Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! (and some ultra stories)

Sophie's first Halloween pumpkin. ;-)

Best of luck to all of you tackling the Mountain Masochist 50m, New York Marathon, or Helen Klein Classic this weekend. If not, here are a few stories you might like to read:

Going to Extremes: Ultra Athletes Embrace the Pain - "(Runners) do it for different reasons. It's more out of pathology than passion. Look at them, what are they running away from? It may not be healthy, but it may be what they have to do to be healthy."

Saratoga Man's Limits Go Beyond Marathons - "The most dangerous word in the English language is ego. It gets more people in trouble. Leave the ego at the starting line with your stopwatch."

Try Running An Ultra (radio/mp3) - "
The state of unglued is kind of hallucinating maybe. A little delusional. Grumpy, really tired, want to go to sleep. You start craving some of your favorite foods that you know you can’t eat today until you’re done."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Holiday shopping - about as much fun as a rectal exam?

My employer, NearbyNow, is doing an anonymous online survey about shopping and I was hoping y'all might help out. It only takes a minute to complete, and has a few funny questions like:

Do you equate the annoyance of waiting in line to buy a product during the holidays equivalent to
(a) a long TV commercial,
(b) being stuck in gridlock traffic,
(c) a dental exam, or
(d) a rectal exam.

Yikes! Well, it's certainly more annoying than a dental exam but I'm not sure if it's quite as bad as a rectal exam. Anyway, I would appreciate it if you could take a minute to fill it out. It is completely anonymous, and you are welcome to point your friends to it as well. Here's the link:

Thanks in advance for your help!

- SD

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Research on Women Ultrarunners

Rhonna Krouse, a friend of Olga, is looking for women ultrarunners to fill out a survey to assist with her thesis. If you have a moment, please give her a hand! More details below...

I am contacting you because I am currently completing my thesis on the motivational patters and goal orientation of women ultrarunners. I am seeking women ultrarunners to participate in a web-based survey, which takes about fifteen minutes. The web site is HERE. There you will find an abstract of my research and a link to the survey. I am hoping to get to as many women as humanly possible because the population is pretty small. Could you help me disseminate this information and take the survey yourself. Also, any suggestions you have on people to contact or places to post the web site I would welcome. The survey will be open until November 1st.

Thanks for your help!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Life-Adjusted Race Times

Have you ever watched an athlete crush a course record and then be even more impressed when you find out that they have three kids, a new job, and recently moved? Or how about the other extreme - witnessing a new course record set by a 28-year-old with no social life, a part-time job, and nothing but time to train? Well of course they can haul ass with all that time to train. But how do you compare these breakthrough performances? I think we need a calculation for life-adjusted race times.

The World Association of Veteran Athletes has Age-Graded Tables, a set of "age factors" and "age standards" that, when multiplied by a time or distance, allow athletes of any age and event to compare their performances with that of any other athlete (go here for a calculator). Perhaps we could have the same for adjusting for major life events. But where to start?

I've seen a life stress test floating around (such as this one) to help determine susceptibility to stress-related illnesses. Perhaps we could use similar elements with a starting score of 100, where challenging life events subtract from your score, and calming life events add to it. Once you add/subtract all of your life events, divide by 100 to get your multiplier. I'll suggest some factors below - feel free to add to it!

Remember, negative numbers improve your life-adjusted time by lowering your multiplier. You can think of it as "they clocked that time despite having xxx life challenge".

ScoreLife Event
-15Death of spouse (unless they hated your workouts, then +5)
-10Recent divorce/break up (see above)
-7Fired/laid off from job (unless large severance check, then +10)
-7Recently had first child
-2For each child in household under the age of 10 (-4 each if single parent)
-3For each unruly teenager in the house
-3Recently moved (unless recently moved closer to your favorite trails, then +3)
+8No spouse or significant other
+3Spouse shares your passion for sports
-3Spouse "tolerates" your passion for sports
+10Independently wealthy
+5Part-time job
-7Recently denounced your God/religion
+5Recently found a new God/religion
-5Recently quit smoking/drugs/drinking
-2First time on this course/trail
+220+ time on this course/trail
Got any more?

- SD

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Does Listening to Music Give a 15% Performance Gain?

UK-based sports pyschologist Costas Karageorghis says that listening to music while running may not only improve their outlook on exercise, but even improve endurance levels by more than 15 percent. He is about to publish his findings in the US Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, detailing how he found that when listening to tracks from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, most runners found the exercise more pleasurable than usual, even those on the verge of collapsing on the treadmill. In general, they ran further and for longer.

"Think of music as a legal drug," Karageorghis explains, "It reduces the perception of effort by blocking fatigue-related messages to the brain. It elevates positive aspects of mood, like vigour and excitement, and reduces negative aspects, like depression, and this creates the right sporting mindset."

Writer/runner Claire Soares has a good article about meeting the author, and even running in one of his races. Check it out here.

I know I like to get my tunes on during those long runs. Right now "Thunderstruck" from AC/DC is my #1 tune for the week. Perhaps it's because the beats per minute is fairly close to my heart rate, as Karageorghis suggests.

- SD

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Good Fun at the XTerra Nevada 10k/K9 Challenge

The Dunlap clan headed up to Lake Tahoe last weekend, and we were able to fit in two events on Saturday. I got to do the XTerra Nevada 10k, a two loop trail run in Incline Village, NV, while Rocky the Pug took on the K9 Challenge obstacle course. Thanks to the friendly XTerra community of racers and volunteers, we had a wonderful time. Rocky most of all!

The XTerra Nevada 5k/10k run is part of the "XTerra Weekend" that takes over this little town once a year. While us trail runners were having fun racing through the trees, hard core off-road triathletes were racing up to snow-topped peaks on Sat and/or going for the longer National Championship course on Sunday. The chilly and wet conditions made for muddy fun for all.

(Piers, #354, tries to stay warm with the other racers)

(Trent, at right, with the fast ladies of the XTerra 10k)

I lined up at the start of the 10k and got a few laughs when I whipped out my camera. They warned me about what I soon was going to find out - there are too many tight turns and fast straightaways to be taking pictures! I guess toting a camera is more of an ultra thang. ;-) But I wanted to try and get a few shots of the golden aspens, flowing creeks, boulders, and happy runners all mixing it up with nature. I chatted with Trent Ward from Folsom, CA, who was back from injury to give a 10k a try, and local Piers Stockwell, who had spent the year enjoying every Tahoe event he could enter (including an impressive 5th place finish at the Tahoe Marathon). As the cannon went off, we all slotted behind Piers who led us out to the single track.

They were right about this course! So many turns, creek crossings, and roots to hop it was difficult to get out of second gear. But it sure was fun! A few short-course experts got by me, including Scott Bolin who was geared up for the triathlon today but had to pass due to not having snow gear. Perhaps it was his fitness or frustration, but he soon found himself leading the pack.

(Aspens light up every turn with gold)

I was glad to be following Piers since he had good knowledge of the course. Although it was well-marked, you'd only have to miss one to end up criss-crossed on a different section. I came in on the first lap in roughly fifth place (20 minutes flat), about 20 seconds off the lead and a few steps behind Piers. My lungs were bursting from the altitude, but I did my best to pick up the pace.

(One of the many creek crossings)

Piers was fast on the uphills and I gained ground on the downhills, and when we hit the last mile I was within a few seconds of him. But any shot of passing him disappeared when he glanced over his shoulder, saw me, and found one more gear. Darn! I finished in third place, 39:58, and caught up Scott Bolin (1st, 38:31), Piers (2nd, 39:41), and Courtenay Brown (1st Female, 41:57) at the award ceremony. Apparently quite a few people got off course, so there was quite a bit of speculation about who might have won. The Women's grand prize was two tickets to Hawaii, so Courtenay was stoked to hear her name! The Men's prize? A nice XTerra bag. Doh!

(Courtenay is stoked to get her tix to Hawaii)

(Piers, Brian, and another fast runner top the podium for the 30-34 age group)

The K9 Challenge

Later in the day, Rocky and I headed back to XTerra headquarters for the K9 Challenge. Roughly 30 dogs were ready to try their hands (paws?) at the obstacle course of jumps, planks, tunnels, slalom, and see-saws for a chance to win a year supply of Breeders Choice dog food. Kids lined the course on all sides to see everything from Dachsunds to Danes outrun their owners. I've never done something like this with Rocky, but I've found there is little he won't do for a biskee. He strapped on his XTerra bandana, and we lined up for our turn!

(Rocky waits patiently for his turn...there will be biskees, yes?)

(the course)

(XTerra Pro Emma Garrard makes her dog walk the plank)

Rocky did great, although he wasn't so sure about the tunnel. We had a comical session of me looking in one end and Rocky tilting his head, wondering if I was coming through. He tried to go over it, around it...anything but through it. We finally just skipped it (5 second penalty), and he happily mastered the see-saw before getting his treats. There were three other pugs who did great on the course, but the competition belonged to the big mutts. Rocky was sure to give out kisses to dogs and kids alike before passing out in the car. It's rough being a dog!

(the tunnel proved to be the big challenge for the little dogs)

(the big dogs wanted nothing to do with the see-saw)

(defending champion does his TV interview)

All in all, a fun day with the XTerra community. These guys really know how to put on a fabulous weekend! (More pics here)

- SD

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kami Semick Wins the Portland Marathon

Just a couple of weeks after her 2nd place finish at the Xterra Half Marathon Championships in Bend, OR, Kami Semick won the Portland Marathon in a personal record of 2:45:43. I love it when the Masters comes in first. Way to go, Kami!

Full results here, and a story in the Bend Bulletin here.