Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Western States Race Recap: DNF & Winning

Team Pocket Food?! Photo Credit: Eric Walley

As it should be, this is a tough race to recap. Two weeks have passed and I still feel the sting of my DNF and my stomach knots up a bit when I see Western States Endurance Run (WSER) race photos and reports from other runners.

That said, I am focusing more on the feelings and not as much on the facts.

Hanging with my sighted guide Sablle at the Clif tent the day before the race. PC" eric Walley. 

The fact is that I ended up not making the time cut-off at the mile 15.5 aid station. I put in the training and am arguably as fit as I have ever been so this is a frustrating result. But this is what makes ultrarunning so great-there are so many elements that factor into a race and your overall success.

The fact is that the snow in the high country destroyed me. The snow was not like the 7-mile snow section we ran during training camp in which the snow was ankle deep and runnable even when it became tracked. The snow along the high country and ridge sections was packed, slick, pock-marked from the 350 plus runners who ran it before me, and incredibly difficult to navigate. 

When I wasn’t falling, I was slip-sliding all-around. My sighted guide Steve did an amazing job with what he had to work with. He was describing the surface, snow bridges, how far down the snow went before it was dirt. And trying to keep an eye on the pink flag course markings! I actually hung onto him a few times which was a first for me.

I fell anywhere between a dozen and 20 times. I briefly knocked the wind out of myself and one time I twisted while falling backwards and my face and front teeth got very acquainted with a rock. But I promised myself I would get up after every fall and that I did. Sometimes a bit more slowly especially the one or two times I slid into a deep tree well that required me to claw my way out of.

Although I do have some usable vision, I cannot detect any contrast in the snow. Therefore, I could not see how high to step or which way the narrow running “lane” was slanted seeing that most of the ridge was off-camber.

Lets back up a bit. As mentioned, I went into the race fit, mentally prepared to grind it out and push harder than ever, had an all-star crew, and got a good night’s sleep the night before the race.
We arrived at Squaw Village around 4:30AM and quickly picked up our bibs and headed inside to keep warm. The temperature was about 39. Jill, Lucy and a few other crew members were there to keep Steve and I company. 

At about 4:50AM we walked outside to the start line. This is when it became real. We were minutes away from starting the most historic, prestigious, and arguably competitive 100-mile race in the U.S.
We counted down from 10, I got all the feels, and we were off at the shot-gun blast. The start line atmosphere equaled that of my first Boston Marathon. The crowds were deep and LOUD! 

The first 3.5 miles were a climb up the ski slope starting at 6,000 feet and taking us to about 8,500. It was a decent climb and my goal was to work hard, stay focused, not look at my pace, yet remain relaxed.

A ton of spectators climbed up the slope including members of my crew so it was so awesome to hear everyone cheering Steve and I on. Somewhere around mile 2 we moved off the dirt path and onto the ski slope which had groomed snow. We continued to move efficiently because although we were climbing the trail was level. We even slowly ran in a few spots that were flat.

Steve and I cresting the final climb to the top of the Escarpment. PC: Eric Walley

We hit a ridiculous step section that I knew was coming. But when we crested that I had no idea we were at the top of the Escarpment. The party-like atmosphere was surreal. There was music and a ton of cheers. My brother Jayson kindly hiked up at 3:30AM so it was awesome to see him-thanks bro. Eric Schranz was also up there with his horn thing. I told myself to stay focused and keep moving so apologies for not chatting.

We began a short descent and about a half mile in the single-track became pretty rocky. Steve and I pulled over to let a long line of runners pass. This is always a tough emotional moment for me because I hate having people pass me because of the terrain. But I knew this would happen and my spirits remained high. 

Early miles in the high-country. 

Shortly after this section the snow began. Around mile five I looked at my watch for the first time and I pulled a 30-miute mile because of the snow. Keep moving and grinding-you got this. Then another two miles in the mid-20s.
I was in trouble. Keep moving.
At mile 8, right after I took a fall and slid into a deep tree well, I saw two runners with orange vests on. This could not be good. The course sweepers caught up to me so I knew I was going to have a short day.

We ran into Lyons Ridge Aid Station and they do not have a cut-off. Volunteers asked if I was continuing (heck yes!) so on we went. I had about an hour to run 5-6 miles so I knew it was nearly impossible to make the cut-off. We hiked the uphills, ran the flats and the non-technical downhills, and continued to get crushed on the never-ending snow. A few times I slid down on my butt (you think baseball sliding raspberries are rough, try sliding on snow wearing running shorts!).

We came on one steep, off-camber snowy downhill and both Steve and the sweeper advised against sliding down it. So we hiked up to dry ground and did dome bush-whacking.
We arrived at Red Star AS between 11:10AM and 11:20AM and the cut-off was 10:30AM. The very kind volunteers had set aside some food and coke for our hour plus ride to meet my crew.

Then a volunteer cut off my race bracelet.

The Feelings

We got dropped off at the Forest Hill aid station which is the most active stop on the course because crew and the public are there. While walking up the street I saw Lucy coming toward me. I couldn’t even pretend to be stoic and we embraced while crying. I will never forget her support and words of encouragement. As a Dad, I am supposed to be her rock, so I am grateful that the script was flipped.

I was embarrassed and stopped to take of my race bib. Maybe not having a bib on would hide the fact that I had already DNFd? (PS its kind of hard to be anonymous while using my white cane!).

My crew notes said that if I ended up dropping, I was committed to sticking around and cheering. But this was tough and hard to endure. I held off on drinking a beer for an hour or so because I wanted to deal with this with a clear head. On numerous occasions I heard folks come up to my crew and ask them how their runner was doing. I heard my crew get quiet and tell them I DNFd. But I had to stand out there and be a part of this wonderful community. 

endless gratitude for this crew's support and friendship. 

We saw the top 15 or so runners come through then drove to the finish line. We cheered the top men and then we all needed food.

Jill and I were back at the finish line track around 6AM Sunday and hanging out with my guide Amy and Eric S. I was very happy that both Amy and my pacer Krissy were able to jump in and pace their friends.

I was also thrilled to see my friend Danielle T finish strong. And fellow Topo Ambassador Joseph Chick, after being in the lottery for seven years, get it done. And Oliver T, who l did a few training runs with in Boston, cross the line after also being in the lottery for seven years!!! And being on the track for the Golden Hour (29-30) and seeing the raw emotion of the finishers was well worth it. And to stand with most of my crew, including Lucy, and see two runners finish at the end (one with 22 seconds to spare) was mind-blowing. I’ve never experienced so much energy and excitement at a finish line.

But the feelings are still raw. I had the opportunity to head to San Francisco after the race and spoke at Transports running store (thank you Sarah D.) in Oakland and Clif HQ. This was tough but it helped me process the events. We also got some family time in and hit up a local mini-golf course (I won!) and Six Flags (my stomach was hurting so I DNF after six rides! J


I am incredibly thankful to Clif for the tremendous amount of support as well as Craig Thornley, the WSER race director and the entire race committee. Together, they helped to raise so much awareness about athletes who are blind/visually impaired.

But I felt the pressure leading up to the race. I appreciate and certainly embrace the opportunity to raise awareness but at the same time I sometimes wish I could be just another runner. And DNFing with this level of attention is brutal although I know it happens to so many folks.
I also feel that I disappointed my community and peers. Although I know no one thinks this it still upsets me.

Although never an excuse, I am upset that my lack of vision was the determining factor. Who knows if I would have ultimately finished without the snow? But I wanted my fitness, mental toughness to push through the elements, to determine my outcome. And not my eyes. I also know that there is more I can do around my training. I need to continue to improve my balance and ankle strength and work on my climbing.

I am 200% certain that a runner who is blind/visually impaired can finish Western States. If that is not me, then I want to be there when one of my very capable peers crosses that line. Who’s up for this?
Trail and ultra running is a wonderful sport centered within a beautiful community. It brings me so much joy just to be a part of the tribe. I am incredibly thankful for the support and well wishes both pre and post-race. Collectively, we opened eyes (pun intended): more runners signed up to be sighted guides, and others will continue to push boundaries.

I did not sign up for Western States to be the first person who started it. What motivates me is challenging myself to take on big adventures and leveraging this opportunity to raise awareness. As  I reflect back on the young people who are visually impaired who got into trail running within the past year and came to visit me during Wester States training camp. I am starting to understand and be a bit more comfortable knowing that for them seeing someone do what I do (what we all love to do) has an impact on their lives.

Like life, ultra running is filled with ups and downs. So this experience is a reminder to always keep things in perspective, learn, and keep moving forward.

While in decent spirits, I told Steve that I was not having fun. Tripping, falling, rolling my ankles was just not fun. I run because I enjoy actually running while recognizing that there will always be walking/hiking. But I miss being able to open-up my stride, hammer a trail when I want to and not when the terrain dictates it. So I am going to spend some time thinking about this. I love the challenge of a course like Wester States but I want it to be challenging AND fun.

A big thanks to Jill and Lucy for putting up with me over the past seven or so months. From long weekend training runs, to obsessing about the logistics and plan, to taking time off work to come out and crew. Thank you.

Team Pocket Food?!-you all inspire me (please know how infrequently I use that word) not only to run, but to be a good human and to give back to our community. Thanks for being you and most importantly your friendship.

Clif (& Brooke): dang, I had no idea how all of this was going to pan out and you absolutely exceeded my expectations. From the sponsor bib, to supporting my crew to ensure I had the best team possible, to the marketing and social media to raise the bar about runners who are blind/VI. You reminded me how companies can not only make money but have outstanding values. Thanks for a great ride.

Topo Athletic: thanks for not only putting outstanding shoes on my feet (I ran in the all-new, incredibly amazing Mountain Racers) but for all of the little ways that you support me and our Tribe. I know more brands are following your lead in engaging athletes of all abilities.

Nathan Sports & Squirrel Nut Butter: a special thanks for making sure I had the right gear. I very much appreciate your support. And a special thanks to the Foreseeable Future Foundation for their support and the work they do to support individuals who are blind/visually impaired.

Finally, if you are interested in being a sighted guide or are looking for a guide. Check out United in Stride.

Beer: our crew hit up Knee Deep Brewing and Moonraker on Sunday. Both brew delicious beer and it was nice to see other WSER runner at Moonraker.

I hope to see you all on the trails and roads. Happy running.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Team Pocket Food (?!) Here we come Squaw

Kyle running Transrockies with Steve & Victoria

Yup. It is almost go time for Western States Endurance Race 100-miler. Folks call this race everything from the “Granddaddy of 100s”, “the most iconic and historic hundred”, the “the Super Bowl of 100s.” I call it an amazing opportunity to get out on some gorgeous mountains and by far the most challenging course I’ve run. And I am ready for said challenge.

I’ve put in significantly more miles than I did when training for my other 100s including Vermont, I’ve focused on quantity more than quality, and put up some big weeks along with taking the needed rest to recover. A huge thanks to my wife and daughter Lucy for supporting ALL of my training and time away from the house.

I am thrilled to be running with a sponsor bib provided by Clif and incredibly thankful for their support. They are putting me in a tremendous position to succeed and allowing me to roll into Squaw with the absolute best team I could assemble. A quick note to say thanks to everyone who reached out offering to guide, crew, pace-your offer and support will be at the front of my mind come race day. I would also like to thank my peers in the running community who have cheered near and far since I secured a bib.

Now back to that crew. Check out their below mini-bios and you will quickly see how we have an all-star team. In my best Perry Farrell voice, “here we go…”

Sighted Guides (in order of their guiding)

Steve Fredericks is an accomplished thru-hiker and outdoor enthusiast. He has dedicated his professional career to working with non-profit and outdoor organizations. Steve guided Kyle every day of the Transrockies 6-day, 120 mile run.

LR: Krissy, my blazing fast friend Matt, & Scott before CIM

Scott Jurek has won a few races and written a few books! Running and author accomplishments aside (look them up), Scott has been an incredibly supporter of the blind/visually impaired community. He has guided numerous times at the Boston Marathon and California International Marathon as well as trail runs. He is a true ally and obviously knows the Western States course pretty darn well.  

Sablle & Kyle at Western States training camp

Sablle Scheppmann grew up outside and has carried that passion into her professional life working for Fleet Feet, Nathan, and currently as the National Sales Manager for Mountain Hardwear. She is an avid trail runner and outdoor enthusiast who has also completed the TransRockies 6-day Run. She has guided Kyle during the 2017 and 2018 California International Marathon as well as the Western States training camp.

Chris and Kyle during the Trail Animals Running Club Spring Classic

Chris Knighton comes to trail and ultra running after completing both the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. His race resume includes winning the TARC Spring Classic Trail Half Marathon and competing at the USATF Mountain Running Championships - both in 2018. While he loves the simplicity of running in the woods, he is also an accomplished road runner having qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2020. Hailing from Boston, Chris has guided Kyle for several years and crewed for him at the Vermont 100 in 2017.

Amy Rusiecki is an elite ultra runner, coach, and race director including the 7 Sisters Trail Race and Vermont 100 Endurance Run. Amy led the process to create the first ever ultra trail Athletes with Disabilities Division for the 2017 Vermont 100 and has become a strong advocate for and supporter of Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. She has guided Kyle during numerous races including his first two 100-milers and acts as his informal coach and mentor. Amy has agreed to create a Facebook account if Kyle wins Western States and upgrade from a flip phone if he sets a course record!  

Amy & Kyle during Vermont 100

Crew & Pacers
Dave Daley lives in LA and is an accomplished road and ultra runner. Although he and Kyle have never met, they did attend the same college and share a passion for supporting and empowering individuals with disabilities. Dave has crewed and paced top-10 WSER finisher Sally McCrea during three of her WSER races. He will crew and pace Kyle at WSER.

Jayson & Kyle during CIM 2017 PC: Sablle

Jayson: Kyle’s big brother will be in Squaw supporting the crew and helping with transportation in his newly retrofitted van. He will also likely be the first person to crack a beer (although Steve may beat him to it). Jayson and Kyle crew up sharing a love of sports and frequently played on the same baseball teams (Jayson was a great pitcher, Kyle is a natural lefty with a sweet Will Clark like swing).

Jill Kimmel wife, chief supporter and motivator. Has crewed and pushed Kyle at all his ultras including his three 100-milers. After yelling at him to get up and stop worrying about running into tress, Jill no longer guides Kyle during trail runs (we also no longer use double kayaks!) but will crew and keep him moving forward at WSER.

Krissy Moehl is one of the most accomplished and recognizable ultra runners in the world. She has over 100 ultra finishes and a growing list of victories including Hardrock 100 and UTMB. She is a writer, author, coach and for the past 17 years has been the race director of Chuckanut 50k. Krissy also has three top-10 WSER finishes including 2nd in 2009. Krissy guided Kyle during the 2018 California International Marathon and will be part of his crew and also pace him.

Lucy Kimmel Robidoux is an experienced crew member who has crewed Kyle during most of his ultras and all three of his 100-milers. She specializes in getting him pickles (while not eating all of them!) , ice bandanas, and anything with chocolate on it. She is a triathlete, gymnast, and soccer player who recently finished her first 10k trail run. She is also the first person to pop into Kyle’s head when he needs to keep pushing.

Victoria Fredericks is an avid snowboarder and hiker. She spends time exploring the local trails of the San Francisco Bay Area and hiking and camping throughout CA. She ran the entire Transrockies Run and guided Kyle throughout it.

Pretty dynamic team, right! These type of races are a team effort and I am honored and very grateful that each team member is taking time away from work, their family, and other commitments to help support me.

A special thanks to Clif, Topo Athletic, Nathan Sports, Foreseeable Future Foundation, and Squirrel Nut Butter for supporting this adventure and making sure I have the best gear and fuel possible to get me to the Placer High track. 

Let’s get after it! See y’all in Squaw.

Kimmadoux post Play
Works 5k

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beer Runners Guide to Boston Marathon Weekend

Boston is both a world class running and craft beer city. We have countless running companies, clubs, adaptive groups, and of course breweries, taprooms, and bars that specialize in local beer. In fact, there are too many options to list in one post and visit in one long-weekend (unless you decide to skip the whole marathon thing which I do not recommend).

These options are based on proximity, quality, and a bit of history.

If you are arriving early enough, say Thursday, here is a fun Thursday evening brewery tour to hit up.

Disclaimer, I am too tired from training to list addresses and websites, but I know beer runners are a resourceful group and know how to engage Siri and the World Wide Web.

Night Shift Brewing
One of the larger local breweries with an expansive mix of styles. You can check out their “flagship” location in Everett or their brand spanking new taproom and restaurant in downtown Boston on Lovejoy Wharf.

Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing Company)
If you take the Orange Line to Night Shift hop off a stop or two early at Assembly Row and visit American Fresh Taproom, which is owned by Slumbrew. It is steps from the T entrance and they always have a fresh mix of IPAs, dark beers, and some funk. They also have the Hoppy Soles running group!

Idle Hands Craft Ales
Also minutes from the Orange Line (Malden Center stop) is Idle Hands. Their taproom is incredibly no-frills (in the best kind of way) and they have taken on the working-class persona of Malden. They specialize in lagers and Belgian beers but also make some killer IPAs (Four & Six Seam are both fantastic).

If you are a true endurance beer runner, your final stop should be Mystic Brewing in Chelsea. I gravitate toward Belgian and Farmhouse ales so Mystic is my go-to. But over the past couple of years they have begun making hoppy stuff and their brewing chops are on full display (their brewers are legit mad scientists & manipulate yeast and other chemistry fancy stuff). Not many public transit options for Mystic but a somewhat close Uber/Lyft from Night Shift and downtown Boston.

Closer to the Finish Line

If staying in downtown Boston, check out Democracy Brewing smack in the middle of Downtown Crossing. They have a huge space to accommodate large groups, solid food, and a pale ale named after that infamous Boston Marathon hill (no, not the hill under the Mass Ave bridge at mile 25).

Across the street from Democracy is one of my favorite beer bars, Stoddards Fine Ales. They have a tremendously strong local, national, and international list and very fancy cocktails for your non-beer drinking friends. Their poutine may be the best post-long run dish in town.

If staying “across the rivah” in Cambridge I highly recommend two stalwarts. Cambridge Brewing Company is one of the oldest breweries in the area and one of the most under-rated. They consistently put our well-crafted beers and are creative enough to crush the experimental/funk game, too. And their food is also outstanding.

Roughly a 10-minute walk/shake out run from CBC is Lamplighter Brewing. They have quickly become one of the top breweries in the area but are very humble and just go about their business. I honestly haven’t had a bad beer from them.

If you are staying just outside of downtown, I recommend a visit to Backlash Brewing in Roxbury. They have been around for a minute but recently opened their own taproom. They have a few IPAs, lagers, and usually a barrel-aged stout on draft. And for bonus miles they are a short walk to Bully Boy Distillers.

Some Quick (Tempo) Suggestions

If staying in the Back Bay, check out The Salty Pig and Bukowski’s for stellar tap lines. Salty has 8-10 lines and Bukowski’s has a ridiculous extensive list (note Buks is not kid-friendly and your shoes may stick to the floor).

Posting up in Kenmore, check out Lower Depths on Comm Ave. One of the better local draft lists and their tater-tos are can’t miss (cash-only but ATM in the lobby).

If in Brookline along the marathon course, the Publik House in Washington Square is arguably one of the top three or four craft beer bars in the area. Especially if you dig saisons. Don’t be shy about getting an order of the mac n’ cheese.

Post-Race Shower Beer (seriously you earned it) or To-Go

The Urban Grape is on Columbus Ave very very close to the finish line. A ton of local beers, international standouts, and as the name implies a crap ton (that’s way more than a ton) of wine.

If staying or cheering (right at mile 24.5) in Brookline check out Wine Press Brookline (they also have a new Fenway location that I haven’t been to) with an array or cans, bottles and other treats. Both Wine Press and Urban Grape are owned by couples who do a ton to support the local community.

Well, I hope you are significantly thirsty and ready to explore the local offerings. Happy running and drinking!

Disclaimer #2-I am too lazy to dig up any beer pics so imagine the perfectly poured farmhouse ale, in proper glassware, with a 1-inch fluffy white head. Or a crisp and vibrant lager poured into a consident looking litre mug. 

This Monday Kyle will complete his sixth consecutive Boston Marathon. He has also run three 100-mile races and the grueling Transrockies 120-mile Stage Race. Kyle lives in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston and spends as much time running as he does exploring and supporting the local beer scene. For speaking engagements and more info marathon shuffle on over to www.kylerobidoux.com

Friday, February 1, 2019

Mid-Packer's Boston Marathon Tips

This April 2019 will be my sixth consecutive year running the Boston Marathon. Every year has been different, and I have taken away new lessons during each run. Some years I ran it hard aiming for a PR. One year I ran the “Boston Double” in which I started at the finish line at 5:00AM, ran the course in reverse, then lined back up for the return trip. And it goes without saying that last year’s monsoon-like weather made for an interesting jaunt into Boston. I am a mid-packer at best who unsuccessfully tries not to let my Garmin control my run both physical and emotional.

Here are some training and race-day lessons that I have learned over the past five plus years.

10)  Train Like Race Day
Running Boston for most of us means starting at a time much later than we begin our weekend long runs. This means starting the marathon mid-morning and running through lunch. Therefore, this requires you to really dial-in your race day fueling including pre-race meal(s) and race fuel. Try to run at least one long training run with a start time as close to your race day start as possible. And try to get up around the same time you will have to wake up on race day to catch the bus to Hopkinton. Food intake, especially pre-race, differs for everyone so it is incredibly important for you to figure out what works (and doesn’t work) best for you. Happy fueling!

9)  Get to the Starting Line
I am not a coach or physical therapist, but I have trained for enough races (everything from 5ks to 100-milers) to know the importance of remaining healthy. Listen to your body (and coach if you have one) when you are feeling tired or when niggles start to linger for more than a few days. Scaling back your mileage and intensity of workouts is never ideal. But getting to Hopkinton healthy albeit a bit undertrained is better than getting there injured with a high probability of doing more damage during the race. Or not being able to finish it.

8) Let the Race Come to You
The start of Boston is a mess for pretty much every non-elite runner. Runners are packed shoulder-to-shoulder and the first mile is usually strewn with discarded clothes. People always say that the first mile is downhill so do not go out too hard. Which is very true. The flipside of that is going out slow because of the crowds. Do not worry about this. The race and your goal pace (if you have one) will come back to you as things begin to open up. You can always make up time but not energy). Be patient and enjoy the first few miles.

7) Sneaky Little Hill
Rightfully so, there is a tremendous amount of attention put on the Newton Hills with a focus on Heartbreak Hill. But for me, every year the hill as you come out of Wellesley around mile 14 or 15 is the toughest hill. It is an overpass over 95, completely exposed and very little crowd support. And the wind is usually wiping from both sides. Enjoy your first significant climb as the fun meter is about to increase.

6) Feeling Like a Rock Star
Making the big sweeping turn off Rt 135/16 onto Commonwealth Ave makes you feel like a rock star and is the signal that things are about to get real. The crowds deepen, the noise is elevated (thank you firefighters and spectators) and the climbing fun begins. Hit a mental pause here and soak it all in. Then get to work.

5) Even Effort
Yes, there are hills but trust your training in getting up them. Focus on even effort and not even pace. If you have pace goals be sure to factor in a slight slowdown as you climb the but you will get it back on the downhills. There is still plenty of race to go so don’t completely trash your quads on the downhills, yet.

4) Pick a Side & Stick With It
I’ve found that there are so many strategies to climb the hills. Some folks walk the entire hill, some run/walk, and some downshift to a lower gear and power up them. This can make it challenging to keep a consistent pace without spending a ton of energy weaving around to pass runners. You cannot afford to waste this type of energy so late in the race. I’ve found that most runners who walk stick to the middle of the road leaving solid running lanes on both outside edges. Pick a lane, stick with it, and CRUSH those hills.  And don’t be afraid to throw out some random hi-fives.

3) Hold Back for a Bit Longer
Getting through the hills and getting to Boston College can make you feel like Superwoman. The Newton Hill are behind you so if you are feeling good you may be inclined to drop the hammer. Not so fast as you still have a solid 5-6 miles to go. Keep focused and disciplined as you make the big right then left onto Beacon Street. Mentally prepare for the road to narrow and crowds, both runners and spectators, to pick up. This is the perfect time to breathe and take stock for your final push.

2) I see you Iconic Sign
As you work your way down Beacon Street through Brookline you will be able to spot the iconic Citgo Sign. Yup, you are getting closer to Boston. Take the sign in, take a mental picture, but do not stare at the sign. It will take FOREEVER for it to get close to you.

1b) One More to go
Beware, the hill on Beacon Street that goes over the turnpike is a little bugger. This late in the race it will likely suck. But lean into and embrace it because you have stomped on bigger hills during training. Think about all the training runs you completed. The early mornings, not going out the night before because you had to get up early for your long run. The feeling of joy and depletion post-long run. This process is about to reward you big time.

1A) Time to Relax
SMILE! No matter how you feel or how hard you are working, be present during the last mile. This is it, no more miles to worry about. Take a few minutes to look around-throw a wave to the fans on the Mass Ave as you run under the bridge, make eye contact with a spectator or two as you turn onto Hereford, check out who is running next to you. Race photos help relive this special achievement, but nothing will feel better than making your way down Boylston (the finish line banner can seem like a mirage so do not stare at it until you are super close). Regardless of how you are feeling, be present and in the moment because you are about to finish the Boston Marathon!!!

Post-Script: if you partake in beer, set aside a special, preferably strong, beer for the day after the race. Enjoy that beer in one hand while holding your finisher’s medal in the other. Think not only of the race, but the immense amount of work you put into your training, the friendships you made, and the people who supported your training. Cheer and congrats!

Kyle is an avid ultra runner and skier. He lives in Boston and is a Brand Ambassador with Topo Athletic and Nathan Sports and is running the 2019 Western States Endurance Run 100-miler with the support of Clif Bar. He is also a public speaker so check out his website for more info www.kylerobidoux.com

Thursday, January 24, 2019

New Website, Public Speaking & Western States Endurance Run

Exciting news! I am going to dip my toes into the fun world of public speaking and have designed a website to help with marketing. Head on over to the new site, pole around a bit, and let me know what you think. My goal id to focus on corporate speaking events and team building initiatives, conference keynotes and panels, and schools (public schools are free). Please let me know if you have any leads or can help with introductions to companies/people.

Even more exciting news-I am running this year's Western States Endurance Run 100-miler!!! Thanks to the generosity of Clif, I am using their sponsor bib for entry. My WSER training officially kicked off last week so I am scaling out my miles, building as solid base, and focusing on getting in as much sustained climbing as possible. I am also committed to getting in core work at least three days a week which will be huge for me. Stay tuned for some periodic updates on my training.

See y'all soon on the streets or trails.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ready or Not: My CIM race report

Another race, another dynamite team of sighted guides, including two forst-timers!

The California Internal Marathon (CIM) is more than just a marathon for runners who are blind/visually impaired (B/VI) and our community. It doubles as the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Blind National Marathon Championships which brings together a huge contingent of runners who are B/VI and our guides. It is pretty much a social party for three days straight.

This was my third CIM and first since 2014 so I was very excited to see old friends and meet new ones. However, the last time I ran a hard effort marathon was Houston in January and once I crossed the finish line I started vomiting, was placed in a wheelchair, then dumped into an ice bath because my core temperature was 105 degrees. So I was nervous going into the race.

I signed up for CIM in the spring knowing that it would be at the end of a big year (more on this next post). I completed the Ghost Train 100 miler in late October so I had no idea how CIM would play out. I took a week of after Ghost Train and slowly got back into running at pace and for extended miles. I ran a decent 14 miler and a crowded half marathon which when able to I comfortably ran 8:30 min miles. But my body and legs were tired and a bit worn out.

I simply decided to run for as hard and as long as I could. I set three goals knowing that I was in good overall shape and had decent leg speed. A/Stretch: 3:32 B: sub 3:40 C: PB under 3:48:51.

After a weekend full of amazing activities/dinners networking, I was ready to race come Sunday morning. CIM is a 7:00AM start and point-to-point so at 5AM we hoped a bus to Folsom. Thanks to the incredibly supportive Sacramento Running Association, we had a heated tent with porta-potties and food (they also provide prize money making CIM the only marathon in the country that offers prize money for the Visually Impaired Division-thank you).

My brother Jayson, who previously guided me at Boston and CIM 2014, kindly flew in from Oregon to guide me during the first half. We picked up Sablle, who works with Nathan Sports and lives in San Fran, a few weeks before the race when the runner she was supposed to guide got injured. CIM is a crowded field so it was nice to have two guides at the start.

We lined up toward the back of the 3:37 pace group instead of taking the early start. My hope was that this would take away some of my pacing anxiety. The plan was to run around 8:20 for the first 20 miles then drop the pace if I had anything left.

CIM starts downhill so the crowds keep you in check a bit. We lost the pace group at the start but caught up around mile one or two. Jayson did a masterful job guiding me through the crowds and Sablle helped to create space as we approached and passed other runners. I was lucky to have such a dynamo guiding team.

Jayson and me around mile 3 or 4. PC: Sablle
The first half of CIM is super fun with small rolling hills. Nothing too difficult to climb then free speed on the way down. I commented to Sablle at one point that I should take it easy on the downhills because I haven’t run a hard road effort or for that matter any hills since Vermont 100 in July.
We clicked through the 10k in 50:31 8:08 pace. Whoa, this was pretty hot (time wise, not temps) but we were right toward the back of the 3:37 pace group. My legs and breathing felt good so I decided to push and see where I ended up.

Sablle guided me to the halfway point and did an incredibly solid job. She described what we were passing while keeping me away from other runners and over the numerous manhole covers (both she and Eric commented on how they never noticed all the manhole covers on roads-welcome to guiding!).

Eric (check out those knitted shorts), Sablle and I at mile 13 transition. PC: Sablle selfie
We rolled into the halfway transition with a good head of steam and on 8:11 pace (1:47 overall).
I felt OK but was nervous about the upcoming miles. Eric was my guide and this was his first time guiding in a race. I met Eric when he had me on his Ultra Runner Podcast show to chat about my Vermont 100. Knowing his lives in Sacramento I invited him to guide me and he kindly said yes. He did one 20-mile training run with my buddy Richard Hunter so I knew he was ready to go.

We slowed a bit to make sure I was taking in some Gu gels and water and I could feel the negative thoughts just waiting in the background ready to pounce. Somewhere around mile 15 or 16 I heard a runner loudly vomiting on the side which kind of reminded me of being in an ultra. Eric was doing a great job keeping me off the pesky bumps (he calls them “turtles”) in the middle of the road and right on the back of the pace group.

I was starting to work harder than I wanted to and around mile 18 or 19 I realized that the last 10k was going to be in survival and not pursuit mode.

We crossed the 20-mile mark in 2:44 and miraculously still at 8:13 min pace. Then I hit that good damn wall. I probably set myself up by telling myself pre-race that it had been a while since I ran a hard 20-26.2 effort. I saw the pace group slip away and my energy was depleted. I wanted to walk but thankfully was too embarrassed to walk in front of Eric. I started to do the math and knew if I averaged 10 min miles for the last 10k I would still PR.

Loved meeting my Topo Athletic teammate Wheeler before the race.

Eric knew I was working hard and was incredibly encouraging. We crossed a big bridge around mile 22 (ish) and Eric commented that it is all flat or downhill from there. I came upon my Topo Athletic teammate Wheeler, who I met pre-race, and he was also working hard. Not a coincidence that he is also a (very accomplished) ultra trail runner and therefore working hard on the roads. I got Wheler running with us then after about a mile or two he dropped and ran hard to the finish. Congrats man.

I was walking through the water stops instead of running slowly and just wanted to keep walking. I used every mental trick I knew. I touched the bracelet my daughter made me and I knew I wanted to finish strong for her. I told myself that I would regret walking and I could walk all I want when I finished. At mile 22 I visualized my go-to 4-mile training run. Then 3 miles-just to Jackson Square T Station and back. I muttered aloud a few “Lets go Robidoux.” 

Around mile 24 Eric told me we were passing more runners than were passing us which was a HUGE mental boost. I couldn’t see my watch so I had no idea how close we were to my B goal. I shuffled through mile 25 at 8:57 pace then dug deep for the final mile. It was super flat through downtown Sacramento and I knew at some point we would take a sharp left to the finish line. C’mon, where is that damn left?!

 At some point Jayson and Sablle joined me which was just the final boost we needed.
Eric guided me toward the men’s finish chute and the clock read 3:40 something and my watch read 3:39:52. I had no idea how far back we started to get my net time. About 20 minutes later we found out…

3:39: 23-a nice and shiny 8+ minutes PB for me!!! Quick takeaways:

·         Road races HURT! Around mile 20 or 21 my right quad was burning on fire and shot. Thankfully it held up.
·         Running with the pace group was fun especially when you could feel the entire group moving quickly forward as one. That said, I didn’t get a chance to meet/chat with anyone in that group. I think I was working too hard to carry sustained conversation (indicator that I was running way too hard).
·         All three of my guides did a fantastic job. The beginning is always tough, there are a lot of turns and spotty road patches, and even toward the end it is challenging managing folks who stop suddenly or are walking. I felt safe and confident out there the entire time which provided the confidence to run hard even on tired legs.
·         The crowd support is super strong especially for a point-to-point. Thanks to all of the folks cheering as well as the amazing course volunteers. Thanks to the USABA and Delta Gamma crew at the halfway point and to Eric’s wife and family who we saw a few times. Huge energy boosts having you all out there.
·         Congrats to everyone who toed the line and finished the race.
·         From start to finish that was probably the best running weather for any marathon I’ve run. Low 40s to start and low 50s (I think) to finish.
·         Wow, I have never hit the infamous 20 mile wall like I did at CIM. My mile 19 split was 8:13 then 20 was low 8:50s. I managed one 8:37 around mile 23 but everything else was 8:50 something. Hard not to think about my time if I had simply run 20 seconds faster per mile. That said, I am incredibly content and proud of my time. Especially considering all of the miles logged this year.

FINISHED! What a team. 

Post-Race Beeer: Eric is a huge beer geek (I promise that did not factor into me asking him to guide!) and his wife had Moonraker cans for us at the finish line. Possibly the best finish line beer (much better than shower beers) I’ve had. Thank you.

See you all in the streets or on the trails.


GEAR: Topo Athletic Ultrafly (my brother ran in the same!)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ghost Train 100 miler 2017: What a Journey

Crew & pacers! Missing Chris & Amy. PC: Josh Katzman

“The journey is more important than the destination.”

I heard this quote a few days before Ghost Train Rail Trail 100 in an Usain Bolt documentary and it was bouncing around my head come race day.

I decided to run Ghost Train back in January knowing that it would be my second 100 (if I finished Vermont 100 which I did). I had no idea how the recovery from VT would play out and how to exactly get back into training after my VT break. With some advice from Amy Rusiecki, I simply backed out my VT 100 training plan six weeks and got to it. I felt strong during my two big build up weeks of 73 and 77 miles.

I assembled yet another cracker jack team of sighted guides and crew and was ready to roll come race day. I was aiming for a sub-24-hour finish and was hoping to run consistent loops (Ghost Train is a 7.5 mile trail out and back so each loop is 15 miles).

Loop 1
Chris, who crewed me during VT, gave me a ride up and was my first guide. This was Chris’s first time guiding but because the trail is runnable I wasn’t too nervous. We arrived around 8:00AM which gave us plenty of time to set up our stuff, get my bib, and eat before the 9:00AM start. I decided to start a bit closer to the front than last year to avoid the huge bottleneck for the first few miles.

The Yeti howl went off at 9:01 and we headed out. The goal was to run about a 3hr:15-minute loop and head out for the next loop by 12:30pm. We started with my friend Keith, who has been a guide with the Coastal Athletic Club and was running his first ultra (congrats on finishing 45 miles!!!). After the turn-around I tried to fist bump Keith as he passed and mistakenly punched some guy in the chest jamming my fingers! Sorry, sir. We also shared a few miles on the way out with Chris Wristen, who writes Mass Ultra, which was a treat.

We hit the end-point at the Milford DPW, quickly topped off my water and Tailwind bottles, and headed back within a minute or two. Chris was nailing the guiding including the one technical section around mile 5 (on the way out) in which there is a small climb up then back down. We ran by ourselves the way back and I was constantly trying to slow down so my splits were in the 10-minute range. We cruised by the mid-point aid station and sailed into Camp Tevya and the start/finish point in 2 hours 44 minutes. We were a bit ahead of schedule but I wasn’t too concerned. Not stopping at the AS played a factor.

Elapsed Time: 2:44 (not counting aid station)

Loop 2
Kim M., who guided me for a loop last year when I ran 60 miles, was up next. We walked out of Camp Tevya to give me time to eat half of a homemade egg and cheese burrito to make sure I was getting in enough calories. My next guide and informal “coach” Amy was already texting to make sure we slowed down so Kim and I took it easy. She maneuvered the trail easily including a new, very steep, set of stairs at one of the road crossings. I tried my best to keep our running pace in the 10-11-minute range while knowing that the small climb up would make for naturally walking breaks.

The temps climbed into the high 70s so I focused on taking a few salt tabs and staying hydrated. I was craving something cold coming into the aid station at CT and Jim Roche, who was guiding me later in the day and volunteering, hooked me up with a tasty popsicle! That hit the spot.
W rolled back into Camp Tevya still ahead of schedule and I was feeling good.

Elapsed Time: 6:13

Loop 3
This was also the second year that Amy R. was guiding me and this year she upped the ante with two loops. We left a few minutes before 4:00pm and I knew I was entering some tough miles. I was focused on getting down as much food as possible.

Thankfully, Jill and Lucy had arrived and made sure I ate pickles, changed my socks, and I left with pockets full of fuel.

The first trail section out of Camp Tevya is arguably one of the toughest stretches b/c the running lanes are just slightly off-camber. Amy and I settled into a decent jog and I let her know that I would be walking coming out of the mid-point aid station.

Amy was stoked to see the section where they pulled out/put crushed gravel over the old rail ties which were magnets to trip over. This new section was incredibly flat, smooth, and fast.
We shared a few miles with Shane from the Somerville Road Runners. Shane mentioned that he listened to the Ultra Runner Podcast episode with me which was a bit embarrassing. I think Shane was gunning for his first 100 and he was running strong.

On the return trip we went up and then down the small climb. Coming down is tough because there are a ton of rocks and the big roots create awkward steps. As a sign that I was tiring, I feel over moving slowly and banged my knee and elbow on two big rocks. Those were going to hurt in the morning.

I was still distracted by the hill and took another spill on a flat section. I immediately rolled over to pop back up and found myself on top of a stick perfectly placed in a spot that it should not have been.! This got me to my feet in a hurry J

I fell 4-5 times during GT even though it is a very runnable trail. This has nothing to do with my guides seeing that every time they were calling out the obstacles. I am actually proud that I fell because this showed that I was running hard. Sighted folks frequently fall and as I tell my daughter while skiing- “If you do not fall then you are not pushing yourself.”

Elapsed Time: 9:46

Loop 4
It was around 7:30pm and time for our headlamps. After fueling up and saying good-night to Lucy (she and Jill were sleeping in a tent!) Amy and I headed out. About 5 miles in we passed the 50 mile mark! Time to count down but boy was I already feeling it. I was lapped yet again by the leader Patrick and this time his guide Greg, who Amy coaches, was playing some tunes on a portable radio/phone. Amy impressed me with her knowledge of old-school hip hop.

I am the first to admit that running with guides for the entire race is an advantage when it comes to having someone to talk with (Ghost Train allows pacers after 30 miles). For the first time (Amy guided me for 15 miles at VT) Amy and I had enough time to really chat and covered such topics as race mgmt, young girls growing up, and sports. This made the miles click by.

Elapsed Time: 13:44 (still on pace for 24-hr finish)

Lap 5
Jill set her alarm to wake up to help crew which was awesome. I said my good-byes to Amy (she was heading to the DPW to volunteer!) and took off with Jim Roche. Jim is an incredibly accomplished ultra-runner (completed the infamous Grand Slam this year) who I know from Facebook and met in-person at Vermont 100. When we took off I knew this was going to be a fun yet long lap. Jim did an outstanding job calling everything out and we quickly synced up our paces. I basically told Jim to power-hike and I would try to keep up with a slow jog! I let him know that there would be a fair amount of walking and I was struggling mentally to figure out a sustainable pacing plan.

My stomach was starting to get tired of the Tailwind and food I was eating so I began to get nervous about getting in enough calories to keep moving. I used my new re-usable bowl to take in some broth/soup as frequently as possible and kept mixing in ginger ale.

We ran into the women’s leader Clare at the mid-point aid station and for some reason I got a burst of energy. I ran up beside her (she was on mile 96) and I offered to “pace” her. We chatted and learned that one of her triathlon friends has guided my friend and super athlete Erich Manser. About two miles out she pulled away and cruised to victory!

The trail seemed to get longer and longer especially the last stretch before hitting Camp Tevya. I kept asking Jim if we were close and he kindly said to keep moving.

We got back to Camp Tevya right at 2:30AM which is when my pacing chart called for me to be leaving for my next loop. However, I had built in a 30-minute cushion so I was OK. We were heading out for our coldest loop and unfortunately my two long-sleeve shirts were not going to cut it. Thankfully, Jim had an extra layer and light-weight jacket-thanks man.

Elapsed Time: 17:27

Lap 6
My final full lap and my good friend Michelle was now guiding me. My stomach was not nauseous but my appetite was pretty much shot. I was trying to force down pickles, broth, and potatoes. Jill gave me a good pep talk prior to leaving to stay positive. I was trying my best. I was pain free but my body was tired. Were the quicker earlier miles coming back to haunt me?

I trudged on and was trying to take the trail in sections: get to the first road crossing, cross the wooden bridge and amazing lit up pumpkins, etc. But everything seemed longer.

We came up on Melissa from Newton near the steep set of stairs and I got to chat with her for a bit. Such a treat getting to meet so many runners and good people. Unfortunately, I was doing a fair amount of walking even though Michelle was working hard to keep me motivated.

We rolled into the DPW for the final time and Amy R. rushed over to take care of me. All of the volunteers are amazing!!!
On the return trip I began doing a 6/2 routine-6 minutes running, 2 minutes walking which got me in a decent rhythm.

We headed out and began the slow trek back to Camp Tevya. A mile or two out the sun came up which is always a boost.

I averaged 19 min miles on the way out and 18 on the way back which for the first time put me over the 24-hour pace (approx. 14:20 minute miles).

Elapsed Time: 22:09 7:08AM which put me at about 45 minutes to an hour off pace.

Lap 7 (5 miles out and back)

My spirits were down knowing that a 24-hr finish had slipped away. Jill pushed me to figure out a plan B which I hadn’t done for Vermont 100 (except for finishing). I thought back to post-Vermont and how disappointed I was in myself for essentially mailing it in and simply wanting to finish.

Michelle and I walked out of Camp Tevya for the final time while I was eating some soup. We hit the trail and I started to immediately run. I told Michelle I would run to the big road crossing (about two miles), walk a bit, then run to the aid station.

While walking I took time to take in the foliage and beauty of the trail. I took the first picture of me on trail in this nice overlook. I told myself how lucky I was to be out there which helped to pull me out of my funk.

We came up on the mid aid station and the hardcore volunteer jumped up to help me but I kept on running. His atta-boy cheers lifted my spirits. The 15 milers, who started at 8AM Sunday from the DPW, started to run by us in the opposite direction which was a nice distraction.

5 miles to go!!!

We finally hit the orange cones that marked the 5 mile turnaround. Only 5 miles to go!!!

We were now running in the same direction as the 15 milers and this gave me a boost of energy. After a much needed porta-potty stop at the AS, I took off and kept telling Michelle to pick up the pace. I was in full blown manic/4th wind mode and even began yelling (sorry about that) at the 15 milers to move aside as we passed them. Ride the energy for as long as you have it, right! We cruised through the super runnable section where the rail-ties were removed (thank you!) and kept pushing.

I walked a bit and at that point I realized I could finish under 14:30. For some reason 24: twenty something sounded better than 24:thirty. My pace slowed a bit but I kept running. After another short walking break I ran the last 2 miles to Camp Tevya. I hit the pavement and kept asking Michelle how much time we had. In my mind we were flying. 

We cruised past the aid station and I told Lucy to wait for me there. I was running hard and nervous about negotiating the covered bridge turnaround with the 15 milers. Thankfully a few kind runners stepped aside to let us pass through. I was back to manic stage breathing hard and kept asking Michelle for the time.

Lucy was waiting for us about 200 yards out (she was still in her footy-PJs and rain boots) and we crossed the finish line holding hands.

24:25:39! We ran the last 10 miles in 13:40 pace to finish my second 100 of the year!

100 miles. DONE!

Reflections & thank yous
·         Jill and Lucy-thanks for putting up with yet another big training block and for coming out to cheer/crew me. You being there keeps me happy and moving.
·         Chris, Kim, Amy, Jim and Michelle-what a dynamic team of guides who took time out of their weekend to support me. Thanks so very much.
·         All the runners: so many people said hi and shared words of encouragement, many of who knew my name (being a runner who is visually impaired tends to make me stand out) but I did not know there’s. And I met many Facebook friends in person which is so cool. The trail running community is the real deal.
·         Volunteers: there is no better feeling than being able to roll into an aid station and have volunteers wait on you. Especially throughout the night in cold temps etc.
·         Although a much easier course, I am happy to have shaved close to four hours of my VT 100 time. Even more so, I am proud to have rallied late (I found out later that I passed two 100-milers) and pushed for that second goal.
·         I struggle with being a runner who is visually impaired and often just want to be a “runner.” This is on me to figure out and work through. But I finished Ghost Train exactly in the middle of the pack (29th overall) which gives me tremendous self-validation that I am an average trail runner, regardless of my vision. I am committed to working with race directors and supporting my fellow runners with vision loss to be active in hopes that it will be a normal thing to see us out on the trails and participating in ultras (and all races for that matter). 
·         I had no idea what to expect going into Ghost Train. My body felt recovered after Vermont but I didn’t know how it would hold up. Thankfully, things worked out.
·         Thanks to Josh Katzman, the Trail Running Animals Running Club crew, and the long-time community members for putting on a wonderful race.

·         I wore one pair of shoes the entire race! Topo Athletic Terraventures. Thanks Topo for your support.
·         I rotated between two Nathan Sports packs both with front bottles. I also appreciate Nathan’s support.
·         Garmin 220 watch for 50+ miles then Michelle wore my old Garmin Forerunner for a few hours.

Post-Race Beer

Barreled Souls Brewing quad at Picco Restaurant