Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Training Summary

Some of the loyal readers of this blog (I think there are three!) have asked that I continue to provide occasional updates on my training as I prepare for my 6th Western States on June 27th.

So, I thought I would give a monthly update starting in January with a few stats as we close out the month:

In the month of January I ran:

33 times and logged 326 Miles
Longest Run - 38.5 miles
Shortest Run - 3.2 miles
Max HR in training - 178
Min Resting HR - 36 (Jan 16th)

I am now in a mini-taper for RR.

Hope you're all healthy. It's getting closer....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trashed Feet: Pay me now or pay me later

A conversation I had this past weekend reminded me at once how deliberate and bizarre our sport is. Finishing up a shakedown run on the afternoon before the Ghost Town 38.5 I remarked to Tim Long that this is the foot-trashing phase in my preparation for Western States. After a few comments about taking a hammer to my feet to really seal the deal I realized that truly this is a strange undertaking in which I’m involved.

For the past few years I have intentionally run all of my runs in January and February in all of my worn-out shoes. Switching shoes almost every day I have pulled out some of my favorites from past races to pound the pavement or run hill repeats just to feel the pain in my feet. I know to some this may seem weird but to me the feet are where it all begins and ends. Sure, there is the blister issue but a couple soaks in a creek followed by a 15 miler on dry, dusty trails will take care of that in a hurry. Plus, blisters are no reason to stop running.

No, more to the point, is the way running 100 miles weakens the feet. All those little muscles and bones that make up the foot need to be strong and tough and tried and true come race day. Hence, beat them up in January and February and they’ll be ready for the pounding in June with new shoes on fresh trails.

I know this may seem completely out there but it works for me. I’ve still got three more pairs of worn out shoes to go and it’s not even February. A couple of them have holes in them and the third has a patch on the heel that is about ready give out. These are the shoes in which I’ll pay my dues. I’ll feel those crunching bones when I get up in the morning and my heels will ache until lunch. But then, when things get rolling in March and April I’ll be ready to go. Pay now or pay later.

Finally, there is absolutely, positively no science to back this up. For all I know this technique is totally stupid. But, for the past five years it has worked for me. So, if you’re worried about trashed, tired, blistered feet bringing you down at Western States (if stomach issues or quads don’t do it first) give this technique a try.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Doing the Work

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."

President Obama - January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Running on The Frontier

Back in early November with my season winding down and the snow beginning to fall here in Sun Valley I looked around for a couple of “training races” I could do in January and February as part of an early season build-up for Western States and a chance to get out of the cold and snow. In a best-case scenario, I hoped to find an event or two that would not cause me to miss any school and that might take me to some new and interesting places.

My search led me to the Ghost Town 38.5 Mile Run in Hillsboro, NM. This four-year old race is an ultrarunning gem! Beginning and ending at the home of Race Director Susan Reynolds, the course is an interesting blend of road and trail through Southern New Mexico’s countryside. With about 5000 ft. of climbing and a distance a bit more than 50K and not as taxing as a 50 miler it was just what I was looking for in a January getaway. Plus, a stressful couple of weeks at school had made me feel like a few days away would do me some good.

The race started in the dark and for the first hour or so it was cold. A small pack of runners took the lead and hit the 6.3-mile mark in 50 minutes. Turning on to the dirt road and beginning the climb into the Gila Wilderness the race began to take shape. Tim Long was running well and was looking to capitalize on a few months of training with Dave Mackey in Boulder. Long-time ultrarunner Scott Eppelman was in the mix as was the previous year’s winner Ed Heller, Hardrock top-10’er Dave Coblenz, Leadville top-finisher Jason Halladay, fast-guy newcomer Pete Stevenson and Bobby, the Fleet Feet store owner from Albuquerque.

We spread out a bit on the climb up to the 9.6 mile aid station but the pack was all within a minute or so of one another when we reached the trail head for the 1.3 mile out-and-back technical single-track spur that would take us up to an abandoned mine shaft and the high point of the course at just over 7000 feet. This section was easily the best part of the course and served to spread us out a bit both going up and coming down.

Tim pulled slightly ahead of me on this section and got back to the bottom of the spur up about one minute. A minute back of me, Bobby was keeping us honest and the rest of the guys were not far behind him. Climbing up to the 16-mile aid station I kept my eyes on Tim but knew he was having a strong run and would probably be in the game at the end.

Shortly after the 16-mile aid we crossed Percha Creek and began an 4-mile out and back to Cave Creek. This section traversed several steep ridges on a gnarly forest service road. The sun was out in full force and I was smiling in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. I was also eating S! Caps by the handful and had gotten to that point in the race that just feels good! In fact, at that moment, I was wishing the race were longer.

At the 20-mile turnaround, which I hit in 3:00 flat, Tim had about 30 seconds on me and the other guys were spread out in 1-2 minute intervals behind us. Everybody looked good but I had the sense that Tim and I would be puling away down the homestretch. It was shaping up to be a two-man race.

On the way back to the 24-mile aid I slowly gained ground on Tim and we were together as we cruised through the aid station. For the next five miles we played tag with Tim pulling ahead on the ups and me catching up and even, occasionally, pulling slightly ahead on the downs. We arrived back at the pavement (Mile 32.5) shoulder to shoulder in 4:42. With 6.3 miles left to the finish Tim turned to me and said, “This finish could be interesting, our 5K times are about the same.”

“Great,” I thought, “32 miles into a run and we were going to hammer a road 10K at the end!” At least it was sunny and warm. “Yeah, I puffed, “it could be interesting.”

The next 30 minutes we wound down the road stride for stride. I was slowly ramping up the pace to see if I could get a gap but nothing. Tim was right there. It was like High School Cross-Country all over again. Finally, we reached the final straightaway and we could see Susan’s house and the finish line about 800 meters ahead. I tossed my bottles to the side and surged. Tim was right there. I took the foot off the accelerator and then quickly surged again. I tried to hold on. Tim was right there. Literally, with 50 meters to go we were still stride for stride. Tim took off, I couldn’t answer. He beat me by 5 seconds. Sweet finish.

In the end we were both about 45 minutes under the previous course record (5:21:01 for Tim and 5:21:06 for me). We had run the final 6.3 miles in 39 minutes. And, my goal of a mid-January run in the sun was accomplished.

The post race festivities were nothing short of amazing. Susan’s house was filled with homemade New Mexican food. Two soups, two types of homemade cornbread and the most incredible enchiladas I have ever had (complete with world famous Hatch chiles from just down the road.) I hung out talking to people, eating and drinking beer for about three hours. In fact, when it was time, it was really hard to leave. This truly old-school, low key, super well-organized ultra was perfect and I look forward to going back, if I can get in! It fills in a few days even with the expanded field of 77 for 2010.

And one more interesting tidbit: It turns out that the US Census Bureau classifies American counties into four categories; Urban, Suburban, Rural, and Frontier. Sierra County, NM, where the Ghost Town 38.5 is held is, yup, you guessed it, a Frontier county.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who will win the Ten Year Bet?

Over on "Conduct the Juices" (see sidebar) you can read about the 10-year bet. Please take a moment to vote on who you think will win:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An open letter to the Western States Board of Trustees:

I am writing as a concerned runner with five finishes at Western States and countless hours training on the course. While I know you take pride in the race course and the history, mystique and all that I think it is time for some changes. As someone who always keeps the best interest of my fellow runners in mind here are my ten suggestions:

1. Move the start: I understand that there is a great deal of excitement in Squaw Valley Village in the lead up to the race but starting at the bottom of a big tall mountain just makes no sense. For the elites as well as the back-of-the-packers starting a race with a 2500 foot climb is plain impractical and, possibly, downright dangerous. So, I would like to suggest moving the start of the race to the top of the mountain. It would get rid of that ridiculous Escarpment section and it would allow for some great pre-race camaraderie when we all ride the Tram to the top. I’m sure no one would mind throwing a few extra bucks into their entry fee to pay for the Tram ride and I’ve heard the views on the way up are spectacular.

2. Now, I know what you’re thinking, moving the start to the top of Squaw would shorten the race by four miles. Hence, suggestion #2: Dr. Antonio Rossman and others spent years in the halls of Congress securing the right to run through the Granite Chief Wilderness. It’s a damn shame that we only get to run four miles through that beautiful place. So, with the need for four extra miles, we could take a more meandering route through the Wilderness and, as an added bonus, Tweitmeyer and Falcone would get to build a brand-new trail. But, please figure out a way to get rid of all the snow that accumulates there from time to time. I’m sure a SnowCat could get up there and the trail could be plowed before race day. This is a Trail Race after all and who wants to run in the snow in June?

3. Much hullabaloo was made about the return to Duncan Canyon after the Star Fire but, c’mon, that section is brutal! With all the burned trees it’s actually pretty ugly through there and the trail is in annoyingly bad shape covered with debris and other pesky things that get caught in your shoes. Plus, it’s so remote that, even on race day, it can get pretty lonely. Furthermore, on a competitive note, Scott’s Course Record was set on the “other” course and for my money that road between Red Star and Robinson is sweet. Who wants to try for a course record on a course that’s not even where the record was set? Please, go back to the Road and give us the added bonus of the pleasant tour around Little Bald Mountain (but clear all the snow out of there too).

4. It is clear that you all love your cute little single track and that’s fine with me. But, a little road running now and then is a good test of a runner’s versatility and adaptability. In short, bring back the Deep Canyon section. Everybody I know loved running that road section as it gave us a little respite from the trails and allowed us to zone out a bit. Also, the climb up to Dusty Corners was always a good heat test. I’ve noticed that there is not nearly as much carnage at Dusty now that we don’t do Deep Canyon. Heck, I don’t think Dr. Lind has pulled a single runner at Dusty in the last four years! Isn’t carnage a good thing? If you want it (and I certainly do!) bring back Deep Canyon.

5. Let’s face it, everybody was bummed that those fires came along and forced the cancellation of last year’s race and I think something must be done to prevent that happening in the future. My suggestion, install a sprinkler system through the Canyons. Truly, Deadwood and El Dorado are obviously the most vulnerable parts of the course. How hard would it be to install a sprinkler system along the trail through that part of the course? In this economy such a project would provide jobs for the irrigation industry and that would undoubtedly stimulate the faltering California economy and prevent future race cancellations in the process. In addition, the sprinklers could be fitted with misters and turned on during the race to keep the overheated runners cool. It would be like Badwater on trails! To me, this is a no brainer.

6. After going through all those steep canyons the climb out of Volcano, is, to be blunt, sucky. Without too much work you could easily shorten that climb, perhaps find a few more shady spots (all that logging on the way down to Paragon Mine has really made it quite an unpleasant section) and improve the experience for the runners at a time when most are feeling pretty miserable. It’s not like you don’t have enough climbing as it is and shortening that lousy climb would make the majestic arrival into Foresthill so much more pleasing for the spectators. Wouldn’t that be good? Often the crews are so overwhelmed by how terrible their runners look when they get to Foresthill they aren’t able to provide adequate aid. I don’t know what you think, but, to me, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

7. The run on Cal Street is always the highlight of my race. The weather has cooled down, the trail is always buffed out, and the views down to the river are extraordinary. Plus, it’s all downhill which you know plays to my strengths. One problem with that section, however, is that annoying sandy part down at the bottom – I think you call it “Sandy Bottom” or some such thing. It is a total energy drainer at the end of a wonderful trail experience. It would not take too much work to send your trail crew people down there to remove that sand and replace it with a nice hardpack gravel surface like they have at Nardini Manor for Across the Year. In fact, I think they have some extra. I’m sure you could just toss the sand in the river and it will flow downstream possibly making the River Crossing a little shallower.

8. And, about that River Crossing, it’s great you have all those eager volunteers in wetsuits and rafts down there at the crossing and making your way across the river is always fun but why do you need that silly rope? I think it would be much more of a challenge to just make everyone swim across. To be honest, after 78 miles, a little cross-training is good for weary muscles and it will add to the challenge and perhaps create a little drama at an otherwise boring part of the race. And, it would be even better if you made everyone do it naked.

9. As I said earlier, I like downhills and the best part about Western States is that we get to run down a lot. However, you are missing a great opportunity by not running down Ball Bearing Hill. Here’s the thing; that section after ALT is really boring. It winds in and out of the woods, crosses random dry creeks, looks the same the whole way, and is rife with Poison Oak. The run down Ball Bearing is steep and gnarly. Then, you get a nice long section on the Quarry Road before the climb up to Highway 49. Now, I know what you’re thinking, that shortens the course! Not so fast, to make up a few miles we could run all the way to the Cool Firehouse and then do a loop through those nice meadows before the descent to No Hands Bridge. Heck, those fireman could even set up an Aid Station, Brown’s Bar Style, and raise money for their department in the process.

10. My last suggestion is about the finish. Please, don’t take this the wrong way but, c’mon, finishing on a high school track? What’s up with that? Everybody’s run on a high school track? When you spend thousands of dollars, sacrifice career, family and personal health for an event that you’ve dreamed about for years you, quite frankly, want a finish that has more, you know, pizzazz. Plus, who really wants to drag their ass up another nasty hill on tired legs and then run 1.3 miles on pavement through suburbia to enjoy the spoils of their labors? So, my suggestion, finish at the historic No Hands Bridge. Now, I can hear you now, what do we do about parking, spectators, medical, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah…? To me, those are just details. Think the 18th hole at Augusta or the Champs Elysee at the Tour de France. This is majesty, pageantry, the moment of a lifetime, hell, people would pay good money to finish on No Hands Bridge. Think of the photos, the YouTubes, the promotional opportunities. An extraordinary amphitheater type setting worthy of an Obama-esque celebration. It would be epic. I am sure you can work through the logistical issues and the end result would make this race the premier endurance event in the world.

And, there you have it. I hope you will consider my suggestions. I would be happy to address these in person with the Board should you be inclined to invite me to a meeting.

Sincerely yours,

Andy Jones-Wilkins
Five-time WS Finisher
2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007.

This post is the first in a series of five Western States 100 synchroblogs leading up to the 2009 race.  For this first one, the following four bloggers have agreed to write a post making a plea or request directly to the Western States Board of Trustees.  See what they have to say to the board:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ultrarunner of the year

This just in from the good folks at UR Magazine. What do you all think?

2008 UltraRunning Magazine's Runners of the Year
(first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Jorge Pacheco, 41, Los Angeles, CA (7) 185
2. Kyle Skaggs, 23, Glenwood, NM (7) 182
3. Michael Wardian, 34, Arlington, VA (5) 152
4. Anton Krupicka, 25, Colorado Springs, CO (1) 109
5. Scott Jurek, 35, Seattle, WA 86
6. Mark Lundblad, 39, Swannonoa, NC 85
7. Hal Koerner, 32, Ashland, OR 70
8. Leigh Schmitt, 36, Conway, MA 52
9. Erik Skaden, 36, Folsom, CA 34
10. Todd Braje, 32, McKinleyville, CA 33

Also receiving votes: Erik Skaggs, OR, 18; Andy Jones-Wilkins, ID, 17; Nate McDowell, NM, 17; Byron Lane, NY, 10; Eric Grossman, VA, 10; Geoff Roes, AK, 8; Jon Olsen, CA, 8; Dave Mackey, CO, 7; Keith Knipling, DC, 7; Josh Brimhall, NV, 6; Jasper Halekas, CA, 5; Scott Jaime, CO, 5; Joe Ziegenfuss, MN, 5; Matt Carpenter, CO, 4; Karl Meltzer, UT, 3; Sean Andrish, VA, 2; Brian Kistner, SC, 2; Steve Stowers, CA, 2; Graham Cooper, CA, 2.

1. Kami Semick, 41, Bend, OR (10) 217
2. Jamie Donaldson, 34, Littleton, CO (7) 199
3. Susannah Beck, 40, Eugene, OR (3) 147
4. Suzanna Bon, 44, Sonoma, CA 90
5. Connie Gardner, 45, Medina, OH 82
6. Nikki Kimball, 37, Bozeman, MT 79
7. Bev Anderson-Abbs, 44, Red Bluff, CA 52
8. Devon Crosby-Helms, 25, Seattle, WA 50
9. Anne Riddle Lundblad, 41, Swannonoa, NC 34
10. Prudence L'Heureux, 38, Tahoe City, CA 30

Also receiving votes: Justine Morrison, DC, 28; Jenny Capel, NV, 22; Christine Crawford, WI, 21; Laurie McGrath, ON, 17; Michelle Barton, CA, 12; Krissy Moehl, OR, 9; Meghan Arbogast, OR, 8; Anita Ortiz, CO, 7; Helen Cospolich, CO, 6; Betsy Nye, CA, 4; Ronda Sundermeier, OR, 3; Jenn Shelton, OR, 2.

Performance of the Year – Men
1. Kyle Skaggs’ Hardrock 100 Mile, 23:23:30 (14) 122
2. Dave Mackey’s Miwok 100 km, 7:53:19 (1) 61
3. Scott Jurek’s Spartathlon 153.3 Mile, 22:20:01 (1) 41
4. Brian Robinson’s Barkley 100 Mile, 55:42:27 27
5. Erik Skaggs' Quad Dipsea 28.4 Mile, 3:52:16 19

Also receiving votes: Matt Carpenter's The North Face Challenge 50 Mile, 16; Hal Koerner's Angeles Crest 100 Mile, 9; Michael Wardian's Caumsett 50 km, 8; Jorge Pacheco's Leona Divide 50 Mile, 6; Anton Krupicka's American River 50 Mile, 4; Eric Grossman's Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, 3; Duncan Callahan's Leadville 100 Mile, 2; Jorge Pacheco's Badwater 135 Mile, 1; Michael Wardian's White River 50 Mile, 1.

Performance of the Year – Women
1. Kami Semick’s IAU World Championship 100 km, 7:33:58 (16) 138
2. Jamie Donaldson’s Badwater 135 Mile, 26:51:33 (1) 48
3. Susannah Beck’s White River 50 Mile, 7:32:12 (1) 41
4. Susannah Beck’s Way Too Cool 50 km, 3:55:22 30
5. Dipali Cunningham’s Self-Transcendence 6-Day, 467 miles 23

Also receiving votes: Jamie Donaldson's Umstead 100 Mile, 17; Anne Riddle Lundblad's Bull Run Run 50 Mile, 13; Jennifer Pharr-Davis’ Appalachian Trail record, 9; Meghan Arbogast's IAU World Championship 100 km, 7; Connie Gardner's JFK 50 Mile, 4; Nikki Kimball's Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile, 3; Anita Ortiz’ San Juan Solstice 50 Mile, 3; Connie Gardner's Burning River 100 Mile, 3; Kami Semick's Miwok 100 km, 2; Suzanna Bon's Quad Dipsea 28.4 Mile, 2; Suzanna Bon’s Cascade Crest 100 Mile, 2; Jenn Shelton's American River 50 Mile, 2.

Age Group Performances of the Year – Men
1. Roy Pirrung, 60, WI, IAU World Challenge 24 Hour, 133.19 miles (9) 88
2. John DeWalt, 72, PA, Hardrock 100 Mile, 47:54:58 (2) 58
3. Bob Hayes, 82, MT, LeGrizz 50 Mile, 11:00:33 (2) 51
4 (tie). Jerry McGath, 70, MS, Arkansas Traveller 100 Mile, 26:39:55 15
4 (tie). Bill Dodson, 73, CA, Firetrails 50 Mile, 10:16:14 15

Also receiving votes: Rick Miller, 61, Wasatch 100 Mile, 13; Richard Webb, 51, IAU World Championship 100km, 12; Mike Tselentis, 82, Quad Dipsea 28.4 Mile, 8; Wally Hesseltine, 65, Angeles Crest 100 Mile, 5; Bill Dodson, 73, Helen Klein 50 Mile, 5; Karsten Solheim, 71, Vermont 100 Mile, 5; Tony Mauro, 65, Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile, 4; Richard Hillestad, 65, Avalon 50 Mile, 4; Ralph Hirt, 70, Javelina 100 Mile, 3; Frank Probst, 65, JFK 50 Mile, 3; Tom Bunk, 66, Ice Age 50 Mile, 3; Roy Pirrung, 59, Mad City 100 km, 3; Leo Lightner, 79, JFK 50 Mile, 3; Michael Kanning, 16, Jed Smith 50 Mile, 3; Nick Bassett, 63, Heartland 100 Mile, 3; Ed Ayres, 67, Helen Klein 50 km, 2; Eric Clifton, 50, Noble Canyon 33 Mile, 2; Dennis Mowbray, 61, Quad Dipsea 28.4 Mile, 1; Don Landry, 61, Self-Transcendence 10-day, 1.

Age Group Performances of the Year – Women
1. Diana Fitzpatrick, 50, CA, American River 50 Mile, 7:30:42 (6) 77
2. Diana Fitzpatrick, 50, CA, Vermont 100 Mile, 19:51:43 (5) 66
3. Kathy Welch, 55, CA, SF One Day, 105.6 miles 23
4. Mae Palm, 68, BC, Comrades 53.8 Mile, 11:46:47 22
5. Nancy March, 61, CA, Quicksilver 50 Mile, 10:12:38 (1) 19

Also receiving votes: Nancy March, 60, Leona Divide 50 Mile, (1) 16; Juliane Scheberies, 74, Ruth Anderson 50 km, 16; Emma Riconda, 51, Caumsett 50 km, 14; Lorraine Bunk, 67, Ice Age 50 Mile, 13; Suprabha Beckjord, 51, Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile, 9; Nancy March, 60, Way Too Cool 50 km, 8; Betty Frankum, 68, Orange Curtain 50 km, 6; Barbara Isom, 61, Mountain Masochist 50 Mile, 4; Eldrith Gosney, 67, Skyline 50 km, 3; Ruth Liebowitz, 66, Caumsett 50 km, 2; Barbara Elia, 63, American River 50 Mile, 2; Hwa Ja Andrade, 67, American River 50 Mile, 1.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who will win Western States in 2009?

My little poll received 180 votes and here are the results (# of votes in parentheses):

1. Anton Krupicka (70)
2. Scott Jurek (38)
3. Someone Else (23)
4. Dave Mackey (19)
5. Hal Koerner (14)
6. Brian Morrison (9)
7. Graham Cooper (3)
8. Erik Skaden (2)
9. Lon Freeman (2)

Interesting to note that the only person on the list who has yet to start the race received the largest number of votes. Perhaps this will be the first time since 1999 that a first-time runner wins? It hasn't happened very often. Food for thought.

Since it has become such a big accomplishment anyone want to take a stab at predicting the top-10?

I'll put up a poll for the women's race tomorrow and the Masters' race next week.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Someone Else Poll Results

The Someone Else Poll has closed and the people have spoken:

1. Jorge Pacheco
2. Michael Wardian
3. Andy Jones-Wilkins
4. Jasper Halekas
5. Jon Olsen and Someone Else

Hmmm, I wonder how many of these guys will break the top-10?

I'll post a poll for the women's race in a few days. The men's poll will stay up for 4 more days but Anton has a commanding lead at this point.