Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Opportunity meets Challenge - an open letter

I find myself in a very exciting but potentially very difficult situation and it’s complex. 

A little background first. I have been running long for 23 years. Many of my most memorable days have been on the trail and many of my closest friends, particularly my wife, I met through that love of the trails. 

Clearly as a competitor I have been a consumer, a taker, more than a giver but I did inherit a race in the UK and organize it for 5 years and I did setup the UK Ultra-running Championships for which I am proud to say we grew to over 1500 registered runners and pulled together a prize fund well over $10,000 in value each year. Our values in setting that up were to develop competitive standards but also to encourage all onto the trails – whether experienced or inexperienced. We specifically did not want to be elitist and we ensured that over 50% of the prizes did not just go to speedsters. Both of these have been pure volunteer efforts that took many hours of my time but for which I had a passion and which gave me satisfaction.

Now living in Santa Barbara, I realized it was time to hand over that series. From next month it will be in good safe hands with two friends back in the UK and so it seemed very timely that an opportunity should arise over here. I was approached about being involved in a developing run series and of course I was excited and interested. In fact it was something I was on the threshold of doing in the UK and has long been an ambition. I have run hundreds of events – good and bad – and have views about how an event might ideally be designed. Here was an opportunity to put those thoughts into practice.
Adopting the sustainability principle of triple bottom line I wanted an event to be primarily for the runners but to be sustainable and to harness the amazing potential for doing good – outreach, fundraising and activism – the sport with its dedicated participants can offer. We discussed and distilled that into the following ideas and principles: 

  1. Events should offer a bare-bones entry option as well as the full price version; they should be inclusive to people of all means and not everyone wants a t-shirt and a medal from every event
  2. Events must be permitted, insured and safe for the runners.
  3. The last person across the line is just as important as the first and everyone in between
  4. Whilst some will always want to race, the events should promote the experience and the love of movement through the terrain. These are journeys for all, races for some. We changed the naming from “race” to “run”
  5. The area where the event is held should benefit either from volunteer labor (trail work requirement) or a financial alternative to fund appropriate projects that preserve the area whilst making it accessible
  6. We should provide an opportunity for those with a great story and the ability to communicate it to inspire others from all walks of life – there is enormous potential for outreach in schools and youth projects
  7. We should encourage the motivation of those inspired to raise money for their cause and ours and provide them with support (a free entry)
  8. There is a win:win outcome where sponsor money can be channeled to local community groups who offer their time in support of the event
It seemed to me that the untapped potential of the Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and Los Padres area coupled with beautiful Santa Barbara as a destination offered the perfect package and the person offering me a piece of the action had clearly been working for some time on the ideas, naming, logistics and permits to make this a reality.  

The challenge comes because some of these proposed events have happened before. They have not been a great success and there are more than a couple of people with very strong views about the organizer as a person, his actions and the events. That person is Robert Gilcrest and it is Robert who has asked me to be co-race director and partner.

I take people as I find them and I don’t believe in quitting. In Robert I find someone who is very open about his past addictions and who has made difficult choices in order to keep his family together. They are still together and back living in Santa Barbara. Robert has also freely admitted that he needs support in terms of planning and organization to keep him on track and round out his meticulous attention to certain details. Like most ultra-runners, myself included, he shares obsessive tendencies but is now channeling those into running rather than anything destructive.  I believe that whilst we are very different characters we have complementary skills and share the humility to know that we will always make mistakes but should try to listen, learn and improve. As long as that remains the case I would not give up on Robert or the events he conceived. 

I knew that communication and listening would be an especially important part of the first year or so – to clarify the facts and reality of what has happened in the past and make sure mistakes are not repeated. What I did not expect was that some would not give me the opportunity to explain my position before they rushed to judgement or that I would be effectively banished from the local running community. 

Yesterday I found myself removed from the local Santa Barbara Trail Runners group. I don’t know if this was an individual decision or one made collectively but I am saddened by it.  At the very least it cuts off a vital channel of communication – even if someone just wants to let me know that they never want to be involved I hope they would take the time to give a reason and that is learning for me. My hopes are to turn this thing around and to develop a set of events for which the local community can become proud. I don’t pretend that we are as significant but look at what the Leadville race series did for that community. It is a model I would aspire to.  

I thank you for reading this rather lengthy explanation and I urge you to contact me – I will make time and listen to anyone. Hoping that the spammers don’t pick this up I am on “runningmanuk” at gmail.com

I  will strive to be open and objective and to demonstrate through actions rather than words that we will develop and deliver events that are true to the principles I outlined earlier….and finally, sometimes the best way to sort out the really tough stuff is on a long run so let’s hit the trails!       

Friday, 22 June 2012

A time to appreciate

I have, of course, spent many hours over the past few years considering what motivates me to run long. This is a necessary process, I think, for anyone facing the realities of ageing and slowing down.
It was, after all, 23 years ago that I ran my first Bob Graham round with 3 cigarette breaks and almost no knowledge of suitable running food.  In those intervening years I have had the fabulous fortune to enjoy many mostly injury free running years and, through a combination of luck, determination and being prepared to fail, to experience some wonderful successes. 

One of the things I did admit to myself was that I am a competitive animal. My brother and those around me will testify that I can turn almost anything into competition – who can eat their cereal quickest anyone! To be near the front of a race gives me a kick; to challenge a record likewise.
But then there is what running long represents; simplicity and an extended focus on a single goal. In our fractured daily lives we flit from this to that, juggling priorities and often passing the time with largely superficial experiences and conversations. Running 100 miles gives us plenty of time with ourselves and, if we are lucky enough to have the company of a pacer, with another person who shares at least the excitement of being out in the wilds at odd hours of the day. The shared adventure sets the scene for a more meaningful dialogue about ambition, motivation, faith in others and what is important.
So I realised that a previous resolution to quit running 100 mile events was not going to stand. Well, I started one last year and failed at mile 64 so even if I never ran another, at least finishing what I started seemed like the minimum courtesy. In fact some half decent training was a minimum courtesy; in 2011 I was undertrained and faking endurance. I can’t really understand why no-one told me or why it took me so long to figure it out but the reality was that I had run the 50 mile distance or more only about once or twice per year for the past 3 years. Back in the day I was probably covering that sort of distance once per month on average. Well Duh – it’s going to make a difference right!

So, enough of the thinking and on with the doing. You have read this far so thank-you and I will assume that you have followed the plan for the year so far. In summary it goes like this. A great run at Ray Miller 50 mile in late Feb, a new course record on the 68 mile Backbone trail in March, a tough run at the Sonoma 50 in Mid April and a tough run at Fellsman in late April. In both the latter races I took longer than hoped but felt strong through to the finish.
What I realised relatively early on was that races and the hard run at Backbone were taking more from me than they were giving. This was not always the case.  In my younger days I would race, recover within days and be back to the training. The race pace just added an edge that took my fitness to the next level. Now, a 50 mile race knocks me out for at least 2-3 weeks meaning that the mileage actually suffers rather than being boosted by the race miles. So, going into San Diego, I knew it would not be a romp but I did hope to feel strong provided I started steady. 

A little about the race; firstly, it’s a misnomer. Downtown San Diego is 45 miles away and the race actually takes place in the hills around Laguna – it is a wonderful area mixing Alpine terrain of upland meadows and pine/granite scenery at around 6000ft elevation with dramatic views from the main ridge 5000ft down into the Anza Borrego desert.   A god chunk of the course runs along the Pacific Crest Trail and it almost all single track trail. A view of the course profile leads many to think this is an easy 100 and that is probably what I thought last year but rocky trail, enough ascent to feel and the combination of a little elevation, high daytime temperatures and  very cold night time temperatures make this an event with a bit of a sting. Some years the finish rate has only been around 60%.
Compared to last year, the day dawned balmy, no early morning frost and comfortable to run in a short sleeved top. Having slept in a cosy cabin rather than a frigid tent I felt good and ready to run. Deliberately siting myself in the middle of the pack I thought I would escape any pressure to be up front but the powers of the internet mean that rankings are widely available and I had to deal with 2-3 incidents in the first few miles where I would try to let people pass me but they would say “oh no, I shouldn’t be in front of you” – well, maybe that was then and this is now.
Much of the course is stunningly pretty, especially the early miles in pine scented meadows with far reaching and lush views. Actually the course is a series of loops so whilst on one hand you feel you are covering enormous distances, on the other you continually see reference points such as the golfball radar installation on the ridge. The first 24 miles were great, totally steady and set me up nicely for the descent into Noble Canyon – this is a long long long 7 miles down into a much drier area and I ran dry a good mile out from the aid station but it didn’t seem to do any damage and, refreshed by the ice bath sponge, with some food in me and 2 iced water bottles I was quickly onto the challenging little 50 mile loop. Last year this is where I started to swoon – it’s about noon by this time and the section has no shade. This year, though, I was passing a few people who looked exactly like I felt last year. After the loop it’s a long, long 8 mile mostly up section and it was at the end of this in 2011 that I first wanted to quit. What a difference, this time I ran in on my toes, feeling fresh and raring to go; still eating well and ready to chew up the miles.   
Now for some Pacific Crest Trail time – it is a pretty spectacular section, never more than ½ mile from the highway but it’s out of sight to the West and as you run along the benched trail just off the main ridgeline you look East, down around 5000ft to the Anza Borrego desert.  All the way through to mile 64 I was steady and, by this time, despite the slower start, I was around 60 minutes up on the time from last year. Somewhere between 64 and 72, though, it got dark, a lot cooler and the effect of eating less started to kick in. By the time I arrived at Sweetwater Aid Station I was chilled, sore and definitely slower. With Lynn’s help I put on long sleeve and windproof, hat, buff and gloves and with a fresh and cheery Krissy to pace me I set off for the climb back to the main ridge. Within 10 minutes I pulled over to add leggings to the equation – that was all the clothing I had and it still was not enough.  By now I was being passed a little but didn’t really care and thoughts of quitting started to crowd in. Back at Sunrise Aid station (fortunately for me, sunrise was still several hours away) I added a second long sleeve top, a second hat, a large strong coffee and 2 mugs of potato bisque to the equation – to good effect – we picked up the pace and for around 5 miles it was great until the calorieometer hit zero again. That seemed to be the pattern for the next few – into the aid station, get some soup or similar, pick up a little then fizzle out. 

Now this is work! - climbing out of Noble

Poor Krissy, she urged me to try a gel as I hit rock bottom again and had to endure 5 minutes of empty retching as my stomach voted loudly its displeasure at more gel. The next couple of miles on a completely empty tank were pitiful but then, as the sun came up and warmth returned, we reached an aid station less than 10 miles from home and a bacon butty was miraculously offered and consumed.
In short, the final 28 miles were slow and I was passed by many people. At the time it felt intense but my pacer was incredibly patient and we did see the stars, a fox and a glorious sunrise. There is something magical about being out there in the very early dawn and lots of memories of past times spent in Scotland and elsewhere in the quiet still of morning flooded my mind.
Well, as you know the pleasure of finishing lasts many times longer than the discomfort that seems so all encompassing at the time. It took me almost 26 ½ hours but wearing the sweatshirt with pride makes it all worthwhile and, with the benefit of poor short term memory for some of the finer details, the weekend is already a rosy memory. It’s great to have notched up my first 100 mile finish since 2008, whatever the finish time.
...and that leads me on nicely to conclusions and thinking ahead to the future. Is this is good point to retire from 100’s? (again!). Well, my conclusions are:
  • Reading my articles is probably almost as much of an endurance challenge for you as running the races is for me. Thank you again for sticking with it!
  • My body has changed and I expect that is permanent; a consequence of age and 23 years of running long. If I were to race again, the build up needs to build me up and that means long training runs but not hard races. Interestingly, my good buddy Roch Horton ran no longer than 31 miles all year in his build up and did one 50k race. He posted a great 22 hour time.
  • I am not as tough as I used to be or thought I was. Without my pacer and crew I would probably still have quit when I was cold and struggling to warm up. Not wanting to risk needing some sort of emergency assistance I would have found the reason to drop
So, the conclusion is that I need to either use this opportunity of completing the course to retire gracefully from 100 milers which would be entirely reasonable after all these years OR I need to find a race so tough that time is almost incidental. So outlandish that it’s not putting me on the edge of deciding whether to continue or quit but it casts me adrift in a sea so large I have no reference point even against which to judge that decision; a race where the finish is as elusive as walking on the moon. 

Does such an event exist? Maybe!

Can I get an entry? Let’s  see!

Am I man enough? I will think on that!  

With many thanks to Glenn Tachiyama for the photographs.  

Friday, 8 June 2012

San Diego 100

Back to the fray. Unfinished business takes me back to the Laguna Mountain area, around 2 hours inland from San Diego and on the edge of the Anza Borrego.

Last year I pulled out at mile 64; cold, tired and spent. With a little trepidation but also some excitement I will toe the line as number 78 at 7am US time (3pm UK time) to revisit the early miles and discover the later ones.

I know I have put in the training this spring and I go into this event fully rested having not run more than 20 miles at a single stretch since the Fellsman 5 weeks ago. I will start slow and see how it feels - no heroics just a solid run I hope.

If you are sitting inside watching the rain beat down and wondering how life is in Southern California - check out www.sandiego100.com - they promise regular updates throughout the event. Anything under a 24 hour finish time will be considered a result by me.

Full race report to follow next week once I've got it done!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

It Took A While!

It did take a while; both for me to write this long overdue update and to cross the finish line in each of my last two races. 

 Before the wheels fell off at Sonoma 50

Two weeks ago, the classic UK 61 mile Fellsman was epic in many ways but let’s step back a few weeks to Lake Sonoma and my second 50 mile race of the year. In my younger days I used to delight in pulling off “back to back” challenges like the Fellsman and Scottish Islands Peaks race on consecutive weekends and the High Peak Marathon on a Friday night followed by the New Chew on the Sunday. 

Based on that, I felt that 3 whole weeks should be ample time for recovery from my efforts at the Backbone trail – I knew I had worked kind of hard over the last 18 miles that day but, 3 weeks, surely. 

Well, the field for Sonoma 50 was stellar. John and Lisa have turned that event into one of the premier 50 milers and ensured an invitational field that was deep, deep, deep. Conditions in the build-up were pretty wet and I had already run the return leg of this out and back course so figured it might be nicely wet and muddy – after all, there is a significant subset of Californian runners who don’t like to get their feet wet so surely it would be an advantange? 

We set off fairly fast and generally speeded up on a roller coaster of a course that really stops you getting into a rhythm. The hills are short but sharp – I’m not complaining, I actually love the course, just wish I ran it a bit better. First half was pretty much OK although I saw the leading runners heading back way sooner than I had hoped and, boy, was Dakota running fast or what!!

It was at about the turnaround that a wheel fell off. No big thing but then a second one wobbled and fell too. OK -  so we have a cart to pull but surely a few gels and a bit of a drink would sort that out in minutes. No, actually both hamstrings suddenly tightened on the descent back down to the lake after Madrone Point and, before I knew it, all 4 wheels were off and I was dragging the cart. Loosely translated this means a limping walk/shuffle at sub 4mph. 

Oh dear, the trouble is I don’t really remember having to deal with issues like these on races in the part. It is all perfectly normal; after all, someone recently described Ultra-running as a long distance problem solving exercise, but the mind has a strange ability to scrub out all the messy, painful bits and just retain images of running effortlessly along sunlit ridges.  

So, feeling suitably sorry for myself I shuffled along for a few minutes, past Wolflow springs where Stan Jensen recorded my split time with a look that said “I remember when you used to be quicker than this” and onto the next climb. This proved to be a very good opportunity to talk to myself – along the lines of “well, you ARE going to finish this so do you want to wallow in self pity as well as mud, take twice as long and be late for dinner with Lynn’s family or do you want to take charge of the situation, make sensible choices and get going as best as you can”. Put that way it seemed a no brainer so I ate, drank, took big strides to work out some of the tightness in my muscles and got going again. In the end though, the pretty girl always works so when Darcy Africa trotted past me I decided this was a good opportunity to strike up a conversation about Hardrock, running, life and everything. It worked a treat. What you think is what you become right? So, I was thinking that I was strong, studly and determined. Well, I at least managed the 3rd one of those and so we ran together for about 5-6 miles before, amazingly, I pulled ahead a little. The final 11 miles or so took a while but I was now catching people again so the virtuous circle established itself, Underworld provided the metronome and I even started running some ups again.   

In the end, what I had hoped might be a sub 8-hour completion became an 8hr 46minute effort but, hey, no-one older than me was ahead of me and that’s one of the benchmarks these days.

The next day I flew back to the UK. Aisle seat booked, I put on the compression socks and studiously walked around the plane a lot but boy was I sore.  It felt as if I hadn’t run like that for months and the following days were not much better. Somehow 10 days passed in a blur and it was time to head up to Yorkshire for the Fellsman

...and so, all too quickly, to 50 glorious years of the Fellsman. Those who know me certainly know my soft spot for this event. First attempted back at the age of 17 or so as an attempt to step up from the challenges of the Masters Hike, Calderdale Hike and 4-Inns, this event in some ways defines my running career.
After a DNF that first time with a knee locked solid I returned a few years later as someone with ideas on a Bob Graham round and a few fell races under my belt. Coming 2nd to Phil Clarke massively exceeded my expectations as did the satisfaction of a grand day out in Yorkshire. To this day I love the finish which gives just enough time to appreciate the transition from the high moors to the enclosed fields and then the descent down into the pretty little village of Grassington. 

Over the years, a 3rd place, a batch of wins, a 12th (the wheels fell off that year) and a 2nd meant that this would be my 18th start at the event. First priority was to erase the disappointment of last year where I pulled a hamstring and dropped out after only 11 miles. It really did not come as a surprise when my hamstrings tightened again coming off Ingleborough – being honest, I had been bad about stretching the past 2 weeks and had allowed the tightness developed after Sonoma 50 to remain. I  really only had myself to blame and it’s funny to reflect that sometimes it can be the littlest of things we overlook or neglect. 

I almost viewed it as a good thing – that I was forced to slow down early. 6 weeks ago I had grand plans of giving Jez and the other youngsters a run for their money on this course but previous races, the Backbone trail efforts and more had left me feeling strong but not super fast. So, without the leaders to worry about I could concentrate on my own race – well, apart from dealing with the anxious comments and looks of those who still expect me to be way out front!!

I think the real story of this year’s event is not mine – I stabilised at about Kingshouse and clawed back a few places from there to record 12th place in about 12hrs 30something – the real story is about the weather. The race was held 2 weeks earlier than previously. Often though, late April weather can be great and, sure enough, February and March were pretty dry months. The deluge was well underway during April though and then the weekend of the event brought biting Northerly and Easterly winds. What precipitation there was fell as hail and sleet and the day just got colder. For most of the second half I was running in long sleeve top, short sleeve top, goretex jacket, hat and gloves and still cold!

At 2am, with checkpoints becoming overwhelmed with hypothermia cases and with one ambulance call already underway the organisers took the very difficult but entirely correct decision to abandon the event. It is a testament to their emergency plan that everyone was returned to base and that everyone was eventually OK despite a few hypothermia cases. On the final section as I raced the fading daylight from Park Rash I was acutely aware that if I had to stop for any reason I would be in big trouble within minutes. I only really had a survival bag and that would have done nothing. It is sobering to remember that conditions in the UK can be so demanding. 

So, 2 races, both finished solidly and in times that I was not happy with but finished nevertheless. Just under 4 weeks now until the 100 miler so I hope they will stand me in good stead. It is clear that I am not going to be leading at San Diego but its another piece of unfinished business to get out of the way. I know a good chunk of the course now and it is beautiful. Two weeks after that I get to work really hard pacing none other than Lizzy Hawker at Western States. .Acutely aware that there is a good chance I might get dropped I really need to keep the training going. 

Then maybe, it’s time to hit the mountains. Let’s see!!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Great fortnight and a FKT (Fastest Known Time)

Two weeks with some great and varied running. Still recovering from yesterday’s effort but more of that later.

The week after our Santa Cruz island and Backbone Trail adventures was quiet but I was entered for the Chuckanut 50k on 17th March. This year would have been a great race as organiser Krissy had obtained a huge permit for 1000 runners and was celebrating the 20th year of the event in style. Unfortunately I waited until I had news of a job before committing to the plane tickets and, by the time I knew I had a job, plane tickets were $500 and up. A little crazy for a 50k.

So, the alternative was round 1 of the local trail series. A simple 11 mile figure 8 loop in Romero Canyon which was pretty much the second run I discovered when we first moved to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara has some wicked fast runners and ex professional cyclists so local races are no walkover but I thought the unusual conditions might help me – wind, rain, low cloud – all very unSanta Barbara like.

A very British Day at Romero Canyon

5th place was all I could manage but I did happen to remark to my friend Howard that the forecast was for the rain to turn to snow right down to about 3000ft overnight. He readily agreed to my suggestion that we might have some fun in the snow on Sunday and so I found myself leaving the house in the dark on Sunday morning for a rendezvous in Ojai.

Looking into the Sespe Wilderness

The safer descent

We took a gnarly jeep road up the hill in his big rig and set off running up to Topa Topa and Hines Peak. Sure enough, snow was at 2500ft, early on it was all crispy and we managed to have one of those “one Kahtoola micsrospike each” mini epics to negotiate an iced up ridge on Hines (we elected the powdery bushwack for the descent rather than the exposed ridge). An outing of around 22 miles and 5500ft capped a week in which I recorded under 50 miles but had a lot of fun.

So then – yesterday

When we ran the Backbone Trail over 2 days recently, I made no secret of my interest in running it whole and that the current record time would soon get reduced. Perhaps the fact that one of the two guys who set the current record stated he thought it would stand for fully two years also spurred me on?!

The Backbone Trail was first conceived almost 20 years ago but has only just come into proper existence and indeed one section still crosses a small section of private land with “grace and favour” access. It links a series of existing trails running from the mountains just inland of Santa Monica through to the fabled Ray Miller trail in Point Mugu State Park. Setting off from the Eastern end you quickly gain height to look over downtown LA and planes taking off from LAX. The trail, though is continuous with no more than a couple of hundred yards of tarmac along its whole length. A few sections are fire/jeep road but the vast majority is singletrack – some groomed and some quite rocky. So, it is a remarkably continuous route, often cleaving to ridgelines and with great views to the ocean and inland.

Backbone Trail start - 07:15

All previous accounts make a few things clear – most have ended up starting of finishing in the dark because of the length of time taken and the fact that they have run in the winter for cooler temperatures. Heat seems to be a significant factor in accounts and it’s pretty much impossible to do the thing unsupported because there is little or no water for most of the route. Finally, route knowledge is critical – there are many many trail junctions with few good maps and the route is completely unsigned in parts. My recce in the company of the local expert, Howard, would be my secret weapon.

It's warming up - bottom of the big climb from Piuma

Once the forecast showed low temps, overcast conditions and low probability of rain I knew it was time to have a go. Another early weekend start then. 04.30 alarm and on the road at 5 for the drive. Inauspiciously, the park gate was closed when we arrived. Fortunately we were able to park within a ¼ mile of the gates and so my planned 07:00 departure was only delayed until 07:15. Lynn had very kindly given up her whole day to crew for me and had a car full of the usual crap that accompanies these attempts – with the addition of the means to create grilled cheese sandwiches, my recent favourite. The two guys I had hoped might pace me near the end were both out of town so it was to be a solo but very well supported attempt.

A rolling lunch - pizza, apple sauce, cookies, strawberriescoke, bloks, gels and ginger sweets

Right from the off it felt good – in the flow and just covering the miles without too much effort – so much so that I reached the first support point about 17 minutes ahead of schedule. This surprised both of us; my schedule was really just a self produced thing based on Naismith factors but I had cross checked to the previous best East to West time of 15:07 and it seemed to work. Same story at the second support point 18 miles in – another 9 or so minutes up. After this though, the minutes gradually slipped away until I was back onto my 12 hour schedule so maybe I went off a little too fast or maybe my schedule just didn’t factor in enough “slow down when you are knackered” reality.

At miles 25 a long climb begins, it is exposed to the sun and, sure enough, that was about when the sun came out. Still though, by local standards for late March it was a cool day and there was a great breeze. At about half way it still looked as though 11:?? was a possibility but then I started a bad patch around mile 40 on a section I had labelled as 5.5 miles but felt like 6.5. Recovery from that wasn’t too bad but once I left the final support point at mile 52 the wheels really fell off on the climb up to Sandstone Peak. This was where I had struggled in the Ray Miller 50 a few weeks earlier only worse – I just could not seem to get powering up the rock strewn path. Fortunately my body was still responding to gravity and the longest downhill section of the whole trail was just around the corner. For a while I had been worrying that my improvement over the previous best of 12:47 would be a mere few minutes but then, as I ascended the final hill onto the Ray Miller loop I now know well I calculated that a little over 12 hours should be possible if I could run the undulating fire road along the top and descend quickly to the finish.

Sunset at the top of the final descent - Ray Miller

I bust an absolute gut to make sure the final time was 12:0? – in the scheme of things, what does it matter but in that moment I determined that I did not want it to be a second over 12:10. As I touched the trail sign at the finish I had 19:23 on my watch but the date/timestamp on the camera recorded at start and finish said 19:24 so an elapsed time of 12 hrs and 09 minutes is what I am claiming. 38 minutes ahead of the previous best.

2 great weeks and 2 VERY tired legs today. Huge thanks to Lynn without whom I would have not been able to do this and to her great grilled cheese sandwiches.

Finished - 19:24 - just before dark!