Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Finishers at Western States

In fact, no starters. The race has been cancelled this year due to the forest fires in the surrounding area. There are over 800 forest fires in California with more than 300 in northern CA alone. A couple of fires have the potential of reaching key location on the race course by the weekend - in particular, the Westville Fire has the potential of reaching the Foresthill Divide Road and the Peavine Fire could reach Last Chance and Mosquito Ridge Road. This would put runners, crews, volunteers and spectators at risk. In addition, given all the smoke and pollutants in the air, the air quality has deteriorated significantly. This prompted Placer County Pollution Control District officials to issue a warning advising individuals to reduce exposure to unhealthy air and avoid vigorous outdoor activities. I'd say a 100 mile trail run qualifies as vigorous outdoor activity.

The cancellation of Western States is unfortunate given the competitive field that was slated to participate this year. In addition, it negates any Grand Slam or Last Great Race efforts. However, this is definitely the right call by the Race Committee. The safety and well being of folks has to be the #1 priority. I am sure the Committee agonized with this decision but in the end had to go with a no risk option. You can read the full text of the official announcement here. Both Karl Meltzer and Andy Jones-Wilkins have written on their blogs about the decision. Bottom line is the Committee made the right call and we should all move on. One thing I am curious about is the entry fees are non-refundable and at $300 a pop, that is a decent amount of cash (about $120,000). The race no doubt has incurred expenses that cannot be recouped but it seems like they could donate at least a portion of the money to help with efforts to battle the fires or to assist in rejuvenating burned areas after the fire. Just a thought.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Change of Plans and Western States Preview

In looking at my race plans for the remainder of 2008, I have decided to forgo another 100 mile race this year. Instead, I have decided to run the JFK 50 and go for a 50 mile PR. To date, most of the ultras I have completed have been on very rocky trails with significant elevation change. While I love this sort of technical terrain, I am curious to see how I fare at some races with more gentler terrain. My physical fitness and mental toughness are at all time highs and I want to really try and race an ultra to see what I can do. Plus, my plans for 2009 include a 100 mile race on gentler terrain so JFK seems like a logical choice. JFK is the oldest (correct me if I am wrong) ultramarathon and will be celebrating its 46th year in 2008. It is definitely a race that I want to do at some point so I figure why not now. I still plan to do Annette's New River 50K in October and may do some other 50Ks in the fall as well. I am still kicking around Hellgate but may defer that to another year.

Western States is this weekend and as many have written, looks to be one of the most competitive fields ever. Karl Meltzer has done a great preview on his blog so I won't bore you with a detailed prediction. I agree with most on the men's side and see the podium as follows:

1. Tony Krupicka
2. Hal Koerner
3. Brian Morrison

Tony has shown he can dominate the 100 mile distance and while I don't think he will "dominate" per se, he does get the top spot. I think Koerner runs another great race and likely leads midway, but ultimately grabs the bridesmaid spot. Morrison had States won two years ago but collapsed on the track and was DQ'd when his crew helped him across the line so that he could get medical attention. last year he DNFd so if anyone has "unfinished business" it is him. Maybe I am sentimental but I think he grabs a podium spot. I also like Andy Jones-Wilkins for another top-10 finish and the masters course record. He will have a battle with the likes of Meltzer and Jorge Pacheco. Again, maybe I am too sentimental but I see AJW's experience ruling the day.

The women's race is equally as stacked with speedsters. It is hard to bet against Nikki Kimball with her repeated success in Auburn. I think Meltzer nailed the order on this one.

1. Nikki Kimball
2. Kami Semick
3. Jenn Shelton

Actually, I hope I am wrong on both the men's and women's picks (sorry Tony and Nikki) because all of these picks are fairly obvious. With such deep fields in both races, it would be cool to see some surprises. You can follow along on the webcast here. Regardless of the outcome, it is surely to be a heck of a race.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer is Here

WOW, IS IT HOT!!!!!! The mercury has really risen this week as we have had three consecutive days of 95+ degree temperatures. There is no respite for at least another five days as the first big heat wave of 2008 settles over the southeast. Folks running Old Dominion this weekend are in for a treat as they will no doubt face high in the upper 90s with humidity near 80%! Great heat training for those running Western States or Badwater. I am running neither so it just plain sucks right now. I have managed to get in three quality runs the last two days after being sidelined with a head cold Monday through Wednesday. I am planning on a couple of longish runs over the weekend. On Sunday, I plan to get out in the heat and do 1 to 2 hours in the afternoon. Once I get used to running in the heat, I really don't mind it. Hopefully, I will "get used to it" soon. For now, I will back of the pace 10% or so and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back on Track

Well, the post-MMT happies have finally worn off and it is now time to resume a regular running routine. I took some time off to recover well and really give my IT band time to get in a better mood. Good news is all seems to be okay at this point. I have been running some and managed about 15 miles the week after MMT with another 10 or so walking and biking. I got in about 30 miles last week mostly recovery runs with nothing longer than 7 miles. However, I did do a 4.5 mile quasi-tempo run on Thursday night and managed to run it in about 33:10 (7:28 pace). Not rocket speed but was able to get good leg turnover early and motored pretty well up the many short hills. It was a great "test run" on the IT band as I expected any lingering issues would definitely surface during the effort. Nope, got nothing and credit the fast healing to heat, massage and frequent stretching. I am pretty excited about recovering so quickly from MMT - all leg and foot soreness was gone by the Wednesday following the race with only some tightness in the IT band remaining until early last week.

Although I have some races tentatively scheduled for the remainder of 2008, my schedule is pretty open with only Laurel Valley as a definite at this point. I plan to do Hellgate in December and want to do another 100 miler in the fall. Grindstone is a possibility but I have a big conflict that may make that race a no go. I am also looking at the Bear 100, Superior Sawtooth 100 and the Pinhoti 100. Bear would be great but with escalating airfares and near $4.00 gas, may be a stretch on the running budget. Superior looks really interesting and is often compared to MMT. Pinhoti is a new race this year but looks to be run on some pretty amazing trails. I am open to any suggestions from readers for both 100 mile and other distances.

I really get excited this time of year as the "peak" of ultra season comes upon us. Western States, Hardrock, Badwater and Leadville (to name a few) are all upon us in the next couple of months. Plus Vermont and Wasatch round out the Grand Slam and of course Mount Blanc over in France in August. Will be fun to watch. Post your race suggestions to the comments field.