Monday, July 27, 2015

Guest Post: 2015 USA Mountain Running Championships

The following is a guest post by my high school teammate and former Rocky Mountain adventure companion Nick AuYeung on the 2015 USA Mountain Running Championships this past weekend in Bend, OR. In addition to his running exploits, Nick is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University.  Nick finished 62nd.  Full coverage can be found at

Thanks Drew, I am totally humbled (as expected).  Heck an 11 year old girl ran a faster pace than I did!!!  A 55-59 yr old man actually passed me on the 1st and 2nd lap downhills before I rallied the last lap!  I see a 45 yr old guy Todd Callaghan from Central Mass who was 43rd.  Said hi to a guy named Ted who has a UMass sweatshirt on but he said he'd lived in the bay area for awhile, he thought he'd heard of you though.  

Over the past few years, I am shocked and amazed at how "cool" trail running in general has become.  Its something that only people like you and I used to do.  

And after this race, I am convinced that "mountain running", an elite subset of trail running, is really where the cool kids are.  This USATF race is kinda like the olympic trials but we get to run with them.  At a typical trail race, you don't see Nike guys in matching purple singlets doing form drills in the parking lot, swinging their legs while leaning on their cars, going in and out of the Nike Trailrunning RV, but at this one you do.  These guys are serious athletes...sub 2:15 marathoners, OT qualifiers, collegiate champions, etc etc having fun off-road.  I don't think I've ever run in a more elite field.

I camped the night before right near the course to give myself a chance to sleep at race elevation (Bend is significantly lower) but got in late so didn't get to see the course.  Didn't want to even walk it morning of since I figured it'd tire my legs out.  Didn't wear a watch since all the laps had a slightly different length due to start/finish extension and didn't want to get discouraged.  

The race started at the base of a ski slope.  The first lap you had to run up a volcanic rubble strewn grassy area that was STEEP before getting on something that resembled a rough double track.  That put everyone in oxygen debt.  Before the race guys were doing all these strides, I did enough to get breathing hard, but thought anything else might be counterproductive.  Maybe next time will do more intense warmup.  I sort of thought the race would take a lot longer and be hotter, but it was a freak cold, windy, and cloudy day so endurance wasn't really a factor, but rather the ability to process oxygen and run fast downhill.  Near the top of the course it actually started sprinkling.

Though the grade was easier near the top, there was literally no flat at all.  It was soft dusty stuff.  Licking my lips the first lap in the pack all I tasted was gray volcanic dust.  

Luckily, the downhill was fairly sane...a short, soft, non-technical singletrack section followed by a jeep road.  The only thing that was tough was that it was pretty loose and the last turn it was actually gravel on top of old pavement--took this last turn really easy each time.  Other than that I felt pretty comfortable running fast, but controlled, there was even a 100 m section that was "flat".  I'm sure I lost tons of time on the downs (not a good downhill runner) but not too much on place, so I think I was where I belonged as I would pass some of them on the uphills.

2nd lap everyone settled in and I kind of felt better.  I decided on a the "run all the time but slow" strategy that seemed to be working about the same as the "run faster then walk" strategy.  I think most people around me were walking at least 75% of the time.  I am sure the elites were running most of it, it was doable.  

3rd lap felt best of all but despite "trying harder" I couldn't run any faster...just couldn't seem to process O2 or move my legs faster in the forward direction.  Last 50 m were another volcanic rock strewn grassy stretch.  Strange race...1st uphill I was breathing so hard wondered if I could really continue living on planet earth, nevermind finish, but after a huge downhill on the last lap my heartrate wasn't that high at all upon crossing the line.  I guess that's mountain running.  I actually think I could have run harder had I had the acclimatization, but I just got to a point where I wasn't really hurting but I just wasn't going any faster.  A swim in the Deschutes river left my legs surprisingly pretty good the next day.  

Overall a great atmosphere.  Great burritos afterwards.  There were even a few guys who ran in the 70+ division.  Crazy.  I think the training you suggested was very relevant, so thanks!  

Whether out here or back East, I'd like to do it again and try to improve.  Especially if it is an "up year".  

Where else can you measure yourself against the mountain and America's best?  


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