Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 In Review

Looking back at the goals I set at the beginning of the year, it appears that I've done fairly well.

Have Fun Running
The idea was to focus less on PRs and more on the fun of running even during races. Done and done.

Beat My 2007 Total Mileage

I don't know whether I met my goal here, since I kept all my mileage in a running journal the first half of the year and everything I've done since June or so is in my Garmin. Will update on this later.

Explore New Trails

OK, I cheated here a little knowing full well that it was more than likely that I would be heading West when I posted this nearly a year ago. Still: CHECK!

Keep Up This Blog

I did OK on this goal. I wrote quite a bit the first half of the year, let it slide a little during the fall, but have picked it back up of late. The more I run, the more I blog, because I think about what to blog while I run.

Some superlatives:

Trail of the Year

Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park. It was the most scenic AND I got to watch a mother bear and her cub. Also, it yielded this picture of Pear Lake:

Race of the Year

Muir Beach. Hands down. Everybody should run this one at least once. The views are spectacular.

Accomplishment of the Year

My first 50k over in Alabama. That seems so long ago...

Disappointment of the Year

DNF at Pacifica. Still a good decision. No regrets.

Favorite New Trail

Summit trail up to Wildcat Peak at Tilden.

Realization of the Year

I'm better at downhill than uphill (even though I'd thought the opposite previously).

Hint of the Year

Wearing my Cal hat BEFORE I even got in. Ballsy! I've actually had this one for eight years or so, before I knew much about the school at all. I suppose it was destiny.

2nd Ballsiest Move of the Year

Two way tie: (1) drinking out of some dirty stream at Sweetwater (I challenge thee, irony!) and (2) sliding down some gigantic glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park because it looked 'fun'. (I never blogged about this, but it was as stupid and as much fun as it sounds. Once at the bottom, it took me over an hour to hike one mile to the closest trail, since avalanches had washed away the trail that was supposed to be there.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Playing in the Mud

We've been lucky enough to get a fair amount of precipitation here in the Bay Area over the past few days. And I'm not using the word "rain" on purpose, since it actually SNOWED! Right here at Tilden the white stuff came down on Monday as if this were Banff or something. (ok, not quite...but still). Mount Diablo is still covered in it two days later.

Picture of a snowy Mt. Diablo from a few years back.

As a result, a lot of the trails are pretty muddy. I'd almost forgotten what running on muddy trails was like. Back South we got to enjoy that rather frequently, but not here (at least not yet; apparently the rainy season is coming up). I enjoyed getting the back of my legs and butt sprinkled on with muddy goodness during a little run this afternoon. In the process I came up with a fantastic new phrase: sprinkled butt. (Enjoy that mental image).

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Beautiful Day at Muir Beach

This past Saturday, I joined a couple hundred or so runners for the Muir Beach 11k, 17k, 33k and 50k. My distance of choice was a challenging 33k complete with nearly 4,400 feet of climbing. Rain was in the forecast but I woke up to a clear sky with a very bright full moon.

Muir Beach

After what is quickly becoming a customary pre-race coffee stop at Peet's (I live only a block from the original location in Berkeley), I picked up my buddy Will who would be competing in his first trail race. He is no stranger to races though. A collegiate runner at Princeton, I was curious to see how he would enjoy the trail race atmosphere.

Will and I pre-race.

After a beautiful drive over the Richmond Bridge to Marin county, we arrived at Muir Beach shortly after sunrise. Beat, whose girlfriend is in my program and who would be running his (I believe) fourth ultra in five weeks, happened to park right next to us. Great timing! We all checked in and Will made the obligatory "everybody knows each other around here, huh?" remark. I nodded and smiled as I was reminded of how welcoming the Bay Area trail community has been over the past six months (thanks, everybody, you know who you are!).

At 8.30, we were off and immediately began to climb. It was a great way to warm up and check out the views back to Muir Beach and over the ocean. The first few miles were nothing short of spectacular. The course took us on a single track trail sitting on top of high cliffs above the ocean. All you heard were runner's feet hitting the trail and the ocean waves crashing down below us. A trail runner's dream.

The first few miles

Soon after, we hit the Tennessee Valley aid station. Now, you gotta understand. I'm a newly arrived runner from the East Coast having read many, many race reports about the races out here. Western States, Miwok 100, Dipsea...these are places I have only dreamed about a few months ago and now I'm here running on the same trails on which these races take place. I feel like I've read about Tennessee Valley aid stations dozens of times and now it was my turn to refuel here.

Then it was time to climb again. Here I met and ran with Jochen for a little bit. We both hail from the same country and it was fun to speak some deutsch. After about 15 minutes of that I pulled away on a down hill and would run by myself the rest of the way. It was a great way to reflect on my first few months here on the West Coast, take a mental break from finals and think about how fortunate I so many ways.

I would run like that for about 12 or so miles, lost in thought and happy, before I finished in a bit over 3.30.

At the finish, I met Will and we swapped race stories over some chili. A perfect day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stoked for Muir Beach

This will be my final race for the year, but it feels different than that. Training has been good, streak is intact and I'm feeling pretty strong. Slowly but surely, I'm starting to get into shape again. Hopefully a school holiday party on Friday won't hurt too much...

Everyone continues to rave about the beauty of this course, which only increases my excitement. Can we go now? Please?

Muir Beach is actually the beach of choice in this household, so I'm familiar with the surroundings, although I have yet to venture out onto those trails. Can't wait!!

See you on Saturday!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I'm so excited about my long run tomorrow that I already laid out my stuff. It's been a while.

(p.s. iPhones need flash)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Self-Promoter

David Goggins is apparently taking Dean's lead.

[added later 12/15]
So, a big discussion started over on Scott's blog about this. David Goggins actually replied and clarified a lot of things. I thought it was appropriate to print that here:

Since this is about me, I think that it is good for me to say some things. First, I want to thank the people who have actually met me and came to my defense. For everybody else, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I haven't earned 1 dime from Ultrarunning. As a matter of fact, my family has spent thousands of dollars trying to raise money for this foundation. The 100 Mile man is not who I am,,, So I am not the self proclaimed 100mileman. The 100 Mile man is actually a foundation that was started by a man who wanted to raise a million dollars by running running a 24 hour race. His goal was to run a 100 miles in 24 hours. This man called me because he heard about what I was doing. He asked if I would help support thier foundation. As you can see I said yes. If you have looked on the 100mileman website, you have seen a lot of information about me that I myself did not put on the website. By the way,,,, I do not have a website, nor did I start a facebook page on myself. I do not have an ego. Compairing me to Dean K is just plain funny. They guy makes a living off of running and writing books. I make a living in the military. Being in the military, you can not be sponsored by anyone and except money from sponsors. By the way.... I'm sorry that me getting 3 hours of sleep offends people. In order for me to do my job and train for these events, that is what I have to do. I do not run for the military. They ask me at times to do things for them and I do, but it is not my job to be an athlete for them and I do not trian during work hours. When I go to races, I must take leave and pay for it out of my pocket. When I raise money for the foundations, I also race on my dime. The 100 mile man foundation has been supportive of me raising awareness and raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foudnation. It truely amazes me that grown people have the time to put this kind of crap on line about someone they have never met. I choose running 100 mile races to raise money because it was a hard thing to do and because it was a sport where people just did their own thing. That is the best thing about this sport, you are on your own. Sorry to have to explain myself, but I want people to at least have the correct facts when they decide that I'm a bad guy or a self promoter for my own personal gain. The 100 mile man foundation put that I was one of the top 20 ultra runners because ultra running magazine listed me in the top 20 last year. I'm not saying it to kiss my ass. I know how they pick the top athletes and I raced a lot in 2007. I by no means have ever said that about myself. It is true that I don't like to run. I weighed 280 lbs in 2005. You will see how much I enjoy running when you stop seeing my name in the results when I reach my personal goal of the amount of money I would like to raise. I didn't see it fit to have a bake sale when 11 fellow SEAL's were killed in the war. So, I decided to pick something hard to honor the hard men that they were. And the hard time their families would be going through. Once again I want to thank those of you who support my efforts and no me for who I am, not what they read.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NGM: Ozarks Highlands Trail

I'm a little behind on my National Geographic reading, but the October 2008 issue has a really interesting article on the Ozarks Highlands Trail. I drove through the Ozarks as I trekked across the United States last summer, but unfortunately did not have any time to stop.

Anyways, the article talks about how the trail was built by a volunteer group, and how it came about in general. There are also some fun facts about trails in general:
  • 92% of the US population lives within 35 miles of a trail (up from 16% in 1970!!)
  • This year marks (only) the 40th anniversary of the national trails system, which incorporates 1,077 trails totaling more than 66,000 miles (I'm getting tired just reading that).
Definitely check it out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Streaking Again...

So there you have it. I'm streaking again. It's public now, which means that I'm committed (I wouldn't lie to you :)). Not sure whether I can reach my previous record of 282 days, a streak cut short by big root last year. (It turns out that one tendon is not enough to run on; you need four in each foot).

For those of you who don't know what streaking is, it refers to running at least one consecutive mile for as many days in a row as you can. There is even an official club. Some people have streaks going that are decades old, which is nearly impossible to comprehend for me.

Right now, my streak is nothing to write home about. It stands at thirteen. However, it really changed my body last year, especially its ability to recover quickly. That helps in ultras. Which is something else I want to get back into. See you out on the trails!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fun in the Sun at the Stinson Beach 20k

This past Saturday it happened: I finally got to put on a race number again! The sheer joy of prepping for a race (over-analyzing the race profile, printing out the Google map directions to the race start, etc.) has been missing from my life lately. So, I was happy to drive out to Stinson Beach with my lady this past Saturday to join 500 other runners at the Stinson Beach 12k/20k/30k/50k.

From the Dipsea Trail looking back towards Stinson Beach (photo credit PCTR)

As usual, PC Trail Runs is not skimping on the availability of race distances (rumor has it they're going up to six per race next year and nine per race by 2010), and I was happy to choose the 20k option. My training hasn't taken me past 9 miles since the Redwook 30k over two months ago and this course looked pretty challenging. A 1,500 ft. climb right out of the gates: Good morning!

The green and blue stripes make this appear to be a much easier course than it actually is.

Stinson Beach is at least as beautiful as it sounds. Picture a California beach town and you're probably thinking of Stinson. On my way to check-in, I ran into the always smiling Scott Dunlap, otherwise known as the trail running 'blogfather.' Ok, I just made that up, but it's true. Actually, Scott is one of my heroes. The man continues to improve on the race course year in and year out, is a successful CEO in Silicon Valley, writes the most widely read blog on trail running and, to top it all off, is the father to a beautiful two-year old. And here I am complaining about my crazy schedule in grad school...

Once checked in, I got to say hello to my friend Beat whose girlfriend is actually in my program. Beat is from Switzerland, so he and I share the funky German accent. There were a lot of those (accents) around actually...and that actually didn't surprise me. Lots of Germans take to the trails and compete quite well at the ultra-distances.

After completing pre-race procedures at what might very well be the most scenically located bathroom in the country, someone said my name. And it was Leslie from the Banff Trail Trash blog. (If you haven't checked that one out, you're missing out. It's one of my absolute favorites!) Leslie and her husband Keith were in California for week celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary....running. Yes, they ran all over. Check it out on their blog.

Keith and I (and, yes, I'm still representing GUTS) credit to BTT

Going up the Dipsea credit to BTT

Leslie, Keith and I would start the race together charging up the mythical Dipsea Trail like three little school girls, singing, bouncing and simply just enjoying ourselves. What a day it was! Blue skies, 70 degrees, a light breeze from the ocean. While I sometimes miss my hometrails in Atlanta, I am not going to lie: I feel so very lucky to live in the Bay Area! I LOVE it here!!

The trail was a bit crowded at first, but all the more time to take in the sweeping views, talk to people and breathe the wonderful fall air. Soon enough we were on top of the first hill and the different races went their separate ways.

Some really slippery ladder on the way Jane with the pic

It took me a while to get to the top (starting from the back can set you back quite a bit) and now it was time to just let it fly! I charged the downhill like there was no tomorrow. Boy, it's been too long! It wasn't my lungs or legs propelling me forward but pure joy!

I would later pay the price for going too fast during the middle section on the final four mile descent, but, oh well, more time to take in the views. Sometimes, I would just stop and stare: can a place really be this beautiful? Trails, ocean and blue skies. Stinson Beach, I'll be back for sure!

As always my thanks go out to the race organizers, Sarah (sorry, I missed you again!) and Wendell, as well as all the great volunteers!

(Any 'rumors' mentioned in this blog entry are, of course, not true)

(I broke yet another camera...butterfingers...hence the 'borrowing' from the internets)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Upcoming Races

It looks like I'll be able to squeeze in at least two more races before the end of the year. Unfortunately, I need to focus on some shorter distances for now. First up, the Stinson Beach 20k. The course profile looks similar to what my local training runs are here in Berkeley. Hopefully, that'll be an advantage.

Looks just like my runs up to Grizzly or Wildcat Peaks

I will close out the year with the Muir Beach 33k on December 13.

Next spring, I'm already signed up for the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon and I'm eyeing a couple of 50ks as well.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rain? Rain!

I have lived in the Bay Area since late July now. Yesterday was the second time it has rained. The SECOND time! And today was the third time. Apparently, the rainy season has started, since it's supposed to rain three more days.

This morning I took the opportunity to run a little bit in the rain. 9 casual miles in the hills. The countless scents liberated by the rain were permeating the trail. It was beautiful! Makes me miss running in the South a little bit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Impressions From My New Home Trails

In all this reminiscing about my summer, I haven't really shown the appreciation I have for living in, what I perceive to be, the unofficial trail capital of the U.S.: the SF Bay Area! ("Unofficial" because me saying it, doesn't constitute the correctness of that statement).

So, I finally brought along a camera on a recent run at Tilden Park (up to Wildcat Peak). Enjoy!

Regular ole' trail. Doesn't look like the South at all, does it?

Wildcat goal for the day and the highest point in Tilden

more beautiful trail

Eucalyptus trees....there are tons of them here, however they are an invasive species

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of Wildcat Peak

The infamous Mt. Diablo lurking not too far away...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Frightening Moment on the Trail

Let me me start this post off by saying one thing: I love animals, and I love dogs. I like to run with them, wrestle them and play with them at any time. Unfortunately a dog was at the center of one scary trail incident this afternoon.

For days, I had been looking forward to this run. My schedule had been built all around it. I even did some studying on a Saturday night just to spend some significant trail time up at Tilden Regional Park this morning. Tilden has a maze of trails and I'm still getting my bearings doing many exploratory runs with a map close by at all times.

About 20 minutes in, I passed by a picnic area with a young couple laying on the ground with what appeared to be a bull Now, bull terriers are so-called fighting dogs and with the wrong owners can be quite dangerous to humans, in particular children. It's up to the owner to raise these dogs carefully and with lots of attention.

So, I'm trying to run by as the dog all of the sudden decides to charge me. Teeth showing, saliva coming out of his mouth, it's running towards me fast. I decide to stop and stand my ground. What was frightening wasn't the dog as much as the owners who looked terrified and just froze. The dog reached me and I could feel his wet mouth brush up against my leg.

Thank goodness, it didn't bite. You could see the sense of relief on the faces of the young couple. One of them came over and removed the dog from my general vicinity. They apologized profusely, and I could tell that they were still in a bit of a shock.

I've had dozens if not hundreds of dogs run towards me or bark at me while out running. They have barked, tried to play and do all sorts of things. But this was different. The wrong dog in a wrong owners' hands can be a dangerous thing. I got lucky.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Video from Elbert

Since people seemed to enjoy the pictures from Mt. Elbert, I thought I'd dig up a little video I shot up there. You may notice that I'm a little out of breath, but the air was thinnnnnnnn!

I promise to stop reminiscing about my summer soon (at least publicly).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Climbing Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft.)

As I mentioned in a few previous posts, I spent quite a bit of time in Colorado this summer. One of the things I learned was that high altitude is a lot of fun and works for me. I hit lots of high altitude trails, learned to bring lots of layers and even traversed down a giant glacier without any special gear. Not the smartest thing I ever did, but one of the most fun!

But the achievement I am most proud of is summitting Mt. Elbert, at 14,433 ft. the highest mountain in Colorado. It's not a very tough mountain in terms of technical skills required, you just need big lungs, strong legs and be ready to face lots of false summits.

Old school

Elbert is near Leadville, CO, a pretty special place for us ultrarunners. I camped right at the bottom of the mountain at about 10,000 ft. (Prior to this summer, I had never been above 7,000 feet, btw.) and headed out at 5 a.m. one morning.

The climb starts out on a dirt road that my little civic would have succumbed to about a 1/4 mile in. If you have a big 4wd vehicle, you can drive the first two miles, but I didn't that luxury. It lead me through a beautiful birch tree forest and then some of the steepest trails I have ever seen. I honestly could not believe how steep that trail was at the bottom. It must have taken me about 30 or 40 mins or so to just cover a mile.

Just above tree line

But I was making quick progress anyhow. Soon, I was above the treeline and saw a large group ahead of me. I reached them as they were taking a break and decided to rest with them a little. To our left was Mt. Massive (the second highest in Colorado) and to our right the Ivy League Mountains (Mt. Harvard, etc.)....INCREDIBLE!

It was time to move on though, since it was supposed to storm early today. My strategy was just to put one foot in front of the other. And that worked better than expected. After only 3:10 I had finished the 7.5 mile treck to the summit.
Signed in

What a view it was! It felt like being in an airplane flying over the mountains. There were mountains everywhere and, boy, was it beautiful. I can't describe it. Pictures will have to speak for me here.

It was the middle of July...and in the 30s at the summit

Go Bears!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A New Life - New Trails

Prior to my last post, I was noticeably absent for about a month and a half. "Why?" you might ask. Well, life has turned around 180 degrees for me.

I had to return back to L.A. from my travels early to attend to a family emergency. Everything turned out fine (thankfully) and it allowed me to spend some more time with the lady (never a bad thing) and rest up a little before moving up to Berkeley.
Pretty typical view from the trails in Berkeley.

The move was relatively painless. It's great running here in late summer. The lows are in 50s, highs in the 70s...PERFECT running weather. And quite frankly, I'm getting spoiled.
Eucalyptus forest

And the trails. Boy, the trails here are amazing. There are so many here in the hills above campus, it's a giant maze. What's amazing is how quickly the vegetation changes. One minute, you're in a giant redwood forest, the next on an exposed trail surrounded by brush and grasses, and then you might hit a eucalyptus tree forest. I supposed that's due to all the little sub-climates here in the area.

Redwood Forest

Unfortunately, school has been extremely busy. Generally, I'm on campus 12 or so hours a day, followed by around four or five hours of studying at home. That leaves little time for running (and sleeping for that matter). I may not be running ultras this fall (school is supposed to get less busy after the first semester), but will hit some of the many short trail races here in the area. There are so many to choose from!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Hot Morning At The Redwood 30k

Some of you have e-mailed me or left comments, wondering what happened to me. Well, I'm still around, life has turned upside down, but I'm still running. More on all this next time.

How Not To Prepare For A Race
The Redwood 30k was always scheduled to be long run rather than a race for me. I knew it would be sandwiched in to a weekend of three straight DMB concerts at the Greek Theater. Friday night was the first show and, as usual, I refused to sit during the concert, but rather chose to dance (sometimes violently). Most of the time I probably looked something like this.

Needless to say, I went to bed exhausted only to wake up a few hours later to head out to the race. Races seem to start much later out West it seems. When I was waking up I appreciated the 8.30 start time; later on I would change my mind on that.

The Race
The drive over to the Oakland hills was uneventful, except that I had to turn around half way, since I had forgotten my hat as well as my ankle guards. In the end, I got there just in time to register and use the outhouse. I ran directly from there to the starting line and it was time to leave pretty much immediately.

Even though it was only 8.30, it was starting to get warm. Two things I don't get: isn't the Bay Area supposed to be around 67 degrees at all times? And why do heat waves always have to hit when I run races?

As I was considering these questions, I walked up the first big hill taking my sweet ole time. It's funny, I had just started to make a good number of friends in the Georgia trail running community to the point where I would always know people in races and had friends to catch up with. Now that process will have to start all over again.

In any case, it already started getting hot, and as we know from my disaster race at Pacifica, the heat is not my friend. I never really pushed the pace and took my sweet time at aid station 1 (4 mins) and aid station 2 (10 mins!). The food was really good, the people really nice and I was in no hurry.

The first 20k were run mostly run exposed fire roads and single track. The last 10k finally took us into the forest. But it was a brutal final 10k, somewhat reminiscent of the infamous powerline section at Sweetwater (though not as difficult, but much longer).

In the end, I posted a mediocre time of 3:41 and was completely beat up by the course and heat. Not my best race, but I had lots of fun and am looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Sarah, Wendell and all the volunteers for putting on a perfectly executed event!

P.s. Next time, I'll bring my camera again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trailrunning in Zion National Park

I have finally returned from what I termed my "Big Trip." Hundreds of experiences have left their mark on me and made a lasting impression. In fact, my life is changed a little bit (for the better, I believe). Here is the first in a series of spectacular places I was able to run. Please don't playa-hate as Christian has threatened me he would. Also, I will not be able to run Speedgoat because of a family emergency I need to attend to.

Zion National Park is located in southern Utah near the town of St. George. I wasn't sure what to expect, applying my new rule of "If they're making it a National Park, it's always worth checking out." What I found was breathtaking. The (warm) Virgin River had carved a masterpiece of a canyon complete with red rock walls as high as the sky and a lush, green river oasis at the bottom. Despite the 107 degree heat, I laced up my sneakers and saw this:

Yes, I ran here.

Serious switchbacks.

I know I'm sexy. You don't have to tell me.

Heaven on earth

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Loving Life in Colorado

You may all know that I absolutely LOVE California. It's got everything I need: ocean, mountains, forest, and on. But I have also found my second (geographic) love: Colorado.
For the past week or so, I have been playing here in the Rocky Mountains. My days usually go something like this:
  • Wake up (naturally) around 6 or 6.30

  • Hit the hiking trails for about 10-15 miles at 10k+ altitude (which really doesn't seem to bother me as much I have come to find out)

  • Hit the local library for some catching up on e-mail, reading magazines, etc. (public libraries are great fun and, as is important for a student like me, FREE)

  • Go to a coffee shop and read the rest of the afternoon

  • Return to my campsite, make dinner, read some more and fall asleep by 9.30 or 10

There are few places that are as beautiful and have relaxed me as much as Colorado.

(More to come....once I can upload pictures)

Monday, July 14, 2008

I am still alive!

Just a quick update. I've been traveling the Western United States over the past 10 days or so with stops at Zion National Park, in Wyoming, South Dakota and now Colorado. I'm enjoying the high altitude, and I'm taking lots of pictures and spending time in nature. More detailed posts coming soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Interview With Karl Meltzer

Karl Meltzer is a lucky man. He is a professional ultra-runner. Yup, what you and I do for fun, he makes a living doing. "How" you ask? Simply stated: Karl is a badass. Let's review some facts from his running resume. More 100 mile trail race wins in a calendar year than anyone in history (Karl won six 100s in 2006; the previous record was four). His specialty are mountain runs, as evidenced by his ridiculous number of wins at Wasatch 100 (6 total) and Hardrock (4). As a matter of fact, Karl wins a lot. Try 48 ultra wins in 91 starts, 23 of which were at the 100 mile distance (that's a record, too).

This year, Karl will tackle a completely different challenge. In August, he will set out to break the speed record for the Appalachian trail. This assault will end in my old stomping grounds in North Georgia. Reason enough for an interview.

Describe your evolution from a "regular" runner to becoming a trail and ultra runner.
I have always run well at Cross Country, and trails. When I moved to Utah in 1989, I came here to be a ski bum. I hadn't really run in 3 years at that point. After skiing 120 days the first year, I decided to stay in Utah. A buddy of mine went for a run one day, so I tagged along, but not far behind. Once I ran once I was hooked on trails again, and started training harder. At first the Pikes Peak Marathon was the big dance, then it just evolved into ultras. I never thought I would run 100 miles at a pop, but after a friend told me about the Wasatch 100 I was intrigued and decided to go for it. From there I was hooked for life.

At what point did you realize that you had a chance to be an elite ultra runner? Was there an "a-ha moment" or a particular race?
That first year I ran for 3 weeks around Snowbird Utah, then won the hill climb to the peak on essentially no training. I knew I had potential to start winning other races. Ultras came 6 years later. The first Ultra was the Wasatch 100 and although I finished in 28th, I was in the race to win all the way up to 70 miles, so I knew I had it in me. I won my first 100 at Wasatch in 1998, then my focus was to race the fastest guys out there, and I started beating them. I knew then I was an "elite" ultrarunner.
Don't tell me you have pretty feet.

Out of all your running accomplishments, which are you most proud of and why?
Hard to say, but at this point I have now won more trail 100's then any other person on earth, that would be number 1 , but before that, when I won Hardrock for the first time in 2001 and crushed the record, I felt great about it. I mentioned before the race, since National Geographic and Sports Illustrated were there, It would be a good day to really nail it...and I did.

What would you consider the key to your successes?
Simply put, mental power and knowing when not to train "too hard" and get injured

What is your favorite race to run? Why?
Hardrock is great because is fits my style, but really any race with big mountains and rugged terrain are what I excel at, which is why I stay away from silly road races.
We kick it old school around here. This is after the Karl's 2001 win at Hardrock.

How have you adjusted your training as your focus this year is less on the 100 milers ('only' two this year) and more on the Appalachian Trail record attempt? Describe a typical training week preparing for 100s vs. for the AT record attempt.
Honestly the training is very much the same, I have actually run more miles this year preparing for the AT than any other year....easily. The two 100s I did go into Coyote with Fresh legs and actually tapered for it, normally I just go and run the race, then drive home. Western [States] will be like that, even though WS is a competitive race, it's just a training run for me before the AT. [Obviously, this interview is a few weeks old. For those of you who don't know, WS got canceled this year due to wild fires - the editor].

You live west of the Mississippi, why the AT record (vs. Pacific Coast Trail or Continental Divide Trail)?
The AT has far more history then the other two you mentioned, and is very technical, which fits my strength. I am also from the East Coast originally, and I 've always wanted to do it. And now that has come along and is supporting me it was a no-brainer. The AT record is more solid [a shade over 47 days for the 2174 mile jaunt - the editor] than the PCT or CDT, so I wanted to chase that first.

Tell us about and the neat applications it will have. and I discussed back in December, I came up with the idea of having a live tracking device for people to watch me attempt the whole AT. They loved the idea and we went from there. will have live satellite tracking every 10 minutes using google earth maps, and an interactive website so people can win prizes, and stuff like that. It now has updates on what I'm doing, how my training is going and what's up with my life. It's very cool, and once lots of people get a hold of it, they may not want to let go once they start to see me suffer. We will have podcasts from crew, me and all kinds of neat stats to go along with it, posted daily throughout the run.

What are you favorite cross-training activities?
Skiing, Golf, Biking, Horseshoes, Beer [let's hang out! - the editor]

Who in the ultra-world have you looked up to? Who are your heroes?
Not sure if I have any "heroes" but I admire any runner who gets it done. It's not all about the winners. I look up to those guys at Hardrock that finish under the cutoffs. They are out there a lot longer and suffer longer than I when I run races fast. They'll get a chance to watch me out there all day, every day. Now it's their turn.

Do you have any advice for novice ultra runners?
Keep the head in the game, and don't overtrain.

You have been a proponent of wearing headphones during races (as is the author of this blog). What do you normally listen to?
I prefer to listen to upbeat music that gets faster with every song. My favorite bands are Strangefolk, Widespread Panic, Grateful Dead, Phish, Rusted Root. Music along those lines.

You run in the backcountry a lot. Do you have any good wildlife run-ins you can share?
I run in the backcountry daily, no roads here for me. I have headbutted a moose a few times, and been chased by a moose a few times...briefly. Otherwise I see deer daily, more than I see people. My best day was on Mt. Timpanogos here in Utah, at 11,000' I was running through a herd of goats (at least 100), when passed them I came to a ridge overlooking Provo Utah, 7000' below, I ran on that ridge for about a quarter mile right behind 8 bighorned billy goats. It would have been an incredible shot as the sun was coming up and the light was perfect....but I didn't have a camera. It could have made many covers of mags...classic!

What is a "speedgoat"?
A speedgoat is one who travels goat paths quickly, I came up with the name years ago on the way home from the Pikes Peak Marathon. It kind of stuck.

Honestly, don't mess with Speedgoats!

You'll be RD for the Speedgoat 50k this year (and the blog author will be trying to finish it). When did you start race directing, what inspired you to do it and how does it compare to actually running a race?
I started race directing just last year, I always wanted to have a tough race at Snowbird Ski Resort and the mountains that surround it. I worked at Snowbird for 17 year, and recently left a year and a half ago (February 2007) I know the events man up there and we discussed having a race, they were all over it, so we made it happen. Now it's the toughest 50k in North America (nothing compares) with 12000' of climb, making Pikes Peak Marathon look easy (although it's not). It is still called a running race. It's great for a true mountain runner as much of the terrain is tough and super hilly. Some is on goat trails as well, making it an interesting course to say the least. All above 8000'. If I am gonna be the RD of a race, we might as well run on terrain I run on daily, right?

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 good for the sport to see more people out there, but unfortunately races have limits on runners. The Forest Service should let more runners in, in my opinion. RD's would let more in if they could. Go to Europe, 1000s of runners run at Mont Blanc, and don't destroy anything, here in the US there are so many silly restrictions on usage it makes me sick. Ultrarunners are not people who litter trails or really cause damage.
I would also like to add that pacers-mules should not be allowed in any race, (even 100s) simply because it is a race and the challenge of the athlete that enters it. We should not be allowed to have a runner at our side to "keep us going". That's a bunch of silliness. If they let more runners in the races and no pacers, races would be more friendly to the masses.

What are your plans for 2009 and beyond?
Hard to say, but I'll go after more 100 mile wins, cuz' I want to die with a record in the books. I do have one on the books that is almost 25 years old. I still hold the under 19 age group record at the Mt. Washington Road Race in NH. (4650' climb...7.6 miles) I ran 67:45 when I was 15. That one may stand forever.

Thank you for your time, Karl!

If you'd like to read an interview with more AT assault specific questions, check out this one. If you want to know more about the AT, read Jean's fantastic overview or check out Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Run For The Ages - Of Fawns, Bears and Picture Perfect Views

As a trailrunner, I have the great fortune on seeing parts of the wilderness most will never get to a quick manner. But absolutely none of my experiences could have prepared me for one epic run at Sequoia NP (I promise, I'll shut up about that place after this post).

The goal for the day was a place called Pear Lake. My run started at about 7,200 feet elevation at Wolverton parking lot. After I transferred all relevant items from my car to a bear locker, I was off. After about 20 mins, I happened on a few people taking pictures. A fawn and her mom were grazing right by the trail. The fawn couldn't have been more than a few weeks old. It was still struggling mightily with her balance. But it was mighty photogenic.

After this encounter, I made my way up a hill known simply as "The Hump". Except where I come from, we call those mountains and would give it a more appropriate name like Lungbuster Peak or Wtf-Was-I-Thinking?-Gap. After climbing about 2000 feet in about two miles, I was rewarded with absolutely breathtaking backcountry views. I topped out at around 9,800 that day...a new altitude record for me by over 2,000 feet.
After having just arrived atop The Hump. (Yes, I have some sexy shorts.)

From here, the trail became a little less challenging in terms of vertical, but more technical/rocky with some snow-covered sections. Pictures will have to speak a thousand words for me here:
I practice that pose in front of the mirror. Got it almost identical in the last two shots.

Pear Lake

My view during my lunch break. I do not miss my old cubicle.

During this run I discovered that Nuun works great as a taste and color neutralizer for iodine pills. One more reason to love that stuff.

After spending lunch at Pear Lake, which I had completely to myself for all but the first 10 mins, I was headed back down.

About a 1/2 mile from the parking lot it happened: I saw my first bear! As a matter of fact, there were two: a mother and her cub. The mother was trying to find food inside a tree while the cub was playing in the grass. A couple of hikers and I got to watch for about 5 or 6 minutes.
You may be able to make out mama bear leaning against the left side of middle tree in the back.

I had been pretty concerned about running into the big fur balls the whole week, but when it finally happened, I was thrilled. What a spectacle!!

All of the above is from one day, one run. There may never be a day for me on the trail quite like this. How could there be?