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!]