Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bernd Heinrich Interview (updated)

Several weeks ago, the ultrarunners of the year were announced. While perusing the list of previous winners, I noticed a runner by the name of Bernd Heinrich, who had won the award three out of four years in the early '80s. After some learning a bit more about Heinrich (thanks, Google!), who also turned out to be a distinguished biology professor as well as author, I decided to track him down for an interview. Enjoy!
(Update: Bernd has been inducted into the Ultrarunning Hall of Fame as only the fifth inductee ever!. I found out two days after originally posting this interview. Hopefully, I can bring good karma to the other interviewees as well. They are all outstanding people.)

I understand you started running as a young boy back in Germany. Tell us
about your nickname back then and your evolution as a runner in general.

One nickname that I recall was "wiesel" [“weasel”, the editor] because, at age 6-10 I was so small and thin and quick and getting into everything. I didn't have shoes and we lived in the woods and I ran along a sandy road to get to the village school and back. I was not running all the time, of course- I liked to stop a lot and examine things along the way since there wasn't much to go home to.

What made you move up to the ultra-distance?

Pretty much two races. At almost 40 I won the Golden Gate Marathon, AFTER I heard the projected winner being announced- then I spurted the last mile and caught him at the tape. That was my warm-up for the Boston marathon, when I would be one day older than 40. I was pretty disappointed with my run, but I was breezing by everyone the last couple miles and I did make first master. I ran out of distance. Then and there I decided I was not made for speed, but I had endurance. (Although while I was Prof of Entomology at Berkeley we had a group of us who ran every day at noon on the Edwards track, and for about ten years there my dream was to achieve a sub 2 minute half-mile - I did it finally in 1:58:5 - (as I found in my running notes that I stumbled on the other day)

You held the 100 mile record at one time (an astonishing 12:27:01). Would
you consider that your greatest achievement as an ultra runner?

No. I'd wanted to and had expected to go ten or more minutes faster in that run. I had earlier run a 50 in a little over 5 hrs -it was on my way to the 100k. That 100k I felt was my best run, in 6:38 .

You have run many, many miles both in races and in training. What is your
most memorable experience?

Winning that marathon- so totally unexpected.

What is your favorite race?

I think that 100k. But probably the greatest satisfaction was finishing my one and only 24 hour run, on the track. I had planned to set the 100 mile record and then stop. The day before running 24 hours was in my mind totally out of the question. But, on race day running 100 miles in record time was out of the question; the weather forecast that morning before the start was for over 80 F. So, I changed my dream. I had trained three months on a solid base of 4 years, had depleted and carbo-loaded, taken days off, and felt peaked. I could not not run. I could still run at a slower pace, though, and take advantage of the coolness at night, and so I did; I set the American record, but only just barely. It was incredibly intense at near the end after a very long night, because to do it I had to speed up the last few miles! I did. I think I ran close to 6 min miles. When I heard the stopping shot I involuntarily dropped like a blasted hare, and they hauled me off in an ambulance to the hospital, because I started shaking like a leaf when they dumped cold water over me and put on the ice cubes. While lying there in bed I just kept repeating a hundred times over: "I did it - I did it- I did it--", and I felt GREAT!.

Did you have any runners that you looked up to?

I can't begin to name them, ever since high school. They were all gods- I felt so insignificant, yet inspired to know there were heroes..

The infrequency of your races has been noted many times (for example
by UltraRunning Magazine).

I haven't looked it up, but I can imagine. Look, I've run more races probably than most- year in, year out , year in year out I ran races, races and more races. In high school. In college, not only through the cross-country season, but also through the indoor track season, and then after a week or so break on it went with the spring track season- I lettered three times a year. I was sick of races. I'd done it for a quarter century- 25 years, right? - Before I ever ran an ultra. I
loved to run, though, and mostly just as a means of locomotion, to go somewhere. Racing is an entirely absolutely different thing. Long after I raced in high school and in college, I just ran by myself. Not training for anything. Just running, and people would stare and point because I wore short shorts and seemed to be in a hurry--. Once I had a couple of guys corner me with their pick-up in a side road. I jumped on the running board of their truck like a bear on the attack, and would have yanked the bastards out, but luckily they suddenly stopped jeering, and one even smiled- so did I then, too- and we were friends. Anyways, as for RUNNING, I had (almost) nothing to prove to anyone. I KNEW I was no great runner- not like my heroes.

The only thing I eventually decided to prove to myself was that I could run a marathon. The result, that I already just told you above, took me totally by surprise. OK- I was, after Boston, 40 years old now. I knew for a fact I'd never get any better- I could only get slower. I had really wanted to stop then, but I had caught up to many at the end, and now I "had" to run a "real" distance race, or else I knew I'd regret it later.

I'm so glad I tried!! If I'd started ultras 30 years earlier I might have run hundreds, rather than a dozen or so, because I'd gradually have improved, and could always dream of running better. I could still run, and did, all the time. But in no way would I or could I take basically two or more days- and dollars-out of my life and tight budget, to do a race, when I could run anytime out my door and into the woods and back- and all without ANY hassle. WHY race??? I knew for a fact that I'd be slower in every race, anyways, PROVIDED I gave it my best in the races that I ran- and I did that, because I was running for records and because I knew I am not a particularly talented runner- not like my heroes.

What would you consider the key to your successes?

Running few well-chosen races. By the way, this was not really strategy. As a prof I was at the peak of career demands- a VERY demanding schedule of teaching, research, writing for science
journals, scientific meetings, etc., and at this point in my life with family, my profession had to be right up there. So, when I trained, I trained, and there is no way I could keep everything going at once, hence the pulsing of one vs. the other. But also something else: I had no desire whatsoever for chalking up a large number of races run. To me in racing, ONLY quality mattered, to try to find the limit. And as I said, it was unrealistic for me, at say 45, to expect quality of physical performance to keep improving. I was up against it: Now, or
never. That's often a good motivator.

What was your typical training regimen during the height of your
ultrarunning success?

Gradually increasing mileage till 120 per week the last 3-4 weeks

Are you still active as a runner?

Was till last year- jumped only into a couple 10k for the heck of it - around 42 min, as I recall. But not now, have had one injury after the other during the last year. I am quite bummed out about it.

You are a highly distinguished academic and author. A couple of your books
are also about running. Please tell us a little bit about your books.

Actually, only one is about running [ooops!; the editor] - the paperback had a different
title because two other books came out with "Racing the Antelope," and these had nothing to do with racing nor antelopes. The topic of running, is however about adaptation in general, and the running book incorporates more than running per se- including material from my Physiologican Ecology lectures in animal adaptation, coupled to the personal experience of the 100k race.

The other books are quite varied, but most relate, in one way or another, with the marvels of Creation and with my personal adventures trying to elucidate how it all "works." My last (and best, I think, next to the running book) would be in the novel section, if it weren't all true. I decided to use the real names. It's "The Snoring Bird", which was an ultra to write, because it covers so much ground and took so long to finish.

Monday, December 24, 2007

2008 Race Schedule (Spring)

So, I (finally) decided on a race schedule for the spring (i.e. through the end of April). If you see me at any of these races, feel free to stop by and say 'hello'.

Hope to see you out there!

Runnin the Rocks 10k - Feb. 2 (Trail)
This is a brand new race, I believe. 10k is probably my least favorite distance. It's like the 800 on track, you have to go hard the whole time, but it (seemingly) takes forever. This will be a lung buster for sure, but that's ok. It's on trail. (Also, a perfect tune-up for the following week).

Red Top Rumble 11.5 - Feb. 10 (Trail)
G.U.T.S. is organizing this race (so if you're not running it, please come to help out and volunteer). I'm really looking forward to this race! Five of my co-workers are also running in it, so it should be a lot of fun. And the Rockman will be there volunteering.

Thrill in the Hills 1/2 Marathon - Mar. 1 (Trail)
I ran this race last year. Running the up-and-down mountain bike trails at Fort Yargo was a lot of fun. I look forward to returning this year!

Oak Mountain 50k - Mar. 22 (Trail)
This one is out in Alabama and will be my spring season highlight.

Country Music Marathon - Apr. 26 (Road)
A lot of my friends are running this (or the 1/2 marathon). I ran the '04 version of this race (thunder and lightning!). I won't be running to beat a particular time, but just to have fun with my friends.

Other races you might see me at
Around Peachtree Battle 5k - it's near my house, so I might incorporate this into a morning run
Hogpen Hill Climb - depends on the weather, schedules, etc.
ING Georgia - very unlikely...the start is not far from my house, so I could run there. But it's very unlikely since it's the week before Oak Mountain.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Trail Series in Atlanta

The good folks at Big Peach Running Co. will be hosting a trail run series in 2008. These aren't races but rather exploratory runs around the city to introduce people to some of the hidden gems we have here. Here are the dates:

February 2nd Gold Branch Unit, Chattahoochee National Recreation Area
June 15th Sope Creek Branch, Chattahoochee National Recreation Area
August 3rd Vickery Creek, Chattahoochee National Recreation Area
November 2nd Sweetwater Creek

I'll be running a race on Feb. 2, but maybe I'll make it out in June.

For more info contact Big Peach.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Good Article on Streaking ran a pretty good article on streaking (i.e. running every day) earlier this week. It's definitely worth a read.

As some of you know, I started my own little streak at the end of last year. The injury ended it right at 292 straight days. At first, I didn't think that was anything special. Running (and scheduling the runs) had become routine. Now that I've gained some distance, I'm pretty proud of it. But it's nothing compared to the guys in the article.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brrrrrr-astown Bald Buster 5k

Exactly 48 hrs prior to the start of the 2008 Brasstown Bald Buster 5k, I was sitting in a dentist’s chair getting a molar extracted (a previous root canal had failed and the tooth needed to come out). And while the periodontist and two other people seemed to have a competition on how many tools they could stick into my mouth at one time, my thoughts were in an entirely different place, the Brasstown Bald Buster.

Prior to the race, my first in 6 months. That called for a dorky picture!

This annual event challenges anyone who dares to run up to the top of Georgia’s tallest mountain (elevation: 4784 ft). The race itself climbs close to 1,900 feet over the 3+ miles. It attracts mainly hard core runners who regularly compete in all types of distances, from the mile to the 100 miler. There are usually lots of high school cross country runners, ultra-runners, marathoners and others trying to test themselves against this beast (by Georgia standards) of a hill.

So excited that you can't see my missing tooth!

Back in the dentist’s chair, I was concerned that tooth pain would keep me from running this year. However, things were well enough by Sunday morning for me to make the trek up north. No one could be convinced to come along, so I was belting out DMB tunes by myself while driving the two hours to the race.

Upon arrival, it was obvious that we would not be running all the way to the top this year. The weather conditions simply did not allow for it. There was a dusting of snow everywhere and conditions were much worse up at higher elevation, as we would later find out.

Scene from the start. I wasn't the only 'crazy' one out there!

Check in was quick and easy. Lots of familiar faces. I should introduce myself, since I don’t know a lot of people’s names. The famous post-race soup was already being cooked.

Then it was back to the car to warm up and decide on race day attire (I decided to triple layer it). Due to the weather, the race was 1.5 miles up and then back down the hill. If you wanted to go higher, you were on your own (some people did take that option, by the way).

I was fine with the change, since I’m definitely not in shape yet run ‘stupid’ races like this one. The total climb was probably closer to 900 ft in this version of the race. After some quick race instructions we were off a little after 11 a.m.

Things went fine for me, even though I was huffin’ and puffin’ almost right from the start. I passed the one mile mark at 10:20. Not bad. Conditions worsened considerably after that.

First person coming back down.

The road quickly had a solid quarter inch layer of ice on it and the sustained 25 mph+ winds made the temperatures feel much lower than the advertised upper 20s. It was hard to stay on your feet during some of the gusts. After some struggling and little bit too much walking, I reached the halfway point (1.5 miles) at 18 mins.


Now it was time to head down on this winter slip-and-slide. Most people chose to run in the snow to the side of the road. Due to my recent ankle problems, I chose to take my chances on the ice. With my completely numb feet, I would slide about 10 yards at a time in between short spurts of running. At the 2 mile mark, the ice went away and I just started flying. I must have passed 20+ people on the way down and by the end my feet were on fire. It felt great to run in a race again and I was enjoying every second of it, no matter how much it hurt. I ended up placing 33rd in a time of 27:06 (there were probably 200+ runners).

This race also has great schwag, and I took home a comfy blue sweater (much better looking than the red and neon-yellow versions of the last two years!) and trophy-paper-weight thingy.

My thanks go out to RD Gary Jenkins, all of the volunteers (seriously, you guys are even crazier than us for NOT moving in that cold) and everyone else for making this race possible. The Brasstown Bald Buster 5k , a true Georgia classic!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Odds and Ends

One of the classic races in Georgia is this weekend, the Brasstown Bald Buster 5k. If you have an opportunity to run this race, go ahead and go up to the mountains on Sunday for the 11 o'clock start. Just don't expect a PR. The 1800+ feet vertical are brutal, but will make any hill/mountain seem like a piece of cake for many weeks thereafter.

I may be there. It all depends on tomorrow. I have a failed root canal, which in essence means the tooth in question needs to come out. Great. Not sure how I will be feeling afterwards.

On to other things, Running Times has a special trail running edition out. In it you will find an outstanding article on Tony Krupicka among other neat articles. I'm linking to the article here, but I'm encouraging you to by this magazine. It's simply outstanding.

Also, through Uli's website, I found USATF's database of certified courses. If you feel like running your favorite race not on race day (perhaps in preparation of race day), this is a great resource with maps, general info, etc.

Lastly, the next interview is lined up already. This person is an ultra legend from a couple decades ago and a fellow East Coaster.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How you know it's me

When you see this at the trail head, you know I'm out there.

I love my license plate frame!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Steve Runner Interview

Steve Runner, who's real name is, ironically, Steve Walker, is the man behind the world's most popular podcast on the subject of running, Phedippidations. For the past two and a half years, Steve has published a new hour-long episode every Sunday morning, just in time for most people's long runs. His topics cover seemingly everything that has to do with running, from history to personal stories to injury prevention. Steve is not an elite runner, but just like you and I. Consequentially, a lot of people can relate to his endeavors, which, I believe, is an important part of his success.

Personally, I have come to enjoy Steve's podcast on all of my long runs. They keep my mind off the fact that I'm running for 2.5-4.5 straight hours at a time or that I'm in the middle of nowhere and haven't seen a soul in several hours. As you all know, you can really get to know people very well if you regularly run with them. Steve is one of my best running buddies and I feel that I know him very well already. Nevertheless, I caught up with him recently (virtually, of course) to ask him a few questions.

For those readers who do not know Phedippidations, please tell us about your podcast.
I guess if I had to use one word to describe it, that word would be “goofy”. It’s generally an “internet radio show” about living your life with passion, but more specifically it’s a podcast for runners. Phedippidations is the digital audio equivalent of going out for a long run, each weekend, with a friend. I’m an average middle of the pack, middle aged guy who runs by himself in the back country roads of a small town in New England. My podcast is a way to feel connected to fellow runners around the world. I like to think of Phedippidations as a “Running Club”, and I’m just the guy who happens to have the microphone.
What gave you the initial idea of producing Fdip?
I always wanted to be a writer. It was my dream to one day publish something that would encourage and inspire someone to rise up off the “couch of doom” and live their lives to the fullest. This isn’t necessarily some noble thing on my part, but I was once a very sedentary obese and unhealthy person who somehow was saved through the sport of running. My ability to articulate the “miracle” of our sport was pale at best; and my efforts on the website I created ( were hardly interesting, inspirational or even legible.
Having worked through college as a radio “Dee-Jay” and production director; and starting my engineering career in commercial radio; I learned some of the skills of audio presentation…and began to record (in audio) some of the rambling diatribes that I liked to think of as “essays” from my website.
I first heard about podcasting and RSS feeds back in October of 2004, and had the idea to distribute my audio essays through an aggregator, but it wasn’t until eight months later that I began to put a show format together.
So, the initial idea wasn’t to produce an audio show, it was to record myself reading my written essays…the rest sorta “just happened”.
Did you ever think the show would become so popular?
This is a tough question to answer (and I’m asked it all the time) because the act of actually answering the question is based on the assumption that I think Phedippidations is “popular”. I don’t really know what “popular” means, with respect to a podcast. I like to think that I’ve made a lot of friends who run with me each week, so if I’ve made a lot of friends and that proves my podcast’s popularity…then I’d have to say “No, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think more than ten fellow runners would ever want to listen to anything I had to say”. It’s not that I harbor self loathing for myself, I’ve just always produced the show thinking that only a handful of fellow runners might listen to a few episodes; that’s why it’s so easy for me to be open and honest about myself: I have no illusions of fame…I’m just a goofball who loves to run.

How do you pick your weekly topics?
I have four kinds of episodes: regular topics (such as how to train, how to deal with injury, or how good nutrition can help with performance), biographical episodes about the legends of our sport, audio race reports recorded as I run races and marathons, and short format shows called “Intervals” that don’t always have a lot to do with the subject of running.
I usually pick the topics about a year in advance (for example, at the time of this interview I have episodes already planned through September of 2008). Every so often something will come up that I’ll push to the head of the schedule, but for the most part I plan episodes around the races that I’m running or on some topic that I’m interested in learning more about. I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, but hopefully I can explain what I’ve learned in a way that makes sense, and is at least slightly entertaining.

(Steve with running legend Billy Mills)

Which was your favorite episode?
Yikes, that’s a tough one! Instead of giving you a single favorite episode I’ll give you one for each of the four categories of shows that I’ve produced so far:
My favorite “regular topic” had nothing much to do with running…it was the audio story of a canoe trip I took down the Allagash River with my family in the summer of 2006, episode 55 “The Maine Woods of Thoreau”. I’ve always admired Henry David Thoreau, and I really wanted to give others a better appreciation for the man.
My favorite “Running Legend” episode was show 46 all about Terry Fox. I spent several months reading about Terry and learning about his “Marathon of Hope” to run across Canada. His story really moved me.
My favorite “race report” that I’ve produced has to be episode 41, my running of the 111th Boston Marathon….it wasn’t fun to run the race, but it was fun to tell the story.
My favorite “Intervals” episode was 80B, which is a recording of a friend and I, running around my neighborhood…seen through his eyes. It was cool to have someone else describe what I see every time I’m out recording my podcast…so fellow runners could get a better sense of where I live and run.
Have you ever regretted sharing your personal life or anecdotes on the show?
Not really. To me recording the show is really like going out for a run with a friend. I hope that anyone who listens to me feels the same way. If you came over to my house to go for a run with me, I wouldn’t hold back if I was telling you about my life. Running has a way of “opening up” the mind, giving us a freedom to be honest with ourselves and each other. I’m not afraid of being honest about who I am; and while I have been warned by some to try to protect my identity; it’s not a closely guarded secret that Steve Walker is Steve “Runner”.
How does your family feel about your hobby?
They mock me and make fun of me. They throw little rocks at my head every morning. When I sit down to dinner they ask for my autograph (well, actually my son John is the one who asks for me to sign his report cards!). Let’s just say that they put up with me, that’s really all I could ever ask.
You obviously are also an avid distance runner. Tell us about your evolution of becoming a runner.
I first tried to take to the road back in the spring of 1996. Back then I weighed 232 pounds for my five foot ten inch frame, and my body mass index was an obese 32.4. I lasted about a week that first time, and with aching shins vowed never to try to run again. But my lack of health was disturbing, and my doctor began to warn me that I was on the road to heart disease and diabetes. A year later and I was holding my then 4 year old son and I knew that if I didn’t do something about my weight I might not be able to take him on camping trips, or even play ball with him in the back yard. So, I tried to run again…and this time I got to the point where I could run two miles in just under thirty minutes. I lasted for about a month on the road this time, but eventually gave up due to shin pain and weariness.
In the Fall of 1998, I started (once again) to go for a lunchtime run with friends at work, and for some reason the running bug hit. I began to look forward to my daily runs, and the weight started dropping off as well. I found myself enjoying the competition each day with my friends. I stuck with the running, and a year later on April 10th, 1999 I ran my first road race: a 5K that I finished in 22:22. From that point on, I was very much a runner.

Which is your favorite race?
Although I’m very fortunate to be able to run the amazing event that is the Boston Marathon each year, I’d have to say that my favorite race is the Falmouth Road Race, on Cape Cod, which is run each August. While I do love to run longer distances, and the siren call of the marathon summons me with every Spring and Autumn, the seven mile race held in Falmouth Massachusetts is something that I look forward to every year. A good friend and I travel to Cape Cod, enjoy a Cape Cod baseball league game, sit on the beach, enjoy a few beers at one of the local pubs, watch the annual “Falmouth Invitational Mile” race, and run the seven miles from one pub in Woods Hole to another in Falmouth Heights. The winner buys the beer!
Tell us about your training. Do you follow specific plans?
I follow a fairly customized version of the Hanson Brothers “Moderate Consistent” training plan to prepare for my marathons. I’m a runner who started training under Jeff Galloway’s excellent training schedules (from his book “On Running”), moved onto a self modified version of Hal Higdons intermediate plan, and has found running happiness with this “Moderate Consistent” plan which has me running six days a week, roughly 40 to 50 miles each week, with long runs no greater than 16 miles. Every run is just as important as any other (which is very different from the Galloway and Higdon plans, which mark the weekend “Long Slow Run” as the most critical).
Do you have a dream race?
Right now my dream race is, very simply, any official marathon where I break four hours. I came very close in the 2007 Philadelphia Marathon with my PR of 4:01:31.
Tell us about your biggest goal in running.
My only goal is to break four hours in a marathon. To me, running four hours is proof that I can achieve anything; it’s a goal that will justify all the miles, hours, pain and exhaustion that I’ve put myself through over the past nine years. I’m certain to have loftier goals beyond that, but for now, my biggest goal is to break the big four. I’m very close; I know I can do it.
Which runner(s) inspire(s) you the most?
Bill Rogers, Frank Shorter and Joan Benoit Samuleson; in no particular order.
Bill Rogers is someone who inspired me to run both Track and Cross Country when I was in high school I watched Billy fly past me as I watch the Boston Marathon from the sidelines in Newton and witnessed poetry in motion.
Frank Shorters Olympic gold in the 1972 games was just impressive beyond words. When Neil and Buzz walked upon the moon in 1969 I wanted to be an astronaut…and then I watched Frank Shorter win the marathon in Munich and I had the crazy dream that I might actually be able to run a marathon myself!
Joan Benoit is many things to our sport; and I admire her for all of her qualities…but it is her athleticism that always struck me as incredible. Her 1984 Olympic Marathon win in Los Angeles was remarkable, but the way she ran the 1979 Boston Marathon (finishing in her Red Sox cap) was something I will never forget.
(Steve enjoying one of his other passions...actually two of his other passions)

Many runners listen to your show during their long runs or even during races. What do you listen to while running (when you're not recording your next episode)?
First off, I never listen to music when I’m running a race. I do wear an MP3 recorder with a microphone clipped to my shirt, but I’d rather hear the roar of the crowds and the shouts of encouragement from others as I run races.
Secondly, I never listen to Phedippidations when I’m running. To be honest (and not self derogatory) I can’t bear the sound of my own voice. (I won’t even let my family listen to an episode in the car when I’m driving, I annoy myself!).
But when I’m out on my daily runs, I mostly listen to podcasts. My favorites include “The Extra Mile PodCast, “The Final Sprint, Fitness Rocks, The Zen Runner, the #1 music podcast in the “pod-o-sphere”: The Jog Tunes Indie PodCast, several podcasts from the SQPN network and a bunch of science topic podcasts (a list so long you’d need another webpage to list them!).
Have you ever considered venturing past the 26.2 mile mark and take a shot at ultrarunning?
Yes, I can definitely see myself training for and running an ultra one day. It’s tough for me to think past my current goal of breaking 4 hours, but my wife asks me the question all the time “What will you do next?”, and I suspect that I’ll set a new goal for myself once I get there. To set a BQ I’ll need to run a 3:30, which I can’t even image ever doing…but I ran my first marathon in 4:41:53, and in November of this year I ran a 4:01:31 in Philadelphia. I think anything is possible with dedication, hard work and having an indomitable spirit. I’m not the fastest runner, but I might be one of the most stubborn. I can see myself running an ultra one day, but for now I have to focus on my current goal.

Thank you for your time, Steve!

(To enjoy Steve's podcasts, please visit his website or search "Phedippidations" on itunes.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Blog Buddy

This morning I met up with fellow runner and GUTS member Jason Rockman (great name!). We met blogging (and there's a sentence you wouldn't have heard five years ago).

Anyhow, it was supposed to be an easy six mile run, but I hadn't run at this particular trail in a while and led us on an 8+ miler. That's by far the longest I have run since injuring myself on that same trail. The formal name is Cochran Shoals, but people around here call it simply "The River" (as in the Chattahoochee).

Conversation with Jason was great. Not only do we have running in common, but we know some of the same people professionally. And he looked very familiar. Turns out that we ran together for a couple of miles at the Sweetwater half-marathon back in April. Good times!

P.s. Another interview is coming soon. Hint: If you listen to running podcasts, you'll know who this person is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Progress or "Every Run Is A Gift"

Even though I'm having some tooth issues that had me going to not one but two inconclusive dentist/specialist appointments today (the third attempt will follow this Monday), I went on a nice little 3+ mile run this evening. That has been typical fare in terms of distance in my post-severed ligament world. It's humbling how 25 minutes can tire me as much as a two hour run only 8 weeks ago.

But I'm enjoying every second I'm out there. Sort of taking the "Lance approach". Who cares whether my lungs hurt? I'm staying out here and keeping pace! The thought that every run is a gift stays on my mind constantly remembering my terrible couch potato days last month.

I'm slowly starting to feel stronger, however I will not run Fatass as originally planned. It's a little too much too soon. My winter/spring schedule will be finalized over the next couple of weeks.

See you out there!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I’m slowly (!) getting back into shape. I took another big step towards recovery last night by visiting my regular yoga class after a two+ months break.

Yoga has become my favorite form of cross-training this year. I go to a yoga-only studio that sits in an old warehouse-type building on 9th street off Howell Mill Rd. It’s the kind of place where you walk in stressed out from the hussle and bussle of a busy work day (or from trying to rush there, so you’re not late, as is usually the case with me) and walk out all relaxed wondering how you ever got so stressed out in the first place.

My yoga skills are poor to say the least. My hamstrings are as tight as anyone’s. As a matter of fact, I refer to myself as “special” while in class. Needless to say the classes are extremely challenging even though they are beginner’s level. I have always considered this my hardest workout of the week, even back when I was running 50+ miles a week including 20+ miles long runs on the weekends.

I’m glad to be back!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

2008 Georgia Trail Races

Since I was unable to find a comprehensive list of Georgia Trail Races in 2008, I compiled one. Below are all confirmed trail races. If you know of any others please leave a comment or e-mail me. I will keep this updated throughout the year. Enjoy!

January 6
Atlanta Fat Ass 50k

February 2nd
Runnin The Rocks 10k
XTERRA Trail Series

February 10th
Red Top Rumble 11.5 Mile Trail Run

February 16
Curious' Trail Run 5K/Mile

March 1st
Thrill In The Hills ½ marathon
XTERRA Trail Series

April 12th

Blake Gammill 5k & 1mile Fun Run

April 19th

Granite Grinder Half Marathon

Active Sign-Up

April 26 (NEW DATE!!)
Sweetwater ½ marathon, 50k

May 10th

Ranger Run (15k and 5k)

May 17th
Twisted Ankle Marathon & Half Marathon

May 31st
Deep South 15k
XTERRA Trail Series

June 14

Jenny Melton/Father's Day 5k

Cross Country Race

Gainesville, GA

For info contact Susan Espinosa (770.318.8108) or Will Chamberlin (706.769.6593)

October 11

Trail Race for Camp Grace 10k

November (Date TBD)
Blue Ridge Mountain Masters 50k

November 02
XTERRA Heritage Park Trail Run
5K 10K

November 15

Getting Around Serenbe 15k

November 23
XTERRA Oconee Heritage Half Marathon Trail Run

November 29
Bartram Forest 50k and 26.2 miler

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Return to My Sanctuary

The past couple of days, I have been restricting myself to shorter runs mainly on paved roads. Today, I finally made my return to the trails. Just a couple of miles on the Pentachaeta Trail, which is right behind my girlfriend's family's house in California. Oh, how I missed running on dirt and in the hills!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Couldn't Wait Any Longer

30 days of waiting
720 hours of resting
43,200 minutes of anticipation

...and it's all over. Last night, inspired by both Addy's beautifully written entry and Doug's imminent return, I went out for an easy 2 miles. Boy, did it feel good! It's sad to say, but I even missed the ipod lady voice: "Press the Center button to begin your workout".

My body felt like an old car that hasn't been driven in a while. The muscles and joints were a little squeaky. The lungs aren't used to all that oxygen anymore either.

But I could feel my whole body blossoming slowly throughout the run. Like a desert meadow after a rainstorm.

Everything feels fine post run. I should be back out there again today. I'm thrilled to be back!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

28 Days Later

So the pop-pop-pop (one for each torn ligament, get it?) incident is a month old now. It's been hard not to exercise at all. Like a smoker quitting cold turkey, I stopped my almost 10-month long running streak and haven't done anything faster than walking in four weeks now.

It's easy to want to come back too quickly, but I've got big plans for '08 and foot needs to be fully healed for those. So, with doctor's and PT's permissions, I will be able to start running easy 1-2 miles next ("and immediately ice afterwards!"). That's exciting stuff!!

(This post is in response to a tag from Doug. But I have been meaning to write this anyhow. He must be mind reader.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Janice Anderson Interview

Atlanta, GA-based Janice Anderson has been a fixturein the ultra scene since the early 90s. Among her accomplishments, she counts setting course records at five different 100 milers, most notably the first ever sub-17 hour finish of a 100 mile trail race by a woman (16:03 at Rocky Raccoon in 2000). Anderson has also competed for the US at five World 100km Championships. To see a complete list of her accomplishments (there are a LOT), please visit USATF's website. Janice recently took some time out of her busy schedule to meet for sushi and an in-person interview. (all photos courtesy of Janice)

You were a successful high school and college runner. Describe your evolution to running on trails and longer distances.

I've always been attracted to running longer distances. Growing up in Huntsville, AL, I ran my first marathon in the 8th grade. In college, I ran shorter distances, focusing on the mile in particular [editorial note: with a PR of 4:55].

After college, some of my friends got into ultras and eventually talked me into running one, which turned out to be the Strolling Jim 40 miler up in Tennessee. The first few years, I focused mainly on road ultras, running about two or so a year. My first real trail ultra was out West at Big Horn. I was completely unprepared for what I would encounter, including snow at the top of the mountains, heat at the bottom and especially the altitude.

However, that didn't turn me off to ultras. I started training with a guy who was getting ready for Western States. Once I saw that he could complete it, I figured "I can do that, too" and managed to get in through the lottery the following year. [ editorial note: Janice has done extremely well at WS, placing top 10 female a total of five times with her highest finish in 1997, when she placed 2nd to Ann Trason]
(running in the snow at WS)

You have competed in so many different races. What is your favorite?

I really like Vermont 100. It's a fairly low key race and Vermont is absolutely gorgeous in the summer.

The Mount Mist 50k in Huntsville, AL is another favorite of mine. I grew up running on those trails, so it holds a special place in my heart.

(Rucky Chucky!)

Tell us about your most memorable running experiences.

Placing second at WS was definitely special.

Then, of course, Rocky Raccoon in 2000 [where Janice became the first woman to break 17 hours for a 100 miler on trail, finishing in a mind-boggling 16:03]. I had just recovered from a case of pneumonia that winter and wasn't in top shape. Really, the only reason I ran the race was because I was trying to complete all the East Coast ultras in one year. I had worked all day the Friday before and flew out to Texas that night barely making it in time to pick up my race packet around 8 pm. The next day everything just felt great. At 100k, I looked at my time and was surprised at how fast I had been going. I was without a crew or pacer and finished early enough to get back to the hotel and get a full night's sleep before attending the awards ceremony the next day. It was just one of those days where everything went just right.

What does your average training week look like? What are you favorite cross-training activities?

I have been injured for about two years now [a nerve injury that causes Janice's leg to go numb during runs; it is puzzling both doctors and Janice alike ; please send her your well-wishes]. Up until then I was running about 60-70 miles a week with a strong focus on my long runs on the weekends. Now, I run about half that distance. My work has a gym, so I do some weight training and bike work there.

(Janice competing for the US...and smiling, of course!)

What areas of Atlanta and the South do you most like to train in?

I do most of my hard long runs in North Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. That's where I would go to train for WS in particular. I do some long runs at Pine Mountain as well.

Do you have any advice for novice ultra runners?

My most important advice would be for new ultra runners to learn how to stay on your feet for a long time. It is equally important to learn how to take in fluids and food in order to keep going and know what it feels like to run on tired legs. I have trained a few people for their first 100s. The key thing we would work up to is 5-6 hour long runs in the mountains on Saturdays followed by easy 3 hour runs on easier trails around Atlanta on Sundays.

Are there any runners you especially admire or who inspire you?

Ann Trason, Greek runner Yiannis Kouros and Eleanor Adams of the UK come to mind.

What are your favorite foods for training and running?

To be honest, whatever looks good. During 100s I usually eat light in the morning waiting to have "lunch" around mid-day. I usually like to have sandwiches and chips, sometimes fruit. I carry gels with me in between aid stations, but you can only have so many of those. Recently, I have become a big fan of Sharkies.

(fueling up)

How do you manage training between your job and family?

Well, I have a very understanding husband who is ok with planning our vacations around races. It's also my only hobby, and I don't do as much running during the week as on the weekends. I believe that if ultra running is something that you really want to do, you can schedule around it to make it work.

(Janice competing alongside Stephanie Ehret, Krissy Moehl and Francesca Conte at a team event, the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km in Hong Kong in 2002)

Many trail races sell out early, some even have lotteries. How do you feel about the surge in popularity of trail and ultra running?
It's certainly a change (except for WS, which has always been that way). It's a lot harder to schedule 8-9 months in advance. And when you cannot participate in a race for whatever reason and it is sold out, you'll have most likely taken somebody else's opportunity to run unless, of course, there's a waiting list.

(another beautiful shot from Hong Kong)

What are your plans for 2008 and beyond?
I have no real specific goals as long as the injury keeps me guessing as to when I might be able to run or not. But I would like to join the 50 States Marathon Club. I have about 15 states left.

I will also continue to be active as president of GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society) as well as on the boards of various other running organizations.

Thank you for your time, Janice!

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's time for an avatar

There could hardly be a more fitting avatar than this one. It perfectly describes my love for trailrunning.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

GUTS! - Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society

The question remains: why did it take me so long to join the running group with the most fitting acronym? Who knows. It's been corrected. I am now an official member of GUTS.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Preliminary 2008 Plans

Although nothing is set in stone yet, I have started to think about some potential races in 2008.

Provided that my foot is healthy and I can get myself in shape in time, the Atlanta Fat Ass 50k on January 6 will be my first race. The Hogpen Hill Climb 17k later that month will probably my second race. Otherwise, I'm looking at one or two more trail 50ks for the spring in addition to all three races in the xterra Atlanta Trail Series. A bunch of people are talking about going up to Nashville for the Country Music Half and Full Marathons, so I might join them there. The Georgia Half or Full Marathon might be another option.

That could be a busy spring. For the rest of the year, I am eying the Peachtree Road Race (of course!), taking care of unfinished business in New York and in Santa Barbara as well as a potential 50 miler.

On thing I definitely regret about this year is not racing enough (or at all) the back half of the year, some of which is due to circumstance. There were, however, four or five months between my last race and my foot injury, which is unacceptable. I miss pinning on a race number, the excitement around the starting line, meeting new people...just everything about racing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Attention Georgia/Southern Bloggers!

I'm looking for fellow running bloggers from Georgia in particular and the South in general. If you write about trail and/or ultra running even better!

If you look at the blog roll on the right, you'd think I'd be from California (no offense, West Coasters...California is awesome!).

I'd love to be part of some sort of Southern trail/ultra blog network.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Old vs. New

Out with the old, in with the new. The contrast between my old and my new pair of shoes was striking.

Can't wait to break them in!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Inspiring Runners

The latest issue of Runner's World greeted me today as I got home. The title is "Runners Who Inspired Us in 2007". Thumbing through those pages, it was apparent that RW (predictably) picked a list that was very politically correct. (I've been a subscriber for many years and read almost every issue cover to cover. However, the all-inclusive approach and often incredible predictability of the magazine tends to bore me more often than not. Trailrunner is the my favorite running-related magazine; it rarely lasts more than 24 hrs unread one it's arrived. I digress.)

The article left me thinking, who inspired my in 2007? So, here goes (in no particular order).

Scott Dunlap (interview)
Scott really turned me on to this whole trail running thing. His passion for the sport, his incredible attitude and his genuine approach to writing had an evangelical effect on me. Through his blog I discovered so many more that I follow regularly.

Running Bloggers
Early on this year, I developed a habit to surf online and read about other runners' adventures. Whether they were reporting from their latest race, uploading funny pictures or simply rambling, I soaked it all up (and caught the bug).

Running Through The Wall
Running Through The Wall is a book of filled with first hand accounts of people running ultras, mainly 100 milers. There are top stars like Tim Twietmeyer as well as middle and back-of-the-packers reporting on their adventures. If you haven't read it, pick up the book today. Trust me, you won't regret it.


A co-worker of mine, who shall remain initialed for now, is a huge inspiration to me. He is not built like stereotypical runner nor did he grow up running cross-country or track. But he decided to run the Country Music Marathon last year and Chicago this year. And he has the greatest attitude to running. After completing the blistering hot Chicago marathon in nearly 6 hours this year, he wrote the most high-spirited e-mail I have ever seen. You wouldn't have guessed that he had just run a marathon where he was told to quit half way through and finished anyways...after nearly 360 minutes of running. Incredible!

Another friend of mine, Adam, took the penultimate step to fulfilling a life-long dream of his: he signed up for the Arizona Ironman next spring. We have been running buddies forever.

New Trails
I have explored and run on countless new trails this year. Some more popular than others. But all of them gorgeous. As far east as the Atlantic coast in South Carolina, as far south as Atlanta, GA, as far north as Washington state and as far west as California (ahhhh). I'm incredibly lucky.

Tuesday Night Trail Runners
This fall MK and I started running trails on Tuesday nights after work. Then somebody else joined us and then somebody after that and so on. Now we are a lose group of about 6 or 7 that get together every Tuesday after work to run trails near our office. Can't wait to rejoin them.

Santa Barbara 9 Trails
During a moment where I experienced a temporary lapse in judgment I signed up for this challenging race to be run the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I will not be able to run it after all due to the injury. But that's ok. Training for that race has turned me into a different person. I cannot wait to tackle many ultras in the future.

(Disclaimer: this list may be edited at any point)

Monday, October 22, 2007

On Becoming A Runner

The results are in. The MRI confirmed that I tore ligaments in my ankle. Tomorrow's visit to the orthopedic surgeon should provide further insight as to how it will take to me to get back out there running.

While the past few days have been tough (laying on the couch and not exercising for four days are not my idea of fun), my family, friends and colleagues have all been tremendously supportive. The comments usually went something like this "To hurt your foot a week prior to consecutive marathon weekends, that's gotta be so tough on you!" or "I cannot believe you had to end your running streak". (The now infamous trail run Thursday night marked the 292nd consecutive day I tied up my shoes and went for a run).

But you know, I'm really not that upset. Yes, I'll miss the two marathons. Yes, I broke my streak (and did not achieve the minimal goal of 365). Yes, I will most likely have to miss Santa Barbara. But you know what, who cares?

This year, I have become a runner. In the past, I would always just focus on training for certain events. Or run when it was convenient. But this year was different. Running became a way of being, a way of life, as they say. Whether it was beautiful out and every step felt as easy as floating on air or whether the weather (or a treadmill) made running less desirable, it was still something I did every day.

The happiest times were not crossing finish lines or even setting a new PR.

The best times were those spent running with friends (most of them new to the magic of trails).

The best runs were those where I became one with nature, often emphasized by wildlife I would normally not encounter.

The best runs were those where I went on a new trail and learned something new about Georgia. Just recently, for example, I found a pretty sizable bamboo forest in the middle of Atlanta (seriously).

So, although I will not achieve all my goals for 2007, becoming a runner was much more than I could have ever asked for.

See you out there soon!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

End of A Run

My running streak is over.

It happened on a trail run on Thursday night. It was a great night, a little muggy but bearable with temperatures in the 70s. I had just changed my music to DMB and was starting to listen to the first few chords of Warehouse when I heard three loud "Bang!"s in very rapid succession. At the same time my foot was at an angle that it should never, ever be in.

Within seconds I realized that this wasn't good. I knew right away that I'd not be able to run for a while. All sorts of fluids were rushing into my foot forcing me to loosen my shoe. Looking at my swollen foot made me quite nauseous actually. I was three miles from the trail head and dusk was starting to settle in. In 10 minutes my progress was about 100 yards, if that. Fortunately four mountain bikers came along and helped my back to my car. I was able to roll down the hills and jump up any inclines on one leg while holding on to the mountain bike.

It's been a couple days now. The doctor's initial reaction was "you tore a bunch of ligaments". The results of an MRI will come in on Monday. Tuesday I will see a specialist to determine the exact severity of the injury, how long it will take to heal, etc. I've withdrawn from both of my upcoming marathons. Still holding out hope for Santa Barbara, but that appears to be wishful thinking at this point.

I'll be back though :)