Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 - A Year of Gratitude

(Getting a beach run in with Jen (sister-in-law), Cameron (niece), Brian (bro-in-law), and Sophie (daughter) in Carmel, CA)
Another beautiful sunrise here in Carmel Valley, CA, as I sip my coffee and watch 3-year-old Quinn craft another pony adventure among an endless sea of Lego structures. The holidays are wide-eyed magic for her, and she takes great care to ensure every toy, new and old, has a role in her latest production. The rest of the extended family is happily slumbering, their bodies embracing the long nights of the winter solstice and holiday mornings void of responsibility, so Quinn's precious little voice fills the halls like an angels whisper. A few years ago, a pre-sun wake up call from an audience deprived child would be a nightmare, and three in a row would invoke near-suicidal tendencies. This year, I am nothing but grateful. Opening my eyes and heart to get the most from every experience, whether family or running or whatever, has been the big theme of 2014. This has been a good year.

My newly recharged humility could have come from how this year started, i.e., waaay too much on my plate. I had a freshly broken collarbone, a new job that required 100+ cross-country flights per year, growing kids who fill weekends faster than I can control, a house in perpetual upgrade, and of course, a heavy race schedule that ignored all of these realities. My life mantra of "live life to have good stories" has a way of overbooking the calendar (as well as the checkbook), and my sanity often gets the spillover.

(Starting the year with a bang, or "snap" in this case)
It could be because I'm 45 years old now, an age that science says is the most challenging time to be happy (the low point in the U-Curve, as they say). I know the feeling they are referring to - that headwind of responsibility that eats away at a once-overabundant sense of appreciation - but it's nothing that can't be overcome with a good trail race with my mountain peeps or a round of fine dining with my wife. Or a Corvette, I hear, although I haven't gone that route yet. But it's good to have options. ;-)

(The U Curve measures average happiness levels by age across many international cultures)
When I think about it, what filled 2014 with gratitude was not my results, but because of what I got to witness along the way. Our sport has really come leaps and bounds in the last decade, but 2014 felt like I was seeing history at every turn (or Tweet as the case may be).

I started the year with a welcome-back-from-surgery 3:24 at the Caumsett 50k, but also got to watch Ethan Coffee (2:53) and Emily Harrison (3:16) set new course records on their ways to USATF 50k Road National Championship titles. Emily would go on to win the IAU 50k Worlds as well.

(Emily Harrison, our 50k National and World Champ)
My 10th Boston Marathon was epic, particularly when my family got to be there to watch Meb Keflezighi hold off the Kenyans to one of the greatest American ROAR's I have ever heard. Boston got it's mojo back!

(Meb Keflezighi brings it home at Boston)
A week later, I watched Vitargo teammate Michael Wardian set a new record for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge (best combined time of the two marathons), winning the Big Sur Marathon overall in the process. That guy is amazing! And only beginning to reset every Masters record out there, I'm sure.

(Super-Master Michael Wardian on his way to winning the 2014 Big Sur Marathon)
The Cayuga Trails 50m opened my eyes to upstate New York's incredible slice of nature, and also allowed me to witness the "new breed" of trail runners in action as Chris Vargo (1st, USATF 50-Mile Trail Champ), Matt Flaherty (2nd), and Magdalena Boulet (1st) bring their sub-six minute skills to the hills.

(Matt Flaherty and Chris Vargo setting the pace early on)
The Pikes Peak Double proved to be even harder than expected, but not for Sage Canaday who sprinted in the last half mile to secure the win in the Ascent, and the World Mountain Challenge. Team inov-8 member Peter Maksimow also shaved a few minutes off his best to make the Top 10 with a last minute surge. I mean, honestly...who sprints at 14,000'?!? I can barely move. Simply incredible to watch.

(Nothing quite like this finish line)
The Pine to Palm 100m was a worthy Western States qualifier (despite losing the lottery AGAIN even with 76% odds of winning!), and a fun time revisiting the hills of Ashland, OR, with my Dad. But watching Bob Shebest win his TRT100 (17:38, CR)/P2P100 (18:42) double while Becky Kirschenmann (19:21, 2nd overall) took yet another hour off her course record really showed us all how it's done.

(Becky Kirschenmann on her way to her record setting win)

(Me taking a break at the halfway point)
The Fall 50m was a great new race, and a chance for me to set a new 50-Mile PR (6:11) and do the 50/50 (winning USATF Masters titles in the 50-Mile Trail and Road categories in the same year). But watching Larisa Dannis cruise along watching nothing but her heart rate, then take the win with a perfectly paced 5:59 just blew my mind. Imagine if she actually RACED IT! We're only beginning to see what she can do, particularly now that she lives in Mill Valley.

(Chicks dig guys with medals)
Between Twitter, iRunFar, and UltraRunnerPodcast.com, we all got ridiculously complete and thoughtful coverage of the biggest ultras in the world, watching Team USA take gold at the IAU World 100k's (with Max King's new American Record), Zach Bitter clock a world best 12-hour and 11:47 100-mile American Record, Team "Mill Valley" claim five Top 10 slots at Western States, Ellie Greenwood pass the Russian twins in the last 10k of Comrades and take the win, Kilian Jornet take on five new mountain FKT's, Teammate Gary Gellin add a Miwok 100k win to his collection, Rory Bosio take her 2nd win at UTMB, Rob Krar win States, Leadville, and RunRabbitRun in less than six weeks, Stephanie Howe win States/get married/finish a PhD in a month, the launch of SkyRunning USA, the Tahoe 200m runners making us all look like short course runners, Sage Canaday win the TNF50 in a super-stacked field...the list goes on. Because ultras are still so personal, I know just about everyone reading this knows one or more of these amazing athletes. How cool is it to see them rock it?!?

Yes, I had a few DNS's due to sickness/life events (TRT100, Moab Marathon, Flagline, CIM), but I also was consistent enough to get 316,000' vertical over 2,200 miles according to Strava. I'll take that any day.

But more than anything, I am happy just to be here. I deeply feel these are the best of times, and am ready to shake it up again for 2015. I hope you are all finding adventure in all parts of your lives, and letting its fountain of youth pour down your cheeks.

Kudos all and I'll see ya next year!

- SD

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Great Gifts for Trail Runners - 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for some great gift ideas for trail runners for the 2014 holiday season? I've listed a few favorites below, from the fun to the ree-diculous. Be sure to check the comments at the end for other reader recommendations as well.

Happy shopping, and I hope you are all enjoying the holidays!

Tribute to the Trails Calendar ($23)

Easily my favorite gift to give (or receive for that matter) is the annual Tribute to the Trails calendar. 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, and 2015 is a worthy follow up. The gorgeous full-page shots (check them all out here) compliment a complete calendar of ultrarunning events, and include coupons to win free entries to 30+ races! 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, and have never received too many! You can pick one up at ZombieRunner, Rogue Valley Runners, or other stores for $23.

Ian Corless' Trail Calendar ($30)

Can't get enough calendar action? Ian Corless (of TalkUltra fame) is taking pre-orders for his calendar as well, featuring a dazzling selection of top tier runners flying down the most epic european mountainscapes. $30 (20 euros) and you'll be inspired all year long!

Knee Replacement X-Ray Tree Ornament ($23)

Ha, ha! Yup, it's a real thing. Props to Mark Remy for finding this one!

Epic Bison Bars ($3)

Somewhere between a protein bar and beef jerky lies the Epic Bison bar, a delicious and filling meat-based snack. I use them a lot for those days I can't fit in a lunch and need to a filling treat. This season you can get bison with bacon and cranberry...so good, once it hits your lips! Available at local running stores, or direct at epicbar.com.

Endless Pool Spa with Treadmill Option ($23,900)

One percenters need look no farther for that dream gift - the latest Endless Pool spa has a current that runs from one end to the other so you can swim in place, plus an underwater treadmill for recovery days. Your friends can even chill in the back seats while you run! MUST HAVE.

adidas miCoach Training Shirt with Built-In HRM ($62)

I love heart rate monitors (HRM's), but can never get the strap to stay where it's supposed to be. This new shirt from adidas (created by NuMetrex) has the HRM sewn in, and allows you to get that sexy Iron Man look rolling. Available at NuMetrex.

Victory Drop Bags ($45-85)

Once you have a Victory drop bag, you wonder how you ever suffered through all those other drop bags. Ultrarunner extraordinaire Victor Ballesteros' three drop bag configurations are the new gold standard, and all of them also work well as a back-of-the-car gear holder. This gift will definitely get used!

Re-StringIt Drawstring Re-Threader ($15)

I gave a few of these out last year, and they got rave reviews. If you've ever had to re-string a drawstring through your shorts or hoodie, then you are going to love this little gadget. It turns the 15 minute frustrated inchworm routine into a 30-second non-issue. Available at re-stringit.com.

Injinji Performance Toe Sock ($13)

Injinji's toe-wrapped socks are always a conversation starter, and for many (like me!), a life saver in the blister department. The latest sock from the toe-obsessed gang at Injinji are snug and breath really well. Now available in argyle, hawaiian, blue, green and other festive colors! Available at injinji.com.

0.0 Running Sticker ($3)

I personally find the 13.1/26.2/etc stickers annoying. This one, however, is pretty funny.

Outside Shower ($800-$5,500)

Few gifts have produced the harmonial bliss between me and my non-trail-running spouse of 21 years like her gift of an outside shower to me earlier this year. Dirt and dirty clothes stay outside, and I get to be naked in the sunlight on a regular basis...what more could a trail runner ask for?!? At one point, I went 40+ days showering only outside, and it was amazing. Well worth it!

T-Shirt Quilt ($250-400)

Another great marriage-saver is the T-Shirt Quilt, which empties your shelves of race t-shirts to create a 7x7 (=49) King Size cotton quilt. I got my first one from a desperate need to create closet space, but we quickly found out that we use the quilt all the time (it's just t-shirts after all, so spill away!). Added bonus - when you are at a kid function wishing you were running instead, you can just glance through the shirts and relive those memories! Available at CampusQuilt.com.

Duracell Instant USB Charger ($29)

A great idea for the electronic obsessed, this battery can quickly boost a USB-driven device like an iPod or Garmin watch to get through the race. A good item for your drop bag!  Get it at Drugstore.com.

Custom Race Bib Coasters ($22)

Want to keep a memorable race bib around? Immortalize it on four coasters! Take a picture of a friend's race number and send it to Mile Stones via Etsy.com for a fun coaster puzzle.

Running Books ($9-30)

It's hard to go wrong with a running book or DVD, and there are some great new ones for 2014. Hal Koerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning, Sage Canaday's MUT Runner DVD and Kilian Jornet's Summits of My Life DVD's are a few of my favorites.

Milestone Pod Mileage and Shoe Tracker ($25)

The gang at Milestonepod.com has created a mileage and shoe tracker that can be purchased for the low price of $25, a great way to step your tech-avoiding friends into the fun world of tracking. 

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. Trust me - they will guard them with their lives.  

Holiday Flavored Bars/Gels ($0.50-$3)

When you eat as many of these as we do, a little Peppermint Stick or Spiced Pumpkin Clif Bar is a nice break. On sale now at REI

Aero-Press Coffee Maker ($30)

It's a little crazy how good coffee tastes from this handy little device that fits right in with all your camping gear. Available at ZombieRunner.

Gift In Your Name to iRunFar, UltraRunnerPodcast, etc. ($TBD)

If your trail runner obsesses about race coverage (like we all do), consider making a donation in their name to iRunFar.com, UltraRunnerPodcast.com, or one of the other many passion-driven media outlets we thrive on. Every dollar makes a difference for these guys, and the gesture will be well received. A perfect gift for the runner who has everything!

Action Wipes ($3+)

Ever try to take a full shower with baby wipes? I know I have, and they don't quite do the trick. Action Wipes is here to save the day with their full body wipes. Check out their web site for the full story!

Tory Birch Gold Fitbit Bracelet ($195)

Let's face it, there is nothing fashionable about ANY of the rubber-lined fitness trackers out there (sorry Nike, Jawbone, Fitbit, Adidas, etc). Tory Birch has a solution for the fashion-constrained - a gold bracelet that holds your Fitbit and allows you to walk Manhattan's Upper West Side with nary a smug glance from your upper crust neighbors. Available as a bracelet or pendant at Nordstrom's.

ZombieRunner Gift Certificate ($10-100)

I've never met a trail runner who couldn't drop $100 in Zombie before their coffee is even ready. Definitely will prompt a smile. Also an easy gift to buy and send instantly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Max King and Ellie Greenwood Win 2014 IAU 100k World Championships In Record Time

(Max King breaks the tape and becomes the IAU 100k World Champion, photo courtesy of Bryon Powell)
American Max King and Great Britain's Ellie Greenwood were able to hold off the global competition and crazy heat to win the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships in Doha, Qatar, earlier today. Max's 6:27:44 finish took nearly 3 minutes off the American Record (previously Tom Johnson's 6:30:11 in 1995), and was ~100 seconds ahead of 2nd place Jonas Buud from Sweden.  Spain's Jose Antonio Requejo (Spain) was third in 6:37:03, and American's Zach Bitter (6:48:53, 6th) and Zach Miller (6:51:30, 9th) also made the Top 10. Both winners set the tone for their teams - Team USA took home the men’s team title, while Team Great Britain secured the women’s team victory.

(The KING! Photo courtesy of Bryon Powell)
Ellie Greenwood had a solid day, holding the lead for most of the race and finishing in 7:30:30, a solid eight minutes ahead of Japan's Chiyuki Mochizuki. Great Britain's Jo Zakrzewski was third in 7:42:03. American's Meghan Arboghast (7:52:12, 8th) and Pam Smith (7:59:11, 10th) made the Top 10.

(Ellie Greenwood dominates to win the IAU 100k World Championships, photo courtesy of Bryon Powell)
Want to get the blow-by-blow, as well as get pre- and post-race videos with competitors? Head over to iRunFar.com, where Bryon is covering the event live and producing all the photos I am stealing. ;-)

Congrats to all the great competitors!

- SD

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beer Mile World Championships on Dec 3rd - Are You Ready?!?

The first annual Flotrack Beer Mile World Championships will happen in Austin, TX, on December 3rd this year. My big question is...who is going to represent the ultrarunners?!?

I mean, honestly, who could be better at doing four laps with a beer per lap than an iron-stomach, beer-loving, already-can-run-fast-when-dizzy ultra runner? The competition is tough, however - track and field elites are coming out in droves, meticulously training their way to sub 5-minute finish times. But I suspect we've got a ringer out there somewhere.

The Beer Mile is no walk-on event. Lance Armstrong, no stranger to competing while under the influence (as well as a former Michelob Ultra spokesperson), only made it one lap in his attempt to qualify. But with proper training, you might have world champ potential. Just ask Austin local Chris Kimbrough, who at age 44 (and with SIX kids!), just set a Women's WR of 6:28.

Chris Kimbrough Breaks the Women's Beer Mile World Record

Lance Armstrong Bails On First Lap In Beer Mile Attempt

If you know of an ultra runner going, let me know so we can cheer them on! I can't wait to see the head-to-head competition...they better bring some buckets for the finish line. ;-)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 2015 Ultra Lottery Season - Which Race Will Choose You?

It's lottery season again in the world of ultrarunning! As our sport continues to grow (up 345% in the last 10 years), the clash of limited space/permits and high demand has put more races than ever in the lottery game. There's even the semi-disappointing trend of non-refundable "lottery fees" popping up a few races this year. Regardless, it's time to put your name in the hat for your favorite races and see how the Lottery Gods determine your fate! The Western States 100m lottery is on right now (already nearing 2,400 entries with two days left). So don't hesitate - put your name in!

(Don't miss the lottery deadlines!)

Below are a few links to popular races that have lotteries:

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, June 27, 2015 (Lottery Nov 8-15, Drawing Dec 6)

Way Too Cool 50k, March 7, 2015 (Lottery Dec 7-17, Drawing Dec 21)

Lake Sonoma 50m, April 11, 2015 (Lottery Dec 7-17, Drawing Dec 21)

Bull Run Run 50m, April 11, 2015 (Lottery Feb 2-TBD)

Miwok 100k, May 2, 2015 (Lottery Dec 6-10, Drawing Dec 12)

Massanutten 100, May 16, 2015 (Lottery Jan 1-8, Drawing Jan 12)

Mt. Washington Road Race, June 20, 2015 (Lottery Feb 17-March 15 with $5 lottery fee, Drawing March 18)

Hardrock 100, July ~11, 2015 (Lottery Now-Nov 23 with $10 lottery fee, Drawing Dec 1)

Tahoe Rim Trail 100m, July 18, 2015 (Lottery Dec 7-21, Drawing Jan 1)

Badwater 135, July ~23, 2015 (Lottery/app Jan 2-10, Selection Feb 12)

Leadville 100, August 22, 2015 (Lottery Dec 1-31 with $15 lottery fee, Drawing ~Jan 15)

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, August 24, 2015 (Registration Dec 17-Jan 6 with 1.5 euro lottery fee, Lottery selection Jan 14 if needed)

Tahoe 200m, September 11, 2015 (Lottery Dec 1-21, Drawing Dec 31)

Wasatch 100, September 11, 2015 (Lottery Dec 1-Jan 4, Drawing Feb 7)

Ironman Hawaii World Championship, October 10, 2015 (Lottery Now-Feb 28, Drawing April 17)

Hurt 100m and Gorge Waterfalls 50k lotteries have already occurred. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Emily Harrison Wins IAU 50k World Championship Trophy Final

Flagstaff, AZ's Emily Harrison brought home the gold at the IAU 50k World Trophy Final in Doha, Qatar, last weekend with a blistering time of 3:32:27 in 88 degree heat and 60+ degree humidity. The event featured the fastest runners from 17 countries, and came down to less than a minute between her and Great Britain's Joasia Zakrzewski (3:33:20).

(Emily Harrison breaks the tape for her win at the IAU 50k Worlds)
"Because of the heat and humidity, Ian (Torrence, her coach at McMillan Running Company) and I decided that going for any records or fast times was pretty much out the window," said Harrison, already the 2014 USATF 50k Road National Champion with her 3:16 time at the Caumsett 50k earlier this year, "The goal going into the race was to win and to conserve as much effort as possible. I didn't do anything crazy to prepare for the heat and was banking on being able to keep my effort within reason on race day in order to not bury myself."

Harrison was the favorite, but she stayed with the pack for the first three of ten laps. Around the third lap, Canadian Catrin Jones made a move, but by lap six, Harrison moved her way back into the lead and kept it to the finish. Zakrzewski, fresh from running the marathon at the Commonwealth Games made her way through the field as the race went on, and held second to the finish.

(Cashing the big check!)
"I will be back for the 100k World Championships in a couple weeks, which is being held at the same venue/course. This was a great opportunity to preview the course and prep for the 100k."

Congrats, Emily, our 50k National and World Champion!

Top Women:
1) Emily Harrison USA 3:32:27
2) Joasia Zakrzewski GBR 3:33:20
3) Catrin Jones CAN 3:37:54
4) Rita Nordsveen NOR 3:45:18
5) Neza Mravlje SLO 3:48:39

The Mens race also posted some amazing times given the hot conditions. Collen Makaza (ZIM) took claimed gold (3:00:40), followed by Phil Anthony (GBR, 3:01:26) and Harm Sengers (NED, 3:05:01). Makaza, Anthony and Elijah Biwott (KEN) took the early lead with Michael Wardian (USA) running close to the pack. At about the 3rd lap into the 10 lap course, Paul Martelletti started challenging for the podium finish as well, before settling comfortably in fourth place. At about the 30km mark Makaza increased the pace of the lead group, dropping Biwott (who pulled) and creating an 80+ second lead he kept to the finish.

Michael Wardian finished 6th with a time of 3:18:06, and will also be returning for the IAU 100k Worlds.

Top Men:
1) Collen Makaza ZIM 3:00:40
2) Phil Anthony GBR 3:01:26
3) Harm Sengers NED 3:05:01
4) Paul Martelletti GBR 3:11:05
5) Gary O’Hanlon IRL 3:14:34

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New 50-Mile PR at the Beautiful Fall 50m USATF Road National Championships

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 670+ runners for the 9th annual Fall 50 in Sturgeon Bay, WI, this year’s USATF 50-Mile Road National Championship. We had an epic day of fast running and smiles, much in thanks to optimal weather, great competition and race organization, and one of the best post-race parties in our sport! I was thrilled to come away with a 7th place finish, a new 50-mile PR (6:11), and my second USATF Masters National title this year. But most of all, I will cherish the charm and embrace of this wonderful slice of Wisconsin community that kept a smile on my face from the moment I walked off the plane. It is definitely worthy of a visit!

The Fall 50 has been around for years as a local favorite relay race (450 runners were here for the relay, which sold out in one hour!), but it first hit my radar when it became the site for the USATF 50-Mile National Championships for 2014/15. I recalled when local Wisconsin hero (and American/World Record Holder) Zach Bitter had set the course record with a blazing 5:28 in 2011, and suspected it was a PR-worthy course. It turns out that thanks to Zach, Race Director and Founder Sean Ryan, USATF evangelist and Wisconsin running hero Roy Pirrung, and hard working Door County representatives, the race quickly went from a seasonal running celebration to the main stage. A perfect excuse to check out a part of the USA I have never seen!

Straight up , y’all…Wisconsin has got to be one of the nicest communities in America. From dah endless tank youse fer comin' to their little town, to Dennis and Bonnie Statz at the White Lane Inn bed and breakfast who would settle for nothing less than a live band in the living room post-race, the runner-shaped cookies, quilts, and signs that filled the stores...this lakeside town couldn’t possibly have been more welcome. I instinctively adopted their "Oh, geez" and "Watcha doin', hey" lingo as the relay vans arrived in droves with costume-clad runners, praising the "fair to middlin' good weath-har, as sure as God made little green apples". SOOOO awesome...I couldn't get enough! I felt like I made 20 new best friends by the time I picked up my race packet. Regardless of the race outcome, the trip was already golden.

(Door County is known for its amazing Fall colors)
Come race mornin', I was feeling peaked and ready, much in thanks to having six weeks of semi-employment that allowed for long runs and afternoon naps with the dogs. My 10-day taper produced all kinds of weird niggles and tightness, a sure sign the body was building up. The mind and heart were in a good place too - humble and grateful to have my health and an excuse to adventure with my fellow running warriors. The road ultra is a particularly challenging venture, since many of us will be at top speed on unforgiving surfaces for the entire race. It is the asphalt crucible from which, as we have learned through trial of pain and blood, springs the purest fountain of humility and grace. GAME ON.

As we boarded the buses to the start, I immediately spotted Team Adidas runner Dr. Josh Brimhall (yes, that's "Dr. Brimhall" - Phd in Education, who knew? Respect, yo!). We passed the time in the dark ride north talking about his expansion of the Red Rock Running Company empire, my crazy experiences doing data science for Eaze (the Uber of Medical Marijuana...definitely a "growth" industry), and his meticulously planned sub-5:50 goal for today (whoa!). We only had a few short minutes to get prepped before they sent us off at 7am.

(Getting ready at the start - slight breeze, low 50's, just right!)
(I am fashion-challenged, but ready to go!)
(And we're off!!!)
Up front, Zach Bitter and Tyler Sigl set the pace, which us mortals were best to leave alone. Zach is the American Record holder in the 100-mile (11:47) and Tyler had clocked three 2:19 marathons and a 5:27 trail 50-miler in the last two years, and both runners were rumored to have a "sub-5 hour 50-miler" goal. Holy Cri-yiy! (as the locals would say) A pack of five began chasing behind them, including former winner Mark Thompson, Twin Cities speedster Mike Bialick, Josh Brimhall, and a few others. I settled in with the lead women, including Mill Valley, CA's Larisa Dannis tuning up for the IAU 100k World Championship in a few weeks, Team USA Olympic triathlon member Dr. Bennett Isabella, and some first-time 50-milers on a 7 min/mile pace in the next pack.

As the sun rose up in the first 10 miles, the hillsides lit up with orange, amber, and gold. Door County is a majesty of American beauty! The wind spun leaves all around us, and endless V’s of geese honked ensemble against the headwinds as we padded our way down the remote highway. It was easy to just kick back in our groove and knock out the miles. My pace partners Bennett and Indiana's Justin Kowalski kept the conversation light, and made for a good target to catch up to when I manually refilled at the aid stations. The hills were just about right - not giants, but big enough to shift your muscle groups regularly.

(The sun warms up the autumn leaves)
By mile 24, Bennett and Justin shifted down a gear as Larisa started to crank it up and come by us. I let her set the pace for a few miles, and we yapped about how deep Team USA is at the 100k Worlds for both men and women this year (Zach Bitter, Max King, Michael Wardian, Zach Miller, Matt Flaherty, Joe Binder, Pam Smith, Meghan Arbogast, Amy Sproston, Cassie Scallon, Emily Harrison...the list goes on). Two guys blazed by us, and I thought for sure the relay teams had been released, but it turned out to be Josh Brimhall and Mike Bialick who had gone a few miles off course due to sign sabotage. Josh decided to ease up on his original goal and coast it in (note - this is still a sub-6 hour pace for Josh), while Mike just got pissed off and ran like a banshee. Zach Bitter also took a wrong turn, and decided to drop and save up for 100k Worlds. There you go, folks - the three ways one can react to a wrong turn!

(Bennett leads us through the park)
I hit the marathon mark in 3:06, and then the 50k mark in 3:40, and allowed myself to daydream of lowering my 50-Mile PR of 6:35 set last year. I started getting a little dizzy at mile 34, and Josh (ahem, sorry...Dr. Brimhall!) was nice enough to wait at an aid station for me, prompt me to calorie up, and run a few miles together to get me on the right track. We talked about the best music to listen to while running, which is always a great subject. Josh's joy of the music spectrum knew no bounds, as long as nothing repeated itself. I, on the other hand, am known to repeat the same guitar solo over and over for hours in my head. Right now, it was Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love (the weird bridge part with all the echo). "Great song!" he said, and with that, he took off in the distance. Whoops...maybe I should have mentioned a slower song!

(Aid stations were well stocked, and well run!)
(Adding a little color)
As we weaved up and down some short hills (mile 39 being the toughest) and the endless straights between corn fields, the locals would yell out our place, which ranged from 5th to 9th. I suspected I was somewhere around 8th place and the second Master, after watching some guy with a M50-55 bib take off with the second pack in the first two miles. Knowing he was out there was pushing me hard, since I know a lot can go wrong in these races. My pace had slowed to 7:30 min/miles, and Josh was still within sight, pulling me like a kite. I focused on my form, letting the Zeppelin whirlwind keep my tempo going.

(Home stretch)
At the last aid station (mile 46), I still hadn't seen my Masters adversary, and my body was screaming to ease up the pace (in a "you better carry toilet paper if you're going to keep doing this" sort of way). I gulped down some watered Coke, and one of the spectators, a crew member for a runner about 10 minutes behind me, gave me a pat on the back and said "you show those youngsters!". I let him know there was a 50+ year old ahead of me schooling me, and he said "no, dude...that guy is about ten minutes BEHIND you...has been for 12 miles". What? Well, I better get moving then!!! So funny...I'm not sure which is the bigger motivator, being the hunter or the hunted. Wait, no, it's definitely the hunted! GO, GO, GO!!!

(Costumes were definitely encouraged)
(A beautiful day!)
I slowly pulled Josh into range as we coasted down the slight downhill in the last few miles, but as we approached the finishing chute, he still had a solid minute on me. I finished up in 6:11:55 for 7th place, a whopping 24 minute PR, and the announcer confirmed I was the first Master. YES! Josh was the 5th man (6:10:39, but did hit 50 miles in 5:53), so he got a payday too. We celebrated by puking the last of our gels in the grass and staggering to the finish tent to stare at food we could not yet eat. ;-)

(The Top Gun team pushed Maverick all 50 miles)
(Finishing up, feeling good!)
Tyler Sigl had won in 5:32, after holding a sub-5 hour pace for 32 miles. Wrong-turn Mike Bialick raged his way to 2nd (5:45), while former winner Mark Thompson (5:52) and Eric Tatge (5:53) also went under six hours. Larisa Dannis broke the Women's course record with a phenomenal 5:59, showing she is clearly ready for the 100k Worlds in a few weeks (good article about her race at RW, plus you can read her race report). Carolyn Smith (6:28) won the Women's Masters, also beating the previous Women's CR and making the Top 10. Wow, what a fast crew!

(The finisher tent was packed!)
(New 50-Mile Nat'l Champ and course record holder Larisa Dannis gets some love from RD Sean Ryan)
(Mark Thompson placed 3rd today, thanks to his crew) 
(Tyler Sigl on stage with a pair of DJ's only Wisconsin would claim)
The post-race party was nothing short of insane. Runners packed the Oktoberfest-sized tent, enjoyed libations from a half dozen local breweries and wineries, and hit the dance floor to hunting cap-clad DJ's spinning the good stuff. RD Sean Ryan did an amazing job recognizing the winners, with special recognition to a group of runners who stopped their race to revive a guy who passed out. The medals were crazy huge, and I felt like Michael Phelps walking around with all my bling. As I kicked back with Bennett (who finished in an impressive 6:42) and his friends and family, we all remarked at how polished this event was from start to end. I can see why it's a local favorite, and suspect many more will be coming next year!

(Plenty o' bling, and a check for 500 bones!)
(The Sigl family helps Tyler with his fastest Wisconsin runner award)
(What can I say? Chicks dig a guy with medals)
I have always enjoyed using the trail running Series like USATF, Montrail, Skyrunning, etc., to expand my geographic experiences, and when it turns out a gem like the Fall 50, I am nothing but smiles. My thanks to Sean Ryan and his amazing crew of volunteers, the people of Door County 'Sconsin, and my fellow runners for putting on a fantastic race. This one is WELL worth the trip, and I highly recommend it!

- SD

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