Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RJ Review: A Quick Shot on Clif Roks

Protein is often overplayed in sport. From the time of Charles Atlas and leather head football, a lot of athletes have been told they should consume much more protein on a daily basis than they really need for optimal performance, and even for good health.

So, it was with some trepidation that I started testing out a (full disclosure: complimentary) sampling of Clif Shot Roks (Clif site), bite-sized protein "balls" geared toward athletes looking for a protein boost either after a big endurance effort or in the midst of one. And despite my slightly jaded eye going into things, I realize protein has an important place in one's diet, and I have some positive things to say about the Roks.

First, they taste quite good. My sampling included chocolate and peanut butter flavors, and with their hard(ish) outer shell and chewy insides, they taste how I envision a healthy malt ball might taste. In fact, as I write this I'm noshing on some.

Second, they offer a lot of control over intake. With ten pieces to a pack, each ball has 2 grams of protein - a little over what Succeed's Clip 2 has per bottle (1.6 grams). So during a race you can throw a couple in each drop bag as you need them, and post-event you can dose them out as your stomach and appetite dictate.

Finally, they're made up of largely healthy protein. While burgers and steak and bacon can taste really good after a long race, they're not the healthiest option for regular protein replenishment. The Roks, on the other hand, are made up of milk-based protein, which makes them pretty healthy (save some cholesterol). Via Twitter, I know of one ubiquitous and esteemed ultrarunner, blogger, and vegetarian who really enjoys the Roks as a healthy source of his needed protein.

Of course, there are many other sources of protein for ultrarunners to choose from both during and after a run. A lot of sports drinks have one or two grams per bottle. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich has about 15 grams of healthy protein. And a Burger King Whopper has about 29 grams of unhealthy, though at times very tasty, protein.

Still, it's never bad to have another arrow in the quiver. It's hard to tell sometimes what's going to work when, so throwing some Clif Shot Roks into your pack, mile 38 drop bag, or glove box could be the ticket to getting the protein you need right when you need it.

Clif Shot Roks

Total Calories 270
Total Fat 4.5g
Sat Fat 1.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 40mg
Sodium 340mg
Total Carb 38g
Protein 20g

Saturday, December 12, 2009

RJ Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Shoe

Update (1-25-10): Review of Wildcat GTX (Gore-Tex version)

The shoe the Brooks Cascadia yearns to be

If there was one positive thing about the left foot neuroma that struck me four weeks ahead of this year's Wasatch Front 100, it was that I discovered the La Sportiva Wildcat (retail $100). I was looking for a new shoe that didn't anger the nerve in my foot, and while I would have settled for a pair of Tarahumara sandals if they offered some relief, I was very lucky that the first shoe that seemed to do the trick was also one with standout trail running qualities as well.

This past year alone, I put a lot of miles in a number of different shoes: Roclite 320, Gel-Trail Sensor, Gel-Trail Attack, Cascadia 4, and even Hyperspeed 2 (on the track). And while I've really liked some of these shoes, the Wildcats seem to have taken all the good qualities of each, plus a couple extra of its own, and rolled them into one.

First, they're extremely responsive and handle really well in tough conditions. They can tackle buffed out, fast descents as well as any Inov-8, and when things turn really technical with lose rocks or boulders, they do even better, owing to their really grippy soles born right out of La Sportiva's mountaineering heritage. And while they may not have quite as much ballistic rock protection on the sole as a shoe like the Gel-Trail Sensor, they still work well in craggy situations. Plus, they have a great toe bump that will save your toes late in a long race when you can't help but stub a rock here and there.

But, these shoes aren't just technical workhorses, they also feel really good on, have very good cushioning that's just made for monster distances, and great ventilation that will keep your feet cool and blisters at bay on even the hottest of days.

Of course, the shoe isn't perfect. Which shoe is? And some of the qualities that make the Wildcat so good can also cause some problems. The mesh upper that's responsible for the great ventilation also lets in a great deal of dust and dirt from an arid trail. And you won't want to make the standard Wildcat your winter running shoe. Slush, snow, and near-freezing water find their way through the mesh outer even easier than dust and dirt, which can turn what should have been a quick 8 mile run in a storm into a painful and slow slog. Luckily, La Sportiva thought of this and offers a Gore-Tex version, the Wildcat GTX (retail $125).

Aside from this, the shoe has a couple other peccadilloes: the toe box is a little bit narrow for those with a wide forefoot, and the small lugs on the sole begin to flake off after about 200 miles. But, these are minor.

In a previous review of the Brooks Cascadia 4, I said that the shoe was a let down because, while it did well on a number of points, it was a standout on none. After running in the Wildcats in a range of conditions, and over a range of distances, I've returned to these words and flipped them: While the Wildcats have a couple drawbacks, they're a standout on nearly all the points that really matter.

More shoe reviews on Run Junkie (shoe reviews).

The Lead View: TNF Endurance Challenge Championship - Smith, Steidl, and Roes

It's a select few that get to see what it looks like at the head of a race like this month's The North Face Endurance Challenge 50m. Film maker JB Benna felt more of us should have the privilege, so he toted his camera up amongst the ferns of those buffed out Marin trails and got some fabulous footage of women's winner Caitlin Smith and the men's winner and runner up, Uli Steidl and Geoff Roes. Textbook lessons in tapping out a steady, and very fast, rhythm.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

After the Lottery - 100 Mile Experience in Western States 100 Lottery Winners

To be sure, confetti was tossed by many of those glued to their computers and smart phones yesterday, but it was set up to be a disappointing day for most. The odds simply foretold it. Less than 20 percent would make it out of the Western States 100 lottery and get a golden ticket to the Big Dance in June 2010. The probability was just large enough to spark great hope but small enough to ensure a big wave of disappointment as the last few winners were pulled and eager would-be runners found their names left in the netherworld GU2O bucket of the UltraSignup server. I could go more in to the ups and downs of the day, but Craig Thornley captured it very well in his post last night.

As folks recover from the lottery hangover, surely the debate will continue about the size of the lottery and the possible need to revise qualification standards to make Western States a more selective race - akin to the Boston Marathon. As an adjunct to this discussion, I thought I'd follow up my previous post on the number of applicants with 100 mile race histories in the lottery, with one on the number of those who actually made it out of the lottery who actually had 100 mile history.

I followed the same general method as in the previous analysis (see post for details), and as such it has some of the same frailties. Overall it's a slightly blurred snapshot but one that should capture the general trend.

Not surprisingly, the results are quite parallel between the applicants' histories and the winners' histories. Where about 61 percent of the 1519 applicants had ever completed a 100 miler (as found in Ultra Signup results) and 54 percent had completed one in 2008 or 2009; 64 percent of the 270 lottery winners had ever done a 100 miler, with 56 percent of winners notching at least one in 2008/2009.

Clearly, these numbers are not groundbreaking news, and they seem to provide fodder for those on either side of the debate. For some, they'll show that the current liberal qualifying standards still allow a fairly 100-experienced field to toe the line. For others, it'll show that a good percentage of folks who have demonstrated their ability to complete a 100 mile race will be left out of the Grande Dame of 100's, their spots going to some folks whose hardest race may have been a flat 50 miler.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

At Least 60 Percent of Applicants in Western States 100 Lottery Have 100 Mile History

Update: (12-6-09) Post-lottery report on number of lottery winners with 100 mile history (update).

Yes, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship is this Saturday, and despite astounding battles setting up at the head of the 50 mile race in both the men's and women's fields, a good number of us will be shackled to our computers and smart phones not to see if Uli can run down Geoff Roes in the closing kilometers but to see if we drew the golden ticket in the lottery for the 2010 Western States 100 (site).

Amidst all the anticipation, there's been a great deal of thoughtful and often fervent discussion about qualification standards for Western. Craig Thornley's most recent post on the the current lottery has drawn over 100 comments alone (post), and for a full immersion in the niceties of the myriad views on the topic, I suggest you read Craig's post and comments. But, one of the perennial issues is whether Western States - the quintessential 100 on the calendar many would argue - should require a 100 mile qualifier rather than the more liberal qualifying standards currently in place.

Flipping through the applicant pool last month on Ultra Signup, it seemed to me that a good portion would already meet a 100 mile qualifying standard. So, with too much time on my hands as I work through an off-season injury, I decided to click through the site with Madame Defarge-like tenacity to get a more accurate sense of what proportion of the current applicant pool has completed a 100 mile race in 2008/2009 or at any other time, as found in the Ultra Signup database.

A few caveats. This is a slightly blurry snapshot. Applicants were being culled as I was going through, so it was a bit of a moving target. Some applicants clearly showed results for people with the same name. Foreign applicants often listed no results. I assume many of these runners had 100 mile equivalents, but I didn't count them, unless their profile photo showed them finishing UTMB (a very small number). Finally, crashed browsers or fighting kids may have resulted in a few errant clicks on my part.

So, what did the numbers show? Out of a current pool of 1519 approved and pending applicants, a little over 60 percent (923) have at some point completed a 100 mile race registered in the Ultra Signup database. Just under 54 percent (818) have completed a 100 mile race recently - in either 2008 or 2009.

Exactly what these results would mean for the size of a lottery requiring a 100 mile qualifier is unclear. Yes, the pool would be smaller, but it certainly wouldn't be an easy in. These numbers here are likely an underestimate, and still, over 900 applicants have completed a 100 miler in the past, over 800 of them fairly recently. If a 100 mile qualifier were put into place in a year like this one, it's likely that lottery numbers would still crest over 1,000, possibly well over.

The implications this would have on the quality and character of the race, I'll leave for others to discuss.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poll Results: How Runners Light Up the Night

Ok, the results are in, and headlamps rule the night in this unscientific poll on the types of lighting ultrarunners prefer to make their way on darkened trail.

Headlamps by themselves (with no other light sources) came up tops, preferred by 35.5 percent of runners. When this percentage was combined with those who prefer a headlamp on the head as well around the waist, the percentage of folks using headlamps to light the way jumped to 64.5 percent.

Surprisingly, flashlights by themselves, with no other lighting sources came up with a low 6.5 percent. Save some from the new generation of super powerful headlamps, I'd choose a flashlight alone over a headlamp alone any day, just given the relief flashlights reveal.

Finally, those choosing a headlamp and handheld flashlight came out to 29 percent.

(click for larger image)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Runners' Poll: How do you light your way on nighttime runs?

Poll closes Monday, November 23 at 5:30pm (Mountain)

can get pretty attached to their lighting sources. Pitch black backcountry trails have a way of teaching us very quickly what works and what doesn't. Share your thoughts on how you prefer to light the way on those through-the-night runs and see how you stack up with your compatriots. Really feel strongly about things? Leave a comment about the type of headlamp or flashlight you use and what you love and/or hate about it.

Poll Closed. Click for Results.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vert Libre: The Swarm

They swarmed my passive black lab, and the mass turned like a hurricane tracked on radar - her small body the eye of the storm surrounded by churning golden fur. I could hear her yelps and all the growls, and picked up a rock - no fallen branches in reach - running to her defense. Seeing she wasn't alone, the pack fell away - seven, then five, then two. Then just she and I running down the gulch without looking back, rock still in my hand. We dared a quick drink at the junction, still breathing hard, then climbed the singletrack for home as if it had all happened long ago.

Vert Libre: free-form poetry and observations from the trail

Monday, November 2, 2009

RJ Review: Fenix L2D Q5 Flashlight

About ten years ago I read an article in the newspaper about the resurgence of men's hats - of the fedora, bowler varieties. One of the men quoted in the article, who'd recently bought a Homburg - a type of hat with a fashionably rugged style - said that whenever he put it on and went outside it made him feel like he was carrying a loaded gun.

Hyperbole, of course, and probably just plain ludicrous. But I nevertheless think of that quote every time I reach into my drop bag in the waning light and pull out my Fenix L2D Q5 flashlight for a long night on the trail. Something about this light just buoys my confidence.

I've used it on two long-night runs - Coyote Two Moon in March and Wasatch Front in September - and one short-night run - Bighorn 100 on the solstice - and in all settings, on all types of darkened trail, it was flawless. With up to 180 lumens, it's got plenty of power to light the way. Its focused beam is great for searching out trail markers, harrowing drop-offs, or those things that go crack in the night. The brushed aluminum body of the L2D feels solid in the hand (even a sweaty hand) and wipes off easily when gel loading goes bad. And for the brightness it delivers, it's compact and light.

Best of all, and the main reason I bought mine in the first place, is the battery life. In medium mode (53 lumens), with just two standard AA batteries, the L2D shined brighter and longer than I needed it to at Coyote and Wasatch, each with nighttime running between ten and eleven hours.

As with most anything, there are some minor frailties worth noting. First, some folks with bigger hands might actually find the light too small in diameter to comfortably carry for hours on end. My hands fit solidly in the "medium" bin, and the L2D works nicely for me. Those in the L/XL range, though, may find it a bit small. Second, and this is likely the biggest frailty, the L2D is pricey. It retails for around $60.00; though, there are some deals out there since it's being sunsetted for the newer LD20.

Overall, though, if you're looking to run your first or your fiftieth nighttime trail run and you've got a few dollars stored away, the Fenix L2D is a great light source that'll get you where you're going with confidence, and on just two AA's.

For detailed specs on different brightness modes (including SOS flashing!), lens coating, and other things I can in no way assess properly, click here.

More reviews on Run Junkie (reviews).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vert Libre: Changes - Fall Running

The running is so different this time of year. Races done and the big miles logged. Once overgrown trails cut back by the dry tail-end of summer and new chill of fall. I know I should be resting but legs and singletrack yell "speed" and push me along with reminders that this run - today, right now - could be the last one before the snows put things to rest until March? April? Heaven forbid, May? And though the edge is a little rough and my waist a little more full, the PR's still come. So free is the running, so relaxed, my legs find the contours of the trails like they never did in the heat of the season. Up the valley, I see the full grey clouds dropping snow, and the forecast says they're coming this way. Time to see how fast I really am.

Vert Libre: free-form poetry and observations from the trail

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Twenty @Run_Junkie Tweets from October 2009

For those intelligent folks disinclined to follow the Run Junkie Twitter feed but who have just a dash of voyeur in their souls, I offer this executive summary from the last month. Here they are, such as they are: the top 20 tweets of October from @run_junkie.
  1. Beautiful early evening run yesterday through campus and around The Dish at Stanford. Pretty stout little loop.
  2. Yes, it dilutes things a bit. But why should it bother me? "Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?" - NYT:
  3. Palm Drive - Stanford:
  4. In Palo Alto with the family for the big 20th college reunion. Stopped by Zombie Runner, of course:
  5. Something Buddhist about latte art. Impermanent.
  6. For a bookish ultra runner, how great to get a nod on the Ulysses "Seen" blog (1st paragraph)? -
  7. New blog post: Race-Day Demons and Their Long Shadows
  8. Bowling shirts & boner minutes. Coyote Two Moon 100 opens applications - a Chris Scott event not to be missed:
  9. 1700 in the bowl as Western States 100 application period comes to a close. It's going to take some good luck in Dec to get a golden ticket.
  10. Nice run in the fall sun on some brand new singletrack. Hard to beat it.
  11. Lance seems to be France's White Whale, one hopes they don't meet the Pequod's end. VeloNews:
  12. Can't go wrong following Hicham El Guerrouj's example. "Exercise and company: Fitter with friends" | The Economist -
  13. New blog post: 10 for '10: Goals for the Season Ahead
  14. Didn't run this morning. But I did spend 2 hours "cross-training" at the new pump park in Hailey.
  15. "Growth in Mountain Biking May Put Western Park Trails Off Limits" - NY Times:
  16. Western States study: Quercetin does not affect rating of perceived exertion [or finish time]: Res Sports Med. 2009 -
  17. Snow piling up atop Baldy. This didn't happen until mid December last year:
  18. Sitting at Costco in Twin, eating pizza and wondering Rocky or Coyote
  19. New blog post: Reflections on the 2009 Season
  20. Name's in the WS hat. Feel like I should hit the sauna, just in case...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Confronting Race-Day Demons and Their Long Shadows

We all have a race-day demon. Some of us are quicker to admit it than others, but for each of us, by the time we toe the line at an ultra-distance event, the specter of some past failure or some past breakdown haunts our psyches. For many runners, these demons float away as soon as the gun goes off. For others, they rear their heads post race. And for some, like me, they travel with us many miles and many hours along the trail.

My big demon? It's mile 39. It was at that point of the Grand Teton 50 in 2008 where things started to descend quickly into a nutritional DNF a few miles later on. And even though I've had some decent finishes at a number of harder and longer events since then, I still feel some level of relief every time I get past mile 39 in good shape.

And that's the thing about these demons. They can have long shadows that can cast across race after race, even training run after training run. We simply have to learn how to deal with them until they eventually fade away.

Training was my proving ground - The lab where I was able to build up a new calorie, fluid, and electrolyte plan that helped me toe the line at my first 100k with enough confidence that the demon of the Tetons, while not silenced, was somewhat muted. Race after race since then, the demon has been increasingly small and quiet, until at the 2009 Wasatch Front 100, mile 39 came and went without much notice (editors note, Wasatch was not without issues).

Of course, it's still something I occasionally think about, and rightfully so. The Teton DNF was a pivotal moment in my would-be ultra life, and one that could have easily been the death knell of the distance for me. But defeat (especially born of inaction) casts a longer and more indelible shadow than any sort of race-day demon that toes the line with us. By taking it head on, race after race, we weaken it until it dissolves completely.

I hadn't thought much about this topic until I read a piece in the most recent UltraRUNNING by Stan Beutler (UR; Oct 2009; pg 41) who chronicled his successful return to this year's Bighorn 100 seven years after a harrowing, near-death experience with hyponatremia in the 2002 race.

With great heart, he writes:
"When I crossed the finish line in this year's 100-mile race, I felt gratitude, more than triumph, relief, or any other emotion. I was grateful for the chance to make it all the way back."

That's what tackling our demons does. It brings us back, full circle. Yet, we return not as the same person who began the trip, but one who has grown mentally, physically, and maybe even spiritually in the process. Of course, most of our demons pale in comparison to Mr. Beutler's but what they all offer us is the chance for growth and the ability to look ahead knowing the future is ours to make.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

10 for '10: Goals for the Season Ahead

With off-season life all bon-bons and foot massages and easy chairs, and my 2009 season summed up (here), why not move on toward goals for 2010? At no time will they seem more attainable than as I sit here sipping an Americano and eating some chocolate, so here they are, in no particular order. Some are pretty global; some pretty specific to local training.
  1. Run a challenging 100 miler in under 24 hours. (PR 25:34, Wasatch)
  2. Run Bald Mountain Trail (Sun Valley ski mountain) in under an hour. (PR 1:00:46).
  3. Run Bald Mountain Trail in under 59:00.
  4. Run Carbonate climb (trailhead to mineshaft) in under 26:00. (PR 26:37).
  5. Write, and get published, more long-form pieces on ultra-running.
  6. Write more poetry, running-inspired or otherwise
  7. Find some level of relief from the full-price of shoes, equipment, and calories
  8. Take more planned easy weeks during the heat of training
  9. Get more group runs in with friends
  10. Get at least two long runs on trails I've never trod

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reflections on the 2009 Season

Yes, there are a number of races yet to be run this year - but not by me. So, it seemed time to reflect on the long 2009 season before it faded away in my memory as planning for 2010 takes hold. Here, you'll find my "best of" list for 2009. I thought about including the "worst of" as well. But, in the balance of things, it seemed a little petty and belittling to what on all accounts was a really fabulous 2009. (The truly inquisitive can still glean the season's downsides in my Attackpoint training log).

Best race:
A toss-up between the Wasatch Front 100 and Pocatello 50. For pure effort and grit and successfully working through some tough times, it's Wasatch (see Best turnaround). For pure performance, it's got to be Pocatello.

Best race schwag:
The chock-full and esoteric Coyote Two Moon goodie bag, which included one very nice Patagonia Slopestyle Hoodie.

Best hike:
Idaho's Hyndman Peak (12,009), with my wife.

Best photo:
A tired AJW bringing up the rear in a training run post Western/Hardrock double.

Best video of someone else's race:
While it's hard not to give this to the AJW/Kevin Sullivan Leadville regurgitation special, it has to go to the pacer's view video of Kim Holak's Hardrock (below):

Best song:
Blitzen Trapper's Furr, which played a key role on one of my winter long runs, and which I played over and over during the night at the Bighorn 100.

Best sensation:
Entering the shaded woods of Bare Ass Pass at Wasatch after the baking heat between Big Mountain and Lambs.

Best quest for vertical:
The climbs up and runs down the snowy slopes of Sun Valley's Bald Mountain ahead of March's Coyote Two Moon 100k.

Best turnaround:
Getting past the early-stage GI meltdown at Wasatch and making it to the finish in decent shape and still OK time.

Best hardest track workout:
A Brad Mitchell special that finished with a 20-minute "tempo" with AJW and Brad leading the lightning charge. I stumbled home afterward with a tingling face and drank 32 ounces of chocolate milk.

Best training run:
The April quadruple Carbonate/Vorberg loop. 32 miles with 6,000 feet of climbing that felt about as effortless as it gets. Also inspired Best running-related poem.

Best running-related poem:
I didn't write too many this season, but the hands down winner was the This is Just Say knock off, which actually made it on the wall of my wife's office.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

100 Miles with James Joyce: My Foos Won't Moos

A transcendent romp through the night that meshes the real and imaginary, capturing life's tragedy and triumphs in the sample of hours between dusk and dawn.

A circuitous, all day journey from watering hole to watering hole, where the same clutch of people cross paths throughout the day until they all come together in a liquid and calorie-fueled finale.

Description of the last 100 miler you did?

Most likely. But they're also the plot lines (as they are) of James Joyces' Finnegans Wake and Ulysses, respectively.

Though I've been a runner and a devotee of Joyce for most of my adult life, it was only in the last month that I saw any parallels between his writings and my running. During my usual mind games a couple weeks ahead of Wasatch, a phrase from the washerwomen chapter of Finnegans Wake kept coming into my mind, a phrase that would presage my first mile heading out of Brighton on race day.

In the close of Book 1, two washerwomen are doing laundry in the river, sharing rumors of the novel's two main characters. As night falls, they begin to transform - one into a tree; another into a stone (you just have to go with it). As the one woman changes into a tree, she tells the other: "My foos won't moos." Written in Joyce's at-times-maddening "night language," the line translates to, among other things: "My feet won't move."

So I had a great time playing this line with my wife in the lead up to the race, thinking of the 26,000 feet of climbing to conquer and the ever-increasing temps called for on race day. And the night of Wasatch, I actually did my best-ever washerwoman impression heading out of Brighton at mile 75. If I wasn't the personification of someone slowly turning into a tree, I don't know what I was (see previous post). Just ask my pacer - and the four people who passed us.

But, even beyond such a direct connection, Joyce's general philosophy meshes wonderfully with that of ultra-running. He reveled in the extraordinary within the ordinary. Whether it was a lowly advertising canvasser (Leopold Bloom in Ulysses) or a hod carrying father of three (Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker in Finnegans Wake), he saw within each person's life a complex web of history, philosophy, mythology, observation and desire forged in the trials and triumphs of every day. Who of us who has been lucky enough to race, run, or walk through a 100 miles hasn't felt such a broad transcendent experience in that enriched time between the gun and finish line?

Moreover, Joyce's characters are nothing if not peripatetic. In Ulysses, the main characters journey in and around Dublin in an exhausting and event-filled day that begins at dawn and finishes with a final collapse into bed in the wee hours. In Finnegans Wake - perhaps the most ultra-esque novel - the characters traverse time, space, and reality as dreams and hallucinations play out over the course of a single, wild night.

Yes, I know. Such simple parallels between Joyce and ultra-running are not the thing that dissertations are made of, but I've always treasured the connections in my life - the small things that cross-over from one passion to the other, magnifying both. So, it was a real gift to finally see a connection between my favorite sport and my favorite author, so much so it was almost OK that heading out of Brighton my foos wouldn't moos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Race Report: Wasatch Front 100 Endurance Run

When I started to see my breath reflected in the light of the headlamp, I felt it might happen: I might actually finish my first Wasatch Front 100, something that in the early hours of the race seemed as remote a possibility as winning the thing outright. But as I made my way off the final major climb up to near 10,000 feet, descending to the moister and richer air of the lower elevations, I could not only feel a measure of energy and calm returning to my body but also see it in the slow steady breaths that seemed to crystallize in the light. With fewer than ten miles to go to the finish at Homestead, I let myself for the first time truly believe.

Twenty two hours earlier, I had been hunched over and vomiting, a victim of total gastric shutdown, which began just after Grobben's Corner (mile 14) until a couple miles past the Bountiful B aid station (mile 24). It was disappointing. My outside hope for a near 24 hour time was quickly replaced with the hope of just finishing, as one hour of walking and very slow trotting on runnable terrain spilled into two, and then three hours. Nevertheless, I knew I had no choice. I kept coming back to something my friend, training buddy, and eventual pacer that day out of Lamb's Canyon had told me a year earlier after my disastrous (he would say ridiculous) drop at the Teton 50 the previous September: take the time to settle your system when things turn south before they reach past the point of recovery.

So, I walked, and walked, and vomited, and walked, and watched scores of people pass me. And when I got to Bountiful, I sat reclined, two chairs over from a disappointed looking and skinned-up Prudence L'Heureux (whose day turned out to be done). There I stayed for close to ten minutes, drinking a lot of ice water and on the sage advice of the aid station captain, a cup of flat Coke with ice. Then out I went, ambling toward Sessions (mile 28), and things started to turn around.

The knot in my system started to loosen. I could begin to run a bit. A few miles later I was moving at my regular pace and began to baby my stomach with food and fluid. A few ounces of Coke here. A Cliff Blok or two there. The metronome intake of 250 to 300 calories an hour that saw me to the finish at the Bighorn 100 in June, was replaced with what I came to call the "tolerance" nutrition plan. Whenever I felt like I could stomach some calories, I'd take them in, which came to about 150 to 200 calories an hour for the rest of the journey - not horrid but not an amount that left much wiggle room, as would become clear later heading out of Brighton (mile 75), but I get ahead of myself.

Finally feeling better, I was able to start tapping out some strong miles and making up some ground. In 69th place out of Sessions, I was 30th or so into the major Big Mountain aid station (mile 39), where I got to see my fabulous, one-man crew, Brad Mitchell, who I'm pretty sure knew before I even told him that it'd been a rough ride to get there. He met me, took all my stuff, and ushered me to the scale (down 3 pounds). While he filled my bottles and hydration bladder, I quickly grabbed some gels and bloks (most of which I knew I wouldn't be able to eat) and headed out for the overgrown and overexposed 14 miles to Lamb's, enjoying the brief chance to chat with Brad as we walked to the trailhead.

The trip to Lamb's was uneventful, if hot. It had turned out to be the warmest Wasatch in 12 years, and although I typically don't thrive in the heat, I wasn't feeling too bad. I kept drinking and drinking (five plus bottles by the end of the section), had a chance to chat with Tom Remkes and Scott Mason, and came into Lamb's feeling pretty strong and ready for the company of my pacer, AJW.

Yet again, Brad was great: filling bottles, arranging for some soup, and taking a quick assessment of my overall state. Walking out of the aid station, and through the underpass to the checkout, Andy updated me on happenings at Lamb's - a number of people were dropping from the heat and eventual 3rd place woman, Darla Askew, was 5 minutes ahead of us - and we made our way to the climb up Bare Ass Pass (mile 57).

After the heat into Lamb's, the cool and shaded woods out of Lamb's was amazingly refreshing, as was the chance to share some war stories with Andy, who I knew was assessing the damage of the day and figuring out out what he needed to do to get me to the finish. He joked, cajoled, praised, navigated, waxed nostalgic, and always fell silent at the right times. The perfect pacer from beginning to end.

We made good time
up and over Bare Ass and then up to Millcreek (mile 61), hitting it at dusk, where with Brad's help we refueled and grabbed our nighttime gear for the trip to the high country of Desolation Lake (mile 67) and Scott's Transmission Tower (mile 71). Though I felt fairly good overall on this section, my low calorie intake really made the steep climbs at over 9,000 feet tough. What little bit of energy I was getting from my fuel, the climbs would eat up instantly. After the seven mile traverse of the ridge that oscillated between 9,400 and 9,900 feet, we took the long-feeling, but not really that long, descent to the Brighton ski lodge aid station (mile 75).

It was here things came a bit unglued. While Andy was seeing to his energy needs (something like 8 of the renowned Brighton hash brown bars!), I got weighed one last time (down 5 on the day) and Brad loaded up my pack and bottles, knowing more than I did at that point what I needed. I grabbed a cup of soup, and we left the chaos of Brighton for the remote trip up Catherine's Pass to Point Supreme (mile 78; elev 10,400 ft). Still in view of the lodge, the queasiness that started to come on as I gathered my things together, crashed over me and all my energy vanished. It wasn't pretty. Clutching my cup of soup, trying to take in whatever I could, AJW took the lead at what had to seem to him like a sub-glacial pace. For the first time since the early going, I was passed by a couple runners. But, we went with it and just kept moving forward and after about 15 minutes, my stomach settled and the few calories I was able to get in primed the energy pump, and once again we were able to move ahead at a pretty steady pace. It was a true relief.

Ant Knolls aid (mile 80) was next, a great station with a great crew who let us know we were currently sitting in 22nd place. After taking a couple shots of Coke, and feeling a world better than I did 5 miles previous, we headed for the "Grunt," a notorious, not very long but very steep late-stage climb. My legs felt good and we made pretty short work of it. Then it was off to the last aid station at Pot Bottom (mile 93).

Barely dodging disaster out of Brighton and having already passed the runner's generally slower than me, I thought we'd settled into our station in the race - 22nd. But on the final descent into Pot Bottom, I was surprised that we caught Darla (and her pacer, Krissy Moehl), who offered very kind words as they let us by, and another group of three (one racer, two pacers).

Trying to keep our momentum, we were in and out of Pot Bottom quickly (passing, I believe, one other racer who hadn't yet left the aid). All that was left: One final bottle of Coke; one final decent climb, and then the final, often gnarly, long descent to home. The way I was feeling, I knew I was going to make it. Though the steep ups and downs were still pretty slow, I had the legs and the energy to tap out a pretty good rhythm on everything else, and when we hit the road to Homestead, just three quarters mile way, I was ecstatic. It wouldn't be 24 hours, but it would be very close to my time at Bighorn (an arguably faster course), something Andy knew. So, just to make sure we capped things off right, he took us home in a good closing clip, and I was able to cross the line just under Bighorn time in 25:34:19.

Nearly 27,000 feet of climbing. 26,000 descending. 19th place overall, and a world away from the dark hours of 69th.

It was just a little over a year earlier that I had closed out my first ultra season with a total meltdown at the Teton 50, my confidence in tatters. But in hindsight it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It focused my training, made me experiment with nutrition, and motivated me to sign up for races more difficult than Teton so I'd have the chance to prove to myself I'd moved beyond the early failure.

It was that concatenation of races that lead me to the line at Kaysville four days ago, and I feel privileged to have had the chance to run that amazing course, with an amazing crew and pacer, and to gather the richness of experience a long, long day on the trail offers us all.

Photo by Matt Galland; Desolation Lake in the daylight.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

You Think You'll Run Wasatch in What Time?

My Wasatch Front 100 pacers on yesterday's run around Greenhorn Gulch. As reserved as always, we won't be sneaking up on anyone. Anxious to toe the line.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wasatch Front 100: 10-day Forecast

Related link:  2009 Wasatch Front Race Report

It's been a strange four weeks that have brought me to the 10-day forecast for race day at the Wasatch Front 100. As the 2.9 regular readers of this blog know, the posting of the 10-day forecast holds a special place in my race preparation calendar, marking the beginning of the final run-up to the line where you hone your fitness and plan your drop bags (past post). Unfortunately for Wasatch, it's had the added quality of also being a bit of injury roulette, and I have no idea whether the ball is going to land red, black or double zero.

Largely out of nowhere, a neuroma in my left foot left me hobbled and cross training in early August. A couple doctor's appointments later, and I was back on my feet running but at a reduced schedule. And if I'm honest, I have to say I'm not sure what's lurking over the next 10 days, especially on the ever-unknowable race day.

Overall, though, things have been feeling OK, if far from perfect, and I plan to toe the line and pound out 100 beautifully hard miles of the Wasatch Front under somewhat threatening skies with a high of 81.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "True" Cost of Running

There was an interesting piece on public radio's Market Place yesterday about the "true" cost of running -- the opportunity cost that reaches beyond the price of shoes, entrance fees, boxes of gels, orthopedic appointments, gas, and lodging (oh, the lodging!). The economist, a Wharton professor training for the Marine Corp marathon, put the true cost of his 16-week training plan at several thousand dollars when you consider the time taken away from other important endeavors, which largely appear to be related to work.

One can only imagine the opportunity cost he and his colleagues would put on a Western States 100 training plan. Get Mr. Krupicka to stop running and it would seem we could easily pay for health care reform.

Yet, in a surprising turn, the piece comes around to what we all know: The numbers don't really matter; the opportunity cost doesn't really matter. What matters is simply that we love to run, because in the balance sheet of our lives, running will always keep us in the black.

Story Link: If You Run the Numbers, It's a Good Time (APM's Market Place)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Performance" Plus "Goats"

This great roadie vs. fixie video by Robin Moore's been making the rounds. If you haven't seen it yet it's worth a couple viewings at least, if just to hear "spandex" rhymed with "aerodynamic."

Clearly, Mr. Moore has talent, and he's put it to some serious use as well with his very good You Tube series Because There Are Goats, about volunteers traveling abroad to work on organic, sustainable farms.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Most Popular Reviews

No need to deal with Google or tag clouds or, heaven forbid, typing in a direct URL, here they are served up nice and easy, the most popular Run Junkie reviews of the season so far:

Asics Gel-Trail Sensor 3

Brooks Cascadia 4

Asics DS-Trainer 13

Nathan HPL #020 Hydration Pack

"Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall

Inov-8 Roclite 320

Hammer Perpetuem Sports Drink

All RJ Reviews here

Saturday, August 8, 2009

To the Top of Idaho's Hyndman Peak (elev 12,009)

After years of hearing about the arduous hike/scramble to the top of Idaho's Hyndman Peak (elev 12,009), my wife and I finally made the trek last weekend. Perfect weather. Fantastic day. A short Flip video of the affair.

Music: Furr by Blitzen Trapper (iTunes)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

RJ Review: Mexican Food, "Mexican" Food, and Brief Thoughts on Christopher McDougall's Book "Born to Run"

I spent the late 1980s and most of the 1990's on the East Coast - first in DC, then in Boston - and one of the things I missed most from my native West was authentic, great Mexican food. It was just hard, or downright impossible, to find. But deprivation often brings acquiescence, and when I really wanted Mexican food bad enough, I'd find myself sitting down at a mediocre "Mexican" place for some mediocre "Mexican" food and find my gustatory needs sated, to a degree.

This describes to a "T" the experience of reading Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, (Knopf; $24.95). The book chronicles, with a few diversions, the trip made by the author and some big name ultrarunners (Jurek, Escobar, Shelton) to a 47 mile race in the Copper Canyons of Mexico against the fabled distance-running Tarahumara Indians. And while the book contains a handful of interesting passages, many ultrarunners who know a bit about the sport will come away feeling that the book depicts a sensationalized facsimile of the sport: "ultrarunning" as it were, rather than just, ultrarunning.

The writing itself is OK, and sometimes sings, but McDougall can at times come across like a convert who doesn't quite comprehend the nature of the sport he's writing about. Of course, the book can't be written for ultrarunners alone, all 413 of us worldwide, so maybe I'm being a tad unfair, but at the end I was left wondering what a great essayist like Adam Gopnik could have done with the same material. There are enough amazing elements in each ultrarunner's experiences that there's no need to sensationalize, just aptly describe.

That said, I read the book with verve from start to finish, being so starved for printed matter on the sport, and it was a satisfying experience, to a degree.

Luis Escobar's photo essay of the Cooper Canyon race in Born to Run

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tips for Dealing with Achilles Tendonitis

While troubleshooting a resurgence of Achilles tendonitis, I seemed to remember a good Dreamchasers email from RD and Pearl Izumi runner, Lisa Smith-Batchen, which offered therapy tips by an MD who also happened to be one of her clients. A quick Google search brought up the post. Here it is for anyone who missed the original and needs to keep an Achilles at bay through the next big event.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Selected Tweets (July 2009)

I started the Run Junkie Twitter feed as a place to air some running-related observations and linkages that just didn't seem to rise to the level of a full blog post, and although I'm still mastering the form, I've really been enjoying the exercise of distilling life's moments into 140 characters.

Each tweet may not be worthy of a blog post on its own, but I thought I'd collapse some selected entries over the last few weeks to give my blog readers a taste of what's going on in the other wing of Run Junkie.
# # # #

Some photos from the run this morning with the Gang of Four in Sun Valley:
Off on dawn patrol for a few hours run with the gang of four.Early starters taking it out FAST - RT @iRunFar: Early starters at the White River 50 are underway. #wr50Really wanted to make it this year but couldn't. Has to go to Wardian, doesn't it? Even w/ Hal and Tony K on the line. We'll see. #WR5030 min to the start of White River 50. Was my first ultra. A great, great race. #WR50VentouxBack from an evening run up to Pioneer Cabin (elev 9400). Always good to get above 9k.RT @velonews: A look at last year's Tour top ten, and where they are this year"Seeking help for an injury at any price.". NY Times: from a good track workout. Tired.Elephant's Perch Backcountry Run 2009:

Our Scars Tell the Stories of Our Lives - - video by Kim Holak's pacer at Hardrock. You can feel the fatigue but see the relentless forward motion: wife's online to hoard '09 HRs. The word from @iRunFar: Pre-OR rumor - no more Montrail Hardrock going forward. Will confirm post haste.Vermont 100 this weekend. '07-'08 winner, AJW, not running. An open field. Follow with #vt100Legs a bit tired from the bounding drills Brad (Mitchell) made us do at the track last night.A Sun Valley classic tomorrow: The Elephant's Perch Backcountry Run (10 & 16.5 miles). Doing the 16. We'll see if I'm really recovered.I appreciate the struggle, but the evidence is clear: healthy weight beats overweight when it comes to health. NYT: a great 17 miler (2500 ft vert) around Adams Gulch (Sun Valley, ID). Really needed to exorcise a bad 18 miler last Friday.@joinGECKO Nice showing at Badwater! Hope those feet held together on the flight."Eat Less, Live More." From the Economist:, relaxed and funny. RT: @saddleblaze: This is hilarious: RT @PaulRaats Lance playing with Sporza....good fun be the reason for those "ghost" aid stations at 2am. "Is There a Link Between Caffeine and Hallucinations?: SciAm -

"On the Origin of Pacers" -- Conduct the Juices:
RJ Review of the Asics Gel-Trail Sensor 3: @johanbruyneel: Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Work with it, not against it'Energy Shots' article in the NY Times. Caffeine, nasty taste, and little else. Maybe just what you need:

5th for AJW just 2 weeks after Western. RT @hardrock100: Andy Jones-Wilkins in 28:10
Meltzer wins Hardrock in 24:38 (#hr100). Three for three this year. RT @hardrock100: Karl's finishing video: from today's run up to Pioneer Cabin. "The higher you get. The higher you get." obit on free-climber & legend, John Bachar, who fell to his death Sunday. NYT:

HRH-related story in NYT. RT @taraparkerpope: Woman has part of her brain removed and becomes an elite ultramarathoner.