Friday, March 11, 2016

Nepal 2016

I just returned from one of the trips of a lifetime for me, 5 days in Kathmandu, Nepal.  I had to be in India for work for 2 weeks, and soon realized, Kathmandu was a short 90-minute flight away.  Much as I would have liked to turn that into an extended trek up to Mt. Everest base camp; I did not have enough time to acclimate to altitude or the closer to 10-day trip that would have needed.  So I planned to run in the mountains of the Kathmandu Valley rim.  I did some research, and reaching out through Trail Running Nepal, I was able to connect with Upendra Sunuwar as a guide.  Upendra is an accomplished ultra-runner, winning at least 9 mountain (all in the Himalayas) races that I know of.  His English is limited and very hard to understand; but we generally communicated just fine.  He spent all 5 days I was in Nepal beating me into the ground. 

The first day, we took a cab to Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park just northwest of where I was staying in Thamel. 

Within seconds, we transitioned from a crowded, dirty, metropolitan city into deep forest inside the park. 

The first couple miles was rolling hills at 4,300 feet, but I was already breathing hard as he pushed the pace.  I thought I’d keep up fine, until he pulled a Karl Metzler and turned up a trail that went straight up the ridgeline.  I quickly realized that all my altitude acclimatization and elevation training from Utah last summer was long gone.  My heart rate was maxed out, sweat poured off me like I was in a sauna, and by the top I was kissing my knees every few hundred feet.   The peak is called Jamacho and houses a Hindu temple of the same name. 

We walked around the temple, and even went up the observation tower; only to find there was a heavy haze obscuring any distant views.  I was not to see the Himalayan peaks today. 

The route back down was just as difficult, as we descended nearly the entire 2700 feet via a route of steep stone stairs. 

Friday’s run was not long, just under 10 miles; but I was spent.  The elevation chart of my watch was representative of what I was to experience every day in Nepal.

On Saturday, we took a cab to a different section of Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park to the northeast of Thamel.  Upendra proceeded to take us straight to the top of the tallest peak in the park, Shivapuri at 8,900 feet.  The entire 4.5 miles and 3,700 foot climb was long set of stone stairs. Something like 6,000 of them.

It was insanely hard. 1 hour, 40 minutes of quad screaming, heart-racing, lungs burning, step by step upwards.  The picture below of me washed out and soaked in sweat is about 500 feet from the top.

It was WORTH it!  As we passed 7,000 feet, we moved into cloud forest with giant trees of spectacular proportions covered in moss.

I heard a cacophony of bird calls the entire day, and we spotted a pair of langurs (a type of monkey) racing through the treetops.  100 feet from the summit Upendra detoured us up to a Hindu shrine (a large rock that is supposed to be Shiva's penis) with a clear view to the north. The whole way up that morning, I had kept scanning through the trees and seeing once again, heavy cloud cover and smog. I feared there would be no view of the bigger mountains. Alas, as we passed the rounded the shrine to the cliff’s edge, my heart sank to see nothing but clouds to the horizon.  Upendra pointed into the distance, naming 7,000+ meter peaks from memory.  Until my eyes adjusted, and I realized he was not doing this from memory, the tops of the clouds were not clouds at all, they were the Himalayas poking ABOVE the clouds. My hair stood on end and I just gaped. Upendra was thrilled when he found out it was my first view of them ever.  I just about danced a jig.

After seeing the Himalayas, the small, flat clearing at the summit, surrounded by trees with no view was anti-climactic.  From there, we began an 8.5 mile, 4,500 foot descent down the other side.  There were less stairs on this side, on which I was slow, but on the rooty, twisting, and uneven single track, I ran with abandon. We passed the headwaters of the Bagmati River, and numerous temples. 

At one point, passing through a mountain village with a large temple, we got caught in a procession of monks. Upendra had no patience, and led me around them, teetering on the precipice until we passed.  Finally, on a particularly steep and technical section, I took a spill.  I was wide-open, going way too fast for my downhill skills, when my shoe scuffed a rock and I pitched forward. And down. On the first somersault, I smacked my left calf (always the left, every fall I take seems to be to the left). On the second flip, my left forearm smacked against a rock. With the steep slope, gravity was keeping me from braking.  The third time over, my face was headed for a flat rock. I managed to turn and take a glancing blow only to the back of my head, at which point I had stopped, spread-eagled on the ground. Slightly stunned, I stood quickly to assess the damage and then looked up to see Upendra staring at me horrified.   I had no cuts or open wounds, giggled at my stupidity, and turned back down the trail, albeit at a more sedate pace.

From there, we soon descended into Kathmandu proper, passing by several larger temples. We ended at Pashupati where the Shivarti festival is taking place Monday with an expected crowd of 700,000. 

We ended the run with just under 19 miles and my first view ever of the Himalayas.  After a shower, I walked 2 miles down to Kathmandu Dhurbar Square where the king’s coronation takes place and where the ancient temples took the worst damage from last year's earthquake.  That evening I went to Everest Irish Bar, the only place I found Guinness in my 16 days in Asia; and hung out with a 22 year old Irish kid who was taking a year-long sabbatical to cycle from New Zealand to France.

Sunday I arose and my legs were jelly.  We took a cab to Pango on the southwest corner of the Kathmandu valley. From there we ran about 2 miles around farms and fields and then headed upwards.

Again.  The 2,800 foot climb to Champa Devi left me wasted and wobbly. I could feel the efforts of the previous two days in my legs the moment we turned uphill. But as always, it was worth it.  Thunderstorms moved through the area, and we listened to the thunder roll across the mountain tops. Beside a 10-minute light sprinkling, we did not get wet.  But my legs were so dead, I seriously considering turning back more than once. Towards the top, it was dark, windy, and cold. My hands were frozen and I had a real chill. Yet sweat was rolling off of me like I was at an 8 Hours of Hell event.  At the first peak, Upendra gave me the option to turn downhill and take the easy way home. I may never be back in Nepal again, that was not an option. So we traversed the ridge-line for about 30 minutes before turning up a steep set of stairs that climbed another 1,050 feet.    The higher reaches of the next peak, Bhasmeswor Danda are clear of high trees and I was almost immediately rewarded with a fairly clear view of the Langtang range of the Himalayas in the distance, with peaks reaching up to 25,000+ feet. Mt.  Everest was out there somewhere, but not visible from our trek.  The picture below is not great quality, but you can see the peaks in the distance.

I thought this peak was it, but Upendra challenged me to take on a third, which luckily involved only another 300 feet of climbing. I really like Upendra's choices for running. He avoids out and backs, calls them boring; he looked for loop or point-to-point routes every time.  He has taken me to a completely different area each day. And while I may not have hit the mileage I envisioned, it was more than offset by the quality of effort.  He has given me what Kathmandu offers best: steep climbs and descents with mind blowing views from the peaks and visits to temples and monasteries to see along the way.

We stopped on the way down at a villager's house, and had biscuits and Nepali black tea while he prepared his family's meal.

The balance of the descent was cruelly steep, with most of it tall, stone stairs that continued to crush my quads.  As we got back down into the valley we passed through farming villages, many of them devastated by last year's earthquake. In Kathmandu proper, most of the worst damage was limited to the old temples; the modern architecture had largely stayed standing.  But up in the hills, I would say 75% of the crudely built stone homes had collapsed, each now accompanied by a simple tin-roofed shelter as they rebuild.   We ended by dancing along the narrow earthen barriers between rice paddies before turning the last mile on pavement to where we could catch a cab back to Thamel.

14 really slow miles in just over 4 hours.  The next day, I knew we were headed southeast to climb Phulchoki Danda, the tallest mountain we would tackle.  I was seriously not sure if I could handle the 4,100 foot climb, and slept nervously.

Monday started a little differently as we did not take a cab.  It was a longer, 90 minute ride on 2 different buses (think van refitted with 4 rows of seats) to our run today. The second bus, when it left, had 22 of us stuffed inside. It stopped periodically to drop off or pick up more passengers, and at one point we grew to 29.  There are no pictures from this as I could not move my arms to grab the camera.  I now have a good appreciation for how sardines feel.  Finally we arrived at the trailhead in Godawari.  Before starting the run, we ate breakfast at a roadside stand; Nepalese creamy tea with lots of honey, and a bland donut type of thing.

I started at a fast walk uphill, pounding my hiking sticks into the ground to push. I could hear my friends chirping in my ear if I gave up and was determined to set a steady pace.  It had rained hard the night before. I was optimistic the smog would have cleared and there would be a much better view of the Himalayas today. I absolutely had to get to the top. To my delight, less than a mile in, Upendra pointed behind us and BOOM, there they were. White, towering peaks, too high in the sky to imagine. 

My heart lifted and I pressed upwards with even more vigor. Thankfully, there were no steps on this route, and I did my best running of the trip. I was steady throughout covering 8.35 miles, with just over 4,000 feet of climb completed in just 2:16.

We took a nice break at the top. Upendra prayed briefly at the Hindu shrine, and I took in the 180-degree view of the Himalayas.  I was awestruck. Away in the distance, hovering at the dim horizon was Mt Everest.  This was the highlight of my trip and a moment I hope to remember forever.  I high-fived Upendra and we took picture after picture. 

As we started back down, I told Upendra I was feeling great, and wanted to push the pace.

We were flying down the dirt road as fast as my feet would move when suddenly he turned us into some of the greatest single track I have ever run. Twisting, bumpy, rooty, steep, and technical; I took chances like I only do when trying to chase Andy Mathews downhill. 

We covered 9 technical miles to the bottom in just 85 minutes.  I was on such a high, I could have run another 10 miles. But I am glad we stopped when we did, it was a great day. We paused at another roadside stand for a bowl of spicy beans, hard boiled eggs, bread and mango juice (lunch cost me $4 for the both of us) before taking the sardine buses back into Thamel.

There were no mountains to climb Tuesday. Instead, Upendra took me on a 10 mile running tour of Kathmandu. We visited a number of temples, including Monkey Temple which was at the top of a ridiculous set of steep stairs.

Then we would run in between temples, moving on to another part of the city, finishing at Patan Dhurbar Square.

We ended with breakfast at another roadside dive eating spicy beans, rolls stuffed with some kind of sweet potato-like purée and several cups of Nepali tea.

Back at the hotel, I happily over-tipped Upendra; gave him my Hoka Clifton 2s which don't fit me well, and gave him my dirty Badwater crew shirt which he complimented several times the day before. We promised each other, when I come back, we will do the trek to Everest Base Camp together. I ate lunch at the Yak Restaurant, had water buffalo curry and more of my now beloved Nepali tea. Waiting for my cab to the airport, I went up to the rooftop cafe at the hotel, taking in one last look over the city before I headed off to the airport, and back to reality.

Completely unexpectedly, I got very emotional checking out of the hotel.  Gone 16 days, I was very much looking forward to coming home, seeing my wife and daughter, and sleeping in my own bed.  But this place affected me far more than I thought it would. It goes beyond the mountain adventures Upendra took me on. Amid the squalor that already existed here, and the ensuing devastation from the 2015 earthquake; the Nepali people show amazing resiliency and vibrancy.  They are unfaltering friendly, looking to help not just tourists, but each other at every turn. Monday on a larger bus riding home, an older gentleman boarded carrying what appeared to be his 4 year old granddaughter.  There was nowhere for him to sit and he appeared stoically prepared to stand and hold her for the trip.  The couple in front of me immediately offered to hold her on their laps, and what appeared to be total strangers carried on a lively conversation until he disembarked.  I was able to observe this, because Upendra was in deep conversation with the very pretty girl sharing a seat with us; I am pretty sure he was hitting on her.

Researching my trip to Nepal, I had read numerous accounts of others having an emotional exit; but had thought little of it.  After paying my bill at the front desk, I was presented with a scarf, and every member of the staff came out to bid me farewell with hugs.  I couldn't help but get choked up, it was an outpouring  of goodwill like I have never experienced traveling in the U.S. I am not sure when I will be back, but Nepal is only partially checked on the bucket list.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc - August 28-30, 2015

It was the best of races, it was the worst of races.  I am very pleased to have finished the 2015 UTMB, billed as the premier 100 mile trail race in the world.  With 30,000 feet of ascent and 30,000 feet of descent spread across 25 major climbs and descents,  and 100+ miles of running spread across 3 countries in the Alps, I believe it.  I am happy with the final result, but I feel like I have left unfinished business.

I've never had serious stomach issues while racing.  I've been very proud to say in the past that I have an iron stomach that has served me well as I have watched close friends waylaid through hours of discomfort and wave upon wave of vomiting.  I can eat pretty much anything and everything provided at aid stations.  As a result, I've never had to put too much thought into food and drink choices when planning my race nutrition - just calorie count.  If it looked good, I ate it or drank it, and that has always worked.  Looking back now, I made two very poor choices in the hours leading up to this race.  One, I drank lots of Coke Zero instead of my normal cup of coffee and plenty of Gatorade.  Two, I had Sandra mix my Tailwind at full strength after I had been diluting it by 50% while training all summer.  I don't think my stomach was prepared for the intensity of full strength, already bloated from too much soda.  The two combined to create a gut bomb that heavily influenced my race.

Heeding Michelle Matys' advice, Sandra and I arrived at the starting corral two hours before race time.  I worked very hard to stay calm amidst the ever increasing hoopla and the grandeur of the surrounding Alps, sitting there quietly drinking my soda, and chatting with Andrew from Great Britain who was giving me course tips.  I had placed myself in the corral somewhere around 300 runners back out of 2300 starters.  Michelle had warned me Europeans tend to start the race fast.  I spent the first five miles of low rolling hills holding back and enjoying the strong crowd support that continued well out of Chamonix. I noticed here very early on my stomach was uncomfortable and I was sweating profusely, even with temperatures in the mid 80's.  


Next came a four mile, 2,400 ft climb up Le Delevret.  I could tell within 5 minutes something was very wrong.  I was breathing too hard, panting even, with my heart rate going through the roof on a climb that I should have handled easily after 6 weeks of training in Utah. Sweat was pouring off me at an alarming rate.  I was more than a little concerned that my training had been all for naught and I was ill prepared.  I was increasingly agitated as so many others charged up the hill past me.  Finally I reached the peak and I focused on the 2,500 foot plummet down the other side, soon to be distracted by the sharp pains in my abdomen.  By mile 13 at Saint Gervais, I could tell I was dehydrated and low on sugar.  I spent the next six miles unable to eat or drink due to abdominal discomfort.  I continued to be passed left and right, and my state of mind deteriorated rapidly.  This CAN'T be happening!  I worked too hard this year to be ready.  9 weeks of miserable dieting to lose 24 lbs., 6 weeks away from home to train (not saying Utah wasn't a blast, but that length of time away took a toll on the whole family), months of planning, all to waste?


I saw Sandra for the first time at Les Contamines, mile 19.5.  I was washed out, bonked twice over and vacillating between tears and panic over my poor race start.  By now it was dark, the air cooling, so Sandra helped me change into warm clothes.  I spent well over 30 minutes in the aid station trying to recover and didn't know until much later how close my race came to ending right here.  Sandra told me later, just after I left the aid station, they called 10 minutes to cut off.  Soon after les Contamines, I was roughly 2,200nd out of 2,300 runners as I gave up at least another 100 spots mostly walking, unable to get the mass in my stomach to go away.  As the trail passed through a park, I even sat on a bench, hung my head, and decided whether to continue.  Then, finally, the ship was righted.


At mile 22.5 (I remember the spot very well), out of nowhere, I was overcome with projectile vomiting - all fluids and no solids, with the taste predominantly of Tailwind and Coke.  I quickly tried to resume trotting, making it all of ten feet before spraying the bushes again.  There it was!  The pressure was gone, relief was instant. I felt completely normal within seconds, and moments later, I was running.  Within a half mile, the trail turned upwards for the biggest climb of the race, 4,000+ feet to Croix du bonhomme.  I realized quickly I was climbing well again.  The bloating in my stomach must have put pressure on my lungs and heart making it difficult to breath and causing the other issues.  This for me became the real start of MY Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.


Elated, I pushed the accelerator to the floor and went flat out, charging up the mountain.  I pounded my hiking poles into the ground with vigor, focusing not on the trail but on the runners immediately ahead of me and how long I was going to allow myself before passing them.  All the anger at my poor start was channeled into passing everyone in sight.  Soon the trail narrowed to something wider than single track but not enough to make passing easy.  I had to be patient through long stretches of deep, narrow channels awaiting my next chance to pass.  Frequently, my impatience got the better of me and I took numerous chances, dancing precariously along the edges of bluffs, anxious to pick up the pace.  

I realized how hard I had been working when I reached the top of the pass near 8,000 feet, with temperatures in the mid 30's and 20+ mile per hour winds blowing through, yet drenched in sweat and overheated.  But I did not let up on the 2,800 foot downhill to Les Chapieux that followed.  I threw my feet out in front of me, hopping over rocks, and darting around runners along narrow ledges with abandon.   By now, I had resigned myself to a restricted diet of what I was sure I could keep down without discomfort.  Up until about mile 80, that was water, Coke , and orange slices.  Tailwind was out of the question.  The mere thought of it made me nauseous.  Gels made me gag.  Energy bars got caught in my throat.  None of the food in the aid stations looked appealing besides oranges.  I focused heavily on water and salt intake knowing I had to be down 10-15 lbs. from the start of the race.  I went one stretch of over 9 hours without peeing.  The lack of calories and fluids over the first 25 hours of running took its toll later in the race.


UTMB is all about climbing and descending.  There are no flats. The third major climb was 2,800 feet up to Col de la Seigne.  I hope to go back here in the light someday, because in the dark it was spectacular.  The first couple of miles on gravel road at the bottom, I spent running everything less than 10 degrees in elevation change and speed-walking past other runners on the steeper stuff.  By now, I was in my normal running routine other than being in major calorie deficit.  I was now able to better appreciate the scenery around me.  The full moon was up and the light shone brightly off the snow pack and glacial ice of the surrounding heights.  Near the top, I looked back and saw a chain of hundreds of headlamps snaking their way up the trail.  I almost screamed in (premature) triumph knowing that over the prior two climbs, I had passed nearly every runner those twinkling lights represented.  I turned back down the trail,  recharged and looking to stay in the passing lane.


Soon dawn arrived and the lights rose on spectacular vistas.  For my money, the Italian side of Mont Blanc is even more amazing than the French (and that's saying something).  Thousands of feet above us, massive glaciers hundreds of feet thick, hung near the peaks melting in the summer sun creating waterfalls that cascaded thousands of feet down the mountain face and thundered across the valley to us miles away.  This was a frequent scene from numerous points along the race, I am not sure I have ever seen anything quite as majestic.  Through one stretch, a helicopter was following my little group, shooting video.  I  got fired up from the attention, jumped up on the edge of the trail, and took some rather silly risks to pass the slower runners in front of me, and run freely down the hill.  I can't say I was teetering along a cliff, but the slope was steep enough, I think if I had slipped, it would have been quite some time before I stopped rolling.


The final descent into Courmayeur was brutally steep and I came trotting in at mile 49 a little washed out. This was the next crewed aid station, and Sandra was awaiting me with everything I needed.  I was cognizant that by falling behind early and working so hard to pass so many runners, I had expended far too much energy without even reaching the halfway point. I took some extra time in the aid station again, getting down extra calories, including a small bowl of penne.  I changed into lighter clothes for the heat of the day, kissed Sandra goodbye until Switzerland, and was back on my way, focused on passing the runner immediately ahead of me.


Andrea Risi had told me I would never be alone in this race (2,300 runners is a lot for a trail race), and there would be very little talking; and I found both to be true.  I can't blame the language barrier, since 45% of the runners are French and they should not have an issue conversing.  But it was eerily quiet, even when running in a pack of 20, 30, or even 40 runners almost no one said a word.  The only sound was that of dozens of walking sticks scraping on rock and dirt; and the distant thunder of glacier-fed waterfalls.  I had headphones with me, but never put them on, content to listen to the running water, birdsong, and remain lost in my own thoughts.


The Swiss countryside was enchanting, and there was the frequent sound of cowbells as herds of cattle moved below us.  At one point, I saw a runner 50 yards ahead of us, waylaid by a cow on the narrow trail ahead of him.  He tried to shoo it away, but the cow did not wish to run downhill, as it was very steep.  Finally, the cow moved off the trail and 15 feet uphill and the runner passed on by.  The cow immediately looked to move back down the hill onto the trail, and I raced ahead to get by it.  The cow saw me, and stayed slightly uphill, but began running parallel to me, thinking to get ahead and then down.  I picked up the pace, and was soon laughing aloud as I raced Bessie down the trail, my hiking poles clicking rapidly, and her bell ringing wildly.  After outlasting her in the brief sprint, I was even more bemused to look back a minute later to see several runners standing in place as she now blocked the trail behind me.


The final 30 miles of the race feature 4 climbs of 2,500+ feet each that are just stupid hard that late in a race.  I can't begin to describe how hard these climbs were on jellied legs, with little energy left.  I was dizzy most of the time now, and had resorted to eating Swedish Fish during the climbs to keep my head (mostly) clear.  There were multiple, miles long stretches of climbing that was more rock scramble than run or hike.  Step after step was up 1-2 vertical feet at a time.  In places, I resorted to holding the poles in one hand, and using the other to pull myself up on the rocks.  I saw Sandra 3 times through the end, at Champex, Trient, and Vallorcine; each time, I was increasingly tired and cranky, but increasingly confident, I was going to get this done.   Each time, she fed me, refilled my camelbak, made sure I was warm enough, said the right things, and pushed me back out of the tent.  It is worth noting, Sandra was posting race updates on my Facebook account throughout the race and reading the feedback to me each time I saw her.  You cannot underestimate the positive energy I took from hearing from good friends 5,000 miles away.


By now, I had been running for well over 30 hours, and awake for over 40.  I never felt exceptionally sleep-related tired, and never visually hallucinated; but my mind played weird tricks on me.  On the final climb, I was convinced, I was climbing to save the valor of Utah.  Why, I have no idea.  But when two guys speaking French went by me, I got very angry at myself, I was somehow letting the USA down.  Dammit, I am an American! I am supposed to finish this hill first, and I would surge forward again.  Repeatedly, I told myself I was not thinking straight, there was nothing here but a hill to climb.  And then moments later, "Long Live Utah!"  


Finally I came into the last aid station at La Flegere.  I had a 2,700 foot descent into Chamonix to make in just under 5 miles.  Holy crap, I was here!  I am going to finish!  I left the aid station elated, ready to pound down the final stretch.  Only to find the trail was cruelly rocky, the footing tricky, and for me, nearly unrunnable on uncertain legs.  I slowed to a trot, and soon a fast walk; no longer caring how quickly I finished.  I gritted my teeth in anger as an occasional runner passed by, navigating the terrain far better than me.  My mind continued to play tricks on me, as I imagined the pattern of rocks represented the key to the puzzle of working with one of my clients.  ENOUGH!  It is time to go.  I started back into a trot, and then a run.  I had not come all this way to limp to the finish line.  Now I didn't give a shit if I fell, I ran with reckless abandon, dancing my way through the rocks.  I reined back in every runner who had passed me before flying by with everything I had.  With 2 miles to go, the switchbacks and rocks ended.  The descent was still steep, but with a comparitively smooth, mostly straight trail, I was able to completely let the clutch out.  My next mile was under 8 minutes, and I tried to press even harder.  The trail wound through back streets and finally dumped out on a path along the river.  Spectators were 2-3 deep through town and the cheering grew louder.  The sense of elation at this point was overwhelming.  My lungs burned, and I told myself to slow down before I fell.  There was no one ahead remaining to catch, and certainly, there sure as hell no one going to overtake me from behind.  But as I saw the central square approach, I pumped my arms harder and poured everything I had left into the final turns and through the finish.  


I crossed the finish line and collapsed into a chair immediately.  Sandra was by my side in seconds.  Victory!  I was hours away from my goal time, but this was a total victory.  I have been lucky enough to latch onto the greatest sport 8 years ago and have had tremendous fun along the way.  I've enjoyed some great races, some bad races, I've experienced tremendous highs and lows.  But here I had faced my worst adversity in a race yet, extraordinarily early on the course, and pushed through 90 more miles to post a respectable finish.  I have Good/Better/Best goals for every race.  Good in any hundred miler, especially this one, is to finish. Better is reflective of where I think my training and ability stack up against the course. For UTMB I thought that would be 35 hours.  Best is the goal if all the stars align, everything feels great, and I run lights out.  I came to Chamonix hoping to go sub 30.  38:44 is a far cry from 30, even 35 hours.  But for me, this was an overwhelming success.  I will treasure the comeback evident in the race tracker below for a long time.  I went from somewhere around 2,200nd ( out of 2,300 starters) at vomit time to 550th by the finish, passing runners every remaining Ieg.  I will take that.


As I said, this was the best of races and the worst of races.  I made some silly pre-race choices, for which I paid dearly.  I experienced one of my lowest racing moments at the nadir.  But I beat myself up enough out on the course over this.  It ended up being my best race ever.  I pushed through and finished 111 brutal miles (UTMB can call it 105 if they like, my GPS readings added up to 111, and I measured leg after leg longer than they represented) on the premier 100+ mile trail course in the world in phenomenally beautiful country.  This goes in the books as a W.  But also unfinished business.  I think I can challenge sub 30 here, and I want another shot.   The twins graduate high school next year and summer 2016 is largely spoken for.  But Sandra and I have already started planning the qualifiers for 2017.  I've got 756 days to prepare.  I will be ready.