Wednesday, December 31, 2008
2008 - By The Numbers
Now that the year is over I can go into my log and instantly get all of my training/racing stats for the year. Pretty sweet.
Classic XC Skiing:
Skate XC ski:
Backcountry XC skiing:
Two things really jump out at me about these numbers. First the fact that I spent almost as much time biking this year as running! I guess it just doesn't feel that way because almost all of my biking was in the first half of the year. The second thing is that I just did not cross country ski enough this past year. Only 42 total miles of skate skiing and 130 of classic. Two years ago I probably did close to 1,000 skiing miles.
It's also interesting to me to note my total miles racing this year.
Running miles raced: 536
Biking miles raced: about 1,500
536 miles of running races is probably more than the total running miles that I had raced in my entire life before this year, but if things go as planned I will have raced over 480 miles in the first 9 weeks of 2009! If I remain healthy (knock on wood) and am able to finish the Iditarod Invitational in March I might end up approaching 1,000 miles of racing in 2009! Until 2007 I doubt that I had ever even run 1,000 miles in a year in my life let alone raced 1,000 miles.
That's all for now. Happy New Year to all.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
If you want them just send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can settle up on the shipping cost through Paypal or you can send me a check. First email I receive gets the shoes so if you don't hear back from me it means someone else beat you to it.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Tonight though I was starting to feel like I just hadn't really turned my legs over enough in the past several days so I went to the gym to get in a little tempo work on the treadmill (and lift some weights). I ran fast for the first time this month and it felt really good.
I'm not sure how much all this cross training will help for the HURT 100 which is now less than 3 weeks away, but ultimately I'm training more for the Iditarod Invitational right now and certainly all this trudging through deep snow on ski, foot, and snowshoe will help immensely in my preparation for that race.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
In an unrelated note: check out this New York Times story about The Iditarod Invitational. I recommend checking out the video on the page as well. The story will be appearing in Wednesday's New York Times Sports section if you're one of those old fashioned types, like me, who still reads the actual paper.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Enough With All The Sun Already
It's supposed to snow tomorrow and I'm more than ready for the change. One problem with all this clear weather is that we really don't have very much snow at all so the skiing just isn't very good yet. I went skiing for about 30 minutes yesterday but other than that I haven't even bothered yet this winter. As much as I love cross country skiing it always takes me a month or so of winter before I'm really into it. I think most people get excited for things from not doing them for a long time, but I tend to be the opposite. I tend to more or less forget how much I enjoy things when I don't do them for awhile, so when I do start doing them again it always takes several times before I really start to enjoy it again. I'm sure a month from now I'll be getting out on my skis 2 or 3 days a week but right now I'm just more excited about my running, even though that's about all I've been doing for the past 5 months.
Friday, December 19, 2008
To Hardrock Or Not To Hardrock?
Why such a sudden interest in Western States? It doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the race itself, but instead with the lineup of runners that are slated to toe the line there this year. This could very well be the best field of competition that I will ever have the chance to run against in a 100 miler! By my count there are over 20 guys signed up who would almost certainly fit into the top 30 or so hundred mile runners in the country right now! It's a lot easier to count the fast guys who aren't going to be there than it is to count the ones that are. Take a look at this poll that Jon Olsen has been running on his blog for several weeks now (it's in the sidebar on the right side of his blog). Of the 12 runners who have 4 votes or more only three of them are not currently on the Western States roster - Meltzer, K. Skaggs, and me. And well over half of the other runners on this informal poll are also running Western States, as well as a few more fast guys who aren't in this poll (including Jon himself). This race will be one of those rare oppurtunities in ultra running where the winner will be able to claim that on that particular day there is no one in the country who could have beaten them - especially if Kyle gets into the mix as I have to suspect he will. Now if only someone could talk Matt C. and Uli S. into running it.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Team Montrail consists of about 20 ultra runners from all over the country who, I'm learning, are treated very well in regards to free and/or reduced price gear so this deal will help A LOT with my training/racing expenses in 2009. More than this though, I think this will be a great opportunity to become more involved in ultra running and the ultra running community. Montrail sponsors dozens of races throughout the year and encourages their athletes (through financial assistance) to get out to these races as well as to get involved with clinics, coaching, camps, and any other ways in which their athletes are interacting with other runners. Racing is without a doubt still my primary focus, and likely will be for at least the next few years, but I could see myself interested in pursuing an involvement in ultra running that will go beyond however many years I have left in which I'm interested in racing as much as I am now. I think this deal with Montrail has potential to be the beginning of slowly moving toward more involvement in ultra running, beyond just the racing. And if not, it's still really sweet to know that I'll be running in my favorite shoes, free of charge, for at least the next year. Hell yeah!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
One In A Thousand?
I know there is a HUGE difference between running 5 and 10k's and running ultra marathons, but I can't help but wonder just how many of the tens of thousands of runners who were and are much faster than me at shorter distances could be elite ultra runners if they decided to devote the time to it? On one hand I feel like very few of these runners have the mental strength, tenacity, and patience to make great ultra runners, but on the other hand there are so many people out there who can run so much faster than me at anything under a marathon that certainly many of them should be able to be very fast ultra runners as well.
There is the "cream rises to the top" idea that perhaps runners who are genetically made up to be elite ultra runners tend to come to realize this sooner or later. On top of this is the fact that being an elite ultra runner almost certainly requires that you passionately enjoy running or you're just going to get burnt out from all the training that is required. There may be thousands of runners who have the physical potential to be top ultra runners, but don't enjoy it enough to ever put in the time to get to that level. But there is also the idea that there just might be thousands of runners out there who have the ability to be elite ultra runners but they just don't ever pursue it because they simply aren't aware of their abilities or just aren't interested in running that far.
The question then that this raises is if the elite ultra runners in the country (Jurek, Krupicka, Skaggs, Carpenter, Steidl, Meltzer, Koerner, Pacheco, Mackey, etc.) do in fact represent, for the most part, the best ultra runners in the country or would these names just be anonymous names mixed in with thousands of other runners if ultra running were as popular and as widely contested as 5k, 10k, and marathons? Am I actually a better ultra runner than the 100+ runners who beat me in one race 12 years ago in college would be if they decided to train for and focus on ultra races? I'm really not sure what the answer is to this question. What do you all think?
Monday, December 8, 2008
The Long Version - North Face Endurance Challenge Race Report
20 minutes later I found myself jogging the half mile from my campsite to the race start.
10 minutes later we were off and running.
It quickly occurred to me that I didn't really know who any of these guys were. The front runners quickly grouped into a pack of about 15 guys, but it was dark and I had, to my knowledge, only ever raced against one of these guys (Hal Koerner at Miwok earlier this year). I also knew which one Kyle Skaggs was, but beyond that I had no idea. What I did know was that I was blessed that day with some decent uphill spring in the legs. It's funny with uphill running. Some days it just doesn't feel like you're ever going uphill and other days it feels like you're going uphill the entire time. Lucky for me Saturday felt like it was going to be one of those good uphill days.
Eventually our group consisted of 13 and I found myself pulling easily to the front of the field on the climbs and falling back on the downhills. On the switchback climb from Muir Beach (mile 13) daylight broke and we were finally able to turn off our headlamps as we formed a single file line on the narrow trail to climb up toward Pantoll, with me in the front. In places these switchbacks were so short and tight that I could look to my side and see a continuous snake of the other 12 guys winding down around two full switchbacks. Still I was feeling very comfortable climbing and even considered for a bit making a move to try to shake the field up a bit. I wanted someone to go with me. I had no interest in breaking away by myself that early on. Kyle was running just behind me through this stretch but didn't seem very intent on trying to pull away from the others so I decided to just hang tight. Eventually the trail opened up and Matt Carpenter, Shiloh Mielke, and I pulled a bit ahead of the pack as we rolled into Pantoll (mile 18).
I had some friends lined up as a tentative crew but I had left a drop bag at Pantoll in case they weren't there. I didn't see my crew so I fumbled through my drop bag to get a second Gel flask and a bottle of Perpetuem, and drop off my headlamp, arm warmers, and earband. By the time I rolled out of there (perhaps 90 seconds later) I was behind the two runners who had rolled in the same time as me, as well as 3 or 4 others who didn't waste as much time at the aid station. For a few minutes I was a bit frustrated that my lack of organization and planning had just cost me precious time at that stage of the race, but quickly I remembered that in the large picture it almost certainly didn't matter and that I just needed to focus ahead of me, and that the race was really just getting started.
By the time we all rolled through Stinson Beach Aid Station (mile 21) we were grouped back together in a tight group of at least 7 or 8. Shiloh was a bit out ahead, but I felt a lot more comfortable being in a chase group with Kyle and Matt than being the guy out in front being chased. By the top of the climb it was once again Shiloh, Matt, and I running stride for stride with each other. Kyle and Uli were not far behind.
This was the point when Matt made his move. At about mile 25 he just took off and I kind of knew that I shouldn't go with him, or I would pay dearly later on. It was also right around this point that Shiloh pulled up and started walking, shortly after he had finished telling me that this was his first ultra ever! I guess he doesn't have the endurance mentality totally figured out just yet, but certainly a name to keep on the radar in the future.
By the mile 26 turn around Matt had about a one minute lead on me and Uli Stiedl was about a minute behind me and Kyle Skaggs and Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, from Japan, were maybe 2 minutes behind me.
Me running just ahead of Uli Steidl somewhere between miles 27 and 30
I very much liked the position I was in but I also knew that there was still plenty of time for things to change drastically. And almost right away they did. I held on to second place all the way through mile 30, but somewhere around there things started to go quickly downhill for me. My quads were really starting to ache and for only the second time ever during a race I was getting muscle cramps in my legs (mostly in my hamstrings). Uli passed by me right at mile 30; Tsuyoshi at about mile 32; and Kyle at about 37. I was particularly struggling when Kyle passed me.
By this point of the race we were getting mixed in on the trail with some of the 50k runners and on the rolling climbs in that area I found myslef very content to just walk for awhile behind some of the 50k guys on the steeper uphills. I was still feeling OK going up, but the downhills were feeling really bad and I thought maybe if I took a few of the climbs easy that things might come back around for me. When Kyle passed me I was feeling horrible and I spent several minutes trying to decide if I was going to pull out at the next aid station or not. I knew I had it in me to finish but I thought for certain that in doing so I would be passed by a dozen or more other runners and I just wasn't sure I wanted to go through that. Finally after several minutes thinking about it I decided I was just going to suck it up and finish no matter how long it took me.
The thought that I had any chance of maintaining my current 5th place position never even occured to me. It seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that I couldn't even remember for awhile what place I was in.
Somewhere after this though things started to improve. The cramping subsided and even the aches in my quads seemed to become less severe. By the time I got to the mile 41 aid station I was finding that my climbing strength was coming back to me. There were still 2 pretty long climbs left in the race and I knew that I could use them to make a shot at holding onto my 5th place position. Finding this new challenge to shoot for gave me even more strength and eventually I was running the uphills with the same pep I had 5 hours earlier in the pre-dawn stages of the race. On the long steady climb up out of Tennessee Valley (mile 44) I found myslef mixed in with some of the middle/back of the pack half marathoners and I was just blowing by them left and right. There was one steep climb in which I must have passed 20 runners in 2 minutes. For several minutes I was taking great pleasure in passing all these runners and then I snapped back to reality and remembered that I was not racing against these people, that there were 4 people in my race who were out in front of me, perhaps already finished. I felt like an idiot. I laughed out loud at myself. A few of them heard me and perhaps thought I was laughing at them. I thought about explaining to them why I was laughing but I was too far past them already.
From here the rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I knew that I had given up too much between mile 30 and 40 to have a chance of reeling in any of the 4 in front of me, but I also knew that I was now cruising along smooth and was not likely to be caught by anyone behind me. I finished in 5th place with a time of 7:12:35.
I am very happy with that time, and with 5th place in one of the strongest field of ultra runners assembled for one race in quite some time. For the second time this year though I feel like those trails in the Marin Headlands beat me up and humbled me quite a lot. I think I had good (but not great) races at both The Miwok and this past weekend, but I also feel like I have a grudge now with those trails. I've run 7 ultras now in my life and the only two that I did not win were these two in the Marin Headlands. These were also the 2 most competitive ultras I've ever run (and quite likely the two most competitive ultras in the country this year) so my frustration isn't with being beat by Dave Mackey, Jon Olsen, Matt Carpenter, Uli Steidl, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, and Kyle Skaggs - but rather with being beaten by those trails in that area. They're very hard packed trails and I'm used to running on snow and mud here in Juneau. In both of these races I ended up with intense fatique in my quads - likely a result of so much downhill pounding on such hard surface. I'm thinking pretty seriously about running the Miwok again this coming May, but I'm also going to admit right now that I'm kind of afraid of those trails. A fear that I suspect will soon turn into some pretty intense motivation to get it right the third time around. And I'm also not forgetting that the Miwok 100k this coming May will be the last chance to qualify for what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive 100 mile races ever at Western States next June. 2009 could be fun...
Full race results HERE
Nuts and bolts:
Shoes: Montrail Streak
Calories: Power Gel: ~1,100 calories
Hammer Perpetuem: ~900 calories
Coke at aid stations: ~200 calories
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Quick Race Recap
Full Race Results Posted Here
A few pictures below. First one is of me crossing the finish line; second one is Matt, Kyle, and I shortly after the finish (notice the $10,000 smile on Matt's face); third one is the presentation of the prize money to the top 3.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There's This Weird Bright Thing In The Sky Down Here
North Face hooked us up with some pretty nice race loot, which consists of almost $100 worth of socks, shirt, hat, and water bottle (granted the stuff is really only worth about half that much if it didn't have The North Face logo on it but it is nice stuff for sure). Pretty sweet for a race who's entry fee was under $100. One thing I will say is that it's very impressive that The North Face is willing to put so much money into creating a championship type ultra marathon. They've made a serious effort to draw as many elite runners to this race as possible and it appears to be working. I'd love to see them up it to a 100 miler or create another 100 miler that they put this kind of focus into, but for now I guess this 50 miler will have to do. I think this race has an opportunity to be the ultra marathon that a lot of top runners focus on in the next few years, but that all depends on how things seem to go on race day this Saturday. I for one don't like to run races that I've run before as much as I like to try new races. For me to repeat a race I've done before I generally need to feel like things are run in just the right way. Laid back but generally organized and well thought out so that racers can just focus on running their race as much as possible. There will be enough top runners here on Saturday that if things go smoothly word will get around and others who missed out this year will be excited to be here next year. The $10,000 prize for winning is a huge draw in and of itself, but an even larger draw is an event that develops a consistently large percentage of the top ultra runners. I think even for many middle of the pack and back of the pack runners it's very exciting to run in a race that has dozens of elite runners (rather than the small handful that most ultras draw). I'm sure there are many people who could care less about top runners being in the field, but in general I think that there is a trickle down effect that occurs, such that for a race to be hugely popular for the masses it benefits significantly by being popular amongst the elite runners.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
San Francisco Showdown
The race Saturday is shaping up to be the highest competition in any ultra all year (perhaps in several years).
A couple months ago when I decided to run this race it had a lot to do with the shot at the large purse. Now though the money is just a secondary thought to the opportunity to run against so many fast runners.
If everyone who is rumored to be showing up for this one actually toes the line Saturday morning it'll be pretty impressive. The following names are either rumored or confirmed to be running: Steidl, Carpenter, (Kyle) Skaggs, Mackey, Wardian, Meltzer, Koerner, Schmitt, Kockik, Miller, Lint, Roes. That's a dozen guys who are used to winning most races they run. All told there may be 15 guys toeing the line that aren't used to being beaten by more than one or two guys. A bad day and any one of these guys could slip back to somewhere in the teens! I look forward to seeing where I fit into the mix.