Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bleeker Does The Boston Marathon

This Monday, I had the pleasure of joining 25,000+ runners for the 112th Boston Marathon on a gorgeous sunny day. Much in thanks to running with friends and my first “costume race” (as Bleeker from the movie Juno), it was another memorable run from Hopkinton to Boston. This annual pilgrimage continues to be one of the best 26.2 mile parties around, and my fourth visit was as much fun as my first.

I was greeted at my hotel with a surprise package, and it didn’t take long to figure out the gold headband, shorts and tube socks addressed to “my Bleeker” was a costume as the nerd track star Paulie Bleeker from the movie Juno (you know, the one who knocks up the main character). My wife Christi is obsessed with the sweet, lovable Bleeker, insisting he is “the new Jake Ryan” (for those of you who oogled over the hunk from the movie Sixteen Candles as a teen). She still gets teary-eyed thinking of the scene where Bleeker runs off the track after winning the 800 meter to quietly cuddle Juno in her time of need, complete with track spikes in bed. Geeks who run are sexy? Well heck, I’m in! But would anyone else get the costume? I guess we would find out on Monday…

(Go, Bleeker!)

I showed up a day early to watch the Women’s Olympic Trials on Sunday and cheer on Cassie Henkiel from Austin, TX. Cassie is a world-class athlete, a good friend, and the local Austin coach that keeps Kristin Armstrong and others in shape for Boston. Cassie did very well despite “losing her legs” about half way through, and the pink-clad support crew from Austin went nuts at every lap (the t-shirts that said "Kick Some, Cassie" were a nice touch). Deana Kastor also put on a fantastic race, winning in 2:29:35 to make the Olympic team along with Magdelena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell. One from Mammoth Lakes, CA, one from Oakland, CA, and one from Pacific Grove, CA - California runners rocked the Trials!

(Cassie shreds the Women's Olympic Trials)

(An aggressive field tackles Beacon Hill)

After the Trials, I stopped by the Convention Center to get my packet and the cool new t-shirt for 2008. I said my howdy’s to everyone at Team Injinji, whose booth was buzzing with curious runners. I also had the good fortune to speak with Dick and Rick Hoyt, two of the most courageous athletes I have ever met. For those of you who haven’t heard of this pair, Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic and Dick is his father. Rick’s affliction hasn’t stopped them from competing as a team in hundreds of triathlons and road races together, including many Ironman Hawaii races and 25 Boston Marathons. Yup, you read that right – they have done 25! And tomorrow would be 26. As Dick told me, “Rick is the athlete, I’m just loaning him my arms and legs”. Wow - talk about a defining role model for being a father! Rick is also a college graduate (Boston U), has his own apartment, and is a gifted writer. To hear them speak about their accomplishments with such humility is very inspiring.

(Me with Dick and Rick Hoyt)

I rolled out of the Expo and made my way to Fenway Park to catch the Boston Red Sox/Texas Rangers game. I’m a newbie to the baseball scene, so this was quite a treat to visit the historic Fenway. There I learned why Boston fans cheer so loud for the marathon – these people LOVE their sports! The guys next to me were watching the Celtics and Bruins game on their cell phones while drinking beer and cheering on the Red Sox. Just can’t get enough!

(Beer and baseball!)

The Red Sox had a classic come from behind win (see video below). I had always thought baseball would be slow paced, but there was nothing dull about a bottom of the 8th inning, 2 outs, full count, bases loaded moment with Casey at bat (I kid you not). When the Rangers walked a run in (which would be the winning run for Boston), the place exploded and made it impossible for me to hold the camera. I’ve never experienced anything like it. A Red Sox come-from-behind win, Olympic Trials, and meeting the Hoyt Ironman legends - the Boston Marathon hadn’t even started, and I was already having sports overload!

The morning of the race, I donned my red and gold Bleeker costume and headed down to the buses at the Boston Commons. In Hopkinton, I would be joining Kristin “Kik” Armstrong and Paige Alam for our second run at Boston (we did it back in 2006), as well as Courtney Houston from Austin, TX, taking on her first Boston. It’s impossible not to have fun with this crew, and with no pace goals we were certain to have a day of fun and laughs.

On the bus ride out, I ran into Injinji teammate 19-year-old Michael Hayden, fresh off his age group world record 50k at Mad City (3:45). He was still feeling last weeks race (Diablo was still stinging me as well), but he was hoping to clock a 3:10. We caught up on races and tips, his experience racing the Mad City tundra, various ultra gossip, and the top contenders for Western States this year. I thought those who overheard us might think we were nuts, but I was pleased to find out that a bunch of them had tried ultras in the last couple of years. The sport is definitely spreading!

At the race start, Kik and Paige greeted me with orange t-shirts that said “Paulie Bleeker rules”, so obviously some conspiring had occurred. ;-) I stripped down to my outfit, but I didn’t stand out much among the throngs of colored runners. Just when I thought nobody would notice me among the masses, two guys behind me said “you’re the cheese to my macaroni” (a classic line from the movie). This was going to be a fun race!

(Courtney, Paige, and Kik are ready to roll)

Boston Marathon race numbers indicate your qualifying time (my 2:57 at the Napa Marathon was good enough for #2193), as well as which corral you start in. Since we were all running together, we had to all jump into the “big number” corrals, somewhere in the 17,000 range. We found ourselves among the true heroes of marathons – the folks who aren’t built to run, don’t find it easy, and worked damn hard to get here. Thousands were running for charitable causes or in memory of loved ones, lifting the corral in a rising tide of hope and compassion. Each courageous soul was in a fight for the long run (literally), and with this collective show of force it’s hard not to think these diseases don’t stand a chance.

At 10:30am, we began our descent down into Ashland. The day was perfect – high 50’s with a slight breeze. We cruised along at a 9:20/mile pace, shouting back to the awesome locals who were 3-4 deep on both sides for miles. The theme song from Rocky and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” were being blasted from stereos all over the place. One family was creating a “glove tree” from all the discarded gloves, and they told me some years there can be hundreds by the time the race ends.

(The glove tree)

It didn’t take long before Paige started weaving her way up through the crowd. Paige is a born leader, and we all just stepped into form behind her and snaked our way through the crowd. If she spotted a group of kids giving out high fives (or especially a retirement home, church, or row of wheelchairs), we would make our way to the sidelines and slap some palms. I told her “that’s great you’re giving some love”, but she just replied “giving? Heck, I’m getting it big time”. That’s Paige for ya.

Occasionally I would hear “Go Bleek!”, or the Boston-accented “Oh my gawd, it’s Pawlie Bleekah!”. There is definitely a hoard of Juno fans out there. Awareness of the costume skewed young on the demographic scale, and that made me wonder about the gorgeous ladies of Wellesley College at mile 12. It’s either going to be nothing, or I’ll be lucky to keep my clothes on. ;-)

As we made our way into Framingham (mile 7), I recognized the smiling face of Sister Madonna Buder, another hero of Ironman. She is the Helen Klein of Ironman, setting records well into her 70’s and still going for it even after some 200-odd triathlons and 13 trips to Ironman Hawaii. I asked her if she had ever run Boston before and she said “oh, sure…about 25 years ago”. How cool is that? Look out Helen, she’s coming for ya!

(Sister Madonna Buder is all smiles)

The temperature got up into the 60’s, and everyone stripped a layer or two. Paige was wearing her “Go Cassie” shirt from the day before as a base layer, so everybody started yelling out “Go, Cassie!”. Paige loved being Cassie for a day. My costume was holding up well too. As cheesy as the nylon shorts were, they are definitely breathable (probably best if I just leave it at that). We passed a bar called The Chicken Bone that was yelling out for Scott D, so I stopped to say thank you and get a pic with The Chicken Man himself. The BBQ looked delicious, but I thought it best to stick with Gatorade for now. I just love that the craziest biker bar on the whole course was cheering my name!

(The Chicken Man!)

(Getting love from the biker bar)

Mile 8 was a special one for Paige and Kik, for they had promised to dedicate it to their eight-year-old children, Laney and Luke. Paige had her Blackberry with her (which was constantly going off with text messages of support from family and friends), so she gave their classroom a call and they got to speak with their kids. They let the Mommies know the whole class was running a mile at the track today to dedicate back to them! That put a HUGE smile on their faces, and the pace picked up on the wings of (little) angels.

(Kik slaps some high fives along the way)

We entered Natick (mile 9), and a smiling young woman came up to me and said “LOVE the Bleeker costume! Your wife is my hero”. Ali is a student in Colorado that was born in Boston, and she had quite a story herself. Her parents watched Allison Roe win the Boston Marathon in 1981 while her Mom was in labor, so they named her Allison Rowe. Fate brought her to run Boston as her first marathon, and here she was having a fabulous time. When she heard I was an ultrarunner, she asked “Have you run with Tony Krupicka? He’s a good friend and we did cross-country together”. She gave me a knowing smile when I let her know I was hoping to meet him at Western States this year, but suspected that I would at most see 30 seconds of the back of his head at the start. ;-)

(Kik and Ali)

The familiar sounds of the scream tunnel at Wellesley could be heard around mile 12, and I braced myself. We also picked up Katie Love, another runner from Austin, TX, who hadn’t quite gotten herself fully healthy yet, but wasn’t going to qualify for Boston and miss all the fun so she settled for the second half. Together, we ran through the scream tunnel where I heard “BLEEK!!! COME GET A KISS!!!”. Who am I to deny the locals? I’ll save you the details, but let’s just say my breath smelled of beer and froshies for the next mile. I was so stunned I forgot to take a picture! Bleeker loves you back, women of Wellesley!

(Kik blows a kiss, Courtney charges the hill, Katie is all smiles)

Soon after Wellesley, Courtney came flying by after taking a pit stop and having to weave through thousands to catch back up. She was still going strong and having a fabulous time. We caught up to two large men running in Speedos (and not much else), and I said “I dare you to go slap that guy on the ass-“…I didn’t even have to finish my sentence and Courtney gave one of them a good enough smack that he jumped about a foot in the air! I laughed so hard that I just about fell over. I’m sure they would have been mad if it was anyone other than a tall, gorgeous Texan woman. Instead they just glowed red, cheeks and butt cheeks alike, and made small talk.

The town of Newton (mile 15) brought the hill country, which elicited groans from many, but was a welcome relief to my trail-trained legs. A women screamed for me to come over – “Bleeker! Hey, Bleek!” - turns out she had seen the movie some 30 times, and thought the costume was great. She didn’t think others were going to get the joke, so she whipped out a big black marker and wrote BLEEKER across my chest, gave me a peck on the cheek, and said “I sure hope I find my Bleeker someday”. My wife was right – Paulie Bleeker has some serious fans!

I was sure to hit the Hash House Harriers beer aid station at mile 19, where they loaded me up with a couple of beers and sang a drinking song as I chugged away. Per usual, it hit the spot and I charged up Heartbreak Hill, giving a wave to the John Kelly statue as we went by.

(Getting my beer at the Hash House Harriers aid station)

As we hit the top of Heartbreak, Kik said “where’s the beer aid station?”. I told her it was opposite the water station she stopped at, and she looked over her shoulder and contemplated running back! Oops, my bad – I should have guided her to where the “Beer gives 100%” sign was. I figured this was easy to remedy and stepped up to the next frat party and pointed to the gorgeous blonde who needed a beer. They snapped into action, calling back to the keg to “get a beer for Bleeker’s girl, pronto!”. I ran the beer up to Kik and Paige, who slammed it right down and hit the downhills with a new infusion of liquid courage.

(Paige, here as Cassie, is all smiles in the final stretch)

The hills at mile 21 were tough of Kik and Courtney, who both started to fight cramps and quad soreness. Ah, yes – let the negotiation begin. We’re all too familiar with the “legs, we had a deal” or “you promised me you wouldn’t do this” conversation that sneaks under your breath in times of need. Rebellious muscles can be tough negotiators! We took a few short stretch breaks, but nobody was going to quit. Good thing, because Cassie the Coach was at mile 25 and just the thought of having her see them walk (and the amount of intervals they would have to do upon return) made them pick up the pace! We did get a photo with Cassie before closing in on the last mile. Before we knew it, we all finished just under four hours in 3:59:23, and immediately made our way to the Four Seasons Hotel bar for celebratory cocktails.

My slowest marathon yet, and quite possibly the most fun I have ever had. I was super-proud of the Texas girls for rallying through to the end and doing it with ear-to-ear smiles. Michael Hayden ended up running a near even split for 3:01 (a PR), and surely could have gone faster. That kid is getting fast! We heard from other runners that Robert Cheruiyot had won his 4th Boston in 2:07:44, and Dire Tune won the Women’s division in a hotly contested race. Lance Amrstrong finished in a fast 2:50 and change, but with a whole new respect for the downhills (btw, if you want to see Kik interviewing him in a hilarious video, go here).

(Further proof that all Texas women are gorgeous - that's Larry King's mug shot in the background...apparently he has passed some bad checks in his time)

I called Christi to let her know her Bleeker was doing fine, and the costume was a huge hit. After a short nap and shower, I joined the Texans one more time for dinner at The Beehive and a round of drinks at Alibi, a prison-themed bar at the new Liberty Hotel. Both are great stops if you’re heading to Boston. By midnight, we were exhausted from a weekend of thrills, adventure, and new stories to keep our friendships close. I already can’t wait to get back!

- SD

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Hot and Steep Diablo 50-miler

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of joining 200 ultrarunners for the hot and hilly Mount Diablo 50-miler/Marathon near Clayton, CA put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR). I gleefully signed up for this race thinking “steep and hot…a good early checkpoint for my Western States training”, only to grow more and more concerned as the guaranteed-to-be-deadly day imminently appeared on the calendar. My head was swimming all week long with reasons not to do this race - I’m no good with heat, a terrible climber, and my last race at the Diablo 50k pretty much scarred me for life. But we all know the secret to getting over these preconceptions – sign up for an epic race that stretches your boundaries, give the day everything you have, and you may just free yourself of these self-imposed limitations. I will see your 50k, El Diablo, and raise you to a 50-miler. ;-)

(Ray Sanchez and Jasper at the start)

The day was warming up quickly as we gathered for the 7am start. Defending champion and course record holder Jasper Halekas was here, although he was “just running the marathon” today to give a leg injury some rest. This marathon was no casual affair, however – it took all the steepest up’s and down’s of this course and crammed them into the Cliff Notes version of “how to shred your quads”. I give any marathon finisher ultra credit just for having the cojones to toe the line on this one. When Wendell Doman asked “who is running their first marathon” and some hands went up, the sound of jaws hitting the ground was audible. It’s like doing two marathons! I wished many well, including Kate and Keturah Morejohn, as we all saddled up for our assault on the mountain. My goal for today was to run a controlled race (where I felt in control the whole time) and try to beat the sun in 12 hours. I put on my new super-ventilated Sugoi Xposure S/S shirt, strapped on my Nathan harness full of gels and Nuun’s, grabbed the two biggest water bottles I could find, and made my way to the start.

There I met a newly-coiffed Bev Abbs (defending champion and course record holder herself) warming up next to Alan Abbs, as well as Western States/Quicksilver winner Graham Cooper, Erik Skaden (who just got 2nd at the AR50 last Saturday in 5:57), Paul Sweeney, Beth Vitalis, and Caren Spore (who also ran the AR50). The elites were flanked by some known speedsters as well, including a newly-coiffed Sean Lang (these guys are getting streamlined!), John Fors, Hawaii’s Jeff Huff, Rick Gaston, Gretchen Brugman (tackling the marathon), and the ever-present Ray Sanchez (who did AR50 last week as well, natch). Jasper whispered “some course records will fall today” just as Wendell sounded the horn and sent us up the first steep section.

(Heading up the shady trail)

(The morning sun lights up the ridge)

The shadows of Mount Diablo kept us cool for the first three miles as we climbed our way onto the ridge. These early hours are perfect running conditions – high 50’s, slight breeze, no sun – and we made good use of it to scatter up the hill. I ran for a bit with Brian Hartley, who had come down from Spokane, WA, to clock his first 50-miler (which he would do in a respectable 13 hours) and was all smiles. As we crested the first peak as the sun warmed hills full of California poppies and sage, drawing out fresh Spring aromas. Jasper, Graham, Erik and the Abbs were already distant colored specs on the hill, running the whole way.

(Brian Hartley enjoying his first 50m)

(Cruising the single track)

I made good use of the rolling single track to pick up a few places and caught up to Mark Jackson from Melbourne, FL. We ran and walked together up to the Juniper Creek aid station (mile 5), and it was a pleasure to get to know him. Mark had actually run his first ultra in Baghdad when stationed there (pretty much by himself), and had tackled a few tough 50-milers out east before trying his hand at “one of these Western ultras”. He told me to pass on my thanks to all you bloggers out there who gave him some ultra-respite from his time in Baghdad and Afghanistan! We soon found ourselves through the steep stuff to Juniper Station, and Kevin Swisher and the top notch volunteers filled our water bottles with ice and water and sent us up 2 more miles to the peak.

(Mark Jackson tames the steep climbs)

(More great single track)

(Up, up, up to the top!)

There is no hiding the sun from the top of Mt. Diablo, and it soon began cooking the stoney trails to a hearty, warm dust. I said a quick hi to Sean Lang, and paced along with Caren Spore and Pierre. Caren was in her “power gear”, slowing for no hill, and Pierre and I would pass her on the flats only to get passed by her on the next climb. Bev and Alan Abbs came back on the return, a solid four minutes ahead of us, and flew down the backstretch. Jasper was soon to follow, as was Graham Cooper and Erik Skaden who were chatting away like a couple of backpackers. Caren led us to the top, where we said a quick “hooray!”, and we headed back down to Juniper along a different route.

(Caren lets out a hooray before heading back down)

By the time I hit Juniper the second time (mile 10.2), the heat was officially becoming a factor. Although it was still in the high 60’s, the breeze had now turned warm and was pulling up hot air from the hillside. I drank as much as I could, and refilled with water and ice to keep my hands cool. I put my handkerchief on my head mullet style (short in front, long in back, aka, the Tennessee Tophat) to keep the sun off my neck and ears. I caught up to Brian Wyatt, who let me know that all of these trails connected to other East Bay parks, allowing for some long 30-40 mile training runs on the weekends for him and his training partners. We hit the long downhills of Burma Road, and Brian (a fantastic descender) warned me about a steep section near the end, then dropped me like a sack of potatoes. ;-)

(Brian Wyatt makes his way down Burma Road)

The views were pleasantly distracting on the descent, and we could see all the way to the ocean. Hawks rode the thermals on the ridge ahead, which I was learning meant that I could expect heat on the other side. I hit the hill that Brian warned me about, and he wasn’t kidding – you almost couldn’t get down it at all. I zig-zagged down to save my feet and quads, and rolled up to the North Gate aid station (mile 14). The volunteers were super fast, and let me know I had a five mile loop before seeing them again. So far, I was feeling really good.

(Garret Christensen heads into the 5-mile loop)

The five mile loop was a fun mix of trails – some fire roads, some climbs, and a stretch of single track along a creek that was well-shaded. The locals were all out walking, and they flashed friendly smiles as we ran by. One of the great things about a 50-miler is that you get to see a LOT of the park, including areas you may not usually see. This lush creek area was showing me that there is certainly a lot more to Diablo Park than a big mountain.

(Wonderful shady single track on the loop)

I caught up with Brian Wyatt on the way back, and we chatted some, ran silent for some, and in general traded off the lead as we made our way back on the loop. We passed a few runners and a few passed us, everyone choosing their own pace. I was pleased to see everyone saving their energy this early in the race, for it would be easy for us to start surging.

(Leslie Gerein from Banff, Canada, making friends along the trail)

(More smiling faces at the bottom of Diablo)

I took a long stop at the North Gate aid station (mile 19) to get plenty of food and water, remembering that this next stretch looked like a hot one on the map. It was near lunch time, so I opted for some PB&J to keep my stomach “full” (I can’t do the gel thing for too long). I did a halfway point inventory, and found I had been sticking faithfully to one gel/Jelly Belly packet every 30 minutes, and about 44 oz/hour of water (half with a Nuun tablet). So far, so good!

I hit the trail with John Fors, who was really running strong. He let me know we were in 5th place or something like that, and we each gave each other that look of “hmmm…this usually means we are going way too fast”. But John was looking super-strong, particularly on the uphills. We speculated about whether this was a body form thing – my long legs made it easier on the flats and downhills to get speed (I swear I run like a giraffe), but his shorter, muscular build made it easy for him to keep a strong pace up the hills. Then again, he could just be a better climber and me a faster runner. But philosophizing passed the time.

We got a glimpse of a coyote hunting for lunch as we drew closer to Rock City. He posed a couple of times for us, but I was so in awe of him being within hugging distance that I didn’t get a pic until he ran off. Still, to be within a few dozen yards gave us that thrill of being a part of nature and kept us smiling through the next few miles.

(A coyote pauses his play to watch us go by)

The last hike into Rock City was a doozy, and John gapped me quickly. The heat was now in the low 80’s, and sweat was dripping off of everything and creating chafe spots I didn’t even know existed (note to self – there’s no such thing as too much Vaseline). But I had some lube to use, adjusted my gear as I ran, and made my way into the Rock City aid station (mile 25). Stay in control! Rock City looked like another great day hike area (which I never would have seen), and the volunteers were having a great time. They loaded me up for an out-and-back stretch of 12 miles (six each way) to Finley Road.

(Rock City up ahead!)

I saw the hawks flying above over the next two ridges, and each one brought a heat wave that slowed me down a bit. I was walking the uphills for sure now, and dipping my handkerchief any chance I had. Don’t panic, it’s just the heat, I told myself. But it felt like the afternoon sun was finding it’s way to me at every turn.

(Hawks riding the thermals means the heat is a-comin')

Luckily some company showed up, as Caren Spore (now with her pacer, Peter) came charging by, still in the same power gear. I got to ask Peter a few questions about the Vespa supplement, and he offered to have one waiting for me back at Rock City. Great!

(Caren and Peter pass me up)

The last descent was the hottest, so I jumped ahead of Caren and Peter to get down quickly. Soon, Graham Cooper and Erik Skaden came back the other way, still chatting like a couple of teenagers. Bev Abbs was less than a minute behind, with Alan just a few steps behind her. When I hit the aid station to find John Fors, we were both amazed to be in the top 8. I saw that look in his eye and knew he was about to go for broke and try to run a breakout race. Will Gotthardt, Ryan Commons, and the other volunteers loaded us up at Finley Road (mile 32) and sent us back. You could see where we needed to go – all the way back up to the top!

I charged fast to get out of the heat, and just about diggered into the poison oak-filled hillside. My ankle twisted in a bit as I got back on course, but it didn’t feel like much, so I just kept pressing on. Caren and Peter soon caught me, as did a few others that were charging up the hills. John, you better get going!

After a mile, my right foot started to cramp. I tried to shake it off and take in a bit more water, but it kept seizing. I pulled off the trail to loosen up my shoe, and found out that my right foot was pretty swollen. It didn’t hurt, but it looked like fresh loaf of bread coming out of the pan. I shuffled on it for a while, loosened it some more, then found it was okay as long as I didn’t push hard on the steep up/down. I took a couple of ibuprofen with another big slug of water in hopes to get the swelling down. Stay in control, Scott, nothing to worry about.

As if the ultra angels heard my call, I was soon greeted by the smiling faces of the other 50-milers heading out to the turnaround. Nothing quite lifts your spirits like the well-earned smiles of the ultra family, as Chihping Fu, Paul Charteris, Catra Corbett, Chet Fairbank, Marco Denson, Mike and Karyn Hoffman, Donald Buraglio, and many others exchanged high fives and smiles. Everyone looked so good on this hot day. I was really impressed! Before I knew it, me and my elephant foot had made it back to Rock City (mile 39).

Actually, the swollen foot wasn’t nearly as bad now. My shoe fit about a full size too small, rather than the Wonder bread factor it was a few miles back. I slammed the Vespa, drank a half can of Coke, filled the water bottles, and donned some sunglasses for the long exposed hike to the top. Lastly, I exchanged my handkerchief for a golf towel (holds more water), dramatically increasing the dork factor.

(The California poppies were everywhere on the hill this year)

The next four miles was a blur of dizzy hiking as I slowly made my way up the hill. No trees, no shade, and plenty of sun made it feel much hotter than the mid-80's my watch was reporting. The marathoners had to do this part too, and I imagine it was a breaking point for many. Looking to the distant top was instantly demoralizing, so instead I went heads down and threw on some tunes (Vampire Weekend, ILS, and some great African music). Jon Burg went cruising by, letting me know “some Asian guy was asking how far to catch me”. Who could that be? OMG, it was Rick Gaston and he was coming for me! I looked back but didn’t see him, but I know that guy can close the deal .With renewed energy, I slogged up to Juniper (mile 42) and sat down for a sixty second dinner of PB&J and Pringles. With newly filled water bottles, I headed to the top again.

(At the top, round two - minus the dork factor golf towel which was in my hand)

Near the top, I ran into…Rick Gaston?!? He had taken a wrong turn, and was now going to make THREE trips to the top. He just smiled and said “well, I was out for a good long run anyway”. Man, that guy is tough!

(Circling around to Olympus)

The summit came quickly the second time, and the shadows were already descending. I had enough water and food, so I just kept going. I made my way around to Olympus on the crazy single track (note – there is no “making up time” on this last section). The heat was still crazy, and I ran out of water within the first four miles. But I felt hydrated and the Vespa was kicking in, so I just chugged along the last few miles to the finish. The smell of pizza brought me over the last hill, where I finished in 11:04, good enough for 12th place.

As Keturah Morejohn and Sean Lang helped me catch up on food and water, I learned that Graham Cooper and Erik Skaden had won the race finishing together in 9:19:16. Bev Abbs finished in third (9:24), taking over 10 minutes off her course record. The other finishing ladies were shaking their heads wondering how the heck she keeps getting faster! Alan Abbs, Charles Hofacker, and Beth Vitalis had all finished under 10 hours, and John Fors clocked a breakthrough time of 10:40 for 9th (see all results). Jasper set a new course record in the marathon (4:16), with Jody Waters from Ashland, OR winning the Women’s division (6:03). Kate and Keturah Morejohn marched to an impressive finish, and Keturah won the Women's 20-and-under division! Despite the heat, everyone was running very well.

(Chillin' at the finish, iPhone photo courtesy of Keturah Morejohn)

I sipped Coke and scrolled through my pictures – what a day! I had seen so much, met some great people, and managed to keep my cool through heat and swelling to finish an hour ahead of my goal. Mount Diablo gave me a solid challenge today, but I felt good about my controlled race. It's a huge boost of spirits for the States training! My thanks to Wendell, Sarah, and Aaron for putting on a great race, and the many volunteers who made it a perfect day.

Next up – Boston Marathon!

Ironman Champ Tim DeBoom to tackle the Leadville 100m

This just in from RunnersWeb:

DeBoom enters his first ultramarathon, choosing the nation’s toughest 100 mile trail race through the Rocky Mountains

(Boulder, Colorado – April 15, 2008) – Tim DeBoom, a two-time Ironman World champion and America’s No. 1 ranked long distance triathlete, today announces his entry in the 2008 Leadville 100 trail race – a 100 mile ultramarathon through the Rocky Mountains of Leadville, Colorado. The Leadville 100 marks DeBoom’s first try at an ultramarathon and is regarded as one of the toughest annual races in the country, with runners climbing and descending a total of 15,600 feet.

“Competing in the Leadville 100 will push and challenge me in new ways both mentally and physically, and I am looking forward to rediscovering how it feels to run without pressure,” said Tim DeBoom. “Competing in triathlons is still my passion and winning another Hawaii Ironman is a top goal of mine, but I’ve conquered it twice before and am excited to try something that I’m not 100 percent sure I can even finish.”

DeBoom is bringing his athletic expertise and champion drive to the Leadville 100. Currently America’s No. 1 long distance triathlete, DeBoom is an avid runner who enters Leadville with both enthusiasm and apprehension. The 2008 Leadville 100 will be DeBoom’s first ultra-marathon and the first time he has competed in a running race over 26.2 miles.

The 2008 Leadville 100, or The Race Across the Sky, is an annual race in Leadville, Colorado that presents runners with a 50-mile out-and-back trail and dirt road course through the Rocky Mountains. Climbing and descending 15,600 feet, runners compete at high elevations between 9,200 and 12,620 feet – making the 100 mile race one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the country.

Consisting of around 500 runners, barely half of the Leadville 100 competitors finish in the 30-hour time limit set by organizers. The race, which begins before dawn, is most known for the grueling trails and the two climbs up the 12,620 foot Hope Pass – encountered on both the outbound and return leg of the race.

The 2008 Leadville 100 will take place on August 16 and 17 in Leadville, Colorado. The race has a start time of 4 a.m. on August 16. For more information on Ironman Tim DeBoom, please visit or, for more information on the Leadville 100, visit

About Tim DeBoom
Tim DeBoom is the 2001 and 2002 Ironman World Champion and presently ranked the No. 1 long distance triathlete in the United States. He is currently on the Pro circuit and lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife Nicole.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Runners, along with spectators, will be intoxicated by Marathon (Daily Free Press at Boston University)

Classic - I'm quoted as an expert on "the runner's high"! Well, I certainly do enjoy it.

- SD

Runners, along with spectators, will be intoxicated by Marathon (full story)

By Rachel Leamon

COM senior Jessica Arriens trains on the Esplanade to run the last seven miles of the Boston Marathon with her father, who will complete the entire race.
Media Credit: Marion Geiger
COM senior Jessica Arriens trains on the Esplanade to run the last seven miles of the Boston Marathon with her father, who will complete the entire race.

To Boston Marathon spectators standing along the marathon route in Kenmore Square later this month, 26.2 miles may seem grueling, but exercisers and scientists understand why the runners can get through it: the runner's high.

Researchers in Germany reported last month in the journal Cerebral Cortex that runner's high can be detected in the brain because running increases endorphins -- neurochemicals shown to reduce pain and create euphoria.

Scott Dunlap, Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series 2004 Overall Champion, said the exhilaration is unmistakable, usually taking effect on mile eight of his run.

"I would equate it to the feeling of having two Red Bulls and vodka, three ibuprofens and a $50 winning lotto ticket in your pocket," he said.

Dunlap said he enjoys getting his "fix" and though runner's high may motivate people to exercise, he said he does not think it is powerful enough to make him dependent.

"Running can be addictive due to a number of other reasons such as the stimulation from being outdoors and the optimism that comes with being at a high level of fitness," he said.

Virginia Grant, a psychologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, said in a 2002 New York Times article that rats allowed to run seem unable to stop, and behave like rats addicted to cocaine or morphine.

Boston University track and cross-country runner Molly James said the runner's high only happens when she is alone and running for a long time.

"My whole body relaxes and I feel like I could run forever," James, a College of Communication freshman, said. "It's a head-clearing experience."

People addicted to running can get muscle injuries, causing severe consequences if they continue to run while injured.

"Running becomes problematic either when it produces injuries or is used to avoid dealing with other important matters in life, such as personal relationships," said Boston University's head cross-country coach Bruce Lehane.

Research has shown that exercising regularly can put people in a better mood.

"On average, you tend to see people who are runners and habitual exercisers having better moods, suffering from less depression and less anxiety, and more general feelings of well-being," said American Council on Exercise chief science officer Cedric Bryant.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dean Karnazes Braves the SF Protesters to Carry The Olympic Torch

Dean Karnazes was part of the Beijing Olympic torch run in San Francisco yesterday, just days after winning the Atacama Crossing desert race in Chile. The number of China/Tibet protesters was so large, that city officials changed the course at the last minute for safety reasons. It was a huge controversy.

Then again, Dean is probably used to a little controversy by now. ;-) Be sure to read his comments about why he ran., and the blog comments that followed. A fascinating and polar discussion.

On a side note, I was tagged by PinkCorker (thanks!) to come up with a six word memoir and link to five more bloggers. The rules are:

1) Write your own six word memoir
2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links
5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Here's my six word memoir:

Live life to have good stories.

Why? Because life should be epic! Be adventurous in life, love, work, family, friends, and your community and the rewards will amaze you. After you are long gone, this is how you will be remembered.

Next to be tagged - Devon Crosby-Helms, Mark Tanaka, AJ Wilkins, Tom Clarke, and Sean Meissner.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Anton Krupicka and Jenn Shelton win American River 50

Anton Krupicka from Colorado Springs, CO handily won the American River 50-miler yesterday in 5:42:37, earning himself a slot for this years Western States 100. Anton edged out the 2007 AR50 champion Erik Skaden (5:57) and 2007 Miwok 100k champion Lon Freeman (5:58, also earning a WS100 slot). Eugene, OR's Todd Braje, who just won the Way Too Cool 50k, also snuck in under 6 hours. Jorge Pacheco brought home the Masters win in 6:20:37, 7th overall.

Jenn Shelton from Bend, OR won the Women's Division in 7:02:38, so we will be seeing her at WS100 as well. She beat Jenny Capel (7:13:59) and an impressive 50-year-old Diana Fitzpatrick (7:30:42).

Three more fast runners joining the WS100 roster, and plenty of great performances! You can see the full results here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tracking the Marathon Des Sables

If you're out running this week and need a boost to keep you going, just say to yourself "I could be in the middle of the Marathon des Sables right now". This six-day, 156 mile run across the Moraccan desert is as tough as they come. You have to carry everything, and get through 6+ marathons in a week. Phew! Today was the longest stage - a 52-miler of heat and sand - and there is still plenty to come.

Lisa Smith-Batchen (who has competed many times, and won in '99) is tracking race progress on her blog if you are interested. She reflects back on her own experience, which sets a great background for understanding the unique challenges of this grueling race. You can also check out videos by stage on the official MdS Web site. If you want to know more about Lisa, check out the new podcast on

The Dean Machine (aka Karnazes) has started his own "Desert Slam" that oddly doesn't include the MdS. He's at the Atacama Desert in Chile in right now, and you can follow along here.

Which is the toughest desert? Which is the toughest race?!? Honestly it boggles the mind just to think about toeing the line at any of these races.


Latest Excursions