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