Monday, June 27, 2011

On Track for Leadville / Training Week 6/20-6/26

First off, congratulations to Kilian Jornet on his impressive win at the Western States 100 this past weekend. Kilian hails from Spain and is an incredibly talented, hard-working mountain runner. I don't think he quite has the raw speed of another freakishly talented mountain runner, Matt Carpenter (or does he?), but it'll be interesting to see what Kilian does in the coming years on the mountain running circuit. His resume already includes wins at both Western States and Mont Blanc, as well as a number of records, so it's not like he has anything else to prove! But I do wonder if Kilian could give Matt's Leadville 100 record a run for its money. And what about Kyle Skaggs' seemingly immortal 2008 Hardrock 100 record (only person to ever break 24 hours on that course)?

Check out the video below of Andy Jones-Wilkins before Western States. Notice how relaxed Andy is (he's holding a beer!). That's saying a lot because Andy seems to really live for finishing top 10 at Western--which he pretty much does every year.

Seeing Andy in this interview, and then considering how he did at Western States (9th overall with a 16:39--a new PR for him), really makes me better-understand the importance of being relaxed and loose before a huge race. I think Nick Clark, who finished 3rd overall only a few minutes behind Kilian, really looked loose in his pre-race interview, too. I watched all the other interviews and it's no surprise that the looser you seemed to be, the better you did. A few folks looked really tight and tense. For me, the takeaway is this: Stay loose and relaxed! When we arrive in Leadville a few days before the big race, I think I'll kill a few beers and just relax, laugh and enjoy the beauty of it all!

Major props to the folks at for doing such an awesome job of covering Western States!

By the way, my plan for 2012 is absolutely to enter the Western States 100 lottery. If I get in, I'll be at Squaw Valley this time next year! The deadline for entering the lottery is this October, and, yes, I know my odds aren't good. I'll keep applying until I get in.


My training for the Leadville 100 is on track and I'm really happy with my fitness and how I'm feeling overall. I'm noticing a bit more climbing power in my legs--just a gradual change at this point. For the week ending June 26, I covered 95 miles and ran for 13 hours and 11 minutes with some sweet quality mixed in.

Monday, 6/20 - Easy
AM: 7.1 miles easy on the trails around my house.

Tuesday, 6/21 - Hills
AM: Hill repeats; 10.01 miles in Parker.
PM: 3.25 miles on the treadmill.
Total miles for day: 13.26

Wednesday, 6/22 - Easy
AM: 7 miles easy on the trails around my house. Had an early morning meeting so this was all I could do.
PM: 3 miles easy on the treadmill.
Total miles for day: 10

Thursday, 6/23 - Tempo / mountains
AM: Tempo run. 9.5 miles total, 5 miles at tempo pace (about 6:20). Legs a little tired.
PM: 7 miles at Mount Falcon. 1797 feet of ascent, 1624 feet of descent (took a different way back to my car). Ran up to Walker's Dream and then back down. Legs quite tired on the descent.
Total miles for day: 16.5

Friday, 6/24 - Easy
AM: 8.35 miles easy in the Parker hills. Legs super tired from Thursday's hard workouts so I decided this was it for the day.

Saturday, 6/25 - Long
AM: 15.5 miles easy in the Parker hills. Legs much better.
PM: 3 miles easy on the treadmills.
Total miles for day: 18.5

Sunday, 6/26 - Long / mountains
AM: 17.65 miles and 3 hours flat at Mount Falcon. Gained 3333 feet and dropped 3312 feet. Got up to 7900 feet. Ran from my car to Walker's Dream, gaining 1900 feet over 5 miles, without walking a step--major progress. Then went on to the Mount Falcon summit. Felt very good the whole way but started to feel the heat in the last hour.
PM: 3.35 miles easy on the treadmill.
Total miles for day: 21

Totals for week:
  • Total miles for the week: 94.71 miles
  • Total time running: 13 hours, 11 minutes
  • Total vertical: 9,000 feet
  • Total runs: 12 (7.89 miles per run--perfect!)
  • Yoga stretches and core strengthening
Total miles for the year: 1,746.11


This Saturday, July 2 is the Leadville Trail Marathon. I'd be lying if I didn't say I want to do well. Last year I finished with a 4:55 and 28th overall and even managed to take a wrong turn and add about a half-mile onto my race. This year I'd like to run a 4:30 or better. I've been training pretty hard and will not have really tapered (just a mini-taper), so we'll see if my legs are ready for a 4:30 at Leadville this Saturday. The course is basically all between 10,000-13,200 feet, turning around at the top of Mosquito Pass. With the possible exception of the Pikes Peak Marathon, there probably isn't a harder trail marathon out there. It's a doozey, and I've heard the snow is really starting to clear in Leadville so I would imagine the trail conditions will be good.

With Saturday's trail marathon on the radar, my goal this week is 70-75 miles. I'm going to cut the mileage going into Saturday and then run fairly aggressively in the race. Whatever Sunday brings is OK with me. Last year I felt pretty good the next day.


I bought some Hoka One One Bondi B running shoes. I'll be doing a full review in a few weeks, after I've had some time to really assess the shoes. For now, here are some initial impressions:
  • Flexibility: Decent
  • Weight: Very good (even though they "look" clunky)
  • Cushioning: Excellent--probably the softest shoes I've ever worn
  • Stability: Very good
  • Sizing: Not great at all. They seem to run small and only after a few runs did I realize that my left shoe is smaller than the right. Not good! And it's too late to return them!
  • Price: Horrible--$170! Kids are starving to death in Africa and I dropped almost two bills on a pair of freaking shoes.
If you have $170 to spend and need a soft ride for your aging body, get yourself some Bondi B's and see for yourself how plush and light these bad boys are. But, if you do, consider upsizing. The Bondis, from what I've been told, handle very well on the trail. If I really like them, I'll upsize a bit and have them on my feet for the Leadville 100.


I always like to assess where things are at the year's midpoint. When I consider where I was at the beginning of the year (barely able to run due to a serious case of plantar fasciitis) and where I am now (clicking off 95 miles a week), I feel really good. I'm not very happy with my race results so far this year, but at least I'm running and enjoying my surroundings. Yes, my perspective has changed. My life is too busy and my work schedule too demanding to view running as anything but a joy. My biggest struggle right now is not letting training get too in the way of family time. Sometimes on my long runs, like Sunday's run at Mount Falcon, I start to really miss Noah and Anne. The important thing, I think, is to just enjoy it all, stay loose and not take running too seriously. As the saying goes, "Running is way too important to take too seriously." Or something like that.

Get 'er done!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mount Evans Ascent Race Report

2:41:40 and 41st out of 355 finishers (results here). Top 12 percent, meaning 88% of the field finished behind me. According to my Garmin, my total climb was about 3,501 feet and--get this--my total descent was 231 feet--all on road traveling to the top of the mighty 14,265-foot Mount Evans, nearly three miles in the sky. For comparison, the winning time was around 1:50. The conditions this year (more on that below) probably cost people 10-20 minutes at least.

The views and scenery... Uh, they were spectacular. Huge drop-offs from the road's shoulder...hundreds of feet down. More than half the race was above tree line. If you've never been above treeline, it's hard to describe...barren, exposed, windy, sometimes eery, incredible views, cold, very thin air.

Yes, these were very difficult conditions today. When the race started we had a rain/snow combination going. Lovely. In some areas with significant exposure, the winds gusted at 30-50+ miles per hour. In a few spots the wind almost took my legs out from under me. I'm not kidding when I say that. In other spots, with the wind coming right down on me, I felt like I was running in place. The few areas where the wind was at my back were wonderful--I felt like I was literally being pushed up the mountain. All of this made it very difficult for me to get and stay in a groove. But I wasn't alone in suffering through the fierce headwinds--the hundreds of other runners on the course endured the harsh gusts, too.

By the time I got to 13,000 feet I was really cold and wanting to finish this race, taking one switchback at a time. The wind chill toward the top was probably in the teens. Lots of cars were coming and going in both directions, requiring attention and care.

I finished, collected my summit bag, quickly checked out the views and then hopped in the van to get a ride back down to Echo Lake. My fingers were numb and purple. They're OK now. I asked a bunch of Mount Evans veterans what they thought of this year's conditions and they all agreed that the weather today was ferocious.

Having run 13.5 hours and just shy of 94 miles last week and not really tapering for Evans this week, I think it's entirely plausible that my legs were a little flat. With Leadville on the horizon, I just think tapering for a 14.4-mile race is a mistake. I'm not even really going to taper for the Leadville Marathon on 7/2. But throughout Evans my legs never felt sore or beat-up, and I never felt depleted. From a pure endurance standpoint, the race didn't trash me at all. What got to me was the wind and high altitude.

My splits for the Mount Evans Ascent aren't very impressive and they reveal that I had a tough time with the elevation.

Note that the above says "2:47." I thought I pressed the "stop" button on my Garmin when I finished, but I guess my fingers were so cold that I didn't. So my watch ran for ~6 additional minutes while I got my bag and regrouped.

The Mount Evans Ascent has shown me that no matter how hard I train or how fit I may be, it's going to take time for me to truly be able to race at altitude. There's something a lot of these Colorado mountain runners have that I don't *yet* have--and I think it has something to do with being accustomed to high altitude and the acquired physiological capacity to run well at elevation. So today really showed me that I need to continue to be patient, keep training hard and with focus and let it all come to me. I am confident that eventually I'll make a breakthrough and achieve the kind of success I used to experience once again.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: In races out East, you can more or less let it rip, with experience playing a role. At high altitude, yes, you need to be shape, but you have to have a lot of experience. Without that experience, most everyone, including the supremely fit, will suffer at nearly 3 miles in the sky. Experience comes with time. And so I'll remain patient and just enjoy running because it is, after all, a gift.


After the race I enjoyed a fantastic lunch and good times with Lucho (4th overall with a 2:00), George Z. (top masters and 8th with a 2:15), Adam F. (top grand masters and 11th overall with a 2:19) and a few others. It was great to hang out with these guys and hear their race reports and war stories. Hats off to them for great performances on the day!


Grades for the Mount Evans Ascent:

Organization: A
Course: A
Volunteers: A
Aid station fare: A (though I've never been a fan of Heed)
Post-race fare: A
Transportation of runners: A
Overall experience: A
Weather: D (no one's fault but Mother Nature's!)

This is a first-class race with a long history. Put it on your calendar for 2012!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mount Evans Ascent Thoughts

All of a sudden the Mount Evans Ascent, which is tomorrow (6/18), is occupying my thoughts. When I signed up for Evans a few months ago, my thinking was, "Well, this is a famous race and it's an opportunity to check Evans off of my 14'ers list, so why the hell not? Plus, it'll be a good training run for Leadville!"

Well, I'm now wondering what I can do at Evans tomorrow--which may not be much for all I know since it's between 10,600 feet and 14,265 feet. One of the reasons I'm wondering what I can do at Evans is that I've always been, at heart, a road guy. I love trails but, when you get down to it, my best performances--from 5K to 24 hours--have been on the road (marathon notwithstanding...).

All of that said, the fact of the matter is that I'm still pretty inexperienced at high altitude, and I've never stepped foot on Evans, so my expectations for tomorrow's "sky race" are quite conservative. In my mind, I'd like to do the 14.3-mile race in under 2:20, which would be respectable but not blazing fast. In looking at the elevation profile (linked to the right), here are some basics:
  • Gains 3,665 feet in 14.3 miles, which comes to an average gain of 256 feet every mile.
  • 256 feet per mile may not sound too bad, but when you consider that the entire race is between 10,600 feet and 14,265 feet and that the difficulty becomes exponentially greater especially above 13,000 feet, we have a major challenge on our hands.
So where did I get my 2:20 goal? Here goes:

Miles 1-4
Gains about 1,400 feet. Mile 4 marks 12,000 feet. I think on this section you can run somewhat aggressively, but not too aggressively because you don't want to set yourself up for oxygen debt.
8:00 minutes/mile=32 minutes. Note: This might be too fast.

Miles 5-8
Gains about 1,000 feet, but you're now over 12,000 feet so you're going to be feeling it. Mile 8 marks 13,000 feet.
9:00 minutes/mile=36 minutes
Total running time: 68 minutes

Miles 8-12
You're now over 13,000 feet so you're going to be feeling it in a big way, especially if the wind is kicking up. Up here, regardless of how fit you may be, the air is so thin that you might be light-headed, sick to your stomach, fighting apathy and about 50% there mentally. You're in slow motion. Your body is putting out tons of effort, but you're going slow! The good news is that this stretch doesn't have a huge amount of elevation gain--maybe 500 feet. It also includes a few descents where you can let gravity do some of the work.
10:30 minutes/mile=42 minutes
Total running time: 110 minutes

Miles 12-14.3
This final section will be a grind! You're now running between 13,500 feet and 14,265 feet with the good possibility of high winds and dicey weather. You have 2.3 miles to go and this section brings about 730 feet of climb way up in the air where oxygen is quite thin! Lots of switchbacks up here, too, which can be mentally draining.
13:00 minutes/mile=~30 minutes
Project finished time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

In theory, this seems reasonable to me. But when you're that high, theory doesn't count for much; you have to find a way to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The key isn't to push the pace; it's to run on feel, listen to my body and be disciplined because the last thing I want is to go into oxygen debt.

Yeah, this isn't your average road race! This is the Mount Evans Ascent!

We'll see what happens!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wishing Anton Krupicka All the Best

Anton (right) at the 2010 Western States 100
with winner Geoff Roes. Anton and Geoff battled it
out until the very end.
A few days ago I read some sad news on Anton Krupicka's blog. On the heels of a difficult few months in which Anton has battled some nagging injuries following his strong Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile performance in February, he had a bad fall and sustained a potentially serious leg injury. True to his character, Anton's taking the injury in stride and showing a great attitude, though as a super-elite ultrarunner he's obviously got to be quite down in the dumps.

As many know, even at such a young age Anton is something of an iconic figure in ultrarunning lore. He's a legendary mountain runner with an equally legendary work ethic and passion, often logging 150-200+ miles per week. He loves the mountains and finds inspiration in Colorado's mighty peaks, starting with those in his own backyard in beautiful Boulder. When you look at Anton, you see a free spirit with long hair, no shirt, no GPS, no iPod and no elaborate hydration system to speak of. You see a guy who runs for the love of it. In Anton, you see the very essence of the ultrarunner and mountain runner. You also see someone who lives the way we all wish, deep down, we could live.

I wanted to write this blog because Anton has inspired me for many years. When we lived in Ohio and I dreamed of running the Rocky Mountains, a big part of that inspiration came from Anton's blog. I would read his captivating, descriptive accounts of training runs, such as a 50-mile training run in Leadville, or of his daily jaunts up and back down Green Mountain in Boulder, and dream of one day running the Rockies. I'm not alone--Anton has thousands of fans, and I'm proud to be among them.

Last year at the Leadville 100 I briefly spoke with Anton. Like so many of our sport's superstars, he's an approachable, likeable and humble person. With a resume full of huge achievements, including two Leadville 100 wins, he has every reason to be arrogant, but he's not. Far from it. He knows who he is and where he's from (Nebraska, if it's of any interest to you).

Here's to wishing one of the sport's all time greats, Anton Krupicka, a speedy recovery and return to the trails.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Training week 6/6-6/12

Another solid week in the books:

Monday, 6/6 - EASY
AM: 5 miles easy. Had just gotten home from Atlanta and grabbed these miles on the treadmill while Noah napped.

Tuesday, 6/7 - MOUNTAINS
AM: 15 miles on Mount Herman Road in Monument, Colorado. This was kind of a frustrating run because I couldn't find the trailhead to the summit (~9,300 feet). And so I just ran the road and made the best of the situation. Fortunately, I got in 2,100 feet of vertical and 2,100 feet of smooth descent. I ran the downs pretty hard. High point was 8,800 feet.

Wednesday, 6/8 - EASY
AM: 9.75 miles easy in the Parker hills on mostly dirt roads
PM: 3.25 miles easy on the treadmill
Total miles: 13.0

Thursday, 6/9 - TEMPO RUN
AM: 5 miles at tempo pace, 10.31 miles total, in the Parker hills. After a 1-mile warm-up, I kicked it into high gear. Splits for my tempo miles were 6:17, 6:17, 6:19, 6:22, and 6:28. The next 3.3 miles were at easy/cooldown pace. That last tempo split (6:28) sticks out in a not-so-good way. By then my legs were tired and so I cut it short. My goal was 6 miles at tempo pace.
PM: 3.25 miles easy
Total miles: 13.56

Friday, 6/10 - MOUNTAINS
AM: 7 miles easy in the Parker hills
PM: 7.2 miles in Roxborough State Park. I didn't have tons of time so what I did was run up to Carpenter's Peak (elevation 7,200 feet) and then back down. Total vertical gain was just 1,220 feet, but it was nice to get on the trails and get in some moderate climb and trail work. Even at 7,200 feet, the views from Carpenter Peak are impressive.
Total miles: 14.2

Saturday, 6/11 - MEDIUM LONG RUN
AM: 12 miles easy in the Parker hills. A stiff head wind from the south/southwest made for a crappy experience. I was exhausted when I returned home, having battled the gusts in the last 4 miles.
PM: 4.1 miles on the treadmill
Total miles: 16.1

Sunday, 6/12 - MOUNTAINS
AM: 16.5 miles/3+ hours on the Barr Trail going up Pikes Peak. Due to limited time, I turned around at 11,100 feet. Felt pretty good, but not great, on the long climb and was working fairly hard on the W's. The elevation beyond Barr Camp was a bit of a challenge. 4,775 feet of vertical and the same amount of descent. Just short of 10,000 feet of combined elevation change in a single run can never be a bad thing.

FYI, I do most of my PM running on the 'mill because of family circumstances. Noah loves to be in the basement with me while I'm running on the 'mill--good bonding time. The important thing is that, in a given week this time of year, 80% of my running is outside, where it counts the most.

Weekly totals:
  • Total miles for the week: 93.39
  • Total time running: 13:45
  • 10 total runs (average run was 9.3 miles--right on target)
  • 10,000 feet of vertical, 10,000 feet of descent
  • Yoga stretches and core strengthening
Total miles for the year: 1,580.39

My goal this week is to cut back a bit, nailing about 70-75 miles. I think it's time for some recovery and, also, this Saturday is the Mount Evans Ascent, a classic road race up a huge mountain. This is going to be a difficult race as it's all between 10,600-14,265 feet--likely with high winds mixed in. We'll see what happens. My plan after finishing is to take the shuttle back down to Echo Lake and then run the trails for a few miles. Originally I was planning to run back down to my car. But having done a few road ultras in my day, including 131 miles on the road in one clip, I think running ~29 miles on pavement this Saturday, with some important races in Leadville coming up, is a bit much.

Lucho posted some great photos of Evans here.


After Mount Evans, the schedule is the Leadville Trail Marathon on July 2 and then the Leadville Trail 100-Mile on August 20. The Leadville 100 is obviously a goal race of mine, but I really want to see some improvement at the Leadville Marathon. Last year I finished in 4:55 (28th place) and this year I'd like to see a finish under 4:30. It's a tough course, with the turnaround at the top of Mosquito Pass (13,185 feet), and right now Leadville is still buried in snow, so we'll see.


That brings me to the current course conditions in Leadville. Right now most of the course is still buried in snow. I've been told from the start to Mayqueen is mostly clear. Hagerman Pass up to Sugarloaf Pass is still buried. Powerline is clearing fast. I'm unaware of what the trail from Powerline down to Twin Lakes is like--probably snowy. And of course Hope Pass is still far from runnable unless you want to post-hole. So these conditions, for which we can thank near-record snowfall and an epic winter in the Rockies, are certainly going to delay on-course training. My time is such that I'm not going to spend a combined 4.5 hours in the car if it means stomping through feet of snow in Leadville. So I'm going to ride it out a little longer and hope these warm temps get the course clear ASAP! I do think it's going to be probably 4-6 weeks before Hope Pass is clear, which means my training there will be taking place in late July through early August. Not ideal, but also not the end of the world.

Get 'er done!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review: I'm Here to Win, by Chris McCormack

When I was asked by a promotional firm to review Chris McCormack's new book, I'm Here to Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Performance, I was immediately stoked. The reasons are threefold. First, though ultrarunning and racing 100-milers is my first love, I've always been interested in dipping my toes in the Ironman triathlon waters (and seeing what's harder--Ironmans or 100-milers). Second, I really admire "Macca," as he's affectionately known. Like all the great ones, his success is as much about hard work, sacrifice and mental toughness as it is about talent, and so I put a lot of stock in what the 37-year-old world champ says (I took up yoga on his advice via Runner's World). Third, Macca is probably the greatest triathlete of all time with apologies to the legendary Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Bonus: I LOVE to review books by endurance athletes!

Although I knew a little about Macca before reading his book, my knowledge of triathlon and his incredible resume was fairly limited. Probably like you, every year I watch the Kona, Hawaii World Championship race, which is aired by NBC on tape-delay and is significantly shortened (and rife with trite stories). Thanks to Macca's book, I now have a better understanding of the sport, tactics and strategies for success, and what it takes to complete a race like Kona, which is on my "bucket list."

Macca was born in Sydney, Australia in 1973 (he's two months older than I am). After a short stint in accounting after graduating from the University of New South Wales, he came to realize that triathlon was his passion and life's pursuit. Every day behind a desk was a day he was dying. So Macca quit his job, sold off all of his possessions and entered the European circuit with nothing but hopes and dreams. As a kid, he dreamed of future greatness in the sport with his best friend, Sean Maroney, who tragically died in an accident just as Macca's career was really taking off. Macca experienced another huge tragedy in his life with the death of his mother, perhaps his greatest supporter, to breast cancer (he's now a philanthropic champion of breast cancer research). Through it all, he's benefited from a strong support network consisting of his wife, Emma-Jane, and their daughters, his dad, his trainer, Mick, and others. These people are truly part of Team Macca and play an intimate role in his planning, training and racing.

In I'm Here to Win, Macca pulls no punches. This will come as no surprise to those who've followed him for years. Over the course of his very honest, fun and reader-friendly 261-page autobiography, which he co-authored with Tim Vandehey, Macca tells his life story, shares his secrets and in more than a few areas recounts "war" stories. A huge part of his book is devoted to the Ford Ironman World Championship held in Kona, Hawaii. It took Macca several years before he finally nailed Kona, breaking the tape in 2007 and again in 2010. Prior to 2007, Macca had failed six times at Kona despite winning just about every major triathlon in the world. His problem at hot, humid Kona had always been cramping.

Macca is quite cocky, extremely outspoken, passionate about his loves, an avid learner...and incredibly likable. What I most like about his book is his honesty. He's not mealy-mouthed or "awe-shucks" in telling his story; he allows you to get to know him for better or worse, what makes him tick and why he's so damned successful for a guy who's now not far from the big 4-0.

What is the key to Macca's success? Well, sure, he's incredibly talented and fit, but he's also a big guy, weighing in at around 178 pounds. I was astonished by his size. A guy that size would probably never be an elite ultrarunner (I'm 167 and pretty big compared to others). Macca's most dangerous weapon is his mind. He's truly a student of the sport (kind of like Peyton Manning in football), painstakingly studying his competitors and exploiting their strengths and weaknesses like his hero, Muhammad Ali, did back in the day.

Macca's also quite aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. It took a bodybuilder's advice for Macca to finally overcome his cramping problem at Kona, discovering a way to better-hydrate his muscles before a race (more on that below). The guy is a bit arrogant, yes, but, when you get down to it, Macca is humble enough to search out new insights, turn over as many rocks as he can and continually re-evaluate his results. Like all the great ones, he is driven to be the best and knows he can always improve.

The book is divided into 14 chapters, with a captivating foreword by six-time Ironman world champion Mark Allen. Each chapter is sub-divided into short sections, making I'm Here to Win a very easy read for those of us with only a few minutes to spare here and there.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the chapter about Macca's war with Normann Stadler and Faris Al-Sultan, both from Germany, following the 2006 Kona race. Macca had narrowly finished second behind Stadler in the race, with Al-Sultan coming in  third. Macca's comments in the post-race press conference, where he said, "I never realized that Norman Stadler was that good," set off a firestorm. Calling out Macca's "tactical bullshit," Al-Sultan dismissed the Australian as "a pussy." Nasty confrontations ensued. Ultimately, this all led to Macca devoting 2007 to embarrassing Al-Sultan and Stadler (he's now friends with Stadler) by showing up at every race they were in and winning. And that's just what Macca did in 2007, capping off the year with an impressive win at Kona--his first at Hawaii.

Incidentally, Macca says in his book that he's usually at his best when he's pissed off. So the Al-Sultan and Stadler melee only served to fuel the fire in his belly.

I also loved the chapter on Macca's 2010 Kona race, which he descibes as his "masterpiece" and which might have been his last hurrah at the Hawaii world championship (according to the book, Macca will not return to Kona in 2011). In the race, Macca battled it out with Andrea Raelert of Germany, with the two exchanging a famous handshake in the final few miles (watch the linked video--it's incredible when they share a sponge and shake hands). To that point, never had the winner broken away so close to the finish line--not even in the legendary "Iron War" in 1989 between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. But within a mile of the finish the ailing Raelert had to take Coke and water and it was here that Macca dropped the hammer and broke the tape for his second--and maybe the greatest-ever--Kona victory.

A few interesting nuggets I gleaned from Macca's book and am delighted to share with you:
  • Despite what exercise physiologists say, Coca-Cola is an excellent souce of fuel during races, delivering a nice dose of sugar and caffeine. Macca "discovered" Coke on the advice of a fellow triathlete, and just about any endurance athlete will tell you the stuff works wonders. It's saved my ass on more than a few occasions when my stomach went south and I needed calories.
  • The key to optimal raceday performance, especially in the heat, is hydrating the muscles in the weeks leading up to competition. As Macca learned from a successful French bodybuilder who he says did it the right way (read: no steroids), there are two types of hydration: muscular-skeletal hydration and blood plasma hydration. Most of us hydrate only at the blood plasma level. Before contests, bodybuilders consume huge amounts of water along with electrolytes, hydrating their muscles (and blood, too). This ultimately helps stave off cramps. As Macca learned, hydrating only a few days before Kona isn't enough and can lead to cramping and diminished performance in the heat. What he needed to do was heavily hydrate with water and electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium) in order to reach the muscles--a time-consuming process that takes a few weeks. Macca heeded the advice and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Adjust your training as you age. Recognizing his own age and the fact that he's competing with guys ten or more years his junior, Macca trains smartly, incorporating rest and recovery so he can stay fresh and keep the needle below the red. This comes from confidence in his own abilities and lots of discipline but especially from his psychological advantage over those who are younger and perhaps more talented.
  • Learn to play the mental game. Like Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, Macca is a master of psychological warfare. He has a knack for getting inside the heads of his opponents and creating doubts and insecurities deep within them that he can exploit in races to his own benefit. Macca is the first to tell you that he's beaten a good number of guys who were more talented but lacked the psychological advantage or were, in his words, "mental milkshakes." For example, before a race, Macca might say something like, "Well, Frank Smith is certainly one of the sport's top cyclists and a super strong swimmer, but in his last race he struggled a bit on the bike, especially late in the ride, and so we'll see what he does tomorrow." With that comment, Macca's served up a compliment along with some psychological warfare by creating doubt in his competitor's mind. It seems to work for him! Psychological warfare happens in ultrarunning, too. I read enough blogs by the elites to know it's a key part of success.
This is an outstanding book for professional, amateur and aspiring triathletes, age-groupers and endurance athletes in any sport--from ultrarunning and marathoning to cycling and swimming. Get your copy now!

I'm Here to Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Peformance, by Chris McCormack with Tim Vandehey, published by Center Street, is recommended.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Track and Doing What I Need to Do / Western States 100 Prediction

I'm back from a four-day trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where Noah and I visited my mom and dad and my brother and his family. We had a great time, but was it ever hot! The temperature hit the mid to high 90s and the humidity was crazy. Needless to say, my runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings along the Chattahoochee River in Roswell (which is north of Atlanta) were quite uncomfortable. My clothes were super-soaked and even my shoes were wet from all the sweat flying everywhere. I lost a lot of fluid but was able to rehydrate after every run. However, I did fall short of my 90-mile goal for the week, getting to "only" 82 miles. The heat simply took a toll on me.

If there's one rule I've learned in the last year, it's this:

Listen to your body, keep the needle just below the red and understand that some days are for fighting and others are for chilling.
As I was pounding the hot pavement in sweltering conditions in "Hot-Lanta," I realized that blindly chasing my 90-mile goal in these conditions, which I'm no longer used to since Denver is so dry, was misguided, so I adjusted my goal and still managed a decent week.

Monday, 5/30: 14.25 miles at Mount Falcon. 3007/2975
Tuesday, 5/31: 10 miles in the Parker hills. 603/593
Wednesday, 6/1: 10 miles in the Parker hills. 578/573
Thursday, 6/2: 9 miles on the trails in Parker. 668/676
Friday, 6/3: 11 miles in Hot-Lanta along the Chattahoochee River. Incredibly hot. 629/674.
Saturday, 6/4: 14 miles in Hot-Lanta along the river. Even hotter! 803/863
Sunday, 6/5: 13.05 miles total, 8 at tempo pace in Hot-Lanta. Ridiculously hot once again (only 6:40 pace due to the heat).
  • Total miles for the week: 81.3
  • Yoga stretches and core strengthening
  • Total time: 11 hours, 18 minutes
  • Mileage for year: 1487
With a slow start to the year due to my foot injury, my aggregate mileage is down a little compared to previous years. I'd still love to make a run at 4,000 miles, but what I want even more is to stay healthy! As of right now I'm comfortable saying my foot is 80%. Three months ago it was 50%. Six months ago I wasn't able to run....

Goals for next week (6/6-6/12): 90-95 miles. 2-3 mountain runs. One quality tempo run.


In the wake of the Jemez 50-mile race, I've really stepped up my mountain training and made it a priority for the next 2.5 months. Yesterday (Tuesday), which was my first full day back home from Atlanta, I did a 15-miler at Mount Herman in Monument. Mount Herman reaches 9,300 feet. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the summit trailhead from Mount Herman Road, so I got to "only" 8,700 feet but still managed 2,100 feet of nice vertical and 2,100 feet of fast descent. The last 6 miles alone I lost 1,600 feet and was cruising. I've found that increasing my cadence on the downs really makes a difference. I've always had issues with my stride being too long--a long stride on long descents is a killer and it's no wonder I've sprained my right ankle so much in the past year. So I'm really working on my downhill running form and seeing results.

This week I'm planning two more mountain outings--Roxborough State Park on Friday evening and something really adventurous on Sunday morning (maybe Pikes Peak, Mount Evans or something else). My goal for the week is 90 miles. I'm planning a tempo run on Thursday morning--gotta keep the turnover going well.

The Mount Evans Ascent is June 18. The run starts at 10,600 feet and tops out at the summit of Evans, which is over 14,200 feet in the sky. It's a 14.5-mile road run that is going to hurt (while offering beautiful views everywhere)! Since this isn't a goal race, I'll be happy with a time under 2:15 or 2:20. This will be a high-altitude training run, and I also wanted to do Evans since it's a legendary race and 14'er I really want to summit. I might run back down to my car for ~29 miles on the day. We'll see. If not, then I'll run around Echo Lake when I get back to my car.


We recently learned that Anne's work schedule is changing. For the past year she's worked every other Saturday morning. As far as running (and in many other regards that I won't go into), this has been a challenge. For one thing, most ultras are held on Saturdays. Also, when she's working, I can't run long since Noah is so young and needs one of us with him. As of July 1, she'll no longer work Saturdays. Runningwise, this means a lot more flexibility (but, best of all, it means more time together as a family). There is now a chance I may now go down to the Hardrock Hundred on July 8-9 and make myself available as a pacer. I think July is going to be a big training month for me, as in 410+ miles. The key is to stay healthy!


Based on stuff I've seen and heard from people I trust, I'm really thinking seriously about getting some Hoka Bondis or Mafates for the Leadville Marathon and Leadville 100. Bondis are road shoes and Mafates are for trails. These are very hot shoes right (and hard to find, too). They look like tanks but they're actually pretty light and very supportive. I'm leaning toward the Bondis, which I believe are under 10 ounces (Mafates are slightly heavier) and I think would work quite well on the Leadville 100 course. Leadville is actually a very runnable course that I think would favor a lighter shoe. Unfortunately, Hokas are $170 a pair. Yikes!


I always get excited about the Western States 100. Last year's race was epic, with Geoff Roes overtaking Anton Krupicka for the win and Kilian Jornet not far behind. This year's race is going to once again feature a stacked field. Interestingly, the region has gotten hammered with snow, creating some questions about the course. Will it be re-routed like last year? We'll see. I plan to enter the 2012 WS100 lottery and hope to experience it all firsthand!

Here's a list of some of the super-stars who'll be toeing the line at the 2011 race (apologies to those not included--I'm sure I missed some names so please let me know if I did):
  • Todd Braje (2010 USATF 100-mile national champ at Burning River)
  • Jez Bragg (3rd in 2009)
  • Nick Clark (4th in 2010)
  • Graham Cooper (2006 champ)
  • Scott Jaime (2nd at Hardrock in 2008 and a fast guy from Colorado)
  • Kilian Jornet (3rd in 2010)
  • Hal Koener (2007 and 2009 champ)
  • Dave Mackey (previously 2nd at WS)
  • Geoff Roes (reigning champ)
  • Ian Sharman (8th in 2010; scorching fast, record-breaking time at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100-miler)
  • Andy Jones-Wilkins (many times a top-10 finisher)
  • Mike Wolfe (WS rookie)
  • Tsuyoshi Kaburaki (2nd in 2009)
Anton would be on the list and a top contender but he's injured from what I've heard. I think it's going to be a very close race, with probably three guys in the hunt late in the race. My prediction for top 5:
  1. Roes - WS history shows that it's a race for repeat champs. Who is better than Roes? The guy has never lost a 100-miler! But I do think he's raced a lot this year. I wonder how fresh his legs are. The safe bet is that Geoff will show up primed for an ass-kicking. I also think that if the course is snowy, Roes, who is from Juneau, Alaska (and lives in snowy Nederland, Colorado during the academic year), will totally be in his element, along with Kilian, and will also run strong in the hot canyons and beyond.
  2. Mackey - Undefeated in 2011 with three big wins at the 50-mile to 100K distances. Parenthetically, Mackey paced Roes in for the win last year, so imagine the drama if the two are in a chase with the track in sight, which wouldn't surprise me at all. Mackey is a grizzled WS veteran and, from what I've heard, one tough dude. He's had some stomach issues at WS in the past, so we'll see what happens.
  3. Clark - Is in incredible shape right now. He's fresh off a record-setting performance at the Jemez 50-miler and will be duking it out with Roes and Mackey late in the race. But he's raced a lot this year, with an aggressive effort at Jemez, so we'll see how fresh he is. I am still astonished by his Jemez performance. FYI, he's doing Hardrock right after Western States. He'll obviously be a top contender at Hardrock, too.
  4. Jornet - A big part of me says the Spaniard is going to win since he now has a year under his belt and his mountain-running and snow-running skills are off the charts. He's also so young. This is a tough one. I would not be at all surprised if Kilian wins. Again, a snowy course would favor Kilian and Geoff.
  5. Koerner - The wily two-time champ who is healthy and running very well could sneak up on everyone and win. I've always admired Hal's toughness and he seems like a super good guy, too. Never, ever count out Hal Koerner.
Any of those five guys along with a few others, such as Jaime (who is very hungry for a big performance), Bragg, Braje, Kaburaki and Sharmin, could win (who else am I missing?). I'll be watching rookie Shaun Pope from Cleveland, a hotbed of ultrarunning with folks like Mark Godale and Connie Gardner. Shaun's a fast, fast guy (probably similar to Ian Sharmin) who qualified in with a win at Ice Age. Shaun is a big-time up and comer but unfortunately doesn't live in the mountains. He's young and has a great future in the sport and is the best talent out of Cleveland since Godale.

On the women's side, here are my predictions for top three:
  1. Meghan Arbogast
  2. Tracy Garneau (women's winner in 2010)
  3. Kami Semick
If I left anyone off, let me know!