Sunday, December 30, 2007

Planning My 2008 Race Season

It's that wonderful time of year again - time to look at the cornucopia of ultras, triathlons, and marathons available in 2008 and plan my season! I get such satisfaction out of seeing a whole year of races planned out. As I mentioned last year, a full schedule is proof that I'm choosing to live in this world instead of on it. Each race is a guaranteed adventure for the heart, mind, and soul.

(On the TRT this summer, where I hope to get back)

For 2008, I'm feeling the need to train specifically for my anchor race (the Western States 100) for the first half of the year, and leave the second half of the year flexible. I think that will give me a good checkpoint to look at where I'm at in various Series points rankings, take into account that I might need a break, or want to do some tri's as a change of pace. I've also tried to leave some space in for other races that might pop up.

Here's my tentative schedule for 2008:

1/13 - Angel Island 25k, Marin, CA - This should be a great setting for pictures and a fun way to kick off the new year. I will still be in my "aerobic phase" of my training, but variety is always good. I can also put some points on the board for the new Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) Race Series, which looks like a lot of fun. The Pacifica 50k on 1/19 is also a lot of fun - if my schedule (and wife) permits, than maybe that one too.

2/2 - Woodside 50k, Woodside, CA - My hometown course, and I have serious bridesmaid karma on this one (three second place finishes in three tries). Perhaps I can break my streak!

3/8 - Way Too Cool 50k, Cool, CA - One of the classics, and shares some trail with the Western States 100. I should be about a month into my speed training, so this will be a good checkpoint race. It will be good to catch up with everyone too. It's also a points race for the PA/USATF Series (not posted yet, but will be here), which I hope to be focusing on for the year. My last year as an under-40 runner...yikes! And I don't mean "yikes I'm getting old", I mean "yikes those 40-year olds are much faster". ;-)

3/22 - Rucky Chucky 50k, Foresthill, CA - I was pleased to see the Rucky Chucky back for 2008, and enjoyed running it in 2005. This race will give me a chance to cover that section of the Western States trail and know it intimately. ;-) This is also the first race in the 2008 Fuel Belt Ultrarunner. Net Series, which was a lot of fun last year.

4/12 - Diablo 50m, Diablo, CA - What better prep for the WS100 than 13,000+ vertical feet in the blazing sun? This race seemed to work as good training grounds for the likes of Jasper Halekas, Bev Abbs, Caren Spore and others for their summer 100's, plus I have some unfinished business on that mountain that I would like to put to rest. This race should be a good checkpoint to see where my weaknesses are, while still having enough time to adjust the training before WS100.

4/21 - Boston Marathon, Boston, MA - Why? Why not! I love this race, and have the lucky excuse that work takes me there every April. I plan to run it for fun, drink the beer at Heartbreak, get a kiss from the Wellesley girls, etc, etc, plus enjoy a day of watching America's finest female runners at the Women's US Olympic Trials. Race costume optional on both days. ;-)

5/3 - Miwok 100k, Marin, CA - A gorgeous race, and good training for WS100. I'm excited to go back and get more pics! I'm not going to run it super hard, but it will kick off a month of very long runs/races as the peak of my training. Another race for the PA/USATF Series as well.

5/10 - Quicksilver 50m, Almaden, CA - I did the 50k last year, and it was full of hills and heat. Ill take a tip from Graham Cooper and Jeff Riley (top ten finishers at WS100 last year) who did this as part of their States training last year. My legs should be tired from Miwok, so we'll see how I hold up.

5/18 - Ohlone 50k, Livermore, CA - An optional race if I have any legs left after the last two weekends. Heat and hills, and plenty of good pics. Ohlone might even be a fun one to hike!

5/25 - Western States Training Run, Auburn, CA - I plan to do the first training day of the weekend to cover the two tough climbs on the WS100 trail.

6/14 - Santa Cruz 50k, Santa Cruz, CA - One last 50k in the coastal redwoods before beginning my taper. Also in the PCTR Series.

6/28 - Western States 100, Auburn, CA - The anchor race for the year. OMG! It freaks me out just to write it down. My goal is sub-24 hour, but honestly I would be honored just to finish it.

At this point in the season, I'm planning to take a few weeks off and see where my head and heart is at, as well as where I'm at in the various Series competition. If I'm doing well in the PA/USATF Series, than the Headlands 50k and Whiskeytown 50k could be new and fun. The Series would steer me more towards the Sierra Nevada Double Marathon (which would be good to do right for once) and Lake of the Sky, which I loved last year. It I have another 100 in me, then maybe Rio del Lago or the Headlands 100, or try a 24-Hour Race. Or perhaps I will be ready to hit the bike, and do the Donner Lake Tri, Vineman, and/or some centuries. One thing for sure, I will probably make it back to the Helen Klein 50m, which is a points race for both the PA/USATF and Series. And this year, Thanksgiving will likely be at home, so the Quad Dipsea will be back on the schedule.

Whew! I better get crackin' on the training! Let me know if any of you are going to be at these races. I look forward to seeing you there!

Cheers and happy new year, SD

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Trail Running Blog Tag)

Paul Charteris tagged me to look back at 2007 with six quick questions. Sounds like a great way to reflect on the year! If you haven't seen Paul's 2007 summary, be sure to check out his picture of the bear he ran into. Classic! ;-)

(Sophie and Daddy goofing off during the off-season)

1. Most memorable moment on the trails. Boy, that's a tough one. I've had some incredible highs (like crossing the finish at my first hundred at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100) and some devastating lows (the emotional blow up at the Diablo 50k), and each memory is permanently etched into my soul. I guess if I would have to pick a single moment, it would be when I fell at mile 96 at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. I felt every emotion I knew all at one time, my body was in pain, and I thought for sure I was going to DNF. But the calm serenity of the night sky above Lake Tahoe brought me back to reality, and the headlights of other runners reminded me we were all suffering in some way. I ended up taking it one step at a time, and with the help of my Dad, found the finish line. In that moment on the hill, I was convinced that we all have an endless supply of will and courage, you just have to dig deep enough to find it.

2. Best new trail discovered in 2007. That would have to be the stretch of the Tahoe Rim Trail where the Lake of the Sky 33m is held. All this time it was a short drive from my usual Tahoe running spots, but I didn't know it was so beautiful! A wonderful and challenging stretch packed with views that I have been back to twice already.

3. My best performance of 2007. I think that would be the Silver State 50m. It was not only a fast time for me, but I've never felt so good at the end of a 50-miler. I was also really pleased with the pictures which is good blogging karma. ;-)

4. I don't know how I previously survived without...gaiters! I have never really used them before this season, and it didn't take long to see why everybody uses them. Duh.

5. The person I would most like to meet on the trails in 2008. Well, I hope to see a lot of you guys in 2008! But if I could chose just one, it would be Debra Weil, who is making a wonderful recovery from her bike-vs-car accident this Spring (read it here, particularly the comments). I hope to someday see her walking/running the trails and finding a new passion to fill in for cycling.

6. The race I am most excited about for 2008. No surprise, I'm super excited about running the Western States 100 in 2008. It's going to have some big challenge for me - distance, heat, etc. - and I think sub-24 is a reasonable goal. It's actually forced me to schedule a year of "training" instead of racing everything in sight. It should be great!

This is a wonderful time of year for reflection, and for planning the next race season. One of my favorite parts of blogging is being able to go back and relive each adventure, as well as peruse my favorites on other blogs. Here's my Cliff Notes version, should you need some reading:
You know, I always wish I had raced more but looking at 2007 there is nearly 650 miles of races and rides! No wonder is one of my biggest expenses every year. ;-)

Hope you are all having a great holiday!


Oops, almost forgot to tag three bloggers! The following can consider themselves "tagged" and can answer the six quick questions on your blog:

Mark Ultrailnaka
Peter Lubbers

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Scott's Off-Season Training

This is about it for my off-season training - chasing Sophie around the shopping mall. Working on that aerobic base!

Do note I'm throwing in some upper body work at the end. ;-)

I hope y'all are having a great week!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trail Running Calendar for You Last Minute Shoppers

Glenn Tachiyama has updated his popular Trail Running Calendar for 2008, and I would highly recommend it for any trail runners left on your holiday gift to do list. I have enjoyed the 2007 calendar all year with Glenn's fabulous photography and the dates of major ultras marked down to remind me to check results pages.

As was the case last year, proceeds from the calendar will go to the Washington Trails Association, a non-profit that creates and maintains trails in the State of Washington. Buy three of more calendars from ZombieRunner, and you can even get a free pair of Dirty Girl gaiters!

You can click to the order page here.

Cheers, SD

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Uli Steidl Redefines the Ultra Distance (An Interview)

35-year-old Uli Steidl is considered by most to be one of the greatest ultra runners of our time, using his 2:14 marathon speed to clock course records at nearly every event he has entered. His mix of competitiveness and approachability has made him a welcome champion in the ultra community of Seattle, WA, where the Seattle Running Company clan such as Scott Jurek and Scott McCoubrey help him gear his wicked speed for ultra distances. Most of them agree we have yet to see the pinnacle of Uli's capabilities.

Uli started his running career as a teenager in the Bavarian city of Erlenbach, Germany, with top finishes at junior cross country meets (5th place German junior championships, 113th World junior XC championships) and a win at the junior's race of the Mountain Running World Trophy in Zermatt, Switzerland, all in 1991. All this led to a full tuition track scholarship at the (NCAA DI) University of Portland. In the fall of 1992, 2 months before leaving for Portland, he entered his first marathon in Frankfurt (2:25:14). At UP, he was a 6-time NCAA qualifier (12th, 9th and 10th in the 10,000m and 49th, 35th and 16th in cross country). After collegiate competition he continued to run track and cross, but also ventured into marathons, including a 2:17:21 at the Portland Marathon, a course record that still stands. His track and road PRs are as follows:

800m 1:56:03 (1994)
1500m 3:49.61 (1994)
mile 4:12 (indoor, '94 or '95)
3000m 8:03.02 (1998)
5000m 14:04.81 (1995 & 1998)
10000m 28:50.14 (2000)
1/2 mara 65:58 (2005)
marathon 2:13:56 (2000)

As fast as Uli was on the track and roads, few could have predicted the impact he would soon have on the ultra community. Course records fell regularly as he won the Chuckanut 50k in 2002 (3:57, CR) and 2005 (3:43, CR), 2003 Way Too Cool 50k (3:19, CR), White River 50m National Championship 2003 (6:37, CR) and 2004 (6:32, CR), Sunmart 50k 2004 (3:11, CR) and 2005 (3:07:47, CR), 2006 American River 50m (5:58), and the 2007 North Face Seattle 50m (8:17, CR). If you find yourself in an ultra with Uli, you are likely racing for 2nd (unless your name is Matt Carpenter).

Uli recently added $10k to his bank account by winning the 2007 North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50-mile, the largest purse in ultramarathon in the US. I caught up with him over e-mail to find out about the race and his plans for 2008.

(Uli on his way to a win at the 2007 North Face Endurance Challenge; photo courtesy of Greg Innes)

Scott: First, congratulations on your finish at the Endurance Challenge! I read your write up, and it sounds like your course preparation paid off. Can you summarize how the race went for you?

Uli: The very short version is that the first 18 miles were comfortable, the next 26 miles were a hard-fought dual between Matt and I, and the last 6 miles were still physically hard but mentally easy as Matt had dropped back with quad issues. I did travel to San Francisco to preview the course 2 1/2 weeks earlier, and it really paid off as some sections were not well marked and / or some markers were (re-)moved intentionally by someone.

Scott: I understand that Scott Jurek played a part in getting you into ultras. How did that come about?

Uli: In 2000, Scott Jurek won his first of 7 WS 100 titles, and a feature article in Northwest Runner about Scott talked about how he would run up Mt Si three times in a single run, faster than anyone else could do it. No way, I thought! I ran up to the Seattle Running Company where Scott worked at the time and 2 weeks later we were doing a "double Granite Mountain" - for a total of 16 miles and 8000ft of climbing (and descending). I was going to "show this ultra guy what real speed is" and he was going to "show this road runner that speed doesn't mean anything in the mountains". On the second climb I pulled away by about a minute from Scott, and on the last mile of the decent he pulled about a minute away from me. So we both came away from this run with mutual respect for each other and many long training runs together followed.

Scott: I had read that you went to Kenya this year for training in the marathon distance, as part of an intense focus on running and away from your teaching career. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Uli: I did teach 2 years of HS chemistry at Edmonds-Woodway HS from 2004-2006. However, this took so much time that my training was reduced to that of a weekend warrior. I had to make a choice: Do I want to focus on my career or continue to run at an elite level? The decision was aided by 2 things:

My wife Trisha got hired as the head XC and track coach at Seattle University (and a decent jump in salary compared to her previous job), and the fact that my HS principal was a jerk.

My kick-ass wife told me that she though there were a lot more things I could accomplish in the running world, and that years from now I might look back and wonder "What if?" if I decide to quit competitive running.

So we made the decision that I would do three things:
1) Train
2) help her with coaching, recruiting, travel planing, paperwork, etc
3) substitute teach when it works with #1 and #2

Going to Kenya was part of that. Stephen Kiprotich, who we met at the Vancouver Marathon 2005, had invited us to visit him in Kenya. So in December of 2006 we did. For most of the time we stayed at a training camp in Kaptagat, about 20 miles from Eldoret, at 8000 ft. It wasn't one of those training camps for western runners but one where usually only Kenyans train. No running water, no internet, no laundery, no electric stove. And almost every evening ugali for dinner. Kenyans ALWAYS start out easy on every run. When they run easy, they run really slow, like 8:00 - 10:00 minute / mile pace. When they run fast I wasn't able to stay with them for very long. It was a great cultural experience and we also came back in much better shape. We'll probably go back next year.

Scott: It sounds like you are focused primarily on the marathon, but are still throwing in ultra distances. How does your preparation change when focusing on an ultra?

Uli: For me, the training isn't that much different. I have done 40 mile pavement runs as part of my marathon training before, as well as 5 - 7 hour runs with Scott on the trails. In preparation for the Northface 50 miler I did _more_ long runs and less speedwork than what I would do for a marathon.

(Uli @ the 2003 White River 50-mile, photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama)

Scott: Your Web page generously shares your workout logs for the last few years. My first take after glancing through it was there was a substantial amount of long, aerobic-paced runs. Would you consider these the most important part of your training?

Uli: When I'm training for a marathon I usually do one speedwork (5x mile or 20 x 400 or 8 x 1000), one tempo run (e.g. 15 miles at 5:12 pace), and one long run (2:00 - 3:00 hours) per week. Mileage is certainly important, but it's not everything. On the other hand, too much speedwork makes you tired for the race.

(Uli wins his sixth Seattle Marathon, one of eight consecutive wins)

Scott: How many marathons have you run?

Uli: 30 - 35. 13 of them under 2:20. Portland, Pyongyang, Vancouver (4x), Berlin (2x), Toronto, Austin, NYC, Boston, Duesseldorf.

Scott: I once read that you eat "real food" on the longer ultras, like hazelnut strudel. Can you tell us a bit about how you hydrate and eat, both for marathons and ultras?

Uli: Unfortunately, the German bakery that made the hazelnut strudel went out of business. Guess I didn't eat enough! :) On training runs I can eat almost anything. Sometimes I eat a 1200 calorie granola muesli 30 min before the run, and salami & cream-cheese bagels on the run. On "shorter" runs I usually go with one or 2 Carbooms. At the Northface 50 race I ate about 7 or 8 Carbooms, 3 home-made muffins and drank about 2/3 strength Gatorade. In marathons I usually eat one or 2 Carbooms and drink 2/3 strength Gatorade. The amount really depends on the weather.

(Trisha and Uli at the 2007 North Face Endurance Challenge; photo courtesy of Greg Innes)

Scott: Your wife, Trisha, is also an accomplished runner (they respectively won the Men's and Women's Overall at the Seattle Marathon in 2006). What's it like having two elite runners in the same household? Any chance she will be joining you in ultras?

Uli: Actually, Trish has run 3 ultras already. She finished second to Nikki Kimball at the 2003 White River 50 in her first 50-mile race, followed by a second place and a win at the Chuckanut 50k. However, to me her most impressive ultra performance came on a 7 hour training run with Scott and me. I had gone on a few long runs with Scott earlier in the spring when Trish said she wanted to come as well. I was a little skeptical as she had not done anything longer than 3 hours all year. We did a Cougar - Squak - Tiger - Squak - Cougar combination with about 8000ft of climbing at a decent pace. When Scott dropped it to close to 6:00 min pace on the last, flat mile Trish just stubbornly hung on all the way to the end.

Right now Trish has other running priorities than ultras. But she'll run another one eventually.

Scott: I recently signed up for the Way Too Cool 50k and saw your 3:18 course record - I thought it had to be a misprint! Would you consider that your strongest ultra performance?

Uli: No, the 3:18:17 is not a misprint. I was in very good shape then, the trail was in superb shape after 3 weeks with no rain, the weather was great. I wanted to break the record (which I thought was necessary to win given Dave Mackey was running) and I didn't know the course. It turned out that the course was shorter than I anticipated, so I broke the record by a large margin (13 min). Especially the last "1.7" miles (including the rather significant climb after Hwy 49 crossing) in 9:00 minutes? I don't think so. Even if Greg (Soderlund) doesn't want to hear it, Way Too Cool is short. Maybe a mile or two.

I did beat Mackey by 18 and Scott Jurek by 23 minutes that day. I recall Ian Torrence arguing with some guys from Colorado about the pre-race predictions. The Colorado folks were telling him that they think Dave Mackey would win. Ian said something like: "I've run with Uli. He's here. He's running. End of discussion." I myself didn't have that much confidence in me, but I also never raced against Mackey before, and Ian had.

Scott: What inspires you to run and train?

Uli: I love running - most of the time. I don't always love training, though. But I know the next race will come and the competition doesn't rest. So I guess the competitive part of me is what keeps me going every day. Running on the Wonderland trail near Mt. Rainier in the summer is something that inspires me.

Scott: What motivates you to race?

There are 3 primary reasons:

1) for time: to see how fast I can run
2) for place: in order to win or finsh as high as I can
3) for money: part of the reason Trish supported me quitting my full-time job was because I would likely win prize money in some races, partly offsetting the loss of income form quitting my full-time job.

A lot of the time it's a combination of the 3 reasons. e.g. at the Northface 50 both Matt and I (and presumably a few others) decided to run because there was $10,000 on the line. That, in turn, brought the level of competition to a whole new level. The finish time was secondary, though in the end I pushed it to stay under 7:00 hours. Reasons 1 and 2 would be enough for me to race, but prize money makes it possible for me to afford to travel to far-away races and run against really good competition. e.g. I ran Chuckanut 50 3 times, and there is no prize money. But I wouldn't have flown to Sunmart (Tx) if they had no prize money.

Scott: What do you enjoy the most about trail running and ultras?

Uli: The scenery is different at each one. White River and the Northface San Francisco are probably the most beautiful courses I've run on. Sunmart probably was the least scenic course. But I like the variety. What has been great at every ultra are the people. The runners, the volunteers, the spectators. 99% of ultra runners are just genuinely nice people.

Scott: Do you think we will see you in the 100-mile distance sometime soon?

Uli: No. But I'm not ruling it out sometime in the future.

Scott: What are your plans for 2008 and 2009? Will we see you tackling more ultras?

Uli: That all depends on how my spring marathon goes. If I do run under 2:13, which I think is rather unlikely, then I'll run another marathon in Beijing in August. If not, there is a good chance I'll run another ultra that summer. I any case, there is a good chance I'll run the Northface race again in December. In 2009 the IAAF world championships are in Berlin, and I definitely want to make the German team again in the marathon. I mean, how much better can it get than representing your native country "at home"? I used the quotation marks since I now consider the US more "home" than Germany. I'm a permanent resident here, I'm married here, and I've been here continously (except for visits) since 1993.

Best of luck with your training, Uli, and thank you for the interview! - SD

Monday, December 10, 2007

2008 USATF Championship Races

The USATF has announced locations of their 2008 Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) Championships on their Web site:

2008 MUT Championships

March 2 – USA 50 km Championship
Caumsett State Park 50 km
Huntington, NY

April 12 – USA 100 km Championship
Mad City 100 km
Madison, WI

June 8 - USA Trail Marathon Championship (pending)
Deadwood-Michelson Trail Marathon
Deadwood, SD

June 21 – USA Mountain Running Championship
Mt. Washington Road Race
Gorham, NH

June 29 – USA 10 km Trail Championship

Steamboat Springs, CO

July 19 – USA 100 Mile Trail Championship
Tahoe Rim 100 Mile Trail Run
Lake Tahoe, NV

July 26 – USA 50 Mile Trail Championship
White River 50 Mile Trail Run
Crystal Mountain, WA

August 16 – USA 100 km Trail Championship
Where’s Waldo 100 km Trail Run
Waldo Lake, OR

October 11 – USA 50 Mile Championship
Tussey Mountainback 50 Miler
Boalsburg, PA

The press release did mention the San Francisco Headlands, so I'm wondering if they forgot the Headlands 50k Trail Championship held in August.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

2008 Way Too Cool Sells Out In Minutes (Again)

Like many of you, I spent this morning at 8am hitting the refresh button on my Web browser hoping to be one of the few to get a WTC 50k slot. I did get it (yeah!), and watched the race fill up within a few minutes. Unbelievable.

I'm personally hoping that some of the fast folks who weren't able to pull a Western States 100 lottery slot this year (that means you, Jasper Halekas, Jon Olsen, Anton Krupicka, and Karl Meltzer) are signed up and ready to get a slot via top 3 finish a Montrail Ultra Cup qualifier. Check the blogs and comments of Anton and Karl to see some of the frustration/conversation among the elites who didn't get in. I've never been so happy to be a two-time loser. ;-)

My 2008 season is slowly shaping (WTC, Boston Marathon, WS100) and I'm already getting giddy for the training! Such a challenge to stay aerobic in my December runs with all the excitement.

For your reading pleasure, some great recent blog interviews:

Tim Tweitmeyer on his Tahoe Rim Trail Record (courtesy of Peter Lubbers)
Michael Kanning, 15-year-old Ultra Phenom (courtesy of Tony Overbay)

- SD

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Long Distance Calling (A Profile on Will Laughlin by Stanford Magazine)

Stanford Magazine (for alumni of Stanford University) did a profile on Will Laughlin and his training for the 155-mile Gobi March and the Desert RATS Spring Ultra. It's an interesting profile, which includes some stats on marathoning and ultras, and even a quote from Dr. Marty Hoffman.

One of my favorite quotes was his recount of DNF'ing at the Leadville 100:

Will’s previous race took place eight months earlier at the Leadville Trail 100, a traverse through the Colorado Rockies between 9,200 and 12,600 feet. Typically, about half the entrants finish. At mile 23, Will sprained his ankle on a rock. Fifty miles later, it took him six hours to trudge 10 miles on his swollen ankle, as he limped from tree to tree. “It was the middle of the night, and someone tried to encourage me by saying, ‘Good job!’” he remembered. “I wanted to say, ‘F--- you, I’m holding onto a tree.’”

Indeed! You can read the whole story here.

- SD

Monday, December 03, 2007

Scenes from the Woodside 50k (Dec, 2007)

I took a walk down my driveway on Saturday and got a few shots of the 270 trail runners braving the cold (and bees, apparently) at the Woodside 50k/35k/17k/10k. Check out all the smiling faces!

If you see your face, you are more than welcome to the photo - just right click and save!

- SD

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Uli Steild, Lizzie Hawker Win North Face Endurance Challenge

Unofficial results of the $10k North Face Endurance Challenge (thanks, Garett!):

1. Uli Steidl (6:57:22)
2. Matt Carpenter (7:10:10)
3. Leigh Schmitt (7:51:06)

1. Lizzy Walker (7:59:55)
2. Jenn Shelton (8:22:19)
3. Bev Anderson-Abbs (8:25:24)

Uli Steidl and Matt Carpenter raced toe-to-toe for 44 miles, before Steidl pulled away to win in 6:57. Matt finished about 13 minutes behind, with Leigh Schmitt (who won the August North Face Endurance Challenge event in DC) about 30 minutes later. Lizzy Walker won by a good margin, despite the fact that she flew in from the UK just a few nights earlier and fell early in the race (the first aid crew recommended she go to the hospital to have her wounds cleaned). She powered on for the win, and is doing well. Phenom Jenn Shelton took second, while Bev Abbs was strong and consistent to take third place .

Official results are posted here.

BTW, congrats to those who got in the Western States 100 lottery! It looks like it's going to be a competitive race, with folks like Chikara Omine, Michael Buchanan, Sean Meissner, Devon Crosby-Helms. Brian Morrison, and Scott Wolfe joining the usual super-fast crew returning from last year. For those who didn't make it in and are looking for another 100, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m (July 19) opened registration today!

- SD

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tackling the Hills of the Santa Barbara 9 Trails 35-miler

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining 100 ultrarunners for the extremely challenging Santa Barbara 9 Trails 35-miler. This beast climbs over 10,500 feet in an out-and-back course through the hills of Santa Barbara, CA, presenting a perfect way to melt off any pounds left over from the Thanksgiving feast. The weather was perfect, the volunteers were awesome, resulting in an epic day. But I haven't been able to get down a flight of stairs w/o handrails since. ;-)

Race Director Luis Escobar gave us the run-down as the sun came up, providing plenty of tips and warnings (he would know - he has finished this race like 14 times or so). Many strong runners were here to race hard, including Mike Swan (3rd last year), Joe De Vresse (5th last year), ultra-God Guillermo Medina, local triathlete superstar Shigy Suzuki, and NoCal's Ron Gutierrez. The Women's race was anyone's guess - Krissy Moehl, who set the course record last year, was tackling the Quad Dipsea today, and the rest of the field included a number of fast women that could take the race (much in thanks to a strong showing from the Montrail/Nathan team). As a welcome sun came over the hill to warm us up, we charged into the single track on the first climb. Let the fun begin!

“Fun” was exactly my goal for this race. It was my last scheduled ultra for the year, and I wanted to soak in every view, every step, and every smiling face. I ran this race in ’05, and remembered there was little room for blowing up on this course – if a quad or calf gave out, the steep declines would be nearly impossible. Best to take it easy. I wanted to get some good pics, but my camera mysteriously malfunctioned in the morning, so I was using my iPhone again.

(Pushing the limits of the iPhone on the trail, but overall not bad for a mobile phone!)

I found myself around 20th place or so as we “rode the snake”, zig-zagging up the bluffs beyond the shady creek trails. The leading ladies were right in front of me, keeping each other in sight. As we broke out of the trees and into a more technical section, the runners spread out along the trail. It was an odd sensation - you could hear runners all around you through the manzanita on different sections of the switchbacks, but couldn’t see a soul. I caught up to Luis Escobar, who was already fretting about missing course markings even though he had run the course twice this week already! But he was still having a good time.

(Luis Escobar charges the hills...hey, what is that guy in the white doing in the background?)

The first aid station (mile 4) was a quick stop, then we tackled the steep Tunnel Trail. I ran/hiked with Clanci Chiu, a fast 41-year-old woman tacking SB9T for her first ultra. She was doing great! I let her know how impressive it was to do this as a first ultra – I thought for sure it was tougher than many 50-milers. We chugged along at a good pace, with her leading the climbs and me leading the downhills.

(Clanci Chiu crosses over the peak)

By the time we popped out on top of the Rattlesnake Trail (mile 7) at the highest point on the course, the temperature had quickly reached a warm 65 degrees. Clanci took the road section at a fast pace, and I lagged behind her getting some snapshots of the gorgeous view. We hit the party known as aid station 2 (mile 9), where many friends and family had driven up to give support. There was more cheering here than races 5x this size – what a community!

(Tackling the steep downhills)

My quads were already screaming as I charged down the Cold Springs West Fork. I wasn’t the only one – a group of three guys who had charged from the start had slowed significantly to save their legs for the next few sections. I caught up to Kathy Higgins, who had a great pace going although she swears she was taking it easy. I took a wrong turn at the bottom of the trail, but was quickly corrected by a fellow hiker and ran back to pace with Kathy again. She led most of the way, then I broke off again to pick up the pace. After a few minutes solo, I found a great view spot and noticed that all the other runners were going DOWN hill while I was going UP. Darn! Missed another turn! No problem, it all comes with the territory. Plus I got a bonus view!

The turn was an easy one to miss, even though it was well-marked. That’s because this is a crazy connector (read – drainage) trail that takes you through rabbit holes, tunnels, creeks, and all kinds of stuff. I found myself on all fours on a couple of sections! I hit the aid station on the other side (mile 14), where volunteer Jeff Zahn was busy re-marking the course to keep people on track. My bottles were empty (again) – one of the drawbacks of wrong turns – so I drank some extra for the exposed last section.

(A fellow runner cuts through the rabbit hole)

Mile 14-17 is the hardest part of this course, IMHO. The fire roads are so steep that it’s nearly impossible to run up or down them (for me, anyway). I turned off my tunes and focused on my effort, taking short strides and staying upright. The race leaders came blazing the other way around mile 15, with newcomer Teage O’Conner leading the charge about 6 minutes ahead of Mike Swan and 9 minutes ahead of Guillermo Medina. The leading women, Michelle Jensen and Amy Travis, were running close together about 25 minutes back in 10th and 11th place.

(Teague O'Connor sets the pace)

(Mike Swan charging the downhills)

As soon as the turnaround was in sight, I heard “DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!” as Sophie caught my eye. She latched onto me as I walked up (this is becoming a common thing and it just melts my heart every time!), and I knew I was going to have a long aid station visit. We picked out some “naners” and “crackas”, and said hello to Jessica who came up to cheer on her OCTR teammates. Christi handed me her Sony T-3 camera for the way back, and I let her know it would be a good 8-9 hours before I finished. With a few more hugs and kisses, I headed back into the canyon, refreshed and ready!

(Sophie meets Daddy at the turnaround)

I caught up to Clanci as we tackled the steep hills, and she was nursing a sore calf that limited her downhill speed significantly. But she wasn’t giving up yet! A couple of miles later, I caught up to Luis Escobar, Zach Comon, and Andy Kumeda, all of whom were pressing forward through the heat with a few groans. We sighed with relief to get back down into the creek areas of the Cold Spring Trail (mile 24). Hikers and families were everywhere, enjoying a perfect day outside and cheering on the runners.

(A hang glider hovering over us on Gibralter - that definitely is the way to do the downhill!)

The climb up Gibralter was a tough one, accented by empty bottles and a hungry stomach. The volunteers are Aid Station 2 (mile 26) were happy to fill me up with potatoes, M&M’s, and flat coke, giving me a boost to tackle the stretch of road. I walked with Bill Waiz from the Montrail Team, who had signed up for the race a few days earlier and found himself going out too hard, too early. We had a good chat, and I took off down the technical downhill suspecting I would see him again before the finish. Turns out I was right – he and Rob Cowan came by me in the last two miles, pacing strong to the finish (8:24).

(Another well-earned finish!)

I wound down the hill and popped up at the finish in 8:27, good enough for 21st place. As I sipped beer and gorged on the fantastic food, I had learned that 24-year-old Teague O’Conner had won in 6:22 in his first ultra, just holding off Mike Swan (6:35) and Guillermo Medina (6:52). Shigy Suzuki (7:07) and Ron Gutierrez (7:25) rounded out the top five. Michele Jensen won the Women’s division in 8:05, just a few minutes ahead of Amy Travis (8:08) and Kathy Higgins (8:15). Nearly every finisher had some battle scars from the rocks and roots, but big smiles on their faces (particularly when they saw the beer!). It was a tough day, but well worth the effort.

(Barefoot Ted did the whole race in these Vibram FiveFinger shoes and Injinji tsoks - wild!)

I collected my goodies (great t-shirt, akabill amulet) and headed back to catch up with the family. Our new dog, Martha, was happy to clean my salt marks with her massive tongue as I slipped away into a nap with Sophie. The euphoric post-race feeling made me realize that we are only truly alive in the moments our hearts are conscious of the treasures around us, like family, friends, health, and the beauty of nature. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be once a year after all, especially if you can have an epic run on the trails and enjoy all of the treasures in a single day!

Thank you, Luis and fellow volunteers, for helping me find that place again.

(Martha looks forward to licking you someday soon)

Happy Thanksgiving!

- SD

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Greg Crowther, Roy Pirrung, Nikki Kimball, and Beverly Anderson-Abbs Named 2007 USATF Ultrarunners of the Year

This just in:

November 26, 2007

2007 MUT Awards Winners: Runners of the Year and Contributor of the Year

The Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Council of long distance running has chosen the 2007 USATF Mountain Runners of the Year, Ultrarunners of the Year, and Contributor of the Year. The following will receive their awards at the annual USATF National Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii on Saturday, December 1 at an awards breakfast.

Rickey Gates, 26, Boulder, CO, is the mountain runner of the year. This is the first time Gates has received this award. He had a stellar year winning the USA Mountain Champs and USA Trail (10km) Champs on back-to-back weekends in June, and made his second consecutive Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. Gates raced extensively on the European Mountain Running Circuit this past summer with his best finish, a fourth place at the WMRA Grand Prix event Grossglockner in Austria. He finished 57th at the World Mountain Running Trophy as part of the ninth-place U.S. team.

Simon Gutierrez, 41, Alamosa, CO, is a repeat winner of the masters mountain runner of the year honors. Gutierrez made his sixth consecutive Teva U.S. Mountain Team with his second place finish at the USA 10km Trail Championships in Steamboat Springs where he won the masters title. He was first master at the Mount Washington Road Race where he finished in third position overall. He was the overall winner at the La Luz Hill Climb. He won the WMRA World Masters Mountain Running Championships in Bludenz, Austria in September, one week after the World Mountain Running Trophy where he placed 65th. He works at the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center as an outpatient manual /orthopedic physical therapist and works closely with the Adams State men's and women's cross country and track teams.

Christine Lundy, 37, Sausalito, CA, is the women’s mountain runner of the year. Lundy was the USA Trail Champion at Steamboat Springs, CO, and with the win made her third consecutive Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. She placed second at the USA Mountain Championships, was first at the NACAC Mountain Running Championships, and finished seventh at the Mt Obudu Mountain Race (Nigeria). Lundy placed eighth and was the second scoring team member for the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team at the World Mountain Running Trophy and with her teammates won the gold medal for the second year in a row. Lundy also directed the Mt. Tam Trophy Race which served as the final mountain team selection race. She is a veterinarian in San Francisco.

Anita Ortiz, 43, Eagle, CO, is the masters mountain runner of the year having also won the award in 2004. As the USA Mountain Running Champion, Ortiz made her record fifth Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. This mother of four was also the overall female champion at the very competitive Teva Mountain Games 10Km in Vail, and was the masters USA 50 Mile Trail Champion at White River 50 Miler. Ortiz is an elementary school teacher and serves on the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Council.

Greg Crowther, 34, Seattle, WA, is the ultrarunner of the year. Crowther was the USA National 50km Champion setting a course record of 3:04:35. He was the USA 100km Road Champion running 7:14:31, placed second at Miwok 100km trail, finished in eleventh place to score for the bronze-medal winning USA 100km Team at the IAU World Cup in The Netherlands running 6:52:52, first place and course record at Bridle Trails 50km, and first place at SunMart 50 Miler in 5:37:36. Crowther is on the faculty at the University of Washington, where he is acting lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He graduated from Williams College in Vermont in 1995 with a degree in biology and earned a Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics from the University of Washington.

Roy Pirrung, 59, Sheboygan, WI, is the masters ultrarunner of the year. Pirrung dominated his age group in most every race he entered. He finished 1st at the 24-hour national championships, second at Sunmart Texas Trail Endurance 50-mile, second at the USA 50km Road Championships, first at the USA 100km National Road Championships in an American Record time, first at the Ice Age Trail 50 miler, second at the USA 100km National Masters Trail Championships, fourth at the USA 50km Trail Championships, third at the IAU World Cup Masters 100km Road event, breaking his own American Record, and was first master at the USA 50 Mile Road Championships and the Door County Fall 50-miler. Pirrung organizes the USA 24 Hour Team and also has been a member of the team for the past six years.. He is a fitness trainer at Sports Core for Kohler Company and is the Vice Chair of the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Council.

Nikki Kimball, 36, Bozeman, MT, is a repeat winner of the ultrarunner of the year award. Kimball finished first in course record time at the Spokane River 50km Race, finished second at Miwok 100km, first at Western States 100 Miler setting a course record, and finished first in course record time at the Ultra Tour Du Mont Blanc. She was also winner of Mount Masochist. Kimball, like Crowther, is a graduate of Williams College. She is a physical therapist in Livingston, Montana.

Beverly Anderson-Abbs, 43, Red Bluff, CA, is the masters ultrarunner of the year. Anderson-Abbs finished first at the Muir Beach 50km, finished first at the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge, first masters and course record at the Way Too Cool Race, first place and course record at the Pony Express 50km, second place at the Peterson Ridge Rumble, first place and course record at the Diablo 50 Miler, third place at Miwok 100km, first place and course record at the Mt Diablo 50km, second place at Western States 100 Miler, second place at Where’s Waldo 100km, National Champion at the USA 50km Trail Championships, and first place at the Whiskeytown 50km which served as the Pacific Association USATF championship.

Contributors of the Year: The White Mountain Milers Running Club is the Mountain Running Contributor of the Year. The Milers hosted the USA Mountain Running Championships and was very supportive of the USA mountain running program and the USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit. The Mad City 100km Road Race is the Ultrarunning Contributor of the Year. The event, directed by Tim Yanacheck, hosted the USA 100km Road Championships and served as a selection race for the USA 100km Team. The event earned the prestigious designation as a bronze IAU event. Other nominees in the Contributor of the Year category included Running Times magazine, Teva, Windermere Real Estate, Fleet Feet Sports Boulder. Past winners in this category include the American Ultra Running Association, Teva, North Texas Trail Runners, and La Sportiva/GoLite.

In order to be considered for the USATF Mountain and Ultrarunning awards an athlete must show top results in U.S. competitions for 2007 (November 1, 2006 through October 31, 2007) to include mountain races (these may be on paved/gravel surfaces as long as there is significant elevation loss or gain) and trail races of varying lengths, as well as road races for the ultra category (distances beyond the marathon). International results are also considered. The nominee must be an ambassador for the sport. Nominee must be a USATF member for 2007 and to be considered for the masters category, athlete must be a minimum of 40 years of age.

To see the MUT award criteria and the lists of past recipients, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Elites Complete For $10k Grand Prize in The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship This Saturday

$10k each to the male and female winner - the largest prize ever in ultrarunning - at the North Face Endurance Challenge at the Marin Headlands this weekend. Quite a roster of runners! Check out the press release below.

- SD

Elite Endurance Athletes Brace for The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship

World’s top long-distance runners vie for biggest prize purse in trail ultrarunning

San Leandro, CA, November 26, 2007— The North Face Endurance Challenge, a four-region, nationwide running event for outdoor athletes seeking to explore their personal limits, culminates in grand fashion on the Pacific shores north of San Francisco on December 1, 2007. The event, which offers distances of 10K, Half Marathon, 50K, and 50 Miles, is also the series’ championship event, where 50-mile participants will compete for the largest prize purse in trail ultrarunning. The male and female winners will each receive $10,000.

Many of the world’s most elite endurance runners have registered for the event in hopes of going home with the big prize. The entrant list is highlighted by several members of The North Face Endurance Team as well as many other legends of the sport that have never competed toe-to-toe.

Devon Crosby-Helms (San Francisco, CA)
Crosby-Helms, 24, has quickly established herself as one of the up-and-coming elite female endurance runners in the country. In March 2007, she won the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon with a time of 2:52:49. She is also a member of the U.S. Women’s National 100K Team, having finishing 15th overall at the 2007 World 100K Championships in September.

Susie Gray Dyck (Ankeny, IA)
Dyck arrives at this weekend’s Endurance Challenge championship courtesy of her impressive win at the September 1 Des Moines race, where she credits positive energy—and pacing from her dad—for delivering a win in her first-ever ultramarathon. Her time of 8:10:10 was 45 minutes faster than that of her closest competitor.

Elizabeth Hawker (Chester, United Kingdom)
A member of The North Face Endurance Team in Europe, Hawker arrives at the Endurance Challenge Championship just two months after registering a record run from Mount Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu – a distance of 188 miles with over 32,000 feet of climbing and 46,000 feet of descent which she covered in three days, two hours, and 35 minutes. Sporting a unique blend of mountain durability and road-running legspeed, “Lizzy” won gold at the 2006 100K World Championships in Korea and is a past champion of The North Face Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, widely considered the most difficult and prized mountain endurance title on the continent.

Justine Morrison (Washington, DC)
Morrison, 27, is still a relative newcomer to endurance running, but had an attention-grabbing, breakthrough win in the August 4 Washington DC Endurance Challenge when she finished with a time of 8:32:20. Morrison registered a strong sixth-place showing at the Mountain Masochist 50 (Lynchburg, VA) on November 3 in what appeared to be a warm-up for the Challenge Championship.

Kami Semick (Bend, OR)
Semick, a member of The North Face Endurance Team, headlines one of the most competitive women’s endurance race fields in some time. She has had remarkable success racing on the trails where the Endurance Challenge championship takes place; in 2007, she won the prestigious Miwok 100K here, and she also took the 2006 Headlands 50K USATF Trail Championship. She enters this weekend’s race after winning the October 6 Endurance Challenge 50K (Seattle) and the November 4 San Jose Marathon with a time of 2:55:28.

Jenn Shelton (Virginia Beach, VA)
At 23 years old, Shelton is more than one of the future stars of endurance running – she is a current star. In 2006, she won the Lynchburg (VA) Ultra Series, a circuit of three tough 50K and 50-mile mountain races. Also in 2006, she placed second in the highly competitive Mountain Masochist 50 (Lynchburg, VA), clocking an astounding time of 7:57.

Caren Spore (Davis, CA)
Spore, 39, brings legspeed and a bevy of experience to The North Face Endurance challenge Championship. Locally, she has won two consecutive Dick Collins 50 Milers (Oakland, CA) as well as the very burly Ohlone 50K Wilderness Run (in course record time). In 2007, she was a very close third at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Diane Van Deren (Sedalia, CO)
Van Deren, who is a member of The North Face Endurance Team, clicked off a streak of impressive ultramarathon wins on her way to the 2007 Trail Runner Trophy Series Ultra Title. She won the Dances with Dirt 50 Miler (Hell, MI), McNaughton Park 150 (IL), and the 24 Hours of Frisco (CO), where she registered a record 114 miles on high altitude trail along the way. The 10,000+ of vertical climbing on the Endurance Challenge course will play to Van Deren’s strengths, as she trains and races regularly in the rugged Rocky Mountains.

Matt Carpenter (Manitou Springs, CO)
Matt Carpenter casts a long shadow over every race in which he toes the line. The 43-year-old has claimed titles in some of the world’s most prestigious off-road running events, ranging in distance from 10K to 100 miles. In 2005, he demolished the Leadville Trail 100 course record with a time of 15:42:59—90 minutes better than the previous record. Also, Carpenter owns the course record and has won eight times at the Pikes Peak Marathon, a beyond-grueling event which climbs 7,815 feet to the top of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak before descending another 13 bone-crunching miles. He also has the record for the Pikes Peak Ascent—a race which he has won a record six times.

William Emerson
(Portland, OR)
Emerson, 44, is a past champion at the Quad Dipsea, a 28.4-mile run on some of the same trails covered in The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship. He is the recipient of multiple USATF Masters Ultrarunner of the Year Awards and in 2004 won an amazing 18 ultramarathons.

Karl Gilpin (Russellville, MO)
A newcomer to the sport of endurance running, Gilpin won the Endurance Challenge 50 in Des Moines, Iowa, by averaging a 6:47-per-mile pace. Iowa was his first-ever attempt at the ultra distance, but his pedigree indicates he could be a diamond in the rough. Gilpin, 28, was a former Division II All-American cross-country runner.

Phil Kochik (Seattle, WA)
Kochik nipped at the heels of Uli Steidl (see below) during the October 6 Endurance Challenge and promises to be right near the front of the pack again on December 1. He owns the very fast course record at the Rainier-to-Ruston 50-mile ultramarathon (6:19, set in 2006) and placed fifth at the 2007 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (17:26). No stranger to the 50-mile distance, Kochik won the USATF 50-Mile Trail Championship in 2005 when he ran 6:58 on a very difficult mountain course in Crystal Mountain, WA.

Hal Koerner (Ashland, OR)
Koerner comes into the Endurance Challenge Championship after claiming one of the sport’s most prestigious and sacred titles: in June, he beat out a deep, elite field to win the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Koerner’s record also includes a win at the 2006 Angeles Crest 100-Miler and five victories and a course record at The Bear 100 in Idaho’s rugged backcountry.

Joe Kulak. (Oreland, PA)
Kulak, who runs on The North Face Endurance Team, has completed the grueling Leadville Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run in high-altitude Colorado 11 times. A past Trail Runner Magazine Trail Runner of the Year, he owns the speed record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, having completed the nation’s four most renowned 100-mile races (Western States 100, Vermont 100, Wasatch Front 100, Leadville Trail 100) in the same summer in a cumulative time of 75 hours and seven minutes.

Guillermo Medina. (Solvang, CA)
A member of The North Face Endurance Team, Medina has won many ultramarathons covering distances up to 100 miles. In 2005, he was the winner of the Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run in southern California and is a perennial top-three finisher at the nation’s toughest endurance races.

Leigh Schmitt (Conway, MA)
Schmitt comes to The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship by way of winning the August 4 50-Mile Endurance Challenge in Washington, DC, with a blazing time of 6:59:34. Schmitt owns course records at the Vermont 50, Vermont 100, Jay Challenge Marathon (VT), and Finger Lakes 50 (NY).

Uli Steidl (Shoreline, WA)
Steidl, who received a trip to The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship by winning the Endurance Challenge 50-mile race in Seattle on October 6, excels at a wide range of distances. He’s run in the World Cross Country Championships and notched 13 sub-2:20 marathons—a distinction that places him among the world’s most elite runners. At the ultramarathon distance, he has been unbeatable—literally. He has won every 50K and 50-mile trail ultramarathon he has ever entered, breaking course records in all but two of them.

Sam Thompson (Seattle, WA)
Thompson is widely considered one of the sport’s up-and-comers and has exhibited remarkable durability and resilience in notching top finishes at the country’s toughest ultramarathons in 2007. In 2006, Thompson shuttled throughout the country while completing 51 marathons in 51 days in 50 states, plus Washington, DC.

Results to The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship, plus the other three distances offered by the event (10K, Half Marathon, and 50K), will be posted at by Monday, December 3, 2007.

Dates and locations for The North Face Endurance Challenge 2008 events will appear on the website later in December 2007.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Erik Skaggs, Beth Vitalis Win 2007 Quad Dipsea

42-year old Beth Vitalis set a new Women's course record (4:39:39) and 25-year-old Erik Skaggs came within 38 seconds of Carl Anderson's "untouchable" course record at the 25th annual Quad Dipsea this year. Skaggs (3:53:07) set a blistering pace from the start at the 28.4 mile course, and ended up winning by a 20-minute margin over Victor Ballesteros. Vitalis bested Krissy Moehl by 13 minutes.

(Livermore, CA's Beth Vitalis setting a new Women's course record; photo courtesy of Jeff Vendsel)

You can read a longer story here at the Marin Independent Journal. Overall results should be posted soon!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Trot 4-Miler in Santa Barbara

I joined up with Kristin Armstrong and her friends the Allisons for some Turkey Trot action this morning. I love these races! Four miles is just enough to work up an appetite for the Thanksgiving feast, and it's wonderful to see families out enjoying the weather together. This Turkey Trot was in Goleta, CA, just north of Santa Barbara.

In the morning mayhem to get out the door, I forgot to grab my camera which is charging in preparation for the SB9T on Saturday. But I did have my iPhone handy, so I figured we would see how well it does in action. These days I should call it "Sophie's iPhone" - she plays with it endlessly, and has already figured out how to take a picture (chip off the 'ole Mom block for sure).

(Jamie and Kik await the start)

I met Kik at the start, and she introduced me to her friends. The Allison family is definitely an "active clan" and were all decked out and ready to run, including 7-year-old Kate who was tackling her first race. Around 9am, the gun went off and we hit the road!

As we jogged, I learned that Jamie had founded a group called Moms in Motion, a social and fitness club for Moms that now boasts thousands of members in hundreds of cities. They organize around all kinds of activities from 5k's to triathlons to hiking trips, keeping it fun, building community with Moms in the area, and staying fit. It sounds very cool! Hey, where's the Dads in Motion club?!?

(Heading down the bike path)

As we hit the first mile and turned onto a bike path, we caught up with this smiling older gentlemen shuffling along at a quick pace. I saw his UC Santa Barbara Cross Country shirt and hollared "Go Gauchos!". He shouted back "Class of '57 and still going strong!". Wow - 50 years later and still at it!

Kik and Jamie ran together, sharing hellos with runners along the way. It seemed like every age, shape, and size was out here today enjoying the morning sun. Even a few four-legged friends joined in on the fun. Jamie knew a lot of the women out on the course today, no surprise. Maybe it's a Santa Barbara thing, but they all seemed to have that magical Mom combo of a big smile, fit body, and buff deltoids that only come about from the continuous 30-lb curl of holding a little one.

(Kik hams it up for the camera)

We turned a corner around mile 2.5 where a sax player filled the valley with soft jazz. The mountains came into view through the haze, and we all took a few moments of silence to enjoy the sun on our faces. The Santa Barbara area is one of those amazing locations that always seems to have mountains AND ocean in view at all times. Natures extremes living in harmony.

(Cruising by the sax player)

Before we knew it, we were back at the park in about 31 minutes. Kate came cruising in with her Dad and sister about 20 minutes later, and quickly found the powdered doughnuts at the post-race food table. I was definitely all over that!

(The Allison clan, short one Grandma)

(Another happy finisher eyeing the doughnuts)

After a few more hugs and hellos, everybody headed home to begin their day of thanks (and feasts!). It's hard not to be thankful on a gorgeous day like today. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope you are enjoying time with friends, family, and Mother Nature.

Now let the EATING BEGIN!!! ;-)


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