Thursday, December 31, 2009

3500 Miles

Ran out Trail Creek Rd to the gate then back to Corral Creek Rd out to the Pioneer Cabin Trailhead. It was cold (about 12 degrees) but really nice. 22 miles later I was done. Time to enjoy the New Year's Eve festivities and dream about the Summer of 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last Run of The Year!

Here we are, I need to run 22 miles tomorrow for 3500 for the year.

I think I'll head out early, in the snow, barefoot, with no water, gels or watch, and see what happens:)

Stay tuned for a full report:)


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - My 5 Best Runs

5. The Jizzle Wizzle Mile (5:14 on Hayward Field)

4. The Leadville 100 (End of a long summer)

3. Rocky Raccoon 100 (Exciting duel with Scott, one of the best guys in the sport!)

2. The Western States 100 (The power of the sponge at Devil's Thumb)

1. The Hardrock 100 (The best crew a runner could have!)

Happy New Year everyone! Here's hoping for more great running memories in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

3 days to go!

Thanks for the comments. I think I'll go for it. Here's the plan:

I did 13 today so I'm down to 3443.

I'll do 15 on Tue and Wed and then finish the year with a 27.

Question is, should I go hills or flats? Roads or trails? Doubles or singles?

Time for bed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mileage for the year!

It's fun at this time of year to look around on all the blogs and see what people are thinking about as they go into the last few days of the year and consider their yearly mileage totals. While I know it is completely arbitrary, we runners are an odd breed and some of us like to think about finishing the year with some kind of round/meaningful/funny number. I guess it says something about those of us who bother adding this stuff up through the year and I'd be curious to hear what some of you are thinking about for the last four days of 2009.

So, here's my deal, I am sitting on 3430 miles for the year with four days to go. I must say, 3500 is a pretty sweet looking number but it means I'd need to belt out 70 miles over the next four days.

What do you think, should I go for it?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Camp

Every year during the winter break from school my kids take part in "Christmas Camp" as part of the Sun Valley Ski Team. Basically, during this time, they spend two weeks focusing on technique and other fundamentals as they prepare for the racing season that begins in January. In the spirit of solidarity (and due to the fact that I am a lousy skier:) I have, for the past two years, had my own Christmas Camp to get ready for my own ultramarathon racing season which will slowly ramp up in January.

With a quiet couple weeks of work ahead of me I am looking forward to 16 consecutive days of running with a focus on consistency and leg turnover. In addition, I plan to work on keeping my heart rate steady while paying attention to my running form. Lastly, I hope to get in about 180 miles during that time.

And, for inspiration and given the fact that I just submitted my Hardrock registration, I will keep in mind the moment pictured above, taken last July in Silverton, as I dive into my own "Christmas Camp."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A New Challenge

Long before I ran ultras I was a bicycle tourist. My wife and I would routinely take off every summer for a 10-week bike trip somewhere or other in the US or Canada. In the early '90's we went across the US twice and in the summer of 1994 we rode from Bend, OR to Fairbanks, AK. Then, before it was too late, we quit our jobs and spent 18 months biking around the world in 1995-96.

So, fast-forward to last month when we were in Eugene for my "Epic Failure" at the 5 minute mile. The positive by-product of the whole ordeal was that we got to spend a fun night at Laurie and Craig's house catching up with friends and enjoying the spoils of the day. On that evening Shelly, my wife, got to talking to MonkeyBoy (aka Scott Wolfe) about bikes. Well, it so happens that MonkeyBoy is, among other things, a frame builder in Eugene and Shelly and he spent an hour talking about frame geometry, fit, and all things bikes. Anyway, Shelly has never found a bike that really fit her so on the way home we casually discussed if it might be worth having Scott build something for her.

Well, tonight the gauntlet was laid! My good friend and pacer MonkeyBoy has officially offered to build Shelly a custom frame if I beat my 2007 Western States time of 17:20 in the 2010 event. As if the 10-year bet was not enough reason for motivation now I have another one. Thanks brother! And, I am looking forward to training together later this spring.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Men's Ultra Performance of the Year - 2009

While there are a few weeks left in the year it looks like, at least for the people who bother to read this blog, Geoff Roes' Course Record Run at Wasatch is the Men's Ultra Performance of the Year. Coming in 2nd was Anton Krupicka's Course Record at White River followed by Ulli Steidl's NF50 and Hal Koerner's WS.

Certainly, there are many other potential performances that could be in the mix but these four emerged over the year as the top-four.

In the coming weeks, look for a series of polls on this blog on a variety of different ultra related topics. And, if you are interested in any particular topic that might be a good subject for a poll, please let me know. I probably won't start writing about Western States until, oh, I don't know, maybe Christmas.

Anyone start thinking about New Year's Resolutions? One of mine is to train and race well enough that when I get to Robie Point on the evening of June 26th and glance to my right down the fire road there will be no visible lights bouncing up the trail. What are some of yours?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Special Consideration at WS!

One of those most interesting and compelling names to pop up on the Western States Entry list post-lottery is Kilian Jornet. Clearly, assuming he is healthy, he could make a run at the Course Record. Going to be interesting.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

North Face 50 - San Francisco

I have to admit, I went into this race not wanting to like it. Having heard so much over the years about sketchy course markings, the annoying road race atmosphere, and the unpredictable nature of the whole thing I was skeptical. However, in the end, aside from the start being delayed 15 minutes (thereby adding stress to my day because I had a flight to catch that was not likely to be delayed 15 minutes), the race and the organization were impressive.

Of course, I had heard much about the big blow-uppy things around the start/finish area, the guy with the DJ voice who talks all the time on the PA and the young women in matching red outfits on walkie-talkies that have become synonymous with these TNF events but, I hafta say, I kind of liked it. The race started like any other race, was marked like any other race (perhaps even better since they’ve gotten so much heat over the years), and finished like than any other race (except that they put so much faith in the chip timing system that pretty much nobody even notices the finishers). My only gripe about the whole thing logistically was that they advertised that they would have gels at every aid station and they didn’t. No biggie, but still, it took some getting used to having to gut down PowerBars so late in a race. Nonetheless, that little annoyance was quickly canceled out by the free beer in the Pyramid Beer Garden that awaited us at the finish.

As for me and my race, I was happy with my 8-hours-and-change result and was thrilled, on this day, to share the trail with such a great group of athletes. It is clear to me that TNF has figured out that the best way to get an elite field to come to SF for a 50 miler in December is to throw down elite prize money. On the one out-and-back section of the course about halfway through it was so fun to see Ulli and Geoff battle it out followed by Mackey and Wardian who were giving strong chase. Chikara and Tsuyoshi were also hugely impressive on this sweet section of singletrack. And, I gotta say, it was pretty special to see two great guys from our sport who may not get as much love as they deserve working together to keep the gap manageable. The guys I’m talking about are Leigh Schmitt and Mike Wolfe, class acts both and their results speak for themselves.

All in all, it was great day in the Marin Headlands that puts a cherry on top of my 2009 season. Next up for me will be the Ghost Town 38.5 in New Mexico on MLK weekend and then, after that, I am not sure. Well that’s not entirely true, I am sure where I’ll be on the last Saturday in June and hopefully Victor won’t cause me so much stress☺

WS Lottery!

Well, as much as I am bummed about all the people who didn't get in, I gotta say, I am really psyched about these four:

1. Tommy Nielsen: My running mentor and quite possibly the best human example of why this sport is so great. Awesome!

2. Victor Ballesteros: The guy was M11 last year by 23 seconds. I know. He deserves in the Dance this year and will likely go top-7.

3. Ian Torrence: Hard to believe, but Ian now represents the Old Guard. Let this be the year he nails it and arrives at The Track not "running on fumes."

4. Hank Dart: My local training partner in Idaho and a true 100 mile guy. Did 25 and change at Bighorn and Wasatch this year and knows what it takes to get it done. I am thinking sub-21 for Hank at the dance.

That's all for now! Anyone know where the results of today's NF50 are? I had to leave to catch a flight and don't know my time or my place. What I do know is that it was a blast today out on the trails of Marin.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brown's to the Finish - 1:42

Woke up super-early and got some bonus time on the dance floor. It'll probably cost me an hour tomorrow at the NF50 but it was worth it. Started at Placer HS, ran to the Quarry Rd and then up to Brown's Bar. Ran back Brown's to finish.

For those who care, the splits:

Brown's-Hwy 49 :36
Hwy 49-No Hands :28
No Hands-Finish :38

Ahhh! It's likely that tomorrow will be my last run on dirt for 7 weeks. Think I'll savor it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to Marin!

I'm heading back to the old stompin' grounds this weekend for a little jaunt through the Headlands. Should be fun to see what unfolds up front with Steidl, Roes, Wardian, Kaburagi, Mackey and a bunch of others ripping it up on the men's side and Semick, Beck, Smith, Hawker and quite a few others on the women's side. This race has truly become one of the big, late season ones to watch on the ultra circuit.

As for me, I'll be happy to drink some fresh Sierra Nevada and get through the run with anything under 8:30

Who do you think will win?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Getting it done...

This, from one of our Greats, Wendell Berry (and, I have to admit, it's this kind of grit that gets me up Bath Rd, Handies, Robie Pt and the rest..)


Though he was ill and in pain,
in disobedience to the instruction he
would have received if he had asked,
the old man got up from his bed,
dressed, and went to the barn.
The bare branches of winter had emerged
through the last leaf-colors of fall,
the loveliest of all, browns and yellows
delicate and nameless in the gray light
and the sifting rain. He put feed
in the troughs for eighteen ewe lambs,
sent the dog for them, and she
brought them. They came eager
to their feed, and he who felt
their hunger was by their feeding
eased. From no place in the time
of present places, within no boundary
nameable in human thought,
they had gathered once again,
the shepherd, his sheep, and his dog
with all the known and the unknown
round about to the heavens' limit.
Was this his stubbornness or bravado?
No. Only an ordinary act
of profoundest intimacy in a day
that might have been better. Still
the world persisted in its beauty,
he in his gratitude, and for this
he had most earnestly prayed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Mile - 5:14:21

As my son Carson said, "You failed epicly!" And, he was right. Back to 100 milers.

We'll have more later and, of course, you can learn much, much more over here tonight


Friday, November 20, 2009


Sometimes in life challenges rise up to meet you in ways never previously addressed. Confronting those challenges builds courage and determination, not to mention the ability to acknowledge stupidity and ignorance. Without looking failure straight in the face one might never truly understand success.

Thus, on this coming Monday at 1:30pm PST I will try to run a 5 minute mile on Hayward Field in Eugene, OR.

I will use this as my inspiration.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dad's with wives and kids poll...

...well, aside from the fact that I left off some people from the poll who've kicked my butt in the past the voters have spoken and Matt Carpenter wins the Balance prize with yours truly and Jeff Browning completing the podium.

So, Matt and Jeff, wanna race?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The photo above was taken by my good friend Mike Stevens today on our climb up PK Pass. The photo below was one Mike took in June. Same place, different pace!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Poll

The "Balance" post inspired a lively series of responses and led me to throw out a new poll. It may be a bit offensive to some and I am sure I have left out some truly deserving dads but, what the hell, it's my blog so vote away!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Recently, on this blog, Robert Blair asked if I would be willing to write a post about how I manage to hold down a full-time job, care for my family, and run ultramarathon races. The short answer is, quite simply, my family is with me every step of the way.

Let me start with my wife Shelly. She loves the sport! A runner herself, she is smart enough to stay away from ultramarathons but enough of a thrill-seeker that she enjoys living the sport vicariously through me. Plus, she loves the warmth and closeness of the ultra community and has made many friends of her own during the years we have been doing this.

In addition, on the emotional and psychological front Shelly knows that without training and racing I am pretty much of a train wreck at work, at home, and pretty much everywhere else so usually, when the alarm goes off at 4:30am and I reach to press the snooze button, she is there to kick me out of bed, often, quite forcefully. With my training Shelly is both a coach and a counselor, carefully monitoring my moods and fatigue level to help me maintain focus and balance at the same time. On race day she is a fierce competitor never letting me whine or complain and always looking ahead, not behind. It's a subtle approach but one that works for us. She enjoys the thrill of the hunt as much as I do and so far it's worked.

Then, there are my three boys, Carson (12), Logan (10) and Tully (7). Perhaps I'm a lucky man but these guys love going to 100 mile races. And, they've been doing it since they were born. In fact, Western States has become such an annual ritual for them that they are currently lamenting the fact that they know, someday soon, I will drop out of the top-10 and the reality will set in for them that there may, in fact, be a last-weekend-in-June when we don't travel to Squaw and Auburn. I am fortunate to be blessed with three boys who love sharing the experience of running 100 milers with me and that, ultimately, makes the experience so much richer for me and for all of us.

Finally, there is me. I try my hardest not to let my training interfere with my family life. Certainly, when we pack up to go to races and essentially devote our entire vacation time to my races it does get in the way of family time but, as I noted above, they actually enjoy it. So, how do I prevent it from getting in the way of regular old life? In short, I run very early in the morning and try to be completely open and honest about what I can do and what I can't do. Then, when it comes to needing to get those long runs done in the lead-up to a big race I usually just use the training camp approach and check-out for two or three days which allows me to stay focused and also not overdo it. And again, Shelly and boys usually support that knowing that it will pay off in the long run.

So, there you have it. Not sure if it could work for everybody but for me, and for us, ultrarunning is an integral part of our family life. In fact, the boys and Shelly are, as we speak, eagerly awaiting the results of the Hardrock lottery because they want nothing more than to climb into the car after Western States in June and head out for two weeks of camping in the Colorado highcountry. Maybe, as with me, this stuff has gotten into their blood.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Short Video Clip and Article

The good folks at the local Twin Falls newspaper came up to do a story about ultramarathon runners and they ended up making this little video. Check it out. When the site opens go to the video link on the lower right-hand side. If you look closely at the end of the clip you can see my school.

And, here is the link to the full article:


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Been a while since I've written so I thought I'd check in. No real reason for not posting other than the fact that I've been super busy at work and I've been taking it easy running.

That said, November is the month that, for me, always symbolizes the slow, gradual build-up to Western States. I know it might sound strange to some folks that I start training in November for a run that takes place in late-June but it has worked for me in the past so I guess, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Anyway, my volume has settled into the 60 mpw range for now and I have pushed back my 5 min mile attempt until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Between now and then I'll run two 5k races (one road and one xc) and in between I'll keep hammering on the track. Saturday I managed 4x400 on pace and also threw in some 200's faster than pace so, we'll see.

Check this out from RunJunkie's Twitter feed:

And finally, congrats to...
Meb on the big NYC win.
Padre Angulo on the WS qualifier.
And Dave James on a killer Javelina CR.

From my perspective Dave's run at JJ is 3rd for POY.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Like Father Like Son

Here is a picture of my 9 year-old son Logan, with me by his side, pushing through the last 100 meters of his mile run yesterday. He squeezed in just under 7 minutes. Kid loves to run, go figure!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Western States 2010

Well, it's about that time. Time for the first Western States post in the run-up to 2010. This is not a prediction post or a philosophical post or even a reflective post. Rather, this is just a little rumination about the upcoming race. After all, the deadline for getting into the lottery is tomorrow and there are about 1800 folks interested in running as of now. In addition, there is a bit of buzz coming out of Auburn that a few changes may be on the way. I know nothing about this but the rumor mill in this sport is pretty active so, you never know. It's pretty fun sitting here in the off-season thinking about WS 2010 and wondering what it has in store:

Cal Hal 3-peat?
Will the foreign influence continue?
Can the East Coasters continue to rise?
Will Anita win again?
Who will be the surprises coming out of the newly configured Ultra Cup?

The list of intriguing questions goes on and on but one thing's for sure. The excitement for the event is greater than ever. The mystique around the event is thicker than ever. And, the feeling I have about toeing that line for a 7th time in June is more exhilarating than ever.

Much, much more to come.


Monday, October 5, 2009

New poll

With Roes and Krupicka getting the most votes in the two previous polls here's the tie-breaker, head-to-head. Hopefully, we'll see them duel it out in real life soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mileage Total for Nine Months

I just added up my miles for the first nine months of 2009 and I think I am on track to reach my goal of 3200. As of today I am sitting on 2691 miles for the year. With a reduction in mileage through the fall as I try to run a 5 min mile it will be tight. But, if I manage to stay issue free I think I'll make it.

Went to the track tonight:

5x100 16 seconds each
3x200 36 seconds each
6x400 78, 76, 79, 79, 79, 75

This is going to be tough!

And, oh yeah, I made a bet with Brownie. You can check it out on his blog.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5 minute mile

My good friend and fellow M10'er Criag Thornley laid it out there a few weeks ago and I am taking the bait. On November 12th I am going to try to run 4:59.0 for a mile. Sounds stupid? Indeed.

Until then I'll be significantly decreasing my mileage in an attempt to increase my speed (as if I have any). Any advice, other than the obvious, would be greatly appreciated. And, in case you care, the fastest mile I've ever run was 5:12 when I was 20 years old (I am now a sad and decrepit 42).


PS -- In the "keeping score at home"department, however this whole fiasco turns out I am still leading LB by 4 hours in the 10-year bet. Don't ever forget (even if his wife loves him more than mine does:)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A few random comments...

Ran the Baldy Hill Climb on Saturday. 1.86 miles and 3200 ft of climb. Finished 15th in 47:12. That's 25 something a mile. Hardrock stuff, for sure. And, I managed to improve my time from last year by a whopping 32 seconds.

Geoff Roes gets my vote for Ultrarunner of the Year. Three races, three course records. I hope he can get to Squaw in June. The dude can walk the walk.

And, a follow up on my post about 100's. I must say I apologize for offending people with my remarks about the 100 mile distance. Truly, I meant it as a joke and probably should have put a :) after it. I know that the guys who go all out at the 50k's, 50 milers and 100k's are truly outstanding athletes. In fact, it's likely that they are much better athletically than the 100 mile guys. It's just that I am, as Tim said, biased toward the events I tend to do well in and those are 100 milers.

So, here's my next poll. See the sidebar to vote for the best sub-100 mile run this year by a male (so far).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dr. Dave Terry -- RIP

The first time I met Dave Terry was at the Finish Line of the WS100 in 2001. I had just finished my first Western States and I was toast. Dave was there hanging out cheering people on and he came up to me as I was slumped in a chair, grabbed my shoulder and said, simply, "Good run, dude. Pretty tough out there, huh?"

Then, three years later at Western States I felt like Dave was leading the entire state of Oregon on an assault to beat me. I managed to hold him off and after he crossed the finish line he found me and said, once again, "Good run, dude. It was tough out there"

Fast forward to 2006: The "hot year" at Western States. After all of the usual pre-race hype we finally got off the starting line and began the climb up Squaw. I found myself stride for stride with Dave and thought it was a good time for conversation. It went something like this:

"So Dave, you think the heat's going to make this a rough day?" I said.
"Dude, this is going to be a classic! Mark my words, a classic!"

And, of course, he was right.

Then, a few months later, I found myself stumbling out of Lamb's Canyon at my first Wasatch. After about five minutes Dave and his pacer, Scott McCoubrey, caught up to me and my pacer Leland Barker. Dave and Scott were bantering on about this and that while Leland was trying to help me through a particularly pukey part of my day. As we made our way onto the singletrack Dave sidled up to me, took off his headphones and said, "Dude, it'll get easier after this. Do this climb with me and then you can take off." I'll never forget it. A few hours later I finished my first Wasatch and Dave finished his 9th (with his 10th to come the following year). His words of encouragment still echo in my head from time to time.

In 2007, Dave finished his 10th Western States in perfect, laid-back style and then pledged to give back to the race by volunteering as a medical volunteer for the next few years. He did that, for the first time, this past June. That, too, I will never forget.

After my finish around midnight this past year I hung around the medical tent taking in the scene and begging Dave for an IV (he didn't give me one saying I wasn't messed up enough:). Shortly before 1AM Krissy Moehl finished and needed a bit of medical help. After a couple minutes of treatment she had some sort of a spell and Dave was right there to respond. He jumped into action and cared for Krissy like she was his own sister. When the ambulance guys came to sweep Krissy away Dave assured them she was OK in his care and that he had everything under control. Needless to say, the ambulance guys left and Krissy was better 30 minutes later.

The next morning, with problems of my own, I went over to the medical tent to talk to John Vonhof about my trashed feet. It was 11AM and it was pretty hot. I looked up and there was Dave, still working medical, still in his running stuff, still working to put runners back together a day and half after he had last slept.

In his last appearance at Western States Dave Terry gave himself completely to the people and the sport he loved. He gave from his head and from his heart. He gave and gave and gave until nobody else needed him to give. Then, as he probably always did, he sidled off into the sunset with the Grateful Dead blaring and the memory of another great day on the trails behind him.

Ultrarunning brings together extraordinary people in extraordinary ways. The people who have chosen to find a path in this sport are truly the heart and soul of every event, workout and training run. When you decide to make running 100 miles through the mountains your hobby you tend to become more than just a person, you become part of something bigger than yourself and your actions speak louder than your words. Dave Terry was a man whose actions always spoke louder than his words and I, for one, will miss him.

Wherever you are, Dave, I hope your trails are rocky and rutted and the hills are all steep. Just the way you like them!

With Love,


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Best 100 Miler of the Year so far - Male Division

The results are in and Geoff Roes' Wasatch was the resounding winner. Karl and Hal with their performances at HRH and WS respectively showed that the "old guard" is not completely dead but clearly, Geoff's methodical dismantling of the WF Course Record turned heads.

I am not sure if there is another 100 miler on the fall schedule that will result in a better performance but I am curious about what the readers of this blog think about the sub-100 mile performances so far this year and how they compare to Geoff's run. A few that come immediately to mind are Erik's Waldo, Anton's White River and Max's American River. And, I am sure there are others. Of course, all this begs the question, does anyone even care about any distance under 100 miles anymore?

Hope you're all enjoying the Equinox season!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting it done late

One of the things that makes 100 mile races so much different than shorter ultramarathons is what it takes to get the job done late in the race. In every 100 miler you get to that place where you need to dig deep and decide if you have what it takes. Usually, this point is represented by a particular aid station after which you know it's "Game On." At Western States it's the River Crossing, at Leadville it's the Fish Hatchery, at Hardrock it's Telluride going CCW and Sherman going CW, and, at Wasatch, it's Brighton. And Brighton eats runners for dinner!

I had the privilege of pacing my friend and training partner Hank Dart at Wasatch on Friday. He finished in 25:34 and ran a great race. That said, he had his moment of truth on the way out of Brighton. Feeling pukey from the stop and a bit disoriented by the altitude, Hank struggled out of there. Three people passed us and the wheels were getting pretty loose. Fortunately, Hank rallied and managed to get into the Homestead about 7 hours after leaving Brighton. It was a great effort and one which I will always remember.

And, I can only imagine what was going through Geoff Roes' head as he left Brighton several hours before Hank and I did. With the greatest 100 mile runner in the country chasing him I am sure he knew he had to keep the hammer down. And, keep the hamer down he did! Yes, the Course Record is super impressive but, to me, what is even more impressive than that, is the sub-5 hour split Geoff ran from Brighton to the Finish. That is, without a doubt, getting it done late.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Labor Day has always marked the end of summer for me. Even though school has started by now for just about everyone across the country, this holiday always closes the book on summer in my house.

And, for me, it's been quite a summer of running. Three 100 mile races in 8 weeks (18:46 at WS, 28:09 at HR, and 19:49 at LT) and some great times with family and friends.

A few of the ups and downs from the summer:

Down: I was disappointed with my trashed feet at WS which I think cost me about 45 minutes on the downhills from Last Chance to the Finish.

Up: I was pleased and surprised to hold off the surging Victor Ballesteros in the last mile of WS. I don't think I've ever run Robie to the Finish quite that fast. Also, it was good to open up a four-hour lead on Craig Thornley in the 10-year bet. We have four years left:)

Down: I was bummed that I couldn't reel in Scott Jaime on the climb up to Grant-Swamp Pass at HR. After he summited the pass he simply disappeared and I was forced to take whatever I could get.

Up: I was absolutely ecstatic (and uncharacterstically emotional) upon finishing my first Hardrock 100. I hope they let me come back next year because I think I can get a little more out of myself there if given the chance.

Down: I was angry that my stomach betrayed me at Leadville. While the YouTube video is great, I think I could've taken care of myself a bit better and been closer to 19 hours than I was.

Up: I was downright giddy about my split from May Queen to the Finish. It wasn't exactly Duncan Callahan like (he did it in two hours in 2008!) but it showed me that I could still reel 'em in after a long summer on the trails.

Now, it's off to a bit of hibernation to gear up for next year. That is, after I pace Hank Dart to his first Wasatch finish on Friday night.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Angeles Crest

As the news out of Southern California continues to get worse and worse I find myself deeply saddened. Indeed, wildfires are a fact of life in the American West and the Angeles Crest National Forest has been miraculously spared for the past 40 years, until the last few days. Now, it appears, the luck of the Karma Squirrels has run out.

It is brutal. Painful. Devastating. News of firefighters evacuated from Chilao, flames engulfing Cloudburst, inferno-like heat approaching Shortcut, and the threat to those wonderful, quirky, Deliverance-like cabins on the run-in to Chantry just break my heart. Never mind the cancellation of this year's AC race, this fire is likely to profoundly effect the future of one of the most unique and expansive urban/forest interfaces in the world. And, in the process, potentially end a generation of ultrarunning history in a few days.

For me, I must admit, this whole thing is intensely, deeply personal. And, therefore, much more painful.

AC was my first 100 miler in 2000. I have run it four times. It was the first race where I felt the thrill of being in the hunt. Both being the hunter and being the hunted. It's where I first left my guts on the trail and where I first learned what it took to get it done. In fact, it's the race that taught me about Acute Renal Failure!

From the beautiful expanses of the high ridge running down from Baden-Powell (and the deliciously sweet water from the Little Jimmy Spring:) to the slightly pungeant taste of the air when you transition over to the "city" after Newcomb Saddle, this course has it all. As one of the pure, point-to-point courses in ultrarunning it is a true standard that has stood the test of time. Now, that all hangs in the balance. Maybe, O'Brien's record will stand forever.

For me, above all else, the AC course is where I learned to run. It's where I went to school. It's where I got my first taste of what has today become an inextricable part of who I am. That, ultimately, is why this fire feels, to me, like it might feel to have your childhood home destroyed.

In the late-'90's when I was finding my way into this sport I discovered the AC course and the group of guys who called it home. From my mentor Tommy Nielsen and his band of Bad Rats (Ben Hian, Tracy Moore, Jeff Hines, Al Valverde, Scott Mills, et al...) to the warm hearted souls of Guillermo Medina and Jorge Pacheco, to the laugh-a-minute world of Larry Gassan and Andy Roth, the AC course and its training runs made me who I am as a runner. Add to that the hard work and devotion of long-time AC race directors Hal Winton and Ken Hamada and you have a mix of people you won't find anywhere else. And now, that brotherhood of the trail is threatened and may well be already dead.

As the flames climbed their way up Mt Wilson this past weekend I thought rather viscerally about the miles I had logged on the AC course over the years. What they have taught me and who they have given to me. In the end, that is enough, I hope. However, it doesn't make the tragedy any easier to swallow and as a result of that, tonight, I must say, I am very, very sad.

Here's hoping everyone stays safe and somehow there's a happy ending in all this.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Two More Leadville Videos

Here are a couple more videos from my pacer, Kevin Sullivan. It's not exactly Tarantino quality but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Here we are bumping our way down Hope Pass. It's pretty fun to listen to the audio:

And here is the finish. Kind of dark but still pretty fun:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leadville Video

My good friend and pacer Kevin Sullivan shot this video at Mile 76 of the Leadville 100 this past Saturday. Clearly, it is footage of an ultrarunner in one of his finest moments. Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Leadville - 19:49:42

This race is certainly one of the "classics" on the ultra circuit and I knew that I needed to get here before it was too late. The prerace excitement here was better than ever with Anton Krupicka going for the course record and a crew of hard-driving steeds behind him. Additionally, the women's field featured the return of Darcy Africa (after her new baby), the ever-present intensity (and smile!) of Jamie Donaldson, and the rising star in the form of local gal Lynette Clemons. It was shaping up to be a great race.

As for me, I was simply looking to get through the damn thing. Sure, I was hoping for a good finishing time and perhaps the Masters' win, but I knew after the summer I had been through it would be a race to test my limits and one in which I would need to lay it all out there. It was a test I looked forward to taking but also one I knew I could fail.

The start of the race was a blast and I took quick advantage of the early downhill to chat with the Big Dogs. Defending champion Duncan Callahan was looking solid and tough, Timmy Parr was talking about what a bummer it was that the US Marathon Trial qualifiying time had been reduced to 2:19 (what a rough problem to have:) and Tony was, as usual, cruising along with his effortless gait in his Cowboy shirt commenting on my pink Arm Panties (I must say, I thought they were striking!)

Shortly after transitioning onto the singletrack around Turquoise Lake I settled into a group with Garett Graubins and Bryon Powell and knew where I would be for the rest of the day. I felt kind of like the new kid in class on the first day of school; I knew where I belonged and I also knew where I shouldn't sit. Sometimes life has a way of sorting things out for you. Perhaps if this was my only race of the year I would have been more ambitious but at this point I was content to hang. In the end, it was probably the right decision. Probably...

We cruised along through this section and welcomed the sunrise on the climb up to Sugarloaf Pass. I finally began to warm up by this point and really enjoyed the run into the Fish Hatchery. It actually felt kind of easy and I settled into a rhythm that took me pretty much all the way to Twin Lakes.

The Leadville course is funny in that it basically is a runner's course for 78 miles (Start to Twin Lakes and Back) with two major climbs in between (Twin Lakes to Winfield and back). This makes strategizing the race quite difficult (unless you actually know what you're doing!). If you run too hard on the runner's sections your jeopardize your ability to climb and descend Hope. However, if you save yourself too much for the climbs up and down and up and down Hope you risk running out of real estate when the running really starts after Fish Hatchery the 2nd time through. The latter scenario is, I'm afraid, what happened to me.

So, by the time I crested Hope Pass Outbound I had given up too much time. I knew that my pedestrian 8:40 split to Winfield had left me little margin for error so I started my climb back up Hope in earnest. My pacer, Kevin Sullivan (5th place at WS, all-around Beast of the East!), kept me focused on the return to Twin Lakes and we turned some heads with our split. Then, on the trip over to Treeline, we remained steady but the runners behind me in the field were gaining on us (I hadn't gapped them enough on the technical stuff). At this point I knew I'd need to shift gears and save a bit for the last 13.5 miles. At that point three guys passed me and I said to myself, "be patient, let the race come to you."

Three pukes and several hours later I arrived at Mayqueen in 10th place. I knew I could run this section fast but I needed Kevin's help. I was on the edge of metabolic failure but I was also reveling in the joy of the last 13 miles of my summer of bliss. I passed my good friend and long-time pacer Bryon Powell with about five miles to go. I felt bad about doing it but he told me he just wanted to break 20 and was not in it to race. Me, I knew every second counted, so I hammered home.

I crossed the line in 19:49:42. Not the best race of my life but one which I'll savor.

Western States, Hardrock and Leadville all in 8 weeks and all with my family alongside. I may never have a summer like this one again but one thing's for sure...(with liberal paraphrasing!)...

"I took to the woods to live life deliberately. To front only the essential facts of life. And not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived."



Been a while since I've posted. I'll have a full report in the next couple days but for now here's the skinny:

9th place
1st master
3 pukes
1 great pacer

A summer to remember!

WS - 18:46
HRH - 28:09
LT - 19:50

Time for a rest!


Friday, August 7, 2009

5K Trail Race with my Boys!

Here at the Dreamchasers Camp in the Tetons things are pretty magical. I'll write more about that in a few days. However, the highlight of the camp for me so far was running a sweet 5K trail race with my two sons, Carson and Logan, on Wednesday. Logan, my 9 year old, was running his 14th race and did well (13th overall) as he typically does. Carson, my 11 year old, was running his first ever race (he prefers going downhill on skis than running uphill on dirt) and he made me proud getting it done. Nothing quite like sharing your passion with your kids!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Legendary Jim King

Chiphing took this photo of Jim King and me on the day after Western States. It was quite a thrill for me to meet the legendary WS Champion.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oregon Gulch Loop

Even though I got schooled, I was still able to talk smack when we were done.

Brad Mike and I at the top of the loop with the Boulder Mountains in the Background. I was barely able to stand for this picture.

Climbing up the Gulch. I was pretty much in this position all morning!


I ran for 3:23 today. Probably an hour longer than I should have. But, the company of Hank, Mike and Brad and the beauty of the Sun Valley trails made it all worth it. I did realize today that I am actually still recovering from Hardrock and I need to be careful. It's four weeks to Leadville so I have time it's just so hard to hold back on these warm summer days in the mountains. In fact, life doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, July 24, 2009

4 seconds!

How about Lance today? The guy picked up 4 seconds just by being alert, smart, and reactive. I think there's a lesson in that for all of us. I guess experience really does matter.

I don't know about the rest of you but I hope he's first to the top tomorrow!


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Sometimes a single photo captures the kind of emotion that truly defines a moment and freezes it in time. The photo above of my wife Shelly, Hardrock RD Dale Garland, and me was taken about 15 seconds after I kissed the rock at the end of the 2009 Hardrock 100. I can think of few other times in my life that I have been this happy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hardrock 100 - 28:09

With two miles to go running the counter-clockwise direction of The Hardrock Hundred the racecourse crosses South Mineral Creek before beginning the final small climb up to the hillside that rings the small mining town of Silverton, Colorado. It was after crossing this creek and beginning the hike up the small ridge that I felt a small lump emerge in my throat. It happened suddenly and unexpectedly but I knew what was going on. I was starting to cry.

This was my first trip around the Hardrock course and I admit I was starting to get emotional. This wasn’t the I’m-psyched-to-be-finished kind of emotion that has become typical for me in 100-mile races. Rather, this was the kind of emotion that accompanies the conclusion of a secular pilgrimage. This was the kind of transcendent emotion that changes your life and turns your perspective on its head. This was, indeed, an "ah-ha" kind of emotion. I wiped my eyes, squeezed down a gel, and ran up the hill toward the Shrine of the Mines. The finish in Silverton was a blur but I know I gave the rock a big huge smooch, hugged my crew, shook hands with Dale Garland, and then let loose with a full-blown cry. I really had, as my good friend and mentor Roch Horton likes to say about this race, "lived my life in one day."

I knew, coming into the race, that I'd need to start out easy and hope that my energy held up for the second half of the race. Cresting the first major climb after six miles I knew my quads would have their first test coming off of Western States. Descending into Cunningham I felt strong and my legs and feet held together. Maybe I'd be OK after all. Maybe.

I wasn't quite prepared for the climb out of Cunningham. It was longer and steeper than I expected and I found myself gasping for breath a bit more than I wanted to so early in the race. Ricky Denesik passed me on this section and as it flattened out after the Pole Creek Aid Station I settled into a nice rhythm and just kept moving forward. I was in about 10th place at the time and I thought I'd bide my time until the descent into Sherman to see if I could make some ground up on some of the early rabbits.

Sure enough, as the descent steepened and we crossed the creek about a mile before Sherman (Mile 28), I caught up with Ryan Burch and Sam Thompson and they greeted me enthusiastically and bid me farewell. Great guys both and I left wishing them well. Arriving at Sherman a bit ahead of schedule I got some information about the guys up front from Scotty Mills and began moving along the road up toward Handies Peak. The race was taking shape. This might turn out to be competitive after all.

On the long steady climb to Handies I saw Mark Hartell up ahead and Ricky a few minutes ahead of him. Away in the distance, cresting the final ridge, I saw Diana Finkel, Troy Howard, and Jared Campbell. Then, just short of the summit, I saw the familiar silhouettes of Scott Jaime and Karl Meltzer. There, before me, on the highest point of the course, was the entire lead pack. It was all there before me like a scary panorama. What the hell!

So, I did what everyone does at Hardrock and put one foot in front of the other and kept going. About a half-mile before the summit Mark and I were chased by the first storm of the day and the thunder and hail kept us on our toes. After the bone jarring descent to Grouse Gulch at Mile 41 I was actually, for perhaps the first time in my running career, looking forward to a climb. The smooth, steady, workingclass climb up Engineer Pass was just what I needed as it gave me a chance to pound down some calories and take stock. It was during this climb across the Alpine Tundra (there was even a sign denoting this unique environment and imploring four-wheelers to stay on the roads) that I began to feel Mark and Ricky coming back to me. It was subtle. It wasn't like they were dying. It was just like I was moving a bit better. I passed Mark just before the summit and Ricky just before Ouray and the stage was set for the second half of the race.

After a pretty uneventful descent off Engineer through the Bear Creek cliffs I arrived in Ouray feeling pretty good. I was psyched to see my crew and to pick up Todd, my first pacer, he was scheduled to take me over the first of the three Hardrock Monsters, Virginius Pass. We made quick work of Camp Bird Road and started the ascent of Virginius. It was here that my feet really began to hurt and I could tell that all the skin was inflamed and there was nothing I could do about it. Two hundred milers 13 days apart, I guess, will do that to a guy. So, I put my head down and climbed. By the third pitch where they have the rope I saw two lights at the top while I was at the bottom. I thought, "Hmmmm, I wonder if that's Scott?" I grabbed the rope and pulled hard. (Note to self, if you do this race again, do a few push ups first!) Up at Krogers while I enjoyed a seat and a cup of broth I reflected on the day so far. "Man, this race is awesome!" I said to the world's most intrepid Aid Station volunteers. Then I plummeted down the other side in search of Scott's light.

I arrived in Telluride an hour later and Shelly, Carson and Mike (my second pacer) were waiting there for me. It was about 12:45AM and I was feeling good. I changed shoes (mainly for psychological reasons as they clearly would not have any physical benefit) and began the assualt on the second, and longest, of the three Monsters, Oscar's Pass. That climb, was, in a word, brutal. Going from road to trail to rock to scree to wide open hell fire vertical intensity Oscar's simply beat my ass. Then, I had to descend off the thing around cornices and over boulders that would make just about anyone whimper in pain. All the while, I saw Scott's light dancing away from me in the night. "Maybe he'll take a long break at Chapman and we can climb Grant Swamp together." I thought. Wouldn't that be romantic? No such luck.

Mike and I stumbled into an empty Chapman Gulch Aid Station (Mile 81.7) and I re-grouped with some soup and a Sprite. I knew Grant Swamp was out there and I was not excited. However, a few switchbacks up we saw lights and they lit the fire. By the time we got to the bottom of the heinous last pitch up and over the saddle I saw both Jared Campbell and Scott ahead of me in the muddy, scrambly, 50 degree pitch scree. With the sun rising behind us it was fun for me to think that while the top-3 three runners were prancing through the flowers ahead of us, all three of us, the ubiquitious chase pack, were clawing our way up toward the Joel Zucker Memorial, together.

Well, Scott must have taken off after the summit of Grant Swamp because I didn't see him again until the finish line where I had to wake him up to make him congratulate me. I did manage to pass Jared somewhere after Mile 89 and he continued on for a strong 6th place finish just a few minutes after me. It's pretty amazing to think that five of the top-10 times all time at HRH were run this year. Kind of makes me wonder what the future holds.

As for me, personally, I am smitten with this journey through the San Juan's. Before this weekend I didn't think a mindset and a perspective could be changed so dramatically in such a short time. But for me, it has changed. I think, in spite of my best intentions, I have the bug. I'm not sure what to do with it but I know I have it.

I think Karl summed it up best when I congratulated him after the Awards Ceremony yesterday. In response to my greeting he said, simply. "You see what I mean?"

Yeah, Karl, I do.

Hardrock 100 - Quick Update

I am on my way back to Idaho after an incredible experience at the Hardrock 100. It will take me a few days to pull together a full report but here's the executive summary:

The race had the largest number of finishers ever (106 I believe)

Karl Meltzer ran an amazing race beating Jurek's CCW CR by over two hours.
Troy Howard also beat Jurek's previous record and ran the third fastest time ever (in either direction)
Diana Finkel was a machine in beating Krissy's Course Record by over two hours.
Scott Jaime ran steady and hard all day and night for a solid 4th.

I am pretty happy with 5th and my time of 28:09. All in all, it is a truly spectacular event in all the ways. I'll write more in a few days.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Greetings from Silverton! My family and I arrived here on the 4th of July and we've spent the last few nights camping at Molas Lake, 10,600 ft above sea level. It is stunningly beautiful here and the excitement in the air is palpable as pre-race gitters dominate Main Street. We have had a few days to explore some of the local trails and to check out a few sections of the course and that has been fun. It will be an amazing couple days out there on Friday and Saturday.

After the pounding they took at WS, my feet seem to have healed up nicely and I think I am ready to withstand over thirty hours with wet feet. John Vonhof has given me some great advice about taping and socks so we'll see how that goes. In the end, I am just thrilled to be here part of this amazing event and am looking eagerly forward to a new challenge.

As far as the men's race is concerned there is a pretty strong field here. From my perspective I think Karl Meltzer and Scott Jaime are the guys to beat with Mark Hartell, Jared Campbell, Paul Sweeney, Troy Howard, and Ricky Denesik chasing them pretty hard. As for me, I plan to take it pretty easy to Grouse and then will try to pick it up from there. I think some of the long downhills in the last 40 miles of the race could allow me to close well but we'll have to see what kind of pounding the first 60 miles puts on my body before I count on that. One thing's for sure, this will be the first time in 23 100 mile races that it'll take me over 24 hours to finish. It'll be interesting to see how that feels.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th - Durango

We made it to the San Juan's. My feet feel much better and I think things are coming around just in time for Hardrock. We'll be sleeping at 11,000 ft. for the next few days and I'll be hiking in the high country as much as possible. It'll be interesting to see how the WS "Bounce" works out this year. More in the next couple days. Thanks for all the kind words about WS. It was truly a battle out there!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Western States - 2009

"AJ, look up there, around 11 o'clock, it looks like we've got company." My pacer Jeff Hutson spotted a light bouncing up to Robie Point about 20 minutes before the end of the WS 100. I knew I was in 11th place at the time (10th male) and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could reel one guy in. So, we ran, hard.

Then we hit Robie and turned onto the pavement. The light ahead was bobbing away.

"OK, AJ, now it looks like we've got someone behind us. Look!" Jeff pointed down to the road leading up to Robie. He was right, two lights were bobbing up the trail about 45 seconds back.

It was 18:30 into the race. I was battling brutally blistered feet and trying my best to stay positive. And, to add stress to the system, I was now in a battle for 10th male. I put my head down and powered up the climb (this would be the first time in 6 races at WS that I would run every step from No Hands to the Finish)

When we crested the hill the light ahead of us was out of sight but the light behind us was right there, closing. I knew I had five minutes left to hold my spot or end my streak of consecutive top-10's at WS. While I know it'll eventually come to an end I didn't want it to be now.

"I'm thinking, how fast can I run 1200 meters?" Maybe the speedwork would come in handy after all.

Well, by the time we got to the entrance to the track the light behind us was out of sight and Mark Lantz (the 9th place runner who had staged an amazing comeback from Foresthill) was rounding the final turn toward his 9th place finish. My kids came bounding up to me and we continued our sprint around the track. In the end I edged out Victor Ballesteros for 10th place by 20 seconds. He had surged from 26th place at Foresthill to 11th at the Finish. Incredible.

My 6th run at WS started oddly as the lead group of 40 or so runners took a wrong turn about five minutes into the race and added a bit of excitement to the proceedings and served to mix things up in the early going. I knew I was in for a long day when I started to blister at Red Star Ridge. It became clear that I would need to gut it out but with trashed feet and that my normally consistent downhills would suffer.

Since I have five years of data for comparison I was able to see how bad it really was. I ended up doing the descent to Duncan 6 minutes slow, the descent to Deadwood 5 minutes slow, the descent to El Dorado 8 minutes slow and the descent to Volcano 10 minutes slow. By the time I hit Cal Street my feet were thoroughly trashed and I knew my planned 2:30 was unattainable. Damage control was now the order of the day. Quads and stomach were fine but I knew the push to the finish would test my ability to balance, focus and persevere.

As far as the competitive aspect of the race, it proceeded as planned but only up to a point. I was 22nd at Robinson, 15th at Michigan, 10th at the River, and 10th at the Finish. In contrast to past years, I had nothing left to close with from the River. It was partly my fault but more an issue of the depth of the field and the quality of 100 mile racers who were in the mix.

Aside from the fact that I was quite surprised at the DNF's from Scott Jurek and Dave Mackey, there was absolutely no way to fake it into the top-10 this year. Kaburagi from Japan was incredible from start to finish and his 2nd place finish absolutely obliterated Tim Tweitmeyer's Masters' Course Record. Jez Bragg from the UK proved a bunch of prognosticators wrong and proved KiwiPaul correct. His 3rd place was the Real Deal. Jasper Halekas did what we all thought he could do and hammered out an amazing, pacerless sub-17 hour 4th place while Kevin Sullivan, from Andover, MA, who chased me through the hills of Vermont last July, established himself as the new beast of the East, with a sub-17 of his own for M5. Zach Miller, Leigh Schmitt and Erik Skaden all powered through amazing races and Mark Lantz got it right on his 4th try and got the top-10 he'd been striving for. In the end, it was truly an amazing group to be part of and I was happy to be the caboose.

Of course, just after Erik and before Mark and I came the extraordinary Anita Ortiz who showed that you can make the move from mountain running to ultras and concluded an extraordinary run leading to her new title as WS Champion. Not bad for a mother of four who took a wrong turn and passed me like I was standing still between Green Gate and ALT!

From my perspective, there are three important takeaways from this year's race:

1. Non-American runners should not be taken for granted anymore: The 2nd and 3rd place finishes by Kaburagi and Bragg have set a high bar. It'll be fun to see how it unfolds from here.

2. The East Coast has arrived: Sure, we've had Morton and Clifton but the races this year by Sullivan and Schmitt (as well as Miller who only recently moved west from Michigan, I think,) suggest a changing of the guard and could lead to some exciting races in the years ahead.

3. Experience, schmexperience! I admit that I have been consistently guilty of suggesting that course knowledge and race-day experience are critical to success at WS. Perhaps this is no longer true. In addition to the Women's Champion, of the top-7 men, only Hal had run the race before. Erik, Mark and I were the other "experienced" guys and we got our clocks cleaned.

As for me, I am currently en route to Silverton to begin my preparation for Hardrock. I have no idea what to expect but if it's half as exciting as my weekend at WS it will make for a summer to remember!

I'll try to write more when I get settled in Silverton. I hope you're all having a great summer!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giving it all

The recent news out of Southern California about Ben Hian's return to ultrarunning was, for me, truly inspiring. Ben is one of the sport's great guys who, in the '90's, dominated Southern California ultrarunning like no other. However, after a brutal DNF in the Vermont 100 miler in 1997 Ben slipped quietly away from the sport. Earlier this month he returned to run the San Diego 100 and won, edging out Tom Nielsen, his good friend and training partner, by less than 10 minutes. After the race, unfortunately, Ben was hspitalized with Acute Renal Failure and only released after 10 days.

This amazing comeback story with a near tragic end brought me back to my experience at the 2004 Angeles Crest 100. In that race I battled back and forth all day with Jorge Pacheco and Guillermo Medina only to come up short in the end. During the last 12 miles of that race I pushed myself harder than I ever had pushed myself before and, in the end, it was not enough. I finished 3rd in 19:53 and upon finishing slumped on the grass in pain.

At that moment I knew things were not quite right and I checked into the medical tent. I fainted a couple times and by the morning I ached all over, couldn't walk and my urine was dark brown. I knew then that I was experiencing the symptoms of Acute Renal Failure and I went off to the hospital. 7 days and 36 liters of IV fluid later they let me out. I would never be the same again.

I recall this experience in conjunction with Ben's comeback story because to me, in a strange way, these experiences epitomize the joy and sorrow of 100 mile racing. I am sure both Ben and I could have slowed down during the last 20 miles of our races to minimize the muscle damage and avoid hospital stays. But slowing down in the last 20 miles of a 100 mile race is not an option for us. We have not loved the sport for all these years by slowing down at the end. We love this sport because we stay in it until the end and push ourselves to, and sometimes past, the limits of our training and ability. That's what I did in 2004 and I vowed, at the time, to never do it again. Obviously, the problem was, I wasn't training hard enough!

On Saturday morning I will head out onto the Western States Trail to begin my journey to Auburn. I will do so trusting that my training and my focus will lead me to a finish with which I can be happy. I will also do so knowing that the last 20 miles are going to hurt and it will take all the physical, mental, and emotional strength I have to battle through and finish strong. I am hopeful that this will not result in another trip to the Emergency Room but you can rest assured, in the back of my mind, the memory of my 2004 race at Angeles Crest will be there as will the thought of Ben Hian's amazing comeback. By the time I circle the track at Placer High School I want to know, with certainty, that I have given everything in my body and soul to the trail. Then, I will be truly satisfied. See you in Squaw!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Fine Line

When I was a kid my dad always gave me a little talk pep before big games. After a bit of semi-helpful strategy and typical fatherly advice he would inevitably ask me The Question,

"Are you scared or nervous?"

I always paused, knowing the correct answer but asking myself for the right answer,

"Why does it matter? Aren't they the same thing?" I'd always say.

"No, Andy, they're not. If you're scared you want to get out of here and if you're nervous it means you're ready to play. It means you want the ball and you want it now"

Today, years away from interscholastic sports, I like to think I have wisdom and experience on my side in my own athletic pursuits and don't need silly pep talks for motivation. Nonetheless, my dad's words continue to resonate with me. I ask myself, on the verge of this year's Western States, "am I scared or am I nervous?" Do I want the ball or not?

In 10 days I'll scurry away from the starting line at Squaw Valley at the beginning of my 22nd 100 mile race since 2000 and my 6th Western States. At the time I will be thinking and feeling many things but most of all I will ask myself, "Am I scared or am I nervous?"

Each of the past five times in the race I have been nervous. I have been cautiously confident in my abilities to finish the race and with each passing year I have proven to myself that I can perform well in the midst of the high pressure environment of the Western States 100. Don't get me wrong, it's not the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series or the 18th hole at Augusta but for those of us who toe the line at Squaw this is our Super Bowl and you better be ready to put up or shut up. In other words, you better be nervous, not scared. In addition, even in this little bubble of pressure you better be ready to perform. Preparation is one thing, execution quite another.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows that of all the people in ultrarunning the man I admire and respect the most is Tom Nielsen. Tommy taught me how to run these things back in the mid-late 90's and his lessons are still with me today. In fact, I look forward to Tommy's return to Western States in the not-too-distant future as I think he is a pretty good bet to take down Doug Latimer's 50-59 year old age-group record (18:43) and to have fun in the process. And, if I'm not mistaken, I think I am second behind Tommy in the guys-who-finished-2nd-behind-Jurek standings as I lost to Scott by 24 minutes and Tommy by less than 20 minutes. Nonetheless, the guy's a legend and he taught me everything I know.

And, of all the advice Tommy ever gave me the best was this:

"Look AJ, in the last 30 miles of a 100 miler everybody's hurting. Everybody is way beyond physical fatigue and mental, emotional, and psychological fatigue is setting in, Big Time. If you want to succeed in these things you need to know that, dig deep, and fight it. In the end, you need to race every step like there's someone three minutes ahead of you and someone three minutes behind you."

This year, no matter where you are, that is likely to be true!

That is why, in my opinion with 10 days to go, it's better to be nervous than scared.

Here's wishing everyone lots of nerves and no fear! And, if you want the ball, go get it.

This is the 5th and final installment of the 2009 Western States Synchroblog Project. This is an open topic so we’ve got a wide range of topics this time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Women's top-4 from the poll

Nikki Kimball
Krissy Moehl
Bev Anderson-Abbs
Jenn Shelton

Not a bad top-4. Multi-time WS winner followed by Hardrock Course Record holder followed by multiple top-5'er followed by the woman with the fastest 100 mile time in recent years.

Anyone else getting ready to start this thing? I don't know about you but my car's already packed! And, the temperature's rising....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Now what?

Anton, Max and Jon are out. Scott, Hal and Dave are the prohibitive favorites. A couple other guys are banged up and a bunch of others are really, really quiet. (Jasper's been running fast and hard, Eric has been altitude training for (gulp!) a month, and Erik and Graham are, well, they're Erik and Graham!)

What's the deal? Where are we today, 13 days before the big dance? Who really has what it takes to win, to be top-5, to, in the end, get it done with a top-10 this year?


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I've just returned from a 26 mile, 4 hour and 40 minute run in the mountains. It was my last long effort before Western States. Everything felt good and I think I am ready to go. It's a good feeling. A full feeling. I familiar feeling.

However, there is also something sad about it. I must admit, I like to race. But, I love to train. In fact, I think the reason I run races is so that I can train and not the other way around. I know everybody's a little different about this and I certainly don't claim to be one of those "it's-all-about-the-process" types but the daily ritual of putting in the miles on the trails and building up to a place where I can be ready to race is invigorating and immensely satisfying. It's the build-up and the consistency that I find so inspiring.

Preparing for an event like Western States takes patience and perseverance. Every morning when that alarm goes off and it's still dark and cold out the voice in my head whispers to get moving. I want it to shut up but it can't. A few minutes into my coffee and I am thinking of the hour or two to come. Quite simply, those early morning training moments are the highlights of my day. As much as it hurts, I wouldn't trade it for the world. The feeling of grinding up that first steep hill 6 minutes after leaving my house is brutal in the moment but absolutely essential to my well-being.

Now, as I slip into taper mode, my life will change. In some ways it will be nice. I won't need to get up as early. I can slack off on a couple of the climbs on my daily loops. Hell, I can even skip a day completely if I want to! Over the next couple of weeks I will wallow in the fun of the energy piling up in my body and the excitement building in my heart. But I will also long for the all-over body fatigue that is with me as I go about my life, the subtle pressure I put on myself to get a little better every day, and the steady, daily grind of training hard over and over and over again.

I guess, when all's said and done, if I had my druthers I'd train more and race less. Maybe, in fact, that is what I should do.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Men's Poll Results and the Women's Poll

OK, well, even though I left out a ton of guys in my poll here are the top-10 from the readers of this blog.

Scott Jurek 175
Hal Koerner 168
Dave Mackey 134
Anton Krupicka 93
Eric Grossman 52
Erik Skaden 50
Graham Cooper 46
Jasper Halekas 46
Max King 43
Andy Jones-Wilkins 43

Interesting to see how the top three guys have such a gap on #4 who in turn has a gap on #'s 5-10. Wonder how the actual race will turn out? Anyone have some top-10 picks not on this list? Any top-3 dark horse picks?

And, take a minute to vote for the women over on the sidebar. Should be a great race!

PS -- Anybody out there have a hotel room they're not using in Silverton for Hardrock?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Training Summary

In the month of May I ran:

37 times and logged 433 Miles
Longest Run - 52 miles
Shortest Run - 4 miles
Max HR in training - 174
Min Resting HR - 34 (May 30th)

Total miles for first five months of 2009: 1712
Monthly average: 342

Goal for June; stay healthy, run hard through June 12th and then trust the training and ride the wave through Squaw, Auburn, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton. Kissing that rock will be sweet!

Friday, May 29, 2009


It's four weeks until the Big Dance so it's time for another poll for the men's race. (See the sidebar for a new poll.)

It's been an interesting lead-up this year. We have injuries (Anton Krupicka, Jon Olsen, Jorge Pacheco, and Max King), we have some great tune-up performances (Jasper Halekas, Gary Robbins, and Eric Grossman), we have the old standby's finding their form (Hal Koerner, Graham Cooper, Erik Skaden, and Scott Jurek) and we have the new guys (Scott Wolfe, Mike Wolfe, Dan Olmstead, and a whole bunch of others.

So, take a look at the poll on the right and pick your top-5.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wrapping my mind around The Double

I have been grappling with the reality of running the WS/HRH Double in less than two months. Part of me says I'm crazy while another part is psyched. If nothing else, I'll get a fun family vacation out of it and see some amazing places in the process!

Anyway, the challenge for me over these next few weeks is training for both events at the same time. My typical WS build-up includes long runs in the heat with moderate altitude and more running than walking. I try to find places to run that mirror the conditions of The Course and mentally prepare myself for the feelings I will inevitably have on the run up Bath Road, the 20 minutes into Cal 2 and the climb up from Highway 49. Interestingly, this approach has worked pretty well over the years and I seem to be on track today based on my training. I've even gotten over my "sweat hump." (For those who care, my "sweat hump" is the point in the year when I can tell my body is holding onto sodium. I determine this through the highly scientific method of licking my arm after a 30 minute sauna session. If the saltiness doesn't sting my tongue, I'm over the "sweat hump." That just happened this morning!)

Back to The Double. The different thing now is, at the same time I am preparing for the familiarity of WS, I am also looking into the mystery world of Oscar's, Handies, Virginius, American Basin, and the rest. It's a tricky dance. With the snow quickly melting in the High Country here in Idaho I am now able to get up to 10,000 ft and in the next two weeks should be able to get up to 12,000 a couple times. I won't be getting past that until I get out to Silverton around July 4th and I hope that that will be enough.

Thus, the plan at this point is to try to run 10 times a week for the next three weeks. Five runs per week will be WS training (heat, rolling hills, hard, runnable trails, etc...) and the other five runs will be HRH training (big elevation, power hiking, altitude, gnarly trails, etc..). It's certainly a new experience for me but one for which I am oddly excited. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Five questions before the Dance

1. How many miles did you run last week?

2. Who's injured going into the last four weeks of training?

3. Who's going to turn some heads at the dance?

4. Will it be hot, snowy, or both?

5. Have you done your trail work?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Aid Station Are You Looking Forward to at WS?

That’s easy, Devil’s Thumb…

The name alone conjures up images of pain and suffering. Located at Mile 47 of the Western States Course, the Devil’s Thumb Aid Station sits in the middle of what many people consider the crux of the race, The Canyons.

When you arrive at Devil’s Thumb it is hot; brutally, mercilessly, unfairly hot. You have just completed an 1800-foot climb in 2 miles from the Swinging Bridge across Deadwood Creek. The heavily advertised 37 switchbacks do nothing to soften the blow of the intensity of the climb. Legs burn, salt stings the eyes, the stomach rumbles. A couple sections of the climb are hands-on-your-knees steep.

Thus, arriving at Devil’s Thumb, gives me a sense of relief, hope, and possibly even joy. If I have been smart up until this point and followed my race plan I will have arrived at The Thumb with food in my belly and a bit of spring in my step. As much as I have hated the 35-minute (or so) climb up to the aid station I now know that ahead of me lies 40 minutes of the sweetest downhill on the course, the descent into El Dorado Canyon. A quick Coke, S! cap and gel will send me trundling down the hill.

Furthermore, the people who work the aid station at Devil’s Thumb understand suffering. They have literally seen it all and are well prepared with cold drinks, salty foods, and cheerful attitudes. Even better, for the past two years members of the Western States Board have been at The Thumb when I’ve arrived and have given me some great energy. In 2006 it was Shannon Weil who gave me a hug and told me I looked great while in 2007 it was the compassionate Tim Tweitmeyer who said, simply, “Hey three names, what are doing so far back?” Needless to say, Devil’s Thumb is a place to get into and get out of. Fast.

I remember getting there in 2005 with three other guys and thinking that it was pretty late in the race to be running in a pack of four but as I waited for the scale with Richtman, Kerby, and Kulak I felt the brotherhood of the trail in all its glory. Then, I proceeded to run away from those three guys.

In 2006, I arrived at the Thumb with my mentor and good buddy Tom Nielsen. In the insane heat of that year Tom and I had resolved to run The Canyons together. Sharing an ice-cold Coke at The Thumb gave us the energy and the attitude to persevere together.

And, in 2007, I found myself again at the Thumb feeling great. I was in about 14th place at the time but something about the way I felt that day in that place told me I could do better. 10 hours later I ended up in 4th place propelled off the Thumb by the pull of the trail and the carnage that lay ahead.

Who knows what 2009 will bring? All I know is, I’ll be smiling when I pull in to the Thumb!

This is the 4th installment of the 2009 Western States Synchroblog Project. See what aid stations my other synchrobloggers are most looking forward to reaching.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ice Cream Sandwich - 2009 Edition

This run, designed by Tim Tweitmeyer, is best done 8 weeks before the Dance. The logistics are simple: Drive down Todd Valley Rd. to the trail that leads to Cal 2. Run to Cal 2. Start your watch and run 25 miles up the Course to the Swinging Bridge. Turn around. Run back. When you get to Cal 2 stop your watch and walk back to the car. 11 hours, 52 miles, pure joy.

This year we started with five people, finished with six but only four did the entire run and only two officially completed it (Tweit's rule is you must run Foresthill to Cal 2 in 75 minutes for the workout to count. And, you can't puke). Anyway, it basically is divided into three sections (and only the last one matters!). The first section is the run up to the Swinging Bridge. We did this in 5 hours. The second section is from the Swinging Bridge back to Foresthill. Here, things got interesting. First, Jeff hiked the Thumb in 29:45. I was happy to 31 it. Then I cleared El Dorado in 1:24 (41 down and 43 up) Not exactly fast but since the trail was basically a stream and my shoes weighed about 10 pounds I'll take it. Then we 65'd Volcano and I was able to run Bath Rd.

The stupidest thing of the day was when we ate the Ice Cream Sandwiches and drank the soda at Foresthill. Then Meghan took off to get us our 75 to Cal 2. Craig had been fired and he was hurt anyway so it was Meghan's deal. Needless to say, Ms. US National 100K Team 71'd it and was napping by the time I got there. The highlight of the whole day for me was the last 15 minutes of the run. Here's that story:

After Cal 1 I was hurting. Meghan had dropped me and nobody was behind to save me. I labored up Mackey hill to the flats and on about the 6th roller (it's the one that's always really hot on race day) I heard Craig come up behind me. Sweet! He asked me how I was doing and I grunted a reply. He said we were right on the 75 bubble and we rolled. We got to Cal 2 in 74:15 hootin' and hollerin'. I was psyched, so was Craig.

For me, it was the best 15 minutes of running this season and it got me a step closer to my WS Goal. Thanks Craig. For helping me out I'll cut 10 mins off the 10 year bet! Time for bed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 2009 Training Summary

In the month of April I ran:

33 times and logged 364 Miles
Longest Run - 38 miles
Shortest Run - 4 miles
Max HR in training - 179
Min Resting HR - 35 (April 28th)

Total miles for first four months of 2009: 1279
Monthly average: 320

We'll see if May has 400 miles in it.

Off to Michigan Bluff tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Follow up on 100 Mile prerequisite

I want to thank everyone for all of their comments on my 100 mile prerequisite post. I was happy to see such a range of opinion. Clearly, there is a good deal of interest in the topic and the breadth of responses gave me quite a bit of data. Of course, it is highly unlikely that the Western States Board will change their entry requirements and I certainly respect their rationale for having the requirements that they do. In the end, it's just fun bouncing the ideas around.

So, in that context, here is the idea I almost wrote about "How to Make Western States a better race."

Get rid of the automatic entry for the previous year's top-10 men and women and instead create a formula based on percentages. Here's my idea:

Automatic entries for the following year will be provided to all runners who finish within 15% of the winner's time in both the men's and women's races. Here's an example taken from the 2007 men's race:

Winning time in the men's race was 16:12 (972 minutes approx). In this formula every man with a finishing time below 18:45 (1118 minutes approx) would qualify for the race the next year.

What this would do is provide incentive for runners to push hard regardless of place knowing that their next year's entry would be contingent upon how far behind the winner they were. It would also create a bit of race day intrigue as qualifying would be a moving target from year to year.

Of course, I chose not to do this in my original post because I am less convinced it would make it a better race but I thought I'd throw it out there since I am pretty much thinking of nothing else but Western States these days.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Turning Point

For the past five years I have been lucky enough to gain entry into Western States. In 2004 I got in through the lottery and since then I've "earned" my way in through top-10 finishes. What all this has meant, aside from total obsession with the race, is that much of my life has been designed around training for the event. Even last year, when it was canceled, my spring was totally dominated by the Race.

In the past few years I have noticed a pattern in all this. Come around Patriot's Day my body, mind, and even, dare I say, my spirit, undergoes a Turning Point. It's a bit like that point when your body goes anaerobic on a speed session or that moment you switch over to fat burning in the glycogen depletion phase of the training cycle, you can't really explain why it's happening but you know it when it does. It's a full life experience and one which I love. There are also several tell-tale signs that the Turning Point has been reached. In no particular order here are the top-6:

1. No matter how hard I try I cannot stay awake past 10:00PM, ever...
2. Every time I walk up stairs I feel an eerily pleasant aching in my legs that makes me want to go back down the stairs to feel it again
3. I drive my family crazy because even though winter is over I still keep the heat on in my car while it's 80 degrees outside.
4. I dream about the descent into El Dorado Canyon and the climb up to Green Gate.
5. I check the long, long, long range forecast for Auburn, CA attempting to gain any insight into the weather patterns hoping that by race day it will be 110 at Placer High School
6. In planning my daily runs I try to see how much downhill I can get to trash my quads while still working hard

There may be more but if this post is any indication, I've reached my Turning Point for this year. Have you reached yours?