Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Uli Steidl Redefines the Ultra Distance (An Interview)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott: How many marathons have you run?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott: What inspires you to run and train?

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

Scott: What motivates you to race?

There are 3 primary reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 comments:

  1. WOW!! Not much more to say about Uli Steidl...

    Sean

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  2. My goodness, 5 or 6 "episodes" ridding himself of a gel, stopping a couple times to get rocks out of his shoes and he still wins the North Face 50 by 12+ minutes?!? I'd love to see what he can do in a 100.

    Great interview, as always, Scott. Thanks.

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  4. Nice catch, Scott! I remember Uli winning AR50 last year (2006) in less than 6 hours. It was unfathomable to me, but then sub 2:15 marathons are similar.

    It's cool to see that both his wife and our ultrarunning hero Scott Jurek is so supportive.

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  5. Great interview, Scott!

    I've always been interested in learning more about Uli, since we are from the same place. He only beat me to this country by two years. I guess, he always comes in first ;).

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  6. Thanks for the great interview and links!

    I watched Uli lap me on my 1st ultra at the Seattle North Face this year. I was running the 50k and he the 50m. What motivation and inspiration.

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  7. It's interesting to hear someone for the first time (at least in this blog, afaik) mention money as a motivating factor in their running. A very refreshing and honest interview. Thank you!

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  8. Thanks (again) Scott for another terrific interview with an amazing runner/person.

    Will G.

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  9. I think Uli is the closest thing we have seen to what might happen in purse money was increased enough to get the Kenyans and other elites to take to the trails and ultra distances. His times are in a class by themselves! I've done WTC, and breaking 4 hours is enough to kill a person. Uli did sub-3:20. What, did he sprint up Goat Hill?!?

    Chad

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  10. Will - thank Uli! He was the one who spent the time answering the questions and making himself available. It was very cool of him.

    SD

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  11. It's refreshing to hear such honest feedback about PR's and course length, money in ultras, etc. Uli sounds like a high integrity ambassador for the sport.

    For those who didn't click through to read his race write-up, be sure to do so. It's really good. I can't imagine trading the lead with Matt Carpenter!

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  12. Wow! Uli actually sat down long enough for you to actually talk to him! Whenever I see him that isn't in photos, I always see a blur with very large quads. The RoadRunner has nothing on that guy (meep-meep!!!)

    Great interview! The Steidl's are a really special bunch (Trisha rocked it at Seattle this year - another running blur that ran past me and all I heard was the sonic boom!)

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  13. Crazy fast! Really on a whole new level. I came in 2 hours after him at NF SF and I was running he 50K!

    WOW!

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  14. Andy: Sorry, I don't think I'll do a 100 any time soon.
    Mark: AR 50 was actually one of my worst ultras. I threw up at mile 24 and wasn't able to keep anything down for the rest of the race. Got lucky my competition had some muscular issues, otherwise I wouldn't have won that one.
    Anonymous: As I said, prize money makes it possible for me to train and race at the level I am. Prize money (and free entries, paid lodging, etc) brings the best runners together and makes for better races up front. I don't think every race should have prize money, but large, established races that have 6 digit budgets should. Top competition and performances usually attract more publicity and more sponsorship for the race. As top athletes benefit from prize money, they should give back to the sport by being available after races for anyone who wants to chat or get some advice. My wife and I have helped out at many trail races in the Seattle area, specifically the Cougar Mtn trail running series and the White River 50.
    I certainly think prize money is a good thing for the sport- but I realize that others think differently.
    What I don't like is athletes who care ONLY about money. I know some runners who run only at races that have prize money, and who run way too many races (e.g. 5 marathons in 2 months). My wife and I refer to one of them as the "marathon whore".
    There are "back of the pack" runners who have a similar single-minded urge for rewards, though. I knew a 83 year old who would ONLY got to a race if they had a 80+ age group (where he would usually win by default), or if they have a special award for the oldest participant.
    Chad: I didn't "sprint" up goat hill, but I ran every step of the race at WTC (except at aid stations...)

    Uli

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  15. Great stuff! Thanks Scott and Uli.

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  16. This is in reference to Uli's remarks that he and Trisha help out at races like the Cougar Mountain Trail Series and The White River 50 Mile National Championships. Without taking away from Uli's considerable abilities as a runner, one has to question how unofficially running the second half of the White River 50 mile course, on race day, is helpful to anyone but themselves. By running directly in front of the leaders (Uli in front of the men and Trisha in front of the women), they do little more than confuse and demoralize the front runners (this wasn't a secret). They also used the aid stations along the way (which the racers actually pay for and need more, considering they've run 25 miles, hard, prior to the second half). This is nothing more than self-serving and quite unfair to those in the race.

    Now, running as sweeps after the race, taking down ribbons and picking up micro-trash, that is helpful. Less glamorous, less exciting, yes, but in that respect, more in line with what volunteering and "helping out" means. I just felt this had to be said, as a sort of sidebar, since I realize this will be a fish out of water among all the positive comments, which, as they relate to Uli's racing abillity, are not in question.

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  17. Dear Anonymous,

    Yes, I have run the second half of WR on several occasions. However, this is not what I was talking about when I said I helped out with the race.
    E.g. this year Scott had a herniated disk and wasn't able to drive. For the 2 days leading up to the race I drove him to wherever he needed to go, helped with shopping at Costco for the aid stations, helped load and unload the truck, sort all the food for the different aid stations the day before, drove Scott around to aid stations on the first half of of the race. Then I did run the second half so I would get my run in for the day.
    I told everyone at aid stations that I'm not in the race. In the past I had started after the first women reached the 1/2 way point, and then passed all the top runners in the second half. Even though I also told each one of them that I'm not in the race, I do understand that some of them got worried when they saw someone catching up to them during the race. So this year I stayed ahead of the whole field for the second half. I also ran with some course marking tape in case some got removed.
    I stayed all the way to the end and helped clean up the area and load everything back up onto the truck. A few days after the race I spent several hours at Scott's back yard, helping with cleaning up everything.
    Yes, Trisha also ran the second half. She helped out at the first aid station, and after she was done with her own run helped out at the finish line until the last person had finished. She also helped with the clean-up afterwards.

    At the Cougar trail running series we had problems a few years ago with a hiker opposed to organized events there who had removed trail markings during the race. So usually my job there is run the course 10 - 15 minutes before the runners and check the markings. On one or 2 occasions I had been officially entered and ran the race with a can of spray-chalk...
    Trisha usually helps with the timing at the finish line.

    Uli

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  18. Uli,

    Leaving a position to make running your first job, including training the Kenyan way, this is bold and refreshing. In my blog intro I say that only a few Kenyans could do that, it's nice to see I'm wrong. All the best to keep getting so much joy and achievements out of your passion, in 2008 and beyond! And see you on the trails, from behind... ;-)

    Scott, thanks for sharing, this is very motivational.

    Jean.
    Farther Faster

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  19. I agree with the previous post that Uli's running abilities are not in question here. With that said one of the hardest things anyone of us will ever do in this lifetime is admit to ourselves (and others) that we have made a mistake. However it is human nature to justify our own behaviors.

    Uli running the second half of the White River 50 Mile National Championship Course (for the second year in a row as a non registered runner) and putting yourself in a position where you cannot pull course markers, remove directional arrows (sprayed on the ground) or help breakdown aid stations. Is a different matter all together... let me explain. The reason Uli and Trisha you could not do any of the things listed above is because you actually put yourself in the middle of the race (but then again you both knew that both then and now). You can only do the things (as mentioned in the previous post) when you are not in the race but rather sweeping the course.

    Uli what you Trisha did was exactly what you set out to do in the first place and that was to have a fully supported training run. But a fully supported training run was not enough for either of you. That could have been accomplished by running from the back of the pack (on the first half of the course, thank you). Like I said that wasn't good enough for either of you. Because not only did you want a fully supported training run you wanted a considerable amount of attention along the way as well. Which is only achieved in the front of the race. Which is even better when the race is in full motion on the second half of the course. Next time consider putting other runners needs ahead of your own. By running the first part of the race course after all of the registered runners are long gone. This will clearly be a step in the right direction.

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  20. On the subject of The North Face Endurance Challenge all though they meant well they clearly missed the mark. By having an all or nothing $10,000 purse for both the men and women (in the final race). Winner take all format The North Face unknowingly watered down the race.

    On the men's side there was really no question that Uli would win. Uli has never lost any ultra race he has entered, ever. As mentioned already he has done so pretty much setting course records along the way (crushing course records along the way!). So when Uli signed up that pretty much scared away almost all of those that consider themselves to be elite runners (We/they are all really fast when we don't actually race. Fast in our minds anyway...).

    Elite runners don't like to take a beating for the most part. So with that in mind why would they (elite runners) insure (travel expenses, race fees) out of their own pockets for a second place beating or worse? The thought overall (I'm sure) was who really wants to run for second place and no prize money.

    As for the some of top women, they for reasons of the own either real or perceived chose not to enter the race (Which brings another thought to mind… "Welcome to the world of ultra running where many are hurt but yet few are actually injured." Sorry about that I digress.).

    So for the women as well as the men the fields were exceedingly light. There was such a drop in the race field (as you compared one runner to the next in the field) it was a let down to say the very least. Nobody really showed up except the eventual winners.

    There is little doubt that many are willing to travel all over the country looking for a light field and an ultra win. Or race at a distance that most do not. This is an effort to avoid someone at the starting line? At this point one could seriously question the level of true sportsmanship in the ultra community.

    On the subject of Uli and 100 mile races just for fun… If you can run WR50M Race in around 6:30 with over 17,000 ft of gain and loss. It may not be a stretch to see Uli run under 14 hours on a fast course. Just something to consider...

    Back to the North Face Championship Race. The fix is not all that hard… Instead of having a winner take all format in The North Face Championship Endurance Race. Spread the money out over the 3 places for Open Men, Open Women, Masters Men and Masters Women. So instead of having $20,000 split between 2 people it is divided between 12-16 people (pick a number any number). This move alone would go along way to widen the field at all races. By promoting the sport you ideally bring more runners into the sport.

    For Example

    Open Men 1st place $2500, 2nd place $1850, 3rd place $1450
    Open Women 1st place $2500, 2nd place $1850, 3rd place $1450
    Masters Men 1st place $1850, 2nd place $1450, 3rd place $1000
    Masters Women 1st place $1850, 2nd place $1450, 3rd place $1000

    The needs of a few a more important than the needs of two.

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  21. To our rather verbose anonymous commenter -

    This is very interesting feedback. If you really want to add some weight to it, I would suggest you sign your name. I don't know about the rest of the readers, but I tend to not give much credit to anonymous comments unless they identify themselves. I think it could give your feedback much more weight!

    Thanks, SD

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  22. If Haile Gebrselassie out of Ethiopia with his sub 2:04:30 speed decided to run the second half of the Boston Marathon with the leaders? How much time would go by before he was pulled from the race by a race official?

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  23. Just a few more thoughts, and then I won't reply further to "anonymous" unless he / she posts under his / her real name.

    1) I know that at least 2 elite runners decided to not run the Northface 50 once they heard that I would be running it. And yes, I decided to run there to a large part due to the prize money offere. However, the reason _they_ initially wanted to run it was mainly for the $$$$ as well.
    Many of the "top" ultras in the country don't offer ANY prize money or don't really do anything for elite runners, yet still top runners go there year after year. Most 100 milers and especially WS 100 comes to mind. I mean, WS doesn't even let the elite in the sport enter the race! Karl Meltzer and Tony Krupichka didn't get in for 2008.
    If I would avoid any race where I know in advance that I'd get my but kicked I wouldn't have run Boston, NYC, Berlin, Worlds, to name just a few. I can understand if someone chose not to attend the NF 50 because of the associated cost. But if "anonymous" or others decided not to attend mostly because they thought they'd get their butt kicked, then I feel sorry for them.
    I talked to the NF folks and told them that spreading the money out more would definitely attract a larger number of top runners runners. I was more thinking along 5000 - 2500 - 1500 - 1000. I'm not a big fan of awarding a large chunk of prize money to masters (even though I would benefit from that in a little over 4 years).
    The NF folks said they will consider a change in the prize money structure for next year, but were not specific.

    2) No question that I would win??? Matt had beaten me by 23 min at Pikes Peak in 2006.... He certainly didn't race for second place. He never does.
    "anonymous" said: nobody really showed up except for the eventual winners.
    So Matt Carpenter and Hal Koerner and Joe Kulak and Leigh Smith and Phil Kochik are "nobodys"???

    3) Yes, I did a supported training run at WR. When I started the run just after the first women came through the 1/2 way point I did that mainly because I wanted to see how the race unfolds. It was never my intention to interfere with the race, or to take the attention away from any of the racers. If I did that to you, I apologize.
    If I'm at WR again in 2008 I will do my training run still on the second loop, but I'll run it backwards (of couse stepping off the trail for oncoming racers). That way I still get to see the race unfold, but noone can mistake me for an entered racer.
    And after spending the better part of 3 days helping out before and after the race I certainly don't feel guilty refilling my bottle at the aid stations.

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  24. (As I was writing this, Uli beat me to the punch)

    The comments from the anonymous person sounds like someone who has a case of sour grapes. And frankly, Scott's right - the post has no credibility without a name to go with it.

    The idea of Gebrselassie (or anyone for that matter) jumping in the middle of the Boston Marathon to run it as a bandit to train on it AND then equating to Uli and Trisha running the second loop of the White River 50 mile course is absolutely ridiculous.

    First of all, Gebrselassie has awesome coaches and he gets better training in his home country running on nice soft terrain versus running on hard road surfaces. If anyone suggesting he run the second half of any marathon for training, Gebrselassie and his coaches would refer to them as "maym" (break out your Amharic to English dictonary) and then laugh themselves sick.

    Second, Uli and Trisha didn't just run the second half of White River without consent. Scott McCoubrey (aka the RD for White River, aka owner of the Seattle Running Company, aka head of the SRC Running Club, aka good friend of Uli and many other runners, ad nauseum) gave both Uli and Trisha the thumbs up for it. Even if Uli passed the people in the front of the pack on the second loop, he let them know he wasn't racing. If those front-running individuals felt demoralized, then their own heads weren't in the game if they were racing competitively. Plus, chances are those same front-runners all know Uli and at best would have only been shocked to see him run past and feeling relief when he said, "Don't worry, I'm not racing."

    Yeah, Uli and Trisha used the event as a fully supported training run - SO WHAT? You got a problem with that, take it up with Scott McCoubrey. Uli and Trisha have done plenty of self-supported training runs that have been longer and more aggressive than the 25 miles at White River. Also, sweeping a course may not have been the type of run they were planning on doing since most sweepers are responsible for trail clean-up more than anything else and Scott always makes sure that he gets volunteers who WANT to sweep the course. If Uli and Trisha didn't want to sweep as their volunteer efforts and instead did other things for that race, the only person that made it happen was Scott and last I checked, he had no problems with it (even though you do.) And unless Uli and/or Trisha did something to you personally while you were at White River or any other race, your statement, "Next time consider putting other runners needs ahead of your own. By running the first part of the race course after all of the registered runners are long gone. This will clearly be a step in the right direction.", you've got no leg to stand on. Did he take that last cup of Fruit Punch Gatorade from you and you had to drink Lemon-Lime? Did he eat the last salty-boiled potato that you were jonesing for? Did he make a pitstop behind the tree you were eyeballing first? What did the fast and scary boogeyman-runner do to you?

    Regarding the North Face Endurance Challenge and your complaints on the cash prize not going a few levels deep, take it up with The North Face. Yeah, Uli's speed is intimidating. His ability to push himself is scary at times. However, this is a combo of genetics, great conditioning/training, and mentality that drives him to do his best. He may win often, but doesn't ALWAYS win. He's come in within the top 10, top 5, and top 3 in plenty of marathons in his career. But the intelligent person that he is, he learns from his races and sees where he could improve. If Matt Carpenter didn't fade so close near the end, he could have possibly edged out Uli (and Uli knows this!) Heck, even Matt beat Uli at the 2006 Pikes Peak Marathon by 23 minutes (Uli came in 4th)! But as I said, if the way TNF did the money prize, complain to them - they won't know how to make a better race unless YOU tell THEM!

    -Jon

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  25. Because comments have been made about me, I feel I should clarify a couple of things and leave it at that for my part in this conversation:

    1. Only one year did Uli and I run the 2nd half of WR starting behind the lead women. Scott M. and the two of us talked afterwards and decided that, in hindsight, it probably wasn't the best idea.

    However, I can't believe we "demoralized" the front runners by doing this. We announced who we were and reminded folks (both racers and aid station workers alike) that we weren't in the race. Of course we were running faster than they were. We were fresh! Common sense, not demoralizing.

    No one seemed bothered by it when I passed them, though I could be wrong, but it's not usually bad when someone cheers you on.

    Since then, we have started our 2nd half run before ANY of the racers got to that point (unfortunately I didn't feel great this year and only ended up being about 10 minutes ahead of the first male finisher - of course he had no idea I was even out there).

    2. The reason we run the 2nd half rather than the first is because we help out at the first aid station and then help out with other things that may need to be taken care of at other parts of the course before we go for our own run.

    Then we run the 2nd half, so we can run at our own pace and help out afterwards wherever Scott needs us.

    If we ran the first half at this point instead, there's a good chance we would interfere with those who are racing since we would likely end up catching up to people or, at the least, be in their way on the long out-and-back section.

    This year I finished my run and literally immediately went to help out at the finish line (no eating, drinking, stretching or even changing into dry clothes). I helped run the finish line until the very last person came in, not eating any food for quite a few hours after running for 3:15h. Probably not smart on my part in terms of my recovery, but it was best for helping with the race.

    3. As for taking things from the aid stations, I took one small cup of Mountain Dew (on accident as I actually wanted Gu2O) from the last aid station and ate one or two small pieces of watermelon. That's it.

    The aid station workers always offer us food and drink - usually stating that they have more than enough as they and Scott do a fantastic job of stocking the WR aid stations. I usually turn it down because I don't want to take anything away from those who are actually racing. I'm also only running for 3:15h, so bringing my own bottle and two gels is plenty for me. It's hard to turn down a juicy piece of watermelon, though.

    4. I'm not sure what attention we get from running the second half. (If I want attention, I'll go run another XC race in Kenya, where I got the most attention I've ever received during a race even though I was in the back 1/3rd just because I was a mzungu.) Most of the aid station volunteers know we do this every year and actually look forward to us coming through. We also give them updates about what happened during the first half of the course before we started our run, since they don't receive any news on what's going on with the race.

    In the future, I suppose we could just go for a run (as the trails ARE open to the public) and not help out with the race at all, but we'd prefer to support the ultra community, help Scott AND get our training in.

    To Annonymous, before you go pointing fingers, you should find out the whole story. There are a lot of things going on of which you, obviously, aren't aware. And if you are going to make such accusations, at least have the balls to use your [real] name.

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