Saturday, January 24, 2009

Can Clothes Make the Ultrarunner?

Is it wrong to be motivated by a jacket? I know, we ultrarunners are supposed to be of a different breed -- spurred on by nature and the poetry of perseverance and camaraderie -- but, I have to admit that one of the things truly motivating me these winter days is the finisher's jacket at the upcoming Coyote Two Moon 100k.

Now, Coyote race director, Chris Scott, is by all accounts no ordinary event tsar. His ultra hard races offer unique formats and are balanced with conviviality and an overarching sense of fun. And this uniqueness suffuses to race attire as well, whether it's the full bunny suit he dons to greet runners with Peeps, the propeller beanies race leaders wear, or the great finishers' premiums.

On deck this March for 100k finishers is a Patagonia Slopestyle Hoodie emblazoned with the Coyote Two Moon logo. And for whatever reason, I find my thoughts often turning to this trophy for motivation when the skies are gray and roads icy. That the 100k may not be offered again -- with the jacket therefore forever lost to the ethers if I miss my mark -- stirs the fires within even more.

Further stoking my fixation is likely the fact that this will be my first 100k and that I DNF'd my last race of 2008. Being able to put it on and zip it up will be a symbol of meeting the new challenge, overcoming a past defeat, and also muscling through a tough winter of training in the Rocky Mountains. That, and it's just simply a great looking jacket.

One of my training companions suggested I keep a photo of the jacket in my pocket on race day and take a look at it as the night drags on and energy wanes. And I just may do that, while of course also being spurred on by nature and the poetry of perseverance and camaraderie.

See my other C2M postings.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Results: Long and Jones-Wilkins Shoot It Out at the 2009 Ghost Town Ultra

It was getting close to high noon in Ghost Town yesterday when Tim Long and Andy Jones-Wilkins (AJW) came head to head into the last 800 meters after 38 miles of running (race site). The final, hard-fought dual saw some surges and lead changes, with Long ultimately taking victory in 5:21:01, a scant five seconds ahead of runner up Jones-Wilkins. Both athletes crushed the previous course record.

Great race reports from both:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Results: Roes, Garneau Take 2009 H.U.R.T 100

Geoff Roes has followed up his victory at Wasatch Front this past September with a win today at Hawaii's H.U.R.T 100 in a time of 20:28. Tracy Garneau won the women's race in 27:43. Full results.

Top Men
1. Geoff Roes 20:28
2. Dan Barger 24:13
3. Paul Hopwood 24:22

Top Women
1. Tracy Garneau 27:43
2. Suzanna Bon 30:32

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Poetry from Motion: Logging My Runs in Attackpoint

Running isn't quite as scintillating these days as it is during the wide open days of summer. All the trails we'd really like to hit are under at least a meter of snow, and after a number of weeks running on the same plowed routes again and again things are beginning to feel a bit stale, which leaves my mind looking for something, anything to focus on.

Lately a lot of my thoughts, especially during those runs in the wee hours, have focused on crafting the details for my training log entries for that day. This is patently silly, of course. It doesn't take too much thought to enter distance, pace, and route. But it's certainly a fun distraction as you make way over dark, icy roads to think about what's worth noting and what's not.

My first thoughts are purely about the details. Was that 6.5 miles or 6.25? Did it have 1900 ft of elevation gain or 1750 ft.

Next, especially these days, are the conditions. I note temperature if it's less than ten degrees, just because it shows a bit of grit to get out there in the single digits or lower. Road conditions come next, where I'm finding I have an Inuit's winter vocabulary -- ice, glaze ice, crusty ice, compact snow, loose snow, deep snow, 3 inches new, and rarely, bare and dry.

Then come the more subjective notes: how I felt, what I saw, how the general arc of training is going. Things like this.

Finally, is bringing it all together succinctly and with a voyeur's eye. What will I be interested in re-reading when I look back, and what might people who read my log be interested in reading -- has a social networking component so training partners and complete strangers can see exactly what you're doing (or at least what you report).

Looking at my logs, you'd be surprised that so much of my running time is spent crafting, editing, and amending the often perfunctory notes. But as we all know, we can sometimes have a day's worth of experiences in a single run, and picking what to log and what to leave on the road is an art in and of itself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

RJ Review: Kahtoola KTS Aluminum Crampons

With deep snow giving the backcountry trails a long winter's rest, the quest for vertical feet can often be Quixotic for mountain-dwelling ultra runners. Relegated to plowed roads and paths, we do what we can to stack up some climbing and descending, like out-and-backs on 300 foot climbs, but all of it is in the shadow of the big peaks we truly want to attack -- the big boys with 3, 4, 5000 ft vertical.

Well, this week I tested out some great trail running crampons -- the Kahtoola KTS Aluminum (Kahtoola site) -- which put some of these peaks within reach.

The KTS crampons (retail $139.00) are made to fit over running shoes or light hiking boots, are lightweight (19 oz per pair), and have ten 3/4 inch points, which are aggressive enough to grip firmly in compact snow but not so sharp or long that you'll need to be sutured up if you take an awkward stride.

To test the KTS's, I mapped out a nine mile route that started with a 3.5 mile road run to the base of the Sun Valley, Idaho ski hill (Warm Spring side), then (after strapping on the KTS's) straight up the main 1.9 mile groomed ski run to the top (3200 ft vert; elev 9100 ft), and then down relatively run-able groomed trails to where I started (River Run side).

The upshot: on compact and well-groomed ski trails, the Kahtoola KTS crampons were near-flawless. They're quick and easy to put on. They grip surprisingly well on very steep ups and very steep downs. And, except for a tad of extra weight, they feel very natural when running.

I did have to readjust the straps a few times, especially after sections of very steep downs, but some more experience with the KTS's could help with this. Another quibble is that on very steep ups, the KTS's can cause your heel to slip, since the crampons simply can't flex as much as the running shoes want to. Overall, though, these are minor frailties.

The KTS's are not -- as the Kahtoola website seems to imply -- a great choice for all types of snowy trail running. In anything looser than compact snow, you'll post-hole pretty much as you would in regular running shoes.

But, if you're lucky enough to live within striking distance of a good ski hill, and you're in desperate need of some vertical, the Kahtoola KTS Aluminum crampons could be just what you're looking for.

More gear reviews on Run Junkie (RJ Reviews)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Long Run: A Dash of the Surreal

Today had one of those poetic moments that rise up to greet everyone who has put in enough time on the road or trail. Mine came in the form of a very small dog -- some kind of terrier no bigger than a loaf of bread.

About halfway through my long run and listening to the podcast of NPR's All Song's Considered top 25 show for 2008, I became taken by the song Furr by the alt-folk Portland band Blitzen Trapper. The tune's about a young man becoming part of a wolf pack, and as the lyrics developed,
I heard my mother shouting through the fog
It turned out to be the howling of a dog,
Or a wolf to be exact.
The sound sent shivers down my back,
But I was drawn into the pack
And before long,
They allowed me to join in and sing their song
So from the cliffs and highest hill
Yeah, we would gladly get our fill
Howling endless and shrilly at the dawn,
I looked down at my feet, and as if from the ethers, there appeared a small, light colored dog running alongside me on the snowy path. The quirkiness of the dog, combined with the lyrics so rich in my head, made for quite a confluence that seemed to reach beyond the simple: "stray dog tails runner."

We ran together for a few miles, with him never straying more than a few feet from my side; then as quickly as he came, he disappeared.

My wife, knowing my propensity for super-bonks and their related loss of mental focus, questioned whether there really was a dog at all. All I could say was "of course there was" while wondering quietly in my mind if in fact that were true.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Idaho Ultra: Pocatello 50

Update 2010:
Pocatello 50 Miler Scuttled Mid-Race by Nasty Weather

Update 2009:
Pocatello 50 results
Run Junkie 60-second race report

With confetti and corks still littering the ground, I hopped on over to and registered for the inaugural Pocatello 50, officially setting up a nice (read: arduous) 2009 early season race schedule, which also includes the Coyote Two Moon 100k and, if things move according to plan, the Bighorn 100 miler.

While it's great to live in the Sun Valley, Idaho area, with its quick access to the backcountry and ski slopes, there are very few ultras one can drive to in less than 9 - 10 hours. So, it's great to see race directors, Jared Campbell and Ryan McDermott, put together what looks like a fabulous, hard 50 mile ultra on May 23, 2009, which is also just a few short hours away. With solo, or 2-3 person teams, the course posts over 13,000 feet of climbing and, given the winter we've had so far, should feature a good deal of glissadable snow come May.

Check out the videos below for a quick tour of the course (classic Idaho trail running) and the glissading skills you may want to bone up on beforehand.

To sign up online visit

Related posts: Photo Guides to Trail Runs in Sun Valley