Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2010 Year in Review

The term "time flies when you're having fun" definitely applied to me this past year and I can't believe 2010 is history. I decided to do a quick recap highlighting some of the main memories from each month and whatever else comes to mind.

  1. January 1, 2010:  Joe Grant and I drove over to Bend, Oregon and ran the Badass 50k w/ some other friends and had a good time camping out in the badlands.
  2. February- Took a road trip to run the trails on Orcas Island, WA and was blown away by the beauty up there! Met some great people in the process.
  3. March-  Had a good race up at The Chuckanut Mountain 50k
  4. April-  Found out the gender of our baby on Friday and won Peterson Ridge Rumble 60k the following day in Sisters, Oregon.  
  5. May- Made a spontaneous road trip with Browning, Meissner, and Ashley Nordell to Reno, NV and I ended up winning and setting the course record at The Silver State 50k.
  6. June-  4th place overall at Bighorn 100 and felt good about how I ran on a pretty rugged course.
  7. July- Worked a camp a Mt. Hood for students w/ disabilities that changed the course of my career.  Raced to a 5th place at USATF 50-mile Championships at White River, WA.
  8. August- Welcomed our baby girl Farah into the world at 9:53 pm on August 28th here in Portland, Oregon.  One of the greatest days of my entire life!  And we share the same birthday :-)
  9. September- Witnessed my wife Erica fight her way through a nasty uterine infection so we could start our little happy family together.  She's such a good mom....I couldn't do any of this without her!
  10. October- I ran a pretty good Portland Marathon on 10-10-10....but boy did it hurt!
  11. November-  First time visiting Ashland, Oregon and ran Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.
  12. December- Did some good snowshoeing, snowboarding, and visiting family and friends in the east introducing Farah to everyone.
To be honest this past year was one of the best years I have ever had on so many different levels.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunities to accomplish the aforementioned adventures.  Many of it would not be possible without such a strong and supportive wife and family.  Thank you Erica....I love you!  Also...thanks for the friends and training partners that accompany me and make me a better runner and know who you are!  Thank you to my sponsors who make my life so much easier.  Inov-8, Udo's Oil, Living Harvest, Drymax Socks...I'm really proud to be representing such righteous companies.  Sometimes I need to pinch my cheek to see if I'm dreaming.  If 2011 is half as good as this past year I'll be a happy camper!

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 17, 2010

3 Non Joggers Podcast Interview

Last week I was asked to sit in for an interview in the studio with ultra runners Russ Mcgarry, Gary Vale, and Carl "the mail man" (pictured above ;-)  It was my first time doing this sort of thing and I had a really fun time. These guys, for the most part, like to talk about all the totally random things that us runners go on and on about while running.  I think what they're doing is a great idea and after me being a guest on the tenth hour-long show I feel that they are starting to find their groove :-) Keep it up guys....see you on the trails!

Have a listen by clicking HERE

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recreate Fitness

Around October of 2009 while recovering from an injury I incurred at 100 in the Hood I was introduced to this unique Portland, Oregon gym named Recreate Fitness by my wife Erica.  After choosing some initial one-on-one training Erica then moved on to some of the group classes.  She continually came home and told me about the creative crossfit-type style and focus on technique that owners Nathan and Tina Jeffers prioritize.

I decided to check it out myself with the intention of building a nice solid foundation while gradually upping my running mileage.  Right from the get-go I was intrigued by the complexity of movements and exercises and realized that I could use a little firming up in lacking areas. What I started realizing was that I was getting very strong (something greatly needed in ultra running) and that my injury had completely disappeared.  So I kept going to the classes which are offered at many different convenient times (See schedule HERE) and simultaneously started increasing my running.  Long story short I went on to have a strong and very successful running season...actually my best one yet....and I feel that building a base at Recreate aided me in that process.

So fast forward to December 2010 and after taking a month of down time from running to repair and recuperate I thought of how I was going to get back into shape for hopefully another stellar season.  It didn't take long for the light bulb to come on and for me to head on down to the gym which is located on NW 19th Ave here in Portland, Oregon.

Some of the things I like best about this gym are:

  • Class structure (warm-up, skill, and workout...see blog for examples)....and...Creative exercises (I like to call it incidental exercise because sometimes you don't even realize you're working out till the next day when you're super sore!  (i.e. shaking large ropes, throwing large sand bags, walking around on your hands w/ a wheel attached to your feet, etc.!)
  • Friendly and committed owners and trainers who are there working with you and encouraging you with tips and motivation.
  • I like the fact that you can make every workout as easy or as difficult as you want it to be...Your choice!
  • Great sense of community in the gym between members, owners, pets, kids, etc. (we've brought our baby Farah to the gym a handful of times!) and they even do get-togethers outside of classes such as "movie night".
  • Full body strength and endurance workouts focusing on technique, form, and strength of core.  Perfect for any athlete!
After working out there the past few weeks I have noticed an increase in strength and it really kick-started my training.  I'm really looking forward to getting back to Portland after the holidays to continue my training at this thriving little gym.  They even started a mobility class which I think is great for runners which I will probably take at least once a week.  So if you are in the area and want to break out of a workout "rut" then you should join me down at Recreate Fitness.  Hope to see you there!

Click HERE for website information, etc.

(feeling the burn at Recreate Fitness!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Udo's Choice- Green Blend (Product Review)

(Make your mom proud and eat your greens!)

Over the past few months I have been able to try more and more of the Udo's Choice quality products.  Many people have heard about Udo's Oil (which I regularly take), but not many people that I've talked to know about the many other products offered by this growing company.  HERE is a link to a website where you can learn more about everything from the conception of the product and company to all the different products and nutritional information.

This featured "Green Blend" has been another "regular" in my dietary regimen and I absolutely love the ingredients and benefits.  As a vegan athlete I am surely consuming loads of leafy greens and vegetables but this product offers much more in a convenient power-packed powder.  In the past I have been known to stuff lots of various types of greens into the Vita-mix along with fruit and other favorite ingredients to make a nutritionally loaded shake.  Lately I've been saving the greens for salads and other recipes and instead adding 2 tablespoons of Green Blend to the smoothie.  This is a product I highly recommend!  Let me know how you like it....and take a look at all the killer ingredients and nutritional information below:

Supplement Facts
Serving Size: 1 tbsp. (8 g)
Servings per Container: 31
Amount Per Serving% Daily Value
Calories from Fat10
Total Fat1.5 g*
Polyunsaturated Fat1 g*
Total Carbohydrate4 g1%
Dietary Fiber2 g8%
Protein2 g4%
Phosphorus63 mg6%
Magnesium30 mg8%
Potassium134 mg4%
Potassium134 mg4%
Omega 3 Fatty Acids500 mg*
Omega 6 Fatty Acids300 mg*
*Daily value not established.
Other Ingredients: Each 8.9 oz. (255g) contains a proprietary blend of: Udo''s Choice powder (specially prepared mix of certified organic defatted flax seed, certified organic defatted sunflower seed, certified organic defatted sesame seed, rice bran, oat bran), barley grass, certified organic golden flax seed, alfalfa leaf, rice bran, carrot, sprouted soybean, tomato, oat grass, rye grass, beet, cinnamon bark, stevia leaf, peppermint leaf, ginger root, bilberry leaf, spirulina, bee pollen, dulse, chlorella, broccoli, parsley, kelp, hawthorn berry, milk thistle, burdock root, red clover kale, licorice root, chrysanthemum flower, yucca, almond flavor, lemon grass, Udo''s Choice Digestive Enzyme Blend (amylase, protease, glucoamylase, invertase, malt diastase, lipase, cellulase, lactase, pectinase, bromelain, beet juice, American ginseng, ginkgo extract, psyllium, slippery elm,artichoke, dandelion root, dandelion leaf, rosemary thyme, sage and standardized grape seed extract.
Free Of
Wheat, soy lecithin, malto-dextrin, GMO, fillers, binders or other non-nutrient ingredients


Take approximately 1 tbsp. (14g) with glass of liquid up to three times daily. Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day.

Remember the cartoon Popeye the Sailor man and how and why he got that boost of strength and energy???  Eat yo Greens!  :-)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Down-Time is Done!

(Thankfully I don't subscribe to this line of thinking! It has actually been a great off season :-)

While tracking the hyped up North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler last weekend (a race I was supposed to be at) I realized a few things.  For one I felt that I made a wise decision in not trying to push a banged up achilles tendon, and two...I realized that my body and mind so appreciated the time off!  With exactly one month of not even running one mile I feel so rejuvenated and am raring to go as I start back tomorrow.  I spent the first two weeks of my break doing completely nothing (physical activity wise) and the last two doing some active recovery that included snowshoeing, snowboarding, and some classes at Recreate Fitness (a crossfit-type gym) here in Portland.

As for the new year quickly approaching the race calendar is getting more and more revealed.  First off I did not get picked in the random lottery yesterday for Western States 100 but I am in two more lotteries over the next couple months (Miwok 100k and Hardrock 100).  We'll see what happens.....regardless there are a ton of killer races out there so it's a win-win situation.  I am so stoked to get back to the trails tomorrow and have some exciting visions for 2011.  Stay tuned!

I'll leave you with a video of a bluebird day out at Mt. Hood this past Friday.  It really doesn't get much better than the day William Emerson and I had.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stirring up the pot some more: Snowboarding!

I haven't been snowboarding in probably close to five years although I used to do it quite often when living in Colorado from the years 2000 to 2004.  Now living 55 miles from Mt. Hood I decided to recently get back in to this very expressive and fun activity.  First off I want to say how interesting it is that snowboarders are often stigmatized and get a bad rap (especially in the eyes of some skiers!).  I want to share a little story today that may cause you to think before you make a snap judgement based on stereotypes or appearances.

After taking a few runs down the mountain my buddy Mike B. and I slid in to the lift line which wasn't too terribly long.  After a couple seconds I hear someone yell, "Yassine!", from about 30 feet ahead of us in the lift line.  I didn't recognize the snowboarder but next he says loudly, "I've got your wallet!!", and makes room to heave it to me across the crowd.  I catch the wallet as it flaps through the air and am flabbergasted how I lost it and he came upon it.  The wallet was soaking wet and I open it to find the 35 dollars in cash that was in there before and my debit/credit cards, etc.  I try to show my gratitude and yell, "I owe you one!! Thank you so much!", but he disappears into the crowd and up the lift into the flurried sky.  My buddy Mike and I look at each other and say, "did that just happen?!!!"

So I still can't figure out completely what happened but this is what I theorize:  I think I accidentally left my pocket open when retrieving my video recorder out and as you can see in the video below I wrecked at the 1:20 mark in the video.  At that point my wallet must have popped out!  Then this honest guy comes shreddin' along and scoops up the wallet and makes his way past Mike and I down the long descent.  He sees my Oregon drivers license photo and is able to visually pick me out of the crowd!  Amazingly good karma for that guy :-)

Enjoy the video below....We had a great time and definitely felt alive out there today!

Now a few weeks completely off from running I feel that my body is really bouncing back and my mind is loving this variety.  I've been having fun which is the most important thing.  I hit the gym a couple days ago, snowboarded today, and have some more strength building plans as I prepare to start back running soon.  But, I definitely plan to get back out to the mountains for some more snowboarding soon!...and hey!...snowboarders are genuine, honest people too :-)

Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.
Jean de La Fontaine 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hayward Field Hoe-Down

Craig Thornley and Andy Jones-Wilkins are two runners better known for running trail races...specifically 100-milers like Western States 100 and the like.  Racing ultras involves going way outside your comfort zone.  So does racing an all out mile!  These two longtime runners and colorful personalities of the sport would be going head to head for one mile on the famous Hayward Field Track in Eugene, Oregon the day before Thanksgiving 2010.  I went down to capture the fun-loving competitive event on video and visit the hallowed ground in "Track Town U.S.A".  Boy...running around that track had me thinking of all the legends who poured it out there over the years....and now I'm really itching to get back to running!

Enjoy the video :-)

(Check out AJW's shoe of choice for the race!  Yeah Inov-8!)

I had a really fun time down there today and the weather turned out to be just right.  It was so great seeing everyone and meeting some new folks as well.  There were a couple guys doing a video documentary project for a class on "older" elite endurance athletes (Meghan Arboghast and John Ticer) and they even mentioned to me how refreshing it is to have this type of camaraderie amongst each other.  Good clean fun! You often hear that in ultra running.  One of the coolest things I noticed was seeing AJW's passion for running trickle down to inspiring his sons to lace up the running shoes and hit the track running....good stuff guys!

Have a grateful Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

F-Lite 195 Shoe Review

Worlds Lightest Trail Racer?  I can't be sure that is true but I do know one thing...these new Inov-8 F-lite 195's are worth giving a try.  I didn't try them out until late in my 2010 season but when I finally did break them out of the box I instantly fell in love.

Basically they are a stripped down version of their predecessor F-lite 230's.  Some of the major differences are:  The F-lite 195's feature a 3mm differential between the forefoot and the heel (compared to the 6mm in the 230's) and a 3mm footbed inside of the shoe (instead of a 6mm).  Also this new model protects the underfoot with a shoc-zone of 1 rather than a 2 in the F-lite 230's.  (For more information on shoc-zone's click HERE).  The bottom of the shoes sport the same tread as their predecessor 230 that includes the sticky rubber for wet conditions.

The result of this "stripping down" process is having your foot even closer to the ground in its most stable and natural position like Inov-8 claims.  I must say I can attest to this claim after having run hundreds of miles in the F-lite 230's.  When I put on the F-lite 195's I could immediately tell the difference even before I ran a mile in them. 

In my last race of the season (The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon) I laced up the F-lite 195's and was extremely impressed by the level of comfort and super light weight (just under seven ounces).  In my opinion they are very aesthetically pleasing as well.   If you're in the market for a minimalist shoe for hard pack trails that allow your feet to hug the ground and do what they are supposed to then look no further.  These sleek slipper-like trail shoes definitely agree with my foot.  Here is a quick list of pros and cons:

Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable, very low profile, good for a variety of different trails and roads, very breathable and drain well, aesthetically pleasing 

Cons:  Sticky rubber wears out quickly, not great in soft, sloppy conditions, the uppers have been known to rip by the pinky toe

Enjoy this shoe and if you have any questions or would like to share your experience with them I'd love to hear from you!  :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Off-season Snowshoeing

Tis the season to be taking a break from running (for me anyway) to give the body a rest from the day in and day out trauma that the activity brings.  Last weekend William Emerson and I decided to head out to Mt. Hood for a slower paced and lower intensity adventure. SNOWSHOEING!!!! This is another really soulful way to enjoy the mountains and the snow at the higher elevations.  I picked up a pair of MSR snowshoes and dug out my snow gear from storage for our little 6-hour excursion.

We started up at The Timberline Lodge and headed out on the Timberline Trail (Pacific Crest Trail) towards Paradise Park.  The weather was a little drizzly at first but stopped shortly after we started.  The visibility wasn't great either but there was definitely some good snow up there at the higher elevations.

As you can see in the map above we started at The Timberline Lodge and worked our way west climbing and descending eventually all the way down to the Zig Zag River in the Zig Zag Canyon.  According to William's Suunto altimeter we climbed about descended about 2,000 feet and covered about 6 miles, which is a pretty good amount for snowshoeing!  I took some pretty good pictures but unfortunately I accidentally erased them when I got home....oops.  We had a really great time and I must say this was much more of a workout than I expected.

It was really nice to take in all the beauty that the mountains offer from a new lens and in a different season.  The last time I was out there prior to last weekend I was charging up and down the mountain in running shorts and a singlet in the Great NW Mountain Run.  Much different circumstances this time but just as enjoyable of an experience.

If you're looking for some off-season activity snowshoeing is a great low-impact and fun alternative to running.

Here is another video of us doing a loop to The Tilly Jane Cabin on the other side of the glorious Mt. Hood!

I may head back out there again this weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon Race Report

Before heading to Ashland, Oregon for The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon this past weekend I declared to friends and family that this would indeed and definitely be my last race of the long 2010 season.  This was my first trip to Ashland despite having registered for the 2009 race, and the inaugural Pine to Palm 100 this year that took place in the same general area.  Finally, I was making the hajj to one of the ultra running meccas in the west!

I scooped up William Emerson and jumped on I-5 south on Friday afternoon and the weather was looking tame for the race weekend....(thankfully we didn't get the same weather as Pine to Palm!).  About 4.5 hours and numerous ultra stories later we sailed into Ashland, Oregon and The Rogue Valley Runners Club Store.

(Owner/ultra runner Hal Koerner owns and operates this really sweet store)

Erik Skaggs checked us in, gave us our race packet, and we wandered around the store "geekin' out" and gawking at all the gear.  We met a bunch of runners and recognized some familiar faces as well before heading down to the Co-op for our pre-race feed.  Timothy Olson (who has exploded on to the scene) and his wife Christa graciously opened their beautiful home to William and I, and it was very enjoyable getting to know them better.  Thanks!

OK...race morning... we drove over to the beautiful park and on our way there... right in the middle of a neighborhood (B street I believe) we see an 8-point buck just chillin' and eating someone's lawn!  We took a quick look, parked, and warmed up a little before checking in at the Pioneer Hall.  I bumped into Jeff Browning just before "go time" and noticed that there were some really fit looking runners assembling.  Finally Hal got us together, gave us his spiel, and sent us off for the USATF Trail Marathon Championships.

I ran with Max King for the first 30 seconds and then he pulled away.  Then about five other guys tried going with him.  I knew that I had no business even attempting that and played it conservatively on our initial climb.  The first 8 miles didn't really give us much of a reprieve in terms of steepness.  There were parts that were less steep but when you're racing hard it doesn't take much to get the heart rate up there.  I was doing some of my usual huffin' and gruntin' like a locomotive steam train up the mountain as a bunch of runners moved ahead of me and out of sight.  Mile 8 Skaggs filled my water bottle and sent me on my way and I knew that it was time to start hammering as the big climb was behind us.  It was pretty helpful because this was a rare trail run in that mile markers were set up at almost every mile.

I hit 10 miles in 1:18:40 probably in about 14th place overall. It was now time to start trying to pick some people off.  As I picked up the pace on the rolling downhills I started seeing people off in the distance.  First I passed Paul and then eventually Dave Dunham.  Then I came across Tim and then Greg McMillan who was having some hip issues.  As you can see in the mile splits below I was really opening up my stride and going for broke especially since it was my last race of the season.

Mile 11:  6:11                             Mile 17:  6:55                   
Mile 12:  6:36                             Mile 18:  6:05
Mile 13:  5:54                             Mile 19:  6:01  
Mile 14:  5:59                             Mile 20:  6:08
Mile 15:  5:50                             Mile 21:  5:30
Mile 16:  6:05                             Mile 22:  5:58

The last four miles I didn't get any mile splits as I was trying to focus on the technical steep downhills which turned out to be really difficult but also pretty fun!  Once I hit that section I knew that my goal time of 2:55 was ruined but I still wanted to sneak under 3 hours.

I finally hit the road and tried to push as much as possible thinking that I may be able to pick somebody else off.  No dice!  There were some really fast guys at this race and I came into the finish line area to see the clock.................... 2:58:42

I didn't really need to ask who won and congratulated Max and met some of the other runners at the finish.  It was a really great vibe down there.  I wore the new Inov-8 F-Lite 195's and boy were they light and fast.  I really like this shoe as it hugs the ground more and is a little lighter than it's predecessor 230.  Plus I like the stealth looking jet black color!

(Dave Dunham and I...this guy has run a sub 7-hour White River in the past! photo: Richard Bolt)

(Timothy Olson, me, Neil Olsen, Dave Richard Bolt)

We all hung out had some of the post race food and had a great time just lounging around talking about the race and season.  Many of us speculated about possible race plans for the upcoming new year while staying warm in Pioneer Hall.  Hal Koerner and Richard Bolt facilitated the awards ceremony and thanked us all for coming.  Thank You Hal and volunteers....You guys did an outstanding job and made the event very enjoyable.  Ashland is a super cool town and I really love the trail running scene....although I must say....I'm happy to be taking an extended break from running to rest and repair a tired body and mind! :-)

(Proud of my 8th place USATF medal!  Photo: Shahid Ali)

Official Results can be found by clicking HERE

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon Preview

The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon is taking place this Saturday November 6th in Ashland, Oregon.  The course climbs about 2700 feet in the first 8 miles and does a big loop around Lithia Park on singletrack trails and forest service roads climbing about 4500 feet in total over 26.2 miles.  This will be my first time to Southern Oregon and I am really looking forward to taking the "foot tour" of the park.  

(course map)

(course elevation profile)

Click HERE to read a little write-up about the race this weekend.  

See you on the trails!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from Ultra Man

Happy Halloween from Ultra Man!  
(the coast seems to be clear)

(Stay safe on the trails my friends)

Todd J., Amy S., and Ultra Man ran 18 miles through Forest Park on a picture perfect Pacific Northwest autumn day.  I would say that 95% of the people were receptive to the costume, laughed, and/or commented.  The other 5% stepped aside and/or gave a look that said, "you fricken idiot!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Garlic Oregano Yam Fries

This has been one of my all-time favorite recipes that I thought I would share with you.  I wish I could say it was mine but I can't.  I got this recipe (along with many others) out of Brendan Brazier's book "Thrive".  You can see the full recipe by clicking HERE.  You can also watch me go Martha Stewart-style on the video below!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Should Ultra Runners Be Drug Tested?

Unless you have been cut off from society and headline news lately you probably have heard about scandals in the world of pro cycling involving illegally using performance enhancing drugs.  It's a pretty hot topic right now and there has been cases of athletes we look up to as role models in various different sports getting busted for cheating that pop up into the news every now and then.

Ultra running is a sport that has mushroomed by leaps and bounds especially in the last ten years. Some races are now offering substantial prizes and/or cash purses.  Recently I was talking with a person who is not familiar with the sport of ultra running and I had mentioned that I was planning on heading down to San Francisco for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler this December.  I also mentioned that this was not a typical race and one of the reasons for that was because of the large prize money dished out.  First prize is $10,000 and two and three for male and female take home a nice chunk as well.  So the person then asked me if the winners are tested for performance enhancing drugs.  I said, "uhhh...ummm....I don't know....I don't think so."

For me I have always felt that the sport of ultra running goes much deeper than collecting some prize or money for winning.  In fact I have a bunch of very comical memorabilia at home from different ultras in my career that I wouldn't trade or get rid of. I always thought it was kind of cool that it's a sport where the spectator gets in free and the participants pay!  Anyway, one of the things that drew me to the sport was it's simplicity, purity, camaraderie amongst  competitors, volunteers/crew, etc., and detachment from the modern world.

So my question for the blogosphere and people involved in ultra running is this:

Now that substantial money has trickled it's way into the sport of ultra running do we need to be testing the top runners who take home thousands of dollars for illegal use of performance enhancing drugs?

I know that one of the most popular 100-mile races in the world (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) sponsored by The North Face does test the top runners for certain illegal substances.  Do we need to follow suit for races here and at what point do we test (i.e. if prizes exceed $1,000)???

Just to be clear I don't suspect that anyone is using performance enhancing drugs nor do I necessarily think that the testing should be done.  It is also not my intention to offend anyone with this blog post and sorry if I did.

What do you think?

Please at the very least vote for what you think in the poll in the column up on the right.   Peace....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Portland Marathon 10-10-10

It has been a couple years since I have run a road marathon (Philly 2008), but this would be the first "big city marathon" that I didn't have to travel to and learn about the course online.  The Portland Marathon scheduled for 10-10-10 makes its way right through familiar neighborhoods and areas of Portland, Oregon that I have accustomed myself to lately and over the past 15 months.  Even though I didn't feel specifically trained for this event I knew that I had a super solid base and I felt that I could run decently fast for my hometown debut 26.2

Coming off of The Flagline 50k just two weeks prior to this race gave me a little time to taper down, but also left me feeling a little apprehensive about the ever demanding final 10k of a hard-run road marathon.  I decided to just suit up and show up, have fun, and to see what happens.  I had a bunch of friends running and some runners that I've coached in the months leading up to the race.

The great thing about living so close to the start line was that I slept in my own bed, woke up and ate breakfast in my home, and walked to the line.  The not-so-great thing was that it was pouring rain the entire walk to the start and continued throughout the whole race!  I wore my bright blue Inov-8 F-lite 230's after some debate and felt that they did me right for the road race and turned some heads in the process.

I got right up there to the front with a bunch of  fast guys and just as the countdown was being yelled over the microphone we were sent off by some really hard driving rain.  We all took off and the crowd was awesome!  My adrenal glands squeezed and the first half mile felt effortless through the dark, soggy streets of downtown Portland. :-)

Mile 1:  5:52

Miles 2-6 I knocked it back a little as we had a little climb and then back down Naito Parkway.  I heard some yells from people that recognized me on the out and back sections as the sun was coming up.  Ok...20 miles to go...stay under control.

The next 5 miles I ran methodically knowing that I would see Erica at mile 12 and she would hand me a bottle of my secret formula fuel ;-)  Before that I see would-be winner Kami Semick looking strong,  Joe Kleffner, and then Nathan Blair.  As I approached Erica in our neighborhood I see my buddy Nick Triolo and he gives me a high five and some words of encouragement.  I grab the bottle, tell Erica I love her, and give Farah a quick pat and transition into the next section of the race.

Miles 12-16 I have done tempo workouts on leading up to the race so I knew the terrain and what to expect in regards to how to calibrate my exertion levels leading up to the St. John's Bridge.  I moved into the top 20 at this point as I was told by some spectators.

When we hit the bridge/hill I "down-shifted" and clocked off a 6:40 for that mile and we crossed the colossal suspension bridge into the neighborhoods leading up to University of Portland.  In this section around mile 18 I was starting to feel some fatigue settle in but was able to stick with a pack of two other guys and hammer away.  I heard some comments from spectators like, "Oh cool...Team Inov-8...Come on guys work together", and then I got a yell from a triathlete who was in my Exercise Physiology class last year.

Around mile 21 I hit the mile descent towards the finish and just as it was starting to level out I see my buddy Leigh running up towards me shouting and rooting me onwards.  The next two miles I slowed down a little but upon crossing the Broadway Bridge at mile 24 my buddy Trevor Hostetler unexpectedly jumped out and gave me a much needed high-five and boost to finish up.  As I passed him and a few others I heard someone say, "catch that guy".  I don't know who said it but I went for it and crossed the bridge hammering past him and down the other side.

OK now I'm getting close and definitely feeling the pain and fatigue.  The crowds were getting thicker downtown and as I passed the 25 mile marker I started feeling a little something in my leg.  "Uh oh...come on...I'm so close" I told myself.  I could now see my neighbor Chris Schaeffer in front of me and I so wanted to go flying past him ;-)  Just after that I come upon a couple friends from Olympia Racheal Jamison and Craig Dickson and I simultaneously cramped in my calf and hamstring.  They were excited to see me but unfortunately I was in a totally different space.  I said, "I'm cramping up a little right now" and just motored on past them.  I slowed down a little bit, changed my stride, and turned the corner to the finish line.  

Seeing that finish line chute area was a sight for sore eyes and I came in with a time of 2:45:32.  17th place overall in nasty gusty wind and rainy is Portland, Oregon after all

Full results are HERE and you can see some pretty cool interactive data by clicking HERE

Portland Marathon was really fun and I feel good about how I ran all things considered.  It was really cool being a local and reaping all the rewards that has to offer.  

Now, if I could only figure out how to kick and finish like Sammy (seen in the video below) winner of the 2010 Chicago Marathon!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

USATF 50k Trail Championships: Flagline 50k

This past Saturday September 25th I unexpectedly toed the line in the inaugural race held in the Mt. Bachelor area just outside of beautiful Bend, Oregon.  The quick trip gave Erica, Farah, and I an opportunity to venture out from our home a little, see some friends, and for me to get my "trail fix".  I missed the trails for pretty much six weeks around our pregnancy and as I was training for Portland I was kind of yearning for some trail time.  I'm so thankful for my awesome wife Erica who knows me so well and for her offering to come with me. Also, it was Farah's first time being at a race....I may have set a record for youngest baby at an ultra! (one month old!) Overall we had a great time but it was also a learning experience in many ways.  Having a newborn baby is a lot of work and I think we'll wait at least a couple months before we try that again!

We rolled into Bend Friday night and crashed at the Browning's who so graciously opened their cozy home to us.  6 a.m. rolled around very quickly and Jeff made his way to the start with us as he was planning on getting a little trail footage on his mountain bike and helmet cam.  It was chilly up at 6,000 feet early in the morning but I was amped up and ready to run with some fast guys on these epic central Oregon trails.  I noticed Erik Skaggs, Max King, Hal Koerner, William Emerson, Josh Nordell huddling around before the start. Then I ran into a couple of Inov-8 teammates Dave James and Scott Dunlap and showed off my new red X talon 190's. All of these guys would be contenders not to mention some other fast guys who flew in under the radar.

(Josh Nordell, Max King, and me (freezing!) just before the Scott Dunlap)

RD Dave Thomason gave us his spiel about the trails, aid stations, and general race information.  The course sounded fun and I was excited.  It was supposed to warm up into the seventies and the description of the race and terrain sounded like it was going to be a fast one.  I was predicting somewhere around 3:45 or so if I ran well.  OK....on your mark.....get set....GO!

Here is a little video by Richard Bolt of us being sent off from the start.  We ran down the highway for about 1/8th of a mile before we turned into the trails.

Dave James darted out in front and before long pulled away from the pack.  Skaggs and I ran together for a few miles and I would occasionally look around for Max King who I knew would be gunning for the win. I felt really...really good.  The pace was effortless and I was stoked to be running in the new 7oz Talon 190's.  They were perfect for the terrain in central Oregon too. It wasn't long before Max caught up and about the same time Erik started pulling away from me.  Max and I ran together for a couple miles and he was ok just tucking in behind me.  We were also joined by Hal and Jeremy Tolman from Eugene for a while as the miles ticked by.  The weather was ideal and the trails were super soft as we bounced over blankets of pine needles.
(Hal, Jeremy, Max, and me about thirty seconds behind James and Skaggs...Photo by Shahid Ali)

Before long we started hitting some little climbs that separated our rhythmic foursome.  Max pulled ahead and Jeremy dropped off the back a little while Hal and I leap frogged a couple times.  Eventually on some downhills around mile 15 I started really turning it on and put some distance between Hal and I.  Probably around mile 20 I caught a glimpse of Dave James and continued to reel him in.  I eventually passed him and tried to bury him but was unable to do so.  I was really surprised how well he ran given that he ran just over 100 miles in 24 hours the weekend before.

We hit a 1000 foot climb at around mile 22 and this was one of the only places I power hiked briefly.  Dave and I motored on as fatigue started setting in.  Also, I was having some issues with a recalcitrant hip.  Nothing major but just a little discomfort that made my running a little less enjoyable.  Around mile 29 with Dave hot on my heels and Erik and Max about 5 to 10 minutes ahead the race was on for third place.  I was saving a little for the end to hopefully out kick Dave.  We came to a "Y" in the trail with an older man standing there directing us down.  There were also flags lined up down the trail and we thanked him as we rolled past him at a gravity assisted 7-minute pace.  About a mile later we came to a highway....uh oh...something doesn't seem right here....we continued onward on the trail across the highway and then immediately saw Erik Skaggs and Jeff Browning walking towards us.  Jeff says, "You were directed the wrong way by the volunteer...Sorry guys...he made a mistake!"  Initially I was bummed out for obvious reasons but we all decided to head up the highway to the finish area which was very close.  I was baffled..."How did...uh...but....the flags...I don't get it!"  I knew the course and studied it and I am confident that if there weren't any markings there that I would have been able to deduce the correct way.  But with a person standing there pointing you down and the markings reassuring you it wasn't even thought about twice.

When we made it to the finish line area we saw Max King standing there waiting for us (as seen in the picture below) and we told him what happened.  Apparently the same thing happened to him as well but he knew the area and went up the highway instead of continuing down the trail.
(Max King waiting for Tolman, James, Skaggs, and myself...Photo:  Erica Wagner)

We all tried to be good sports about the whole situation and handle it the best way we could in the moment.  We decided that Erik was on fire all day and deserved the win.  Max said that he was feeling horrible and that he didn't think he would have been able to catch him.  There was no way that I would have caught Max... and Dave James admitted that he didn't think he would have been able to out kick me.  Jeremy was a little ways behind Dave and I so there wasn't any confusion there either.  We all agreed on the order and finished together.  I really didn't care that much to be honest. I was and am still open to whatever works for everyone. I was kind of deflated after it happened and was content with my experience out there.  The whole point of me going out there was to race and enjoy the trails of this stunning part of the country.  Yeah, of course I was competitive but I raced for 95% of the race and had a lot of fun out there on Saturday.  In situations like this you just have to accept the circumstances.  I was talking to Kami Semick briefly afterward about the whole UTMB situation too and we agreed that acceptance was just the best and really the only choice.

I have done a lot of races and I must say that I never experienced something like that.  But....I also can tell a quality race when I see one.  Dave Thomason and his crew put on a great event.  The course...the volunteers...aid stations, overall vibe, etc. were awesome.  Thank you all very much!!!!  I wanted to hang out longer but with the newborn baby we had to get back on the road fairly quickly.  It was really nice seeing some familiar faces and meeting new ones.  

Congrats to everyone who ran the inaugural Flagline 50k!

Full results are HERE

(I was touched to see Erica and Farah holding this sign when I came into the finish! photo: Erica)

(Jason Moyer, Me, Dave James, Max King, Jeremy Tolman...Photo by Erica Wagner)

My next Race:  Portland Marathon on 10-10-10 :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Catching My Breath...(and catching up)

("look hands!")

Whoooooosh.....the last few weeks have been a wild ride filled with new and unexpected experiences which has caused the time to fly by so quickly.  It has also sapped some energy levels in me in a way that I've never's all worth it...and's good ultra training!

I feel compelled to give a quick recap of the last few weeks while baby Farah sleeps peacefully next to me (it won't be too long before she wakes up and demands food and/or a diaper change!).

About four days after Farah's birth (which was an emergency C-section due to the baby being backwards and possible umbilical cord complications) Erica's mother arrived from the east coast to assist us in this new chapter of our lives.  Within 30 minutes of her arrival at our home and visiting with her first grandchild, Erica started shivering uncontrollably, and then spiked a high fever.  Something was just not right.  Long story short it got worse really quickly and I had to pack up the baby and rush Erica to the ER.  When we got there she had a 105 degree fever!  She would spend the next week in the hospital as they tried to figure out what was the matter. Finally, they zeroed in on the issue which turned out to be a severe uterine infection that involved internal bleeding.  Not fun!  What was even more difficult was that Farah could not be with her mother that first very important week except for a few hours per day when I would bring her up to the hospital.  It also meant that I was pretty much the sole caretaker of this little seven pound bundle of joy, although Erica's mother was a huge help in many ways.

Erica got released from the hospital but couldn't do a whole lot because she was still weak and recuperating from all the drama.  My mother spent the next week with us relieving us in so many ways.  Both of our mothers cooked meals, cleaned, waited on us hand and foot, and allowed me to sneak away for some runs.  We are forever grateful for your help GrandMo and Me'me' and loved visiting with you despite the ups and downs.  I would like to thank all of our friends and family that extended assistance and encouragement through messages and/or phone calls.  It was really nice to have all the support and we feel very blessed.  I also wanted to say that Erica was so extremely brave, patient, and strong throughout everything and I admire her greatly for what she endured...(and thanks for cooking one cute little baby in there!)

We are now parents on our own and it is a liberating and often terrifying feeling.  We are back at home and trying to find our groove with our new little addition.  We learned a lot about ourselves over the past few weeks in many ways.  One thing I learned about myself is in the area of my running.

After White River 50 I declared that I was going to take a break from ultras for a little while and run some roads for a couple different reasons.  One...I could stay closer to runs wouldn't take as long...Three...I like to mix things up a little every once in a while.  Thankfully I only had to curtail my running very minimally despite the roller coaster ride, and was able to get in some really solid runs on the roads around Portland.  I could tell I was getting some really good speed back and feeling confident for a sub 2:40 Portland Marathon in October.  Then just about ten days ago as my body was feeling the exponential pounding from the pavement (and definitely... some added fatigue from parenting) I hit this "wall" that I have never experienced before with running.  I didn't feel excited to go out and run like I normally do and was lacking major motivation.  I can see this sometimes happening in the dead of the winter but we were having some phenomenal days out here and I couldn't bring myself to get out there.  When I did push myself out the door I seemed to just slog through some of the run.

So with the inaugural Pine to Palm 100 approaching on Sept. 18th and many of my friends participating in the event I found myself living vicariously through them and trying to track them all day and night.  I skipped my runs on Saturday which was going to be 10 miles in the morning and another 10 in the evening, and then I ended up skipping my 20-miler on Sunday!  I found myself looking at all these trail ultras for next year in my free time and had all these enthusiastic goals.

Then on Sunday I suggested to Erica that we spontaneously go back to the east coast to be closer to family.  Initially she liked the idea and we started looking into it.  I also realized that Virgil Crest Ultras (formerly Iroquois Trails) were happening the following weekend and remembered I had a free entry into the race because of winning in 2008.  I called my buddy and RD Ian Golden and asked if I could sneak in and he assured me no problem.  I was so amped!  Well...after further looking into all the details of traveling with an infant, money, logistics, etc. we decided that it wasn't in the cards and we decided to stay in Portland.

Later that evening it hit me like a ton of bricks.  What got me so excited earlier that day was getting back out on the trails!  That's it!...I need to get back out on the the the mountains!  I happened to stumble upon a race that was happening around Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon on Sept. 25th that is serving as the USATF 50k trail championships called The Flagline 50k.  I made a few calls...did a little research, and before long I was registered for the race!  The next day I went for a trail run up and down Council's Crest and had that pop in my step.  I realized something about myself...I am a trail runner!  I love running and I am not one of those people that avoids roads at all costs.  In fact I am still going to run Portland Marathon but I realized that being out on the trails is something I need on a regular basis in order to feel connected.

So this Saturday Farah turns one month old...the perfect age to introduce her to the ultra community here in Oregon and for her to attend her first race! :-) It looks like a fun course, beautiful weather, and some familiar faces (and fast runners!).  I'm really glad I re-kindled that fire...Time to get back out on those trails!....
("I'm ready for that diaper change now dad!")

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome To The World Farah

Erica and I are proud to announce that our daughter Farah joined us on Saturday August 28, 2010 at 9:52 pm pacific standard time.  She weighed 7 lbs 9 oz. and was 20.25 inches long.  The labor and delivery process made running a 100-mile ultra marathon look like a little jog through the park.  I am extremely proud of how brave Erica was throughout the process, and much like running an ultra we encountered some unexpected circumstances. In fact there were many similarities that I saw between running a 100-miler and delivering a baby...however... I knew better than to mention that to Erica in the moment ;-)  Although I did get her to choke down a Clif Blok Shot during the labor I got deservedly snapped at when I offered her a Gu in between contractions!  Seeing Farah come out and hearing that first cry made my heart melt in a way I never could have imagined. What an amazing process!

I have some more pictures posted that you can see by clicking HERE

When we found out we were pregnant many months ago the doctor told us that our due date was August 28th which serendipitously happens to be my birthday as well.  How cool!  The odds of it actually happening weren't the greatest...but as we got closer to delivery every time Erica asked when this baby was going to come out I kept saying, "we're gonna have the same birthday!"  I'm so happy to share my birthday with my beautiful daughter and we're both so proud to be parents to a healthy little girl.  As you can imagine my life has changed already quite a bit.  I missed a scheduled 32 miles of running this weekend (to commemorate my 32 years alive) due to labor, and have been getting intermittent sleep of every 2-3 hours.  However, I snuck away for an 8-mile run today and I must say that I felt an extra spring in my step.  

So the next chapter of our lives has begun and we couldn't be happier.  Thanks so much for all the loving support, well wishes, and generosity.  

More will be revealed....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Is Tapering Necessary?

Is tapering for a race necessary?  Obviously for some races (like 100-milers) I believe that it is necessary for a taper, but what about shorter races?  I know there is a ton of scientific research out there about peaking for a race, and then tapering down for optimal performance; but I haven't found much research of the opposite.

This is why I ask:

Last month at White River 50-miler Anton Krupicka shattered his own course record (a stout record that he  set the year before by edging out former course record holder Uli Steidl's time) and when I talked with him afterward he said, "tapering is overrated!"  He told me that this race was part of a pretty big week for him putting him well into the 100's for miles. I congratulated him on his stellar performance and we talked a little about this notion of not tapering.  Then I told him about my similar experiences of this paradox in the sport.

For me my first experience with not tapering was back in February of 2009. I decided to run The Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club Winter Marathon in Albany, NY as my long run to top off a 103-mile week.  I felt so strong during the race and instead of slowing down toward the end I actually picked it up the last 10k and went on for the win in 2:47.  I had previously run slower times in the marathon when I tapered for 2-3 weeks. forward to April 2010...same scenario...I went into the Peterson Ridge Rumble 60k with a bunch of miles under my belt and was planning on using the race to round out a 115-mile week.  I was able to pretty much hold my pace for over four hours (and even surged toward the end of the 36-mile race) and again came in for the win.

Finally, my last experience was also this year when I spontaneously went down to Reno, Nevada and decided to use the Silver State 50k race as a long run to get me right up around 109 miles for the week.  Same result...Course record time for the win and I felt super strong the entire race all the way up to the end.

Hmmmm....I see a pattern here.  Watch THIS VIDEO to hear what one coach says about tapering  in accordance to his cross country runners.

Don't get me wrong I have had great races when I did taper as well and I am not suggesting ruling out the tapering period of training.

Anyone else have any experiences along the lines of not tapering?  I'd be happy to hear from you. :-)

Also:  Stay tuned for Inov-8 releasing some hot new running shoes including four pairs of minimal road shoes and super stealth trail running editions.