Thursday, March 30, 2006

AR50 tips, and "Mind Over Patter"

As I was preparing for the AR50 this Saturday, I noticed there wasn't an elevation chart provided. But after digging around some "racer accounts", I found enough information to get a feel for the elevation, particularly the second half of the race. Below are the links in case you find it helpful.

Hopefully you got the e-mail about the minor course changes too. If not, e-mail Greg Soderlund.

Be ready to get wet! I'll see y'all there. If you recognize me, say hi and make sure I get a photo of you for the blog!

- SD

AR50 Write-Ups

Linda Hurd did a great write-up of her race in 2002, complete with pictures. She does a good job of explaining the trails, climbs before and after Last Gasp, and provides some telling photos of the last two miles. (here)

Ron Adams provides his account of his 1998 race. He also talks about the section between Manhattan Bar to Last Gasp. Also, bring your Technu poison oak wash. (here)

Ultra-regular Stan Jensen wrote up his 1997 run. Good detail on the last 2.5 miles. (here)

Jerry Bloom's race write-up lays out the overall course nicely. (here)

Mind Over Patter

Unrelated, you can also find a story on ultra-running called "Mind Over Patter" (Arizona Republic). Arizona ultrarunner Don Meyer summed up the ultra pacing strategy well - "Part of the strategy is to start slow, then go slower". I love it!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Great Product Idea - The Hitch Safe

Every once in a while, a product comes along that so elegantly solves a problem that you have to think "why didn't I think of that?". I have repeated this epiphany for the last two weeks as I've tried out The Hitch Safe - a small combination lock that fits in the trailer hitch of your car/truck to stash keys. If ever there was a product made for trail runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts, this is it. And I have been pleasantly surprised at how much it came in handy.

(An easy place to stash your keys - The Hitch Safe)

If you're like me, you constantly have the dilemma of "what to do with the car keys" when you're parked at a trailhead. You can stash them in your wheel well, but then you risk car theft. You can take them on the run, but if you lose them, you're toast. So what's a good, secure alternative?

The Hitch Safe solves this by providing a secure, convenient place to stash your keys while you are out on the trail. It does this by turning your trailer hitch into a hidden combo safe. Simple idea, but I was surprised at how many times it came in handy. Here are a few examples of how I used it in the last two weeks:

1) Race day at the Way Tool Cool 50k. Just before the race, I locked my car keys in the Hitch Safe in my parking spot about 1/2 mile from the start. I felt better not carrying my keys with me during the race. It also had another hidden benefit - before the race started, a good friend had mentioned that she had forgotten her Technu for the post-race poison oak scrub down. I told her I had some extra in my car, and if she couldn't find me, just enter the combo on the Hitch Safe and get it. Very handy!

2) Group run at the Marin Headlands. A group run showed me another way the Hitch Safe is helpful. We put all of our car keys in the Hitch Safe before our run, and put in a new combination that we all knew. Now it didn't matter who was back first, they would be able to get in their car, as well as get all the food stashed in my car. An easy solution to group run coordination.

3) Car drop-off/pick up. I'm not if I mentioned this, but Christi and I were involved in a car accident while driving through the snow on I-80 after the Way Too Cool. So now her car is in the shop and we have to share the truck. Since the key is always with the car, we've been able to use the Hitch Safe to facilitate a car drop-off. I can leave it somewhere close to where she will be later in the day, and she can easily get the key and drive it home.

I thought this was going to be one of those crazy gifts I never used, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how much it has come in handy. It took about 2 minutes to install. I thought I would share the experience with y'all in case you hadn't heard of it. You can buy them online at for $89.95.

Let me know if you have questions!

Thx, SD

Thursday, March 23, 2006

2006 TRM Trophy Series Athletes Get a Jump on the Competition

The latest on the Trail Runner Trophy Series...

- SD

2006 Trophy Series Athletes Get a Jump on the Competition

MARCH 17, 2006, CARBONDALE, COLORADO-Through the first two weeks of the Trail Runner Trophy Series' six months of racing, this much is certain: it's still a wide open race for the 2006 title. Nevertheless, the first two weekends of racing gave several athletes a chance to garner big points right from the start.

PLEASE NOTE: All point projections are contingent on Race Directors submitting their results in a timely, correct manner.

50-Milers snag Ultra Division Lead
The Old Pueblo 50-Miler, held on March 4 in the arid Santa Rita mountains around Sonoita, Arizona, launched the Series' Ultramarathon Division schedule. Sean Andrish of Leesburg, Virginia, held off a hard-charging Hal Koerner of Seattle, Washington, to snag the win. When Trophy Series points are tabulated later in March, Andrish will sit atop the standings.

In the Old Pueblo 50 women's division, Darcy Africa of Boulder, Colorado, logged an impressive 2006 Series debut by winning the Old Pueblo women's race-finishing third overall, no less. Rugged and fast Vermonter Sue Johnston finished second to Africa, and Californian Kelly Ridgway finished third.

The same weekend, many hardcore Canucks gathered for the Dirty Duo 50K in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Local boy Paul Purin took the win and will appear near the top of the standings, just a few notches below Andrish and Iowan Bill Barten (see below). Another local, Aaron Pitt (no relation to Brad Pitt who did not run because he was reportedly in Italy for his wedding to Angelina Jolie), finished second, six minutes behind Purin. Vancouver-ite Louise McCorquodale took the women's race. Look for her near the top of the Trophy Series standings as well.

In Maryland, the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K in Damascus, Maryland, gave easterners a chance to garner early-season Trophy Series tallies. 35-year-old Rob Magin of Olney, Maryland, took the overall title, 10 minutes ahead of John Anderson from Vienna, Virginia. Young blood ruled the women's race, as 22-year-old Jean Hyde bested the field, out-running second-place finisher Kavara Vaughn, 26, from Morgantown, West Virginia.

March 11 heralded the annual running of one of the most popular and prestigious 50K races in the country: the Way Too Cool 50K in Cool, California. The 2006 race filled up in only 18 minutes. This year, Seattle, Washington, speedster Phil Kochik blazed through the course, held on portions of the famed Western States 100 trail, in 3:37:55. Colorado stalwarts Bryan Dayton (Boulder) and Paul DeWitt (Monument) finished second and third, respectively. Joelle Vaught of Boise, Idaho, took the women's crown, defeating Meghan Arbogast, who journeyed down from Corvallis, Oregon, by 14 minutes. Another Coloradan, Jamie Donaldson, placed third.

America's Heartland also played host to an early-season Trophy Series event. The Land Between the Lakes 58K in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, gave Midwesterners a chance to keep an early pace with their ultrarunning counterparts elsewhere in the country. 30-year-old Bill Barthen of Ames, Iowa, ran an impressive 4:59:59 (way to break that five-hour barrier, Bill!) for the win, and will snag second place in the first Trophy Series Ultra Division standings. 30-year-old Craig Bunk of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, placed second. In the women's race, Melissa Beaver of Bloomington, Indiana, bested Chatanooga, Tennessee's Kris Whorton for the win.

Marathon & Shorter Division
Most eyes are on Dale Reicheneder of Malibu, California, as he aims for another Trophy Series title. The 40-year-old attorney is on the scoreboard, having already run two races. First, he kicked off the 2006 season by running the Seneca Greenway Trail Marathon (Damascus, Maryland), finishing 17th overall and seventh in a very tough 40-49 age group. On March 11, Reicheneder ran in Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes 14 Miler, where he battled stormy conditions to place second in his age group (in the Marathon & Shorter Division, bonus points are awarded according to age-group finish, not overall placing), 13 minutes behind 42-year-old Hugh Davis of Tell City, Indiana.

Other top point-winners at the Land Between the Lakes Race included: 33-year-old Brian Beckort, who set a new course record; 19-year-old Laura Mitchell, who won the overall women's title; 29-year-old Jeff Edmonds of Nashville, Tennessee, who placed second overall behind Beckort; and 30-year-old Carolyn Garrett of Paducah, Kentucky. All age group winners will claim spots near the top of the Trophy Series standings, with 56 points awarded for their 14-miler age-group wins (pending submission and confirmation from Trail Runner magazine).

Age-group champions from the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon on March 4 claimed beaucoup Trophy Series points-104.8 points each, to be precise-and can certainly claim a leg up on their front-running competition. These winners included: 41-year-old Courtney Campbell from Berryville, Virginia, who took the race's overall win, too; 40-year-old Monika Bahmann from Comus, Maryland, the women's winner; 35-year-old Suzie Spangler of Annapolis, Maryland; 36-year-old Keith Moore of Washington, DC; and 50-year-old Eugene Gignac of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, who impressed many with a second-place overall finish.

In Florida, runners in the March 11 First Annual Trout Creek Trail Runs (held in Thonotosassa, near Tampa), celebrated the early days of the 2006 Trophy Series by dashing through pines and oak hammocks. Top 15K age-group finishers, who will each receive approximately 37 points, included: overall winner 35-year-old Ed Parrot from Tampa; Ed's wife, 36-year-old Dana Parrot, who also won the women's overall championship; Eric Laywell, 41, of Gainesville, Florida; Danielle Heath, 41, or Orlando, Florida; 25-year-old Mark Hunter of Tampa; and Lindsey Skinner, 22, of Tampa.

In the Trout Creek 5K Trail Run, age-group winners included: overall winner 25-year-old Ken Corigliano from St. Leo, Florida; women's winner Liz Casteel, 29, of Palmetto, Florida; Brandon Ullery, 31, of Plant City, Florida; John Combs, 58, from Sunnyvale, California; and 43-year-old Sally Chappell of Ocala, Florida.

Top runners from the March 4 Dirty Duo 25K (North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) will also appear near the top of the initial standings. As of the date of this press release, final results and age classifications were pending.

More to come Š
The Trophy Series heats up during the third weekend of March:
+ In the West, look for Washington and Oregon ultrarunners to rack up points in the Chuckanut 50K on March 18 in Bellingham, Washington.

+ Arizona ultrarunners will have a chance to add to points they may have earned at the Old Pueblo 50, when they run the Crown King Scramble on March 18 in Morristown, Arizona.

+ In the Rockies, runners can get on the board by running the inaugural Antelope Island Buffalo Run 25K or 50K on March 18 just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

+ Runners in America's Heartland can hit the Three Days of Syllamo running festival in Mountain View, Arkansas (March 17-19), or the Brew-to-Brew 43-Mile Run on March 19 from Kansas City, Missouri, to Lawrence, Kansas.

About the Trophy Series
Sponsored by LaSportiva and GoLite, the Trail Runner Trophy Series is the world's largest off-road running series. In this its third year, the 2006 Series will encompass over 110 races and more than 20,000 runners from March 1 to September 30. Trophy Series race participants earn points for completing events as well as bonus points for top age-group or overall placing. Runners clash in two divisions: (1) Marathon and Shorter, and (2) Ultramarathon (including any races longer than 26.2 miles-the marathon distance).

For information on the 2006 Series-including a complete race schedule, rules, news and details on points scoring-visit

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The Outdoor Adventurer - An Interview with Trail Runner Magazine Editor, Michael Benge

Michael Benge doesn’t just write about the adventurous outdoor life, he lives it. An astute climber and trail runner, Michael has channeled his love for the steep into editing two magazines that have become essential to every outdoor enthusiast – Climbing and Trail Runner magazines.

(Michael and a friend cut through the brush at Snowbank Lake, MN;
photo courtesy of David Clifford)

I caught up with Michael to get his thoughts on the growing trail-running scene, his recent experiences as a racer and pacer, and his adventurous outlook on life.

How long have you been climbing and trail running?

Both have been passions for 25 years now. I began climbing while ski bumming in Summit County, Colorado, then got into trail running when I moved to Boulder the next year. In fact, we would sometimes combine the two, running from Boulder on the Mesa Trail out to Eldorado Canyon (a classic climbing venue with colorful sandstone walls up to 800 feet) with our climbing packs on our backs. The pace was obviously slow, but it was a great workout.

Do you consider yourself a climber first and foremost?

I was so involved with climbing both personally and professionally for many years that I still have strong connections to the sport. But throughout that time, I always ran trails. I mainly consider myself a “generalist,” because I love being in the mountains: climbing, trail running, backcountry touring, alpine skiing, mountain biking and bowhunting.

Are there physical or spiritual parallels between climbing and trail running?

There are similarities but also big differences. Climbing includes everything from 8000-meter Himalayan peaks to waterfall ice to the 3000-foot monolith of El Capitan to 12-foot boulders. Big, long climbs might be compared to ultramarathons, while gymnastic boulder problems are like technical downhill sprints. Climbing is slower paced, but very technical and mentally and physically demanding.

Trail running is fairly straightforward in comparison. A fit person could learn to run even the most technical, gnarly trails. The mental fortitude required to run ultras is immense, of course, like that needed in committing mountaineering. For both, there is always the challenge of going farther and faster.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that climbing is more inherently dangerous. You can do your best to monitor the danger level, but a mistake at any time could mean serious injury or death.
What they also have in common is the mental fortitude and toughness required to push at your limit. Both can be lifestyle endeavors—in a way, I hate to even refer to them as sports—attracting a lot a characters. Especially with the core participants, you’ll find some eccentric fringe dwellers, which I like. Of course, I am not one of them …

What kind(s) of climbing do you prefer?

I like steep rock climbing, trad (where you place your own protection), sport and bouldering. I love the kinesthetic feeling of moving over rock. It’s like dance, gymnastics and chess all rolled into one.

(Michael and a friend hit the steep stuff; photo courtesy of David Clifford)

What are your favorite trail runs?

That’s easy. My favorite trail runs are summer high-country excursions in my backyard—the Elk Mountains of central Colorado. I love covering ground, getting on above-treeline ridges and soaking in the alpine world. I enjoy the classic area runs, like the famous Four Passes Loop near Aspen, a marathon with wildflowers, high peaks, aspen, spruce and pine forests, lakes and streams. But I revel in more obscure routes, and sometimes go solo, sometimes with friends. I seek the opportunity to see wildlife: elk, deer, bear and smaller critters. Without that, the woods would seem barren.

Even now, I’m scheming some runs for next summer. “It’s the middle of winter!” admonished my wife recently, shaking her head at the maps covering the dining-room table. But just dreaming about the mountains keeps me going.

What have been some of your favorite outdoor experiences?

My most meaningful ones center around bowhunting elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep, with traditional equipment (I prefer its simplicity and beauty). A hunt creates a feeling of connectedness to everything.

I heard that you recently paced one of your co-workers at both the Leadville 100 and Hardrock 100…what was that like?

It was super fun and rewarding. I got to absorb the energy surrounding a 100-miler and not have to suffer the whole race. My friend and co-worker here, Trail Runner’s Senior Editor Garett Graubins, is a trail animal, and I was honored that he asked me to pace him. He is an accomplished ultrarunner, and had the logistics really dialed, with spreadsheets including aid-station ETAs, clothing changes, precise food allotments, even psychological advice on how he might be feeling and how to coach him through it.

Everyone knows Hardrock’s extreme rep, but being there really brought home what a brutal feat it is. At about mile 85 on the last series of climbs, I forged ahead to scope out the trail, which was marked but difficult to follow due to the remnant snow. When Garett caught up, looking a bit bleary, he said, “Michael, would you mind sticking kinda close from here on. Back there, I kept thinking I saw you off in the woods but you weren’t really there.”

What tips would you pass on to anyone who is pacing for the first time? How do you know if you would make a good pacer?

Foremost, you’re there to help your runner, so pay attention to his or her needs. What might cheer you up when you’re suffering might not work for him. Beforehand, have conversations about your runner’s anticipated needs, both physical and emotional, because in the throes of a 100-miler, he may not be very rational.

One of your cohorts told me to ask you about the “Lost Lunch Loop.” What is that?

That’s a funny one. It is a route (named after the fact) in the Elks that I had concocted. I recruited Penn and Kir Newhard and John Fox-Rubin to go. We got a fairly early start, but Penn and Kir had a babysitter for their kids and a curfew. At the trailhead, we hurried out the car.
After a half hour or so, I asked Penn if he could see my purple lunch bag strapped to my hydration pack and he said yes. A couple more miles up the trail, we stopped for a snack, and I discovered my lunch did not make it in my pack. Penn had seen my purple wind jacket. I had no food. My pals said not to worry, they would share, but we had all trimmed our rations to reduce weight. Anyway, the adventure was naturally longer than we had planned for, and despite my friends’ generosity I was bonking pretty hard at about hour nine. I was able to repay my companions with cold beers at the car. We still laugh about that run.

As the Editor of Trail Runner Magazine you have seen some changes in the sport over the last few years. How has it changed, and where do you see it going in the next 5-10 years?

The biggest change is in the sheer numbers of folks running the trails. We are thrilled to see more people out there enjoying the natural environment. It’s become much more mainstream, and you’ll often see articles in big metro papers and magazines.

In addition, the race scene is burgeoning, with races sprouting up all over, from the Midwest to the coasts. It is a great time to be a trail runner, and the magazine is supporting the sport through our Trail Runner Trophy Series, which you know something about. Check out the details for the 2006 Trophy Series at

What are some of the bigger innovations you have seen in the sport?

Well, the beauty of trail running is its simplicity. All you really need is a pair of running shoes and a trail. But today runners have the best gear in history at their disposal.

The most notable gear innovations have really been refinements, mostly directed at making things lighter and more efficient. For example, you can now get a waterproof-breathable jacket under 8 ounces that will pack down to the size of your fist. And several trail shoes introduced in the past couple of years check in at around a feathery 10 ounces.

Do you see any parallels between trail running now and the growth of climbing when you started?

For sure. Climbing experienced a huge growth spurt in the 1990s, but has since flattened out. Trail running is a steep growth phase, but I think we have a long way to go before we plateau.

What is a typical day at work look like for you at Trail Runner Magazine?

It really varies, which I like a lot. In the same day, we might edit, write, choose photos, work on layout designs with the Art Director, review manuscripts and queries, and, of course, go trail running, I mean shoe testing.

A lot of the blog readers love to hear about “lessons learned” (i.e., things that didn’t go right that perhaps they could avoid). With all of your outdoor adventures, I thought you might have one or two. Any you would like to pass on?

Remember your lunch! But most of all, I’d just say to appreciate the outdoors, and do what you can to preserve our wild places.

Thanks for a great interview!


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mud Boggin at the Way Too Cool 50k

Last Saturday, I drove through the snow-filled Sierras to join 400 trail runners for the 2006 Way Too Cool 50k (WTC) in Cool, CA. This popular race has grown to be one of the biggest trail 50k’s in the nation, selling out in a matter of minutes. Thanks to a transfer entry from a healing Scott Wolfe, I got my first chance to see why so many people sign up for this race year after year.

When I arrived at 7:30am (30 minutes to go time), the start area was packed with eager runners. The pervasive family atmosphere warmed up the 38-degree morning in a blanket of hugs and hellos, as many of the “Western States” clan caught up with each other. For many trail runners, the WTC marks the beginning of the 2006 trail running season and a chance to see how your winter training is going. It’s also a chance to challenge the elements – as Race Director Greg Soderlund’s e-mail warned “come prepared for anything…you’re likely in for a true adventure”.

(This and other 2006 WTC images available at Brightroom)

Greg was right. One quick glance at the trail conditions confirmed ankle deep mud every couple hundred of feet, plenty of water run-off weaving through the rocky single track areas, and streams too large to jump. Throw in the potential for snow, and it was clear that staying warm was going to be crucial to having a good race. I opted for a rain jacket, gloves, a hat, my wool Injinji tsoks, Inov-8 Flyroc 310’s (since they drain the best), and, remembering my race at last year’s Rucky Chucky, gaiters. I also brought two water bottles (one with water, one with water and Hammer Gel, both with pockets full of hourly servings of E-Caps and Endurolytes). At 8am, I lined up at the start and wished everyone well.

The WTC course is well-designed for a large group of trail runners. The first two miles are on a wide paved road going right by the parked cars, allowing the fast runners to get by and the ability to strip off a layer of clothing and toss it to you vehicle. As I tossed some extra clothes to my car, I almost hit a guy running to the start – it was Chikara Omine, running a few minutes late. No worries, he made it to the start, turned around, and passed nearly all of us before we hit the muddy fire roads around mile 2.5.

As the runners spread out, we each had more room to try out our respective strategies for attacking the mud. Some went straight through the puddles, while others danced around the edges. I tried to stay dry, but as the puddles became trenches, it was clear that everyone was going to be soaked by mile 5. One guy went down on his hands and knees, filling his water bottle with mud. Then I heard a loud ‘SHLOP!’ as the mud sucked a runner up to his calf right in front of me. As he laughed it off, I recognized it was Aaron Summerhays, whom I had met at the Tahoe Rim 50k. He was looking pretty good and took off ahead of me – I guess his “three kids under three” training plan was keeping him light on his toes.

We crossed Hwy 49, and weaved down single track on our way down to the Quarry Road trail along the American River. Everyone turned on their afterburners, kicking up mud from their treads like monster trucks. It felt good to warm up the muscles a bit more. Many of the runners I thought were “just in front of me” were already long gone, including Meghan Arbogast (Corvallis, OR) and Jamie Donaldson (Littleton, CO) who both looked to be having a great race.

Brown’s Bar was the first steep hill of the race at mile 9, taking us atop the canyon hills. My watch read 34 degrees – about five degrees colder than the start of the race – but I was still feeling warm. The stream crossings were cold enough to numb my toes, but they would warm up within 4-5 minutes of running. I hit the top of the hike and headed along the Western States trail, occasionally getting peeks of the clouds hanging onto the steep mountain canyon. A small snow flurry welcomed me on the exposed section of the trail, but it wasn’t enough to accumulate on the ground. Good thing – a snow storm half the size of what I drove through to get here would change this race into a survival game in minutes. I was thankful that Mother Nature was pausing on her snowstorm to let us enjoy our run.

Distracted by the beautiful countryside, I was surprised to come upon the Auburn Trails/Dead Truck aid station at mile 14. Cold-but-happy volunteers poured soup and refilled my water bottles with NASCAR efficiency, and they let me know they would be seeing me again once I finished the 6.4 mile loop in front of me. They cheered me off, and I charged up the hill.

The volunteers at WTC are AMAZING, and there is clearly a small army of them. I recognized many of the faces as racers from other ultras, Cool and Auburn locals, and family members of people out on the trail. Hundreds of hours had been poured into cutting back overgrowth, setting up large aid stations with hot goodies, and flawlessly marking the trail. It takes a village to put on a race like WTC, and I can’t thank them enough when their smiles boost my stride with every aid station.

The course weaved down to the Dead Truck trail (I didn’t see the Dead Truck, but had forgotten to look), and I put on some tunes to accompany the descent (Raconteurs, The Tramps, Crystal Method, and DJ Chicken George). Before I knew it, we were heading back up again, this time up the fiendishly steep Ball Bearing. I caught up to Aaron Summerhays, who was still smiling and having a great time. Despite 400 runners, he had been the first face I had seen in over an hour. We hit the Dead Truck aid station (mile 20.8) within minutes of each other, along with two others who made a fast pace up Ball Bearing. We talked briefly, agreeing that although Ball Bearing was supposedly the hardest climb, the upcoming Goat Hill was also tough due to its steepness and placement at the marathon mark. A few runners were still coming along the Western States trail as we headed out, and were all very nice about stepping aside. Most of them walked in packs of 3-4, laughing and smiling along the way. They were thrilled to hear that soup was close by. ;-)

Goat Hill kills me every time, and this time was no different. It just…keeps….going….up!!! By the time I hit the top, I was dizzy. I saw a sign that said “meet God at the Goat Hill aid station” and thought I was hallucinating. I arrived at the aid stations and said, “which one of you is God?”. They all pointed to ultrarunning legend Norm Klein, who came out and gave me a blessing. I enjoyed another cup of soup as we laughed, and welcomed Ron Gutierrez (San Francisco, CA) into the aid station. I had met Ron at a few short-course races in the Bay Area, and he looked to be having a great ultra.

The last few miles went by easily as we weaved our way back up to Cool, CA, along the Western States trail. David Leipsic (San Rafael, CA) had a great pace going the last few miles and paced me up the final hill. I put in a final kick to try and catch the legendary Scott McCoubrey (Seattle, WA), but he had enough juice left to beat me by a minute. I finished in 4:36 for 39th place, still smiling but eager to find a heater for my frozen toes.

In the tent, I huddled around the space heater with AJ (who had run WTC faster than his Boston Marathon time), Jean Pommier (a 2:37 marathoner and Boston masters top 10 finisher; this was his first trail ultra, and he clocked 4:30), and Andy Jones-Wilkins (recent 100-mile US Champion, finishing WTC in 4:12). I had learned that 27-year-old Phil Kochik (Seattle, WA) had won in an insanely fast 3:37, with Bryan Dayton (Boulder, CO), Paul DeWitt (Monument, CO), 48-year-old Roy Rivers (Mill Valley, CA), Scott Jaime (Highland Ranch, CO), Erik Skaden (Folsom, CA), Chikara Omine (SF, CA), and 50-year-old Mark Richtman (Novato, CA) all finishing under 4 hours, with John Ticer not too far off that pace. Joelle Vaught (Boise, ID) took nearly a half an hour off her 2005 time to win the women’s division in 4:17, just ahead of Craig Thornley.

I dug into my goody bag for dry clothes (shirt, sweatshirt, AND gloves – yes!), hit the hose to wipe off the poison oak, and cranked my heated seats up to 11 for the drive back to Tahoe. The WTC had definitely been an adventure as promised, and I had a great time. Future racers note that I used all the gear I brought, so be sure to pack for anything Mother Nature can dish out.

My thanks to Greg Soderlund and the volunteers of WTC for putting on a spectacular race! I will add pics once a bunch are posted.

Cheers, SD

Friday, March 10, 2006

USATF Ultrarunner of the Year, Anne Riddle Lundblad

Few ultrarunners can claim a two-year streak winning every distance from marathons to 100k’s. Anne Riddle Lundblad can. This 39-year-old mother and counselor from Asheville, NC, has been tearing up the ultra scene since she started in 1999. 2004 was a banner year, when she won both the US Trail Marathon and 50km Championships. How could she top that for 2005? Here’s how! In 2005, she placed 2nd in the International Association of Ultrarunners World Cup 100K in Lake Saroma, Japan, helping lead the U.S. women's team to a gold medal finish (Anne was only 41 seconds behind the gold medal winner). She also won the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile (course record), the JFK 50 Mile (course record at the world’s largest 50-mile race), the Promise Land 50k, the Carrboro 50k (tied for first), the Mount Mitchell Challenge, and the Virginia Creeper Marathon (course record). Whew! It was no surprise she capped the year by being named the USATF Female Ultrarunner of the Year, received an Everest Award from the Teva Mountain Games, and just last weekend, won the USATF 50k Road Championships for a 7th consecutive time.

(Anne crosses a stream at the Springmaid Splash 10k in Spruce Pine, NC, August, 2005)

How does Anne do it?!? Maybe it’s because her husband, Mark Lundblad, is also an accomplished ultrarunner (2005 outcomes include winning the Black Mountain Marathon in insane conditions, a 2nd at the Holiday Lake 50k, 3rd at the Promise Land 50k, and more). Maybe it’s because she runs a counseling business to help athletes find their internal best. I caught up with her over e-mail to see what I could find out.

Congratulations on an amazing year! Did you have any idea 2005 would have so many consistent finishes across all those distances?

No, I didn’t. Wrapping up 2004 the way I did, I really felt as if I had reached the pinnacle of my running potential. As I get older, and my daughter grows up and has her own activities, I keep telling myself that each year of racing will be my last…but then the bug bites again and I feel like I need to continue to challenge myself. In 2005, my racing didn’t necessarily get off to a great start for me. I got married in December, 2004, and between holidays and the honeymoon, wasn’t in peak condition by the time January rolled around. The spring season was a bit disappointing for me, but I kept at it, knowing that my larger goals (the 100k championships and JFK) were later in the year.

Tell us a little about your experience in Japan, and being a part of such a great US team for the 100k championships. With less than a minute between you and the leader, it must have been a race to the finish!

I went into that race fairly confidently, knowing that I had trained harder than ever before and was in good shape. After a brief injury scare a month before the race, I arrived in Japan ready to race. We had an awesome US team, both talent-wise and personalities. It’s interesting how we can all race against one another throughout the year, track one another’s performances across the country, and view each other as competition here in the States – but as soon as we get to the World Cup, we are the most cohesive team I have ever been a part of.

The race itself was interesting. I had no idea that I was that close to the leader. I started off the race in about 6th place and gradually worked my way up. At 90k, there was a turnaround and I estimated that I was about 10 minutes behind the leader, so I had no illusions of trying to catch her. Rather, I yelled “Gambatte!” (Japanese for “go!”) and gave her a smile. At 98k, our US team manager told me I was 4 minutes back, and I still had no thoughts about reeling her in. Had I known that I would end up in second by only 41 seconds, maybe I could’ve dug deeper…I don’t know. As it was, it was one of those races that you finish and pretty much collapse into the arms of the closest person. People say that with another quarter of a mile I could have caught her…but I’m not sure that I could’ve run another 400 meters!

The US team took gold in Japan. Who else was on the team?

Our women’s team consisted of Nikki Kimball, Tania Pacev, Ann Heaslett, Anthea Schmid, and Karen Scott. All amazing ultra and trail runners. Nikki, Tania, Ann and I had all been on prior US teams, so we have a fair amount of international experience, which really helps in that sort of setting.

You raced a lot in 2005. How many races do you like to do each year?

2005 was a big year for me. I raced eight ultras, one trail marathon, and a few shorter races. Each December, I plan out the year ahead. I usually choose two to three races to key on – one or two per season, then choose other events as training efforts to build up to the big ones.
I have heard that you vary your races between trails and paved roads, and compete in nearly all distances. Is that always the case, or do you focus more on one terrain/distance as certain races get closer?

I’m a big fan of the well-rounded runner. I can’t stand it when “roadies” put down ultras or trail races because of the slower pace, and similarly, I hate it when trail snobs talk trash about road races. I think there is a place for all types of competition – terrain and distance. For me, that keeps things interesting.

When did you start trail running? Have you always been an athlete?

I started running at age 14, basically because I wasn’t good enough to make the high school soccer team. My parents told me about cross-country, which sounded like fun. I liked the idea of running through fields, up and down hills, and over streams. I ran competitively throughout high school and college, then took a break from racing for several years. I discovered trail running while living in Boulder, but didn’t run my first trail race until moving to the mountains of western North Carolina in 1993.

(Anne sets the course record at the Virginia Creeper Marathon, 2005;
photo courtesy of Frank Kibler)

How has your counseling business helped your performance? Can you tell us more about it?

Actually, my counseling business developed as an outgrowth of my own racing. I began using mental training techniques in 2001, while preparing for my first national championship race. Over the past few years, I have continued to explore the mind+body connection and have seen it really impact my own performances. I hadn’t really thought about it in terms of developing a business until a friend suggested it earlier this year. It made a lot of sense to share with others what has worked so well for me. So now I do it as a small side business, continuing with my main job as a college counselor. What has evolved is sort of a combination of coaching, motivating, and inspiring. I work with athletes to help them develop specific psychological tools to aid performance, and have also begun counseling injured athletes who are dealing with the emotional aspects of physical injury.

What inspires you to run? And keep up the training?

I don’t know if I could even say what inspires me any more. After twenty-five years of running, my daily run is as natural as brushing my teeth. I don’t even think “why” – it’s more where, when, and how far. For me, it’s a chance to be alone in the woods – to clear my head and find my connection with nature – basically, to get myself grounded before I spend all day counseling other people on their problems or parenting my daughter.

Now training is another matter. There are days when it is really, really hard to get on the track for an interval workout or to head out for a long run in nasty weather. That’s where goals come in…I am always thinking about my next race and how this particular workout fits into the overall plan.

Do you use pacers? It seems like Mark is always running the race with you, and I don’t suppose your six-year-old can quite keep up.

Most of the races I compete in don’t allow pacers. Mark did pace me in my first (and possibly, only) 100 miler, Vermont. It was not such a fun experience. Mark tried his best to support and encourage me, but overall, I think there would have been a lot less whining on my part if I had chosen a pacer who was not also my spouse!

What does Emma think about mom and dad going for these crazy runs?

Emma’s at that age where she is beginning to ask every once in a while, “Why do you have to go run again?” That breaks my heart and I try my hardest to get my runs in while she’s not around, so as not to take time away from her. Sometimes that involves long runs on the treadmill after she’s gone to bed. Not ideal training, but you do what you have to do. She does get a kick out of all my trophies, however, which she keeps in her room. At my last race, I won a plaque instead of a trophy and she said, “Mom, you know I’m collecting trophies, not plaques. You’d better get a trophy at your next one.” I hope that as she grows up, I can be a role model for her – not necessarily around running, but more in terms of finding your passion and pursuing your dreams. Right now she’s saying she doesn’t want to be a runner, she wants to be an artist – which is just fine with me.

Asheville, NC, seems like an ideal place for training and racing. Have you always lived there? Where do you train the most?

I grew up in a rural area of Virginia, moved to Colorado for graduate school, and returned east in 1993. I wanted to be closer to family, and Asheville seemed like the natural choice because of the variety of outdoor sports and the beautiful setting.

What are some of your favorite races/locations?

I’d have a hard time choosing, because there are so many races I love for a variety of reasons. I’ve only run one West Coast race, and the scenery was spectacular, so I’ve been meaning to get back out there. We have great races in NC and VA – beautiful, technical trails, big climbs, tough competition. I especially enjoy some of the races put on in the Lynchburg area by David Horton. He’s a terrific race director and his races are notoriously challenging.

Lastly, a few training questions. What’s a typical training week look like for you? How many miles? When do you add in speed work?

My training varies according to the time of the year. I’m a big fan of periodization, so I’ll usually begin the year building base, anywhere from 75-90 miles per week, mostly easy trail runs. During the 10-11 weeks before a big race I’ll start focusing on the speed stuff – usually one interval session on the track and 1-2 tempo runs. During my peak, I’ll reach about 95-105 mpw, usually done in 10 runs. I usually try to have two periods during the year – last year it was January and July – when I’m really taking it easy, running simply by feel and doing a fair amount of cross-training.

Mark is an elite trail runner as well. Does he ever get bummed out about getting “chicked” by his wife?

Well, technically he’s never been “chicked”, as he always beats me pretty handily. There was a close call at JFK last year, when I got on the towpath and caught a glimpse of him up ahead. I thought, “Oh no. He’s not having a good day and things could be rough in the hotel room tonight if I end up beating him.” It turns out that he had been stopped by the train for over ten minutes. Once he got back into his groove (and saw me behind him), he picked up the pace and that was the end of that.

What are your favorite foods/race snacks?

In races, I have had success with products by Hammer Nutrition – Hammer Gel and Sustained Energy. I’ll also drink a bottle of Ensure during a longer race – 100k or over. Outside of racing, I have a huge sweet tooth and make sure to get some chocolate into my diet every day.

Do you cross-train at all in other sports?

I used to climb and mountain bike quite a bit, but since I have become competitive in running – and since becoming a mom – I don’t have time or energy for much besides running. The exception is when I am injured or just worn out and feel a potential injury coming on – I do a fair amount of pool running in those situations.

A lot of the blog readers love to hear about “lessons learned” (ie, things that didn’t go right that perhaps they could avoid). Any you would like to pass on?

Almost all of the negative – and I’m reluctant to even use that term – let’s just say the races that didn’t go as well as planned – have to do with taking on other peoples’ goals and expectations instead of listening to my own heart and body. Ever since I began receiving regional and national attention for my running, it seems that every time I show up for a race, people have expectations that I should be able to run this or that time, win, etc. Sometimes I know that I’m not 100% fit or healthy, or maybe a particular race is really supposed to be more of a training effort for me, but it’s easy to let others’ expectations dictate how I feel about my performance. So I guess the number one lesson I’ve learned is to identify my goal for a particular race, write it down, and not listen to what others say.

Other big mistakes I’ve made include trying to train through a serious injury, or trying to race too soon after an injury. Although I still train very hard, I try my best to listen to my body and back off when necessary.

And one real “nuts and bolts” mistake I made when training for my first 100 mile race was not practicing the walk breaks. In those long mountain races, most competitors spend a significant amount of time power hiking. I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for that, and it resulted in me having a pretty negative attitude and experience during the latter stages of the race (hence the pacer issue I mentioned before.)

Any tips you would like to pass on to somebody trying their first ultra? How about a first 100km race (such as me)?

The main thing is just logging the miles, day in and day out. Although we runners tend to brag mostly about our long runs or speed workouts, because they’re more exciting and inspiring, I think it’s the daily runs that are the bread and butter of training. There is simply no substitute for weeks, months, even years of developing a base and teaching your body to adapt to a gradually increasing workload.

Having said that, however, I will contradict myself and say that I really believe speed work is crucial, no matter what level athlete you are. It doesn’t have to be a formal interval session on the track – something as simple as a fartlek in which you run 4-5 five minute “pick ups” in the middle of a run will work a different muscle set and energy system, making you more efficient over the long haul.

What’s next on the race/run agenda? Any plans for ’06?

Your readers probably won’t approve of this, but ’06 is going to be a road year for me. My three key races will be the National 50k Championships in Long Island in March (Anne has already won this race), Grandma’s Marathon in June, and the World Cup 100km in Korea in October. I want to get on the roads to see if I have any speed left in these almost 40-year-old legs!

I wish you and Mark the best of luck. Thanks for a great interview!

Thanks! Best of luck to you too!

- SD

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Product Idea - The CamelBak Fluid Intake Monitor

In my on-going attempt to give product feedback/ideas to our favorite outdoor manufacturers (see the iPod t-shirt, brush guards, and the ever-popular Nut-Tsak), here's a new one that I would love to have. Let me know what you think!

If you like the idea, please link to it from your blog and feel free to add any thoughts on design or use. My hope is that if Camelbak, Jansport, Kelty, EMS, Deuter, North Face, Polar, etc., see a thousand bloggers linking to it, the market demand will be clear. My goal is simply this - get some new cool toys on the market!

Product Idea - The Camelbak© Fluid Intake Monitor

Every endurance athlete knows that carefully monitoring your fluid intake can be the difference between a great race and a DNF. So why hasn't anyone created a fluid monitor that can help you measure and track your hourly intake?

(Click here for full-size image)

A fluid intake monitor could help you measure and understand your fluid intake in different climates. Similar to a heart rate monitor, you could measure your pace, then put in a desired pace and be alerted if you are over/under. The monitor would also tell you when your last "sip" was and how much you drank.

The buttons on the side could be used for other settings too, such as manual entry for liquids consumed at aid stations (flat Coke!), setting notifications for salt tablets (either hourly or based on fluid intake, such as "alert me every 30 oz"), or adjusting your target rate based on temperature.

Let's use me as a case example. Once I moved up to the ultras, I experimented on training runs to find that 28 oz/hour is my ideal rate for a typical California day (low elevation, less than 70 degrees). By "ideal rate", I mean that I feel good, don't have water sloshing in my stomach, am peeing regularly, and after a 2-3 hour run, my weight is about the same as when I started. A Fluid Intake Monitor could have helped me measure this and dial in my ideal rate at various conditions, as well as measure it during races to make sure I'm keeping pace. I would definitely set alarms for salt tablets too, since I prefer to drink water. I could easily see the alerts reminding me to drink as I began spacing off in the latter half of the race, keeping me from getting into too much trouble.

My engineering buddies tell me that a simple fluid monitor running on a single AAA battery could be constructed for less than $25, but that fluid monitors are known to have all kinds of issues (clogging, sticking, etc.). If somebody like Camelbak could make it reliable, I wouldn't have any trouble dropping $100-150 on something like this. I spent well over that on my Polar S720, and I consider it one of the better investments I have made in training equipment.

Thanks in advance to all of you for your feedback!

- SD

FuelBelt Joins the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team as the Official Hydration Supplier

News from the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team...

- SD

FuelBelt Joins the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team as the Official Hydration Supplier

The Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team will compete in the 22nd World Mountain Running Trophy in Bursa, Turkey on Sunday, September 10. The USA National Team has been title sponsored by Teva, the official footwear of the team, since 2002, team uniforms are sponsored by official apparel sponsor SportHill, and 180s is the team’s official ear warmer, glove, and sunglass sponsor. The team recently signed a two-year agreement with FuelBelt, Inc., as the official hydration system of the team.

“Developing relationships with industry leaders is integral to the future of our sport and the future of our team in terms of promotion, visibility, and success. Partnering with FuelBelt will help us achieve our goals,” said Nancy Hobbs, Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team manager.
According to David Norton, Marketing Manager for FuelBelt, Inc., “The Teva US Mountain Running Team represents the pinnacle of mountain running. It is our pleasure to supply hydration products to such an elite group of athletes. We feel confident our products will help team members achieve their personal and collective goals.”

FuelBelt is supplying the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team with product to include race number belts, hydration belts, reflective gear, and headlamps. The products lead the industry in design, materials and fabrication. “Great products are born out of genuine usage,” says Norton. “We design, test, and more importantly, use our products every day. Our multi-bottle Fuel Belts and bottle carriers are entirely unique and are widely recognized as the products of choice by top endurance athletes around the world. We look forward to supplying the Mountain Team with a selection of high quality and functional gear to keep them hydrated, visible, and running at their peak.”

This year’s Trophy races are uphill events (as opposed to odd-numbered years when the events are held on up/down courses) with the senior men running 12km, the senior women and junior men running 8.5km, and the junior women running 3.4km.

The women’s team includes four athletes with the top three finishers scoring for the team. Six athletes will represent the men’s team with the top four finishers scoring. The junior men’s team includes a maximum of four with top three scoring while the junior women’s team is a maximum of three with the top two scoring. Team leader Richard Bolt, Nashua, New Hampshire, junior team manager Dave Dunham, Bradford, MA, and women’s team manager Ellen Miller, Vail, CO will accompany the team to Turkey.

At the USATF annual convention in Jacksonville, FL in December 2005, the Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Council chose three races from which automatic qualifiers to the U.S. team will be selected. The USA Mountain Running Championships will be hosted by Mt. Washington slated for June 17 in Gorham, NH. The top three U.S. men and the top U.S. women finisher at Mt. Washington will receive automatic berths on the team. The Loon Mountain Race, a 10Km, on June 24 in Lincoln, NH will serve as the second selection race where the top U.S. man will receive an automatic berth. Traveling to the Rockies on July 9 competitors will enjoy the third and final selection race, the Vail Mountain Trophy Race in Vail, CO. In Vail the top U.S. male and top U.S. female finisher will receive an automatic team berth.

The remaining members of the squad, (one male, one female), will be selected by the Mountain Ultra Trail Council with input from the team staff based on results at the selection races, past World Trophy events, national and international racing experience including mountain, road, cross country, and track. Athletes MUST run a selection race in order to be considered for the team. To be considered for the team all team members MUST be current USATF members prior to running a selection race.

Interested athletes should submit running resumes to: Richard Bolt ( and Nancy Hobbs ( The full team will be announced by August 1, 2006.

For additional information visit the websites listed below:

FuelBelt, Inc.

David Norton (Marketing Manager, FuelBelt, Inc.): (401) 289-0724

USA Mountain Running Championships

Loon Mountain Race

Vail Mountain Trophy Race

World Mountain Running Association

USA Track & Field

World Mountain Trophy 2006

All American Trail Running Association


SportHill Clothing

180s performance gear

Saturday, March 04, 2006

2006 Trophy Series Blasts Off

Best of luck to all the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series participants who begin the season this weekend. Get outside and have fun!


2006 Trophy Series Blasts Off
Weekend's races launch the Series' third year, Reicheneder aims to repeat

MARCH 1, 2006, CARBONDALE, COLORADO-On Saturday, March 4, well before sunrise, 120 hardy runners will gather in southern Arizona's Santa Rita mountains for the Old Pueblo 50 Miler. Out East in Damascus, Maryland, runners will lace their shoes and stretch their hamstrings as they brace for the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K. In British Columbia, trail lovers will brave chilly temps and raw humidity at North Vancouver's Dirty Duo 25K and 50K Trail Races.

Whether clad in spandex tights or sleeveless tops, sun block or balaclavas, all of these runners will have one thing in common: they'll be the first competitors in the 2006 Trail Runner Trophy Series.

Sponsored by LaSportiva and GoLite, the Trail Runner Trophy Series is the world's largest off-road running series. In this its third year, the 2006 Series will encompass over 110 races and more than 20,000 runners from March 1 to September 30. Trophy Series race participants earn points for completing events as well as bonus points for top age-group or overall placing. Runners clash in two divisions: (1) Marathon and Shorter, and (2) Ultramarathon (including any races longer than 26.2 miles-the marathon distance).

2005 Trophy Series champion and grand prize winner Dale Reicheneder of Malibu, California, is blunt about this year's mission: "to repeat as champion."

It will take another exceptional performance for Reicheneder to win, but he's game. Says Reicheneder, "The biggest obstacle to repeating as champion is staying healthy for seven months," adding, "You never know who will come out of the woodwork and challenge for the championship."

Another 2005 champion-in the women's ultramarathon division-is Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon. Last year, Semick ran four 100K trail races and won three of them. This year, her plans include several Trophy Series events, including the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in June in California. With a loaded schedule and elite-level talent, Semick seems a favorite for another title.

For information on the 2006 Series-including a complete race schedule, rules, news and details on points scoring - visit

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