Monday, June 28, 2010

Western States 100 Course Record Shattered

Many runners can run a mile in 9:03.  Some can sustain that for a while; if a runner can run 9:03 for a marathon, that's a 3:57:06 finish.  Pretty respectable.  But to sustain that pace for over 15 hours at Western States, on mountain trails, climbing and descending, that defies belief.  But that's exactly what Geoff Roes did Saturday, his time of 15:07:04 breaking Scott Jurek's course record by 30:37.  And that's not all: two-time Leadville 100 winner Anton Krupicka was only a few minutes behind, clocking in at 15:13:53.  Phenomenal performances by both runners.  Roes, now 7-0 in 100 mile races, and Krupicka, 15-0 in ultras before Saturday, were both first-timers at Western States, but have certainly left their marks.

Another important record was set Saturday by Amy Palmiero-Winters.  Readers of this blog may recall her as the amputee I saw at White Rock last year.  She is now the first and only amputee to finish Western States, finishing in 27:43:10.  Another amputee, Amy Dodson, dropped at 34.4 miles.  Both of these women deserve our admiration.

Two of the race's pioneers started the race Saturday but didn't finish.  Cowman A-Moo-Ha (I'm assuming this is Ken "Cowman" Shirk) dropped at 23.8.  Gordy Ainsleigh made it 98.9 miles, but didn't finish before the 30 hour cutoff.

Closer to home, all three NTTR runners had strong finishes, earning the coveted bronze belt buckle.  Cindy Melder came in two hours before her male counterparts at 27:39:17.  In what must have been a real duel to the finish Drew Meyer edged Fred Thompson by one second!  Drew's 29:39:42 beat Fred's 29:39:43.  I don't know if they stayed together the whole time, but it must have been fun for them to pace each other.

When I was in the throes of my last-place finish at Cross Timbers earlier this year, Drew was manning the final aid station before the finish.  He was very encouraging, expressing surprise that I was running that 2 weeks after Rocky Raccoon.  Yet, according to the NTTR website, he is slated to run the Vermont 100 Endurance Race on July 17.  So two weeks between 50 milers is impressive, but 3 weeks between 100 milers is no big deal?  Good luck to Drew as he recovers and prepares for Vermont.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Western States 100!

This weekend is the running of the Western States Endurance Run.  For ultra/trail runners, this race is Mecca.  The race, a point-to-point trail run through the Sierra Nevadas, winds from Squaw Valley ski area to Auburn, California, up and down through canyons and tough trails.  It's tough to qualify for, tough to get in, and, of course, tough to finish.
I love the story of how this race started.  Starting in 1955, the Western States Trail Ride was started to show that horses could cover 100 miles in a day.  In 1974 Gordy Ainsleigh showed up for the ride.  Legend has it that his horse got sick, so he decided to run the course--on foot!  He finished in under 24 hours, a feat repeated by Ken "Cowman" Shirk two years later.  The first official Western States Endurance run was held in 1977 with 14 runners; three finished.

Today hundreds of runners from around the world compete in a lottery for a spot in this historic race, one of the oldest ultramarathons in the world.  All told, runners climb 18,000 feet and descend 22,000 feet.  Even though every runner in this race is a veteran trail runner, not all will finish.  But those who do will earn the coveted belt buckle!  (That's right, all that preparation, pain, and commitment for a belt buckle!)
One of these days, I'll get there.  I have a ways to go before I'm ready for a 100 miler, much less one as tough as Western States!  Today, a few runners from North Texas Trail Runners are running.  Drew Meyer, who was so encouraging as I tried to finish at Cross Timbers, will be there, as will 2 others from NTTR.  Here's to a strong finish for them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Night run at Lake Grapevine

I headed out to Lake Grapevine tonight, first time in months.  This is one of my favorite places to run.  Terrific trails, lovingly maintained by DORBA, some nice views, low traffic.  I hit the trail about 8:40, shortly after sunset, heading west from the MADD shelter.

I started out strong, but about 3 miles in I slipped, and as I tried to regain my balance I twisted hard to the right and did something to my side.  It feels like I bruised my ribs or something.  I kept running for a while, but after a couple more miles it got more painful, so I mostly walked the second half to avoid the pain.

Then I ran out of water after about 6 miles.  Talk about poor planning.  You'd think I knew better.

I have run trails in my VFFs before.  In fact, I finished the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile race in them.  But tonight the trails beat my feet up bad.  I might be cured of trail running in VFFs now, at least night trail running.  It's hard to see those rocks and stumps sticking up just enough above the surface of the trail to catch my toe.  I lost count of the times I stubbed my toe, mostly my right foot, for some reason.

I set out optimistically aiming for 18 miles.  Haha.  I was quite relieved to be back at my car after a mere 8.65 miles.  But I still had a good time and I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Runner's high in A Separate Peace

I've been reading John Knowles's classic, A Separate Peace, and ran across a terrific description of the runner's high.  (Not that I've ever experienced it quite like this.)  The narrator, Gene, prompted by his friend Finny, has taken up running.  On a chilly winter morning they head out, Gene to run, Finny acting as his self-appointed coach.  Gene has the kind of breakthrough that runners long for.

After making two circuits of the walk every trace of energy was as usual completely used up, and as I drove myself on all my scattered aches found their usual way to a profound seat of pain in my side.  My lungs as usual were fed up with all this work, and from now on would only go rackingly through the motions.  My knees were boneless again, ready any minute to let my lower legs telescope up into the thighs.  My head felt as though different sections of the cranium were grinding into each other.

Then, for no reason at all, I felt magnificent.  It was as though my body until that instant had simply been lazy, as though the aches and exhaustion were all imagined, created from nothing in order to keep me from truly exerting myself.  Now my body seemed at last to say, "Well, if you must have it, here!" and an accession of strength came flooding through me.  Buoyed up, I forgot my usual feeling of routine self-pity when working out, I lost myself, oppressed mind along with aching body; all entanglements were shed, I broke into the clear.

Wow!  That's what I want!  Lately I'm usually stuck in the "feeling of routine self-pity."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The secret to a dreadful long run

I have said here before that any run is a good run, and the only run you regret is the one you skip.  I won't say I regret tonight's run, but I can say it ranks on the low end of the enjoyability scale.  I had a 15 mile long run on the calendar, but I only made it 10.  If you can call it a run.  Several factors contributed.

1.  I was so tired on the way home from work I was dozing in traffic.  Sure sign I should go to bed early and put off the night run for a day or two.

2.  As I was leaving work, Kelly called to see if I wanted to meet her and the kids at Fuzzy's for dinner.  How can I turn that down?  Two fish tacos, chips, queso, and salsa, and a few bites of Elliot's enchilada plate.  I did skip the Butt Burnin' Hot Sauce, but it still was not an ideal pre-run meal.  I also skipped the Dr Pepper, but in hindsight, maybe I should have gotten some for energy.
3.  When I got home, I worked about an hour and a half in the yard.  It was hot and muggy, and I probably sweated almost as much during that time as during the run.

4.  I hit the trails near my house.  I haven't run on them in several months.  They can be a bit confusing in the daylight, and at night, with my faded memory, and with some additional trails cut by the developer (I'm afraid he's going to cut down more woods!), I became thoroughly turned around a couple times.  I finally found the place where I can cross over the little pond to go under 820, but the pond was much fuller than usual, and the log, or, rather, the big stick, I could walk across felt extra wobbly.  After nearly falling in, I decided to turn around and find another way.  Plus, the trails were overgrown and overcrowded with spider webs, and there were lots of muddy sections that reminded me of my last trail race

All these factors combined for a less-than-satisfactory run.  At least I made it 10, and I still did my 161 pushups when I got home.  Now I need to shower and go to bed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A whole week!

As I have previously mentioned, without a goal race and a training calendar to keep me on track, I'm pretty lost and uncommitted.  Well, I have finally chosen a race and put together a calendar, and for a whole week now I've stuck to it!  (baby steps, baby steps)

The race: I'll be running Tejas Trails' Pedernales Falls 60k in August.  You may recall I ran their 60K at Inks Lake last August (report).  This year's race will be similar, with a 7 p.m. start, running most of the night.  Last year I finished about 3 a.m.

So I've got my training schedule put together, getting up early or running late.  Last weekend I set out at 11:30 for a night run; it was terrific.  On another night I ran a 12 miler, starting just before sundown, getting to a park just after sundown, where I ran through a canopy of trees, surrounded by fireflies.  This morning I did intervals (6 800s w/ 400 walk/jog) at an average pace of 3:30.  Last fall I was doing 10 800s at 3:20, so I've got some room for improvement.

It will still be hard getting in miles working the day shift, but as long as I don't hit snooze too often and don't let the bed beckon me too early in the evening, I'll get the miles in.

Friday, June 4, 2010


In Mark Remy's The Runner's Rule Book, Rule 1.10 is "Get to Know Pre."  I've heard of Steve Prefontaine, but wasn't well-acquainted with him or his accomplishments and influence on the world of running.  There have been not one but two feature films made about him.  I watched Prefontaine, from 1997.  Someone thought he was popular enough for another movie the next year; Without Limits came out in 1998. 

Steve Prefontaine ran for Coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon.  He held every American track and field record from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters.  He had a passion to win; as Bowerman says in the movie, "Pre turned distance running into a blood sport."  In college he won virtually every race he ran, but in the 1972 Olympics he placed 4th in the 5000.  Had he not died tragically in a car wreck, he would likely have continued to run faster; he was poised to dominate the 1976 Olympics.

Here's Steve Prefontaine.  Fast.

Here's Jared Leto as Pre.

I like the way the movie was made, shifting between documentary style and feature style, and using archival footage to add realism.  It's a well-made, well-acted movie.  They weren't shy about showing Pre as human: at times arrogant, self-centered, a womanizer.  But the focus is on why we love him: his passion to run faster and harder than anyone thought he could.

His brief running career marks a crucial period of the growth of running as a sport.  He was a colorful character and stunning record-breaker, so he gained lots of notoriety, even making the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager.  People began paying attention to running.  At the same time Coach Bowerman was making his prototype shoes using his wife's waffle iron.  He tested out his ideas on Pre and ended up turning his crazy shoe ideas into the athletic empire that is now Nike.  In one funny scene, Bowerman brings a pair of shoes to Pre before a race, and explains that the swoosh on the side was his business partner's idea.  Pre rips it off, tosses it aside, and says, "Looks like needless wind resistance to me."

I'm not sure we can estimate Pre's influence on running.  With his fame, Bowerman's shoe innovations and founding of Nike, as well Frank Shorter and Bill Rogers's exploits, the running boom of the 1970s was born.  Prefontaine was a nice introduction to Pre, and it made me want to get out and run fast!

Bottom line, 3 stars.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No excuses

In my last post, I said I was adjusting to early morning runs.  I spoke too soon!  I've been so lazy in the mornings.  I also said I was running "most mornings."  Ha!  I guess I overestimated myself.  The Garmin doesn't lie.  I have been slacking off.  This morning I ran 6.2 miles, the first run since last Monday.  And I almost didn't run today!

I woke up before my alarm (which I think is a good think, in terms of adjusting to an earlier schedule).  I was considering going back to sleep and skipping my run when I heard a downpour outside.  I didn't remember seeing rain in the weather forecast, but I looked out the window and saw that the wall was wet.  Thinking I had a perfect excuse not to run, I got up to take a closer look.  I put on my glasses, went in the living room, and turned on the light in the backyard to get a better look.  The wall was wet, but the rain looked odd.  Then it stopped.  And I realized that it was the sprinkler, just on the other side of the wall.  I think the head must have broken so there was a geyser on the other side of the wall spraying into my yard.

Since it was only a personal little rain shower for me, I decided to run, and I'm glad I did.  They say (I can't remember where I read this recently) the only runs you regret are the ones you don't run.  Like Saturday morning, when my brother got me up to go run with him, but I sent him off to run alone while I went back to bed.  I ended up sleeping 'til noon, so I guess I needed the rest, but it would have been nice to take advantage of a rare opportunity to run with him.