Episode 45 - Overcoming Adversity with Tom Kaplan

TK at Bighorn.JPG

Whether hiking through the Alps, rock climbing in the Gunks, or hammering mountainous 100-mile races all over the US, you will not find a more amiable outdoor companion than Tom Kaplan—and you will not find an athlete more willing to push themselves past their breaking point. We welcomed the great TK into the Cave after his recent finish at the Bear 100 to talk about rock climbing, his mercurial Ironman career, how he was able to overcome DNFs in his first nine attempts at the 100-mile distance (and what kept him coming back again and again), how he (kind of) invented Strava, and more.

Beer: Southern Tier 8 Days a Week


Desert Island Picks: Coors Light; The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn; Led Zeppelin III (though Tom later clarified he actually meant Zep IV, and said he wishes he’d picked The Last Waltz instead)

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 44 - This Month in Ultrarunning with Phil Vondra


Fresh off an age group podium performance at the Bear 100, the Legend returns to the Pain Cave for another installment of This Month in Ultrarunning. As it’s been almost two months since our last episode, we have a lot of ground to cover! We start with our thoughts on another wild UTMB week, including Courtney’s historic performance and what’s wrong with the US men. Then it’s our trademark blitz through everything happening in the trail and ultra world, including Zach Bitter’s amazing 100 mile WR, Leadville, Pikes Peak, the conclusion of the Grand Slam, the penultimate races in the Golden Trail Series, our obligatory Jim and Killian conversations, and much more.

We had all kinds of technical issues with this episode; unfortunately, the last 10 minutes or so are lost to the ether of my computer. Sorry about the problems there! You mostly missed Phil discussing his race at the Bear and brief recaps of the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon and the Grindstone 100.

Beer for this episode: Frost Beer Works Plush and Lush, courtesy of Kirsten Kortz

As discussed a number of times, the Billy Yang Podcast (including his UTMB recap and interviews with Justin Grunewald and Lucy Bartholomew)

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 43 - AT FKT Attempt Recap with Kristian Morgan

kristian AT.jpg

In June, we spoke with inov-8 athlete Kristian Morgan as he prepared for an audacious attempt on the FKT for the Appalachian Trail—an attempt that was aborted less than a week in. Kristian was kind enough to return to the Pain Cave to discuss what went wrong, how he’s dealing with the disappointment of having to let go of this goal, what he learned that he’ll take forward, running in the White Mountains, hurling, and more.

Kristian’s pre-AT interview
Kristian’s website

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 42 - This Month in Ultrarunning with Phil Vondra

Jared Hazen, WS100 runner-up  photo: irunfar.com

Jared Hazen, WS100 runner-up

photo: irunfar.com

The Legend returns from his pilgrimage back to the motherland for the latest installment of TMIU. We pat ourselves on the back for some not-terrible WSER predictions and recap the biggest storylines and surprises from Auburn (2:30) before discussing the doping mini-controversies clouding the podiums at Sierre-Zinal last weekend (19:30). Then it’s our whirlwind recap of the trail and ultra results of the past month (28:00), including Fat Dog, Eastern States, Badwater, Laveredo, AC100, and many more; before we touch on the shitstorm surrounding the entry process for the Last Annual Vol State (39:30) and Laz’s cult of personality.

Beer for this episode: Hill Farmstead Nelson, courtesy of Kirsten Kortz

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 41 - Western States Preview with Phil Vondra

The Legend at Manitou’s Revenge photo: Steve Aaron

The Legend at Manitou’s Revenge
photo: Steve Aaron

Oh boy! It’s the best time of year…Western States time! And the Legend himself, Phil Vondra, is fired up to talk about it. Before we dig into what’s going to happen this weekend, though, we’ve got a bunch of news and results to get through, including Phil’s recap of this past weekend’s Manitou’s Revenge (1:30), the cancellation of the Hardrock 100 (5:00), the untimely passing of Mark Richtman (10:00), and results from around the globe (11:30), including Comrades, the Trail World Championships, Bighorn, Mohican, Broken Arrow, and more. Then it’s finally time to dive into Western States (26:00), where we discuss Jim and Courtney’s chances to repeat, who we expect to bounce back with big performances, some dark horses to watch, and our picks for the podiums.

Beer for this episode: Fort Point Animal Tropical IPA

Hardrock 100 cancellation announcement
AJW’s remembrance of Mark Richtman
irunfar’s men’s and women’s WS100 previews

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 40 - ReWiring the Brain with Sun Sachs and Laura Kline


We’ve talked a lot on the show about the role that the brain plays in determining performance in endurance events, but we haven’t talked so much about how we can actually modify the brain’s response to physical stress in order to improve our performance. In part, that’s because this is a very difficult thing to practically address. Sun Sachs is here to change that. Sun is the co-founder of ReWire Cycling, a tech startup that is aiming to bring “brain training” to the endurance sport masses. Sun joined us in the Pain Cave last month to talk about how is background in cycling helped develop his interest in the mental side of the sport, the work of Samuel Marcora, the lowdown on “response inhibition training” and how he and his partner developed the app that may change how we view mental training for endurance athletes. Then, we welcomed back the great Laura Kline (32:30) to talk about her experience as a beta tester for the app, the changes she’s noticed in her performance, and more.

ReWire Cycling just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help secure funding for mass production of the app and the device we talked about here. If this campaign is successful, we may see this come to market in early 2020. Check out the links below and consider supporting them!

Our interview with Alex Hutchinson, where we talked a bunch about Marcora and brain training (and Alex’s excellent book)
ReWire Cycling
The Kickstarter campaign
Laura’s website and her blog post from her most recent race, where she says she drew on the mental training she’d practiced with the app
Our last interview with Laura

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 39 - Assault on the AT with Kristian Morgan

If you aren’t yet familiar with the name Kristian Morgan, you will be this summer. On July 1, the London-based ultrarunner will leave Springer Mountain, GA, aiming to become the first person to complete the Appalachian Trail in less than 40 days. Last month, after a final reconnaissance mission on the trail’s southern section, Kristian called in from across the pond to talk about why he likes racing hundreds, how lo prepare for a mountain race in London, Tour de Geants, his experience with Karel Sabbe on the AT last summer, FKT culture in the UK, and more.

Kristian’s website, including tracking for the AT and coaching info
Feet in the Clouds
The Bob Graham Round
Karel Sabbe’s AT FKT
Desert Island Picks: Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Gipsy Hill Hepcat

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Kristian Morgan photo: inov-8/Brian Meltzer

Kristian Morgan
photo: inov-8/Brian Meltzer

Episode 38 - This Month in Ultrarunning with Phil Vondra

New 50 mile world best by Jim Walmsley. photo: Hoka ONE ONE

New 50 mile world best by Jim Walmsley.
photo: Hoka ONE ONE

After a few quiet weeks on the ultra scene, the season starts heating up again, and The Legend returns to discuss all the latest happenings. We start off by recapping Phil’s race this past weekend at the Cayuga Trails 50, the US trail 50-mile championships, and some of the other storylines coming out of Ithaca. We also tackle the possibility of a cancellation at Hardrock, record chasing at Project Carbon X, Dawn to Dusk to Dawn and the US teams for the 24-hour world championships, recent results from the Backyard/Last Man series, unbreakable records, and more.

Beer for this episode: Foam Brewers Pavement

Red Mountain Pass SNOTEL site, which will factor into a go/no-go call for Hardrock (probably next week)
Project Carbon X
US 24-hour teams
AJW’s unbreakable trail 100 mile records

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 37 - A Conversation with Sherpa John Lacroix

sherpa john hug.jpg

As an athlete, filmmaker, and a race director, Sherpa John Lacroix is a seminal figure in the modern version of the sport of ultrarunning—and one who’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers either. We caught up with Sherpa John for a fun conversation about his roots in hiking and backpacking (1:30), how he cut his teeth in race directing and may have semi-accidentally started the OCR craze (7:05), his current race series (29:00), ultrarunning as therapy (31:45), commercialization in the sport, his favorite races, and more.

48, Sherpa John’s film about peak bagging in the White Mountains
Human Potential Running Series
The Burro Racing World Championships
Desert Island Picks: Forest and Crag by Laura and Guy Waterman, the Lumineers, Odell Brewing 90 Shilling

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 36 - Tackling Nutrition with Jonathan Clinthorne


Sifting through the various dietary and nutritional approaches to our sport (vegan! low carb! gluten-free! fruitarian!) can be confusing and, frankly, exhausting. Don’t worry, though: elite runner/nutrition PhD/Ultrarunning magazine coverboy Jonathan Clinthorne joins us in the Pain Cave to help us sort through it all. We talked about his background as the second-fastest ultrarunning former lacrosse player to graduate from Michigan State, various approaches to a traditional carbohydrate-rich approach, the benefits and limitations of a low-carbohydrate/ketogenic diet, and more.

A little background on Jonathan
Our interview with the fastest ultrarunning former lacrosse-playing MSU grad
The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance
The recent IAAF Consensus Statement for nutrition in athletes
Desert Island Picks: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, Led Zeppelin III, Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 35 - This Month in Ultrarunning with Phil Vondra

Laz reviews Nicki’s pages photo: inov-8.com

Laz reviews Nicki’s pages
photo: inov-8.com

After a too-long absence, the Shawangunk Express is back in the co-pilot’s chair for our kind-of-monthly roundup of all the goings-on in the ultra and trail scenes. We start by recapping a second straight no-finishers year at Barkley (2:30) before digging in to all the hullabaloo surrounding the most recent Golden Ticket race, the Georgia Death Race (9:45). Then it’s time for a whirlwind tour of all the ultra results we’ve missed, including the Fourmidable 50K, Way Too Cool, Black Canyons, Chuckanut, and much more (23:35). Plus, we lament the rash of early-season injuries (49:15), and a very brief preview of this weekend’s upcoming showdown at Lake Sonoma (51:15).

Beer for this episode: Other Half 4th Anniversary Imperial IPA

Stephanie Case’s recap from Barkley
AJW on the GDR controversy
US teams for the World Trail Championships
Lake Sonoma start list

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "The Mountains Win Again" by Blues Traveler

Episode 34 - Chasing Records with Mike Wardian

photo: Ian Corless

photo: Ian Corless

Mike Wardian has been at the forefront of the sport of ultrarunning for over a decade, but even by his lofty standards, 2019 is off to quite a start. After sweeping all seven marathons to win his second World Marathon Challenge (en route to setting a new world record for the fastest ten marathons in ten days), Mike journeyed to Israel to attempt a new Fastest Known Time on the 631-mile Israel National Trail. We caught up with Mike to talk about his experience on the INT (1:30), why he returned to the World Marathon Challenge (30:30), recovery (36:00), defining success, traveling with family, lacrosse, and more.

Mike’s website
The Israel National Trail
Zoli Bihari, who set up the FKT attempt, runs the touring company Canaan Running Adventures
The World Marathon Challenge
Desert Island Picks: A giant combination dictionary and thesaurus, Big Spoon Almond Butter, The Lumineers

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 33 - This Month in Ultrarunning with Phil Vondra

Jasmin Paris crushes the Montane Spine Race photo: Bob Smith/grough

Jasmin Paris crushes the Montane Spine Race
photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Legend is back! Finally! After a three-month absence, the Don Draper of ultrarunning returns for our latest installment of This Month in Ultrarunning, the craze that’s sweeping the nation. Phil and I start off with some final thoughts on the 2018 UROY and FKTOY voting (3:30) before turning our attention to the new year. We discuss some recent ultra-related news and headlines (14:30) before a rundown off all the early season action (30:00), including results from the Spine, Hong Kong, 9 Dragons, Tarawera, Bandera, Rocky Raccoon, and more. We finish up with a brief look ahead to this weekend’s second Golden Ticket race, the Black Canyon 100K (51:30).

Beer for this episode: Alchemist Holy Cow

Our full UROY podcast with Jason Mintz, and my final UROY ballot
Ultrarunning Magazine’s most competitive races list
Our interview with Mike Siudy, the King of the Catskills
Koop’s article on the state of ultrarunning competition
Ross Tucker’s article on Caster Semenya
Another really good article by Ross on some of those issues and more
Runner attacked, kills mountain lion. (Since we recorded, he’s come forward.)
We made a brief mention at the end about my coaching services, including guaranteed entry into Leadville via the LT100 Coaching + Entry package

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 32 - Running Biomechanics with Geoff Burns


If you don’t follow the sport of ultrarunning outside of the big trail races, you may not know the name Geoff Burns…but you should. Geoff is one of the top road ultramarathoners in the US; he is the 2016 national champion at 100K, and has finished fifth at each of the last two 100K World Championships. He’s also a doctoral student in biomechanics at the University of Michigan, and he joined the show to help get us back in touch with our science-of-the-sport roots. We talked about running for the Wolverines (2:30), his recent research on stride frequency (9:30) and the implications it has for training and racing (28:00), the utility of wearable power meters for runners (36:30), representing the US in international competition (45:20), his experience at Comrades (where he placed 12th) in 2018 (52:30), his plans for 2019, and more.

Geoff’s paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology
Alex Hutchinson’s article on Geoff’s research (our interview with Alex here)
Chris Lear’s Sub-4:00, about Alan Webb and Michigan running
Desert Island Picks: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoefsky, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, Trader Joe’s Beef Tamales, Taylor’s 1963 Vintage Port

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 31 - Debating the UROY Ballot with Jason Mintz


For the fourth straight year, I’m both thrilled and appalled at being asked to vote for Ultrarunning Magazine’s Ultrarunner of the Year…and for the second straight year, I’ve asked one of my toughest critics to join me on the show to tell me how badly I’m screwing it up. This time, we did it early enough that I could actually make a few changes to the ballot! Upstate NY ultra stud Jason Mintz enters the Pain Cave to discuss our choices for the top 10 men and women of the year, top five performances of the year, the difficulty of weighing performances in overseas races, how much DNFs should count against you, and more. Check back next week for my blog post detailing my final choices.

My debate with Laura Kline over the 2017 ballot
My final ballot in 2016 and 2017

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 30 - Running Happy with David Roche

happy runner.jpg

David and Megan Roche are one of the power couples in US trail and ultra running today, with seven national championships between them. Not only that, they’re the brains behind Team SWAP and the coaches of some of the most successful athletes in the country, including recent winners of Western States, Leadville, Run Rabbit Run, and more. Not only that, they’re also the authors of The Happy Runner, a new book that just might change the way you view training, racing, and life. David joins us in the Pain Cave to talk about the importance of self-acceptance, how to “let go” of our dependence on results, the principles of his training and coaching philosophy, and much more.

Buy The Happy Runner
David’s (dog’s) Instagram
Desert Island Picks: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Tupac’s Greatest Hits, Brooklyn Cider House (I chose this specific one for him!)

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 29 - Epic Adventures with Pete Kostelnick

pete kostelnick with baby jogger.JPG

We had so much fun talking with one of the fastest US women ever at 24 hours (Megan Alvarado) that we decided to do the same for the men. Pete Kostelnick is a two-time winner and the course record holder at the famed Badwater 135, as well as #5 on the all-time US 24-hour list, but he’s perhaps best known for his record-setting run across America in 2016, breaking Frank Giannino’s 36-year old record by more than four days. This summer Pete took it to a new extreme, running 5300+ miles self-supported from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska to Key West, Florida—a diagonal crossing of the continent—in just under 100 days. I spoke with Pete about how he got into running long distances (1:30), his experiences at Badwater (10:40), racing 24 hours (16:00), his record TransAmerica run (27:30), and his amazing “Ke2Key” adventure (37:00).

Pete’s Feet Across America
Pete’s Instagram
Desert Island Picks: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Dizzy Up the Girl by the Goo Goo Dolls, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 28 - Biking, Babies, and Blasting the JFK 50 with Kate Pallardy

kate pallardy mcc.jpeg

The cancellation of the North Face championships meant that many of the top athletes who had been aiming to end their season in northern CA wound up journeying east for the venerable JFK 50 mile, the oldest ultramarathon in the country. The smart money was on previous winner Leah Frost (#3 all-time at JFK) or former Western States champ Kaci Lickteig for the women’s crown. But when the dust settled, it was Beast Coaster Kate Pallardy who scored a convincing win in 6:40. We welcomed Kate into the Pain Cave to talk about her background as a pro triathlete, training on the mean streets of NYC, how she balances homeschooling (and breastfeeding) her kids with training to run fast marathons and ultras, and how she found her passion in sport and in life.

Kate’s Instagram feed
The country’s oldest ultra, the JFK 50
Desert Island Picks: Killing the SS by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Mozart: Overtures on Spotify, Harpoon Camp Wannamango

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 27 - Racing 24 Hours with Megan Alvarado

megan alvarado.jpg

In the past few years, as ultrarunning and trail racing in particular has continued to grow in popularity, there’s been a concurrent increase in the number of world-class racers exploring their limits in timed events, and the competition at these races has become fierce. This week we welcomed Altra/T-Starr Running/Drymax athlete Megan Alvarado, the newly crowned US 24-hour champion, into the Pain Cave. Megan and I spoke about balancing 24-hour racing and trail racing (6:10), training on the treadmill (10:00), how she approaches a timed event (22:50), increasing female participation in the sport (29:00), and her Desert Island Picks (39:20).

Megan’s Ultrasignup page and Instagram
How to help wildfire victims
Here’s a running-related fundraiser I donated to
Megan’s Desert Island Picks: The Brave Athlete by Dr. Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson; Spotify Motivation Mix playlist; Diet Cherry 7Up

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale

Episode 26 - Running, Spirituality, and Transcendence with Sanjay Rawal

3100 poster.jpg

Ultrarunner and filmmaker Sanjay Rawal joins the Pain Cave to talk about his latest documentary, 3100: Run and Become. The movie follows competitors in the 2016 Self-Transcendence Run, a 3100-mile ultramarathon around a single city blog in Queens. In exploring the secret of what drives these runners, the film journeys to a Navajo reservation in Arizona, the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, and the Buddhist temples deep in the mountains of Japan, to discover the spirituality that underlies the reasons why we run. Sanjay and I discuss Sri Chinmoy, the guru whose teachings inspired the Self-Transcendence Run, motivation, filming, multi-day racing, and how running can help in our search for meaning.

The Self-Transcendence Run
More about Sri Chinmoy
Sanjay’s IMDB page
Desert Island Picks: The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman, Greatest Hits by The Cure, Bitburger Alcohol-free Pils

Intro music: "Fine Line" by the Bloodletters
Outro music: "When I Was Still Young" by Yard Sale