Friday, November 30, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Clanci Chiu crosses over the peak)

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

(Tackling the steep downhills)

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

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

(A fellow runner cuts through the rabbit hole)

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

(Teague O'Connor sets the pace)

(Mike Swan charging the downhills)

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

(Sophie meets Daddy at the turnaround)

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

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

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

(Another well-earned finish!)

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

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

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

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

(Martha looks forward to licking you someday soon)

Happy Thanksgiving!

- SD

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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

This just in:

November 26, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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

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

- SD

Elite Endurance Athletes Brace for The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

Erik Skaggs, Beth Vitalis Win 2007 Quad Dipsea

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Trot 4-Miler in Santa Barbara

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

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

(Jamie and Kik await the start)

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

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

(Heading down the bike path)

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

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

(Kik hams it up for the camera)

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

(Cruising by the sax player)

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

(The Allison clan, short one Grandma)

(Another happy finisher eyeing the doughnuts)

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

Now let the EATING BEGIN!!! ;-)


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team to Disband in 2008

Olga shared on her blog that the Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team was recently told that they will be disbanding for 2008. Per the e-mail sent to team members:

"For 2008, we are able to support 15-20 athletes total for individual sponsorship. It's been decided to end the 88 person Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team next year. This decision was based on our current staff size and marketing needs."

Always a shame to hear about ultrarunners losing out on a sponsorship opportunity. It seems like the sponsored ranks are dwindling (like the Vasque team disbanding last year), despite the fact that ultra attendance is at all-time highs. We all know this type of marketing works - I found myself trying the Montrail Hardrocks for my first ultra shoe because of the great word of mouth from sponsored runners, and wouldn't have thought of trying the Nathan packs without Krissy Moehl's endorsement. Alas, I guess that's the way it goes. Perhaps this is due to the acquisition of Montrail by Columbia Sportswear last year - reduced support of grass roots efforts was certainly one of the fears many had shared with me about this acquisition. I know from experience that finance and HR are often cut in the first year of acquisitions, with marketing staff and budgets coming a year after that. Well, this is about two years later so that would be right on track.
I have always been impressed with Montrail's roster of runners, including some of the coolest people on the trails (and super fast to boot) - Sean Meissner, Olga, AJ Wilkins, Bev Abbs, Krissy Moehl, Lisa Smith-Batchen, Sean Andrish, Annette Bednosky, and more. I have enjoyed the Ultracup Blog as well, and hope that it can continue in some shape or form. It seemed to me that Montrail has always had a strong grasp on grass roots sponsorship, and due to that they naturally found their way onto the blogosphere. Their sponsored runners are, and continue to be, some of the best ultrabloggers out there. It also felt to me like the Montrail-Nathan Team was more of a true "team" than others, in that they all knew each other well. Perhaps the "15-20 athletes" that remain will keep up their blogs and continue to stay in touch. I can only hope that this move doesn't imply a reduced sponsorship of the Montrail Ultra Cup as well.

For you Montrail/Nathan runners that are free agents come 2008, just let me know if you need some help setting up your blog sites. Would love to see you continue to contribute your experiences (no worries about you, Olga!). I see a few of you are coming to Santa Barbara 9 Trails this Saturday - let's be sure to raise a bottle a beer in honor of your team at the finish. You were part of a time in ultrarunning when sponsors and runners aligned better than ever, and you should be proud of it.
- SD

Monday, November 19, 2007

Akos Konya, Connie Gardner Win Ultracentric 24-Hour

Akos Konya won the Ultracentric 24-Hour this weekend, covering 146.25 miles. He was just ahead of Connie Gardner, who put out an amazing effort to get 2nd overall and cover 145.25 miles, just yards off of breaking the American Record (you can read a Q&A with her here). Bob Sweeney was sthe first American, netting him the National 24-Hour Championship. Connie picked up a check for $4,000 and a national title. Roy Pirrung chalked up yet another age-group win with his 4th place finish. Nearly 30 runners broke the 100-mile mark at the race.

You can get all results here; below are the top 29 finishers. The 48-Hour Detail Results are also interesting, in that you can clearly pick out where winner David Goggins took a rest at lap 67, 100, etc.

Place Name Bib No Gender/Age Laps Time Pace Distance
1 Akos Konya 105 M/33 95 23:59:22.20 9:51/M 146.250
2 Connie Gardner 147 F/44 91 23:59:54.95 9:55/M 145.250
3 Bob Sweeney 149 M/40 82 23:58:29.50 10:19/M 139.500
4 Roy Pirrung 106 M/59 92 23:59:53.85 10:24/M 138.500
5 Philip McCarthy 114 M/39 82 23:57:49.90 11:09/M 129.000
6 Debra Horn 129 F/48 74 23:58:25.50 11:20/M 127.000
7 Carilyn Johnson 119 F/40 80 23:57:40.20 11:21/M 126.750
8 Steven Escaler 126 M/30 80 23:57:56.45 11:50/M 121.500
9 Jamie Donaldson 138 F/33 71 23:57:07.65 12:03/M 119.250
10 John Geesler 89 M/48 70 23:58:10.80 12:05/M 119.000
11 Ray Zirblis 93 M/53 67 23:57:58.00 12:32/M 114.750
12 Karen Gall 83 F/48 57 23:53:13.65 12:34/M 114.000
13 Chuck Goetschel 123 M/41 70 23:59:08.25 12:39/M 113.750
14 Scott Eppelman 151 M/41 67 24:01:51.15 12:46/M 113.000
15 Pam Reed 96 F/46 66 23:57:57.40 12:45/M 112.750
16 Charlotte Vasarhelyi 79 F/31 71 23:58:44.00 12:49/M 112.250
17 Cherie Harthun 95 F/31 70 23:59:41.50 13:04/M 110.250
18 Alex Swenson 104 M/43 55 17:47:13.00 9:42/M 110.000
19 Hans Bern Bauer 91 M/38 76 23:58:37.40 13:05/M 110.000
20 Newton Baker 94 M/65 71 23:57:27.60 13:13/M 108.750
21 Leon Rothstein 115 M/50 63 23:59:30.75 13:16/M 108.500
22 Jeffrey Snyder 42 M/30 67 23:58:33.45 13:34/M 106.000
23 John Hagin 88 M/64 65 23:56:40.70 13:37/M 105.500
24 Edward Parrot 112 M/37 51 32:01:18.75 18:50/M 102.000
25 Marcel Dekker 132 M/49 66 23:58:46.75 14:19/M 100.500
26 Marcelino Sobczak 131 M/39 50 20:11:56.80 12:07/M 100.000
27 Frank Van Der Gulik 133 M/30 50 21:21:50.40 12:49/M 100.000
28 Douglas Johnson 128 M/47 50 23:25:01.50 14:03/M 100.000
29 Geoff Hain 99 M/61 57 23:25:14.00 14:03/M 100.000

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A 50-mile Run, Without The Scotch (The Connecticut Day)

Connecticut's Pam Dolan has a great article about doing the Stone Cat 50-miler. I love the recap of of Race Director who acknowledges two dead in previous runs, and one who broke her femur at mile 47.5 only to return for revenge two years later. Check it out here.

- SD

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Boom or Bust at the Helen Klein 50m

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining ~280 other runners for the Helen Klein 30k/50k/50m in Granite Bay, CA. This fast and fairly flat out-and-back along the American River was the final race in the Fuel Belt Series, and with a solid performance and a little luck, it was possible for me to win the whole she-bang! But that would require a significantly faster time than I had clocked here the previous two years. The weather was perfect, and the RD’s and volunteers had a flawless race planned for us. Let the games begin!

Jean Pommier and I rode up together early in the AM, and I let him know that I needed 48 points out of 50 to catch Peter Lubbers, the current leader in the Series. That meant I had to finish within 20-25 minutes of the winner, and given some of the fast winning times in the last few years, I was going to need some kind of miracle. I figured my only shot was to go out with the lead pack right off the bat and keep them in sight as long as possible, a strategy similar to the guys duking it out at the Men’s US Marathon Olympic Trials in New York on the same day (top 3 get to go to Beijing, 4th and below get a free t-shirt). Oh, the pressure!!! Actually, it was kind of fun to “have to” go hard for once. I hadn’t been this nervous for a race in ages.

(Norm tells us how it's going to be)

(Haven't seen this jacket yet - it says "so you ran a cute!" - a rare ultra-tude)

As Norm and Helen Klein gave us last minute instructions, I was able to catch up with many familiar faces. 84-year-old Helen was suited up and ready to race the 30k, even after taking a shot at the Dick Collins 50m just a few weeks ago. She is my hero! 15-year-old Michael Kanning was recovered from the Rio 100, and looking to break the HK50 course record for 18-and-under. Catherine Sullivan and Gretchen Brugman were going for a Western States qualifying time (Catherine at her first 50-miler), as were quite a few others taking advantage of this “last race to qualify” on the schedule. The unstoppable Peter Lubbers was also ready to roll, meaning he was going to do every race in the Series (and every race in his 10k series, and the Tahoe Ultra Triple – wow!). Tony Overbay must have enjoyed the Lake of the Sky 33m (his first ultra), for here he was going for a 50m just a few weeks later. Doesn’t take long for the bug to get ya!

(The sunrise start)

At the starting line, I had my first glimmer of hope that I might be able to place well when the sub-6 hour runners like Michael Buchanan (2x former winner and course record holder) and Chikara Omine were nowhere to be found. Mark Lantz was doing the 30k to give his Achilles a rest, and Mark Tanaka and Jon Olsen were sitting this one out. But Ohlone 50k-winner Jean Pommier was here, as were a few others capable of going sub-6:30 like Nick Bingham from Reno, NV who came second to Hal Koerner at the Silver State 50k earlier this year. We counted down to the start as the sun poked up enough to show the way, and Mark Lantz led us out at a 6:40/mile pace. Fast, indeed!

About eight of us took a short detour thanks to some well-marked chalk from a race the previous day (oops!), but found our way back within a mile. Mark Lantz, Ed Brooks (30k), Michael Fink (50k), and Jean Pommier led the way, with Benjamin Muradyan (30k), Michael Kanning, Carson Teasley (50k), and first-time ultra runner Jason Dashow (50m) within site. The pace remained quick as we used the downhills to stay around 6:35/mile.

We strung out along the American River bike path, and the long stretches made it easy to see the runners ahead. I bypassed the first aid station (mile 3), knowing I had enough gels and water to make it to the next one. The gels weren’t going down easy though – when you run a fast pace, it’s tough to convince the stomach you need fuel. I could also feel a bio-break building up, and hit the john just after mile 5. When I emerged, Carson Teasley was cruising by and we paced together to the Main Street aid station (7.1 miles). Carson has had an exciting 2007 – a sub-24-hour finish at his first Western States, and his daughter arrived soon afterwards! He said he was out of shape, but he was doing great and holding a top 3 position for the 50k.

(Peter Lubbers heading down the bike path)

Soon afterwards, we saw the 30k runners turn around with Mark Lantz leading the pack and Ed Brooks and Benjamin Muradyan hot on his tail. The rest of us crossed the bridge to the Fish Hatchery (~10 miles), and they let me know that Jean was about six minutes ahead. My watch said I was still sub-7 minute pace, so Jean must be haulin’ booty. Somebody tell him to slow down or I won’t give him a ride back to SF! (ha, ha)

The parks on the east side of the river were packed with people, requiring some ducking and dodging as I stuck to the dirt trail aside the bike path. The cyclists were also out en masse, so I kept the iPod tucked away to be safe. The bikes were fast, but they gave me plenty of room and shouted encouragement. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me at this point, so I just kept the rhythm and got through the aid stations as fast as possible. As I stopped at the Walt Avenue aid station (21 miles), Barry (of “Race for the Soul” fame) refilled my bottles in record time, and let me know that Jean was the only one in front of me for the 50m, and was asking for the closest bathroom. Aha! A glimmer of hope!

(Jean looks strong on the way back - similar pose to last year!)

The fatigue of the pace began to set in, which always happens to me around mile 20-22. I was doing well with water and electrolytes, but the calories were still a struggle. My body was saying “slow down”, but I kept pushing the pace. Jean Pommier went by, looking great and in good spirits. I saw the turnaround and instinctively went up the ramp, but made a quick shortcut when I saw the aid station underneath the bridge. My watch said 2:52. Sub-3 hour marathon pace?!? Oh man, this is going to hurt. ;-)

I took a 30-second rest, and as I did, Jason Dashow and Nick Bingham came into sight. They were much closer than I thought! I took off, but both of them caught me within a few miles asking how far Jean was. Nick looked particularly fresh, and it was clear he was holding back on the first half.

The next few miles went by in a blur, and I soon found myself at the 50k mark in 3:38. Hey, that’s a 50k PR! My body wasn’t nearly as excited as my brain and started to give me signals. A few waves of dizziness provided ample warning that my calories were running low. I did my best to choke down some gels, but my stomach was stacking it up rather than processing due to the pace. I slowed just a tad to get some food in, and the folks at Sunrise Bridge (mile 37) told me I was about 15 minutes off the pace of the “three leaders”. I’m late, late, late! I charged up the bridge to catch up, and the next wave of dizziness overtook me. I slowed to a walk, but not fast enough to stop the stomach rebellion that spread my half-digested gels all over the concrete. Damn! Time to take a short walk and recoup.

My body was so pleased to walk, I felt better instantly. There was no way I was going to be able to make a run for the Series now, but I still had a race to finish and lots of smiling faces to see along the way. I took in more water, food, and salt and decided to walk until I felt the boost of calories (that took about 10 minutes). I got back into a shuffle of 9-minute miles just as the hills appeared, and started working my way back.

When I hit the last aid station, they said “2.9 miles to go”. I looked at my watch, and I had about 20 minutes to get under 7 hours. I knew it was flat (you gotta love the out-and-back courses!), so I put on some tunes (Daft Punk) and leaned forward to pick up the pace. The last few miles were smooth, and I crossed the finish in 6:59:15, good enough for 4th place.

Jean Pommier was there to cheer me on, resting after his 2nd place finish in 6:22:38. He and Nick Bingham had battled it out a few times before Nick pulled away to win in 6:17:58. Jason Dashow finished third in 6:38:48 – not bad for his first ultra!

(Jason Dashow shows his 2nd place award - I bet we'll see more of him!)

Jean and I scarfed down turkey dinner as the remaining finishers came in. Carol Rewick won the Women’s division in 7:23:35, and Michael Kanning did beat the 18-and-under course record in 7:35:20, just seconds ahead of Peter Lubbers. Rena Schumann won the Women’s Masters in 7:49:24, and was welcomed by Mark Lantz who just set a course record for the 30k (1:59:21). Michael Fink blazed through the 50k in 3:39, shortly followed by Carson Teasley (4:09).

(Carol Rewick finishes with a smile)

(Helen Klein, Peter Lubbers, and Norm Klein)

After a quick round of showers, Robert and Linda Mathis presented the winners of the Series with their prizes. Peter Lubbers and Kathy Welch won overall (and $3k performance mattresses to boot), with Peter inching me out by just 1.5 points! Lucky for me the second place prize was the motherload of goodies – a two-night stay at Harrah’s Casino, dinner, a show, a cruise from Lake Tahoe Cruises, free Inov-8 shoes, Injinji socks, Haber performance sunglasses, goodies from Clif, Sunsweet, Sharkies, enough Heed energy drink to last a lifetime, and a wicked cool fanny pack from Fuel Belt. WOW! Gretchen Brugman also picked up some goodies for her age group win in the Series.

(Robert Mathis presents the Women's Overall Award to Kathy Walsh)

(Robert presents the 1st Overall Award to Peter as his son Rocky eyes the loot)

As cool as it was to get all the gifts, I was immediately reflecting back on how fun the whole Series had been. I felt like 2007 was packed full of adventure thanks to all the different race venues and formats, and Robert and Linda Mathis do a stellar job running those races. I would highly recommend the Series to anyone racing next year, and the famous Rucky Chucky 50k will be back on the schedule for sure. I’m very proud of Peter Lubbers for his consistent season, and couldn’t be more pleased to be the silver to his gold. Now, NEXT year we’ll see…

(Peter and year, watch out!!!)

My thanks to the Klein’s and all of the great volunteers for putting on a fantastic race. I hope to see you all again soon!

- SD

Friday, November 02, 2007

1,462 Acre Waddle Ranch is California's Latest Open Space

The Truckee Donner Land Trust and Trust for Public Land announced Thursday that they had purchased the 1,462 acre Waddle Ranch in Martis Valley (just off Hwy 267 between Truckee and Lake Tahoe), ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy this relatively untouched section of Tahoe wilderness. It is one of the biggest open space deals in the Sierra to date.

Quote from the SF Chronicle article (which also includes a great set of pictures):

The executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust told his son how he had been working for some eight years trying to save the biologically rich area from developers who wanted to build a hotel, golf course and some 600 units of housing right where they were standing. His son looked around and said, "Dad, grown-ups shouldn't build houses in places like this." And now they won't.
Right on, brother. I'm sure a lot of people were behind this happening, much of the same people targeting the next section of wilderness near Northstar to be preserved. It continues to amaze me how these trusts are so effective. My thanks to their tireless effort!

Now, did anyone see a trailhead on this property? I sense the inaugural Waddle Ranch 50k may already be in the works!

- SD

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