Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trails In Motion Film Festival Coming to Sunnyvale, CA on Aug 7th & 14th

The Trails In Motion Film Festival is returning to California! On August 7th and 14th at 6pm, Robert Rhoades and the BayTrailrunners will host this fine collection of trail running-related films on the big screen at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale, CA. Tickets are selling quickly - you can get yours at UltraSignup.

I attended the Trails In Motion Film Festival in Ithaca, NY, a few weeks ago and it is truly a blast! Each of the 11 short films/documentaries present an intimate glimpse into our beloved sport from all over the globe, whether it’s Spanish trail running champion Emelie Lecomte setting an FKT on the GR20 in Corsica, a new mountain ultra in Borneo, Scott Jaime’s eight days of insanity on the Colorado Trail, Kilian Jornet running five races on five continents, getting a taste of daily life with Tony Krupicka in the Flatiron mountains, some of the best time-lapse footage of Hardrock you’ll ever see in Race Across the Sky, following Krissy Moehl through the Zion Traverse as she sets an FKT, and more. The personalities shine, the scenery is inspiring, and the films are all beautifully produced. It quickly becomes clear that “our people” are everywhere and making the world shine.

I will be playing host with Magdalena Boulet and Dylan Bowman on August 7th, while Victor Ballesteros and Bree Lambert will be your guides on August 14th. Bring a trail running friend or two! I hope to see you there. Get tickets while they last!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Do's and Do Not's of Running Your First Marathon - The Latest Gold from The Oatmeal

If you aren't already familiar with The Oatmeal (of BLERCH fame), you should check out Matthew Inman's comic genius for runners. His latest, the Do's and Don'ts of Running Your First Marathon, has some classic insights. Here are a few of my favorites:

(Read that commentary on the photo order site...so true!)

Be sure to head to The Oatmeal to see all of it, and check out his upcoming book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run, now available for pre-order.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Self-Sensing Cups...The Future of Hydration and Calorie Tracking?

The latest entry in the quantified self industry goes beyond your basic health tracking, and begins to understand the things you are eating and drinking. Take a look at Vessyl, a cup that can sense what is inside of it, including calories, protein, fat, sugar, sodium, caffeine and more. How handy would this be for endurance events like ultrarunning? Well, maybe not in it's current incarnation, but still.

Well okay, it's $199 for a cup ($99 if you pre-order now), so maybe not for everyone. But I can't help but nerd out on where this kind of technology could be in 3-5 years. Just to keep me off the 2x caffeine gels all night in a 100-miler would pay for itself. ;-)

Interesting fact - according to the National Health and Nutrition Education Survey, beverages are the number one source of calories for most adults. Here I thought it was just us athletes!


Monday, June 02, 2014

The Delicious Cayuga Trails 50m of Ithaca, NY (USATF 50-Mile Trail Nat'l Championships)

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of joining 280+ ultrarunners for the 2nd annual Cayuga Trails 50-Miler in Ithaca, NY. This gorgeous race put on by Race Director Ian Golden and the team at Finger Lakes Running Company was the 2014 USATF 50-Mile Trail Championship, and with 10,000+ feet of climbing through steep gorges and waterfalls, would prove to be a worthy test to both elite runners and first-timers up to the challenge. Thanks to some great weather and awesome volunteer work, we had a blast!

(The amazing trails of Ithaca, NY)
The whole week was a blast, actually, thanks to the local Ithaca Festival that filled the town with food, music, and plenty of athlete-oriented events tacked on. Yassine Diboun and the troupe from Animal Athletics held training and intro sessions throughout the week, and the Ithaca Beer Company happily created a special Lucifer's Steps IPA just for the Cayuga runners. If that wasn't enough, Ian lured the Trails in Motion International Film Festival to show the day before the race, filling the local theater with trail running enthusiasts for nearly three hours of big screen nature ambrosia. The whole vibe of this weekend was perfect - really laid back, lots of fit and friendly people, and plenty of appetite for adventure. By the time race day came, everyone was pumped!

(Krissy Moehl shares a bite at the Ithaca Beer Company with Iain Ridgeway, a recovering Cassie Scallon, Dominic, Yassine Diboun, Ben Nephew, and Chris Vargo)
(Matt Flaherty samples the Lucifer's Steps ale with a fellow runner) 
(Race Director Ian Golden [center] shares some last minute tips)
(Trails in Motion hosts Matt Flaherty and Krissy Moehl get ready to introduce the seven trail running films)

There was a seriously fast crew here on race morning, including USATF 50-Mile Road Champion Matt Flaherty (2nd here last year), Way Too Cool 50k winners Chris Vargo and Magdelena Lewy-Boulet, the amazing Krissy Moehl, fellow Team inov-8 members Yassine Diboun (5th here last year) and Ben Nephew (7th), speedster Iain Ridgeway, Brian Rusiecki (4th here last year) and Amy Rusiecki (3rd here last year), and enough fit and fast locals to keep everyone honest. A few required course modifications pushed the vertical from 8,500 ft to 10,000 ft+ this year, so it was going to be tough for anyone to touch Sage Canaday's 6:47 course record, but RD Ian assured us there was more runnable terrain than last year. The morning weather was perfect, and it was going to warm up to the high and humid 70's by the afternoon. At 6am, we were off!

(Zachary Ornelas, Ben Nephew, Matt Flaherty, Yassine Diboun, Chris Vargo, Tim O'Shea, Dave James, and Michael Owen line up front)
(RD Ian Golden is ready to roll, while Richard Bolt and some photo-hungry runner take snaps, photo courtesy of Ron Heerkens)
(Ashley Moyer gets some company on this run - new hubbie David Lister)
(Amy Rusiecki is just two weeks off her last 100-miler, but joins with friend Kristina Folcik to give it a go)
(And we're off!)
(Runners are on course! Photo courtesy of Richard Bolt)
(Four big hills, two times)
We all charged up the first hill, meandering along the grassy trail until we hit single track to the first aid station (mile 3). I was doing my best to keep an easy pace which wasn't difficult with all the amazing scenery. At this point in the season, I'm fit but not peaked, so reigning in the horses takes conscious fortitude. Luckily Robert Treman Park offered plenty of waterfalls and swimming holes carved into unique layered stone to keep my brain occupied. C'est formidable! I did take a wrong turn while watching the view once - better watch out for that.
(Just a few feet of pavement, and we were off into the grass)
(Steep but runnable single track)
(Okay, maybe not so runnable)
(One of the many amazing waterfalls)
(That swimming hole will look awfully nice in the afternoon)
(Matt Flaherty and Chris Vargo share the pacing early on)
(Magdalena Lewy-Boulet leads the women through a creek crossing, photo courtesy of Ron Heerkens)
With so much varied terrain - stone steps, dirt, grass, creek crossings, steep ascents and descents - I opted for the new inov-8 Ultra Lite 280's, a 2014 shoe with a bit more cushion, paired with my favorite Injinji compression socks. Despite my eager packing of drop bags, I somehow forgot my handheld water bottle and had to do a little improvisation. It actually worked really well! Good 'ole duct tape.

(The latest lightweight handheld, brought to you by Duct Tape!)
The aptly-named Lucifer's Steps were tough going down, and given that this is a double out-and-back course, we would be destined to curse them multiple times. But one glance to the left and all was forgotten - there's just too much beauty to not be smiling!

(Lucifer's Steps)
(they just keep going!)
(But what a view!)
(Lucifer Falls)
(Matt Flaherty and Chris Vargo cut through the glades, photo courtesy of Richard Bolt)
The creek crossings seemed fairly minor until we hit the Underpass aid station (mile 6), then immediately went into thigh-deep water. Not a lot of complaints though - it was good to cool the legs before the next steep climb. I paced along with a soon-to-be-father, already aglow with anticipation of a new daughter arriving within weeks. His positive vibe carried me all the way to Buttermilk Park (mile 9), where we ran into the leaders already headed back. Chris Vargo and Matt Flaherty were pacing a tight group of five runners, with 3-4 more within a minute back. Magdelena Lewy-Boulet was a few minutes up on a hard-charging Krissy Moehl, and both were moving nicely. All of them made it look so easy - I couldn't believe they were already 20 minutes up on us just 14 miles in!

(Crossing the fields at the top of the climb)
(Chris Vargo paces the lead pack)
(This trail gets crazy fun in Buttermilk)
(Ben Nephew holds steady onto 6th place)
I ran along with PA masters runner Joel Noal, who was wisely keeping a conservative pace, and we soon caught up with California local Bree Lambert. Bree somehow managed to give me a hug while descending (neat trick!) talking about how the last time we ran together was nearly 7 years ago at her first ultra (she's since won a 100-mile national championship, among others). Wow, how time flies! We all cruised down to the Buttermilk aid station (mile 12) and refilled before charging up the most scenic section of all.

(Um, yeah....a little ridiculous how pretty it is)
(Bree Lambert flies down the descent)
(Honestly, CANNOT get enough of these...Ithaca is Gorges [ha, ha]!)
(Over 1,000 steps on this course)
(Bree heads back over the dam)
We caught up with inov-8 teammates Ashley Mosher and Amy Rusiecki in a pack of five, and worked together back to the Underpass aid station (mile 16). I fell twice within 20 minutes, both times due to worrying too much about "getting the shot", and both times cutting up my knees, face, and hand in the unforgiving rock terrain. I figured it was probably best to drop the camera at the aid station and, now that we were 1/3 the way through the course, "get to work". I picked up the pace, but the diesel power of Ashley and Amy kept them a minute behind me all the way to the halfway point (mile 25). The lead pack was spread out a bit more, but everyone was holding their place.

(Brian Rusiecki is moving fast)
(Dave James shouting encouragement with every step)
It was getting hotter now, and a humid hot to boot, so most of us were starting to ask for ice at every aid station. By the time we passed Underpass again (mile 34), every creek crossing was a godsend and worthy of a full body soak. I ran with Willie McBride, the other founding half of Animal Athletics, and we were stoked to see a strong Yassine Diboun cruising down the hill after leader Chris Vargo, Matt Flaherty, and local Tristan Williams. Willie's stories of pacing Yassine at Western States (and his plans to do it again this June) pulled us through a steamy field crossing and down into the cool valley of Buttermilk (mile 41).

(Yassine Diboun kicks into gear for the final push)
(The hills just keep on coming)
(Matt Flaherty tackles Lucifer's Steps)
As soon as I started hiking back up with David Lister, the humidity got the best of me and I pulled aside to unlunch my liquids. Darn! I've never been a fan of this ultra-spiral where you instantly devoid your body of needed liquids, fostering a plink-plink of needling muscle cramps with the ferocity of a coming storm. Then again, no 50-miler ever goes perfectly....as we all know, it's how you recover that makes the difference. I recalled Nick Clarke in one of the Trail Running Festical films saying "I love mountains, and I love suffering in the mountains, obviously" and assured myself there were two sides of the ultra coin and I just needed to flip it back over. I took a few more walk breaks as I caught up on hydration, and soon enough Amy Rusiecki, Ashley and David, and a few others passed me up. But I was ready to get this done, so just started singing "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie (acoustic version, natch) and worked my way up the hill.

(One last push up Lucifer's Steps)
Cassie Scallon, recovering well from her surgery a month ago, was the super-volunteer and got me loaded up for the final 10-mile push. It was all about cramp control at this point, but I was still running most of it, with far too many glances over my shoulder for any looming Masters athletes. I didn't know any of my competition on this coast, but suspected it was the usual scenario - I was somewhere in the top half dozen, with about half of these guys competing for the USATF title. If there's one thing I have learned about my ultra Masters competitors around the globe, it is this - they have a unique fierceness to them, brought on by a cumulation of life's routine and sacrifice, that can only be remedied by giving it everything they have when grandiose adventure presents itself. Age means nothing when this kind of storm brews inside of you; if I held back anything more than my max effort, these fast and sinewy warriors of old (men and women alike) would secretly pleasure in making me road kill (touché!). I bore down, riding that fine line of disaster and race day suffering with every step, picking up a dozen more spots in the final miles, along with the humility of being passed a few times as well. Before I knew it, the familiar grass descent pulled me home, and I crossed the finish line in 9:37 for 46th place and first in my USATF age group. Phew! I guess it pays to stick to it!

(Chris Vargo crosses the tape, photo courtesy of Richard Bolt)
(Magda claims the win! Photo courtesy of Richard Bolt) 
(Phew! Made it. Photo courtesy of Richard Bolt)  
(Yassine Diboun, Michael Flaherty, Tristan Williams, Magdelena Lewy-Boulet, Krissy Moehl, and Jacqueline Palmer are our winners!)
(The Women's USATF Champs)
(USATF 50-Mile Trail National Champion Chris Vargo relaxes in the shade)
(Krissy Moehl admires Magdelena's "fastest to the top" award jersey)
(It's gold for me!)
It took an hour for my body to stop the Aurora Borialis-like pattern of muscle spasms under my skin, but after a few watered down yogurts and some tender sweet assurances to my body that all was done, I was back to good. What a day it had been! I still couldn't believe how uniquely gorgeous this part of the globe is. I can only hope the photos do credit for Mother Nature's extraordinary local masterpiece. We all kicked back in the shade while RD Ian Golden put on a hilarious award ceremony that included prizes for "worst toenail", "fastest blow up", and "most in need of a new water bottle" (I got that one), all while taking breaks for every finisher still coming in. The sponsors were beyond generous - I'm pretty sure every person who attended walked away with something cool. Once again, the vibe was incredible - "love accretive" was all I could conjure to summarize. This is truly a world class event!

Chris Vargo (6:57 - likely a new CR without the added 1,200' this year) had won, with Tristan Williams (7:02), Matt Flaherty (7:15), Yassine Diboun (7:19), and Ben Nephew (7:29) filling out the Top 5. Magdelena Lewy-Boulet (8:22) won the Women's division, with Krissy Moehl (8:51), Jacqueline Palmer (8:57), Karen Holland (9:04), and a late-charging Amy Rusiecki (9:12) taking fifth. I did manage to win my USATF age group (yeah!), but it was local 42-year-old Tim O'Shea (8:06) that really showed us how it should be done in the Masters group. Still, a great way to start off my running career in M45-49! (all results) National USATF representative Richard Bolt injected a familiar taste of Silicon Valley home turf as he Google Glass pic'd all of us (tweeted instantly, of course).

(Richard Bolt congratulates me and Bree Lambert on our AG wins)
My thanks to RD Ian Golden, his team of volunteers, the great sponsors, and USATF for putting on a simply FANTASTIC race! Everything was flawless, the scenery was world class, and the difficulty and humility of this course easily puts it in my Top 10 ultras of all-time. I highly recommend you check it out - it will challenge you, enlighten you, and put a smile on your face for weeks. Guaranteed!

- SD

Gear checklist:
Team inov-8 Race Tank 
VitargoS2 Energy Drink (x14 scoops)
S!Caps (x4)
inov-8 Ultra Trail 280 shoes
Duct Tape water bottle holder