December 30, 2010

Running Toward a New Year

Sometimes it's good to get away to look at things with a new perspective. Running can get a little routine, even monotonous at times.  The last week of the year was a good one for me on this front, spent on the island of Oahu with my extended family to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday.  What a great time!  Miss Hawaii showed up and performed a very cool hula dance at the birthday party.

While here I managed several runs, a few with family, and one interval session to the top of Diamondhead four times! Oahu is the home of the HawaiiH.U.R.T. 100, thought to be the toughest 100 mile race in the USA.  One day!....?

Happy new year all!

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Runners!

I hope all of you runners got what you wanted from Santa and are celebrating a great holiday! Don't forget to get you miles in!

December 20, 2010

Running. At Night. In the Rain. With a Cold.

Boy, does it get any wetter than this?  It’s been raining non-stop for 3 days in So Cal!  And they’re calling for rain through Wednesday.  Tonight I went out for a 10 miler and, despite a stubborn chest cold, I felt pretty good.  Even though the weather sucked, rain and wind in my face the whole way, it felt good to just be out there.  It kind of reminded me of a quote by distance runner Dave Bedford, who said “Running is a lot like life.  Only 10% is exciting.  Ninety percent is slog and drudge”.    

Thank you, slog and drudge!

December 14, 2010

Saltwater 5000 - 2010

This year's Saltwater 5000 is now in the history books.  It was another incredible year.  To read about it, click here.

December 8, 2010

40 Top Running Books

I was recently contacted by a website that has put together this list of top running books. I didn't think much of this until I looked at some of the authors on the list....Sheehan, Noakes, Glover, Fitzgerald, Bannister, McDougall, and Burfoot are just a few of the "exhilarating" authors included on this list.  I've read most of these authors and recommend you investigate these reads, whether you're an aspiring young runner or an old dog looking for some new tricks.  Remember, regardless of your age, you're either green and growing, or ripe and rotting.  Reading prevents the latter and promotes the former.

November 26, 2010

The Pacific Crest Trail - One Day.

Today made for a good 10 miler from Big Bear Lake up Cougar Crest Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail and back.  I always enjoy running on the PCT because it's, well, so huge!  And it makes every other trail seem so small.  According to William R Gray, one of the fist to hike the entire length in one effort, the PCT is "one of the longest and most majestic hiking trails in the world". 

 I just finished Gray's book entitled The Pacific Crest Trail, a journal of his seven month odyssey along the 2,650 mile trail that stretches from the boarder of Mexico to Canada.  I'm now even more inspired to touch the southern boarder and then one day, be it over months or possibly years, but certainly after crossing mountains, deserts and forests, reach out to touch that northern Canadian line.  One day.              

From the PCT looking over Big Bear Lake.  
San Gorgonio sits in the background.

PCT southbound

2,650 Miles from one end to the other.  One day!

November 22, 2010

The Gift - A Video

The gift is a short video (music by Moby) about some special outdoor moments I was lucky enough to capture on film this year.  It contains no movie footage, only still pictures.  5,412 pictures in fact!  I hope you enjoy it.  And I hope it inspires you to get outside and look at all the amazing things that are waiting for you!  Be sure to turn the volume up because the music is awesome.

To see it on full screen click on the start arrow then click the four arrow icon next to the vimeo link at the bottom of frame.  

Please leave a comment!  ROCK IT!

The Gift from Will C on Vimeo.

November 14, 2010

Catalina Eco Marathon -- The Hardest Marathon?

Just before the starting gun of the Catalina Eco Marathon sounded yesterday,  my thoughts flashed back to a conversation I had recently with my friend Jeff P.  “Jeff what’s the most difficult marathon you’ve ever run”?, I asked.  “Oh, that would be the Catalina Eco Marathon”.  Spoken by anybody else these words wouldn’t be all that concerning.  However, these were words spoken by a man who’s run over 150 marathons.    

Runners ready, Go!  And we were off.  More than 370 of us, making our way up Avalon Canyon.  We passed right by Hermit Gulch campground,  not a notable landmark to most, but the home to four runners Rob M, Chris C, Gerry W and me the night before.  As I looked over at the empty tent #6, I thought I could still hear sounds from the night before.  Sounds?  Ok, let me just say human noises only possible after spending hours taste testing Catalina’s finest Mexican food and cervesa.  After that crescendo, the snoring, and I’m talking some weird alien sounding snoring, was actually a relief.

While steadily climbing for a couple of miles, I was getting some glances in at my heart rate monitor.  These glances turned to double takes, which isn’t a good sign when you running Jeff Ps hardest 26.2.  Oh well, I had only myself to blame, realizing that I was probably a couple of liters short on fluids at the starting line.  Call it the Catalina cantina effect.  Not recommended for PRs, course records or other breakthrough performances. 

As we crested the top of the climb, we were just shy of 1,750’, atop of one of the most scenic vantage points in all of California.  This was a day unlike most, with crystal clear skies and breathtaking  views in panorama.  To my right, across the Catalina channel, stood the Santa Ana and San Gabriel ranges.  To my left, the great expanse of the deep blue Pacific Ocean.  One of the most memorable moments for me was when Rob M and I were descending westward around mile 8 high on a ridge, and below us was an expansive view San Clemente island.  It was a once in a lifetime view of this stealthy island only visible from the mainland on the clearest of days. 

As the race wore on, we traversed a healthy mixture of ridges, canyons, truck trail and single track.  We ultimately came upon the vaunted “Crunch” hill at mile 19.  Difficult?  Yes. But a good break from a rather monotonous 3 miles following mile 16.  By the time I hit the top of the Crunch, I finally started to feel ok.   My heart was finally settling down.  I realized at that point it must have taken me 19 miles to catch up on my fluids from the night before.  Rob M and I cruised through the last few rolling miles on the Trans Catalina Trail.  At this point my second wind was in full force and I was able to pick things up through the Hermit Gulch single track trail and onto the finish line for eighth place overall.

Would I recommend the Catalina Eco Marathon?  Absolutly.  Its a beautiful course with some challenging terrain and a great team of volunteers.  Is it the most difficult marathon? I defer to Jeff P on that topic, but after living through tent #6 and the Catalina cantina effect, it now gets my vote.  

November 7, 2010

The Creepy Spider

By Charlotte C.  (Age 7)

One day there was a spider and it crawled a mean crawl.  One day a man saw that spider when he was running.  Then he poked it with a stick and it crawled away.  But it did not crawl very far because it was tired.  Then it was time to go.  So the man went home.

The End.

November 6, 2010

Where Has All the Unkown Gone?

Do you remember what you felt like before starting your first year of high school or college?   Or your first race?  The anticipation, the butterflies, the sweet taste of the unknown.     It's kind of intoxicating, I think, facing something new and outside of our comfort zone.

I remember that feeling when I was preparing for my first ultra.  It all seemed so new and different.  The training, though not too different from the marathon training I'd done for many years, just seemed more fun.  More meaningful.  The whole running experience just seemed more vivid.

Coming into my 6th year of running ultras I'm beginning to miss that fresh perspective.  The butterflies are still there, but the "newness" has faded.  My training is going well, but I know I need to take it to another level if I'm going to achieve some of the goals I've set for myself.   I know I'm capable of getting to where I want to go.  I just really want to enjoy the journey along the way.

Where for art thou unknown?


October 29, 2010

Touching Something Relevant

This week I reached down and touched the murky water of the Tennessee River. Where I stood, it so happens, was within eyesight of where a fierce tornado had touched down just the night before. But as I stood under the grey sky in this southern town, it wasn’t the weather I was thinking of.

Whenever I travel for work—which is a lot these days—I always try to make time to run. If I’m lucky I run to something. Nothing glamorous or famous. Just something relevant. Like a river, an ocean, a mountain, even an historic site. History and nature are all around us. They lay, I think, humbly and in waiting for us to notice them. History for sure, because history is only there for us when we want it to be.

It must be so, at least on this day, because as I leaned down to touch the river, I knew there was a story in it. But what was it? At that moment it didn’t matter, I was just enjoying being there while standing at its shore.

As I stood there I remembered visiting Gettysburg many years ago. The stories of what took place on that battlefield—gruesome stories—were difficult to hear. But there is one story I’ll never forget. It’s a story about how soldiers from both the Confederate Army and the Union Army, bloodied from the daily battles, some near death, would gather at night on opposite sides of a narrow creek, and they would wash their wounds, at peace with each other.

The place I was standing, it so happens, was part of one of the most critical battlefields of the civil war, the battle of Chattanooga. A battle that claimed more than 12,000 casualties and was the beginning of the end of the confederacy. I wonder, now, how many men could have washed their wounds on the shore where I stood?

Sometimes just touching the water can be relevant.

October 22, 2010

The Rebirth of Saltwater Website

Tradition. Pride. Friendship. Commitment.  These are the values of Saltwater, a 32 mile run from the ocean to the top of Saddleback Mt (5,600'+).  This is the rebirth or our website.  Enjoy.  Click here to go to new Saltwater website.  Please leave you comments!

October 14, 2010

Women and Boston. Unfair Advantage?

What do you girls and boys think?  Today's Wall Street Journal ran a story you should be interested in.   The question is should women get a 30 minute advantage to qualify for the Boston Marathon?  That has been the handicap to date, but is it unfair?  Now that Boston is filling up so quickly, some are saying this is unfair!  What do you think?

Click here for the link.  Please come back to this blog to leave your comments!


October 13, 2010

My First Barefoot Run

It's official. My first go-with-the-latest-trend barefoot run is now in the book. It was only 5 miles, with 3 on the beach and 2 on concrete. Yes, you read that correctly, concrete. All I'm going to say at this point is that I'm no "barefoot Ted" or vibram junkie, just a curious old school runner sniffing around the latest craze.

Since I just finished 5 minutes ago I'm going to have to wait to see how My feet feel tomorrow. Wait. This just right big toe is feeling kind of raw.

Time for a beer.

October 4, 2010

Lightning Strikes. Not Once, but....

It’s usually the simple things—the white clouds on the horizon, the crisp red branch of the Manzanita, the amber sky of the setting sun—that nature reveals to us.  But once in a while, if you’re in the right place at the right time, she can reveal much more.  

It was around 2:30 am Saturday morning when I woke.  My heart was racing and my breath was short.  I must have been dehydrated, I thought, so I downed some water and waited to fall back to sleep.  But my heart was still active, and the darkened room lit up as I lay waiting.  But what was I waiting for?  Another flash, then another.  Finally I get up and walked out to the balcony.  Before me unfolds one of those rare moments.
A tropical depression, unusual this late in the year, was moving up the coast off southern California.  My wife and I were celebrating our 13th anniversary on the island of Catalina. I was standing on the balcony overlooking the pitch black ocean. Lightning pierced the darkness with brilliant bolts that made my hair stand on end.  One, two, three bolts.  Then multiples of that.  We stood there for two hours watching as the storm moved closer.  A fishing boat, anchored just off the shore, made a run to the mainland as the lightning closed in.

Fortunately I brought my SLR and tripod on the trip to capture some of the scenery.  For those interested I caught the lightening by setting the shutter speed to 20 to 30 seconds with the aperture set high, around 24, for maximum depth of field.  I kept shooting in the general direction of the storm and got a couple right on the money. 

Hope you enjoy the pics cause I really enjoyed taking them! 

Oh yea, I almost forgot.  I got a couple of great runs in on the Island as well! 

Tropical System The Day Before -- Humid! 
Hey, its our 13th!
Pre Fish Tour

September 29, 2010

Cycling's Dilema

The sport of cycling continues to struggle with it's past, present and future ills in its battle with doping. Here's the latest debacle that has surfaced on the current Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador.

Click here to see article.

September 19, 2010

Trail Buddies

Ever see dragonflies on trail?  I do all the time.  I never knew they were so cool looking up close and personal.  This gal let me get pretty close to get some shots of her.  Did you know she eats mosquitoes?

September 16, 2010

The Trail Ahead

After a long, lazy summer I recently began picking up my mileage again.  There are times when I’m really focused and turn my attention to running, and there are times I drift away from that.  This summer I drifted.  And I enjoyed every minute of it!  It was refreshing just to be able to wake up in the morning on a weekend and not even think about running.  I need that every so often. 

Last week I ran over 40 miles for the first time since Western States.  My fitness is actually pretty good, which I’m pleased with given the time off I’ve had.  On the other hand, I didn’t refrain from running entirely, and when I have run I’ve been able to focus more on quality.  Hills, stride outs and a few intervals a couple times a week have helped me hang on to a little fitness over the summer months.

But fall is here now, and I’m looking forward to trying some new things this season with my training.  I’ve started running on the track with Snails Pace, an Orange County running club that has been around forever.  I haven’t run on the track consistently for over 10 years and I’m anxious to see how it will impact my training and racing in ultra events.  One caution I’ve given myself is TAKE IT EASY OUT THERE!  The track is notorious for causing injuries and, as a victim of it, I’m very aware of this. 

Another spin I’m trying is instead of just running long (and slow) on the weekends, I’m going to put more emphasis on quality by shortening up my long run but also push the pace a little.  Last week I ran with my WS pacer Rob M and we pushed a lot of hills and straights.  While I was out of my comfort zone for much of the run, I was pleased that I was able to recover during the run even after some of the more difficult sections.

So what is next?  I’m looking at a trail marathon this fall which will set me up well for next year’s ultra season, now only just around the corner.  As for which races to run, I’m still pondering that.  My gut tells me not to do Western States again, maybe try another 100 miler, but my heart isn’t quite sure.  In any event, I’m looking forward to running some fun races in 2011, and I’m as enticed as ever by the trail ahead! 

September 6, 2010

Don't Tread on Me!

Yesterday I was out for a medium distance run in El Moro state park.  As I was running along a single track section I turned a corner and whoa!  Boy was I close to treading on this girl!  At first I thought she was dead because she was completely still, but then I noticed her tongue slithering in and out of her mouth.   I quickly pulled out my camera and starting shooting in high speed burst mode to capture any movement.  I don't think she wanted to be on camera because as soon as started filming she began rattling rather loudly and quickly made her way to the bushes.

Here is what I saw.

August 27, 2010

Chasing Clouds

Early Thundercloud 

Here are a few images of some of the clouds I've been chasing lately for an upcoming video I'm working on.  I've watched a few amazing thunderstorms in the last few days.  There is nothing like seeing lightening strike in front of you while sitting on a mountain to get the old heart rate going....hell, it beats doing hill repeats!

The video is evolving, but it will incorporate some cool time lapse techniques and a taste of nature, which I consider to be one of my greatest sources of motivation to run.  While I hope you enjoy it, I really hope you are motivated by it!  Be sure to give me your feedback!

The Real Deal

August 16, 2010

The Science of Running and Memory

“There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.” 
Timothy Leary 

This just in….you don’t have to drop acid for enhanced long-term memory.  Sorry Mr. Leary.  Acid is out.   New method is in.  What is it?  Just step outside your front door.  Seriously.  But make sure you’ve got running shoes on. 

It’s been nearly two years since I ran the Grand Canyon.  Yet my mind continues to drift back to that day, enamored by its majestic vistas, sandy beaches along the Colorado, narrow trails etched in the sheer cliffs.  It was great day for all that dared to go the distance.  I hope to hold on to that memory for a long time.

Of course there are memories I’d just rather forget.  Like the time I performed a perfect swan dive on the steep downhill along Santiago trail.  I remember yelling like a child before I hit the ground.  Boy did my palms get torn up.  It wasn’t the best career move either.  A little awkward at the office shaking hands with scabs the size of meatballs on my palms.

Of course the aging process shows no mercy, and it’s just a matter of time before our memories fade. But if you’re a runner you’ll be happy to hear that you now have science your side. It was once believed by neurobiologists that the human brain, upon reaching adulthood, was incapable of generating new cells.  At this point it was thought brain cells could only die off, never to be replaced. That was until scientific studies in recent decades proved otherwise. 

The human brain is three times the size of other mammals of equivalent body size and has somewhere between 50 – 100 billion neurons.  Deep in our brains is a section called the hippocampus which, among other things, is responsible for long- term memory and spatial navigation (finding your way around a city or, in the case of a rat, through a labyrinth). What’s unique about the hippocampus is that it is one of the areas of the brain that science has discovered is capable of generating new cells.

Scientists have also learned recently that running plays a large role in the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, and in improving memory.  A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that running increased brain cell formation in the hippocampus section of the brain in mice.  Its method was quite simple but very revealing.  One group of mice was given unlimited access to a running wheel. This group of mice voluntarily clocked an average of 15 miles a day! The other group didn’t have access to an exercise contraption, and was sedentary during the study. 

The results were clear. The study identified that running contributed to the generation of hundreds of thousands of new cells in the brains of the running mice. More importantly, along with the new grey matter came an enhanced mental capacity.     The running mice scored nearly twice as high as their sedentary counterparts in a memory test.  The greatest improvement came later in the experiment when the test became progressively more difficult for the mice.

While the results of the Cambridge study are clear—that running stimulates the growth of new brain cells—science is yet to figure out how or why this happens.  Some postulate that it’s the result of increased blood flow to the brain.  Others believe its because running limits the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which happens to be linked to the shrinking of the hippocampus.  

So when someone at your next dinner party asks you why you run, it might be appropriate to ask them first if they can remember your name.  If they can’t, then tell them they now have their answer.  

August 8, 2010

Log Chute, Snow Summit

Once in a while I carry my camera (Panasonic DMC_LX3) with me on runs.  I do this to force myself to look at what's around me. I'm always glad when I do.  Today I was climbing up the face of the ski run Log Chute at Snow Summit located in Big Bear Lake, California.  Have you ever been to a ski resort in the summer?  Its not a bad time of year to visit one.  No people, no traffic, no stress.  Just blue sky, warm air and awesome scenery.

These are just a few shots of what I saw around me.

August 6, 2010

Investigation of Cycling Hero Intensifies

Call it destiny, bad luck, fate, innuendo, jealousy, or simple justice, Lance Armstrong's empire is at risk of falling faster than Barry Bonds' bid for the Hall of Fame.  Empire?  Yes, seven straight victories at the Tour de France, an empire built on a certain rise from the ashes, a defiance of the grim reaper, a cult of confidence.  Is this possible?  Everyone seemed to be looking around, wondering.  He's never tested positive....he's the hardest working athlete...he's got the best team....he's...he's...he's BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, PEOPLE!

I'm not going to to go any further with this, but check this out if you want more...

July 31, 2010

Careful Where You Squat!

Today I had a near disaster experience.  I was so close to disaster that my heart rate is still jacked up about it.  I can only thank the running gods, maybe mother nature herself, for sparing me. 

It all happened on a trail during a 15 mile run.  I was moving well up the single track trail in Coyote Canyon, a few steps ahead of my brother who was on his mountain bike.  Just as I stopped to take in the view across Newport Coast Road, I received a call from my GI track.  This was not a routine call.  This was an emergency call.  I quickly grabbed some Charmin from my brothers Camelback and charged for the nearest bush.

As I was crouched down tending to my business, my brother made a wise crack about a rattlesnake biting me in the ass.  “Ha ha bro, I know what I’m doing out here, don’t try to scare me with your jokes”, I thought to myself.  But his words must have hit home, because just as quickly as the thought of a rattlesnake was moving through my sub conscience, my eyes were surveying the ground around me.  All was well until turned to my right…

Holy crap, there’s a bee hive two feet from my bare ass!  “Get the hell out of here!”, I remember yelling to my brother. I felt like a ballerina who had just soiled her tutu as I tip toed away while pulling up my shorts.   Thank god I had finished with the Charmin. 

Today I came very close to disaster.  If I had been a mere two feet to my right when I squatted, well, I don’t think I’d be here—sitting—to tell you the story.  

July 3, 2010

Cracks in the Cycling Empire?

I just finished reading the article Blood Brothers, published in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.  The story is essentially Floyd Landis’ account of the systematic doping that goes on in the world of professional cycling, including Lance Armstrong.  The Tour de France begins its first stage today.

Though as I sit here today I’m disappointed in the sport of cycling, particularly the Tour de France, a race I have followed for over 25 years as a genuine fan.  I yearn for the days when American’s were considered nothing more than want-to-be’s by Europeans in the sport of cycling.    At least until Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten showed up and spoiled their party.  Greg and Andy paved the way for today’s American’s cyclists.  They toiled in the Alps and Pyrenees when most American’s didn’t even know the meaning of peloton.  Or EPO.  Or testosterone patches.

What has cycling become?  From my vantage point it's is nothing more than a shell of its former self, held together as a sport by extremely well-off sponsors and media hype.  When money enters the game, the rules change.  People do things that they wont do for the simple joy of it.  I’m all for making a living in sport.  But it’s gone way beyond that.  Sponsors want market exposure, product branding, and sales.  Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?  Are the riders being exploited? What about the fans?  If drugs are really happening, and I think they are, the answer to those two questions is affirmative.

This wasn’t intended to be a rant, but I’m just so disappointed in the sport right now.  I so much wanted Floyd Landis to assume the title that Greg and Lance held before him, but it wasn’t to be.  When he rode uncontested for most of a stage in one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of sports, only to be dethroned by a drug test, was for me, simply, depressing. Now that he has come clean and said what he has said he can at last breathe deep, look his mom in the eye, and not blink.  There is something to be said for being able to do just that.  I think our grandparents would place that above standing on the podium in terms of a life value.  I’m not sure our generation would.


June 29, 2010

Western States 2010 – Lessons Learned

I came to this year’s Western States with three goals in mind. First, simply get to the finish line regardless of time.  Not too exciting for some but the way I see it anything can happen during 100 miles and nothing can be taken for granted out there.  I also knew my two daughters would be waiting for me at the finish and seeing them was number one for me.  Second, beat last year’s time.  Again, not a huge thing but it was something I was thinking going in.  Third, run under 22 hours. 

My third goal was my stretch goal and I chose it a couple of weeks ago after starting my taper.  I felt my conditioning was very good, my training had gone well and I had no injuries.  This would have been 90 minutes faster than my time last year.  I knew all the key aid station splits I needed to hit to achieve this time, and I hit every one—Duncan Canyon (23.8 miles in 4 hours), Robinson Flat (29.7 miles in 5:20), Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles in 11:23) and Forest Hill (62 miles in 12:56).  There was only one problem.  By the time I hit Michigan Bluff, my legs (quads again, surprise!) were toast and I was reduced yet again to a gimp-like shuffle for much of the last 25 miles.    

As the race continued through the night, and my goal of running under 22 hours was slipping away, the situation started to take toll on my mind.  How can my goal slip so quickly from my grasp?  Why did my quads fail me yet again?  What didn’t I do right in my training?  It was then I realized I was running over my head.  Maybe I should’ve set the bar lower.  Despite my perils, my crew and pacer were outstanding.  Rob (pacer), Jeff, Dawn, my wife Jen and two daughters were all there to get me through some rough spots with words of encouragement, nutrition and supplies. 

Another one of my goals this year was to get to the River Crossing (mile 78) during day light.  When my pacer Rob and I left the Cal 3 aid station around 8:30 pm, I remember asking one of the aid station crew how far it was to the River.  When someone said four miles I thought we had a fighting chance to make it by twilight.  But when we were still running after 5 miles (not 4 miles!) and darkness had set in I started to lose it.  I let a few f-bombs fly. 

The night wore on and eventually Rob and I forgot how to read a watch.  The race started at 5 am but for some reason we both assumed I had to finish by 4 am to go under 24 hours, let alone beat my time of 23:28 last year.  Not only was my stretch goal out of reach but my second goal (mistakenly) was now in question.  Another mental torpedo.  It’s weird what a full moon and no sleep can do to your mind.  Not realizing we were adding an hour to my actual time, we rolled into Highway 49 (mile 93) around 2:15 am. 

Since I thought I only had 1 hour and 45 minutes left, I pulled up a chair, sat down and said to Rob, Jeff and Dawn I didn’t give a damn what time I came in anymore.  I’d decided I’d had it, and that I wasn’t going make it under 24 hours. I invited everyone to sit and bullshit with me for a while...kind of a mini pity party.  It was then Jeff looked at me with a puzzled face and said I actually still had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish under 24. Rob and I and looked at each other realizing what we had done wrong and just got up and kept moving.  From then on my focus went from just getting to the finish line to beating my time from last year. 

But enough of that already.  I finished under last years time, and I’m proud of that.  But what I’m most proud of is what happened at the finish line.  As I entered the stadium and rounded the last turn on the track at Placer high school, there stood my two daughters, ages six and eleven, waiting to take my hand and run with me through the finish line.  This was the moment I was waiting for.  The moment I kept visualizing in my mind through the race.  The moment that kept me pushing forward, despite the ups and downs.  As I approached my girls I could see them, smiling, knowing they were about to be part of something pretty cool.  When I reached them I asked them to take my hand, and just like that the three of us ran those final, precious, steps together through the finish line.

June 23, 2010

Western States Live Internet Broadcast

For those of you interested in following the race via the internet go to this link. Every runner's progress will be posted throughout the race.  My number is 140.

June 19, 2010

Bands Making my Ipod Playlist for WS 100

Moby, The Chrystal Method, Banco de Gaia, Boards of Canada, Incubus, Blink 182, The Offspring, 30 Seconds to Mars, Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, Paramore, Radiohead, Paul Van Dyke, Linkin Park, The Killers, Rise Against, The Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Petty, others.    

Should be enough to get me some ups, and hopefully through the downs.   

Six days....Rock it!

June 9, 2010

To Lift, Or Not to Lift?

Last year’s Western States reduced my quads to petrified stumps from a forest of doom. Have you ever run on stumps? I don’t recommend it. They’re not responsive and they don’t fit well to your hips.

For this years Western States I”ve decided to employ a stump grinding strategy: weight lifting. Fact is I used to lift weights regularly when I was running marathons. It helped me avoid injury from all the pounding on the hard surfaces. But when I started running mostly trails I stopped lifting consistently for some reason. I didn’t think it was that important. I think I was wrong.

This year I’ve started again, focusing only on my quads for downhill running, and my arms for carrying water bottles over the long distances. My regimen is pretty simple and, since I’m defiantly not looking to “bulk up”, stresses high reps with low weights. Here is what I do:

Two sessions per week that last no more than 20 minutes.

Single Leg Squats – Four sets (two sets each leg, alternating) with 20 reps each (stepping backward) standing up using a 50 to 60 pound barbell over my shoulders. I prefer the backward step vs forward lunge because it gives more isolation on the quad.

Traditional Squats – Two sets with 20 reps standing up using 80 lbs barbell over my shoulders. Sometimes if I’m in a hurry (like most of the time) I’ll just use the same weight as the single leg squats and go right into these sets with no break. If I use the lighter weight I’ll throw another 10 reps in the set. These also help with the back and glute muscles.

Single Arm Curls -- Two sets x 100 reps (50 each arm, alternating every curl) standing up using 15 lbs dumbbells. I do these with a good rhythm to simulate the running movement.

Single Arm Tri Extensions -- Four sets x 25 reps of single arm tri extension (over head) standing up using same 15 lbs dumbbell as curls. I like to incorporate these sets in with my curl sets. So, I start with the curl set, do 100 curls (50 each arm alternating), then go right into the tri extension with my right arm and do 25 reps, then move to my left arm and do 25 reps. Keeping the weights in my hands the through all the sets adds another element of fatigue which I believe builds endurance.

In the past I've used heavier weights with fewer reps. However, by doing this I tend to gain size in my arms which is NOT what I want (no Mr. Universe ambitions here!). Ultimately, as a runner, I'm seeking the strength from my weight lifting to go the distance, avoid injury and combat fatigue. I believe I get all of this from lifting weights.

However, with a family and a full time job that does NOT include running, my goal is to be as efficient as possible. To save time I often run from the gym after work and head straight in to lift when I’m done running. Or, if I’m running from home on the weekends where there is a gym 1.3 miles away, I’ll plan to run by the gym toward the end of the run and stop in to lift before I’m done. I prefer lifting after a run because my muscles are warmed up and I feel better doing it.

If you are starting to lift for the first time, go easy with lighter weigths and lower reps until you've been at it several months. Also, there is no "right" weight, or right workout. There can be variation on your workouts, and it is good to mix things up. I recommend working with lighter weights first and focus on increasing the number of reps before you add more weight, particularly if you are in an endurance sport.

So, to lift, or not to lift? If that is the question, I prefer to lift. 

June 6, 2010

Western States—20 Days and Counting

The last few months of training now wind down to a long awaited taper.  With just under three weeks remaining before the race I will be “tapering” my miles down by 20%, 40% and 60%, respectively.  Unlike the past couple of years, though, I plan to continue doing a couple of more difficult workouts per week, namely tempo and hill work. 

Today was a great effort and good indicator of my overall fitness.  I dragged Joe R out to the Cleveland National Forest and we ran to the top of Santiago Peak via the Holy Jim Trail.  This run had it all—a 4,000 foot climb in the first 8 miles, altitude, heat and flies!  I’ve never been buzzed so badly by bugs in my life!  We had to run the last couple miles to the peak waving twigs in front our face just to keep them from getting in our eyes. I actually choked at one point when one got down my throat.

Looking back I think my training has been on target.  My weekly miles have been averaging around 85, with two 90 mile and one 100 mile week, with about 10% of that on the elliptical machine.  What I’m most happy about is that I’ve been injury free.  Recovery has been a big focus for me.  I’ve constantly monitored my body.   If I feel too tired, I take a day off, or run easy that day and ultimately I don’t hesitate to put off the next hard work out.  In this same light, I’ve been consistently stretching and lifting weights. 

In the end, it’s all about the journey.  And so far I’m enjoying the ride!


June 2, 2010

Snow Year at Western States?

After enduring a rather wet winter here in California, I’ve been anxiously watching the snow levels in Squaw Valley. With only 24 days before the start of Western States, its looking more likely, if not certain, that we will be running a significant portion of the first 30 miles of the course in snow. Gulp!

How many miles will we be on snow? Not sure, but race officials sent the following email to race participants…."How many miles of snow should we expect on race weekend? We should have a better idea what the race weekend snow conditions will be by June 19th. We'll share that information with you when we have it. Ultimately, we take whatever the mountain gives us.”

Note: italics provided by this blogger for emphasis. We take whatever the mountain gives us. Doesn’t that sound cool!? Wow, now I feel like the Marlboro man getting ready for an assault on some remote peak in the Punjab province! What I really am is a skinny old man trying to get from a posh ski resort to a quaint town named Auburn.

With 78 inches of snow remaining at the top of Squaw as recently as two days ago, my guess for race day is, well, snow. What does that mean? I’m not quite sure. I haven’t done any meaningful runs on snow, so I’m about to find out. I guess I’ll take whatever the mountain gives me!

May 16, 2010

Get'n It Done At Six Years Old

Charlotte and her dad crossing the finish 

At the 
start of yesterdays 5k run/walk, throngs of kids, parents, dogs, strollers and razors converged on a four foot wide sidewalk.  Yet, before most even crossed the starting line, a little girl with blond hair wearing a white tee shirt was out in front pushing the pace.  "Wait up", I heard Abby saying to her cousin Charlotte.  Abby and I ran for a while until we caught up with her cousin.  Then, like children, we started skipping! And a tune entered my mind.  And we were singing...Lou, Lou, skip to my Lou; Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou, Skip to my Lou my Darlin!

Things started heating up a bit along the course, so we stopped at an aid station for some cold water and I poured a little over Charlotte's head to keep her cool.   The volunteers were great and had stations set up at three different spots along a pretty course in El Dorado Park.  

We moved along well through the back stretch.  Then, around the half way point, I looked over my shoulder and saw a little guy approaching quickly.  Sure enough this little guy no more than 3 and half feet tall danced by us with his grandfather to take the lead.  But Charlotte remained undaunted.  She continued to run through the hottest section. I grabbed a few cuties at the next aid station and handed her some bite size pieces.  

Then, just as things started to get really tough, Charlotte's uncle Al joined us for the final mile and half. Jokes and behavior only a six year old could appreciate ensued.  Our pace quickened.  Al and his wife April helped organize the event to raise money for a cure for Tuberous Sclerosis, which afflicts their daughters Abby and Amelia.  What's amazing is they made over $100,000 for the event!  Congrats Al and Apes.    

As we rounded the corner to the finish line, Charlotte kicked it into another gear and made a bee line to the finish.  What a race!  Six years old and get'n it done in 44 minutes.  Rock it Char!  Thanks to all the volunteers, especially Al and Apes, for putting on a fun and successful event!                          

May 9, 2010

Race Report -- PCT 50 Mile 2010

As the sun rose over the Laguna Mountains yesterday morning, I was locked in stride with a pack of runners climbing the long, meandering single track of the PCT 50.  After crossing Kitchen Creek road we pushed upward more, then turned northward.  As Moby's "Whispering Wind" played in my ipod, I looked across the sun-drenched Cameron Valley that appeared before me like a freshly painted mosaic. This, I thought to myself, is why I run.   

The PCT 50 mile is run on deceptively difficult terrain.  Packing mostly rock strewn trails, heat, long climbs and 6,000' elevation, the PCT 50 easily trumps the Leona Divide 50 on a scale of difficulty.   But what this course lacks in comfort, it surely makes up in splendor.  Dramatic and panoramic views lurk throughout this mountainous run, constantly beckoning runners for a precarious glimpse as they run along the rocky trail.

My pack of runners stayed together until the first aid station at Cibbets Flat campground, but started to splinter as we made our way up the steep fire road leaving the aid station.  We continued climbing until around mile 14, where we pierced 6,000' elevation.  Knowing I was going to be running at this elevation for several hours to come, I slowed things down a bit.  Long runs like this can bring on a host of ups and downs, both mental and physical.  I stayed focused on my water, salts and gels, consuming each meticulously on the hour and half hour. It was good to see Scott Mills at the Todd's Cabin aid station.  We traded a few words about Rob M and probable snow conditions at this year at Western States.  

As the day wore on, this trail took its toll on me.  I went down face first after kicking an invisible rock around mile 28, punched a huge boulder with my right hand to break a free fall around mile 40, and rolled my ankle a couple of times (ok, this is getting old).  After last year's Western States ankle episode, I'll admit I have a creeping sense of paranoia about the subject.  Are my ankles at the mercy of every trail I run? I have a sneaking suspicion that the cause might well be the lofty soles of my Asics trail 2140s.   They're acting more as rickety podiums than soles that ground my feet on uneven terrain.  Next step?  Check out the Inov 8 line which carries a boatload of stable, low-profile shoes designed for trail running in every condition.  More to come on this.

Working your way up in elevation on an out and back run like this would lead you to think it's a quick way back.  But don't be fooled.  Most of the single track is riddled with rocks, making it difficult to get a rhythm on the long 14 mile decent.  But as I neared the finish line, I knew this was a good day for me.  My homework is beginning to pay off, allowing me to run all the climbs, stay on a tempo on the flats and downs, and  capture 4th place overall.

"I stand in the way of the things I can be" 

...Moby, Whispering Wind  

Today I stood aside.      

May 2, 2010

Kids Will be Kids

As runs go, I’ll chalk today’s up as an ad-hoc-zany-security-breach kind of run.  Ad hoc because when Rob and I started we had no idea where we were going. Crazy?  Maybe. But I love this kind of run.  It reminds me of when I was a kid.  Leave the house and just go.  Make it up on the fly.  Explore.  The only objective for me was to put down 23 miles.  Didn’t matter how.  Didn’t matter where.  Just get thru 23 miles…to get my 90 miles for the week.

Zany because we crossed over the soft grass of suburbia, in and out of a university campus, along green and yellow hills glistening with spring flora, over fences guarded by a city cop, into a gated community with 24 hour security, thru skin piercing thickets and loose scree, onto a 65 mph toll road, then back!  But I love this kind of run. It reminds me that I’m still a kid.  And this is MY playground! 

Security breach because we jumped a fence right in front of an Irvine cop!  The cop was out of his vehicle.  As he stood waiting for us to pass by, Rob simply said “we’re going in”.  “In there?”, the cop replied, referring to the closed park on the other side of the fence littered with no trespassing signs.  “Yup”, Rob replied, and then he simply jumped over the fence and started running up the trail.  “WTF”?  I’m thinking to myself.  I followed my partner in crime over the fence, just waiting for a yell from the blue man for us to get out of there.  But there was nothing.   Not even a peep. 

As we hurried up the trail, we stopped for a second to see if we were being followed.  Again, nothing.  Laughter ensued, with a few comments from Rob about how police have better things to do than chase down ultra runners.  But our jovial jog soon turned sour when we heard the sound of the cop’s SUV pulling up behind us.  Damn!  We almost pulled it off.  The boy-wonder-looking sergeant kindly asked us to turn our tails around and go back to where we came from.  Rob’s fence hopping gusto quickly turned to diplomacy as he tried to rationalize with boy-wonder why he should let us proceed.  “Proceed?  I could site you guys right now”. 

But I love this kind of run.  It reminds me that kids will be kids.

April 25, 2010

Taming Dragons at the Rocky Road Endurance Run

It’s been said that a challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth…and if you tame the dragon, the gift is yours.  I began my weekend with an obligation—a 10 hour volunteer shift at an aid station for the Rocky Road Endurance Run—something I wasn’t exactly looking forward to. I ended the weekend with new understanding of ultra runners, their dragons and their unique gift.

When I arrived at the starting area at 5 a.m., well before the doors open at Starbucks, I couldn’t figure out how the race could be started in less than an hour.  Runners we’re slowly beginning to arrive and race director Charlie Alewine was just starting to pull supplies out of his van.  Working in the dark, fellow volunteer Jannay Oiknine and I gathered supplies for our aid stations which still needed to be setup along this 15 mile loop course in the ritzy, Southern California horse community of Coto de Caza.  Not knowing exactly how and where I was supposed to set up my station, I got on my way with just 15 minutes before “start” time.  “Just look for the porta potty on the side of the road” I remember hearing Rob Cowan saying as I sped away in my Jeep.   

I set up the Sawgrass aid station with the enthusiasm of a child but the supplies of a pauper.  Table?  Well….no, but boxes will work!  Chairs?  Gosh, thankfully I had a couple of beach chairs in my vehicle usually reserved for my 6 year olds’ soccer games.  Tent?  How about the hatch back of my Jeep?  Shanty town meets the Housewives of OC?  Based on some of the befuddled looks I got from many a passing Mercedes, I would have blended in more on the side of an interstate off-ramp.

But all of my apprehension melted away at the site of the first runners.  Galloping by me without missing a step were early 100 mile front runners Brian Krogmann, Rudy Montoya and Rob Cowan.  Following them were dozens of other 100 mile runners, 50 mile runners, marathoners and half marathoners.  This was an out and back course that consisted of horse trail and, for the 50 and 100 mile courses, a brief but technical single track loop along the west ridge boarding this exclusive community.  With runners passing my station every couple of hours, I got the opportunity to talk with them often, and hear their stories as each labored to tame their own dragon.

Roxanne and Yolanda


After a staggered start, a few marathoners and half marathoners got off on the wrong course and ended up on the technical single track trail.  Like Monica and Leticia who get extra credit for the smiles they brought to so many runners and volunteers.  Another marathoner, Yolanda Holder, was running the event in an effort to gain a world record for the most marathons run in year!  But as the day wore on, it was only the 50 mile and 100 mile runners who remained.  It was then, as the sun reached its highest peak and doused us with its sinister heat, I began to hear their story, and learn more about these people that run long distances. 

Like Rudy Montoya, who stopped and talked with me several times, as he worked through bouts of nausea and cramps and told me he would like to run the Badwater Ultramarathon one day, a 135 mile route from the hellish depths of Death Valley to the lofty perch at Mt. Whitney Portal.  Rudy was a pacer for the second place runner at Badwater last year and understands first-hand the misery such a race can unleash on a runner.  “Why do you want to do it?”, I asked him.  “Just to take it to the next level, for the challenge”, he replied.  I was drawn to his calm demeanor as he moved through the course, solidly holding on to second place during my shift, all the while fighting a dragon that wouldn’t go quietly. 

Brian Krogmann

Ahead of Rudy, running in first place for most of the day, was Brain Krogmann.  Words from and moments with Brian were few, but they each painted a candid picture of a runner moving toward a higher place in this sport.  I met him a year ago at the Western States training camp, one week after he won the Keys 100 Mile race in Florida then proceeded to saunter through 70 miles of Sierra Nevada trails like a 5k warm down.  “Are you hydrating enough”, I asked him at one of his brief stops at my station.  “No, I never do” he replied with a wry smile.  He quickly moved through my station each time, asking what kind of a gap stood between he and Rudy.  Brian was taming his dragon, but was about to encounter another, more ominous beast very soon, because he's been accepted to run this years’ Badwater Ultramarathon. 

David Jordan

As the day continued to wear on, runners were wearing down.  But it’s natural, I have come to learn, to feel the anguish of putting your body through 8, 12 even 30 hours of non-stop physical exertion, especially when the pain starts early and you can’t seem to escape from it.  Twenty-two year old David Jordan was carrying this burden early in the race.  He is a working college student who serves part time in the Navy and runs ultras and Ironman triathlons.  Where does this young Type A find the time to train?  Keep laughing, David, while immersing yourself in physical torture.  It is a skill you have come to master at an early age.  Did you see him smile Leticia?   

Chris and his girls

Chris Peters, running 50 miles, reminded me that running ultimately is a family affair.  His daughters joined me at the Sawgrass station for a while to root him on. Sometimes we have bad days, but then there are good days.  Two smiling daughters on the path to taming your dragon?  This was a good day for you Chris and I hope you had a Bloody Mary to celebrate.   

I began the weekend with an obligation -- to fulfill my volunteer service requirement for Western States.  But my obligation soon gave way to something I never expected -- the chance to experience others working through their own challenges, one dragon at a time.  Thanks for the gift runners! 

Eric Kosters 

Troy Lesovsky

Rob Cowan and Masahiko Tamakammi

Max Welker

Jeanette Quintanna

Race Director Charlie Alewine