Saturday, April 30, 2005

Trail runners shun the ordinary (Rochester Chronicle)

Great article on trail runnng this week in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

- SD

Trail runners shun the ordinary

(April 28, 2005) — The photograph would be enough to get most runners to turn the page and their back on the notion of entering the Jay Mountain Marathon.

Found on Page 24 in the latest issue of Trail Runner, a runner is shown in water up to his chin making a river crossing during the 28.2-mile "marathon."

"I was so inspired by Page 24 that I registered that day," says Mort Nace, a 38-year-old Brighton man who is an adventurous spirit with a capital "A."

"How could I pass on neck-deep water crossings, big climbs and sand dunes? Adding to the fun, I had already registered for the Jay Crossover — a 26-mile paddle — the day before. I think it's better to kayak the day before a long run than after."

Yes, the day after a hellacious run should be reserved for reveling in the pain of strained, twitching muscles.

Trail runners are not your run-of-the-mill beasts of burden. Nace, who co-directs the twisted Muddy Sneaker 20K trail run, says: "Most have no thoughts of winning anything and don't talk so much about running a certain time, but really look forward to competing against the course, the distance and the elements."

He says they relish stretching their limits, keeping it fun and playing in the wild.

Diane Jozefski is the perfect example.

Earlier this month, the 41-year-old Rochesterian completed the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run outside Raleigh, N.C. She says it was unlike anything she had done before.

"I felt a great sense of accomplishment in the fact that 238 people were at the start and 87 runners finished the 100 miles," says Jozefski, who was 86th in 29 hours, 16 minutes, 55 seconds.

That's right, she ran around the clock to finish her first century.

The course was a series of eight 12.5-mile loops. Jozefski says she stopped at the end of each lap to change socks, check for blisters and get a new water bottle.

"I did not really take any extended rest breaks," she says, "just did pit stops and got back out on the course."

To help her stay focused on the run, she dedicated each mile to a different friend or family member. Mile No. 1 was for her boss, who had joked with her that he could not even finish one mile, let alone 100. The last mile was for her dad, who was in the hospital at the time of the run. She says that was great incentive to finish the race.

There are more runners than you might think on this same trail to the ultra extreme. About two dozen Rochester-area trail runners participated in the Bull Run Run 50 Miler on April 9 in northern Virginia.

The 12.4-mile-long Muddy Sneaker, held April 16 at Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area in Italy, Yates County, reached the cutoff of 150 entrants in less than 24 hours back in January, according to Nace.

"Trail running has always been my favorite type of running," says Dave Bischoff, 43, of Fairport, who ran in his third Muddy Sneaker. "I prefer hills to flats. Don't ask why. I've always felt more comfortable going up than on a flat."

He says people enjoy a hilly trail course for the same reason mountaineers love peaks. "Because it is fulfilling to reach the summit, to view the grandeur, and to have overcome the challenge."

Running trails is also similar to skiing, Bischoff says.

"You're ripping past trees — probably creating an illusion of speed — jumping over logs, pounding up hills, getting trashed in the mud and streams. It's all the cool things about being a carefree kid again.

"In my opinion, it's the way we were created. There's a strong impulse to get out there on this awesome planet God has given us and to enjoy the gift He has entrusted us with while we are here. You can't help but marvel at His handiwork."

Bischoff, also a hardcore cyclist and skier, says he will continue to hit the trails until his time or his body are exhausted.

That's the same philosophy leading Nace to sign up for a July weekend of distance paddling and running in Jay, Vt., as well as the 50th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon up the 14,111-foot mountain in Colorado in August and the Dances With Dirt 100K Relay with two running mates Sept. 10 in aptly named Hell, Mich.

"Many miles to run, many fun adventures," Nace says. "I hope my legs hold up."

Gary Fallesen is our outdoors writer. Besides finding him trail running, you can reach him at or (585) 258-2454.

(Copyright Rochester Chronicle, All Rights Reserved)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Eighteen Ultra Wins In One Year - An Interview with William Emerson

There are few runners who can aspire to finish 18 ultras in their lifetime, let alone in the same year. But to win 18 ultras in one year?!? That's nothing short of super-human. And that's exactly what William Emerson of Portland, OR, did this year, winning 18 of 26 ultras in 2004 to set a new world record. Even with many of these races in the highly competitive Pacific Northwest ultra scene, this 40-year-old showed that he was in a class all by himself. The USATF agreed by naming him the 2004 USATF Masters Ultrarunner of the Year. I caught up with William on e-mail and asked him a few questions.

(William Emerson at the White River 50 miler, July, 2004 -
Photo courtesy of Glenn Tach, All Rights Reserved)

First, congratulations on an amazing year! That's quite a streak you have

1) I saw that you finished up the year by winning the Capital Peak 50k, Ron Herzog 50k, defending your title at the Quad Dipsea 28.4 miler and winning the Hunter S. Thompson 50k in San Francisco. What other races did you run in 2004 that comprised your record 18 wins?

The following list includes all 26 ultras run in 2004 plus four sub-ultra


1/1/04 CNW 5k Seattle, WA 4th 17min
1/3/04 Tiger Mt. Fat Ass 50k Issaqua, WA 1st 5hr 20min
1/10/04 Bridle Trails 50k Kirkland, WA 1st, set CR 3hr 44min
1/17/04 HURT 100k Honolulu, Hawaii 1st, CR 13hr 26min
1/24/04 Hilo to Volcano 50k Hilo, Hawaii 1st, Masters CR 3hr 58min
2/5/04 Lord Hill 33 Miler Washington 1st, CR 4hr 16min
2/19/04 Hagg Lake 50k Oregon 1st, MCR 3hr 52min
3/6/04 Dirty Duo 50k Vancouver, Canada 1st, CR 4hr 52min
3/13/04 Chuckanut 50k Bellingham, WA 1st, MCR 4hr 13min
3/20/04 Rucky Chucky 50k Forest Hill, CA 1st, MCR 4hr 26min
3/27/04 ARE-YOU-NUTS 8k Kirkland, WA 1st, CR 34min
4/4/04 Mt Si 50k North Bend, WA 1st, CR 3hr 27min
4/10/04 Diez Vista 50k Vancouver, Canada 1st, MCR 4hr 28min
4/17/04 Leona Divide 50m California 3rd, MCR 6hr 58min
5/12/04 McDonald Forest 50k Corvalis, OR 3rd, MCR 4hr 22min
6/19/04 WinterHawk 6hr Portland, OR 2nd, MCR 43.6 miles
7/10/04 Knee Knacker 30m Vancouver, Canada 2nd 5hr 16min
7/30/04 USATF 50m trail champs Green Water, WA Masters Nat Champ
8/14/04 Stormy 67k Vancouver, Canada 1st 4hr 26min
8/21/04 Wheres Waldo? 100k Oregon 4th, MCR 12hr 39min
9/11/04 McKenzie River 50k Oregon 3rd 4hr 1min
9/24/04 Lost Soul 100k Calgary, Canada 1st 13hr 16min
10/02/04 Capital Peak 50k Olympia, WA 1st, CR 4hr 33min
10/10/04 Rumble at the Ranch 15m Oregon 3rd 2hr 8min
10/30/04 Halloween Havoc 15m Oregon 1st 1hr 43min
11/6/05 Autumn Leaves 50k Champoeg, OR 1st 3hr 48 min
11/13/04 Ron Herzog 50k Granite Falls, WA 1st, MCR 3hr 52 min
11/27/04 Quad Dipsea San Francisco, CA 4hr 16 min
12/04/04 OTHTC High Desert 50k California 2nd 3hr 34min
12/11/04 Hunter S. Thompson 50k San Francisco, CA 1st 4hr 22min

2) That's amazing. How did you select what races and distances to run?

I primarily ran ultra trail races with four sub ultra races selected to round out my schedule. With so many races to chose from in my area, I entered races that were in the Pacific Northwest, California, and British Columbia, Canada primarily. I also ran two races in Hawaii. I had always wanted to visit Hawaii and the races were the catalyst to finally get me there.

3) Have you ever done 50-milers or 100-milers? If so, which ones?

I have run several "longer" ultras. My first ultra run ever was a 50 miler on road in Maine three weeks after finishing the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in 1996. I had not run much over the summer, but 2160 mile of hiking gave me a great fitness base. A few weeks after hiking the 2660 mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1998, I completed my second ultra, the Sierra Nevada Double Marathon in California. I have run the Cascade Crest 100 miler in Washington State twice, finishing third and first. I completed three sub 24 hour silver buckle finishes at the Western States 100 in California. Although I have finished several other 50 milers and 100ks, the 50k distance is what I race most frequently.

4) What were some of the highlights/lowlights of the year? What were your favorite races? Which were the hardest?

The year went very well overall. I was able to win several close races which were highlights of my year. Bridle Trails 50k, Chuckanut 50k, Mt Si 50k and Ron Herzog 50k, Quad Dipsea and Hunter S. Thompson 50k were all decided by a minute or two time differential at the end of each race. In July, I won the USATF Masters National 50 Mile Trail Championships and went on to receive the USATF Masters Ultra Runner of the Year award at the end of 2004.

A lowlight was feeling the high race volume by the middle of the year. I still ran reasonably well between mid April and mid August, but I was lacking the zip that I had earlier and regained somewhat later in the year. I enjoyed most of the races that I ran in 2004, even though there
were a few low points along the way.

I have run the White River 50 miler the last five years and it continues to rank as one of my favorite races. The H.U.R.T. 100k in Hawaii and Quad Dipsea in California are also great events.

The Lost Soul 100k in Lethbridge, Alberta Canada was tough. I ran at course record pace for the first loop, however I lost steam on the second/final loop. With only about 6,000 feet of elevation gain and a high point of a little more that 2000 feet, the course appeared pedestrian from my pre-race research. However the ups and downs were STEEP! and the footing rough and challenging. I was reduced to walking both the ascents and descents on the second lap. Running the flats was all that I could muster. Further complications were provide courtesy of a local "Do Gooder" who was moving course markings to misdirect participants. A fellow Ultra runner confronted the guy and was told that organized events were not allowed in Canadian Provicial Parks, so therefore no event could be taking place. Evidently the dude was missing a few cards from his deck.

5) You raced some pretty fast ultra runners - did any of them threaten to break your streak? Who came closest?

Through out the year I competed against several top runners including Jim Kerby, Brandon Sybrowski, Mike Lynes, John Ticer, Dave Mora, Jorge Pacheco and Kevin Sawchuck. Some times things went my way, some times not. Different athletes peak at different times and for different races. Where we each were in our respective training impacted the outcome of our head-to-head races.

6) How long have you been running? And how long have you been doing ultras? How would you describe your passion for the ultra distance?

I have been active all my life. Running has been a core conditioning tool for various activities including team sports in school such assoccer and basketball, competitive rowing, cycling, hiking, canoe racing and long distance swimming. In addition to road and trail ultras, I have run several marathons including Boston, New York and Greece. During my senior year of college I ran on the cross country team as well.

I have been doing Ultra events since I was 16 years old. A friend and I paddled 44 miles in a canoe race in 1980. After several years of running marathons as well as participating in cycling and other activities, I directed my focus on swimming in the early 1990s. I swam 14 miles in
August 1991 in memory of my father, raising money for charity. While living in Maine, a local bike shop organized a one day ride across Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire billed as R.A.T.S. (Ride Across Three States). Five of us set out after midnight from Bangor, Maine and arrived in Burlington, Vermont at about 9:30 pm that evening. My odometer registered 300.4 miles; a one day triple century bike ride!

Multi-day and -week mountaineering trips are endurance challenges. During January 1995 I traveled to Argentina and climbed to the 23,000 foot summit of Aconcagua, the highest point in South America. In 1997 I climbed Europe's highest peak, 18,500 foot Mt. Elbrus in Russia. I summited Mt. McKinley (Denali) in 1999, reaching the highest point in North America at 21,320 feet.

Hiking has been an ultra endurance activity as well for me. In 1996 I hiked the 2,160 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail. After a 10 month around-the-world trip in 1997/98 which included a month in Russia and two months trekking in Nepal, I set my sights on the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This thru-hike included many ultra distance days in succession over the summer of 1998. Then in May 1999, after almost three weeks on Mt McKinley in Alaska, I set out for the top from 14,000 feet - traveling many miles and gaining 7,000 feet of elevation to reach the summit that day. After returning home from Alaska a few days later, I took a month to finalize preparations for a 2,700 mile journey from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail , the least traveled of the three National Scenic Trails in the United States. Few attempt it, fewer finish it. Again, many ultra distance days were hiked to finish before winter snow storms in the Colorado high country signaled the end of the hiking season.

I ran a 50 mile ultra three weeks after finishing the Appalachian Trail in 1996 and a 52.4 mile race in the fall 1998, a few weeks after completing the Pacific Crest Trail. Although I considered running an ultra in the fall of 1999, I opted not to as the combination of climbing Denali in the
spring and Hiking from Canada to Mexico on the CDT over the summer left me feeling less than race ready. By spring of 2000 I was running with a group from the Seattle Running Company and gearing up for the White River 50 mile trail race in July. This race began my transition to ultra trail racing.

7) You had some amazing ~4:30 hour times for the 50k all year long. What is your PR for the 50k?

My 50k PR is 3 hours, 27 minutes (6:40 per mile) run at Mt Si in April 2004.

8) Clearly you have a day job/home life that allows travel. What do you do? Does everyone at work think you're crazy?

I worked at the Seattle Running Company for several years, before moving to Portland, Oregon in 2004. I have been focused on trail running since then. My co-workers at Seattle Running Company often participated in Ultras, so I felt right at home.

I would love to ask a few training questions if you don't mind.

1) There's often debate that the 50k can be run as a "long marathon" (run the whole way, and kick at the end) or a "short ultra" (even tempo with early walks). What's your take?

Most people will have a better experience AND finish time if they run an even tempo with early walks. The long marathon approach may net out a faster time, however it is far riskier. Eric Clifton, a top ultra runner over the last 20 years, frequently runs hard from the start. He often wins and sets course records, many of which still stand. Uli Steidl from Seattle runs both 50ks and 50 milers as long marathons and does not even takes walk breaks in hilly ultras. He is selective in his ultra racing and has set a course record in each of the six ultras that he has run over the last few years. My approach is to run steady, walk the hills (10,000 plus miles of hiking makes for a quick stride) and then increase my effort level as the race progresses. Not only has this approach worked well for me, but it also allows for a quicker recovery, which is especially important when racing frequently.

2) Some of your races are as little as a week apart, so clearly you have a good recovery strategy. Could you share some insight on what works best for you (how long to stop running, how do you start back up, diet, massage, etc.)?

In January 2004, I ran four ultras on successive weekends to start the year. Following a Saturday race, I would run an easy 10 mile recovery run on Sundays and then cross train on Mondays. A long trail run on Tuesdays was key to maintaining/building fitness and still have time to recover for another event the following weekend. Wednesdays consisted of a run and/or
cross training, followed by an easy run on Thursdays. Rounding out the week, I cross trained or took the day off on Fridays and entered another race on Saturdays (or ran a long training run if not participating in a race). After races and hard training sessions I used cold leg soaks, massage and chiropractic care to hasten recovery. I have been going to Dr. Dirk Farrell at Benchmark Chiropractic in Seattle since 2001, and to various massage practitioners as well.

3) How do you stay motivated to give it your all at the next ultra and the next ultra and the next...

Once the year was under way I realized that 2004 could be something special so I kept seeking out more races to enter. I was pursuing multiple racing goals through out the summer. I placed first overall in the Canadian Montrail BC Ultra Trail Series, second overall and first masters ultra runner in the Trail Runner Magazine International Trophy Series and won the USATF Masters 50 Mile Trail Championship at White River in July. Motivation is key; without it starting 30 races in one year, let alone finishing them all, would not be possible. Several of the races entered in 2004 were new to me; some I had run before. There was a good mix which kept things

4) Do you have any time to train at all, or is it just run/recover/run? If you do train, what sorts of training do you do (hills, speed work, etc.)? Any special considerations for being a "masters" racer?

I trained as well as raced a lot during the winter of 2004. By mid spring I scaled back some on both my training and racing. Most of the races served as training for the next event. By starting off conservatively and picking up the pace later in the race, the end of each event was a tempo run of sorts. A mix of rest, recovery runs and cross training between events served me well through out the year. Many of my training runs and races were on hilly trails. Speed work consisted mostly of mile repeats on the track when it fit my schedule and fast running at the end of races. 2004 was my first full year of racing as a "master" runner. Mark Richtman, a champion Ride and Tie competitor (two runners and one horse) and top three Western States 100 finisher at age 47, says that more rest and recovery is needed to be at your best as a masters athlete.

5) How about cross-training. Did you have any time for that?

I believe that cross-training is a very important tool. While it may not directly make you faster, diversifying your training limits your injury potential. If you are healthy, you can continue to train and race. So, yes I make the time for cross-training. What do people do when they are injured? They cross-train! Do it before you have to.

6) Can you share how you think about your race nutrition strategy? How many calories are you targeting per hour? Do you go all fluids, or do you eat too? What are your favorite snacks/drinks?

I shoot for about 300 calories per hour consisting of Clif shot gels and various sport drinks. Gordy Ainsley, the first to complete the Western States horse race on foot sans horse in 1974, showed me his drink of choice a few years ago on a 45 mile training run that we ran together. He mixed V8 juice, fruit juice and H2O in his bottles. There is a lot of sodium in the V8, lots of carbohydrate calories in the juice and lots of water in the H2O! ;-) This drink hits on all cylinders. Variations of Gordy's drink that work well for me include substituting maple syrup or honey for the fruit juice. I sometimes add protein powder as well. I also use various other sport drinks sold at retail.

7) Any other tips you would like to share with folks targeting their first 50k?

Be prepared; try out all of you gear ahead of time and plan for the unexpected - it might be hotter or colder that normal. Talk to people who have run the race before for specific pointers on how the race is organized and the layout of the course. In the fall 2000 I ran a 50k trail race that required everyone to check in just before the start so that race management would have an accurate count of runners on the course. Two people did not fufill this requirement and were excluded from the final results. Ask questions so that you are clear how things work at a particular event. Make sure that you enjoy yourself; ultras can be fun if you can get past the
suffering! :-)

8) What have you seen change in ultra running over the past few years? What do you think is coming next?

Ultra running is growing in popularity. Over the last several years races such as the Way Too Cool 50k in California have gone from days to hours to minutes elapsed before filling its entry quota. In the late 1990s, Montrail and Scott McCoubrey (now owner of the Seattle Running Company) put together a very successful trail running team that continues to sponsor many top
runners. More recently, companies such as The North Face, Vasque and Nike ACG have assembled ultra running teams. Various other running shoe and hiking boot companies are designing and marketing footwear for trail running as well. Look for the soon to be released "Nontrail" 100k road running shoe from a prominent player in the industry. ;-)

9) Aside from a long nap, what's next for you? Are you doing a full ultra schedule again next year?

Naps are great after a long trail run or interview....yawn...stretch...yawn... What was that last question again???zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A great interview, William. Thanks for sharing with everyone! I hope to see you out on the trails soon.

- SD

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Boston Marathon Experience

On Monday, I had the delight of joining 20,832 other runners for the 109th annual Boston Marathon. Being a trail runner, Boston was new for me in many ways - pavement, screaming fans, hash house harriers, and enough sub-4 hour marathoners to fill a stadium. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but by the time it was done, my eyes were open to a whole new world of marathoning. I congratulate all those who ran and cheered, and feel privileged to have been a part of it.

I'll have to admit, I didn't understand what it meant to "qualify for Boston" when the officials at the Park City Marathon had told me I had done so in June, 2004. But it didn't take long to find out, since nearly every other runner there had a story/goal to fill in the details on the prestige of the event, and the unique experience and history that was simply "doing Boston" to each of them. Runners (and supporting family members) would light up with stories of "the scream tunnel", "Lobster man", and the dreaded "Heartbreak Hill". It sounded like one helluva party so I sent in my application.

From the moment Christi (my wife) and I got on the plane from San Francisco to Boston, we could tell this event was huge. About 1/3 the plane were runners, coming from Japan, Korea, California, etc., already chatting about the qualifying races that got them to Boston. For many, it was the goal of a lifetime that took years of training, and the simple fact that they were there was worth the finisher medals weight in gold. Many others were flying out to be spectators, cheering on family members and friends. To each, it was a pilgrimage, spoken of with sincerity and reverance more so than any race I had ever attended.

Christi and I came a few days early to play tourist, walking the Freedom Trail, visiting the USS Constitution, cruising Harvard Square, and hitting a couple Irish pubs. Everywhere we went, eager runners from all over the world were soaking in the American history of Paul Revere's ride. Sunday night we hit the North End (Italian district), where thousands had congregated for carbo loading on pasta and cannolis. One more restless night, and I was ready to run.

Within the first hour of Monday morning, I was stunned by the efficiency of the race directing. I spent less than 10 minutes in line to take a bus out to Hopkinton with tens of thousands of others, and before I knew it I was chilling with all the starters on the back field of a middle school. I guess when you do a race 109 times, you get the hang of it! It was unusual to have a few hours to kill before a race (it starts at noon), but I enjoyed getting to meet so many other runners. There were three ladies from Romania who came on a bet, a divorcee from Phoenix who was proving to herself she could do anything, a four-time Boston runner from Otttawa who had all the tips, the Red Lizard sport club from Portland, OR, a three-generation family of runners from Rhode Island, and many, many more. Most of them proudly wore head-to-toe Boston Marathon garb, and were thrilled to share stories of hundreds of hours of training, lifelong goals, raising money for charity, honoring loved ones, and years of effort to realize this dream.

As noon rolled around, we were slotted into the chutes according to our qualifiying times and promptly set off down the road to Boston. I brought enough Hammer Gel and KaBoom! drink to be self-sufficient, only later to realize there would be plenty of food and water along the course. As I stretched out in the chute in the 70-degree afternoon, I could hear 3-4 languages around me, each reflecting the anticipation of the moment in the universal inflections of joy and laughter. I wondered if I would ever see anyone I recognized in this group of world elites, but that question was quickly answered when the guy behind me said, "hey, weren't you at Rucky Chucky three weeks ago? Wasn't that great?". Turns out it was Eric Aarrestad from Issaquah, WA, who was still sporting poison oak scars from that race (much like myself). Even in this big race, it's a small world.

As the gun went off and the front-running gazelles sprinted out beyond our vision, the stampede of eager runners headed out of Hopkinton. The streets were lined with cheering fans, 2-3 deep for miles. Every time we went up a hill, I could see thousands of runners in front of me, and with a quick glance back, I saw the river of runners trailed off into the horizon. The thump-thumping of thousands of feet shook the pavement beneath us. I had never experienced anything like it!

By mile five, I began to realize a few things. First, the cheering crowds never got sparse, nor quieted down. They took their support very seriously, and avidly supplemented the aid stations with oranges, sponges, water, signs, and more, all at their own expense. Kids would line up and hold out their hands for rolling high fives, and costumes and music abounded. Many of the runners had written their names on their arms and t-shirts, and the crowds embraced the opportunity to cheer people on by name. This race was a part of their local history, and a big part of the Patriot's Day weekend celebration.

At mile 12, we hit Wellesley College where the "scream tunnel" of raving female college students could be heard for blocks. It was so loud it made my ears ring! Signs like "kiss me, I'm a senior" may have tempted a few runners to slow down, but for the most part everybody smiled and waved and kept moving on. We passed two dozen fully-clad Army soldiers rucking through the 26.2 miles in step, and cheered them on.

One great thing about being slotted with a bunch of people your speed was that there wasn't a whole lot of people navigation required from the 1/2 way point on. When I compared my qualifying time with those around me, it was clear we were all within 60 seconds of each other. My mile splits were insanely consistent - 7:08, 7:10, 6:58, 7:06 - and I only passed people on the downhills as they saved their quads for the long-haul. But the steepest of hills were yet to come.

Mile 20...the dreaded Heartbreak Hill. For most trail runners, 450 vertical feet isn't that big of a deal, but even the mountain goats would appreciate the psychological heartbreak of this one. Not only does it kick in at mile 20, but it's one of those hills that creeps up slowly and never allows you to see the top until you've been working at it for over a mile. The crowd kicked into high gear to get everyone up that hill, but it was taking casualties left and right. But with their deafening support, I had no trouble getting over the top. The reward was some great downhill sections, and the raging party at Boston College that presented the biggest crowds on the course. One runner stopped to get a BBQ chicken breast and a beer - sounded like a great idea to me.

The last six miles cruised by like a dream as we entered into downtown Boston towards Haynes Convention Center. Those who had a little extra surged down the last straightaway and into the arms of volunteers with wheelchairs. As I crossed the finish line (3:04:17), a volunteer said, "congratulations - you just qualified for Boston again". But this time I actually knew what it meant, and I could barely contain myself. There was no doubt I would be back again.

A couple of things I learned that I would love to pass on to future Boston runners:

1) Your pre-race bag will be waiting for you at the end, so be sure to stash pre-race and post-race stuff. I saw a few runners get right into their flip-flops and thought it was a great idea.

2) You will have some time to kill in the morning (between the 8am bus ride and noon start), so bring something to read. There are also limited food supplies, so be sure to bring a small lunch too. I saw a few $8 air mattresses that made the lawn much more comfortable, and one should plan on sitting if you can.

3) Write your name on your arm or t-shirt. If you don't, all you will hear is "go, Kevin" or whatever the name of the person next to you is. This crowd WANTS to cheer you on, so put the vanity aside and let them know who you are.

4) No need to carry water, there is plenty along the course. But definitely bring your favorite gu/gel, and plenty of sunscreen.

5) Have a great time and remember that you earned this. Navigating the masses can make a PR difficult, but saying that, I managed to clock my fastest marathon time, so it's possible. If you feel you're going to go much faster than your qualifying time, go ahead and move up. We had a few "big numbers" in our section and they held their own the whole way. But if you haven't logged the miles, stay put.

6) There is plenty of fine dining in Boston, and we went nuts the whole weekend. The Federalist had amazing cod and a wine list to die for, Lucca's was perfect for carbo-loading (get your reservations early), and Great Bay had an amazing ceviche bar. Rumor had it that Modern Pastry served even better cannolis than Mike's Pastry, but I bet they are both pretty good. I think you really can't go wrong in this town.

Hats off to Injinji, who managed to get me through another race blister-free; my quads are another story, however. But as I realize a "pavement recovery" is going to take a bit longer than a "trail recovery", it's still not enough to wipe the smile from my face. To all of you who ran, cheered, and supported your friends and family, I thank you. And I'll see ya next year!



Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dean Karnazes Sets His Sights on 500 Mile Run

Is it possible to run 500 miles in one go? Take it from the man who has flirted with the edge, it is in the realm of possible. And if given a chance, he might just prove it to all of us.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve caught Dean Karnazes on the cover of one of your favorite sports magazines, or in recent TV appearances on David Letterman and 60 Minutes. In many ways, he and his new book, ‘Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner’ is bringing the world of ultrarunning to the masses by redefining the type of endurance the human body is capable of (well, his human body anyway). I caught up with him on his book tour to catch up, and give us the “unplugged” version of where he’s headed next.

1) The magazines have focused on “can Dean go 300 miles”. I’ve run many sections of the Saturn Relay course where you ran 262 miles last year, and it’s far from flat, so I suspect you could do 300 miles easily on a flat course. Do you think 400 or 500 miles is possible? Would you try it?

The course that I followed during the recent 262 mile run was mountainous and difficult. Making it even more demanding was the storm that rolled-in along the way, and the torrential downpours and headwind for twenty-hours. So I would say it was easily a 300 mile effort, if not farther, had it been a flat course in better weather conditions. But I think 500 miles is possible, and I hope to find out.

The 262 mile run (ten marathons nonstop) was in honor of the ten year anniversary of Nicholas Green, the young boy who died while on vacation in Italy and donated his organs to seven Italians. The whole idea was to run ten marathons in honor of Nicholas, and to raise money for childhood organ donation, in which The North Face made a generous donation. The whole fund-raiser was structured as a ten-marathon run.

At the finish of the 262 miles I felt really great, and could have kept going. We attended a celebration and awards ceremony at the finish, and then went to the Santa Cruz Beach Amusement Park with my kids and went on all the rides. So I definitely felt like I could have kept running strong if that had been the intent.

2) Why 500 Miles? Why not make things easy on yourself?

The spirit of ultrarunning is about exploration and engaging with nature, not running around in circles on a flat and easy course just to say you did it. That approach seems so contrived and self-serving to me; it’s just not something that I’m interested in. There are so-called ‘pedestrians’ that ran huge mileage in a go in the early 1900’s around a track. In that day and age it seemed fitting, and I admire their gusto. But it’s just not something that appeals to me today. When someone says, “The longest run in a stretch,” most people interpret that as running from one point to another. The run I recently completed stretched for 262-miles from the starting point to the ending point. If you’re running around a track, you might be covering ten or twelve miles in a stretch, and then just repeating yourself over and over again. That’s quite a different challenge than running the equivalent distance in a stretch, where terrain and conditions change throughout.

To me, the big number is 500 miles from point to point, in a stretch, and I plan on attempting it later this year. My intention is to run from Northern California to Southern California. The biggest challenge to overcome in attempting 500-miles will be the sleep deprivation. I’ve actually fallen asleep while running before on several occasions. I didn’t fall over or anything, just keep “sleep running” for a fair distance. Initially I thought this was a bad thing, but I realized that when I awoke I was actually refreshed. So now I’m going to try to train myself to sleep-run as a way to overcome sleep deprivation.

3) How does one train to sleep run?

I’ve been pulling all-nighters with this book tour and trying to keep up with work and all. Then I’ve been going out for a run that second night without sleep and closing my eyes and letting my body fall asleep for short periods.

It’s kind of psycho because you’re not always sure where you’re going to wakeup (sometimes in the middle of the road, sometimes in the bushes on the shoulder). I’m continuing to experiment with different techniques and further refining my approach with every go out.

4) You have tremendous faith in what the human body is capable of. Who inspires you?

I’m very inspired by Yannis Kouros, John Gessler, Monica Scholz, Marshall Ulrich, Ann Trason, Christopher Bergland, John Stamstad (the endurance mountain-bike king turned ultrarunner), Lynn Cox (the long-distance endurance swimmer and author of: Swimming to Antarctica), and the late Alex Lowe (the famous mountain climber who died tragically in an avalanche). The things these people have done are absolutely other-worldly. Their accomplishments are amazing. When I think of these people and their remarkable undertakings, I get all fired up to keep pushing the envelope.

5) You seem dedicated to overall fitness, to being a ‘complete athlete.’ Is overall health and well-being something you strive for?

I put a high value on physical excellence. To me, that means having your entire body fit and youthful. A complete package, if you will. I think it’s important to show that ultrarunning is a healthy pursuit for many; it’s not something that is killing us. So yes, I try to be as healthy and vibrant as I can in every regard. I think ultrarunning is a terrific sport, so long as it’s not killing you.

6) What is your ultimate goal, what are you trying to achieve?

As an ultramarathoner, I think we have the power to inspire. I’m not talking about inspiring other ultramarathoners, because these folks already have tremendous motivation and resolve, I’m talking about inspiring the ‘everyday athlete’ or the person who is just thinking, hoping to become more active. We have a terrible problem with our health in America. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension are all at record levels. We don’t eat a healthy diet, and we don’t exercise enough. This is tragic, especially for our children.

If I can encourage people to become more active, to make exercise and activity as important as any other priority in their lives, then I have achieved my goal.

7) You’ve taken some heat lately for exposing the running “Garden of Eden” to the world. Are ultrarunners not happy about having the spotlight shined on “their” sport?

Some, apparently, are not, and I respect their opinion. In honesty, however, I’ve never appointed myself as the spokesperson for ultrarunning, and would never claim to be one. I’m just telling my story, and people pick up on it. I’m not trying to promote the sport per se, I’m just doing what I love, and people recognized that there must be a little magic going on, a little lore.

I’ve heard some pretty misguided statements lately that have left me scratching my head in bewilderment. Things like, “He’s laughing his the way to the bank.” I’m not sure whose bank account they’re referring to, but it certainly ain’t mine. I got the exact same belt buckle and t-shirt for winning the Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon as every other competitor. There wasn’t any million dollar payout for winning the thing. In fact, most of these long races I do are for charity, and 100% of the proceeds from my fundraising go to that charitable organization. I give my time and energy, and expect nothing in return except for the gratification of knowing that I’m trying my best to help others who are less fortunate.

I wrote the book to share my story, honor my late sister, and hope that it might inspire someone to recognize their inner potential. It’s not a judgment on ultrarunning, it’s just a story of how one man’s passion for ultrarunning came to be. I answer hundreds of emails a week, sometimes a day, by people who are looking for ways to become more active. No one is paying me to do this. I routinely stay up past midnight trying to respond to all of those who have taken the time to write. I just do it because I want to help anyone who is trying to live a healthier, happier life. How a true ultrarunner can find fault with that is a bit hard for me to comprehend, so I take this “Exposing the Garden of Eden” thing with a grain of salt. I’m not sure the analogy holds up, but you get my drift.

8) Lastly, how is your new book doing?

It just hit the National Bestseller List this morning, less than three week from publication, which has me stunned. Demand has been well beyond what anyone had anticipated, and the book has gotten some stellar reviews by the likes of: TIME magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Esquire. David Letterman launched the book, and that was a fun segment. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined that things would come this far, because two things I’ve never considered myself particularly gifted at are running and writing. And here I’ve written a book about running that’s doing really well. Go figure?

The book tour has been demanding, but well worth it. I’ve met some great people, and have been able to run with many of them. It’s been a pretty wild ride, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my fifteen minutes while it lasts. But once it’s done, I’ll be back out on the trails getting ready for my next adventure. And that will be good, too.

Keep us posted, Dean. We look forward to hearing more!

(If you're interested in hearing more from Dean, check out our previous interview, and his discussion about running 350 miles)

- SD

Monday, April 04, 2005

March Update to Trail Runner Mag Trophy Series

Trail Runner Magazine has been doing a great job updating the point Series so far, as noted by the below press release. One thing for sure - Dale Reicheneder is on fire! He amassed 234 points (unofficially) in the first month, racing four states in four weekends. That's quite a pace. Dale is certainly the man to catch this year.



CARBONDALE, COLO. MARCH 25, 2005 – They’re off! Through the first month of the Trail Runner Trophy Series, avid off-road runners are already asserting themselves as formidable foes.

As the world’s largest trail-running series, the Trophy Series is a seven-month-long points-based competition with two categories: Marathon and Shorter Distances and Ultra Distances. Participants earn points throughout the series, and the winners receive huge prize packages—including a trip to Italy provided by title sponsor La Sportiva.

Beach Boy Bolts

In the Marathon & Under Division, Dale Reicheneder of Malibu, California, has been a trail-racing machine, churning out four top race finishes--the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon (Damascus, Maryland), Carl Touchstone Memorial 20K (Laurel, Mississippi), Catalina Marathon (Catalina, California) and March Mudness Half Marathon (Portland, Oregon). Reicheneder leads both the points race and the clash for the Grand Prize, awarded to the Trophy Series participant who runs the most Trophy Series races. (NOTE: Catalina and Mudness results are still pending in recent online points standings.)

Lurking only a few points behind Reicheneder is the 2004 Trophy Series champion, Scott Dunlap, of Woodside, California.

In the women’s Marathon & Under Division, several hearty off-roaders are clustered at the top of the standings, including 61-year-old Judy Gilbert of Baltimore, Maryland. Gilbert won her age group at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and racked up enough points to place her with five other women closely behind Reicheneder for the overall points lead.

Says Gilbert, who was not familiar with the Trophy Series’ Marathon & Under points structure that awards points based on age-group placing, “You have to be kidding about being a leader in the series! I was almost the last finisher.” Gilbert plans to run other Trophy Series races this year, so look for her to stay close to the top.

No Raggedy Ann Here

Leading the way in the Ultra Division is a quartet of accomplished big names. Dewayne Satterfield of Huntsville, Alabama, and Ann Heaslett of Madison, Wisconsin, both won the Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50-Miler, vaulting them to the top of the current standings.

Satterfield and Heaslett joined Karl Meltzer (Sandy, Utah) and Emily Baer (Silverton, Colorado), who won the Old Pueblo 50-Miler on March 5 in Sonoita, Arizona. (Note: Old Pueblo results are still pending in recent online points standings.)

Heaslett, who claims to be purely focused on staying injury-free in 2005, was shocked that her Mississippi performance placed her in such elite company. “I didn’t know I was the current leader,” she said, “Nonetheless, it is fun to be off to a fast start.”

Next Up

April will feature 16 Trophy Series races as the snow begins to melt and more trails open up. Look for more Rocky Mountain runners to score points while the west- and east-coast runners continue the charge.

For complete points standings and more information on the 2005 Trail Runner Trophy Series and the Grand Prize package of a trip for two to the 2006 Dolomite Sky Race in Italy, provided by title sponsor and leading trail-running-shoe company La Sportiva, visit

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