Friday, December 21, 2012

Looking Back on 2012, and Looking Ahead to a Great 2013

While I always try to enjoy the day I'm in, I'm glad 2012 is coming to an end. It's been a great year on a few fronts. I started an awesome new job back in February and, in that respect, life is good. Most importantly, all is well with my family and we're enjoying good health. We lost out beloved dog, Sophie, in April, but we got a super fun little golden retriever, Nicholas, in July.

All that aside, this has not been a good year on many fronts. We saw horrible wildfires, including the devastating fire in Colorado Springs. We've seen unspeakable tragedies in Aurora, Newtown, Westminster, etc. Basically, in 2012 we've seen a lot of evil. Also, the year was full of a lot of negative energy stemming from the (toxic) presidential election.

As far as running, 2012 has mostly been a bad year with a few bright spots here and there. Obviously my Leadville DNF is a black cloud over the year. That was my goal race and it didn't work out because of a bum knee. But I saw some decent performance at the Cheyenne Mountain 50K in late April and the Mt. Evans Ascent in mid-June.

At Cheyenne, I was strong but not fast--no other words for it. At Mt. Evans, I saw a huge 24-minute improvement over my previous year's time, which can be attributed in part to far better weather. I was in good shape then. The Golden Gate Dirty Thirty was a bad race--I didn't feel like running that day (which was red flag #1 in terms of the burnout that would eventually take a real toll on my body). The Leadville Marathon in late June was so-so--I pretty much matched my 2011 time despite feeling a tad under the weather. Again, I just wasn't into racing that day, which is incredible because I like racing.

By the time I toed the line in August for the Leadville 100, I was burned out and physically beaten up. Lack of quality sleep in July (because of the new puppy, God bless him) had destroyed me to the point that my body simply couldn't keep up with the training I was doing, and so I went into the race not in a good place physically (or mentally). Something had to give, and it's what brought me to that DNF.

My last race of the year, the Trot for the Troops 5K, resulted in a third-place finish despite a missed turn that added quite a bit to my time. It was a fitting end to the year.

I'm glad to close the book on 2012. For the year, I'm going to run about 3,500 miles. Those 3,500 miles didn't get me much, except a few decent performance here and there and maybe a solid base to work from when my Phoenix Marathon training kicked off a few months ago. I have to say these past few months have been super solid.

I'm hopeful about 2013! I've trained hard for Phoenix, really focusing on specificity and marathon-goal pace runs. My volume has been between 65-71 miles a week, which is a tad low. I should be able to hit 80 miles next week. If I don't break three hours at Phoenix and preferably get around a 2:55, then I'll know I need more volume for fast marathons. But at this point I'm focusing on being ready mentally and physically. I'm proud of the training I've done and I'll be ready to go on January 20.

I believe all this quality for Phoenix lays a great foundation for the 2013 trail running season. When I look back on my years of running, it's impossible not to notice that my best years have coincided with strong marathon efforts.

After taking a few weeks to rest and cross-train post-Phoenix, I'll be spending a lot more time on the trail, preferably the Incline, just enjoying myself. My Leadville 100 training this year will focus on:
  • Looooong runs
  • A lot more on-course training
  • Long tempo runs
There won't be as many junk miles in there. I've come to believe deeply in the power of the super long run, and I know that to regain my confidence at Leadville I need to spend time on the course.

Looking longer term, in 2014 I think I'm going to start seriously considering this race, (which, from a timing standpoint, would also allow me to do this race), but I won't pull the trigger until I do this other race first. Yeah, I believe in building up to the ultimate mountain challenge. Of course, this huge bucket list item is also waiting to be checked off. But, first things first--I need to reestablish myself as a strong Leadville 100 finisher!

Here's to a great 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Running is There for Me When I Need It

Once again in my life, running is there for me when I'm troubled. We're all dealing with the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut in our own ways. For me, running has been an outlet as I try to process and make sense of this horrific situation. As a father of a young child, the tragedy has hit home in a big, big way. Not since the September 11, 2001, attacks has the foundation of my very being been shaken so badly. Our entire nation is reeling. Indeed, this was a tipping point in finally dealing with our nation's failed mental health system and obsession with violence. This tragedy is every parent's worst nightmare. It doesn't get any worse, and so parents all across this nation are terrified, angry and downright depressed.

Like many, I continue to deal with the Newtown tragedy in stages. On Friday, as I read the news reports coming in, I felt shock and desperately needed information. I wanted to hug my son and hold him tight. On Saturday, I felt anger and despair. I even considered applying for a concealed weapon permit--something that would have been unimaginable a few days earlier since I hate guns (thankfully, I've since disregarded the idea). On Sunday, I was depressed. On Monday, all I wanted was to be close to my son. On my run this morning, I experienced a lot of emotion as I thought about the victims and those beautiful, innocent children who were taken from their families. I'm not afraid to admit that I've cried. I do a tough-guy/tough-girl sport, but inside I'm just a big teddy bear, and anyone who knows me is well aware of that fact.

In times of crisis, it's important that we all have a productive outlet. For me, it's always been running. For others, it might be art, or walking, or cooking.

The Newtown tragedy has reminded me, once again, of the scary fact that there are monsters out there who wish to harm even the most innocent among us--in this case, first-graders, as well as dedicated teachers and school administrators. Simply put, there are very bad people out there, and it's important that they be identified, get the help they need and, if necessary, be removed from society.

None of that happened in this case. And now we have lives taken, families devastated, a community shattered and a nation shaken to its core.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Renato Canova / Training Update

Occasionally I come across an article that really causes me think hard about how I train.  A brilliant feature appearing August 16 in Running Times is one such example. The article profiles Renato Canova, an Italian running coach who has produced many of the world's finest marathoners and recently landed American superstar Ryan Hall.

Basically, Canova advocates specificity in training. What does that mean? It means you train a lot at your marathon goal pace (MGP). He sees very limited value in, say, doing a long run that's considerably slower than your MGP and, for matter, doing tempo runs of 5 or 6 miles won't adequately prepare you for what you'll face in your goal marathon. In Canova's words, "...if the mileage is too slow, you don't produce anything.... The problem is the tempo at the good speed is too short. So there is no connection with the marathon. And the long [run] for the marathon is too slow."

So what does Canova suggest we do? He says we should "increase the volume and the duration and the single length of every type of interval at this type of speed [marathon goal pace]. We need to extend the ability to run at the speed you want and you can produce." In other words, pace is more important than distance.

Canova's system basically involves two stages. Stage one involves short speed and strength building, and stage two brings increased distance and more goal-pace running. Unlike many marathon training programs, Canova doesn't advocate a base-building stage with lots of slow miles. Eventually, you work up to killer sessions like a long run of 17-24 miles at about 95 percent of your marathon pace. For me, since 6:40 is my MGP for Phoenix, that would break down to a per-mile pace of 7:00 minutes.

If you're a runner who is always looking for better ways to train, I highly encourage you to read that article and consider Canova's approach in your next build-up. I've tried to incorporate some of his principles into my Phoenix training, but for my next cycle I'll be looking to go even further.

By the way, I think Canova's practices could potentially apply to even ultrarunning.


Speaking of great coaches, Jack Daniels has come out with a new running calculator (please note that the calculator works best with Firefox). According to the calculator, a 3:05 marathon (7:04 pace) at Denver's 5,280 feet comes out to a 2:59 at Phoenix's 1,100 feet. I feel fairly confident I could run a 3:05 marathon in Denver. To run a 2:55 in Phoenix, I would need to run a 3:01 here in Denver.


My Phoenix Marathon training is pretty much where I want it to be. I had planned a 20-miler on Sunday but extremely cold weather, combined with widespread snow and ice that created dicey footing, made that pretty difficult. So I ran a slow 17-miler and then put in a few more fast miles later in the day for good measure. On the week that just ended, I ran just shy of 71 miles with really good quality on Tuesday (intervals) and Thursday (tempo).

My taper starts in just four weeks and, between now and then, I want to work in more marathon goal pace running (a la Canova). That means intervals that are at slightly faster than goal pace...and more of them. It means long runs with many miles near marathon goal pace. It means hard work. I hope the weather cooperates.

I'm happy to report that my foot is improving. I never got the problem diagnosed, but I still think it's a case of metatarsalgia. My foot has responded to icing and immobilization during sleep. It's great to finally have some good response to therapy while still training. I haven't had such luck in a few years, as the injuries I've experienced of late have required shutdowns. I'm still not free of discomfort in my foot, but the problem is 50 times better than it was a few weeks ago. I'm hoping it'll clear up during my taper.

At any rate, I think all of this marathon training is going to establish a great foundation for the 2013 trail racing season!


I'm still thinking a lot about my 2013 schedule. It's kind of sad that we're now at the place where we have to register for races months in advance. When I first got into this sport, you could still register for many races on the day of the event. At this point, beyond the givens (Phoenix Marathon in January and Leadville 100 in August), I'm considering the Salida trail marathon in March and a 50-mile mountain race in May. I'm also intrigued by the UROC 100K, which will be held in Vail five weeks after Leadville. At this point, I'm leaning toward not running the Leadville Trail Marathon, as that very weekend I'm planning to train on the course. As crazy as it may sound, I'm also super dedicated to breaking 25 minutes on the Incline in 2013.


Speaking of races you can't get into, in looking over the Western States 100 lottery results, a few names stand out:
  • Karl Meltzer: A lot of folks think of Karl as just a mountain guy. Karl is certainly a mountain specialist, but he's also a fast dude and an unflappable competitor. Anyone who follows Karl's blog knows that he views Western States as a fast race, so you can bet he'll be ready to run like a deer. Because he's so strong on the ups AND downs, I like Karl for top-5 and am pumped that, after all these years of domination, he's finally gotten into States.
  • Brandon Stepanowich: Brandon finished top-10 at Leadville and is a young runner with tons of potential. He has the intangibles and is a complete badass. Top 10 at States.
  • Bruce Fordyce: Now for a history lesson. Bruce is an old guy, but he holds one of the stoutest records in the history of this sport. In 1984, he ran a world record 4:50:21 for 50 miles at the London to Brighton race. That record still stands. Maybe only Max King could come close.
Now for a name not on the list: Anton Krupicka. Assuming he qualifies at the Bandera 100K, he wants in and he's healthy, Anton may have a shot at finally winning Western States.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Running My First 100-Miler

In March of 2007, my world got rocked when I found myself suddenly laid off from a job I’d taken only three months earlier. I’d stupidly left the Cleveland Clinic, a world-class organization, to take a new job with a fledgling start-up willing to pay me what I considered at the time to be a very good living. So basically I just chased after more money. And now, because my new employer couldn’t make payroll due to budget mismanagement, three of us were out on the street looking for work. Unfortunately, my old job had already been filled, so there was no going back.

I’d just run a challenging 50K trail race in Maryland the previous weekend and had the Boston Marathon in a few weeks. As we all know, Boston isn't a cheap trip. Fortunately, we had Anne's income to live on while I searched, but I nonetheless felt urgency to get working again.

In times of great stress, running had (and has) always been there for me. But without a job and knowing full well that a layoff after three months would be a red flag on my resume, I could barely get out the door for my daily runs. I spent most of my energy on finding a job and ran a half-hearted Boston held in the midst of an epic nor’easter—rather appropriate given the state of my life at the time. I drew unemployment and applied for scores of jobs, some for which I was overqualified.

Finally, a local hospital system gave me an offer—a part-time, temporary fundraising position with really good potential. With no better alternative, I accepted. I worked Monday through Thursday and had Fridays off. I worked harder than ever, trying to make the case for the hospital to bring me on full-time. During my lunch (as a PRN, I had to punch out for lunch), I often went out to a nearby courtyard and read. During this difficult time in my life, two books really spoke to me: Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air about a tragic Mount Everest expedition, and Kirk Johnson's To the Edge about his experience training for and completing the 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon (Johnson's work remains the best ultrarunning book I've ever read).

One night in April, while checking e-mail, I came across a message promoting a new 100-mile race coming to Cleveland, a point-to-point event called the Burning River 100, named after the Cuyahoga River fire in 1969. As any Clevelander knows, very little has damaged the city's reputation more than the river fires of the 1950s and 1960s. Truth be told, many rivers in the Rust Belt were catching fire. The "problem" was that the Cuyahoga River fire got lots of national attention.

Directed by Joe Jurczyk, a well-known local runner, the Burning River 100 would start in North Chagrin Reservation, not far from my house, and traverse scenic trails, ending in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. From South Chagrin Reservation (where I did most of my training "back in the day") and Bedford Reservation to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brecksville Reservation and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, the Burning River 100 would highlight many of the most beautiful parts of the region and shine a light on once polluted areas that were now lush and home to bald eagles, turtles, fish, deer and other wildlife. The Burning River 100 had a larger purpose, and that's what attracted me to it. I felt I had a larger purpose in life, and I'd yet to find it. Maybe I'd find it while running 100 miles?
The Burning River 100 would be held in a little less than four months--on August 4. I’d heard rumors of this race and felt intrigued by the opportunity to run 100 miles, but hadn’t given it much attention. And honestly, the thought of running 100 miles seemed unfathomable, especially since I was logging only 50-60 miles a week at the time. Still, I couldn’t get the race off my mind after that e-mail came across. I thought about it obsessively for over a week and shared my deliberations about the race with a friend of mine, Bill Wagner, who was involved in the planning.

Then one day, with the click of my mouse, I registered. I was in. There was just one problem: I had no idea how to train for a 100-miler. Still, I've always been a go-getter, so I wasn't about to sit around and think about how to train. No, I was going to talk with folks who'd gone the distance and start getting ready immediately.

I'd begun running a little more with the Cleveland Southeast Running Club, a very serious group of road and trail runners. Within SERC you have many runners with sub-3-hour marathons and a few with marathons in the low 2:30s. You have folks like Mark Godale, Connie Gardner and Tim Clement who have won ultrarunning national championships and many other races. At the time, Godale held the American 24-hour record. You have Kam Lee, a dominant 50K racer and 2:30 marathoner. SERC isn't a group of joy-runners or recreational joggers; this club is for serious athletes who are willing to do what it takes to excel. If you fall short of your potential in a race or in general, you hear about it. The club runs trails on Saturdays, roads on Sundays and track intervals on Tuesdays.

By the time I signed up for Burning River, I'd gotten to know a few members, including a guy named Steve Godale (Mark's older brother), a veteran of many 100s. I asked Steve how to prepare.

“Simple,” he responded. “If you can run 100 miles a week, you can run 100 miles in a race.”

The thought of running 100 miles in a single week jarred me. I’d been running about 60 miles a week. How could I run 40 more miles a week and remain in one piece?

“Build up to it gradually,” Steve suggested.

Looking at the calendar, I had a little less than four months to get in shape for the Burning River race—four months to go from a 60-mile-per-week runner to an endurance machine knocking off triple-digit weeks.

So I began a "gradual" build-up, hitting weeks of seventy and eighty miles with some recovery built in just to be on the safe side. I got on the trails on my Fridays off from work and again on the weekends, running parts of the course to familiarize myself with its turns, terrain, hills, nuances and such. I carried a course description and map and marked confusing turns with sticks so I wouldn't get lost on my return trip. Sometimes I got way off course, but that was OK--more miles meant more fun. I loved big out-and-back runs. I didn't have a GPS watch yet, so I estimated my mileage based on the course description, perceived pace and time on my feet. Anne and I hadn't had Noah yet, so I had boatloads of time to train on the course. I often ventured out on long runs of four, five and six hours.
Still surviving the increased mileage, I jumped up to 90 miles in a single week and then made the big leap, hitting 100 miles. If memory serves, I logged four triple-digit weeks, running most of those miles on the course itself. Incredibly, I got through this massive build-up without any overuse injuries. In fact, even as I increased my mileage, a case of tendonitis in the top of my foot cleared up. I attribute my ability to stay healthy throughout that huge build-up to three factors: 1) I ran mostly soft trails, 2) I never went particularly fast, and 3) my body had relatively low mileage on it and could handle the added stress.

By race day, I was healthy and well-trained and I had the huge advantage of knowing every inch of the course. I had also transitioned into a well-paid, full-time communications and fundraising job at the hospital. Life was good. Even as I was now a Monday-to Friday employee, I nonetheless had kept up with my training, even increasing my output. A few weeks prior I'd run the competitive, challenging Buckeye Trail 50K in 4:41, finishing seventh overall and earning greater acceptance in the running club. My seventh-place finish hadn't come easily--I held off three surging runners in the end. Things were looking good.

There was just one problem: I was really scared. The forecasted 90+ degree heat on raceday did nothing to calm my nerves.

The drive to the start of the race that dark Saturday morning was quiet. Anne drove as I attempted to stay calm and focused. I had that excited "holy-crap" feeling you get before a 100. I remembered what a friend of mine, Wayne Vereb, had asked me a while back.

"If you were in a plane crash and 100 miles from the nearest city, could you get there on foot, or would you just give up and die?"

"I'd get there on foot," I replied.

"Okay," he said, "that's how you have to think in 100s. It's a game of survival."

I remembered other rules, such as "beware the chair" and "it never always gets worse."

By today's standards, I had very little gear out on the course--just a few pairs of shoes and socks, some toilet paper, etc. The mystery of what I was about to do prevented me from overthinking my drop bags and instead caused me to focus on getting myself ready. I consider that a good thing.

I had no real goals for Burning River except to finish. If I could finish in under 20 or 21 hours, that would be great. But competitive placement wasn't even in my thought process. The distance was too new to me to really want anything but a finish.

I didn't carry an MP3 player or any elaborate gear like a GPS watch, though I did have a Timex Ironman watch. I ran the entire distance without music or worry about pace and just basically focused on the beautiful nature around me and ways to overcome issues I dealt with, like wicked chest cramping, occasional doubts and hot mid-day temperatures. Coming into Boston Store, which marked the halfway point, the temperature exceeded 90 degrees and the road leading back to the trail was literally melting, causing my shoes to stick to the asphalt. It was hot!

I didn't have fancy trail shoes. I'd done most of my training in a pair of bulky Vasques, but they'd died by raceday. So for the race I wore a pair of pretty basic Saucony Trabuco trail shoes. As for my clothing, I didn't have on $90 shorts or a super-fancy top. I wore New Balance running shorts with extra pockets and a Sugoi tech-tee with glow-in-the-dark panels on the shoulders.

I didn't have any fancy hydration devices--just a fuel belt. My plan was to basically live off whatever was offered at the aid stations, be it water, Gatorade, etc. I did, however, carry Hammer Endurolytes.

I didn't have a sponsor. I was just one of a few hundred squirrels out there trying to get a nut in the world of 100-mile racing.

I didn't have a crew, either. Anne saw me at checkpoints and we talked a few times by mobile phone if I needed anything, but pretty much all of my stuff (which didn't amount to much) was in drop bags at the aid stations. Anne and her parents planned to meet me at the finish and drive me back home. We had no fancy hotel to stay in; I'd finish and then we'd drive home.

Because I wasn't running to beat anyone and didn't have goal splits, I took my time at the aid stations. At the mile-75 checkpoint, I posed for a photo with Anne, feeling more excited than rushed. We were both so jazzed; with three-quarters of the race behind me, we knew I was on the way to finishing my first 100!

What I did have were two excellent pacers. Ted Friedman ran with me from mile 62 to mile 75. And then Kenny McCleary ran with me from mile 75 to the finish. This was their first exposure to ultras of the 100-mile variety. Both guys played a huge role in getting me to the finish. Ted would go on to finish the BR100 in 2011 and 2012. As I write this, Kenny is only a few states from his 50-marathon/50-state quest. I remember leaving the mile-85 aid station (Covered Bridge) with Kenny, totally pumped up. By then I was alternating between power-hiking and running, but I still had loads of energy in me (that would soon dwindle...).

Ted (L), me, and Kenny (R) at the 2008 Mohican 100, where I finished 4th.
They're holding me up because I'd blown up my knee.
I'm wearing my Burning River 100 shirt from the previous summer.

It wasn't until about mile 90, as we entered the Cuyahoga Falls city limits, that it dawned on me that I was now in the top 10 and gaining on lots of dudes in front of me. By then I was super tired and fighting some demons, but I was dialed in and determined. I got a lot of motivation as I passed runners, including Billy "Bonehead" Barnett, who was later featured in Christopher McDougall's best-selling book, "Born to Run." Billy was having some issues and was down for the count.

The last few miles of the course, which many of us ran in the middle of the night, are interesting to say the least. You run along the top of a gulch, of sorts. The trail is super rocky and laced with roots. One bad step and you could go over the cliff. So you have to focus on the task at hand and stay upright (my understanding is that this section has since been removed). After a mile or so on the trail, you take a short spur up to Broad Street, which takes you right to the finish.

When I crossed the finish line at 1:08 a.m. on Sunday morning, I experienced pure, unadulterated happiness. Not only had I just finish my first 100-miler, but I'd done it in 21 hours, 8 minutes and placed sixth overall. I later learned that a little under 50 percent of the starters had actually finished--the heat claimed quite a few. We also later learned that the course was long. Depending on who you talked with, it was between 105-107 miles long!

Standing at the finish of the 2007 Burning River 100 with Anne.
I was so tired!
Mark Godale won the 2007 race with a time of 16 hours, 7 minutes. Tim Clement, who would later become one of my closest friends and an ultrarunning mentor, placed third with a time of 19 hours, 19 minutes. Tim, Ted and I, along with several others, would often train together on Saturday mornings in South Chagrin Reservation.

From then on, I was hooked on ultras and especially 100s. I discovered that I'm an endurance junkie--I love going the distance. I love nature. I love the challenge and camaraderie of it all. I've never returned to Burning River, though I did pace Tim to his win in 2008 and paced him again to a top finish the next year.

Maybe one of these years I'll go back.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Taking Risks

Do truly great things happen only when we take risks? Can great things happen when we play it safe?

Anne and I have been watching a fascinating docu-drama series on the History Channel, "The Men Who Built America," that profiles industrial titans John D. Rockefeller (oil), J.P. Morgan (finance/electricity/steel), Henry Ford (automobile), Cornelius Vanderbilt (railroads) and Andrew Carnegie (steel). A continuing theme in the various episodes is that these men, who weren't angels by any means (they were later demonized as "robber barons"), took huge risks and ultimately, through successes and failures, achieved empires, the likes of which we've never seen since.

Anyway, it's gotten me to thinking about risk-taking in running. Do you have to take risks to achieve something personally great?

I've been known to occasionally go out hard in races and training runs. I've had my "gunslinger" moments. There was one race in particular where I took a big risk and it resulted, depending on your outlook, in success and failure.

On June 21, 2008, a day after my thirty-fifth birthday, I lined up for the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run, a hilly race on beautiful single-track trails and dirt roads in Mohican State Park between Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. Fresh off a new marathon PR, I was in killer shape, having run 100-110 miles a week for months leading up to the race. I was lean, fast, healthy and confident. Unfortunately, I was also tired. Our son, Noah, came into the world six weeks earlier, and he wasn't sleeping well, meaning we weren't sleeping well..... But, standing at the start of Mohican, I didn't feel tired. I was determined to win this race! I genuinely believed no one out there could beat me--mentally or physically.

When the gun went off at 5:00 a.m., I exploded out of the gate. I ran my ass off, holding second place for the first 52 miles. But, in my mind, I was really running first. See, the guy in front of me--a fast dude from California--had gone out too fast the year before and crashed. He was doing the same thing again, and so I knew I'd eventually reel in this sucker and take the lead. Finally, as I entered the Rock Point aid station at mile 52, there he sat totally wasted. Leaving Rock Point, I had the lead, believing in my heart this was my race to win. No one could stop me! Bitch!

Well, at about mile 60, as I was on 16-hour pace (which is pretty aggressive for the Mohican course), my left knee started going south. But that wasn't the only problem; I was getting tired! Going up a long hill to get to the Fire Tower aid station, I got passed by the eventual winner, Jay Smithberger, who was looking great. Jay's one of those badasses who starts conservatively and quietly and gets stonger. He runs his own race and doesn't worry about others. That's why he's a great runner who has many wins on his resume.

Amazingly, the dude I passed at Rock Point eventually caught back up to me. By then I was hobbling along on a shot knee and completely pissed off as I played leap frog with him for several miles. In the midst of all of that, I ate some pizza at the mile 80 Covered Bridge aid station and my stomach didn't like all. Not only did I have a blown knee, but also a massive case of diarrhea (I've never eaten pizza in a race since).

Limping along, I persevered, even as I got passed by an Irish dude and was now "running" fourth. I'd gone from a beastly 16-hour pace at mile 60 to now trying to break 20 hours--hell, even finish this sucker. But I refused to give in. I limped along and had to take really awful potty breaks quite often, but I kept going. I owe a lot to my pacers, Kenny and Ted, who watched over me. Finally, after getting some Pepto in me at mile 90, I finished in 19:22, a pretty good time. My knee took two months to come back after that race.

I often wonder if I'd have won that race if my knee hadn't blown up. Going out hard in a tough 100-miler was a big risk, but I was in fantastic shape and super confident and didn't really think in terms of risk/benefit. In the end, of course I didn't win. But the experience definitely crafted me into a better runner (or did it?) and laid the groundwork for my win at the next year's Mohican 100--to date, the best race I've ever run.

For the past few years I've debated within my own mind the merits and risks of aggressive racing. If you go out hard, maybe you'll be able to hang on and achieve a time you didn't think was possible. Guys like Eric Clifton and Mike Morton have made careers out of this approach, but they've also had their spectacular crashes. In 2004, Matt Carpenter crashed and burned big-time at the Leadville 100, only to come back the next year and set one of the stoutest records in the history of the sport. But we don't really think about their crashes, do we? Even mere mortals like me have seen amazing personal results from aggressive running--be it a new PR, an age-group win, even an overall win.

If you take risks, maybe you'll discover that your limits are far beyond what you'd originally perceived. By the same token, you also risk spectacular failure; you might crash and burn. You're then probably faced with shattered confidence. If you go out conservatively, there's a chance you'll benefit in the latter miles and gain strength when others are fading. That's what people call "smart racing." But there's also the chance you will have fallen short of your potential. Many, including myself, would say falling short of your potential is a tragedy.

At the 2008 Mohican, I don't think I consciously decided to go out hard and see what I could do. My only goal was to win, and it didn't hurt that I had good bulletin board material from some pre-race smack-talking back in Cleveland. That was my second-ever 100-miler. I think I went out hard because: A) I was in great shape and B) I didn't know any better. Looking back on my running life, I realize the 2008 Mohican, when I ran with guns blazing, was my last race as a "kid." The experience made me grow up and actually reflect more on how I raced and on the challenge of 100 miles. Maybe that's a bad thing. I mean, maybe racing recklessly and saying "screw you" to the risk of going hard is the way to go. I don't know any great achievements that have come from playing it safe. Do you?

Maybe that's why the 2012 Leadville 100 has left such a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't go out hard, and yet I still crashed and burned and DNF'd because of an injury. If I'd gone out guns blazing and crashed and burned, maybe I could live with a DNF. To say I'm ready for the 2013 race to get here would be an understatement. What I'm now doing--I mean, dealing with a DNF and using it as motivation for the next race is, after all, a process--is getting the motivation back in me. What happened in 2012 might shatter some folks for good, but for me it's the ultimate bulletin board material. Failure pisses me off. Big time. It was an epic personal failure--an experience that brought me face to face with my own demons. It made me confront, deep within my own soul where most folks NEVER venture because it's dark and murky and scary down there, why I do this sport and whether I want to continue with it. Driving away from Winfield after DNF'ing, I'd decided to "retire" for good--yeah, screw you, Leadville!--only to "unretire" the next day. That moment in Winfield, with Hardrock 100 champ Diana Finkel hovering over me and offering encouragement as I laid on the ground next to the tent with a blasted knee and defeated heart, was a moment that had been brewing for a (long) while, and my knee brought me to it in a big way. For me, that moment had to happen.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me as a runner.

Will I go hard in 2013 like I did at the 2011 Leadville, potentially paying for it in the end but still finishing with a good time? Or will I run "smart"? Who knows.... I gotta figure that out. Honestly, I just want to finish again in under 25 hours!

What works for you--aggressive racing, or going at it conservatively?

Further reading:
  • Mohican 2008 report here.
  • Mohican 2008 reflections here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Starting to Get the Ultra Itch!

Phoenix Marathon training is going pretty well. I'm hitting good quality and am taking advantage of the favorable weather we're having on the Front Range. Right now, my goal for Phoenix is a 2:55. That breaks down to 6:40 pace. If I get to mile 20 in 2:12 and am still feeling good, I'll have a decent shot at 2:55. Good marathon times often come down to what you do in that last 10K.

Unfortunately, I seem to have tweaked the ball of my right foot--a likely case of metatarsalagia. This is my first tour of duty with this injury. At first, the injury scared the hell out of me, because I feared a stress fracture in my foot. But I'm now pretty sure it's just an inflamed metatarsal. It definitely doesn't feel good, but at this point it's an injury I can manage amid my training so long as I keep icing it and wearing a special pad in my shoe to help reduce impact. At night, I'm wearing a splint while I sleep in order to immobilize my entire foot and promote healing. This is the same splint I wore when I had plantar fasciitis. Comically, I'm finding that my Hokas provide relief with this injury, so for the time being they're back in the picture, though I'm also spending time in lightweight trainers and, on easy days, my trusty Kayanos.

Speaking of Hokas, there is simply no question in my mind that you can run way faster on smooth descents with them. With Hokas, I can fly on the downs if I'm on a road. But if I'm going down a technical mountain trail, I feel unstable in them.

My hope is that the injury clears up soon. If it doesn't, then I'll manage for the next seven weeks and hope it clears up when I shut down for a few weeks after Phoenix.

Injuries continue to plague me! If you have any advice on overcoming metatarsalgia, please let me know.


I'm getting the itch for an ultra! I've been training on roads mostly and so it's no surprise I'm missing the trail. The other night I finally read the 2012 Leadville 100 report in the latest Ultrarunning magazine and I started to feel kind of homesick. The report was pretty good, though I could have done without the beginning part when the author went on and on about Life Time Fitness and its goals for growth in the endurance world. I like Life Time, but I would have rather the report focused on the race's tradition and what happened this year.

I won't be ready for an ultra until at least April. Phoenix is on January 20 and then, like I said, I'm shutting down for two weeks to allow my body to recover and get ready for Leadville 100 training. That means I won't start running again until early February--the perfect time to start some trail running! I actually really enjoy running snowy trails, especially the Barr Trail. I have many great memories of time on the Incline and Barrr Trail last February and March. I really want to break 25 minutes on the Incline in 2013.

It dawned on me a few weeks ago that a pretty remarkable pattern is emerging with my 100-mile times. On odd years I do well in 100s; on even years things go bad. Check this out:

2007 Burning River 100 - 6th overall - good!
2008 Mohican 100 - knee blew up at mile 60; went from 1st down to 4th - bad (for me at least)!
2009 Mohican 100 - 1st overall - good!
2009 USA 24-Hour Championship - 9th overall/131 miles - decent but not great
2010 Leadville 100 - stomach blew up at Mayqueen inbound; barely got to the finish under 25 hours - bad!
2011 Leadville 100 - 22:35 - pretty good (but I could have done better)!
2012 Leadville 100 - DNF with knee problem - bad!
2013 Leadville 100 - Good????????

Yeah, interesting to say the least. Hopefully 2013 will be a "good year" for me at Leadville.

As of now, my 2013 calendar looks like this:

Phoenix Marathon - January
Cheyenne Mountain 50K - April
Collegiate Peaks 50M or Jemez 50M - May
Mount Evans Ascent - June
Leadville 100 - August

I desperately want to do Leadman but I just don't have time, at this point in my life, to train on a mountain bike. I think my interest in Leadman mirrors my huge interest in doing an Ironman triathlon. Both are off the table until Noah is a little older (and I have more vacation time).

I'm sure I'll fill in more races for 2013, and of course plans will change. But two things won't change--Phoenix and Leadville!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nine Weeks Until Phoenix

The world needs more running.

This is my first update since the election. It's no surprise that a lot of people are still bitching about the outcome of the election and forecasting the downfall of America. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever.

Americans need to watch less TV, especially the "news," and get outside more. Nothing helps me to break through the clutter and make sense of the world around me quite like running. It's my own private retreat. When I'm out there putting in the miles, it's just nature and me--whether I'm on the trail or on the road. I genuinely believe much of the stress and ills we experience could be alleviated if we just got active and surrounded ourselves with nature. Our problem, from my own eyes, is that we spend too much time doing meaningless stuff, like watching TV, listening to talking heads, worrying about who's president and Facebooking. Eventually this ridiculous crap dims our worldview, leaving us feeling hopeless.


Nine more weeks until I toe the line in Phoenix for the Arizona Rock 'n Roll Marathon. I'm excited for sure. My weekly mileage and time on my feet are holding steady at about 65 and a little over eight hours. My quality is super solid. On Sunday, I ran 18 miles mostly on the track, completing 4x2 miles at marathon pace (6:35-6:40), with one mile "recoveries" at about 7:40 pace in between. This was no easy workout. It really helped me that Anne, Noah and our dog, Nicholas, were there keeping me company. As I ran around the track, Nicholas chased after me while Noah kicked his soccer ball on the football field. We slapped high fives a few times.

After Sunday's workout, I felt quite ill--likely the effects of the Z-Pack I was prescribed for bacterial bronchitis earlier in the week. My stomach was a mess! This all brought back memories of the 2010 Leadville 100, which was my first Leadville. A week before the race, I was diagnosed with strep throat and put on an antibiotic. I took my last pill the Thursday before the race and made sure to eat a ton of yogurt to keep my stomach strong. Though I finished the race (in under 25 hours), I fell ill with massive stomach problems at the Mayqueen inbound aid station (86.5)--likely the after-effects of the antibiotic. It's amazing I recovered and went on to finish.

Overall, I feel good about my Phoenix training and where I am with my fitness. My one concern is with volume. When I'm gunning for a PR, my natural tendency is to jack up my volume and put in a ton of miles. This time, I'm resisting the urge for a ton of miles and am instead focusing on quality, which includes intervals, tempo runs and long runs. We'll see how it pays off on January 20.


When I kicked off my Phoenix Marathon training, I suspected that all these road miles would leave me missing the trail. While I've really enjoyed training on the road, a big part of me wants to get back to the trail. I'm trying to stay disciplined and do specific training, but I definitely see some trail running in my immediate future. Of particular interest to me is a trip down to Manitou Springs to do the Incline and then take the Barr Trail up Pikes Peak as far as I want to go--one of my favorite Front Range runs. I've run some amazing trails in Colorado, but nothing quite rivals the entire Barr Trail experience, especially the run back down the mountain. So, yeah, I may take that trip pretty soon.

I have it in my head that I want to break 25 minutes on the Incline in 2013. My current PR is just over 27 minutes. The Incline is, without question, the hardest single mile I've ever done. You're talking about 2,000 feet of climbing in a single mile, with an average grade of about 40%. It's lung busting, grueling, painful and fun--all at the same time! I'm not kidding when I say the Incline can literally kill you if you're not in decent shape.

Speaking of the Incline, I saw that the unofficial "record holder," pro triathlete Mark Fretta, got busted for EPO and is now serving a ban. I remember first reading about Fretta's amazing Incline "record," which has been mentioned by prominent outlets like The New York Times and Runner's World, and thinking how incredible it was to do it in 16 minutes and change. But now he's been exposed as a cheat. It's sad that so many pro athletes have resorted to cheating.


I'm super excited about plans for a long weekend in Leadville in late June. I'm planning to basically live out of my car and tent for three or four nights while running the 100-mile course and just enjoying one of the most beautiful areas on planet earth. By then the snow will be gone, allowing for some incredible training. At this point, all I can think about is doing that Hope Pass section over and over again.

I think often about what went down at this year's LT100. I know I should put it behind me--and in some ways I've totally moved on and my knee is back to 100%--but at the same time my DNF serves as motivation. Once Phoenix is behind me, Leadville will be all that matters. And, for the first time in my ultrarunning life, I won't care about my time. Yeah, I'm going to train hard, but what I'm really going to be after is that feeling of finishing. I just want to finish Leadville again. I want that third El Plato Grande buckle.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New York Marathon Mea Culpa; Training Update

Before I launch into this latest post, I want to make a confession. This weekend, I came to realize I went overboard in ranting and raving in favor of the cancellation of the New York City Marathon. I do think the marathon should have been cancelled, but what I didn't consider were all the runners, like JT,  who'd flown in for the race only to find that they'd wasted money and time traveling to an event that ultimately never happened. I feel badly for them. I only wish the organizers had cancelled the race earlier in the week, before runners departed for New York.

It's funny how sometimes you feel so convinced of something, as if there's no doubt in your mind that you've taken the correct position. But the next day you have misgivings, only to realize you hadn't really considered all sides. Then regret sets in. Mea culpa.


With the Arizona Rock 'n Roll Marathon about ten weeks away, I have to say my training is going quite well. For the week that just ended, I logged 68 miles. On Tuesday, I nailed great quality at the track, running my three one-mile repeats between 5:37-5:47 each. On Wednesday, I ran six miles at tempo pace. On Sunday, I did a grueling 20.25-miler in 2 hours, 35 minutes in the Parker hills, climbing 1,100 feet. All other days I went easy. That's a pretty typical week for me as I get ready for Phoenix.

I'm finding that, if I can keep my calves loose, my ankles, soleus muscles and right Achilles feel a lot better. I've had some trouble with my right ankle for the past year or so. Every night I stretch both calves with a rubber band I got from my physical therapist. I get on the floor with my legs extended in front of me. I wrap the band, which has a loop on the end, around my foot and then gently pull back. I've noticed that both calves are much looser than they were a few months ago. I'm also using that same PT band to stretch my hamstrings.

I think tight muscles are a huge contributor to injuries. Not all stretching works; in fact, some stretching can cause injuries. Physical therapy bands seem to work perfectly for me.

Back to training. Sunday's long run was my third 20-miler in my build-up to Phoenix. I'm planning another four or five 20-milers, including one run of 22 miles, between now and January 6. I've noticed that they're getting a tad bit easier, though running 20 miles isn't ever easy. I'm also making a point to take the next day (Monday) completely off from running. I might cycle a bit, but for the most part I'm trying to completely rest on Mondays, because the rest is what allows me to build strength from the previous day's long run.

I do think that capping my mileage on Saturdays to 11 has allowed for better quality in my Sunday long runs. Constant back-to-backs like what I've done for years now had worn me down.

Bottom line: The strategy I'm employing for Phoenix is quality-focused. It's more about good quality than about big volume. We'll see if it pays off. I can say this much; from 2005-2007, I ran a bunch of marathons in the 3:05-3:09 range while logging about 50-55 miles a week with zero quality except for a Sunday long run and a few pick-ups here and there. With 100-mile weeks and good quality mixed in, I dropped my PR to 2:58 in 2008, even as my training was focused on 100-milers and not road marathons. It'll be interesting to see if the current formula of 65-70 miles a week with lots of quality and rest and a very long run will pay off.

And if it does pay off, I may tweak the formula for my Leadville 100 training, jacking up my long runs to 25-35 miles while still getting in good quality. Speaking of Leadville, all these road miles I've been logging lately, while enjoyable, will certainly result in me really wanting to get back on the trail after Phoenix and start gearing up for the 100-miler. Although the mountains will be blanketed in snow, I do love tackling the Manitou Incline and the Barr Trail, as well as the Flatirons in Boulder, during the winter months. I fully expect to break 25 minutes on the Incline in 2013!

Although I'm super focused on Phoenix, I am thinking quite a bit about what races I'm doing in 2013. At this point, the only races I'm a lock for are Phoenix on January 20 and the Leadville 100 on August 17. I'll be in Leadville a lot in late June through early August, training on the course, so that timeframe is pretty well spoken for. A big part of me would love to enter Leadman, but right now I just don't have the time to do that kind of training. Any suggestions for races in 2013?

Also, feel free to chime in if you have any thoughts on my current Phoenix Marathon training protocol. I'd love to hear what folks have to say.

Friday, November 2, 2012

First Lance Armstrong, Now the New York Marthon: Does Anyone Have a Clue Anymore?

Note to reader: The New York City Marathon has been canceled after a public backlash. I feel badly for the runners who trained hard and now have no race to run, but I feel far worse for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, whose lives have been turned upside down.

"The NYPD has been working nonstop since Monday. A lot of us have damage of our own and families that are suffering but we are here assisting with the rescue, recovery, and relief efforts everyday. I understand that this is our job. We love what we do and we love protecting the citizens of NY but to host a Marathon (a run) while people are suffering? To have giant generators sitting around for the Marathon while thousands suffer without power? To have large water deliveries for runners? WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING? The NYRR have some nerve. Run for Relief? B.S. Run because you don't care about anyone but yourself should be the motto. How about you give back for once and help us recover the dead. Yes, I realize that you may be sheltered. You do realize that people lost their lives during this hurricane, right? In fact, right where you intend to start this marathon. Just a few miles away, a mother of a 2 year old and a 4 year old watched her kids get dragged away by a huge surge of water. They have not recovered the bodies of the children yet. Why don't you put the spandex away and put some boots on and assist us? Disgusting!!!" -- An NYPD officer on the NYRR Facebook page

After those words, do I even need to say more?

As a hardcore runner, I care deeply about our sport and how it is viewed by the public. By holding the New York City Marathon only days after the region was devastated on an epic scale by Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Marathon organizers and the New York Road Runners are doing irreparable harm to their own brand and to the great sport of marathoning.

The generators in Central Park. It's great that the race can find its own
power while tens of thousand of people are still in the park and cold and suffering.

Bodies are still being recovered. Many are still without power. People's homes were destroyed, leaving them homeless. Folks have no food and are hungry. The temperature is dropping. People are suffering. Much of the city's public transit is still down. Many gas stations are dry. Folks are fighting for fuel where they can get it. In New Jersey, the entire Jersey Shore is...gone.

And yet a race is going to be held on Sunday and run through areas of the city that have been devastated by Sandy. Right now, as I type this, there are gigantic generators in Central Park that are supporting race functions--generators that could be used to power entire neighborhoods. Emergency responders (EMS, police and fire), volunteers, sanitation workers and other critical resources will be diverted away from people and areas in need so they can support a freaking race. Runners will enjoy fresh water, bagels, thermal blankets and the like while hungry, desperate folks only a few blocks away are suffering like crazy.

By the way, the marathon starts on Staten Island, which bore the brunt of Sandy's destruction to New York City.

I genuinely fear for the health and safety of the runners, because they're going to encounter some pissed-off people.

The board of the New York Road Runners should take action immediately. Postpone the race for a month. Cancel it. Whatever it takes. Ask runners to instead volunteer and use their fitness to do some good. Send those generators to neighborhoods in need. Give people who are hungry the bagels and water that were to be eaten by the runners.

I agree with Phil McCarthy. The New York City Marathon has gotten "too big to fail." It's so big that (the soulless, greedy, tone-deaf and insensitive) Mayor Michael Bloomberg (you know, the mayor who pushed for a ban on big sodas) and race director Mary Wittenberg, who will both lose their jobs over this fiasco, are going to let greed and sponsorships take precedence over the right thing to do. ING, as the title sponsor, is complicit in all of this. ING should ask that the race be canceled.

Make no mistake about it; the New York Road Runners and the marathon organizers are doing irreparable harm to the race and to runners across the country. They are making us look like selfish jerks who don't care about anything except running.

I used to want to run the New York City Marathon. No thanks. I'm boycotting the race...for the rest of my life. And I hope you will, too. Please make your voice known here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Going to "that Place" in a Long Run

My training for the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon (in Phoenix) is going well. I'm hitting good quality on Tuesdays (track), Thursday (tempo) and Sundays (long). My mile repeat times are in the high 5:30s/low 5:40s, which isn't bad when you consider that the track I use is at 6,200 feet. My tempo runs continue to be super solid. I've been consistent all year with my tempos. On Sunday, I completed a 20-mile out-and-back run in 2 hours and 32 minutes, climbing over 500 feet--from 5,700 feet back up to 6,200 feet--in the last seven miles. That was my second 20-miler in three weeks, and I plan to keep up with the 20s for the next few months.

After Sunday's 20-miler, I had a Eureka moment. There I was, climbing back up into my neighborhood and fighting fatigue, mild bonking (I'd allowed myself only one Hammer gel at mile 12) and "cotton mouth" from minor dehydration. Focused on the moment, I was totally devoid of all distractions and thought only of the task at hand: maintain pace, get up this long, steady climb and complete these 20 miles with an up-tempo finish in the last 1/2 mile. It was tough, as running 20 miles on a hard surface isn't ever easy. But I was locked into the moment and eventually the 20 miles got done with a fast finish. Sunday was a great day because I knew I'd put in good work.

As for my Eureka moment, it dawned on me on Sunday, more than ever before, that for the past few years I haven't done nearly enough long runs, meaning I haven't pushed myself to "that place" in a run when I must totally focus on the task at hand and get past the mental and physical hurdles before me. I think it's the same place you find yourself in the last 10K of a marathon. I've pushed myself hard in long tempo efforts, but there's something about a 20-mile run that you can't replicate in any other way--and in these past few years, as time for training has been harder and harder to come by, I'd forgotten that. I used to do lots of long runs! Why did I stop when they work?

Long runs benefit you not only physically (especially when you allow recovery afterward), but also mentally. If you don't go long on a consistent basis, how can you expect to be ready for the challenges of a long race? Maybe that's been my problem over the past few years--I got away from long training runs. It certainly could explain my recent propensity to start races strong but tail off in the end.

I believe that sticking with my plan to do several more 20 milers in the lead-up to Phoenix will help me be mentally and physically ready for the challenge of 26.2 miles--at 6:40 pace or faster--on the road. And you can bet that long runs of 25-30+ miles will certainly be in the mix for my Leadville 100 training!

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Lance's Next Move Should Be

"The truth will set you free."

Just like that, Lance Armstrong's house of cards has fallen.

On Tuesday, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France (1999-2005), who now faces overwhelmingly compelling doping allegations by the US Anti-Doping Agency, got dumped by Nike, Trek (which practically owes its popularity to Armstrong), Anheuser-Busch and many other sponsors (except Oakley). The International Cycling Union is now weighing whether to strip Armstrong, who the USADA calls a "serial cheat," of his seven Tour titles and other wins. If that's not bad enough, he also stepped down as chairman of the foundation he established to support cancer research. Livestrong's once powerful brand--we all recognize the yellow bracelets--has potentially taken a fatal hit, just as Joe Paterno went from a virtuous father figure to a callous coward. To use a famous saying (I coined), today's chocolate is tomorrow's s__t.

It's time for Lance to bare his soul.
For years the doping allegations against Armstrong were like pebbles tossed at his Teflon armour. He denied, denied, denied--and many of us believed him even in the face of a federal investigation and increasingly skeptical news reports. But, the US Anti-Doping Agency's recent report is far more than a pebble; it's catastrophic damage to Armstrong's personal "brand." Many now view him as a liar, fraud and con-man. Betrayal is another feeling we might have.

I've been in PR for a few years, and one part of the business that's always interested me is crisis management--maybe because it's often done so poorly. In a crisis, one can face financial and legal threats, as well as serious threats to their reputation. In Lance Armstrong's situation, the situation is dire in all three areas.

Before we explore what Armstrong can do to help mitigate the damage, let's first assess the threats before him.

Legal: It is conceivable that he may face legal action from companies that paid him bonuses for his Tour de France wins and will now want that money back. It's even conceivable he could face prosecution for perjury as a result of previous sworn testimony, which could mean jail time.

Financial: Potential lawsuits could mean Armstrong is at huge financial risk. With all of his sponsors gone (except Oakley, which will surely pull out), is he in a position to pay potential settlements?

Reputation: This is where Armstrong, once a hero to millions for his cancer fundraising work and valiant cycling, is at greatest risk. Without his reputation, what does he have?

So, with his world in shambles, what can--and should--Lance Armstrong do next? I think he can't wait to act. He can't hide or refuse comment. His reputation is quickly eroding, meaning he must do something now. He must come forward and talk. He must tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

But only if his heart is in it. A disingenuous, cavalier "I'm sorry" will only worsen the damage. Armstrong must come to grips with what he's done, and then pour his heart out to his fans.

Marion Jones, the disgraced Olympic gold medalist, apologized--with tears streaming down her face--for cheating and lying and, granted, she's never recovered from the damage. But there's a huge difference between Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong. The difference? Marion Jones never had even a fraction of the public love that Armstrong had. People loved Armstrong, and now these same people want answers from him. I believe Armstrong is in a much better position to seek forgiveness than was Jones.

Does Armstrong even know the truth? Or has he lived so deeply in his own lies that he believes he never really even lied in the first place, especially since "everyone else was doping"?

Let's suppose that Armstrong does now recognize his own lies. One can only hope he'll also understand that the American people are a forgiving people. We tend to forgive people who do wrong and bare their souls as they ask for forgiveness.

Armstrong must sit down with a reputable news outlet, like "60 Minutes," and tell the truth. A press conference won't do; he needs to go deep into his story. He must show emotion and humility. He needs to explain why he cheated, how he cheated, why he apparently coerced others to cheat (appearing to be a bully), and why he's covered it up for all these years. He needs to show genuine remorse--and he must reach out to people in the cancer community who have looked to his once miraculous story for hope and now feel betrayed.

Of course, to do so would place Armstrong at risk of being sued by companies like SCA Promotions, and even facing perjury charges. If his reputation means anything to him, those are risks Armstrong has to take. Perjury cases are notoriously hard to prosecute, meaning the chances of him doing jail time for lying under oath are limited. As for lawsuits, Armstrong could avoid a public fight with SCA and others by quietly settling out of court, which he should do if pressed to pay up.

There are, in my eyes, no ways for Armstrong to totally escape all three threats--financial, legal and reputation. He will never fully recover from this situation. But he can help mitigate the damage by doing what he should have done years ago--tell the truth. This country is hard on liars, but we're even harder on liars who don't fess up when busted (we did, after all, forgive Bill Clinton, who lied point blank to the American people, only to fess up later). For the sake of his legacy and for the good of his family, Lance Armstrong has to come forward and tell the truth. He has to help us understand why he did what he did (if, of course, he himself understands). He has to acknowledge he was wrong. And he must ask for forgiveness.

He can never repair all of the damage to his reputation, but he can certainly stop the bleeding and begin the process of redemption and healing.

Click here for a disturbing look at Lance Armstrong's career and the doping allegations that have plagued him.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Doping: I Don't Know What to Believe Anymore

I'm about to wrap up Tyler Hamilton's new book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping: Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs. Hamilton was a top lieutenant for Lance Armstrong, the celebrated cancer survivor and seven-time winner of the Tour de France. As we all know, Armstrong now faces a damning report by the US Anti-Doping Agency and may lose all seven Tour de France titles because of suspected doping.

An admitted doper, Hamilton in The Secret Race chronicles his years with Armstrong and the US Postal Service team and his systematic use of illegal performance-enhancers. Throughout his 300-page autobiography, he shares disturbing information about Armstrong, including the seven-time Tour champion's purported use of synthetic EPO (EPO boosts red blood cells, which provide oxygen to the muscles), testosterone and blood doping. According to Hamilton, the USADA report and many other sources, Armstrong worked closely with the unscrupulous, albeit brilliant, doping doctor, Michele Ferrari. Ferrari has since been banned from pro cycling. Hamilton says Armstrong, aided by Ferrari, doped long before his battle against cancer and throughout his seven wins at the Tour de France from 1999-2005.

Other former Armstrong lieutenants, including George Hincapie, Floyd Landis and Levi Leipheimer, shared similar accounts in their statements to USADA. Hincapie was by Armstrong's side in all seven Tour wins.

The point of this post isn't to offer a book review or to share information and analysis that's already available for public consumption; it's to express my profound sadness. Like millions of people worldwide, Lance Armstrong was once a hero to me. I admired the way he competed, lived and expressed himself. I read both of his books cover to cover and found inspiration in his competitive drive. He brought me to the Tour de France and I've been an avid fan of pro cycling since (and I always will be).

As the years pass, I find it harder and harder to resist becoming a cynic when it comes to those we view as heroes. Are there any heroes left? Where are our Roy Rogers types? Over the past few years we've seen Tiger Woods, Joe Paterno, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones and many others fall from grace. Now, we see perhaps the most beloved figure in the history of American sports, Lance Armstrong, in the midst of a free fall like no other. Few could have predicted this, even as, deep down, many questioned the pureness of what they saw. I never really questioned it; I chose to believe in Lance. I was a fool.

Looking back on it now, I should have known Armstrong was a doper. Pretty much everyone around him was busted at some point in their career. How could it be that Armstrong, who conquered his opponents like no other cyclist could, was clean? While we continue to dismiss as no-good cheats disgraced riders like Jan Ullrich, Hamilton, Frank Schleck, Alberto Contador and many others, we've hailed the unbeatable Armstrong as a symbol of American righteousness, purity and might. Alas, the truth is this: Armstrong was no different than the cheats; he just hadn't been caught (yet). But now he's being exposed, and it's painful to watch because it's hard to let go of how we've felt about Lance for all these years.

The saddest message within Hamilton's book is that you have to dope in order to be competitive in the major events like the Tour de France. A clean rider might be able to compete in shorter races, but in a three-week event he'll have no shot, especially in the latter stages when one battles depletion. To be at the top of a sport of cheaters, you need not only lots of pasta and sleep, but also extra red blood cells and freakish recovery. Another disturbing message in Hamilton's book: Because everyone dopes, it's not viewed as cheating. Doping is seen as what you have to do to survive.

I've never taken an illegal performance enhancer and I never will. But now I look upon my own beloved sport and wonder how clean and honorable it is. You can't blame me for my cynicism; EPO, blood doping and testosterone would do wonders for an ultrarunner. There have been times, after a mountain run/race, when I've been depleted at a level far behind what I might otherwise experience in a sea level event. In these times, I do one of two things: either I push myself to break through, or I choose to recover the natural way (with diet, rest and legal supplements like Hammer Recoverite, Udo's Oil and whey protein powder). With the aid of EPO or a blood transfusion, I could probably recover ten times faster and be back at it in no time. I might even have a shot at winning a few races. I can resist such a proposition because it's immoral to cheat, but who's to say others are just as scrupulous...especially when money is on the line as we're increasingly seeing.

In a sport without any real drug testing to speak of, isn't it entirely possible--even likely--that performance enhancers have taken hold while we remain happily oblivious to the seedy underbelly of long distance running?

I don't know what to believe anymore.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stop, Start, Continue....

In the corporate world, there's a tool called "Stop, Start, Continue" that many companies use this time of year for budgeting and "resource allocation" purposes. I've never been one to espouse the virtues of corporate tactics and strategies, but I do think it's a great idea for us runners to occasionally look at how we're training and racing and consider new approaches while letting go of bad habits.

With my training for the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon now under way, here's what I've started doing, stopped doing and continued doing.

What I've Stopped
I'm no longer pushing myself to hold a good pace on a daily basis. On my easy days, I'm trying to run easy, and usually that's around 8-8:30 pace. I'm no longer obsessing over my GPS and making myself run a certain pace on easy days. Easy days=easy pace.

Also, I've stopped breaking long runs into two workouts. Over the past few years, as my free time has become more limited, I've gotten in the bad habit of running, say, 16 miles in the morning and then 4 more miles later that afternoon, so that I could tell myself I covered 20 for the day. Such an approach, while occasionally a good tactic when training for 100-milers, instills a false sense of security.

I've stopped doing back to back long runs every weekend. My Saturday mileage is now capped at 11, and on Sundays I'm going long. By limiting my Saturday mileage, I'm able to enjoy greater quality in my Sunday long runs. When Leadville rolls around, back to backs will come into play again, but for now they're off the table.

Finally, and as noted in a previous post, I've stopped wearing Hokas. I'm now mostly wearing lightweight trainers with good stability (Ascics Gel DS Trainer 17s and Nike Lunar Glide 4s are my favorites) and the right amount of heel lift.

What I've Started
I've started emphasizing long runs. On Sunday, I covered 20 miles in the Parker hills in 2 hours and 35 minutes (with 1,100 feet of climbing mixed in). In training, there are many ways to skin a cat, but one thing you can't do--if you really want to break through--is skimp on long runs. Twenty miles all in one go will benefit you a lot more than 16+4 over two workouts in a single day. For one thing, two workouts in a single day may slow your recovery and can sometimes lead to burn out (you need that sense of accomplishment without another run hanging over your head). But, most important of all, when you push yourself to 20 miles and beyond you realize some great benefits in terms of physical and mental conditioning. I plan on doing another seven or eight 20-milers (including at least one 22-miler in 2:50 or less) to get ready for Phoenix.

As noted above, I'm also trying to go easy on my easy days. Your biggest gains come from your quality days, not your easy days--so there's no need to push yourself on easy days. Rather than obsess about a certain number of miles on easy days, I'm just running at a gingerly pace (8:00-8:30) and going more on feel than on a certain distance.

I also have a renewed focus on flexibility. I'm doing some yoga stretches to try to help prevent injury and promote recovery--critical during this time of year when the temperature is cooling off.

What I've Continued
Quality is king--it's how you make big gains. Long runs of 20+ miles are great quality, but so are intervals and tempo runs. I've always been great with regular tempo runs but my commitment to the track over the past few years has been sketchy. Intervals will get me faster while tempo runs will improve my strength and long runs will condition me for the challenge of running 26.2 miles at 6:40 pace (or faster).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Marathon Training has Begun

Just like that, I'm back to training with a purpose. Most of September was spent "exercising," recovering from surgery and just basically trying to re-establish a base (in addition to putting on a few pounds that I'm now starting to shed). But, with October now upon us, I'm back at it with dreams of a new PR at the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon (a.k.a. the Phoenix Marathon). At this point, I'm not chasing after a specific time, though I want to PR (current PR is 2:58).

Basically, the training plan is to do three quality sessions a week: an interval session, a tempo run and a long run. Everything in between is going to be at "easy" pace. This morning I did 3x1600 at the track and had a great time. The last time I did 3x1600, which used to be my bread-and-butter track workout, was 2009. It was always a great indicator of my fitness. If I could run each interval in about 5:35, I knew I was in good shape. Today, my times were around 5:58-5:59--slow, but not super slow, and you can't overlook the fact that I'm now at elevation.

As winter rolls in, getting in quality may become tricky, but fortunately I have easy access to a treadmill in the event that the roads are icy.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want as a runner. I'm not yet sure what I want in the long-term, but right now I want to succeed at Phoenix and come away from that race satisfied and knowing I've earned a spot at Boston in 2014. I'm trying not to think about Leadville in 2013, even though Leadville is always lurking deep in my mind since that race is a big part of who I am as a person. I won't even start training for Leadville until early April.

For me, it's a hell of a lot harder to run 26.2 miles at 6:40 pace than it is to run a 50K or 50-miler in the mountains (notice I didn't include 100-milers--the difficulty of those is beyond the pale). The training for a PR effort in the marathon is a lot more focused, structured and specialized (and I like that), but not quite as grueling as training for a 100-miler. I think doing nothing but ultras is limiting. Over time, ultras can slow you down, especially if all you do are trail races. If improving and getting faster are important to you, then it's good to race different distances on different surfaces, and that includes the road. There are some awesome road ultras out there, such as Spartathlon and Comrades.

As far as volume, my goal through October is to keep my weekly mileage around 60-65. In November, I'll likely get into the 70s and in December I may bump things up to 80 miles a week. They key is not sacrificing quality for quantity. One of the big changes I'm making is not doing back to back long runs every week like I've done for years on end now. On Saturdays, I may do only 10 miles, and then on Sundays I'll go long. I want my long runs to be high quality, and I want to do several 20-milers in advance of Phoenix. This Sunday I'll be going 20 miles.

Here's to the joy of marathon training!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ramping Up for the Marathon / Ultrarunner of the Year Thoughts

Now that I've turned the corner in my recovery from a minor surgical procedure I've been putting off for too long, my thoughts are turning to the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon in Pheonix on January 20. I've already registered for the race and booked my hotel room. I still need to get my flight. These are important steps in the mental engagement process.

Of course, the biggest factors in preparing for a race aren't getting a hotel room or even registering (though certainly both are vital). The most important things you can do are dedicate yourself to the goal at hand and do the right training. My goal is to run a 2:55 in Phoenix. I've begun running again, after a full week off as I recovered, and have set October 1 as the official start of my marathon training.

My training is going to be much more strategic than in years past. It used to be that I just ran a bunch of miles, including speedwork, tempo runs and long runs, and showed up at the start hoping for the best. Usually, things worked out well (yeah, those were the good 'ole days). This time around, what most matters to me is peaking on race day and being 100% healthy. I'm re-reading Daniels' Running Formula (which I first read in 2006) and am focusing heavily on the build-up stages I'm going to need to do to get in peak shape. Right now, I'm just trying to re-establish my fitness, as I lost a step or two just from that week off. Plus, I'm still not 100% from the procedure.

Contrary to what Paul Ryan might have us think, breaking three hours in the marathon is a challenge for most of us. I know because I've done it three times (in a row). You have to put in the right kind of training, which includes fast stuff and long stuff. Over the past few years I think I've gotten lazy with my long runs, instead going on lots of outings of 18 or fewer miles and then maybe doing a double later in the day so that I could say, yeah, I did 22 or 23 miles that day. But no matter how you slice it, there's no substitute for a good, quality 20-22-miler when you're training for a marathon--just as 30-35-milers are incredibly important to preparing for a 100-miler. There's no substitute for a focused tempo run. And there's nothing quite like hammering it around a track or doing fast fartleks.

As much as I'm excited about Phoenix, I've had moments where I've felt pulled to do another ultra this year. With my DNF at Leadville, I don't meet the qualification criteria for Western States in 2013. That really sucks because I would have had an extra ticket in the lottery. I thought for a brief moment in time about finding a qualifying 50-miler and gettin' it done, but that would just interfere with my marathon PR goal. So, after doing some soul-searching, I've decided not to do any more ultras this year and instead focus on getting ready for Phoenix, which I think will establish a super-solid base for my Leadville training.

I'm also thinking a little about 2013. I know there's Phoenix on January 20 and the Leadville 100 in August. I'm going to race less and instead use the time to train on the Leadville course and get 100% comfortable with every section, mostly notably the entire Hope Pass section (from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back). But I'd like to do a few races. I'm considering the Lt. JC Stone 50K, a road race in Pittsburgh that's run on the old GNC Ultras course, in March. I did the JC Stone in 2009, finishing fifth overall with a 3:46 despite a hideous upper-respiratory bug, and it's a great race. I'd love to go back to the Mt. Evans Ascent--there's something about that race. Then there's the Leadville Trail Marathon in June. We'll see.


Final note: I don't know about you, but in my mind 40-year-old Mike Morton is a lock for Ultrarunner of the Year. His record-breaking 172.457-mile performance at the 24-hour World Championship in Poland a few weeks ago just sealed the deal. Averaging 8:21 pace for 24 hours--and that includes refueling and bathroom stops--is just insane (even more insane: Yiannis Kouros' world record 188 miles in 24 hours). This year alone, Mike's had three 100-milers all under 14 hours (winning each), a near record-setting win at Badwater and of course that eye-popping performance at the 24-hour worlds. I do think Tim Olson should get consideration, especially for Performance of the Year (though here again I think Mike is the favorite with his 24-hour result), but Mike has clearly had the best year of any ultrarunner out there.

For the women, I think Connie Gardner, who logged 149.368 miles at the 24-hour worlds to set a new American record, should get Performance of the Year. Of course, the venerable Ellie Greenwood, who may one day best many of Ann Trason's records, gets the women's UROY.

I guess some may say I'm crazy for not thinking Ellie and Tim should get Performance of the Year for their incredible Western States records. Those were great results for sure, but let's not forget that the weather that day was insanely cool compared to the norm. In areas of the course where the temp usually hits 100+ degrees, people were wearing jackets.

In summary:
  • Ultrarunner of the Year/Men: Mike Morton (landslide victory)
  • Ultrarunner of the Year/Women: Ellie Greenwood (landslide victory)
  • Performance of the Year/Men: Mike Morton, 24-hour worlds (narrowly edges out Tim Olson, Western States)
  • Performance of the Year/Women: Connie Gardner, 24-hour worlds (very narrowly edges out Ellie Greenwood, Western States)
I can't end this post without also throwing out props to a runner who I've admired for years and recently collected his 31st career win at the 100-mile distance. At the tender age of 44, he beat out some seriously fast dudes nearly half his age, and in the process he earned a five-figure paycheck for yet another great day at the office. Congratulations to one of my heroes, Karl Meltzer, a.k.a. the Wasatch Speedgoat, on winning the inaugural Run Rabbit Run 100-Mile. Karl's mojo is legendary and, yeah, for him, "100 miles isn't that far."

Final thought: Karl's win at Run Rabbit Run, because of his age, was every bit as surprising to me as Hal Koerner's amazing win at Hardrock this year (Hal lives in Ashland, Oregon, which is at a paltry 1,800 feet, but grew up in Colorado). The smart money was on guys like Joe Grant and Dakota "Young Money" Jones to win Hardrock, but ultimately Hal, being a grizzled veteran, got 'er done, just as Karl brought it at Run Rabbit Run.

Let me know what your thoughts are on who gets UROY and Performance of the Year!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Interview with Jay Aldous, World Record Holder

Jay Aldous is a 51-year-old ultrarunning phenom. Anyone who follows the sport closely will undoubtedly recall his scorching 13:52 100-mile split at the 2011 Desert Solstice 24-hour race, setting a new world record for the 50 to 54 age group. Ultrarunning magazine voters recognized Jay's incredible Desert Solstice performance as the 2011 Age Group Performance of the Year.

Jay has been around ultrarunning for quite some time. He finished the 1980 Western States 100 (at the age of 18) and 1983 Wasatch 100, but then he disappeared from the sport for some 25 years, turning his attention to family, career opportunities and a record-breaking cycling journey around the world. Since his 2008 return to ultrarunning, Jay has been on a rampage with several top-five finishes at high-profile events like the Leadville 100, Javelina Jundred and Burning River 100 and wins at the Devil's Backbone 50-mile, Salt Lakes 100-mile and Pony Express 100-mile, to name a few. In a few weeks, he'll line up at the North Coast 24-Hour in Cleveland to gun for a 100-mile time under 13:30.

Here, Jay shares some of his training strategies, an interesting story about his 1983 Wasatch 100 finish, his thoughts on how ultrarunning has changed over the years, and much more.

Jay's interests beyond running include skiing, snowboarding, cycling and traveling. He lives in Salt Lake City and is chief strategist at Social Capital Partnerships, a fundraising consulting firm based in Chicago. He's previously held senior marketing and communications positions at UNICEF, The Brighton Group and Children's Miracle Network (which I find personally interesting since we're in a similar line of work).

So sit back and enjoy what you're about to read, because these are the words of an ultrarunning master.

Silver City 50K - Photo by Michael Lebowitz
WH: Jay, thank you for coming on the Running Man blog for this interview. I have to say: When people talk about the best ultrarunners out there, names like Koerner, Jornet, Morton, Meltzer and Olson come up. But when I look at your age, 51, and some of the results you’re logging, like that age group record-breaking 13:52 100-mile split at the Desert Solstice 24-hour run last year, I think one could make an argument that you’re up there with the most elite. And I also want to mention you ran a 16:16 at last year’s Burning River 100. As a former Clevelander and Burning River finisher, I know that course and the conditions well, and that’s a hell of a time. And as a Leadville finisher, I'm in awe of what you've done on that course. Congratulations on your amazing success.

Now, let’s get down to it. You’ve been running ultras for a while—and I also read somewhere that you’re a pretty strong cyclist. I checked your results and it looks like you finished Western States in 1980. I also found a 1983 Wasatch finish, but then it looks like you didn't race again until 2008, and since then you've been on quite a rampage. What happened in those 25 years?

JA: I was never really a runner so it’s not like I had an earlier running life. I ran Western Sates on a bit of whim when I was 18. I remember reading this article in Outside magazine about this 100 mile race where if you finished in under 24-hours you got a silver belt buckle. For some reason that captured my attention and I wanted to see if I could do it. Once I got my belt buckle I was done with ultra races until several years later when a friend asked if I would run the Wasatch 100 with him. I thought, “Why not? This might be fun!” This was back in the day when there was no lottery so we registered a few weeks before the race. Neither of us had trained much and the course took quite a toll on me. In fact, I was a wreck when I finished. It took me 32 hours (this was so far back in the day that 32:09 was good enough for 9th place). At the end of the race I took off my shoes and burned them, telling the race director, John Grobin, “I will never hurt like this again and I will never run another ultra.” For 25 years I honored that promise. John claims he has a picture of me burning my shoes somewhere in the Wasatch 100 archives. I need to have him dig that out so I can prove to people that I used to have hair.

WH: Wow, that’s a great story! To finish Western States, let alone any 100-miler, when you’re 18 years-old and not exactly mature is pretty amazing. What did you do in those 25 years you didn’t run an ultra? I heard you’re quite the cyclist and once had the record for cycling around the world. Did you spend those years in the saddle?

JA: In 1984, Matt DeWaal and I bicycled around the world in 106 days (14,290 miles) to set a new world record. That record stood for 14 years I believe. Neither of us were particularly talented cyclists, we just had underdeveloped 20 year-old male brains that allowed us to think we were living the dream sitting on a bike saddle every day, sun up till sun down for three months. In 1989, Matt and I created the “Bicycle Express” where we bicycled the 1,938-mile Pony Express trail from Sacramento, CA to St. Joseph, MO in 10 days – matching the ten-day guaranteed delivery time of the original Pony Express. After that I pretty much concentrated on life – family, career, paying the mortgage…

Salt Flats 100 - Photo by Greg Norrander
WH: It seems endurance is just part of who you are. Did you run (or cycle) competitively as a kid?

JA: No. But, not too many kids could keep up with me on my Schwinn Lemon Peeler.

WH: Given your experience at Western States and Wasatch in the early years of ultrarunning, do you think the sport has changed over the decades? If so, in what ways?

JA: So much has changed. There were no trail shoes back then. We ran in road trainers. There were no hydration packs. We carried Nalgene bottles in fanny packs. Some of the elite runners were using a new product called a bota-belt that was essentially a sausage shaped bladder that went around your waist. We carried flashlights in our hands. There were no energy drinks. My drink of preference was defizzed Coke with ground-up aspirin in it. And, we would eat anything that sounded good. I remember having someone bring me a Big Mac with fries at the Brighton aid station during the Wasatch 100 because I thought it would fuel me through the night (perhaps that’s why it took me 32+ hours and I felt like sh*t at the end).

WH: Let’s talk about your training. I’m 39 now and it’s fair to say I’m beginning to feel the years. I’m finding that I need to do better with recovery, especially between hard workouts, and I need to be more strategic and focused with my training. With incredible results like that 18:42 at the Leadville 100 this year, you must be putting in some serious volume. At 51 years-old, what’s your training strategy like and how do you stay healthy and dialed in?

JA: I’m not a high-mileage runner. Anything more than 60 miles a week and I start to feel all sorts of shakes and rattles, plus I just feel tired when my mileage gets too high. The last two months I’ve been experimenting with only running every other day – with a focus on purposeful, high-quality runs on my running days. I think I may be on to something in that several nagging injuries I’ve had for some time are finally healing, I have more energy, and I think I may be getting faster. My fall races will answer the question of whether this strategy is working.

Desert Solstice - Photo by Aravaipa Running
WH: What do you mean by “purposeful” and “high-quality”? And are cross-training and weights in the mix on your off days?

JA: I select runs based on what I think needs improvement for my next race. Right now I’m training for the North Coast 24-Hour run so I am focused on flat runs on pavement running at a 7:42 pace – no faster, no slower. I want to show up at that race capable of only running one speed. In advance of Leadville I focused on improving my descending skills (I’m not a very fast downhill runner). I try to work on core strength on my non-running days. Weights are in the mix as well as my favorite core workout – cutting, splitting and stacking wood.

WH: That’s impressive! North Coast is a great race that is well-run. I was fortunate to run in the 2009 race (we lived in Cleveland at the time). It sounds like you have a very sound strategy. I just hope you have good weather—tough to predict what things will be like on the lake that time of year. What’s your goal for North Coast?

JA: I’m excited to see what a 24-hour road race is like. It will be my first time. I’m just going to run 100 miles as I’m not sure I’ve got the stuff to run for 24 hours. My goal is sub 13:30.

WH: That's fast, for sure. On the topic of 24-hour racing, what did you think of Mike Morton’s recent 172.45-mile performance at the World Championship in Poland?

JA: Mind blowing. Can’t even begin to comprehend running that far and that fast….

WH: Circling back to your training…what I’m hearing from you is you do a lot of race-specific training, versus just going out and grinding out the miles. When you’re not training for 24-hour races, are tempos and intervals ever a part of the mix? And how far do you run on long days?

JA:. I try to do at least one interval workout on the track each week. And, I try and run at race pace or faster for my other runs. My long runs are seldom run more than 25 miles.

WH: Let’s get back to what you said about maxing out at 60 miles a week. I know you live in the Salt Lake City area, where you have access to some awesome mountain trails. Are these 60 “mountain” miles, or do you mix it up between road and trail?

JA: It’s a mix. I’m lucky in that I’m just minutes from the track AND the mountains and can mix it up depending on my race plans and mood. On average, I’d say 75 percent of my running is in the mountains.

WH: I can’t help but ask this since you live in Salt Lake City. Last week Karl Meltzer busted out a huge performance at the Run Rabbit Run 100—a performance many probably didn’t see coming given Karl's age and the fact that there were some young superstars in the field gunning for that $10,000 winner's purse. Were you surprised by what Karl did?

JA: I wasn’t surprised. I knew he was healthy, hungry and motivated. Plus, the course suited him well. He was overdue for a stellar performance. It’s great to see his mojo back!

WH: I agree 100 percent about Karl. He's not only a mountain goat, but he's also pretty fast and he has mojo like no one else. What’s the secret to guys like you and Karl performing at a high level despite the years? Is it recovery, nutrition, specific training strategies, something else?

JA: Karl is a talented runner, a real strategist when he races, and knows how to be patient. While age may be taking some of his natural speed away, I suspect he'll improve in the other two areas as he ages.

WH: Before we wrap up, I have to ask you a question I ask of everyone I interview: What’s the #1 mistake ultrarunners make in their training?

JA: In my opinion, too many miles. Somehow we ultrarunners got sold the idea that the more miles the better.

Pocatello 50 - Photo by Marge Yee
WH: Last question: What’s on tap for 2013?

JA: I’d like to run Western and Wasatch, Lottery Gods permitting. If somehow I got into Western, I’d want to do the Grand Slam. Knowing that the odds are against me, I’m prepared to be content on a diet of smaller regional races that I can get into.

WH: Well, here's to the Lottery Gods! Jay, thank you for your time. You’ve had incredible success in this sport and I think our readers will really appreciate your insights. Good luck at North Coast and I hope you have a huge 2013!