Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Goes Up Must Come Down

What goes up must come down
The wind whispered in my ear
Whipping my hair around my face
As my feet lightly followed tracks up the mountain
Like the searching, soft kisses of a lover escalating.

I was at the top of Stewart Mountain,
A thin layer of snow slowly
Painting my surroundings cold,
My footsteps were temporary
Paths up the mountain
Melting into it's flesh.

What goes up must come down
Mount Baker seemed to say to me
Blindingly fresh snow covering its head.
Snow that would slowly melt
Into rivers that would flow into the sea,
But not until Spring's warmth,
Like lovers reunited after a long, cold breakup.

The sun was setting over Bellingham,
I waited at the top, knowing
That with no headlamp
I should have left before dark, but
I had to see the sun's
Last intense display of color:
Yellows deepening into orange and red,
A fire that would soon go out on the hills
Like a lover breaking up with his love.

The sun was gone in an instant,
For a sad moment I realized
I still had to go back down,
Alone in the dark, the breeze
Turning into violent gusts, whipping my hair
Pushing me down the mountain,
Me, running back down reluctantly.

The snow had covered my trail
My feet making a new path
In the dark without my light,
I could only hope to find the ground
With each searching footstep

A bat uses echolocation
To produce detailed images
of its surroundings,
I used my legs,  my feet
mapping the ground.
I remembered how I'd gotten
So high in the first place,
In order to get back down.


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The Best New Race Outside of the USA for 2015

When I heard about the Ultra Fiord, a brand new trail race in Patagonia, Chile I was instantly intrigued. The photos told a story of a magical trek through the region's waterways and mountains. It seemed to embody the spirit of trail running with a course that follows the principles of my own race directing business: a course featuring the most scenic mountains and terrain and a deep desire to give back to the community and environment. The race promises to encourage sustainable development through trail running tourism and other outdoor pursuits--- rather than the pillaging of the land that can come from real estate development or resource mining.

I was excited to join the race as one of their international runners with the opportunity to fly down to South America and run the 100 mile event. The Ultra Fiord also offers 30k, 70k, and 100k options. What better way to explore a region known for it's incredible terrain than a trail race? Patagonia, Chile, may very well be one of the most stunning landscapes in the world, in Kate Kellaway's words, from her article in the Guardian about her horseback trip to the area:

"Seeing is not believing. The Torres del Paine national park makes you feel you are about to meet God...This landscape of blue, green and silver, of granite spires, glaciers, lakes, mountains and daisy-filled meadows, robs you of words. " (The Guardian, Kate Kellaway, March 2013)
The event will be taking registrations until March 5, so don't hesitate too long to signup for this incredible journey! Register Here

There will be an incredible field of elite athletes for the inaugural year including Jeff Browning, Matthew Maynard, Kerrie Adair Bruxvoort, Nicholas Barraza, Billy Barnett, Enzo Ferrari, Sofi Cantilo, Gustavo Reyes, Niki Kimball, Joe Grant, Federica Boifava, Genís Zapater, Veronica Bravo, Brittany Dick, Fernando Nazário, Manuela Vilaseca, and Krissy Moehl. Some of the above mentioned athletes are doing the 100k and 70k options.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

10 Entertaining Ways to EAT IT Trail Running

Do you have an special ways to fall on the trail? Please comment!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So You Want to be a Race Director

So you want to be a race director? You want to be out exploring trails all day getting exercise while you work, marking race courses, high fiving finishers, fielding massive thank you emails from happy runners and dreaming up amazing races?

Whoa, whoa, whoa there! Let's put it in perspective. I'm going to go over some of the more major aspects of this work. First off, the majority of my time as a race director is spent on the computer. Yeah. It's a computer job.

It's a Computer Job
Computer time varies between dealing with permits, employees, emails, and business related computer work. Let's start with emails. Here is a graph of the breakdown of types of emails I get. this is why my phone number is not listed on the website:

It's a Business
The second big wake up call is in regards to the business. Yes, it's a business and while you struggle to make a living on this business, many runners believe that you should not. Yes, the naysayers have jobs that they can make money at, however, they do not believe race directors should. Sure, it's old school to believe that races should be non profits filled with volunteers, but the truth is in order to offer a series of high quality races you need to have an income. Key word is series. Anyone can put on a fat ass race or even one or two ultras a year without making money, but to put on races in regular intervals you need to have a source of income to either 1. Come from outside the business (invest in the business) or 2. Come from the business itself (entry fees, sponsors, etc). Getting sponsors is very difficult unless your race has thousands of runners, trust me.

You're going to have to know how to map courses, create profiles, and put all that info on the internet or hire someone to do it for you. I love maps and mapping so this one is easy!

Funding your Dream
In other words, being a race director as a job requires that you either come to the job with business knowledge or you learn it. This is one of the toughest parts of the job. I think we all want to give discounts, refund fees because you have a wedding instead of the race, or give your entry to a friend however, you have to set your limits somewhere. You need to decide where to draw the lines. This is where making "Race Policies" comes in. It's no fun to say "NO" but get used to it, here I illustrate: 
Race director says "read the freaking website!" on Make A Gif

Permits & Insurance
Back to the business aspect. Without permits and insurance you should not and legally cannot charge runners unless you are doing it on private property, and then it better be yours or you'll need permission for that too. Permits are a pain, but they are important and must be taken very seriously if you want to be taken seriously. Insurance is always required for permits.

Websites/Race Timing
You're going to need to pay someone or create your own website. Same with timing. Timing is one of the most important aspects of the race. Gotta get it right. I make all my own websites. It saves money, but if you cannot create a professional looking website you should consider hiring someone as your website is the only "concrete" thing you have to show your professionalism and the quality of your race(s) until they actually happen.

Merchandise/Race Supplies/Transport
You'll need companies to produce your merchandise, which includes regular ordering and dealing with massive amounts of emails and there are always problems with merch, more time consuming. Sometimes I feel like all I do is order stuff.

Another big thing is that you will need to borrow or buy supplies to direct the race. Supplies can be very expensive. Borrowing from a local club to start out is a good idea. You may need a truck, trailer, timing equipment, clocks, a finish line arch, tables, canopies, marking supplies, generators, lighting, heaters, cooking supplies, and much much more.

One of the more important aspects of a race is its volunteers. Your race is only as good as the volunteers (and employees if you have them). You will need to find a way to get volunteers. this can be very stressful and challenging. It helps to be very well connected in your running community.

To summarize: 

1. Most your time is spent on a computer
2. You better love maps
3. You need to know how to run a business to be successful
4. You need to bring in money through the races or from your trust fund/bank/investors
5. You need permits, website, race timing, merch, race supplies, and a way to transport all the supplies.
6. You need a shit load of volunteers

Alright my rant is over for now! I am submitting that today be "Hug a Race Director Day" in memory of all our burned out and abused race directors.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Top Ten Reasons to DNF in an Ultra Marathon

DNF: Did Not Finish

I DNF'd my 3rd HURT 100 race this past weekend, after finishing the past 2 years. I've always said that you're not a real ultra runner until you DNF. For those of you who have never DNF'd (Jamil Coury ahem) you just won't know what I'm talking about until it happens. Inevitably in the minds of DNFing ultra runners everywhere, it feels like we just weren't good enough or tough enough no matter what our excuse is, like "Yeah I died but you know, looking back, I'm sure I could've gone a little farther."

In addition to the shame of not finishing and despite the fact that you thought about DNFing for 10 hours before quitting (so long in fact that you are exhausted with thinking or talking about it) everyone else will want to ask you about it and you might as well come up with great reasons why you wanted to have a beer and nap before you reached 100 miles. I present the:

Top 10 Reasons to DNF in an Ultra Marathon

1. You died. Obviously this is the best reason to DNF, as it requires no explanation and proves that you will go to any lengths to finish your ultra marathon. Unfortunately you will not be around to receive any accolades for the ultimate badassery.

2. Your Garmin Read 100 miles. As a race director I know that runners rely on their GPS watches to the point of insanity. In the case of the DNF, you can use this Garmin info to your advantage. When you reach 100 miles on your watch in your 100 mile event and you are still not at the finish line stop at the next aid station and insist that you are done because your watch says so. Then get a ride to the finish and insist on getting your buckle.

3. Missed a Cut Off. This one is pretty legit. I have 100% respect for those runners that spend the max time on the course and still get cut off. It takes true dedication to finishing to be DFL (Dead Fucking Last) all day and even all night.

4. Rhabdomyolysis. If your kidneys are going and you're pissing brown then maybe it was time to DNF a while go. Another pretty legit excuse. Just make sure it's not chaffing causing the bloody pee. TMI I know, but seriously a possibility.

5. Got Off Course. You're an ultra runner and you pride yourself on running ridiculously long distances, however, if you get off course and have to run extra miles it may be time to DNF.

6. Wrong Gels at the Aid Stations. I admit I'm a little bummed when the aid station says, "No we don't have coke, hopefully pepsi will do?" I mean HELLO! You know I signed up for this race, how did you not know to have freaking coke and not pepsi. Ultra runners can be very picky and grumpy about their gear and nutrition, so it only makes sense that if the aid stations don't have your gluten free cake / chia seed snot / paleo bagel / ketogenic banana / avocado bacon / vegetarian chicken / special diet then it may be time to DNF.

7. The Race was Just a Training Run. If the race is only a training run then why not stop when you hear the call of the local Brewery? DNF= Delicious Nighttime Fun.

8. Not Having Fun Anymore. I'm not sure why we think that ultras will be "fun" but this damn excuse is always the seed that grows into the full blooming DNF flower for me. It begins the gradual slide into quitting, especially when paired with any of the above reasons. I mean I must have my ketogenic bananas!!!

9. You Can't Walk Anymore. Sounds reasonable to anyone who doesn't run ultras. But we all know about that old ultra saying: Run until you can only walk, walk until you can only crawl, crawl until you finish damn thing:
10. You're Running the HURT 100 in Hawaii. HURT has a higher attrition rate than Hardrock. Plus you're sweating profusely in the dense jungle with no breeze imagining waves breaking on impossibly sandy beaches with hot surfer dudes walking by and retirees in speedos. Wait, nix the last one. You'd have to be insane not to quit and head to the beach with a Longboard Lager in one hand and a bowl of poke in the other. Oh, and that's the story of my DNF. Just thought I'd work my race report in here.

Hot surfer dudes

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Things to Consider Before Dating an Ultrarunner

After chatting with Don Freeman about joining them for a podcast at Trail Runner Nation about "reasons why and why not to date a runner" I decided to do my homework and before I read any of the articles he sent I would come up with my own ideas. It was fun and before I knew it I'd created this little sketch in my journal. 

Listen to Trail Runner Nation Podcast about the "Pros and Cons of Dating an Ultra Runner" with Don Freeman, Scott Warr, Faith Lehman, and myself as we debate on the subject in teams of two!

I posted his little sketch yesterday on Twitter and facebook, and it went viral quickly, to my surprise.  Who doesn't like a little truthful humor though? Do you have anything to add to this chart? Please comment and let me know! 

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Most Important Rule in Training for a 100 Mile Race (or longer)

I have learned a lot from the six 100 mile events I've competed in. Six is not a huge number, but I've fine tuned my gear, training and nutrition so that I have progressively gotten faster and more competitive. There is one very important rule I always use when training for a 100, and it's probably one of the most important: 

Train with the gear, clothing and nutrition that you will use in your race. 

That one simple rule can save runners a lot of pain and suffering. Included in that rule is the point that if a product doesn't work well or isn't just right or you're looking to improve on a product you try something new. Test new shoes or headlamps or whatever it is. Test it in training so that come race day you can rely on your gear and nutrition with confidence. When you run 100 miles any small problem can become very big. If you notice it in training, you better fix it! 

The common ailments like chaffing, excessive blisters, dehydration, upset stomach, etc can most times be avoided by testing gear, hydration, and nutrition before the race. In addition to testing your stuff, creating training runs that mimic the race conditions is invaluable. You will discover what works and what doesn't very quickly on the trail. 

Many problems in a 100 happen when runners aren't adequately prepared or don't have the experience to know better. During my first 100, Cascade Crest, I got very sick. I didn't know how to eat just the right amount so as to not overfill my stomache. I didn't know because I was inexperienced. That race was a painful but incredible training in how to fuel my body. I learned to take in smaller amounts of more digestible food like gels, soup, and coke. Any one of these foods are fine, until you eat too much. I learned for myself that I do better with a little less rather than a little extra. 

All this being said, any one of us can have an unexplainably bad day. You kick a rock and give yourself a black toenail or blister. You forget a hand bottle at an aid station and get dehydrated, anything is possible and even when you're prepared you can suffer unexpected problems that can escalate. It's the mystery and the unexpected-both good and bad-that make 100 mile + races so exciting. They in effect level the playing field so that it's not all about speed, but also about strategy, preparation, and mental toughness.

I'm going to share with you some of the products that after 4 years of competing in 100s I've come to rely on and can highly recommend. As a sponsored runner, I only choose to partner with companies that I truly believe in. I once made the rookie mistake of running for a company whose shoes did not fit right and I suffered many joint problems in my feet. I will never make that mistake again! Here I present to you a few of my favorite products:

Vfuel is perfect for fast energy in a race. The packets are small and fit in my hand otters and packs easily. This is what I use between aid stations to stay energized! In the pic are my fav flavors. This is my 2nd year running for vfuel!
Ultimate Direction continues to innovate with their super lightweight packs and no leak water bottles. Not pictured: jenny Vesta. This is my 2nd year running for UD! 
Lighting during the night on
a 100mile race is pretty darn important especially on technical trails. I like a headlamp that is very bright, lightweight, and has a long battery life since I hate wasting time changing batteries. I have both the petzl nao & myo. Really excited about the reactive lighting I the new nao. 

I'm super excited to run for Altra in 2015. Altra makes shoes that are zero drop and have a nice wide toe box. Who wants blisters anyway?