Monday, April 29, 2013

"You can't beat death, but you can beat death in life, sometimes."

Reading Amy Rosenbaum Clark's fabulous article All in the Mind in April's Upper Midwest Trail Runners newsletter this morning, I was reminded of a quote I read in Travis Wildeboer's 2013 Barkley Marathons race report The 60-hour day that Andrew Thompson, the 8th finisher of the Barkley in 2009, said to Jonathan "Jonboy" Basham on their drive to the race in 2010 before Jonathan became the 9th finisher of the Barkley,

“You're entering a tunnel Jonboy,” said Thompson, “and there is no way out other than the other side.”

That's how you finish an ultra; you go into a tunnel and you don't come out until the finish. Come race day, after all the training is over and your kit is packed, it's all mental. During these events, that old mantra, "This isn't hard. This just is," constantly flows through my head. Though recently, that's morphed into everything: "It's raining. That's just how this is now." "My feet are wet. That's just how they are now." "My legs hurt. That's just how they feel now." Somehow, accepting my current conditions as they are with the mentality of, "So what? This is how it is now. Keep moving," really helps me keep going through that tunnel to the other side.

This mentality has seeped into every other aspect of my life. Life's hurdles and challenges that once seemed so daunting don't seem so big anymore. These events have taught me so much about life, about myself, about what's truly important.

I don't often remember my dreams, but thinking about that triggered memories of mine from last night. In my head, I was deep into loop 3 of the Barkley with a few faceless others, scaling a wall onto a thin ledge high above the valley, too extreme, too dangerous, even for the Barkley, watching the clock, knowing it was time to leave the others behind and keep going through that tunnel to the other side.

These things we do are fantastic. We're choosing to live life, to cheat death. How can we not laugh, smile, and giggle the entire time?

"your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you."

— Charles Bukowski

Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 barkley marathons

(in honor of laz, the completely sane and charming race director of the barkley mararthons, this post is absent capital letters)

buckle envy
"you do realize that the losers in the barkley lottery are the ones who get chosen, right?" -laz

i spent a large portion of my weekend glued to the twitter feed #bm100, a feeble attempt to feel "out there" from afar.

there's a record amount of media covering this year's barkley marathons, from ny times articles to a documentary to facebook pages to twitter feeds to functioning (gawk) real-life web pages! for good or bad, more details are available than ever before. i've read it all. the race has consumed me. i've written about this thing i desire here and here.

2013 did not disappoint, as laz, the idiot king, conjured up another doozy. rain. fog. mud. cold. carnage.

the conch blew at the respectable hour of 8:04am, and an hour later, at the lighting of a filtered camel, 35 brave souls ventured "out there."

21 made it out for loop 2, but only 5 survived to leave camp for loop 3. (in contrast, the 350-mile iditarod trail invitations in the brutal alaskan winter amazingly had 48 finishers out of 48 starters this year--different races entirely, but still)

the barkley bugle
the 5 that left for loop 3: travis wildeboer (unsupported superior and long trail fkts); nickademus hollon (22-year-old ultra boss, badwater finisher, arrowhead finisher, hurt competitor, 2-time barkley fun run alum); the abbs (bev and alan, tough mfers and multi-time barkley fun run vets); and one of last year's record 3 finishers, jared campbell (barkley alum, hardrock winner, and nolan's 14 buff).

earlier in the day, jared came in first from loop 1 like a boss in the ultimate direction sj ultra vest and euro-capris, more than an hour before travis and nick and 2 before the abbs, making it look easy.  

euro capris, barkley-style
but it's never easy. on lap 2, the barkley happened, and jared reportedly lost 7 hours off course and was the last of the 5 to leave camp for loop 3, just minutes before cutoff. 

laz and the infamous, now-secret results book in camp
nick hollon was the first to finish loop 3 for his third consectuive fun-run finish in 32:56:15 (seconds fellas? for the barkley? really?). travis wildeboer finished loop 3 just under an hour later, in 33:50 (thereabouts), and the two left together for loop 4 at 34 hours and change, less than 2 hours under cutoff for a loop 4 start. 

as the pace slows in the later hours of the barkley, the suspense grows with everyone eager for another runner to appear back at camp. the downtime is never quiet, though. this year, western states rd craig thornely (aka, lord_balls), crewing the abbs, kept laz busy, discussing race management, perhaps? to think what laz would do to western states is frightening. 

jared broke up talks of making western states more "barkley," coming into camp as 2013's third fun-run finisher at 35 hours, but the 7 hours lost on loop 2 had taken it's toll, and with one hour to leave camp for loop 4, he voluntarily tapped, refusing to continue (rtc). just like that, the alum were none.

the abbs were next into camp, finishing the fun run in 39:09, over the 36-hour limit to continue onto loop 4. they don't make them any tougher though, with alan's 4th fun-run finish in 4 tries and bev's second fun-run finish, making her quite possibly the toughest woman on the planet.

loop 3 page count
rumors filled the air that, on the top of rat jaw on loop 4, travis and nick were in good spirits, laughing and singing, seemingly taunting the course.

rat jaw at day
nick came in from loop 4 at 46:50 with travis just 5 minutes from his heels, but travis turned it around quicker in just 13:13, getting out of camp 5 at 47:09 and choosing a forward, final loop 5. nick left camp 5 minutes later for his backwards loop 5.

nick getting his loop 5 page from laz
travis prepping for loop 5
in the end, nick made it back to camp in 57:41, becoming the 13th finisher of the barkley marathons, the 14th barkley finish (brett maune has two finishes, 2011 and 2012).

nick flying into camp for his loop 5 finish
lap 5 page count
at camp, nick joked about going out for another loop, but when laz offered to let him hit the "easy" button, he refused, opting for "no" instead.

travis finished loop 5 an hour later at 58:41, becoming the 14th barkley finisher, adding to the barkley's rich history of thru-hiking/peak-bagging alum.

travis coming into camp for his loop 5 finish
the fifth and final touch of the yellow gate
lap 5 page count and a well-deserved smirk
really, the only non thru-hiker alum are jared campbell (even though he's done nolans 14) and nick hollon (i'm not sure about mark williams). it seems the right kind of crazy for the barkley is that which can manage a small amount of hurt for a large amount of time without completely losing your shit. the mental aspect of the task seems bigger than the physical, surprisingly, and it takes a special kind of nut not to crack.

epic indeed.

travis wildeboer and nickademus hollon, barkley alum

telling stories in front of the yellow gate, "no shit there i was"
brett maune, jared campbell, john fegyveresi, travis wildeboer, nick hollon, and laz
with "frozen ed" furtaw, the first official finisher of the 3-lap barkley marathons

someday i'll get there. until then...
unending unease
another year of comfort
still yearning to fail

*the pictures above were taken from others and are used here without permission. to those i borrowed from, thank you. to those that want their's down, no worries, just ask.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Custom Blog Header!

I logged onto my Facebook yesterday to find that John Storkamp had updated Rocksteady Running's Spring Superior 25k/50k race page with new content, including a FANTASTIC custom image of yours truly gracing one of the headers!

Jennifer Pierce snapped this picture at 2012's Spring Superior 50k heading into Oberg on the way back to Caribou Highlands. I remember saying hello to her as I ran by. Her husband, Zach Pierce, is usually behind the lens, but he was running that day, and Jen is quite the photographer in her own right. 

Incidentally, 2013 Spring Superior opens on January 15th. Remember to register early! The race is a fantastic one, and it will fill up fast. The Superior Hiking Trail is gorgeous, and the race brings you from Caribou Highlands in Lutsen south on the trail to the top of Carlton Peak before turning around and heading back. 

What most amazed me, though, was how much John took Jen's picture and ran with it. He's quite the graphic artist, and does quite a bit of design work in addition to his second-to-none race directing in the fairer months (Zumbro, Spring Superior, Afton, Fall Superior, etc.) and his own racing, including pulling sleds for hundreds of miles in the winter (3-time Arrowhead 135 winner, 2013 Tuscobia 150 winner, also running 2013 Arrowhead on January 28th and the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational on February 24, 2013) as well as running every other race distance known to man in the fairer months (see his UltraSignup/Athlinks).

Check out Jen's original pic here:

And John's voodoo magic here:

I'm still blown away at how great this picture is, and not just because the runner in the picture is so darn good looking. Many thanks, John! Plus, it's always neat to see yourself on one of your favorite race websites, too. For me, this is just neat all-around!

Oh, last bit of news! I just ran a half-marathon PR today, and got to meet Frank Shorter at the Disney Marathon Expo on Thursday! More on those later. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lottery Luck

I have no lottery luck.

This may sound like I'm whining, but at this point, I'm actually kind of amused. You'd think that there wouldn't be so many other "crazies" out there that this would be a problem, but let me tell you a little about what I have to go through to run in the events of my choosing in this "sport" of mine.

For 2012, I registered for two lotteries: Western States and Hardrock. My odds for getting into each were low, I don't recall the exact numbers, but less than 5% per (probably much less). Being the hopeful optimist, though, I imagined the nightmare of getting into both races, and how delightfully fantastic that would be. When the lottery days came and went, I felt deflated. It wasn't as though I actually thought I was going to get in, I knew the odds, but I hoped, and I lost.

Thus far, for 2013, I've registered for 5 lotteries: HURT, Western States, Hardrock, the Barkley, and UTMB. In short, so far, I've missed HURT, Western States, Hardrock, and the Barkley. The UTMB selection looms.

According to, there are 110 100-mile races in North America. has ranked a majority of these races from easiest to hardest, each having a percentage with respect to Western States, which is arbitrarily set at 100%.

According to RealEndurance, the "easiest" 100-mile races in the states, in order, are:

82% Keys 100, Key West, Florida
82% Heartland 100, Cassoday, Kansas
82% Umstead 100*, Raleigh, North Carolina
82% Iron Horse 100, St. Paul, Alabama
82% Boulder 100, Boulder, Colorado
83% Lean Horse 100**, Hot Springs, South Dakota
83% Rocky Raccoon 100***, Huntsville, Texas
87% Vermont 100, West Windsor, Vermont

*Wesley Rolnick, you're on notice.
**Made sure to get this far down just to make Jordan Hanlon's 2013 Race Schedule look "light."
***Misty Schmidt is a rockstar Sawtooth finisher now, so I can't give her crap.

In contrast, the 3 "hardest" 100-mile races are:

270% Barkley Marathons, Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee
"Meaningless Suffering Without A Point. The entry procedure is secret. There is no official website. This is not the official website. It is not listed on any calendar. You have to email the race director on a certain day of the year. The race will fill up on that day." RealEndurance 
159% Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, Silverton, Colorado
"The Hardrock 100 connects or passes near the old mining towns of Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, Telluride and Ophir. With a total elevation gain of approximately 33,000 ft and an average elevation at near tree line of 11,186 ft, the Hardrock 100 peaks out at over 14,000 ft on Handles Peak, one of Colorado├»¿½s 14ers." RealEndurance 
128% HURT 100, Honolulu, Hawaii
"A very tough, multiple lap (5) course on muddy, rooted and rocky single-track trails in a mountainous rainforest. Nearly 25,000 feet of ascent and descent." RealEndurance
A little lower on the list is:

111% Superior Sawtooth 100, Lutsen, Minnesota

UTMB isn't ranked on RealEndurance, though I imagine it'd compare to Hardrock.

So, for the record, my five lottery entries this year include Western States, the grandaddy of them all--the race that every other race is judged against, and then 4 of the most difficult 100-mile races around. Fun stuff, eh?

Now, my lottery luck.