2014 is here! And if you remember your basic place values from math, you’ll see that there’s a 4 in the one’s place, which means yours truly is another decade older. I arrive to the Masters ranks this year people. My body’s feelin’ its odometer reading a bit, but overall I still feel much younger than my personal chronology. No doubt, there’s more stretching going on, more foam-rolling, beefin’ up the strength training, Yeah, hitting some yoga classes, cross-training more strategically, racing less, eating optimally (?), drinking a lot more water (vs. IPAs), minimizing the carbohydrate and sugars, sleeping more, getting massage, and uh, (gulp) even got off the coffee in December. All for what?! For the love of the game of course!
I’m not taking for granted the opportunity to improve on 2013, so I’m putting my best foot forward here, pulling out all the stops, and hoping for the best. Let the chips fall where they may! Lots to be grateful for in life, including a supportive wife, great jobs, friends, sponsors, supporters, events, and starting my fifth decade on this little ball that twirls.
Very excited to be on the Inside Trail Racing team once again for 2014. Race Director, Tim Stahler’s tireless dedication to masterminding the best trail-running events around is crazy impressive. We’ve got a great team with a lot of fresh, fly talent, including ultra fun young guns: Luke Garten, Kimberly O’Donnell, Chris Wehan, and Steve Arntson. Check out the ITR calendar and choose among many wonderful events in beautiful places. I’ll hope to see you out there soon!
Last year this time, I wouldn’t have seriously considered running in a pair of Hokas. Then, in May I had my come-to-Jesus-moment. I got my first pair and immediately noticed I could run downhill quicker since the shoe absorbs so much shock. Later that month I picked up a 2nd place at Silver State 50-miler and loved how the shoe performed on that technical, demanding course. So, I made the decision to use them at Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler in July and never thought about my feet for the 18 hours I was racing. If you’re going to sustain the ultra-running lifestyle, you’ve got to take care of yourself, protect yourself, insulate yourself against pulverizing nature of these long-@$$ events. One company’s doing it the best: Hoka One One.
With the support of Hoka, I’m looking forward to being able to travel a bit more, and get out to some new races in new places here in California and Oregon, all the while being stoked to perform at my very best. I’ll now have more breathing room to take better care of myself and be able to do those things I know I should be doing, like getting that occasional massage, for example. It sounds like there’s a new team kit in the works so lookin’ forward to flying the Hoka colors with my teammates, Karl Meltzer, Jen Benna, Dave Mackey, course-record holder at the Quad Dipsea, and just-recently signed, Sage Canaday, 2013 champ and course-record holder at Lake Sonoma 50-miler. A rising tide lifts all ships!
I’ve always admired the staff at Heart-n-Sole Sports in Santa Rosa. These guys have been athletes their whole lives and have accomplished so much in the world of running. They also support area high school’s track and cross-country programs. When I was petitioning Hoka to sponsor me, Kenny Brown at Heart-n-Sole helped me get onboard. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I’m sending as many people as I can into H&S to strap on some Hokas and hit the trails more confident than ever. Now, if Hoka could just make shoes fast enough!
H&S is hosting an Ultra Clinic on January 30th from 7pm to 8:30. The panel of speakers includes USATF Masters Female Ultrarunner of the Year, Suzanna Bon, also Todd Bertolone, a seasoned ultra-endurance athlete who’s running the Western States 100 this year, along with yours truly, offering my two cents on topics including training for ultras, nutrition/hydration, and the mental game. Should be a fun evening!
Wow, this year I’m celebrating a decade being with CLIF Bar. They’ve been helpful on all fronts of my life. As an triathlete and now as an ultrarunner, they’ve kept me fueled with CLIF bars, Shots, and Blocks as well as a stream of great swag. As a coach, they’ve helped me put quality sports nutrition products into the hands and bellies of athletes I coach. And as a teacher, Clif Bar has sponsored my school’s Spartan Stampede 3k Fun Run for about as long as I’ve been with them. CLIF is the leader in organic and nutrition foods. Plus, they make some good wines too!
Einstein said it best, “The definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results.” With that in mind I’ve pondered what things I’ll change and/or integrate into my ultrarunning training and recovery practice this year. [Re]enter—yoga.
In 2010 my wife worked part-time at Three Dog Yoga and I soon found myself on a yoga mat for the very first time. That was my second season as an ultrarunner. I made a lot of connections between the yoga practice and the mentally demanding nature of ultrarunning events, especially the final third of an ultra. For both yoga and ultrarunning, you need focus and a strong sense of being able to simply be comfortable with discomfort. You need to relax and breathe. You need to have a strong body. Your mind needs to be clear. You need balance. When these things are in check, you are free to flow >>> down the trail…
For 2014, I’m bringing yoga back into my training by incorporating three power classes into my recovery weeks, which are going to come more often this season. Training is a case of stress and rest, and repeat. It’s during that break from running that yoga serves to strengthen both body and mind, while stretching both in the process. Granted, this will be an exploration and I’ll be documenting my findings with a quarterly post. I know my body will reap the results of the practice, but I’m most curious about how I’ll be able to bring this yoga practice into the competitive arena, staying in the flow, and closing strong over the final miles of a 50k, 50mi, 100k, and 100mi.
It was fun seeing Nuya out at Destination Race’s Healdsburg Half-Marathon in October. I ran it with Amanda. That event’s a blast since Subaru owners get the VIP treatment; Subaru being one of the main sponsors. Nuya had a cool booth set up and head honcho for Nuya, Ted Neal, was out there getting packets—and swag—into people’s hands. I ran back to the Subaru VIP brunch with some “perfectly natural hydration” samples on tables to accompany what was quite a nice post-race spread! So this is what Lexus owners must experience everywhere they go; first-class service.
Coconut water’s exploded on the scene as the great re-hydrator. I’ve consumed liter upon liter, especially during warmer weather. So now after long stuff I can just rip open a packet of Nuya, mix it up in water bottle, and I have a tasty, post-race beverage. Hydrate!!
The workout didn’t happen unless it’s on Strava, right? As a math and science teacher, I sometimes share Strava stuff with my students. I’ll share graphs and charts on everything from heart-rate data to elevation profiles. There’s so much in there to connnect with what we’re studying throughout the year. Strava’s innovative and keeps making the user experience even more fun.
In 2013, Strava tallied for me some 2700mi o’ running with 450k’ of elevation gain. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing but I think, in general, I maintained a good balance with it and didn’t overdo it (too much) on any occasion. It’s easy for me to obsess about hitting higher mileage goals for sure, especially during those d*mn monthly Challenges where you’re “competing” against everyone else from around the world to see who can rack up the most volume over four weeks.
Like I tell my students, Strava’s like Facebook for athletes (and spares our Facebook friends from always having to see our latest long run stats). I enjoy maintaining connections with my fellow outdoorsman. It’s cool following some of the best in the sport as well as your buddies (who may or not be among the best in the sport!). Through Strava, it’s great getting another perspective on athletes I coach too. It’s great to be able to interact with former students who are now getting into running and/or cycling. There’s even a few parents of kids who I’m currently teaching on Strava. It’s like some kind of… social network!
Blog Post Transition: I’m now going to jabber on about my key events for 2014
It might be January now, with short days and cold temps, but soon enough it’ll be time to pin on that glorious race number and get after it on the trails. Here’s a handful of ultrarunning events I’m most looking forward to.
I missed this one last June because I had my head in the sand in preparation for Tahoe Rim Trail 100. Fortunately for me Marin Ultra Challenge will be held in March this year! This one’s right up my alley too, with 11,000′ of elevation gain in the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam. What’s not to like?! Epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, great running along Coastal Trail, Miwok, Dipsea Trail, Willow Camp, Pirate’s Cove, Muir Beach, Cardiac Hill, Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, and Middle Green Gulch. I’ll probably get a 50k in before I toe the line at MUC, just to get some iron back in the legs.
Super excited to have the opportunity to run the Annadel Half-Marathon this year. For one reason or another, I haven’t been able to run since 2010 where I took 2nd in a time of 1:28. Inspired and intrigued to try throwing in some shorter, faster stuff this year (when it fits) to try and bolster some speed in the longer stuff. Annadel’s only seven days out from Annadel so it could either help or hinder. So, in anticipation of this back-to-backer, I’m doing a lot more speed work in my training, cutting the volume some, doing more strength work, so I can have my d*mn cake (and eat it too!). Also great that Annadel doesn’t fall on the same weekend as Lake Sonoma, which was the case last year. Always nice to race local and this one, like Lake Sonoma, has a special place in my cardiac muscle.
Wasn’t it just 2010 and I was 3rd overall here, just in front of Timmy Olson? My how times change! Last year I ran over 20min faster than in ’10 and ended up down the list in 20th. Lake Sonoma 50 was a turning point in 2013 though; I learned a lot in that one. I’m happy to find, at my ripe young age, that the existential fire to improve still burns. Doing my first trip around the Warm Springs loop last weekend was simply delightful. And for some reason I have it in my head I can crack that 6:50 (6:40?!!) mark at this race. I know how to nail a marathon, a 50k, and the 100, but that 50miler, for me, is a “fun for a while” but ultimately frustrating distance. So hopefully, my tactical preparation this spring will pay off. Top-10’s the goal.
A new race in a new place! I was considering doing Silver State 50 again since I love how tough that race is but Bishop High Sierra 100k popped up as another Inside Trail event, and on the same weekend as SS50. Timing is everything and I’m a stickler about race placement on the calender. Running Bishop allows sufficient time to recover from Lake Sonoma. It gives me 100k at elevation, to have in my legs for TRT100 in July, which I didn’t have last year, though SS50 is also ideal prep for TRT. And the timing’s such that I’ll have two full weeks off at the end of May, to enjoy my students, before finishing up school and jumping, full throttle, into TRT training. Perfect.
All trails lead to Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. This distance is the one that comes most naturally to me, as it seems appeals to all my passions as a runner. I’ve run three 100s and all three about been on these glorious trails in Tahoe. I have be strategic with the placing of my hundred so that I set myself up for success. Having the summer months off from teaching allows me to train optimally for a 100mi run, and moveover, really savor that June preparation. I don’t know what I enjoy more, the June prep or the race itself. No doubt, the preparation makes or breaks the race. Gotta respect the distance!
TRT 2013 was a pretty hot one and 2014 could easily be roasting again giving the winter we’re having. All those years racing Ironmans, with four trips to Kona, suffering on that infernal marathon, really seem to lend themselves well to my racing in the heat. Last year, I found I really liked it (except the vomiting in Red House). The beauty, the distance at elevation, the cumulative vertical gain, the high temps, and the competition, all make for a great, great day on those pristine trails. An improvement of just 3% would land me around that 17:30 mark, good enough for a new course-record. We’ll see what happens this July!
Since the 100miler is my fave distance, and I’ve only ever run TRT, I thought it high time to try another 100, one that also captures my imagination, in a beautiful place, and won’t pull me out of the classroom for too long. Pine to Palm is just “right up the road” in southern Oregon. I figure, last year I was able to bounce back and “race” Headlands 50k a month after TRT, sooooo, if I rest for a few weeks post TRT, listen to my body, and do a few weeks build, I should, hypothetically, be able to pull off a second hundred. I mean, look what Ian Sharman did last year. I’m not interested in any Grand Slam business, just the opportunity to take my show on the road to a different 100 in a different and beautiful place. Tim Olsen’s record looks pretty stout considering the vertical profile and I hear that the course has changed since his CR too. Anyway, we’ll see what I can do up there. Maybe I can get Hal to pace me.
Yeah, I’ve always wanted to run one of the Dipsea events. I was signed up for the Double Dipsea in 2008 but DNS because something was hurting. But the real reason was Amanda and I were enjoying the house we’d rented in Stinson too much. It turned out to be an exceptionally warm weekend at Stinson and we were right on the beach. 80deg and sunny. I did look up at the hills a fair amount, through my beer-colored glasses that is.
I certainly don’t imagine myself in the same category with Dave Mackey but Dave continues to pull off some amazing ultrarunning feats as a veteran Masters runner. His course-record win at Quad Dipsea was as amazing at his top-10 finish at North Face Endurance Challenge 50mi only a week later. I couldn’t believe it. His race-report on Quad shed some light on to how he pulled it off. I’ve taken notes. Looks like Mackey’s got a good thing going in Colorado with a good group of guys doing some hard hill running. Yep, that’s what it takes.
So, I’ve got the 2013 season in my legs. I’m ramping up the hill work this year. As a precursor to the possibility of doing “DD” (Dave’s Double = Quad + NFEC, I’m going to see how I bounce back from Annadel Half-Marathon, a week out from Lake Sonoma. Then, depending how things are looking after Pine-to-Palm, do something like two back-to-back weekends of 50k’s or something like that to steel the legs for DD. We’ll see, it could happen or it couldn’t; the body decides. Ultimately, I want to do Quad but not at the expense of not doing—or doing poorly at—NFEC in early December.
Uh yes, trying to stretch the season out for just… one… more… race. And what a fine event this is. Just as competive as Lake Sonoma 50 with all the difficulty, but unique all the same. The aim at my fifth North Face Endurance Challenge will be to integrate all that I’ve learned over 2014, race my own race, and continue to improve on my placing here. I’ve gotten a little quicker every time. I think I’ve got a good bead on how I can consistently run well under 7hrs for 50miles on these demanding courses. Yeah, we’ll see Shebest. You’re not gonna get there walkin’ those dogs around town.