Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review - Unbroken

Wow. I just finished the audio book of Unbroken - A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), and I think endurance athletes are going to love it. It's a biography of Louis Zamperini, a miler/5k runner who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as the youngest US athlete to make the team, and then went on to a life of staggering tests of courage and endurance like going to WWII, 47 days lost at sea, and years as a savagely abused prisoner of war in Japan. If you thought ultrarunning was hard, wait until you hear this insane story of survival.

This book baited me with stories of Zamp's troubled youth and how running helped pull him out, and the detail of every step is much like Hillenbrand's other books. It keeps for a brisk audio pace that makes for good commuting or treadmill running. I should warn you, however, that the dozen or so detailed chapters of his harrowing days in the POW camps are simply shocking. His main adversary, a POW Camp iron hand named "The Bird", was so scary he even showed up in MY dreams. On more than one occasion, I nearly tripped over my jaw as it hit the ground as the details of his torture went on and on with rich and vivid narrative. It shows you what real courage and persistence is.

This one is a keeper for sure. Put it on your list for all that winter treadmill running! Or you can just wait for the movie - Universal Studios has already bought the rights.

Here's a CBS special about him too (part 1 of 4):

On a side note, the story of Laura Hillenbrand making this book is also a tale of unique persistence and courage. She suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, and rarely makes it out of her house. Assembling this book took nearly 10 years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Exercising Addictive? (Slate)

Daniel Engber of published an interesting article about exercise and addiction. I found it fascinating how he looks at both human and animal studies over time to determine if exercise lessens the cravings for drugs because it is a distraction, a stress reliever, or perhaps due to the fact that exercise is a replacement since it stimulates the brain in similar ways.

Some highlights:
  • Rats who were allowed to exercise before given access to drugs ended up taking less drugs.
  • Lewis rats are most inclined to addiction, and also most inclined to habitual exercise, going as much as six miles per day. They can even be trained to do things if the reward is exercise time, rather than food (sounds like our household!).
  • A 1967 study showed that when limited a rat's access to food, while simultaneously given them the option to exercise, led to some of them becoming exorexic, and killing themselves with exercise.  
  • Some scientists refer to the combination of undereating and overtraining in women (composed of disordered nutrition, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis) ironically as FAT - the Female Athlete Triad.
I still think it's the runner's high, personally. ;-)

- SD

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Welcome, Ace Dunlap!

We have new family member! We got Ace the Pug from the Pug Rescue of Sacramento (PROS), who had nursed him back to health after losing his left eye in an accident. He's been with us a week now, and it's like he's been here forever!
(Hi. I'm Ace.)

He's not much of a runner, but is more than happy to help remove the sweat and salt from my legs after my run each day. He does enjoy a good snuggle too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flirting Trail Runners Sighted in Woodside (Video)

Eric Gould shows off his outdoor video prowess in this fun video. Those who run in Huddart Park should recognize those gorgeous trails!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Josh Cox Sets New 50k American Record (2:43:45) - Misses World Mark By 7 Seconds

(Josh Cox en route to his 50k American Record, photo courtesy of Kurt Hoy)
35-year-old Josh Cox from Mammoth Lakes, CA, won the P.F Chang's Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon today (2:17:48) and then continued on to set a new American Record for the 50k of 2:43:45. He bested the mark he set here in 2009 (2:45:17), and was only 7 seconds short of breaking the world record*.

[quote from USA Today]

"Seven seconds is hard to swallow," Cox said. "But I'm happy. The American record is nothing to hang your head about."

[quote from]

“I think I should have kept the horses in the barn a little longer, but such is hindsight, “ said Cox. “It was a great day. It wasn’t all there, obviously. I would have liked to have run seven seconds faster, but it’s just like two years ago. I wanted to run the world record then. We had a rule in college. Whenever you set a PR, you’re not allowed to say anything negative about the race. You have to be happy with a PR. They don’t come often. I got the American record and I got the title and that’s forever.”

[from his Twitter feed]

"Thanks for the love! 1st, last, or anywhere in between, God is good! AR, 7 seconds off world mark. Was fun... & hard."

BTW, shout out to my sister-in-law Jennifer Drue, who finished her first half marathon at Rock n Roll Arizona in 2:02:24! And to XTERRA Trail World Champ Sally Meyerhoff for winning the marathon in!

Congrats, Josh Cox! And lest I forget, also congrats on winning Rock n Roll Arizona and qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trails (fourth Trials!). 

* The 50k world record of 2:42:38 was set by South Africa's Thompson Magawana in 1988.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bonking at the Crystal Springs 50k

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 250 runners for the Crystal Springs 5-mile/11-mile/Marathon/50k in my hometown of Woodside, CA. The weather was brisk, the trails were ideal, and the volunteers were fantastic. Short of bonking at mile 22 like a complete rookie, it was a perfect run!

The Crystal Springs 50k takes place on my backyard trails, climbing up Huddart Park to intersect with the Skyline Trail (at my driveway!) and heading along the ridge to Wunderlich Park, where we do a big loop before coming back. I run these trails solo 300+ times a year, so it's always a pleasure to have some company who appreciate this hilly tour through second growth redwoods, creeks and canyons. If you're interested in checking it out, there will be six - count 'em six! - 50k's in Woodside this year between Pacific Coast Trail Runs and Coastal Trail Runs. I would love to see you out here!

The start line was socked with fog, and the other runners were pleased to hear that the temp would rise to a balmy 45 degrees once you broke through the clouds at mile 5. I got a chance to catch up with the trail running regulars, most of whom thought two weeks was plenty of off-time before jumping back in. So much better than me! I had been taking lots of time off, regrouping after a great and busy year. RD Wendell Doman gave us our instructions, and at 8:30am we were off!

(And we're off! This and many photos courtesy of Coastal Trail Runs)
The marathon and 50k started together, creating an abnormally fast pace. Racing madman Jason Reed, known to enter 40+ events a year, was taking the marathoners out quickly. I settled in with Ray Sanchez (getting ready for the Brazil 135, the first of four 135-milers he will tackle this year...again!), marathoner Penny Macphall (complete with rubber chicken strapped on her backpack), John Burton (barefootin' in his Vibrams), and Elliot Wright (not in the race, but happened to be headed in this direction). We hiked up Richards Road and began the long ascent to the top.

(Into the heavens)
Ray and I buddied up for most of the climb, trading off lead duties and sharing stories of our 2010 season. It wasn't hard to keep sight of Ray with his bright orange jacket...then again, my gloves glowed even more! The pace was aggressive, but comfortable. After all my short course racing in the previous two months, it was fun to have the "long haul" pace again.

(Ray leads us up the Crystal Springs Trail)
 We crested the top, stopping briefly at the aid station (mile 6) to drop off my camera (broken again, oy) and get a few goodies. I started cruising fast again, my legs unable to keep a conservative pace when they found the trails that host our weekly tempo runs. Soon Elliot and I were running together, and he told me all about and his work planting and protecting urban forests. What success they have had! Very cool. Somehow in there he managed to fit in the Leadville 100 too.

(Elliot helps me climb up the final pitch)
At the Clara Lazarus bench (mile 9.2), Elliot gave me his best and headed back. I turned up the tunes (Black Keys, Taproot, and Toots and the Maytals) and got to Wunderlich far too quickly. The volunteers gave me a cheer, saying I was in first, with Ray, John Burton, Jed Tukman, and Kevin Rumon all within sight by the time I exited. It was a close race! I was a few calories short, but didn't worry too much about it.

Wait a minute, am I racing? This wasn't supposed to be a race day, but it's so hard to hold back when we're in the mix! I didn't see anyone behind me as I plunged into Wunderlich, but Jed Tukman, Ray Sanchez and Kevin Rumon were in sight on the climb back up. Jed and Kevin went by me soon after the aid station (mile 21), and I got on their tail to pace quickly.

(Self portrait as we get above the fog line again)
 At mile 22, I found my energy waining and heart rate unable to do anything but rest or redline. Sure, I was out of peak shape, but come on! Mile 22? I took a few walk breaks, but couldn't seem to shake the dizziness. Hmm, what was this all about? It felt familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I hooked onto marathoner Lina Arakat, doing her first trail marathon at age 21, and her even pace made for a good barometer. I would pass her, but soon be reduced to a walk and she would pass me back. If she got out of sight, I picked it up again.

(Gene Weddle finishes the final climb)
(Rebecca Yi takes 3rd Woman in the marathon)
Then it dawned on me - I'm bonking! Ah, that zombie state reached when your glycogen bottoms out and you just stop caring. I was short on calories for sure, but also hadn't been running aerobically and training my body correctly for months. This was a rude awakening about how important that is! I paced behind Lina, assuming I would either stop or drop at my driveway (mile 26) to end the suffering. I just hate this naseous energy void. Ray passed me up, offering an array of goodies to help out like a total gentleman. I did my best to just smile at the others and cheer them on.

(Sophie helps me with the Pop-Tarts and gets a smile back on my face)
Christi, Sophie, and our dog Martha were at the aid station with plenty of hugs, so I took a moment to catch my breath. I told the aid station volunteers I was likely going to drop, but they reminded me of the ultrarunning golden rule - just eat, drink, and take a 5-minute rest to see what happens. Sophie helped me down some Pop-Tarts, M&M's, Coke, and PB&J, and I hung out and watched the other runners go by. Sure enough, within 5 minutes I was feeling much better. Phew! Ah, the golden rule. Never give up.

I cruised down the hill until Lina was in sight again, then stepped off the trail to relieve myself, only to have her turn around and ask if we're on the right trail. Oops! A little embarrassing. I felt good enough to pick up the pace, and trucked it into the finish in 4:37:33 for 5th place. Jed Tukman (4:19) had held on for the win, and John Burton (4:22) finished a few seconds ahead of Kevin Rumon (4:22), with Ray Sanchez (4:37) getting 4th. Jill Homer (6:17) would come in behind us to win the Womens division. Jason Reed (3:47) won the marathon, and was kind enough to ease up enough to leave my squishy-soft 3:36 course record standing. Penny Macphall (3:49) had a killer close, setting a Womens course record with her marathon win.
(Yi Chang has a great finish in the 22 mile)
(Jed Tukman wins the 50k)
(Marathon winners Jason Reed and Penny Macphall with rubber chicken)
I gorged on the sandwiches left behind from the Coastal Trail Run Blazer Awards (and picked up 2nd for the Marathon category behind Mr. Golden Trails). We shared our favorite parts of the run, and agreed that the volunteers were the true champs to hang out for so long on in the chilly weather. It was great way to break in the new season, but I clearly have some work to do on my training! My thanks to Wendell and all the great volunteers for a fun race. Looking forward to seeing you again in my neighborhood (Woodside 50k on March 26th is the next one)!

Hope y'all are having a great weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Entrance to California Parks This Weekend

In case you are looking for an excuse to get outside this weekend, all California National Parks will have free entry Jan 15-17. Looks like it's going to warm up a bit too!

(How about a jaunt through Death Valley?)
 Participating parks (thanks 7x7):

    •    Cabrillo National Monument
    •    Death Valley National Park
    •    John Muir National Historic Site
    •    Joshua Tree National Park
    •    Lassen Volcanic National Park
    •    Lava Beds National Monument
    •    Muir Woods National Monument
    •    Pinnacles National Monument
    •    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
    •    Sequoia National Park
    •    Whiskeytown Unit National Recreation Area
    •    Yosemite National Park

Monday, January 10, 2011

Johnnie Walker Announces New "Johnnie Runner" Whiskey w/Haile Gebrselassie

Well, not exactly. But they did sign on Haile Gebrselassie as their latest spokesman for their "Keep Walking" campaign. The $100,000 deal will feature Gebreselassie's life story in print, video, and outdoor campaigns targeted primary to African countries.

Check out the videos below to see the video commercial, as well as the "behind the scenes making of..." video short.

Making of:

I can't wait to see Geb cross the finish line and take a huge swig of Johnnie Walker Black. RD's will have to keep a bucket ready, just like the Krispy Kreme Challenge, a 4-miler where you have to eat a dozen KK donuts at the halfway point. Now THAT would be a one-of-a-kind endorsement! "The best whiskey I've ever puked".

It sounds nutty for a whiskey manufacturer to endorse a champion of sport (or KK sponsoring a race that has a net gain of 4,000 calories, given they are the greatest threat to the American obesity problem). But Geb is THE MAN, and quite frankly I'm surprised Diageo could get him so cheaply. Check out the below video if you need a dose of Geb to stoke you up.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dave Mackey, Liza Howard Win Bandera 100k

Dave Mackey broke the course record by an hour with his 9:16 finish at the Bandera 100k, winning the USATF 100k National Trail Championship. Liza Howard picked up the win with her phenomenal sub-10 hour finish.

(Race Director Joe Prusaitis, David James, Dave Mackey, and Jason Bryant, photo courtesy of David James)
Dave Mackey earns a slot to Western States with his win, as does Team Inov-8's David James who also beat the course record by 45 minutes. Jason Bryant was 3rd, and Dan Olmstead 4th. Favorite Geoff Roes dropped after 50k.

Liza Howard was followed by Pam Smith (also under 10 hrs) and Meghan Aborghast.

Results aren't up as of this morning, but I will post! Otherwise you can get the gist of the race from these Twitter posts.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Showdown at Chuckanut in March, 2011

Look out Way Too Cook 50k...there's a new sheriff in town! Check out the start list for the Chukanut 50k on March 19th, 2011:

Men: Anton Krupicka, Max King, Geoff Roes, Erik Skaggs, Scott Jurek, Yassine Diboun, Scott Jaime, Andy Martin, Brian Morrison, etc., etc.

Women: Ellie Greenwood, Darcy Africa, Amy Sproston, Allison Hanks, etc., etc.

Phew! That's going to be quite a showdown.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Charlie Engle's "Fraud-Funded" Sahara Run - Will He Get 111 Days in the Slammer?

Charlie Engle, the addict-turned-ultrarunner who joined two buddies to run 4,300 miles across the Sahara (chronicled in the film Running The Sahara), was found guilty of 12 counts of bank, mail, and wire fraud in October, 2010, supposedly using ill-gained mortgage money to finance the Sahara expedition. It's a fascinating ultrarunning backstory coming in through the public news feeds.

I can't decide on this one. Is Engle just another mortgage-crisis opportunist or the ultrarunning version of Robin Hood?

Sure, he forged a few facts on his applications to get $400,000 in bank loans that he didn't repay. Hey, who didn't? As Engle himself explained to the IRS agent that busted him, "everyone was doing it". But unlike Wall St mavens who prefer to spend their ill-gotten gains on $40,000 cell phones, marijuana (now more popular than cocaine on Wall St.), or hiring dwarfs for bachelor parties, Charlie Engle crossed the Sahara to raise awareness about the clean water crisis in Africa. Not only a wicked cool adventure, but a great message to a worthy cause. Heck, even Matt Damon signed on as the Executive Director for the movie. And that guy is brilliant and well-respected by his peers (see video).

Only the mad genius of an ultrarunner would (allegedly) blow a mountain of cash on 4,300 miles of heat training over 111 days. It's a small ray of solace from the $24,000 per capita share of the bailout cloud hanging over each of our heads to know a few nickels went to an ultrarunning adventure.

I'm sure this is a tough time for Charlie, and I should be careful in openly discussing an athlete far more accomplished than me, as well as quoting third party articles I can't verify. A little trouble with the IRS shouldn't distract us from his epic accomplishments (although ironically, it was his griping on film about finances that led the IRS to investigate him). Do Al Capone's tax evasion charges demote him from being the world's best gangster? Absolutely not. Does Wesley Snipes' trouble with the IRS make his films suck any less? Not a chance. Should Julio Cesear Chavez have to give up one of his six world boxing titles because he owes $12 million in back taxes? Well, I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell him. If anything, I will congratulate him on making #2 on the Top 100 Celebrity back tax list, then back away slowly, protecting my face at all times.

So the last question remains - is there a more creative way to sentence a guy whose idea of fun is 111 days wearing lycra in the Sahara? A prison term does little to tap into his extraordinary skills. I guess he could break the world record for running in place, drawing attention to the poor conditions of the incarcerated, and get Matt Damon to narrate a sequel (say it like the video now..."Maaht Daaymun"!). No, it's going to take something far more epic for Mr. Engle.

Perhaps 4,300 hours on the mortgage foreclosure hotline? I don't think anyone can take that kind of heat for long. There has to be something better than incarceration - can you think of something more appropriate that taps into his amazing endurance skills? I suspect Charlie, the man who first dreamed of crossing the Sahara, could probably conjure something huge.

Okay, okay, my rant is over. Feel free to tell me what a jerk I am, that I shouldn't pry, you should meet the guy, yada-yada. I do think he's amazing and would love to run with him sometime. But you have to admit - this is a public story that is fascinating. Public news feeds are fair game, peeps.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Planning My 2011 Season's that glorious time of year to pick out anchor races for 2011! Few things lift my spirits as much as this annual ritual (see '06, '07, '08, '10). As I've said many times before, a full calendar of endurance events is proof to me that I'm choosing to live IN the world instead of ON it.

I usually pick out a few favorites, find some new challenges, add a couple of championship races, then fill in the rest with as much as I can get away with. Put enough "fear" on the schedule and I will be plenty motivated to train in the early AM! This year has the additional challenge of baby #2 arriving sometime in March, so I'll be sticking close to home for much of the year.

Here's where you can find me in 2011:

Crystal Springs 50k, Woodside, CA, 1/8 - This one is in my backyard (same course as the Woodside 50k), and is a good way to kick off the year. If you want to give it a shot, there are now six Woodside/Crystal Springs 50k's throughout the year. Very cool!

USATF Cross Country Natl Champs, San Diego, CA, 2/6 - Cross Country?!? Yup, I've never done it and have always wanted to try toeing the line with 200+ others for an 8k romp across the fields. Might as well rook it at the national championships and watch the experts do it right. Time to test those comfort zones!

Steep Ravine 50k, Stinson Beach, 2/12 - Let's see...a new course on the Mt. Tam/Dipsea Trail that pitches you up the Steep Ravine four times? Hell, yes! Must try this one. If only for the time-lapse photos of my face and quads breaking down.

Napa Valley Marathon, Napa, CA 3/6 - My fitness levels indicate I should be able to go sub-2:40 in the right circumstances. Here's a flat-ish course that I know, and a good opportunity to put it on the line. I will get in lots of speed training and taper down for this one.

24 Hrs of Labor (crew), Palo Alto, CA, 3/13'ish - Is there any endurance event crazier than birthing a child? If you've ever had the humbling honor of witnessing what it takes, you will instantly feel like 100-milers are no contest. I get to be crew on this one (thank god). I'm sure Mom is hoping for a sub-24 hour finish on this one too. ;-)

Presidio 10m, San Francisco, CA, 4/17 - Expecting a baby in March means no Way Too Cool, American River, Miwok or other favorites this year. But the Presidio 10-miler looks like a fun and hilly course put on by The Guardsmen, and happens to also be the RRCA 10-mile Championship. I'll race this one, then jump on a plane that afternoon to:

Boston Marathon, Boston, MA, 4/18 - Heading back to Boston for #7 in my streak, joining Kik Armstrong and her entourage of Texas Flowers. I'm curious to see how the mix of runners will change now that the event is filling up in a single day. Props to Daba (aka, Grandma) for covering for me.

Bay to Breakers, San Francisco, CA, 5/15 - The 100th anniversary of this nakedfest is going to be epic! I'm trying to locate a running rickshaw to tote the kiddies - if you know of a place to get one, do let me know. Video cam for sure. Only question left - is this the year to don the nut-tsak?

Escape from Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA, 6/5 - For whatever reason, putting a triathlon on the schedule keeps me cross-training in the pool and on the bike all year long, which in turn allows me to increase my running load by 10-15%. I got a lottery slot to Alcatraz this year, and a nice x-mas gift took care of the ridiculous $400 entry fee. Time to dust off the wetsuit and take the plunge!

Dirty Half, Bend, OR, 6/12 - I have some unfinished business here, after a bike crash took me out of peak form in time for the 2010 USATF Half Marathon Championships. But it was SO fun to attend, with 1,000+ runners, beer brewed just for the event, bluegrass bands, etc. It's easy to head back! It's also a good tune up race for what comes next. If you like this race, sign up fast this year for it will fill for sure.

Masters Track and Field World Championships, Sacramento, CA, 7/17 - The Masters Track and Field World Championships are in Sacramento this year, which presents a great opportunity to don the stars and stripes in an international field. The marathon event caps off a week of track events, although I don't have the sub-2:30 chops required to be competitive here. But if a world class event comes to your state, you need to represent!

Mt. Shasta Century, Mt. Shasta, CA, 8/7 - My crew of Death Riders will be heading up to Shasta to tackle this 130-mile monster. Looks like a lot of great climbing and epic views.

Wasatch 100m, Layton, UT, 9/9 - No schedule is complete without a 100-miler, and this year I'm going to head up to Utah for the Wasatch 100. I've always loved seeing the pictures from this race, and the altitude and terrain are well outside of my comfort zone. Perfect! Should the Wasatch Committee not select me to run, I can always return to the Flagline 50k for the USATF 50k Championships.

NYC Marathon, New York, NY, 11/6 - This one has been on the list for a while now - time to kick down and run the 5 boroughs. I hadn't realized that a sub-2:50 marathon time gets you a guaranteed entry...nice! Let's do it.

There are others I hope to add, schedule permitting. I usually schedule a dozen races, and end up doing 20 or so. Pacific Coast Trail Runs have added a whole series of Lake Tahoe races, and I'm eager to get more info about them. It sure would be cool to do Bighorn 100 or the new Black Hills 100 in June, the Headlands 100 in July, or head back to the Skyline to the Sea or Big Basin 50k's. But we will have to see how the newly extended family is doing first. So many races and so little time! We are blessed to have so many opportunities.

Let me know if you guys are going to be at any of these - let's have some adventures!

- SD