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!)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Registration for the 2019 Boston Marathon Begins On Sept 10th

Planning to be at the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15th, 2019?

Registration begins in a few days on Monday, September 10th. Mark your calendars!

The race will once again follow a rolling registration, based on a qualifying time run since September 17, 2017:
  • Monday, September 10 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 20 minutes, 00 seconds or more. 
  • Wednesday, September 12 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 10 minutes, 00 seconds or more (if space remains). 
  • Friday, September 14 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 5 minutes, 00 seconds or more (if space remains). 
  • Saturday, September 15 - Registration closes at 10:00 p.m. ET. 
  • Monday, September 17 - All qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard (if space remains) may submit an entry. 
  • Wednesday, September 19 - Registration closes at 5:00 p.m. ET. 
If space remains after this initial period, then on Monday, September 24 registration will re-open to anyone who meets the qualifying standards on a first come, first served basis. Registration will remain open until the maximum field size is reached.

Historically, you have had to have been faster than your qualifying time by 1:02-3:23 to get a spot since rolling registration has been in place (gets tougher every year!). Let's hope you have a speedy qualifier under your belt for 2017/2018, maybe even fast enough for Corral #1!

I'll be there for sure (#16 for me). Let me know if you're coming to Hopkinton!

- Scott

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Victory at the 2018 San Francisco Double Marathon

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining ~100 ultrarunners for the two-sided fun of the 2018 San Francisco Double Marathon. I say “two-sided” because this race has a unique way of showing you two completely different views of this great city while essentially being the exact same course. How, you ask? Well, you start with the first loop of the SF Marathon course in reverse at 11pm (among full traffic and drunken partygoers), then after a short break, take over the city with 23,000 runners for the official SF Marathon at 5:30am. Same course, but two wildly different experiences! 

(Me with Dean Karnazes, the man who started this crazy race)
Dean Karnazes has invited me to this run for years, when it started as an unofficial double with his Krazy friends. In 2015, it was “legitimized” as an official race option and has grown in participation ever since. I ran it last year for the first time and instantly understood why so many runners came back year after year. There’s nothing quite like it.

(The crazy SF doublers!)

(Claire Gladstone poses at the start, photo courtesy of Claire)
(This guy was crazy enough to pace the 4:55 group on the second marathon. Now that's confidence!)
(Super volunteer Penny McPhail, aka Chicken Lady)
 I watched the sun set as I drove up, parking near the Ferry Building with more than enough time to suit up and get ready. Dean came running up to the start just in time to hear Race Director Lauri Abrahamsen and Course Director Michael Li give us final instructions (Dean had run 18 miles to the start from his house in Marin, as one does). As we crossed the street to the start area, the SFPD had a completely naked man cuffed and face down on the pavement…welcome to the city! We swapped hellos with other runners, and found out there was a pretty good mix of returning athletes, first timers, and a handful trying their first ultra. The weather was an ideal 57 degrees, so with a hoot and holler, Lauri sent us off down the Embarcadero.

(And we're off!)
 Carlsbad, CA’s Stefan Asbock (3rd here last year) set a blistering sub-7 min/mile pace and was soon out of sight, while the rest of us snapped pics of the Bay Bridge and grouped up by pace. My legs wanted to go fast, so within a few miles I was running solo, the RunGo app whispering turn-by-turn directions into my ear as I watched for Stefan in the distance.

 By mile 3, I caught Stefan and we paired up through the Dogpatch and Mission districts. The streets were not blocked off, so it helped to have two headlights to part the sea of revelers on the busy sidewalks. We stuck together through the Haight district, where the cannabis smoke hung in the air with delicious intensity. I hope the aid station is coming soon, I’m getting hungry! But like a total wannabe stoner, I obliviously went right by the aid station.

(The mobile aid station takes care of us, photo courtesy of Michael Li)
 Stefan did find the mobile aid station, so I found myself running through Golden Gate Park by myself. The nocturnal animals lurked everywhere in the fog, including deer, coyote, and what looked like a family of skunk (run away!). A pack of rats devoured a garbage bag so quickly it looked like the bag was rolling down the street, right up until an owl swooped down and picked a squeaking rat from the pack and soared into the clouds, scattering the remaining vermin to the sewers. I’m so glad I did this race – how else would I see the wild side of Park life?
(Raccoons head to work!)
 I refueled at the second mobile aid station (mile 10), with Stefan coming in just as I headed out along the Great Highway. A quick two mile out and back, with plenty of high fives with fellow ultrarunners as we reentered Golden Gate Park and headed towards the Presidio. The city was dead quiet, the streets filled only with the sounds and shadows of my solo running (a great zombie-apocalypse kind of moment). I caught a cool breeze heading up the climb to Baker Beach, and knocked on the window of the mobile aid station minivan (mile 20) where Janeth Siva and Ed Lui got me filled up. They confirmed I was well ahead of schedule (surprise!), and sent me under the bridge.

(Volunteers Janeth Siva and Ed Lui pose with Dean, photo courtesy of Janeth)
(Like angels in the night!)
(Golden Gate at night, photo courtesy of Claire)
 Another coyote tracked along with me through Crissy Field, tag teaming with one more who followed me to Ghirardelli Square. Local escorts! I had no idea coyotes were so plentiful here. Fisherman’s Wharf was, much like last year, the most rats I have ever seen in one place (and a guarantee I’ll never eat at that restaurant). Before long, I reached the finish (3:14:16) and got right to eating fresh meal and changing into fresh clothes.

 I had about a three hour gap before the next marathon started, and spent most of that time eating, drinking, stretching, and moving around. I had learned from last year that taking a nap was a sure way to lock up your legs, so best to stay alert! Stefan (3:33, and with the best post-race chocolate) and Kevin Cochrane (3:49, although with an extra mile, so technically our first ultramarathoner) came in soon after me, and then a steady stream of runners shedding their headlamps and tights for sunscreen and shorts. Round two would begin soon enough!

(Here we go again!)
 At 4:15am, I peeked my head out to the start line and saw nobody. Forty-five minutes later, the Embarcadero was filled with 15,000 runners ready to go! I made it to Corral A just as it left the start area, and slowly warmed my legs up. One…more…lap!

 Lots of company on this lap, with languages from all over the world. As the fog lifted to reveal the Golden Gate Bridge, there were just as many “Vunderbar!”s as “Formidable”s. We squeezed onto the sidewalk (no road closure on the bridge this year), cheering Jorge Maravilla (1st), Alex Varner (4th), and Michael Wardian (10th) as they returned on the other side. There was a fun dirt fire road to get under the bridge this year, and some more trail from the bridge to Hwy 1…trail running rules!

(The Golden Gate Bridge in daytime!)
 My pace picked up considerably as we entered Golden Gate Park (mile 11), the circadian rhythm of the morning bringing me back to life. I passed the 3:45 pace group, then 3:30, then….2:45?!? Oh wait, that’s the half marathoners. (ha, ha)

(Best aid station volunteers ever! Photo courtesy of Claire)
 Once we hit Haight Street, most of us knew the climbing parts were over. Although only 1,200 feet of climbing in total, San Fran has a way to dishing it out swiftly and painfully. I rallied with a few hungry marathoners through the final miles, grateful that the clouds never really broke enough to make it hot. I cruised in to the finish pulled by two sub-3:30 BQ hopefuls, feeling good, and ready for some breakfast.

(There's that finish!)
(Next up, pancakes!)
  The first to greet me as a volunteer saying “congratulations…you won the double!”. I was shocked, by both the win and that they could pick me out of the crowd of finishers. He was happy to oblige my desire for pancakes with a VIP pass, where I got to catch up with repeat marathon winner Jorge Maravilla (and Joaquin!), Alex Varner, and other top finishers, as well as sponsors from Generation UCAN, Air France, and BioFreeze, before heading to the stage for our awards. This race is so official now! The pomp was a lot of fun though.

(On stage for the awards)
(Lots of swag indeed!)
 The official results had me at 3:14:16 + 3:29:38 = 6:43:54 for first, with Stefan Asbock (3:33 + 3:43 = 7:17) in 2nd, and Bradley Fenner (4:01 + 3:50 = 7:52) in 3rd. Twenty-one year old Sadie McGirr (4:25 + 4:38 = 9:03) won the Women’s division. Jorge Maravilla (2:27) and San Francisco’s Bonnie Tran (2:54) won the Marathon, and based on what I heard, a lot of PR’s and BQ’s were clocked.

(Jorge Maravilla for the victory!)
 Once again, a fantastic race experience, and I am already eager to try it again! My thanks to Lauri, Michael, and their ultra crew for helping keep this special ultra alive and thriving, and to Dean for scheming it up in the first place. I hope to see you again soon!

Also a special thanks to inov-8 (kick ass shoes), injinji (52.4 miles and no blisters says it all), and my sponsors for keeping my training on track!

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Day at Mt. Fuji

Halfway through my family vacation in Japan this June, we had the opportunity to experience Mt. Fuji with a few days in the Fuji Five Lakes area. Such a magical place! Here are is a quick photo montage in case you are interested.

(We arrived in June, the tail end of the "rainy season". If you want to hike to the top, best to come in late July)
(The traditional Japanese breakfast is a true feast! Fish, eggs, miso, green up and marinate in the onsen and you're ready for a day on the mountain.)
(The historic Yoshida Trail has goes right to the top of the mountain, and has been a  rite of passage for thousands of years. I woke up at 7am, and didn't see a single person all the way.)
(Yorishiro, in the Shinto religion, are objects capable of attracting and holding spirits (kami). Giant cypress and cedar trees are some of the most sacred, particularly those that are near shrines like 700+ yr old “Taro”, here donning the traditional shiminawa (braided rice or hemp rope) with shide (paper lightning bolts) at the base of the Yoshida Trail up to Mt. Fuji. I was here in a thunderstorm a few weeks ago (a wonderful shinrin-yoku moment), calm and quiet, feeling safe and connected. It has been with me ever since, just a few deep breaths away, like a favorite dream. )
(Taking shelter in a shrine on the way up)
(Later in the day, we took the bus up to the Fifth Station so the kids could check it out. Quinn displayed her prayer skills at the shrine)
(Sorry, kitties back at home...)
(Later in the day, we hiked the "Sea of Trees", the Aokigohara Forest. Those in Western cultures may know this as "Suicide Forest", due to the high numbers of suicides that occur here. There's no creepy vibe here. In fact, when you talk to locals about how Japanese view their focus on the cultural collective and their views on end of life and ties to nature, one quickly understands why it seems fitting.)
(All over Japan, you can find examples of great design and attention to detail. Here a manhole cover is turned into a work of art)
(Christi and Sophie stare down a Mt. Fuji-sized plate of tempura, while we listen to a Japanese singer cover American tunes like John Mayer and John Denver)
There was so much more to this trip, and perhaps someday I'll have the time to put it into words. I highly recommend checking it out!

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