Monday, September 7, 2015

Idirtarod 200

Normally after finishing an event that I focused on for almost a year I find myself a little bit depressed.  For me the journey is every bit as awesome as the event itself. I love training hard while having a goal to keep me motivated and honest on the rare days that I don’t feel like training. No matter how hot, cold, windy, rainy, snowy, or busy, I find a way to train when there is a big goal standing before me. After the event however, I feel a bit empty; in limbo. What now?

This was not the case after Burning River. We raised $10,390 to help families going through the terrible nightmare of childhood cancer. I’ve heard about the direct assistance this money is now providing for specific families in need. If I never run another 100 miler again this project and experience was worth every minute and dollar invested. I cannot thank all that helped and supported us enough, and there were so many.  

As far as the “what’s next?” aspect, that was taken care of before I even started Burning River. Earlier in the year I was looking for something epic to do on my 58th birthday. With the Idirtarod 200 Gravel Challenge, I certainly found it. A 200 mile gravel grinder along the Front Range prairie of Colorado just one month after finishing Burning River exactly on my birthday. I also signed up for the Denver Rock n Roll Half Marathon in October as part of the Project Purple Team to help raise money for Pancreatic Cancer in honor of my incredible friend Tonya Ellsworth Smith and the Tucson Marathon in December.

As the start for the Idirtarod drew closer, I was a bit intimidated since I focused on running all summer and for the most part only used my bike for commuting and running errands. My saving grace is the time spent assistant coaching the Cheyenne Mountain High School Mountain Bike Team. Working out with the team helped me get my cycling legs back. I made a point to ride to and from team practices to get 40+ miles in including the team workout. Additionally, I continued to train for the marathon in the mornings.  I didn’t know what to expect at the 200 mile bike race, but I know I know how to suffer and just keep going no matter what.

The Idirtarod is what is called a Gravel Grinder. It is a race on gravel and dirt roads with short sections of single and double track. The best bike for this kind of race is a cross bike. We are given a cut sheet and a map. There are no course markers so we are on our own to navigate and stay on course.
Kevin and I making our way to the start of a long day in the saddle

The race went much better than expected. I went into it with the goal of finishing rather than race and I felt great pretty much the whole race. I rode with ProCycling teammate Kevin Cahn for the first 135 miles. At about 110 miles we caught a guy that looked to be in my age group. As we hit the climbs I pulled away without too much effort so I was confident I could beat him. However Kevin was beginning to self-destruct and I did not want to leave him. We were in this together and our goal was to finish not necessarily race. As hard as it was I let the guy go. Kevin began having problems keeping food down and was just running out of energy. He decided at 135 miles that he was going to drop at the 150 mile checkpoint. The last 50 miles were supposed to be the hardest part of the course and much of that would be in the dark. With Kevin’s decision to drop I got into race mode and took off to see if I could catch my competition. I was betting on being able to reel him in on the climbs of the last 50 miles. When I got to the 150 mile checkpoint I was surprised to see him packing up his bike and abandoning.

At approximately 180 miles  it became completely dark so my main focus was not getting lost. The climbs came and I actually felt good climbing them. Everything was going well, I felt tired but relatively good, and then with just 4 ½ miles to finish I took a wrong turn. I rode about 1 ½ miles when I realized things didn’t seem right. As I debated with myself if I should turn back or keep going I came to a farmhouse. There were various animals roaming between the barn and the house and a dog barking inside. As I stood in front of the house studying my map and cut sheet a lady came out of the house. I’m sure she was wondering what the hell some guy on a bicycle miles from anywhere was doing in her front yard at 10:00 PM. I explained the situation and she gave me directions to get back on course. It turns out I turned a half mile too early. As I left the farmhouse my light battery was beginning to die and my GPS watch was displaying low battery warnings. I thought OK now the adventure really begins! I eventually got back on course had a little bit of a problem finding the entrance to the Ranch where the finish line was. Because of the wrong turn my mileage was off on my GPS and no longer matched the cut sheet so I wasn’t sure where to turn. With directions over the phone from the race promoter I found the entrance, which was a rough jeep road. Just ½ mile from the finish, I hit some soft sand and crashed! Over 200 miles and just ½ mile from the finish I go down. I couldn’t believe it! The bike was OK and I only had minor road rash so continued on. Just before the finish line was a series of steps; the final insult and the first time I got a bit agitated (probably because of the crash just a minute or two before). Finally the finish, my light and watch held out, but I was certainly on the edge expecting them to fail anytime in those last miles.

So in the end I finished 3rd overall and 1st in the 50+ age group, which really isn’t that big of a deal cause only three finished. After I crossed the finish line the race staff sang happy birthday and handed me my prizes. A great way to spend a birthday!

200 Miles Done!
I get asked what one does for nutrition on a ride like this. I treated this race the same as a 100 mile run. I had a glass of chocolate soy milk five minutes before the start (no breakfast) then approximately 300 calories of Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem per hour. At approximately 100 miles I ate my first solid food which was one square (about 100 calories) of an Enduro Bites bar. During the 2nd 100 miles I stuck with Perpetuem and over the course of the next 6 hours ate two full Enduro Bites bars. I never got even the slightest hint of nausea and felt strong enough that I knew I would finish, as long as I didn't get lost. The only stress I experienced was trying to get in before the batteries died on my light and GPS watch.

As far as the race organization, I can’t say enough good things about it. With the exception of one minor error that the promoter is aware of, the cut sheets were right on. The course was challenging, scenic, and showed me parts of Colorado I never knew existed. The volunteers were awesome and for a first time event it was very well done. I highly recommend this race for anyone looking for an extreme challenge and I really hope this grows and evolves into a classic Colorado race.

Now on to the Denver Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon!

I know this was a long one. Thanks for reading!


Segment 1: 50 Miles

Segment 2: 51.5 Miles

Segment 3: 51 Miles

Segment 4: 50 Miles (including my little extra credit turn near the end)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Burning River for Ben: We Did It!!!

Pallav, Ben F, Larry, Ben, & Alex at the Finish
I have to say the Burning River 100 was WAY harder than I thought it would be. Several sections of relentless short steep climbs with short steep descents over tangles of roots and technical trails took its toll; between 80 and 90 miles I was seriously wondering how I was going to finish. In the end my crew and pacers pulled me through and I not only finished the 100 mile but our incredible team and donors surpassed our goal of raising $10,000 for “TheShowers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at the AkronChildren’s Hospital”. I can’t begin to describe my appreciation for the support we received on this adventure. Thank you so much! The whole experience was incredible.

Roswitha and I flew in to Akron on Wednesday before the race and met Ben and his family as well as our incredible hosts Garret and Michelle Farrar and their two beautiful daughters. The excitement of Ben’s neighbors and hospital staff was incredibly touching and humbling. We visited the Akron Children’s Hospital and had the privilege of meeting Dr. Hord and the amazing and dedicated children’s hospital staff. These are a special breed of people working day in and day out to do everything they can to save kids’ lives. While there, we received great news that Ben was going to complete his treatment in October, just three months away. I was truly touched by the love, dedication, and passion displayed by Dr. Hord and his staff.

Larry, Dr. Hord, & Ben at Akron Children's Hospital
Thursday we held our crew/pacer meeting and I got to meet my pacers (with the exception of Alex) for the first time: Ben O, Ben F, Pallav, Alex, and Jarred. Roswitha, the best crew chief in the world headed up the crew, which included Ben’s parents Beth and Chris. In the meeting we had a change of plan; instead of Ben running the last mile he would pace me to the finish from the last aid station starting at approximately 95 miles.

Friday runner and pacers took and easy run together into the Gorge Park, the same trails I used to run while running Cross Country at Akron North High School back in the 1970s. Very little has changed and it brought back some very good memories.

The Burning River 100 Race

The starting gun went off at 4:00 am and it was already warm. A couple young shirtless racehorse looking guys went off the front easily running sub 7:00 minute per mile pace. The first 30 miles were relatively flat, most of it paved, and fast.  Combine this with the lower altitude and it was a real challenge not to go out too fast. I had planned to go out at a 10:00 minute pace but then I screwed something up with my Garmin and really couldn’t tell how fast I was going. I ran what felt comfortable and after a few miles got my Garmin working and it indicated I was running about 8:45 a mile. Too fast, I backed down to about 10:00.

All Smiles at the Start of a Long Day
After 30 or so miles things began to change. We began running more technical single track trails as well as the first set of hills that would be typical of many sections of the remaining 60 – 70 miles.  It was also beginning to warm up quite a bit getting close to the day’s high of 88 degrees F. One of the nice things about this course is so much of it is in dense forest, which although very humid, provides shade from the sun beating down overhead. I was very conscientious about my hydration and nutrition. My primary fuel was Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem mixed with water and my hydration consisted of a bottle of water mixed with one Hammer Endurolytes Fizz per hour. I sipped each bottle approximately every 15 minutes.  At the crew stops I drank chocolate soy milk or a smoothie and a couple pieces of watermelon.  In the later stages of the race when I was feeling a bit nauseous and craving salt I drank V8 at the crew stops. I also occasionally nibbled a bit on a Hammer Energy Bar. I was very careful not take in more than 300 calories an hour. With the heat I felt even less was better.

Coming in to the Crew at 53 Miles
Photo Courtesy of Garret Ferrara
Coming into the Stanford House aid station at 53 miles I was still feeling pretty good and I was blown away at the supporters that came out to cheer our “Burning River for Ben” Team on. The cheers were so loud and many had homemade signs. It was awesome and certainly a huge lift.

Some of our Awesome Burning River for Ben Supporters
Photo courtesy of Garret Ferrara
Fist Pump with Ben
Photo courtesy of Garret Ferrara
Center of Attraction
Photo courtesy of Garret Ferrara

Miles 53 – 65

At 53 miles I picked up my first pacer, Ben’s older brother Alex. Alex is 18, ran cross country and track at Kent Roosevelt High School and will be a freshman this year at Kent State University. He was ready and raring to go and asked me if I was “ready for the best 13 miles of my life” and we were off. At this stage of the race it is always very painful to start running again after taking a break.  Once pushing through the initial pain of getting started again we were cruising the flats and negotiating the steep climbs and descents. We talked about school, backpacking and aspirations. Alex was perfect at keeping us on the trail, making sure I was sticking to my nutrition and hydration schedule and taking my mind off the miles. Before we knew it we came into Ledges at 65 miles to meet the crew and change pacers. This was an awesome segment and a great run with Alex.

Heading Out for "The Best 13 Miles of My Life" with Alex
Photo courtesy of Garret Ferrara

Miles 65 – 75

At Ledges we had a quick crew stop and I picked up my next pacer, Pallav. Pallav is a good friend of Alex, just finished his freshman year in college and runs collegiate track. He is pursuing a computer science degree and is incredibly smart and polite. The ten miles we ran together was all single track, hilly, and technical. It was slow going and unfortunately it got dark a couple miles before we finished and we forgot to bring our headlamps. This made the last section much slower and difficult as we felt our way along a technical trail up and down steep hills in complete darkness. Now and then a relay runner came by but they were going much too fast to try to stay with and use their light. We continued, slowly feeling our way through the dark, looking for markers and eventually making it to our crew at mile 75. It was a pleasure to share this little adventure with Pallav.

65 Miles and Starting to Feel It
Heading out with Pallav just before Nightfall
Photo courtesy of Dr. Hord

Miles 75 – 90

Mile 75 began at Pine Hollow where I picked up my next pacer, Jarred. Jarred is a software engineer, friend and co-worker of Ben and Alex’s dad Chris. He is also an ultra-distance runner, having completed a 50 mile race just a few weeks before. Jarred has the patience of a saint. I struggled big time during this segment and there could not have been a better person for getting me through this. I truly owe completing this segment to Jarred. The first 3 – 4 miles went well enough; we ran a descent pace along a bridle path with Jarred keeping me entertained with corny jokes and great conversation. Once we hit the single track and hills things started to go south.  A 4.5 mile loop at Covered Bridge over what seemed like the toughest terrain of the course destroyed me. This truly became the “Dig Deep” part of the race. I can’t describe it but anyone who has run 100 miles knows what I’m talking about. This is where you reach the point that your brain thinks you’ve hit your limit and then you somehow push beyond.  This may be why we do these things in the first place; to push beyond what we think is possible. I was at that point. Jarred was the perfect person to pace at this time. He was patient but pushed me when needed and knew how to encourage and keep me going when it seemed I no longer could. As the constant up and down continued taking its toll, Jarred kept me moving as I staggered and tripped over roots and rocks throughout the night. Everything hurt so badly and stubbing my toes every other minute wasn’t helping much. I thought about why I was doing this; the kids at the hospital. I asked Jarred to stop just for a minute or two. I laid face down on a log and searched deep down inside myself for the courage to keep going. I found it. I decided that even though I don’t know HOW I am going to finish I WILL finish. I got up and we started walking. Eventually we came out of that loop and the 5 miles into Botzum Parking was not as bad. I honestly don’t remember a lot about these five miles but Jarred got me there. I think we may have even run some of it. I’m sure it was a very long night for Jarred and I can’t thank him enough. Finally in what seemed like a lifetime we came into Botzum Parking, 90 miles done.

Miles 90 – 95.4

Coming into Botzum Parking I was a wreck. Ten more miles seemed like an eternity. Before the race I said I would finish even if I had to crawl. This was now beginning to look like a probability. At the crew stop I took two Advil. Now this is something I would never recommend to anyone as there is a significant risk of severe kidney damage. I had been peeing regularly throughout the race and it was still clear so I decided to take the risk. Additionally I ate an Enduro Bite Expresso energy bar. I also changed shorts as mine were so crusted in salt no matter how much Vaseline I applied I was still chafing. I set my mind to change my thoughts from “10 miles to go” to “90 miles completed” and got ready to do the next segment.

Ben’s best friend, Ben Fredrick was my pacer for the next five miles. Ben is 17 and will be a High School Senior at Kent Roosevelt High School this year, plays for the school soccer team in the Fall and runs track in the Spring. He is an awesome kid and was so impressed with this race that he wants to run it next year; I advised against it.

I cannot come close to explaining this but as we started I felt like a new man. Maybe it was the Advil or the caffeine or Ben’s enthusiasm. Maybe if was a combination of all three - we ran. And we ran. Ben talked of running the 100 next year and I told him I didn’t think it a good idea, I’d hate to see him scarred for life. He asked about the 50; I suggested that he and his friends put an eight man relay team together. I think he liked that idea. Ben kept me on course, made sure I was sticking with the nutrition and hydration plan, and we cruised through this section so fast we caught our crew off guard as we came in to Memorial Parkway way earlier than expected. We were elated, I was feeling good and we had less than five miles to go!

Miles 95.4 – 100.2

Ben and me getting ready to run the last 5 miles!
Ben was amped and ready. This is what he trained all summer for. This is what he wanted to show the kids at the hospital. This was what this run was all about. It wasn’t that long ago that Ben needed braces just to walk. Now he was running the last leg of a 100 mile race and showing the kids at the hospital that anything is possible.

As I’ve come to learn, Ben is an incredible kid. He was diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Leukemia type B cell a little over three years ago. He has been incredibly brave and positive through this whole experience. Throughout it all he has maintained honor roll status in school (when he could go to school) and has been accepted into a special bio-medical engineering program as a junior in high school. Not only that, he has taken up cross fit and trained exclusively for this run.

Over the next four miles Ben pushed the pace and as I walked the steeper hills he pushed me to run immediately upon reaching the top. We were cruising and Ben was in charge! He nailed it as a pacer and kept me moving as we continued to pass many of the people that passed me when I was having the bad patch back at mile 80. At approximately 1 mile from the finish, where originally I was supposed to meet Ben, Ben’s dad Chris, and Ben Fredrick met us and a little further up the road, Alex and Pallav joined and we ran the last mile together. There is a slight hill just before the finish and we flew up passing another finisher and his pacer who were walking. We crossed the finish line all together. It was done! We did it. What an incredible feeling that I and I hope the others will never forget. I still get choked up thinking about it.

But completing the run was only part of “Burning River forBen”.  The whole purpose of Burning River for Ben is to raise money to help kids and families experiencing this terrible disease as well as provide hope and inspiration by showing anything is possible. Well I am extremely happy to say that with the incredible help of so many people who dug in and got involved we exceeded our goal of $10,000. As of this writing we’ve achieved $10,240.00! This absolutely could not have happened without the generous support of every donor and those who went the extra mile to help us raise funds. Particularly Garret and Michelle Ferrara our incredible hosts who ramped up the marketing campaign which dramatically helped raise funds; Holly Pupino, Media Relations Specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital who wrote an awesome article that helped get things rolling; Cheryll Powell wrote a front page and follow up article in the Akron Beacon Journal; and so many friends, co-workers, and people from around the country that came together to help us reach our goal. This is going to help a lot of kids and their families and I’m so proud that I could be part of an amazing and passionate team. 

We did it!

Thanks so much for everything. 



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Just One Week Away!

Max my bestest training buddy in the whole world!
As anyone that has been following my blog knows, just one week from today I will embark on the Burning River 100 running race to support kids and families suffering with childhood cancers and blood disorders. I am running the race in honor of Ben ODaniel, a brave young man who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia type B cell just a little over three years ago. Although still going through chemotherapy he has taken up running, cross-fit, continues to be an honor student, and has been accepted into the Biomedical Engineering Program through his High school. Ben will be running the last mile with me and we will cross the finish line together. I am excited, honored and terrified of this challenge.

I met Ben’s mother five years ago through a mutual friend, and upon Ben’s diagnoses I was amazed at her and Ben’s positive attitude, bravery, and spirit. They have the true “ultra-mindset”; the mindset that says never quit, never give up. We have set up a project we call “Burning River for Ben” with all proceeds going to the Showers Family Center forChildhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Akron Children’s Hospital.

Proceeds raised from our project will be used to directly help families going through this terrible period of their lives. Many families simply do not have the resources to deal with the uncountable expenses not covered by insurance incurred during this time. Many kids treated at the Center are from out of town and even out of state. Extended stays mean extended costs for food, lodging, and travel for the family. Proceeds from our “Burning River for Ben” will help families in need meet some of these costs, by providing meal tickets, lodging, and other travel expenses. In addition, these proceeds will help pay for crafts during a visit.  Receiving products such as blood, platelets or cryotherapy can take hours and crafts help take their mind off the procedure and even make time seem to go by quicker.  There is a craft lady who comes in every Tues, her name is Mary... I think she buys a lot of craft supplies out of pocket. We will help supply craft material. Other popular items are Teddy Bears or stuffed animals.  Even though Ben was long out of the teddy bear phase, when he became ill, he was given one.  Ben named him Max (same as my dog) and every time Ben went in for treatment that first year, he had to have Max, especially during the overnight hospital stays. As one with direct experience, Ben thought this is where our donations would do the most good. He said there are a lot of kids at the center that don’t have the resources or support he has and they could sure use our help.
This is what its all about!
Photo courtesy of 19 Action News Cleveland
Since signing up for this race in November of last year, I have run over 2,100 miles, cycled over 4,600 miles, and spent countless hours at the gym. I have run in snow, rain, hail, darkness, heat, & cold. I have trained in temperatures as low as -15 degrees and as high as +95 degrees Fahrenheit. I have taken the responsibility of this project very seriously. The part I struggle with the most is asking for donations, but I am passionate about helping these kids and their families, crossed that line, and the response has been amazing.

My crew (Roswitha & Ben’s mom Beth) will be sending updates during the race via Facebook and my brand new twitter account set up just for this purpose “@LarryDewitt4”. I feel like I am ready and as I said above I am excited, honored and terrified of this challenge.  I thank every single one of you for your support. It is the kids and your support that will keep me going when I start wondering what the hell am I doing here around 70 or so miles.

Again, thank-you so much,


If you would like to help with a tax deductible donation please go to

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Back in the Mix

Top of one of the climbs during a 6+ hour ride in temps up to 96 degrees
What an incredible two weeks since my last post! As reported last time, Dr. Randy Knoche has yet again performed a miracle and has me back into full training in only three weeks from what is normally a six week injury. Just to be sure I had an MRI done and all tendonitis is gone. Without fail Dr. Knoche has fixed me every time I’ve been broke…and without drugs!

So during my down time I did everything I could to not lose fitness and to keep both the cardiovascular system going as well as start acclimating to the what is sure to be a hot and humid 100 miles. Long 6 – 8 hour bike rides in 90+ degree heat; during the week of June 15th I rode almost 300 miles. I also incorporated walking; up to 12 miles and even walked back and forth to work. Although all this helped me stay in shape during those three weeks, it is not the same as running. This week, with the green light, I got in over 80 miles of running in addition to walking and biking. This weekend was a great test with a run just under 40 miles on Saturday and just over 21 miles on Sunday; both runs in 80+ degrees Fahrenheit. And the foot feels fine!

So we’re back on track, we’ve got our flight tickets, logistics are lining up, and “Burning River for Ben” is going to happen. Now we need to get the fund raising rolling. We are at little over $1250 and our goal is to raise $10,000. This all goes to help families with the incredible amount of expenses that are not covered by insurance. These expenses range from a plethora of unexpected costs such as meal tickets for families during extended hospital stays, parking, lodging, and the list goes on. $10,000 can help a LOT of families.With that said I think it might be time for Ohioans to start stepping up. I am pretty sure that of the money raised so far, over half of it has been donated from my Colorado friends. So let’s go Ohio; let’s step it up! :-)  Actually I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting and helping these kids. I’m sure many of you are waiting to see how the race unfolds and that is awesome. We’re down to less than four weeks. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I’ll be the first to say the running 100 miles is no picnic.

 Thanks again for reading and supporting the kids and families that have to endure such a horrific disease. 

With all the rain the trail is totally overgrown!
Yes this is the trail!

With the Heat I drop Max off after a few miles before going out for the death march

After nearly 40 miles on Sat and over 21 miles on Sunday in 80+ Temps, I'm done. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Heroes and Setbacks

Among the many benefits of participating and competing in endurance sports is the incredible people you meet along the way. The endurance, particularly the ultra-endurance community is generally made up of very passionate, driven, generous, and persistent individuals. One such individual is Tonia Ellsworth Smith, an inspiration and a true example of everything I just mentioned. Tonia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. With a 6% survival rate, pancreatic cancer is pretty much a death sentence. Upon diagnosis half her pancreas was removed along with her spleen. She went through 18 rounds of chemotherapy in the first six months of 2014. She survived. Not only did she survive she thrives. In the year since, she has been an unbelievable life force raising over $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research through Project Purple and running her heart out. Tonia, in her 40s, less than a year after chemo, ran a 3:39 marathon. Last week she ran the Bryce Canyon 100 Mile Trail Race with approximately 19,000 feet of climbing, rough trails, hail, and lightening in just over 26 hours, finishing 2nd female and 17th overall! And she’s not done yet. She continues her fight to cure pancreatic cancer with Project Purple as she sets her sight on the Denver Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in October. She is a hero in my book.

Tonia in Battle Dress Purple at Bryce Canyon 100
Photo shamelessly stolen from Tonia's Blog
My role in our “Burning River for Ben” project has taken somewhat of a setback over the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago, I experienced a pain in the top of my foot about 20 miles into a 30 mile run. Possible injury? Yes. It appears to be tendonitis so I’ve been doing everything possible to get it healed as soon as possible. This of course means no running. But like any challenge, project, or undertaking, setbacks are to be expected. I can only imagine the setbacks that Tonia faced over the past couple years. As well as Ben in the 3+ years of his treatment, or any kid going through the ups, downs, horrors, and agony of childhood cancer. And while I’m at it, imagine the setbacks the doctors, nurses, and volunteers who dedicate their lives to treating and helping these kids. Not all of these kids make it. And this has to be devastating. But these amazing dedicated people keep on. They don’t quit. Everyone of them are heroes in my book!

With that said I will not quit either. The way we deal with setbacks is the difference between success and failure. Given the situation, I am making the best of it. One of the areas I’m really weak is walking. In most 100 mile races there are times when it is better to walk than run. Steep hills for example. Running steep hills require a lot of energy. Walking them conserves energy and you may only lose a few seconds. However if you burn needless matches running these hills you could lose minutes to hours later when you no longer have any matches to burn. I’ve always got passed in walking sections, so I’m taking advantage of this down time to practice walking. It doesn’t hurt my foot and may even be helping with the healing process.  I’m also riding my bike a lot; about 220 miles this week. While this may not be running, it does help keep the cardiovascular system in shape, so I can jump right back into it as soon as my foot is ready. Finally I’ve been going to an incredible person, Dr. Randy Knoche at Springs Chiropractic.  Dr. Knoche has fixed me every time I’ve been broke. Knee injuries, plantar fasciitis, hip injury, he’s fixed them all. Not only is Dr. Knoche a miracle worker when it comes to fixing injuries, (my friends call him Jesus) he’s quite an accomplished athlete himself; several Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike finishes and something like a million Pikes Peak Ascents. I’m visiting Dr. Knoche almost daily for laser treatment which is greatly hastening the healing process. And the kicker; he wants to support “Burning River for Ben” so not only has he made it his mission to get me better, but he’s doing it gratis. Another hero in my book!

And my foot is getting better. Thanks to Dr. Knoche I think I will be able to start running again in the next week. This is normally a six week injury that Dr. Knoche may have reduced to two. With only six weeks until the start this was a bad time to get injured. But it is only a setback. I may have to change my expectations a bit as I was planning on hitting the peak of my training now through the next three weeks. But that is the nature of 100 mile races. Anyone that has ever run a 100 mile race knows this. Even during the course of the race expectations and goals can change dramatically. One can go from having the goal of being competitive or finishing with a certain time, to just finishing, to just making it to the next aid station, and finally, just making it another mile without throwing up.  Although I’ve been training to be competitive as a secondary goal, the primary and sole purpose of running this race is to run that last mile with Ben and cross the finish line together. Anyone that can go through chemotherapy for over three years, be an honor student, and continue to have a positive outlook on life, as Ben is doing, is a hero in my book.

Thanks for reading and supporting Burning River for Ben.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Need to Back Off

Rampart Reservoir - The scenery can't be beat
20 miles into this morning’s run, my throbbing right foot made me question my decision to run a second lap. "Two 30 mile runs within a week plus hill repeats and tempo runs may be pushing it a bit". That was my thought as I continued a second lap around Rampart Reservoir this morning to complete a beautiful but relentlessly hilly 30 mile trail run. Training for “BurningRiver for Ben” has been going incredibly well; so well it’s scary, which in turn encouraged me to push the envelope maybe more than I should have. Last Saturday Jeff Mulder, also running Burning River, and I ran just over 29 miles on Santa Fe Trail at about a 9 ½ minute a mile pace. Santa Fe Trail is a scenic regional bike path that meanders north and south along Monument Creek through Colorado Springs and the US Air Force Academy. The trail’s rolling hills are gentle and running is relaxed. I felt awesome at the end of the run, so much so that I intended to run another hour; that is until we got deluged with hail the last half mile. Feeling awesome and confidence soring!

Confidence Soaring during an awesome 30 mile run!

Sunday the same thing; I started the morning with a 15 mile run that felt awesome from the very first step. Still having a lot of energy afterward I rode around town for two hours on my bike running errands. During the week I introduced high intensity hill repeats to my routine. I keep hearing about the short steep climbs at Burning River so from here on out I will prepare for them by running as many short steep hills as I possibly can. I just wish I could get an accurate course profile. I’ve read that the Burning River has anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 feet of climbing, primarily short steep hills that keep relentlessly punching you in the gut one after another. Whatever the true elevation profile is, I intend to be ready. Finally Thursday I ran another key workout, which has been a staple of my training for several months; tempo runs. 10 – 12 mile runs with 3 – 6 miles at about 7:30 a mile pace. Due to the hill repeats on Thursday, I was feeling a bit worn-out and even though the pace felt like 7:30 or faster I was disappointed when all I could muster was 7:45ish pace. The first sign that I’m starting to push a too hard and need to back off.

Sunday 15 Mile Run with Max in Cheyenne Canyon

Fast forward to today. Although I planned only a 16 mile run, I decided to push the envelope even more and run two 15 mile loops of technical, hilly single track around Rampart Reservoir. Rampart reservoir has all the features that I believe Burning River has; relentless never ending short steep climbs and descents, technical roots and rocky trail, mud bogs, and water crossings.  I didn’t feel that great from the start but the amazing scenery and running a trail I hadn’t run in a while was intoxicating. After a few miles muscle memory took over and I was cruising and feeling good. About ten miles into it I felt a dull ache on the top of my right foot. Thinking my shoes laces were too tight I stopped and loosened them but the ache didn’t go away. My truck was parked at the trail head so I could stop and re-supply with water and food after the first lap. At the end of the first lap I wasn’t feeling good but not bad either. I was just running. I thought about calling it at one lap but then got the stupid thought of “I’m training for 100 miles I need to keep going”. So I set out to do what I came out there to do and headed down the trail for a second lap.

The Scenery is Intoxicating!
Cruising on Lap 1
Cresting one of Many Hills
The dull pain continued to increase in intensity as the miles went by until the steady throbbing affected my speed. I significantly slowed down and began walking more and more. I ran through a mud bog and a quarter mile section of trail buried under what felt like an ice cold stream of water. This seemed to numb the pain a bit and for the last five miles I wasn’t feeling much pain and I even picked up the pace. Upon finishing I removed my shoes and found that the top of my foot is slightly swollen and red. It doesn’t hurt badly now that I’m not running. In fact I can walk with no pain at all. Is it injured? I don’t know. I think I am due for an easy week so this is the perfect time to back off. With exactly eight weeks left until Burning River I will be monitoring this foot closely. Ice, Advil, and rest for a couple days then we’ll see how it goes. Because I believe this trail simulates Burning River so well I want to go back in three weeks and run three laps for a total of 45 miles. Keeping my fingers crossed! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Rain!

Max During a Typical Run over the Past 3 Weeks
Rain, hail, and floods have been the theme of the last three weeks, very unusual weather for Colorado. It rained 21 of the last 22 days with highs only reaching the 40s on many days. And it hasn’t been the normal 30 minute afternoon thunderstorms that are typical of Colorado. It has rained day and night almost non-stop. Trails destroyed, floods, and all kinds of havoc in the Colorado Springs area. I haven’t missed a beat in training for BurningRiver though. This is because the more people that get involved and donate to the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders through our “BurningRiver for Ben” initiative, the more determined I am to endure every challenge and do well at Burning River. And more and more people are getting involved which is both exciting and scary.  Holly Pupino, Media Relations Specialist at the Akron Children’s Hospital, wrote a very complimentary and inspiring article about what this project is all about. It has been making the rounds and appears to have got us unstuck from the fund raising rut we were in – we are very close to our first $1,000 milestone! This can sure help kids and their families deal with a lot of expenses associated with Childhood cancer. I am so excited, passionate and proud to be involved with this project. But we still have a long way to go to reach our goal of $10,000. I realize that everyone has their favorite charity or non-profit and are hit up all the time by one charity or another. I have my own as well, but after seeing how this center operates, the dedication and passion of the staff and volunteers, the joy and hope they bring to families going through this terrible ordeal, I can’t help but ask for support from everyone I know (and don’t know). I truly believe our donations will be very well spent. If everyone that reads this would contribute just $5 or $10 I think we will surpass our $10,000 goal. And that will help a lot of kids.

So training has been a bit of a challenge these last three weeks but I’ve actually enjoyed it. One just needs to be a little creative. Riding to and from work on my bicycle in pouring rain every day has been the most challenging. Clothes don’t dry out, so it takes a bit of resolve to put on wet damp clothes and ride home in the cold rain each evening. However that was easily resolved by bringing extra clothes (duh). Despite my gloves and shoe covers being labeled “waterproof” they are not. I’ve found that the best protection is wrapping my feet in bread bags before putting on my shoes. Latex medical gloves worn under my riding gloves do wonders for keeping fingers warm and dry. Amazing how these very cheap and simple solutions work better than the very high price high tech stuff!  I think I may have found a way to stop the raining as well. I bought fenders for my bike. Today the sun came out!

Monument Creek/Santa Fe Trail - There's a Bridge Under There Somewhere!
Training for Burning River continues to evolve from the base miles put in throughout winter. I’ve been picking up the intensity and mileage gradually and hope to be up to 100 miles a week by July. I’m often asked “how does one train for a 100 mile race”. This is an interesting question as we are all “an experiment of one” as they say, and each of us have our own tolerance of how much and how hard we can train. For instance running five days a week seems to be perfect for me. Others might run six or seven, I’m sure I would get injured if I ran every day. I mix cycling with my running as I find cycling actually accelerates recovery. Mileage varies depending on what part of the year it is and what phase of training I’m in, but I’ve been really happy with the five day running format. At the moment a typical week looks like:

  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride home from work (I drive my truck to work with a week’s supply of clothes etc. and then drive it home on Friday)
  • ·         100 push-ups in 5 sets of 20 reps done throughout the day         

  • ·         12 – 16 mile hilly run or hill repeats
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to work/1 hour or more bicycle ride home from work

  • ·         6 mile easy run
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to/from work
  • ·         100 Push-up in sets of 20
  • ·         Evening Strength workout at the gym or Trail work

  • ·         12 – 16 mile run with tempo intervals
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to/from work

  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to work
  • ·         100 push-ups in sets of 20

  • ·         Long run (18 – 35 miles)
  • ·         Easy 1 – 2 hour spin on bicycle or mountain bike ride to flush out the run

  • ·         Medium Distance hilly run, with walking breaks if necessary (12 – 18 miles)
  • ·         Easy 1 – 2 hour spin on bicycle

That’s it, pretty simple, nothing fancy, just consistent day after day, week after week, month after month training with a recovery week thrown in now and then. This however is not something I would recommend one just get up and do; I’ve been running or riding in one capacity or another since High School. In November I was nowhere near this mileage or intensity. It’s been a slow buildup over several months with years of base fitness underneath.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s long run and every day I get more and more excited about Burning River. The original goal of this race was run 99 miles and then  run the last mile with Ben. Ben is incredible! Even though he is still going through chemo, he is up to running 3 miles, 3 times a week and going to cross-fit. Every 100 mile race I’ve ever done has been very emotional at the finish. This one will be extra special.

Thanks so much for reading.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Greenland Open Space 50K: A Serious Wake-up Call!

Burning River for Ben: Today’s Greenland Open Space 50K (31 Miles) race was a very humbling experience with lots of time in the pain cave as well as many lessons learned. First it was humbling. Since I’m training for a 100 mile run I came to this race with a very arrogant attitude thinking “it’s only a 50k, it can’t be that hard”. This kind of thinking is not only arrogant it is stupid. I had run 30 miles two weeks before and felt really good and finished strong, however there is a big difference between a run and a race. With that arrogance I didn’t taper properly. Mistake number 1: On Thursday, just two days before the race I did a 4.5 hour mountain bike ride, including two hours of hard riding with the fastest kids on the High School team I assistant coach. On my ride home, as I was on the verge of bonking, I thought “this is pretty stupid, ride yourself into the ground two days before a 50k running race? You call yourself a coach?” I certainly would never recommend this to anyone!

So mistake number one left me with tired legs right from the start. At least I had the sense to hold back and let the lead group go. Max ran the first lap with me and this proved to be lesson number two. Max and I do the majority of our running before daylight when the temps are still in the mid-20s to mid-30s. The temperature was already between 45 and 50 at the start. The race consisted of 4 laps of approximately 8 miles. With the heat, Max was done after one lap. He is also not used to running on a leash, so he was dragging by the end of the lap. As the race went on it continually got warmer, climbing into the 70s. This took its toll on me. Burning River is going to be exponentially worse; time to start running in the daylight hours.

At the end of one lap Max was done!
Lesson three became obvious by the third lap. I have not been doing enough hill work. This race had about 3000 feet of climbing with the altitude between 7,000 and 7,300 feet. All the climbs were gradual so very runnable. But this really wore on me after 18 miles or so. 3000 feet in 31 miles extrapolates to just over 9,000 for 100 miles which I believe is pretty close to total elevation gain for Burning River. Got to work on rolling hills!

Lessons 4 & 5 were just stupid mistakes. I didn’t bring any bandages to cover my nipples not thinking I was going to sweat that much. By the end of the second lap my nipples were rubbed raw and I had to do the last two laps shirtless. I also had some pretty serious chafing in the crotch area, but I don’t think it would have been a good decision to go short-less, so I just had to endure it - made for a VERY painful shower afterward. Lesson 5 was even stupider. I didn’t bring any electrolytes or Perpetuem. So I did the whole race on four gels and water. For the first time ever in a race I got nauseous, but luckily didn’t have to puke.

With Bleeding Nipples was Forced to run Shirtless
So despite all these blunders I finished the first lap somewhere in the top 30 or 35 and even though I was on a death march the 3rd and 4th lap I whittled it down to 22nd overall and won the 50+ age group. I was told about half way through the last lap that I was winning the masters. With a long climb and 4 miles to go I didn’t really care. But then a guy that looked to be 50 passed me. Somehow I found something inside me and I picked up the pace and stayed with him. Approximately two miles from the finish I made a move and was able to go by him. This was incredibly painful and I had to dig with everything I had. Turns out he was 50 and I beat him by 25 seconds. The race was designated the RRCA Western Region Ultra Championship so I was named the 2015 “Grand Master” Ultra Champion.

Deep in the Pain Cave & Somehow Finding It within to Finish Strong

This race was certainly a wakeup call. I think I was beginning to get cocky since training has been going so well. This is why these training races are so valuable; they present a nice reality check. I’ve got some adjustments to make for Burning River!

Very Happy to Cross that Line!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Crazy vs Normal

Another Awesome CRUD Run - The top of Iron Mountain on an 18 mile fun run
I love riding my bike and I love running for as long as I can. It makes me feel alive; sitting on my butt all day makes me feel dead. This week, work colleagues from the east coast came to Colorado Springs on a business trip and we had the opportunity to go out have dinner and lunch together and just shoot the crap. For some reason I found it embarrassing when I was asked about running, how many miles I run, how many miles I ride, how many hours I train, etc. These are numbers and I believe for people who don’t do ultra-endurance events these numbers give the wrong impression.  I think from the expressions on their faces they must have been thinking – why? Or that I must really be a glutton for punishment, or crazy. But that is not the point. The numbers don’t describe the awesome trails, running and riding with awesome friends, incredible views, breaking track in fresh snow, feeling the sting in my hands and feet when riding to work on the cold mornings, pushing the envelope and feeling stronger each day, and having time to myself where I can just enjoy the awesome sensation of a body that has everything working in efficient synchronicity. There is no other feeling like it, drugs & alcohol don’t do it, I went down that path many years ago and there is just no comparison. But so many people look at fitness as a chore and running 100 miles or doing multi day adventure races is beyond their comprehension. But it’s not a chore; it’s a passion and an absolute joy.

To continue on this subject, I am periodically asked why I do what I do and often told I’m crazy. It’s amazing what we’ve come to call crazy. Running long distances and physical endurance is something we were actually designed to do. There are many studies that show we are the most endurance gifted animals on the planet. It seems to me crazy is sucking in chemicals such as tobacco into perfectly good lungs, eating foods with all the natural nutrients taken out, gluttonizing on junk food with absolutely no nutritional value, inducing oneself to cardiovascular diseases, cancers, strokes, hypertension, then having to take cocktails of drugs just to carry on this abusive existence; this should be called crazy. But unfortunately that has become the norm, and doing what we are designed to do, physical work, has become crazy.

Steve Bremner Leading the way of 22 mile run on his 60th birthday

This morning’s run with Coloradans Running Ultra Distances (CRUD) was awesome. These runs are just so incredibly fun it’s beyond description. And it’s obvious that the dogs of CRUD are of the same opinion. When we pulled up to the trailhead Max saw Steve Bremner’s dog Chewy and Rich Muzzy’s dog Calvin, and started whining and pacing in the truck to go be with his running buddies. As we were getting ready to run the dogs were running back and forth like caged animals whining to get going! By the way it’s Steve’s 60th birthday and he’s out running just under 22 miles on challenging trails with us a week after he competed in a 40 mile ski race over several passes from Crested Butte to Aspen; The Grand Traverse.  And he is doing a 50 mile running race in two weeks. Absolutely crazy! Normal would have him riding around in a golf cart taking blood thinners and blood pressure medicine worrying about breaking a hip.

Steve and his dog Chewy - Happy 60th!

OK enough of that. Training for Burning River is going awesome. Sometimes I think it is going so well it’s scary. I love the training so much; every run, every gym workout, and every bike ride, it’s just pure joy; which brings me to the core of why I am running Burning River. Sometimes I wish I could take the feeling of a great run or bike ride, bottle it and share it with everyone. Weird I know. Sometimes I even feel guilty or selfish for experiencing so much joy. So the best thing I can do is take my passion and use it to help others that are experiencing incredible suffering and are not capable at the moment to go out and run and play and do what is natural; kids that are suffering from childhood cancers. 

Ben 2012
The visits by the Doggie Brigade were the absolute best!
The volunteers and dogs bring smiles to SO many sick children
The whole Burning River for Ben project is based on a brave young man named Ben and his mother who have been going through this ordeal for over three years. They both have been incredibly brave and positive. Both have been a genuine inspiration. Ben is in remission after three long years of chemo and he is going to run the last mile of the Burning River 100 with me. I will finish it even if I have to crawl. It’s going to be so incredibly emotional. This was the bases of this run. It has evolved into a project to help the kids that are currently going through what Ben has gone through and those that will in the future. Unfortunately many of them will not survive. The Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Akron Children's Hospital is an incredible non-profit that does everything they can to make these kids’ lives a little better. Check out this video for a very fun music production as an example what the staff and volunteers do for these kids. I can't watch this video enough, it brings a big smile to my face every time. They also arranged a prom for the kids, just one of the many things kids going through chemo don’t normally get to experience. We are dedicating this run in Ben’s honor for all the kids, staff, and volunteers at the Childhood Cancer center. Donations go directly to this cause and really do help. Please find it in your heart to help with whatever you can. I think about crossing that finish line every day and it just adds to my passion to, as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Larry the Cable Guy, would say; “Get er done!”

Ben 2015
Its been three years since Ben was diagnosed with
 Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ( Leukemia A.L.L.) B cell.
 It’s amazing how staff becomes like family there.
 We are so grateful to have her helping him through this time
You can help project “BurningRiver for Ben” by contributing here. Every contribution, big or small, helps!
Thanks so much and thanks for reading.