Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kilian Jornet, Ellie Greenwood Triumphant at Fast Western States 100

The 2011 Western States 100 turned out to be a barn-burner, with enough close finishes and sprints to make it as exciting as the USA Track & Field Championships. In the end, it was 23-year-old Killian Jornet from Spain who led an international top 5 with his 15:34 finish, just four minutes ahead of 2nd place finisher Mike Wolfe.

(Kilian Jornet hydrates after his 15:34 win, photo courtesy of Clynton)



 The first 14 men finished under 17 hours, with a stellar Top 10:

1 Kilian Jornet 15:34:00 (Spain)
2 Mike Wolfe 15:38:00
3 Nick Clark 15:50:00
4 Jez Bragg 15:55:00 (UK)
5 Tsuyoshi Kaburaki 16:04:00 (Japan, new masters record)
6 Timothy Olson 16:18:00
7 Graham Cooper 16:34:00
8 Dave Mackey 16:36:00 (Montrail UltraCup winner)
9 Andy Jones-Wilkins 16:39:00 (M9 again!)
10 Ian Sharman 16:40:00

The top six finishers, along with Geoff Roes, Hal Koerner, and Korea's Sim Jaeduk, stayed close to each other all the way through Michigan Bluff (mile 55), making their way through an altered course with 15 miles of snow and a relatively cool trip through the canyons. Mike Wolfe, Killian Jornet, Nick Clark, Dave Mackey, Timothy Olson, and Hal Koerner had taken a wrong turn early in the race, adding a few miles to the trip (~12 minutes). Geoff Roes dropped at Michigan Bluff, citing that he "didn't have it" and "had been faking it for miles".

Kilian Jornet and Nick Clark took the lead from Foresthill (mile 62), on a blistering course record pace. The "closers" (Cooper, Mackey, AJW, and Sharman) were all on sub-17 hour pace and very close to each other, so there was no time to lose for the Top 10. Hal Koerner dropped at Cal 2 (mile 70) with beat up quads, the same place where Mike Wolfe moved into 2nd place. Kilian had no more than a four minute lead for the final 30 miles, but kept a strong pace for the win. Ian Sharman picked off Dan Olmstead in the final miles to get the coveted M10 slot.

The Women's race was also very exciting, with Ellie Greenwood coming from behind in the final eight miles for the win. Defending champion Tracy Garneau led for most of the race, building a lead of nearly 25 minutes by the halfway point. Kami Semick, fresh off her 2nd place finish at Comrades, began closing in after Michigan Bluff (mile 55) and passed Tracy around mile 90. Ellie Greenwood passed them both, and soon afterwards Kami had a chance encounter with a bear and her cub allowing Ellis to put some time between them and finish in 17:55. Three-time winner Nikki Kimball also had a fast finish, coming within 100 yards of Kami and forcing a sprint to the line for second. Nikki would later say Kami's road speed made the difference.



(Ellie Greenwood wins)


(Kami and Nikki battle it out for second)

Here's the Top 10:

1 Ellie Greenwood 17:55:00
2 Kami Semick 18:17:00 (read her account of the bear story here)
3 Nikki Kimball 18:17:00
4 Tracy Garneau 18:22:00
5 Rory Bosio 18:37:00
6 Aliza Lapierre 18:45:00
7 Meghan Arbogast 18:50:00 (new 50+ age group record by 3+ hours, Montrail UltraCup winner)
8 Amy Sproston 19:36:00
9 Becky Wheeler 19:46:00
10 Pam Smith 20:40:00

Congrats to all finishers!!! (Check live feed here)

- SD

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Devil Went Down To Auburn

I'm up in Tahoe for some vacation and Western States 100 spectating, and my unemployed-thus-idle mind got to thinking...why don't we have more crazy costumed spectators like they do in the Tour de France and other cycling events? There are a few, for sure (I'm thinking of you, Brown's Bar aid station), but not lining the tough climbs. Perhaps I could get out on the course with some rediculous outfit to cheer everyone on?

I could be the crazy devil like the famous Didi...


Or perhaps something more ominous...


There's always the classics...


Or something a bit more "wild"...


Some costumes do a good job of encouraging runners to keep going...


Hhmmm, a tough choice.

Well, I know where I would want to see a spectator on the course so that's where I'm going to hang. I won't tell you where but perhaps this costume (and hand gesture) will hint where I'm hiking into.


See you there!!!

Need some non-Western States reading fare? Here are a few stories/ideas to help juice you up:

Set your DVR to record the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field, going on this weekend (ESPN2, June 24 11:00 pm-1:00 am ET, ESPN2 Re-air, June 25 1:00 -3:00 pm ET, Universal, June 25 3:00-4:30 pm ET, NBC, June 25 5:00-6:00 pm ET, Universal, June 26 3:00-4:00 pm ET, NBC, June 26 5:00-6:00 pm ET).

Check out Penny Palfrey, an ultraswimmer (and grandma!) who recently broke the world record for the longest unassisted ocean swim by going 67 miles in 40 hours. Well, when they say "unassisted" they aren't counting the crew who had to lure away sharks and kill them with a machete. Damn.

18-year-old running and triathlon phenom Lucas Verzbicas becomes the fifth high schooler to break a four-minute mile, joining the likes of Jim Ryun and Alan Webb. (Video)

80-year-old running god Ed Whitlock sets new age group World Records in the 5k/10k at the Canadian Masters Championships.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ten Ways NOT to Answer Job Interview Questions About Trail Running


So, I've been doing some job interviews lately (fun!). The good news is that there is a ton of great innovation happening in Silicon Valley, lots of great career avenues to explore, and I'm meeting really interesting people. The bad news is that I have to INTERVIEW. Ugh.

I had forgotten how the preposterous-but-necessary act of summarizing your life history and goals into little sound bites, interview after interview, makes you begin to hate your cliched self. I swear to God, I'm an inch away from replying "I'm a people person" to every question, accepting my inevitable assimilation into the lowest level of Interview Hell. Lord, just kill me now.

Luckily you can't Google my name without hitting this blog, which will inevitably bring the question, "So, what's the deal with all that trail and ultrarunning stuff? Why do you do it?".

With that, I give you:


Ten Ways To NOT Answer a Job Interview Question About Trail Running

1. It's the only thing that keeps the voices in my head to a dull roar. 

2.
My Narcotics Anonymous sponsor said to find a hobby that keeps me as far away from crack houses as possible. 

3. Because it's XTREME with a CAPITAL 'X', MOTHER F#$KER!!! I tried Ironman, but those pussies quit at midnight. I have more iron in my morning shit than those posers have on race day. And nothing gets my blood boiling like f'ing posers!

4. I like to be inaccessible for long periods of time. You know, get off the grid and really question whether applying my skills to help rich, shallow women buy handbags is the best contribution to the planet.

5. So I can laugh ever time my boss says "this is a marathon, not a sprint". A marathon is a sprint, you dumb ass. 

6. It's a great way to talk to women. If you see a hot chick, just slow to their speed and they will be forced to listen to you for hours. And you don't even have to buy her a drink! Well worth the $35 entry fee.

7. Because working in a cube makes me feel like a caged animal. It's either trail running or gnawing off my own leg by lunchtime. 

8. Honestly, I just like to pee in the woods. Thank God there is a sport that makes this socially acceptable.

9. Look at this belt buckle...BOO-YAH! Do I need to say anything else?

10. What good is a health plan if you don't test its limits with some rhabdo/kidney failure on a regular basis? Nothing says "pooled risk" better than getting two weeks of dialysis on a $10 co-pay. 

11. I like coming to work every day battered and bruised like I joined the Fight Club. People don't fuck with me. Cause they know if they do, then this button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho might just snap, and then stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. This might be someone you've known for years. Someone very, very close to you.  (this is a movie quote, btw)

Okay, that's actually 11. Let me know if you guys have any other gems!

- SD

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trailblazin' at the 2011 Dirty Half USATF Trail 1/2 Marathon Championships

Last Sunday, I joined 800+ trail runners for the 10th annual Dirty Half in Bend, OR, which was also the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships for the second year in a row. It was a great opportunity to race against some fast people, try out a new course, catch up with friends, and make a few new ones as well. It's hard to go wrong with summer trail running in Bend, OR!

My good friend Lisa Clark was my crew and chauffeur, and made sure we had a chance to check out some of the new breweries and restaurants over the weekend. Bend, OR, is awesome in that you can slow down to a very relaxed speed at any time, then join in on the latest outdoor adventure and get your adrenaline up within the hour. I wasn't sure if some yummy IPA and pizza from 10 Barrel Brewing was the best pre-race meal, but my fears subsided when I found raw-food-powered super master Tim Van Orden, USATF star Richard Bolt, and mountain running goddess Megan Lund-Lizotte doing the same. Perhaps I have found their secret! Well, all but Tim that is - he stuck to the lettuce.

(Megan Lund-Lizotte is dazzled as Max King shows off his levitation skills, while Richard Bolt says howdy)
Race morning found an ideal summer day with clear skies and 45 degree weather than would quickly warm with the sun. Nearly 800 runners would embrace the day, with half of them tackling their first half marathon, and 40 others being the fastest trail runners in the sport ready to kick down for $2,500 in prize money. Max King was here to defend his title, despite the fact he ran a 31-minute 10k AND a 13:56 5k the day before at the Portland Track Festival. That meant Mario Mendoza (5th here last year), Team Inov-8's Sam Robinson (back after injury), and 1:08 half marathoner Kris Houghton would be looking for any sign of fatigue to be ready to pounce. Max could also get some competition from the Masters field, which included the wicked fast Tim Van Orden (aka, TiVO), locals Jeff Caba and Kevin Hutchins, and a speedy Richard Bolt miraculously back in full form after a brush with Lyme Disease. Ian Sharman would usually be in the mix, but he was heat training today for The Big Dance, wearing just about everything The North Face makes.

(David Engstrom, TiVO, Megan Lund-Lizotte, Jeff Browning smiling at the start)

(Sam Robinson back in action, with Caitlin Smith right behind him - how symbolic!)
The Women's field was downright insane, with Olympic cross country skier Morgan Arritola looking to improve on her second place finish last year, mountain running star Megan Lund-Lizotte, ultra phenom Caitlin Smith freshly recovered from her 2:40 at Boston, and local stars Katie Caba and Marci Klimek both in peak shape and ready to exploit their home field advantage. As RD Super Dave got us lined up at the start, they were all eying each other like a high noon gunfight. Ready....DRAW!

The new course gave us a half mile of pavement to sort out the rough order, before tearing down a fire road towards the hills. I almost took out Caitlin (sorry!) as I dodged around some 60-year-old who lined up at the front, and found myself in the usual spot - just ahead of the lead women, and watching the front pack of the men disappear into the distance. ;-) Max and Mario were leading side-by-side, picking up the pace to 5:00 min/mile as soon as their shoes found dirt. Kyle, TiVO, Sam Robinson, Jeff Caba, and Cory Jenkins stuck right with them.

(Mario Mendoza, Sam Robinson, TiVO, and Max King take it out fast, photo courtesy of Andy Tullis at The Bend Bulletin)

(Marci Klimek, Caitlin Smith, and Megan Lund-Lizotte set a fast pace out of the gate)

(Hello dirt, goodbye lead men!)
The miles were clicking by quickly (about 6:10 min/mile pace for me), and once we hit the single track the lead women starting jockeying for position. Morgan, Megan, and Marci pushed each other hard, with Katie and Caitlin holding back for the second half about 30 seconds behind. Megan in particular was hitting the switchbacks with a mountain runner ferocity, forcing a very fast pace. It was going to be a brutal fight!

(Yummy single track)
 Around Mile 4, I saw Richard Bolt walking and feared for the worst, until I realized he was fixing some markings on the course! He soon took off again, climbing quickly up some steep hills (new for this course) and dropping me like a sack of stones. Wow, only that guy could stay in the Top 10 while setting ribbons.

(Climbing the high desert ridge)
The new course was definitely harder, with steeper climbs and more of the endless mountain bike trails that snake through the trees with delicious banked corners. It was great! I was still feeling Alcatraz in my lats a bit, but in general was feeling good. Bend's Jon Fitch let me sneak by him around mile 5 after pulling us through the tough climbs, and I ran the next couple of miles solo, enjoying the high desert expanse. I could see Megan Lund-Lizotte about a minute ahead, still eying the two front women about a minute ahead of her, but her downhill speed was too fast for me to catch up.

(Jon Fitch gives a thumbs up as we enjoy the single track)
The aid stations were awesome, and I gulped as much water as I could to ease the desert-air parching of my throat. Kind of weird that the dry air was my limiting factor, but so be it! I slowed enough that a group of three - Katie Caba, Caitlin Smith, and Bend's Andy Young - caught me on a climb. Katie threw me a fist bump and she cruised by, and I did my best to get on Caitlin's tail and hang on. Funny thing about running behind Caitlin - her steps don't throw off any dirt/dust at all! She's like a ninja, using gravity and momentum perfectly to propel herself forward. It was a pleasure running behind her, although my sloppy style put me in charge of the smoke screen.

(Katie Caba gives a fist bump - go Team Inov-8! - as she flies by)

(I promised Katie I wouldn't Photoshop some super deltoids on her..but she already has them!)
(Caitlin the Ninja sneaks by)
Mile 10 came in about 1:05, and I was surprised it was that slow. I thought I was hauling ass! This course is definitely harder. A few long straight-aways showed me that Caitlin was 45 seconds up, and a few guys were right on my tail including...wait, is that Jeff Browning?!? How in the world is a 100-mile guy running so fast with a 3-week old baby at home? I better pick it up, or I won't win the New Dad division! Pretty awesome to see Jeff tearing it up when he probably didn't even sleep last night. Then again, he loves to run on no sleep!

(We are colorful ants in the land of pine giants)
(Caitlin the Ninja still out of reach)
We found our way to the road again (mile 12), and I charged to pick up a few seconds on Caitlin before coming in at 1:27:03 for 19th place. It turned out to be enough for 9th in the USATF rankings, with Jeff Browning picking up 10th. That means hardware! New dads are stoked to get anything. ;-)

(Phew! Made it!)
(Max King brings it home)

(Mario Mendoza takes 2nd)
Max King did manage to defend his title (1:14:44), just 17 seconds ahead of Mario Mendoza (1:15:01), and Kris Houghton (1:17:34), Cory Jenkins (1:18:01), and TiVO (1:18:45, 1st Master) finishing out the Top 5. Daniel Greer from Boulder also crushed it with a 1:28:24 for an impressive win in the M50-54 category. Morgan Arritola won the Women's division, with Marci Klimek (1:25:16), Megan Lund-Lizotte (1:25:51), Katie Caba (1:26:07, 1st Master), and Caitlin Smith (1:26:40) rounding out the Top 5. Also very cool was to see the mother-daughter team of Jennifer and Hannah Munyan pick up 6th and 7th! How cool is that? (all results)
(Max's recovery secret - doughnuts! Mmmm, doughnuts...)
(Ryan Ness, Jeff Browning, RD Super Dave, and Justin Grady enjoy a beer, photo courtesy of Justin Grady)
Brewmaster Jacob Harper from the Deschutes Brewery had a special Dirty Half IPA for us again, and I was thrilled to join him as the first two runners in the beer tent to tap the tap (Jacob was on crutches last year...this year, 1:38:13!). It is 9:30am after all! Burritos, Jamba Juice, pizza, veggies and more made sure everyone made up any calories left on the course. It was great to meet all the local runners, and find out how Super Dave, Max King, and other volunteers had enough running groups to get hundreds of people to the starting line. This really is an amazing community!

(RD Super Dave hands out the Payola)

(Richard Bolt, who can coordinate, mark a trail, and still get 10th overall/3rd Master)

(Men's Top USATF finishers - M50-54 winner Daniel Greer, TiVO (4th), Jeff Caba (5th), Sam Robinson (6th), Kyle Houghton (3rd), Mario Mendoza (2nd), Max King (1st), Jeff Browning (10th), Richard Bolt (7th))

(Mother-daughter team of Hannah and Jennifer Munyan are 7th and 6th)

(Women's top USATF finishers)

(Go Team Inov-8!)

(Veronica Russell gets the warrior award for her full-body trail rash, while still finishing under 3 hours)
My thanks to Super Dave, Richard Bolt, David Thomason and the gang at Footzone Bend, and the many volunteers for putting on a great race. All of the proceeds went to the Deschutes Land Trust who help maintain these amazing trails, so I'm sure the 10th annual is clearly just the beginning. Truly a gold standard, championship race!

- SD

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The 2011 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon - ESCAPE!!!

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 2,000 triathletes for the 31st running of the legendary Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco, CA. Once again, the experience proved to be like no other tri on the planet with it's dramatic views and sweeping hills. Amazing! It's no surprise this event is producing the same qualify-to-get-a-slot/lottery mayhem as Ironman, Western States, or the NY Marathon. It's simply epic through and through.

The course is a runner's nemesis, however, starting with a chilly 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz, then a quad-busting bike climb through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, and concluding with an 8.5 mile mostly-trail run up and over the Golden Gate Bridge, out to Baker Beach, and returning up the dreaded Sand Ladder. There was no cruising in this one - if you swim too slow, you'll be swept out to sea. If you don't get out of the saddle to climb the hills, you'll go backwards (fall off a cliff, and then be swept out to sea). If you walk the run portion, there won't be any beer left by the time you arrive (blasphemy!). Time to push that red line and run like...well, like you've escaped from prison!

The prior day was so windy and rainy that the loudspeakers at packet pick up were constantly telling people to take it easy since "chances for hypothermia and/or bike crashes are much higher than normal". I just love that he threw in "and/or" - nothing worse than crashing with hypothermia! But the Race Gods threw us a bone, and come race morning it was warm, calm, and overcast. About as good as one could ask!

I racked my road bike (too many hills for a TT bike), and joined Mitch from Maryland on the bus ride out to the boats. He was readying for Ironman Kona (lottery winner!), and we chatted with our bus mates from Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and Michigan. They came far and wide to get a piece of the San Francisco history captured on this course.

(Remember, you paid good money for this!)
As the boat launched towards Alcatraz Island, the "escape" began. It was impossible to waste time with small talk or "how's work" when the San Francisco cityscape was quickly becoming smaller than a postcard in the IMAX-sized windows of the San Francisco Belle. We were consumed by the here and now, this herculean task that we had volunteered (and paid!) for, the complete detachment from our day-to-day lives that only comes with the greatest of race courses.

The nervousness was palpable (or "smellable", as defending champion Andy Potts would later describe) and the slow rocking of the boat did little to calm the nerves. But every one of my neoprene-clad brethren were game and ready, and the ritual of helping zip and fit the wetsuit of the closest stranger eased the stress, if only to verify that we were only strangers by name. This band of warriors chooses to embrace life in blood, sweat, tears (and sea water!) until the cup of life is spilling down our cheeks. We live a life worthy of great stories!

I was stoked to be with my good friend Jose Caldera who was tackling his first Escape with his long-time friend Victor Brazon, up from Houston, TX. I had seen Jose train like a madman for this one, and could only chuckle to myself as he nervously assured himself if he was ready.  He was going to crush this, for sure! We passed around tri essentials like Pam, Vaseline, and lense cleaner, until the slowing of the engine brought us all to silence...then the boat roared with a spontaneous group guttural cheer that could surely be heard back on shore. YEEESSSS!!!

(Go, go, go!)
Thousands of color-capped adventurers headed towards the door, tilting the boat about 10 degrees and nudging the not-so-sure towards the exit. Before I knew it, I was jumping off the side and slapping my frozen paws into the sea water to get out of the way. I picked a line to the city, put my face down into the icy dark, and quickly found a rhythm.

(Gettin' it done)
I had no time goals for the day, other than to hopefully beat my time in 2002 (2:56), when Escape was one of my first triathlons ever. 2002? My God, am I that old?!? Older and wiser, let's hope. One thing for sure, my stress level in the swim was a fraction of what it was nine years ago. Perhaps I have clocked the requisite 10,000 hours for base expertise.

Well, maybe not...as the beach came in view, it was clear that I had picked too aggressive of a line and the current was pulling me into the breaker rocks. Whoops! I doubled-timed it and backtracked 200 yards, easily adding four minutes to my swim time, but avoiding a kayak rescue. Phew! My watch said 35 minutes - dreadfully slow, but still faster than 2002, and I felt comfortable.

I quickly made it to T1, thanks to wisely wearing Injinji socks and Vibram Five Fingers into the water and thus jumping right out and running the half mile to my gear. I had a little trouble getting out of the wetsuit, laughing that even half of a can of Pam on my legs (and smelling buttery good!) still wasn't enough. But before too long, I was on the bike and picking my way through the pack.

(Busy T1)
I passed 70 (!) cyclists in the first mile, being sure not to boost my ego too much since it was the slow swim that got me here. But it did seem like everyone was moving at 80% speed...why would that be? Some were struggling with their TT bikes on the steep climbs, panting like this was Mont Ventoux. The descents were slow too...hmmm, I get the impression these guys don't have a 2,000 ft hill at the start/end of every bike ride like me. How could I ever have sworn your name in vain, oh blessed Kings Mountain Road? ;-) Just when I thought I was hauling ass, however, Andy Potts came screaming by in the other direction pulling 3 G's through the Presidio with three cruise missile pros on his tail. Wow.

Christine Bertram from Canada latched on to my wheel as we cruised past The Cliff House on the climb back, and she proved to be a great pacing partner. We blazed back to T2 (580 riders passed!) in our matching Trek Madones, and she transitioned like a pro, leaving me with some yardage to get back on her heels. But my secret weapon, Inov-8 X-Talon 212's that stood out in this sea of road shoes, were eager to dig into the dirt. Once we got to Crissy Field, I was in my element (at last!) and kicked down to a 5:50 min/mile pace. Andy Potts went blazing by on his way to win (1:59:45), giving high fives to everyone.

(Only two speeds on this course - climb-this-byotch or oh-God-please-don't-hit-a-squirrel)
(Half naked is twice the fun!)
The run course was a trail runners delight, with steep climbs, descents, and enough cliff-lined single track to make catching a view a life-threatening act. I saw Jesse Thomas cruise by (fastest amateur last year, turned pro and just won Wildflower a few weeks ago) with his tri suit pulled off his shoulders and around his waist...is that socially acceptable? Well I'm in for sure then! I was glad since by the time we hit Baker Beach, it was actually getting hot.

(I narrowly miss a snot rocket)
(Hitting the single track)
(All smiles!)

(Pro Women winner Nicky Samuels extends her lead, winning in 2:13:13)

(What a day!)

(Head towards that bridge!)

(Like angels they appear in the tunnel)

(Climbing up to the Golden Gate)

(A little beach running)

(Ahem...just a FEW nice views on this course!)


(The Sand Ladder)
The Sand Ladder was its usual glute-sucking spelunk into the pain cave, but it was clear sailing from then on. On the last straight away I caught a woman (pro? she had her name on the back with USA) and took her picture, only to have her scream "WHAT THE FUCK!!" and go into chase mode. She would later say "thanks for giving me a kick to get moving...I just don't like pictures of me sucking wind". Phew! I thought for sure I had pulled some serious faux pas that would result in getting twisted into a pretzel by an Amazonian. Kill the half-naked photo boy!

(Andy Potts with the win, photo courtesy of SFGate)

I cruised into the finish in 2:44:15, good enough for 227th place (results), but not quite enough to outkick 15-year-old Ryan Brady from Chapel Hill, NC, who handily won his age group (his teammate would tell me later, "he's kind of a beast"). Massage, food, and a round of beers with some great folks from Westchester concluded a perfect day. My kick ass parking spot was right on the course, so I had choice but to sip a few brews and relax until the last finisher came in. By the time my beer buzz faded, I think I had committed to meeting the NY gang for the 8-stage SOS Triathlon (doh!), but for now the glow of Alcatraz was more than enough. I successfully escaped, but I can't wait to get back!

(Steve the masseuse fixes me up)
(Shannon Warburg crushes the course and is still smiling!)

(Victor, Jose, and Me...successfully escaped!)

My thanks to IMG and all the great volunteers for putting on an epic race!

- SD