Multiples of Seven

“It was important to score points today and I went for them with my guts.”   -Richard Virenque, retired French pro cyclist, known for his long, lone attacks in stage races like Le Tour de France, held annually in July.

Sea Level. Golden Gate 30k start, Rodeo Beach, CA. Photo Credit: Coastal Trail Runs

While on vacation in Tahoe at the end of June, I got the itch to race something short and fast with nothing to do but go hard from start to finish. I signed up for Tahoe Rim Trail 55k, to be held on July 21st. Of their three events—the 100mi, 50mi, and 55km—I’d never done the 55k before and thought that doing something even shorter beforehand would serve as a nice tune-up. I searched for a race two weeks out from TRT 55k and found one from Coastal Trail Runs. Perfect!

July 7th. Golden Gate 30k. I’d basically been doing nothing but working on my tan and drinking beer since walking in the final 20 miles of Western States 100 on June 23rd. So when I was doing my warm-up the morning of Golden Gate, it was obvious—my legs were crazy fresh and I was ready to rock. It felt amazing to just tear off this sea-level start line and just sit on what I perceived to be my sustainable 30k intensity. I’d just gotten the new Suunto 9 a couple days before and this was the first race in quite while for which I’d worn a watch. To add to the fun, I knew the CR pace was about 7:40/mi so I’d check in with that a little later in the going.

Uphill start from Rodeo Valley. Felt good to red-line it.

Two young guys went with me and we’d dice it up for a quite while before I’d work to pull away in the final miles of the race. It was a super fun event and exactly what I needed to clear my head after Western States. Cruising on the road into the finish line, I end up snagging the win and lowered the 2012 course-record by four minutes (7:28/mi pace!). 2nd place, Terence Hurley (31), also went under the old CR, now on a slightly harder, longer course. And 3rd place, David Elk (22), missed the CR by only a couple seconds. This is the power of competition. We pushed each other so hard out there and because of it we all ran at—or damn close to—our full potential that day. So fun.

I’d traveled down to Golden Gate with a buddy and athlete I coach, Andy Manaster, and it was cool to hang out, cheer on folks, and wait for him to finish the 50k, where he snagged the age-group win and 5th overall in a competitive field. Just a great day. I was flying high!

Salt Point 26k, Salt Point State Park, CA. Photo Credit: Gig Hitao

July 14th. Salt Point 26k. After Golden Gate, as stated, I wasn’t planning on racing again until Tahoe Rim Trail 55k on the 21st, but new Pacific Coast Trail Runs RD, Greg Lanctot reached out to me early in the week and invited me to come out to Salt Point State Park on the coast, and experience the new, improved PCTR. I told him I couldn’t do the 50k ’cause I had TRT 55k the next weekend but, after some thought, said what the hell and told him I’d come run the 26k. I hadn’t raced out at Salt Point since 2011, when Leigh Schmitt left me for dead in the 50k there. I’d been trying to have my cake and eat it too with regards to straddling two sports, ineffectively I might add—long-course triathlon and ultrarunning. I was just coming off Full Vineman, looking ahead to Ironman Hawaii in October, and thought I had this 50k in the bag until I met Leigh out on the trail, for the first time that day, and discovered he was the real deal. We’d end up training together for a while before he’d pack up the family and move to the Bahamas, of all places!, where he still teaches with his wife there, at The Island School. Hard to believe it’s been seven years since we’d raced each other out there. Time goes by like course ribbons in a 26k!

Salt Point 26k finish line with Luis Quezadas.

Healdsburg Running Company’s, Luis Quezadas, 19, would be my primary competition and he led us out. I bashed my head into a downed tree trunk, saw a few sparks in my field of vision and kept cranking. Gawd. I’d decided to wear the 7oz HOKA ONE ONE, EVO Jaws for this race, and even did a fun, 4:40 downhill mile the evening before to really prime my legs for some aggressive downhill running out at Salt Point the next morning. As was the case back in 2011, experience paid off, and the veteran moved in to 1st on the early climb up the ridge. I kept my foot on the gas around the first loop, across Route 1, onto the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, then back out to crank out the second, shorter loop of the 26k, back across Route 1, onto the bluffs, to the finish. Stunning views!

Because PCTR was under new ownership, I hadn’t thought to look at the existing CR for this course. I just kept cranking away in the race. Toward the end, I felt like breaking two hours would be possible but I didn’t want to kill myself, since I’d just raced 7 days before and I would be racing the longer 55k at elevation in 7 days, so I put in the effort to win it and came across in exactly 2 hours and change. Nate Seltenrich, 36, crossed the line in 2:06:32, with Luis rounding out the podium, just 20 seconds later. Luis’ time was the 6th fastest time ever run on the 26k course, dating back to at 2004.

The next day, I looked to see what the deal was with 26k CR and saw my old nemesis—and good friend!—Gary Gellin, holds the CR from 2008… less than a minute faster than the time I’d just run (of course!). First place in the 50k with a brilliant performance, was Vincent DiMassa, a talented multi-sport athlete, who took about 90 second’s off Leigh Schmitt’s 2011 course-record. We’re not just racing each other out there, we’re often racing ghosts!

Turns out I cracked my head harder than I thought I did. Soon after finishing, someone informed me my head was bleeding pretty bad. The medical staff for PCTR was super concerned, while acknowledging it couldn’t be all that bad since I’d just raced all out for two hours. I was more bummed my white Squirrel’s Nut Butter hat appeared to be ruined (turns out, nothing a little Shout couldn’t handle). I changed into my black SNB hat to throw off the persistent medical staff, which really didn’t work, ate a lot of great Mexican food, and enjoyed hanging out on those beautiful bluffs above the Pacific Ocean. Three weeks later, my head’s still healing…

Facchino4

Tahoe Rim Trail 55k. Photo Credit: Facchino Photography

July 21st. Tahoe Rim Trail 55k. With these two short, fast efforts in my legs it was off to Tahoe. My calves were sore for days after Golden Gate and then less so after Salt Point. The body was getting into a weekly rhythm of race-recover-prime-race-again. It’s a haul from Sonoma County over to Spooner Lake, on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It took forever to get over there. But I finally arrived around dinner time, got in a quick run, found some friends, ate some food, and went to sleep in my truck.

4:15am wake up call to see the 100-milers start at 5am. So much nostalgia associated with this race, given the fact it’s my 7th time racing here. Motivation for these shorter events never waned and I knew I’d made a good decision to run the 55k today. We were promptly off at 6am. Again, two guys went with me as I launched off the start. Turns out one of them was racing the 50-miler.

“Hey, I know Ben’s leading the 50-mile and everything, but can I get some sports drink too?”

Reno’s Ben Tedore, 39, won the 55k the previous year, where we also ran together in the early miles when the tables were turned and I was racing the 50-miler. Today, miles and miles were going by and Ben was right there. Through Hobart, Tunnel Creek, to the little Red House aid-station. Later, after Ben finished we shared with one another what we’d been thinking at that moment. I told Ben I thought I’d been running too slow ’cause I was with the leader of the 50-miler and he shared that he was questioning whether he was going too fast since he was with the leader of the 55k. Runner psychology…

Having done the 100mi four times and the 50mi twice, it was a unique experience to get back up to the Tunnel Creek aid-station and NOT turn right/north toward Diamond Peak. Instead, I got to legally “cut” the course, heading back south toward the finish line at Spooner Summit. Some 50mi runners still coming up thought I was leading the 100 and gave me lots of cheers!

Since the EVO Jaws from HOKA had worked out so well at Salt Point and I’d heard that there were folks who’d run up to 50k in them, I’d decided to race in ’em again today for this 34mi event. Light, fast, with good grip on generally soft surface, I’d maintain an average of 92 left-footstrikes-per-minute, according to my Suunto 9, over my approximate 5-hour race-time. I was pleased with how well my feet held up and how fun it was to race in this shoe over shorter distance races! I’ll continue to use it in these type of events.

Tahoe Rim Trail 55k. Photo Credit: Facchino Photography

I’d looked back while on top of Snow Valley Peak (9000′) to see if I could see 2nd place anywhere. I’d no idea how much of a lead I had. I was putting out honest effort, though I was thinking about the fact this was race #3 in a row, and I still had a tough 30k to do next Saturday. As I descended the 6mi down to Spooner, I also thought about how Rory Bosio caught me here last year in the 50-miler, with 4mi to go. “Keep pluggin’,” I thought to myself. It wasn’t until the final 100yds of the race it was clear that I’d held on for the win. Emily Richards, also of Reno, came across the line a few minutes later, breaking the 55k course-record for the ladies, set all the way back in 2001, the first year the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs were held. Eight of the top 14 finishers in the 55k were woman. Fierce!

Once again, I found myself at another TRT finish line, with friend and TRT RD, George Ruiz. Thumbs way up!

With Emily Richards. Tahoe Rim Trail 55k, Spooner Lake, NV.

TRT was pretty fun from a coaching perspective too, as I had a guy in the 55k, the 50mi, and two in the 100mi. As more friends started finishing the 55k, it was fun to hang out at the athlete lounge on the lake, eat burritos, and share war stories from the day. Eventually, I transitioned up to the “Stonehenge” aid-station around mid-afternoon. This is the half-way point of the 100-miler. I found more folks to sit with and chat away about stuff. It was fun to see friends in so many roles: racer, pacer, and crew. Ominous clouds threatened thunderstorms but all we got all day was a couple drops of rain. The guys’ race was pretty tight and it was far from clear who was going to win. The ladies’ race was exciting too, with Bree Lambert tearing out of Spooner Summit, in pursuit of leader, Jenny Capel.

Diamond Peak aid-station (mile 80). 3:15am. Todd Bertolone (right) with pacers John Tarantino and Carrie Peterson Kirby.

In the late afternoon I headed up to Diamond Peak to hang out and eventually catch the leaders coming through mile 80. As the evening and night wore on, more and more runners and crew showed up. Words of encouragement were shared. Broth was consumed. Shoes were changed. Pacers were exchanged. And the march up the ski slope began. Once I saw Todd Bertolone come through I eventually headed out of Diamond Peak, got on the road, and started the long trek home. I made it as far as a rest stop outta Truckee before stopping and getting some sleep, ’til the rising temps in my truck woke me up around 8:30am. I made my way to the in-laws in Loomis for a much needed shower. Needless to say, it took me a few days to recover from TRT. Three races down with one to go!

On the start-line. Lost & Found 30k, Donner Lake, CA.

July 28th. Lost & Found 30k. While we were on vacation in Tahoe, post-Western States, I couldn’t help but look ahead to my next opportunity to run 100 miles—at Run Rabbit Run in mid-September. I’d only raced once leading up to Western States this year, and to some degree, I felt like this hurt me. Knowing that some of my best results have come in years where I’ve raced quite a bit, I decided to put a big race in my build for Run Rabbit Run—Castle Peak 100k, four weeks out from Run Rabbit. I messaged the RD, Peter Fain, stating that I needed to “toughen up,” asking if I could still get in the race. One Ultra Signup invite later and it was a done deal.

I’d been encouraged by quite a few folks who’d run Castle Peak to ensure I got up to run on the course to see what it’s all about. One friend told me, “You don’t want race-day to be the first time you run on the Castle Peak 100k course.” I found out there was a training run but I was already signed up for a race that weekend. If I was gonna make the haul all the way over there, why not race?! And as it so happens, the inaugural Lost & Found 30k was just moved due to permitting issues, from 7/7 to 7/28. I love it when a plan comes together! I reached out to Chaz Sheya at Epic Endurance Events (the same fine folks that put on The Canyons 100k and Overlook 50k) and I was in. Of my four July events, I knew this one was gonna hurt the most!

For the fourth straight Saturday in the row, it was time to step into the arena once again. I’d gotten up to the start/finish venue on Friday evening, even getting a nice little 4-miler in, previewing the last bit of the course, which is just stunning throughout. That evening, we all hung out and shot the breeze. Peter Fain told me this guy, Patrick Parsel, just signed up and that I’d have my hands full with him as well as two-time Castle Peak 100k champ, Erik Schulte. At 44 and a bizzillion races in me I don’t waste any energy getting anxious over my competition. Simply put, they help me get the most outta myself. Just put a runner in front of me on some mountain trails, and I’ll be happy chasing all damn day!

No way were the EVO Jaws going to fly on this course, so I ran in a well-worn pair of Speedgoat 2s that probably have over 400 miles in them! They feel amazing, eating up anything a technical course like this throws at ’em. That Vibram sole is the bomb!

As I’ve done for three Saturdays in a row, I launch off the start line, fearless, notching right up to my perceived 30k, sustainable red-line. I knew I’d have to show more guts in the early miles of this event since the first half is mostly climb before circling around, with a lot descending late for me to try to catch guys in the second half of the race. Lost & Found definitely does not play to my strengths, as a shorter trail race, starting off with a lot of climb, at elevation. I wasn’t ashamed to have my competitors hear my loud huffin-n-puffin in those early miles. I’m vulnerable. Here’s my belly. It’s a 30k in the mountains and I wanted to limit the amount of time that competitors put into me on the way up so I could catch as many of them as I could on the way down!

The views were absolutely incredible. Running along the backbones of these epic mountain ridges was so inspiring. I was grateful to all the volunteers that humped water up to these remote aid-stations. So much work had gone into making this rad little 30k possible.

With Erik Schulte in 2nd and Patrick Parsel in 1st (center).

Lost & Found was the last event in a string of Saturday events in July. I wasn’t necessarily feeling TRT 55k and I was pleased to be working hard and running well, totally stoked to be healthy and out here ripping around these awesome trails. The legend, Tim Twietmeyer, iced down a bottle for me around mile 15. I had GU Roctane “Summit Tea” in there and the icy mixture tasted amazing. I threw down a Roctane GU as well to fuel the final 5mi. I was happy to be back on offense and stoked to run down as many runners as I could! I caught one at the final aid-station, where I still had about 80% of my bottle left, so didn’t need to stop there, just kept motoring, trying to remember I was allowed to run this hard, given the fact it wasn’t an ultra and I basically had license to kill. With a mile remaining, I passed one last runner, who turned out to be a Schulte doppelganger! I didn’t have much hope I would catch Patrick since I was so quickly running out of real estate. When I finished I slowly realized I finished in third (not 2nd) with the real Erik Schulte, 13min up. Patrick Parsel beat me by a whopping 21min! Had I not raced TRT 55k, perhaps I could cut that down by a couple minutes. Honestly though, it was just great to race these guys. That’s what this month was all about—aggressive racing!

Stress + Rest = Growth

To be certain, racing puts the tiger in the cat. These shorter, intense races in particular are about one thing—guts. Just showing up and work your ass off for 2-5 hours, which was the range of race times for me in July. Reflecting now, on my four races, all were successes. I didn’t necessarily get faster as the month wore on, but I didn’t break down too much either. I listened to my body in the days in between, heeding Pam Smith’s brilliant thumb-rule, taking one day off of running for every 10mi raced. In addition to many complete-rest-days, I threw in an increasing amount of cycling as well. I didn’t get much faster over the Saturdays, but I got tougher, in both body and mind. After Golden Gate, for example, my calves were wrecked from running really fast for over two hours. They were still sore when I ran at Salt Point a week later. I was worried about that. But nothing locked up and I fueled and replenished conscientiously. After Salt Point, then, my calves hurt less by the same point in the week. Naturally, I started to adapt to the racing. Mentally, I’d just flip the switch and tell myself, “It’s just another day at the office. Be proud of the work you do here.” At the end, I’ve been using the Paul Tergat quote, “Do you have more to give? The answer is usually, Yes.”

In the string of Saturdays, I just got into rhythm. Saturday’s coming… Gotta get the body ready! By Tuesday or Wednesday, depending, I’d be back on the trails again, some Wednesdays turning into double-days, because I found myself wanting to run twice, get myself feeling loose. Thursdays were always complete rest days, since I also take off the day that’s two days out from race-day. Fridays were typically a Fartlek—what I call a “Play”—session in the morning, then travel, with a short run upon arrival to the race venue.

During this racing phase, designed to build in speed, strength, and mental ferocity, I stacked up 90 quality miles of relatively intense racing. According to ever-generous Strava, I ripped up 18,500′ of climb in these events. My fastest average pace was at Salt Point (a two hour, 16mi race) with a cumulative pace of 7:19/mi. My slowest go was Lost & Found, averaging 9:20/mi pace over the approximate 20mi, on that mountainous, technical course. All in all, four successful race experiences, with three 1st place overall finishes, one CR (at Golden Gate) and one 3rd place finish, where I got smoked by Patrick and Erik. If I was lost after Western States, I’d find myself by the time July came to a close.

Castle Peak’s on August 18th. Lost & Found served its purpose very well. I’m so inspired by the terrain up there and can’t wait to experience it again, in “slo-mo” compared to the 30k intensity. As Lost & Found was to Castle Peak, Castle Peak, too, is a tune-up for Run Rabbit Run. Let’s see if I can keep the psychological and physiological momentum going through mid-September. As the Castle Peak 100k motto defines: “Indomitable. Unafraid.”

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A heartfelt note of appreciation to my beautiful and highly supportive wife/agent, Amanda. Thanks for putting up with a month of Saturday races. I love you mucho!  |  Thanks to all the athletes I coach who inspire me with their passion and dedication to this crazy sport. It’s always such a treat to be out there on these race courses with you! #point_positive  |  Thank you to HOKA ONE ONE for producing the best trail shoes out there—#EVO Jaws #Speedgoat_2 #timetofly   |  Thanks Healdsburg Running Company for all your effort to support our local running community  |  Gratitude to Casey Rolig from BUFF USA.   |   Thanks to Drymax Sports, for making the most comfortable, durable socks out there.   |  Squirrel Nut Butter every Saturday, everywhere, never chafe!  |  GU fueled these 4 consecutive podium finishes. Iced down Summit Tea FTW! #guforit  |  Finally, thanks to Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy. I haven’t been in to see you in a long while, bud. Let’s keep it that way! It’s good piece of mind knowing you’re out there doing great things for us [over]active folks. Any time my athletes need a PT, you know where I’m sending ’em!  |   Finally, heartfelt thanks to Coastal Trail Runs, Pacific Coast Trail Runs, Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs, and Epic Endurance Events. Running events add so much “life to our days,” and vitality to our lives! I’m grateful to have these opportunities to test myself, grow stronger, wiser, cultivating a healthy, evolved, and sustainable relationship with running and competition.

Western States & North Face

2015 Western States 100. Lyon Ridge Aid-Station (mi10) with Tahoe Mountain Milers.

2015 Western States 100. Lyon Ridge Aid-Station (mi10) with Tahoe Mountain Milers.

The year is winding down and there’s already lots of buzz about the 2016 season. Names are starting to trickle down onto that coveted Western States 100 entrants list. And much to my surprise and delight, I’m on it! I volunteered with Tahoe Mountain Milers (TMM) this year at States and that put me in their raffle for a shot at getting into States. Each aid-station gets to send one representative. Last year, I think TMM had just two entrants and I wasn’t one of them. So, on November 19th, the day of the TMM drawing, they had five entrants in the raffle, which makes sense, considering the growing interest in the event. TMM helps run my beloved Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs, including the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, my first 100-miler back in 2009 and where I fell in love (became obsessed) with the 100 mile distance. I would go on to run TRT100 again in 2010, 2013, and 2014. This year, after running San Diego 100 in early June, I ran TRT50, then got “coerced” into pacing a friend in the 100. So it seems, I’d built up enough trail karma to have my name drawn on that Thursday night after 9pm.

Photo Credit: Tahoe Mountain Milers

Photo Credit: Tahoe Mountain Milers

Running with the gale force of TMM in my sails will be a huge motivator in the prep for States as well as running smart and strong on race-day. To come through the TMM aid-station at mile 10 and see the folks that made my race possible… well, I imagine it’ll be challenging to keep myself composed. Until June though, the focus will be on integrating all I’ve learned from the seven 100s I’ve trained for and raced, then do my best to nail the States prep and execute to the best of my ability on that big day in June . Excited for the opportunity and grateful I get to run Western whilst I’m still at the top of my game. As can be expected, I do have some lofty goals planned.

Inside Trail Racing Mt. Tam 30k (11/14). Photo Credit: http://www.letswanderphotography.com/

Inside Trail Racing Mt. Tam 30k (11/14). Photo Credit: http://www.letswanderphotography.com/

Backing it up to where we are now on the calendar, it’s a mere 5 days out from yet another North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler. The difference a year makes! Twelve months back I was out-of-commission with a compression fracture sitting on my ass in Auburn, biting my nails at the Western States Lottery. I remember thinking to myself the whole time: I wish I were racing North Face… I wish I were racing North Face…

After Run Rabbit Run 100 in September, the idea of putting up 80mi weeks for North Face in December didn’t seem like a good idea. Nor did it seem like a lot of fun. Once October hit and I started getting back to running, I figured endurance was in the bank and that what I really was getting jazzed about was shifting gears and doing some faster stuff. After establishing some base miles post-Run Rabbit, I went out and did two Inside Trail Racing 30k’s, on consecutive Saturdays in November, hoping that the experiences would do something special for my North Face 50 on 12/5.

ITR's Mt. Tam 30k with the Bearded Gull, Travis Weller, and Alex Varner (pre-Quad Dipsea CR fame)

ITR’s Mt. Tam 30k with the Bearded Gull, Travis Weller, and Alex Varner (pre-Quad Dipsea CR fame)

I enjoyed the 30k’s more than I expected. I believe that had something to do with the fact I’d been doing hard sessions all year long, so the 30k intensity wasn’t so overwhelming. I typically run a 50miler around 142bpm and both these 30k’s averaged out to be at 153. I’m hopeful I can push the HR at NF a bit higher than normal for the first 30mi and still feel controlled, since I’ll have these bad boys in my legs!

Mental toughness must be mined and I recognize these guys down in Marin have it in truckloads—getting to push one another on a basis that’s as regular as they want it. Thus, the task at hand at Tam was really racing (like running fast for a change) and fighting hard over the whole 2.5ish hours, and still come in down the results list. The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts!

Inside Trail Peacock Gap 30k (11/21). Photo Credit: http://www.letswanderphotography.com/

Inside Trail Peacock Gap 30k (11/21). Photo Credit: http://www.letswanderphotography.com/

A week later, at Peacock Gap, at China Camp, Ukiah’s Ewe Ferrara was again racing after edging me out by quite a few minutes at Tam. Seems like I can catch him in a 50k or longer but just can’t hang at shorter distances, like those totaling some 19-ish miles. When he worked his way around me after a couple of miles, I took advantage of the opportunity and pushed pretty hard just to keep him in sight for some 10 painstaking miles. I like I think I can run downhill well. I was bested toward the end of the race when Ewe dropped me on a long, technical downhill. I definitely got was I was looking for by racing on these two occasions. At 29, Ewe’s getting stronger and tougher with each race. I am hoping to pay him back though at North Face on Saturday!

Healdsburg 3.5mi Trail Turkey Trot on 11/26. Photo Credit: KC Hope Kennedy

Healdsburg 3.5mi Trail Turkey Trot on 11/26. Photo Credit: KC Hope Kennedy

To get one last shot of speed in my legs, I had to go do the Turkey Trot, put on by Scena Performance and sponsored by Healdsburg Running Company and Nuya Nutrition. This NF prep’s been a dramatic break in how I normally train for ultras, but I do feel that there’s a time for all things under heaven, so to speak, and sharpening with races seemed like what my body and mind were up for, whereas, so often, the urge to keep stacking up big weeks seems as much or more appealing. In the end, my hope is that I’ll get through NF actually having placed less cumulative stress on my body while getting to the start-line on Saturday with greater fitness than if I’d just continued running big miles. Time will tell.

That turkey trot though? No joke. Turns out Scena decided to make it a pretty sweet little trail race of about 3.5mi in distance. Thankfully, I had those two recent 30k’s in my legs and head, ’cause I needed every bit of fitness to race this hard from beginning to end. Funny too, ’cause I’m in this NF50 head-space and just treated this turkey trot like it was an A-Pri event. The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

I arrived a good hour before race start at 9am. Temps were hovering around freezing and I had on all my cold weather clothes from Run Rabbit Run back in Sept. (I had washed them). I was still feeling Peacock Gap, five days earlier. My legs were slow to warm up. I ran the majority of the course twice during the warm-up. Pretty funny since most races I run, there’s no way you’re going to see the whole course in the morning before the start, let alone run it twice. What a treat! Anyway, the warm-up and course knowledge helped me form a plan of attack to try and stay in front of the youngsters. After summiting the final little climb—at about mile 2!—it was downhill running on some technical stuff then a return to flat black-top to the finish. Strava said I was doing 5:03 pace that final half-mile to the finish. Crazy fun. The technical downhill helped me open up a gap. I edged out 2nd place by a whopping 32 seconds. Again, super fun to run fast. I need to keep doing more of this kind of stuff—at least the 30k’s!—to build some rockin’ leg speed for States, while being very mindful of over-racing and increasing chance of injury.

I’m hoping I have that extra gear over the final 20mi of North Face this weekend. I’m more fired up for this one than any of the other 4 I’ve done. Not having raced last year certainly has contributed to the stoke!

Parting Shot: Nothing like bringing home a puppy to ensure a quiet, relaxing race-week!

Parting Shot: Nothing like bringing home a puppy to ensure a quiet, relaxing race-week!

Faster than Twitter, thanks to my beautiful, loving, and highly supportive wife Amanda for her thankless job [even from afar] as “First Responder.”  |  Thank you to Julbo Eyewear for the beautiful, functional, and comfortable sunglasses. It’s GREAT to be working with you!  |  Thank you to Hoka One One for your continued support and producing the best shoes out there—#LetsGoHoka!  |  Thanks to Inside Trail Racing for offering so many fantastic races in great places.  |  Thanks to Vitargo for the steady energy and SIMPLIFYING my nutrition.  |  Thank you Healdsburg Running Company for all the wonderful support. HRC rocks! | Victory Sportdesign produces the best drop-bags in the biz! 

2014: Faces & Places

cork2014 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.

itrlogoVery 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!

photo-7Last 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!

photo(1)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!

clifWow, 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!

three-dog-yogaEinstein 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.

nuyaIt 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!!

stravarunThe 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

intermisionsnagitdownarrow

racing

Sadly, Silver State 50/50’s not on the list.

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.

mucI 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.

annadelSuper 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.

LS50Wasn’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.

bishopA 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.

TRTAll 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!

P2P_logos_color-01Since 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.

quadYeah, 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.

nfecUh 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.

 photo(3)2014 Training Log