Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Economic Value of Finishing the Western States 100m Endurance Run? About $109.09...

When Jared Hazen put his Western States Endurance Run silver buckle on an eBay auction last week (well earned from his 17:29 14th place finish in 2014), he involuntarily showed us an estimated economic value for finishing the iconic 100-mile foot race in under 24 hours. It turns out to be ~$109.09. That's right, roughly a dollar and some pennies per mile. WTF?!?

Certainly we would agree that every mile of States is worth more than a buck and change. Some (i.e., me) would say it's at least 100x that value, perhaps even a unicorn-worthy 1000x valuation if you fail 9+ lotteries like me (ha, ha).  But if you look at the clearing price of the auction of $519.09, it is a stake in the ground of sorts. The cost to enter Western States is $410. This, of course, doesn't take into account the costs of running a qualifying race, or the less than 5% chance you actually get into the race via lottery with one ticket, but for simplicity let's just call it $410. That means the value is $519.09 - $410 = $109.09. Wow.

That CAN'T be right. It feels discounted, yes? In your gut, does that price feel even close?!? No, it does not, and for good reason. The math here doesn't work due to one primary flaw - it perfectly ignores how that item achieved value in the first place. What we are really talking about is the price of a "unearned" buckle, the equivalent of a Louis Vuitton replica handbag. It denies all the emotional value of pursuing and finishing the challenge for which it was forged, similar to how a knock off does not achieve the satisfaction of being so wealthy you can disconnect from reality and spend ten grand on a fucking handbag. Owning an unearned buckle might SAY what you want, but it actually MEANS nothing. What Jared has actually shown us is little more than the value of hubris. Turns out, it's not worth much at all.

I secretly hope that the auction winner just holds onto this buckle for the day Jared is willing to pay thousands to get it back. A 10x return in five years? It's definitely plausible. Damn, maybe I should have bid on that buckle. ;-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All Terrain...and The Best Mustache In Running

My sponsor, inov-8, put out a great video today called "All Terrain". Some awesome footage, in particular my teammate Peter Maksimow, whom I think has the best mustache in the trail running community. You can't miss him. Check it out...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Analyzing the Accidental PR (2:43:54, 2016 Camarillo Marathon)

Accidental personal records (PR's)...yes, they do happen! No matter how much you plan, train, and taper for a goal race, sometimes a completely different day chooses you right out of the blue. Then, like that line in the play The Producers, you have to ask yourself "where did we go RIGHT?" and solve the mystery.

The 2016 Camarillo Marathon turned out that way for me, when I unexpectedly shaved 35 seconds off my marathon PR to 2:43:54. It was supposed to be a "see where we're at" benchmark race - find a fast course early in the season, go out at PR pace with no specific training, and when I inevitably blow up, it identifies the weaknesses to focus on with an intensity that keeps me motivated (i.e., it hurts so much, you put in the training so that it never happens again). But this time that second shoe didn't drop, so to speak.

In retrospect, the Camarillo Marathon had all the elements of a PR-worthy race:
  • A flat two loop route on the smooth roads of the Southern California coast, known for still mornings in 50-degree weather. 
  • The race has been expertly run by Bill Escobar and the team at Elite Sports Venture County for six years, but is still small enough that there's never a line at the aid stations. 
  • I spent the night at my in-laws house without the kids, wife, and dogs, thus a rare seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. NEVER underestimate good sleep!
  • I've found that a race scheduled in the first half of January has a wonderful subconscious way of discouraging 3rd helpings of holiday pie and beer (well, pie anyway). 
  • My running was unstructured for December, but in looking back, it ended up being a lot of "long run followed by 1-2 rest days". I suspect the added rest helped.
I also had the benefit of a great pacer, past winner Angel Echevarria from Los Angeles, who just happened to go out at a 6:05 min/mile pace (just out of my PR range) and evenly split the first 22 miles. I wasn't wearing a watch, but in retrospect, shouldn't have been surprised to see 2:40's on the finish clock in the final mile.

The weather did turn out to be perfect, just cold enough we all wanted to get going, and I lined up with ~130 runners for the marathon (another 200 in the half to start later). They gave us a "1, 2, 3..." (but no "GO"), and it wasn't until somebody pointed that the clock was running that we all hollered and took off down the bike path. Too funny! The first marathon of the year had begun.

By the first mile marker, I settled in with Angel, who effortlessly stacked 6 min/miles with his long strides. We traded a few English/Spanish greetings, but mostly just enjoyed each others company as we distanced ourselves from the pack. Angel had the grin and energy of a runner recently back from injury (he ran a 2:36 marathon in November after taking most of 2015 off), and mentioned the Los Angeles Marathon in February was his focus. He was the perfect rabbit. "Operation Blow Up" was well on its way, and I nervously exhaled knowing what was prescribed to come.

The miles ticked off quickly as we circled huge polygons of crops, the edges so long and straight, one would swear they go on forever. I focused on my form, relaxing my shoulders and chuckling to myself that an "Angel" was guiding me through this sleepy town. The monotony of our rhythm was hypnotizing, soothing, and the silence only broke for the occasional car or shout of encouragement from the field workers. It was a great way to clear the mind for the New Year. I finally trading the lead around Mile 10 (59:27 as Strava would tell me later) just to change things up, but by the turnaround (1:19) Angel was setting the pace once again, smiling ear to ear.

The course was full of half marathoners on our second lap, and everyone was in good spirits as the day warmed up to the high 50's. The Marathon Maniacs were out in force, no surprise, and the local running groups had pacers for everything from 1:30 to 4:30 hour finish times. Volunteers were awesome...what a great little race! It wasn't until Mile 20 (2:03) that I started to get some niggles, mostly in the form of twitchy calves and a foot cramp. That usually means I need some hydration, so I walked an aid station to gulp down a couple of cups, and in doing so allowed Angel to gap me by 20 seconds. But as we headed down the long stretches, slaloming between the half marathoners, I calculated that we were roughly still going at the same pace.

At Mile 24 (2:30), I got light-headed and had to downshift (Strava later would say to a 6:24 min/mile). This is not an unusual thing for me, and typically means I either wasn't getting calories in (but I was in this case) or hadn't clocked enough 2+ hour long runs (probably it). But the wheels weren't coming off yet, so I kept at it, walking one more aid station to get some water on my head. Angel got a little closer, but his form was still solid, so I suspected he knew he had nothing to worry about.

Angel had a city block on me as we entered the final stretch, and I saw the finish clock saying 2:43:40 and yelled out a "WTF?!?". With a little extra turnover, I got under the banner just in time for a 2:43:54 and 2nd overall. Yeah! Funny how that "3" on "2:43" suddenly means everything. I thanked Angel for pulling us the whole way, and he had nothing but hugs for me when he heard the letters "PR". As we ate pancakes and cheered in the runners, Angel said "you come back next year and we'll do a new PR for 2017". Love it! He is an Angel in every way.

(Thanks for the new PR, Camarillo Marathon!)
A few days later, my soreness was pretty even across my glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors, so there wasn't any specific indicators of weakness. As a 46-year-old, one always wonders if this is the year of the inevitable slow decline, but apparenltly that's a big HELL no. Time to crank up the training a notch for 2016!

Thank you Bill Escobar and team for a great race, and helping me get that Corral #1 bib number back for Boston (hopefully). I hope you all had a great start to the New Year!

- SD

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Looking Forward to Racing in 2016!

0101...the ultimate binary day of renewal. Time to pull up that spreadsheet of 700+ races that will take a lifetime to check off, and force progress with the annual race calendar! Man, I love this time of year. Few things anchor a life of adventure like a packed race schedule (see '06'07'08'10'11, '12'13'14'15). It is my recommitment to a core passion that endlessly fuels my optimism and serenity. Proof that I chose to live IN this world, not ON it. It is, in all honesty, the drunk-dial equivalent of online race sign ups that defines and solidifies the character that is me, against all odds and curve balls that reality will conjure. Sorry about that, Mark (Mark Gilligan, founder and genius behind who is forced to work 24 hours/day every New Years Day), but as is the case with thousands embracing the binary simplicity that is 1.1, I HAVE to throw down in the first 24 hours to make it stick. That is the gift that you give, Mark, and one that makes Santa Claus himself say " THAT is spreading the love".

So here we go...

2015 was an epic year of exploration for me, so it will be a tough act to follow. It delivered mountains and trails everywhere from Texas to Hawaii to Switzerland to South Africa to Italy, and filled my Facebook feed with new multilingual friends from across the globe. I raced distances from 4 miles to 100 miles, mixed up trails and road and mountains (360k vert for the year!), picked up a few AG national titles and one new PRmanaged to get hit by a deerfound one of my heroes face down on a trailwelcomed another hero to my backyard, pranced among naked people with my 9-year-old (my biggest hero!), outed myself as a stoner, and met a long lost trail running family member just in time to share his last few days before dying of cancer. My life mantra is "live life to have good stories", but damn, set the bar seriously f'ing high. In retrospect it was a little too much, which in my mind means it was absolutely perfect. Can't ask for much more than that.

So, 2016, what do you have in store for us?!? So far, it looks like this...

Camarillo Marathon, 1/3 - This is a local race near Santa Barbara that is flat and fast - perfect to try and lower my 2:48:50 Boston qualifying time before the 2/1 deadline. Gotta get that sub-1000 race number back! Funny how ego and vanity can take you to new levels, but doing so continues to raise my game at the ripe old age of 46, so I'm going to feed the beast and cross my fingers. This strategy worked well in 2015, and in retrospect it's largely because a "fast race" in early January keeps me a bit more honest through the holiday season when the wine and pie is flowing like a Syrian refugee crisis (ohhhh...too soon?).

Mystery Race #1, 2/1-3/5 - One issue with plotting a calendar annually is that I'm not always directly addressing my weaknesses. So this year, I'm going to keep this slot open to see what makes sense for the training, which could be the Napa Marathon/Jed Smith 50k/Caumsett 50k if I need speed, or Way Too Cool 50k/Fort Ord 50k/Montara 50k if I need some hills. Or perhaps, just some solid training blocks like a good coach would recommend if I actually had a coach. Phew! I feel better already.

Marin Ultra Challenge, 3/12 - Of all the races in the Marin Headlands, Inside Trail Racing (ITR) puts on one of the best with the MUC. I'm back on the ITR team for 2016 (WAA-HOO!) and it appears nearly all 15+ of the team members will be present for this one. Once again, the honor of having my ass handed to me by elite teammates the likes of Gary Gellin, Bob Shebest, Sam Robinson, Craig Shmidt, Erik Sorenson, Jennie Yeaman, Danny Metz, Kim O'Donnell, Chris Wehan, Luke Garten, Rayna Nelly, Mikey Jimenez, Victor Ballesteros, Chris Vizcaino, and more will prove to be epic!

Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, 4/18 and 4/24 - The Boston Marathon has been my "streak race" (11 finishes), and I just can't get enough of it. The whole race weekend, the history, the people, and the memories...I fear I might be in this one for life. I've got a handful of new friends doing it for the first time, and am thrilled to show them the ropes. And, per usual, it leads to the logical question of "should I also do the Big Sur Marathon six days later", which is a big HELLZYA (ultrarunners say "Awww, yeah"). B2B Challenge #7, let's do it!

Mystery Race #2, 5/1-6/5 - What does the training need to fine tune for my 'A' race in June? Hills, heat, distance, speed, etc??? There are plenty of races to choose from this time of year (Miwok, Quicksilver, Silver State, Cayuga Falls, etc.) but I think it will be best to make this choice on the fly. I only mention it here so that on the rare occasion my wife is reading one of my blog posts, she will know I'm going to disappear for a weekend, and yes, you can cash in your get-away weekend equivalent.

The Dipsea Race, 6/12 - As I shared trail running stories with my great uncle Ray Morris in his last few days on the planet, it was The Dipsea Race that captured his heart. In our last conversation, he handed me his 17 finisher medals and asked me to run this iconic race in his honor. Absolutely, Ray, will do and the honor is all mine. Whether I'm officially in or not, I will run the Dipsea on 6/12.

Western States 100m, 6/27 - Thanks to Scott Roberds and the generous folks at WS100 sponsor Microlumen, I'm returning to States!!! The race that has captured my imagination and tortured me through a decade of lottery losses, and once deliver the most impactful spiritual experience of my life. It is by far my 'A' race, if not the mother of all 'A' races, and I'll do what it takes to get a silver buckle this time. It could be another decade before I return, after all!

Sierre-Zinal, 8/14 - Of all the places my family has travelled, few have gripped us like the mountains of Switzerland. Before we even ended the last trip to the Jungfrau Valley, we were plotting our return. My globe trotting parents-in-law chose it for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, and it just so happens the iconic Skyrunning race of Sierre-Zinal lands right in the middle of the trip. Nice! A 30k race with 5k vertical...should be amazing.

Headlands 50k (USATF Trail 50k Championships), 8/27 - I complete screwed up this race last year thanks to no sleep and a redonkulous work travel schedule, but it has all my favorite sections of the Marin Headlands. Let's try again!

Lake Padden Half (USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships), 10/14 - I threw this Washington-based race on the calendar at the last minute in 2015, and was SO glad I did. Expertly run, very challenging with both fast and hard-climbing sections, and the fastest pack of runners to push you that one could possible conjure. I am really looking forward to coming back.

California International Marathon (CIM), 12/4 - Yeah, it's on the schedule AGAIN. And the probability of doing it, or any race that weekend for that matter, is practically zero. It's a California bucket list race for sure, so I keep putting it on the schedule (and paying $50 each year to defer). But every time I have inked this on the calendar, Christi pulls out her mega-ink-killing-eraser and asks me to cancel it so she can go on a trip with a girlfriend. Does she miss her friends that much? Yeah, she does. And quite honestly, she does "friends" better than anyone I know so I need to respect that. Perhaps because she is tired of me disappearing so many weekends for long-ass family-unfriendly races? Um, yeah, I'll have to give her that one too. Does she deserve it? Of course she does (and more), so I'm happy to cross out a race if it means that much to her. I'll have to admit that I kind of secretly love the whole "no, no...I'll just cancel my PASSION for you, because I love you" power exchange we do each year. When we draw the line in our family, SHE holds the chalk, now and forever. So here you go...a race to eee-race in a glorious dust cloud of family life balance.

Phew! I'm already exhausted and exhilarated. How about you? What races will pull you to your best this year? You deserve nothing less than something epic.

Happy 2016!

- SD

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