Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once a stupidhead... Running my first 100k (well, 103...)

Once a stupidhead... Running my first 100k (well, 103...)

Race report: Hollenlauf, Germany, 19th May 2012

The Hollenlauf features some of Western Germany’s most scenic landscapes. Fantastic trails and lots (lots!) of demanding up- and downhill running. When I arrived at the starting area on Saturday morning, 5 a.m., I was thrilled to get a more than decent breakfast buffet before the start, something I’d never had before on race day. When the gun went off at 6:30 I knew immediately I was in trouble – everyone shuffled forward instead of racing each other through the streets of the small village. They seem to know what’s on their plate today, I thought. I had no idea what the race would be like, this being my first trail race with that kind of distance.

I have to admit it: the hardest part were the first three hours, because I wasn’t ready for the mental game. The was hardly able to understand the distance I had to cover and it weighed heavily on my mind. Once I had managed to climb up the highest elevation of the course, I was alright and back in the game. Getting a kick out of Boston’s “More than a feeling”, I knew I would finish this thing no matter what. I didn’t even mind the stress that sometimes comes with an out-and-back course, knowing that you have to run everything twice. My wife and son welcomed me at every other aid station, especially at the turnaround point. That was also when I noticed that my left knee would give me some trouble on the way back.

Remembering Coack Ken’s IT-band issues, I forced myself to drink as much as I could, and it actually helped! Today, the day after the race, I can hardly bend my knee, but during the race it was OK. I started to fade after about 60 kilometers but still felt great. I remembered that this kind of fatigue was normal and to be expected in such a race. Things started to become problematic when I took a wrong turn after about 75k. It noticed it after a couple of minutes and ran back to the intersection where I had left the race trail. I was only a few kilometers, but it happened at a time when running became more and more of a struggle. Also, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for quite a while, having left my waterbottle with my wife at the turnaround point.

I shuffled onward, noticing that I could actually deal with a slow, regular pace. I was sure that it would get me to the finish line, so I decided that I wouldn’t try to run faster even if I could – and it worked. Crossing the finish line after 11:01:28 with my son was a great reward for the struggle.
Jan and son at finish!

What didn’t work: the mental game in the first three hours; getting off the right path by not paying attention the ribbons (I had zoned out and wasn’t even aware that something was wrong); putting on my socks the morning after the race without help

What worked: having my family with me for support and encouragement; drinking a lot and as many different kinds of drinks as I could find; Dropkick Murphys (and Coach Ken) on my playlist; moving forward in a trance-like shuffle during the final hours of the race; running the race in my road racing shoes (it was a little difficult when things got really muddy, but the light weight on my feet worked really well)

Congratulations to Jan on his first 100k!!  I'm glad you were able to fix your ITB issues!!
All Day!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It Gets Easier (?) Zion 100 Mile 2012 Race Report by Gary Gellin

It Gets Easier (?)
Zion 100 Mile 2012 Race Report
by Gary Gellin
"Everything in moderation" my mother tells me.  Moderation is really a moving target, however.  At my first 10k trail race in 2008 I was amazed that some people in the 50k division didn't just jog in survival mode, they ran fast and hard.  Some of those people were comfortable doing this twice in a month.  It took over two years to develop the nerve to enter a 50 mile race, but it was only a short time before that distance became (and still is) a study in fine-tuning with the 100 mile distance looming as the next logical step in assuming new challenges.  When seeking advice from 100-mile race specialist Karl Meltzer before my first 100-miler last fall, The Bear, he told me "100 miles is not that far".  I thought he was mocking me, but in reality this is his trademark slogan on his web site, and something he truly believes and can justify.  Two months after the Bear 100, which was a 70 mile race, followed by a 15 mile slog, followed by a 15 mile death march, I ran with Nick Pedatella, an astoundingly strong and accomplished 100 mile competitor  from Boulder, Colorado.   Nick assured me that "it gets easier".  I argued that it would be months before attempting this distance again, and that no training run comes close to simulating the effects of pounding along for 20 plus hours without sleep, but he stood firm.
My reasons for running Zion 100 were multifold.  Of course, the incredible beauty of the canyons  and mesas around Zion National Park is one of the most compelling.  Another big reason was faith in first-time race director Matt Gunn who put more energy, dedication,  and heart in to this event than most any I've seen.  I could relate well to Matt, having gone through the tribulations of being a rookie race director, albeit on a smaller scale.  Moreover, the event fit perfectly in my schedule to prepare for a speed record attempt of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail this August 13th.  It would also be a fun road trip with my pal Jim Moyles, a veteran of the Western State 100-mile race from the early 1980's.
I took a rational approach to tactics for the race.  This was to be my second ever run longer than 9 hours, so I took the advice of my wise friend and pacer, Mike Topper, to run within myself and not worry about the other competitors.  This would be a training run of sorts - a proving ground for running a fixed, predetermined effort for a long time, and an opportunity to learn more about managing fuel intake, heat stress, sleep deprivation, pain management, and to discover and deal with new problems that would arise.
The obvious favorite was Jay Aldous, a 100-mile specialist from Salt Lake City who in fact had won a 100 mile race in a speedy 15 hours only two weeks earlier.  We took off at 6AM, Jay at a furious clip, and the rest of us in the front of the pack at a semi-sensible, fast jog.  I had my heart rate monitor to keep me company for the next day and night which would stay as close as possible to 30 beats below 50-mile race pace.  This caused a lot of people to ask what I was doing drifting back so far in the field.  Many of the runners took advantage of the cool temperatures in the morning, as we all knew it would be hot as blazes all day long.  I chose to stick to my plan of running a steady effort, regardless of what place that would result in at the first few aid stations.
Our first treat was a steep hike up to the top of Smith Mesa on the Flying Monkey Trail.
Flying Monkey Trail on Smith Mesa.
Our second treat was an actual flying monkey of sorts - a person in a gorilla suit hanging from a rope on a rock ledge, high-fiving the passing runners.  This would be the first of many fine touches to the event.
One of the aphorisms in ultramarathon running is "walk early, walk often".  So when a group of us hit an abrupt, steep grade at mile 10, something I would hammer up full throttle in a 50k race, we walk. 
After some technical running through a seldom-used trail lined with brilliantly flowering cacti, and a rough descent on ankle-twisting dirt roads pockmarked by a million cattle hooves, I arrive at the mile 27 aid station with no clue and no care as to how many runners are in front of me.  As I roll out I see my friend Mark Tanaka arrive.  Mark expects to finish the race about 6 hours behind me, so upon seeing me this far in to the race he blurts out an expression of grief.
After some miles of rhythm-killing rollers in the hot sun in a maze of dirt roads below the mesa, I arrive at the mile 35 aid station.  There I am greeted by the paparazzi, otherwise known as John Medinger, publisher of Ultrarunning Magazine.  I am told in great disbelief that only three runners have passed through.  I don't ask how far ahead they are and plow forward with two runners not far behind.
I catch the third place runner on the 1500 ft, 25% plus grade scramble up to Gooseberry Mesa at mile 42.  At this point it is brutally hot and there is no shade.  Third place is a fellow who runs a 31 minute 10k and I am reminded starkly of the effect that a long ultramarathon has on reducing speed demons to crawling zombies.
On top of Gooseberry Mesa we have 17 miles of uneven "slickrock" running.  We follow a series of painted dots, probably 8500 of them, over a boulder field partially smoothed by geological time.  This would be slow, but fun running on a cool day with only 5 miles in your legs, but after 40 miles in the hot sun it is a punishing meat grinder.  I feel very sorry for the slower runners who have to navigate this section at night.  I repeatedly pass and then get caught by the then 2nd place runner who ultimately pays for a fast start and fades hard from mile 62 on.  This section is very hard on me and I am eventually caught by Justin Faul from Arizona.  I enjoy the company, even to the point where we carelessly stray from the trail, only to be redirected by two runners who were lost themselves.  Justin is running megamiles  - 150 per week - and is training for an 80-day Transamerica run two weeks later.  He plans to run 8 miles on Sunday.  I tell him he is nuts.
Things are getting exciting as five runners hit the mile 62 aid station at about the same time.  Apparently, there had been  a shuffling of 2nd though 10th places, and it was destined to continue for the remainder of the day and night.  Finally, a section of run-able dirt road appears at the end of the mesa, albeit an Escherian uphill in the hot sun.  This was fortunate as the mesa had wreaked havoc on my hip flexor, but was able to loosen up on the road.
Mile 70 - the long awaited run-able terrain with Gooseberry Mesa in the rear view mirror.
At last I arrive at mile 70 and am greeted by my friends, my wife, Holly Harris, and my pacer/hero Mike Topper.  Unlike at The Bear, I feel good and am ready to run another 50k - not a fast one, but one without dread.  I am in 4th place now - oops, make that 2nd place  - as Justin and Slater make a wrong turn, the first of many.  Slater is a pro triathlete in his first 100-miler, but has very impressive credentials.  He has recovered from a long rough patch throughout much of the day and is ready to put the hammer down.  Course marking had been stupendous for the first 35 miles, not bad (in daylight) for the next 35, but the final 30 miles proved to be very challenging to follow.
Our race director, probably in his rookie zeal to seek absolute perfection in every other department, had quite a few loose ends with marking the final section of the course.  Fortunately for me, I always  load the gps track in to my wristwatch when running unfamiliar terrain, so could rely on my own navigation.
Two thousand course "ribbons"  in that handy gps wristwatch.
At nightfall and at the mile 77 aid station, I take a shot of some highly caffeinated concoction normally sold to 20 year old partiers at quickie marts.  This was the antidote I needed but didn't have at my last 100-miler, and it allowed me to run a few fast miles and open up a big gap on Justin.  Another problem to deal with late in the race is excessive peeing, which is really much better than the not uncommon problem of not being able to pee (which can be associated with kidney malfunction).  Fortunately, I have perfected the art of peeing while running a 10-minute mile without mess (x-rated instructional video featuring Tony Krupicka to follow). 
Up the trail,  I find out that 2nd place Slater had taken a wrong turn again.  Mike and I make a very quick stop at mile 83 where there is a final medical check.  I tell them my blood pressure is 120/80 and get the hell out of there.  It isn't long before we see headlights in the distance behind.  At about two minutes to midnight and around mile 91, Slater and his pacer come ripping by us on the single track at marathon pace.
We smell the barn at mile 94 at which point the single track terminates in a pair of "wrong way " red ribbons.  I consult my gps for the zillionth time and see that the course is right where we are headed.  However, Matt had changed the course at the last minute and intended for us to do some bushwhacking in the dark to reach the final aid station sooner.  Rather than search for the new route, I take no chances and follow the "official" map.  My watch finally ticks over 100 miles at just under 20 hours.  We still have 1.7 miles to go, however, due to that "extra-credit" loop.  We arrive at the finish in 20:16, happy and exhausted.
The buckle.   Made from locally sourced materials.
The advertised elevation gain of less than 8,000 ft was extremely deceptive.  The uneven terrain and the heat made it very difficult, and the 36 hour time limit was by no means a generosity on the part of the race committee.
The 100 mile race on Friday was followed 24 hours later by a 50-miler which also included Gooseberry Mesa.  My wife Holly, in honor of her 50th birthday year, ran the 50 miles along with her friend Janet Wagner.  I am happy to report they both finished with Holly just squeezing in under the 14 hour time limit.
Holly finishes the 50 mile race as Gary hobbles over to congratulate her.
The Virgin, Utah Town Park was host to a big post-race party with wood-fired pizza oven, a live band, a dunking tank for the kids, and a steady stream of prizes launched in the air with some sort of giant slingshot apparatus.  Matt conducted the awards ceremony on what was probably two hours of sleep in four days, wearing the same change of clothes he had on for that duration.  Kudos to Matt Gunn and his large group of family and friends for shooting for the moon and getting damned close to the target on the first try.
Awards ceremony with Matt Gunn, Gary Gellin, and Slater Fletcher.
Outdoor wood-fired pizza oven!
Gary Gellin is not only a super fast runner but he is also a teammate with the Inside Trail Racing Team and a really nice guy!!  Congratulations to both Gary and Holly on their finishes at Zion!!!  If this is the second time Gary has run over nine hours, then I can't wait to see the third!!!  Awesome job!!

All Day!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Endurables

The summer running season is here!  Are you in the Bay Area and looking for a group to run with?  The Endurables meet every Satruday, rain or shine in the Marin Headlands (there's an East Bay group too)!  All levels are welcome!  We have everyone from course record setting, elite runners to the folks who are out on the course...  ahem... All Day!  Runs can be tailored to meet the needs of folks training for just about any distance!!! 
Every Saturday, rain or shine!
There is a TON of trail running experience in this group!!  Many of our members have run 100's (a few of them have won 100's too!), I'll be running a 200 next week myself!  Our Fearless Leader, Jim Vernon is no slouch either!  He's gone sub 24 at Western States 100 and earned the coveted Silver Hubcap at Leadville 100!  Check out this interview with Jim on Running Stupid here:
RS Jim Vernon Interview

If you are new to trail running, there is no better, more inspirational group of runners in the Bay Area!!  The Endurables offer a beginners course as well!  Running with the group is a great way to stay motivated!

Hit some great trails with the gang!!

Along with the runs, Endurables members enjoy discounts with Hydrapak, makers of the super popular E-lite vest! and racing discounts with Inside Trail Races!  

I've been a member of the Endurables for several years now!  Shoot me an email at if you would like to join me for a test run!!

Here's the Miwok 100k, filmed by our Fearless Leader, Jim Vernon!

All Day!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paul Grinham reports from the North Dorset Village Marathon

Hills, Australia, Lady Gaga, Paper Cups and 42k!

By Paul Grinham 

Event: North Dorset Village Marathon
Location: Sturminster Newton, Dorset, England
Date: 6 May 2012

This time last year, I had never run further than 4 miles. At the end of May 2011 I entered a major city centre 10k race with some work colleagues to raise money for Cancer Research. I was hooked and signed up for the half marathon at the same venue in September.

Having completed the half, my first though was “could I run a marathon?” I figured that I was part way there already and if I was ever going to do it, now was the time to step up the training further and give it a crack. My first thought was the London Marathon in April 2012, the only event I was aware of, until I realised that entry is via a ballot carried out a year in advance! I could have maybe got a charity entry, but was daunted about how much sponsorship was required and was worried in case I found that I couldn’t cope with training.

Disheartened, I searched online for other events and suddenly realised how many marathons are held each year. I found the North Dorset Village Marathon listed on the Runners World Website. It had only been running for 3 years, but had fantastic reviews and it was held relatively close to where I live, so travel wouldn’t be an issue. The entry fee was very reasonable, so I had nothing to lose and no excuses…. I signed up on the spot.

Race head quarters were located in the High School at Sturminster Newton, a historic market town in the county of Dorset in South West England. A rural area, surrounded by rolling green hills and farmland. The race would take us through the countryside, via an undulating course of mainly quiet country roads, finishing with a mile and a half of trail, which was previously the location of the towns railway. We would be running through 10 different villages along the course, each unique and containing a mixture of traditional thatched cottages, slightly more modern homes, manor houses and farms. However, much of the course was lined with trees, hedges and a number of bridges. One of which still bears an original 19th century sign proclaiming that “Any person wilfully injuring any part of this County Bridge will be guilty of Felony and upon conviction to be liable to be Transported for Life (be deported to Australia!)” I did wonder for a moment if it was still valid!

We were welcomed to the pre race briefing by a Town Crier, in full traditional costume calling “Oyez, Oyez, Hear Ye, Hear Ye!” Very rousing at 8.15am on a chilly Sunday morning! The town crier read out some pre announcements such as congratulating a couple of runners who were starting there 100th marathons this morning and then handed us over the race organisers for some final details.

The 400 runners were then walked down the road to the start line. This was when the pre race nerves really started to kick in. Being a relatively small field and a qualification event for the county championships, I had worried that it may have been a bit “clicky” and full of super fast club runners. Whilst there were a lot of serious runners, the banter was good and there was a very friendly atmosphere. I bounced around to keep warm in the chilly air and found a place near the middle of the pack. Suddenly the Town Crier rang his bell again and we were off! What a great way to start the race, makes a change from a starting pistol!

The first mile and a half took us north up a steady incline, past the high school where the race head quarters were located. I darted across the road to wave to my wife, children and other family members, then got back amongst the pack and enjoyed the thrill of finally getting started after all the months of training through the cold dark winter.

At 2 miles, we turned off the main road into the country lanes and after a sharp corner I found myself at the crest of a hill with a stunning 20 mile panoramic view across the county. Looking down the hill I could see a human snake of runners winding down the hill into the distance. This one of the things I love about racing and I always find it an inspiring sight.
First Finish!!  Photo by Paul's wife, Suzie Grinham 

After the first 10k the runners were staring to spread out into smaller packs. I was feeling good, although a little faster than my initial plan. My target when I had signed up was simply to complete the course. After getting through the training, some further races and clocking up some 20 mile long runs, I had set myself a goal of getting round in under 4 hours, requiring a 9 minute per mile pace. One of my biggest pre race worries was getting caught up in the excitement and going out too fast. However, I was maintaining an 8.30 pace and feeling comfortable with it, so hung in there and focused on keeping steady. I don’t wear a GPS watch, so the mental arithmetic in calculating my pace helped pass the time and there were very good mile markers along the course.

At around the 8 mile mark I was with a group of 3 other runners, with a large gap before an after us. We rounded a corner and saw the first of the big hills ahead of us, we came at it from an angle and could see people running what looked like a 45 degree angle, about 150 feet in less than a quarter of a mile! We nodded at each other and joked that “this is the start of the hills then!”. Although none of the hills were any higher than this, they seemed to be unrelenting. We were either going up or down, never flat! The few “level” sections all had a slight incline in one direction or the other. I loved the variety, but it subtlety took it’s toll.

Between 10 and 13 miles, I was still running at half marathon pace and I realised I could not keep it up. I wanted to stay with my small group of runners as I thought that if I watched them get ahead, it would crush me and I would start trailing off badly with nobody to keep pace against. However, by mile 14 one of our group had dropped back and the other two had ended up behind me after a water stop, leaving me setting the pace. I slowed to let them past, but they didn’t and in the end, I made a dive into the bushes for a “toilet break” and let them past. I came out behind them and followed for a bit before being realistic and letting them go on ahead ahead.

Mile 14 – 19 were a bit of a blur. There were more open sections with less people out on the course cheering us on. Mile 15 – 17 in particular were quite torturous, taking us along and up Rams Hill. All I could see was a long, open, uphill road ahead of me with individual runners dotted along it. The first of our group who had previously dropped off, came back past me at this point and I lost a couple of other places. This hill was tough, not due to the elevation, it just didn’t seem to end! The skies had also cleared and it was getting hot and sunny.

I think this was the toughest section of the race. I used every trick in the book to distract myself, from counting to 100, focusing on breathing, repeating mantra’s. I even borrowed Coach Kens “Keep moving forward, all day”, although it did mutate into “all f’ing day!!” through clenched teeth!

I don’t wear an iPod when racing, I like to be able to hear other runners, marshals and supporters, and soak up the atmosphere. I ended up singing to myself at times instead, not out loud though! Most of the songs were upbeat rock, such as Bon Jovi and the Manic Street Preachers, but for a good couple of miles, all I could here in my head was Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory! (Yikes!)

At the water stop at mile 19 I saw the two guys I had been following earlier, looking a bit worse for wear and was glad I hadn’t tried to stay with them. I grabbed some jelly babies and water and carried on.

My fuel strategy had been a gel after 45 minutes and then every half hour. I managed to time it so I could open and eat the gel before getting to the water stop, so I could grab the water and go. What I hadn’t accounted for was how difficult it was to grab a plastic cup of water without it splashing everywhere! Luckily a couple of the water stops had bottled water and I was able to take the bottles with me for the next couple of miles.

The water stations were excellent, being located roughly every 2-3 miles. We had a choice of water, orange squash, flat coke, jelly babies and raisins. Runners were also able to deposit their own water bottles at race headquarters, to be dropped at two of the stations. All the volunteers were excellent, getting water to you as quickly as possible and giving you shouts of encouragement to send you on your way.

Along the course, people were standing in their gardens cheering runners along, or even coming out to the roadside. In a number of random places along the course, children were holding out bags of sweets for runners to take from as we went past, very cute and much appreciated!

Marathon fever!  Photo by Ken Michal
Whilst talking about the people involved, a special mention really needs to be given to the marshals. The roads were not closed for this event, but the marshals kept us clear and safe from traffic, even when crossing a couple of main roads. The runners were given priority at all times and all the marshals were enthusiastic and encouraging. I always tried to give them a wave, nod or a thank you to show appreciation as they were out there a long time. I did notice some runners ignoring them, but karma will catch up with those guys! In some of the more isolated areas, marshals were cycling too and fro along the course to check we were okay and motivate us, this was a nice touch especially in some of the more isolated areas when you are out on your own.

Around mile 20 I started to get past my difficult patch and although I had never considered not finishing, I started to really believe that I was going to complete the course without a catastrophic meltdown. I was catching back up with and passing other runners and this helped boost my confidence and push me on. This wasn’t an ego trip about beating other people and I hope they weren’t having too much of a difficult time out there. I know it is tough when you are struggling and other people are passing you. Even though I was feeling better by this point, someone a lot fresher looking would still come cruising past! Lesson learned, balanced pacing!

Mile 20.5 took us past the ominously named Gallows Corner! Fortunately there was no sign of any hangmen!

The next couple of miles took us along a much narrower road, where we came across some riders leading their horses. Although we slowed our pace, if that was possible! One of the horses got a bit spooked by a group of strange looking sweaty people in bright coloured lycra running towards him and starting bucking across the road. The rider managed to get him under control and we eased passed, apologising and politely pointing out that there would be more like us coming through soon!

This was the last hilly section, again nothing too serious, but a continuous plus / minus 80ft set of undulations. I prefer these to the long, stretching hills such as mile 17. With the short ones, although steeper, you can get your teeth into them, then cruise the down hill, the dig in for the next one, like interval training!

After cresting Gold Hill at mile 22.5, we left the last of the hills behind. I was passing the furthest I had ever run and it felt great. Knowing the end was in sight was exciting, but also disappointing, as it meant the race would soon be over. 

After following some smaller country lanes we left the road for the final stretch, 1.5 miles of light trail. By this point it was very sunny and I had not taken on enough liquid, (squishy cups!). I was feeling slightly dehydrated and stopped twice to relive cramp. I refused to stop for long and pushed on. I usually have a burst of speed at the end of a race, due to the excitement of seeing the finish line and wanting to spend that last bit of energy. Exhausted, I managed what I hoped passed for a surge for the last 200yds, with people lining the side of the course willing us all on for the final stretch.

Crossing the line was emotional and I did start to well up a bit inside. The next few moments were a blur as I had my medal hung over me, a tee shirt thrust into my hands and my wife and children running over to give me a great big hug. I then made a bee line for the refreshments stand for more jelly beans and water. Although, I had slowed in the second half, I had managed to finish in 3 hours 51 minutes, which I was pleased with, but the experience itself was the biggest reward.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Either you have raced before and know what it is like, in which case I hope it has brought back happy memories. If you are thinking about entering an event, get out there and do it, you’ll love it!

Way to go, Paul on your first marathon finish!!! Glad you didn't get deported to Australia! A little trick with the cups: bend them so they form a point and tilt your head... It's easier to drink this way! Congratulations on breaking that 4 hour goal!!!

All Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Welcome to Running Stupid Stories!!!  Not much to see here yet but I hope to have a lot of interesting content soon!!  If all goes according to plan, this will be a spot for listeners of the Running Stupid podcast to post their race reports from cool races all over the world!  I'm also planning on writing an article or two with ultra/trail running advice and opinions!  I'll have an article on my footcare plan for the upcoming Pigtails 200 miler coming soon!  In the meantime, here are some springtime pics from the Headlands!
"Welcome to RS Stories!"  Some of the Endurables on Hill 88
 If you have any ideas for the blog or anything interesting you would like to post, please contact me at

All Day!
View from 88

Miwok Fire Road