Friday, December 28, 2007

Six Months to Go!

It's six months to the day before the 2008 Western States 100 Miler. That, in and of itself, gets me excited. Even though I am currently running 90 minutes a day through snow and ice in sub-freezing temperatures I know the beauty and Heat of The Canyons awaits. Going for my 5th consecutive top-10 finish gets me out the door in the morning and knowing that the competition will all be there ready to go fires me up in the midst of the brutal Idaho winter. So, bucking the traditional New Year's Resolution Thing, I resolve to do five things over the next six months:

1. Keep the Base Mileage going through February 3rd -- I know I need to do this to stay patient and focused on the ultimate goal. As much as I'd like to blow out some carbon in the next few weeks I also know that would be a bad idea. In the next six weeks it's all about the long, slow miles.

2. Let the Oregon Guys have their day at Cool -- They all beat me last year and I expect them to do the same this year. All I can say is that they better be ready for some serious competition at the Georgetown Hotel for Karaoke. And, if they want to get fiesty, watch out for Team Idaho at Cool, with AJW, Mitchell and Dart we'll be tough to beat!

3. Get the hill mileage in early (and often!) -- I need to get the climbing legs going hard in March and April. In order for me to have any improvement at WS 2008 I need to run the first 30 miles faster than ever before. The only way that can happen is for me to climb better. Take a look at the splits, aside from a few outliers, the guys who beat me climbed hard early. Not gonna happen again.

4. Focus on having a great last month -- From May 15 to June 15 I will run longer, harder and faster than at any other time in my life. I just need to be healthy enough to do that when the time comes. No races, just good, old-fashioned training and healthy, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale fueled recovery.

5. Race assertively and aggressively -- I am ready to go for it this year. Vermont and Teton in 2007 taught me what I can do. Now, it's up to me to get it done. I have no time left to leave anything in the tank.

Happy New Year everybody!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 - Year in Review

It's a week or so before the New Year but it seems as good a time as any to look back on 2007 and reflect on my year in running. This year, I thought I would focus on the ten best individual runs of the year. So, here is my top-10 list for 2007:

10. The Ice Cream Sandwich Run with Scott Wolfe, Jeff Riley and Craig Thornley - This was a classic run with the Oregon boys on Miwok Saturday. Scott bailed early and I should have with what eventually amounted to an infected blister on my heel but it doesn't get much better than 52 miles on the Western States Trail followed by an evening of fun and frolic at Michigan Bluff. This run was Step One in my WS preparation.
9. The Little Wood Loop with Mike Stevens and Brad Mitchell - This 28 mile epic took 7 hours and we all ran out of water. It was a death slog after about 4 hours but we all laugh about it now. The fact that it was two weeks after WS and the temperatures were in excess of 90 degrees only added to the fun.
8. The Seqouia 50K Run - I was fat and out of shape for this little doozy in February but I was in the Bay Area for work and the run was held in my favorite training grounds of the East Bay Hills. Even though it is a "run not a race" I managed to finish within an hour of my good friend Jon Olsen which told me winter in Idaho wans't completely ruining my running career
7. Western States Training Run - Foresthill to Last Chance and back - I traveled down to The Trail the day after graduation to spend four hard (and hopefully hot!) days on the The Course. This run on the second day showed me I had my downhill legs from 2005. Sadly, it also showed me I still had the same uphill legs. Therefore, I knew sub-17 wasn't in the cards.
6. Western States Training Run - Placer High School to The River and back - This run, two days after the one listed above, showed me I could still ahndle heat after a winter in Idaho and that it was not necessarily a bad thing to know every mile point from Green Gate to the Finish. I was also encouraged to realize I still had a bit of footspeed after 150 miles in four days.
5. Pacing Rob Landis at Wasatch - Rob teaches at my school and was the winner of Wasatch in 1983 and 1984. In fact, he was the first person to finish the race under 24 hours. Needless to say, pacing a Legend to a strong 12th place finish was an honor and a privilege. I'll do it again next year unless I end up actually getting in to the race!
4. The Javelina Jundred - Having another battle with Jorge was fun although one of these days I'd like to finish ahead of him. Spending time in my beloved Sonoran Desert in late-October was a bonus and one I think I'll try to take advantage of in the future.
3. The Grand Teton 1oo Miler - Battling Matt Hart all day for this win was tough. The climbing and descending on this course are brutal and keeping focused when night falls make this a race that tests you physically and mentally. I also was surprised by some rather serious stomach issues which forced me to re-group in the late afternoon. That said, who can complan about a 4 hour course record in an perfectly organized race in a stunningly beautiful location.
2. The Vermont 100 Miler - This was my first 100 mile win. After 4 2nd place finishes I thought I was due. On this day, four weeks after WS, it all came together. Jim Kerby made me earn it and I will cherish the memory forever. Crossing that finish line in the daylight and falling into Shelly's arms made me understand how good it can get. I will never, ever take what I can do for granted.
1. The Western States 100 Miler - OK, I have to do it. In case you're wondering why this is my #1 just check out this link (feel free to fast forward through the 3rd place guy, his name is Cooper or something like that:):


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Importance of Running

I have just come through the most difficult three-week stretch ever in my professional life. Among other things I had to make some extremely difficult personnel decision for my school and have been living with the fact that I have disappointed many people. These decisions are in the ultimate best interest of the school but being a "pleaser" has made it quite difficult. The end result is that I have probably had not more than 4 hours of sleep a night in three weeks.

My tonic through this stretch has been running. Sure, I am not training for anything right now and that's probably a good thing. But logging the daily miles in the cold and snow has helped me stay centered and given me the confidence to face my job every day. I am not sure I would have the same ability if I did not have running as such an important part of my life. Here's to the part of running that saves our lives!

Friday, December 7, 2007

100 Mile Trail Championship? How about Javelina?

OK, so all this talk on the blogs about some kind of championship race for the elites has gotten me thinking about what would make a good championship race. If you put aside history and tradition which is clearly something all the Big Boys have and should have then I would say the following criteria would be best (in no particular order):

1. A Good Course, one that is a fair test for a wide range of runners (flatlanders, mountain goats, speed demons and patient folks) and allows for competitive racing.

2. An Attractive and Accessible Location, Whether the race pays for you to be there or not it would be great if this championship venue was in a "destination location." By that, I mean a place where perhaps people could enjoy more than just the race when they travel there. Also, it would help if there was a major airport nearby that accessed many areas of the country.

3. Solid Organization. Some of the Johnny-come-lately championship races have been lacking in such things as course markings and aid stations. This championship race would need to have those things dialed.

4. Incentives, This is, of course, totally up to the organizers but incentives will get people to the race and keep them coming back.

5. A Good Spot on the Calendar, With some months completely taken with some of the big races and acknowledging the fact that people will continue going to those races until they can't anymore (for example, I will not stop going to Western States until I drop out of the top-10, which could be this year!) it would be best if this championship race took place during a time that did not interfere with these other races.

And, given these criteria, (and I admit, I created the criteria) I declare the Javelina Jundred the perfect Championship Race.

To wit:

1. The 15.3 mile Pemberton lTrail oop is all pristine desert single-track with moderate climbs and descents, some areas of sketchy footing, and fair distances between aid stations. Furthermore, the "washing machine" format allows a runner to size up his competition regularly.

2. The desert is beautiful (especially in November!), Phoenix has many attractive places to visit, and the airport is accessible from all corners of the country. Also, camping is cheap, convenient, and fun right on the race course.

3. The race organization is second to none. Just ask Dave Combs (Mr. UltraList)

4. If the incentive to spend a weekend in the desert in November is not incentive enough, consider the awards (I have two on my mantle in my house and let's just say they are truly conversation pieces.) The court's still out on Prize Money.

5. With the exception of the San Diego 100 Miler ,the month of November is light on 100 Milers. Even if guys have done a 100 miler in June, July and September (like I did in 2007) they could probably get focused for one more.

So, there's my idea. Let it be noted that I have no financial interest in the Javelina Jundred nor do I know if this is something that the race organizers are even interested in. All I can say is that I will be there in November, 2008 and if a bunch of fast guys were there vying for prize money or funny things to put on their mantles I'd be psyched.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Western States

Let me open my comments with the statement that absolutely I love the Western States Endurance Run. In fact, I am obsessed with it! I love the tradition, the mystique, the environment, even the heat. Most of all, indeed, I love the competition. I truly believe (selfishly perhaps) that a top-5 finish in Western States is paramount to winning another 100 miler. So, the comments I make below are largely out of love and respect for this amazing and are not, in any way, intended to be a criticism of the quandary the Western States Board finds themselves confronting this month.

With this in mind I thought I would throw out a simple scenario for the future:

What if, in addition to the previous year's top-10 finishers, winners of a dozen or so of the other 100 Mile races in the USA over the past year were also granted entry if they applied.

With that simple change the following people could be added to the list:

Jasper Halekas - Tahoe Rim Trail
Anton Krupicka - Leadville Trail
Jon Olson - Rio del Lago
Karl Meltzer - Bear and San Diego
Jorge Pacheco - Javelina

I can't remember if Todd Walker, Leigh Schmitt or Lon Freeman won any 100 milers this past year but if so they would be on the list as well.

In addition, just think of the excitement that would be generated at the following races in 2008:

HURT, Rocky Raccoon, Coyote Two Moon, Umstead, Masanutten, Old Dominion and whatever else I'm missing.

Do you think the RD's of those races would be psyched to have a smackdown at the front in their races!

Just a thought.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

December...Western States...


This is an interesting and complex time of year for me. The big Western States lottery took place today and there are many disappointed folks. I can relate to this as I have never actually been selected to run a race via lottery. It must be excrutiating to sit through that pain! At the same time, I am also saddled with a nagging hamstring problem that is keeping me from doing what I love.

More to the point, this is the time of year that makes me think of Base Training (aforementioned injury notwithstanding!). For me, Base Training is long slow miles at aerobic pace intended to provide the foundation necessary to withstand the Canyons without hardship and stay focused going into the final "runnable" 20 miles. In this phase I never exceed 140 BPM on my Heart rate Monitor. And, in that context, this time of year is highlighted by skiing with my kids and the occasional trip to the mountains to test my mettle in the Backcountry. I'll save the Training Log for February.

And, for the Elephant in the Room, let me say I am a bit disappointed by the entrants list for Western States 2008 as it stands now. On the one hand, it is encouraging to me as it suggests a bit of an easier time getting that Top-10 finish that I compete for every year. On the other hand, as I view the Western States as the Masters' or Kentucky Derby of Ultrarunning, I wish a few more thoroughbreds had been granted admission for the 2008 Event. Don't get me wrong, the list as it stands is impressive, but if you added Meltzer, Krupicka, Halekas, Nielsen, Bien, Olsen and Freeman to that list (among many others) you might just have the Race of the Century.

I know it's not all about the Elites at this event and certainly many fast folks have crashed and burned over the years but the race and the sport are at a Crossroads and the signature event in the sport could make a strong statement in the 2008 race. To me, the Western States not only represents an event, but it stands for an ideal. It's an ideal I feel worth perpetuating.