Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks: Two-A-Days

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks:  Two-A-Days

In this month's irunfar column, discover if two-a-day runs are right for you and how to properly implement them in your training schedule.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 2012 JFK 50 Mile: 50 Years of Ultrarunning History

I get asked this a lot:  Ian, why do you always return to JFK?  Frankly, this is the best way I can explain it.  In 1994 I picked my first ultra and the ultra I chose would rise like no other.  By pure happenstance I was laid comfortably in the arms of the JFK 50 Mile, one of the biggest, most competitive ultras in North America.  Do well at this race and you're golden.  Need an entry to Western States, need a qualifier to join the National 100K Team, need a shoe sponsor, or points for your Ultrarunner of the Year vote:  run JFK.  Do well and JFK will provide.  It wasn't always like this...

When I ran JFK for the first time you could have strolled down to Boonsboro High School on race day morning and entered the race for $100.  A hefty price back then, but totally reasonable now-a-days.  Today there's a lottery and it's tough to get in.  In my newbie ultra experience my ultrarunning hero, Eric Clifton (who would never gain a shoe sponsorship), would set a course record that would stand for 17 years!  Those that finished behind him that year were no joke either:  Carl Anderson (Ann Trason's husband and long time record holder of the Quad Dipsea), Mike Morton (Western States winner and 24-hour American Record...need I say more), David Horton (hello Trans Am, AT, and PCT), Tom Rogozinski (the youngest Trans Am finisher at 22 yrs.), Courtney Campbell (who would go on to win the 1999 JFK), Frank Bozanich (again, please don't even ask, so many American and course records it's dizzying), Barry Lewis (this guy has done it all successfully), Hinte, Lieb, Drach, Canadian Michalack, Zaruba, and Shilling (hey, why not win the Speedgoat 50K 16 years later).  Multiple top-ten finisher Carolyn Showalter (please look at this JFK rap sheet) would win the women's race in under 8 hours that year.  This would be my introduction to ultrarunning...and after that race I would clearly never be able to get enough.

So, yes, my annual pilgrimage occurred once again this year.  No matter where I'm living, what I'm doing, how good or bad I feel I've been lucky enough to make it to Boonsboro for each of the past 19 JFK 50 Mile races.  This year produced my 18th finish and my 14th sub-7 hour performance.  I'm proud of this and I'll have no problem blurting that statistic out while out on the town.  However, what makes the event, for me, is my innate ability in wrangling a handful of unsuspecting compadres into meeting me at that start line in western Maryland.  I promise them a glorious experience along the Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal, some of the finest rolling backroads Maryland has to offer, the largest and one of the most competitive fields in North American ultrarunning, but, most importantly, a chance to become part of ultrarunning history!  JFK has never disappointed and this year would be no different.  Course records would fall on the men's and women's sides.  Names like Ellie Greenwood, Max King, Trent Briney, and Emily Harrison would now forever ring in the ears of anyone and everyone who breaths ultrarunning.   Per usual, the weather would prove ideal and 967 runners would successfully find the finish line in Willamsport, MD.

So, Ian, why do you always return to JFK?  My answer:  Quite's a different race every year and I have fun being a part of it.

The amazingly fast 2012 race results can be found here.

Fellow masters ultrarunner (I love that I can say this now) Andy Jones Wilkins quizzed me on my latest finish.  Find that Inspired Stubbornness interview here on

You know the drill...the rest of the story follows in pictures (photo credits to the David Riddle family, Ray Jackson Jr., Jo Weakley Agnew, and Geoffrey Baker Photography):

Pre-race dinner with those I roped in to joining me in Maryland:  Josh Brimhall, Shad Mickelberry, and Emily Harrison.

Seconds before the start...No problem, I'll be the only one faced in the other direction.

And they are off...

Running through downtown Boonsboro.

Zach Gingrich, Josh Brimhall, and Trent Briney (2nd place overall) on the early miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Doing my thing on the AT.

Josh and Emily hit the pads in Weverton in 1:57.

Passing through Weverton aid station.

Max King (winner and new course record holder) rolling on the Canal.

Doing my thing on the Canal.

Ellie Greenwood wins, sets a new course record, and high fives her crew chief, David Horton (see above), in the JFK finish chute.

Two class acts (Greenwood and Harrison) congratulate each other upon finishing and running the two fastest JFK's ever.

Congratulating Blake Benke on his 12th JFK finish.

These ladies ain't no joke.

Your Moment of Zen

She so wanted to run with.  Don't worry Z I'll get you one of those orange vests so you can pace me next year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks: Altitude Training and Racing

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks: Altitude Training and Racing:  
Learn a little about what happens to your body when you go up in elevation and understand how to best prepare yourself to compete in thinner air in my next training column.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Inaugural Mt. Taylor 50K

Stratovolcanoes are lumbering hulks; steep-sided cones made of lava, ash, and cinder that jut from the surrounding landscape.  Depending from where you come they are objects of myth, threatening giants, and the most charismatic of mountains.  The more popular that come to mind are Mount Fuji, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier,  Mount Cotopaxi, and Mount Kilimanjaro.  The stratovolcanoes of the Four Corners region have their own style.  Though they still rise defiantly from the surrounding deserts, they have already blown their tops, spent the last of their fiery breath, and have relented to pine forests, aspen stands, and wide open grassy expanses.  12,637' Humphreys Peak (which watches over my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ) is a classic example of this.  Western New Mexico's 11,305' Mt. Taylor is another stratovolcano I've admired from afar on trips across the west on Interstate 40.  It sits close enough to see from the car window, but just a tad too far off the beaten path for an exploration detour.  When I saw the inaugural Mt. Taylor 50K "pop" up I thought this would be an excellent excuse to bag a peak, explore new trails, and get in some solid miles with some friends.  

Mount Taylor's high ground with La Mosca Lookout on the right.

Quite simply the race was a blast.  It was a race born by ultrarunners for ultrarunners.  You could see this in the race's energy, course markings, the aid stations, and the finish line buffet and awards.  The race course wasn't a joke either:  The lowest elevation of race sat at 9,000', the high point at Mt. Taylor's summit (~11,300'), and there was more than 6,500' of elevation gain.  The course threw the gamut at the runners:  Technical single track, both smooth and rocky dirt Forest Service roads, and steep climbs and descents.  The scenery was worth the trip alone.  Here are some of my favorite shots taken by Danny Messex and Paul Gordon.  If you're an ultrarunner add this one to your "to do list."

The pre-dawn start.

The first 1,500' climb to La Mosca Lookout.

Nearing the top of the steep climb (near mile 2.5).

Finding my groove while churning through Spud Patch near mile 10.

Arches of aspen.

Cloud formations and hundreds of miles of New Mexico vistas.

The slopes of gold.

The author ascending, at a snail's pace, Mt. Taylor near mile 23.

Single track & switchbacks.

Looking back down along the course.

The summit and high point of the course.

Looking down into Water Canyon and the old caldera of Mt. Taylor.

Sweeping, steep grasslands on the mountain's slopes.

Katie Arnold from Santa Fe, NM won the women's race in 5:22:43.

Shaun Martin, of Chinle, AZ, won the men's race in 4:17:26.  Read an excellent story about him in Trailrunner Magazine here.

Your Moment of Zen

The Mt Taylor 50K benefitted the Nideiltihi Native Elite Runnersa volunteer-driven nonprofit organization, whose mission is to foster Native American Indian distance runners, in the Four Corners states, to represent the USA in national road and track competitions.  I had the privilege of working closely with this group while directing the 2012 adidas-McMillanElite High School Running Camp so it was special to be involved again, even on a small level, while running on the shoulders of Mt. Taylor.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks: Recovery

Another column, this time I cover recovery after those tough workouts, races, and blocks of training.  Read about it here.  Cheers!  Ian

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moab's Alpine to Slickrock 50 Mile

After a two year hiatus race director and good friend Chris Martinez (who also brings you the Moab Red Hot 33K and 55K in February) brought back his Alpine to Slickrock 50 Mile.  When asked to describe the course ultrarunner extraordinaire Roch Horton quipped, "It's like a baby Hardrock."  With 12,000' of total gain, a net loss, two passes over 11,000', and trail pitches that leave you gasping for breath and your hands on your knees you'll be thankful that 50 miles is the order of the day instead of a full 100.  Starting fields are low for this event (31 starters this year), but once the word gets out the registration list is bound to grow.  It's a race not to be missed...a classic for sure!

The setting for the newly revived Moab Alpine to Slickrock (MAS) 50 Mile.  12,000' peaks, golden aspen, alpine lakes, and Moab's crimson slickrock.

The La Sal Mountains as seen from Arches National Park (photo courtesy of  The MAS 50 Mile course wraps around these peaks and then finishes among the sandstone on the outskirts of Moab, Utah.

The race's first climb on the Pack Creek Trail (~ mile 5).  (photo by Chris Gerber)

Melissa Beaury (the women's winner) on the Squaw Springs Trail (~mile 12).

Aspen along Geyser Pass Road (~ mile 13).

The author on the single track through Moonlight Meadows at 10,000' and mile 20.

The steep climb to Burro Pass (11,000') near mile 23.

The welcoming waters of Warner Lake; the half-way point. (photo by Guy Schmickle)

The descent towards Moab on the Porcupine Rim Trail with the La Sals in the background, near mile 34.  (photo by Nathan Telschow)

Rock hoodoos along the Sand Flats Road, still descending towards Moab (~ mile 37).

On the Sand Flats Road a few miles from the finish line.  One can now get an excellent sense of just how far we have travelled.  Alpine to slickrock...

The finish line setting.

Win number 51 and Leadville redemption.  Not gonna felt good!

Torrence and Beaury chat about the day's race at the finish line.  Full race results can be found here.

Your Moment of Zen

It's a common jest among ultrarunners that after having a bad race or workout we vow to give up our running shoes for greener pastures, like speed Jenga, co-ed naked badminton, or beer pong.  I definitely gave this some thought after Leadville.  I experimented with HAHHA (High Altitude Hula Hooping Association).  Here I am with Angela Gavelli and Brian Tinder and soon found that, yes, my hips still do gyrate, but it wasn't easy.  Gonna stick to running for a while longer.