An Unsolicited Rant Regarding a Few Ounces of Beer

(Editor's note: this may be the first in a series of rants coming in the next few weeks.  I have a few things that I feel like I need to get off my chest that might make it out in blog form.  Sorry in advance.)

I ran my first beer mile of 2015 a few weeks ago at what we're I guess calling the second annual Hudson Valley Beer Mile.  I mentioned the inaugural race very briefly last year; I ran the penalty lap (as I almost always do) and finished last in a four-person field in an embarrassing 16:31.  Clearly I am a much better pizza racer than beer miler.  But something clicked for me this year.  I don't know if it's the low carb diet, the fact that I went in on a semi-full stomach, or the fact that I hadn't had a beer for several weeks prior, but I felt much, much better than I normally do during these shenanigans.  We had a solid field of eleven runners.  Dr. Mike went out hard defending his title from the previous year, but BM virgin Oestrike was right on his heels; the two would reprise the back-and-forth battle they had at the pizza race six months earlier.  I felt like I drank the first one pretty quickly for me but was in tenth place starting the first quarter.  I moved up throughout, though, spending most of the race in the mid-pack before eventually working my way up to a chunder-free third place finish in a huge PR of 8:16.  No, I'm not a good beer miler, but at least I'm no longer embarrassingly bad.

Finishing off a PR performance
Photo: Michele Halstead

Second Annual Hudson Valley Beer Mile
November 1, 2015
* = penalty lap

1. Brian Oestrike 7:17
2. Mike Halstead 7:37
3. Jason Friedman 8:16
4. Bill Shashaty 8:26
5. Ed Stoner 8:40
6. Vinny Sickles 10:18
8. Myron Baker 11:15
9. Jeff Burns 13:00*
10. Rob Piegari 13:35
11. Bill Pape 13:35

The reason I bring this up, though, is because in case you haven't noticed, the beer mile has suddenly become very trendy.  It seems like it's not just college track runners and assorted idiots doing it anymore.  James Nielsen's May 2014 world record of 4:57--the first sub-5:00 beer mile in history--was a watershed moment for the sport, which suddenly gained mainstream notice for the first time.  Much like Bannister's famed 1954 run at Iffley Road (almost 60 years to the day before Nielsen's barrier-breaker), once the world saw what was possible, a bevy of athletes charged through what was thought to be an impenetrable barrier.  By the end of 2014 we had a sanctioned world championship, complete with sponsors and on-line streaming video coverage.

The record has been lowered four times in the last 18 months, most recently two weeks ago by Canadian Lewis Kent, which I'm going to use as a jumping-off point for the discussion I want to have about legitimacy and perception.

OK, first things first: I have no doubt Lewis Kent ran a 4:51 beer mile.  I'm not accusing anyone of cheating, fabrication, or anything like that.  The record has been ratified and I have no problem with that whatsoever.  That is not the point I'm trying to make in any way, shape, or form, so let's make that clear.

I was struck when watching the video, however, that neither Kent nor Phil Parrot-Migas, who ran an impressive 5:07, emptied their beers prior to starting their laps.  Beer mile tradition holds that a competitor overturn their empty can or bottle over their head, to demonstrate that the vessel is indeed empty, before leaving the drinking zone.  Now, that isn't an official "rule"., which bills itself as "the official beer mile resource" and is generally responsible for ratifying performances and codifying the rules, states: "It is strongly recommended, when attempting official records, to tip the empty beer can or bottle over your head at the end of a chug to verify an empty vessel." (italics mine) But it is certainly traditional, and I was surprised that in a well-publicized record attempt, neither of them would adhere to that tradition.  (Plus, it makes for an appealing visual, and hearkens back to the sports' underground roots.)  James Nielsen does it in his video:

So maybe it's not required, but it certainly helps, and again, while I have no doubt that the record was legitimate, it seemed unlikely to me that it would get ratified, and I said as much:

Jason Friedman I don't understand. Turning your empties over to demonstrate they are empty is one of the most basic rules of beer miling. It is not hard to remember to do. Neither of these guys did it once. No way this gets ratified.
Ultra Runner Podcast Excellent point.
Steve Havas They collect all the bottles and measure the amount left over to make sure it is within the legal limits
Jason Friedman The legal amount left over is zero. The beer has to be finished. Pour it over your head like everyone else in the world.

However, it did get ratified, and someone threw out an explanation on the URP Daily News:

Chris says: only says that inverting the vessel over your cranium is “strongly recommended”
As the speed of chugging has increased, so too has the amount of foam left in the bottles, which wouldn’t come out. True record attempts now get a second person involved who pour any remaining foam / settled liquid into glasses, to see how much was left. I think a de facto rule has come into effect that basically says that the total amount of foam left in the bottles or cans cannot exceed 3 oz.
So here we arrive at the crux of the issue.  To me there are almost too many issues with the statement to count.  "As the speed of chugging has increased, so too has the amount of foam left in the bottles, which wouldn't come out"?  What this boils down to is: if you drink your beer fast enough, you don't have to drink all of it.  How is this acceptable?  The beer mile is a test of drinking quickly and running quickly, and most importantly of balancing the two.  You're drinking so fast that you can't get all the foam out?  I have a solution for you: drink slower.  
If someone claimed they were drinking so fast they couldn't get it all into their mouth in time, so a little bit of beer spilled onto their shirts, but if they wrung out their shirts and it was less than three ounces then that was OK, they'd be laughed at.  How is this different?  
"...a de facto rule has come into effect that basically says the total amount of foam left over in the bottles or cans cannot exceed 3 oz."  No.  No good.  You cannot have a sport where world records are being attempted, recorded, and ratified, that invokes "a de facto rule" that does not appear on the website of what is the sport's "de facto" governing body.  There are a clear list of rules on the website.  Follow them.  
If beer wants to adopt a "3 oz of foam" rule, go ahead.  But they do so at their peril.  As much as the Beer Mile is an underground event, there is clearly a non-negligible element of the sport that is striving for legitimacy and recognition.  Later this week Flotrack will host the second Beer Mile World Championships in Austin, TX.  This is an event that attracts sponsors and money.  Both Flotrack and sell beer mile-related gear on their websites.  Lewis Kent just signed an endorsement deal with Brooks.  Don't think this has garnered any widespread recognition?  That last link--with an accompanying three-minute video--is from
My point is that the beer mile is having a moment in terms of mainstream appeal that distance running rarely achieves, and that this is a very tenuous thing.  Many non-runners, and runners who are non-beer milers, are drawn to the event because of its absurdity but also because of its simplicity.  Four beers, four laps.  If you start placing qualifiers and exceptions onto that simplicity, it will not be long before the mainstream public loses patience.  "You have to drink four beers, but you can leave a little at the bottom of each one"?  The public will see that for what it is: a cop-out.  (As an aside, it's not an insignificant amount.  Three ounces is about 6% of the total volume of 48 oz. in a beer mile.)
By all means, if people want to pursue the mainstreaming of the beer mile, with all the attendant publicity and money that implies, please do so.  It's fun!  But be careful when you start to play fast and loose with the rules.  To the public, the fact that we have rules is the funniest part.  Without that, you've got nothing.


As I mentioned in my post on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run, the Wagathon is my favorite fat ass run.  "The Wag," named after the rock-climbers' club Westchester Alpine Group, was started in 2005 by climbing legend Felix Modugno and was, in its early years, exclusively a climber's deal; the first three years featured fields of about 3-8 people, all climbers, none of whom ran with any real regularity.  But somehow people started to talk, and in my first year, 2008, we suddenly had almost 30 people at the start.
The start of Wag IV, 2008
The first four years, the course didn't vary much; starting in Sam's Point Preserve, the trail passed Verderkill Falls and Mud Pond on its way to Lake Awosting, Millbrook Mountain, and down to Trapps Bridge; after that, we followed mostly carriage roads up to Skytop at Mohonk Mountain House and then back down through the Preserve into the town of New Paltz, finishing at the Gilded Otter Brewing Company, a distance of about 30 miles.  I "won" the fourth edition in 2008, running a basically solo 4:07, and had a great time.  In 2009, the course changed slightly, adding the beautiful but difficult Gertrude's Nose trail and finishing outside town at the climber's haven, the Mountain Brauhaus.  By this time plenty of runners had joined the hardcore climbing contingent, and from that year on the run became more runner-dominated than climber-dominated.  I ran most of the 2009 race with Scott Willett, an elite triathlete and the founder of the Tri-Life training group, and we tied for the "win".  In 2010 the course changed again, now finishing in Rosendale at the northern end of the Shawangunk ridge; I dropped out with an injury halfway through, but returned in 2011 to share the win with Glen Redpath, my third "win" in four tries.

By this time, organizational duties had passed from Felix, through local ultra runner Joe Brown, and on to Mike Siudy, a climber in his past life who now passes his time running insanely difficult ultra courses through the Catskills.  Mike standardized the course, which had started to fluctuate quite a bit from year to year, and basically codified it into what it is today: a nearly 30-mile trip from Sam's Point to Rosendale, covering single track, carriage roads, and five rock scrambles, including the infamous Giant's Workshop, Lemon Squeeze, and Bonticou Crag.  Also starting in 2012, the structure of the event changed.  While it was always a fat ass event--no entry fee, no support, no awards, few rules--the run had, for the first seven years, had a mass 9 am start.  While the vibe was decidedly friendly and relaxed, there was certainly a mild competitive undertone, and part of the fun (for me at least) was trying to lay down a fast performance and be one of the first people sipping beer at the Red Brick Tavern at the end.  But after seven years in this style, people wanted a change--specifically, some of the faster finishers wanted to share drinks with some of the slower folks, but didn't want to have to wait several hours for everyone to get in.  So starting in 2012, the run became completely non-competitive: start whenever you want, just try to time it so you finish between 4 and 5 pm, so we can all eat, drink, and be merry together.

Phil and Brian at Verderkill Falls
I liked the thought, and admired the impulse toward mass drunkenness, but losing the competitive aspect did kill some of my interest in the event.  The logistics of the run aren't easy--Sam's Point is a good hour's drive from the finish in Rosendale, and it was hard to justify the headache of planning everything out for what now amounted to a long run on most of the same trails I run on every weekend.  Plus, I'm not exactly what you'd call "great" with heights, and some of the more exposed, tricky rock scramble sections are really not my cup of tea.  I never like feeling like I'm about to fall to my death, especially not 25 miles into a 5-6 hour effort.  So for a few years, I was out on the Wag.  But 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of this venerated event, and two of my good friends and training partners, Brian Oestrike and Phil Vondra, were excited to run it for their first time.  Glen was coming up from the city as well, running half the race as his longest run since Achilles' surgery in July.  Phil and I had the seemingly brilliant idea to stash a couple of beers out on the course, which we did the night before, and by 10:45 Brian, Phil, and I were heading off toward Verderkill Falls with the goal of finishing by around 4:30.

"W" is for Wagathon--at Castle Rock
We wound up with a near-perfect day of weather and had a great time chatting it up as we navigated the tricky single track past the falls and out to Lake Awosting.  From there, we followed carriage roads over Castle Rock and headed out toward Millbrook Mountain.  On the way, we caught up with Josh Burns, who had started a few minutes before us, and the four of us kept up a pretty solid pace to Trapps Bridge, 15 miles into the run and the site of our first beer stop.  We dropped a few hints to Josh about the beer, but as we approached the bridge, he announced that he was going to keep going up onto the ridge, and he was gone before any of us could say, "Hey, wait, there really is beer here."  Phil had left us a nice 750ml bottle of Aria from Perennial Brewery, which took us a good 15 minutes to plow through before heading back out on to the trail.

Beer stop #1.  Photo: Phil Vondra
From there, things got a bit wobbly.  The next few miles are a tricky traverse along the top of Trapps Cliff, and while we were pretty pleased with ourselves for having had the forethought to have a beer stop, we were clearly moving rather slowly and stiffly along.  After a few quiet minutes of slogging, Brian commented, "Man, we are really in the doldrums."  Apparently beer with 8% ABV is not a performance enhancer.

In the doldrums, at checkpoint #3.  Photo: Phil Vondra
The course gets worse before it gets better--we slogged our way through Giants' Workshop and the Lemon Squeeze, which Brian negotiated easily with his alpinist background, but I suffered quite a bit until we got past Skytop tower and started running again back downhill.  We hit a nice rhythm, though, and had cranked out a good couple of miles before we reached beer check #2, hidden behind the Mohonk Golf Course: a nice Yard Owl Dark Wheat:
No caption necessary.
There were no two ways about it after that: I was basically drunk, and Phil and Brian kept a pretty close eye on my on the scramble up to Bonticou Crag.  By the time we made our way back down the Northeast Trail and through the swamp at the bottom of the Widowmaker, I was almost back to normal, and all that was left was the final few miles racing the sunset.  We finished up in just over 6 hours, including the beer stops, with about 5:15 of actual running time--not too far off what we had planned, actually.  It was Phil's longest run ever, and all in all, we had a really fun day out.  I have to admit, it was fun seeing everyone at the finish, though I do miss the competitive aspect of it a bit.

Quick gear report: I used the Montrail Rogue Racer, the shoe I've been putting in the vast majority of my miles for the past few months.  They're only 9 oz, and billed as a racing flat, but they have a 9mm drop and a fair bit of cushion, and I've been very happy with them for many miles and several long efforts.  I wore my Pearl Izumi Ultra Split short which is a brilliant piece of clothing.  The pockets in the back of these shorts are actually sewn into the liner, which comes all the way up to the top of the short, so you can carry gels or your phone (the main pocket zips and holds an iPhone 6) with virtually no bouncing.  They're quite expensive for shorts but a fairly indispensable item.  And, as on most long unsupported efforts I used the Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest for hydration.  Though the day after this run I received in the mail the Orange Mud HydraQuiver, which may replace the UD vest as my go-to hydration system for longer runs.  More details to come!

Western States Weekend in Review

OK, I didn't accomplish all of my goals for my trip to Squaw Valley.  In fact, if you want to be technical about it, I accomplished one of five.  I did get to meet some awesome folks, including some of the world's best ultrarunners, and got a couple of leads on how I might move forward with my little side project.   But no, we didn't get Glen into the top 10.   No, I wasn't a contender in the Montrail Uphill Challenge.  No, I didn't PR in the beer mile.  I didn't even drink any Russian River!  (Though I did get some.  More on that later.)  A bit disappointed?  Maybe a little.  Bad weekend?  No way.

I reached Sacramento Wednesday evening, grabbed a quick hour on the roads, and a quick dinner before bed.  Thursday morning I suffered through the agony of US-Germany game on the cracked screen of my iPad, as the hotel's ESPN was out of order.  I walked to the gas station next to the hotel to grab a six pack of Budweiser, which I needed...for later.  Then I met Glen, his dad, and his son for the drive to Squaw, where we would meet up with his mom, his brother Mike, and his brother's SO, Anne, completing our six-person support team for the weekend.  

We reached Squaw Valley around 3 pm, about a hour before the start on the First Unofficial Unsanctioned Western States Beer Mile.  For those not familiar, a beer mile is a one-mile race, usually run on a track, that requires the "athlete" to drink one 12-oz beer before each quarter mile.   I won't get into all the myriad rules and regulations that govern this event, but please rest assured that they are numerous and very specific.  There is no track in Squaw Valley, so some genius decided the best way to do this would be to hike the first mile of the Western States course--again, for those not familiar, a switchbacking uphill dirt road at about a 12-15% grade--leaving our beers every quarter-mile, then race back down.  To me, this sounded like the worst idea I've ever heard, but nobody seemed to care what I thought, so our little three-man field hiked up the road, beer in tow.  Eventually, we picked up a fourth runner; none of these guys were over 27, and all of them, as it turned out, could drink me under the table.  It didn't start out too bad;

Beer #3
photo: Jamie Lynch

after two beers and half a mile, I was still in good shape to break 10 minutes, and was at least keeping contact with the other guys--we were generally drinking together--but by the fourth beer, things started looking like this:

And this:

Oh no.
photo: Jamie Lynch
We had decided beforehand that the usual penalty for puking--an extra lap--wasn't applicable, since we didn't know where we would turn around to get that done, and we figured running downhill with a belly full of beer was enough of a handicap/punishment.  The Facebook page that had organized the event expected 35-40 people, which made the field of four a little surprising, but it turned out all those people just wanted to show up and watch us be stupid, since we were greeted by a sizable, if slightly bemused crowd, including Grand Slam record holder Ian Sharman, and a bunch of people with video cameras.

As you can see from my Garmin data, I ran an 11:56 (the final split is an error of me re-setting my watch), not a great showing.  But I was clearly on sub-10 pace until the final beer--actually I was through 1200 meters and three beers in under 7 minutes.  Looks like I spent right around 6:00 actually running and about 6:00 drinking and puking.

So needless to say I went to bed Thursday night not feeling my best.  I woke up on Friday morning not feeling any better--stiff, tired, with a pounding headache.  I attributed it partly to the altitude (about 6500') and partly to the hangover, though honestly, most of the Budweiser was in the dirt four hundred meters up the left side of the Western States Trail.  Part of the point of the trip was to run the Montrail Uphill Challenge, though, so I forced myself out to the starting line.  It's a pretty cool event; Montrail is the presenting sponsor of Western States and they basically put on this free event with a bunch of swag, including t-shirts, pint glasses, and of course, something for a bunch of antsy ultra geeks to do while we're all waiting around for the big race to start.

The race is run on the first 6k of the WS course itself, which climbs about 2500' to Emigrant Pass--about a 13% grade. (How the runners go another 97 miles after doing this on race day, I'll never know.)  I like uphills, especially runnable, non-technical ones, so I was pretty excited and thought maybe I could be up front in the top 10 or so.  What I didn't take into account was that the entire ultra world is in Squaw Valley for states, and that there are a TON of incredible runners who are there to crew or pace for other incredible runners.  I don't know who exactly was there, but I saw sponsored athletes from Hoka, Altra, adidas, and Salomon.  Didn't see them for long, of course.  It was a hammerfest, and was an absolutely brutal mix of running and power-hiking.  I was hoping to run under 45 minutes, and actually ran 39:33 (the course was a little shorter than I thought, as we didn't run the final few hundred meters to the monument atop the Pass, but that stretch is mostly very gradual and I think I would have been about 43 minutes had we gone the whole way).   But in that field I was barely in the top 30.  (Yes, I got chicked, just once.)  All four of us beer milers ran the race.  Perhaps not surprisingly, we finished in reverse order of the previous day.  Our late starter, who had organized the beer mile (and who would have won it easily had he not spotted us at least a quarter mile), crushed us wearing an honest-to-god pair of huaraches; but I saw my other two new best friends on my jog back down.

My headache had abated during the race, but it returned after lunch, as we organized our bags and made our plans with Glen for the next day.  By that evening I couldn't wait to get down from the altitude.  I got about 6 hours of sleep before waking up around 3:30 to get ready for the 5am start.  We headed over with Glen, who seemed in good spirits, and spent a few minutes chatting with Dylan Bowman near the starting line before the gun went off.

DBo, Speedgoat Karl, and the other leaders at the start.
photo: Mike Redpath
We walked back the the hotel, packed, and left quickly.  I felt a little bit better on the drive out of the valley, but when we stopped to buy sandwiches for the long day ahead, my headache was in full force, and I was feeling pretty nauseous.  I bought some extra ibuprofen at the grocery store, which helped some, and took one of the Zofran pills I had brought along in case Glen ran into some stomach problems during his race.  We drove out to Robinson Flat, the 30-mile mark and the first aid station accessible to crew members.

Crewing an ultra is pretty fun, but it is a LOT of waiting around, and let me just say thank you to anyone who has ever crewed me in the past.  Basically, you rush to the aid station, spend some time unpacking all your stuff and getting ready for your runner, and then you just sit around waiting for them to come, which can be several hours.  Then they come, and unless you're doing a crappy job or they're really having a problem, you see them for about 90 seconds before they start running again.  Then you pack up and race to the next point so you can wait for another few hours.  It sounds awful, but it's actually pretty cool, especially at a huge event like WS where you can watch the best ultrarunners in the world.  I wish I had been feeling better and could have read a book or something, but I spent many of the next eight hours feeling awful, so that was kind of a bummer.

Getting support at Robinson Flat.
photo: Mike Redpath
ANYWAY, Robinson Flat was awesome.  The drugs had kicked in and I felt pretty good; it was still early on in the race so the wait wasn't too long.  The front runners showed up about an hour after we go there, a who's who of the sport--Max King, Rob Krar, Dylan Bowman, Miguel Heras, Karl Meltzer, Ryan Sandes, Scott Wolfe, Nick Clark, Yassine Diboun, Ian Sharman, Brendan Davies, Pam Smith, Kaci Leichtig, Nikki Kimball, Meghan Arbogast, Emily Harrison, Stephanie get the picture, sorry.  For a fanboy like me it was heaven.  I won't go into details of the elite races, there is a ton of coverage out there and you can read at your leisure, but it was super-exciting.   We were expecting Glen at around 10:15, but he was about half an hour behind that, which didn't bode well for the rest of the day.  Given the stacked field, we knew going in that getting Glen a fourth top-10 finish was pretty unlikely; however, we thought a strong, smart race in the 18-19 hour range might sneak into the top 20.  Already, though, his pace was more in line with a 19:30, and his place was in the 70s; moreover, he didn't look great, already struggling a little bit as the morning was starting to heat up.  We were anxious as we headed off to Michigan Bluff, the 55-mile mark.

Michigan Bluff is one of the largest and busiest aid stations on the course.  Also, since most people are there in the middle of the day, and since there is very little shade, it is also one of the hottest aid stations, except for those deep in the canyons, which are not accessible by crew.   We got in about 12:30, now expecting Glen closer to 3:30 than the 2:30 we had initially planned.   We also met up here with Christian Fitting, an elite ultrarunner from the Bay Area, who would be pacing Glen from Foresthill, mile 62, to mile 80 at Green Gate, where I would take over.  By this point, though, my participation was in doubt.  The drugs wore off, my headache came back along with my nausea, and then I started having chills, to the point where I was leaving one of the few shady areas to sit in the sun so I would stop shivering.  Before he left to get set up at Foresthill, Christian looked at me and offered to pace my 20-mile segment as well.  I told him I'd be fine, but secretly I was pretty worried.  My only saving grace was that with Glen struggling I knew I wouldn't have to run too fast; I figured I could stumble through a bunch of 20-minute miles even with a fever.

Glen and I at Michigan Bluff, mile 55.
photo: Mike Redpath
I took another dose of ibuprofen and some Tylenol and slowly started to feel better.  Glen made it in at 4:30--now on pace to run about 22 hours.  He didn't look great, but I didn't think he looked any worse than he had at Robinson Flat six hours before, and after a brief two minutes moved his way back out onto the trail.  We packed up and rushed over to Foresthill.  By the time we got there, around 5 pm, I was feeling much better, and thankfully from that point on whatever I had been dealing with for the past few days seemed out of my system.  Glen rolled through at 6 pm on the button, starting to look a little better himself, and he and Christian headed down Cal Street; we wouldn't see them again until mile 80.  I went over to the Ultrarunner Podcast tent and dropped off some Yard Owl beer for Eric Schrantz, who pulled a couple of these out of his cooler for me:

I almost kissed him.

We replenished our supplies and headed over to Green Gate, the aid station at 80 miles where I would take over pacing duties from Christian.  Tracking the runner updates on my phone, it seemed that Glen and Christian had found a nice rhythm, running 12-minute pace for a nice stretch of miles between 62 and 70; but by the time they reached the American River crossing at mile 78, he struggles had resumed, and Glen hiked the steep uphill from mile 78-80 in about 45 minutes.  He reached us still in relatively good spirits, though.  The pressure was off, and Glen is experienced and strong enough to know that he would be able to finish, and could likely hike most of the way in and still finish in under 24 hours.  But for the first time in three days, I was feeling good and ready to run, and I wasn't about to let him off the hook that easily.  I strapped on my Ultimate Direction AK hydration vest and we headed down the trail.

The first two miles were a struggle.  Glen's main problem at this point was blisters, which prevented him from running downhill at any kind of reasonable pace, so we moved slowly through some technical downhill sections and covered the first two miles in about 34 minutes.  But as the trail flattened out and the running became easier, Glen seemed to recover some; I gave him a Zofran which settled his stomach and helped him get in a few more calories, and we started running 13-minute pace down into the Auburn Lakes aid station at mile 85.

The aid stations at WS are unbelievable: packed with volunteers, any kind of food or drink you could want, fantastic energy.  We blew through quickly, feeling refreshed, and found some great rhythm on some wonderfully runnable trails, resuming our 12-13 minute pace.  Before I knew it we had reached Brown's Bar at mile 89.9.  I was having a blast and feeling great.  Glen seemed to be recovering some strength.  "Born to Run" blasted over the loudspeakers and we stormed into the aid station and got refills of our bottles from two-time WS champ Hal Koerner.
We ran through the night.  Visibility with our headlamps was pretty good, and the trail was just the most gorgeously runnable singletrack you could possibly imagine.  West Coast trail runners, you have no idea how lucky you guys are.  Glen hung tough, not flying by any means, but clicking off solid miles and passing folks about every thirty minutes or so, particularly at the aid stations, which we moved through very efficiently.
At the finish, finally.
photo: Mike Redpath
By No Hands Bridge (96.8 miles), I was really in Glen's ear about trying to break 22 hours.  It was a silly thing to care about at this point, but I knew I'd be more satisfied--and I had a feeling Glen would too--if we achieved this small victory.  And from the businesslike way he responded, digging deeper, pushing the pace, and using minimal walk breaks, it seemed he had begun to care about it too.  We dug our way up the steep, seemingly interminable climb through Robie Point and passed through the final aid station without stopping.  With one mile to go, I told Glen we needed a 10:30 to get in under 22 hours.  He grunted, dug deep, and started really running.  Finally we reached the Placer High stadium track, running near eight minute pace, and flew around the final 300 meters, getting him home in 21:58:48 for his sixth sub-24 hour silver belt buckle at Western States.  It may not have been the finish we had hoped for, but it was extremely satisfying nonetheless.  In a year that has been pretty frustrating for me from a running standpoint, this was one of the better days.

A man, his beer, and his buckle.
photo: Mike Redpath
photo: Mike Redpath


Holy crap, I haven't blogged in awhile.  I've had some increased responsibility at work, blah, blah, which has cut into my free time a bit, but I mostly haven't written because I haven't had much to write about, running-wise.  (I've been trying to get Lexi to pick up the slack a bit, but softball kept her very busy this spring.)  I've raced only once since Mount Mitchell, running the Mount Penn Mudfest 15K outside Reading, PA in April.  This was I think my sixth or seventh time at Mudfest, a race which I absolutely used to love but which underwent a change in race management this year and, unfortunately, a complete revamp of the course.  Now, instead of a technical but joyously runnable course that I can absolutely hammer, it's yet another trail run in the northeastern US so choked with rocks it prevents establishing almost any rhythm whatsoever.  Rather than just go on another rant about how much I hate that crap, I'll spare everybody and just say that I did not enjoy the trip and won't be returning.  Oh well.

But that's been it from a running standpoint.  Even training has been mediocre at best.  I had a work situation in May that I'm not going to get into but that ate up a ton of time and energy, to the point where I took nearly as many days off in May (seven) as I did in all of 2013 (thirteen).  For the second year in a row I registered for the Ice Age 50K and then bailed last-minute.  I had plans to run the Prospect Mountain Hill Race in Lake George in mid-May but couldn't get out of work.  I considered trying to get into the Great Adirondack Trail Run and then remembered how much I hate shit like that.  When Jodi went to Orlando in mid-May for a conference, I was at pretty low ebb, trying to figure out when I might race again (July? September?).

And then Glen Redpath, a three-time top-10 finisher at Western States, said, "Why don't you come pace me at States this year?"  Now this is normally something I'll just answer "no" to right away.  It's not like I can leave Jodi with the kids for five days at the drop of a hat.  But this came at the perfect time; with Jodi just having finished a little "me time" of her own, I was due for a little trip.  And while my fitness isn't quite up to racing snuff, this was exactly the sort of thing I needed to get motivated again.

So I'm heading out in two days for Western States, the site of my first experience with ultra marathons ever (I was a medical volunteer in 2005).  The goals of the trip are: (1) pace Glen to hopefully another top-10; (2) run well at the Montrail Uphill Challenge on Friday, hopefully up front if I'm feeling good; (3) set a beer mile PR; (4) drink a shit-ton of Russian River; (5) meet a whole bunch of people and maybe make some contacts who can help me launch my top-secret ultra rankings project, which I'll reveal more about when it starts progressing some.  If everything goes well and I feel like my fitness is ok, I may head up to Loon Mountain the first weekend of July for the national mountain running championships the following weekend.  But I'll post some stuff from Squaw if I can stay sober enough at night to work the iPad.