Monday, December 31, 2012

Memory #4

My first 24 hour didn't go so well. 111 miles and 18:30 at the San Francisco One Day back in 2007 didn't quite leave a satisfying taste in my mouth. I knew I would run another 24 hour sometime in my life but it took until this year, and the goal of making the 2012 World 24 Hour Championship Team, to pull the trigger.

The site was the NorthCoast 24 Hour site of the United States 24 Hour National Championship in May. I had already signed up for the race figuring I wouldn't be traveling to Italy for the 100k World Championships, however, I got the late call to join the team and with the trip to NorthCoast already paid for, I made the decision to still run eventhough it only left me with 13 days of recovery time. Obviously, not ideal, but I had nothing to lose and in my mind, I was playing with house money.

I was pushed early in the race by Valmir Nunes, Serge Arbona, and David James. I just locked into an 8 minute per mile pace and just tried to run comfortable and under control. Valmir and David eventual stopped and the race Serge and I would duel it out throughout the night. The weather conditions were good. It was a little breezy during the day but the winds died down during the night time and the cool overnight temperatures stayed away.

I finished the first 100 miles in about 13:40 and I didn't have to walk my first steps until 17:30 into the race. From there I ran walked until I hit 21:50 and 151 miles. I knew at this point with a little over two hours to go that I could walk it in and finish in the lead. Serge pushed hard and made it interesting, but I was able to hold on for a 4 mile victory.

Charles Wickersham was my MVP! He made the trip with me to Cleveland and he crewed for the entire race.....taking no time to nap. Whatever I needed, he would supply. We looked like we had worked together for years. Charles kept me motivated, hydrated, and fueled for the entire race. There is no way I could have won the race without his support. Thanks Charles!

Adding a U.S. National Title to my list of accomplishments was definitely a dream come true. The mileage was good enough to qualify me for the 24 Hour team traveling to Poland for the World Championships, but I decided not to take the invitation because of a fatigued body and too much time away from work. The U.S. Men did take the Bronze medal and Mike Morton won and in the process broke Scott Jurek's 24 Hour National Record by 7 miles(172 miles). I plan to join the team traveling to the Netherlands in May for the 2013 World Championships.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Moment #5

The Modesto Marathon starts my top 5. That may be a surprise because I didn't even finish first, but it may have been my most complete race of the year. Moreover, it is my hometown race and the race in which my Teens Run Modesto runners have been training six months for to complete. All these factors supply a lot of motivation for me to run well. I feel a little pressure to run well because this is the only race I run in town, so this provides people one chance to see me run instead of just hearing about my running. I want to have a good result not just for myself, but for the kids at my school and the people in the community that follow me. Lastly, I just found out that I was going to Italy to run in the 100km World Championships for Team USA.

We had ideal race conditions. Morning temps were in the 40's and would warm to the 50's by early afternoon and the cloud cover and the absence of any wind just added to perfect conditions for fast times. As I settled into a six minute flat pace in the early miles, I kept the leaders insight......well I thought I kept them in sight but I would soon find out this to be untrue. I was nearing the half way mark of the race and just passed what I thought was first place, but after a couple of minutes, I could see a runner running back in my direction on this out and back course. My draw dropped not just because I thought I was in first place, but because if this was the leader, I was still a mile to 1.5 miles behind him.

After taking a minute or two to gain my composure, I decided to try to chase down the leader. I knew it was probably too late but I was going to go for it. I wanted to see how much I could push the pace the last twelve miles and if I hit the wall, I hit the wall. No regrets.

With the large number of half marathoners in the race, it was hard to see ahead of me. I had no idea where the leader was except my wife reporting to me he was eight minutes ahead with nine miles to go. I kept it at a good sub six minute pace and ran relaxed. I used the energy from the TRM runners and the Shadowchase Running Club members in the race. I wanted to be ready just in case the leader started to bonk. I kept trying to convince myself that there was no way he could keep up the pace. I was right. As I approached the 9th Street bridge(2 miles to go), I could see the leader running down the backside of the bridge. I was shocked! I looked at my watch to see how far I was behind and as I got the backside of the bridge, I saw that I was 2:30 behind the leader. That was a lot to make up in the last two miles, but I put the pedal down and tried to run him down. I could see myself getting closer, but I just didn't feel like I was making up enough distance. I was going to run out of road and I was right. I made the turn onto M Street and I could see him crossing the finish line. I made up 2:14 in the last two miles and with reports that he was dry heaving the last four miles, it was an impressive finish and race for the winner.

It was a 6+ minute personnel best for me in the marathon(2:33:01) I finished with a little tank and some confidence that would fuel me for the weeks to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Year in Review

It has been a crazy year! Going into 2012 I was hoping to run a time in the 15’s at the Rocky Road 100 Mile and after that……I had no idea what I was going to do. I certainly was on the downside of my career and the days of running PR’s were over…Right? Well, 13:14 at Rocky Road and the rest has been history. How do you explain going from a second alternate on the 100k Team(four weeks prior to the race) to 2nd  place finish on the team, 7th in the World, and a Team Silver? It is hard to imagine the runner I once was waaaayyyyyy back in 2011:) 

People ask me what major changes I made to bringing on such success. Well, I can narrow it down to three things.

1.) Change in diet. I went from a high carbohydrate diet, to a high protein diet.

2.) My Chiropractor Dr. Paul Forakis has taken care of my minor nagging issues before they became big issues. Because of this, I have been able to run higher mileage weeks without injury. Before this year, I had only recorded one one-hundred mile training week, and this year I have run double-digit 100 mile weeks.

3.) I gave up mountain trail running and focused on road/trail ultras that I could train for locally here in Modesto. Too often I would race in the mountains at elevation, but I couldn’t do the training to mirror the races I was running. Therefore, I would do poorly. My wife has been trying to tell me for years, but I was too stubborn to listen. Thank you Honey:)

I will use the next five days to chronicle the five biggest moments of my 2012 running year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Exclamation Mark to My Year!

A last minute change in race plans(I was going to run ATY 24 Hours December 29th.) landed me in Phoenix for the Desert Solstice 24 Hour at the Central High School all weather track. The race is called a 24 hour race, but the race was created to go any distance you want. The done rive of the two race directors Jamil and Nick Coury is to design a race for top level runners to attempt at World/National records. The race was comprised of about twenty runners with varying goals. Mine was simple. I wanted to run a fast hundred whatever that meant. I threw out the number 12:30 but running a 7:30 mile pace for 100 miles seemed mind boggling. Breaking 13 hours would have been nice.

Jamil had set me up with a place to stay while I was in town. Rich and Erin McKnight, newlyweds, and ultra runners of there own opened there house to me and took care of my every need and they were going to also double as my crew. This was going to be a tough task because I'm a high maintenance runner:) After a medium steak and baked potato dinner and a good night sleep, I was ready to go and off to the Central High School track and the start of the race. A cup of coffee and two Vespas would fuel me prior to the race.

I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't a little intimidated by the field in the race. David James, Ian Sharman, Michael Arnstein....just to name few, were runners I looked up to and followed in the sport. BUT I knew what race strategy worked for me, so I planned to stick to it and where the chips fell, they fell.

The race called for some showers off and on throughout the day and that became the biggest understatement of the day! The gun went off right at 8 am local time and the runners began to make there way around the hamster wheel. We would start the race running counter clockwise, and we would change directions on the track every four hours. That is exactly how I planned to break up the race, three separate four hour races. The first four hours would be a warm up. I would concentrate on running a comfortable pace and working on calorie consumption and staying hydrated.

In the first hour David James and Ian Sharman lapped me three times. They're sights were set for sub 12 and a World Record! I didn't even entertain the thought of running with them. I got a chance to talk to Ian before the race and he wanted to aIso run a fast 100, then jog the rest of the 24 Hour. He would reconsider this strategy later in the race. I had my strategy and was sticking to it. As my wife had said the night before,"Run your race like you did in Italy." She was so right. By the second hour, I had gone from 7:30 pace to a consistent 7:15. It felt comfortable. By the end of the second hour, Ian and James had at least five laps on me, however you could see David slowing and soon he would drop. It wasn't his day, but it didn't stop him from providing motivational support throughout the entire race. He is a class act.

We hit the four mark and the first turnaround without much drama. At this point Ian was 8 laps up on me, but I was now running a solid 7:10 pace and feeling good. The stomach was also strong. I was consistently rotating gels, V8, chicken noodle soup, potato chips, gummy bears, and M&Ms the whole day. I would take a caffeinated gel every two hours and also a Vespa every two hours. Moreover, I would wash this down with water. Rich took care of my every need. Every couple of laps I would be shouting out requests and Rich was on it. His job would soon become more difficult as Mother Nature would make her presence felt in the 4-8 hour section of the race.

My plan for the second part of the race was to maintain my 7:10-7:15 pace with an occasional faster mile at the beginning of each hour. This seemed to wake the legs up and help reduce some of the lactic acid build-up. I noticed Joe Fejes, the eventual 24 hour champ and National 24 Hour team member, work this to perfection on his way to running 156.5 miles! However, it became difficult to stick to the race strategy when the Heavens opened and the wind picked up. With temps in the 40's and a bone chilling breeze/shower on the back stretch, the race strategy had to be altered. I ended up changing in and out of two shirts, three hats, one beanie, and a jacket during a three hour window in the 4-8 hour stretch. Unfortunately this put a heavy burden on my crew to keep me dry. Then on again, off again, and off again, rain showers played tricks on the runners and made the runner's crews work like NASCAR Pit Crews. You could see Ian was starting to slow a little and after increasing his lap lead to nine, I was able to chip away a get one back. It seemed as though he had fought through a tough stretch and was back to his old self quickly after the pass.

Then, all of a sudden the rain shower became a steady rain. Lakes were forming on the track every inch of me was soaked. Ian and I tried to work together as we made the turn at eight hours but the cold was starting to get to us. Luckily enough, Rich persuaded me to change the completely saturated shirt I was wearing under my jacket into a long sleeve shirt. I then requested a beanie. This was HUGE! Within a couple of laps I felt warm and rejuvenated. However, I noticed Ian didn't make any clothing changes and was beginning to feel the effects.

I was able to make up one more lap on Ian, but the guy is as tough as nails and I knew he wouldn't go down
without a fight. Unfortunately within a few laps, Ian was reduced to a walk after having a leg issue. And with the weather the way it was, it didn't take long before he was hypothermic and had to drop.

We were now nine hours into the race and I was now in the lead. My strategy needed to change. I originally had planned to use the third part of the race to try to run down the leaders, but since I was in the lead, a change was in order. I went through a body diagnostic test and determined I felt good, stomach and all. The legs were tight but that was to be expected. I now determined that I would run a comfortable pace that I could maintain for the duration of the race...easier said then done, especially with the weather the way it was. It was hard to get in any rhythm. This would be the longest 3+ hours of my life.

I concentrated mile to mile. Trying to hit each desired split. Also, I tried to keep my spirits up and converse with other runners as we passed each other on the track. Anything to distract me from the overall distance/time. Erin had arrived to help crew and with their combined help, I didn't have to pause or think much other than about my running.

Between the 10th and 11th hour the lights came on over the track but my pace had slowed to about 7:55 per mile. Then, out of nowhere Michael Arnstein comes flying by me running a low six minute pace and he says to me as he runs by, "I'm comin for you Jon!" Needless to say, this woke me up! I knew it was said tongue and cheek, but I felt the need to refocus.

The rain had finally subsided and with about two hours left to run, I was on pace to break 12:40 and I wanted to make sure that happened. That 7:55 pace became a 7:40 pace. My eyes were focused on Michael. Trying to keep him at bay, but even with my increased pace, he continued to lap me. Mathematically, it may have been a long shot that he make up the seven mile deficit, but I didn't want to give up this race after working so hard and steady all day. With less than two hours remaining in the race, it came to the attention of the Jamil Coury the American Record for 100 miles on track was 12 hours 27 minutes and 2 seconds. This information was relayed through my crew Rich. He told me that I would have to run 1:52 laps(7:28 mile pace) to break the record. I quickened the pace for a mile but it was short lived as I noticed this pace was too much with so much time left in the race.

I was reserved to the thought that 12:27 was not going to happen, but I continued to plug away. At this point, I found a pace I felt comfortable with for the rest of the race and was clicking away laps. BUT the race staff and my crew weren't going to stop encouraging me to pursue the record. I told Rich to let me know when it was eight miles to go. I thought I could push my body to the edge with one hour to go, and with eight miles to go, I started my pursuit towards history. 1:48's were the target with 32 laps to go. It seems crazy to have to real off 7:10 miles from mile 93-100 in the race, but that was the situation I put myself in. Jamil asked the runners to give me the inside of lane one as I was on pace to break the American Record. It was electric feeling on the track. All the runners were very encouraging as I passed them. And with their help, I was able to stick close to this target for the first five miles, then the clock struck twelve hours. That meant another change of direction on the track. It seems so simple to have to turn around a cone and run the other way, but it was anything but that. The legs got a little tighter, and my left hamstring was starting to twinge. What was I to do? Do I keep pushing until I couldn't push any longer? or Did I make sure I finished running? The later was more important. To me, nothing would have been more demoralizing than crossing the finish line walking. So after crunching the numbers, I could break 12:30 with the 8 minute pace I was running. And on that last lap, a sense of accomplishment fell over me. I couldn't believe I was just about run under 12:30 for 100 miles, but at the same time, I was a little disappointed that I didn't break the American Record after being so close.........I guess that means I will have to come back in 2013:)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Keys to Success to Run" One Day"

I haven't run many 24 hour races, but I feel confident in my race strategy. The three keys are pace, diet, and body temperature.

I find an aerobic pace that allows me to run as efficiently and with as little extra movement as possible. This will allow me to put little stress on my stomach which allows me to digest food and put less stress on those running muscles to delay the build-up of lactic acid.

I like to alternate salt, fat, and sugar every twenty minutes or so. I prefer eating more often as opposed to a lot every hour. This has worked for me and keeps my energy levels pretty even the duration of the race. Vespa every two hours is key also.

As nighttime draws near, putting on the right clothing is key. Keeping your core temperature consistent keeps the blood flow to the muscles and stomach which need it. When you get hot or cold the body diverts some of your blood flow to deal with regulating your body temperature.

Lastly, I have found that running more and walking less keeps me looser and more uccessful. I thought mixing in walking early would help rest my running muscles and help me late in the race, however I found it did the opposite. Finding a pace I could run a long with was the key.

At Across the Years, I'm going to build in a faster paced ile every ten miles to help with the lactic acid build up.....I will let you know how it goes.

 I hope this helps.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Light in the Tunnel is a Little Further Away

I guess that light is a little further away:) After running an intelligent race and forced to stop at 16 hours due to a left groin issue, I am signed up for Across the Years on the 29th of December. I need a full 24 hour to build my confidence for the 2013 World Championships in May. Mileage is not the is all about the time. The thing is if I run the majority of the 24 hours, the miles will take care of themselves.

What went right at 24 Hours The Hard Way? I had zero stomach issues and I was we'll hydrated throughout the race...peeing every 45 minutes or so. Also, I finished 100 miles in 14:00:50. That was about 15 minutes off my time at NorthCoast but the groin was tightening up big time the last ten miles and this course was much more challenging.

I will build on these positives and focus on heeling the groin and focusing on long race paced runs with long tempo runs built in once my body heels. I am excited about the opportunity to get better for Worlds and enjoy the nice Arizona sun:)

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Eight days stand in the way between me and the end of my 2012 race year. I haven't allowed myself to sit back and reflect on my success' because there were always other races on the horizon to focus on and train for. I guess that is how we are wired....we know that we are only as good as the next race. AND I have had as much disappointment as success in my running career, so with that, I try to stay in the moment. The moment right now is 24 Hours the Hard Way.

My training has been going well following Western States in June and the TRT 50k in July. It has taken my body awhile to shake out all those long races in the spring and early summer. My legs finally have a little bounce to them.  In hindsight, it was probably a good idea not to run at the 24 Hour World Championships in Poland in September. My body really felt run down.

I was pleasantly surprised that I ran so well at the Lake Tahoe 72 mile three weeks ago. I had no hill training/altitude training going into the race and my energy levels were consistent all day and I never had any low points after about 20 miles. It has given me some confidence going into the 24 hour race next weekend. I have some target goals for the race, but 24 hours is a long time and things can change in the matter of a couple of minutes, so I won't make any mileage predictions:)

1.) Find a pace I can maintain for as long as I can maintain it. Walk as little as possible.

2.) Attack the miles between 3 and 6 am.

3.) When the sun comes up, ride the adrenaline from the sun to 9 am.

4.) Run for my family at home and for all the kids at Prescott Middle School.

My twin brother Tom will be accompanying me on the trip and will be an integral part to my success. You will be able to follow my progress on Facebook and Twitter when my brother has time. All your positive vibes are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Training August 6th-August 12th

Monday- It was a slow hilly run on the treadmill. My legs were fatigued and slow from the two runs the day before. It took me 1.5 hours to run 10 miles:( I did go up to 10% incline but it wasn't my finest day. Even with the slower pace, it was a hard run.

Tuesday- I met Bruce in the morning for our usual 12 mile loop. The legs were still sore but not quite as bad as the day before. We averaged in the high 7's almost 8's. The legs still had no pep.

Wednesday- Hallelujah! It took an afternoon run in 100 degree temps to wake up my legs. The 7+ miles to work felt easy at the 7:20 pace I was running. After stubbing my small toe at work(It is probably broken:() I ran home and that too felt pretty easy. I ran 14.35 for the day and in 1:45.

Thursday- Another very encouraging day:) I met bruce for our usual 12 mile canal loop and added two miles my legs felt peppy:) That made it 14.25 miles for the morning at 7:45 pace, but the toe is black and blue and i am beginning to be concerned that the toe is broken. Then I decided to get on the treadmill and add another hour hill work:) It felt easy(7 miles up to 12% incline. That made it 21 miles for the day:)

Friday- A much needed day off:)

Saturday- Only one hour on the treadmill this morning. I ran from 1% to 12% incline and from 7.5 to 6.5 mph. I totaled 7 miles.

Sunday- I did squat:) That leaves me with 64 miles for the week which is very poor. The next two week's training will determine whether I will be running Tahoe or not. The motivation is just not there right now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Do I Like Double Workouts?

I know there are pro's and con's on the effectiveness of double workouts, so I will get one of the major con's out of the way.

In my opinion, there is no debate, breaking up a long run over two runs isn't as effective as doing the long run in one run. I don't know of too many people that would argue that, BUT there are advantages to doing double workouts.

First, I like doing double workouts because it promotes calorie burning 24/7. So, I will do one or two double workouts so that I can "lean up" for a peak race.

Also, I find that double workouts simulate sore legs at the end of a long race. This helps me mentally to prepare for the final miles of a 100 mike ir 24 hour race.

Lastly, I like double workouts because the second workout can serve as a "shake-out" run to get the legs ready for a key workout the next day or it can be used to loosen up the legs after a morning speed work session.

I know double workouts may not be popular by some, but I find them to be an essential part of my training.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building Up Again

It is so easy to want to immediately get right back into your peak training schedule following a big race, but it is important to give your body some rest. What does rest look like? That means lower mileage and lighter to no speed work for three to four weeks.

I always notice a change in my body about a month or so after a big race and even a bigger change eight weeks after a big race. And that is when the body is ready for increased mileage and harder efforts such as long tempo runs.

I am currently a little more than five weeks removed from Western States and a little over 12 weeks out from my next big race at 24 Hours the Hard Way at the end of October.

So, the majority of August will be used for getting my legs used to pavement again and getting a solid base for the bulk of my training for September and October.

I know it is hard to be patient as a runner because it takes so much time to get to the peak of your training, but it is imperative that you give your body rest and recovery before building back again and with only one race left on my schedule this year, I want to end with a bang. This training philosophy gives me the best chance.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Training for July 30th-August 5th

Monday- 12 mile run on a 5 mile out and back on one of the frontage roads in Cheyenne. The run was on a rolling paved road at 6,200ft elevation. I ran the first five miles comfortably and the second five at 6:40 pace. I ran the last mile in 6:29 and about died. I finished my run with two miles barefoot on grass. It was a very hard run.

Tuesday- legs were tight and the breathing was still tough but I was able to run 12 miles on a 0.75 mile loop in 1:32 in the neighborhood pretty comfortably. The goal is to run at least two hours on the frontage road tomorrow pretty easy with some pickups built in.

Wednesday- not near what I wanted to do but it was something. I ran two four mile out and backs where I ran the first two miles comfortable, then I picked up the pace the two miles back to the house. Each of those miles were under 7 minutes per mile. I finished with about a mile of barefoot running. The end total was 9 miles in 66 minutes.

Thursday- best run of the trip! I finally didn't feel the altitude:) I ran 12 comfortable miles around Cheyenne. I can't seem to get past 1.5 hrs in this trip but that is what you get when you are on vacation.

Friday- Tough run today. The goal was to get in some speed work; however, all I could muster was a three mile tempo run in the high 6:10's and a two mile tempo run in the 6:30's. The altitude kicked my behind:) I finished with three miles barefoot on the grass for a total of 11 miles in 1:20.

Saturday- off( drove 18 hrs back home from Wyoming)

Sunday- Tough 17.36 mile run today in 2 hours. The eighteen hours in the car and all the junk food on the ride didn't help. This run definitely shook all that out of me:) but I paid the price.....then I immediately jumped in my pool to cool down:)
Finished the night off with a one hour hill workout slowly to shake out the legs. It is tough to start a run at 9pm after a long weekend. I finished with 80 miles for the week and ten hours of running. It is something to build in.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

50k Fun Run on the Tahoe Rim Trail

I had run the Tahoe Rim 100 Mile the previous four years, but this year it was the 50k. With a big 24 hour race on the horizon in October, I am using July and August to work solely on getting my speed back that I lost from the NorthCoast 24 and Western States. I also knew that my legs still had some hill training in it from WS, so I wanted to get in one last trail race. It also helped that I was on vacation at D.L. Bliss on the west shore of Lake Tahoe:) So, with my wife's blessing, I woke up at 3:50 a.m. and made my way around the shore to Spooner Lake and the start of the race.

Without going into much detail about the race, my goal was to run hard the whole time and I was able to accomplish that. I ran all but about 30 yards of the race and ran steady most of the way. I trailed from the very first mile and was able to move from second to first on the climb up to Tunnel Creek out of the Red House Loop (mile 17). When I moved into first, I pushed it for the next three to four miles to make sure I got some separation.

I just continue to find it difficult to run races at altitude (7,000 to 9,000ft) without training at all at altitude. It makes the race uncomfortable from the outset. I am pleased with run and result and especially with it only being four weeks after Western States.

It is a good start to gaining my speed back and laying the foundation of training before 24 Hours the Hard Way in October.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Million Dollar Question

One question that I get asked often is, "How long does it take you to recover from a race?" It really is a good question with a somewhat complicated answer. I first want to say that this a topic that I have discussed with my ultra running mentor Mark Dorion many times. We both have come to an agreed upon answer and that is, it doesn't take long to get back to 85%. It just takes awhile to get that other 15% back.

In general, I am running within two days of a race over 100 miles. Any race 100k or shorter, I try to run the following day if possible. By the next weekend, I am back at 70%. By the second weekend, I am back to 85%. It will generally take me two to three months to get back to 100%. The last thing that comes back is my speed.

One of the issues I had leading into Western States this year was the lack of recovery from the 100k World Championships and the NorthCoast 24 Hour race. With only a two week recovery from the 100k to the NorthCoast 24 Hour and seven weeks from NorthCoast to Western States, my legs weren't recovered enough to get in any quality speed work.

I won't have that issue going into 24 Hours the Hard Way in October because I have a four month break following Western States. I will have time to rest the quads with low mileage weeks(60's-70's) and focusing on tempo and interval runs. Then when August hits.....I will start building the miles needed to handle the 24 hour race but still incorporating long tempo runs to maximize my cruising pace needed to run 150 to 160 miles in a 24 hour race.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Do You Stay Motivated in Your Training ALL Year Long?

Wow! This is tough for anybody who races ultras year round? Currently, I am training for my fourth 100+ mile race this year and my sixth race of the year. So, how do you stay motivated to train when your body isn't really recovered and your legs aren't fresh. Well, there are a few things that work for me and maybe one or more of these will work for you.

1.) Don't train alone.

I find it easier to train if you are training with someone else, at least part of the time. This will get you out of bed when everything inside of you wants to stay in bed. And if you can train with someone who "is" motivated that is a double bonus. Some of that excitement MIGHT:) rub off on you.

2.) Variety

Changing up training routes and even the types of races can make it seem new and less monotonous. If you have been doing a lot of road races, throw in a trail race and vis versa. Moreover, mixing up the race distances can trick the mind and body into thinking you are dong something totally different. Additionally, incorporating some barefoot grass running helps you work on good running form that may have been changed during your long season and it again provides more variety to the types of workouts you do.

3.) Leave the watch at home.

Leaving the watch at home can relieve some of the stress from training. With running so many races the legs will slow and take a while to recover and feel new again. In turn, the times on your training runs will generally be slower than earlier in the year. The important thing to do is to just spin the wheels and focus on effort and not times. When you are going out for a recovery run....speed is not important, so leave the watch at home. Run a route that you are familiar with, so you know you are getting the distance needed and forget about the time.

4.) Mix in slow days with hard efforts.

This is a good training tip in general. For instance, this past Sunday I completed a sixteen mile run with a friend of mine. We did this on a eight mile out and back that we completed twice. We ran the first four miles comfortably and the four miles back to the cars uncomfortably. I knew with it only being two weeks post Western States that this type of workout tax my body. So, I spent the next two days recovering. That meant....spinning the wheels and making sure each of these two runs were easy efforts, then I could push it a little bit on Wednesday. I find that the body needs more recovery days as you get later into the race season, but that doesn't mean days off.

5.)  Destination Race/Local Race

I guess the common theme is "change your routine." If you have been generally racing highly competitive races, it is nice to do a low key local race. Sometimes this will relieve the stress that often is the culprit of "burnout." For example, after running Western States in 2005-2007, I followed those races with the Rio Del Lago 100 mile race in the fall. RDL had more of a family relaxed atmosphere. My family could see me every five miles and I didn't feel like I was mentally grinding all day like I would in a highly competitive field like Western States. And as an added bonus, it is easier to get to know other runners in the race and that always helps me get a better perspective on why I do this crazy thing called ultra running:)

Well, I hope these tips help you as much as they help me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This word has brought with it negative connotations. These expectations are created due to ones success and are engineered by other runners, sometimes family members, sponsors, and the number one culprit....oneself.

It goes along with the notion that it is easy to get to the top. The challenge is staying there. So, how can you look at expectations in another light? Well, first of all, as stated earlier, there wouldn't be any expectations if you haven't had success, so one must be running well. That is a good thing. But the thing I think that needs to be remembered most is this....The only expectations that matter are those from God. He would want us to put all those negative burdens we are feeling at his feet. He would also want us to run for Him, and in doing so, run with courage and strength and to know that He will be with us every step of the way.

Who can lose in that situation. That is exactly what I plan to do and when I cross that finish line there will be no doubt that I gave everything I had in the name of Jesus Christ!

I pray that all the runners run with courage and have the strength to do there best on Saturday. I also pray that all runners make it back to their families healthy. Good luck everyone!

You can follow my progress on
I am runner #298.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Unexact Science of Tapering

Most of us have a love/hate relationship for tapering. We love to back off on our training and begin to rest, but we don't like the feeling that tapering gives us. It makes us feel lazy. Also, because we are running less, we feel we are burning less calories (which is true) but we all begin to feel we are gaining weight. It messes with are mental psyche, however it is a necessary evil that factors into our race performance on race day.

So how long out do you taper? I've done it all...3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week,....even the four day taper. What I have found is the two week taper works best for me. It gives my body the time needed to rest from the hard training but at the same time give it enough time to build back to up to peak on race day.

So, the next question is how much do I run during the tapering period? Well, I try to avoid the ever popular complete day of rest. I try to run almost everyday but I cut the mileage in half. I make sure each run I do has a purpose. For instance, if I am training for Western States, and I actually am, I would make sure to get out in the afternoon heat to simulate what I may run in weather wise on race day. Also, I like to mix in a couple speed work sessions to get those fast twitch muscles awake for race day. Nothing really long but enough to get the job done without fatiguing the body. The goal is to keep the focus and intensity of the workouts the same as you would each and every week.

Lastly, one of the tapering questions I'm always asked is, "Should I run the day before a race?" My Answer is yes. To be honest, I used to always take the day off before a race, but I always felt flat on race day. Moreover, I realized that the worst workout I would have each week of training was the run after a day off, and the best run during the week was the second run after a day off. So, I use the day before the race as an opportunity to get the "junk" out of the legs. I will run between 20 to 30 minutes with a couple of strides thrown in after I have warmed up.

If done correctly, tapering can help you perform better on race day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Make or Break Western States?

As I sit here plugging away on the keyboard of my computer writing this post, I can't help to reflect on how this year has gone. I am two days removed from the announcement that I have made my second National Team in one year. This is truly amazing since I wasn't even named an alternate to the the 2011 100k team and was able to squeeze onto the 2012 team as a second alternate after two members had to back out. My personal best in the 100k was eight minutes slower than the next person on the team and 30 minutes slower than our fastest member, yet I was able to finish second on the team and seventh in the world! What will that get me in one week when I toe the line in Squaw Valley?......SQUAT!

The nay sayers will still be out wondering if I can duplicate those performances in a truly World Class field. I surprisingly will be one of those nay sayers. I am curious to find out the answer to a number of questions. How has my body recovered after the 24 Hour National Championships just seven weeks ago? Was three weeks of hill training enough? Will the absence of any altitude training hurt me? When will my body show signs of fatigue? Can I break 18 hours for the first time? Will my stomach hold up at altitude? So many questions, and unfortunately the answer key will not be available until June 23rd. Whatever the answers may be, good or bad, it will not make or break my year. I plan to enjoy this 100 mile trip through the Sierra's. I feel no pressure for the first time going into this race. I plan to use that to my advantage. The more relaxed I feel the more energy I can save for the later stages of the race. Then, focus will be on the 24 Hour World Championshps where I plan to end my racing year with a bang!

In a couple of days I will detail what my training looks like two weeks out from a hundred mile race.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Top Ten Difficulties of Western States

10.) Being seduced by the "Popsicle dealers" otherwise know as the Buffalo Chips Running Club volunteers at the top of Devils Thumb. This single handily costs me minutes each year I run this race.

9.) The 0.9 of a mile long single track hilly rocky trail leading into Highway 49

8.) Michigan Bluff to Foresthill is the closest thing to stepping foot on the sun. I see trees but they don't seem to block any sunlight.

7.) Is it me or does the river look so close on the Cal Loop, but at the same time, take FOREVER to get to?

6.) Seeing spots on the climb up to Escarpment (Modesto 46 feet above see level)

5.) One word....."Switchbacks." (Descent to the swinging bridge)

4.) The false top at Robbie Point

3.) The "Elevator Shaft" when the quads are SHHHHOOOOOOTTTTT!

2.) The six month long hype build-up

1.) Breaking 19 hours.......It's going down this year:)

See you at Western States!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What a Difference Five Years Makes

It was this time five years ago (2008), when I was arguably in the best ultra running shape of my life (2nd at Miwok-8:24) when fires engulfed the WS course and forced the cancelation of the event.

Ironically enough that marked the beginning of my running decline. My summers from 2008 to 2009 were filled with 100 mile DNF's. I only finished 1 of 5 hundred mile races in that stretch.
And with "death march" runs at TRT in 2010 and 2011, even though rewarding, psychologically were damaging to the ego. Enough so, that I decided no more mountain 100's.

Well, that was until December of 2011 that Peter Defty asked me to participate in his medical study at Western States. I didn't want to turn down the opportunity to run in this historic event in my own backyard. R(2 hours driving distance)

Fast forward to today....six months removed from the decision to run WS. What a difference six months makes. I have two ultra victories (Rocky Road 100 mile and the NorthCoast 24 Hour) and I finished 7th at the 100k World Championships helping the U.S. men take home them the silver medal. My WS expectations have changed even though I have had only two weeks of hill training. There is something magical about this year and I am going to ride it out as long as I can.

I look forward to seeing everyone at WS this year and what the next chapter of this years running season will read. Whatever it may be, it will be memorable for sure.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NorthCoast 24 (U.S. National Championship) Race Report

What stands out to you in this race schedule?
Rocky Road 100 February 18th
Modesto Marathon March 18th
100k World Championships Italy April 22nd
NorthCoast 24 Hour May5th/6th (U.S. National Championship)
Western States Endurance Run April 24th

Is it the big name recognition of Western States? Is it the once in a lifetime trip to Italy running in the 100k World Championships for Team USA? Or is it, "why is he running a 24 Hour race 13 days after traveling and running the 100k in Italy?"

That would be a very good question and I have a very good answer for that.... Prior to getting the invitation(four weeks before the race) I had planned and paid for my trip to run the 24 hour race in Cleveland. When I got the call to go to Italy I could not turn it down. That meant I was going to run these two grueling races 13 days apart...OUCH! I was telling anyone that would listen that the 24 Hour race would be the hardest race I had ever run and did it ever live up to it's billing...well...sort of:)

I board my plan in Oakland for Columbus, Ohio (three hour lay over in Los Angeles) on Thursday night. It was a red-eye. Finances dictated I take this flight and make up for the lack of sleep at the hotel Friday afternoon with a nap. I arrived into Columbus at 6:30am. After picking up the rental car and getting a quick bite to eat at The Waffle House, I went back to the airport to pick up Charles Wickersham, the sucker who signed on to be my crew. In all reality, Charles became my 24 hour secret weapon.

The day consisted of a two and a half hour drive to Cleveland where the race was located and the usual pre-race jog, nap, grocery stop, dinner stop, and pre-race brief among Charles and I. The race strategy was in place and the race materials were packed or laid out ready for the morning.

Charles was up 7 and out the door to reserve our coveted spot for our personal aid station. He set up the tent and chairs and put all the necessary items on ice in the ice chest. The plan was to use the tent to take naps, but no one ever slept and there was a good reason why. We'll get to that later.

I on the other hand was just waking up and after going through the normal pre-race routine was ready to go at 8:15 (9:00 start) when Charles got back to the hotel. Now, it was time to check in at race headquarters and get to the start line. The weather was cloudy and breezy and Heidi Cuniff (RD) was ready to send us on our one day journey.

The gun goes off and we are on our way. I wanted to spend the first hour or so feeling out a comfortable pace I could run the entire race. The mistake I made in 2007(S.F. One Day) in my first attempt to run 24 hours was to mix in walking throughout the race. I felt it made me stiff and later in the race made it difficult to run at all. This time I was going to run as long as I could without walking, so I needed to really dial in a pace I could maintain for 20 plus hours. The Rocky Road 100 was a good barometer for that. I maintained a pretty even pace in that race (7:58) and felt I could do something around eight minutes for the majority of the race. Obviously, I would slow late but Rocky Road gave me the confidence that I could run a 100 plus miles without walking, so that is what I set out to do.

My single goal for the day was to run at least 141 miles. That would give me a chance to be selected for the U.S. National Team traveling to Poland for the World Championships in September. To make two National Teams in one year in two completely different events would be a huge accomplishment for me. There was no real thought of winning the race because of four distinct reasons 1.) Serge Arbona 2.) Valmir Nunes 3.) Howard Nippert and what was that fourth one?....oh ya...4.) I just ran a hard 100k thirteen days ago in Italy:)

For those of you that don't know, the course is comprised of a 0.9 mile almost entirely flat paved loop along Lake Erie. I will fast forward to the twelfth hour as I just reached 90 miles. My pace was pretty consistent all day and except for a few bathroom stops, a shoe change, and bid number change I was able to maintain an eight minute mile pace each lap. Moreover, I was in the lead, but it was still very early in the race and I knew this. The last four ours would determine the winner, however winning the race was not my focus. My focus switched to the night. I knew this would be the difference. Could I stay awake, mentally strong, and motivated during the night?

I got to 13 hours (13:40-100miles) and handed my watch to Charles. I didn't want the 100 miles to be my mental finish line, so I got rid of the watch and just ran on feel at that point. I got to 14, 15, and 16 hours pretty quickly only fading to about an 8:30 pace. A lot of my success was due to my crew Charles. Every lap he was ready with whatever I needed. Running to catch up to me in many cases when I changed my mind at the last minute:) He was my hero, not going to sleep all night. If he wasn't taking care of my nutritional needs, he was making runs to the car to send Twitter updates, and to record each lap time. These recorded lap splits proved to be very important as five of my laps were not recorded early in the race and with Charles' help they were recorded later.

As I approached the 17th hour, I called for Charles to run up next to me as I was finishing another lap, I whispered to him, "This feels so easy."  I didn't want anyone to hear me because it would have come off the wrong way. I just couldn't believe that I would feel this good so late in the race after running the World 100k thirteen days earlier. BUT, I was now starting to feel the mental fatigue as it approached 3 a.m. I could see the goal right in front of me. I was two laps from 140! Unfortunately, this would be the challenge. How could I continue to motivate myself to run further when I had already done what I set out to do? I know 141 miles wouldn't ensure me of making the team and with an 11 lap lead in the race over Serge Arbona...I wanted to finish off the race with a win.

I got to 144 and Charles tells me that I could walk it from here and start my rest for Western States. Then, I looked and him and said, "I want to win this thing." He replied, "Oh." I then told him to let me know when I could stop running and walk it in for the win. I ran to 152 miles and at that point I got the go ahead to walk it in. I finished with two hours or so of walking and a grand total of 158.5 miles. It was impressive to see how strong Serge and Sabrina were running the last two hours. I took note of this as I will need to do the same come September in Poland, but I won't let it damper my performance. There is no way I would have imagined running over 150 miles and to almost run 160 is CRAZY! Charles....thank you! You were like having a second pair of legs out there. Start packing your bags for Poland:)

Now it is on to the third leg of MY grand slam, this little race called.....Western States....Have you heard of it?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NorthCoast 24 Hour

Well, I am off to the NorthCoast 24 Hour tomorrow and to say I'm a little scared is the understatement of the year. I have rolled the dice this year and I am waiting for a let down and haven't had one yet. The Rocky Road 100 mile was a break through race for me. (13:14) Ran every step and no stomach issues and that landed me a 2:17 minute personal best in a 100 mile race. Then, I ran the Modesto Marathon four weeks later and ran a six and a half minute personal best. (2:33:01) And if that wasn't enough, five weeks after that I ran the 100k World Championships in Seregno, Italy finishing 7th (2nd American) in a time of 6:58:52. Which was another personal best by nearly 24 minutes. Now it is NorthCoast and the quickest turnaround for the toughest race of the four races to this point. I don't know what to expect, but my legs feel pretty good, BUT I know I will hurt like I have never hurt before in any race. I am prepared to suffer great pain (Well, non-injury pain:) to qualify for the U.S. 24 Hour Team traveling to Poland in September. Unfortunately, God is the only one that knows what is going to happen, but with his help I will run faster and lighter and with less pain than I could ever imagine in this timed race.

I don't know how I can compete with legends such as Howard Nippert, Serge Arbona, and Valmir Nunez, but I will try. Keep your prayers coming my way. Pray for the runners safety this weekend and my safe return home to my family on Sunday. I plan to make Modesto proud and run another personal best. (111 miles in 2007) Talk to you on Sunday.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just One of Those Days

I was awoken suddenly by my wife's voice, "It is time to get up." it was 4:15 race morning. I slept great! It was into the shower for my first warm shower of our stay and then the extensive preparation of getting dressed, which takes much longer than you could ever imagine.

Then it was off to breakfast or at least what I call breakfast on race day. A cup of coffee and nothing else. I don't recommend this fueling strategy for everyone but it works for me. I will have two Vespa amino acid supplement drinks an hour and fifteen minutes before the race respectively. That however only amounts to about forty calories altogether.

With the bus issues we have had in conjunction with this race, the men's team decided to take Michael Wardian's rental van to get us there instead. We had a smooth ride to Seregno and got there about 6:30 for the 8:00 start. Unfortunately, there were more transportation issues and the race start was moved back to 8:30. This worried me a little because I hadn't really eaten anything for breakfast.

We made our way to the start line under cloudy skies with a threat of rain and temperatures in the 50's. Ideal race conditions! The gun went off and we were in our way. My plan was to maintain a 6:45 pace for the first four Laps, then push it in that last lap. We'll, that plan was thrown quickly out the window as we were hitting 6:30's I early miles if the race. I settled into a pack of six or seven which included joe binder.

This pack stayed together for much of the first two laps, when on the third lap I got bored and put a surge in at about the 45km mark. I was able to gap that pack and run across  to a pack of four about 200 meters ahead.  The field was beginning to show signs of cracking. The group of six I was running with became a group of two and the group of four I caught up to contained only one runner that could react. That runner was a Frenchman that eventually surged past me.

My surge was short lived because about 15km later the pack of two which contained Joe Binder caught up to and passed me. The unusual part of this  was I wasn't slowing down. I was getting faster. I finished the third lap and reached the 65km aid station where my wife was and yelled "what place am I in?" she informed me fifteenth. I was ready to race the last 35km.

The field was really stringing out and runners who ran an ambitious pace early were reduced to a jog or even a walk. Heading into the 70km mark I was surprised to see that I was gaining on Joe. I said some encouraging words as I ran by and to my amazement I saw the back of another America jersey off in the distance at the 75km mark. It was Todd Braje. He was hanging tough but going a low spell. I was now in fourth on my team.

I crossed the start finish for my last and final lap and got a burst of energy from the crowd and what I was just about to notice. Andy Henshaw, arguably one of the top two 100k runners in our country had dropped out of the race and was helping out at our aid station just past the start/finish line.

I was now in third place on our team and in a scoring position. (They only take the best three times from each team. The bottom three get thrown our.) in one lap I went from sixth on our team to third. This was a huge change psychologically. I willed myself to stay focused and  not to succumb to the self doubt. I kept eating, taking salt, and drinking fluids. I didn't want to bonk the last few miles.

As we approached the 85km mark and anticipated the excitement on my wife's face as she saw me approach. You could see the nervousness as she handed me my water bottle with salt capsules. She then screamed out, "You're in 8th!" I was in absolute shock. Not only was I going to be a scoring member on our team but I may finish in the top ten which would earn me an automatic spot in the 2013 World Championship in  South Korea.

I tried as best I could to block all that out and run one km at a time. It sounds cliche but it works. I arrived at the 95km aid station and got a huge cheer from our aid station and ad I grab my water bottle they screamed, "GO!" the whole afternoon I had been told we were in 2nd place but the way they said go have me the impression that we still had a shot at gold. My legs were so heavy that I just couldn't find another gear to run in. Until I saw our number two man, Michael Wardian, off in the distance.

When I eventually caught up to him with 4 km to go we willed each other to run harder. Our pace went from 6:55 per mile to 6:30. We were both exhausted but it was a race against he clock. Could we make up enough time to pace the Italian's.

With less than a km to go, I surged ahead of Michael and kicked it in! I finished seventh in a time of 6:48:52, Michael finished in eighth right behind me. I was so over come by emotions I began to cry. I couldn't believe what just happened. There is no way this second alternate finished seventh in the world.

Shortly after my finish, I saw my wife running towards me. Her face said it all. We embraced and shared many tears. Tears of hard work, suffering, sacrifice,.. You name it.

The magical day ended with a team meal at a local restaurant and the award ceremony where we were rewarded the silver medal.

Now my focus turns to Cleveland in two weeks where I will be competing in the 24 hour National championships at NorthCoast. That will be the hardest run of my life, but the way this year is going, I won't count myself out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Italy (Day1-Day 5)

The excitement is building as I wait to meet the team and finally arrive at the hotel we will ultimately be at on race day. Many of the people on the team are ultra running legends that I admire so being on the same team with them is doubly as honoring as being able to race for the United States in a World Championship event. My wife and I have been blessed to be able to travel throughout Italy in the week leading up to the race. We arrived in Rome Saturday the 14th and saw the sites there over 2 days. We saw the Coliseum, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps and many of the other famous monuments in Rome. Then we traveled to Florence and Pisa next. We ate with a view of the leaning tower of Pisa and were amazed by the beautiful architecture in Florence.  Then the last two stops were Venice and Milan. The canals of Venice are amazing; imagine taking a water taxi or boat to cross the streets and having no lawns within the city. The entire city is built on wooden piles as a foundation in the water! We will be staying in a little mountain retreat at the base of the Alps near Tecco approximately 30 km from the race site in Seregno, Italy.
I have been keeping up with my running; 50 miles in four days. Although it’s significantly more difficult to do that in the middle of European cities with cobblestone streets, lots of tourists and drivers with little regard for pedestrians. The first few days in Rome it was easy to make time for running with few folks on the road because I was up before 4 am local time, running the same loop around our hotel and the British and Russian Embassies. I was like a hamster on the wheel in his cage, but never felt safer with guards posted outside each embassy, looking at me with suspicious eyes after each passing lap. We were exhausted each of the first few nights at 8 pm or earlier so we headed to bed early and the result was early wake up times. After 2 early morning runs and avoiding traffic I did one afternoon run on the second day in Rome. There is a path down by the Tiber River that I noticed other runners using. It was a rare site to see anyone running. I had seen only about ten runners up until that time.
Shortly after arriving in Venice on Tuesday, I went for a nine mile run weaving like a boxer in and out of pedestrians, not the ideal place to run to say the least. I woke up the following morning at 5:30 and ran the cobblestone grounds getting lost amongst my thoughts and the maze of streets. Doubts crept into my head. Did I train enough? Did I taper too soon? Should have I run one more long run and tempo run? These are the thoughts that pass through the minds of most runners the week of a race. But these questions aren’t answered until race day.
I am on the train to Milan as I type. That is where I will take the shuttle tomorrow afternoon to meet up with our team at our team hotel. The nerves have not settled in yet. Is it because I am the oldest member of the team and have years of racing experience on big stages OR is it because I haven’t donned the U.S.A jersey yet? It’s probably the latter.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Not About Me

I was speaking to the Modesto Chapter of the Lions Club today at their monthly meeting today at lunch time. My message was one time my running became me and all about me. The wins were for me. The training was for me. I took this gift that God had clearly given me and I used it against him instead of for him. I realize now that my gift was given to me to motivate others and guess has. The students at my school ask me questions on a daily basis and that includes students that aren't even in any of my classes. When I speak to me Teens Run Modesto Students about running, they actually stop what they are doing and listen. You try to get a bunch of 13 and 14 year old kids to listen intently for more than thirty's tough:) I know kids that run now because of what I do. I don't understand it, but it is true.
So, when I toe the line on April 22nd in Seregno, Italy, it isn't about me. I will race to glorify God and to give these teenagers something positive to look up to. I take this assignment very seriously and I won't fail as long as I have Him in my corner.

You can follow my race progress April 22nd (10pm West Coast time Saturday, April 21st)  on the IAU website.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seregno, Italy...Here I Come!

What a difference a few days can make. On Sunday I had a high and a low. I ran a great race at the Modesto Marathon and ended up with a 6 minute PR, unfortunately that wasn’t enough for a win that day. I lost the race by 15 seconds. But, another high point was that I was still able to run 10 miles afterward and see my friends and kids I mentored in the Teens Run Modesto program finish their marathons. My plans were to continue training for the 24 hour National Championship the first weekend in May. My tickets had been purchased and I was on track to gear up my training and head out to Cleveland in hopes of qualifying for the U.S. National Team for the 24 hour race in Poland in September. Then, my plans changed. On Wednesday I found out I was bumped from second alternate to first alternate on the U.S. National 100 km team. Then Thursday I found out I made the team. They asked me if I could commit to being in Italy on April 19th. That’s a whopping 28 days until the first official team meeting and 31 days until the World Cup race.

Needless to say, I was shocked, thrilled, scared, excited, and overwhelmed by the opportunity that was laid out before me when I checked my email that Thursday evening. I joked with my wife that late night emails have been pretty exciting and high points of my running career (aside from the races). I found out I was second alternate via a late night email in January of 2012. Thank goodness my wife and I got our passports in order in January after that first late night email. We thought it was all for naught, though, when no one dropped off the team after the notification was made and put the thought of traveling to Italy this spring out of our minds. Then Wednesday I was notified that I was now the first alternate. A confusing email on Thursday made me think I was actually on the team so I called the team captain and was told it was true. I was named to the team because 2 people who had qualified above me had dropped from the team.

Representing the USA in a national competition has been a lifelong goal of mine and I couldn’t believe I was going to have the chance to feel the pride of representing our nation as I stood at the opening ceremonies wearing team USA gear! Yes, we get to wear what the athletes wore in the 2008 Olympic Games. Too bad the race wasn’t after the 2012 Summer Games, maybe we would get the new stuff, but I am not complaining. I will proudly wear the red, white and blue as I try to run yet another PR in a race in …oh my goodness…as I write this it is 28 and a half days.

This has been even crazier because we have been elbow deep in landscaping our back yard .  Wednesday evening we were out in the dark with headlamps to guide us laying sod and spreading dirt. Thursday, more sod and trying to straighten out sprinklers. Friday my daughter had T-ball practice and we had 5 cousins along with our kids for a play date. Then, finally, on Saturday, after a day prepping baseball fields for games that start next week and trying to get more landscaping we were able to start planning for this unexpected trip!

Oh yeah, in the meantime I was trying to keep up with my running so I could perform at my best for the race. On Friday I got in 24 miles (including running the Super Mile with middle school students at lunch). Saturday I ran 18 in between landscaping and more landscaping. Sunday I squeezed in 25 miles after church and before more landscaping. I was too tired after the week’s activities to get up at 4 am like I usually do for my weekend runs, so my wife gave me permission to take off mid-day both Saturday and Sunday.

The only thing that makes my wife and I think twice about this wonderful opportunity is leaving our 2 kids behind stateside as we head over to Europe. We have never left them for this long, and we are planning on making the trip 10 days to enjoy a few sights while we are there and get over the jet lag before the race. Once again, we were blessed by generous offers of family members and friends to watch the kids while we are gone. We are talking to them every day about the trip and what to expect so that hopefully they are prepared for when we go. We plan on using Skype and finding Wi-Fi at every stop to connect with them. I think that seeing their smiling faces on the computer screen will give me the boost I need before the race!

Now, maybe I can begin to sit back and enjoy the ride as we continue to make our plans for this incredible trip. I have already been able to enjoy the support of the wonderful people I know as I have been getting a steady stream of congratulatory emails and Facebook posts. I have been offered donation money by thoughtful friends and my brother is trying to get me a fundraising night at Oodles. The trip is partially funded, but we are trying to figure out the details of how much we will need to make it happen. It seems like everything has lined up perfectly so far, so no doubt, it will all work itself out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Motivates Us?

I look at my schedule on a daily basis and especially Tuesdays, and I say to myself, "Why? Why would anyone put themselves through this? For what is the end result?


  • Alarm goes off at 4 a.m.
  • Prepare breakfast for kids and wife from 4 to 4:30.
  • Run from 4:45 to 6 a.m.(Doobie has to leave for bible study at 6), then jump on treadmill until 6:45
  • From 6:45 to 7:30 Get ready for work and get Nathanael and Lauren ready for school.
  • 7:30 to 8:00 Drop off Nathanael at school and go to work.
  • From 8:00 to 3:00 teach with a 45 minute lunch period.(no prep)
  • 3:15 leave for Nathanael's school to pick him up and set up for baseball practice at 4.(I'm the head coach:)
  • Baseball practice from 4-5:00 p.m.
  • Drive to Muncy School and eat dinner in parking lot.
  • Drop-in tutoring at Muncy from 5:30-7:30 where I'm one of the math tutors.
  • Get home 8:00 p.m. and say goodnight to kids.
  • Spend next hour getting lunch, house, and running bag ready for the next day.
And this is not that much different than any other day during the week. I know I am not the only ultra runner out there that has a busy life. But what drives us to continue to put ourselves through this daily exhaustion?

The simple answer for me is........I want to see how far I can push myself. I want to know the limits of my true ability. The idea of what could be.....drives me to get out of bed, no less than five days a week, at 4 a.m. I'm not super human by any stretch. I am motivated. And motivation is one key element that gets overlooked with all successful people. So, I have my clothes laid out for tomorrow morning, the coffee is ready to go in the pot, the alarm is set, and I will be up at 4 a.m. BECAUSE I don't want to say, "WHAT IF........."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Modesto Marathon is Right Around the Corner

With the Modesto Marathon right around the corner, and me being the two-time defending champ, there has been some local press knocking down my door. Here is a nice article written by Efran G. for the Modesto View Magazine.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rocky Road 100 Mile(13:14:44)

I’m sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on I-5 on my way through Los Angeles to get to Coto De Caza at 5p.m. on Friday….the day before the Rocky Road 100 Mile race. So, I decided to pull off the highway and go for a 20 minute jog at a neighborhood park in Pasadena to get the junk out of my legs from the long drive. As I was running, I was wondering if I should even be there. My wife had a 102 degree temperature along with a sinus infection and both of my children (Lauren, four years old, and Nathanael, six years old) are also sick. Moreover, I am completely on my own; no crew, no friends accompanying me on the trip. This usually spelled doom for a good race result. I have only gone alone to a 100 mile race twice and both times I didn’t make it past 40 miles.

This time around it felt different. I can attribute my new found confidence to the lessons learned from the experiences at my last two Tahoe Rim 100 Mile races(21:27 and (23:55).  They have given me the confidence and resolve to finish when every bone in my body said to stop. Also, I was running a race that suited the environment in which I trained. I live in the Central Valley of California (Modesto) with the emphasis on ‘Valley.’ For last few years, I have tried to run mountain hundreds with steep grades and at high elevations when my training dictated I run something flatter and at sea level. The Rocky Road 100 mile had rolling terrain and was run practically at sea level. This was ideal race to fit the training I had been doing. Also, I had no breaks in my training to heal injuries. I was focused, determined, and motivated. So much so, that I was up four to five days a week by myself at 4 a.m. to get many of my runs in. And that was with a very busy daily work schedule and family schedule. In addition, I ran more mileage and put more time on my feet than I had for any other hundreds I have ever run. I can attribute the rise in mileage and lack of muscle fatigue to Peter Defty. I changed my diet completely in December and went to an OFM diet while using Vespa during my training. This diet required me to cut out sugar, wheat, and white flour in my diet. This allowed my insulin levels to stay constant and helped me to burn fat in training, instead of glucose. And my energy levels weren’t on a roller coaster ride. I felt strong throughout most of my training runs.

Fast forward to race morning. I toe the line for the Rocky Road 100 mile in ideal weather conditions with uncertainty and a heavy heart. Was I in as good a shape as I thought? Would my stomach hold up? Would I be able to mentally get through the low points without help from a crew or family? Well, those questions would be answered very soon. Shortly after the gun went off a little after 6 a.m., the lead group separated themselves. The group contained the Southern California ultra legend Ben Hian, Nickademus Hollon (21 year old stud!), and myself. The plan was to stay with Ben for three loops, then determine whether to stay or go.

I completed the first 15 mile lap with Ben four minutes behind the lead two runners, one of which was Nickademus Hollon. I wasn’t too worried about the four minute gap, but I felt like I could push the gradual downhills more than I had. After seeing the course, my game plan started to take shape and I figured out where I could attack. I would run the uphills under control and I would “stride-out” on the downhills. I just wanted to make sure I stayed in that aerobic level for entire race if possible, so I could save my stomach.

As we came into the end of the second lap, Ben dropped off a little and the lead group still maintained their 4 minute cushion but they weren’t able to add to it. I really felt good. I just felt like the pace they were running was out of their comfort level and that they would come back to the rest of the field soon.

My fueling all day was planned meticulously, but simplistically. I felt like I could carry one 20 oz bottle full of water for the entire loop and take a cup or two of water at each and every aid station. Also, I would take in some food at every aid station, whether that was half a gel, piece of banana, bite or two of pbj, hand full of chips, etc…I prepared six 20oz bottles of water stuffed with a gel and a Vespa and had them in an ice chest next to my car, with a couple of cans of V8, and a couple of pbj sandwiches. I would come into the start/finish aid station, veer off to my car, grab a bottle, and I was off. It was seamless. I also was going to change out of the Brooks D7 Racers I was wearing at thirty miles to save some mileage on my new Saucony Fastwitch 4’s.

As I approached the turnaround of the second lap at mile 22.5, the lead two were only two minutes ahead and they had a look on their faces that showed that the early pace may have been a little too fast for them to maintain. Two miles before the end of the third lap I passed one of the lead runners and then I came up on Nickademus a mile or so before the end of the loop. We said some encouraging words to each other as I pulled in front. I came into the aid station, grabbed a water bottle and pbj for the road, and I was off without missing a beat. I bypassed on the shoe change because I didn’t want to mess with the good karma.

Now we were entering familiar territory, Jon with the early lead. In recent years, this didn’t lead to a good outcome, but I still felt strong and decided if I just maintained the comfortable pace I was running, that I would be in good shape for a good result.

Ben and I had talked earlier about the quick early pace and commenting on whether it would take its toll on the lead runners. In that conversation he was sharing some insight on the course. He stated that the course doesn’t seem hilly but that every grade is very gradual and sometimes not noticeable. The cumulative effect would take a toll on your legs, so he said. By mile 30 there were a couple of hills he would begin walking to conserve energy. The crazy thing is there was no point at which I felt like I needed to walk.

The only low point of the day was from mile 58 to 64. I really felt sluggish. I didn’t feel like walking but I could tell my energy was lacking and my feet / legs were beginning to hurt. I told myself if I could make it to the start/finish aid station (mile 60) I would treat myself to a Tylenol, one of the simple joys in my ultra running life.

Back home, my family and friends were following the race updates online. I came to find out that for whatever reason, my fourth lap didn’t not get recorded, so my 30 minute lead after lap three, became a 50 minute deficit after lap four! The chatter began on Facebook about what may happened. Did I go out too fast? Did I get lost? Was it part of my strategy? What? I did have a track record, recently, of falling off the pace after 50 miles and I know that they must have been thinking “here we go again.”

As I headed out for my fifth loop, I calculated that my lead had grown to 50 minutes and I still felt pretty strong. Then, suddenly my prayers were answered; the Tylenol had taken the edge off my pain and gave me a little adrenaline rush. For the next ten miles (miles 64 to 74) I enjoyed the easiest running of the day. It felt effortless and I began to dream about what time I could possibly run. Could I break Hal Koerner’s Rocky Racoon time 13:24? Even better….could I break 13 hours? Why stop there…..could I break Ian’s 12:48…….Ok, that wasn’t going to happen, but I really felt like I had an outside chance of breaking 13 hours if I could just continue what I was doing. Well, this exuberant feeling was short lived because with one mile left to complete my fifth loop, the feeling of nirvana had left me and it was replaced with pain and sluggishness. I ran one of my fastest loops of the day.(1:59) I slammed a V8, grabbed another bottle, and turned down the shoes change once again, even though the blisters were swelling and toe nails were beginning separate from the cuticles.

I was beginning to feel the buzz created by my performance. It seemed as though each and every runner I passed was keeping track of my progress and always supplied me with encouragement in the form of a smile, hooting and hollering, spontaneous bowing, or just words of praise. Additionally, as I entered the start/finish aid station and the mile 5/10 aid station, I would see spectators get out of their cars just to see me. It was crazy! I felt like a rock star! I am used to being the spectator getting out of the car to see the runners like Hal Koerner, Anton Krupicka, Jeff Roes, ……etc.coming through an aid station.

I slowed a little on my sixth lap but still finished the lap in 2:02. I could not believe that my six lap totals were 2:00, 1:58, 1:56, 1:57, 1:59, and 2:02. It was unfathomable that I could keep pretty even splits for the entire race. As I crossed the finish to complete my sixth lap I handed my water bottle to a race volunteer to fill with water, then I veered off to my car to grab three things, a jacket, beanie, and my head lamp. I grabbed my things and the water bottle as I head out of the parking lot and the start/finish area to embark on the last 10 miles of the race. I get down to the transition of the road and the horse trail and realize that I only grabbed two of the three things from my car. I forgot my headlamp! I had to make a quick decision. Do I go back and sacrifice the time to be able to see clearly the last ten miles or do I take a chance? The decision was easy for me. I would go for it! For the majority of the last lap I could ‘mostly’ see the ground that I was running on but passing cars and their bright headlamps blinded me on portions of the run.

The entire lap I was thinking of 13:16, Eric Clifton’s 100 mile U.S. trail record up until last year. I knew it would be close. 8:30’s would not do it, and I was struggling to go any faster. I would have to run the 4.5 mile gradual downhill out of the start/finish at an eight minute pace or even a little bit better to make up for the uphill finish where I would obviously give a little time back.

I finally reached the 95 mile aid station (turn around). I said, “Number 128 in and I’m leaving.” I caught a glimpse of Ben Hian and Scott Mills at the aid station. I stopped to high-five both of them as they shared some words of praise. By then, though, I had the finish line on my mind. I carefully maneuvered the descent out of the aid station. I spent the next five miles continuously checking my watch to see my speed. I knew it would be close. Passing runners would shine their lights ahead on the trail to give me light as I went by. I blew through the 97.5 mile aid station without even a hesitation of slowing down. I needed every second at this point. Finally I could see the cone to signal the turn to the finish but it wasn’t very obvious because I didn’t have any light. Elation came over me as I crossed the finish line in 13:14:44. Spectators and volunteers were stunned and even surprised that I was done. Both race directors were expecting me to arrive at 13:30, not 13:14, so neither of them was there. I overheard the race photographer on his cell phone talking to Rob Cowan, the race director, telling him that I finished and that no RD was there. Shortly after that conversation, Rob arrived, shook my hand, and then asked if he could give me a hug. I was stunned and even numb by what happened. Everyone around me looked at me in amazement, but it was just one of those races that felt easy. I can’t explain it, but if you have run in this sport long enough, you treasure these moments because they are few and far between.  

To the race directors Rob Cowan and Charlie Alewine, the volunteers, and runners thank you for making the Rocky Road 100 the crown achievement of my running career.