Monday, June 21, 2010

Highlands Sky-ing

(All smiles at the start: Photo from Jeremy Ramsey)

What a great year it was for the 8th running of the Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run. The race was three people shy of filling and had what was deepest field the race has seen - a good year to be in the mix racing.

My training before the race had been solid after my three weeks missed in April from my knee injury. I knew I was in shape, but I also knew that since I had done zero quality (I just ran - no "workouts") this year that I would not have the turnover to make an honest go for the win with the guys up front. I did two training runs on the course after I got back from the Grand Canyon; one of which I ran hard as a time trial. My splits on that run were as follows:

AS 2: 1:46 (Mile 10.5)
AS 3: 2:47 (Mile 16.0)
AS 4: 3:21 (Mile 19.7)
AS 5: 3:45 (Mile 22.7)
AS 6: 4:17 (Mile 27.0)

Based on these times, I thought I could easily shave at least six minutes off my time between the start and AS 6 (4:11) with the race day "magic", people to chase, carrying less water, and not having to stop and fill-up from creeks like in the trainer. Here were my goal splits:

AS 2: 1:42
AS 3: 2:41
AS 4: 3:15
AS 5: 3:39
AS 6: 4:11
AS 7: 5:12
AS 8: 5:56
Finish: 6:29

I started our conservatively and just fell in behind all the other guys going out hard. I came through AS 2 and 3 pretty much right on schedule and feeling fine. I was only concerned with hitting my splits. My pre-race plan was to run conservatively until AS 4, then start letting it all hang out from the road all the way to the finish - not my normal style. I felt good on the dreaded Road Across the Sky and ran every single step at what felt like a decent pace. I believe I moved up two positions on the road and came through AS 6 (mile 27) in 4th place, 4:15 into the race. . . 4 minutes off of my goal, but certainly nothing to panic over.

The next section is where the wheels simply came off. No question of what happened - The heat got to me in the open meadows and my stomach just quit cooperating. What felt so smooth and fluid only moments before, became drudgery. Knowing that I was not very heat acclimated and seeing the large amounts of salt on my skin, I really started pushing the S-caps in this section. Too little too late though - I was off my splits and thrown into survival mode. The finish line was the only cure for my disease at that point.

I love Highlands not only because it is a great race in my home state, directed by my good friend Dan Lehmann, but mainly because it was my first real test in my early years of ultrarunning. Even though I was feeling puny the last 10 miles or so of the race, I still soaked in the meaning and beauty of it all. I thought back during that section to when I ran the race for the first time back in 2005 and had no idea of what the heck I was doing. Many things have changed since then, but some have remained the same. It's always a wonderful feeling to cross the finish line of any ultra and this day was no different. I crossed the line in 6:43, nearly an hour less than when I last ran the race in '07. It was not the result I was capable of running or planned on running, but I was and am satisfied nonetheless. Any day that I can spend running and enjoying the beauty of God's creation is certainly a good day.

Then: 2005

Now: 2010


  1. Five years have gone by since your first Highlands. Even though it is close to your home and you are familar with the trails, I am sure that it brings a different beauty to your eyes every time you are on a portion of the trails. You ran a well executed race and gave it your all. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. I have one question though, are those the same blue shorts for both 2005 & 2010? Have a great week.

  2. Rick- yes, I never get tired of running on the Highlands course. It's all so unique and stunningly beautiful. . . and yes - same blue shorts 5 years later. Maybe I need a wardrobe change?

  3. Nice work, even with the issues at the end. I hear it's a beautiful race and will certainly get out there one of these years. Will I be wearing the same shorts from 5 years earlier like you in those 2005/2010 photos? Probably not, but I'm impressed they're still working for you!

  4. Yay! I am glad to hear you are over your injuries and returning to old form. So sorry I had to miss the race but had to crew for Reynolds since he asked!!! See you at the end of July at Cooper's Rock! (Or are you running 12 Hours of Big Bear Lake?)

  5. Dan- Yes, you'll have to come to Highlands one of these years.

    Kim- Too bad Reynolds had a bad day. Yes, I'll see you at Cooper's, but doubtfullly at Big Bear. 12 hrs of running loops just isn't my thing, even though it is a GREAT event.

  6. Adam,
    Even though I was just crewing instead of running, I have to say that it was an absolutely awesome event! So glad to have been some small part of it.