Friday, February 25, 2011


It's now official. If you haven't already heard: Ultra Race of Champions coming this September.

First to clear up any confusion: I am not involved in this race from a planning or directing standpoint. I'm working with this race as their "Elite Athlete Liaison." That is to say that I am working to try to help bring as many top level runners as possible to the starting line on September 24th. I am not in any position to gain anything from the potential success of this race. My interest and involvement starts and finishes with my hope to help put together as competitive of a race as possible. Many folks have presumed (understandably so), based on some of my blog posts in the past several months, that I have been involved in this race all along, but the truth is that I didn't even know about this race until last month. Me coming to be involved in this event in any way was a result of my thoughts and interests being very similar to those of the race director's, not the other way around. Not that any of this really matters, but I just thought I'd set that straight.

This race has been received very well so far and many top runners have already expressed interest in running. Keep an eye on the website in the coming weeks as they will be likely be listing the runners who have committed soon.

I think this race has great potential to draw a very deep field of top competition this year, and good potential to grow even more in the years to come. I think it's cool that there is finally a race that is advertising itself as a race focused on the competition at the front of the pack. Even the North Face races with their large prize money don't really make an effort (beyond throwing down the big bucks) to get top level competition into their race. UROC is, on the other hand, going to make every effort within their means to get as many top runners as possible on the starting line in September. This from the race website: "the goal of the Trail Runner Ultra Race of Champions is to bring together the best ultra runners in the world on one course on one day"...

The race will also be open to any level runner that wants to run on this day. Sign up will begin on March 14th.

Do I feel like this race is the exact answer to the demand for a "championship race(s)" that I've talked about recently? No, not yet. Not entirely. I do however feel like this race wants to work more and more toward becoming this, and I do feel like it's the closest thing we now have. Either this race, another race, or a combination of a few will emerge (in my opinion) to be huge (in terms of top level competition, and thus large amounts of attention around the world) in the next few years. I think the NF 50 got things rolling with their large prize purse that they introduced a few years ago now, and this race is speeding things up by introducing a race focused on going out and getting as many top runners as possible to join their race. It'll be interesting to see where it all goes from here. One thing I'd bet my life on though: it certainly doesn't stop here...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I did a post several weeks ago about some of the new Montrail shoes available this Spring, but I wanted to write a bit more about a couple of these shoes now that they are widely available in retail locations, and since I have now had a chance to wear them a little more. I'm going to focus on the Badrock in this post and then sometime soon I'll do another post with more specifics about the Rogue Racer (once the snow melts more and I really get a chance to put some serious mileage on them).

When I first got a pair of the Badrocks I didn't think I would like them too much, but now I just keep liking them more and more. I have been doing a lot of running in the snow lately and they are a perfect shoe for snow running. They seem to run about a half size large, but once I got into the right size I love them. They're very roomy in the toe area which I really like for running in the winter. The extra space allows my feet to circulate very well, even with thick socks on. They have incredible traction in loose snow, and at just over 11 ounces they are surprisingly light for the amount of support, cushioning, and protection they offer. As long as Montrail keeps making the Mountain Masochist nothing is likely to replace them as my shoe of choice, but the Badrock has come closer than anything else I've tried. And for running in snow the Badrock is now my shoe of choice. Here's a few different pictures of the Badrock:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arapaho Peak

This past Saturday I had one of those near perfect days of running. I wasn't even sure I was going to go out very long, but as I began trudging up the trail in my snowshoes I slowly began to feel the urge to go higher and higher.

When I got up to treeline (at about 11,300 feet) the conditions were near perfect. There was almost no wind, but The Indian Peaks Wilderness receives so much wind in the winter that the open ridges hold almost no snow. I was actually able to ditch my snowshoes and run on dry ground for most of my time that I was up above the trees.

At first I was just content to have made it up above the trees. I began to wander around a little bit and then I just kept finding myself on top the highest point in the immediate distance. Eventually I was at the base of Arapaho peak and it was still a really calm, warm day. I decided to push higher and ended up on top of South Arapaho Peak. At about 13,400 ft. it's one of the highest peaks in The Indian Peaks and it's the highest elevation I've been to in almost 10 years.

I'm not sure how soon the weather will allow me to get high up like this again, but as soon as it does I'll be heading that way.

Here's some photos from the outing:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Energy Justice Fundraiser

If you live in the Boulder area and somehow aren't already aware of this event taking places tomorrow night then you might want to crawl out from under your rock and head on down to the Wolf Law Building, at CU Law School tomorrow at 7 pm and check it out. Here's all the info.

One Of Those Days

Just got in from a run. It was one of those days. You know, the ones when every slight uphill feels like a mountain and then an hour into the run you snap into the present moment and realize you are walking on a downhill. Think I might be due for a day off tomorrow. Or maybe it's just because I was gone away from home for the entire day yesterday and didn't have a chance to consume my usual 5+ tablespoons of Udo's Oil.

Way Too Long

I may be beating a dead horse here (although based on the conversation that seems to follow anytime this topic comes up I feel like the horse is very much alive), so if you're bored with conversations about the current growth of ultrarunning and some of the questions this growth raises then you could simply opt to stop reading here, as this post will likely bore you to death.

Ultrarunning is growing in participation at an amazingly fast rate. Each year there are dozens of new trail ultras all over the country, and still almost all existing races are filling up quicker each year. Several posts I have written in the past few months have touched on various opportunities, concerns, and challenges that this growth has created. Whether it's the question of race selection process', prize money, performance enhancing drug use/prevention, championship races, potential mainstream interest in the sport, etc. - all of these things (and countless more dynamics) are on the table as valid and worthwhile conversations primarily because of the rapid growth in this sport.

Of course no one knows the exact numbers, but to me it seems like at the current rate participation in ultrarunning is doubling every few years (based simply on the fact that the number of events seem to have doubled in the past 5 years, or less, and most of them have had no trouble getting participants). Obviously this increase in popularity isn't going to continue forever, but I think that it has been drastic enough already that it's unrealistic to expect ultrarunning culture to remain the same as it has always been. When anything grows in popularity this quickly there are growing pains and there are changes which occur. In my opinion this is inevitable and therefore these conversations are inevitable and necessary. I think the approach (that a few seem to take) of denying that these challenges exist and/or blaming individuals for creating these challenges is out of touch with reality. I have heard some response to these conversations along the lines of (obviously paraphrasing to make a point here), "hey, stop trying to taint my sport by talking about prize money, championship races, and questioning race selection process'/motives."

I do believe that ultrarunning is still small enough that an individual, or a few individuals, can be a catalyst for certain changes in the sport, but it's much too large of a thing for individuals to create change. The changes are created by the overall growth and the natural challenges that occur when you are working to meet the demands of hundreds of thousands of people as compared to a few thousand people. The modest increase of money into the sport for example (specifically prize money and sponsor money) has happened/will likely continue to happen not because individuals are talking about whether this is good for the sport or not, but because of the huge growth in the sport in the past few years. Races which focus primarily and/or entirely on the competitive nature of the sport are working their way into the sport (and trust me, they are working their way into the sport) not because of the conversations that have arisen about how best to approach/structure these kinds of races, but again because of the rapid growth in the sport. Individuals who are talking about how best to deal with these changes are simply taking a proactive approach to responding to these changes. A sport with 5 or 10 times as many participants as it had 20 years ago (again a total rough estimate to help make a point) just isn't going to have the same culture that it had back then. Utopian societies work great up to a population tipping point, and once they go over that tipping point a new approach is needed. One which draws from the aspects of the Utopian society which are still possible with the larger population, but also finds logical and creative ways to work these aspects in with the challenges of the larger population. In my opinion Ultrarunning has gone beyond the tipping point of being capable of being the "Utopian Society" that it once was. I think it is now in the process of finding the best ways to blend the most desirable (and plausible) aspects of the Utopian roots of the sport in with the challenges/opportunities that have arisen due to the growth in the sport.

So, if you're still with me here I'll assume that you agree in principal to at least some of what I'm saying. Basically all I have said to this point is that Ultrarunning has been and will continue to go through some growing pains so long as it continues to grow in popularity as rapidly as it has the past few years. I have also said (in way too many words) that it is my belief that it makes a lot more sense to talk about, debate, and find ways to best work through these growing pains than it does to simply deny that they exist.

This isn't to say that everyone has to believe that these "growing pains" exist. I have heard from some people who genuinely believe that, despite the rapid growth, ultrarunning can simply remain Utopian as it has always been by collectively doing nothing. Personally I wish I believed this to be true, but as I've already said, I think we've gone well beyond this point.

Thus, with all of this said, I would say thank you to those who have had these discussions with me (and each other) here on this blog about some of the challenges in ultrarunning right now. I hope we have all learned from these conversations. I know I have. There have been some themes to various conversations, here and in other places, that have made a lot of sense to me, and then there have been others that have made little to no sense to me. Overall though, I think that these conversations (agree with the details of them or not) are an essential part of the process that ultrarunning is going through right now.

And therefore I want to go back to some of these conversations now and touch on some of the things I have thought about in response to some of these challenges/opportunities which have been brought up (gosh this post is long and getting longer, but I think it would be hypocritical of me to write a novel about the importance of talking about these things and then not talk about any of them).

The first thing I want to touch on is the Hardrock 100. A lot of people seem to think that it's a travesty that Hardrock doesn't do whatever they could to ensure entry to all top runners who want to run the race. Others think it's an affront that anyone who hasn't paid their dues to Hardrock over the years should possibly be given any kind of preference based on performance potential. Although a compelling conversation that could probably go back and forth forever, I don't think it's a very important one because Hardrock has made it clear that they are not going to change what their event is, simply because there is a steady and growing demand (by some, certainly not by all) for them to do so. As I said in a comment to my post titled, "Western States It Is," I have a huge amount of respect for the Hardrock race organization for having an idea for an event, implementing that idea, and then sticking to that idea.

The interesting thing which the Hardrock selection process highlights though, and the main thing I was trying to convey in my above mentioned blog post, is how many people (front, middle, and back of pack runners alike) seem to want a seriously rugged and challenging race like Hardrock to emerge as a race focused very seriously on the competitive nature of it. This isn't to say that everyone wants this. Of course they don't, but I think so many people do that it's inevitable we will see this soon (actually I know we will see this soon, it's not a matter of if, but rather when and where).

In the days shortly after the Hardrock lottery I received dozens of emails from people saying how bummed they were that (as we all knew and could have predicted) that Hardrock would (as always) not be a race of the top runners who wanted to toe the line on July 8th, but rather a run of the lucky 140 who were selected, mostly at random, to do so. Some of these emails were from previous Hardrock racers, some of them were from non-runners, some of them were from the select group of 140 that will run Hardrock this year, Some of them were from race organizers/directors of some of the most grassroots events in the country, and some were from other top level runners who also hoped to toe the line on July 8th. A couple of them had a tone of anger at Hardrock specifically and I responded to these with an abridged version of what I'm writing here. The vast majority of them though had a tone of frustration with what the Hardrock lottery seems to highlight most every year now. A frustration of having this sport which is growing in huge numbers, a sport which is practiced in the form of a race (which is by nature competitive), but somehow collectively holds onto this idea that it is taboo to truly emphasis the top-level competition of the sport.

Now, right here I think there is a very important somewhat divergent point to make so as to avoid some confusion which has come up within this conversation in the past. I, nor anyone I have talked to about this has any desire for all ultra events to put a strong emphasis on the front of the pack competitive aspect of these races. I have run some of the most famously grassroots, low key events out there and I believe there is a huge value, depth, beauty, and satisfaction from these events and the culture they foster. I, like most think it would be absolutely tragic if events like Hardrock were all replaced by events focused primarily on the front of the field competition. This said, I have no idea how me (and others) talking about the demand (that has been created by the extreme growth in this sport) that currently exists for a handful of championship type events is going to effect the 500 (again, random number to make a point) or so existing events which have little or no true focus on the race at the front. It would be a different story if anyone were trying to say that every race should be like this, but there just isn't the demand for that, and there never will be. In my opinion there is space right now for about one "championship" type race at each of the common distances (50k, 50m, 100k, 100m). That's 4 races. 4 races that are primarily or exclusively focused on the race at the front of the pack, and 500 that aren't. I'm just not sure what real threat those who are only interested in the 500 existing races see from these 4 potential races.

I think a good comparison for this is the current marathon racing scene. Does the fact that there are several marathons around the world that invite, pay, encourage, and/or limit their race to top level runners undercut the health, integrity, popularity, or grassroots feel of the tens of thousands of marathons worldwide who don't? Unless I'm really missing something I'm pretty sure the local, small town marathons are thriving, both in participation and in spirit. Is there actually a city out there that doesn't have a marathon, the vast majority of which are very low key and grassroots by marathon standards?

I've talked about this in the past, but I'll mention it again because of it's relevancy here: I think that the creation of events focused on the front level competition will not only not harm existing (and future) grassroots or low key events focused equally on all level runners, but rather strengthen them. Races may be forced a little bit more to choose an identity. To me this is a good thing. It's always been the races who know what they are, and embrace what they are, that have been the most appealing to me. It's worth noting that of the dozens of races out there that really seem to have a true strong identity that is really emphasized by the race and deeply understood and appreciated by the participants they are all in the direction of being really grassroots, laid back, low key events. We don't, to my knowledge, have a single trail ultra in this country that identifies itself, and embraces their own identity as a race primarily emphasizing the competitive aspect of the sport. We have a lot that try to straddle between the two (several that even do this very successfully), but certainly none that go anywhere near as far in the direction of competitiveness as Hardrock goes in the direction of non-competitiveness. Why is this? I do not know. A fluke? An oversight? It's certainly unique among competitive sports (including all other types/distances of running) in this regard. It's certainly the only sport I know of where you are likely to get criticized for saying that you are interested in competing against as many top athletes in your sport as possible. In most sports this is simply inherent. This said, I do think the abundance of non-competitive, low key events is actually what draws many new people to this sport, but I don't think this abundance would be negated by a handful of highly competitive events - again, think of the current marathon running scene.

Mentioning that I think there is space for a championship type event at each of the 4 common distances reminds me of one of the most common responses opposed to this championship race idea that I have read here on my blog as well as other places. This is the USATF argument. It generally goes something like this: "The USATF already has trail national championship races at 4 ultra distances so why don't you fast runners all get together and actually show up to the championship races that already exist?"

On the surface (as long as you don't scratch it at all) this sounds like a very logical response.

First, before digging a little deeper into the USATF thing though, I would also say that this isn't about a handful of fast runners who could simply make a plan to show up at some race and effectively turn it into a championship race. This is already happening (Rocky Raccoon a couple weeks ago was a variation of this). It happens all the time that a few fast runners decide to run a race and then several more jump on board because they want to run against other fast runners, or in many cases because their fast runner friends talk them into it. That's not what this championship demand is about. This is about having a race (or a few) that focuses on getting as many top runners as possible from around the world to race each other on the same day. Not simply an exclusive bunch who are "in the know," but instead a race which (as we see in just about every other sport in the world) hopes and works to encourage anyone who has a legitimate chance of being competitive to participate. If it sounds like a lofty aim, think about all the other sports in this world that are known about worldwide almost entirely because they have a true national or international competition exclusive to the very top athletes in that sport (think obscure Olympic sports). People from a wider audience really like following some pretty fringe sports when they feel like they are following the best who participate in that sport.

Anyway, back to the USATF point: The USATF "national championship" races are a gimmick akin to the ice cream shop I have been to in Alaska that has a sign out front that says: "World's Best Ice Cream." This sign was enough to get me to stop in there one time on a warm August afternoon. The ice cream was pretty good, maybe even one of the other flavors would have been great, but as I walked out the door I saw the Sysco restaurant supply driver unloading tubs of ice cream into the back door of the shop. We see this gimmick all the time in marketing products. Rather than working to create the best possible product companies simply state that they have the best product, when in fact what they have is the same thing everyone else has. The result: people try it once or twice and then go elsewhere looking for something better. Eventually when there are enough people demanding something better, supply rises to meet this demand.

Right now in ultrarunning we are in the midst of the supply rising to meet the demand phase. If USATF (or WS or Hardrock or Leadville or on and on and on) opted to try to rise up to meet this demand they would have a great head start (although the time may be already up for this) at being the eventual consumer's choice in regards to this particular demand. In other words just slapping the label "national championship" on a race doesn't mean it's going to happen that way if you don't also do the work to create a more appealing product than what everyone else is already putting out. I think the recent history of these USATF races has more than proven this point.

Okay, I think this touches on most of the things that I've been thinking about in terms of all of this in the past several days. If you actually read all of this, what the hell is wrong with you? If you read all of it and you feel like I have way too much time on my hands, you are probably right. If you read all of this and didn't think it was funny (regardless of whether you agree or disagree with some of my points) then I suggest reading it again (if you have another few hours to kill) knowing that I am writing most of this from a very light, ironic place with a bit of a smirk on my face. I take none of this as serious as it might seem if simply read at face value. At the end of the day, I, nor any of us as individuals, can do anything to "change" ultrarunning. Nor can any of us do anything to ensure that ultrarunning doesn't change. It's just running... for a long time. All we can really do is go out for a run.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trudging Towards Santa Barbara

I've been back at "normal" training for almost 10 days now. I feel really good after almost a month "off." Normal training is anything but normal right now though. Winter has finally come in full force to the Colorado Front Range so most of my "running" in the past two weeks has been snowshoeing through deep snow. The wind has been blowing so strong that no matter how nice of a "trail" I get broken in it's certain to be drifted over by the following day. It finally got warm enough today that the snow softened up in the sun and will hopefully freeze tonight and "cap" things off so drifting won't be as much of an issue in the days to come.

This has been my routine for the past week: Hang around the house all morning waiting for the wind to die down. Finally head out for my run around 2:00 when the wind has invariably picked up even higher. Get really frustrated as soon as I hit the trail because all of the "work" I did to break a trail the day before has been trumped by the wind. Finally come to peace with the conditions and accept that I will be breaking through knee deep drifts for the entire run. And then after about 30 minutes I begin to even relish the difficulty that the wind has created. I start to really enjoy the effort it takes to push each step through 12+ inches of snow with a 22" platform attached to my foot. I start to notice that every step feels like I'm going up a steep hill. The more I tune into this the more I enjoy it. And the more I enjoy this feeling of pushing up a steep hill the more likely I am to be reminded that I am going to be running the SBER 100 (also knows as the DRTE 100) at the end of April that has almost 36,000 ft. of climbing! I'm really excited for this race. There is nothing I like more than running uphill. Except perhaps running on snowshoes in deep snow. The other cool thing is that tomorrow morning I'm going to run a 10k snowshoe race just down the road from my house. I think Dave might run too so it's not exactly going to be an easy one to run away with. Probably won't race it at all, but one never knows with these kinds of things.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Up And Comers

I thought it'd be fun to do a post highlighting some of the runners who I think are very likely to become a lot more known in the ultra running world in the next year or two. A few of these runners have already had some "breakthrough" performances and others of them are almost completely unknown, but what I think they all have in common is that they have just scratched the surface of what they are capable of. I think it'll be really fun to follow each of their progress this year and beyond. The other thing I would say about this list is that I have been fortunate enough to meet all of these runners except for Ian and Jacob, and they are all great people who I think are very likely to succeed in their running and in most anything they take on in their lives.
  • It's hard to call Ian Sharman an up and comer, especially after his performance last week down in Texas, but I for one am really excited to see what he can do in more technical races going forward. Rocky Raccoon might just be a course that fits him perfectly, and he may have a difficult time ever having a race like that on a more challenging course, but on the other hand Rocky Raccoon may give him a level of confidence going forward that makes him a contender to win any race he runs. One thing I'll be curious to follow is how much "gas in the tank" he'll have at Western States. If he sticks to his current race plans he will have raced 300 miles this season before Western States! I am planning to race 180 miles before Western States, and I'm a little bit concerned that this could be a bit too much. To put this into context, I raced 130 miles before Western States last year, and Tony K. raced 62. Granted Tony raced such a small amount because he was coming back from injury, but I think a huge part of the reason Tony and I were able to run as fast as we did last year at WS was because of how relatively fresh we both were going into that race.
  • It's probably even harder to call Ellie Greenwood an up and comer, but I put her on this list because I think she has only scratched the surface of her potential. I don't mean this as any disrespect to any other runners, but I think Ellie is the most talented female ultra runner in North America right now. I for one am really excited to see how this talent manifests itself in the months and years to come.
  • Bill Fanselow is another one who has already had some solid results, but who I think will turn a lot more heads as he gets more and more experience racing for 7+ hours. He's a large guy for an ultra runner, but in my limited experience racing against him he seems tough as nails. This past fall at the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler he just kept on my heels for the entire day. In the end I was able to hold him off by 10 or 15 minutes, but then found out after the race that he had just had surgery on his heart less than a month before the race! I heard he dropped out of Rocky Raccoon last week after 80 or so miles, but my guess is he learned a lot from running that far and will be a force to reckon with in upcoming races. Bill, if you read this you should shoot me an email ( if you want to get out for a run sometime. I lost your number after Steamboat.
  • Jason Schlarb is a local Boulder guy who turned a lot of heads with his 5th place finish at the North Face San Francisco race in December. I'm pretty sure he's planning a pretty busy ultra racing schedule this season. If he gets on a roll he could be a force to reckon with.
  • Jacob Rydman is a much lesser known runner, who I have only met through email. One thing that stands out with Jacob though is that he seems to have a desire to test/push himself to see what he can do. He also seems to understand the importance (in my opinion) of huge amounts of vertical in training for long ultras. I think he's planning to run Way Too Cool and American River so he may not be such an unknown for too much longer.
  • Michael Owen might be the most exciting youngster this side of Dakota Jones. I think he's 21 and he just finished 9th at the North Face race in December. He's been running high mileage in training for about a year, and is a rare 21 year old that seems to truly get what it takes to race ultras. I only chatted with him for a bit during the SF race, but I saw enough to suspect that he has a great shot (if he wants to) of being a top contender in ultra running for several years. There are young, inexperienced runners who seem very young and inexperienced, and then there are young and inexperienced runners like Michael Owen (and Dakota) who seem to understand running and racing well beyond their years. I'm not sure what his racing plans are for this year, but I hope I get a chance to cross paths with him again soon.
  • Patrick Garcia is a cool guy from Denver who might not have quite as much raw potential as some of these other runners, but my guess is (based on the one run I've done with him and his impressive 3rd place finish at Hellgate 100k this past December) that he'd be suited really well for long slow races (Hardrock, Wasatch, etc.). It's sounds like his racing schedule is going to be fairly minimal this year as he and his wife are expecting a second (or a second and third) child this summer. After a year of drawing strength and focus from his family I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him drop some performances in 2012 that exceed anything he's done (from a performance standpoint) thus far. I'll certainly be rooting for him in every race he runs.
  • Rachel Phelps is the least known of anyone on this list. She's a friend of mine from Juneau who has only raced one marathon and one 50k. She had great performances in both of those races and has only just barely scratched the surface of what she's capable of as a runner. I don't know if she has a huge desire to race too many races in the lower 48, but I do know that she has a ton of talent as a mountain runner. Steep mountain ascents seem to be almost effortless for her, and the longer she goes the stronger she seems to get. I have been on more than a few runs with her over 4 hours in rugged, steep, mountainous terrain, and each time she has seemed as strong at the end of the run as she did at the beginning.
Ok, that's it for my list. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on these runners and/or of some more "up and comers" any of you might have in mind.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clif Shot Gel

I think the most common question I get about my running is: "What do you eat when you run?" For me I like to keep it really simple. Sometimes on longer training runs I'll go for more of a variety, including some solid foods, but in my races, and in most of my training runs I like to get virtually all of my calories from gels. They're really easy to get down; they're easy to track caloric consumption; and they seem to get into my body and address energy needs quicker than anything else.

I've tried just about every brand and flavor of gel over the years. I've had a few that have rotated through as favorites, but the one that has stuck around as a favorite and come to make up almost all of my calories consumed during running is Clif Shot Gel. They are the only ones that I don't get really sick of if I use them day in and day out. If you haven't tried Clif Gels in awhile I highly recommend it. Last fall they switched to a new recipe, switching from Brown Rice Syrup to a Maltodextrin/Cane Sugar combo. In my opinion the new Clif Gels are the best gels on the market if you want something that you can eat dozens of and not get really burnt out on them. A few of the flavors are not as good as others, but I have 3 flavors (Citrus, Vanilla, and Strawberry) that I probably consume an average of 10 a week and have not gotten sick of at all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Western States It Is

No Hardrock this year for me. Quite a few fast guys got in (Jurek, Meltzer, Jones, Clark, Callahan, Campbell to name a few) so it should be a fairly exciting race in the San Juan Mountains in July. Nowhere near as exciting as it could have been though if the race organization had any real desire to create as exciting a race as possible at the front of the pack. It's their race and they can do what they want with it, but I think it's unfortunate for fans of the competitive aspect of the sport of Ultrarunning that the most challenging and most scenic 100 miler we have in this country has seemingly no desire to bring a high level of competition into their event. I hope to, and probably will, run the Hardrock course one of these years, but I think there is a good chance that it will not be as part of the "race."

One of my favorite things about racing is to put myself up against as many top level runners as possible. I like to challenge myself in this way and I like the bond that is created from sharing this type of experience with so many like minded people. Take this competitive aspect out of a race and there's not a lot left for me that I can't get from just going out and running the course on my own or with some friends.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that I'm just sour about this because I didn't get drawn into the race, but the truth is that had I been drawn in I'm not even sure I would opt to run. My plan all along has been to run either Western States or Hardrock, whichever one would have a more competitive field to race against. My hope was that by some miracle virtually all of the top runners got into Hardrock and then it would have been a no brainer to run Hardrock. If all things were equal (competition wise) I would have also opted for Hardrock because I prefer to run races that I haven't run before, and from everything I've heard the Hardrock course is beyond belief in challenge and beauty. But with the way the lottery turned out, even if I had been drawn into Hardrock I would have likely opted to tangle with Tony, Kilian, Sharman, Clark, and others at Western States instead of Hardrock (the competition on paper looks about equal at both, but I am pretty certain at least a couple of the top guys on the Hardrock list are likely to not run). That is to say that it would have been a tough call, but one that I don't need to worry about making.

The other thing that had crept into my mind a bit more in the past few days was the temptation to run them both (if I had the option). In some ways I'm kind of glad I don't have the option to do anything as stupid as running both of them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Few Spaces Still Remain

I wanted to post a quick reminder that sign up for my Summer running camps is still open. The June 6-12 session is full (taking wait list applicants), but the July 28-August 3 session still has 5 spaces available. I will be advertising the camps more extensively (have only advertised here so far) in the next several weeks so I wanted to do one more plug here to make sure all my blog followers had first chance to get signed up before I begin spreading the word in other outlets. You can find all the information about the camps HERE.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Udo's Oil

I've been aware of the reported benefits of Udo's Oil for endurance athletes for at least 2 years, but I had never used it with any regularity until a few months ago. Scott Jurek has been Udo's largest promoter among ultrarunners, and it's certainly hard to argue with his success and knowledge in the sport. And then this fall on a run with Krissy Moehl she also spoke highly of Udo's Oil and the effect it's had on her running. Finally I decided that the endorsement of two of the people I respect the most in the sport of ultrarunning was enough for me to give it a more serious try. I have now been taking 2-4 tablespoons of Udo's 3-6-9 Oil virtually everyday since the end of November.

The science behind the benefits of "healthy fats" for endurance athletes (or for anyone for that matter) is well documented so I won't go into it here. There are all kinds of resources on the web that explain this with much more detail and with much more knowledge than I have at my disposal. Here is a good spot to start if you're interested in reading more about this.

All this science and research doesn't mean a thing to me though unless a product works for me. Two months is not a conclusive amount of time to state with 100% certainty that any product is having a significant positive effect on my body. I tend to have natural ebbs and flows in my general physical well being which seem to last 3 months or more. This said I have felt significantly better in many areas in this time that I have been taking Udos. It's hard for me not to believe that this Oil has been a major player in feeling as healthy as I have.

The area that I have noticed the most improved physical well being since beginning on Udo's has been in my overall energy levels throughout the day. I have previously felt quite tired most of the time between my training runs. Typically I have turned to afternoon caffeine to get me through the low points, and then sleep as much as possible, and I'm usually able to feel pretty good and recovered in time to do it all over again the next day. In the past few months though I have noticed less and less of this low point between runs. Even on days when I do a really long or really hard run I tend to feel totally recovered and re-energized within a few hours. I am quite certain that the improvement I have felt in this area is directly a result of my consumption of Udo's Oil. The difference has simply been too much to ignore.

As far as my physical well being during runs, I would say the jury is still out on this one a bit. I feel like I have felt generally a bit stronger during runs in the past few months, but I have had a lot of variables that have been presented in this time. I have been dealing with the effects of adjusting to living and training at 8,500 ft. I have lived at this altitude since August, but only in the past month or two do I feel that I have fully acclimatized. I have also, in the past 3 weeks, taken my first significant break from serious training in over a year. Because of these variables it's pretty hard for me to really grade the effect that Udo's has had on how I feel during runs. I do look very forward to the coming weeks though as I get back into the "normal" swing of things to see how I feel running on 4 or 5 tablespoons of Udo's Oil a day. I'll keep you all posted on this one.

The other thing I would add is how much I have enjoyed the flavor that Udo's adds to some of the foods I've been eating it with. It adds a great rich, hearty, Earthy flavor to my recovery smoothies. This is a concoction that I have typically choked down in the past, but with a couple tablespoons of Udo's it's much tastier. I've also really enjoyed using it as an oil for salad dressing. I think my favorite is a simple dijon vinaigrette with a bit of dijon mustard, garlic, red wine vinegar, and Udo's. I also ate some on pasta the other day for the first time and was surprised at how satisfying that was.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, you should get some Udo's 3-6-9 Oil and try for yourself. As I said, it's only been a few months for me, but the early results are very positive, and I'm excited to move ahead with Udo's as a regular part of my diet.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Serious Return To Winter And Some Thoughts Surrounding That

So much for feeling like Spring is just around the corner. Two days ago it was over 50 here and today it's topping out at about negative 8. Supposed to go down to about 25 below tonight. Luckily it isn't windy right now or I'm not sure we'd be able to keep it warm enough in our little cabin.

All this cold has me thinking a lot about Alaska, and specifically about outdoor adventure in the winter in Alaska. More specifically than that, it has me thinking a lot about the Iditarod Trail Invitational (if you aren't' familiar with this race I highly recommend checking out the website. It still amazes me that this event really exists).

This year's version of the "ITI" occurs in March and I will most definitely not be taking part. Next year though, who knows? I've tried this race twice and dropped out both times. Part of me isn't sure why I would want to do it again. But most of me is very intrigued by the idea of doing it again. It has an appeal to it that is similar to the way I felt about the first couple 100 mile races I ever did. It's not a challenge to see how fast you can do it, but rather a challenge to see whether you can do it at all.

I miss this aspect of my athletic endeavors a bit. Back in 2008-2009 I participated in 3 events like this within a 16 month span (ITI twice and the GDR), but since July '09 I have focused entirely on "short", high performance running races. It has been really nice to put all of my energy into one type of running, and it has been very satisfying to have the success in doing this that I have had, and I am excited for the schedule of races I have lined up for the next 10 months. I do however find myself missing some of the more adventurous, longer, multi day events that have to this point been very difficult and elusive to me. Despite my lack of "success" in finishing these events, I have had some of the most fond memories of my entire life in the midst of these events. There's just something so satisfying about being out in a harsh and beautiful landscape, for days in a row, with nothing to move you forward but your own strength, stubbornness, and determination. I don't know for sure if I'll participate in the Iditarod Trail Invitational next winter, but I will certainly put a lot more thought into this over the next couple months, before I would need to sign up in April.