Rob Krar vs. a blogger. . . who ya got?

Let’s just get this out front: a blogger is indicating that Rob Krar should be DQed from LT100 because Krar went off trail and didn’t deal with the mishap the way it should have been handled.  There is so much in that sentence, I might not get to it all.  This “controversy” is so ultra.  A blogger is narcing on the winner of a big mountain 100 miler.  That this has ANY traction at all is all the evidence we need to throw-in the towel on the ballyhooed progress of ultra running; in perfect ultra pitch, no doubt that in this sterling example of investigative journalism, someone once again uttered “This [Rob Krar incident] is a great topic as the sport gains credibility.”  LOL.

(And so much for writing another bad ass commentary on the schizophrenic nature of this culture of activity that FF and I have been arguing for years ((In this case, the two primary personalities squared-off: elite athlete vs. the blogger.  Who ya got?)) No need for me to go too long-winded since some voices of reason have recently joined-in and effectively told the trolls of this controversy to STFUP.  Go check it out.)

But just a couple of points before I go (crack another beer):  Two first principles I’ve been piloting for some time sit atop this entire non-issue, brought to us by a blogger who has nothing to add to the discourse other than I love Leadville and Fuck Rob Krar.  That’s all you got?  STFUP.

Principle one: the 100 is unsustainable but for the spectacle of some incredible endurance achievements by some great runners/mountaineers.  We can all recall several examples.  For the everyman, come on.  IMHO, such an endeavor is unhealthy, irresponsible, speaks of poor judgement, etc.  I have explained my position on this before.  Reading some recent LT100 reports made me uncomfortable.  I felt bad for these night hikers who stumbled and vomited their ways to the cut-off.    

This principle is underscored in today’s blog event because beyond the questionable motives, the whole idea of tying some kind of letter of the law to a mountain 100 miler seems pretty sophomoric.  That’s not the point at all is it?  I remember hearing how one runner had sex with his girl friend at an aid station before returning to the trail to finish his 100 (hell, it was probably 2 in the morning).  My cousin Vinnie took a four hour nap beneath an oak tree at mile 86.  One time another runner saved my buddy’s life, giving him gear to avoid freezing to death.  This is a strict letter of the law kind of event?  It’s a hike for most people.  This vigilante crap we saw today is schizophrenic too: laughable and sad.

Principle two: To determine what’s right or wrong, don’t overthink it; use the eye-test. The aforementioned blog shit show is one of two things: a grab at attention or an example of some kind of parochial special needs.  Krar cheated? He ran more mileage and vert than the official course.  Do some quick math and think about where you are before you open your pie hole. You are so ultra.  I remember someone looking pretty retarded when they suggested that Geoff Roes’ dad came beyond the determined marker crew are allowed to deliver aid.  Exactly.  I’m not going to edit that sentence because it perfectly captures the stupidity.  Isn’t the whole ethos of ultra NOT to take things too seriously?  The selective thinking that sounds like Law and Order episodes (among the blogging peloton) is farcical. The author of the shit show wasn’t exactly in the mix so how does this whole thing affect him?  He owns a house in Leadville?  Wants the best for the sport?  Got it.  Easy that you don’t push the best part of ultra off the stage and we’re left with . . . never mind.

Cheers!

A Slice of Ultra Running Pie

I know this blog has been capital lamo.  Been pretty busy and, besides, actually writing about the races and following the sport has been kinda capital lamo, too.  Just being honest.  Meanwhile, Tim and I have been working on this project.  We’re going to follow a couple of runners as they prepare for and run WS100.  It’s a bit of insight (we think) into the sport.  In the end, ultra running is more about these kinds of people.  Tim’s publishing on his blog, as well.  Hope you enjoy.

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The gym at Placer High School is hot and humid from the mass of humanity squeezed in beneath the old scoreboard and elevated basketball hoops. The electricity in the moist room raises the hairs on Max’s and Luther’s necks as names are drawn in what is, for many, the most important day of their lives.  Their entire existence is hinged on hearing their names announced as one of the few chosen individuals who will be living the ultimate dream in Squaw Valley in late June at the Western States 100 run.

Max and Luther were, in fact, chosen this year for Western States and, in a several part series, we at Elevation Trail will be covering everything from their backgrounds leading up to the lottery all the way to the drama of the race in a follow up report on their individual experiences during the incredible event.

ET: Gentlemen, let’s start with an introduction.  You’re on the verge of the Super Bowl of Ultra Running, a place hundreds (or a couple thousand) can only dream of; briefly explain where you’ve come from ultra running-wise.

Luther: I have never really been an athlete.  So running is everything for me because I can finally say, “Luther, you’re an athlete!”  This great ultra running culture has accepted me with open arms.  It’s so reassuring to see that at my local 50k or 100miler, I’m surrounded by others who are just kinda new to this and all giddy about their outfit, their shoes, their family and crew excited to help them get through this, just all the smiling faces that have that desire to spend the day breathing in this new identity.  I think about it every day.  It’s more than running.  It’s who I am.

Finishing the WS100 will be a life time achievement even though I just started.  I really feel born-again.  I started this new life August 2012 and since then have completed 13 ultra marathons.   Yeah, that may seem like a lot, but it’s not.  Some of my best ultra running buddies make me look soft (and yeah I’m still working on this belly!).  So, that’s the short of it.  Ultra running found me.  Frankly, I have never felt so invested in anything (not even my marriage).  Ultra has given me so much.  Aside from all of the thought I put into my blog and training program, I’m really trying to think how I can pay ultra back.  Is there a church of ultra I can erect to allow people like me to pay reverence to this incredible sport?  In the meantime, I’m thinking of going semi-pro (working on some cool sponsorships); helping some “ultra” brands to grow might be one way I can give back.  The last year and a half has been insane.  Before that I was nobody.  Just an accountant with a doughnut addiction.  Now it’s me, my ultra crowd and cliff bars!  I hope you’re listening Cliff Bar!

Max: Yeah, even though I’ve finished dozens of ultra distance runs and even won the Southeastern Missouri Marble Hill 100 mile race in 1998, getting into Western States is life altering. Don’t tell my kids but I cried when they called my name. I’ve applied to get in the last 13 years, so I feel really lucky. I plan to up my game with training and even thought about getting a coach to tell me what my heart rate zones are. 30 hours is a tight cutoff compared to other 100s I’ve done but I know, with some speed work injected into my 100+ mile weeks, I’ll crush it. (Eats a Lance Armstrong Honey Stinger waffle cookie while motioning to the issue of Ultra Running magazine on the table).  That’ll be me on the cover sometime. My buddy, Hank, was on the cover, like a PRO, last summer.  He had it framed with a little baggie of dirt from the actual race in the photo.

ET:  Right.  I can feel the enthusiasm.  Good for you.  Max, you brought -up training and even the prospect of hiring a coach for this run, I mean, race.  Guys, tell us a little about your actual preparation.

Max: I’ve learned a lot from my friends on Facebook. I mean, I knew a lot anyway and have even run a three hour marathon on the road in the Midwest but without my ultra buds on Facebook I would still be wearing Five Fingers and not Hokas now. I never realized that the foot had so many fragile bones. Now with my Hokas and my AK signed ultra hydration pack, I feel as though I could run forever.

Preparation will be key and that’s why I started my third blog:  “myjourneytowesternstates.blogspot.com”. It, along with my daily postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Strava, Daily Mile, Garmin Connect, Athlinks, and, of course, my family blog “relentlessforwardwalkerandfamily.wordpress.com”, I’ll be able to chronical the experience. Because, when I get that sub 30 hour buckle, I want to not only remember how I did it but I want everyone in my blessed life know what they can achieve through sacrifice. After my first ultra, I got a tattoo on my thigh that says, “if these legs are rockin’ don’t come a knockin’”, which, to me, means that I’m serious about this sport.

Luther:  Sweet tattoo, Max! Oh, and ET, thanks again for interviewing us for this incredible journey.  I practically wet my shorts thinking about things like Hokas, irunfar, Anton, WS100 and Elevation Trail!  Now, as far as my training goes, golly, where do I start?  I love the blogosphere.  No seriously.  I asked my partner to join forces via social media.  From the top of my driveway (I was doing hill repeats), I tweeetered my love, which showed up on my blog (time to plug: cheers2ultrafolkblog.blogspot.com).  Two days later they said YES!!!  Obviously, I get so much of my life’s inspiration from the web.

I fell in love with my training via the web, too.  I’ve gotten all of my training from reading blogs and Facebook.  After 5 ultras last summer (2 50ks and 3 100ks), somehow I fractured my right foot and developed, oddly enough, an oblique fracture in my left knee.  Crazy stuff.  I actually walked my sixth ultra, another 50k, because I knew any extended downtime would kill my relentless forward progress.  I knew I needed a change.  I knew I needed a coach to help push me further.  This was a big step for me.  Asking around the community, 2 names kept coming-up. I couldn’t decide which to hire, and given the incredible work we have to put-in to be able to finish these huge treks, I hired both. One is a MAF-oriented coach who obviously has his dipstick in the LSD.  The other guy, who also loves ultra, has introduced barefoot speed work to supplement my big mileage.  This has really worked for me so far though I’ve only been with this program for about ten days: I combine both training schedules.  My first full week of training consisted of 187 miles that included two really tough speed sessions with strides, plyometric work, a tabata work-out and sets of stairs.  I actually just got back from urgent care to record this interview: I have a deep, dull pain in my right shin and sharp pain in both hips.

ET:  Wow. You’re a monster, Luther.  Good luck with, ah, those schedules.  And congratulations on your marriage.  That brings up a great question: how have your family lives been affected by this commitment?

Max: 187 miles your first week, Luther? Pretty good start and I’m sure you’ll get over 200 in no time. Family life for me couldn’t be better. Like jumping into ultrarunning and big training, there were some growing pains. (Luther laughs at Max’s unintentional pun) But as I spent more and more time before and after work on weekdays and every weekend grinding out the long runs, and securing several KOM routes that I have finish in my kitchen so no one else can beat them (Luther laughs again), my wife found other hobbies and new friends to fill her time. She always liked good wine and she really honed her knowledge of it over the last couple years. We’re both quiet people, anyway, so, when I read this great guide on “How to Run the Leadville 100” and it suggested getting an altitude tent, it was a no brainer. I spend what little daylight time I have in it working and then sleep in it every night. I live in the Bay Area at 5 feet elevation, so this is a major training tool for my quest of Western States. I mean, we’ll be at over 8,500 feet for at least 30 minutes! I’ll be ready for it.

As for a coach, I don’t really need one since I’ve learned just about everything I know from blogs, Facebook, and other awesome sites with informative articles. Sometimes the information is a little confusing like whether to eat salt or not, minimal shoes or overly cushioned ones, when to run through pain or when to stop – NEVER, ha ha. Overall, almost like Luther is doing by hiring two coaches, I’ve simply combined all the information and use everything. A typical week for me looks like this:

Monday through Friday – get out of my altitude tent at 3:30am, wipe down the condensation in it, make a green drink, and get out for my first of two daily runs. This is when I can really have some time to think. At 4am the trails in the Bay Area area are at their least crowded and I only usually encounter a dozen or so people per hour. After my run, I spend time in the bathroom; the green drinks often give me diarrhea, which I figure is part of training since diarrhea is common in races. Then I sneak into my kids’ room to see them sleep (Max Jr. and Patricia, ‘Pat’ since she’s in some tomboy stage), then wave to my sleeping wife who usually falls asleep on the sofa overnight after watching her favorite TV shows, and I’m off to work.

I’m not very overly micro-managed at my workplace, so I’m able to catch up on blogs, both writing and reading, and follow what all my friends are doing on Facebook and Twitter most of the day. At lunch I’ll try to sneak in a run or at least do jumping jacks in the Men’s Room for 25-30 minutes. At 5pm I’ll often leave my car at work and start my second – or third – run of the day. I usually get home around 9 or 10pm, have a few IPAs while making dinner, eat a couple pounds of cheese and red meat along with another couple of beers because I’m paleo and training my body to burn fat for fuel, otherwise known as ketosis. At about midnight I’ll do a set of 10-15 sit-ups for core work and zip myself up in my cozy altitude tent for the night.

Saturday and Sunday – look pretty much the same as the weekdays except I’m able to replace the work hours with running. Depending on which time of the year it is, I’ll put in around 28 hours of training per week, which translates into a solid 120 miles. Of course, at peak training I’ll take vacation time from work and strive to get in over 200 miles a week.

Luther: See, that kind of life-style is a dream I am frantically trying to make real.  Speaking of IPA, Max, have you tried that new one from CO or CA or OR, it’s called Musty Butt Muff DIPA, I think.  So good.  I actually threw-up the first couple of sips because it was so strong and bitter, but, by God, I learned to like it.  Finished three and woke-up passed out on my kid’s bed (he was on the floor nearby).  I didn’t have time to console or apologize because I was up early, a little dizzy, to get in a morning 25 miler.

My family, on the whole, has learned to deal with my ultra ambitions.  Like Max, I am trying to convert to this fat-burning approach, enabling my ketosis?  Whatever it is, the family loves all the butter and ice cream.  I’m also consuming a lot of milk (and as many IPAs as I can), but the kids really enjoy the soda and cakes, etc.  Who knew bacon cheese cake could be so delicious in the morning with my cocoanut butter coffee?  Fat for life.

As for my lover, there have been some real difficulties on this front, which I don’t really want to discuss in this venue (unless ET has a degree in marriage and family therapy?).  Let’s just say there is some disagreement as to the role ultra should play in my life.  For instance, I chose to spend half of a decent retirement account at the 2013 Outdoor Retailer Expo.  Sure, I might have slept on the coach for a few nights (or passed-out on my kid’s bed), or in the garage next to my Nordic Trak (that’s a real bummer, to have such easy access to my training – take that, honey!), but my ultra gear for 2014 looks amazing!

ET: Nice segue, Luther.  It sounds like you both have a handle on your training and how it fits in with family. Let’s talk about some of the gear you’ll be utilizing during your training and actual race at Western States. Tell us about the one piece of gear you can’t live without and, also, we know you both have some sponsors and this would be a great time to talk about them.

Max: Gear! Where do I start?! Nothing gets me fired up to hit some awesome trails like a new piece of running gear. Now that I have a part-time apartment in Boulder, I get to dress for all sorts of weather. With my wife’s responsibilities with her membership in several wine clubs and the time she spends with her new friend, Ricky, she stays in the Bay Area when I travel to Boulder for both physical and spiritual training. I like to lay out all my clothes, pack, food, and accessories neatly on the kitchen table and take an Instagram photo of it before every run – it’s so colorful and cool looking that my adrenaline spikes!

To pick one piece of gear I can’t live without is tough to do but I would have to say that for winter running it’s a toss up between my insulated Salomon capris-length tights and my Smith Glare Goggles (new screaming flame orange color for 2014). For summer, well, I can’t live without my signed Christophe Le Saux Buff Hankie. It has so many freaking uses. There’ve been plenty of times I’ve had to crap on the trail and not had toilet paper – Buff to the rescue! A quick rinse in the nearest drinking fountain and it’s back on my head, or neck, or arm, or ankle, or wherever!

Of course, I have to to mention my all time favorite piece of gear, my cool Foreign Legion style floppy drape baseball cap. Nothing screams “I’m an ultrarunner!” like it does. I also have an original David Goggins belly shirt but that baby is framed and hangs in my kitchen and inspires me every single day.

ultra gear.jpg

As for sponsors, after winning the Marble Hill 100 mile in 28:45 – a PR for the distance, I decided it was time to reach out to some companies. I got snagged up as a Full Ambassador In-Training by Hoka. The new Conquest model is like running on air. The way God intended us to run. Check them out at your favorite running store. They retail for $190, so I’m super thankful for the 50% off Ambassador deal. I also get gaiters for free from my second favorite sponsor, Dirty Girl Gaiters and the lady who makes them is smokin’ hot! (winks and giggles).

Luther: It’s a three way tie.  For this I’ve come-up with a way to talk gear along with the importance of the mind, the heart and the sole in ultra running.  The mind: my Buff headwear is crucial.  The way my lover used to approach scarves for happy hour at Applebee’s, I absolutely covet my various but stylish Buffs. My Ora SS14 Cool Bandana Buff is pretty legendary in my household.  I held-on to finish my fourth ultra at the Zoom Croom 50k in Brooksville, Florida, and the Buff helped me seal the deal.  Flat as a pancake, but pretty darn hot, that race requires a ton of heat management, given the amount of pavement: my Ora Buff was central to an 8 hour finish. Boom.

Of course, I have to mention Buff’s association with my hero, Anton Krupicka.  Bit of a man crush there. . .

ET:  Luther. . .

Luther:  Oops.  Sorry.  Buff keeps my mental game in line for any ultra and any ultra distance.

Next, the heart of ultra.  This might sound a bit bizarre; my hydration system is the heart of any race coordination I undertake, from 5k to 100miler.  For my ultimate commitment to the ultra trail, I take to Ultimate Direction for my hydration gear.  The website says it best: “Designed by the champion of minimalism and a 2014 Trail Runner Magazine Gear of the Year Award winner, the AK Race Vest gives you everything you need and nothing more.”  Enuff said.  There’s a mysterious quality to this vest. I’ve finished races or long training runs with tears in my eyes.  Passersby have wondered if this is from the water bottles repeatedly hitting me in the face while I run.  Ha ha.  Not quite.  In fact, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with the gear; this vest kinda wraps its “arms” around me.  Between the beauty of the trail, the story of my new life and an affirmative warmth and near intoxication I get from using this AK Race Vest 2.0. . .I feel the support of this ultra community in this one piece of gear!  Add this to the ledger: “We” design our own gear.  Thanks again, Anton!

Last but not least, the sole of ultrarunning.  My shoes.  Ah, I might write a book about this gear.  Ha.  Get it: the sole of ultra running.  I’ll try to keep this to the point.  For my speed work I wear whatever is the next generation of New Balance minimalist shoes, currently the Minimus Zero v2, or a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.  Naturally, for the longer stuff I’m solid with my Hokas.  LOVE MY HOKAS aahhhhhhh!  Sorry.  I’m a little pumped about the direction of Hokas and the way people notice me when I wear them.  The other day some dorks called me a clown and I guess the shoes do look a little clowny.  But I just fired back, “yeah but look who’s having all the fun!”

Sorry to go on like this.  Kinda like talking about a new lover or something.

As for sponsorships, I’m grinding hard to get noticed and picked-up by anyone who wants to support this love affair though I have a little support from the guys at SkinFit and an evangelical church here in town that wants to remain anonymous (but they get pretty involved in my fundraisers throughout the year.).  You can check my blog cheers2ultrafolkblog.blogspot.com for updates on any new fundraisers or new sponsors.

Mercenary Sports Fan

A mercenary sports fan is an evolved, more astute student and participant of sport.

He is the evolution of fan, the next step in this history of fankind.  He is the polar opposite of the Super Fan.

A nod to Steve Gorman, drummer of the Black Crowes and sports radio host (what a gig: rock drummer and sports media spooner).  He brought-up being a mercenary fan the other day, which is, as he explains, someone who cheers for different teams.  I would clarify how this takes place perhaps at different times, moving here and there through the sports space/time continuum because the mercenary fan is open to an assortment of opportunities to be a fan. This complicates the “homer fan” model, the one with the tool who blindly roots and roots for his/her team despite whatever nonsense is happening on the field, in the front office, etc.  A great line from Gorman: “So, this means all you Dallas Cowboys fans out there, whose team is being run by the idiotic Jerry Jones, feel free to jump ship.”  Haha.  Begs the question: if the team is consistently and embarrassingly floundering in well-below-average results, how does one keep on keeping on?

And here they come, the herd of sports fan buffoons: “How can you even suggest such a thing!  A true fan sticks by his team through all the down times!  A real fan’s support is consistent; it’s like family!”

I would counter: You’re a tool.  A real fan doesn’t put-up with this kind of low-flying, dismal bullshit.  Owner/executive and coaching regimes change which can affect the entire character and success of a team.  Say you grew-up watching the team play, went to games with your family, had team paraphernalia all over your room.  You love this team.  Well, things are different now.  Maybe the team moved out of town, abandoning you and your annual worship. Maybe there’s a new owner who’s not necessarily concerned with winning. Is the owner a clown? Is the team consistently failing to deliver? Are there other issues like the ownership wants a new stadium that will cost a city millions despite the fact that they suck? Is the team harboring derelict high school/college drop outs who beat their girlfriends or drunk drive their cars into pedestrians, etc., etc.?

If the situation is “bad,” a REAL fan lets the team know this will not stand… by NOT showing up for games, by NOT necessarily running around town in his Cleveland Browns jersey, by NOT continuing to support (emotionally and/or financially) this pathetic entertainment sports enterprise.  Enough is enough.  You want my support?  You have to earn it even if my dad took me to a bunch of games when I was a kid.  Even if I still have some crappy memorabilia hanging around the garage.  Sure, I might keep it around (has some meaning attached to it), will still watch a game, hoping for some kind of change of direction…but the blind faith of SUPER FAN is weak.  We are not talking about support for our country, for our military, etc. Sports is entertainment; it’s big business.  Your team is a brand.  If you’re finding the equivalent (analogy) of human feces in your coffee, are you still going to frequent that shop for a cup of joe?  I say, Just Say No.  You might be doing them a favor; you might be helping send a message that this kind of miserable play is unacceptable.  Plus, who knows, you might cut down on all of that unnecessary and miserable heart-ache.

But I have another point, beyond this kind of vigilant fandom that will, I am arguing, hold teams more accountable (especially if done on a grander scale); indeed, this kind of tough-love might actually help a team get its act together.  There is another benefit to being a mercenary fan, because. . .

Meanwhile. . .

One could find his sports fix in the play of other teams, other athletes (and other sports). Sure, they may wear a different jersey, but one can appreciate the sport (whatever that is) being played at a high-level on and off the field.  This kind of appreciation, engagement and attachment leads to a more intelligent fan, a more intelligent life.  If you are so dialed-in with your team, attend every team event, own every possible jersey or hat, that you actually consider yourself part of the team, you lose.

But it gets better.  You see, although Gorman threw us all a bone the other day, and I’ve added a few clarifications/explanations above to further the point, I’ve been a sport mercenary for a long time.  And I have benefitted ten-fold because of this constant search for knowledge. Yes. Being a mercenary sports fan is like becoming a sports academic, free to find the best of athleticism from this vast world of sport.  My appreciation for my side is enhanced, more sophisticated; I learn more about the actual sport, about other sports; and because of this broadened perspective, I can better integrate the world of sport into my own life.  In other words, I become a better fan, even of my own team.

Perhaps more importantly, I become a better athlete, healthier, happier.  There is much to say in order to illustrate this improved version of sports fan (student and athlete).  Perhaps Matt’s Blog obliges.  Either way, take a test drive.

In the end, this is the evolution of the sports fan. Become a mercenary sports fan.  Broaden your sports horizon.  Or shrink, rise and fall at the whim of a silver-spooned narrator who dictates your every move, who narrows your options, you, the Super Fan of this American comical tragedy.

Buzz

Buzz around here is work.  Tough to keep engaging this blog when the work schedule is on fire.  My mom’s nickname was Buzz.  Dad, probably buzzed, dreamt up that little tart.  My mom is gone, and my dad has long refrained from any sort of buzz.  I’m sure my mom’s vanishing act (I still think I’m going to run into her and do often when I’m asleep) and my dad’s sobriety define some sort of cosmic equation that only I can solve.  Both vanishing acts are meaningful (her variable carrying quite a bit more value of course) and really sad.  Life can get away from us quick.  There’s a big difference (a realization made clearer this past month) between celebrating and medicating. I haven’t had a beer since Dec. 31.  I like the look of 2014 a lot, so far.  It’s perfectly okay to contradict myself now and then (whole nother thing to contradict others).  It’s healthy.  You discover a different shade of addiction, figure-out another way to solve those nagging riddles in one’s life.  We recently buried a friend of mine who depended on his buzz.  Really sad.  He was a great athlete (incredible waterman).  But he was in a lot of pain.  The riddle IS dealing with the loss.  There’s so much, too much to account for: we have to expand to cushion the seeming nothingness that becomes huge and burdensome and fucked-up and nostalgic.  I will continue to write about the loss, which I want to become an important theme in my life.  I want for nothing.  The minutes on my 5K/10k PR, get lost.  I don’t need you.  As we get older, we will continue to lose.  And we will continue to do things to ourselves to postpone the realization that we’re being abandoned.

Don’t Read This!

Because I am going to talk about sports and God knows MUT “participants” generally don’t give a shit about sports.  Right?  That’s my understanding.  Probably because of an outspoken stance out there that renders much of what I write offensive.  Genitalia!  One of the biggest realizations of mine, hanging out with trail rats, running, racing and reading and writing about this junk for years, is the apparent disconnect between trail running (ultra in particular) and sports.  I am not yet even talking about the “sport of MUT;” I am talking about people’s interests in sports.

Okay, granted, I am not sitting in your living room with you observing what you watch on TV or talk about with your family and friends.  But I have a pretty good sense that most of the MUTters out there aren’t your average sports fans.  That’s fine.  So again, Don’t Read This!

Despite the appeal (look away, ignore this!), when I or others discuss MUT as a sport, a lot of undergarments get twisted and bunched in people’s backsides.  It’s embarrassing.

Tim Long and I made fun of this dynamic when we did a parody podcast over on elevationtrail.com.  Of course, it was brilliant.  We talked in high pitch voices, described the pretty flowers and magic double rainbows that arouse trail runners.  We purposefully steered clear of “race results,” “trends,” any celebration of athletic performance, etc.  Instead, it was like a show on the Food Network: “the rice crispy treats at that 100k were apparently to die for.”

This criticism of the ESPNization of MUT is retarded.  I’ve been grilled online because I’ve made commentary of the “sport” (Sure I’ve bitten off more than I can chew a couple of times, but the haters were already poised to pull trigger). Much of the problem is that these people don’t get the take, the perspective.  For starters, they’re not sports fans.  So the second part of the sequence – racing on dirt and mountains is a sport – is like some Martian dialect that offends they’re pretty little American ears.

But here’s the real retardation (why I have already coined such folk the “dingle-berries of illiteracy”): they are trying to demean people who have a different view from their own.  This is a fact:  one is criticized if is he/she communicates a genuine thought-process about this odd-ball culture that has evolved and/or joined forces with a more competitive version of trail running.  You don’t think it’s about the competition?  You don’t care about the athleticism of MUT, enough to take a closer look, to exchange ideas and perspectives, to prognosticate?  You don’t care?  Yaaaaay!  Good for you.  But, I (and others) care about the athleticism of MUT.  I/we care about the “sport.”  If that’s not your cup of tea . . . Don’t Read This!

A good writing exercise would be to re-write that last paragraph, in other words.  The point needs to be reiterated, clarified.  Some people spend quality time thinking about the competitive element of MUT.  Some people actually care enough to spend time thinking about these topics and issues and perhaps communicating them to a public audience, often online.  And get ridiculed for it.  I suspect it’s left over angst from the playground, from getting picked last in 4th grade kick ball that’s got these readers up in arms.  Is this a crime that there are people who see sport and want to analyze and share insight.  Is it really offensive?  Are feelings hurt by such wonton disregard for a purity of some sort of chi running approach to the trail?  You no like the talk?  Go find your double rainbow.  Your intolerance is laughable and sad.  Don’t Read This!

Of all of the heinous activities in this wonderful world of ours, it’s a shame that a very reasonable perspective of a little niche of running is getting this kind of low self-esteem garbage (or whatever it is).  There are some very unsavory, even diabolical things going on online.  Talking about the sport of, the ESPNization of trail running is not a candidate for this list.  Piss off, Donny and Donna Dingle-Berry.

What I do is harmless, fun and might find purpose in the myriad of readers and runners out there.

For those of you who do care, please stay tuned for more on the ESPNization of MUT!

Mission Statement

I restarted blogging because I benefit in so many ways when I write.  So this is an exercise for me.  Practice makes perfect, write?

Secondly, I like to write about MUT running and racing because I enjoy running and running specifically on the trail.  So writing about this is fun.  In addition, I really like sport and the heart of competition.  MUT has a healthy heart, which I really like to explore, partly because. . .

Thirdly, there is a dearth of thoughtful commentary on the interwebs or anywhere for that matter.  Race reports? Those can reach analysis, but it’s pretty personal.  Gobs of link curation exist and your classic one-liners about whatever list or gear review or race schedule or report on the environment/culture in and around MUT are obscenely plentiful; but the efforts to read, assimilate and offer some kind of potentially thoughtful response seem pretty meek.  My theory is people don’t give a crap about the sport.  They do enjoy the REI-like reviews and interviews, but analysis of the sport is in a full-blown famine event.  People are pretty smart usually, so I don’t think its the brain power that’s missing.  It’s that MUT, as an old friend of mine and I hypothesized some time ago, is a picnic.

I can’t stand this position.

Other than irunfar, what else is there.  I remember the dingle-berries of illiteracy taking jabs at my people’s analysis as some kind of effort to make MUT a mainstream sport, so the articles were too ESPN-esque.  Swing and miss. Irunfar is the ESPN of MUT.  The sport needs more bloggers, more people like an Ian Corliss who has that European sport-in-my-blood approach.  We need more grassroots voices, more voices period that are interested in the elite racing, in the direction of the competition, in the winning and losing.

An old site of mine used to cover these concerns of sport.  There was the discussion of teams in MUT, how Salomon had literally taken over much of the bigger competitions with a spirit that few non-Salomon athletes could match.  The white train at the front of the race grew strong and continues to dominate to the day.  We see The North Face has managed to assemble a team and Pearl Izumi, over the last few years, seems to be representing fairly well on the “pro” circuit.  Throw-in some New Balance athletes and Asics, Inov-8 and Brooks folk and, voila, there appears to be some monied interest to account for that is, undoubtedly, CRITICAL for the sake of elite competition. That’s just a fact.

Scott Sports looked like a burgeoning player in the team competitions with some serious European representation, such as the great Marco De Gasperi, along with some other players like Ian Sharman and Sage Canaday.  I have yet to try the Scott shoes, but certainly this roster sample says something about the quality of the product and the commitment to the race.

However, Scott seems to have lost Sage.  And (opinion alert) Sage seems to have lost his mind!  (He can probably better afford to lose his mind ;)

As many of you have probably heard, Sage has joined Hoka One One.  This comes with the news that Julien Chorier (who will captain the European contingent), Michael Wardian and off-road great Conrad Stoltz have also joined Deckers Outdoor Corporation, the parent company to brands like Hoka, Anhu, Ugg Australia, Teva and Sanuk.  Wow.

I just said the corporate investment is CRITICAL to elite competition, or at least the quality of said competition.  This is pretty big news if you ask me.  Meltzer, Mackey, Canaday, Chorier, Wardian, Stoltz.  Boom.  This is an all-star team representing a company that seems to be going all in.  This is a mission statement.

I have run in Hokas.  I can see the use of such a shoe for certain kinds of runners and races and training schedules.  But I’m missing the high-end racing element of Hokas.  I say this with Meltzer and Mackey already shoving evidence abundance in my face.  These are exceptional trail dudes who mix it up with the top of the sport with resounding success.  Moreover, I like the rise of Hoka in the day of minimalism.  This is congruous to my appeal to more people sharing their voices in this MUT discourse.  You go, Hoka!

I assume Hoka will continue to develop their shoes to meet more variety of athlete and racing.  This is a good thing.  But I was surprised to see such a catch of so many big fish by this apparel industry giant.  Money speaks. Let’s see how it plays out, especially in this team context.  Hoka One One is a team to be reckoned with.  And I think we can all agree that the team concept can really benefit athletes and their racing.  Salomon and The North Face have been good examples of this point.

The latest Salomon victory of course was this past weekend with Maravilla taking the win at Bandera 100k in CR fashion.  Based on the trend that’s been established, aside from celebrating a killer race by the Salomon runner, let’s keep our eye on this smiling Bay Area trail smith’s 2014.  Good stuff, Jorge: certainly more to smile about.

Just as the folks in the clown shoes have plenty to smile about, as well.

Bandera 100k

Big 2014 MUT racing begins this weekend at the 2014 Bandera Trail Run.  The 100K main event is the distance’s USTF national championship.  Need less to say, the effects of this week’s fracas will be felt throughout the year. Not only are there Montrail Ultra Cup points at stake this weekend, but (perhaps more importantly) WS100 entry will be rewarded to members of the 2014 men’s and women’s podium, as well (this is the case for all Montrail Cup races – podium points toward season long Cup championship and entry in WS100).

Looking at the Montrail Ultra Cup, one has to say “it” has played a significant role in what goes down in the mountain ultra trail universe.  The popularity or celebrity of WS100 gives the Cup lots of tred.  Nuff said.  But this early season elite running rendezvous has had even bigger ramifications. The significance begins this weekend at Bandera 100k.

One change in the event schedule of the 2014 Montrail Ultra Cup has the Sean O’Brien 50/50 taking the place of the Leona Divide 50.  In the end, the representation of So Cal appears to remain intact.  SOB certainly will not disappoint as the assembling field promises a fantastic inaugural Malibu melee with all kinds of elite trail pride on the line. Although this is the first running of the SOB 50/50, this appears to replace the Ray Miller 50, which was terribly affected by recent fires in the area.  Race director Keira Henninger has put together a solid race organization and the fact that it’s part of the MUC says quite a lot.

In passing the torch to SOB, let’s not forget Leona Divide’s most recent contribution: Rob Krar.  Certainly, he made a few people’s radars last year with his Grand Canyon exploits and a blistering Moab 55k in February 2013, but his LD 50 5:53:51 was ginormous.  The front of the race included legitimate talent, but running about a min/mile faster than 2nd place figured to make quite a statement; as we all know, this statement or separation was reiterated throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2013.  All this to say: some of these early season races prove insightful on what to watch for the rest of the year.

Bandera 100k has recently been quite adept at helping create this same kind of early season narrative.  The ’12 and ’13 versions were very propitious for the races’ leaders.  The men’s podium in 2012: Olson Mackey Uhan, with Bowman and a thirsty Nick Clark rounding-out the top 5.  On the women’s side: Scallon, Howard and Pam Smith.  If we recall, this was Tim Olson’s forewarning of things to come.  Later that year he smashed the WS100 CR and finished 2nd to Morton for UROY.  In 2013, the men’s winner was Sage Canaday. Again, Bandera 100k as an early season harbinger for what was to be a fantastic (yet underachieving – which is a compliment mind you) year for this ultra running trail/media mogul.  2013 also saw Michelle Yates crowned USTF 100k trail champ at Bandera; go read-up on how 2013 unfolded for her.  Obviously, Bandera 100k is the ultra season’s Palantir.

Endurance Buzz has a cool write-up on the event.  The men’s race appears to be amongst Jorge Maravilla, Chikara Omine, Joe Uhan, Oregonian David Laney, Chris Wehan and Texan Paul Terranova, who wields a nice 2013 WS100 top ten.  Omine has a 2nd at Bandera in 2010 and has shown some genuine speed on some of the lower-profile California trails.  I recall noting his skill-set 4-5 years ago, confident he would make a splash in some bigger events against richer fields; here’s his chance. Laney set the CR at Waldo 100k, so all of these fine favorites should keep an eye on him.  The ageless Meghan Arbogast leads the women’s championship field.  Local Liza Howard ought to be joining her at the front.

Be sure to check back for more race coverage.  Cheerio.