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Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson ran track and cross country at the collegiate level, culminating in a trip to the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Champtionships. After college, Matt wasn’t ready to give up his competitive running career, and found a new passion for the sport through training and racing in trail races and ultra marathons. Matt’s friend and college teammate Clay Holton interviewed him on what it’s like to transition from being a collegiate athlete to an ultramarathoner and what advice he would give other runners looking to continue their competitive running careers after college.

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How long have you been running? What made you start enjoying it?

I have been running competitively for a little over 10 years now.  I decided I wanted to try out cross country at the end of my 8th grade year in school (2006).  My  middle school PE teacher at the time was also the high school cross country coach.  He talked to me about joining the cross country team going into my freshmen year of high school after we ran the mile fitness test in PE.  I had always played football during the fall up to that point, but for whatever reason I decided to give running a try.  Looking back now, I can’t really think of a time when I didn’t enjoy it.  I have always loved sports that require a lot personal motivation and hard work to get better.  Regardless of my talent level in any given sport, I have always prided myself on being a hard worker.  I think that was the initial draw for me towards running.  It truly is one of those sports where you only get out of it what you put into it.  Outside of that, I have always loved the “team” aspect of the sport.  The camaraderie and respect amongst runners is unlike any other sport I have ever been around.  My best friendships in life have come through the sport of running.

Did you run in college? What was your favorite distance to run? What were some of your best times?

Yes, I ran at Augusta University (formerly Augusta State University and Georgia Regents University).  While I ran both cross country and track at the collegiate level, I would have to say that cross country has always been my favorite.  I am a true cross country guy at heart.  As far as my favorite race distance goes, it’s pretty simple…the longer the better (an early sign of an ultra-runner to come, haha)! In college that meant the 10k.  I have to admit…I was always a little jealous of the NAIA guys though, because NAIA sanctions  a marathon national championship every year, haha.  I did race a couple half marathons in college and really enjoyed those.  As far as time goes, I ran 26:05 for 8k in cross country, 15:59 for 5k,  and 33:25 for 10k…nothing crazy fast, but times that I am proud of.  Unfortunately, I was plagued with some untimely injuries during my last couple track seasons.  I also ran a 1hr 13min (5:35ish pace) half marathon.  I had a fifth year of eligibility in track, so I had an entire fall to just train in preparation for the spring.  My coach and I decided to play to my strengths and give a half marathon a go.  I actually think that my half marathon time is my fastest PR once you start converting it to shorter distances.   I definitely think I have still have some PRs in my legs whenever I decide to take a break from the trails.

Do you have a favorite college XC/track racing moment?

I have many great memories from my college running experience, but the best would definitely have to be qualifying as a team for the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Championships.  That was literally my biggest goal in college and had been a team goal for four years.  That entire fall was a dream season for us.  As seniors, we were able to win our second conference championship and go on to qualify for nationals.  Toeing the line at a national championship and ending my career on the biggest stage (at the collegiate level) with all of my brothers (aka teammates) was a dream come true, and a perfect way to close out my cross country career.  It is truly something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

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What kinds of races are you training up for now? What are some of the highlight races you’ve done since college?

My post-collegiate career thus far has consisted mostly trail racing (with a few road races mixed in).  After college I was looking for new ways to challenge myself and get me excited to train, so I decided to turn to the trails.  I have always loved running on trails, and I feel like my strengths as a runner suit me well on them.  I have raced in several Xterra races, as well as other trail races ranging in distance from 10k to 11.5 miles.  I also competed in my first  ultra marathon (50k) this past April! Racing a 50k was equally one of the most awesome and hardest things I have done in my entire life.  It tested me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways like nothing else ever has.  I found out a lot about myself that day.

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Do you have a coach or any specific training partners?

I currently do not have a coach.  I read /research a lot, talk to people, and use knowledge I have gained over the years.  That was a decision I came to after college for a couple of different reasons. One, being married now, working full-time, coaching, and having a number of other responsibilities/obligations to take care of throughout the week, my schedule is constantly changing.  I have always been a very meticulous when it comes to my training.  Now that I am in “the real world”, I have had to learn to be much more flexible with my training.  Sometimes that means switching workouts to different days because of the way I feel or a lack of time…others it might mean missing a run completely.  Bottom line, life happens and things come up sometimes.  I have learned to go with the flow and not get frustrated if my training week doesn’t go exactly as planned.  With all that being said, if I have a coach putting in the time and effort to write training plans, I want to make sure I am giving that back by following exactly what he or she has planned for me.  I have always maintained the mindset that if I am going to commit to do something, I am going to do it right.  As I continue to adjust to “the real world” and my new normal, I will definitely consider going back to having a coach.  Right now, I am having fun writing my own workouts and experimenting with new things in ultra training.  It keeps things fun, and as corny as it sounds…that is always most important!  In regards to training partners, my main one is my wife, Tia!  I also run a lot with the high school athletes I coach, as well as a few of my former co-workers.  I will always take any opportunity I can to run with people!

What is the next big race you’re training for? Any specific time/place/finish goals?

My next big race will be The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in San Francisco this December!  I would be stoked to come home with a top-ten finish!  I have learned that time/pace on the trails isn’t quite as relevant because of the varying terrain/course conditions from race to race.  I am just excited for the opportunity for the challenge of competing against some of the best athletes in the sport.  Leading up to it I plan to compete in a smaller race or two (both road and trail).

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What kinds of workouts are you focusing on? Do you have a favorite workout?

Again, the specific workouts I am focus on really depends on what race I am training for.  However, throughout most of the year my training is usually going to incorporate some sort of tempo run, long run, and faster paced intervals or hills, among general mileage/recovery runs.  I also do strides throughout the year to help maintain foot speed/overall running economy (even when training for an ultra).  More specifically for ultra races, I have learned that it is important to research the course you are going to be racing and do your best to mimic that terrain in training.  The further I get into a training cycle for an ultra, the more my workouts become focused on helping me encounter/prepare for what I will see on race day (same applies for practicing nutrition intake as well).  As far as my favorite workouts, I have always loved long runs!  I also love longer progression runs and fartlek runs….basically any “effort” based workout that is less focused on hitting specific splits, and more focused on “feel” and allowing your body and the workout to progress naturally.  Lastly, I enjoy running any sort of hill workout.  I have learned that practicing downhill running is just as important as practicing uphill running when it comes to ultras and trail racing.  Right now in training I have been working on increasing my overall long run distance, as well as practicing my climbing and descending.

Do you run mostly on roads or trails?

Definitely TRAILS!!!

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I saw recently that you started being sponsored. What kinds of sponsorships do you have?

Yes, I currently represent four different companies as a brand ambassador in my training and racing:  CEP Compression, Nuun hydration, and Headsweats performance headwear.  The team I run for, Anchored Elite, is also sponsored by Janji.  Janji is an awesome running apparel company that also works to provide clean water for those who need it in countries all around the world!  I am very thankful to have the support of these great companies as I continue to pursue competitive trail running!  I truly love their products and would highly recommend them to anyone!  For any other running gear needs I go to Fleet Feet Atlanta!

Lastly, do you have any advice for runners who want to continue running competitively post-collegiately? Or advice for runners who are seeking to get any sort of sponsorship?

For those that might have a dream to continue running competitively post-collegiately, I encourage you to not give up on that dream.  My main motivating factor was not wanting to look back in 10 or 20 years and wonder what I could have done in the sport if I stuck with it.  One of my favorite quotes has become “Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go.”  It is not always easy considering the majority of post-collegiate runners aren’t supporting themselves by running, but it can be done.  Set new goals for yourself after college so you have a sense of direction and purpose with your training and racing.  Also, always make sure you maintain a healthy balance in life.  I believe too much of one thing can be a bad thing.  Now that I am working full-time and married, I have had to learn where running fits into all that.  Make running something you do, but not who you are.  Adjusting to the “real world” and all of life’s demands can be difficult sometimes, so you have to learn to be flexible.  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have to cut a run short because “life” happens.  Ultimately, you have to find ways to continually make it fun.  You have to enjoy the process before you can enjoy the result.  As far as gaining sponsorships, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies yourself.  Most of the time, unless you are at a world class level, companies aren’t going to come find you.  Find products you love and believe in and start there.  Put together a “running resume” and start sending it out to companies that you are interested in.  Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back right away from companies.  Positivity and persistency can get you a long way when it comes to both running and seeking out sponsorships!

*Blog credit goes to Clay Holton. The original blog post can be found here: http://www.holtonphysicaltherapyandperformance.com/matthew-johnson-transition-from-college-xc-to-ultras/

 

Athletes of the Month ~ Tecnu Adventure Racing

Athletes of the Month ~ Tecnu Adventure Racing

Ever wonder how an extreme adventure racing team gets started? Here’s a quick recap of how Team Tecnu got started and how far they’ve come today. We’re happy to have Team Tecnu as our Athletes of the Month here at Headsweats!

Team Tecnu
Team Tecnu

Written by Earring Doug Judson

Tecnu Adventure Racing started in 2007 when we stumbled across our amazing partner in Tec Labs and we started off on our amazing journey together testing the boundaries of human endurance. For those of you who don’t know what Tecnu is, it’s a scrub that removes the poisin sumac oils from your skin, clothes, dogs, and gear after coming into contact with it. A not so subtle sponsor plug, but we do love them, and their products rock.

Tecnu Adventure Racing

When I formed the team we set out to find like minded athletes who love to train, and race hard, and love to do it together in exotic locations of the world. In the first couple of years, like in any when you are trying to build the right team and find the right chemistry that works for you to race hard and fast, we had mixed results. 4 years ago we brought Kyle Peter on the team after watching him for a year as a youngster and seeing him racing hard and suffering with a smile on his face, so I decided that we would start forming the team around him, and try to develop some athletes, and see what happens.

Tecnu Adventure Racing

Since 2010 we have won many races, always at or near the top of the podium, but ALWAYS a contender. In 2011 we became the top team in North America winning the ARWS qualifying race, the Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 day expedition race, and represented the U.S at the World Championships in our first venture there, and finished in 12th place as the top team from North America out of 82 teams. Not bad for our first international race against the best teams in the world. We were excited to build on that experience and exposure.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

2012 saw us string together a great season with 12 podiums in 12 races finished all over the globe including a 2nd place finish in Ecuador at the Huairasinchi Expedition race, a 3rd place at the Gold Rush Mother Lode expedition race, and a dominating 1st place in Costa Rica that qualified us for the World Championships in France. We also finished in 2nd place at both of our National Championships, narrow misses that we hope to remedy in the coming weeks. We were also featured in 12 episodes of the Wild Racers television series that is supposed to be airing in North America sometime in 2013 which is very exciting for all of our partners.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

In 2013 we tweaked the team a little bit adding several new key team members that we felt would help us continue our progression up the food chain in adventure racing. We started the year ranked first in North America, and are currently ranked 5th in the world. We started strong by heading off to South Africa and qualifying for Worlds by finishing 2nd at the most competitive race of the year. We followed that up with a dominating win at the innagural Cowboy Tough 4 day stage race in Wyoming in July, and a close 2nd at the Wilderness Traverse in Canada. We still have some of our main goals still out in front of us with races remaining at the Checkpoint Tracker Nationals, the USARA National Championships, and ending our season in December at the World Championships in Costa Rica. We are training hard hoping for the top rung on the podium at each race. We feel we finally have the team that can compete at any level, and feel that we are peaking at just the right time.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

Current team members are founder and manager “Earring” Doug Judson, Team Captain and the “next phenom in the sport of AR” Kyle Peter, Bob Miller the resident Nav God and Canadian on the team, Garret Bean our resident sherpa and whip cracker, the two Queens of the Machine Karen “Super K” Lundgren, and Mindy Fernando. Together we make up Tecnu adventure racing, and hope you will tune in to watch us live the life of adventure. Thanks to Headsweats for this honor, and for continuing to make amazing performance hats that help us push the envelope. Come out and join us in an adventure race. It will change your life.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

Follow Tecnu Adventure Racing on Facebook, and for race recaps, updates, and news, check out their website: www.tecnuadventureracing.com

Team Tecnu Training Camp 2013

Team Tecnu Training Camp 2013

Team Tecnu training for their first international race of the year, Expedition Africa in May 2013. Enjoy these photos and video:

Team Tecnu Training Camp 2013 April 5-8th, 2013
41 hours of adventure training in 4 days

To give you a taste of their training, watch their video:

Here was the agenda:

FRIDAY (10 hours)
 ~ Early AM trail run in Marin Headlands (2 hours)
 Noon Double Surf Ski Yerba Buena Island+ (6 hours)
 Late PM MTB Oakland Hills (1.5 hours)

SATURDAY (12 hours)
 ~ Early AM MTB from SF (Golden Gate, Headlands, Tam Summit… Tamarancho, Top Secret descent, 680, Pt Reyes) (4 hours)
 Afternoon run Tam, Stinson, Dipsea, Matt Davis, Steep Ravine… (4-6 hours)
 Late afternoon MTB return on roads to SF (2 hours)

SUNDAY (11 hours)
 ~ Early AM MTB from Alameda to Del Valle (3 hours)
 AM Bay Area Orienteering Club Long O Meet (3 hour)
 PM MTB/BART to Alameda (1-2 hours)
 PM Alameda Surf Skis (3 hours)

MONDAY (8 hours)
 ~ Early AM Headlands run (2 hours)
 AM surf skis Angel Island (3 hours)
 PM Skeggs MTB (3 hours)

Tecnu Adventure Racing was 2nd at the 10 hour Rogaine in Spokane, Wa yesterday. Here are a couple of pictures of Garret Bean and Kyle Peter racing:

Garret Bean racing in the Rogaine 2013
Kyle Peter racing in Rogaine 2013

To find out more on Team Tecnu and their 2013 race schedule, visit their website here: http://tecnuadventureracing.com/ and become a fan of them on Facebook.

Headsweats is Official Headwear Sponsor of the 2012 US National Snowshoe Team

Headsweats is Official Headwear Sponsor of the 2012 US National Snowshoe Team

Headsweats, the world leader in performance headwear for active endeavors, is pleased to announce its sponsorship of the 2012 U.S. National Snowshoe Team. By providing team members with Headsweats Performance Beanies and Snowflake Beanies, the athletes will be able to stay warm and focused while training and competing.

The 2012 U.S. National Snowshoe Team is comprised of 16 of the finest winter endurance athletes the country has to offer. Many of these athletes are expected to compete all across the U.S., as well as abroad, in numerous major international snowshoe race events. Events for 2013 include the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships in Bend, OR, the La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race in northern Italy which will serve as the 2013 World Snowshoe Championships and the Teva Winter Games in Colorado.

“When the weather turns cold we know that athletes still need performance headwear to help them perform at their peak,” states Mike McQueeney, President of Headsweats. “Headsweats is proud to be outfitting the US National Snowshoe Team with our premier fleece headwear for their winter training and competitions.”

When winter is at its worst, Headsweats will keep team members toasty with their top of the line Performance Beanies. Offering the quality performance Headsweats is known for in all of its products, the Performance Beanies are made of Eventure™ Fleece and offer a contoured, shaped fit. Even though the weather is cold, winter athletes still sweat and they need the ultimate in moisture management that is offered in all of Headsweats performance wear. The Performance Beanie comes with a band around the bottom edge that allows the wearer a snug fit. The women’s style has an embroidered snowflake on the front and an enclosed ponytail hole in the back for added comfort while wearing.

For more information on the United States National Snowshoe Team and/or the U.S. Snowshoe Association, Inc., go to www.snowshoeracing.com.

2012 US National Snowshoe Team members and their sponsors!

Tahoe Rim Trail 168 Mile Nonstop Attempt

Tahoe Rim Trail 168 Mile Nonstop Attempt

David Wronski successfully completed his Tahoe Rim Trail 168-mile run. Read on for an in-depth recap of his run!!

Before getting into the specific details of my Tahoe Rim Trail run, I want and need to thank my amazing crew who allowed me to even attempt such a grueling endeavor and come out healthy and alive. The amount of dedication, sleepless hours, work, and effort they committed to helping me towards achieving my goal is more impressive to me than anything I have or will accomplish. My success at these ultra endurance attempts, is 100% dependent on a strong, knowledgeable, and loyal team that is willing to do whatever is necessary at any given time to get me to the finish line. Also, thank you to all my friends and family who have wished me luck and shown me your support leading up to this amazing adventure. Trust me when I say that I use everyone’s positive thoughts during my long hours spent in the mountains; it not only keeps me motivated but makes me remember how many others I’m trying to make proud.

Now onto our 168-mile Tahoe Rim Trail adventure. The idea of running the entire Tahoe Rim Trail nonstop started in February of 2011, while I was recovering from my incredible experience running the Brazil 135. It’s been a long 17 months of dreaming, training, and planning on being able to attempt this endurance feat. What made the whole experience even more surreal was the fact that I had already tried to accomplish this feat in October of 2011; but was horribly unlucky with the weather, and got stuck in many feet of snow in the first few hours of our attempt, thus putting my hopes on hold until July of 2012.

My team and I arrived at the TRT trailhead in Tahoe City on Friday, June 29th and I finally realized that this was going to happen. I was going to be able to attempt to complete the longest distance I’ve ever covered nonstop, knowing I would have absolutely ideal weather. There would be no excuses, or reasons outside of my control that I would have to deal with; I was going to start and hopefully come back to the same location 2-3 days later, in a much more physically broken down but satisfied state of mind.

1st Segment-Tahoe City to Brockway Summit (19.2 miles)

We quickly took a few pictures at the start, documented the start time of 9:15AM on Friday, and Ray Sanchez and I quickly left to cover the next 19.2 miles ending at Brockway Summit. We were in great spirits, and feeling happy to be on the beautiful trail in 70 degree weather. Since I had done the first 13 miles of this section on my last TRT attempt in October, it was great to see familiar sites, only this time instead of stepping into three feet of snow I could appreciate all the dry forest around me. We climbed the first 6 miles which are all steadily uphill, until we reached a few great lookouts, Ray constantly snapping pictures with his phone (which he enjoys to do on all of our runs together). The section went pretty well with no navigational issues until we reached a fire road that required us to find where the TRT picked up again (it was not directly across the road we came to). Luckily we saw a couple mountain bikers enjoying a ride, and asked them to confirm what we believed to be the TRT. Once we received verification that we were on the right trail, we quickly said thanks and went on our way. I’ve learned from past experiences, that it’s very important to avoid the desire to push yourself physically early on, knowing you will pay for this mistake in the future. So Ray and I tried to stay conservative but were running at a good and steady 4-5mph, until we reached our first major navigational dilemma. We came to a Y shaped intersection, with a TRT sign that had been ripped out of the ground, and was now being helped up by rocks. Because there were arrows pointing in opposite directions on both sides of the post, we were unsure of where the post was originally supposed to be placed (which would determine which direction we would take to stay on the TRT). We chose to go right (which ended up not being the right way), and ended up running an extra 20-25 minutes, until we realized we needed to backtrack to the sign, and call Michael (my logistical expert) and figure out what to do. Luckily since we had phone service, I was able to take a picture of my location at the intersection with my phone, and send it to Michael hoping to get an answer of where to go. Our strategy worked and we figured out we were supposed to go left, which would take us to our first meeting point on the trail, about 13 miles in. After a quick stop with our team, Ray and I continued on to try to finish the 19 miles in a reasonable time. Unfortunately I was quickly introduced to the unforgiving terrain of the TRT, and was forced to hike quickly instead of run because my ability to hop from rock to rock in Vibrams was not successful or safe. We made it through the last 6 or so miles, and completed the 1st of 8 sections of the TRT. It was great to have Ray with me on the trail, but had to say goodbye, since I would not be seeing him the rest of the weekend.

2nd Segment- Brockway Summit to Tahoe Meadows (19.7 miles, 38.9 total miles)

The second segment proved to be very difficult even with semi-fresh legs, mostly due to its multiple 1,000+ ft. climbs, the rocky terrain, and adjusting to the highest altitude on the entire TRT, just above 10,000 ft. Michael was a great person to have with me on this section though for many reasons. First off he’s the current unsupported (meaning no crew, assistance of any kind) record holder on the TRT, but more importantly he kept me hiking at a fairly quick pace up the long climbs when slowing down would have been very easy for me to do. I realized I had made one key mistake early on in the first segment. I had drank too much water, and not enough salt/electrolytes; thankfully from experience I can usually recognize this right away and start taking in salt. After feeling very dizzy and lethargic early in our first climb, Michael graciously gave me some electrolyte tablets for my water which made an immediate difference and allowed us to resume climbing up to the highest point on the TRT, Relay Peak at 10,335 ft.

What made this segment so physically challenging, was my slow adaptation to the high altitude. I had not been above 10,000 ft in a very long time, and the time it took for my body to assimilate, definitely took some energy out of my body. The feeling of not being able to catch your breath, no matter how fast or slow you’re moving, always takes some getting used to. We eventually reached the summit, snapped a few amazing pictures, and was relieved to start a slow jog of about 5 miles downhill. The views from this section were absolutely incredible, and if I went back to hike just one section of the TRT, I would definitely go back to this segment. By the time we made our complete descent back to around 8,700 ft, night time was approaching and our first day of sunlight was just about over. However I was very excited to get to Tahoe Meadows because it would be the first time seeing my girlfriend Dawn, my new puppy Wendy, and the rest of my great crew. We arrived at the Tahoe Meadows parking lot, said hi to everyone, and enjoyed the first cup of many chicken noodle soups.

3rd Segment-Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit (23.1 miles, 62 total miles)

The third segment was by far the easiest, flattest section of trail on the entire TRT. What had made this segment different from the others, was that I had run the entire section before when I completed my first 100 mile race in Lake Tahoe in 2010. Thinking of this recent memory while being happy to be on the sandy Nevada side of the TRT, made for a very enjoyable first night of running. Also I was very pleased to be able to start this long 23.1 mile section with my good friend Lauryn, who paced me during my 1st night of the 100 miler, on almost the same trail in 2010. It was great to reminisce about that experience with her, while we made steady progress running the entire way, catching up with each other simultaneously. We made it to a waypoint on the trail (9.5 miles in) to Tunnel Creak Rd, where we were planning to meet the rest of the team to resupply food, water, etc.

This was just one of many spots on the trail that my team willingly hiked many miles (this one being straight uphill the entire way) to meet me on the trail, which allowed us to break up the long 23 mile segment. Unfortunately Lauryn and I were too ambitious with our pace, and actually beat our team to the Tunnel Creak Road meeting point. After a quick phone call to our team we realized we would wait about a half hour for their arrival. We weren’t too upset though considering it wasn’t windy thankfully, I was hungry, and we could just use the time to relax and refuel, which we did. We found a cluster of big boulders, settled in together under Lauryn’s jacket, and tried to stay warm while I ate half a turkey sub, Lauryn had packed with her.

After an impressive hike from nearly our entire team, we reunited and topped off our food/water, and prepared to finish the remaining 14 miles of the segment. I had to say another quick goodbye to Lauryn, since she would be leaving for the rest of the weekend, and got to have my new pacer Allison join me for the remainder. Both Lauryn and Allison did a fantastic job pacing me, staying in front of me and running every flat, downhill section, while setting a steady controlled pace up the hills. After a few miles of running with Allison, we were approaching another familiar destination on the TRT course, Snow Valley Peak 9,300 ft. This is another gorgeous location overlooking both Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe, which we could not see unfortunately because were running in total darkness. I briefly explained to Allison what she would be seeing if it were light out, but instead we looked up and could see the entire milky way and every star imaginable. It was an incredibly clear night, with almost no wind which is rare at the top of Snow Valley Peak.

We started another enjoyable descent of about 5 miles to Spooner Summit where we would meet our team, and the 2nd morning of our adventure would begin. I was feeling great both mentally and physically at this point, but knew in the back of my mind we were about to tackle some very difficult sections and my physical state would not be as ideal during the next 100+ miles.

4th segment-Spooner Summit to Kingsbury South (16.4 miles, 78.4 total miles)

The 4th segment began in the early morning hours of Saturday (the 2nd day), and at this point I had just come to the 24 hour point of being awake and moving. This period of time can always be tricky if you’re not prepared, and ready to stay awake through the night. Your body has not yet switched into a survival mode type mindset yet, but I made sure to eat consistently which I’ve found to make a big difference in easing the transition from a “regular” mindset to a “survival” mindset. Once the sun came up though, and Dawn and I began our first and only long climb uphill, I felt fully awake and wasn’t having any trouble staying awake.

We finally made it to the top of a long uphill section, which thankfully had some easy terrain to hike up, not being full of boulders and rocks like I’d experienced in previous sections. The view of Lake Tahoe was spectacular in the early morning hours, with the sun coming up on our right as a giant orange ball. I was glad Dawn could see this great view, which I had been lucky enough to have already seen multiple great views of the Lake from my previous 75+ miles of being on the trail. This was a trail neither one of us had ever been on. We then started the descent which unfortunately absolutely sucked for the first few miles.

We went from climbing groomed dirt trail on the way up, to now descending large loose rocks again on the trail as our main type of trail surface. This was frustrating mostly because the downhill sections are usually the only parts of the run where you can make up some time, and let your legs loosen up and actually run some decently quick miles. This was completely not an option now, because of the extremely rugged terrain we were now faced with going downhill.

This was a common occurrence for the entire route, which was another reason I found out my time would be considerably slower simply due to the rough and rugged terrain I’d be approaching for the rest of the way. Obviously running in minimalist shoes like Vibrams doesn’t make the task any easier. We eventually made it through the rocky section, and actually found a few miles of rolling trail with scattered rocks and boulders, but at least the dirt surface was showing underneath allowing us to start running at a decent pace. We enjoyed a few miles of easy rolling hills, and caught a view of about 8-10 large bucks with huge sets of antlers, it was a cool sight to see, and would have been a great picture if they didn’t run away into the forest as we approached.

We then reached the last few miles of the section, where the new TRT is completed now (there used to be a 3 mile section with no trail, which you’d have to run on paved roads to reach the next trailhead). We were able to easily navigate this new section thanks to Michael and Sarah marking the trails with our own trail markers. Dawn and I completed our first section together around 10am on Saturday, the plan was to give her a break, and then she’d be joining me again during the 6th segment. Unfortunately the 5th segment was going to be quite daunting and long.

5th segment-Kingsbury South to Big Meadow (23.2 miles, 101.6 total miles)

As I was laying down getting my legs shaken out, eating, resupplying my food/water, and changing clothing, I knew I was about to begin one of the most difficult sections of my entire run. Granted the 2nd segment from Brockway to Tahoe Meadows was no easy task, and had a lot of elevation gain, but I was fairly fresh during that time and knew we could get through it. However this segment was going to be a long 23 miles, on not so fresh legs, and during the middle of the day. I definitely won’t complain about the weather because it was absolutely beautiful all weekend, but the sun was extremely bright and the UV index was at 10 (the highest it can pretty much be), and it definitely was noticeable in how it affected my hydration levels. So the next 23 miles were not going to be easy in any way, and mentally I knew I’d be climbing multiple 1-2,000 ft climbs.

Jason (my pacer) and I began a first huge climb that was slow and steady uphill, the first few miles took a while to judge how I was feeling. Soon after I realized I would be drinking a lot more fluid on this segment, which would mean we’d have to use as many stream crossings as possible (which thankfully were abundant). What made this section extra difficult, was the way we were climbing, not necessarily the terrain. What I mean is that the climbs required us to go up many steps, consisting of large flat slabs of stone set many feet apart.

This proved very difficult and tiring, because not only were they un-runnable, but they required large steps that used a lot of energy. It felt like a stairmaster, only with stairs requiring large strides and high steps to clear our feet. This section was where I later learned I had strained my left soleus (muscle underneath the calf) going up these high spread out stairs. It was not an acute injury that I noticed right away, but become a major factor in my running ability as the miles added up. After many more climbs we finally reached a section requiring us to go downhill. We quickly noticed no sign or TRT markers giving us any direction in how to start our descent. We asked a few hikers coming the opposite direction, and they informed us that the TRT picked up down the road a ways, and it would be on our right.

We thanked them for the help, and started our descent. This road had very loose sand as its base, and because of this I spent more time looking at my footing, since the decline was pretty steep. Somehow in between all of my looking at the ground, and talking we missed the turn off for the TRT, which turned out to be marked, but was on a side of a tree that wasn’t directly facing us at the time. Long story short, we ended up probably wasting 20-30 minutes trying to get back on the right route. Once we found where we were supposed to go, we came across a great stream with fast moving clear fresh water, where we refilled our bottles. Getting lost pissed me off at the time because I didn’t have tons of energy, and didn’t want to waste any little bits I had getting lost. So I decided to try to make up for the time we had wasted which we did a decent job of, running as much as possible on the flats and downhills, hoping to meet our team at Armstrong Pass (which allows the 23 mile segment to be broken down into 14 and 9 mile sections). The meeting point at Armstrong Pass required my team to hike up a few tough miles of trail.

Because of our newly acquired faster pace, and some issues using our SPOT GPS tracker, our team was still about an hour away when Jason and I had arrived at the meeting point. We had no phone service at all, and nothing to do except wait for our crew, we couldn’t keep going with the little food/water we had left, and I had to make sure our team knew we would be there still (no matter how long it took them to meet us). At the time it was easy to get frustrated at this situation, but in the end it was probably a blessing because it allowed me to get off my feet, and just try to recover from the last hard 14 miles of climbs and descents.

After waiting a while, we finally saw our crew at the meeting point, refueled, and started the next 9 mile section of the same segment with Sarah. We would be going to Big Meadow which would complete this 5th segment of the TRT. Because of my brief period of rest, waiting for the team at Armstrong Pass, I was feeling fairly strong and wanted to try to knock out the next 9 miles in a few hours or less. Sarah and I started hiking up at a fast pace, uphill for the first major climb. We then ran most or all the flats and downhills which ended up allowing us to finish that 9 mile section at about a 4 mph pace, which is a great pace for that far into the run.

We were in good spirits, and I was surprised how well I felt physically. My feet and legs were doing well, which is a rarity after 100+ miles, especially for the feet. Sarah and I ended the segment with a nice gradual downhill section, where we met Alex who had hiked up a few miles to see us. The three of us then finished the segment in good spirits, enjoying some good conversation. The night was nearing, and our sunlight was quickly disappearing. Dawn would join me again for the next segment which would be in complete darkness going into our 2nd night of being on the trail.

6th segment-Big Meadow to Echo Lake (17.5 miles, 119.1 total miles)

Dawn joined me again for this segment which turned out to be a very difficult segment, for many reasons but mostly due to the fact we would be doing it all in the early morning hours, approaching the 45 hour mark by the time we’d finish. We started the section with a huge climb that was probably the steepest climb of the entire run, which quickly reminded me of my injured soleus which was now becoming a lot more apparent. The steep climb required us to barely keep a 3 mph pace which I was always trying to use as the base of any pace we chose. My soleus becoming a bigger problem as we climbed, limited my ability to take advantage of the flat sections due to the fact I couldn’t run without dealing with consistent pain.

Acquiring minor injuries like this isn’t uncommon for me though, especially after being 110+ miles into a run. I dealt with the pain, while Dawn did a great navigational job making sure we were still on the right route. Some of the sections of the TRT are much more well marked than others, and this section was not very impressively marked. I have a hard time understanding why such a popular well known and used trail has such inconsistent and crappy markings; but it does and we were just trying to make the best of the situation knowing that slowing down to find the right way would still be faster than running more, but missing our turns resulting in getting lost and an even greater waste of time.

We then reached a point with a small wooden plank in the ground with Echo Summit engraved into one side. This was our destination, but knew it was a tricky logistical area to find and stay on the TRT. To make things more complicated there are additional signs for PCT which is the Pacific Crest Trail which shares the TRT for certain lengths and different times. We know were seeing literally no TRT markings of any kind giving us a sense of where to go, or how to stay on the trail. What we ended up having to do to continue on our way turned out to be a ridiculous combination of a river crossing, going under a fallen tree, making several snakelike switchbacks, and coming to an unmarked trail that could barely be identified as a trail, let alone the correct trail.

This delay ended up costing us another 30 minutes or so which ended up being the 3rd and final time I would be getting “lost” on the run. We were never “lost” but rather just trying to make sure we could find the correct trail, and not go to far off trail to then realize we needed to go back. Eventually after many frustration walking trips back and forth to survey the area, again in total darkness only with the help of our headlamps and moon could we try to distinguish where to go; did we find the right trail which would continue to take us to Echo Summit. This slow climb to Echo Summit proved very difficult for a new reason, unlike the previous sections that were extremely rocky and rough terrain, this trail was mostly mud and very wet. Our trail ended up being mud and water, which would then turn into a small stream at times requiring us to try to walk on the borders of the trail, staying out of the water filled sections of the trail. Nothing was fast about this whole segment, even keeping a 3 mph pace proved very difficult due to our slow moving trudging through dark, muddy, wet trail.

After what seemed to be an endless climb, we finally reached to be what we thought was the summit, only to then start descending before another final climb uphill to what was the actual summit. We were now only a couple miles from the next meeting point with our crew, however the descent could not have been more frustrating and slow. Just like during the last segment, when I was climbing up large slabs of stone in a stair climbing fashion, we know were going down similar rock formations. This really annoyed us both, and slowed our pace down considerably, because we were hopping down from step to step rather than being able to run more gracefully and efficiently. We continued to rock hop down further and further but never seemed any closer to our destination. The descent took over an hour, and finally we came across Michael on the trail. He had hiked up a considerable distance to meet us and show us the way back to the meeting point, and the rest of our crew.

Both Dawn and I were just happy to be over with the section. After the long steep climbs we had dealt with, the insanely horrible trail markings, and the ridiculous directions we had to follow to stay on trail, we were both mentally and physically spent. What we originally thought to be a 6 hour section turned into an all night almost 9 hour section that we were very happy to be done with. We were now starting our 3rd morning of being out on the TRT, and the goal was to not see another sunrise. I wanted to finish sooner than later, not because I cared about my time but because I knew I was approaching new territory in regard to staying awake without sleep. I had never stayed up longer than 52 hours, and this record was going to be easily broken by the start of our long Desolation Wilderness section coming up.

7th Segment-Echo Lake to Barker Pass (32.5 miles, 151.6 miles total)

We were now starting our 3rd day, and about to begin one of the most unique but grueling sections of the entire TRT, Desolation Wildnerness. This area is quite unlike the others due to the trail inaccessibility, its remoteness, and most noticeably its trail surface. The number one factor of the entire run that I was least expecting to be such a major issue, was the trail surface. My feet have become adapted to rough terrain, allowing me to run on very rugged terrain without having any major issues, but I quickly learned with Desolation Wilderness, and other shorter sections of the TRT was that the trail surface consisting of loose rocks and small boulders on top of other loose rocks was not a conducive trail surface for my abilities. Knowing the trail surface would be considerably more rugged and rocky than anything I had experienced until this point, I decided to change from my Vibram FiveFingers to my New Balance Minimus MT00, which is an actual shoe, but again is extremely minimal in its cushion or protection. Michael and I started this section on some runnable trail which I took advantage of trying to gain any ground I could while the dirt was still there, knowing the rocks were soon to come. Sure enough we reached many long sections which were 100% rocks, consisting of many layers which makes the instability of the trail even greater. Walking fast across the rocks wasn’t an option, let alone even trying to run.

The amount of walking we had to do definitely affected my energy levels, and my ability to stay attentive and awake. Michael did a great job of keeping track of how long I was going in between GUs or any other source of calories. I needed to keep consistent with my hydration and food intake to have any chance of maintaining enough energy to complete this long 32 mile stretch. During our time rock hopping for many miles, we saw some of the most beautiful lakes I had seen all weekend, which are completely hidden unless you are hiking in Desolation Wilderness. Aloha Lake was one of many absolutely perfect blue lakes with small islands of trees growing right out of the water. The steep mountain slopes in the background were still covered in snow, giving a great backdrop to our blue lake scenery. Thankfully again we had an opportunity to meet Sarah “halfway” around mile 17. Unfortunately before we would meet, Michael and I would be tackling an enormous task, which was climbing the steep and tall Dick’s Pass just under 10,000 ft.

This climb was good because it was a challenge that didn’t involve running, which at the time I could not do comfortably due to my increasingly painful soleus injury. However by the time we reached the summit of the pass, I had expended a lot of energy getting to the top, and definitely could feel the altitude sucking any energy I still had quickly away. We started the descent quickly because I knew Sarah was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain, and I was in need of some food, energy, and an opportunity to stretch my now throbbing soleus. Michael did a great job again of trying to get me to run downhill and make our meeting with Sarah happen sooner.

We finally reached Sarah, where I was happy to stretch, eat, resupply, and try to regain some energy before heading out with Michael for the 2nd half of Desolation Wilderness. After a brief stop, Michael and I headed out for the last 15 or so miles which would bring us to the beginning of the final 8th segment. We were again moving through the trails at the height of the 3rd afternoon, the sun was starting to get warmer, and definitely had taken its toll on my face, nose, and lips which were all pretty well burned from exposure. After spending 3 straight days and nights outside, no amounts of sunscreen will prevent your face from getting pretty roasted.

We started on our way which now was through totally different environment, a very heavily wooded forest section with no views of any mountains or anything around you. It was a very confusing and closed in feeling where every foot of trail going through the forest looked the same. The craziest aspect of this section was that were literally no TRT markers anywhere, thankfully Michael has a lot of experience on the TRT, and was navigating with ease, and constantly moving ahead of me making me follow him as best I could. My speed was now diminishing quickly, due to my leg injury and my energy levels. I was now awake for 50+ hours about to break my record for staying awake, only I still had to run/walk 30 more miles, let alone just be awake.

After many slow hours of moving, I suddenly realized after talking to Michael, and looking at my watch that if I kept this pace I may not even finish on Sunday. Again, my actual finishing time was never a concern or important factor to me, but I was concerned about going through another night and finishing early Monday morning. This new reality made me mentally flip a switch, and turn off any pain I was having in my leg. I started to run, and at a much faster rate than I had previously been attempting. I was getting to the point where I didn’t want to see another sunrise, and I just wanted to finish. I ran at this newly found rate, for probably close to 2 hours. This allowed us to make up some considerable distance, and get me that much closer to the beginning of my last and final segment. We only had one more major hurdle to get over, before finishing this segment and that was to try to survive mosquitoes that were more aggressive and relentless than I’d ever seen before.

Since I was now running faster and using more energy, I was drinking more and required Michael to try to get me some more water on a regular basis (mostly again from running streams on the trail). We quickly realized that we were being swarmed and attacked by millions of mosquitoes. I had most of my body completely covered with clothing, had powerful bug spray all over my body, and still the mosquitoes were eating us alive. We could literally not stop for more than 1 second before your shirt, arms, and head would be covered with mosquitoes. When I say covered I’m not exaggerating, my white shirt would be full of small black mosquitoes in 2 second of me trying to bend over to adjust my shoe. It was miserable and something I did not want to deal with at all. This horrible mosquito problem made me even more motivated to get completely out of Desolation Wilderness and to the beginning of the final segment, which I knew would not have the same mosquito problem.

I came into the final meeting spot for myself and my crew, feeling very upbeat mentally, knowing I only had 1 more segment to complete before I was finished. Physically I was surprisingly feeling good, the running caused my soleus to lengthen and relax as I ran, which was not how it had felt for a long time in the past 50+ miles. I came into the meeting point at Barker Pass about 57 hours into the run. I knew I wanted to complete these last 17 miles as quickly as possible, and planned to run every bit I possibly could.

8th segment- Barker Pass to Tahoe City (16.7 miles, 168.3 miles total)

I left my team for the last time feeling very positive and happy to be on my last leg of this incredibly long adventure. I was know 57 hours into my run with no sleep, breaking my previous record of being awake by about 5 hours. I was encountering unchartered territory both mentally, physically in staying awake, but also the amount of miles we had completed (151). My plan to run as much as possible was quickly taken away by yet another long stretch of my dreaded loose rock terrain. Not only was the trail again horribly rocky, unstable, and sharp; but it was also a very thin trail with a drop off on one side, so paying attention was vital to staying safe and not sliding half way down the mountain.

This slow paced hiking on terrain that hurt with every step, in darkness again since we started the segment around 9pm on Sunday, was very mentally draining for me. All I could think was to get this section over with as fast as possible so I could get to a part of the segment that had runnable dirt trail instead of this insanely dangerous sharp loose rock surface which seemed to be the only thing we were ever going to be on. I remember looking at my watch and we had reached the 3 hour mark into our hike, and were still on this rugged rock surface, which resulted in us only being able to cover about 6 miles in this 3 hour period. By this time I had literally walked my self to sleep. I was in great need of being able to run, and force my body to wake up and stay alert, but the terrain we were on made this option impossible, and unfortunately crushed my spirit.

In addition to the terrain, I was now battling mental exhaustion more than I had ever experienced before, being awake for now more than 60 hours straight. Hallucinations were constant, and I had become so used to them that I almost didn’t even pay attention or care that I was having them. I was reaching the point though that I could not keep walking like this without falling asleep on my feet. All I wanted to do was sit, somehow my body equated sitting with sleeping even though when I did sit, I would not sleep at all but rather just take a few deep breaths and try to stand up again. I have never experienced such a situation where I felt very good so far into a run, just a few hours earlier when we completed the 7th segment to now feeling like I barely had enough energy to keep walking. It was very confusing to me at the time, and I had no plan on what to do to recover or bounce back from feeling as mentally drained as I was. I remember not being able to speak, because it was to difficult to have to think of what to say, and the amount of energy it took to open my mouth and say words was not worth the effort.

Thankfully Dawn was with me the entire time, in addition to Sarah leading the way, making sure we were on course. Dawn has had experience seeing me in a pretty broken down mental and physical state before, and knew I was probably reaching new heights of mental and physical exhaustion. To give you an idea of my physical and mental condition, we were covering about 1 mile per hour at one point, which is difficult to replicate if you try to go that slow. Physically my body was actually not completely depleted, but the sleep deprivation was now my biggest enemy resulting in a constant battle between my brain and body. My brain wanted to sleep, but my body wanted to keep going. This constant struggle sucked every remaining amount of energy out of me, and I had no idea how fast we were going, where we were going, or how much time had passed. Time had no meaning anymore in my mind, and I knew I was walking towards the direction of the finish that was all. I didn’t understand any instructions, advice, or information given to me. I was in essence walking unconsciously, having no recollection of doing so. But most importantly to me, I never did go to sleep!

As quickly as my mental state deteriorated, it suddenly bounced back just as fast and I was completely cognizant of what was happening, where I was, and how far I still had to go to the finish. I have no idea why or what happened to allow this switch in my brain to go off, resulting in me “waking up”. I was now aware that I was 7 miles from the finish, and was already well past my expected time for completing this segment. I was now going into the 4th morning (sunrise) Monday morning, and was now on pace to finish around 5am.

I was now so close to the finish, that nothing mental or physical would stop me from finishing as soon as possible. I had completely come out of my “fog” and knew I only had a few more miles to go, that’s all I knew and cared about. Anthony joined Dawn and I on our last 5 miles section, which seemed to be the fastest 5 miles ever. I was now approaching 68 hours of moving and being awake, 16 hours longer than I had ever stayed awake before, and 28 miles further than I had ever run. Anthony, Dawn, and I finished our 168 mile adventure just as the sun was rising on Monday, 68 hours after I had started. I had no emotional feelings other than relief that I could now go to sleep. That’s all I looked forward to, and even if there were hundreds of people waiting for me to finish (which of course there weren’t), I would have still simply desired to do one thing, sleep. Your brain is very well wired to protecting itself, and after that long of staying awake, and depriving your body of sleep, the only thing I wanted was to lay down, close my eyes, and not get back up.

I don’t know why or how I hit such a rough patch towards the middle of the last segment, but I can simply guess that it was because I was encountering new territory in sleep deprivation levels that I had never experienced before. I’m now much more aware of what my mind and body is capable of, and believe if I was in that situation in the future I could avoid the breakdown, and mentally be prepared for the mental and physical onslaught brought upon by extreme sleep deprivation.

My ability to run further and attempt more extreme challenges solely depends on my ability to stay awake and alert for greater amounts of time. Now that I know I’m capable of staying awake 70+ hours, I know my limits for distance are that much greater. Ultimately sleep deprivation will be the limiting factor in what I’m capable of accomplishing, and that’s why I decide to do all my adventures in this fashion. Once sleep is allowed than the physical abilities are endless, resulting in no limit every being pushed or tested.

I am extremely happy and content with the outcome of my experience running the TRT, and am eternally thankful to all my crew members who helped me so much and are invaluable. The biggest surprise to me about the TRT, was the lack of runnable sections (at least for my abilities), and how hiker-oriented the terrain of the TRT really is. There were countless sections of loose rock on loose rock as the only trail surface, and then others that may have been more dirt, but the steps were too far apart to run, so hiking became the fastest method of moving.

I have no regrets at all from the run, and am very happy I finally was able to complete the distance in “one go” with no sleep. I accomplished both of my personal goals: to run further than I had ever gone, which we successfully did by traveling 168.3 miles on foot, and staying awake without sleep, longer than I ever had previously done, which I was thankfully able to accomplish by staying awake for a total of 71 hours.

Thank you to my Crew: Dawn, Michael, Sarah, Eugenie, Anthony, Alison, Lauryn, Ray, Alex, Emly, Jason, and everyone who wished me luck and sent positive thoughts towards me during this difficult task! Without my crew I would never have even made it one mile, thanks to their hard work and sacrifice, I was given the opportunity to accomplish a goal I’d been attempting for a long time! I will now recover and enjoy looking back at this great adventure, and on to the next adventure which as of today hasn’t been determined?!