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Showing posts from May, 2010

Anchorage and the ultra crew

Finally made it to Anchorage. There's tons to do here...if you embrace the outdoors. The first stop after arriving was to catch the Anchorage Running Club's half marathon, on the Tony Knowles coastal trail.

I wasn't a mile into the race when I heard trail chatter from the cluster of runners ahead. It was talk of the second half of the American River 50 mile in northern California. I had done the race about a decade ago, so it was fun to fall in behind and recall the final climb to the finish.

As the miles ticked by, I learned about the running lives of (left to right) David, master competitor, Joe and Renee (I think this is right the old brain is foggy). We ran as a group throughout the race, until David and Renee broke free to surge into the finish shoot. I was about 100 yards back, happy to be running and being part of the running scene in Alaska.

Mountains surround you on every side. The clouds seem to have different formations. The culture may be a bit skewed fr…

Ghost running

One of the benefits of being a Brooks Bluestreak member is product testing. It's pleasurable to test prototype products and add input that is integrated into future product designs.

Pictured is the Brooks Ghost 2 - this image was featured in Men's Journal as part of a product review. The light, flexible trainer and racer is big on forefoot cushioning and is a "neutral" shoe, i.e. not designed for any specific running inefficiencies.

I'm hitting the roads and trails with the new Ghost 3, soon to be in a store near you. They're light, fast, and offer a porous upper fabric that is good for the hot weather soon to come upon us. I like the feel of fresh shoes with the added impact deferment. I'm big for a runner and even when attempting a light foot strike, I land fairly hard. This new shoe feels good and a fresh shoe always delivers a burst of motivation.

There continues to be numerous news reports and also "jump on the bandwagon" individuals and…

I don't want to know...

I'm not one to drill down into details for training and racing. When I'm at an ultra event, incessant beeps permeate the air; Garmin GPS watches everywhere tell their owners that another mile has passed and it's time to take a drink, pop a pill or alter the pace.

I've been around long enough to ferment, but to date I haven't embraced the Garmin scene. It's bad enough that a device on your wrist is telling you what to do. And it's even more of a reach to contemplate master competitor dumping his data off the watch onto his computer...where further paralysis by analysis can occur.

This post is in no way a diss against Garmin. They manufacture wonderful products and I love my GarminNuvi GPS car system.

But for someone who has been pushing forward for all these years, more isn't always better. I'm running somewhere between 9-10 miles most mornings and that's the extent of my knowledge. I start my watch, run towards the mountain and 90 minutes lat…

Mind over meltdown

I've been able to keep my daily 90 minutes runs in motion and it ain't pretty.

My legs are dulled and my somewhat floppy belly adds to the load. My body lumbers down the trail, as I strive to stay in chi stance and shuffle along.

But as it has been, and will be, I must let my mind rule my body. When I succumbed to Guillain-Barre, some said I wouldn't run again, or that I would be relegated to a walker. That was December 1992 and in May 1993 I finished the Ice Age 50 mile. Mind had to tell the body it was time to race again.

When the L-5/S-1 disc took a bad turn in 2008, I was told it might be time to conclude the running career and move on to more sedentary activities. It was a bad time but the running prevailed.

I won't declare that our minds can overcome all physical ailments. But I do believe we impregnate our minds, and subsequent bodies, with imprints of how we will respond and perform. My body may ache and move slowly, but it is aware that on most days I'…

Aussie awesome

Been a bit behind in personal reading, finally was able to open my April issue of Ultrarunning. I was greeted by a quote inside the front cover by my Aussie buddy Wayne Gregory:
"Ultrarunning doesn't come with sports star fame or big dollar fortune, but, oh baby, it's by far the coolest thing in town."
Well said old friend.
Wayne and his ultra crew pretty much adopted me when I was in Sydney for the month of May in 2007. It was through Wayne I was able to make a long pull on The Great North Road and also run on Six Foot Track.
Wayne is featured in Ultrarunning as the author of the race report for - and winner of - the Great Ocean Walk. One great portion of the tale talks of incessant vomiting and total meltdown, which Wayne calls "being in the bad room."
Once again, well said. Thirty one hours after the starting gun fired, he was at the finish and tops in an epic 100 mile adventure.

The story and report made me a bit melancholy. Three years ago this month,…

Green peace

The Rock Creek trail isn't as I left it. Rather barren and snow covered the last time I was here. Spring thaw brought out a mucky mess. Now it's a tunnel of green, foliage hangs across the path and I'm ducking through the low spots. The wet grass soaks my feet and the itch starts from brushing my legs against the who-knows-what. It's easier to spot the trail entrances as they're now brown fingers cut into the swath of green. I run a short out and back leg and today I shared that section with three does. They stopped, I stopped, and we sniffed each other out. Maybe 20 feet apart. Will deer spook and attack a runner? I wasn't sure but have never been this close. Maybe we all wondered what our reasons for being really were. I'm in a strange place near DC and these creatures are probably way too far into an urban setting. We finally said our goodbyes and went our own ways, me back to civilization and the deer back deeper into what ever forest they …


I completed an academic writing workshop last week and focused on my rhetorical memoir creative non-fiction technique...humor me for a few posts while I practice.

What am I doing? The descent is steep enough that my feet are slipping. Working around these downed trees makes me nervous; if I trip and tumble how will this Eastwood audiobook play out in my head? One part of me wants to rest in what I have accomplished, to live within the perspective that what I have is all bonus time. But that mindset limits the aura, the potential for possibilities well outside the boundaries of accepting the present. The run is over, the stretching didn't have much effect, and my legs are bleeding from the bushwhack through brush and branches. I'm not a naturalist and don't know what poison sumac, oak or ivy looks like. So the itch is all over. A fleeting thought says a man my age and in my position shouldn't thrash his legs trail running. But another glimmer inside says rough …

Tour de Lion

No, these tours aren't getting faster. I'm getting slower. Hundreds of riders shuffling for position and what for? There's no finish line it's just a big loop back to the high school. I want to get rid of this triple chain ring bike. The Felt has been a good ride but I want a compact crank. Have to remember what my small chain ring front/big gear in back gives me. Will want to make sure a gear cluster on a new bike gives me that low gear. It's hot. 90 degrees and I'm not yet into it. All this sunscreen is good for me but it's a greasy mess that catches bugs. Well, I'm past the 40/75 mile split and took the 75. The rest of the pack seems to be headed for the 40 there's not many of us on the long loop. But here we go, it's OK, I'm riding alone once again. This is a different sort of pain. Rolling hills again and again, up one and down the other. The time is ticking by I'm watching the tenths of each mile on the odometer. I…

Put it in OverDrive

I'm having a really fine time doing my 90 minute runs each morning. Spring has come upon the North Carolina mountains and exploring new trail is always a big day for master competitor. And a large component of the experience has to do with my Zune and audiobooks.

My latest is a detailed autobiography on Clint Eastwood. The "spaghetti western" hero and TV star of Rawhide went on to great fame as a director and producer. And the best part is that I'm listening to this and other great publications at no charge.

Check with your local library and see if they offer OverDrive download software. Once you have it installed you can select and manage your listening from a large array of material. If a popular book is "checked out" I can request it and put it on hold for the future. Most books have a 7 to 14 day check-out period.

As the years go by I listen to less music and more audiobooks. It expands what I might choose to read and surely takes me different plac…

Vegan delights

The New York Times ran an excellent feature on Scott Jurek - a fellow Brooks runner who is attempting to break the U.S. record for 24 hours.

You can read all about Scott's effort to run 176+ miles at

What I enjoyed about this piece is the reference to Jurek's vegan lifestyle. Some of you may know master competitor has been a vegetarian for 10 years, with the vegan diet somewhere beyond that parameter. But this articled does a nice job of framing how Jurek cooks and eats.

It's not for everyone, but neither is 20 mile training runs and ultra events.

To each his own. More soon, I have to go and whip up a smoothie with soy protein.

Becca says HPL is #1

Received a response from "Running Becca" in Charlottesville, Virginia...she states "I love my Nathan HPL backpack!"

Thanks, Becca, for the comment.

You can check out Becca's blog at
The Nathan HPL (Human Propulsion Laboratories) pak (sic, as Nathan designates it) is just right for some runners. I have included an image of the women's version. I own a 2-liter HPL and do believe the Nathan packs ride well on the shoulders and upper torso. But in hot weather I become stifled; it feels as if my back cannot breath and sweat.

In situations where you need big water for long sections, this is the way to tote it.
I'd like to do a blog post on hand held water bottles...any opinions out there on brand or function?

Go go GoLite

Hydration packs have been, and will remain, an essential component of ultrarunning.

I have to admit, I never got comfortable to being strapped and trussed with bottle or bladder packs. Some are better than others but most chafe, rub, get hot or obstruct movement.

At right is one of the latest double bottle packs from GoLite; it's a minimalist design that gets the job done. I have a similar model from several years ago. It seems to bounce a lot and needs constant adjustment. I also have an Ultimate Direction double bottle pack, two Ultimate Direction single bottle packs, and a Nathan two-liter back pack.

Does any out there have a favorite model that works for you? If so drop me a few comments, I'll post some product reviews ASAP.

Rock hard and racing

Another of my favorite podcasts is Competitor Radio...all things new and exciting in the world of endurance sport.
Check out this recent posting, a great update on the dopes who are doping:
This report alerted me to the fact that "male enhancement" drugs have not been banned in competition, and many athletes are claiming they have personal issues and are propping up their members. Men in their early 20's needing to put a stent in their stick? Seems to be unrealistic...until one considers that these same substances increase blood flow, which potentially increase performance.
That's one good thing about being a solid mid-pack performer; no need to prop anything up, instead let it hang low and loose and stumble forward to the finish line. Why not join me in having a really great time, free from the entrapment of needing to go further or faster. The sooner we get drugs out of endurance sport, the better.

Watch your footing

I like to keep up with recent happenings on the ultra scene by using Google News alert RSS feeds for "ultrarunning" and "ultramarathon" onto my Yahoo! home page.
Picked up an interesting read this morning about the Zane Grey 50 mile in Arizona. The event offers tough terrain and in this instance, it bit one of ultrarunning's greatest athletes - Carl Meltzer. The report indicates Carl fell backward when hit by a tree branch. The subsequent fall broke his arm. You can read the entire report at:
The though on the day for master competitors is to watch your footing and choose wisely when selecting events. My balance isn't what it used to be and the tricky descents take much more time than decades ago. Two falls at the Icy 8 made me revisit the fact that we need to use caution on technical sections of the race course.
I entered the Rattlesnake Trail 50K in West Virginia in July…

Icy 8 revisited

I couldn't put the Icy 8 to rest without including this great post-race shot. It's event promoter Alex Papadopoulos, his wonderful daughter Katie and master competitor.
It should be noted this photo was taken after I could stand, knew my name, and remembered what state I was in.
The Icy 8 had its ups and downs, but I really came to enjoy the day. It's one of those races where the afterglow starts to grow on you after time passes. Some of the ultra world is about crowded fields and high profile athletes. But there's an alternative side to the sport, and I want to thank Alex and his company, Athletic Equation, Inc., for making such a big effort to host this event. After two snow outs in February, it would have been easy to pull the pin, but Alex and his crew determined they would get the event to happen - and they did, with exceptional effort.
As always, I walked away from this event thanking the Lord for letting me put yet another ultra finish under my belt. I neve…

Icy 8 and the young guns

Old timers might be interested in new young guns coming into the sport of ultrarunning.

Meet Ryan Middleton (with me in photo at right). Ryan is a new Brooks "Inspire Daily" team member. He came, he saw, he conquered. Ryan posted 40 miles on the day and took second overall at the Icy 8.

I enjoy and appreciate the apprentice runners coming into endurance racing. They're taking over and carrying the sport forward. A segment of ultrarunners have resisted change and ever-growing entries, but change is inevitable.

Ryan and I exchanged high-five's on the course and had a nice visit after the finish line. Let's make sure to welcome newbies and to assist and support them as they take over the trails.

Banish the burn

Here's another installment in my "secondary usage" product shout-outs.

I'm no expert on a raging burn in the bikini zone due to razor rash, but when it comes to raw nipples, groin irritation and blistered feet I'm the man.

If shopping in the feminine hygiene section isn't a deal breaker, pick up a tube of Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. Tell the shopping assistant not to be deterred by your hairy body and that your intent is sincere.

This stuff goes on wet and dries to a silky finish. I applied a couple of dabs on select trouble spots that past weekend at the 8 hour and was pleased with the results - and that's with sweat and salt splashing everywhere. I plan to extend trial to a foot application at another race soon.

Icy 8-hour gets hot

Master competitor had a solid weekend at the Icy 8-hour...which became the furnace 8-hour. The event was a make up date for two February snow-outs.

The 5-mile course at a new location had approximately one mile of gravel road, one mile of pavement, then 3 miles of somewhat technical trail.

I has last man into the woods, but since temps were climbing and eventually reached 94 degrees, I wanted to make a pace I could sustain. My first lap was 1:08, and I was pretty much on tempo the remaining laps...even ran some negative splits on laps 6 and 7.

Took a couple of bad falls, catching my toes on little sapling stumps that littered sections of trail. Blood and guts aren't desired but I dusted myself off and proceeded.

Master competitor became Pac Man as the day unfolded. I was picking off runners in a methodical fashion. The clock said 6:45 when I completed lap 6 and race organizers let me go out for one more loop. With minutes to spare, I came in for 35 miles - 11th out of 31 finishers.

I w…