The McCall Trailrunning Classic was described to me as a beautiful course and a great place to try my legs at a 20-mile distance. It certainly was beautiful, and really hard over those 20 miles. I am glad that I had done the River of No Return 25k in Challis a few weeks prior, as well as a handful of longer training runs. I had to dig deep on this one.

The course begins at Jug Mountain Ranch, a golf and mountain biking club on the western edge of the “Long Valley” in which McCall, ID sits. JMR is a fantastic location and a gracious and accommodating host for an event like this. They opened their clubhouse to runners, had the nicest bathrooms that I will probably ever get to visit prior to a race, maintain a great trail system, and allowed about 300 runners to just take over their parking for the better part of a day. If anyone who reads this is associated with JMR, THANKS! GREAT JOB!

Picture of Council Mountain across the long valley, from the climb.

Council Mountain across the long valley, from the climb.

Continue Reading »


Over the weekend, I completed my first race over half-marathon distance, the River of No Return Endurance Runs 25k. I had a blast!

The race was well organized, from the pre-race communication through email and Facebook, to the pre-race meeting and bib pick-up, to the race-morning timing chips and start, all the way through to the well marked trail, smooth-running aid station (only one on the 25k course), and finish line refueling / relaxing / celebration.  Race swag included a great shirt (“Run Fast, Everything Else Here Does”), day-glo technical fabric hats, and a unique sandblasted finishers award.

I rolled into the little town of Challis, ID (pop. 1081) and found the high school just a hair before the 6pm start of the pre-race meeting on Friday night. Race directors Paul and Neal talked us through the particular challenges of the course, the dos and don’ts, timing, and logistics while including some “wolfish” humor.  It seems that the pre-race communications contained enough teasing about the carnivorous canine inhabitants of the River of No Return Wilderness that a few runners asked if they could pack heat during the race!! Paul assured us that no such protection was necessary, but that you could consider yourself lucky if you saw, even for a moment, one of the notoriously elusive wolves now known to be established in the far hinterlands of the race area.


Following the pre-race meeting, I had a nice steak and potato dinner with a fantastic apple dumpling dessert at the Y-Inn cafe. I’m not sure that the townspeople of Challis were quite ready for a herd of hungry runners storming into town, but the service was quick and efficient and the food delicious.  I swung back by the high school,  picked up my race packet, and got intel from a local runner on camping areas near town. I ended up camping along Mill Creek on the Custer Motorway, right alongside the final stretch of the 100k course. It was cool, clear,  and dark at elevation which made for some great stargazing before turning in for the night. I must have imagined hearing the howling of wolves over babbling Mill Creek as I drifted off to sleep…


Campsite along Custer Motorway in Salmon-Challis NF

Campsite along Custer Motorway in Salmon-Challis NF

Sunset from Pine Summit in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Sunset from Pine Summit in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.











I awoke early the next morning and broke camp feeling rested and ready. After driving to the race site, I downed a bowl of oatmeal with a banana and coffee, picked up my timing chip, and made final preparation for my run. I only had about 5 mins to spare so I was really thankful to have packed my race vest prior to leaving home. I had time to fill my handheld water bottles and, before I knew it, the mortar sounded (yes, a real mortar) and we were off.


Wait for the mortar… yes, you heard that right!

Early: We did a 3/4 lap around the Challis High school track and then off down the pavement for a short bit before switching to an ATV track alongside US 93 highway. I had to battle my impulse to run fast – there was so much energy running in the group. I kept trying to dial it back, dial it back, knowing that the hard stuff was soon to come and if I ran too hard early it would be tough to control my heart rate during the climb.

After three miles we entered the Lombard Trail system, a set of ATV trails run by a state and local partnership. At this point the trail began to climb steadily, entering a canyon. I followed my pre-race strategy of walking the steeper hills, though despite this strategy I soon found my heart rate exceeding my aerobic zone threshold. There were a few runnable stretches here, and I made the most of them before climbing steeply for a mile to leave the canyon behind and entering a bowl-shaped valley. Ahead was a steep climb, wrapped with a switchback nearly 1000 feet up.

Looking up at the switchback nearly 1000 feet above.

Looking up at the switchback nearly 1000 feet above.

Middle: It was on this climb that I actually passed a few other runners. I was able to keep my heart rate down by power hiking the grade, over a mile at about a 20min pace. Halfway up the climb, we passed the turn off back to town and began the “out and back” portion of the course.  I ended up falling in a with a husband and wife team, Jordan and Laura, and made good time hiking and chatting a little. The heat was getting intense and it was getting to lots of runners. Once up on the switchback that I had seen a few miles earlier, I was able to resume running as we finally climbed over a saddle in the ridge and into the next drainage.

Looking down from the switchback at the trail 800' below.

Looking down from the switchback at the trail 800′ below.

Once over the saddle, the trail sidehilled in an undulating sort of way along the northeast slope of Blue Mountain.  Finally, there were occasional trees and shade! I cruised into the shaded Birch Creek aid station and munched on a few m&ms and had a piece of banana.  The aid station was really well stocked with all manner of performance foods. The nice volunteers offered to fill my bladder bag, but I declined the offer, “knowing” that I had enough water left for the descent (oops).  I headed out of the aid station after no more than a 2 minute rest, eager to begin the descent.

Back on the downhill section from the saddle I began refilling my handheld flask with water.  I had been measuring from my bladder bag into a pair of 8oz flasks; one for plain water, and one for Nuun.  This approach lets me monitor my fluid consumption- otherwise you have no idea how much is left in your bladder bag.  However, running must really sapp my math skills, because it didn’t occur to me that 2×8 + 4×8 = 48 ounces of water… out of a bag filled to the 60 oz line, that didn’t leave much left. I found my bladder emptied with only 4oz of plain water and 7oz of Nuun, and 5 miles to go. Not dangerous, but inconvenient.

Downhill to the finish: Blame it on the altitude, or the heat, but I really struggled with the last 5 miles.  I only got passed once in this section, and really didn’t see many other runners, but I had lots of problems keeping my heart rate down, and had to stop for brief walk breaks often. Mile 10 wasn’t unpleasant, it was flat and well marked, but I was feeling gassed. Miles 11 and 12 consisted of “goat trail”, steep, narrow single track and crumbly-rock ridge descents. It was a mental exercise to watch foot placements through this section. Once at the bottom, it was all paved road downhill into town.

Narrow single track down with Challis in sight.

Narrow single track down with Challis in sight.

At this point I was trashed enough to have to take walk breaks on a gentle downhill paved road, which was a little demoralizing. I took to running until my Garmin buzzed at me having a heart rate over 170, then walked until it descended into the 150s, then beginning to run again.  Funny enough, the only person to pass me on the pavement was the eventual winner of the 50k. He was running around 6:00 mile pace when he passed me, I bet- but he was taking walk breaks, too! That helped me feel a bit better.  The walk-run strategy, plus energy from a few cheering residents as I ran through downtown Challis got me through the final few miles until the announcer’s voice calling out in the stadium helped me power through to the finish.

Everyone at the finish was great. Someone handed me a water, a finisher’s hat, and directed me to the water fountain to douse my head. Afterwards I got to pick out my finisher’s trinket, a sandblasted river rock.  Watermelon and cantaloupe made great immediate refreshments, and the BBQ chicken was awesome. I met some great folks from Stanley, chatted with Daniel from California (still doing long distance trail races at 70 years old), and tied in with some friends from the Boise Trail Runners facebook group as we cheered the finishers from the 25k and 50k for the rest of the afternoon.


Next Time

Prepare better: I’m sure the elevation had something to due with my heart rate staying higher than I would have liked, but I think I needed to have slept and rested a bit more going into this one too.  I targeted the Sun Valley Half Marathon just two weeks prior to this race as my spring goal race, and it may have been a bit of a stretch to tack this burly race on so close on the heels of Sun Valley. I was pretty light on my running the week prior to this race (just 8 miles) but ran 42 miles the week following Sun Valley. In addition, I just didn’t do a good job managing my schedule at home, and probably averaged close to 6 hours of sleep during the previous two weeks. Fix that, and I bet I go into the race with a more rested, more capable body.

Start slower: For these longer races, I’m going to need to do a better job of watching my HR, keeping my pace down early, and saving energy for effort on the downhills. Allowing my ego to run the first 3 miles isn’t going to help deep in these longer races.

Get Stronger: Hill climbing requires strength, and so does maintaining form when tired. I started the year with plans to focus on core strength, but as my running picked up, I dropped the strength portion of my plan. I plan to take a running break here in mid-summer, but will add strength training back into my routine. When I do resume a training plan for the fall, trails and hill repeats are going to be a much greater part of the plan than they were in the spring.

The Wrap-Up

The River of No Return 25k was every bit as tough, and as fun, as promised. I am thrilled to have completed it in just a shade over 3 hours. It’s safe to say that I’ve been on a bit of a runner’s high for the last few days.  Next year’s River of No Return Endurance Runs are scheduled for June 20th. Now I just have to decide if I’m headed back for the 25k, or will I step up to the 50k?

2014 River of No Return Endurance Runs 25K (6/21/2014)

Official race results
Chip Time: 3:02:31
Age Group (30-39M) 9/16
Gender Place: 26/46
Overall Place: 42/113

Other Race Reviews From This Event: (all J names?)

Jeremy Humphries won the 100k: StayVertical

Jayk Reynolds Lived this 100k Ultra

Jeff Black remembers the 100k

Jodi and friends ran the 25k with me

For some reason, I didn’t post my training plan before embarking upon training for the Sun Valley Half Marathon.  Now that the race is a week and a day away, I decided that I should share the plan I’ve been following.  It is based on the Hal Higdon Intermediate Half Marathon training plan that I used to prepare for the City of Trees Half Marathon last fall, but spiced up a bit.

The spices include:

  • a minimum of one weekly trail run to maintain sanity.  I find that I love trail running, and I would run almost nothing else if I could. I settle for roads/greenways for speedwork, and sometimes the only way to squeeze a run into a busy day is to use the pavement just outside my door. Still, if I had my druthers, most of my miles would be on dirt.
  • Longer mileage long runs than the Hal Higdon plan. I already have three half-marathons under my belt and plenty of recent mileage, so I started my long runs at 9 miles and kept them between 9 and 14.
  • “Yasso” 800s. Higdon calls for 400m intervals, but I wanted something that leaned a bit more towards endurance and sustained speed. Also, running 10 800-meter repeats sounded like a heck of a challenge.

So, here’s the plan, designed for 15 weeks because that’s what I had when I committed to the race. Tuesdays are always easy runs to stir the legs after a lot of weekend miles and a rest day. Wednesdays are foothills trail runs with my regular group. I try to take them as easy as I can in a group setting. Thursdays are the tough speedwork days, followed by a Friday rest. Saturdays generally alternate between easy mid-distance runs and “pace” runs at target half-marathon pace (8:23 min/mile), and Sundays are long, slow runs. Every 3-4 weeks is a “step-back” week where I reduce my mileage to rest and recover. The last week includes a short tempo run on Tuesday to feel a little speed, my regular group run on Wednesday morning, and two days of rest before the race. See the whole plan below, feel free to comment or tweet me @RngrAndrew. I’ll let you know how it goes next weekend- aiming for 1hr:50min!

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 3 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 10-k race 3-mi run or crosstraining
2 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 4 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 3-mi pace 9-mi long run
3 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 30-min tempo run Rest 3-mi run 8-mi long run
4 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 5 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 3-mi run 9-mi long run
5 Stretch & Strengthen 4 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 35-min tempo run Rest 3-mi pace 10-mi long run
6 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 6 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 4-mi run 11-mi long run
7 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 40-min tempo run Rest 4-mi pace 8-mi long run
8 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 7 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 4-mi run 11-mi long run
9 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 40 min tempo run Rest 5-mi pace 12-mi long run
10 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 8 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 6-mi run 12-mi long run
11 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 45-min tempo run Rest 6-mi pace 10-mi long run
12 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 9 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 5-mi run 13-mi long run
13 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 45-min tempo run Rest 5-mi pace 14-mi long run
14 Stretch & Strengthen 3 mi run + strength or crosstraining 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) 10 x 800 at 7:36/mi pace Rest 4-mi pace 13-mi long run
15 Stretch & Strengthen 30-min tempo run 5.5 mi Foothills run (easy) Rest Rest Half-marathon

Very happy news to report: I’m “back” from my calf injury! Lots of foam rolling, stretching, and rest did the trick, and I was able to start training  again about a week and a half ago.  Just in time, too, Continue Reading »

I really wanted to write something long and poetic about this race, but it’s just not there.  I’ve stalled on writing it for far too long, though.  This race was in October, and it’s January for crying out loud! So I’m going to just get this out there. I’m sure I’ll get lengthy and poetic on something else, later.

It was an important race for me, a milestone of sorts. After my first two half-marathons didn’t go so well, this became my goal race for the season, and it went really, really, well.  I have decided that I’ll never catch the euphoria of the experience in words.  So with less pressure on, here’s what happened:

  • The weather was nice and cool: high 30s at race start, low 40s  at race end, partly sunny, and a light wind.
  • I met some buddies from my running meetup group before the race and exchanged mutual support, but I resolved to run this one on my own, and in my own head.
  • The race was medium sized and well-organized.
  • My food/bathroom strategy before the race, and my fueling strategy during the race (shot bloks every half mile from 6-12.5) worked really well. No gastric distress on the race course!
  • Tapering before the race paid off in a big way, and I got stronger through the first 5 miles.
  • There was a big climb at mile 6, and while I took it easy on the climb, I passed a whole bunch of people there for a morale boost.
  • Miles 7, 8, and 9 were gently downhill and the race had spread out quite a bit at that point. It was just a matter of keeping the feet going and grabbing a shot blok regularly. I started getting less hungry here.
  • Miles 10 and 11 were the hardest. I knew I was close to making it in under my stretch goal time of 2 hours, but never saw the 11 mile sign and was doubting myself- plus I was starting to feel like my legs didn’t have much left.
  • Once I saw the sign for mile 12, I knew I had it and ran sub 8 through the end of the race. Seeing that sign was like flipping a switch.
  • I ran the final 200 yards fast enough that my wife didn’t recognize me (moving too fast, can’t be him!)- but who wants to finish with anything left in the tank, right?
  • We had a FANTASTIC breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, and coffee afterwards at the Griddle, one of the best breakfast places in town.
  • Somehow, finishing a half-marathon under 2 hours makes me feel like all the training was worth it, and that I’m progressing adequately as a runner. I am looking forward to my next goal race, and seeing where my running can go from here.

Here are the race results:

2013 City of Trees Half Marathon (10/13/2013)
Chip Time: 1:56:49.2
Age Group (30-39M) 38/87
Gender Place: 117/267
Overall Place: 181/716

If you’re curious about the run streak I’m referring to in this post, here’s a link back to my blog post about the Runner’s World Run Streak. The euphoria that led to my injury is pretty evident, there. This post describes a darker side to “streaking”.

I ignored a “tweak” in my calf for the last few days of 2013.  Just a nagging little soreness; a little tightness in the upper part of my left calf.  The excitement about maintaining a streak, the accomplishment of having run for over 40 days in a row… they overrode my good sense.  It was surprisingly easy to ignore the little twinge and the soreness I was experiencing, even though I know that Running Rule #1 is: “LISTEN TO YOUR BODY”.

I gave it two days of rest once my run streak was over, thinking that it would be enough to repair any wear and tear from the streak. Then I tackled a Saturday morning training run with a couple of running buddies who are regularly a touch faster than me.  Usually they drop me, but fresh off my rest days, I was really enjoying the quick pace, and kept up with them, chatting about goals, marathon training, early rising, and Boston, until- OUCH! About a mile and a half into the run, I felt my calf pull, tighten, start to burn, and then finally, cramp.

For about the next 400 yards, I jogged on, hoping that it would loosen up, but it was no use.  I had to pull up and do the limp of shame, a mile-and-a-half back to the parking lot.  By the time I got home, I couldn’t walk without a limp.  What’s worse, my run that morning was supposed to be a prelude to an active day. My amazing wife had gotten me a Nordic skiing lesson package for Christmas, and I was really excited about starting my lessons that day.  The way the lesson package works, you do lessons 4 Saturdays in a row, and then your ski rentals and Nordic trails pass are covered for the year.  I was really worried that I could miss a full month of lessons and have to wait until February before I could do the lessons. Much of the skiing season would be over by the time I was ready to use the season pass.  Regardless of the consequences, there was no way I could go skiing with the way my leg felt. Can you tell who felt like a bozo?

After a few ice sessions and a night in a compression sleeve, I still had a bit of a limp. Using compression, rest, and my massage stick, I was improving with each day. By mid-week I was walking normally.  I was able to slide into a Nordic skiing lesson on Thursday that got me back on track to complete my lessons in January. After 4 days of icing and compression, I was able to do the lesson on Thursday, and get back on track with another lesson the following Saturday.  Both ski lessons went really well, and my coordination and balance are improving.  Nordic skiing involves much less pounding than running, and feels much easier on my joints. There’s a lot of Idaho to explore on skis in the future!

Today marks two weeks since my injury.  I got in a two mile run this morning, though it wasn’t completely comfortable. I can still feel some tightness in the hurt calf. Hopefully compression and rolling/massage will loosen it up and I’ll be able to start training seriously for the Les Bois 10k coming up on March 1.

As for “the streak”… I think my streaking days are over.  Despite my efforts to work in low-key, slow 1-mile days, I still got hurt.  If I try a streak next year, it will be more along the lines of a excercise streak, or workout streak, and not focused solely on running.  If I added biking, hiking, skiing, or swimming a few times a week instead of running for 40+ days straight, I’d probably be better off today.

*update 1/21* I’m working in some walk-run training to try and ease back into running, since the 2-mile effort brought back a good deal of soreness.  If it’s not noticeably better in a week, I’m going to have to see a doctor.

Have you ever done a run streak?

What are your favorite winter non-running activities?

Have you found a doctor that understands runners?

I haven’t done a goals post since the beginning of 2012! That one was focused almost entirely on home brewing. This one will be a bit more broad. Our little family has been through lots of changes since then- many of which I could never have predicted.  Though life is never predictable, it’s a nice excercise to lay out your expectations. It’s always interesting to look back and see where you are, vs where you thought you’d be.  Let’s start, shall we? I started this post with an overwhelmingly positive attitude and a whole sheaf full of goals for running, outdoors activity, homebrewing, and family life in the new year.  Then I strained a calf muscle running, and I’m forced to re-evaluate.  I suppose this is healthy.  Prior to my injury, running goals were at the top of my list of priorities. Perhaps now is a good time to step back and figure out where some other things fit it.

Lets break it down for 2014:

Family Life

The wifelette and I are expecting a new addition to the family around the end of March! We will get to refresh ourselves on the joys of raising a new baby and all the sleep deprivation that goes with it.  We are a little nervous, and a lot excited. That change will drive the rest of our priorities for the year. At this point, a swing and a bassinet have been purchased, and the crib is assembled.  The room is painted a lovely shade of lavender.  I’m working to repaint Wifelette’s old dresser sparkling white, and then we’ll be ready (as we can be) for the little one to show up! Anyone have a good story on how adding a second kid changed things? We’ve been practicing man-to-man defense.

Home Brewing

So… I made two beers in all of 2013.  Running ended up taking precedence over all of my brewing, especially once I started dedicating myself to long runs on the weekends.  This year I’m looking for more balance.  We have nearly settled completely into the new house, so it’s time to get the equipment out and make some beer! Goals for 2014:

1. Replace all of my tubing and cold-side plastic gear. I’m blaming old tubing and plastic for fouling my last beer, a hefeweizen that never tasted right. Replacements are on the way!

2. Brew a beer for the new baby’s arrival.  Not for the baby, of course, but for mom and dad! Perhaps a repeat of the B^4 Baby Bailey Belgian Blonde?

3. Brew at least once a quarter.  That should help me stay in practice, and have something nice to drink regularly. I missed homebrew a lot last year.

4. Enter a local contest. I had good luck with contests back in North Carolina, and It would give me something to shoot for.

5. Stretch goals- improve my mash tun to achieve 10-gallon capacity, and start kegging.

Any advice on work-life-brewing balance?


Lets not tie this up with the injury discussion; you can read all of my whining about my bum leg on twitter. I am hopeful that I can still accomplish my major running goals.  If this injury is truly a grade one calf strain, I should be back in business in 2-4 weeks. Strikethroughs used to show what’s being dropped or moved.

1. April 19th. Run The Race To Robie Creek, the toughest race in the northwest. There. It’s in writing.  If I can get in, I’m running up and over Aldape summit in April. I understand that registration can be tough because so many want to enter, but I’m hopeful.

2. January 18th. Run the Wilson Creek Frozen 10.8 mi Trail Race. Seems like a nutty fun thing to brag about, and a good way to stay in shape for Robie Creek. Cancelled due to injury. Sigh.

3. March 1st. The Les Bois 10k Trail Run. This was my first race in Idaho last year, and my first sub-1hr 10k. It’s a tough course, but if I get back on the training horse in February, I could come close to my personal record for the distance. It will be my checkpoint to see how ready I am for Robie.

4. Train seriously for Robie during the 7 weeks between March 1 and April 19th.

5. May 24th. Take revenge on the High Desert Trail Run Half Marathon.

6. Run something fun and new. Perhaps the Sun Valley Half Marathon on June 7th, or the River of No Return 25k on June 21st?

7. August 31st. Actually make it to the Payette Lake Run 30k. I cancelled last year due to lack of training from an extended fire season. Perhaps I can make it this year. If I do, it will be my first race longer than half-marathon distance.

8. October 5th. Barber to Boise.  This should be a great, fun 10k that I can walk to from the house. I didn’t do it last year because I was aiming at the City of Trees half-marathon.

9. Ski for cross-training. I have moved to a place with a real winter climate and big mountains that catch plenty of snow. On to of that, wifelette got me Nordic skiing lessons for Christmas! I’m going to take advantage and enjoy the winter outdoor sports.

10. DON’T GET INJURED (again). Enough said.

That’s enough running to get me back around to the holiday season. I will probably also work in some things that don’t have dates yet, like the Ash Dash 10k, once they get scheduled. How far in advance do you plan your running and racing schedule?

After reading through all this, I’m excited. Also, I may be certifiably insane. But I figure, as long as I’m focused on living a full life, instead of focused on being “busy”- things will work out right. Happy New Year, friends.  May you be happy, and full!