Monday, December 24, 2012

The Barkley

In my last post, the 2013 Race Schedule, I wrote,
"There's a monster of a race that I'm toying with the idea of signing up for, and looking at the remaining lotteries and open registration dates, August and September are still a bit in flux." 
That "monster" is the Barkley. I was being coy, ambiguous on purpose, trying to drop a hint without actually coming out with it, and I don't really know why. This came up with a non-running friend tonight, after telling him about the "race" that "only 13 runners out of about 900 have finished within the 60-hour cutoff," and it prompted me to really try and figure this out.

I think I'm embarrassed, maybe even scared, to admit that I'm applying to this "race." With only 35 entrants per year, who am I to think that I should be selected to run the Barkley?

I say it on this blog all the time, that "I'm still trying to become a runner," and I'm absolutely not kidding. In no way, shape, or form do I have this running thing down pat. All my times are pedestrian, complete middle-of-the-pack times, and I'm learning new things ALL. THE. TIME. For instance, I just recently realized that I hadn't been using my glutes enough in my running to actually get anywhere "quickly." (Watch this fantastic instructional video on natural running by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, Director of the Natural Running Center.) It's insane how much I'm still probably doing wrong, but hey, I love learning about it.

So, why am I embarrassed about publicly admitting that I'm applying for the Barkley? Because the entrants to the Barkley are, for the most part, complete STUDS (or STUD'ettes), and I'm, well, me.

For example, past entrants of the Barkley include:

  • Brett Maune, current John Muir Trail FKT (Fastest Known Time), current Mount Whitney FKT, current Barkley CR (Course Record) holder, only ever 2-time Barkley finisher
  • Jared Campbell, 5th-ever finisher of Nolan's 14, 7-time Hardrock finisher (5 sub-30 hr finishes, first place 2010)
  • John Fegyveresi, Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail, Badwater finisher
  • Blake Wood, 17-time Hardrock finisher (first place 1999), 14:51 Rocky Racoon 100M, 2nd-ever Nolan's 14 finisher
  • David Horton, former Appalacian Trail FKT, Transcontinental Crossing, former Long Trail FKT, former Pacific Coast Trail FKT, 4-time Hardrock finisher (first place 1992, 1993), 17-time JFK finisher (first place 1995)
  • Cave Dog Ted Keizer, former Long Trail FKT, current Colorado 14ers speed record, numerous other Mountain speed records
  • Mike Tilden, 3-time Hardrock finisher, Badwater finisher, 1st-ever Nolan's 14 finisher
  • Jim Nelson, finished Nolan's 14 2:09 above 60-hr cutoff
  • Flyin' Brian Robinson, Hardrock finisher, first to hike Appalachian, Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest Trails in same year
  • Andrew Thompson, former Appalachian Trail FKT
  • Johnathan Basham, former Colorado Trail FKT, Long Trail FKT, Hardrock finisher
  • Eric Clifton, 20-time JFK finisher (4-time winner), Badwater winner, 13:16 Rocky Raccoon 100M

And this is just a few! There's more. It's just completely sick.

Now, I don't consider myself in the same universe of athlete as these amazing people. Why on earth should Laz (Barkley's RD) let me into the Barkley? The simple answer is that, based on my bio, he shouldn't. As stated above, I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner. I've never gotten into, let alone finished Western States, HURT, or Hardrock (though not for lack of trying). I've never through-hiked a single trail (though I have a strong desire to take out the Superior Hiking Trail SOON). But I want the Barkley. I want it... badly.

Thoughts of the Barkley haunt my dreams. It’s consumed me. It terrifies me, and because of that, I need to do it. There’s this saying,
"We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realized they were inside us." 
The only way to stop this unending unease is to look under the bed and make the nightmare my reality. I'm not afraid of the dark, of the nightmares, of what's hiding under the bed, but maybe I should be.

Bukowski said that,
"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."
Consider my applying for the Barkley as doing my best.

I guess I've realized that it's not my job to question whether or not I should be selected to run. My only job is to apply.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2013 Race Schedule

The bad news: I struck out again at Western States and Hardrock. It's an ongoing theme for many, many more people than just me. 

The good news: My 2013 race schedule is a bit clearer. Cross Hardrock off my list, as well as any other Rocky Mtn and Grand Slam Races this year--well, kinda.

So yeah, about that good news, things are still pretty murky.  

There's a monster of a race that I'm toying with the idea of signing up for, and looking at the remaining lotteries and open registration dates, August and September are still a bit in flux.

The Flux

I challenge any ultrarunner to watch the TNF helicopter coverage of the 2011 UTMB and not want to run that race. You'd have to hate sugar and freedom to see that and say, "meh." And because I know that ultrarunners love sugar and freedom, every ultrarunner should want to run UTMB.  

The issue: UTMB takes place Aug 30, 2013. Registration opened Dec 19th and runs through Jan 8th, with a lottery on Jan 20th (if necessary--and it should be). Ok, by itself, that's not an issue, but if I can't run UTMB in 2013, I kind of want to run Leadville on Aug 17th and then Superior three weeks later on Sept 6th. Leadville is a first-come, first-serve registration event for the last time this year, which means if I want to run it, and I want to know that I can run it, I need to sign up for it this year, and sign up early, weeks before the Jan 20th UTMB lottery, but winning the UTMB lottery likely means no Leadville OR Superior for 2013. Do you see the quandry?  

Yes, there's a chance that the Leadville registration slowly fills and that I'll be able to closely monitor it and maybe even hold out until after the UTMB lottery, but that's all a bunch of crap, because last year (from what I can tell) the race sold out in 3 days. 

Further issue: Leadville costs $275 and I'm not sure there's a refund policy, which means that if I get in to UTMB, that $275 Leadville registration would be like a donation do the UTMB gods. That'd be all fine, well, and good if the profits from Leadville's race went to the trail, but no. I imagine Lifetime Fitness isn't the greatest trail steward out there (please correct me if I'm wrong).  

Further further issue: UTMB isn't easy to qualify for. There's a selected list of races that award points towards qualification, and the race requires 7 points from 3 races. Superior awards 4 pts/per, and you can go back 2 years. I guess, if I don't get into UTMB and run Superior in 2013, that, with my 2012 Superior, will get me the points I need for 2014.  

The Known

My good friend Jason LaPlant got in to Western States, and unless he shoots me in the foot, I plan on heading to Squaw Valley with him in to pace or crew, whatever he wants from me. I'm uber excited to just go and experience the Western States vibe, and getting to run on the course, either before or after the race, or pacing during, will be an adventure! But, Western means no Black Hills this year, which means no Gnarly Bandit attempt for 2013, which I'm fine with. I'd much rather be at Western helping my friend go sub-30.

The Calendar

So, tentatively, the calendar looks like this:

Goofy Challenge Jan 12 & 13

Zumbro 100 April 12
Chippewa 50k April 27

Superior 50k May 18

Western States June 29 (Pace/Crew)

Afton 50k July 6
SpeedGoat 50k July 27

Leadville 100 Aug 17
UTMB 100 Aug 30

Superior 100 Sept 6

Bear 100 Sept 27


JFK 50 Nov 16 (May 1 Reg)

Non-Races

There are other runs I'd like to do sometime, too, like the R2R2R, the Zion Traverse, some time at Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, in the Sawatch range, or the San Juans. I'd love to spend some more time on the SHT, too. I've got big eyes for this stuff. Hopefully I get to wet my lips with at least some of it. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I am humbled: Run for our Sons


Aidan and his service dog, Song
A few weeks ago, my cousin, Maria, posted this picture of her 12-year-old son, Aidan, and his service dog, Song, with the words, "It's been 1 year since Aidan took his last steps."  I am humbled.

A little while back, I asked the question to a few of my running friends, "Why running?" and the range of answers, to me, were fascinating.  From tapping into a primal instinct, to setting your mind free, to enjoying this simple, basic (yet for those that know it best, wildly complex) and rewarding activity, to feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment at achieving something you weren't sure was possible, the answers ran the gamut.

Though with my cousin’s post, I'm reminded, once again, that there are kids out there that can't take a single step on their own, let alone run.  This thought, more than any other, keeps me pushing to bigger running adventures.  To have the ability to and to not, when there are children that would give anything to feel the ground under their feet, would be such a disservice to these kids.  I feel grateful, appreciative, and fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I do, and I am humbled by the spirit of those brave few that can't yet maintain the courage to push on.  I feel I owe it to them to keep pushing myself.

Aidan's mother, Maria, wrote:
"It's been 1 year since Aidan took his last steps. I am grateful for the freedom, independence, and speed that his wheelchair gives him. I am relieved that he no longer falls every day. But a big part of my heart broke last year. I miss seeing my son on his feet, and I would give just about anything to see him walk across the room to me again."

I'm running the Goofy Challenge again in January (my 3rd straight year), a half-marathon on Saturday followed by a full-marathon on Sunday, to support my family in their efforts to end Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a debilitating disease with no cure afflicting 1 in every 3,600 newborn males. 

In the grand scheme of things, 39.3 miles over 2 days may not seem like that big a feat, but it’s extremely difficult. I’ve left the event each of the last two years injured. I run it hard enough that it’s more taxing on my body than a 100-mile trail race. Last year I finished in the top 5% of Goofy Finishers (adding the half and full times), beating my cousin Jim by a combined 11 seconds (6 seconds in the half-marathon and 5 seconds in the full marathon!). It took me months to recover. I plan on beating that time this year (top 4% maybe???). I’m also very excited to see my family, and to help raise money for this wonderful cause.


If you can this holiday season, please consider making a donation at the following link: http://tinyurl.com/c7h654q

Many thanks for your support. It's appreciated more than you know.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hardrock 100 Odds, Donut Day 25k, Western States Lottery Results, and Gear Reviews, Oh My!

We're going to Tarantino this one--start at the end, jump back to the beginning, and then float around aimlessly and call it "art."

First, the selfishly important: HARDROCK 100 Odds for the lottery on Sunday, December 16, 2012!


First, a gripe. The Hardrock Board feels that the "deal mix of runners" for the run is 25% Newbs, 25% Vets (finishes>=5), and 50% returning runners, which would be fine... if they allowed 400 runners. However, their field limit is 140, and with over 850 applicants, things are getting tight.

In previous years, a certain number of finishes got you automatic entry, and the rest of runners were thrown into a giant pool with tickets based on past DNFs ("did not finish"s, which were eventually gone away with) and DNSs ("did not start"s). With the number of automatic entrants going up, it was getting difficult for first-timers to get into the race. This year, the new "ideal mix" lottery was implemented to combat that "problem" for first-timers.

The 2012 Registrants: 44 Vets for 35 spots, 191 <Vets (start>=1, finishes<5) for 70 spots, and 619 Newbs for a mere 35 spots.

The Vets odds (44 applicants, 35 spots):

In previous years, all 44 of them would be in. This year, the 5-time finishers only have a 42% chance of being selected. Though overall, nearly 80% of these folk are getting in (and actually, with the waitlist, everyone in the category that wants to run should be able to).

The <Vets (start>=1, finishes<5) odds (191 applicants, 70 spots):

Here, the <Vets (start>=1, finishes<5) get tickets for DNSs and maybe past finishes (I think?). In any case, the worst <Vets odds are nearly 11% while the folks with 6 tickets are over 50%.

Then, there's the NEWBS, who again get the shaft (619 applicants, a lonely 35 spots):

New this year, Newbs get 2^n tickets, where "n" is previous DNSs. The good news: if you somehow go 5 years without being selected, your odds of getting in are nearly 60%. The bad news: first-time applicants have a 1.9% chance of getting in, and first-time losers have a paltry 3.9% chance.

Anyway, specifically, the Minnesotan applicants odds look like:

Name Odds
Matthew Aro 3.90%
Aaron Buffington 1.94%
Bob Gerenz 1.94%
Allan Holtz 20.88%
John Horns 3.90%
Dale Humphrey 1.94%
Jason Husveth 3.90%
Valeria La Rosa 3.90%
Scott Mark 3.90%
Kim Martin 1.94%
Michael Nicholls 1.94%
Daryl Saari 1.94%
Edward Sandor 3.90%
Adam Schwartz-Lowe 3.90%
John Taylor 20.88%
Brian Woods 1.94%

The overwhelming lesson in all of this is register early, and register often. Based on this year's model, after 6 DNSs, you're odds of getting in are 91%. If you somehow make it 7 DNSs without a start, the odds increase to 99%. Then again, who knows, my math could be wrong.

Time to Tarantino it back to last weekend. Lots of things going on lately. December 8th, 2012 marked the second annual Donut Day Fun Runs put on Jordan Hanlon, a.k.a. #jordanrocksthehelloutofacardigan, including the Donut Day 25k, 10m, and 5m courses AND the 2013 Western States Lottery!  

Donut Day 25k Course

As usual, I didn't take enough (or any) pictures during the #DonutRun2012, but I got to see a bunch of good friends and meet a few new fantastic folk, including through-hiker extraordinaire Jake Hoffman, a.k.a. Samwise the Vagabond, and US 24-hour badass Lana Haugberg! Though most of my day was spent trying to keep up with Joseph "I'll be the guy who looks like me" Altendahl.

And folks, we have a Western States Lottery winner. Jason "Bourne Identity" LaPlant was selected as an entrant to the 2014 Western States Endurance Run. I hate him, but I love him. I'm hoping he lets me tag along and pace/crew at Western. It means no Gnarly Bandit again for 2013, but meh, going to Western States, even if I'm not running, means a lot more than avenging my 2012 Black Hills run at the moment. I was even able to snag Jason a legit Western States coach in 7-time top-ten finisher at Western States, Andy Jones Wilkins!

Two other Minnesotans made it in as well: Eric Nordgren and Mark Becker (though Mark is no longer on the entrants list).

No matter which way the Hardrock Lottery falls, the ensuing months are going to be exciting. I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which I don't run Zumbro this year, but I can't think of any. In any case, Jason has to run sub-30 on a fast course at Western States, so we have some work to do, and it's going to be fun!

Gear Reviews! I think I'm going to start providing reviews of gear that I've liked/hated. I've tinkered with just about everything on the damn market that comes in my size. May as well write about it.

My newest toy is one of the new Scott Jurek Ultimate Direction Signature Series Vests. More to come on that soon.

Oh, and the narcissist in me thinks Steve Quick says that I haven't "raced," which is a true story.

Happy hunting, all!