Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cal 2

Often fun,

Occasionally painful,

Usually competitive,

Always stressful.

And, anyone remember this year? I hear it's been snowing again in the Sierra.

Joe has had at least three more beers than I have.

Craig was still getting M numbers!

Quick, who's happier? Shannon, Scott, or me?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ghost Town 38.5 Race Report

For the second year in a row I escaped the snow and cold of Idaho over the MLK Jr. holiday weekend and ran the Ghost Town 38.5 in Hillsboro, NM. This year Susan Reynolds, easily the most communicative Race Director I have ever met, put together another wonderful weekend with several delicious meals, lively Greek dancers, and a really great race.

The race starts with about an hour of darkness on a gently ascending paved road and a lead pack of three quickly developed with Nick Clark, Pete Stevenson and I arriving at the Junction Aid Station in about 49 minutes. At this point the course transitions to dirt where it stays for the next 26 miles. This was also the point where Nick, who had traveled down from Fort Collins, CO, pulled away at a steady clip. He held the lead for the rest of the day and ended up winning in a Course Record time of 5:09 just eight days after he had won the Bandera 100K also in Course Record time. Clearly, Nick is poised for an outstanding season!

With Nick off the front I settled into a relaxed pace and enjoyed the steady climb up the dirt road leading to “the spur” (a 700 foot, 1 mile out-and-back singletrack section leading to the high point of the course). I arrived at the top of “the spur” in 1:57 and realized I was a couple minutes ahead of my 2009 pace. I also realized that Pete Stevenson, an experienced Ghost Towner also from Fort Collins, was right on my tail. As it turns out, Pete and I ended up playing “trail tag” throughout the rest of the day.

The descent down the spur is always fun because, in addition to it being the only real technical downhill on the course, it gives runners a chance to say hello to one another as it is the first out-and-back. I enjoyed seeing a bunch of familiar faces all with the same “I am so glad to be out in the mountains running” look in their eyes.

At the bottom of the spur the course turns back onto the dirt road and continues the steady climb to the Hilltop Aid Station. From Hilltop the course descends briefly to the crossing of Percha Creek and begins a longish grind to the Vista Aid Station at Mile 18. It was on this climb that Pete caught and passed me noting that I was not nearly as chatty as I had been earlier. He was right! The work had gotten much harder. I was really amazed with Pete’s climbing ability throughout the day. Maybe that 250-mile week at the end of 2009 gave him incredible climbing legs? Whatever it was, it was clear to me that I could not hang with him on the ups.

So, topping out at Vista, I tried to hammer the down to the Cave Creek Turnaround and was able to run the 2-mile descent in 13 minutes catching back up to Pete. He, of course, caught back up to me before the re-arrival at Vista (Mile 22) and got out of the Aid Station about a minute ahead of me. He would hold his lead all the way back to the final 10k of pavement.

I was also slightly more motivated coming out of Vista because in addition to wanting to stay close to Pete I had seen Jamie Donaldson, here for a training run, and she told me Nick was only a “couple minutes ahead”. So I hammered the downhill back to the Percha Creek crossing, ran up to the Hilltop Aid Station, grabbed my last two gels and decided to push the pace as hard as I could to the Finish. By the time I got to the Stone Hut Aid Station (Mile 29) Pete was rolling out of there and I guessed he had about a two-minute lead. The Aid Station people also told me Nick was 10 minutes ahead of him. At that point I just put my head down and ran.

On this final dirt road section there are several places with long sight lines and in one spot I saw Nick far in the distance and knew he was out of reach. However, a couple minutes after that Pete came into view and it looked like he was getting closer to me. By the time I got back to the pavement Pete was within a minute. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to hammer the pavement like I did last year with Tim Long but time would tell.

I slowly caught up to Pete about two miles into the 6-mile pavement section and we chatted briefly. I pulled slightly ahead and just tried to hold my pace. About 2 miles before the finish Paul Grimm pulled up in his car and said, with a smile, “you better make sure Stevenson doesn’t pull a Ninja Move on you!” I assumed that meant Pete was lurking back there so I bumped up the pace a little and just tried to hold steady steady.

I ended up finishing in 5:19:34. It was 1:30 faster than my 2009 time and good enough for 2nd place (this year by 10 minutes, last year I was 2nd by 5 seconds!). Pete pulled in a few minutes later and we all had a great time chatting and eating enchiladas through the afternoon. Once again, I was happy to be running in the sun with shorts on and I lingered at the post-race festivities as long as I could. Driving away into the New Mexico sunshine I reflected on the day with a smile and a longing to return to the Land of Enchantment in 2011.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ghost Town - Quick Update

Course records from both genders:

Nick Clark pulled off a sweet double and following up on his CR at Bandera broke the CR at GT as well. 5:09 for the win.

Rochelle (sorry I don't know her last name) from Duluth, MN crushed the CR for the women.

I was, essentially, the cheese in the middle of a Fort Collins Sandwich on this one with Nick 10 mins ahead of me and Pete Stevenson 5 mins behind me. Watch out for both of these guys this summer.

I'll write a full report in the next couple days.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ghost Town 38.5

Heading to NM in the morning for one of the great ultras on the circuit.

I'll write a report on Sunday night after gorging on the best food this country has to offer and running in some of the most special country I've seen.

Hope everybody enjoys the long weekend!


PS -- While it's still way too early to really make a call on this, recent weather patterns are indicating a significant late-season El Nino on the Pacific Coast meaning lots of snow in the Sierra. We haven't had much snow at The Dance since 2005 but this could be another one of those years. That. coupled with heat, could make things very interesting. Time will tell...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

100 Mile Course Record Poll

The poll results to the right suggest that most readers think that if any 100 mile CR's are broken this year it will be at the Big Dance. So, now, the follow up question for discussion is, who will break what CR?

Are we talking men's CR, women's CR, masters CR (for either gender), or even 50 and over CR (which I, personally, think could go down this year if conditions are benign.)

Comments? Critiques?

DNF's - A follow up

On my runs over the past two weeks I have been reflecting frequently on the post I wrote about dnf’s a couple weeks ago. In those reflections I have realized that I have learned much by the reaction to the post and thought it would be helpful to put my thoughts in writing.

First of all, I learned that far more people than I thought actually read my blog. Judging by the number of comments on the blog and the overwhelming number of offline emails I received on the topic many people read this blog and are interested in its content. I am not entirely sure why, but the blog seems to have a substantial following in the ultra world and I think I misunderstood the significance of that. As somewhat of a techno-neophyte I don’t really understand a lot about this “new media” world and the reaction to the post gave me a wake-up call about the significance of this “new media”. What started three years ago as a place for me to write about my thoughts and feelings as they pertain to ultrarunning has turned into something entirely different. Not sure why, but it has and I need to adapt to that new reality, I suppose.

As a result, I now know that there is a responsibility that comes with hosting these things that I did not previously realize. Honestly and naively, I basically thought, maybe, 100 people followed this blog and that from time to time they would comment and state an opinion or ask a question. Someone commented on another blog that there should be a distinction between bloggers and journalists. Let me be clear, I am a blogger and I don’t intend to quit my day job to attempt to become a journalist. I leave that to people far more talented than me. That said, I am a highly interested observer and fan of the sport and some of my posts are certainly written from that perspective. Others, of course, are written from my perspective as a participant in the sport and occasionally posts are written simultaneously from both perspectives. This brings me to the next thing I learned in all of this:

Back in my last job when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area I spent significant time studying diversity education and the ways in which race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics affect the way we view the world and our position in the world. Working with one consultant, I learned a lesson on the difference between intent and impact. To keep it brief, in diversity education there is an effort made to distinguish between these two and to create an environment in which all parties are aware that what their intentions are may not always match up with the impact of those intentions and that out of those mismatches conflict can emerge. In the dnf post I am afraid I did not heed this lesson. My intent was to discuss dnf’s as a means of evaluating a runners’ body of work for a season. However, the impact of my comments was suggestive of being judgmental and disrespectful. While I stand by the notion of dnf’s being worthy of consideration for interpretation in the voting for UROY I also understand that to raise the issue and specifically and publicly (to a far wider audience that I realized) name specific runners was a mis-judgement on my part.

Additionally, I was surprised that some readers commented that this post was about me. That somehow by citing specific examples of dnf’s by others I was attempting to highlight something about myself. While I understand where this interpretation might have come from I must say the days of me being compared to any of the five runners I listed are long over. Yes, it’s true, in the past I did finish in 2nd place to two of the runners on the list. But, in one case it was when the winner essentially coasted to the finish to preserve himself for Badwater two weeks later and the other beat me to the finish by over 90 minutes at Wasatch and then the following year broke the Course Record. Needless to say, the post was not an attempt to highlight me against these runners and the only reason my dnf record came into the discussion was when an early commenter asked about it and I answered him.

Finally, I must address the one regret I have about the post. One commenter to the original post asked if I thought I could have surfaced the issue and provoked a discussion on the topic of dnf’s in a different, less volatile way. Having thought about it I think I could have done so by not naming specific people and their specific performances. That way I could have still raised the question (should dnf’s be considered as criteria by the voters of UROY?) and not been perceived as disrespectful and judgmental. Clearly, the five runners I named represent some of the best male ultrarunners in the country and they have my full and complete respect and admiration. I know that in every 100-mile race, whether it is run to the finish line or not, there is a story; a story that is intensely personal and unique; a story that cannot and should not be told by others; a story that, at the end of the day, is quite possibly why we all do these things in the first place.

Friday, January 8, 2010

UROY - Male Division

Here is my stab at a men's top-10. I promise this is my last list for at least a week:)

1. Geoff Roes
2. Karl Meltzer
3. Michael Wardian
4. Hal Koerner
5. David James
6. Scott Jaime
7. Zach Gingerich
8. Leigh Schmitt
9. Jasper Halekas
10. Dave Mackey

Thoughts? Who's missing? Who's undeserving?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

UROY - Female Division

Took a stab at a UROY list. Let me know what you think:)

1. Kami Semick
2. Krissy Moehl
3. Jamie Donaldson
4. Anita Ortiz
5. Caitlin Smith
6. Bev Anderson-Abbs
7. Devon Crosby-Helms
8. Meghan Arbogast
9. Joelle Vaught
10. Nikki Kimball

And, I am not sure if this is correct, but among these ten I don't believe there was a single dnf. I'm sure someone out there will correct me if I'm wrong:)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Male Ultra Performance of the Year

Following up on yesterday's post here is my top-5 list for the men. In a year of many, many amazing performances this was a challenging list to make:

1. Geoff Roes Wasatch
2. Anton Krupicka White River
3. Karl Meltzer Hardrock
4. Hal Koerner Western States
5. Ulli Steidl NF San Francisco


Monday, January 4, 2010

Pocatello 50 is full

In only it's second year the Pocatello 50 miler filled in less than four days.

Pretty amazing!

Female Ultra Performance of the Year

How about this for a top-5 in the female Ultrarunning Ranks:

1. Kami Semick World 100K
2. Diana Finkel Hardrock
3. Krissy Moehl UTMB
4. Jamie Donaldson World 24 Hour
5. Anita Ortiz Western States


Saturday, January 2, 2010


At this time of year many of us reflect back on the past year and look at what has happened in our sport. In particular, some of us consider which runners ran the best and why. Then, a few of us vote to decide who should be Ultrarunner of The Year and it gets published in The Bible of Ultrarunning, “Ultrarunning Magazine.” It is a fun and engaging time and one that often fills me with hope and angst.

This year, more than any other, I have been troubled by dnf’s.

Look, I know they happen. I know they are simply part of the sport. But this past year, in my opinion, too many high profile runners deserving of spots in the top-3 chose to step off the trail before the race was over. I, for one, am troubled by this and need to get it off my chest. Thus, this post is my attempt at closure.

I know that there are many runners far more talented and skilled than I who enter a race knowing they are going to give it their all from the starting gun and they will see how the chips fall. I can think of no more impressive example of this than Hal Koerner’s Western States’ win in 2007. Legend has it that he intentionally left his flashlights in Ashland knowing that if he was going to win he was not going to need a light and if he needed a light he wasn’t going to win. I have no idea if this is true or not but it’s a hell of a good story. Especially coming from a guy who Tom Nielsen and I passed in 2006 when it was 115 degrees in the shade on the way up to Michigan Bluff. He dropped a few minutes after we passed him!

I guess, this is all to say, I think there is a big difference between “dropping” and “quitting” and it’s quitting that has stuck in my craw. Let’s take a look at what are, to me, the five most significant dnf’s of 2009:

1. Scott Jurek at Western States: I respect and admire Scott Jurek as I am sure most of the readers of this blog do. However, when he simply stepped off the trail at Devil’s Thumb this year a little of that respect drifted away. I would have thought the 7-time winner of WS would have gone a little further, dug a little deeper, tried a little harder, and given a little more before cutting off his wristband. Not to be. He dropped. Hal won. Game over.
2. Anton Krupicka at Leadville: This guy is an icon in the sport and really has not done a whole lot to deserve that status. But, he has won Leadville twice, torched both Rocky Raccoon and American River and this past year broke the Course Record at White River. Nonetheless, he dropped this year at the Fish Hatchery after leading Leadville for 70 miles. My son Logan, a huge Anton fan, was devastated. I know his quads were thrashed and he couldn’t walk another step. But, I recall another immensely talented, iconic Coloradan facing the same predicament back in 2004 and he struggled to the Finish only to ultimately finish the job the next year with a Course Record.
3. Geoff Roes at Miwok: I can’t really hold this dnf against him too much as his 100 mile Course Records during the balance of the year speak for themselves but in the most competitive sub-100 miler in the country I was quite surprised that Geoff cashed it in while still in the lead. I assume he was suffering mightily but a struggle to the finish and an 8th or 9th place finish would have spoken volumes. Maybe next year.
4. Dave Mackey at Western States: Nobody expected this. Nobody. Returning to Western States for the first time since 2004 and seemingly in the best shape of his life most prognosticators saw Dave as the man to beat or certainly a force to be reckoned with. Reduced to a walk on Cal Street he chose to end his day 78 miles from Squaw. I am sure he had his reasons but with Scott dropping at Michigan and Dave at The River, Hal had a cakewalk to the finish. More power to him. And, perhaps, to the rest of us as well.
5. Dave James at Western States: This guy has been incredible this year! On fire, actually. 13:05 100-mile split in Cleveland, a huge Course Record at Javelina, hell, he even did a 14:30 100 miler on New Year’s Eve just for kicks. But, he bailed at the Big Dance, hard. Dropped like a bag of potatoes before he even entered the Canyons. Why? I don’t know. But, to get it right in this sport you need to finish what you start. Hopefully, that’s coming in the year’s ahead.

I am sure that these comments may ruffle some feathers and for that I apologize. But I do believe that we need to recognize all of the efforts of all of the runners in our sport not only the finishes. Note that the list above does not include Karl Meltzer or Mike Wardian or Leigh Schmitt or Scott Jaime. Those guys may not have run the races of these other guys but every time, and I mean every time, they finished what they started. And, to me, that matters.

Now, I’ll get off the Soap Box and go for a run under the full moon.

M10 in 2010

Sometimes a little reminder helps. Time to train!