Sunday, June 24, 2007

How the West(ern States 100) Was Won

The course map for the Western States 100 mile endurance run, the most renowned of the trail ultras. Image from the Western States website.

I don't have the desire to run 100 miles. At least not yet. The JFK 50 will do just fine. That doesn't mean I am not captivated and intrigued by the big trail 100s--Western States, Hardrock, Leadville, etc.

The last couple days has been the running of the Western States 100, the most notable of them all, and I have been checking in every couple hours to their live webcast to see how it was shaping up. Hal Koerner chalked up the win in 16:12 (that's hours and minutes), which is one of the faster times in the history of the race, though not a course record. The webcast site has video on of some of the early finishers. Truly inspirational stuff.

Something to mull over: last year's leader for the majority of the race, came onto the track at where you run a lap at the VERY END of the race, meaning you are more than 99 miles in. He collapsed on the track twice and couldn't finish under his own powers, so his crew and pacers carried him across the line. It was a DNF. Talk about brutal.

Koerner, this year's winner, has been cranking it out of late. Trail Runner magazine just did a feature on the last running of the Angeles Crest 100, which he also won. He recently opened his own running store out in Oregon, and has a blog, which you can check out at Rogue Valley Runners. I would guess he will have a post about the race once he recovers.

The next webcast I am looking forward to is the Badwater ultra--a 135-mile road race run on a road that gets so hot you have to run on the painted stripe to keep the soles of your shoes from melting.

For me, the JFK is going to be a stretch, one that I am going to have to suffer working towards and finishing. One step at a time. Who knows, if all goes well there, I might get dumb enough to want to try the Vermont 100. I didn't just write that. I don't know what you are talking about.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mining the Grand

Our older daughter Anna running a relay race at St. Michaels Elementary School's Field Day.

More often than we like to admit, kids know more than grown-ups. Especially in matters of attitude, curiosity, and adventure.

For a child, a walk around the block can--and often is--a grand expedition (not to be confused with an excursion, which burns much more gas). Our girls spot rabbits, squirrels, flowers, find suitable sticks, and set the stage for wherever we might be going that I wasn't aware of.

It is so easy to forgo mining the grand in the commonplace. This is a practice and an attitude that I often have to re-learn in my running. And for me, the take-home mantra is: any run is better than no run.

There have been a number of occasions of late, where I have thrown in a 3- or 4-mile run where I had hoped to do a longer, more substantial run. Time is not always so kind to parents of young children, who have overfull dance cards. I fight the all-or-nothing attitude that says, if I can't go out for an hour or 90 minutes, I don't have time to run. Horse----, bull----, insert your preferred hogwash term here.

I have had a blast with these shorter runs on frequently tread paths through Easton. Change the pace, look around, plug in the i-pod, and make it fun. With either of our girls, a 25-yard run through a grassy field or through the Oxford Park could pass for the Boston Marathon or Western States 100.

My only recent run of more than 5 miles was an 8-9-mile run in Wittman with our golden retriever Ivan and Mike and Luke (yellow lab) Keene, which had a 20-minute swim in the river with dogs thrown in before the final 2 miles. Ditching the rules of running and making a Tom Sawyer-esque adventure of it, made for a great run and a great day.

When I watch our 5-year-old run to be the first to the swings, or run in a relay at her school's Field Day; or watch our 2-year-old scream and laugh following her sister, or face-plant down a soft hill, pick herself up, laughing, and keep on trucking, I remember why I run.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just Test It!

Trail Runner magazine's July 2007 issue includes everything from race reports, gear reviews, training advice, and trail running narratives.

Every other month I get a present in my mailbox. The arrival of my Trail Runner magazine calls for seated solitude at its earliest convenience. And the folks at TR are good at the anticipation game, firing off an email when the current issue mails.

I have been having some informative email conversations with the editors there about possible articles and trail running in general. After some good exchanges, I will be helping test new trail running shoes from time to time. It is tough to harness my excitement about this arrangement.

I am a bit of a gear-head. I tear through TR, Running Times, Runner's World, Outside magazine, National Geographic Adventure, and the occasional Backpacker magazine. Being a writer who works on magazines, I am hooked. I stay up on what companies are doing what, and what gear I covet. My ultimate goal is to find as close to perfect shoes, packs, you name it, as possible; stuff that will last and that works for me to the point of seeming to be unnoticed in its presence--just to flow along as part of the run/runner/trail. I buy, try, and beat up a lot of running and trail running booty in this quest.

The good folks at Trail Runner are sending a first pair for me to put the dirt, mud, roots, and rocks to. When they publish their fall trail running shoe review, I might even have a comment or two in it. I hope to find more adventure-related stories for them over months and years. If you enjoy running trails and/or trail ultras, you won't find a better publication.

On the running/racing front, I am at a bit of a lull in the calendar. Behind me are the Holiday Lake 50K++, the Cherry Pit 10-miler, the Bridge-to-Bridge Half-Marathon, and the Chestertown Tea Party 10-miler. Though I am looking for a trail race or two over the summer, the next thing on the race calendar is tentatively the Annapolis 10-miler at the end of August. If anything, that's a ramp-up run. The two key runs are the October Baltimore Marathon and November's JFK 50-miler.

With our household schedule transitioning--Anna, our 5-year-old just graduated from Pre-K, and Robin, my wife, has less than a week left of the school year before she is home for the summer with the girls and the Golden Retriever. Not a bad time for down time. My last two runs have been 4 miles and 4.5 miles on the road. I am looking forward to my next 15-20 mile long run, as well as (REALLY) looking forward to getting back on the trails. Hope everyone is enjoying their late spring training and racing!