Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Q&A With Our Readers!

Mick (from the UK) asked a few questions on the blog, and the next thing I knew they started coming in from everywhere! I guess it's time for the readers to interview the interviewer. I'm going to take a stab at a few of the questions (and steal a few as well for future interviews - great questions, you guys!). If you have other good links or would like to ask questions yourself, feel free to leave a comment below.

Okay...here we go...

(Me at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k, photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

Q: In one of your early blog entries you give a bit of background on how you got into trail running. Can you try and describe what the enjoyment of running is to you (sorry guess I should open with an easy question!) and what got you hooked onto trail running when you started?

I got into trail running in 2001, just after the 9/11 attack on New York. I had a bizarre personal connection with the tragedy (you can read about it here), but a new friend (my dog, Rocky) helped me find my way to the trails before I could make it to the beer fridge each morning. I wasn't a runner before that, unless you count joining the track team to meet girls.

Since then, trail running has become a big part of me. Maybe it's because it came at a time in my life where I needed change, but one thing for sure, trail running has been a spiritual awakening. Since every step on the trail is new, it helps me stay in the moment and forget my burdens. The surrounding wildlife is so rich and full of history - the deeper you go into the forest, the more it feeds your soul. Clock a few miles, and you remember that. A few more, and life simplifies as you can no longer focus on your daily stressors. Spend a few hours out on the trails, and you realize your place in the world. It keeps me humble. It felt like that that first week in September, 2001, and it has never gone away.

And, oh yes, you can eat anything you want which is a huge plus. I'm a sucker for pizza, milkshakes, creme brulee, and chocolate, so I need a calorie-burning hobby for sure.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about trail running, the anticipation of going for a run/ race, the actual run/race or the finishing of a run/race?

It's all pretty fun. In the marathons, I enjoy the race itself a lot, especially if it's a new trail. I've found with the ultras that finishing feels REALLY good. ;-) I find that I stick to my training if I've signed up for a number of races, and it gives each training day out a bit more sense of purpose.

I'm a big fan of "destination racing", where you pick a trail/place you've never been, then spend a few days in the area to experience as much as possible. See the sights, meet some locals, eat the local fare, etc. I often have so much fun that by the time I get to the race, it doesn't really matter how I finish.

Q: Sorry to hear you didn't manage to win an entry to the WS100 - any plans to do an alternative 100 mile event in 2006? If not what's the big attraction to you of the WS100?

No worries. I'll run States someday. I live about 1/3 the time in the Lake Tahoe area, so States has a special attraction to me. There's a lot of "ya ain't a real trail runner unless ya done States" in these parts. Plus I love the history of the event, the location, and the fact that there are 200 podiatrists on hand. I'm contemplating doing a 100-miler next year, but haven't pinned one down yet. If you have some suggestions, be sure to let me know.

I'll let you in on a secret on how "I" pick my race schedule. My wife, Christi, doesn't run (unless chased), but she does love to travel. So each year I give her a list of 10-20 races that sound like fun, and she picks 2-3 that she likes, largely because they are near places she wants to go. In 2004, it was Hawaii and Hood River, OR. In 2005, it was Boston, Deadwood, SD, and Aspen, CO. For 2006, she is hoping for New Mexico, Death Valley, and perhaps New Zealand. We use a few races as "anchor" races, blow a ton of frequent flyer miles (a good side effect of my job), and then I try and cram in as many local races, particularly new ones, as possible.

Q: Are you taking a winter break from running and do you already have a clear view on your race schedule for the new year?

I do take a break from racing, although I still exercise a lot in winter. I run/swim as much as before, but keep it aerobic as much as possible (no speed work or hill sprints) and don't worry too much about my mileage. My beer and wine intake definitely creeps up. Come January, I'll ramp up the training again.

Still working on the 2006 schedule. I do use the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series as a guide, so when that schedule comes out (Feb or so) is when I make the plans concrete. I am planning on going to Oakridge, Oregon in July for a trail running extravaganza (more on that later), and will do Boston again if my newly-qualified friends are up for it. I'm currently baiting Christi with a spa/run weekend at Death Valley in February.

Q: What does a typical workout week look like for you?

I haven't posted much about my training, but am happy to share some basics. Be sure to also check the interviews, since many of the elites were kind enough to share their workouts. Usually I run for fun (ie, fartlek), so I don't watch my splits too closely.

Here's a typical week:

Mon: Recovery swim in the morning

Tues: 5-6 miles of trails, 30-45 min weights (core)

Wed: 8-9 miles of trails (1500-2500 vrt ft)

Thurs: 3-5 miles of speed workout (trails or track) or hill sprints, 30-45 min weights (core)

Fri: Swim in the morning, 5-6 miles if no race on Sat

Sat: Race or 15-20 mile run

Sun: Rest (if race the previous day), bike 40-50 miles, or if training for 50+ mile race, do another 15-20 mile run on tired legs

That's a typical week. In the off-season (Dec-Mar), I do more biking and 8-9 mile runs on Tues/Thur to build an aerobic base.

I don't taper much, although I would probably be faster if I did. ;-)

Q: As somebody who tends to run where it's flat with at most 'hills' lasting 2 to 3 mintues - do you like running hills and how hard (or indeed easy) do you find running up hill?

I have the opposite problem from you - my house is in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where nothing is flat. My casual 5-mile run in the neighborhood has 1,100 vertical feet, so I get lots of hill training in whether I want to or not! But it means I have to make sure I practice flat (or pavement) if the race requires it. It took my four times longer to recover from the Boston Marathon than any ultra I tried, largely because I wasn't used to holding a fast pace on pavement.

I've found two things that help with hill training, and both should be fine on a small section. On the uphill, keep your back straight and lean forward until you feel yourself "falling forward" just a bit. That's your optimum posture. Then turn over your legs quickly in short strides, pacing yourself based on your breathing. Do this regularly on a 2-3 minute hill, then you will have a "rhythm" for any hill you encounter. If you know your "rhythm", then you can tackle a 3,000 foot beast without too much trouble.

I've found the downhill much harder to train for since you are more prone to injury. Best to do short spurts of 2-3 minutes, work on your quad strength, "bound" if you can, and keep your shoes laced tight. ;-)

Q: We read/hear about some amazing running feats undertaken by many people - what is your 'dream' challenge? And if it's WS100 for now, what will follow?

Yes, the folks I have had the pleasure of interviewing are incredible! They are truly extraordinary. I don't really have a "dream challenge" per se, what I have is a very long list of races/places I would like to try. Certainly Western States is on there, the Where's Waldo 100k, Ironman Hawaii, the Death Ride bike race in Nevada, and the 4-day bike/run stage race across California (assuming Envirosports does it again soon). We would love to travel to the UK, Italy, and South Africa too. So I guess my "dream challenge" would be to take a year off and hit them all, with a masseuse and cook coming along for the ride. ;-)

Q: Would you tell us a bit about your blog...what do you enjoy most about blogging? Will you continue with blogging in the new year (I certainly hope so)?

I'm so glad you enjoy it! It's been a great way to meet a lot of interesting people that share a common passion, and share some of my wife's fabulous photos. There are no rules in the blogosphere, so I've had fun experimenting with interviews and "products I would like to see". I work in technology too, so the blog is helpful to get a first hand knowledge of RSS, XML, moblogging, and all the other cool stuff coming down the pipe. Most of the comments that come in are from people who like the "keep it real" tone of the whole thing, so I'll stick with it. Lord knows I'll keep screwing up races, so humility should abound.

I certainly plan to continue in 2006, and am open to any suggestions.

Q: What's your favourite book you've read on running? In my opinion an excellent book on the 'tradition' of running fells (hills) in the UK (includes some international stories too) is 'Feet in the Clouds: A Story of Fell Running and Obsession' by Richard Askwith - Note: I have no association with the author/ publisher whatsoever ;-)

Short of Karnazes' book, Ultramarathon Man, I haven't read any running books. I'll have to check out your suggestion! I do enjoy Trail Runner Magazine and Ultrarunning Magazine, as well as many other running blogs out there.

Q: What running accomplishment are you most proud of? Do you have a favourite race story/incident (e.g. funniest/thoughest/ weirdest/most enjoyable) to share with us?

Most proud of? That's hard to say. Certainly winning the 2004 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series (the largest trail running series in the world) is a big one, although I enjoyed the racing more so than the winning. I still hold my "firsts" in high regard - my first marathon at the Golden Gate Marathon, my first ultra at the Rucky Chucky 50k, etc. - that's one thing every runner has, and it's pretty special.

Hands down, my craziest race was The Mountain Man Half Marathon in Hood River, OR, in 2004. About two miles into the race, I pulled off the front and followed the pink ribbons, only later to find out that the race organizers had used the same color ribbons that the Forest Service used to mark dead trees. I got hopelessly lost, as did EVERY runner, and there were no maps available. At one point, some hikers stopped me and said, "unless you plan on swimming across the Columbia Gorge, you're going the wrong way". With their maps, we found out I was over four miles off course. They filled up my water bottles, gave me snacks, and sent me on my way. I was so angry, I ran like a banshee. I ended up getting third overall. Crazy!

Q: Now for some of your own 'regular' interview questions... - Any tips you have for somebody who's just starting out with trail running? - What are your favourite races/ locations? - Have you experienced any running related injuries and how did you deal with them?

For new runners, I say CONGRATULATIONS! Starting is by far the hardest part. Just keep with it for a few months and you'll see it gets much easier. I've learned all my tips from asking other runners during races, so don't be afraid to ask. They learned the same way. As long as you're outside, you're 99% of the way there.

My favorite races tend to be "whatever race is next". Some of my past favorites have been the Waterfalls of Big Basin Marathon, the Tahoe Rim 50k, and anything around the San Francisco Bay Area. If you don't mind some hills, you'll be pressed to find better views.

No injuries so far, short of a few bouts of overtraining (I find this out when my resting heart rate jumps 20%). I've found as long as I swim 1-2 times per week, the early signs of injury tend to disappear quickly. I'm a big fan of Injinji socks too - I've been blister free since I started wearing them, and "foot recovery" was the toughest part for me.

Q: Finally congratulations to your excellent results of your 2005 Races!

Thanks! 2005 was a lot of fun, and my first real foray into the ultras. I have a lot of learning left ahead of me, that's for sure. I really enjoyed racing some races hard, and some just for fun. Balance is good.

1. IN 2004, you did triathlons and trail running. Are you going to do any more tri's?

Yes, I think so. We're looking at some Xterra races, an off-road duathlon, and I have put my name in (AGAIN) for the Ironman lottery. ;-)

2. How come you always have great pictures? Aren't you supposed to be running the RACE???
Most of my pics come from Christi, my wife. If your significant other has artistic skills, then let me suggest getting her one of the new Canon EOS or Rebel cameras. Your blogs will be gorgeous! Similarly, many of my pics come from those professional photographers on the course that you see all the time. Most of them have been very cool about letting me use them for the free blog.

3. Who do you train with?

I train solo, aside from running with Rocky. I do enjoy running with others, but I don't have a lot of neighbors willing to put in some long miles at 6am.

(My training partner, Rocky - he's much faster than he looks, believe you me; photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

4. You went from "good" to "great" in just a year or two. What happened? Any supplements? (ha, ha)

Ha! I guess "great" is a relative term. I'm still nowhere near the level of most of the elites, and still consider myself more "good" than "great". But I did get a lot faster in 2004, and I think that came from working up gradually over 2003, and adding speedwork in 2004. But I feel I still have a long ways to go.

No steriods for me, but I do use E Caps, Endurolytes, and Hammer's Recoverite. And I eat A LOT.

5. You have inov8 and injinji on your blog - are those advertisements? If so, how did you get them to advertise?

Aha! You must be a fellow blogger! No, they aren't paid ads. I run for both the Inov-8 and Injinji Race Teams and am huge fans of their products, so I put them up there. Similarly, I like the Trophy Series, so that's up there too. I've had some offers for ads, but I felt it would change the nature of the blog too much to get paid. It's a lot easier to ask for an interview if you say "it's all about the love of the trail, baby".

When can we see more "products I would like to see"? You got digged on digg.com, btw.

You got it. I'll try and crank out another in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for pointing me to digg - very cool.
Here's a question - why not run a _NORMAL DISTANCE_?

Hey, I try to mix in some shorter races too! Each distance is challenging in its own way. The ultras are simultaneously achievable and prone to disaster, so I have lately been obsessed with that specific adventure.

Why did you pick the trophy series from trail runner magazine? Why not the Montrail series, fuel belt series, SoCal series, etc.?

The Trail Runner Magazine Series has so many races, it's easy for me to fit it to my heavy work travel schedule. I did complete the Fuel Belt Series this year too (I got 8th), but hadn't thought about it until late in the season. Now that I'm doing more ultras, I should probably check out the other Series too. Certainly the Montrail Series is the monster series out there. I tell you what - I'll do a blog article on all the Series I can find and we'll see.

And why the biking on the weekends vs more running?

Less pounding, good cross-training. Plus it's fun to go fast! I would probably be best off to stick with all-running, but I enjoy the variety. I find it much easier to bike with friends than run too.

Here's a question for you. What kind of job do you have that allows you to run all over the place? Do you have time for other interests?

I work in high tech, usually in product design or marketing. I focus on starting new software companies, taking their products to market, and then getting them public/selling them a few years later. This means I'm usually flying 80-100k miles per year as I visit all the customers, go to conferences, work with investors, and visit field offices. At one point I had over 500k frequent flyer miles. The travel can be tough, but I really enjoy the work. Trail running has made the travel much more enjoyable since I can see something other than "downtown and a hotel".


Nope, no kids of my own. We have Rocky the pug and two cats. But I'm lucky to have many nieces and nephews, and I enjoy spending time with them. They all love Rocky the pug too.

Thanks for the questions, you guys!

- SD


  1. Hi Scott,
    this makes another good read (and I'm not referring to the questions :-) )!

    One small suggestion, for completeness you might want to link to your training schedule you described elsewhere in your blog, given that's one of your standard question.

    Keep it up,
    Mick (UK)

  2. I added the training schedule in a question above. Thanks!


  3. Thank you for your site. My sister Margie introduced me to it. I have just started running again and am appreciative for your input. I went a little over 1,000 miles this year and look to do some longer runs next year. In your typical training week, you did not mention stretching. Do you have a program or does the first mile of your run equal stretching?

  4. Good for you for getting in the miles! Regarding your stretching question, I do about 5 minutes before a run, and about 10 minutes after a run, focusing on hamstring/quad/calves.

    The pre-run stretch is mostly to warm up. I find that if I stretch out my lower back and hamstrings, it's easier to get a tempo going.

    The post-run stretch is closer to real stretching. I go one leg at a time, holding each stretch for about 6-8 seconds. Calf flexibility has been a focus, since those long uphill runs seem to use a full range of motion.

    Hope that helps!


  5. Hi Scott,

    AWESOME BLOG! If any work commitments ever bring you to or through Indianapolis, IN. My e-mail is youmustlearn@hotmail.com.
    I'll show you our city's humble trails while sharing a run.

    Take care,



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