Monday, November 28, 2011


The lager-only diet has its hands full. Them Belgians are tough.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stoned is the way of the walk

Lots of stoney runs and (for me) vertical going into the books this week. The runs are still right around an hour but the consistent running is where I'm at. Even if I was going 30 min a day, it would be good. With the added TRAIL (not treadmill) vertical this week, I'm getting stronger and feeling better about the work I'm doing. If I recover well from this week (two more days of solid work this weekend!), the vertical will continue as that's my focus. In fact, I have a February race with really steep climbs (short but a bitch), so I want to be really ready for that. However, I also want to continue my flatter running, working on the turn-over, pace, etc. Just doing steep vertical will not get it done for me.

Thanksgiving was solid. Went to Palm Springs again (every year) and got out for one run in the mountains for a little hike/run. Super steep, shooting right from the desert floor. The trails are very hard, stoney if you will. My allergies definitely get activated in the desert, I think due to the lack of humidity and the desert bloom. I can definitely feel the pressure. On the climb, felt like I'd just smoked-out. Adds to the light-headedness going UP! All in all, solid run and my wife was with me. Get it, girl!

Got back yesterday and hit the local trails for a solid 10k, 800ft. (which is a great trail equation). The rest of the weekend is running up and down, and good food and beer. Off to the farmer's market to pick-up some goods for my organic steak this evening with some really cold beer (we're supposed to hit the 80s today!). Endless Summer.

Be good!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Great way to kick-off the Thanksgiving weekend. Ran this morning with friend Toby. He's quite fit coming off a solid year of rock climbing, running along with everything else that guy does in the spirit of adventure and good beer.

We bagged Cowles and Pyles Peak this morning. Why I don't get my white ass out of bed every early morning and get the run done is beyond me. I guess if I don't have another fiend to meet at a TH, the pillow is just too cool. But then the early morning suffering takes the place of all that sleeping non-sense and I feel insanely ready to go. One less thing to do before miller time.

The altimeter, which has seen better days I'm afraid (based-on fading digital graphics, moisture seemingly inside the watch like it's perspiring with me during a run!) read 1856 accum for the little 6.2 mile trip that includes a couple of peaks. For a little morning run before work, this just gets me fired-up. And my feet, though a little beat-up, feel great overall. I rolled the ankle a couple of times, but that's status-quo. I'm just happy to say I'm finding that equilibrium again.

And with races on the calendar that include a lot of climbing (for me), I need more of this Winning!

On the way back from the trail I listened to Doug Flutie on the radio being interviewed by Dan Patrick. I wish I could post it. He completely echoes my Tebow post, all the way down to the point that people want him to fail. Winning!

I look forward to my new training regimen that starts after the Thanksgiving weekend. It's a dietary experiment. Right now, the plan is to switch to lager for some unspecified duration and see how that affects my build to this new level of fitness I'll need to destroy very steep trails and a couple of spring ultras. This will be quite new for me, being that I'm a tried and true aler. But I'm excited. Jon Teisher seems to be willing to help monitor my progress. I'm definitely excited for this new chapter in my training to be the best I can be. Winning!

I'll try to post some pics of the trails this weekend. Desert/mountain running in between turkey-beer buffets.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tim Tebow

Why is Tim Tebow so polarizing? I am not an avid NFL fan (love the competition), but the news and discussions that emanate from league play paint a pretty clear picture of what people think of this guy. Living in San Diego, there might be a suggestion that the team for which he plays gets my attention because of its “rivalry” with the Chargers. I couldn’t care less about that. I follow a lot of sports stories, mainly those that have a good narrative, might have some cultural value, or I might just like certain players or teams because that’s how sports works.

Tim Tebow was an exceptional college quarterback. Those of us who know a little college and pro football history and likewise have even a tenuous grasp of the style each version plays (college vs. pro), know the difficulty a quarterback often faces going from jv to varsity. For instance, many college offenses include a very mobile quarterback, unlike the pro style where that position generally maintains a strong pocket presence, i.e., stays in the pocket ala Dan Marino or Dan Fouts. We could get all caught-up in the nature of this distinction, but in the end, the archetypal NFL quarterback is Tom Brady. The classic mobile college quarterback gone pro is Tim Tebow or Michael Vick (to keep things relatively recent).

This recent run of Tim Tebow (he quarterbacked a few games in 2010) has been very entertaining. In 2010 he had some success (“flashes” might be accurate) engineering the Broncos to a few victories. During this past off-season, however, he lost his chance at captaining the Broncos for 2011. There was a coaching change (John Fox took over and it’s worth noting he is a fairly conservative coach) and John Elway took the reigns in the front office, in some executive capacity; Elway, though many would consider one of the great classic NFL QBs, wreaked havoc on defenses throughout his career because of his ability to run. Despite Tebow showing signs of success in 2010 (along with two college national championships and a Heisman trophy), he had to compete for the 2011 job. That’s understandable given said history of the sports. To make a terribly long, boring story short, entering 2011 Tebow was 3rd on the Broncos’ depth chart.

This is a lot of background information on the 2011 Tebow show. One last point, from which we look to spring into critical discourse momentarily, concerns the competition for this 2011 job. He went from 1st to 3rd, essentially. And the commentary surrounding this fall from grace revolved around his unconventional NFL QB style. That was the easy talking-point for talking-heads. “His style explains this change of direction at QB for the Broncos,” or the ever popular “Tebow is just not cut-out to be an NFL QB; hell, look at him play.” As the story goes, Tebow eventually got a shot to start this year and to make another long story short, he is 4-1 and the consensus under-dog Broncos are inching closer toward winning their division.

The criticism of this guy has been unbelievable, despite his 2011 success. I want to venture a guess at why some talking heads are so critical of the guy. Understandably, there are those who support Tebow. Most Bronco fans probably love him, but I would bet money many of those fans are at the edge of their proverbial seat ready to jump from the band-wagon should he have a bad stretch. None the less, there are fans.

But the critics are hating on this guy; some, like Cris Carter, retired NFL wide receiver, refuse to even acknowledge Tebow as a topic of NFL conversation. He has, in the midst of this 2011 season, become a laughing stock. Tebow is a devout Christian. He wears this devotion on his sleeve. His parents are missionaries. Going back to when he first made the air-waves at the University of Florida, he has always talked selflessly about his faith, his commitment to the team and to winning, to working hard and to generally doing the right thing. He’s been moved to tears by his commitment to team and leadership. The guy, by almost anyone’s account, is decent, humble and honest, especially in the context of your typical overpaid professional athlete.

Why, then, the mean-spirited criticism? Why is he so polarizing? We know why people might like him. Actually, there are several reasons why. The harsh criticism just seems unwarranted. So many athletes and other celebrities have been masterful at becoming douche-bags by the crap they’ve pulled. What is so wrong with Tim Tebow? You have to take my word for it if you haven’t heard the trash talk. What has gotten into these windbags?

Here’s my theory: Tebow represents an ordinary guy and in a certain way that scares people who create topics and story-lines. Granted, there are certain qualities in Tebow that naturally rub some people the wrong way, but these people don’t or shouldn’t have a national television or radio audience. People at home, sitting on their couch might hate the guy’s pure image. They might despise is faith, especially the outspokenness of it. A lot of people distrust a guy who looks and sounds so true to his word, so “good,” self-less, etc. Given the number of people who have let us down, betrayed our trust, committed to the way of the douche-bag, this distrust is understandable. But we can isolate this guy and see that he’s been this way for about 5 years or so, and he’s just trying to do the right thing, seemingly pray and play football. We don’t have to root for the guy, but is it ok to bash the guy like this?

Again, I think he scares people. First of all, he is very unconventional. “Experts” rattle on about his throwing mechanics. They may as well just say “He sucks” because that’s the gist of their skills analysis. I think such unconventionality scares people. We all know change is not always welcome; put Tebow in that category. But I’ll just use this comparison to highlight the irrationality of the industry’s Tebow vitriol: what is the difference between Michael Vick and Tim Tebow? And what is the difference between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow?

My theory is that many a talking head in sports media (and fans for that matter) would prefer to talk about stars in terms of some kind of super-natural ability. If we can view these athletes as these sort of out-of-this-world talents, it’s a better story. We can push the mythology of the hero or villain. But either way, the athletes are very much different from us. I think this is a big part of the narratives that get written by the media. Since we’re talking about the NFL, this is very much a league of otherworldly athletes, some might even call freaks. These are giants that do massive battle on the gridiron. It’s so much more of a spectacle if we experience that not-of-this-world objectivity.

I don’t think Michael Vick’s talent is that much more pronounced than Tim Tebow’s. There was criticism of Vick before we found out he killed dogs, but nothing like that of Tebow’s. He is unconventional like Tebow. But still he was the definitive franchise QB. He hasn’t done squat in the NFL. Then we found-out he killed dogs. Then he went to prison. Now he’s signed a contract that could pay him over $100 million dollars. If you think these kinds of recognitions are based strictly on performance, separate from how the media portrays a player, you’re fooling yourself. In the end, Michael Vick is back in our good graces, as defined by how the NFL “views” him. Tim Tebow has not been in the league’s good graces.

Tom Brady is another classic “good guy” like Vick although Vick had to overcome his conflict, but he’s apparently redeemed himself quite adequately. Brady is you’re all-American QB. He’s in the traditional NFL QB mode. And he’s won Super Bowls. Can you relate to him? He was a back-up at Michigan, came into the league a back-up and then got a chance to play (like Tebow). The rest is history. Can you relate to this guy? Hell no. He’s been turned into a literal model of perfection. In fact, he is a model, posing here and there, married to one of the most beautiful international models in the world. You can’t touch that guy. Just like you can’t touch Vick. These guys are, in effect, untouchable. That’s what the league and popular media say.

Tebow is too close to home. He’s a guy that works hard. He talks honestly about team-work and effort and the blessing of the opportunity to play and win. He has a relationship with Jesus Christ. And he might even be a little awkward out there on the field (like he is talking about his faith – for some – behind the mic). He might not have the perfect mechanics. He might run more than a few broken plays in which he carries the ball, rumbling over defenders due to his desire to win and his 240 lbs frame. It’s unconventional. It might not seem very polished, or “professional.” But he’s working his ass off.

I am just sick of hearing about how this guy is bad for the league (and by extension, our community). That’s the argument. You might say it’s a talking point to stir-up debate. I have been listening for too long to fall for that. Commentators are making jack asses of themselves talking about how this guy will eventually fail, how his luck is running-out, his time is coming. Give the guy credit for just working hard and looking and acting like he’s supposed to (not how GQ supposes him to look).

For me, he’s inspiring because, by god, I can relate to him. Perhaps this inspires me to work a little harder. For the dip-shit announcer who says Tebow’s hopes are dim, this says way too much about that talking-heads’ self-image. For many, it’s a much better world if our models are out of reach. That way we have an excuse to underachieve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking to Stir It Up

There's been a sprinkle of consistency on the running over the past few weeks. I am still dealing with a little left foot weakness, which is definitely related to my fascia in some way (the x-rays a month ago indicated that). If I walk barefoot for too long, especially mixed with a solid trail run in near-flats, the foot acts-up. But the running and the TLC on the foot are helping. After today's run, I feel great. I took yesterday off just to give a little rest. Good call. I have been thinking a lot about what I want to run (not race) this year. Sure I'm going to gobble-up as many Xterra Socal events as I can, but I'm talking about the next level. One thing I do know I should do. . .


This is really all I say to myself these days. I'm looking for a nice build-up to some summer suffering. Right now it's all about getting it done daily so I can drink beer and eat well. That, and keep encouraging my son to wear dark socks with his sandals. So proud of him.

I can not wait to write my post about Tim Tebow. I am so intrigued by the industry's reaction to him. I have lost a lot of respect for many a NFLer. Big deal. I just like a guy like Tebow who's everyone's worst nightmare.

Happy running and recovering, everyone.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Trail Commentary

This is also published at the Trail Commentary blog.

The results are in. At least from a few revealing events that have transpired over the last couple of weeks. Let’s start with what our burrowing Euro Bureau correspondent has to report. The Skyrunner Series is officially finito. The European Skyrunning Championships took place in Alicante, Spain on Saturday, November 5th with the Vertical Kilometer® del Puig Campana. Talk about earning your post-race beverages: the course amounts to one thousand metres elevation gain over 3.650 km distance with inclines that reach 35.5%. The race starts at 380m in Finestrat, ascending to the summit of Puig Campana at 1,408m, which stands overlooking the Costa Blanca. The 8 km descent is done at what we would assume a much more leisurely pace.

Individual and team titles were at stake. The European final is combined with the Swiss International SkyRace® which took place on June 12. Points are added from both races for the combined title.

Ranking after the first leg in Switzerland on June 12:

1 SPAIN – 326 points
2 ITALY – 298
4 RUSSIA - 152
5 ANDORRA – 142
6 GERMANY - 92
7 FRANCE – 86

The men’s race was dominated by the Italians, smothering the podium with Urban Zemmer, Marco De Gasperi and Nicola Golinelli going 1st 2nd 3rd. Zemmer set a course record, covering the 3.6k and 1k vert gain in 35:43.

A course record occurred in the women’s race, as well, as Spain’s “new skyrunning promise” Laura Orgue went 44:01. Oihana Kortazar and Corine Favre, women’s Skyrunning regulars (Kortazar the 2011 women’s series champion) finished 2nd and 3rd.

Ranking after the European Skyrunning Championships del Puig Campana:

1 ITALY – 630 points
2 SPAIN - 628
3 FRANCE – 314
4 ANDORRA - 312
5 RUSSIA – 238
7 GERMANY – 88

Italy and Spain certainly have asserted their dominance in this style of racing. The battle among Kilian Jornet, De Gasperi and 2011 Skyrunning Series Champ Luis Hernando at the recent Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon/Skyrunner SuperCup, along with the scuffles at Giir di Mont and Sierre Zinal between Jornet and De Gasperi, remind us of this year long supremacy. As the European cold sets-in, allow us to tip our hat to the magnificent racing that took place in this epic series and look forward to 2012. Stay tuned!

Now just a few quick remarks about some of the domestic professional trail: For the foreseeable future I see Max King and Dakota Jones dominating their respective schedules. No need to explain my King hypothesis. He is the U.S. and mountain running world champ, and owns his USATF “jurisdiction.” I’m interested to see how he’ll fair in more ultra events and whether or not he’ll take a few deeper cuts at races on the Skyrunning calendar, going head-to-head with those guys, and even getting to the start of Pikes Peak with some timely fitness. This guy is young and has barrels of talent.

That last sentence can also be used to describe Dakota Jones. Here’s another guy, like Nick Pedatella, for whom I could make a case for UROY. He ends-up a little light on the typical criteria, but I say, what the hell: if the award is truly up for grabs, then let’s say he has a shot and that TNFEC San Francisco championship has much to say about that recognition.

Look at this Ultra Sign-up card for a glance at this 20 year-old’s 2011 results. To make a long story short, he was 2nd at the disturbingly difficult 2011 HR100, beat some stiff competition at both Moab’s Red Hot 50, and the Pocatello 50, and was 17th at Sierre Zinal. That last one (definitely not an ultra) is really impressive, in my humble opinion, in terms of this guy’s potential.

Of course he just beat Mackey’s R2R2R FKT. His write-up is great. I think it gives a nod to the entire sport of ultra running in that IF more and more talented runners entire the fray, records (FKT) will drop accordingly.

I will have more to say about Jones in an upcoming column that previews the San Francisco ultra mayhem. With his GC exploits, Jones is a clear favorite (recall he was off the front for much of the race last year before being swallowed-up by some of the sport’s bests). But I will leave you with a reminder to keep an eye on Mr. Geoff Roes’ blog. There is a direct correlation between his writing and running. He is loving life, if you ask me. Which could be terrifying for any ultra running peloton.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Road (Ultra) Not Taken

Here is an article I wrote and published for Inside Trail, which I put on the older IT blog that is alive and well.
Any commentary will be published on both blogs.

An interesting weekend of racing, so more commentary coming up. . .

What draws you to the trail? The fresh air, the mountains, the night sky chalk full of stars? Are much of your thoughts (conscious or not) consumed by a particular mountain? Why? What draws you to the trail?

Following a younger life of intensely competitive sports, I started triathlon back in 2002-ish, then decided to just run, did some road stuff, waddled my way to a 1:30 half marry, got hurt and ended-up on the trail. For good. Discovering the mature trail/mountain running culture was a little mind-blowing. Running up and down mountain trails seemed so logical. But why? It's not that way for everyone, as you all know. In my case, the appeal started when I was a kid. A few church camping trips turned into more camping trips. Then I joined the Boy Scouts. We hiked the Grand Canyon 2-3 times, hiked the Onion Valley to Mount Whitney route, consisting of about 5 x 10 miles a day, topping out at about 14,500ft. We had numerous other trail adventures to solidify my "natural" appreciation for the wild. But that's just me.

What draws YOU to the trail? Do you feel like you possess a particular mountain, or ever feel like a mountain possesses you? I am reading a book right now, Mountains of the Mind, by Robert Macfarlane, that explores this concept. After all, the author reminds us, they're just rock and dirt and ice. What is so alluring about that? The book's argument explains that we have made the mountain meaningful through our own perception; we've infused massive rock formations with parts of our imagination. That's what makes them, makes the trail, so captivating, which has been enough to die for. I can more or less trace my own life's meaningful relationship to the trail and mountain. Macfarlane and others have traced the relationship in much broader strokes. His study begins in 1624. George Mallory's letters to his wife Ruth during a 1921 reconnaissance expedition to Everest are certainly part of Macfarlane's proof. One particular day started at 3:15am and finished at 8pm. The men climbed across miles of glacial ice and rock, witnessed massive breakages of ice, the men transfixed by the scenery that would surround Mallory's death three years later. He ended this particular day writing a letter to Ruth, describing the day's exploits and saying at one point, "Everest has the most steep ridges and appalling precipices that I have ever seen. My darling . . .I can't tell you how it possesses me."

Indeed, this is a story about humanity. This story of trail and mountain obsession has no borders or boundaries, no particular citizenship; it discriminates not at all. Likewise, trail running and racing is about the human condition, and we have talked a lot about the international ultra and mountain running culture (that has been around for a long time). I have gone out of my way to make a case for the most recent wave of international competition that is taking place, especially in big events, the ones most of us eagerly anticipate, and follow, where most likely the various established trail and ultra media outlets are perched and ready to tweet.

So how long has this popular sport of American trail and mountain running been around? We know, right away, that the American version of the sport is not very old. In fact, the American trail ultra is a fairly new phenomenon. That's what I want to explore here in the rest of this article and perhaps more in the ensuing discussions. What prompted the collective move to the trail in this country for ultra racing? In terms of American off-road racing, everything else we've all been talking about - increased corporate sponsorship, international competition, awards and championships, governing bodies - is a corollary to what is happening at the most basic cultural level. Specifically, what prompted the move to the trail?

To be honest, the Chicago Lakefront 50 and reference to Bruce Fordyce's world record there in 1984 got me thinking about the road versus trail culture and the fact that in all of these discussions of the best ultra runners, etc., the road ultra (what's seemingly still breathing) is severely subordinate to the trail and mountain ultra in the public's perception. I wasn't compelled to undertake a significant research project, but I thought I'd do a little poking around to learn more about the road ultra. Besides, I had wondered why there aren't more road ultras that at least make the "headlines," the discussions "we" all have.

Again, I'm talking primarily American, specifically north American. There doesn't seem much to deny this trend. You have to find this a little puzzling, don't you? Unless you're resigned to say that money is the root of all evil ;)
The road up until the 1990s seemed to dominate much of the North American ultra race calendar. That's interesting. Just looking at the records compiled by UltraRunning Magazine for each of the popular ultramarathon distances creates a pretty clear chart of the popular American ultra running culture. The 100 mile records for men and women were set in 1997 (Andy Jones 12:05) and 1991 (Ann Trason 13:47). The 100k records for men and women were set in 1995 (Tom Johnson 6:30) and 1996 (Trason 7:00). 50 mile records were set in 1980 (Barney Klecker 4:51) and 1991 (Trason 5:40) and 50k records were set in 2011 (Josh Cox 2:43, which broke a 35 year-old record) and 1983 (Janis Klecker 3:13). By the way, I am aware that the magazine refers to these numbers as "bests," and that I have only included the more typical ultramarathon distances that we see on the "race calendars.

Most accounts I've heard suggest that as the trail began to see more race organization (we might just say as a general growth in the sport), runners almost immediately made the migration and the road ultra was soon left to wallow in the mountain trail's shadow. Amongst the fairly constant off-road chatter, I have heard fans practically yearn for a designed return to more road ultras on the premise that this surface facilitates a more even playing field, a better test of sheer running speed and endurance. The mountain or trail, as the argument goes, integrates other variables that benefit certain kinds of runners and vice versa. I suppose one could simply point to Josh Cox's 2011 50k "best" to suggest that more of these records would fall if the track stars and marathoners would line-up to take a shot at a few of these long-standing records. But the money is at the 26.2 distance and below. Be that as it may, money or no money, if someone mentions the word ultra these days, he/she almost certainly is referring to a mountain/trail ultra.

Race directors can certainly comment on the inherent cost of road race logistics. Population and sport growth make this kind of event very costly. Imagine organizing a 100 mile road race in and around even a smaller to medium-sized U.S. city. Given that so many people are riding the wave of ultra marathoning, a company would need to block traffic for upwards of 30 hours; police costs alone could apparently exceed $200,000. Is this logistical and financial difficultly what pushed ultra racing off-road? Or was the migration more meaningful, calling to mind a genuine love and (now trendy) appreciation for the environment? No doubt, the pull of the mountain is for real and people have been getting pulled to its bosom for generations.

So, back to the original question: What draws you to the trail? This has to be one of the more interesting questions posed to a demographic getting abused daily by a mountainous addiction. Secondly, what happened to American ultra racing that it so definitively moved from the road to the trail about 20-25 years ago? The mountain and trail has captured our collective human imaginations for centuries. The mountain and trail ultra race seems to have captured our American imagination for a better part of a quarter of a century. Is the story not quite that simple? Am I overlooking some significant pieces to this puzzle? Sure. But often a mere glance is enough to give one a sense of what is happening, even at a deeper level.

Friday, November 4, 2011


New month and a kind of freshness to the air. The running is getting consistent. Work has been really busy, so I've really gotten in only about 30-45 minutes a day. Although this usually includes some climbing, these short runs don't leave me feeling like I'm really getting much work done. Then upon waking-up in the morning, I feel great and can sense the consistency is working.

Read some interesting thoughts on training from the Fellrunr wiki page. I was falling asleep reading it, but the idea that the long run is for endurance and the short speed work is for aerobic fitness sounds like the usual drink but with a strong twist. I've been doing some shorter harder efforts here and there. And looking to get longer on the weekends. This should be a good general schedule: get it where I can during the week and longer on the weekend. Sounds really original:)

On the Inside Trail front, I am going to curate the blog and Tim is going to work on the website he built with his friend, TimS.

I wish him well.

It's San Diego Beer Week!

You know what that means.