Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ending AJW's Blog

I started this blog as a place for me to write race reports and to reflect on running and racing. For the past four and half years it has been a great place for me to do that. In addition, over time it has become much more than that as over the past two years this blog has averaged 25,000 pageviews per month.. I never thought that would happen so thanks, everyone, for being interested enough in what I have to say to read this blog.

For now, for me in my life, it's time to move on. On January 1st I'll be shutting down this blog and focusing on the many other things in my life.

If you are interested in what I have to say or what I think or what I am up to or what my training is like there are still many places you can find me:

You can read my weekly column, AJW's Taproom, published every Friday on

You can become my friend on Facebook

You can "follow" me on Twitter

You can check out my training log on

Happy New Year everyone and I'll see you in Squaw!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Run Junkie!

My good friend and erstwhile training partner Hank Dart (yes, that's his real name!) maintains an excellent blog that features outstanding photography and compelling prose. Here is a sample.

Proof that, contrary to popular opinion, Stanford and Harvard can deliver:)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Returning to Running

I am so excited to be running again!

It was way back in August, the 18th exactly, that I came down with a severe case of PF and, I must admit, I haven't felt like a runner until this past week when I successfully ran 50 miles, on hills and trails, and am no worse for wear. In fact, I actually feel good.

Certainly, without a doubt, I am getting progressively older and I need to pay attention to that. In addition, I am not exactly lean and my weight can be a factor in my ability and capacity to go long distances. But, and this is a big but, I think, for now, I am back in the game. And that feels very, very good.

Obviously, this coming summer we have big plans; I'll be running Western States #9 and Hardrock #2. In addition, my family and I will be able to enjoy some quality time out West after spending a year here in the East adapting to our new lives. It's been good but it's not the same as powering through the Sawtooths every day, that's for sure. Furthermore, I have come to a place in my life and with my running that I know what I can do and I accept what I cannot do. That is an eye-opening experience and one that I continue to address every day.

In the end, we all run for our own reasons. Perhaps we run to escape or perhaps we run to evolve or perhaps we run to experience or perhaps we run to emote? We run to live and we live to run.

Some of us run because we want to and others among us run because we have to. We run to open ourselves up and we run to close ourselves down. It's an intensely personal thing and nobody should tell us how to do it, why we should do it, or what it means to us to do it. We know why, how, and for what we run, and that's all that matters. Running takes us places nobody else knows and makes us into the people we are meant to be. That's the way it has always been and the way it always will be. The rest will take care of itself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Unbreakable" Comments

Saw "Unbreakable" last weekend and loved it. From my perspective, it's the best Western States movie so far. "Desperate Dreams" is a cult classic, "Running Madness" and "Race for the Soul" were nice human interest documentaries but "Unbreakable" took the genre to the next level. Now, I'd love to see JB make a Hardrock film!

Two things I'd like to add that may strike some as nitpicky but I need to get them off my chest so here goes.

1. In the part when Geoff came through in the snow and changed out his bottles with his dad and brother I am pretty sure he was outside the aid station boundary going into Robinson Flat. Again, I know it's a minor detail but I also know that WS cares alot about the rules. And, it is clearly one of their rules that runners can only be crewed at established aid stations. I am not suggesting in any way that anything should be done about it rather that it was something I noticed that could be perceived as a violation of the rules.

2. In both the Foresthill section and the Green Gate section I saw at least two runners being muled by their pacers. Now, it is clearly stated in the WS rule book that you can be "crewed" anywhere in these areas but muling is prohibited. There has always been a blurry line here as often bottles and gels and stuff are getting passed back and forth but blatant muling (pacers carrying the runner's stuff) is expressly against the rules.

So, maybe an unintended consequence of this great film and the close-up exposure JB and his crew gave to the runners in the race is that it showed some aspects of the race that could cause WS obsessives like me to question. Again, I am not saying anything can or should be done about this and, it goes without saying that the film will provide excellent exposure to the sport, but still...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


My battle with Plantar Fasciitis has been well-documented on this blog as I have been struggling with it for about four months. Over the past four weeks I have been able to successfully return to running and am now up to about 50 miles per week. While I don't feel as though the injury is completely gone and I am confident that it is, for the most part, behind me.

Several things have been at play in my recovery; intense physical therapy, Graston treatment, ice and rest, self-massage, etc...But the one thing that has allowed me to return to running most successfully has been a change of shoes. I am not too proud to admit it, Hoka One One Bondi B's have given me my running back!

About a month ago Karl Meltzer contacted me and suggested I give them a shot to give my feet more cushioning. This was followed up by a phone call from my friend, pacer, and unofficial PF consultant who said the very same thing. I picked up a couple pair and have been running pain free ever since.

In this age of minimalist footwear it is clear to me that Hoka are going the other direction. And, indeed, these shoes are not for everyone. But for a guy with a lot of miles on his body, struggling with an injury and the onset of middle age, these puppies have been a lifesaver.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The poll on the right was a fun one, wasn't it? I find it interesting to see that the votes were so close and I can't help but wonder if the ballots were split down gender lines:) One thing I do think is that the irunfar twitter coverage of races has certainly highlighted an interesting aspect of social networking in general and of Twitter in particular. I am not sure about other folks out there but knowing Meghan and Bryon as well as I do I find it remarkable that within their twitter coverage one can get a sense, and I must say a real sense, of their personalities and temperaments.

Bryon's analytical approach peppered with insider knowledge is wonderfully balanced by Meghan's more colorful commentary and humorous one-liners. When you think about it, it's kind of amazing that you can get a sense of a person in 160 characters on your phone. Furthermore, I just love Meghan's use of language with phrases like "not gonna lie", "sadfaced", and "buh-bye" when contrasted with Bryon's matter-of-fact anecdotes about obscure Europeans runners with oddball sponsors. For those disappointed about not getting into WS or HRH look on the bright side, you get to follow the races this summer on Twitter with the two best "voices" in the business.

Which brings me to irunfar itself. I remember when Bryon hatched the idea back in 2007. He was a well-paid attorney living the good life in Washington DC when he got the itch to start irunfar. He had been writing a personal blog for awhile and it was quite good but I could tell he wanted to do more. When he paced me that year at Grand Teton we talked a bit about the whole thing and it was clear he was getting ready to pull the plug. He traveled around getting to know people, he worked tirelessly at the OR Show while the rest of us hung out and drank beer, and he meticulously outlined a plan to bring his vision to life. He sold his house in DC, re-located to a doublewide on the fringe of Yosemite National Park and got to work. A year later he and Meghan moved to Park City, UT to a palatial one bedroom house (well, actually one-and-a-half if you count Bryon's office, aka, the Pink Closet) and the launch was complete.

Today, the website has won awards from Outside Magazine and other media outlets. Bryon and Meghan's reviews and articles appear all over the place, and most ultrarunners I know go to the site first thing every morning. The gear reviews, the interviews, the videos and, of course, the race coverage make irunfar truly like nothing else. It's amazing! Imagine trying to explain it to someone ten years ago! I am not sure anyone would believe it.

So, as another year draws to a close, I want to thank Bryon, and his partner Meghan, for giving us of yourselves in such a selfless and creative manner. I know I speak for many when I say we truly value all you have done as the chroniclers of our sport and I know how hard you have worked to make your dream a reality. Here's to another great year at irunfar in 2012!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WS Lottery

Interesting notes as we look ahead to the WS lottery this weekend:

Five of the top-10 men from 2011 are registered (lowest # in the last 10 years)
International applications are up
First time applicants are up
Female applicants are down
Five runners are registered to go after finish #10
For the first time in ten years LB is not in the lottery

Good luck everyone.

See you in Squaw!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


With the WS/HRH Double now set the family and I have spent the last 48 hours furiously planning for the summer of 2012. We need to book rooms in Squaw now before the lottery and the masses converge, we need to figure out what to do with the dog during the two races, we need to set up our itinerary of 14'er climbs in early July, we need to make sure all the kinks are out of our travel gear, we need to buy a new car, we need to get a new JetBoil, we need get the idea. It's going to be the "summer of a lifetime."

I must say, I was really really, really hoping this would happen. With my oldest son Carson turning 14 last month, Shelly and I realized the opportunities for full-blown summer vacations were running out. In addition, since we pretty much design our vacations around races, we knew that this three-week window between WS and HRH this year held the key to that one last great escape before life truly takes over. And, it happened.

You see, my family loves WS and HRH. We talk about these races all the time. We sit at dinner over mac and cheese and debate minimalist vs. maximalist shoes as well as the relative difficulties of the "Morton" course vs. the "Jurek" course vs. the "Roes" course. Hell, my kids even know Kyle's splits from the 2008 HRH!

To be frank, my family understands that there is nothing quite like running through the mountains with a bunch of like-minded people who get it. But, from my perspective, when you add to that a family that simply can't wait to get out there with you the experience becomes exponentially more meaningful. I know everyone reading this blog might not understand that but for those who do, you know what I mean. And this post is for you.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

2012 -- The Double (part 2)

#6 on the HRH Waitlist. 20 days between WS and HRH this year. Gonna be a great summer! And, what a stacked field!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Over the last year or so several people have asked me to comment on this blog about how I manage ultramarathon running with a full-time job and raising a family. Admittedly, I've basically dodged the question but recently I've thought more about it and can think of five essentials for balancing running, work, and life:

1. Pick a family that loves ultrarunning: Without my wife and kids as supporters and guides I would have quit this game a long time ago. But, with them along with me in races and in training the events are as much about the family as they are about the running. I admit that it takes time to nurture this (my son Carson "crewed" his first race when he was 10 months old) but, in the end, it's worth it.

2. Learn to integrate running into your life and not have it as an "add-on": Since my family knows running is important to me and my sanity they support me in doing it every day. But, I can't let it get in the way of our daily existence. As such, I have run in such inauspicious places as airport terminals, around multi-field soccer complexes, and up and down ski runs while my kids are waiting to race. It's not always perfect but it is part of the deal and its better than not running so that's good. And, I can say things like "I once ran around a mall 8 times while my kids tried on clothes"

3. Wake up early and run: While it is brutally hard, the best runs happen before the spouse and kids are awake. There is nothing better than coming home from a 15-mile tempo run and then waking up your family with fresh coffee and hot pancakes. It takes will power to drag yourself out of bed two hours before the milk man and you're likely to doze off in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl but, again, it's worth it.

4. Make sure your employer/employees know how important running is to you: Most of us don't have jobs in which running is part of the deal. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to be sure to let those who care for us, love us, and employ us know that running is not only what we do it is who we are. Once we have convinced them of this it is easier to share in the endeavor and to spread the joy of running to others. Or, at least, it let's us squeeze in a five-miler at lunch.

5. Keep it simple: As a fully-employed, married, father of three it is impossible to really stick to a training plan. Sure, I like to think I have one but, in the end, all I really need/want to do is run. So, if I can do that every day I'm good. Then, when May rolls around and I need to be a bit more prescribed in my thinking/planning/processing I have some money in the bank to do so. And then, it's time for vacation in Squaw Valley!

Here's to running everyone!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Coming to the Tandem Friends School Theater on December 11th at 7:00pm.

$5 tickets at the door.

Cool raffle prizes from Patagonia, Scott USA,, and others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Update and Announcement

Several folks have asked how I am progressing with my recovery from Plantar Fasciitis so I thought I'd send out a quick update:

It's been almost three months since I finally succumbed to the pain and shut down my running. At that point I took a full month off from running and spent time in the pool and on the bike. In addition, I did all the usual home remedies in an attempt to get things cleared up. During that time I used the night splint, rolled my arch on a golf ball, picked up marbles with my toes, iced, gave myself massage, and stretched my calves and achilles about three times per day. After a month of that I was not seeing very much improvement.

At that point I went to Dr. Bob Wilder, running doctor here at UVa. He gave me steroids and high powered naproxen. He also told me to buy a Strassburg Sock and an arch brace. Finally, he prescribed eight sessions of Physical Therapy with the "enforcer" Eric Mangrum. I felt some initial relief as a result of the steroid but when that wore off the pain returned. But, when Eric began taping my arch, really hard with "Anchor" Tape I started to feel improvement. Then, I started very slowly back into running. Well, not really running but rehab.

Now, I am up to running five miles a day (only on the treadmill, totally flat and at an easy pace) and the pain is manageable. But, it's not completely gone so the frustration continues. This week I am starting Graston treatments at a nearby chiropractor so I am hopeful that those will get me over the hump. This is by far the longest I have been on the shelf with an injury and it makes me thankful for the five years of injury-free running I enjoyed before this came on. With any luck, once I shake this thing, I can enjoy five more years of injury-free running. We'll see...

And now, the exciting announcement:

I will be hosting a screening of JB Benna's film "Unbreakable" in Charlottesville at the Tandem Friends School theater on Sunday evening, December 11th at 7:00pm. For those of you who don't now, this is the highly anticipated documentary of the 2010 Western States 100 battle between Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka and Killian Jornet. I hope that those of you in the area will come to see it and if you can tell your friends about it that would be great. Tickets will be $5 and I'll have refreshments available (including coffee for those locals recovering from Hellgate)

Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Western States Application Period

On the eve of the opening of the application period this showed up in my inbox.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.


Hardrock Lottery

Looks like there are 427 names in the hat for Hardrock as of October 29th. At that rate there will be as many as 800 by the time Dale starts pulling the names on December 4th. By my calculations I have three tickets this year (one for my 2009 finish, one for not getting pulled last year, one for this year) which I would guess would give me about a 12% chance of getting in this year. In all likelihood, the HRH lottery will be tougher to beat than the WS lottery. Amazing!

Monday, November 7, 2011

WS100 Panel - 2011 "Passion"

Scotty Mills turned the microphone around and asked me a question. Marcus Warner kept the camera running.

Here is the result:

Looking forward to 2012.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Running and Being

OK, I'll start right out and say I am claiming Dr. Sheehan's title with this post. Not because I think I deserve it, quite the contrary, rather, it's been what I've been thinking about lately as it relates to, well, running and being.

Then, I will say that I lay claim to a bit of an insider's track to the late great Dr. Sheehan as he and my grandfather, Stanley O. Wilkins, were neighbors (literally) in Red Bank, NJ in the "50's and '60's. My grandfather treated jockeys and other detritus from the Monmouth Race Track and Doctor Sheehan, well, he treated the rest of us.

And, needless to say, he lived much longer than my grandfather.

But, he also left an incredible legacy.

I remember being out on a run with my good friend Kevin Sawchuk seven or so years ago and we were discussing mortality, as one is wont to do on a long run in the mountains, in the early morning hours on a January day, and I asked him what I thought, at the time, was an innocent question,

"If you had to choose between these two things what would you pick,

One, you get to run Western States 100 and you have the race of your life eclipsing your PR by an hour and getting a jacket from Greg for your efforts and the Silver Buckle to boot...

And never run again.


You never run Western States, or any other race, and instead, you get to run three miles a day, every day, no more, no less, for the rest of your life, until you die.

What would you choose?"




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WS100 Panel - 2011 (part one)

Here is the first installment of the WS Panel Video series shot by Marcus Warner this past June in Squaw Valley. Fun viewing as we gear up for another season.

And, if you want to learn more about Marcus check out the most popular ultra site in Australia here:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Running Madness

This is an oldie but goodie, especially as we gear up for another summer of running.

Say what you want about the Western States 100 -- commercial, elitist, old-fashioned, tired, over-hyped -- it is an extraordinary event with a compelling story to tell.

In this very brief piece I love the language and the living nature of the experience, "scary", "stupid", "nobody believes it", "pain is temporary", on and on.

And, hearing and seeing Dave Terry in this video brings tears to my eyes. To those who knew him, you know what I mean. To those who didn't, trust me, he was one of the great ones.

Take 3 minutes to enjoy...

Monday, October 24, 2011


Back in the early '90's when I was living in Philadelphia, working at the country's oldest Quaker school, and writing my Masters' thesis on "Wilderness and the American Character" I was engrossed in the simple life. Since then, of course, I've had five jobs, lived in six houses, and had three kids. Along the way, things have gotten quite a bit more complex. Recently, however, my life has been simplified. And that is due, in part, to running.

It's cliche to say that running is the ultimate simple sport. All you need are shoes, shorts and the desire to get out there. And these days, you don't really even need shoes:)

Thing is, the cliche is true, running is a simple endeavor and, if given the proper place in one's life, it can help to simplify those other places in our lives that are becoming increasingly complex, complicated and, in some cases, downright unsustainable. For those of us who have chosen the complex path with kids, jobs, houses, cars, can be difficult, if not impossible, to carve out the time and space for simplicity. It takes effort and a choice to be present and in the moment.

I was reflecting recently on the last two years of my life -- two years that have been filled with transition and change. Through those two years, the one constant, at least until I was stripped to my core with a debilitating injury eight weeks ago, was my running. Now that I have begun to slowly crawl out of the injury hole and things are looking up, I am pausing to look back. The visceral memory of the complexity of the past two years lingers and what makes that reflection meaningful and purposeful is the acceptance of the growth that has taken place, growth that I did not know I needed.

In those moments of deep simplicity and silence I am reminded of that great Buddhist saying,

Don't ask why this is happening to me?

Rather, ask why is this happening for me?

Monday, October 17, 2011


In August, when I first came down with this nasty case of pf I am still battling, I thought quite a bit about patience. I kept telling myself that I needed this injury to learn patience and to prepare for myself for my second life as a runner. I needed this injury to come to grips with the inevitable impact of aging and I needed this injury to remind me that the cocky, arrogant jerk I was in my thirties could be brought down to size with the burning, painful, debilitating inflammation in my foot that is not much bigger than a quarter but has now persisted for two months. I admit it now, I needed this injury.

And now, it needs to go away!

I think, at this point, I am doing all the right things and I have been able to run for 10 minutes, flat and straight, each day for the last two days (at a blazing 9 minute per mile pace). Never mind the fact that putting on my shoes takes longer than the actual run, I am running again, and that's good -- not just for me but for everyone around me. One foot in front of the other, baby steps, like starting over again at 44 years old.

More to the point, this necessary patience in my life has brought to bear something that is so essential for all of us to learn to live in this world as erratic humans. For too long in modern American society we have been in a place where immediate gratification is what it's all about. The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude seems to pervade everything. We're left to wonder what's next and how can we get ahead of it. We just start to figure out the iPhone4 and everyone tells us we need to get the iPhone5, or whatever, you know what I mean. But patience, true patience, that is a really good teacher. In many ways, it's the best teacher.

Back to August... Remember the World Track Championships? Remember Usain Bolt's false start in the 100 meter final? Man, the guy had been invincible and all of a sudden he was walking off the track and giving the championship to someone else. Furthermore, he had to wait an agonizing five days for his next race.

In the end, his impatience taught him patience.

And maybe that's the ultimate lesson for all of us these days. Because running, especially long-distance ultramarathon running, is all about patience. If it can impact a sprinter it can certainly the rest of us who slog out of Squaw on the last Saturday in June and, at best, arrive in Auburn just before sunset. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, decades, even, to realize our true potential. Dang, how about a 100 year-old man finishing a marathon!

So, stop, pause, reflect, be patient. Maybe your next race will be your best. Maybe not. But it will teach you something. It will teach you how to run, how to live, and how to be. And, it will do it at a time and in a place where oftentimes those things are harder to do than they used to be. That's gotta be good for something!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grindstone 100 -- Crew Report

Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to crew my good friend Craig Thornley at the Grindstone 100. Most of the details of the race are covered in his report that can be found here but a couple additional thoughts are in order. I'll go with top-10 format since that is Craig's favorite medium:

10. Crewing a race is much harder than running a race. Especially when injured.
9. Sitting around a campfire at an Aid Station is a lovely thing, especially when you're not running the race. However, if David Horton is sitting around the same campfire, don't plan on getting any sleep.
8. Tweeting a race is really hard. Irunfar has it dialed. I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.
7. When a race starts at 6pm and you are crewing make sure you have a plan for staying awake. It's not easy. Beer and coffee help.
6. Neal Gorman is one tough mofo.
5. The weather in Central Virginia in mid-October is amazing. Kind of makes staying up all night for two days straight seem worth it.
4. Clark Zealand is an outstanding Race Director. He goes about his business in a calm, dignified way and makes every runner feel like they are the reason he does what he does.
3. Craig Thornley knows how to run 100 miles on his terms. Even when he's 3000 miles from home in a strange, God-Forsaken, dark, rocky land he understands that all you have to do is keep going. And, he also knows that after 96 miles there is nothing unusual about taking 10 minutes to drink four ounces of Pepsi.
2. The Grindstone 100 is poised to be the best Boutique 100 miler in the country. The combination of an outstanding race director, an extraordinary setting, a family friendly start/finish venue, and a perfect time of year this race really could become, and should become, the AC100 of the East.
1. There is no better way to cement a friendship than to crew for your friend. I know that many readers of this blog know that Craig and I often finish eachother's sentences but there is no better way to see how a team works than to actually see how a team works. Without being overly zealous I'd like to see the two of us teaming up again in the years ahead. I reckon you do too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grindstone 100

I'll post a report later in the week. But for now, here are three photos from the weekend:

Horty, LB, Clark, CJW, SJW, AJW
LB and AJW
"You're good!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

WS Race Director Search

It seems to me that in the midst of all the chatter about changes in the sport the situation with respect to the WS RD Search is perhaps more relevant than any other. This is the first time I can recall that a race has actually posted a job for an Executive Director and defined the position in such a thorough and thoughtful way. As a non-profit director myself I applaud the WSER Board for being so transparent and open in their process. For a group that has been much maligned over the years for their seeming lack of transparency this is an excellent step.

While I don't know this for sure, I doubt Norm and Greg were subjected to such a rigorous process. To me, as the race continues to evolve and the challenges increase, this kind of selective process is essential to insure ongoing success. I will be interested to see what kind of candidate pool emerges and ultimately how the selection is made. The Board is clearly looking for a person with a broad skill set and a depth of experiences in running and beyond. As is often the case in my industry, it strikes me that they are looking for "God on a good day!"

Here is the blurb from the WS100 Webesite:

"The WS Board of Directors is currently accepting resumes for the position of
Western States Race Director

To be considered for the position, please submit your resume and a minimum of two letters of recommendation to:

All resumes and letters of recommendation must be received by 12/1/2011.

Selection process will be based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:

A minimum of five years in a leadership role. Is highly ethical, honest and respected in the ultrarunning community.
Embodies and understands the ideals and values of the WS Endurance Run.
Has an understanding that the primary mission is to give each WS runner an outstanding experience that is both safe and memorable.
Able to work collaboratively with the WS Board.
Has the ability to seek, cultivate and foster key relationships and partnerships in areas ranging from federal, state and local resource management groups to potential corporate, business and community partners.
Understands that proper perspective, credit and acknowledgment is always given to our history and unique research mission.
Knows and understands the value of treating all runners and volunteers with respect.
Has a good grounding in finances, paying bills and living within the means of a specific budget.
Has some understanding of communication, both broadly strategic as well as internal, in areas of print and electronic media.
Has the ability to think clearly and deliberately in emergency situations.
Willingness to relocate to the Sacramento/Auburn, CA area.
Possesses excellent speaking/writing skills.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Once a Year Efforts!

Maybe it's because I am injured and likely not to race again until the Spring or perhaps I am pulling for the older guys lately but two race performances over the past five weeks have suggested to me that perhaps focusing on one key, intense, all-out performance per year is the best way to extend an ultrarunning career.

Certainly, as the sport has grown, so has the prevalence of multiple fine perfomances in a given year. However, it seems that to truly "over-acheive" focusing on one race seems to work. Take Matt Carpenter and Mike Morton. Matt has raced one ultra race a year for the last three years (Pikes Peak Marathon, I say it counts as an ultra because it's 26.3 miles and climbs over 7000 feet up a 14'er) and won it each time. The rest of his races and efforts have been good, of course, but nothing compared to his Pikes' results. He, quite simply, owns that race even in his late-forties.

Then there's Mike Morton who set the Course Record at the 1997 WS100 in 15:40 and, along the way, ran a 2:18 split to the River. It was a truly badass run and there are some who say it is still the single best performance at WS (or at least right up there with King, Howard, Trason, Jurek and Roes). Shortly following that extraordinary race, he promptly fell off the map and years later, after grappling with injuries, etc..., he re-emerged at the 2010 Hinson Lake 24 Hour to run 153 miles. Then, he disappeared again until this past Saturday when he went back to Hinson Lake and ran, I believe, over 160 miles. Along the way, he hit the 100 mile split in 13 hours. This, mind you, on a hilly course in 90+ degrees and high humidity.

I don't know about the rest of you but once I shake this pf I'll be focusing all my energy on the last Saturday in June, 2012. If it's good enough for Matt and Mike it's good enough for me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


In the midst of struggling to recover from a nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis and coming to grips with the fact that I am officially in my mid-forties (I am celebrating my 44th birthday today) I had the pleasure of heading up to the Wintergreen Resort this weekend for the UROC 100K Championship. I have to say, as disappointed as I was to not be running, I had a blast.

On Friday afternoon I was able to do some interviews for the race website and that evening I had the chance to moderate the elite athlete panel. Squeezed in between, I enjoyed dinner and a few brews with my good friend Bryon Powell at the Devil's Backbone Brewery and we waxed on for hours about all of our brilliant ideas:) We were staying at the elite athletes house so after Dave, Geoff, Matt, Devon, Dave and the others went to bed we got into the serious business of discussing the current state of ultrarunning with a great group of people including the top brass at Trail Runner Magazine and Geoff Roes' parents. It was a wonderfully refreshing and far reaching conversation and one that reminded me what a truly great sport this can be.

On race day I split time between running around with Bryon doing the race coverage and recording commentary for the video clips the race organizers were producing. Both of those activities gave me a glimpse into running ultras from the spectator's side and it was a new and exciting perspective for me. I must say, I enjoyed it immensely. In particular, spending time with Bryon as he tweeted the race, sent pictures and comments out to the masses, and sought to provide an instant, inside look at the sport while battling spotty cell coverage and tricky travel logistics, was truly eye-opening. The guy is a pro and we should all feel thankful he's committed his life to our sport.

Following the event the usual post-mortem discussions ensued about the course, missed turns and the entire idea of championship ultramarathon running. I, for one, as both a runner and as a fan, was grateful for this wonderful first effort. Frannie and Gill worked tirelessly to create a truly elite event and I know all of the runners felt well taken care of. In addition, throughout the weekend, I felt the inescapable cameraderie of ultramarathoning oozing out of the entire experience. From newcomers to grizzled veterans this was clearly "next step" event. None of us are quite sure how big that step will be nor in what direction it will ultimately take us but the fact that we were moving was good, very good. And, to bring it full circle, it did not go unnoticed that Scott McCoubrey and David Horton were on hand to be part of the festivities. For those of us who've been around for awhile these two guys epitomize the "old school." Yet, there they were, in the midst of the inflatable finish line, the video crews and the prize money to simply be part of the sport they, and I, love so much. Until next time...


UROC Videos

Had a really fun day yesterday up on the Blue Ridge for the Ultra Race of Champions 100K race. I'll write a more thorough report later today but, for now, check out some of the video coverage here. I'd be curious to hear what some of you think about this experiment with same-day video of an ultra race>

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No Limits

If you haven't been over to check out this blog do so now. Good stuff.

I'll have my review of women's blogs after the weekend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I am really excited about this weekend's race here in Virginia. While I cannot run it due to this nagging case of pf I am dealing with I will be there and it should be alot of fun. In addition to the great field of runners assembled my good friend Bryon Powell is coming out from Utah to cover the race for and I am going to tag along with him (and also give him a tour of the three local craft breweries, Devil's Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain). I'll probably do a few Tweets along the way and perhaps Bryon will let me jump in to some of his pre-race interviews.

Gill and Frannie have also asked me to be part of the video coverage for the race. We'll be doing irreverent Red Carpet interviews at Wintergreen on Friday afternoon and then I'll be part of the panel discussing the race that evening from 7-8pm. Then, on race day, I'll be providing voice-over commentary for the video that will be shot. That's going to be really fun as I think it's the first time that almost live video will be posted (at least within a couple hours of it being shot) with real time commentary as an accompaniment. And, it will give me ample opportunity to wax poetic about the various athletes punishing themselves into the ground on the Blue Ridge. Here is the press release describing the video coverage:

Should be a fun weekend!


Monday, September 19, 2011


This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC for a little getaway vacation with my wife Shelly. While there we happened upon a wonderful museum called "Newseum." It is essentially a museum of news. One of the most compelling exhibits in the museum is one which depicts the rise of radio and TV and the eventual transition to the communication revolution we are currently experiencing. In a fascinating series of exhibits it does a particularly good job of describing the transition from controlled news to, essentially, open source news. That got me thinking about what's going on in the ultrarunning blogoshpere lately.

Since coming to the sport in 1995 I have been struck by the general tech savvy nature of this particular community. From Stan Jensen's website which he began over 19 years ago to the infamous "Ultralist" which was the virtual town commons for all things ultra around the turn of the century to the emergence of blogs and then the growth of social media, this sport has always drawn a particularly interesting and interested group. Anybody else remember Matt Mahoney discussing the merits of barefoot running more than 15 years ago? Or how about Karl King's extensive commentaries on electrolytes as he was in the process of inventing S! Caps? Or the inimitable Lazarus Lake's ability to make Barkley a "viral phenomenon" long before we even knew what the term meant? In short, the sort of banter and online rumination that we've been seeing over the past year or so is really nothing new. What is new, however, is the seemingly massive growth and expansion of the sources of information. And that is where I am going with all this.

At this point there seem to be two basically different types of blog sources out there; One, which is where this started, is the personal running blog. These personal ruminations are the core of the content and often provide great insight into remarkable people. On occasion these personal bloggers spill over into analysis but for the most part they are just that, personal. The second type of blog is more journalistic. While these can be personal they are, more often than not, intended to provide news and information about the sport. It is in this area where the content seems to be expanding exponentially and where occasionally the chatter devolves into personal namecalling and potentially insulting accusations. Don't get me wrong, I think the conversation is good, but when the lines are drawn between the personal and the journalistic problems emerge (as I learned with my dnf post a couple years ago).

So, for all of you reading out there, I would like to pose a three-part challenge,

One, what kind of blogger are you, personal or journalistic? You can, of course, be both but understand that your audience may have blurry vision when it comes to your content.

Two, what kind of blogs do you prefer? "AJW's Blog" will always be a personal blog with the occasional foray into amateur journalism while "" will likely remain a journalistic blog with the occasional spillover into the personal (who can forget Bryon's heart wrenching should I or shouldn't I debate about running WS this year?).

And three, remember, as my good friend Lord Balls always says, the best parts of blogging are not the posts but the comments!

That's all for now!


Sunday, September 18, 2011


Cast your vote on the sidebar to the right. Seems to me it's time to take stock of the ultrarunning blogosphere. If you wish, after casting a vote, tell us why in a comment. And, if you'd like to cast a vote for a blog not on the list, let me know.

UROC thoughts on Wednesday...


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Been busy so I haven't been able to analyze the UROY men's poll. Not surprisingly, looks to be a two-horse race between Dave and Nick. Interesting to compare the two seasons. Dave seemingly gets the nod with impressive wins at sub-100 mile distances including at least one win head-to-head with Nick (AR, there might be others). But Nick had two incredible 100 mile performances over 13 days to accompany his stellar Spring in a series of other races and did beat Dave soundly at WS100 (their only head-to-head 100). To be honest, I am not sure yet how I would vote. Perhaps they'll both show up for the NF50 in San Francisco and settle the score there. Also, the race here in Charlottesville on the 24th of September could shake things up a bit, as well.

On the women's side, it's awfully hard for me to vote for anyone other than Meghan Arbogast. But, Ellie's WS100 was faster than anyone ever not named Ann. Also, Kami had some great races. Need to see how the rest of the year plays out, of course, but that's the way I see it now.

And, for individual performance of the year on the men's side (given that Ellie gets POY on the women's side) I've gotta go with Ian Sharman's Rocky Raccoon. But, if he doesn't count because he's not American (not sure about that) Mackey's CR run at Waldo is a close second.


Monday, September 5, 2011

20 Days!

I just saw that it's official! This year will be one of those one in seven years times when the gap between the WS100 and the HRH is three weeks instead of two. I thought back in 2009 how nice it would be to do the Double in those circumstances.

Dale/Blake, please, pretty please, pick my name!

Vacation of a lifetime; run my 9th WS100, drive from Auburn to Silverton, spend 17 days exploring the San Juans, run my 2nd Hardrock. Wow, I'm having trouble breathing already.

Happy Labor Day everyone!


Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A few years ago I wrote the following article for our school newsletter. While the focus of the article is on kids and teaching it is perhaps relevant to running as well:

"Developing The Disappointment Muscle"

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to re-connect with an old friend and colleague Erik Weihenmayer. Erik and I had worked together in the late nineties at Phoenix Country Day School and had parted ways in 1999. I had gone on to work at The Head-Royce School in California and Erik left the school to pursue his dream to climb the “Seven Summits” – the highest peak on each of the seven continents. This is, of course, an incredible triumph, what makes it even more amazing is that Erik Weihenmayer is completely blind.

On the day he stood atop Mt. Everest Erik became the first blind climber to ever climb to the “top of the world.” As one might expect, that accomplishment did not come easily. In the early weeks of the expedition, Erik and his team worked their way up and down the mountain establishing base camps and rehearsing their climb. On many occasions during this training phase Erik and his team became frustrated and concerned. On their first attempt to cross the infamous Khumbu Icefall Erik required thirteen hours for the crossing. Most teams manage to cross the icefall in six or seven hours. They were in trouble. Confronting the tallest mountain in the world they were worried, anxious, and increasingly disappointed.

At this point Erik did what he had done since going blind at the age of thirteen, he turned his disappointment into success. Erik refused to let the fact that he was blind and, therefore, slow, deter him. In fact, the adversity motivated him. On the day that his team began their final assault on the mountain they crossed the Khumbu Icefall in an incredible five hours and a few days later they stood atop the world’s highest mountain.

Through hard work, discipline, and the tremendous desire to turn disappointment into success Erik and his team overcame the early frustration inherent in their situation and found the strength and fortitude to make it to the top. In the process, they made history.

By embracing his blindness and seeking out difficult challenges Erik developed a strong “Disappointment Muscle.” A psychologist friend of mine has spoken about this “muscle” and suggests that too many of us have poorly developed “disappointment muscles” as a result of too many years of being shielded and protected from adversity in an attempt to stay happy and content. As parents and teachers we must be aware that our kids need disappointment and adversity in order to find ultimate success.

Only through building resilience and courage was Erik able to climb the “Seven Summits.” By building the strongest disappointment muscle he could, he found his way to the “top of the world.” In that story, there is a lesson for us all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Follow up

Thanks to all the commenters on my last post. Trust me, I did not post the link to give it any undue attention. On the contrary, I simply wanted the readers of this blog to see it and to hear from me that I think it is mean.

Before I comment further, I want to congratulate Kilian on an amazing race and also give a shout out to Mike Foote, Nick Pedatella, Scott Jaime, Mike Wolfe, Hal Koerner, Roch Horton, Jack Pilla and Darcy Africa for great races this past weekend. And, I'd like to share my disappointment about the negative direction much of the conversation around the race is going.

I think, unfortunately, some aspects of ultrarunning are trending in a negative direction. For the last three years now we have been hearing the chorus of how the sport is changing. Most of this dialogue has centered around changes for the better (increased competition, greater exposure through sponsorship, etc...) and some for the worse (increased exclusivity in events with lotteries, environmental impact of big races, etc...) but few of the comments on the changes have crossed over into this trash talking area. That is what concerns me most about the derogatory nature of the previous post. It appears as though the friendly, civil, we're-all-in-this-together ethos that has long characterized the sport of ultrarunning is going away. I, for one, don't like it and call on all of us to reverse this trend.

Certainly, the competition in the sport is great and I love toeing the line at WS every year knowing how difficult it will be to fight through to the end. Am I best friends with all my fellow competitors? No. Are there certain people I take pleasure in finishing in front of? Absolutely. But, do I, at the end of the day, respect them? Certainly. Always.

A small little example from this past year's WS100: After Highway 49 I was surprised to come up on the 8th place runner who turned out to be Dave Mackey. Now, let's be clear, I have never been close to Dave Mackey toward the end of a race and it was pretty exciting to be passing him. Of course, it was not all that exciting for him so my lead over him was short lived. In fact, ten minutes after I passed him he passed me back and that was that. Did Dave want to beat me? Absolutely. Do we respect eachother? Undoubtedly. Was there any trash talk around this after the race? No. Dave is one of the classiest guys in the sport and he's been doing this for a long time. Who can forget his epic battle with Scott Jurek in the 2004 WS100? A battle, by the way, that was so intense, that in his post race speech Scott credited Dave with pushing him to the Course Record. That is dignified, civil, and respectful. The way it should be. The way it's always been. I know I sound old fashioned, but it's true.

Now, ever since my post a few years ago about whether or not dnf's should be considered in the Ultrarunner of the Year voting I have taken a bit of heat for being disrespectful of the dnf and several good natured posters seem to be eagerly awaiting my first dnf. For me, that's neither here nor there but it does inspire me every time I race. In addition, since the race at UTMB over the weekend, several people have asked me to comment on all the dnf's there. All I will say is that I believe those dnf's should be considered part of each runner's performance list in this year's UROY voting. However, given that I know none of the details of the reasons behind the dnf's I have no reason to judge. In fact, from my perspective, it is up to each runner to judge his/her performance in his/her own individual way and the rest of the world can take it or leave it. And, since I personally know many of the folks who dnf'd at UTMB, I can say with certainty that nobody is more disappointed about their dnf's than them. In that group you have, quite simply, some of the greatest American ultrarunners of this generation and I am sure we are all a bit disappointed that so many did not finish. I know many of us (I was literally glued to my phone all day following Meghan's posts on Twitter) were hoping for an American victory. It was not to be on this day. Knowing the toughness and resilience of many of those runners I can assure you they already have the date for the 2012 UTMB circled on their calendars and, in a way, the offensive post I posted on my blog will likely only add fuel to the American fire. A fire, quite frankly, that burns in each of us. Always has. Always will.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Much to say about this race that I will do so in time but this came across my desk and raised my eyebrows today:

Not sure what to think about that but it sure is mean.


Sunday, August 21, 2011


Well, it's been 5 years since I last got injured. It was a classic runner's injury when I came down with IT Band Syndrome seven weeks before WS. Now, to make it a "daily double", I've got a brutal case of PF. It's been nagging for about 8 months now but it's finally gotten to the point where I need to shut things down for a bit. I limped through the last five miles of my run yesterday and had to hop to the bathroom this morning because the pain was so bad.

Today, I'll be dusting off the swimming goggles, hitting the drugstore for some heel pads, and joining a gym. I guess it was inevitable after five years of injury-free running that I'd succumb to one of the classic ailments. Any and all readers out there with advice about this capricious injury please drop me a note.


PS -- Highlights from yesterday; BroncoBilly's excellent finish at LT. Mackey's CR at Waldo and my man Brad Mitchell's impressive 2:47 in the Pike's Peak Ascent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WS100 Website

Someone just showed me this.

Yikes, Twiet used to be there! I wonder what it means?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shoulder Season

I have had a funny stretch of running since WS this year. While I feel fully recovered and am getting excited about the upcoming fall season (I'm running UROC, Grindstone and Masochist) I have been a bit slow to bounce back.

Maybe it's a combination of age, a new job, and the oppressive July humidity in Virginia but I have found it quite easy to bail out on runs and just go with the flow. Probably good, in the long run, but still a bit curious given the fact that running is, aside from my family, the most important thing in my life.

And, it is in that context that I am really excited about the next 24 hours. You see, circumstances have impelled me to return to the Mountain West this weekend (I am actually on the plane now) and while the visit will be quite short (I return on a redeye flight out of Salt Lake on Saturday night) I am fortunate enough to have two great runs with friends to look forward to.

As I know I have written about here before, most of my running is done solo and I like it that way. In fact, I like to say that running brings out my "inner introvert" (if there is such a thing). Ironically enough, it is in the world of my running that I also have some of my best friends in the world. And, over the next 18 hours I'll be hitting the trails with a few of them.

First, this evening I am meeting up with my good friend and editor-in-chief of Bryon Powell for a run on the Wasatch Front 100 Course. Bryon and I love running the trails with one another and I can assure you if there is anyone else out on the trail this evening they'll be sure to know we're there as we'll be chattering away like schoolgirls at a sleepover from start to finish.

After that run I am going to drive up to Sun Valley and tomorrow morning meet up with my friends and long-time training buddies Brad Mitchell (, Hank Dart ( and possibly Mike Stevens and Travis Vandenberg as well. We are heading out to the mountains north of Ketchum for a "Three Lakes Loop" that takes in Prairie, Miner and Norton Lakes while traversing 18 miles all between 7000 and 10,000 feet. That has the added bonus of being the location of many school backpack trips back at my old school in Sun Valley and is quite simply one of the prettiest sections of mountain singletrack in the area.

So, I am guessing that these two runs will jump start my fall running season and connect me back to what I love most, sharing beautiful mountain trails with good friends. I'll follow-up with a report from the weekend early next week.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Of all the traits that I admire in ultrarunners by far the most significant trait is consistency. There is something about this sport that requires it, demands it and, in the end, rewards it.

We see it in so many aspects of the ultrarunners life. The training requires an often mind-numbing regularity. Get up, run, get through the day, eat, sleep, repeat. Over and over. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. The race calendar provides some structure to this pattern and also inspires and motivates us. But, in the end, the desire to succeed in ultrarunning requires an almost machine-like attention to simply getting it done. And, if you think consistency is hard, go check out the September 2001 Ultrarruning Magazine results and see how many runners listed in the results there are still running today.

And all that, my friends, is why I am awed and inspired by Jennifer Pharr-Davis. Less than a week from now, barring a major disaster, Jennifer will establish a new standard for speed on the most storied trail in our country, the Appalachian Trail. Assuming she gets to the southern end of the trail in time (47 days and 13 hours from the start) she will have set the record. And, not just any record, but a record that has been passed between Horton and Thompson, attempted by Meltzer, others, etc...Oh yeah, Jennifer is also a woman! I dare say, this is downright Trasonesque.

Now, I don't know Jennifer (or her husband Brew, what an awesome name!) but I can assure you she is tough. Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And, I hope to have the honor of meeting her some day. Her consistency on this journey has been downright scary. Up every morning at 4:30am, on the trail shortly after 5, wrapping up the day around 8:50pm she has clipped off 45-55 mile days like it's nothing. Day after day, mile after mile, she has simply put one foot in front of the other and gotten it done. Faster than anyone else, ever. I would love to be there with her on that last day. I hope she rips off a 100!

Over the next few days I'll be following Jennifer's progress and I urge you to do the same. Doing something well, better, and faster than anyone else ever has, requires something few of us have. Doing it for seven consecutive weeks is uncanny. From my perspective, it's worth celebrating, savoring, and honoring.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My letter to the Ultra List back in 2004

Dear Ultra Running Community,

I am writing to the list to share my story of acute renal failure. I do
not post to the list often but I feel that this story is important for the
community to know. I would welcome any questions or comments in regard to
this report especially from any medical professionals who may be out

Some people on this list know me and many do not so let me start with a
bit of background and then a brief description of what happened to me.

I am a 37 year old male ultrarunner. I am 6 feet tall and 170 pounds. I
have been running ultras since 1997. I ran my first 100 miler in 2000
(Angeles Crest) and knew from that point on that I had "found" my
distance. In five years I have run 7 100 milers (3 AC's, 2 VT's, and 2
WS's). 100 milers have become the focus of my training and the highlight
of my year. In 2003 and 2004 I ran two each (VT and AC in 2003 and WS and
AC in 2004). Aside from the usual aches and pains associated with
recovery from 100 mile races I have never needed medical intervention
following a race and have always felt pretty much back to normal about a
week after a race.

This year at AC my story was very different. I had what I felt was a very
good race this year finishing in 19:53 and taking 15 minutes off my time
from last year. After finishing I was completely wiped out but doing OK.
I spent about 4 hours in the med tent and slept pretty well. I had a
massage and was hobbling about in my usual post-100 miler daze. The first
indication that something was not quite right came at about 9:00 AM Sunday
when I had a single episode of brown, coffee colored urine. It was not
painful and it was only one episode. I told my wife about it and we
essentially passed it off as a deep, yellow urine that was simply the
result of dehydration. I continued to push fluids and felt OK. The drive
back home was uneventful and I made it it work on Monday.

That afternoon I began to feel flu-like symptoms and decided to stay home
from work on Tuesday to recover from what I thought was the flu. I had
low-grade fever and general body aches. I just couldn't seem to shake
these symptoms. I continued to urinate normally but my muscle soreness
was not improving. In addition, I felt something in my stomach and back
that felt like constipation. By Friday the pain had not increased at all
but the general malaise I felt was still present. The "constipation"
feeling persisted and I had no energy. Finally, on Saturday afternoon
(one week after the race) I went to the hospital and was evaluated in the
Emergency Room. The doctors concluded that I had a severe case of
Radbomyolysis (muscle protein in the kidneys) and that I was in acute
renal failure. After five days in the hospital, 18 litres of fluid, one
kidney ultrasound, and many hours of contemplating my future in running
100 mile races I returned home humbler and more mortal that I have ever
been before.

Of course, I have many questions about this whole thing: Why did this
happen in my 7th 100 miler? Can I run these things anymore? Are there any
warning signs besides the brown urine? Can I train to avoid this? Is
there anybody out there with a similar story?

Today my kidneys are back to 90% of normal function and the doctors
anticipate full recovery. In the hospital I ballooned to 203 pounds
before beginning to shed the fluid and now I continue to urinate every 30
minutes and I am feeling like I might even be able to go for a short run
this weekend. All in all, this was a serious wake-up call for me and one
which I will not ever forget. I hope this story can help future runners
avoid renal failure and perhaps even motivate more 100 milers to take
blood tests after races to determine myoglobin content in ailing runner's

Please do not hesitate to contact me off line with comments, questions, or


Andy Jones-Wilkins

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A few emails I received combined with some of the chatter over on Craig's blog has impelled me to share a bit of my thoughts about renal failure, ibuprofen, training, and running 100 miles. So, in that order, here goes:

In the 2004 AC100 after finishing 2nd to G Medina I peed brown, had flu like symptoms for 5 days following the race and ended up spending 8 days in the hospital getting IV's and blowing up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man. Turns out my CPK had been 145,000 and my creatine upwards of 8.0. Dangerous stuff. After recovering and doing a bit of soul-searching I met extensively with a nephrologist at Kaiser in Oakland. The end-game of the conversation went something like this:

Me: Doc, I want to keep running these things. What do I need to do?
Doc: Well, the muscle damage you did here means you ran beyond your body's ability to handle the pain. So, what you need to do is pretty simple; you can either slow-down or stop the next time the pain gets this bad or you can train harder so that the pain never gets this bad again.

You can guess which option I chose.

I also swore off Ibuprofen on that day because of this little exchange:

Me: Some people have said I got this because of Advil. You think that's true?
Doc: Look, Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory, therefore, it's job is to basically shrink things in your body. The last thing you want to happen in your kidneys is for the tubules that process the waste out of your body to shrink.
Me: OK, so if I don't take Ibuprofen the tubules will stay open.
Doc: Yup

So, I started training harder, racing less, and getting my blood tested after every 100 miler I ran. So far, it's worked.

I'll try to dig up the extensive report I wrote after my 2004 experience but, in the meantime, if anybody out there wants to discuss please drop me a line.

Finally, if you're keeping score at home my CPK's for the last 6 WS100's I've run have been 18,000 (2nd place, cool day), 42,000 (hot year, went in injured), 5,000 (4th to Koerner, Skaden, Cooper), 14,000 (scrapped out a 10th place after coming in under-trained), 18,000 (steady 9th on a benign day), 15,200 (PR on a very good day)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nick Clark!

They don't get much tougher than this guy. I am psyched for him and his incredible accomplishment over the past 15 days.

As for me, I hope to be able to do the WS/HRH double next year. Not like I will ever beat his time (I don't think anyone will!) but because there is no better way to spend the best three weeks of the year than running WS and HRH.

Nick is an honest-to-goodness class act who knows how to train, how to race, how to listen and how to live. And, along the way, he also pays attention, has gotten a grip on patience, and keeps the leash flexible. There are always guys in this sport who come and go, we've, sadly, seen more of them in the past few years, I am certain that Nick is here to stay and I am honored to call him a friend.

Buddy, see you in Squaw (and hopefully, in Silverton)


Thursday, July 7, 2011


I think this year's Hardrock will go down like this:

1. Karl Meltzer 24:30. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment to Karl and he is primed and ready. Plus, going up the "ramps" and down the "walls" plays into his favor. 2-1

2. Nick Clark 25:05. Even though some are doubting Nick's ability to "double" I am not. I predict he starts off steady and reels in the carnage with Scott Jaime by his side after Telluride. 3-1

3. Jared Campbell 27:55. Steady, solid, smart...Jared will be ahead of Nick at Ouray but will settle for 3rd. He will finish strong which he did not do the last time the race went in this direction. 5-1

4. Dakota Jones 28:10. The "WonderBoy" the "Prince of Silverton" will start out hard and be on sub-24 hour pace at Ouray. But, alas, this is a big race and the torrid pace will cost him. He's tough, he'll finish, but 4th is what I'm thinking. 9-2

5. Darcy Africa 28:20. Darcy has gotten tougher with each successive 100 miler she has run and I think she has paced herself well coming into this year's race. It'll be a battle until Telluride but from there she'll pull away. 7-1

6. Diana Finkel 28:55. I have to imagine the issues from last year will linger just a bit. She'll fight hard and maybe even be in the mix for the overall early in the day but by the end I think Darcy will be too tough. 8-1

Man, I wish I could be there!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some Final Thoughts on WS100 2011

Having had a few days now to let it all sink in here are a few more thoughts:

While all the incredibly fast times are a sign of the changes taking place in the sport I also believe this year's course and conditions were very, very fast. I would guess that for me, if we had run the original course, I would have been 30 minutes slower. And, if you were to add to that normal race day heat, perhaps slower still. I, for one, am really hoping we can return to the standard course next year (and 110 degree tempratures, as well;).

Of all the amazing performances, these stand out:

Mike Wolfe - super-strong debut WS. Sure, he's proven himself in shorter distances and in other 100's but this is the Big Dance and he brought his A-Game. Ellie Greenwood did, too.

Nick Clark - Even on a sub-par day he made the podium and went under 16 hours. He has established himself as one of the toughest runners around. Now, we'll see what he can do in the San Juans. Hopefully, he won't waste so much energy choosing his shoes.

Tim Olson - I'll be honest, I kept waiting for him to come back to me. And, he didn't. Not even close! He's another "young gun" we should all keep an eye on in the years ahead.

Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball - Seeing these two friends and grizzled ultra veterans sprint around the track for 2nd place really warmed my heart. Especially after finding out that they had to outsmart a bear to get there.

Graham Cooper - I know many people did not have the 2006 winner on their pre-race top-10 lists but I did. Graham called me in March and told me he had quit his job to train full-time. The last time he had done that was in 2006. Please, would someone out there give Graham a job for next year:)

Ian Sharman - I used to think I was a good closer but Ian is a master. He was six minutes behind me at Brown's and finished just 49 seconds off. And, that after he lost 15 minutes in Volcano. If this guy is anywhere close with 10 miles to go, watch out.

Dan Olmstead - This former marathoner was swayed over to the Dark Side by Thornley a few years ago and ended up being carted off in an ambulance from Highway 49 with rhabdo back in 2009. This year, he returned to take care of unfinished business. And, he did.

Bryon Powell - What a great race for him. Maybe more of us need to turn our passion into our purpose.

Meghan Arbogast - Maybe the race of the day from my perspective. She knocked three hours off the women's 50-and-over course record and missed the men's record for that age-group by a mere 6 minutes. That's a record that has been held for 22 years and has been challenged by a who's who of ultra greats.

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank all of the readers of this blog who have written in here, on Facebook and on other blogs to congratulate me on my race. Since 2005 I have lived with the idea that my best WS was behind me. Now, I am not so sure. Thanks everyone!


PS -- It appears as though there will be a changing of the guard in the Race Director position at WS100 as Greg Soderland has announced that next year will be his last year. If the race organizers are looking to replace Greg with someone who has a tireless work ethic, a deep understanding of the history and culture of the WS100, and a passion for running than they need look no further than Craig Thornley.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Western States 100 - 2011 Race Report

This year’s Western States 100 was incredible! In the weeks and days leading up to the race much attention was paid to the snow conditions, the course changes and the impending battle for the 2011 title. In addition, the Master’s field was stacked and the temperatures were forecast to be benign and possibly even downright pleasant. In short, the stage was set for an epic race.

Off the gun I was struck by the somewhat relaxed pace that the guys up front were setting. Possibly because the front of the pack was completely packed with experienced runners and the field of potential winners was so broad, everyone felt the need to get the lay of the land before making any moves. And so it went up to the top of the Escarpment.

Over the top I settled into a relaxed pace and got ready for the snow. It felt like I was in about 20th place and bobbed and weaved through the snow with a pack made up of Glen Redpath, Sim Jae Duk, Tsuyoshi Kaburagi, and Dan Olmstead. We also all blew past Graham Cooper who, I must say, looked like he was running on snow for the first time in his life!

We made it out of the snow in about 2:10 and rolled onto the road to the Poppy Aid Station. As it had last year, this section proved to be smooth and fast and in about 35 minutes we were at Poppy just short of 20 miles in. The singletrack section along the reservoir went by quickly and we opened up into the slashed out trail up the Duncan Canyon Aid Station. Here I caught up to Dave James and Ian Sharman blew past me. We hit the aid right around 3:30. Out of Duncan, our sparse group consisted of Ian, Glen, Dan, Sim, Tsuyoshi, and I.

We rolled on through the new sections of trail for a few miles and then things opened up onto the pavement of Mosquito Ridge Road. Here, Tsuyoshi and Sim moved ahead, Dave dropped a bit behind, and Dan, Glen and I continued our game of uphill/downhill tag. We got into Mosquito Ridge at about 4:42 and headed out on the four-mile loop that the organizers put in to make up the miles missed by not going through Robinson Flat.

It took about 30 minutes from here to get back up onto the original course and then we took the nice smooth road down to Miller’s Defeat (Mile 35ish). The race for the "second 5" was beginning to take shape.

The section from Miller’s Defeat to the Swinging Bridge has always been one of my favorites. Mainly due to the fact that it is generally all downhill and quite smooth, it has often been a place where I can pass a few of the early frontrunners and to get an idea of how I might figure in the final standings. But, on this day, I also had a few surprises.

First, as I was leaving Dusty Corners at Mile 38 I saw Geoff Roes emerging from the aid station after spending a bit time collecting himself. I had no idea, up until then, that he was struggling. It kind of reminded me of 2007 when, in the exact same place, I saw Brian Morrison pulling out of the race. Shortly after that, about two miles before Last Chance, we came upon Ian Sharman who I had thought was ahead by at least 10 minutes but, as it turned out, was also having a bit of a bad patch. So, along with Shaun Pope (22-year old Ice Age 50 winner), Geoff, Ian and I rolled into Last Chance at 6:40. The pace was clearly fast and this was going to be a very interesting day.

I ended up getting out of Last Chance first as I noticed Tsuyoshi leaving the aid station and thought I might be able to get a bit of ground on the descent into Deadwood. It turned out I didn’t have much more in my downhill legs than he did in his as he got to the bottom about a minute before me. It was the last I would see of him all day.

It was awesome to see Scott Dunlap dressed up in his devil costume down on the Swinging Bridge and after a quick dunk in the spring at the bottom I was off on the climb. I ended up getting through Deadwood Canyon in just under an hour which has always been a bit of a benchmark for me. Sim caught me at the aid station and we headed into El Dorado together. I got over the bridge before him but he quickly pulled ahead and got into Michigan Bluff about a minute in front of me. It was a few minutes before 2pm. Then, while I was checking in with my crew, Graham Cooper came blasting past me. Apparently, he had recovered from his lame running through the snow and was ready to give chase. I left Michigan Bluff with both Sim and Graham ahead of me. I also got my first report about the entire field and learned that I was sitting in 12th place. Given the experience and strength ahead I knew top-10 was going to be a stretch. It was time to put my head down and just go.

I was able to get past Sim on the descent to Volcano but I never saw Graham again. Scott Wolfe, my pacer, and Logan, my 11-year old son, met me at the bottom of Bath Road and we made quick work of that climb. Getting into Foresthill shortly before 3pm I did some quick math and thought about getting down to the River by 5:30 and through Green Gate before 6. 16:45 was on the table but I would have to summon the ghosts of 2005 in order to do it.

After Foresthill I left the solid foods behind and began my typical gel every half-an-hour routine combined with chicken broth and S! Caps. Beginning the descent to the River my stomach was feeling great, my quads were holding together, and my feet were intact. We caught and passed Mike Foote on the first downhill and cleared Cal 1 at 3:30. Then, halfway down the “Elevator Shaft” about five minutes before Cal 2, we came up on Hal Koerner and his pacer Erik Skaggs on the side of the trail. We learned later that Hal’s quads were trashed and that the 2-time WS champion would call it a day at Cal 2. Just like that I was in 9th place. The “hunter” quickly became the “hunted”.

After Cal 2, Scott paced me to my best Cal 2-to-the-River split in eight years and I jumped onto the boat ready to make quick work of the climb to Green Gate. I got up there by 5:55pm, had a quick shot of chicken broth, and left with Jeff Hutson, my second pacer.

My one-hour split to ALT was only average and my mind began to wander to those who were behind me as well as those who were ahead of me. We learned that Graham and Dave Mackey (who I had not seen all day) were 5-7 minutes ahead and that Dan and Ian were closing behind me. When I hit Brown’s Bar at Mile 90, a mere 12 minutes separated places 7-11. Clearly, the battle for M10 had taken shape.

When I got to Highway 49 at 8:25pm Dave was just leaving the aid station, then, when I was leaving, Dan ran in with Ian only a minute or so behind him. Knowing that Ian and Dan had serious leg speed and had proven to be "closers" I told Scott that we would need to run sub-70 to the finish if I was going to keep the top-10 streak alive. He said, "We'll run a 68!"

We passed Dave at the top of the climb and tried to get a gap on the descent. But Dave is a very tough, strong and determined runner and he was not going to give up that #8 spot without a fight. About a mile up from No Hands Bridge (which I crossed, for the first time in 8 tries, in the last waning minutes of daylight), Dave passed me and pulled quickly away. With no uphill pep left in my legs my attention, once again, was re-redirected behind me. I had heard the cheers from No Hands and guessed that #10 was within 90 seconds so it was not surprising that when we hit the pavement at Robie Point and looked back down on the trail a light was bobbing up about a minute behind. For the third consecutive year, I was under top-10 stress with a mile to go.

We hit the raging one mile-to-go party and fell into a steady, painful run. It was probably 8:50 pace but felt more like 5:50. My son Logan, who had run out to join us in this final victory jog, was pressed into duty as a sentry as we told him to keep his head on a swivel and keep an eye out for Ian’s/Dan’s light until we were over the white bridge.

By the time we hit the track I felt like I could relax a little. My youngest son Tully came out to join us for the final 250 and I smiled all the way around the track. As I crossed the line and began to wallow in the post-race euphoria I couldn’t help but think about how far I have come since my first top-10 back in 2004. As a runner, as a friend, as a husband, as a father and, indeed, as a person, this race has shaped me, changed me, and taught me how to be a better human being. For me, that has been the greatest gift of the Western States 100.

And, I must admit, I am already looking forward to Race #9 in 2012 and, especially, Race #10 in 2013. There is no doubt that next year the top-10 streak will once again be tested but I actually think I like the challenge.

In fact, I know I do!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have been thoroughly enjoying the last few days before the Big Dance this year. We arrived in Squaw Valley on Tuesday and have had a couple great runs and some wonderful family time in the Tahoe Basin.

But, now, it's game time.

It’s been interesting to look at the polling data from the blog over the past week or so. It appears as though the prognosticators see it as a two-man race between Geoff Roes and Killian Jornet with a strong chase pack of Nick Clark, Hal Koerner and Dave Mackey.

It's after those five fast guys that things get interesting.

Clearly, Mike Wolfe, Ian Sharman, Tsuyoshi Kaburagi and Jez Bragg have the inside track on the rest of the top-10 but beyond that it gets very, very interesting. Truly, this could be one of the most competitive top-10's in recent years.

As many who read this blog know I am somewhat obsessed with Western States and, in particular, the top-10. That said, I will be the first to say that this year will be my toughest test yet. (And Meltzer has already predicted my 15th place finishJ)

Back in 2004 when I first cracked the top-10 the gap between the winning time (Jurek’s then CR) and 10th place was over three hours. Last year, even with Geoff’s new CR, the gap between the winner and 10th placewas two and a half hours. Furthermore, back in 2007, I arrived in Michigan Bluff in 10th place and finished 4th. Just last year, I cleared Last Chance, a full 12 miles earlier than Michigan Bluff, in 10th place and ended up only finishing 9th. In other words, top-10 is getting harder. It is clearly the place for this sports badasses!

Looking ahead to this year with the easier course, the fast melting snow, and the forecast benign temperatures I am guessing that the winner will run under 15 hours and a top-10 finish will require a sub-17 hour run. Of course, time will tell and these things always have a way of sorting themselves out, but for me, I am getting to work tonight on my 16:45 split card.

I hope to see many of you at the panel discussion that I will be facilitating tomorrow night at the Squaw Valley Lodge at 6:30pm with Jim Scott, Scott Mills, Luanne Park, Craig Thornley and Nikki Kimball.

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Snow Course

The 2011 Snow Course has been posted here

Thoughts? What kind of runners does it favor? Has anyone been on these new sections of trail? How does everyone feel about no crew access until Michigan Bluff? So many questions...

Going to be exciting!

Some Course info from Gary Wang...

I measured the distance from top of Poppy to entrance to the Glen Mine
Logging Road.
The Duncan Aid station will be next to the Mosquito Ridge Road.
from top of Poppy to the road is 0.1 mile

>From top of Poppy, thru first section of new trail to the red star ridge
road (1.48 mile)

>From red star ridge road, down to the bridge, then up to the gate at Glen
mine (1.22 mile)

from red star ridge road to the bridge is 0.7 mile. You will be on the road
bridge when you cross Duncan Creek.
You will have dry feet from Duncan to N43.

I didn't get on Glen Mine Road at all, but if you look at the google map you
can see it in aerial map.
It will go away from the Mosquito ridge, and drop elevation, then you will
climb back up to N43.
This section is about 6 miles. Fireroad.

>From N43, you follow the road toward little Bald Mt. then drop back into the
normal course.
expect snow there.

And this, from Tim...

Only 1.2 on pavement, the rest is good fire road or double-track other than a few meters out of Duncan where it was a junior Poppy trail from last year. If I had any advice for someone that hasn’t done the new stuff is to beware of the climb to 31 miles. Lots of downhill before that but then you climb 800 feet in just over a mile and it’s exposed at the top. You’ll want to max out with water before leaving Duncan. It’s 7.5 miles but the heat should be noticeable by then. You climb again after you cross MRR. Difficulty wise, I’d say it’s a wash compared to last year other than there’s at least three more feet of snow on the ground. It’ll be solid snow from the GC sign to when you get out of snow on Road 51 near Talbot. There’s snow almost down to Dusty Corners. All should be good by Friday.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Week out

It's been a different and difficult year for us going into Western States this year and I think it's been good. We moved out of our house in Sun Valley this past Thursday and are currently with family in Bend, OR before heading down to Squaw Valley on Monday. All in all, we are ready for WS 100 #8 and hoping for the best.

But, the last year has got me thinking about why I run. And, in particular, why I run 100 miles. You see, it seems to me that with everything life throws at you, especially in this day and age, it is important, if not essential, to have that thing that grounds you in pure human existence. For us, right now, it is important to have a place in your life where you can go to be normal, honest, and whole. A place that is at once wholly ours and wholly shared.

For me, not surprisingly, that place of peace is on the run. And, it is, most specifically, on that iconic stretch of trail between Squaw Valley and Auburn. I know there are many people who feel this way but when I run I am truly whole. When I run I am able to find and occupy that place that allows me to be fully me and I can find answers to questions that are seemingly unanswerable in other contexts. It is, quite simply, the essence of who I am.

So, going into this last week before the race, I am determined to soak it all in. I am determined to bask in the beauty and the wonder of running 100 miles across the California countryside. And, in the process to leave it all out there in one more run for the ages.

I can't wait to see everyone in Squaw!