Monday, March 28, 2011

Training Week 3/21-3/27 - Taper On!

This was another solid week, really marking the "end" of my hard training for the Eisenhower Marathon on 4/9. I logged 74.8 miles, but more importantly I had some great quality with my intervals and tempo run, surpassed 17 miles on Saturday and even managed to get up to 11,000 feet on Pikes Peak on Sunday.

My original plan was to nail a 21-miler this weekend. I just didn't have it in me for whatever reason. But ultimately I think what I did over the weekend was of far greater benefit (and more personally fulfilling), especially Sunday's 3+ hour run on the Barr Trail, getting up to over 11,000 feet. Ever feel called to the trails? That's how I felt, and it's why I headed to Manitou Springs on Sunday morning before dawn. Twenty-one miles on the road wasn't going to happen when my soul needed the trails and a good climb on America's mountain.

The Eisenhower Marathon is very important to me, just as the Leadville Trail 100 is also crucial. I believe a runner can peak only twice and maybe three times a year, and for that reason I'm properly tapering for the Eisenhower Marathon and really making it a goal race. My goal is a time under 2:55 and my stretch goal is a 2:49. For me, the fact that Eisenhower is a goal race means a two-week taper, along with a one-week recovery after the event. I'll need to hit the trails hard after Eisenhower to ensure I'm ready for the Jemez 50-mile on May 21, but right now I'm only thinking about what I need to do in Abilene on 4/9...and praying for good weather. At 6'2", I'm a rather large runner and so wind really affects me. I once ran a 2:59 at a very windy marathon (Cleveland, 2009) and it wasn't pleasant--not that any marathon is pleasant.

Here's how the week shook out:

Monday, 3/21 - EASY
AM: 4.25 miles/34:32 on the treadmill at home. Easy pace.

Tuesday, 3/22 - INTERVALS
AM: 9.7 miles/1:10:35 on the HOA treadmill, maxing out the unit's speed. 3x1 mile at 6:00 each, plus 2x800 at 3:00 each. Still not 100% from the virus I came down with over the weekend, but was strong enough for a quality interval session.

Wednesday, 3/23 - EASY
AM: 6 miles/45:58around the neighborhood. I had an early morning meeting so this was all the time I had available.

Thursday, 3/24 - TEMPO RUN
AM: 10.3 miles (8 miles at tempo pace)/1:11:13 on the HOA treadmill. Winds 30+ mph, so elected to run indoors. Tempo splits were very solid: 6:40, 6:34, 6:33, 6:24, 6:24, 6:22, 6:18, 6:17 and 6:26.
PM: 3 miles/23:56 on the treadmill.
Total miles for the day: 13.3

Friday, 3/25 - EASY
AM: 10 miles/1:10:34 on the Tomahawk loop. Stomach not feeling well this AM--very crampy. Could have been from the stress of yesterday's wildfires in Franktown, which got a little too close to comfort. Not an enjoyable run at all.

Saturday, 3/26 - LONG RUN
AM: 17.25 miles/2:11:01 in the Parker hills. Felt decent but not super, so I cut this run short of the planned 21 miles. Didn't finish as strongly as I'd like. I think I'm ready for the taper.... Foot also ached a little, likely from Thursday's temp run.

Sunday, 3/27 - LONG TRAIL RUN
AM: 15.15 miles/3:05:51 on the Barr Trail at Pikes Peak. Ran up to 11,200 feet and turned around because I was running short on time. Felt decent but I definitely need to work on my climbing endurance. Tweaked my right ankle on the descent--was moving pretty fast and turned the ankle. Could have been worse. Cloudy and misty but once over the low-lying clouds had some decent views of the peak.

Totals for the week:
  • 74.8 miles running
  • 10 hours, 33 minutes
  • 8 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 806.18 miles

My goal for this week is to continue hitting my quality but to reduce volume. So I'll be shooting for about 50-55 miles, along with my usual mile repeats and a tempo run of about 4-5 miles. The longest I'll run is 12-14 miles on Saturday and then on Sunday not go over 10 miles.

I'm not too worried about my right ankle sprain on the Barr Trail on Sunday. I was flying down the trail and somehow turned my ankle. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Still, I have got to do something about my right ankle because I keep re-spraining it. Perhaps I'm going to need to wear a brace whenever I hit the trails. It seems almost a given that if I'm going hard down a trail I'm going to turn it.


One final note: I'm currently reading an advanced copy of Marshall Ulrich's new book, Running on Empty. I'll have a review out shortly. Now that I'm about 120 pages into the book, I feel confident saying it's an excellent book! Whereas Dean Karnazes' new book is pretty light-hearted (though very good!), Marshall's book really delves into the ultrarunner's soul and deals with heavy issues. Marshall, who is a living legend and ultrarunner of insane toughness, bares his soul and shows you who he really is as a runner and man, making his book a great contribution to runners and non-runners alike.

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, by Dean Karnazes

There have been greater ultrarunners, but never has an endurance athlete come even remotely close to achieving the fame and fortune of Dean Karnazes.

His meteoric rise all started in 2005 with the release of a little memoir that Dean, in an awe-shucks kind of way, says he never envisioned as a New York Times Best Seller. But Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner sold big, catapulting the San Francisco working stiff, who until then lived in relative obscurity (except in the ultrarunning world) but had amassed an impressive record in races such as the Western States 100 and Badwater Ultramarathon, to worldwide fame. A fun read sprinkled with a fair amount of likable though somewhat nauseating immodesty (in the opening pages, he describes himself as "ripped like a prizefighter"), Ultramarathon Man told the personal story of the author's colorful entrance into super-distance running and amassed a legion of Dean followers, shining a bright light on a freakishly blood and guts sport that was quite happy to live in the darkness, thank you very much.

Just like that, Dean Karnazes became somewhat of a household name, and he followed up his first book with 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!, which told the story of his infamous 50-marathons-in-50-days-in-50-states-challenge. Along the way, Dean, who is sponsored by The North Face and is a "yes-I-can" poster boy for fitness, garnered listing as one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People," attempted the 48-hour treadmill record, quit his day job to run full-time and motivate people, adopted children's health as his #1 cause and otherwise took his fame to unheard-of levels. This and more made many in the ultrarunning world feel uncomfortable, irritated and betrayed.

With his growing fame, Dean became a polarizing figure in a sport that had, nearly overnight, gone from underground to raging sensation. Many of the top races, such as the Western States 100, now sell out and are forced to offer lotteries as a result of so-called Dean-inspired yahoos flooding registrations. Many blame this boom on Dean, and it's no secret--or surprise--that Dean has as many haters as admirers. He was once wishfully viewed by many as a fad, but it's clear that Dean, like his idol, the late, great Jack Lalanne, is here to stay.

Well, Dean is back with a third book, Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, published by Rodale Books (Rodale also publishes Runner's World magazine) that will once again land him on the best-sellers list, on "Letterman" and "Leno" and God-only-knows what else. Only this time Dean, who has clearly been hurt by the criticism of his own community, comes across as slightly more guarded than the guy with nothing to lose back in 2005. You see, Dean's hugely famous now. He views himself as a celebrity. As told in his book, people slam on their brakes when driving past Dean to meet the "Ultramarathon Man" himself. It's only folks like convenience store clerks who haven't a clue who he is, really. Again, this is all from the book!

Huge celebrities, like politicians, often get caught in a trap, which often leads to their own demise (think John Edwards). The trap is a perpetual concern about one's image and one's critics. This self-absorption, which I'm quite confident Dean would vehemently deny, is a close cousin of narcissism. And it often involves endless self-defenses. Indeed, Dean goes to great lengths to indirectly respond to his critics, shamelessly bolstering his defense with favorable testimony from his own family, which actually made me quite uncomfortable as the reader. I wanted to hear from Dean himself, not his family. He even goes so far as to publish soppy letters from adoring fans, really tugging at the heart-strings and setting a trap that, yes, I fell for (more on that below).

Like his first book, Run is a fun, thrilling, easy read full of profound reflections and stories of sophomoric antics, such as when Dean made an ass of himself (he admits this) in front of a US senator when jockeying for one last baby-back rib at a wedding reception. But this is Dean, for better or worse. And what hungry ultrarunner who'd just run 75 miles wouldn't throw elbows and shed blood for a juicy baby-back rib?

In Run, Dean goes into great detail in describing his relationship with his dad and his skinny-legged close friend, Topher Gaylord (a former North Face executive who now heads Mountain Hardwear). Stories of Dean and his dad, who crewed for him many times at Badwater, are heart-warming. Whereas stories of Dean and Topher are comical in a fraternity-house-full-of-beer-kegs-and-thirsty-party-boys sort of way. Dean tortured Topher like a little brother (the "vanduzzi" and toilet paper stories are Exhibits A and B), but over time the chicken-legged Topher evolved into a runner with the killer instrict. He finished Western States and eventually established himself as an accomplished endurance athlete and business executive who earned the respect and admiration of the "Ultramarathon Man" himself. I did very much enjoy the chapter authored by Topher--but, then again, I often enjoy just about any emotional, gripping retelling of a Western States finish.

Amid more than a few stories that go as deep as a shallow puddle (e.g., the rib and vanduzzi stories), Dean offers up some thoughtful reflections on the nature of ultrarunning, a sport that delivers both profound suffering and life-changing enlightenment...unless it kills you first. It is through the suffering, Dean says, that life is lived to its fullest. Amen to that!

On a personal note, I was quite intrigued by Dean's recounting of his multiple attempts at finishing the Leadville 100, which he calls "Dreadville." Only on the third attempt did Dean finish the "Race Across the Sky," having endured altitude sickness and other maladies that forced DNFs in previous years. Dean uses the Leadville stories to demonstrate that, yes, even he has failed...just as Michael Jordan, he says, sometimes came up short. Interesting admission and comparison.

Among the more enjoyable chapters are the sections devoted to Dean's 4 Deserts attempt, which culminated in an overall win. The multi-day 4 Deserts race series involves long, grueling efforts through the desolate Atacama desert, Gobi desert, Sahara desert and Antarctica. The stories are entertaining and captivating and, in my eyes, the most intriguing part of the book with the possible exception of Dean's reflections on his notorious 48-hour treadmill run in Manhattan--which was promoted by "Live with Regis & Kelly."

I have often been critical of Dean. And while there is much about Dean that rubs me the wrong way, there is much I also like and admire about him. Who among us wouldn't give our left arm for his North Face sponsorship, full-time running gig and millions he's earned as a best-selling author? (I wouldn't want his travel schedule, though.) When reading over some selected fan letters Dean published in Run, it dawned on me that disliking a man who has inspired thousands of people to be active and healthy really isn't a productive endeavor. How can one really dislike a man who has received a letter like this one from a Marine Corp Marathon aspirant:

"For the first time in my life I think I can accomplish a marathon, something I never dreamed possible. I've been a lawyer, founder of a successful law firm, recipient of many awards and honors, and benefactor of ungodly prosperity, but nothing is more important to me than finishing this marathon. You have had a profound influence on me, and I just wanted you to know."
Or how about this message from a troubled young fan who sat silently outside a Manhattan studio window while Dean--only a few feet away--ran for 48 hours on a treadmill:
"You are my hero. I am going home now. I am going to run again. Thank you."
These notes capture what's really going on in Dean's third book and what's really been going on since the release of his first memoir--appealing to so many people out there who are lost and searching for fulfillment, or maybe just inspiration and adventure. They find a cheerful, confident guide in Dean Karnazes. In this way, Dean has morphed into something of a motivational figure with legions of followers who credit the "Ultramarathon Man" himself for saving their life. Hey, it's in the letters.

Today, Dean is running across America to raise awareness of obesity--the #1 killer of Americans today regardless of what the experts say about cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. Good for Dean.

How can you hate a guy who's done all of that? I can't.

Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss , published by Rodale Books, is recommended.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Training Week 3/14-3/20 / The State of My Fitness

The week of 3/14-3/20 started well and ended with me sick and attached to the sofa. While I had very good showings with my intervals on Tuesday and tempo run on Thursday, by Friday I was feeling something coming on--a virus, fatigue, something. I was functional on Saturday but Sunday's long run was a disaster--I aborted after 15 miles. Whereas lately I've been powering up the hills, on Sunday I had to walk many of the climbs, felt totally destroyed in the face of the high winds and was basically out of breath in spots (very rare for me). Clearly I had something--a virus--coming on, but I still managed to log 80.3 miles for the week and extend my little running streak to 47 days (48 as of today). More below. Here's how the week went.

Monday, 3/14 - EASY
AM: 7 miles/55:26 on the treadmill at home. Legs a little tired but functional.

Tuesday, 3/15 - INTERVALS
AM: 10.25 miles/1:14:21 on the HOA treadmill, maxing the damned thing out on speed. Pretty tired since Noah woke up at 1:00 a.m. last night screaming (but quickly settled down and fell back asleep). Was very unmotivated to do my intervals but still managed to get in an excellent workout. 3x1 mile at 6:00 each, plus 2x800M at 3:00 each. Felt very strong and good. With daylight saving time just kicking in, it's too dark in the AM to get to the track. I can't wait for the day I can run my intervals at the high school as fast as I want and without a 6:00/mile cap.
PM: 31:09/4 miles on the treadmill.
Total miles for day: 14.25 miles

Wednesday, 3/16 - EASY
AM: 6.1 miles/47:47 around the neighborhood. Had a 7:30 a.m. meeting so couldn't run any longer. Sucks!

Thursday, 3/17 - TEMPO RUN
AM: 1:28:28/11.15 miles. Tomahawk, East Parker Road (going west), Canterberry, Riva Ridge, path back home--not an easy course at all! This was an excellent workout and, if I do go sub-2:55 at the Eisenhower Marathon, I'll look back on this workout as critical. Despite a horrendous cold-front blowing in during my run (temp literally dropped 14 degrees while I was out), I felt good the whole way. Splits were: 1) 8:30 (warm-up); 2) 6:32; 3) 6:29; 4) 6:39 (uphill); 5) 6:22; 6) 6:38; 7) 6:30; 8) 6:39; 9) 7:06 (about 3:15 for first half); 10) 7:42; 11) 8:01; 11.15) 1:14. All of that was between elevations of 5,850 and 6,250 feet with 1,110 feet of vertical and about the same for descent.

Friday, 3/17 - EASY
AM: 1:13:17/9.45 miles on the Tomahawk loop. Pretty tired but functional. Legs OK. Foot a little sore at first but got better.

Saturday, 3/18 - MEDIUM LONG RUN
AM: 1:33:55/12.25 miles on the Tomahawk loop. Wind from the south horrendous. I'm really sick of this wind! Didn't have any more time since Anne had to go into work, but an otherwise decent run.
PM: 39:06/5 miles on the treadmill while Noah slept. Planned for 4 miles but got in 5--always a good thing!
Total miles for day: 17.25 miles.

Sunday, 3/19 - LONG RUN
AM: 15 miles/2:04:04. East Parker Road/Buckboard and back. Worst run I've had in a while--no lung capacity, weak against the wind and very little energy. Horrible on the hills. First 7 miles pretty good, but last 8 miles a death march. Wind made things even worse. Not sure if I'm fighting a virus or maybe I'm just worn down. But I was definitely not myself on this run and my appetite hasn't been good either. I think I caught a virus from Noah because we saw similar signs in him earlier in the week (not eating lunch, no dinner, etc.).

Totals for the week:
  • 80.3 miles running
  • 10 hours, 27 minutes
  • 9 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 731.38 miles

So on Sunday, like I said, the first 7 miles of my long run went pretty well. But then I started feeling pretty rough and noticed very diminished lung capacity on the hills. The strong wind from the west only exacerbated the problem. I ended up walking a lot of the hills and basically just mailed it in for the day. I'm experienced enough to know when I have it and when I don't have it, and on Sunday something was wrong. At least I finished! Anyway, when I got home I was barely able to eat and then, after showering, collapsed on the sofa for the balance of the day, read and napped a little. This is very uncharacteristic. Usually on the weekends I'm very active. I had no energy, was achy and basically felt drained. I managed a pasta dinner on Sunday that tasted good but, really, I haven't enjoyed a meal in a few days now.


I think my fitness right now is pretty solid. Unfortunately, it's very hard to draw solid conclusions from the times I'm hitting, because the Eisenhower Marathon will be the first race since moving to Denver last April that I've ventured to sea level for an event. Here's what I do know from the past:
  • Current marathon PR is 2:58:28 (6:49 pace), set at the 2008 Cleveland Marathon. Since then, I've run two road marathons at 2:59 each.
  • My tempo run pace at the time and while we lived at sea level was around: 6:15/mile.
  • I knew I was in pretty good shape when my mile-repeat time was around 5:35 for 3 repeats (interestingly, my 5K PR is 17:39, which is 5:41 pace, which makes me think my repeat time were too slow...or maybe I just get "up" when I race).
  • Again, that was all at sea level.
Here's what I'm doing at elevation:
  • Right now my tempo pace is about 6:28/mile--at 6,000+ feet.
  • I'm on the treadmill for my repeats, which are at 6:00/mile - maxing out the treadmill's speed. 6:00/mile is pretty easy for me, but not too easy.
Now for the intangibles. After a rough 2010, I'm PISSED OFF and want to have an amazing 2011! Plus, I haven't run a road marathon in nearly two years and I'm ready to give it a hard go! I'm 37 years old and I don't have forever to set a new marathon PR. This is it! Such desire has to be a factor.

That said, it's hard to say what training at 6,000+ feet will mean when I venture to Abilene, Kansas in a few weeks to run in a marathon that is a mile below where we live in Denver. Judging by the above numbers, living at elevation means I'm running my tempo miles about--we'll say--15 seconds slower than I did at sea level. In Kansas, the oxygen will be thicker and the land will be flatter than here in Denver. Oxygen is critical to maintaining intensity. I've been training at altitude for a year now. So I can't help but think that, when we get to Kansas, I'll benefit immensely from my altitude training and should capture a new marathon PR as long as I run a smart race. Do not go out too fast!

The huge question mark in all of this, of course, is the weather. If I'm running the marathon against the wind, I'm dead as far as a PR. Look, I'm just being honest on that. But I can't ponder the questions; all I can do is train my hardest and do my best. With pretty good volume and excellent quality, I'm establishing an amazingly strong base for the rest of the year's racing. My efficiency is good, my turnover is very solid and I'm confident.


With the Eisenhower Marathon now a little less than three weeks away and this virus still hampering my performance and overall state, my goals for this week are:
  • 65-70 miles
  • 3x1 mile hopefully at the track
  • 6-7 miles at tempo pace
  • Long run of 20-21 miles on Saturday--hopefully the wind won't be a factor
  • Mid-range run of 10-12 miles on Sunday

I got word over the weekend that I will in fact be able to run in the Mount Evans Ascent on 6/18. We had a potential scheduling conflict. I am so stoked about Evans. You run up one of Colorado's great 14'ers in what is one of the nation's premier mountain races. I plan to run back down Evans (most runners will take a shuttle back down), giving me 29-30 miles for the day--all at 10,000+ feet. Training for Leadville, it doesn't get much better than that. I'll also be venturing to Leadville on 7/2 for the Leadville Trail Marathon. It's easy for me to sit here and say the LT Marathon will be a quality training run and not a race, but that's not my way. I'll be looking for a solid time and some revenge.
Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Searching for Fulfillment

I'm reading Dean Karnazes' new book, Run!. My feelings about Dean are well-documented on this blog, so I'll avoid going there for now. Soon I'll be posting a full review of Run!, but for now I want to share a reflection on a theme throughout his new book--a theme that Dean, who very much has his finger to wind, clearly wants to get across to the reader.

Like Christopher McDougall, Dean has hit on something that many people are feeling these days--the need to transcend self, explore, discover true fulfillment amid so much material anxiety, find an escape and ultimately become one with nature. "One with nature" has become a trite expression, but in truth just about any trail runner who's been out there for several hours--and, in my case, a few days--in the woods or on a mountain will tell you that you eventually begin to feel a wonderful connection with your natural surroundings. It is at this point that you realize that throughout life we put up so many barriers and live in such isolation. We are meant to be outdoors, and yet we've been conditioned to "need" that which really doesn't matter at all.

These are very difficult times in which we live, and there's a reason Dean and Christopher's books--and soon Marshall Ulrich with his new book, Running on Empty, will join the fray--have sold like hotcakes. The reason is that people right now are longing to get out of and step away from what they no longer find fulfilling. The 90s were a decade of fulfillment found in big houses, gas-guzzling SUVs, over-programming our kids to the point that family dinner hour was gone, eating out every night because we could, vacationing to Disney World, fat 401Ks, bonuses, double lattes at Starbucks and many other material pleasures...that don't amount to jack as far as fulfillment (well, maybe Disney and Starbucks do....). These material "things," or items, symbolized success and delivered fulfillment and pleasure not unlike a shot of heroin.

No more. After 9/11 and especially the summer of 2008 when the market crashed, everything changed. People are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent. They are having trouble paying for gas. They can't afford a trip to Disney World and so instead they opt for a camping trip (I'd rather camp than go to Disney, though Disney's nice...). The 401K is half what it was. Forget about a bonus; just be happy to have a job! You get my point. Amid much lesser prosperity for many, the desire to transcend self, to find fulfillment through adventure and step far away from the man-made, material world and into a world of trails, woods, mountains, singing birds, family camping trips, and wildlife has taken hold. People who don't spend much time in nature don't understand that nature SPEAKS to you and connects with your soul. Being in nature is an active experience and entirely a spiritual experience.

And so it's no surprise trail running and ultra running have taken off in recent years. Dean sees this change in how people view the world, and expresses it well in his book. He's not just talking to the believers; he is trying to connect with people who feel despair, are searching for that missing "something," and don't know where to find it. He's trying to show the way--it's to the trails.

Still, I can't help but wonder: When prosperity returns, will we also return to the material world? Or have we truly learned what really matters and have reached a point of no return--a point of awakening, new wisdom and true reflection?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 10 Hardest Moments I've Ever Endured as a Runner / What about You?

We've all had crazy-tough moments in our running. Well, here are mine, in order of difficulty from "easiest" (10) to "hardest" (1), with a few honorable mentions thrown in:

10) Finishing my first marathon--the Columbus Marathon in 2004 (3:22).

9) Finishing my first 50-miler in 2006. The last 15 miles was a death march.

8) Holding the lead at the 2009 Mohican Trail 100. With two very capable guys bearing down on me, I ran through the last aid station to break their will when all I wanted to do was sit down and refuel, and somehow I won by 22 minutes.

7) The last 20 miles of my first 100 miler--the 2007 Burning River 100. Running/shuffling past the rather foul-smelling compost plant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio about sent me over the edge. I'm glad I'm here to tell about that great adventure. What an experience it was.

6) Staying on pace the last 10K of the 2008 Cleveland Marathon, when I broke 3 hours for the first time. The last 10K of a hard-run marathon are--how to say it?--painful.

5) Trudging up to the top of Mosquito Pass (elevation: 13,185 feet) at the 2010 Leadville Trail Marathon. The following video will give you an idea of why.

4) Enduring a blown-up knee and obliterated stomach the last 20 miles of the 2008 Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run, when I barely held off a late surge by Connie Gardner to finish 4th overall.

3) Post-holing through waist-deep snow and fighting acute exhaustion the last 1,000 vertical feet of Pikes Peak (elevation: 14,115 feet) during my first of two summits last spring. Below is a cool video of some mountain bikers descending Pikes during the summer, when the snow's gone. Love the Johnny Cash tune! Ladies and gentlemen, yes, it takes balls to ride a mountain bike down Pikes Peak, especially on the narly switchbacks above treeline.

2) The last 6 hours of the USA 24-hour national championship in 2009, when I was mentally fried but somehow kept the legs moving to finish with just shy of 131 miles. Here's a rather telling photo of me in the last hour of the race.

1) The last 13.6 miles of the 2010 Leadville Trail 100, after I'd been laid up in the Mayqueen aid station with altitude sickness and related maladies. It's the closest I've ever come to DNF'ing. Somehow, I finished.

Honorable mentions:
  • Trudging up the backside of Hope Pass at the 2010 Leadville 100. It's pretty steep in places, especially when you've already run over 50 miles at 10,000+ feet.
  • Just finishing the 2005 Buckeye Trail 50K, which was incredibly hot, muddy and humid. About four miles into the race, I got the hell stung out of me by three hornets swarming a deer carcass. It was not one of my better races or more enjoyable days on the trail.
What are some the hardest things you've ever done as a runner?

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. PushYour Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Training Week 3/7-3/13 / There's No Shape like Marathon Shape!

I believe there's no shape like marathon shape. When you're doing what you need to do to be ready for a PR effort at a marathon, it's hard to be in better shape. In this light, marathon training is both fulfilling and satisfying. Of course, you can almost always do more! And things can go wrong at the big event--all part of the process.

When I reflect on my 7 years of running long distance, a few races come to mind when I think of the times I perceived myself to be in really good shape:
  • 2008 Cleveland Marathon - 2:58, PR
  • 2008 Mohican 100 - 4th overall (despite a blown-up knee)
  • 2009 Columbus Marathon - 2:59 (despite a hamstring problem)
  • 2009 Mohican 100 - 1st overall
Honestly, the last time I felt in really good shape was going into Mohican in 2009. I had just run a 2:59 at a very windy Cleveland Marathon, and also had two top-5 finishes at 50Ks in March and April, and had devoted myself to intervals, tempo running and, most of all, hill repeats.

Nothing puts me in better shape than a marathon training program. The cornerstones of my marathon training are:
  • The long run
  • Intervals/repeats
  • The tempo run
  • The marathon-pace run 
But no matter how much training you do, one thing is for certain: going hard for 26.2 miles is going to be tough and it's going to hurt. The distance itself doesn't worry me; it's knowing I'm going to need to hold a certain pace the whole way that's going to be challenging. I've never really nailed it in the marathon. That 2:58 PR I set at Cleveland was kind of by accident--I was really focused on the Mohican 100 a month from then. The last time I was really marathon-focused was the fall of 2008, when I nailed a 2:59 in Columbus on a bad hamstring.

To nail it in the marathon, you have to run at just the right pace, be strong in the last 10K and leave nothing on the course. The ultra, while deploying some measure of precision especially at the 50K, 50-mile and 100K distances, isn't as precise as the marathon--which, in my mind, makes the marathon, in some respects, harder.


I have zero repect for this guy. Does he even understand what an awful message he's sending?


I had another solid training week with pretty good results in my intervals, tempo run and long run. I nailed 80.5 miles--my first time over 80 miles since August when I was tapering for the Leadville 100.

It's hard to really know what my marathon pace truly is when I'm training at 5,000 feet above where the Eisenhower Marathon will be run. My best guess is that my marathon pace is around 6:40-6:45. My goal for Eisenhower is 2:54 and my "stretch" goal is 2:49. A 2:54 makes me a lock for getting into the 2012 Boston Marathon since it would allow me to register on day one.

Here's how the week turned out.

Monday - EASY
AM: 6.5 miles/49:33 on the treadmill. Just an easy Monday morning run to shake out the legs.

AM: 9.5 miles/1:09:50 on the HOA treadmills. I am getting sick of running my intervals on the treadmill! Unfortunately, it's too dark for the track. Soon enough! I did 3x1 mile at 6:00 pace, maxing out the treadmill. Legs turned over nicely but, no question about it, I was working hard.

Wednesday - EASY
AM: 10.01 miles/1:15:08 on the Tomahawk loop. I felt better with every mile, but probably went too fast for an easy day.

Thursday - TEMPO RUN
AM: 10.4 miles/1:14:33 to "downtown" Parker and back. After last week's disappointing tempo run in which I went out too fast and fizzled after 5 miles, this week I wanted to nail it. I was really happy with this run. I held tempo pace for 6.5 miles. After a 1-mile warm-up, my splits were: 6:34, 6:26, 6:42 (going uphill), 6:26, 6:34, 6:38, and 3:20 for mile 6.5. The remaining miles were at cool-down pace--about 7:55-8:05 pace. While I don't like how I lost pace toward the end, this was still a solid effort at over 6,000 feet.

Friday - EASY
AM: 10 miles/1:15:35 (7:34 pace) on the Tomahawk loop. Gorgeous morning. Legs got tired after 8 miles.

AM: 20.1 miles/2:35:18 (7:43 pace) in the Parker hills. This was the second of 3 planned 20-milers in preparation for the Eisenhower Marathon. All in all, I felt pretty good, and it was a beautifully sunny day on the Front Range though the wind from the south kind of sucked. I eeked out a 6:56 for mile 19. Low point 6,103 feet, high point 6,413 feet.

AM: 14.01 miles/1:46:51 (7:38 pace) on the Tomahawk loop, running the dirt-road loop twice. It was a rare cloudy and moist day on the Front Range, but fortunately the temperature was comfortably in the mid-30s. My legs were quite tired for the first 5 miles, likely as a result of the previous day's 20-miler, but I got a bit stronger and was handling the hills well. Toward the end, my legs started feeling it again, but I still managed a rather unimpressive but mildly satisfying mile-13 split of 6:51. Low point 6,104 feet, high point 6,307 feet.

Totals for the week:
  • 80.52 miles running
  • 10 hours, 5 minutes, 16 seconds
  • 7 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 651.08 miles

My goals for this week are:
  • 75-80 miles
  • Quality intervals--hopefully at the track and not the treadmill
  • 7 miles at tempo pace

Who couldn't use some of Yoda's wisdom when it comes to going long?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Best Songs to Listen to During Big Climbs and Big Efforts / What are Your Favorites?

My favorite songs to listen to during big climbs and big efforts.

1) Eminen/Lil Wayne - No Love - Best song I've heard in a while.

2) AC/DC - Thunderstruck - A close call for #1 on my list. This is, IMHO, AC/DC's greatest song and is the very sound of Rock 'n Roll.

3) Van Halen - Everybody Wants Some - Beginning of this song is off-the-charts intense. Reminds me of being above treeline on a huge Colorado mountain. Just so intense.

4) Motley Crue - Kickstart My Heart - Makes me think about doing crazy things and would be the song I'd want playing if, ever again, I break the tape first in a race.

5) Aerosmith - Back in the Saddle Again - Nice rythym.

6) Ted Nugent - Stranglehold - IMHO, one of the top 5 rock 'n roll songs of the '70s.

7) Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero - A very under-appreciated, overlooked Tina Turner classic. Doesn't hurt that I have a soft spot for the Mad Max films.

8) Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song - What else is there to say except, "It's Zeppelin"?

9) Led Zeppelin - Misty Mountain Hop - Ditto.

10) AC/DC - Shoot to Thrill - Another classic AC/DC tune.

BONUS: Bush - Everything Zen - Just a downright kick-ass, killer song by one of the all-time great "grunge" bands.

What are some of your favorite songs for big runs?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Training Week 2/28-3/6

Before I forget (because this topic is to forgettable, after all), there's a new race being planned for September that aims to get all the elite trail runners worldwide on the same trail and on the same day for a "championship event."


There's been talk of such a race for a while. Now it's on the books.


I thought we already had a series of championship races? Aren't they called USATF national championships (maybe that gets a third yawn)? I've been hard on the USATF before, but the fact of the matter is that USATF holds national championships at every level of ultra distances--from 50K to 24-hours. If elites don't like the USATF races because elite turn-out is so bad and they want to run against "the best," they could change all of that by showing up. Right?

Why am I being a bit snotty? Because we have some existing championship races that have so much potential but aren't being given a chance. I happen to personally know the organizers of both the 100-mile (Burning River) and 24-hour (North Coast) USATF national championships. I ran in the 24-hour national championship in 2009 and also ran in the 100-mile event that eventually became the 100-mile national championship for 2010 and again this year. They are excellent races with organizers who would love to have as many elites as possible. They even have prize money on the table and the organization and capacity are there to host a huge field. The best way to get USATF national championship events beyond just a name is for the best to show up. Nuff said.

But I do really hope big cash doesn't eventually invade ultrarunning, because then the sport will have been betrayed. I guess if I were an elite I'd feel different.


This column pretty much sums up my feelings about mainstream pro sports and, in particular, the NFL. But really it goes much deeper, exposing societal problems as a whole.


Ted at the summit of Green Mountain in Boulder, elevation 8,130 feet.
Not a bad week of training. I hit some good quality and ended with 71 miles and nearly 11 hours of running. On Saturday and Sunday, I did some awesome trail running with Ted F., a good friend from Cleveland who stayed with us en route to Steamboat Springs for business. Ted and I used to run together every Saturday morning in South Chagrin Reservation. It was great seeing him, spending quality time in Colorado's wondrous nature and getting updates on some of my pals back in Cleveland.

Monday - EASY
AM: 51:10/6.5 miles on the treadmill at home. Noah came down stairs and kept me company for the last 2 miles of my run and we had fun together. Overall, I felt really good--minimal soreness and tiredness from the weekend miles. Felt pretty fresh for a Monday.

AM: 1:08:32/9.4 miles on the HOA treadmills. With absolutely zero lighting at the local high school track this time of year, I am going to stay away until we have more sunshine in the morning and will instead opt for the treadmill. After a 10-minute warm-up, I maxed out the treadmill with 3x1 mile at 6:00 each, followed by 1x800 at 3:00. First interval was kind of hard but I felt better for the second and third miles after the oxygen was flowing.

Wednesday - EASY
AM: 46:44/6.05 miles around the neighborhood. I had an early-morning meeting so this run had to be "short." Went easy pace and felt pretty good. Last mile was my fastest and required the least amount of effort--always a good thing.

Thursday - TEMPO RUN
AM: 1:08:22/9.55 miles in Parker. After a 1-mile warm-up, I ran 5 miles at 6:17, 6:15, 6:14, 6:18, and 6:32. Not happy with that last split, or with the fact that I didn't achieve my goal of 6 miles at tempo pace. I went out too fast; my pace should have been around 6:25-6:30 to start. I wanted that 6th mile but was trashed and basically jogged home. All at ~6,100 feet with 2,700 feet. It hit me that I'm training everyday in an area 5,000 feet above where the Eisenhower Marathon will be run. Advantage indeed.

Friday - EASY
AM: 1:08:57/9 miles on the Tomahawk loop in Parker. My foot was a tad sore when I woke up but got much better during my run. This isn't uncommon a day after a hard tempo run or intervals. 2,400 feet of combined climb and descent.

AM: 49:16/7 miles on the treadmill at home. I knew later in the day Ted I were heading to Castlewood Canyon for some trails so I thought I'd hope on the 'mill and crank out a few marathon-pace miles. Miles 1-3 were in a very manageable 22:14. Miles 4-6.5 were 6:44, 6:38, 6:29, 3:11 (6.5) and 3:59 (7/cooldown). Very easy workout and I could have cranked out many more miles if not for the fact that Anne had to leave for work.
PM: 1:48:34/10 miles in Castlewood Canyon with Ted. Man, it was great to see Ted! We had a fantastic time in Castlewood Canyon, which is about 10-15 minutes from where I live. We circled the canyon via the Rim Rock Trail, hitting the spur to the main entrance, and then returned via the the Creek Bottom Trail. We added on a few miles on the dirt road and then called it a day.
Total miles for day: 17.0

Bear Peak in Boulder. Taken Sunday during our run.
AM: 2:32:17/9 miles at Green Mountain in Boulder. Yeah, I know, not a really impressive pace--but a really good time. Ted and I decided to make this a relaxed run/hike. So we got to the summit of Green, hung out up top for a few minutes (views pretty awesome despite a cloudy day), and then headed down via the Gregory Canyon Trail. We had a great time and capped it all off with brunch at IHOP in Boulder. Ted did great and we were running at 8,000 feet on Green. I am planning to head to Green in a few weeks and hammer it to the top to see how fast I can get to the summit--and then hammer down Flagstaff Road. I felt very good the whole time on Sunday, and I have to give it up for my new Kahtoola MicroSpikes--they were awesome on the icy sections of the trails. One of the best products I've ever bought.

Totals for the week:
  • 71.0 miles running
  • 10 hours, 50 minutes of running
  • 9 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 570.56 miles

My goals for this week are:
  • 75-80 miles
  • Quality intervals
  • 6.5 miles at tempo pace
  • Potentially that Green Mountain outing on Saturday or Sunday.

Now for the video portion of this post. I have the unusual distinction of having lived in three Rust Belt states--West Virginia (right outside of Pittsburgh), northern Indiana and, of course, my beloved Cleveland, Ohio. I've seen the effects of NAFTA and the disintegrating steel industry. My dad spent his career in the steel industry in sales. A big part of me is a huge champion of the unions, and yet another part of me doesn't like what the unions now stand for. I believe deeply in American industry. At any rate, the other day I heard "Allentown" by Billy Joel and it nearly moved me to tears. I didn't understand what this song meant when I was kid, but as an adult now, who's seen empty, crumbling factories, I get what Joel is saying. This song is very profound and sad...and it should be heard by this nation during these troubling times when we can't even supply our own energy. The days of the kid who served during the war, returned home, and then worked for 30 years in the factory, made a good living, retired with the gold watch and pension and provided for his family in a way that ensured a better future for his kids seem to be over. If we give up our commitment to American industry, what do we have left? And what would the American Dream then be?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Leadville 100 Tips for First Timers

Amazingly, the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run has already sold out. The field is now set at 750, and I am sure glad I'll be there on the line. Of the 750 entrants, ~100 won't show because of injury, cold feet and other reasons. Of the ~650 starters, about half will finish. And of the ~325 finishers, about 100 will do so within 25 hours, earning the big buckle. That's my guess based on stats from previous races.

Last year I was a Leadville rookie. Working off a previous blog post, here are some tips for Leadville first-timers based on stuff I learned:

It Ain't Easy. Your Momma Ain't Gonna Hear You Crying for Her from the Top of Hope Pass.
Know what you're getting yourself into. This race is run between elevations of 9,200 feet and 12,600 feet with over 30,000 feet of combined gain and loss. That is hardly child's play. It's clear that Christopher McDougall's best-selling book, "Born to Run," is bringing a lot of people to Leadville every summer. I wanted to run the Leadville 100 prior to reading "Born to Run," but certainly the book raised my interest to an even higher level. When I was coming down Hope Pass during the 2010 run, I saw lots of folks struggling badly up the mountain and clearly in over their head. That may sound elitist but it's true--there were a lot of people at the 2010 race who should have chosen an easier event for their first 100. I saw one guy lay down on a rock totally exhausted and gasping for breath. If you do Leadville, just know that this race is very different than a sea level event.

The Air Up There Ain't Like it is in Kansas
I used to live in Kansas, so I know! There are altitude races, and then there's the Leadville 100. Humans probably weren't meant to run 100 miles at 10,000+ feet. If at all possible, spend some time at altitude before the race, especially if you've never been to the Colorado high country. Also, work on your VO2 max and efficiency. In training for the LT100, I did three runs in Leadville (including the marathon). I summitted Pikes Peak. I did several training runs above 7,000 feet and lived (and still live) at 6,000 feet. I did a number of hard runs--as in 6:50-7:10/mile pace--on a treadmill set at 13% incline. All told, I ran 1,500 miles in 15 weeks. And that wasn't enough to compensate for my inexperience at high altitude. Ideally, if you can do the Leadville 100 Training Camp in June, go for it--it's a golden opportunity to experience the course, learn from LT100 vets (which I'm NOT since I'm just a one-time finisher) and meet other runners.

Here I am at Twin Lakes.
If you're from sea level, show up at least three days and ideally five days in advance of the race and just hang out. This will give your body some time to acclimate. If three to five days isn't possible, show up the day before the race.

Eating at 10,000+ Feet...Sucks
Have a plan for raceday nutrition. I didn't realize that what worked for me at sea level wasn't necessarily going to work at altitude. Going into the 2011 LT100, I'm going to experiment with liquid calories such as Perpetuem, try Vespa and other products (update: My fuel will be Hammer Perpetuem and Hammer gels) and just basically figure out precisely what works for me. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to raceday nutrition. I heard that when he set the LT100 record, Matt Carpenter drank Powerbars dissolved in water. Figure out what works for you, but know that for many eating solids at 10,000+ feet can be brutal, especially late in the race.

Unlike 10Ks and Marathons, Littering isn't Allowed
Littering was a huge problem at the 2010 race. This was very unfortunate and it speaks to the huge number of inexperienced trail runners out there that day. Most ultrarunning vets would never litter. Under no circumstances should any trash be left on the trail. Pick up after yourself. When I won the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run in 2009, there were multiple times when I stopped--while in the lead--to pick up trash that I'd accidentally dropped. That is the way of the ultrarunner. I think the Leadville organizers should enforce a lifetime ban on anyone caught knowingly littering.

Take a Hike!
In the months before Leadville, work on your hiking, especially uphill hiking. You will hike some of the front side of Hope Pass and basically all of the backside of the pass. You will also hike a big portion of the Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb. Training runs are separate from training hikes, but you could incorporate both into your long outings.

My Pole Position
I carried trekking poles over Hope Pass and up the Powerline/Sugarloaf climb during the 2010 LT100. Do I recommend poles for all LT100 runners? For some runners, yes. For other runners, no. I will NOT carry them in the 2011 LT100 but my crew will have them on hand just in case. My concern about trekking poles at the LT100 is as follows--and please bear with me as I explain. Going up Hope Pass, you probably don't want to wear a Camelbak because it's too heavy. You probably want to carry a single water bottle and maybe have a second bottle on a belt. It's hard to handle a water bottle when you also have trekking poles. The same goes for Sugarloaf Pass.

Training Races
I would avoid doing the Leadville Trail Silver Rush 50-Mile Run, which many use as a training run, since it's 6-7 weeks before the 100 and I think that's not enough time to fully recover from 50 miles at altitude. Instead, I would do the Leadville Trail Marathon in early July as a trainer and plan to venture to Leadville plenty in the following weeks for training runs. Basically any race in Leadville is going to be a significant undertaking, so plan some recovery time if you opt for the marathon as a trainer. Disclaimer: The Leadville Marathon and Silver Rush 50-Mile Run are not run on the LT100 course!

Suck on a Straw
If you want a rough idea of what it's like to run at altitudes of 12,000+ feet, get on a treadmill and breathe through a straw or two for several minutes. If you live at sea level and have the resources, consider buying or renting an altitude chamber.

Head for the Hills...or Mountains
Do a lot of hill training. If you live in or near the mountains, there's your training ground.

CREW Means Cranky Runner Endless Waiting
Bring a crew and I would suggest two pacers. The crew will be critical especially from the first Twin Lakes aid station (mile 40) through the end. I would recommend at least two pacers--one who can pace you over Hope Pass and back down to Twin Lakes, and the other from Twin Lakes to the finish. Your Hope Pass pacer could also step in later in the race for relief work.

Part of Powerline. This is a shot from the bike race.
A Word on Powerline
When the chips are down and you're climbing Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass in the middle of the night with 80+ miles on your trashed legs, understand a few things. First, this is gut-check time. The Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb starts at about 78 miles and summits at ~82 miles, has many false summits and is an ass-kicker. It takes a lot of runners 90 minutes to get to the top. Second, look on the bright side; after Powerline/Sugarloaf, the big ascents are behind you! Third, if you believe in yourself, almost anything is possible. The Powerline/Sugarloaf climb is all about believing in yourself and not giving up. I made it over Powerline/Sugarloaf on experience alone. Do take a second to turn around and check out the many runners behind you, who are visible because of their headlamps. It's kind of a surreal scene.

Oh, and whatever you do, for God's sake don't miss the Powerline turnoff from the road out of Fish Hatchery like I (and a few others) did. We went a mile past the turn, adding two miles onto my race--an easy thing to do when you're tired and have been going hard all day. When you leave the Fish Hatchery, understand that the turn into Powerline is about a mile up the road on your left-hand side.

Hope Pass
The Hope Pass double crossing is, just on the numbers, the hardest section of the race. Over a distance of 20 miles, you're doing a double crossing of a 12,600-foot mountain pass that is above treeline, with over 12,000 feet of total elevation change. From Twin Lakes to the summit, you're looking at 3,400 feet of vertical climb. From the summit down to Winfield, you're losing about 2,600 feet. Now do it the other way. Add it all up and you get 12,000 feet. It takes anywhere from 5-8 hours for many runners to do this section. It's no surprise Winfield is a popular DNF spot.

Unless You Want to Camp in Your Car...
Get your race weekend lodging ASAP. Lodging in Leadville during the races goes fast. Reserve yours now.

Even in August It Snows...and Watch for Lightening Too
Bring plenty of gear, including gear for rain, snow and sleet. Colorado weather can change in an instant and afternoon thunderstorms are common in late summer.

When you get down to it, Leadville is a very runnable course. Eighty percent of Leadville, and really all of it, can be run with road shoes. For the other 20 percent, which is the Hope Pass section, LIGHTWEIGHT trail shoes would be ideal but are not required.

Keep it Light
Keep everything as lightweight as possible. At Leadville, muling is allowed. I never took advantage of this rule, to my own detriment. Let your pacer carry your Camelbak and other gear...because later in the race, like going up the Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb, carrying yourself is going to be hard enough.

Last But Not Least...Have Fun and Enjoy the Views!
The Leadville 100 is situated in an incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring section of the Rocky Mountains. The views are spectacular and you're running through some gorgeous high country while being supported. It doesn't get much better than that. The views I most relish:
  • The view of Turquoise Lake from Hagerman Pass Road on the out. It's a view I'll take with me to my grave.
  • The views from both sides of Hope Pass, especially the backside (the side closest to Winfield). It doesn't get any better than that.
  • The views of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert from the road section between Fish Hatchery and Pipeline. A lot of people hate this section but I actually like it since, at heart, I'm kind of a Road Warrior. You're looking at the two highest peaks in Colorado.
  • Runners behind me coming up Powerline at night. Surreal. Hopefully this year (2011) when I'm climbing Powerline it'll still be light out :)
  • And, of course, the finish line, where you're treated to a hero's welcome!
I used to take 100-milers super-seriously. And while I still take them seriously, I've come to realize that it's all supposed to be fun. Not everyone can or would do this, so enjoy the day, take some time (but not too much time) to show gratitude to your crew and pacers, and breathe in that crisp, refreshing (and thin) Colorado high country air!

Let me know if you have any questions! But know that there are many out there who have far more LT100 experience than I do. Consider joining the LT100 Yahoo! message board.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Charlie Sheen Tragedy and Ultrarunning

When someone is out of control and self-destructing, oftentimes we see three different types of witnesses to the tragedy unfolding. The first kind instigates the out-of-control behavior by serving as an antagonist. The more craziness they see, the more craziness they provoke, and so they in effect aid and abet in the self-destruction. Then there's the person who just stands by and watches, kind of a voyeur if you will. This person is really quite useless no matter how dismayed they may appear. The last kind is the person who tries to step in and rescue the individual who is self-destructing, or at least call for help.

We're seeing this with Charlie Sheen. The (morally bankrupt) media is provoking Charlie Sheen, who is clearly unraveling, is authoring his own self-destruction and desperately needs help. But guess what? The media doesn't care and it's not going to help. It just wants ratings. Then there's Mr. and Mrs. TV Watcher, who are just standing by observing mostly because there's little any of us can do except turn off the tube. Only no one's turning off their TV; we want to see this train-wreck. That leaves the individuals who want to help Charlie Sheen...his family, his friends. But, really, where are they?

We've seen this movie over and over and over again. It plays out not only on TV with celebrities from Charlie Sheen to Brittany Spears to Lindsey Lohan, but also in our personal lives, in our families, in the workplace and elsewhere. Lots of times it's not just the individual who harms themselves; many around them are also hurt. I hurt for Charlie Sheen, but mostly for his family.

Why do I care about what we're seeing with Charlie Sheen? Because I'm raising my son in this world.

Which brings me to the point of this post. This is a cruel world in which we live. Look at what's happening in Wisconsin with all the hate-mongering, or what happened in Tucson a few months ago. Look at what's happening daily in Washington, DC with all the finger-pointing. The murders reported daily. The nasty comments people spew at each other. Aggressive drivers. Racism. Hate speech and crimes. Labels. Etc.

In a world like this, it's easy to see why ultrarunning has such a huge appeal. It's an escape from a sick, sick world that, frankly, could use a trail run as a mental health break.

Ultrarunning removes you from the world, if only temporarily, placing you in an environment so incredibly different than the place we live in day in and day out. When you're in an ultra event, you forget about bills that need to be paid. You don't care about what's on the TV tonight. All of a sudden the ills of the world don't matter. It's just you and nature, you and the finish line, you and the next aid station, you and your crew, you and that happy volunteer. You are in the moment. And what a moment it is. Nothing else matters.

When you've gone 100 or more miles, you begin to see the world differently. Nothing is the same again. And those who haven't gone the distance could never understand this.

So it's not surprising that ultrarunning, and really long-distance running in general, is quite cleansing and reinvigorating.

If only more people got that. Maybe more people are getting it. There is, after all, a reason behind all these race sell-outs. People are escaping from the world.

Maybe Charlie Sheen should join us.