Friday, April 29, 2011

How To Run An Ultra - Bryon Powell Tells All In His New Book, Relentless Forward Progress

Today was my birthday, and one of the greatest gifts of the day was finally having the time to read Relentless Forward Progress, the new book by ultrarunner extraordinaire and guru, Bryon Powell. What a fantastic primer! Bryon has absolutely nailed this one.

It's no surprise that his writing is both entertaining and approachable, making it feel like he's hanging out with you at a coffee shop to eagerly give you the low-down on his greatest passion. But he also has help from his superstar friends who chime in with their stories and advice, such as Dave Mackey's tips on running downhills, Geoff Roes and Ian Torrence debating the need for speed work (Roes says skip it, Ian says bring it), Michael Wardian on "how to race a road ultra", Krissy Moehl getting to the essence of "why?", or Eric Grossman's tales of getting back to good when things go awry. It's a treasure trove of ultra All Star goodness.

There are dozens of pages of practical advice, including starter training plans for various levels of runners, all with a nod to the culture of spirit of ultrarunning. I think it's the perfect thing to give an aspiring ultrarunner, a friend who is curious about what you do, or anybody new to crewing. I'm going to keep a few copies handy for sure.

It went on sale today, and you can buy it here.

Great job, Bryon!!!


Friday, April 22, 2011

RIP Grete Waitz (1953-2011), One of The Greatest Women Runners of All Time

Former world record holder and nine-time winner of the NYC marathon Grete Waitz died of cancer earlier this month at age 57. The Washington Post has a great bio and video about her extraordinary life. She was one of the greatest runners of our era, helping put women's running on the map for good.

I had a chance to meet Grete at the 2007 Boston Marathon, when she graciously signed a poster saying "Good luck at the 100-Mile Championships!". That poster has since been in direct sight to my treadmill, so that any time I'm pussing out, I can think about what it took to come out and clock a 2:32 first marathon in world record time in an era when women were still thought to not be able to do the distance. That poster now has even deeper meaning, since I'm sure Grete would like nothing more today than to be training and feeling that pain.

Do an extra 800 for Grete Weitz this week and feel that pain... Thank you for your inspiration! You can also donate to Grete's charity that helps the quality of life of cancer patients here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2 Days, 2 Races, 2 Coasts - The Presidio 10-Mile and Boston Marathon

I made the most of a 36-hour pass from daddyhood this weekend to race the Presidio 10-miler in San Francisco, CA, on Sunday morning, then hop a flight to run the Boston Marathon the next day. Phew! Awesome weather on both coasts made for a fun romp with friends new and old.

The Presidio 10-Miler
(Grand Marshall Nancy Hobbs gives us some tips)
The Presidio 10-Miler has been on my to-do list for years, beckoning me with its fast and hilly course along the San Francisco penninsula that mixes road, trail, and an out-and-back across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's put on by The Guardsmen, a fantastic volunteer group that raises money for youth programs, and has grown quickly over the last few years to host over 2,800 runners in the 10-mile and 10k distances. It was also the RRCA 10-Mile National Championship, which was bound to attract some fast club runners. Perfect!
(And we're off!)
The fog saturated the hilltops as we lined up for the 7am start, but the sun was already working its magic as we set off into the tree-lined streets of the Presidio National Park. San Anselmo's Jeffrey Peterson went out at a 5:20 min/mile pace, along with the San Francisco trio of Galen Burrell (son of Buzz), Jin Daikoku, and Curtis Olinger. This would be a tough course to break one hour given the stairs and trails, but they were determined to do it! I settled into 10th place, keeping a more conservative pace on the early climbs and zig-zags through the former military campus.

(Heading up into the hills)
(Circling past the barracks)
(Jeffrey Peterson flies through the fog)
 As we made a u-turn and headed towards the GG Bridge, the volunteers steered us onto the sandy trails and I had a chance to make up some ground on the loose footing and stairs that played to my trail running strengths. Behind me I could see that Petaluma's Sarah Hailis had a slight lead in the Womens race, keeping pace ahead of Sarah Bamberger and trail legend and grand marshall Nancy Hobbs. We all slowed a bit when we hit the bridge - it may look flat when you drive across it, but it's a tough little climb!
(All smiles on the downhill)
(Bryan Ellis and I work together over the bridge)
(Yup, that's a hill)
(Steep stairs to get under the bridge)

I got a great view of the Miwok 100k course, sending good karma to the runners who would be traipsing through those hills in just a few weeks. We instead headed down the stairs at the end of the bridge and quickly came back on the other side. Triathlete Bryan Ellis set a great pace for us up and over the bridge again, and I took the lead just in time to run against the tide of the 10k runners heading up their first climb. We had a couple of close calls with iPod-wearing runners deep in trance, but soon broke free to run along Crissy Field (mile 7.5). I had one more gear left, so I put my head down and laid down some 5:30 min/miles in hopes to catch the guy in front of me.

(Running along Crissy Field)
Crissy Field was gorgeous, and lined with happy dogs walking their people. I slowly pulled in the runner in front of me, but was going to need this to be an 11-mile course to pass him. Instead, I cruised into the finish in 1:00:54, good enough for 6th place and the Masters win (all results). Jeffrey Peterson crushed the win in 55:36, and Sarah Hailis cruised in a few minutes behind me to win the Womens division in 1:05:21. A fast day in SF!
(Winner Jeffrey and family)
(Picking up the Masters Award)
 I had pancakes and beer (thank you, Guardsmen!) and hung out with my brother-in-law and nieces to cheer on Mom (Jen) in the 10k. We braved the cold of the awards ceremony and I took a baby wipe shower before heading to SFO and onto Boston. One down, one to go!

2011 Boston Marathon
The weather looked ideal this year, with a cool start and a tailwind forecast for most of it. This was to be my 7th Boston, and like most years, I was hear to enjoy it, run with friends, drink a few beers, and not be too concerned about my time. I got six hours sleep, which may sound like a little, but since Baby Quinn wasn't there to wake up every 2-3 hours, I felt more rested than I had in weeks!

I texted Kristin Armstrong to meet up in the corrals, only to realize she didn't have her phone with her. Oops. How to find her in this see of lycra and running skirts?!? I kept an eye out for her, but when the 5-minute warning call came for the last wave, I had to figure out how to find them. Option 1 - Run at the front of the wave with my phone, and after the 10k split look up Kik's time for the 5k split and try and find her. Option 2 - start at the back of the pack, and slowly work my way up. Ugh...let's go with Option 1.
(The sea of Lycra!)

(Nobody in front of us!)
 When I showed up with #693 among an army of #10,000+, they put me right in front of Wave 3 (after some well-deserved hazing about not setting my alarm). When the gun went off, it was heaven! Certainly the first time I have run the streets of Hopkinton all alone, and it sure was nice not to be bumping elbows. I hung onto the police escort clocking 6 min/miles, and thought "hey, this might be a good way to ensure a PR...should I go fast?". That question was quickly answered at mile 4 when we caught up to the wall of people in Wave 2. Not so lucky!

(Elbow room, elbow room!)

(Getting their folk on)

(M75, going strong!)

(E. Bunny)
I checked Kik's finish time, and they were about 7 minutes behind (plus however much time it took for them to cross the start line). Just enough time to get a beer at The Chicken Bone and keep an eye out for them. After about 20 minutes of searching faces, however, I hadn't seen them so I started working my way forward through the crowd. They were on a 3:40 finish pace from what I could tell and most the people I asked were in the 4:30's.
(Juggling 26.2)

(Wellesley girls share the love)

(Hey, a German major!)

(Batman gettin' it done)

(Joe rocks his 26th Boston)

(Next time you bitch about the hills, think of this guy)

(Grabbing a beer at Heartbreak!)

(the full mask flag)

The pace was casual (much in thanks to that beer) and I smiled through the miles bathed in memories of Bostons past. I have a lot of history in this historic race, and each course monument seems like a page in a yearbook. It just gets better every year!

I got my kisses from the Wellesley Girls (mile 11), and met some great characters along the way. The miles went by quickly, and we were soon up and over Heartbreak Hill, past Boston College (where I got another beer), and in the home stretch. The folks around me said they were on 3:45-3:55 pace, so I kept an eye out for Kik and Paige. I finally saw them right at the finish line, just seconds ahead of my 3:50 finish. Ha! I had just missed them. That's okay - I was in time for post-race brews, despite the fact I was already buzzed.
(The Army helps along a bonking runner)


(Finally caught them! Paige Alam, Kristin Armstrong, me, and Jamie Allison)
(Post-race debrief over cocktails)
We had a few cocktails at the Four Seasons, gasping at the insane finish times for the front runners (Geoffrey Mutai ran a fastest ever 2:03:02, with seven runners coming under the previous course record, while Caroline Kilel held off Desiree Devila in 2:22:36). Soon enough I had back to the airport to get back to my family. Caitlin Smith was at the airport, telling me about her Olympic Trail qualifying time of 2:41, netting her a 22nd place Womens finish. Amazing!

Such a crazy weekend! I'm exhausted, but thrilled to have fit it all in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Free Entry to National Parks This Week Thanks to National Park Week

(Photo courtesy of NPS)
April 16-24 is National Park Week, so there is free entry into 394 national parks. Lots of events too, in case you need an excuse to get out and run some more trails. ;-)


Saturday, April 09, 2011

"Running On Empty" by Marshall Ulrich (Book Review)

I got a sneak preview of Marshall Ulrich's new book, Running On Empty, which chronicles his extraordinary life and journeys in ultrarunning and adventure racing. Ulrich is the real deal - accomplishing any one of his jaw-dropping endurance exploits could provide lifetime bragging rights, but to do them all is simply stunning.

If you're like me, you primarily know Ulrich as the guy who had his toenails removed to proactively prevent toe issues (I once thought this was crazy, but post-100 miler, I am a bit jealous of his commitment). But there is so much more! He can win the Badwater 146 four times, then come back and run a self-supported 4xBadwater adventure. The Pikes Peak Marathon is fun, but not as fun as the Pikes Peak Quad (4x) or doing Pikes Peak and the Leadville 100 in the same weekend. He's competed in all nine Eco-Challenges, set the record for running across Colorado three times, reached the top of all Seven Summits including Everest, and the list goes on. Honestly, one book isn't enough to capture what Ulrich's eyes have seen.

As exciting as the accomplishments are, I found Ulrich's humbling account of his early years to be the best part of the book. One often wonders what drives a person to push the limits like he does, and he's very open about the combination of hard work as a teenage farm hand and the loss of his first wife to cancer that created a cauldron of energy that would push him into and through races, a marriage, and more. He took a nod from his heroes like Ted Corbitt, and just went for it. A quote that sums it up well:
"As for me, sure, there's an underlying compulsion: survivor's guilt and a need to punish myself, to prove myself, to face down my own mortality, to defy death. But my running is also a reflection of my upbringing, a work ethic, a personal challenge. My love of history gets interwoven, too - the feats of other people in other times - coupled with the alluring possibility that I might be able to go farther, faster, today."
A majority of the book chronicles his record-setting 3,000+ mile race across America that he did as the ripe age of 57. If you think the battles between runner and crew on a 100-miler are tough, this account is simply stunning. At one point the pain in his foot is so bad that he "disowns it" to move on, and friends come out of nowhere to crew when the politics heat up. He holds nothing back, including some behind-the-scenes notes on Charlie Engle that explain a lot about tension levels in the movie Running America. You live through it with them all day by day, see the thousands of things that would make a normal person quit, and tear up when he reaches New York City with hours to spare. It's hard to put this book down once you get going.

The appendices are also fascinating - training plans, food plans, and more. There is a lot here that I think many would enjoy, and highly recommend it. Pre-order now, or get at your local bookstore on April 14th.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Running Is Good For Your Knees (NPR) - I Knew It!!!

NPR ran a great story this week entitled "Put Those Shoes On: Running Won't Kill Your Knees", citing recent studies that show that running may actually be beneficial to your knees. Some quotes:
"In one study, Swedish researchers found that exercise, including jogging, may even be beneficial. Felson describes how researchers took one group of people at risk of osteoarthritis and had them engage in exercise, including jogging. The other group didn't exercise. After imaging the joints of the participants in both study groups, they found that the biochemistry of cartilage actually appeared to improve in those participants who were running. Felson says that suggests that "running is actually healthy for the joint."

"...if you have a relatively normal knee and you're jogging five to six times a week at a moderate pace, then there's every reason to believe that your joints will remain healthy."
 An audio of the article is also available. Check it out!

- SD