has provided us with the community and environment to run on amazing mountain trails with our friends.  So this past weekend, Joel was here in Missoula filming Jason and I running on trails that many of you know well.  Sunrise running shots going up Mt. Sentinel, over Waterworks, and through campus should make the final cut.  We’re excited to not only share Patagonia with you, but to share Missoula with the world. 
The film is called Around Patagonia, and you can view the film teaser at
Jason and Joel discussing the shot from Mt. Sentinel. Photo: Jeremy Wolf
A write up of our trip will be featured in Trail Runner Magazine later this spring, with the film releasing on in May.  And of course, you’ll be able to see Around Patagonia on the big screen at the 2014 Mountain Running Film Festival in Missoula this fall.
Joel getting the aerial shot from on top of the Griz. Photo: Joel Wolpert

Joel capturing some classic images in Torres del Paine. Photo: Jeremy Wolf
by Jeremy Wolf
twitter: @jeremywolfRun

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rika Botzet: My Foray into Mountain Running, Culminating in Orcas Island 50K

Ferry Ride

I did it!!! This rookie finished her first ultra-marathon trail race, the Orcas Island 50K, in February despite being convinced that I would not finish and that trying to run more than 32 miles in my current state was simply impossible—and even stupid. But it wasn’t impossible or even silly. In fact, it was so fun that I have signed up for a 50 miler and have hopes of going even longer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Runner's Edge Trail Running

Mark Handelman and Mike Foote at the 2013 Sentinel Hill Climb - Credit: Vo Von Sehlen/The Runner's Edge
Over the past six months, Montana Trail Crew has featured stories about some of the best trail races around. We've highlighted events taking place in the desert and along the ocean's coast. But few can argue with the fact that some of the most spectacular terrain anywhere is right here under the Big Sky. That's where Runners Edge comes in. The store hearkens back to the days of the specialty running store as a clubhouse of sorts from where great running adventures get their start. This old-school vibe can no doubt be attributed to the fact the the store's basement houses Run Wild Missoula--the city's 1600 member running club--but it also comes from Runners Edge's unique line-up of trail races.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kristina Pattison: Hagg Lake 50K Race Report

MTC Note: If you've been following us over the past few weeks you've seen that even though our local trails are just beginning to reappear from their winter hibernation, a number of Montana runners have already tested their early season fitness with speedy ultras against top level competition. In the following race report Missoula runner Kristina Pattison shares her experience with the Hagg Lake 50k near Portland, Oregon

Starting lap two - Credit: Andrew Pattison

Hagg Lake 50K, February 15, 2014, by Kristina Pattison 

    Despite flood warnings from heavy rain across Northwestern Oregon for Valentine’s Day weekend, over 200 ultra runners toed the line at Hagg Lake 50K for a muddy two laps around the lake’s 15+ mile perimeter.

    The race started with a steady climb on a quick out-and-back up an adjacent road, gaining nearly 750’ and making up necessary mileage. The climb gave runners a chance to spread out and size up the competition before heading onto the mostly single track course. On the trail, I already had lost sight of the iconic dark braids of eventual winner Joelle Vaught, a seasoned ultra runner who holds the second best time for females on the Hagg Lake course. The trail conditions gradually declined throughout the morning with the constant downpour. While trying to stay upright, muscle fatigue and chilly weather chipped away at leg speed on the hilly trail complicated by shin-deep puddles and shoe-sucking mud. Later, stories spread on the news about road closures and cars washed off roads with the heavy rain in the greater Portland area, but race volunteers and crews stayed inexplicably positive and cheerful throughout the morning.

    By the second lap, I was feeling the "first race of the season" fatigue. Around 20-miles, Amber Bradley, the eventual second place woman passed and bumped me out of top three since Emily Kalenius still had a gap on us. Finding it difficult to divert my attention from a screaming hamstring, I focused on taking in steady intervals of Hammer gel and Endurance Amino and found solace in the beauty of the course and the steady rhythm of forward motion and falling rain.

    At the last aid station (mile 26.8), my steadfast crew and husband, Andrew, informed me the third place woman, Kalenius, was slowing down for unknown reasons. In the last 1.5 miles a final "surge" of back-to-the-barn energy surprised me, and I was able to catch up to Kalenius and barely bump back into third place female. The last stretch is a thick, deep section of mud making a ‘surge’ more like a "slog" and making it clear why race organizers call Hagg Lake 50k a "mud run" rather than a "race." I made it to the finish line soaked to the bone, numb to the knees and elbows, and happier than a pig in…well, mud.

Finish line at Hagg Lake - Credit: Andrew Pattison
    Fun fact: many participants complete the both the 50k Saturday and the 25k the following day—the “Double”—proving Oregon runners are both tough as nails and perhaps a bit crazy. Also, Joelle gave us a great insider tip: McMenamins in nearby Forest Grove offers a $5 entry to the public for the outdoor soaking pool, great to warm up and relax after a well earned beer or bowl of clam chowder.

Cheers from the finish - Credit: Andrew Pattison

Race facts:
When: Second week of February. 
Where: Henry Hagg Lake, 1-hour west of Portland, Oregon. 
How long: 50K or 25K (or B2B for the “Double”). 
Where to stay: McMenamins Grand Lodge. 

2014 Top 3 Females: Joelle Vaught (4:27:15) Amber Bradley (4:45:17) Kristina Pattison (4:55:10)
2014 Top 3 Males: Neil Olsen (4:04:58) Jacob Puzey (4:09:00) Ian Little (4:09:22) 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jeremy Wolf: Way Too Cool 50k Race Report

Visions of a podium finish, good energy level, quick legs, enjoying the dirt trails and lush forest, these were all things I was experiencing through the first 21 miles.  I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to my first 50k of 2014.  Then without notice, an entirely new race emerged, a race just to finish.

Washing off the mud. Jeremy in yellow. Photo by Michael Kirby
With pools of water and piles of slush engulfing Missoula, the timing was perfect for an escape to California to race Way Too Cool 50k.  It’s been a brutal last month to get solid running in on the snow and ice engulfed roads and trails around town, and I did not fight it.  I accepted mother nature’s fate, and more often than lacing up the running shoes, I dawned backcountry and skate skis for my means to stay fit.  Just to make sure my legs would be ready for a fast 50k, I hopped on a treadmill for tempo runs.  Buoyed with strength conditioning at Momentum Athletic Training, I was feeling strong and in shape for an early season race.
Ten minutes before the race starts, I load the four external pockets of my shorts with 8 Hammer gels.  As I run off towards the start line, I take four strides and my shorts have slipped down to my thighs.  Weighed down by the gels, I look to cinch the draw string and secure the shorts to my waist, only to discover that no draw string exists.  I don’t want to race 31 miles holding up my shorts, so 5 minutes before the start, I’m back in the car putting on a different pair of shorts and trying to stuff as many gels as I can into the lone rear pocket.  The rest of the gels are tucked between my skin and elastic ban of the shorts.   Lesson 1 – Don’t wear gear for a race that you’ve never run in before.  Yep, I knew that one already and blatantly ignored it. 
As I’m sprinting the quarter mile to the start line, someone along the way tells me “one minute till the gun”.  I fly around the crowd of runners and make it to the front row with 20 seconds to spare.  Gun goes off and so do I, sufficiently warmed up.  The first mile is on flat paved road, and I settle in around 6th place.  I was a little surprised when my watch reads 5:33 at mile marker one, that felt easy.  The pace slows slightly as the course turns into beautiful red dirt trail, weaving through rolling green hills, and over creek crossings.  I settle in with a group of 3 guys and we chat a bit.  I tell the guys I’m from Missoula and haven’t run on dirt for over a month.  Rod Bien, a Patagonia Athlete, asks if I know Justin Angle, and I share a few tales about Justin and I’s backcountry skiing trips to Marshall Mountain this winter.
Off to a fast start.  5:33 first mile. Photo by Michael Kirby
The three of us comfortably stay together through the eight mile loop that takes us back through the starting area.  We collectively come through in 52 minutes, 6:30 pace, and in positions 3,4,5 with two Nike runners a minute and a half ahead.  We stay together for the next mile until the only big decent on the course.  As we start the 1000 ft decent to the American River, I instantly put a gap on the other two and never hear them the rest of the way down.  At 11 miles, I hit the American River and aid station.  I put down a hammer gel, which I did approximately every 40 minutes of the race.  The aid station workers told me I was 3 minutes off the lead.
Feeling good cruising along the American River. Photo by Eric Schranz
I continued along the dirt road that followed the American River upstream for the next five miles.  The temperature was nearing 60 degrees, not hot, but I was glad the trail stayed along the shady side of the canyon.  I was feeling great and was running strong and comfortable at a pace I felt I could maintain the rest of the way.  All by myself in 3rd, I was taking in the natural beauty of the river, canyon, and my surroundings. 
At mile 17, the 1000 ft climb to the top of the canyon begins.  I didn’t push too hard up this climb, but maintained a comfortable running pace the entire way.  I even enjoyed a thigh deep creek crossing along the way, refreshing!  However, after reaching the top of the climb, things started to turn in an entirely different direction.
The American River.
While I was still in 3rd at the mile 21 aid station, Rod had closed the gap and was right behind me.  More importantly yet unwelcoming, my quads screamed with pain every step I took.  They were officially blown, and I still had 10 miles to go.  This was bad news, I couldn’t just take a gel or rub them and everything would be ok.  Once the quads are shot, they’re closed for business.  As my pace slowed to a shuffle, an entirely new race unfolded.  Confidence and thoughts of standing on the podium were instantly replaced by self doubt and desires to drop out as runner after runner passed me.  I was moving so sluggishly that a runner passing me asked “Are you in the race?”.  Yeah, I looked that bad. 
With about five miles to go, I was expecting that at any time some of those footsteps I heard approaching me from behind would belong to a Hoka teammate.  Sure enough, a bright yellow Hoka One One shirt goes blowing by me.   Magdalena Boulet, would be the top runner on the team today.  Despite all the pain, pride swallowing, and adversity, I hobbled on. 
Rolling hillside near the finish.

With a mile to go, the legs started to loosen slightly, so I was able to move in a fashion that resembled running.  After being passed by 14 people in the last 10 miles, I crossed the finish in 17th place in 3 hrs and 59 minutes.  The high fives I had envisioned not long ago, were replaced by an awkward on-camera interview around the subject of how this race went from being a podium contender to now a snow bound Montanan’s early season training run.
Finish Line Mud.
So in a nut shell, Way Too Cool 50k went from way good too way bad in an instant.  It was a physical collapse that I’ve never experienced before in a race of any length.   So now I’m left to answer the question “why?”.  Lack of early season running specific training, went out too fast, bombing down the 1000 ft decent, hydration, maybe the answer is “yes” to all.  Chalk this one up as a tough training run and remember that there’s always another race.  I’ve got Lake Sanoma 50 mile in 5 weeks, it’s time to hit the trails.

Nutrition - 6 Hammer Gels and 3 Perpetuem Solids.  Energy levels felt great all day.

Shoes – Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2 Trail.  Great cushioning and aggressive tread handled the muddy trails with ease.
Finish Area

Great post race atmosphere!

by Jeremy Wolf 
twitter: @jeremywolfRun

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ken Ellis: My Black Canyon 100K Story

Editor's note: This is another in a series of Montana runners reporting on their race adventures around the country. Here, Ken Ellis recounts his fine performance in the southwestern deserts of central Arizona. We'd love to hear from you, dear readers. If you ran a solid race and tell a good story, send your report our way--and we'll share it for the world to see.

            Last December I signed up to race in the first annual Black Canyon 100K trail run on Feb. 15, beginning in Mayer, AZ, and ending sixty or so miles south near New River, AZ. Perusing the sunny, cactus filled pictures on the website, I concluded a few weeks of enjoying warm weather and running in shorts was just what the running gods ordered. I also learned that the BC trail is laden with a history of different users, from native people, stagecoaches, military supply wagons and innumerable lizards and snakes. Jamil Coury is the race director and is donating much of the proceeds to improve the BC trail. Sweet Becky Riley agreed to be my crew and requested the time off. To add to the fun, Becky signed up to run the Lost Dutchman Half Marathon the day after my race.