Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ALLAN KIRIK Inducted into American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame

Allan Kirik, an ultrarunner from the 70's, became the 7th inductee into the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA) Hall of Fame. He's an interesting selection - check out the details below and you'll see a short career with some great (but short-lived) records). No doubt if you're in the sub-5 hour 50-mile and sub-6:40 100k, you're world class. Reading the dialogue, it seems the AUA has a fascination for the road.

ALLAN KIRIK Inducted into American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame 

Allan Kirik of New York City is probably the least well known (and least well appreciated) world-class Ultramarathon runner the USA has ever produced. A classic "mystery man," he lingers incognito in the annals of American ultrarunning. His ultra career was barely a blip on the global radar screen.  It lasted 3 only years.  He ran only a handful of ultramarathons in his life.  In a sport in which "camaraderie" and "sharing the road/trail" are considered essential ingredients, he ran almost all of his ultra training and racing miles utterly alone.  And his legacy of world-class credentials was marred by minor technical glitches in three of his finest races.

The first of these is what appears to have been his first ultra, the 1977 AAU National 50k Championship in New York City, in which he ran 3:02:56 but lost to Fritz Mueller.  Only in recent years has the record been corrected to reflect the fact that Mueller was not an American citizen, and so Allan Kirik was actually one of the first official U.S. National Ultra Champions. In a sense, the rest of his ultra career was just more of exactly the same: simply put, he ran 6-minute per mile pace for three years and then hung up his shoes.  A friend once commented on Kirik's staple weekend long training run: he would just go out and run 6-minute pace for as long as he could.  This was usually in the 25-35 mile range. In his races, which ranged from 60k to 100k, he would do exactly the same thing.  And he usually kept doing it right up to the Finish Line.

In 1978 he won the Metropolitan 50 Mile in New York's Central Park in 5:15:54, probably his worst ultra performance ever, despite being the 4th fastest American 50 mile time ever. The following year, in the spring he traveled to the nation's premier road ultra, Lake Waramaug in Connecticut.  Running all alone, he set a world road best of 5:00:30 for 50 miles. That fall, he traveled to England for what was then the de facto World Championship of ultrarunning, the 54.26 mile London-to-Brighton race.  There he proceeded to do what the great Ted Corbitt was never able to achieve.  He became the first and only American man ever to win this classic event, running 5:32:37.

The following year, 1980, he returned to defend his title at the Brighton, only to find Englishman Ian Thompson on the starting line.  In the mid-70's Thompson had been the world's premier marathoner, with a marathon best under 2:10.  Kirik's best marathon was 15 minutes slower.  So what did the American do?  He tried to burn off the fleet Brit early and run away with the race.  He hit the 50km mark in under 3 hours, but soon Thompson caught him and went on to win.  Kirik hung on for second, despite having run 10 minutes faster than the previous year.  If 50 mile split times had been taken, his would have been under 5 hours, with more than 4 miles still to go.  Just a few weeks later, fellow American Barney Klecker broke Kirik's world 50-mile best on a flat course at Chicago, so only a month after his London-to-Brighton race Kirik tried to get it back on the hilly Copper Harbor 50 Mile course in Michigan.  He missed by 5 minutes, running 4:56:03 in freezing, windy condtions that included a hailstorm. The course was later remeasured and found to be short by almost 2 miles, but the essentially solo performance translates to about a 5:07 for a full 50 miles.  And only a month after that, he extended his range at the Metro 100km in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where he won by an hour and obliterated the American 100km record by over 13 minutes, running 6:37:54.... Or so it seemed.  A year later when Bernd Heinrich (AUA Hall of Fame, 2007) set the American 100km record which would stand for 15 years, he ran a minute slower.  Kirik's 6:37:54 on a certified course missed record ratification because an early out-&-back section on the course was run slightly short.  The Race Director caught the error and scrambled to make up the difference by measuring and having the field run another out-&-back section at the end of the race.  But such patchwork courses are ineligible for records.  There is little doubt that Kirik ran the full 100km distance, he just could not be credited with the record.  Soon after that he encountered injury problems and ended his ultra career.  A mere flash in the pan.  But what a brilliant one!

American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame

*Ted Corbitt (2004)
*Sandra Kiddy (2004)
*Marcy Schwam (2005)
*Sue Ellen Trapp (2006)
*Bernd Heinrich (2007)
*Stu Mittleman (2008)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ultrng *dumpd* me (a break up text msg)

[a recent unfortunate txt exchange between me and my love, ultrarunning]

scott: r u ign0ring me? y no lottery entries?

ultrng: i thnk we need time apart. c othr peepl.

scott: i knew it how could u

ultrng: we had fun. rmbr the g00d times.

scott: i thought we had smthg!!! wht abt @states? @cool? @miwok? u r so mean

ultrng: srsly, get over yrslf.

scott: wht did i do wrng? :(

ultrng: u cheated

scott: i did n0t cheat!!!!

ultrng: u did bcuz u ran othr races

scott: ???

ultrng: races tht r youngr, fastr...evry1 saw

scott: they mean n0thng, u r all tht mttrs

ultrng: d00d, its 0vr ...l8r

scott: jst 1 m0r? plz?!?!?

scott: hell0?

scott: ur an @ss

Friday, December 18, 2009

USATF Expands Trail Championship Schedule for 2010

USA Track & Field (USATF) has added a few new trail running championship distances, as well as shifted some venues for 2010. Pacific Northwest runners are definitely going to find their fair share of opportunities to garner a USATF medallion this year - congratulations, race directors!

Here's the preliminary schedule of trail and ultra USATF championship races:

March 7 - USATF 50k Road Championship, Caumsett 50k, Long Island, NY

April 10 - USATF 100k Road Championship, Mad City 100k, Madison, WI

June 12 - USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship, Dirty Half Marathon, Bend, OR

June 19 - USATF Mountain Running Championship, Mt. Washington Hill Climb, Gorham, NH

July 31 - USATF Trail 15k Championship, TBD, Spokane, WA*

July 31 - USATF Trail 50 Mile Championship, White River 50, White River, WA

July 31 - USATF Trail 100 Mile Championship, Burning River 100, Burning River, OH

Aug 28 - USATF Trail 10k Championship, Continental Divide 10k, Laurel Springs, NC

Sep 25 - USATF Trail 50k Championship, TBD, Bend, OR**

Oct 16 - USATF 50m Championship, Tussey Mountainback 50m, Boulsberg, PA

Nov 7 - USATF Trail Marathon Championship, Lithia Loop Marathon, Ashland, OR

* This is a new event that currently does not have a Web site - follow Spokane Sports for more info]

** This is a new event that currently does not have a Web site - follow Richard Bolt's blog for more info]

There is also a national Grand Prix event in the works for 2010 for those hitting four or more trail events.

The Road Runners Clubs of America (RRCA) is also having national championship races at the Umstead 100 (March 27) and the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k/50m/100m (July 17).

Wow! Lots of great events to be thinking about for next year.

- SD

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2009 XTerra World Championships - Paradise Found

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 1,200 trail runners for a romp through paradise at the XTerra Trail Run World Championships in Oahu, Hawaii. This was the final event to cap off the XTerra season of 30+ trail run events, and runners from all over the globe came to compete for $10,000 in prize money, make some new friends, and enjoy the Hawaiian views, trails, and weather so worthy of a world-class event.

(Pre-race training with Sophie)

We had such a blast at the XTerra National Trail Running Championship in Bend, OR, that it didn’t take much arm twisting to get Sophie and Christi to join me for a weekend in the islands. The XTerra events are a wonderful format for taking the family – runners get a challenging course that attract pros and amateurs alike, kids have races, activities, and plenty of shwag that ensure everyone has fun, and there’s enough Aloha spirit to change the world. Throw in some downtime to play on the beach, and what’s not to like? It was the perfect way to cap off the season.

(Me and my crew at the starting line)

Race morning produced perfect 70 degree weather, and the early sun quickly got to work cooking the morning dew of the lush mountain sides. The Kualoa Ranch is a jaw-dropping venue, and I found myself pivoting in circles trying to take it all in. It was hard to say which was bigger – the mountains on either side of the valley, or the smiles from the runners who had escaped winter snow in hometowns from Italy to Canada to Oregon. Somewhere in those wicked steep mountains was a trail that none of us were allowed to preview and could slow the likes of Max King to a 1:18 half marathon in his win last year (he’s more of a 1:04 kind of trail half marathon guy). It was going to be great!

(The sun crawls over the hills to the starting area)

(Words of wisdom from the RD)

(Sophie warms up on the obstacle course)

I did some warm-up laps chasing Sophie around the kids obstacle course, and caught up with Max King, fresh off his win at the USATF Trail Marathon Championships. I asked him who the competition was, and he cited Inov-8 runner and Mountain Running Champion Joe Gray, as well as Ben Bruce (2nd to him at all XTerra national and world events to date). I also knew that Fujio Miyachi had come up from Tokyo, Japan, and a handful of runners from Boulder, CO were going to give it their best. We talked about the lead women too, and knew that Cynthia Anderson was back to defend her title, but had the likes of Ironman Champion Heather Fuhr, New Zealand running elite Fiona Docherty, and XTerra Triathlon World Champion Melanie McQuaid keeping her honest. It would be a fast race all around.

(On your marks, get set....)


The blast of the cannon sent us off into the hills, and Max King, Joe Gray, and Ben Bruce quickly dashed out ahead clocking sub-5 minute miles. The course followed a dirt road up the valley, throwing in some steep climbs within the first half mile. It didn’t take long before runners were strung out single file along the road. The views were so amazing it was hard to stay focused, and I suspect that the few face plants I saw were from us out-of-towners.

(Spreading out on the fire road, heading up the valley)

I found myself in my usual spot, trying to keep up with the lead women about 15 runners behind the lead pack. Fiona Docherty and Cynthia Anderson, both clad in compression socks, were setting a fast pace, with Heather Fuhr calmly in striking distance. We sped up in the shadows and slowed in the sun, as the Hawaiian heat governed our pace. One delightful distraction was the mix of nationalities present through various accents and flag-covered racewear including Japan, New Zealand, Italy, the camouflage of local US Army soldiers, and the ever-present dark tans of Hawaiian locals. Every face had the same ear-to-ear grin, proof of a common passion deeper than any national heritage.

(Oceans, mountains, and sky at every turn)

The first 5k loop went by quickly, and we rounded the mountain range to head up the coastal side. Fiona put on the afterburners, leaving the rest of us to work together and enjoy the ocean views. The volcanic mud made for some interesting creek crossings, and I quickly learned to just step in the water rather than run the edge and risk cleats full of caked mud that turned your shoes into 10 lb weights. The rooster tails of dirt coming off the runners in front of me was like a cross country championship; there wasn’t a clean shirt to be found by mile 5.

(Going fast in the shadows)

(Steep, steep, steep)

The steepest climbs began about six miles in, and had to slow to a walk on the big pitch to avoid overheating. I looked ahead and saw there were two lines of runners – the acclimated, and the unacclimated. I so, so wished to be with the fast line, but had to let them pass by, including some 40’ish looking runners that had me worried about my age group standings. Local Mark Mench said not to worry, gave me a pat on the back and flashed a hang loose, never breaking stride. He’s right – don’t stress it, you’re in paradise!

(Mark flashes a hang loose as we pass the Chinaman's Hat island)

(Oh. My. God. Could it get any prettier?)

(Gravity is your friend!)

We soon reached the peak and ventured into some “single track”, aka “a mile wide thicket of bushes with a mud strip down the middle”. Had the front-runners not left footprints, I’m not sure if I could have figured out where to go! The run down the spine of the mountain was short, and we quickly plunged into the muddy single track back to the valley.

(Single track)

(Single track in there somewhere)

I threw myself down the hill, knowing the Inov-8 x212 knobbies would grab everything they could as I sledded through the thick stuff. I passed a couple of runners, took a header into the bushes, then got back up and passed a couple of more. With one big splash in a puddle at the bottom, the mud shook off my shoes and sprayed behind me. I caught sight of runners strung along the cow-trail single track ahead, and they were within striking distance. This was it, the place where I was going to make up some time. I threw my arms and kicked behind me – my “ground eater” stride – and went for broke.

Passing on the thin single track was tricky, and there was little time to ask to pass before practically running on top of the person in front of you. Luckily these were trail runners, so I just got shouts of support as I took some chances on the high side of the trail. The cheers at the finish were deceivingly close, so I just stayed focused on the runners ahead of me. The volunteers said I was in 18th…then 16th…then 14th. Could I crack the top 10? I picked off a few more runners, but it wasn’t quite enough. I finished in 1:35:23, good enough for 14th and first in my age group. More importantly, just in time to see the beginning of the kids race where Sophie ran the whole thing in her Crocs.

I nearly drank an entire jug of Gatorade trying to get my body temp back to normal, all while sharing stories with Fujio Miyachi (5th, 1:26:12), Fiona Docherty (8th, 1st female, 1:30:05 CR), Cynthia Anderson (14th, 2nd female, 1:33:01), Heather Fuhr (19th, 3rd female, 1st Master female, 1:38:01), and others at the finish. Everyone exclaimed their pure joy with the mystery trail, which dished out plenty of hills, speed, mud, and scenery to be worthy of a World Championship. In fact, every runner who came in had that addictive mix of mud, smiles, and stories. If given a chance, I would have loved to go for a second loop. But most others were content with plentiful snacks, a haircut from the Paul Mitchell stylists doing a fundraiser for Challenged Athletes Foundation, or a nice massage.

(Max King repeats his win with a new CR)

Max King won the event in 1:14:26 (CR), with Joe Gray taking second (1:17:21, also beating last year’s CR), and Ben Bruce (1:20:43) taking third. [results] I caught up with them as we cooled down and cheered on the other runners, and it sounded like the new course was tougher than last year but a bit shorter. Max and Joe had split off from Ben about 3 miles in, but Max had used his course knowledge to perfect a wicked pace a few miles afterwards to break free of Joe.

(Me and Inov-8 teammate Joe Gray at the finish)

(Ben Bruce and Joe Gray relax at the finish)

(Tom Knoll shows off his trophy from the very first Ironman in 1978)

(Sophie poses with the trail elf)

(Inov-8 x212's and Injinji tsoks kept off the mud, blood, and burrs)

(Top finishers Ben Bruce, Heather Fuhr, Fiona Dougherty, Max King, Cynthia Anderson, and Joe Gray)

We collected our hardware, headed up the coast to have a few beers while watching the pro surfers tackle the 30 foot surf, and let the day stretch out as long as possible. I was still giddy with the feeling that trail running is such a universal passion, and toasted the good folks of XTerra for putting on a world championship that allowed me to make friends across the globe in one epic morning. When I caught up the other runners and XTerra volunteers at the celebration that evening, everyone agreed that it was world class. We were soon flipping through the XTerra schedule for the next one. ;-)

(She's such a ham...where does she get it?)

(The sun sets on the island, and on another great season)

My thanks to the everyone at XTerra, their great sponsors, and my fellow trail running warriors across the globe. I hope you are all enjoying your downtime!

- SD

Uli Steidl and Caitlin Smith Rock The North Face 50

Uli Steidl won trail running's biggest purse ($10k) this Saturday by becoming the first 2-time winner of The North Face 50 in the Headlands of CA. He finished in a course record 6:33, just a few minutes ahead of 100-mile wunderkind Geoff Roes and a very competitive field. Caitlin Smith put the final touches on her amazing season, which included CR's at numerous ultras, winning the Nike Women's Marathon, victory at the 6-day TransRockies stage race, and more. Her 7:38 CR was 15 minutes ahead of ultra goddess Joelle Vaught. Congrats to both!

You can read more about the race at Competitor Magazine, this profile on Caitlin at the San Jose Mercury News, Bryon Powell's iRunFar blog, Caitlin's blog, and (much to my delight) Uli's brand new blog that gives a rare insider peek to how a champion sizes up the competition and takes them down during the race.

If you have a moment, be sure to stop by Uli's blog and leave him some kudos. I would love to encourage him to keep blogging!

- SD

[PS - XTerra World's write-up is coming...too many awesome pics to edit in one day!]

Thursday, December 03, 2009

An Ode to the Lottery Gods

Oh, great lottery Gods

Those who control my destiny

You awesome powers who choose my fate

Who in one act of will, make me a participant in Western States, Miwok, Ironman Hawaii, Way Too Cool, or none of the above

Your gifts fills my life with adventure, my soul with new experience and friends, and my calendar with endless workouts that build perseverance and gratitude

I honor thy choice with this promise

To respect the event(s) you choose by living them fully

To train to the best of my ability, and put it on the line on the chosen day

To meet every smiling face at the start, at every aid station, and at the finish, and return those smiles with authentic appreciation

By taking pictures, retelling stories endlessly, so that your legends live on

Or perhaps to honor the gift of being chosen for none of the above

And be forced to seek new races and adventures to fill my soul in unexpected ways

I will respect your guidance, and the wisdom of your blessings

But please make it Western States ;-)

[Have a great weekend everyone - I'm off to Hawaii!]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wardian, Pirrung, Semick, Ortiz Named USATF Ultra Runners of the Year

Congratulations to Michael Wardian, Roy Pirrung, Kami Semick, and Anita Ortiz for being named 2009 USATF Ultra Runners of the Year! Pretty amazing when you look at their 2009 performances below.

- SD

For Release: November 22, 2009

USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Council Announces Runners of the Year

Indianapolis, IN ---- The Mountain/Ultra/Trail Running (MUT) Council of long distance running has named the 2009 USATF Mountain Runners of the year, Ultra Runners of the Year, and Contributor of the Year. The following individuals will be recognized at the USATF National Convention in Indianapolis, on Saturday, December 5, at an awards breakfast.

Mountain men open: Joseph Gray, 25, Lakewood, WA, wins his second consecutive USATF Mountain Runner of the Year title. He started out the mountain season in Vail, CO, on the weekend of June 6 running an uphill half marathon (Saturday) and a 10km trail race (Sunday) finishing in third and second respectively. Later that month he finished third at Mount Washington Road Race and won the USA Mountain Running Championships at Cranmore earning a spot on his second Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. He was the second U.S. finisher at the World Mountain Championships in Madesimo-Campodolcino, Italy, finishing in 16th place. Gray spent much of the summer in Europe racing and was fifteenth overall in the WMRA Grand Prix standings with only two WMRA Grand Prix race finishes (out of seven) to his credit.

Mountain men master: Dave Dunham, 45, Bradford, MA, took home the gold in the 45-49 at the US Mountain Championships at Mt Cranmore. He was also the USATF New England champion (45-49) at Northfield Mountain and was the masters USATF NE Mountain running series champion. Mountain results included: 1st 45-49 at Wachusett Mountain, 1st 40-49 at Pack Monadnock, 1st 45-49 at Northfield Mountain (USATF NE championship), 1st 45-49 at Mt Washington, 1st 45-49 at Mt Cranmore (US National championship), 1st 40-49 at Loon Mountain, 1st 40-49 at Mt Ascutney. In addition Dave continued to volunteer at the Association and National level. He was the official scorekeeper for the USATF NE Mountain series, directed multiple trail/mountain races, and served as the manager for the junior runners on the US Mountain team. Dunham was the USATF Mountain Runner of the Year in 2000.

Mountain women open: Brandy Erholtz, 32, Bailey, CO, is a repeat winner in this category having also won in 2008. In June, she finished first at the Native Eyewear Spring Runoff 10k in Vail, first at the Mount Washington Road Race, and finished second at the US Mountain Running Championships and was a member of the gold-medal winning Team USA at the NACAC Mountain Running Championships. She earned an at-large spot on her second Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team and was the top American woman finisher in Italy at the World Mountain Running Championships finishing 10th to lead the U.S. Women to a bronze-medal finish. She finished second at the USA 10km Trail Running Championships. She finished fifth at the Cheyenne Canon Mountain Race, first at the Barr Mountain Trail Race where she set a new women's course record, and won the VAC Vail Mountain Winter Uphill Snowshoe. She was first at the Montrose 10k uphill road race setting a course record and in international competition in Switzerland raced to a third-place finish at Thyon-Dixence, and fifth place at Sierre-Zinal, (top US finisher at both of these events).

Mountain women master: Laura Haefeli, 42, Del Norte, CO, was the 2004 and 2005 open mountain runner of the year and has earned masters’ recognition for the second consecutive year. She finished third overall at the Cheyenne Canon Mountain Race, was second in the Native Eyewear Spring Runoff 10k in Vail, and was the USA National Mountain Running Masters champion and a member of the gold-medal US Team at the NACAC Mountain Running championships.

Ultra men open: Michael Wardian, 35, Arlington, VA, wins his second consecutive Ted Corbitt Memorial USATF Ultra Runner of the Year Award in 2009. Wardian finished ninth at the 2008 (November 2008) IAU World Cup 100km in Tarquina, Italy, and at the 2009 IAU World Cup 100km in, Torhout, Beligum, he finished in sixth position and was the first US finisher. Wardian earned a bronze medal at the IAU 50km World Championships in Gibraltar and was the first US Finisher. He was the US 50km Road National Champion, and the US 50 Mile Trail Champion. Wardian showed his prowess in shorter distance competition with his finish at the US Cross Country National Championships in 46th place overall. At the Marathon Des Sables-Sahara Desert, Morocco, Wardian finished in eighth place overall which was the highest finish ever by a U.S. competitor. He was fifteenth overall at Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, just eight days after finishing sixth overall in the IAU World Cup 100km. He posted a third place finish at The North Face Endurance Challenge-50 Miler, Washington, DC and ran eight marathons in 2009 and set a PR in the marathon in 2009 of 2:21:09.

Ultra men master: Roy Pirrung, 61, Sheboygan, WI, is a repeat winner in this category having won this award in 2007 and 2008. Pirrung’s results included in November 2008, first 60-64 finisher and a pending 60-64 American record in the open race held concurrently with the IAU World Cup 100km in Italy, and at the 24 Hour Championships in McKinney, TX, a fifth place overall, first 60-64. In 2009 Pirrung won his age group at the following events, the USA 50km Road Championships, the Mad City 50km, the Door County Fall 50-mile, and the Ice Age Trail 50-mile. He finished second in his age group at both the USA 50 Mile Trail Championships and the USA 100km Trail Championships. The Door County 50 was Pirrung’s 150th Ultra race. Pirrung serves as the vice-chairperson of the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Running Council and is active in his local USATF association.

Ultra women open: Kami Semick, 43, Bend, OR, is the Ruth Anderson USATF Ultra Runner of the Year 2009 having posted an outstanding year on the road and trails. She was the USA 50km Road Champion, and the USA 50 Mile Trail Champion. At the IAU World 50km Road Championships Semick finished first overall. Semick won the individual gold medal at the IAU World Cup 100km to lead Team USA to a gold-medal performance. She also won the American River 50 mile and the Miwok 100k. In addition in 2008 at the IAU World Cup 100km Semick earned a silver medal to lead Team USA to a silver-medal podium appearance.

Ultra women master: Anita Ortiz, 45, Eagle, CO, won the Moab Red Hot 50k, was first at 12 hours of Moab (team race), finished second at the Miwok 100km, turned in an outstanding first place finish (setting a “rookie” record) at Western States 100 Miler. She won the Pikes Peak Marathon and finished first at the San Juan Solstice 50 mile. Ortiz was a two-time USATF Mountain Runner of the Year (2002 and 2003) and two-time USATF Masters Mountian Runner of the Year (2004 and 2007).

Contributor of the Year – Paul Kirsch. Kirsch was the race director for NACAC/USA Mountain Running Champs where one of his duties was to coordinate housing and transportation for elite athletes (more than 30 in total from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico). Kirsch serves as the USATF-NE Mountain Ultra Trail Chairperson. He provides website design and maintenance for the US Mountain Running Team website & blog (usmrt.com). He headed up the USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit which saw increased participation this year, and he was the Co-Race Director for the Loon Mountain Race. He also coordinated housing and transportation for elite athletes for the Mount Washington Race. He successfully recruited the Rhode Island 6 Hour Ultra to be USATF-NE Ultra Championships and attended as volunteer liaison from the mountain ultra trail council of USATF NE. Kirsch is President of the White Mountain Milers Running Club. He served as race director for the Inov-8 Summer Series in North Conway, NH, and the USSSA Snowshoe Race (National Champs Qualifier). He provided timing/results and course setup for a number of races in New England near his home in Madison, NH.

In order to be considered for the USATF Mountain and Ultra running awards an athlete must show top results in U.S. competitions for 2009 (November 1, 2008 through October 31, 2009) to include mountain races (these may be on paved/gravel surfaces as long as there is significant elevation loss or gain) and trail races of varying lengths, as well as road races for the ultra category (distances beyond the marathon). International results are also considered. The nominee must be an ambassador for the sport. Nominee must be a USATF member for 2009, and to be considered for the masters’ category athlete must be a minimum of 40 years of age. For a list of past winners in the other categories, please visit www.usatf.org.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rocky the Running Pug - His Book Is Available!

It was eight years ago that a little pug named Rocky entered our life, and promptly pulled me from the despair of narrowly missing the 9/11 tragedy to the soul-filling world of trail running. I was supremely out of shape, and every morning he would jump on me until we ran 2, 5, 9 miles on trails. A running pug? How could I not try and keep up? The rest, as we say, is history.

My wife, Christi, recently finished a children's book called Lucky Me that stars Rocky and his friends. They teach kids about animal safety, responsible pet ownership, and what to expect when an animal enters your home. The book is now available at Summerland Publishing, Amazon.com, and Borders.com. A portion of all sales goes to benefit the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.

If you are looking for a great gift for a child, know someone who is considering adding a pet to their family, Rocky's book is perfect! There are even some great shots of him outrunning me on the beach, and cameo appearances by Sophie Jane. I would appreciate it if you could forward this on, become a Fan of his Facebook page, and spread the love.

Needless to say, I'm immensely proud of Christi for putting this together. She's been volunteering with the Peninsula Humane Society for years, and takes Rocky into schools every month to teach kids about responsible pet stewardship. It's so cool to see her combine her gifts for photography, teaching, and animals into something everyone can enjoy.

- SD

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Greg Crowther, Devon Crosby-Helms Win JFK50

This just in:

Greg Crowther won the JFK50 today in 5:50:13, just 45 seconds ahead of 2nd place Michael Arnstein. Both get a slot to Western States as part of their prize! Devon Crosby-Helms set a new Women's course record of 6:29:21 for her win (1oth overall), while the indefatigable Meghan Arbogast got 2nd (6:56:05). You can get the rest of the results here:

1, Gregory Crowther 36M 5:50:13
2, Michael Arnstein 32M 5:50:58
3, Matt Woods 30M 5:54:10
4, Hal Koerner 33M 6:05:02
5, Chad Ricklefs 42M 6:06:51
6, Matthew Lavine 35M 6:08:17
7, Oz Pearlman 37M 6:09:39
8, Ben Ingram 32M 6:21:45
9, Jon Lawler 46M 6:24:20
10, Devon Crosby-Helms 27F 6:29:21
11, Scott Jurek 36M 6:31:12
12, Josh Brimhall 34M 6:32:13
13, Andrew Mason 37M 6:34:36
14, David James 31M 6:36:00
15, Timothy Smith 38M 6:44:08
16, Kyle Cashin 39M 6:44:55
17, Vladimir Banas 40M 6:46:22
18, Jeffry Buechler 35M 6:47:40
19, Ian Torrence 37M 6:48:14
20, Bradley Adams 31M 6:49:40
21, Mark Cucuzzella 43M 6:54:06
22, Lucas Marsak 30M 6:54:55
23, Meghan Arbogast 48F 6:56:05
24, Mike Vance 46M 6:59:10
25, Annette Bednosky 42F 7:02:52

Good Luck JFK Runners!

Good luck to the 1,000+ entrants tackling the JFK50 today. We'll be rooting for you!

Sounds like a packed elite field, according to this great article from the Herald-Mail. Devon Crosby-Helms and Meghan Arbogast will take on Annette Bednosky, while the Men's field is ridiculous:

*Hal Koerner, 2x Western States winner.

* Scott Jurek, 7x Western States winner.

*Bob Adams, 29, of Knoxville, Tenn.

*Michael Arnstein, 32, of New York City

*Josh Brimhall, 34, of Henderson, Nev.

*Jason Bryant, 37, of Elkin, N.C.

*Greg Crowther, 36, of Seattle

*Wynn Davis, 28, of River Falls, Wis.

*David James, 31, of Somers, N.Y.

*Matt Lavine, 35, of Crystal Lake, Ill.

*Chad Ricklefs, 42, of Boulder, Colo.

*Jim Sweeney, 28, of Albany, N.Y.

*Ian Torrence, 37, of Ashland, Ore.

The Herald-Mail also did a wonderful six-part series interviewing runners from various walks of life tackling the JFK50. It's a great read, and includes some fun photos and video clips with the interviewees:

Part 1 - Couple to finish 3rd JFK together
Part 2 - For Kitchen, JFK is grueling and special
Part 3 - Midshipman to compete in her first ultra at JFK
Part 4 - Greencastle man goes for finish #5
Part 5 - Rhoderick takes JFK in stride
Part 6 - JFK is a family affair for the Louderbacks

Be sure to leave a comment on their great pre-coverage of the event. I would love to see more. You can also check out Tom Sperduto's blog for some awesome pictures (it's always nice to have professional photographers running the event; the photo above is from his blog). Have a great run, everyone!

- SD

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boston Marathon is Full!

Wow! 25,000 entrants registered by November 15th, and the Boston Marathon has reached capacity and closed for registration well ahead of schedule. I hope you got the previous notice last week!

If not, have no worries. There are plenty of great races going on that same time. You've got the Charlottesville Marathon, the Marin Marathon (following weekend), the Big Sur Marathon (the following weekend), the Salt Lake City Marathon, the Kansas Marathon, the River City Marathon in Sacramento, the Diablo Marathon, the Skyline to the Sea 50k (following weekend), the Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k, the Leona Divide 50m, the Sunsweet Wildflower 50k, and more. And don't forget to register for the Miwok 100k lottery!

We are blessed with riches of opportunity.

- SD

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fast Fun at the Lithia Loop Marathon

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 150 marathoners for the Lithia Loop Marathon in Ashland, OR. This year was the USATF National Trail Marathon Championships, so fast runners came from all over the US to check out the awesome weekend put on by the Rogue Valley Runners. Good food, great people, amazing volunteers, and a course that ends in a park where I played every day as a five year old. It would surely be memorable!

(Serene Ashland Creek)

From the moment you arrive in Ashland, you know it’s a special place. The people are smiling, wildlife abounds, and every organic restaurant/local brewery window is plastered with event posters for music festivals, Shakespeare, and group meditations to fill your life with culture and perspective. It’s not quite the hippie commune that I remember as a child, but it still hums with that hopeful energy. My Mom and Dad both joined me this weekend, and it was great to hear them reminisce about Ashland in the early 70’s and the town roots with Chautauqua, a traveling community of arts and lectures that would come into town so local folks could ‘camp out and enjoy the luxury of culture’. Although Ashland has changed in many ways (WiFi is everywhere), some things remain the same (like the merchandise at Rare Earth). But it felt like we were honoring the roots of this great town by traveling to be together for a weekend, and enjoying the luxury of running in one of nature’s most beautiful settings.

(The Ashland Chautauqua Temple, circa 1890)

(Coach Greg McMillan holds court)

Our “lecture” came from elite coach Greg McMillan, who spoke at the Rogue Valley Runner store the night before the race. He shared some great stories and tips while Race Directors Hal Koerner and Ian Torrence hosted us at their kick ass store. If every town had an RVR, trail running would be the most popular sport on the planet! We then escaped across the street to the Larks Restaurant for the pasta special – a Cajun seafood angel hair pasta that looked more like a dare to me than a pre-race carbo-load. Cajun the day before a race? My Dad suspected a hidden southern running secret recipe and went for it, while I wimped out for some calmer fare.

(RD Hal Koerner gives us some tips as co-RD Ian Torrence looks on)

(Lining up at the stary line)

On race morning, the air was chilly (40 degrees) but the rain had stopped. The Fall colors were as big and bright as I remembered from a child’s eyes, and I wondered if my choice to not carry a camera and focus on running hard was a mistake. When I saw the speedy runners toeing the stary line (it’s hard to make a “t” with spray chalk), I knew it would take everything I had to keep up with this crew. Max King was here (just one week off of his 2:19 at the New York Marathon), as was Aaron Saft (Team Inov-8 member and 2008 USATF Trail Marathon Champion), Berkeley speedster Sam Robinson, Masters marathoner Dan Verrington, and a great crew from Central Mass Striders. On the Women’s side, all eyes were on ultragoddess Krissy Moehl, speedster Devon Crosby-Helms, and a few fast-looking short course pros. At 8am, Hal and Ian sent us off into the hills.

(Aaron leads us up the climb...that's me in blue! Photo courtesy of Mail Tribune's Jamie Lusch)

(Todd Ragsdale achieves his dream of becoming an overweight retired academic)

Local Masters runner (and defending Masters winner) JC Callans was kind enough to give me some tips beforehand – 7 miles up (don’t blow your load), 12 miles fairly flat (wear your racing flats), 7 miles down (don’t forget to leave something in your quads for the single track at the end). I found JC early on in the climb, and tucked in right behind him. Up front, a pack of four (Max King, Aaron Saft, Sam Robinson, and Jim Johnson) took off at a wicked pace, with another pack of three not too far behind. I settled in with JC around 9th place, and we chugged up the hill.

(The lead pack sets the pace, photo courtesy of Ian Torrence)

About three miles in, Lauren Arnold (first name Cynthia, but goes by Lauren) passed me along with Greg McMillan (go coach!) and a few others smart enough to pace themselves. Lauren was charging hard, well ahead of her rivals. So was Greg, and I suspected all that sandbagging I heard on the flight up (we happened to sit next to each other) was just a cover for some solid 7,000 ft Flagstaff, AZ training.

JC was the perfect race guide, letting me know when aid stations were coming, when the single track started, and pointing out where the best views would have been if we weren’t socked in with frozen clouds. When I asked how his pace was vs last year, he said “about a minute per mile faster”. Damn, that’s movin’! Erik Skaggs filled our water bottles at the top of the hill (mile 6), and JC and I opened up our strides on the flatter fire roads, clocking 6:30 miles. We passed a few people and starting feeling good about our pace, and then Phil Kochik went by us like we were standing still. Whoa.

The next few miles went by quickly, with JC and I trading off setting the pace. We hit the halfway mark around 1:38, and the aid station folks told me that Max King and Sam Robinson were running within less than a minute of each other in the lead, with Aaron Saft not too far behind. Lauren was building on her lead over the other women, and seemed to be getting faster with every mile. Greg McMillan was moving up towards the front pack, clearly the Masters front-runner.

I picked up the pace to 6 min/miles, putting some distance on JC and catching the next two runners in front of me. The pace felt hard, but that was the whole point – I promised myself I would go harder than I ever had at this race. I sure was glad I kept my sleeves and gloves, for the faster I went, the more numb I got! The frozen mist sparkled at every turn, and kept me looking forward for the next runner to catch.

Around mile 18, I realized the sparkles I was seeing were a combination of frozen mist and light-headedness as my cardio system started to redline. I tried to push through it, but my brain answered back with some big f-you tunnel vision and I quickly slowed down to 7:30 min/miles. What was happening? Altitude? Not enough breakfast? Is this a bonk? The runners around me pounced on the opportunity, and Ian Sharman (whom I met at Boston), Josh Ward, JC Callans, and Dave Dunham all passed me by. I remembered I could hold the tunnel vision for miles (thank you, Western States) and did my best to keep the pace, but it was a shuffle until the downhill plunge at mile 21 arrived.

(Single track with views)

Leaning forward into the 6% decline, I was able to pick up the pace while letting my heart rate take a break. Ah, blessed gravity! Thanks to a tip from JC, my Dad and I had checked out this section of the course the day before, and it was nice to know what was coming (highly recommended for those running in 2010). I let my legs open up down the fire road, reminding myself not to slow down until it hurt as much as the 8th 800 in training. I turned onto the Caterpillar Trail and charged some delicious single track called the Alice in Wonderland Trail, keeping my tunnel vision focused on the strip of dirt in front of me. I hit the last mile of pavement and my legs twitched with cramps, but I ran it in for 16th, in 3:09. Not quite the time I was hoping, but it felt like I pushed myself to the limit. It’s a very satisfying feeling!

(Max King closes in on the win, photo courtesy of Mail Tribune's Jamie Lusch)

As I huddled inside with burritos and beer, Aaron Saft caught me up on the front runners. Max King had made his move at the top of the hill, and only Sam Robinson went with him. Max won in a CR 2:40, with Sam Robinson a few minutes behind (2:42) and Aaron taking third (2:48). Greg McMillan had a killer second half, coming in 4th overall (2:54) and winning the Masters group, with Dan Verrington (3:03) and JC Callans (3:08) taking 2nd and 3rd Master. The Women’s winner, Lauren Arnold, finished just ahead of me, but only because she took a half mile detour and added 8 minutes onto her run (3:08). She still had enough to hold off Becca Ward (3:16), and Devon Crosby-Helms (3:16) who almost caught Becca at the tape. It sounded like cramping in the last mile helped decide a few positions as well, as many struggled with the transition of hard single track to sprinting on the pavement. (full results here)

(My race guide and 2nd place M40-44, JC Callans with me)

(Max King, 2009 USATF Trail Marathon Champion)

(Three generations - Aaron with his son, Keagan, and me with my Dad)

(Go Team Inov-8!)

My Dad was due in around 5 hours, but after 4 hours I figured I would stretch my legs and get some pictures of runners. The first guy down the chute was…hey, that’s my Dad! In a screaming fast 4:09. When I asked him what was up, he just said “I was so cold I just kept running”. Hypothermia can be quite the motivator! We relaxed inside, meeting families and friends (as well as Redding, CA’s Ron Dunlap…look out for Team Dunlap next year!), and enjoyed the awards ceremony. My Dad got 2nd in his age group, and I got 3rd, so we both had a couple of USATF medals to show the kids/grandkids. Once again, I suspect I'm nowhere near tapping my genetic potential.

(Larry Dunlap brings it home, 2nd in the M65-69 age group)

We combined our running celebration with my Mom’s birthday dinner, and headed to Amuse for a fabulous meal. The stories from today and 30 years ago danced together in one long stream of laughter and reflection, solidifying for me that Ashland is a magical place that dares good people to gather and create/share great moments. I will certainly be back.

- SD

[My thanks to Hal Koerner, Ian Torrence, the Rogue Valley Runners, the great volunteers, the race sponsors, and good people of Ashland for putting on a top notch race!]

Friday, November 06, 2009

Want to Boston in 2010? Better sign up soon...

Are you planning to do the Boston Marathon in April, 2010? If so, you may want to register ASAP. Rumor has it that it's filling up very quickly this year and may reach capacity as early as next week. I know many of you ran some great BQ times this year, so be sure to commit! Especially you crazies going for the Boston2BigSur Double (remember, you need to sign up for Big Sur AND Boston).

You can register online here for $130.

- SD

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kami Semick wins IAU 50k World Trophy in Gibraltar

Kami Semick added a 50k world championship onto her 100k world championship this year, with Michael Wardian getting the bronze for the US. A great showing! Congratulations, both of you.

MEDIA ALERT – November 3, 2009

Kami Semick Wins, Michael Wardian Takes Third, At The IAU 50K World Trophy 2009
Gibraltar, Spain, set the stage for The North Face athletes to take top honors in 50K race

The North Face athlete Kami Semick took first place, women, in the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) 50K World Trophy 2009, in Gibraltar, Spain. She won with a time of 3:29:48. The North Face teammate, Michael Wardian, took third place, men, with a time of 3:00:56, just 41 seconds behind the second place winner. This is the first time running the race for both.

Held on a slow, rolling 8K loop, the course boasted many sharp turns and a handful of steep hills, forcing runners to slow down in places. Conditions were hot and humid at 77° F with 86 percent humidity. The race started at 2.30PM, smack in the middle of the afternoon heat.

“The conditions were difficult and the course was challenging, but I felt relaxed and strong through most of the race,” Semick said. “I focused on running for place instead of time because of the challenging conditions.”

Semick took the women’s lead at around the 10K mark and continued to build a steady lead by more than eight minutes. Wardian led the men’s close competition for most of the race, and despite being passed at the 43K and the 47K, he was able to lock in his pace and secure his best finish ever for an international competition and representing the United States.

“I am so pleased with the effort and winning a Bronze Medal,” Wardian said. “I have some work to do to improve and come back with a Gold Medal next time for the USA—I can't wait to get back training and look forward to competing again in the near future.”

The IAU 50k World Trophy is an invitation-only event. Athletes qualify through races held throughout the world.

For more information on the IAU 50K World Cup, check out www.iau.org.tw

For additional information on Kami Semick, Michael Wardian and The North Face, head to www.thenorthface.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tempo Fun Run at the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Half Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining 3,000 runners for the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley 5k/Half Marathon/Marathon in San Jose, CA. It was a wonderful romp through San Jose that introduced me to some great running areas, and a chance to test my speed at the half marathon distance.

Just when I thought Dean's announcement from the Chicago Marathon was big time branding (he thanked his sponsor, Volkswagen...whoa!), lo and behold a marathon that bears his name and face. He's definitely in a whole new stratosphere this year. I said hi to Dean and his wife after he spoke at the Expo on Saturday, and there were plenty of folks asking for autographs and pictures. Most of them, and I'm talking dozens of people, said his story was a key element to inspire them to get off the couch and do their first race. Say what you will about his promotional prowess, but there's no doubt in my mind he is using his powers for positive change.

My goals for this race were a bit more self-serving. I had one more long tempo run on my training agenda for the weekend (15 miles with 13 at 6 min/mile pace) before tapering down for the Lithia Loop Marathon in two weeks. I figured the DKSVM09 would be a good place to do it, since mile markers and snacks would be provided. And, of course, a t-shirt for the shwag hag (that's me!).

(Nervous runners in the port-o-pottie line)

(Gathering at the start)

At 7am, the race was off, and at 7:00:30 I finally crossed the starting line (the port-o-pottie line was a bit longer than I had planned). The marathoners and half-marathoners took off together, and we made our way through the streets of downtown San Jose before heading into a nearby neighborhood. I saw some familiar faces in the pack, including Michael Kanning (shooting for a sub-7 min pace in the marathon), John Burton (marathon), and Jon Kroll (half marathon, his first race after States in June and pacing friends at Leadville). I ran with Jon for a few miles, chatting as we watched the sun come up on a clear, cool day. At mile 3, we were 18:22, just a tad behind my goal pace. I bid a good luck to Jon, and picked up the pace and we headed into Willow Glen.

25-year-old Lenin Zapata was in a league by himself, off the front clocking 5:15 min/miles for the half marathon. It didn't take long before none of us could see him on the multi-block straightaways. A few more runners were spread along the course, and I was cruising with Brian Winco, Ironman Fred Haubensak, and marathon leaders Ed Conrad and Bruno Fiore in the first "pack". As we hit the bike trail, I spent most of the time hanging on the shoulder of a hard-running Rhodes Walton, who was doing a great job of surging on the tops and bottoms of every hill, making me pick up the pace to catch him again. The pace was a perfect tempo run - solid, hard 6 min/miles that always felt like I could go a bit harder.

(A beautiful dark morning on the bike path)

We caught up to some early marathon starters/walkers as we cut through one of many parks, and wished each other well. The sun was peeking over the trees and warming up the course. At mile 10 (1:00:20), runners split in two different directions after the aid station, and I hesitated just enough for Ed Conrad, Brian Winco, and Fred Haubensak to fly by. I caught up to Ed, but Brian and Fred were clearly in their final kick.

(Sunny morning along the creek)

Ed Conrad is an extraordinary runner, and his steps were so light they weren't even scaring away the birds and squirrels (I took care of that when I caught up). The crowds let us know that Ed was leading the marathon and I was 7th or so, but Ed kept his cool and focused on his fueling. At mile 12 he stopped for bio break, and I set my sights on the two runners in front of me.

(Finishing on the grass)

As we hit the track in the last half mile, Seaside, CA's William Swick sprinted by me with a phenomenal kick. Rhodes was just ahead, glancing over his shoulder to keep tabs on us, and William gave it his all to pick off one more. Unfortunately the track wasn't the last bit, and as we crossed into a grass field I was able to repass William as he faded. I finished in 1:19:34, good enough for 7th place, and turned around and congratulated William for laying it on the line! I love seeing that.

(At the finish!)

My pace felt good, and I had plenty left in the tank at the finish. The first thought I had was "Wow, am I ready for Lithia!". I guess that's the point of those last few tempo runs. It may not bring much to your body, but your mind is thoroughly convinced you can kick butt. I was all smiles as I got snacks and cheered in the finishers.

(Women's half marathon winner, Michell Meyer from Carmel, CA, clocked a 1:28:58)

(Jon Kroll and his friend, Luis Montoya, celebrate a solid race)

I took the bus back to the start just in time to see Bruno Fiore (2:41:43) edge out Ed Conrad (2:41:47) in a close finish for the marathon. Age over beauty? Perhaps it was that bio break, Ed. ;-) The kids race also kicked off, with plenty of smiles to go around. All in all, a great way to spend a perfect California morning.

(Marathon winner, Bruno Fiore)

(Bruno outkicks Ed at the finish)

(Sharkie wins the two fins and over group)

(Future champion gives it her all...hey, how did she get a medal already?)

I packed up my goodies and headed home, so we could hit the pumpkin patch with Sophie before the three of us went to the Bridge School Benefit Concert to hear Wolfmother, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Chris Martin, Neil Young, and a VERY impressive Adam Sandler who covered The Doors "Break On Through to the Other Side" and Led Zeppelin's "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" with screamtastic accuracy. Sophie loved it!

(Sophie rocks out to Wolfmother; Bose headphones provided by nervous parents)

Exhausted? Yes! But I wouldn't want it any other way.

- SD