Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Most of us already suspect that doping has infiltrated ultrarunning. To what degree it's infiltrated ultrarunning, we don't know. There are many ways to dope (EPO, steroids, HGH, etc.) and they all have one thing in common: cheating. Oh, yeah, doping can also be very dangerous. So, if you dope, in addition to being a cheater, you’re also playing with fire when it comes to your own health.

There’s no real system for catching dopers in ultrarunning. A few races might test here and there but truly effective testing comes down to a year-round program, including out-of-competition testing. In cycling, they have an impressive “biological passport” system. Almost any doping system is expensive, hard to administer and often fraught with varying levels of absurdity and corruption. There are no perfect systems, and often cheaters go undetected. Just look at the NFL and you’ll see a league bulging with ‘roiders and very few positive tests to show for it. Much of the time, testing programs are a joke—a façade.

That said, some high-profile elite road runners have been busted, including Rita Jeptoo. In the sprinting world, it seems tons of athletes have been caught. So, testing does work now and then. Some people are busted, but many go undetected because they’ve figured out how to beat the system, the system failed or (probably most commonly) they were never tested at all.

In the case of Jeptoo, she’s performing in a sport where prize purses hit six figures and there are sizable appearance fees. Big road racing has big money in it. The testing serves to protect the sport’s integrity and (try to) make sure there’s fair competition in the midst of big money for the top men and women and greedy corporate interest. Plus, you have governing bodies that provide some limited structure to testing programs.

In ultras, you have none of that. You have no real governing body, which means you have no testing system. And you have no money. Some people say money is coming to ultras. Really? In the grand scheme of things, those $10,000 prizes that just went to the top man and woman in race X are a drop in the bucket for big companies who just want to promote and market their brands.

The reality is that most ultras are volunteer-driven and organized by a guy or gal who’s operating on a shoe-string budget and is just hoping he/she doesn't lose too much money when all is said and done.

So what you have in ultra is a Wild West situation in which participants can, in theory and practice, do whatever they want as far as performance enhancing drugs—EPO, HGH, you name it—and get away with it. I do believe the vast majority of us don't dope and instead train and race the right way. But a few do cheat and that's concerning.

And this isn’t just about the "elites”; it’s also about less than scrupulous age groupers who might have good enough jobs to finance their PED use, which comes down to satisfying their own ego and impressing others. People will cheat to impress others. It’s naïve to say people will only cheat to win money or fame. People break the rules all the time and justify it one way or the other. Never underestimate the allure of impressing others. I don’t get it, but there are lots of people out there who want praise. A little EPO might help in that regard.

From where I’m sitting, until the bona fide running elites start racing ultras, there will never be big money in the sport—which means no testing system. What do I mean by bona fide elites? Well, in Kenya they have over 30 men who can run a 2:05 marathon. In American ultrarunning, and maybe worldwide ultrarunning, there’s not a single man who gets even close to 2:05 that I can think of. So in a sport where you don’t have the fastest long-distance runners in the world competing, how can you expect money to make its way into the mix and a testing system to form? Neither is going to happen.

So we find ourselves in a “sport” lacking organization, a testing system and real money to get anything done.

As naïve as it may sound, the best we can hope for is for ultrarunners to train and race with integrity. It’s possible a few high-profile races can implement testing (and that would be great), but the prospect of a comprehensive testing system is bleak unless ultra evolves in ways few of us could ever imagine.

Let’s all be honest competitors and participants with integrity.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Awesome Article about the Leadville 100

Here's a link to an amazing article in NowU, a publication of the Gannett Company, about the Leadville 100-Mile Run. The article was written by a fellow runner, Ted McClelland, and really hits on what makes the Leadville 100 such a special race for so many, including me.

Although stepping away from Leadville in 2015, I am already excited about lining up at 6th and Harrison in August of 2016 for #6 (and counting). Maybe Leadman? Whatever I do...Leadville!

Final note: The guy in the top photo is a friend of mine, Chuck Radford, who went on to finish his first Leadville this year (in 20 hours and change). Chuck paced me in 2013 and was with me as I ran up Powerline. Huge thanks to him and to my other pal, Scott Williams, who was the one who gave me that Fig Newton at mile 62. Like almost any ultrarunner, I am fortunate to be surrounded by loving family and supportive, caring friend.

Friday, December 19, 2014

5 Things You Can Do to Have a Long Running "Career"

With the Western States lottery gods once again overlooking me, 2015 will feature the Bighorn 100 and hopefully the Pikes Peak Marathon. Taking the year off from any Leadville races has been a tough decision because I've come to love both the marathon and 100-mile run. With the lottery open another 12 days, I'll be the first to admit that I've been tempted several times to put my name in the hat.

I have come to be a bit too obsessed with Leadville. The fact is that I've yet to have the race up there of which I'm capable. In 2013, I lined up in amazing shape and still underachieved. This year, despite really solid training, I went backwards as far as how it all went relative to my 2011 and 2013 results. Whatever is vexing me up in Leadville, I've yet to understand it in the five years I've lined up for that epic 100-mile race. It could be that the biggest barrier to my breaking through is mental. The altitude has no doubt been a factor, but I think it's become a mental thing. Some time away might really help as far as putting Leadville in perspective and regaining some confidence.

Plus, the timing of Leadville (especially in 2015) has come to really suck from a family standpoint. It's right when my son goes back to school (if you don't have kids, you couldn't possibly imagine how busy back-to-school season can be) and all of the training Leadville requires can get in the way of fun family time throughout the summer. I try not to allow running to take priority over family but the bottom line is that training for Leadville requires lots of time away all summer. With Bighorn happening in mid-June, I'll have a big chunk of the summer after the race to relax, maintain fitness for Pikes Peak and, most importantly, do fun stuff with the family (camp, hike, etc.).

As difficult of a decision as it's been, It'll be good to step away from Leadville for a year and give Bighorn a go.

I've been thinking a lot about what I learned in 2014 as far as running. Here are my top 5 learnings:

1) On race day, less is more. Whatever you pack for a 100-miler, you'll use probably 10% of it during the race.

2) At some point in your life, you develop a big enough base that you can start to train smarter and not longer. This is a big struggle for me because I've always been a volume guy. Plus, how do you really know when your base has reached that critical point? Since taking up serious running in 2004, I've put in over 35,000 miles. That's probably a super solid base....

3) There is something to fat adaptation.... If your body has 20,000-30,000 fat calories and only 2,000 sugar calories stored, it makes sense that burning fat is the way to go. Plus, if you can burn fat efficiently, that means fewer stomach-bombing gels during the race--a good thing.

4) Masters runners are the guys and gals who made it through their 20s and 30s, avoiding running-related burnout and injuries, and that's why they're now so damned tough and competitive--they're the last badasses standing. It is amazing to me how quality the masters field is in most races. I'm proud to still be going strong at age 41.

5) Always ask yourself why you're doing a certain race. My feeling is that many of us do zillions of races a year to prove something that isn't healthy--like maybe impressing others or trying to compensate for personal insecurities. With races, it's quality, not quantity. If you over-race, you won't get to #4 above.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Most Comfy Flip Flop Ever? Yep.

Note to reader: I only do reviews of products that I really like. In this case, today I'm doing a short review of a product that has quickly become a favorite around the house, out in the neighborhood and even in public. 

It's the most comfortable flip flop I've ever worn, and it's quickly taken the place of my Birkenstocks, which cost three times more. It's the OOFOS OOAHH flip flip and it'll make you feel like you're walking on clouds. In terms of comfort, think Hoka One Ones only way lighter, with two straps over the top of your feet and perfect for recovery.

Here's a photo:

Just from that photo alone, you'll notice a few things:

First, it's a super comfy flip flop. When I say super comfy, I'm talking about ultra soft. Every time I slip them on, it feels like I'm walking on clouds. My feet get happy. Where does that softness come from? OOFOS is powered by "OOform" and a patented footbed design. OOFOS says OOform is 37% softer than EVA. I believe it. Slip on a pair and you'll know what I mean when I say they're ultra soft.

Second, it's designed to support how your feet move. It kind of rolls with you. I like that. It's the most natural fit you'll ever get with a flip flop.

Third, it's pretty supportive, especially in the arch area. This level of support is critical for runners. When we're not running, our feet need to be happy and supported.

I have never been a flip flop fan, but I am definitely a fan of my OOFOS flip flops. Ask my wife and she'll verify that I wear them around the house all of the time. I often wear them when I take our dog for a walk (unless it's super cold outside). I'll even wear them out in public, which I normally wouldn't do with a flip flop (Birkenstocks notwithstanding). And of course they're great for after a long, hard run. Bottom line: If your feet need babying (whose don't?), OOFOS is for you.

With the holiday season upon us and Santa coming in eight days, it's still not too late to pull the trigger on some OOFOS for that runner in your life...or maybe for you. They'll thank you every time they slip them on after a long, hard run or or maybe a day on the feet at the office.

Get your OOFOS now by clicking here.

Glad to do other product reviews but only if you have a good product and good company. Do you hear me, Patagonia? :-)