Thursday, June 29, 2006

Heat and Controversy at the 2006 Western States

For those who haven't heard, the 2006 Western States first place finisher Brian Morrison was disqualified after being assisted to the finish line by his pacers (who included Scott Jurek, ironically). Apparently the Seattle, WA-based Morrison collapsed a few times in the final 300 meters, and was helped up by his two pacers, Scott Jurek and Jason Davis, as well as a few other well-wishers. He was unconscious shortly after finishing while being examined by Dr. Bob Lind.

(Brian Morrison collapsing at the finish, later to be disqualified; photo courtesy of Kurt Bertilson)

The rules of Western States clearly state that a runner cannot receive aid during a run from pacers (except at aid stations) and must complete the race under their own power. Shortly after the final finish, Morrison was disqualified, and Graham Cooper (who finished just a few minutes behind) was declared the winner. For those who were there, apparently "it was clear he would not have finished under his own power" so perhaps it's not that controversial. The Sacramento Bee did a great job of covering the story here (and the Duluth Tribune has it here). Man, that's gotta be a tough break for a guy who was clearly having a great race most of the day.

Kudos to all of you who finished States this year - only 211 of the 399 racers managed to do so, thanks to the wicked heat that peaked at 101 degrees, tough new canyon trails, and plenty of water run-off soaking the trails. This was the toughest finish rate since 1995, and allowed only 54 runners to receive the silver belt buckle for a sub-24 hour finish. If you finished at all, YOU'RE A ROCK STAR!!!

(Graham Cooper (with kids), unknowingly winning the 2006 Western States 100; photo courtesy of Kurt Bertilson)

Graham Cooper and Eric Skaden have been kicking ass all year, so I'm pleased they finished 1-2. Nikki Kimball and Bev Abbs conquered the heat as well and put on a great race. Tim Tweitmeyer managed to run under 24 hours for the 25th time. You guys are true champions!

- SD

Monday, June 19, 2006

Western States runners, this Mai Tai is for you!

I wanted to give a shout out to all you Western States runners, and wish you the best of luck this Saturday. I'll be at a wedding in Hawaii, doing my best to follow the race via webcast in between Mai Tai's.

(Just 100.2 miles to the finish!)

The Auburn Journal noted that there will be 458 starters this year tackling the potentially record-high heat (see article here). Great quotes from Bev Abbs, Alan Abbs, Rena Schumann, and Mark Lantz. With Jurek sitting this one out, the top spot is up for grabs. Alan Abbs summed it up perfectly by saying "A lot of people are going to go out hard thinking this is going to be their year, but it's going to get hot, so we'll see what happens."

(How much do you love your sponsor? As much as Sunsweet's Meghan Arboghast?
Be sure to say 'hi' to Meghan when she passes you at States!)

I would especially like to say "break a leg" to the following Western States athletes/volunteers whom I've met in the last couple of years - Tim Tweitmeyer (going for #25!), John Ticer, Craig Thornley (#5!), Annette Bednosky, Bev and Alan Abbs, Dean Karnazes (#11!), Rena Schumann (#9!), Rick Gaston (#1!), Mark Lantz, Chase Duarte, Gordy Ainsleigh (#21!), Marty and Karyn Hoffman, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Chikara Omine, Kami Semick, Julie Fingar, Eric Blumenau, Graham Cooper, Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson (Go Zombies!), Betsy Nye, Whit Rambach, Greg Soderlund, the Klein's, Simon Mtuy, Catra Corbett (first ever double-Western States!), and the many, many others.

You've clocked your miles - now go out there and have a great race!

May the trail spirits be with you,


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Always on The Run - An Interview with Mark Lantz

If you’ve ever raced an ultra in California, odds are two things have happened. First, you probably raced with Mark Lantz. Second, he probably cheered for you as you crossed the finish line because (a) he’s that kind of guy, and (b) he finished waaaay ahead of you. This 40-year-old cyclist-turned-ultrarunner from Galt, CA, is known for his ability to turn in solid performances while racing dozens of times each year, making him a known fixture in the California ultra community. In 2004, he beat out a highly competitive field to win the PA/USATF Senior Open Championship (7 races, including 2nd overall at the Rio del Lago 100-miler). In 2005, he celebrated turning 40 by logging 10+ ultras and winning the Fuel Belt Series Men’s Overall along the way.

(Mark Lantz at the 2005 Skyline 50k; photo courtesy of Will Uher and Ken Gregorich)

His 2006 season is already on fire, including fourth overall at the Jed Smith 50k, sixth overall at the American River 50-miler, 4th Mens Masters at the Miwok 100k, third overall at the Quicksilver 50-miler, and 2:52 marathons at both the Napa Marathon and Boston Marathon. And that’s just in the last three months! By delivering consistent results so early in the season, he holds a healthy lead in the 2006 PA/USATF Masters Championship.

I caught up with Mark (figuratively, of course) to ask him a few questions.

First, congratulations on a great season so far! How is it you are able to race so much in a single season?

Thanks, Scott. I’m fortunate to have maintained an injury-free season by taking a couple of days off per week to recuperate. Entering races is part of my training plan, because it ensures I train at a fast pace. When I enter races, I don’t feel guilty taking days off prior to and after races for taper and recovery.

I understand that you were a competitive cyclist for many years before getting into ultrarunning. Can you tell us a bit about that? What led to the transition?

Yes, I spent a few years racing Cat 3 (Category 3) and really enjoyed the sport. I was part of a small local group that began our own team (Team Murlock). We had a couple of outstanding sprinters, so I was either the lead-out guy or the climber in the hilly road races.

A job change led to a significant commute and put the kybosh on the amount of training required for competitive cycling, so I started running a couple of years later. A neighbor at the time ran marathons, and he encouraged me to run the San Francisco Marathon for my 35th birthday. That was really the beginning of my distance running.

(Mark Lantz on his way to an age group win at the 2006 Ohlone 50k)

Have you always been an athlete?

I guess you could say that, with the exception of a few years during college. Prior to college, I played year-round soccer for several years. That had led to burn-out, but I began cycling shortly after I graduated.

What is it that you enjoy about running? What motivates you to keep at it?

During the week, I enjoy the quiet solitude of an after-work run. On the weekends, I look forward to running with friends and team mates especially my fiancée, Rena.

My biggest motivation for running is to find the limits of speed and endurance and to socialize and enjoy the company of others who enjoy the sport as much as I do. It’s satisfying to see my times improve based on experience and on the hard effort I put into my training.

You seem to do a bit of everything – road marathons, 50k’s, 100-milers – which do you like best?

That is difficult to answer because each race may be different in distance, but they each have their own unique venue and character that contributes to a great race. For example, the New York Marathon is about as opposite of an Ultra as can be, due to the number of participants and spectators and the venue. Running through the boroughs is amazing, because it epitomizes the cultures on which our country was founded. Conversely, I have run for hours during a 100-miler without a trace of other runners, I’ve appreciated the solitude and inner struggle that one can overcome alone. I like the variety of competing in every distance.

Do you use pacers in the longer races?

Yes, I definitely need a pacer in the 100's and for more than just safety. Pacers who have run with me have added to the enjoyment of the race. With encouragement, my pacers have helped me get through tough stretches. I’ve always had very good friends with compatible character accompany me. I can’t imagine running the late miles of a hundred without a pacer.

Any goals (performance or new races) for 2006?

Well, nothing unusual. I would like to get through the season healthy and take a shot at a 2:46 marathon in the fall/winter. If I can improve my 2005 Western States time, I would be very pleased as well.

If you don’t mind, can I ask a few training questions? First, what does a typical I training week look like for you (mileage, types of workouts, etc.)? Does it vary seasonally?

Sure. I try to stay flexible on mileage and run how I feel as opposed to making any kind of regimented schedule. Generally, I like to stay at 70+ miles a week and throw in a long run of at least 2 ½ hours and a tempo run during the week. I also try to back off twice a year for a couple of weeks to gain better mental perspective and generate new goals.

Do you cross-train regularly, or mostly stick to running?

I have never been much on cross-training unless I am injured. I have always believed in specificity, and I generally stick to running.

You are known for being able to bring your “A game” week after week. How are you able to recover so quickly from an ultra? Any tips you can share?

I didn’t think I was known for anything! I do seem to recover well after most efforts and I think an occasional ice bath as well as a healthy diet contributes significantly. I listen to my body, and if I need to, I take an extra day off. I wish I could say I recover well due to plenty of sleep, but I am rarely rested come race day. I’d like to work on that.

What are your favorite foods/snacks?

Food is the reward for all of our running, right? I have a real weakness for Mexican and Italian food, and during the week I frequently indulge in veggie pizza! And with the exception of fish, I cut all other meat out of my diet. I don’t really snack except on energy bars, if those count as snacking.

(Dom and Wode Repta from BC, Canada chill with Mark Lantz after the 2006 Miwok 100k)

Any tips you would like to share for somebody doing their first ultra? How about their first 100-miler?

Consistent with most seasoned runners, I’d advise first-time ultra runners of all distances to start slow and listen to your body. Make sure you’ve figured out which foods work best for you before the race and not during. Trust me, I have had weak moments and tried new foods during a low point and it has almost always made my condition worse. It’s rare to stumble on the right food combinations during a race.

Do you have any long-term goals you would like to share?

I would like to finish sub-24 at Western States 10 times for the 1,000 mile buckle if the old body can hold up that long!

Thanks for a great interview!

- SD

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bernie Boettcher wins 10K at 8,000 feet (Vail Daily News)

The never-slowing Bernie Boettcher won the 2006 10k at 8,000 feet in Vail, CO this weekend in 44:22, with Helen Cospolitch claiming the women's title in 52:00.

(Bernie Boettcher, photo courtesy of La Sportiva)

Apparently they had some trail marking issues, with many of the front runners getting lost along the way. I don't feel so bad about getting lost at the Overlook 50k now. ;-)


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pushing the limits: Athletes drawn to ultramarathons (Marin Independent Journal)

Mike Sweeney and Dean Karnazes are featured in a great article about ultra events in the Marin Independent Journal. Mike is interviewed during the Ruth Anderson 100k, where he placed third overall. Journalist Rick Polito does a great job of getting into the heads of ultra athletes to find out why endurance sports are growing in popularity.

(Mike Sweeney at the 2005 Badwater Ultra; photo courtesy of Luis Escobar)

One of my favorite quotes from sports pyschologist Joel Kirsch -
"That more people are being inspired and more people are "doing things that have never been done before" is to be expected. "More" is part of the human condition. "I think its part of the species to ratchet it up," Kirsch says.
Be sure to check it out when you have a chance.

- SD

Monday, June 05, 2006

Beating the Heat at The Overlook Run 50k

Last Saturday, I joined about 60 other runners for the Overlook Run 25k/50k in Auburn, CA. Known for its neighborly atmosphere and good heat training on the Western States Trail, the Overlook Run is a favorite among the locals. It is also the first race in the 2006 Series. I had been eager to try a "hot run" this year, but so far had a lucky streak of perfect running weather at the Boston Marathon, American River 50, Miwok 100k, and even the Ohlone 50k. The Overlook Run certainly delivered on the heat, and turned out to be a bigger challenge than I had expected.

(The American River valley, photo courtesy of DerBilly)

The Overlook Run is casually organized, much like a local fun run. There are no race packets, no t-shirts, no starting/finish line, no maps, and race numbers are printed on plain paper. The aid stations, however, are fine-tuned machines fully stocked with food, water, and experienced volunteers. Although it may feel like there isn't much "support", it's there where you need it.

I arrived at the start around 6:15am, and it was already in the low 70's with the sun peeking over the hills through a clear sky. This was certainly going to be a warm day, particularly for those that would take 6-8 hours to finish. Some of the locals let me know it would "hit 90-95 degrees easy by 1 pm". Whoa! My coastal-trained body wasn't sure how to prepare for heat like that. I tossed a few extra sunscreen samplers, bandanas, and Endurolyte tablets in my fanny pack just in case.

Race Director Laurette Fox got our attention and briefly talked us through the course, and before we knew it, we were off! After a mile of downhill single track, the course opened up on a wide section of the Western States Trail. Brian Ashton, John Olsen, and Bev Abbs set the pace up front, and about a dozen of us spread out in small groups behind them.

About four miles in, we reached the first aid station. They let us know we were about to do a 7 mile loop and sent us down some single track under No Hands Bridge. The poison oak was rampant and unavoidable, reaching out at chest level in big, sweaty branches. We did our best to help each other through it, but as one runner said, "it's going to be hard to hide a break out at work on Monday". I know I've looked like a human creme brulee after many races, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

(No Hands Bridge, photo courtesy of TheOtherOne)

The single track was short-lived, and we soon found ourselves on a long, steady climb on a paved road. It took me a few minutes to realize we had just passed Clementine Resevoir, and that this was the same road as the bike section of the World's Toughest Half Ironman. Knowing this, I paced myself for the 2 mile climb, running along with Marty Hoffman and Troy Limb. The sun rose higher in the sky, raising the temperature quickly (my watch read 83 degrees), but the thick trees gave us a good amount of shade right to the top. We took a single track trail down the hill, and I saw Alan Abbs and a few others about 5-6 minutes ahead of us.

We completed the loop and came back to No Hands Bridge (mile 11.5). Ahead of us was a climb up to Cool, CA (similar to sections of Way Too Cool) and most of us began loading ice into our water bottles to cool our hands. Marty and Troy had a good pace going, but I was feeling strong enough to run the steeper uphills to try and catch Alan. Despite my faster pace, I ran solo to the Cool aid station (mile 15) and didn't see hide nor hare of anyone. They told me I was about 3.5 minutes behind Alan, so at least I was making ground.

The volunteers at Cool filled me up with ice and salted potatoes, and pointed me to the next loop across an exposed field. It was the same trail as the beginning of the Auburn Marathon, so I figured I knew where to go. Such fun to see familiar trails in a new way! The volunteers said "see you in an hour or so" and I headed out. Right as I hit the trail, another runner was coming in - boy, he was making good time! He called out to me and let me know that he hadn't see a single trail marking and suspected he had cut the loop short.

After running for a mile or so, I ran into Tim Twietmeyer who was out on a bike ride. He told me the toughest part of navigating this loop was to "stay left at the bog". Got it! Just as he mentioned, I ran into a big bog about two miles later. I looked around for a trail, but all I saw was one trail along the right side of the bog. I ran along it and it forked just after the bog, so I went left assuming that's what Tim meant. But 20 minutes later, I found myself coming down the same wrong path as the previous runner. Darn.

I walked up the aid station to a lot of "I know, I know....there seems to be a course marking problem" and they mentioned that short of the first three runners, everyone else had taken the same wrong turn. They sent me on a "make up loop" by telling me to run down a trail for a mile, then take a right and catch up to the others.

(Looking down on the American River, photo courtesy of DerBilly)

At this point, my mind started to turn on me. Does this mean I just DNF'd? If so, maybe I should just stop and have a beer and pizza at the Cool Pizzeria. No, I thought, at least finish the race. But even as I jogged down the "make up loop", I couldn't get my spirits up to go hard. I found a trail about a mile down the road and took a right, only to plop out on a trail right next to the three leaders. As glad as I was to be back on course, it was clear that I had cut the course by at least 2-3 miles. My heart sunk.

What to do now? Well, it certainly wasn't right to stick with the front pack, so I figured I would run the course backwards until I ran into Alan Abbs, Marty Hoffman, or some of the others I was close to. At least that way I wouldn't be cutting ahead of somebody else, even if my time was all messed up. I backtracked for about ten minutes, jogging with each runner I met to see if they had gotten lost...and they had all gotten lost. Before too long, Alan Abbs and Jeff Kolak came up the hill saying they had also done a "make up loop" as well. Jeff said, "it kinda sucks the wind out of ya, huh?" I agreed, and turned around and paced after them.

Alan was running strong (capping a 130 mile week), and put some distance between us. Jeff wasn't letting him out of his sight though. They gapped me, and I arrived at the Cool aid station as they were heading off. The volunteers told me that the order of runners at check-in had been consistent before and after the mix up, so at least the order was right. Some runners were still coming in the wrong way, so it was hard to say. I was determined to finish one way or the other, so I slapped on some sunscreen and headed back down to No Hands Bridge.

At my last crossing of No Hands, my watch read 92 degrees. It was HOT!!! I know this is somewhere around mile 70 for Western States, so the conditions would be similar. It's hard to imagine. The volunteers at the last aid station took great care of me, and were generous with the sponges. They pointed out a few waterfalls and streams along the last 3.7 miles that were good for head-dunking. With that, I headed off.

In the last few miles, the heat really started getting to me. I felt a little woozy, and my muscles began to twitch involuntarily (cramps coming on?). The stale air felt like a hot compress on my face, and I became disoriented, wondering why I hadn't seen anybody for the last half hour. I had trouble doing the math in my head about how much water I had drank. Gordy Ainsleigh ran by (or did he?) and hollered "Just a few more miles! Keep going!" I took some extra salt, gushed it down with some extra water, and slowed to a walk/run. But it was too little, too late. My toes cramped hard when I walked, and my quads cramped when I ran, so all I could do was alternate as the cramps traded off. The last mile felt like an eternity.

As I shuffled to the finish, every finisher ahead of me was laying out in the shade enjoying hot dogs, chips, and ice cold drinks. A nice breeze kept the heat at bay, and a man-made canal across the parking lot gave us a spot to soak our legs and get our core temp back to normal. Within 20 minutes of sitting, eating, and drinking, my cramping had receded to a minor annoyance. We all chatted about the race, and how everyone's Western States preparation was going. Apparently injury was taking out many competitors this year, including Andy Jones-Wilkins (IT band injury) and last years women's winner Annette Bednosky (hamstring injury). Most of the Overlook Run finishers preparing for States looked pretty good, and were excited to began their taper.

[6/12/06 Note - Andy Jones-Wilkins reports he is recovering nicely, and plans to race Western States this year. Awesome!]

John Olson had won the race after pacing with Bev Abbs up until the last two miles, then sprinting ahead to finish in 4:36. Bev Abbs got second overall in 4:40, handily winning the women's division and taking 14 minutes of last years time. Alan Abbs held strong to finish just under 5 hours. I finished in 7th place, coming in at 5:08, although with a questionable total race distance.

This was a good learning race for me. I had never experienced cramping in a race, and it gave me a newfound respect for those trying to get back on track when it hits. It's also clear to me why so many people want heat training before States - if you looked like me in a 100-miler, you most likely wouldn't make it to the end. Lastly, just because no maps are provided is not an excuse to not familiarize yourself with the course. Even with instructions from multiple parties and familiarity with many sections from previous races, I still managed to get lost. Worst of all, in the confusion and cramps, I had forgotten to take a single picture.

Still, it was great to see everyone and wish them well before States. My thanks to the RD's and volunteers for braving the heat to put on this race. I guess I'll just have to chalk this one up to character building. ;-)

- SD

[PS - Results haven't been posted yet; I will add a few more names once they are. I'm taking a few weeks break from racing, but if you have a race report you would like to post, let me know!]

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Master of the Western States 100 - An Interview with 25-Time Finisher Tim Twietmeyer

Did you know there is a special Western States belt buckle for 20-time finishers? So far only two runners have braved the tough 100-mile race for two decades -– founding runner Gordy Ainsleigh (20 finishes), and 25-time finisher and 5-time winner Tim Twietmeyer. Since 1981, Tim has been clocking sub-24 hour finishes at States, with a best of 16:51 (1994) and a Masters record of 17:17 in 2001. In 2005, he and Dean Karnazes even finished the course in the dead of winter. Tim has also raced over 100 other ultras, and was the first ultrarunner to tour the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in less than two days. Even with three teenage kids, a wife of 20 years, and a full-time product development manager job with Hewlett-Packard, Tim finds the time to train and consistently bring his "‘A"’ game to the starting line, no matter how much snow, hot canyons, or rain awaits him.

(Tim Twietmeyer at the 2001 Western States)

I caught up with Tim to hear about how the Western States has changed, share any tips, and see what is in his future.

From what I hear, you quickly went from "running"” to "running 100's" when you were still in your early 20'’s. The sport was so small then - how was it that you found this passion?

Just as I became a runner, I read some articles about Western States (WS). Those articles piqued my interest. One day after completing my work at the local country club (I worked as a caddy), I stopped by the local high school track to watch a 24-hour track race. That'’s what really hooked me. I got to watch some running legends like Dick Collins, Ruth Anderson, Don Choi, and others. They made it look easy. I watched intently and tried to learn as much as I could from watching them. I was particularly fascinated by Dick Collins as he didn't look like a prototypical runner but he rarely left the track and accumulated a ton of miles. He was also very accommodating and answered all my questions (like "why are you eating that", "why did you change your shoes" and "what'’s with the bowl of aspirin on your crew table"). The next year (1979), while off between my junior and senior years of college, I ran my first ultra. That was my qualifier for WS (finishing a 50-miler) and that started me on my way to WS. I ran my first WS in 1981.

You'’ve probably seen a lot of changes in ultra running over the last two decades. How has it changed, and specifically for Western States?

The most noticeable difference is the advancement of equipment and knowledge to help everyone finish the race. Back in '81, the course wasn'’t marked until race day. Training on the course was a real problem. Now the trail is marked almost year-round, there'’s a three-day training camp to see the course, and the Web site has many years of split times and a ton of information on how to get through the race.

One other big change is the aid stations and the medical advancements to get a runner through the event. The aid stations have just about everything now including really good replacement drinks, gels, salty foods, and just about everything else. Back in the day, the aid stations had things like lemonade, tea, and ERG (which tasted really bad). Now we've got things like Succeed caps, E-caps, GU, and the ever-present boiled potato with salt.

What are your best and worst memories of Western States? Have you ever DNF'd?

By far my worst memory was 1982, my second year in the race. I'd finished in '81 in about 22 hours and had a good training season. Unfortunately, I goofed on the eating and drinking part of the race and got sick starting in Michigan Bluff and continuing all the way through Auburn Lake Trails. At one point I was down 11 pounds from my starting weight and spent over an hour lying in the aid station at White Oak Flat. I ended up finishing the race, but not after a very trying march from Green Gate to ALT. At one point I told my dad, who was pacing me, that if a motorcycle or horse came by on trail patrol I was done and I'd take a ride home. Thank goodness that ride never came.

My best memory at WS would be my first win in 1992. I'd finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th the previous three years, so it didn'’t look like I was heading in the right direction to win the race. In 1992 everything came together and I was able to break through and win the race. It was also the fastest time I'’d run on the course by fifteen minutes, so it was a really good run. Although '92 was extremely satisfying, 1995 (when there was 20 miles of snow and 107-degree temperatures) was the most interesting. My best run was probably in 2001 when I ran 17:17 and broke the over-40 course record. Everything went perfect that day.

To date, I haven't DNF'd at WS.

(Tim and his rather well-endowed pacer cut through Foresthill)

Have you changed your training/nutrition/gear much over the years?

I've changed everything - it's like night and day. In 1981, there were no Gu or Cytomax or Succeed caps. The aid stations were farther apart and there weren't any nice fanny packs or hydration systems. I think Doug Latimer had the only quality water-carrying system when he wore the Boda-belt. Most of the runners carried their water in syrup bottles. In 1981, the aid stations had a fraction of what they have today and most of the stuff we have now is well understood on why it'’s there and what it can do for you.

Today, the options are much more scientific and it's more a matter of preference. One other thing that'’s really helped is there's a ton more information available now, both on the products and why they help you and also details on the course itself. All that helps make it easier to complete a difficult run.

Of course, I still rely on thee of my favorite foods at WS. That would be M&M's, Code Red Mountain Dew, and Mother's Iced Raisin and Animal cookies.

Have you always used a pacer? Who have been some of your favorites over the years?

Most often I use a pacer, and if I can't find a human pacer, I use my electronic pacer - an MP3 player. I really enjoy listening to music on the trail, particularly in the middle of the race when we're grunting our way through the canyons. It keeps me from thinking about where I am in the race and how many miles I have left to run.

My older sister (Susan) paced me the first year and that was great. She'd never seen the trail and was getting a bit freaked out when I'd shine my light into the bushes when something scurried off the trail. She wasn't interested in knowing what was lurking about. My dad paced me in some of my earlier years, but now I'’m faster and he'’s slower and our paces don'’t overlap.

When racing in the top-ten, my best pacers have been guys that keep me focused. There have been a bunch over the years, and they're good at keeping me positive with some random encouragement, while also blending in a joke or two. They're also not afraid to tell me to "shut-up and run" when it'’s needed. Most of my pacers have been good friends that know running well or have run the race like Ernie Flores, Phil Penna, Randall Fee, and Brian Hacker.

(Like father, like son - Tim and Austin Tweitmeyer at the 2005 Western States)

What advice would you give someone about to run the Western States for the first time?

Leave your watch at home. The first time at WS it'’s very easy to get caught up in all the energy and hype around the race. That tends to carry over into the race and some early strategy mistakes are common.

The best training is to pace someone the year before planning to run the event. Along with that, attend the Memorial Weekend training camp. It's extremely important to see the course before the race.

I see that you're also a 26-time finisher of the American River 50. Any tips you would like to share about the course?

American River is an interesting course. Most local people don'’t like it because of the bike trail. We run it all the time and it can get boring as it'’s mostly flat. Personally, I'd rather be on the trail, but the bike trail is about as good as it gets if you have to be on pavement.

The people that run the best at AR are those that save some power and energy for the trail between Granite Bay and Rattlesnake Bar. It'’s a very choppy, rocky, rooted ten miles of trail that take a lot of focus. There are no long climbs or grades, but the trail twists and turns and it's very difficult to get momentum. There's just a lot of starting and stopping, and after running a 30, not too many runners are strong to push through all that irregularity.

Of course, the finish is always a thrill. It'’s more than three miles and mostly all uphill. After running 47 miles it would be nice to have a downhill finish, but this is one of the toughest. Over the years, I'’ve seen some real horror stories on that road climb where people were cramping and having a hard time making forward progress. It doesn'’t help that you can see the finish line with over a mile and a half to go.

The good part is that there will be 500 other runners out there to share the trail with, so you'’ll definitely have some company for the misery.

You were recently elected as the President of the Western States Association. What does that entail? Will you be running the race again in 2006?

My role as president is mostly in planning and running the board meetings. Those meetings are where most of the decisions are made about how the event is managed as well as where all the government, community, and trail discussions take place. The WS 100 is a year-round effort as we spend a lot of the fall working on non-race activities like trail maintenance, meetings with the US Forest Service, and California State Parks people, talking with sponsors, discussing medical studies and procedures, and making small changes to the event (like this year with the new trail). I also work with Greg Soderlund, the WS race director, on some of the tactical issues of the race (radio communications, river crossing logistics, sweep riding, etc).

I'’m planning to run in 2006 although that'’ll be my last run at WS for awhile, maybe ever (note - Tim finished the 2006 WS 100 in under 24 hours, his 25th sub-24 hour finish). In 2007, I want to work the race and see the event from the administration side. I'’d like to spend the day with Greg Soderlund, the race director, just to see what goes on behind the scenes.

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

Will you be voting in a new belt buckle for 25-time finishers (ha, ha)?

Nah. I think the standard buckle is plenty of reward for finishing and so does Runner'’s World as they voted it the best running award of any event. (Note: Tim was presented with a 25-time finisher buckle at the 2006 WS 100)

A few quick questions about your training. What does a typical training week look like for you? Do you do any races outside of WS and the AR50?

When I'm training hard for something like WS, I'’ll run a 50-mile training run or race every three or four weeks. On average, I'm putting in somewhere between 60 and 80 miles and probably close to half of that mileage on one day on the weekend. My biggest month in my career was a May training for WS and I put in 350 miles. I've never been a really high mileage guy, but I never get too far out of race shape.

Over the years, I've run a bunch of other races. I've done a bunch of Cool races (Way Too Cool and Canyon Crawl). I'’ve run a whole bunch of Cal 50's. As for 100's, I've done Leadville, the Eagle in Canada, and the Tour of Mont Blanc (155K) once. I'’m planning to go back to Mont Blanc later this year.

What are your favorite foods/snacks? I heard somewhere that you go the last 20 miles of WS on nothing but flat coke and M&MÂ’s -– is that true?

Yes, in general that'’s true. Occasionally I'll choke down a cup of soup at one of the later aid station, but mostly I alternate between Coke and Code Red Mountain Dew. I just have a hard time getting much food down the hatch after about 70 miles. Those two things (soda and M&M'’s) seem to be enough to keep the boiler happy and get me to the finish line.

Do your wife or kids enjoy endurance sports too?

No, my wife is looking forward to my retirement from Western States. Occasionally we joke about Western States as being "the other woman". My youngest son, Austin, takes the most interest in my running. He's more of a mountain biker, but he enjoys being on the trail as much as I do. He's paced me through Foresthill and will run with me from Robie this year.

(Tim and his son, Austin, taking the hills at the 2005 Western States)

How do you keep a balance between your passion for ultras, family, and work?

It's an ongoing battle to find the right balance. Since I’'ve never been a high mileage guy, I have been able to stay home a bit more. I try not to get too far out of shape so that I don't have to invest a bunch more time getting tuned back in. I discussed this with a colleague one day and he (Max Baucus, US Senator) had the best description as he called it the Domestic Tranquility Index. Sounds like a government calculation, but it generally describes the bank you have available to leave the family for a 10-hour training run. The index goes way down until you take everyone out to dinner or bring home flowers.

Thanks for a great interview, and best of luck in your 25th Western States!


PS - Tim is sponsored by North Face, and you can find another great interview with him on their site. He also did a podcast interview with EnduranceRadio in Nov, 2005.