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 ( 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

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,, and 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

For additional information on Kami Semick, Michael Wardian and The North Face, head to