Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Michael Wardian Continues USATF Champion Streak with Win at White River 50m

Michael Wardian added the USATF 50-mile Trail Championship to his collection (he has the 50k and 100k USATF Road titles as well this year) with a blistering 6:52:50 finish at the White River 50m last weekend. Wardian narrowly beat out 25-year-old Adam Lint from Indiana, PA (6:59:36), 2007 USATF 100-mile champion Jasper Halekas (7:04:25), and 2007 50k/100k road champion Greg Crowther (7:07:39) on a perfect weather day. William Emerson picked up the win for the Mens Masters (7:30:21) just ahead of 100k Trail Champion Mark Lantz (7:52:16). A shout out to Inov-8 Team member John Basham who took 8th (7:15:58) overall.

(Wardian on his way to a win, photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama; more here)

40-year old Suzannah Beck from Eugene, OR, took seven minutes off the course record to win the Women's (and Masters) Division in 7:32:12, placing 10th overall. She beat out a fast field and proved her 2008 WTC 50k win was no fluke, edging out Miwok 100k winner Kami Semick (7:42:54) and local Annie Thiessen (8:29:45).

(Beck makes ground to catch Kami Semick at mile 37, photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama; more here)

It sounds like all 202 finishers had a great day! (all results here) If you have a race write up, be sure and leave a link in the comments.

- SD

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nike's Human Race 10k - One Million iPod-Deafened Runners At Once

Nike is gearing up for The Human Race 10k on August 31st, where 1 million+ runners will don their iPods to race in 25+ locations around the world at the same time. The race is designed to highlight the Nike+ product line, which tracks and communicates your pace while you run, and allows you to upload it to compare your results to others. Strangers linked together through iPods yet running side by side...certainly an epitome of the information age!

Maybe it's just me, but isn't the theme of this race a tad too oxymoronic? Enter a race, tune into your own playlist while you run, then go back home and upload the results to compare how you ran to all those people you didn't talk to during the run. Isn't this missing the point of having a group event in the first place? Is it easier to upload and compare than just meeting people at the race? For a blog- and social network-dependent world, perhaps this is the most intimate the digerati can be.

I'm bummed that there isn't a Human Race nearby, for I would like to witness it. If anything just to see thousands of runners screaming "ON YOUR LEFT!" to no avail. The blissfully deaf iPod runners are a nightmare in most road races...imagine everyone having one going at full blast! There is definitely going to be some carnage.

I love my iPod (and Nike+), but just can't get my head around this event. Am I crazy?

- SD

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cool Running at the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of joining 2,000 runners for the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon, a pleasant point-to-point road race near Sonoma, CA. We met our friend (and Runners World writer) Kristin Armstrong to soak in as much wine country as the weekend could offer, and it turned out to be plenty! Such a wonderful weekend retreat.

We ventured up to Sonoma on Saturday, the day before the race. The Sonoma Mission Inn didn’t know what hit them when Sophie came barreling into the lobby with Rocky (the pug) and Martha (the Bernese Mountain Dog) sniffing and licking everyone in sight. The recently adopted pro-dog policy at the hotel was about to be fully tested with a 2-year-old at the reigns! We stashed our gear and Kik joined us to battle the afternoon heat with poolside cocktails, laughter, and dipping our toes in the water (Sophie went all the way in, of course).

(Sophie loves "jumping" in the pool)

One of the first things you notice every place in the Sonoma/Napa area is that the locally grown food is out of this world. Even Sophie’s side of fruit came with blackberries the size of my thumb, deep dark blueberries, and strawberries so sweet you would swear they were soaked in honey. Dinner at CafĂ© La Haye was no exception, with perfectly seasoned carrot soup and fresh pasta with English peas that melt in your mouth. It’s heaven! Carb-loading heaven, that is. But calories don’t count the day before a race, right?

(Headphones abound at this race)

The next morning came early (ugh), as we took the bus to the start. Kik and I both pulled the classic idiot moves by assuming it would be warm at 5:30am. Turns out it is freezing! So we did the best we could with the drop bags provided and dressed condom style. Fashion by Kirkland! It made it a little less awkward when leaning up against larger and warmer people…at least they are protected. 7am came soon enough, and we were all sent off into the Domain Carneros vineyards.

(Kik and I geek out with our Kirkland condom outfits)

It didn’t take long to get warmed up, since the biggest hill starts about 300 yards into the course. But it felt good to get the blood pumping. Kik took charge right away, a sure sign that her trail running in Santa Barbara is producing some mountain goat skills. I keep trying to convince her to join us at the Santa Barbara 9 Trails this year, but ultras remain too mysterious to her. That’s okay, since it wasn’t that long ago she was saying a marathon was too long. Judging by her curiosity, I bet we’ll see her in an ultra in the next year.

(Kik leads the charge up the hill)

We topped the hill and began a long descent into a maze of vineyards. The road ahead of us was a sea of yellow jerseys from the uber-large Team Challenge fundraising group. One of them told me they raised over $2 million, which is pretty impressive. Kik and I made conversation with others while cruising along at a 7:45 min/mile pace. The leaders were long gone, throwing down 5 min miles for a chance at the $1,000 prize. One was even a Kenyan, so you know you gotta be fast to beat this crowd!

The fog began to burn off a bit around mile 5, and the volunteers from the Hanna Boys Center were ready with water, Gatorade, and snacks. You wouldn’t know from their smiling faces that many of these kids came from at-risk situations to attend the Hanna Boys Center residential facility. Clearly there is something magical going on at that place, since those 100+ boys were the happiest folks on the course. We did our best to thank them all for putting on a great race.

(Friendly folks at mile 5)

We found flatter ground around mile 9, and I was amazed at how fast the time was passing. Kik had a great pace going, just fast enough to break a sweat, but slow enough to talk about life, love, kids, and point out the beautiful scenery. Kik is an ideal running partner in that way. She is always exploring her physical, spiritual, and emotional worlds, pushing all of them just enough to stay familiar with the boundaries and stretch them as needed. If she is in the moment, she is fully in the moment. If not, it’s because she is recalling a time that she was. Add in her natural gift for prose, and the miles just fly by effortlessly.

Although the course was fairly flat, it did have its challenges. The toughest part of the course for me was the uneven pavement, which had more odd angles that most trails I run. I guess in an area where there are as many tractors as cars, this kind of thing happens. But running backwards to get a picture can be deadly!

(Kik laughs as I stumble)

Right about the time I said “holy cow, we’re almost done”, we turned onto Broadway St and headed towards Sonoma Square. The guy in front of us said “follow me to Murphy’s Irish Pub for beer!”, and we cracked up. I pointed out that it probably wouldn’t be open at 8:30am, and he just replied “I own the place…it opens when I get there”. Kik and I stuck with him right to the finish!

(Cruising down the final stretch)

Christi, Sophie, and the dogs were there to greet us at the end, where we finished in 1:45:15 (only 37 minutes behind the winner!). We collected our wine glasses, got some early morning tasting in, and enjoyed the live music. Sophie chased the ducks at Sonoma Square, requiring me to put in mile 14 and more. It was so much fun to just get out there and enjoy it, and still have enough energy left to make a day of it.

(Sophie finds the ducks, so I get to run some more)

(All smiles at the finish)

Kik should be writing up her experience for RW, so be sure to keep an eye out for that condom picture. My thanks to Race Director Matt Dockstader, Austin runner Sam Kelley (who gave me his race transfer), and the wonderful volunteers for putting on a great weekend. I now know why it sells out every year!

- SD

Monday, July 21, 2008

Erik Skaden and Mike Wolfe Share USATF 100-mile Championship at Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Mike Wolfe (Missoula, MT) and Erik Skaden (Folsom, CA) worked together in the last 25 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m to share the 2008 USATF 100m Championship in 18:59, while Nikki Kimball took the Women's title in 20:18. The official results haven't been posted, but you can read about it here. It sounds like Jon Olsen set the pace for the first half (sub-8 hours!), but then had to drop around mile 60 (damn that Red House Loop!). Nikki Kimball battled it out with Beverly Anderson-Abbs for the first half, despite Bev nursing a leg injury. Kimball drove hard to the finish, while Bev hung on for second place and winning the Womens Masters division.

In the 50-mile, Thomas Reiss defended his title in a course-record 7:52:19 to best former winner Jeff Kozak and become the Nevada State 50-Mile Champion.

I will post the results as soon as they are up. In the meantime, congratulations to everyone!

- SD

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bear Attacks Trail Runner in Calgary

Charisse D'hamers, a trail runner living in Calgary, Canada, was attacked while out on her usual 10km trail run a couple of days. Luckily, she survived with minor injuries despite being bitten 8 times.

You can read the details here. Note to self - playing dead does not work with bears! Best to get big and yell.

- SD

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sneak Preview of the New Movie - Dean Karnazes 50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 Days

I was lucky enough to get a preview copy of the new film Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man (50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 Days) which is set to debut in theatres across the US on July 31st (go here to find a screening near you and buy tickets). This documentary by JB Jenna (also an ultrarunner) gives an insider peek at the 2007 cross-country adventure where Dean, his family, and his support crew take on the epic challenge of running a marathon in each state for 50 days straight, rain or shine.

I found the film entertaining and enjoyed how filmmaker JB Jenna mixed snippets of each marathon with "jogging interviews" with Dean and his family to tell his story. Make no mistake - this movie is about Dean, so you will hear a lot of what is in his book repurposed to get folks up to speed. But once it hits marathon #4, there is enough new material for even the Dean-overdosed to enjoy. At that point the focus is less about Dean, and more about how he interacts with fans, family, and a PR machine firing on all cylinders.

One of the first things that struck me about this film is the significant logistical challenge of running 50 marathons in 50 states, particularly when you are coordinating press in each location and inviting a random number of strangers to come with you. All it takes is a spat of bad weather or a no-show from the police escort, and a casual run becomes a liability nightmare as runners get strewn along the course. The film does not hold back on showing these issues, from runners stopping due to hypothermia (ironically surrounded by runners in North Face spring attire), potentially lost runners, no-show police escorts, physical injuries, and more. It's really quite amazing this went off without a major catastrophe.

What kept the film close to my heart was the stories and faces of the runners who come to join Dean on his marathons. Whether is it the woman from South Dakota who survived cancer and ran 50 marathons in 3 years (this one with Dean was #50, and she just about drove him into the ground with her pace), the Japanese newlyweds who felt inspired enough to reroute their wedding to Hawaii so the groom could join in on the run, or the endless amount of stories of people getting off the couch to run their first marathon, you can't ignore that the power of this film is the real stories behind the story of Dean. I'm not sure if this elevates Dean to the level of "American Hero" like the promotional material states, but you can't ignore that he has positively impacted hundreds with his adventures.

The film concludes with his sub-3 hour finish at the New York Marathon, and his first steps out the door to run back across the US to continue the journey. Did Dean find himself on this adventure, or keep going because he wasn't able to? It's hard to say. But for someone like Dean, perhaps that's the best way to conclude that it is not about the goal, but about how you get there.

If you see it, come back and let me know what you thought!

- SD

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kyle Skaggs breaks 24 hours in Win at the Hardrock 100

23-year-old Kyle Skaggs did what many thought was impossible, and broke the 24 hour barrier at the incredibly steep Hardrock 100-miler (33,000' elevation gain). His time of 23 hours, 23 minutes set a new course record by three hours and beat second place Scott Jaime by over six hours. Diana Finkel of South Fork, Colorado won the Womens division in 31 hours, 9 minutes.

Amazing, you guys!

Read more here at the Durango Herald, and check out the full results here.

- SD

(photo courtesy of Jack Pincus, Durango Herald)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fireworks for the Soul At the Angel Island 50k

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 370 runners for a 4th of July weekend run at the Angel Island 8k/16k/25k/50k near Tiburon, CA. This fast-yet-challenging race put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs is a local favorite due to the rapidly changing 360 degree views of the Bay Area, alternating roads and single track, and the addictive camaraderie among the runners. We had glorious running weather, allowing many to achieve PR’s and enjoy some time in the sun afterwards.

I hadn’t originally expected to do the Angel Island 50k, but after the cancellation of Western States I eagerly signed up for 100 miles worth of other races to feel “whole” again. My goal for this race was to see how close I could get to evenly splitting the first and second half of the 50k (which I have never done), plus get some good pics and meet some new faces (natch). There’s an old adage among marathon runners that says “for every mile you run too fast in the first half, it costs you 2 minutes in the second half”. I suspect the ratio is more like 1:3 for 50k’s, and perhaps 1:5 for 50m/100m (maybe even 1:infinity if you go out really hard). The Angel Island 50k course has an ideal layout to test this theory thanks to a 2x3 loop format where each of the three loops gets shorter and steeper. I just need to find a way to hold back my excitement to get back on the trails enough to find that negative split.

On the ferry out, I saw many familiar faces and had a chance to catch up with Mark Gilligan, whom I hadn’t seen since our Death Ride/TRT100 week a year ago. He let me know that his 2nd place finish at the TRT100 had torn some leg muscles that required quite a bit of healing time, and he was just now getting back into training (and targeting the Angeles Crest 100, so I guess he’s not scared off!). His girlfriend was also ready to run, tackling the 25k. As soon as we hit the shore of Angel Island, we rushed to get our gear ready. Around 8:40am, all the runners lined up together and we took off into the foggy hills.

(Aaron, Sarah, and Wendell Doman give us pre-race instructions)

About a quarter mile in, we hit some Dipsea-like stairs that we would get to know intimately on each loop over the next few hours. The short-course runners bolted up like gazelles, with 17-year-old David McDiarmid, Jason Wolf (tapering down for Ironman Lake Placid in a few weeks), and Rasmus Hoeg from Wisconsin leading the pack. Anirban Chowdhury and Jacqueline Tarrant, also 25k runners, kept them in sight as we topped the stairs and broke out along the perimeter road. Among the 50k runners, it was Ray Sanchez out front in his Badwater Ultra training gear (just a few weeks away!) closely followed by Juan Sanchez (not related), Carson Teasley (now getting ready for the Rio 100) and Troy Howard (one last run before tackling the John Muir Trail next weekend). I paced along with Will Gotthardt (fresh off his win at the Pacifica 50k), Mark Gilligan, and marathoner Arne Eiksund who came all the way from Norway to do his first 50k. What fun to run with such an amazing group of people!

(Heading up some single track along the ridge)

The fog was still thick as we hit the far side of the island (mile 3), keeping the temperature in the high 50’s. The first (and fourth) lap was mostly road running, so the 8 min/mile pace felt quite conservative. It all changed as we found the single track about a mile from the aid station, and the 25k runners broke into a sprint with 50k runners Juan Sanchez, Ray Sanchez, and Mark Gilligan chasing after them.

(Mark Gilligan, Andrew Anglemeyer, and Carson Teasley tacking the foggy hillside)

I came in to the aid station (mile 5.6) with Will Gotthardt and Troy Howard, and I refilled my one water bottle (with a Nuun tablet) and headed into the second loop. We joked that the stairs felt like “lunge intervals” since there were just enough steps to feel the burn deep in the hamstrings. Yip! That’s gonna sting in a few more laps.

(Eugene Flannery grabs some shade on his way to the top)

Will paced us up the climb on the second lap, showing us proper technique for high speed stiff-arming of shrubs along the way. The sun met us halfway up, burning its way down through the fog and exposing an anthill full of runners. For one day, this island was ours! We got a good chuckle out if it.

(Arne came all the way from Norway to tackle his first 50k)

As Will and I descended the last section of single track, we were caught by the speedy Juan Suarez. That meant either he took a wrong turn or was about to crush the course record by a half hour! It didn’t take long to figure out that Juan had accidentally skipped the second loop, but no worries, he could just take the second loop next and be back on track. We came into the aid station (mile 10.6) together, refilled, and headed up the stairs again. Juan was clearly going faster than us, but he stuck with us until he knew he was on the right path this time.

(The fog clears a view to Mt. Tam)

Loop three had some great single track all the way to the top, and it was so much fun to bounce around the trail that I found it difficult to stick to a slow pace. Luckily there were plenty of runners to talk to along the way, and the view was getting clearer with every step. I ran slowly right to the peak, took a pic, and picked up the pace for the way down. I didn’t have any other runners around me, so I snuck on the headphones and cranked up some Allman Brothers to keep me company. Ramblin’ Man, indeed!

(Sally Carrington takes a breather at the top)

(Here comes the sun!)

The aid station area (mile 15.3) was glowing in the sun when I arrived, and the lawn was full of resting runners soaking it all in. I took a slightly longer aid stop to refill Hammer Gels, Jelly Bellys, and slam a Vespa before running past the now-open bar/restaurant and tackling the stairs for a fourth time. My split read 2:03…still a bit fast, but I sure felt like I had energy left. I took my time up the stairs, but let my wild horses run as soon as I hit the road. The wind was a bigger factor at this point, but on this island, headwinds quickly become tailwinds if you just keep running. ;-)

My legs thanked me for finally having permission to go fast, and responded by increasing my turnover and pushing the pace. The wind and fog rushing by made it feel like I was running 60 mph! I passed Ray Sanchez, who was saying something about “I thought it was only three laps” while easing up. I eyed another runner ahead and it took a few miles for me to catch him…and then realize he wasn’t in the race at all. I let him know that next time he wants to run that fast, get a race bib and t-shirt to commemorate it!

(The fast road along the perimeter)

Before I knew it I was pulling into the aid station (mile 21) again for more water and some tasty peanut butter crackers. My watch said my split was 90 seconds faster than the first lap, so I was on track. I asked the volunteer how far behind I was, and he just pointed to my left and said “you’re even with that guy for first”…there was Juan Sanchez filling his water bottle! He had just pulled in 30 seconds ahead of me, now fully caught up on the distance. We headed up the stairs AGAIN, and both got on the right trail this time around.

Juan was keeping a phenomenal pace, so my attempts at conversation were short and focused just to stay with him. When we got to a flatter section, I was able to chat with him a bit more. It turns out that Juan was doing his 5th ultra, and lived up in Napa Valley after living previously in Mexico City. We trading off the lead so he could pull us up the hills and I could pace the flats, squeezing in conversation when it fit. Juan took the last half mile of single track with tremendous speed, and it took everything I had just to keep him in sight. We entered the aid station (mile 26, 60 seconds faster than the previous loop) where the volunteers loaded us up on water and Coke. Then we gave each other that steely-eyed “high noon” look, and launched up the stairs as fast as we could. The game was on!

Within minutes, we were running each other into the ground and forcing walk breaks every 5-6 minutes. Juan would pass me, have to take a break, then I would pass him. He was an absolute gentleman, thanking me as he passed each time. When I wasn’t gasping for air, I did the same. Juan went hard on the last climb, and by the time I got sight of him, he had gapped me by about 30 seconds and was giving it all he had on the return trip. He was “all in” as they say in poker terms.

(Juan Sanchez screams down from the peak)

I tagged the summit one last time, cinched down everything, and tore down the hill. Troy Howard and Andrew Anglemeyer were just a few minutes behind, kind enough to shout out the time gap as I went by. It sounded like I was keeping pace but not making any time, so I opted for some focused surges of 1-2 minutes. At one point, I saw Juan along the ridge as he passed a picnic bench, so I counted off the seconds until I reached it. I was 38 seconds behind. That was enough to keep going hard, so I kept on surging.

I hit the last section of single track, now flooded with tourists (who kindly stepped out of the way and gave a cheer). I used every open gap I had to go hard, but I wasn’t seeing Juan on the upcoming switchbacks. It turns out he had taken a short wrong turn, then used his fear-induced energy to sprint down the hill a good minute ahead of me. I came into the final stretch to finish in 2nd (4:08), with Troy Howard (4:13) and Andrew Anglemeyer (4:15) right behind me. Juan greeted me with the biggest smile, and we thanked each other for keeping us going strong in the last few sections. I didn’t quite get my negative split (2:03/2:05), but was very close and probably could have done it without the tourist traffic.

(Scott, Juan, and the deep blue sea)

As we ate chili and soup and caught up on calories, there were lots of smiles coming across the finish line. Will Gotthardt came in 6th (an age group win), which puts him in 1st place for the Pacific Coast Trail Run Ultra Series. Norwegian Arne Eiksund clocked a respectable 4:36 PR in his first 50k (9th overall), and was greeted by his wife and three daughters (many of whom ran the 8k).

(The Eiksund family)

(Mike Nuttall celebrates his PR with Danielle Perron
and Pierre Barsalou from Montreal, Canada who both ran the 25k)

59-year-old Mike Nuttall ran 4:56, cracking five hours for the first time ever and looking fresh at the finish. Some guys just keep getting faster! Juliet Morgan from Redondo Beach, CA, was right behind him to net the Overall Female win (4:58) and blasting her to a huge lead in the Pacific Coast Trail Run Ultra Series. In fact, it seemed like every 3-4 runners was shouting “PR!” as they crossed the finish. You can’t ask for much more than that. (all results here)

(The 50k winners, Juliet Morgan and Juan Sanchez)

I loaded up on snacks and caught the ferry back home, ear-to-ear smiles the whole way. I wasn’t sure if it was the even split goal or coming off of all the Western States training, but that run felt controlled and awesome from start to finish. My soul was full of fireworks, refreshed by the Island of Angels and the fantastic RD’s and volunteers of Pacific Coast Trail Runs. Can’t wait to get back!

- SD

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tim Tweitmeyer Runs Western States 200 To Boost Special Status Bid (Auburn Journal)

The Auburn Journal wrote an article about Tim Tweitmeyer's 200 mile run to raise awareness for a resolution (and hopefully upcoming Senate bill) to give the Western States Trail federal protection as a national historic or scenic trail. Hopefully Tim isn't going have any issues with the forest fire smoke - 200 miles is a long way!

Read the full article here.

- SD