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Finding the Proper Balance Between Running, Calories and Adaptability

On its surface, the thinking makes total sense. Cutting calories helps you lose weight; exercise helps you lose weight; one of the best ways to exercise is running. So, if you’re cutting calories and exercising by running, you should be at least twice as effective, right?

Wrong.

In this battle, your enemy is one that is typically an ally: Adaptation. The human body is undoubtedly a miracle, filled with all kinds of ways — some known, others still a mystery — that we naturally defend ourselves by unconsciously making physiological changes to combat threats. One good example is the way our bodies increase blood flow to the skin when it’s cold outside — warming us up by opening blood vessels where needed. One bad example are allergies: conditions caused by the immune system overreacting to harmless substances in the environment that are mistakenly perceived as a threat.

On a similar (if not nearly as frightening as allergies can be) note, when you run long distances, your body adapts to a perceived physical stress. Unfortunately, you can’t explain to your body the difference between running 10 miles a day for training vs. running the same distance because you’re being chased by a T-Rex. So, your body adapts to the repetitive nature of the activity, allowing you to burn fewer calories and hold on to more of them so they can be converted into additional energy if needed.

“If your goal is to be leaner, then greater endurance isn’t really to your benefit,” Lou Schuler, author of the book “The New Rules of Lifting for Women,” tells USA Today.

University of Minnesota physician/former president of the American College of Sports Medicine Dr. William Roberts says that the key is to basically make it so that the randomness of your workout outsmarts your body’s ability to adapt. “If I’m looking at a gym and looking at what can I get the most bang for my buck from, it’s whatever I can use that moves and works the most muscle groups at the same time,” he says, admitting that even though he’s a runner, strength training must be added to the upper body — which long-distance running neglects. “If you can build strength and build muscle mass, you’re going to burn more calories, even if you’re idling.”

According to the 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, active men should consume up to 3000 calories a day, while women should be around 2400 — of course, such guidelines need to be adjusted for height, activity level and other factors. Those calories are processed through metabolism, and turned into the energy we all need.

“When we talk about calorie burning, we are including calories burned for basal metabolic rate—those calories we need just to maintain our temperature and breathing, etc.—plus the extra calories burned in physical activity,” sports medicine specialist/orthopedic surgeon Natasha Trentacosta, M.D., tells Runner’s World. “The extra activities we do in life burn calories beyond the requirement for basal metabolic rate, and to burn these calories, your body first looks toward readily-available sources, and then subsequently stored energy sources.”

If your calories are in deficit, your body turns to glucose in the liver and muscles. “Eventually, longer duration exercise will deplete the readily available glucose and the glycogens stores, requiring the body to get energy from fat or even muscle protein,” Trentacosta explains. “Your body literally breaks down muscle to provide energy for your run, decreasing your overall lean muscle mass.”

This last resort of the body would typically be used as an adaptation to starvation. But — once again —you can’t have a conversation with your body to explain that you aren’t starving, you’re simply trying to lose weight to fit into that bridesmaid’s dress for your cousin’s wedding. If you trigger starvation mode, your thyroid is likely to suffer — and your body will warn you of this, but rather than a “check engine” light in a car, you’ll just feel really terrible.

The body will also suffer in terms of its ability to recover, and you’ll likely begin to feel the effects of the insufficient vitamin and mineral intake triggered by lack of food — hello, weaker, more breakable bones!

It’s not often that you’re told in modern-day life to ignore common sense and work to overcome your body’s god-given tendency to adapt. For many athletes, the key to achieving the body you want is a smart, varied workout regimen complimented by the fuels necessary to make it happen. Rather than going to extremes, go for a gameplan, and then execute it. Because ultimately, your body’s most powerful muscle is always the brain.

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Ultra-Running in the age of coronavirus: What to do now?

Right now, everyone has a lot on their minds, and there are few who would argue that any public event is more important than the recommendations we shelter at home, keep a 6-foot distance from others, and take seriously all hygienic precautions in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve. But for professional athletes like ultra-runners, accustomed to daily workouts encompassing substantial miles on foot, cancellations and self-quarantine are as challenging as any slippery hillside or uphill climb.

Virtually every major sporting event for the next 30 days has been cancelled, many with barely a few days of advance warning, impacting athletes who may have been training for months. This can’t help but feel like a massive disappointment for such folks, who may be able to commiserate with those around them who’ve had birthday parties, guitar lessons and work mixers similarly cancelled, but it isn’t quite the same. We’re all hoping and praying that the COVID-19 threat goes away as quickly as possible with as little impact as possible — but while birthday parties and guitar lessons can easily resume, if an elite athlete sits in a house for a month or longer largely inactive, resumption is not so easily achieved.

There is also the issue of separation. Many athletes train with one or several coaches and mentors, people who they speak with day in and day out, and who come to know them as well as any member of their blood family. Now, common sense dictates that they must stay apart to preserve their health — but every fiber of their athleticism yearns for their wisdom, camaraderie and support. On top of that is the loss of community — runners are typically a tight-knit group, seeing each other regularly at events — and to suddenly have that infrastructure taken away can be difficult.

These days, we all have to remember: You are not defined by which event you are training for.

“Races don’t determine what kind of athlete you are or who you are for that matter,” coach and trail athlete Anna Mae Flynn of Marble, Colorado recently told Trail Runner. “Health and safety are always the number one priority.” 

On the other hand, perhaps athletes are better equipped for this crisis than others. In addition to the health advantages of being physically fit, athletes have been trained to encounter adversity, conquer it and move on. They know that there will be bad days, but all that means is a good day must be right around the corner. They know to support others around them, and to work as a team — whether they are part of a running group in training, or a family of five co-habitating in the same house for multiple weeks.

Also, like so much in life, perspective is everything. While the pessimist may feel defeated by the prospect of weeks indoors, the optimist could see the same situation as an opportunity. If you have a good treadmill/bike/workout room at home, there has never been a better time to become closely acquainted. How many sit-ups will it take to finally achieve the 6-pack you’ve always wanted? How much base building can you do while not training for a specific race?

“Even though there are bigger issues in the world, caring about races is a great thing,” coach David Roche tells Trail Runner. “But also think about why you race in the first place. I like athletes to frame events as a means to structure the day-to-day process they love, rather than the end goal.” 

Another thing to keep in mind: modern technology is your friend. Numerous organizations online are offering fitness classes, training sessions and pretty much anything else you can imagine via video conferencing. FaceTime with your coach, group-chat with your running buddies — once you get beyond the inevitable glitches and the one guy who can’t seem to get the mic to work on his laptop, it’s amazing how much goodness you can still get from human interaction, even if the humans aren’t in the same room with you.

Along those same optimistic lines, there is perhaps no sport better-equipped to weather the coronavirus storm than competitive running. If the goal is to avoid proximity with others, there are few options as effective as heading out into the woods and running alone. Be smart, stay up on the latest precautions, and when all this is finished you may just find that it’s made you stronger — both mentally and physically.  

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2020 Barkley — Will Anyone Ever Finish The Race Again?

In the world of ultra-marathoning, no race is more fabled, feared or filthy as the Barkley. Inspired by the frantic escape of a notorious murderer, limited to a select group of participants and defiantly averse to support or celebration, Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell’s annual event is unlike anything else. No one has successfully finished the race since 2017 — and it’s safe to say no one would be surprised if the 2020 installment once again breaks the hearts of everyone involved.

Typically completed within a 60-hour period in late March or early April of each year, details of Barkley are proudly, defiantly hard to come by. Good luck getting much information from the “official website,” which seems to have last been updated around the same time “Moonlight” upset “La La Land” at the Oscars. Instead, for details on the race that “eats its young,” most folks seem to look to Keith Dunn, a loyal Barkley supporter who (unofficially?) seems to post the most reliable information about Barkley.

On February 28, Dunn tweeted: “Seems there are a lot of people hanging around a yellow gate the last couple days. #BM100,” seemingly signaling that race time was closing in. But in true Barkley spirit, he then said about a week later: “I’ve already tweeted the final results for this year. There will be no finishers.” So, don’t get your hopes up.

Which means, of course, that the racing community is indeed getting its hopes up. “It’s almost time for the one (!!!!) sporting event I follow,” tweeted Canadian race fan Rachel Schwarz (@rachelschwarz). “Every year I’m glued to twitter for a few days of hitting the refresh button and seeing if anyone escapes the jaws of the Barkley Marathon alive.”

Promising that they’ll be watching, Pieter Meere (@PieterMeere) replied: “My wife and I have taken a few extra days off for the #BM100. Yes, both last weekends,” adding: “We do expect a lot of finishers, mild conditions, singing in the woods, gnomes helping runners in need. What could possibly go wrong in Frozen Head?”

The response, of course, is that plenty can go wrong. Limited to 40 runners, entry details are typically top secret but include some combination of an essay, a $1.60 entry fee and additional requirements. After receiving a “letter of condolence” telling the athletes they’ve made the cut, the person least likely to finish one lap of the race is deemed the “human sacrifice,” and when Cantrell lights a cigarette, the race begins. Although certain variables are subject to change, the race currently consists of a 20-mile unmarked loop — no aid stations, two water points, runners going back and forth on the loop, night and day.

Out of more than 1,000 starts, the 100-mile race has been completed within the 60-mile cutoff by only 15 runners. In 2017, Vancouver’s Gary Robbins finished six seconds after the 60-hour cut-off time — although a wrong-turn likely would have disqualified him anyway. Could this be the year he finally conquers Barkley?

“Gary [Robbins] has to finish this year and Courtney [Dauwalter] will be the first female finisher next year,” predicts a fan named Jonah (@jeunomatic). “She will team up with Jared Campbell for the first 2 loops. Campbell’s comeback year will see him beat Maune’s record by some 30 mins. You heard it here first.”

Campbell is best known as the only person to ever finish Barkley three times — a 2019 attempt at a fourth finish fell short. Brett Maune, meanwhile, holds the course record with 52:03:08, which he set in 2012.  As a third straight year threatens to end Barkley without a finisher, such performances seem increasingly impossible. Nevertheless, there appears to be hope — albeit, from the most unlikely source.

“Apparently laz has gone on record as saying there will be a finisher this year,” tweeted Dunn last week. “I’m on record as saying there won’t be. History suggests I am right.”

At this point, anything further is speculation — and seems to reflect more on the glass half full/glass half empty nature of the commenter than any sort of actual, tangible insider information.

“There will be 2 Finishers and the first woman,” tweeted a fan named empariyon (@Andreas42628876). “I feel it, yes … there is a spirit 2020.”

“I’m with you Keith,” replied Greg Doran. “But something always tells me Laz is not to be denied.”

Perhaps (most likely?) jokingly, Dunn suggested something that may threaten to become a reality if Barkleys keep going down without any finishers — albeit, most likely over the founder’s dead body. “I mean,” he tweeted. “laz could make the course easier . . .”

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Tie-Dyed Lake Sonoma 50 promises sweat, smiles

The beloved Lake Sonoma 50 is once again getting ready for the sport’s spotlight, and the official race site has selected one ominous word to define itself: relentless.

In and of itself, a relentless race is an intimidating concept. But what truly defines the allure of Lake Sonoma over comparable races is the other word chosen to define this 2020 installment: tie-dye?

Yup, this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 is Woodstock-themed, and participants are encouraged to wear the bright, Technicolor-twisted colors that defined the free-love generation.  

“Join us this year with a Woodstock tie-dye theme!” the Sonoma site urges. “The race is held on the trails at Lake Sonoma, about 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg, California. The course is an out-and-back circumnavigation of the Warm Springs Arm of Lake Sonoma. It is 86% single-track trail and 9% dirt fire roads, with the first 2.4 miles on pavement. The trail is relentlessly rolling, with three significant climbs.”

There’s something ironic about the thought of sweating, cramping, physically-stretched-to-their-limits ultra-runners clad in the freewheeling uniform of a generation known for laying down in grass fields and “turn on, tune in, drop(ping) out” while psychedelic substances took them on a mental trip rather than a physical one. But that’s part of the charm of Lake Sonoma, which began in 2008 and has been run every year since — with the exception of 2011, when flooding proved even more relentless than the race itself.

This year’s race is set for April 11th, and according to UltraSignup there are some impressive athletes who will be strapping on their running shoes. Needham, Massachusetts native and Boston Bulldogs Running Club founder Patrick Caron will be bringing his talents to Sonoma after a half-decade of impressive finishes in international races. 2018 Speedgoat winner David Sinclair is listed as a participant, as is Circle the Bay veteran Jared Bassett and the endlessly-positive Scott Trummer.

On the women’s side, Ashley Nordell is a force to be reckoned with (favorite quote: Steve Prefontaine’s “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice a gift”), as is 2016 Western States winner (and apparent PAW Patrol enthusiast) Kaci Lickteig. Ultra-running vet and Vermont native Aliza Lapierre is also slated to run, as is Janessa Taylor and Canadian runner/podcaster Nicola Gildersleeve.

Such familiar names will be competing not only against each other, but also against the course records set by Jim Walmsley in 2018 (5:51:16 for Men’s) and Stephanie Howe Violett in 2015 (7:08:23 for Women’s). Last year’s male winner Jared Hazen (who finished with a 6:08:29 time) is not currently slated to return, but 2019 female winner Anna Mae Flynn (7:25:15) will return to defend her title and hopefully close the gap even further between herself and the women’s course record.

What can these athletes expect? The Lake Sonoma 50 boasts 10,500 feet of elevation gain, offset by an equal amount of loss. Although the course has few rocks and roots, since the trail is infrequently used there are sure to be lots of leaves and sticks. Then there are the dozen creek crossings — not kind to runners who aren’t accustomed to wet, cold feet.

But as relentless as the 2020 Lake Sonoma 50 will be, the counterbalance should make it all worthwhile. “Rule 1: No Littering. Rule 2: Be Nice. Rule 3: Have Fun!” reads the race’s official rules. “Violation of rules 1 and 2 will get you disqualified. If you are observed violating rule 3, we may withhold your post-race beer.”

Although the race requires serious training and flexibility of both body and mind, there is an even bigger picture that remains in focus via Sonoma’s chosen charity: The Children of Vineyard Workers Scholarship Fund. All net proceeds from the run benefit the fund, established nearly 20 years ago by Ken and Diane Wilson to ensure that financial hardships don’t stop the offspring of the wine industry’s workers from achieving their goals in higher education. In the years since, the fund has distributed more than a half-million dollars in scholarships.

So, a good cause, a great event, and a fun-loving atmosphere that will feature tie-dyed runners and a penalty on anyone who isn’t having fun. Although the Lake Sonoma 50 is designed to be relentless, it might be the toughest race of its kind that will showcase equal parts sweat and smiles.

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Following Arizona tune-up, Jim Walmsley targets historic Olympics trials

When it comes to sports, sometimes stepping outside your lane can be seen as a major affront. Which is strange, because as anyone from a world-class athlete to your run-of-the-mill gym rat will tell you: The best exercise is the one your body doesn’t expect, something that pushes you outside your routine and forces the body to adapt.

Which is why one of the more fascinating stories in the ultra-running community these days is Jim Walmsley’s quest to try his luck with next month’s U.S Olympic Marathon Trials. As Walmsley trains to go down in distance, from being an ultra-runner to a standard marathon participant, he has been facing considerable backlash, both online and elsewhere. It’s no secret that the marathon community sees him as something of an outsider, so after years of insisting that ultra runners are different animals whose 30-mile training runs are nothing like the sub-5 minute splits needed to be a competitive marathoner, many view Walmsley’s dream as something akin to a publicity stunt.

But Walmsley has never been the type to take on a challenge and then fold like a deck chair. This is an athlete whose resume of wins reads like a list of the most difficult ultra-racing events in the world: Western States (twice), Lake Sonoma (twice), Bandera, JFK (three times), Moab … and the list just goes on and on. Which is why he has just as many supporters who are quick to point out that this isn’t an ego trip.

And then there’s the one thing both sides have in common: A desire to see how this whole thing plays out. Like Michael Jordan attempting baseball, or Conor McGregor stepping into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather, curiosity is piqued by the question of whether the skills of one discipline will translate to the other.

“I’d say I’m not in contention for the top three,” Walmsley told the Arizona Daily Sun recently. “The goal, more or less, is to be competitive and try to hold my own. … At the end of the day, I still have ultrarunning. I still have my day job.”

It sounds like Walmsley hopes that if he does get a crack at the Olympics, his unique training will present some sort of opportunity to overcome an obstacle that traditional marathoners would have a more difficult time grappling with.

“You never know,” Walmsley said. “I bring something to this race, a toolbox, others don’t. The race could turn out like, ‘Well, I’m the only one who brought this wrench. I can do that.’ You never know.”

Believe it or not, Walmsley — a Phoenix, Arizona native who just turned 30 earlier this month — has never run a marathon in his life. But he did set a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim record, and last year he won the World Mountain Running title. In 2019 he also set the world record for fastest 50 miles, running it at 4:50:08, which puts him at an average of about 5:48 per mile — not too far off the pace of a solid marathoner, but he still has much work to do.

“For an ultrarunner, [this] challenges the status quo for how we are stereotyped,” Walmsley says of his current mindset, just days after Ultra-Running magazine named him Ultrarunner of the year for the fourth year in a row. “Challenging that and putting up a good fight, that sort of thing, is more or less the bigger story that I’m after by doing this.”

On Sunday, Walmsley ran the Rock N Roll half-marathon in Phoenix. He finished with a time of 1:02:13, putting him at a pace time of 4:44. It’s the latest workout in a training regimen that has had him averaging 161 miles a week (with two weeks of 175 miles) over the last several weeks. But will it be enough?

“There’s just an unknown about it, whether the strength from running trails and the high volume I do now will translate to something that’s maybe closer to my top potential for the marathon,” Walmsley says, looking forward to next month’s Olympics trials. “With the hills in Atlanta, there’s no certain time that’s going to get you there to the top three. People aren’t sure what it’s going to take, so why not put your nose in that?”

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HURT 100 pushes aside scary conditions, crowns winners Fuchs and Albrecht

As the 2020 HURT 100 approached, things felt … ominous. The annual Honolulu event is typically set in paradise, but this year’s recent weather in paradise has been less than ideal. On January 12, organizers for the race posted a warning:

“Recent high winds and heavy rains may result in poor trail conditions. While we are hopeful that conditions will improve leading up to the event, January weather on O’ahu is very unpredictable … Currently, the HURT course is mired in water, mud, and fallen trees.”

Not exactly music to a runner’s ears. But ultimately, the course was cleared (mostly), the weather cooperated, and the 20+ year-old iconic ultramarathon once again did not disappoint.

The big winner was Trevor Fuchs, who finished muddied and exhausted, but with a big smile on his face. The Ogden, Utah native ran his 100 miles in a time of 22:04:49, more than a half hour ahead of his closest competitor.

“When I first started running, I would have never guessed the places it would take me,” Fuchs wrote on his Instagram a few days before the race, looking forward to a big 2020 that has since started out on the best foot imaginable. “I would have never guessed the friendships I would make or the community that would become such a vital part of my life. I would have never guessed the opportunities that running would present. I am so incredibly grateful, honored, and stoked beyond measure to share that I have joined the @salomonrunning U.S. team. This coming year will have no shortage of adventure with Hardrock and UTMB in the summer. But in a few days, I get to start this thing off with a bang in Hawaii at the HURT 100 as a Salomon athlete.”

Featuring nearly 25,000 feet of vertical ascent, completing this race in the rainforests of Honolulu is anything but a given. Named for the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (HURT), a group of eccentric athletes who trained together on Maui’s jungle-covered mountains, the race was invented when they got sick of traveling all the way to the mainland to find competition. Known for its roots-heavy trails and humid temperatures, it has grown into one of the most beloved 100-milers in the ultra-running community.

On the women’s side, local favorite Anna Albrecht led the pack. The Honolulu native finished 15th overall, with a time of 28:55:50. She also finished more than 3 hours ahead of the second-place women’s participant.

About a week before her run, Albrecht posted a picture of herself kissing the famous sign that serves as a ritual for those who finish the HURT. “I’m so excited and nervous for this journey. It’s been the CRAZIEST ride since my name was drawn in August,” she wrote on Instagram. “This is going to be the hardest race of my life but I’m so ready to go to battle with it. Bring on the blisters, tears, sweaty cast, nerve pain, and bliss. Can’t wait to dance in the jungle for a couple days with all my crazy friends.”

Dance, she did – and she danced well enough to lead the pack. Here’s the women’s Top 10:

1. Anna Albrecht (Honolulu, Hawaii): 28:55:50

2. Denise Bourassa (Lakewood, Colorado): 32:03:50

3. Suzanna Bon (Sonoma, California): 32:19:46

4. Michiko Uchiyama (Shizuoka, Japan): 32:46:58

5. Chelsey Topping (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada): 33:01:15

6. Jody Sanborn (Banner, Wyoming): 33:24:17

7. Jessica Hardy (Dana Point, California): 33:39:01

8. Hannah Perry (Vancouver, Canada): 33:54:36

9. Candice Burt (Leavenworth, Washington): 33:56:46

10. Mayuko Floyd (San Diego, California): 34:39:10

Men’s Top Ten:

1. Trevor Fuchs (Ogden, Utah): 22:04:49

2. Nate Jaqua (Eugene, Oregon): 22:37:34

3. Brandon Stapanowich (Colorado Springs, CO): 23:28:07

4. Tomokazu Ihara (Takao, Japan): 23:57:20

5. Takeshi Noda (Yokohama, Japan): 24:54:38

6. Daniel List (Santa Maria, California): 26:01:05

7. Will Jones IV (Bellingham, Washington): 26:24:47

8. Tim McDononough (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada): 26:48:05

9. Shin Iwatare (Suginami, Japan): 27:05:43

10. Sergio Florian (Kaaawa, Hawaii): 27:07:26

Contrasted with the final results, the halfway leaders show that Fuchs, Stapanowich, Jaqua and Ihara were in the driver’s seat for pretty much the entirety of the HURT 100. Also worth noting is the return of Tracy Garneau, who set the course record in 2010. Now 50 years old, Garneau unfortunately was unable to finish.

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Marisa Lizak breaks out at Desert Solstice, with Camille Herron as coach

Reports out of Arizona have Marisa Lizak breaking records at Desert Solstice, the annual elite-level ultrarunning track event in Phoenix. The news is particularly noteworthy because she is coached by Camille Herron – a Solstice juggernaut herself just last year.

“If you are not familiar with the name, Marisa Lizak, you will soon,” reports the Instagram page for the US National 24 Hour Running Team . “She quietly came to Desert Solstice Invitational Track Meet – 100 Miles & 24 Hours race and has run away with the fastest time for a 100 mile race in 2019.”

With her stunning under-15-hours time of 14:50:44, the Marina del Rey, California native broke the previous 100-mile run record of 15:32:31 set by Kaci Lickteig at the Javelina Jundred Endurance Run just two months ago. She then went after the World Record for 24 Hours, running a total of 148.08 miles to take the new American 40-44 AG record (besting Traci Falbo’s 147.11 in 2014). These numbers give her the 4th best women’s qualifying time for the 2021 World Championship, and also make a strong qualifying mark for the 24 Hour National Team.  

Just last year, Herron herself was the talk of Solstice “Desert Solstice 2018 Re-Cap“. She broke the Women’s World Record for 24 hours with a distance of 162.9 miles, and claimed the 100 mile American Track Record for Women with a time of 13:25:00. This past October, Herron re-asserted her dominance in Albi, France, winning the IAU 24-Hour World Championships, adding just under five additional miles to her record by covering 167.8 in 24 hours.   

“I may need @runcamille as my coach!” tweeted @Tracey_Outlaw, using the hashtag #runlikeagirl. “Her athlete, Marisa Lizak, just threw down at Desert Solstice. Massive number for 24 hours.”

The dominance of Herron and Lizak seems to be ushering in a new era of competitive track ultra-running, as records are seemingly rising and falling with each successive race. 

“Fangirling from afar for our athlete Marisa!” Herron tweeted mid-race, in support of her protégé. “She’s running great.” 

Herron then followed that up tweet after the race with clapping emojis and the celebratory boasts of a proud parent: “148.08 miles to win Desert Solstice overall and break the 40-44 age group American Record!!! Fantastic!”

Held annually on Central High School’s oval track measuring 400 meters, Desert Solstice is seen by many as an event orchestrated to optimize record-breaking potential – and once again, it lived up to its billing.

Lizak ran 595 laps and beat her own personal record by more than 11 miles over the course of 24 hours. “Overwhelming!” was the word she used to describe the experience to USA Ultrarunning , who tweeted a photo of her after the race recovering in a chair, staring down with head in hands. 

“I just can’t imagine what these runners go through, running for 24 straight hours,” tweeted Patrick Duggan, a sprinter in awe of Lizak’s achievement. 

Following behind Lizak was Rolfe Schmidt (Fayetteville, AR) with a distance of 145.80. Here’s the top finishers for each field in terms of 24-hour distance:

Women’s:

1. Marisa Lizak (Marina del Rey, CA) – 148.08 miles

2. Yvonne Naughton (La Conner, WA) – 117.81 miles

3. Adela Salt (Leduc, AB) – 116.13 miles

4. Sarah Emoto (Sierra Madre, CA) – 91.21 miles

5. Suzi Swinehart (Fort Wayne, IN) – 70.58 miles

6. Laurie Dymond (Chambersburg, PA) – 63.63 miles

7. Meghan Laws (Cool, CA) – 62.13 miles

8. Nicole Bitter (Phoenix, AZ) – 35.79 miles

Men’s: 

1. Rolfe Schmidt (Fayetteville, AR) – 145.80 miles

2. Oswaldo Lopez (Madera, CA) – 141.13 miles

3. Zachary Szablewski (Issaquah, WA) – 115.36 miles

4. Scott Traer (Lyons, CO) – 102.15 miles

5. Pete Kostelnick (Brunswick, OH) – 100.66 miles

6. Mark Hammond (Millcreek, UT) – 100.00 miles

7. James Elson (St Albans, GBR) – 100.00 miles

8. Jacob Moss (Ladson, SC) – 90.47 miles

9. David Huss (Seattle, WA) – 70.58 miles

10. Kyle Pietari (Edgewater, CO) – 68.60 miles

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Pristine Patagonia: Ready for its Racing Close-Up

When an event bills itself as “the running experience of a lifetime,” you might be inclined to think it’s just hype. But when we’re talking about Patagonia – the sparsely-populated South American region shared by Chile and Argentina and boasting views of the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans – it’s anything but hyperbole.

In recent years, 3 groundbreaking (and endearingly unique) running events have been introduced in the extreme south, allowing athletes to compete amidst a backdrop unlike anywhere else in the world. The Ultra Fiord, Ultra Paine and Patagonian International Marathon each offer runners a chance to compete in various distances, across wide-ranging terrains and elevations. 

“Through these events, runners have the unique opportunity to experience running in Patagonia,” says race director Stjepan Pavicic. “By holding these races during the low season, not only does it help support the local tourism industry, but runners are also guaranteed greater access to accommodations, travel and other services, and all at a more affordable price.”

If you’re thinking about putting “the running experience of a lifetime” on your to-do list, which of these races is the one for you? Let’s take a closer look. 

The Patagonian International Marathon launched in 2012, marking the first time a road-running race was allowed in the Torres del Paine National Park – a majestic natural marvel between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes, encompassing lakes, mountains, glaciers and rivers. Featuring distances of 10K, 21K and 42K, it certainly offers a challenge to any runner, whether you’re a rookie or elite. Touting itself as the ultimate way to get up close to the breathtaking beauty of Chilean Patagonia, the event has grown exponentially over the last 8 years while attracting over 4000 runners from some 65 countries around the world.

Patagonia then upped the ante in 2014 with the introduction of Ultra Paine, which embraces runners of all levels in the region’s first trail running race. This is your chance to navigate stunning river crossings and forest climbs, in distances of 14K, 35K, 50K or 80K in one of the world’s most pristine running environments. 

In 2015, Ultra Fiord was introduced as Paine’s extreme younger brother. Encompassing high-mountain passes, glacier crossings and views of the fjords and mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, it has since gained a reputation as one of the most challenging trail running races around. 

With the calendar turning to 2020, the Patagonia triad of races is getting ready for their close-ups. Ultra Fiord (https://www.ultrafiord.com/) kicks things off on April 24 and 25, featuring everything from 21K, 42K, 50K, 60K and 80K to two-day races of 95K, 115K and 136K. The 9th Edition of the Patagonia International Marathon (10K, 21K and 42K) will take place on September 5 Patagonian International Marathon . Ultra Paine (14K, 35K, 50K and 80K) goes down just a few weeks later, on September 26. 

Ultra Paine is an Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc qualifying race, with different points being awarded for your chosen distance. Like the others, it is also quite active in conservation partnerships with the Chilean Patagonia, seeking to increase environmental awareness and tourism promotion. 

As for the Ultra Fiord, perhaps 2015’s 100-mile 2nd place finisher Enzo Ferrari said it best on his blog: “A tremendous, wild, tough, and strong race, suitable for those who truly are mentally strong and have a powerful heart,” he remembers of his time in Patagonia. “My goal was to finish, and, in the best case scenario, finish amongst the top 5. I had the opportunity of finishing second – not for being the fastest, the most trained, or the most capable, this was perseverance, toughness, mind, mind, and mind – convincing myself that there are no more limitations that one could put. Today, I am a person more prepared from what I went through.”

If you have a similar desire to develop your whole being through a transformative, once-in-a-lifetime experience, you might want to consider the Patagonia race most appropriate for your skills. It’s the rare opportunity to combine running, nature and travel – and if you love all 3, it’s hard to imagine a better gift combining fitness and adventure that you could give yourself heading into the new year. 

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Rocky Raccoon 50: Athletes Prepare to Run Their Own Race

There’s a good reason why the image selected for the registration page of the Hoka One One Rocky Raccoon 50 Endurance Trail Run is a smiling athlete wearing a tutu. Rocky Raccoon has been growing exponentially over the last few years, driven by a culture that embraces the “no pressure” mindset, and runners are responding to that.

Wanna run a 50k? Prefer to run 50 miles? A half marathon, your first ultra, or a really fast 50? No pressure, the Texas-based event seems to say – you be you. 

Wanna put on your game face? Prefer to take the course with a smile and a silly hat? Again, you be you.

Online registration is now open for the February 8th 50 miles/50k/half-marathon options, which will almost definitely sell out as more and more athletes use it as a solid option to begin their new year. Set in the city of Huntsville (population: 38,000), the course promises challenging elevation changes, beautiful pine trees, cool bridges and some Texas wildlife.  

Rocky Raccoon 50

Founded in 2002, the Rocky Raccoon 50was amended to include the 50k option in 2016, but capped out at 500 runners max so it won’t lose its charm. 

One interesting thing about the Rocky Raccoon 50 is that both the men’s and women’s categories seem ripe for a record reset. The fastest men’s race was run by Todd Braje (5:43:08) in 2011, and women’s champion Melanie Fryar (6:59:40) set her record way back in 2010. Another interesting factor is that race times seem to be trending in the wrong direction: There hasn’t been anything close to 7 hours for women in the near-decade since Fryar set the record, and the last 3 Rocky 50s have been over 8 hours. For men, two winners came within a half-hour of Braje since 2011, but the last two Rocky 50 winners have taken well over 7 hours. 

Much of this fluctuation can be attributed to weather, trail changes and the occasional trail closing that requires adjustments. As the site says: “Please appreciate these records knowing they are not certified but are impressive.” Could this year’s Rocky start reversing the trend back down?

Another interesting note is that the Rocky Raccoon 50 often trends older than many races. Last year’s winners were 49 (Amy Ewing of Texas) and 46 (Chad Lasater, also of Texas); in 2018, Barb Delgado took the women’s title at age 50 – and in 2006, 51-year-old Larry Hall led the pack. Indeed, the 50 miler proudly maintains a database of the fastest runners per age – all the way from 14 (Matt Holdaway, 12:29:42 in 2011) to 79 (Grant Holdaway, 14:55:47 in 2011). An ultra-running family with grandfather/grandson record holders at both ends of the age spectrum – how cool is that?

Every finisher gets a cool commemorative medal, and as their website shows (TEJAS TRAILS AWARDS & FINISHER MEDALS), race organizer Tejas Trails takes great pride in creating unique, handmade medals for its races. Some can even double as bottle openers or wine stoppers. Also, in keeping with the “you be you” mentality surrounding Rocky Raccoon, Tejas loves giving special awards to standout performances – as the website explains: “Whether it be for someone who slowed down to help a straggler accomplish their goal, someone who we know went through the ringer to get their race done, whoever had the most crashes, or a mom who ran/picked flowers/caught bugs with their little daughter the whole 10km, who knows what…”

Rocky Raccoon 50

Helpers will often be greatly appreciated, as evidenced by this excellent blog ( Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler ) from 2018 runner “Iron Jill,” who chose Rocky Raccoon as the ideal trail run while she ramped up for bigger races. She dealt with a constant drizzle as the race began, followed by heavier rainshowers later in the day. 

“The hardest part was all the mud from the rains. And the course was pretty mucky from the 100 mile race the weekend before,” she writes. “And oh the roots! It should be called Rooty Raccoon!”

After only 1 mile, Jill landed in a deep puddle and soaked herself – and her other foot hit a root, rolling her ankle. At mile 9, the “Damnation” aid station brought relief for her rapidly-developing blisters thanks to a helpful aid. Later, she earned herself the nickname “Mud Butt,” falling into a massive mud puddle. By the end of the race, Jill had a raw big toe, a taped-up ankle, and was soaked in mud – but finished the race with a smile and the mantra: “I CAN do hard things!”

Keep your eye on this year’s Rocky Raccoon 50 to see similar stories of pain, trials and triumph. Ultimately, everyone has their own race to run – and it’s fun to see one event that proudly affords its athletes the opportunity to blaze their own trails. 

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Fourmidable 50K ready for another wet, wild race

It is time once again for the Fourmidable 50K, for mud-splashed legs, hunched-over uphill climbs, hugs of camaraderie and muscles stretched to their very limits. 

Known far and wide as one of the most challenging 50K races out there, Fourmidable gets its name from the four most substantial climbs along its course. Fresh out of the gate, runners must descend down to the American River, then climb back via punishing Cardiac Hill. Around five miles in, the field runs across No Hands Bridge and climbs up Training Hill towards Knickerbocker Canyon – then descends to the river again. Now having successfully danced along with the river and traversed it, runners climb a series of switchbacks to the Knickerbocker Aid Station. It all finishes up by following the Western States trail towards the No Hands Aid Station, heading uphill once again to the finish line.

With less than a mile of road at any given point, the event offers over 6000 accumulative climbing feet over the course of its completion – so yeah, it’s a pretty decent workout. The 2019 installment (Fourmidable 50K 2019) featured intermittent rain, substantial mud puddles and a raw morning push-off, so don’t be surprised if the weather wants to once again complicate matters – following on the heels of rain season in California, the 2017 Fourmidable was even muddier.

In case you can’t tell from the description, the Fourmidable is … well, quite formidable. As such, it is a selection race for the U.S. Trail Team, and an official qualifying race for the coveted Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc in the French Alps. 

This year’s Fourmidable will take place February 15 and 16 – appropriate, since it’s likely to break the hearts of more than a few competitors who can’t quite conquer it. Held in Auburn, California’s gorgeously intimidating Overlook Park, the event will be accompanied by a 35K, a half marathon and a 13K as well. 

The 2020 race offers a unique cash incentive to those brave enough to strap on their running shoes. Both the male and female categories have set aside $100 for fifth place, $200 for fourth, $500 for third, $700 for second and a cool $1000 for their first place finishers. 

To further sweeten the pot, anybody who breaks the current course record for either gender gets an extra $500 awarded to them. Currently, these records are held by Max King (3:32:36 in 2017) and Stephanie Howe Violett (4:10:16 in 2018). Since both of these records were set fairly recently, who knows? Perhaps the Fourmidable organizers could be shelling out some substantial coin come February.

As long as you finish the race, this much is certain: You’ll receive a cool finisher’s award to memorialize your run, and show off to your jealous friends. Depending on your age, you could also qualify for an age group award presented to the top finisher 19 years and under, 70 and older, and each decade in-between. 

Last year’s Fourmidable was won by Tim Tollefson of Mammoth Lakes, CA. He came within 11 minutes of the course record, followed closely behind by Sam Sahli (Boulder, CO), Evan Williams (Seattle, WA), David Kilgore (New York, NY) and Ryan Ghelfi (Ashland, OR). On the women’s side, Daniella Moreno of Santa Barbara, CA finished just barely 2 minutes behind the record, followed by Rachel Drake (Portland, OR), Chessa Adsit-Morris (Santa Cruz, CA), Corey Conner (Longmont, CO) and Emily Richards (Reno, NV).

As difficult as Fourmidable can be, perhaps the best advice can be extratcted from Andrew Taylor, an athlete who blogged (FOURmidable Wet and Muddy Race Report) about his wet, physically-demanding 2017 Fourmidable experience. When you see a puddle, he says, just go for it:

“The run across No Hands Bridge featured a large puddle that was un-escapable. I charged right down the middle of it, soaking my feet for the first time of the day. As I hit the far end of the puddle, I jumped up in the air and came splashing down to cheers of the aid station workers and a few spectators. After all, it’s not fun to be out here, if you’re not having fun as well.”

The bottom line? Lace your sneakers uptight, find the right balance of pushing and pacing yourself, but don’t ever be too grown up to make a splash every now and then. After all, one of the great things about running is that it makes you feel so alive – so, live it up out there.

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