Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Race Report: SOS4Kids

Sorry for the delay--this race took place over three months ago--but the munchkins take over the blog again to bring you their latest report:

This was the second triathlon I've done.  This was my first triathlon.  I ran / swam / biked a greater distance than she did. I swam eight laps, ran one mile, and biked four miles, and then ran another quarter of a mile.  I swam four laps, then ran half a mile, biked two miles, and then ran another quarter of a mile.  When I was at the first running part, a lot of stuff hurt, but only a little. However, when I got to the biking part, my legs started hurting a lot.  In the biking part of the race, I was kind of annoyed because I didn't have gears and I'm pretty sure that everyone else did.  During the bike, I felt like I had missed the turn around, because all of the uphills and downhills made the whole race seem a lot longer. I won a silver medal in my age group.  I was feeling great at the end of the race. I won a third place medal in my age group.

-Lexi and Dylan

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ultrarunner of the Year: My Ballot

This was the second time I was asked to vote for Ultrarunning magazine's Ultrarunner of the Year award, and I found this time around much harder than the first.  The men's and women's UROY were pretty obvious choices, but beyond that, narrowing down the rest of the top ten was exceedingly difficult.  Not to mention parsing the myriad fantastic races run this year to come up with the five best Performances of the Year.  And of course, just when I had settled on just about everything, last weekend happened and OH MY GOD.  It was pretty much back to the drawing board Monday morning.

One thing that made it a bit easier--or maybe harder?--was that for the first time, we were explicitly instructed by the powers-that-be that Fastest Known Time performances (FKTs) were not to be considered among the criteria for deciding UROY or POY.  This meant that several of the top contenders for POY, particularly on the men's side--Jim Walmsley's incredible R2R2R FKT, Pete Kostelnick's amazing transcontinental record, Karl Meltzer's FKT on the venerable Appalachian Trail, Jacob Puzey's 50 mile treadmill WR--were all out.  (For me, that effectively took Pete and Karl out of the running for UROY as well, though it didn't effect Jim's candidacy at all.)

There are about thirty voters, and the results are still being tabulated; the final results will be released on the Ultrarunning website starting in about a week.  For what it's worth, here are my picks.

Women's UROY
1. Kaci Lickteig
2. Magdalena Boulet
3. Caroline Boller
4. Courtney Dauwalter
5. Sarah Bard
6. Amy Sproston
7. Camille Herron
8. Maggie Guterl
9. Hillary Allen
10. Darcy Piceu

I found this category to be the toughest of all to compile my ballot.  This past weekend made it almost impossible; after Kaci, who was untouchable in 2016, I agonized over just about every spot on this list.  Toughest omissions for me: Katalin Nagy, Pam Smith, Gina Slaby, Devon Yanko, YiOu Wang, Jenny Hoffman, and Alissa St. Laurent.

Women's Performance of the Year
1. Gina Slaby, 100mi WR at Desert Solstice
2. Caroline Boller, 50mi trail world best at Brazos Bend
3. Katalin Nagy, dominant repeat win at Spartathlon
4. Sarah Bard, fourth place at Comrades
5. Hillary Allen, win at Cortina Trail ultramarathon

Felt like maybe I made up a bit here for leaving Gina and Katalin off the UROY ballot.  Tough to leave off Maggie's 100mi performance at Brazos Bend last weekend, Kaci's dominant win at Western States, and Cassie Scallon's course record at Bandera.

Women's Age Group Performance of the Year
1. Meghan Arbogast (55 years old), 100K age group WR at IAU World Championships
2. Meghan again, sixth place at Western States
3. Connie Gardner (52), win at Mohican 100
4. Beverly Anderson-Abbs (52), win (3:48) at Jed Smith 50K
5. Debra Horn (52), 170 miles in 48 hours (and the win) at Across the Years

Meghan's world age group record was an easy choice for me here, though I continue to have difficulty evaluating all of these performances across different age groups.

Men's UROY
1. Jim Walmsley
2. Jeff Browning
3. Zach Miller
4. Alex Nichols
5. Ian Sharman
6. Hayden Hawks
7. Dylan Bowman
8. Cody Reed
9. Brian Rusiecki
10. Andrew Miller

Just like for the women, Jim was an easy pick for the top spot; I'd honestly be a little surprised if he doesn't win unanimously.  And, just like the women, the next nine spots were a nightmare.  Almost too many difficult omissions to count; the toughest: Zach Bitter, Dave Laney, David Riddle, David Roche, Paddy O'Leary, Chase Nowak, Patrick Regan, Tim Tollefson, and Aaron Saft.

Men's Performance of the Year
1. Zach Bitter, 100mi American Record at 2015 Desert Solstice
2. Jim Walmsley, course record at JFK
3. Jim Walmsley at Western States
4. Tony Migliozzi, repeat winner at IAU 50K world championship
5. Tim Tollefson, third place at UTMB

Honestly, this was even harder than the women's POY for me.  Trying to choose between Walmsley course records was a thankless task; JFK got the nod given the history of the race, the number of legends who have taken on that course, and the fact that no one is within two fucking miles of that performance.  I couldn't leave off Jim's race at States either, which was the single most talked-about performance of the year, and the most dominant display that I've ever seen.  It may not be fair, but that's my vote.  I do hope Zach winds up winning this; it's unfair that people have kind of forgotten about DS last year, which was too late for 2015 voting.  Toughest omissions here were Zach Miller's crazy battle and win over Hayden Hawks at North Face, Jim at Bandera, Jim at Sonoma, Jason Schlarb at Hardrock, Geoff Burns' 6:30 100K at Mad City, and Patrick Regan's third place finish at IAU 100K worlds.

Men's Age Group Performance of the Year
1. David Jones (65 years old!), 17:34 100 mile at Tunnel Hill
2. Rich Hanna (51), age group national record (3:17) at Jed Smith 50K
3. Jean Pommier (52), 3:18 at Caumsett 50K
4. Ed Ettinghausen (57), 270 miles in 72 hours at Beyond Limits
5. Roger Jensen (66), 7:59 for 50 miles at JFK

You really could make an argument for any of these to be at the top of the list for me, and I wouldn't disagree with you.

So there you go.  Feel free to tell me what an idiot I am.  If you do, though, you must vote for me for Run Ultra's Blogger of the Year.  If you vote, you can go to the comments and call me whatever names you want.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Importance of Being a Furnace*

"If the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn, even Big Macs."

"And too, there were the questions: What did he eat?  Did he believe in isometrics?  Isotonics?  Ice and heat?  How about aerobic, est, ESP, STP?  What did he have to say about yoga, yogurt, Yogi Berra?  What was his pulse rate, his blood pressure, his time for the 100-yard dash?  What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret."

--John L. Parker, Jr.

It seems like I can't escape diets.  Everywhere I look I'm reading about people's diets.  My Facebook feed is full of pictures of what all my ultra running friends are eating.  In interviews, the elite runners I listen to are constantly being asked about their diets.

Why?  Part of it is the American obsession with diet, sure, but it's more than that.  As the sport gets more competitive, we're all looking for an edge; that's part of it too, the hope that we can find an advantage, the secret.  But there's another factor at play, too: it seems like people want to tell other people what they are eating, and why everyone else should eat that way too.  This may be due to the economics of ultra running, still in its infancy as a professional sport for some; sponsorships in many cases are tied to an athlete's social media profile, and all those bloggers need something to write about.  (Guilty as charged.)  And social media by its very nature encourages this sort of food-based voyeurism.  (Though maybe you should stop.)  But there seems to be a proselytizing aspect to it as well, particularly in the ultra world; not only to people want you to know what they're eating, but they  want you to know that you should be eating that way, too!

I'm reminded a bit of the minimalism craze of the late aughts, after Born to Run came out, and everyone wanted to tell you (rather loudly) why you, too, should be running in Vibrams.  The two cases share some similarities.  In both, there is a lot of research out there that can be conflicting and confusing, and the scientific community can't seem to reach a consensus.  Acolytes on all sides of each issue spout one-size-fits-all solutions.  And interestingly, both problems seem like they should have a universal solution.  I mean, shouldn't there be an ideal diet to optimize performance?  Shouldn't there be an ideal way to run, to minimize injury?

But the fact that so many people are finding success with so many different approaches would imply that there is no universal answer.  There are world-class athletes on paleo/LCHF/OFM diets (Zach Bitter, Jeff Browning, Tim Olson, Nikki Kimball);  on vegetarian diets (Sage Canaday, Scott Jurek, Mike Wardian); on vegan diets (Sandi Nypaver, Yassine Diboun); on gluten-free diets (Devon Yanko); on gluten-free AND vegan diets (Laura Kline, probably some hamsters); on all-fruit diets (Denis Mikhaylove, Mike Arnstein), and everything in between.  I think the common denominator is not what these people are eating, it's that they've all found what works for them.  There are arguments to be made for almost any diet.  We have enough trouble identifying what a healthy diet is for regular people, let alone defining what ultra-endurance athletes should be eating to maximize performance.  The more I read and hear, the more I think that the specifics of what you eat don't matter.  What matters is that you're paying attention to it.  If you are cognizant of what you're putting in your body, of what is does to you, of how it makes you feel and how it affects your performance, you're going to figure out what works for you.  And that's the secret.  That's where the advantage is.

Having said all that, here's what I've been eating.

This is not to say what you should be eating.  I may be a hypocrite, but I'm not going to go on a rant about people telling other people what to eat and then contradict myself two paragraphs later.  (You'll have to wait at least two, three posts for that.)  This is because since I've started to pay attention to my diet, at the beginning of last year, and have found something that, for now, works for me, people have been asking me about it.

At the start of 2015, I started following a low-carb, ketogenic diet.  (I hesitate to say "high fat," because I'm not sure that I'm actually getting the 60-70% of calories from fat that most "experts" would recommend.)  There were several factors in play when making this decision.  Primarily, I wanted to be more mindful of what I was eating, to help control my weight and to aid in performance.  I wasn't overweight by any stretch, but at 5'6", I was having trouble staying under 145 pounds, and wasn't anywhere near the 135-lb race weight from my collegiate days that I thought was most beneficial for my running.  I had done some reading and talked to several people who had experienced success with the diet, and the scientific theory behind it seemed, at least, plausible to me.    And, crucially, (and in contrast to calorie-counting, vegetarianism, fruitarianism, etc.), it seemed like something I could adhere to for an extended period of time.

My experience with the diet mirrored a lot of what I had heard and read.  At first, I felt pretty crummy and my running went in the toilet for about three weeks.  After that I started running normally.  I lost weight and was able to keep it off without starving myself.  And I found in races that my energy levels stayed much more stable, and I was much less prone to "bonking," despite taking in fewer calories than I had previously.

I mentioned it on the blog, and a few people were curious, but then I started running well, and people started to get really curious. ("What was the secret, they wanted to know...")  Some of the more common questions:

Why do you eat that way?  What's the theory behind it?
I've mentioned above why I started with this diet; click the link for a longer discussion of my own personal reasons for the switch.  The science behind a low-carb diet for athletes, which certainly in dispute, makes sense (to me at least) in theory.  For strenuous exercise, the body depends primarily on carbohydrates, and is most efficient at using carbohydrates as fuel.  You can burn fat, but if you eat a standard diet, probably not efficiently enough to use it as a primary fuel source, particularly in races.  Why does this matter?  Well, your body can store about 2000-2500 kcal of carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen).  At about 100 kcal/mile (about what it takes to run a mile, regardless of pace, believe it or not), that means you can go about 20-25 miles before depleting your glycogen and needing to replenish it.  For most exercise, this doesn't matter; you can run a marathon, or close to it, without worrying about taking in too many exogenous calories.  But for an ultra, you'll need a lot of calories, and getting those calories in can be a problem.

The theory behind a low-carb diet is that, over time, if deprived of carbohydrates, the body will actually become more efficient at burning fat--almost as efficient as it is at burning carbohydrates.  And the body stores way, way more calories as fat than it does as carbohydrates, like twenty times more.  The thinking is, if we can tap into those fat stores efficiently, we give the body an alternative fuel sources as races reach beyond the 2-3 hour mark, and decrease our reliance on taking calories in as we run.

Now, whether or not that's true is a matter of great debate.  (As is whether or not eating a low-carb diet is even necessary to become "fat-adapted" in the first place.)  But many athletes have anecdotally reported that they are able to run longer despite taking in fewer calories after switching to the diet.

What do you eat?
This is an easy one because it never really changes.  For breakfast, scrambled eggs with cheese, or an omelette with cheese and tomato, and usually bacon or some meat.  For lunch, a salad with whatever fat or protein I can put on it (cottage cheese, turkey, pork, hard-boiled eggs, etc.).  Dinner is almost invariably some sort of meat dish: chicken with vegetables, steak, burger without a bun.  Lots of vegetables with creamy dressings or dips.  Snacks are nuts (peanuts aren't the best choice, but they're really the only nuts I like) or cheese, maybe some lunch meat.  Dessert is whipped cream.  I mean, like, straight whipped cream, right out of the can.  I can kind of go overboard with it sometimes, but even half a can is less than 20g of carbs, and usually 3-4 mouthfuls will satisfy the sweet cravings.  I drink water and Diet Coke.  Once in a while I'll drink a low-sugar hot chocolate (that's like 4g of carbs).  I know Diet Coke is terrible for me but what else can I do?  I've tried to like coffee and tea so many times and I just can't do it.

How many/few carbs do you eat?
I'm not really sure.  A big part of my success with the diet is not being overly scientific or strict about it.  Many people I know track their carbs obsessively, but I know myself, and if I tried to be anal about it, there's no way I could ever stay with it.  (I downloaded an app to track my different "macros" but had to give up after a day.)  The recommendations I read from Phinney and Volek (which is a very good starting point in my opinion) is less than 50g/day for the first 2-3 weeks, then under 100g/day for "maintenance."  I can say with some confidence that I'm well below those guidelines, but I'm not zero.  If I had to guess, I'm probably usually in the 30-40g/day range.

Were you/are you able to train on that?  Do you use carbs in training or racing?
As I said before, it took me a good 3-4 weeks before I could really train the way I wanted to.  I was able to run mileage without a problem, but any kind of intensity--even just running slowly uphill--was a giant struggle.  This passed after about a month and then I was back to normal in terms of my training.  But it was a frustrating time.

I don't use carbs in training.  Many low-carb athletes do, including Zach Bitter, who uses specific carbs for specific, targeted workouts.  I don't do that for a couple of reasons.  For one, I'm a bit leery of jumping on and off the carbs.  In general, when I've taken a "cheat day" or had a couple of beers, I won't notice any ill effects, but I'd rather not make a habit out of it.  (Plus, if I'm going to have carbs, I want to really glutton it up.  You know, pizza, ice cream, the whole deal.  I'm not wasting carbs on a baked potato.)  Second, I don't like assigning a ton of value to any specific workout, to the point where I feel like I need the carbs to get the workout done.  If the workout doesn't come off like I want it to, so be it.  But mostly I just need to keep this simple.  Complicating it by adding carbs "strategically" is just another barrier to me sticking with it.

I do use carbs in racing, though, as many (if not most) low-carb athletes do.  My general race strategy is, a carbo-load the night before (to top off the glycogen stores); no carbs for breakfast--eggs and meat, as usual--and no carbs for the first hour of the race (usually just water).  After that, anything goes.  Gels still work fine for me, and I'll do some real food at aid stations--banana, PBJ, pretzels, broth, whatever.

I've heard that after you stop eating carbs and sugar, your body doesn't even want it anymore.  Is that true?
Ha.  Hahahahahaha.

Does it really work?
Dunno.  It works for me.

*My apologies to Oscar Wilde.  I wanted a pithy title.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blogger of the Year!

Not to toot my own horn, but...well, yes, to toot my own horn.  I'm very excited (and confused) to announce that I've been shortlisted by RunUltra for their (prestigious?) Blogger of the Year award.

Honestly, this is a great honor, and I'm a bit humbled by my inclusion (though not too humbled; I'm still kind of an insufferable jerk about this sort of thing) on a list of many great blogs which I myself enjoy.  However, I'm certainly not so humbled that I don't want to win!  So if you enjoy my (and Lexi's; this whole blog was her idea) ramblings, please consider voting for me.  It's a little confusing; when you vote, highlight my name/blog, then you have to scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your name and email address.

You can only vote once per email address, and once per computer (or computer user), but if you have multiple users on a computer with separate logins, and/or multiple email addresses, that seems kosher.  So, if you like the blog, please vote.  If you really like it, have your kid/spouse/significant other log on and vote too.  If you love it, vote from your home computer and your work computer.  If you really love it, vote from the computer of the guy who sits next to you at work, then go to your local library on the way home and vote there.

In case you didn't get the hint above, here's the link to vote.

Thanks for the support.  I know you always laugh at actors when they say about an Oscar, "Just being nominated is an honor," but that's actually true, and it's just nice to be recognized among the many other great ultrarunning blogs out there.  But winning is nice too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fall Racing Recap

Just a quick post to let you know what I've been up to...

Following the North Coast 24 hour, it took nearly a week for the swelling to subside enough to see my ankles again, and another week of sore, easy jogging until I started feeling somewhat back to normal.  Within a couple of weeks, though, I was back on the track, helping Laura prepare for her crack at TNF, and starting to feel pretty good.  With some low-key local events offering a nice opportunity to socialize with friends and training partners, I put together a small fall season to keep myself fresh and engaged in preparation for my next big outing.

Dr. Mike's Doggie Duathlon
photo: Michele Halstead
First up was the inaugural Dr. Mike Doggie Duathlon.  Dr. Mike is one of my great friends and training buddies, and a true legend of the local triathlon scene; he is a multiple-time USAT All-America and has been ranked #1 nationally in his age group.   For the past several years Mike has battled MS, though it hasn't been much of a fight; he basically did not let it slow him down at all, and if anything has actually gotten a bit faster, at least in the running discipline.  Mike put in a great winter of training and was in great shape heading into the spring, only to be blindsided with a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma.  He's battled on and appears to be making great headway, and is still in great shape; I run with him at least twice a week, and he hasn't lost a step despite surgery and chemotherapy.  So this duathlon was a great celebration of Mike and his incredible spirit and determination, as well as a fundraiser for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

My plan was to tune up the CX bike and cruise my way through an easy, fun day at the back of the back.   Unfortunately Phil had other ideas; he had just finished an epic day at Grindstone and wasn't up for running, so he badgered me into joining him on a relay team.  I ran the two 2-mile legs while Phil took care of the 12-mile bike segment.  This was theoretically a great idea, but it ensured that I'd have to run hard to put on a good show/not embarrass myself.  There was a challenge from a young post-collegian on the first leg, and I had to work pretty hard in cold, rainy conditions to split 11:11 for the opening two miles, giving Phil about a 20-second lead.  Phil managed one of the fastest bike splits of the day and gave me back the baton with enough cushion that I could run a relaxed, tempo-type effort on the second leg to secure an easy team victory.

Gump, at the start of the Monster Sprint
photo: Martin Weiner
Eight days later I abandoned Jodi and the girls in the midst of trick-or-treating for the New Paltz Monster Sprint.  Halloween is a big deal in our weird little town, with haunted houses, pumpkin-carving contests, and a huge parade that shuts down Main Street for much of the evening.  This was the second year that the Monster Sprint led off the parade; this is a one-mile out-and-back race from the finish of the parade, uphill to the start of the parade, and back down to the finish.  I figured I'd have a built-in advantage as Forrest Gump, but I didn't count on 4:05 miler Joe Gentsch showing up dressed as the Flash.  I was able to hang with Joe for the opening, uphill half-mile, actually leading for a few strides and making the turn only about three seconds behind, but he put me away quickly and easily on the way back down, running 4:50 to my 5:12.  Second place was enough to nab one of the very cool, real marble, headstone-shaped awards, though, so I was pretty happy with that.

Six days later Laura and I were the co-RDs for yet another ridiculous undertaking, the Apple Cider Donut Challenge.  Following on the heels of the New Paltz Pizza Challenge, we conceived a 50K loop that incorporated stops at six different orchards, each of which made their own apple cider donuts.  Each runner would have to eat two donuts at each stop for a dozen total donuts, or face time penalties for failure to finish them.  Time bonuses were awarded for drinking hard cider at those orchards that make their own.

Four donuts to go.
photo: Martin Weiner
We weren't really sure if anyone else would show up, but as it turned out, ten of us took off on a beautiful Saturday morning to eat our way around New Paltz and Gardiner.  Laura and I ran together and opened up a quick lead after the first donut stop, less than a mile into the race.  The course was mostly road and rail trail, and therefore didn't require any real marking except for one tricky section of trail, about half a mile long, that I had flagged with surveyor's tape the previous day.  Unfortunately, when we reached that section (just before donut stop #2, at the six-mile mark), the marks had all been taken down.  I let Laura run ahead and stopped to escort the rest of the field through that section, which was very difficult to follow due to thick leaf cover; by the time I reached the second orchard with the last of the stragglers, Laura had over twenty minutes on me, with Joe Gentsch (attempting his first-ever run of longer than 16 miles) following close behind her.  I settled into a nice, solid tempo, and eventually reeled in most of the field; by the fifth orchard (21 miles, donuts 9-10) I was only a few minutes behind Joe.  Those two donuts were pretty rough, though, compounded by the fact that I felt compelled to drink some cider, as I knew Joe had.  I started to struggle over the next few miles, wishing I could vomit but unable to make myself do it, and was doubting my ability to catch Joe--until I jogged into the final donut stop at mile 25 and found him sitting on a stone fence, caked in dried sweat, with a blank, glassy look in his eyes and half of a donut hanging out of his mouth.

Sometimes we forget that ultras are hard.

The fall stretch concluded, as always for me, with the Rockland Alumni XC Run, a 5K cross-country race at Bear Mountain with a team competition for alumni of Rockland-area high schools.  As always, this is one of my favorite days of the year, and the race is simultaneously one of the most fun and most painful experiences I have each season.  I have a separate website for that race, though, so I won't bore you here.

Generally it was a good fall, mixing these fun, slightly harder efforts in with a good solid training base.  None of these races required a taper or any extended recovery, so I've been able to build back up fairly consistently, and training is going pretty well heading into the winter; I'm pointing to Rocky Raccoon in February as my next big effort, so it will require a big push training-wise between now and then.  I'll have a few more posts coming before the end of the year, so keep checking back, and good luck to everyone in the lotteries this weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ultrarunner Xmas: A TNF Preview

image: Lake Run Club

After surviving Thanksgiving with the North Carolina branch of the family (we're really not sure how everyone voted), I can finally turn my attention to Christmas.  I know, I can hear you from here: But aren't you Jewish? Of course I am!  Where did you think that nose came from?  I'm not talking about December 25.  I'm talking about the the first Saturday in December, the most hotly anticipated day on the ultrarunning calendar (after the last weekend in June).  The two biggest lotteries in the sport both take place while the top runners in the world are battling it out at the season's unofficial finale, the North Face championships in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco.

There's no real point in delving into the lotteries right now.  You can read about the lottery procedures for States and Hardrock.  The latter is a race that I'd love to pace one day--maybe this year if Brian or Phil gets in--but really have no interest in running myself.  States, though...I won't be able to retire until I get into that one.  Based on the odds, it's going to be a couple of years.

So let's ignore those depressing statistics and focus on the amazing battle that will take place on Saturday, as the deepest fields of the year on both the men's and women's side get ready to throw down, chasing the $10,000 winner's purse and a shot at UROY consideration (though I think Jim and Kaci might have those in the bag already).  iRunfar has their men's and women's previews up, and will be providing live coverage as usual on Saturday.  Here are one fan's picks:

The last two women's winners, Magdalena Boulet and Megan Kimmel, return for the rubber match in 2016.  Nine of the current GUR top 50 are in the field, second in depth only to WS100 this year.

1. Megan Kimmel
Current GUR rank: 58
2015 TNF finish: 1
The defending champ and skyrunning specialist has displayed fine form all year long.  I hesitate to pick against Magda, but Megan's results this year, combined with what was honestly a dominant performance last year, make her a slight favorite in my mind.

2. Magdalena Boulet
Current GUR rank: 10
2015 TNF finish: DNF
This season has not quite lived up to the dominating standard she set in 2014-2015, and even with a win here, she won't be able to unseat Kaci Lickteig to retain her GUR #1 ranking from last season.  But she still has the strongest credentials in the field at any distance, and her most recent big race (fifth at UTMB) was her best of the year.

3. Ruth Croft
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: 4
The Taiwanese-based athlete doesn't qualify for the GUR (I guess I'll have to change that for 2017) and flies a bit below the radar being somewhat hidden in the Far East.  But she backed up an impressive win at CCC with a fourth-place finish in 2015, and this year was third at Transvulcania.

4. Cassie Scallon
Current GUR rank: 17
2015 TNF finish: DNF
A 50-mile specialist of sorts and a former Sonoma champ, she's had a bit of an up-and-down year, but her dominant CR performance at Bandera, a top-20 at Comrades, and a relatively light race schedule this fall (she's raced only one ultra since mid-August) have me thinking she'll be rested and ready to contend for the podium.

5. Ida Nilsson
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: NA
The Swedish dynamo has won both the Rut 50K and Transvulcania this year; she should be in the hunt for the podium in this very deep field.

6. Lindsay Tollefson
Current GUR rank: 113
2015 TNF finish: NA
The only woman in the field with the flat speed credentials to rival Magda, has relatively little experience at the distance, but certainly has the chops.

7. Keely Henninger
Current GUR rank: 47
2015 TNF finish: 7
A very consistent year, with a win at Black Canyon and top finishes against stout fields at Gorge Waterfalls and Chuckanut.

8. Laura Kline
Current GUR rank: 42
2015 TNF finish: NA
I speak from personal experience when I say that she is an absolute beast and is going to be very, very tough.

9. Sarah Keys
Current GUR rank: 20
2015 TNF finish: NA
Another Skyrunning specialist, she certainly has the strength to handle the 11,000 feet of climbing on this course.

10. Emily Peterson
Current GUR rank: 45
2015 TNF finish: 5
Another top returner from last year, has been remarkably consistent this season.

Hedging my bets
11. Kasie Enman
12. Stephanie Howe Violett
13. Sandi Nypaver
14. Anna Mae Flynn
15. Helene Michaux

Eleven of the current GUR top 50, including (as with the women) the last two winners--Sage Canaday and Zach Miller--will line up on Saturday.  This will mark the first-ever meeting between Miller and Jim Walmsley, the odds-on favorite to be named the 2016 UROY.

1. Jim Walmsley
Current GUR rank: 1
2015 TNF finish: NA
How could you pick against him?  His only loss this year came when he ran off course at WS100 while on CR pace, with a one-hour lead, with less than 10 miles to go.  He has SEVEN course records this year, including a massive takedown of Max King's JFK CR two weeks ago.

2. Zach Miller
Current GUR rank: 32
2015 TNF finish: 1
The prospect of Zach and Jim--both speedsters with a penchant for running off the front--going head to head has most ultra fans salivating.  I wouldn't pick anyone over last year's champ/CR holder--except Walmsley.  Plus, Zach hasn't raced since UTMB in August, though I can't imagine he'd be here if he wasn't recovered and ready.

3. Sage Canaday
Current GUR rank: 34
2015 TNF finish: NA
The 2014 TNF champ, Sage has only three ultras to his credit this season, including a win at Black Canyon and a third at Transvulcania, before blowing up a bit following Jim's insane pace at WS en route to an 11th-place finish.  He's had some excellent results in short tuneups on the trails this fall.  It'll be interesting to see how he deals with what will likely be a very aggressive pace early on.

4. Hayden Hawks
Current GUR rank: 46
2015 TNF finish: NA
The surprise winner at Speedgoat this year, he was also fourth at the World Mountain Running Championships, and like Walmsley (and several others in the field) has blazing track speed.

5. Alex Nichols
Current GUR rank: 13
2015 TNF finish: DNF
He's not the most consistent runner in the field, but when he's right, he's very dangerous.  And this year, he's been awfully right, including a runner-up finish at Speedgoat and a win at Run Rabbit Run.

6. Cody Reed
Current GUR rank: 10
2015 TNF finish: NA
Three huge wins this year: Miwok, Tamalpa, and UROC.

7. Miguel Heras
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: NA
He's a two-time TNF winner, though not since 2012; at 41, he's not the every-race force he used to be.  But a win at Les Templiers this fall shows he's ready to go.

8. David Laney
Current GUR rank: 121
2015 TNF finish: NA
The 2015 UROY has had a quiet year, but showed his form with a fourth-place finish at UTMB in August.

9. Paddy O'Leary
Current GUR rank: 30
2015 TNF finish: 13
This northern California racer is tough and fearless, and he knows the course well.

10. Coree Woltering
Current GUR rank: 52
2015 TNF finish: NA
Was a top-20 contender even before three weeks ago, when he smoked a solo 5:30 at the Tunnel Hill 50-mile.

Hedging my bets
11. Jorge Maravilla
12. Tim Freriks
13. Dan Kraft
14. Brendan Trimboli
15. Eric Senseman

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Momentum Physical Therapy

I'm very happy to announce a new sponsorship of sorts; hopefully more of a partnership really.  I've been working off and on over the past few months with Dr. Greg Cecere at Momentum Physical Therapy in New Paltz, and we've decided to make him an official part of the Gunksrunner family.

A New Paltz native, Greg studied at the University of Delaware and then worked closely in New York alongside Chris Johnson, a well-known PT among runners in the city.  He opened Momentum, his private practice, upon returning to New Paltz a few years ago and has built a loyal following in the area.  Greg is a fairly accomplished runner himself, and many of his clients are runners (including Harbert Okuti, who Greg helped to top-20 finishes at Boston and New York this year), but he sees all manner of athletes and non-athletes alike.

photo: Lacey Seidman
Greg is not your average physical therapist.  While he certainly uses modalities familiar to anyone with PT experience, much of his philosophy and treatment relies upon his extensive knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms that underlie pain and dysfunction.  Of particular importance in this respect is the role that the brain and the nervous system plays in our perception of pain.  Greg understands this better than any health professional I've ever met, and is adept at tailoring treatment and recovery plans that adhere to these principles.

In addition to sports injuries, Greg treats patients for injury prevention, stride and gait analysis, post-surgical rehab, orthopedic rehab, and chronic pain.  He even makes house calls.  Last month he fixed a very persistent "lace bite" injury that had been bothering me for over a month after North Coast in basically two sessions.  Right now we're working on a chronic Achilles issue I've been ignoring for the past couple of years.  True to form, Greg is working on the neurologic pathways that govern feedback and pain responses, using noxious stimuli and movement retraining.

One aspect of treatment I'm eager to explore more with Greg is a pre-race routine that we tried prior to Cayuga Trails this spring.  I was in great shape and ready for a huge day, and Greg proposed a treatment that he thought might help spur me to reach my full potential on that day.  Unfortunately, I came down with Lyme disease (again!) the week before the race, so we never really got to see how that worked out.  I won't say too much more about it right now, but we're going to try again with some upcoming races in January/February, and I'll go into some more detail then.

Greg is a great guy and is completely dedicated to his patients.  I'm very excited to explore avenues by which we can advance this partnership moving forward.  In the coming weeks and months, I'll hopefully feature some of Greg's writing on this site, as well as some videos.  As I get up and running with my sports cardiology/exercise physiology career (more on that later as well, stay tuned), I'll be partnering with Greg to offer comprehensive coaching and sports medicine services, including PT, stride/gait analysis, and injury prevention and recovery.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gunksrunner Ultra Rankings: Fall Update

I've kept the ultra rankings posts to a minimum this year; now that they have a somewhat permanent residence at Ultrarunning magazine, it doesn't seem as crucial to have them on the blog, since you can view the updated rankings anytime you want.  But as a service to those who haven't found their way over there yet, or as a reminder for those who have, I figured now would be a good time to bring everyone up to speed on where we stand with about ten weeks of racing left in the 2016 season.  (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, head over to the Ultrarunning link above for a summary of how the rankings work, or just click the "ultra national rankings" label at the bottom of this post to see everything I've posted about it in the past.

photo: Myke Hermsmeyer
Since winning Bandera on January 6, Jim Walmsley has dominated this year's GUR.  He holds a commanding lead of nearly 50 points on second-ranked Ian Sharman, who is putting together another fantastic season.  (That doesn't even take into account Jim's recent demolition of Rob Krar's RTR FKT.)  Last year's #1, Brian Rusiecki, sits in third and should pick up some points at Hellgate in early December.  WS100 champ Andrew Miller is fourth.  A mere 3.5 points separate second through fourth on the men's side.  Walmsley and Miller are both slated to run at the North Face championships in early December, which will probably decide most of the final places in the top 10.

photo: Belinda Agamaite
WS champ Kaci Lickteig, ranked #5 in the 2015 GUR, is even more dominant on the womens' side than Walmsley is on the mens'.  She leads Lake Sonoma winner YiOu Wang by over 100 points; even if YiOu can outrun everyone at TNF, catching Kaci may be impossible.  Kaci has had an extraordinary season, with six wins from seven starts; her only loss was a second-place finish at Sonoma.  I'd be hard-pressed to imagine anyone other than Kaci and Jim taking home this year's UROY awards.

Anyway, below is the current top 50 men and women; totals are up-to-date through this past weekend.  As always, you can view the entire list here, which is updated each week usually around Thursday or Friday.  Use the CTRL-F function on the rankings sheets to find your own name; there are over 3500 men and almost 3200 women ranked so far.

Jim Walmsley
Kaci Lickteig
Ian Sharman
YiOu Wang
Brian Rusiecki
Kathleen Cusick
Andrew Miller
Amy Sproston
Dylan Bowman
Devon Yanko
Paul Terranova
Courtney Dauwalter
Christopher Dennucci
Bethany Patterson
Jeff Browning
Magdalena Boulet
Mark Hammond
Alissa St. Laurent
Cody Reed
Hillary Allen
Jesse Haynes
Julie Koepke
David Roche
Amanda Basham
Alex Nichols
Jodee Adams-Moore
Tim Tollefson
Cassie Scallon
Mario Mendoza
Kelly Wolf
Jason Schlarb
Camille Herron
Kyle Pietari
Sarah Keys
Matt Flaherty
Corinne Malcolm
Tim Freriks
Maggie Guterl
Chris Mocko
Megan Roche
Jared Burdick
Nicole Kalogeropoulos
Dakota Jones
Sarah Bard
Tyler Sigl
Neela D'Souza
Michael Daigeaun
Darcy Piceu
Dominick Layfield
Sabrina Little
Aaron Saft
Anna Mae Flynn
Jorge Pacheco
Kaytlyn Gerbin
Jason Lantz
Caroline Boller
Zach Miller
Clare Gallagher
Stephen Wassather
Amy Rusiecki
Sage Canaday
Abby Rideout
Brett Hornig
Beverly Anderson-Abbs
Ryan Bak
Erika Lindland
Morgan Elliot
Darla Askew
Olivier Leblond
Lee Conner
Masazumi Fujioka
Emily Peterson
Daniel Metzger
Pam Smith
Chikara Omine
Denise Bourassa
Chase Nowak
Keely Henninger
David Herr
Laura Kline
Cody Lind
Jenny Hoffman
Patrick Caron
Ellie Greenwood
Paddy O'Leary
Maggie Walsh
Ed Ettinghausen
Joelle Vaught
Caleb Denton
Katalin Nagy
Chris Vargo
Megan Kimmel
Michael Owen
Traci Falbo
Adrian Stanciu
Alicia Shay
Hayden Hawkes
Anne-Marie Maddon
Pete Kostelnick
Krissy Moehl

Liz Bauer