Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ultra Lifestyle

Shelly and I managed to get away for President's Weekend and we escaped the snow with a three day weekend in Del Mar, CA just north of San Diego. Sandwiched between two 15 mile days of running on the beach I managed to hook up with some old (and new) friends at iron Mountain for a hilly 20 miler on Sunday.

As anyone who has read this blog before knows my ultrarunning hero and mentor is Tom Nielsen and I was lucky enough to hook up with Tom, Tracy Moore (M7 at WS 2007) and David Goggins (4th Badwater, 1st Ultracentric 48 hour) for a long one in the sunshine on Sunday. Needless to say, we never ran out of things to talk about.

On a run that lasted 3 and a half hours we chatted about family, friends, races, training, the Western States political "issues", the election, the state of the union and various other topics of interest to ultrarunners. Most of all, however, we reveled in the ultrarunning lifestyle.

You see, that is something Tom and I share and love. For us, this is more than a sport, it is a life. Sure, we love the adrenaline rush of pinning on the M number at Western States but more than that we love the training, the shared adversity, and the cameraderie of this sport we cherish. Few, if any, would find utter joy in discussing the relative merits of running from the River to the Finish in under 4 hours or the hardship of being passed in the last 10 miles of a 100, or the challenge of gutting out those last few miles on trashed quads and an empty stomach but that is what we love and it fuels the fire. Everybody knows Tom and I talk alot, we think alot and we run alot and even if we only hook up once or twice a year to run the rest of the world comes second in those moments and that, my friends, keeps us going.

Here's to you Tom! I'll see you (and a few other guys!) in Ojai!

Monday, February 11, 2008


A recent thread on the ultralist about what are the toughest 100's out there got me thinking...What exactly is tough about running a 100 miler?

Certainly, the distance, conditions, competition and sheer magnitude of the whole thing makes it tough but what is it about these races that tests the actual toughness of the runners themselves? What is it about these races that allows that toughness to be tranferred to everyday life?

These are interesting questions indeed and ones that I like to ponder when I'm pounding out the miles in the snow. Allow me a few random thoughts on toughness:

Toughness is entering a race thinking you can win and knowing that 30 other guys are thinking the same thing.

Toughness is having the balls to run away from the field from the start and never looking back.

Toughness is getting up out of the chair after puking, eating two hot dogs, and knowing that any thoughts of getting to Green Gate before dark are over.

Toughness is running straight through the last three aid stations at Wasatch knowing that a Cheetah is waiting for you at the finish.

Toughness is getting up after a two hour nap, running the fastest 15 mile splits ever on the Hardrock Course, and finishing 2nd without getting chicked:)

Toughness is passing Scott Jurek at Mile 83.

Toughness is knowing that a Bad Time is better than No Time at all.

Toughness is being tough enough to realize what you have and what you don't.


It's that time of year, folks. Time to take stock and get out there and train. There are no more excuses now. The weather is getting warmer and there are a couple of good tune-ups on the horizon.

As for me, I head to San Diego this weekend for a weekend in the sun with Shelly and five hours on the trail with my good friend and ultra mentor Tom Nielsen. Good times indeed!

Friday, February 8, 2008

A morning of trail bliss

An alumni function brought me to San Francisco this week. I had a great time meeting up with Community School graduates from the 1980’s and 1990’s and the added bonus was that I had a chance to get out onto the trails of Marin County earlier today. Due to some travel complications I had four hours free to return to my old training grounds on the Miwok 100K course and, as a result, I was able to get in my first real training run of the season.

I parked my car at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead in Marin and planned a 24 mile route which would capture some elevation, take in some great ocean views, and test my early season fitness. Since I knew all my splits for the various sections from year’s past I knew this was a workout that would provide a legitimate early season challenge. That, coupled with the fact that I was running on dirt rather than snow or ice, got be psyched.

I ran easily down the one-mile fireroad which bisects Tennessee Valley and turned onto the Coastal Trail after 10 minutes. I got a chuckle out of the new trail sign that noted it was 2.8 miles to Muir Beach and 467 miles to the Oregon border. A fleeting thought of the Oregon Boyz entered my mind and I began the climb in earnest.

Cresting the hill I looked forward to what is, to me, the best 3-mile stretch of single track in the Bay Area. From this point I would have a 600 foot descent down to Pirate’s Cove followed by an equally steep 600 foot climb up to a wonderful viewpoint. Then I would be treated to a delightful 800-foot descent into Muir Beach. Even though I had run this route countless times before the beauty and serenity of the moment was magical. I was on The Trail.

After leaving Muir Beach I ran the flat section between the Pelican Inn and the beginning of the climb up to Pan Toll hard. I was impressed with how dry the trail was given the recent rains and I began to get in to a steady rhythm. After crossing the paved road I began the three-mile, 1800 foot climb to Pan Toll Ranger Station which is one of the signature climbs on the Miwok Course. Winding in and out of the trees I felt at home in these California hills and I wanted the run to last forever. I arrived at the Ranger Station, topped off my bottles and checked my watch, 1:33 from Tennessee Valley. Sweet, I was right on my splits from 2005. Maybe I was getting into shape after all.

Knowing I needed to be back at my car by 12:30 and knowing that it would take me 1:20 or so to get back there from Pan Toll I treated myself to a relaxed 50 minute out and back on the Coastal Trail before dropping back into the valley. The time flew by as quickly as the miles on this beautiful section of trail and before I knew it I was back at Pan Toll ready to take on the 1800 foot descent back to the road and then the final five miles of ups and downs back to Tennessee Valley. I knew this descent would provide a serious test for my legs. I usually don’t get into “downhill shape” until April but I am trying to get there a bit earlier this year. The descent off Pan Toll and the final 800 foot elevator shaft drop to Tennessee Valley would be the perfect early season quad test. I got back to the road in 20 minutes flat. Not too bad. The legs were returning!

Loving the fact that I was running in shorts and a t-shirt for the first time in two months I hammered the climb up to the Highway 1 crossing and felt a bit of a competitive surge as I pondered running from that point to Tennessee Valley in 30 minutes (my race day time is usually a tad under 40). Needless to say I did it and returned to my car three hours and forty minutes after I left it.

I must admit I have been homesick for the Bay Area since moving to the high mountains of Idaho. Don’t get me wrong, life is good here but the fact that the trails here are covered in snow for half the year gets me down from time to time. The chance to get out on some real California dirt fueled my soul and got me pumped up for the next 140 days. That, my friends, is what it’s all about.