Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Middle of the Road

As the year comes to an end, my mind turns to what has been achieved in 2013 personally. It's been a year of growth, although has rarely felt like it. It's definitely been a year of running PB's and eventually three wins in low key, small field races. Satisfying nevertheless. I've been lucky to have discovered the best trails I've run on. Witnessed Western States and Leadville firsthand and admired how anyone can run that fast, for that long! And then I got injured which is as usual the body saying 'enough'.

My favorite running pic of the year - Simon Gear nails the 2 Oceans silver
It's made me reflect on the past more than ever before, and decisions made.

I always thought that the term mid life crisis was an easy way for (generally) men to excuse their behaviour. However, now I realise that by the time you get to your mid to later forties, you have 20 years + of 'adult' experience, you aren't at the start of your journey in work, relationships, etc but at a pivotal point where your decisions start to have a finality about them. The road you choose now, had better be the right one, or be faced with those ever occurring thoughts of life on your own, in a job that doesn't inspire you, with a partner who isn't your soulmate, or in a place you dislike. Those all become real fears as you head towards 50. No-one is going to look at you for your young promise (job wise), for the chance to start a family with you, and the likelihood of starting afresh in a new environment becomes a big risk or a pipe dream.

A summer of great sunsets from Council Crest
Those who embrace change and are prepared to take a path that is rocky, uncertain and unchartered have my admiration. I've found it massively stressful dealing with three life events this year. New job, new continent, new life situation. It HAS been a year of growth, but felt more like a constant battle to remain positive, pull on my running shoes and start the day on an uplifting note. I've fought the desire to stabilise my moods artificially, believing that according to that saying, its better to feel emotional pain than not feel at all. I've seen the other side of my SA decisions, and appreciated the pain, hurt and frustrations felt by others effected by my decisions, although have mainly failed to rein in those frustrations myself. I've definitely realised that no situations are straightforward and however strong feelings are, and desire is, it's never that simple. I still have faith that somehow out of all this, I can find peace and contentment, despite understanding that I might just have a restless soul and maybe am unable to find peace. But that peace can only come from within and that's been the biggest struggle, to accept and work on that aspect. Again, I have admiration for people who can work on themselves to be better human beings and succeed. My occasional personal blogs have elicited an amazing response from friends, and for that I'm grateful.

I've been fortunate to visit, run in and experience some amazing places. Some of my favorite pics of the year are HERE

Wishing friends near and far a happy, adventurous, fulfilling 2014.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Medicine Ball

So the little bump in the road was nothing more than that. When my Achilles flared I thought the worst and prepared for a long time off the roads and trails. I googled and browsed and researched and came up with the Strassburg sock and the Foot Rubz ball, $40 and $5 respectively. The sock is a bizarre contraption that is supposed to keep your heal slightly 'raised'. The instructions suggested you wear it in bed, but it looked and felt odd and my toes cramped! So I ditched that after a day (available on Craigs List for $20, any takers?). The Foot Rubz is a spiky ball that you roll around under your foot, and I quote "simply roll the 172 stimulating fingers under feet for fast relief". As a sales pitch it takes some beating.

The Strassburg Sock - bizarre
Trying to find the ball in REI (for South Africans think Cape Union Mart) was more of a challenge. The computer said 38 units in stock, the shelves said zero. So after much hunting around in the store room they found one. AND it seems to have worked. I sat at my desk and rolled this funny ball under my foot, and hey presto, no more Achilles pain. Who knows if it helped or if the injury was receding anyway. Combined with regular icing and heel raises and drops, there's no pain after 4 consecutive days of running.

The miracle ball

As before, having a break of a couple of weeks is an odd experience. I found I got out of the habit of running pretty easily and found cycling, walking and generally keeping busy filled that running time. In two weeks I seem to have lost a lot of fitness! Runs are hard work and my muscles are sore afterwards! How can that happen?? Doesn't the last 2-3 years of injury free running count for anything :)

Also when you aren't running every day you quickly forget what a simple, pure joy it is to just run, especially off road. Maybe I need that day to day confirmation that running is the best medicine available? Although I wasn't consciously aware of it all the time, the 11 days off over 2 weeks made me grouchy and more than usually sensitive. Running time is my space for trying to logically think through situations rather than just reacting, which with my lack of patience I do far too often without completely thinking through the consequences. Running often acts in a similar way to the 'sleep on it' idea. That it's better not to act rashly before spending sometime working through the solution.

I'm glad I have access to the medicine cabinet again....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Rainbow Nation

I remembering being in Clacton, Essex, with my girlfriend at the time when Nelson Mandela was released. Even for someone with no connection with South Africa at the time it was a momentous occasion. It seems to demonstrate that if you keep fighting for right, and keep fighting for right, you will eventually prevail.

Growing up in the UK in the 1970's and 1980's racism was rife, but everyone could vote and could go to the same shops, clubs, events etc. It wasn't easy to be anything but white, but I bet it was thousand times better than being black or 'coloured' in South Africa. 

in 1999 I went to Comrades and started to appreciate the issues in SA, although only from a cossetted tourist's viewpoint. I met an amazing South African at Comrades, who 'persuaded' me to move to SA. It's the best decision I ever made, bar none. We lived in Hout Bay, a 'middle class' part of Cape Town, but with some serious drug and crime issues that impacts on everyone, still. I spent the first four years sleeping at night with anything from slight unease to outright fear, coming as I did from an area where a punch up in a pub was the most serious crime you'd encounter. We were burgled, but luckily didn't wake up. Lindsay was mugged out running. We had two acquaintances and colleagues murdered.

South Africa is no picnic, and anyone who tells you it is, is lying, or living in an environment where their interaction with the real South Africa is severely limited. BUT, I miss it like I've missed no other place I've lived. I cried today when I heard Madiba had passed away. I cried when I was at Loftus Versfeld for the SA v British Lion rugby test match and 50,000 South Africans sang the national anthem with more passion then I thought possible. Its a beautiful song.

The country is special, unique, and abundant in things that are important to life. The people appreciate life in a much purer sense than many do in first world countries. There's a beauty simplicity to life at times, especially in CT. Life can be completely infuriating, especially when you tangle with government, large organisations, or try and do a relatively simple task! However, South Africans always 'make a plan', normally just now! They enjoy the climate, the landscape, the fauna and flora to a high level. They love sport, the teams that represent the country, beers, braais and talking shit. 

Standing on the start line at Comrades is the epitome of the rainbow nation, with runners of all backgrounds shoulder to shoulder, with the same road in front of them. The rainbow nation somehow gets along despite, or maybe because of it's history. 

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. Nelson Mandela"

RIP Madiba.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Always smiling

Last week at the Two Oceans marathon trail races, the organisation honoured Sonia with the trophy for the winning woman. It was a lovely gesture and Sonia's partner Brian Key presented the trophy to the winner Landie Greyling. My short blog post and new pics from Good Friday's race below.

Brian presenting Landie with the Sonia Beard Trophy
A beautiful trophy befitting Sonia's memory
I woke up today to very sad news. Sonia Beard, a doyen of Cape Town trail running passed away sometime yesterday. It appears to have been sudden and unexpected. My condolences go to her family especially Brian Key, one of the first runners I met in CT, and who at over 70, often finished in front of me. There was rarely a race where I didn't see him and Sonia. I don't know the details of Sonia's race record but I'd be sure there wasn't a race she hasn't run a dozen times.

Sonia always seemed to know how I was running, my results, how work was going. She was always interested in other people and was involved in organising the Tokai Forest race, where there was no entry fee, but a donation to a charity and where you would bring toys for the hospital that was being supported.

Thanks to Steven Hector for this great pic of Sonia (and Leo!)
Sonia and Brian were such a permanent part of the running scene in Cape Town, that I can't believe when I'm back in CT I won't see her smiling face at a race. Rest in Peace Sonia knowing you inspired and were loved and admired by many.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Bump in the Road

After nearly three years without a running related injury, it was about time for that niggle to turn into something more serious. I've noticed, especially running uphill, my right Achilles getting sore, but generally when I finish the run it disappears. Then last week it didn't disappear and at the weekend it was a continual ache, and by Monday I had to stop a minute into a run.

We are in transition from one medical group to another, so frustratingly the cost of an MRI will be only $100 from 1st Jan. In the meantime I've googled and googled and came up with the likely and the hopefully not so likely. Likely; Peroneal Tendinitis, inflammation of the tendons below the ankle bone (84,000 views on you tube for one video explaining the condition). Unlikely, stress fracture, but an unusual place to have this. So it's R.I.C.E. time (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and also time to fall in love with my bike again, although this time of year, its the gym bike weekday and given the Pacific Northwest weather, weekends as well.

I can't put my finger on any reason for this injury. Google tells me hills and speed are causes, but I've been running hills, and racing all year. So I'm sure its just an accumulation of miles, and normal wear and tear.

It's odd going from 1-2 runs every day to maybe an hour on a bike and some walking. You have more time, but you also feel sluggish and don't have that great tired post hard session feeling you get after a long run, or a race. It makes me appreciate how lucky I've been to have such a long injury free run (pun intended). But I have learnt not to try and run through these things, but accept it, rest and wait. The last time I had a long term injury it led to triathlon and ultimately Ironman, which was a pretty positive silver lining on a dark cloud. I'm not sure I now have the recovery powers to go there again, or the time or motivation, but it will be good to use some other muscles for a while!

Injury is the great rest inducing, especially in runners I think, who mostly think more is better. And there's no doubt a strong correlation between volume and performance. But as you get older, less is definitely more, and specialisation better than racking up the miles.

So after a year of the best trails I've run on, PB's, wins and some amazing race experiences, it's not a bad time to have an enforced break and focus on some other endorphin boosting activities. The problem is, even this time of year, nothing is ever as good as coming back from a wet, muddy run, fatigued and aching, and standing in a hot shower, feeling that runner's high.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Long Way from Cape Town

Later this month I will have been Stateside for 12 months. It hardly seems possible that 2013 is nearly over and I'll start 2014 in the US. It still sometimes catches me unaware; I'll suddenly remember I'm not in South Africa or England, but in this massive, diverse country, and take a deep breathe. I remember being offered this opportunity as I was walking to a doctor's appointment in Cape Town and swearing out loud. Knowing that I couldn't effectively say no to a chance to discover America, learn a ton about marketing to a continent, and of course get to visit and run in the most amazing places. It was exciting but scary. Portland is pretty much the furthest it's possible to get from Portland geographically. At best it's two long haul flights, at worst (I tried this), it's Portland-Seattle-London-Cairo-Joburg and Cape Town two days later.

Arches National Park, Moab
I've been to New York, Las Vegas, LA, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Salt Lake City, Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Seattle, Denver, Boulder, and still only scratched the surface here from both a travelling and a running perspective. Just in Oregon and neighbouring Washington State, there are scores of places I haven't visited yet. Why not? It's taken time to settle both physically and emotionally and making the journey alone (completely of my own making) has been way harder than I naively anticipated.

Las Vegas in all it's 'glory' for the Magnum SHOT Show
So I guess the three 'buckets' are work, play and general well-being. Work has been challenging, a different type of marketing to a more diverse customer base, but with less 'wiggle' room to experiment. This comes from a lot of pre-allocated budget into the trade shows we attend, and trying to do ground level marketing in a country this vast. Also devoting time to both our brands (Hi-Tec and Magnum) has necessitated a change of mindset. Luckily we have a great team of young, enthusiastic, motivated colleagues in Portland.

Part of the Ryan Sandes support crew at Leadville
My playing has been mostly running. My bikes have been gathering cobwebs, the swimming pool untouched, and winter sports still untouched by this uncoordinated runner. Having said that, I've loved the running environment here. I've been to both Western States and Leadville to support and pace, have now won 3 races and placed in many others and reduced my personal bests at 10k, 15k and half marathon, and run two sub 3 marathons. BUT, the biggest joy has been running the mile to Forest Park and playing on the trails there, including the 30 mile long Wildwood trail. As well as trails in the Gorge and around Portland. They are the best, most accessible trails in a city I've ever experienced. My road shoes last twice as long here, as the trails in summer are basically soft roads :)
That elusive 'W' came at Autumn Leaves 50k
It's also been great fun being in the front pack, albeit in weaker races than I was used to in South Africa. I'm still way behind the rabbits I was used to seeing the back of in Cape Town, and I'm pretty near my improvement ceiling, but it's still feels a big deal to push your limits each week, and see if you are stronger than the person in front or behind you. Once I knew the racing was weaker, there was a real desire to win a race (I last won a solo race in 2001 in Wellingborough, England, a 5 miler) and I achieved that in a 50k three weeks ago. Then I won a half marathon the following week AND a 10km trail race the week after! Bizarre to go 11 months with lots of top ten finishes and then three wins in a row. The following day I took a wrong turn in a trail race when in second and ended up at the finish 6 miles too early. That's trail running for you I guess.

And a third 'W' in a row at West Linn trail race. Bizarre!
Mentally the move has been really tough. Moving to SA from England was much easier as I was going into a family structure with a partner waiting for me. I thought I would be strong enough to do this on my own. I was wrong. For the last two years I've felt like the opposite of Midas who turned everything he touched to gold. Just like my string of race wins, I feel I've made a string of REALLY bad decisions, causing others endless pain, and moving from one crisis to another. I'm looking for the end of the tunnel and actively trying to find a less rocky, selfish path. It's a work in progress.

My impressions of America after a year? Easily the most friendly people, who you can strike up a conversation over any interaction. Too much choice! Buying something basic like milk involves too much brain power. A 'have now' mentality definitely. An amazing abundence of parks and outdoor, accessible spaces. A lack of national identity like a smaller country such as South Africa. States seem to mean more than the country. An amazing freedom and lack of fear that exists in SA. It's been a revelation walking the 20 minutes to work and feeling safe and secure.

I'll take away a lot of positive memories from the first year in the US, especially the people. Countries are always about the people and in that South Africa trumps them all, and that's what I miss the most. But I couldn't have asked for a better '2nd place'.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Finding a 'W' amongst the Autumn Leaves

I wrote a blog back in June called 'Searching for a 'W'', centred on my experience of running here in the States and the relative weakness of races. At the time I had finished second or third overall 7 times in 17 races. Fast forward to last weekend and that record became 9 from 26, with the last two races, second places, both around 30 seconds behind the winner. During that time I've been setting personal bests in 10k, 15k, 21k and also a couple of sub 3 marathons, so although the races ARE weaker I have been running well enough. 

This weekend was the Autumn Leaves 50k, a 'trail' race in Champoeg State Park (pronounced Shampooey!) with 8k of cycle paths and 2k of trail on the 10k loops. Last year's winner Joe Uhan (3,18) was out, and with second place 3,58, this looked like a genuine 'W' chance. It may look like I'm targetting races, but it was local, I had the generous offer of a lift to the race, and the entry fee wasn't outrageous. A 50 miler was also taking place, and this had 2013 Western States winner Pam Smith gunning for the fastest 50 mile time in the US this year.

Flat, 5 loops, mostly cycle paths
It was dark at the start and I'd forgotten my headlamp so ran with Pam and another speedster in the 50 miler. Soon enough it was clear that the 50k wasn't that competitive and I was in the lead, but oddly with two 50 milers close. When one of those has won this year's most prestigious ultra, and the other is a previous sub 4 minute miler, you don't feel so bad. But, to 'win' the 50k and finish behind a 50 mile runner didn't seem the real deal, so I pushed on and made sure I at least had a gap. As this was an out and back type loop I could see gaps and work out what my pace had to be. Through the marathon in 3,07 and finished in 3,43 and change was enough to earn the 'W' a shield, shoe voucher for $120 and oddly a T-shirt voucher. So after months of busting my balls trying to hang with twentysomethings in shorter races, the W came easier than I'd thought. It's only the 8th fastest time on the course since 2006 (but seems to be a Masters/Vets course record) and I got lucky with the strength of the field, but it's still a good feeling to cross the line first, and have a race to go back to next year to 'defend'. Again, given that my mantra this year has been 'hills, hills and more hills' it's ironic that it came in probably the flattest trail race in America. 

My Otter Trail race top and K-Way 3/4's still doing great service!
It was fun, but I also know that my times would put me way down the field in most South African races. For example my recent 15k PB 53,46 (and 2nd place) would have only been good enough for 38th in a competitive Cape Town race, likewise, my half marathon PB of 80,38 (2nd again) would have put me 17th in last months CT 21.1km Classic. Like most running though, it's about doing it for yourself, your personal physical and mental wellbeing and also trying to improve your times and performances regardless of the field. I'm not sure that I was in either a good physical or mental place given a 30 mile training run last weekend and waking up with an overactive mind. 

But, theres rarely a time when going for a run puts you in a worse mood or frame of mind, so again it was cathartic, and nailing the 'W' a fillip for my soul.

June's 'searching for a W' blog HERE
Garmin file HERE

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Finding Inspiration

I've struggled to get truely motivated by any road running images. Even watching the big city marathons, with world records being set, doesn't really make me want to go out and run. Watching Mo Farah win two Olympic golds at 5000m and 10000m did set the pulse racing, but it didn't make me want to go and blast around a track.

Only trail running does that. Watching Kilian Jornet set a Matterhorn FKT (fastest known time) even via twitter was inspiring. Pacing at Western States, being at Leadville, following UROC via irunfar's excellent web coverage all does that. It's knowing that it isn't just a case of clicking off the miles, that you will be running in God's country with all the challenges that brings that inspires.

Everyone who comes and runs in Portland, and back home in Cape Town, understands the draw of the trails and mountains. I'm pretty conservative (substitute boring) but even I want to run arouns Mount St Helens and Mt Hood, run Western States, be part of the races here.  The variety and the number means you really don't have to run the same race twice.

Sunset from Council Crest, Portland
BUT, given all that, my inspiration is still waking up and running up high enough to see a sunrise or a sunset. After a week of cloud we are now having a proper Fall and it's my new mission to see either a sunrise or sunset every day, preferably both. Today I achieved a sunrise, a sunset from the wrong side of the mountain and a bonus moon rising. I'll take that.

I don't want to be rich or even to really have an amazing career. I'd much rather see every morning from above a city, across a pass, or wherever it enriches the soul. Ok, so you have to work to be able to have some means to be in beautiful places, but I won't ever sacrifice time outside for chasing the money. What's the point of 8a-7p and the bucks if you don't see the autumn leaves, feel the season's chill or watch the day come alive.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Inferiority Complex

"100 miles isn't a long way" Karl Meltzer

It's the gold standard distance here in the States, the race by which all ultra runners are judged. Until you've raced 100 miles, you are just playing. It's when your body and mind are tested to the limit. It's like no other 'normal' race distance. Having never run beyond 90km (55 miles) I don't know this for sure, but having paced and watched, and followed a few hundred milers now, I still find it impossible to comprehend how you run for 17-30 hours without a break. How you manage your body, stop it falling apart and feed and hydrate it for that long.

Change to 70, 80, 90 and 100 miles and it makes sense too I'm sure
I see-saw between a desire to try it and the thought that it would be just too hard to try and fail. And of course the training for it. A lot of runners will say it changes you, how you live the rest of your life, and your perspective. That's appealing, to see how far you can push your mind and body and the future consequences of that.

If you aren't a 100 miler here, you do tend to stop talking about your marathon and shorter distance exploits, as they seem pretty inconsequential to runners who have maybe seen two sunset in one race! That's a good thing. What we do isn't special, most of us don't have any special talent and have turned to running to lose weight, get fitter, purely as a recreation. Maybe we've found, with training, we can run in races and enjoy a competitive aspect. And it IS a physical and mental test, but generally, at least up to 50k it doesn't require a massive amount of planning, or training over a maximum of 3-4 hours in one session. I know this might sound a lot IF you don't run but its a morning's activity.

So right now I'm doing the 'pretend it's not there' game. Ignore something that is so obviously in your face. Unlike SA, its 'easy' to find a 100 miler here, there are races every week within a drive or a short flight, but right now I'm in denial and will probably stay that way til I'm at Western States or Leadville again, and then the wondering will start again...

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Winter of Discontent and a distant Odyssey

This is my second winter in the US, but somehow seems like the first. It's the first time here when I've transitioned from summer to winter, and it's been a quick transition. Having a week off where I didn't have to run early before work made it seem more sudden, but the fading light, heavy rain and less sunshine makes running the trails harder and less fun.
Running over the many Portland bridges, in the dark, is fun. Once in a while!
Before this year my percentage of trail running was probably between 10-20% of mileage, maybe lower. This year its at about 70%, so the prospect of running back on the lit streets of Portland is really not very appealling. There are plenty of streets, but at the end of the day they dont have the variety and beauty of the trails here. They also don't have the hills, which is something else I've increased this year, from an average of 5000m a month in 2012 to over 9000m in 2013. I can't say I LOVE hills yet, but I do hate not knowing they'll be any climbing on a run. It seems cheating, on a training run.

So how to keep motivated during winter? I seem to race more out of summer time, and I'll do more track session if I can fit them in around races. A decent headtorch is on the shopping list, as are lightweight gloves. More weekends on different trails, and try and keep my hill metres up.

There's also a joy to be out there in mucky weather when the trails are quieter and you can come back with evidence that you've run off road. The muddy shoes and legs, the sweaty Buff, steam sometimes rising from your body.

Odyssey Buff still giving good service
A post from an SA running friend with a picture of a route marker from the Cape Odyssey trail race in 2007 brought back lots of great memories. The Odyssey was pretty much the first multi day stage race aimed at the 'normal' runner (ie you didn't have to carry your supplies on your back for multiple days). Even so the first year it was pretty brutal for those of us used to one day races. Five days of, according to my logbook 32k, 60k, 42k, 39k and 37k, with those last two days taking us a combined time of over 11 hours! Add in heat, climbs over mountains and big gaps between aid stations, and it still remains the toughest race I've done. The first year, with my partner Moyra, we won the first 4 stages, but I blew on both the long day (60k and 6 hours 40 mins) and the last day, and shuffled to the finish. The second year I only blew on the last day when we managed to almost lose over an hour lead. Only really being saved by shortening of the last day's stage and re-routing it onto road!

This route marker made it to someones garage
The Odyssey (as with other Kevin Vermaak events) was ahead of it's time and maybe a bit TOO tough, as it only lasted two years. Now we have African X, Southern Cross, and many other multi day stage races, which by virtue of their distances are even more accessible to runners. The pace is definitely quicker and the competition hotter than when it all started in 2007. Trail running was always a community, and it feels more so then ever, both here in the US and back in SA.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Checking Out

This weekend I ran the Flagline 50k on Mt Bachelor. The weather forecast was reasonably kind, low 50's, rain later, little wind. But as my CT running and hiking friends will confirm, mountain weather isn't sea level weather. Arriving at a windswept, sleeting start, it was clear that a tee and shorts wasn't going to cut it. Even Coach Dion might have worn a long sleeved! Throw in the 2000m above seal level start line and it was going to be a tough morning.

By 10k in it was snowing properly and minus degrees. The weather didn't get any worse but it could have done, and given the small field and reasonably small number of aid stations (5 for 50k), if I or any other runner had fallen and been stationary for any amount of time, it would have been a difficult situation with no dry and warm clothing.

It looked a bit like this on Sunday, but with some snow!
But this is the US, and there appears to be no kit checks, no mandatory gear requirements, and here at least, no check in for runners. How many started? Impossible to know. So we started with, yes, guys in tee shirts and shorts ONLY. No space blankets, charged cell phones, energy bars or whistles! A far cry from 'tough' SA trail races in much better conditions, with at least as experienced runners.

I have no idea if everyone got off the mountain safely. MY hands and feet were frozen, I couldn't eat, probably due to the altitude (2000m), and I didn't drop primarily because it was warmer to keep running. If i had I hope I could have jumped into someone's car and turned the heating full up! But I might also have been an hour from any warmth or help.

No weather recorded. Just as well

I don't think the weather was particularly exceptional, just a normal day in the snow zone in Fall as the seasons change. And maybe American trail runners are less pampered and better equipped to look after themselves than in countries where there are more checks and balances in places.

As ever the race was well organised, great aid stations and volunteers who has to cope with the weather for upto 6 hours on non-moving mode. Post race we received a pint of beer and copious burritos with meat, salmon, beans and rice, all provided by another volunteer/sponsor who was there in biting cold for hours on end.

I hate to run with any kit, weight, bottles, bags and paraphernalia, but I'm not sure I or any runner is the best judge of what it is and isn't safe to carry on a run, in the mountains, close to zero, on uneven terrain. But we are all adults so I guess we have to take responsibility for our own safety.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mixing it up

I'm now into week three of two track sessions a week. As I mentioned before I have a great, well maintained track less than 1km from my apartment. Even of an evening it isn't busy. Last night I shared the space with two race walkers, four or five 'joggers' and a frisbee match!

My sets are 12 x 400m reps at between 75-78 seconds a lap and 5 x 1km reps at 3.16 per km. Both hurt! The 400m reps start to hurt at about 150m and the 1km reps for the first 600m! I'm not used to that leg burn that comes from 'speed' and it takes a fair amount of inner 'persuasion' to finish a session. 400m seems no distance until you are into rep 4 or 5 and your breathing hasn't got time to return to normal and the burn hasn't left your legs. I would think 800m is probably the hardest distance to race as you are near maximum effort but have to survive two laps.

Nothing to do with todays blog! This morning runs upto Council Crest
The real purpose of this change of tack is to see if can improve my speed from 10k upto marathon distance. I haven't raced for a while, but my training times on routes seem to have improved marginally, especially uphill. The acid test will be a road race. This weekend is a 50km trail race at Mt Bachelor, where I don't expect to see any improvement UNLESS it's reasonably flat and untechnical.

What I am feeling is that my hamstrings are working harder and it's much more important to warm up and try and keep good form when running. It feels like something could 'snap' at any minute. Even a fifteen minute session (12 x 400m or 5 x 1km in 16 mins) feels like a decent workout and maybe it will wake up any fast twitch muscles which have been dormant.

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that in a marathon the front guys run 42km at less than 3 minute a km with no breaks! I have a minute between reps and hang on for about 3.16 a km, for a maximum of 5k. I'd be happy to just lower my 5km PB/PR from 17.20 (World Record 12.37, that's 2.31 per km btw).

I'm going to keep this track thing going, hope I don't pull something and see how it impacts on racing. At the very least I'll know my legs can go nearer 3 minutes a km if only for a lap or two of a track. The early anecdotal evidence is that training runs feel slower than they are, which is a positive. Would be nice to run a track 5 or 10k at some point too.....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The T Generation

It seems hard to comprehend a time when they were NO short distance or multi-day trail races, but it was really only yesterday. When I moved to Cape Town, we had (not including out of town races) PUFfeR (peninsula ultra fun run) over 80km and the Hout Bay and Fisherman's Challenges. None of these races were really accessible to the majority of shorter distance runners either by virtue of the physical challenge or by the restrictive nature of the small fields. And that was it! No
Trail Series, Southern Cross, vineyard runs, Odyssey, African X. All those races, and a multitude of others were just pipe dreams for trail runners and wouldbe race organisers.

An early Trail Series race, Montrail team sponsorship and all!
We started the trail series in Cape Town in 2008 (Owen Middleton can correct me on the date) to a luke warm response. We had reasonable numbers, but runners complained about the cost (why should I pay R50 to run where I can run every other day). We countered that by putting up as many lucky draw prizes as category prizes, running excellent races on great routes, having results and reports up the next day and putting on a professional show. I still think Owen's races are the best organised trail races in SA. They aren't over worked, and have just the right blend of organisation and informality. Trail race organisers are never in it for the money, and when runners complain, mostly without foundation, about entry fees that generally don't appreciate the time and effort that goes into organisation. I don't see many organisers driving around in Mercs! These races are now almost always sold out, testament to Owen's professionalism.

Having moved from SA to the US late last year, the racing isn't that different. But with a miniscule affluent population in SA, to have so many amazing races is something to cherish. Most weekends there were 2 road races, and often 3 trail races within easy reach of CT. That's such a luxury, whatever the entry cost.

Here in the US there seem no regulation for road or trail races which leads to massive price discrepancies. Ive paid as much as $85 for a mediocre half marathon, and marathons are rarely under $100. Almost all races are chip timed and results available as you finish, which is great, but I'd swop it for being able to run more races at a lower cost.

Way Too Cool 50k trail race attracted almost 1000 runners
That doesn't seem a barrier to entry, with over 200 at the race I did recently at Henry Hagg Lake. Prices ranged from $25 for a discounted entry for the 10k to $85 for an on the day entry for the 22km (inc parking). The astonishing fact (in my eyes) was that in the 10k 75% of the field was made up of women.

BUT the trail races here are as beautiful and well organised as in SA and there are more longer races, where the pro's hang out. At any given race you might line up with legends such as Scott Jurek, Tim Olson, Karl Metscher, Anton Krupicka or Geoff Roes. All approachable and just doing what they love, running, generally in the mountains. 50k to 100 mile races regularly sell out within days or even hours of entries opening, testament to an increasing desire to run off road.

Brands have cottoned onto this trend and although it's pretty hard to make a good living trail running, sponsorship has enabled a number of runners to live the lifestyle they want by competing in races and representing brands.

TNF sponsored trail runners Mike Foote and Timothy Olson. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell
The trail running explosion doesn't look ready to fizzle out yet. Added to that the popularity of Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts on trails where there generally aren't races, and the trails are alive with runners.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Fast Track

I always been impressed with running friends who incorporate track sessions as part of their training. It gives the impression of seriousness, dedication and a desire to improve. It is a specific activity only designed to work on speed, and a runner wouldn't generally do it for the sake of it, like you might just go for a spur of the moment run in the park or around the block.

That's probably why I have managed to avoid it for all of my running life (not hard granted as tracks aren't that abundant - all my CT friends train on a grass field which is now underwater!). However, in the home of Nike, where no one seems to run without purpose, tracks are common place. I have a great springy, spongy track exactly 1 kilometre from my apartment. It's not even far enough to warm up properly. It's well kept, there's water, a clock and the surface is good.

Eventually I gave in and asked the CT running guru Dion Middlekoop for some advice on sessions designed to help my speed from half marathon upto 50k. He came back with distances and split times which were hard to imagine for someone used to one pace, unless it's a race.

7 minutes of hell (with 60 seconds of heavenly recovery)
My first attempt was 400m reps with 60 second recovery. 75-80 secs was my target, and I averaged about 78 seconds a lap. Every second hurt, and 7 minutes of running can never have felt so bad. By 6 rep I was done and could jog slowly home. The second session sounded 'easier' 1km reps at about 3.15-3.20 a km. Still faster than I've ever raced any distance, but at least it wasn't completely full throttle. I hung on for 5 reps and got a lost of satisfaction from finishing the last one within 2 seconds of the first. It hurt, especially the first 200m of each but felt more manageable than flat out 400m reps.

Duniway track, 1km from home
When you run on the road or trail you perhaps don't get an appreciation for just how fast the pro's run. I was lapping at SLOWER than world record pace for the marathon, for a 400m lap. I was sprinting, full out, and could only do that knowing I have a minute break at the end of each lap. I lasted 6 laps.

Will this help in races and over longer distances? I hope, but even if it doesn't a 30 minute track workout is harder and therefore more satisying than any other session, bar maybe a long, draining training run. This could be the start of something.....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

FKT Fever

This last 6 months has seen some inspiring and unbelievable Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. The most eye popping was Kilian Jornet's ascent and descent of the Matterhorn in under three hours. The footage I have seen is spine tinglingly exciting and scary. Links below. Other notables are Rob Krar's Rim to Rim to Rim traverse of the Grand Canyon in just over 6 hours for the 42 miles, and Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe 3 day completion of the entire 220 miles of the John Muir Trail.

Kilian Jornet on his way to a FKT of 2,52 for the Matterhorn
There are three 'categories'; Supported, where you have crew to look after your nutrition, hydration, feet and mental welfare. Self supported, where you can stash goodies on route, in advance. Unsupported, or Alpine style, where you only have what you run with, plus any natural water on route (ie not raiding a store!). For longer distances both supported and self supported seem the most common, as most trail runners, especially in the US, consider even running shorts a hindrance and too much weight! Shorter distance, probably up to 50 miles, unsupported seems the default choice.

This subject vexes and excites me. There's something unnatural about seeing how quickly you try and get from point A to B on a beautiful trail or mountain that just longs to be enjoyed and savored. Surely races are for racing? However, trail runners especially,  myself included, seem to like the idea of completing a 'hikers' trail quickly. I'm trying to work out the exact appeal and whether it's a 'healthy' appeal. Is it a 'You take how many days to hike it?' type of condescension? Is it just the challenge of covering often tricky terrain quickly? Or maybe the chance to take in a trail you wouldn't have the time or patience to hike, and would never get to race? The nearest 'long' trail to me with a FKT is the Wildwood trail, covering 30 miles of Forest Park. It's an easy trail to run, un-technical and not that hilly. I've now run it three times and am down to 4,12 one way. The one way FKT is 3,38 and both ways 8,48. I wouldn't have the patience (and maybe time) to cover all of this trail in one go, so to run it and see the experience the variety of flora and fauna in a morning is special. HERE is my blog on this weekend's run.

This weekend's attempt to at least get in the same ballpark as the Wildwood FKT
Whatever the motivation I think FKT attempts are going to continue to increase in popularity which could lead to issues over perceived damage to the environment, mass use of trails and runner safety. Already there are rumors that Rim to Rim to Rim unsupported attempts will be outlawed after concerns over runner safety.

In South Africa the parks have been reluctant to accept trail runners as 'legitimate' trail users, believing their effect on the environment is higher than other users. The more enlightened race organizers are either providing trail upgrades or undertaking impact studies to prove the contrary. As the FKT movement grows, there needs to be an awareness of any potential negative reaction to increased attempts and therefore use of the trails. I'm surprised there isn't already a 'trail runner' category of permit for parks, but maybe that's not far off!

Killian's Matterhorn record HERE
Koerner and Wolfe's JM Trail FKT HERE
Rob Krar's Rim to Rim to Rim FKT HERE

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hope and Uncertainty

Most competition has uncertainty at it's core. Unpredictably keeps us all watching, that along with the sublime, but mostly the knowledge that anything can, and often does happen. Such was the Leadville 100 miler this past weekend.

Ryan Sandes went into the men's race as overwhelming favorite against a past Olympian who had blown in the race last year after going off too fast, and two men in the midst of running four 100 milers in a 3 month period for the 'Grand Slam of ultra running'.

Watching a pro athlete prepare for an ultra, especially one as organised as Ryan is recognizing that of all the things that can go wrong, not having the right nutrition, meds, kit at each station wont be one of them.

Meticulous notes for each aid station
The two days before the race were a frenzy of ziplock bags, water bottles, shoes and clothing. All meticulously packed and labeled with the aid station name. Our job (Vanessa mainly, Ryan, Cassie and I) was to be at each station in advance of Ryan with the table set up for whatever Ryan needed. It worked like clockwork.

Aid station ready for Ryan at Twin Lakes outbound
But you can do all the training in the world, all the prep, and plan to the infinite detail, but if your body lets you down, it all amounts to nothing. Ryan arrived off of Hope Pass at the halfway point in a car, his race over. He didn't risk running or walking in and have us try and cajole him to continue and sustain further damage. A smart move. Coming down Hope Pass he had aggravated a dormant injury and made it impossible to run downhill.

Ian Sharman on route to winning Leadville
Dropping is the easiest and hardest thing to do. Easy because you stop the pain and the prospect of further damage. Hard for every other reason; the endless questions, the feeling you have let people down, not least yourself, the wasted preparation. The list goes on. They all go through your mind when you make that call. For a professional athlete the idea of walking to the finish for 'pride' is nonsensical, and I think most runners get that, but most pros also understand that to voice that as a reason somehow belittles every other runner. So they are, as Ryan was, humble, diverting attention away from himself, and then with a big heart going to every other aid station on the way to the finish to cheer the front runners through. That's a hard thing to do when you've been training and preparing for months for the race that now belongs to someone else. Respect.

Interviews with winner Ian Sharman and runner up Nick Clark HERE

Interview with Ryan Sandes HERE

Friday, August 16, 2013

Race Face

Any runner who races reasonably competitively, trains for racing. Its the goal in your mind when that track or hill session is hurting, or when it's peeing down outside and dark. Once you start to race over marathons and further, you then have to take seriously the 'race week'. You can't blithely just remember that you have a 100 miler at the weekend on Thursday and then try and prepare.

Having spent race week with Ryan Sandes, argubly the least grumpy, most laid back taperer around, it reminded me of this unique runner's hell.

Ryan Sandes after last pre-Leadville training run
Despite the fact that pretty much all my really intense and emotional running experiences have been connected to races, its still the week I like the least. Firstly, you have to taper, which involves cutting mileage and sessions and using your running time for the one thing that, if you were running, is a joy; eating!

A Margerita is a pre-race no-no!
Racing on Sunday is the worst. From Monday you are tapering, and by Thursday you really shouldn't be running, and if you are it's a miserly 40 minutes SLOW. Hardly a calorie burner. By Friday you are convinced you've put on 10 pounds and then you have the prospect of a work free Saturday, ideal for a long run, which of course you can't do because you have to race Sunday, grrrrr.

Saturday is spent trying to keep busy, but out of sun, avoiding exercise, drinking lots of water and choosing foods that wont come back to kick your ass (literally) on Sunday. You eat early, as the start is dawn o'clock or earlier (Leadville 4am) and then try and hold out going to bed at least until it gets dark.

850 runners at briefing for Leadville 100 miler. Insane!
Then it's race day and despite all the prep, you have NO idea whether it will be a stellar day or a day when you get dropped. Logic says it will be the former, but I've had pretty good days on a crap prep and vica versa.

Racing is fun!
The upside of this week of depravation is that hopefully you've had a good race and post event you can enjoy the flipside. You've burnt off all those calories and because of an overload of sweet crap during the race, foods like salty peanuts, pizza and slap chips all have increased appeal. Hydration via beer seems like a great idea, and when hydration is achieved, cold white or full bodied red wine hits the spot.

I normally have a nice sleepy, tired feeling after a race, when laying down is close to heaven. Sleeping that night not always such a winner, with various muscles deciding to cramp randomly, including, oddly toes.

The next day you hopefully have a satisfying still shuffle you can show off to friends and family along with the medal and t-shirt you must wear. And life can return to normal again, before you embark on the marathon or ultra madness again!

Follow Ryan's progress tomorrow @irunfar @ilittle17 or @planetPi Race start 4a, hoping for Ryan to be finished around 8p Mountain Time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Suck it up

This Saturday is the 31st running of the Leadville 100 miler, one of a number of iconic US ultra trail races. The races starts at 10,200ft and rises to 12,600ft, before returning to Leadville. The combination of vertical and altitude make it a toughie.

Leadville profile for the 'out' section

SA trail runner Ryan Sandes returns to try and make it two wins out of two at Leadville, after his win in 2011. Ryan has the fifth fastest time ever of 16 hours 46 mins. Those ahead include some amazing performances. Anton Krupicka's two wins in '06 and 07' were by a combined 5 hours 5 mins over the runners up (Anton' also had 2 DNF's and a fourth). The record run was in '05 by Matt Carpenter with an 'unbeatable' 15,42 when he finished almost 4 hours ahead of the second placer, and ran close to even splits, something near on impossible in a 100 miler.

Ryan's been in Leadville for three weeks getting used to the altitude which conservatively can take 10 days. He's fresh, well rested and super amped to be lining up again. Should be get anywhere near Carpenters record, his place within the trail running greats will be a step nearer.

He has a great team of pacers. And me. Cassie Scallion, Adam Chance and Ryan Scott will all run with Ryan from the 50 mile mark. I get the last 'flat' section from May Queen at mile 86 to the finish, a real honor. The downside is that to run record pace, Ryan will need to run that section in sub 2 hours, and therefore so will I. The POSITIVE is that if he is clipping along at not far off 5 minutes a km/8 minute miling, he probably won't need me to 'pace' him. My runs at altitude have been overwhelmingly rubbish, and the 2 days 'acclimitization' from tonight won't help much. Still, I can't wait to be part of the race and watch it pan out during the day. You can follow on Twitter at @irunfar and i'll also tweet @ilittle17 until my pacing duties.

The two Ryans have been out and about in Leadville and you can see some of their exploits at You Tube, here's the a short one on running at Altitude, More HERE

You can read a preview of the front of the field HERE

More from base camp Sandes over the next 2 days.....

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I'm a stats fan, I'll admit it. I like numbers, especially when it comes to running. I've kept a logbook pretty much since I started running. It give me a measure, some previous form to see where I'm at physically and competitively. Age doesn't seemed to have slowed me yet, although recovery time is way longer than when in my 30's. I feel 'lazy' a lot of time, rather having a beer instead of that second run of the day. But I think thats my own 'central governor' kicking in and protecting my body!

So this year after 7 months the stats are 3180km, which included 66,000m of climbing (I quite like that stat :) ) although it didn't help me at African X, Speedgoat or Buena Vista. 18 races which included 2 DNF's, 2 sub 3 hour marathon, 10k and 21k PB's, 3 overall top three placings and 14 Veteran top three placings. I've run 1238km on trail, 1348km on road, the rest in races. Average weekly mileage is 101km, higher than last year. I'm running hills every day and averaging 250m of elevation on each run. I think that's made the difference to my racing, given me strength and speed, although not enough a lot of the time.

2013 numbers

Since I started logging miles in 1996 (soon after I started) my lifetime mileage is 90,086km, 357 races, with 91 marathons. I've run 5066 days out of 5841. My average weekly mileage is 91.5km. My highest week was 216km (134 miles) and highest month 904km (561 miles) both in 2002. That year I ran 361 days out of 365, averaging 171km a week, had no PB's and was injured for 5 months in 2003, no surprise really. I don't regret it. It was an interesting experiment in what my body could cope with, but it achieved little else. The sweet spot for me is 80-90km a week, with cross training.

But when I step out of the door for my next run, very few of these numbers mean anything. You start every run wondering how it will feel, will you struggle or float? The accumulative miles may give you confidence that you won't end up in a heap, but it's no guarantee.

The best days are magical though. A post race feeling that you want to hold onto, not return to the reality of a life that actually matters. Racing does that for me, training is the day in day out mood lifter.

Runners get to see the sunrise more than most

And after all those miles and all those races a few home truths that haven't really changed;

Hills still hurt. Always.

I still forget to take water or gels on long runs.

Any race under a marathon feels like 100% effort from the start to finish.

Running at dawn is hard to beat, and worth the early start.

It still blows my mind to run a sub 3 marathon.

Runners should really have regular pedicures.

When you haven't got the legs you haven't got the legs.

This week I'm off to Leadville to try and keep up with Ryan Sandes during the last 14 miles of the Leadville 100 miler, as Ryan attempts to win the race for the second time. Should be fun!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


It's a glorious time of year in Oregon. The days are long, we've had one day of rain since July 4, and there's really very little excuse not to be outdoors, especially as we know there WILL be a winter sometime.

Sunrise from my apartment this week
The incentives to get up and run early are many; the sunrise, the forest quiet, often a light mist amongst the trees, and of course the knowledge that you'll be done before most of the world is awake. It's ALWAYS worth the effort.

It's probably been the most uneventful running week this year. Working at the Outdoor Retailer Show from Monday thru Saturday on the Hi-Tec stand meant long days standing, with running confined to the flat streets of Salt Lake City (at 1400m altitude), with the morning temperature at 70+, and evening never less than 90. Having a post race jump in the pool was a bittersweet reminder of Cape Town.

And talking of sparrows....

It's a time when I get angsty about food and drink and lack of exercise. I'm sure only runners, and maybe only obsessive runners would understand. I haven't really changed my eating habits since I started running. I've always been a grazer rather than a structured meal type of person, and also commit the sin of eating late most days. So a week with very low mileage and lots of time to eat and drink, especially during the day leads to those completely illogical worries about putting on weight and losing shape. I say illogical because every time this has happened in the past, I still come back the same weight and with no noticeable lose of form!

Almost everyone I meet comments on my lack of eating, or at the very least odd eating habits. My weight has stayed constant for 15 years, at between 77-80kg. I've also been a vegetarian for 20+ years, which also normally elicits comments about not eating enough protein. I don't know if I'm doing it right, and maybe I'm storing up trouble for later in life, but I sort of like my skinny, light frame, and that I'm not dictated to by meal times, convention or peer pressure.

Ryan in Leadville training with legend Scott Jurek (photo: Jenny)
So, this week it's back to the shorter distances with the Hagg Lake 21km trail race, then off to Leadville to try and hang with Ryan Sandes for 10-15 miles, as he attempts to win his second Leadville 100 miler. Ryan's been there since mid July getting used to the 10,000ft+ altitude. My 4 days in Snowbird showed me how hard it is to adapt. If I get miles 84 to 99, I 'might' be ok!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trampled by the Goats

It started well enough. It ended badly and prematurely.

The one thing you can definitely say about the Speedgoat 50k is that the profile doesn't lie. It is either relentlessly up and relentless down. Often on a mountainside, never predictable. Snowbird Ski and Summer resort, the race start is at 2500m above sea level. It was supposed to be in the 80's fahrenheit, but that never materialized, and as I should know by now, the mountain is an unpredictable host.

A bit hilly

From the start you climb to the highest ski station at 3300m in 12km, up jeep tracks, single track and mountainside scrambles. It was tough but not impossible. I walked and jogged about as much as anyone around me and got to the top. Eventually. Then the altitude, or something, hit me. Going down I felt dizzy and spacey, and unsure of my steps. I was so looking forward to some proper running, that it bottomed me out mentally. It also got cold, and I started to shiver.

The 18th km involved a duvet
The second aid station is at 18km, and the start of a 16km loop with no way of getting out if in trouble. The aid station helpers fed me, sat me down and eventually wrapped me in a duvet. The weather had turned and it was raining, so heading out on the loop in the cold rain, with only a vest wasn't very appealing. I sat there from 9am-11.30am waiting for the cable car to open, and watching every other runner go past. No one else dropped that early. Everyone else managed. It was chastising. 

Runners weren't the only ones suffering for the Speedgoat 50k
Eventually I was joined by three other drops on their way out of the loop; a torn calf, badly bruised foot and a.n.other. Our broom wagon was the cable car back up to the top, and then down the other side. Then I could disappear into the crowd once again and not be the runner who quit.

It really is the ultimate conversation stopper for runners after a race. It's not shameful, is often a sensible course of action, but still you are the one without the war stories of bee stings, moose encounters and muddy, bloody legs. You can't share in the camaraderie. As Olson, Clayton and another top 10'er soaked in the hot tub back at the hotel, I couldn't bring myself to join them. I hadn't earned that right.

A moose was encountered (photo; irunfar)
Upfront it was fast with Sage Canaday breaking Killian Jornet's record, and second place Anton Krupicka doing likewise, almost running Canaday down in the process. The women's record also went. And a 15 year old finished seventeenth overall. This is now a youngster's sport.

Finish of the Speedgoat 50k
I'll take away yet more respect for anyone who can run these hills, at this altitude, especially those training below a mile high. It's a different sport!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rock Hopping with the Mountain Goats

This weekend is the Speedgoat 50k in Snowbird ski resort near Salt Lake City. At altitude, in the heat and with big hills. None of my favorite things! In preparation I did a local hidden gem, Larch Mountain. Starting at 5am and having a doc's appointment at 9am, I thought 2 hours tops for the up and down of 21km. I'd forgotten what REAL climbing was like, having run up and down the 300m to Pittock Mansion, 1200m in one never ending climb was something different.

Multnomah Falls
BUT, it has to be one of the most beautiful trail runs (well trail hikes) in the area. You start at the (surely it's photoshopped) spellbinding Multnomah Falls and climb past waterfalls, fast flowing rivers, volcanic screes, pine forest, up, up, up to Sherrard Point with 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks; Rainier, Adams, Hood, St Helens, Jefferson. You can see them all. It has to be the best view in Oregon.
Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in the distance
The run is easily the most technical I've found here and raised the expletive count above the norm, especially on the jagged rocks along the river. For 11km to take 1 hour 50 mins shows you the terrain and the vertical.

Mount Hood, I think!
So back to Speedgoat, which has a stacked field, mainly due to the proximity to the West Coast rock rabbits and the small matter of $12,000 in prize money (Western States $0 prize money). WS winner Timothy Olson runs, along with speedsters Cameron Clayton (dropped at WS) and Sage Canaday. This is allegedly a VERY technical 50k that plays out like a 50 miler, so it will be interesting to see who prevails. I'll just be happy to finish in under 5 hours given my three least favorite factors are in play. Especially after my one altitude foray at the Collegiate 50 miler resulted in a drop at halfway! Here's the men's preview http://www.irunfar.com/2013/07/2013-speedgoat-50k-mens-preview.html And the women's http://www.irunfar.com/2013/07/2013-speedgoat-50k-womens-preview.html

Speedgoat 50k profile
The upside is that it's pretty unique in any sport to be able to be on the same start line as the best in the business and, in theory, have a chance to race them. In other sports you couldn't just tee up with Tiger, knock up with Roger or warm up with Wayne. So, we are lucky to have such an non-exclusive sport. OK, you won't beat them, but you could, and no-one could exclude you, say you weren't in the race or find a rule to kick you out. Beautiful!

Follow the Speedgoat on Saturday on Twitter @irunfar