Sunday, December 25, 2011

Help Rocky Mountain Outward Bound!

Rocky Mountain Outward Bound needs help!
Some of the fondest and impactful experiences of my life have occured on Outward Bound courses. I was exposed to outdoor education in undergrad, when my roomate signed up for a three credit elective called Outward Bound, and told me I could get credit for going rock climbing. And that first course was the first taste of an entirely new field and view of life. I'd gone from geology, to zoology, to biology majors, and found that I could in fact get a degree from the University of New Hampshire in outdoor education. From there I worked in several educational settings, but leading OB courses in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona for five years has changed me positively like no other experience I can imagine. The remote mountains and deserts I visited were incredible, but what my students learned was vastly deeper than what I could see, as they saw it only once.
Now Colorado Outward Bound, as it used to be known then, needs help. If you can relate to the outdoors, have taken an OB course, or know a student who has been impacted, please consider donating a small amount to the Rocky Mountain Outward Bound School (the names have changed over the years but RMOBS, COBS, and Marble Base Camp are basically interchangable names for what is Rocky Mountain Outward Bound). The national headquarters of OB has struggled for years, as have all the supported branches of OB, and now RMOBS needs to raise funds in these last few days of December to stay afloat.
Please consider helping in a small way before the end of the year.. see below..
HOW TO DONATE: As the Friends of Marble Foundation is still in the process of securing non-profit status, we have established a “holding account” at The Denver Foundation so that donors can receive a tax deduction for their donation. To donate, simply... Donate directly to the FOM fund at The Denver Foundation by mailing a check to The Denver Foundation, 55 Madison Street, Denver, CO 80206. Be sure to “earmark” your donation to the Marble Base Camp Fund. To donate through the Denver Foundation online using a credit card, go to the donate now page on their website, scroll down to the middle of the page and select "Marble Base Camp Fund" from the drop down list.Credit cards are convenient, though 2 to 3 % of your donation goes to card company processing fees. Using either payment method, The Denver Foundation will acknowledge your donation and provide tax documentation. Before the end of 2011, the Friends of Marble Board will “bundle” these donations and make a gift to the Rocky Mountain Outward Bound School Board.IMPORTANT: So that the Friends of Marble Board can track total donations, please send an email to Marlene at when you’ve made a donation. Please tell us when you donated and how much you gave.WHEN TO DONATE: While donations will always be accepted and appreciated, it is URGENT that we help RMOBS meet its $500,000 fundraising goal by December 31, 2011. Therefore, PLEASE consider making your contribution before year’s end.INTERESTED IN TALKING WITH A Friends Of Marble BOARD MEMBER? If you would like to discuss this situation or have questions about making a donation, please feel free to contact any of the board members listed here. Send an them an email and provide your contact information so we can reach you. Also, let us know when it is best to call you (evening, daytime, etc.). Please remember....ALL donations “count” and help us achieve our goal of preserving the Marble base camp. Give what you can and then celebrate our collective effort to re-establish Outward Bound in Colorado AND save Marble.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2012's coming up quick

Yosemite in October: Yes, it's uphill all the way back from the Sequoia groves. This is 75lbs of child.

The Brood; Ava, Ellen, Dave, Connor

Been having an awesome late fall in California. It feels like we are finally, after two years here, starting to adjust and settle in. Having two little ones and being in school leaves time for little else, but I have somehow been able to squeeze in training and enough races to have had one of my best years. Go figure. Busiest person is the one getting it done, but it isn't without it's price.
I didn' run JFK or TNF 50, which I am pleased about in hindsight. I went out for a three hour run to check the TNF race action and pace Jason Schlarb and felt the adrenaline and itchiness to be out there, but knowing I would not have been ready to mix it up. I didn't take time off from training n October and November: I ran easy hour runs in October and wound things up as November progressed. I think this will pay off, as I feel recharged and ready to go. School has been nutty anyway so the mellow running was a good thing.
Next order of business is Bandera 100k, which will largely be a tune up to get the race year off to a good start. I will not have run more than 3 hours prior, which is fine, but I will be feeling it hour 6 for sure. Since this is a Montrail Cup race I am guessing I will run the series again, which means I will probably be at WS 100. I keep banging my head against that Sierra head wall and one day it will fall over.. or on top of me.
Didn't get into Hard Rock, so I gots either Leadville, UTMB, or the new Steamboat race in September. UROC, Lake Sonoma, TNF 50.. something else here and there not sure what just yet
I will be in clinicals all year so my rotation schedule is still not set.. what is for sure though is that we will be in Colorado for most of it with a few months back here in the Bay Area for more book type stuff. If I can get a few evening or morning runs in I will make he season happen.
All in all it should be a great year!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sickness, chemicals, 2012+

In the past two months I have been sick an unprecedented number of three times, once with bronchitis for three weeks, which I took for a fluke that my daughter had brought home from preschool. I reckoned it was a fall-time illness brought on by school stress and end of season racing fatigue, and subsequently tried to get over it and race on.

I raced UROC, which I bombed, then started to feel better for two weeks, jumping into Firetrails 50, thinking I was over the hump and on the upswing into a stellar fall season of fall classics. Post FT, a common cold set in, which once again I counted as a fluke, so I got over the cold during my October week off from school. This past week I’d run a nice Sunday three hour run with Geoff, Topher, Galen, and friends, but I felt unusually fatigued during and after this mellow effort. Years ago a student of mine from Lichtenstein said, “Jamais deux sans trois, never two without three.” True to Liechtensteinian philosophy, another cold set in solidly this past week.

Post FT 50, I had been running about every day, not long but an hour to hour and half, anticipating speed work being the basis of my training until JFK 50 on Nov 19, then tailing off that to the North Face 50 two weeks later. I’d counted on calling it a 2011 at TNF, then pick up with Bandera 100K in January. As of now, I am reading the writing on the wall that my 14 solid months of straight cycles through races and training have taken their toll, and the cumulative wearing effect has kicked in. Maybe the combination of the running, combined with school and family obligations is the cause. I am on somewhat foreign terrain with so much of life happening combined with races every 6 weeks, that I may have reached my plateau this summer and am now headed towards the edge. That said, I am pretty solidly committed to taking the rest of the year off from racing. I will run most every day for the next month with some days off, but just easy to keep metabolism up and to keep my head straight on my shoulders. I am in no way burned out on running (“mental fatigue”?) but physically I may be more tired than I realize.

Another variable that may have shot my immune system this fall is fleas. Yes, fleas. We have a solid trail and house mutt named Tanker, who I am guessing brought them home from a walk, as Novato is notorious for flea infestations. Our apartment then became infested in September, and we had to treat the place twice with permethrin-based sprays, which is known to cause immune-system depression . When I’d sprayed the apartment, I don’t think I vacated soon enough and inhaled the vapors for two hours. We were at a tough place in choosing to spray, given we have little kids and hate unnecessary toxin exposure. But moving was the alternative, so I sprayed and aired the place out while we slept elsewhere for a couple days, and I may have paid the price. Hopefully I didn’t cut my lifespan by a few years too, as many American's suffer the ill-health brunt of chemically-induced and chronic disease in our everyone-for-themselves country. I made my own choice though and mostly regret it.

All this said, 2012 is coming up quick! And I want to run some different stuff next year, including longer “gold standard” ultra-races of that distance through 2013, and then take on something even longer the next year than will involve many nights out and long days, for which I have a tentative plan. I am super-excited for the next couple years of running and practicing as a PA, which I think will be as successful as my prior fifteen years of trail, adventure, and ultrarunning. To top it off, we will be back in Colorado next year, to which my family and I look eagerly.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hoka One One seeking ambassador athletes

Attention Hoka One One footwear enthusiasts! Hoka One One is presently seeking athletes and brand ambassadors — from road and trail runners to triathletes in all corners of North America. Please send us a resume of sorts and/or a brief summary of your running (and/or triathlon) passions, recent endeavors, race results and future goals.
Deadline is Nov 15th. Oh and if you have not already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Time to Fly!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dick Collins Fire Trails 50 2011

Firetrails Fun

(10/21.. JUST reset my comments was set only to accept non-elite thoughts, so that's why Rose kept getting bounced out of his snarky commenting. And now even anonymous trolls like Cloud can cut me up a bit)

Two weeks ago was the Ultra Race of Champions, an up and coming event with a bright future, which left me somewhat unsatisfied. My running lately is a game of race, recovery a week or so, squeeze in 3-4 weeks of moderate but quality training when possible, taper a week, race, take a week more or less off, then repeat. My experience at UROC had broken the cycle for the first time in 12 solid months, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t that I was down on myself for DNFing; rather racing the cycle had been broken, disrupting my groovy year of racing. Injuries, train wrecks, personal disasters.. none of these had prevented me from this series of four to six weeks cycles of racing, until UROC. I had somehow fit put it all together to have a solid year (with one exception I guess). I didn't feel derailed by UROC; incomplete is a better word to describe my experience. So I’d had a couple light two weeks of running sincw, and local Firetrails 50 was coming up, so why not show up and have some fun, and try to get back in cycle again? One year ago, I'd started my unplanned 12 month race cycle at the 2010 FT 50, and in the name of completion, but not closure (as the cycle continues) I wanted to return.

The past two years at FT 50, 5 or 8 fast guys would set a typical quick pace off the start. Looking at the start list pre-race, no Chikara Omine, no Leigh Schmidt, no Gary Gellin, no Victor Ballesteros. All these top Bay Area guys had gone out fast in the past. But no one was registered who looked like they’d push things. I’d also thought maybe FT 50 would become a top national caliber 50 at some point, but that trend seemed to be reversing at Firetrails. (Come on guys! Fly out here and bust it up a bit at FT 50!). The lack of speed was actually fine with me this year; I was uncertain if I was even recovered 80% from my 30 mile DNF at UROC, and didn’t want to dig into the well too deep. Shallow it may be, I race to have fun, but I race to win most every time.

The race started mellow enough in the dark, with enough light to avoid a head torch, and chatted with perennial FTers Jonathan Gunderson and Jean Pommier, then quickly pulled away on the first hill for a self paced 47 mile run thereafter. I felt phenomenal this first half of FT, which heads out 26 miles to Lone Pine aid station to the north near Kensington behind the metropolis and suburbia of Oakland. You wouldn’t even know that you are surrounded by millions in the megalopolis which is the Bay Area. Then you reverse and return basically the same way. Yes, an out and back, but a fine one on ½ singletrack, ½ dirt roads, all tacky dirt with good push off from recent rains. I didn’t bother with bringing splits with me, as I didn’t feel like going for my old record of 6:19, and if it were going to happen, it would just happen that day. This year, it didn’t happen.. well, it half happened.

The long descent to the turnaround at Lone Pine means you pass the runners coming up from the start of the Golden Hills marathon which starts at Lone Pine. Leading the pack was Bay Area legend Leor Pantilat, closely on his heals was Boulder mountain runner and Pikes Peak marathon champion Galen Burrell. Galen is a close climbing and running buddy of mine who transplanted out to San Fran and now lives in Mill Valley, and will have a new little girl this coming spring. He won the the Rodgers Hill climb up Mt Tam a few years ago and almost broke the old record. He oozes talent, and raced with me in the Tour de Flatirons in Boulder. Galen is a class act, and so is Leor, and to see these guys duke it out made my day. Leor and Galen actually have similar fast mountain and climbing backgrounds, but Leor had the course record, and my chips were laid 50/50 for either of these monsters to take the W and a new CR..

So while those guys battled, I hit the turnaround 3 minutes faster than my course record time from last year, but the last few 500’ climbs before dropping down 1200 feet to Lone Pine felt harder than last year. My stomach was a bit queasy too, which is rare. Coming back up the climb, I felt like the octane wasn’t getting out the tank fast enough, and knew there weren’t any guys close this year as I’d seen them on the turnaround. That said, I more or less checked out on pushing the pace to make sure I didn’t go into a deficit and crash. The rest of the run then became a very pleasant trip of 20 miles back to the Lake Chabot start finish BBQ festivities, with the thought of food, family, and friends. I had one of the more pleasurable second halves of racing in a long time. It’s funny how the years of ultras and consistency has brought me to a point where a whole day of vertical trail running doesn’t make much of a dent. In fact it does the opposite, counter-intuitively making for more enjoyable productivity and time for the other things in life which are important.

Passing all the marathoners and outcoming 50 milers wasn’t too much of a problem on the narrow singletrack near Skyline aid station, which is roughly 15 miles heading out and 35 miles returning home. Everyone was fine stepping aside as I passed and I yielded to most incoming runners, feeling in no particular rush. About 4 miles to go, due to rains 2 days prior, the last aid station was moved, adding about 500 vertical, which was not a big deal and maybe made for slower times, but not by much.

The finish saw my kids and wife swarming me to give me lollipops and attention, the best finish a dad could want. 6:34 was a decent time and I met my goal of winning the race three times. I and everyone else knows that this is a pretty shallow accomplishment, as Firetrails 50 is a low key event that Carl Anderson and a bunch of other guys like Dave Scott could have won 10 times if they so chose, but Carl and Anne Trason directed FT for such a long time that supporting the running community to them was more important. Me though, I am the parasite that keeps coming back for more.

Galen and I

In the marathon, turns out Galen and Leor did indeed have a battle royale, with Galen having a top day and Leor having a very rare off day. Amazingly, Galen wasn’t even watching the clock, but broke Leor’s course record by THREE seconds, on a slightly harder course. Galen and I go way back, so our Firetrails wins made the day all the better.

Next up; I am registered for JFK 50 and TNF 50.. In 2003 I ran JFK in 5:55, having raced a 24 hour adventure race the weekend prior; I can better this time now, and it looks to be a doozy for the men's field. Quite a scary field actually. Wardian, Woods, Riddle.. all much faster than I.. on paper at least.

TNF 50 will on the other hand, be a walk in the park. Yeah. Right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ultra Race of Champions.. late race report 1.5 weeks later

From early on in the year, UROC was high on the priority race list. I am game for anything new and exciting, and love racing against the best at any distance under 100 miles (with a few 100 mile exceptions here and there). Gill and Francesca, with Geoff Roes as go-fer, wanted to try something cutting edge and sexy in the unsexy sport of ultrarunning. And they got off to a great start in this first year event!

I’d come into the race having been sick the prior two weeks with bronchitis. Okay so I hate to make excuses.. but the reality was I was 50/50 on the morning of the race. Last time I made a split second decision to run at the last minute based on sketchy pre-race circumstances, I set a course record.. For the prior week, my heart rate was in the 60-70 bpm at any given time during the day, even if I usually spend the majority of my days on my butt. I ran 5 days in two weeks before the race, with only one run being an hour. My muscles felt great, but the upper respiratory system was taxed, and I was unsure what the overall effect was on my running ability. I’d had enough rest since Waldo, so normally I would be keyed up and ready to rumble. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I went for it. My gut said “don’t run”, my wife said “don’t run”, my 3 year old daughter said “run”. Me, I said “run”. Listen to your wife, Mackey.

I arrived Charlottesville late afternoon Friday, getting a ride from up and coming runner and Chicago lawyer Matt Flaherty , who’d won a North Face race the weekend before. We got to the race brief Fri eve just in time to attend the panel discussion and Q and A with AJW as MC. Loads of fun it was, with Scott McCoubrey waxing poetic about ultra teams in the past 20 years and a table panel of running elites 100 feet long.

Race morning; as said, I was on the fence but the kicker was the fact that I wanted to help this race succeed, and my attendance would help the event kick off to a fine first year. The race started with a solid crew of guys, but unfortunately only four or five fast ladies in attendance, a big surprise given that the prize money was there. I felt fantastic for the first 30 miles of the race, and all signs were full steam ahead. Roes, Wardian, Scott Gall, Dave James, Matt Flaherty, Ian Sharman, and tons of other guys went out fast. I was comfortable with the pace, my legs and stomach felt smooth, and on the first long paved downhill coming off the Wintergreen ski are access road, my legs weren’t trashed in the least. Scott Gall and I were pushing the pace up front on the long ridge road out to some nice singletrack lollipop around a little lake, having some good chats. Scott and I have raced each other at 10k snowshoe races in Colorado over the past ten years, and we both raced for the nAtlas snowshoe race team , with him winning handily most every time over me. Ultras are my turf though and I eventually pulled ahead over the nice misty Bald Mt section. But this would not be that last I’d see of Scott, or everyone else for that matter.

I thought I was making time on the runners behind me as we ran a bunch more on the Blue Ridge Park way, when I came into mile 30 aid station and started to suddenly feel as if the light switch to my legs turned off. I had only had this happen in one other race, and it was disconcerting to realize that blood flow was completely and suddenly shunted from my extremities. I knew what protective mechanism my body was pulling on me; it was protecting the core from illness, and I didn’t like it! At that point, Mike Wardian came in yelling “Wardian! Gels, Water!!” behind me, just as I filled my bottle and started out on the single track four mile out and back. I thought this was amusing and shows the passion with which Mike runs. I tried to dig deep and chase him, but after 1.5 miles, I had response. What was odd was that I knew I had gas in the tank! But the fuel line had been protectively cut already.

Over the next ½ mile things just started to get worse. About another mile later, I turned around and started to walk back. Mike passed me again on his out and back about ¼ of a mile before the aid station ,and even then started to yell again, “Wardian, water, gels!!” I laughed again and kept walking. I checked into the aid station, felt fine walking around and chatting, then spent a fun afternoon with the Trailrunner magazine crew in their car stealing their food and beer, and catching up with other runners at the other aid stations as we spectated. I felt fine with my decision and didn’t kick myself over it, as it was out of my control, and made the most of spectating what turned out to be a dramatic finish. (Roes over Wardian, only due to Mike’s wrong turn I reckon. And congrats to dark horse Regan Petrie on the ladie’s side!)

As far as DNF’ing, I probably could have walked the remainder of the race if need be to save a life. But I wanted to race hard another day, and may even do so in the next two weeks if I feel recovered (I feel fine overall now.) I also wanted to function well during the next week and not detract from life outside of running, which is more important than running these days, so even if I could have finished, I am happy with my decision to drop. I hate DNFs, but the only DNF I have ever hated was Zane Grey 50 in 2003, when I’d lost only 12 minutes half way through but felt overly competitive, bitter about it, and wussed out in not trying to regain the lead. That was a poor spineless choice. I went back in the next two years to Zane Grey to run well and redeem myself. I hope I can do the same at UROC next year, which is a fine first year race with more potential and drive at the race-director helm (Bad to the Bone events)than any other ultra I know of. I’ve walked into the finish at ultras and know the satisfaction in the effort to cross the finish line only for the sake of completion. Finishing at all costs may work for some, but it doesn't always work for me. a time for everything though. To each their own in their DNFs; everyone has their reasons and that should be respected.

A somewhat haggard and incoherent Post Race interview with Scott Gall's Running Village

Next event for me.. It is so local and I am feeling groovy, so FireTrails 50 is this weekend October 8th! Going for my third consecutive win. Not sure I can take down my course record, but may give it a shot if the planets align.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Waldo 100k Race report

The one meadow crossing at Waldo, and it was quite lovely.

Michael Lebowitz photo

For several years I’d been eyeballing what used to be called the Where’s Waldo 100k as a top trail race to experience in the Northwest. I’d only tromped one Northwestern race in 2002 and should have been up there sooner than now. I suspected that Craig Thornley would put on a good show, and the fact that Waldo used to be the USATF 100K trail championships indicated this would be a high quality experience. Oddly enough, only a handful of top elite runners have made their mark up there, whereas White River 50 and Chuckanut, the other top NW ultras, had seen the gamut of elite runners. In coming years I am sure there will be many others making the trip. If you are on the fence, I would recommend Waldo 100k any day.

Scott and Clare and I camped out in the parking lots of the Willamette pass ski area in Scott’s sweet camper van (remember the band Camper Van Beethoven and that song matchstick men? I do.) We awoke at 2:45 with the 3 am starters walking walking by to start their race early, then crashed for one more hour or so to wake for the 5 am start. I was concerned that the 5000’ start base elevation of the ski area, and the race low point, would affect my race, but I found comfortable uphill running until about 6500 feet during the race, then felt a bit slower above that. The first climb is on the only dirt road of the race, about ½ mile of that, then onto 62 miles of pure singletrack for the rest of the course (besides one very short section); you just can’t find races like this anywhere anymore, and oddly enough I actually got tired of singletrack later in the race! I’ll take that kind of boredom any day.

The first 1200 ‘ climb I felt very comfortable uphill running and was happy that I had put in a lot of vertical training in the prior month back in Marin. My trespassing onto the 1800’ electromagnetic tower hill for hill repeats in Novato had paid off, and I felt that the first hundred feet of the race that I would be tough to beat that day. Given how crappy I felt at my last ultra, an unknown Sierra trail run that rhymes with “blistered face”, I was happy to feel good. As I started down the first of many sweet descents on classic long switch backs where you can get sub 6 minute mile leg speed, I glanced back and didn’t see any headlights bobbing through the trees, but knowing that Ian Sharman and Yassine Dibboun were racing, I thought they’d be close. I knew that these guys had ultras raced a bunch lately and guessed they weren’t focusing on Waldo.

My intended splits were taken from the stellar Craig Thornley Waldo website, with a pacing plan exactly what Erik Skaggs ran in 2009. I came into the first Fuji mt aid station at 59:30, just two minutes below Skaggs' split. Through the big trees to the top of Mt Fuji I kept passing the 3 am early starters until I topped out and had a quick view of famed Waldo. Waldo is named for one of the many large lakes around the course, but you never actually see Waldo until the top of Fuji peak if you think to look for it; I didn’t see it for long, but for doing so the organizers gave a lovely Patagonia down jacket in my wife’s size anyway for be the first to be able to view Waldo.

Tagging the summit at 7100 or so feet, and turned around for the semi technical but fast descent. I passed the guys who were headed up in 3 minutes, so I reckoned I had about 7 minutes on them, but Ian later said I had 10. Anyway, back to Fuji aid station, came through at 1:44:35, still just slightly faster than Erik.

Throughout the rest of the race, I was about 1-4 minutes on Skaggs’ splits, and while racing I recalled reading about his race from two years ago, when he developed rhabdomyolysis. I hadn’t reread his post-race interviews since then, but should have, as I wasn’t sure how much NSAIDS he had ingested at the time. I decided to only take 1 x 220 mg of Naprosyn early in the race, and one more later, which is conservative for my racing style; I know many medical professionals and some racers think NSAIDS do nothing to help one’s racing, but I think otherwise as long as the runner is very conservative, hydrated, and fueled.

Since I felt consistent the whole race with only a small lull at near Charlton lake aid station, I decided to not push the pace beyond reason; I had zero desire to experience the hospital stay that Erik endured. I did wonder though if his pace would slow later on in the race due to the overall effects on his body which led to his development of rhabdo. That said, I tried to pay close attention to any subtle body cues or red flags, and played it safe. Still, it was a hard effort to run the same pace as the old course record, almost as intense as any race I’d run.

After Fuji, the rest of the race was a nice push through the varied trees which reminded me of running in Colorado forests around 10000 feet, which are comprised of dry lodgepole pine forests, leading up to large green moist Englemann spruce around 11000+ ft. I don’t know if these were same trees, but it sure felt like fine Colorado running to me, only without all the dirt roads that always link the good singletrack.

Many stretches were on snow patches a hundred or so feet long, but this didn’t take a significant toll on the overall time.. maybe a minute overall, as my running on snow was mostly untracked and firm, with only a few exceptions. One difficult crux of the race was the second climb up the backside of Twin Peaks, which is an ancient volcano made of loose dun colored soil, and much like running the volcanoes around Mexico city (a highly recommended adventure if you get the chance) , only in dense trees. This climb was on a 7 mile segment which seemed to stretch forever, I only had one hand bottle which I drained early after every aid station, and the course flagging was sparse. I thought I was of course and almost turned around on several occasions, as I was feeling dry and unsure.

The next crux was probably the hardest point in the race for everyone; the ascent and descent of fabled 7800 + Maiden peak at mile 55, so close to the finish but still a long way to get there. The Maiden climb is about 2800 feet feet, and for some reason never seems to end. I think I was 1-2 minutes off Erik’s time at this point, and was hoping I would be able to make it up on the backside of the peak on he descent past Maiden lake aid station. I knew I was dehydrated and had been drinking an extra 20 ounces of water at each aid station, then taing my bottle with me, but it was getting around 85 degrees and I was dry anyway.

As I cramped off Maiden peak, I knew I had some real work to do to stick to the plan, so I tried to attack the few hills on the remaining 8 miles after Maiden lake. Luckily this 8 miles is mostly fast and runnable if there is gas in the tank, and I did have a bit of octane left, as I had been pushing the Clif bar fuel hard the whole race. It paid off with 6 to 7 minutes mile pace on the smooth Pacific Crest trail, past a few beautiful small lakes behind the Willamette pass peak. Not knowing the mileage to the finish, except for one set of race photographers who said I had 3 or 4 miles left, I just kept pushing running scard that I would miss the course record. Eventually Lake Odell came into sight and I guessed I had 2 miles to go, which put me just under time to reach my goal. Out into the hot sun from the trees back to the ski area base, I finished just under CR in 7:06:51, as well as master’s CR.

True to the Northwest, a sasquatch-like finishing pose.

Michael Lebowitz photo

The rest of the afternoon was spent as usual hanging out with like-minded trail runners who happen to abuse themselves beyond belief, watching other racers come in, enjoying the fine post race BBQ, free massage, and out-of-doors shower.

Thanks for the ride up with Clare Abrams and Scott LaFarge, and Steve and Deborah Itano drove waaay out of their way to drop me back in Novato. Thanks guys! My wife Ellen also sweetly gave me a 48 hour hall pass for the race; not an easy thing to do with two busy toddlers in the house! And Craig, Curt, Alan, and Meaghan organized the finest singletrack course (almost 100%) I have ever run.

Overall splits.

59:30 Gold Lake

1:44:35 Fuji aid

2:08:24 Fuji Aid 2

2:49:57 Mt Ray

3:47:59 Twin Peaks 1

4:27:16 Charleton Lake

5:09:20 Road 4290

6:22:20 Twin Peaks 2

7:04:32 Maiden Peak (located ~2000' below the summit actually)

8:09:25 Maiden Lake

Finish, Willamette Ski Area, 9:06:51

Gear-wise, per usual I raced in the Hoka One One Bondi B.. give credit where credit's due, this shoe has had a huge hand (foot) in my season so far.. Thanks Nico, Jay, Karl and the Hoka gang! Clif products have boosted my fuel levels all year, and I have to say there is something going on in that Udos stuff that aids recovery.. I will need recovery as UROC is in 4 weeks. Okay back to your reading irunfar coverage of UTMB.

Monday, August 15, 2011

No UTMB :( .. but Waldo calls instead :)

Until now, I had been registered for the "CCC" (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix) 100K trail race, which is run prior to the 100 mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in the heart of the Alps in two weeks. The CCC is considered the junior varsity version of the UTMB, and if I had gone over I'd planned on switching over to the varsity UTMB team in order to get my full meal deal of experience in the Alps. As it is, I can't go over this year to run either race; I just can't get the time off as it is the fist week of the fall semester. If the race were one week earlier I would have been carbo loading on escargot and stinky cheese with the finest American contingent of ultrarunners sent over the big pond. They will be running one of the hottest contested international events in years, beyond anything that has been run on US soil thus far. I will be following closely online rooting for the Yanks to bring it home.
Lately, this evolution in long mountain running has been truly cool to experience. The North Face 50 last December saw a decent set of Euros come over. WS 100, although very limited in accessibility to elites or anyone, was as international as anything yet put on. Hardrock, even more limited than WS, did an okay job of representation of internationals. Unfortunately, the US side of ultrarunning is only getting increasingly limiting, as the supply of races is not meeting demand.
I would love to be ten years younger to be able to fully embrace this change; as it is I am trying my best to maintain the highest level of running given the cards I am dealt, and still can usually show a full house to those assembled at the poker table. Still got a bunch of tricks up my sleeve to come. That said, the next long mountain running game is the Waldo 100K in Oregon. It is high time to get up north to check this one out, and the only other Northwestern race I have run so far in the White River 50 years ago. This race has been on my list for five years now, and should be a decent turnout with a few other fast guys showing up.
The UROC is five weeks later out on the East coast; I will surely be there for a whooping in the hills of Virginia.
Training-wise, recently I found that I thought was a 1500 foot ridge just to the West of our place in Novato is actually 1800', which means I have been training 20% more vertical than what I thought! This is kind of like finding that old $20 in your jeans pocket, a real find which adds value to your day. This explains why I had been feeling a bit more beat up that usual this summer, and now I'm sure I was overtraining as I did several days of multiple laps on this hill in the heat. This is fine with me, as the long-term benefits may pay off.
UTMB.. maybe next summer!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Table Rock 25K..on the greatest trails Marin has to offer!

You may ask. Where the heck is this Table Rock?

Marin is much like the " Boulder" of California, without towering flatirons, world-class rock canyons like Eldorado State Park, and knobs of skinny teens pulling plastic in the multiple competing rock-climbing gyms within two blocks of each other. No, Marin is famous for much else, like the home of James Hetfield (Metallica), the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and grassy, mild hills and green canyons sloping down to the sea at famed Muir, Rodeo, Bolinas, and Stinson Beaches. It is directly above, about 500 vertical, the latter lovely beach of Stinson where Table Rock resides. As you come screaming down the wooden and rocky steps off the 1600 foot descent of the Headlands in the Table Rock 25K, you may not even know that you were treading the rock itself, as it is tucked in the thick Northern woods, with a small sign indicating its huge presence.

I had an excellent time racing this La Sportiva Cup race. If it weren't for the Cup, which I am not participating in, this would have been a low-key, locals-only race. The only other PCTR race I ran was in 2009 in santa Cruz, which was a very simple affair, with vague markings and maps, and I got off course only to realize it as I drove away after the finish. This year, the gun went off in the fog, and as the leaders blazed a hypoxic start, I settled into 7th place as we started the 200' climb up the Dipsea trail and turned off onto the real 1400' climb of Steep Ravine trail. I started to reel in runners right away, and could only knew ID a couple of the runners near me, like Justin Morejohn and Jason Bryant. One other runner just ahead of me was wearing the Brand New Hoka One One Stinson B model, a very appropriate shoe to match this race, and a shoe that even I hadn't received yet ('til today.. the runner who raced in them reported top notch performance and he'd just bought them the day before).
I gradually picked some runners off as we climbed the famed actual steep ladder of the ravine, and came out to Pan Toll just ahead of three other runners and in 4th place overall. I love this climb; always wet, dark , ducking heads under large fallen redwoods, and hypoxia. I thought I may have gone out too hard, but still felt real strong and as we started the mellow grade down towards Heather cut off trail, I felt instantly like I could run the hard pace all day. But that said, I knew the only way to win this race was if the top three came back to me.
The first real junction was a maze of flagging, an I took a wrong turn down the Dipsea trail. Luckily for me, Jason and Justin were just behind me and yelled down into the trees at me to come back up. I came back up to find myself in 7th place, and blazed down into the fog of Heather Cut-Off towards Muir Beach.
I passed made up the three lost positions pretty quickly, and hit the flat Redwood trail loveliness halfway point and saw La Sportiva Cup leader Ryan Woods just ahead. Back up the Deer Park Rd/Dipsea trail to Pan Toll, I kept seeing Ryan just ahead, but just couldn't accelerate to get closer to him. Past Pan Toll aid stations again, the singletrack gently contoured up into pea-soup fog and wind, which is pervasive at the 1600 foot level for much of the year. Finally as we turned down the Matt Davis trail final descent, I saw Matt, but I also hoped to see the two leaders just ahead of him. I quickly passed Matt as we started down the best trail in Marin..IMO.. ripped around the slick wood step and rock corners, over the Table Rock, and into Stinson town to a mellow finish only 100 meters from the beach. I worked hard for that 3rd place, and was happy to have it.
The first two guys I had never met, but was duly impressed by their performances. Jared Scott ( who lives on the Grand Canyon rim at 7000 ft) and Matt Byrne ( who lives in the polar-opposite Scranton, PA) put on a mountain runners' clinic. Awesome! Google these guys to see some stellar resumes. I found out from Jared post-race that he holds the new Grand Canyon one-way record (3:07), while I hold the GC round trip record (7 hours). Trail Runner mag's Ashley Arnold finished tops by 9 minutes over her sister, Cynthia. Many top runners flew out for this series run.

Bryon Powell's write up here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WS wrap-up

I'd written a report last week on my wife's macbook pro, only to delete it due to not knowing the keyboard shortcuts on a mac. Here's a brief recap and Galen Burrell's photography, with Hoka One One founder Nicolas Mermoud joining me for a section of the Foresthill streets.

Lessons learned..

*Altitude.. WS isn’t considered a high altitude race, but 6000 feet felt like 14000 feet this year! Compared to 2009 when I lived in Colorado, I was sucking pond water this year as we climbed out of Squaw Valley. In 2009 it was easy to crest the top of Squaw at 8500 feet in first place; this year I was in about 15th with significantly more effort.

*Recovery: My spring season was too packed with victories :) to perform top notch at WS. Live and learn, gotta push the envelope, living life on the edge, etc, all that. That said, I can’t wait to race again later this summer!

*Hoka One One: I am so happy I sported the Bondi B the whole race. The Bondi B rocked the snow, as I came out of the snow in first to promptly lose about 15 minutes on a misflagged turn to Talbot Creek campground (ten more yellow flags led me across a waist high stream crossing leading into the Granite Chief wilderness...I wonder if other racers took this turn?) Anyway, the Bondi’s gripped the snow, cushioned the descents, and performed just as well as hey did at AR 50 and Miwok.

*Crew: My crew was stellar, as were the aid stations and volunteers. But I found it completely unnecessary to have crew until Michigan Bluff (mile 55) and would have been fine until Foresthill or the river going solo using only aid station resources. As known I thought I would struggle with GI issues but this didn’t materialize this year. I learned that simple is best for my racing and the transfer from fueling in sub 100 k races works fine to my rare 100 mile race. Of course I can say this given the cool temps this year and may be “eating” my words in the future.

*Props to Montrail for putting on the 2011 Montrail Cup (and 2010, 2009, 2008..) Of course I am happy about this because I won the series and some money which I sorely needed. I know some may not like to hear it but if it weren’t for my sponsors I would not have raced this year; I simply would have had to get a part-time job on top of school to support my family.

When I won the 2004 Cup I received a crystal vase presented at the Mountain Masochist 50, which still holds the flowers I bring home daily to my wife (or weekly.. maybe). I am guessing Montrail president Topher Gaylord has a iridium razor he just hasn't got around to mailing just yet.

*Have an excellent summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WS Brief

Overall, even though what I experienced Saturday was truly inspiring and phenomenal in many ways, I felt had a mediocre race at Western this year. Got 8th in the race, but won the Montrail Cup series. I felt rather blase for most of the day with no real low-points, but nI ever felt like I could accelerate at any given time either. I continue to underestimate the recovery that needs to occur on a deep level from these things called ultras..I guess being 41 will do that to you!

Some highlights though..

(I can't believe I didn't mention my crew when I wrote this post last night; my good college pal Devin, SFSU coach Tom Lyons and son Dean, old Boulder pal Galen Burrell (also paced me in 04), and pacers Mark Richtman (paced me in 09) and Atlas snowshoe race teammate Peter Fain. Thanks fellas! Ellen and Ava came to the finish past bedtime to cheer, a pleasure to see through tired eyes.

The other highlights:

*Seeing a BIG black bear book across the trail and dive down steep hill near Dusty Corners.

*This article about RD Greg Soderlund in the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Greg is such a grounded guy, humble, detailed, and he used to be a PA but would never tell you so.

*Witnessing the sprint finish of Kami Semick vs. Nikki Kimball for 2nd and 3rd on the track. Apparently they had their own run-in on the trail with a different bear than mine (seriously).

*Running 15 miles of the race on top of the Sierra snowpack, picking out yellow flags to follow and wishing the whole race was like that.

*Being passed by AJW at Hwy 49, then retaking him in the last few miles. My crew guy Tom Lyons told me I'd better beat him or I’d have no ride home.

*Volunteering few a few hours for the race. Seeing loads of people I only see once a year and meeting tons of others.

*Not a highlight; taking my daughter to the ER the day before the race, wondering if I would make the start the next day! (Just a hard fall off the bunkbed. She is fine but got a little egg behind her ear; kids’ resiliency amazes me.)

I will try to write something up by next weekend if I can fit it in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Help me solve my GI issues at WS

Friend or Foe?

I almost never reach out to the masses for running advice. I basically go it alone in my training strategy and this has worked quite well for the most part in all racing and training. In this case though, I am trying to solve a thorny problem that oddly solely occurs on the Squaw to Auburn course.

My problem is located in the lower left of the above diagram, where the stomach joins the duodenum and small intestine. I am trying to find ways to not have my pyloric sphincter bind into a knot and shut down all subsequent digestion by the time I hit Michigan Bluff. All digestive absorption happens distal to the stomach in the small intestine, with very little real events in the stomach (except mixing) and in the large intestine (except some water absortion and mucus production). My nutrient absorption during races has normally been excellent, with a "cast iron stomach" I rarely to never have nausea, vomiting, and lack of fueling. But once I touch that dirt in the Sierra summer all bets are off. Even last year when pacing Geoff, after 25 miles I found the same thing happening, peeling off at Brown's Bar and then picking him up later at Robie Point. And it was "only"90 degrees last year. This has only occurred on the WS course, and never in any other, or even longer, adventure or running event.

So help me if you will with any and all tips. I am looking for the silver bullet the slay the GI vampire that lurks within. Do you know what this bullet consists of? I have asked advice of a few WS legends such as Craig Thornley and AJW, and they offered some excellent tips, historical perspective, and references to prior posts. But these guys for the most part get through WS on chicken broth, stew, turkey and avocado and cheese sandwiches for the first half, then switch to gels and conventional fueling later in the race. This wouldn't work for me, as I tried this kind of stuff (but much less of it) in 2004, leaving my stomach turned sideways on Cal Street while Jurek put an hour on me. I have a ton of respect for these guys and their ways, especially as they actually spend time on the course fine tuning and becoming intimate with it, but their fueling strategies are more traditional than mine.

Here are my options as I see them;

Metoclopramide: My ultrarunning science friend Charles told me her tried this pharmacological GI motility agent once, which left him asleep by the side of the trail. Not sure I want to go there.

Ginger: I tried capsules in 2009, but I may have tried them too late in the game as they didn't seem to work. But I was kind of sick that year anyway. I may supplement these early and see what happens. I know nothing about ginger extract though, except it is mostly alcohol mixing with liquid ginger.

Simplicity: Gels, Clif Bloks bananas, PBJ, water. I have only had success here in shorter races. I lean towards this simple tried but true way and not gumming the works.

Eating less: Risky. If there is less in the tank I may bonk and not catch up in fueling later.

Pacing smarter: Getting to Michigan Bluff doesn't win the race; getting to the track first does.

Feel free to post ideas. I need them! For such an experienced runner as I am, in this realm I feel as green as Karl Meltzer running a road 5K. Solving this GI thang is no reinvention of the wheel for many ultrarunners, but I am a neophyte at this distance and have the utmost respect for the years that are out there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Novato life before Western States

The Novato skyline looking West

I think my lack of a mileage log has caught up with me. Since running Miwok 100k 3+ weeks ago I just have felt like the gas hasn’t been in the tank to run very much or very hard since then. I am not supposed to run much anyway as Miwok and AR 50 were so close to each other, but I should get better at tracking my training, just to know why the heck I feel so crappy. This hasn’t been for naught though as I can focus more on life's other callings, but I am tired of being tired all the time.

What I do know I need to change immediately is my diet. Ellen and the kids and I eat extremely well overall, but cookies and 1-2 beers at the end of the day is not just working (for me, not the kids). I think the special treats in the evening are negatively affecting my sleep patterns and not enabling recovery. Basically every morning I wake up and don’t feel in the least bit rested, wanting three more hours in the sack to catch up. My basic fueling is vegetarian with omnivore tendency, and with a bit more discipline will yield better recovery and energy.

I ran well in the spring because I was focused on studies, family, and no alcoholic beverages, which was fine and I didn’t even notice for weeks at a time that I hadn’t ingested any alcohol, which is mostly a waste of money that I don’t have anyway. This was a good formula and I seemed to race well on moderate running mileage. I will go back to these basics, but will not give up all of the cookies.. just half of them. I am fine with fewer miles the next few weeks before States, as I am not going to get any fitter and can more or less only recover anyway. I find when I put more energy into school and family I race best, so I am trying to get back to these basics.

Otherwise we now live in Novato, CA, on the northern side of Marin, about 200 meters from Hwy 101 and close to Hwy 37, which takes me to Vallejo over to top of the Bay. I have a 25 minute reverse commute from door to door, and stellar trails just out the back door on a long 1500 foot elevation ridge that creates a kind of quasi-cirque that surrounds Novato. Look at the Novato skyline and you can pick out some cell phone towers at the top of the Skyline, which his the middle of the “cirque”; these towers are easily reached by a steep rolling series of climbs by dirt road and single track out the door of our dodgy apartment on Ignacio Boulevard. Up Ignacio two miles away is College of Marin, a beauty of a college campus trailhead of about 20 miles of moderately difficult and beautiful trail link ups onto some private land (never crossed this private land though..wouldn’t dare :) high above to the aforementioned ridge. The kids, dog, Ellen and I had an excellent evening hike down low near the college today to a small pond on the Waterfall trail, which was perfect for a family jaunt with a one-year old strapped to my back and a three-year old leading the charge.

The other skyline feature of Novato is Mt Burdell, a mini-massif of dirt roads and single track to about 1500 feet, with an awesome five-mile long narrow switchback descent on the backside to Mt Olompali State Park, which used to be the largest Miwok Indian encampment long ago, as well and where the Grateful Dead used to jam. This trail combo can be a sweet out and back, offer excellent leg turnover with vertical as needed. All in all, Mt Burdell is super nice for running and views. And Novato is a nice town, a bit less pretentious than much of Marin, yet just as attractive, with a cool farmer’s market that rivals Boulder’s.

So WS is coming up and I have re-evaluated my plan for this race. The past two times I have raced it I ran at the front until Michigan Bluff and ended with mixed results, suffering the effects of the heat for doing so. This year I am taking a new tack and am going to “chill” and try to enjoy the experience without killing myself and not being able to function at school the week after. According to the point system, all I need to do is finish to win the Montrail Cup, which is more important than trying to win the race this year and risk blowing up (not that I could win it anyway). I look forward to being 30 minutes back of the leaders coming into Foresthill, and then see what may materialize after that in terms of a podium spot. Unlike others, who run away to escape north over the Arctic circle to evade the pressure of WS title defense, I am going to chill like the ice cube I am. May I not melt before mile 30.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Miwok 100K race report

I posted Miwok race report over at Bryon Powell's unrivaled ultrarunning and trail site, . Thanks for posting it Bryon. I didnt get to write proper final edit of the report, so the flow isn't that good in my opinion. I also didnt say anything about the women's race, which was just as exciting as the men's. Pam Smith pulled ahead of Meghan Arboghast and Krissy Moehl to take the win.. here is Pam's race report..

What may best sum it all up is Jim Vernon's excellent work...

Geoff Roes writes here about some race this summer. I think along the lines of Geoff in terms of pacing and conserving energy, as well as thinking one race at a time. Next up for me is an unknown point-to-point race snowshoe race in the Sierras. Got a 2004 2nd, a 2009 DNF so far.. .may I hope that third time's a charm.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Miwok 100k, Montrail Cup, etc

Next up for me in two weeks is the Miwok 100K, one of my faves and right in my soon-to-be backyard, as we are moving back to the Bay Area next week. I love this race!! Ever have races that you keep going back to where you feel like things just click ?
62.4 miles (note that this is over 100K) is a long frickin' way. It's like driving from Boulder to Colorado Springs on I-25, and the thought of having to run this makes me nauseous. A few years ago I would pop in the car at the drop of a hat to train on Pikes Peak. But to run on thatdrive? Ughh..
The only difference between I-25 and Miwok are the surface underfoot and about 10K vertical feet of climb and descent, as well as all the attendant race-day circumstances, friends, banners, glory, bbq, etc. But the biggest real difference is simply running through the woods and fields of the Headlands, the best place to get lost and forget about how far you have to go, much like the Colorado mountains. Under these circumstances and in these places, you can finish these incredible distances with MORE energy than when you started. I have competed in so many races, including 5 day adventure races, where the next day I've felt more alive, refreshed, invigorated than before the gun went off. I am not sure why this happens given the huge distances traveled over gnarly terrain with minimal resources. Is it massive releases of anti-oxidants? Is it excessive fresh sea-level air? Thin mountain air?
Then there are the few races when I feel like a Mack truck just ran me over the day after. Primal Quest 2006 in the seven-day summer desert heat of Utah and Western States in 2009 come to mind; coming into WS immunocompromised didn't help, and PQ '06 was simply hard-core suffer-fest of atronomical proportions (like running 1000 miles of WS.. without water.)
Any way I look at it, long trail running gives back much more back than it takes...most of the time.

So I will run Miwok... if this goes well then I will be primed to finish the Montrail Cup series of four required races, which has $5000 for the first place series win. I didn't start the season aiming to run this series, and didn't even want to run Miwok. As for Bandera 100k I planned to race only because it was an excellent early season race that Geoff, Tony, and others planned on racing and I wanted a piece of the action. Winning Bandera gave me Montrail Cup points, but the anticipated elite competition didn't happen. For AR 50 I wanted redemption to better my time from two years ago and I was in Cali anyway, so those Cup points more or less materialized naturally. Now school starts and I can only race locally, which lends Miwok 100k and WS to align well... may as well finish the series.

Next year, I am need to run some new races. It is my clinical year of school, so who knows where I will be or what level of training will happen. I have run so much in California and need a change of pace. It's where I've lived so it makes sense to race in CA, but I also live in Colorado half time, miss racing the high stuff. Never ran Leadville, HR, been years since I ran at San Juan Solstice and Collegiate Peaks, but have run Pikes recently and the Greenland (CO) trail races.

I said I was going to post my splits for the American River 50, but they unintentionally were deleted from my watch database. I am bummed about this I know runners try to find the elites' splits from prior years to pace themselves, and I like to look back and compare my times to current performances. All I can offer is though is this link, which has some interesting stuff.

The data regarding the second half of the race shows who ran smart the first half. For example, the women's winner, Ellie Greenwood, ran the second half (3:16:38) faster than many of the guys who finished in front of her. So in a longer race it is possible that she would have passed these guys. Perhaps not though, because the guys would have likely paced differently in a longer race.
I hope most racers can learn from these splits and apply them in future years. As proved time and time again, we all go out too fast in ultras.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American River 50 race report

Two years ago, I had run a disappointing AR 50, in my mind at least. Even though I was second that year, I’d had high aspirations for a sub 5:40 time. It turns out this was the year the course was measured short and recalibrated to the current accurate 50 mile distance, so given this, 5:40 wasn’t reasonable. Last season I wasn’t running much two thirds of the year, so AR 50 wasn’t even in the cards. This year, now that I’d had at least some training and some races in the late fall and January’s Bandera 100K, I decided it would be a fine opportunity to better my effort from two years prior.

The dark 6 am start and subsequent 50 miles went exactly as I had anticipated, with some mild rabbiting to 26.2 and the ole wily tortoise (me) catching in the end. My goal was to run comfortably through the marathon and then ramp things up from there. I had splits based roughly on prior years wins, which would get me to 26.2 in 2:46. I knew that Jason Loutthit had some fast 5 K times and some recent ultra experience, but guessed he’d go out fast. I also thought Ian Sharman would follow suit with Jason, given his road experience and leg speed.

The first couple miles was a pack of guys in the dark, including the above two speedsters, plus Nick Clark and Scott Jaime and one other guy. I stuck with about a 6:20 pace right from the start, while Jason, Ian, Nick, and the other guy were out of sight after mile two. The first 20 miles or so are sweet paved bike path (as good as paved can get I guess), with maybe 10% of just-off-the-hardtop-edge running on dirt, which is still “legal” as it parallels the path. This “dirt finding” doesn’t help too much in the end, but gives a mental running surface break. As always, most of my thoughts were on running point to point tangents, eating and drinking and popping occasional pills, and wondering if I should stop to take a dump. I focused on my own game, but happened to match paces with Scott Jaime and Nick Clark, who I ran near for most of first 20 miles.

After five miles of fighting it the inconvenience of stopping, I pit stopped for 30 seconds at a portopotty, and instantly felt faster. It is sooo worth making these stops, as I easily go 15-20 seconds per mile faster. It’s not like I lose pounds of baggage, but it just feels good maybe because less blood flow goes to the GI tract. Anyway. it pays off to dump off!

I felt fine and comfy through the marathon, besides a couple upper GI cramps around mile 23. This was likely because I was eating and drinking a lot, even though the temps were cool and would stay so. I have found that in 50 mile to 100K races, if I fuel heavily early it can carry me through the second half of races without having to play too much catch up in the later stages. But by doing so, I actually choose to create potential GI problems early in the race, but I would rather stuff my stomach earlier rather than later, when it would be far too late to intake gels, water, electrolytes, etc. I can’t even remember the last time I bonked using this strategy, except for Western States in 09, when everything shut down due to heat and a flu bug.

So all told I ate two Clif Shots before the start, and then two per hour, or a few more, through the race. I also preventatively ate Advil (thanks Craig Thornley and Megan Arbogast) before the start and one per hour after that..about 1200 mg total. (I completely disagree the research that says NSAIDS don’t help ultrarunning; works for me as long as I keep overall amounts moderate. Potential toxicity and GI ulcers are real hazards so watch yourself!) I also ate four saltines and a handful of cheezits to supplement the Clif Shots and two ClifBlok packs. I also ate maybe a dozen S-Caps, and drank half water/Gu2O mix from the aid stations. No fats and protein this time around.

I think the biggest difference in this race was my footwear. The Hoka One One Bondi B were designed perfectly for this tough course; I came off the pavement at mile 28 and still had fresh enough legs to hang in the second half. The shoe is designed for road running but handles well on most any dirt surface, as long as it isn’t slick clay (where nothing really performs anyway).

Anyway, back to the race..I came through the marathon banner in 2:48, about 30 seconds after Ian. Jason had come through in 2:56, and maybe gained 2 more minute before mile 28 at Beals Point aid station, giving him a ten minute lead. So out of Beals point, the race goes quickly to lovely dirt singletrack for 90% of the remainder of the race. I loved running this last section!! It had rained tons in the spring, so the soil was damp enough to be slightly tacky underfoot with little loose sand, providing good push off and traction. It was cool and in the 50s and 60s, with lots of shady sections. There were tons of mud puddles, but not too many too big that I couldn’t dance around the edges or jump to avoid getting wet. There were a couple reroutes around felled trees, but nothing too annoying to slow things too much. The undulating singletrack of this part of the AR 50 is fun and rocky in sections, with plenty of contours to pick up the leg speed for long sections and cruise at 6:30 pace. I felt light years different from two years ago, when I wore running flats and trashed myself, then had nothing in the tank going onto this dirt. I felt there were very few occasions, except for the epic three mile hill at the end, when I couldn’t have accelerated if Jason, Ian, or Nick had come out of nowhere. I was going for the win and nothing more, and had way more fun in the last half than the first.

After Beals Pt mile 28, I passed Ian about a mile out, while he was off investigating the bushy scrubbery. For eight miles after I had varying reports of how close Jason was. Greg Soderlund said Jason had three minutes on me at one aid station, then a mile later a jogger stated he was only one minute ahead. I was surprised to find at Buzzards Cove that he had a four minute lead on me, as I thought I was cruising pretty good. Finally, at mile 38 I passed Jason on a gentle hill. He was still moving well, yet didn’t accelerate as I passed, so I thought there could be a chance of him catching me if he rebounded. I also had no idea where Ian or Nick were lurking, and didn’t write them off in the least. I therefore resigned myself to “running scared” the remaining 12 miles of the race.

I actually like running with the fear factor in ultras. It keeps me on my toes and really tests the ability to self motivate, whereas when you are racing with others they tend to push you from without and pace off others, which actually can detract from a better overall finish time. I only walked two sections of the rest of the race; one short steep single track section, and about 100 meters of the beginning of the three mile dirt road finish.

I finally started to “feel the ultra love/pain” about half way up the last hill, and started dogging it a bit. I still ran this last three miles in just under 26 minutes, which is just over eight minute miles (if the mileage is correct), so I wasn’t crashing too hard. I came into the finish in just over 5:55 and was super-happy to have won this west coast ultra classic. Five minutes later Jason came busting around the corner to just break six hours by five seconds, with Nick and Ian within 30 seconds of that. I surely didn’t envy being in that epic battle for second place!

I will post my splits when I can find my race watch..

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back to AR 50!

Man, I have just come out of one of my rocks from the past few months, but am finally back out with my turtle head poked out and ready to climb out and run a couple of races. I had a block of exams the past 5 weeks which took most of my energy, and am glad they ae over. It will be an awesome month with AR 50 this weekend and Miwok exactly four weeks later, and I am psyched for the time proximity of these running classics. I havent raced since January 8th, so 3 months out is a long time to not get a good thrashing at the hands/feet of the trails.
I am happy to run AR 50 again. Two years ago I didnt train on pavement and had a bad race in running a 6:12. This year may be different as I have better footwear and 80% of my miles have been paved the past 6 weeks. Should be able to better this time easily.
Even though my training has been relatively low the past three months, I have focused on quality half marathon workouts that leave me tired enough to sit alot and focus on school and sleep well, yet not enough realistically to be considered real ultra training. The longest I have run is 2 hours at one time, yet I have been consistent and healthy, which makes up for the paucity of miles. I feel going into two hard races being slightly undertrained is unconventional, yet I know I have the recovery reserves in the tank to handle it and come out no worse for wear. I am supposed to run WS 100 in June, which is still uncertain, as I will need to train a few long runs in late May and first week of JUne; PA school and my family rank higher on the list so we will see. I have eked out good races before, but I aint no spring chicken and the clock ticks. WS historically isn't my bag, but given the the 160% of average Sierra snowpack underfoot, I reckon this summer is due for a heavy snowfall on the head as well come race morning! I'd be one happy runner that day, as my Scotch/Canadian/Russian/Swedish cold blood boils over 80 degrees F.
See you in Sacramento Saturday AM. Likely candidates to be beating the American River Trail with me past Folson prison and beyond include Nick Clark, Scott Jaime, Ryan Burch, Erik Skaden, Jason Louthit, and Ian Sharman. Tell me if there is anyone else I missed. I heard Tony K is hurt and Chikara Omine as well; I'd looked forward to racing these guys. Surprisingly, I still havent raced Tony after all these years. Maybe WS..

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Just a quick note on what I have been up to.
Overall for the most part I have just been locked indoors here on Mare Island in Vallejo studying and taking exams to restart school for the summer. ( I will do s story on Mare Island sometime.. the history here in incredible). It has been somewhat of a self-imposed exhile, with the need to buckle down and focus on studies so I can finish PA school and get out in the working world again and support my family. I feel like a monk in his hermits enclave.. but there are plenty of other med school, pharmacy, and physician assistant students here at Touto University, all of whom are going to classes. I on the other hand on temporarily on a separate track to restart school, so I do my own thing for the most part. Only two more weeks of exams though!
The running has been sporadic and somewhat low volume, but when I do get out I try to make it count and tire myself out enough to be able to sit alot otherwise and get a get a decent night's sleep. When I don't run it is a pretty miserable existence, I get grumpy, my wife isn't happy, no one likes me.. you know how it goes. Same goes for trying to eat well.. eating lots of veggies and quality food, and topping it all off at the end of the day with a few cookies, makes for solid energy throughout the day.
Next Races! American River 50. Super excited for this one.. the one other time I ran it, I didnt have a good race. Should be a different game with my Bondi B's this year. I guess my lack of training won't help my case, but we'll see. Not the first time I've gone in undertrained; many other elites who toe the line are overtrained or don't train and pace smart (me included).
Miwok 100k is on the docket and WS 100. I will ahve to see how school goes in order to race both these. School is way more important to me right now. Ultra Race of Champions in Sept and UTMB/CCC are likely in the fall too.
For now, Mare Island, Touro University in Vallejo is home, but back to Boulder for a brief bit in April.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Minimalist running and the Bondi B

Pick your's up at the Boulder Running company!
(if you are lucky enough to live here...)
Worn alot of shoe brands over the years, from Nike ACG, GoLite, Montrail, New Balance, Salomon, Pearl.. and they are all excellent shoes for the most part. But the Bondi B has to be one of the most inovative products to come out in years.

It is very interesting to compare the whole minimalist footwear movement and think about where trail running footwear has been and where it's going. For most of the 2000's (the "Bush years"..ugh), I found trail running footwear to be in the doldrums. It seemed that many a trail running footwear company's M.O. was 12-16 ounce behemoths that sold because they looked decent when tried on the retails floor with a pair of jeans. That was what sold, so it was what they made. True there were some inovative products but for me most trail shoes were too heavy for race performance. I actually prefered to race in light weight road shoes in many cases. Then the minimalist movement happened and folks could realize that you can have fun out there and not wear a pound on each foot.

I do think there is a place for 6 ounce shoes, but not for the vast majority of runners. Enter the Bondi B. Now you can run with the whole minimal shoe, but for a meager 2 ounces more you get the benefit of CUSHIONING! The Bondi B is an 8.5 ounce shoe which offers the benefit of light and fast (up OR down), but you don't trash your legs, reinjure that ole nagging knee, PF (plantar fasciitis), irritate the IT attachment, etc.

I was at the outdoor retailer shoe working the booth, and the president of Five Fingers stopped by to try on the Bondi B. Thoroughly impressed with Hoka One One, he applaudedthe ingenuity of the Bondi B. This was coming from a guy who had a hand in revolutionizing the sport of running. I also met the original designer of the Five Fingers shoe.. nice guy as well, with an obvious creative spirit about him which would inspire something like a barefoot shoe.

Alright I am sponsored by Hoka One One, but thus far the Bondi B and Mafate have changed my perspective on running, training, and racing. I think this year will be pivotal for the company, as even more top trail running results will come from Hoka in ultra and sub-ultra races. Also sports like triathlon and Xterra will see the benefit of such a shoe, as one comes off the 2 mile swim and 130 mile bike, the best thing they can have on their feet would be a light weight cushioned Bondi B.

We'll see what happens! The footwear scene is trendy and change is constant, but I expect there will be quite a few shoe companies copy-catting the Hokas very soon, and this is a trend here to stay.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Green love on valentines day

Not much to say here.. I just took a lunch break run and decided I'd go for a PR on the Gregory Canyon to Ranger trail. My mileage has been moderate lately, as I have been trying to get into the "quality" training mode versus high miles(which I never do anyway). Since I raced 5 weeks ago at the Bandera 100k, I have been swamped with school and work, so I havent taken any long runs. That works fine for me, as I want to be fully recovered going into the spring. I decided that American River 50 fits nicely into my spring schedule, so that will my the next race. I doubt I will have much time to be properly trained for it, but there is little I can do about that.

Jeff Valliere and I had a discussion recently on regarding which route was quicker getting to the top of Green Mt; Amphitheater/Greenman vs Gregory/Ranger. I think Gregory Ranger is faster, as it is more runnable than Amphitheater/Greenman, and roughly the same distance. Jeff said that Jason Schlarb had recently run about a 33 minute time, which I thought may be a moderate effort on his part, as I remembered running faster than this at some point years ago quite easily (I may be wrong though.. getting old here) Most people who read this probably haven't run either route, but you should when you do come out to run in the Republic.

Today turned out to be not the day to go for PRs, as it had snowed and then went through a freeze/thaw cycle a couple times, which means slicker conditions. I'd put about 8 hex-head screws in my Hoka One One Bondi B , and over a few runs lately I found this to be the perfect number for any icy conditions around here. However, to run uphill times fast you really need dry trails.

My splits were the following.
Start Gregory 0
1st Gregory Canyon Bridge 5:31
Top of Gregory (at signpost where the dirt road comes down from the right, just after the creek); 14:48
It was pretty good footing in Gregory up to this point , but above this I lost alot of time, as each step slipped back an inch or two ~~ %20 loss of efficiency.
Splits above Gregory..
19:54 Junction of Greenman trail going to the left off Ranger trail
34:05 4 way junction
37:55 Top off summit rock

So anyway.. something to write about.. think I will have a crack at sub 33 when it dries out a bit.

Oh and by the way, Jeff Valliere had a cameo in Aron Ralston's recent 3 hour show with Tom Brokaw. I don't have the link to Jeff''s 15 minutes of fame, but it is quite substantial, and they filmed Jeff and Aron running up Gregory Canyon. Good on ya, Jeff!

Okay time to go kiss your sweetie.