Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar

My Initial Review

After 3.5 years of happily using and abusing my Garmin Fenix 3 HR I was getting frustrated with the fact the battery life was slowly dissipating over time. Not because the product was failing but because it was slowly coming to the end of its life from use. I have been very happy with my purchase and now that I am doing longer and longer ultras the charging on the go has become a bit annoying. The past few 100 km races I've done, I have had to take my charger/battery with me to recharge the watch near the end of the race to ensure I would get past the 9 hour mark before my watch died on me.

This prompted me to search around and research for a new watch and replacement/upgrade to my current Fenix 3. Anyone who follows this blog probably is aware there is essentially 3 main basic choices for ultra watches out there: Garmin, Suunto, and Coros (newer one on the scene). I did my research and reading, as well watched a bunch of YouTube gadget performance videos and reviews. In the end I decided to stick with Garmin as they are the leader in a lot of the technology and software behind the watch and the algorithms.

Price point: Garmin maybe a little more expensive compared to the others for comparison, but again with my research  thought it is worth it. Plus if I get at least the same amount as my current watch in terms of lifetime and use the price over 3 years (& longer) works out to less than a dollar a day. I am a person who tracks everything in terms of data, and thus I wear my watch all day every tracking HR, steps, sleep, etc...

  • My Fenix 3 HR is still working fine and is great for everyday use. I continue to use it for now and will do so for training runs and to supplement my new watch as a backup. But since I have gotten 3.5 years (thus far) of use I think this purchase was well worth it for me as an ultrarunner and tracking all my stats.
Garmin community: Another reason not to switch brands is the fact that I have been using Garmin Connect ever since I got my Fenix 3 HR. I have enjoyed the platform for analyzing my data and trends. Garmin is well reviewed and far superior to the Suunto & Coros apps in this sense.

Fenix 6X Pro Solar Features: So far I have limited use, but these are some of the amazing features I have found to be a huge upgrade for me (coming from the Fenix 3 HR). I am sure there are many more I am unaware of and some I have not yet tried out, but I am just highlighting a couple below.
Garmin features as listed on box | Garmin main display (as per out of box)

  • Charging
    • (+) able to charge on the go, simple plug in. The display remains the readable with a simple battery % showing at the top indicating the charging progress. A nice upgrade from the Fenix 3 HR since that one would display charging status only when plugged in (although you could adjust the settings but was not as user friendly). 
    • (+) The Solar charging seems to work great from my limited use thus far. It is said to add 6 hours onto the 60 hours. The solar ring within the watch picks up sunlight with very limited exposure (i.e. in overcast conditions) as I noticed this during my Franklins 200 race.
  • Battery Life:  was listed as 60 hours for continuous activity. Obtaining my watch just before Franklins 200 and the fact my stretch goal time of 60 hrs was in sight this was the perfect opportunity to test out the battery life. 
    • I did not change any settings out of the box.
    • I tried to drain the watch as much as I could the 1.5 days prior to the start of the race. It went from 90% out of the box down to like 82% (i think it was) after a couple small activities and me playing around setting up all my display screens for my running app widgets.
    • I charged the watch fully the night prior to the race and unplugged it at 100% about 1.5 hours prior to race time. 
    • I started the race and watched my battery % closely for the first little bit and everything was working so I stopped paying attention to it knowing I would have at least 2 days of good tracking.
    • After the 1st day I started paying attention closer to the % to see how it was tracking. At 30 hours into my run I noted I was at 49%, which is basically right on the acclaimed 60 hour activity recording time.
      • Note: the entire first day was snowy, cloudy, and foggy, so essentially 0 hours of sun to provide solar charging boost).
    • I continued and then check point I recall noting was at 39 hours into my race  (~2/3 of 60 hours) and the battery was at 33%. Again this is basically right on the mark.
      • Note: I noticed some boosts in the Solar charging during the day hours here, but overall I did not see a jump in % (noticeably). Overall Garmin claims +6 hrs over 60 hr time frame (+10%), so maybe it was just too small to notice at this point.
    • This point in my race, at this 39 hours mark, I was at the aid/sleep station and taking a 90 minute break. I decided to charge the watch here. The reason I did this was that I was happy with the battery % tracking (as per Garmin claims), and that I did not want to worry about watching it tick down the last few % before charging as I was nearing 60 hours into the race. Obviously at this point I was tired and did not know where my mind would be in 20 more hours of continuous sleep-deprived state.
    • I finished my race in 63hr 32min just over my goal of 60 hours. I am confident the watch would have been very close to recording everything without charge till that last few hours (based on my points noted above).
      • Note: there is many options and power saving features to manipulate and play with inn order to maximize and customize the battery during activities. I did not change anything for this particular run as mentioned, but moving forward I have confidence I can make y new watch work for a 70 hr 200 mile effort - which is exactly why I purchased and went with another Garmin.
      • Note: I can't recall exactly what % I finished the event at, but I went 5 more days that included 3-4 activity recordings in there before I had to recharge the watch again. Amazing, thanks Garmin.
  • Watch Backlight: this is such a cool feature! When running at night (low light conditions) as soon as you rotate your wrist to view your watch face, the backlight automatically comes on for 5 seconds to view your watch screen. I'm sure there is a setting to adjust/change this, but it is really cool and useful feature. Comparison, my Fenix 3 HR you would have to manually press the "light" button, which you can still do with with the Fenix 6X but the auto feature is great for a quick glance. Love it!
  • Display: Garmin now offers up to 8 sections in their data screens for the activities and allows for all sorts of customization and personal preference here. Huge upgrade (and eliminates me from going and downloading 3rd party created watch faces).
  • Maps: Garmin added in these topo maps that are maintained via software updates and come pre-loaded onto the watch itself. I was used to my Fenix 3 which was basically a breadcrumb trail on an empty canvas. The Garmin Fenix 6X has these amazingly details and beautiful maps on there, that made me feel like I could go run anywhere and never get lost if I had my watch one. The trails were labelled, the State Park was colored, the trails were all on there and some that I didn't even expect. Such a cool feature! I can't wait to try this out more in areas that are new exploration to me.
    (Top L) display of multiple stats during run activity. I have customized to 6 pictured here.
    (Top R) The amazing and beautiful maps feature which I absolutely love!
    (Bottom L) Summary screen after an activity. It auto cycles through 4 screens post saving for your viewing pleasure.
    (Bottom R) the main Garmin display out of the box and the 100% battery showing in terms of 21 days. 

This is my short review. Please reach out if you have more questions. I am a very brand loyal person once I find something I love and well Garmin has proven that to me. I am not affiliated with them at all, I just love their product for the reasons listed above. I do not have any direct experience with wearing a Suunto nor a Coros watch so my opinions are bias in that sense. Please take my review with that in mind.

Thank you to Austin Trail Running Company (Pam) for assistance in ordering and getting my new Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar. They are supporters of Team TROT and one of the reasons I went through their store for this purchase. Pam was able to help me get this order in very last minute for me to be able to have my watch in person prior to The Franklins 200, which was a driving force in my decision for the upgrade. Thank you Pam!
My new watch purchased through Austin Trail Running Company | 2020-02-03

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Franklin Mountain Love

My Second 200 Mile Race | Ultra #053

Pre Race

I can't exactly recall when I signed up for this years Franklin 200, but I always knew in the back of my mind I would be back once Rob Goyen, TROT Race Director, confirmed there would be a second edition of this limited race. It has been a couple months now since November when I was last in El Paso, but the excitement of returning to the Franklin Mountain State Park was increasing steadily the past few weeks. My build up for this race consisted of a few hard efforts: a 41mi FKT in California, Bandera 100 km, and then Running the Rose 108 km.

I was feeling good as preparations were done, stoke was high, and there was only one thing to do: run some North Franklin Mountain summit repeats with a few loops around the mountain range thrown in. My feet were ready for the inevitable pounding and grueling toll of 200 miles on the rocky technical terrain.

2 of my daughters sending me off on my travels. Loading up my Victory Sportdesign gear bags.
Tuesday weather in El Paso
I worked in the office Monday till about 13:00 and took off home as soon as I could to grab my gear I had packed and ready. Saw my family and gave them all some hugs and kisses as I knew it would be a long 5-6 days without them and then hit the road heading west across Texas. I broke the 12 hour drive up with a 5 hour-ish nap in my car in the middle. The last few hours on Tuesday morning I spent out running the sunset as I came into the view of the El Paso city scape on the horizon. Almost 365 days to the minute, when I got into the city the sprinkles from the clouds above began to dot my windshield just like 2019 all over again.

I spent the next little while stretching out in a Starbucks enjoying a warm beverage and catching up on social media postings. By the time mid-day had come around it was much clearer out and I was on the way to the State Park. I couldn't resist running a few miles and getting the blood flowing to my legs. The remainder of the day consisted of packet pickup and the pre-race briefing and a nice catered dinner provided by Trail Racing Over Texas at the park. I was hotel bound and in my bed before 20:00 as I tried to get as much sleep as I could.
Race briefing by RD Rob Goyen
03:45 alarm goes off and I am awake and anxiously eager to pack the very few remaining items left sitting out. I have everything, sling my Victory Sportdesign bag over my should and open the hotel door, and to my amazement there was snow coming down, and even a very small dusting of white on the parked vehicles.
2020-02-05 first snow in El Paso for the year. Also this was the first ever official snow start for a Trail Racing Over Texas race. Doesn't bother this Canadian ultrarunner as much as it might the others.
Off to the park in the dark snowy Texas winter morning and found myself a parking spot in the self-crew area for us 200 mile runners. I'd be using my car as a home base on the loops for clothing changes and any extra gear I may need to grab. I was one of the first few people there, and started to arrange my things and said my hellos to everyone. Race director, Rob Goyen, was running around getting his last minute race prep in order and assistant RD, Amanda Kubeczka, was equally as busy. Then around maybe 04:40 or so I overheard Rob get a phone call and I knew exactly what it was. The park officials had taken away the chance to run the initial chain section of the course, which is exactly what happened last year in the 2019 edition as well. The weather was to blame, the park and TROT have the responsibility to look after runner safety as the total number one priority so there was no blame to be had. Although I was sad we would not get to try out this infamous section as was in Rob's dream race layout to kick off the event. What is a 200 mile if not to through in a little extra adversity, like a modified start (just like the 2019 edition). Nothing left to do now but the final last minute preparations like filling up my water, stuffing my pack, and simply staying warm in the chill of the 29f weather that was upon us. 05:45 Rob gathered us all up in the tent for a quick race briefing to go over the modified start. I knew this speech as it was was like the 2019 year all over again, this time with a lot more snow on the ground. In fact Rob later confirmed this was a first for TROT to start an event in the snow..

Warm-Up (Loop 0) & Loop 1 | Day 1

The Franklins 200 | 06:00 MST start in the snow of El Paso, TX | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
No time for nerves, time for the excitement to take over. Time to send it and see what all the months of preparations miles and training runs has got in store for me on this mountain adventure. All of the 200 mi and the 200 km runners were starting together. We were gathered there in the darkness with the wind whipping, snow still falling, and the chill clinging to the morning.
And we are off... I headed directly out to the front of the pack with my TROT teammate Jessica Pekari. | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
The first few steps with the headlamps were careful placement and slow trekking up the ridge from the start line. With the darkness and the fresh snow fall the trail was slightly harder to spot than it might otherwise be. Right after the start I took to the lead of the pack and lead the runners up this rocky singeltrack trail. I wasn't consciously racing just yet, I just wanted to get a decent pace going for myself, and my own run. After the first 1.5 mi and coming up over the ridge of the Upper Sunset trail I came down towards the pavilion and headed down into the canyon of Lower Sunset trail. There was only a couple runners keeping pace, one of them being my TROT teammate Jessica Pekari, right behind me. We circled back around 4 miles to the main start/finish which it acted as an aid station. I dropped off my headlamp since daylight was now beginning to creep up. I headed up the long windy Mundy's Gap trail which was a slow grade 4 mi climb all the way to the summit. It was like a magical enchanted land at the summit for me as I was the only one up there and the West/South side was clouded over and still snowing lightly below, but in contrast on the East/North side view from the summit it was clearing up and sunlight was peaking out. The 2 sides of this North Franklin Mountain peak offered drastically different views divided by the mountain range itself. Sadly I didn't bring my phone or camera on this morning since it was so cold and didn't want to worry about fumbling around with gadgets, but this image  of natural beauty is still cemented into my memory from this race. I didn't spend long up there, just signed the log book as required, grabbed my summit bracelet, and headed back down. About half way down back to the main start/finish I crossed paths with Jesse Ellis (Let's Wander Photography) who was now out trekking around capturing some great shots of the snowy scenery and the runners' experience of the day 1 morning.
Descending on the Mundy's Gap trail  on the Warm-Up ("Loop 0") | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)

The beauty of high desert snow  | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
After just over 13 miles and 2:42:35 run time, I arrived back down the mountain and at the start/finish main aid tent. The small warm-up loop was over and now the main 38 mile loops would begin. Only 5 trips around the mountain remained. Before I headed out I made sure to thank Rob for the greeting of the "Canadian sidewalks" out there on the trails. Then I grabbed a single water bottle and was off within less than 3 minutes. The first part of the big loop came back around to the main start/finish tent which broke the big 38 mi loop up into a 9 mi & 29 mi sections. So each time I left on the loop i opted to run without my hydration vest for the first 9 miles. It was a nice break to not wear it, and worked out great logistically.

The first full big loop was scenic as everything was still freshly dusted as the natural landscape was framed by the prior nights snowfall. The ambient temperature however remained cold as I don't think it got above 34f for the entire first 24 hours. I kept on my rabbit  jacket (let 'er zip hoodie) and rabbit long pants (before and afters) which was perfect for these chilly temperatures. By the time I was hiking up to the summit for my 2nd trip (out of a total of 6) I was surprised by Jesse hiding out on the Cottonwood Trail through a patch of trees. But it made for a good photo.
Hiking up to the summit (trip#2) on Loop 1 | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Descending down from the summit
Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
On my way back down from the summit I passed the runners behind me since this was one of only a couple out and back sections. I was able to see how far away they were. As I as coming down from the summit I passed Jessica Pekari (Team TROT) & John Sharp who were hiking up together at the time. They were nearly 3/4 the way up to the summit when we passed each other. I ran down the snow covered rocky terrain the best I could and enjoyed the ride as I passed a couple more runners on this 2 mi section. Photographer, Jesse Ellis, was back on the trails hiking to the summit now and I passed him prior getting back to Mundy's Gap aid station where I would go over onto the west side of the mountain range. My first full trip around from the east side (Bowen Racnch) all the way back to the west via the North Pass was quite uneventful. I don't recall anything special happening during the loop 1 besides just reacquainting myself to the trail on this side of the mountain range. After 11:05:55 I rolled back into the main tent with still plenty of daylight left. Rob Goyen (TROT RD) and Jaime Aparicio (TROT Medical Director) both greeted me and were quick to notify me I was up on John Kelly's pace from last year, and of course my own as well. It was a pleasant surprise since I felt like a ran a conservative loop overall based on my perceived effort. I recall getting a nice warm chicken sandwich during this stop.

Loop 2 | Night 1

The first few miles were completed during the fading daylight, but that soon came to an end. Mile 10 into the loop I was back up the long hike to the summit. The winds were picking up making it extremely wind chilled at the top. I did not spend long there at all, instead spent my time trying to descend safely and get down back into the warmer part of the mountain. After passing Mundy's Gap on the way down I had another 5 miles of downhill trails till I would reach Bowen Ranch aid/sleep station, the very far side of the course. Tiredness started creeping up on me early. As I kept getting closer to Bowen I had decided I would probably lie down for a bit. Mile 70 I arrived at Bowen and the tent was a nice relief from the night breeze. I downed some food and then laid down. I asked the volunteers to wake me up in 30 minutes. That short half hour of rest did its magic. After I got up my body felt energized. I got a few more calories in and headed back out towards the North Pass once again. I made the long haul back over to the start/finish again in just shy of 23 hours (50 mi total | 152 mi to go). It was now right around 05:00 on Thursday.

Loop 3 | Day 2

Only 4 more full loops lie between me and the finish. I still felt tired as my usual low hours hit me around the 03-05:00 time frame. But I knew if I just kept moving eventually the sun would help get me out of my funk. Reports were of a much nicer day in terms of weather too. Half way around the mini 9 mi portion of the start of the loop the sun did it's job. I felt fresh again and a renewed sense of warmth came over me with the sunrise.
Heading back towards pavilion on the 9 mi start portion | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Coming back into the main aid start/finish after this first 9 mi (59 mi total | 143 mi to go) I changed some clothes, grabbed some sunglasses (as they were finally going to be of use), and of course ate a bunch of yummy food. I am pretty sure this was the first of many stops where I devoured a bunch of hashbrowns - the volunteers really stepped up their game in the cooking department this race - and I was very thankful for it.

Back on the move again in short order I was headed back up towards Mundy's Gap and another summit - my 3rd of the race. The sun was out now but the wind was equally in its presence at this point in the morning. On the long climb up to the summit I was determined just to keep a solid pace and not stop. Nearly the very top and the last few switchbacks the wind was really picking up - like 30-40 mph+ gusts. I also noticed a couple people ascending as well. By the time we hit the summit there was 3 of us all at the log book at the same time gathering up our summit bands and signing in.
A little windy on my 3rd summit of the North Franklin Mountain. (L) Rosalba Lara (M) Trevor Meding (R) Lydia Rios
Photo: Rosalba Lara
Cruising back down the mountain from the summit is always one of the harder parts of the course. It is nearly all downhill on this 7 mi section from the peak all the way down the back of the mountain to the east side where Bowen Ranch resides. A true quad buster of a section which seems easy early in the race but gradually gets harder and harder each time you return to this part of the trail. The wind really took its toll on me and on the way to Bowen Ranch. Along the long windy portion at the base of the east side of the Franklins I started feeling the sleepies sneaking up on me. I really started to slow down and was slowed to a zombie walk at one point. I came around a bend and there was a nice little boulder than looked just like a nice stool to sit on. I laid down in the dirt and put my feet up onto this boulder which propped my feet up nicely. I placed my Nathan hydration vest behind my head to act as a little pillow and looked at my watch, and then closed my eyes. The sun was warm like a nice hug, and the soothing sound of the breeze was just right. Next thing I know is I open my eyes to the blue sky above and raise my watch over to see how long I'd been napping - 7 minutes - i just took a recharging 7 minute nap! (105 mi total | 97 mi to go). I picked up my hydration vest and started back on the trail headed to finish off the last few miles before Bowen.
Enjoying pizza calories at Bowen Ranch aid/sleep station | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
I arrived there to a nice feast of fresh pizza - heavenly! It was just the type of food i needed to turn me around at that point. I ate a bunch and downed a bunch of Coke-Cola which is like the magic elixir for me in ultras. The trek around the from east to west over the North Pass was a long slow grind but nice to complete in the daylight again. From the west aid back to the main start/finish I arrived under my time goal and was still averaging under 12 hours per loop. I was 35:09:21 into the race (127 mi total | 75 mi to go).

Loop 4 | Night 2

I made this mistake after Loop 3 of getting it in my head that if I could just have 2 solid loops of 12 hrs I would be able to challenge that elusive 60 hr mark. I set off and completed the first 9 mi section of the course and by the time I got back to the main start/finish I was utterly tired. I felt a strong urge to sleep, having only 37 minutes total thus far. I came into the tent and saw Jaime there and asked him how far behind second place was, after all I was in a race still. Once he got an approximation I decided I would take a 90 minute sleep to recharge myself. At this point I felt that sleep would be better served than if I just kept slogging forward chasing a fast time. After exactly 90 minutes of rest I was woken up by teh volunteers and my alarm alike. I got myself up and ready again but in a much slower fashion than normal, clearly fatigue was lingering still. A few more amazing hashbrowns were consumed before I headed back out into the darkness of my second full night. Since I stopped after the 9 mi section, I headed back out on the starting off with the long summit grind. It was a great way to warm myself back up.

The winds came back out this night and after I came down from the peak it seemed to pick up even more. I trudged on to the Bowen Ranch on the east side of the mountains but it was certainly not my best pace. My immediate goal was just to get into that tent and out of the wind for a few minutes, and get some more warm food. I arrived at the tent leaning into the fierce wind to find the volunteers standing on the edge of the supports trying to keep it from flapping around in the wind even more. The sound of the wind tossing around the tent was loud and chaotic. There were 3 big lumps on the cots in the middle of the tent surrounding a portable propane heater. I had no idea how anyone could sleep or attempt to sleep in these conditions the wind had created.  I felt tired still, but the conditions presented no choice (to me) but to continue moving forward.  I knew if I could make it through this second night decently the sunrise would help rejuvenate me again for the 3rd day.

Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
I left Bowen aid leaning into the wind with determination to complete the loop before sunrise and hold that potential 60 hr finish time within reach. The weather had different ideas. The wind has gusting and the chill was piercing through my layers but I just kept moving forward: slowly. The North Pass and the section from the west aid back to main tent were long slow miles. I was not able to beat sunset and arrived just after that in 50:56:20 (164 mi total | 38 mi to go).

Loop 5 | Day 3 | The Victory Loop

Daylight was here, sun was out, and finally some Texas warmth had presented itself. With only a "shorter" ultramarathon of 38 mi left I felt like the finish was within sight, as silly as that may seem. I took off some layers and was ready to roll. I was again feeling fresh now nearly 52 hrs into the race.
Amazing photo. Grinding up a smaller climb (Shaffer Shuffle) on the first 9 mi section.
Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Enjoying the day 3 El Paso sunshine | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
My final summit was a nice relief to get it done with. I signed the log book grabbed my 6th summit bracelet and started descending. This was one of the more painful parts as my legs and quads were not having this. I could barely run downhill, and yet I had 7 mi of down till I reached Bowen Ranch aid. It was a long walk/hike till the aid station.
Arriving in Bowen Ranch aid station for the last time (184 mi total| 18 mi to go) | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Current state of mind at Bowen Ranch aid/sleep station. | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
With my pace being severely slowed from all the downhill and my quads not cooperating I was a bit on the depressed side of my thinking, but I knew I had to just keep moving forward. Being through these lows before in long races, my experience taught me that eventually it would turn around. I think I ate 3 or 4 more pieces of pizza here which was such a blessing - perfect ultra fuel (thanks Rob for making this happen!). Jesse Ellis was there capturing some more photos and he took off in front of me as I was about to leave the tent to get some more shots. I warned him I was not moving fast, but naturally he was encouraging. The funny thing about this race is the lack of interaction I had with people. Of course I got to see the volunteers at the aid stations but Jesse was probably one of the people I saw the most, so it was a nice boost when I did see him.
Heading out of Bowen Ranch aid/sleep station, 18 mi (30 km) to go | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
Navigating the trail through the Sotol Catus forest near Bowen Ranch | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
On my way up and around the North Pass of the Franklin Mountain range. This is the far norther reach of the course which border New Mexico.  | Photo: Let's Wander Photography (Jesse Ellis)
After attempting to jog for Jesse and the camera on some of these photos I continued my power hike up the gradual climb out of Bowen Ranch. Nearly 40 minutes down the trail I recall something beautiful occurring, my body felt like moving again. So after about 10 miles of walking and hiking since the summit I was now able to run again. Of course it was not blistering pace, but man did it feel good to move at a more upbeat pace again. Sunset was approaching as I crossed over the very tip of the North Pass and descended down into the west aid station. I looked at my watch and I had crossed over that 60 hr run time, but my PR and time from 2019 was still well within reach. I set off on the final section, headlamp on and determined to get to the finish as fast as my legs would carry me. The thoughts of the finish line consumed me this entire section and fueled me on. I glanced at my watch and knew that sub-64 was going to happen. Coming over the ridge of the Upper Sunset Trail for the final time was emotional, as I knew I had done it: I had secured a victory, a 200 mi PR, and yet another ultramarathon finish. I was greeted by the cowbell in the darkness and a few headlamps cheering loudly. I ran into the finish with a large smile. 63:32:17 official finishing time (which is 52 minutes than 2019).

TROT finishing video:

Gear Used

  • Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign - most of my gear was in my Grizzly bags and it was all neatly organized in the various compartments this bags offer
  • Drop bags: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak (Bowen Ranch aid), and the BEAR III  (West aid)
  • Jackets: rabbit let 'er zip hoodie, vest, and elements light jacket
  • Shirts: rabbit long sleeve (multiple), short sleeve (2020 PR edition)
  • Pants: rabbit before and afters
  • Shorts: rabbit smooth operator 7"
  • Shoes: Altra Running TIMP 1.5 (brand new out of the box)
  • Socks: Drymax Socks 1 pair (Bittersweet edition)
  • Headwear: rabbit (BOCO) beanie and cap, Trail Racing Over Texas trucker hat
  • Sunglasses: goodr
  • Watch: Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar
  • Headlamp: NathanSports Inc Halo Fire (x3)
  • Hydration: Nathan Sports Inc VaporKrar 2.0 12L with 20oz soft flasks
  • Other: rabbit (BOCO) gloves
  • Anti Friction: Trail Toes - applied once at beginning and only 1 reapply which kept me chaff free all race.

Results | Data | Final Thoughts

My full STRAVA data activity is here:
Full race results on are UltraSignup here: - This Week In Running:
Watch stats on my new Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar. I got this new watch just in time for this race. I'm still learning on the features and upgrades but this watch is amazing.

The Franklins 200 elevation profile. Starting at about 4,500 ft you climb to the summit (7,200 ft) x6 times overall.

My personal spreadsheet data on my loop times for data analysis.
I am proud owner of twins! These are my 2 most prized buckles I have earned thus far. TROT worked with Elevation Culture and has crafted these personalized buckles for The Franklins which are are truly unique. (L) 2019 edition I choose to put my last name on there. (R) This year I placed "ultraDad" on there in honor of running for my daughters, which is also why I refer to myself as the #ultrarunningdad (just like my blog name). Thanks to Elevation Culture for these awesome crafts of art.
I also want to point out that I was 1 of 5 people who have completed the Franklins 200 in both editions of the race. This is a very exclusive club since the race is not to be put on again and only existed for these 2 years. Congratulatory shout out to my four fellow ultrarunners:

  • Dustin Sandquist -- 85:34:58 (2020) | 77:18:55 (2019)
  • Edward Sousa -- 85:34:55 (2020) | 81:53:32 (2019)
  • Joseph Meyer -- 88:33:02 (2020) | 87:13:08 (2019)
  • Lydia Rios -- 106:35:20 (2020) | 105:58:10 (2019)

Ultra running can be a very lonely sport at times. I knew going into this race I might have to run a lot of miles by myself, and I had prepared myself for that. In the end I ended up running the entire 200 miles solo, except for the few times I would pass someone out on the trails. I think the fact I prepared mentally for this in advance really helped.

My feet held up really quite well this race. I had a couple hot spots on the pads of my feet but didn't get any crippling blisters or anything of the sorts. After I finished I did notice some rubbing on the outer back on my feet from all the downhill, but those didn't bother much during the run.

I am very happy I accomplished my 2nd 200 mile race and managed to sneak in my PR as well.
1st overall | 63:32:23 | Photo: Tommy Gulch
People often ask me how I do these longer races. I have thought about that a lot lately and I think I'm boiled it down to a simple sentence I have come up with:
"RUN when you canHIKE when you should,
WALK if you must, and SLEEP when it comes."

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Thank you for following along . This was ultramarathon #053 for me.
Next up thus far: Chattanooga 100 mi

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Pain Cave

Into The Unknown.

Have you ever been to this place? The Pain Cave?
I have been there before. It’s dark, its deep, and you can never know what it holds. Its hard to explain how to get there and how long it takes to get through. Every time you step foot in here the route through has changed. It is a maze. I have ventured to this place a few times now, but every time I stand before the entrance of this cavernous unknown my nerves begin to remind why we as humans don’t like what we don’t know. Uncertainly innately scares us!

Here I am on race week standing before this cave and I know I must go in and take a long journey, but I do not know how it will be. The unknown of the pain cave is one-part draw, one-part excitement, and one-part scary as shit!

Is the venture through this cave a short journey?
Does the light ever come? Can I navigate my way through? Will I ever emerge?
What is waiting for me in this cave…monsters? demons? adventure? sleeplessness?
How do you navigate the abyss of the darkness that consumes you?

There is only one answer to all of this. Stand in front of the pain cave and step forward. Don’t look back. Press forward no matter what your mind is telling you and focus on the fact you will get to the other side where everything becomes clear and ultimately beautiful.

Time for an adventure at The Franklins with 16 other like-minded souls.
Follow along this week via ultrasignup live tracking/results.
Race starts this at Wednesday (06:00 MTN / 07:00 CST).

adventure begins Wed, 2020-Feb-05 @ 06:00 MTN//07:00 CST