2015 Fall Training and Franklin Mountain 50K

2015 Fall Training and Franklin Mountain 50K
North Franklin Peak PC: Myke Hermsmeyer

The fall training block was varied and inconsistent but ultimately effective. After I finished up my internship in Columbus, Texas where I ran for the latter half of the summer I headed back to Austin. No sooner did I arrive in Austin, I was back on the road to Big Bend National Park with my friend, college teammate and former Leadville pacer, Tom Wilkin who flew in from Cleveland, Ohio. We hiked to the summit of Emory Peak, and wandered around Santa Elena and Boquillas Canyons before reluctantly ending the trip.

Because my seventh semester was not quite in full swing yet, I had a chance to focus solely on running and was able to get in some quality long runs with Anthony Jacobs and Seth West. I ran my first Goodwater loop, hit the trails at Bull Creek, Slaughter Creek and started grinding out some hill repeats. I was barely settled back into Austin life when I boarded the plane for Seattle to visit Apryle. I was able to put in some fast miles around Discovery Park, Green Lake, the Arboretum and Cougar Mountain trail network. Additionally, I had the opportunity run some isolated trails in northeast Washington and put in some pushes up Wallaby Peak and Bandera Mountain.

It was late September and I really had to get back to school, so I headed back to Austin just in time to take my exit exam and attend the myofascial seminar. I continued ramping up my pace, putting in two-a-days, challenging my legs with hill repeats, and even running some quicker time trials on the track. On October 11th I competed in a 5K in Round Rock and was fortunate enough to nab my first win of the season with a somewhat respectable time of 16:52. The last big week of training came four weeks out from Franklin Mountain 50K, which consisted of an 18.7 miler with Seth, some quick miles at the Ragnar Relays and a tough 25 miles pacing Anthony Jacobs at Cactus Rose.

The last three weeks before the race consisted of less mileage but a much quicker pace in the middle distance runs. I was also more cognizant of my diet and cut my weight to 72 kilos which is the lightest I have been since the midway point of Leadville in 2013 (70.5 kilos when I was dehydrated). Unfortunately, these weeks were also more stressful times for me at school, due to quantity of seminars, assignments, and exams. However, with my comfort running 6:40 pace consistently, running 25+ miles in a day, and lighter weight, I was feeling quite confident going into the race.

Franklin Mountain 50K greatly appealed to me because I knew that November would be one of my last months in Texas. I could not think of a better way to finish out my 2.5 years in the state than with Texas’s first mountain race. Further, looking at the logistics made me want to run it even more, since moving to Texas, exploring parks in the Chihuahuan desert has been one of my favorite past times.

Therefore, exploring and racing a in a new location seemed too good to be true. Additionally, Franklin Mountains are the southern most range of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. The Rocky Mountains will always hold a special place in my heart because of my time working at Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the most interesting aspects of the Franklin Mountains, is the fact that it is the largest urban park (24,247.56 acres) in the nation because it is completely encompassed within El Paso’s city limits!

Kangaroo Range in North Cascades

On November 13th, Seth, Apryle and I departed for El Paso, arriving at Franklin Mountain State Park in the early afternoon. We booked our campsite and attended the prerace meeting and ran/hiked a few trails. Seth had a long string of bad luck in the three weeks preceding the race being ailed by sickness and kayaking injuries, but was determined to race regardless. When we ran up some of the hills we were surprised at how bad we felt and wrestled with the fact that even after only about two hundred meters we were out of breath. We tried to put that behind us and just be ready for the start of the race.

When we woke on November 14th we did not have very far to walk to the start line, which was quite convenient. It was a cold morning, relatively speaking, and I debated what to wear for the race, I settled on my triathlon compression shorts, my race tested gray long sleeve and my ultimate direction vest (with a 2 liter camel back and one boob) as opposed to the handheld water bottle. I was only able to eat a small piece of toast with peanut butter due to my nerves, but was still energized and ready to run.

The race started in the dark, but it was probably light enough to run without the headlamp. I wanted to take off conservative, because in the prerace meeting Rob mentioned that the last six miles were fast and easy. I figured I would just do damage control on the climbs and try not to loose too much time and then make moves on the descents and more rolling terrain. The first 3.8 miles were on the Shaeffer Shuffle trail, which was slow going but offered a beautiful platform to watch the landscape illuminate by the light of the rising sun. I moved from fifth place to second place during the first few miles heading back to the start/finish line and then we headed back out to bag North Franklin Peak.

I relinquished second place before the start of the climb and then after the 10.65-mile aid station, Jeff Ball overtook me and I dropped back to fourth place. At this point I simply hiked up the mountain trying not to hemorrhage too much time to the leaders. I was not sure how my strategy would play out, I knew that Josh Pauley was training in Flagstaff and had some impressive results and I knew that Jeff Ball was a perennial powerhouse always putting in solid performances, and although, I was not aware of who Jacob Phillips was at the time, he looked to be an incredibly strong runner. Therefore, I thought my chances of a win on the day were slim to none.

However, at the bottom of the descent from North Franklin Peak, I caught up to Jeff. I figured that we might work together to reel Josh and Jacob back in, but I could tell that Jeff was not feeling it that day. A few months earlier at the Horseshoe 50K Jeff left me in the dust… or should I say mud, so even though he appeared to be struggling, I did not for a second dismiss the fact that he could easily catch back up to me. At any rate, I pressed on and felt a little fatigued on some of the flats, I stopped and walked for about 100 meters and then fortunately my legs came back I was able to run nearly all of the back 15 of the course.

I arrived at an aid station, and quickly asked what time it was and how far into the course I was. Unfortunately, none of my watches work anymore so I had no concept of pace, distance or time. I have to say it felt freeing running without it, I was running purely on feeling and heart. The man at the aid station said that I was at mile 21, that it was nine o’clock and that the leaders were two minutes ahead. This was quite helpful, but when I caught a glimpse of Josh and Jacob they looked to be further than 2 minutes ahead, but appearances can be deceptive… I pressed on.

In the following six miles I closed the gap to Josh first (about a mile or two from the 21 mile aid station), he appeared to be struggling and employing a run/hike strategy on the uphill sections. Once again, I did not dismiss the fact that he could rally back and catch me later so I kept the pace strong. I also caught a glimpse of Jacob running in a valley while I was still skirting along a small ridgeline. I surmised that he was about a minute ahead of me, meaning that I was closing the gap. Finally, after about 26 miles of pursuit, I assumed the race lead, and was ecstatic but also quite nervous.

Tom & Zach in Santa Elena Canyon

I passed Jacob just prior a series of steep switchbacks leading down to an aid station. I tried my best to run strong and put some distance on him and when I got to the aid station, I did not see him behind me. I was told that I would be running about two miles weaving in and out of a rocky wash and then the last four would be smooth sailing. This was pretty much true and I found myself weaving through a relatively flat upland desert. I looked back way too much, and was more concerned about losing my lead than finishing the race. After what seemed like an eternity in an isolated desert, I heard voices, then saw people running (presumably some of the other distances) and knew that I must be close to the finish. Another runner told me I had less than two miles to go, and I was beginning to feel comfortable that I would win my first ultra this year after three disappointing second places.

The last mile was not easy with a series of ascents, rocky cliff edges, and traffic, but I heard Apryle cheering me on about a half mile away and tried my best to finish out strong. I was overwhelmed with excitement when I began walking up the steps into the finish. With a base elevation over 5000 feet and over 7000 feet of elevation gain throughout the race, this was the challenge I was looking for to cap off my time in Texas. Even the relatively flat sections of the race were technical and rock strewn making the ability to settle into a rhythm near impossible. To cross the finish line first on such on the grand stage in Franklin Mountain State Park against such distinguished competition will remain one of the most memorable moments of my running career.

Thank you to Robert and Rachel Goyen for putting on another amazing event. Not only do you both put on spectacular races but you also encourage exploration of relatively unknown areas. You have a knack for locating hidden gems in this widely diverse state. Thank you to the staff at Franklin Mountain State Park for your hospitality. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers at this event! Thank you to Seth West and for driving nearly all of the way down to El Paso, I can’t wait to watch you kill it in 2016! Thanks to Myke Hermsmeyer for taking some amazing photos of the race! Thanks to Anthony Jacobs for introducing me to the all of the best toughest places to run in the Austin area. Thanks to Jeff Ball and Tracie Akerhielm for always extending me an invite to join in your relay teams this summer/fall! Thanks to Gordy Ainsleigh for all of your advice on 100 mile training; it truly was an honor to converse with the man that started Western States. Thank you to my parents for supporting my running over the last decade! Finally thanks to my beautiful fiancé Apryle for your unrelenting support and always believing in me!


Fall Running Log

MonthDaysMilesTimePaceLong Run
September30 to 588.614:26:579:4728
September6 to 12648:05:297:3512
September13 to 1962.2811:58:3611:3212.58
September20 to 2655.89:17:519:5913.2
September27 to 366.058:26:017:3913.26
October4 to 1090.9911:52:037:4926
October11 to 1773.678:41:167:0413
October18 to 2494.5111:49:047:3025
October25 to 3168.99:06:257:5525
November1 to 767.578:58:017:5712.8
November8 to 1487.4312:10:498:2132.5


Running & Racing Statistics from the Fall

October 11th: Country Run 5K; A cross-country style race in Round Rock. 1stoverall in a time of 16:52.4

October 23rd: Ragnar Relay Results: 1st Overall in 16:03:29 (120 miles). Some amazing performances from my fellow teammates: Apryle Craig, Calum Neff, Jeff Ball, Tracie Akerhielm, Daniel Bucci, and Venus Turner. I ran a 5-mile leg: 31:52 and two 7.70 mile legs: (52:08 and 56:18). The conditions were less than ideal with torrential down pour ensuing as the sun went down.

October 24th: Had the opportunity to pace Anthony Jacobs the final 25 miles of his Cactus Rose 100 mile race. Anthony ran an impressive first 100, capturing second place in a time of: 21:20:50.

November 14th: Franklin Mountain 50K; 1st overall in 4:57:45.

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