Wow- just Wow. As I sit down and reflect on all that 2023 has offered it's almost overwhelming. I have been everywhere and enjoyed every minute of it all. Here's a recap of most of it. Enjoy the Journey!
I left my physical job to work full time on my online coaching business. In December of 2022, I worked my final day at a local Surveying job. They helped me get to this spot by sending me home first when the work was thin. I would work on my own business and certification/training when sent home. And in mid-December, I was able to pull the plug and commit to full-time coaching. As a quick recap, I started Altitude Endurance Coaching in 2018 while working a full-time job. This has been a long project and I have been hustling! So excited to work at my dream job full-time now!
Come February, we here in the mountains are always craving that first dry dirt run, and my friends and I made it happen twice on the Loma- Kokopelli trails. These trails are just about a 90-minute drive west of us here in Glenwood Springs, Co. Our Midwest friend Rob was in town visiting for one of those occasions. We showed him all the local spots, the Hot Springs and got a couple of turns on Sunlight Mtn on our snowboards. We may have overdone it as he is already asking about coming back this winter!
|Welcome Home Bailey!
Meet Bailey! We brought Bailey home on March 22nd. She has been a welcomed addition to our family. Predominately Border Collie with a little Aussie Shepard she is quick and smart! She gets out every day for 3-5 miles between my wife and I. Next Spring when she is fully grown she and I can get out for some much longer adventures! Can't wait!!
I was able to help out as a part-time High School Track and Field Coach in Spring. What a rewarding experience to be able to share my passion for running with these young adults. I grew up as a track star and enjoyed being a part of the team this year. While coaching I was able to obtain my level 1 USATF Coaching Certification.
Steve House has created a brand and a movement in the mountaineering coaching space. I am excited to be a small part of Uphill Athlete as a coach and was equally as excited to share in the first Uphill Athlete staff retreat in Boulder Colorado in mid-April. What a great group of individuals that are passionate about coaching. Meeting the staff from around the globe and sharing in the conversation was amazing.
I took my level 1 USATF coaching knowledge and was able to use it as the Head Coach for our Springers Track and Field summer program. This program is offered locally to students 17 and under for 6 weeks and ends in mid-July. Both of my daughters were able to participate and that made this a little sweeter. We had morning practices 4 days a week and all the participants were able to try something new to them. Hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, relays, discus, sprints, and distance events were offered. Our season ended with a home meet and a ton of fun was had!
A "Slam" in our running community is 4 events in the same calendar year. It comes from the baseball reference of a Grand Slam, scoring four runs off of one homerun. There are probably more but the two most popular are the Grand Slam and the Rocky Mtn Slam. I had crafted my own Slam to challenge myself. The events I chose were all within a 91-day window, from June 16th to Sept 16th. This was going to be a challenge to state the obvious and I had given the title of " Redemption Year" for a few reasons. In 2013- a full decade ago- I had dropped out of the Bighorn 100 at mile 30. I showed up that year ill-prepared for this course and it has bothered me since. Always just lingering in the background as the course that beat me. I needed redemption! In 2021 I backed down from the 100-mile distance to the 50-mile distance at the Ouray event just 6 weeks before the start. I could not see how I was going to finish the hundred with the plantar fasciitis I was dealing with. I did limp through the 50 and was a successful finisher, but I wanted to return for the 100. Leadville has been in my blood since the first time I stepped onto the start at 6th and Harrison in 2010. I have since finished 7 of nine starts here and hope to earn my 1,000-mile buckle in the coming years. Run Rabbit Run was a complete disaster for me in 2017. Much like my 2013 attempt at Bighorn, I showed up ill-prepared both mentally and physically. I wanted my revenge here! So, that was it. I was going to clean up my missed opportunities and race my heart out this summer!
July 21st, 2023 Ouray 100 Endurance Run- 42,000 ft of elevation gain in 102.1 miles
August 19th, 2023 Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run- 15,500 ft of elevation gain in 99.7 miles
September 16th, 2023- Run Rabbit Run 100- 20,500 ft of elevation gain in 101.5 miles
Total: 98,500 ft of elevation gain in 402.7 miles
First up, Bighorn 100
My friend Ryan and I met in Denver to drive the remainder of the way to Sheridan Wy. together. Ryan and I have been racing together for quite a few years. We are typically near each other as far as pace goes when the miles add up to 100 or more. We both decided to go solo and just use the drop bags and aid stations. No crew and no pacers. In addition, we had planned to run it together to help with the lack of outside support. It was a solid plan that lasted for ... a quarter mile. It had rained for the week leading up to the event and only stopped an hour before the start. Although it wasn't currently raining at the start and it wouldn't for the remainder of the event, the rain had created a ton of mud- more than the normal amount of mud that this event is known for. The road for the mass start was riddled with giant puddles that most athletes were trying to avoid, including Ryan. Not me though! I went right through the biggest one and in the process lost Ryan. For the remainder of the event, we were on our own. I ran with a few other runners but mostly I was in my own space. I kept moving efficiently and kept thinking that at any moment Ryan would catch up. The mud was thick and slick. The off-camber trail made it even tougher to stay on the trail. I planned to go out conservatively and finish with a little energy to spare. It was going to be a long season and I didn't need to crush myself in the first event. Just after the 50-mile turn I did "see" Ryan. The last few miles to the turn around is a muddy bog typically and was even worse with this year's rain. About a mile out Ryan and I crossed paths. In the dark and in the mud I was already chilled and needing to keep moving forward. Ryan appeared to be moving better than I so I assumed that he would catch up. Nope. We would both go on without the other for 49.75 miles. By morning (24hrs in) the sun would come up and start to attempt to dry things out slightly. A quarter mile out from the finish and Ryan caught me! We were both fairly confused and Ryan thought that I had already finished so he went running through the finish line without me finishing 20 seconds in front of me! It was comical, to say the least, and we laughed about it all the way home. Bighorn was complete and I was already thinking about Ouray.
Simon Guerard, yes this Simon, asked for some help with crewing and pacing his Badwater 135 starting on July 4th. I have an interest in this event so I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to get out to Death Valley National Park to help for a few days. Badwater is hot as hell- not even joking. After my long drive, I got out of my truck to see what all the fuss was about with this heat. I've run in heat before up to 120 degrees, why was this an issue? Upon stepping out, it hit me- a HOT wind, like that of a hair drier whoofed past me. I thought it was a joke of some sort. But sadly it wasn't. Just a few short hours before, Simon and the crew took pics at the starting line where the temp was 127 degrees f. Badwater 135 is a unique event and very different from other ultrarunning events. There are no aid stations at all, so your crew can support you multiple times(understatement) on the course. We crewed Simon just about every two miles for the first few hours before switching to about 2.5-3 miles. That's a lot of stopping and going! This left very little time for rest from the crew but we got it done. I paced later in the event for roughly 25 miles. Simon was steady and consistent as usual and was able to finish well within the cut-offs. All in all, it was a great experience to see new places and see what the event is all about. I still have that interest in this event but there are bigger fish to fry. Congrats again Simon!
As I retreated from the HOT Death Valley heat I stopped into UltrAspire HQ. Located in St. George Utah, UltrAspire is one of the leading brands in the running-specific gear market. They create the best packs, lights, handhelds, and waist belts in the industry, in my opinion. It was a privilege and honor to meet the team. Bryce, Jodi, Zach, and Hugo were all on-site the day I stopped in and I was given the full tour. How cool to see it all in action! I have been an Ambassador with the brand for 4 seasons. I can demo some new gear and give feedback on that gear, and how it worked or didn't. It is such a great process to be a part of and one I do not take for granted.
Coach Zoe, who I work together with at Uphill Athlete, asked me to help out with a fundraiser she was kicking off in Leadville. This was a no-brainer and I jumped in to assist. We were able to raise a couple hundred dollars for Lake County Search and Rescue by offering a run/hike up and down the infamous Hope Pass. I made some new friends on that beautiful afternoon in the middle of July. Thanks for the invite, Zoe!
July 21st Ouray 100
This GIANT event made me a bit nervous. I shifted my training from Bighorn and mostly running to hiking giant climbs. Ouray has 14 climbs with very little to no flat sections between them. To put it into perspective, the Hardrock 100 boasts a whopping 36,000 ft of elevation gain while Ouray offers a soul-crushing 42,00 ft of elevation gain. My "A" team of crew/pacers of Mark and Leanne would fall through due to their own event, the Tahoe 200, being moved to the same weekend as Ouray due to extreme snow on the course. Ryan and I were back to solo-ing this one too. Through a mutual friend(Thanks Eszter!) I was connected to Pete and Eva. Pete and Eva were traveling through the area from New Zealand for the month and offered to help us with pacing in the weeks leading up to the race. We only met the day before the event. That's one of the great things about this sport. We will go out of our way to support each other, no questions asked. I think I have done this exact thing for others a handful of times. Spoiler Alert! Pete and Eva become critical for us to finish. Simon Guerard was also there racing and Nora would crew and pace him. The three of us would interact for most of the first half of the race. On the first overnight section returning over Richmond Ridge, Ryan and I would struggle together. It was a challenging night on a high mountain pass after a full day of moving uphill. By first light, we made it to the Weehawken Aid Station at mile 58.8 where we could pick up a pacer. The original plan was to have Pete jump in and go the remaining miles with both Ryan and me. And just like Bigfoot, that plan went by the wayside. Ryan was not moving well and I started to feel a little better as I do when the sun comes up. The modified plan was for Pete to go with Ryan and me solo till later in the event. The hope was that Pete could get Ryan moving and catch up to me. The course has a bunch of these out and backs that allowed me to gauge where Ryan was in relation to my position on the course. At each passing, Ryan was hanging tough and right on my heels. Eva jumped in with me with 25 miles to go. It was a big help. Well into the second night, with just two climbs to go, we didn't see Ryan. He would tap out at mile 85. Eva and I would keep moving and have a huge laugh about one of my hallucinations! I would eventually shuffle across the finish line with my daughters by my side in just under 50 hours.
Aug 19th Leadville 100
This is where it all started in 2010. I just love this town and event. I always try and show up early and stay late. This year would be no exception. I drove up on Thursday to enjoy the Leadville Legacy Foundation dinner at Freight. This is always a great time to celebrate and hear some of the amazing work the Foundation is doing for the community. At the 4 am start on 6th St and Harrison Ave, I was feeling good. After the first 25 miles, I quickly knew that the sub-25-hour goal was not going to happen and I was going to need to dig deep to make cut-offs. Twin Lakes is always fun and I was excited to see family and friends. Mark and Leanne would be here to crew and pace and Katie and the girls were on site for support. Once through outbound, I would just have to tackle Hope Pass, twice, for a total of 6,000 ft gained. At Winfield, the halfway mark, I would have just over an hour on the aggressive cut-offs. Upon my return to Twin Lakes, it would be whittled down to just under an hour. Leanne would jump in and we would move efficiently through the darkness. Later, Mark would swap out Leanne and we would climb the dreaded Powerline Rd. Slowly I would get over it and we would make it to May Queen Aid Station with that hour buffer. With just about a half marathon left and the sun peaking over the horizon we would move around the lake in a run-walk pattern. I would be greeted by my friends and family for the last mile walk to the finish and my well-earned hug from race founders Ken and Merilee. This is my 8th finish at this event and I am already planning the remaining 2 to be awarded a 1,000-mile buckle. This particular weekend usually falls on Mark's birthday. I really appreciate Mark and Leanne taking the time to help me finish these events.
Sept 15th Run Rabbit Run
After completing the first three events in my Slam, I was excited to get to work on the final event in the project. This one would prove to be extremely challenging as I was exhausted from the racing season. I would strongly consider quitting on a few occasions, and as early as 17 miles in. Mark and Leanne would be back to crew/pace (on their anniversary!) and we would be supported by Adam McRoberts. Adam has a Podcast that I have been glued to for a few years now. I reached out a while back as I wanted to hear more episodes about the Nolans 14 route. We connected and have been friends since. Adam helped me out last year at the Moab 240 and with a bunch of experiences in ultra running, he is a great asset to our crew. The weather was perfect during the day and temps got a bit low at night. The team would keep me going when I didn't think I could. It was really special to share the last 6 miles with these three friends. I was pretty banged up at the finish and just wanted to be done. My wife surprised me with a custom tee recounting this unique season of races. What a great moment, just wish I was able to enjoy it a bit more. I was spent.
|These Guys are the Best!
Sept 29th United Endurance Sport Coaching Academy (UESCA) offered its first annual Coaching Conference! I was so excited to join in the fun! Three days of talking about all things running- count me in! The presenters were very informative and I was able to absorb a lot of information. Attendance also allowed me to extend my UESCA Ultrarunning Coaching Certification. Can't wait till the 2nd Annual!!
The Moab 240 was started in 2017 and I have only missed the 2018 event. I have volunteered all but the two years I ran the event in 2020 and 2022. And this year would be no exception. I spent 9 total days in and around Moab helping as a volunteer. For the first 5 days, I was at race HQ as part of the set-up team before heading to Geyser Pass as the Aid Station Captain for the remainder of the event. This was my first experience with HQ and it was eye-opening to see how much work goes into the event behind the scenes. I do love to be out on the course and working the 200-mile aid station was right in my wheelhouse. I still stand by my claim that I get more sleep as a participant than I do as a volunteer. Always nice to share in my community. If all goes to plan I should be toeing the line again in 2024.
The Javelina Jundred (100) is an ultramarathon in Arizona and falls on the Halloween holiday celebration weekend. It is our sports Burning Man. It may have been the most fun I have had in a long time. It helped that I went all out with the costume to boot. The festival vibes were apparent all the way down to the fire twirlers and all-night DJ. I had 4 friends running in the event and a few coached athletes participating as well. Leanne, Mark, and Simon all would run the 100 miles while Simon's better half Nora would run the 100k(62 miles!). The course consists of 20-mile loops so I could hold down camp and take care of my runners as they passed through, as well as act ridiculous in my costume! On Mark's final 20-mile lap I was able to (without my costume!) pace him. It was great to be out on the course sharing in his excitement of a personal best (PB)! Everyone in my camp was successful and that always leaves me with a great feeling.
On November 4th we found ourselves in Steamboat Springs for the Girls on the Run 5k. My third grader participated for the past 6 weeks in this great program for 3-5th graders. They teach basic running but more importantly, they teach individuals of all abilities to recognize their unique strengths, while building a sense of connection. It's a great program that I am happy to support. My wife and I ran the 5k with our daughter. I was not prepared for the interval workout, from her and her friend walking and the sprinting from telephone pole to telephone pole but we got it done and had fun in the process.
The Sapinenti 5k Turkey Trot
My wife works in healthcare at our local hospital. That means some odd hours and some weekends and holidays. She loves her job. This year her holiday to work was Thanksgiving. So, we make due and create a backup plan. The Sapinaro's, Katie's older sisters' family came to stay for a few days and celebrate an early Thanksgiving. But, for our two families, it's not Turkey Day without a Turkey Trot! So, we did that too. I mapped out a 5k out-and-back route on our local bike path without any road crossing or turns. Katie's sister Laura had tee's made and we were set! The Sapinenti 5k, a play on our last names, was a go! We ran this event on Monday and hosted 17 for Turkey Dinner on Tuesday. I did jump into our local turkey trot on Thursday as well and enjoyed three miles with Mark and Leanne.
|Mark and Leanne are the Best!
As you have read (if you even made it this far!) I have been busy. I also have a great network of supportive friends and family that I am so grateful for. I love this running community and want to be a part of it for another 49 years.
What's next? I will be turning 5-0 in 2024. I have some BIG ideas but nothing is set until after our community lottery season comes to an end. I will apply for the HardRock 100, Western States 100, and Leadville 100 lotteries for 2024. Those drawings will set the stage for what will be another remarkable season of running. I am excited for all that is to come!