Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ultrarunner of the Year -- Nominations

Well, ultra fans, it's that time of year again and this year I thought I'd do something a little different. Before posting the polls for UROY and POY I thought it would be interesting to take nominations and then create the polls out of those nominees. So, here's the deal:

Please comment on the blog with nominations in the following categories:

Male and Female Ultrarunner of the Year
Male and Female Masters' (40 yrs-old and older) Ultrarunner of the Year
Male and Female Performance of the year

I will tally the nominations and get going with the polls on New Year's Day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year in Review






I was lying peacefully on a cot at the Highway 49 crossing at Western States when my phone rang…

“Hey, LB, it’s AJW, what’s going on.” It was my friend AJW. Ugh.
“I’m, um, resting on a cot here at Highway 49,” I responded feebly.
“What the hell, dude, I finished an hour ago. Get off your butt and get over here.”
“Um, Ticer is refusing to run with me. He thinks I’m a risk for the race.”
“OK, well, I’ll find someone here who can hike in with you. You need to finish this thing.”

And, with that, AJW hung up and went to sleep. What followed at the Placer High School Track that night was, from my understanding, a virtual cluster attempting to find me a way to the Finish.

You see, AJW and I are both totally obsessed with Western States, and this year, in particular, we were really psyched for the race. However, something really bad happened to me between Brown’s Bar and Highway 49 that relegated me to the now infamous cot. I am not sure what happened but I never want it to happen again. And, AJW has reminded me of "the cot" about once a week since that great day.

Earlier in the week AJW and I had enjoyed a great pre-race psych-up staying together at the Squaw Valley Lodge and enjoying the hype as we prepared for each of our 7th running of the WS100. That said, everyone knows AJW doesn’t do anything halfway and, of course, he showed up at The Dance with his entire loud and annoying family as well as two cases of Sierra Nevada. The Jiz certainly has his priorities straight! But, with that sideshow, sleeping and resting for the race is all but impossible. In fact, reflecting on the weekend, I am pretty sure the reason I ended up on the cot at Highway 49 was all AJW’s fault. Next year, I’ll know better!

Up until Western States my year in running had gone really well. In February I actually beat Meghan Arbogast in a race and cracked the top-10 in the Truffle Shuffle 4 Mile. A week later I once again cracked the top-10 at the Pemberton 50K in Arizona and I even went sub-4 hours (my 3:59 was only four minutes slower than AJW’s best time on the course). After that, however, things began to go downhill. At Chuckanut I finished 43rd and Meghan smoked my ass. Then, at the Pear Blossom 10 miler, I failed to come in under the one-hour barrier for the first time in something like 35 years. This all, of course, was a harbinger of the disaster at Western States in June.

When I licked my wounds and looked back to what might have gone wrong at Western States five things stood out:

1. I made the mistake of riding in the Cool Mountain Bike Race in March and got crushed.
2. Instead of running the Way Too Cool 50K (incidentally the last ultramarathon race in which I beat AJW) I decided to volunteer. Stupid mistake.
3. I wandered around the mountains throughout the winter as a ski patrol guy rather than training (I did win a bunch of awards for this effort and that made me feel like a giver) but I think I underestimated the impact of this activity on my fitness.
4. I got my Ham Radio License (whatever that is:) and continued to serve the sport as the Race Director of the Where’s Waldo 100K, the toughest 100K race in the Universe.
5. In spite of doing hours and hours of trailwork and volunteering at Ultras, I got a year older.

So, with all this done, I was resolved to have a successful 2nd half to my season. And, I did. In the Cascade Cream Puff 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race I finished in 11:45 and spent absolutely zero minutes on cots. In addition, I only lost to Alan “Quads of Steel” Abbs by 19 minutes. It cost me $1000 to GOATS but it was worth every penny. In this stretch I also ran three 5K races and beat Meghan twice. At the McKenzie River 50K in September I finished 11th and I actually let Meghan beat me. That felt good.

After that, it was time to put everything into training for the Hayward Field Mile on November 23rd. You see, if there was one race I knew I could beat AJW at it was the one-mile run.

When the day arrived I was ready. I knew it would hurt but I knew I could win. You see, everyone knows, quite simply, AJW is not a fast man. And, three things were in my favor:

First, he’s fat.

Second, he has no idea how to train.

Third, when he gets caught up in the moment, he can be downright stupid.

My plan for the Hayward Mile was to stay on AJW's heels for the first 809 meters and then put the hammer down. Which is precisely what I did. Quite simply, I ran the Perfect Race. In the end I beat him by a second (5:06 to 5:07) but it felt, to me, more like an hour. With that victory I can now go into the 2011 season with a renewed sense of confidence and a bolstered sense of self-esteem and, SkyDaddy willing, I think I can finally cut into AJW’s 8 hour lead in the 10-year bet.

And, oh yeah, I am sick of being known as the “guy with the blog.” Let’s get after it in 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weekend in Park City




I just returned from a three-day weekend in Park City, UT. My son Carson had a ski race there and we had the opportunity to stay with good friend Bryon Powell and his girlfriend, Meghan Hicks.

While the ski racing was fine, the highlight of the weekend was catching up with Bryon, getting a few runs in, and generally enjoying the mountains in winter.

A few highlights:

A killer run in dumping snow on Sunday during which we were dodging snowplows and finding our way up to 9000 feet.

The descent off the aforementioned run.

Two great dinners at the Wasatch Brew Pub.

Watching on DVD the entire first season of the all-time greatest TV show, "Northern Exposure."

A sneak preview at a whole bunch of new shoes that Bryon, Mr. Irunfar, has in his "shoe closet."

The choice of about 12 different types of traction devices.

Staying up late talking and prognosticating about the future of ultramarathon running, who will win Ultrarunner of the Year, whether WS should require a 100 mile prerequisite and a whole host of other topics.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, the best thing about our sport is the relationships we establish along the way. This past weekend in Park City reminded me of that once again.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Transitions

Over the past six months I have been preparing to transition to a new job in a new place. After five years in Sun Valley my family and I have decided to move on after the Community School graduation in June. For those of you who know me, of course, this will come as no surprise as since I graduated from college 21 years ago I have lived in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Oakland and Sun Valley. I am thrilled that our new opportunity will take us to Charlottesville, VA where I have been appointed Head of School at Tandem Friends School. It is a wonderful opportunity in a very special place and, in many ways, represents a homecoming of sorts for my wife and I as we began our educational careers at Penn Charter, the oldest Quaker school in the country.

What does this mean for my running?

Well, Charlottesville has a wonderfully vibrant running community. Two specialty running shops, Ragged Mountain Running and the Charlottesville Running Company, fuel the running scene and the surrounding countryside is filled with beautiful places to run (and, they don't have seven months of winter there:) Furthermore, there are a bunch of fast runners who reside in and around C'Ville and the UVa Cross-Country team is pretty darn good!

As far as racing, I plan to continue my long-distance love affair with Western States as long as they'll keep letting me come to the race and readers of this blog should be reminded that one of the former Course Record holders at Western States is a Virginian, none other than Mike Morton. His 2:09 split from Foresthill to the River is still one of the all-time great splits. I will also continue to find my way west in the summer to toil in the San Juans, the Rockies, the Sierras and the Cascades. But, I will also be able to enjoy some new places and some special races like Masanutten, Mountain Masochist, JFK, Bull Run and many others. It will be a fun and exciting change.

So, anybody out there with running tips about the area or if you're from there and you'd like to hook up please let me know. depending on how the lottery Gods treat me in February we'll be rolling into C'Ville around the first of July unless Hardrock beckons and then it'll be around the 15th.

I hope you're all enjoying your training. Just a little more than six months to go:)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Western States Coaching

Over the past few years I have taken on a few running coaching clients here and there who have been interested in getting a bit faster or, more often, going a bit longer. The relationships have been very informal, primarily conducted over email, and really fun for me. In the past year or so several people have asked me if I would be interested in conducting more specific coaching sessions for people training for and running Western States. Given the fact that I have run the race seven times and have spent countless hours on the course these folks have suggested that there might be interest out there in such a product.

So, this post is to ask the readers of this blog what you think. I would like to outline customized six-month training plans designed for each runner based on abilities, past results, mileage, etc...that I would gather through a brief questionnaire. Then, these plans would begin on or around January 1st and would, of course, culminate at the Big Dance. If there is sufficient interest I'd also like to conduct two on-course clinics; one on and around the weekend of the American River 50 (April 9th) and the other during the Memorial Day Weekend Training Camp. In addition, I would, of course be available for email and phone consultations throughout the training cycle.

If you are interested in this or if you know someone who might be please contact me via email at:

ajwruns@gmail.com

Thanks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Game on!

For some reason everyone is in a tizzy about this North Face Race in SF but the big event this weekend is the WS Lottery down at Placer HS. I'd love to be there but I am going to a football game instead.

The great news out of Auburn is that 9 out of last year's top-10 have signed up to return. Oddly enough, the only guy from last year's top-10 to not sign up is Zach Miller who was one of only two from 2009's top-10 to finish there again in 2010 (can you guess the other one:)?

Anyway, it's great to see that Geoff, Anton, Killian, Nick, Gary, Glen, Ian and Dan will all be back next June. Now, we'll see who else gets in via luck or speed or both.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Hayward Field Mile

There are few places in the world of sports as hallowed as Hayward Field. Fenway Park, Churchill Downs and Placer High School come to mind but there are few, if any others. And, in that context, my family and I traveled to Eugene this week to run a mile on Pre’s home track – a place with ghosts all its own.

The race was between Craig Thornley and I -- one mile on the track, no pacers, no whining and no excuses. Two legendary runners were in attendance -- John Ticer was there as the official timer and Meghan Arbogast was there with the awards. The winner would go home with a USATF National Team hat and the loser would go home with a bottle of shampoo. And, the loser would also run Western States with a shaved head (in my case) or a full head of hair (in Craig’s case.)

Craig made no secret of the fact that he intended to stick to my tail for the first two laps (regardless of pace) before taking the lead and burying my sorry ass over the final 800.

And, that is pretty much how it turned out.

Off the gun I took the lead and ran the first 209 in 38. That felt good and I was happy to hit the 409 in 75. From there I dialed it down a bit not wanting to re-live last year’s catastrophe and we hit the 809 in 2:33. At that point Craig puffed by on my right and began to open a bit of a lead. I tried to hang on as best as I could and we rolled into the 1209 at 3:48. The race was on! While the string was getting stretched it was not broken.

Craig opened a pretty good gap down the back straight and by the 1400 mark he had the race in the bag. However, I was not feeling completely clapped and I thought I might be able to make it interesting. As we passed the Bowerman Building with 100 meters to go I felt him coming back to me ever so slightly. Channeling my inner Chris Solinsky I moved into Lane 2 and began my closing sprint. I heard Meghan telling Craig I was gaining on him and I even noticed his slight look back with 20 meters to go.

In the end, he beat me by 1.6 seconds (5:06:00 to 5:07.60) but I, clearly, had won the war. Given the fact that I have an 8-hour lead in the 10-year bet, the sheer fact that Craig was only able to take 1.6 seconds off me in the mile is further testimony of my dominance. That said, Craig was a gracious host in the post-race party that lasted in excess of 5 hours (what a great sport that a 5 minute race can be followed by a 5 hour party!) and we reveled in the ridiculousness of two washed up ultrarunners running a mile just for bragging rights on the day before Thanksgiving.

Best of all, we are now officially excited to begin training for WS 2011 which, for both of us, will be Finish #8.

PS -- I ran a Turkey Troy 5K on the day after Thanksgiving and was psyched to clock a 16:59. Not exactly Solinsky like but still pretty good for an old, washed up ultrarunner. Time to get ready for Squaw!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Mile

I am heading out to Oregon with my family tomorrow for Thanksgiving and along the way we plan to stop off at Hayward Field to run a mile. Readers of this blog may recall that last year I attempted to run a 5 minute mile at Hayward only to "fail epicly" and limp in at 5:14. This year, I have no illusions of running sub-5 but I am racing my good friend and fellow Western States geek Craig Thornley. And, unlike last year, we are running "mano a mano." No pacers, no spectators, just Craig, me, and, hopefully, MonkeyBoy with his video camera. The plan has the gun going off sometime after noon on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Here's the video from last year's debacle. With post-race commentary:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hardrock!

Lots of chatter today about lotteries and the like and, I must admit, it gets me psyched for the season. In addition to all the usual suspects I am particularly pleased that Scott Jaime and Joe Kulak will toe the line at WS in June. It'll be a bit like old home week. (Especially so if Criag weasles his way into the race again after spending 90 mins on the cot at 49 in 2010).

But, more to the point, and more meaningful to me now, I am in Telluride, CO for a job interview this week and had a 90 min window to run this evening. It wasn't much but I got onto the HRH course and realized how great it is. Truly, there are no mountains like the San Juans. The descent off Imogene into the setting sun really did it for me. Yes, indeed...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another WS Memory



The Awards Ceremony at the WS100, while a bit over-the-top, is always one of the highlights of my year. After all of the emotion of the race and the celebration of the finish the awards ceremony is the final chapter, the dessert, if you will.

This past year, my family found themselves in the front of the group and therefore we were right there when everyone received their buckles. In the photo above you can see the legendary Ian Torrence after he received his buckle.

Ian has always been one of the classiest guys in the sport and after chasing him through mountains, forests and deserts for the past 15 years I can honestly and sincerely call him a friend. His post-race congratulations accompanied with the words, "Impressive work, brother." will stay with me for a long time. Thanks Ian!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Western States Memory


"If you guys had longer hair you could stand over here with us!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Teton Redux

A great race report from one of the classiest guys in the sport here.

I look forward to the next time DC!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marathon

Last time I ran a marathon was Vancouver in 1997. I think it's time for another. So, I am heading to Boise for the City of Trees Marathon on Sunday. I have no idea what to expect but it will be fun.

You know, for me these days, running is that thing that I have, no matter what. So, I figure, I might as well have it any way I can.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Relationships

Last week, when I was out to dinner with some friends, someone asked,

"So Andy, tell us, what is your relationship with running?"

Um, well, that's an interesting question...

I totally bungled the answer and then we moved on with the evening but the question stuck with me as most good questions do.

It lingered...

What is my relationship with running?

Well, on the good days it's like a full-blown steamy love affair. You know, the kind you have when you're sixteen. Everything is good, intense and right now. No worries about the past and no thoughts about the future. Just now!

Then, there are the times when it's like a 20-year marriage. That tried and true I-know-what-you're-thinking-before-you-even-say-it kind of relationship. The kind of relationship that knows what to expect and knows what is to be expected. It's not flashy and it's certainly not sexy but it's there, day in and day out, always.

On occasion it's like having a brother. You know, you call each other from time to time and occasionally get together to take in a ballgame or a happy hour but for the most part you are connected because you have the same mom and you like the same things. That, most of the time, is enough.

There are those times the relationship is a bit mentor/mentee. You know, think "Tuesday's With Morrie" or something like that. These are not the best days of the relationship but they do help you get through the bad days and give you the reason to get out again tomorrow. And, these tough times make the good times better. And heck, who ever really likes having a mentor anyway?

And then, at last, it's like that "best friend" relationship. You know the one. The relationship that defies convention and resists definition. The relationship that persists 20 years after college graduation and the relationship that remembers you, warts and all, from years and years of history. The relationship that helps you understand who you are and who you want to be. The relationship that makes you whole.

So, running, here's to you!

My lover, spouse, brother, mentor, and friend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Harper's Time Trial

This morning I had the opportunity to run the Harper's Time Trial. It is a somewhat nondescript 2.3 mile section of trail ascending 1000 feet through the Idaho Mountains north of Ketchum. That, taken alone, is pretty ordinary. However, what makes this particular run extraordinary is its connection to the Sun Valley Cross Country Ski Team. You see, this run is the creation of Rick Kapala, the legendary coach of the Sun Valley Ski Team. For the past 10 or so years Rick's athletes have used Harper's as a proving ground in determining their fitness going into the season.

The list of names and times who have tackled Harper's is impressive. Olympians Morgan Arritola, Noah Hoffman and Simi Hamilton have tested themselves here as have members of the Norwegian Ski Team, collegiate Nordic skiers from across the country and countless other cardio beasts. Rick keeps meticulous records of the runs and everybody who tackles the trail has their eye on something. The seemingly unbeatable overall Course Record of 11:50 is held by Ben True, a Dartmouth grad and 3:40 1500 meter runner. Morgan Arritola, not surprisingly, holds the women's record of 13:41.

I headed out there this morning to test my fitness along with a handful of the studs on the SV ski team. We started at 1 minute intervals and redlined the entire time. I started out hard and just pegged my effort. In the end I finished it in 14:10 tied with Scotty Phelan and 25 seconds behind Torin Tucker (son of Montrail Founder Scott Tucker). It was great to get out there with some real athletes to test myself. In fact, I am thinking of going out there again in a couple weeks to see if I can break 14. As Pre used to say, "It's always good, once in awhile, to completely blow out the carbon!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

One of those runs

Have you ever had one of those runs that you just want to bottle up and save forever?

One of those runs that sneaks up on you when you least expect it and teaches you a thing or two?

One of those runs that, when all is said and done, reminds you of why we do this every day?

Well, I had one of those runs this morning...

The alarm went off at 4:30am and I quickly turned it off. All the usual stuff ran through my head.

I am not training for anything, I have a long day of work ahead, I need the sleep because I've just returned from a kid's soccer tournament, etc, etc, etc...

But, when the alarm went off again, on cue at 4:39am, I got up, padded my way to the coffee maker and started the pre-run routine. Before I knew it I had my shorts on, then my shirt, gloves, hat, and finally, shoes...I said to myself, "Just get the run in, at dinner you'll be glad you did." I headed out with no other goal than to get it done.

And then, It happened. Soon after heading out the door I got to the turn by the Y in 5:40 and the Highway Crossing in 9:20. I crested the Saddle in 12:50 and passed by the school in 15:50 (my previous PR was 16:00 to this point). I passed Sun Valley City Hall in 18:14 and crested the Dollar Mountain Hill in 24:10. "Hey, wait a minute, if I can keep this up I could PR the 9.3 mile Elkhorn Loop." I said out loud as if anyone could hear me. And, I got competitive with myself. I got to the turn to Elkhorn Village in 30:10 and crested the Big Climb in 36:00 flat. By the time I ran past the Sun Valley Reservoir I felt like I was floating. Through the cold, dark, predawn air I was moving totally and completely free. The rest of the run was a blur but in the end I PR'd the Elkhorn loop by 30 seconds over my previous best which was a full two years ago!

Does this matter to anyone but me? No.
Does anybody reading this care about my Elkhorn Loop PR? No.
Will this matter in my build-up to Western States next year? Of course not.
But, on this day, did this make me a better man? Absolutely!

Today's run was indicative and emblematic of what I love about running. No matter who you are, no matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how much you care and no matter who is looking, running, the sheer act of getting out there, makes us better. Running makes us better at who we are and running makes us better at who we want to be. In fact, for those of us who truly embrace it, running is who we are. And that, for me, is enough to get me out there again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grand Teton 100 Race Report

I have been meaning to write this report for several weeks but life has gotten in the way. In addition to that, something about the way this race transpired has made it more difficult to put in to words. That, coupled with the fact that I have just been getting through the day-to-day, means that this is a 17-day old race report.

But, for what it’s worth, here goes:

My family and I traveled to the Tetons for Labor Day. Jay and Lisa hosted us in grand style and the race promised to be a good one. Indeed, with 17 entrants it was not exactly the place to be seen and it wasn’t likely to be a barn burner but I knew it would be fun. After the first 25 miles I knew it would be fun, and stressful.

You see, Duncan Callahan was running.

Yes, that Duncan Callahan.

Two-time Leadville Champ Duncan Callahan.

Trains with Tim Parr Duncan Callahan.

Nordic Skiing, cardio monster Duncan Callahan.

27 year-old Duncan Callahan.

It was a “Scalp Fest”

After enjoying a relaxing first 25 miles Duncan and I fell into a stride for stride rhythm on the second ascent up Fred’s Mountain (2500 feet in 2.3 miles) and we began to chat. Life, spouses, races, Tony’s lack of sunscreen, etc…no topic was off limits. It was the best 2 miles of the day. Of course, on the way back down we got down to business and leaving the 30-mile aid station Duncan made his move.

By mile 35 he had a 3-minute lead and by mile 38 it was 6 minutes. He was clearly testing me, poking me with a man-beyond-his-years kind of pluckiness. Hell, he’d won Leadville 2 weeks before, what did he have to prove? I took solace in that thinking he’d come back. But, he poked on. And, I got nervous. Not scared, just nervous. The good kind.

By mile 40 his lead was 8 minutes and I couldn’t let him go. Cruising through Rick’s Basin I kept him in range and my boys told me that by Mile 50 the gap was back to 4 minutes. Comfortable. Patient. Relaxed. I began the third ascent of Fred’s. This was really a race.

Within 10 minutes I saw Duncan a switchback or so ahead. He was leaning slightly to the side and laboring. Not badly, but just enough to keep me motivated. I crested the hill one switchback behind Mr. LT and knew that the game was on…By the time Mile 70 rolled around I smelled blood in the water. I am still not sure what brought him back to me but the puddle of puke by the side of the trail around Mile 72 may have had something to do with it.

By the time we rolled into Mile 75 we were, once again, together. Stride for stride. 3rd place was 2 hours behind and the Course Record was in reach.

I grabbed my bottle, gutted down some soup and got out of there for the final ascent of Fred’s, hoping to finish that whole deal before sunset. Duncan took a seat on a chair and relaxed. I knew then, I had to go. My kids said, “Run the whole climb!”

By the summit I had a 5-minute lead and by Mile 80 it was up to 12 minutes. In the end it was 30 minutes but that does not provide an accurate indication of what Duncan and I did that day.

Yes, it was a small 100 miler.

Yes, by mile 30 it was a 2-man race.

Yes, we were not going to run 15:06, 15:42, 18:35, or 23:23 (epic times run by Geoff, Matt, Geoff, and Kyle) and yes, this race was about fun not glory.

But, we were going to kick the crap out of each other and get Ty’s record.

And, we did both!

I know Duncan has many more battles to fight and wars to win than I do. But I also emerged from this experience knowing that a 42 year-old guy can go to toe-to-toe with a 28 year-old guy and level the playing field a bit.

Also, I learned that, at the end of the day, finding the flow that is so much a part of this 100 mile game can go a long way toward making what we do meaningful, purposeful, and successful. Alone and together, that is what makes our sport transcendent. And, it’ll keep me coming back.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Late Summer

What a week it's been in the world of ultrarunning! UTMB canceled, big surprises at Leadville, and Jorge wins AC again. Wow, what could possibly be next?

Well, for me, after meandering around for much of the last six weeks, I have decided to return to the Grand Teton 100 after a couple years away. While this race is certainly not one of the "majors" it has a certain appeal to me that is tough to resist:

It's a multiple loop course that is quite family friendly (kids can basically lounge in the pool all day and jump out every couple hours to give me stuff)

It's in one of the most beautiful places in the country (the Tetons! C'mon, enough said)

It's organized by two of the most devoted and loving people in the sport (truly, they do not come any better than Jay Batchen and Lisa Smith-Batchen)

It's the last year of the GT100 (Ty Draney's Course Record at least deserves a bit of a challenge:).

So, we'll be heading out there on Friday and we'll see how the chips fall. Duncan Callahan will be there as well so I am sure it will be fun. I'll post a report when all is said and done.

Who knows, I might even dnf:)

Friday, August 27, 2010

UTMB

Canceled due to mudslides across trail. Incredible. I hope everyone is OK. Must have been quite a scene.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update

Lots going on in the JW household over the past few weeks and blogging and running have taken a backseat to life and all its twists and turns. But, with a light at the end of the tunnel and school starting on Monday, hope springs eternal. A few random thoughts/comments/etc...

-Obviously, I was a DNS for PB and Waldo. Family time conspired to get in the way of racing and I hope Ken appreciated my $200 contribution to the cause.

-The LT race looked like it was incredible. Anton went for it and Duncan ran strong throughout. In addition, it looks like Neal Gorman has a legitimate shot at Kulak's Grand Slam record especially if the new Wasatch course is as easy as everyone says it is. Then again, as I told Joe after Scott took his three-hour nap at Lamb's, that's why we run the races...Stay tuned on that. Until the record is broken, Joe's still the Man.

-I, for one, can't wait to see how Geoff does at Mont Blanc. My money's on him to win as I know from firsthand experience that he is the best closer in the business and Kilian's issues at WS could still be lingering. Then again, he's only 22 and perhaps rhabdo goes through those guys faster.

-As for me, I am flirting with a return to Grand Teton 100 if life allows as I understand it will be the last time Jay and Lisa host that distance out at Grand Targhee. And then, later in the Fall, again if life allows, I'd like to see if the Bear and Javelina work for 100's and if Firetrails and the NF 50 in SF work for 50's. We'll see.

In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying the late summer High Country and that life is good!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mom's Point of View

My mom is a professional writer whose blog has substantially more traffic than this one. Nonetheless, she wrote a post about crewing at the Vermont 100 that might be of interest.

Check it out here

Monday, July 26, 2010

Standhope Peak

Brad Mitchell and I ventured into the mountains on Sunday and climbed Standhope Peak. One of the iconic peaks in the Pioneers affords an incredible view of the Central Idaho High Country and is a great way to run off the sauce after two 100 milers in a month.

Some photos from the day...

Cruising through the grass and flowers on the way up.

The peak itself as seen from Goat Lake.



Goat Lake. Highest Lake in Idaho (10,400 ft)

Cresting the bench 100 yards from Goat Lake.


Brad on the Summit. Watch out for this guy at the Pike's Peak Ascent.



"How does this thing stand up so high up here?"


Lovin' the high country!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vermont 100 - 2010

After running the Vermont 100 miler in 2007 and 2008 I skipped it in 2009 when I was lucky enough to gain entry into Hardrock. This year, given the fact that I was languishing at 130something on the HRH waitlist and that my recovery from WS100 was going pretty well, I decided to enter Vermont in the hope of running a good time.

I knew that a solid field was assembled for the race and that the competition up front would be tough. Nothing like Western States, of course, but still a pretty competitive group. As we ran down the hill into the darkness shortly after 4am on Saturday I settled into a group that included Pete Stevenson, Neil Gorman, and Andy Henshaw (among 5 or 6 others). The pace felt solid so I settled in and enjoyed the pre-dawn quiet.

As we began the long, gradual descent down to the Taftsville Bridge Andy Henshaw opened a gap and the pack let him go. By the time we got to the River Road Aid Station about 15 miles and 2 hours into the race Andy had about a 4 minute lead. While I ate my Clif Bar on the climb up from the river Mark Lundblad blew past me and Neil Gorman held a steady pace about 30 yards ahead of me. Pete Stevenson and I climbed together and then as we leveled out I found myself slipping a bit ahead of him.

Through the rolling hills leading to the Stage Road Aid Station (Mile 30) I just focused on keeping a steady rhythm and taking care of myself. It was starting to warm up and I knew I needed to stay on top of fluids and calories. I passed Neil on this stretch and on the last downhill into the Aid Station I slipped past Mark. After a quick re-fuel with my mom and dad at Stage Road I began the climb up “Suicide Six.” Mark passed me back on this climb and I powerhiked up to the ridge on top. Andy had 6 minutes on us at this point and it seemed like he might run away with the race..

As we rolled down to the short stretch of pavement around mile 35 I once again moved past Mark and learned that Andy’s lead was down to 4 minutes. I put my head down and attempted to push the pace a bit through this stretch thinking that if I could have Andy in sight on the long straightaway before Camp 10 Bear I might be able to reel him in without scrubbing too much energy.

Sure enough, when we hit the 1-mile stretch of highway and merged with the 100K runners I saw Andy up on the horizon probably 2 minutes ahead. I concentrated on keeping an even pace and gradually closed the gap. We pulled into Camp 10 Bear together where I met my crew, gulped down some chicken broth and re-stocked before heading out on the Camp 10 Bear loop which is the crux of the race between Miles 43 and 70. I felt good on this stretch and was able to eat three turkey sandwiches over the next three hours and my pace held steady. Mark passed me again around Mile 50 and stayed in the lead until “Margaritaville” at Mile 62. At that point he took a bit longer at the Aid Station than I did and and I left there in the lead. It turned out that I held the lead the rest of the way from there.

I also had a funny exchange at this Aid Station which kind of characterized the day for me. While I was filling up my bottles I heard a voice behind me,

“Hey Andy, do you want a pacer for the last 30 miles?”

“It depends who!” I said snippily.

“Me,” the guy said, “I paced Jack last year and he won.”

“I know who the hell won last year. OK, meet me at 10 Bear. What’s your name?” I grunted.

“Joe.”

I cruised off down the road knowing I had eight runnable miles to Camp 10 Bear and then 30 to the finish. It was hot and humid but the exchange with Joe lifted my spirits. It would probably be good to have a pacer to keep me focused, I thought.

When I rolled into Camp 10 Bear the second time I heard that my lead had grown to about eight minutes so I got in and out quickly. On the climb out of there Joe and I became acquainted and he turned out to be a truly outstanding pacer. I apologized for being such a jerk back at Mile 62 and we had a chuckle about it afterward but in the moment it was time to focus on the task at hand and that was getting my third win at the VT 100.

We rolled into Mile 77 at West Winds and had a quick transition with my parents. I saw Mark’s crew there as well as Kami Semick’s crew. This was the first time all day I’d seen Kami’s crew so I knew she was closing well. As one of the best ultrarunners in the world Kami can never be taken lightly. Just seeing her crew got me down the hill out of West Winds much faster than I’d arrived.

The 11-mile stretch from 77 to 88 always takes a lot out of me and this year was no different. Joe and I tried to move well on the downs and the flats but the hot exposed climbs on this section forced me to walk quite a bit more than I remember doing previously. Since my quads were still in decent shape I decided to press the pace on the downhills through here to make me feel a little less guilty about walking. When we pulled into Bill’s at Mile 88 my mom told me I had a 15-minute lead. “Whew, a little breathing room.” I said.

With a quick shot of chicken broth in my gut and a handful of gels in my pockets I hammered the downhills out of Bill’s and really began to smell the barn. I was trying to run everything at this point thinking I had a shot at a sub-16 but the climbs were still tough. After topping out on the last one before Polly’s (Mile 95) we hammered the three minute downhill to the Aid Station and blew out of there. Seeing no other crews there but mine took a load off my shoulders and, I must admit, I took the foot of the accelerator a bit for the last five miles.

Joe kept me honest, however, and when we crested the last hill by the Blood Hill radio tower and saw the “1 mile to go” sign we began the final downhill hammer to the finish. In the end I ended up finishing 16:01 and change and felt great at the finish. Neil Gorman came in second about 30 minutes after me and then Kami 10 minutes after him. Mark rounded out the top-4 a couple minutes later.

All in all, it was another great day in Vermont. It was really fun having my mom and dad along to crew me and meeting and running with Joe turned out to be awesome. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know if I had a 16 hour run in me this time but I just went with the flow, took what the day gave me, and tried to stay focused throughout. In the end, it was an excellent way to spend a summer day in the Green Mountains!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Going back to Vermont!

OK, I'll admit it, I was bummed to not get into Hardrock this year and given how the race unfolded this weekend I am doubly bummed. But, that's life as an ultrarunner and we all need to move on. That's what I am doing now.

With work and family taking me back East on Tuesday I thought it would be a good time to return to the VT100 for my 5th attempt at that race. While it's not Hardrock it is, nonetheless, a Classic and a race that I have always held near and dear to my heart. Heck, it's the first 100 miler I ever won and that feels pretty good.

I have no idea how things will unfold on race day with a bunch a fast guys up front but I do know I am fully recovered from Western States and I feel the pull of the 100 mile distance hard in my gut every day when I head out to the ridges and valleys around Sun Valley. My mom and dad will crew me and I'll go "old-school" with no pacer and hope that the magic of the Green Mountains shines on me again.

This has been a great summer so far and I see no reason to stop any time soon.

Hope you're all enjoying an awesome time on the trails!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"I have to ask...


...will you come back next year?"

"Oh man, c'mon. Don't ask me that now."

What a difference a year makes!







Monday, June 28, 2010

Western States 2010 -- Race Report

Robinson Flat
Getting my buckle from The Legend. Only 18 more to go!
Michigan Bluff
The only two repeat top-10'ers
The top-10 assembles


For the past six years my goals for Western States have essentially been the same each year:

1. Run my own race.
2. Test the limits of my physical, emotional and psychological abilities without pushing beyond them.
3. Finish in the top-10.

I am thrilled to say, as I sit here in Auburn early on this post-race Monday morning, that on Saturday I achieved all three.

I knew going into the race that it would not be easy. The field was extremely deep and talented with both newcomers and veterans and the conditions were forecast to be benign, at best. Fortunately, I was coming off one of my best training cycles since 2007 so I was cautiously optimistic about having a good day. Plus, it was the Big Dance, after all!

My good friend Craig Thornley and I stayed together in Squaw Valley and after seeing my family off to Auburn on Friday afternoon we settled in for a good solid rest.

Race morning dawned clear and cool. The usual excitement was coursing through the starting area and I enjoyed spending the last few minutes catching up with friends and enjoying the environment. Also, knowing that I would not be in the top-tier of runners at this race it was also nice to experience the race, a bit, as a spectator in these last few moments knowing that the favorites for the win, Geoff Roes, Hal Koerner, Kilian Jornet, and Anton Krupicka, were about to blast off into Western States history. They certainly did not disappoint.

After the gun I settled into a relaxed pace and enjoyed the sunrise and the release of adrenaline that always seems to accompany the first hour of Western States. I also enjoyed chatting with Gary Robbins on the climb up and could tell just by talking to him that he was primed to have a good day. Once over Emigrant Pass we dropped into the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and encountered the first of a series of snowfields. It didn’t seem to slow the pace all that much but it was interesting to observe how different runners handled running in the snow. And, it was quite obvious, which runners had no experience in snow!

The snow section gave way to the new “Snow Route” which was really quite lovely. About a mile before the Lyon Ridge Aid Station on the Standard Course, the “Snow Route” turned left onto a muddy two-track and began a long, 7-mile descent to the French Meadows Reservoir. This descent, while quite gradual, made this course about 20 minutes faster for my split from the start to Duncan Canyon. And, the toughest part of this stretch, was the last 1.5 mile-climb to Duncan through a quickly warming exposed burn area on a trail that looked like it had been cut yesterday!

Once back onto the standard course on the descent into Duncan I settled into a nice rhythm and realized that it was not as hot as I thought it was going to be. I moved among a small pack on the descent to the canyon and the climb to Robinson Flat that included Mark Lantz, Rod Bien, Erik Skaden, Justin Angle, Troy Howard, Victor Ballesteros, and Glen Redpath. The race for M10 was clearly taking shape.

I met my crew at Robinson Flat, ate a nice Greek yogurt, grabbed some supplies, and hiked out of there on the snow covered road up to the top of Little Bald Mountain. Someone told me they thought I was in around 20th place. The section from the top of Little Bald to Last Chance, which is almost all downhill, has always been one of my favorite parts of the race and is usually a place where I reel in some of the earlier runners who may have gone out just a bit too fast. And, sure enough, when I rolled out of Last Chance at 11:35am I was in 10th place. I had passed 10 guys in 12 miles and for the next 57 miles I would need to, at worst, hold onto my position, something that has become more and more difficult each year.

I wanted to run Deadwood Canyon in 1-hour flat and I hit it right on. The river bottom was hot but the rest of the climb was surprisingly calm and I was able to eat a turkey, cheese and avocado sandwich on the way up. I was a bit frisky on the descent to El Dorado Canyon and hit the bridge there in 40 minutes flat. This was faster than I had planned to run and I could feel a bit of sauciness in my quads on the climb up to Michigan Bluff. I arrived at the Bluff around 2:15 and needed to re-group a bit. This was my first low-point of the day and I knew from experience that I would need to use the crossing of Volcano Canyon as a recovery section before Cal Street. I took in two cups of double strength chicken broth and headed out onto the Road to Foresthill. On the descent to Foresthill Glen Redpath and Rod Bien passed me. I was in 12th place.

Scott Wolfe, who would run the River to the Finish with me later on in the day, met me at the bottom of Bath Road with my last turkey sandwich of the day and helped me ascend the road steadily and calmly. We rolled into Foresthill at 3:18 and after a quick re-fuel I took off with Bryon Powell to the River.

Bryon has paced me on this section a couple of times and he really knows how to get me through the heat and the challenge of Cal Street and this year was no different. After cruising the descent to Cal 1 we proceeded to run the critical section between Cal 1 and Cal 2 quite well. The highlight of this particular section was Bryon’s all-out face plant on the “Elevator Shaft.” He did a full frontal Superman dive into the dust and jumped up without breaking stride, it was classic. Also, through this section we passed Rod and Phil and were playing leapfrog with Glen. I could tell from running with him many times before that Glen was having a really good day and that he was likely the stronger of the two of us today. As we crested the hill on the sun-baked road just before the River Crossing this was confirmed. Nonetheless, we shared a boat across the river and once across Glen took off. I would not see him again until Auburn.

I also felt some angst leaving the River as two of the great guys in the sport who had been out in front of me all day were apparently through for the day. On the near side, Leigh Schmitt was sitting in a chair, apparently done and on the far side Hal Koerner was hanging out where the boats dropped us off. On the one hand, it was nice to know that I had jumped from 10th to 8th place. But, on the other hand, I was bummed that these two great runners would not be finishing this year.

I returned to the matter at hand and began the climb to Green Gate. Scott had come down to the River to make the transition with Bryon and we hiked steadily up to the Aid Station running a few sections but mostly just using the climb to recover from the heat and pounding of Cal Street. After a quick turnaround at Green Gate, Scott and I rolled out of there at 6:30 and in 8th place.

The relatively easy run from Green Gate to ALT was actually pretty disappointing. For some reason I was just in kind of a lull and actually rather complacent. As a result, by the time we arrived at ALT I had done the section in an hour (typically I shoot for 55 minutes) and Ian Sharman had caught and passed me. 9th place.

Ian’s pass gave me the shot of motivation I needed and I ran much more smoothly from ALT to Brown’s Bar hitting that split in about 50 minutes and staying on top of nutrition and hydration the entire time. I had also given myself added motivation to run hard by intentionally not picking up my headlamp at ALT to force myself to get to Highway 49 before dark.

We descended out of Brown’s Bar at 8:25 hoping to get to Highway 49 by 9:10. At this point, Scott really raised the bar as a pacer. Knowing that downhill’s are my strength he got me rolling fast on the descent and forced me to carry the momentum onto the Quarry Road. As a result, I ran the section from Brown’s to the base of the climb to Highway 49 in a Race Day best of 23 minutes. This, I spite of Scott’s best intentions to distract me when he donned a Nacho Libre mask about halfway up the river road.

Sure enough, Scott’s efforts, Mexican wrestler’s masks notwithstanding, got me to Highway 49 at 9:10. And, it was still light out. I know this may not seem like a big deal to some people but for me, getting to Highway 49 without a flashlight has always been a benchmark of a good race. In my previous six races I had only managed to do that twice, 2005 and 2007. So, I was in good spirits leaving Highway 49 at 9:11 hoping to get to the track by 10:30.

We settled into a nice hike/run up to the Cool Meadow and then kept things steady until the descent to No Hands. Scott said, along the way and knowing my obsession with microsplits at Western States, that “tonight we’re going to make the 15 minute switchback into the 13 minute switchback” and, while we didn’t exactly do that, it did seem to me that we made good time to No Hands Bridge and crossed at 9:50.

Now, as one might expect, given my experience last year of being chased up Robie Point and getting M10 by 23 seconds, I was a bit concerned about what was going on behind me at this point. So, as we crested the first little hill above the river Scott looked back.

“JizzleWizzle, we have two sets of lights coming down the switchbacks. Probably three minutes back. You need to move.”

Scott brilliantly urged me to think of the climb up to Robie in three segments; the Flats, the Rollers, and the Climb. It worked like a charm and by the time we hit the pavement the lights below were out of range. We powerhiked the final climb and then settled into a hard tempo effort to the track. The finish was, once again, a huge thrill and I was really psyched with how it all evolved. 17:31:24, 9th place.

Guess it’s time to book our rooms for next year☺

Monday, June 21, 2010

Men's Poll - Final Tally

There were 264 votes cast in the poll and the Big Four played out this way:

Anton 75
Kilian 66
Geoff 61
Hal 37

Seems like the readers of this blog just don't have confidence in the 2-time champ. We'll see how things play out on Saturday but, just for the record, in last year's poll Hal finished second and, well, we all know what ended up happening.

A few other tidbits:

-After last year's international explosion in the top-5, I have recently learned that both Jez Bragg and Tsuyoshi Kaburaki will not be starting the race this year. This means, for the first time in recent memory, only six of the previous year's top-10 will start (Jasper Halekas and Kevin Sullivan did not choose to return).

-The 5th place vote-getter in the poll was first time entrant Nick Clark. After an amazing spring during which he racked up 15 consecutive 100-mile training weeks he appears to be primed and ready.

-Sometime in the next day or so we should learn about the course for this year's race. In the event that there is too much snow to access the Lyon's Ridge and Red Star Ridge Aid Stations an alternate course will be used. The race will, regardless, follow the standard route from Duncan Canyon to the Finish.

-Latest weather forecast indicates below average temperatures for race weekend.

-I've posted a poll for the men's Masters' Race on the sidebar. Without Tsuyoshi in the race it looks like it'll be wide open!

And, here's a really timely post on confidence I found over on Hang Nine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Flow

My first pacer, Andy Roth, has always inspired me with his insights about running and life. In particular, his notion of 100-mile races as “secular pilgrimages” has consistently fascinated me and continues to gain traction in my mind as I prepare for my 7th attempt at the Western States 100.

One of the most compelling thinkers Andy and I have discussed while pounding out the miles on the trail is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee). Csikszentmihalyi is most famously known as the architect of the notion of flow; in Csikszentmihalyi’s research he has discovered that humans enter into a flow state when fully absorbed in an activity during which they lose their sense of time, place and often experience overwhelming feelings of satisfaction. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

Obviously, and not surprisingly, this notion of flow is important in athletics and, I would suggest, particularly important in endurance running. In fact, I would argue that the achievement of the flow state is what draws many people to long-distance endurance running in the first place. Call it the “runners high” or endorphins or whatever, regardless of the name, the feeling of being completely absorbed in the act of running is at once alluring, addicting, and empowering. Add to that the component of competition on ultrarunning’s greatest stage and you have the makings of a downright flowfest.

In my experience, those runners who enjoy the most success at Western States are those that can get themselves quickly into the flow state and remain there throughout the day. It is intensely exhausting to stay focused for so long but to do so is to truly revel in what is, to many, the crowning achievement of their running lives and in the process of this revelation the event actually becomes secondary.

As I sit here five days into my taper with itchy legs and an overly active imagination, I find myself visualizing next week. I find myself negotiating a way into that flow state and staying there for 18 hours. Honestly, in that moment, there is no place I’d rather be.

In 2005 when I finished my 3rd Western States I distinctly recall finding that place of flow relatively early on (I think around Red Star Ridge) and carrying it with me all through the day. By the time I reached the Green Gate Aid Station I literally could not wipe the smile off my face and, upon reaching the Highway 49 Aid Station, I was in such a state of flow-induced euphoria that I needed my crew to point out that it was still actually light out and that I had completely dropped my pacer!

Obviously, in nine days time, I hope to get back to that place once again. Time will tell and many variables will come into play but, rest assured, standing on that starting line in Squaw on June 26th I will be doing everything I can to channel the energy of flow to find my way successfully down to Auburn.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Grand Slam!

Seven years and counting!

Joe Kulak

WS 18:14:59

VT 14:55:26

LT 20:03:25

WF 21:53:10

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WS Synchroblog #5

Here is the final installment of the WS Synchroblog for 2010.

Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,

I'm new to the sport and have been watching any relevant ultramarathon movie and reading every popular ultrarunning magazine article and blog that I come across. Rather than winning lots of high profile races every year, it has become clear to me that the quickest path to stardom and sponsorship is developing a top-notch training gimmick. Heroic feats of endurance, competitive eating, barefoot running, and sexy, high mileage training logs are already taken. Can you recommend a gimmick for a budding young ultra star? I am confident that given an appropriate publicity stunt, I can easily handle the second requirement --
criticizing other gimmicks as such.

Otto Indulgence

Otto,

This is an excellent question and your assessment is spot on. Indeed, with the tremendous growth of ultramarathon running over the past few years, gimmickry has become synonymous with success in the sport. With many of the more clich├ęd gimmicks already taken (extremely high training mileage, owning running stores, going on “Quests”, and seeking online donations for entry fees) there are still ample opportunities for you to find your niche. Here are three suggestions:

1. Race Naked – While this is, of course, commonplace in San Francisco, it has yet to take hold on the trails. With all the attention being paid to the minimalist approach this gimmick could really catch on. I mean, how much more minimalist can you get?
2. Don’t sign up for races, just run them – With the increased popularity of the sport, lotteries have become commonplace and the biggest races are nearly impossible to get in to. My suggestion to you is don’t bother signing up. Just run whatever races you feel like running. Sure, you won’t end up being on the official finishers list but who really cares about that anyway. Plus, having the reputation of being the “Ultra Bandit” would be very cool.
3. Run 100 milers without drinking any fluids – Just think how famous you’d become for this. You would essentially shrivel up to a shadow of your former self and you could actually be seen as normal for pretty much peeing blood all the time.

I am sure there are plenty of other possible gimmicks but these three will certainly get you some exposure.

Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,

I recently read Douglas McChristopher's "Freedom to Run Free Like You
Really Should Run." What an awesome book! In this Homeric tale,
McChristopher recounts how he traveled to Chico to run in the footsteps of the Sierra Nevada Pale Feet, a reclusive group of runners descended from an ancient warrior tribe whose existence revolved around running. The Sierras don't just run, they ran backwards. They drink massive amounts of malted beverages, fuel themselves with pumpkin seeds and fashion their own "toe shoes" out of pumpkin vines. After reading McChristopher's operatic ode to running, I decided to follow the author's lead and adopt the Sierra's methods. Amazingly, ever since I started running backwards, I've been completely free of injuries. I've finished five ultras, running them all backwards and using pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie as my only fuel. My times are slower than they used to be, but I feel better than ever! I'm wondering what you think of McChristopher's book. Have you read it? Have you tried running backwards? Any plans to attempt a backwards Western States?

Sincerely,

Ass Backwards

Dear Ass Backwards,

That is incredible! A bunch of people I’ve worked with have asked my if I’ve read McChristopher’s book and I must say I have not. However, now that I’ve read your question I am going to run right out and get it. It sounds simply amazing!
I have tried running backwards myself and I really do like it. I am thinking that the success of this book will spawn a whole slew of new products and it is quite likely to bring quite a few more elementary school teachers into the sport as they are, of course, equipped with eyes in the back of their heads. Not sure about attempting backwards Western States but it could revolutionize the sport in much the same way gels, electrolyte tablets and Vibram Five Fingers have.


Dear Ask An Ultrarunner,

I am so excited about the field this year. Seems like each year Western
States has the best field ever and this year is no exception. You guys all being students of the race (and one of you the two-time defending champion) who are your top five picks for the men and women?

Thanks.

Jimmy The Greek

Dear Jimmy,

It will be great race up front and I think the spectators will have quite a bit more fun than the runners. Here are my top-5 men and top-5 women:

Men

1. Hal Koerner
2. Geoff Roes
3. Anton Krupicka
4. Killian Jornet
5. Tsuyoshi Kaburagi

Women
1. Devon Crosby-Helms
2. Nikki Kimball
3. Meghan Arbogast
4. Tracy Garneau
5. Bev Anderson-Abbs

Should be an awesome race!!!

Check out the other synchrobloggers below!

http://roguevalleyrunners.blogspot.com/
http://runningmegleg.blogspot.com/
http://ix.cs.uoregon.edu/~thornley/conduct-the-juices/

Monday, June 14, 2010

A little top-10 recent history

In recent years quite a bit of attention has been paid to the top-10 finishers at Western States due to the fact that those who make that standard are automatically entered in the next year's race. I have done a bit of research over the past couple days and noticed a few things.

Below are the top-10 men’s finishing places and times for the Western States 100 over the past five years (actually, six but 2008 was cancelled). It is interesting to note that there have been 32 different men in the top-10 over that five-year period.

Of those…

20 placed in the top-10 once
9 placed in the top-10 twice
1 placed in the top-10 three times (and won the race twice)
1 placed in the top-10 four times (intentionally sat out the 2005 race and had two 2nd's in '06,'07)
1 placed in the top-10 five times (in 2009 made the cut by 23 seconds! It'll probably be even closer this year)

Based on the recent poll, more voters think this year’s M10 time will be in the 18:00-18:30 range than in any of the other three ranges. Over 15% of you think a sub-18 will be necessary to get into the top-10 and about 10% think top-10 could be reached with a time in excess of 19 hours. We’ll know definitively in 12 days time!

2004

1 Scott Jurek 15:36:27
2 Dave Mackey 16:30:17
3 Hal Koerner 17:17:16
4 Erik Skaden 17:39:37
5 Joe Kulak 17:43:12
6 Nicholas Bingham 17:59:59
7 Dean Karnazes 18:09:41
8 Andy Jones-Wilkins 18:26:48
9 David Terry 18:41:37
10 Craig Thornley 18:46:26


2005

1 Scott Jurek 16:40:45
2 Andy Jones-Wilkins 17:07:13
3 Joe Kulak 17:16:12
4 Guillermo Medina 17:56:26
5 James Kerby 18:01:33
6 John Ticer 18:03:17
7 Dean Karnazes 18:14:17
8 Tom Nielsen 18:18:00
9 Jim Huffman 18:22:41
10 Craig Thornley 18:25:41


2006

1 Graham Cooper 18:17:28
2 Erik Skaden 19:08:39
3 Tom Nielsen 19:41:41
4 Jim Huffman 19:59:46
5 James Kerby 20:03:18
6 Andy Jones-Wilkins 20:04:52
7 Jon Olsen 20:07:08
8 Ian Torrence 20:17:39
9 Tim Twietmeyer 20:33:25
10 Glen Redpath 21:03:16

2007

1 Hal Koerner 16:12:16
2 Erik Skaden 16:36:49
3 Graham Cooper 17:11:41
4 Andy Jones-Wilkins 17:20:29
5 Phil Kochik 17:26:59
6 Glen Redpath 18:05:32
7 Tracy Moore 18:09:05
8 Hiroki Ishikawa 18:14:16
9 Jeff Riley 18:22:12
10 Jae-Duk Sim 18:44:54

2009

1 Hal Koerner 16:24:55
2 Tsuyoshi Kaburaki 16:52:06
3 Jez Bragg 16:54:35
4 Jasper Halekas 16:56:25
5 Kevin Sullivan 16:59:36
6 Zachariah Miller 17:34:12
7 Leigh Schmitt 17:49:38
8 Erik Skaden 18:22:44
9 Mark Lantz 18:45:55
10 Andy Jones-Wilkins 18:46:51

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Big Four Poll -- And stuff

Thanks to all who wrote in on the Big Four Poll. Given the fact that more folks thought three would make it to the finish than any other choice it does beg the question; who do you all think won't make it? We'll find out in a couple weeks. No matter what, it should be an interesting race up front. And, for the rest of us, things are shaping up to be snowy and hot. Latest long-range weather has the typical June high pressure system parked off the coast and it should be there a while. I am not a betting man but if I was I'd say we're lining up for a race day high in Auburn of 93 with snow in the High Country. I am guessing they'll go with the snow route (easier than the normal course) and boats across the River.

And, lastly, I thought I'd throw in a list of the other guys thinking top-10 after the Big Four.

Who'd I miss?

Leigh Schmitt
Todd Walker
Tsuyoshi Kaburaki
Andy Henshaw
Nick Clark
Zach Miller
Phil Kochik
Ian Torrence
Rod Bien
Josh Brimhall
Erik Skaden
Justin Angle
Lon Freeman
Nick Lewis
Troy Howard
Mark Lantz
Chikara Omine
Victor Ballesteros
Tom Nielsen
Gary Robbins
Ian Sharman

Thursday, June 10, 2010

M10 over the years

Year 10th Man Time
2009
2007
Andy Jones-Wilkins
Jae-duk Sim
18:46
18:44
2006 Glen Redpath 21:03
2005 Craig Thornley 18:25
2004 Craig Thornley 18:46
2003 Mike Sweeney 18:49
2002 Tom Lyons 19:18
2001 Dean Karnazes 19:45
2000 Dean Karnazes 19:32
1999 Mark McDermott 19:45
1998 Mike Tupper 20:09
1997 Kevin Rumon 19:50
1996 Jeff Hines 20:50
1995 Madero Herrera 21:07
1994 Rudy Goldstein 20:16
1993 Alfred Bogenhuber 20:52
1992 Bernd Leupold 20:17
1991 Dana Miller 18:35
1990 Bernd Leupold 19:30
1989 Alfred Bogenhuber 18:53
1988 Doug Latimer 18:43
1987 Jim Pomroy 20:08
1986 Dave Stevenson 19:29

short course
1985 Tim Twietmeyer 18:42
1984 Gard Leighton 18:49
1983 Charles Hoover 18:44
1982 John Kanieski 19:41
1981 Bill Davis 20:35
1980 Tom Zavortink 21:46
1979 Sid Christie 19:05
1978 Gordy Ansleigh 22:40

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Catching up


Needless to say, things in my life have been a bit crazy over the past month. As such, while my running has not suffered, my blogging has. That said, for me, today is officially the first day of summer as I have successfully launched the graduating seniors on the road to college and all of our faculty meetings concluded yesterday. So, it's time for a deep breath and time to get ready to roll at Western States.

And, I thought I'd celebrate the beginning of summer with a nice three-hour run through Adam's Gulch this morning which was really nice. I got up over 8600 feet for the first time this spring and even had a mile or so of post-holing at the top to get me in the mood for the High Country. Based on the weather reports and the snow updates this could be the snowiest year since 2005 and may possibly mean the "Snow Route" could be used. I think that would be kind of fun as I have never done the snow route and it might be nice to mix it up. Of course, it also means my course record assault would be meaningless:) since there is absolutely no way to compare the Robinson Flat Course with the Snow Route. Anticipating the snow route, however, I have been running a bit more on the roads these last couple weeks (if I recall correctly from films and race reports the Snow Route has about eight miles of pavement on it) and I did a half-marathon on Saturday that I actually won and will do a few legs of the Sawtooth Relay this coming Saturday.

And, according to the poll I posted a couple weeks ago, the women's race at Western States will be a three-way battle between Nikki, Anita, and Devon with Meghan lurking around at 4th position. Should be a pretty good race on the distaff side.

Finally, a bit on my training this year: I have been pleased that I have been able to stay pretty consistent throughout the spring and I am in as good a shape as I have been in the past few years. Keeping the long runs under control and working hard at the track seems to have paid off with a nice feeling of cautious optimism. Just where I want to be with a couple weeks to go. I can't wait to get to Squaw!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pocatello 50 -- DNF

My family and I traveled to Pocatello for Memorial Day weekend where we were looking forward to spending a little time away from home and I was excited to run the Pocatello 50. Friends of ours had offered us the use of their beautiful house in the hills outside town and the long weekend promised to be a fun break from all of the end-of-year school activities.

Leading up to the race, the biggest thing on our minds was the weather. The month of May in Idaho has been characterized by cold weather, strong winds and incessant precipitation and there was, indeed, the potential for more of the same on race day. However, when my friend and training partner Brad Mitchell and I arrived at the starting area on Saturday the sky looked promising. Unfortunately, the promising weather did not last long.

After a nice relaxing first three miles it started to rain lightly. Tucking into a small pack, I made my way through the very runnable first 8 miles in a comfortable 1:15 and only fell once in the mud on the descent into the first aid station. Upon filling my bottle, Race Director Jared Campbell excitedly told me, “You’re going to love this next section, it’s just like Hardrock.” He was right except for the snow, sleet and 50 mile per hour winds.

By the time I got down to the 16.9-mile aid station I knew I needed to re-group. Fortunately, Jared had a warm jacket for me to borrow and the lower elevation made things a bit more manageable on this stretch. So, I loaded up on food and headed out into the wilds. The race was on!

The second section proved to be tougher than the first. While the terrain was some of the most gentle we would face all day, the weather made it difficult to stay on the course and the footing got worse and worse as the precipitation increased. What was particularly challenging was running in the muddy slush that accumulated on the course as each step thrust me into the unknown.

About a mile before the 32-mile aid a race volunteer who was hiking up the trail told me that the race had been canceled. At first, I was disappointed, but as I began to think about it, I realized that it was the right thing to do. While I had been caught up in the excitement of my own experience, I failed to realize what might be going on elsewhere on the course. And, as it turned out, there was some serious suffering going on out there. Jared and Ryan did the best thing they could have done in the circumstances.

So, in the end I didn’t get the 50-mile training run I was hoping for but perhaps that is for the best. It’s just that now I’ll need to push a bit harder over the next ten days to make up for it. That will be fun!

And, I certainly plan to return to the Pocatello 50 next year. It’s a great race, in a great place put on by great people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ask an Ultrarunner #4

Pooped Out asks: I'm a first 25% of the pack ultrarunner who prepares himself well for the one 100 miler I run each year. At least I think I prepare myself well. Everything goes well until the last 30 miles. At that time my perceived effort is huge, yet I'm barely moving. I can't run any uphills, and even on the flats I struggle. So, my question is how does one prepare for the last thirty of a hundred mile race.

To me, the last 30 miles of a hundred mile race are what make the distance so special and so difficult to predict. From my perspective, running 50 to 70 miles at a crack, while difficult, is not a good predictor of hundred mile success. In fact, there are scores of runners with tremendous talent and ability at 50 miles or 100K who have never realized success at the hundred mile distance.

Why is this?

From my observations and experiences the single best way to prepare for the last 30 miles is to be well-prepared mentally. While this may sound trite, it is, nonetheless, the most significant factor that separates people in the last few hours of a hundred miler. All the training in the world cannot prepare the runner for the intense physical, emotional, and psychological fatigue that sets in after 12 hours on the trail. In order to meet the demands of that feeling the best runners do one (or more) of the following three things:

1. They run quite a few hundreds so that they are accustomed to and prepared for the pain and suffering that they encounter in the waning stages of a race.

2. They have figured out how, in training, to mimic the conditions that they will face in those last few hours.

3. They know how to find the right mental space during the last few hours of a hundred to drown out the pain and suffering and to revel in the experience.

I have only hit all three once, and that was in 2005. Western States that year was my best race ever.

Here I am at Mile 70 in 2005:



The Seed asks: I am a fairly solid 50M runner but can't seem to collect much more than yellow buckles (or, if not States, the particular race's equivalent) when I step up to the 100 mile starting line. I do have one token silver buckle but it is more of an anomaly, an outlier if you will, compared to my standard performances which, among others, include the following: 2 DNF's at AC in '98 & '99 (I mention those for The Jiz's benefit); a 28 hour at Western, wait, I mean, States in '02 where I spent 2 1/2 hours in a beach chair at Hwy 49 aid (mile 93) and it wasn't because the aid station folks were in pear-adorned monokinis serving margis either; and a 30 hour Wasatch in '08 in which I got to Brighton (mile 75) in 18 hours (you do the math on that one). Is there any hope for me to have a 100 mile performance on par with say, a 7 hour High Sierra 50M or should I stick with the "warm-up ultras," as Karl calls them, and maybe try and become a permanent member of The Jiz's crew to make sure he never DNFs (because only Sky daddy the knows the ripfest that would ensue after that).

Seed, tough one. And, seeing as how you've been running these things for going on 20 years I am not sure I can be of any help. Of course, one of my fondest memories of my early ultrarunning career was running the 1996 Holcomb Valley 50K with you, Ben Hian and Tom Nielsen. If I recall correctly, the main focus of discussion during the early stages of that race when we were all suffering in the High Country was whether or not you felt the effects of altitude as much as we did given that you were, how to say, vertically challenged. Anyway, I've always admired you as a runner ever since then. Of course, there was also the time we were out all night on the Wasatch Course on a training run during the Outdoor Retailer show but that's another story.

In short, I think the best thing you can do is keep trying. Clearly, based on your 50 mile speed you should be running WS in 19 and change and WF in 24. The fact that you are not means you:

a. Have not figured out your nutrition routine yet.

b. Don't understand the importance of smart pacing.

c. Are a total and complete headcase.

Of course, it could also be some combination of all three. Sort of like this guy:



And, don't hold your breath waiting for the "ripfest."

Horatio Lovejoy asks: I win almost any race I enter. I'm young, a well established entrepreneur, drive a nice car and have a great fiancee. What else should I be doing?

Horatio, what you should really do is quit this sport. Guys like you belong in the NBA or the NFL. And, if not that, at least in professional cycling or NASCAR. I mean, c'mon, this is a sport for self-indulgent, addicted, anti-social, introverted fruitcakes. Look around the next time you're at a starting line of an ultra (and please make sure it's the starting line and not the finish line:) What do you see? Do you see a cross-section of Middle America out there enjoying a day in the sun? Hell no! Rather, you see a bunch of people one step away from the loony bin. Given how successful and popular you are I can only imagine it is rough to be associated with such a group.

So, do yourself a favor and quit the sport. You've got it all anyway and now you can go out on top. Think about it, it really is the right thing to do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TVR -- 2010 Edition


This is what you do after you finish running 14850 meters with 19 equally crazy running friends in exactly one hour wearing your good friend's fish shorts on a track located at 6000 feet above sea level.