Sunday, January 29, 2012


The town of International Falls has been informed of the race (though the start day is wrong)

It may seem a bit odd a title for a post about a race that has me pulling a sled filled with a gear that includes a -40 sleeping bag, a stove to melt snow, 1000s of calories of food and clothing options to deal with a variety of weather conditions. However, there is a certain simplicity of purpose that comes with participating in events that require a degree of self-sufficiency.

I'm looking forward to being out on the trail for the better part of 3 days, my main focus simply moving forward, eating and staying warm. Given the current weather forcasts, that last is going to be much less of a concern than in most years. The latest upates call for the coldest temps only in the teens with highs dipping up above 30. In some ways that can complicate things a bit more than sub-zero temps where all that matterss is warmth. If it dips above freezing, it can mean slushy snow and the potential for rain. It also means that I will need to figure out the right balance of layers to keep from building up too much heat and sweating.

My sled is all packed, though I'll still make some minor adjustments today. I ditched some of my wamest clothing options, but I am still probably keeping more than I need. My Gore-Tex jacket and thicker rain/snow paints may stay in the sled the whole time, but if the wind kicks up or the icy-rain mentioned in some of the reports comes to fruition then I may need to swap some of my planned outer-layers. Also, I can't bring myself to dispense with my expedition-class down jacket. Even if it is 20+ degrees at night, that can still be damn cold if you're standing still. It may also allow me to take a nap in one of the trail shelters without pulling out my monster sleeping bag.

No matter what, it is going to be an adventure, life ditilled down to its necessities. I'll have my SPOT tracking device on so people can follow along (link is below). I just need to remember to reset it every 24 hours so nobody thinks I was eaten by wolves. I have until 7pm on Wednesday to finish the race. With any luck I will finish the race earlier in the day though I expect to take at a minimum 50 hours to find my way from International Falls to Tower, Minnesota.

SPOT link here

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And now...

...for something completely the same.

Ah, January, the time of year when amateur athletes everywhere review their accomplishments over the past year and lay down their plans for the coming one. Why should I be any different?

Last year was such a major life transition (our second son off to college, selling the house, moving across the bay, leaving my job in the corporate world for an independent consulting company) that its almost insane how many and the caliber of races I ran. Something had to give and the whole idea of training sort of fell by the wayside. For the first time in 5 years, I ran fewer than 2,000 total miles, coming up just short with 1,946. However, I set a PR in terms of the number of those miles that were run in races at 932. That's nearly half my total miles!

I started last year with my first foray into winter racing, running a snowshoe race as prep for the epic Susitna 100. I ended the year with a couple of international events at TDG and Racing the Planet: Nepal (both of which I owe completed reports). I ran five 100-mile races, one 200-mile race and a 130-mile, 6 day stage race. I went into many of these, over-raced and under-trained, but once again, managed to finish everything that I started, though not always in the best of condition. It was a banner year in some ways and a bit unsettling in others. This year will be a bit different.

On paper, it may look like I am planning a repeat of last year if you look at the few events I have confirmed on my schedule. In fact, the bookends appear as slightly more extreme versions of last year's events. I head to International Falls, MN in 5 days for the Arrowhead 135. 35 miles longer than Susitna, significantly more hills and the potential for just as much cold. Considering it took me nearly 37 hours to finish "The Su", it is a safe assumption that this will take at least 2 full days with the possibility for a 60 hour finish. As it has been all over the lower-48 states, winter has been fairly tame in Minnesota thus far and one of the concerns for the event was a lack of snow. Things have started looking up (so to speak) recently, with significant snowfall and a number of sub-zero temps (a seasonal low of -26F thus far). It's still too early to tell what race day may bring, but it is certainly going to bring a challenge for this California racer.

The other event confirmed for the end of August is La Petite Trotte à Léon. This is sort of the "big brother" race of the famous UTMB. For UTMB's 166km (~103mi) distance and 9500m (~31,000ft) of climbing, PTL offers up a total 290km (~180mi) and 22,000m (~72,500ft) of mind-bending ascent! It is slightly less on both counts than the Tor des Geants that I completed last year, but with 12 fewer hours allowed. Oh, and there are no course markings and no aid stations along the way. You get a map and a GPS to find your own way around those rugged mountains through 3 separate countries. You can purchase food (and rest) at refugios along the way, but no other assistance of any kind is allowed. Travel is in teams of 2 or 3. Based on our success sticking together at TdG, Harry and I will be attempting this as team "Quit is a 4-letter Word". My good buddy, Beat  will be out there on a team of his own as will Chris Marolf, whom I haven't seen since he moved back to Switzerland. It promises to be the most epic event I have ever attempted. The best part of it all? It's not really a race as they only track twho classifications: "finished" and "not finished". I can't wait!

I basically have very little else on my plate at this point except I am going back to the SBER 100 in Santa Barbara. I am limited both by finances and time to focusing on more local events. However, I waffled too long to get into San Diego 100 and I have no intention of repeating at TRT 100 after last year's race. Right now I am thinking that I want to focus on more self-supported efforts and am hoping to spend some significant time up in the Sierras above Tahoe and Yosemite this summer. In other words, my plan right now is to actually train for the major event on my schedule.

I hope everyone else out there has exciting and inspiring events on their schedule. Happy running!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The Epiphany Run is an annual tradition here in the Bay Area commemorating Ultrarunning Magazine editor John Medincamp's birthday. It is a traditional Fat Ass style run with no bibs, course markings or even an official start time. You take a map, go at your own time, choose the distance you want to run and then write it down when you are done. It's a good way to jump-start the season, kick your training into gear and see lots of familiar faces in the process. That was my plan.

I wasn't going into this into this in the best condition. I'd done little running since Nepal, fought off a cold and was operating on reduced calorie intake since New Years in an attempt to send those holiday pounds back from whence they came. The 5am wakeup call after a poor night of sleep didn't help either. All pre-run excuses aside, I was still excited upon meeting Harry and Martina at the Park-n-Ride anticipating a fun day on the trails. I'd try to ignore the fact that the Arrowhead 135 was looming on my calendar only a few short weeks away.

Evidence of having fun along the way (photo courtesy of Martina Koldewey)

Fun. That was the order of the day and a beautiful day it was, perhaps even too beautiful if that's possible. By the time I reached the turnaround at the Chabot Marina a little after 9am, the sun was warming the air and I was already sweating much more than expected. An hour and a half later, along the exposed ridge, I was starting to cramp. I bummed a salt tab off another runner since I hadn't brought any of my own. The temps were probably just reaching low 60s, but for the remainder of the run back to Skyline Gate, I felt as though I was in a mid-summer run. On the final climb, I was hot, dehydrated and even dry heaved once. This was pretty much the antithesis of training for a race across snow-covered trails in northern Minnesota.

I stopped at 25 miles, foregoing the ultra distance to keep my cramping legs from getting worse. It's pretty paltry as a longest run before such a serious undertaking, but if my experience at Susitna last year is any indication, running for 5 miles straight in those frozen conditions will be more than I'll do. With the extremely mild December and no snow in the mountains, race-specific training has been impossible. With the arctic air being hogged far north of the border all month, Minnesota hadn't seen much snow either. I was beginning to think that I'd be dragging a sled across the grass for 135 miles. The new year has seen snow and a few sub-zero temps reaching International Falls, so things are looking up, so to speak. It looks like I'll be heading in under-trained and ill-prepared, just like I like it.