Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Long, epic, self absorbed year in review post, along with mileage totals and goals for 2014


I just know this is the blog that everyone is eager to read. But really it is just some Facebook fun, and an utterly pointless post.

My truck passed 200,000 miles yesterday. It has had a good year, well apart from the time I drove into a ditch off of the side of my driveway.

The year started well, and ended well.

In January, we began our 2,916 mile journey across the country. Took 3.5 days – epic!!!!

It also got a new set of tires. And some oil changes. And new brakes. I think we did a tune up too.

It needs new ball joints. Spendy. That’s the goal in 2014. New ball joints.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

WTF is going on in Death Valley?


The officials at Death Valley National Park have made a rather bizarre decision to suspend sporting events within the park’s boundaries (for some background, read this page on the AdventureCORPS website.)

Instead of shrugging my shoulders and saying WTF? and LOLing to myself, I am going to write letters to my US Senators, Congressman and anyone else I can think of. Badwater is an awesome event, staged in an awesome place, and the thought of not being there as part of a crew this coming July is heartbreaking.

EDIT – I have added the addresses and names of the people who should receive a letter………..

Kathleen Billings, Park Superintendent
Death Valley National Park
PO Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Senator Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Representative Col. Paul Cook (Ret.)
8th Congressional District
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Sally Jewell
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240


I am kinda surprised to see that this page is getting several page views – not just the normal 3 per month, but several hundred in just a couple of hours. WTF? So, for all you newbies……. a couple of requests………

There is an online petition here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/overturn-decision-death-valley-national-park-discontinue-issuance-running-and-bicycling-event/MNP3TVG2 

Feel free to sign the above petition, but I truly urge anyone to who reads this website – yeah, both of you, to also mail a real letter to the addresses above. We CAN make a difference. We really can.

Anyone can post to a Facebook group or do some Twittering – but I truly believe that your voice will be heard louder if you use a stamp and an envelope.



Dear __________

I would like to make you aware of the decision by the management of Death Valley National Park to suspend all sporting events within its boundaries. From the Death Valley website: “Effective immediately Death Valley National Park will temporarily discontinue issuance of running and bicycling event permits. Future event permits will not be considered until a thorough safety evaluation of this type of activity has been completed. Activities that already have a fully-executed permit will go on as planned. Our website will be updated once we have completed this safety evaluation.”

I am particularly concerned about the effect this will have on the Badwater Ultramarathon, one of the world’s most prestigious ultramarathon running events (please refer to www.badwater.com). The reason given for this moratorium is “safety”, and yet the Badwater Ultramarathon has an excellent record of safety. There are mandatory safety briefings for all crews and runners given by race management and CHP and there are medical staff at every check point. In addition, each runner has a crew who are dedicated to ensure their runner’s safety. The safety of everybody involved with the race is the number one priority of the race management. In fact, their unblemished safety record should be used as an example.

I personally have been involved with the Badwater Ultramarathon for the last 4 years, and during that time, I have fallen in love with the magnificent scenery and natural beauty of Death Valley. Being within a few hours’ drive of Death Valley National Park is one of the reasons I moved to California from North Carolina earlier in 2013. Over the last 4 years, the teams I have been a part of have spent in the region of $30,000 as a result of their participation – much of this was pumped directly into the local economy and into the coffers of the National Park itself. Consider the effect that there are 90 teams entered into the Badwater Ultramarathon each year – the financial impact alone is significant; approximately a total of $1 million annually as a result of this one event alone.

The 90 runners in the 2013 edition of the Badwater Ultramarathon represented twenty-five countries Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and United States of America (and twenty-one America states).

With crews, race officials and runners there would be approximately a 1000 individuals, from all corners of the world, and all over the United States who would be a part of the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2014. As a result of this moratorium, these people will now not be able to enjoy one of the crown jewels in the National Park system, and one of California’s finest treasures, and in likelihood, will spend their dollars elsewhere.

Please do what you can to reverse this decision.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thoughts on the new Western States qualifying standards

As of Sunday November 17th, 2,761 is the number of applicants for the Western States lottery, up from 2,295 last year. A very rough guess and I imagine that I will have about a 30% chance, first timers around 5%-6%.


This is why they are changing the qualifying standards

The summary. 50 mile runs no longer qualify. Only the biggest 100 mile runs – 30 of them. (I guess it is biggest amount of starters.) Some 100km races are qualifiers – not sure what the criteria is – but one of my favorite races (Weymouth Woods) is out.

It has taken me a while to consider what to write – so I guess that would mean that the changes neither jump out at me as being good, nor do they jump out at me as being horrendously bad. I don’t think it will harm my chances of qualifying – I am already in one qualifying race (Umstead). It does put pressure on me to finish though!

This year, I went to great lengths to get a qualifier – worked with a coach,  crossed the country – but mission accomplished, I got my qualifier.  So, should Umstead not work out for whatever reason, I am pretty sure I would go to great lengths again, and if I had to travel across the country again, then I would do so.

There was some inevitable hand wringing on Facebook and IRunFar. Mainly because of the lack of races local to Auburn, or lack of races on the East Coast.  Looks pretty evenly distributed between East and West to me. Perhaps a legitimate gripe if you live in the heartland though.

(Blue – 100m, green -  100k, purple -  ‘other’)

The other concern I saw expressed was the worry that all qualifying races would fill up too quickly or would need a lottery. Perhaps this is also a legitimate concern – would the amount of WS applicants in other races, ruin it for locals who just want to run their hometown race? Good questions, and time will tell, and maybe some of these races would keep some spots for locals (an example is the way Western States allows each aid station to select a volunteer to enter the race the following year)

There are other changes the board could have adopted – tighter qualifying standards (for example, Sub 24 hour 100). Obviously I am glad they didn’t implement that one! I am pretty sure human nature dictates that most people want standards to apply to them, and as few a number of people as possible. Smile

They could also have made it so that if you win the lottery, you can’t apply the following year, reduce the lottery pool– I like that idea (see above what I said about human nature!)

I also think the lottery could be structured in such a way that it favors more heavily the people who have been the most patient. (Again, see above about human nature), about 1/2 the race will be filled with “first lottery entrants”

The WSER board opted to make these changes to reduce the number of people entering the lottery. As someone who has a better chance of becoming a 5 time loser than getting into the race on December 7th, I have to applaud the efforts of the board for at least coming up with something. I guess we will find out this time next year when we see how many people throw their hat into the ring to see if it has worked.

Good luck on Dec 7th to all who read this.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Guest Blog–Coach Shannon’s Tussey MountainBack Race Report

I mentioned in my own Tussey Mountain race report that I wouldn’t have been able to get my WS qualifying time without the coaching and advice of my good friend Shannon McGinn.

Shannon and I thought it would be fun to swap and share race reports. Shannon’s blog is called
“Creating Momentum!”

Newton’s second law explains how the velocity of an object changes when it is subjected to an external force. The law defines a force to be equal to change in momentum (mass times velocity) per change in time.

In other words, I was an object with not too much velocity. I needed an external force. Shannon was that external force. She Created Momentum. Smile

Please enjoy her write up, and please check her blog out from time time. It is filled with awesomeness.

[Shannon’s original post can be found here]


Tussey Mountainback, USATF National 50 Mile Road Championship, State College PA. 10/20/13

Course Review:  As I stood near the finish line I could hear runners sharing a wide variety of opinions about the race as they came through the finish: "The best course ever!" "That just sucked!" "That was the hardest thing I ever did!"  "The hills were horrible!!!"  "The hills weren't as bad as I thought!"  "The views were pretty." etc...

I really liked the course.  For a ROAD 50 Mile National Championship race it was a great course.  (If you want a trail race, you may prefer the USATF 50 miIe Trail Championship that usually takes place in March.)  This course seemed to weed out the unprepared and allowed those who worked hard to shine.  Unfortunately, I was one of those under-prepared and I felt that this course just ate me up and spit me out.

The race is one single 50 mile lap that has more downs than it has ups, but the ups are long climbs.  For example Leg 6 contains an 3.7 mile stretch of continuous uphill at I believe about a 7% average grade.  Leg 11 has a stretch that reached about 11% grade.  If you are able to run hills like that, you will get rewarded with an extremely fast time due to the blazing descents on runnable terrain that follow each up.  Out of the 12 legs, only 5 are uphill, with the worst being leg 6.  Three of those 5 uphill legs are in the first half.  Once you get to 25 miles, there are more downhill legs than ups left!  But leg 11 has the steepest of the climbs just before the final descent. Once over the last crest, the last 4.2 miles to the finish can be as fast as your heart desires.
The terrain is mixture of mostly gravel and asphalt road. I found the gravel roads to have single track-like sections of dirt where car tires pushed away the gravel.  It was much easier on my feet than running continuously on thick gravel.  At some point the gravel, which was large gravel, could be felt through my shoes.

The Race Director and his crew did a fabulous job of marking every mile.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to know this much information but I found it absolutely motivating to know where I was on the course.  There were also markers indicating 1/2 mile to the Aid Station before each of the 12 well-stocked pit stops. My only minor complaint is that they only served HEED as the sports drink.  They did have water and Coke (no Mt. Dew) so I basically ran the entire race on Coke, water, 3 gels, a few potatoes and some chips.  Each Aid Station supplied Hammer gel, potatoes, sweet and salty snacks, lot of drinks. Runners need to carry very little for this event.  If you need anything not supplied, you could use drop bags.

The elevation chart:

The night before the race Alanna pulled up the race website on her phone while we waited for a table for dinner. I scribbled on the back of a gas receipt which legs were up (1, 4, 6, 9, 11) and which were down.  I put an asterisk next to the hardest legs (1, 6, 11) and then committed the up legs to memory.  Sometime between dinner and bedtime I misplaced that receipt.

What to wear?
I pretty much packed a backpack full of clothing I could wear for any permutation of weather.  I checked the weather just before bed and it predicted that the rain would pass over night and leave the morning 37 degrees feeling like 33 with windchill.  It was supposed to fell like 33 for a few hours.  Wow.  I have not run in weather that cold in a long time.  The temps were to rise into the mid-40's by the time I should finish.  The only thing I was certain of was that I would wear my capri pants. (I could have gotten by with shorts).

I never use drop bags in races but I packed one for this one.  One lap ultras scare the crap out of me.  I actually have self-diagnosed myself as having some sort of revere claustrophobia.  I can feel perfectly comfortable inside an MRI (and get some of the best sleep of my life in them) but put me on a trail that is too long and the moment I realize that I wont be able to get out for hours and I start to feel trapped.

My main concern was actually  what shoes to wear? My last 50 miler in April started with me in racing flats.  I had assumed I would do that again.  But I was concerned I would feel the gravel through the thin light T7's and need to swap. But when? 25? 40?  Oh boy.  So I planned to leave a pair of Launch's in a drop bag somewhere between mile 30-35.  Then I decided to add a bottle of Gatorade. Then I added extra socks.  Then a zip lock of gels.

Then I realized this is stupid.  I know I am not going to stop for this stuff.  So I decided to just start in the Launch, forego the Gatorade, use the gels on the course but carry a few just in case they run out, and drink water and soda.  I grabbed my old Nathan's race vest and a 10 oz Nathan's quick shot bottle, to be filled with gatorade at the start, and put it in the pocket of my vest.  I grabbed 5 gels and dropped them in the other pocket.  That was it.  Done.

The Race:
Jim, Alanna, and I arrived early enough for me to decide that I did not need the hat and gloves I had on.  I wore a singlet under a long sleeve tech shirt and added my racing vest over the top.  Capris and my Brooks Launch completed the outfit and I was ready to run.  At 6:55 am, I got out of the car and headed to the starting line.  Just about 7 am we were running.

I ran the first 12-13 mile with a guy who was running his first 50.  He was moving well. We had the required conversations that runners have when the end up running together in ultras...  races, paces, goals, Born to Run, Vibrams,  how many races per year is too many, etc..  By leg 4 my stomach started to get upset and I decided I needed to walk the uphill on that section.  I let my running partner go, wondering if I would see him again or not.  I make a quit pit stop at the Aid Station just around 15 miles and just as I started heading back out I saw Christian.  He told me to hurry up and I took off with him.

Christian and I have run into each other at several races over the years, but never really spent much time running together. I was just starting to get into a negative place in my head when my stomach acted up, but seeing a familiar face perked me up.  We ran, we talked, and I started to have fun again.

I was having trouble with the climbs.  I was simply just not prepared for those types in hills.  I am a very busy flatlander and simply do not have time travel to hills to train. My heart was pounding in my ears and I decided that I needed to walk more than I originally intended too.  We paced ourselves up the hills and ran hard on the downhills making up a lot of time.

When we go to the top of leg 6, the worst leg and hit mile 25 just under 4 hours we knew we had an outside shot at sub-8.  In theory, it wasn't an unrealistic thought to think we could even split this race. After all there were more uphills in the first half than the second.  I declared that we should count how many people we can pass in the second half. At Mile 25 I felt like a super hero!
But by the time we hit Mile 32, I was starting to fall apart. LOL! I was tired.  My fueling was less than ideal. Since I cant drink Heed I was winging it.  I did carry that small 10 oz bottle of Gatorade for way too many miles before I started topping it off with water. I would down cups of Coke and water at each stop.  I did take 3 gels while I was out there.  I ate a few chunks of potatoes, about 5 potato chips, and two pretzel sticks. I don't eat or drink much of anything when training long slow distance runs of up to 20  milers and have found this very helpful in preparing me for long races.  The problem is sometimes I forget to fuel when racing but I have learned to recognize earlier than I used to when I need to take in some calories.
While quickly drinking a soda at the aid station, I glanced down at my shins and noticed both were swollen. It wasn't terrible but it was obvious and odd. I have never experienced this before during a race that I noticed and especially not one as a short as 32 miles.  I still had 18 more miles to go and now I was worried that something was going wrong.

At the 35 mile aid station, as I grabbed another coke, I noticed a small bruise starting to form on my left leg, just above the ankle. Oh Great!  I pressed around my leg and found that nothing actually hurt.  It made no sense at all?  Why am I swollen and bruising but nothing hurts?  It distracted and concerned me, but we just kept moving.  I whined to Christian about it and we both agreed that I would have been much better off if I had not noticed it at all.  I am sure this was just some odd reaction to all the pounding on the down hills.

Even though the course had less climbing in the first half, I was starting to run out of steam.  Christian and I continued onward together and although our pace faded we were still managing to pick off runners as we moved forward. Some of them got us back.  We reeled back in a few who blew past us early on.  But for a good part of the many many miles we ran together, it was as if Christian and I were just out together on some well-stocked extra long training run.  We simply ended up running miles and miles without another runner in sight.  Almost 180 ultra runners in this race and 110 relay teams and for large parts of this race we were simply alone out there for large chunks of mileage with maybe at most up to 4 others in sight.  It was peaceful and quite fun, especially when spotting beautiful views as we ran across the top of the ridge.

As we got closer to end of the race, Christian and I somehow managed to pass a few more people on the steepest incline. How that happened I cant explain. He was having some knee pain.  I was very worried about my cankles.  We were kind of a moving train wreck, but we were moving pretty fast on those descents!  I told Christian I don't know what place I am in but I want to try to hold it if possible. As we crested the last hill I wanted to run hard to ensure I didnt just give my position away. We really worked hard on that last descent.  At one point, I noticed my Garmin reading 7:17 pace!  We settled down and logged an 8 minute mile and settled in a little more for an 8:30. We continued to run and there was no one else in sight.

As we came around the final bend with less than a half mile to go, I notice a female runner ahead of a male runner. I started to pick up the pace and Christian called out, that's a chick go get her!  I started to pick up my pace and responded back to him that I think she is Relayer, but I kept pushing my pace trying to catch her, still not sure.  As we approached the finish area,  I pushed with all I had but there were cars in the road that I had to weave around a bit.  I just did not have enough time to catch her anyway.  She was an ultra runner and I was just too late.  She finished about 10 seconds ahead of me.

Although I know I ran as hard I could at this race, I am pretty sure if I train specifically for the hills I will be able to improve my time significantly. I am a little disappointed that I needed to walk as much of those uphills as I did.  But I understand that happened because I was simply under-prepared.  Now I know what to expect.

At the award ceremony I was very pleased to learn that despite my race being a lot slower than I had hoped to run, I still managed to place 5th Open USATF Female... which was good enough for prize money :)

Almost two months ago I got a message from my friend Jim P. asking if I have room on my roster for a new client.  I had just completed training two runners and I had room.  He asked if I could help him train for a Western States qualifier.  The window closes in November and he was running out of time.  He is living out in California now and had a few races planned out there, but when I looked at the results it seemed like Tussey was the best bet for a WSQ than any other option still available.

Jim wasn't even sure he was truly "coachable", reporting that his work life is too hectic, he can't plan regularly scheduled training weeks, sometimes he is on the road for days at a time, he likes to do his favorite run and that was important to him, he likes to makes decisions about his run while on the run based upon how he felt, etc...etc...  So he was going make things tough.  We only had 8 weeks!!!  So rather than give him a rigid day by day plan that he could not deviate from that would surely fail him, I instead devised a series of training RULES and EXCEPTIONS that he had to follow.  I sent him weekly plans that he could alter as long as he followed those rules.  The rules were complicated and devised to meet a criteria I needed him to meet and allowed him to move the less critical mileage around as needed. Jim loved this method and managed to complete every single thing I asked of him despite his unpredictable crazy schedule.  He was committed, dedicated and never once sent me a daily feedback email saying he skipped a workout.  He even did the obnoxiously horrific hill climbing treadmill workout I devised to mimic that ridiculously long climb (er...ahem...um... more often than I actually did it... LOL).

After I finished I was a little panicked.  I knew there was a high percentage of WSQing finishers at this race, but as I stood at the finish line started to reflect on the fact that this course has a 12 hour cut-off.  This means that most who finish WILL WSQ, but many will get pulled and simply DNF.  The race results did not indicate how many starters DNFd so I had no idea what percentage of starters actually made the 11 hour cut-off.  I started to fear I may have misinterpreted the data and my mistake was going to fail him and there was nothing I could do about this now.

The awards ceremony was announced at 5 pm (at 10 hours into the race) and Jim wasn't in yet.  I was jumping out of my skin.  I was watching the finish area from the bottom of the hill where the pavilion was while also trying to listen for my name.  6 pm would be the 11 hour cut off, so at 5:45 I started walking up the hill to wait for Jim and Alanna.  I was hoping they would be together.

But as I walked towards the finish area, I saw him... walking down the hill towards me... exhausted! He did it!!!  He got his WSQ and a new PR!  I was so happy for him!  He worked so hard and he did it!  Shortly, thereafter Alanna was done too.

Time: 8:21
Gender : 8th Overall Female
Open Women 5th (for prize money that paid for the trip).

Monday, October 21, 2013

When the pain is worth it…..


Tussey MountainBack 50 mile race report.

I am sitting on a plane going back home to California from my former home state of Pennsylvania, my legs are totally trashed, I am sore from the neck down, but feeling smugly satisfied with the reward for my efforts over the weekend.

You see I qualified for the 5th year running for Western States 100. As a bonus, there was a 12 minute or so PR for 50 miles. YAY!


But wait, there is more….

Let’s go back in time. This year in general hasn’t been the best for running, and getting the WS qualifier was becoming elusive. Plan A was to run a sub 11 for 50 at Umstead in April. I did great until I fell apart at mile 42 – after which I just strolled it in.

Plan B was to finish 100 miles at the Tahoe Rim Trail. Nope, fell apart at mile 40 (again).

Pretty soon, August was about half way through, and I was running out of time, (the qualifying period ends in early November).

I was signed up for Dick Collins Firetrails 50, but anecdotal evidence from friends and reading previous results gave me the impression that this would be close to impossible for me to get in under 11 hours.

It came to a head sometime during the Run On The Sly 20 mile race on August 18th  – it was toward the end of that race that I decided that I needed help. I had already downgraded myself from the 50k to the 20, so was feeling bad about that, and then there was my minor melt down at about 15 miles or so into that run. I finished that run averaging a totally unspectacular 13:38 pace. Ugh. To get the WS qualifier, I would need to average 30 seconds per mile faster for 30 more miles. Impossible the way I was feeling at that point.

Ultimately, I decided to reach out to my friend Shannon (here is something I wrote about her several months ago) – she agreed to take me on and started putting a training plan together for me. She did however acknowledge that it was going to be a challenge to get ready for a sub 11 hour 50 mile run in just a couple of months. For my part, I promised that I would do everything in my power to complete the workouts that she prescribed, and in the manner that she prescribed.

Of the few WS qualifying runs that were practical that remained – we soon figured out that Tussey Mountain would be my best shot. Right time of year, a non technical running surface – and looking at the previous results, a huge percentage of runners came in under 11 hours.

Hills are my friend. Really.

Over the weeks – I mostly stayed off of the wonderful trails I have so close to me in favor of running the roads in my ‘hood. I really needed just about every mile to be better than 12 minute pace. There was simply no time to “build a base of long slow runs”. In my immediate vicinity, there are some nice hills – a couple of them, about 2 miles long. I became intimately familiar with them. Running hard down, power hiking up – eventually jogging up, and then finally running up them. The efforts were almost always medium to hard.

Test #1 a month or so into the training, was the Sierra Nevada Endurance runs, a Marathon that starts at No Hands Bridge in the Auburn State Recreation Area. The goal – under 13 minute pace. I struggled the last few miles – but had enough energy left in me to throw down a 10:30 mile at the end. I succeeded – 12:51. I was a little hard on myself, and slightly disappointed with my run, as I struggled to hold it between miles 16-22. But Shannon was happy.

The training continues, my legs were feeling the punishment – just a recovery ruin or two and then it was back to business. Pounding the hills of Camino, and reporting to Shannon daily.

The next weekend was a return to Hinson Lake for the 5th time– unlike previous years where I showed up and had no idea how my run was going to go – whether I was just going to run and have fun, or hang out with friends; no this year, I had been set specific goals. 35 continuous miles, sub 13 minute pace. 50 miles total over the whole 24 hours. I didn’t spend much time socializing for the first 7.5 hours. I had a mission, and ultimately succeeded, (barely), average pace was 12:58. Through the night, I did 10 easy miles, and then Sunday morning, did a hard 5 on tired legs at 11 minute pace. Both Shannon and I were happy.

My final test the following weekend was a pretty tough 21 mile trail race. Knowing the terrain on this course (there are two really steep climbs both over 1000’, one of them in less than a mile), I knew this would be tough to get in under 13 minute pace, but gave it a shot. 13:06 min/mile average. I was happy.

The last 3 weeks had been pretty high mileage, with some pretty hard efforts. Taper time. I was looking forward to tapering. My legs had felt almost continually heavy for the last 3 weeks.

Final test was one of my favorite trail runs near home. I had used this 7.1 mile loop as a guide to “monitor” my progress. I would go maximum effort and see where I was. Week 1 of my training – 12:14 pace. 2 weeks later, 11:36. And finally, the last week of training, 10:37 pace. There was no doubt Shannon’s medicine had worked.

Race day execution.

I am a geek, so using the amazing amount of data on the Tussey Mountain website, I came up with a plan, it involved spreadsheets, some calculations taking into account fade, and elevation gain and descent. My plan was to finish in 10:43. This would be a PR. I pinned my race day plan to my water bottle and ending up referring to it often.

An uneventful journey to PA and early Sunday morning, I found myself lining up at the start line, it looked like the weather was going to be perfect; cool and sunny. Other friends were there too, as well as Shannon, Alanna, Jessi, and Joey were also there ready to go.

The first 3 miles or so, pretty much all up hill felt good, the long hill training was showing benefit. I came in to the first aid station a couple of minutes under plan. Next was a long downhill section – again, the long hills paid off, I gained a couple more minutes against the plan. I was liking the course, the surface was great, and the hills so far weren’t bad

And so it went – some climbs, some descents, some flat. Follow the plan. I passed Joey at around 16 miles. He was also aiming for a WS qualifier. He was injured and nursing a bad hamstring – he was running smart and just aiming for sub 11. (He succeeded, 10:47)

The biggest climb was 3 miles long at mile 20. Again, I didn’t find it too bad, I power hiked most of it, jogged some of it, and still came in under plan for that section.

Half way, I was under still 12 minute pace average, and I was starting to believe that I was going to pull this off.

I passed Alanna about mile 28, she was struggling unfortunately with stomach issues. It was great to get some encouragement from a friend. (She finished very respectably also under 11 hours)

At 30 miles, the belief kicked in – I was 20 minutes ahead of my plan – this was significant in that I could do every mile one minute slower than plan and still make my qualifier with a PR.

35 – I was still on a 12 minute average pace. Now it became a case of just keep moving and I would make it. It would take a complete and utter disaster for me to fail. At this point, my legs were beat up, I was tired and sore, but happy with how the day was progressing.   I now made a conscious decision to start ‘withdrawing’ the time I had deposited in the ‘bank’. My mantra was “Relax Jimbo, you’ve got this, relax”. And I did. I took the foot off the gas and started visualizing the finish. Relax.

One climb left somewhere around 43 miles, sure I was slow going up it, but by this point I didn’t care, my mission was all but accomplished. Relax Jimbo, relax.

The last 4.2 miles are a gentle descent to the finish. This was fabulous because if time was tight, and if I had needed to, I would be able to haul ass down the hill to make sure I got the time I needed. But I didn’t need to. I just relaxed, jogged some and walked some to the finish. At one point, I thought I could go for it, and shoot for a sub 10:30 finish. But I just LOL’d  and said WTF? to myself, I didn’t care, I was going to get what I came for.

10:36 – a 12 minute PR and 7 minutes under “The Plan”


Tussey is an awesome race, really awesome. The  level of detail on their website is incredible and also extremely accurate (distances between aid stations etc.), and the course is amazingly well marked, every mile has a mile marker, which really inspires confidence (it would have been no fun to think I was at 48 miles and then realize that there were 4 miles left, especially when chasing a time – distance is no guarantee at some trail races.) The relay runners and their crews give tons of support – cow bells and “WooHoo’s” may seem cheesy, but it helps!

I had no interest in the scenery or the views, this race for me was all business. I was happy though that once I relaxed a bit, that I could take in the views and enjoy my surroundings. The leaves were at their peak for color and some of the mountain vistas were spectacular.

Post race, my legs totally seized up, it took everything I had just to move one step! I wanted to lie down, but knew I wouldn’t be able to get up without help, I wanted to sit, I wanted to cry, I wanted a beer, I wanted water, I wanted coffee, I wanted a cheeseburger; I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do.


I caught up with Shannon soon after I was done (who had finished several hours earlier – fast enough to win prize money; AWESOME!) It was then I got a little emotional. The last two months have been hard, really hard, and Shannon has been an amazing mentor along the whole journey, we hugged and I got a bit of a lump in my throat and a tear or two in my eye. I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT! YEAH!!! I know it was me who put in the miles and the effort, but I couldn’t have, wouldn’t have got there without her plan, guidance and motivation. Thank you! Thank you! What an amazing journey it has been!

So, now my name goes into the lottery for Western States 100 – My name will be on 5 separate lottery tickets, one for each year I have qualified and not been successful in getting in to the race. Maybe this year will be the year.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The awesomeness of Hinson Lake

I <3 Hinson Lake Ultra Classic.

I am not going to talk about my run at Hinson Lake – other than to say I had some very specific training goals and I met them.

What I am going to talk about is why Hinson Lake is not only the best value in ultrarunning, but it is the best in ultrarunning.Yep, I mean it, it is the best race out there. This is why I travelled from California back to North Carolina.

Tom Gabell started this monster 8 years ago, as he would explain it, as a gathering of his friends who want to run 24 hours. Or less. Tom always celebrated achievements, all achievements, whether it was someone’s first 5k, or Mike Morton’s 163.9 near American 24 hour record.

This year, (2013), Tom passed the torch along to his friend Jerry Lindstrand. The race didn’t skip a beat. It is still filled with awesomeness.

“….but 1.52 mile loops? For 24 hours? Are you nuts? I would get bored out of my mind”. Probably most people who enjoy small loop ultras have heard this kind of thing before. The thing I have found, is that the one thing that people who say this have in common, is that they probably haven’t participated in a small loop ultra, and certainly not Hinson Lake!

But here is what makes this kind of race special – where else can you set yourself targets – as hard or as easy as you like?

What other ultras can you get to watch the races at the front unfold?

Where else can you get to see elite runners triumph (or not triumph sometimes) time after time, loop after loop.

Where else could you get to hang out with friends both faster and slower than you – at the same time sometimes?

What about seeing 10 year old Drew running 50 miles?

And then there is this … http://www.yourdailyjournal.com/news/opinion/2567288/A-triumph-of-the-human-spirit [I truly hope that someone writes this story and sends it to Ultrarunning Magazine.]

A 24 hour all-you-can-eat-buffet, with burgers, pizza, soup, grilled cheese, cake,  cupcakes,gummi bears, etc. etc.

Schwag – t-shirts, pint glasses, foot soap (Thanks Rachel – www.moondancesoaps.com), car stickers.

Volunteers that will do anything to help you reach your goal.

Tons of people smiling. Some still smiling at 2 am.

The atmosphere of a family reunion.

The joy of seeing goals being met and often surpassed.

Bellowing out “We all live in a yellow submarine” in the middle of the night while hanging out with Ray K

An opportunity to donate to the local no-kill-animal-shelter.

An on-call massage therapist for 24 hours.

A beautiful trail.

Beer laps.

A banana lap.

A beautiful sunrise.

And all for $24.

Looking forward to the last weekend in September 2014 already

photo 3

Friday, May 24, 2013

2 people, 2 cars, 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2916 miles and a new life

WTF? LOL – Jimbo reporting back after an absence of a few months.

And what a hectic, crazy, exhausting, stressful, and yet occasionally fun filled months they have been.

So it has been “So long North Carolina”, and “Hello Northern California.” (Did you know that an anagram of Northern California is Finer North Carolina – no, I didn’t either).

And Ironically I am writing this on a plane after heading back to NC for  work and to take care of some stuff with the house I still own there. Now that I live in my territory, I spend a lot less time on planes, which is probably one of the most significant reasons I have got behind with the blog (I can hear a collective “phew, what a relief”)

My last race in NC was Doug “The Boogieman” Dawkins’ creation, The Doomsday Marathon, celebrating the end of the world.  26.2 sandy, pitch black miles – many of which was with friends. One particular highlight was sharing a lap with Paul Heckert, one of the stubbornest (yeah, I know – made up word) and finest runners I know. He is also the only Astronomy Professor I know – and on a clear night with little light pollution, spending some time with someone who can point stuff out to me in the sky was special.

And after The Doomsday my interest in running disappeared. Well maybe disappeared is the wrong word – how about, my interest in running waned somewhat.  No, still not quite right – my interest in running was overcome by life events. Yeah, that is it.

Packing up and moving took up the next month. It took a lot out of me. There were of course one or two moments of joy – Boxing Day Madness and the Chicken Run (with associated New Year’s Day Polar Plunge by Trever and Heather. What kind of fool would go running into Jordan Lake in January? Oh, that’s right – ME. And Amy and Rebecca who came to Jordan Lake with me to celebrate my last run there.


Seriously, what kind of crazy fools would jump into a lake in the middle of January?

A week later, the movers came by. A day late (because of weather), which meant I had to DNS Weymouth Woods 100k Sad smile (although one wonders if that was some good luck – pretty sure I would have struggled at that distance). I did get a chance to visit with my friends there after the movers had been, and it was good to see so many people I know on my last night in NC.

By the time the journey began – I think we were so ready to get going, the movers had gone, we were packed, and it was time to embark upon a journey across the country. We left Sanford Sunday early afternoon. It was fun, a fairly easy journey (drive to I-40, turn left – keep gong to California, turn right), the pups had a blast, the cats (in Jess’ car) settled down fairly quickly. The stopping points were, Knoxville TN, Shawnee OK, Gallup NM and Bakersfield CA – we arrived home in Camino CA on Thursday lunchtime.

And that ended January – December and January were my two worst running months probably since I wasn’t a runner. 72.3 miles total. Time to shake things up in Feb.

Within a few days of arriving in CA, it was time to explore! I had a things on my schedule – Western States training run (the last 20 miles of the course), Way Too Cool 50km, and of course scope out some local trails for my training runs. Not only that, my friend Frankie had talked me into the FOURmidable 50k –which took on board probably the four most brutal climbs in the Auburn State Recreation Area. You know, when you get hills with the name “Cardiac” and “K2”, you are in for an awakening!

Way Too Cool 50K was cool but crowded – another race in the Auburn State Recreation Area, and the first race I have successfully entered through a lottery. More runnable than FOURmidable.

Knext up was Knickerbocker Canyon 30k. A fine race that took place in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Similar course to FOURmidable, with some tough climbing.

My 4th run at Umstead was an attempt at a Sub-11 hour 50. I did well and was on pace for 42 miles when the meltdown started. Ended up running just under 12:30. I wasn’t upset, it was good to hang out with my NC friends for again, and any time spent running with the Dooms is always enjoyable.

After some crewing and pacing duties at Sonoma 50 and the shortened Miwok, my next race was the inaugural Goldrush 100k. Having the start just 15-20 minutes from home was a definite plus. The weather forecast that day was a delicious 97oF. But of course it was a dry heat….. WTF?? LOL!! OMFG! Yep, it was toasty. 40 miles into it, and in the heat of the afternoon, with the sun beating down on me, I missed the cut off at 43 miles. Ugh. Just to give an indication of the difficulty of the day, I was in good company – over 50% dropped or were pulled.

Official Stats

Entered: 233
Starters: 177
Finishers: 81 (61 Men, 20 Women)  
Volunteers: >135!
Ice: >2,500 lbs

So, there you have it! A brief update, and a promise that I will try and write more. Next on the cards for me are the Western States training runs, and then the TRT training runs, followed by my goal race – Tahoe Rim Trail 100. [EEeeek]