Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WS Synchroblog #5

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

Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,

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

Otto Indulgence


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

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

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

Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,

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


Ass Backwards

Dear Ass Backwards,

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

Dear Ask An Ultrarunner,

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


Jimmy The Greek

Dear Jimmy,

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


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

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

Should be an awesome race!!!

Check out the other synchrobloggers below!



Bryon Powell said...

Is Alan carrying Bev? I thought she just had knee surgery?

mike_hinterberg said...

Love the humor and writing, adding a good mix of seriousness to respectful deprecation to the sport and silliness (I remember your quote of "One step away from the loony bin"). Keep it up, and good luck at WS!

Craig Thornley said...

@Bryon, unfortunately Bev is not running WS. She did indeed have knee surgery, but is recovering well.

albertus said...

Hi there!
Sorry to interfere like this, but really think you guys don't really know who Kilian Jornet is. 'Course he might be a bit tired from the crossing of the Pyrenees last week (more than 700kms, +38.000mts climb), but apart from that... Cheers!!

Nick said...

On Killian, I think most who follow ultrarunning in the US now know pretty well who Killian is and what he is capable of...on the European circuit.

The Pyrenees crossing was a master stroke as far as Western States is concerned. It either sets him up nicely if he recovers well, or, if he is beaten, well he (or his fans) can just say he was tired.

Olga said...

Bummer on Bev. No, we don't know Kilian. We would like to. But we do know WS and Hal etc. Good luck, AJW! Top 10 sounds like a dream right about now!

Rogue Valley Runners said...

KJ is also racing a 50k this weekend with some massive climb.

Does that factor in, we'll have to wait and see the result.


albertus said...

Hey again!

Nick, I really think you don't know the guy if you assume he did the Pyrenees thing as that kind of devious stuff. But, anyway, he never said nothing about winning the WS. We his fans are the ones making all the noise. We can't help it, and I apologize if I sounded too much of a loudmouthed prick.

But, all considered, I still feel you're pretty confident on the differences between US panorama and what Kilian does here in Europe. Maybe you're forgetting what he did a few months ago in Lake Tahoe...

Nevertheless, don't mistake me: no understimating US specialists in ultrarunning. They're awfully good, we know that. But we still feel the kid can beat them, that's all.


joan said...

albertus, ets genial!

massaguer said...

Ben dit bertus,que n'aprenguin!!!

Nick said...

Albert - I was just being an ass with my comment. I didn't seriously think that the Pyrenees thing had anything to do with excuses. Idle banter, that's all.

Unknown said...


Good luck for this WE.
For Men Master... Kaburaki of course !
Hey, he is not in your choice list !