Friday, December 26, 2008

The "No Excuses" Guide to Winter Running

Living at nearly 6000 feet in the Rockies it takes some creativity and at times a good kick in the tights to get out the door and run once winter laces her icy fingers throughout the mountains. But, if there's one thing I've learned over the past winters, it's that keeping up a steady schedule of running helps me hit my marks for the coming season. So, I thought I'd share some of the tips and tricks I find indispensable for getting out and running in these dark, snowy, icy, and very cold days of winter.
  1. Forget the excuses and just run. This is by far the weightiest of tips in the list. Excuses can come fast and easy once the salad days of summer trail running slam to a halt. The best thing you can do is simply ignore them, lace up, and get out the door. Of course, if it's blizzarding and dark and you'd be in real peril of being cut in half by a snow plow, maybe a day off or trip to the gym is truly in order. Just don't let it become a habit.
  2. Don't rely too much on the treadmill. Treadmills are great once in a while -- when you just need something different or conditions are just too miserable to get outside safely -- but nothing compares to running on the actual road (or road covered in ice and snow). The challenging conditions and varied terrain you get outside will make those first steps on bare road and dry dirt in spring feel like heaven.
  3. Get some spiked shoes. The best thing I did last winter was buy a pair of Icebug spiked shoes (review). I don't wear them on every run in winter, but when the roads are mostly compact snow and ice (like they are here for the foreseeable future), you can't beat the traction and confidence they'll give you, especially in the dark. Plus, they're a great excuse killer (see tip #1).
  4. Go with water bottles rather than a pack. There is no perfect choice for hydration in winter. When you're running for over an hour with the temperature near zero, things are going to freeze. Having run with both bottles and an insulated pack, bottles seem the best way to go, simply because once the nozzle freezes you can still unscrew the lid and drink your slushy sports drink. With a pack, once the nozzle/tube freezes (and it almost always will at some point), there's no easy way to get at its contents.
  5. Go with less viscous gels. While I've yet to have a gel freeze on me, some of the more solid gels, like Gu, can turn pretty hard in cold temperatures. This makes them hard to eat and hard to squeeze out, especially with numb hands. More liquid gels, like PowerGels, stay pretty soft, even at zero degrees, which makes them much more palatable and easy to deal with.
  6. Get a jacket with a hood. There's a lot to dislike about running jackets with hoods--that is, when you don't need the hood. But, when the snow is flying and you're running into a 15 knot wind when the thermometer reads minus 3, that hoodie quickly becomes your best friend. Personally, I love my full-zip whisper light Patagonia Houdini (review), and I know I'm not alone. For such a lightweight jacket it really performs, and the hood does a particularly great job as a fairing in a brisk head wind, ushering much of that cold air around your face rather than right into it.
  7. Protect your face. When the wind is whipping and the mercury dips well below freezing, it's important to look out for your face. I like to put Kiehl's Non Freeze Face Protector on my ear lobes and exposed parts of my face. It really helps ward off freezer burn, and possibly frostbite, and just makes me feel more comfortable. Dermatone is good too. Plain old petroleum jelly should work as well.
  8. Run with friends. Misery loves company, so find a group of friends as crazy as you are and pick times to run regularly over the winter. It's a great way to stay true to your plan and get your rear end out the door on those dismal mornings. Plus, you'll have great stories to retell on your long summer trail runs: "Remember when all our bottles froze by mile 9?" Good times.
  9. Don't skimp on lighting and reflection. A good headlamp can make all the difference between a good run and a tedious run. Spend a little extra and after the first three runs you'll feel it's already paid for itself. Also, go to town on reflective wear: tights, vests, hats, etc. If cars think you look like the Electric Horseman, you've done things right.
So, that's my list. The key things that get me out the door and on the run during these short, cold days of winter.

What's on your list?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Two New Ultra-Elevation-Gain Ultras for 2009: DRTE 100 & Blue Canyon Trail Race

Joining the elite corps of ultras like Hardrock, Wasatch Front, and Coyote Two Moon that have elevation gains that make many a runner, even an ultrarunner, quake in their Inov-8's, are two new races for 2009: the Dirt Roads and Trail Endurance Ultra Marathon 100 miler (DRTE 100), and the Blue Canyon Trail Race (50k, 50m, 100k).

Both races call Santa Barbara home with near sea level starts that then travel through the stellar coastal mountain range that juts out of the earth not far from the Pacific.

The inaugural DRTE 100 will take place October 2/3, 2009 and boasts close to 35,000 feet of total elevation gain.

The inaugural Blue Canyon Trail Race will take place June 6, 2009 and boasts over 18,000 feet of gain for the 100k (nearly 15,000 for the 50m).

Applications for both open February 1, 2009. Check race sites regularly for developing details.

(Photo by gamillos courtesy of Creative Commons)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Photo Guide to Trail Runs in Sun Valley: Fox Creek - Oregon Gulch - Chocolate Gulch Loop

This installment of the Photo Guide to Trail Runs in Sun Valley details another great close-in run that covers some classic Sun Valley singletrack, with great views of the Boulder and Pioneer mountains and some nice lonely trails (after about an hour of running): the Fox Creek, Oregon Gulch, and Chocolate Gulch loop. Total mileage is about 18 miles with about 3,000 feet of climbing, gathered over a number of moderate length climbs. It's a great go-to run for some decent miles and good vertical. Enjoy.

See all Photo Guide entries.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Photos of Glenn Tachiyama: 2009 Tribute to the Trails Calendar

If we ever question why we do it all -- run for hours and hours and hours no matter what the conditions, no matter how we feel -- the answers are in Glenn Tachiyama's photos. Unlike many of the churn and burn sports photographers on the running circuit, Tachiyama not only sees the poetry of ultramarathoning, he captures it with photos that bring together technical mastery, a great eye for nature, and an understanding of what it means to be an athlete in the middle of an epic effort. At times, his photos even seem to turn the suffering into the sublime, a feat even more impressive given that he often captures images of over 200 individual runners at a single race.

This is all build up to the launch of the 4th edition of the "Tribute to the Trails" wall calendar, which is built on Tachiyama's outstanding photos. The calendar started shipping to stores today (retail $18.00), and a sneak peak is available at:

Outside of some Oregon and Washington running stores, the best the place to find a copy is online at: Zombie Runner. All proceeds from the sales benefit the non-profit Washington Trails Association.

Speed is Safety: Video Tips from Nikki Kimball on Descending

As a prelude to what I hope will be a longer post later this year, here's a neat little video of 2007 Ultrarunning Magazine's runner of the year, Nikki Kimball, sharing some downhill running tips on what appears to be some classic, slick, and technical Pacific Northwest trails. Her basic take-away message: speed is safety.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Be Sure to Taper: 2009 Way Too Cool 50k Registration Around the Corner

The first true test of the 2009 season is drawing close:  registration day for the Way Too Cool 50k. So limber up your fingers, keep your credit card close, and be sure to get a lot of rest.  The 2007 race filled in seven minutes; 2008 filled in just over eleven.   

Online registration opens at 8:00 am PST on Sunday, December 14.  Details will appear on the Way Too Cool website.   

The March 14, 2009 event takes place in Cool, Ca (not far from Sacramento), and is run on part of the Western States 100 trails. Course records are held by Uli Steidl (3:18:17) and Susannah Beck (3:55:22). 

Postscript:  (12-15-08) Scott Dunlap reports 2009 race filled in just under 9 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Video Tour of Upcoming JFK 50

This Saturday marks the 45th running of the JFK 50 Mile race in Maryland, a grand enough occasion for Runner's World to produce a really nice six minute video on the event, which covers its history, route, and general ethos. If you don't know much about the race, like me, it's a great primer. Speedster and current 50 mile national trail champ, Michael Wardian, took the event last year in a very quick 5:50 (6:59/mile). He, as well as 2007 women's winner, Anne Lundblad, aren't on the starter's list for 2008, presumably resting ahead of the big money North Face Endurance Challenge Championships Dec 6.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's in Store for 2009 Race to Robie Creek Registration?

Update: (2-2-09) Registration officially set for February 16, 2009 at high noon (post).

With online registration meltdowns two years running for Boise's popular trail half marathon, Race to Robie Creek (previous posts), anxious athletes are beginning to wonder what's in store for the 2009 event. Pitched as the "toughest half marathon in the Northwest," Robie Creek frustrated thousands of would-be runners in both 2007 and 2008 when the servers at melted down under huge traffic volume. The tie-ups last year were particularly frustrating since race directors had been told by that the problems of the previous year wouldn't resurface. They did, of course, which finally prompted directors to vow that 2009 would feature revamped registration procedures.

The race website isn't yet revealing what the new process is going to be. It could be a lottery, the M.O. for a number of popular trail races these days. Most likely, it'll remain a first come, first served online registration, should an appropriate site be chosen to host the huge volume, like If things track this way, expect the race to fill in a matter minutes.

Registration is looking to be on or around Presidents Day (February 16, 2009) for the April 18 event. More to come as details develop.

(Photo by A.K. Photography used under Creative Commons)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Boost Your Glycogen Stores with a Caffeine Boost? Seems So

If you're like me, and I'm not really sure how many of you there are out there, one of my favorite pleasures following a really long run is a well crafted, high-octane quad latte. And while I've often felt these were wonderful dabbles in excess that did nothing more than reveal my frailties as an athlete -- why else would I need such an energy boost except that I can't handle the distance? -- it turns out they may be exactly what my body needs.

A small but compelling study that came out this summer (and that I read about recently in a column by Monique Ryan in VeloNews) found that a big bolus of caffeine after glycogen-draining exercise can significantly increase the rate at which glycogen stores are restocked in the hours after exercise. Basically, it seems that caffeine can keep the machinery of glucose uptake into muscles well greased over time in the trained athlete.

The study took seven cyclists and had them ride until exhaustion on two separate occasions, about ten days apart. On one of the occasions, they were given standard recovery foods (bars, sports drinks, gels) along with caffeine. On the other occasion, they were just given the foods -- no caffeine. Muscle biopsies afterward revealed that after four hours, the athletes in the caffeine group packed away about a third more glycogen than those in the no-caffeine group. On top of this, the athletes on caffeine had the highest rate of glycogen synthesis ever reported under free-living conditions.

Anyone looking at back-to-back big runs should stand up, take note, and possibly invest in a nice espresso maker.

The one stopper to all of this is the level of caffeine the athletes took in. It was pretty big -- about 560 mg for a 155 pound athlete -- but not extraordinary. A "tall" 12 ounce Starbucks drip has 260 mg. Get a refill and you're pretty much there. How about that quad (four espresso shot) latte? Pretty close, depending on the mix of beans. A Starbucks quad would only be about 300 mg, but some blends can deliver more than two and half times that.

Of course, every athlete's different and caveat, caveat, caveat, but at a minimum, if you enjoy a little caffeine rush after those long runs, it seems there's one more good reason to keep up with it. Cheers.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Drop Bag: How Much Sodium is in Those Gels, Bars, and Pills?

Water, calories, and salt form the grand triumvirate of ultrarunning nutrition. Go off-program with any one of them, and you can forget that PR and may even have to hitch a ride home in the old broom wagon.

This past season, I really tried to focus on my salt consumption and thought it'd be interesting to collapse the sodium content of some common nutrition products into a single chart to get a sense of where things fell (see below). For the savvy runner, there are aren't too many surprises here. Hammer products remains typically low in sodium. Power Gels are the sodium king in their category. And chicken broth/bouillon blows the top off of everything. One real surprise, though, is the newest formulation from Gatorade Endurance, which packs a whopping 400 mg of sodium in a 100 calories serving, easily beating out the other sports drinks in that category.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Drop Bag: PB & J vs. Turkey & Avocado

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich gained a little extra cache' this summer when neo-legend Kyle Skaggs made his sub-24 hour assault at Hardrock powered almost exclusively by gels and PB & Js. Knowing that certain sandwiches have their devotees, I wondered just how the PB & J stacked up from a nutrition standpoint with that other ultra-sandwich mainstay, turkey and avocado.

So with calculator and pad in hand, I hopped on over to the USDA nutrient data base and pieced together on-the-go versions of the two sandwiches. Neither was overstuffed. The PB & J had two tablespoons of peanut butter and one tablespoon of jelly. The turkey and avo had a 1/4 cup avocado, about 2 1/2 ounces turkey (75 grams) and a dash of mayonnaise (1/3 tablespoon).

Not too surprisingly, the two sandwiches stack up pretty well (see table below). Calories, fat, and sodium are basically the same. Where they mainly differ is in the protein and carbs. The turkey and avo has more protein and fewer carbs than the PB & J. The PB & J has more carbs and less protein.

So if you're looking for a decent amount of protein with a great carb boost, the PB & J is a good choice. If you want a bolus of protein with some pretty good carbs, turkey and avo may be the thing. Clearly, one of the most important factors is simply which sandwich sounds good to you at the time, and whichever it is it'll have some good fuel to get you to the finishing line.

(Creative Commons photo by iirraa)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Storm Scuttles English Fell-Marathon and Strands Runners Overnight

This story has had some pretty good play in the media this morning, but this short clip of the conditions at yesterday's Original Mountain Marathon is still worth a watch. Though up to 25 runners were unaccounted for after some hard looking by officials - as the runners sought shelter from the brutal conditions - all have been found safe and sound as of this morning, if a little cold, wet, and tired. Kudos to those who toed the line, showing true ultra/fell running chutzpa.

For a collection of media coverage of the story, visit

Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo Guide to Trail Runs in Sun Valley: Adams Gulch Trail - Harpers Loop

Although I should probably be resting my knee more than I am, I also feel some urgency to get some time on the local singletrack before things shut down for the winter. So, this morning I headed out on one of the classic loops in the Adams Gulch area near Sun Valley, Idaho: The Adams Gulch Trail -- Harpers loop. Although mileage estimates seem to vary a bit depending on who you ask, careful totalling from a 2005 Adventure Map put it at about 17 miles (including the Sunnyside and Lane's spurs, see below), with about 2500 feet of climbing.

I also used the run to pilot test a new feature for Run Junkie: photo guides to the Sun Valley area's best trail runs. Inaugural effort below (or click for full size photos/slideshow).

See all Photo Guide entries.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are There Risks From All That Vertical? Maybe

Life may begin at 10,000 feet for many ultrarunners, but it looks like the brain may begin to slowly break down somewhere above 14,000 feet. A recent, small study in the European Journal of Neurology (abstract) showed that experienced high-altitude mountain climbers had subtle, detrimental changes to brain anatomy that controls motor skills after trips to Everest and K2. And while results of neuropsychological tests given to the climbers didn't change before and after their summits, a pretty big percentage of the climbers--all of whom had at least 10 years' climbing experience--actually "failed" the tests, meaning they didn't meet the low-end cut off for normal.

What does this all mean? It's hard to say given the very small sample size of the study, but with ultramarathoners' propensity to go high and go long, it'll give our friends and family even more evidence that we really aren't quite right in the head.

(photo by e.berg used under Creative Commons)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Low Miles. Big Week

I only ran three times this week, but it seemed like a big week nevertheless. First, I finally saw one of the great, athlete-focused physical therapists here in town about the nagging pain in my right knee, which just hasn't been getting better despite a pretty easy training schedule since Teton August 30 (previous post). His diagnosis was much better than the degenerative joint disease I'd feared: simple tendonitis likely caused by my "impressively" tight hamstrings and only mildly more flexible quads. The prescription: some easy running and a regular series of three stretches. Having worked with my kind before, he knew anything above a "Keep It Simple, Stupid" routine would never find purchase.

So far (now all of 5 days in ), I'm adhering to the plan, and although the stretching seems to be irritating things more than resolving them, I'm going to have faith that things will turn favorably over the next number of weeks. After all, he's helped athletes an order of magnitude more accomplished and injured than I.

Second, AJW and I got out for a fantastic 18 mile autumn run through Fox Creek, Oregon Gulch, and Chocolate Gulch on Sunday. The weather was ideal, the scenery spectacular, and the conversation, as always, entertaining. With frigid temperatures and snow upon us any day, runs like this are just gravy before a long winter of logging miles on icy pavement. They also remind me how lucky I am to live in an area filled with amazingly close in -- yet quickly remote -- backcountry trails and that's populated with a small, but fervent group of accomplished ultra runners (author excepted).

Finally, I had an epiphany about the '09 season around mile 10 during that Sunday run, thanks to some great and insightful conversation with Mr. Jones-Wilkins. My plan's been to try my first 100 miler next season, but I've been in a quandary over which one. They seem either front-loaded in late spring/early summer--where it can be hard to get the training miles because of the snow-pack here in the mountains; or they're back-loaded in late summer/early fall--where, frankly, I worry about training motivation, since my season's starting early with the Coyote Two Moon 100k in mid March.

Banking a bit on a lighter snow year than 2008, I made the decision to try to parlay my fitness from Coyote into an early season attempt at the Bighorn 100 in late June (assuming I can get in). Knowing myself and seeing how my motivation drained a bit in August this year, it seems like I should tap into that early season verve where you're often just thankful to be running on dirt rather than ice. That I'd be able to get in some big runs on Fridays while my boys are in school also assuages some of the concern about sending my wife over the edge with big runs on both Saturdays and Sundays, leaving her too often in solo survival mode with our banshee boys for hours on end.

To tempt fate (and my wife) even more, I'll probably put my name into the Wasatch lottery as well, just in case Bighorn goes well (or for that matter horribly wrong).

Of course, this all depends on the health of that nagging knee. But if I've learned one thing from my experienced running buddies, it's that good seasons begin with good planning. And you adjust as you need to. I'm beginning to get excited about the prospect of it all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On the Run: Vorberg Gulch in Pictures

Left without a camera on each of the most amazing runs of the past season, I vowed to not let it happen again and finally replaced our broken point-and-shoot with a Panasonic Lumix FS5 from Costco. Ten megapixels with a classic Leica 30mm lens, it's nice enough to take good photos but light enough for the long haul and cheap enough to not feel a horrible loss when it breaks on a good tumble.

I took it out for a test run this morning on the local Vorberg Gulch--Carbonate loop, a great eight mile run with about 1200 ft of climbing that feels remote but is basically right on the edge of town. Developing technique notwithstanding, it seems like it'll be a great camera to chronicle those epic backcountry runs of '09 and beyond.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the Run: A Warm Bottle Morning

You'd think coming within twenty yards of a snowy-racked bull moose or even passing a deer hunter on one of the most popular hiking/running trails here in Hailey would have been the red-letter event of my Friday 17 mile run. But, neither of these could quite beat out filling my bottles with warm water that morning, which I did haltingly since it seemed to truly put an end to the '08 season and begin the concatenation toward -10 degree, pitch-black snowy morning runs.

Two hours later, though, as my bottle valve started to freeze on the wind-blown Carbonate ridge, I knew it'd been the right move, even with all the baggage that went with it.

(Depiction of moose encounter by Cash Dart, age 6)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

RJ Review: Inov-8 Roclite 320

The leaves are falling, and it's just a few short weeks (days?) before snows blanket all the backcountry singletrack that has defined running life the past six months -- which is one way of saying time is short to really stress test some new shoes before the dark, cold days of winter.

One such shoe I've really been putting through the paces this late season is Inov-8's Roclite 320 (retail $94.95). Inov-8 is a UK-based company that has made its name producing stripped down, responsive mountain-running shoes with aggrevise soles and low profiles. Lacing up a pair of their light trail shoes (like the Flyroc 310 or the Mudroc 280) requires a bit of re-education of expectations. They don't strike the ground like most people are used to and can be a rough ride at first, leaving you with sore ankles and knees, but those who can work past such things are rewarded with a nimble shoe that can descend like no other. Admittedly, though, these stripped down flyers aren't for everyone, especially those who find themselves running a mix of trails and roads.

And it is for these folks that Inov-8 seems to have developed the Roclite 320. If the Asics Gel Nimbus and the Inov-8 Mudclaw 280 married and had a child, this shoe would be it. While it has the extra cushioning and substance of a fairly chunky road shoe, the Roclite 320 maintains the Inov-8 lightness as well as the aggressive sole and low profile that make ready work of rocky trails and gnarly descents. The solid toe bump protection of the 320's is extra gravy, especially for those of us who make a habit of jamming our toes into any and all manner of rocks on the trail.

The major drawback of these shoes is the stiffness. Although the sole is pretty much the same as those used on the lighter, very flexible Inov-8's, when it's integrated into this beefier incarnation it gets a tad inflexible. This makes them not quite as responsive, and not quite as fun, as they could be. And I found on very steep downhills the stiffness made my feet slosh forward more than normal, even after repeated tweaks to the lacing.

One minor (and purely cosmetic) drawback of the 320's is that they lack that inimitable Inov-8 style. While they certainly aren't ugly shoes, they don't have that engaging, new paradigm look of the rest of the line.

The bottom line: If you're looking for a light, responsive trail running shoe that is great on descents and can do some comfortable road miles, give the Roclite 320's a try.

More shoe reviews on Run Junkie (shoe reviews).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Relax, Just Do It

As I write this my stomach is starting to cramp.  It's not from anxiety about tonight's vice-presidential debate, the financial meltdown, or even the five slices of pizza I just ate.  No, what it's from is the simple thought of my recent DNF at the Teton 50 from stomach issues.  And while I believe a lot of the problems I had at Teton arose from some sort of mild stomach bug, I also believe that my inability to relax in the days before and during the race certainly didn't help things. To whit, my current psychosomatic gastric cramps.  

So, it's no wonder that I read with relish this morning Gina Kolata's piece in the New York Times on the importance of relaxation in athletics. If nothing else, it helped me realize how little attention I pay to maintaining a quiet mind and relaxed body while running.  I guess it's one more thing to add to the burgeoning list of off-season tasks.  I'll try to remain calm about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Results: Draney Wins 2008 Bear 100

Patagonia runner, Ty Draney, closed out the 2008 ultra season with a win at the Bear 100 in Preston, Idaho. Add to this a third in the Bighorn 100 in June and a first (and course record) at the Grand Teton 50 in August, and 2008 was filled with some nice palmares for the Wyomingite.

Top Finishers
1. Ty Draney 19:59:07
2. Erik Storheim 20:56:58
3. Nate McDowell 21:06:00

Results: Jurek Wins 2008 Spartathlon, Making Three in a Row

Scott Jurek won his third Spartathlon ultra in a row this morning, finishing the 246 kilometer course from the Acropolis to Sparta in 22:20:01 (finishers list). Sook-Hoe Hur of Korea took the women's crown in 30:03:22, with American Stacey Bunton taking second in 31:25:59.

Top 3 Finishers
1. Scott Jurek 22:20:01
2. Markus Thallman 24:52:09
3. Lars Skytte Christoffersen 25:29:41

1. Sook-Hoe Hur 30:03:22
2. Stacey Bunton 31:25:59
3. Marika Heilein 31:39:19

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Three-Peat for Jurek? Follow the 2008 Spartathlon Live

On the eve of the 2008 Spartathlon ultra -- which starts at the Acropolis and runs 246 kilometers to Sparta -- all eyes are on Scott Jurek as he tries to string together three consecutive wins (race site).  With a solid crew behind him, including Justin Angle coming off a solid third at Angeles Crest (previous post), he's got more than a solid chance to take the victory and be the first to kiss the bronze foot of the ancient Spartan king, Leonidas.  

Follow the race live, here.   

(photo used under Creative Commons, by leekelleher

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Visit to Sea Level

It's occasionally nice to leave the high mountains and plant your feet squarely at sea level, which is where I have found myself a bit unexpectedly this week due to an emerging family situation in Seattle. With things more or less in control now (nothing serious, it seems), I've been able to work around doctor's appointments, pharmacy trips, and general household duties for a bit of running and a tad of running-related shopping.

This morning I ran down to the Burke-Gilman trail right on the shores of Lake Washington and popped off 8 miles at a good tempo pace. What with injuries before my summer ultras and a few weeks of recovery after them, it's been a long time since I've really been able to air things out. But today was the day to do it. With my legs finally feeling fresh - and with the sea level boost - I pretty easily averaged about 7:30 per mile, with the final four a dash under 7:00. I know it's not fast fast, but with my recent slog-pace, it sure felt like it was. Getting to watch the sun rise over the Cascades made it all even better.

I'd hoped to make it Cougar Mountain to see where all the Seattle ultra folk get a lot of their weekday miles in, but the doctors and the waning daylight hours didn't cooperate.

Nearly as good, though, I made it to the Seattle Running Company at their new location (two doors down from the old location) and chin-wagged with White River RD, Scott McCoubrey, while trying on about 25 pairs of shoes, finally settling on the Inov-8 Roclite 320. I'd been intrigued with the green and black trail-only Mudroc 280s, but they just felt too darn strange for the upcoming winter road miles. What a great store, and what a great guy.

So that's the report from my life at sea level. Hope to be back in the high mountain wilds of Idaho soon. Cheers.

(photo by zingersb, used under Creative Commons)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

RJ Review: Online Training Logs

Credit to Geoff Roes's blog (Fumbling Towards Endurance) for leading me to the great training log website, I've been testing it out this week and have nothing but good things to say about it. With an orienteering-focus, it's got a lot that an ultra-marathoner is looking for in a training site. Of course there are all the standard entries (date, distance, time, intensity), plus it's got a great way to log how much vertical you've been getting in, as well as some neat injury and shoe tracking functions, and a slew of others you may find neat, you may find useful, or may not be interested in at all. Plus, it's all free, and even better, quick to register and very easy to use.

One major function that may turn some folks away is the social networking aspect. All entries on the site are al fresco - open for viewing to anyone who visits the site. With the omnipresence of personal blogs these days, this is becoming less of an issue, but still it may turn away some folks looking for a fully private easy-to-use training log website. Of course, you can use a nom de plume and not worry about it.

Either way, the site seems worth a look for those who haven't yet found a training log site that truly meets their needs.

To see Attackpoint stress-tested by some big name ultra-runners, check out the logs of Justin Angle and Geoff Roes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Off-Season Thoughts: Patience and the Long Pause

I have to admit that my thoughts of late have been somewhat consumed with the D.H. Lawrence classic, Lady Chatterly's Lover, and not for the reasons you might think. No, for its insight into the importance of seasonal rest.

Coming to the end of the '08 season with the sting of a DNF on my final race (previous post), it's been more than a little hard to settle in to the off-season. I've been obsessed with thoughts of '09 races and practically have to lash myself to the sofa to make sure I get the rest I need to let my injuries heal and muscles rejuvenate.

And it is just this state that has sent my mind over and over again to the closing pages of D.H Lawrence's classic as I try to remind myself that there's a time for training and a time for resting.

As is fairly common knowledge, and largely revealed in the title, the heroine of the work, Constance Chatterly, took a bit of a liking to the hired hand, Oliver Mellors, which resulted in the pursuit of shall we say various physical activities. In the end, the two remain together - complete and happy - but for the moment physically separate. In a lengthy letter to Constance, which closes the book and was supposedly inspired by parts of Frazer's The Golden Bough, Mellors goes on at length about the importance of rest and rejuvenation to maintain the magic they share. In the one section I'm able to print here, he says that it "takes patience and the long pause" to truly realize nature's creation.

So, this is what I've been thinking about, Lawrence's great line: "patience and the long pause."

As much as I want to charge ahead with training, as much as I want to get to the '09 season, it's really the time for patience and a long pause. Time to rest and rebuild. If it worked for two frisky Victorians, that should be good enough for me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Results: Koerner, L'Heureux Win 2008 Angeles Crest 100

Oregonians Hal Koerner and Prudence L'Heureux took the men's and women's titles, respectively, at this weekend's Angeles Crest 100 in Pasadena, CA (UltraRunning story). L'Heureux clocked in at 22:13:10 and is having a standout season, having recently won the USATF 100k Championship at Where's Waldo in August (previous post). Koerner finished in a very fast 18:29:26, vanquishing the demons of the early '08 season, which was filled with a number of challenges for the 2007 Western States champion.

2008 Angeles Crest 100 Results

1. Hal Koerner 18:29:26
2. Troy Howard 19:25:04
3. Justin Angle 20:08:03


1. Prudence L'Heureux 22:13:10

2. Ashley Nordell 22:55:45

3. Jannifer Heiner 26:46:07

Friday, September 12, 2008

2009 Coyote Two Moon 100 Opens Applications

Now in its second year of a five to ten year run, the Ojai-based Coyote Two Moon ultra has opened up applications for the '09 version of the event (March 13 - 15, 2009). RD Chris Scott has put together a brutal and fun verse libre interpretation of the ultra-distance race. With 100 mile and 100 kilometer distances, runners leave at staggered starts based on projected finishing times, with the goal of bringing everyone home in a four hour window Sunday morning. This means things group together toward the end of the race (rather than becoming mind-numbingly bleak), and the 100k runners, often free from running in the dark, spend most of their run-time with their headlamps and flashlights. Add 25,000 feet of climbing for the 100m (19,000 for the 100k) as well as a wacky RD who gives "bonus" and "boner" minutes and likes to dress up in full Easter Bunny regalia, and you've got yourself one hell of an ultra under the warm So Cal sun.

Spots are limited and entrants must fill out an application and send in registration fees, which are pretty stiff but include some nice Patagonia bling. Rumor has it the 100k may not be offered in 2010, so this year may be the last chance to run something shorter than full 100 mile tamale.

Read what some of the top dogs have to say about C2M:
Andy Jones-Wilkin's post
Justin Angle's post
Karl Meltzer's post

See my other C2M postings.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Final Results: Roes, Nye Win 2008 Wasatch Front 100

Alaskan Geoff Roes won the men's race at the 2008 Wasatch Front 100 in a time of 20:01. Run on one of the toughest courses on the ultra circuit, the race was tight through the mid-point at Lambs Canyon, with a lead group of four (Andy Jones-Wilkins, Jack Pilla, Larry O'Neil, and Geoff Roes) but started to separate at mile 70 at Scotts Pass, where Roes opened a fourteen minute lead on Jones-Wilkins and about twenty minutes on Pilla, with O'Neil further back. Jones-Wilkins grabbed back five minutes by the next aid station at Brighton Lodge (mile 75), but that was as close as he'd get. He'd finish second in 21:31, with Pilla coming in third in 21:47.

Betsy Nye took the women's race in 25:36.

The Wasatch Front 100 takes runners from the start in Salt Lake City into the Wasatch range, with a total elevation gain of over 26,000 feet (race site).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mid-Point Results Mile 70: Roes Leads Jones-Wilkins at 2008 Wasatch Front 100

As the sun starts to set on the field of the 2008 Wasatch Front 100, the lead runners are beginning to show some separation. With just a scant few minutes separating 1, 2, and 3 at mile 53, Geoff Rouse now leads Jone-Wilkins at mile 70 by about fourteen minutes heading in to the darkened, final third of the race. Jack Pilla is running third, currently over twenty minutes behind the leader. The time differences are far from insurmountable. The next three hours should be quite telling at what the final order might be.

Mid-Point Results Mile 53: Jones-Wilkins, Roes Lead 2008 Wasatch Front 100

The first 50 miles of the Wasatch Front 100 saw a tight bunch of four ticking off the initial hours: Andy Jones-Wilkins (AJW), Jack Pilla, Larry O'Neil, and Geoff Roes. Leaving Lambs Canyon at mile 53, Roes and AJW had three minutes on third running Pilla, with O'Neil a bit over ten minutes back. Stay tuned for more.

See also:
Final update
Mile 70 update.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Glidepath to 2009: Zeigeist Half; Coyote 2 Moons; and the Folly of a 100

It's been a crazy week since Teton (race results; personal post). Now six full days adrift since my drop at mile 45, I feel for the first time that I'd finally brought my body back into calorie balance. It certainly seems I'd dug myself a pretty deep energy deficit last week, and in retrospect it was probably amazing I made it as far as I did, so I'll try to stop beating myself up about it.

I took five full days off this week, running a pretty easy five miles today. It was nice to be out running without any serious training plan in mind. Just a free and easy trot on some single track with free and easy thoughts about some short fall races and the '09 ultra season.

The only race I really have left on the '08 calendar is the Zeitgeist Half Marathon in Boise, November 1. For a road half, it's fairly challenging, with about 1,100 feet of climbing, and there are always some speedy roadsters toeing the line. The distance and the climbing shouldn't be a problem, but my speed is in the tank after injuries and ultras, so I have some tempo runs and a few trips to the track ahead of me this fall.

After Zeitgeist, it'll be back to skiing and the dark, cold, icy runs that make training in the high mountains that much more interesting. It's strange, but some of my best runs surface on the early morning icy roads. Just like those big summer runs on technical single track, there's something about a snowy -10 degree run that really strips you down to pure effort and desire.

And I've been thinking a lot about these winter runs as I've been starting to plan (some would say obsess over) the '09 season. Crazily, I may bust out '09 with the Coyote 2 Moons 100k (19,000 ft of climbing) in Ojai, Ca in mid-March, should I be able to get in. Most likely, we'll still have two feet of snow on the ground here, so running all the miles and vertical to make it worthwhile would be a huge challenge. But, it's practically in my home town, and we'd planned a family trip down there around that time, so the cards seem about as aligned as they could be. Plus it just seems like a great event, and the Patagonia finisher's jacket alone is worth the price of admission (for more, see post on Coyote Two Moons 2009 Applications).

Beyond Coyote, I'm not so sure. But, I have to admit to looking at a heck of a lot of 100 mile sites, and may decide to try my inexperienced hand. Bighorn, Tahoe Rim Trail, Leadville, Cascade Crest, Angeles Crest, Wasatch - they're all more than intriguing. It could be pure folly, I know. And I may be using the whole idea of doing a 100 as a foil against my recent disappointing drop at Teton. But, in the past, I've used my frailties as a springboard to bigger accomplishment, and maybe my Teton experience is just what I need to give me the courage (or unwarranted chutzpa) to actually pick a 100 and toe the line. Cheers. 

See my other C2M postings.

Results: 2008 Grand Teton Ultras

With afternoon highs predicted in the upper 80's, the Grand Teton 50 and 100 mile races set off early on a clear and already warm morning on Saturday, August 30.  The 100 mile race quickly broke down to a small group of contenders, with Nevadan Josh Brimball shaking off the disappointment of the scuttled Western States and taking the win in 19:59:07.  Brimball, running with minimal crew and no pacers, threatened but ultimately couldn't beat the course record of 19:35 set by Andy Jones-Wilkins the previous year.  Women's winner, Ronda Sundermeier, finished third overall, taking over where Bimball left off, setting a course record in 25:40:50.

The women's 50 miler was dominated by Michele Jensen, who finished fourth overall in a time of 9:38:20.  Men's winner, Ty Draney, set a blazing fast course record in 8:17:53, despite repeatedly vomitting on the paved climb between miles 36 and 39.  The race began as a battle royale between Draney and last year's runner up, Brad Mitchell, until Mitchell had to drop due to injury at mile 25.  

Grand Teton 100 Winners
Josh Brimball 19:59:07

Ronda Sundermeier 25:40:50

Grand Teton 50 Winners
Ty Draney 8:17:53

Michele Jensen 9:38:20

My 2008 Grand Teton 50

First off, let me start with the positive things that happened at this weekend's Grand Teton 50. I got to test, and was happy with, a new approach to drop bags that saved me a number of minutes during the race. I learned that I could in fact do some serious running in some pretty hot conditions and that at some smaller ultras I could actually play at competing for places. I had an uplifting, and experienced, crew for the latter part of the race (my wife and an unfortunately injured, Brad Mitchell). And, finally, I learned a hell of a lot.

You could also say I got schooled, which is what it most felt like right after I dropped at mile 45.

It all came down to calories, as it often does with me. My stomach fought me both in the lead up to the race (keeping me from loading like I need to) and during the race (keeping me from replacing the calories like I need to), which was too bad, because I felt like I had a shot at a decent time for a course like Teton.

I had good trips up Fred's Mountain both times and despite a general malaise for most of the first lap, finished the first 25 miles in around 4:25 (sadly, right after seeing an ailing Brad Mitchell at the tail end of Rick's Basin). It was then that I had a brief window where my stomach felt pretty settled, and I was hopeful I'd be able to pound the calories and come home pretty strong on the second lap.

Wishful thinking it turned out. My stomach began protesting again around mile 30 and just kept getting worse until around mile 42 where it totally shut down and wouldn't come back on line no matter what I tried (water, Ultra, S-caps). Meanwhile my blood sugar level dropped tosubterranean levels, and it was all I could do to make it to the base aid station at mile 45, drop from the race, and shuffle back to the hotel room with tingling hands and labored breathing (as my wide-eyed crew will attest).

After an hour of blowing ketones and letting gluconeogenesis run its course, I was feeling much better and left wondering what I could have done differently - a question that will no doubt haunt a large portion of my off season.

That said, I have to take a step back and trust that the problem was largely just bad timing with a mild stomach virus. Forty-five miles at Teton is no mean feat, and I'll take that mental and physical training with me into '09. --Hank

Photos - before the fall
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The New "Run Junkie"

Changes are afoot at Run Junkie.  Nothing radical really, just a change in tone and perspective.  While the site will still offer the same collection of running news and popular product reviews, it's going to move to a much more personal perspective with a greater focus on the ultramarathon world.  Let me know what you think as the site continues to evolve.  Cheers.  --Hank Dart

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RJ Review: Patagonia Houdini Full Zip Jacket

We hate to say it, it still being mid-August and all, but there are signs of fall here in the mountains of Idaho we call home. A harsh reality, to be sure, even as we still swelter on our afternoon runs in the blazing sun. But, time will march on, the temperature will drop, and before we know it we'll all be reaching for those lightweight shells we mothballed in spring. So, as that image slowly sinks in, we offer our review of one of Patagonia's lightweight running jackets - the Houdini Full Zip (retail $125).

To be honest, we at Run Junkie have yet to come across a perfect running jacket. The quest to find a lightweight, breathable, water proof, comfortable, and yes, good looking, running shell seems a near impossibility. That said, the Houdini Full Zip is the best shell we've come across these many years. It's extremely lightweight yet buffs up well as an outer layer on -10 degree, snowy morning runs. Sweat condenses a bit inside on long runs but not so much to bring on a chill, and the full zipper can help release some of the moisture as time goes on and the temp rises.

One Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of the Houdini is its integrated hood. On the plus side, it's great to have the hoody option when the rain or snow hits unexpectedly. On the downside, the hood can't be removed, and, because it's so lightweight, the thing can be a spinnaker in a stiff wind - blowing by the side of your face with a big tailwind and dragging you backward in a hard headwind.

As for precip protection, the Houdini performs pretty well - good in snow and light rain, OK in a downpour. We'd be dishonest if we didn't say we'd hoped for a bit more when the rain was really coming down.

Everything taken together, though, we have to say we really like the Houdini Full Zip. It's not perfect, but it performs well enough to get you through some really tough conditions comfortably. Plus, it has those inimitable Patagonia good looks that will keep heads turning before, during, and after your runs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinesio Tape: Scientifically Sound or Witch Doctor Worthy?

At Run Junkie we believe in sound science, so we've been very skeptical of the colored witch doctor tape many of the athletes in Beijing have been using on their injuries. That OCD prone injured athletes latch on to something at such a critical moment certainly doesn't mean it actually helps, even if it doesn't hurt. But in today's New York Times, Tara Parker Pope reviews some of the reasoning and evidence (however meager) backing the tape, called Kinesio (post). We'll withhold judgement for now - a rarity for us to be sure.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall Featured in "The New Yorker"


The description of that sign outside of a market in Big Bear Lake, CA - home of US Olympic Marathoner, Ryan Hall - is just one of the great observations in a typically lengthy New Yorker feature this week on Hall (story). The piece, in the August 11 & 18 issue, chronicles in detail the life and running of Hall from his early years to the present day. Most interesting is the review of his high school and college years where he, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenhein took on the lackadaisical US distance running scene like the three musketeers. Also discussed at length is the quizzical hold that the Frank Shorter era still has on current runners and race times. If you've got 30 minutes, it's worth the time.

Ironman Deboom Bows Out of 2008 Leadville 100 Following Injury

Following up on a previous post, it looks like Ironman World Champion, Tim Deboom, won't compete in the upcoming Leadville 100 ultra because of a toe injury sustained in a recent 5k (Triathlete Magazine story). Taking a year off from triathlon, Deboom was looking to expand his athletic horizons, something the Race Across the Sky would surely have done.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Results: Olsen, L'Hereux Win 2008 Where's Waldo 100k

Over a hundred runners took to the trails yesterday to contest the USATF 100k trail championships at the Where's Waldo ultra at the Willamette Ski Pass area near Eugene, Oregon (race site). Forty one year old Neil Olsen took the honors in the men's race in a very fast 10:06:54, while Prudence L'Hereux, 37, took the women's race in 10:51:30 (official results).

1. Neil Olsen 10:06:54
2. Nate McDowell 10:10:57
3. Joe Grant 10:11:22

1. Prudence L'Heureux 11:12:36
2. Krissy Moehl 11:24:50
3. Meghan Arbogast 12:03:45

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympics: Bolt Wins 100 in Record Time of 9.69

Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100 meter final at the Beijing Games in a blazing 9.69, with Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago snagging the silver and Dix of the USA nabbing the bronze. Yahoo story.

Olympics: Tyson Gay Out of 100 Finals

Although seemingly healthy following a hamstring strain sustained at the Olympic Trials, Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the finals of the 100 meters after finishing fifth in his semi race. The lost time spent nursing his injury kept him from his best it seems. The finals, though, should still be a good battle of the established Jamaicans and remaining two upstart Americans. Yahoo story.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Doping in Sport: Is it Time to Test the Tests?

Let's start by saying that we abhor doping in sport and that any athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs should be banned from competition for much longer than the standard two year suspension in place today. That said, we at Run Junkie have always wondered about the science behind, and validity of, doping control tests, which seem to be a combination of advanced technology and shoot-from-the-hip desperation to keep up with cheating athletes.

It's tragic to think that honest, clean, and hard-working athletes have their careers ruined by a false positive drug test, and there have been a number of well-reasoned scientific papers recently showing that this may be happening more often than most people understand (previous post). The latest and biggest bombshell to drop, however, was in a commentary by Dr. Michael Barry in the venerable journal Nature called, The Science of Doping. In the commentary, Barry calls into question the validity of the whole anti-doping system, which he argues is based on untested science and lacks necessary standards for the collection, storage, and security of blood and urine samples.

Barry has raised the ire of the World Anti-Doping Agency and other related agencies, but at a time when many sports are on the brink because of doping, it seems to make sense to try to get things right.

Listen to Barry talk about his paper on today's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.