Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What was your best run of the year?

OK, it's New Year's Eve. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm going to bed shortly after my kids do. Perhaps we'll see the ball drop but that's about it these days.

Anyway, I'd love to hear from the readers of this blog what their single best run of 2008 was.

And, I'll start. For me, my best run of 2008 was the Vermont 100. I ran the race according to plan and managed to pull off the win in spite of hot, humid conditions and a training hangover due to the Western States cancellation.

2nd best run? Wasatch. I wanted Geoff to come back to me after Brighton but he wouldn't. Damn Alaskans! 2nd was the best I could do that day. Watch out for that guy in 2009!

Happy New Year everyone!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

4100 Miles

I just added up my miles and with my 16 miler today I hit 4100 miles for the year. Last time I ran that much in a year was 2004 when I finished with 4112. So, with that in mind, looks like I better do 13 tomorrow. Maybe a good day for a New Year's Eve Half-Marathon Time Trail?

Happy New Year everybody! 2009 will be great!

Monday, December 29, 2008


I had a quick 24 hour trip to San Francisco this past weekend and was able to get out for a solid 16 miler in the Marin Headlands. When I lived in the Bay Area I often ran in the Headlands and it was nice to get re-acquainted with those amazing trails. In addition, since there are now officially three feet of snow in my yard it was great to get on to some dirt. As for my training, things are on track so far.

Don't forget to vote! The someone else poll closes in a couple days.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Someone Else" Poll

It appears that the category "someone else" is now ahead of Scott Jurek in my little, totally unscientific WS Poll. So, I think it's time to set up an accompanying poll of "Someone Else's". Please respond with a comment and the name of who else you think will win at the Big Dance and I'll set up a new poll tomorrow. In addition, I plan to do polls on the Women's and Masters' Races over the next couple of months.

And, Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I went for a great 10 miler this morning and, for the first time in a week or so, felt light on my feet. We've had a great stretch of snow here and another storm is on the way so my attention has definitely been drifting toward skiing over the past few days. More and more terrain is opening on Baldy and all of the local Nordic trails are buffed out and ready for skiing.

That said, Western States is 6 months away so it's time to get to work. If all goes well I'll have my aerobic base in place by the time I head to New Mexico on January 18th. That will be my first hard effort of the year. Then, if I can hold steady at Rocky Raccoon, I'll have a solid endurance base to allow me to get some serious payback at Way Too Cool in March. After that, it's off to the Grand Canyon.

I'll try to post regularly about my training over the next six months as well as some thoughts about preparing for Western States. And, on that note, take a look at the poll on the sidebar and cast a vote!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Settling In...

With a few inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around zero it is clear that winter has settled in to the Northern Rockies. As such, I have pulled out the Ice Bugs and the multiple layers to go along with the headlamp as I confront the lonely early morning training runs of the next few months.

It's all about base-building at this time of year anyway and there's something that tells me running with frozen eyelashes builds character. That said, I must admit, it takes three cups of coffee to get me out the door in December. I'm already looking forward to my trips to SF, NM, Texas and CA over the next few months to give me a bit of a reprieve from the cold and the ice. But, I'm also prepared to embrace winter and get out to carve some turns, ski the track and, of course, enjoy those PBR's!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quick Survey - Dec 8, 2008

I just added up my miles for the year and I have, according to my not-so-precise calculations, 3859 so far for the year. So, to get to 4000 I'll need to average just over 10 miles a day for the next three weeks. What do you think? Is 4K worth it? The last time I ran 4K in a calendar year was 2004. I'd be curious what the readers of this blog think.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Racing Plans -- 2009

My race plans for 2009 are starting to take shape and I thought I'd post a bit about where things are today:

Back in 2005 when I had my best Western States race finishing 2nd, 24 minutes behind Scott Jurek, I felt like I needed an early season 100 miler to get some of my systems in place and to get a good sense of my 100 mile fitness 18 weeks before the Big Dance. So, I signed up for Rocky Raccoon and ran 15:14. As he's done many times, Jorge Pacheco beat me.

Hoping to bring back some of that 2005 magic I sent in my entry for Rocky Raccoon this morning. It's a really well-organized and logistically easy race to run and it will get me out of the snow for a weekend in February.

With that in mind my Western States build-up now looks like this:

January - Ghost Town 38.5 M
February - Rocky Raccoon 100 M
March - Way Too Cool 50K

Next, I am going to begin the process of trying to get in to Hardrock. Anticipating some time in the future when I no longer qualify to run Western States, I am going to begin applying for Hardrock so that over the years I can accumulate additional tickets in the lottery. If, by some miracle, I actually get in the race this year I guess I'll just have to run it and hope for the best.

Finally, looking for something different in late-summer I have decided to register for Leadville since it's a race I've never done and now, after three years of living at altitude, I am no longer deathly afraid of elevation. Just slightly paranoid about it:)

I'm sure some of this will change as the season progresses but, as a start, it's fun to think about the season ahead.

And, looks like we're in store for a great little race tomorrow in SF!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Kamp - 2008

OK, not like it's a surprise to anyone reading this blog, but I've got Western States on the Brain. Quad didn't work out this year due to family "issues" over the thanksgiving holiday so I decided it was as good a time as any to throw down a 100 mile week and test my fitness at the end. In a nutshell, here's how it went:

Sat. Nov. 22 - 16 miles in Adams' Gulch. Smooth, steady.
Sun. Nov. 23 - 14 Miles on the Peterson Ridge Rumble Course. Cold, windy, beautiful.
Mon. Nov. 24 - 15 Miles at Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast. Old Growth trees, etc..
Tue. Nov. 25 - 16 miles on the Pacific Coast Highway. Hills, wind, fog...Fun:)
Wed. Nov. 26 - 15 miles at Cape Perpetua. Repeat of Monday...
Thu. Nov. 27 - 14 miles up and back on Forest Service Road (Old Skool!)
Fri. Nov. 28 - 10 miles on roads with 5K road race in the middle (17:30) 3rd place.

Now, I'm glad to be back in Idaho nestled comfortably at 6000 ft. I'll try to keep up the volume in December before getting in to training mode after the new year. Wow, this is fun!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Running with no chain

A couple years ago I was on a Lance Armstrong kick and I read all of his books. In one of them he described an experience he had in training during which he felt so good that it felt like there was no chain on his bike. I had a running version of that experience this morning.

Today is my youngest son Tully's 6th birthday. So, I had to get my run in by 6:15 so I could get back home to make him his birthday pancakes. When the alarm went off at 4:15 I certainly did not want to get out of bed. But, knowing that I had not choice, I dragged myself out of bed and wolfed down some coffee before heading out the door for my bread and butter 9.2 mile loop.

I knew things were different today when I hit the first mile in 6:40. The 2nd one with a bit of an uphill I hit in 6:36. "Hmmmm," I said to myself, "I feel pretty good, I wonder if I can do the loop in an hour?"

Well, I finished the run in 1:00:20. It was as close as I'd ever been to an hour on that loop and it felt smooth and easy the whole way. The birthday pancakes tasted particularly good.

Sometimes running with no chain makes it all worthwhile!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I suppose it was inevitable that, with just over 7 months to go, I would begin writing about Western States and my hopes for the 2009 race. I know I'm a bit obsessed with the race and I accept that. In fact, I've even come to embrace it. That said, my running is going so well right now that I can't help but think that things are starting to point in the right direction.

This year, I plan to do the same 7 month build-up as I have done for the past five years:

November to January -- foundation.
January to March -- sharpening.
March to June -- endurance.

One thing I am thinking of doing differently this year is racing a bit more. Now, at my age and condition I never really "race" anything shorter than 100 miles but I am thinking that a few forced long runs at faster than average pace may hold off the aging process just a little. With that I am thinking of the following:

November - Quad Dipsea
January - Ghost Town 38.5
February - Moab Red Hot 50K
March - Way Too Cool 50K

Of course, after that, it's all training but we'll see how it goes. And, of course, it's all subject to change.

Man, I'm excited. I can smell the dust on the Manzanita already!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kami Semick - 42 years old, Silver Medal

You have got to be impressed with what Kami threw down at the 100K World Championships last weekend. Knowing Kami, she won't be walking around talking about it very much but 2nd place in THE WORLD as a 42 year-old woman with a family, job, etc...that, to me, is, dare I say, inspiring. So Kami, congratulations!

Now, on that topic. I have been told multiple times that a "Masters' Runner" has never won Western States. And, I get that. However, does that mean it can't be done? I know we have the "greatest field ever assembled" coming to Squaw next June. But, will a 20 or 30 something win? I'm not sure. It's likely, and the odds are stacked against us older folks but, we'll see...

I bet there were some folks surprised to see Kami opening up The Can on her last few laps of the 100K championships last weekend and they had nothing to give. She was in it, they were not. She flat out beat them!

It will be a fun couple of months, won't it?


Friday, November 7, 2008

Lingering Autumn

We've had a bit of snow up here in Idaho but the daytime temps have melted most of it to keep the trails open a bit longer. While all the skiers are gearing up for the season I am frantically enjoying every day I can of running on the dirt. It's funny, but something about the urgency of the coming of winter is making me run faster. Just this past week I've logged 86 miles and most of it has been at tempo pace. I even did an 8 mile hilly trail loop this morning in 53 minutes. The only time I've run that loop that fast was on the week before WS this year. I'm a bit miffed because there is no real reason for this other than the fact that I am excited to be on dirt. Before too long, the snow will be here in force, my cross-country skis will be taken out of the garage, and it'll be time to switch gears. In the meantime, I'll take all the hard running I can get.

On another topic, I received some great comments on my "plea from the mountains" post and it looks like the Moab 50K in February would be a good mid-winter option. Does anyone know if the race organizers would be willing to move the race to Sunday?

And, how about something for MLK weekend? Anybody out there in dirt land willing to put on a late fatass on that Sunday?

I know, I'm sounding desperate, but the winter is loooong around here.

Hope everyone is doing well. Good luck to all of you doing Javelina. Wish I could be there.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eugene and Seattle

Work brought me to Eugene and Seattle over this past weekend. So, with a bit of spare time at hand, I was able to fit in two great runs in these two trailrunning hotbeds.

On Saturday I arrived in Eugene in time for a picnic lunch on the bleachers at Hayward Field. It had been years since I'd been there and that special vibe is still there. Something about that place just makes me smile.

Then, it was on to Craig's house from which the small group of Jeff, Nate and Tom, along Craig and myself, would embark on a 20ish mile run. We began our trip getting through the neighborhoods of Eugene and on to one of their famous bark chip paths. Forget gravel in this running crazed town, nothing but bark chips will do. Running on them is like getting a massage.

Anyway, Craig led us to the trailhead for the Ridgeline Trail, perhaps the most famous trail in Eugene after Pre's Trail, and we ran a great 10 mile out on back talking all the way. Jeff and Craig are peaking for Javelina so they were in cruise control mode. I am in chill-out mode so I struggled to maintain my pace. Plus, the bastards kept asking me questions about this and that in a ploy to keep me talking and to make me tired. It worked.

Anyway, after that out and back we made our way back to the bark chips for another couple miles before hitting the Amazon Loop. This is the perfectly groomed, one-mile bark chip trail that some of Eugene's finest runners call home. Fortunately, none of the mutant boys were out there on this day but Jeff and Craig thought it would be a good idea after 2 and a half hours running to blow out some carbon with two fast miles before the three mile trip back to Craig's house. What they didn't tell me was that we were doing two consecutive miles and not 2x1 mile which is what thought. So when we got to the end of the first circuit I pushed the pace and stopped my watch at 5:45. When Jeff got there five seconds later he says, "AJW, we're doing 2!" Craig came by a few seconds later and didn't even look at me. So, I tried to kick it in on that second one and managed a 5:50. Crap! Was it a setup? I think so. Nonetheless, it was nice to get the legs turning over again and as we jogged gently back to Craig's house we reveled in the wonder of a sweet run. A few hours later a bunch of great running people were there (including MonkeyBoy) and we had an awesome time, um, doing stuff. It was great to catch up with all my old running friends.

Sunday took me to Seattle and on a tip from Justin Angle I found my way to Cougar Mountain Park. This forested oasis in the middle of Bellevue is where Justin along with Scott, Ulli, Phil, Greg, Brian and countless other fast Seattleites train. I did not run into any of them on my three hour run out there but that place is about as good as it gets. The trails are smooth and soft. The climbs and descents are fun and grindy. And, it's the kind of place where you can just head out and get lost. I did that a couple times and loved every minute of it.

So, all in all, a great weekend of out-of-town running. Back in Ketchum we're enjoying an incredible Indian Summer. In fact, I just returned from a 15 miler at 4 in the afternoon and I ran the entire thing in shorts and a sleeveless. I know those days are ending soon but it's nice while it lasts. In fact, it kinda makes me think I should do one more race this year. Hmmmm....

Friday, October 24, 2008

An appeal from the mountains

OK, I admit it, I am trying to prepare for the arrival of the snow and the closing of all of the sweet singletrack around here. Now I know that nobody out there really feels too sorry for me living here in Sun Valley but it is tough for a trail runner to get through the winter when April rolls around and there's still three feet of snow in my yard.

So, this quick post is an appeal to those of you who live in warmer, year-round, dirt places. Any chance any would-be race organizers from year-round dirt places might be interested in organizing an event or two to take place, say, on the Sunday of MLK weekend or the Sunday of President's weekend? This would allow those of us from the snow bound mountains to pack the family into the car on Saturday, drive to the dirt, run on Sunday, and then drive back on Monday.

Think about it. A few enterprising race directors out there could boost their fields this way! And, selfishly, it would get me on dirt once in January and once in February. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Mental Side of Running 100's: Thoughts on Paved Sections

As anyone who has read this blog knows I tend to enjoy the mental aspect of running 100 miles. There is something about going beyond 100K in a single run that tests the mental fortitude of just about every ultrarunner I know.

On a recent run I was thinking about some of my favorite 100 mile races and the brief, but significant, impact of short paved sections in these races. In Angeles Crest, Wasatch, and Western States there are short, but impactful, paved sections that can wear on the mind of the runner and turn a good day bad in a hurry. What follows are some thoughts on these three sections in these three excellent 100 mile races:

The Sulfur Springs Road at Angeles Crest: This long, steady uphill takes the runner to the Mount Hillyer Aid Station at Mile 49 of the race. Winding up a steady grade for a bit over two miles the Sulfur Springs Road is almost always hot, dry, and nasty. The key to this section is, for me, to try to run every step, to zigzag across the road trying to catch every section of shade, and to keep cool by pouring water over my head throughout the climb. The runner who can run most or all of this road will certainly make time on the competition.

Millcreek Canyon Road at Wasatch: This 3 mile section of road leads from Elbow Fork at the bottom of Bearass Pass to the 61 Mile Aid Station at Upper Big Water. Usually, by this point in the race the temperatures have cooled and the shady, winding road feels deceptively pleasant. However, the car and bike traffic moving up and down the road combined with the relentlessly uphill nature of this section can wear on even the most experienced runner in ways that are tough to combat. Knowing that one of the most beautiful sections of the course awaits after Mile 61 tends to motivate me to get this section done as quickly as possible. It's easy to walk this but if you want to make time you need to run more than walk.

Bath Road at Western States: At Mile 60.6 in Western States the runner emerges out of the heat of Volcano Canyon and is greeted by the pavement and monotony of Bath Road. The 1.6 mile stretch from the bottom of the road to the Foresthill Aid Station runs uphill for just over 1 mile before gently descending to the school at Mile 62. Bath Road, while shorter than Millcreek and Sulfur Springs, can sap a runners energy and dampen the runner's will to push hard. The uphill grade is steady but runnable. Failure to run assertively on the climb up this road will certainly result in a loss of time. Knowing that a nice, long downhill awaits after Foresthill is often motivation enough for me to hammer this section and get it behind me.

I am sure that there are other sections (paved and otherwise) that are "focusbusters" in some of the big 100 mile races out there. However, these three tough and unfriendly sections should not be taken lightly and preparation holds the key for success in getting through these mentally draining sections.

I hope everyone is enjoying a nice fall of trail running and enjoying a few more weeks on the dirt before the snow and rain arrives.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall running

I am really enjoying running this fall. Since recovering from Wasatch and getting the school year rolling my legs have felt good and the running here in Idaho has been outstanding. It's also been a great time to experiment with some new shoes.

I must admit that I have been intrigued by minimalist footwear lately. Inspired by Anton and Kyle I have been curious about how my body would hold up using some of the lightweight shoes on the market these days.

Having run Wasatch in the Inov-8 295's I was wondering if I could survive even lighter shoes and still have support and traction. Over the past few weeks, since I haven't been training for anything, I have been running in the Inov-8 230's. They are really light! I have worried a bit about injuries from rocks and stuff but, for the most part, they have been fun to run in and they are holding up well. I am wondering what other people have experienced with some of the new lightweight shoes? In particular, I am curious about the following:

Are you more likely to get injured in superlight shoes?
Do the minimalists out there go through shoes more quickly because they're so light?
Do you switch brands and models more often with lightweight shoes than with "regular" shoes?
What's the longest run you've done in a shoe that's say, 8 ounces or less?
What's the best lightweight shoe on the market today?

OK, I know that last question is a bit unfair but I am curious. With so many new lightweight shoes out there it is difficult to keep them all straight.

I hope you're all enjoying a great fall running season.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

1.86 Miles in 47:44

I ran my first Baldy Hill Climb today. It was the slowest 1.86 miles of my life!

It was the 30th anniversary of this community bonding torture chamber. The race itself runs straight up the mountain from Warm Springs lodge to The Top. Starting at 5,880 feet the finish rests at 9,020 feet. There are a bunch of cheerful people up there greeting you but nobody cares. You're just glad it's over. I don't care to do the math but it was, to say the least, an absolute sufferfest. I finished 9th. 2nd in my age-group. The most impressive performance was turned in by 64 year-old Del Pletcher. He beat me by over 3 minutes. In short, the dude's a cardo animal who clearly defies the clock (like a bunch of other people around here!) If you ever wondered what it might feel like to have two railroad spikes jammed into your calves repeatedly for an hour or so this event is for you. And, the post-race party at Apples Bar and Grill is about as good as it gets. It feels like Europe. Except everyone speaks English, I think...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on Stomach Issues

I just finished Rod Bien's race report from Angeles Crest and stomach issues came to mind. It seems that of all the things that bring people down in 100 milers stomach problems (along with blisters and trashed quads) are among the most common.

In my experience stomach problems are capricious and highly unpredictable. One race can go by with no problems at all while the next race things start going down early and the damage is done.

So, I thought I'd throw out a few things I've learned over the years that have helped me and perhaps these might help you as well. However, before I do, I should mention that in my 20 100 mile races over nine years I have experienced nausea in every one and have I experienced vomiting in five out of the twenty 100's. Here are some things that seem to work for me.

1. Regardless of temperature or humidity I begin drinking chicken broth about four hours into the race and continue it throughout. I find for me that the heavy sodium content in chicken broth keeps me from getting sick.

2. If it's hot I try to keep cool by dousing myself with water particularly on my neck, on my wrists and on my stomach.

3. I don't wear anything around my waist.

4. I eat all solid food during the first 50 miles so that the gels taste new and different during the second 50. I usually start with a 600-700 calorie breakfast and then eat something solid every 90 minutes or so. I try to eat going uphill so I can hammer the downhills without a full stomach. I usually eat yogurt, granola, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey, cheese and avocado sandwiches, pretzels, cookies and Payday Bars. I also try to drink sportsdrink (Gu20, EFS, Cytomax, Succeed Ultra, whatever tastes good) during the first 50 miles to keep the calories flowing and then I usually switch over to all water during the 2nd 50. Once I switch to gels I take them about every thirty minutes although as the race progresses I take them more frequently getting down to about one every 15 minutes for the last hour. Basically, as soon as my stomach feels empty I eat one (sometimes two)

5. If I get a little wave of nausea I take salt, drink a full bottle of water and I try to slow down for about 10 minutes or until the wave of nausea goes away. If I am near an aid station I try to get there and then ask for (and hopefully get) Ginger Ale. For some reason Ginger Ale works very well for me.

6. In the event that I do begin vomiting I attempt to get as much out of my system as possible. It can be pretty gross but I find that if I completely empty my stomach I can begin filling it sooner and faster.

7. After vomiting I usually enjoy a post-vomit feeling of euphoria which allows me to run fast for about 15 minutes. After this fast section I then need to start eating and I try to start with something fatty and salty like chips and then move up to gels if possible. After the 15 minute burst I need to slow down to refill my stomach. If it goes well I can get back on track within 30 mins of the "event."

8. I try to stay as mentally positive during my vomiting episodes as possible. When you stop to think about it it's kind of funny and I find having a positive attitude and saying things like, "Man, that was a full-blown rejection!" helps me forget about how bad I'm feeling. I find that many runners get in a funk after puking so I try to get motivated by it and laugh about it.

9. The most important thing I do, I think, is I always stay hydrated. I know it may sound obvious but in my experience bad things happen when I'm dehydrated. No matter what the temperature I drink 50-60 ounces per hour throughout the race and try to stay on top of hydration above all else. At Western States in 2006 when it was 114 degrees in El Dorado Canyon I drank 120 ounces in one hour!

10. I keep telling myself "It never always gets worse."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wasatch 100 Report - 2008

This was a great race! After Western States was canceled this year Wasatch became my focus race for the season. With a solid Vermont 100 and a quick recovery behind me I focused on hillwork and altitude training in the six weeks leading up to Wasatch. I think the combination worked as I felt solid all day with only the occasional bad patch keeping me from breaking 21 hours.

The race started in perfect conditions. Under a cloudless sky my pacer and good friend Craig Thornley drove me to the start and within minutes we were off to the races. The first three miles were along beautiful rolling singletrack and a small pack of five gradually assumed the lead. As we began the 4500 ft climb up Chinscraper the sun emerged in the east and Geoff Roes, Jack Pilla, Larry O'Neil, Leland Barker and I took it all in with smiles on our faces and excitement in the air.

After cresting Chinscraper we cruised the long rolling downhill to the first major aid station of the race at Francis Peak (Mile 18.6). Geoff and Jack had a 30 second lead on me and Larry and Leland were close behind. I met Craig and Jeff Riley at the aid station and ate my customary yogurt and granola, dropped off some stuff and was on my way. In my haste to catch up with Geoff and Jack to have some company for the next section I quickly went off trail and wandered around in the woods for about 10 minutes before I found the trail again and was on my way. Much to my surprise, a few minutes later Geoff, Jack and Larry came up behind me having also gotten a bit off course and we began running together. As the day warmed we enjoyed the scenery from the high ridge line above Salt Lake while Larry regaled us with stories of the powdery old days at Alta and Snowbird. Jack and Geoff were running well and I quickly realized that they were stronger than me on the climbs. Only over the last downhill two miles into Big Mountain Aid Station (Mile 39) was I able to catch back up to them on the long, 1200 foot descent. I knew this was going to be a tough day. In addition, I had already taken two hard faceplants so I was a bit bloodier than usual and had strange pains in my shoulders.

From Big Mountain we continued to run in a pack of four until the downhill into Alexander Ridge. At this point I tried to test my legs on the long technical downhill and thought I had gained a slight edge on Geoff and Jack only to have them quickly reel me in about a mile out of the aid station on the long, sloggy climb between Alexander and Lamb's. From there we ran together into Lamb's during the only really hot part of the day.

I got out of Lamb's quickly but Geoff didn't let me get very far. As I was eating my turkey sandwich he quickly ran by and within minutes had a 200 yard lead on me. As he made the right hand turn onto the singletrack trail heading over BearAss Pass I had a feeling that this was his move. I did not see the tough young Alaskan again until the finish line when he woke up to congratulate me.

The climb up BearAss was a struggle and by the time I got to Elbow Fork and ran in to Hans Dieter in his RV Geoff had a three minute lead. Running every step up the road to Upper Big water gave me a 1:50 split for the Lamb's to Big Water section and I was still within four minutes of Geoff. Craig started running with me here and we made steady progress up to Dog Lake and Desolation Lake where I saw Geoff's silhoutte up on Red Lovers' Ridge. He had 10 minutes on me. "Man, the dude is tough!"

Craig and I hiked hard up to the ridge and ran the entire way to Brighton. My 2:45 split from Big Water to Brighton kept me within 10 minutes of Geoff and I felt great getting into Brighton before 8PM. Looking back on the race now, this 14 mile stretch was by far the most enjoyable section of the day for me on what is, truly, one of the most beautiful sections of singletrack trail I know.

After a quick reload and one last visit with Shelly, Carson, Logan and Tully we were on our way up Catherine's Pass and the high point of the course, Point Supreme. Darkness came about halfway up the climb and we made it into Ant Knolls about an hour after we left Brighton. I was still feeling good. Geoff now had 20 minutes on me. The climb up The Grunt (600 ft vertical in a half mile) really beat me up and I ended up getting into Pole Line Pass 10 minutes behind schedule. At the aid station I pounded some soup and ginger ale and felt much better as Craig and I forged on into the night chasing the Alaskan Flash. If I had any hope of getting close I had to hammer now.

I was happy with my split from Pole Line to Pot Bottom as I took some major risks on the dive and the plunge and powered up the climbs as best as I could. By the time I got to Pot Bottom I was wiped out. It was shortly before 1AM, Geoff had an hour lead, and I was smelling the barn. I took 94 minutes to get home from there. It was a tough last stretch but I was pleased when I finished. Craig did an amazing job of pushing and guiding me to a second place finish and my crew, as usual, were awesome.

It must be said that Geoff's performance was truly outstanding. While he didn't break 20 hours his 5:15 from Brighton to the finish must be the fastest split ever for that section and he old-schooled it the whole way with no pacers or crew and only minimal drop bags. At 32 years old he clearly has many more great runs in his future. Vermonter Jack Pilla should also be congratulated for setting the 50 and over course record and giving me yet another scare (he was nipping at my heels in Vermont earlier this summer) with his 21:47.

As for me, it is time for some time off to enjoy the trails while not being in training mode. I may do something shorter this fall like the Quad Dipsea or perhaps Firetrails before gearing up in the Spring for another shot at Western States. In the meantime I will savor the fact that Wasatch was my 20th 100 mile finish in 20 attempts and continue to revel in the wonder of 100 mile mountain running.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Finishing touches

I ran with Rob and Mike up Hyndman Peak (12,000 ft) on Saturday after sleeping a couple nights at 9,300 during our school's Fall Campout. In addition, I made a couple trips over 10,500 during the week to finish off my altitude preparation for Wasatch. The last two days I've done a couple 10 mile Tempo Loops in Adam's Gulch and have felt strong. Now, it's just a couple more days of jogging in the dark before the family and I head down to SLC on Friday. I have MonkeyBoy and Lord Balls ready to pace me and I just took one more close look at Jasper's splits from last year for inspiration. At this point I've decided to try to simply run my own race and see where the chips fall. Not surprisingly, I am feeling a bit fresher this year since Western States was canceled so I don't have quite the fatigue in my legs that I've had in past years on Labor Day. That said, Wasatch is truly a beast and anything can happen on race day. Game on!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Running with a Legend

In 1982 and 1983 Rob Landis won the Wasatch 100. He was the first person to complete the course in 24 hours. Since then he has set mountaineering records in several states of the American West and recently became the Outdoor Program Director at The Community School in Sun Valley, ID. This happens to be the school at which I currently work.

So, it is not surprising that Rob and I found each other.

Last year I had the honor and privilege to pace Rob (wearing bib #1) to an outstanding 11th place finish at Wasatch on the 25th anniversary of his first victory there. The experience was inspiring and humbling to me and got me thinking about what it would take to win the race like he did those many years ago.

Fast forward to last week. I was in Rob's office discussing the logistics for our upcoming Fall Campout. A three day period during which we take 215 kids in 14 groups out in to the Idaho backcountry for a three day backpacking experience. Rob, in his characteristically understated way, assured me that he had everything under control and then pulled out a map. I, in turn, began to freak out.

"I was thinking we could go for a run this weekend. I know you're tapering for Wasatch and this might be perfect." Rob said.

"Hmmm" I muttered, non-commitally and all that, "Sounds good. What do you have in mind."

Well, one thing led to another and at 5:30 AM this morning Rob and I met in the school parking lot. We drove out to Copper Basin (7,800 ft) and begin a truly outstanding run through the Pioneer Mountain Range of Central Idaho. We ran by five incredible alpine lakes (two of which were over 10,000 feet) we summitted Stanhope Peak (11,875 ft.) and then, just because, we threw in another trip up over 11,000 ft. to take a look over in to Surprise Valley. Needless to say, the 4,000 foot descent back to the car after that was excellent quad seasoning for Wasatch and made me think, "I love this guy!"

With that, inspired and motivated, I am ready to start school and gear up for Wasatch. Inspired and motivated by the likes of Rob Landis who wouldn't be?!

Train well, my friends.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Wasatch Training

Over the last week I was lucky enough to get onto the Wasatch course for four solid days of training before settling in to the start of school here in Sun Valley.

On the first day I drove up to Lamb's Canyon and ran over Bear Ass Pass and back. The trail was in good condition and the climbing was stout. As usual, I felt myself thinking how great it would be if I felt this good on race day.

Day 2 I drove up to Brighton and ran over to the Upper Big Water Aid Station and back. This is a section that has haunted me ever since the race in 2006 and I spent quite a bit of time on the first half of the run checking intermediate splits and analyzing some of the more intricate sections of the course. On the return trip (in the direction of the race) I concentrated on keeping my effort under control and hitting the splits I thought I could. Again, the trail here was pretty buffed out due to all the mountain bike traffic and I think, if I play my cards right, I could make up some time on this section during the race.

On Day 3 I started again from Brighton and ran Tempo Pace to Pole Line Pass. The goal here was to set a hard standard for this section so that the slower pace on race day would feel respectable. I know it sounds strange but if I have run a section of a course hard in training it somehow helps me mentally go slower and be OK with it on race day. So, on this section I got to Point Supreme in :41, Ant Knolls in :58 and Pole Line in 1:30. That was sweet! Then, on the return trip I enjoyed the scenery, ran The Grunt out-and-back twice, and generally just enjoyed a relaxed hang out pace. I threw in a trip up to the top of Sunset Peak at the end of the run to get a little more altitude (I think that peak is around 11K)

On the 4th day I broke camp early to join Roch and his buddy Dave at Brighton for a Brighton to the Finish classic. After dealing with the car shuttle we started off over Catherine's shortly before 7AM. My goal was to run about 15% faster than 21 hour race splits and enjoy the company on the trails. I also wanted to test my now tired legs against the crux of the course. We nailed Catherine's in :45 and hit Ant Knolls in 1:03. We pulled into the dust bowl of Pole Line in 1:42 and made it to Rock Springs in 2:30. Then it was time for the toughest section of the course, "Irv's Torture Chamber". I was ready for the pain and agony of the Dive and the Plunge and the other descent that really deserves a name and it was, indeed, real pain. However, the trail seems to be settling in and if I am ready to take some risks on race day I may be able to match our split of 1:25 from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom. The hike/run in from Pot Bottom was great and we nailed the entire thing in 5:20. Of course, 6:20 would be great on race day but it was nice to go with the flow on this day.

Sitting in the shade at the Homestead with Roch and Dave post-run made me think about how great it is to be able to do this thing we call ultrarunning. I also reveled in the fact that I had enjoyed a solid long weekend of training without feeling totally wiped out. At this point, with some fine tuning at altitude and a few tempo/speed/hill workouts, I just may be able to take a stab at the Master's Record my friend Leland set years ago. A worthy goal, indeed!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


August is the time to recharge. After Vermont and two weeks relaxing on Cape Cod I am back in Idaho and feeling good. It's time. The last few weeks have been filled with family time and school planning and now I feel like I am in the home stretch of summer. That's good. It's always a bittersweet time for me as I know I will miss the time for training but also get psyched up as the new school year approaches. As this will be my third year here in Sun Valley I feel more comfortable going in to the new year.

As for the training, it's certainly time to do some hard work to get ready for Wasatch. With Mr. Skaggs on the entrants list the race is shaping up to be a great race for second place. But, nonetheless, I still need to do the work. In the next few weeks I hope to get some quality runs on the Wasatch course and spend significant time in the high country here in the Wood River Valley. It's actually the best time of year to get up into the Sawtooths and Pioneers (at least, if you like to go there when there's no snow!) I am also looking forward to connecting with old friends at the Outdoor Retailer Show in SLC this weekend.

So, all in all, life is good. These are the Dog Days of August and a great time for big miles.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inov-8 Interview

Here is a link to a recent interview I did with Wynn Davis for the Inov-8 website:


Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 Miler

I had never before pinned on Bib #1 and I must admit when I did it felt heavy, burdensome even. Maybe it was the humidity or perhaps just the feeling of responsibility it carried with it but it was there nonetheless. With that, the 20th running of the VT 100 was on!

We started in the dark with a light rain falling. Within the first mile a lead pack of five guys developed. Joe Kulak, former Vermont winner and Grand Slam Record holder kept us all entertained for the first 15 miles with his stories and wisrecracks until he decided to slow down a bit and burden those a bit further back in the pack with his nonsense. Jack Pilla, Vermont's finest 100 mile runner and one tough 50 year-old dude, was running strong and smart. Glen Redpath, all-around fast guy with a little something to prove after going off course last year. Kevin Sullivan, Massachusetts attorney running his first 100 and gunning for the big prize. And myself, attempting to defend my win from 2007 and hoping that the humidity wouldn't kill me after a year in the dry, high altitude air of the Northern Rockies.

The sweat was pouring off of me within the first 30 minutes. The air was still and thick and everything seemed wet and heavy. When dawn approached a slight bit of breeze kicked up and the running became just a wee bit easier. Nonetheless, by the time we hit Taftville just before Mile 15 we were well off of last year's pace and it was clear that this would be a different race than 2007.

After shedding Kulak, Glen took over the pacing duties and hammered the uphills between Taftville and Stage Rd (Mile 30). Jack was staying with him stride for stride while Kevin hung back with me to then catch up with the front runners on the downhills. It was a pattern that would repeat itself often throughout the day. Glen and Jack on the ups, Kevin and Andy on the downs.

The heat spiked a bit after Stage Rd. and the Suicide Six climb was really tough. By this time Jack decided to back off a bit being the smart guy that he is leaving Kevin, Glen and me to take turns up the climb. We got to Tracer Brook (Mile 57) together and the race was beginning to take shape. From my perspective, it looked like the edge would go to whoever slowed down the least over the last 40 miles.

At this point I decided it might be a good idea to run a few more of the climbs to see how I stood up to Kevin and Glen. It was clear after a couple of these that I could not hang on the ups and that I would only get a gap on them if I hammered a few more of the remaining downhills and then pushed hard over the last 30 miles which is the toughest part of the course with the longest stretches of technical trail in the entire race.

I picked up my pacer Bryon Powell at the Camp 10 Bear Aid Station at Mile 70 and Glen, Kevin and I were still all together. Amazing! 70 miles into a 100 mile race and the lead pack of three was still all together. Leaving Camp 10 Bear we began to hear thunder rolling across the Green Mountains and it appeared we might be in store for a nice afternoon thunderstorm. Well, a few minutes later it came and it came in droves. For an hour stright it rained and poured. The trails quickly turned to mud and, frankly, with the lightening so close the exposed sections were scary. It was at this point that I pulled slightly away from Kevin and Glen. At Mile 77 I had five minutes on Glen and one minute on Kevin. If I was going to win this thing without a sprint finish I would have to keep the pressure on now.

Bryon made sure I did just that! Forcing me to run all but the steepest hills I was able to open my lead slightly over the next 11 miles into Bill's (Mile 88). During the stretch the rain stopped, the sun came out and it got hot and humid again. It was clear that the last 12 miles would be brutal and the stress level would be high. I blew through Bill's and we were off to the races. I arrived at Polly's at Mile 95 and finally felt a bit more comfortable with 7 minutes on Kevin and 15 minutes on Glen. However, knowing that the last five miles are some of the toughest on the course I couldn't take anything for granted. And, Bryon wasn't going to let me do that anyway!

So we powered through those last five miles in less than 50 minutes and I got to the finish line first. Kevin was there 7 minutes later and the rest of the pack not that much further back. I was pleased with my effort but also keenly aware that I have work to do between now and Wasatch. The conditions with the humidity and the torrential rains were, indeed, challenging and maintaining focus proved to be extremely important. In the end I was pleased that I was able to keep it all together.

One final note, the Vermont 100 is truly a classic. While it may lack the glamor of Western States and the sheer physical beauty of Hardrock it is, nonetheless, a classic old-school 100 Miler and should be a must on any Ultrarunner's to-do list.

In seven weeks I head to Utah to attempt my 20th 100 Miler. Until then, I hope you're all enjoying an excellent summer of running!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's time

As strange as it feels to have actually been running through the first two weeks of July it feels good as well. I've been at school every day, the details are getting done, and, in spite of the fact that I feel like my peak has waned a bit, I am looking forward to pinning on a number again and getting after it.

Kyle's Hardrock is a run for the ages and I have to believe his run there has ushered in a new era in the sport. Of course, as with everything in ultrarunning time will tell.

On that note, I look forward to meeting Steve Warshawer at Vermont. Here's a guy who got it done back in the day and after the WS cancellation he signed up for VT and he'l be there. Good stuff indeed!

As for me, I am ready to rip one! I know Redpath, Mongold, Pilla, and Kulak are ready to open up a big can on me but they'll have to catch me first. It will be fun!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

No dessert this year

Greg Soderland, Race Director for the Western States 100, has a saying he likes to tell the runners a month or so before the race. In one of his regular email updates he often remarks,

"I hope you are enjoying your training. Remember, the training is the main meal and the race is the dessert."

As I have been reflecting on the cancellation of this year's Western States I have thought often of Greg's words. And, I guess the basic truth is, this year we simply had to go without dessert. However, it by no means diminishes the value of the main meal and in fact, in a twisted sort of way, it'll make next year's dessert taste that much sweeter.

I, for one, just concluded one of the most enjoyable and enriching training cycles of my life leading up to this year's non-Western States. Beginning on New Year's Day and continuing up to the Wednesday before the race I put in the miles, did the speed work, grunted through the hill repeats and pounded out the tempo runs. I systematically removed all of my toenails, lost 15 pounds of winter fat (I was poised to go into WS 5 pounds lighter than last year!), got that funny tan line where my watch is and did it all without succumbing to a single injury. At least in my own not-so-humble opinion I was primed and ready for the big dance!

Then, they took away the dessert!

So, what can a runner do after a big meal and no dessert?

Well, in a couple days I'm off to the Vermont 100 where I'll perhaps arrive a bit more rested than last year. Other dessertless runners will be doing two loops of the Tahoe Rim trail on the very same day while still others will be re-focusing their efforts on events later in the summer like Leadville, Wasatch, and Angeles Crest. Whatever people are doing they are hopefully getting over the disappointment and moving on to their next meal. After all, in this great sport of ours, there's always another adventure ahead and the dessert cart is always full!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Finding our way

Last year after moving into our new house in Ketchum a friend told me,

"You know, from your house you could probably run out your back yeard and all the way to Galena Lodge and barely touch pavement."

I thought, hmmmm....

Galena Lodge is a glorious place about 25 road miles north of Ketchum, ID that is world famous for it's Nordic Ski Trails and extraordinary food. In addition, the Lodge itself is about as homey as a place gets and just thinking about it makes me feel all warm inside.

So, when I learned last night of the Western States cancellation, I thought this would be the perfect time to try this run. I was tapered, not planning to go to work, and the weather report was perfect. A quick look at the map and I had a 60 mile out-and back leaving from my backyard, climbing about 3000 ft (with ups and downs along the way) to Galena Lodge, all on a delightful Rocky Mountain day.

Well, I had a blast and now I am, just like that, ready to begin my taper for Vermont.

I ran the 30 miles up to the lodge in 4:40 and did the return trip in 4:20. I ate a huge basket of salty, seasoned fries at the lodge and washed them down with three ice cold Pepsis. I saw exactly zero people on the trail and enjoyed every minute of the 9 hours on the trail.

Did it replace the joy and the mystique of Western States? No way! But, today's run did remind me that there are many reasons for spending hours on the trails running through the mountains and sometimes joy comes when you least expect it.

Now, I'm off on a fishing weekend with my kids!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vermont 100!

I remember this feeling from when I was 8 and Santa left me coal in my stocking. It hurt for a while but in the end I learned my lesson. Mother Nature always wins!

Sometimes, we all need to move on.

I must say the decision of the WSER Board must have been extremely difficult. I, for one, support their decision 100% and am already looking forward to the 2009 race.

So, who do you pick to win Vermont! There will be some rested folks there!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Western States on the horizon...

Well, it's Tuesday morning before the race and I think I am ready to roll. After five months of my highest training volume ever I now feel rested and even a bit antsy. I am fine tuning my body during this last week with short daily runs and long spells in the sauna. As everybody knows, this year's race is shaping up to be outstanding with strong men's and women's fields, a great masters' race, and a weather forecast for above-average, hot Western States temperatures. In short, it has all the makings of a classic!

I, for one, am keenly interested in what role experience will play in the race this year. Obviously, some of the fastest runners in the field are those who have not run Western States before. However, some of the most consistent and steady runners in the field are those Western States veterans who come back year after year to get it done. As the race unfolds it will be interesting to see how experience impacts performance. From my perspective, no matter how we've done in other races, how hard we prepare and how intensely we train, performance under pressure in the midst of intense competition in this arena is ultimately how we are measured. This well-known quotation from Theodore Roosevelt rings true in this context:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Finally, I must say that Western States race day is the one day per year that, at least for the past five years, I have looked forward to more than any other. In the midst of the planning and the packing, the preparing and the prognosticating, I always try to savor the simple beauty of the day. How often, in this life, can we spend a full day totally absorbed in ourselves in a beautiful place doing what we love most? For me, that is what I love best about Western States and, I always will.

With that, I'll see you in Squaw!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

MonkeyBoy Camp Summary

I am back in Idaho after a great four-day camp on the Western States Course. After 44 miles on Tuesday and 48 miles on Wednesday I decided to take it easy on Thursday and Friday and just get in some heat training with casual 10 milers both days. All in all, it was a great camp and I am thrilled to be slipping into taper mode as I write.

In summary, the camp was outstanding! The first day I ran pretty hard down to the river so that I was a tired for the return trip. After pushing the pace up to Green Gate (21 mins) I knew I needed to revover on the trip to ALT and was pretty much running tired the rest of the day. At dinner that night I knew I was depleted.

Then, Robinson to The River on Wednesday was just epic! After the climb up to Little Bald Mountain (almost no snow!) the long, steady downhill to the Swinging Bridge was excellent. The trail down to Miller's Defeat is in really great shape and the run into Last Chance is nice as well. We decided to take it easy down to Swinging Bridge and then cruised up to Devil's Thumb. By this time it was starting to get warm and we were getting what we came for.

The run from the Deadwood pump down to El Dorado went quickly and the climb up to Michigan was solid although we were surprised by the clearcut near the top amking it hotter than normal. We were psyched to see Carol Hewitt at her house and we decided to take it easy through Volcano to save sa little something in the tank for Cal Street.

We dropped about 25 bucks at the Foresthill store on Pringles, Beef Jerky and Soda before beginning the final stretch to the River. In 90 degree temperatures, it was perfect:
:29 to Cal 1, :49 to Cal 2, 23 to Cal 3 and then :49 to The River for a clean 2:30. The walk up to the car, on the other hand, was brutal.

Reflecting back on this year's training cycle I think I am ready to go. I feel like I am close to 2005 shape and in a bit better shape than last year but being a few years older will certainly have some kind of impact. Nonetheless, this is what many of us live for and I can't wait to get to the dance. The Trail is calling and I am on my way.

Hapy Father's Day everybody!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 2 - Robinson to The River

48 Miles. 8:00. A little warmer than yesterday. MonkeyBoy and I ran every step together. Jeff joined us after Cal 3. I did have a bit of trouble with blood in my urine due to severe hydration left over from yesterday. I guess 94 miles in a 35 hour period in 90 degree temps can do that to you. I'm fine now but will probably take it easy tomorrow.

Robinson to Dusty Corners: 1:17
Dusty Corners to Last Chance: :39
Last Chance to Swinging Bridge: :23
Swinging Bridge to Devil's Thumb : :32
Devil's Thumb to El Dorado: :40
El Dorado to Michigan Bluff: :44
Michigan Bluff to Foresthill: 1:06
Foresthill to Cal 1: :29
Cal 1 to Cal 2: :49
Cal 2 to Cal 3: :23
Cal 3 to The River: :49

We will try to post more details once the chafing dries out and my urine is clear.

AJW and Monkeyboy

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 1 - Placer HS to The River and back

44 Miles in 7:28. 3:25 out and 4:03 back. Temps in the mid-80's. The Course is in excellent shape. On the run I hit or exceeded all of my projected splits on return trip. MonkeyBoy joined just after Hwy 49.

River to Green Gate - :21
Green Gate to ALT - :55
ALT to Brown's - :44
Brown's to Hwy 49 - :43
Hwy 49 to No Hands - :32
No Hands to Placer HS - :33

All in all a good first day. Slight change of plan for tomorrow: Robinson to The River starting late enough to take advantage of the heat.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Graduation Day

One of the great joys of being a school principal is Graduation Day. This annual event every June always inspires me and fills me with hope for the future. This afternoon, on a glorious day here in the Northern Rockies, I was honored and privileged to present High School Diplomas to 32 graduates from The Community School in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Of course, for me as an ultramarathon runner, Graduation Day also marks the beginning of my summer racing season. While these days it's not quite like it was 15 years ago when I had the summer completely off from work, the daily stress and strain of daily life is greatly reduced as our faculty and students take time to re-charge the batteries and I have the chance to do the same.

For me, that battery re-charging will take place this coming week. Following work tomorrow (I have about 100 loose ends to tie up between 7AM and 1PM), a golf game with my 10 year old and a baseball game with my 8 year old I will hop in the car and head to Auburn for my annual 4 day, post-graduation day training camp. Best news of all, MonkeyBoy will be joining me!

At this point the plan looks like this:

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 10 - Placer High School to The River and Back (44 Miles) This run will start shortly after noon with the hope of maximizing heat exposure. If all goes as planned the run will be finished in time for a quick trip to In-and-Out Burger (the world's best recovery food!) and a couple of cold Sierra Nevadas before bed.

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 11 - Michigan Bluff to Devil's Thumb and then back to the River (41 Miles) - Assuming I can work out the car shuttles, this should be a killer workout. Hopefully, if it's hot, this will give me a sense of race day conditions as I'll try to get the timing such that I hit Michigan Bluff on the return trip shortly after 2:00 PM. This would be roughly in line with my race day timing (Hal got to Michigan at 1:48 last year)

Day 3 - Thursday, June 12 - Michigan Bluff to Last Chance and back (24 miles) - This will be a shorter day as I need to get to San Francisco by 6:00 PM for a meeting. It'll be good to push the pace through the canyons after Tuesday and Wednesday and get a good idea of these splits on tired legs.

Day 4 - Friday, June 13 - TBA

I am hopeful that this Camp will do several things:

1. Provide heat training. Aside from a couple hours in the sauna and a couple warm weekends this spring I am not heat trained.
2. Refresh my muscle memory for the race. I know the course well but it still helps to get out there. The Course always has a way of teaching you a thing or two.
3. Make final adjustments on my splits. I think I am in decent shape but this Camp will bear all. I'd like to be in the hunt for that Masters' record but there are a few other guys in the race thinking the same thing. By Friday night I should have a sense of what is real and what is fantasy.
4. Provide some distance between my job and the rest of my life. This is probably the most important reason for this camp. Not only do I need it physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well. It's been a rough year for me at work and I need to let go a bit this week. There is no better place for me to do this than on the Western States Course.

I have finished three weeks of Mark Allen-esque "Push Phase" Training. 110 miles, 124 miles, and 141 miles over the past three weeks. That, combined with 30 miles yesterday and 10 today will hopefully set me up to get over the hump in the next five days. I have always wanted to try this method so we'll see how it all comes together.

I will try to post reports after each of the runs this week for those who care.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

500 Miles

I just added up my May mileage and was surprised to see I had 508 miles for the month. The last time I did a 500 mile month was May, 2005. It has certainly been a while but it feels good, nonetheless. I get sore walking up stairs, my feet hurt every morning when I get out of bed, and I can't seem to get enough to eat, ever. In short, it's that familiar feeling a month before Western States

So, going into the last two weeks of hard training for Western States, I think I am on target. One more track workout on Thursday will give me an indication of footspeed and then it will come down to a few more hard days in the mountains and a good rest.

This weekend was a decent indicator of where I am. I did a 28 miler on rolling terrain in 4 hours yesterday and then a 35 miler today with over 7k of climbing in 5:45. I still need to do a bit of last-minute quad seasoning on the course as well as some more heat training but with 26 days to go until the Big Dance I think I'll be fine in that department. All in all, I'm happy to be getting in to the home stretch and I do think there's something to be said for that long-term muscle memory.

Happy June!


Monday, May 26, 2008

It's the Hard That Makes it Great!

A few years ago I was entranced by a movie called "A League of Their Own." In this film a character played by Tom Hanks takes on the role of managing an all-women's baseball team during World War II. In one particularly poignant scene a distraught Geena Davis complains to Hanks.

"This is so damn hard!"

Hanks replies, "Damnit, it's the hard that makes it great!"

This scene came back to me today as I was climbing a local mountain with good friend and fellow ultrarunner Mike Stevens. We were putting a cap on a long Memorial Day Weekend of training. After long runs on Saturday and Sunday we were in the midst of a 20 mile, 5000 foot run. It was hard, and it was great.

As people who know me can surely attest I believe that success in 100 mile trail runs depends as much on the head as it does on the legs. Certainly, hard, steady training is necessary but training the mind is more subtle, more nuanced, and, to me, more important.

There will come a time in the last 20 miles of a 100 where my body will say, "stop, slow down, just get 'er done. This is hard." In those moments I remember Tom Hanks and I say, often literally, "It's the hard that makes it great!"

We are now less than five weeks away from the Western States 100. The field is stacked with some of the best ultrarunners in the nation. It seems that everyone is training harder and longer than ever before and as more attention comes to the sport the stakes get higher and higher.

And so, my questions are;

Who has it between the ears to win the race this year?
Who has what it takes physically and mentally to get to Placer High School first?
Who is going to get it done?
Indeed, who is going to spend the next four weeks working on that mental side?
Who out there will be able to say, when the body says stop, GO!


Monday, May 19, 2008


We finally had some heat in the Northern Rockies this past weekend with temps in the mid-80's. It wasn't exactly what they had in Auburn but it was a good start to the heat training cycle.

I managed a 15 miler on Friday afternoon, a 32 miler on Saturday midday and a 30 miler on Sunday. My S! cap intake is slowly declining and my body seems to be adapting to more stress. The timing seems right with six weeks to go and I am feeling tired but focused.

It was also quite exciting to follow the Walker/Knipling battle at Masanutten. Knowing how stressful the last 20 miles of 100 milers can be made that particularly provocative. Congrats to both runners for a great race.

And, finally, it's now time for full-on hardcore training. I'll be trying to get in 110-130 Miles Per Week for the next four weeks and hopefully my body will hold together. In the meantime, I hope everyone's training is on track.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Every second counts...

I was reminded of the fact that "every second counts" in the last few days as our small community here in the Northern Rockies lost a beloved community member to a tragic automobile accident on Friday night. Gary Hunt, co-owner of the local independent book store and all-around good guy, lost his life tragically on Friday night. He leaves behind his wife Sarah, his two-year old daughter Penelope and three stepchildren.

As you might expect this is the kind of event that hits a small mountain community like ours quite hard. Furthermore, as a school person, the impact on the children and on all the families in our school community can be particularly traumatic. As a result, much of my attention over the past few days has been drawn toward supporting and nurturing members of the school community in this trying time.

Of course, I also need to look after myself and at a time like this running the trails provides that opportunity. In between phone calls, meetings and conference calls a nice run on the trails gives me a chance to reflect, collect my thoughts, and prepare for the next thing on my list. And, it gives me another reminder that "every second counts".

I remember saying those words to my pacer Craig Thornley during the last four miles of the Angeles Crest 100 in 2005. We had just finished hammering 5 miles downhill in the hope that we could catch Guillermo Medina who was running six minutes ahead of us. Upon reaching the Millard Aid Station we were told he had extended his lead to 9 minutes. It was tough news to hear but the truth nonetheless. So, on the climb up from the campground we re-grouped, Craig said nothing and I said, "Crap man! Every second counts! Let's move!" We hammered those last four miles in 28 minutes.

I ended up in 2nd place 9 minutes behind Guillermo with an Angeles Crest PR of 19:45. I have not been back to the race since then but the memory of making every second counts still persists. Tonight, as I think about the loss of a friend and the gift of this life, that mantra is particularly poignant.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Obsession with Western States 100

This is not AJW here, but rather LB, one of the "anonymous" Oregonians who has been friends with AJW for quite a few years. Last weekend I suggested he let me guest blog, and I was surprised when today he gave me the password and said have at it. Really? Should I write a post in third person pretending to be him? That could be fun. Should I tell you about the AJW that I know? Nah, we'll just all keep our own view of the guy. Who knows, maybe when you're around him he's a quiet, shy, unassuming, selfless, muscular, fearful, self-effacing, weak-willed, athletic, self-sacrificing, following, modest, giver. Or maybe not.

Instead, I decided I'd write about something that he and I share in common: an obsession with Western States. Last weekend before the ICS run we were sitting in Michigan Bluff talking about the race when a guy we call Tapeworm, a skinny 2:26 marathoner who raced his way into States at Way Too Cool by outkicking Jurek in the last 1/4 mile, said reluctantly, "There is more to life than Western States..." The room went silent (which is a very difficult accomplishment when AJW, Monkeyboy, and I are together), and we all just stared at him. What? What planet do you live on? It's May 2nd, the day before the ICS run, the 9th day of our 10 day training camp in Michigan Bluff, and less than 60 days before the race. What else could there possibly be?

AJW and Me

My obsession dates back to 1978 or 79 when I was a wee bit of a lad growing up in Cool, California. I found myself inadvertently camping at about the 85 mile mark of the WS course. These guys kept coming by all tired and dirty asking us where the aid station was. I was just a high school mile and two-mile runner back then, but the allure of the event had captured me. For the next 20 years I found myself working at Dusty Corners, crewing, pacing, and sometimes just watching. Even before I ran the race for the first time in 2001, I would camp at Devil's Thumb or Michigan Bluff or Driver's Flat, and go for runs on the trail. When I would come home to visit my mom in Cool, I'd almost always include a run to Auburn from ALT. This year I'm going to attempt my 6th States, and at 44 years old I'm just as excited about the race as I was as a 16 year old.

So why does this race have such a hold on me, and why would I want to share this?

I've thought about the first question a lot over the years because I'm often asked it. The course is definitely a big part of it. The history of the miners and the booming towns is fascinating. Running through Deadwood and into Michigan Bluff it is easy to imagine the life of the miners who gave up easy lives elsewhere in the hopes of striking it rich in California. Some might see the greed of those miners, but I see the adventurous spirit. A willingness to put it all on the line to make a better life for their family. Look at the headstones at the Masonic Cemetery in Michigan Bluff sometime.
Headstone at Michigan Bluff

Then there is the high country ... the river canyons ... the oak and pine trees ... the bears, cougars, ticks, foxes and rattlesnakes ... the trail is an authentic path through the Sierras. Start in Squaw; go to Auburn. Sure there are some other 100 mile courses that are point-to-point, but none that follow a less-contrived path. Yes, I love the course.

The training is also a huge part of the reason for my obsession. My wife and I have taken a 10 day vacation in Michigan Bluff for each of the last five years. Before that I used to camp in the area alone. For what? To train for WS. Classic group training runs such as the ICS (Cal2 to Swinging Bridge and back) and the Peace Run (Robinson to the River). Solo runs around ALT, Browns Bar, and No Hands. I can't tell you how many times I've run Cal St. The camaraderie of the group we had for ICS last weekend was pretty cool. There were nine of us. We all ran our own pace, but we frequently regrouped at agreed upon places: Foresthill, MB, Pump, Swinging Bridge, Pump, MB, Foresthill store, the car. The faster folks had to wait for the slower folks, but nobody complained. There is also a group of runners in Eugene who train together each year for States. We meet regularly on Wednesdays for workouts. Each year we have one or two new folks, but there is always a core training for that race in California at the end of June. Yes, I love to train for States.

But the race is also a big part of the obsession. 1300 volunteers, many of whom are not, never have been, and never will be runners. The competitive field. The number of runners who peak for this race. The pre-race hype which is often too much. It's exciting to watch the first timers, whether they are 19 hour runners or 29 hour runners. I enjoy racing with the veterans. Twietmeyer, Terry, Nielsen, Fitzpatrick, Trason, DK, and AJW ... If you're running the race this year, take some time to recognize how many people are out there to help you get through. Pacers, crew, aid station workers, etc. It is a staggering number at the river crossing alone. For me, this is the race that matters most.

So why did I choose to share this instead of doing the other 100 things waiting for me in my Inbox after a 10 day vacation? Especially when the race is getting harder and harder to get into, and as the field gets more competitive it gets more and more difficult for me to get into the race? Hmmmm, maybe I shouldn't have shared that. Because, as AJW has told me, I'm a connector, and look forward to sharing the trail with you on June 28. Thanks, AJW, for letting me post.

Craig Thornley
Eugene, Oregon

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ice Cream Sandwich

I made it to the Western States Course this weekend for 82 miles of training. Friday I did two shortish runs between Foresthill and Devil's Thumb and then on Saturday ran from Cal 2 to the Swinging Bridge and back. All in all it was excellent training. Here are the stats:

Foresthill to Michigan Bluff: 1:00
Michigan Bluff to Foresthill: 0:57
Michigan Bluff to Devil's Thumb: 1:29
Devil's Thumb to Michigan Bluff: 1:17

Cal 2 to Swinging Bridge: 5:20
Swinging Bridge to Devil's Thumb: 0:33
Devil's Thumb to El Dorado: 0:38
El Dorado to Michigan Bluff: 0:41
Michigan Bluff to Foresthill: 0:57
Foresthill to Cal 2: 1:14:40 (with Craig Thornley leading the way)

Now, here is the story:

The highlight of the entire weekend was the group I ran with. An intrepid band of quasi-successful Oregonians have been doing the Ice Cream Sandwich Run ever since they poached the idea from Tim Twietmeyer years ago. And, as much as they moan and complain about just about everything, they are actually pretty good people.

Of course, they are also a highly sensitive lot so in the interest of privacy they shall remain nameless. However, I should also say that I was quite happy and relieved to be joined by two Californians who proved to be pleasant company throughout the day. So, the run:

We started at a very relaxed pace up from Cal 2. It was cool and sunny and I was exhilerated to be out on the Western States Trail. We passed the time swapping stories of past Western States Runs and I enjoyed telling some of the new guys about the splits we were making. You know, stuff like, "from this bush it's 6 minutes until the second creek crossing where I usually eat a gel." I think they thought I was a bit obsessed. And, the truth is, I am.

We got up to Foresthill in 1:48, topped off our bottles and ran steadily to Michigan Bluff in 1:07 where our Aid Station was. The "womanfolk (Craig's title!)" had stocked a cooler with cold sodas, turkey/avocado sandwiches and my personal favorite, sugar coated S! Caps. After fueling up we began the trip through El Dorado. Running a relaxed pace we got to the bridge in :22 and then up to the pump in 1:20. Then, it was off to The Thumb and down into Deadwood. This would be the last stretch of easy running all day.

It was warming up nicely by the time we re-grouped at the Swinging Bridge and the smack talk had started in earnest. I will not go into details but let's just say the Idaho/Oregon Challenge is going full tilt.

I wanted to get to the Thumb in :33 and a steady walk got me there. I was still feeling tired but was ready to push the downhill. The drop into El Dorado is by far my favorite part of the course and I wanted to see what I had in my downhill legs after 6 hours of running. I got to the creek with two other anonymous Oregonians at my heels in :30 from the pump. Four minutes faster than my race day split. I got back to Michigan Bluff in :41 and was ready for another break. More sandwiches, sodas, and S! Caps before we were off to Foresthill! I got there in :57.

At that point, we were at the crux of the workout. Everybody ate an Ice Cream Sandwich and drank a can of Coke. That is Tweit's requirement. No exceptions. Then, we had to run to Cal 2 in 1:15. Doing so without puking makes the run a success. Losing your cookies, means you are a pathetic failure and a DNF is the likely outcome for the race. With Craig's able leadership, we made it to Cal 2 in 1:14:50. A virtuoso performance by a true trail running legend.

After hiking to the car and driving back to Michigan Bluff we assessed the damage. All was good. Time to rest, or whatever...

My conclusion from the weekend:

I think my 16:34 goal is possible in benign conditions and I am ready to give it a try this year. If the weather on race day is more like 2006 than 2007 then my time will be more like 18 and change. Now we'll just see how the next six weeks go.

And, as for those pesky, anonymous Oregonians: There are a couple of superfast first timers in that bunch who need our attention. Then, there are the crafty veterans in the bunch who have both worn "M" numbers in the last five years. Also, there's a really fast "F" runner in there who is really fit and just returned from the Olympic Marathon Trials. And finally, there are those Californians. As usual, watch out for them!

Time to train. This is the best time of the year!


Thursday, May 1, 2008


May 1st is always an exciting day for me in my preparation for Western States as it marks the beginning of my heaviest training month. As much as I love the race, it is the training that ultimately makes it all worth while. I have found that as I get older and slower the training takes on added significance as it not only fuels my fitness but my emotional well-being as well. This year, in particular, training has provided an excellent outlet for stress and tension.

I am particularly psyched about the coming weekend as I will be on The Course for 16 miles late Friday afternoon and then 52 long, tough miles on Saturday. I look forward to the first weekend in May more than just about any other weekend of the year.

And, I am curious, for other Western States runners out there, what are your May training plans?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

AJW -- TV Star!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

From the east...

As luck would have it the last Saturday in April took me east to Boston. A long-standing work commitment meant I would miss the opportunity to get out for one last hard weekend on the trails before the Ice Cream Sandwich Run next weekend with a handful of anonymous Oregonians on the Western States Course. So, hoping to make the most of my circumstances, this morning I headed out for a 20ish miler along the Charles River.

It was a beautiful, postcard perfect spring morning and I had a bit of spring in my step. The river itself was filled with crew teams and the banks of the river were filled with runners, walkers, bikers, and a whole bunch of others just enjoying the day. The flat, smooth bike trail was gentle on my body and the 7-minute miles passed by without too much effort. It was spring at its East Coast best!

After about ten miles on the Cambridge side of the river I crossed over to the Boston side and began to head back. About fifteen minutes into this leg I encountered a large crowd gathered by the river. I wondered what was going on and jogged over. It turned out to be the beginning of a 5K road race.

Now, I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran a 5K road race but it was at least 10 years ago. Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to see what I could do so I jumped in. Carrying two bottles, wearing trail shoes, and not having time to officially sign up I started running the 5K without a number. It was a little weird, but surprisingly fun.

A few minutes later a guy by the side of the bike trail was standing there with a watch. He was shouting out numbers,

“5:40, 5:41, 5:42…”

“Wow, pretty good I thought.” I tucked in behind a young guy with a Harvard shirt on who looked like Lewis Taylor. I forged on, now into a headwind.

At the end of a long straightaway another guy with a watch called out, “11:31, 11:32, 11:32…”

“Holy crap!” I thought, “Is this course short?”

I moved hesitantly past the Harvard guy and set my sights on the next guy in front - a skinny little bugger who looked a lot like Craig Thornley – in fact, he even had shaved legs! I passed him like a broken-down bus and turned for home.

At Mile 3 another watch guy was there, “ “17:10, 17:11, 17: 12…”

“Wait a minute, is this actually me? Is this me running?” A guy in front with a bunch of tattoos and a funny accent turned to look back, for a second, I thought it was Scott Wolfe. He pulled away before I could make positive identification.

Of course, since I was running bandit I politely (at least for me!) veered off about five yards before the finishing chute with an unofficial 5K road time of 17:45. I know that may not be fast for some people but for me it is pretty good especially after a two hour, 15 mile warm up.

By the time all was said and I made it back to my hotel I had run a solid 23 road miles with 3.1 miles hard running. Not bad for a Saturday morning on an off-weekend.

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to traveling down to Michigan Bluff on Thursday night and getting out onto hallowed ground. It should be fun! I’ll be doing my “heat dance” all week.

Yours, AJW

PS – For those who might be wondering what the Ice Cream Sandwich Run is here are the details:

We start at Cal 2 and run back, against the direction of the race, to the Swinging Bridge. Then, we turn around and run back to Cal 2. Along the way we stop at Michigan Bluff to talk smack and at Foresthill to eat an Ice Cream Sandwich and drink a soda (some guys drink Coke and the cool guys drink Dr. Pepper). After that, we try to run back to Cal 2 in under 1:15. Those who can do so without puking get a special prize. The rest of the day just deteriorates from there…

A Metaphor...

From time to time in my job as an Executive Director for a non-profit organization I am invited to speak to members of non-profit Boards on the topic of “Best Practices” in governance. In one recent presentation, I introduced a training metaphor to illustrate my point to a group of about 150 Board Chairs. Below is a summary, in outline form, of that PowerPoint presentation. While it is not specifically about running (as all of my other Blog posts are) I know some readers might find it interesting and possibly even helpful. So, here it is:

Focused Energy:
Endurance Training as a Metaphor for Success

Presented by: Andy Jones-Wilkins

Head of School, The Community School
Father of three
Ultramarathon Runner

1. Running Accomplishments Include:

• Eighteen 100 mile finishes including wins at Vermont and Grand Teton 2nd place finishes at Western States and Angeles Crest.
• 100 Mile National Trail Champion in 2006
• Attempting 6th WS in June
• Only runner currently in the field this year with four consecutive top-10 finishes

2. Training Plan: The Pyramid

– 50% of training is done at a base, foundation level
• Daily, aerobic effort
– 30% of training is done at a tempo level
• Twice weekly sessions of 40-60 minutes at race pace
• These efforts are hard, but manageable
– 20% of training is done at peak intensity level
• 1-2 workouts at 90% or higher of maximum heart rate
• These efforts stretch the limits of body’s capacity for pain

3. Purpose and Pitfalls
• Foundation runs build endurance and long-term fitness
• Tempo runs build strength and muscle memory
• Intensity workouts build speed and resilience to pain
• Too much Foundation improves fitness not speed
• Too much Tempo decreases body’s capacity to go long and fast
• Too much Intensity courts injury and burnout.

4. What does this have to do with measuring the success of your organization?

Consider the time you or your director spends in his or her work in each of these three training spheres:

• Foundation: Day-to-day managerial details of running the organization
• Tempo: Systems, policies, and structures to support the day-to-day operation
• Intensity: Strategic, long-range, visionary work to chart the future of the organization

5. Time Allocation in Your Organization

To measure the effectiveness of your organization consider these three “training spheres.”

– Excess of time spent in Foundation Training will threaten the long-term sustainability of the organization.
– Excess of time spent in Tempo Training will potentially alienate constituencies, particularly employees, and could lead to erosion in morale and other “softer” measures of success.
– Excess of spent time in Intensity Training will lead to mismanagement, confusion in the ranks, and, ultimately burnout or breakdown.

Therefore, as with endurance training, the best governance practices stress balance, planning, and proper pacing

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tempo Tuesday

So, every Tuesday morning for the last two months I've run a hard 10 miler to test my tempo legs. Taking a page from Morton and Clifton, I have been trying to build length strength and speed simultaneously with this weekly workout. It's basically a road loop with rolling hills through Sun Valley (all between 6000 and 7000 feet).

Over this two month period I have been averaging 1:05 to 1:08 for the loop. This morning, much to my surprise, I busted it out in 1:02 and felt very strong at the end.

I am basically writing this because I find it interesting and a bit perplexing how, why, and, most of all, when, the body adapts to a certain training volume and is ready to put the hammer down. With just over two months before the Big Dance I now feel like I am ready to increase the volume and intensity and see how it all plays out. I must admit, at this point in my preparations I feel as though I am in the best shape I've been in since 2005.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not about to switch to 180 mile weeks in the Grand Canyon in bare feet but I am psyched to pick things up a bit. Sub-17 may actually be in the cards after all!


PS -- I'll be joining a bunch of those anonymous Oregonians during the first weekend of May on the Western States Course. Should be fun! I bet I'll be doing all the talking:)

Friday, April 18, 2008


It appears that adjusting my Blog settings to allow anonymous postings has brought a few more people out of the woodwork. I guess that's a good thing and it has increased the smack talk which is always fun.

So, in that spirit, I feel compelled to respond to the latest round of postings following up on my "Tagged" post:

1. While many Oregonians have beaten me at Cool I can count on one finger the number of Oregonians who have beaten me at States in the last four years.

2. I will never post anonymously on my own Blog. That's weak!

3. While it is true that I blew up and finished 35th at WS in 2001 since 2004 I have finished in the top-10 four consecutive times. Nobody else in the field can make that claim this year (unless Jurek enters!)

4. I have made it clear that I want to get 10 finishes and that I want to stay in the top-10 as long as possible. I also want to get the Masters' Course record and possibly even win the race. This year I think I am in 17 hour shape. So, any of you anonymous folks out there better come to the Big Dance ready to race.

5. I don't normally do the Training Log thing on my Blog but this last week I have surpassed 90MPW for the first time this year and I feel great. Take it to the bank!

That's all for now, go run!

Friday, April 11, 2008


Well, BlogMaster Scott Dunlap Tagged me to write a six-word memoir. So, here goes:

"Finding running clarified a blurry picture."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Western States

The excitement at American River has added two more strong men to the Western States field. Anton and Lon are now added to the long list of contenders with less than three months to go. As I wrote in a post several months ago I was hoping for the most competitive field ever at 2008 WS and it is shaping up to be pretty close to that. With Anton, Lon and Todd (1st at Cool, 4th at AR) joining Koerner, Skaden, Cooper, Meltzer and a whole bunch of others the race is shaping up to be truly outstanding. Add to that the potential for a snowy first section and super-hot canyons and it should be a great day. As the day draws near I will, of course, have more to say, but as for now, I guess we all better get out there and train!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

AR 2008

In a recent post I gave a WS spot to Krupicka but a quick look at the entrants suggests it may be a tough race for the ment who want those top-3 spots. Here are some of the guys on the list:

Lon Freeman -- Sick race at Miwok in 2007. Ran his guts out for 78 miles at WS
Erik Skaden -- Owns this race on local ground. Is tapered for it.
Nick Bingham -- Former WS top-10 guy. Good footspeed
Lewis Taylor -- 2007 WTC winner. Hungry, smart.
Scott Jaime -- Mountain guy with surprising footspeed in the short stuff
Todd Braje -- 2008 WTC winner. 2:20 marathoner
Oz Pearlman -- Superfast East Coast guy. Sub-5:30 50 mle speed on roads
Michael Buchanan -- Consistently tough NorCal guy
Guillermo Medina -- Can never be counted out as he know what it takes to run hard
Jorge Pacheco -- Depending on which Jorge shows up can be focused and fast
Anton Krupicka -- Super-fast, insane high mileage guy

So, all in all, it looks like one of the most competitive races at AR in recent years. Too bad MonkeyBoy won't be there!


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Top Ten

I've been taking some heat lately about the lack of provocative posts on my blog. Folks have accused me of going soft or perhaps just trying too hard to be politically correct. So, in the spirit of the day, I thought I'd throw some thoughts out there in preparation for the Big Dance on June 28th.

I call it:

"The Top-Ten Mistakes Being Made Right Now to Ruin Dreams of Western States Glory":

10. Too Many Miles -- In April you need to focus on quality not quantity. Those people out there who are going 30% over their average weekly miles are simply killing themselves. Go hard uphill and down, get in the miles, and let the rest take care of itself.

9. Racing -- You need to get your butt kicked in the spring to win in the summer. Winning 50K races in April and May might be fun and feel good but it sets you back when the Big Time comes. All those people who've won the spring classics have mixed results at the Big Dance. You need to conserve. It's hard. Look it up!

8. Running into the race -- As much as I respect those folks who gain entry into the race with fast runs at Cool, American River and Miwok be careful about leaving too much on the course. Hammering those races can easily kick your ass especially during the last 20 miles of WS when all the Dogs get really hungry. Take a look at the results in places 7-15 over the past 10 years. It's a bloodbath! And it should be.

7. Injury Phobia -- Taking it too easy to avoid injury now will really sabotage the day. A Big April followed by an injured May can work wonders for WS success. Just ask Tim and Ann. Don't be afraid to go hard now.

6. Specificity -- This is important in late-May and early June (especially this year with a June 28th date) but don't bother with it now. Get in the miles that build strength and speed and let the rest take care of itself. It doesn't take much to teach the body waht it needs to learn. Too much now wil make you complacent, bored, burned out, ot, worst of all, overtrained.

5. Nutrition -- The heat, hills, pressure and general mystique of WS take their toll on even the most hardy souls. If you don't have your nutrition plan worked out by now you should probably just do the "Fun Run" because stomachs will turn everywhere.

4. Thinking about the other people -- Nobody has ever won WS running the other guys' race. In fact, those who do, rarely finish. Figure out your own plan and stick to it. If it works great, if not, sign up for Rio.

3. The Marathon Myth -- Again, look it up, but the odds favor the 2:35-2:50 marathoners over the super fast road guys. With the exception of Tom Johnson the race is not kind to those speedsters. My advice, slow down and enjoy the view.

2. Not enough downhills -- Everybody works hard on the climbing and the fear of the canyons and the heat but the true essence of the race finds its home in the downhills. If you're not pounding out downhill repaeats at this time of year your screwing yourself and, I mean, literally, screwing yourself.

1. Disrespecting experience -- Just look at the results. If you've been there before and proven you have what it takes you can win. If not, it's tough. Not impossible, but downright tough. As much as I'm thrilled to see Wardian, Braje, Krupicka, Meltzer and many other first timers at the Big Dance my "fear list" still starts with Koerner, Skaden and Cooper. Look it up!

Now, let me have it!


Saturday, March 29, 2008


I came of age in the sport of ultrarunning in the “old-school” days. It was a time without lotteries (except Western States) and online registration. It was, indeed, a simple era when most races allowed camping by the start/finish line and most of the runners were your friends and family.

Times have certainly changed in the sport but one event, in particular, carries on that “old-school” tradition -- The Coyote Two Moon Ultras in the Los Padres National Forest uphill from Ojai, CA. For years this event was a four-day running party held in February called The Coyote Four Play. This year, Chris Scott and his happy band of revelers, evolved the event into a 100 Mile run with a companion 100 Kilometer Fun Run. The concept was to create a staggered start allowing most of the runners to finish within a four-hour window on Sunday morning. For the most part, the whole thing worked and an outstanding weekend was shared by all.

I was assigned to the final 100 Mile start group at 6AM on Saturday morning. Our group, made up of Karl Meltzer, Eric Clifton. Hiroki Ishikawa, Justin Angle and myself started the day leisurely with a 1500 foot climb up to The Ridge. Karl opened a small gap on this first climb that would eventually grow to a four and a half hour lead over Justin and me by the finish. Hiroki and Eric would both eventually drop after getting in solid 70-plus mile training runs.

The long and the short of it is that I made a new friend on this run and loved every minute of it. With the exception of an hour or so during the middle of the day when I pulled away slightly and several times during the last 20 miles when he pulled away slightly, Justin and I ran the run stride for stride for the entire race and swapped stories the whole way (well, almost the whole way!). From families and friends, to travel and work, to the joy of simply being on the trail for 24 hours we transcended the “race” and wallowed in the spirit of the Coyote Two Moon. In the end we were happy to finish under 24 hours but that was not the goal. The goal was fun in the sun and that was certainly achieved. If I could do it all again tomorrow I’d have it the exact same way.

The post-race festivities at The Ranch were truly outstanding with Chris Scott, Howard Cohen and their crew of Coyote 2 Mooners making this a truly first-class event. From the excellent awards (tubs of margerine, coyote skulls, etc..) to the delicious food, the conclusion of the event was perfect. And, since they had a staggered start, nobody had to wait around. Let me tell you this, if they let you in next year, be sure to sign up, it’ll be well worth it

And, as for Justin and me we parted ways with hugs and best wishes. We are both looking ahead to busy 100 mile seasons with Justin going to Bighorn and Angeles Crest looking for victory and me going to Western States, Vermont and Wasatch looking for, well, I’m not sure what I’m looking for yet but I hope to find it. Nonetheless, the C2M was an excellent way to get the ball rolling for the year and I am looking forward to the next ten weeks of training. Be well, friends!