Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What Scott Jurek REALLY thinks about Dean Karnazes

I caught a recent podcast on EndurancePlanet.com where Scott Jurek was interviewed about his recent course record at Hardrock 100. What really surprised me was his commentary about Dean Karnazes. Apparently, he's had enough of the Dean Machine.

(Scott Jurek, ironically featured here at Outside Magazine's "Rising Star" in 2002;
photo courtesy of Brian Smale)

Here's a rough paraphrased transcript of the interview (bold added by me):
It's good we get attention for the sport, but sometimes I wonder what kind of attention is good for the sport. At times I think that some of the Dean attention can hurt athletes like myself and other individuals performing well. There are athletes like us doing all kinds of amazing things and somebody else is walking around and actually accepting these titles and awards. You wouldn't see that in any other sport. I can't think of a sport where this happens - maybe once in a while somebody a bit lower on the elite status might pop up there for doing something extraordinary.

It's good to bring [ultrarunning] to the general audience, but from the standpoint of elite athletes who are working their butts off, training and racing, not making any money...it's not like I'm jealous or envious since I have gotten my share of publicity...but it's getting a little old. It's time the media began focus on the true champions of the sport and those that are doing amazing things because we kind of get lost in the shuffle.

I'm not saying it should be about me, there are runners like Nikki Kimball and Karl Meltzer, there are different distances, and those people deserve their shots too. This is a prime example of how a lot of media is working in this country these days, grabbing onto somebody who has a great publicity machine, great sponsors and media outlets. I would rather earn my titles and the recognition I deserve out on the race course. If you look at other sports, the guys that are finishing mid-pack on the PGA Tour or batting .500, they aren't getting any publicity. Maybe once in a while they get a shot here and there. Generally, it's the winners that are getting the attention. It's just kind of odd that that's happening in our sport often nowadays, where we're just seeing one person stealing the show and winning awards. In other sports, that wouldn't happen.

Again, I would rather earn my titles and if I'm not winning races and performing, I shouldn't be gracing the cover of magazines, getting a title, or even being okay with accepting a title such as Outside Magazine's "America's Best Distance Runner". I would feel ashamed to have that title.
Given the commentary already coming in on the EndurancePlanet site, this is certainly going to be a heated topic:

I was singularly unimpressed with Scott's disparaging comments regarding Dean Karnazes. Dean does good work. I was thoroughly unconvinced by Jurek's (pronounced "Jerk") repeated claims that he isn't jealous of Dean's media exposure. Methinks he doth protest too much...

Keep up the good work Dean!

Gravatar Who says you have to win an endurance event to be known as a great athlete? Many, many, many age groupers are excellent athletes. I think that Scott should be ashamed of himself and respect all athletes, especially in his sport.

Dean shows heart and loves running. That is all you need.

Gravatar jurek is an athlete,
dean is a con man.

keep the tall tales coming dean
(looks like everyone prefers them)

So, there it is. Even in the sport of ultrarunning, egos can't sit on the sidelines.

- SD

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Valmir Nunes, Lisa Bliss Win 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon

Valmir Nunes of Brazil, and Lisa Bliss of Spokane, WA, won the 30th running of the 135-mile Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon besting a field that included 84 athletes from 15 nations and 21 American states. Valmir Nunes (winner of the Brooks Brazil 135), 43, set a new course record of 22:51:29, over an hour faster than the previous mark of 24:36:08, set by Scott Jurek in 2005. Second place Akos Konya was also able to beat the previous record with his 2nd place finish in 23:47:47. You can read the full story here.

(Valmir Nunes wins the 2007 Badwater Ultra in record time, photo courtesy of Chris Kostman)

Lisa Bliss overcame blister issues and a 3 hour 25 minute deficit to take the lead in the last 13 miles and win in 34:33:40.

(Lisa Bliss crosses the finish to win the 2007 Badwater Ultra, photo courtesy of Chris Kostman)

There were plenty of stellar performances this year, as 78 of 84 starters finished officially in under 60 hours, and 65 received the coveted belt buckle for completing the course in under 48 hours. 100-miler ace Jorge Pacheco placed an impressive 4th, despite a meltdown around mile 100. Robin Smit, 70, of Fresno, CA, completed the race in 55:52:24 and became the second ever 70 year old to finish the race. He broke the 70+ age group record of 57:52:12 set by Jack Denness in 2005.

Local press are heralding their local finishers (and for good reason!). Click on these stories to read about Martin Franklin (Aspen, CO), Greg Pressler (Portland, OR), Todd Baum (Fayetteville, NC), Robin Smit (Fresno, CA), Jerry Vondruska (Bloomingdale, IL), and Lisa Smith-Batchen's double Badwater finish.

Results (full results here):

1. Valmir Nunes, m, 43, Santos, Sao Paulo 22:51:29
2. Akos Konya, m, 32, Oceanside, California 23:47:47
3. David Goggins, m, 32, Chula Vista, California 25:49:40
4. Jorge Pacheco, m, 39, Los Angeles, California 26:41:52
5. Charlie Engle, m, 44, Greensboro, North Carolina 27:42:32
6. Christian Fatton, m, 47, Noiraigue, Neuchatel 28:29:07
7. Albert Vallee, m, 48, Chauvigne, Brittany (Bretagne) 30:26:48
8. Blake Benke, m, 30, New York, New York 30:56:59
9. David Jones, m, 55, Eagleville, Tennessee 31:12:32
10. Dean Karnazes, m, 44, San Francisco, California 31:31:34
11. Adalberto Mendoza, m, 55, Burbank, California 32:02:23
12. Danny Westergaard, m, 48, Rolling Hills, California 32:22:58
13. Greg Pressler, m, 39, Portland, Oregon 32:51:20
14. Achim Heukemes, m, 55, Gaefenberg, Freistaat Bayern 33:02:42
15. John Radich, m, 53, Monrovia, California 33:08:58
16. Lisa Bliss, f, 39, Spokane, Washington 34:33:40
17. Eberhard Frixe, m, 57, Meine, Niedersachsen 35:09:58
18. Noora Alidina, f, 50, Palm Harbor, Florida 35:12:13
19. Gerhard Lusskandl, m, 37, Ober-Grafendorf, Niederoesterreich 36:52:56
20. Neil Runions, m, 49, Calgary, Alberta 37:24:01
21. Brian Kuhn, m, 33, Champaign, Illinois 37:25:52
22. Tracy Thomas, f, 45, Champaign, Illinois 37:26:44
23. John Rennison, m, 47, Hamilton, Ontario 37:30:49
24. Arthur Webb, m, 65, Santa Rosa,, California 37:48:35
25. Kim Rasmussen, m, 40, Allinge, 38:01:01
26. Anton Millar, m, 37, Bryanston, Gauteng 38:27:00
27. Henri Alain D'Andria, m, 57, Bouches du Rhone, 38:37:34
28. Tom Triumph, m, 49, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey 38:57:49
29. Tim Neckar, m, 45, Houston, Texas 39:08:40
30. Jerry C. Vondruska, m, 38, Bloomingdale, Illinois 39:27:58
31. Adam Lint, m, 24, Indiana, Pennsylvania 39:45:40
32. Bonnie Busch, f, 49, Bettendorf, Iowa 40:29:16
33. Todd Baum, m, 49, Fayatteville, New York 40:54:07
34. Nattu Natraj, m, 44, Lafayette, Colorado 41:00:54
35. Jamie Donaldson, f, 32, Littleton, Colorado 41:00:57
36. Pierre Ostor, m, 50, White Bear Lake, Minnesota 41:21:16
37. Jamie Huneycutt, f, 48, Fayetteville, Arkansas 41:24:10
38. Martin Franklin, m, 42, Aspen, Colorado 41:29:24
39. Klaus Neumann, m, 54, Stuttgart, Baden-Waerttemberg 41:38:21
40. Annie Monot, f, 58, Chalon sur Saone, 41:42:10
41. Gary Hilliard, m, 52, Sierra Madre, California 41:43:57
42. Marshall Ulrich, m, 56, Idaho Springs, Colorado 41:44:23
43. Lisa Smith-Batchen, f, 46, Jackson, Wyoming 41:54:17
44. Jonathan Gunderson, m, 29, San Francisco, California 42:08:51
45. Linda McFadden, f, 44, Modesto, California 42:30:13
46. Anita Marie Fromm, f, 36, Manitou Springs, Colorado 42:53:08
47. Dagmar Grossheim, f, 45, Gaefenberg, Freistaat Bayern 42:56:03
48. Brett Sublett, m, 41, Durango, Colorado 43:33:32
49. Chris Frost, m, 56, Malibu, California 43:41:23
50. Steve Teal, m, 41, Phelan, California 44:16:27
51. Frank McKinney, m, 44, Delray Beach, Florida 44:31:35
52. Barbara Elias, f, 45, Yuma, Arizona 44:40:15
53. Ludovic Chorgnon, m, 36, La Ville Aux Clercs, 44:54:09
54. Fred Pollard, m, 67, Brea, California 44:56:15
55. Peter Meyer, m, 69, Frankenthal, 45:01:46
56. Mark Cockbain, m, 35, East Hunsbury, Northampton 46:12:14
57. David Harper, m, 43, Clermont, Florida 46:13:35
58. Marianne Blangy, f, 44, Chaussin, Bourgogne 46:15:23
59. Philippe Grizard, m, 54, Chaussin, Bourgogne 46:15:23
60. Jack Humphrey, m, 50, Louisville, Colorado 46:18:12
61. Gabor Kozinc, m, 44, Pasadena, California 46:50:15
62. Frank (Jim) Ingalls, m, 62, Wichita Falls, Texas 46:54:57
63. Kent Moeller, m, 33, Tilst, 47:05:57
64. Dave Remington, m, 66, Spokane, Washington 47:12:30
65. Tim Kjenstad, m, 49, Henderson, Nevada 47:54:56
66. James Smith, m, 42, Superior, Colorado 48:18:28
67. Manoel de Jesus Mendes, m, 47, Brasilia, Distrito Federal 48:30:48
68. Jan Herrmann, m, 44, Gladesville, New South Wales 50:09:23
69. Dan Marinsik, m, 48, San Jose, California 50:45:45
70. Anne Langstaff, f, 46, Alpine, California 51:05:30
71. Scott Jacaway, m, 49, Downers Grove, Illinois 51:33:11
72. Kira Matukaitis, f, 30, Alexandria, Virginia 52:58:05
73. Erhard Weiss, m, 56, Siselen, 53:23:46
74. Ian Parker, m, 56, Irvine, California 53:26:44
75. Monica Otero, f, 51, St de Parnaiba, Sao Paulo 54:16:26
76. Nikki Seger, f, 45, Chicago, Illinois 54:20:30
77. Robin Smit, m, 70, Fresno, California 55:52:24
78. Stephen Hudgens, m, 51, Fort Worth, Texas 56:31:35

Friday, July 27, 2007

2007 Western States on NBC tomorrow (Sat, 7/28 @ 3pm EST)

NBC Sports will feature the 2007 Western States as part of their coverage this Saturday, 7/28, @ 3pm EST. Here's the blurb from their Web site:
THE WESTERN STATES 100: Witness the jaw dropping, adrenalin pumping, sweat flying adventure of the Western States Endurance Run-one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and certainly one of the most challenging: one day-100 miles Extreme mental and physical preparation are of utmost importance to each runner, for the mountains, although beautiful, are relentless in their challenge and unforgiving to the ill-prepared.
Relentless, indeed! You can find your local channel here. Be sure to set your Tivo's (ha, ha - just kidding Jeep World of Outdoor Sports - we'll all watch the commercials, we promise)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Surviving the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler

I still can’t believe it…I lived through my first 100-miler! Last Saturday (and Sunday!), I joined 400 other runners for a beautiful day at the 2007 Tahoe Rim Trail 50k/50m/100m near Incline Village, NV. Thanks to optimal weather and an extraordinary performance by the volunteers and directors, we had a fun-filled day of smiles, tears, and breakthrough performances. I now know why those belt buckles are so cherished – it’s hard not to get emotional when thinking about what an adventure it was and the support of everyone involved.

I had raced the TRT 50k in 2005 and the 50m in 2006, so it was destiny to sign up for the full 100m this year (well, that’s how the logic worked in my head anyway). I hoped that familiarity with the course, both the "glimpse of heaven" and "taste of hell", would help shake the butterflies in my stomach that were in full flight all week. I know I had done the training, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing when you see four drop bags packed full of an entire season’s worth of Clif Blox, sunscreen, and S! Caps for just one race. What had I gotten myself into?!?

Luckily, I wasn’t alone in my adventure. My father, Larry Dunlap, came down from Oregon to crew for me. Although he hadn’t crewed before (and I wasn’t sure exactly how to coach him), you couldn’t ask for a better wingman. He’s a retired ER physician, an avid climber and outdoorsman, and is up for just about any adventure one can conjure. He knows us ultrarunners are crazy, but as he says, “it’s the good kind of crazy”. On top of it all, he’s my Dad, so I knew he would give it to me straight if things were going sour.

I was also racing this event as a private tribute to my late step-father, J. David Rowe, who passed about 10 years ago. I have thought of Dave often since becoming a father last year, including memories that had long been forgotten. Only as a parent do I now realize how influential he was in his day-to-day advice and actions, and I feel a little ashamed that I hadn’t appreciated him more while he was alive. So I tweaked an idea that Kristin Armstrong and Paige Alam showed me at the Boston Marathon, and wrote down one great “Dave” memory for each mile –100 in all – to have in my pocket. I figured I could honor him by baking those memories in my brain and heart for good, plus have a ghost pacer to keep me company on the lonely miles between aid stations.

(Uber-runner/bloggers Addy, Gretchen, and Jessica)

It was fun to see everyone at the pre-race meeting on Friday, and I found great comfort in knowing that there would be at least 30 familiar faces out there with me racing various distances. A few runners stopped by my place afterwards, including the super-talented runner/bloggers Addy, Jessica, and Gretchen. Addy was running her first 50k, Jessica was crewing for friends while her foot healed, and Gretchen was going all out for the 50m. It was so cool to see them F2F!

3:30am came fast on Saturday, and my Dad and I packed our gear and headed to the start. It was surprisingly warm (~55 degrees), and the sky was clear. No sense in being nervous now – we were either ready or not, and the trail would soon tell us which. As we counted down to the 5am start, there was an eerie calm and many heartfelt “good lucks” among the runners. Then Dave Cotter sent us off!

(Warming up at the 5am start)

Eric Clifton flew off the start line like a banshee, with Jasper Halekas (defending champion), Sean Meissner (Tahoe Triple and 72-mile Ultra Champion), Jeff Riley (M7 at Western States last month), John Fors (back to finish this year), Steve Roark, Cian Montgomery (one week off of Siskiyou Out and Back 50k), Rob Evans (newly engaged and smiling ear-to-ear), Mark Gilligan (fresh off the Death Ride), Eric Chitwood (his first 100m), and four others forming a group behind him. Once the sun came up enough that we didn’t have to borrow each others light, the group spread out as we ran past Marlett Lake at mile 3.

(Rob Evans, Cian Montgomery, and Jeff Riley head up to Marlett)

How does one pace the first 5 miles of a 100-miler? I went for “awkwardly slow”, running the flats and downhills at a 9 min/mile pace, and fast-walking the uphills. That wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the front pack, but did keep my heart rate at a comfortable range. Kathy D’Onforio was soon on my tail, and we passed the miles by chatting about family, fun, and running. Marlett Peak was just coming out of the morning shadows as we summited and headed down to Tunnel Creek (mile 11). The aid station volunteers at Tunnel were amazing, and had us heading down the steep Red House Loop (the promised “taste of hell”) in no time.

(The sun rises to meet us at Marlett Lake)

(Morning on Marlett Peak)

The Red House Loop was tough, but not nearly as hot as previous years. The scenery was lush, despite the fact that water levels were at an all-time low. I paced along with Cian Montgomery, who had taken a short break from the Oregon Ultra Series to race the TRT. We both commented that this is a high altitude course (6800-9400’), and that can make staying hydrated a tricky thing. I was drinking about 50 ounces/hour, nearly twice what I drink at sea level. Similar to the Silver State 50m, I made a mental note to “push fluids” instead of “quenching my thirst” to keep up the pace. We both knew that the big test that awaited us at the top of Red House – the first of many scales that would ensure we weren’t dehydrated.

(Red House going up)

(The 50k runners head down as we head up the sand ladder)

My wristband said 153 lbs, and it was important I stay close to it. A 3% loss meant I had to focus on getting more fluids, a 5% loss meant I was going to take a seat and catch up, and a 7% loss got me a free ticket off the course and to the hospital. I handed my Camelpak to my Dad and stepped up on the scale. It felt like I pulled the handle on a slot machine – c’mon 153! It turned out I was 152.5, so I was close. My Dad loaded me up with some pb&j squares, while Jessica snapped some pics and wished me well. So far, so good!

(Heading out to Mt. Rose)

The next out-and-back section (mile 16-25) was peaceful and fun. My pace was definitely faster than expected, but I was chalking that up to the wonderful weather (60-70 degrees, with a slight breeze). I was pacing with Kelly Patrick, a 24-year-old from Wisconsin who had found 100-milers to be a great extension from the Ironman’s he had done in previous years. I got talking a bit too much (big surprise) and caught a toe on a rock and fell, but it looked much worse than it was. I brushed off and kept going.

(Jasper sets the pace early)

Around mile 23, Jasper Halekas was already heading back with Eric Clifton just a few minutes behind. Phil Shaw and Sean Messiner were also looking good, not too far off the lead pace. About eight more went by before I made it to the Mt. Rose aid station (mile 25), and loaded up on soup and PB&J’s. My dad pointed out that I got there in 5:15 – about an hour ahead of pace! I guess “awkwardly slow” still wasn’t slow enough.

(Look at this aid station buffet! Photo courtesy of Addy)

The 50-mile race, which started an hour later, began to catch up to us as Thomas Reiss led Jeff Kozak (defending champion) and Devon Crosby-Helms up to the aid station. Gretchen wasn’t too far behind either, and looking great. The trail was now full of ultrarunners, and there was lots of chatter! Everyone seemed to be enjoying the calm weather, but suffering a bit from the altitude. The encouragement helped us all keep a strong pace.

(A smiling face around mile 35)

Before I knew it, I was back at the Tunnel Creek aid station (mile 35). Kelly Patrick and I had stuck together, occasionally catching a glimpse of Eric Chitwood in front of us. We got our refills, weighed in (I was a pound low, but Kelly was three pounds off), and fast-walked back up towards Hobart. Kelly was kind enough to pose for a few pics as we hit the top of Marlett Peak again.

(Kelly poses atop Marlett Peak)

At the Hobart aid station (mile 40), I was definitely feeling hungry. Perhaps it was the 100-memories-of-Dave card that was reminding me of his German pancakes, pork chops and applesauce, and homemade pizza that kept me full in my teenage years. Eric Chitwood recommended the banana/strawberry/Ensure smoothie, and it hit the spot! Usually I can’t stomach Ensure, but it was tasty with the fruit. Kelly dug into his bag to grab one of his many Red Bulls, then led us up Snow Peak.

(Still smiling at mile 43)

On the way, Thomas Reiss went blazing by to lead the 50-mile, and Devon Crosby-Helms came by in second. Devon slowed down to fast-walk with us up the steep sections, chatting away about how fun this was. As we entered the Snow Valley aid station (mile 43), Jeff Kozak stormed up the hill to pass Devon, and she went into chase mode.

(Devon Crosby-Helms atop Snow Peak)

As Kelly and I descended, I commented that I couldn’t believe we were going to do a second lap. Right about then, Garett Graubins went by and said “it will all feel better at mile 51”. Great advice! We also caught up to Addy, who was smiling ear to ear and enjoying the fact that she had already run farther than she ever has. If she’s smiling now, I have no doubt she’s hooked!

I whizzed by the last aid station, and pulled into the start/finish area in 9:55. This was WAY ahead of pace, and 45 minutes faster than I had run the 50-miler last year. Maybe I had made a big rookie mistake, or maybe I was just having an awesome day. My dad took care of me again, changing shoes and socks, dousing my bandana in water, and letting me chug a couple of cups of soup. Troy Limb was also there, ready to do anything needed. I sat down to take a 5 minute break and enjoyed the clapping from all the 50k/50m finishers who were grabbing beers and having a good time. Better get out of here before they suck me in!

Garett was right – knowing that you’re on the second half makes a big mental difference. It also made a big difference to see my Dad at each of the aid stations, full of smiles and encouragement. The trail was much more lonely on this lap, although I could still see Eric Chitwood setting a fast pace in front of me. I sang to myself in bass tones (thanks to the 100-memory card reminding me that’s what Dave did in church), did math problems in my head, and thought of how big Sophie is getting. I was feeling the miles, but my stomach, mind, and soul were doing great.

(Mile 55 - easier to see in the sunlight!)

The shadows got longer and my strides got shorter as I headed into Tunnel Creek aid station for the second time (mile 60). My dad was there again, meaning he hiked up Tunnel Creek twice! He decided to join me on the second loop of Red House. As we headed down the steep descent cautiously, Rob Evans and his pacer went flying by – Rob was definitely feeling good. Red House did its best to suck me dry of excess energy, and we finished the loop about 10 minutes slower than the first time. When we came back to Tunnel Creek (mile 66), I began to feel a level of bone-tired fatigue I wasn’t used to – and I was only 2/3 done!

(Long shadows over Marlett Lake)

The next 9 miles were tough, as I struggled with fatigue and the closing darkness. Clearly I haven’t done enough night running on tired legs, and my pace slowed considerably. Jasper Halekas went by again, screaming fast. The second figure in the dark was Mark Gilligan, having a fantastic race! Apparently Eric Clifton had dropped at 50 miles, and Mark had made his way through the pack. Molly Zurn caught up to me (first female), pacing like a pro. I stayed on her pace the best I could, and we watched the sun set over the mountains. I couldn’t believe we were still going through the night! We caught up to Sean Meissner about mile 72, and he was definitely suffering. But that never stops Sean from having words of encouragement for Molly and me.

(Darkness swallows up the trail)

I pulled into the Mt. Rose aid station (mile 75), still smiling and ready for some warmer clothes. Thomas Reiss was there (he had won the 50-miler), and he and his wife helped my Dad get me in front of a heater to collect my energy. The volunteers (especially Sarah) were great! They said I was one of few people smiling, and that there had been some drops from altitude, sun exposure, injury, hydration, and more. A lot can go wrong in these races, that’s for sure. Sarah pointed out that I was still 1 hour and 20 minutes ahead of the sub-24 pace, despite taking my time on the last section. So I grabbed more food and headed out.

The stretch back to Tunnel Creek was a lonely one, with the exception of the headlights coming the other way. Behind the lights I heard the familiar voices of Anil and Rajeev, Chet Fairbanks, Peter Lubbers, Chihping Fu, and more, all having a great time. It was eerie to not know where I was on the trail, my reality pared down to the focal length of my light. I hadn’t realized how draining it was until I got to Tunnel Creek (mile 84) around 1am. None of the food looked good, and my body just wanted to sleep. I washed my face and asked for advice – they recommended some broth in my water bottle, a cup of coffee, and more PB&J's! When I weighed in, however, I was 3 lbs up. The volunteers helped me devise a plan to cut back on the salt, and I hit the trail walking again.

Up ahead, I could see headlights on the hillside miles ahead of me. Oh, how I wanted to be with them! Dave kept me company with memories of fishing in Bemidji, MN, teaching me how to make stained glass art, and having tea parties with his grand-daughter. The stars reflected off Lake Tahoe, making it impossible to see where the land began and the sky ended. The two orange moons (one a reflection) stared back at me like a wolf in hunt as I climbed up Marlett Peak again and made my way to the Hobart aid station.

Hobart (mile 91) looked like a tent party this time, as volunteers hunkered down in the cold behind the white flaps. They all jumped to action as my headlight approached, and were quick to sit me down next to the heater and fix another Ensure smoothie. It was 2:30am, and that meant I had lost all of my banked time for a sub-24 hour finish. But one of the volunteers pointed out that I still had time since the last 6 miles were downhill. It seemed like a good goal, so I headed out to charge the hill.

My mind was racing all over the place, and my body was on overload. The rhythm of my steps and breath was the only thing keeping me goinging forward, up into the windy hills of Snow Peak. I got to the Snow Valley aid station (mile 93), weighed in just one pound over, and noted that I had made up 4 minutes on the sub-24 goal! With that, I went charging down the hill.

The section from Snow Valley seemed extra technical in the dark, and I was kicking rocks left and right (bye, bye toenails). Then suddenly, a rock just reached up and grabbed my left leg like a bear trap, pulling all my muscles and snapping me down on the ground. I seized up for a minute, but quickly got on my feet to keep moving. The first step with my left leg was unable to bear weight, and I went down again. Oh, crap.

Sub-24 instantly faded away, and I had bigger issues to face. I was cold on the hill, looking both ways down the trail and realizing there wasn’t anyone for miles. My knee was swelling fast, but it felt like a muscle thing more so than a joint thing. I had always wondered how people could drop at mile 96…now I know. Four miles of downhill on a bad knee was not going to bode well for the rest of my running season. But I didn’t have a choice – the next aid station was at mile 98, so I had to move forward. I stepped lightly, taking an hour to cover the next two miles. Kim Giminez and her pacer passed me, slowing to make sure I was okay. The sun came up, and my Dad was waiting for me at mile 98. It seemed foolish to stop when I could see the finish across the lake, so my Dad pointed out a branch that could be used as a crutch, and we hobbled our way in to the finish. It took 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover the last 4 miles, but I got there in 25 hours and 18 minutes, good enough for 12th place. In a sick masochistic way, I was kinda glad that those last 4 miles were tough. I had to dig down deep to find the courage to move forward, and I think that really captured the spirit of a 100 that all of us embraced.

(All this for the buckle! They even etched my finish time in the back)

Two sunrises, four packs of M&M’s, 8 PB&J’s, 9 cups of soup, 10 pouches of sunscreen, 15 packs of Clif Blox, 20 gels, and over 1000 ounces of water later, I made it 100 miles! I couldn’t believe how tired I was, but at the same time it seemed surprisingly doable. As I changed into warm clothes, I found out that Jasper Halekas (the new USATF and RRCA 100-mile champion, yes!) had taken two hours of his course record to win in 18 hours, 16 minutes. Mark Gilligan held up his phenomenal pace to get second (19:38), and Rob Evans, Eric Chitwood, and Molly Zurn had finished under 24 hours (full results here). All in all, some fantastic performances by everyone!

(Molly Zurn and Jasper Halekas accept awards from RD's Dave Cotter and Kevin Bigley)

My Dad helped me hobble up to the car, and I couldn’t thank him enough for his help. I was so proud of him! Although I had shared the trail with Dave along the way, I felt privileged that my Dad is still alive and willing to strap on the trail shoes and REALLY share the experience. There is no way I could have done this without him and the wonderful volunteers along the way.

To the RD’s, volunteers, fellow racers, my Dad, and all involved, my deepest thanks for helping me find that finish line. I can honestly say I am a changed man, and learned a lot about myself on the way to getting that belt buckle. I don’t care how nerdy it is to actually wear it, ‘cause I will! And I’m already looking forward to States in ’08. I just need to get a few more night miles in first. ;-)

Congrats, everyone!

- SD

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ultramarathon represents ultimate endurance test (North Lake Tahoe Bonanza)

Evan Schladow from the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza wrote a nice piece on the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m, plus a great pic! I'm sure I will look much worse in the actual race. ;-) Click here to read the full story.

It was great to see many of you at the pre-race meeting today - get some rest, and I'll see you on the trail!

- SD

Ultramarathon represents ultimate endurance test

Event features 50K, 50M and 100M races along The Tahoe Rim Trail

Evan Schladow
bonanza intern
July 20, 2007

Think running a marathon sounds like hard work? Try running four.

Competitors in the annual Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs, which start Saturday, do just that. The ultramarathon event features three separate races at 50 kilometers, 50 miles and 100 miles along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

(Scott Dunlap on the Tahoe Rim Trail where mile 25/75 will be,
photo courtesy of Carrie Richards and The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza)

The trails start and end at Stonehenge in the Spooner Lake State Park and climb thousands of feet to top out at 9,000 feet near Snow Valley Peak, 2,000 feet above the starting point.

This hasn't deterred the runners, though. Now in its seventh year and only the second year for the 100-mile race, the event's Web site shows that it has filled to capacity, with more than 400 runners participating.

The Tahoe Rim Trail Run is this year's national championship in the 100-mile trail event for both major track and field officiating bodies, the USATF and the RRCA. Runners participating in the event come from 31 states and 6 countries and are vying for a shot at beating the 20 hour, 18 minute trail record.

If the idea of running an ultramarathon sounds crazy, well, even some competitors have their doubts.

"Even a year ago I would have said it's not a good idea to run 100 miles. It's insane," said trail runner and Incline Village resident Scott Dunlap, who will be attempting his first 100-mile race this Saturday. "It just kind of ropes you in."

According to Dunlap, the trail ultramarathon started in 1974 when Gordy Ainsleigh, a competitor in the Western States Trail Ride, a 100-mile, 24-hour equestrian event, had his horse go lame shortly before the race. Instead of finding another horse, Ainsleigh strapped the saddlebags to his own back and ran to the finish line on foot within the 24-hour limit. While it remained a fringe sport for many years, the ultramarathon has recently gained recognition as a result of popular books on the topic and increased interest in running and fitness.

"So many people are doing marathons these days, some want to move beyond," Dunlap said. "An ultramarathon sounds really hard to do, but if you think a marathon sounds achievable, an ultramarathon is not that much more of a stretch."

Training for an event like the 100-mile run begins months before, running longer distances at a slower pace to build up endurance. Closer to the race, runners like Dunlap will cut down their mileage, concentrating more on acclimatizing to altitude and staying healthy. During and after the race, hydration and calorie intake are the keys to success and safety, as so many hours of running significantly boosts the runner's metabolism.

While Dunlap hopes for a fast time, he said competition is only a minor part of the event itself. Hikers are welcome participants, provided they can reach the finish line within the 35-hour time limit.

At the Tahoe Rim Trail Run, a significant proportion of runners will be first-timers, with runners ranging from ages 21 to 75. Ultimately, the competition is less against fellow runners than against the terrain and oneself. The saying among ultrarunners is, "You run the first 50 miles with your legs, you run the second 50 miles with your mind."

The Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50M/100M Endurance Runs will take place on July 21, starting at Stonehenge in the Spooner Lake State Park. The 50k and 50m begin at 6 a.m.; the 100m begins at 5 a.m. Visit the event's Web site, www.tahoemtnmilers.org/trt50/ for more details.

Monday, July 16, 2007

129 Miles of The Death Ride

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 2,800 cycling enthusiasts for the 27th anniversary of The Death Ride in Markleeville, CA. This "Tour of the California Alps" climbs over 15,000 feet as you work your way over five passes on the 129-mile course. The epic views, wonderful people, and white-knuckle descents made for a fantastic day, and I certainly hope to come back again.

It probably seems a little crazy to be doing a 129-mile ride just a week before the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-mile run, but I thought it would be good to spend a day exercising in the high desert to acclimatize, gauge my hydration, check the sunscreen strategy, etc. Plus I'm not ashamed to admit what drew me to the event years ago - the killer shwag! Emblazoned with Grateful Dead-like skeletons on bikes, I have been craving one of these jerseys for years. But you can't sport the threads if you haven't done the ride, no? I wasn't too worried that this would risk my first 100-mile run next week since The Death Ride gives plenty of chances to opt out at 2, 3, or 4 passes if you don't feel like going the distance. Plus the self-pacing nature of a "ride" meant there was no need to push your VO2Max to catch the guy in front of you. I figured I would take it easy, enjoy the day, and let my body dictate the distance.

(Mark Gilligan tackles the first hill)

I quickly found out I wasn't the only one crazy enough to try the Death Ride/TRT100 double, as Mark Gilligan pulled up beside me in the first mile out of Turtle Rock Park. Mark and two of his ultrarunning training partners, Jasper Helekas (TRT100 defending champion) and Rob Evans, were up in Tahoe to acclimate for the TRT100. Much like me, Mark was thrilled to find he had won a lottery entry to The Death Ride and couldn't pass it up despite the taunting from his pals. We both found comfort in knowing that riding with each other meant we wouldn't be tempted to go too hard.

(Quick break to peel off a layer on Monitor Pass)

We rode a few miles down the chilly river corridor and then started the first climb up Monitor Pass around 6:30am. The morning sun came to great us about half way up, quickly warming the still mountain range to 70 degrees. We grabbed some fig newtons at the first aid station and shed a few layers of clothes. I enjoyed chatting with Mark as we climbed - much like ultras, you can really get to know someone over a few hours! Mark has been getting very fast in his ultras the last few years, and I was shocked to learn his secret - he has lost nearly 50 lbs in the last four years! Amazing.

(Making our way up Monitor Pass)

We crested the first peak (mile 15), where a raging party was already taking place at aid station #2. Each rider got a sticker to prove they got to the top (collect all five!). The majority of cyclists at this event seem to fit the "enthusiast" category - regular riders who put in their weekly miles, but not quite the shave your legs/monster quads variety (although some of those folks were here too). I had learned from riders on the first climb that most were hoping to finish all five peaks to get the coveted "five peaks pin" at the top of the last hill. All this for a pin? I guess it's not much crazier than "all this for a belt buckle". ;-)

(The monument at Monitor Pass - one down, four to go!)

The descent on the back side of Monitor was WICKED fast. Mark is a phenomenal descender, and my speedometer hit 51 mph as I followed his lead down the winding road. Whew! Normally I don't get anywhere close to these speeds, but the road was smooth and the first four passes were blocked from traffic. Some folks took it slow, and they had plenty of room. By the time we hit the bottom, my body was pumped with enough adrenaline to sprint right back to the top! One thing for sure, any psychological impact from witnessing Debby's accident was no longer affecting my confidence on the bike. I bet she would be happy about that.

(The climb up the backside of Monitor Pass, photo courtesy of Adam Tow)

Mark and I stopped at aid station #3 at the bottom of the hill to refill the water bottles. The aid station volunteers were amazing at processing hundreds of us, and we back on the road in no time. We noted that there were at least 1,000 riders in front of us - this is an early rising crew!

(Mark heads back up Monitor through the canyons)

The climb back up affirmed that our descent had been long and steep. The canyon walls shot up on either side, providing little relief from the sun. Mark was eager to put his adrenaline to work, and snaked his way through the pack, dancing on his pedals. I held back to chat with some of the other cyclists. Many were doing this ride for the first time (many had attended the cleverly-named training camp, The Near Death Experience), but I also met one guy doing his 21st! There were mountain bikes, tandems, even a bike/scooter hybrid. About half way up, we saw the last rider coming down - a 13-year-old having no trouble at all with the descent.

(Making the most of every piece of shade)

Road kill can tell you a lot about the country you are in, and this ride was no exception. Rattlesnakes, horny toads, ground squirrels the size of small kangaroos - this was the high desert for sure! Most of the wildlife was already retreating into the shade, as the temperature was bordering a very dry 90 degrees. I noticed I was easily drinking 50 oz/hour, even at a moderate pace. My Sugoi Impact jersey and shorts (which Christi calls the "super hero suit") were doing a great job of keeping me cool.

(Another rider enjoying the high plains)

I crested Monitor Pass for the second time (35 miles) and pulled into the party aid station for some breakfast. Bagels with peanut butter hit the spot, as did taking a seat to stretch out. The self-pacing nature of these rides are great!

Topped up on food, water, and sunscreen, I took another fast descent (47 mph!) and hooked up with five riders who had a good pace going to the base of Ebbetts Pass, our next towering challenge. Since I do a lot of solo riding, I often forget how much easier it is to ride in a pack. This group had matching outfits (complete with "assvertising" of their company on their bike shorts) and clearly trained together. I wasn't sure about the protocol, so I asked if I could join in and warned them I'm a bit of a rookie at group riding. He summed it up in two breaths - "Stay on the wheel in front of you, 'cause that wheel is your lifeline. Always be behind, don't let your wheel get parallel. When you find yourself at the front, go a little harder for as long as you can, and the guy behind you will naturally pull in front as you slow." That's it? I think I can handle that! With little effort, our mini-peleton made mincemeat of the next six miles, picking up additional riders along the way. We approached the next aid station and I said my thanks as they continued their speedy pace.

(Snaking up Ebbetts Pass)

Mark was at the aid station, and after we both had some Coke and snacks, we tackled the 8-12 degree inclines of Ebbetts Pass. There was definitely a lot of out-of-the-saddle work here, particularly on a few switchbacks that reduced some riders to walking. Those wise enough to bring bikes with triple rings on the front pedaled softly on the right, while those of us pushing bigger gears rode up on the left. Riders were already descending down, meaning a few folks were already done with four peaks! I felt completely dried out despite my aggressive water intake, and my nose started to bleed as it cracked from the inside. Another rider gave me a great tip - squirt water on your fingertips and occasionally snort a few drops to stay lubed. I'm learning so much on this ride!

(Near the peak of Ebbetts Pass)

The last hike to the peak of Ebbetts was the steepest, eliciting groans all around. Mark had made it up fast enough to take a quick break in the shade, and got back on his bike as he saw me go through. We hit the top (mile 55) to find another lively aid station, but I knew the bottom was only 20 minutes away. We plunged down the backside of Ebbetts (37 mph), being cautious of the cracked and bumpy roads that were hard to read in the shadows.

At the bottom, I dismounted to have a Coke (and a smile) and sit in the shade just outside the aid station. I laid out my jacket and rested my back, and before I knew it, I was asleep! When I awoke a few minutes later, a cyclist next to me said "no problem, I'll be your snooze alarm...just tell me how long you want to rest". Ha! Mark and I talked with the group and found all kinds of tips and tricks people used to make it through the day - jumping in hotel swimming pools, taking a shower before the last pass, massages that were available at some of the aid stations, planned naps, etc. Mark and I jealously dreamed of shower stalls at mile 75 of the TRT100...

(Heading back up Ebbetts, photo courtesy of Adam Tow)

As we remounted to make climb #4, Mark and I began assessing our fatigue. This climb definitely felt like work, and we each had a few nagging chafe spots. Mark wanted to be cautious and said he was "going easy and only doing four passes". Mark, that's an 80-mile ride with 13,000 feet of vertical...I wouldn't call that going easy! I figured I would get up and over Ebbetts one more time and see how I felt. But so far, I was hanging in there.

Mark chuckled to himself when he saw the "1km to the top" chalked into the road. In an ultra, that means another 10 minutes, but on a bike, it means right around the corner! We paced with some riders from Davis, CA, Seattle, WA, Las Vegas, NV, and Manchester, England, then wished them well as we descended down the other side. We knew to hold back on the speed a bit (36 mph), since this road twisted quite a bit more.

(Lining up for lunch, photo courtesy of Adam Tow)

The aid station at the bottom of Ebbetts (mile 80) had transformed into a small city to feed all the cyclists a full lunch. It was 1:30pm, so Mark and I stopped for sandwiches, chips, and soft drinks in the shade. But the heat was too much for a long stay (my bike gauge read 92 degrees), so we quickly mounted up and headed back to Turtle Rock Park. Mark was still going strong - I have no doubt he could have done five passes - but decided to call it quits to save up for next weekend. I dropped my gear off at my car and did the quick self-assessment. I was tired, but I still felt good. The only issue I had was a creeping sunburn that somehow defied the half gallon of SPF 45 I had been applying all day. Then another cyclist told me what awaits at the top of Carson Pass - ice cream! OMG, that's all I needed to hear. I grabbed some bandanas out of the car to cover my neck and ears (high dork factor, but it sure works!), and waited for a group of riders to come by that I could join. A pack picked me up shortly, and I was on my way!

(A four mile stretch out to Carson Pass on a gorgeous day)

One of the first challenges you notice about tackling the fifth peak at Carson Pass is that you have to get there first! It was 3:30pm, and the winds were picking up. If you weren't with a group, even the downhills felt like work. I hit one last aid station before the climb (complete with near-shower at the hose), and found challenge #2 - the only traffic on the course. It wasn't too bad though - most of the cars slowed to 35 mph, and yelled out support. I loved that they called us "Death Riders" - I felt like I was in a motorcycle gang. Death Riders, saddle up!

(Heading up Carson Pass)

The higher we got on Carson Pass, the more the wind picked up. It was clear this wasn't going to come easy for anyone. Perhaps Mark had it right! I stopped at the aid station half way to the top, and slammed a Coke in one pull. It looks like my nutrition crutch in the same in ultra runs and rides!

As the caffeine and sugar mainlined into me, I felt like going hard to get through the wind ASAP. Despite the climbs so far, I had stayed cautiously around 60-70% of my max heart rate. I thought it might be a good simulation for next week to take a couple of hard pulls on tired legs and see how my body responded. With one last mouthful of Jelly Belly's, I kicked it up a gear.

As I passed a large group of 15 riders about 6 miles from the top, the headwind really picked up. It was tough, but I liked the fact that it cooled us down. The lead rider in the group asked if he could "get on my wheel", and I said "absolutely". I think it's the same amount of work for me either way, no? As if a telegraph had been sent down the line of cyclists, they all immediately got out of the saddle and surged to my speed. How cool!

About five minutes in, one rider came up and gave me a minute of relief so I could chug some water. Then he said "Mayday! Mayday! I'm going down!", and I pulled up in front of him again. I looked back and the snake of riders had grown! It really did look like a snake too - if I went left, they all went left. I wish I could have taken a video! I tucked in and pushed for another two minutes, and the guy behind me said "I'm sorry, I'm doing everything I can just to stay on your wheel...but your form is great!". I hollered back "no worries...I've been riding somebody's wheel all day, and that's the reason I have fuel left". Team spirit was alive and well on Carson Pass.

(The view to the top of Carson Pass, just as I'm blowing up)

I tackled the wind best I could. The guys behind me promised me beer, ice cream, high fives - anything to keep the tempo going. When I finally redlined about a mile from the top, I slowed and pulled to the back of the pack. Everyone was super-nice as they went by, patting me on the shoulders and saying "awesome pull". I tagged on to the back of the pack and sucked that wheel until we reached the top.

(Top of Carson Pass, complete with dork factor bandana)

There indeed was ice cream at the top of Carson Pass (mile 102), as well as seats in the shade, food, and a bunch of volunteers handing out the "five pass pin" to the smiling faces coming up the road. One volunteer asked I wanted a quick inspection of my bike, and I said sure. He pumped up my tires, taped down a wire that was loose, wiped down the bike and handed it back. Wow! Two Heath bars later, I mounted up to make the last descent.

Right away I noticed that my wheels were spinning much faster with the tire pressure up. Even without streamlining, my speedometer was in the mid 40's. Before too long, the five guy team I met earlier came by and one yelled "come with us!". I pulled in behind them and their drafting sucked me in like a tornado. The speedometer jacked up...45mph, 50mph, 55mph, 58mph! Yet behind this group, I could barely feel the wind at all. After a couple of minutes, I accidentally braked too much in a corner and they got about 10 yards ahead. I quickly learned that was the end of that - no way I could catch up. I now have a new respect for those Tour de France riders who get dropped from a peleton and somehow make their way back. It's nothing short of impossible!

At the bottom of the hill, I picked up another pack and we rode the 4 miles back to Turtle Creek Park. I got some food, signed my name on the big "five pass" poster, and listened to fellow cyclists talk about their journeys. It took me 11 hours, but I didn't feel exhausted. There's no doubt that's because I had so much help along the way, lots of water, and plenty of rest at the aid stations. Cycling doesn't have to be a team sport, but it's amazing what you can do if you ride as a team.

(Sunset over the pass as I head out, slightly overexposed, just like me)

I bought my "five pass finisher" jersey (Yeah! It was all about the shwag, after all), and headed back to Lake Tahoe into the sunset. I'm glad I fit in this ride and had a chance to see the gorgeous country out here. I think the time in the sun, dry air, and altitude will also be helpful in gauging next week. My thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who made this ride so much fun!

- SD

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Scott Jurek, Krissy Moehl win 2007 Hardrock 100 in record pace

Seattle runners Scott Jurek and Krissy Moehl both set course records at the 2007 Hardrock 100 this year, joining 97 others (72%, also a record) in finishing the grueling 33,000 of climbing near Silverton, CO. Jurek's 26:08 bested the previous course record by 27 minutes, while Moehl's 29:24 took 30 minutes off the previous record. More here at the Durango News, and full results here.

(The start)

(Scott Jurek's finish)

(Krissy Moehl's finish)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dean Karnazes Wins ESPY Award for Best Outdoor Athlete

The polls are in, and Dean Karnazes won the ESPY Award for Best Outdoor Athlete by a large margin. A great day for Dean, I'm sure, and certainly a good day for ultrarunning. Congrats, Dean! You can check out the ceremony on ESPN this Sunday, July 15th, @ 9pm PST.

Dean passed on the following:
"Much thanks to the many of you who took the time and energy to vote and pass along the word to others. It was a tremendous evening at the ESPY awards ceremony in LA last night, and I got to rub shoulders with some of the great names in sports today (actually, my shoulder rubbed somewhere near their midsection, those basketball players are huge).

I was fortunate to be an ESPY winner in the category of Best Outdoor Athlete, and I really appreciate your support. It is a great honor to have won this award, and I thank you many times over.

Best always,

Dean Karnazes"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ultrarunner or Drug Smuggler?

Rick Gaston had an experience a couple of weeks ago that is good for all of us airline-bound ultrarunners to learn from. I think the pic and below quote sums it up - be careful how you package your fuel mix and salt tablets before going through the security check!

(Cytomax and salt pills - or is it?!? Photo courtesy of Rick Gaston)
[Dialogue from Rick's July 4th entry]

2 Officers: So look what you've created here is a suspicious situation. You're transporting powder, white powder at that in small plastic bags. Under x-ray it all looked very suspicious. Now we actually did take out your bag and tested it. Because this is a small airport we were able to handle it quickly but had this been a larger airport, say San Francisco, you could have missed your flight.

Me: I understand officers.

2 Officers: Next time transport it in a container with the package intact or buy it here if possible.

Me: Got it.

2 Officers: Also you had suspicious looking pills. You had pills in a bottle but you also had pills in small plastic baggies. That was also suspicious.

Me: Oh those are salt tablets...
I'm sure it's funny NOW, but not so funny then. ;-)

- SD

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Into The Darkness To Appreciate the LIght (Maine Today)

Here's an interesting idea to help people appreciate the challenges of being blind - a blindfolded 5k! Check out this great article from Maine Today about the Vision 5k in Boston, MA, a national championship race with the added option of the "Blindfold Challenge" that lets sighted runners simulate a blind running experience with blindfolds and guides.

(Escorted by Marc Chalufour, Candace Karu of Cape Elizabeth finishes the Vision 5K, where she ran the Blindfold Challenge; photo courtesy of Maine Today)
Favorite quote:
"I was very nervous beforehand, and it was a little bit surreal, disorienting and dizzying -- but surprising how quickly you get used to it," said Karu, whose previous experience running blindfolded was limited to a lap around a track a couple of weeks before.
- SD

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tri'ing the Pacific Crest Half Ironman

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining nearly 2,000 athletes for the Pacific Crest Endurance Weekend in Sunriver, OR.

<- Maia, the true triathlete of the family

This three day event had everything from 5k’s to Half Ironmans that weaved through the Sisters Wilderness, giving everyone a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Oregon high desert. I met up with my extending family for a mini-family reunion, and we all enjoyed racing and watching others in the perfect 70 degree weather.

I chose to race the Half Ironman triathlon on Saturday, and was looking forward to “doing a tri” for the first time in years. My open water swimming skills were definitely lacking, and after witnessing the cycling accident on Sand Hill Road last month, I was too nervous on the bike to do long rides (btw, for those following along with this story, Debra has returned home from the hospital and is doing well on her recovery). But I figured I had a good foundation from all the running and could get through without too much trouble. One thing for sure – after all these ultras, the half marathon run was going to feel like a sprint!

The extended Dunlap clan were also signed up for many of the events, providing many opportunities to cheer. When I tallied it all up, here’s what we had on the schedule:

• My 7-year-old niece, Maia, was going to do the Splash/Pedal/Dash
• My father, Larry, was going to do the Olympic distance duathlon
• My step-mother, Sandie, would swim in an Olympic triathlon relay along with my step-sister, Jill (run) and her husband, Mike (bike)
• My mother, Diane, was tackling the 5k after a two-year recovery from heart surgery
• Christi, Sophie, Rocky, Maia, and I would join Diane for the 5k, along with Christi’s brother (Scott), his wife (Erica), and their 2 and half year old twin boys (Cannon and Carson)

Whew! Needless to say, there was someone to cheer for every day!

Maia was first, tackling the Splash/Pedal/Dash like a pro on Friday. Over 150 kids took on the water slide, 1 mile bike, and quarter mile run. As they were sent off two at a time on the chip-marked course, parents circled in a frenzy to cheer them on and take pictures. I was very impressed with how kids as young as five years old did all three sports with almost no help. Maia was great, even kicking it into overdrive for the run! So many budding triathletes. We celebrated like kings that night, eating BBQ and drinking beer until the wee hours. I had so much fun celebrating, I almost forgot I had a Half Ironman the next day!

(Maia swims, bikes, and runs!)

The next morning, my brother, Mike, drove me out to Wickiup Resevoir on a beautiful morning and we tried to estimate my splits so the family would know when to look for me. I hadn’t done an open water swim in years (and had a brand new wet suit to prove it), and I was still burping ribs and beer from the night before, so I figured 40 minutes for the swim. The bike course had changed this year and didn’t have the big climb around Mt. Bachelor, so I thought maybe 2:45 for the bike. The run would largely depend on how the bike went, but I had never run faster than a 1:40 in a Half Iron, so that was a good stretch goal. Overall my stretch goal would be under 5 hours, but 5:20 would be most likely.

(The swim start at Wickiup Reservoir)

I hustled up to my wave just in time for the start, and we were off! The water was cold (~60 degrees), but quite pleasant. I found a rhythm at the back of the back, but continued to burp up a storm (note to self – baby back ribs do not make the best pre-race meal). When the wave behind us caught up, they rolled over me like a speed bump, pulling off my goggles and forcing me to take a quick break to get them back on. I didn’t get too angry – this was the Pacific Northwest Championships after all, so the front-runners were giving it all they had. Another wave caught us as I hit the halfway point, but they were all in a line like a Tour de France peleton. We let the convoy by and did our best to pull into their slipstream. Before I knew it, the swim finish was in sight.

I dashed out of the water and immediately into the port-o-pottie. Those baby back ribs were tearing through me like frayed rope. No worries – I’m sure there would be plenty of port-o-potties along the way. I got my bike gear on, slapped on some sunscreen, and gave my brother a high five as I headed out. The swim took 38 minutes, but the 10 minute T1 had thrown me off my pace.

The day warmed up quickly as we all headed out on the bike. I had on a Sugoi tri outfit that ventilated nicely (Christi calls it the “super hero suit” thanks to the metallic blue stripes). Most of the roads had nice big shoulders to ride on and sparse traffic, but I noticed that my heart would jump when the big trucks went by. I seemed to be the only one though – all the other riders were barreling down the highway in full aero position. I stayed down in my aero bars as much as possible, and kept my power meter on 220 watts. At the half way point, I was averaging 22.5 mph, which was projecting a very fast 2:30 bike split.

(Biking towards Mt. Bachelor along the Cascade Lakes Highway)

The scenery was amazing, as we raced past the Cascade Lakes and through endless hills of pines. I did my best to take a pic, but it turns out that isn’t very safe on the bike (whoa!). My legs felt tired around mile 45, reminding me that I hadn’t done many long rides this year. But I stayed in my pack, and finished up in 2:33. With a not-so-quick change into a new shirt and shoes (and yes, one more port-o-pottie stop), I headed out on the run.

The Dunlap clan was there to cheer me on, led by Maia in her new bright red Flamenco dress. With a round of high fives, I set down the course on a 7-min mile pace. My quads were a bit tight, but the run felt very natural. One of the best parts of being a runner is that you’re one of the few people smiling on the last leg!

(Running in the pines; photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

One thing I quickly noted about triathletes is that they seem to be more competitive than the ultra runners. If I came up on somebody from my age group (who were everywhere – when is that going to stop?), they would prefer to surge than chat. In fact, nearly all of my humble attempts at starting conversation with “isn’t this a great day?” were met with grimaces of disdain. The few who answered back were often ultrarunners! That’s okay – to each their own.

It felt like I barely had enough time to soak in the wetlands and river area behind the resort when the aid station attendants were shouting “2 miles to go”. I hit one more port-o-pottie (oh Lord, let this be the last) and kept up the speed to finish a 1:38 run leg, good for 5:01:36 and 70th place. I was WAY off the winning pace (sub 4 hour - those guys are FAST!), but was feeling good enough for beer and pasta at the end.

(Bringing it in to the finish; photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

After a night of more food, family, and fun, we all gathered along the course to cheer on my Dad in his duathlon, and the family relay. All did very well, with my Dad winning his age group in the duathlon, and the relay team exceeding their expectations. The true hero of this race was my Step-Mom, Sandie. She is legally blind, but still managed to clock an impressive time on the swim course, even in a wetsuit she had never tried before. Given how little I could see during the swim, I have no idea how she did that!

(Larry Dunlap, my Dad, wins the 60-64 age group Olympic duathlon)

(Mike Barnebey, Jill Barnebey, and Sandie Dunlap ace the Olympic relay)

The 5k was also very special. My Mom had been using this 5k walk as a stretch goal for recovering from some new stents put in just two years ago. Like many heart-related procedures, the first year of her recovery involved juggling rehab, short exercise, and a medical cocktail that severely restricted her. She couldn’t travel, walk long distances, or anything. The only way out was a lot of hard work on her behalf – the kind that makes my training seem easy – and a big goal to work towards. I was very proud of her just for making it to the start!

(My Mom, Christi, Sophie, and Erica at the start of the 5k)

I will let my Mom describe the 5k:

Coming in Last

By Diane Dunlap

After a long decline in health that finally led to heart surgery two years ago, last year I had struggled to walk from where the suv was parked to Scott’s swim/bike transition point at this same event. Any thought of walking a mile or a 5k was out of the question. Last year, I was still working my way back to 10,000 step days and cardiac capacity that would let me do any aerobic work. This year, I had another year of training and recovery behind me, and I was ready to try for a new record.

So, on Sunday morning, eleven of us (and Rocky!) lined up near the back of the 5k pack with the other walkers. The race started, the runners off into the 80 degree day on the pine-lined walking and bike paths, followed by the walkers. It took less than two minutes for all of the family and the other walkers to slowly begin to pull away from me. All but Jim Stott, my partner, who had decided to walk with me, just to make sure I was ok. Gotta love him! He’s not a runner—that was his first race ever. It must be love—he strapped on his lawn-mowing Keds and insisted on keeping me company. Then, Scott dropped back to join us—bless his heart! He commented, “I’ve never been last in a race—wonder what it’s like” before spending the next hour entertaining me as only he can. It must have seemed like a glacial pace to him, but he just kept making me laugh and distracting me from the accumulating miles.

So, what is it like to finish last? Well, first I kept moving over on the path and then trying to speed up because there was a car on my heels. I finally turned around to see what the crazy driver was doing, and saw that it was the local police cruiser, and I really was the last person in the 5k! He waved to us when we left the road to go onto the paths.

For awhile, we walked with a nice woman who said she always came in last in this race, but then she “zoomed” ahead when I had to slow down on 1% and 2% inclines. At about the 1 ½ mile mark, 26-year-old Kristopher Houghton of Albuquerque zipped past us on his way to a 32:29 finish in the 10k. By the time we rounded the last turn in the woods and headed toward the sounds of cheering in front of us, we were lapped by two other 10k finishers. I began to have images of the tortoise and the hare! I felt like I was going really fast and long, compared to my prior times, but I was feeling pretty “tortoise-y” in this company!

Volunteers cheered me on at the aid stations, even as they asked if we were the last ones and began to close up their tables. Several people out for a stroll on a beautiful morning suddenly realized, “Oh, you’re in the race!” and moved over, clapping as we “sped” by. Little children ran up on the path and ran around us laughing and hitting “high fives.” When we came to the final turn into the finish gate, the crowd cheered as loudly for us as they did for the duathlon runners who were also starting to come in. I felt like a real athlete as our names were called through the electronic monitor, the announcer said “great finish” and we were shunted into the 5k finish corral.

I found out another part of finishing last—they were out of 5k medals! Doesn’t pay to come in last if you want a medal! But, they took our numbers and promised to send one in the mail. We stepped out of the finishers’ tent into the sunshine and found our family members—already rested up because I took so much longer than they did! I also found that woman who always finished last, who thanked me for doing the honors this year!

So, I completed my 5k in just over an hour, last but for my partner and son who pushed me across the finish line ahead of them. I came in 234th out of 235—I guess someone didn’t finish. I was tenth in my age group! Oh yeah, there were ten in my age group. Didn’t set any records, didn’t make the local news, didn’t get a medal, but I’ve never been prouder of me in my life!

So, I’m thinking next year, maybe I’ll aim for last in the 10k, or the ½ marathon, or maybe even the marathon. You know, the possibilities may be endless!

(That's it, Mom, I'm signing you up for the tri next year! - SD)

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