Thursday, August 25, 2016

PU: The Stank - 100 miles up and down Pikes Peak

Brandon, on his way to completing PU: The Stank
photo: Dave Labosky


When you hear someone say this, something in your olfactory senses tells you it must be very stanky, right? Well, yes, that is what should happen when you run up and down the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak four times and accumulate 100 miles along with 31,200+ feet of elevation! That is exactly what Team Colorado's own Brandon “The Stank” Stapanowich did this past weekend at the Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon in Manitou Springs, CO. This is not the first time he has accomplished it, either. Back in 2013, he completed Pikes Ultra, aka PU: The Stank after battling sub-zero temperatures and a few hours of sleep in the fetal position, hugging the compostable toilet at Barr Camp at 4am, to stay warm. He’s done the Inclinathon (13 times up and down the Manitou Incline, about a marathon in length), the UltraInclinathon and even one of the very few who has completed Nolan’s 14 in under 60 hours.

After coming off his new birthday adventure, a self-supported, 485-mile Colorado Trail record from Durango to Denver (DuDe) in 9 days, 14 hours, 28 minutes just a month ago, Brandon was keeping his next fantastical adventure quiet because he didn’t know how the body was going to be feeling after such a long effort. “It was something that I had a hard time committing to as I wasn’t sure if I’d be recovered enough from finishing Colorado Trail a month ago.” Stealthily, he jumped in the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday and said, “I went into it planning on just taking one lap at a time. That way, if the weather turned or my body wasn’t feeling right, there was no shame in stopping. The decision to go all in wasn’t made until around 9:00 pm as I came down from my second trip.” 
After finishing the self-supported 485-mile Colorado Trail, Brandon is satisfied.
photo: Alex "Axel" Nichols

'I can feel it coming in the air toniiiight, oh Lord!' We’re sure that song was going through his head.

"Making my way down to the Manitou Avenue roundabout, people were out enjoying their Saturday night, and I had a decision to make. I could go home, sleep, and come back in the morning for the marathon with a respectable 75 miles for the weekend and no one would care. Or, with 10 hours before the marathon start, I could complete my third lap in the darkness, maybe snag a couple winks of sleep, and be ready for the final trip in the morning. Still, probably no one would care, but I’d know that I’d chosen to do the hard thing.” 

Hard thing, indeed, because the thought of 100 miles with over 31,200+ feet of gain is not soft and most people barely make it up once. I, The Prez, personally completed the Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent "Double" this past weekend. A big accomplishment, people tell me. But Brandon has set his struggle-meter and mental-flux-capacitor to Ludicrous Speed. After starting the Ascent on Saturday morning, finishing, running back down the mountain (while picked up trash, massaging cramping fellow-runner’s calves and cheering them on), then up immediately after and back down again for round two to complete the Double Roundtrip...then back up and down yet AGAIN through the night for the Triple! Ice Cube would have been thoroughly impressed with his weekend of messing around and getting a “triple double”. He wasn’t done yet! He got about 40 winks of sleep (maybe an hour) in his car and proceeded to complete the Pikes Peak Marathon start line on Sunday morning in order to complete The Quad, totaling 100 miles in 30 hours 7 minutes.

"Some people have asked 'why' and I still wonder the answer to that question. Then I wonder why do we do anything. I guess I just enjoy imposing challenges on my mind and body and the feeling of achievement when they work together to overcome a difficult situation. When the adversity is self-imposed, it often teaches me lessons that are applicable in other scenarios of my life where I feel like I have less control. I think for this Pikes Peak Quad trip, the lessons have been about choice and the experience of pain without suffering.

And if you think he’s just a wacky nut job like Van Gogh was when he cut off his year…YES, he is!! "I like to think of these escapades are a form of artistic expression. And like a poem or painting, the 'meaning' behind the best pieces aren’t concrete, but are left to the interpretation of the viewer. And like any artist, my hope is that it makes you feel something. Inspired, hopeful, motivated to push limits and challenge assumptions."

When he’s not running, he works full time as a children’s physical therapist in a program that serves special needs students in several schools in Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek and Woodland Park. He’s also the founder and developmental director of the Pikes Peak chapter of Achilles International, an all-inclusive running/walking/biking/moving group based in Colorado Springs. Brandon leads weekly group runs that pair dozens of disabled and able-bodied athletes and advocates active lifestyles to promote personal achievement and enhance self-esteem. Brandon admits he gets inspiration from a lot of people and places, but certainly his connection with the Achilles group is a big part of it.

So, if you think something like the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon, or even the double, are difficult, just remember that smell, that smell that surrounds you—that’s Brandon and the Pikes Ultra, aka PU: The Stank!  

Brandon after finishing The Stank in Manitou Springs
photo: Peter "The Prez" Maksimow

More adventures:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Team Colorado Welcomes Amanda "Smash'em" Basham --you better get out your helmets!

Name: Amanda "Smash'em Basham

Age: 26 years young

Hometown: Sweet Home...

Current residence: Manitou Springs, CO! 

Sponsors: Nike Trail, Nathan Sports, My Healtheats, VFuel

Personal Bests: 8 hours, 11 minutes at Cayuga Trails 50. I’ve ran faster 50’s but time is irrelevant from race to race. This one was by far my best accomplishment.

Notable Achievements: 2015 USATF 50 Mile Trail Champion, 2015 Squamish 50 – 3rd female, 2015 Speedgoat 50k – 4th female

Goals for 2016 and beyond: Top 2 at 2016 Gorge Waterfalls 100k (Get that golden ticket!) & 2016 Cayuga Trails 50 Champion!

Favorite trails: The Incline (Manitou Springs), Mesa Trail (Boulder, CO), Coastal Trail (Marin Headlands) & anything in the Wasatch Mountains.

Favorite workout: 800’s on the track. It feels good to run fast on a flat surface once in awhile.

Favorite races: The North Face 50 San Fran, Speedgoat 50k (in a very masochistic way). Portland Trail Series (Go Beyond Racing is the!)

Favorite beer: None. I prefer cider or Pinot Noir.


Why Trail/Mountain/Ultra Running?: Why not?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Western States Endurance Run Training with Jared "The Youngster" Hazen

So your name got pulled in the Western States lottery. Congrats! In six months you'll get to toe the line at one of the most iconic footraces in the world. You'll start in Squaw Valley, encounter California's beautiful Sierra Nevada high country, rugged canyons, and hopefully land yourself in Auburn. But, before you encounter all that you'll need to get to the start line healthy and fit.

Running 100 miles is hard. Training for a hundred mile race is even harder! Maybe you have hired a coach to help you prepare. If you haven't, I'm going to give you some training advice that has helped me have successful runs from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

I've run Western States twice, in 2014 I finished 14th in 17 hours 29 minutes, in 2015 I was 3rd in 15 hours 37 minutes. I wouldn't contribute either of those finishes to luck. In 2014 I trained hard and learned a few important things on my first go around. The next year I trained harder and was able to put my course knowledge to work. You can see by the result above that hard work combined with some knowledge is very beneficial. The following advice is what has worked for me. You may not follow it exactly, but I hope you can find some of it helpful. So let's get to it!

The Youngster placing 3rd at the 2015 Western States 100                photo: Bryon Powell/ 

Before we start talking about training, you need to first make sure you are well rested and healthy. If you recently ran a big race, be sure to take a couple weeks of rest to get your energy levels topped off, you're going to need it. If you're injured, now's the time to do rehab and get healthy, not the time to be putting in miles. There's plenty of time yet, but if you nurse an injury along from now until May, you will be sorry.

If you are ready to start training, the next 6-8 weeks are a great time to just get out and put in some miles. Maybe train for a distance you don't run often, say a 5k to half marathon. You don't need to break the PR you set when you were in college. For now, I would recommend you limit your hard workouts to 1 a week. Also, getting out on your favorite trails is a great way to get your body ready for the training that is to come. If you’re going this route, don't fall into the trap of every run being an easy run. Add some climbing in there and don't be afraid to push it when you're feeling good. This is also a good time to strengthen your hips, and gluten, core (just ask the Prez). All of that will be important when you get into the heavy training. The goal here is to prepare you body for the hard training to come, but don't kill yourself now, you'll get to do that later! Start thinking of a tune up race you want to run in late March or early April. 50 miles to 100k is the perfect distance. Lake Sonoma is a great tune up if you don't mind the travel. Also, registering early will help keep you motivated through the winter months.

Jared sharing some trail time (and practicing his Japanese) with new friend, Koji Morimoto of Japan       photo: Hayley Hagen
February is a good time to start picking up the pace a bit. I would recommend running about 80% of the volume you normally do in the final month leading up to a big race. Up your workouts to 2 a week and add in a long run every 2 to 3 weeks. I've found that doing fewer long runs, but more volume on my other days is a good way to keep my legs under me while making sure they're ready to go the distance. Try increasing your warm ups before these workouts. You'll get in a few more miles and put a little fatigue in your legs without ruining your workout. It's important to remember that your body can only handle so many big, long efforts. Everyone is different, but I would err on the side of caution when it comes to the frequency you do long runs. My longest run before Lake Sonoma 50 was a 4 hr run and the race took me 6 hrs 30 min. Going into the race I felt fresh and in good shape. I wasn't in the best shape I had ever been, but I didn't need to be. Western States was my goal race and it was still two months away.

Some of my favorite types of workouts before a tune up race are shorter intervals with short rest, and tempo runs. My favorite example would be Rob Krar's Man Maker Workout (8x3 minutes with 1:30 jog rest in between on a 6-8% dirt road). Others would be 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, or 30-40 minute tempo runs. These can be done on a sustained uphill, flat or rolling surface. Try doing some of your workouts on the terrain you'll encounter during your tune up race, it's important to be comfortable running fast on that terrain. Adding one downhill workout every two weeks is also a good idea. Best start getting those quads ready for Western States sooner rather than later! Examples would be 10-20 minutes of hard running on a non-technical downhill or 3-4 x 5 minute intervals on the same surface.

At this point in your training you should be feeling fit, but not fatigued. A one week taper for your tune up race and a two week recovery afterwards will be allow you to have a good race without sacrificing any fitness and be adequately recovered for your final block of training.

The Youngster, running like a Rabbit
photo: Tim Bergsten/
Your final block of training should be your hardest. You should have about 6-8 weeks to put in your final training followed by about a two week taper. You'll want to pick up your training where you left off before tapering for your tune up race. From here you'll want to gradually build to your max volume for the last two weeks of training. It's important to remember that you still have plenty of time. Be cautious of ramping up your training too quick and getting burned out in the middle of June. I like to transition to longer workouts with longer intervals and more rest. Examples would be 3-4 x 15 minutes with 5 minutes rest or 4-6 x 10 minutes with 5 minutes rest running hard uphill or on a flat surface. Don't worry so much about pace, just focus on working hard and make it hurt. 

I like to do a hard workout every other day, but the rest you take in between workouts is up to you. I still like to include tempo runs in my training but I make them a little bit longer. I usually would shoot for about 45 minutes of work in the beginning of the training block and an hour of work towards the end on my workout days. I also recommend doing a long warm up before these workouts. Including downhill workouts into the cycle is also important. I make every third workout a downhill day, usually looking for 30-45 minutes of hard downhill running. I like to do long runs every two weeks and include back-to-back long runs, such as 6 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. I did that combo about 3 weeks out from Western States for my last long runs. 

Right about the middle of this training block is when you will probably begin to feel pretty tired. It's called “the grind”. Everyone experiences it. Stay tough and put in the work. You're just a few weeks away from a well-deserved taper. Hopefully, by now, you know what kind of taper works best for you. I like to start mine two weeks out, by cutting back my mileage to about 70% of max volume. One week out I cut it back to 40% of max. I like to continue doing workouts until about 1 week before the race. During these workouts I try to put in about 20-30 minutes of work while keeping the intensity high. I prefer to go into a race 90% rested rather than feeling like I'm sluggish and have lost fitness. I also like to take the day before the race off.

As you begin your taper it’s a good time to start thinking about how you want to run the race. I'll post another blog with helpful tips on how to race The Western States Endurance Run along with some course insight. Until then good luck and happy trails! 

Jared "The Youngster" Hazen