Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 JFK 50 Mile

The start in Boonsboro, Maryland of the 51st annual JFK 50 Mile.

Enthusiasts call it "38 Special."  Others have dubbed it "Mondel's."  The official JFK 50 Mile course material calls the aid station at 38.4 miles "Taylor's Landing."  The name doesn't really matter, but it's what happens there that is of most runners' concern.  It's an idyllic spot.  You're on the banks of the Potomac River, the Canal towpath is split into two seamless single tracks by a ribbon of green, mid-road grass, and historic stone houses line the road opposite the dry C&O Canal.  However, like at the Battle at Antietam, which occurred a few miles away and more than 150 years earlier, this is where the shit goes down at JFK.  Potential front runners must make a gut check:  Push with all they have to maintain their top standing or watch their position slide quickly to hungry pursuers.  Middle-of-the-packers assess the bodily damage they've incurred over the previous wild and rugged miles of Appalachian Trail and endless, repetitive towpath.  Back-of-the-pack runners can not dally either or they risk not making the 5pm cut-off at Dam #4 less than 3.5 miles away.

Not until I reach "38 Special" do I want to know where I am in the field or what my splits are.  I've run enough JFK's to know that you can have an excellent 38.4 miles (PR potential stuff) only to have a brutal final 11.8 (see walking).  On the other hand, a rugged to mediocre first 38 can still be salvaged so that you end your race decently (relative to other runners).  

After 20 starts and 19 finishes JFK has never been the same race for me.  The weather, competition, and my own personal circumstances always see to that.  Two decades is long time.  Did I drive over in the morning from my mother's house in Gaithersburg, MD, am I fresh off the plane from Vegas, Moab, Seattle, or Ashland, or did I just roll into Hagerstown from Flagstaff in my pick-up?  Did I just spend the last month slinging packages for UPS, was I working the previous eight days in the Canyonlands National Park backcountry, was I at another race two weeks earlier promoting a new trail shoe, or will I be scanning the results after I finish trying to locate the athletes I helped get to the starting line?

Who knows from which direction I'll come in 2014.  But I'll tell you this:  I'll be at that starting line next November in Boonsboro going for my 20th JFK 50 Mile finish.

2013 photos by Geoffrey Baker.

2013 photos from the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

Who's legs' are those?  (left to right) Iain Ridgeway, Matt Flaherty, Tina Husted, and Ian Torrence

Dropping into Gathland Gap (mile 9.3)

Rock dancing on the Appalachian Trail

Emily Harrison leading the women's race on the C&O Canal.

Passing through Antietam aid station at mile 27.1 (Thanks Steve Itano for the photo).

Catching some fluids at "38 Special."

My training partner and confidante, Emily Harrison, wins the 2013 JFK 50 Mile and receives kudos from race director Mike Spinnler. 

Finishing number 19 in 6:44:54

My 19th pat on the back from Pink.

A few of the top men's JFK blog posts:

Your Moment of Zen

Paramount JFK training:  VO2 max and "the urge to regurge" practice at the 2013 Flagstaff High Altitude Beer Mile.  Trying my damnedest here to outdrink Olympian Andrew Lemoncello and 2x Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier Ben Rosario.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Your Ultra-Running Bag Of Tricks: Troubleshooting on the Run

Your Ultra-Running Bag Of Tricks:  Troubleshooting on the Run, 
Parts One, Two & Three:

In this three part series I cover the most commonly asked questions and issues that both newbie and veteran ultrarunners encounter during competition. Though many of the answers and remedies are well known to most, we often fail to implement them. Use these reminders to help you avoid race-day glitches.

Part 1:  Fighting your stomach, dizziness, fatigue, cramping, leg soreness, race-day weather, getting lost, and pre-race day illness.
Part 2:  Foot issues, chaffing, lights, litter, and race-day diarrhea.

Part 3:  Missing your crew, equipment malfunction, potty stops, wildlife encounters, and knowing when enough is enough.

All the best to you on race day!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Inaugural Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Mile Ultra & Relay

The name can barely be said in one breath, but over the past few months it's title morphed to the shortened moniker we use today, the "Stagecoach 100 Mile."  However, I've personally dubbed it "The Race That Almost Didn't Happen."  Thanks to disagreements in Washington an extra layer of stress was thrown on my shoulders as race day neared.  As the shutdown grew in length, the chances of having this inaugural event dwindled.  I scrambled to put together a Plan "B" on private Babbitt Ranch land, but the logistics involved in pulling off an entirely different 100 mile course in less than a week's time was mind blowing and, as I quickly learned, down right impossible.  Timing worked out, folks came to their senses, and our event was finally a go.  The Coconino and Kaibab National Forests stepped up to the plate and delivered our permit as runners checked-in at the Hotshots Ranch on Saturday morning.

Like I mentioned in a Facebook post a few days after race weekend, over 100 volunteers stepped up and delivered on race day.  Without them, this event would not have been as successful as it was.  Special thanks to the Coconino Amateur Radio Club and Coconino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue for keeping us all safe.  I owe much to an awesome race management team.  Joel Axler, Scott Bajer, Emily Harrison, and Ludo Pierson were the glue that kept the event and race director together.  Tom Wilson, the American Conservation Experience's liaison, drove more than 700 miles on back country dirt roads delivering port-a-johns and assembling and preparing four aid station teams.  Bill Cordasco, from Babbitt Ranch, supplied precious course recon, awards, and aid station support.  Neil Weintraub, with the Kaibab National Forest, facilitated our communications with both the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests and operated the remote Moqui Stage Aid Station.  Matt Nelson, the Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association, was instrumental in saving this race huge costs, promoting the event, and providing crucial supplies.  All of these peeps were tied to this race deeply and emotionally.  They all volunteered their time on race weekend and clambered to solve the myriad of issues that any first year event would have.

It is because of this dedication and passion that I suspect the Stagecoach will only grow in numbers and reputation as the next few years come to pass.  We learned much in year one.  We'll apply these ideas to year two.  We thank all the runners, volunteers, crews, pacers, and spectators for participating in our first run.  I know the event was a success, simply due to the fact that I can't wait for next year!

Here, I'll let the 2013 Stagecoach play out in photos and video.  Thanks to Kristin Wilson for this wonderful array you're about to witness.

Relay teams and solo runners complete race day check-in.

California's Tamara Johnson and Ann Trason pass the final moments with discussion.

Final instructions.

Matt Nelson promotes the Arizona Trail and gives thanks to the US Forest Service and Babbitt Ranch.

Your 2013 Stagecoach 100 Mile soloist pose before the start.

Only seconds before the 100 mile runners set off.

The relay teams started 10 minutes later.

I have to admit that holding and firing the starter gun was fun!

Dominick Totino, Suzanna Bon, and Stew Kelly descend from Aspen Corners.

The lead pack (Chris Westerman, Michael Versteeg, Brian Tinder)  runs into The Hart Prairie Preserve aid station.

Colorado's Jon Clinthorne

Eventual winner Michael Versteeg

Chris Westerman dons war paint.

Team Localeikki's first leg runner, Greg McMillan passes under Mt. Humphrey's.

Red Rock Running Company and Flagstaff High School Cross Country tag team aid station duties.

Keith Rusin and Eric Clifton

Eventual runner-up Bret Sarnquist

Flagstaff's Mark Thurston treads over familiar territory.

Dominick Totino likes what he sees.

Runner-up Maggie Beach is smiles.

Montana's Emily Judd and FranZelenitz

100 mile newbie David Martin.

Team J.E.L.L.'s Leslie Grabel and 100 mile runner Ann Trason share trail time.

100 mile extraodinare Dan Brenden

Oregon's Carrie Brant and Frank Page

Sunset at Cedar Ranch aid station

Moonrise on Babbitt Ranch

Clinthorne embarks on some night mileage.

Bonfires were a hit.

Looking down on runners from the Grandview Fire Tower.

Maggie Beach is all waves and smiles.

Arne Ceramic Pottery for relay team finishers.

Buckles to the 100 mile finishers.

Shea Tinder from Tinder Touch Massage works on a familiar patron.

Some of American Conservation Experience's relay team chill at the finish line.

The Arizona Trail Association's lead force Matt Nelson works the finish line booth.

Post-race recovery.

Men's winner Michael Versteeg.  Winning time: 17:41

Women's winner Suzanna Bon.  Winning time:  21:01

Suzanna sums up her weekend,

"A few tidbits of my experiences at each a/s 

The Nature Conservancy- cross country girls- eagerness and smiles

Cedar Ranch- apologizes for baring my butt and thanks for the warmest welcome 
ever, at any aid station

Tub Ranch-broth and quesadillas, more smiles 

Dirt Tank- thanks to the sweet girl who helped me with the strap to my headlamp 
and sorry for being cranky!

Tub Tank- isolated and cold- I hope those dudes stayed warm

Boundary- the best custom pb&j made by a very hospital guy with a cool accent

Moqui- luminarias, jack-o-lantern, explanation of the historical significance of 
the site in relation to the stagecoach route and some awesome homemade caramel 
brownies, warm encouragment

Russell Tank-  man I wanted one of those PBRs but settled for a turkey and 
potato quesadilla that really hit the spot

Hull- feeling kind of sad on that descent knowing I'd have to climb back up but 
appreciated the great service while I was there

Watson- the sweet kid dug into her private stash of tootsie rolls cuz nothing 
else sounded good

Reed Tank- 'just a walk in the park from here'... 

Finish- personalized blister care, awesome massage, some fine beer and of course 
exceptional company.

After 6 years I took my Angeles Crest buckle off my belt and replaced it with my 
shiny new Stagecoach Line."

Colorado's David & Carey Martin take home their first 100 mile buckle.  I enjoy seeing first-timers getting it done!

And Finally, Your Moment of Zen

 Stagecoach 100 Mile race management:  (left to right) Emily Harrison, Ian Torrence, Joel Axler, Ludo Pierson, Scott Bajer.  Zoroaster and Bee played supporting roles.  Thanks you all!