Saturday, April 29, 2006

Latest report on the Outdoor Industry, Lantern Lamp Bottles, and more

A few items for your weekend Internet browsing:

The Latest Report on The Outdoor Industry

NewWest (the voice of the Rocky Mountains) did a good write up on the "outdoor biz" from the latest study from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). There is some funny industry terminology in here, such as "frontcountry" (areas close to home, vs. the "backcountry") and "Melinials" (the generation after the Baby Boomers who crave extreme sports). In summary - apparel is up, tent sales are down, earth tones are in/bright colors are out, outdoor sports are blending together more and more, and 2/3 of all of us enjoy outdoor activities of some kind.

This Train Keeps A-Rollin' (All Night Long)

Did you know we have celebrity in our ultrarunning ranks? Apparently Pat Monahan, the lead singer from the Grammy-award winning Train, hits the trail regularly while on tour (you can read about it here). Who knew?

Great Product - The Lantern Bottle

Lastly, I found another oh-my-God-that's-a-good-idea product out there called the Firefly Lantern Bottle. It's a water bottle with small lights in the cap that light up the water like a lantern (a well-known trick for lighting up the tent). How cool would it be to see these light up the trail on a 100-mile run?

It is coming out this Spring, so if you're looking for a gift idea for the outdoor enthusiast who has everything (and according to the OIA, there are a lot of you), here's a new one.

I hope y'all are having a great weekend. I am doing the father-to-be ultramarathon - cruising baby stores for cribs, masculine-looking diaper bags (if there is such a thing), and the ever-elusive baby stroller than can handle a weekly regiment of single-track. ;-)

Cheers, SD

Friday, April 28, 2006

Job Opening - Associate Editor, Trail Runner Magazine

Talk about a dream job! Run, write, test shoes - this is as good as it gets. Feel free to contact Michael Benge if interested.



TRAIL RUNNER IS NOW HIRING. For the first time in several years, we have a coveted editorial position open. While we will greatly miss our current Senior Editor, Garett Graubins, as he pursues new adventures in the Bay Area, we are looking to fill his large trail running shoes.

If you (or any of your running partners) are a professionally trained editor and writer and looking for a special opportunity, please check out the job description below.

Thank you in advance for your help and happy trails.

Warmest Regards,

Michael Benge, Editor


Full-time position for Associate Editor at Trail Runner magazine. Write, assign, edit stories for bimonthly magazine; copy edit all content; contribute story ideas; solicit and evaluate outdoor gear and equipment, with an emphasis on twice-annual shoe review; collaborate on production of magazine; write and edit monthly e-newsletter. Casual office environment.

Position based in beautiful Carbondale, Colorado, in the central Rockies.


To perform this job successfully, an individual must possess the following skills and experience:

- Journalistic experience and an eye for objectivity. A writing style that educates and entertains while displaying a sensitivity toward the marketing needs of a growing publication.
- Intimate knowledge of the people and events that make the sport of trail-running tick. Who is Scott Jurek? Why does the Dipsea sell out year after year? Where's the Long Trail? You should know the answers to these questions.
- Familiarity with trail-running gear and manufacturers, including shoes, hydration systems, apparel (high-tech fibers), shells, sunglasses, etc. You don't need to be a gear geek, but it would help to know the following terms: bite valve, anti-microbial, medial posting, upper, polarized, wicking, waterproof-versus-water resistant.
- An ability to work well in a collaborative setting. Communication skills are a must. No introverted prima donnas, please.
- Familiarity with other publications in the outdoor industry, including those against whom Trail Runner competes directly.

A personal zeal for the sport. If you work here, we'd like for you to walk the walk, run the run, and talk the talk. Some our best brainstorming takes place on a seven-mile jaunt up the nearby mountains.

Please send resume and writing samples to: Michael Benge, Editor, Trail Runner magazine, or by regular mail to: Big Stone Publishing, 1101 Village Road, Suite UL-4D, Carbondale, CO, 81623.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fast Running at the Ruth Anderson 50k

Last Saturday, I joined about 70 other ultrarunners for the Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k run around Lake Merced in San Francisco, CA. I had hoped to try a "loop course" run for the first time this year, and the 4.47-mile loop around scenic Lake Merced (mixed road and trail) was a great introduction to this format.

The Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k honors ultrarunning veteran Ruth Anderson. It didn't take much asking around to find out Ruth was a true pioneer for ultrarunning/masters sports both on and off the field, and has been making contributions to ultrarunning for over 25 years. If you would indulge me a few paragraphs to learn a bit about Ruth, you'll understand why participating in the Ruth Anderson 50k was so much fun.

Ruth Anderson (condensed version)

Ruth's ultra career started in 1976 when she entered her first ultra, the Sacramento Garden Highway 50k, and won the overall women's category. Get this - she was 46 at the time. Despite her late start to ultrarunning, she went on to set a number of amazing records over the next 25 years, including:
  • Winning the 1980 USATF 50-mile Championships at age 51, clocking a 7:10:56.
  • Becoming the first woman ever to enter the London-to-Brighton 54-miler (where she ran a 7:46:16).
  • Winning the womens 70+ division at the 1999 USATF 50k Championships at Sunmart..note this is 19 years after her first USATF championship.

(Ruth Anderson, here with world record-holding ultra runner Max Jones;
photo courtesy of Bob Jackson and the Valley Striders)

Ruth was also an advocate for ultrarunning off the track. In the past, she has managed the national US 100K team, advised the MUT Running Council, and pioneered the first USATF Ultrarunning Subcommittee to help recognizing "ultra running" as a unique class of running. Ruth also helped masters sports and women get recognized within USATF by advocating with other atheletes for the "40+" category, among other things. For her contributions to the sport, the USATF created the Ruth Anderson Award to recognized the most outstanding female ultrarunner of the year (last year this went to superstar Anne Lundblad).

So basically, Ruth Anderson rocks.

The Ruth Anderson 50k

So with that proper preamble, on to the race...

At 5:30am on Saturday, I arrived at the start with plenty of time. Time to ponder, that is, why I was doing a 50k only five days after doing the Boston Marathon. Although we had done the Boston marathon at a comfortable pace, it's generally a good idea to give your legs at least a week of rest, especially after running on pavement. You don't want to run the risk of hurting yourself half way through your second race and being tempted to "walk it off for 17 miles". That could end your season for sure.

This is what makes a loop course like the Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k so perfect for days you would like to play it safe. Not only would you pass your car every 4.5 miles, but you could choose your final distance along the way. If you hit 50k and felt good, you could go for 50 miles just by indicating you would like to continue. And you know exactly what the course is at that point, since you've done the loop 7 times. I figured I would not set any expectations, listen to my body, and see how the race went.

(Chikara Omine loads up on one of his many laps of Lake Merced)

When the gun went off at 6:30am, we all cheered and started what would soon become the longest right hand turn any of us have ever made. I paced with the front group for the first lap - Chikara Omine, Mark Henderson (whom racers were calling "Texas" due to his home state-colored shorts), Eric Blumenau (who won the 50-mile last year in 6:20:58), and John Hintz. Chikara and Texas were going long today (100km), while Eric and John were targeting 50 miles. As we got to know each other, we found out that all of us were going to be at the Miwok 100k in two weeks as well; Eric would be volunteering to ensure the course was marked, and the rest of us would be racing.

<-- (Mark "Texas" Henderson sporting his home state colors)

The weather was perfect for going fast (cloudy, about 53 degrees), and we set an aggressive pace of just under a 7-minute mile for the first three laps (12.9 miles). Chikara and Texas were a good match for the 100km, with Chikara's raw speed and Texas' tempered experience from Badwater and many other ultras. Despite the fact they were going 100km, they were setting the pace for all of us. Eric had done very well at the 50-mile last year, but let us know that his first year at USF law school was taking its toll on his training. But here he was, tough as nails, and in the lead pack going stride for stride with John Hintz.

As the runners spread out a little bit, I cranked up my iPod (Raconteurs, Gorillaz, My Chemical Romance) and found myself still feeling good at the end of lap 4 (17.3 miles). The only sign of Boston was my hip flexors were a bit tight. We were still averaging a 7-min mile, which was very fast for me. As I thought about why the fast pace felt so comfortable, I realized it came down to three things - the optimal weather, running with a fast group, and the growing familiarity with the course. But I still had a long way to go, so I hung in there.

The 4.47-mile Lake Merced loop is quite flat, with less than 150 vertical feet per lap. There was enough variability that you could shift your dominant muscles every mile or so, and a nice dirt trail beside the paved bike path for most of it. We joked about "the hill" at mile 4, because it seemed like nothing on the first lap. But with every lap, it seemed to grow bigger and bigger. ;-) It was a multi-use trail too, so there were plenty of pedestrians to navigate. A car accident had launched a smashed sedan up on the bike path, presenting a new obstacle for a few laps. None of these were enough to limit the pace, however.

(Is Ron Peck tired? Nah, just having fun!)

As I finished lap 5 (21.8 miles), I hit the expected "wall" that always comes about this time of the race and slowed down about 30 seconds/mile to let my body regroup. Chikara and I had discussed earlier that the "walls" seemed to come exponentially - 10 miles, 20 miles, 40 miles, and (as we had heard from others) 80 miles. The 20-mile point didn't seem to slow down the lead pack too much, and Chikara, Texas, and John Hintz began pulled ahead of me by 4-8 minutes. I wasn't alone, however. Due to the loop format, I had a chance to see a lot of ultrarunners I typically only see at the beginning and the end of the race. Mike Sweeney was looking good, as was Dieter Walz (who holds many 70+ ultra records already), and 17-year-old newcomer Spencer Frasher. Everyone was enjoying the nice cool weather, and the rowdy crew competition going on in the lake.

I crossed the marathon mark in about 3:09, and my body was still holding up remarkably well. I had carried the slower pace from lap 5 into lap 6, since the shorter strides kept the pressure on my hip flexors at bay. It didn't feel like the "bad kind of pain", just the "good kind of pain" (I know, I know - we're all nuts). I noticed that the familiar loop terrain made it much easier to analyze my physical situation and fine tune my stride. Lap racing is a good format for finding out your "A" game.

(John Mintz smiling at mile 36; he went on to win the 50-mile in 6:30:12)

As I started the final lap, I realized I was still on a sub-4 hour pace for the 50k. Was that possible?!? How could I be on pace to take more than 20 minutes off my 50k PR just five days after Boston? Maybe the runners high was messing with my computational skills. But John and Amy Burton (the Race Directors) confirmed my pace as I hit the aid station one last time. I drank as much water as I could, and pushed the pace for one last lap. 35 minutes later, I crossed the finish line in 3:52:15, good for first overall. I pulled off my tag to indicate I was done at 50k, and my legs sighed with relief.

As I walked slowly back to the starting area, I enjoyed that state of euphoria/nausea/tunnel vision that comes with going hard for the last two miles of an ultra. So much had just happened - a PR, an overall win, etc. - I was trying to make sense of what just happened. I imagined a conversation with my soon-to-be-born daughter:

Daughter: Daddy, where do PR's come from?

Scott: That's a good question, sweety. Where do you think they come from?

Daughter: Lots of training and a focused race?

Scott: That's true. But sometimes they come when you least expect it. If you're having a good time and running with friends, anything is possible. Maybe even a PR.

Daughter: Will I ever have a PR?

Scott: When you try your first race, I guarantee you'll have a PR. You can even start when you're 46 and still be a world champion, just like Ruth.

Daughter: Who's Ruth?

Scott: Haven't you heard the story about Ruth, the fast and courageous ultra-warrior?

Daughter: Is it story time again? Joy!

Alrighty then. I clearly need some calories. ;-)

As I recouped, I was able to cheer on the other racers as they came by. Chikara was still going strong, but Texas had slowed a bit due to stomach issues and was talking about going 50 miles instead. John Mintz still led the pack in the 50-mile. Willem van Dam came in about 12 minutes behind me for second place in the 50k (and a new PR of 4:03:45), and Patricia Zerfas (from Maryland) had come in for third, winning the women's title and demolishing the previous women's record by almost 15 minutes. Ruth would have been proud!

(Patricia rests after her course-record smashing 4:07:44 in the 50k)

In the end, Chikara held on to win the 100k in as astounding 7:42:10, with Mark Tanaka coming in second, and Mike Sweeney coming in third. Wendy Georges won the women's division in 10:53:27. John Mintz held on for victory in the 50-mile with a 6:30:12, with Texas finishing second just two and half minutes later. Soon Gaal won the women's division in 9:52:56 - a perfect way to celebrate her birthday! Spencer Frasher held on to become the first 20-and-under 50k finisher (and, of course, set a PR). Dieter Walz broke two records, first by breaking his own 70+ national 50k age group record in 5:13:36, then continuing on to set the 70+ 50-mile record for this course in 9:35:18. He is amazing. All in all, everyone made the most of this gorgeous day to set personal PR's and push course/age group/national records.

My thanks to RD's Amy and John Burton, past RD Steve Jaber, Stan Jensen and the many volunteers of the Bay Area Ultrarunners Club for putting on a great race. I would highly recommend it, particularly if you're a first timer, or are looking to set a new PR. You'll find this race to be fun, collegial, and a great way to find out what you're capable of. Plus you'll have the "power of Ruth" to get you to the finish line.

Now off to the hot tub...

Cheers, SD

Many thanks to Dan Brannen and Theresa Daus-Weber, and Linda Wallace for their prior research on Ruth Anderson and Masters Track, respectively. You can find more photos of the race here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Having Fun at the 2006 Boston Marathon

Last weekend, I returned to Boston to join 22,000 runners for the 110th running of the Boston Marathon. This was my 2nd Boston (I qualified for this Boston at the 2005 Boston Marathon), but I was planning on taking a very different approach to the race this time. No land speed records, no split tracking, no PR’s – just running with friends at a more casual pace and enjoying every minute of this 26.2-mile long party. My goals? Give 262 high fives, take some pics along the way, drink a beer at Heartbreak Hill with the Hash House Harriers, and get a kiss from one of those gorgeous Wellesley girls with the “kiss me, I’m smart” signs. Now THAT’S my kind of marathon! Little did I know I would also get a chance to meet the winner of the Boston marathon too.

(53 degrees and partly cloudy - perfect running weather for the Boston Marathon this year)

I flew in on the red eye Saturday night, and after a quick breakfast with the Boston dock workers at a local greasy spoon, I hit the Runners Expo. The excitement was palpable, as runners and their supporting friends and family gobbled up merchandise as fast as it could be stocked. Like last year, I met dozens of people who considered this race the pinnacle of their year (if not their athletic career) and were purchasing anything that could publicly proclaim “I did Boston”. As a trail runner, I felt like a welcomed outsider in a cult of ultra-thin, shaved-legged road rabbits. Popular booths included the Clif Blocks sample table (snacks!), the Adidas booth with wall-to-wall Boston merchandise, and the MyMarathonDVD booth that creates a personalized DVD from six cameras along the course.

(Dean talks ultrarunning with the Boston Marathon crowd)

At 10am, Dean Karnazes made a brief presentation about his book (you can hear a similar NPR interview here), and his upcoming “E50” challenge. E50 is Dean’s attempt to do 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states this Fall, all to raise money and awareness for Karnos Kids, his non-profit. There were lots of questions from the audience about his training and motivation, and it was clear that nearly everyone in the room had read his book. Yet I was surprised that most of the audience referred to ultrarunners as “a different (and crazier) breed”. It’s really only a few more miles, right? Dean was gracious and friendly, and talked about the pacing and recovery challenges of doing consecutive daily marathons (for example, anything faster than a 3:30 marathon yearns for recovery on the next day, something he had learned from practicing races over four days), and how travel time will be a bigger factor this time around. For the days that Dean can’t run an “official” marathon, he will be running an official course with the help of Race Directors to ensure it’s all legit. I mentioned to the guy next to me that this sort of thing must take serious dedication. Little did I know I was talking to Neil Weygant, who was about to attempt his 40th consecutive Boston Marathon. Wow!

(Neil Weygant finished his 40th consecutive Boston Marathon this year)

As I left the Expo, I read much the “22,000 reasons to run Boston” board, an oddly motivating wall of stickers where you can find your number and write in your main motivation for being here. For some, it was “because I can”, for others it was to honor a loved one, but for most, it was a personally-declared statement of triumph, as if you could escape death itself if you ran fast enough. For me, it was a dedication Rocky the Pug, who taught me that a love of running comes straight from the heart. This Boston was going to be all about fun, and Rocky wouldn’t want it any other way.

(Racers declare their motivation at The Wall)

(One of the funnier entries)

The night before the race, I caught up with my running pals, Kristin Armstrong and Paige Alam, and their morale-support crews (Kik's friend Eric and Paige's husband Jamil, as well as their friends the Boyles). We dined at Teatro, discussed life and love, and the various paths that brought us all to Boston this day. Eric and Jamil were looking forward to seeing the Red Sox play Seattle, which would get out just in time to see us at the marathon finish.

(My gorgeous running partners, Paige Alam and Kristin Armstrong)

I’ve told you guys about Kristin before, and you may have heard about her good friend Paige from the articles in Runners World. Paige is a perfect running pal – motivated, funny, and a kindred soul that is always providing moral support. As they recalled their adventures over the last year, it was always “Kik and Paige, BFF (Best Friends Forever)”. One of the best parts about these two is they know how to challenge each other in little ways. For this race, Kristin had convinced the split-obsessed Paige to run without her watch. This is a tough consideration for a talented and competitive runner like Paige, and you could see her physically squirming with the idea. She took some comfort in knowing I would have a watch “just in case”.

The next morning, I caught up with Kristin and Paige about 45 minutes before race start and we made our way to the starter corral. My blue number (#3103) stood out among the sea of red numbers in the 12,000-13,000 corral, but I was welcomed with open arms. The runners here were much more diverse than the 3-hour corral – people of all shapes and sizes, matching Elvises, you name it. As we started running, I could see a lot of these people weren’t “natural runners”. Their gaits and strides were as varied as one could imagine, but they all found a rhythm they knew well from putting in the training miles. I instantly had tremendous respect for these runners. Who better to represent the Boston Marathon than those who overcame the most to get here?

(The fastest Elvises [Elvi?] on the planet)

Kristin and Paige had dressed well for the occasion, as they always do. Paige had a shirt that said “Go Paige” on the front, while Kristin had “Go Kristin”. Within a few hundred yards, they were already getting shouts of support. After a few miles and a few hundred thank yous, Paige began to understand the magic of Boston Marathon fans – she was going to be hearing “Go Paige” for the next four hours! She cracked a smile that never left her face the whole race.

The ladies set the pace and I glanced at my watch at each mile, amazed at the consistency of our time as we weaved through the hills. 8:13, 8:17, 8:15, 8:18…so far, a pretty quick race. Kristin was leading the pace on the flats, while Paige-the-mountain-goat pulled us up the hills. At each mile marker, Paige would read off a prayer or focus word, such as “hearing”, “truth”, “calling”…a wonderfully addictive way to pass the miles. I found my thoughts gravitating towards my excitement about impending fatherhood, and how much I appreciate sharing a running experience with friends. Paige and Kristin, both great moms, were the perfect friends to share the day.

We ran through Ashland, where the bikers and Harley-Davidson crowd cranked up the rock n’ roll, and enjoyed the perfect running weather (53 degrees, partly cloudy). Paige had signed up for the MyMarathonDVD and was eagle-eyeing cameras to make sure we hit each one. We contemplated mooning, but thought it might not be good for the family archives. In the longer miles, we chatted with other runners who had come from all over the world – Norway, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Chile, China, and more. Although it was Patriot’s Day, the pride on these streets was more than American.

(All smiles as we pass through Natick)

Mile 10 came up fast, and it was the first mile where Paige and Kristin naturally slowed down to 8:50/mile. But the constant support from the crowds rallied them back on pace by Mile 12 and straight through to Wellesley College, aka, the “Scream Tunnel”. If you don’t know what this is, imagine the front row of a Beatles concert lined up for nearly ½ mile, all girls screaming with excitement. It is truly amazing! I saw a few “kiss me” signs, but hesitated after wondering how my wife’s best friend (Kristin) might explain the scene to my pregnant wife. I couldn’t risk it - the recipe for a life sentence in the dog house was too great if that kiss lasted a little TOO long. But would these girls really kiss a stranger? Just as I thought that, a young man with “Norway” on his shirt stepped right up and was grabbed by three gorgeous froshies, nearly drowning in kisses. How about that…a whole new incentive to qualify for Boston!

(Paige and Kristin, Friends Forever!)

I snapped some pics as we headed into the hilly section of the course. Our pace had slowed to about 8:25/mile around mile 18, which one would expect in the hills. The rolling up and downs gave our legs some variability, and we refueled to prepare for Heartbreak Hill. I accidentally passed the Hash House Harriers aid station, so I turned around and ran back for a beer. It looked like a normal aid station, except each plastic cup had 2-3 oz of beer. When I grabbed one and yelled “bottoms up!”, everyone cheered, grabbed a cup of their own, and drank with me. As I took off to catch my pals, it dawned on me how much those guys were going to drink today…and it was only going to get more intense as the slower folks indulged. Again, amazing fan dedication!

The beer really hit the spot. Easily digested carbs, tasted good, and smoothed out my running a bit. Maybe these Harriers are onto something! I caught up with Kristin and Paige and we all knocked down Heartbreak Hill with ease. Just a 10k to go!

(Paige hams it up with the cheering crowd)

Paige was hamming it up big time in the last few miles, and the crowd loved it. She must have said “thank you” a thousand times. As Kristin and I laughed, it helped us keep moving forward with a smile on our faces. I glanced at my watch and realized we were just a couple of minutes off a 3:40 pace, which would allow Kristin and Paige to qualify for Boston again. Should I say something? Or wasn’t the point to not worry about it? I decided not to mention it and keep the spirit of our run intact.

(Crossing the finish line; find this and other great Boston pics at

As we rounded the last corner, Eric and Jamil were there to lay on some last minute kisses on their sweeties (even better than a shot of caffeine!), and we joined hands to cruise in to a 3:44:46 finish, good for about 9,970th place. Hugs abounded at the finish (including strangers), and everyone seemed pleased with the day. Rena Schumann, one of three California ultrarunners I saw out there, was resting after a stellar 3:11 finish, as was ultra-phenom Mark Lantz who clocked a 2:52. We knew we would all see each other at the Miwok 100k in a few weeks.

A shower and nap later, we all dined at Anthony’s at Pier 4, a superb steak and lobster restaurant with one of the best views in Boston. We replayed the marathon mile-by-mile, and Eric and Jamil shared the Sox game play-by-play (a come from behind win for Boston after a 9th inning homer). All in all, an epic day to share with friends. I headed back to my hotel room, unable to sleep because I didn’t want the day to end. So I just started thinking about the next race, which slowly pulled me into dreamland.

(Robert Cheruiyot, the gracious winner of the 2006 Boston Marathon, and me)

The next morning, I got an unexpected treat at the airport. I sat down in a Starbuck’s and asked the guy next to me if I could read one of the five papers he had. When he smiled, I realized he was the same guy on the cover of the newspaper – Robert Cheruiyot from Kenya, who had won Boston in a record-breaking 2:07:14! Robert and his Nike rep were very nice, and let me take a photo with my camera phone (sorry it’s not the best photo, but it’s him!). Robert was friendly to everyone, asking all the other runners how their race went. He was saying how the weather conditions were perfect and that he felt like he had a 2:06 in him, but listened to his coach, Paul Tergat, and just focused on the win (his second Boston win after winning in 2003). The rest of us listened in awe, knowing we couldn’t keep his pace for a mile even if our life depended on it.

When I come back to Boston next time, it’s going to be a toss up on running it fast, or running it fun. It still amazes me how a race can be so different if you just approach it with some novelty. If doesn’t take much to change the race atmosphere. Go slower. Drink the beer. Kiss the girls. I guarantee you, it will be a race to remember!

Cheers, SD

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Does ultrarunning improve memory skills? (article by Nobel laureate, James Watson)

Dr. James Watson, Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the double helix, recently wrote an article for Seed Magazine that talked about the latest studies regarding memory loss. One study he cited showed may show that distance running can reduce memory loss.

Here's a quick recap of the article:

* Storage of new information in your brain is based on a process called "neurogenesis", which produces new neurons in your brain to store information.

* You've heard that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". It turns out that age does limit your ability to learn new things, because post-adolescence, the brain stops growing and neurogenesis only happens in the hippocampus (where memories are formed). A key part of retaining the ability to learn is to maximize the rate with which we can generate new neurons (nerve cells) as we get older.

* An experiment with mice has shown that when mice use treadmills to run long distances each day, they make new nerve cells at double the rate of their sedentary peers. This had yet to be tested on humans, but it is encouraging.

Please do go read Dr. Watson's article here. Even when he's pushing 80 years of age, he proves to be one of the most thought-provoking scientists of our time. Now if we can just get him to sign up for an ultra. ;-)

Takeaway - can't remember what to do today? Then GO RUN!

- SD

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Leaders of the Pack - Update on 2006 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series

Below is a press release with the latest update on the 2006 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series. It looks like the 100k's continue to define the leader board for Ultra Division, and I'm sure the upcoming McNaughton 100-miler will change it up too. In the Marathon-and-Under Series, short-course speedster Hugh Davis from Indiana shows he isn't afraid to travel to get some points on the board.

Our best wishes to 2005 Marathon-and-Under champion Dale Reicheneder for a fast and speed recovery from his heel surgery.

- SD

Leaders of the Pack

If the first release of Trail Runner magazine's 2006 Trophy Series standings is any indication, there will likely be many racers vying for the 2006 title, right down to the wire.

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

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

Tough Mudders take Ultra Division Lead

The March 25 March Mudness 100K had a deep impact on the Ultra standings, as the longest-distance 2006 Trophy Series race to date. 35-year-old Phan Van of Maple Valley, Washington, won the women’s division of the race, held in Portland, Oregon’s legendary Forest Park. As a result, she leads the Series. Shawn Lawson, 29, of Renton, Washington, stands in second place overall, after she placed second in the March Mudness 100K and garnered finisher points in the March 18 Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham, Washington.

Behind Van and Lawson, with 202.64 points, sit the men’s and women’s winners of the Rockin’ K 50.6-Mile Trail Run, held April 1 in Kanopolis State Park, Kansas. Paul Schoenlaub or Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Tammy Stone of Florence, Colorado, are in great early-Series position.

A bevy of runners—winners of the season’s first crop of 50-mile races—have 200 points each, including perennial front runners Sean Andrish of Leesburg, Virginia, and PF Potvin of Miami Beach, Florida.

Top 10: Trophy Series Ultra Division
1. Phan Van, Maple Valley, WA, 248 points
2. Shawn Lawson, Renton, WA, 217 points
3. Paul Schoenlaub, Saint Joseph, MO, 202.64 points
4. Tammy Stone, Florence, CO, 202.64 points
5. Darcy Africa, Boulder, CO, 200 points
6. Sean Andrish, Leesburg, VA, 200 points
7. Krissy Moehl, Seattle, WA, 200 points
8. PF Potvin, Miami Beach, FL, 200 points
9. Phil Shaw, Everett, WA, 184 points
10. Matthew Becker, Galva, KS, 151.98 points
11. (tied for 10th) Lisa Mikkelson, Holliston, MA, 151.98 points

Hoosier corrals early Marathon & Shorter Division Lead Tell City, Indiana, is not known as a trail-running hot bed. Such distinctions are normally reserved for other towns. But Tell City-native Hugh Davis seems intent to change that.

The 42-year-old Davis has set an impressive early pace to grab an impressive lead. He took second in his 40-49 age group at the John Holmes 15-Mile Trail Run, held April 1 in Brooksville, Florida, first in the Land Between the Lakes 24K Trail Run on March 11 in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and placed second in the Series’ opening weekend, when he raced the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon in Damascus, Maryland.

A large cluster of racers—age-group winners of the season’s first trail marathons—are lingering behind Davis. They include: current women’s leaders Monika Brachmann, 40, of Comus, Maryland; Lucia Davidson, 60, of Arlington, Virginia; Jen Jacobs, 29, of Washington, DC; and Suzie Spangler, 35, of Annapolis, Maryland.

2006 Trophy Series champion Dale Reicheneder of Malibu, California, started the season strong, but has been sidelined by surgery to repair a “Haglund’s Deformity” on his right heel. The condition had become too painful for Reicheneder to run. Despite being sidelined, he still plans to give the 2006 Series a try, and anticipates running later in the summer.

Top 10: Trophy Series Marathon & Shorter Division
1. Hugh Davis, Tell City, IN, 180.88 points
2. Monika Brachmann, Comus, MD, 104.8 points
3. Courtney Campbell, Berryville, VA, 104.8 points
4. Lucia Davidson, Arlington, VA, 104.8 points
5. Eugene Gignac, New Cumberland, PA, 104.8 points
6. Jen Jacobs, Washington, DC, 104.8 points
7. Keith Moore, Washington, DC, 104.8 points
8. Suzie Spangler, Annapolis, MD, 104.8 points
9. Adam Blum, Los Gatos, CA, 94.822 point
10. (7 runners tied with 78.9 points)

More to come …
As trees bud and flowers bloom, look for runners to earn more Trophy Series points at these big April races:

+ In the Northwest, trail runners will have several scoring options,
including: Peterson Ridge Rumble (April 9, Sisters, OR); Capitol Peak 50 Miler (April 15, Olympia, WA); Mt. Si Ultra Runs (April 23, Snoqualmie, WA); and the Spokane River Run (April 23, Spokane, WA).

+ Desert rats will look to the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon
(April 29, Carson City, NV) and Zane Grey 50-Miler (April 29, Payson, AZ) for their Trophy Series fix.

+ Colorado trail runners have their first home-state crack at Trophy
Series points at the April 22 and 23 Spring Desert Ultra Trail Running Festival in toasty Fruita, CO. Go to for info.

+ In the Heartland, runners will have numerous points-scoring
opportunities: McNaughton Park Trail Runs—which includes the Series’ first 100-mile race (April 15, Pekin, IL); Double Chubb 25K and 50K (April 22, St. Louis, MO); and the Trail Marathon and Half Marathon (April 30, Pinckney, MI).

+East coasters will look to two major races for Trophy Series’ points:
Flatwoods Four Trail Race (April 9. Thonotosassa, FL) and Owl’s Roost rumble (April 29, Greensboro, NC).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Novelist Michael Collins wins North Pole Marathon

Novelist Michael Collins from Bellingham, WA, beat 53 competitors to win this years North Pole Marathon in 4:28. Nice work, Michael!

Full story here.

- SD

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ultrarunner Bob Withers dies at Yeti Ascent

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of ultrarunner Bob Withers, who collapsed and died while competing in the Yeti Ascent snowshoe competition at Mount Seymour near Vancouver, BC this weekend. You can read coverage of the story here.

(Photo of Bob Withers on race day, shortly before he collapsed;
photo courtesy of Marc Campbell and the North Shore Outlook)

You can find another great story here by the Justin Beddall at The North Shore Outlook. It has details about how the Yeti will be turned into a memorial event.

Props to his friend and Race Director Marc Campbell. That must have been a tough experience, and he's shining through it.

Peace, SD

Friday, April 07, 2006

Looking forward to the Sunsweet 2-Day Trail Fest (July 22-23, Oakridge, OR)!

I have a lot of great races on the schedule this year, but I have found myself getting the most excited about the Sunsweet 2-Day Trail Festival in Oakridge, OR on July 22-23. Four races in two days in some of the most scenic areas of Oregon - what's not to like?!? In case y'all hadn't heard about it, I thought I would give you some of the highlights. You can pick up an entry here.

(Another gorgeous day on the Oakridge trails, photo courtesy of K McCree)

Two Days, Four Races

The Sunsweet Trail Fest is a series of four trail races in one weekend (3 on the first day, 1 on the second), designed to give you a full flavor of what makes trail running fun. There is mountain running, trail running, ultras, and even a kids fun run. You can race solo in all four races for the "festival competition", choose your favorite races among the four, or put together a team of up to six people (including an ultra relay). Here's the layout of the races:

Race 1, the "Oregon Adventure Hill Climb" - Going UP! A 5 mile mountain run, ending with a 3-mile, 2200 vertical foot climb that would make Bernie Boettcher proud.

Race 2, the "Flying Turtle Downhill" - After a brief rest, groups of 4 runners/mountain goast sail down a 5-mile course in 1-minute intervals. If you have the need for speed, this is your race!

Race 3, the "Salmon Creek Stomp" - The afternoon race is a 10-mile run along Salmon Creek, one of the many gorgeous river runs that have made Oregon races like Where's Waldo 100k and the McKenzie River Run 50k instant classics (yes, I know "instant classic" is an oxymoron, but honestly, you will know what I mean as soon as you see the place). The kids can join in on the 1-mile Fun Run while you are out, play some minature golf, or meet you at the big dinner bash at the Trailhead Cafe.

(Crystal clear Salmon Creek, photo courtesy of K McCree)

Race 4 (on day 2), the "Sunsweet West Fir 50k". No race festival organized by the Abbs would be complete without a 5800 vertical foot ultra, and that's what awaits you on Sunday morning. If the distance is too much, you can run the 50k as a relay with up to 6 people. The course provides plenty of eye candy, including the Westfir Covered Bridge, the Middle Fork of the Willamette River, and scenic views from atop the mountain ridges.

(At 180 ft, the Westfir Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge in Oregon, photo courtesy of 2G Construction who helped restore it in the mid-90's)

Whew! That's a lot of trail running. Cash prizes and merchandise will be awarded to race winners for both Open and Masters, best combined times, and more. Although the event is billed for fun, don't forget that folks like Craig Thornley, John Ticer, Jeff Riley (fifth at the AR50 last weekend), Sean Messiner (4-time Tahoe Triple marathon winner), and Kami Semick all live within driving distance, so no win will come easily. Oh yeah - let's not forget that nearby Eugene, OR, is home of Steve Prefontaine, Alberto Salazar, Bill Bowerman/Nike, and the 2008 Olympic Trails. They kinda obsess about running. ;-)

(Majestic firs of the Willamette wilderness, photo courtesy of K McCree)

A Bit About Oakridge

As a former Oregonian (with a father who obsessively skied at nearby Willamette Pass), I got to visit Oakridge quite a bit over the years. The trails are lush, the trees are huge, and the water is insanely clear. The town's low key (and low cost) nature feel more fitting to me for a trail festival than the glitz-and-glamour Teva Mountain Games in Vail, CO. Oakridge people are laid back, have a deep appreciation for the outdoors, and welcome all visitors.

(The small town of Oakridge, nestled in the Oregon mountains, photo courtesy of K McCree)

There's going to be a Fat Tire mountain bike festival in Oakridge around the same time, so the whole town is going to be celebrating the joys of outdoor recreation. I think it's going to be spectacular weekend, particularly for these first few years before "word gets out". You can get a lot of "bang" for your trail running dollar at this event, and I'm looking forward to sampling the many trail formats. My thanks to Beverly and Alan Abbs, the Sunsweet Team, and all the volunteers for their hard work in making this vision into reality. I look forward to a great time.

- SD

(ps, if you need maps of the races, let me know and I can send them your way)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Volunteers build 60 ft bridge for the McNaughton Trail Ultra

I've heard of race volunteers going above and beyond, but building a 60 foot bridge?!? Wow! You can read about Illinois Race Director Andy Weinberg and his crazy crew here.

My favorite part was hearing how volunteer Larry LaBlanca was being nudged out of the house during a slow work season...then spent 7 days a week and 400 hours on a massive bridge!

- SD

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Racing the American River 50

This Saturday I joined 477 ultramarathoners for the 27th running of the American River 50-miler (AR50) from Sacramento to Auburn, CA. Known as a popular race with a healthy mix of dirt and pavement, the AR50 has had over 200 runners since it's inception (just ask Gloria Takagishi, who has run all 27!). Despite record-breaking rain in the the area, we got a reprieve from the rain just long enough to enjoy a beautiful day on the American River Canyon.

(Don Foster and friends await the start, bright and early)

My day started early - 3am - since I wanted to hit the local Denny's for a Grand Slam breakfast before taking the 4:15am bus ride to the start (that's about as close to an ultra grand slam as I get). I ran into Elizabeth Carrion and Paul Morris there, who had come out from New York for their second running of the AR50. Paul was building up to his first Western States, after his lottery number came through. Lucky for him, Elizabeth was a veteran 100-miler, so he had a pacing crew ready to roll. Once we scarfed our food, we made it down to the Auburn Dam Overlook to catch the early bus to the start.

In the bus, I taped my feet and packed my drop bag. The AR50 is about half road and half trail (mostly in that order), which gave me my first chance to try using a drop bag. I put in some trail shoes, a change of socks, a foot care kit, and a few snacks for the road, ready for the Beals Point (27.1 mile) drop. For the first half it would be road shoes with gaiters.

(At the weigh in)

The bus arrived at Guy West Bridge about 40 minutes before the start, and everyone mixed and mingled. It was comfortably cold (low 40's), cloudy, with a light mist of rain - ideal conditions for a long run. There were racers everywhere for this sold out running, including many eager first-timers. A few runners were joking at the weigh-in station that their weight varied by 4 lbs depending on which scale they got on (yikes!).

(First-time ultra runner Julie Manning, Jeff Wood, and Judy Turney at the race start)

I recognized a lot of people from Way Too Cool. I ran into Luis Escobar (ultra guru and RD for the Santa Barbara 9 Trails), Jeff Zahn, and a few other SoCal faces as we made our way to the start. Before we knew it, we were off!

(Jeff Zahn and Luis Escobar, our SoCal representatives, at the race start)

The race began with a quick two mile loop on a wide road, before circling back east to head up the American River. At the turn, we saw the front-runners setting a blinding pace, including Uli Steidl, Chris Zaiman, Eric Skaden, Simon Mtuy (who recently set the up-and-down speed record for Mt. Killimanjaro), 2005 50k champion Julie Udchachon, Julie Fingar, and more. I had started a bit too far back in the pack, so I began working my way up. I ran by Michael Fink and "Baby Lamb", the stuffed mascot that has ridden in his fanny pack on year of runs and hikes. Gordy Ainsleigh was right by him, finding a good pace and chatting up some first-timers. About 30 minutes in, I caught up to Rena Schulmann (a sure sign that I was going too fast) who let me know she was training for Western States #9. Rena had a great pace going, and knowing her, she was just warming up.

The 22 miles of pavement at the start allowed us all to settle into a quick pace. I noticed I wasn't the only astonished at my time at the mile markers and wondering if I should slow down. But the pace felt comfortable, and it didn't take long before some familiar scenery from the Helen Klein 50 appeared, including the nice flat dirt trails on either side of the bike path. Many of us ran on this section to save our legs for the latter section. I hit Watt Ave (5.9 miles) in 38:40, and William Pond (9.4 miles) in 1:12:03, so I was hovering around an 8 minute mile.

As the runner's high kicked in, my mind and heart began to weave in and out with the bike path. I welcomed a chance to ponder many of the new emotions that have entered my life in the last few months, and long, flat ultras are good for that. Christi and I got a surprise x-mas card from the stork this season, saying a baby girl would be on the way in August (our first). We're incredibly excited, but clearly have no idea what we're doing. ;-) On top of that, an idea I had for using your cell phone to help find sales/deals near you quickly became NearbyNow, a new technology company with me at the helm. In case that wasn't enough stress, Christi and I got involved in a car accident on I-80 coming back from Way Too Cool, putting her car in the shop (and me in a rental car) for weeks. Yet in the rhythm of the run, all this emotion just fueled my fire and pushed me forward.

As I hit the Nimbus Dam Overlook (19 miles) at 2:46, I wondered if perhaps I had a bit too much fuel in the fire. Should I slow down and save some energy for the hills at the end, or should I just push through? I asked my body, and it said "push". We climbed up off the bike path to the Nimbus aid station, and began running along dirt paths and an access road for the next 2 miles. My "street shoes" weren't sure what to make of the single track, but the trail was smooth enough that it didn't matter much.

(Greg Nacco from Sausalito, CA works through the wildflowers around mile 23)

I had misread the AR50 description as "27 miles of pavement, followed by 23 miles of dirt". In truth, after Nimbus there is more trail than road. After a quick single track hike up to Nimbus, there is a mile of pavement, and then mostly dirt road and single track all the way to Beals Point. The trails were a welcome change, and a chance to see some of the wildflowers soaking up the rain and stomp through some gargantuan mud puddles. But it was very doable with street shoes.

(Working our way up to the high road, about mile 25)

As we came down towards Beals Point (27.4), my stomach started to have second thoughts about that grand slam breakfast (next time, no bacon!). The discomfort slowed me down about 30 seconds per mile, but it wasn't unbearable. I kept urging myself to move forward, oscillating through mantras such as "never give up, never surrender" (yes, that's from Galaxy Quest!) and "there is no way back but forward". A new mantra showed up too - "make your daughter proud". She's not even born yet, and I'm already feeling her support!

I had a seat at Beals Point to change my shoes and eat potatoes to try and calm my stomach. Luis Escobar powered through the aid station, and I picked up the pace to catch up with him. We made quick work of 1.5 miles of flat gravel road, and began 3 miles of rolling hills. Luis is a superb downhill runner, frolicking with gravity like an old childhood friend. I did my best to keep up with him by going a little faster on the flats. Together we chugged through to Granite Bay (31.5), passing 5-6 other runners on the way.

At Granite Bay, I figured out two things. First, I was definitely going too fast. My 50k split was 4:15 - a new PR. That's not a good sign in a 50-miler! Second, my stomach issues were not going away (perhaps they were connected?). I had been cautious to eat small PB&J squares, potatoes, and other "real food" so as not to get too hungry, but here I was with a hollow stomach again. I tried to take an extra few minutes at the aid station to let my stomach rest and take in some fluids. As I did, Rena Schulmann came charging through the aid station, definitely going faster than when she started. Go, Rena!

As I passed Buzzards Cove (34 miles), the single track began to look like a "real" trail run, with rocks, creeks, zigs and zags. Some of the muddy areas were too big to get around (including one right before Rattlesnake Bar that was HUGE). I passed Jady Palko, whom I had recognized from the warming tent after Way Too Cool. He and his pacer were making great time, despite "feeling beat". We all refueled at Manhattan Bar (43.2 miles, the last food in the race), which gave Jady enough boost to kick into overdrive. At this point, I figured out that if I walked the uphills my stomach didn't act up too much. I knew the last climb was going to be a doozy.

(Ack! The final three mile hike begins - one mile on dirt, two on gravel)

At mile 46.5, the big climb began. It started out on dirt, averaging about a 14 degree incline (I think), but had some flatter sections where running was possible. It didn't take long to reach Last Gasp (47.6 miles), and as I did, Dean Karnazes came cruising by, all smiles. We headed up the last road, which averaged about a 10 degree incline. You could see and hear the finish up on top of the Overlook. David Ruvalcaba, a 51-year-old from Madera, CA, set a great pace about 100 yards in front of me, and I chased his red jersey all the way to the finish line in 7:57, good for 36th place.

The volunteers quickly dressed me in the AR50 jacket, put soup in my hand, and pointed me to the box of anti-poison oak wipes provided by (thanks guys!). I caught up with the finishers to find out that Uli Stedl had won in just under 6 hours, with Chris Zeiman just a few minutes behind him (Auburn Journal has a great article about their race). Eric Skaden, Graham Cooper, and John Ticer finished out the top five. Julie Udchachon won the women's division, with Rena Schumann closing in within 2 minutes for second place. Despite the mud, they had all put in great performances.

Jean Pommier ran some numbers to compare the AR50 and Way Too Cool, and found out the following:

* 25% of Way Too Cool runners also ran the AR50. 22% of AR50 runners ran Way Too Cool.

* 51 ran AR at a slower pace than Way Too Cool (as one might expect), 8 ran the same pace, and 41 people actually ran AR50 faster!

I had one last surprise waiting for me - I went to my car to find the back window smashed in and all my belongings stolen, including what was in the trunk. Doh! Luckily my rental car was the only one hit and I still had the keys. I guess I'm not having very good "car-ma" this year (ha, ha). Like a true runner, I was less worried about the laptop and money, and more concerned that I didn't have dry clothes. Kind of ironic that I just did a blog entry on the Hitch only if they made one big enough for a change of clothes!

In not-so-rare form, Greg Soderlund and the AR50 volunteers quickly took care of me. Before I could even snap out of my running daze, Greg had gathered up enough extra clothes to keep me warm, John Rhodes had patched up my window with cardboard, the police wrote up their report, and Jady, Luis, and other runners offered to take up a collection to get me enough cash to get home. It really meant a lot to me that this community of people I only know through running would rally to my support.

My thanks to Greg and the wondeful volunteers of the AR50 for doing such a great job. I would highly recommend this race for next year. Be sure to sign up early, try the drop bag, eat plenty (skip the bacon), and just in case you're the next rare victim of car theft, don't assume that "in the trunk" means your stuff is safe. ;-)

- SD