The 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Race Report!

A year after one of the biggest debacles of my short running career I found some redemption out on the beautifully brutal Lake Sonoma 50 course.

I had no excuses this year; I was well-trained, well-fed, well-rested, felt mentally prepared for the low spots, etc. Every excuse I offered last year wouldn’t fly this time around so I had to come with the A-game; even though this was a “B” race, I treated it like I had something to prove. I had to prove to myself that I could at least master the demons that had been in my head since last year’s disappointment.

I think after last year’s race I was left with two choices; there was the one that appealed to the lower self; the “I don’t think I can do this” thoughts- those negative, soul-eating, self-doubting trains of thought that plague the mind.

Then there was the “oh, I have to respect the distance, train smarter, recover better, do more downhill repeats, take in more quality calories on the run, enjoy the scenery, run with friends more, ask a lot of questions” type of thoughts, the ones that continually reinforce the reason I do this and then ultimately feed into my raison d’etre.

After all, how I train and run ultras is really a metaphor for how I prepare for life. Believe you me, the people I’m surrounded by will point out the areas where I’m coming up short, where and when I’m half-assing, not pulling my weight, etc. They also provide positive feedback, point out the instances where I’ve stepped up and put on my big boy pants, all that.

The trail can humble you if you’re not ready for it; life will also bring you to your knees at times. How you prepare for both is how you’ll succeed. This is what I’ve found.

The completion of the LS 50 marks the first phase of a huge training block to get ready for my first 100 in June; a warm-up 50-miler seven weeks after a warm-up 50k. Then in four weeks I’ll run (not race) my first 100k and five weeks after that we’re going to San Diego. So I’m smack dab in the middle of hundred mile training, starting on phase 2 (which hopefully includes back-to-back 100-mile weeks around Miwok 100k). I just mentioned my idea is to not try to race Miwok and just use it as a really long training run, just spend as much time on my feet out there just figuring stuff out.

So back to the actual LS 50 race report; since this was only a “B” race (I hate saying that because it sounds like a cop-out if I fail) I tried to temper my goals to what I actually wanted to do, which was run as strong as I could the entire race. So, in effect I gave an “A” race effort for a “B” race.

My three tiers of goals were:

“A” goals: a sub-8:30 finish, top 50 overall

“B” goals: a sub-9:30 finish, top 100 overall

“C” goal: just finish; anyway, anyhow

The Start

After a pretty lousy night sleep, I hit the alarm at 4:40 AM and got to making coffee. After last year’s coffee-making mishap (basically I had to make cowboy coffee using the hot water out of the tap, the crappy hotel room maker was ineffective) I brought my own French press and self-boiling electric teapot. So I had excellent, strong black coffee this time. Yep, I can be a bit of a control freak.

I kind of went down a mental checklist of things that I could control that might go wrong, like “what if the car doesn’t start?” and “what if I roll my ankle going down the stairs out to the car?”. I wondered where these thoughts were coming from, having nary a negative thought the last few months regarding my running.

I then resolutely turned my thoughts to all the things that have gone RIGHT to get me to this point. I would have to have a sharp mental focus today, not to mention a good sense of humor. I laughed it off to pre-race jitters and kept going over the mantras in my head.

“Respect the distance…”

Right, I have to respect the fact that I’m going to be out there for the better part of a day going a pretty long distance. To put it in perspective, I have to tell myself that I’m going out to run a marathon. Then, I’m going to turn around and run it again. 50 miles.

So the start line; per usual is all nervous chatter, jittery folks. I tried to find Kevin and Jim, my buddies from the training run a few weeks ago I spent a ton of miles with. Kevin was awesome, he’s a backpacker that got into ultras because of its similarities to fastpacking. I picked his brain on that training run about everything 100-mile related. Jim is a sponsored triathlete making the switch over to ultras. He kept calling me “Philly” (where I grew up) and said us East Coasters were tenacious and scrappy. No luck, but I found my buddy Greg, said “what’s up?” and also this dude Matt I ran a bunch of miles with at the Coastal 50k last September.

I didn’t even hear the “GO!”, I just saw everybody lurch forward and start trotting. I hit the “start” button on the Garmin and was off. The first few miles felt effortless on the road to the trailhead (I think it’s like 2.3 miles) and I felt really relaxed. My plan was to take it as easy as I could until I felt like it was time to start pushing the pace, hopefully after the turnaround at mile 25.

I settled in with this really nice French guy, I think his name is Sebastien (I’ve seen him at a ton of races in the Bay Area). He said he’s still trying to figure out the 50-mile distance, but he looked solid all day to me. We would see each other a few more times. I also ran and talked with some really nice people, this woman Mary from New York, this guy Dustin from Folsom and this guy Scott from San Francisco by way of Rhode Island. We all chatted about this race and that, work, family, etc. It was really cool and helped to me get over any nerves I had early on. It also quelled my competitiveness, I figured “might as well make some friends because if this is going to be anything like last year I might be out here for 12-plus hours”.

I alternated brief periods of “pushing it somewhat hard” and “just relaxing”; power hiking the steeper climbs and easing my way on the downs with gravity doing most of the work.

photo by Nate Dunn

photo by Nate Dunn

Down to the water crossing before the Warm Springs aid I had the feeling that everything was going to be okay today. I greeted the aid station volunteers, got a refill on agua, dropped my arm warmers into my drop bag and got out of there. I was at exactly two hours and feeling really good.

I charged a bit up the climb out of Warm Springs then settled back into a steady pace. It’s really tough to keep it slow when you feel good, but I was holding as much back as I could. It’s like putting miles in the bank; the slower and more controlled I kept it now the more I’d have when I really needed it during those last 5-6 miles.

The first steep downhill is when I decided to go for it; I think that was around mile 14 or so, just a quick move to bomb a gnarly, technical descent. I passed a few runners here and rolled into the water-only aid at Wulfow Spring still feeling proper. A few more miles and it was time to get a refill on water at the 18.6-mile aid station where I saw some folks from the training run I gave a ride to, Gareth and Anna. They remembered me and I got a charge out of them telling me I looked really strong. They may have been lying but it totally helped.

Now on to the biggest climbs of the day; it seems as if a huge portion of the almost 11,000 feet of climb are bunched together here so I’d have to control my pacing. Switching to power hiking was a welcome change, and if last year’s race was any indication I’d be seeing the lead pack come by me soon.

At about mile 21 they came, and they were flying. It was Zach Miller, and he was about a minute up on Sage Canaday, Chris Vargo and Rob Krar. Then Alex Varner was about a minute or two behind that pack. I eased into a gentle downhill section that gave some of the best views of the day, and I was also psyched because the sun still hadn’t come out yet.

Then another huge uphill section that seemed to go on forever; luckily I knew the turnaround was coming up and that I could linger there and really take care of myself; get topped off on fluids, get more Vitargo, switch out my empties, etc. Just before the aid I saw my buddy Kevin, we got to run together a few minutes, he again said I looked fresh and strong. “Is everyone lying to me?” I thought. I was arriving at 4:19 and thought that was pretty good and only a little slower than I wanted to (I was hoping I’d run somewhere around 4 to 4:15) but since I felt really good I figured I was pacing myself perfectly.

Then at the aid I saw Ann Trason and considered that a really good omen. Jorge Maravilla was hanging out, too. I felt bad that he didn’t start today because that dude is the man, and he’s always up in the mix at the front of the race.

I took off after maybe a minute and a half, chugging some electrolytes and water, and finally plugging in some tunes. I know a lot of folks don’t run with music but I need it when the pain starts to settle in. I also needed something at the beginning of my playlist to help hold me back and pace as evenly as I could; so of course I needed something with a driving, steady rhythm. Fela Kuti.

To be honest, the next 13 miles were pretty much a blur. I went into a deep, unshakable focused state; kind of like a meditative trance. I was feeling really good, right up until the sun came out. It felt like it went from 55 degrees and overcast to 75 and sunny within minutes. For some reason, the sun’s rays felt harsh and oppressive rather than warming and relaxing.

photo by Miles Smythe

photo by Miles Smythe

Pulling into Warm Springs #2 with Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” blasting in my ears was pretty awesome, I didn’t realize I was singing it at the top of my lungs coming down the trail until one of the volunteers was like “awesome song, dude!” I giggled, told them all I was so happy to see them as they (probably lying) told me I again looked really fresh. I was at 6:42 and only 12 minutes off my expected pace. I grabbed my last Vitargo, grabbed my other handheld, got it filled with electrolytes, had my primary handheld filled with ice and water and was off, I couldn’t wait to ice my legs for a minute in the creek crossing.

On the next uphill I started to feel the twinges of cramping; it struck my left arm first, that inner elbow bend started to seize a bit. I tried massaging it but I figured my best course of action was to drink a bunch of water and get some salt in me.

Then the twinges in the calves started.

Then one in a new spot, my abs. I was off on the side of the trail peeing, and twisted in a way as to look back down the trail to see if anyone was coming and my right abdominal seized up, causing me to pee on my shoe. Next time, I’m just going to go. Nobody cares if they catch you peeing at mile 40 of a 50-mile race.

Then the groin started seizing up a bit. Then the quads. By the time I rolled (hobbled?) into Island View aid at mile 45.5 I was steady shuffling. My friend from early in the race, Sebastien, had caught up to me right before the turn down to the aid and he looked really strong. He said he felt awful and was afraid to look at his watch. I told him he was doing great and we’d be done in less than an hour.

The folks at the aid were awesome; these guys were hilarious. I ate a huge handful of jelly beans and drank almost a whole can of Coke. Then my buddy Kevin came into the aid. “Dude, you caught me!” I said as we high-fived. He was laughing and in good spirits; I took off and he caught up to me probably a half mile out of there. I figured better to get beat by someone you like than someone you don’t.

But Kevin was there to offer encouragement, and I the same- because at this point the only thing that has any importance is just finishing. There’s no “race” this far back in the pack- we’re all friends just trying to git ‘er done. I kept saying, “go on, man- you got this” to see him pull away, if just for a moment then yo-yo back to me on the next downhill.

I was cursing up a storm at this point, and to make everything just peachy the iPod lost power. Four hours of continuous play had drained the battery. So now it was just me and the pain, nothing to block it out. No sick beats from Outkast. No soaring anthems from Explosions in the Sky. No heavy metal thunder from Iron Maiden. Damn. I’d have to immerse myself fully in the river of pain.

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.

If I quit, however, it lasts forever…

But then something clicked in me after I kept rolling that mantra around in my head; it was the realization that the pain hadn’t gotten any worse in a few miles and if I could just manage to not overstride and step as gingerly as I could  yet continue shuffling forward I wouldn’t seize up again and that I was going to finish.

I slipped past Kevin as he offered a “go get ‘em” and saw the ONE MILE TO GO sign they placed on the last stretch of trail before the little road crossing. I also had a thought that RDs have a silly sense of humor, it’s probably more like 1.3 miles- I’m going to wait to start my “finishing kick”. This gives some insight as to just how fried my brain was; it was exactly a mile and I had nothing to offer in the way of “finishing kick”.

9:18:32, 80th overall. 66th men’s.

A 3:07 improvement over last year. Yes, that’s three hours and seven minutes.

10,989 feet of climb (and similar on the descent)

If you asked me what I learned; I’d tell you the three most important things were:

1) Running with folks is fun. People will tell you amazingly personal things about their life- something about running along a trail with a pack of other humans (for what basically amounts to a solid day of work or more) has such an instantly bonding effect.

2)  The journey is far more important than the destination.

3) The journey that at once is both self-indulgent and self-effacing; there wasn’t a single runner I passed all day without asking “y’okay?” or “looking strong!” or at least saying something; looking out for each other is far more satisfying than beating these people in a race, and that’s the one thing that continually solidifies my membership in this tribe.

Here’s an awesome video put together by Mr. Chihping Fu:

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Inside Trail Racing’s Chabot 50k Race Report

…or “When the Shit Goes Down, You Better Be Ready”

What’s up with the double title you may be wondering? Oh, man- things got off to kind of a bad start, and I only have me to thank. More on this later.

They say running an ultra is the ultimate test of one’s endurance, and I feel like I have the “endure” part somewhat handled; but when you add “problem solving” to the equation, it becomes a whole different ballgame.

Let me explain- see, I had initially wanted to get to the race about 7:30-7:45. I think I rolled in at 10 after 8 (for an 8:30 race, no less). All that extra time to use the bathroom, check in, do a little shakeout, open up the hips, etc. Nope. I was back at home for most of that time screwing around with the iPod (long story short: I had to restore the thing to its factory settings, it basically “blue-screened” on me). I should’ve dealt with that Friday night. So there’s issue #1.

Issue #2 was a big one; I left my race vest at home. I LEFT MY RACE VEST AT HOME. How the hell am I going to carry all my nutrition on me? It’s like a shopping list of crap: one Vespa (super concentrate, easy to carry), one water bottle and 2 Hammer flasks of Vitargo for the first loop, then another 20-ounce bottle of UCan and 2 more Vitargo flasks and a few Gu’s for the second loop- yeah, I’m aware I’m not a very minimal runner over here. I had to pack the 2 Vitargos in my Patagonia shorts (lifesavers, huge side pockets!) then the Vespa went into the pouch on my handheld along with a bunch of salt pills. Crisis averted.

Sort of, because for the first few miles I had to literally pull my shorts up every 3 minutes. Sorry if you were running behind me and kept getting a nice view of my coin slot. I finally pulled the drawstring tight and loop-tied it to keep them in place.

Now the actual race; I felt really, really good on that first loop. Was able to hammer up that first big climb from Honker Bay to that sweet eucalyptus single track on Columbine Trail. Passed a bunch of runners just before the first aid, then passed a few more on the downs to the Stone Bridge. Passing more runners up out of the Bort Meadow aid and the last two runners I’d pass all race on the downhill out of the Equestrian Center back to Brandon Trail.

I hit the first loop in about 2:40, five minutes ahead of the pace chart I’d worked out the week prior. I felt so good, but my spirits were kind of dampened when I was waved away from the turn right after the finisher’s area, denying me access to my drop bag.

“50k? You got an aid station right there.”

“But I gotta get to my drop bag…”

“I don’t know what to tell you.”

Really? How about something like “go to your drop bag”. So I ran to the aid station, said I didn’t need anything, turned and ran to my drop bag. I exchanged out my empty flasks for a new one and grabbed a single 22-oz bottle filled with pre-mixed UCan- a mistake that would cost me in the last few miles as I got super dehydrated.

As I ran back past the aid station, the volunteer there apologized. Here’s where I massively screwed up, muttering something about “the design of the course NOT passing through our drop bag area is completely fucked up”. I was heated and definitely shouldn’t have said that, it’s not that guy’s fault. I tried to find him after I finished to apologize but he was long gone.

So I had to get my head back into game mode after all that; it’s amazing that such a minor thing like the comfort of being able to get to your drop bag can sort of mess with your head. Music! Ah, that’ll soothe the savage beast in me…

And off I went, ticking off the miles along the paved bike path on the east side of the lake like no tomorrow, wondering how’d I have to pay for these faster miles later. I only brought the hand-held filled with UCan out on this loops, no water (it was starting to get warm…), one flask of Vitargo and no gels. I wonder what’s going to happen?

So right before the first aid station, about 5 miles into the loop I started getting that weird, frantic feeling like I had missed a turn. I hadn’t seen a flag in a while, and I didn’t remember being on that single-track for this long. So I did what any rational, normal person would’ve done. I stopped and turned around.

Yep, I must’ve missed that turn, let’s go back and find it.

So, I basically ran all the way back until I saw the runners coming up the trail towards me that were like, “dude, turn around!” This was disorienting to say the least. My brain could only manage a “…think someone ripped flags down…” and “…oh, man!” so of course, as I’ve learned before when I’ve gone off course I RAN AS FAST AS I COULD TO MAKE UP THE TIME I JUST LOST. Always a big mistake.

I wondered again how I’d pay for this later?

I only lost about a half mile doing this, or a quarter mile each way; I went back and looked at my Garmin map, which is always a great thing to do WHEN YOU OBSESS OVER SHIT LIKE A CRAZY PERSON and judging from the pace I ran that segment, I again had to wonder how I’d be doing later…

They told me I was sitting in 8th place at the next aid, so of course what do I do with that news? I run harder. My ego is a terrible, terrible thing.

I continued to feel really good right up until the climb to that last aid station, when my arms started doing this little annoying crampy thing. I figured the mild temperature coupled with not drinking any water between miles 18 and 24 might have something to do with this, but I was hitting mile 27 and thought with only 4 more to go I could get away with taking an extra salt pill and a water bottle full of electrolyte drink.

I had been off of caffeine since my morning cup of coffee so I could start taking some in for the home stretch, which was 2 little cups of Mountain Dew and a vanilla bean Gu. They told me at this aid that I was sitting in 4th or 5th (turned out they were mistaken because I didn’t pass anyone since mile 15, and hadn’t even seen anyone since mile 23).

This made me run even harder because I am an idiot and didn’t want to get passed in the last few miles, something that has happened in previous races (Lake Sonoma, Skyline 50k, Dick Collins, et. al.) and I’ll be damned if it’s going to happen again. That’s pretty demoralizing.

That last half mile or so is when it finally hit; the debilitating calf cramps. Part of me knew they were coming and if you saw me on that final stretch you’d probably say I was running a bit too hard. And then I was reduced to that weird short-strided shuffle that I tried to make look like I wasn’t going to die.

finish lineHere’s a screen capture form the finish line video (courtesy of ultrasportslive.tv). I’m pretty happy with my 8th place finish (7th male, 2nd men’s 30-39 age group). I’d also like to say that Inside Trail puts on really great races, has really awesome volunteers and generally challenging courses.

So, all in all, a great start to the 2014 season. I’m feeling super pumped up about the coming year.

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Shoe Review: Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2

rapanui2

I can honestly say I never thought I’d be a Hoka person.

I am completely and utterly embarrassed by ever having that idea now; there’s a huge part of me that’s internally kicking myself for not jumping on the wagon sooner.

Clown shoes, whatever. I’ll gladly trade plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuromas, general “bottom of my feet pain after a 50-miler” any day for soft, cushy pillows like the Rapa Nui 2′s. They’re surprisingly lightweight, at just 10.8 ounces per shoe. For that amount of cushioning (which really translates to “piece of mind” when running an ultra, let’s be honest) I think that’s pretty light. For a comparison, my Pearl Izumi eMotion Trail N1′s are 9.8 ounces and I’d say the Hokas are much cushier for that extra ounce. More bounce to the ounce, y’all.

The lacing system- at first I was definitely WTF’ing these, but they’ve grown on me. I can just use the lace pull-cord thingy and forget about them. That’s a bonus that was unexpected, I thought for sure I’d be putting in the extra “regular” laces in about a week, but not the case.

I’ve said it probably 10 times already, but can you say cushioning? Holy moly, my feet can pound the downhills in these and it’s like each step is softer than the one before. With 26 mm under my heel (and 21 at the forefoot) there’s a lot to land on, and with the rocker-shaped outsole my feet are more or less propelled forward from midfoot to toe-off. If anyone has ever seen me run downhill, it can only be described as “oh man, he’s gonna die; or hopefully he blows his quads up”. Well, the Hokas (for me) add not only the ability to handle the technical, breakneck speeds of said descents but also give me that added piece of mind I mentioned before.

They’ve also just been out in the mud with me and they provided adequate grip; almost too good (I still have yet to find a shoe that “sheds” the mud clods), so they passed the crappy weather test. They drained pretty well and as of 18 hours later they’re completely dry.

So we come to the final factor in determining a shoe’s value; price. Clocking in at $130 it looks pretty steep, but I’m thinking these have a slightly longer life than your average trail shoe; I usually put about 400 miles on a shoe before I deem it “done”. This remains to be seen, but at just over 100 miles they still feel like the day I took them out of the box.

And I can not reiterate enough times that the piece of mind I have in these bad boys is pretty priceless; I’m talking jagged, sharp rocks having no effect on the outsoles whatsoever. I can see these coming in really handy at mile 45 (and beyond) when the legs are a little extra heavy and the brain is getting a little funky and I’m just like “oh, fuck this”; I feel as though I will have the confidence to step on that gnarly-looking serrated barb of protruding shale (that might otherwise shred a normal running shoe as well as my foot inside) and not have to think twice about it.

So there you have it- my first foray into the maximalist running shoe world. This time last year I was dealing with shin splints and the bottom of my feet always hurt. I was pretty much just wearing the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail and its slightly more beefy cousin the MT 110, and while I think those are great shoes for building leg strength and working on running form while on shorter runs, they didn’t help me for the amount of mileage I was looking to do.

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Goal Oriented, Part 2 (or “Change of Plans”)

Seems as though I didn’t really acknowledge my “not getting into Western States” and briefly hinted at that a few posts ago, merely saying that I got into Miwok and plan on San Diego as being my first 100-mile attempt.

Well, I didn’t get into the Big Dance for 2014. No Statesmas for me this year. Although, I think I’m going to drive up there and be a spectator, maybe post up at Foresthill to see the leaders roll through and enjoy the party, then head down to Placer High in Auburn and see the finish. I have a good feeling that with the new qualifying standards my chances are looking much better for 2015′s run.

Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge that. I also wanted to re-define my 2014 in the context of races I got into and new races that tickle my fancy for the second half of the year; I’m also planning a wedding with my partner, so a lot of consideration has gone into planning around that.

Here’s my amended 2014 Race schedule and wish-list (as always; subject to change):

January, February & March: building the base back up, possibly a 50k in late February (looking at Inside Trail’s Chabot race on 2/22) or their Marin Ultra Challenge 50k (March 15th).

April 12th: Lake Sonoma 50 – going to race this as an “A” race, I’m hoping to avenge my death here last year. A lot of my bruised ego is wrapped up in this after last year’s debacle so I’m looking forward to going back and crushing this course. Big time chance for redemption, and anything close to nine hours would be a huge confidence boost. Here’s my race report from last year.

May 3rd: Miwok 100 – I will not be racing this as an “A” race, treating it as a long training run in preparation for my first 100 mile attempt a month later at San Diego. This will be my first attempt at the 100 km distance and takes place on some of my favorite trails in the world, right here in nearby Marin County. Going to use this race to figure out my nutrition and fueling strategies, what it feels like after mile 50, all that sort of stuff. I’ll be testing all the gear I plan on using at SD100.

June 7th: San Diego 100 – Here it is. It’s going to a lottery this year (if it hits 250+ entrants), but right now (at press time) it’s only at 22% full, so it’s looking like a go. So much to consider here, and it’s so far out that I don’t really even have a goal yet. I guess a simple one: just finish. I can see that this race isn’t one of the “sexier” races because of 1) the heat; 2) the exposure (race is 70% exposed); 3) the drop rate during really hot years (over 50%); 4) the extremely technical nature of the trails (super rocky) and 5) it’s a double lollipop out-and-back sort of course. Oh, and 6) it gets really cold at night, looking at a possible 60 degree swing there. So, yeah- I could’ve picked an easier first 100, but what would I learn about myself?

July: going to shut it down for the rest of June, after SD100. Getting married June 21st, so I’ll skip the Woodminster XC race in Joaquin Miller Park (love that race) on the 22nd; I’ve really enjoyed running that the last 2 years. So I’ll change my focus to be all about doing some easy, base miles and chill group runs with friends, but no real training. Probably get back into serious training after the July 4th holiday. So, then- rebuilding the base for most of July.

August 10th: Skyline 50k – this is one of the funner races in the Bay Area, it’s more like a party than anything else. The aid stations and staff are fantastic, the people are great and there’s a roast pig afterwards. I have to do this one again, and I really want to go sub-5 hours. Looking forward to racing this one again.

September 6th: Lost Sierra Endurance Run – this looks like an amazing 50 km run in Plumas National Forest, about 50 miles north of Truckee. Almost 80% single-track, 35 alpine lakes and two mountain summits over 7200′ makes this a pretty cool little weekend getaway race.

October 11th: Dick Collins Firetrails 50 – THE signature East Bay 50-miler, I almost have to do this again. Just a great set-up, everything about this race is awesome, from the themed aid stations to the finish line party, the volunteers, the course; everything. Love it, and will almost certainly be on the start line come October.

November 8th: Rio Del Lago 100 – Another 100-miler? Yep, I’ve had this one on my radar for a minute now. Taking place along the shores of Folsom Lake as well as the North Fork of the American River and using some portions of the Western States trail, it’s a huge lollipop course with a double loop in the middle and a weird little out-and-back at the end; don’t know how that’s going to play out going into the finish area at mile 78 and having to go back out for 22 more miles; but it’s worth 4 points for UTMB (and I’m also going to be looking beyond possible 2015 races to start on my “bucket list” races for ’16 and on…)

December: just chillin’. Not going to race TNF again, going to give my body a full recovery from ’14 and get ready for a big ’15. Looking at possibly doing something huge, I hope WS100 is in the cards, maybe travel (would love to go race in Colorado again, maybe San Juan Solstice?), maybe overseas?

I’m going back to school in September so it will be interesting to see how I can balance a marriage, being in school full-time with a part-time job and a full racing and training schedule.

Bring on 2014.

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Debunking the Myths: Saturated Fat is Your Friend

Dietary fats, specifically saturated fats, are not the demons they’ve been made out to be. Ever wonder how it got that way?

Bad Science and Lies…

In 1947 a researcher named Ancel Keys (remember that name) began a study on the high rate of cardiovascular disease appearing in Minnesota businessmen. His two main hypotheses were: 1) there was a correlation between cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease and; 2) there was also a correlation between cholesterol and dietary fat intake.

By 1953, Keys had amassed enough data internationally (22 countries’ worth of research!) to posit the following findings:

keys53graphNow Keys can’t be faulted for going into the study with a hypothesis, after all; that’s what scientists do. But what you’re about to see is one of the greatest nutritional hoodwinks ever pulled; Keys straight up lied in order to get the results he desired by omitting 15 countries (but that’s 2/3rds of the data!?!?) from the study.

Because no matter how many statistics classes you’ve taken, you just can’t draw a straight line through the above data points to show any type of correlation. Here are the “results” Keys published:

keys7nationsThat looks really neat and orderly, and definitely shows a positive correlation. This, in fact, was the graph that Keys presented to the world and this is the very reason we’ve all been taught to think that fats are bad because fats make you fat; and in this society we’re taught that fat people are bad, and we (should) know that that’s just not true. I’ll save fat-shaming for another post someday; but if you do that kind of thing to other human beings then shame on you.

Except the world believed Keys, and in 1956 representatives of the American Heart Association, armed with Keys’ bad science and lies, appeared on TV to warn the American public that a diet high in fat (especially butter, lard, eggs & beef) would lead to coronary heart disease.

But forget about all that for a minute, let’s keep looking at some other points of the graph isolated for some more depth:

keys7cleanHere’s a cleaned up version of the above graph; note the 7 countries that Keys used. When I think of those countries’ diets, I would basically rank them from healthiest to least healthy, and that’s how they’re arranged on the graph (that’s Japan at the bottom left on up to USA at the top right). Keys hypothesis fits his data, based on this small (and extremely selective) sample size.

But here’s where Keys started to get frustrated:

keys5cleanWow, it appears as though those countries have little to no instances of heart disease. “Let’s not put those countries in my graph”, said Keys (probably).

Now here’s a different six countries’ data:

keys6cleanOkay, slightly higher instances of heart disease here but the main point that both graphs are trying to make is that the higher the percentage of fat intake the lower the instance of cardiovascular disease. I’d call that a negative correlation, and Keys would too- no wonder he left all this data out of his study!

Let’s play with the data some more:

keys6moreWhoa, that’s a pretty steep decline in deaths related to fat intake. Finland, at 7 deaths per 1000 sits right about 30% of calories from fat intake, while Ireland, at the same percentage sits at just above 4 per 1000. But the Netherlands, closer to 40% fat intake is down at just 2 deaths per 1000.

The Damage Was Already Done…

I can’t fault Keys as a human- I would’ve thrown all that data out, too. Especially if I so badly wanted the world to see that I was right. But as a scientist, that’s completely unprofessional. So what Keys did, right after being exposed as a fraud at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on atherosclerosis in Geneva in 1955 by two doctors (Yerushalmy & Hilleboe), he went back and said, “no wait, I got it wrong- it’s Serum Total Cholesterol! That’s what’s killing us!” Hence; total cholesterol AND saturated fats were inextricably linked to each other for all time. The logic went like this: if you ingest too much dietary fat your cholesterol levels will rise and your arteries will become clogged and you will die.

So in 1957 Drs. Yerushalmy & Hilleboe published their findings but with one fatal flaw; they attacked Keys’ methodologies and used an authoritative, pedantic and patronizing tone (I can’t help but think that’s what I’m doing with this very blog post). I guess they really wanted to rub it in Keys’ face, and what ended up happening is that they completely alienated their audience and their report was subsequently buried. By this time Keys had already convinced the WHO and was deep into conducting pilot studies on his Seven Countries.

So people started cutting fat out of their diets. They started using “healthier” oils like canola and margarine over butter. No more eggs! Beef and red meat are bad for you! The FDA urged us to switch to a low-fat diet, replacing all that “harmful” fat with “healthy” carbohydrates.

The Aftermath…

Then people started getting sicker- diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s Disease, colitis, asthma, celiac and ever-increasing instances of gluten and other food allergies; the list goes on and on.

I chose these common afflictions because they were not considered common 100 years ago. During the early part of the last century, the majority of maladies were infectious diseases either of the bacterial kind (tuberculosis) or viral kind (influenza). Pneumonia, syphilis; that type of stuff, hell- smallpox was still a threat. But these diseases became treatable with the use of antibiotics, antiseptics and cleaner hospital environments.

Then we go back to the list of current diseases, also made “treatable” by today’s medical standards; if you consider the amount of Lipitor prescribed, or albuterol, or the hundreds of diabetes medications. These drugs are all made readily available, prescribed to you by your physician, then purchased at your local Safeway or WalMart. Yes, your local supermarket also has a pharmacy.

This point here leads me to wonder why the Food & Drug Administration are linked together. I’m not a conspiracy theory nut, but why would a country have its food supply regulated by the same organization that regulates its drugs? Could it be they’re selling you the disease AND the cure at the same time? I repeat; your local supermarket ALSO HAS A PHARMACY.

Okay, that was one hell of a tangent, and I’m going to get back on course now.

What Does it All Mean?

Looking again at the evidence provided, we see sharp declines in deaths from cardiovascular disease in proportion to higher fat intakes. In fact, saturated fats have been shown in recent studies to protect the heart; oxidation is actually the true culprit in atherosclerosis and heart disease.

The current research and medical science is now supporting the following findings: eating foods that are high in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties protect the heart and blood vessels. Basically, salmon, avocadoes & olive oil are good for your heart while all sugars, corn oil, margarine, and refined or processed grains are not so good.

“Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.”- Dr. Dwight Lundell

You might be wondering “so where’s this link between sugars, processed grains, high doses of carbohydrates and heart disease?” Specifically, is there a link between a diet high in sugar and coronary heart disease & type 2 diabetes? Look no further than John Yudkin, a Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics from Queen Elizabeth College at the University of London and his 1972 book “Pure, White and Deadly”. He had been conducting similar research on sugar (specifically fructose) and its role in triglyceride creation and how said triglycerides (a more technical term for lipids or fats) that are found in the blood are the real indicator of risk factor for heart disease. Simply stated; sugar (and to a lesser extent processed carbohydrates) create inflammation in the arteries.

Of course Keys and his supporters slandered and discredited Yudkin and his findings, and he was more or less laughed off the scene. Yudkin was never able to regain his status as a legitimate scientist, as was any other researcher that even dared try to make the link between sugars and heart disease.

This basically means that it has become so ingrained in the American psyche that fat is bad because eating fat makes you fat, fat clogs your arteries, fat is cholesterol; cholesterol will kill you, etc.; the lies and bad science are so taken as fact that it’s become almost impossible to argue this. And because it provides so much energy, therefore sugar can only be good.

And the instances of preventable diseases continue to rise.

How it Applies to Me…

So the Standard American Diet (SAD) guidelines passed down from the Reccommended Daily Allowances Food Chart says I need 130 grams of carbohydrate per day versus only 56 grams of protein against 20 to 35 grams of total fat (17 of those grams coming from un-healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats* like soy & corn oil) while only allowing for 1.6 grams a day of the much healthier omega-3 fatty acids. The proportion of carbs to protein to fat (let’s take the mid-point of that 20 to 35 range and call it 27.5) breaks down percentage-wise to be 61-26-13.

* – omega-6 fatty acids taken in proper proportion to omega-3′s and omega-9′s do have highly beneficial properties; however taken alone- as in margarine just by itself, which is high in omega-6′s (but not omega-3 or -9) has a harmful effect.

If there’s a link between diet and health (and I believe there is) then that proportion right there is why we’re getting sick at the rate we are. I’m not totally either paleo or LCHF (low carb/high fat) adherent, (probably somewhere closer to the 20-20-60 range) and I think there’s a lot of common sense in how those diets employ macronutrients; they mimic what the human diet has looked like for millennia. For someone like myself that has exhibited symptoms of metabolic syndrome as well as insulin resistance, they do in fact work. But they’re not for everybody.

Conclusion

So it’s from my personal experience (and from doing this research) that I’ve been led to believe that a diet high in saturated fat is a diet that works not only best for me, but those experiencing symptoms of metabolic syndrome. And not only as an endurance athlete, but also from a pure health standpoint. I just generally feel better; have more energy, rarely have episodes of binge eating brought on from crazy hunger pangs, I don’t experience that “food coma” sensation after a meal because I’m more satiated from eating a plate of healthy fats and oils, don’t always have to reach for that late afternoon cup of coffee, etc. Another added bonus is being able to actually taste my food as it’s supposed to taste, because I’m not eating overly processed crap with a ton of additives.

So that’s it for now. I have a lot more to say on the topic, and if you want to read more about all this, here are the sources I used for researching this article (or some other sites I read but didn’t use).

Thanks for reading! I also welcome and invite any comments, criticisms, rebuttals, etc.

http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2009/02/cholesterol-presentation-between.html

 http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz2jgjHmDPf

 http://www.legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/n/o/z/noz55d00/Snoz55d00.pdf

 http://runlonger.blogspot.com/2013/05/burn-fat-for-fuel-interview-with-peter.html?m=1

http://julieberg.blogspot.com/2010/10/if-you-are-ultrarunner-you-have-no.html?m=1

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/01/eating-fat-staying-lean/?_r=1

http://www.dietdoctor.com/final-report-two-months-of-strict-lchf-and-ketone-monitoring

http://zachbitterrunning.blogspot.com/search/label/Nutrition

http://www.westonaprice.org/traditional-diets/guts-and-grease

 http://anh-europe.org/news/saturated-fat-is-not-the-culprit-in-heart-disease

 http://www.epi.umn.edu/cvdepi/essay.asp?id=33

 http://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-surgeon-speaks-out-on-what-really-causes-heart-disease

 http://www.iom.edu/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/C5CD2DD7840544979A549EC47E56A02B.ashx

 http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2007/11/professor-john-yudkin-and-dr-ancel-keys.html

 http://www.spacedoc.com/eggs_cholesterol

 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

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2013 Best of the Rest Awards

Here’s a list of my favorite things from the 2013 calendar year.

Best Trails I Had the Chance to Run

First, I just want to say how lucky I am that I get to run pretty much whenever I want- I have a super supportive partner that is 100% behind me and my running. She’s even gone on a few runs with me this year, and I’m hoping she can pace me the last few miles of my first 100-miler (hopefully I get in the lottery for the San Diego 100, June 7th). What a beautiful gift to be able to share my life with someone who’s willing to do that with me a few weeks before we get married. Here’s to us, babe!

That being said; I got a chance to run some really awesome trails this year, various sections of the Pacific Crest Trail (north and south of Donner Pass as well as part of the southern portion that shares miles with the John Muir Trail down near Muir Trail Ranch). There’s also some awesome PCT/JMT connector trails in around Mono Hot Springs and Lake Thomas Edison I got the chance to run, and also down near Florence Lake. That was pretty awesome.

I also had a chance to run a race in Colorado in Pike National Forest that was on some portions of the famous Colorado Trail, that was special. Moving through pine forests and aspens and high mountain meadows while seeing some breathtaking views; I cant completely comprehend why anyone runs on roads.

Shout out to the Bay Area- there’s gotta be several thousand miles of trails within a half hour’s drive from me; whether it’s running up Mt. Diablo via the Mitchell Canyon Trail or just a quick jaunt in Redwood Regional Park along the French Trail, it’s unbelievable the amazingly accessible trails in the East Bay. I also had the pleasure of paying $10 for a trail pass to run on EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utilities District) land, basically a few hundred thousand acres of protected watershed land with great trails.

And let’s not forget Marin- oh my, the trail capital of Northern Coastal California. Every time there’s some sort of race going on over there along the slopes of Mt Tamalpais, I’m in. Heck, I’ve even done some epic training runs there. I’m looking forward to the Miwok 100k in May, it basically links up all my favorite trails in Marin County.

Best Running Store

San Francisco Running Company in Mill Valley. Hands down the best group of employees of any specialty running shop anywhere in the world. No pretense, no BS; they just want to see you get out the door with the stuff you need and get on to the trails happy. These folks know what they’re talking about and they do it without any attitude, always with a friendly smile- if you’re a newer runner, getting ready for your first 5k or that grizzled veteran doing your next 100-miler, this is the place for all your running needs in the Bay Area.

Best Gear Awards

Whoever said running was a cheap sport is a lying liar.

I don’t know how much money I’ve spent on running gear this past year, and I can’t say every purchase was great; so here’s a rundown on the best (and just okay) gear I’ve tried out in 2013.

The Best…

Pearl Izumi Emotion Trail n1Since I bought three pairs of them, the Pearl Izumi e:Motion Trail N1 gets my nod for Shoe of the Year. I even got a pair of the Road N1′s for the days I couldn’t make it to the trail, they’re that good. I briefly flirted with the La Sportiva Helios for about 2 months (I ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 in those so they get at least an Honorable Mention), but went back to the N1′s to end the season. They have just the perfect amount of cushion and slightest rocker-type sole to propel tired legs forward in the late stages of a 50-miler or 50k. Dynamic offset (means that the shoe’s “drop” or heel-toe differential changes through the gait cycle, basically absorbing the landing and returning energy to the toe-off). I’m pretty much going to wear these forever.

racevest__ud13-backThe Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest was probably the single best piece of equipment I bought this year. Able to carry two bottles in front (without bouncing!) or a huge reservoir in the back, with little pockets for salt caps located under the bottle holders, pockets under the armpits for car keys or a tube of Body Glide, or the pockets above the bottle holders that could fit a few gels or an iPod; this vest was awesome, perfect for carrying just enough for a long self-supported training run or a 50-miler. The back pouch was able to fit a rain shell, gloves and a hat along with a few Hammer flasks. Straps tighten and loosen pretty easily so you can totally dial it in for a snug fit.

Feetures-Elite-Light-Cushion-LowAfter briefly flirting with compression socks last year and early in the ’13 season I went back to “regular” low cut socks. It was probably the fact that I was still experiencing some cramping and fatigue even with the compression; the whole point of the socks was to eliminate those, so I figured if I was gonna cramp anyway I’d do it with out the damn pantyhose. I got another pair of the Feetures! Elite Light Cushion Low Cut socks and my feet couldn’t be happier. Never got a blister in these, plus they dry really fast.

Nutrition: Earlier this year I started using a branched-chain amino acid complex called Vespa, which contains a naturally occurring wasp extract that helps your body conserve glycogen by shifting your muscles to metabolize fat as their main energy source. In conjunction with an OFM Diet (Optimized Fat Metabolism) I’ve watched my body shed fat and become leaner, resulting in lowering my 50-mile time to just over nine hours. In addition, I’ve all but ditched the gels and sugary aid station stuff in favor of two super starches. Basically; super starches are slow-burning energy that doesn’t spike your insulin, so you’re not creating that up and down sugar crash effect- it’s steady energy throughout the run. I’ve started pre-loading my longer runs and races with Generation UCAN, a corn-derived carbohydrate that doesn’t mess with my gut and allows me to go out a bit faster than I previously thought I could because I was always afraid of bonking. Into the run (or more specifically the “race”) I fuel with Genr8 Vitargo S2, a barley-derived carbohydrate that exists in its fractionated form amylopectin. It’s a perfect carb in that it does not supply any sugar, hence has no effect on blood glucose, so there’s no insulin response. I fueled exclusively for the first 44 miles with Vitargo at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler and felt great the whole race, supplementing with only 2 gels and a small cup of Coke later in the race.

The prospect of running further and faster on fewer calories at first scared the crap out of me, but switching your body into fat-burning mode and out of glycogen-burning has so many benefits for endurance athletes; including not worrying about carbo-loading before a race, having weird gut issues during the race, etc. I no longer worry about my tummy.  

The Jury’s Still Out…

310xtThe Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS unit. Although I really dig the heart rate function of this unit, the syncing of the watch to my computer has some issues. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Garmin message boards doing troubleshooting, and the plus-side here is that I always get an answer to my problems. Tthe biggest downside is that there’s problems in the first place. I’m an OCD-type that loves any and all the metrics; miles, pace, elevation changes, etc. All that stuff is pretty accurate (no GPS is 100% perfect) and all those numbers really just provide data points for training anyway, but I’d love to just get in from a run and have it sync up automatically. So my beef isn’t with the actual watch itself, it’s with the software. Yes, I’ve downloaded the updates. I guess it is what it is.

heliosThe La Sportiva Helios. I really wanted to love these, but I’m more or less completely indifferent. I ran the Coastal 50k in them in the pouring rain, they drained quite well and provided a ton of grip on wet and muddy trails- I was loving them; but then I ran the DCFT50 in them in really dry and dusty conditions and my feet really, really hurt the week after. Having run about 250 miles in them I should have an opinion, but strangely all I can say is that they’re a good shoe for bad conditions- super sticky rubber, awesome drainage, etc. I’m going to try them in some snow when I get up to the Tahoe Rim Trail in February for a training run before I make a final opinion. Maybe the European sizing is sort of inexact for my foot type? I’ve never had so many questions about a shoe that I’ve run this many miles in…

Best Blogs of the Year

Zach Bitter; this is pretty much where I get all my nutritional advice. This guy slays it, he just set the 12-hour track World Record (101.66 miles) AND the US Men’s 100-mile Record (11:47:13). He’s a Vespa user so he follows a pretty strict OFM diet, and he lists examples of what his daily food intake looks like. It’s pretty tough to do the sort of running he’s doing if you’re not totally fat-adapted; meaning burning fat as your primary fuel. The fact that he can run 7:04 per mile for 100 miles is astounding, and he pretty much shows you how to fuel to do that stuff.

Anton Krupicka; I love how Anton’s been completely transparent in his training- he lists everything he does almost every week. Time of run, elevation gain, routes used, power-hiking, etc. Plus, he’s been doing more and more serious climbing and that’s been cool to see as he progresses there.

Joe Grant (both his pieces for iRunFar and his personal website Alpine Works); his eloquence and insight have been pretty awesome, so much so that I find myself looking forward to his stuff more than anyone else on iRF. His photography is breathtakingly amazing as well, sometimes his only text is a poem. Kudos, Joe.

Best Vlogs of the Year (Video Blogs)

Sage Canaday‘s YouTube channel, Vo2MaxProductions, is pretty awesome. Sage, along with his girlfriend Sandi Nypaver (a very accomplished long trail runner herself) give tips on proper running form, speed workouts, downhill technique, gear reviews, nutrition tips, etc. and generally post cool clips of them ascending Long’s Peak or running beautiful trails around the country.

The Ginger Runner! Ethan Newberry is my newest discovery- this guy rules. Product reviews and what to buy for the runner in your life, but really his awesome race reports; this guy brings a GoPro camera to races and documents the whole thing, then edits it (really awesome). He’s entertaining as hell and he’s progressing along nicely as a runner.

Salomon Running TV is nothing short of incredible. With that team and what seems like endless financial resources, they’re at the forefront of putting together so many cutting edge, short trail running movies.

Best Podcasts

I think Tim Long and Gary David at Elevation Trail are the best in the business. They look at endurance sports from a thinking man’s point of view; Long is an astute observer of the ultra scene and outspoken critic of where the sport is heading; he can come off as a curmudgeon but he’s highly entertaining. He likes his ultras old school and enjoys living in a cabin with his girlfriend and three dogs, deep in the mountains. David is a sociology professor at Bentley University in Massachusetts so he looks at ultras and endurance sports from an academic point of view, and it makes for great conversation between the two. And hey, they’re pretty damn good runners.

Trail Runner Nation; these guys are the sort of the class clowns of the bunch. Scott Warr and Don Freeman, along with occasional recurring guests like Jimmy Dean Freeman, Faith Goss, Sally McRae, Drs. Phil Maffetone and Mark Cucuzella are joined by all the big names in ultra and trail running, and they have fun doing it. Some of my favorite interviews/shows of the past year: Chris Vargo, Ian Torrence, Anna Frost, JB Benna, Candice Burt, et. al. That’s just the past few months. These guys are good about churning stuff out on a timely basis, too. The only downside (and I know this is a necessary evil) is the 6-7 minutes of advertisements at the beginning; usually from Petzl or Tailwind Nutrition.

Talk Ultra: this is THE global ultrarunning podcast, hosted by Brit Ian Corless (with co-host Karl Meltzer, yes, THE Karl Meltzer) and it works as well as any late-night duo as I’ve ever seen (…or heard). Meltzer’s dry, wry delivery coupled with his “a hundred miles is not that far” old-school mentality is the perfect foil for Corless’s charming, positive and bright attitude. His interviews are long but never boring, totally in-depth. He also has Emelie Forsberg do a recurring bit called “Miles and Smiles”, and like I said previously he covers the entire globe, he may be talking to winners of the Mount Everest Marathon in the same episode as he’s talking to a 100-mile guy like Mike Morton. He releases 3-plus hour podcasts every other Friday, so add “prolific podcaster” to his list of achievements.

Best Free Stuff from Races

It’s free, so it’s all good- I’m not complaining if anybody gives me anything for nothing (well, I did pay the race entry fee I guess). I mean, I’ll even take the crappy stuff; because they make nice gifts to other, less experienced runners. But the best free stuff is good quality tech shirts or hats, because I’ll use that shit (some races give that low quality tech fabric, that’s a huge no-no). But pint glasses (yeah, Inside Trail Racing) and coasters (from Coastal Trail Runs) are actually the best thing you can get because people need to use those at my house to not mess up my cheap Ikea furniture. And they’re now forced to mention my last 50k. I also get to plug the two best trail racing companies in the Bay Area, so that’s an added bonus.

Looking Forward to 2014:

So I’m psyched to try my first pair of Altras. If you’re not familiar with Altra, they’re the “zero drop” shoe, meaning no differential between heel and forefoot so it’s like actually being barefoot, but with adequate trail / road protection. I’ve got the Altra Superior on the way, should be here by press time. They look really cool and have sweet functionality, like a removable rock plate, super wide toe box and are actually shaped like a foot. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the trail-running community, so I’m hoping they’re all I think they could be.

I’m also really psyched to run with more and more people this upcoming year; it’s been really great to watch my friends get into running and progress rather quickly, whether it be at the half marathon road distance, the trail marathon with 4,000 feet of elevation gain or hearing them think out loud that they may want to attempt a 50-miler, that’s a really cool thing to be a part of. Having a friend to go out on a 25+ mile training run is a life-saver and having friends be available to pace and crew you in 50-milers is pretty beautiful, too. Just having that sort of support network is so invaluable; being pushed to do an extra mile; just chatting away the miles about “life”; hell- even farting contests on the run are pretty funny. This is probably the best thing I’ve tried to cultivate this past year.

So that’s it, the year in running reviewed. I’m ready to train hard, hopefully I’ll see you out on the trails…

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MUTROY Awards

It’s that time of year folks; when all the magazines, websites and blogs more or less agree with each other about who was the most awesome “ultra” runner in 2013. Except that they usually confine their picks to just North Americans. And any ultra race goes, even those 24-hour runs done on high school tracks.

Well, here at Run JMC we only really pay attention to mountain / ultra / trail (MUT) running, so we’re hard at work tallying votes from all around the world and getting you all the latest scoops and gossip… uh, not really.

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with guys and gals that run on tracks for 24 hours or do 100 km or 50 mile races on those 2.5-mile flat concrete loops; that’s an amazing feat. I’m just into a different kind of running right now. One day I might try one of those 6, 12 or even 24-hour runs, but for now- all trails, baby.

Because I really like mud. I purposely jump in puddles when I’m out running, and I prefer doing it on single-track trails that meander through some combination of coniferous/deciduous forest. I like finding steep trails and going up them, then cresting out on a ridge and bombing down the other side. Sometimes I fall down. Because there are rocks and roots.

So yeah, all trail running, all the time.

So without anymore qualifiers or disclaimers, here’s what I’m doing…

THE NOMINEES

100-Mile Performance of the Year

The Dudes

Seb Chaigneau, Hardrock 100 (24:25, CR)

Hardrock is a gnarly race and people that win it are gnarly individuals. Sebastian Chaigneau is French; and you can stop right there with all that French stereotype crap; dude is a badass. He lowers Karl Meltzer’s previous record by 13 minutes, and since Hardrock reverses its direction every year, Seb sets a new CR on the “counter-clockwise” course.

Dominic Grossman, Angeles Crest 100 (19:06)

Just watch this video:

Xavier Thevenard, UTMB (20:34, CR)

Who? Never heard of this dude, but he takes Kilian’s record down by 2 whole minutes. I have a feeling Kilian will want to do this race again to take it back, or everyone is gunning for this new time. Either way, Xavier beat a stacked field this year, the “year an American was finally going to win UTMB”. We’ll have to wait another 9 months to find out now. Xavier wasn’t really challenged the whole race, it seemed like every time I looked at the race feed Tony Krupicka was falling further and further behind. Thevenard just got stronger and blew every one away.

Gary Robbins, HURT 100 (19:35, CR)

Beats his old CR by 37 minutes. This is even more impressive considering it’s a January race, so if you’re running this it either means no off-season or your off-season is late January into February, when the rest of us are base building. Gary Robbins is a beast to win a race in a rainforest that’s essentially 5 20-mile loops over nothing but wet, slippery roots. Think you could run a 100-miler through the jungle from LOST? Think you could do it in 19.5 hours?

Francois d’Haene, Diagonale des Fous (22:58)

The Diagonale des Fous (Diagonal of Fools) may just be the toughest race in the world; it’s gotta be up there with Hardrock and UTMB- I mean 164 km (101.9 miles) long and +9,917 meters (32,536 feet) of elevation gain, it looks unbelievable. A tropical volcanic island in the Indian Ocean where the people are obsessed with trail running? Sounds like paradise. Anyway, d’Haene, a regular competitor on the European ultra scene (as a Salomon team member) ran a tremendous race, winning by almost 3 hours.

Ian Sharman’s Grand Slam Record (69:49)

For the uninitiated; the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” is the completion of the four oldest 100-milers in the USA; Western States 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch Front 100 and Vermont 100 (in ’89 Vermont was added as a substitute for the original 4th race, the Old Dominion 100. OD100 was officially dropped from the Slam in ’03). They are all run within a 10-week window (WS100 was June 29th, VT100 July 20th, Leadville August 17th and Wasatch September 6th) which is totally insane. The fact that a guy could do all 4 combined under 70 hours boggles my mind. That’s like 17.5 hours per 100 miles.

The Ladies

Rory Bosio, UTMB (22:37, CR)

This might be one of those records that stands for like 20 years. Rory was running with the boys all race, finishing 7th overall. Mind boggling. Her fierce determination coupled with race preparedness (she had went out to France weeks ahead of time to acclimate) gave us one of the best performances not only of 2013, but one for the ages.

Pam Smith, Western States (18:37)

Likewise Pam Smith at Squaw, she was picking up carnage all day; even chicking Karl Meltzer late in the race. Pam overcame some stomach issues early in the heat to win the ladies’ race, and also lower her time from 2012 by 10:21. That’s ten hours and twenty-one minutes. She hit Robinson Flat at mile 30 in 30th place. From there, she picked her way up through the race; hitting Michigan Bluff at mile 56 in 17th, then Rucky Chucky at 78 in 11th. A systematic dismantling of the competition.

Michele Yates, Run Rabbit Run (20:16, CR)

Michele Yates is probably the female rookie of the year; the first time I saw her name was in UltraRunning Magazine earlier in the year winning the 50-mile USATF Championship at Bandera. Since then, she’s absolutely dominated. Run Rabbit Run was no exception; finishing 7th overall and first woman by about 43 minutes. For a race that starts at noon, it basically guarantees that you’re running through the night; and being in Colorado, there’s the chance that it could snow (it did). Add a bear encounter, some muddiness and that 10,000 dollar first place prize and you’re guaranteed for some epic racing. Michele also won a hundo outright (the Indiana Trail 100) with a time of 17:35.

100k Performance of the Year

Dudes

Rob Krar, UROC (9:29)

First, Krar had to break Sage Canaday, Scott Wolfe and Kilian Jornet to make a move away from the lead pack (with Dakota Jones in tow) right around mile 33. Then Dakota surged around mile 52, building up a pretty solid little lead until about mile 57 when Rob caught Dakota, passing him and then pulling away for the win. Rob was a monster on the climbs all day, and he brought home a $10,000 prize purse plus bragging rights.

Sage Canaday, Bandera (8:13, CR)

Sage beat an insanely stacked field early in the season to come away with his first dominating win of the year, beating the likes of Dave Mackey, Paul Terranova, Karl Meltzer, Gary Gellin, Dave James and Jeff Browning. Winning by almost 40 minutes, Sage was able to execute a perfect race.

David Laney, Waldo (9:05, CR)

The 25-year old Laney was a XC star at NAIA-division Southern Oregon University (he also just ran an insane 2:18 at CIM last week), and he’s a newcomer to the mountain ultra scene. Winning both ultras he’s entered in ’13 (and setting course records) might get him rookie of the year honors, but first let’s talk about his win at Waldo- a dominating 40-minute obliteration of the field. He basically pulled away from the field early and ran alone to the win.

Sage Canaday, Tarawera (8:53)

Sage blew up so badly BUT had such a sizable lead that he was able to “walk it in” down in New Zealand. Not really, but he did have to take the last few downs pretty gingerly since he blew his quads building that huge lead. Some say it was up to about 12+ minutes by 55 kms, and staving off dehydration (coupled with the dreaded bonk) he was able to fend off the onslaught and win by about 3 minutes.

Ladies

Ruby Muir, Tarawera (10:30)

The fact that Miss Muir runs in Vibram Five Fingers is astonishing. The fact that she finished 7th overall is pretty amazing, too. I hope she’s going to defend her title in ’14 because from what I hear, this New Zealand race is “epic”, and hopefully it attracts some real competition for Ruby.

Emelie Forsberg, UROC (12:06)

Emelie said she was prepared for the “road” part of this race, and although she never runs on it she was able to use her mountain-ultra-trail background to hammer away and make up time where she thought she’d be the weakest. Emelie was able to overcome some altitude-related issues and break away from Stephanie Howe at mile 33, running to a 23-minute victory.

Michelle Barton, Javelina (9:50, CR)

Michelle Barton won the Javelina 100k outright, beating all the men. By an hour and 25 minutes, no less. That’s a super dominant performance. I’m not familiar with Michelle but her UltraSignup page shows that she’s finished in the top ten 9 of her last 10 ultras, (going back to the 2011 Speedgoat- 17th place) while winning 5 of them. I’d say look out for Barton in ’14.

50-mile Performance of the Year

Dudes

Sage Canaday, Lake Sonoma (6:14, CR)

Sage hit the Madrone Point aid station at mile 31 five minutes back of Max King and 3 minutes back of Cameron Clayton. In the next 8 miles, Sage was able to put 3 minutes on Max and 5 on Cam. By the Island View AS at mile 45.5, Sage had built a 6-minute lead over Cam and 17 minutes on a faltering Max. The rest is history, as Sage torched Dakota Jones’s CR by 3 minutes. I ran a full 6 hours and 8 minutes behind Sage, and all I can say is that this course was designed to break the runner’s will, forcing this guy to all but walk in the last 12 miles.

Dakota Jones, San Juan Solstice (7:35, CR)

It’s been said that Matt Carpenter’s course records might stand for the next 50 years. Pike’s Peak Ascent, Pike’s Peak Marathon, Leadville 100, Aspen Marathon, the list is so long it would fill most of this page. So Dakota, a Colorado running legend in his own right, breaks Carpenter’s record by almost 25 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the San Juan range in southwestern Colorado, it’s probably the most rugged part of the state. As for the race, it’s 12,856 feet of cumulative climbing, and tops out at just over 13,000 feet (twice) and never dipping below 8,671. So, running that under eight hours gets you the title “Freak of Nature”.

Kilian Jornet, Transvulcania (6:54; CR)

If you were wondering when Kilian was going to show up on any of these lists, look no further than the performance he put up at Transvulcania (he’ll show up again later down the list…) This was a warm-up race for Jornet, as he had just finished his SkiMo season a few weeks prior to this race. He hung back and was patient, finally taking the lead towards the end of the race, eventually charging to the lead and taking down Dakota Jones’s course record by 4 minutes. If you’re not familiar with Transvulcania, it basically runs the length of a volcanic ridge on the island of La Palma, gaining close to 28,000 feet of climb throughout, with temps close to triple digits most of the day.

Rob Krar, TNF Championship (6:21)

Fresh off a DNF at the JFK 50-miler, it looks as though Krar was just using that as a 41-mile training run (speedwork?) He ran at the front all day, eventually pulling away from Cameron Clayton and Chris Vargo on that last climb out of Tennessee Valley at mile 44. This was Krar’s second big “money” win of the year, and after a second place finish at Western States (his first 100-miler), wins at Zane Grey, UROC and here at the TNF Championship pretty much cements him as my pick for Mountain / Ultra / Trail Runner of the Year for 2013.

Ladies

Emelie Forsberg, Transvulcania (8:13)

Like I said earlier, Transvulcania is early in the season and most of the European runners compete at a high level in Ski Mountaineering, so for Emelie to win just a few weeks off of her “other” winter sport leads me to believe that SkiMo is great training for mountain running. Anyway, huge day for Emelie here at La Palma, beating Nuria Picas over the last 6 km for the win.

Cassie Scallon, Lake Sonoma (7:47, CR)

Cassie had been leading through the first 30 miles of the race, and then she fell apart. Literally, being passed by Joelle Vaught and going down 3 minutes by mile 38, Cassie somehow pulled it together and overtook Joelle for the win and course record. On a deceptively hot day and on a deceptively relentless course, Scallon showed a ton of grit and determination to go for the win.

Michele Yates, TNF Championship (7:21)

Another superb finish for someone that wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the start of ’13. Yates systematically destroyed the field at TNF, the most competitive 50 of the year. It places the added demand on all runners to have something left over this late in the season, and for Yates to be able to go out super aggressively and never relinquish the lead for the entirety of the race says something about her drive. A great finish to the season, and another reason why I’m naming Yates as my female Mountain / Ultra / Trail Runner of the Year for ’13.

50k Performance of the Year

Dudes

Sage Canaday, Speedgoat (5:08; CR)

Probably the hardest 50 km race in the states (in terms of altitude & elevation) Sage showed dominance from the get go, breaking Max King on the first huge climb while stretching out a 9-minute lead by mile 21. Holding off a late surge from Anton Krupicka, (nice to see that dude back racing) Canaday wins against a super competitive field over names like Jason Schlarb, Luke Nelson and Timmy Olson.

David Laney, Chuckanut (3:40, CR)

In his first ultra attempt, Laney breaks Geoff Roes’s course record, outlasts Max King and a tough field to win the Pacific Northwest’s toughest 50k. With his win at Waldo, Laney is quickly making a name for himself- two ultras, two wins, two course records. He’s the guy to watch in 2014, without a doubt.

Max King, Way Too Cool (3:08, CR)

It seems like Max was always finishing 2nd or 3rd this year, and after a dominant 2012 he sort of (kind of) takes a step back. Not to worry, he dominated the W2C race this year, another early season warm-up race held in Cool, California on parts of the Western States trail. Running against an insanely stacked field, King showed mettle early and broke away from Leor Pantilat and Chris Vargo for the dominant win.

Ladies

Stephanie Howe, Gorge Waterfalls (3:49)

There’s the “other” awesome Pacific Northwest 50 km race, Gorge Waterfalls; which showed off Stephanie Howe’s complete dominance in back-to-back years, setting another course record in the meantime. Winning by 16 minutes over Catrin Jones on some of the most beautifully scenic and rugged trails is no small feat.

Meghan Arbogast, Way Too Cool (4:06)

Meghan had to fend off a surging Rory Bosio to win one of the most competitive 50 km races in the States. Never mind that Arbogast is still a beast at 51 years young, beating women half her age, she showed a ton of poise and determination. It’s truly inspiring, and besting such a stacked field also proves that you can still run it fast into your fifth decade.

Stephanie Howe, Speedgoat (6:17)

Another win at the 50 km distance for Howe, who passed Jodee Adams-Moore in the final downhill to win by about a minute. Adams-Moore ran in first the whole race and Howe’s patience and determination got her the win.

Jodee Adams-Moore, Chuckanut (4:01, CR)

This time it was Adams-Moore’s turn, beating a tough field of Devon Yanko, Cassie Scallon and Kerrie Bruxvoort. She takes the course record down a full 8 minutes and wins over Yanko by 21 minutes. Pretty dominant stuff out there.

The Winners!

After reading all the nominees above, I’ll now present you the winning performances.

100 Miles (Men): it’s gotta be Ian Sharman‘s Grand Slam record. To do that amount of mileage and winning in all of 10 weeks, that’s amazing. 4th at States, 4th at Vermont, winning at Leadville and a 2nd at Wasatch is pretty unbelievable. He was pushed along by Nick Clark, who was doing the Slam “bandit” style (not officially registered, but whatever) who also came in under the old record.

100 Miles (Women): Rory Bosio‘s complete obliteration of UTMB. Nothing else really comes close.

50 Miles (Men): gonna have to go with Dakota Jones‘s annihilation of Matt Carpenter’s CR at Solstice. He didn’t run against crazy good competition but to go out and blow up a Carpenter CR is just amazing.

50 Miles (Women): Michele Yates‘s wire-to-wire win at TNF was as dominating a performance this year as I’ll see, and to do it against the most stacked field? Gotta give it to her.

50 k (Men): Sage Canaday, Speedgoat. Sage wins the first climb, lights out after. Sage had some huge wins in the early season and faded a bit late, but he’s my early pick for MUTROY ’14. Watch Sage- there’s some murmurs going around that he’s hungry…

50 k (Women): Meghan Arbogast‘s win at Way Too Cool is too storybook not to give her the award. I won’t go in to too much detail, but read this article for more on her story.

I guess you already saw my MUTROYs above, Yates and Krar. That was pretty easy, they deserve those awards.

Now for the Rookie MUTROYs (first ultra in the calendar year of 2013):

Men: David Laney. A win at the 50 km distance (Chuckanut) and the 100 km distance (Waldo) cements this fact, and he’s the #1 guy to watch going into next year. He just ran a 2:18 at California International Marathon so he’s got that Max and Sage kind of leg speed; I’m just saying “look out” for this dude.

bouletWomen: Magdalena Boulet. This was a tough choice, not because the female rookie competition was so tight, it was because there was such a lack of first year ultra talent to choose from. But this former Olympian (with a 2:26 road marathon to her credit) blew away everyone (except Runner of the Year Michele Yates) at TNF Championships. She’s running W2C in ’14, so stay tuned.

Runners to watch for 2014…

Men:

Chris Vargo- dude is a monster, and he (among several other great “new” runners) made his ultra debut at the 2012 Bootlegger 50k. Here’s his 2013 stats: 2nd at W2C, 6th at Lake Sonoma, 1st (and CR) at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k and 3rd at TNF Championships.

David Laney- he’s my ’13 rookie of the year, I see him only improving. Crazy fast, hopefully we’ll see more of him in the next 12 months.

Sage Canaday- only being sick could slow Sage down this year, as he DNS’d at TNF Championships due to the flu. He was one of my picks to win the thing (as was Dakota, also felled by the flu) and I’m saying it now: Sage is my early pick for MUTROY ’14.

Alex Varner- this guy is ridiculously fast, and he just made the jump to ultras, winning both (Tamalpa Headlands 50k & Bootlegger) and setting CRs along the way. Bay Area folks know him as “the guy that wins the Dipsea and the Woodminster every year” but soon the ultra world will know him, too.

Geoff Roes- I don’t know if Geoff’s signed up for anything yet in ’14, but I hear he’s running again and looking to get competitive. I’m hoping he’s going to be at or near the level he was when he was last competing; but if not, his presence is still awesome for the sport.

Women:

Emily Harrison- Emily finished 2nd at the 2012 JFK50, her first ultra ever. She then went on to the Moab Red Hot 55k, the Mormon Fat Ass 50-miler abnd finish 7th at Western States, her 100-mile debut. Those impressive races were then followed up by a 2nd at Bootlegger 50k and a win 1at JFK50 this year.

Obviously Magda Boulet (see above).

Stephanie Howe- she’s making her 100 mile debut at the ’14 WS100, and I’m sure she’s going to podium there. With a super strong showing at last year’s UROC 100k and a several top-3 finishes at the 50-mile distance I’m sure she’s ready to crush it in 2014.

Anna Frost and Ellie Greenwood; both were injured for most of 2013, so I’m looking for those two to bounce back big time. Ellie is signed up for Lake Sonoma, and hopefully Anna is running back at full strength as well.

Races to watch:

Lake Sonoma 50 (April 12th): Rob Krar will be there this time to take on defending champ Sage; along with perennial beasts Max King, Dave Mackey, Jason Schlarb, Nick Clark, Chris Vargo, Ian Sharman, Timmy Olson, Joe Uhan, Jorge Maravila, et. al. Possibly another CR? Should be awesome, I’ll be running about 3 hours behind these guys.

Western States (June 28th): always a stacked field here, except for the returning champ Timmy Olson (he’s focusing on Hardrock). And the women’s field is pretty unbelievable- Nikki Kimball, Aliza Lapierre, Emily Harrison, Stephanie Howe, Amy Sproston, returning champ Pam Smith, Meghan Arbogast, wow- that’s going to be a great race. But look at the top guys: Krar, Miguel Heras, Mike Morton, Karl Meltzer, Jez Bragg, Nick Clark, Dylan Bowman and Ian Sharman. I think Rob Krar gets his first big 100-mile win, but I’m also picking Dylan Bowman and Nick Clark to podium. I’ll change these picks as we get closer, but for now…

Hardrock (July 11th): This race was made for Kilian Jornet’s style of running. I’m calling it now; Kyle Skaggs’ old CR is going down. Also; Julien Chorier, Dakota Jones, Timmy Olson, Joe Grant, Nick Coury, Tim Long, Jared Campbell… Crazy good field, and will make everyone sort of forget about that race from Squaw to Auburn two weeks before.

There it is, the 2013 Mountain / Ultra / Trail Running Year in Review from where I’m sitting…

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