I hope you had a great holiday week. Ours was pretty OK. Noah came down with a double ear infection and we had to take him to the doctor on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, by Christmas day he was feeling better, allowing us to make our trek to Wheeling, WV where we spent the long weekend with Anne’s family and I got in some great hill running.
As far as running, the week started out kind of slowly and then by Christmas Day was in full swing. Despite a sore throat and cough that I still can’t seem to shake, I ended the week with 70.75 miles – finally breaking 70 after three straight weeks of 60something miles.
We got to Wheeling late Christmas morning. After we opened presents and enjoyed a delicious late lunch, I headed out the door to begin what would be four days of very challenging running in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. The biggest challenge to running in Wheeling is that there are very few easy places to trot about. Everywhere you look there are big, long hills. And so I embraced the land and ran hard, covering 47 miles over the 72 hours we spent in the Friendly City. There is no area in Northeast Ohio I’ve run that could compare to the hills of Wheeling.
Saturday and Sunday couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, I covered a total of 20 miles in very clear weather, doing my PM run shirtless – yes, shirtless. I hadn’t packed for 70-degree weather and decided that I’d rather go shirtless than go hot in a long-sleeve tech tee. And so I ran sans shirt on December 27 – amazing. On Sunday, I headed out the door wearing just a thin long-sleeve shirt and a pair of shorts even as a nasty cold front was blowing in that morning. There on top of a big hill, totally exposed to the elements, I fought gusts of over 50 miles per hour and a very cold rain as the temperature continued dropping. By the time I got back to the house only 45 minutes later, I was soaking wet and within inches of hypothermia. But my condition was nothing a hot shower couldn’t cure.
So, all in all, it was a great week of running. I surpassed 70 miles and got in four days of great hill running.
Miles for the week: 70.75
Miles for the month: 266.32
Miles for the year: 3,900.95
With the new year only days away, it’s time to get serious about my 2009 race schedule. I have three big goals for 2009:
1) Break 4 hours at the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh on March 21 (weather permitting). My plan of attack would be a 3:10 marathon split, which would leave 49 minutes to cover 4.8 miles.
2) Break 18 hours at the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run on June 20-21.
3) Break 2:55 at the Columbus Marathon in October.
More immediately, the goal for January is quite simple. I’m going to try my hardest to decrease my mileage by 10-20 percent while getting back into abdominal crunches, allowing me to enter February with fresh legs and a strong core. My interval and tempo training will begin on February 1 as I start to gradually increase my mileage with a goal of 100-110 miles per week by the beginning of April. April and May will be high mileage months. Going into last year’s Mohican, I wasn’t able to get in as many long runs as I’d have liked because of all that was going on at home with Noah’s joyous arrival on May 9. For the 2009 Mohican, I will be looking to get in at least a handful of 5-plus hour training runs (as I did for the 2007 Burning River 100), which will be made all the easier thanks to the beautiful new iPod Anne and Noah gave me for Christmas!
I’m also going to implement a three-week taper before Mohican. At the 2008 race, I suffered an overuse knee injury that had me hobbling by mile 80 and questioning whether I’d ever do another 100 again. I was nearly incapacitated for two weeks afterward as the severely inflamed cartilage in my knee slowly healed. My hope is that a three-week taper before the 2009 Mohican will help ward off any overuse injuries that would surely manifest themselves over a 100-mile run on a challenging course.
Then after Mohican I’ll give myself some time to recover before focusing on a 2:55 at the 2009 Columbus Marathon.
The roster of entrants for the 2009 Western States 100 is now out. With the cancellation of the 2008 race due to wildfires, the 2009 States should be especially exciting. As always, there will be some big-time talent toeing the line, including Scott Jurek (7-time winner), Michael Wardian, Anton Krupicka (who I picked to win the 2008 race), Mark Godale, Eric Grossman, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Nikki Kimball, Hal Koerner (2007 champion), Connie Gardner, Krissy Moehl, Graham Cooper (2006 winner), Jorge Pacheco and Erik Skaden. I’m sure I missed many other big names. At this point, I’m going to put my money on Jurek. It’s interesting that he’s coming back to States because he really has nothing left to prove with those seven consecutive victories from 1999-2005.
Hopefully my name will be on roster of entrants for the 2010 Western States 100.
I think Kyle Skaggs, 23, put up the ultrarunning performance of the year with his record-setting win at the Hardrock 100. The Glenwood, New Mexico, resident won by more than 6 hours with a time of 23:23:30, besting the previous record, set by Jurek in 2007, by almost 3 hours. Hardrock is considered by many to be the hardest 100-miler in the U.S., with nearly 66,000 feet of climb and descent and an average elevation of about 11,000 feet. To break 24 hours on such a course is truly one for the ages and it's a real shame 99.999999999 percent of the population never even heard about it.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to glance over Dean Karnazes' new book, 50/50, about his 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states stunt. My overall impression of Dean is that he's an OK guy even as he can come across as condescending and a shameless self promoter. I think at one time he was an excellent ultrarunner, collecting victories at the Vermont 100 and Badwater Ultramarathon, as well as several top-5 and top-10 finishes at the Western States 100. I greatly respect his philanthropic activities through his foundation. I admire his love of running and I think it's great that he's drawn so many people to the sport. I think many of the stories he tells in his first book, which I admit I read shortly after its release, are entertaining. His account of his first WS100 was especially good.
Now for the but!
My biggest problem with Dean is that he's exploited our society's ignorance of ultrarunning in basically branding himself as the best ultrarunner in the world. Just look at the back flap of his new book, where The New York Times claims that "running with Karnazes is like setting up one's easel next to Monet or Picaso" (just one of many over-the-top statements of praise). It is no wonder why the sport's "Monets" and "Picasos," such as Jurek and Yiannis Kouros, have rightly criticized Dean (and, in so doing, drawn the ire of Karnazes' disciples).
What Dean is doing would be the same as Spud Webb in the Age of Jordan going around telling the world he was the best basketball player alive. Webb was good, but at the end of the day he was a stuntman, just as Dean has become. Unfortunately, whereas everyone in the late 80s and throughout the 90s knew who the best basketball player was (Jordan), few today have ever even heard of Jurek, Kouros et al. Which makes Dean's efforts to brand himself as the best ultrarunner alive easy--so easy a caveman could do it!
Anyway, as a proud Greek-American and guy who has earned the hatred of the Emperor of Ultrarunning who is a native Greek (Kouros), it's kind of interesting that Dean has never stepped foot on the Spartathlon course, where Kouros became a legend and Jurek now dominates. I think if Dean really considers himself a truly great ultrarunner, he should travel to Greece one September and take on some of Kouros' Spartathlon records. Or is his carefully-concocted public image too sacred?
All that said, Dean's a good storyteller and people love good stories. Until Jurek and Kouros hire really good publicists (I can be reached by e-mail) and/or until the sport does a good job of reaching the masses, Dean will be regarded by the general public as The Man. Too bad, too sad. Nuff said.
Onward and upward!