Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is Ultrarunning Bad for Your Teeth?

My last dentist visit uncovered a new cavity. Although it wouldn't be the first (and certainly not the last much in thanks to my chronic chocoholism), it was the first time my dentist pointed to endurance training as a likely culprit. How? Because the electrolyte replacement/energy drinks that we all consume so regularly have sugar and carbohydrates that eat away at our molars. He could tell because the cavities appear right along the gum line, where energy drink can pool up after a big slurp. Apparently, this is well-known in the dentistry circles. If the body fat is low and cavities are high, it's time for the lecture on sports drinks.

It turns out that Gatorade (and like drinks) can erode teeth faster than Coke or Red Bull, even though the sugar content isn't as high as a soft drink*. Does this mean we should floss at every aid station? Probably not, but you can take steps to decrease the likelihood that your next dentist visit will involve drills and novacaine. Blogger Mark Iocchelli has some great suggestions based on a similar experience he had at the dentist.

This isn't the first visit to the dentist that involved a long discussion about trail running. In 2004 when I was doing a lot of short-course running, I noticed I had jaw pain the morning after the races. It turns out that I was clenching my teeth while racing (and I did a lot of racing that year), to the point it had ground my molars down to nubs over a 10 month period. My molar alignment looked like Stonehenge, which made my bite uneven and in turn created increased jaw pain when I clenched my teeth during the next race. I probably didn't notice this while racing since it was drowned out by my bursting legs and lungs, but I definitely could feel the ache in my head the next day. I asked the dentist if this meant I needed to stop running and he said, "no, you just need to relax more".

That turned out to be some of the best coaching I had all year. ;-)

The two 1/2 days in the dentist chair to get my bite back to normal was more than enough incentive to investigate what was causing the clenching. It didn't take long to figure out that it happened most often when I was racing downhill. Part of the stress came from the fact that I rarely trained running downhills at full speed, so at race time I would get nervous when entering steep downhill sections. Ironically, I could fix this by adding MORE downhill sessions to my training, such as a few 1-2 minute downhill bursts 2-3x/week with a focus on running relaxed (I always think of "leaping" and "letting gravity pull me down", which is a much calmer mantra than "charging the hill"). After 3-4 weeks, I was not only running more relaxed, but I was runing smoother and going faster.

At my check up, my dentist said it was obvious that the clenching had been minimized. Another factor was that I moved up to the ultra distances, where white-knuckle downhill bombing isn't quite as common. Unfortunately, this also means I am drinking a lot more energy drink. So I guess I just keep a toothbrush in my fanny pack for the long runs...

(Anyone else remember Crest and the Cavity Creeps on Saturday morning cartoons? "They must be out of Crest...attack!!!!")

- SD

* Note that this same article points out Gatorade-sponsored studies showing that there is no incremental damage, much in thanks to increased saliva production. Perhaps the effect isn't as dramatic as the latest studies show.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

2007 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series Early Standings

Got this press release from the folks at Trail Runner Magazine. You can also go here to see the full results and here to see the full race calendar (now sortable by state). Maybe Ken and Shirley Sorois will be the first husband/wife couple to duke it out for a title in the Non-ultra Category! - SD

Trail Runner Announces 2007 Trophy Series Preliminary Standings

Trophy Series participants contend with ice-slick trails and summer-like heat

APRIL 10, 2007, Carbondale, Colorado—The fourth annual Trail Runner Trophy Series, the world's biggest off-road running series kicked off last month. With a total of 115 races on this year’s Trophy Series calendar, 20,000 trail runners from coast-to-coast will have plenty of opportunities to participate in events ranging from 5K to 100 miles.

So far, we have tabulated results from seven races: The Foot Pursuit 5K, Old Pueblo 50-miler, Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50, Land Between the Lakes, Trout Creek, Crown King Scramble and Prickly Pear trail runs.

Full points standings and more Trophy Series information—including race schedule, rules, prize information and registration for the La Sportiva shoe promotion—is available at

Non-Ultra Division

New to this year’s Trophy Series was the Foot Pursuit 5K in Valparaiso, Indiana, sponsored by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. On the morning of March 3rd, 250 trail runners, many of them police and fire representatives from Lake and Porter counties and Chicago, braved freezing temperatures and snow squalls to pound the often ice-covered dirt. Overall winners were Jeffrey Day, 31, from Walkerton, Indiana, in a time of 19:04, and 27-year-old Sommer Watts, from Chesterton, Indiana in 23:42.

The Land Between the Lakes Trail Runs, in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, enjoyed a record 330 participants this year across four race distances, 23K, 26.2K, 60K and 50M. In the marathon, four men and four women each enough age-group points to tie for top position in the Trophy Series’ non-ultra division.

Top 8 Trophy Series Marathon & Shorter Points Standings
(with 104.8 points each)

Stephen Smith, 26, Soddy Daisy, Tennessee
Brian Beckort, 34, Tell City, Indiana
Brian Parker, 40, Morrison, Illinois
Kenneth Sirois, 60, Clinton, Tennessee
Lynn Minter, 27, Symsonia, Kentucky
Belinda Young, 37, Chatsworth, Georgia
Dana Hakman, 41, Mason, Illinois
Shirley Sirois, 59, Clinton, Tennessee

Ultramarathon Division

While runners in the northern states battled icy courses and below-freezing race day temperatures, trail racers in Arizona and Mississippi enjoyed warm (in the case of the Carl Touchstone Memorial race, almost too hot) conditions and fast, dry courses.

One hundred and thirty runners departed Kentucky Camp at the start of the Old Pueblo 50-Mile Endurance Run in Sonoita, Arizona, on March 3rd. Hal Koerner, 31, from Ashland, Oregon, topped the men’s field in a blazing 7:15:58, followed by John Anderson, 28, from Colorado in 7:29:10, and Californian David Goggins, 32, in 7:44:49. Leading the ladies at Old Pueblo was Jane Larkindale, 31, who finished first in 9:40:17, followed by Jody Chase, 38, in 10:05:09, and Michelle Schwartz, 38, in 10:13:12.

The only ultrarunner to complete two Trophy Series races so far this season is Anita Fromm, 35, from Manitou Springs, Colorado, who finished 11th woman at Old Pueblo, but at the Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50-Mile Trail Race was second only to Ann Heaslett, posting an impressive time of 8:33:48.

The Carl Touchstone race was back this year after being “Katrina’d” in 2006, boasting its biggest turnout ever. Joel Sather, a forest ranger from Montana working in Mississippi's Desoto National Forest, took the early lead and by lap three began to feel the heat, but hung on to win in 7:02:22.

Top 7 Trophy Series Ultra Distance Points Standings
(with 200 points each)

Hal Koerner, 31, Ashland, Oregon
Joel Sather, 35, Noxon, Montana
Paul Zani, 39, Franklin, Tennessee
Anita Fromm, 35, Manitou Springs, Colorado
Cynthia Heady, 45, Finchville, Kentucky
Ann Heaslett, 43, Madison, Wisconsin
Jane Larkindale, 31, Tuscon, Arizona

Trail Runner is the country’s leading magazine for off-road running enthusiasts and athletes. In-depth editorial and compelling photography informs, entertains and inspires readers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the outdoors and to improve their health and fitness through the sport of trail running. To subscribe, go to

For nearly 80 years, La Sportiva has been leading in technical outdoor-footwear innovation and design. We do this because we believe. We believe your trail-running shoes should never come between you and the planet—they should ground you to it. La Sportiva is always inventing, always rethinking, always dreaming. Trail runners ourselves, we recognize the thin line between dream and belief. And then we erase it by designing the best shoes on the planet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don Halke will take on the Ultra Grand Slam for Cancer

Doing ultras for charity is one thing, but how about the Grand Slam?!? Don Halke of Harrisburg, PA, will be running the Ultra Grand Slam this year to raise awareness (and money) for the American Cancer Society. He was inspired to raise awareness for cancer this year since it was the 25th anniversary of his father's death from colon cancer. After his friend of 40 years and best man at his wedding, Glenn Hoffman, was recently diagnosed with the same disease and began a successful recovery, he realized how far medical science had come.

The Ultra Grand Slam (aka The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning) consists of officially finishing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run all in the same year. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Award was established in 1986, when Tom Green was the first finisher. The deadline to sign up for this year is June 20, 2007 - there's still time!

(The 11 brave 2006 Grand Slam finishers at the Wasatch 100 - Darcy Africa, Dan Brendan, Bill Thom, Steve Douglas, Andy Knight, David Gordon, father/son team Keith and Gary Knipling, Mike Samuelson, Bruce Grant & Tim Englund; photo courtesy of

47-year-old Halke has run three 100-milers and 79 marathons, with respective best times of 25:12 and 3:28:33. You can read his 2005 Western States race report here. He started his ultra running in 2002 with a 9:26 finish at the JFK 50 where he "enjoyed himself way too much". If you see him at the races, be sure to cheer him on!

If you would like to help Halke in his quest, you can send a check to the American Cancer Society to 3211 N. Front St., Suite 100, Harrisburg, PA 17110.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The 2007 Boston Marathon - Bravin' the Nor'easter

It was wet and wild at the Boston Marathon this year, but that didn't stop me and 20,000 other runners from making the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. The 40 degree weather and 35+ mph gusts made the sunny Boston Marathons of 2005 and 2006 seem like a distant memory, but thanks to volunteers and spectators who cheered us on with smiles and encouragement, the race was as fun as ever.

(This year's Boston is for Sophie!)

I arrived in Boston on the Saturday red eye with two suitcases - one full of clothes, and one full of every rain gear option from "light mist" to "typhoon". It turns out that "Nor'easter" means it would most likely be closer to the "typhoon" end of the scale. I was showing my ultrarunner roots and preparing for snow, sleet, ANYTHING. The storm that was dumping 3-4" rain daily all weekend was projected to ease up by race day on Monday, and we had our fingers crossed. But even if it let up, this race was going to be an adventure.

(1968 Boston winner Amby Burfoot and me)

The Race Expo on Sunday was alive with first-time Boston runners (over 60% of the field this year), and rain jackets were selling like hot cakes. Famous runners were everywhere - I got to meet Grete Weitz (nine time winner of the NY Marathon and world record holder), Amby Burfoot (1968 winner and Executive Editor of Runner's World), Bill Rodgers (4-time winner of Boston and NY), Frank Shorter (Olympic gold and sliver medalist in the marathon), and more.

(Bill Rodgers poses for a pic with some fans) -->

Talk about a race with history - the history was there in person! All were gracious enough to hear about how runners got to Boston, and offer up any tips for the challenging day ahead. I felt like little kid, and wasn't afraid to ask for autographs. Grete Weitz signed a poster for me that said "good luck at the 100-mile nationals this year", and I almost peed my pants I was so excited. ;-)

I especially enjoyed meeting Kathrine Switzer, who 40 years ago became the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. She was launching her book, Marathon Woman: Running The Race To Revolutionize Women's Sports, and sharing stories of how things have changed over the last 40 years. Kathrine is a gifted storyteller, so when you hear her say "the AAU didn't allow women to run more than 1 1/2 miles in those days, especially without a chaperone" or "that's when my hammer thrower boyfriend stopped the official trying to remove me in one shove", we really felt how much courage it took to toe the line at Boston back then. I told her about all us crazy ultrarunners, and how women were stretching the boundaries of human will as much as men. She loved it! She regularly ran 30 miles at once when training for the Boston Marathon in the late 60's and 70's, but in grey cotton sweats and no food. Can you believe that? I think we can give her honorary "ultra" status for that. (I read her book too, and no surprise it is an engaging recount - highly recommended)

(Kathrine Switzer and me; also check out this great podcast with her from Final Sprint)

At 4am on race morning, the Nor'easter woke me up with a 40 mph wind on my hotel window. "Wake up, puny mortal. Time to be tested!". I packed all my heavy storm goodies - hat, gloves, tights, wool Injinji tsoks, and Sugoi rain jacket - plus a full change of clothes for after the race. I remembered to bring warm clothes for the morning wait at Hopkinton High as well; although the race time was moved up two hours to 10am, there would still be 1.5-2 hours of hanging out.

(Staying dry while loading up the buses at the Boston Commons)

Plastic was the "in" fashion in Boston on Patriot's Day, as runners wore anything from garbage bags to tablecloths to stay dry while we loaded up on buses. Spirits were up, however, since the storm was beginning to simmer into a clammy soup of grey over our heads. One thing for sure - nobody was making it this close to Boston and NOT running, no matter what Mother Nature had in store. I made a pact with a couple of runners to run the course even if canceled, since we could just hit the Dunkin' Donuts that seem to be every two blocks around here. I met some great people on the bus, and heard lots of "1st time Boston/2nd time marathon" stories. Lots of people using Boston as a goal race to stay in top shape.

Hopkinton High School was muddy and soaked, forcing most runners into the tents for cover. I was impressed that many brought enough gear to stay dry, and if not, weren't afraid to poke some arm holes in plastic bags for a vest or wrap their shoes in plastic grocery bags. Volunteers were everywhere, and happy to help with a friendly smile. We were relaxed, but concerned that it was raining fairly steadily from 8-10am.

(Muddy both inside and outside the tents)

At 10am, I joined Corral #2, a sea of runners in plastic and Gore-Tex. (note to future runners - the porto-potties near the corrals have MUCH shorter lines) After the national anthem and a moment of silence for Boston volunteers who have left us this year, the gun went off and we were on our way!

(The sea of plastic in Corral #2, and some not-so-pleased runners hoping to get started)

We started off slowly. The lake-sized puddles on the road forced the pack to skinny up and slow down more than expected. Usually the downhill start gets everyone rolling fast, but even Corral #2 (who qualified in 6:40'ish times) was slugging along at 7:10/miles for the first two miles. There was some groaning about being off pace so early, but most were just happy that the wind continued to stay dormant. I didn't have a goal time for this race - it was all about having fun and staying warm. If you work hard to get to Boston, there's no need to go hard when you get here, right?

(And we're off! Hooray!)

As we approached Ashland (mile 3), we were stoked to see that the rain did not stop the locals from coming out to cheer us on. I saw on the news that live power wires fell along the course here, but was cleared an hour before the start. It didn't stop the die-hard fans from going 2-3 deep on the sidelines, cheering as hard as ever. This is such a special community, and even more so now that I've seen (and heard) them brave the storms.

At the Ashland clock tower (mile 4), we finally had enough room to spread out and pick up the pace or slow down as needed. The sub-3 hour runners had to make up some time, so they ditched excess gear and ran along the sides as fast as they could. This was a bold move, since there weren't any runners to block the occasional gust of wind that made keeping pace a challenge. My group in the middle of the road was cruising along at 7 min/miles, which felt strong and warm. The sky was grey, but overall, it wasn't bad running conditions. A Boston veteran of 14 marathons beside me summed it up well - "I'll take rain over the '04 heat any day".

(Cruising through Ashland at mile 4 - I would see many of these faces at the finish line)

Framingham and Natick were also full of hearty supporters, which helped us pick up the pace a few seconds on miles 5-10. My watch read 40 degrees, which was cool enough to go hard. Every once in a while I would pass someone with no shirt or hat and wonder how in the heck they can do that. I had two layers on, and my nipples could cut glass they were so cold.

<-- (Rain didn't dampen this guy's sense of humor)

Overall, my combo of hats, gloves, jacket, and tights were working well. I would occasionally take some off and put them back on, and was glad I brought it all. My feet were definitely soaked, but the wool tsoks were keeping me toasty.

At mile 11, we heard the familiar banshee sound of the Wellesley College "scream tunnel". The Boston marathon veterans around me smiled, while the new runners began asking if that could possibly be Wellesley even though it was still 2 miles up the road. Oh, just you wait - it gets even crazier!

Sure enough, at the halfway point (watch said 1:32:30), the Wellesley girls lined the streets with cheers, beers, and "kiss me, I'm smart" signs. I whipped out my camera and slowed down, and was instantly drowned in kisses from the gorgeous froshies. Turns out, they aren't kidding with those signs! I said thanks (call me!) and picked up my pace to catch up (or was it a t-surge?), only to find that everyone was going faster from the energy rush that Wellesley throws off. A perfect boost at the halfway mark. Bless you, ladies, you're the best!

(One of the Wellesley angels as I blurred by)

After two miles of fast flat ground, we entered the "hill country". This starts with a drop at mile 15.5, and rolls up and down through the neighborhoods to Newton where the famed Heartbreak Hill awaits at mile 20. The hills were tough on a lot of these runners, some of whom said out loud that Chicago, Dallas, and Cinncinati didn't have anything like this. I had learned in previous races that although these hills aren't big, they are pyschologically tough because you hardly ever get a clear view of the top. It just keeps going and going and going. The runners went quiet, heads down, focused on the hills.

I do know one easy way to tame Heartbreak Hill. The Hash House Harriers (self-proclaimed drinkers with a running problem) have a beer aid station at mile 20 that is a MUST. I stayed to the left and grabbed a 2 oz beer off the table, and every Harrier there grabbed the remaining ones to toast with me (then refilled to wait for the next victim). I had one more for good measure, and they told me the pace of beer drinkers was beginning to pick up! I guess the Kenyans pass on that sort of thing. ;-) With a little "liquid courage", I charged up Heartbreak Hill with no problem.

(The Harriers join me for a brew at mile 20)

The collective sigh of relief was audible atop Heartbreak Hill, as most runners leaned into the downhills of miles 21-24 to fight the natural tendency to slow down. The wind, however, was beginning to be troublesome and gusting 20-25 mph every 2-3 minutes. Just when I thought this might mean no supporters, we hit Boston College where supporters were as plentiful as any place on the course. There was even an oompah band playing. I love this town!

(The wonderful support at Boston College)

From mile 24 on, it was a push. The headwind was constant and the clouds were getting darker. Two guys from Korea began a surge and a couple of us joined in to work as a pack, making our way up the left side. Their numbers were in the 6000's, so if they wanted to get under 3:10 (the universal Boston qualifying time), they would have to work for it. Such gusto! I though Kathrine Switzer would definitely be cheering these guys on, and that inspired me to help. My energy was good, and the beer buzz felt great, so I took some long pulls at the front of the group and asked to make sure I wasn't going too fast. "More!" was all they said in their broken english. That's the spirit!

In the last few miles, we passed some wounded soldiers - those brave enough to pace a record time, but not having enough at the end. Every street post seemed to be working double-time as stretching areas, and a few runners were sitting on the sidelines to catch their breath. But I didn't see anyone in real trouble (like past years). All in all, it looked like everyone had enough reserves to get there.

(The ever-present Citgo sign pulls us in, under the ominous clouds) -->

Turns out that was true all day - only 314 of 20,348 runners didn't finish (98.5% finish rate). It didn't matter how wounded the runners were, they were cheering on everyone around them. When our pack would surge around a corner, both the crowds and runners would go crazy, yelling "That's it! That's the way to finish a marathon!".

We snuck into the cityscape and passed the last mile marker at full tilt (I clocked 6:05 in the last mile - nice work, pack!). Once the finish was in sight, the Koreans gave each other the steely eye (showdown!) and went into a dead sprint. I crossed the finish line in 3:07:44, good enough for 1,619th place (and 30 places behind the Koreans), so I know they were well under 3:10. Perhaps I will see them again next year!

(Google Earth view of our path into the finish at Boston)

At the finish line, the volunteers were quick to wrap us in those foil blankets that make us all look like giant burritos. Turns out there's a reason - we stay warm! And if the Nor'easter dropped salsa (although that would probably be a South'wester), we would be protected. Once we got wrapped, it dawned on all of us we were going to get cold fast, so we hustled through to the buses to get our gear. A volunteer asked me "how many Bostons", and I was startled to say "3", so she grabbed my camera to get a shot and make it official.

(Three and counting!)

I felt the cold in my bones, so I changed socks and quickly make my way back to a hot bath in the hotel room. What a day! It was one of the craziest on record, but everyone triumphed. It turns out that Robert Cheruiyot, whom I met after winning in 2006, repeated with a slower-than-usual-but-deserved win in 2:14:13. Lidiya Grigoryeva from Russia beat a tough field to win the Women's division in 2:29:18. She was so pleased, I don't think she noticed that they played the wrong national anthem. ;-) Other notable finishes include Peter Gilmore (first American, 2:16:51, 8th overall), ultra-stud Uli Steidl (2:19:54, 12th overall), and Deena Kastor (2:35:09, 5th Woman). First place American finishers also won the USA Marathon Championships. You can check out these video interviews for more. I got a text message from Jean Pommier saying he did well (2:45:22), but that the masters age groups were fast and furious this year. Overall, I think the big heroes for the day were all the first-time Boston runners and the amazing volunteers and supporters who braved the storms to cheer us on.

(Robert Cheriuyot wins the 2007 Boston Marathon, his third win here)

After a good soak, I went out for a walk to loosen up and saw a familiar sign. Could this be the original Cheers bar of TV fame? Seemed like a classic place to get a post-race brewsky. It turns out it isn't the original inspiration for Cheers (that's across town), but it was a great pub.

I met plenty of runners inside, all sporting their medals and having a great time. Stories of survival and triumph rung out over the clinking pints, as both runners and supporters joined in. As I heard the stories, I'm not sure which would be harder - running a marathon, or standing at mile 16 for two hours in the cold waiting to run 4 miles with your running group buddies. No surprise everyone did so well with support teams like that!

I joined a pack of Dallas runners for some celebratory beers and shots, and we toasted Kathrine Switzer for paving the way for so many fast females. The magic of Boston is a part of all of us now, and I already can't wait to get back for #4. My congrats to everyone who had a great race, and to the volunteers and supporters who made it such a special day. We can say we were there for the crazy Boston '07!

(Congrats Dallas runners!)

Cheers, SD

Monday, April 16, 2007

Eric Skaden and Jenny Capel win America River 50

Folsom, CA's Eric Skaden won the American River 50 miler (AR50) in 6:22:19, triumphing over wet, cold, and muddy conditions to improve over his 3rd place finish last year (note that he also finished 2nd at Western States last year - what does this bode?!?). Jenny Capel from Reno, NV posted an outstanding 7:14:25 to win the women's division.

Eric had both Scott Wolfe and Lewis Taylor on his tail, two great runners from my hometown of Eugene, OR. Eric and Scott paced together all the way to Beal's Point (27.4 miles) before Eric surged to the win, and Scott finished second (6:29:35). Lewis paced with Mark Lantz all the way to Rattlesnake (39.9 miles) before turning on the afterburners and racing to third place (6:31:41). Lewis won the Way Too Cool 50k just four weeks ago, so that's two top finishes in the Montrail Ultra Cup. Nice work, Lewis! Way to put the heat on Phil Kochik. ;-) Scott Wolfe has clearly healed from his injuries that knocked him out of last year's Western States, and is leveraging Eugene's damp winter climate to train well for tough conditions. Mark Lantz finished fourth in 6:41:33 (also a Master's Division win), with Mexico's Osvaldo Lopez (6:45:08) and Mark Tanaka (6:51:28) also finishing under 7 hours.

Reno, NV-based powerhouse Jenny Capel battled headwinds and a slippery slope to finish 10th overall and win the Women's Division. I watched Jenny power through the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile in 2005, setting a women's 9:00:17 course record that still stands. She is serious talent. As are Tera Dube (7:22:22) and Caren Spore (7:24:53) who dueled with Suzie Lister (7:25:13, for a Women's Masters win). for the hotly contested 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place, respectively.

A shout out to Turlock, CA's Tim Quinn who gracefully entered the 60-69 age group this year with an age group win at the American River 50!

Much like the Boston Marathon I just finished, when the weather sucks, the day belongs to the volunteers and supporters. They are the real endurance athletes for sure, and they're out there when we need them most. AR50 Race Director Greg Soderlund had this summary for me:
"Wet and cold pretty much sums up AR this year. Rained all day. While it's tough to run in the cold and rain, it's even tougher for the volunteers tending to all the runners at the aid stations. We're very blessed to have so many wonderful volunteers along with Wayne Miles and Mike Saling managing all the aid stations, the start and the finish line. As I have said before - - anyone can finish a 50 on a good day, it's takes a very tough person to finish a 50 when the conditions are less than ideal. 496 starters, 477 finishers, 96% finish rate."
96% finishing rate? Damn straight. Congrats to all the runners, volunteers, and supporters who braved Mother Nature to make the AR50 (and Boston) races to remember.

Here's one more article with interviews with Eric Skaden, Tim Tweitmeyer (7th in 7 hours - what is this, like his 23rd AR50 or something?), and Mark Lantz.

Cheers, SD

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ultra Adventure (Florida Sports Magazine)

Florida Sports Magazine did an interesting article about ultrarunning this week. It's a good primer. Quotes include:
In an ultramarathon, you won’t have to worry about the old training adage that “speed kills.” Depending on the distance you’re running, it’s very likely that your pace might never hit single-minute digits. Instead, you’ll probably be more concerned with your nutrition strategy, foot-care issues (such as blisters) or making sure that you’re maintaining a pace sufficient enough to stay ahead of any time cutoffs imposed by race directors.

Like the 10K of years gone by, most ultramarathons have a casual, extremely welcoming vibe where beginners and veterans alike feel right at home. Due to the small size of the starting fields, the races have become large social gatherings. If you run ultras frequently, you can’t help but see a familiar face at your next race.
I completely agree. One of my favorite things about ultras is seeing all the familiar faces. And I certainly worry more about food/hydration than splits!

On a side note, my thanks to Stan Jensen of (also the owner of the coolest ultra license plate ever) for adding my race write-ups to his page of race reports. If you haven't been to this page, it's a great place to learn about courses before you go (for example, there are 7 write-ups each for the American River 50 and Miwok 100k, and over a dozen for Western States).

To all you running the American River 50 tomorrow, good luck and godspeed. I'll be in Boston on Monday, braving what appears to be a cold and damp race. But the hot tub afterwards will feel all the better!

Cheers, SD

Monday, April 09, 2007

Greg Crowther, Julie Udchachon win 2007 100k US Championships

Greg Crowther of Seattle, WA, won his second USA ultrarunning title of 2007, running 7 hours, 14 minutes, 31 seconds to win the USA 100 km title at the Mad City 100K in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday. This was just a few weeks after winning the USA 50k Road Championships in 3:04, and winning the 2006 SunMart 50-miler a few months before that. You can find a pre-Mad City interview with Greg here.

2005 50k Trail Champion Julie Udchachon from Eagle River, AK, took her first 100k USA title, winning the women's division in 8:09:04. Just a few minutes behind was Devon Crosby-Helms, whom I ran with at the Napa Valley Marathon. Nice work, Devon!

Crowther overcame unseasonably cold conditions (20 degrees and windy) to out-pace renowned ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek by 17:34. Greg was hoping to run sub 6:50 according to his blog. Udchachon's margin of victory was 17:35 over Carolyn Smith. The distance, 100 kilometers, just over 62 miles saw competitors running a scenic 10-kilometer course around Lake Wingra ten times. Over 50 ultramarathoners from around the country were entered.

Here are the top finishers:

Greg Crowther 7:14:31
Scott Jurek 7:32:05
Kevin Setnes 7:51:49
Roy Pirrung 8:49:28
Robert Pokorny 9:00:13
John Finn 9:25:01
Alarik Rosenlund 9:37:42
Russell De Lap 9:42:04
Joe Winch 9:45:25
Steven Escaler 10:16:55
Mark Miller 10:17:53
Michael Bohl 10:26:21
Kevin Radel 10:28:47
Robert Wehner 10:34:55
Michael Hayden 10:55:14

Julie Udchachon 8:09:04
Devon Crosby-Helms 8:16:41
Carolyn Smith 8:36:39
Ann Heaslett 8:45:27
Connie Gardner 8:56:08
Francesca Conte 9:11:31
Kim Martin 9:27:00
Kimberly Holak 9:35:24
Mary Gorski 10:55:08
Deedee Grafius 11:27:58
Suzanne Pokorny 12:14:59

(photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama)

Runners find solace, safety on trails (San Antonio Express News)

Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express News wrote a great article about trail running in the San Antonio area. I had heard about Big Bend National Park and the Prickly Pear Trail Run, but it sounds like there are many more parks and trails down there. Be sure to check out the slide shows of Friedrich Wilderness Park, Eisenhower Park, Guadalupe River State Park, O.P. Schnabel Park, McAllister Park, and more from the article.

(A trail in Friedrich Wilderness Park, photo courtesy of LeAnna Kosub/Express-News)

Some good quotes:
"When I'm on the trails, time goes faster than when I'm on the road," said Soler, 47. "It's just the distraction of nature and the footing. You have to think about where you are going. It takes a little more work, but it can be very rewarding."

"It's an invigorating, refreshing way to be out in nature," Jacob Rotich, 29, said after completing the Prickly Pear run. "Out in the woods, away from the cars, it's pure oxygen. It's quiet and nice. You can almost meditate."


- SD

Friday, April 06, 2007

Take It To The Limit (Financial Times Deutschland, Germany)

(Thinking of Spring? I took this in Spring, 2006 along
the Harkins Ridge Trail in
Purisma Creek Redwoods OSP)

Kevin Braddock of The Financial Times Deutschland(Germany) did a nice article this week about ultrarunning (here). I thought you might enjoy it.

Highlight quotes:
About 70,000 exceptionally fit individuals are thought to take part in "ultramarathons" around the world and the sport is pushing for recognition at Commonwealth and Olympic level.
"Some people are running away from something, some are running towards something," he says. "For most people, running a marathon is a huge barrier. My personal best was 3hr 24min and I knew I wouldn't get any faster than that. I'm better over 150 miles. Then it becomes mind over matter. If you want to do it, you'll do it."
Karnazes argues that to complete the challenge is to win. "Ultra people do it more for themselves than for bragging rights. Marathon is all about beating your personal best times. Something like Badwater is to most people just incomprehensible. Even though I won Badwater, I prefer to say I survived the fastest. Anyone who crosses the finish line is a winner because there are so many elements to overcome."


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Science Recap of Use of Ibuprofen in Endurance Events (InsideTri)

Dr. Bob Seebohar, a Sports Dietician for the US Olympic Training Center, wrote a great recap of over a decade of studies about the use of ibuprofen during and prior to endurance events for Inside Triathlon. I found the conclusions to be surprising - not only was ibuprofen ineffective at reducing swelling, tissue damage, and perceived stress, but it also could mess with your kidneys ability to process fluids when taken in large doses, increasing the chance of dehydration and renal failure. In a nutshell, ibuprofen may do just the opposite of what endurance athletes want!

Here's an excerpt regarding a study around the Western States 100:
What about the effects of NSAIDs on athletic populations? Neiman et al. measured the influence of ibuprofen use during the 100 mile Western States trail running race. Athletes were placed in a control group, a group consuming 600mg and 1200 mg ibuprofen the day before the race and on race day. The groups who used Ibuprofen had higher plasma levels of many muscle damage markers including serum C-reactive protein, plasma cytokine and macrophage inflammatory protein. Delayed onset-muscle soreness and serum creatine kinase levels did not differ significantly. Interestingly, race times and rates of perceived exertion did not differ among groups. This study concluded that ibuprofen use compared to nonuse by athletes did not alter muscle damage or soreness and was related to elevated indicators of inflammation-the exact opposite reason that athletes take NSAIDs in the first place!
Wild, huh? Be sure to check out the whole article.

- SD

Monday, April 02, 2007

Round and Round the Pony Express 100k

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 35 runners for the Pony Express 30k/50k/50m/100k in Cameron Park, CA. After a two year hiatus (to repair a bridge), this speedy loop course was back on the calendar to start the 2007 Fuel Belt Series. It was early in my season for such a long distance, but I was eager to try a short-loop format and see how my legs would hold up to a full day of running. It did not disappoint - beautiful weather, friends both old and new, and the welcoming neighborhood made for a spectacular day.

(Scenic Cameron Park Lake)

When I shared with my work friends that I was driving to a small town in central California to run 53 laps around a 1.2 mile loop, they naturally thought I was insane. It's crazy enough to run all day long, but it's a whole new level of crazy to run all day long in a circle. "If you survive dying from boredom, you will certainly die of exhaustion" was a common response. Were they right? Was I going to be "loopy" before this race was over?

It turns out there are many advantages to a loop course, and it's far less boring than one might guess. For starters, it's easy for your friends and family to check in on you as you run. Many supporting families at Pony Express had set up picnics, and would occasionally join their runners for a lap or two. Second, you can stack a cooler full of goodies and hit it every 10-15 minutes. Third, it would be very unlikely you would ever get lost (although you might forget to count a lap). Lastly (and most important), you would see every runner in the race throughout the day and be able to cheer them on. Long periods of solo miles are common in the point-to-point races, but it won't happen here. You will certainly meet people you haven't met before.

(Runners great the morning sun)

The sun warmed up the air to 55 degrees as Robert Mathis and crew gave us last minute instructions. It was going to be a warm day for sure, so sunscreen was mandatory. Runners for the "sprint" (30k), "jaunt" (50k), or "run" (50m/100k) all started together, and we quickly spread out along the course. I paced next to Peter Lubbers, winner of last year's Tahoe Super Triple (two marathons and one 72-mile loop of Lake Tahoe in three days), and we settled into a 9:50/lap, just under a 9 min/mile. Bev Abbs (who ran a 6:30 50-miler here in 2004) set a crazy pace for the 50k while Chris Fraser led the 30k, and the ladies began lapping us right off the bat. Carson Teasley, whom I had met at the Pacifica 50k, made chase after Bev and Chris.

After 12 laps, we were intimately familiar with the course. We knew every stone, patch of shade, breeze, and which of the attack geese were the most menacing. There was something calming about knowing exactly what was ahead of us, and the mileage ahead didn't seem quite as ominous. Peter and I had a long conversation about life, family, running and racing, and the ultra adventures we had ahead of us in 2007. We both had the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler on the agenda for July, but different ways to get there. While I was goofing off with triathlons and road marathons, Peter would be running the Gold Country Grand Prix, a short-course trail series near Reno, NV, with his two sons, 12-year old Sean and 9-year-old Rocky. His two boys are already trail running superstars, posting top age group finishes at last years Grand Prix, and both signed up for the Lake Tahoe Half Marathon. Peter is also hoping to return to defend his Tahoe Super Triple title in October.

Before we knew it, Peter and I had yapped our way through 24 miles. I didn't really know where we were in the standings since there were a handful of runners going faster, and any of them could have been in the 100k. The temperature had picked up to the low 60's, but the morning breeze was still keeping us cool. My legs seemed eager to go harder, so Peter wished me well and I picked up the pace to about an 8:30 mile.

I cranked up the tunes on the iPod (Sevendust, Army of Anyone, and of course, "Round and Round" by Ratt), and asked Norm Klein (today's lap counter) to let me know when I hit 26.2 miles, 50k, and 50 miles to get an idea of my speed. I carried water with me so I wouldn't forget to drink, and got a bite to eat every other lap. My legs seemed to be holding up well. I cheered on John Chappel, who at age 75, was cranking his way through the 50k. Fellow septegenarian Peter Fish was going for the 100k. They both looked great!

(Peter Fish cranks his way to a 50 mile finish)

I hit the marathon mark in 3:26, which seemed a tad fast. Although I didn't have a time objective for the day, I was hoping to find a pace that would leave me some energy at the end. Peter, the master long distance pacer, was only about a half a lap behind, so I figured I was still in the ballpark. I slapped on more sunscreen and kept pushing forward.

The 50k mark came in 4:24, which although comfortable, was definitely too fast for me to hold for the 100k. My guess was that if all went well, I might have a shot at a 9:15-9:30 finish time, but was likely looking at 10 hours. I had begun slowing down a bit due to the increasing heat (now low 70's, and the breeze was gone), and noticed many of the other runners were doing the same. In fact, every time the clouds parted I swore I could hear the collective groan from the circling runners. I stopped the music playlists and switched to "Coffee Break Spanish" for a while, sharing my newfound vocabulary with passerby's (Ola, amigos!). At noon, I had a PB&J for lunch and a delicious cup of flat Coke.

As I hit 44 miles, I caught up to Peter who had slowed down to give his stomach a rest. He was running with Jeremy Reynolds from Los Gatos, CA, who was making a stellar debut in his first 100k. I was having stomach issues too, but couldn't determine if that was due to heat, dehydration, or my "Coke habit" that was now up to 1/2 can per lap. I started dumping water on my head every lap, and vowed to go 50 miles before starting any walk breaks.

(The attack goose lurks around the corner for unsuspecting runners)

I made it to 50 miles in 7:26, not too far off my pace from the Helen Klein 50 miler last year. Helen, btw, was running the aid station at this race and making sure we were all taken care of. I took a bathroom break and reapplied sunscreen, and kept moving. With just 10 laps to go, it felt like the finish line was in sight. Well, I guess it had been in sight for quite some time, but you know what I mean. ;-)

As I closed in on the final laps, I saw Peter up ahead. I thought I might pass him again, but it donned on me that he was going faster than I was. Sure enough, he and Jeremy had passed me while I was in the bathroom, and true to his ultrarunner form, Peter had one more cruising gear to catch me. As I circled each lap, I looked over and saw Peter slowly gaining on me. At mile 55, he was about 7 minutes back. At mile 57, he was 6 minutes back. Although my walk breaks felt necessary, it was giving Peter enough room to catch me. As we circled the lake, many racers decided to stop at 50 miles, and the 100k race soon became a mano-y-mano duel. Estupendo!

The last few miles felt oddly comfortable, and I crossed the finish line in 9:30:57 for first place. Peter came sprinting in the last lap to finish second in 9:36, looking strong enough to easily go another 30 laps. We made our way right to the picnic and tried to catch up on the 5,000 calories we just burned through.

(The last two 100k survivors, Scott and Peter)

Bev Abbs won the 50k in 3:48, with Carson Teasley coming in 2nd in 4:28. Jeremy Reynolds had cut back to 50 miles, but still finished first in 7:54, just ahead of Kathy Welch, who finished in 8:19. Marianne Paulson and Diane Vlach went step for step the whole day to finish the 50-miler in 9:58, friends to the end. Everyone did a great job of putting up big points for the Series. (more results here)

I chugged down some coconut water, thinking there are few things I would rather be doing on a beautiful day than running, even in circles. But as Seal reminded me along the course, "we are never going to survive unless we get a little crazy". I noted down a few learnings for the day (my drinking slows naturally at mile 30, I forgot to apply sunscreen on my hands, learning Spanish is fun but distracting), and thanked the volunteers for putting on a great race.

Next stop, Boston!

- SD

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