Monday, July 25, 2005

A Glimpse of Heaven and Taste of Hell – The Tahoe Rim Trail 50k

Warm weather and clear skies greeted a full roster of 350 runners at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k/50 mile (and RRCA Trail Championships) last week in Spooner Lake, NV. A late snow season guaranteed a little bit of everything at this race – snow field crossings, lush wildflower valleys, 360 degree views of Lake Tahoe from a 9200 vertical foot peak, and the brutally humid Red House loop. Despite these challenges, course records were destined to fall.

(One of the many great views of Lake Tahoe along the course)

The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) 50k/50 mile is one of just a few races along the 150-mile Tahoe Rim Trail that circles Lake Tahoe Basin. The TRT is exquisitely maintained, alternating between rugged climbs, dog-friendly valley paths, and the famous Flume Trail cut into the side of the cliff (also home of the Xterra Off-road Triathlon National Championships). With an elevation of 6400-9200’, the thin mountain air provides an additional challenge.

On Saturday, Christi and Rocky dropped me off at o-dark-thirty to prepare for the 6am mass start (mumbling something about how Starbucks doesn’t even open for another hour), and I found my way to the bright lights of the tents. Everyone was in good spirits, with many runners returning to make good from last year’s canceled race due to forest fire. Many of those return runners were from out-of-state (Connecticut, Wisconsin, etc.), and happy to return to the beauty of Lake Tahoe. I consider myself a rookie at the 50k distance, so I was happy to chat with the more experienced runners and get some tips (some good ones included “ask for ice in your water bottles” and “if you’re wearing an iPod, watch for mountain bikers”).

Sunlight began to break at 6am as both the 50k and 50 mile runners headed down the road-sized trail. Paul Youth and Dan Stoll-Hayadia quickly pulled off the front, with a pack of 4-6 runners not too far behind them. I ran with Aaron Summerhays from Carmichael, CA, a natural athlete who does a few ultras/marathons each year, and Chris Luberecki from Tahoe City, CA, a multiple top 5 finisher in this race. Together, we made our way to the first aid station and refueled.

(All nude? Alright!!! Photo courtesy of Don Lundell)

Few things can bring a smile to my face as fast as a well-stocked, well-run aid station, and at the TRT 50/50 I was grinning ear-to-ear. At each stop, we were in and out with Indy pit stop precision, including a spritz and sponge-down if needed. Fruit, nuts, Oreos, Sharkies, gels, and PB&J were all fresh and ready to roll. I made good use of the first aid station (how can you turn down Oreos?), and stopped for a minute to pull a handkerchief over my neck as the sun came over the hills.

From there we climbed up Marlett Peak, crossing a few remaining snow fields hiding in the shadows, and working our way around a few early-start 50-milers posed for pictures. Randy Wilcox from Reno, NV caught up with us and set a blazing pace over the next 4 mile downhill section to the top of Red House (Mile 11). His tunes were cranked, and he definitely had a rhythm. I stocked my bottles with ice and chased Randy down the steep Red House loop.

The temperature and humidity changed drastically as we headed down Red House on the “Reno side” of the mountains. The air became stagnant and moist, and my watch was reading 92 degrees. Luckily there was plenty of shade (and another small aid station), and a few stream crossings to keep the toes cool. Randy took a digger in one of the streams – I guess that’s one way to keep cool. ;oP As we wound our way back up, Randy reminded me that “Red House” is only the beginning since we had to climb back up that 4-mile set of switchbacks as well.

As we huffed/puffed/sweated our way to the top of Red House, the cheery faces of the 50-milers were on their way down. I saw many familiar faces who had helped me in previous races – Marty Hoffman had a great pace going, Troy Limb wasn’t too far behind, and the infamous Gordy Ainsleigh (founder of the Western States 100) came a mile behind them, toting a gallon jug of water. We slapped high fives and cheered them on before refueling one more time at the top of Red House (mile 17). As I put on my iPod headphones and ate as many M&M’s as I could, a wave of locals (Steve Roark, John Ostezan, and Auburn’s Julie Young) cruised right by. They were just getting warmed up.

For the next five miles, I rarely saw a soul. The climb was tough, as Randy had warned, but not enough to get my eyes off of the gorgeous deep blue of Lake Tahoe. Every three of four turns, she would peek her blue eyes through the trees and give you your bearings. The new Foo Fighters album kept my pace up, but within a few miles I was walking the uphills to keep my heart rate down. I also noticed I was consuming far more water than I had guessed (about one bottle every 20 minutes), which meant I was going to run out before the next aid station. No worries…just keep moving forward.

At mile 22, I got another great Indy pit stop, but let them know I had gone without water for a while and was feeling dizzy from the heat. They sponged me down and fed me some watermelon, and let me sit for a minute. But they said go for it, and pointed me to the last 1000’ vertical to 26 mile aid station at the top of Snow Peak (9200’). I cranked up some White Stripes (Wild Orchid) and hit the trail.

As I worked my way up to the Snow Peak, I caught myself pouring some of the ice cold water on my head and suddenly understood why my water was depleting so quickly (can you say “rookie move”?). Luckily the local Boy Scout troop had hoisted a small warehouse worth of water and food to Snow Peak, so there was plenty to restock before plunging down the last 5 miles. My pace had slowed to about 9:30 miles, which was enough for 2-3 more people to pass me up before doing the final lap at Spooner Lake.

Christi had returned to snap some photos (see above!), and escorted me up to the volunteer masseuses who worked their magic on my twitching calves. I ended up 14th in just over 6 hours, well off the course record pace set by the screaming-fast Paul South and Dan Stoll-Hadayia (4:37 and 4:39, respectively). Julie Young of Auburn, CA, had held on for 1st female in a respectable 5:32 (second fastest ever by a woman), and Bryan Hacker of Cool, CA, and Kitty Marcroft of Halley, ID, picked up the Masters Awards. Jeff Kozak of Bishop, CA, won the 50-mile with Michael Uhler of San Leandro, CA, just 9 minutes behind for the Masters Award and 2nd overall. Local Jenny Capel of Reno, NV, finished first female (shaving 28 minutes off the female course record) with Kelly Ridgeway of Santa Rosa, CA, winning the Masters. Everyone who finished got a great duffle bag and finisher plaque, with a few extra goodies for the new RRCA National Champions.

My thanks to David Cotter, Kevin Bigley, the Tahoe Mountain Milers, the Sagebrush Stompers, and all the volunteers who made this such a great race. Congrats to all who finished, particularly the new RRCA National Champions. The race lived up to the tag line – “A Glimpse of Heaven and a Taste of Hell” – and I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

An Interview with Dale Reicheneder, Current TRM Marathon-and-Under Champion

For those of you following the 2005 Trail Runner Magazine (TRM) Trophy Series, you'll recognize the name Dale Reicheneder as the current #1 runner for the Marathon-and-Under Series. Dale set a furious pace from the beginning of the season, racing over 18 races all over the U.S. and Canada, and showing all of us it is possible to maintain a 2+ race per week schedule. Yet it hasn't erased the smile from his face, or his willingness to cheer on every racer on the trail. Dale took a (short) break from his running to catch up with me over e-mail, and tell us a bit about how this former track star found his way to the trails.

(Dale finishes strong at the Catalina Marathon, March, 2005)

SD: How long have you been trail running? Were you an athlete when you were in high school/college, and if so, what sports?

DR: I apologize in advance for the long, probably disjointed response. I grew up in Colorado, but after my parents separated when I was about nine, I found myself in northern Saskatchewan on a farm my Dad subsequently bought, every summer. In between picking rocks, clearing new land, cultivating, etc., I would go out for a mile jog here and there. As I got older, my training distances, like for everyone, increased. The open space the farm fields provided was really my first exposure to trails, making my own on the farm with picks, axes, shuvels and a motorcycle. During the school year in Colorado, I began implementing some trail runs within my regular training regimen which was mostly roads and track during the school year. I ran and competed in organized track events, mostly the 800 and mile since I was in 5th grade, but I also attempted pole vaulting with disastrous results. I played soccer since I was 5, until my senior year in High School, when I switched to Cross-Country. It turned out to be a great decision as we won State, though I was always better individually on the track.

I continued competing through College, though I continued to be a much better trackster, but found myself transfering twice, eventually ending up at Pepperdine. The big switch came after during law school and then for the first few years as a practicing attorney, I was not running regularly because I was studying/working so much. As a result of about 5 years of sitting on my ass with a pop and pretzel type diet, I became horribly overweight, approaching 200 pounds (I'm currently 5'11", 147). One day, about 4 years ago, I saw a sign for a 14 mile trail race in Malibu Creek, about 3 minutes from my home. I entered it. I had the most miserable time of my life and it took me about 4 hours to re-hydrate...sitting on a bench in the park after everyone was long gone. It was a reality wake up call that I was not in good health. I decided at that juncture to use the trails to get back into shape. Trail runs are the best for stress relief and I really caught the bug and it's now a part of my life.

SD: Why trail running? What do you enjoy about it?

DR: First, my High School track and cross-country coach, Steve Lohman, who remains a great friend and mentor, always encouraged training on dirt. Again, as I'm sure is the case for most people, just being away from my normally chaotic and stressful day, out on the great. Seeing the wildlife, the quiet and solitude. But also the people I've met and train on occasion with, are great people who's company I really enjoy. Of course sharing rattlesnake scares are a blast!

SD: Where's your hometown, and what are your favorite trails in the area?

DR: My hometown is in Colorado, graduating from Cherry Creek High School. We are spoiled at Creek, having easy access to Cherry Creek Reservoir providing some great runs. The area, too, has a lot of trails next to canals and waterway management systems. Close to my house is a canal system where you can run as long as I would ever care to.

SD: What attracted you to competing in the TRM Series this year?

DR: This is the $10,000 question! Part of the reason was that I continued racing in the Malibu Creek Trail Challenge and the Bulldog events. Last year I discovered that you had mentioned me in a blog as a "local favorite". Although a compliment, it also motivated me because I thought I could be competitive in the TRM National Championship Series.

Since that initial decision, the TRM Series has taken on an incredible life of its own. I have seen so much more of America. I'm truly blessed to have engaged in this quest. It's been great traveling and meeting people from all over the country and feeling welcome everywhere.

SD: What have been the biggest surprises so far in the season?

DR: I am most surprised that you and Michael Robbert are still too close for comfort! Secondly, that I can no longer race at altitude worth crap, despite growing up in Colorado.

SD: What has been your favorite race so far?

DR: This is a tough one. After 18 races, well, I hope I don't sound biased, but the Malibu Creek Trail Challenge is my favorite, although I preferred the event more when it was headed by a different race director, Stan Swartz, who has been a big inspiration for me to participate in Trail events. Stan remains the director of Trail Runners Club here in the Palisades, that I run with when I can. The new director, in my opinion, is starting commercialize the event too much, even trying to prevent Bandits from running...ridiculous. In my opinion, I think bandits are a fun aspect of the race. In any case, the course caters more to my strengths and likes and its only 3 minutes away!

Best marked course is the Golden Gate Canyon Trail Run. Its race director, Adam Feerst, knows how to put on a great's too bad it takes place at 9,500 - 10,000 feet! Although I walked a lot of least I didn't get lost! I read in your interview with Bernie Boettcher that 10,000 feet is a bit of a strain on him since he only trains at 6,000 feet. Hmmm, I train at 16 feet, no wonder Bernie and 20 others obliterated me at Golden Gate Canyon!

(Dale cranks down the trail in Malibu Creek State Park, photo courtesy of Damon Lymon)

SD: What has been your toughest race so far?

DR: Top of the list has to the Kusam Klimb 23.2K in Sayward, British Columbia. First, I flew into Victoria on Vancouver Island, rented a car and drove 5 hours to the start of the race. I arrived at 5:30 a.m., the race started at 7:00 a.m. After pulling an all-nighter, I was then faced with a course that was more akin to climbing K2, than a trail race. I quickly realized I didn't get the memo to bring my Batman Utility Belt. At the start, I saw racers with ankle braces, body padding, ski poles.... Hmmm, here I was in my usual shorts and shirt. The first mile was ok, then I spent miles 2 through 6 on my hands and knees, going straight up, using ropes to climb, 3 inch-wide ledges overlooking 25 foot drops. It was cold and raining, I slipped and fell too many times to count. Power walker types passing me. Then on the downhill portion, you go straight down for several miles. I spent most of it on my ass. A bunch of crazy locals were screaming on the way down, suicidal. There were 10 foot drops I jumped down, multiple large water crossings with freezing water. Nothing but bouncing from one rock to the next. No trail. Once I fell so hard that I laid there for a minute or two slowly making sure nothing was broken. Ridiculous. Then it opened up for a couple of miles of trenches, with water flowing through each one...I hate that. Finally the course opened up for about 3 miles of good solid trail racing terrain...slight downhill and straight, reasonable footing. I probably ran 3 sub 5:00 miles in this portion and passed a number of people...reminded me a bit of those 4:07 miler days. Then a few miles of more rocky trenches. Finally a mile on the roads and finished. The race totally tore up my body and contributed to my lousy races the following week. Never again.

SD: The five toughest races so far?

DR: In order, starting with the toughest: Kusam Klimb in British Columbia (this one is way up there); Wahsatch Steeplechase in Salt Lake (a far off second); Redwood Trails' Waterfalls of Big Basin in Boulder Creek, CA; Malibu Creek Trail Challenge in Malibu, CA; and tied for fifth, Catalina Marathon , Escape from Prison Hill in Nevada, and the Afton Trail Run in Minnesota (I ran this one after another all - nighter).

SD: Biggest pet peeves about the races so far?

DR: This one is easy. The biggest pet peeve is that race directors seldom provide a map on the web-site with directions how to get to the race. If directions are provided, they can only be interpreted by locals. One example is that both Michael Robbert and I spent about 2 hours driving around Salt Lake looking for the start. The map provided was totally inadequate. Even when I email race directors for directions to the start from the airport...I get bad directions. Of course, I don't realize how bad they are until I'm on the road, probably around midnight and completely lost.

SD: What's your favorite distance? Have you ever done any ultras, or desire to?

DR: My favorite distance is roughly the half-marathon distance, although there seem to be a lot of 25K distances which are getting too far for me. I have zero desire to enter into an ultra. In my world, 26.2 miles is an ultra! The reality is that my body just can't physically perform at a level I desire, much past a half-marathon. I'm a short distance guy.

SD: Do you train with any running clubs or coaches?

DR: Notwithstanding the fact that I'm traveling nearly every weekend to a different time-zone, I run with the Trail Runner's Club. I mostly coach myself, but I still visit with my coach from high school and Dick Kampmann at Pepperdine University, where I do approximately 50% of my training, including swimming.

SD: You sure do race a lot - what's your recovery strategy when you race every weekend? Are you able to train in between races at all?

DR: Good question. In the early stages of the season I was, unfortunately, more self-destructive. Probably because of the personal matters described earlier, training and racing was done with stupidly ferocious intensity. The first 4 races included two marathons and two half-marathons, and I found myself injured one month into the season. This was basically the period I collided with a mountain biker, breaking my rib, severely twisted my ankle in a gopher hole and so forth. I simply wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. I am much smarter about things now. I typically only do a few miles the day following a race instead of 10 or something. I increased my pool swimming time and I eliminated the marathons. I spend more time in recovery mode, but still log 50 miles or so weekly. Normal off-season is about 80 per week, with swimming. Swimming is probably the biggest single key ingredient to my being able to continue with the Series. Also, as tempting as racing every weekend is, I am putting in some weekends off for restoration.

SD: Any nutrition advice (race or training)?

DR: I, for the most part, eliminated fried foods, no alcohol, only a rare dessert. I probably consume a carb to protein ratio of 60-40. I think everybody's different with different nutritional needs. I know I function best with a nice steak every Saturday night! Largest meal is lunch, usually only a salad, yogurt or some popcorn at night. Peanut butter and a banana for breakfast. Lots of tea and Gatorade - Endurance Formula is great. A couple of protein bars a week for the sweet tooth fix.

SD: How many races do you think it's possible to do in the TRM Series this year?

DR: I've done 18 races so far. I can't say for sure how many more. What you and Robbert do the remaining half of the season will have an impact on what I money is running out!

SD: Do you think there are areas of improvement for the TRM Series?

DR: I think it is important to mention that TRM is doing and has done a phenomenally great job on this Series. Sure, there will be some slight modifications as time goes on, but overall it has been an incredibly well done Series. I would not have invested the time, money and effort in this Series if it wasn't being administered in first class manner, with credibility as a true Championship Series. I look forward to hopefully working with TRM, you and Robbert, to possibly help make the event even better.

SD: Who/what inspires you to keep at it?

DR: God. The goal of winning. Seeing so many great things in America, totally unexpectedly. Meeting so many great Americans, totally unexpectedly. Having numerous new great stories to share.

SD: Any disappointments?

DR: All the wrong turns I tend to take in races!

SD: Best airports?

DR: In terms of user friendly and rental car access, easily, number one is Tampa Bay; Charleston, WV and Toronto.

SD: Worst airports?

DR: San Jose. I felt like writing the Mayor of San Jose. There is absolutely no excuse for the BS system at that place.

SD: What states have you traveled to?

DR: Some of these more than once - Maryland, Mississippi, Oregon, Florida, Washington, Nevada, West Virginia, Toronto, Ontario (Canada), Sayward, British Columbia (Canada), Utah, Colorado, and Minnesota.

SD: Biggest thanks?

DR: To my law firm in Sherman Oaks, California, Loewenthal, Hillshafer & Rosen, and the partners for allowing me the opportunity to leave early on Fridays.

SD: Thanks for sharing, Dale, and good luck with the rest of the season!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Marathons are just a warm-up for ultrarunner (SF Chronicle)

Great article on Brian Purcell in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. You can also read about "ultrarunners ankle" from a study done at the Westfield ultra.

- SD

Marathons are just a warm-up for ultrarunner

Ted Gross, Special to The Chronicle

Friday, July 8, 2005

In 1989, as a tune-up for Australia's Westfield ultramarathon, Brian Purcell ran 240 miles in 48 hours around a quarter-mile oval track in Texas, breaking the American record by 13 miles. He spent the next four days in a wheelchair.

A few months later, Purcell, a Marin County native, undertook the Westfield, one of the more grueling pursuits in the history of sport -- a 629-mile nonstop road race from Sydney to Melbourne.

For the first five days he set a blistering, almost inconceivable pace, running for 15 hours straight, breaking for a 45 minute nap, and running for another 15 hours. He maintained the same routine around the clock for 470 miles.

"Then I hit the wall," he said. "It came on slowly, over a 12-hour period. I had to re-set my goal to just finishing."

He walked the final 160 miles, came in fifth, and thought he might never recover.

"During the race, my mouth got so sore from eating that I couldn't chew anything anymore, not even raisins," he said. "All I could eat was mush. I lost 15 pounds. I didn't know if I'd ever run well again because I lost so much muscle mass.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," he said. "They've discontinued that race."

Thirteen months later, Purcell surprised himself and many in the ultrarunning community by finishing second in the Squaw Valley-to-Auburn Western States 100-mile trail run -- the world's elite 100-mile race -- in 16 hours 39 minutes, just 15 minutes off the record pace he set in winning the event in 1988.

Two weeks ago, at the age of 49, Purcell completed his eighth Western States, finishing 15th out of 425 entrants, all of whom had to qualify into the event by running either a 50-mile or 100-mile race within rigorous, world- class time parameters. He defeated all 164 runners his age or older, including longtime rival and 1990's U.S. national teammate Mark Richtman of Novato, who had to drop out at the 80-mile mark due to dehydration. In the final stages he also ran down title-contender Vincent Delebarre of Chamonix, France.

"The big difference between shorter races and a race like this," Purcell said, "is the pain lasts a lot longer. There are so many things that can go wrong. I was hurting at 50 miles, but experience helps. I tried to break the course into small, do-able sections and tried not to think about the 10 more hours of running."

"In every 100-miler you do, at some point you say, 'No way,' " said Don Allison, the publisher of Ultrarunning Magazine. "What's amazing is that Purcell is still active. Most of the winners of this race have retired. Longevity in this sport is very difficult, both physically and mentally."

"Brian has extreme talent, but he has also stayed motivated, which is so hard to do when you run at that top 1 percent level," said Western States race director Greg Soderlund.

Purcell describes himself as a "chubby teenager" who didn't participate in sports in high school or college. He began jogging for exercise in his mid- 20s, to offset the travel demands of an accounting job. Four-mile runs gradually evolved into 10-kilometer races, then half-marathons and then full marathons. Still, he had little interest in ultrarunning until he attended a summer training camp at Pike's Peak, Colo., in 1984.

"At some point they showed a video of the Western States," he said. "It looked so beautiful and challenging. I knew I wanted to do that."

Since gravitating to ultrarunning 21 years ago, Purcell has put up numbers that are staggering: He has run 38 races of 50 miles or more -- 17 of which have been 100-mile races -- and he has won 18 of them.

One event, however, was different from all the rest.

"I read about this 50-mile 'Man Against Beast' race in Arkansas, which sounded like a challenge" he said. "It was runners against horses. I got lost on my way to the race so I started 20 minutes late. At 25 miles I had caught up to the lead runners.

"But there were no water stations for 15 mile stretches," he said. "They expected the runners to drink out of these horse troughs. By the end, I managed to beat all the runners as well as all the horses, though the horses did have mandatory vet stops to make sure they weren't overheating. Anyhow, the Australians always like that story."

Is Purcell living proof, as a recent study hypothesized, that human beings are meant to run long distances?

"The hard science is there," Soderlund said. "Our muscle placement, the way we are built skeletally, our stride length -- we are designed to cover a lot of ground."

"Some people are geared to run long distances, but some aren't," Allison said. "Just like some of us can read a book all day and others can't sit still. I think it's a misconception that in primitive times everyone loved to run."

"I would agree with the study," Purcell said. "When I take regular long runs, I think clearer and feel more in balance with all the stresses in life. I think we are built to be in motion."

Purcell's next major focus is the 2006 Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa, a 54-mile street race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban that attracts 15,000 runners. An added incentive is that he will turn 50 before the race and can compete to become the top 50 plus ultrarunner in the world.

Meanwhile, at home in Sebastopol this summer, he is coaching, though limiting the mileage of his eager 9-year-old daughter Rita, who has already excelled on a national level in trail-running and snowshoe racing.

What continues to motivate him to compete, Purcell said, is simple: He enjoys it.

"On the face of it," Allison said, "ultrarunning seems so absurd and ridiculous. But when you get as deeply involved in it as he has, it seems almost reasonable."

(Copyright by San Francisco Chronicle, All rights reserved)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Mountain Goat Extraordinaire – An Interview with Bernie Boettcher

If you trail run or snowshoe anywhere near Colorado, odds are you’ve seen Bernie Boettcher…well maybe the back of his head, anyway. Bernie is one of those incredible 42-year-old athletes that just gets faster with age, winning overalls and setting course records in both trail running and snowshoeing while racing over 50 times a year. His accolades could fill a blog of his own (2003-04 Masters National Snowshoe Champion, 2003 USATF Mountain Running Champion, 2004 CO USATF Masters Trail Marathon Champion, 3 time Imogene Pass Run winner, 4 time masters winner of the Pike’s Peak Marathon and Ascent, Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series Age Group champion, etc.), but to Bernie, it’s simple about getting outside, having some fun, and showing you’ve still got your “A” game.

(Photo courtesy of La Sportiva/GoLite)

Bernie was gracious enough to let me interview him for all you trail bloggers out there. I caught up with him after his recent 2nd place finish at the Golden Gate Canyon Trail Run (12 miler)…one of already 31 races this year (137 races since January, 2003):

SD: Sounds like you’re having a busy season so far! How do you maintain such a full race schedule for both snowshoeing and trail running?

BB: First off, I'd like to thank my sponsors, Beaver Creek Resort, 180s, La Sportiva/GoLite and Atlas for their continued support. They all strive to be the best with their products and services and it helps me to do the same. Without their help, I couldn't do what I do.

We're lucky here in Colorado, there's typically at least one race every weekend of the year, except Christmas. Neighboring states have plenty of races too. It's my passion to race, but I treat it like it's a job, a job I love. Some days are harder than others, but I haven't gotten bored yet. I think if you really love to do something, you just make it work.

SD: How do you think about recovery with such a packed schedule? Do you take time off in between sports at all, or fit in cross-training?

BB: I typically recover the day before and after a race. I recover by riding my bike. So, yes, I crosstrain every week but still get a long run in every Tuesday or Wednesday.

SD: I saw that you also participated in the Red Bull Divide & Conquer (4-person relay of mountain biking, paragliding, kayaking, and trail running) this year. What was that like? Did you enjoy the format?

BB: Awesome race. It felt like a REAL trail race for once, not some gravel road imitation that some people have been calling "trails". I never met any of my teammates 'til the day before the race. But we all hit it off pretty well and were happy to get 3rd. Our paraglider, Noel Wade, struggled a bit getting up the hill to launch, but our kayaker, Ben Stookesberry, had a solid run. Our biker, Charles Jenkins, had an awesome ride going, but got a flat and lost a few minutes. It was a real nail-biter to the finish.

SD: You had the best overall trail running split of the day too with 1:39:39 (7.5 mile, 6000 vertical feet up rocky Kendall Mountain), natch.

BB: I really liked the course. It was action packed with numberous stream crossing, rope climbs, hairy descents, snow and ice fields, loose scree...I was in my element. There were some great runners in the race. Ultra legends Dave Mackey and Karl Meltzer, CU All-American Jon Severy, Everest summiteer, Jesse Rickert. I felt quite lucky to come out on top. It was a hoot.

(Photo courtesy of Atlas Snowshoes)

SD: Have you always been a runner? When did you start? When did you first start running trails?

BB: I can remember running a lot when I was a little kid. We lived in a rural area, so I'd always have to run or walk or ride to get to go do things with friends. I found shortcuts through the woods, and waalah!, a trail runner was born.

I was kicked off of my high school team for mooning when I was 17, and I gave up racing for 20 years, but I rode my bike a lot. I started running again at 36 and racing again when I was 37. I focused on doing trail runs to explore Colorado backcountry. Roads are boring by comparison, but I do run them to get to trails.

SD: Do you do ultras too, or prefer the marathon and below distances?

BB: I haven't done an ultra yet, but I will. I prefer the marathon (and less) distances because it's easier to recover, and do more races.

SD: What is it about the outdoors that inspires you?

BB: Getting to know the unknown. I love exploring new places on the run, seeing where the wildlife lives, getting to those magical, untrampled places where beauty overwhelms you.

SD: I understand that you are an artist as well. What medium do you work with? How does your outdoor exuberance inspire your art, and vice-versa?

BB: I've worked in a multitude of medias. My art is as eclectic as my running style. Everything from graphics, to oils, to watercolors, to bronze, to wood, to photography, to poetry, to column writing, and more... I think I told you I love to explore, and it encompasses all I do.

SD: That’s cool. Hey, do you mind if I ask you a few training questions?

BB: Go for it.

SD: You’ve done a lot of “mountain running”, which I understand is short distances up very steep trails. What tips would you give on training for such extreme hills?

BB: To me, "mountain running" is only half-finished when you get to the top. I really don't like running uphill that much, but I love to run down. I'll torture myself getting up some hills just so I get to have the pleasure of running down some wild descent. Mountain running is about running in the mountains and everything that goes with that. It can be as long or as short as you want, on trails or off, up or down...anything goes.
If you want to run uphills well, though, just run uphill a lot. You'll get used to it. Some of the best uphillers out there get their training on a treadmill, set a 15% grade. I've never been on one myself. I just find some dang hill and grind up it. Then I savor the down.

SD: You live at altitude in Silt, CO, correct? Does living at altitude help in preparing for high altitude racing?

BB: I live at 6,100 ft. el. It's not a bad altitude to live at, but I tend to suffer in races over 10,000 ft. el. It's not high enough to prepare you to race at that level. I did the Leadville Trail Marathon this past weekend where we raced between 10,300 and 13,185 ft.el. from start to finish. It was brutal.

SD: What do you prefer to eat/drink when training and racing?

BB: Green Tea and Orange Burst GU are about all I carry on a run.

SD: What are some of your favorite races and trails, both in and outside of Colorado?

BB: My favorite trails are the trails I've never run...but, the Moab, Utah area has some fantastic places to run, as does the entire state of Alaska. Colorado is incredible. It's too hard to pick just one...they're everywhere. My favorite races in Colorado are the Imogene Pass Run, Pike’s Peak races, and the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series.

SD: Best trail running experience?

BB: I think the best moment I've had running was racing across a glacier on the Swiss/Italian border in dense fog, then popping out of the fog at the summit of the pass and seeing the Matterhorn in all it's glory as hoards of photographers all shouted, "Americano! Americano!" as I came into their view. It was my first international race.

SD: This has been great! Thanks so much for taking the time. Where can we see you running next?

BB: I did a triple this past weekend, the Leadville Trail Marathon, the Teva Vail Hill Climb and the Boogie's Diner Buddy 5 Mile in Aspen, so I'm still a bit tired and deciding what to do next. But probably the Summer Roundup 12K in Colorado Springs, then the Barr Trail Mountain Race, the Teva Vail Half Marathon, and the Beaver Creek Vertical Ascent, a six hour challenge to see who can do the most uphill in that time. That should cover July.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Trail runners find beauty amid the sticks, rocks, mud and bugs (Kansas Post)

A great article on trail running from the Kansas Post. If you want to read more about tick removal, try this site for way-too-much-info on ticks (complete with video on how they feed) and this site for a handy tip - twist when pulling out the tick for easier removal.

- SD

Trail runners find beauty amid the sticks, rocks, mud and bugs

By Edward M. Eveld
Knight Ridder News Service

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When most people get home from jogging, their shoes aren't covered in mud. Their socks aren't soggy. No one's checking for ticks. These people are not trail runners. Trail runners jog, run, scramble, walk - even wade - through their workouts and return exhilarated not only by the exercise but also by their connection with nature. Which is why they head to the shower and exfoliate their ankles: Was that poison ivy crowding the trail? Trail running is big in places from California to Colorado. Photos of the sport in running magazines always feature a mountain for a backdrop, unless it's an ocean. Runners use hiking, mountain-biking and equestrian trails for outings that can last 30 minutes or literally hours on end. They see wild turkeys and bobcats and sometimes have to call out to deer blocking the trail ahead. Mark Jacquez, 26, of Overland Park, Kan., was a regular road warrior until a buddy last year suggested the two hit the trails for something different. Now he's hooked.

''At first, you get kind of dizzy, because you're looking at the ground, trying to avoid rocks,'' Jacquez said. ''I took some spills. But your legs start to get used to it.'' There are other things to get used to. Once, a squirrel fell out of a tree and almost landed on Jacquez's head. He has stepped on more than one snake. And ticks, always a pleasant thought, seem to be worse in dry weather. His highest tick count for one trail outing: 22. Trail runners say there's plenty to recommend the sport. The nature aspect might have drawbacks, they say, but the positives of off-road running far outweigh them. Jacquez knew it on that first run as he jogged past deer rather than parked cars. '

'There's something new every time you run,'' he said. ''It's exciting.'' Trail runners might crave a little fear factor - the potential risks in nature - but they also say a big reason to run trails is to help reduce the kinds of chronic injuries endemic to regular pavement running. Ben Holmes is a trail advocate for that reason, among many others. He doesn't exactly have a marathoner's build at 6 feet and 200 pounds, but he's run 38 marathons. Now he does almost all his running off-pavement. ''I used to get injuries, the knee pain, the chronic foot problems that runners have,'' he said. Trails, he said, require a variety of body movements to make your way along curvy paths. ''You're using different muscle groups, changing your pace. You're tired at the end but not sore or injured.''

Holmes, too, gets a kick from the notion that mild danger might lie ahead. ''We just use gravity to zoom down hills like nobody's business,'' he said. ''I'm a 48-year-old grandpa, so I don't get too many thrills. I'm thinking, 'Hey, I could get hurt here!' '' Holmes likes to remind novice trail runners that park trails are supposed to be shared. That means being courteous and yielding when necessary, especially to horses. It's good safety advice. Of course, if you talk to trail runners long enough you get all sorts of interesting counsel. For instance, Holmes suggests packing duct tape, which can be applied to the skin - rrriiippp - to remove infestations of tiny seed ticks. Ouch.

Prepping for the trail
* Go with a running partner. It's good to have a buddy along in case of a twisted ankle or other mishap.
* Bring water. Carry bottles (get ones with handles) or wear a waist pack that has bottle attachments.
* Get a trail map from the park department to help provide orientation on the trail. A compass is helpful if you get lost.
* Wear sun block and insect repellent.
* Use Bodyglide or other skin lubricant to guard against friction and blisters on your feet, underarms, etc.
* Stop periodically to check for ticks.
* Wear socks (not cotton) that wick moisture.
* After your run, scrub your legs with soap or a product such as Tecnu if you brushed against poison ivy.
* In icy conditions, screw short sheet-metal screws into the bottom of your shoes for extra traction.
* Enjoy the ambience while focusing on each footfall. (It takes practice.)

Runners like Kyle Amos and Ben Holmes prefer the rough terrain of park trails to pavement in places like Clinton Lake, near Lawrence, Kan. Once popular mostly in the West, trail running is catching on nationwide.

Some trail runners wear regular running shoes. Others buy shoes marketed specifically for trail running. Here are a few considerations from Garry Gribble, a veteran runner and owner of Garry Gribble's RunningSports stores: Trail shoes are firmer than regular running shoes. Some people find they offer more ankle support and help protect the bottom of the feet from rock abrasion. The more primitive and challenging the trail, the more the runner should consider trail shoes. Trail shoes are pricier, often in the $80 to $90 range, compared to regular running shoes at $50 to $60. Women should buy trail shoes for women and men should buy trail shoes for men. When buying trail shoes, try several brands and walk around in them. Don't assume your shoe size. Trail shoe brands include Montrail and Merrell, Nike, Adidas, Brooks, and Saucony among others.

--- (c) 2005, The Kansas City Star. Visit The Star Web edition on the World Wide Web at