Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gift Ideas for the Holidays (2011)

Having trouble finding the perfect gift for the trail runner in your life? Here are a few of my favorites that can help get you started - if you know of others, be sure to add them in the comments!

2012 Tribute to the Trails Running Calendar ($23)

Uber-photographer and trail runner Glenn Tachiyama (along with Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs) has consistently put out the most beautiful trail running calendars to raise money for the Washington Trails Association. The gorgeous full-page shots (check them all out here) compliment a complete calendar of ultrarunning events. This year even includes an entry form for free race entries! Few things can spice up the drab cubicle life like a constant reminder of epic trail runs hanging on the wall. I buy 3-4 each year. You can pick one up at ZombieRunner, Rogue Valley Runners, or other stores for $23.
Unbreakable Western States 100 DVD ($19)

The latest documentary from JB Benna's JourneyFilm captures one of the most incredible races of 2010, as Geoff Roes, Tony Krupicka, and Kilian Jornet obliterate course records in epic fashion. This is newly available this year, and will be a favorite for sure. Pre sales begin 11/25.
Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydration Pack ($180)

I'm not sure exactly how Kilian Jornet and the gang at Salomon came up with a pack that doesn't bounce at all, but this one has quickly become a favorite of mine. A little on the spendy side, but worth it! Get it at iRunFar.

Moeben Sleeves ($35)

Fun, sexy, colorful,'s hard to go wrong with Moeben sleeves. Now available in kids sizes. Plus it's fun to check out the Web site and see how Shannon pimps out her model-ready boys (Moe, Ben, and now Jet). ;-)

Western States Lottery Tickets ($5+)

Want to challenge a runner to take a leap to the 100-mile? Buy them a handful of lottery tickets to the 2013 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and see if fate will put them on the starting line in June, 2013. Go for the premium package by offering to be their crew! Even if they don't win a slot in the lottery, I bet you get them thinking bigger/longer for 2012. Still available via mail until the drawing on Dec 10th. A great stocking stuffer!

Trail Running Coffee Table Book ($15)

If your trail runner is going to open a gift in front of a big group of people, a nice coffee table book is something that can be passed around to get a lot of gasps and admiration. I'm a big fan of Extreme Running by Kym McConnell and Dave Horsely, available at ZombieRunner for $15. For those looking to get into ultras, Bryon Powell's new book, Relentless Forward Progress, is a great one. For the ladies, I would highly recommend Kristin Armstrong's Mile Markers, a witty and adventurous reflection on life and running.

Peppermint Gels from GU ($8.99 for Box of 8)

GU's holiday flavor for 2011 is Peppermint, a great stocking stuffer! Someday they will make the alcoholic Hot Buttered Rum gel, and I will be all over it. Available at ZombieRunner.

Myorope Recovery Tool ($20)

Part roller, part massager, the Myorope is a great way to loosen up a tight back, post-race hamstring, or just about any muscle that is giving you trouble. It fits conveniently in a suitcase/briefcase too, far more so than a foam roller. I like it for post-weights recovery, and the "quad" four ball version is best.

Framed Photo ($15-50)

Did your trail runner have an epic race experience? Go find the photo service that was at the race, and get them a nice framed photo. I know we all rarely buy these things for ourselves, but honestly, how many good photos of yourself running do you have? Unless you are married to a photographer like me, it's hard to get a good shot that can be blown up into a decent photo. Time to splurge!

ZombieRunner Gift Certificate ($10-100)

I can ALWAYS find something I didn't know I needed until I saw it at ZombieRunner. Definitely will prompt a smile. Also an easy gift to buy and send instantly.

Jackhawk 9000 Knife ($100)

What better gift to give a loved one than the Jackhawk 9000? Available at Wal-mart. (Thank you, Ricky Bobby!) I know I posted this last year, but it's just too funny to skip.

Personal Running Tour (Free!)

If you don't have the cash-ola, give the gift of time with a guided trail running tour of your favorite park. Set the date, make a plan, bring some snacks, create a hand-written card that sums it all up...voila, an instant free gift. And one that will certainly be treasured! If you have a friend who is constantly too busy with kids to do those long runs, give him/her some hand made gift certificates for babysitting. They will guard them with their lives.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lucas Verzbicas Bails on Oregon Track to Pursue Triathlon

(Verzbicas while running one of two cross country meets, photo courtesy of Ken Moreland)
Phenom runner Lucas Verzbicas, who joined the University of Oregon track team two months ago after a stellar year setting numerous high school records (and becoming the fifth sub-4 minute high school miler in the US), recently quit the team to pursue triathlon and hopefully making an Olympic team.

As quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Verzbicas said "As a triathlete, I could really make an impact for the sport and only have good things happen.  As a runner, I don't know.  Maybe I could be in the top 20 in the world, maybe the top 10, but I wouldn't make such an impact." It appears his recent win at the Junior Triathlon World Championships sealed the deal, and was probably also aided by the fact that his stepfather, Romas Bertulis, was named head of the Elite Triathlon Academy that began in Colorado Springs three months ago. And if you are Olympic bound and not a US citizen, like Verzbicas, triathlon provides better access than track.

Hopefully he is voting for his greatest passion, for it would be a shame to see such a talent choose a path because it's the easiest way to be "the best" at a sport. I'm sure his team at UofO will feel the loss. But I am sure he will be fabulous at whatever he pursues.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 2012 Race Lottery Season - Get Signed Up!

It's that time of year to put your fate in the hands of the lottery gods and see which adventures choose you for 2012! Here are some races that I track, the dates of their lottery, and helpful links to get your name in the pool:

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, June 23, 2012 (Lottery Nov 13-26, Drawing Dec 10)

Miwok 100k, May 5, 2012 (Lottery Dec 1-10, Drawing Dec 12)

Way Too Cool 50k, March 10, 2012 (Lottery Dec 5-11, Drawing Dec 14)

Wasatch 100, September 7, 2012 (Lottery Dec 1-Jan 9, Drawing Feb'ish)

Hardrock 100, July 13, 2012 (Lottery Now-Nov 30, Drawing Dec 4)

Badwater 135 (now with 48 hr cutoff), July 11, 2012 (Lottery/app Feb 1-15, Selection Feb 18)

Mountain Masochist 100, May 12, 2012 (Apply Dec 1, Lottery Dec 8)

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, (Registration Dec 16-Jan 9, Lottery selection Jan 20 if needed)

Ironman Hawaii World Championship, Oct 13, 2012 (Lottery Now-Feb 28, Drawing April 15)

Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, June 10, 2012 (Lottery Now-Jan 5, Drawing Jan 6)

Mt. Washington Road Race, June 16, 2012 (Lottery Feb 15-March 15, Drawing March 16)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So You've Decided To Drink Water

Check out this hilarious story about drinking water by Mallory Ortberg at The Hairpin:
On the first day, you make the decision. “I’m going to drink more water,” you say. “Eight glasses a day, to start with. Maybe more.” Suddenly you realize the break room has gone silent. The sun sinks below the horizon as a sign of respect. You begin right away, finishing the cup of water already in your hand.

The next morning, you open your eyes after eight uninterrupted hours of deep sleep. The sun spills through the window onto the fresh white linens on your bed, and a glass of water sits on your nightstand, sparkling in the morning light. You drink it and realize that you no longer have the urge to eat breakfast. The water is enough....[cont]
 Click here to read the rest...very funny.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Going Big at the 2011 New York Marathon

This Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 47,000+ runners for the 42nd running of the New York City (NYC) Marathon, and I tell ya, it was BIG. HUGE. MONSTROUS. Just plain COLOSSAL. How big, you ask? Just look at the numbers:
  • 47,438 runners. That's a new high water mark for NYC, the biggest marathon in the world.
  • 130 countries represented. For a little perspective, only 120 countries are in the Olympics.
  • 3 million+ live spectators. That's 10x what the Olympics will bring, and about the equivalent of all of Norway showing up (and based on how many Norwegians I met, they were damn close).
  • 2.25 million paper cups at aid stations. Green party, prepare for "Occupy NYC Marathon".
This is a race so big, I just HAD to go check it out. I'm so glad I did - nobody celebrates running like the Big Apple.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I put my name in the lottery for the NYC marathon for three years, only to have somebody point out I could submit one of my speedy race times for a "guaranteed entry". Doh! Don't forget to read the instructions, kids! (ha, ha) I just barely squeaked in with a qualifier which, like Boston, will be even tougher for 2012 due to increased demand. I hadn't trained specifically for this race, but felt I had good enough fitness to go sub-2:50 on a good day.

(A fireboat adds a little orange and blue to a perfect day, photo courtesy of Aaron Houston for the NYTimes)
And a good day it was! Sunny and high 40's with no wind - can't ask for much better. On top of that, my camera fizzled out 30 minutes before the start, so I had no excuses. I rode the bus out to Staten Island in the early AM, chatting with Hawaii ultrarunner Jeff Fong and local architect Philip Giang before finding some space under a tent to try and stay warm. Philip was nice enough to share his blanket as tens of thousands of runners came looking to homestead some space for the 3+ hour wait. Dunkin' Donuts coffee never tasted so good!

(Philip chills out as we all relax for the start)
In the corral, I met up with multi-day ultra champion Sean Meissner and 100-miler Bay Area stud Brett Rivers, and we cheered on the introduction of the elites. All the crazy fast people were here - Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02 at Boston '11), Emmanuel Mutai (won London '11), Gebre Gebremariam (defending champion and 2:04:53 @ Boston '11),  Meb Keflezighi ('09 champion), Ed Moran (10k national champ, going for his first marathon), Kenyan star Mary Keitany,  Lauren Fleishman (5k national champ, doing her first marathon), Kim Smith (2:25 is fastest on US soil this year), Devon Crosby-Helms (go, Devon!), and enough super-stars to have us all awe struck. This was a perfect day, and the hum of the crowd said records would fall for sure.

(In the elite corral, the last photo my camera would take)
Sean was feeling good, had done his speed work, and felt like a sub-6 minute pace was a good stretch goal to best his PR of 2:39. Brett just laughed, saying he was going to ease up and soak it all in (knowing Brett, this is probably a sub-3 marathon). I volunteered to hang with Sean for as long as I could, but as the gun went off, he zig-zagged his way through the crowd and blazed over the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge like an orange missile. I cruised along with Dr. Andy Baldwin, a Navy-doctor-turned-spokesperson and drafted off his gigantic muscular torso. Sean was long gone.

(Look out Brooklyn, here we come! Photo courtesy of Aaron Houston for the NYTimes)
The crowds filled both sides and both levels of the bridge, with elites dodging and cursing the 5-hour charity marathoners who somehow got to start up front. Within a mile, we all found our groove and enjoyed the peaceful calm of the waters below. It would be the last section of quiet we would have all day long.
(Just a few friends headed out for a jog)
At mile 2, we entered Brooklyn and the locals greeted us with signs, screaming, music, cheering, and tens of thousands of hands waiting for high fives. It was 20 thick on either side, and this was just one of the streams of runners coming in from the bridge. When we met up with the other streams at mile 4, we were six lanes wide with spectators filling every window, rooftop, and park. BIG. Simply insane!

(Marijyn Michaels from the Netherlands cruises through Brooklyn, photo courtesy of Kitty)
I didn't have a watch, but the mile markers were telling me I was running 6:09 min/miles (sorry, Sean!). It didn't seem like I was running that hard, but the chilly air and crowd support was likely good for 10 seconds/mile. As we flew through Brooklyn to Williamsburg (mile 6), I saw Jamaicans, Irish football fans, and Hasidic Jews all dancing to Latina House music and cheering together. You gotta love NYC.

(Finding that groove, photo courtesy of Maureen Sproul)
As we pitched up into Queens, I found myself running in a pack of six and delighted in the fact that there were six countries between us - Brazil, Sweden, Italy, New Zealand, Mexico, and USA. We hit the halfway mark in 1:20:45, where the sub-2:40 hopefuls around us picked up the pace. Despite the language barriers of our little group, we rotated our leads and drafted as we took the Queensborough Bridge (mile 15) to Manhattan. Runners everywhere, unite!

The crowds along First Ave were literally deafening, with rock bands, bars, megaphones, air horns, and anything else that could egg on a runner. There was no problem getting water at the aid stations though, and the top 500 runners barely took up the left half of the army of volunteers at each aid station. This marathon is a well-oiled machine! One of the runners next to me said that Mary Keitany had hit the halfway mark in 1:07:45 - 20 seconds faster than Paula Radcliffe on her world record run - and was still out front. The men had a field of seven coming of the bridge, and were already turning into Central Park. Wow!

We took the Wills Ave bridge to the Bronx, and I was just in time to see Geoffrey Mutai on the big screen winning the NYC Marathon in a course record 2:05:06, with Emmanuel Mutai (2:06:28) and 24-year-old Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia (2:07:13) also coming in under the previous record (that's $70k bonus each!). Inspired, we dug deep and crossed back into Manhattan for the final push.

(Geoffrey Mutai wins, photo courtesy of the BBC)
About mile 22, my glutes were cursing the 2 degree climb, and I chuckled that even after 53,000' of vertical at Wasatch, these little rollers can be killer! I passed up Sean, who had slowed to an 8:00 min/mile after 20 miles of sub-6...not his day, but certainly his destiny. As we closed in on Central Park, the carnage began, and runners started blowing up left and right. Mary Keitany had slowed, enabling Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado to pass in the last mile and steal the victory (2:23:15). Even Meb Keflezighi stopped to puke (but still managed a 2:09:13 for 6th) as I watched dozens of people hit the wall at the same time. It was like there was a sniper just picking them off! I kept my head down, shuffling along at a 7:15 min/mile into Central Park. Most of my international crew had enough left in the tank to surge and went for it.
(Getting it done, photo courtesy of WHBL)
Now here was a stretch of Central Park that I have run dozens of times, and my body relaxed as it felt familiar ground. I checked the clock at mile 25...sub-2:50 was still in reach. I apologized to my body in advance, clenched every orifice as much as I could and charged down Central Park West. I don't remember much on this section, but luckily my friend Paige Alam and Kristin Armstrong were smart enough to bring an iPhone to get it on video.

I crossed the line in 2:48:45, good enough for 376th place, and made my way towards the Amsterdam Ale House for some refreshments while congratulating many on new PR's brought by the perfect day. Sean finished right behind me (2:52), and Brett did manage to go fast (2:55), but the ultra community was best served by Devon Crosby-Helms (2:42) who managed to be 5th American and win her age group. Won her age group at NYC! That's wicked fast.

(Beer and fries, oh yeah!)
Kik and Paige found me at the Ale House, and we shared some beers and fries while reminiscing about the spectacular marathon day. I have to say, this race is a "must" and worthy of your bucket list. Just be ready to go BIG!

With that, I toast the finish to a wonderful 2011 season. Cheers!

- SD

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