Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Olchin finishes trail series unbeaten, unchallenged (Summit Daily News)

Super-star NCAA runner Dylan Olchin is cleaning house in the Nike Summit Trail Running Series. Don't feel bad if you finished behind him - his wicked fast 14:14 5k conference record in 2003 for Colorado State still stands.

The Nike Summit Trail Running Series is a great series put on by the Town of Breckenridge. One of the coolest features of their races is that they encourage young runners by allowing free registration for any runner younger than 18 years of age. - SD

Olchin finishes trail series unbeaten, unchallenged

Devon O'Neil
August 24, 2005

Yes, even the unbeatables get nervous.

Dylan Olchin, as dominant as athletes come in this area, had won all five Nike Summit Trail Running Series long-course races going into Wednesday night's series finale. Yet there he was in his trademark white tank top, worrying away the moments before the race.

(Dylan Olchin at the NCAA 5,000 meter championships, 2003; photo courtesy of Alison Wade)

About 55 minutes and 10 grueling miles later, he proved the nerves were simply instinct, nothing more, as he won his sixth race with ease and completed the year undefeated and untested.

While he may be known to many as the skinny guy who just wins, baby, Olchin provokes more pointed reverence among those who finish closest to him.

"He's in a different league," said Steve Marshall, a perennial top-three finisher in the men's long-course races. "I can't think of anybody who's faster than him on trails, honestly. He should be running in bigger races. This is too easy for him. ... He could probably come out in jeans and boots and bury us all. He should be doing the big races and making money on it. He needs to reconsider his day job."

Paul Brett, last year's series champ and one of the strongest runners in the county, concurred. "He's not sponsored," Brett said of Olchin, an accountant for Grand Timber Lodge. "He's just walking around doing this for fun. If any one of those people, like Nike representatives, saw him, they should be all over him, because he dominates everybody."

Olchin virtually sprinted to victory, as usual, finishing the uphill-heavy course in 54 minutes, 56 seconds. Brett took second (58:47) after passing Marshall (third place, 1:00:36) about 20 minutes into the race, which began and ended at Carter Park.

Carlos Martinez (1:06:46) took fourth, while Duke Barlow (1:08:51) rounded out the top five.

In the women's long course race, Eagle's Katie Mazzia (1:11:54) made the most of her trip over Vail Pass by outlasting Jaime Falcon (1:12:23), a two-time winner in this summer's series. Mazzia, who didn't realize she'd won until long after the race had finished, passed Falcon with about 15 minutes to go when Falcon lost her focus for just long enough.

"I think I was kind of unconsciously slowing down a little bit," Falcon said. "Then I was like, OK, get going again, get going again! And I did more at the end, but (it was too late)."

Monica Wilson (1:14:51) crossed the line for third, while Kate Lapides (1:16:16) and Catherine Burns (1:19:41) completed the top five.

Making it two Eagle County winners in one evening, Lynda Andros remained undefeated in women's short-course races this summer with her fifth win in five tries (she missed a race earlier in the season). She breezed to victory in 38:05, and was followed by youngster Alison Rowe (42:58), consistent top-five finisher Julie Thebeau (43:27), Shannon Marshall (43:55) and Marcy Spaulding (44:58).

Men's short-course winner Patrick Neel built a comfortable lead on the approximately 2.5-mile ascent, then used a simple but effective strategy over the final 2.5-mile downhill stretch to win his second straight race in the series.

"I ran like I stole something," he quipped. Asked what he stole, Neel's cousin, Kyle Ahern (Wednesday's third-place finisher), chimed in, "Some little filly's heart."

Keystone's Charles Nowacki (35:01) was the runner-up thanks to one of his best efforts of the series, followed by Ahern (35:56), Kent Lange (36:55) and Jim Levi (39:49).

Although the short-course racers by no means got off easy (they climbed about 900 feet), they didn't have to deal with the aptly named "Nightmare on Baldy," a draining ascent that sent the series out in style.

"It was probably one of the hardest hills we've done all summer," Olchin said. "I was ready to walk it, but then I saw some people at the top and just said, I can't walk in front of people."

Devon O'Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

STRS Finale Top 3's

Carter Park, Breckenridge

Men's Long Course (10 miles)

1. Dylan Olchin - 54:56

2. Paul Brett - 58:47

3. Steve Marshall - 1:00:36

Women's Long Course

1. Katie Mazzia - 1:11:54

2. Jaime Falcon - 1:12:23

3. Monica Wilson - 1:14:51

Men's Short Course (5 miles)

1. Patrick Neel - 33:12

2. Charles Nowacki - 35:01

3. Kyle Ahern - 35:56

Women's Short Course

1. Lynda Andros - 38:05

2. Alison Rowe - 42:58

3. Julie Thebeau - 43:27

(Copyright Summit Daily News, 2005, All Rights Reserved)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Last Licks: 2005 Trail Runner Trophy Series Heads Into Final Weeks (Trail Runner Magazine)

Latest update on the TRM Trophy Series, going into the final five weeks. Go, Dale!

- SD


CARBONDALE, COLO., AUGUST 22, 2005 – With only five weeks remaining in the 2nd annual Trail Runner Trophy Series, runners are sizing up their final races of the season. The Trophy Series winners, who will be announced in the Dec/Jan 2005 issue of Trail Runner magazine, will likely be determined by each athlete’s September racing schedule.

Ultra Division: Abbs of Steel
Prior to 2004, Beverly Anderson-Abbs, a member of the Montrail/Patagonia Ultrarunning Team, had never run a trail ultramarathon. But you would never guess it from her racing success this year. The Californian took second in the Western States 100—her first-ever 100-miler—and has also claimed the second spot at the Miwok Trail 100K, American River 50, and Way Too Cool 50K (all in California). Says the 41-year-old from Red Bluff, California (only two hours from the Western States finishline), “I had no idea what to expect at Western States—it was quite a surprise.” Anderson-Abbs credits much of her success to training and eating smart during her races (Sunsweet, another one of her sponsors, provides her with fruit bars and dried plums).

Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon, has given chase to Anderson-Abbs, and may have overtaken her on August 20, when she won Oregon’s Where’s Waldo 100K. Anderson-Abbs finished third in the race, and the margin will likely be razor thin. Results and points were still pending as of press time.

(Kami Semick after winning the Where's Waldo 100k, August, 2005,
photo courtesy of Craig Thornley, Copyright All Rights Reserved)

For most of the Trophy Series, Seattle’s Scott Jurek has kept a low profile, lurking in the standings’ shadows while other runner piled on the points. That changed when Jurek won an unprecedented seventh consecutive Western States 100 title on June 25. The victory catapulted him into the men’s Trophy Series lead. Jurek, who is sponsored by Seattle-based Brooks Running, has also finished third at the MacDonald Forest 50K (Oregon) and second at the Miwok Trail 100K (California).

Close behind Jurek waits Midwesterner John Hemsky (Fort Thomas, KY) and Nortwesterner James Kerby (Carnation, Washington). If they’re going to catch Jurek, they’ll likely need to race well in one of the Series’ final ultras: the Headlands 50K National Trail Championship (August 27; Sausalito, CA), Dances with Dirt 50K and 50-Mile (September 10; Hell, MI), or the Great Eastern Endurance Run 50K and 100K (September 17; Charlottesville, VA).

Top 10: Trophy Series Ultra Division

  1. Beverly Anderson-Abbs, Red Bluff, CA, 729 points (4 races)
  2. Scott Jurek, Seattle, WA, 710 points (5 races)
  3. John Hemsky, Fort Thomas, KY, 700 points (3 races)
  4. Kami Semick, Bend, OR, 620 points (3 races)
  5. Tracy Thomas, Champaign, IL, 600 points (3 races)
  6. James Kerby, Carnation, WA, 572 points (5 races)
  7. Tera Dube, Martinez, CA, 548 points (5 races)
  8. Connie Gardner, Medina, OH, 524 points (3 races)
  9. Paul Schoenlaub, St. Joseph, MO, 502.6 points (3 races)
  10. Sue Johnston, Waterford, VT, 500 points (2 races)

Marathon & Shorter Division: Robbert, Dunlap chase Reicheneder
Since the first weekend of the 2005 Trail Runner Trophy Series, Dale Reicheneder of Malibu, California, has made no secret of his desire to bring home the Trophy Series title. Now, with only five weeks remaining in what has been a grueling schedule of more than 16 races, he is leaving nothing to chance.

“I will be doing six races in the remaining weeks,” says Reicheneder, “so I will be traveling a lot.”

2004 Trophy Series runner-up, Michael Robbert of Littleton, Colorado, is over 150 points behind Reicheneder. At this late stage—and with Reicheneder racing so much in the final month, including head-to-head with Robbert at the Golden Leaf Half Marathon (Colorado)—it will be difficult for him to come from behind.

Can he do it?

“He’s [Reicheneder] un-catch-able at this point,” says 2004 Trophy Series champion Scott Dunlap, who finds himself in third place. “Dale has really raised the bar on what is possible in the Trophy Series.”

Reicheneder also enjoys a huge lead in the race to collect the most Trophy Series race finishes. To date, he has completed 16 Trophy Series events—an accomplishment that means he’s likely to win the Trophy Series trip to Italy, provided by Series sponsor, LaSportiva. The next closest competitor is Rob Apple, an ultrarunner from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who has run nine Trophy Series races.

“I haven’t been to Italy,” says Reicheneder, “but I still don’t want to get ahead of myself … [Michael] Robbert is too close behind.”

The Marathon & Shorter women’s division is tighter. Angela Brunson of Los Angeles, California, enjoys a slim margin over Tania Pacev of Littleton, Colorado. Pacev, who tends to race on the spur of the moment, was not even aware that she had a chance of winning the Trophy Series. “I did not know I could win,” she says, “I’ll need to look at the remaining races and see what I can do.”

With several Rocky-Mountain region Trophy Series races and few on the West Coast, Pacev certainly has a chance.

Top 10: Trophy Series Marathon & Shorter Division

  1. Dale Reicheneder, Malibu, CA, 605.8 points (16 races)
  2. Michael Robbert, Littleton, CO, 447 points (8 races)
  3. Scott Dunlap, Woodside, CA, 301.9 points (5 races)
  4. Angela Brunson, Los Angeles, CA, 265.2 points (4 races)
  5. Tania Pacev, Littleton, CO, 204.8 points (2 races)
  6. Jerry Graham, Spokane, WA, 189.8 points (4 races)
  7. Bernie Boettcher, Silt, CO, 186.8 points (3 races)
  8. Kathy White, Lakewood, CO, 162 points (2 races)
  9. Julie Ann Bergman, Boulder, CO, 150 points (2 races)
  10. Eric Black, Dillon, CO, 138.6 points (3 races)

About the Trophy Series
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 LaSportiva.

For complete rules, including a list of races and past news releases, visit

CONTACT: Garett Graubins, Trail Runner Magazine
Phone: 970/704-1442 x12

# # #

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Taking Ultrarunning to Heart - An Interview with Craig Thornley

Taking Ultrarunning to Heart – An Interview with Craig Thornley

If you’ve run the Western States 100 in the last 25 years, you’ve probably seen Craig Thornley’s smiling face. Since 1978, he’s been crewing, pacing, volunteering (10 years at Dusty Corners), and since 2001, racing in Western States. This last July, this Eugene, OR, resident finished 10th overall in 18:25, winning a silver buckle and a guaranteed spot to come back again next year. Craig is also a co-Race Director of the Where’s Waldo 100k, a beautiful and challenging course in the Oregon Cascades that starts at ends at the Willamette Pass ski resort where he is on ski patrol in the winter.

(Craig at the White River 50-mile, 2005, photo courtesy of Glen Tachiyama - see more of Glen's awesome photos here)

I caught up with Craig after another successful Where’s Waldo 100k, and he was happy to provide an interview.

First, congratulations on being top 10 at
Western States. You’ve been very close in the past – what was it that made the difference this year?

Nikki Kimball wasn’t there! I was 10th man last year but Nikki edged me out for 10th overall in the last 7 miles. I did run faster this year by 21 minutes and the difference was I ran a good Cal St. In each of my other States I’ve had a relatively poor split from Foresthill to the river. In 2001 I had blisters, 2002 my quads were shot, and in 2004 I puked just after leaving Foresthill and had to slow down to get food and fuel back in the system. This year, I went from 15th place in Foresthill to 10th place at Green Gate and ran the downhills on Cal St like I never have before.

Who crewed for you this year?

My brother Chris, my friends Jeff Riley, Gary and Lynn Stott (formerly Nelson), Greyson Murdoff and Renee Kempke. My wife, Laurie, was unable to help this year due to work. Normally she is my crew chief, but this year Chris took the reins and did a great job.

I saw the name Chris Thornley on the Where’s Waldo 100k finishers list too. I guess ultrarunning “runs” in the family?

Yes, my brother actually ran ultras before I did. He did two 50 milers when he was a teenager and then stopped running for more than a decade. It wasn’t until recently that he began running again and when he did Waldo last year he was DFL (the last finisher). This year he came back after spending lots of hours in the Grand Canyon near his home in Flagstaff, AZ, and finished 3 hours faster. He has paced me in 5 out of the 6 100 milers I’ve done. He is running his first 100 miler at Javelina Jundred this year.

My wife, Laurie, also runs, but not competitively. She has done one marathon and 2 50Ks (maybe 3 by the time this gets posted). She crews for me at most of my races. She also has spent many days waiting for me to finish long runs in the mountains since my runs usually take many more hours than hers.

My mom doesn’t run but could probably be called a Western States groupie. She lives in Cool, CA near the 85 mile mark of the course. She has been working, crewing, or just watching the race since 1980. She has always been a big fan of Tim Twietmeyer and Ann Trason. She also liked Doug Latimer. She has crewed for me, but it now is too much for her so she goes to a few places and watches. Crewing for States is hard.

What were the highlights from this years Where’s Waldo 100k?

Both the men’s and women’s races were really close this year. My training partner Jeff Riley led the race until 4 miles to go when Andy Jones-Wilkins, who I’m pacing at Angeles Crest 100 next month, caught and passed him. Both were under the previous course record. It was Andy’s first victory after many seconds. The women’s race was equally exciting with Kami Semick and Meghan Arbogast passing Bev Anderson-Abbs with only 3 and 2 miles to go. All three women were in the top 5 overall! Watching my brother run so well was also definitely a highlight for me.

I’ve really enjoyed your race write-ups on your web site. You have a great story about how you found out about the Western States race – can you share again?

Sure. My mother and step dad moved us from San Jose to Cool, CA in my 8th grade. My brother, stepbrothers, and I often camped down in the American River Canyon right near our new home which we thought was really cool (sorry). One of those summers, I think it was 1978, we were camping at American Canyon Creek when a very dirty and tired looking guy in running shorts came by and asked where the next aid station was. We had no idea what he was talking about. Several more came by before we got the story that they had been running for 85 miles and were headed to the finish of a 100 miler in Auburn. We stayed up the rest of the night watching runners come by and I knew that night that someday I was going to have to do this thing.

(Craig at the Western States river crossing, 2002, photo courtesy of Greyson Murdoff)

What other ultras have you done, or are you targeting?

I’ve run McKenzie River 50K in Oregon for the last 7 years, since I started running ultras. McKenzie and States are my favorites. I’ve also run Arkansas Traveller and Angeles Crest 100s, White River, LeGrizz, PCT, and Mountain Masochist 50 milers, and Way Too Cool, McDonald Forest, SOB, Sunmart, Pemberton, and Peterson Ridge 50Ks. Not that many really. My running year has been totally focused on States since 2001. When I didn’t get in in 2003, I ran Angeles Crest instead. My thoughts now are that I will do 10 States, but if my motivation wanes I’ll stop short of that.

What is it that draws you to ultrarunning?

Have you always been a runner?I have been a runner since high school, where I was a mediocre miler (4:33) and 2 miler (9:46). After stopping running for 5 years while I was in college, I took it back up when my wife and I moved to Arizona for work and then ran road races for 10 years or so. My marathon dreams of qualifying for the Olympic Trials never happened (I only ran 2:33) and I kinda got tired of running out of glycogen and running on the roads. When we moved back to Oregon in 1996 I got into hiking and climbing mountains again and that seemed to be the transition point. So, I guess I’m one of those ultrarunners that come from a running background.

One thing that draws me to the 100 milers is the mental aspect. Sure, we can train and get really fit, but if you don’t have the right mental attitude and strength going in you just aren’t gonna make it. I also love being out in the woods.

Much like the world of track, Oregon seems to produce some great ultrarunners like you, John Ticer, Sean Meissner, Kami Semick, and more. What is it about Oregon and runners?

It rains here all the time. Don’t move here. Seriously, I’m not sure what is going on in Oregon right now. We have an Ultra Series, of which Waldo is part, and there is definitely a family feel to our races as generally the same people are at all of them, but I don’t know if that is contributing to the competitive folks. I do know in Eugene we have a regular group that trains together and that is helping all of us. Ticer is obviously back to the form of his earlier years, and you’re going to be hearing more about Jeff Riley in the future.

How about a few training questions…what does a typical week look like for you in terms of mileage and types of workout?

It all depends on the time of year. I generally only run about 3000 miles a year at this point in my life. My biggest months are April and May when I’m ramping up for States. Those weeks are generally right around 100 miles and include a track or tempo run and a long run of 30-50 miles. We do track work at about 5:30 pace per mile and tempo work at around 6 minute pace. One of our favorite workouts is the Goodman Creek workout which is a 5 ½ mile uphill run on a gravel logging road which gains 1500’, rest for a few minutes and then hammer back down. We also do a hilly 10 mile tempo run on a local trail called Ridgeline Trail. We think we’re fast when we break 65 but the local track guys come and run sub 60 all the time and put us in our place.

Does that interfere at all with your teaching schedule (U of Oregon Computer Science Dept) or work with the Willamette Pass ski patrol?

No, I really don’t work that much. I generally only teach 1 class a year in the fall and that is the beginning of my down time with running. Ski patrolling each winter bites into my training time for States but I love doing it and my quads get really strong (I patrol on telemark skis).

When you do a 100-miler, how do you devise a strategy in terms of splits, calorie consumption, etc.?

I try to eat my “normal” foods early and I plan for those. Late in the race I know I’ll be on the edge with the stomach so I rely on gels, Pepsi, and soup for my calories. I don’t count my calories but rather just go by feel. For States, I definitely have splits planned for the whole day. I’ve yet to run faster than my projected splits, but I’m usually not far off them.

What are your favorite race day foods/snacks?

Pork and Beans are my favorite. I try to get two 8 ounce cans down early. They are a great food for ultras and I learned about them from Bruce VonBorstel, who I helped crew/pace at States in the 80s. There is protein, fat, and carbs. They taste great and are easy to eat. And, yes, I eat the pork fat chunk. Near the end I am usually looking for Pepsi and potato soup. That is what brought me back to life at Browns Bar (90 miles) this year.

What’s the best part about volunteering for a race? About being a Race Director?

Running ultras is such a selfish endeavor. Everything on race day is about me. Training is all about me. It feels really good to give back. With Waldo, what I’m finding is that the runners really do appreciate all the work I put into it. Today is 4 days after the race and I’m having trouble keeping my Inbox below a 100 messages. 99% of them are very positive and appreciative comments. That feels really good.

What would you recommend to runners targeting their first ultra?

Respect everything about the race. The hills, heat, distance, food and fluid requirements, competition, etc. Do your homework and train specificity.

Any other tips or words of wisdom?

Get your mind focused on the finish before you start. Don’t let dropping out even enter your thoughts. If your mind is set on the finish, you will finish.

Thanks for a great interview! -SD

Monday, August 22, 2005

Dr. Dunlap To The Rescue! (Eugene Register-Guard)

I know this isn't exactly a trail running story, but I wanted to give my dad some "props" for a recent act of heroism. He, like many in my family, is one of those tireless and courageous people who work and volunteer in emergency care (he's a retired doctor, and my other family members include a nurse, fireman, CPR instructor, former 911 operator, healthcare administrator, etc.). I often forget that a "good day at the office" for people in emergency care means that lives were saved. Trauma was overcome. Life itself got a second chance. For every story like this, there are thousands more that will never make it to the dinner table. I am grateful for all of you, life's unsung heroes. For my dad, I couldn't be more proud.

(Larry is an avid road and trail runner - here he is showing his two sons, Scott and Mike, how to kick it to the finish at the Springfield Turkey Trot 10k, 2004)

Thank you also to Bob Welch for writing a great story! I hope that Brandon is doing well.

- SD

Community rises to cover many miles in effort to bring ailing native son home

By Bob Welch

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It was almost like last week's white-knuckle return of the damaged space shuttle Discovery: Could seriously ill Brandon Burton, a recent Churchill High School graduate, get safely home from Hong Kong?

On Wednesday afternoon at Eugene Airport, the answer was yes, thanks to the man walking next to his wheelchair, Dr. Larry Dunlap, a Eugene doctor who flew nearly 15,000 miles in three days to accompany Brandon home.

And thanks to a community that, after hearing the Burtons' story, responded with a whatever-it-takes attitude.

"What a relief," said Jennifer Burton, Brandon's mother, after about two dozen friends and family members applauded her son's arrival. "We have so much gratitude for everyone in our `village.' "

Brandon, having lost about 30 pounds since contracting a virus in late July, looked thin and overwhelmed when seeing the crowd. He hung his head and cried as people took turns hugging him.

Dunlap, 63, despite the stressful journey, looked so collected it appeared as if he had just walked out of a Land's End catalog. Amazing for a guy who hadn't really slept in two days. "Brandon had some leg swelling that required a little intravenous medicine, but other than than that: no problems."

The Burtons' plight came to light last week when it was learned a virus the 18-year-old had contracted on a trip to Asia had morphed into a disorder called myocarditis, serious enough to be fatal if undetected. He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Though his father, Paul, flew to Hong Kong, the family faced an agonizing Catch-22: After weeks in an Intensive Care Unit, Brandon needed to get home, but his Hong Kong doctor wouldn't allow him to fly unless accompanied by a doctor. That would cost nearly $10,000 and the Burtons, frankly, didn't have it. Jennifer Burton had spent days on the phone, trying to find an organization to help. Nothing.

But after The Register-Guard reported the story last week, the local community responded. The catalyst for the happy homecoming was Candice Barr, executive director of the Lane County Medical Society - and, not incidentally, the mother of an 18-year-old boy.

She swung into action Thursday with the intensity of a special ops commander who had a soldier down behind enemy lines.

"She was just so amazingly `can-do,' " Jennifer Burton said. "The minute she called, the whole demeanor of the situation changed. She was like: `We can make this happen.' "

For starters, Barr donated 100,000 of her own frequent-flier miles to pay for a doctor to make the trip. She then arranged a three-way phone conversation Friday with Dr. Chi Yuen Wong, Brandon's cardiologist in Hong Kong; Dr. Michael Menen, a cardiologist with Oregon Cardiology in Eugene; and Jennifer Burton.

"It was only fair that whatever doctor was going to Hong Kong know what he or she was getting into," Barr said.

Menen came away from the conversation convinced Brandon was getting excellent care, was extremely sick - "he'd basically had signs of congestive heart failure" - and yet should be able to make the trip. But covering for vacationing doctors, Menen couldn't go himself.

Barr wasn't deterred. "My short list was someone who was medically sound, had a big heart and had a passport," she said. "That's not a hard combination to find with doctors."

On Friday afternoon, she connected with Dunlap, a recently retired emergency room doctor who has made trips to such places as Haiti and Guatemala as part of the volunteer-driven Northwest and Cascade medical teams.

Dunlap was in the midst of a mini-family reunion. But he listened to Barr, hung up the phone and turned to his wife, Sandie, a CPR and emergency medical instructor at Sacred Heart. "Whataya think of this adventure?" he said.

Said Sandie: "If this were one of our children ... ."

End of discussion. He was going.

When Dunlap got back to Barr, she double-checked that he was still licensed and had medical malpractice insurance. Negative on the latter, he said. "But I can't worry about that now. I'm going."

When Jennifer Burton heard the news, she broke into tears.

The trip was far more complicated - and dangerous - than some might expect. It wasn't about simply finding someone with medical credentials and a measurable pulse. It was about finding

a highly trained emergency room doc who could leave within days - and risk 15 hours in the air with a patient whose condition was far from stable. About gathering extensive information on Brandon's condition. About working with United Airlines. And about finding particular instruments and meds, then getting them through airport security.

Dr. Helen Miller, who heads up the local chapter of the Disaster Medical Assessment Team, met Dr. Chuck McCart of Roseburg, a disaster team member, at Interstate 5's Glenwood exit to get an advanced life-support kit he had. Like a relay runner passing the baton, she handed the kit off to Dunlap.

Meanwhile, Barr and Jennifer Burton talked on the phone off and on during the weekend. "The more we talked," Barr said, "the more convinced I became that this was a family worthy of being lifted up by the community. These are people who had stayed overnight in their car in Seattle waiting for Paul to get a passport.

But the trip got off to a bad start Monday morning when Barr and Dunlap got to the Eugene Airport and learned the flight to San Francisco had been delayed 90 minutes. That would leave only a sliver of time in SF to make the Hong Kong connection.

No time to check Dunlap's bag, they decided. He'd need to carry it on - and get syringes, drugs and the like through security. "When that bag got through the other side," Barr said, "we all just exhaled."

Once in Hong Kong, Dunlap spent only 10 hours on the ground before the trio began the trip back to Eugene. They had a nearly four-hour wait in San Francisco. Once they arrived in Eugene, Brandon was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center's post-coronary unit.

"It's been an experience," Paul Burton said. "We're very, very happy to be home."

Beyond Dunlap, others had stepped up to help the family. The University of Oregon, where Jennifer works, bent over backward to accommodate her. The Burtons' church, Emerald Baptist, featured the family in a special prayer meeting and took a special offering for them. By Wednesday morning, 35 people had donated $2,708 to a fund set up at Pacific Continental Bank. And Papa's Pizza donated half a day's profits to the family.

"When I got home from work the night after the article ran, our answering machine was full and the phone didn't stop ringing," Jennifer Burton said.

Her son won't be back on the rugby field anytime soon; "he's got a tough road ahead," Dunlap said. But he's home.

As people crowded around Brandon at the airport, his grandmother, Johanna Dahlin, broke away to give Dr. Dunlap a hug.

" `Thanks' doesn't cut it," she whispered.

Bob Welch can be reached at 338-2354.

(Copyright, The Eugene Register-Guard, All Rights Reserved)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jury Finds Merck Liable in Vioxx Death of Triathlete (Wall St. Journal)

Choo-choo! Here comes the money train for athletes who used Vioxx over the last couple of years. Keep your receipts for that class-action suit that is soon to come!

- SD

Jury Finds Merck Liable in Vioxx Death of Triathlete

August 19, 2005 3:43 p.m.

ANGLETON, Texas — Merck & Co. was found negligent in the death of a 59-year-old triathlete who used Vioxx, a prescription painkiller used by more than 20 million Americans before it was linked to heart attacks. The jury awarded awarded the man's widow $24 million in actual damages, plus $229 million in "exemplary," or punitive damages, for a total of about $253 million.

A jury of seven men and five women ruled against Merck on each of three key questions. They found Merck failed to warn doctors of the Vioxx's danger, that the drug was improperly designed, and that Merck's negligence caused Robert Ernst's death.

The decision came midway through the second day of deliberations in this closely watched trial. The case is the first to go to trial of scores of lawsuits alleging injuries from Vioxx. The man's family erupted with joy shortly after the verdict was announced.

Mark Lanier, attorney for Carol Ernst, widow of Robert Ernst, slammed papers down and shouted "Yes!" when the judge read the punitive damages. Mr. Lanier told reporters, referring to the jury: "These people are good, solid people. They know right and they know wrong. It sends the message that the drug companies must tell us the good the bad and the ugly."

Merck said it plans to appeal. "We believe that the plaintiff did not meet the standard set by Texas law to prove Vioxx caused Mr. Ernst's death," said Jonathan Skidmore of Fulbright & Jaworski, a member of Merck's defense team, in a press release. (See Merck statement.)

The Six Questions Comprising the Judge's Charge to the Jury: Was there a defect in the marketing of Vioxx at the time it left the possession of Merck & Co. that was a producing cause of the death of Bob Ernst?

Was there a design defect in Vioxx at the time it left the possession of Merck & Co. that was a producing cause of the death of Bob Ernst?

Did the negligence, if any, of Merck & Co. proximately cause the death of Bob Ernst?

What sum of money, if paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate Carol Ernst for her damages, if any, resulting from the death of Bob Ernst?

Do you find by clear and convincing evidence that the harm to Bob Ernst resulted from malice attributable to Merck & Co.?

What sum of money, if any, should be assessed against Merck & Co. and awarded to Carol Ernst as exemplary damages for the death of Bob Ernst?

The decision came midway through the second day of deliberations in this closely watched trial. The case is the first to go to trial of more than 4,000 lawsuits alleging injuries from Vioxx. Analysts have speculated Merck's liability could reach $18 billion.

Shares Slip

Merck shares were down 86 cents, or 2.8%, at $29.55 just after the verdict was read on Friday. The company's stock lost 27% of its value on a single day last year when the company acknowledged Vioxx increased the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death and pulled the drug from the market.

In Texas, punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of economic damages -- such as lost wages -- and up to $750,000 on top of non-economic damages, such as mental anguish and loss of companionship. But the non-economic damages have no limits in this case.

Merck pulled the drug from the market last year after a study showed it could double risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for 18 months or longer, but the company says no studies link Vioxx to arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

Write to Gary McWilliams at

(linked from the Wall St. Journal, Copyright, 2005 - All Rights Reserved)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lovin' Life and Haulin' Aspen!

The first annual Haulin’ Aspen Marathon in Bend, OR, was a smashing success by all measures. Over 350 runners from 24 states made their way to Shevlin Park on Sunday to brave the desert backroads of Oregon’s high country. Many of them were true marathon maniacs – 25 had run the Crater Lake Marathon just the day before, one guy was on his 47th marathon THIS YEAR, another was competing in his 100th marathon, and one lunatic did the whole thing barefoot. That’s right, barefoot. Not to mention I’ve never seen so many tattooed runners at a starting line before. One thing for sure, central Oregon has its fair share of outdoor fanatics.

Christi and I drove over from Eugene, OR, the day before just in time to catch up with some old friends, have a few watermelon-infused martinis at the Bendistillery, and dine at the fabulous Merenda restaurant downtown. We had also wanted to try the Sir Francis School Pub, one of the latest McMenamin’s groovy casual dining inventions, but passed to make sure we got a few hours sleep before the race. As much as I love carb loading, it is possible to overdo it ;oP

We arrived at 6:30am to find a chilly starting area (it is the desert after all), and about 80 marathoners scrambling to find parking. To be fair, we had all been warned in the race packet, but like the other racers, we just assumed they meant “other people”. Dale Reicheneder was warming up for the half marathon (his twenty-something’th TRM Trophy Series Race) and we shared our eagerness to run this rugged outback. By 7:10am, he wished me luck, and the marathoners were off.

(Christi will kill me for posting a dark picture, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the lush river glade with the desert ridge in the background)

The race began with about a mile of cement road, which although cement, was wide enough for the racers to spread out before the single track started (always a good idea). About 15 of us took off the front, cupping our hands against the cold. Timothy Vandervlugt, Todd Ragsdade, Sean Nixon, John Stolz, and Larry Abraham were eager to pick up the pace and took off once the single track began. One of them hollered out “this is the one mile mark”, and I checked my watch, looking up just long enough to catch my toe on a root and digger. Nice! Slightly embarrassed, I took inventory of my new dirt rash and it didn’t seem too bad. I said out loud “I looked at my watch for oooone second”…and Brad Bond finished my sentence “and that root looked right at you and said ‘gotcha, runner’”. The humorous spirit of trail running ever present, we laughed it off and picked up the pace.

At mile four, we crossed the river and ran up to the warmth of the ridge just as we heard the gun go off for the half marathoners. They would follow the same path for about 6 miles, so we suspected we would see a few of the front runners before we broke off for the long, exposed climb to the marathon halfway point. Before too long, local Steve Larsen (road cycling, mountain biking, Xterra, and Ironman Champion) went flying by, showing he hasn’t lost much of his former professional form. A few minutes behind him were James Nelson and Jeff Caba, with superstar triathlete Matt Leito and Dale Reicheneder just a few minutes behind them. All were well under a 7-minute mile pace. Dale slowed down a bit to chat with Brad and me, get some “intel” on his position, then took off like a fox when the trail split.

Brad pointed out where we were headed, and it was clear that most of the 2500’ of vertical in this race was going to happen between miles 10-13. We were well into the desert country at this point, and although the pine trees, rock formations, and endless desert expanse were gorgeous, they weren’t providing much shade. But the temperature was still in the 70’s – well below the high 90’s of the previous week – so we worked our way up without too much trouble. I was drinking tons of water (trying to not repeat my Tahoe experience) and feeling good. As we hit the steepest section, 25-year-old Amanda Bullat charged by us, smiling and thanking the volunteers for cranking out the tunes.

I refilled at the top (officially the halfway point) and began the fun descent. The single track was a mountain biker paradise, with natural slalom courses, not-so-natural jumps, and banked corners. This trail was wonderfully maintained, and the banked corners made it easy to just set your running on cruise control. I could hear the other runners laughing and “woo-hoo”-ing as they dove and parried the course. We ran into a few packs of mountain bikers along the way, but they just pulled over and cheered us on (sigh…wouldn’t it be great if they always did that?). I kept a comfortable pace, knowing my race position wouldn’t change much if I pressed too hard…best to enjoy the roller-coaster trail and take a few “jumps”.

There were only a few aid stations in the last eight miles, and one of them was already running out of water (hmmm…and I was only the ninth runner? Must be the grim reality of “please fill my water bottles”). One last runner passed me, humming Led Zeppelin and enjoying the scenery, but I otherwise finished up the race alone. The cool river glades in the last three miles were a welcome retreat, and allowed the finishers to turn on the gas for a strong finish. I finished in 3:40 (10th overall), all smiles…until I had to clean out the road rash from my mile-1 crash, which was dirt jerky by now. Timothy Vandervlugt had finished in 3:06, about 7 minutes ahead of Todd Ragsdade and John Stoltz, while Amanda Bullat held on for 3:32, 8th overall, and first female. Dale had held on for fifth in the half marathon, pulling within seconds of Matt Lieto. We all enjoyed some Outback Steakhouse BBQ, microbrew ale, and piles of fresh fruit while cheering the remaining runners in.

(A well-rested Dale Reicheneder and me at the finish)

My thanks to Gina Miller, the FreshAirSports Team, and all the wonderful volunteers for putting on a great race. Let’s hope it becomes an annual tradition!


P.S. – Bend Bulletin article can be found here.

Blind trail runner seeking guide for Bizz-Johnson

Quick note for anyone planning to run the Bizz-Johnson Marathon in Susanville, CA, on October 8th. Sharlene Wills, a blind trail runner, is looking for a guide. No experience required! See the letter from Sharlene below.

"Hi, Bizz Johnson Marathoners,

If any of you did this beautiful race last year, you may have blown by me on your way to the finish. I am a blind runner/walker, and I'm looking for one or two guides for this year's race. I hope to finish in around six to six-and-a-half hours (and maybe just a little better, if I can get my altitude training in). I would be walking quite a bit, but I can run on the fire road, as well, especially the downhill portions.

I am an experienced marathoner and have done several ultras, as well. Guiding on this course would not require much more than helping me at the aid stations in getting snacks and/or drinks and occasionally telling me about rough road or turns that come up. You would be linked to me via a small rope with carbiners at either end for us to hold. I prefer to have the guide on my left. I do like to chat, especially on a course with so much beauty. There is only one very small stretch of the course (at least it was there last year) that would require a little more verbal navigation: namely, a point, pretty late in the race, where a bridge has been
washed out, and the course is diverted. Even this small stretch, however, is not very technical and, if taken slowly, should not present a potential guide
with much difficulty.

If anyone is interested and/or willing to help me out, I would be very, very appreciative. You can email me directly at tenagra [at] Please don't hesitate to ask any question, no matter how "silly" or "uninformed" it might appear to be to you. I am not sensitive about being totally blind and will do my best to assuage any fears or hesitancy you might have.
My only emphatic point is that I am no longer very fast (I once could run a sub-five-hour marathon quite consistently, but not now. So, if you volunteer, you'll need to reckon on being out there for six-plus hours with a 56-year-old woman. I always hope to be faster, but there is no guarantee. I have recently completed the San Francisco Marathon in just over 6.5 hours, and that is a fairly hilly road race.

Thank you in advance for any help you can give. Good luck to everyone, and enjoy this most spectacular event.

Sharlene Wills"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trail running goes SuperMoto!

Have you ever watched those crazy motorcyclists on ESPN do SuperMoto, where they transition from screaming fast pavement to 30' dirt jumps on the same track? Looks like the Sea Otter Classic folks are bringing the same idea to trail running.

At the Infineon Cougar Mountain Classic (the new end-of-season outdoor celebration to bookend the March Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA) held on September 9-11, a 15k road/off-road race has been added, complete with a pro purse of $2,500. The road/trail race is part of an ever-expanding weekend of outdoor activities that also includes road cycling, mountain biking, cyclocross, and bike swap meet.

The course takes place at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, and will have 4 miles of pavement, followed by 5 miles of trail (fire roads and single track), and finish up with a 1/2 mile sprint on asphalt back into the main arena. I've hit the steep trails up around Infineon, so I can imagine this poses the ultimate shoe choice dilemma (blisters from running downhill in road flats, or blisters from running asphalt in trail shoes?). One thing for sure, sounds FAAAST! If anybody is planning on doing it, let me know how it goes. I bet it will be fun.

- SD

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

We made the Forbes "Best of the Web" list!

Forbes magazine named "A Trail Runner's Blog" as their favorite Health and Fitness blog for Summer, 2005. Can you believe it?!?

My thanks to all the runners who have been interviewed, left comments, and shared their stories and passion for the outdoors. It's your feedback and humility that has made this site so unique.

Special thanks to Drew Limsky and the Forbes crew for giving us props! I'll fill out the oodles of paperwork to get your "best of" logo officially on the site. ;oP

Here's the review:

"A Trail Runner's Blog

Scott Dunlap's blog of trail running, marathons and triathlon racing in the United States reflects the mindset of an enthusiast rather than a fanatic. Dunlap's writing style is casual, lucid and pleasingly narrative. His description of his first handicapped trail race along California's Dipsea Trail, "Doing the Double Dipsea," is characteristically colorful. Of this race, where runners enter in waves according to their level of fitness, Dunlap warns "Be careful of the dizzying uneven steps at the turnaround in Mill Valley, taking your time on the extremely steep Cardiac and Suicide Hills." Almost an accidental authority, trophy-winner Dunlap, who started running trails and triathalons in 2001, tends toward the disarming--an admission that he runs so he can eat as much as he wants. The site is well laid out with monthly archives going back to February 2004 as well as a listing of previous posts making them easily accessible. There are also links to an impressive roster of completed and upcoming events such as the Haulin' Aspen Trail Marathon that takes place in August.

BEST: Blog makes accessing a profile of blind marathoner Sharlene Wills as easy as pulling up an interview with running legend Dean Karnazes.

WORST: In the otherwise dependable index, the listed entries in the Fiction category were not available for viewing when we visited."

[I'll be honest, those links were broken at the time...busted!]

Thanks, SD

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Outdoor trail runner up for the challenge (Video - News 8 Austin)

A story and video from News8 in Austin on Joe Prusaitis, a local ultrarunner. Be sure to click through to the News8 Austin page and watch the video - this guy is a hoot!

- SD

Outdoor trail runner up for the challenge

By John Hygh

If running 100 miles a week sounds like no problem, try doing it over some of the most difficult terrains in a single race.

Some might call 50-year-old Joe Prusaitis crazy. Over the past nine years he's run in more than 20 100-mile races on rocky outdoor trails and in the mountains.

"I did the road races for a while. I did the marathons. I just prefer to be out in the woods running. I like running, I like camping, I like hiking, and this is all of them put together. I'm going to places that most folks just don't go to," Prusaitis said. "Most of these races, unlike the road races, has a finish rate of 50 percent or less. So there's a lot of folks that are good runners out there that you know are not finishing. It's a variety of different things. It's not because they're not fast enough. It's because they had a problem with their stomach or they got their feet really jacked. Or they got lost in the woods or something like that. There's a variety of things that will take you out of one of these races."

While running these 100-mile races, Joe has experienced a variety of weather conditions. He's had to run through snow, ice and hail. And he's actually won both six- and 24-hour races, but for Prusaitis, winning isn't what it's all about.

"It's exhilarating to get close to the finish of one of these things. Part of the reason you do it, part of the reason is the beauty. And then part of it is just this amazing feeling of accomplishment,” he said. "It's not like I'm trying to run a 100-mile race. I'm going to play in the mountains. I don't care about the 100 miles. If it's 130-50 miles, I don't care. It's trails, it's backwoods, it's off the roads."

And as crazy as that may sound to some, it makes perfect sense to Prusaitis.

In about two weeks, Prusaitis will race in the Leadville 100 in Colorado. Then in September, he'll compete in the Bear 100 in Idaho.

(Copyright 2005, News8 Austin, All Rights Reserved)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Trailing The Top (CitySports Magazine)

Gordon Wright wrote two great articles in the August, 2005 issue of CitySports for the San Francisco Bay Area. "Trailing the Top" has tips on Bay Area trails, and "Bouncing Back" talks about recovery and physical therapists in the area. Be sure to also check out Martin Dugard's great story about the Dipsea, "Take Me To The Water".

- SD

Trailing The Top
By Gordon Wright

There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Bay Area, ranging from the famous (see our story on the Dipsea) to the nefarious (the Paradigm illegal singletrack that netted its builders a felony charge). So how to choose a few to highlight? It seemed like an impossible task, so we threw it open to our readers, who replied with unbridled enthusiasm.

One of our trail guides is Scott Dunlap, an emerging force on the national trail running scene and the 2004 Overall Champion in the Trail Running Magazine Trophy Series. A resident of Woodside and a high-tech vice president, Dunlap gives up his favorite trails in the South Bay, “Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in Big Basin State Park, Boulder Creek is one of my favorites.”

He notes that, “It is a bit of a drive (almost to Santa Cruz), but well worth it. First growth redwoods, Berryessa Falls and super-soft trails all give the feeling you are miles from civilization. The full loop from Big Basin is about 12 miles, or you can start at the ocean for a longer version. I also like Ridge Trail in Woodside’s Purisima Open Space Preserve. This trail has a bit of everything—open views to the ocean, exposed cliffs, finishing with thick redwood and fern groves that cross a few raging creeks. It is a good representation of the varied California terrain and is about nine miles, with the trailhead just off Skyline Road.”

His final suggestion is to try Richards Road/Pfleger Estate, in Woodside’s Huddart Park. Dunlap says that, “If the hills scare you, this one is a fairly flat out-and-back that gives you a taste of the lushness of Huddart Park, and the adjacent Pfleger Estate. Plus it ends near Buck's Restaurant, which is always worth a visit. Come on the weekends and you may be passed by the gazelles of the Stanford cross-country teams.”

Tom Morrow, of Pleasanton, helped us find some of the tastiest trails in the East Bay. “My favorite trail is the East and West Ridge trails—the 8.2-mile loop—at Redwoods (East Bay Regional Park). I love the change from the coastline fauna (redwoods, ferns, succulents) on the West Ridge by the Chabot Space Museum, then down through the Stream Trail along the salmon-friendly creek, then back up the wicked Canyon Trail to the deciduous trees, pines and grasses on top of the East Ridge. I like the mix of surfaces on the trail too: a little hard rock, mud, pine needles and soft sand. Drinking fountains in the parking areas allow the water bottles to be left home and there are also a couple of washrooms along the way. “ Another East Bay trail runner, Rob Gendreau, says that his favorite is long, but epically scenic.

“Essentially, you start at Mitchell Canyon on the Clayton side of Mt. Diablo State Park. The run starts relatively easily, with a couple of miles of fire road up towards the mountain. Lots of flowers, including some unique ones, and a nice creek with water that runs fairly late in the season. Then the fire road starts getting serious and steep; you’ll climb a bunch of switchbacks higher and higher. At Deer Flat you get a break for a bit, but then there’s another very tough bit before you crest a ridge with great views to the east and west near the Juniper Campground. Here you can refill with water, and you’ve now entered high chaparral. Another steep mile or two up nice singletrack and you’re at the summit of Diablo, with some of the best views anywhere.

“To descend, drop down the Summit Trail to Devil’s Elbow. From here you drop down a wonderful singletrack with lots of flowers around the southern side of the mountain. You descend to Prospector’s Gap, where you can hook up with another great, but technical, singletrack called Bald Ridge. This trail is narrow and fairly enclosed in brush, but soon opens out with great views to the north and east. The terrain changes and the trail becomes rather boulder strewn. You pop out at Murchio Gap, on a saddle above Mitchell Canyon, which you ascended earlier.”

My own favorite is a little-known and completely bike-legal singletrack in Marin. I’ve never seen another bike rider on Olema Valley Trail that skirts Point Reyes National Seashore, which makes me wonder why anyone would bother poaching illegal trails.

The trailhead is about four miles south of the town of Olema on Highway One, and is approached by a quarter-mile dirt road that leads to the Five Brooks Stables. Once you find the trail, it ascends steeply. It also narrows abruptly at times, often degenerating into an ugly, deep rut. You eventually reach a peak that feels like attaining the summit of Courchevel. Keep heading south at a signed junction, and get in the groove. It is narrow and winding, with a few ups and downs to keep you amused. After a few marshy areas, you arrive at what looks like the end of the trail. But a sign helpfully informs you, incredulously but definitively, that you go THIS way. Toward Dogtown. Up. And you still have 3.1 miles to go.

The remaining miles pass by in a blur. You wade through a shallow river. You glide through a downhill track that isn't quite switchbacks but more like chicanes that you just lean into and carve like a black diamond run. You’ll be bobbing and weaving the abundant plant life and scattering jackrabbits as you pass through cow parsnip, lupine, wild iris and redwoods. After all that bliss, the final mile is even better. It's a long, not-steep downhill through high grass— just racing the bumblebees—capped off with a quarter-mile of gorgeous open meadow. The trail literally disappears, and it will be just you and your bike and the grass sweeping over your handlebars.

Scott Dunlap puts it best, “I’ve run and raced in almost every state, and am constantly reminded that we have the best trails of anyplace in the world.”

(Copyright 2005 for CitySports, all rights reserved)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Unsupported, unmarked, unequaled - minimalist ultras (Billings Gazette)

Last time I complain about aid stations! - SD

A devil of a marathon: Trail runners brave the beasts, wind in 50-mile ridge race

BOZEMAN - The midpoint for the Devil's Backbone 50-Miler is the Windy Pass Cabin, a spartan A-frame maintained by the Forest Service.

To get there, drive 30 miles south of Four Corners on Route 101, then five miles to the end of unpaved Portal Creek Road. From there, it's a 2½-mile hike up 1,500 feet. Stop when you see the Windy Pass' wood smoke.

Of course, these are the directions for couch-potato reporters and photographers.

Those running the race approached the Backbone's only aid station downhill, 24.5 miles into a route that jogs south from Hyalite Peak down the Gallatin Crest with mountain vistas in all directions.

With that in mind, the scene at the aid station should have been grim and awesome - all the agony and the ecstasy expected from human beings who had finished only one of two marathons.

Unfazed was the operative word as Bozeman's Mike Wolf bounded down from the saddle at 10:30 a.m., in the lead about five hours into the race.

"It's perfect weather up there," Wolf said about the partly-cloudy morning, an hour before Windy Pass started to live up to its name. "I saw a bunch of elk, they were bugling to each other."

Dressed curiously in light shorts and a short-sleeved button-down, Wolf looked as if he could have been out for a walk on Bozeman's Peet's Hill.

He spent no more than five minutes chatting easily with volunteers before refilling his water bottles, politely declining food, and setting off again in the direction from where he had come.

Pleasantly surprised

The message was clear: After 24.5 miles at more than 10,000 feet in altitude, demons and doubt had been left in the dust.

"I don't think people get absolutely exhausted," race founder Tom Hayes said. "It's not like a marathon where people collapse at the finish line. I've never seen that in the any of the 50s or 100s I've run."

Rather than gripe or moan, almost everyone arriving at Windy Pass over the next three hours was surprised with how good they felt.

Fran Zelentz, a 31-year-old from Bozeman, had signed up to run only the first half of the race. At Windy Pass, she decided she had to do the back half as well.

"Remember I was just going to do half. Rockstar!" she said, leaving the station.

Even those who decided to stop at the midpoint walked to their cars thanking Hayes for the race, now in its third year.

Inspired by the Plains 100 in eastern Washington, the Devil's Backbone is one of the few ultramarathons, a race longer than 26.2 miles, that exists without regular stops at aid stations.

Hayes' particular brand of ultramarathon, "unsupported, unmarked, unequaled," has more in common with backpacking than marathon running.

Half to one-third of the race is spent walking in a competition that combines long-distance hiking with self-sufficient orienteering.

"I don't flag the trail," he said. "I don't put up glow sticks for people. You just have to stay on the ridge."

'Most uncommon'

It's the appeal of this wilderness survival with a pulse that has developed a following with nature and fitness fanatics in Montana and throughout the country.

Runners from Texas, Tennessee and Montreal, Quebec, competed this year.

"This is most uncommon for a distance of that type to be unsupported," said 57-year-old Franklin Coles, one of 14 Bozeman residents participating in the field of 35 runners.

Coles has organized ultramarathons in the past, and this summer's Devil's Backbone was his second.

"Another dynamic is that once you're up there, you have to go at least halfway," he said. "You just do it. It's the Nike thing. The midway point is a good sign because you're halfway."

A 24.5-mile midway point is a good sign?

"My wife finds the activity somewhat mystifying," Coles said.

Crazy talk

Coles and his cohorts hear the crazy talk so often they wear it like a badge of honor.

"I agree with them," said Charles Steele, of Belgrade, who ran his first Devil's Backbone. "I mean, what the heck. Do you think denying it would do any good? I'd lose all credibility at that point."

Coles decided to race this year even after severing a tendon in his hand in a construction accident at his house a week ago. Hayes tried to turn him away, but Coles insisted on competing.

"The running that I have done has conditioned me to the point that I feel no pain," he said. "When I did this thing (to my hand) on Sunday, it didn't hurt."

As much as it doesn't hurt, Coles makes no bones about the difficulty of the run.

"It's the whole thing, it's an extremely tough course," he said. "You're either up or down."

'Carpet of wildflowers'

Runners have described the trail that starts from the base of Hyalite Peak as a coarse saw blade that constantly changes pitch up and down. classified it a "graduate-level course," requiring runners to "bag the peak" on the way out, reaching the summit at 10,300 feet in the first seven miles.

From there, the course skirts down the ridge for the next 15 miles, but runners made it sound like a walk in a city park.

"You're just running on a 15-mile carpet of wildflowers," said Kyle Amstadler, of Bozeman.

Besides the elk, runners reported run-ins with a small brown bear and a mountain lion, which was found sitting in the middle of the trail.

"It was pretty big," said Betsy Kalakay, who backed away and waited for other runners before scaring the cat away. "It was just sitting there looking around."

If ultramarathon runners have a totem animal, it is a crossbreed of tortoise and billy goat.

Pace wins races where the trail's elevation can change as much as 33,000 feet, as it did in the Hardrock 100, which Hayes ran last weekend.

Intensity falls away in the face of distance and time required.

"I did an ultra before I ever ran a marathon," Steele said "(Marathons) are too short."

The demographic for the sport reflects this kind of long view. Of the 36 participants in this year's race, only four are in their 20s.

One of them was 29-year-old Jaff Dalton, of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Devil's Backbone was Dalton's third ultramarathon, his first running on mountain trails, but he had run more 15 races of at least marathon length.

"It should be challenging for a flatlander," he said before the race began. "I just hope I'll meet someone who wants to go as slow as I do."

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.