Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Products I Would Like To See - The Strava GOAT Program

Preface – As part of a continuing series called “Products I Would Like To See”, this article suggests a new program for Strava, a social network for endurance athletes. This is an open exploration of marketing, product, and consumer theory shared simply for comment and conversation, submitted with respect. I welcome all comments! 

 “The quality of a persons life is in direct proportion 
to their commitment to excellence, 
regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” 
– Vince Lombardi 

 How dedicated are you to your craft? That passion you devote to daily, willingly putting in the hard work, and sharing with a like-minded community? If so, what do you believe separates the “dabblers” of your craft from the truly committed?

 And if you are a creator of products and services, do you know who your most passionate customers are? Are you acknowledging and empowering them to help grow your business organically? Or are you just putting your logos on swag and hoping for the best?

 I have the privilege of getting to ask these questions regularly as a marketer and product manager. No matter what the product is – GPS watches, luxury apparel, smart home systems, beauty products, sporting events, cloud storage, frozen yogurt, trail running shoes - the secret to creating a thriving business is to deeply understand the core of customer passion, create features and services that make it easy to build communities around that energy, and listen closely.

 I thought it would be fun to explore “commitment to your craft” for a brand that already helps me connect daily with my community of passionate warriors – Strava. Through an open exploration, perhaps we can better understand ourselves as athletes, and get some tips on how marketers/product managers can organically expand their communities by tapping into passion. Athlete or marketer (or both), I would love your feedback!

 “Finding Your Cheeseheads” – How Membership, Loyalty Programs, and Swag Help Identify Your Most Passionate Customers 

 So how do you identify your most passionate customers? They are likely the ones that use your product the most, but more importantly, are the ones who blatantly show their pride while doing so. They are your “cheeseheads” - a term many marketers use, referring to the great fans of the Green Bay Packers. If you’ve ever seen a Packers game at Lambeau Field, you’ve seen the waves of fans with hats shaped like giant triangular shapes of cheese, cheering loud and proud from kick off to final score. They are the living definition of pride and passion.

(Long live the cheeseheads!)
 Finding your “cheeseheads” is as much art as science, and takes more insight than simply looking at usage patterns or purchases. For example:

  • They may not buy the most, but they will refer to their purchase many times in the months after. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton count on this aspirational quality – most social mentions are about the one coveted LV bag, not from their wealthy customers with a closet full of goodies (who most certainly are driving 70%+ of profits). Mission-driven brands do well here too, with products receiving many mentions long after purchase.
  • They contact customer support to offer suggestions rather than complaining. Customer support call/email records/reviews are one of my favorite places to find passionate customers. You simply have to look beyond the numbers and into the actual content. 
  • They are first to give your company praise. With every new feature or product improvement announcement, passionate customers are the first ones to give your company praise, often acknowledging they “knew they made the right choice” by backing you in the early days. These are your most loyal fans. 
  • They propagate your brand just by using it. How did Lime and Bird grow their scooter businesses to billions in market cap in less than a year? Everyone sees those scooters getting used (with customers generally having fun doing so). Yelp stickers in the windows of restaurants attract more business, and in turn, more reviews. Elite frequent flyers get their own special line to board the plane. Fitbits, Teslas, branded apparel – whether conscious or not, passionate customers do a lot for you just by being them. And most of them are more than happy to talk about it. 
 Once you find your most passionate customers, how do you encourage them to do even more? This is the $64 billion question. There are many potential answers – loyalty programs, membership programs, branded swag, kickbacks (aka, affiliate programs), etc. – but it is just as easy to mess it up as it is to get it right. For example, there are luxury “elite” member programs that offer discounts as a perk for multiple purchases…exactly the wrong thing for a price-insensitive community that prefers personal service and early access to products. I’m sure many of you have used an app that annoyingly asks you to “give us a rating in the App Store/Google Play store” every ten minutes, and find yourself giving a lower amount of stars each time. It is important that you know your audience, and are incenting the behavior that NATURALLY builds your business over the long term.

 If your program is aligned correctly with your passionate customers, it can do far more than just spread the word. Brand recognition increases, customer acquisition and activation gets easier, there is a foundation for re-activating past customers, revenue per customer climbs, and of course, there is tons more data to better understand your customers. It is a powerful tool!

 Products I Would Like To See – The Strava GOAT Program (Now With Limited Edition Swag) 

 For those unfamiliar with Strava, it is a social media application for athletes (runners and cyclists in particular) to share their daily adventures. The name Strava comes from the Swedish word for “strive”, defined as “to make great efforts to achieve or obtain”. Their mission is to search for new ways to inspire athletes to elevate the community, which now boasts over 36 million members in 195 countries. Strava’s primary revenue source is from “Summit” members – those who pay a ~$60 annual fee to tap into advanced tracking, analytics, and safety features.

 It’s a tough challenge to incent passionate customers among an already passionate customer base, but given Strava's built in “loyalty” points (miles, etc.) and membership program (Summit), there is some opportunity. The perfect new program for Strava should do the following:

  • Align with the mission of the company, and help expand Strava’s product offering 
  • Recognize the most passionate of Strava users in a way they can easily share with others (aspirational membership and referral) 
  • Propogate the brand of Strava as a community of passionate athletes to people new to the brand (increase brand awareness, customer acquisition) 
  • Encourage existing Strava users to upgrade to premium (increase activation and revenue) 
  • Be cost effective 

Here’s what we came up with – the Strava GOAT program (now with limited edition swag!). This program takes advantage of a rarely highlighted feature of Strava that tracks lifetime usage, and uses it to identify the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) users of Strava. These are the top 5%, 1%, and 0.01% of Strava athletes in terms of lifetime miles or vertical feet. Lifetime miles/vertical feet is a great metric for tracking the most dedicated athletes out there – you don’t have to be the fastest, you don’t have to be a pro/elite, but you do have to be committed to your craft.

(All-Time tracker from my Strava profile)

 To identify the loyalty levels, I built a crawler to collect some data on ~2,000 Strava profiles with the goal of determining some aspirational (but achievable) tiers. I also checked on some individuals I know to be the GOAT’s out there. I then rounded them into these “brag worthy” achievement levels:

  • Runners (Mileage) – Bronze (10,000 miles), Silver (20,000 miles), Gold (50,000 miles) 
  • Cyclists (Mileage) – Bronze (30,000 miles), Silver (60,000 miles), Gold (100,000 miles) 
  • Runners/Cyclists (Vertical Feet) – Bronze (1 million), Silver (10 million), Gold (20 million) 
 Technically, this is taking an existing membership program (Summit) and extending it with tiered loyalty levels. These tiers are achievable, but only through hundreds (if not thousands) of workouts. The program identify the committed, the multi-year Strava members who stick with their craft.

 So what does one get when a level is attained? Certainly a digital badge, similar to other Strava achievements, but having only a badge might belittle being a GOAT. The real opportunity here is to give GOAT’s limited access to swag and bike stickers. Take a look at the draft design of a GOAT cycling jersey, and the branding opportunity becomes clearer.

When you see a jersey that says “100,000 miles, one rider”, it sounds completely off the charts. Those unfamiliar with Strava will certainly ask about it, and by doing so, learn that Strava is for the most passionate riders. For those that do know the GOAT program, the stripes on the sleeve indicate your level (borrowed from the cycling practice of marking sleeves for former national and world champions) so you can see from a distance. It is swag specifically designed to prompt the right questions about Strava. 

 For runners and riders, it’s not always about mileage, so I would suggest that Strava also track lifetime vertical feet (note this is a new feature request). It gives the mountain lovers a different way to achieve their goal, and also happens to fit the icon of the goat nicely. Probably best that this program also only be available to Summit users too, and have a Hall of Fame list that can be referred to. If you’re a total bad ass, you might go Double GOAT!

 Should Strava give the swag away for free? Stickers for your bike, yes, but not the swag. GOAT’s are putting plenty of time into their craft, and likely would be happy to purchase a unique, high quality shirt or jersey. It’s also a good opportunity to partner with a high-end apparel maker who could also assist with the logistics of shipping to 195 countries, and would also like their apparel brand to be associated with GOAT’s.

 How does Strava benefit from the GOAT program?
  • A brag-worthy (ie, social media ready) program to highlight their most passionate customers. Not only would GOAT’s do it, but likely many vocal customers connected to them. In many ways, Strava would be doing celebrity endorsement at a microinfluencer level. The fact that it is fun to say GOAT makes it that much better, and I think the term is far less divisive than “elite” or “premium”. 
  • Swag that uniquely aligns with the Strava mission, and propagates the brand in new ways. The GOAT’s are out on the road/trail more than any athlete already, so why not use that? 
  • Increased upgrades to premium services (activation). From what I can tell in the data, Summit members tend to follow Summit members, so a program for this community should increase this community. But Summit membership is also required to get the GOAT recognition. Both of these help create a community community worthy of belonging, rather than a club that is too easy to join. 
  • More reasons to communicate with the community. Re-activation, rewards, recognition, user stories…there’s a large foundation here. 
 And what does the passionate consumer get? Cool stuff! More importantly, an authentic recognition of our commitment to the craft. We don’t “need” this recognition, honestly, but it is a great excuse to take a moment and acknowledge our passion. I would happily kudo any fellow Strava member for achieving one of these levels. It becomes one more point of inspiration, which in turn reinvigorates our passion even more.

 So what do you think? Do you know somebody who is a Strava GOAT? If you are a GOAT, would you buy/wear the jersey? I’m pretty sure I would. Let me know your thoughts!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide for Trail Runners (2018)

Got some trail runners on your holiday gift list? Here are a few of my favorite gift suggestions to stick under the tree (or menorah, Festivus pole, etc) including a few new ones for 2018 and some classics that always seem to please. Enjoy!

Custom Otter Pop Kit ($13)

What could be better to hand your runner at an aid station or race finish than a custom Otter Pop popsicle? These bite-sized bags allow you to create your own, and load them full of all the electrolytes and shnacks needed for a hot run. They even come in giant sizes!

Trigger Point Grid Travel Roller  ($25)

If your runner is a frequent traveler, this roller will be a godsend. Nothing tightens up your fascia like a long plane ride, and this travel roller is small enough to fit in luggage, and can also be filled with socks/clothes when you pack to take up minimal space. I've even seen people whip these out in the plane aisles. This gift will definitely get used!

Traxedo ($60)

How casual can you make formalwear? Look no further than the Traxedo, a track suit with penguin like appeal. Available in holiday colors!

Like The Wind Magazine/Subscription ($9-50)

UK runners Simon and Julie Freeman have a labor of love, Like The Wind magazine, that is truly magical. Each issue is a unique collection of long form stories, poetry and art dedicated to "why we run" rather than "how we run". From 5k to 1000k, track to trails, contributing editors, artists, and photographers combine their best work to create a page-turning masterpiece every couple of months. You'll be thanked all year long, for sure.

Life Size Inflatable Foosball Table ($5,000)

Need a fun way to cross-train with your running group? Look no further than the life size inflatable foosball table. Great for team building!

National Parks Annual Pass ($80)

An $80 pass that gets you into 2,000+ national parks? That's a damn good excuse for a road trip. Think of it as a donation and gift all wrapped into one.

Injinji Toe Socks ($10-23)

About twelve years ago, an aid station volunteer looked at my beat up and blistered toes and handed me a pair of Injinji toe socks that changed my life. Over 150+ races later, blisters are a rare occurrence rather than a weekly hassle. This year there are some great new winter designs, available in warm NuWool, Over The Calf compression style, and fancy pink, green, and blue colors. I can never go wrong with this stocking stuffer!

Garmin Mini inReach Satellite Radio ($350)

For your backcountry lovers, Garmin's latest inReach weighs just 3.5 ounces and connects from anywhere in the world with text and voice. This one is a must for the FKT crowd.

Polar Seal On Demand Heated Clothing ($119-200)

Polar Seal is the latest entry into the heated clothing market, offering base layers/hoodies/parkas that can warm you up in ~10 seconds with the push of a button. I like the hoodie option the best, thanks to the heated pockets that allow for quick warming. This is a great one for crew/aid station volunteers!

Apple AirPods (w/EarBuddyz silicon ear hooks) ($150/$12)

I've tried nearly all the headphones on the market, and can honestly say that Apple has flat out "won" with the AirPods. The sound is amazing, and now that they can be paired with the new Apple Watch Series 4, it is a super lightweight package that can be easily navigated with touch or voice. Pair them with the $12 EarBuddyz silicon sleeve, and they stay put in your ear no matter what the speed or weather. 

The all-women apparel and accessories from Oiselle keep getting better and better every year. Few gifts spread #girlpower like letting your bestie choose a favorite.

Forget kettleballs - if you want to throw some weight around, tap into your inner Thor with a sledgehammer or mace from Acme Sledgeworks. Great for both stress relief and deltoids the size of grapefruits.  

Victory Sportdesign Drop Bags ($40-85)

By far the gold standard for drop bags, the Victory Sportdesign Drop Bag is one of those "how did I ever live without one of these" kind of gifts for ultrarunners. They carry EVERYTHING is an easy-to-access design, and look awesome, particularly when you dress it up with custom panels that have your name and race number. There are some new versions this year, including the BEAR III above available in slate blue. An awesome gift for runners and volunteers alike.

Gibbs Quadski ($40k+)

For the runner who has everything (and needs to get everywhere), the Gibbs Quadski is both a Jet Ski and a four-wheeler. No aid station or trail is out of reach with this bad boy!

2019 Tribute To The Trails Calendar ($20-23)

Another "gold standard" trail runner gift, Glenn Tachiyama's visually stunning annual calendar can light up any drab cube or laundry room with glorious visions of west coast trails. This stunning calendar also includes lottery race entries for over two dozen races, and proceeds fundraiser go to the Washington Trail Association, so you know your dollars are going to a good cause. I buy 3-5 each year!

Star Wars Work Out Gear ($180)

Harness the power of the dark side with these great Star Wars-themed kettleballs, medicine balls and more from Onnit. Your inner Yoda will urge you to "complete your training!", and you learn the power of The Force for sure!

T-Shirt Quilt ($250-400)

Tired of your roommate or spouse stacking race t-shirts?  Look no further than the marriage-saving T-Shirt Quilt, which creates a 7x7 (=49) King Size cotton quilt out of old race T's. 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, be sure to order before December 1st for Santa to get it to you on time.

Outside Shower ($800-$5,500)

The mother of all marriage saving gifts is the outside shower, which my wife graciously gave me a few years back. 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?!? Each summer I go 70+ days showering outside only and it is HEAVEN. Well worth it!

A New Running Book ($9-39)

Lots of great new running books out this year, including Sarah Lavender Smith's Trail Running Companion, Emeli Forsberg's Skyrunning, The Roche's Happy Runner Project, Catra Corbett's Reborn On The Run, and Kilian Jornet's upcoming Summits Of My Life. I also consider the fictional book Once A Runner, and the giant picture book Running Beyond by master photographer Ian Corless to be "must haves".

On the Track Prefontaine Necklace ($35)

Steve Prefontaine's sister has original art and jewelry designed to capture the spirit of Pre, all at affordable prices. I heard that it enhances large mustaches and sideburns as well. 

Subscription to UltraRunning Magazine ($29.95)

This is the magazine we all pour over, likely before we even make it from the mailbox to the house, and wonder why there can't be an issue every week. Now with outstanding color, their own national competitions, and the usual awesome reviews, writing, and training/nutrition advice, an annual subscription to UR (now 25% off!) is a safe bet for any trail runner.

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 or Patreon subscription in their name to, 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!

The RinseKit Portable Shower ($90)

If you've ever had to do the quick creek rinse or gravity-powered hanging shower, you know there isn't enough water pressure to get that muck and poison oak oil off your body. Behold the RinseKit portable shower, which provides up to three gallons of pressurized water that can fit in your trunk. You can even fill it with hot water for a mini-shower!

A Coupon Book for a Catered Run (Free!)

Got a friend who is short on time, but long on a need for adventure? We all do! One of the simplest gifts is to give them a coupon book with all the things they need to make it happen - get someone to watch their kids, make an aid station and a map, create a finish line and snacks. and round up their friends to have a once in a lifetime experience. Extra points for a homemade trophy! Easy and super fun.

Got any other suggestions? Leave a comment and let us know!

Happy Holidays! - SD

* Note - I am sponsored by inov-8, Injinji and others. so no surprise I am a big fan of their gear!

Friday, November 02, 2018

It's Lottery Time! Upcoming Lotteries for 2019 Ultramarathons and Trail Races

It's that time of year again...lottery season! With both Hardrock and Western States lotteries kicking off this week, it's time to drop your name in the hat(s) and see if the Lottery Gods will decide in your favor. Here are some of the more popular lotteries in case you would like to give them a shot! 

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, June 29, 2019 (Apply Nov 3-10, drawing Dec 1).

Hardrock 100, July 19, 2019 (Apply Now-Nov 15, drawing Dec 1)

Way Too Cool 50k, March 2, 2019 (Apply Dec 1-10, drawing Dec 12). 

Bull Run Run 50m, April 13, 2019 (Apply Nov 15-Feb 8, drawing Feb 8).

Lake Sonoma 50m, April 13, 2019 (Apply Dec 1-15, drawing Dec 16).

Gorge Falls 50k, April 13, 2019 (TBD due to fire)

Miwok 100k, May 4, 2019 (Apply Dec 1-5, drawing Dec 7)

Massanutten 100, May 18, 2019 (Applications opens Jan 1)

San Diego 100, June 7, 2019 (Apply Jan 1-4)

Mt. Washington Road Race, June 15, 2019 (Apply Feb 11-25, drawing Feb 28)

Badwater 135, July 15, 2019 (Apply Jan 25-Feb 8, drawing Feb 15)

Tahoe Rim Trail 100m, July 20, 2019 (Apply Dec 2-15, Drawing Jan 1). Note that the Tahoe 200m on Sept. 11 has no lottery, and is open for registration on Nov 7!

Eiger Ultra Trail 100k, July 20, 2019 (Nov 5, for last 100 slots in 51k and 100k)

Angeles Crest 100, August 3, 2019 (Apply Dec 3-6, lottery Dec 7)

Leadville 100, August 17, 2019 (Apply Dec 1-31, drawing ~Jan 15)

Waldo 100k, August 17, 2019 (Apply Feb 15-24, drawing Mar 1)

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, August 26, 2019 (Apply Dec 18-Jan 3, drawing Jan 14 if needed)

Cascade Crest 100, August 24, 2019 (Apply Jan 1-Feb 4, Drawing Feb 11)

Wasatch 100 (40th year!), September 6, 2019 (Apply Dec 1-Jan 4, Drawing Feb 2)

Superior 100, Sept 6, 2019 (Apply Jan 1-15, Drawing by Jan 25)

If I've missed any, just leave a comment below and let me know. GOOD LUCK!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Going "Full Ass" at the Inaugural 2018 Whistle Punk Deuce

(The clouds settle into Purisima, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
“Celebrate early and often”. It’s one of my favorite life mottos. Don’t wait for some once-in-an-eon milestone, round-numbered birthday, or Hallmark-designated date on the calendar…if there’s a reason to celebrate, just send the invites and DO IT. Does your neighbor’s dog need a one year and two month birthday party? Hell yes, he does. Break out the sausage balloons and bacon-topped chicken cake, and go off-leash crazy with all your doggy (and kitty!) friends. Is it the five year and three week anniversary of the day you met your current best friend? Then for God’s sake, have some champagne and cupcakes, retell every story with glorious volume and exaggeration, then dance until you pass out. Next week, we’ll add a costume theme and lawn darts, and do it all over again.

Once you decide to celebrate, what is most important (as my 7-year-old, Quinn would say), is YOU DON’T HALF ASS IT. Bring food, brings friends, play games, and don’t stop until everyone is exhausted and sunburnt. Have you ever seen a famous picture of half of an ass? Of course you haven’t. That’s ridiculous. Everyone wants the full ass. It’s so fundamental, even a 7-year-old will disapprovingly shake her head (and booty) if you even try to go, say, three-quarter ass. In the celebration of life’s random chapters, no matter what it is, one must go all or nothing. (Daddy, stop trying to make #FULLASSORNOTHING a thing!)

I suspect Race Directors conjure a similar muse when they scheme up new courses. Robert Rhodes and the Baytrailrunners “Whistle Punk - The Deuce” is a perfect example. I can picture Robert, with his mischievous smile and infinite passion for adventure, routing his deep knowledge of the beautiful trails of the Purisima Open Space Preserve to inspire a vision - “what if we double everything and hit every climb in this park…26.2 miles with 6,500’ of vertical…in the most perfect late Autumn weather that California has to offer…then sit in the sun with snacks and beer and talk about it until the sun goes down, and/or our quads and calves finally stop twitching in endless revolt…”. Epic from the moment of conception, as acknowledged by the hearty volunteers who pony up, and the runners who sell out the race in days. I was lucky enough to be one of them (racing today!), and was ready for a full ass adventure.

And so at 9am this last Sunday, I helped fill the parking lot with ~100 other runners, 35 tackling the 26.2 miles of “The Deuce”, while the rest took on the challenging Whistle Punk Half. It was a perfect weather day – chilly under the redwood canopy, but warm and sunny once you broke the tree line. Thanks to the vertically challenging course, we would all visit these microclimates repeatedly.

(Cruising under the canopy, photo courtesy of Todd Glieden)
I caught up with fellow runners at the start, including the fit-and-always-sandbagging Sean Handel (going for the Half, naturally), Ken Huang (her huge smile as bright as the sunrise), Nakia Baird (Faster Now That I’m A Master), Holly Tate Ross (the Dipsea Crusher), a visitor from Amsterdam, and many locals who had heard the call. My fitness was good, although I had recently taken two weeks off due to a neck injury suffered when taking an awkward fall on the trails (honestly, is there ever a “non-awkward” fall on the trails?). Given my limited range of motion, there would be no photos today (pro photographer Cris Gebhardt would have us covered on this front), but it shouldn’t hold back from a good, smiling sufferfest. Many of us shared an extra long hug and smile in memory of Dennis Connor who recently died in a trail running accident in Switzerland, knowing full well if he were here, he would tell us to count our blessings – good health, good friends, and an excuse to play in the mountains.

(Getting it done! Photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
Robert sent us off with a glorious “whoop!”, and we immediately descended to the Craig Britton Trail that traced above the coastal clouds, dropping us closer and closer to its refreshing grey soup. The trails of Purisima are ideal for running, alternating between the smooth, redwood-protected single track and roads, and some obscenely steep and exposed sections that even the most elite would need to fast hike. By Robert’s design, the first few miles would be the easiest (if you could call any of this course “easy”), and slowly but surely, the screws would turn.

(Sean Handel leads us out, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
(Todd Glieden gets a selfie with the Grabtown volunteer crew)
We climbed up Grabtown Gulch (some of my favorite single track out here), hitting the first aid station (mile 6) and checking off the first of four big climbs. After a long and luscious descent, I found myself running with San Francisco’s Kristin Sellers and Oakland’s Lucy Andrews, both of whom were wise enough to take hike breaks on the second big ascent as they rocked out to their respective tunes. We still have lots of climbing to go!

(Tackling the climbs, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
As we finished the climb and made the turn (mile 13), the volunteers let me know I was in 4th place, with San Bruno’s Ammon Skidmore out front, closely followed by Palo Alto’s Martin Jambon and local speedster Karl Schnaitter. The lead women were all within a minute right behind me - a tight race! Whose soundtrack would be faster?

(Enjoying the shade while it lasts, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
We descended down the crazy steep Harkins Ridge trail (first race to ever go this way!), where Palo Alto’s Rokas Zickevicius went flying by me just before we hit the aid station (mile 17). I fueled up quickly, so regained 4th place as we did a backwards loop back up to Grabtown. I could hear Rokas working hard behind me in the canyon, which kept my posture upright and focused (thanks, Rokas!). It somehow felt steeper in this direction (likely because it was climb #3), but I kept on it, running everything. At the top (mile 20), they reaffirmed my place, but said Kyle Schnaitter was now leading the race a solid 10 minutes ahead of me. Wow, he’s flying!

(Nothing but smiles, photo courtesy of Nathan Han)
The butterflies surfed my tailwind as I headed down into the redwood canopy one last time, their random flight patterns as light as laughter. I often wonder if butterflies wait for us like surfers watching a break. If so, let me be your seventh wave so you can drop big! I leaned into the downhill until my quads screamed, cutting through the still air with proper wave-like nobility. The butterflies replied with glorious carves, fabulous floaters, snaking each other like a den of thieves. These magical moments are everywhere in the forest, forged in presence and play.

(Ammon enjoys some fast single track, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
I broke from the flow to fuel up at the last aid station (mile 21) as the butterflies sallied into the sunbeams. Mother Nature, my love, I crash onto your shore! The sun was coming down through the redwood canopy now, so this last climb would be a hot one. Volunteers Penny and Ramona got me set up with my hot day cocktail of half Coke/half water, and I tore up Whitmere Gulch one last time.

(Me burning through the last climb, photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt)
It was a grind, pushing me to cross-eyed levels in the last mile (full ass!). I drowned myself in the cleansing voluntary pain that we all relentlessly chug, and so few on this planet understand. I crossed the line (4th overall in 4:11:59), and quickly took a seat in the sun with Karl Schnaitter (1st, 3:50), Martin Jambon (3:58, 2nd), and Ammon Skidmore (4:09, 3rd). Rokas finished right behind me (4:12:34, 5th), thanking me for being just close enough he had to keep pushing all the way (Roka, you did the same for me!). Holly Tate Ross (4:17) won the Women’s Deuce, with Kristin Sellers (4:19) and Lucy Andrews (4:25) very close behind. Sean “Sandbagger” Handel won the Half (1:47), with Dara Dickson (2:16) winning the Women’s division. Before long, we were all relaxing on the grass with the volunteers (Trisha, Rob, Karen, Bala, Kristen, Mandie, Lauren, Michael, Susan, Rosa, Nathan, Todd, Greg, and more!), telling tales with beers in hand. It’s not even 2pm, and we have seized this day for all it is worth. This was most certainly a full ass celebration.

(Enjoying some post-race moments with Greg Lanctot and RD Robert Rhodes)
My thanks to Robert and his volunteers for creating “The Deuce”, and executing it brilliantly. In my book, this is already one of the great California “must do” events. I hope to see more of you next year!

- SD

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Forest Fool

I hear the crickets now.

They sing their nightsong with all their might, a volume evolved to ferocious instinctual levels, creating a meditative chorus that waves through the forest. They know their song is magic, and it must be set free, a gospel that creates stillness more calming than silence.

The cool air is sneaking up the canyon, rousing my arm hair to attention, and nudging me the last mile home. There are a few minutes of light left in the high trees, so I pause to wash my hands in the creek and take it in. I’ve run this trail a thousand times, and it’s so easy to miss all that it has to offer.

Now here, on a random weeknight with nothing but time, I catch it all. When you head and heart are open, the turning of the night is a sensual masterpiece.

The gloaming reflects a truth I already know. The world is alive…where have you been? As the seasons pass, we watch you run by, head down in your introspective prison, fictionalizing and rationalizing, solving the world’s woes, and bearing the crosses of others simply because they asked. You are the definition of oblivious, unaware and unconcerned of the heaven around you, even when it contains all the answers and more.

I laugh out loud, splashing in the creek. What a fool am I! A glorious, oblivious fool.

A smile pulls at my cheeks as I let the humility consume me. I stand tall, rooted in the shadowed forest, staring up into the starry night.

The crickets do not pause. They have heard this laugh before. One more welcome voice in their chorus.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Bigger and Faster Field for Boston Marathon Results In Faster Qualifying Times for 2020

Since 2013, qualifying for the historic Boston Marathon has involved two steps.

First, you need to run a Boston-qualifying time ("BQ") based on your age and sex. The BQ standard is no joke - only 10.4% of runners ever clock a BQ time. It's one of the reasons that "getting to Boston" finds its way onto the bucket list for most serious runners at some point in their running career.

Second, you need to register for the race and hope the qualifying time that you ran beat the standard by enough that when they cut off the entries at ~24,000 runners, you have made it in. In 2014, you had to run one minute, 38 seconds faster than your BQ to be accepted into the race. In 2015, it was 1:02 faster. In 2016, it became 2:28, and suddenly the "squeakers" (those who just barely made the cut off) knew a new game was afoot. In 2017, it was 2:09. In 2018, it climbed to 3:23.

For 2019, it was 4:52.

This resulted in the largest number of applicants ever not making the cut off (7,384 of 30,458 total applicants), and an announcement from the B.A.A. that all qualifying standards would be raised by five minutes for all age groups for 2020 and beyond. For men age 18-34 (the fastest required qualifying time), it is now 3 hours flat. Hello, #breaking3 hashtag!

So how did this happen? Are runners getting faster? Well, it likely has more to do with the fact that the pool of applicants is getting bigger. Both last year and this year saw a 7% increase in applicants, well ahead of the typical 4% growth rate the race has seen historically. Qualifying times of new entrants are not noticeably faster, but by the nature of those times being evenly distributed, it is raising the overall cut off time.

Personally, I am excited to see the new BQ standards. Whether it is because more runners are getting serious, or we just have more runners in general, there is a growing global pool of people embracing their inner athlete and a committed healthy lifestyle. That's powerful. That is worthy of applause. My hat is off to all of you!

But I also understand for a lot of "squeakers", or those who have been eagerly pursuing a BQ for years, needing to find another five minutes is NOT what you wanted to hear right now (#finding5, anyone?). My hat is off to you as well. You are equally committed to a healthy lifestyle, you are equally as impressive, and there is no doubt you are doing the hard work. Less than 5% of adults exercise daily, and less than 0.5% of adults will ever run a marathon, so find solace in the fact that you are easily in the top 1% of your species. Don't let an arbitrary standard based on a constrained size of allowed runners on the streets of Boston cast a shadow on your devotion to your craft.

We all have our stretch goals. Perhaps the news from the B.A.A. will make you stretch a bit farther. If you're pissed off, that's great! Recognize the anger for the gift that it is - undirected passion. Then channel that passion proactively - get a coach, make a plan, share your goals with your friends and family and invite them to help, and then enjoy the journey, whether it is Boston or not. If you do that, you are SO winning. And it will feel that way, I promise!

Whatever your journey, I hope to see you on the road, on the trails, or anywhere outside when you are smiling with friends while covered in dirt, sweat, and blood. You know that's where I will be! And if you did make it to Boston for 2019, congratulations! I'll see you there. ;-)

Cheers, Scott

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Smiling Runners of the BayTrailrunners 2018 Whiskey Hill Half/Marathon/50k

There's nothing quite like the first long run of newly-minted funemployment, and to my delight, the BayTrailrunners Whiskey Hill Half/Marathon/50k was in progress! Had I not been focused on making pancakes for the kids, I could have made the start line. Regardless, it meant lots of smiling faces to share my delicious home trails on a perfect early Fall morning. I got a few pics below...

(Out front and feeling good)

(The great volunteers at the Wunderlich aid station)

(First hill done!)

(Rock on, my brother!)

(Working together)

(The pole advantage!)

(Feeling small among the giants)
(Here come the half marathoners!)

(She was flying all day!)


(This kid was crushing all day)

(Among the giants)

(Smiling at the top!)


(Still crushing! Look at this guy drop his Dad (ha, ha)!

(Making gravity work for him)

(Canopy is lush this time of year)


(Stand tall, like the trees)

(Welcome to the greatest earth on show!)

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