A New Season

My new racing season began yesterday with the Woodside Ramble 50k. More on that here.

Since AR50, last April, I was trying to take it easy and let my various injuries heal more completely. Perhaps running Born To Run 30 miler in May was not the best way to do that, but I wouldn’t have missed that either. Read my post about that here.

I thought this might be a good time to spend running with my son, Sean. We entered the Folsom Prison Trail Series and ran the 5k course together every week. senFPSHe was enthusiastic about it and I’m thrilled to find that he loves doing something with me that I love doing so much. Sharing this with him is reward in itself. However, the coach in me started encouraging him to improve and be a little more competitive. After the 2nd or third week I could tell he wasn’t enjoying it as much. The conversation went like this…

“Sean, do you want to get faster?”
“No, not really.”
“When you see someone ahead of you, do you want to pass them?”
“Do you care if you are last?”
“No, not really.”
“Then, why are you running?”
“Well,” he said, “I like the trails and getting exercise, but, mostly, I just like being with you dad.”

I recalled my post about running for the love of running and wondered how I had gotten to the point that I was pushing so hard through injuries and trying to get into better shape that I was losing the joy of running. I didn’t push him any more. My summer became about spending time with my son on the trails. I spent more time volunteering and supporting others and focusing on being out there, whether I was running, walking, or just working at an aid station.

Injury timeout
After a year of plantar fasciitis, followed by a year of Achilles issues, it became obvious that rest was in order. I just can’t seem to rest as long as I need to. I changed my training schedule to only running on the weekends. Lots of stretching and rolling. Occasionally a short run during the week. Unfortunately, that put some weight back on, which made the weekend long runs slower and more difficult. After finally going to see the doctor, it appears that I have a chronic sprain and it’s just going to hurt sometimes. I told the doctor of my plans for the next year and he asked me if I really thought my ankle would stop hurting with all that running. I said no, but I hoped he would tell me that it wouldn’t get worse so I could just run and realize that it would hurt. He told me that that was probably the case. So, I run on.

More than I could chew
After taking June and July off and headlandsbeacha slow 20 miler, and even slower 50k, in August, I was talked into my first 100k attempt. SingleTrack Running put on the first ever circumnavigation of Folsom Lake, combining all of the trails I run on regularly into one 110k run. I knew I wasn’t ready for it, but if we never try to go further than we are able, we never really know how far we can go.

I toed the line at Beals Point and shuffled off into the dark. The course follows paved bike trail and sidewalk until Folsom Point and then drops onto the lake bed (the levy was under construction and the lake is nearly empty). I got there just before sunrise and the sky grew lighter as I made my way to Browns Ravine and beyond. I was feeling FLUTreally good at New York Creek aid station and was comfortably ahead of the cut off.

Winding along the single track towards Salmon Falls, I still felt good and was gaining time. I reached the aid station and changed shoes and clothes to accommodate the warming weather. That took too long and, in spite of others prodding me to get going, I left about even with the cut-off. I thought I could make up some time along the lake shore, but the footing was bad and running alone slowed me down further.

The first major climb was as the day started getting uncomfortably warm and I ran out of water. By the time I reached the Flagstaff aid station, they were closing up and I was 10  minutes behind cut-off. It was not a hard cut-off however, so I pressed on. The course immediately goes to pavement and on to the next long climb. Exposed and hot, I ran out of water for the second time and by the time I reached Oakview Drive, I was done. I was still only 10 minutes behind cut-off and I was given the option to keep going, but some quick math to realize that the pace I would have to maintain to get back on schedule was not doable, I chose to DNF. 56k. I never made it to the rest of my wonderful crew, but I appreciate them being there. Maggie, Matt, and Joel, you are all inspirations to me and continue to be so. I’ll get to you next time.

After some recovery time, I’m ready to start training again.

Truth be told, I have big goals for the next year, including a return to FLUT.

Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP2 – Product Review

Earlier this year I ordered an Orange Mud Hydraquiver VP2 through Amazon. It arrived in a couple of days, thanks to my Prime account and I eagerly threw it on and went for a run. Now that I have put several hundred miles on it and answered many questions from other runners about it, I thought I would finally put together a review with a few thoughts.

There are several options, but I Orange Mud HQ VP2selected the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 (VP2) which has a large pocket on each side in the front, a smaller pocket on each shoulder that closes with velcro, two 20oz bottles, and a bungee strap in between. MARP is $149.95. I also added the Modular Bag, which is held in place by a velcro strap and the bungee chord between the bottles ($22.95).

With numerous water carrying systems in and around my house, why buy another one?

I don’t like belts at all. They slide down and they bounce too much while I run. I have yet to find one that the bottles don’t fall out. I don’t mind a handheld (or two) for a short run, but I prefer to have my hands free. For longer runs, I had been using a 100oz bladder in a Camelback vest, or in a Mountain Hardwear Fluid 12, if I only fill the bladder part way. The problem with the bladder is that it’s difficult to clean thoroughly and not convenient to refill during a race without getting water all over everything else that might be in my pack. In other words, I just haven’t found the perfect system for me, yet.

Orange Mudd - 1The Orange Mud vest since high on the shoulders, making it move with me rather than bouncing independently.  When I first started using it, I could feel the bottles shifting up and down in the quivers and it made it seem like they might fall out, but they never have. The small pockets on the shoulders hold 2 gu packs each and are easily accessible while running. The larger pockets close with a bungee chord and a sliding lock to keep everything in place. These are large enough to hold a phone (even an iPhone 6 with a case), snacks, arm bands, etc. They could be used to hold additional 20oz water bottles if that is what you prefer. The addition of the Modular Bag gives me a clip for my key and enough room to hold a small amount of additional gear. The velcro strap holds the bag securely so the bungee chord can be used to hold a rain jacket. This was particularly handy when I got caught in a sudden downpour last winter. I could reach the jacket quickly and put it on without removing the vest or dropping anything in the mud.

There are adjusting straps in the front and in theOrange Mudd - 4 rear to customize the fit. By adjusting the rear straps first, and then tightening the front as needed, the vest can fit virtually anybody and feels light and comfortable.

People often ask me if I can easily access my bottles where they are. The designers obviously studied some ergonomics when they designed this. The reach to grab, or replace, the bottles is natural and easy.

Orange Mudd - 5


On race day 40 oz of water (or 20 water and 20 electrolytes) is enough to get me from aid station to aid station. You could carry two additional bottles for longer runs, if you don’t need to carry anything in the front pockets. The bottles are much easier to refill quickly and much easier to clean when I get home. With the Orange Mud, I get the best of bottles combined with the advantages of a pack.

Truth be told, I still use a handheld for short runs, I still use my hydration pack with the bladder for longer, unsupported runs, but for races or runs where 40 oz is enough, I love my Orange Mud.

Check out their line of products at orangemud.com.

corre libre

“If I get lost, or hurt, or killed, it’s my own damn fault.” – Micah True (Caballo Blanco)

There is a subset of distance runners that run trails, a subset of those who run ultra marathons, an even smaller set who run mega distances of 100 miles or more.

And then there is Born To Run.

BTR15 - 2I had read the book and fallen in love with the idea of running for the love of running. I know, there are those who think the book has created a cult following of people who really don’t get it and so they run around barefoot until they develop chronic foot issues and support some podiatrist’s midlife crisis (the upcoming movie will most likely perpetuate that trend) and those people are not wrong, but to see  campsitesome of the Rarámuri run and the free spirit that surrounds those who truly understand is a life-changing event. Even more so to become one of them.

My first Born To Run experience started when we rolled onto the Chamberlin ranch in Los Olivos. We checked in and found our camp site. Some of our friends were already there and had camp set up. We added our tent to the compound and settled in just in time to watch the beer mile. The party had begun.

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Matt with the cow head – “so far, so good”

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Crista the Owl – not yet known as the Wrestler









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Adam sporting the knitted shorts

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Clint chuggin to the beer mile finish











Krista sporting one her awesome shirt designs, jeans and Luna sandals for the “whiskey” mile – she’s too cool for beer!

The event lives up to its reputation of being a “3 day party, during which a race breaks

It's not a party until someone is wearing a loin cloth!

It’s not a party until someone is wearing a loin cloth!

out,” but it is not about the party, nor is it about the race. It’s not about the live music, nor the dancing. It’s not about the wares for sale, nor about the games. It’s not even about the Rarámuri who traveled from Copper Canyon, Mexico to celebrate with us.

It is about the gathering of people, from all different backgrounds, to celebrate the freedom we feel when we run, at any pace, for any distance.

The 200 mile runners had started as early as Wednesday night and the party stopped to cheer them every time they passed through camp.

Friday morning we were awakened by loud Mexican music blaring from Luis’ truck as he rolled through camp, firing his shotgun at semi-regular intervals. I guess my alarm clock was not necessary. We were up and ready to go, going through our pre-race rituals and grabbing whatever nutrition we felt we needed prior to our race. My friend John had come along for the camp trip and took care of everything for me, securing the position of permanent crew chief for any future long race I may do. John prepared a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon and english muffin which i washed down with some coffee and orange juice. This is a little heavier than my usual pre-race breakfast, but I wasn’t planning on going out fast and the hunger I always experience while camping outweighed my habit of eating light on race day.

Tres Amigos at the starting line-- I never saw these guys again

Tres Amigos at the starting line– I never saw these guys again

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Luis – The Oath

At the start line, the 10, 30, 60, and 100 mile runners gather for instructions and to take the oath created by Caballo Blanco. The shotgun blasts and we are off. The first hill spread us out fairly quickly. The course is in the middle of nowhere, but fairly accessible. The genius of the event is in how the course is set up. All credit goes to Luis Escobar. There are two 10 mile loops and, although the course is described as a “figure 8,” its really more interwoven loops that cross each other and have several sections in common. Being able to adequately support a 20 mile course with only 3 aid stations demonstrates a beautiful efficiency. The stations are at the start/finish/turn-around point at the camp ground, and at two other points where the loops over-lap. This means runners see all 3 aid stations every 10 mile loop, but coming from different directions.

The trail, itself, is a combination of dirt road and single track, winding its way through a beautiful central California coastal cattle ranch, rolling up and down moderate hills, with BTR15 - 25 BTR15 - 26 BTR15 - 27 BTR15 - 28 only a couple significant climbs. I am running the 30 mile race so I see the first loop twice and the second loop once. I connect with a couple of runners who seem to be about my pace and we chat and run together for a while. Soon enough the bacon and coffee have done a number on me and I need to find a big oak tree. I always have the necessary supplies, but the lost time separates me from my new companions. I catch them again just before the end of the first loop, but they are running the 60 mile run and take a longer rest at the end of the loop, so I run on alone for a while. Towards the end of my second loop I come across a couple of guys who are out there in jeans and pacing their brother. I enjoy the company for a while, but I like to run in silence at times and they, obviously, don’t. I try to put some distance between us, but to my dismay, one of them would rather talk to me than pace his brother and he trots along with me.  It’s killing my vibe that he is running in jeans, a t-shirt, and cheap shoes. I mean, how can I justify all of my expensive gear when this guy is doing it in every day clothes? finally, he decides he should go back for his brothers and I get to enjoy the trail to myself for a while.

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10 mile "aid station" with our camp director, Steve

10 mile “aid station” with our camp director, Steve



I enjoy running with others, but the solitude and freedom of being on the trail with only God and His creation is really where I find my peace.

BTR15 - 30 BTR15 - 31 BTR15 - 32 BTR15 - 33 BTR15 - 34The second loop is tougher (enough that I’m happy to only do it once), but also more beautiful. I get to run most of this alone and I’m loving the changes in scenery as I run around the hill. Every turn seems to bring something new. Back through camp the second time, I fuel up on fruit and water and continue on the first loop. I feel energized to see my friends and know there is only 10 miles to go. Some of my friends ran the 10 mile and are already at camp. A few others are somewhere ahead of me on the 30 mile run, but haven’t finished yet.

Some of the highlights of my race, aside from the solitude, and the camaraderie (both of which were needed at the respective times), were seeing Manly Klassen, on his way to a 200 mile finish, bombing past me down a hill on my first loop. He’s been running since Wednesday evening and just keeps going like a freight train, and seeing Miguel Viniegras, from Porchi, Mexico, on his way to his 60 mile win. Miguel is running in traditional Tarahumara running attire and homemade huarache sandals. He is in great spirits and running towards an 8:23 60 mile finish. He glides over the dirt effortlessly with a smile on his face and not looking tired at all. I am finishing up my second loop, so he must be finishing his 4th. I will complete this and one more loop and he will complete this and two more loops and come in about 30 minutes after me. I don’t really care if I am that fast (that’s good, because I won’t be), but I want to develop that effortless form and that sense of freedom.

I finish my 30 miles and get my amulet. There is, understandably, a considerable mount of hoopla for the winners, but also for anyone who is running a given distance for the first time, or who has overcome a particular adversity, but for everyone else, whether you finish 2nd or 270th, the celebration of another finish is still there.

After a little rest and a little food, the party continued. The “world’s greatest wrestling match” to raise awareness for Wounded Warriors spurs impromptu wrestling matches which culminates in the, now infamous, Krista v Crista main event.

where does Krista end and Crista begin?

where does Krista end and Crista begin?




V found a patriotic friend!

V found a patriotic friend!



Bruce and Lupita

Bruce and Lupita



The live music continued and I got the opportunity to play with the band. They did a really cool cover of What I Like About You medlied with R-O-C-K In The USA and I got the privilege of playing harmonica  and singing back-up.

R.O.C.K in the What I Like About You

R.O.C.K in the What I Like About You

Nailed it! Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any video, but my friends had a lot of good things to say and there is nothing I enjoy more than entertaining my friends, except running.

The next morning we broke camp and headed home. Nothing left of our adventure except memories and some very full port-a-potties. John commented on the way home tha he is deterined to be back next year and run the 10 mile.

Truth be told, running is contagious and the freedom one feels from just letting your body do what it was made for is addicting. It’s difficult to put this experience in words, which is why it has taken me so long (almost 2 months) to write this, but it is an experience that I want to have again, and one that I think can only be exceeded by running in Copper Canyon… maybe next year.

Early Morning, April 4

AR50readyArmed with all I have learned from the previous year and since, I feel as prepared as I could be for this years American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. Although I had battled Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis, I am feeling pretty good on this cold morning and ready to run.

Last year, I arrived late and had to park 2 miles from the start, barely making it back in time to start running. This year, I park at the finish and take the bus to the start line. I meet up with my buddy, Edd, and sit in his truck to keep warm. We early morning eclipsewatch the lunar eclipse and wait for the race to start. All checked in and ready to go, it is comforting to have time to relax before running.

I am fresh off a PR (although just barely) at the Way To Cool 50k and I had run the first and second half of this course to help me plan my strategy and coordinate with my crew. My main objective is to run more consistently. If my Strava graph is close to a flat line, I will consider this a success. My hope is to break 12 hours for the 50 miles. Those familiar with this race know that does not mean two 6 hour marathons. My plan is to finish the first half in about 5:30, leaving me 6:30 for the back half of the run.
selfieStrack As usual, I start out a little fast, but settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the easier part of the run. I catch up to my friends, the Stracks, and sneak this selfie on the levee. Then it is onto the road and under the Johnny Cash bridge.

No more pictures though. My intent is to run comfortably, move through JohnnyCashBridgeaid stations, stay hydrated, and fuel smart. I opt for my Orange Mud Dual Quiver, rather than a hydration pack, because it is easier to fill and the two bottles allow me to carry water and electrolytes. I carry some Gu and some chews with me, but I am able to use what is available at the aid stations without slowing down. Peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, salt tablets, refill the bottles and keep moving.

Still feeling good at mile 10, I cross the footbridge and ARwalking bridgemake my way around Lake Natoma. I am wearing my old Hoka Mafate 2s and almost wishing I hadn’t because they are a little small and this part of the race has some downhill stretches that I can feel in my toes. Last year I ran the entire race in these shoes and I ended up losing two and a half toe nails.

The weather is about perfect. Cold enough at the start to wear a couple of layers and running tights, but not so cold that I am uncomfortable. I find myself running near Edd, who I know is considerably faster than me and feeling like I could run with him all day.

I am wrong! We hit the dirt and our first climb and back down and we are still together at the aid station at mile 17, but he leaves ahead of me and I will not see him again until the finish.

Up onto the bluffs, back onto the paved bike trail and into the best aid station ever (FTR at Negro Bar) I still feel good and still move through quickly. It’s all pavement from here to Beals Point and the half-way point of the run. Here I get to pick up my pacer, Stephanie and I indulge myself a longer rest. I change clothes for the, now, warmer weather, put on fresh socks, and my newer, slightly larger, Hoka Mafate 3s, and switch from my watch to the Strava app on my iPhone (since my Garmin has a 10 hour battery).

Completing the first half in under 5:30 (by 8 minutes), I feel in pretty good shape to reach my 12 hour goal. Looking back at the first half Strava graph later, it looks about perfect. The line is nearly flat at just over 13 minutes/mile and I still feel pretty fresh, but the technical and the steeper part of the course await me and, as I tire, consistency will desert me.

Although the terrain is not really steep, it is never flat and I find myself spending more time at aid stations. The Meat Grinder eats me up with it’s technical rolling hills and I see my pace slow more than I want it to at this point. Stephanie keeps me moving, however, in spite of this stretch having one less aid station from last year. I run out of water and am really dragging by the time I reach the Rattlesnake Bar aid station. This is where I am to meet Matt to pace me the last 10 miles, but he had a family event to go to and I learn he has switched out with my long-time running partner Dave who will push me to the finish. This is a welcome surprise, since this is the guy that got me started in all this ultra running to begin with.

I spend too much time at that aid station, but I get out and back on the trail, knowing that my 12 hour dream is out of reach, I set my sights on breaking 13 hours, which is still a half-hour improvement over last year.

I almost bonk at mile 46, a result of running out of water 6 miles earlier and the fact that AR50finishmy long runs have not been supported enough by weekday runs. With Dave’s help, I pull it back together and then hit the steepest part of the course. Mile 48 is another slow mile, but I push hard through mile 49 and sprint (sort of) to the finish. I felt someone trying to catch me coming in the chute, but I can’t let happen now, so I give it all I have left to cross the finish.

My second 50 mile race in the books at 12:57.

I plan to skip this race next year. I’m sure Ill find something else to run, but I want to return the favor and pace Dave for the same race.

Truth be told, I gave it all I had and I don’t know if I could run it any faster, but maybe…

I AM Steve Avilla! (and How I PR’d Without Getting Faster)

stevebibIt was an honor to be one of many running for my good friend Steve Avilla at this year’s Way Too Cool. I had many opportunities to talk to runners along the way who were also wearing his bib, but did not know him. I would ask how they knew Steve and they would respond that they didn’t, but they were happy to join in supporting him and his family/ I would tell them that I knew him and that I had often run with him and take the moment to tell them what a great guy he was. I love the way the trail running community supports one another, encourages each other, and comes together for and with each other.



Way Too Cool is a combination of many of my favorite trails and a race I look forward to every year for 3 years now. I DNF’d my first year and finished last year (my second 50K distance) and, although I have struggled with injury and training schedules for the past year, I set my sights on a PR.

For a back-of-the-packer, like me, and being in my 50’s now, PR’s are getting harder to come by and injuries take longer to heal. I am hoping to keep up with Steve’s actual bib, which is running relay style to complete the race he loved. That would mean a PR by over an hour and, although I doubt my ability to do that, the math seems to work out and I can see that it might be possible.

I have a plan: My good friend and running mentor (I have a lot of runners I look up to and consider mentors), Sean Ranney, offered to help me prepare for this race (and AR50, coming up) and I was happy to accept. I have a plan, but that doesn’t mean I follow it very well. Still, having a plan helps me in several ways. Even though I am not following the plan very well, I am aware of where I am. I know what I am lacking and my workouts have more purpose than they would otherwise. I include some tempo runs, some intervals, and some specific hill work. I am well short of my great plan that my coach gave me, but I am still far ahead of where I would be without a plan.

Pre-race nutrition: I try to eat healthy(ish) most of the time anyway, but I have been focusing on less sugar and less fat, unless I crave it. I find that most of my cravings come from my body actually needing something. It’s not that way for everyone, nor for me all the time, but once I learned to pay attention to my body, I find I can tell the difference between a nutrition need and a waste of calories. I usually do the traditional carb-load thing the night before the race, but this time I hit the carbs all week. I try to get more sleep and make sure I am at the race earlier than usual.

Turn pace-breakers into pace-makers:

1) Run more, walk less. Seems obvious, but in an ultra, you walk. I try to do it less. Even a slow shuffle maintains better momentum than a walk.

2) Walk strong. Like I said, I’m going to walk some. I avoid putting my hands on my hips. I swing my arms almost as if I am running, but always in an exaggerated fashion.

3) Run up. Short inclines I run up… faster. I can increase my pace for a few steps. The top of longer hills that I walk, I run the last few steps. This gives me momentum as I crest the hill and leads me into the flat or down.

4) Glide down. I let gravity do the work. I run as fast as I can down hill without breaking form. This carries me into the flats and I maintain a faster pace for longer.

5) Don’t stop! This is the biggest one for me. I walk through aid stations. I keep moving when I am tired. Nothing kills a pace like not moving.

My strategywith the frog for the race is to keep moving. Starting with friends and trying to maintain an even pace (not too fast, not too slow) for the 8 mile Olmstead Loop, I’m feeling really good. I know I’m going to need my traditional porta-potty stop at some point and I’m hoping to make it 8 miles (I didn’t, but trees are as good as porta-potties if you come prepared). This is something that always kills my pace, so I try to be ahead of pace a little.

This is my favorite trail and I am looking secrettrailforward to crossing Knickerbocker and the Secret Trail. Many faster runners refer to this as the “conga line” because of the single track so early in the race that gets pretty crowded. This year, I find myself in the line running a pace just slightly faster than I am comfortable, but not out of reach. This pushes me to hold my pace better and I get back to the firehouse averaging under 11 minutes per mile.

A cute kid helping at the aid station hands me a Gu and I take it, along with some electrolytes, salt, and some coke. I fill up my water and move through. I do not stop for more than a minute at any aid stations (they are aid stations, not rest AmCanyon creekstops) and this probably makes the biggest difference in my finish time. At the next aid station, I catch my friends with Steve’s bib and run with them for a while. I hope to carry the bib for a few miles.

I always seem to make one big mistake and here it is: the second fruit flavored Gu. They always make me sick, but the one the kid gave me seemed OK and so I took a second one. Within a mile I was sick! I was hoping to throw up and get it out of my system, but it kept passing and then reoccurring for the next several miles. alt trailWhen I stagger into the Alt aid station I go back to real food (peanut butter sandwich, fruit, potatoes) and immediately start to feel better. I am now considerably behind my friends, and my planned pace, from being sick on a relatively easy part of the coarse. On to Goat Hill.


My time has greatly suffered from being sick, but I am feeling better now and determined to get back on pace. I climb Goat Hill and find the day has gotten much hotter out in the sun. I refuel (soup and fruit, no GU) and fill up my water and head out. Doing the math in my head, I realize that I cannot catch my friends. I am not going to get the time I am hoping for, but I might still be able to beat last years’ time. Keep moving!

Coming down from Goat Hill and to the last aid,canyon trees I am wondering if I can make last years time or not. It’s beginning to seem unlikely. There is a 1.5 mile climb that seems steeper now that I have run 28 miles. Cresting it, I am catching a few of the runners that passed me while I was feeling sick and I check my watch when I reach the last half mile sign. I am next to another runner now and I might, typically, just run it in with her, but I see that I am close to my time from last yearmust do and really want to beat that. So, I apologize and tell her that I’m really close to a PR and push hard the last half mile. I come in about 1:30 faster than last year. I was hoping to take an hour off of my time, but I’ll take a minute.

Truth be told, I really just wanted to give Steve my best race and I did that.

Steve eagleWTCfinish

Best DNF Ever!

Starting out in the early morning fog in Cool, CA, I was cold, but comfortable.Fourmidable  - 4Fourmidable  - 6 This is my first time running Fourmidable, although I volunteered to sweep an 8 mile section last year, and I am curious to see if my Achilles is healed enough to handle the tough 50k course, consisting of four major climbs.

The course winds its way over some of my favorite trails, and some I have never run before.  First finding its way down to No Hands bridge and across towards Auburn. My favorite part of running local races is seeing familiar faces at the aid stations. There is no disappointment today, as I think I know everyone out there. After the first aid and a porta potty pit stop, I’m off across No Hands and on towards Auburn. I have comfortably settled to the back of the pack and maintaining my planned easy pace. The field is small and filled with fast runners, so it doesn’t bother me at all to be running with some good friends.

Fourmidable  - 10



On familiar trail and cruising along the rollers along the river, we take time to enjoy the scenery and take plenty of pictures. We pick up a little altitude and turn onto another trail I had not seen before and enjoy spectacular views.

Fourmidable  - 28


Fourmidable  - 11


Fourmidable  - 20



The first climb to the Overlook is a rude awakening to what our illustrious race director has in store.

fourmidThis is one of those trails I have never run before and I wasn’t quite ready for it when I came around the corner. Arriving at the ADO aid station to more familiar faces, I was ready for the long downhill to the base of Cardiac.

Then it is back up again, on one of the toughest climbs in the area, but that is what I’m here for.fourmidable -




At the top of Cardiac, I realize that, although I am on pace for my planned race time, I am going to be getting home later than I had hoped, and I had plans for the evening, so I pick up the pace along the aqueduct trail and back to the ADO aid station. From there it is back to NoFourmidable  - 36 Hands bridge and up the infamous K2 Training Hill. Outside of some climbs that I have done in the midst of semi- or non-supported races like Euchre Bar Massacre and Meow Marathons, this is the toughest hill I have ever climbed. For me, it’s only purpose is to make other hills (like Way Too Cool’s Goat Hill) seem more doable by comparison.

Cresting K2, and starting the descent towards Knickerbocker, I determine that I am not going to make it home in time if I complete this race. I usually leave race days clear of anything welse, but this was out of my control. Fourmidable  - 3So, at mile 21, I make the choice to take a left where the course goes right and find my way back to the Cool firehouse. Approaching the finish from the wrong direction, several friends ask me if I’m ok. Actually, I feel better than I have in months. I wanted to see if I could handle the hill. I wanted to know if I could maintain a pace. I needed to see if my Achilles and plantar fasciitia would hold up.

Truth be told, sometimes when you win, you lose; sometimes when you lose, you win; and sometimes you can learn all you need to learn without finishing the race. It’s taken me two weeks to get around to writing this, so I’ll be back at the Cool firehouse tomorrow morning. I’ll be running my best. I’ll be running for my friend Steve… But that’s next week’s blog.

Recovering with supplements

As some of you may know, I have suffered from an unfortunate string of injuries over the past couple of years. Starting with a  badly bruised knee cap, which led to over-training to compensate for lost time. This, combined with a moderate sprained ankle, resulted in plantar fasciitis and compensating from that caused Achilles Tendonosis in the opposite ankle. I have tried everything I could think of and taken advice from a lot of different people (including other runners, doctors, massage therapists, etc.) to speed the healing and recovery. I’ve changed shoes, changed inserts, and added inserts to my daily shoes. I’ve learned a lot from my research and the advice others have given me, so I’m hoping some of you will benefit from my learning.


First, there are many things I could have done to avoid the injuries in the first place. Like not rushing to train when I had missed training time, thus over-training. Stopping when I got hurt. Stretching better. An acute injury, like a sprain, or a bone bruise, will heal in its own time. On the other hand, fatigue injuries can be avoided. Once injured, however, recovery and avoiding further injury become the focus.

I am not a doctor, nor a physical therapist. What I am is a runner who has experienced injury and learned what helps the recovery process and what does not.

Total rest does not help Achilles injuries nor Plantar Fasciitis. To heal, these tendons need increased blood flow. Stretch, massage (Trigger Point worked well for me), and mild running. I was very tight each time I first started running, but it would loosen up as I warmed up. I stayed off of pavement and stopped if the pain started coming back. Shorter and less frequent runs seemed to help more than taking an absolute break. I also found that a good sports massage therapist can really work the right muscles and ligaments. The pain experienced during really deep massage gives great relief over time.

After about a year, a friend mine suggested some supplements that might help. Although the FDA does not back these claims, there is a lot of significant research that indicates some supplements aid in healing joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. My friend happens to be a representative for Young Living Essential Oils. The company offers massage oils and supplements to aid in general health and 3234well-being. The combination she suggested is specifically designed for bones, ligaments, and muscles (BLM). I decided to give it a try.

The suggested dosage for my weight is 1 tablet 4 times daily. A 90 count bottle costs $53.62, retail, and will last me about 3 weeks. There is an option to open a wholesale account and purchase it at 24% discount ($40.75). More information here. You do not have to sell anything in order to remain a member and receive the wholesale pricing. The included information claims that results will start being evident in 4-6 weeks, so I obtained two bottles and started taking the suggested dosage in addition to my regular supplements. I also continued my running in moderation, as well as stretching, trigger point massage, and foam rolling my calves.

I am not one to follow blindly in most cases, so I did some research outside of the Young Living website, into the ingredients and what they claim to do. Here it is:

Manganese Sulfate – believed to aid in bone and blood health
Glucosamine – for healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments (I give this to my dogs for the same reason)
Callogen – promotes cell growth
MSM – reduces swelling and pain
Balsam Fir Oil – aids in relaxation (I can find no research supporting the ingesting of this)
Wintergreen – pain relief, in particular nerve pain
Clove – reduce inflammation and pain

My Results

After 3 weeks, I had not noticed any significant change. I started the second bottle and at the end of the 4th week I started to notice that I was not waking up with the pain and stiffness I had previously experienced. My recovery after a run took less time and I did not have as much pain during the run. I still feel some mild discomfort, especially when I run on pavement. The most discomfort is during the first mile or two of my run, but then it subsides and only mildly returns when I stop running. This continued to improve for the remainder of the second bottle.

I did not notice any side effects, although my frequency of burping greatly increased and there is a strong influence from the cloves and wintergreen.

I’m not going to claim that the supplements healed me, but I’ve been out of them for about two weeks now and I have noticed an increase in morning stiffness in my ankle again. It certainly appears that the BLM supplements have been a significant part  of my healing process.

Truth be told, it is important to realize that these injuries happen over a period of time and healing usually takes time as well. Be patient. Take care of yourself. Staying healthy is easier than recovering.

Brooks Pure Grit 3 Review

In case you missed it, here is my review of the Brooks Pure Grit 3, as it appeared at Ultrarunnerpodcast.com

Summary: The Pure Grit 3, from Brooks, is a solid all around trail shoe with effective traction and protection. It is light enough to race in and durable enough for training.


  • true sizing
  • light weight
  • solid construction
  • responsive
  • great traction


  • ineffective sock liner
  • tongue slides to the side
  • not a true minimal shoe

First Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Brooks for several years and I have had good results running in both road and trail offerings. The Pure Grit 3 is light, but seems to be a solid trail shoe with fairly aggressive tread. Brooks effectively created an aggressive appearance with the Pure Grit 3. The red and blue with the bright yellow sole just looks fast, in the same way we bought shoes as kids because we were sure they would make us run faster or jump higher.

I use an alternative lacing to accommodate my high instep and I noticed the Pure Grit 3 has that built in with a wide stretchy band over the instep while the laces skip that part. I like the fact that they used flat laces; they seem to cut into my foot less.

Let’s give these a try.

Build: Lacing them up for the first time, they fit like a lighter version of the Cascadia. Certainly not a minimalist shoe, there seems to be more cushion that what I expected for the weight, but closer to minimal than the Cascadia by a significant margin. The shoe feels light, but solid. Brooks sock liners are never enough, so I put my SuperFeet inserts in there. The padding on the collar and tongue add to the comfort and the sole wrapping up on the toe and the reinforced heel protect the foot and preserve the durability of the shoe.

Ride: I was able to run the shoe on many different surfaces; hard dirt, rocky trail, DG bike trail, up and down hills, etc. I made a point to not avoid rocks and the rock plate offered adequate protection, although I was starting to feel it after 5 miles of purposely looking for rocks to step on (I wouldn’t recommend that), but you certainly don’t have to make any effort to avoid rocky terrain. On every surface the responsiveness of the shoe was impressive. They provide stability on uneven single track, as well as comfort and responsiveness on various other surfaces.

The Switchback Challenge is a highly technical 6.6 mile tail course (7.4 if you miss a turn) that truly put the Pure Grit, and me, through its paces. This seems to be the shoe’s element and they were nimble and comfortable through the turns and over the rocks.

Another big variation from the Cascadia is the 4mm drop (as opposed to 12mm). This significantly increases the responsiveness of the shoe to the trail, while maintaining a fair amount of cushion in the forefoot for comfort. The band over the inseam did exactly what I had hoped and held the shoe firmly in place, while saving me from any painful lace impressions on that area of my foot.


  • $120
  • 4 mm drop (19mm stack at heel)
  • 10.1 oz (size 9) Brooks lists it at 9.9 oz

Final Impressions: Brooks markets their Pure series of shoes as minimalist, but compared to other minimal shoes available, I found these to barely fit in that designation. However, if you are wanting a durable trail shoe that is a little closer to minimal and a little closer to 0-drop, without being either one, this might be the shoe you are looking for. I enjoyed running the trails in the PureGrit 3. I could feel the trail without the discomfort I find in more minimal shoes. It is just plain fun to run in these. The light weight made me feel like I could move as one with the trail and I’m pretty sure they do make me faster. I plan on putting a lot more miles on these.

Find out more at http://www.brooksrunning.com/

If you’re thinking about purchasing these shoes, visit your local running store. If you’d rather purchase online, please consider using this link as it’ll drop a few nickels into the Ultra Runner Podcast bucket. Thanks.


Back Of The Pack Frustration

I still love to run! Races, on the other hand, are starting to frustrate me.

The back of the pack is filled with a different type of runner. The back of the pack crowd FullSizeRenderoften sign up for a race without training. They trot along having conversations with the people around them. They don’t worry about form. Often you can hear them slapping their feet onto the ground like they are wearing wet flippers. They hold their phones in their hands so they can listen to their music without headphones. Occasionally, they will take a phone call and have a conversation during the race.

When I first started running a few years ago, I was in this group and I hated being beat by people who obviously had poor running form and little or no conditioning. Yet, there they were, some of them, faster than me. I knew that the only way to avoid their distracting conversations, music, and foot flapping, was to train harder and get faster and stronger.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to win anything and if you are one of those conversating, foot flapping, music sharing runners, good for you! I’m glad you are out there having fun and enjoying this great sport. I’d just like to run with those that take the running part a little more seriously, at least during the race, but I’m just too slow.

But here I am, back with the back of the packers, running slower than I was last year, even after my initial injury. I have gone right past slowing down from injury, to slowing down from lack of training. My lack of training is now hurting me more than my injury.

IMG_1440I ran the Folsom Blues Breakout half marathon last Saturday. My time was 28 minutes slower than it was last year. My Achilles was a little sore, but my quads were burning the last 2 miles and I had to slow to a walk a couple of time just because I was out of breath. I’m carrying almost 20 pounds more than last year, which doesn’t help. My Plantar Fasciitis is better, but my Achilles hurts, especially when I run on pavement.

I still love the run, the people I run with (or behind), the beer after (if there’s any left), and IMG_1444the swag. A few years ago I couldn’t imaging running a marathon. Now I’ve completed a couple and two 50ks and a 50 miler. I just can’t imagine not doing more of that.

Truth be told, I have to find or create time to train, and I have to heal completely, so I can move back up in the pack. I’d like to be able to keep up with some of my friends, and get away from the back of the pack.

Losing My Religion

It’s been almost three weeks since my double race weekend. I know a lot of my running friends do races on Saturday and Sunday on a regular basis, but I never have… until now.

Running at 9000 feet is never easy anyway. Add obstacles and ice water and mud and electric shock and you have Tough Mudder. My goal was to finish and keep something in the tank for my race the next day. There were some tough climbs and some really tough climbs. Going trough mud and over logs and up walls and ladders really worked my arms. I have very little in the way of upper body strength and I did not spend any time in the gym getting ready for the obstacles that I would face. I had to skip a couple of the later obstacles that required all arms and I also skipped the 20 foot jump into the 12 foot mud bath, since I’m not a strong swimmer. There were a couple of ladder wall climbs where I could use my legs to help my arms. The Arctic Enema and the Electro Shock Therapy obstacles were the biggest psychologically. Jumping into a giant ice bath and duking under water literally takes your breath away. Just when I thought I had done all I could, I’m faced with the 50 foot curtain of electric wires to run through. Just before running through, they spray you with ice cold water. Not all of the wires are the same voltage. The first shock was a twinge on my arm. The second made me dodge slightly left. The third threw me to the ground like a rag doll, slamming my face into the mud. When I stood up I couldn’t see, but I forced myself to stagger forward to the finish. I soon discovered that my contacts were somehow shriveled up by the 10,000 volts of electric current I had been zapped with.

I woke up early Sunday morning more sore than I could have imagined. We made the drive part way down the hill to Fresh Pond. I had signed up for the 20 mile run. I wanted to know if I was recovered enough from my injuries from the year before (Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles) and if I had worked my way back to ultra strength after taking time off to heal. My goal was to run the 20 mile course in 5-ish hours and then sign up for a 50 miler the end of September.

6 hours later I made my way across the finish line, pleased I had finished, but disappointed in my time and how tired my legs were.


I love the trails around Jenkinson Lake and the views that you get there, but the trail is tough and I now had to re-evaluate if i could be ready for a 50 miler in 6 weeks.

The Achilles was very sore and my legs were just dead. After taking an entire week off, I came to the disappointing decision to not sign up for the Sac River Trail Run 50 in Redding. I realized that I just wasn’t going to get enough miles in before then.

Unfortunately, I have not felt like running much since then. I have run a couple of 2-3 mile runs and a 7 mile run.

Truth be told, I don’t really feel like a runner right now. I’m starting to not look like one either. It seems my weight comes back at the same rate my motivation disappears. I hope I get the desire back soon… I feel like I’m losing my religion.