Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Country star Keith Anderson loves to trail run - see it on CMT!

Country music star Keith Anderson is apparently a big trail runner. He will be talking about his outdoor passion on "CMT Insider" (Friday, 9:30pm CST, Country Music Television). Have any of you guys run into him at a race yet?

(My guess - probably not his trail running attire)

Country singers on the trail running blog...who knew the day would come? ;-)


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Interview with Matt Carpenter (Colorado Spring Independent)

Matt Carpenter, a trail running champion of 10k, marathon, and 100-mile distances, is featured in an interview (link here) in the Colorado Spring Independent. Advice for beginners includes "start by effort, not by pace".

(Matt Carpenter on his way to his 2005 record-breaking win at the Leadville 100;
photo courtesy of Matt Carpenter)


- SD

Sunday, May 28, 2006

100-mile mania, the MMT, and Tim Twietmeyer's last Western States

Six runners share their tales of the Massanutten 100-miler in this article from The Frederickson News-Post. You can also read Brad Smythe's great race write-up of the MMT here. Great stuff!

(Tim Twietmeyer on the Western States trail; photo courtesy of RunnersWeb)

For those who didn't catch this, Tim Twietmeyer announced that his 25th running of the Western States will be his last. His legacy with this race is one of a kind: 24 sub-24 finishes, 5 wins, and a men's age 40-49 course record (17:17:50, 2001) that still stands. Don't think he's hanging up his shoes, however - Tim will continue to race local favorites such as Way Too Cool and the American River 50.

- SD

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Golden Hills of the Ohlone 50k

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining 125 ultrarunners for the 19th Annual Ohlone Wilderness 50k near Livermore, CA. This point-to-point race cuts through the golden California hills of the East Bay, making it's way through the peaks and valleys of four regional parks. It's a favorite among the local ultra crowd, particularly if you're training for Western States and are looking for something hot, steep, and exposed to the elements to test your mettle one last time before you taper. Although we got a break from the sun this year, it still proved to be a challenging and fun day.

(James Barstard and Rick Gaston ready to tame the hills of the East Bay)

The morning greeted us with heavy cloud cover and a 60% chance of light showers. This ironically disappointed many of the runners at the starting line who were "hoping for a scorcher" more typical of the past hot-and-humid Ohlone 50k's. Hey, do you hear that rattling? Apparently somebody has a screw loose. ;-)

(The march begins! Photo courtesy of Rick Gaston)

As we rode the bus to the start, I decided the mellow weather provided an opportunity to try out a few new gadgets. I strapped on a Garmin ForeRunner 201 wrist GPS unit, an Amphipod fanny pack (to carry the camera, natch), and a new iPod Nano sleeve by Nike. Although each item looked great individually, I was realizing that altogether I was looking a bit cyborg. Did I really need all these gadgets? Well, no, but the geek in me just loves trying them out. What harm could come from trying out new toys?

(Despite the clouds, we were peeling off layers within the first two miles)

As the 8am start arrived, it was warming up to a nice 60 degree day. The clouds kept the sun off our necks, but tempted us with a downpour. I took one last look at the sky and decided I probably didn't need a jacket. Even if it was wet, it would be warm. I strapped on the gaiters, topped off my water bottles, and stretched out my calves. We all grouped at the bottom of the hill, and the race began!

(The locals look on as we head up the first hill - it actually WAS a cow trail!)

We were going to have NO trouble getting warm on this course. The first four miles go straight up 2,000 vertical feet to Mission Peak. The road turned to a trail, and the trail to a cow path as we slowly zig-zagged up the lush hills. Graham Cooper (who won last year), Simon Mtuy, Gus Long, Mark Lantz, Mark Tanaka, and about five others had already disappeared over the hill as I got to the ridge. By the time I reached the top, I was soaked in sweat. I can only imagine what this course is like in the heat! The views were spectacular; even with the cloud cover, we could see endless waves of oak-pocked golden hills spread out in all directions.

(Jeff Lewise is greeted by a rain shower at the top of Mission Peak, mile 4)

As we embraced gravity and headed downhill, a light rain began to fall. It was just enough to keep the dust at bay. The volunteers at Laurel Loop (6 miles) made sure we all filled up with as much water as possible, and reminded us that the weather could change quickly. I ran with two or three different packs of people over the next few miles, as we traded off setting the pace. My pace seemed faster than Miwok, although I was still fast-walking anything steeper than a 10 degree pitch.

(Looking ahead from Mission Peak down to Laurel Loop; photo courtesy of Rick Gaston)

I shared some research I had done about the Suenen Ohlone people, the Native American tribe for which these parts are named. Similar to the Miwok tribes, the Ohlone history goes back 14,000 years. They led a harmonious life with surrounding nature in a mystical way. Many aspects of the Ohlone life did not discern between the spiritual (such as praying or fasting) and the material world (such as hunting). I've often felt a conscious blur of the spiritual and material worlds are the ideal ultrarunning state of mind. Oh, yeah - the Ohlone people also had dogs. Very cool.

(Chihping Fu and Vance Roget slow down for a photo before heading up to Hawk's Nest)

Before too long, we had made it to "the bottom" - the well-stocked Sunol aid station (mile 10) that marked the beginning of a 10-mile, 3,000 vertical foot climb. Nearly all of us took a full pit stop at Sunol to load up on calories. I went for my favorites - PB&J, potatoes, and M&M's - and filled the water bottles one more time. Despite the cool(ish) temperature, I was still drinking ~30 oz water/hour.

(Making our way up to Goat Rock)

As we began the climb, a thunderclap echoed across the valley and the sky began to darken. As if it was some sort of omen, I started to have all kinds of issues. As we neared Goat Rock (mile 16), the wind really began to pick up, and I was yearning for the jacket I had left at the starting line. If that wasn't enough, the rain had seeped into my salt pills, turning the pouch into a Lik-a-Maid salt stew. My ForeRunner GPS unit died (water? batteries?), and my iPod was jumping from song to song randomly due to the moisture trapped in the Nike iPod sleeve. Meltdown! Note to self - the more stuff you bring, the more stuff that can go awry. That's alright - there's nothing wrong with turning it all off and enjoying the sounds of nature.

Jeff Reifers caught up to me as we made the final push to Rose Hill. He was all smiles, even as he braced against the pelting rain that was now blowing sideways. He let me know that work and three teenagers had cut into his ultra running quite a bit, but he managed to keep Ohlone and a few others on the calendar at all costs (a "required sanity check"). It was clear that Jeff had the right attitude - no matter what Mother Nature may dish out, there isn't any place he would rather be. With that boost of morale, we crested the peak and quickly made our way down to the Maggie's Half Acre aid station (mile 21) to refuel. I asked if they had soup and they all laughed - apparently not to many people ask for soup at Ohlone!

(Jeff looks down on the clouds atop Rose Hill - we made it!)

My teeth were chattering from the cold, but it was good motivation to keep moving forward. It hadn't quite become the "shivers" of hypothermia, and Jeff and the others looked good, so I didn't worry. As we hit the last few climbs before our long descent, Rena Schumann passed us with a few runners trying to keep up with her. I knew that meant we were probably 3/4 done, since that's when she ALWAYS passes me. ;-) We hung with Rena for a mile or so, but I couldn't keep pace on the climbs. I ran solo, heading up the last ridge. I had memorized an Ohlone song for my race mantra, and it was fitting for this section of the course:

See! I am dancing!
On the rim of the world I am dancing!
I dream of you
I dream of you jumping,
Rabbit, jackrabbit, quail.

With a quick stop at Schilipor Rock (mile 27), I headed down into the last steep valley. The trees provided some cover from the wind, and I felt myself warming up again. Rick Gaston went flying by me, similar to how he had at Miwok (I have to learn his secret!). I crossed the stream, and crawled up the last brutal climb alongside of some very wet hikers. I stopped at the top to take one last picture of my soaked-to-the-bone self and headed down the last hill. Rick passed me again after a brief unplanned detour at the creek, and he was going even faster this time. He was unstoppable!

(Wet, smiling, and dancing on the rim of the world!)

I bombed the last steep hill and came into the finishing chute in 6:00:11. Had my watch worked, I'm sure I would have found it in me to break 6 hours, but I felt happy with the finish. Truman "Gus" Long had won in 4:49:32, just holding off a surge from Graham Cooper, who placed 2nd in 4:50:28 (and won the Quicksilver 50m last week!). Simon Mtuy came in third in 4:59:10. Mark Lantz won the 40-49 men's division with a 5:13:33 (even after a 4th place finish at Quicksliver 50m last weekend), and 62-year-old Al Brosio cleaned house in his age group with a staggering 5:58:04, taking 10 minutes off the age group record he set last year. Adrian Jue got 3rd in the 30-and-under division in his very first ultra, finishing in 6:36:52.

(The finish line welcoming committee)

The women's division was dominated by the 40-year-olds - Beth Vitalis won the women's overall in an impressive 5:35:19, with Rena Schumann placing a strong 2nd (5:53:07, a personal best for this course), and Susan Anderson-Ayers placing third in 6:14:20. Carol LaPlant won the women's 50-59 age group - her 10th Ohlone finish, and 152nd ultra. Catra Corbett finished her personal 100-mile Ohlone trek (she finished up on the Ohlone course), looking more refreshed than most of the 50k runners. Way to go, dirt divas! (All 2006 results are here)

(Greg Favor crosses the finish line and heads right to the BBQ)

We all relaxed at the finish line, ate BBQ, and congratulated the many first-timers (really, Jeff, there ARE easier courses!). I enjoyed the fact that Mother Nature forced my hand to see the Ohlone Wilderness, even if she had to wreck a few gadgets to get my attention. How else would I have known to face the rain and 'dance on the rim of the world' the Ohlone Way?

A special thanks to Rob Byrne and Larry England for directing a great race, and to their SPECTACULAR volunteers who hiked all those goodies up to the aid stations and braved the weather for us. You made it a very special day!

Cheers, SD

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New iPod+Nike Technology To Blend Music and Workout

Nike and Apple have teamed up to create some new technology that allows the iPod to become more integrated into the running experience, including real-time feedback on your pace (spoken into your headphones), tracking calorie burn on your iPod, and more. Check out the demo here.

Here's an excerpt from the Business Week story:

"The co-branded kit comes with a sensor that fits inside compatible Nike footwear -- sold separately -- and a wireless receiver that attaches to the iPod.

Data on running time, distance, pace and calories burned would be stored on the iPod, which could then display the information on-screen or deliver it audibly through headphones.

After the workout, the data also could be automatically sent to a personal runner's log at the new Web site whenever the music player is synchronized to Apple's iTunes program.

The iPod will also incorporate a new "Power Song" feature, so a user can instantly queue up a piece of music for extra motivation at the push of a button.

The $100 Nike+ Air Zoom Moire shoe will be the first footwear designed to talk to the iPod, and more are planned, said Trevor Edwards, Nike's vice president of global brand management."

Available July 13th, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

- SD

Monday, May 22, 2006

Connie Gardner gets her kicks running distance (Cleavland Plain Dealer)

Connie Gardner, the 2003 Ultrarunner of the Year, was featured in an article in the Cleavland Plains Dealer this week. My favorite quote:

"What's crazier? Running for eight to 10 hours or sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day?"
No kidding!

- SD

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't pet the alligators...

CNN ran a story about a Florida jogger who was killed by an alligator earlier this week. Yikes! This makes the local mountain lions seem like nothing.

- SD

Alligator kills Florida jogger near canal

An alligator grabbed and killed a Florida woman who disappeared while
jogging near a canal, a medical examiner determined Thursday.
Construction workers found the woman's dismembered body floating
Wednesday in a canal in Sunrise, a northwest suburb of Fort
Lauderdale. An autopsy showed she died of bleeding and shock from
alligator bites. "The alligator attacked her and basically amputated
her arms, bit her on the leg and back and pulled her into the water,"
said Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward County medical examiner, who
performed the autopsy. "She died extremely fast. By the time she was
pulled into the water, she was already dead." Perper said the woman,
28-year-old Yovy Suarez Jimenez, had been very close to the canal's
edge when the alligator bit her, because her body showed no signs of
having been dragged. Relatives said the victim had gone jogging on
Tuesday evening along a bicycle path near the canal. Wildlife
officers said no one saw the attack. "The way it happened, we just
don't know," said Dani Moschella, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish
& Wildlife Conservation Commission. Wildlife officers and commercial
trappers were still trying to find the alligator, which was estimated
to be 8 to 10 feet long, based on the woman's injuries. If captured,
it will be killed, they said. Alligator attacks are relatively rare.
Suarez Jimenez's death was the 18th fatal attack in Florida since the
state began keeping records in the 1940s, Moschella said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Recovery Tips - What Works for Me

I had some requests for "recovery tips" after the Miwok 100k, and thought I would share what I wrote in case y'all missed it in the comments. I obsess about recovery because I like to race so much throughout the year, and I now have it down to a routine that works well for me. If you have any other tips, please share by commenting below! I'm always open to new ideas.

The general guideline for recovery is "one day off for every mile raced". Unfortunately that doesn't work very well if you're doing ultras (otherwise we would be on the couch most of the year). I prefer Hal Higdon's framework that refers to the recovery period as a "reverse taper", where you take a few days off, then slowly build back up to your peak (instead of tapering down for a race). Once I got my recovery process dialed, I have found I can recovery from a race in about 4-8 days then slowly build back up over 1-2 weeks.

After experimenting with various recovery techniques, I have found three easy things you can do to immediately improve recovery. I've also found a few time-consuming tricks that improve my recovery by 20-25%, so I will share those too.

Three Easy Recovery Tips

Some of these tips may be obvious to you die-hards who grew up with high school and collegiate coaches. I started my athletic career fairly late in life, so I learned most of these the hard way (lots of groaning and moaning). Take it from me - those coaches have you do these for a reason! The simple tips:

1. Respect the warm up. I'm probably the last one of the planet to figure this out, but it turns out that warm ups are important! By spending 5-10 minutes before a race or hard workout, you can smoothly transition your body and improve your recovery time. I play a mind game where I try to warm up as slowly as possible, Tai Chi style. Start by walking, then walk a bit faster, slowly building up to your race pace over 10 minutes. It's a test of patience (particularly on cold mornings), but is effective is slowly letting your blood flow increase and warming up your muscles. If you skip the warm up (ie, "this race is long enough I will just warm up along the way"), you're adding 12-24 hours to your recovery time.

2. Respect the warm down. When you cross the finish line, you are NOT done! Jog a bit, slow down to a fast walk, and ease out of the race. I often forget this one, since I'm thinking about nothing but "beer" and "chair" by the time I finish. But do it right, and it's worth 24 hours in recovery time.

3. In the first 15 minutes after a race, focus on the essentials - food, water, warmth. Grab some water/sports drink as you warm down, and take in some calories (glucose is fastest, carbs and proteins are essential). Your body needs fuel to repair your muscles, and is optimized for calorie absorption right after your race. Once you have warmed down, immediately change into warm, dry clothes. Get all these right, and you dramatically reduce your recovery time, and the risk of getting sick after a race.

Easy, right? Then be sure to do all three!

Other Recovery Tips

Below are some other tips that have worked well for me. I'm a big fan of "listening to my body", in that after 24 hours after a race I only take ibuprofen if necessary (a flight to NYC, for example). This gives me a chance to check my heart rate, feel my muscles and joints closely, and get an idea of how fast I am recovering. Remember, you earned this pain!

Here are some recovery tips that have worked for me:

1. Ice bath. Yes, it's painful, but I think it's worth 1-2 days of recovery. The sooner after your race (and warm down), the better. If there is a creek or lake nearby, wade in up your navel and soak it in for 10 minutes. Otherwise, get the ice bath going in your hotel room/bathroom when you get home.

2. Epsom salts. Epsom salts (which can be purchased at any grocery/drug store) help pull lactic acid from your muscles into your bloodstream. Add two cups to your bath (ice or otherwise), and give yourself a light massage while soaking for 10-15 minutes. This is worth a full day of recovery for me.

3. Check your resting heart rate every morning. I have used a heart rate monitor (HRM) for a few years now, and one the best uses I have found is checking your resting heart rate in the morning. I know my resting heart rate is about 38 beats per minute (I know it sounds low, but it's mostly genetic...thanks mom and dad!). The day after Miwok, I woke up with a heart rate of 45. 10-15% variance is normal; anything more, and I am definitely not working out that day. For me, it's typical for the HRM to keep me from working out for 1-3 days.

4. Light swimming. Regular swimming has been essential for me to keep up a high mileage week. I go twice a week and swim with a masters class, trying to keep the heart rate up and not worry too much about the fact that I'm getting my ass kicked by people twice my age. When recovering from a race, I go really slow and stay away from the fins. At the end of the swim session, I do 6 x 50 yards with 25 yards of kicking (no fins) and 25 yards of "running back", ie, slow underwater running.

5. Supplements. I've tried a bunch of supplements and have found most to be marginal in their recovery assistance. But I have had success with taking enzymes to help the body break down proteins and the such, much in thanks to prompting from my wife. I have found Hammer Nutrition's Tissue Rejuvenator to be a good mix of enzymes that improves my recovery time by 10-15%. When I'm really beat up (bruises and the such), I get a TRMA enzyme supplement from the health store. That stuff is miraculous if you're bruising, but fairly useless if not. I also take Vitamin E and a protein supplement - not sure if it helps recovery or not, but there you go.

Put it all together, and my post race recovery routine looks something like this:

Immediate after the race - Short jog, then walk for 3-4 minutes to cool down while drinking 12-16 oz of water or juice. Put on warm clothes, then eat everything in site to replenish my glycogen. Drink a beer and cheer on the other finishers for the next hour. If there is a creek, ocean, or cold lake nearby, wade in for 10 minutes.

Later that night - Take an Epsom salt bath (2 cups of Epsom salt, in ice if I'm looking for a fast recovery), and slowly massage your legs while in the bath. If I still feel stiff, I'll take a short walk or pedal on the bike for 10 minutes before going to bed. Drink 2 cups of water with my supplements, and hit the sack.

Day One - No running workout. Be super lazy, and keep my feet out of shoes as much as possible. I'll walk a bit here and there, but usually just go see a movie, play with the dog, and work on the blog. I do take more enzymes, as well as Aleve if I actually need to do something that day.

Day Two - No running workout. Measure heart rate. Hit the pool for some light swimming (30-40 min), no fins. No ibuprofen, but enzymes.

Day Three - If the HRM looks good, do a light workout on the elliptical trainer or bike (30 min) and some stretching; no sweating, just easy motion. No Aleve, go off the enzymes.

Day Four - If the HRM looks good, I might run 3-4 miles. Otherwise, back to the pool for slow swimming.

Day Five - If the HRM looks good, 5-6 mile run. Otherwise, rest.

Day 6+ - Ease back into the weekly workout, staying off sprints and hill repeats at first.

After Miwok, my heart rate was off for two days. My muscles recovered by day 4, but I felt some aching in my tendons and IT band that had me concerned, so I stayed in the pool until day 6. By day 7, I felt good enough to put on the shoes and do a light run. I feel ready for Ohlone this Sunday.

I hope that helps! Be sure to share any other tips you have found helpful.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Karnazes doubles up at Big Sur Marathon

The Monterey Herald wrote an article about Dean Karnazes, who doubled up at the Big Sur Marathon. I bet he would love any company he can get on his upcoming challenge to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

(Dean and friends, 2005)


"Beginning Sept. 17, he will run 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 different states.

Only eight of the 50 marathons will be actual events. For the other 42, Karnazes has reached an agreement with race directors in each of the cities to set up the marathon course just for him.

"That doesn't mean you can't run with me," says Karnazes. "Please, join me. The Tuesday run in Iowa won't exactly be crowded."

I've run with Dean before, and he's super-nice. You can contact him on his Web site about running with him, but if you have trouble, let me know.

Thanks, SD

Friday, May 12, 2006

Triple Crown Trail Championship in East Bay, Northern California

I just caught this announcement for a triple-header short course trail running series in the East Bay (Oakland and Berkeley, CA). For those of you thinking the Ohlone 50k might be a bit much (and the Bay to Breakers might be too big), it starts next weekend!

Happy running, SD


The sixth annual East Bay Triple Crown Trail Championship is coming up. The first leg of the trail running series is May 21 at Tilden Park in Berkeley. The Tilden Tough 10 starts at 8 a.m. For more information call (510) 644-4224 or log on to The three-race championship covers some of the most scenic areas of the East Bay Regional Park district. The second leg of the triple crown is the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge on June 4 in Castro Valley. The race is a half-marathon (13.1 miles). It also starts at 8 a.m. For more information, call (510) 278-0451 or log on to The final leg of the series is the 41st annual Woodminster Cross Country Race at Joaquin Miller Park on June 18 at 9 a.m. The Woodminster race is the oldest annual run in the East Bay. The distance is 9 miles. For more information, call (510) 655-8228 or log on to Runners must finish all three races to qualify for the triple crown championship.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sun and surf at the Miwok 100k

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 250 others for the sold-out running of the 2006 Miwok 100k. This challenging course climbs and dips the length of the Golden Gate National Wilderness in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco, CA. I had heard so many great things about this races from the likes of Kami Semick (last years women's champ) and Andy Jones-Wilkins, I thought it would be a good intro to the 100k distance. Thanks to great weather, good people, and an epic landscape, it turned out to be a wondrous experience.

(View from the first hill...see you again in 62 miles!)

I'm still not sure how I arrived at the idea that a 100k race was a good idea. I mean, I've never finished a 50k and thought "you know, I would like to do that one more time". But I have finished 50-milers and thought I could go farther. I guess it's just that crazy ultrarunning defective gene we all share - if you feel good, you didn't go far enough! I probably could have picked a flatter race to try the 100k distance - the Miwok 100k has about 9,500' vertical feet of climb, and another 9,500' of descent (which proved to be the tougher half, if you ask me). What the heck - if you're going to do it, you might as well go big.

History of The Miwoks

The Miwok 100k takes place in former Miwok Indian territory. The Miwok Indians were a great people that peacefully inhabited this area for thousands of years before we knew it as California. In fact, it is believed they were some of the first people to inhabit North America. The Miwok 100k takes place in "Awani-wi", an area of a few small tribes in the Marin/San Rafael area where the Coastal Miwok lived.

(The harmonic life of the Miwoks;
complete tutorial - with test! - can be found

The word "Miwok" means "people" in their native tongue. Many aspects of the Miwok culture remind me of the ultrarunning subculture I've enjoyed being a part of - great respect for the land, never building walls, no differentiation between work and play, men and women having equal stature, and no cultural evidence of words like "war" or "prostitution". Few Native American tribes co-existed with nature as well as the Miwoks. I bet they treasured every day they were given, and I find it fitting that we celebrate their rich heritage by rediscovering this beautiful area in one long trek.

2006 Miwok 100k - The Race

We all arrived pre-sunrise to prepare for our long day in the mountains. I started by double-checking my drop bags. I've rarely used drop bags in the past, but when faced with 13+ hours on the trails, I found myself packing two drop bags full of "worst case scenarios". Extra clothes, dry Inov-8's, sunscreen, vaseline, gear for every possible weather condition, and some ZombieRunner foot kits that I dearly hoped I wouldn't have to use. I packed a headlight in the last drop bag just in case; as one ultrarunner told me, "the easiest way to make a 13-hour run into a 20-hour crawl is to forget your headlight."

(The front-runners wait for enough sunlight to start)

As we all headed out to the beach at Rodeo Lagoon to start, I recognized a lot of faces. Not only were the California ultrarunners all here in force, but many of the top ultrarunners from North America had made it, including Nikki Kimball, Krissy Moehl, Bev and Alan Abbs, Scott Jurek, Mark Lantz, Guillermo Medina, Jorge Pacheco, Phil Kochik, and more. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - Miwok was the trifecta of ultra points thanks to the Montrail Ultra Cup Series, the PA/USATF Ultra Series, and the Trail Runner Magazine Ultra Series. Still, the NASCAR-like line up of sponsored runners was an unusual thrill for an ultra.

(Guillermo Medina, Ian Torrence, Brian Morrison, Scott Jurek,
Justin Angle and others await the starting gun)

As the sun crawled up over the mountains, Race Director Tia Bodington sent us off to chase after it. After a small stretch of beach and a mile of dirt trail, we spread out onto a paved road and got one last glimpse of San Francisco before heading into the hills. I chatted with a few people along the way, and many of them wished me luck on fatherhood (thanks for reading the blog, everyone!). I recognized the super-cool tattoos of dirt diva Catra Corbett, and the brightly-colored Dirty Girl gaiters of Xy Weiss. We all commented on how the fog had burnt off just enough to leave us perfect running weather.

(Up we go! Heading into the hills after Tennessee Valley)

The conversation was pleasantly distracting, and before I knew it we had flown by the Bunker Hill Aid Station (6.4 miles) and were weaving down dirt trails towards Tennessee Valley. The expanse of the coastal hills made everything seem close by - the "mountain mirage", so to speak - which meant you had to double-check your visual cues for proximity to aid stations. Andy Jones-Wilkins and the other volunteers greeted us at the bottom of the hill, making sure we all had enough food and water for our next big climb. So far, so good.

(Rob Byrne and friend breaking above the fog line and into the sun)

We hit a little bit of mud (nothing compared to the swamp that was here two weeks ago, according to local runners), which speckled our legs just enough to look like official trail runners. I did my best to eat and drink while fast-walking uphill, trying to stay conscious of the fact that I had a LOOONNNNG way to go. As we crested the second hill, we toured through a eucalyptus grove that was very refreshing, then headed across the mountain ridge. It seemed like Mother Nature had a treat for us at every corner. I chatted with Tracy Bahr from Bend, OR, and found it interesting that our iPod playlists (and pace) were dead on so far. We hummed our Crystal Method and Prodigy as we bombed our way down to the Muir Beach aid station (16 miles). Could we be 1/4 done already?

(Robert Allen pauses to soak in the oaks and blue-eyed grass)

I ate some PB&J and Pringles (separately), and turned off the tunes to enjoy the single track through the lush valley behind Muir Beach. After cruising by the Pelican Inn (and desperately wanting one of their tuna melts), we alternated through canopies of oak and thick meadows of blue-eyed grass. The fresh tones of spring reached out from the weather-beaten trunks and rocks, making the colors hyper-real. Everything was peaceful and mellow until....

THE HILL! I was forewarned this was the biggest hill on the course, but it's hard to get a sense of these monsters from the elevation chart. It started out innocent enough, but just kept climbing and climbing. We got some shady respite from the redwood grove near the top, but it wasn't going to stop my hamstrings from burning. Fifty minutes and 2400' vertical later, I reached the Pan Toll aid station (~22 miles), exhausted and out of water. I wasn't the only one taking a few extra seconds to refresh themselves - the volunteers were cutting watermelon as fast as they could hand it out. With a little help from our aid station friends, we recharged and headed out slowly, letting our legs adjust to the rolling hills.

(Redwood relief at the top of the big climb; photo courtesy of Don Lundell)

The next few miles were a pleasant run across the grassy knolls (no, I didn't see a third man, fyi). The footing was tricky in some sections, prompting one runner yelled out "what is this, a cow trail?!?" But we were all going at a comfortable pace, so there was little risk of a twisted ankle. I caught up to Tom Riley (brother of Oregon ultra-phenom Jeff Riley), and we got to know each other over the next few miles. The front-runners were already coming back, with Phil Kochik calmly leading the charge, and Mark Richtman and Scott Jurek a few minutes behind. Tom stopped to get a picture of his brother Jeff, who was in 8th place. Nikki Kimball came by a few minutes later, closely following by Bev Abbs and Kristin Moehl in what was going to be a closely-heated women's race.

(Across the grassy knoll; photo courtesy of Don Lundell)

Tom and I refilled at Bolinas, just as Tracy Bahr was coming in. Tom and I took off again, chatting about our favorite races and haunts around Portland, OR. We took photos, pointed out views, and described how eerie it was that we hadn't seen anyone in the last 10 minutes...uh, oh. We BOTH know what that means! Which one of us was watching for pink ribbons?!? We retraced our steps, and luckily we only went 15 minutes out of our way. Alas...what fun is an ultra without getting lost?

Tom decided to make up some time and picked up the pace, so I held back and cranked up the tunes again. Dean Karnazes came flying by, saying he had taken a detour as well. I found a nice rhythm weaving in and out of the trees, sharing words of encouragement with racers coming the other way, and soon found myself back among the familiar faces of the Bolinas Ridge aid station (42 miles). I had a PB&J and Pringles (together this time - yum!), some potatoes and salt, and one of the teenage volunteers mixed me a half-Coke-half-water cocktail that really hit the spot. With my new secret weapon in hand, I headed out of the trees and down the mountain side.

(The mountains come like waves, and we surf them all!)

The next ten miles were quiet and solitary, providing some time to connect with my surroundings and contemplate. I was physically suffering, but only enough to force my mind to focus in the moment. I have learned this much from ultras - if I can conjure positive thoughts when tested, then my willpower will see me to the finish line, guaranteed. Sometimes I think this is why we all race such crazy distances. By forcing ourselves to dig deep into our courage, we are reminded how infinite it is.

For about an hour, my mind was a transcendent blur of wildflowers, m&m-stained hands, cheering hikers, and the wind rippling through acres of open grass. The salty ocean air quenched my lungs and kept me cool. It's a good thing I reapplied sunscreen at Bolinas, because I was going to get smile-line tans for sure (aka, crows feet). The only thing that broke my Zen state was a volunteer saying "last aid station...what can we get you?". Sure enough, only 3.7 miles to go.

(See those tiny dots? That's the finish line. Almost there...NOT!)

One would think that "3.7 miles to go" means "almost done". But not at Miwok! The last 3.7 miles are downright cruel, with a couple of steep climbs followed by treacherous downhill with pavement, uneven steps, and scree. Everyone who passed me in this section had a pacer, and the advantage was clear. When you need a boost the most, your shadow can give you encouragement. I should note there were many forms of motivation from the pacers, ranging from coaching ("we've done this climb before, you know you've got it") to lying ("this one MUST be the last hill"), to drill sergeant ("if you don't pick up the pace I will make you do hill repeats until you pass out every weekend this summer!!!"). Each seem effectively catered to their runners. Just to mock us all, the finish line is in sight the whole time (the size of ants, of course) and you can hear the crowd cheering you on.

As I got closer, the cheers and smell of BBQ pulled me in to the finish line in 11:11:56, good enough for 52nd place. Aside from being insanely hungry, I felt good. I guess I didn't go far enough (ha, ha)! I ate two hamburgers, half a chicken, and a plate of mac and cheese faster than you could say "glycogen deficient" and sat down with the others.

(Dom and Wode Repta from BC, Canada chill with Mark Lantz after the race)

As we recounted the race, it appeared most people had really good performances. Phil Kochik had won in 8:32:50, with Scott Jurek and Michael Wedemeyer finishing second and third roughly ten minutes behind. Mark Richtman, perhaps the fastest 51-year-old ever, finished fourth in an amazing 8:47:41. Nikki Kimball held on to win the women's division in 9:10:55 (setting a new women's Open course record, natch), with Kristin Moehl and Bev Abbs coming in right behind her. Tom Riley had finished under 11 hours, and was very pleased (hey Tom - that's a 104k PR for you!). We all ate ice cream and drank the Miwok 100k-labeled Langunitas Ale as the sun began to set.

As I drove down the coast back to Woodside, CA, I watched the sun set over the ocean. Bono (from U2) was singing "It's a beautiful day/don't let it slip away". No worries, Bono. This day did NOT get away, not by a longshot. We ran from sun-up to sundown, enjoying nature and the company of friends as much as one possibly could. I think the Miwoks would have been proud.

Thanks for sharing the day, everyone. A special thanks to Race Director Tia Bodington and the many sponsors and volunteers who made this race happen. You guys were all fantastic!

- SD

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Beer just a part of Envirosports allure

Journalist Greg Moberly of the Vallejo Times wrote a nice piece on running his first Envirosports Race (a local trail running promoter). If beer and banana bread is what gets folks to the starting line, then Envirosports has it figured out!
"I was downing a free beer last Saturday afternoon at a Stinson Beach restaurant, just because I ran a race. Isn't the running community great?

Yes, many of us go about our business, running our weekend races and doing our daily training runs before returning to wherever we came from. But there are groups out there embracing the fellowship that's unique to distance running."
I know the Lagunitas Ale they served at the end of the Miwok 100k (race report expected soon) definitely hit the spot. Finish line beer. Great concept!

- SD

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New leaders emerge as TRM Trophy Series heads into the summer

The latest update on the 2006 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series.

- SD

Fast Fresh Faces:
New leaders emerge as Series heads into the summer

MAY 3, 2006, CARBONDALE, COLORADO-Through the 2006 Series' one-third mark, newcomers have made their presence known. Many veteran trail runners seem to have been caught off guard by top point winners like Paul Stofko, Van Phan, Tracy Thomas, Hugh Davis and Deb Schopp.

"Who?" you may ask. If you don't recognize their names, don't worry. You're likely to spot them at the top throughout the summer. Judging by their swift-footed results at the Series' early races, they are no paper tigers.

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 encompasses 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

PLEASE NOTE: All point totals include only Trophy Series races that have submitted their results in the correct format.

Heartlanders run away from field
In the Marathon & Shorter division, 42-year-old Hugh Davis continues to astound and amaze the Trophy Series field-and Series hopefuls may be advised to pick up the pace before he gets too far ahead. The Tell City, Indiana, native has a 92-point lead over his next closest rival, Brian Beckort, also of Tell City.

Thus far, Davis has followed the blue print laid out by previous Trophy Series champions Scott Dunlap (2004) and Dale Reicheneder (2005): he has shown a willingness to travel to garner early-season points. To date, he has fled the corn fields of Indiana for the swamps of Florida (John Holmes 15-Mile Trail Run), stormy hills of Kentucky (Land Between the Lakes 24K Trail Run), and the forests of Maryland (Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon), in addition to Missouri's Double Chubb 25K and Virginia's Bel Monte 25K. With no Trophy Series events in Indiana, Davis could become the first athlete to win a Series championship without scoring one point in his home state.

The big question: can Davis maintain his pace? Or, more specifically, can his body handle the regular pounding of rough-and-tumble racing? Past Trophy Series racers have started hard and succumbed to aches, pains and injuries.

The race for the women's title remains tight, with 25 points separating nine female trail runners. After winning her age group in the Double Chubb 25K and placing second in the 50+ division at the Land Between the Lakes 14.3-Miler Trail Run, 52-year-old Deb Schopp of Ballwin, Missouri, maintains a sliver-thin lead by mere decimal points over a crowd of marathon winners.

Top 10: Trophy Series Marathon & Shorter Division
1. Hugh Davis, Tell City, IN, 273.88 points
2. Brian Beckort, Tell City, IN, 181.28 points
3. Adam Blum, Los Gatos, CA, 145.8 points
4. Deb Schopp, Ballwin, MO, 104.96 points
5. Monika Brachmann, Comus, MD, 104.8 points
6. Courtney Campbell, Berryville, VA, 104.8 points
7. Lucia Davidson, Arlington, VA, 104.8 points
8. Eugene Gignac, New Cumberland, PA, 104.8 points
9. Jen Jacobs, Washington, DC, 104.8 points
10. Keith Moore, Washington, DC, 104.8 points
11. Suzie Spangler, Annapolis, MD, 104.8 points

Van Goes
Maple Valley, Washington, resident Van Phan has rumbled off several solid races-including two wins-in the Northwest and leads her closest Ultra division rivals by 113 points. In March, Phan, 35, won Portland's March Mudness 100K and completed Washington's Chuckanut 50K. In April, she tallied a win at the tough Capitol Peak 50-Miler and a finish at the Peterson Ridge Rumble 34-Miler.

Two Midwest 100-milers trail Phan-Paul Stofko (Chesterton, IN) and Tracy Thomas (Champaign, IL). Both Stofko and Thomas won April's McNaughton Park 100-Miler in Pekin, Illinois, thereby garnering 400 points in just one exhausting weekend of trail running.

World-class ultra speedster Uli Steidl of Shoreline, Washington, lurks slightly behind Phan, Stofko and Thomas, with 324 points. Few, if any, trail runners can match Steidl's legspeed and endurance and he could be one to watch as the summer rounds into full swing. In the Series' first two months, he has notched awe-inspiring overall wins against elite fields at the American River 50-Mile Endurance Run and the Chuckanut 50K.

Top 10: Trophy Series Ultra Division
1. Van Phan, Maple Valley, WA, 513 points
2. Paul Stofko, Chesterton, IN, 400 points
3. Tracy Thomas, Champaign, IL, 400 points
4. Uli Steidl, Shoreline, WA, 324 points
5. Scott Meyers, Oshkosh, WI, 300 points
6. Diane Van Deren, Sedalia, CO, 300 points
7. Sue Johnston, Waterford, VT, 274 points
8. Fred Roberts, Tucson, AZ, 250 points
9. Matt Daniels, Augusta, GA, 248 points
10. Christine Crawford, Whitewater, WI, 244 points

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

# # #

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

URB597 - Runners High in a Pill?

I've been tracking recent research regarding anandamide, the chemical now believed to be responsible for the runners high (check here for my original overview, and here and here for updates to that story). Scientists stumbled upon the connection a few years ago while trying to understand how THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) stimulated the body to reduce pain and create a euphoric feeling. Lo and behold, they found a group of neurons called "endocannabinoids" that accounted for the effect, and these neurons were naturally stimulated by things such as endurance running. Since then the "race has been on" to isolate the chemical effect in hopes to create a drug that can tap into the positive effects more efficiently than marijuana.

(A running dream, I think, courtesy of

It now appears that stimulation of anandamide has been controlled using a chemical called URB597, and has produced improved moods among test patients in early clinical tests. Bottom line - we could have runners high in a pill!

The key to this breakthrough by UC Irvine researchers was using URB597 to increase the production of anandamide by blocking their degradation, resulting in measurable antidepressant effects. Anandamide, like other endocannabinoids, is a very fragile compound, so slowing degradation can have as powerful an effect as producing more. The result? Improved mood with less side effects than similar anti-depressants like THC, and far less wear and tear on your body than a 90-mile per week regiment.

However, it may not be for everybody; a quote from the press release clarifies:
"The results were similar to the effect we might expect from the use of commonly prescribed antidepressants, which are effective on only around 30% of the population," explains Dr. Gobbi. "Our discovery strengthens the case for URB597 as a safer, non-addictive, non-psychotropic alternative to cannabis for the treatment of pain and depression and provides hope for the development of an alternate line of antidepressants, with a wider range of effectiveness."
Eager to try it out? It appears you can buy the chemical directly from Cayman Chemical, or you can wait for Kadmus Pharmaceuticals to finish their human clinical trials. I've already contacted Kadmus to let them know I'm available. ;-)

I get very excited when reading about this research, simply because I have been a much happier person since finding trail running. I've found a spiritual and physical connection with the world that I didn't know existed. There is a lot more to this sensation than the runners high (ie, being outdoors, regular exercise, escape from media, etc.), but it gives me hope that some people might be able to get the same feeling even if their knees can't keep pace.

And how funny is it that it's called URB597 (herb? get it?)? If Stan Jensen hadn't already claimed the domain name, perhaps we could rename it "RUN100". ;-)

Thanks for letting me geek out on you guys a bit.

- SD

PS - In other anandamide research (in case you are doing a paper or something), recent studies by Oliver Ullrich and colleagues shows that the anandamide endocannabinoid protects neurons from inflammation after brain injury by suppressing the production of inflammation-causing nitric oxide, which would otherwise cause brain injury. Although this is unrelated to the neurological effects (ie, runners high), it does point to an additional role of anandamide - that of "gatekeeper" between the brain and the immune system - which could lead to applications to help brain disease like multiple sclerosis.

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